FBI Director James Comey says he encourages all agents and analysts to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington because “we want them to see, in a gut-wrenching, nauseating way, what the abuse of power on an almost unimaginable scale looks and feels like, because we’re about to give them extraordinary power.”
“And then there’s a second reason that is I want them to see what we are capable of,” Comey told CNN’s Wolf Blizter at the Aspen Security Forum. “I want them to understand what human beings are capable of, that we are — one of our greatest strengths is our ability to convince ourselves of the righteousness of our own cause. And one of our greatest weaknesses is our capacity to surrender our moral authority to the group, so it can be hijacked by the least common denominator.”
“I want them to stare at that and understand the weaknesses that we all share, because they are about to have tremendous power and I want them to have sense of that in a way that will last them their whole career.”
Much of the conversation at the forum was about ISIS, which Comey now considers a bigger threat to the homeland than al-Qaeda.
“They have adopted a model that takes advantage of social media in a way to crowd-source terrorism. They have invested about the last year in pushing a message of poison, primarily through Twitter, but other parts of social media, that is a siren song with two dimensions,” Comey said.
“They are preaching through social media to troubled souls, urging them to join their so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, or if you can’t join, kill where you are. And Twitter is a valuable enterprise, because it works to sell shoes or to sell ideas. It works to sell this message to troubled souls.”
The director added that ISIS makes their terrorists more available to speak to potential recruits and are “trying to reach are people that al-Qaeda would never use as an operative.”
Comey said “dozens” of Americans are now fighting for ISIS, but they’re a “hard phenomenon” to track “because they range in age from 18 to 62.”
He said the FBI is “not in a position to say” yet if Chattanooga shooter Mohammed Yousef Abdulazeez was ISIS or AQAP.
“We’re still combing through his entire life, including his electronic media, to understand, so, who was he communicating with and about what?” Comey said. Part of that is “to understand so what happened in Jordan, who influenced him, who did he meet, what did he consume, that sort of thing.”
Responding to a Texas case in which state officials are asking that a federal court toss a birthright citizenship lawsuit, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley declared today that “citizenship is a human right.”
Background on the case from the Associated Press:
Lawyers representing 19 immigrant parents and their 23 children filed suit against the Texas Department of State Health Services after officials refused to issue birth certificates for their U.S.-born children, citing invalid forms of identification. The parents came from Mexico and Central America and living in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, along the U.S.-Mexico border.
…The Texas Department of State Health Services said in a federal court filing in Austin on Wednesday that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the court lacks jurisdiction over claims against the state agency. Lawyers for the agency also argued that Texas has sovereign immunity and cannot be sued and that its policy does not interfere with any federal regulation. Texas, they said, has the “power to control the circumstances under which it will provide copies of birth certificates.”
The health service agency’s Vital Statics Unit, which is responsible for issuing birth certificates, previously accepted consular identification cards and other documents issued by foreign governments, according to the lawsuit. But officials have increasingly come to refuse these, making it harder for parents living in the U.S. illegally status to obtain birth certificates for their children, it said. The agency says it never accepted these documents as valid, and there has been no change to the state’s identification requirements.
O’Malley said “denying birth certificates to US citizens is not only outrageous, it’s unconstitutional.”
“The 14th amendment of the US Constitution could not be clearer. It states that ‘all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside,’” he said. “The Texas Department of State Health services should cease this discriminatory and unconstitutional practice immediately. Citizenship is a human right.”
The former Maryland governor last week released a plan to reform the country’s “inhumane” immigration system, declaring that “the enduring symbol of our nation is the Statue of Liberty, not a barbed wire fence.”
He would expand President Obama’s deferred action program and “conduct sustained nationalization outreach” while an Obamacare block for those temporarily legalized under deferred action.
Under O’Malley’s plan, “the only individuals who should be detained are those who pose a clear threat to public safety or national security” and he will “close or upgrade costly, inhumane, and violent detention centers.”
Loopholepalooza: Menendez Rips Holes in Iran Deal’s ‘Snapback,’ Ballistic Missile Language and Iran Collecting Own Samples
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), having gone over the Iran nuclear deal with a fine-toothed comb, called out the Obama administration at today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing for squishy language about the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile development.
He also unraveled the administration’s assertion that sanctions will “snap back” with an Iran violation — highlighting that there may be nothing left existing to “snap back” on.
“Under the sanctions heading of the agreement, paragraph 26 says, and I quote, ‘the United States administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the president and the Congress, will refrain from reintroducing or reimposing sanctions specified in annex 2,’ which is basically the sanctions that this committees and the Congress passed, that has ceased applying under the JPOA,” Menendez said. “So Secretary Lew, I read that to mean that we cannot reintroduce or reimpose the existing sanctions that Congress passed into law.”
The Treasury secretary danced around the question, replying “we have been very clear that we retain our right and we will, if we need to, reimpose sanctions.”
“I’m talking about existing nuclear sanctions, which expire next year, if snapback provisions of the sanctions are to be an effective deterrent as the administration has suggested of Iranians breaking the agreement, will the administration agree to support the reauthorization of the existing sanctions that passed the Senate 99-0, and which expire next year? Yes or no?” Menendez asked.
“So let me be clear that the sanctions that are being lifted, if Iran complies, if they comply, we said we would not reimpose nuclear sanctions if they live with the nuclear agreement,” Lew replied.
“I know. But my point is this. If you’re going to snap back, you got to snap back to something… If, in fact, the sanctions which exist that you all heralded and said brought Iran to the table expire next year, 2016, and we don’t reauthorize it, there is nothing at least in that context to snap back to,” the senator stressed. “So why won’t you simply say that the administration supports, under all the same provisions, including the president’s waivers, the reauthorization of those sanctions so that the Iranians know if they violate that the snapback will also include snapback to what the Congress passed?”
Lew said “if Iran complies, we will lift sanctions and it’s premature to talk about extending a law” — even one that expires next year.
Menendez then turned his focus to Secretary of State John Kerry and “the lifting of the arms embargo that creeped its way into this deal.”
“As I read the Security Council resolution on page 119, the ban on Iranian ballistic missiles has, in fact, been lifted. The new Security Council resolution is quite clear. Iran is not prohibited from carrying out ballistic missile work. The resolution merely says, quote, ‘Iran is called upon not to undertake such activity,’” he said. “Now previously, in Security Council Resolution 1929, the council used mandatory language where it said, quote, ‘It decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.’”
“Why would we accept inferior language that changes the mandatory ‘shall’ to a permissive ‘call upon’? We often call upon a lot of countries to do or stop certain actions in the U.N., but it doesn’t have the force of shall not which has consequences if you do. Can you answer simply, is Iran banned from ballistic missile work for the next eight years?”
Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) dryly interjected, “No.”
“Do you want to answer it, senator?” Kerry snapped.
“Yes, I will,” Corker shot back.
Kerry argued that Menendez wasn’t reading the resolution correctly and it includes “the same language as is in the embargo now — we transferred it to this and that’s what it is.”
“Not the same language as Security Council resolution 1929,” Menendez replied. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t just keep the same language, which is that you ‘shall not.’”
The senator grilled Kerry on whether Iran will be taking its own samples to submit for compliance testing — “the equivalent of the fox guarding the chicken coop.”
“It’s part of a confidential agreement between the IAEA and Iran as to how they do that,” Kerry said. “The IAEA has said they are satisfied they will be able to do this in a way that does not compromise their needs and that adequately gets the answers they need… I’m not confirming how it’s happening, I’m simply saying to you that we’re confident the IAEA has the ability to be able to get the answers they need.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) earlier brought up the testing, noting that they agreed not to personally collect test samples at the secretive Parchin military complex.
“They’re going to be able to test by themselves. Even the NFL wouldn’t go along with this,” Risch said. “How in the world can you have a nation like Iran doing their own testing?”
Menendez also stopped Kerry before the secretary reiterated that all options are on the table, “because I think if you talk to our intelligence people, they will tell you that Iran does not believe there’s a credible military threat.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy had nothing to do with the murder of Kate Steinle.
Steinle’s father, Jim, has been in D.C. this week testifying in favor of sanctuary city reforms. The man arrested in his daughter’s death, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been deported five times and had an outstanding felony warrant for marijuana possession but was released by authorities in March. He has admitted to the July 1 San Francisco pier shooting of 32-year-old Steinle.
In a jailhouse interview after the shooting, the suspect said he came to San Francisco because he knew it was a sanctuary city. He claimed he found the gun and accidentally hit Steinle while shooting at sea lions.
“The fact that San Francisco is a sanctuary city — and there are many sanctuary cities throughout — many people live in sanctuary cities across the country — that really has nothing to do with what happened in San Francisco,” Pelosi told reporters today.
“The — should we take a look, always review what the standard is for — for example, in this case, having nothing to do with sanctuary cities, but why did the Bureau of Prisoners not hand this — Bureau of Prisons not hand this person over to ICE, as they had done in the past? A course of events unraveled in which — which were unfortunate, and poor judgment was used by the sheriff and the city to not turn him over to ICE — the person, the suspect — over to ICE.”
Pelosi said officials should be looking at “how we should increase communication.”
“Should there be a way to increase communication among different authorities? Yes. Should there be a review of what constitutes a deportable offense? In other words, it says now violent felons. Well, there are lots of misdemeanors that are very violent that just really wouldn’t fall under that category and there are lots of felonies that aren’t violent but that are breaking the law in a serious way,” she said.
She adding they should be reviewing “not for the purpose of sanctuary city, but just for the purpose of our policy in general, what is serious.”
