Associated Press

Former Vice President Joe Biden's recent meeting with Stacey Abrams, a former lawmaker in the Georgia House of Representatives, has sparked speculation the two could team up for a presidential run in the upcoming election.

Biden has yet to publicly announce his candidacy for president, but stories in recent days have claimed he is preparing to launch a campaign.

Last week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Biden and Abrams met in Washington, D.C., about their political futures — Biden for president and Abrams potentially for the Senate — following her failed campaign to serve as Georgia governor last fall.

The Associated Press reported Biden requested the meeting.

CNN reported earlier this week, meanwhile, Biden is looking to choose a running mate early in his campaign, making his meeting with Abrams more notable. A Biden aide told the network that bringing a running mate onboard earlier than normal would show voters Biden is serious about unseating President Donald Trump.

The Journal-Constitution also reported Abrams has met with other Democrats who are already confirmed presidential candidates as she ponders what is next in her political life.

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wave during a car parade in Pyongyang
FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wave during a car parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 18, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – The breakdown at last month’s U.S.-North Korea summit has left South Korean President Moon Jae-in with little room to maneuver and exacerbated divisions within his government over how to break the impasse, three sources familiar with the issue said.

The weeks since the Hanoi summit have revealed how difficult it may now be for Moon to play his desired role as a mediator, as Pyongyang and Washington have hardened their stances, threatening to make his focus on engagement seem implausible.

Some U.S. officials were frustrated when Moon, during a call with President Donald Trump just a week before the summit, offered to “ease the burden” by reopening inter-Korean economic projects as a concession to the North, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

At the time, negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program were “hardly making progress,” one source said.

That offer also landed with a thud among some of Moon’s own administration, who said it made him appear desperate for North Korean sanctions relief.

“You don’t want to look desperate, especially when their talks are going nowhere and time is ticking,” said the source, who like the others spoke on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Moon is eager to restart the joint projects, key to an initiative that he sees as a boost for a moribund economy and the worst job market in a decade.

WEEKS OF CONTROVERSY

Moon’s approval ratings have fallen to their lowest levels since taking office in May 2017, pollster Realmeter said on Monday, citing recent missile activity in North Korea and the stalemate in nuclear talks.

Since the summit, work at North Korea’s Sohae rocket test facility has been detected, while a senior Pyongyang official said last week that Kim may suspend talks with the United States and rethink its freeze on weapons tests.

Senior North Korean negotiators have not showed up for weekly talks with the South at their liaison office since the summit broke down, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry. But there were “no problems” communicating with the North, a ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a recent U.S. State Department human rights paper criticized Seoul for pressuring North Korean defectors not to denounce Pyongyang. A separate U.N. report noted Seoul’s failure to declare its transfer of petroleum products used in the North, and published a photo of Moon and Kim riding in an “illicitly obtained” limousine in Pyongyang.

This week, the debate over whether Moon is too committed to engagement with North Korea boiled over in a controversy about a Bloomberg news report that called him a “top spokesman” for Kim Jong Un last year.

Moon’s office faced criticism from foreign media associations after ruling party officials used the racially charged term “black-haired foreigner” to personally single out the author of the Bloomberg story – who is South Korean – for being “almost treasonous.”

After days of pressure, the party apologized on Tuesday for using “black-haired foreigner,” while Moon’s office said it would take action if the reporter were “under real threat.”

CHANGING ROLES

Moon has vowed to act as a mediator between Trump and Kim, but that plan is in doubt in the wake of the summit’s collapse.

There was criticism in Washington that Seoul might have over-sold Kim’s denuclearisation commitment and gone too far in pushing for sanctions relief, according to another source who recently met with U.S. officials and academics.

On the other side, North Korea’s vice foreign minister told a news conference in Pyongyang last week that South Korea is only “a player, not an arbiter” because it is a U.S. ally, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. officials have said no sanctions will be lifted in exchange for partial steps toward denuclearisation, rejecting the incremental approach Pyongyang has sought.

But a senior aide to Moon on Sunday called for a small, step-by-step deal as a “realistic alternative” that would at least move toward dismantling the North’s nuclear facilities in return for sanctions relief.

“We need to reconsider the all-or-nothing strategy,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

A U.S. State Department representative said that the United States remains prepared for a “constructive negotiation” but that North Korea was not yet ready.

The three sources say U.S. officials still think Moon’s administration can play a role in resuming talks the North, but they want it to focus more on pushing North Korea to denuclearise rather than advocating for sanctions relief.

“They do think South Korea could be a catalyst that helps the negotiations go in the right direction, but in a way that brings Kim’s commitments that deserve U.S. rewards,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Josh Smith and Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

  • Activists are blaming global warming for historic flooding in the Midwest, however, the science behind their claim is weak and not in line with the latest National Climate Assessment.
  • Hundreds of homes are inundated with water and at least three people have been killed in floods.
  • Thousands of people across four states were forced to evacuate because river flooding breached nearly 200 miles of levees.

Some environmentalists and scientists are blaming global warming for the historic flooding across the Midwest, adding to the long list of disasters eager activists link to climate change.

But is the scientific connection between historic Midwest floods and global warming very strong? No, it’s not.

A “bomb cyclone” led to sudden, devastating floods across the Midwest and Great Plains that left at least three people dead, according to reports. Officials say it’s the worst flooding in 50 years.

While most in the media largely stayed away from connecting Midwest flooding to climate change, environmentalists were quick to make the connection, claiming the science was on their side.

Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist who made headlines protesting the Keystone XL oil pipeline, proclaimed “[s]cientists confirm climate change” was at work in the historic Midwest flooding.

An aerial view of the flooding at the Camp Ashland in Nebraska

Flooded Camp Ashland, Army National Guard facility, is seen in this aerial photo taken in Ashland, Nebraska, U.S., March 17, 2019. Picture taken March 17, 2019. Courtesy Herschel Talley/Nebraska National Guard/Handout via REUTERS.

The article McKibben linked to, however, only mentions a “changing climate” once, but does discuss the myriad of other, likely more important factors, that contributed to the massive flooding, like rainfall piling up over frozen ground. (RELATED: DC Opens Door To Private Investors Financing Its Climate Change Case Against Exxon, Lawyer Says)

The liberal blog ThinkProgress claimed Midwest floods were a “terrifying preview of climate impacts to come,” though the article relied heavily on comment from environmental activists.

“This level of flooding is becoming the new normal,” John Hickey, Sierra Club’s Missouri chapter director, told ThinkProgress.

Other environmental activists attacked major media outlets, like The New York Times and The Washington Post, for not linking Midwest flooding to global warming.

Environmental policy experts were quick to point out the lack of science behind such claims.

An aerial view of Spencer Dam after a storm triggered historic flooding, near Bristow, Nebraska

An aerial view of Spencer Dam after a storm triggered historic flooding, near Bristow, Nebraska, U.S. March 16, 2019. Office of Governor Pete Ricketts/Handout via REUTERS.

The 2018 National Climate Assessment (NCA) found that “formal attribution approaches have not established a significant connection of increased riverine flooding to human-induced climate change.”

Likewise, the NCA noted that “a variety of other compounding factors, including local land use, land-cover changes, and water management also play important roles.”

Land-cover was an extremely important factor in the Midwest floods. Heavy rain fell onto snow-covered, frozen ground. Rain and snowmelt ran off into already ice-covered rivers, which rose and sent massive chunks of ice downstream, breaking infrastructure and damming up the river.

More than 70 cities across Nebraska declared emergencies amid historic floods. Thousands of people across four states were forced to evacuate because river flooding breached nearly 200 miles of levees, CBS News reported.

The Mississippi and Missouri rivers also saw widespread flooding. Residents in western Illinois saw the worst floods in 50 years, according to The Chicago Tribune. Many homes in Holt County, Missouri were sitting in up to 7 feet of water from river flooding, The Associated Press reported.

Flooded apartments are seen over Elkhorn River after a storm triggered historic flooding in Nebraska

Flooded apartments are seen over Elkhorn River after a storm triggered historic flooding in Nebraska, U.S. March 16, 2019. Office of Governor Pete Ricketts/Handout via REUTERS.

Oddly enough, the Nebraska-based Omaha World-Herald got comments from two scientists who gave rather broad statements on the connection between global warming and extreme rainfall.

Former NASA climate scientist James Hansen said “the strongest storms are getting stronger with global warming” because warmer air has more moisture. Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann, creator of the controversial “hockey stick graph,” told the World-Herald that some studies show factors behind “bomb cyclones” are increasing due to climate change.

“There is evidence now in modeling studies that climate change is increasing these factors, supporting the development of more intense bomb cyclones and Nor’easters, packing tropical storm-scale winds and dumping huge amounts of precipitation (often in the form of huge snowfalls),” Mann said.

However, atmospheric scientist Ryan Maue shot back, saying that Hansen and Mann were giving generalized explanations of modeled climate impacts instead of gathering actual data on the flood event.

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Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said Saturday that being a white man in a 2020 Democratic field that's so deeply diverse won't be a hindrance because his gender and race have given him inherent advantages for years.

While he'd spoken before about his gender and race, O'Rourke had largely dodged campaign-trail questions about whether his party would go for a white man in a year when a historic number of women and minorities are running to deny President Donald Trump a second term.

