Day: February 19, 2019

In his new book, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe offers extensive new details of investigators’ fateful January 2017 interview with former national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House — a breezy conversation which began, according to McCabe, with all the urgency of a "playdate."

McCabe wrote in “The Threat,” released Tuesday, that "one thing [Flynn] said stands out in my memory" — namely that "when I told him that people were curious" about his conversations with the then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Flynn replied, "You know what I said, because you guys were probably listening."

Without confirming Flynn’s suspicions, McCabe wrote: "I had to wonder, as events played out: If you thought we were listening, why would you lie?"

According to McCabe, the interview was "very odd" because "it seemed like [Flynn] was telling the truth" to the two agents who interviewed him, including since-fired FBI agent Peter Strzok.  Flynn "had a very good recollection of events, which he related chronologically and lucidly," did not appear to be "nervous or sweating," and did not look "side to side" — all of which would have been "behavioral signs of deception."

McCabe wrote that Flynn seemed "completely normal" — even when, on three occasions, Flynn looked at the window and told agents, "What a beautiful black sky."

STRZOK’S TEXTS FROM MUELLER PROBE COMPLETELY WIPED — NOTHING TO SEE HERE, IT OFFICIAL SAYS

McCabe maintained that Flynn made that memorable comment three times – first, at "noon," then an hour later, and then one more time shortly after that. However, McCabe’s timeline appeared to contradict the sentencing memorandum filed late last year by Flynn’s attorneys, citing government documents.

The memorandum, which was not challenged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, asserted that McCabe had called Flynn to set up the interview at 12:35 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2017, and that agents arrived at the White House at 2:15 p.m. — more than two hours after McCabe claimed that Flynn first made the comment to the agents about the "beautiful black sky."

McCabe was fired last year for multiple violations of the FBI’s ethics code.

In a post-interview meeting in McCabe’s office, the agents "weren’t saying they believed [Flynn], and they weren’t saying they didn’t believe him." McCabe said the interviewers "struck me as being mainly surprised by the encounter" and "the difficulty of resolving their observations," because "what he said was in absolute, direct conflict with the information that we had."

Setting up the interview, McCabe wrote, was effortless, as Flynn brushed off the need for a lawyer to be present. In a bombshell court filing last December, Flynn’s legal team noted that McCabe had suggested the Justice Department would need to get involved if Flynn sought to involve the White House Counsel or a personal lawyer — a claim McCabe confirmed in his book.

MCCABE DISCUSSES POTENTIAL USE OF 25TH AMENDMENT TO REMOVE TRUMP

"The tone was as friendly, and as detached, as if we were planning a playdate for our kids," McCabe wrote.

The former FBI deputy director noted that then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates thought there was "good reason to believe Flynn had lied to [Vice President Mike Pence] concerning his communications with Kislyak as of Jan. 12. Pence had appeared on national television and vouched for Flynn, saying that Flynn had explained that his communications with Kislyak did not, in any way, involve the sanctions that had been imposed by the Obama administration.

Michael Flynn arrives at federal court in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Michael Flynn arrives at federal court in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Nevertheless, McCabe said, the FBI decided that while it seemed "plausible" that Flynn was liable to be blackmailed by Russia, the concern "did not seem imminent enough to warrant disrupting the ongoing investigative work." The FBI did, however, respond to the DOJ’s "sense of urgency" by "hastening the FBI’s own work," including the Flynn interview.

MCCABE ALSO RAILS AGAINST OBAMA AG LORETTA LYNCH IN BOOK, SAYS SHE SHOULD’VE RECUSED AFTER TARMAC FIASCO

During the interview, Flynn told the agents "not really" when asked if he had sought to convince Kislyak not to escalate a brewing fight with the U.S. over sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, according to a FD-302 witness report released last year.

Flynn issued other apparently equivocal responses to FBI agents’ questions, and at various points suggested that such conversations might have happened or that he could not recall them if they did, according to the 302. The 302 indicated that Flynn was apparently aware his communications had been monitored, and at several points he thanks the FBI agents for reminding him of some of his conversations with Russian officials.

After the interview, Yates went to the White House to explain her concerns, McCabe wrote.

Flynn was not charged with wrongdoing as a result of the substance of his calls with Kislyak — and a Washington Post article published one day before his White House interview with the agents, citing FBI sources, publicly revealed that the FBI had wiretapped Flynn’s calls and cleared him of any criminal conduct.

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Facing other potential charges related to his overseas lobbying work, Flynn, who sold his home in Virginia last year as his legal bills mounted, declared in his guilty plea nearly 11 months later that his comments on the issue were a knowing lie to the FBI agents.

At a fiery hearing in December, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan suggested Flynn should be tried for treason before walking back his comments. He set a status conference for Flynn’s sentencing on Mar. 13 — a significant delay he said was necessary to assess Flynn’s cooperation with a separate ongoing criminal case involving foreign lobbying violations in Turkey.

The date of Flynn’s ultimate sentencing is undecided, pending that status conference.

Also in the book, McCabe rails against President Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, for her decisions and actions while the FBI investigated Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during the 2016 campaign, saying Lynch should have been recused from the probe and a special counsel should have been appointed.

McCabe said Lynch, after the outcry over the meeting, should have stepped away from the probe – which was code-named "Midyear Exam" by the FBI.

“She should have recused herself from Midyear at that point,” McCabe wrote. “She did not — she made things worse.”

Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., isn’t holding back when it comes to commenting on the Green New Deal, calling it a “loser” highlighting a deep divide in the Democratic Party.

"I think the Green New Deal would be a loser. I do not think that people are going to be advocating that whole package." Frank told CNBC on Tuesday.

The legislation proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has gotten mixed reactions among Dems.

Former Rep. Barney Frank, seen here in May 2018, blasted the Green New Deal in an interview.

Former Rep. Barney Frank, seen here in May 2018, blasted the Green New Deal in an interview. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for PFLAG, File)

"There’s an argument that you don’t destabilize a society by doing too much change at once," Frank said. “People like me who do want to expand the government role in some areas need to understand that we need to show how that works. You have to do it in pieces. And then as you show that it worked, you build on that."

‘MODERATE’ A DIRTY WORD? 2020 DEMS CRINGE AT BEING LABELED LESS THAN LIBERAL

Frank also weighed in on the 2020 election chances of newly declared candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and commented on the some of the new members of the party now in Congress and the importance of the more centrist members.

“The people who are being listed now as the leading edge, none of them beat a Republican.  None of them frankly contributed to having a majority in the House that expand medical care, that would fight for good climate change policies, that would build infrastructure and protect union rights.  They all beat other Democrats where the policy differences are fairly small or replaced other Democrats.” Frank said.

“The people who are going to be critical are the ones who beat Republicans. They are clearly liberals on public policy issues but if they had advocated the list of policies Senator Sanders has advocated, they wouldn’t have won.”

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Sanders, who lost the 2016 party nomination to Hillary Clinton, announced his 2020 campaign earlier Tuesday.  While Frank said he believes in most of Sanders’ agenda, he’s pragmatic in his assessment of Sanders’ chances to clinch the party nom.

"I wish the American people were more willing to vote for what he wants," Frank said.

Source: Fox News Politics

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is spearheading a bid by the Trump administration to decriminalize homosexuality in dozens of countries around the world.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters Tuesday that Grenell and his staff were holding a "strategy meeting" in Berlin with 11 activists from "different countries in Europe." The initiative was first reported by NBC News.

"This really is not a big policy departure. This is long-standing and it’s bipartisan," Palladino said. "I would say that this is a good opportunity to listen and to discuss ideas about how the United States can advance decriminalization of homosexuality around the world, and that’s been our policy."

NBC reported that the push is aimed in part at denouncing Iran over its human rights record. Grenell, who is openly gay, has become the most vocal critic of Tehran among Trump’s ambassadorial appointments.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell (RichardGrenell.com)

Earlier this month, Grenell penned an opinion piece in the German tabloid Bild in which he criticized the recent public hanging of a 31-year-old Iranian man accused of violating the country’s strict anti-gay sex laws. Iran’s state-run media reported that the man also kidnapped two 15-year-old boys.

