Day: February 15, 2019
Graham: US should be stronger on Canadians detained in China
MUNICH – U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says the response by the United States to China detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive has not been strong enough.
Graham also told Munich Security Conference delegates Friday the international reaction to China’s arrest of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor hasn’t been enough to persuade China that its apparent use of hostage diplomacy won’t be tolerated.
Graham says President Donald Trump "has been tough on China but this is one area where I think we need to make a more definitive statement, because the two people arrested in China had nothing to do with the rule of law. It was just grabbing two Canadians."
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland mouthed the words "thank you" to Graham.
Source: Fox News World
DHS official: Border security bill does not contain ‘amnesty’ poison pills
Immigration hawks slammed the border security compromise President Trump signed into law Friday for containing last-minute provisions that they argued give "amnesty" to many – but a Department of Homeland Security official insisted to Fox News that’s a misunderstanding of the bill.
The amnesty claim was made by lawmakers and conservative commentators.
"This ‘deal’ provides de facto amnesty for anyone claiming to be even in the household of a potential sponsor of an unaccompanied alien minor," Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, wrote on Twitter Thursday.
That ‘amnesty’ claim is based on section 224 of the budget — which appears, on first glance, to block the deportation of many people who are illegally in the U.S.
That’s because it states that no funds may be used to detain or deport any "sponsor" or "potential sponsor" of an "unaccompanied alien child." It adds that even any "member of a household" of a "potential sponsor" is now immune from deportation.
But a DHS official told Fox News that terms like "potential sponsor" have precise meanings in Department of Homeland Security regulations – meanings that severely limit the number of people the budget keeps safe from deportation.
For example, to be a "potential sponsor" according to the DHS regulations, one must file significant paperwork — such as showing ID (U.S. or foreign) and proof of residency. The adult applying must also submit documents about the child.
Further, because the bill only applies to kids who are unaccompanied, it does not provide protection for those bringing kids into the US.
That would significantly limit the number of people to whom the no-deportation provision applies.
The section was added to ensure that people coming to pick up kids in custody did not find themselves deported for showing up to pick up the kid.
Chris Chmielenski, the deputy director of NumbersUSA, which fights for lower immigration levels and which urged President Trump to veto the budget, told Fox News that the provision is still problematic despite DHS’s clarifications.
“We still have some serious concerns about the provision,” Chmielenski told Fox News. “It still protects these sponsors and/or relatives who make it into the US. That’s not a precedent we should be setting.”
He noted that, despite the paperwork DHS demands of someone to become a “potential sponsor,” some might still try to game the system and that it could still encourage “unaccompanied” kids to be sent over the border.
“We would prefer this wasn’t in there. We would also hope this is something that expires at the end of fiscal year,” he said.
The provision in the budget will be replaced by whatever the next budget says.
Another major alleged “poison pill” that may be misunderstood is a clause requiring the federal government to "confer and seek to reach mutual agreement" with local governments before building any wall.
The Center for Immigration Studies, which favors lower immigration levels, tweeted that “the spending bill would give local governments in the Rio Grande (all of which are *heavily* Democratic) the ability to veto the fence. If those blue municipalities don’t agree with DHS, the fence can’t get built.”
But the DHS official told Fox News on background that the exact language in the budget — "confer and seek to reach mutual agreement" – nowhere requires the federal government to actually reach an agreement before building fences.
Rather, it just requires DHS to consult with local governments – something DHS already generally does, the official noted.
Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies, says he remains skeptical.
“I hope DHS is right, I just think it’s wishful thinking,” he told Fox News. “Do you really want to bet that a judge won’t read that differently?”
But Trump allies say that the information from DHS shines light on why Trump ultimately signed the bill after reviewing it. Some warned about “disinformation” on Thursday.
“Just spoke with the White House. There will be NO Amnesty and NO path to citizenship,” Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to President Trump and a Fox News contributor, tweeted Thursday.
Other criticisms of the budget Trump signed include that it allows the Department of Homeland Security to more than double the number of guest worker visas, from 65,000 to 135,000. However, the law merely allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to make such an increase; it would only happen if the secretary authorizes it.
Another matter of contention is that the budget authorizes 45,000 ICE detention beds; an increase from the past budget which paid for 40,520 beds, but less than the number of detention beds ICE actually has.
However, the number of beds authorized by Congress does not actually force ICE to reduce its number of beds, as they can use money from other parts of the budget.
Gorka says the claims of the sky falling are overblown, and also told Fox News that it was silly to call anything in the budget “amnesty” because it’s just an annual budget.
“How is a funding bill that expires before the end of the fiscal year able to create conditions for a lasting ‘amnesty?’” Gorka said.
Maxim Lott is Executive Producer of Stossel TV and creator of ElectionBettingOdds.com. He can be reached on Twitter at @MaximLott.
Source: Fox News Politics
Trump Declares Emergency for Border Wall, First Lawsuit Filed
President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval, an action Democrats vowed to challenge as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The Republican president's move to circumvent Congress represented an escalation in his efforts to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a wall to halt the flow into the country of illegal immigrants, who Trump says bring crime and drugs.
Three Texas landowners and an environmental group filed the first lawsuit on Friday challenging the declaration aimed at freeing up billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said.
The lawsuit, brought in federal court in the District of Columbia, claims the south Texas landowners were told by the U.S. government that it would seek to build a border wall on their properties if money for the project were available in 2019, Public Citizen said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee said it had launched an investigation into the emergency declaration.
