Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Havana on Friday to officially open U.S. Embassy facilities there, and the Castro regime is rolling out the welcome wagon by arresting some more dissidents.
The police seized demonstrators as they demanded the United States take more of an interest in human rights:
The protesters, 50 of whom belonged to the opposition movement Ladies in White, claimed the US government had emboldened the Castro regime’s recent crackdown on dissidents —many of them wore masks with the image of Barack Obama.
“What is happening is his fault,” said former political prisoner Ángel Moya before being detained. “The Cuban government has grown even bolder. That’s why we have this mask on. Because it’s his fault.”
Asked about the report today at the State Department briefing, press secretary John Kirby said the U.S. is “deeply concerned by them, by this roundup of peaceful activists by Cuban authorities this past Sunday.”
“Members of our embassy there in Havana have confirmed these reports. The United States will continue to advocate for the rights to peaceful assembly, association, and freedom of expression and religion, and we’re going to continue to voice our support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba,” Kirby said.
When asked how many protesters were rounded up — one estimate at 118 people — Kirby replied, “I don’t have a number for you. I’d refer you to Cuban authorities there.”
“For us, it doesn’t matter whether it’s one or it’s 101. We’re going to continue to make — to call for support for peaceful assembly, association, freedom of expression,” he added.
Asked if Kerry has included a meeting with dissidents on his Cuba trip, Kirby said, “I don’t have anything specific with his — on his schedule Friday when he goes down to Havana. We’ll — we’ll — as we get closer to Friday, we’ll be able to give you more details about — about does it.”
Hillary Clinton told reporters in New Hampshire today that Donald Trump’s comments about Megyn Kelly were “offensive” and “outrageous,” but asserted that Marco Rubio’s bad, too.
“They should be going after him. The Republican Party’s going to have to deal with him,” she said of Trump, adding it’s a reminder that “what they say about women — not one woman, who is perfectly capable and incredibly impressive, able to take care of herself — but all these women that I have fought for, worked for, stood up for, advocated for, and want to be a president for who may not have the opportunity to defend themselves, who may lose the right to exercise a personal choice if certain of the Republicans were to be successful.”
“I don’t want that forgotten,” Clinton added emphatically. “So yes, I know it makes great TV, I think the guy went way overboard — offensive, outrageous, pick your adjective — but what Marco Rubio said has as much of an impact as far as where the Republican Party is today as anybody else on that stage. And it is deeply troubling and it should be to the press, not just to those of us who have been doing this work for so long.”
Kelly asked the Florida senator at Thursday night’s debate: “If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently, through no fault of the baby?… You don’t favor a rape and incest exception?”
“I have never said that. And I have never advocated that. What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection. In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States,” Rubio replied. “And let me go further. I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws, whether they can vote or not. Whether they can speak or not. Whether they can hire a lawyer or not. Whether they have a birth certificate or not. And I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live.”
Clinton was also asked today about Trump’s debate statement about her history as a wedding guest: “I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said, ‘Be at my wedding,’ and she came to my wedding,” Trump said. “You know why? She had no choice, because I gave.”
She laughed and threw up her hands at the answer. “It’s all entertainment. You know, I think he’s having the time of his life, getting up on that stage, saying whatever he wants to say, getting people excited, both for and against him.
“I didn’t know him that well,” Clinton added. “I mean, I knew him, and I happened to be in Florida and thought it would be fun to go to his wedding because it’s always entertaining. And now that he’s running for president, it’s a little more troubling.”
UPDATE: Rubio responds in a statement: “Hillary Clinton supports abortion even at the stage when an unborn child can feel pain; she has defended partial birth abortions as a ‘fundamental right;’ she opposes requiring parents to be notified that their minor daughter is having an abortion; she supports funding Planned Parenthood even after they have been exposed for their role in selling the organs of unborn children; and she supports using taxpayer money to pay for abortions overseas. Hillary Clinton holds radical views on abortion that we look forward to exposing in the months to come.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the National Fraternal Order of Police conference today that they “are the ones who must tell the story of policing in this country — because this country needs to hear it.”
Lynch opened her remarks by noting last night’s shootout in Ferguson, Mo., in which 18-year-old Tyrone Harris was critically wounded by officers after he opened fire during a protest to mark the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
“I strongly condemn the violence against the community, including police officers, in Ferguson. As we have seen over the recent months and years, not only does violence obscure any message of peaceful protest, it places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harm’s way,” she said.
“The weekend’s events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing. But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked to achieve over the past year.”
More broadly, Lynch noted that “recent events in communities across the country have served as stark and tragic reminders of the tensions that exist in too many neighborhoods between law enforcement officers and the people we serve.”
“One year after the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, we have yet again seen the consequences for officers and residents when those tensions erupt into unrest and violence. And we know that trust is not just a benefit of good police work – it is essential to its fulfillment,” she said. “When officers and residents share a foundation of mutual trust and a reservoir of goodwill, residents are more likely to help with investigations; victims and witnesses of crime are more likely to speak up; and all of us in law enforcement are better able to assist community members when they face difficult circumstances.”
Lynch hailed a DOJ program launched last September, the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, for “advancing research that will bolster credibility, enhance procedural justice, reduce implicit bias and drive racial reconciliation.”
She hailed efforts by some police departments to build “respect and mutual understanding that makes truly extraordinary progress possible,” such as officers reading to third-graders in Cincinnati. “While I was there, I asked the students if any of them wanted to be a police officer when they got older – and every hand went up,” she said.
Lynch added that she wants “every American to share the appreciation that I have always felt for the incredible work law enforcement officers perform each and every day.”
“People who look at you and see a uniform and make assumptions – both positive and negative – will always try to tell your story for you. But no one knows your story like you do. No one else can talk about that moment when you have to decide how to defuse a situation, always aware that all may walk away alive or none, including you… We need to hear your stories so that you, too, can be truly seen and heard. But most of all we need to hear your stories so that we can say ‘thank you.’”
A post-debate poll from NBC/Survey Monkey finds Donald Trump maintaining his lead and two of the extensive GOP pack making gains.
And one of those topped the list of debate winners.
The poll was conducted Friday-Saturday. Trump made his CNN comments about Megyn Kelly — “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” he said in reference to her tough debate questions — on Friday night.
Trump went from 22 percent support last week to 23 percent after the debate, a statistically insignificant jump. Scott Walker and Jeb Bush each lost three percentage points, from 10 percent apiece down to 7.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) gained 7 points to go from 6 percent to 13, and Carly Fiorina gained 6 percent to go from 2 to 8 — a gain that, if it becomes a trend, could put her on the main stage in the next debate.
Ben Carson gained 3 points from 8 percent to 11.
Twenty-two percent of those polled said Fiorina did the best job in the debate — not a small feat as her performance came in the 5 p.m. round instead of primetime. Eighteen percent thought Trump did the best job in the debate, but 29 percent thought he was the worst.
Thirteen percent thought Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Texas) won the debate, and 12 percent tipped their hat to Cruz. Three percent thought Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) combative performance were the best, but 14 percent thought he did the worst.
Trump supporters were asked if they would support The Donald if he ran as an independent; 54 percent said they would. Nineteen percent said they’d back the eventual Republican nominee.
The majority of those polled said they didn’t watch the debates; a third said they didn’t watch but followed up on the news coverage of the events. Just 18 percent watched both GOP debates.
A quarter ranked a candidate’s debate performance as “very important,” while the majority — 54 percent — said it was “somewhat important.”
Thirty-six percent of those polled described themselves as “moderate,” and 32 percent of all polled described themselves as evangelical.
The congressman who infamously said during the Obamacare debate that Republicans wanted sick people to “die quickly” now says Planned Parenthood defunding proponents will shepherd in a new wave of deaths.
— Rep. Alan Grayson (@AlanGrayson) August 9, 2015
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who is running for the Senate seat Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is vacating to run for president, linked an article about his criticism of Florida Gov. Rick Scott and healthcare regulators for investigating 16 Planned Parenthood clinics in the state after videos shot in other states showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees for body parts and dissections of aborted babies.
“If the attempt to destroy Planned Parenthood is successful, the inevitable result is that many women will suffer and die,” Grayson said in response to the state probe. “Our mothers, sisters and daughters deserve high-quality, affordable medical care.”
The investigation results were released last week, and showed “three facilities performing procedures beyond their licensing authority, as well as one facility not keeping proper logs relating to fetal remains,” according to the AHCA.
“We will take immediate actions against these three facilities for performing second trimester abortions without a proper license,” the agency said in a statement. “These facilities have been notified to immediately cease performing second trimester abortions. The Agency may take additional actions against these facilities including administrative sanctions. These three clinics are only licensed to perform first trimester abortions. The law requires clinics performing second trimester abortions meet additional requirements.”
Grayson is challenging Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat. Murphy defeated incumbent Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) in 2012.
On the GOP side, Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly are eyeing Rubio’s seat.
Another key Democratic senator who might vote to oppose the administration on the Iran nuclear deal said after Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) defection that he’s “proud” of his caucus.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was appointed to the ranking member spot after the previous one, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), was indicted. Menendez’s opposition to the Iran deal is clear, and Cardin hasn’t yet announced which way he’ll vote.
“I’m very proud of the Democratic caucus. Each of our members have been studying this issue, they didn’t rush to judgment. Many are still undecided. They’re making this decision on what they think is in the best interests of our country. They’re not going to make a decision based upon party affiliation,” Cardin told CNN on Friday.
“This is a consequential vote, a very important vote for the security of our country, and each member is laboring.”
The senator again stressed that “this is not a matter of party loyalty.”
“This is a matter of what’s in the best interests of our country and each senator has to make those judgments. This is a matter of national security. It’s not a party loyalty test,” he added. Thus, current and former White House officials saying that Schumer’s vote should disqualify him from being the next majority leader is “inappropriate.”
