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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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White House Paints Oddly Rosy Picture of Saudi Discussions About Iran Deal

Friday, July 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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.

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Christie: If I Had It to Do All Over Again, I Wouldn’t Change a Minute of Obama Hug

Friday, July 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

If he had to do it all again, Chris Christie would still give a bear hug to President Obama.

The New Jersey governor was asked on CNN this morning about the infamous embrace after Hurricane Sandy and just before the 2012 presidential election. Considering the backlash he’s received since, would he do the same today?

“I absolutely would because it’s my job,” Christie replied. “It’s my job to protect and serve the people of the state of New Jersey who just suffered the most devastating natural disaster in our state’s history and the second most devastating natural disaster in the country’s history. So of course I would treat the president of the United States with respect when he came to visit, which is what I did.”

The governor was reminded that his approval rating was 77 percent back then. Last month, it had fallen to 30 percent.

“Listen, I shook his hand. I welcomed him and I thanked him for his help. I thought that’s what civilized human beings do with each other, whether you’re in the same party or in different parties. And if that’s where our politics has gotten to, then no one should wonder in this country why we are in the condition we are in, if we can’t even be civilized to each other anymore,” Christie said.

“That’s not the kind of politics I’ll bring to Washington, D.C. I’ll bring tough politics, but civilized politics to Washington. But most importantly, what I’ll bring is my heart and my mind to do my job that the people elect me to do.”

Christie said it’s “hard to tell” how Bridgegate might hurt him.

The U.S. Attorney did a 15-month investigation, he noted. “I used to do this for a living. If you didn’t find the evidence after the first 15 months, you’re not finding it. Because you know why? There isn’t any. I had nothing to do with it,” he said. “And so, you know, in the end, I don’t think the American people are going to make their decision based upon a traffic jam.”

“Seventy-seven percent is pretty high in a Democratic state for a Republican governor. If you look at my approval ratings from the day I came into office until now. They have gone up and down. The reason for that is because when I get political capital, I spend it. I take on teacher tenure reform, I take on pension reform and health benefit reform. We take on all the big issues that are going on in this state, and when you do that, you are going to anger some people and when you do, you’re going to lose their support. But then when those programs work, you gain their support back. I’m willing to bet you by this time next year, those numbers will be back up because people will see the things are working.”

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Haram or Halal? Turkish TV Clerics’ War of Words Over Oral Sex

Friday, July 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

After one Muslim televangelist in Turkey got mocked for saying masturbating hands will be pregnant in the afterlife, Islamic clerics in Turkey are getting into more sexytime debates:

A popular Muslim televangelist in Turkey has opposed a recent statement by a colleague, who had declared “advanced oral sex” to be forbidden by Islam.

“Do not invent a lie on behalf of Allah,” said Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, popularly known as “Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca” (Robed Ahmet Hoca) among his followers, during his latest televised sermon.

Ünlü’s remarks were in response to Ali Rıza Demircan, a well-known expert on Islam, who claimed on Turkey’s state-run broadcaster TRT on July 10 that what he described as “advanced oral sex” was “haram” (forbidden) in Islam.

Contradicting Demircan, Ünlü said the Quran does not stipulate such a ban. “Brothers, let’s speak frankly: [Islam’s] Shafi’i sect allows this act, as it considers human semen a clean substance. On the other hand, the Hanafi sect considers semen as dirty, but adds that a dress can be cleaned by simply rubbing the semen off when it dries.”

Clinton references aside, Ünlü reassured Turks going into the weekend by noting “even clerics see oral sex as normal in Indonesia and Malaysia.”

Demircan’s “advanced oral sex” comments — he claimed it was a cause of divorce — provoked a great reaction from host Pelin Çift, seen in the video below. “Do you know what my problem is?” the cleric asked as she laughed. “For God’s sake… what’s your problem?” Çift answered.

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Obama’s Eid Message: ‘A Reason to Celebrate and Express Gratitude on This Holiday’

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama issued a statement today to mark Eid al-Fitr, noting there’s “a reason to celebrate and express gratitude on this holiday” as Muslims wrap up the Ramadan month tomorrow.

“For millions of Muslims, the morning of Eid is marked with the call to prayer echoing through cities and towns across the globe. Millions of people head to local mosques for special Eid prayers followed by festive gatherings, gift exchanges, and feasts among friends, neighbors and families. The diversity of traditions paint the vibrant images we see from around the world capturing the spirit and excitement of Eid – colorful dresses or white garments decorating the masses of people standing in lines for prayer, lanterns and ornaments lighting up bazaars and neighborhoods, intricate henna designs painted on hands of young girls and women, and an abundance of delectable foods and aromatic cuisines,” Obama said.

“As Muslim Americans celebrate Eid across America, the holiday is a reminder to every American of the importance of respecting those of all faiths and beliefs.”

He noted that over the past year New York City Public Schools added Eid to their official school calendars alongside Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays – “an acknowledgement of the great diversity and inclusiveness that adds to the richness of our nation.”

“During this year’s White House Iftar, I had the opportunity to meet inspiring young Muslim Americans who are leading efforts for greater understanding and unity across diverse communities,” he said of the dinner that breaks the daily Ramadan fast. Following the Iftar, one of the young attendees helped spearhead an effort that raised more than $75,000 for the churches burned in the wake of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Americans of all faiths and beliefs must stand together to protect our democracy and strengthen our country as a whole,” Obama said.

“Michelle and I hope today brings joy to all of your homes, both here in the U.S. and around the world. From my family to yours, Eid Mubarak!”

More: Haram or Halal? Turkish TV Clerics’ War of Words Over Oral Sex

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Anjem Choudary Wants You to Have No Fun, Eat No Bacon, Trade No Stocks

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

 

British Islamist Anjem Choudary, last seen explaining in USA Today why the Charlie Hebdo victims had it coming, gave his vision of utopia today on Twitter.

“A better & superior alternative to the decadence of Communism & Capitalism!” he tweeted while noting “many prophecies of the Prophet have yet to be fulfilled such as conquering Rome, removing Israel & Ruling over Russia/China/US/UK/India etc.”

“One day the whole world will be under the authority of the Muslims (Izhar ud-Deen). Muslims must believe in this & struggle to see it happen,” Choudary continued. “The Khalifah must ensure that no non-Muslim criticises Islam or tries to convert Muslims to their own false belief, only Islam is propagated. “The Muslims under Shari’ah law have better food, clothing & shelter than non-Muslims & are dignified because they worship Allah exclusively!”

Go forth to eat, drink and freemix.

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FBI Confirms Chattanooga Shooter Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, Says Motive Speculation ‘Premature’

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed the identity of the Chattanooga gunman who killed four Marines today as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24.

“The FBI’s Knoxville Field Office, along with the Chattanooga Police Department and other law enforcement partners, are working jointly to investigate today’s shootings at a military recruitment center and a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee in which four individuals were killed and three injured,” the Bureau said in a statement.

Abdulazeez, who first targeted a recruiting office in a strip mall, was also killed in a shootout with police outside of a Navy Reserve facility, where the four Marines were shot to death.

“While it would be premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time, we will conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy and provide updates as they are available,” the FBI said.

Abdulazeez was apparently not on the FBI’s radar. He was, however, arrested three months ago for a driving under the influence first offense, according to a Hamilton County Jail Booking Report.

He was reportedly born in Kuwait and was a Jordanian citizen. He lived with his family in Hixson, Tenn., and had an electrical engineering degree from the University of Tennessee.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a statement noting that he learned of the shootings “with a heavy heart.”

“My thoughts and prayers – along with those of the men and women of the Department of Defense – are with the families of those killed in this senseless act of violence and with all those touched by this tragedy, including our Navy and Marine Corps family,” Carter said. “I am grateful to local law enforcement for their swift response. The department will continue to work with local law enforcement as they investigate this heinous crime and will support our military families in their time of grief.”

The names of those killed have not been released pending notification of next of kin, per standard military protocol.

In the Oval Office this evening, President Obama said he received a briefing on the shooting from FBI Director James Comey and the White House team.

“We don’t know yet all the details. We know that what appears to be a lone gunman carried out these attacks. We’ve identified a name. And at this point, a full investigation is taking place,” Obama said. “…We’ve also been in contact with the Department of Defense to make sure that all our Defense facilities are properly attentive and vigilant as we sort through exactly what happened.”

“We take all shootings very seriously. Obviously, when you have an attack on a U.S. military facility, then we have to make sure that we have all the information necessary to make an assessment in terms of how this attack took place, and what further precautions we can take in the future. And as we have more information, we’ll let the public know.”