In a letter to Trump, committee Democrats asked him to make available for a hearing White House and Justice Department officials involved in the action. They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.
"We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system," said the letter signed by Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel.
Trump on Friday also signed a bipartisan government spending bill that would prevent another partial government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday.
The funding bill represented a legislative defeat for him since it contains no money for his proposed wall – the focus of weeks of conflict between him and Democrats in Congress.
Trump made no mention of the bill in comments to reporters in the White House's Rose Garden.
He had demanded that Congress provide him with $5.7 billion in wall funding as part of legislation to fund the agencies. That triggered a historic, 35-day December-January government shutdown that hurt the U.S. economy and his opinion poll numbers.
By reorienting his quest for wall funding toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency, Trump risks plunging into a lengthy legislative and legal battle with Democrats and dividing his fellow Republicans – many of whom expressed grave reservations on Friday about the president's action.
Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent Trump from invoking emergency powers to transfer funds to his wall from accounts Congress has already committed to other projects.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer swiftly responded to Trump's declaration.
"The president's actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution," they said in a statement. "The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”
New York state's attorney general, Letitia James, said her office would also challenge Trump in court. California's governor, Gavin Newsom, also pledged to file suit.
"We won't stand for this abuse of power & will fight back with every legal tool at our disposal," James wrote on Twitter.
The president acknowledged his order would face a lengthy court fight.
"I expect to be sued. I shouldn't be sued … We'll win in the Supreme Court," Trump predicted.
Trump may have also undermined his administration's argument about the urgency of the situation when he told reporters, "I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster."
In their letter to Trump, House Judiciary Democrats said that language had left them "troubled."
Both the House and the Senate could pass a resolution terminating the emergency by majority vote. However, that measure would then go to Trump, who would likely veto it. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
Trump says a wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs coming across the border. But statistics show illegal immigration via the border is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments come through legal ports of entry.
Confronted with those statistics by reporters at the Rose Garden event, Trump said they were "wrong."
Also present were a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants. Trump noted their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.
He estimated his emergency declaration could free up as much as $8 billion to pay for part of the wall. Estimates of its total cost run as high as $23 billion.
As a candidate, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for the wall. It was one of his biggest applause lines at his campaign rallies. Mexico firmly refused to pay, and now Trump wants U.S. taxpayers to cover the costs.
Some congressional Republicans expressed dismay following Trump's announcement.
Greg Walden, a senior House Republican, said on Twitter he was "deeply concerned about the precedent that this action sets."
Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in a statement that Trump' declaration was not a solution.
"It wouldn't provide enough funding to adequately secure our borders, it would likely get tied up in litigation, and most concerning is that it would create a new precedent that a left-wing president would undoubtedly utilize to implement their radical policy agenda while bypassing the authority of Congress," Tillis said.
Other Republicans, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, were supportive.
With an emergency formally declared, Trump left Washington to travel to his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida for a holiday break.
Source: NewsMax Politics
House Panel Announces Probe of Trump's Emergency Declaration
A key committee in the U.S. House of Representatives announced on Friday it was launching an immediate investigation into President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration, saying his move to fund his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border raised constitutional and statutory issues.
In a letter to Trump, Democrats who control the House Judiciary Committee asked the Republican president to make available for a hearing White House and Justice Department officials involved in the action. They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.
"We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system," said the letter signed by committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel. (Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Source: NewsMax Politics
Kentucky House passes bill banning abortions if Roe v. Wade overturned
Lawmakers in Kentucky’s House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would ban most abortions in the state – if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The bill passed 69-20 in the House, and now heads to the state’s Senate. It would ban abortions except for cases when it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
The legislation would take effect if Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country, is reversed and states have the authority to outlaw abortion.
Lawmakers staked out their views on abortion during the emotionally charged debate.
"Not one of us, man or woman, has the moral authority to take the life of an unborn," said Republican Rep. James Tipton. "There is no other medical procedure that I know of that the goal is to intentionally take the life of an unborn child."
Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian said if the bill were to take effect, it would amount to government intrusion into the private medical decisions of women.
"It’s none of our business," she said. "If you want to go have a colonoscopy, should we get ourselves involved in that? If you want to take Viagra, should we get ourselves involved in that?"
Kentucky is among states enacting strict abortion laws in hopes of triggering a legal challenge to the high court. Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have similar laws on the books triggering abortion bans if the Roe v. Wade decision is struck down.
Anti-abortion legislators and activists around the country believe President Trump has strengthened the push to topple the Roe v. Wade ruling with his appointments of conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, liberal states, including New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, have been making efforts to pass bills that loosen restrictions on abortion.
Controversy has erupted in Virginia, where the Democratic sponsor of a Virginia abortion proposal acknowledged it could allow women to terminate a pregnancy up until the moment before birth, for reasons including mental health.
Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam came under after he waded into the fight, with critics saying Northam indicated a child could be killed after birth.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
National Emergencies not unprecedented
UPDATED 1:32 PM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019
The first declaration under the National Emergencies Act of 1974 came during the Iran hostage crisis, which is a national emergency that is still active today. Former President Jimmy Carter blocked Iranian government property from entering the country, a move which has been renewed each year by all presidents since then.
“The steps I’ve taken today are those that are necessary now, other action may become necessary if these steps don’t produce the prompt release of the hostages,” President Carter stated the day he declared it.