On President Obama’s speech last week comparing Republican opponents of the deal to hardliners in Iran, Cardin said, “We may disagree with some of the analogies that he made but he’s trying to get as much support as he can for his position.”
Cardin added that his decision needed to come after listening to his constituents over the recess.
“I decided that it’s been three weeks since we got the agreement. Less than three weeks. I have been involved in hearings for the last 2 1/2 weeks in briefings and reading documents, still getting some additional information. I told the people in Maryland I’m going to give them a chance during this work period, to have a chance to meet with different groups. I’m going to do that,” he said.
“So I’m trying to get as much information as possible. We have 60 days. Again we’re just in the first parts of those 60 days. I want to take the time to make the right decision. And I think taking this time will allow me to sort through this, give the people of Maryland an opportunity and make a decision that I think is best for our country.”
The Democratic ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific came out against the Iran nuclear, marking the latest defection from the administration position after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) became a “no” vote.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who has a long legislative history of battling the mullahs in Tehran, is also the second-ranking Democrat on the full committee behind Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who also came out against the deal last week.
Sherman called the P5+1 agreement “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
“It contains the good and the bad in the first year, and gets ugly in the years thereafter,” he said. “The Good: Iran gives up 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium and decommissions 2/3 of its existing centrifuges. The Bad: Iran gets access to at least $56 billion of its own currently-frozen funds, and free access to the international oil markets. The ugly: In 15 years or less, Iran is permitted to have an unlimited quantity of centrifuges of unlimited quality, as well as heavy water reactors and reprocessing facilities.”
Sherman stressed “we must force modifications of the agreement, and extensions of its nuclear restrictions, before it gets ugly.”
“My efforts have one purpose: Make it clear that future presidents and Congresses are not bound by this agreement—not legally, not morally, not diplomatically,” he added.
“Under International Law and the U.S. Constitution, the agreement is a mere ‘executive political agreement’ and is not binding on America, Europe or Iran. However, if the agreement was not only signed by the president, but also supported by Congress, it may appear binding. Appearances matter. In future years, many would argue as long as Iran appears to be complying with the agreement, America cannot insist on modifications or extensions of nuclear restrictions. A strong congressional vote against the agreement is the best way to make it clear that the agreement is not binding on Congress, the American people or future administrations.”
Sherman began his statement by quoting himself in 1997: “Iran…a country whose nuclear development program is the greatest threat to the physical security of Americans.”
He listed additional concerns about the agreement, including no “provisions helping us to monitor shipments or financial transactions between Iran and North Korea.”
“As we focus on Iran’s nuclear program, we cannot ignore Iran’s support for the brutally murderous regime in Syria that is killing thousands of people every month. Nor can we ignore their support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, and Hamas and the Houthi rebels. Nor can we forget about the four American hostages Iran is holding,” Sherman said.
“No matter what the status of the nuclear agreement, Congress must adopt sanctions designed to force Iran to change its ‘non-nuclear’ behavior—to stop supporting Assad and terrorist groups, and to free the American hostages. Next month I will introduce legislation to impose sanctions on Iran designed to change its non-nuclear behavior.”
Sherman had previously suggested in committee hearing that a different procedural strategy than disapproval of the agreement was needed, but said he now thinks Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-Calif.) resolution of disapproval, which will be voted on after Congress returns from recess next month, is the best route.
“It is now clear that Democratic and Republican opponents of the agreement have united behind Royce’s procedural approach, and I will join them,” he said.
“The president reminds us that many prominent critics of the agreement supported the invasion of Iraq. It should be noted that many supporters of the agreement also supported the invasion of Iraq, including: Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry and Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.”
A year ago, Sherman was blasting the administration’s handling of Iran negotiations and sanctions repeal, noting “the imperial presidency grows further.”
In protest of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) acting too “Joe Lieberman” by deciding to vote against the Iran deal, MoveOn.org says it’s mobilizing a donor boycott of the Democratic Party.
“Diplomacy has yielded an agreement between the world’s major powers and Iran that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The only other means of limiting Iran’s nuclear program is war,” MoveOn.org political action executive director Ilya Sheyman said in a statement. “While not unexpected, it is outrageous and unacceptable that the Democrat who wants to be the party’s leader in the Senate is siding with the Republican partisans and neoconservative ideologues who are trying to scrap this agreement and put us on the path to war.”
“…Our country doesn’t need another Joe Lieberman in the Senate, and it certainly doesn’t need him as Democratic leader. The vast majority of Democratic voters — the people who elected President Obama in part because of our shared belief that war must always be a last resort — will not stand for it…. No real Democratic leader does this. If this is what counts as ‘leadership’ among Democrats in the Senate, Senate Democrats should be prepared to find a new leader or few followers. This is not what the volunteers, activists, small-dollar donors, and voters who actually win elections spend their time and money to support.”
MoveOn.org claims eight million members and says it’s trying to get commitments to withhold $10 million from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee “and from any Democratic candidate who succeeds in undermining the president’s diplomacy with Iran” in the next 72 hours.
Other liberals on Twitter suggested calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) office and encouraging her to mount a rebellion against Schumer’s presumed takeover of Senate Democratic leader when Harry Reid (D-Nev.) retires next year.
Schumer’s account was also swamped with comments accusing him of allegiance to Israel over America and calling him an “AIPAC whore.”
Liberal activists began the petition effort to keep Schumer from the majority leader post after he endorsed the Corker-Cardin Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, but there’s no indication that effort gained any traction among Schumer’s peers.
“Schumer’s decision to join Republicans in attempting to sabotage the Iran nuclear deal once again shows that he is unfit to lead senate Democrats,” said political director Becky Bond of CREDO Action, which organized the petition and runs the site StopWarWithIran.com. “Perhaps it is time to change his nickname from Wall Street Chuck to Warmonger Chuck.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) not only came out against the Iran deal — something he planned to announce Friday but was reportedly leaked early to the Huffington Post by a miffed White House — but on Thursday asked the administration to butt out of a case to grant damages to Palestinian terror victims.
Schumer’s letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of State John Kerry involves the case Sokolow v. Palestinian Liberation Organization, in which the PLO and Palestinian Authority were orderedto pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to American victims of six terrorist attacks in Israel between 2001 and 2004.
Plaintiff Mark Sokolow was in the World Trade Center, survived the 9/11 attacks, and four months later took his family on a trip to Israel. They were injured when a suicide bomber attacked Jaffa Street in Israel. They and other victims used the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 to sue the Palestinian leaders.
Schumer asked Lynch and Kerry to “refrain from taking any action in the case,” brought under a law enacted “so that terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism are held accountable for their terrible crimes.”
“Last February a jury found that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) culpable for terrorism and ordered a judgement of $655.5 million. I am troubled to hear United States Department of Justice is considering asking the Court to protect the PLO and PA from having to pay the judgment,” Schumer wrote.
“Congress passed the Antiterrorism Act to give American families a remedy and to hold perpetrators of terrorism accountable for their actions. The judge in this case has the power to determine details of the judgement, including when and how it should be paid. The size of the judgement in this case reflects the severity of the crimes and the large numbers of families affected,” he continued. “I believe that the jury’s decision in this case, and the judge’s subsequent determinations, should be respected and the wheels of justice should be allowed to move forward without interference from the administration.”
“Again, I respectfully ask that the Department of Justice to respect the judgement and not provide a Statement of Interest in Sokolow v. Palestinian Liberation Organization.”
In a statement released along with the letter, Schumer stressed that the Antiterrorism Act exists for “repugnant acts of terrorism” like the PLO attacks.
“In this case, the judge and jury found the Palestinian Authority and the PLO guilty in an attack that maimed and killed dozens, including our fellow Americans, and they levied a well-founded and justified damage award for the victims,” he said. “I am urging the U.S. to not intervene in the jury’s decision, which holds the Palestinian Authority accountable for several acts of terrorism that killed 33 and injured hundreds. The Court’s authority should be respected and the victims of these horrific attacks should be allowed to secure some measure of justice for the mindless violence they have already suffered.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) long-awaited decision on the Iran nuclear deal is in: No.
“Every several years or so a legislator is called upon to cast a momentous vote in which the stakes are high and both sides of the issue are vociferous in their views,” the next leader of the Senate Dems wrote in a lengthy statement released tonight.
Schumer stressed he spent the past three weeks “carefully studying the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, reading and re-reading the agreement and its annexes, questioning dozens of proponents and opponents, and seeking answers to questions that go beyond the text of the agreement but will have real consequences that must be considered.”
“Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed. This has made evaluating the agreement a difficult and deliberate endeavor, and after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval.”
That’s not good news for the White House, as senators have predicted that, as an instrumental swing vote, Schumer could pull other members of the caucus in a certain direction.
“In making my decision, I examined this deal in three parts: nuclear restrictions on Iran in the first ten years, nuclear restrictions on Iran after ten years, and non-nuclear components and consequences of a deal. In each case I have asked: are we better off with the agreement or without it?” the senator said.
“In the first ten years of the deal, there are serious weaknesses in the agreement. First, inspections are not ‘anywhere, anytime’; the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling. While inspectors would likely be able to detect radioactive isotopes at a site after 24 days, that delay would enable Iran to escape detection of any illicit building and improving of possible military dimensions (PMD) — the tools that go into building a bomb but don’t emit radioactivity,” Schumer continued. “Furthermore, even when we detect radioactivity at a site where Iran is illicitly advancing its bomb-making capability, the 24-day delay would hinder our ability to determine precisely what was being done at that site.”
“Even more troubling is the fact that the U.S. cannot demand inspections unilaterally. By requiring the majority of the 8-member Joint Commission, and assuming that China, Russia, and Iran will not cooperate, inspections would require the votes of all three European members of the P5+1 as well as the EU representative. It is reasonable to fear that, once the Europeans become entangled in lucrative economic relations with Iran, they may well be inclined not to rock the boat by voting to allow inspections.”