“What would solve most of it, not guarantee of all of it, is to pass comprehensive immigration reform. What we also have to look at is how did this person come into possession of a gun in a state where his having a gun as a convicted felon would raise serious questions.”
Pelosi called it “a tragic, tragic situation.”
“Our hearts are broken over it. So much heartbreak, so sad what happened in Chattanooga. It’s just — how do you explain that? Again, a person got a gun online, got a gun online. Another reason for us to have a serious background check,” she said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that instead of an investigation into Planned Parenthood, there should be an investigation into the group that shot undercover video of officials talking about selling aborted body parts.
The Center for Medical Progress has so far released two videos with their camera operators posing as a biomedical research company.
Those videos have sparked investigations of Planned Parenthood in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
“Everybody’s calling for an investigation of Planned Parenthood, let’s have an investigation of those people who were trying to ensnare Planned Parenthood in a controversy that doesn’t exist and just look at the disparity which some of our members have very completely between the actual filming and the edited versions that these other people have put out,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference today.
Her call comes a day after four House Democrats — Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) — sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and California Attorney General Kamala Harris asking for an investigation into the Center for Medical Progress.
“It is unclear from these reports what forms of fake identification they created, whether any false statements were made on applications for this fake identification, whether this fake identification purported to be issued by or was processed through any state or federal agency, or whether any fraudulent information was transmitted electronically or through the mail relating to this fake identification,” they wrote, adding that the attorneys general should probe “the extent to which this group may have submitted false statements to governmental entities, whether the group transmitted fraudulent information through the mail or electronic communications, or whether this fake company filed tax returns or other documents with the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agencies.”
“I believe the Center for Medical Progress may have broken the law in developing and executing this unbelievably elaborate and troubling scheme, and all Americans should have concerns about that,” Schakowsky said.
Nadler called the videos “nothing more than a witch hunt – an elaborate, possibly illegal, scheme to attack Planned Parenthood, undermine their life-saving work and deny the Constitutional and moral rights of women across the country.”
Pelosi said today that Republicans have “been out to get Planned Parenthood for as long as I can remember.”
“Planned Parenthood has as its top priority women’s health. That’s what they have always been about. One part of it is — and women’s health does include reproductive health. But it’s about breast cancer, cervical cancer, testing and services to women. It’s a very, very important part of the lives of many women in America,” she said.
“Planned Parenthood has said that they have done nothing illegal, they did not ever charge, which would be illegal, for fetal tissue that they’ve only used — only have defrayed the cost of mailing to — that to someone, which is — which is not breaking the law.”
Pelosi said she supported the House Dems who want the investigation. “Women’s health is what is at stake,” she said.
A new firestorm over the Iran nuclear deal was whipped up today when lawmakers noted they haven’t received any documents about agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency — something even Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the United States doesn’t have in writing.
“One of the items we don’t have is regarding the agreement between Iran and the IAEA, and my sense is, we’re never going to get that letter,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said at the top of a hearing with Kerry, noting that he and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) had asked in writing for the materials.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice had separately acknowledged the IAEA side deals with Iran, which aren’t available for the public to view.
“We’re satisfied with them and we will share the contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with the Congress,” she told reporters. “So there’s nothing in that regard that we know that they won’t know.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest later insisted that the IAEA agreement “does not represent some sort of side deal.”
“So I know there has been a suggestion by some Republicans that there are some agreement that was cut off to the side. The fact is, this is a critical part of the agreement, and in fact, this deal can not go forward until that information and that access has been provided to the nuclear experts at the IAEA,” Earnest said.
“…I don’t know that there will necessarily be a formal hearing on this, although I suppose there could, but again, it would be in a classified setting.”
He added that “the eventual IAEA report about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program will be published and made public.”
That’s expected Oct. 15 — past the 60-day review period for Congress to approve or shoot down the nuclear deal.
Earnest was asked if the administration has full confidence in the IAEA.
“The international community has turned to the IAEA, which is an independent international organization of nuclear experts, who are responsible for conducting these kinds of inspections,” he said. “They’ve done that in a variety of countries, and obviously they’ve got an important role here to play in examining a possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.”
However, it was pointed out that for some sites Iran will be providing its own samples to investigators — including the military complex at Parchin.
“I mean, it’s not as if the IAEA can enter Parchin through force, but contingent on this agreement — and this is why this is important. There was a lot of time spent in here about whether or not the international community would insist that Iran address the potential military dimensions of their nuclear program in the context of this deal,” Earnest said.
“And there was a lot of suspicion. A lot of Republicans stood up and said that this had to be part of any agreement. That’s exactly what we’ve delivered in the instance.”
Reminded about things the IAEA has missed in the past, Earnest claimed “the IAEA investigators didn’t have the kind of access to those countries’ nuclear programs that they will to Iran’s.”
“We do know what the agreement is between Iran and the IAEA. It’s not something that I can discuss in this setting, but it is something that can be discussed in classified setting between senior members of the administration and members of Congress,” he said.
But why doesn’t the Obama administration have a copy of the IAEA agreement on the chain of custody for the fissile material that will be moved out of Iran’s program?
“There’s one thing between having a copy of the document and knowing exactly what’s in it,” Earnest said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) rushed to the aid of Secretary of State John Kerry this morning, claiming that Senate Republicans were impugning his character by noting he got “bamboozled” and “fleeced” in the Iran nuclear deal.
“Not unlike a hotel guest that leaves only with a hotel bathrobe on his back, I believe you’ve been fleeced,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told Kerry today at the top of a hearing to review the deal.
“In the process of being fleeced, what you’ve really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to now Congress, Congress being a pariah,” Corker added.
“With all due respect, you guys have been bamboozled, and the American people are going to pay for that,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) later added.
Boxer began her comments by stressing that she does think Congress faces a choice between accepting the deal and going to war with Iran — “at the end of the day, that’s really the option, which everyone tiptoes around.”
“I support the right of my colleagues to say anything they want, but you’ve sat there and you’ve heard two of my colleagues go after you with words that I am going to repeat. You were fleeced, one said. The other said you have been bamboozled,” she said.
“So putting aside the fact that I think that’s disrespectful and insulting, it — that’s their right to do. There are other ways to express your disagreement, but that goes to the — your core as a human being and your intelligence, and I think you are highly intelligent.”
Boxer then added, “My colleagues think that you were fleeced, that you were bamboozled, that means everybody was fleeced and bamboozled, everybody, almost everybody in the world.”
Corker later clarified that not just Kerry had been fleeced, but everyone working on the deal.
“Mr. Secretary, just to ensure that I have appropriately addressed the situation, I want to refrain and say we have been fleeced and not make that a thing that’s directed at an individual,” he said.
The White House issued a veto threat this morning on House legislation that blocks State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funding for jurisdictions acting as “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants.
The Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, initially introduced four years ago by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), comes to the House floor for debate today.
“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3009,” the Office of Management and Budget said this morning. “This bill fails to offer comprehensive reforms needed to fix the Nation’s broken immigration laws, undermines current Administration efforts to remove the most dangerous convicted criminals and to work collaboratively with State and local law enforcement agencies, and threatens the civil rights of all Americans by authorizing State and local officials to collect information regarding any private citizen’s immigration status, at any time, for any reason, and without justification.”
“…The Administration also believes the most effective way to enhance public safety is through sensible and effective policies that focus enforcement resources on the most significant public safety threats. The Administration has put in place new enforcement priorities that do just that, focusing limited resources on the worst offenders – national security threats, convicted criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers. The effectiveness of these new priorities depends on collaboration between Federal, State, and local law enforcement.”
The White House argued that Congress should give the Department of Homeland Security’s Priority Enforcement Program “a chance to work, instead of displacing that collaborative approach—which prioritizes the worst offenders—with the coercive approach of this bill, which makes no such differentiation.”
“Finally, the bill would condition Federal money on State and local governments allowing their law enforcement officials to gather citizenship and immigration status information from any person at any time for any reason,” the veto threat continued. “The Administration believes that such blanket authority would threaten the civil rights of all Americans, lead to mistrust between communities and State and local law enforcement agencies, and impede efforts to safely, fairly, and effectively enforce the Nation’s immigration laws.”
— Anne Bayefsky (@AnneBayefsky) July 23, 2015
Thousands of demonstrators against the Iran nuclear deal packed Times Square earlier this evening, many calling on home-state Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to stand against the deal.
Schumer has been a longtime supporter of Israel, but has not indicated yet which way he’ll go on the Iran vote expected by September.
The Stop Iran Rally drew speakers such as former CIA Director James Woolsey, Alan Dershowitz, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), and 95-year-old former longtime Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. The only presidential candidate to show was former New York Gov. George Pataki.
Dozens of groups sponsored the event, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Stand With Us, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Zionist Organization of America, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s The World Values Network, and Christians United for Israel.
— Anne Bayefsky (@AnneBayefsky) July 23, 2015
— Aya (@TheOnlyAya) July 23, 2015
— ElderOfZiyon (@elderofziyon) July 22, 2015
— Eytan Sosnovich (@EytanSosnovich) July 22, 2015
— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) July 22, 2015
— Bridget Johnson (@Bridget_PJM) July 22, 2015
Predictably, some folks on Twitter freaked out…
This #StopIranRally is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. People literally march in support of a war.
— LOLame Duck (@theonlyadult) July 23, 2015
An adviser to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said lawmakers pressed the African leader about same-sex marriage on his visit to Washington this week, but he apparently quickly shut them down.