President Trump has already issued three national emergency declarations during his tenure. The most prominent one is meant to punish foreign actors who interfere in U.S. elections. He’s also invoked his emergency powers to slap sanctions of human rights abusers around the world as well as on members of the Nicaraguan government amid corruption charges.
In his eight years office, former President Barack Obama declared 12 states of national emergency. These declarations touched on subjects from the H1N1 virus and blocking property transfers to people with connections to certain countries. Nearly all of his national emergencies are still active today.
Before that, former President George W. Bush declared 13 emergencies and former President Clinton declared 17 national emergencies, most of which are still active today.
In President Trump’s case, there’s two statutes that come to mind which allow the redirection of military construction funds. Questions remain as to whether building a border wall is actually a military construction project or whether the president can declare eminent domain over private property. However, even Democrat lawmakers have said he does, indeed, have the power to do so.
“Well unfortunately, the short answer is yeah, there is a provision in law that says the president can declare an emergency, its been done a number of times, but primarily its been done to build facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq,” stated Representative Adam Smith.
The problem for Democrats is many legal scholars aren’t sure who, if anyone, would have the legal standing to challenge such a declaration with a lawsuit.
Source: OANN Top News
Sarah Sanders says she ‘voluntarily’ agreed to Mueller interview
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders acknowledged Friday she was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as part of their probe into whether anyone on the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The president urged me, like he has everyone in the administration, to fully cooperate with the special counsel. I was happy to voluntarily sit down with them,” Sanders said in a statement.
She did not elaborate on when the interview took place, or what was discussed. But others involved in the campaign who later took White House jobs have been interviewed by Mueller’s team, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former press secretary Sean Spicer.
Sanders worked on the presidential campaign of her father, Mike Huckabee, before joining Trump’s campaign in 2016. She later took a press job in the White House, before being promoted to White House press secretary.
CNN first reported Friday that Sanders had been interviewed by Mueller’s team.
Mueller’s investigation, which was initially ordered to look into the 2016 election, has gone on for more than a year and half. It has expanded to probe financial crimes of Trump associates before the election, conversations Trump’s national security adviser had with the Russians during the transition, and whether Trump obstructed justice with his comments and actions related to the probe.
Sanders, as Trump’s top spokesperson, has repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
"It’s very clear that Russia meddled in the election, it’s also very clear that it didn’t have an impact on the election, and it’s also very clear that the Trump campaign didn’t collude with the Russians in any ways for this process to take place," Sanders said during a briefing last year.
Several weeks ago, then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said during congressional testimony that he’s been “fully briefed, and I look forward to Mueller delivering the final report. Right now, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed.”
Fox News’ John Roberts and Gregg Re contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Gillibrand on call to tear down border wall: 'If it makes sense, I could support it'
CONCORD, N.H. — Democratic presidential contender Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says she could possibly support a call by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas to tear down parts of the existing U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“I’d have to ask folks in that part of the country to see whether the fencing that exists today is helpful or unhelpful,” the senator from New York told Fox News on Friday, as she was campaigning in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire.
“I could look at it and see which part he means and why, and if it makes sense, I could support it,” Gillibrand added.
O’Rourke, who’s seriously mulling a White House bid of his own, said Thursday in an interview with NBC News that he’d “absolutely … take the wall down," referring to the barrier by El Paso, Texas.
O’Rourke, who came close to upsetting GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in last November’s Senate election in Texas, argued that the existing 600 miles of wall and fencing along the 2,000-mile border have “not in any demonstrable way made us safer.”
Republicans quickly criticized O’Rourke, charging that he embraces open borders.
Gillibrand, kicking off a two-day campaign swing in New Hampshire, stressed that “Democrats are not afraid of national security or border security. Democrats have funded border security for decades.”
“What President Trump wants to do is build a medieval-style wall,” she charged. “It is a hateful message.”
Gillibrand arrived in New Hampshire as the president declared a national emergency along the southern border, potentially allowing him to divert billions in Defense Department funding toward wall construction.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border … one way or the other, we have to do it,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.
Gillibrand targeted the president’s move, saying, “I think the only national emergency is the humanitarian crisis that President Trump has created at our border by separating families from children and treating people who need our help inhumanely. I think this is manufactured, I think this [is] inappropriate.”
She highlighted that congressional Democrats will sue the Trump administration and called the president’s move “not only reckless but it’s unwise.”
Source: Fox News Politics
Trump declares national emergency, avoids shutdown
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On the roster: Trump declares national emergency, avoids shutdown – Time Out: Teddy’s bears – Fox Poll: Majority thinks Dems can unseat Trump in 2020 – Schultz won’t run if Dems nominate a centrist – Something special turnip-ed eventually
TRUMP DECLARES NATIONAL EMERGENCY, AVOIDS SHUTDOWN
NYT: “President Trump declared a national emergency at the border on Friday to access billions of dollars to build a border wall that Congress refused to give him, transforming a highly charged policy dispute into a fundamental confrontation over separation of powers. In a televised announcement in the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump said he would sign the declaration to protect the country from the flow of drugs, criminals and illegal immigrants coming across the border from Mexico, which he characterized as a profound threat to national security. ‘We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border and we’re going to do it one way or the other,’ he said. … The declaration will enable Mr. Trump to divert $3.6 billion budgeted for military construction projects to the border wall, White House officials said. Mr. Trump will also use more traditional presidential budgetary discretion to tap $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.”