Schumer also expressed the same concerns voiced by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) about unrealistic “snapback” sanctions. “If the U.S. insists on snapback of all the provisions, which it can do unilaterally, and the Europeans, Russians, or Chinese feel that is too severe a punishment, they may not comply,” he said.
He also objected to the 10-year length of the deal. “If Iran’s true intent is to get a nuclear weapon, under this agreement, it must simply exercise patience,” he said. “…To me, after ten years, if Iran is the same nation as it is today, we will be worse off with this agreement than without it.”
Schumer said he was given the “most pause” by the non-nuclear aspects that the administration has written off as secondary to forging the nuclear agreement: Iran’s terrorism and ballistic missile program.
“To reduce the pain of sanctions, the Supreme Leader had to lean left and bend to the moderates in his country,” he said. “It seems logical that to counterbalance, he will lean right and give the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and the hardliners resources so that they can pursue their number one goal: strengthening Iran’s armed forces and pursuing even more harmful military and terrorist actions.”
“…Using the proponents’ overall standard — which is not whether the agreement is ideal, but whether we are better with or without it — it seems to me, when it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it.”
Schumer said the ultimate test depends on “how one thinks Iran will behave under this agreement.”
“If one feels that Iranian leaders will not moderate and their unstated but very real goal is to get relief from the onerous sanctions, while still retaining their nuclear ambitions and their ability to increase belligerent activities in the Middle East and elsewhere, then one should conclude that it would be better not to approve this agreement,” he said. “…Who’s to say this dictatorship will not prevail for another ten, twenty, or thirty years?”
“To me, the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great,” Schumer continued. “Therefore, I will vote to disapprove the agreement, not because I believe war is a viable or desirable option, nor to challenge the path of diplomacy. It is because I believe Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power. Better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.”
“For all of these reasons, I believe the vote to disapprove is the right one.”
Earlier in the day, New York’s other senator, Kirsten Gillibrand (D), said she’d vote for the deal even though she didn’t think it was great.
“There are legitimate and serious concerns about this deal. For example, I would have liked to see a period shorter than 24 days to resolve disputes over access for inspectors. The U.N. embargoes on the sales of arms and ballistic weapons to Iran should have remained in place permanently, instead of lapsing after five and eight years. Hostages remain in Iranian custody. We will have to work hard to fight Iran’s malign efforts to wreak havoc in the region. While all of these issues are important, no issue matters more than ensuring that the Iranian regime does not have a nuclear weapon at its disposal,” Gillibrand said.
“If we reject this deal, we do not have a viable alternative for preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Without a deal, and without inspectors on the ground, we will be left in the dark as Iran resumes its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, with only months to go before it could enrich enough fissile material for a bomb. Without a deal, our options will be limited to insufficient unilateral sanctions, an invasion with yet another massive and costly land war in the Middle East, or a bombing campaign that offers nothing more than short-term gain under the best-case scenario.”
Without naming names, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) stressed on CNN Thursday afternoon that the veto-proof success or failure of the vote hinged on “three key senators on the Democratic side.”
“Depending on which way they go I think [they] will sway a number of others… at this point I think it’s very fluid.”
Much of Twitter heard former Texas Gov. Rick Perry say “Ronald Raven” tonight at the GOP “Happy Hour debate” preceding the main event in Cleveland, and the jokes went wild.
“Americans are tired of hearing this debate want to go to ‘What are you going to do about illegal immigration”?’” Perry said. “For 30 years this country has been baited with that. All the way back to when Ronald Raven signed a piece of legislation that basically allowed for amnesty for over 4 million people and the border is still not secure.”
But Perry’s campaign spokeswoman, Lucy Nashed, said Perry did not have another oops moment and “clearly said Ronald Reagan.”
Ronald Raven pic.twitter.com/fu6O1Ber6i
— Madeline Marshall (@Maddie_Marshall) August 6, 2015
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared today that there will not be a government shutdown because it would distract from the effort to defund Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has said he’s open to whatever motions are necessary to achieve this, including potentially shutting down the government by blocking the spending bill to fund government operations at the end of September.
“We’re not doing government shutdowns and we’re not threatening to default on the national debt,” McConnell said at a press conference.
“You may have heard me say this before, but one of my favorite old Kentucky saying is there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. We’ve been down this path before. This is a tactic that’s been tried going back to the ’90s frequently by Republican majorities. And it always had the same ending: that the focus is on the fact that the government is shut down, not on what the underlying issue that is being protested is,” he said.
“So look. What Planned Parenthood is engaged in is truly outrageous. The videos are beyond disturbing. The question is what is the best way to go forward.”
McConnell noted Monday’s vote on a defunding bill from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), which failed to pass cloture on a 53-46 vote.
The majority leader said that worked “to put senators or record as to how they felt about going forward with a bill that would have taken that funding currently going to Planned Parenthood and used it for women’s health, not a penny less for women’s health under the proposal that Senator Ernst and Senator Lankford were promoting. And that presumably would have gone to community health centers.”
“In my state, for example, there are 134 community health centers and two Planned Parenthood clinics,” he added. “So not a penny less for women’s health, but spent in a way that’s actually consistent with the law.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has launched an investigation into the videos showing Planned Parenthood officials brokering body parts.
“So, Senator Grassley is going to be investigating. As you know, he has a record as a very thorough and tough investigator, the author of the whistleblower law,” McConnell said. “The — we intend to continue to pursue the facts, and nobody is better at doing that than Chuck Grassley, and we will look at other opportunities to make our voices heard on Planned Parenthood.”
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign lashed out at the Democratic National Committee’s just-announced debate schedule as undemocratic.
There are only six DNC-sanctioned debates, with the only Iowa debate two months before the caucus and only one debate scheduled in New Hampshire.
The schedule is:
- October 13 – CNN – Nevada
- November 14 – CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register – Des Moines, IA
- December 19 – ABC/WMUR – Manchester, NH
- January 17 – NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute – Charleston, SC
- February or March – Univision/Washington Post – Miami, FL
- February or March – PBS – Wisconsin
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in a statement that the debates “will not only give caucus goers and primary voters ample opportunity to hear from our candidates about their vision for our country’s future, they will highlight the clear contrast between the values of the Democratic Party which is focused on strengthening the middle class versus Republicans who want to pursue out of touch and out of date policies.”
Wasserman Schultz said all five Democratic presidential candidates “have been briefed on the debate schedule and agreed to participate in the DNC sanctioned debate process.”
“If any additional Democratic candidates decide to enter the race, they will need to meet the same criteria for participation as the existing candidates: receiving at least 1% in three national polls, conducted by credible news organizations and polling organizations, in the six weeks prior to the debate,” she said.
That could drop former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee from the field, as he currently has a polling average of 0.9 percent. And that would make Wasserman Schultz happy, as Chafee has gone after Hillary Clinton’s ethics and got rebuked by the DNC chairwoman for doing so.
“Our debate schedule reflects the diversity of the Democratic Party, and in particular, we are proud to announce today the first ever party-sanctioned Univision debate,” she added.
O’Malley senior strategist Bill Hyers fired off an email to supporters beginning with the sentence: “I can’t believe this just happened.”
“The DNC just released their debate schedule, and it is one of the slimmest that I have ever seen. Literally. What they’re proposing does not give you, the voters, ample opportunity to hear from the Democratic candidates for president,” he said.
“The DNC has no place determining how many times voters in early states can hear from presidential candidates, and what’s ironic is that their schedule has made this process much LESS democratic. They’ve tried this before and failed—but this year, they’re threatening to ban candidates who participate in ‘unsanctioned’ debates from participating in any other debates.”
Hyers encouraged supporters to tweet disapproval at the DNC. O’Malley campaign leaders in Iowa and New Hampshire were also holding press briefings today to call for more debates.
“For decades, the tradition and importance of robust debates has defined and enriched our election process–especially in early states,” Hyers continued.”In the 2004 presidential election cycle, there were 15 primary debates. In 2008, there were 25. This year, the DNC’s schedule proposes just four debates before the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, and their arbitrary rules of exclusion are not only contrary to our democracy, they are clearly geared toward limiting a debate on the issues and instead facilitating a coronation.”
“It’s ridiculous. The campaign for presidency should be about giving voters an opportunity to hear from every candidate and decide on the issues, not stacking the deck in favor of a chosen candidate.”
Republican National Committee press secretary Allison Moore said that “rather than follow the RNC’s lead of having an inclusive and neutral process, the DNC is clearly putting its thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton.”
“It’s clearer than ever the Democrat Party wants nothing more than a coronation for Hillary Clinton,” Moore said.
Corker: Obama ‘Trying to Shut Down Debate’ on Iran Deal by Branding Skeptical Lawmakers ‘Unpatriotic’
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began a hearing on human trafficking this morning by blasting President Obama’s Iran speech Wednesday at American University.
“Just because Iranian hardliners chant ‘Death to America’ does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those — in fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus,” Obama said in his scathing attack on critics.
At the start of the hearing focusing on whether political favors bumped up the rankings of Cuba and Malaysia on the State Department’s human trafficking report, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) quipped, “I wonder if we have questions about trafficking if it throws us into the category of bad people.”
Corker noted that “up until an hour and a half before” the 19-0 committee vote passing the bill to require congressional approval of the Iran deal, the White House had a veto threat on the legislation “because they did not want the issue debated.”
“We are being compared to the hardliners in Iran because we have concerns that we are trying to have answered,” he said. “Just a few months ago the president was talking about what a thoughtful, principled person I was.” And now, “he’s trying to shut down debate by saying those who have legitimate questions are somehow unpatriotic, are somehow compared to hardliners in Iran.”
Corker added that, after a frustrating closed-door meeting yesterday with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he called Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman this morning to ask for “at least” her notes from the meetings between the IAEA and Iran that forged the confidential agreements.
But the chairman had a theory on why the IAEA is being so hush-hush about the inspections details.
“I don’t think it would stand the test of late-night comedy, if people understood how the Parchin thing was being done,” Corker said.
Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who was pulled into a meeting with Obama last night, said to Corker, “I think you are and continue to always be a thoughtful and principled person.”
“Hopefully if I disagree with you once you won’t compare me to the hardliners in Iran,” Corker replied.
Cardin, who like Corker has not announced his decision on the deal but has been critical of agreement aspects, stressed that he’s “encouraged our leadership to provide for the debate on the floor of the U.S. Senate that we think is befitting this critical issue.”
Floor debate is expected to begin as soon as Congress returns from recess in September.
Cardin said Obama is “clearly doing what we would expect the president of the United States to do” as he tries to make a case to the American people, but “I disagree with the president’s interpretation on this issue” — namely, comparing the Iraq war vote to the Iran deal.
“I do not see a comparison,” Cardin said, adding “this is not a clear situation where the popular view is support the president or oppose the president.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is going to the Christian university founded by Jerry Falwell where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) launched his presidential campaign.
Sanders said he accepted an invitation from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to speak at the Sept. 14 convocation.
That’s the mandatory student assembly that heard Cruz’s presidential announcement earlier in the year.
“Liberty University was kind enough to invite me to address a convocation and I decided to accept,” the professed socialist Sanders said.
His reasoning? Hillary’s challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination has said from the start that he’d go into the “red state” areas where Dems traditionally don’t seek votes.
“It goes without saying that my views on many issues – women’s rights, gay rights, education – are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community,” Sanders said. “I think it is important, however, to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues.”
“It is very easy for a candidate to speak to people who hold the same views. It’s harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently. I look forward to meeting with the students and faculty of Liberty University.”
Last month, Sanders drew a crowd of 5,200 to a Houston rally and 8,000 to a Dallas event on a swing through Texas.
He’s kicking off the congressional recess with a Monday evening rally at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
Under questioning from a Senate Democrat today at a Banking Committee hearing on the Iran deal, the lead State Department negotiator said they never bothered to ask Iran if there are any other side deals floating around out there.
Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman came under intense bipartisan questioning about Iran’s agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers that he thought the only administration official who might have seen the agreement was Sherman.
Today, Sherman had a few explanations.
“I did see the provisional documents, I didn’t see the final documents,” she told Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
To Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Sherman said: “I have seen — I have — I have seen the document, as I said, as we were going through the technical discussions with the IAEA. But what is important here, Senator, ultimately what we are talking about here is the credibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whether, in fact, we believe that they are credible, independent verification organizations, which it is.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) asked, “In the final deal from the IAEA, have you seen it and read it?”
“Let me be very clear. I have seen the documents that the IAEA and Iran discussed to create the final arrangements for the modalities that underpin the road map, the road map document being a public document that Congress has a copy of,” Sherman replied.
“Can you assure us that this access will be physical access? IAEA inspectors will be physically walking into these sites and taking samples or installing equipment?” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked of the deal.
“I think that every situation is different, Senator, and that the IAEA has the capability, the expert knowledge to make sure that whatever they do can be technically authenticated,” Sherman replied.
Sherman said a “handful” of U.S. experts — “I’d have to stop and think” — saw the documents are “very short” and defended the confidentiality agreement — if the U.S. gets confidential IAEA agreements, Iran should too.
“Under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, to which we are also a party, we have confidential safeguards, confidential documents and protocols with the IAEA between the United States and the IAEA, as does — do all of the countries that are under the CSA,” she said. “The IAEA has committed to keeping them confidential, and so, therefore, they are committed to keeping these protocols under CSA confidential as well.”
“Is there reason to believe there’s any other documents out there?” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) asked.
“No. If there are, I don’t know about them,” Sherman replied. “I have not asked them explicitly.”
“Have you asked the Iranians who you’ve had these discussions with, do you have any other agreements with anybody else at this time that we don’t know about?” Donnelly asked.
“I have not asked that question explicitly, but given the hours and hours we have spent together, I do not believe there are any other documents,” Sherman said.
And as President Obama was in another part of town accusing critics of the Iran deal of wanting war, Sherman wouldn’t commit to the deal-or-war summary.
“This agreement or war? Is that the choice? A simple yes or no,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) asked.
“I don’t think it’s a simple yes or no,” Sherman replied. “I believe that the chances that we would be down the road to war would go up exponentially.”
Menendez said he wanted “to read some excerpts from a hearing when I was pursuing the Iran Sanctions Act, when the then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, now the Secretary of State, was actually arguing against the sanctions. So, I guess in that respect things haven’t changed.”
“He went on to say that, ‘Rather than motivating these countries to join us in increasing pressure on Iran, they are most likely to resent our actions and resist following our lead, a consequence that would serve the Iranians more than it harms them, and it could have the opposite effect than was intended, and increase the Iranian regime’s revenue,’” Menendez continued.
“Then you recorded, Secretary Sherman, as in fact, also buying into that point of view. And if you look at the transcript of the hearing, basically what it talks about is everything we’ve heard here, that we will break the coalition, that in fact, we will be isolated, that in fact, we will be alone; and that therefore we will not have the consequences against Iran. The problem is, when you cry wolf one too many times, it really is problematic.”
Menendez added that “this Iranian regime cares about two things, preserving the regime and the revolution.”
“They’re not going to enter into any agreement that doesn’t preserve the regime and the revolution,” the senator said. “And so, they must think this is a good agreement for them ultimately to accomplish that goal, and that’s worrisome. And that is worrisome.”
The FBI has sent out an alert to local law enforcement agencies after receiving reports of Middle Eastern men approaching the homes of military families in Colorado and Wyoming.
The alert states that “in May 2015, the wife of a military member was approached in front of her home by Middle Eastern males. The men stated that she was the wife of a U.S. interrogator. When she denied their claims the men laughed. The two men left the area in a dark-colored, four-door sedan with two other Middle Eastern males in the vehicle. The woman had observed the vehicle in the neighborhood on previous occasions.”
“Similar incidents in Wyoming have been reported to the FBI throughout June 15. On numerous occasions, family members of military personnel were confronted by Middle-Eastern males in front their homes. The males have attempted to obtain personal information about the military member and family members through intimidation. The family members have reported feeling scared.”
The FBI alert states that they don’t know whether the same Middle Eastern men were involved in the incidents, and said they remain unidentified.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said today he’s “alarmed” by the reports that military members’ families “have been harassed outside their homes and may be under surveillance.”
“This news comes less than two weeks after FBI Director James Comey, speaking in Denver, warned of the heightened threat from the Islamic State that Colorado specifically faces,” Gardner said.
Comey was at the Denver office as part of his regular trip to visit field offices, but the trip came after four Colorado teens tried to run off to the Islamic State.
“The FBI has now alerted all Colorado law enforcement agencies, and my office is in contact with the appropriate officials,” Gardner said. “I will continue to closely monitor the situation, and I encourage Coloradans to report suspicious behavior to the FBI.”
ISIS’ hacking division has in the recent past published the addresses of military officers online, encouraging supporters to target them.
The day before President Obama slammed his “alarmist” critics including Israel’s leader in his American University speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was somberly warning the Jewish Federations of North America in a video address that lives will be lost under the Iran nuclear deal.
After 15 years of research and development under the deal, Netanyahu warned, “Iran’s breakout time will be practically zero, just a few days.”
“I think it was like yesterday and I remember this very well, all those preparations for the Y2K bug and the celebrations of the new millennium,” he added. “That was 15 years ago. It’s a blink of an eye. We’re told that this deal buys us time, but 10 to 15 years is no time at all.”
But, he noted, Iran can get there even faster by just violating the deal.
“I have the greatest respect for Israel’s intelligence capabilities. I have the greatest respect for the intelligence services of the United States and Great Britain. But it has to be said honestly. For years none of us discovered the massive underground nuclear facilities Iran was building at Fordo and at Natanz. For years none of us discovered that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor for plutonium production. So I can tell you from experience, it’s very precarious to bet the deal’s success on intelligence.”
Netanyahu likened the 24-day review period on a request for inspection of a nuclear site to “the police giving a drug dealer three and a half weeks’ notice before raiding his lab.”
“Believe me, you can flush a lot of nuclear meth down the toilet in 24 days,” he added.
“I’ve heard the claim that the deal blocks Iran’s covert path to the bomb. But no matter how good your intelligence is, no one can credibly make such a claim. How can you block what you don’t know?”
The prime minister stated that “as a result of this deal, there’ll be more terrorism. There will be more attacks. And more people will die.”
“It’s been said that most of the money that Iran will get will not go to Iran’s terrorism and aggression,” Netanyahu said. “Well, let’s suppose that’s true. Let’s suppose that Iran just takes 10 percent of the money for terrorism. That’s 10 percent of nearly half a trillion dollars that Iran is expected to receive over the next 10 to 15 years. That’s a staggering amount of money.”
“And that would turn any terrorist group sponsored by Iran into a terrorist superpower.”
He stressed that opposition to the Iran deal is not a partisan issue in Israel, and it shouldn’t be in the United States, either.
“Here in Israel, Isaac Herzog, the Leader of the Labor Opposition, the man who ran against me in this year’s election and who works every day in the Knesset to bring down my government, Herzog has said that there is no daylight between us when it comes to the deal with Iran,” Netanyahu continued. “…Nor is it a personal issue. This isn’t about me. And it’s not about President Obama. It’s about the deal. I’m asking you to rise above partisan politics as we in Israel have risen above it. Judge the deal on its substance and on its substance alone. The more people know about the deal, the more they oppose it.”
“…I oppose this deal because I want to prevent war, and this deal will bring war.”
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted President Obama’s Iran speech today in a joint statement, stressing that “in addition to jousting with strawmen, the president also repeated his reliance on false choices” — aka deal or war.
“President Obama’s speech today is just another example of his reliance on endless strawmen to divert attention from his failed policies,” they said. “It is particularly galling to hear the president try to defend his nuclear agreement with Iran by claiming that its critics also supported the war in Iraq.”