 

 

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Deadly Attack on Two Military Facilities in Chattanooga

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A shooter opened fire on two military facilities today in Chattanooga, Tenn., one at a recruitment center and the other at a Navy Reserve center seven miles apart.

Four were killed and three wounded, including a police officer who was hit in the ankle while engaging the suspect on the pursuit. The shooter was also killed.

The Pentagon confirmed that the four killed were Marines.

FBI special agent in charge Ed Reinhold said the shooting began at 10:45 a.m. at the recruiting station and the assailant was pursued to Naval Reserve center, where the Marines were killed. Reinhold said the attack “ended within 30 minutes.”

A CNN reporter noted that the other stores in the strip mall that housed the recruitment center didn’t have bullet holes in their windows.

Witnesses described a silver convertible with the top dropped driven by a male pulling up outside the recruiting center, getting out and firing dozens of shots.

Officials were tight-lipped about the shooter, not revealing an age but confirming that he did not work at either shooting site. Reinhold said they believe the shooter was “from area or was residing in area prior to this event” and he was “not aware” of the shooter having any military background. He had “numerous” weapons, which the FBI agent would not describe.

CBS News, though, reported the shooter’s name was Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Tennessee Bill Killian told reporters at the press conference “we are treating this as an act of domestic terrorism.”

Reinhold then clarified that they did not know if it was domestic or international terrorism, or a criminal act without links to terrorism. He said they have not ruled out links to ISIS.

“We will treat this as a terrorism investigation until we can determine it was not,” he said.

After Killian was corrected by Reinhold, the U.S. Attorney admonished reporters to “not get caught up in labels.”

“We believe it was a single shooter at this point,” Reinhold said, adding his office “had no intelligence indicating there would be any type of an attack today.”

Reinhold was asked if personnel at the facilities were allowed to carry weapons. He replied that he did not know but “typically someone cannot bring a weapon onto federal property unless they’re authorized to do so.”

He said federal officials are on “no higher threat level then we were before.”

A no-fly zone was temporarily enacted over Chattanooga after the shooting.

The Defense Department put all military facilities on Force Protection Bravo in early May. They said the heightened state of alert wasn’t in response to a specific terrorist threat.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends tomorrow, and ISIS called for attacks during this period.

Officials were asked at the press conference, yet said they couldn’t yet make a determination, if there was a connection to the trial of Robert Doggart, a former congressional candidate accused of plotting to attack the Muslim hamlet of Islamberg in New York. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday as Muslims of America, Inc. protested in Chattanooga.

“I am deeply disturbed by reports of a violent attack in Chattanooga,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “I have been in touch with federal, state and local officials and will monitor the situation closely. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was Chattanooga mayor from 2001-2005, said he was “heartbroken by the tragic shootings that have taken place today in my hometown.”

“We have been in touch with federal, state and local officials and continue to monitor developments and have offered our assistance,” Corker said. “This is a difficult day for Tennesseans and our thoughts and prayers are with all affected by this tragedy.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz, traveling with President Obama to an Oklahoma federal prison today, said “the president has been briefed by his national security staff on the Chattanooga shooting, and will continue to get updates as warranted.”

“Our Marines don’t flinch when they take on our enemies abroad,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said. “It is heartbreaking when they are attacked here at home.”

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said it was “incomprehensible to see what happened and the way individuals who proudly serve our country were treated.”

“This is a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga but one for which we will respond,” Berke said.

This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. EST

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What’s Up with the Cruz-Trump Kaffeeklatsch?

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) requested a meeting with Donald Trump yesterday, with Trump agreeing yet telling MSNBC Wednesday morning he had “absolutely no idea” what Cruz wanted to talk about.

“He called me, he wanted to meet, and we are going to meet,” Trump said.

So Cruz went to sit down with Trump behind closed doors. What happened?

“Well, Donald and I are friends,” Cruz told Fox last night. “We have gotten together a number of times before he was candidate for president. We got together and visited today. You know, I like Donald because he is brash, he is bold and he speaks the truth. He stands up to Washington. It’s what I have tried to do in my time of public office. And people are fed up with politicians, they’re fed up with what I called the Washington cartel. Career politicians, Republicans and Democrats who get in bed with the lobbyist and special interests and I in particular salute Donald Trump for focusing on the problem of illegal immigration.”

“He speaks in colorful terms, he doesn’t speak the way you or I speak. But an awful lot of Republican 2016 candidates went out of their way to beat him with a stick. And I’m not going to join them.”

Cruz was asked about their respective polls positions. Trump leads usual front-runner Jeb Bush in the latest USA Today/Suffolk poll with 17 percent; Cruz was fourth with 6 percent. In the Real Clear Politics polling average, Trump is second and Cruz is eighth.

“People are fed up with career politicians in Washington and they are coming to me, they are coming to Donald Trump,” Cruz said.

Outside of the meeting, Cruz told reporters he didn’t ask for Trump’s endorsement. “No, we had a conversation about the race. He’s running, I’m running, and we both agreed that we started out as friends, and will end as friends,” he said.

“I’m a big fan of Donald’s, and we talked about the race,” he said. “We talked about how we are each enjoying it and how there is a need for more truth tellers.”

Trump, prolific on Twitter, didn’t note anything about the meeting.

Politico noted that Trump has changed his tune since March on Cruz’s eligibility to run for president. “It’s a hurdle. Somebody could certainly look at it very seriously. He was born in Canada. If you know and when we all studied our history lessons, you are supposed to be born in this country, so I just don’t know how the courts will rule on it,” he said back then.

On Wednesday, Politico asked him — hours before the Cruz meeting — about the Texas senator’s eligibility. “I don’t know. I mean I haven’t looked at it. I have not looked at it at all,” Trump replied.

Rick Perry was asked on CNN what he made of the get-together.

“Well, everybody gets to pick with who they hang out with. So I have no idea what’s going on,” Perry said. “I’m focused on talking to the American people about the only person that’s going to be standing on that stage that actually has done something about border security, not just talked about it.”

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Rice: ‘Goal Was Never’ to Keep Iran from Getting Slush Fund to Spend on Terrorism

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that when international inspectors take a peek at Iran’s nuclear facilities, there won’t be an American in the bunch.

“There are not going to independent American inspectors separate from the [International Atomic Energy Agency],” Rice told CNN. “The IAEA will be doing inspections — the inspections on behalf of the United States and the rest of the international community.”

Rice called the blowback over the deal’s inspections-approval board — on which Iran holds a seat and will be able to appeal decisions — “misplaced concern.”

“What we’re talking about is the rare case when we have a suspicious site or other suspicious entity that we or other members of the international community believe needs to be inspected. In that case, the IAEA will go to Iran and say we need to look at this. And if the Iranians say no, there will be a process for working out that access to the IAEA’s satisfaction,” she said.

“If that does not occur, then the United States, acting with its European partners, can together decide that that inspection must occur. And if it hasn’t occurred by the end of 24 days, Iran will be in violation of the agreement and we would be in a position to go straight to the U.N. Security Council and automatically, unilaterally, by the United States, reimpose sanctions… So we’re not concerned that that length of time gives the Iranians the ability to hide nefarious nuclear activity.”

Asked about Iran using its sanctions relief slush fund to sink money into international terrorism, Rice said the deal was about the nuclear program only.

“The U.N. resolutions that set up this structure always envisioned that if an when Iran met its obligations and we could be confident that they were not engaged in illegal construction or preparations for a nuclear weapon, that all the sanctions would be lifted. That’s what the — that’s what we all signed up to,” she said.

“What do we think they’ll spend that money on? We think for the most part, they’re going to need to spend it on the Iranian nuclear program and their economy, which has tanked.”

But, she added, “we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.”

“But the goal here was never — and it was not designed to prevent them from engaging in bad behavior in the region. They’re doing that today.”

Pressed on what happens if Congress shoots down a deal with veto-proof majority, Rice insisted “it’s hardly important what it means to the president’s legacy.”

“If this deal is going to fail, let it be because the Iranian government didn’t implement its obligations. And if that’s the case, we’re in a strengthened position. We can maintain the sanctions regime and we will have the international community behind us for whatever else we may need to do,” she said.

“But if we jettison a deal that is a good deal, that accomplishes everything we set out to accomplish, then it’s on us. And Iran is unconstrained and the sanctions regime and international unity is destroyed. That makes no sense.”

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Obama Tells Congress to Approve Deal, Khamenei Directs Rouhani to Pick It Apart

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

 

That’s the Supreme Leader’s letter to President Hassan Rouhani, as released on his Twitter account.

So while President Obama is urging Congress to quickly drop its opposition and approve the deal, Iran’s leader is urging his president and lawmakers to carefully pick it apart.

The White House dismisses tweets from Ayatollah Khamenei as fodder for domestic consumption.