Will a legal war be next? – Politico: “President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency … is set to unleash a furious legal war that could bog down the project for months or years. Immigrant rights advocates, property rights activists, environmentalists, Democratic lawmakers and state officials are all loudly signaling plans for a hail of legal writs aimed at blocking the president from what they have denounced as an unconstitutional end-run around the usual budget process. … [H]istorically it has been almost unthinkable for judges to interfere with or second-guess a president’s declaration of a military or national security emergency. However, legal experts said Trump’s history of erratic and inflammatory statements, his frequent rhetorical disconnects with senior officials in his administration and his tendency to see crises that others view as completely contrived mean that challengers stand a strong chance of finding a judge willing to throw a monkey wrench into the president’s plans.”
Fox Poll: Most voters favor immigration deal – Fox News: “A sizable majority of voters favors a broad immigration deal that includes a border barrier, non-barrier security measures, and humanitarian aid. At the same time, support for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border stands its highest since 2015. The number favoring the wall inched up for the second time in two months to 46 percent, according to the latest Fox News Poll. It was 43 percent last month during the government shutdown and 39 percent in September. The high mark was 50 percent in November 2015. Currently, 50 percent oppose the wall, down one point since January. A bipartisan 66 percent majority favors a budget deal that includes funding for some form of a border barrier, plus other security measures and humanitarian relief.”
THE RULEBOOK: STAY IN YOUR LANE
“In the first place it is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 14
TIME OUT: TEDDY’S BEARS
History: “On this day in 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution. One of Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting expeditions provided the inspiration for the Teddy bear. … Reports differ as to the exact details of the inspiration behind the teddy bear, but it is thought that while hunting in Mississippi in 1902, Roosevelt came upon an old injured black bear that his guides had tied to a tree. (The age, sex and state of health of the bear remain contested.) While some reports claim Roosevelt shot the bear out of pity for his suffering, others insist he set the bear free. Political cartoonists later portrayed the bear as a cub, implying that under the tough, outdoorsy and macho image of Roosevelt lay a much softer, more sensitive interior.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -12.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 3.6 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve – 52% unapproved; CNN: 42% approve – 54% disapproval; IBD: 39% approve – 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve – 57% disapprove.]
FOX POLL: MAJORITY THINKS DEMS CAN UNSEAT TRUMP IN 2020
Fox News: “After President Donald Trump took office, many voters doubted he would finish his term, much less stand for re-election. But, as the 2020 race heats up, voters are increasingly confident the eventual Democratic nominee will indeed face off against the current occupant of the White House. In August 2017, 58 percent thought Trump would finish his term. Now 70 percent do, according to the latest Fox News Poll released Thursday. The poll also found, paradoxically, an even higher number — 80 percent — think Trump will run for re-election. Fourteen percent do not. … So what are the odds the Democrats defeat Trump? A 55-percent majority say either excellent (19 percent) or good (36 percent) while 39 percent think they have either no chance (13 percent) or not much of one (26 percent). Most Democrats (84 percent) and a plurality of independents (48 percent) think the Democratic Party’s chances are excellent or good…”
Iowa Poll: Voters think a ‘seasoned’ politician can defeat Trump – Des Moines Register: “Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders top the list of potential presidential candidates preferred by Iowa’s likely Democratic caucus-goers, reflecting their belief that it will take political experience to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. The results are part of a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll, setting the stage for the contest that will sweep across Iowa in the next 14 months. … Nearly half of poll respondents in the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state — 49 percent — say the right person to defeat Trump should be a ‘seasoned political hand’ rather than a ‘newcomer.’ … Thirty-six percent of poll respondents say a political ‘newcomer’ is best suited to defeat the president. In that role, Iowans currently favor Beto O’Rourke…”
Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Weld announces exploratory committee – ABC News: “Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, little-known on the national stage but well-respected among veterans in the GOP establishment, announced an exploratory committee for president on Friday, becoming the first Republican to move toward a serious primary challenge against President Donald Trump. There are new signs he won’t be the last. In the immediate aftermath of the 73-year-old Weld’s announcement at a breakfast event in New Hampshire, a senior aide for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich indicated Kasich is likely to launch a primary challenge as well. … Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, meanwhile, met privately last week with conservative leader Bill Kristol, who’s driving an effort to recruit a top-tier Trump primary challenger and operatives on the ground in key states. … Weld’s move makes Trump the first incumbent president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to face a notable primary challenge.”
Team Trump keeping close eye on Harris, Warren and Booker – Politico: “Donald Trump’s political advisers are homing in on three declared Democratic candidates who they believe are the most viable at this early stage of the campaign. The reelection campaign has begun compiling opposition research on Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and is eyeing opportunities to attack them. … Trump’s advisers are certain the list of announced Democratic candidates will grow exponentially before the first primary debate in June, and that their targets are certain to fluctuate over time. … Interviews with more than two dozen of the president’s closest advisers reveal that the Trump operation is watching the opening days of the Democratic primary with a mix of relief over the field’s sprint to the left, surprise over Harris’ impressive launch, and trepidation over the prospect of Joe Biden and Sherrod Brown threatening Trump’s Midwest stranglehold.”