“Having presided over the collapse of our hard-won gains in Iraq, the rise of the most threatening terrorist army in the world, the most devastating civil war and humanitarian catastrophe in generations in Syria, the spread of conflict and radicalism across the Middle East and much of Africa, a failed reset with Russia, and escalating cyber-attacks and other acts of aggression for which our adversaries pay no price, the president should not throw stones from his glass house.”
McCain and Graham noted that they’ve never said diplomacy in principle equals weakness, but “what we object to is the president’s lack of realism — his ideological belief that diplomacy is good and force is bad, which has repeatedly resulted either in failed deals or bad deals.”
“…President Obama clearly does not understand the Middle East and has made one blunder after another. He was wrong when he ignored sound military advice to leave a residual force in Iraq. He was wrong when he turned down the advice of his national security team when they urged him to help Free Syrian Army fighters when it could have made a difference. He was wrong when he failed to enforce his own red lines against Bashar Assad. He was wrong when he declared ISIL a ‘Junior Varsity team.’ He was wrong when he built a presidential campaign around a message of ‘Bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is decimated.’ And he is wrong about this deal with Iran.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who introduced the resolution of disapproval against the Iran deal this week, noted that Obama “didn’t even try to justify the 11th hour lifting of the restrictions against Iran’s intercontinental ballistic program.”
“That’s because there is no excuse for this concession, which was counter to the advice of our military and which leaves our homeland threatened,” Royce said. “…And let’s not forget, some of the same people who negotiated this deal were involved in the failed agreement with North Korea — an agreement that was hailed at the time with some of the same language President Obama used today. Of course, North Korea now has multiple nuclear weapons.”
Noting that he picked American University because JFK spoke there during the Cold War, President Obama hailed his nuclear agreement with Iran as a landmark moment in nonproliferation while launching blistering attacks against any critics of the deal.
Kennedy, he said, “rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign-policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing.”
“Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a practical and attainable peace, a peace based not on a sudden revolution in human nature, but on a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements… The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled policy diplomacy.”
Obama called the P5+1 deal “the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.”
He panned the debate back during the Iraq war: “Those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive while dismissing those who disagreed as weak, even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.”
He claimed that for Iran to violate the deal it would need to have “a secret source for every single aspect of its program.”
“This deal is not just the best choice among alternatives, this is the strongest nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated, and because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support,” Obama continued.
“I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as president, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls, it’s not even close. Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prison, evaluated by headline-grabbing soundbites, and so before the ink was even dry on this deal, before Congress even read it, a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition. Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into armchair nuclear scientists disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple and sometimes contradictory arguments about why Congress should reject this deal.”
Obama said inspectors would get regular access to Iran’s “key” nuclear sites and brushed off objections to the potential 24-day delay to probe a site because “nuclear material isn’t something you hide in the closet.”
He added that “an argument against sanctions relief is effectively an argument against any diplomatic resolution of this issue.”
“But the notion that this will be a game-changer with all this money funneled into Iran’s pernicious activities misses the reality of Iran’s current situation,” he said, claiming that since “Iran’s leaders have raised expectations of their people, that sanctions relief will improve their lives” they’ll have to use the money domestically. “…Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to.”
“There is no scenario where sanctions relief turns Iran into the region’s dominant power,” Obama said. “…So, contrary to the alarmists who claim Iran is on the brink of taking over the Middle East, or even the world, Iran will remain a regional power with its own set of challenges.”
The president said those arguing that the deal needs to be tossed back for a better one “are either ignorant of Iranian society, or they are not being straight with the American people.”
Secretary of State John Kerry complained to The Atlantic that Congress rejecting the Iran deal would be the “ultimate screwing” of the Islamic Republic.
“The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said in the interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.
“The United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.”
Kerry also said that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is promising the U.S. other things — if Congress approves the deal.
“Zarif specifically said to me in the last two weeks, ‘If we get this finished, I am now empowered to work with and talk to you about regional issues,’” Kerry said. “This is in Congress’s hands. If Congress says no, Congress will shut that down, shut off that conversation, set this back, and set in motion a series of inevitables about what would happen with respect to Iranian behavior, and, by the way, the sanctions will be over.”
Kerry also insisted he’s “gone through this backwards and forwards a hundred times and I’m telling you, this deal is as pro-Israel, as pro-Israel’s security, as it gets.”
There’s “a huge level of fear and mistrust and, frankly, there’s an inherent sense that, given Iran’s gains and avoidance in the past, that somehow they’re going to avoid something again,” he said. “It’s a visceral feeling, it’s very emotional and visceral and I’m very in tune with that and very sensitive to that.”
Kerry said he doesn’t know if Iran saying it wants to wipe Israel off the map means they actually want to wipe Israel off the map.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything that says to me—they’ve got 80,000 rockets in Hezbollah pointed at Israel, and any number of choices could have been made. They didn’t make the bomb when they had enough material for 10 to 12. They’ve signed on to an agreement where they say they’ll never try and make one and we have a mechanism in place where we can prove that. So I don’t want to get locked into that debate. I think it’s a waste of time here.”
Asked if he’s bothered that Iran’s cash windfall will be funding Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, the secretary of State replied, “Yes, but it’s not dispositive. It’s not money that’s going to make a difference ultimately in what is happening.”
The United Kingdom has finally charged pro-Sharia preacher Anjem Choudary for backing ISIS.
According to Scotland Yard:
Anjem Choudary, 48 (18.1.67) of Hampton Road, Ilford was charged as follows:
Between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015 invited support for a proscribed terrorist organisation, namely ISIL, also known as ISIS or the Islamic State, contrary to section 12 Terrorism Act 2000.
Mohammed Rahman, 32 (28.6.83) of Sidney Street, London E1 was charged as follows:
Between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015 invited support for a proscribed terrorist organisation, namely ISIL, also known as ISIS or the Islamic State, contrary to section 12 Terrorism Act 2000.
Both men have been detained in custody to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today, Wednesday 5 August at 14:00hrs.
On Thursday 25 September 2014 the suspects were arrested by the Met’s Counter-Terrorism Command (SO15) on suspicion of being members of the proscribed organisation. They have remained on police bail throughout the investigation.
Siddhartha Dhar, who’s close to Choudary and marched in his pro-Sharia events, was arrested in that September bust on suspicion of encouraging terrorism. He jumped bail and fled to the Islamic State with his pregnant wife, who later gave birth to a boy. He’s since been writing ISIS publications to lure other Westerners there.
In The Times today about brother Muhammad Fostok. Without any proof the UK regime & papers try to criminalise Muslims pic.twitter.com/mmpxBj1xRD
— Anjem Choudary (@anjemchoudary) July 31, 2015
The judge in Sulayman Keeler, Abdul Haq & Mikaeel case said that to go to live in the Islamic State is not a criminal offence. Allahu Akbar!
— Anjem Choudary (@anjemchoudary) July 31, 2015
President Obama personally lobbied several Jewish groups at the White House yesterday to support the Iran nuclear deal — groups that have already been lobbying for and against him.
The meeting in the Cabinet room Tuesday precedes Obama’s speech pitching the Iran deal today at American University.
According to the White House, Obama “met with American Jewish community leaders to discuss the deal with Iran – reached along with our international partners – that would verifiably prevent and prohibit Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
“This meeting was the latest in a series that the president and senior administration officials have held with the Jewish community to underscore the importance of this historic deal and highlight the administration’s continued and unprecedented support for our ally, Israel,” the White House said.
Participants included Lee Rosenberg and Michael Kassen of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is engaged in an aggressive lobbying campaign against the deal.
The meeting obviously didn’t sway them, as AIPAC released a memo this morning showing that “major U.S. polls have overwhelmingly found that Americans are increasingly skeptical of the nuclear deal.”
Also in the room were Jeremy Ben-Ami and Alexandra Stanton of J Street, which is aggressively lobbying for the deal.
Other participants were:
· Kenneth Bob, AmeinuJason Isaacson, American Jewish Committee
· Marvin Nathan, Anti-Defamation League
· Steve Greenberg, Conference of Presidents
· Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents
· Jerry Silverman, Jewish Federations of North America
· Susan Turnbull, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
· Greg Rosenbaum, National Jewish Democratic Council
· Nathan Diament, Orthodox Union
· Rabbi William Gershon, Rabbinical Assembly
· Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Reform Movement
· The Honorable Robert Wexler, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace
· John Ruskay, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace
· Alisa Doctoroff, UJA-Federation of New York
· Robert Singer, World Jewish Congress
· Alan Solow, Chicago community leader
· Gary Torgow, Michigan community leader
· Andrew Weinstein, South Florida community leader
· Fredrick Schaufeld, Washington, D.C. community leader
Notably absent were many of the groups that protested against the deal in Times Square, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Zionist Organization of America, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s The World Values Network.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a new video today praising the Chattanooga shooter and declaring victory over French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s decision to stop penning Muhammad cartoons.
The nearly 10-minute video from al-Malahem Media Foundation features AQAP official Khalid bin Umar Batarfi directly addressing would-be jihadists and America, stressing “a command from Allah to fight the disbelievers who are transgressing on the sanctity of Muslims.”
“Muslims witness the promise of Allah fulfilled before them under the pressure of jihad, and after the attack of the two warriors among the warriors of Islam against Charlie Hebdo forcing them to halt the distribution of offensive drawings of the prophets,” Baftari said.
“May Allah have mercy among the Kouachi heroes, and may he accept them among the martyrs. By Allah they have revenged our honorable prophet and all the prophets… after the prolonged insults toward our religion and sanctities. Congratulations unto you for this great honor and this great martyrdom.”
The AQAP official states that “the West’s deliberate recurring abuses have exposed their government’s double standards on freedom of expression, their ridiculous motto that does not fool nor trick anyone.”