Then-President Goodluck Jonathan signed a ban against gay marriage last year that prohibits civil or church same-sex unions, the recognition of any such unions conducted in foreign countries, the registration of “gay clubs” and public displays of affection between gay couples.
One Nigerian group against gay marriage staged a rally after Buhari left for D.C., with an activist telling Nigeria’s The Guardian that “the fear is being entertained that Obama might trade off U.S. assistance to Buhari’s government with shooting down Jonathan’s anti-gay law.”
Ty Cobb, director of the Human Rights Campaign Global, asserted that “while some news sources have reported that the United States and LGBT advocates are calling for same-sex marriage in Nigeria, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The community is calling for human rights to be one of the pillars of discussions between President Obama and President Buhari,” Cobb said last week. “There is much that can be done to improve the human rights situation of all Nigerians, including LGBT people who face well-documented violence, arbitrary detentions, harassment and discrimination.”
“The issue of gay marriage came up here yesterday. [President Muhammadu Buhari] was point blank. Sodomy is against the law in Nigeria, and abhorrent to our culture,” Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina tweeted today.
“The same sex marriage issue came up at the joint session of Senate and House Committees on Foreign Affairs, not in direct talks with Obama,” Adesina added. “Talks shifted to another matter once PMB emphatically stated Nigeria’s stand on same sex marriage. The issue was not pushed.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the Tuesday meeting was “productive.”
“We discussed Nigeria’s largely peaceful embrace of the democratic process in its most recent elections. We share the hopes of many Nigerians that the president delivers his campaign pledges of rooting out corruption and spurring much-needed economic growth,” Royce said. “We had an extensive discussion with President Buhari on support to Nigeria and other partner nations in its fight against Boko Haram. We shared ideas on how the Congress can be helpful to the Nigerian military’s struggle against Boko Haram, in particular ensuring that onerous security assistance vetting is not an obstacle to greater U.S.-Nigeria cooperation.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said they discussed, among other things, “increasing collaboration as Nigeria takes steps to ensure civil and human rights for all Nigerians.”
“No meeting with the leadership of Nigeria could ignore the plight of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram,” Cardin said. “Any of the girls who are still alive must be returned home and the fate of all of those taken must be made known. How a country treats its women and girls is a strong barometer for its economic and social success. I urged President Buhari to make human rights of all Nigeria’s citizens a priority.”
The Graham-Trump feud got extended another day with the senator mocking the reveal of his personal cell phone number by the billionaire, and The Apprentice host defending his actions.
“I get called all these horrible names by Lindsey Graham… I couldn’t care less about Lindsey Graham,” Donald Trump told CNN. “…Am I supposed to say it’s OK if I’m called these things? I’m called a jackass, I have to fight back. The country has to fight back.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had labeled Trump a jackass after he said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Graham’s best friend in the Senate, wasn’t a war hero for being captured.
Trump then read out Graham’s phone number at a South Carolina rally.
Graham told CNN that he talked with Trump a couple years ago about Chinese currency manipulation legislation, and that’s how the real estate mogul had his number.
“It’s really not about me and Donald,” the senator said. “It’s about what Mr. Trump said about 11 million illegal immigrants that I find not true… and when he suggested that my good friend John McCain was some sort of lesser form of service member because he was captured.”
Graham said he had to speak out as Trump crossed a “line no one wants any politician to cross.”
As far as Trump’s top spot in the polls right now, “some people buy into the idea that he’s speaking truth when the rest of us are not.”
“Apparently some people agree with the idea that most illegal immigrants are rapists and drug dealers,” Graham added. “I don’t.”
He likened Trump to a “political car wreck… we’re all looking right now but we’ll move on.”
“If we’re talking about the subject matter Mr. Trump has brought up we’re going to lose,” Graham continued. “There’s no way he could win a national election… because America’s a good place.”
Asked whom he’d vote for if it was between Hillary Clinton and Trump, the senator replied, “I think she would win and that would be bad for the country.”
“The best way to allow her to win is to continue to talk about Donald Trump,” Graham added, noting that his primary competitor “wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell” versus Clinton.
Graham filmed a video with help of IJR, above, destroying his old phone — which was a flip phone.
“I need to thank Mr. Trump for moving me into an advanced telephone,” he quipped. “Without him, it probably wasn’t gonna happen.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch today announced a federal hate crimes indictment against Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof, but said no decision has been made on whether the feds will seek the death penalty.
The 33-count indictment, separate from the charges he faces in South Carolina in the massacre of nine people at the historic Emanuel AME Church, charges Roof with murder and attempted murder “because of their race and in order to interfere with their exercise of their religion.”
“As set forth in the indictment, several months prior to the tragic events of June 17, Roof conceived of his goal of increasing racial tensions throughout the nation and seeking retribution for perceived wrongs he believed African Americans had committed against white people,” Lynch said at a press conference today.
“To carry out these twin goals of fanning racial flames and exacting revenge, Roof further decided to seek out and murder African Americans because of their race. An essential element of his plan, however, was to find his victims inside of a church, specifically an African-American church, to ensure the greatest notoriety and attention to his actions.”
Lynch said Roof picked the church as his target “specifically because it was a historically African-American church of significance to the people of Charleston, of South Carolina and the nation.”
“On that summer evening, Dylann Roof found his targets, African-Americans engaged in worship. Met with welcome by the ministers of the church and its parishioners, he joined them in their Bible study group. The parishioners had Bibles. Dylann Roof had his .45-caliber Glock pistol and eight magazines loaded with hollow-point bullets. And as set forth in the indictment, while the parishioners of Mother Emanuel were engaged in religious worship and Bible study, Dylann Roof drew his pistol and opened fire on them, ultimately killing nine church members,” she said.
The attorney general stressed that South Carolina “does not have a hate crimes statute and as a result, the state charges do not reflect the alleged hate crime offenses presented in the federal indictment returned today.”
Roof is being charged under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which “prohibits using a dangerous weapon to cause bodily injury, or attempting to do so, on the basis of race or color” and “was enacted specifically to vindicate the unique harms caused by racially motivated violence.”
He’s also charged under a second federal hate crimes statute that “prohibits the use or threat of force to obstruct any person’s free exercise of their religious beliefs.”
“Finally, Roof has been charged with multiple counts of using a firearm in the commission of these racially motivated murders and attempted murders,” Lynch said.
“For these crimes, Roof faces penalties of up to life imprisonment or the death penalty. No decision has been made on whether to seek the death penalty in this case. The department will follow our usual rigorous protocol to thoroughly consider all factual and legal issues relevant to that decision, which will necessarily involve counsel for the defendant Roof. In addition, consultation with the victims’ families is an important part of this decision making process and no decision will be made before conferring with them.”
The Justice Department opened its hate-crimes investigation on June 18, the day after the church slayings.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters this morning that his caucus will do “everything possible” to get a veto-proof majority against implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.
Congress just began its 60-day review period of the deal, so debate and votes won’t begin until lawmakers return from recess in September.
Administration officials were briefing members of Congress on the deal in closed-door meetings this afternoon, and Boehner indicated they’ll be grilled about the terms of the agreement.
“While the president’s Iran deal may have been applauded at the United Nations, I think he faces serious skepticism here at home,” Boehner said.
“Let me just assure you that members of Congress will ask much tougher questions this afternoon when we meet with the president’s team, because a bad deal threatens the security of the American people, and we’re going to do everything possible to stop it.”
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he continues “to see more concerns on our side and on the other side of the aisle as well.”
“I’ll highlight one quote that I read this weekend on the basis of the president going to the U.N. Security Council. This comes from Senator Menenedez, ‘The bottom line is the real deal doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear program, it preserves it.’ This is a real concern that all Americans have,” McCarthy said outside of a morning closed caucus meeting.
“I recently saw in the Washington Post and ABC they found that 64 percent of the people said they were not confident the deal would halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Today in the hearing, I look forward to the questions, but more importantly. I look forward to the answers, because the more I hear about this agreement, the more concerned I become. Of all the issues we’ve had before us, this is the most critical. We have to get this right, because the world will never be the same.”
Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) predicted that the August recess, when lawmakers return to their home districts, will stir up even more fears about the deal.
That sort of grass-roots sentiment in recess townhalls changed the party of power in 2010 midterm elections over anger about Obamacare.
“You’re going to hear a lot of debate and real concern that we’re seeing across the country about this Iran deal,” Scalise said. “As more of the details come out, we’ve got more and more people expressing concern about how bad of a deal this is for the United States and, of course, our strong ally Israel and people throughout the Middle East are concerned as well about the likelihood of a nuclear arms race being escalated by the ability for Iran to be able to move forward with their nuclear weapons program.”
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee stressed that the Obama administration is inflating its deportation statistics by counting illegal immigrants seized at the border and immediately sent back.
The administration often notes to critics of illegal immigration that it has deported more people than the Bush administration did, drawing consternation from immigrant-rights groups.
But Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) noted on CNN that the administration’s claim of record deportations is “not true.”
“First of all, they’re counting people that they apprehend at the border and send back immediately. The Bush administration didn’t even count those numbers. So about two-thirds of their total number are simply people that come across, they don’t go through a deportation process, they’re simply sent back. They now count them as a deportation,” Goodlatte said.
“And if you look at the numbers for the interior of the country, they’re down more than 70 percent during the Obama administration and the number of criminal aliens on the streets are up 28 percent.”