SCHULTZ WON’T RUN IF DEMS NOMINATE A CENTRIST
WaPo: “Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said Thursday that he would be willing to abandon his presidential ambitions midstream if Democrats nominate a centrist who makes it too difficult for him to win as an independent candidate. Schultz, who made the comments while visiting The Washington Post, has premised his exploration of a presidential campaign on the assumption that Democrats are likely to nominate a candidate that embraces what he calls ‘far-left’ ideas that will turn off enough moderate voters to open space for an independent candidate. He has paid for internal polling that he says suggest he would be competitive in a three-way race against President Trump and a liberal Democratic candidate such as Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). A more moderate Democratic nominee, such as former vice president Joe Biden or former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, could complicate Schultz’s perceived path to victory.”
Beto heads to the Midwest – Politico: “Beto O’Rourke is hitting the road again, this time for the Midwest. Following a massive rally in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, on Monday, the former Texas congressman and potential presidential candidate will visit with students at University of Wisconsin, Madison on Friday. He will then travel to Chicago, where he will address a national conference of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute on Saturday. Julián Castro, who has already declared for president, is also scheduled to speak at that event. O’Rourke’s meeting with students is closed to the media, a spokesman confirmed. … The events mark O’Rourke’s first public steps outside of Texas since a solo road trip that drew widespread attention throughout the Southwest. The visits come as O’Rourke edges closer to a presidential campaign. He has said he will make a decision about entering the race by the end of the month.”
Poll: New Jersey voters aren’t feeling Booker’s presidential bid – Monmouth University: “Sen. Cory Booker’s nascent presidential bid may get mixed reviews in his home state, but he starts off on much better footing than New Jersey’s last major contender, former governor Chris Christie. The Monmouth University Poll finds that Booker continues to earn a net positive job rating from Garden State residents, although his disapproval numbers have climbed. Most feel he will not be able to keep up with his senatorial duties while he is running for president but don’t think he needs to resign. However, if Booker is able to win the Democratic nomination, most New Jerseyans say he should forego a simultaneous run to retain his U.S. Senate seat in 2020. Booker earns a 48% approve to 36% disapprove rating from Garden State residents for his performance as the state’s junior U.S. senator. … [Booker’s] disapproval rating is the highest it has been since he took office in 2013.”
Dems announce first debate details – NYT: “The Democratic National Committee on Thursday unveiled the criteria for participation in the first two presidential primary debates, splitting the debates across two consecutive nights to accommodate an already sprawling field of candidates. … To qualify, a candidate must either reach 1 percent in three approved polls or raise at least $65,000 from 200 donors in 20 different states. Each candidate’s slot will be selected by a random drawing. The criteria will apply only to the first two debates, scheduled for back-to-back weeknights in June and July, allowing the committee to update its requirements as the field shifts. NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo are sponsoring the first debate, and CNN will host the second, with specific dates and locations to be announced in the coming weeks.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returns to work – NBC News
Pergram: ‘Trump needs a transfer, may have to rob Peter to pay Paul’ – Fox News
Interesting read: ‘The most important new woman in Congress is not who you think’ – Politico
SupCo to decide whether citizenship question can be included in 2020 census – Fox News
McCabe rep downplays DOJ discussions on using 25th Amendment to oust Trump – Fox News
AUDIBLE: TIME WILL TELL
“We’re nicer people. I mean look who they produced.” – Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said of Republicans and Trump to Politico. Brown added that Democrats will continue to remain nice to one another through primary season.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Rush Limbaugh. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
SOMETHING SPECIAL TURNIP-ED EVENTUALLY
WEHT: “Valentine’s Day is a chance to get your significant other something special. Sometimes, people will let you in on what they’re looking for, but one Ohio County man’s Valentine’s mix-up caused some big laughs on Thursday. Allan and Nina Harris, of Hartford, [Kentucky] have been married since 2006. For Valentine’s Day this year, Nina wanted something that would last so she told Allan that if he got her flowers, she’d like some tulips that she could plant outside. Tulips are an annual, which means they will come back every year. However, Nina did not know how to react when Allan showed up with turnips for Valentine’s Day on Thursday. Allan had apparently misunderstood what Nina wanted. Once the couple worked through what had happened, Allan did eventually go and get some tulips as well.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“One price of demystifying the universe is that science, unlike religion, asks only how, not why. As to the purpose of things, science is silent. But if science cannot talk about meaning, it can talk about harmony. And Halley’s [Comet] is at once a symbol and a proof of a deep harmony of the spheres.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Dec. 13, 1985.
Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Source: Fox News Politics
Jimmy Carter smooches wife Rosalynn on kiss cam at Atlanta Hawks game
Former President Jimmy Carter gave his wife Rosalynn the presidential pucker up treatment when the two were featured on the kiss cam.
The Carters celebrated Valentine’s Day with a game of basketball at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The couple was cheering on the Atlanta Hawks, who were playing the New York Knicks when it was time for the kiss cam.
“Hey! The first presidential kiss cam!” the announcer was heard saying after the camera panned to Carter, 94, and Rosalynn, 91.
“President Carter and Rosalynn, can we get a kiss?” the announcer said as Carter smooched his wife.
“Yeah! Oh yeah! We’re going viral with that one,” the announcer said as the couple smiled.
Despite the luck of the president’s presence, the Hawks fell to the Knicks with a final score of 106-91. The Carters were honored by the Atlanta Hawks for their humanitarian efforts, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
This is not the first time the couple has appeared on the kiss cam. In 2015, while at an Atlanta Braves game, the former president and first lady were captured kissing.