Grenell wrote that the execution "should be a wakeup call for anyone who supports basic human rights … Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death."

"In Iran, where children as young as nine can be sentenced to death, gay teenagers are publically hanged in order to terrify and intimidate others from coming out," the ambassador added. "Iran’s horrific actions are on par with the brutality and savagery regularly demonstrated by ISIS."

On Monday, Grenell tweeted a response to a video clip of Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif addressing the Munich Security Conference in Germany over the weekend. In the clip, Zarif stated: "I’m a human rights professor.  I have taught human rights for over 30 years. So, I have concerns about human rights. I believe human rights need to be respected. I believe human rights for [Iran] is a security requirement, not a moral nicety. It’s a security requirement … respecting their rights, respecting their freedoms is not just a moral obligation for us, it’s a national security requirement for us."

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"A professor who is helping to hang gay students?" Grenell tweeted, adding "criminalizing homosexuality is in direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. #totalBS"

A 2017 report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association found that same-sex relationships are criminalized in 72 countries, most of them in the Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The report found Iran was one of eight countries in which homosexual activity can result in the death penalty, along with Sudan, Yemen, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and parts of Somalia and Nigeria.

Source: Fox News Politics

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a measure gradually hiking the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, the highest in the Midwest.

It was one of the new Democratic governor’s top campaign promises. He signed the six-year plan Tuesday at the Governor’s Mansion.

“For nine long years, there were many forces that were arrayed against giving a raise to the people who work so hard to provide home care for seniors, child care for toddlers, who wash dishes at the diner, and who farm our fields,” Pritzker said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Today is a victory for the cause of economic justice.”

AMAZON’S $15 MINIMUM WAGE HIKE FOR ALL US EMPLOYEES BEGINS 

Illinois is on track to be the first state in the Midwest to push its base wage to $15. The pay jump increases from $8.25 by $1 on Jan. 1, and jumps to $10 on July 1, 2020. Then, it increases $1 each Jan. 1 until 2025.

Currently there are an estimated 1.4 million Illinois residents making less than $15 an hour.

Business groups opposed the plan. They wanted a longer phase-in and a regionalized approach with lower minimum wage levels for areas outside Chicago.

Pritzker noted there are payroll tax credits in the law to ease the transition for employers.

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The move is also opposed by the state’s Republican Party, which on Tuesday called the minimum wage signing “only the beginning of J.B. Pritzker’s war on taxpayers and small business.”

“This is only the beginning of J.B. Pritzker’s war on taxpayers and small business,” Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said in a statement. “Nearly doubling the minimum wage will destroy entry-level jobs, raise prices for consumers, and bust budgets at every level of government. Pritzker pledged to govern differently and listen to all parties and stakeholders, but those turned out to meaningless words.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source: Fox News Politics

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion released Tuesday, called for reversing decades of jurisprudence that has made it harder for public figures to sue media outlets and other organizations for defamation — restrictions that were premised, he said, on a series of "policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law."

Thomas’ opinion comes against the backdrop of President Trump’s repeated calls to make it easier to sue for defamation. Last weekend, Trump reacted to a "Saturday Night Live" skit about his southern-border emergency declaration by asking on Twitter, "How do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into."

And last December, Trump wrote on Twitter: "Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?"

Trump has sought elimination of the high "actual malice" standard that politicians must meet in order to prove they have been defamed by media organizations and other entities. In his opinion, Thomas argued at length that Trump’s burden in such cases is indeed unfair.

Ordinarily, to prove defamation has occurred, a private individual only has to to show that a defendant negligently failed to exercise reasonable care in spreading a provable falsehood that has harmed his reputation. But in 1964, the Supreme Court ruled in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan that public officials must meet a higher "actual malice" burden. This means they must prove that the defendant spread a falsehood either intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth.

The high court’s ruling, which came amid a surge of politically motivated lawsuits by Southern political officials, unilaterally struck down the common law on defamation that was employed by each of the states and inherited from Britain.

"The common law of libel at the time the First and 14th Amendments were ratified did not require public figures to satisfy any kind of heightened liability standard as a condition of recovering damages," Thomas wrote.

In finding a constitutional basis for its ruling superseding that common law, the Sullivan court relied heavily on opposition by the founding fathers, including James Madison, to the Sedition Act of 1798, which would have prohibited any "false" or "scandalous" writings against government officers.

Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live." Trump has suggested liberal media portrayals of him constitute defamation and contain falsehoods.

Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live." Trump has suggested liberal media portrayals of him constitute defamation and contain falsehoods. (YouTube)

According to Thomas, though, the fact that the framers opposed criminal punishment for criticisms of public officials did not necessarily mean they opposed providing an accessible civil defamation remedy for those politicians. In fact, Thomas said, the founders consistently opposed using federal law to override state common law, which controlled defamation actions at the time.

TRUMP: OUR LIBEL LAWS ARE A ‘SHAM’

"Far from increasing a public figure’s burden in a defamation action, the common law deemed libels against public figures to be, if anything, more serious and injurious than ordinary libels," Thomas wrote. "Libel of a public official was deemed an offense ‘most dangerous to the people, and deserv[ing of] punishment, because the people may be deceived and reject the best citizens to their great injury, and it may be to the loss of their liberties.’"

Thomas added: "Madison seemed to contemplate that ‘those who administer [the federal government]’ retain “a remedy, for their injured reputations, under the same laws, and in the same tribunals, which protect their lives, their liberties, and their properties. … In short, there appears to be little historical evidence suggesting that The New York Times actual-malice rule flows from the original understanding of the First or 14th Amendment."

In the absence of a compelling constitutional basis to override common law, Thomas said, the Supreme Court had no business getting involved in state-level defamation law in the first place.

Thomas’ opinion came in an unrelated case in which the high court rejected an appeal from actress Kathrine McKee, who said comic icon Bill Cosby raped her in 1974. McKee sued Cosby for damaging her reputation after a lawyer for the comedian allegedly leaked a letter attacking McKee. Two lower courts ruled against her and dismissed the case, based largely on McKee’s role as a public figure.

No other justice joined Thomas’ opinion on Tuesday, and it appeared unlikely that the Supreme Court would agree to hear a challenge to the case.

But Thomas’ opinion may have been an effort to signal to other groups to bring a lawsuit based on Sullivan, amid an increasingly changed media landscape in which information travels more quickly than ever, legal experts said. One of the key rationales for setting a higher bar for public officials to sue for defamation relates to their perceived ability to quickly quash misinformation on their own — an ability that some observers say is fading in the age of blogs and around-the-clock news coverage.

Thomas is not the only prominent conservative justice to voice disdain for the Sullivan decision. The late Justice Antonin Scalia publicly railed against the court’s ruling in that case, saying it was abhorrent and constitutionally baseless.

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Thomas has issued striking opinions in other cases that seemingly also served as signals. In support of Trump’s reinstated travel ban, Thomas wrote that nationwide injunctions issued by individual federal judges “take a toll on the federal court system — preventing legal questions from percolating through the federal courts, encouraging forum shopping, and making every case a national emergency for the courts and for the executive branch.”

In Tuesday’s opinion, Thomas suggested federal judges should similarly butt out of defamation cases.

Fox News’ Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

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On the roster: But why, Bernie? – Poll: 6-in-10 Americans disapprove national emergency – Klobuchar stays in the center in town hall – Team Trump adds to 2020 campaign staff – Love your passion

BUT WHY, BERNIE?
Not to be churlish, but what’s the point of Bernie Sanders, anyway?

His special purpose was plain in 2016. The Clinton machine had succeeded in clearing the field of all but the marginal, weird and obviously self-promotional, e.g. Lincoln ChaffeeMartin O’Malley and Jim Webb

Sanders, a 73-year-old self-described socialist from Vermont with no record of substantive achievement in a 25-year career in Congress and a Brooklyn accent that could break glass, was certainly all of those things. But he also was the only one running to Hillary Clinton’s left. 