"I would never begin by saying that it's a disadvantage at all," O'Rourke told reporters in a parking lot in Waterloo, after giving a speech at the campaign kickoff for state Senate candidate Eric Giddens. "As a white man who has had privileges that others could not depend on or take for granted, I've clearly had advantages over the course of my life."

The former Texas congressman was making a series of stops in Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential nominating process. Also campaigning Saturday were Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Vice President Joe Biden.

O'Rourke called recognizing and understand that and "doing everything I can to ensure that there is opportunity, and the possibility for advancement and advantage for everyone," a big part of the campaign he's running.

O'Rourke said he believes the Democrats seeking the White House in 2020 encompass "the best field that we've ever seen in the nominating process," praising its "diversity of background and experience" and expertise.

He had already said he'd stop making a joke he'd frequently repeated about how his wife, Amy, raising the couple's three young children "sometimes with my help." O'Rourke said that he'd discussed scrapping the joke with Amy and, while she said she understood he was trying to not that she was "taking on the lion's share" of parenting responsibilities, "it came off sounding a little flip."

Other highlights of Saturday's campaigning:

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar criticized Trump for his response to the deadly attack in a New Zealand mosque, telling voters in Iowa "it's our job to stand up against" white supremacism.

Trump played down the threat posed by white nationalism on Friday after the mosque massacre that left 49 people dead. The man accused of the shootings has described himself as a white nationalist who hates immigrants.

Klobuchar spoke about the shooting during a campaign stop in Waterloo, Iowa. The Minnesota senator referenced Trump's comments after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he said "both sides" were to blame for violence.

She said, "that other side was white supremacism."

On the policy front, Klobuchar said in Dubuque that as president she would put forward a major infrastructure program that would help address flooding that is hitting parts of the Midwest. Waterloo and Dubuque, both riverfront communities, were bracing for flooding from this year's heavy snowfall.

"We have not been investing like we should" in infrastructure," she said. One option to fund a plan, she said, would be raising the corporate tax rate, which was cut in Trump's 2017 tax bill.

JAY INSLEE

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called on Republicans to stop following Trump on the issue of climate change.

He said until the GOP joins "the scientific world and the rest of humanity in defeating climate change," only one thing can be done: "Republicans must be defeated, and we should do that every chance we get. I'm totally committed to that."

Voters have "exactly one chance left to defeat climate change," Inslee said.

"And that's during the next administration," he said.

Inslee tied his climate change push to the current debate over whether to end the filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

"Anything that gets in the way of defeating climate change needs to go," he said.

Inslee also criticized Trump for his remarks after the New Zealand shootings, saying the president "uses exactly the same language of this monster who shot Muslims and talked about the invaders." He said the president "continually looks for dog whistles to spread hate rather than for looking for ways to search for the better angels of our nature."

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand championed public service opportunities during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, saying the work could help treat some of the woes facing the country today.

The Democratic presidential hopeful said public service "changes your life."

"That's why I want national service," she said. "That's why I want to make it the cornerstone of my presidency."

The New York senator held a civic service round table in Manchester as she finishes a two-day swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state.

"I would like to tell anyone in America, if you're willing to do two years of public service, you can get your college degree paid for," she said. "So if you're willing to do a year and only a year, you can get two years paid for."

BETO O'ROURKE

A fluent Spanish speaker from El Paso, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, O'Rourke noted that he's the only 2020 candidate from the border "at a time that that dominates so much of our national conversation and legislative efforts and the things that the president talks about."

"There's one candidate whose there to talk about the profoundly positive impact that immigrants have had on our safety and our security, as well as our success and our strength," he said.

O'Rourke plans to campaign in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Sunday, then head to Michigan. His campaign ultimately hopes to drive east until it hits New Hampshire, home of the nation's first presidential primary.

JOE BIDEN

Joe Biden was the scheduled headliner at a Democratic Party dinner in Delaware, his home state, as the former vice president considers whether to make a third White House run.

Biden, 76, who served as President Barack Obama's closest adviser, is the only major contender still on the sidelines and has suggested he could remain there for several more weeks.

BERNIE SANDERS

About 200 people streamed into a sunny park in a suburb of Las Vegas to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders as he made his first appearance in Nevada, the state where he gave Hillary Clinton a surprisingly strong challenge in the 2016 caucuses before she edged out a win.

A group of about a dozen protesters carrying signs supportive of Trump or decrying Sanders as a socialist lined the road to greet supporters of the Vermont senator.

The self-described democratic socialist's rally in Henderson followed an announcement Friday that his presidential campaign staffers became the first in history to unionize. That was expected to bolster goodwill among labor unions who power Nevada Democrats, including the influential casino workers' Culinary Union.

Woodall reported from Exeter, New Hampshire. Associated Press writers Sara Burnett and Will Weissert in Waterloo, Iowa, and Michelle Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Source: NewsMax

Republicans are heading for a lively and rapid-fire faceoff to decide who'll represent the GOP in a new North Carolina congressional election mandated after a ballot-rigging scandal blocked the former Republican candidate's presumed victory in November.

Ten Republicans filed by Friday's deadline to run for their party's nomination in the 9th Congressional District special election. They include the sponsor of a 2016 state law limiting LGBT rights, the anointed choice of last year's GOP candidate, a Fayetteville medical products sales manager, two suburban Charlotte real estate agents and a former Marine who served on the county board that includes Charlotte.

They have two months to raise money and campaign while Dan McCready, the Democrat who seemed to narrowly lose November's election before it was voided, can meet with supporters and donors without a primary contest. He raised $487,000 at the end of 2018 while the result was in doubt.

With no other contests serving as a weather vane of political opinion, the election should draw tons of money and visits from presidential candidates looking for a platform, Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper said.

"I think this is going to be a nationally prominent story," said Cooper, predicting the interest level could match the big-money 2017 Georgia race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. "I think we'll have probably relatively low voter turnout … but the media environment is so nationalized now that I think we're all looking for signs."

The district that has been in GOP hands since 1963 and President Donald Trump won it by 12 percentage points in 2016. Republican Mark Harris seemed in November to have won by 905 votes out of almost 278,000 cast. But that was before investigators found a political operative working for Harris collected an unknown number of mail-in ballots, making them vulnerable to being changed or discarded.

The bi-partisan state elections board last month unanimously declared the election tainted and ordered another.

Harris isn't running again. The incumbent he beat in last year's primary, Robert Pittenger, also ruled out running in the district which stretches from suburban Charlotte to suburban Fayetteville along the South Carolina border.

If none of the Republicans win more than 30 percent of the votes in May, a GOP runoff primary would be Sept. 10 and the general election Nov. 5. If there is a clear Republican winner, he or she would meet McCready and candidates of the Green and Libertarian parties on Sept. 10.

Harris urged his supporters to back Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, who like the former Baptist pastor is staunchly anti-abortion. Rushing, 47, said his conviction comes in part from the fact that his mother gave birth to him despite being just 16.

The firing range owner and licensed gun seller said he's had grass-roots contact with thousands of people across the district who have taken his hunter safety and concealed-carry courses.

The best-known Republican candidate is probably state Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte, the architect of one of the most controversial laws in recent state history. House Bill 2 repealed a Charlotte ordinance expanding LGBT rights and prevented similar anti-discrimination rules anywhere else in the state. A 2017 Associated Press analysis found the law will cost the state more than $3.76 billion over several years.

The law was partly repealed, but local governments can't regulate private employment or public accommodations until late next year.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited that partial repeal when barring swimmers attending state universities from lodging in North Carolina during a collegiate championship next week in Greensboro. Cuomo said banning nonessential state-funded travel to North Carolina remains because the state continues discrimination against the LGBT community.

Bishop said his HB2 advocacy proved he'll tell voters where he stands despite pushback.

"I think the people of North Carolina, they put that controversy behind them and they're ready to move on," Bishop said after filing as a candidate Thursday. "It did the state no good to have that controversy, but it's an exhausted issue. And as I said, everyone understands where I stand. But we're on to a new campaign and new issues."

A late entry was Chris Anglin, who had been a registered Democrat until shortly before he entered last year's race for a state Supreme Court seat as a Republican. He split GOP votes with the Republican incumbent and helped a Democrat get elected.

Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said her conservative lobbying organization hasn't decided who to endorse. Still, she said social conservatives are motivated to vote because their "votes were thrown out," even though it's unclear whether there were enough tainted ballots to swing the race last year.

Last year's narrow race in a district that favors Republicans suggests GOP voters need to rally behind a candidate who can appeal equally in the district's suburbs and rural hamlets, Republican strategist Patrick Sebastian said.

"Most of the Republicans in this race are fairly conservative but I don't think all of them can win against McCready, who's going to have a mountain of money behind him," Sebastian said. "So we have to nominate somebody that has a little bit of crossover appeal (to Democrats) but also can stop McCready from taking soft Republican voters. He clearly did that in 2018."

Source: NewsMax

Audrey Conklin | Reporter

Israel and Hamas have allegedly agreed to a ceasefire after two rockets from the Gaza Strip hit Tel Aviv Thursday night for the first time since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.