The couple have been married since July 1946. Carter served as the 39th president of the U.S. from 1977 to 1981. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 and is the founder of the Carter Center. He won his third Grammy award on Sunday. He won the award under the “Best Spoken Word Album” category for his audiobook, “Faith: A Journey For All.”
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
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Source: The War Room
Army Calls Base Housing Hazards 'Unconscionable,' Plagued by Toxic Mold
Deeply troubled by military housing conditions exposed by Reuters reporting, the U.S. Army’s top leadership vowed Friday to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test tens of thousands of homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting Army base residents from dangerous homes.
In an interview, the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said Reuters reports and a chorus of concerns from military families had opened his eyes to the need for urgent overhauls of the Army’s privatized housing system, which accommodates more than 86,000 families.
The secretary’s conclusion: Private real estate firms tasked with managing and maintaining the housing stock have been failing the families they serve, and the Army itself neglected its duties.
“You’ve brought to light a big issue that demands our attention,” Esper said Friday morning at the Pentagon. “It is frankly unconscionable that our soldiers and their families would be living in these types of conditions when we ask so much of them day in and day out.”
The Reuters reporting described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers. Many families said they feared retaliation if they spoke out. The news agency described hazards across Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps base housing communities.
The reports have already spurred a raft of reforms and investigations, and on Wednesday, U.S. senators pledged more action to come during Senate Armed Services Committee hearings.
Two days after those hearings, the Army outlined to Reuters its immediate and longer-term plan of reform.
“Our instinct is this is bigger even than what’s been reported, and we want to get to the bottom of it, get to the bottom of it fast,” said General Mark Milley, the Army’s Chief of Staff.
To do so, the Army said it will conduct an extensive survey of its family housing across the country to define the scope of potentially hazardous conditions. Reports in the past, provided by the private industry companies themselves, painted a “false picture,” Milley said.
Army leaders singled out mold infestations as the leading cause of health concerns. On Thursday, the Army ordered its private partner at Maryland’s Fort Meade, Corvias Group, to conduct air quality testing in the nearly 2,800 homes it operates there, and report back within 60 days. The Army expects Corvias to cover the costs, up to $500 per home. The directive came after Army leaders visited Meade, hearing first-hand about pervasive mold and maintenance lapses.
An earlier Reuters report described Meade families suffering from mold-related illnesses, ceilings collapsing in children’s bedrooms, and maintenance neglect leaving families unprotected from hazards.
In addition, the Army said it will begin renegotiating the 50-year housing contracts it has with its seven private housing partners, including Corvias. As Reuters reported, Corvias stands to earn more than $1 billion in fees and other compensation from six of the 13 military bases where it operates. Its fees continued flowing even as maintenance lapses plagued service families.
When unsafe conditions persist, the Army will seek to reduce or withhold fees from its private partners. And, it is examining ways to give service families more avenues to stop rent payments if problems are not quickly addressed, Milley said.
The re-negotiation process could begin as early as next week, when Army Secretary Esper will start holding regular meetings with the CEOs of its private housing partners.
Another problem the Army acknowledged: Military commands across the country, many times relying on the word of private partners, allowed housing hazards to fester. Now, Milley said, Army commanders will be tasked with greater oversight.
The Military Housing Privatization Initiative, the largest-ever corporate takeover of federal housing, began in the late 1990s in an effort to rebuild an aging military housing stock by enlisting private developers and property managers.
“Just because someone said it’s privatized,” Milley said, “doesn’t wash our hands of the responsibility to take care of our soldiers and their families.”
Esper added: “We are acting now. More to follow.”
Source: NewsMax America
President Trump declares a National Emergency at the southern border because of “invasion”
UPDATED 8:56 AM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019
President Trump said the U.S. is confronting a crisis at home, while declaring a national emergency over the issues at the border.
During a speech at the White House Friday, the president said the U.S. must handle what he described as the national security crisis at our southern border. He said he isn’t taking the action to fulfill a campaign promise, but rather because the country needs it.
The president said there’s an invasion of drugs, gangs and people coming into our country, and by signing the national emergency he is doing his part to try and stop it.
“We’re talking about an invasion of our country, with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs,” explained President Trump.
Democrat leadership responded to the declaration by calling it unlawful. The president indicated it’ll likely get challenged in court, but he said he’s dealt with that before.
President Trump Speaks on the National Security & Humanitarian Crisis on Our Southern Border https://t.co/FqdfFORbv5
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 15, 2019
Source: OANN Top News
House Democrats attempt to block president’s National Emergency declaration
UPDATED 11:20 AM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019
Two Democrat representatives said they are co-sponsoring a bill to stop President Trump’s National Emergency declaration. The proposal by New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Texas congressman Joaqin Castro is an attempt to block the president’s move to secure additional border funding.
On Thursday, Castro called the declaration a “fake emergency,” saying he would be filing a joint-resolution under the National Emergency Act to terminate the declaration.
“There have been very critical comments that have been made by senators, including Republican senators, about the president’s ability and wisdom of declaring a National Emergency for this purpose,” he stated.
In a recent tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said she and Castro aren’t going to let the president declare an emergency without a fight.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 15, 2019
The House would have to vote on the resolution before it headed to the Senate.
When the bill would be introduced is still unknown as Congress has already adjourned, and will be out next week for the President’s Day holiday.