Had Elizabeth Warren or another left-wing icon known how terribly weak Clinton really was and sought the Democratic nomination, we would probably today remember Sanders with the same urgency that we now do for Chaffee and his metric momentum.

But he was the only game in town for Democrats who frankly found Clinton to have been a corporate sellout in her career and whose fundamental message was “I’m with her.” That was basically a shorter way to say: Get in, sit down and shut up.

Clinton was still disliked by the Democratic “netroots” that had united online to defeat her 2008. When Sanders made those voters the centerpiece of his campaign, it was a natural partnership. They had beaten her before with a longshot candidate, why not do it again?

It would have been like if Mitt Romney had managed to clear the GOP field in 2012 of all but Ron Paul. (Imagine the debates!) There’s always a reservoir of opposition against any presumptive frontrunner, but when the base is really unhappy there’s so much more water behind the dam. And in Sanders’ case, he was the only course for the water to follow.

As they did with nudging Donald Trump into a run, the Clintons’ overcooked the strategy on the 2016 primaries. She was so afraid of a repeat of 2008 that she engineered a whole new headache: A low-wattage, two-person duel against a candidate with unlimited fundraising and nothing to lose in sticking around for the end.

Some top-tier candidates this time around have embraced what sounded like antediluvian liberalism when Sanders offered it in 2016. This was not the technocratic, multi-ethnic, public-private, European-style stuff of Barack Obama, but rather the old-fashioned steel-desk liberalism of the 1940s and 1950s. This was Adlai Stevenson in a parka. So the assumption among those looking for a way to cut through the crowded 2020 field is that it was Sanders’ policies that made him a contender. 

If backing “the green dream, or whatever they call it” is the price to play the game, so be it. Universal, free college? Fine. The end of private health insurance? Check.  

But all of that forgets that ideology wasn’t what propelled Sanders as much as a resistance to Clinton. He didn’t trounce her in states like West Virginia because of his platform, per se, but rather because he was fighting against established power.

Like Trump the right-wing cultural populist, Sanders, a left-wing economic populist, offered to achieve the defeat of the corrupt establishment by his very election alone. A vote for Sanders wasn’t necessarily a vote for socialism as much as it was a vote for a retro-revolution. And just like with Trump, older, whiter, less affluent voters were the most keenly connected. Make America 1957 Again.

So now what?       

There are other less-anachronistic-sounding choices for left-wingers. Warren may have missed her moment in 2016, but she still makes a better choice for the same voters who had to pick Sanders before. 

But even worse, Sanders doesn’t have an establishment candidate to target. As Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote in the New Yorker: “That sensation of revolution was more powerful than ideology alone. It is also less durable.”

A cynical view would hold that Sanders and his consultants are happy to return to the fountain of cash they found in the deserts of the 2016 primaries. And if it wreaks havoc on the party, so be it. Sanders, after all, isn’t a Democrat. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to like the party he’s running in.

A more benign explanation is that Sanders is just being Sanders. Like he’s been doing since he ran for the mayoralty of Burlington 40 years ago, he just goes places and talks about socialism with lots of hand gestures. Sometimes the cameras show up and the money pours in, sometimes nobody cares. But that’s never stopped him before.  

THE RULEBOOK: CHA-CHING
“Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential functions.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 30

TIME OUT: HBD COPERNICUS
BBC:Nicolaus Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473 in Thorn (modern day Torun) in Poland. His father was a merchant and local official. When Copernicus was 10 his father died, and his uncle, a priest, ensured that Copernicus received a good education. … While a student at the University of Bologna he stayed with a mathematics professor, Domenico Maria de Novara, who encouraged Copernicus’ interests in geography and astronomy. … [His uncle] died in 1512 and Copernicus moved to Frauenberg, where he had long held a position as a canon, an administrative appointment in the church. This gave him more time to devote to astronomy. … Copernicus’ major work ‘De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium’ (‘On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres’) was finished by 1530. Its central theory was that the Earth rotates daily on its axis and revolves yearly around the sun. He also argued that the planets circled the Sun.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
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.]

POLL: 6-IN-10 AMERICANS DISAPPROVE NATIONAL EMERGENCY
NPR: “More than 6-in-10 Americans disapprove of President Trump‘s decision to declare a national emergency so he can build barriers along the U.S border with Mexico, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. Nearly 6-in-10 also don’t believe there is an emergency at the southern border and that the president is misusing his presidential authority. They also believe that his decision should be challenged in court. … Republicans and Trump supporters are firmly with the president, while Democrats and independents disapprove. These numbers slightly outpace, but are largely reflective of, the president’s overall approval rating. … So, to sum up: Not many beyond his base like this; it’s unprecedented; and Americans are very polarized. That’s been the story of the Trump presidency so far. Trump has done little to move beyond his base, and that theory of politics – revving up the base and not winning over the middle – is going to be tested in 2020.”

Sixteen states file lawsuit against Trump – Politico: “A coalition of 16 states filed suit on Monday to block President Donald Trump’s effort to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency, calling it a ‘flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles.’ The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, is the third in a string of legal challenges already launched against Trump’s use of emergency powers since he announced the move during a meandering White House news conference on Friday. Public Citizen, a liberal advocacy group, filed a suit late Friday in the District of Columbia on behalf of three Texas landowners who would be impacted by the construction of a wall along the border. And Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has filed a motion against the Department of Justice demanding that the agency provide documents pertaining to the legal justification of the president’s emergency declaration.”

KLOBUCHAR STAYS IN THE CENTER IN TOWN HALL
Politico: “Sen. Amy Klobuchar placed herself firmly in the center lane of the Democratic primary on Monday, calling popular progressive policy platforms ‘aspirational,’ and declining to fully commit to them. The Minnesota Democrat called the Green New Deal ‘aspirational’ and said that Medicare-for-all is ‘something we can look to in the future,’ during a CNN town hall hosted in Manchester, N.H., on Monday night. On free four-year college, Klobuchar said: ‘No, I am not for four-year college for all.’ Klobuchar, who launched her presidential bid earlier this month, is pitching herself as pragmatic Midwesterner who won’t over-promise liberal policies to primary voters. The three-term senator carefully calibrated her answers on several progressive platforms — expressing support without fully committing to them. But her tell-it-like-it-is centrism could prove problematic for a Democratic primary electorate that has drawn further to the left.”

Obama gives advice, but still no endorsement for 2020 – NYT: “A secret meeting of former President Barack Obama’s financial backers convened in Washington early this month … [T]he group interviewed an array of 2020 presidential candidates and debated whether to throw their wealth behind one or two of them. Mr. Obama had no role in the event, but it unfolded in his political shadow: As presidential hopefuls like Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown auditioned before them, the donors wondered aloud whether Mr. Obama might signal a preference in the race, according to three people briefed on the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s former chief strategist, told the group they should expect no such directive. Mr. Axelrod confirmed in an interview that he briefed the gathering, recalling: ‘They asked me about Obama endorsing. I said, ‘I don’t imagine he will.’’”

Warren proposes wealth tax funded universal child care plan – Bloomberg: “Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposed a universal child care plan that would limit American families’ expenses to 7 percent of income regardless of how many children they have in care — paid for by a tax on the ultra-wealthy. The Massachusetts senator’s plan, unveiled Tuesday on Medium.com, would make child care free for families with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level, or less than $51,500 for a family of four. Other families would pay up to 7 percent of income, depending on how much they earn. The proposal marks the latest policy entry into a 2020 contest that features scores of progressive Democrats competing over how best to mitigate income inequality and expand the economic safety net for working families.”

TEAM TRUMP ADDS TO 2020 CAMPAIGN STAFF
WSJ: “President Trump added a new round of senior-level hires to his re-election team, continuing an early push to build out his campaign and preserve a clear path to the Republican nomination in 2020. The new hires include a trio of roles in media relations, positions that hold outsize importance for a president who turned lessons from his reality television career into billions of dollars in free media during his 2016 race. Those media aides are communications director Tim Murtaugh, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and strategic communications director Marc Lotter, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence whose duties will include overseeing the campaign’s surrogates on news and social media, according to people familiar with the situation, who said the hires will be announced later Tuesday.”