Sources from Gaza told the Kan, an Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, that an agreement to cease fire was negotiated Friday “with the help of Egyptian mediators,” The Times of Israel reports. Israel, however, has yet to officially confirm the ceasefire.

Israeli media received information from defense officials saying a preliminary investigation determined that the Hamas rockets were misfires. Hamas denied responsibility for the attacks, saying the two rockets were launched during maintenance work, but it is one of the only groups in Gaza capable of striking Tel Aviv with rocket fire.

Tel Aviv’s Iron Dome missile defense system was activated during the attack and intercepted at least one rocket. No casualties were reported. The Israeli army’s chief spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said there was no prior warning to the attacks.

Israel responded with warplanes, which hit 100 Hamas “terror sites,” a statement from the Israel Defense Force said. Four people were injured in the response attacks in Gaza.

The terror sites included “an office complex in Gaza City used to plan and command Hamas militant activities, an underground complex that served as Hamas’ main rocket-manufacturing site and a center used for Hamas drone development,” according to an Associated Press report.

Israel’s response reportedly went into Friday morning as Hamas continued firing several rounds of rocket fire.

An anonymous Hamas official allegedly told reporters that prior to the attacks, Egyptian officials in Gaza were holding meetings to lead “mediation efforts” between Hamas and Israel. They left Thursday evening.

There were also protests Thursday organized in Gaza before the attacks by demonstrators upset with the current state of living conditions in the territory.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza since Hamas took over 12 years ago. The territory is currently experiencing an economic crisis at least partially due to severe sanctions and Hamas’ mismanagement of the area.

Israel’s Knesset election, or national legislative election, happens in just weeks on April 9.

Source: The Daily Caller

A Justice Department official described as special counsel Robert Mueller’s “pit bull” is leaving the Russia investigation, signaling that the probe is nearing its end.

Andrew Weissmann will leave the special counsel’s office to study and teach law at New York University, NPR first reported. Weissmann led the prosecution of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was sentenced to a total of seven-and-a-half years in prison for financial crimes and work he did for the Ukrainian government.

Weissmann is the best known member of the special counsel’s team other than Mueller himself. Conservatives criticized Weissmann after it was discovered that he attended Hillary Clinton’s party on Election Day 2016. He also met with Associated Press reporters on April 11, 2017 to discuss a case against Manafort. Mueller would not be appointed special counsel until a month later, on May 17, 2017. (RELATED: Mueller’s ‘Pit Bull’ Attended Hillary Clinton’s Election Night Party)

Weissmann’s departure is the clearest sign yet that Mueller’s investigation is wrapping up.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: Special counsel Robert Mueller (L) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee meets with Mueller to discuss the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert Mueller (L) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

News outlets have reported that Mueller & Co. were in the process of writing a final report on the investigation, which looked into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as possible obstruction of justice on the part of President Trump.

Some news outlets have reported that the report would be given to the Justice Department by the middle of March.

Mueller has indicted more than three dozen individuals, including 25 Russian nationals and several Trump associates. But none of the indictments have been for conspiracy between Trump allies and Russians.

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Italy’s Justice Ministry will investigate a court’s 2017 ruling acquitting two men of rape convictions after it found the victim was too ugly to be a credible witness.

The Ministry of Justice ordered a preliminary inquiry as well as a retrial of the case, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Italy’s high court, the Court of Cassation, will disclose its reasons for ordering a retrial in April.

The ministry’s announcement comes after the Ancona appeals court, made up of three women, acquitted two Peruvian men who were convicted of raping a woman in Italy’s city of Ancona in 2015. The court determined the victim was not a reliable witness, in part because the rapists “didn’t find her attractive, she was too masculine,” according to the court’s decision.

Cellphone records show one of the men describing the victim as masculine. She was listed as “Viking” in his contacts, the AP reported.

The men allegedly knew the woman, who is also Peruvian and was 20 at the time of the rape. They were found guilty and sentenced to prison in 2016.

The victim was drugged the night of the rape, according to the woman’s lawyer Cinzia Molinaro. Doctors found traces of “date rape” drug in her blood, Molinaro said. The rape also caused severe genital trauma that required stitches, Molinaro said.

“It’s a sentence that has shocked us, I was astonished when reading the motivation,” Molinaro told CNN. Molinaro called the decision “absolute unacceptability.” (RELATED: Whoopi Goldberg Says Actresses Used Sex With Ugly Men To Get Ahead)

Molinaro’s appeal to the Court of Cassation prompted the investigation and retrial. The appeal contests a number of procedural issues, including the women’s beauty status, regarding the Ancona acquittal of the convicted men, according to the AP.

The president of the court Alfredo Montalto (L) reads the sentence, at the end of a historic mafia case in which mob bosses and former high-ranking state officials were convicted of holding secret negotiations in the early 1990s, in Palermo, Italy, April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

The court’s 2017 decision was not make public until the Court of Cassation annulled the decision on March 5. Outrage erupted shortly thereafter, and the Ancona court saw dozens of protesters carrying signs reading, “Stop justifying male violence on women,” according to CNN.

A flash mob also took place outside the court Monday.

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Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

  • Chinese authorities claimed the internment camps in which they reportedly imprison, torture and brainwash religious minorities, particularly Uighur Muslims, would disappear over time once “society does not need” them.
  • The statement implies, given China’s policy of sinicization and efforts to wipe out Islam from the country, the camps will only disappear when there are no more Muslims with which to fill them. 
  • Chinese authorities claim reports of torture and brainwashing are lies and prefer to characterize the internment camps as “vocational training centers.”

Chinese authorities implied Tuesday the internment camps for Uighur Muslims and other minorities would not disappear until Uighurs forsake Islam or leave China.

The governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, and other regional authorities said the camps, which they characterized as vocational training centers, would gradually disappear in the event that “society does not need” them, The Associated Press reported.

Chinese authorities began the camps, however, as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s campaign of sinicization — an effort to bring all religions and cultural expressions in China in line with the Chinese Communist Party’s vision of Chinese culture. To that end, camp authorities reportedly subject Uighur Muslims to inhumane conditions, torture and brainwashing to turn them away from Islam and enforce supreme loyalty to the state. (RELATED: China Rages At Accusation That It Is ‘At War With Faith’)

Regional authorities’ claim the camps would disappear when they are no longer needed implies, in light of the camps’ use and other efforts to suppress Islam, Christianity and other religions throughout the country, that Chinese authorities would only do away with the camps once the religions and cultures they believe to be contrary to “sinicization” are purged.

Chinese authorities’ other efforts to snuff out religious expression in the country bear out their intentions. The Chinese government has kidnapped and detained several Christian pastors and shut down their churches for operating apart from Communist Party regulation and registration. Children under the age of 18 are banned from attending religious services and functions in certain regions. Chinese authorities in Xinjiang forbade fasting during Ramadan, the owning and distribution of Korans, wearing beards and public prayer.

Chinese authorities also initiated a program in which Uighur families were forced to accept ethnic Han government agents as new family members. The government agents move in with the families to spy on them and report on their every activity, especially expressions of religion and culture that are deemed out of line with sinicization.

TOPSHOT - People protest at a Uyghur rally on February 5, 2019 in front of the US Mission to the United Nations, to encourage the State Department to fight for the freedom of the majority-Muslim Uighur population unjustly imprisoned in Chinese concentration camps. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

People protest at a Uyghur rally on Feb. 5, 2019 in front of the US Mission to the United Nations, to encourage the State Department to fight for the freedom of the majority-Muslim Uighur population unjustly imprisoned in Chinese concentration camps. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

“The government is trying to destroy that last protected space in which Uighurs have been able to maintain their identity,” said Joanne Smith Finley, an ethnographer at England’s Newcastle University, according to the AP.

Zakir disputed claims that Uighur Muslim detainees, or “trainees” as government officials call them, are subjected to mistreatment and torture. Zakir claimed reports of inhumane conditions and brainwashing of the reported over 1 million detainees are “pure fiction” and that camp authorities “fully ensure freedom of religion” and provide halal food to Muslim inmates.

He likened the internment camps to “boarding schools,” saying inmates could request time off to visit their families.

Ex-detainees’s testimonies dispute Zakir’s claims.

Mihrigul Tursun, a Uighur Muslim and three-time detainee of an internment camp, recounted forced medical procedures, forced medication without any information as to what the medication was, electro-shock torture and cramped unsanitary living conditions.

Over 270 scholars echoed Tursun’s claims and opposition to the camps in November 2018.

“Reports from eyewitnesses have noted malnourishment and severe psychological distress among the detainees, and some report detainees being forcibly given psychiatric drugs. In some cases, shoelaces and belts are confiscated, due to the prevalence of self-harm and suicide. Those who do not fully participate in political reeducation are often subjected to beatings, solitary confinement, and forms of religious and psychological violation,” the scholars’ joint statement read.

“There have been numerous reports of deaths in the centers, particularly among the elderly and infirm, but also of younger people who were in good health when they were taken. While there are frequent reports of more people entering the camps, there are very few reports of those being released,” it adds.

Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, also denounced China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims and called Friday for an investigation of the camps. Brownback characterized China’s oppression of the Uighurs as “a deliberate attempt by Beijing to redefine and control these Muslim minority groups, [their] identity, culture and faith.”