Source: OANN Top News
Conservative lawmakers praise the President’s decision to declare a National Emergency
UPDATED 10:27 AM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019
Top conservatives are praising the president’s decision to declare a National Emergency at the southern border.
Representative Mark Meadows tweeted Friday, saying he is seeing speculation Congress could override a presidential veto with GOP votes. However, he said that will not happen, because the votes aren’t there.
Given Congress will try to block this executive action, I'm seeing speculation Congress could override a POTUS veto w/ GOP votes. They will not. The votes will not be there. There is broad GOP + American support for POTUS taking legal, constitutional action to protect families.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) February 15, 2019
Meadows also said there is broad Republican and American support for the president to take legal action to protect families.
Meanwhile Representative Jim Jordan also chimed in by simply tweeting out “of course it’s a national emergency.” He then listed reasons why, which included caravans and angel families losing loved ones.
The lawmaker also asked what will it take for the left to acknowledge the crisis at the border.
Of course it’s a national emergency.
-Largest fentanyl bust in history, enough to kill 57 million Americans
-The caravans keep coming
-Angel families losing loved ones to violent criminals
What will it take for the Left to acknowledge the crisis on our border? #DoWhatWeSaid
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) February 15, 2019
Source: OANN Top News
President Trump could have first 2020 GOP challenger
UPDATED 9:46 AM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019
President Trump may soon have a 2020 challenger on the GOP side. On Friday, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld announced he is launching an exploratory committee as he eyes a possible White House run.
Weld would be the first Republican candidate to announce a bid against the president as all major polls indicate President Trump would crush any GOP opponent in a hypothetical 2020 primary.
Weld looks to be trying to frame himself as a candidate who moderate Republicans and Independents can get behind, but still maintains the president has skills others will never have.
“He may have great energy and considerable raw talent, but he does not use them in ways that promote democracy, truth, justice and equal opportunity for all,” he stated when referencing President Trump.
Weld decided earlier this month to rejoin the Republican Party after switching to the Libertarian Party in 2016. He served as Massachusetts governor from 1991 to 1997.
Source: OANN Top News
Maduro alleges secret meetings with U.S. special envoy, invites him to Venezuela
UPDATED 6:31 AM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019
Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is inviting a U.S. special envoy to the country, following alleged “secret talks” with the U.S.
During an interview Thursday, Maduro claimed US. Special Envoy Elliott Abrams privately met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in two separate meetings. He went on to allege the U.S. threatened military action and severe sanctions during the talks, however, his claims have not been confirmed.
Maduro said he would gladly meet with Abrams, and even said he hopes to meet with President Trump in the near future to discuss America’s recognition of Juan Guiado as Venezuela’s leader.
“I can tell you that we have had two meetings already with Mr. Elliott Abrams in New York, our Chancellor has met twice with Elliott Abrams — the first meeting lasted two hours, the second three hours, a few days ago,” claimed Maduro. “I invited Elliott Abrams to come to Venezuela in private, in public, in secret or if he wants to meet, let him say when, how, where, and I will be there.”
The embattled Venezuelan president continued by reaffirming he would not step down from power despite increasing pressure from across the globe.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Juan Guaido has said humanitarian aid will enter the country despite Maduro’s efforts to block it. At a rally this week, Guaido”said he will organize relief so supplies can be brought into the country next week.
Truck loads full of food and medicine arrived last week, but Maduro has continued to resist foreign efforts to help the country’s people who are suffering from rising hunger. More than two million people have fled Venezuela over the past two years due to soaring hyperinflation and severe food and medical shortages.
“Because the humanitarian crisis, the humanitarian aid…it’s not a box, it’s not a blister. It is a mother in Anzoategui who lost her baby boy to dehydration. It is a grandfather who can’t get his medicine. It is a mother who doesn’t have anything to give her son for lunch, and we say enough already, enough already.”
— Juan Guaido, self-proclaimed interim President – Venezuela
Source: OANN Top News
North and South Korea to launch joint bid to host 2032 Summer Olympics
UPDATED 8:06 AM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019
Delegates from both North Korea and South Korea have arrived in Switzerland ahead of talks for a potential bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. The two Koreas are expected to discuss their plans to co-host the games in both Seoul and Pyongyang.
The mayor of Seoul claimed the event would be the “last stop to establish peace” between both countries, but any athletic feats may be overshadowed by the political achievements needed to make the games happen.
In order to make Olympic history, experts are saying the bid would need to overcome international sanctions against North Korea as well as decades of mistrust between Seoul and Pyongyang. The two countries are still at war over wide political and economic differences.
“Since we’re a single team, you can’t go it alone. — North and South have to be in it together,” said Lee Kee-Hong, president of the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee. “For example, there are events where the South has a team, but the North doesn’t have athletes, so in those situations, we would have further discussions and the IOC said they would be open about it.”
If the bid is granted, the event would mark the first time the Olympics takes place in two locations.
“If we can figure out which events we can have good synergy in, then I think the results will be better than Pyeongchang,” stated Ryu Seung-Min, member of the International Olympic Committee.
The meeting in Switzerland on Friday comes ahead of a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Vietnam, which could set an example of how Pyongyang will work alongside world leaders in the future.
Source: OANN Top News
Trump Org Scraps Plans for 2 Hotel Chains, Blaming Politics
President Donald Trump's company is scrapping plans for two new hotel chains announced two years ago, casting blame in part on a hostile political environment.