Schultz stresses in letter to supporters he won’t be a ‘spoiler’ – Axios:Howard Schultz tries to turn electability back on Democrats in a letter to supporters today, pledging that he is committed to making sure an independent run for president would do ‘nothing to re-elect Donald Trump.’ … ‘As I’m sure you’ve seen,’ Schultz writes, ‘there have been some skeptical and even downright angry comments from party activists and inside-the-Beltway pundits in the press and on social media. Others have expressed genuine fears that an independent candidate could help re-elect President Trump.’ ‘I hear and respect this overriding concern, and have repeatedly promised that I will not be a spoiler. I am committed to ensuring that I will do nothing to re-elect Donald Trump. I mean it.’ ‘Will the eventual Democratic nominee be the party’s own version of a spoiler?’ Schultz writes in the letter, which is being emailed to supporters and pushed through social media.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Voter fraud hearings underway in North Carolina WTVD-AP

Pergram: ‘George Washington‘s Farewell Address to be read on Senate floor in annual tradition’ Fox News

Rosenstein will leave Justice Department next month CBS News

Trump considering new candidates for UN jobBloomberg

Ryan Streeter: ‘Cheer up. Despite national gloom, we’re actually pretty happy with our lives and neighbors.’USA Today

AUDIBLE: #MOOD
“Sorry, I’m just trying to get some ranch.” – An Iowan said as she tried to pass Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand who was addressing a crowd at a bar in Iowa City.

Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

LOVE YOUR PASSION
UPI: “Police breaking up a late-night drag racing session in Britain ended up seizing an unusual vehicle — a speedy tractor. Amesbury Police said they responded to a report of drag racing motorcycles in Wiltshire and ended up discovering the bikes were racing against a New Holland T6 175 tractor. Police said the tractor was found to be running on red diesel, a duty-free fuel allowed to be used strictly for agricultural purposes. ‘Rather unusual stop for team 1 tonight,’ police tweeted. ‘Tractor stopped after being reported for drag racing motorbikes!’ ‘Vehicle was seized as the driver couldn’t prove he was insured and was driving on red diesel,’ the tweet said.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I don’t really care what a public figure thinks. I care about what he does. Let God probe his inner heart. Tell me about his outer acts.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Jewish World Review on Oct. 18, 1999.  

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former U.S. Senate candidate John James is seen as one of President Trump’s top candidates to become ambassador to the United Nations, a source familiar with discussions about the matter told Fox News on Tuesday.

The source said James is the leading candidate and has expressed interest in the position to the White House. The belief among Trump’s inner circle is that James is a rising political superstar, and the U.N. post could provide him with a pathway into elected office. White House officials also confirmed to Fox News that James is under consideration.

The 37-year-old James, a West Point graduate and veteran of the Iraq War, won the Republican primary for the Senate in Michigan last year but was defeated in November by three-term incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow. However, the race was unexpectedly close, and GOP officials in Michigan have expressed hope that James will challenge the state’s other Democratic senator, Gary Peters, in 2020.

Michigan has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Spencer Abraham in 1994.

HEATHER NAUERT WITHDRAWS FROM CONSIDERATION FOR UN AMBASSADOR, STATE DEPARTMENT SAYS

Trump originally nominated State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in December to replace Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador. Nauert, a former Fox News anchor and correspondent, withdrew her name from consideration last week, citing "the best interest of her family."

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A State Department source told Fox News that the nomination process, on top of the demands of traveling around the world and between Washington and New York to see family, grew to be too much for her.

Since Haley’s departure at the end of last year, career diplomat Jonathan Cohen has served as acting U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Fox News’ John Roberts contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The breaking news of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign launch came just as Democratic nomination rival Sen. Kamala Harris was getting ready to go before cameras in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.

And while she welcomed the senator from next-door Vermont into the race, saying "the more the merrier," she also made clear she doesn’t subscribe to his political ideology — even as she backs policies popularized by the self-described democratic socialist.

SANDERS JUMP INTO 2020 RACE

Harris instead reaffirmed her commitment to capitalism Tuesday and reiterated what she said a day earlier: “I am not a democratic socialist.”

"I believe that capitalism has great strengths when it works for all people equally well. I do believe that we do need to recognize that over the last many decades the rules have been written in a way that has excluded working families and middle-class families, and we have to correct course," she explained.

In any other election cycle, a candidate’s commitment to capitalism might go without saying. But as candidates, including Harris, back policies like the Green New Deal, it has fueled warnings from Republicans — and especially the 2020 Trump campaign — that the Democratic field is drifting toward socialism with Sanders’ help.

"Bernie Sanders has already won the debate in the Democrat primary, because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism," Trump’s campaign said in a statement Tuesday.

Harris has adopted policies like "Medicare-for-all" and did not openly part with Sanders on any specific policy on Tuesday, even as she distanced herself from his political brand. The comments were made to reporters after she headlined "Politics and Eggs," a must stop for in New Hampshire for White House hopefuls.

At a rally Monday night in Portsmouth, where some 1,000 people crowded into the historic South Church for a chance to see the former California attorney general, the candidate spelled out her progressive agenda.

“Access to health care should not be a privilege, it should be a right. Which is why I support ‘Medicare-for-all,’” she said to thunderous applause.

“I am supporting the Green New Deal,” she highlighted. “We have to have goals. It’s a resolution that requires us to have goals and think about what we can achieve and put metrics on it. Some of them we’ll achieve. Some of them, we don’t. But if we don’t aspire, this is going to be a bad ending.”

Talk like that may be a political gift to the Republican National Committee and Trump’s re-election team.

Trump campaign national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed “the American people will reject an agenda of sky-high tax rates, government-run health care and coddling dictators like those in Venezuela. Only President Trump will keep America free, prosperous and safe.”

‘MODERATE’ A DIRTY WORD IN 2020 FIELD?

That kind of one-size-fits-all attack might not work on all of the 2020 candidates, though, as not all of the Democratic contenders are on the same page as Sanders.

Monday night, Sen. Amy Klobuchar took aim at a top item from the Sanders playbook – free tuition for all in-state students at community colleges and for some students at four-year public schools.

The Minnesota Democrat – at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire  – spotlighted that “I am not for free college for all. I wish if I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would.”

And former Maryland congressman John Delaney – who’s proudly touting his centrist credentials as he runs for the Democratic nomination – said “this primary is going to be a choice between socialism and a more just form of capitalism.”

In an email to supporters soon after Sanders’ announcement, Delaney wrote in an email to supporters that “I believe in capitalism, the free markets, and the private economy. I don’t believe socialism is the answer and I don’t believe it’s what the American people want.”

Source: Fox News Politics

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, in his new book, rails against President Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, for her decisions and actions while the FBI investigated Hillary Clinton’s email server during the 2016 campaign, saying Lynch should have been recused from the probe and a special counsel should have been appointed instead.

McCabe wrote in “The Threat,” released Tuesday, that “the tarmac meeting was a horrible lapse in judgment by Loretta Lynch.”

Lynch came under fire in 2016 after an infamous tarmac meeting with former President Bill Clinton days before the FBI decided it would not recommend criminal charges against his wife for her handling of classified information on her private email server. Lynch, reacting to the criticism for meeting  with Clinton while the FBI investigated his wife, has claimed she and Clinton only discussed “innocuous things.”

TRUMP DENIES CALLING ANDREW MCCABE’S WIFE ‘A LOSER’

But McCabe said Lynch, after the outcry over the meeting, should have stepped away from the probe – which was code-named "Midyear Exam" by the FBI.

“She should have recused herself from Midyear at that point,” McCabe wrote. “She did not—she made things worse.”

McCabe suggested things would have turned out better had Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, both appointed by Obama, recused themselves even earlier from the case.