In another slap in the face to the United States, Khamenei pardoned 930 convicts today for Eid al-Fitr. Americans Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian were not among them.

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Hillary Boasts ‘Record Breaking’ Fundraising, But Bernie Had More Donors in Quarter

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hillary Clinton’s campaign released its quarterly fundraising report that said more than 60 percent of her donors are women.

But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) outmatched the secretary of State in the number of individual donors.

Clinton raised more than $46 million, touting it as a record for a candidate in their first quarter running, with 94 percent of the donations coming in amounts of $250 or less and the average donation $144.89.

“Thanks to the more than 250,000 Americans who have stepped up to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign, we have had the ability to make critical investments in our organization that will put us in position to win the primary and the White House,” said campaign manager Robby Mook. “With Republicans tapping their billionaire backers for unlimited sums of money, we are glad to be able to have such broad support to be able to show why Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who will fight for policies that allow everyday Americans to get ahead and stay ahead.”

Hillary’s camp also burned through more than $18 million during the quarter.

Sanders’ campaign will surely jump on the average donation stat to highlight the senator as the real working-class candidate.

“Our campaign is a strong grassroots movement supported by middle-class Americans from working families, not billionaires trying to buy elections,” Sanders said in a statement. “I am proud that we have more than 284,000 individual donors and that the average contribution was about $35.”

Nearly 77 percent of contributions came from donors writing checks for less than $200 — showing that he’s still getting some bigger donations.

The Sanders camp said he raised more than $15.2 million during the two months since launching his campaign on April 30.

The campaign spent $2.9 million during the reporting period and had almost $12.2 million cash on hand as of June 30.

“The current corrupt campaign finance system – created by the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United – now allows the super-wealthy to buy elections,” Sanders added.

Hillary’s big-money bundlers include former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Texas congressman Joaquin Castro (twin brother of her likely running mate), abortion-rights lobbyists EMILY’s List, Comcast executive VP David L. Cohen, and HBO programming president Michael Lombardo.

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Lobbying Battle Is On: Powerful AIPAC Shoots Down Iran Deal

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The lobbying war is going to get intense in Washington, D.C., over the next couple of months.

The National Iranian American Council quickly fired a salvo in the form of a full-page ad in The New York Times today, warning that Congress could “sabotage this historic chance for peace.”

But the pro-Tehran group faces one of the most powerful lobbies in town, which today made up its mind on the Iran deal.

On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Council said they needed to review the deal before rendering judgment. Today, they had a verdict.

While noting that they supported the premise of diplomatic efforts, AIPAC said “unfortunately, this proposed agreement fails to halt Iran’s nuclear quest.”

“Instead, it would facilitate rather than prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror.”

Going into final negotiations, AIPAC laid out five key “must-have” points in five areas: “anywhere, anytime” inspections, possible military dimensions, conditional sanctions, lengthy duration, and dismantlement of centrifuges. “In each of these areas, the proposed agreement has significant flaws,” the group said.

“This agreement not only fails to achieve its objectives in the nuclear arena, but it releases Tehran in a matter of years—regardless of Iranian behavior from ballistic missile sanctions and an arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This late, unexpected concession will provide additional arms for terrorism and proxy wars, while strengthening Iran’s capabilities against our regional allies.”

AIPAC also objected to “leaving Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon—despite its history of violating international obligations” and sparking an arms race in the region.

“Proponents of the proposed agreement will argue that the only alternative to this agreement is military conflict. In fact, the reverse is true. A bad agreement such as this will invite instability and nuclear proliferation. It will embolden Iran and may encourage regional conflict,” the AIPAC statement continued.

“We strongly believe that the alternative to this bad deal is a better deal. Congress should reject this agreement, and urge the administration to work with our allies to maintain economic pressure on Iran while offering to negotiate a better deal that will truly close off all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon. Congress should insist on a better deal.”

The AIPAC rejection puts lawmakers who could be swing votes on the Iran deal in the hot seat. Some of the undecideds are longtime backers of AIPAC, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who figures prominently at each year’s conference in D.C.

“Chuck Schumer is supposed to be the guardian of Israel. He goes around everywhere, says my name is Schumer, it means guardian of Israel,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on MSNBC. “Well, if you care about Israel, you will not put her in this box. If you care about the United States, you will not allow our chief antagonist to become a nuclear threshold nation guaranteed in nature with no restrictions for them to go beyond that. If you care about Americans, you will not give this regime one penny because that money goes into war machine that’s aimed at us too.”

The American Jewish Committee said it was still reviewing the deal, with executive director David Harris noting they’ll be “sharing our views with members of Congress once we’ve had the opportunity to better understand its details.”

The Zionist Organization of America called the deal “quite simply a catastrophe and a nightmare.”

“If there was ever a time for public protest calling upon your Member of Congress, that time time is surely now,” ZOA president Morton Klein said.

The ZOA is joining a coalition of groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Stand With Us, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s The World Values Network, and Christians United for Israel for a Stop Iran Rally on July 22 in Times Square. Scheduled speakers include former CIA Director James Woolsey, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), GOP presidential candidate George Pataki, and Alan Dershowitz.

Predictably, J Street is launching a multi-million dollar campaign, including broadcast and print ads, to push Congress to support the deal.

“J Street also plans to bring US and Israeli security and political experts to brief lawmakers, influential political actors and journalists in Washington, DC and in key states about why this is a good agreement that advances US and Israeli national security interests. The organization plans to activate its 180,000 supporters to register their support for the Iran deal with legislators during the Congressional review period,” the group said today.

“J Street wants Congress to know that, despite some loud opposition to the deal coming from Jewish organizational leaders, our polling suggests that a clear majority of Jewish Americans agrees with us and backs the deal,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said, adding “this deal makes the United States, Israel and the entire world safer, and it would be highly irresponsible for Congress to reject it.”

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Sanders: If ‘Cruel’ Austerity Forced on Greece, the Nazis Will Rise

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) warned today that austerity measures in Greece could lead to a Hitler-style rise of Nazis in Europe.

Greek lawmakers approved a bailout plan today despite voters rejecting similar measures last week, sparking violent protests in Athens. They’ll have to institute tax reform, pension overhaul and spending cuts to qualify for some $96 billion in bailout aid.

Sanders called the situation “a tragedy of enormous proportions.”

“In the last five years, as a result of austerity measures, the Greek economy has contracted by 25 percent. Today, unemployment is 26 percent, youth unemployment is near 60 percent and 30 percent of the people in Greece are living in poverty,” he said in a statement.

“Tragically, Germany and other European creditors are trying to squeeze blood out of a stone. Instead of providing an agreement with Greece that allows its economy to grow and create jobs, generate more tax revenue and eventually pay back their debt, Greek creditors have insisted upon even greater austerity: cutting jobs, making deeper pension cuts, increasing regressive taxation and privatizing important parts of the Greek economy.”

The Democratic presidential candidate and self-described socialist added that “of all countries on earth, Germany, whose economy was destroyed as a result of the Treaty of Versailles and the harsh measures associated with it, should understand that a nation in deep depression should not be squeezed even more.”

A poll in Germany found that 55 percent of citizens there agree with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tough austerity stance in Eurozone negotiations with Greece. A third wanted Merkel to be even tougher on the embattled country.

Sanders said the austerity measures proposed for Greece “are not only cruel and counterproductive, they are terrible politics.”

“If the democratically elected Greek government is not allowed to represent its people, who overwhelmingly rejected austerity, then Greece’s Nazi party, the Golden Dawn, would be allowed to gain even greater  influence,” he said. “We must not recreate the conditions that brought Hitler to power in 1932. I urge the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF to negotiate a settlement that improves life for the people of Greece and does not drive them deeper into depression and misery.”

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House Committee Launches Investigation Into Planned Parenthood

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced today that it has begun an investigation into an undercover video showing a Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of aborted body parts.

The investigation falls within the purview of the committee’s jurisdiction as the sale of fetal body parts is against the law.

“This video is abhorrent and rips at the heart. The committee will get to the bottom of this appalling situation,” committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), and Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) said in a joint statement.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for hearing early today, which would put Planned Parenthood officials in front of the cameras, under oath to answer questions about the body part sales.

“Nothing is more precious than life, especially an unborn child,” Boehner said in a statement. “When anyone diminishes an unborn child, we are all hurt, irreversibly so. When an organization monetizes an unborn child – and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video – we must all act.”

“As a start, I have asked our relevant committees to look into this matter. I am also calling on President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices.”

“Respect for life is not just a conservative value—it is an American value that unites us all. The gruesome practices described by a top Planned Parenthood official represent a disregard for human life that is completely unacceptable and has no place in our society,” Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said. “I urge my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle to aggressively investigate this matter so the American people can know the truth, to take action to hold the abortion industry accountable and to stop this horrifying practice.”