Goodlatte says he wants several immigration bills that have passed his committee brought to the floor of the House. He wants to cut off federal funds to cities that are not cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I want to see the 276 or so sanctuary cities that have actually taken a public policy to not cooperate with the immigration service to enforce our laws back away from those policies, encourage their police departments and sheriff’s departments to cooperate with the federal government and make sure that we get these criminal aliens,” the chairman said. “There are now 350,000 of them that are either under orders of deportation or in a deportation hearing process where they have been released back into the community. And they commit thousands of crimes every year.”
“The sanctuary cities released 8,000 last year and already they’ve committed nearly 1,900 new crimes. The federal government, you know, they need the cooperation of sanctuary cities, but we also mostly need the enforcement of the law by the Obama administration. They released 30,000 criminal aliens last year back onto our streets.”
Goodlatte noted “we have 34,000 beds to hold people for deportation purposes and we’re not using all of those beds.”
“If the administration were enforcing the law, we would have less of this problem,” he said, adding that local governments “should cooperate with the federal government and they should make sure that when they have someone who is a criminal, illegal alien, that they call somebody and say, help us get this person out of our community, not just release them back out onto the street.”
“Yes, we have bills in the Congress that we want to move forward on. I’m very anxious to do that. But also it’s important to note that the Obama administration and these cities need to do everything that they can do right now under the law and much of the problem will be solved by that. Not all of it, but much of it.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) jumped into the presidential primary fray on the Senate floor yesterday, arguing that “there is no daylight between Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field.”
“This past weekend, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump did what he does best – he said something dishonest and distasteful. In speaking about the senior Senator from Arizona, Trump mocked Senator John McCain’s service during the Vietnam War,” Reid said, reflecting upon his long relationship with McCain and stressing that the former POW is a war hero.
“In the aftermath of those despicable remarks about Senator McCain, Republicans have been falling over themselves to criticize Donald Trump. But it makes me wonder: where were all of these same Republicans when Mr. Trump slandered millions of immigrants?” he continued.
“It was only a month ago that Trump said – quote: ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’ When Trump insulted a senator from their own party, Republicans couldn’t denounce him fast enough. But when Donald Trump called immigrants ‘rapists’ there was nothing but silence.”
Still, Reid saw “an ugly truth behind that silence, and it is this: when it comes to immigration policy, there is no meaningful difference between the Republican Party and Donald Trump.”
He proceeded to slam the views of Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie. “When it comes to immigration policy, there is no daylight between Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field,” Reid said. “So while the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls may not engage in the same repugnant rhetoric, make no mistake about it – they are all on the same page with Donald Trump.”
“I ask each Republican running for President: name one difference between your immigration policy and Trump’s immigration policy. Given recent history, all I expect is a deafening silence.”
Reid added that “when Mr. Trump insulted Senator McCain, Republicans couldn’t denounce him fast enough.”
“But when Mr. Trump called millions of hard-working immigrants ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers,’ there was nothing but silence. Maybe this is because none of the Republicans running for president can name a single way in which they disagree with Mr. Trump’s policies on immigration,” he said. “In the meantime, Democrats will continue to fight to pass comprehensive immigration reform, just as we did in 2013. We will continue to fight Republican piecemeal legislation that criminalizes immigrant communities. And we will continue to fight for immigrant families who are constantly being scapegoated by today’s Republican Party.”
President Obama told a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in New York tonight that he’s focused on legacy — in the “broad” sense.
Obama and DSCC Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) raked in ticket prices from $10,000 to $33,400 at the apartment of advertising scion Drew Katz and his wife, Rachel.
The president made a relatively short speech to the donor, saying he preferred to spend most of his time there in off-the-record conversations.
“The reason I was able to accomplish what we have been able to accomplish was because in the first two years of office I had a Congress that actually wanted to solve problems. I had a Congress that was willing to do tough things,” Obama told the crowd. “…We had people in office, in Congress at that time who were willing to responsible things even when it wasn’t popular.”
“I’m an American, a father, a husband; there are a lot of titles I care about more than being a Democrat. And Democrats aren’t perfect. But I will say this, that we have consistently been willing to do the right thing even when it’s not expedient.”
Obama added that “when we have a Democratic Congress we make progress that ultimately benefits everybody — not just the folks who are down and out, not just the marginalized.”
“So I guess my pitch would be this. I will not be on the ballot again, and my wife is super happy about that. But I do care about legacy. And I mean that in the broad sense, not the narrow sense. I’m not talking about any particular program or particular initiative, and wanting to make sure that it continues. I think about it in terms of, are we leaving behind the kind of politics that continues to nurture the American Dream and gives everybody in this economy a shot,” he said.
“And to do that, we’ve got to have a Democratic Senate. We need a Democratic Congress to really do what we could accomplish in this country.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) jumped into the Trump fray at his weekly press conference today, chiding Republicans for not calling out his other “low-life” qualities.
Reid was asked what he thought of Donald Trump giving out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) cell phone number at campaign rally in South Carolina today after calling him a “stiff” and an “idiot.”
Graham, who had called Trump a “jackass” for saying Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) captivity didn’t make him a war hero, tweeted afterward, “Probably getting a new phone. iPhone or Android?”
“Republicans — there are 16 of them now running for president — they are stomping all over themselves running to jump on Trump for criticizing John McCain,” Reid said.
“I agree with them for doing that, but in the process — because I think that if there were ever an American hero, somebody that spent almost six years in a prison camp, half of them in solitary confinement and a good part of that solitary confinement being tortured, his broken shoulder being re-broken and on and on with all the torture that he had to go through. So John McCain is truly a hero, a war hero.”
So, Reid continued, “the Republicans running for president are jumping all over themselves trying to say that’s such a bad thing for him to do, why don’t they talk about some of the other things that Donald Trump does that aren’t so good?”
“Immigration, all the other things that he does that are so low-life?” Reid added.
“So I would tell my Republican colleagues, I’m sorry that Lindsey — that somebody has his cell phone number, but Trump has done a lot more than outing his cell phone number. He’s done some really bad things that the Republicans are afraid to criticize. Why? Because Donald Trump is in the mainstream — most Republicans what they’re doing — talking about. That’s why he’s leading the polls by double digits.”
Surrounded by a crowd at his alma mater Ohio State, Gov. John Kasich jumped into the presidential race today in an unscripted address that touched heavily on themes of personal responsibility, empathy and man’s duty to serve others.
“If we’re not born to serve others, what were we born to do?” Kasich said.
The former congressman and onetime Fox News host stressed that “policy is far more important than politics, ideology or any of the other nonsense we see” and mused on challenges faced by various communities, including minority communities.
“If you are a member of the minority community, an African-American? You wonder: The system, I think, sometimes doesn’t just work for me but sometimes I feel like that system works against me. And you think about the troubles that many of our African-Americans still face today in a world where we have worked to provide equal rights and opportunities,” Kasich said. “Sometimes they are not so sure and I don’t blame them.”
In his 2014 re-election, Kasich won a third of black male voters and 20 percent of black women voters. In 2012, Mitt Romney got just 6 percent of the African-American vote.
“I have to humbly tell you — and I mean humbly tell you — that I believe I do have the skills and I have the experience and the testing, the testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world. And I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States. And I have to tell you, it’s a daunting challenge,” the governor said.
And the former House Budget Committee chairman vowed his “top priority will get this country on a path to fiscal independence, strength, and we will rebuild the economy of this country, because creating jobs is our highest moral purpose, and we will move to get that done.”
“…And as I hope you all know, economic growth is not an end unto itself. If you’re drug addicted, we’re going to try to rehab you and get you on your feet. If you’re mentally ill, prison is no place for you. Some treatment and some help is where you need to be. If you’re the working poor, we’re going to give you an opportunity to take a pay raise and not bang you over the head because you’re trying to get ahead. Well, we’re changing that system. If you have an autistic son or daughter, for most of them, they can get insurance, and we’ll work to make sure all of them have it. For the developmentally disabled, they’re made in God’s image. They have a right to rise, they have to be successful.”
Kasich said he’s going “tto take what we’ve learned here in the heartland, that band of brothers and sisters that I work with every day, and we are going to take the lessons of the heartland and straighten out Washington, D.C., and fix our country.”
The governor stressed that “if you save one life, you changed the world. And the Lord will record what you’ve done for another in the Book of Life.”
“I just would ask you to think. Put yourself in the shoes of another person. We’re so quick to make judgments today in our country,” he said. “…People who have not been dealt — dealt the best hand in life, yeah, we want to hold them accountable, but the Lord wants our hearts to reach out to those that don’t have what we have. I mean, that shouldn’t be hard for America. That’s who we are.”
“When people have studied our country, they have talked about our compassion, and we need to bring it back. Empathy, don’t be so quick to judge. Me, too, OK? Me, too.”
White House flag lowered to half-staff in honor of service members killed in Chattanooga pic.twitter.com/qPtA4WBdCS
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) July 21, 2015
Coming on the heels of the Capitol lowering its flags and pressure from lawmakers and presidential candidates, President Obama issued a proclamation today lowering flags in honor of those murdered in Chattanooga on Thursday.
The four Marines killed by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez were Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, N.C.; Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan of Hampden, Mass.; Lance Cpl. Skip Wells of Cobb Ga.; and Sgt. Carson Holmquist of Polk, Wis. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith died from his wounds Sunday.
“Our thoughts and prayers as a Nation are with the service members killed last week in Chattanooga. We honor their service. We offer our gratitude to the police officers and first responders who stopped the rampage and saved lives. We draw strength from yet another American community that has come together with an unmistakable message to those who would try and do us harm: We do not give in to fear. You cannot divide us. And you will not change our way of life,” Obama said in the proclamation.