Zakir, however, argued that China’s severe security measures and the use of internment camps is justified by the fact that there have not been any violent, Islamic extremist attacks in the region for two years.

“We cannot relax one bit,” Zakir said, confirming the camps will remain for the foreseeable future.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro is blaming opposition leader Juan Guaido for a nationwide blackout that has extended into its fifth day.

According to a report from the Associated Press, Guaido is being investigated for his alleged role in the blackout by Maduro’s attorney general.

Guaido called for demonstrations against Maduro after it was revealed that a lack of electricity had caused a number of patients in Venezuelan hospitals to die. Some apparently took that as evidence that he was using the blackout to force Maduro out of power, or that he had engineered the blackout for that purpose.

When Venezuela first plunged into darkness several days earlier, Maduro attempted to blame his country’s plight on President Donald Trump and what he referred to as an “electrical war.(RELATED: Maduro Blames Historic Blackout In Venezuela On US ‘Electrical War’)

“The electricity war declared and directed by U.S. imperialism against our people will be defeated,” Maduro said, according to a report from NPR. “Nothing and nobody will vanquish the people of Bolivar and Chavez.”

He also laid blame at the feet of Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose response indicated just how ridiculous he found the accusation to be.

Rubio has been a key voice in the fight to bring down the Maduro regime and restore free and fair elections to the people of Venezuela.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed soon after taking off from Ethiopia’s capital Sunday morning, killing all 157 passengers and crew members on board.

The passengers included eight Americans, Fox News reported. The Boeing 737-8 MAX plane took off from Addis Ababa’s Bole airport at 8:38 a.m. en route to Nairobi, Kenya. The control tower lost contact with the plane minutes later at 8:44 a.m.

The doomed aircraft sent out a distress call and was cleared to return to the airport but did not make it, The Associated Press reported. Officials located the crash site about 30 miles south of Addis Ababa. (RELATED: Nearly 190 People Feared Dead After Indonesian Plane Crashes Into The Sea)

The people dead in the crash represented more than 30 nationalities. The plane was just several months old and had first arrived at the airline in November.

Ethiopian Airlines is a state-owned company and generally seen as the best-managed airline in Africa. The airline has a reputation for adopting new planes and technology early on as it seeks to stay and grow more competitive, according to AP.

The airline released a photo of CEO Tewolde Gebremariam standing amid the wreckage of the crash site.

Boeing, the company that built the plane, is sending a team of technicians to assist Ethiopian authorities investigating the cause of the crash.

“Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 Max 8 airplane. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team,” the aircraft manufacturer said in a statement.

The official cause of the crash is unknown. Flight data released by the air traffic monitor Flightradar24 said the plane’s “vertical speed was unstable after take off.”

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Advocates for gun rights and gun control are expected to pack a Connecticut legislative hearing on several firearms bills, including measures that would tighten safe storage laws and require people openly carrying guns to produce their permits if police ask.

The legislation to be debated Monday at a Judiciary Committee public hearing in Hartford has spurred a flood of written testimony that has been submitted to the panel, both for and against the bills.

The safe storage proposal was drafted in response to the death of 15-year-old Ethan Song, who accidentally shot himself in the head with a handgun owned by his friend's father in their hometown of Guilford in January 2018.

The friend's father had kept his three guns secured with gun locks in a plastic container in his bedroom closet, but the keys to the locks and ammunition also were in the container, police said. Prosecutors said they could not charge the friend's father under the state's existing safe gun storage law, because it requires only loaded guns to be safely stored and there was no evidence the guns were stored loaded.

Gun control advocates including Ethan's mother, Kristin Song, said the new bill, called "Ethan's Law," would save lives by requiring all guns — loaded or unloaded — to be safely stored. Violating the law would be a felony carrying a prison sentence of one to five years.

"Ethan's death was completely preventable, if only the father had securely stored his guns," Kristin Song wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "That's why I'm fighting to pass 'Ethan's Law,' to strengthen Connecticut's safe storage requirements."

Some gun rights supporters are opposing the bill because they believe it would make accessing their guns more difficult during home invasions and burglaries.

Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the gun rights advocacy group is ready to support the bill, but only if it includes a requirement to educate school-age children about gun safety.

Another one of the most talked-about bills would require people who are openly carrying firearms to produce their gun permits if their firearms are visible and if police request them. Current law requires people to produce their gun permits for police, but only if police have a "reasonable suspicion of a crime" — a requirement that would be eliminated in the new bill.

Gun rights advocates say the bill reminds them of New York City's former "stop and frisk" policy — which was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 and criticized as discriminatory against minorities — and believe it would violate people's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"This bill clearly targets individuals that have followed the law and have gone through the permit process," Paul Acampora, of Woodbridge, wrote to the committee. "Removing 'reasonable suspicion of a crime' from the current statutes is a bad idea, and allows police officers to 'stop and frisk' for no reason."

Supporters of the bill say that they would feel safer on the streets and that public safety would be protected if people were required to show their permits.

Other gun bills up for discussion at the public hearing would:

— Prohibit cities and towns from imposing their own firearms regulations.

— Ban guns without serial numbers, and regulate so-called "ghost guns" that are assembled by owners or made with 3D printers.

— Allow people to carry handguns in state parks and state forests for self-defense.

— Require safe storage of guns in motor vehicles.

— Allow the transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines between people who already legally possess such weapons and magazines.

Source: NewsMax

David Hookstead | Reporter

Texas has fired their former superstar quarterback Vince Young.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Young was fired for from his development officer job for his “poor performance” and “not demonstrating significant and sustained improvement in the performance of (his) job responsibilities and failing to maintain standards of conduct suitable and acceptable to the university.”

The same report indicated that he missed work and didn’t stay in touch with his superiors. According to Darren Rovell, the former college star was being paid $100,000 annually to work with the program.

Things really aren’t going well for Young lately. He was arrested recently after allegedly driving under the influence, and now he doesn’t have a job. (RELATED: Texas Football Legend Vince Young Arrested For Allegedly Driving Drunk)

It’s not a great look for a guy that was once considered a can’t-miss QB prospect.

Vince Young is arguably the greatest player in the history of Texas football, and now they won’t even employ him.

He must have burned some major bridges on his way out the door. It’s very common for athletic departments to hook up former stars with jobs. To lose one of those jobs is actually borderline impressive.

It should be interesting to see what Young does next. It looks like door at the University of Texas has officially been shut for him.

Source: The Daily Caller

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

Pope Francis denounced anti-Semitism inside and outside the Catholic Church Friday after House Democrats’ opposed decrying anti-Semitism without also denouncing criticism of Muslims.

Francis condemned the “wickedness and fury” and “depraved hatred” inherent in the worldwide resurgence of anti-Semitism during a meeting with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), according to The Associated Press. The pontiff also warned Christian faithful that holding to anti-Semitic views is “a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction,” given that Jesus and his disciples were Jewish and the theology of the church is rooted in historical Judaism. (RELATED: Trump: Democrats Are Now ‘Anti-Jewish,’ ‘Ant-Israel’ Party)

Francis’ unequivocal denunciation of anti-Semitism came days after House Democrats delayed voting on a resolution against anti-Semitism sparked by comments from Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the House, in which she claimed that supporters of Israel were loyal to a foreign country and therefore could not be fully loyal to the U.S.

Democrats delayed the vote in reaction to progressive representatives like New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who objected to the resolution on the grounds that it unfairly targeted Omar. Progressives also insisted that the resolution against anti-Semitism denounce anti-Muslim bias — a demand that garnered criticism in light of the surge of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the U.S. compared to the relatively small amount of hate crimes committed against Muslims.

House Democrats expanded the resolution to include mention of Muslims, Catholics and the Japanese, in addition to Jews, changing it from a resolution against anti-Semitism to a resolution against hate in general, with no mention of Omar. The House voted to pass the resolution Thursday, but almost two dozen Republicans voted against it, saying that it was watered down, ineffective and should mention Omar.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 06: Minnesota Democratic Congressional Candidate Ilhan Omar arrives at an election night results party on November 6, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Minnesota Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar arrives at an election night results party on Nov. 6, 2018 in Minneapolis. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“A watered-down condemnation of hate does little to alleviate the hurt caused by Rep. Omar’s continuous anti-Semitic rhetoric and beliefs,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a statement.

“This diluted condemnation only highlights the real problem in the Democrat caucus: Speaker Pelosi awarded a known anti-Semite with a coveted spot on the Foreign Affairs Committee. The House has now voted twice in the first two months of the House Democrat Majority to condemn hateful ideology in response to Rep. Omar’s remarks, yet Speaker Pelosi has not removed Rep. Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee,” he added.

The pope, however, specifically decried anti-Semitism days after responding to calls from Jewish groups to open the Vatican archives of Pius XII, who served as pope during World War II and stood accused of failing to openly oppose the Holocaust. Francis agreed to open the archives.

John Shapiro, president of the AJC, hailed Francis’ response.

“We look forward especially to the involvement of the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the U.S. to objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as valiant efforts during the period of the Shoah,” Shapiro said.

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A judge sent former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to prison Friday after Manning refused to testify about leaking sensitive documents to WikiLeaks in front of a grand jury.