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Obama: ‘It Does Not Give Me Pause’ That Assad Loves Iran Deal

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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President Obama faced the media in the East Room Wednesday afternoon with a brusque defense of the Iran nuclear deal and snapping at a reporter who asked about four Americans still held in Iran.

After taking the first question, Obama interrupted the reporter and declared that he was just going to give from the top answers to what he thought they were going to ask. In the first 20 minutes of the press conference, he’d only taken two questions.

In fact, he brought a sheet of notes with answers he wanted to deliver, and seemed irked when reporters didn’t ask his FAQ.

“I’m just going to look — I made some notes about many of the arguments — the other arguments that I’ve heard here,” he said near the end of the press conference, prompting a reporter to shout out a question and cut off the inevitable monologue.

Obama quickly said he’s not holding out hope that Iran will change its behavior.

“Look, I’m always hopeful that behavior may change for the sake of the Iranian people as well as people in the region. There are young people there who are not getting the opportunities they deserve because of conflict, because of sectarianism, because of poor governance, because of repression, because of terrorism, and I remain eternally hopeful that we can do something about that, and it should be part of U.S. foreign policy to do something about that. But I’m not banking on that to say that this deal is the right thing to do,” he said.

“The choices would be tougher today than they would be for that president 15 years from now” if Congress doesn’t approve the deal, Obama argued. “And I have not yet heard logic that refutes that. All right?”

The president’s exasperated tone, though, began with the first question.

An Agence France-Presse reporter asked, “What steps will you take to enable a more moderate Iran, and does this deal allow you to more forcefully counter Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, quite aside from the nuclear question?”

Even though he preceded the questions with a speech, he replied, “If you don’t mind, just because I suspect that there’s going to be a common set of questions that are touched on — I promise I will get to your question, but I want to start off just by stepping back and reminding folks of what is at stake here. And I already did in my opening statement, but I just want to reiterate it because I’ve heard already some of the objections to the deal.”

He then launched into a long string of talking points.

Jon Karl of ABC then asked: “Does it give you any pause to see this deal praised by Syrian Dictator Assad as a great victory for Iran, praised by those in Tehran who still shout ‘death to America,’ and yet our closest ally in the Middle East calls it a mistake of historic proportions?”

“It does not give me pause that Mr. Assad or others in Tehran may be trying to spin the deal in a way that they think is favorable to what their constituencies want to hear. That’s what politicians do, and that’s been the case throughout,” Obama responded. “I mean, you will recall that during the course of these negotiations over the last couple of months, every time the supreme leader or somebody tweeted something out, for some reason, we all bought into the notion, ‘Well, the Obama administration must be giving this or capitulating that.’”

“Well, now we have a document. So you can see what the deal is. We don’t have to speculate. We don’t have to engage in spin. You can just read what it says and what is required.”

The president got testy again when it was noted to him that “Prime Minister Netanyahu said that, you know, you have a situation where Iran can delay 24 days before giving access to military facilities.”

“As for the fact that it may take 24 days to finally get access to the site, the nature of nuclear programs and facilities is such — this is not something you hide in a closet. This is not something you put on a dolly and kind of wheel off somewhere,” he said. “…So we’re going to be monitoring what the activity is, and that’s going to be something that will be evidence if we think that some funny business was going on there, that we can then present to the international community.”

And, incredibly enough, he challenged Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer to make a case for war.

“The only argument you can make against the verification and inspection mechanism that we’ve put forward is that Iran is so intent on obtaining a nuclear weapon that no inspection regime and no verification mechanism would be sufficient because they’d find some way to get around it because they’re untrustworthy. And if that’s your view, then we go back to the choice that you have to make earlier,” Obama said.

“That means, presumably, that you can’t negotiate, and what you’re really saying is that you’ve got to apply military to guarantee that they don’t have a nuclear program. And if somebody wants to make that debate, whether it’s the Republican leadership or Prime Minister Netanyahu or the Israeli ambassador or others, they’re free to make it, but it’s not persuasive.”

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Obama on Cosby: ‘Any Civilized Country Should Have No Tolerance for Rape’

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

At a press conference otherwise focused on the Iran nuclear deal this afternoon, President Obama fielded a question about Bill Cosby.

Obama was asked if he would revoke the Medal of Freedom, which the comedian received in 2002, after dozens of women have accused Cosby of rape over the years.

“There is no precedent for revoking a medal. We don’t have that mechanism. And as you know, I tend to make it a policy not to comment on the specifics of — of cases where there might still be, if not criminal, then civil issues involved,” Obama said.

“I’ll say this. If you give a woman, or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape, and I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”

Obama also brought up rape in his address to the NAACP last night, in the context of criminal justice reform.

“We should not be tolerating rape in prison. And we shouldn’t be making jokes about it in our popular culture,” he said. “That’s no joke. These things are unacceptable.”

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Kirk: ‘Tens of Thousands’ Will Lose Lives ‘Because of Barack Hussein Obama’

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The co-author of Congress’ toughest Iran sanctions legislation ripped the administration for the Iran deal, adding Obama’s middle name and alleging a political prosecution of his sanctions co-sponsor, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

As reported by BuzzFeed, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told WRKO’s Financial Exchange radio program yesterday that “tens of thousands of people in the Middle East are gonna lose their lives because of this decision by Barack Hussein Obama.”

More:

“This agreement condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf,” Kirk said. “It condemns our Israel allies to further conflict with Iran.”

…“This is the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler,” Kirk continued, saying he believed Obama only went through with the deal because he has a poor understanding of history and did not realize appeasement made war more likely. Kirk said he thought the deal meant that Israel would now have to take “military action against Iran.”

…“The president will make this a viciously partisan issue, leading most Democrats to standing with the Iranians and hopefully losing the next election on this point,” Kirk said. “He will ask the Democrats all to stand with Iran and make sure that we can’t get two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.”

Asked if any Democrats disagreed with the president, Kirk pointed to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who he believed “has just been indicted maybe on the crime of being against the Iran deal.”

…“Under the Bob Corker legislation that recently passed Congress can do a resolution of disapproval and the president can veto it. The only reason that the president supported Corker legislation is because it allows him to get what he wants on Iran which is to get nukes to Iran.”

Kirk is a top target of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as he runs for re-election in 2016.

In a statement yesterday, Kirk said the Vienna agreement “will pave Iran’s path to nuclear weapons because it requires Iran to take temporary and reversible steps that keep it at the threshold of acquiring nuclear weapons, and will allow Iran to obstruct and veto inspections at suspect nuclear facilities instead of imposing zero-notice nuclear inspections anytime and at any place in Iran, including military sites.”

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Let the Pro-Tehran, Pro-Obama Bullying of Congress Begin!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) warned members of Congress yesterday on the Hill that “some may try to intimidate and demonize critics of the agreement by arguing that a vote against this deal is a vote for war.”

“I will say, as a former member of Congress, I know how difficult the following weeks will be for you,” he added.

The pro-Tehran National Iranian American Council started that bullying today with a full-page ad in The New York Times, pictured above.

NIAC president Trita Parsi that “history will look kindly” on President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for the deal.

“With a nuclear deal in hand, we who urged that the U.S. and Iran must give diplomacy a chance have been proven right. Peace was possible, provided that the right policies were adopted and backed with sufficient political will,” Parsi said.

“Even more important, we now know that the U.S. and Iran need not remain hostile enemies, but can interact with each other to achieve shared interests. This nuclear deal provides clear evidence. The time is ripe to build on the relationships the two sides have developed over the course of negotiations and pursue those shared interests, whether they involve countering ISIS/ISIL, resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, or combating narcotics trafficking.”

Parsi warned that “make no mistake: if Congress rejects this good deal with Iran, there will be no better deal forthcoming and Congress will be left owning an unnecessary war.”

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Senate Blocks Franken Amendment to Ban Discrimination Against Gay Students

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he’s “tremendously disappointed” that the Senate failed to advance his bill to prohibit discrimination in public schools “based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Franken offered his Student Non-Discrimination Act yesterday as an amendment to an education reform bill. It needed 60 votes, and the final tally was 52-45.

Republicans who joined Franken were Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dean Heller (D-Nev.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) co-sponsored the bill.

Absent for the vote were Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Franken has tried to get the bill through since 2010. Under the legislation, bullying of gay students by other students or by school officials would be banned as it is for ethnic and racial groups. For example, a public school wouldn’t be able to prevent a same-sex couple from attending a school dance together.

“The inability to put in place meaningful protections for some of our most vulnerable children is an enormous disservice to LGBT students all across the country who face terrible bullying every day,” Franken said after the vote.