“We ask God to watch over the fallen, the families, and their communities. As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, July 25, 2015. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
The announcement came as Obama was addressing the VFW convention in Philadelphia today, a speech largely focused on the Iran deal and VA mismanagement.
Obama today goes to New York for an appearance on The Daily Show and a DSCC fundraiser.
The father of a Bay Area woman slain by an illegal immigrant in a sanctuary city told the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning that a legislative remedy needs to come out of his daughter’s death.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had been deported five times and had an outstanding felony warrant for marijuana possession but was released by authorities in March. He has admitted to the July 1 San Francisco pier shooting of 32-year-old Kate Steinle.
“The day she was killed, we were walking arm in arm on Pier 14 In San Francisco, enjoying a wonderful day together. Suddenly a shot rang out, Kate fell, and looked at me and said ‘Help me, Dad.’ Those are the last words I will ever hear from my daughter,” Jim Steinle of Pleasanton, Calif., told senators.
“Everywhere Kate went throughout the world, she shined the light of a good citizen from the United States of America. Unfortunately, due to unjointed laws and basic incompetence of the government, the US has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hand of a person that should have never been on the streets in this country. I say this because the alleged murderer is an undocumented immigrant who has been convicted of 7 felonies in the US and already deported 5 times. Yet, in March of this year, he was released from jail and allowed to stay here freely because of legal loopholes.”
Steinle added “it is unbelievable to see that so many innocent Americans have been killed by undocumented immigrant felons in recent years.”
“In fact, we recently came across a statistic that says between 2010 and 2014, 121 unique criminal aliens who had an active deportation case at the time of release were subsequently charged with homicide related offenses,” he said. “Think about that, 121 times over the past 4 years the administration has released an illegal immigrant with prior criminal convictions that later went on to be charged with a murder when they should have been deported. That’s one every 12 days.”
“Our family realizes the complexities of immigration laws, however, we feel strongly that some legislation should be discussed, enacted and/or changed to take these undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good. We would be proud to see Kate’s name associated with some of this new legislation. We feel that if Kate’s Law saves one daughter, one son, a mother or a father, Kate’s death won’t be in vain.”
— Pat Roberts (@SenPatRoberts) July 21, 2015
With crickets from the White House on flying flags at half staff to honor the victims of last week’s attack in Chattanooga, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today ordered the tribute at the Capitol.
And the House Armed Services Committee chairman called on Obama to lower flags now — as the president made a swing by the VFW convention on his way to New York events.
“Last week, five brave service members were murdered in a terror attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Out of respect for their courageous service and sacrifice to our nation, flags at the U.S. Capitol are being lowered to half-staff,” Boehner said.
“Later today, we will also mark a moment of silence on the House floor in their memory. We will continue to pray for their loved ones and also take action to protect our men and women in uniform who protect all Americans.”
The four Marines killed were Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, N.C.; Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan of Hampden, Mass.; Lance Cpl. Skip Wells of Cobb Ga.; and Sgt. Carson Holmquist of Polk, Wis. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith died from his wounds Sunday.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked at yesterday’s briefing why President Obama hasn’t ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff, as he did after the Newtown school massacre, the Fort Hood terrorist attack and the Boston bombings.
“You’ve heard the president talk about this issue once last week, where he offered his sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed in this attack. I would anticipate that you’ll hear the president discuss this a little bit more in his remarks at the VFW tomorrow,” Earnest said.
“I don’t have more information about the status of the flag over the White House,” he added.
Obama was delivering remarks this morning at the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference in Pittsburgh. It’s part of a trip that includes an appearance on The Daily Show and a DSCC fundraiser in New York.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) called on the administration to act now to bring flags to half-staff.
“Last week, America lost five service members. They did not fall on a foreign battlefield, but were deliberately targeted and cruelly murdered here at home,” Thornberry said.
“Today, Speaker Boehner has ordered the flags at the Capitol to be flown at half staff. He follows the governors of Tennessee and other states who are doing the right thing to honor those casualties. The president should follow suit and order flags flown at half staff across the country, and he should do so immediately.”
Now you can get all of your Obama administration Iran nuclear deal justifications in one handy location.
With the 60-day congressional review period now underway, the lobbying war will only be getting more intense. Groups like the National American Iranian Council and J Street are lobbying on the behest of the White House, while AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups have geared up to try to blow the deal out of the water.
When asked if he’ll be lobbying Congress to shoot down the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied, “Look, I feel it’s my obligation as the prime minister of Israel to speak out against something that endangers the survival of my country, the security of the region, the security of the world.”
President Obama angered many members of Congress, including some in Democratic leadership, by taking the deal to the UN Security Council on Monday. The administration insists they didn’t break the nuclear agreement review law because Congress’ approval is still needed to implement the deal.
The Iran deal Twitter account links to the White House’s Iran deal website, which includes “Iran deal facts” and graphics that the administration hopes will be circulated on social media.
No word yet on whether they’ll be retweeting the Ayatollah.
— The Iran Deal (@TheIranDeal) July 21, 2015
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had one thought when Donald Trump said his best friend in the Senate, John McCain (R-Ariz.), wasn’t a war hero for being captured: “That he’s a jackass,” Graham told CNN.
“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump on Saturday in Iowa. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured…. He’s a war hero because he was captured. OK, I believe — perhaps he’s a war hero.”
Graham said he thought Trump, his competitor for the 2016 GOP nomination, “is bringing his name down and he is not helping the process.”
“And he shouldn’t be commander-in-chief. If you want to be commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, you need to understand that John McCain and all like him, not just John, are truly American. No one put yourself — when you put yourself in harm’s way, that makes you a hero. But you know what I think what makes you the hero, when you are the spouse raising kids when your loved one is deployed. I’ve been in the military for 33 years. Truly, it’s a team and family,” he said.
Graham retired from the Air Force this year with the Reserve rank of colonel.
“So, what he said about John I think was offensive. He is becoming a jackass at a time when we need to have a serious debate about the future of the party and the country. We’re on the verge of giving an Iranian ayatollah, who is a radical jihadist, a pathway to a nuclear bomb, but we’re literally falling apart,” the senator continued. “We are becoming Greece here at home. All we are talking about is Donald Trump and everybody he insults. But he’s crossed the line here. And maybe some frustration with our border. I get that. That’s no justification.”
“Saying that John McCain and people like him are not American heroes. The American people will not tolerate what he is doing regarding those who have served. This is a line he has crossed. And this is the beginning of the end of Donald Trump.”
Graham acknowledged that he’s “really pissed.”
Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to Al-Arabiya that it’s “very disturbing” how Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues talking about destroying the U.S. and Israel after signing the P5+1 nuclear agreement.
Kerry said he would be pitching Gulf partners on “all of the ways in which this agreement, in fact, makes the Gulf states and the region safer.”
“I will also discuss with them at great length the things that the United States of America is going to do, working with them, in order to push back against the terror and counterterrorism efforts and other activities in the region that are very alarming to them,” he said, adding “it’s a chance for them to ask me any misgivings they have.”
Al-Arabiya’s Nadia Bilbassy-Charters asked Kerry, “Can the United States stop the nefarious activities of Iran in four Arab capitals?”
And Kerry replied with a question. “Is it better to push back against those activities against an Iran with a nuclear weapon or an Iran without one? Obviously, without one. So you have to begin somewhere.”
When asked about the cash influx that will line the pockets of the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah and Houthis and Assad, Kerry answered with another question: “Who has more cash? Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and Qatar, or Iran?”
“Well, maybe they need to become more proactive in pushing back against activities so people understand they don’t have a free playing field on which to deal,” he continued. “The point I’m making is that $100 billion is nothing compared to what gets spent every year in the region. Iran’s military budget is $15 billion. The Gulf states’ military budget is $130 billion.”
The Cuban flag rose over Washington, D.C., today at the new embassy in a moment that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said “continues to validate the Castro regime’s brutal behavior.”
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was also in Washington in the first such visit by a Cuban diplomat since 1958, what Secretary of State John Kerry called “an historic day, a day for removing barriers” before offering a few words in Spanish.
“We want to make sure that those embassies are able to function fully, and I am confident that diplomats from both countries will have the freedom to travel and to converse with citizens from all walks of life,” said Kerry, who will head to Havana on Aug. 14 to christen the U.S. Embassy.
“I thank our friends around the hemisphere, who have urged us in some cases for decades, to restore our diplomatic ties, and who have warmly welcomed our decision to do so.”
Rodriguez stressed that they “have insisted that the total lifting of the blockade is essential to move on towards the normalization of relations” — something only Congress can do — as well as the return of “illegal” Guantanamo and “the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty as well as the compensation to our people for human and economic damages.”
Kerry called those demands “absolutely no surprise, because it’s been a subject of discussion.”
“We’ve both been crystal clear with each other. There’s been no pulling of punches. And I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve built up an ability to be able to get to this moment. With respect to the embargo, President Obama could not have been more clear. The president has called on Congress to lift the embargo,” he said, adding that there are no plans to hand over Gitmo right now but “we understand that Cuba has strong feelings about it.”
His Cuban counterpart added that President Obama “has adopted some executive measures which are still limited in scope, but which are oriented in the right direction.”
But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who was brought to the U.S. from Cuba as a young girl, said today’s flag-raising was nothing less than a national security threat in the heart of D.C.
“In the past two weeks, President Obama has rolled out the red carpet at the White House for Vietnam’s communist party leader, negotiated a dangerous deal with the Iranian regime, and moved forward with further legitimizing the tyrannical regime in Havana,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The Cuban people’s oppressors will not hesitate to use this ‘embassy’ as a spy hub, as they have done in the past to threaten our homeland.”