The Trump Organization said Thursday that it will no longer try to open hotels under its Scion and American Idea brands catering to budget and mid-priced travelers, a departure from its focus on luxury hotels. The announcement comes as the company has posted losses at a few of its golf properties and brand experts say it has lost some of its appeal.
"We live in a climate where everything will be used against us, whether by the fake news or by Democrats who are only interested in presidential harassment and wasting everyone's time, barraging us with nonsense letters," the president's son, Eric Trump, said in an emailed statement. "We already have the greatest properties in the world and if we have to slow down our growth for the time being, we are happy to do it."
The rollout began with promises of fast success. The company said in March 2017 that nearly two dozen developers had already signed letters of intent to open mid-priced Scion hotels, and was enthusiastic about the future prospects.
"It's full steam ahead," said Eric Danziger, who oversees the hotel business for the family. "It's in our DNA."
But the avalanche of deals never materialized, as was the case for its budget-priced American Idea, which was launched a few months later at a party at the Trump Tower in New York.
The only developer willing to strike a deal was Chawla Hotels of Mississippi. It planned to open as many as four hotels in the state — but now that is off, too.
"In today's politically charged environment," hotel consultant Lee Hunter told The Associated Press recently, "everyone is cautious."
The company is also struggling with some self-imposed restraints on expanding its business.
When Trump became president, he handed day-to-day control of the company to Eric and his other adult son, Donald Jr. He also agreed his company would not pursue new deals abroad and that domestic deals would be vetted by a lawyer hired to make sure they posed no conflicts with Trump's presidency.
"We walked away from billions of dollars' worth of deals and ceased virtually all expansion," said Eric Trump in his statement. "We continue to make tremendous sacrifices and understand the bigger picture more than anyone — our father has the most important and powerful job in the world."
The Trump Organization did not dismiss the possibility that it could revive the new brands someday, perhaps when Trump leaves the presidency.
The end of the rollout follows bad news for the company in other areas.
Charities have canceled events at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, his Scottish clubs lose millions of dollars each year and several buildings have stripped the Trump names off their facades.
The Trump Organization owns or has licensed its name to 17 golf clubs and more than two dozen hotels and residential buildings around the world.
The Trump Organization has also drawn scrutiny in federal probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Michael Cohen's campaign finance violations. More recently, it is facing blowback from Democrats in Congress for firing long-time workers at several of its U.S. golf clubs for being in the country illegally, raising doubts about its hiring practices amid the president's vow to crack down on such workers and build a wall to keep more from coming in.
The company has said it had no choice but to fire workers once it discovered they were in the country illegally.
Source: NewsMax America
Decision to Boycott Nike Cost Store Owner His Business
A Colorado businessman’s decision to stop selling Nike products at his mall store after the company made quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face of a prominent ad campaign helped sink his business.
Stephen Martin’s Prime Time Sports in Colorado Springs is closing, a victim, in part, of the culture wars surrounding the Kaepernick take-the-knee debate, The Washington Postreported.
“Being a sports store without Nike is like being a gas station without gas,” Martin told the Post.
According to the Post, Martin had been a vocal critic of the player protests during the national anthem but the Nike ad campaign made him angry — and he vowed to never order from the retailer again.
But making the proclamation hurt his bottom line: Prime Time Sports had $320,000 of Nike products in stock at the time of the Kaepernick ad, the Post reported.
Martin was also the victim of the same pressures suffered by other mall retailers, the Post reported. He has five years left on a 10-year lease at the mall, and already owes more than $60,000 in back rent, the Post reported.
“I’m in a scary place,” Martin told the Post. “I’m hoping that they’ll work with me. And I’ve been open with them. I’m 64 years old headed into retirement. I can’t pay 350 grand, but I can pay something. I'm worth something.”
His business slide began three years ago, when Martin canceled an autograph signing with Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall after Marshall joined the ranks of protesting players. The calls came pouring in: “You racist! You bigot!” he told the Post.
And then came the Nike ad, and Martin’s anti-Nike proclamation, and a customer boycott — and the end of Prime Time Sports.
“Nike ran that ad to increase business, and I’m just collateral damage,” he said. “And it could be that there are more people that are in opposition to me than I realize.”
Source: NewsMax America
Reports: Police Probe Whether Jussie Smollett Made up 'MAGA' Attack
Actor Jussie Smollett is suspected of having made up the entire story about being attacked by two men who yelled "this is MAGA country," according to multiple reports.
ABC Chicago reported that Chicago police are now investigating whether Smollett lied about the attack — and whether he had help from two people.
Sources told the news station that police picked up two persons of interest at O'Hare International Airport Wednesday night and questioned them.
According to CBS Chicago, the men are of Nigerian descent and have appeared on the "Empire" show with Smollett as extras. Police served a search warrant at a home they are staying at and took bleach, shoes, electronic devices, receipts, and other items.
Smollett is reported to have skipped a follow-up interview with police on Thursday. ABC reported that Smollett's motivation for potentially making up the story was that he is being written off "Empire."
Police would not confirm the reports.
The 36-year-old Smollett is openly gay and told police he was attacked by two men on Jan. 29 in Chicago. He said the attackers yelled "this is MAGA country," a reference to President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, and hurled racial and homophobic slurs as they beat him up and placed a noose around his neck.
Holes have appeared in Smollett's story, however, which has raised the possibility that he made it up.
According to CBS Chicago, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement: "The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."
Source: NewsMax America