“Right now, there are federal laws on the books to protect kids against discrimination or harassment based on things like gender, race, national origin, and disability. My measure simply would have extended those protections to LGBT kids.”

Franken said his measure is backed up by “staggering statistics: more than 30 percent of LGBT kids report missing a day of school in the previous month because they felt unsafe. Nearly 75 percent of LGBT students say they’ve been verbally harassed at school. And more than 35 percent of LGBT kids report being physically attacked. This bullying cannot continue.”

“We have a responsibility here to protect all our kids,” he added. “Not just as senators, but as adults. And although I’m disappointed with the result today, I’m going to keep fighting to get this measure passed into law.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has introduced a companion measure in the House. “Unfortunately, because of arcane procedural tactics and the refusal of Congress’s Republican leadership to act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act is not yet the law,” he said.

“No child should have to endure a hostile or discriminatory school environment simply because of who they are or who they are perceived to be, but that is the grim reality facing innumerable students and families throughout the country, and we need to fix it,” Polis added.

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Hillary: I ‘Twisted A Lot of Arms’ to Get Iran Deal

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Hillary Clinton issued a lengthy statement tonight not only giving props to the Iran nuclear deal but also basically taking credit for it.

“I am still studying the details, but based on the briefings I received and a review of the documents, I support the agreement because it can help us prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. With vigorous enforcement, unyielding verification, and swift consequences for any violations, this agreement can make the United States, Israel, and our Arab partners safer,” Clinton said.

“…Today’s agreement is the culmination of a sustained strategy of pressure and engagement executed over many years. As secretary of State, I logged tens of thousands of miles and twisted a lot of arms to build a global coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. That unprecedented pressure delivered a blow to Iran’s economy and gave us leverage at the negotiating table, starting in Oman in 2012. I know from experience what it took to build a global effort to get this done; I know what it will take to rally our partners to enforce it.”

As president, Clinton said, she would “use every tool in our arsenal to compel rigorous Iranian compliance.”

“We can never permit Iran to evade its obligations or to place any suspicious site off limits to inspectors,” she said. “And the response to any cheating must be immediate and decisive – starting with the return of sanctions but taking no options off the table, including, if necessary, our military options.”

Jake Sullivan, a deputy policy director on Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign who went on to serve as her deputy chief of staff at the State Department and then director of policy planning, “spent months secretly laying the groundwork” for the current Iran nuclear negotiations and is believed to be Clinton’s pick for national security advisor.

Like President Obama, Clinton acknowledged that Iran still poses a threat to Israel, supports terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah and is developing missiles that can take out all of its neighbors. Unlike Obama today, she acknowledged “U.S. citizens being held in Iranian prisons” who must be returned.

“Israel has to be confident that the United States will always ensure its Qualitative Military Edge in the region and its capacity to defend itself by itself. As president, I would invite the senior Israeli leadership to Washington for early talks on further strengthening our alliance. We must also deepen our security relationship with our Arab partners threatened by Iran. This includes our continued presence and providing needed capabilities.  Iran should have no doubt about our support for the security of our partners,” Clinton said.

“I know that there are people of good faith who oppose this deal - people I respect. They raise concerns that have to be taken seriously. They are right to call for extreme vigilance. I am as familiar with Iranian behavior and the need to confront it as anyone. I support this agreement because I believe it is the most effective path of all the alternatives available to the U.S. and our partners to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Clinton was up on the Hill this morning, with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) quickly saying after a caucus meeting that Clinton convinced her to support the deal.

“For example, it was Secretary Clinton who put together the coalition, including China and Russia, which led to the unity that makes this agreement so strong, and in my judgment, difficult to refute or oppose,” Norton said. “During the question period, I asked Secretary Clinton about the anticipated opposition to the nuclear deal and how it should be handled. I told her I thought the deal would be difficult to attack head-on considering its air-tight qualities, such as continuous international monitoring of Iraq’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency, daily access to all facilities, including military facilities, among others.”

Clinton’s primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said he welcomed her to the caucus meeting “but there are differences of opinion that we have which should be the basis for a serious discussion.”

 

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Israel Security Cabinet Shoots Down Iran Deal, Confirms Jewish State ‘Not Bound By It’

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama is sending Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to Israel next week as the Security Cabinet unanimously shot down the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran.

“The Security Cabinet unanimously rejected the nuclear agreement with Iran and determined that Israel is not bound by it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a brief statement.

“The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism. They’ve gambled that in ten years’ time, Iran’s terrorist regime will change while removing any incentive for it to do so. In fact, the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change,” Netanayhu said in a statement earlier.

“In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing.”

The White House said this afternoon that Obama spoke by phone with Netanyahu to discuss the agreement.

“He noted that the JCPOA will verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon while ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward,” the White House said in a readout of the call. “The President also underscored his Administration’s stalwart commitment to Israel’s security and noted that the JCPOA will remove the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran, an outcome in the national security interest of the United States and Israel.”

“The President told the Prime Minister that today’s agreement on the nuclear issue will not diminish our concerns regarding Iran’s support for terrorism and threats toward Israel. The President noted that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s visit next week to Israel is a reflection of the unprecedented level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel, and that the visit offers a further opportunity to continue our close consultation on security issues with Israeli counterparts as we remain vigilant in countering the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities in the region.”

Carter issued his own statement on the deal today, stressing that “as we implement this historic agreement, deterrence remains a major component of America’s national security.”

“The Department of Defense is today, and will always be ready, to defend the United States and our interests. Our military — including tens of thousands of U.S. forces in the Middle East — are full speed ahead maintaining a strong presence in the Gulf,” Carter continued. “We remain prepared and postured to bolster the security of our friends and allies in the region, including Israel; to defense against aggression; ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf; and check Iranian malign influence. We will utilize the military option if necessary.”

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Oh Snap: Issa Slams Obama’s ‘Junior Varsity Foreign Policy Grounded in Childlike Optimism’

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) needled President Obama’s legacy description of ISIS with his criticism of the Iran deal announced today.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a J.V. team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said of ISIS in a January 2014 interview.

Today, joining a chorus of initial congressional disapproval coming from both sides of the aisle, Issa called Obama’s deal “a ‘junior varsity’ foreign policy grounded in childlike optimism, rather than clear-eyed realism.”

“No nation has ever abandoned its nuclear ambitions without first agreeing to actually abandon its nuclear ambitions,” Issa said in a statement. “The president’s deal with Iran falls dramatically short of that standard, failing even to obtain the vital ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections the White House promised would be a part of any final deal.”

“The crux of this deal rests on this president’s assumption that, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism is simply misunderstood and secretly desires the diplomacy it has long opposed more than it desires the nuclear arsenal it has doggedly pursued.”

Issa warned that “this deal puts our people at risk, leaves our most important allies in the Middle East in jeopardy, and will be to President Obama what ‘A Peace for Our Time’ was to Neville Chamberlain.”

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Lieberman Warns Congress of ‘Bad Deal’: ‘I Cannot Think of a More Consequential Vote You Will Take’

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning to warn members of Congress that the vote they face on the Iran nuclear deal will be the biggest vote of their lifetime.

“I cannot think of a more consequential vote that you will take” on the security of the United States and the world, the former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said.

Lieberman, now co-chairman of the Iran Task Force at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, did review the deal before appearing at the morning hearing.

“This is a bad deal for America, a bad deal for Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East, and a bad deal for the world,” he confirmed. “…This is a bet based on hope over experience that we’ve had with Iran.”

Lieberman said the inspections regime is “dangerously short of the anywhere, anytime access that is needed.”

He said the process of requesting an inspection and sending it to the arbitration panel, which includes Iran, can go on for at least two weeks of negotiation, then is subject to an appeal process to a higher board. Essentially, the IAEA “will have to negotiate to gain access for its inspectors.”

Lieberman said he’s concluded the agreement “falls far short of what’s needed.”

The former vice presidential candidate noted that some will try to convince members of Congress that rejecting the deal would be “catastrophic,” and those people will “intimidate” and “demonize” lawmakers to get approval as members are “pushed and pulled.”

“Those are false arguments and I urge you to reject them,” he said. “…Rejecting this bad deal will not result in war; it will give the administration a new opportunity to pursue a better deal.”

Lieberman said each member of Congress will have to “decide in the privacy of your own conscience what you believe is best for the security of the American people”

He warned them again that it will be the most consequential vote of their careers.

“This is a decision that will reverberate in the lives of our children, grandchildren and beyond.”

A senior administration official said on background this morning that Congress needs to approve the deal because “there is not a scenario anybody could see where the rest of the world would sign up for additional sanctions.”