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton issued the order sending Manning to prison, The Associated Press reported. Manning rejected providing further testimony, saying no additional statements are necessary following the former analyst’s court martial appearance, The AP reported.

Manning “will accept whatever you bring upon me,” according to The AP. Manning’s lawyers have requested home confinement instead of prison time.

Formerly known as “Bradley,” the transgender military analyst ascended into the public limelight after leaking more than 700,000 sensitive documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. Manning was convicted and imprisoned from 2010 to 2017 for violating the Espionage Act.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison but was freed after former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence before leaving office. After being released from prison, Manning sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for a Senate seat in Maryland.

Manning received sex reassignment surgery in October 2018, marking what was then the culmination of a longtime saga regarding Manning’s gender identity and military status after leaking classified documents. (RELATED: Convicted Former Army Private Chelsea Manning Releases Senate Campaign Ad)

Manning has not been shy about public displays of distain for military authority and law enforcement. Manning tweeted a picture of a burning American flag on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day Jan. 9, writing “F**k the police.”

Chelsea Manning speaks at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Suzanne Cordeiro

Manning will remain in prison until the grand jury concludes its investigation or the former analyst agrees to testify, according to The AP.

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President Donald Trump's 2020 budget proposal will include $100 million for a global women's fund spearheaded by his daughter Ivanka Trump.

A White House official told The Associated Press that the budget, expected to be released Monday, will include the funding for the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. The administration last month launched the government-wide project, led by the Republican president's daughter and senior adviser.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly about budget details in advance and requested anonymity.

The new initiative aims to help 50 million women in the developing world get ahead economically over the next six years. It involves the State Department, the National Security Council and other agencies. And it aims to coordinate current programs and develop new ones to help women in areas such as job training, financial support and legal or regulatory reforms.

The funding will come through the U.S. Agency for International Development, which initially set up a $50 million fund for the effort using already budgeted money.

Trump has previously sought to cut USAID's budget. His full 2020 plans were not available Friday.

The White House also is expected to announce that the president will nominate Kelley Eckels Currie to serve as an ambassador-at-large for global women's issues. That position, established under President Barack Obama's administration, had been vacant since Trump took office.

Currie currently serves as the representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Since Ivanka Trump joined her father's administration in early 2017, she has focused on women's economic issues.

Source: NewsMax

The Pentagon is planning to tap $1 billion in leftover funds from military pay and pension accounts to help President Donald Trump pay for his long-sought border wall, a top Senate Democrat said Thursday.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told The Associated Press, "It's coming out of military pay and pensions. $1 billion. That's the plan."

Durbin said the funds are available because Army recruitment is down and a voluntary early military retirement program is being underutilized.

The development comes as Pentagon officials are seeking to minimize the amount of wall money that would come from military construction projects that are so cherished by lawmakers.

Durbin said, "Imagine the Democrats making that proposal — that for whatever our project is, we're going to cut military pay and pensions."

Durbin, the top Democrat on the Appropriations panel for the Pentagon, was among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who met with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday morning.

The Pentagon is planning to transfer money from various accounts into a fund dedicated to drug interdiction, with the money then slated to be redirected for border barriers and other purposes.

More attention has been paid to Trump's declaration of a national emergency to tap up to $3.6 billion from military construction projects to pay for the wall. The Democratic-controlled House voted last month to reject Trump's move, and the GOP-held Senate is likely to follow suit next week despite a White House lobbying push.

Senate Republicans met again Wednesday to sort through their options in hopes of making next week's voting more politically palatable. They are struggling to come up with an alternative to simply voting up or down on the House measure as required under a never-used Senate procedure to reject a presidential emergency declaration. Lawmakers in both parties believe Trump is inappropriately infringing on Congress' power of the purse.

Senators are increasingly uneasy ahead of voting next week because they don't know exactly where the money to build the wall will come from and if it will postpone military projects in their home states.

Vice President Mike Pence told senators during their meeting a week ago that he would get back to them with an update. But senators said they don't yet have a response from the administration.

"It's a concern," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. He said a number of senators have been talking to the White House about other ways the administration could shuffle the money without relying on the authority under the emergency declaration, which is likely to become tied up in litigation.

The pitch is, "Why have this additional controversy when it could be done in a less controversial way?" he said. "Apparently, the White House is not persuaded."

The Army missed its recruiting goal this year, falling short by about 6,500 soldiers, despite pouring an extra $200 million into bonuses and approving some additional waivers for bad conduct or health issues.

Congress also appropriated money to give members of the military incentive to take early retirement, but enrollment in the program is coming in well under expectations.

"This is pay that would have gone to Army recruits that we can't recruit," Durbin said. "So there's a 'savings' because we can't recruit. The other part was they offered a voluntary change in military pensions, and they overestimated how many people would sign up for it."

Source: NewsMax

Two African-American women clinched the top two spots in Chicago’s mayoral election Tuesday, meaning they will face each other in a runoff to become the Windy City’s first black female mayor.

Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle beat 12 other candidates — including William Daley, son of former Mayor Richard Daley — but neither grabbed more than 50 percent of the vote, meaning there will be a runoff in April to succeed outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

RAHM EMANUEL WARNS DEMS NOT TO ‘MIMIC’ TRUMP’S POLITICS

According to The Chicago Tribune, unofficial results showed Lightfoot with 17.5 percent, Preckwinkle with 16 percent and Daley with 14.7 percent. Chicago has had a female mayor before, and an African-American mayor, but never an African-American woman as a mayor.

"What do you think of us now?" Lightfoot told supporters Tuesday night. "This is what change looks like."

She later congratulated Preckwinkle for reaching the runoff: "No matter which one of us wins, Chicago will make history on April 2nd by electing the first Black woman mayor. It’s long overdue," she tweeted.

Lightfoot, a political outsider and the first openly gay woman to run for Chicago mayor, was the subject of an early apparent shot from Preckwinkle, a former City Council member and public school teacher, over her lack of political experience.

"It’s not enough to stand at a podium and talk about what you want to see happen," Preckwinkle said. "You have to come to this job with the capacity and the capability to make your vision a reality."

According to the Tribune, Lightfoot had positioned herself as the progressive voice against an entrenched Chicago political machine, while Preckwinkle pitched herself as someone with a track record of taking on powerful interests.

“We may not yet be at the finish line, but we should acknowledge that history is being made,” Preckwinkle said in Hyde Part, according to the Tribune. “It’s clear we’re at a defining moment in our city’s history, but the challenges that our city faces are not simply ideological. It’s not enough to say Chicago stands at a crossroads. We need to fight to change its course.”

Turnout was low, with The Associated Press reporting that by late afternoon turnout was around 27 percent of registered voters. The prior low was 33.8 percent in 2007.

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Lightfoot and Preckwinkle had both been critical of the city’s response to the 2014 police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald. Emanuel’s popularity dropped after the release of video of McDonald’s shooting, and he eventually decided not to seek re-election.

The runoff will take place on April 2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Michael Cohen has been disbarred in New York, with a court ruling that President Trump’s former lawyer’s guilty plea in Robert Mueller’s investigation automatically stripped him of his eligibility to practice law.

The court’s decision Tuesday came while he was on Capitol Hill, testifying behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee. He plans to testify in an open House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday.

COHEN TO ACCUSE TRUMP OF KNOWING ABOUT ROGER STONE-WIKILEAKS PLOT, BUT DENY ‘DIRECT EVIDENCE’ OF RUSSIA COLLUSION

Neither a spokesperson for Cohen nor for the New York Courts responded to Fox News’ request for comment on the decision.

Cohen, in November, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump real estate project in Russia as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates.

The guilty plea was related directly to his August 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, giving lawmakers a “false” description of the Moscow Project. Cohen also testified, at the time, that all communications with Russia regarding the project ended in January 2016, prior to the Iowa Caucuses—the first contest in the presidential race—but later admitted communications continued through June 2016 when Trump became the Republican nominee.

Cohen is slated to report to prison next month to serve three years time.

MICHAEL COHEN SPECTACLE OVERSHADOWS KOREA SUMMIT

Trump slammed Cohen on Tuesday, saying he was “lying” as part of the investigation to reduce his allotted prison time.

“Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also. He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!” Trump tweeted, noting that Cohen was represented by longtime Clinton ally Lanny Davis.

Cohen has been under criminal investigation as part of a grand jury probe into his personal business dealings, including his tax business and bank fraud, since April, when the FBI raided his home, office, and hotel room to seize a collection of documents as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s criminal probe.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution. The excessive campaign contribution was regarding the $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged one-time sexual encounter with Trump.

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Trump denied in April that he knew anything about Cohen’s payments to Daniels, though the explanations from the president and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have shifted several times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen said Tuesday that the American people can decide "exactly who is telling the truth" when he testifies Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee — but in a remarkable social media post on the eve of the hearing, a top Republican suggested that lurid details of Cohen’s private life may take center stage.

The blockbuster public testimony threatened to overshadow Trump’s summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, prompting some observers to say the timing was more than coincidental. The testimony comes as Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May – he has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while working for Trump.

Cohen, once Trump’s loyal attorney and fixer, has turned on his former boss and has cooperated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

"I look forward to tomorrow, to be able to in my voice to tell the American people my story," Cohen told reporters Tuesday.