“Just yesterday, Cuban State Security arrested pro-democracy members, including Ladies in White leader Berta Soler, which continues to illustrate how the Castro brothers are emboldened by Obama’s overtures. While human rights activists are imprisoned and jailed for speaking out for freedom and justice, the Obama administration is rejoicing and looking the other way today as embassies are opened,” she added.
Far from obeying Obama’s command to lift the embargo, Ros-Lehtinen noted that she will “look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to block funding for the expansion of a U.S. embassy in Cuba and to stop the confirmation of a U.S. ambassador to the island.”
“However, no matter the steps we are able to take, it is undeniable that today is a sad day for U.S. national security and human rights around the world,” she said.
Menendez noted there have been more than 2,800 political arrests on the island this year alone. Obama announced rapprochement with Cuba in December.
“There is no sign the Castro regime is willing to begin respecting the Cuban people’s right to freedom of expression, independent journalism, or access to information,” he said. “Diplomatic relations with the U.S. are a privilege and must be earned, yet the Cuban government refuses to make any substantial changes to uphold democratic principles and human rights since the December 17th announcement.”
Menendez stressed that “there may be a flag raising over the embassy of a dictatorship, but the real goal is a flag raising where the Cuban people are free, have their human rights respected and where we do not accept dictatorial conditions on our embassy and its people.”
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), though, told MSNBC it was “pretty emotional” to hear both national anthems played today.
I think President Obama and President Castro deserve a great deal of credit. They obviously get along well in the meetings they’ve had. They have both told me how much they think of each other. And I’ll keep on going down there. I was beginning to think this day would never come. I’m a very, very happy senator,” Leahy said.
Of the concerns of Ros-Lehtinen and Menendez, he said, “If we closed every one of the U.S. embassies around the world where we have problems with the human rights of the country we’re in, we would close half our embassies.”
not an uncommon example of humanity in SC: Leroy Smith helps white supremacist to shelter & water as heat bears down. pic.twitter.com/GoF23r3mRe
— Rob Godfrey (@RobGodfrey) July 18, 2015
South Carolina’s director of public safety issued a statement today about why he helped a neo-Nazi into the shade, a viral image that was captured by Gov. Nikki Haley’s deputy chief of staff.
Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, the officer pictured helping the KKK rally participant, was helping with crowd control when a white supremacist asked if Smith could help two other KKK demonstrators who had been overcome by the heat.
Smith and Columbia Fire Department Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins, who like Smith is African-American, helped the protesters up the stairs to waiting EMTs.
“I have been somewhat surprised by how this photo has taken off and gone viral around the world. Even though I serve as the director of this agency, I consider myself like every other officer who was out there braving the heat on Saturday to preserve and protect. The photo that was captured just happened to be of me,” Smith said.
“Our men and women in uniform are on the front lines every day helping people – regardless of the person’s skin color, nationality or beliefs. As law enforcement officers, service is at the heart of what we do,” he continued.
“I believe this photo captures who we are in South Carolina and represents what law enforcement is all about. I am proud to serve this great State, and I hope this photo will be a catalyst for people to work to overcome some of the hatred and violence we have seen in our country in recent weeks.”
The rally protesting the removal of the Confederate flag was organized by the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Their event was preceded by a rally of the New Black Panther Party, which has been classified as a “virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
An editorial in The State newspaper urged locals to stay away from both rallies.
“We recognize that many good and sincere South Carolinians feel a need to demonstrate to the world that such people are not welcome in South Carolina. But there is no need to do that; these are already marginalized groups. No one believes we want them here, or that they represent us. They’re coming to South Carolina because they hope to take advantage of all the national attention on our flag debate to steal a little of the spotlight for themselves… We can stop them from accomplishing anything they hope to accomplish — by simply ignoring them.”
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman David Vitter (R-La.) today released the results of an investigation into how Congress avoided Obamacare by putting 15,000 lawmakers and staffers into a healthcare exchange for businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
“Facing the prospect of falling victim to the consequences of its own bad law, Congress and the Obama administration negotiated behind closed doors and devised a loophole that shielded them from the consequences of the law,” states the report. “The scheme employed to provide the Washington Obamacare Exemption involved a fraudulent misrepresentation in which the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were defined as small employers to enable their members and some staff to receive generous taxpayer-funded contributions, not otherwise available under the new law.”
It charged that “the Washington Obamacare Exemption represents the immense abuse of power by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. at the clandestine direction of elected officials and the Obama administration.”
Prior to Obamacare’s passage, members of Congress and staff received coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Obamacare said that would be scrapped and congressional employees would go into the exchange by Jan. 1, 2014.
Near the deadline, the Office of Personnel Management unveiled a special-agency rule “despite the disappointment, disbelief, and indignation that many Americans shared when they learned that Congress was exempting itself from Obamacare.”
“The OPM rule allowed Congress to recover its generous government/employer contribution at the original pre-Obamacare amount… OPM’s rule allowed each member office to decide which employees are ‘official,’ and therefore, must enroll on the SHOP Exchange, and which are ‘unofficial’ and could remain on FEHBP.”
The report highlights “identical false misrepresentations on the House and Senate applications submitted in November 2013″ to qualify for the exchange intended for 50 or fewer employees and “show a carefully coordinated scheme that likely originated from the same source who either personally completed them or gave instructions to others on how to complete them.”
Vitter began to dig into what happened when he assumed control of Small Business committee this year, but said he’s gotten the runaround on document requests.
“Through poorly-written legislation, a free pass from the Obama administration, and a deliberate mislabeling of Congress as a ‘small business,’ United States lawmakers have created a healthcare system that favors a few at the cost of many,” the report states, adding that they’re still trying to ascertain which members of Congress and White House officials met behind closed-doors to come up with the Obamacare exemption.
His office also wants to know if any congressional leaders put pressure on committee members to shoot down Vitter’s request to issue a subpoena for unredacted applications. That was denied on a 5-14 vote back in April.
“The Washington Obamacare Exemption represents a level of arrogance from Congress and DC’s elite that fundamentally undermines our nation’s government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Vitter said today.
A Senate aide said Vitter will be reintroducing an updated version of his legislation to block Congress from receiving an Obamacare exemption. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is then expected to copy that language and introduce it as an amendment to the highway bill.
The White House today agreed with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for saying Donald Trump should apologize to all veterans for his comments that POWs aren’t automatically war heroes.
“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump on Saturday Iowa. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured… He’s a war hero because he was captured. OK, I believe — perhaps he’s a war hero.”
McCain said this morning on MSNBC that Trump doesn’t owe him an apology, “but I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country.”
“I’m in the arena, as T.R. used to say, but in the case of many of our veterans, when Mr. Trump said that he prefers to be with people who are not captured, well, the great honor of my life was to serve in the company of heroes. I’m not a hero,” he said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers, people like Colonel Bud Day, Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, those who have inspired us to do things that we otherwise would not have been capable of doing. Those are the people that I think he owes an apology to.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today “that even in the midst of their competitive 2008 campaign for the White House, that Senator Obama expressed his admiration and deep respect for Senator McCain’s heroism.”
“Their political differences between Senator McCain and President Obama have continued even while President Obama has been in office, but those debates have not reduced his appreciation for Senator McCain’s remarkable service to the country,” Earnest said. “The fact is the most notable comment in this episode came from Senator McCain himself, who I think pretty selflessly made clear that he didn’t really care about an apology, but he did believe that our military veterans are entitled to one.”
Earnest said he agreed with McCain that Trump should apologize to veterans.
“I do think it warrants lifting up the selfless example that Senator McCain has established here today, in terms of suggesting that he doesn’t really care about an apology for himself, he suggested that, as somebody who’s in the political arena, he’s taken his own fair share of criticism, and he can handle it,” he said. “But he is right when he says that our veterans are the ones who are entitled to an apology.”
Earnest alluded to a conversation with Obama about Trump’s jump in the polls, but wouldn’t go into detail.
“I haven’t had a detailed conversation with the president about this, but obviously there’s a spirited process that’s underway on the Republican side and, you know, this will be a significant challenge for Republican candidates, but they’ll ultimately have to navigate their way through this process,” he said.
“I don’t have more details of that conversation to share with you.”
Earnest later added that he’s “not going to render judgment on the millions of Americans who have bravely put on the uniform of this country” regarding who is and isn’t a hero.
“Is Bowe Bergdahl a hero?” a reporter asked.
“I’m not going to get into those kinds of classifications,” Earnest replied.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he’s asked service leaders to review weapons policy in the wake of the Chattanooga attacks on recruitment and reserve centers, but some in Congress said he needs to act faster to ensure men and women in uniform can protect themselves.
Carter noted on the way to the Middle East that he was “saddened by the loss,” of four Marines and one sailor, “but also really angered at the senselessness of it.”
“I asked — on Friday afternoon directed the services to take some additional force protection measures at our bases and installations,” he said. “And I also asked our services to look at further steps that they might advise be taken, and to get back to me in the next few days with their recommendations. Obviously force protection everywhere around the world, abroad and now at home, is a big priority for us at the department, and will continue to be.”
Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) allowed National Guard in his state to start carrying sidearms today, and Carter was pressed on the Pentagon’s perspective.
“Certain steps have taken steps — certain states, rather, have taken steps that are within their authorities. But for the Department of Defense as a whole, I’m waiting to hear from the services until they’ve had a chance to do an assessment and give me the facts and their recommendations, which, as I said, I’ve directed them to give me within a few days,” Carter said. “And I’ll take them into consideration then.”