“The world signed up for sanctions to get a deal,” the official said, adding that a vote to reject the deal would be “a vote to kill the sanctions regime.”

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Graham: Iran Nuke Deal a ‘Death Sentence for Israel’

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) charged that the Obama administration has “created a possible death sentence for Israel” with the Iran nuclear deal.

The pact is also “a virtual declaration of war against Sunni Arabs,” he said this morning on MSNBC, as “you’re making every Sunni Arab nation recalculate — you have locked in an industrial-sized nuclear program on behalf of the Iranians, and over time they can have as large a program as they want.”

Graham says he hasn’t seen the full agreement just inked in Vienna, but “we’re going to ensure that there will be a nuclear arms race now.”

“With the mere passage of time, this industrial strength program we have locked in place will become a nuclear weapons program so the Arabs are going to get their own bomb,” the presidential candidate said. “…You have taken our chief antagonist, people who have killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq, who’ve toppled pro-American governments throughout the region including Yemen, you’ve given them the capability to become a nuclear nation. That technology I fear one day will be shared with terrorists and come here.”

“This is the most dangerous, irresponsible step I have ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast. Barack Obama, John Kerry, have been dangerously naive about the Mideast in general. They’ve taken it to a new level, and any senator who votes for this is voting for a nuclear arms race in the Mideast, and is voting to give the largest state sponsor of terrorism $18 billion. And what do you think they’ll do with the money? Put it roads and schools? It’s going to go to Assad, it’s going to go to Hezbollah and Hamas.”

Obama, the senator stressed, “put Israel in the worst possible box.”

“This will be a death sentence over time for Israel if they don’t push back. You put our nation at risk,” Graham said.

“Every goal the president expressed two years ago has absolutely not been met, and you put the arms embargo on the table at a time when they’re destroying the Mideast with their conventional weapons program. You may think this is a good deal. This is a terrible deal. It’s going to make everything worse, and I really fear that we’ve set in motion a decade of chaos,” he continued.

“…When they drew a line against Assad and did nothing about it, they set in motion holy hell in the Mideast. I think John Kerry is a good man, but at the end of the day, they want a deal so bad they cannot stand it.”

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Netanyahu: Iran Deal ‘an Historic Mistake for the World’

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the P5+1 is making a “historic mistake” with the Iran nuclear deal.

“I will refer later to the details of the agreement, but before that, I would like to say here and now – when you are willing to make an agreement at any cost, this is the result,” Netanyahu said at a meeting today with Netherlands Foreign Minister Bert Koenders.”

“From the initial reports we can already conclude that this agreement is an historic mistake for the world.”

The prime minister stressed that “far-reaching concessions have been made in all areas that were supposed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability.”

“In addition, Iran will receive hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe,” he said.

“One cannot prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who, even during the talks, keep chanting: ‘Death to America.’”

Netanyahu added that “we knew very well that the desire to sign an agreement was stronger than anything, and therefore we did not commit to preventing an agreement.”

“We did commit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this commitment still stands,” he said. “I say to all the leaders in Israel, it is time to put petty politics aside and unite behind this most fateful issue to the future and security of the State of Israel.”

A senior administration official said this morning that President Obama hadn’t spoken with Netanayhu but would “certainly want to have that conversation” about the deal.

More:  Graham: Iran Nuke Deal a ‘Death Sentence for Israel’

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Putin Not Only Loves Iran Deal, But Takes Credit for Helping Write It

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

With endorsements like these, how could Congress say no to President Obama’s Iran deal?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who can’t wait to heap more arms sales on the Islamic Republic:

“We are certain that the world heaved a sigh of relief today,” Putin said in a lengthy statement praising the deal. “The negotiations supported by the UN Security Council and involving Russia, China, the USA, France, Germany, Great Britain, Iran and the European Union went on for many years. We are satisfied that the solution found is based on the principle of phasing and mutuality which our country has been consistently supporting at every stage of these complicated negotiations.”

Putin, fresh from invading his neighbors, praised the agreement as it “rests on the solid foundation of international law.”

“Despite the attempts to validate any scenarios based on the use of force, the parties to the negotiations made a choice in favor of stability and cooperation, which will be reflected in a corresponding UN Security Council resolution,” he added. “We are grateful to all those who invariably supported efforts to find reliable political and diplomatic solutions to the Iranian issue.”

He noted that the Russian negotiating team and nuclear experts “have made a significant expert contribution to the drafting of the comprehensive arrangements, which made it possible to align the different, often opposing views.”

“The IAEA will carefully monitor the implementation of the agreed steps to prove the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” Putin continued. “Iran gets the opportunity to develop this program, including uranium enrichment, under IAEA control and with the gradual lifting of sanctions imposed against Tehran, something we have long called for. This is also important for the implementation of large-scale plans of peaceful nuclear cooperation between Russia and Iran that got support in the documents approved today.”

“We expect that all the parties concerned, primarily the six states involved in the negotiations, will comply with the deal in full. The political will demonstrated by these six states and Iran in the course of these negotiations is a guarantee of the successful implementation of the plan of action designed for the long term. Our bilateral relations with Iran will receive a new impetus and will no longer be influenced by external factors.”

Putin vowed that Russia “will do everything in its power to ensure the full implementation of the Vienna agreements, assisting in strengthening global and regional security, global nuclear non-proliferation, the creation in the Middle East of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and the mobilization of a broad coalition in the region to counter terrorist threats.”

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Obama Vows Veto of Congressional Iran Disapproval: ‘You Don’t Make Deals Like This with Your Friends’

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama declared today that “because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle” in reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, “we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.”

The deal, which lasts up to 10 years and is nearly 100 pages long, gives Tehran the right to challenge UN inspections of its nuclear program. An arbitration board, including an Iranian representative, would decide if access is granted.

Iran said sanctions will be repealed, while the P5+1 powers said old sanctions will be repealed but they’ll impose new ones.

The arms embargo that Iran wanted lifted will sunset after five years and could be lifted earlier if the International Atomic Energy Agency certifies they’re not developing nuclear weapons.

“This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change, change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure,” Obama declared in a statement that was also broadcast in Iran.

He said Iran is subject to a stockpile limitation for 15 years and will not build any new heavy water reactors in that time.

Despite the appeals board for proposed inspections, Obama vowed “inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s nuclear facilities… because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.”

“As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program, both America’s own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This relief will be phased in. Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive sanctions relief,” he said.

If this is true, it could lead Iranian lawmakers to reject the deal — not to mention the supreme leader.

The Islamic Republic does get more than $100 billion out of the deal, as well as a lifted oil embargo in Europe and an end to banking sanctions.

“And over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles,” Obama added.

The president then heaped pressure on Congress, which will now begin reviewing the deal.

“As the American people and Congress review the deal it will be important to consider the alternative. Consider what happens in a world without this deal. Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program. Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure and the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission,” Obama said.

“…No deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world,” he added in a dig at the Saudis.

“And I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now, the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from a weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program.”

Obama said he welcomes a “robust debate” on the deal, “but I will remind Congress that you don’t make deals like this with your friends.”

“We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction and those agreements ultimately made us safer. I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interests of the United States and our allies. So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal,” he said.

“We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict. And we certainly shouldn’t seek it. And precisely because the stakes are so high this is not the time for politics or posturing. Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems. Hard-nosed diplomacy, leadership that has united the world’s major powers offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.”

Obama said his administration shares “concerns expressed by many of our friends in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf states, about Iran’s support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region.”

“We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security, efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before.”

The president chided Iran that “the path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel, that’s a dead end.”

“A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive. This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it,” he said.

“…History shows that America must lead, not just with our might, but with our principles. It shows we are stronger, not when we are alone, but when we bring the world together. Today’s announcement marks one more chapter in this pursuit of a safer and more helpful, more hopeful world.”

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‘Our Military’s Strength Depends on It’: Carter Orders Six-Month Review of Transgender Troops

Monday, July 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Arguing that the future strength of the nation’s military depends on it, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ordered a six-month review of transgender service members — starting from the assumption that they’re welcome in the armed forces.

“Over the last fourteen years of conflict, the Department of Defense has proven itself to be a learning organization. This is true in war, where we have adapted to counterinsurgency, unmanned systems, and new battlefield requirements such as MRAPs,” Carter said in a statement today. “It is also true with respect to institutional activities, where we have learned from how we repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ from our efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military, and from our work to open up ground combat positions to women. Throughout this time, transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms.”

“The Defense Department’s current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions. At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they’re able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite.”

Carter added that “we have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines – real, patriotic Americans – who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit.”

First, the Defense secretary said, a working group will be established, led by acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, “to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.”

“At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.