“America, France and other kuffar [disbeliever] nations are the ones who assist and make legislation to protect those who abuse Islam and the prophets, the same nations which legislate and punish whomever questions the Holocaust… anyone who questions the authenticity of the statistics. It does not matter if the criticism came from a researchers or a historian. These are the same nations led by America implementing laws that will empower them to place the world under watch. In order to identify who is anti-Semitic, which are not bound by their freedom of expression. And as you put limits to freedom of expression and punish whomever goes against them it is upon us to punish whoever trangresses our boundaries and sanctities. If your sayings and actions toward the Muslim ummah have no limits then our actions by the grace of Allah will have the willpower to stop your injustice, transgression and abusiveness,” said Baftari.
“You have indeed seen a portion of our actions. The angry reaction all over the Muslim world prior to the insults toward the religion and our noble prophets is a clear sign and evidence of the spirit and liveliness of the Muslim ummah and its sensitivity toward its sanctities. Indeed by Allah, no Muslim can bear insults toward his religion. He cannot sluggishly sit still and not be ardent.”
He added that “our words cannot give justice to their sacrifice and heroism… the killing of many of those who insult Islam in the Indian subcontinent.”
That’s a reference to the brutal attacks on secular bloggers in Bangladesh by the newest chapter of al-Qaeda. Among those who have been hacked to death was an American citizen, Avijit Roy of Georgia.
“The targeting of an offensive drawings exhibition in Texas, supported and protected by the American government… lone jihad has proven to be and will always prove to be a strategic weapon, successfully hitting and penetrating the enemy’s fort,” Baftari continued. “And the latest operation of Muhammad Abdulazeez, which occurred in the heart of American soil, is clear evidence of that. He penetrated the base killing and injuring American Marines in a blessed jihadi operation… if a Western government was unable to protect its soldiers in its own soil, will it really be able to protect its citizens, who insult Islam and ridicule the prophets?”
“And can America, Britain and France protect their economic interests? No! By Allah they cannot and are not capable of doing so. The global intelligence community has admitted failing to stop the expanding jihad uprising and not being able to stop the rage of Muslims in the West. And as long as the western governments and on top of them America insult and desecrate our religion and continued support for the Jewish nation which occupies Palestine and as long as they aid the apostate rulers in the Islamic world we will never stop targeting them and threatening their security. It is not justice for Muslims to live in every kind of horror and fear… while the West enjoys security.”
The AQAP official vowed “blood for blood and fear with fear: We either share security or share fear and terror. And we did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves.”
He urged mujahedeen in “every corner of the world” to target America, “for indeed it is the head of kuffar and the caretaker of all corruption.”
“Direct your spears toward them. When the head collapses, the body collapses. Continue with your path, and do not halt your jihad until America tastes what the Islamic ummah has tasted,” he said, cautioning jihadis to “not to be preoccupied by internal enemies keeping you away from focusing on the main enemy.”
“Set your goals with precision and focus your strikes on the enemy’s joints,” he said, adding that jihadis can get “practical and efficient guidance” from AQAP’s Inspire magazine, which the Boston bombers used to construct their pressure-cooker bombs. “Resort to secrecy in order to accomplish your needs.”
“Finally, we say to the people in the West and to their governments, you will never enjoy safety until Muslims enjoy it in their religion, sanctities and their selves — in all places. And to Charlie Hebdo: If you return, we shall return.”
The video comes just a few days after AQAP bomb maker Ibrahim Al-Asiri wrote an article distributed online, urging attacks on America.
“We incite you to attack America in hearts of its land and outside. America doesn’t carry many cards as it [has played] most of them, and only has a few options left,” al-Asiri said. “With Allah’s grace, by fighting America, we have grown stronger, contrary to what some believe.. Even if America has killed some of us, our group has been growing stronger day after day, by Allah’s grace.”
The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee says she will oppose the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran when it comes before Congress.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who has served in Congress since 1989, said in a statement that she’s reviewed the details of the deal “and consulted with officials in the Obama administration, regional experts, foreign leaders, Congressional colleagues, and my constituents.”
“In my judgment, sufficient safeguards are not in place to address the risks associated with the agreement,” Lowey said. “Relieving UN sanctions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles and releasing billions of dollars to the Iranian regime could lead to a dangerous regional weapons race and enable Iran to bolster its funding of terrorists. The deal does not explicitly require Iran to fully disclose its previous military work to the IAEA’s satisfaction before sanctions relief is provided, and inspectors will not have immediate access to the most suspicious facilities. There are no clear accountability measures regarding punishment for minor violations, which could encourage Iran to cheat.”
She added that the agreement “will leave the international community with limited options in 15 years to prevent nuclear breakout in Iran, which will be an internationally-recognized nuclear threshold state, capable of producing highly enriched uranium.”
“I am greatly concerned that the agreement lacks a crystal clear statement that the international community reserves the right to take all military, economic, and diplomatic measures necessary during the course of the deal and beyond to deter Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon,” Lowey continued. “Since the U.S. and Iran severed relations in 1980, the Iranian regime has become increasingly aggressive, openly anti-America and anti-Israel, extremely anti-Semitic, and the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world. Even today, the regime has made no good-faith demonstration toward bringing home four Americans who are held prisoner or missing in Iran.”
“…Congress’s role has been invaluable, in partnership with the administration, in implementing the crippling sanctions that brought Iran to the table. I remain hopeful that the administration and Congress, in concert with our P5+1 and regional allies, can prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, I cannot support this agreement before Congress.”
Another New York Dem, freshman Rep. Kathleen Rice, yesterday wrote in an op-ed in the 5 Towns Jewish Times that she can’t support the deal because it “represents a pause, not an end, to Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon.”
“I’m unwilling to grant such economic and political legitimacy to a regime that prides itself on its persecution of women, children, journalists, religious minorities and political dissidents,” Rice wrote. “I find the main argument for this deal – that the only alternative is war – to be a false choice.”
“…I hope that history will ultimately prove President Obama right in his gamble on diplomacy and social progress in Iran. But for me, it is a risk I cannot support. It’s a gift of political legitimacy and economic empowerment that requires too little Iranian maturation across too little of its dangerous agenda.”
New York Dem Grace Meng said last week that she’d be voting no. That came the day after Secretary of State John Kerry lobbied her and other lawmakers in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
Meng commended President Obama and Kerry “for their efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but the deal before us now is simply too dangerous for the American people.”
UPDATE 5:30 p.m. EST: Another New York Dem — and former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — has said no.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Democratic leadership tasked with steering the Dems’ policy and communications, told Newsday in a telephone interview, “I’m going to vote against the Iran deal.”
“I tried very hard to get to yes. But at the end of the day, despite some positive elements in the deal, the totality compelled me to oppose it,” Israel said.
“The alternative is as imperfect as the deal is. I can’t cast my vote based on hypotheticals. I have to base my vote on what’s in my heart… This is one of the most important foreign policy and national security issues we’re gong to vote on. My thoughts on it will be expressed as respectfully but as forcefully as I can.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came to the White House today to praise President Obama for his “visionary leadership” on the Climate Power Plan unveiled yesterday.
Ban also heaped more praise on the president for foreign policy, noting that September’s General Assembly would be “truly historic… in the aftermath of all these very historic diplomatic achievements that President Obama and the U.S. government have been making in many areas like the Iranian nuclear deal and normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and his recent very successful visit to Africa.”
“And all these are truly historic diplomatic achievements,” the UN chief added.
Ban commended Obama’s “strong commitment since day one in his office up to now” on climate change, and the pair said they talked extensively about the upcoming climate summit in Paris this December.
“The U.S. can and will be able to change the world in addressing a climate phenomenon,” he continued. “…And I really appreciate your personal engagement starting with China and Brazil and India, and many others, as I’m going to have some small-scale leaders meeting on the margins of the General Assembly. I hope you will really lead all this campaign under your strong leadership.”
Obama said that climate change topped their list of discussion items — followed by people dying and terrorists gaining ground in Syria and Yemen.
“At the top of our list was the urgency of a world response to the threat off climate change. And the Secretary-General has been a consistent champion of a concerted, unified, global response to the issue. I shared with him the work that we are doing with the United Nations so that we can be a leader in addressing this critical — perhaps the critical issue that faces humankind going forward, and explained how through our power plant rule, through the work we’re doing on renewable energies and so forth, that we’re in a position now to meet the very aggressive targets that we’re putting forward in preparation for the Paris conference,” Obama said.
“And I encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to work with us to press those countries who have not yet put forward bold, aggressive plans to do so — because we need Paris to be a success, and the world has to step up in a concerted way on behalf of our children and future generations.”
Ban added that he really appreciates Obama’s “strong support for human rights.”
“In all these conflict areas, it is the people whose human rights are being abused,” the secretary-general said. “And we are taking human rights up front as priority issues, and I really appreciate the United States continuing support and leadership.”
Today House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) introduced a resolution of disapproval for the Iran nuclear deal, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said it will receive a vote after Congress returns from recess in September.
Royce sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday protesting that lawmakers need access to Iran’s deals with the International Atomic Energy Agency to properly review the agreement.
After initially turning down a request to meet with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano will meet with the committee behind closed doors tomorrow.
Iran has publicly protested revealing any details of the agreements it has with the IAEA. “Definitely, the agreements between a country and the UN agency, which are classified, can by no means be available to any other country,” Iranian ambassador to IAEA Reza Najafi said over the weekend, according to Iran’s PressTV.
The documents are not in the possession of the Obama administration, Kerry has said.
Royce said he was recently briefed by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who testifies tomorrow before the Senate Banking Committee, and “it is clear” after the meeting with Sherman “that this issue deserves more scrutiny by the Committee.”
“Indeed, all Members of Congress should have access to the separate arrangements negotiated between Iran and the IAEA,” Royce wrote to Kerry. “In recent Congressional testimony, you and other Administration officials emphasized the verification aspects of the Iran nuclear agreement and expressed confidence in the access to suspicious sites that the agreement provides the IAEA. Yet these ‘separate arrangement’ have the potential to seriously weaken our ability to verify the agreement as a whole.”