He made the comments after meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee for more than nine hours behind closed doors. Cohen said he appreciated the opportunity to "clear the record and tell the truth" to the Senate committee, after acknowledging he’d lied to the panel in 2017.

Tuesday was the first of three consecutive days of congressional appearances scheduled for Cohen. After the public hearing Wednesday, he will appear before the House intelligence panel Thursday, again speaking in private.

Cohen’s public testimony is likely to be a spectacle, in part because of the accusations he plans to level against the president. He’ll give lawmakers a behind-the-scenes account of what he will claim is Trump’s lying, racism and cheating, and possibly even criminal conduct, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. He is expected to provide what he will claim is evidence, in the form of documents, said the person, who requested anonymity to discuss the confidential testimony.

Republicans are expected to aggressively attempt to discredit Cohen, given that he has acknowledged lying previously. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement Tuesday it was "laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies."

RNC TELLS MICHAEL COHEN TO ‘HAVE FUN IN PRISON,’ AS GOP PREPS WAR ROOM AHEAD OF TESTIMONY

It appeared unlikely Cohen would directly implicate Trump in instructing his subordinates to lie. Buzzfeed News last month published a bombshell, discredited report, citing two law enforcement officials, who said Cohen acknowledged to Mueller’s office that Trump told him to lie to Congress about a potential real estate deal in Moscow, and claim that the negotiations ended months before they did so as to conceal Trump’s involvement.

But Mueller issued his first public statement in more than a year to repudiate the BuzzFeed report just 24 hours after its publication, flatly asserting that the story was "not accurate." The Washington Post has since reported that Mueller intended his rare denial to mean that the story was "almost entirely incorrect," and that the Special Counsel’s Office immediately "reviewed evidence to determine if there were any documents or witness interviews like those described, reaching out to those they thought might have a stake in the case. They found none."

One Republican House member, meanwhile, did more than just question Cohen’s credibility in the run-up to the hearing on Wednesday. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted Tuesday that the world is "about to learn a lot" about Cohen and suggested he knew of disparaging information that could come out during his testimony.

Gaetz, a Trump ally who talks to the president frequently, is not a member of the committee that will question Cohen. He did not offer any evidence. Still, the tweet was extraordinary because his remarks appeared to some Democrats to constitute threatening or intimidating a witness.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz defended a tweet he sent Tuesday about Michael Cohen, suggesting that President Trump’s former attorney had been unfaithful to his wife.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz defended a tweet he sent Tuesday about Michael Cohen, suggesting that President Trump’s former attorney had been unfaithful to his wife. (Getty/AP)

In a tweet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote, "I encourage all Members to be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties."

Pelosi went on to suggest that Gaetz may have even opened himself to legal liability, warning that the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause — which provides virtually absolute legal immunity to statements made by senators and representatives during congressional debates — might not protect Gaetz, who made his comments away from the House floor.

"We’re witness testing, not witness tampering," Gaetz countered in an interview with reporters. "When witnesses come before Congress, their truthfulness and veracity are in question and we have the opportunity to test them."

Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s lawyers, said in a statement that he wouldn’t respond to Gaetz’s "despicable lies and personal smears, except to say we trust that his colleagues in the House, both Republicans and Democrats, will repudiate his words and his conduct."

Democrats have been alternately suspicious of Cohen and eager to hear what he has to say. Sen. Mark Warner, the intelligence panel’s top Democrat, suggested in a brief statement to reporters outside Tuesday’s interview that Cohen had provided important information.

"We’re witness testing, not witness tampering."

— Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz

JUDGE NAP: COHEN TESTIMONY IS DESIGNED TO DISTRACT FROM SECOND TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT

"Two years ago when this investigation started I said it may be the most important thing I am involved in in my public life in the Senate, and nothing I’ve heard today dissuades me from that view," Warner said.

Senators on the intelligence panel attended Tuesday’s private meeting, a departure from the committee’s usual practice, where witness interviews are conducted by staff only. The Senate intel panel’s chairman, Richard Burr, suggested to The Associated Press before the meeting that his committee would take steps to ensure that Cohen was telling the truth.

"I’m sure there will be some questions we know the answers to, so we’ll test him to see whether in fact he’ll be truthful this time," Burr said.

At least one Republican member of the intelligence panel refused to go to the meeting. "I don’t have any desire to go listen to a lying lawyer," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

In addition to lying to Congress, Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump.

Federal prosecutors in New York have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Cohen told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump’s "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty."

Trump denies the allegations and says Cohen lied to get a lighter sentence.

The person with knowledge of what Cohen intends to tell Congress said he will provide information about Trump’s financial statements that he will claim shows Trump deflated assets to pay lower taxes on golf courses; will provide details of the Daniels payment and claim that Trump organized a cover-up by pretending Cohen would be repaid; and claim that Trump talked to him and asked him questions about the Trump Moscow project throughout 2016.

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He is also expected to discuss what he knows about a meeting between Trump campaign associates and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower before the 2016 election, a matter that is of particular interest to Mueller and congressional investigators.

Cohen is not expected to discuss matters related to Russia in the public hearing, saving that information for the closed-door interviews with the intelligence committees. House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings has said he doesn’t want to interfere with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and links to Trump’s campaign.

Members of the oversight panel are expected to ask questions about the campaign finance violations, Trump’s business practices and compliance with tax laws and "the accuracy of the president’s public statements," according to a memo laying out the scope of the hearing.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Elizabeth Zwirz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

In his testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committe Wednesday, Michael Cohen will accuse his former client, President Trump, of knowing that his adviser Roger Stone was reaching out to Wikileaks concerning the publication of stolen Democratic National Committee emails.

According to his prepared remarks, first obtained by Politico, Cohen will tell Congress that Trump "was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails."

Cohen will also call Trump a "racist," a "conman," and a "cheat," all based, he will claim, on "documents that are irrefutable."

Among those documents Cohen will purportedly provide Congress: "A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account – after he became president – to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign," as well as "Copies of financial statements for 2011 – 2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank."

Additionally, Cohen will offer "a copy of an article with Mr. Trump’s handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself – he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs."

Cohen also claims he will provide "Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores."

Meanwhile, in a remarkable social media post on the eve of the hearing, a top Republican suggested that lurid details of Cohen’s private life may take center stage.

The blockbuster public testimony threatened to overshadow Trump’s summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, prompting some observers to say the timing was more than coincidental. The testimony comes as Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in May – he has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2017 and committing campaign finance violations while working for Trump.

Cohen, once Trump’s loyal attorney and fixer, has turned on his former boss and has cooperated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

"I look forward to tomorrow, to be able to in my voice to tell the American people my story," Cohen told reporters Tuesday.

He made the comments after meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee for more than nine hours behind closed doors. Cohen said he appreciated the opportunity to "clear the record and tell the truth" to the Senate committee, after acknowledging he’d lied to the panel in 2017.

Tuesday was the first of three consecutive days of congressional appearances scheduled for Cohen. After the public hearing Wednesday, he will appear before the House intelligence panel Thursday, again speaking in private.

Cohen’s public testimony is likely to be a spectacle, in part because of the accusations he plans to level against the president. He’ll give lawmakers a behind-the-scenes account of what he will claim is Trump’s lying, racism and cheating, and possibly even criminal conduct, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. He is expected to provide what he will claim is evidence, in the form of documents, said the person, who requested anonymity to discuss the confidential testimony.

Republicans are expected to aggressively attempt to discredit Cohen, given that he has acknowledged lying previously. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement Tuesday it was "laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies."

RNC TELLS MICHAEL COHEN TO ‘HAVE FUN IN PRISON,’ AS GOP PREPS WAR ROOM AHEAD OF TESTIMONY

It appeared unlikely Cohen would directly implicate Trump in instructing his subordinates to lie. Buzzfeed News last month published a bombshell, discredited report, citing two law enforcement officials, who said Cohen acknowledged to Mueller’s office that Trump told him to lie to Congress about a potential real estate deal in Moscow, and claim that the negotiations ended months before they did so as to conceal Trump’s involvement.

But Mueller issued his first public statement in more than a year to repudiate the BuzzFeed report just 24 hours after its publication, flatly asserting that the story was "not accurate." The Washington Post has since reported that Mueller intended his rare denial to mean that the story was "almost entirely incorrect," and that the Special Counsel’s Office immediately "reviewed evidence to determine if there were any documents or witness interviews like those described, reaching out to those they thought might have a stake in the case. They found none."

One Republican House member, meanwhile, did more than just question Cohen’s credibility in the run-up to the hearing on Wednesday. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted Tuesday that the world is "about to learn a lot" about Cohen and suggested he knew of disparaging information that could come out during his testimony.

Gaetz, a Trump ally who talks to the president frequently, is not a member of the committee that will question Cohen. He did not offer any evidence. Still, the tweet was extraordinary because his remarks appeared to some Democrats to constitute threatening or intimidating a witness.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz defended a tweet he sent Tuesday about Michael Cohen, suggesting that President Trump’s former attorney had been unfaithful to his wife.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz defended a tweet he sent Tuesday about Michael Cohen, suggesting that President Trump’s former attorney had been unfaithful to his wife. (Getty/AP)

In a tweet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote, "I encourage all Members to be mindful that comments made on social media or in the press can adversely affect the ability of House Committees to obtain the truthful and complete information necessary to fulfill their duties."