“Second, I am directing that decision authority in all administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender be elevated to Under Secretary Carson, who will make determinations on all potential separations.”

Carter stressed that the Pentagon “must ensure that everyone who’s able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so, and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

“Going forward, the Department of Defense must and will continue to improve how we do both. Our military’s future strength depends on it.”

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The AFL-CIO Had This Pithy Response to Scott Walker’s Presidential Announcement

Monday, July 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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The above press release, shown in its entirety, was released by the AFL-CIO.

Trumka later issue another statement after Hillary Clinton’s economic speech today, saying that the former secretary of State “is demonstrating that she understands our economy is out of whack.”

“Candidates are beginning to come forward with their economic vision. While there are some encouraging signs, America needs more than a vision. We need a candidate with the right specific policies for a better future and the courage to fight for them. Any candidate who wants to appeal to workers has to put forth a bold, detailed and comprehensive Raising Wages agenda,” he said.

In her address, Clinton said “the defining economic challenge of our time is clear: We must raise incomes for hard-working Americans so they can afford a middle-class life. We must drive strong and steady income growth that lifts up families and lifts up our country. And that will be my mission from the first day I’m president to the last.”

Trumka called her speech “an important step in a much needed conversation about how to make our economy work for everyone.”

Still, he took a dig at the lack of particulars in the rhetoric. “We look forward to her adding specificity to the vision she laid out today.”

“The AFL-CIO takes the endorsement of presidential candidates very seriously. 12.5 million union members and all those who share working families’ values are eager for the right candidate and stand ready to be the difference in the next election,” the union boss said. “We are listening closely to all candidates and look forward to who will step forward with the real solutions we need.”

They’ll undoubtedly be hearing calls from their members to back Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont socialist has received smaller union endorsements already, which have coalesced under the Labor for Bernie movement: “We call on labor leaders, union members and working people to unite behind Bernie Sanders for a voice in the presidential political process and to elect the president working families need – a president who will answer to the 99 percent!”

After Clinton’s speech, Sanders said he looks forward “to an issue-oriented debate as to which set of policies will best represent the working families of our country.” His campaign also noted that, unlike Clinton, the senator has released details of his proposals.

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Earnest: Republicans Will Have ‘Tough Sell’ If They ‘Try to Tank’ Iran Deal

Monday, July 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

White House press secretary Josh Earnest insisted today that it will be difficult for congressional Republicans to sell opposition to an Iran deal to the American people — neglecting to mention that much of the opposition comes from Democrats.

He also pushed back against critics who say keeping existing sanctions will put more pressure on Iran and defined what sanctions mean in the first place.

“The sanctions regime was not put in place to punish Iran,” Earnest told reporters today.

“There would obviously be ample reason to do that. And again, whether that’s because they are — have unjustly detained some American citizens or because they menace Israel or because they support terrorism or because they’re engaged in all sorts of destabilizing activities all the globe, there’re a whole lot of reasons to be very concerned about Iran’s behavior and about the impact that they have on U.S. national security,” he said. “But the fact is that there are set of — of sanctions that have been put in place against Iran, specifically because of their nuclear program, and the goal of that was to try to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

“…And the idea was simply this, that Iran’s destabilizing activity in the region or their support for terrorism or their menacing of Israel is a whole lot more dangerous if they have a nuclear weapon and that preventing them from obtaining a nuclear weapon is an important step in trying to prevent the worst kind of behavior from Iran, but it certainly isn’t going to prevent all of their bad behavior.”

Earnest insisted that the administration will “welcome the scrutiny and even skepticism of everybody across the country and across the world as they consider this agreement.”

“But we continue to be confident that upon looking at the details once they have been released, that we will be able to make a strong case about how the president hasn’t just achieved his goal, but how the international community has achieved the important goal preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and verifying their compliance with that agreement,” he continued.

“And when it comes to a tough sell, I think the tough sell is going to be on the part of Republicans if they try to tank the deal. It’s going to be a tough sell to say that the United States should back away from an international agreement… It’s going to be a tough sell to suggest that we should undermine the international sanctions that have been so effectively put in place thus far, and it’s going to be a tough sell to say you know what, we should just foreclose the diplomatic option and only consider the military option before us,” Earnest said.

“So I think we’re going to have a lot of confidence in the ability that we have to advocate for this agreement, and I think it’s going to be a pretty tough sell on the part of Republicans to suggest that it’s something that we should walk away from.”

Earnest said National Security Advisor Susan Rice has been updating President Obama “a couple times a day” on the talks.

“Ultimately, in order to complete this agreement, it’s going to require Iran to make some tough decisions and to sign off on some significant commitments… And you know, they have a rather opaque process for making these kinds of decisions, so — but that’s why it’s hard to put a — a specific probability. But to answer the first part of your question, I do think it’s fair for you to say that over the last four, five, or six days, that progress, additional progress has been made.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), cautioned this morning on CNN that “the devil is in the details.”

“We still don’t know exactly about the inspection regimes. That’s going to be a very important part for many members of Congress. We’ve heard about arms embargo issues. We need to know how that has been resolved. The sanctions relief is also a matter of incredible importance, what research Iran will be permitted to do. So there’s a lot of questions I think members of Congress want to know the details before they decide whether they can support or not this agreement,” Cardin said.

“We need, first, to be able to get through the documents. We need to have our briefings, both open and closed briefings. And then we need to have some discussions among ourselves. We want to have as much open process as possible. We want the American people to understand this. Our bottom line is Iran needs to be prevented from becoming a nuclear weapons state. We don’t trust them, so we have to be able to inspect and see if they’re cheating and we have to have time to take action to prevent them from becoming a nuclear weapon state if they do not comply with the agreement… A bad deal is worse than no deal at all. That’s the standards we’ll be using.”

“I’m going to judge it when I have all of the elements of it, but, obviously, I think we should have started it a different way. I’ll judge the agreement based upon what it is,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Sunday on ABC. “But we have to make very clear that there is a deterrence in the longer term because, if not, in 12, 13 years, we will be exactly back to where we are today, except that Iran will have $100 billion to $150 billion in its pocket and promoting its terrorism throughout the Middle East.”

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Kirk: Senate Will Shoot Down Iran Deal with ‘$160B Slush Fund for Nukes, Missiles, Terrorism’

Monday, July 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A co-author of tough Iran sanctions legislation vowed that the Senate will stop what’s expected to be a bad deal coming out of the Vienna talks soon.

 

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) also said in a statement that he’s “gravely concerned we soon will see an agreement that enables Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, to keep vast nuclear capabilities without subjecting it to snap nuclear inspections anytime and at any place, including military facilities.”

“Worse, the agreement is set to blow an irreparable hole in the international sanctions regime, easing a U.N. arms embargo while also giving Iran back as much as $160 billion in frozen assets,” Kirk said. “If the administration cannot say ‘no’ to an Iran deal with bad terms, then Congress must act.”

His sanctions legislation partner, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), was expected to make comments after an event in his home state this morning.

“I think there’s a broad bipartisan skepticism at what this deal is. Prime Minister Netanyahu said rather than prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, it actually paves the way. And that appears to be the case,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said this morning on Fox.

“If the previous vote on the congressional approval process is any indication, there is broad bipartisan concern about this,” Cornyn added. “This idea that we would release these sanctions and the arms embargo and give them more money, more weapons … seems crazy.”

“Our adversaries no longer fear us and our friends no longer trust us.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told NBC on Sunday that terms of a nuclear deal with Iran have “been on a downward trend for some time.”

“We’ve moved towards managing their proliferation, and there are some key issues that remain that I hope we will hold firm to,” Corker said. “We’ve got to ensure that this is verifiable, that we have any time, anywhere inspections, that they are accountable, that we know what their previous military dimensions were. We have access to all of their scientists. We know they were building a bomb. We just want to know how far they got in previous efforts.”

“Likely Iran will cheat by inches, meaning they will just cheat, cheat, cheat. And over time it’s like boiling an egg. They end up with a nuclear weapon.”

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Three Women Make It Through to Next Round of Ranger School

Monday, July 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Three women fighting to serve their country as Army Rangers have made it through to the next phase of training and began the Mountain Phase on Saturday, reports Army Times:

A total of 362 men and three women started the two-month Ranger School June 21 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Fifteen of those students did not successfully complete the Darby Phase and will be dropped from the course, officials said.

The women had attempted the Darby Phase twice before. They were offered Day One Recycles after their second failed attempt.

On average, about 45 percent of Ranger School students will graduate from the grueling course.

…Nineteen female and 381 male soldiers started Ranger School on April 20. Eight of the women made it through the first four days, also known as the Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP week.

None of the eight women made it past the Darby Phase on the first try and were recycled, along with 101 of their male classmates, on May 8.