“…While this may not be typical IAEA practice, there is nothing typical about the Iranian threat or this nuclear agreement.”
McCarthy confirmed that Royce has introduced the disapproval resolution.
“Everything we have learned about this agreement has given Congress and the American people cause for grave concern. Iran still has a legitimate path to a nuclear bomb, Iranian leaders and the Obama Administration have expressed major public disagreements on key tenets of the deal, and ‘snapback’ sanctions are a fallacy,” McCarthy said in a statement. “What’s worse, at least two side deals have been made between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and, thus far, the Obama Administration has refused to share the text of the side deals with Congress.”
“It is clear that this is a bad deal, and the House will vote on disapproval in September,” the whip added.
Along with Royce’s resolution, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) led a letter to President Obama, signed by 94 lawmakers, demanding the text of IAEA deals be delivered to Congress.
“Under the clear language of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which you signed into law, members of Congress are entitled to the text of these two side deals. Specifically, members have a right to all ‘annexes, appendices, codicils, side agreements, implementing materials, documents, and guidance, technical or other understandings and any related agreements, whether entered into or implemented prior to the agreement or to be entered into or implemented in the future.’ Congress’s legal right to these documents creates a corresponding legal obligation for your administration to provide them for our review,” the letter states.
“The JCPOA with Iran is a matter of immense importance to the immediate and long-term security of the United States. Members of Congress have the right and the duty to review every relevant document, every term, and every word of this agreement in order to make an informed decision about whether or not it merits our support. We request that you provide the text of these side deals to Congress as expeditiously as possible. If you do not possess these documents, we request that you immediately secure them from the IAEA and then provide them to Congress.”
“Over the course of the next few weeks, Congress will continue to study the deal, listen to the American people, and make the best choice for our country,” McCarthy said.
Royce said he wished the administration had negotiated “a verifiable, enforceable, and accountable agreement.”
“I do not relish in introducing this consequential legislation,” the chairman added. “But the consequences for global security from this agreement are too great. This deal gives up too much, too fast, to a terrorist state – making the world less safe, less secure, and less stable.”
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore insists that he’s the “entire package” for the GOP presidential nomination — something nobody else in the field has.
“I am a governor and governors are considered legitimate for this debate in this presidential campaign. A governor has run a state. He understands what is going on. But I have an additional component. The fact that I’m a United States Army veteran, a degree in Soviet affairs, that I chaired the National Commission on the Homeland Security for the United States, I was governor during the 9/11 attack so I have foreign policy credentials to go along with gubernatorial credentials and that combination doesn’t exist elsewhere in the field,” Gilmore told CNN.
Still, Gilmore ran in 2008 and didn’t make it far.
“I think it will be a long race,” he said. “…After a while, the people of the country will say, ‘Look, I’m tired of the circus. I want a candidate who understands my concerns, jobs, opportunities.’ And my real concern about the international threat. I’m addressing those issues and I’m capable of doing that.”
Gilmore said if Virginia law had allowed him to serve more than one term “there wouldn’t have been a budget shortfall” when he left office.
“I’m not concerned about Donald Trump. I’m more concerned about the opportunity…to get my ideas out there, the idea of revitalizing the economy and the deep experience I have to address the international crisis. It’s very real. The danger of the United States is serious,” he said.
“We have multiple challenges at this point because of the weakness of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. The Obama/Clinton foreign policy has made a dangerous world more dangerous. I believe I can reverse the American decline and get America back on the upswing both in terms of jobs and opportunity and foreign policy.”
Gilmore added that he’s “a little taken aback” by Jeb Bush’s new immigration strategy and “position that he wants to deport five million people who have overstayed their visas. ”
“His signature issue for years has been amnesty. Jeb has been about amnesty. So I think he’s trying to have it both ways. This is both-way Jeb now. If he can take a signature issue he’s cared about so much, amnesty for illegal aliens, then turn on a dime, what will he do as president? Can he be trusted to carry out the things he says he’ll do? I think he’s looking at Trump’s numbers and he’s seen the light but the light is Trump’s poll numbers.”
Gilmore is not registering on the polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average.
Two years after directing the Environmental Protection Agency to come up with federal carbon limits on power plants, President Obama today announced his new climate change plan with a goal that “by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago.”
In his East Room remarks, Obama rattled off a litany of climate change issues, including “shrinking icecaps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart.”
“By definition, I don’t deal with issues if they’re easy to solve, because somebody else has already solved them,” he said. “…But this is one of those rare issues, because of its magnitude, because of its scope, that if we don’t get it right, we may not be able to reverse and we may not be able to adapt sufficiently. There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”
Under the 1,560-page EPA rule, states and tribes would have to ensure that all power plants meet the new emission performance rates from 2022 to 2029 — through methods including emissions trading, aka the cap-and-trade he couldn’t get through Congress in his first term.
“The nerdier way to say that is that we’ll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere,” Obama said. “The simpler, layman’s way of saying that is that it’s like cutting every ounce of emission due to electricity from 108 million American homes, or its the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road. By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent, and thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year.”
Obama said his opponents “will claim that this plan will cost you money, even though this plan, the analysis shows, will ultimately save the average American nearly $85 a year on their energy bills.”
“They’ll claim this plan is a war on coal to scare up votes even as they ignore my plan to actually invest in revitalizing coal country and supporting healthcare and retirement for coal miners and their families and retraining those workers for better paying jobs and healthier jobs,” he said.
“Communities across America have been losing coal jobs for decades. I want to work with Congress to help them, not to use them as a political football. Partisan press releases aren’t going to help those families.”
Tomorrow is Obama’s birthday, and the president said he’s “starting to reflect on age.”
“And folks who are older than me can remember the Cuyahoga River burning because of pollution and acid rain threatening to destroy all of the great forests of the — of the Northeast,” he said. “And you fast-forward 30, 40 years later, and we solved those problems. But at the time, the same characters who are going to be criticizing this plan were saying, ‘This is going to kill jobs. This is going to destroy businesses. This is going to hurt low-income people. It’s going to be wildly expensive.’ And each time, they were wrong.”
Obama claimed that “the only reason that China is now looking at getting serious about its emissions is because they saw that we were going to do it too.”
“…I don’t want my grandkids not to be able to swim in Hawaii or not to be able to climb a mountain and see glacier because we didn’t do something about it. I don’t want millions of people’s lives disrupted and this world more dangerous because we didn’t do something about it. That’d be shameful of us.”
Secretary of State John Kerry quickly praised the rule as “immediate, ambitious action” that is “needed to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and stave off the worst effects of climate change.”
“The President’s Climate Action Plan, including today’s final Clean Power Plan, is already working to comprehensively drive down U.S. emissions, and lead the way for our international partners,” Kerry said. “These actions are all the more critical as we draw closer to the UN climate negotiations in Paris this December.”
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), though, said the administration “has no concern for costs, no concept of reality and no respect for the rule of law.”
“President Obama, and his EPA know that Americans do not support his costly carbon mandates, as most prominently on display when the U.S. Senate expressly rejected such an economically disastrous idea by failing to pass cap-and-trade legislation in 2009,” Inhofe said. “…Despite the president’s rhetoric, the so-called Clean Power Plan will be most harmful to low-income and minority communities. Our seniors will be forced to choose between medical care and meals while paying for a multi-billion dollar rule that has no measurable impact on global warming.”
Inhofe said his committee is working on legislation to counter the EPA and with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on “two Congressional Review Act Resolutions of Disapproval to overturn both the new and existing source rules.”
Less than two weeks after a gunman opened fire at a Louisiana showing of her movie Trainwreck, comedian Amy Schumer appeared with her cousin — Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — to call for stricter gun control.
John Russell Houser, 59, of Alabama killed Mayci Breaux, 21, and Jillian Johnson, 33, at the Lafayette, La., theater and wounded nine others before taking his own life. Houser was reportedly able to buy his .40-caliber handgun despite a 2008 court-ordered mental evaluation for bipolar disorder and protective order issued at the same time to keep him from his family.
“These are my first public comments on the issue of gun violence—I can promise you this: they will not be my last,” said Amy Schumer, who was wearing black for the press conference.
“I was heartbroken when I heard about Columbine, and Sandy Hook, and Aurora, and so many other names and places that are now seared into the American memory,” she continued. “I was heartbroken, again, when I heard about Lafayette. And I still am. We need a background check system without holes and fatal flaws. We need one with accurate information that protects us like a firewall should.”
“The critics scoff and say, ‘there is no way to stop crazy people from doing crazy things.’ They’re wrong. What Chuck is describing are sensible measures and restrictions. No one wants to live in a country where a felon, the mentally ill, or other dangerous people can get their hands on a gun with such ease. The time is now for the American people to rally for these changes.”
Sen. Schumer said “we should be do everything in our power to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of hateful evil-doers and the mentally ill .”
The senator is introducing legislation “that will incentivize states to submit all records into the federal gun database” and is asking the Justice Department to “conduct a study on involuntary commitment standards and provide recommendations to States on how to best prevent dangerous mentally ill people from obtaining a gun in the future.”
“Third, despite this rash of mass shootings, often executed by mentally-ill individuals, it is disconcerting that Congress has proposed a drastic $150 million dollar-plus cut in federal funding from critically-needed mental health services. Now is the worst possible time to be slashing funds from mental health programs that help treat people in-need, so, we are urging Congress to fully fund the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” he said.
“Lastly, I acknowledge the right—enshrined in the Second Amendment and the Heller decision—of American citizens to purchase and bear arms, however, just as the First Amendment comes with responsibilities and limits to protect public safety, the Second Amendment does as well. We have to make sure that we as a country are safe and that everyone’s right are respected.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will break with his party and vote to defund Planned Parenthood today.