“It was a fatal choice. Had there been a competent, credible special counsel running Midyear Exam independently—the way Bob Mueller’s Russia investigation has been run – I think circumstances might have been very different, and we would not have been where we ended up in July,” McCabe said.

That’s in apparent reference to when then-FBI Director James Comey came under heavy criticism during the campaign for his choice to make a public announcement explaining why Clinton was not being charged. He later explained he felt compelled to take the lead on the announcement because of the questions over Lynch’s credibility.

McCabe argued that for Lynch and Yates, “Recusal would have been a reasonable and, I would argue, better decision for those political appointees to have made." He added, "I don’t know why they didn’t do that.”

“Somehow, they saw the investigation of Hillary Clinton – former first lady and former secretary of state, current candidate for the presidency, likely nominee of the Democratic Party, who was being supported by the president of the United States, to whom they owed their jobs – as a case they could handle without prejudice,” McCabe wrote.

MCCABE: ‘NO ONE’ IN CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP OBJECTED WHEN TOLD OF FBI’S TRUMP PROBE

McCabe also said FBI agents mocked Lynch’s insistence to Comey to characterize the probe as a “matter” instead of an “investigation” – an apparent attempt to downplay the seriousness of it.

“This became a running joke whenever anyone at the FBI felt like Justice was dragging its feet,” McCabe wrote. He said agents would joke, “What have we become, the Federal Bureau of Matters?”

Still, McCabe said Comey was concerned about it.

“The matter of the ‘matter’ did have a serious effect on the director,” McCabe said. “It planted the question, Was the attorney general trying to minimize what we were doing? The question festered. He’d heard that the Clinton campaign was trying to avoid the word ‘investigation,’ too.”

Like Lynch, McCabe’s involvement in the Clinton case has also come under scrutiny. Trump himself has suggested McCabe was in the tank for the Clintons, drawing attention to how McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received donations from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s super PAC while she ran for a state Senate seat in Virginia in 2015. McAuliffe is a close Clinton ally. McCabe did not recuse himself from the Clinton investigation until a week before the election.

MEGHAN MCCAIN STUNS ANDREW MCCABE ON ‘THE VIEW,’ ASKS IF HE WAS NEW YORK TIMES LEAKER

In the book, McCabe denied a conflict of interest, and dismisses the accusations as a “conspiracy theory.”

McCabe was eventually fired last year by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions after an inspector general report said McCabe lied about leaking to reporters about the Clinton investigation. He defended himself, but declined to write much about that episode, citing legal reasons.

“As for my own firing and the ostensible reasons behind it, the demands and risks of an ongoing legal process put tight constraints on what I can say, although I would like to say much more,” McCabe said. “I am filing a suit that challenges my firing and the IG’s process and findings, and the unprecedented way DOJ handled my termination. I will let that action speak for itself.”

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump on Tuesday formally directed the Department of Defense to draft legislation creating a so-called Space Force within the U.S. Air Force – in a bid to launch the first new branch of the military in more than 70 years.

Officially known as Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), the directive would put Trump’s Space Force on similar ground as the U.S. Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy, but stipulates that it could become its own separate department in the future. Cost details are expected to be included in the 2020 budget proposal Trump sends Congress next month.

TRUMP ORDERS ESTABLISHMENT OF ‘SPACE FORCE’ AS 6TH BRANCH OF MILITARY 

The directive was developed by the National Space Council alongside members of the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Counsel’s Office.

Space Force will also be represented on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and overseen by an Air Force undersecretary for space.

“There are 1,000 decisions that have to be made to be able to work out the intricate details of how we move forward, how we establish a service within the Department of the Air Force,” said Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force at the Washington think-tank Brookings Institution Tuesday .

The proposal, which still would need congressional approval, comes just over two months after Trump signed a memorandum getting the process started.

It would follow the U.S. Space Command, which existed from 1982 to 2002 but was moved under U.S. Strategic Command after the 9/11 attacks.

The current U.S. Air Force Space Command resides at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., about 20 miles from the U.S. Air Force Academy. There are no current plans to establish a new service academy for Space Force.  Like the Marines who draw from midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, it is presumed any future Space Force officers will come from the Air Force Academy.

MARS ‘TERROR,’ FUTURE MOON MISSIONS AND AN EPIC JOURNEY TO THE SUN: 2018’S YEAR IN SPACE

The biggest question now surrounding the space force is: What would it actually do?

While some online commentators envision something akin to Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, the reality would – at least in the foreseeable future – be more down to earth.

Inside the Pentagon, there is a small but vocal minority pushing programs such as anti-satellite weapons, missile detection capability and space-based solar power to counter mounting space threats from Russia and China. But others argue that the biggest danger to future space exploration is the debris floating around Earth’s orbit now.

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Whatever the mission, experts tend to agree that a “space force” won’t be something that will be patrolling the final frontier anytime during Trump’s current presidential term.

“This is something that is going to take a long time to get running, three to five years if things run smoothly and this actually gets through Congress,” John Crassidis, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo, told Fox News.

The last time a new branch of the military was created was in 1947, when the National Security Act created the Air Force in the wake of World War II.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Jesse Lee Peterson, Tony Arterburn, and Kaitlin Bennett join Harrison Smith on the War Room to discuss Bernie Sanders’ Presidential announcement, the Jussie Smollett hoax, Lara Logan’s revelations about the mainstream media, and much more!

GUEST // (OTP/Skype) // TOPICS:
Jesse Lee Peterson//Skype
Tony Arterburn//Skype
Kaitlin Bennett//Skype

Source: The War Room

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In her first trip back to the U.S. since marrying Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, who is expecting her first child in the spring, was spotted in New York City on Tuesday, reportedly for a baby shower. Gavino Garay reports.

Source: Reuters Video: Top News

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Asked on Tuesday about Senator Bernie Sanders’ intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, President Donald Trump said, “we’ll see how he does.” Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Source: Reuters Video: Politics

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White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp on Monday said former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe injected “politics into the FBI,” after he told CBS in an interview that President Trump’s firing of former FBI head James Comey triggered a probe involving Trump and his ties to Russia. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Source: Reuters Video: Politics

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In an interview with CBS ‘This Morning’, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who announced he is running for the Democratic nomination in 2020, responded to President Trump’s attacks on him, sexual harassment allegations against his 2016 campaign staffers and concerns about his age. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Source: Reuters Video: Politics

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressmen Eliot Engel and Gerry Connolly sought to reassure European allies in Brussels on Tuesday that differences over President Donald Trump’s policies were mere “family squabbles” and transatlantic ties remain strong. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Source: Reuters Video: Politics

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In an interview with CBS ‘This Morning’, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said he will be running again for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Source: Reuters Video: Politics

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive populist who mounted a fierce challenge to front-runner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 White House campaign, said on Tuesday he will again seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

Source: Reuters Video: Politics

A man who died last month at the West Hollywood home of prominent Democratic Party fundraiser Ed Buck warned his friends to steer clear of the well-connected donor and referred to him as a "f—ing devil" and "a horrible, horrible man," according to a report Monday night.

Timothy Dean, 55, was found dead in Buck’s apartment early on Jan. 7, 17 months after 26-year-old male escort Gemmel Moore was found dead of a methamphetamine overdose. The Daily Beast reported that Dean and Buck had a relationship years before Moore’s death, but Dean’s friends claimed the relationship turned into a one-sided after — with Buck sending multiple text messages to Dean and Dean declining to respond.

One friend of Dean, DeMarco Majors, told the website that Moore told him during a November 2018 conversation: "Ed Buck hits me up all the time, and I don’t answer none of his text messages. Don’t you take your a– over there." Majors said he told Dean that he didn’t know who Buck was, but that did not deter Dean.

Timothy Dean died at the residence of Democratic donor Ed Buck earlier this year

Timothy Dean died at the residence of Democratic donor Ed Buck earlier this year

GEMMEL MOORE INVESTIGATION: PROSECUTORS DECLINE TO FILE CHARGES AGAINST DEM DONOR IN FATAL OVERDOSE

"Don’t you go over there,” Dean reportedly told Majors again. "I’m not going over there either. S—, I’m not trying to end up dead."

Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, described Dean at the time of his death as a "longtime friend" of Buck who had "reached out for his help" and had begun "acting in a bizarre way" after he arrived at Buck’s apartment the night he died. When contacted by Fox News about the Daily Beast report, Amster wrote in an email: "We are in possession of text messages from Mr. Dean to Mr. Buck that refute the picture the Daily Beast is trying to paint of the relationship between Mr. Dean and Mr. Buck. The text messages do not put Mr. Dean in a good light. We are sure that law enforcement are in possession of these texts as well.

"It seems that Mr. Dean had a secret life he was keeping from a lot of his friends," Amster added. "That is as far as we will go with what we and law enforcement possess … If this matter ends up in a courtroom, and that is a big ‘IF’ we will then decide if it is necessary to disclose Mr. Dean’s secret life."

Walter Harris, another friend of Dean’s, texted him an article about Moore’s July 2017 death. In response, Dean said: "This might be it for Ed Buck" and called him, "f—ing devil." In July 2018, prosecutors declined to file charges against Buck in Moore’s death.

Still another friend, Jermaine Johnson, said Dean told him after Moore died that Buck was “a horrible, horrible man.”

FAMILY WANTS ANSWERS IN ESCORT’S DEATH AT DEM DONOR’S HOME

The cause of Dean’s death has not been made public. Amster told Fox News that Buck was interviewed by police on the night of Dean’s death and "disclosed all of the information law enforcement needed.

"There is no reason to have him re-interviewed," Amster added, "there is nothing new they can obtain."

Click for more from the Daily Beast.

Source: Fox News Politics

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave his role at the Justice Department by mid-March, a senior DOJ official told Fox News on Monday.

An announcement of who has been selected to replace Rosenstein could come as early as this week. A Trump administration official added that Attorney General William Barr has picked Jeffrey Rosen to serve as his deputy attorney general.

Fox News reported in January that Rosenstein was expected to step down in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition for Barr, who was sworn in on Thursday.

This is a developing story; please check back for updates.

Source: Fox News Politics

The attorneys general of California, New York, and 14 other states on Monday filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit against the White House’s recent national emergency declaration over border security, claiming President Trump has "veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making."

President Trump sarcastically had predicted the lawsuit last week. He’s slammed the Ninth Circuit multiple times as "disgraceful" and politically biased.

The litigation, brought before a federal trial court in the Northern District of California, seeks an injunction to prevent Trump from shifting billions of dollars from military construction to the border without explicit congressional approval. The suit also asks a court to declare Trump’s actions illegal, arguing that Trump showed a "flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles engrained in the United States Constitution" by violating the Constitution’s Presentment and Appropriations Clauses, which govern federal spending.

The litigation additionally includes allegations that Trump is violating the National Environmental Policy Act, by planning to build a wall that could impact the environment without first completing the necessary environmental impact reports.

The states argue they have standing to sue the administration largely because, they allege, the federal funds could have been spent on their defense. "Maine is aggrieved by the actions of Defendants and has standing to bring this action because of the injury to the State and its residents caused by Defendants’ reduction of federal defense spending in Maine due to diversion of funding to the border wall," one section of the suit reads.

"California is aggrieved by the actions of Defendants and has standing to bring this action because of the injury due to the loss of federal drug interdiction, counter-narcotic, and lawenforcement funding to the State caused by Defendants’ diversion of funding," reads another paragraph.

A person dressed to look like President Donald Trump in a prison uniform, and others gather Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in front of the White House in Washington, to protest that President Donald Trump declared a national emergence along the southern boarder. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A person dressed to look like President Donald Trump in a prison uniform, and others gather Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in front of the White House in Washington, to protest that President Donald Trump declared a national emergence along the southern boarder. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Declaring a National Emergency when one does not exist is immoral and illegal,” New York Attorney General Letitia James, who previously vowed to use "every area of the law" to investigate Trump and his family, said in a statement. “Diverting necessary funds from real emergencies, crime-fighting activities, and military construction projects usurps Congressional power and will hurt Americans across the country. We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight using every tool at our disposal.”

In a separate statement, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, remarked, "President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up ‘national emergency’ in order to seize power and undermine the Constitution."

The litigation came amid scattered anti-Trump Presidents Day protests across the country, including a group of more than a hundred demonstrators who waved signs at the White House while the president was speaking in Florida.

At a news conference outside the White House on Friday, Trump mockingly predicted legal challenges against his emergency declaration would follow a tried-and-true path.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS SUBSTANTIAL BORDER WALL CONSTRUCTION SHOULD BE COMPLETED BY SEPT. 2020

"So the order is signed and I’ll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office," Trump told reporters. "And we will have a national emergency and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling, and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win in the Supreme Court just like the ban. They sued us in the Ninth Circuit and we lost, and then we lost in the Appellate Division, and then we went to the Supreme Court and we won."

President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over all appeals coming out of the Northern District of California, where Monday’s lawsuit was filed. The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit has long been a legal stumbling block for conservative policies, and the White House has sought to appoint conservative justices to thin out the liberal ranks on the court. Last year, Trump bypassed traditional protocols and ignored the concerns of the state’s Democratic politicians to nominate prominent conservatives to the Ninth Circuit.

Late last year, Trump engaged in a public spat with Chief Justice John Roberts on the issue, after Roberts took the unusual step of disputing Trump’s comments that the nation has biased judges on some courts. Roberts has sought to portray himself as a nonpartisan justice.

But, Democrats have said it’s the president who defies basic legal norms.

"President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday. "He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court."

Protesters of President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration block traffic near Trump International Hotel & Tower on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Protesters of President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration block traffic near Trump International Hotel & Tower on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

James, the New York attorney general, argued that the emergency declaration was not only legally unconstitutional, but also unnecessary as a practical matter, asserting that "unlawful southern border entries are at their lowest point in twenty-years, immigrants are less likely than native-born citizens to commit crimes, and illegal drugs are more likely to come through official ports of entry."

Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller, speaking exclusively to "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, disputed those arguments over the weekend.

"The problem with the statement that you’re ‘apprehending 80 or 90 percent of drugs at ports of entry’ — that’s like saying you apprehend most contraband at (Transportation Security Administration) checkpoints at airports," Miller said. "You apprehend the contraband there because that’s where you have the people, the screeners. I assure you if we had screeners of that same density across every single inch and mile of the southern border, you’d have more drugs interdicted in those areas."

TRUMP CONDEMNS ‘DISGRACEFUL’ NINTH CIRCUIT, DEEMING IT RUBBER STAMP FOR HIS FOES

In response to claims that the president was unconstitutionally taking power from Congress, Miller noted that the National Emergencies Act includes an express grant of power from the legislature to the executive branch — and also includes dispute mechanisms in case Congress disagrees with the president’s use of his authority.

"The statute, Chris, is clear on its own terms," Miller said. "Congress has appropriated money for construction of border barriers consistently.  This is part of the national security."

Still, even a single federal judge could issue an order blocking the national emergency declaration, which has occurred nearly three dozen times so far under Trump’s watch.

Central American immigrants lining up for breakfast at a shelter in Piedras Negras, Mexico, earlier this month. (Jerry Lara/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

Central American immigrants lining up for breakfast at a shelter in Piedras Negras, Mexico, earlier this month. (Jerry Lara/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

The Trump administration repeatedly has condemned the increasingly common practice of one judge issuing such a sweeping order, and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, who concurred in the high court’s decision last year to reinstate Trump’s travel ban, wrote that such injunctions “take a toll on the federal court system—preventing legal questions from percolating through the federal courts, encouraging forum shopping, and making every case a national emergency for the courts and for the executive branch.”

TRUMP ANNOUNCES NEW CONSERVATIVE PICKS FOR NINTH CIRCUIT

The stakes are high for the White House, which has struggled to see new wall funding win approval in Congress. On Friday, Trump signed a compromise spending bill that included just $1.4 billion for border security — far short of the $5.7 billion he’d requested for the wall.