After the second attempt at the Darby Phase, three female and two male students on May 29 were given the option of a Day One Recycle, which is a normal course procedure that’s used when students struggle with one aspect of the course and excel at others, said officials at Fort Benning.

The two male students declined to recycle, officials said.

The remaining five women returned to their units and were not recycled again. A total of 29 students were dropped from the course for failing to meet the standards of the Darby Phase.

…On average, more than 37 percent of Ranger School graduates recycle at least one phase of the school. About two-thirds of those who complete RAP week will eventually pass the Darby Phase and move on to the Mountain Phase, according to data on the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade website.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was asked at a Fort Bragg troop event how the full gender integration effort is going.

“We are looking now at the standards that are required, and nobody wants to change standards, but we’re looking at the standards that are required in some specialties — infantry, artillery, armor — as it affects the Army, which — for which participation by women is still restricted,” Carter replied.

“And by year-end or so, I think we’ll close this chapter in looking at which — which, if any, MOSs should be restricted to women.”

Carter said it’s “a pretty good deal for the department” to have a wider talent pool from which to pick.

He said another benefit from the integration review is “thinking through what family life, what gender life and everything, you know, means in practical terms, to having a really good fighting force in today’s world.”

“…So, both for the women in service effort and all the other things we do, I’m really proud of the way that we’re constantly thinking through how to make the best use of people and how to have the best people come in and go.”

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Scott Walker Announces Presidential Run

Monday, July 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced he’s running for president in an early-morning campaign video and email to supporters.

“America needs new, fresh leadership with big, bold ideas from outside of Washington to actually get things done,” Walker said in the video. “In Wisconsin, we didn’t nibble around the edges. We enacted big, bold reforms that took power out of the hands of the big government special interests and gave it to the hard-working taxpayers – and people’s lives are better because of it.”

“We fought and won. In the Republican field, there are some who are good fighters, but they haven’t won those battles,” he continued. “And there are others who’ve won elections, but haven’t consistently taken on the big fights. We showed you can do both.”

“Now, I am running for president to fight and win for the American people. Without sacrificing our principles, we won three elections in four years in a blue state. We did it by leading. Now, we need to do the same thing for America.”

In the email beseeching supporters for a “generous Day One contribution,” Walker said the “decision to run comes after much deliberation and many discussions with my family and supporters.”

“Spending time in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina recently only solidified my belief that America needs bold, principled, and reform-minded leadership now more than ever,” he said.

One longtime Walker adviser who spoke with National Journal said Walker will start on the right and shift toward the middle later.

“You start in Iowa and lock up conservatives, because if you don’t do that, none of the rest matters,” the adviser said. “It’s much easier to move from being a conservative to being a middle-of-the-road moderate later on.”

“In Iowa, you see the beginnings of that. He’s capturing that conservative wing first and foremost, and then moving from Iowa to the other states and bringing other voters into the fold.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to be the final Republican to jump into the crowded field of 2016 presidential hopefuls on July 21.

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Here’s What Republicans are Doing About Sanctuary Cities After San Francisco Slaying

Friday, July 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The slaying of a Bay Area woman by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times and sought refuge in San Francisco is pushing Republicans in Congress to foment legislative solutions to “sanctuary cities.”

According to the city’s sanctuary ordinance, “no department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City and County of San Francisco shall use any City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or to gather or disseminate information regarding the immigration status of individuals in the City and County of San Francisco unless such assistance is required by federal or State statute, regulation or court decision.” About 200 jurisdictions across the country have similar policies.

Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez had an outstanding felony warrant for marijuana possession but was released by authorities in March. Last week he was arrested in the pier shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Border Security Caucus and deputy chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee, yesterday introduced an amendment to block federal law enforcement funds from being distributed to sanctuary cities.

“Recent tragic events have clearly been a direct result of the Administration’s failure to deport dangerous illegal aliens,” Vitter said. “Dangerous criminals are getting a free pass to live in our country because President Obama is putting his political agenda ahead of public safety.”

Judiciary Committee Republicans wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson this week demanding numbers on how many illegal immigrants have been arrested or convicted of crimes and how many remain in the United States today.

“Your Department has refused to confront so-called ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions, endangering the public safety and leading to tragedies such as the recent killings of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, California, and Angelica Martinez in Laredo, Texas. These deaths are the result of such sanctuary jurisdictions’ dangerous policies, and this Administration’s refusal to do anything to stop them,” the senators wrote. “Yet, rather than enhance the successful Secure Communities program, confront sanctuary jurisdictions, defend federal law enforcement’s legitimate use of detainers, request additional resources, or ask Congress for a legislative solution, your Department has unilaterally designed a program that will endanger the American people.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch this week asking her to end taxpayer-funded federal grants to jurisdictions that do not follow federal immigration removal policies.

“Any violent crime is tragic, but the fact that the senseless death in San Francisco arose directly from a ‘sanctuary city’ deliberately obstructing policies to remove illegal immigrants who have committed crimes is appalling and inexcusable,” said Shelby. “I strongly believe that interfering with the routine coordination of federal law enforcement is intolerable and potentially deadly to law-abiding American families.”

“…Municipalities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration laws simply should not receive the Department of Justice’s assistance funding.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he’s going to introduce legislation “that will say that when the federal government says we want someone detained, we want them turned over to us when you are done with them, that it actually happens.”

“They say the law is murky here. So I want to make it very explicit. San Francisco, you cannot break the law. And if you have someone who is here illegally, you have to turn them over to the immigration services. It needs to be explicit,” Paul told Fox last night. “…I would think that there would be repercussions for those who released this guy back into the public.”

In the House, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) this week introduced “Kate’s Law,” which mandates a five-year sentence for deported illegal immigrants who return.

“Steinle’s recent murder was heartbreaking and unconscionable,” Salmon said. “This case has reminded us of an unfortunate fact – Congress simply cannot afford to leave any ambiguity in statute while trusting the executive to prudently exercise its discretion. Congress must continue to sharpen existing law and demand accountability from the executive branch. Kate’s Law is a step toward that end.”

“By instituting mandatory minimums for those who illegally reenter our nation after already having been deported, we help dissuade those who so casually disregard our laws and continue to victimize Americans.”

Democrats, though, signaled they’re ready to play defense on sanctuary cities, arguing they’re helpful to public safety by ensuring that illegal immigrants feel safe enough to communicate with cops.

“It’s lamentable that the senseless and tragic act of violence that occurred in San Francisco is prompting a rush to judgment and finger pointing: we can and should do better,” Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said. “Local governments should not be blamed for the federal government’s inability to fix our broken immigration system nor should they be held responsible for doing the federal government’s job.”

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OPM Director Resigns Day After She Vowed Not to Go Anywhere

Friday, July 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

After yesterday’s calls from congressional Republicans to step down, Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta told reporters she wouldn’t be stepping down.

“I am committed to the work that I am doing at OPM,” she said on a Thursday conference call when pressed on whether she would resign. “To those that have been directly affected by this theft of information, I truly understand the impact this has on our current and former federal employees, our military personnel and our contractors. Each and every one of us at OPM is committed to protecting the safety and security of the information that is placed in our trust. And we remain committed to do everything in our power to assist those that have been impacted by this incident.”

Today, she was out.

Archuleta, a national political director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and former director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation, was appointed to head OPM in 2013.

“Today I informed the OPM workforce that I am stepping down as the leader of this remarkable agency and the remarkable people who work for it,” Archuleta said in a statement. “I conveyed to the president that I believe it is best for me to step aside and allow new leadership that will enable the agency to move beyond the current challenges and allow the employees at OPM to continue their important work.”

In June, OPM alerted four million individuals whose personal information was compromised in a massive data breach. Yesterday OPM said a second breach hit 21.5 million people.

“While leadership certainly matters, the resignation of the OPM Director does not reduce the damage caused by this data breach,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) said. “The 22 million Americans who have had their personal privacy violated and sensitive information stolen by hackers continue to wait for answers from OPM and the administration. We need to know the true scope of the OPM data breach, how this happened, what is being done to protect the victims from criminal activity, and what steps are being taken not only at OPM – but across all federal government agencies – to make certain we are safeguarded from future cyber-attacks.”

“It is past time for the accountability and answers needed to restore Americans’ confidence that they, their families, and our national security are not at risk.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said the resignation “is the absolutely right call.”

“OPM needs a competent, technically savvy leader to manage the biggest cybersecurity crisis in this nation’s history. The IG has been warning about security lapses at OPM for almost a decade,” Chaffetz said. “This should have been addressed much, much sooner but I appreciate the president doing what’s best now.”

“In the future, positions of this magnitude should be awarded on merit and not out of patronage to political operatives.”

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