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who represents the country’s largest military district, told the Virginian-Pilot that he’s lobbying colleagues for their signatures on a letter to Carter urging that commanders be granted the authority to approve weapons on bases.
“My gut sense is the American people want to know what we are doing to give their sons and daughters at least the highest probability… that they can go to work in uniform and come home safe,” Rigell said Friday. “We aren’t doing enough right now.”
“We have many Guard and Reserve units across the commonwealth that are no more protected than a 7-11,” he added. “You can ride right up to them, walk in the door and be greeted by men and women in uniform.”
This week, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) will introduce legislation to eliminate “gun-free zones” at military installations and recruitment offices.
“What happened in Chattanooga can never happen again,” Moran said. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees the ‘right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’ yet our men and women in uniform are being prevented from exercising this constitutional right when fulfilling their duties on American soil. Just because a member of our Armed Forces is not deployed to an active war zone does not mean they are safe from those who wish to do harm.”
“Members of our military are targets for those who do not share our values – both at home and abroad,” Moran added. “If the members of our Armed Forces at the Chattanooga military recruitment centers had been allowed to exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights, the outcome of the attacks could have been very different. These brave individuals must be empowered to defend themselves and others from violence and acts of domestic terrorism.”
Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on ABC Sunday that military “should have the means to defend themselves.”
“And this is dramatically changed since 9/11. And there’s a basic logic here: if we don’t know who these shooters are going to be, and we do know that one of their targets that they’re focusing on are military people in uniform, then it’s just logical that we should provide them a means to defend themselves if they become under any sort of attack like this,” Webb said.
“We don’t take firearms away from police officers. There should be some means for these people to defend themselves.”
Webb added that he “had a long talk with the chief of staff for the army after the Ft. Hood incident, which also was on a military base.”
“There was not one military person in that gathering that had a firearm. I grew up in the military. Firearms were normal in the situations when I was growing up. By the time they called the police to get in there to help them, they had 13 dead people.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on CBS Sunday that Iran is “not developing these intercontinental ballistic missiles for us — they are developing them for you.”
“And they will be able to tip them with nuclear warheads within 10 or 15 years,” he added.
When asked if he’ll be lobbying Congress to shoot down the deal, Netanyahu replied, “Look, I feel it’s my obligation as the prime minister of Israel to speak out against something that endangers the survival of my country, the security of the region, the security of the world.”
“And I obviously make my case. I think that is important. It’s not only important for us. I think it’s important for the entire world.”
He stressed that it’s a lie to say everybody except Israel hates the deal, “but even if they did, there was a celebrated deal just a few years ago, a nuclear deal.”
“Everybody, the scientific community, the international community, everybody applauded it. It was a deal with North Korea. That proved to be a historic mistake as well,” the prime minister added. “And North Korea today has dozen nuclear bombs and is on track to get within few years 100 nuclear bombs. I think that this is a repeat of the mistake of North Korea. And what is more, Ayatollah Khamenei, the ruler of Iran, the dictator in Tehran, is saying that he’s going to continue his battle against the United States and his worldwide terrorism.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Sunday that his trip to the Middle East this week isn’t about trying to convert Israeli leadership into liking the Iran nuclear deal, but about getting ready for Iranian aggression.
Carter told reporters en route to Tel Aviv on that “I’m not going to change anybody’s mind in Israel.”
“That’s not the purpose of my trip. The purpose of my trip is to work on all the things that we do together: to guarantee the security of American interests in the region, and very importantly one of those is the security of Israel,” he said.
“Because of Iran’s potential for aggression and malign activities, we’re always looking for ways to strengthen our posture there. And, of course, we have another major reason to have a strong posture, and another major ingredient of our defense strategy towards the region, which is countering extremism there. So for both of those reasons, we’re always looking for ways that we can strengthen our posture. And, of course, we do that everywhere with friends and allies, Gulf countries, other countries in the region, and of course, especially our longstanding friend and ally, Israel.”
Netanyahu told ABC that the U.S. won’t be able to buy his support.
“Everybody talks about compensating Israel. I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, if this deal is supposed to make Israel and our Arab neighbors safer, why should we be consecrated — compensated with anything?” he said.
“And furthermore, you know, how can you compensate a country, my country, against a terrorist regime that is sworn to our destruction and is going to get a path to nuclear bombs and billions of dollars to boot for its terror activities against us, against you, against everyone else. I think the right thing to do is not to do this bad deal.”
The White House has made clear that they conveniently ignore the tweets of the supreme leader of Iran, who will have the final say over not only whether they implement the nuclear deal on their end but whether they abide by it. And Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was clear about where the Islamic Republic is headed after signing on the dotted line.
‘Down to US,’ ‘Down to Israel’ slogans changed country’s atmosphere and it was not only in Tehran or big cities.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
A legal mechanism is predicted for approval of this text [of JCPOA] which must be followed. #IranDeal
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
Whether this text would be approved or not, we will not allow them by Divine help to abuse it. #IranDeal
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
Defensive capabilities and security of country will be protected by God’s Aid and #IRAN will never surrender to enemies’ excessive demands.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
Five US presidents since the Revolution have either died or been lost in history wishing to make Iran surrender; you are also like them!
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
I have an advice for US officials. pic.twitter.com/HK27ReHh1V
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
US pres. said he could knock out Iran’s army. Of course we neither welcome, nor begin war, but in case of war, US will leave it disgraced.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 18, 2015
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 20, 2015
President Obama did an end-run around Congress on the Iran deal today in what Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) noted will become known as “Capitulation Monday” in history.
The United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 this morning to endorse the P5+1 deal with Iran and start rolling back sanctions.
Both Republicans and Democrats had been frantically telling Obama to hold off on the vote. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote Obama on Thursday to remind the president what he would be violating if he took the deal to the UNSC right away.
“The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, a bill which 98 Senators and 400 Representatives supported and you signed, established a 60-day period for Congress to consider the nuclear agreement. We are deeply concerned that your administration plans to enable the United Nations Security Council to vote on the agreement before the United States Congress can do the same,” Corker and Cardin wrote.
“Doing so would be contrary to your statement that ‘it’s important for the American people and Congress to get a full opportunity to review this deal…our national security policies are stronger and more effective when they are subject to the scrutiny and transparency that democracy demands.’”
On Friday, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) joined in the chorus telling the administration to cool their heels.
“I agree with Senators Cardin and Corker that the U.N. Security Council should wait to move ahead with a resolution implementing parts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action until after Congress has completed its review of the agreement with Iran,” Hoyer said. “I believe that waiting to go to the United Nations until such time as Congress has acted would be consistent with the intent and substance of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.”
Under the law passed by Congress and signed by Obama, lawmakers are supposed to get 60 days to review the deal — beginning when all documents have been submitted to Congress.
State Department press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Sunday morning that “pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, today the State Department transmitted to Congress the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its annexes, and related materials.”
“These documents include the Unclassified Verification Assessment Report on the JCPOA and the Intelligence Community’s Classified Annex to the Verification Assessment Report, as required under the law. Therefore, Day One of the 60-day review period begins tomorrow, Monday, July 20.”
Rubio noted in a statement this morning that not only did Obama push the Iran deal to the United Nations, but the Cuban deal moved forward with the reopening of embassies.
“History will remember July 20, 2015 as Obama’s Capitulation Monday, the day two sworn enemies of the United States were able to out-maneuver President Obama to secure historic concessions,” Rubio said. “Monday’s events at the UN, Washington and Havana leave no doubt that we have entered the most dangerous phase of the Obama presidency in which the president is flat-out abandoning America’s vital national security interests to cozy up to the world’s most reprehensible regimes.”
“President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is a dangerous and destabilizing failure, and it is telling that he is seeking Russia and China’s seal of approval of his deal before administration officials have even briefed Congress. The stakes are too far high for America’s security to be outsourced to the United Nations… July 20th will be a powerfully symbolic day for the Obama-Clinton foreign policy legacy, which will be remembered as a dark time in American history when the mullahs in Iran and the thugs in Havana celebrated at America’s expense.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, on ABC Sunday, said “a mountain is being made out of a mole hill here.”
“What we did was negotiate with our P5+1 partners, who are not subject to the Congress, that it cannot be implemented until after Congress has had a chance to vote,” Kerry argued.
“It’s presumptuous of some people to suspect that France, Russia, China, Germany, Britain ought to do what the Congress tells them to do. They have a right to have a vote. But we prevailed on them to delay the implementation of that vote out of respect for our Congress so we wouldn’t be jamming them.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) told Fox that he tried appealing to Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and UN Ambassador Samantha Power.
“It seems to me that under the law it is Congress that has the decision in the next — and responsibility over the next — 60 days to review this agreement and decide on lifting those sanctions, the $150 billion we’re talking about, and decide upon whether or not we’re even going to lift the arms embargo on Iran, which was thrown into this agreement at the last minute. And that includes their intercontinental ballistic missile system,” Royce said.
“The administration is going an end run around by going right now to the Security Council… I don’t understand how that is proper and that’s why [House Homeland Security Committee Chairman] Mike McCaul and I sent that letter to the president and why we’re convening hearings next week on this subject.”
Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will appear Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I’m confident that the American people, as they learn more about this agreement, are repudiating it and that Congress will ultimately reject it,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on NBC Sunday.
Even a supporter of the deal, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), admitted before this end run around Congress, which won’t win the administration any new friends on the Hill, that “the jury is out” on Democratic support for the Iran deal.