The compromise legislation, which overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate last week, contained enough funding for building just 55 miles of barricades, not the 200-plus miles the White House has sought.

NEW YORK AG PROMISES TO PROBE TRUMP USING ‘EVERY’ RESOURCE POSSIBLE

Still, neither party seemed enthused about the legislation, save for its provisions averting another partial federal government shutdown. Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, speaking to "Fox News Sunday," called the bill "outrageous," pointing to is provisions for what he called "welcoming centers for newly arriving illegal aliens, and all kinds of medical care" — a reference to the allocation of $192,700,000 in the bill’s conference agreement to enhance medical care and transportation for illegal immigrants in U.S. custody, including to shelters run by nonprofits.

The bill provided additional funding for 5,000 more beds that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could use to house illegal immigrants. But, in an attempt to pressure the agency to detain fewer illegal immigrants, Democrats ensured that the bill did not include funding for the 2,000 additional ICE agents requested by the Trump administration, or the 750 Border Patrol agents who also were sought.

Cathy Clark holding a sign during a protest in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Cathy Clark holding a sign during a protest in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Several Republicans, including Texas Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Chip Roy, voted against the bill, saying it didn’t properly address the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs across the border. Roy called the bill a "sham" and said it "undermines the whole point of an emergency declaration."

Prominent Democrats, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, rejected the spending bill as well, saying it did not do enough to curb ICE.

A senior administration official told Fox News the White House planned to move $8 billion in currently appropriated or available funds toward construction of the wall. Of that, $3 billion could be diverted with help from the emergency declaration.

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That money would include about $600 million from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund. That money has been described as “easy money” that the White House can use however it wants. The White House also is expected to use drug interdiction money from the Defense Department.

But, by declaring an emergency, Trump is potentially able to unlock money from the Pentagon’s military construction budget, to the tune of $3.5 billion.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Kelly Phares, Kathleen Foster and Chris Wallace contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

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On the roster: When every day is Presidents’ Day – Would Biden be the real frontrunner? – List of litigants against Trump emergency growing – Audible: Like freedom fries? – Tudder for an udder

WHEN EVERY DAY IS PRESIDENTS’ DAY
We are in the midst of a needful and long-overdue discussion about executive authority.

But don’t expect it to last.

In the past seven decades, Americans have substantially learned to live without the small-r republicanism that was so much a part of our founding and first century and a half of our history.

Consider the long, slouchy slide into the abomination that we call “Presidents’ Day.” The holiday is still “George Washington’s Birthday” by law, having survived an effort in 1968 to standardize the observance as a generic honor for all presidents.

Abraham Lincoln, born on Feb. 12, never had a federal observance of his own, but most states had holidays for the Great Emancipator. Washington was born on Feb. 22, so this created something of a holiday logjam in February, which was unhelpful for schools and employers.

Over time, confusion between state and federal observances and the pressure from advertisers who wanted a standard way to hawk mattresses and minivans, dumbed down the holiday.

While it’s true that it doesn’t really matter what we call the day for the sake of celebrations. Americans ought not need to be told how and when exactly to venerate our two greatest leaders. Plus, ski weekends…

What does matter, though, is that the generic holiday is an unfortunate reflection of the royalist strain that has so much taken hold of American political thinking.

There’s no doubt that in our republic, the president is afforded many of the powers of a term-limited king. The power of the commander in chief to defend against an attack or of whether to pardon a criminal are magisterial indeed.

The fear among the Federalists in support of the Constitution was, in fact, that the legislative branch would be too powerful and that the executive would be too puny to get the job done. Sapped of the capacity for decisive action, the executive branch would become a kind of ceremonial head of state – a hood ornament for the country. Meanwhile, Congress would be unable to provide decisive responses to *ahem* national emergencies.

It’s turned out to be exactly the opposite. Congress can seldom act, it’s true. But the response from what is supposed to be the preeminent branch has been to cede its own authority. For decades now and under the control of both parties, Congress has taken itself from the lion of our government into a pipsqueak.

The idea behind venerating Washington and Lincoln is that they were special men who, at crucial moments, led the country out of dangerous straits and into greater glories. And in both cases, that given the opportunity to be demagogues or to hoard power for themselves, they instead placed those authorities back in the hands of the representatives of the people.

But the reason their self-sacrifice is so remarkable is that it is so rare. And it is so rare because, as the verdict of 10,000 years of history clearly shows, the people generally don’t want the power. Autocracy and highly centralized power haven’t been the norm in human history just because of the efforts autocrats, but also the will of the people.

Being a citizen in a republic is harder duty than being the subject of a king or queen. You have to make decisions. You have to know the facts. You have to participate.

The imperial American presidency has been growing and growing to the point now where we are even having a discussion about whether the current occupant of the Oval Office can even disregard the domestic spending direction of the Congress. That we are even in debate on the subject tells us how far we have fallen.

And in this case, like every executive usurpation that has come before, the executive points to the abuses that came before and were allowed to stand by a craven Congress. We won’t here delve into the cause of congressional cravenness, except to say that the individual ambitions of careerist lawmakers has made lawmaking seem rather too icky.

Where we’ve landed, and this has been very much for the current presidency and the one before it, is where everything seems focused on the man in the White House. Day after day after day of focus on one single human. As if a president could be so powerful… 

Whatever sign they hung in the window at the mattress store today doesn’t matter, but we would submit that when we divorced the observance from the individual men, it was another step toward a monarchical America.    

The truth that most of us would probably not like to confront is that America likes it better that way.

THE RULEBOOK: FANCY THAT
“The representatives of the people, in a popular assembly, seem sometimes to fancy that they are the people themselves, and betray strong symptoms of impatience and disgust at the least sign of opposition from any other quarter…” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 71

TIME OUT: UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Fashion critic Vanessa Friedman shares some thoughts on the passing of the original “influencer.” NYT: “What does it mean to have your greatest legacy be one of ‘taste?’ I have been thinking about this since the news of Lee Radziwill’s death arrived, along with the flood of photographs from all corners of social media featuring Ms. Radziwill throughout her life — in white corduroys and a blue boat-neck T-shirt, in bouffant chignon and tunics; in a pink shift with her sister, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, atop an elephant during a tour of India; in a white-and-silver beaded gown dancing with Truman Capote at his Black and White Ball; in a black patent python jacket — all of them used to pay homage to her extraordinary ‘taste.’ Been thinking about it since some of the obituaries and reminiscences almost seem to use the word as a backhanded compliment; a reference to a life that had more impact in style than substance… But are the two really so unrelated?”

Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
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.]

WOULD BIDEN BE THE REAL FRONTRUNNER?

Politico:Joe Biden’s big lead in early Democratic 2020 polling might be a bunch of malarkey. While most polls show the former vice president hovering around 30 percent of the Democratic primary vote, well ahead of second-place Sen. Bernie Sanders, two recent surveys paint a starkly different picture — raising the question of whether Biden is a real front-runner or just has big name-recognition. Those polls show far more Democratic voters undecided about which candidate to support, and they pegged Biden’s backing at a much less intimidating 9 to 12 percent. The results are so varied partly thanks to different methodological choices by the pollsters. But parsing the results is more than an academic exercise: While Biden weighs a third campaign for the presidency, he and his allies must consider whether polls a year before primary season really reflect Biden’s true strength — and his potential rivals have to calculate whether the former vice president could overwhelm lesser-known challengers in 2020.”

The mom lane – The Boston Globe: “As the 2020 Democratic primary shapes up, its leading women candidates – accomplished stateswomen, all – are drawing attention to another role they play: Mom. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar both talked about being mothers in the opening statements of their presidential bids. Senator Kamala Harris speaks often of her husband’s two children and the nickname they have given her: Momala. There are already indications that the women of 2020 plan to draw on their own experiences to embrace policies that affect mothers and working parents more broadly, bringing such issues as child care and family leave firmly into the political mainstream. This week, for example, Warren plans to introduce a universal child care and early learning plan, which she has said would be paid for by taxing the wealth of the richest Americans.”