Pelosi went on to suggest that Gaetz may have even opened himself to legal liability, warning that the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause — which provides virtually absolute legal immunity to statements made by senators and representatives during congressional debates — might not protect Gaetz, who made his comments away from the House floor.

"We’re witness testing, not witness tampering," Gaetz countered in an interview with reporters. "When witnesses come before Congress, their truthfulness and veracity are in question and we have the opportunity to test them."

Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s lawyers, said in a statement that he wouldn’t respond to Gaetz’s "despicable lies and personal smears, except to say we trust that his colleagues in the House, both Republicans and Democrats, will repudiate his words and his conduct."

Democrats have been alternately suspicious of Cohen and eager to hear what he has to say. Sen. Mark Warner, the intelligence panel’s top Democrat, suggested in a brief statement to reporters outside Tuesday’s interview that Cohen had provided important information.

"We’re witness testing, not witness tampering."

— Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz

JUDGE NAP: COHEN TESTIMONY IS DESIGNED TO DISTRACT FROM SECOND TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT

"Two years ago when this investigation started I said it may be the most important thing I am involved in in my public life in the Senate, and nothing I’ve heard today dissuades me from that view," Warner said.

Senators on the intelligence panel attended Tuesday’s private meeting, a departure from the committee’s usual practice, where witness interviews are conducted by staff only. The Senate intel panel’s chairman, Richard Burr, suggested to The Associated Press before the meeting that his committee would take steps to ensure that Cohen was telling the truth.

"I’m sure there will be some questions we know the answers to, so we’ll test him to see whether in fact he’ll be truthful this time," Burr said.

At least one Republican member of the intelligence panel refused to go to the meeting. "I don’t have any desire to go listen to a lying lawyer," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

In addition to lying to Congress, Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations for his involvement in payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump.

Federal prosecutors in New York have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. Cohen told a judge that he agreed to cover up Trump’s "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty."

Trump denies the allegations and says Cohen lied to get a lighter sentence.

The person with knowledge of what Cohen intends to tell Congress said he will provide information about Trump’s financial statements that he will claim shows Trump deflated assets to pay lower taxes on golf courses; will provide details of the Daniels payment and claim that Trump organized a cover-up by pretending Cohen would be repaid; and claim that Trump talked to him and asked him questions about the Trump Moscow project throughout 2016.

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He is also expected to discuss what he knows about a meeting between Trump campaign associates and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower before the 2016 election, a matter that is of particular interest to Mueller and congressional investigators.

Cohen is not expected to discuss matters related to Russia in the public hearing, saving that information for the closed-door interviews with the intelligence committees. House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings has said he doesn’t want to interfere with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and links to Trump’s campaign.

Members of the oversight panel are expected to ask questions about the campaign finance violations, Trump’s business practices and compliance with tax laws and "the accuracy of the president’s public statements," according to a memo laying out the scope of the hearing.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Elizabeth Zwirz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Democrats on Tuesday pushed unprecedented legislation through the House to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration to steer billions of extra dollars to his southern border wall, raising the prospect that Trump might issue his first-ever veto to defeat the effort.

Monday’s vote marked the first time the House or Senate has tried to terminate a presidential declaration of a national emergency, using the provisions of the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Former Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., attempted a similar effort regarding a national emergency declared by then-President George W. Bush, but the measure never came to a vote on the House floor.

Should enough Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate defect and support the House bill, a two-thirds supermajority in both the Senate and House would be needed to override Trump’s veto. The White House issued a formal veto threat Tuesday ahead of the House vote, ramping up pressure on Republicans to hold the line.

It took President George W. Bush more than five years before he used his veto, and President Barack Obama only 11 months. For President Bill Clinton, it took two and a half years.

With three Senate Republicans saying they would support the legislation, only one more was needed to vote with all the Democrats to pass the measure and send it to Trump.

House Democrats have aimed to block the national emergency declaration that President Trump issued last week to fund his long-sought wall along the U.S-Mexico border, setting up a fight that could result in Trump's first-ever veto. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

House Democrats have aimed to block the national emergency declaration that President Trump issued last week to fund his long-sought wall along the U.S-Mexico border, setting up a fight that could result in Trump’s first-ever veto. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

"When you see the vote today there will be nowhere near the votes to override a veto," House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters.

Even many GOP lawmakers who have viewed themselves as protectors of Congress’ power of the purse said they would defer to Trump in this case, saying he has the authority under a mid-1970s statute.

"They love Trump in my district," said Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo. "I’m for Trump."

CROWD OF FOUR PEOPLE HOLDS PRO-TRUMP, PRO-WALL RALLY IN SAN FRANCISCO

Democratic leaders said the vote was not about the merits of Trump’s wall but how Trump was trampling on the Constitution by grabbing money that he couldn’t obtain through the usual means.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump’s action "steals billions of dollars" from military construction projects— including, possibly, family housing and child care centers — to build the wall along the Mexico border.

Republicans have countered that problems with drug runners and human trafficking gave merit to Trump’s maneuver.

"I went down there neutral on this question, didn’t know whether or not I’d support a national emergency," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who recently returned from a National Guard deployment along the border in Arizona. "And, I came back more convinced than probably anybody that this is the right thing to do."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., seen here on Tuesday, said Trump was trying to "bend the law" with his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., seen here on Tuesday, said Trump was trying to "bend the law" with his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"If Republicans vote their beliefs, we’ll get a lot. If they vote their party, we won’t get a lot," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Trump on Monday urged Senate Republicans to stick with him.

"I hope our great Republican Senators don’t get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security," Trump tweeted. "Without strong Borders, we don’t have a Country — and the voters are on board with us. Be strong and smart, don’t fall into the Democrats ‘trap’ of Open Borders and Crime!"

TRUMP’S BORDER WALL PROTOTYPES TO COME DOWN

Vice President Mike Pence discussed the issue with GOP senators during their weekly private lunch. In a statement after the sit-down, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham accused Democrats of hypocritically changing their mind about realities on the southern border.

“We had a great presentation from Vice President Pence and his team regarding the emergency declaration and the need for additional spending to protect our southern border," Graham said. "The Vice President made a compelling case that the border crisis is real and President Trump has both the authority and legal backing to declare a national emergency."

Graham added: "In 2014, President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis at our southern border because 120,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended.  As of today, we have already apprehended 120,000 in Fiscal Year 2019.  The problems of 2014 are only getting worse."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Trump was trying to "bend the law" with his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. He called on lawmakers to "speak up with one bipartisan voice" to put a check on the executive branch as the founding founders envisioned.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, center, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, second from the right, during a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border at Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, N.M., on Saturday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, center, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, second from the right, during a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border at Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, N.M., on Saturday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

"What would stop a future president from claiming an emergency every week?" he asked.

On Monday, GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said he would vote to block the order, joining Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski as Republicans supporting the resolution. Congress must defend its power of the purse and warned that a future Democrat in the White House might abuse the power to advance "radical policies," Tillis said.

Another Republican, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, called Trump’s order "unnecessary, unwise, and inconsistent with the United States Constitution and I’ll decide how to vote when I’m presented with something to vote on."

Senate voting on Trump’s emergency order could drag under a rarely used procedure, which an aide said is possibly a first for the chamber. The law allows for up to 15 days of committee review— in this case, at the Armed Services panel — with a full Senate vote three days later. Senators, though, said the process could be expedited.

At issue is Trump’s longstanding vow to build a wall along the 1,900-mile southwest border, perhaps his top campaign promise. He has long since dropped any pretense that money for the wall would come from Mexico, which he once claimed would be the source of funding.

Earlier this month Congress approved a huge spending bill providing nearly $1.4 billion to build 55 miles of border barriers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, ending a dispute that had led to a record 35-day partial shutdown of the government. Trump had demanded $5.7 billion to construct more than 200 miles.

Trump’s declaration of a national emergency gives him access to about $3.6 billion in funding for military construction projects to divert to border fencing. Lawmakers in both parties are recoiling at the politically toxic prospect of losing cherished projects at back-home military bases. The Defense Department has not identified which projects may face the ax.

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But, the administration is more likely to tap $600 million from a federal asset forfeiture fund first. In addition, it is considering shifting more than $2 billion from Defense Department accounts into a Pentagon counter-drug fund to be tapped for wall construction.

Trump’s edict is also being challenged in the federal courts, where a host of Democratic-led states such as California are among those that have sued to overturn the order. The House may also join in.

Fox News’ Chad Pergramm, Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A Democratic member of Maryland’s House of Delegates was removed as chairwoman of a subcommittee on Tuesday after an account of her using a racial slur during an after-hours gathering at an Annapolis cigar bar last month was published by The Washington Post.

Mary Ann Lisanti, 51, apologized to the Maryland House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday, one day after she apologized to the leaders of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. In a message to her constituents in Harford County northeast of Baltimore, Lisanti said she was "ashamed" and "sickened" she had used the word, which "does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what’s in my heart."