Manchin said in a statement that he’s “very troubled by the callous behavior of Planned Parenthood staff in recently released videos, which casually discuss the sale, possibly for profit, of fetal tissue after an abortion.”
“Until these allegations have been answered and resolved, I do not believe that taxpayer money should be used to fund this organization; instead those funds should be sent to other health care providers, including community health centers, which provide important women’s healthcare services,” the senator said.
“While my vote is one that will prevent taxpayers dollars from going to Planned Parenthood, I will remain committed to ensuring that all women in West Virginia and America receive the health care services they need.”
Other moderate Dems, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), have not revealed how they’ll vote.
As a member of the House, Donnelly voted for a measure to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood in 2011.
If Vice President Joe Biden decides to run for the White House, he could be taking press secretary Josh Earnest with him.
Earnest didn’t deny reports this morning that he’s thinking of bailing the Obama administration to go work on a Biden campaign.
“Joe Biden has served this administration admirably. The president has often described choosing Joe Biden to be his running mate as the smartest decision he has ever made in politics,” Earnest told CNN.
“And despite all of that hype, Vice President Biden has actually exceeded that hype. He is somebody who has a strong track record of fighting for the middle class. That’s exactly what he’s done as vice president. For decades when he was in the Congress he built important foreign policy relationships around the globe and has advanced the interests of the United States. He has used those relationships as vice president of the United States to continue it to advance our interest.”
Earnest added that “there is no denying that Vice President Biden has been a terrific vice president, but ultimately he has his own personal decision to make about whether or not he wants to run for the presidency of the United States.”
“And I think that there are a lot of people in Washington, D.C., certainly a lot of Democrats, that if he made that decision that they would be honored to work with him,” he said.
“But the fact is, we’ve got some great candidates on the Democratic side already, and — but ultimately each of the candidates will have to make up their own mind about whether or not they want to be a candidate.”
Another former member of the administration, President Obama’s former special adviser on green jobs Van Jones, told CNN on Sunday that “there’s not” a hunger for Biden to join the race within the Democratic Party.
“But listen, he is incredibly respected. He’s a beloved figure in our party. But the reality is he’s not so different from Hillary Clinton from the point of view of the rising energy in the party. The Clinton party was a very pro-incarceration party, anti-regulation for Wall Street, and being on triangulation,” Jones said.
“The new party, the Elizabeth Warren wing, Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, less incarceration, more regulation, and they hate the triangulation, they want authenticity. So, he checks the authenticity box but no other box in our party — there’s just no hunger — they love him. There’s no hunger for him.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest got challenged on the administration position regarding the Planned Parenthood videos this morning from an unlikely corner.
While on CNN this morning to discuss current congressional action including this afternoon’s Planned Parenthood vote, host Chris Cuomo noted that signs don’t point to a government shutdown “because you won’t get enough lefties to join on to turn over the funding for Planned Parenthood.”
“But is this a moment in time to take a look at what Planned Parenthood does and say selling fetal baby parts for science or for whatever reason is not good? Because that’s what the other side is saying,” Cuomo said.
“Well, Chris, I don’t have a whole lot of insight into the specific policies and procedures that Planned Parenthood follows,” Earnest replied. “But what they say is they say they follow the highest ethical standards in the industry.”
“You saw the videos. No high ethical standards in play there. Base stuff, ugly stuff,” Cuomo fired back.
Earnest said “there’s no denying the fact that the organization that is clearly anti-Planned Parenthood that put out the videos put them out not because of news value but because of shock value.”
“And I haven’t seen the videos, but even based on the news coverage, those videos are shocking,” he said.
That means Earnest still hasn’t watched the Center for Medical Progress videos since he was pressed about them in the daily press briefing last week.
“But those who have taken a look at the videos have raised concerns about whether or not those videos are authentic, about whether or not they have been selectively edited in a way to misconstrue or even distort or mislead about what it is that Planned Parenthood actually does. So I haven’t seen the videos. I can’t render my own judgment on that. But people who have looked at the videos have raised significant concerns about that. And I think anybody would question the source. I think that’s legitimate,” Earnest continued.
“What the president has said is that Planned Parenthood provides valuable services, healthcare services, for men and women all across the country. And he would veto any legislation that tried to advance wholesale defunding for Planned Parenthood because federal rules already require that Planned Parenthood they cannot use federal money to perform abortions. But what they do is they do use federal funding to provide health care services for men and women all across the country. That is a valuable service. And it would be a shame if we saw Republicans once again trying to take a step that would limit women’s access to healthcare.”
Later, when Cuomo had Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) on the show, the CNN host explained he didn’t challenge Earnest “about whether or not he watched the video because, frankly, he is a press spokesperson and he puts out the White House position.”
Black said it was “unacceptable” that Earnest has not watched the videos.
“Those videos have been out there,” said the congresswoman and former nurse. “And if he’s going to be talking about it, he ought to at least know what’s on the video before he makes those comments.”
There have been seven standalone bills introduced in Congress since mid-July filed in response to a series of undercover Planned Parenthood videos, and the Senate will be taking a crack at one of them this afternoon.
But two Republicans running for president aren’t necessarily unified in how they want to bring about that defunding.
The bill being considered today, S.1881, was introduced July 28 by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). It has 44 co-sponsors. It’s short: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or to any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced his bill to strip funding for Planned Parenthood on July 24. It has four co-sponsors: Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). It reads: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or to any of its affiliates.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced a defunding bill on July 22, stating: “For the one-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, subject to subsection (b), no funds authorized or appropriated by Federal law may be made available for any purpose to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., or any affiliate or clinic of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., unless such entities certify that Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates and clinics will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion during such period.” Subsection (b) allows exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
Paul and Lankford then joined with Ernst on her bill.
Another bill by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) would require Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Planned Parenthood for organ trafficking.
Three House bills — from Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and David Jolly (R-Fla.) — seek to defund Planned Parenthood. Black’s legislation has the largest number of co-sponsors, 163.
Paul tweeted Sunday that he believes “just a handful of votes will decide the fate my bill to defund Planned Parenthood tomorrow.”
“If my colleagues would rather stand with Planned Parenthood than the American people, they’ll pay a severe political price,” he added.
That was followed by tweets this morning asking supporters to “help flood Capitol Hill with phone calls urging Senators to strip Planned Parenthood of every last dime of taxpayer funding.”
“After you call your Senators, please chip in a contribution of $20.16 today,” the presidential candidate added.
Paul told CNN on Sunday that “even a lot of pro-choice people are upset by these videos.”
“They, you know, manipulating the baby, turning the baby around to get the body parts and then selling the liver and the doctors cavalierly saying, oh, well, yes, liver is popular right now for sale, I think most Americans don’t want their tax dollars going to this,” he said. “So, I think when something is so morally repugnant to so many people, why should tax dollars go to this?”
“…It would be much less emotional for everyone if we just funded community health centers and didn’t fund Planned Parenthood.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is also a co-sponsor on the Ernst bill, but told Politico that today’s roll call will be just a “legislative show vote.”
“We should not demand an empty show vote, just one of the things leadership occasionally likes, to tee up a vote that is designed to fail, to then pat people on the head and say, ‘you should be happy you got a vote,’” Cruz told a pro-life rally last week.
Asked if he would employ the same tactic he used in 2013 to try to defund Obamacare — shutting down the government by blocking a spending bill that needs to pass by Sept. 30 — Cruz told Politico he “would support any and all legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.”
“I don’t think you start out with your objective to shut down government,” Paul told CNN. “I mean, if President Obama wants to shut down government because he doesn’t get funds for Planned Parenthood, that would be President Obama’s determination to shut down government.”
“But, you know, it’s always a pointing-fingers battle, and it is the obligation of Congress, the power of the purse,” he added. “That’s an obligation of Congress, to determine how money is spent.”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) twice refused to answer what the difference is between her party and the socialism of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Wasserman Schultz was asked last week by Chris Matthews on MSNBC what the difference is “between a Democrat like Hillary Clinton and a socialist like Bernie Sanders.”
“But the more important questions is what’s the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican,” she replied before Matthews interjected with the question again.
“The relevant debate that we’ll be having over the course of this campaign is, what’s the difference between the Democrat and the Republican,” she responded.
On Sunday, Wasserman Schultz had the same question posed to her again by Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.
“Given that Bernie Sanders is an unabashed socialist, believes in social Democratic government, likes the ones in Europe, what is the difference? Can you explain the difference?” Todd asked.
Wasserman Schultz said “it’s always fun to be interviewed by Chris Matthews.”
“And I know that he enjoys that banter. The important distinction that I think we’re going to be discussing — I’m confident we’ll be discussing in this campaign — is the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats want to make sure that people have an opportunity to reach the — climb the ladders of success and reach the middle class, have a good education, have a secure retirement,” she said.
“Look at the Republican field. What they stand for is the extremism that you’ve seen in– on full display over the next — the last few weeks, which is why Donald Trump is their frontrunner. I mean, Donald Trump has — is essentially a reflection of where the Republican Party is today: limiting a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, you know, supporting– shifting to a more privately-focused education system, ending Medicare as we know it– that’s the important and relevant contrast as we go through the next 18 months of this presidential election.”
Wasserman Schultz, who was a national campaign co-chair for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, insisted among reports of a Joe Biden candidacy that “there would always be room for the sitting vice president if he chose to run for president.”
“You know, Vice President Biden has not ever ruled out whether he would eventually run for president. So like any of the other candidates when they were thinking or in any stage of the process, we’ve kept his team informed as well as– as– as well as every other candidate, both before and since they have decided to join the race,” she said.
She said the DNC “will be announcing our schedule as soon as we get it finalized,” with six debates. Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have protested the DNC debate schedule as too few debates too late in the cycle.
“You know, I think Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley– any of our candidates when compared to the Republican field have an appeal, because they speak to the issues that are important to the American people,” Wasserman Schultz said. “…And the American people would eventually choose our nominee as president.”