Busy weekend on the trail – AP: “Five Democratic senators vying for their party’s nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020 fanned out across the country Saturday to campaign and meet voters. Kamala Harris of California spent her second straight day in the pivotal early-voting state of South Carolina, holding a town hall meeting in Columbia, the capital. Also visiting the state was Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who met with an estimated 800 voters in Greenville before heading to Georgia… Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York both focused on New Hampshire. Booker made his first visit to there since joining the race earlier this month, holding a question-and-answer session with more than 400 voters in Portsmouth. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, meanwhile, made her own uncommon choice for early campaigning by visiting Wisconsin before heading to Iowa, home to the nation’s first caucus. And a Democratic heavyweight who’s yet to address his 2020 plans, former Vice President Joe Biden, made his own high-profile appearance at the Munich Security Conference.”

Bernie’s team talked of grim standing with non-white voters –  NYT: “Shortly after Senator Bernie Sanders suffered a crushing loss in South Carolina’s Democratic primary in 2016, his campaign’s African-American outreach team sent a memo to top campaign leaders with an urgent warning. ‘The margin by which we lost the African-American vote has got to be — at the very least — cut in half or there simply is no path to victory,’ the team wrote in the memo, which was reviewed by The New York Times. Mr. Sanders had won 14 percent of the black vote there compared with 86 percent for Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls. Over seven pages, the team outlined a strategy for winning black voters that included using social media influencers and having Mr. Sanders give a major speech on discrimination in a city like St. Louis or Cincinnati. Mr. Sanders’s inner circle did not respond.”

LIST OF LITIGANTS AGAINST TRUMP EMERGENCY GROWING
NBC News: “California and a dozen other states are filing a lawsuit challenging Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday. ‘The president admitted that there’s not a basis for the declaration. He admitted there’s no crisis at the border. He’s now trying to rob funds that were allocated by Congress legally to the various states and people of our states,’ Becerra told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC Monday afternoon. ‘The separation of powers is being violated, we’re going to go out there and make sure that Donald Trump cannot steal money from the states and people who need them, since we paid the taxpayer dollars to Washington, D.C., to get those services,’ he said. … New Jersey, Colorado, and Connecticut all confirmed to NBC News they are a part of the lawsuit. ‘The only national emergency is the president’s trafficking in lies and deceit,’ Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement.”

Stephen Miller on the hot seat – USA Today: “During an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ host Chris Wallace pressed [senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller] on the need for a national emergency, citing U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data showing between 80 to 90 percent of drugs seized in attempted smugglings happened at ports of entry. … Wallace pressed Miller to cite another example from the 59 times presidents used the National Emergency Act where it was invoked to obtain money that Congress had refused to appropriate. Miller did not cite such a precedent and took issue with the premise of the question. ‘They didn’t refuse to appropriate it,’ Miller said. ‘They passed a law specifically saying the president could have this authority. It’s in the plain statute. That’s the decision that Congress made, and if people don’t like that, they can address it.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Senate Judiciary Committee will investigate McCabe’s claimsWaPo

North Carolina election officials make their case against GOP ‘ballot harvesting’ in unresolved House raceRaleigh News & Observer

AUDIBLE: LIKE FREEDOM FRIES?
“I think that whatever you eat is a very personal decision and everybody should eat what they want to eat. That’s America- that’s what we believe in freedom.” – Presidential Candidate Cory Booker (D-NJ) explained his vegan diet to his voters via twitter over the weekend.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, be serious, neither [Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld] nor [Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan] can be classified as ‘notable’. I’d put [Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich] in that category, but I don’t think he’ll get into a race that he knows for sure that he can’t win.” Lou Banas, Brea,Calif

[Ed. Note: I can’t be sure of your definition of notability, Mr. Banas. But the second-term governor of a state of 6 million or so souls strikes me as within any reasonable definition. The ting about primary challenges is that they don’t have to be successful to do their damage. In 1980, Ted Kennedy didn’t beat Jimmy Carter, nor did Pat Buchanan unhorse George H.W. Bush in 1992, but both campaigns were certainly consequential. That’s why the Trump campaign is rightly worried about just such a run.]

“One of the greatest walls between us, the people, and an overzealous government is the separation of powers. The Founding Fathers, in perhaps one of their greatest acts of genius, divided the power of government into three separate branches so as to insure there was no party with absolute power. Declaring an ‘emergency’, after the president has already given the congress the opportunity to act and has acted, creates a huge breach in this wall of protection. Gaining short-term funds for building a border wall in exchange for the Constitutional wall of protection created by the separation of powers is neither conservative nor is it wise. Liberals often believe the end justifies the means, I hope conservatives do not stray down this dangerous road.” Steve Bartlett, Greenville, S.C.

[Ed. Note: The Constitution is always getting strange new respect from the party out of power. We could call it hypocrisy, but that would be too narrow of a view. In fact, our charter has very much in mind keeping majorities from turning into steamrollers. So then maybe it makes a certain sense that the party out of power holds the Constitution in greater reverence.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

TUDDER FOR AN UDDER

Reuters: “A Tinder-inspired app is helping farmers match up potential partners for their cattle. Called ‘Tudder’ ― a mix of dating app Tinder and udder – it lets farmers swipe right on cattle they like the look of. They are then directed to a page on the SellMyLivestock website where they can browse more pictures and data about the animals before deciding whether to buy. Valuable information is available on matters like milk yield and protein content, or calving potential, explained Doug Bairner, CEO of Hectare Agritech which runs SellMyLivestock (SML) and Graindex, a UK-based online agritech trading platform. ‘Matching livestock online is even easier than it is to match humans because there’s a huge amount of data that sits behind these wonderful animals that predicts what their offspring will be,’ he said.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Nixon might indeed have committed crimes. But the spectacle of an ex-president on trial and perhaps even in jail was something Ford would not allow the country to go through.”  – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on July 27, 2017.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Liz Friden contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Source: Fox News Politics

CONCORD, N.H. – The Granite State may have been Bernie Sanders country in the 2016 Democratic primary, but Sen. Kamala Harris says she won’t follow in the independent senator from Vermont’s footsteps.

Asked by Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy if she would have to run as a democratic socialist – which is how Sanders often describes himself, the Democrat from California quickly and bluntly answered that “I am not a democratic socialist.”

Harris spoke on Monday as she took questions from reporters during her in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire for the first time since launching her presidential campaign four weeks ago.

SANDERS POISED TO ANNOUNCE 2020 DECISION BY END OF FEBRUARY, SOURCES SAY

Sanders, a progressive populist who put up a serious fight against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, is likely to launch before the end of the month a second straight bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In recent weeks some Democrats have questioned whether Harris was a “progressive prosecutor” during her years as San Francisco district attorney and later as California attorney general.

Harris also vowed to spend “a lot of time” in New Hampshire.

“I’m here because I believe that this is a very important state and intend to spend a lot of time here, and I intend to compete for the votes here and I’m going to put a lot of effort into doing that,” Harris highlighted after being asked by Fox News if the state was a lower priority than the other early-voting states in the primary and caucus calendar.

“It’s an important state. It is a state of people who have a lot of needs and need to be seen and heard,” she spotlighted.

HARRIS GIVES AWKWARD RESPONSE WHEN ASKED ABOUT JUSSIE SMOLLETT CLAIMS

Harris is the daughter of parents from Jamaica and India and would be the first woman and second African-American to win the White House if she ultimately succeeds.

Even before her formal launch, the candidate headed to South Carolina, the first southern state to hold a primary. And she headed to Iowa – which votes first – a few days later.

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Iowa and South Carolina — a state where black voters make up a majority of the Democratic primary electorate — are likely to figure heavily into Harris’ prospects. Harris campaigned in support of fellow Democrats in South Carolina in last year’s midterm elections.

Harris vowed at the beginning of an event at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord to spend lots of time campaigning in the Granite State. She repeated that pledge at a large event later Monday in Portsmouth.

Fox News’ Peter Doocy contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics


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