“The Iranian deal may be good enough for the United Nations but it’s a terrible deal for the United States. Taking it to the UN before Congress reviews it is an affront to the American people and further evidence of a weak president trying to sell a bad deal,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “Congress is not bound by today’s UN decision. I look forward to a full and complete debate in the coming weeks.”
Al-Shabaab vowed to punish the United States after the strikes that killed leader Ahmed Godane last Labor Day, and in an Eid message the Somali terror group vowed “the operations of the Mujahideen are on a steady increase both in quantity and diversity.”
The White House hailed Godane’s death as “a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaeda affiliate in Africa.”
Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah, aka Ahmed Diriye, a longtime senior adviser to Godane and former primary school Quran teacher, quickly stepped into the role of leading Al-Shabaab.
And it’s been a bloody year for the terror group, which stunned the globe with its 2013 Westgate mall attack in Nairobi.
In January, the FBI added Beltway cabbie Liban Haji Mohamed, an Al-Shabaab recruiter in the U.S., to its Most Wanted Terrorists list. In February, the Obama administration unveiled its “strategic patience” national security strategy only referred to “violent extremists fighting governments in Somalia, Nigeria, and across the Sahel.” Al-Shabaab then released a slick video threatening U.S. sites including the Mall of America.
In March, Boko Haram in Nigeria pledged allegiance to ISIS, but disagreements within Al-Shabaab about breaking with its al-Qaeda alliance have kept the Somali group from doing the same. After one Al-Shabaab cleric declared ISIS to be the legitimate caliphate, the State Department without explanation temporarily closed its Djibouti embassy.
In April, Al-Shabaab slaughtered 147 at Garissa University College in Kenya. In May, Secretary of State John Kerry became the first in his position to visit Somalia, but didn’t leave the airport. Al-Shabaab posted a June video showing white recruits conducting attacks in Kenya.
In his Eid message, Umar said his group’s “swords actively and effectively strike the necks of the disbelievers on a daily basis throughout the country and their raids remain constant.”
He told Muslims in Kenya “your brothers will not cease in assisting you Insha-Allaah nor will they delay in targeting anyone who violates your religion or your honour.”
“By the permission of Allaah, your brothers will continue their operations until your land in its entirety is liberated from the rule of the disbelievers. O’ Muslims of Kenya, know that there is no solution to the oppression and humiliation you are going through except Jihad in the path of Allaah, therefore, hasten and join the caravans of Jihad. Hurry and travel to the battlefields of Jihad and prepare yourselves so as to liberate your lands from the crusader forces. Aid the Mujahideen with all that your capable of so that Allaah may alleviate your suffering and burden.”
Kenya is more than 82 percent Christian, according to CIA statistics.
Umar congratulated all who conducted the “blessed” university attack. “Indeed, the age in which the disbelievers used to perpetrate their crimes without being held to account has passed,” he said. “…Keep up the good work and continue slaying the crusaders and purifying the Muslim lands from their filth… hasten your salvation from the cruelty of the evil Christians.”
“By the permission of Allaah, we will neither deviate nor change. We will continue to march forth governing with the Shari’ah of Allaah, fighting in the path of our Lord and defending our oppressed Muslim brothers until Allaah judges between us and the disbelievers.”
An FBI official said this afternoon that they so far have “no indication” that Chattanooga gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez was “inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself.”
Special agent in charge Ed Reinhold disputed an earlier assertion from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) that ISIS is likely involved.
“My judgment and my experience is that it was an ISIS-inspired attack,” McCaul told reporters at a press conference at Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base. “The targets are identical to the targets called by ISIS to attack.”
Abdulazeez wrote two blog posts on July 13 in which he talked about “what role we need to play to establish Islam in the world.”
“We have not classified it as an act of terrorism,” Reinhold stressed, noting the FBI “will treat it as an act of terrorism until it’s determined one way or the other.”
“We do not believe there’s an imminent threat to anyone in the Chattanooga area,” he added, noting the ISIS connection remains a “possibility.”
There were also questions about how Abdulazeez managed to kill four Marines at the Naval Reserve center even though he already had police on his tail from the site of the first shooting, at a strip mall military recruitment office.
The four Marines killed were Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, N.C.; Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan of Hampden, Mass.; Lance Cpl. Skip Wells of Cobb Ga.; and Sgt. Carson Holmquist of Polk, Wis.
Reinhold said they’re still studying the crime scenes to determine exactly what happened. “He was a moving target and he was obviously able to kill four Marines and wound the one sailor,” the agent said. “These officers were under a tremendous amount of gunfire from this individual.”
There’s “no indication” that Abdulazeez took his own life in the shootout, he confirmed.
Reinhold said Abdulazeez was wearing a load-bearing vest and carrying “at least two long guns — rifles or shotguns — and he did have one handgun that we’re aware of.”
“Some of the weapons were purchased legally and some may not have been,” he said.
Reinhold confirmed that investigators overseas are studying the gunman’s travel. Reuters reported that he may have stopped in Yemen last year when he went to visit family in Jordan.
Last week, the new leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Qasim al-Rimi, issued an audio message directing Muslims to “direct and gather your arrows and swords against” the United States.
ISIS published a new issue of its magazine Dabiq this week with a page dedicated to its “soldiers” in the West, what the U.S. government calls “lone wolves.” While the Islamic State’s members and online supporters have tweeted support for Abdulazeez, with many changing their Twitter avatars to his booking photo, there hasn’t been an official claim of responsibility from ISIS leadership.
Abdulazeez, who was born in Kuwait to Jordanian parents of Palestinian descent, had no prior encounters with law enforcement expect an April driving under the influence arrest, for which he was scheduled to appear in court at the end of this month.
His mother filed for divorce from his father in 2009, stating in court documents reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he beat their five children and inflicted physical, verbal and sexual abuse on her. He also told her he was going to take a second wife “as permitted under certain circumstances under Islamic law.”
Rasmia Abdulazeez withdrew the complaint against Youssuf Saed Abdulazeez, a soil engineering specialist for the Chattanooga Department of Public Works, 22 days later after he agreed to counseling and other terms.
Senate gun-control advocate Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said they need to study how they could have prevented Abdulazeez, an electrical engineering graduate employed in a supervisory role, from acquiring the guns.
“The despicable, devastating domestic terror attacks in Chattanooga show the urgent need for a comprehensive, overall review and revamping of security practices and policies at recruiting offices and reserve facilities,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “We need comprehensive review – and reform – to assure sufficient security. These brutal, brazen murders are a chilling reminder of the need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and deranged shooters.”
Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R) told CNN that the murders will move Islamic extremism to the front of Congress’ agenda.
“People are very concerned about homeland security. They’re concerned about what is happening on the security front in our world, whether it’s the Iran deal, dealing with ISIS, dealing with radical Islamic extremists,” Blackburn said. “What they want to know is that, in their homes, in their communities, they’re going to be safe, their children are going to be safe. So that issue will move more to the forefront, I think, as we move through the balance of this congressional session.”
President Obama welcomed Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to the White House today for a meeting behind closed doors — and offered a summary of the discussions that was probably much more rosy than what happened behind closed doors.
“They welcomed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between the P5+1, EU and Iran on July 14 which, once fully implemented, will effectively cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and verifiably ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful going forward,” the administration said in a readout of the meeting.
“Following on the Camp David meetings with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders, they discussed efforts underway to further enhance the close and long standing partnership between our two countries and build Saudi Arabia’s security capabilities, noting that Secretary of Defense Carter’s visit to Saudi Arabia next week will advance those discussions.”
The White House said Obama al-Jubeir, who is very familiar with all Beltway players as the longtime Saudi ambassador before his new post, “also reviewed efforts to jointly address and seek to resolve regional crises.”
“They discussed the urgency of stopping the fighting in Yemen and the importance of ensuring that assistance is reaching Yemenis in need through international humanitarian channels without any impediments or delays,” the readout continued. “They discussed cooperation to reach a genuine political solution in Syria. They also reaffirmed our mutual commitment to reinforce efforts to support Iraq and continue the coalition’s work in the counter-ISIL campaign. The President asked Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir to convey his best wishes to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.”
Yesterday outside a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, al-Jubeir said the Saudis “look forward to an agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability, that has a robust and continuous inspections regime to make sure that Iran does not violate the terms of the agreement, and that has an effective and quick snapback provision that allows the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran should it violate the terms of that agreement.”
“We all support the continuation of the sanctions against Iran related to counterterrorism and related to its support for terrorism and other issues. And we hope that the Iranians, if a deal is implemented, that the Iranians will use this deal in order to improve the economic situation in Iran and to improve the lot of the Iranian people, and not use it for adventures in the region,” the foreign minister continued.
“And we are committed that if Iran should try to cause mischief in the region, we are committed to confront it resolutely. And so we are — we will — we’re looking at this agreement and we will be studying it, and we are discussing it with our friends in the United States. But the bottom line is everybody wants a good deal, and so we expect that with time we will be exchanging ideas with our friends in the U.S. and with the other P5+1 countries, and in order to get at questions — answers to some of the questions we may have.”
Kerry cut off the press availability after al-Jubeir’s comments.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said King Salman requested that Obama meet personally with al-Jubeir when the president phoned the monarch earlier in the week to break the news of the deal.
When pressed further by reporters on the contents of the conversations, Earnest stuck firmly to the readout talking points.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that the Saudis are expected to launch offensives in Yemen and Syria before Iran can start raking in its cash windfall from the deal.