It is my hope and prayer that you … can forgive me for the pain that I have caused, and help me to mend what I have broken," she added. "I will continue work every day to repent for my actions and represent my constituents."

The Post reported on Monday that Lisanti told a white colleague that he had been campaigning in a "[N-word] district" in mostly black Prince George’s County to support a candidate in last fall’s elections. Asked about it by the newspaper earlier this month, The Post reported that Lisanti said, "I don’t recall that. … I don’t recall much of that evening."

When asked by The Post whether she had ever used the slur, the newspaper reported that she said: "I’m sure I have. … I’m sure everyone has used it."

CHICAGO POLICE SAY THEY HAVE MORE EVIDENCE JUSSIE SMOLLETT STAGED HATE CRIME

Del. Darryl Barnes, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland chairman, described Lisanti’s apology as "woefully inadequate" and urged House Speaker Michael Busch to discipline the delegate. Busch, also a Democrat, announced Lisanti would no longer chair the Unemployment Insurance Subcommittee of the House Economic Matters Committee, because "I believe that leaders in the House need to be able to bring people together — not tear them apart."

Busch also said that Lisanti had agreed to sensitivity training.

USA TODAY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ADMITS ‘HORRIBLE’ MISTAKE AFTER SHE’S LINKED TO ‘BLACKFACE’ YEARBOOK

"I hope that through sensitivity training that Delegate Lisanti has agreed to and the help of her colleagues, she will develop a greater understanding of the impact that she has had on her fellow legislators and the entire House of Delegates," Busch said in a statement.

Barnes, who represents part of Prince George’s County, noted in his letter to Busch that African-Americans make up nearly 30 percent of Maryland’s population. He also pointed out that the Maryland General Assembly has 57 black members out of 188 legislators.

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"It is clear that Delegate Lisanti is unsuited to continue in a position of leadership in the Maryland General Assembly," Barnes said in the letter. "We have been receiving calls for her resignation, removal of subcommittee chairmanship, and to be censured on the House floor."

In neighboring Virginia, the state government has been embroiled in scandal since Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, acknowledged they wore blackface in the 1980s. They both resisted calls to resign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Republican Mark Harris said Tuesday he will not run in the new election for North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, citing his “extremely serious” health condition.

It comes just days after the North Carolina State Board of Election unanimously voted for a new election after the district’s House race from 2018 was marred by claims of ballot fraud.

NORTH CAROLINA ELECTION BOARD CALLS NEW ELECTION IN DISPUTED HOUSE RACE

“After consulting with my physicians, there are several things that my health situation requires as a result of the extremely serious condition that I faced in mid-January,” Harris said in a statement. “One of those is a necessary surgery that is now scheduled for the last week in March.”

Harris added, “I have decided not to file in the new election for Congressional District 9.”

Last week, Harris, who outpaced Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the contested race, said in court he has suffered two strokes since the election and was “struggling” to get through the hearing.

In his statement Tuesday, Harris threw his support behind Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing.

"The North Carolina Republican Party fully supports Dr. Harris’ decision,” North Carolina Republican Chairman Robin Hayes said. “The most important thing for him to address is his health. This has been a grueling process for all involved, and we unequivocally support his call for a new election.”

Last week, Harris acknowledged a new election should be held after days of testimony in a hearing on ballot-tampering.

“I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It’s become clear to me that public confidence in the 9th District has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

In his sworn testimony, Harris said that he was assured by political operative – and convicted felon – Leslie McCrae Dowless that campaign workers would never collect absentee ballots, despite concerns from Harris’ son, John, that Dowless was illegally collecting and turning in ballots from voters.

One of the methods participants said Dowless used was to hire workers to collect absentee ballots from voters who received them, and then turn them over to him, according to an elections board investigation.

State election law prohibits anyone other than a guardian or close family member from handling mail-in ballots. Harris’ team initially said in a legal briefing submitted to the elections board last week the board should certify him the winner — no matter what Dowless did for the campaign.

Harris’ comments calling for a new election came a day after his son took the stand in emotional testimony that left his father in tears.

"I raised red flags at the time the decision was made to hire Mr. Dowless," John Harris said in his testimony on Wednesday.

Fox News’ David Lewkowict and Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after a former assistant to Trump political adviser Roger Stone brought the case following his refusal to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

Stone associate Andrew Miller refused to testify before the grand jury as part of the Russia investigation, claiming Mueller was illegitimately appointed as special counsel. Miller claimed that Mueller’s appointment was “unlawful” because he was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, rather than former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

JUDGE RIPS INTO ROGER STONE, BARS HIM FROM SPEAKING PUBLICLY ON CASE: ‘THERE WILL BE NO THIRD CHANCE’

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday affirmed the validity of Mueller’s appointment to investigate Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates in the 2016 presidential election.

“Because the Special Counsel is an inferior officer, the Deputy Attorney General became the head of the Department [of Justice] by virtue of becoming the Acting Attorney General as a result of a vacancy created by the disability of the Attorney General [Jeff Sessions] through recusal on the matter, we hold that Miller’s challenge to the appointment of the Special Counsel fails,” the court wrote in its decision. “Accordingly, we affirm the order finding Miller in civil contempt.”

At this point, Miller has the ability to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the special counsel appointment process, which is now overseen by Attorney General William Barr.

Prior to the decision, a lower court also held Miller in contempt. It is unclear whether Miller will now have to appear to testify before the grand jury.

Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017, by Rosenstein. Rosenstein took oversight of the probe after Sessions recused himself due to his early work on the Trump campaign in 2016.

Mueller’s investigation, which was initially ordered to look into the 2016 election, has gone on for more than a year and a 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.

MUELLER CLAIMS TO HAVE EVIDENCE ROGER STONE COMMUNICATED WITH WIKILEAKS

Stone was charged with obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and making false statements to Congress after being indicted last month as part of Mueller’s probe.

Twenty-six Russian nationals and three Russian companies have also been charged with interfering in the 2016 presidential election. But none of the Trump associates have been charged with crimes related to collusion.

Other convictions include former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who both pleaded guilty to making false statements in 2017. Former campaign adviser Rick Gates in 2018 pleaded guilty and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted and later pleaded guilty in a separate financial crimes case dating back before the 2016 election.

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Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements in a case brought by Mueller in November. Alex van der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer, pleaded guilty to making false statements this year, and Richard Pinedo, a California man, pleaded guilty to identity fraud in 2018.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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President Trump landed Tuesday in Vietnam for his crucial summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — the second such meeting as part of a bold push to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

“Looking forward to a very productive Summit,” Trump tweeted on Monday before boarding Air Force One.

KIM JONG UN ARRIVES IN VIETNAM FOR SECOND NUCLEAR SUMMIT WITH TRUMP

Trump landed in Hanoi hours after Kim arrived by armored train. Officials in Hanoi told The Associated Press that they only had about 10 days to prepare for the summit, but promised airtight security for the two leaders.

But the chaotic preparations included the White House press corps being shifted to a new hotel before Kim arrived. Kim subsequently toured parts of Hanoi, where locals stood behind barriers to catch a glimpse of the leader of the hermit kingdom.

Trump has repeatedly hailed his meeting with Kim in Singapore last June as a success, although there were few concrete outcomes from the summit.

North Korea initially turned over 55 boxes of presumed remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War as part of the agreement from the summit, although it has not yet followed through with returning additional remains.

North Korea also pledged to work “toward” complete denuclearization, something critics say the communist regime has not adequately honored either.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this month said that he was hoping for a “substantive step forward” but cautioned that “it may not happen, but I hope that it will.”

"President Trump has also said this is going to take time. There may have to be another summit. We may not get everything done this week," Pompeo said.

Pompeo said he hoped to put a "road map" in place, but would not discuss the possibility of declaring a formal end to the Korean War or pulling some American troops from South Korea, in keeping with his stand against publicly discussing the issue that could arise during the negotiations.

But Fox News is told that the White House, State Department, Defense Department, Treasury Department and Energy Department are concerned about where Special Envoy to North Korea Stephen Biegun is moving with negotiations — and that he is "getting too far over his skis."

One particular concern is that denuclearization, seen by many officials as non-negotiable, has now become a negotiating term. There is a belief among many officials that "we don’t want to make a deal just to make a deal", and that "we don’t want to give away something for nothing."

Fox News’ John Roberts,  Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Earl and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign spokesman unloaded on Hillary Clinton and her team on Monday, calling them the "biggest a–holes in American politics," after former members of Clinton’s campaign leaked details this week about Sanders’ use of private jets to attend campaign rallies on her behalf.

Speaking to Politico, the spokesman, Michael Briggs, proceeded to call Clinton’s staff "total ingrates," given that Sanders claims he billed the Clinton-Kaine campaign for private air travel in order to attend events that he otherwise would have needed to skip.

“You can see why she’s one of the most disliked politicians in America," Briggs said, referring to Clinton. "She’s not nice. Her people are not nice. [Sanders] busted his tail to fly all over the country to talk about why it made sense to elect Hillary Clinton and the thanks that [we] get is this kind of petty stupid sniping a couple years after the fact.”

Briggs added: “It doesn’t make me feel good to feel this way but they’re some of the biggest a–holes in American politics."

"She’s not nice. Her people are not nice."

— Bernie Sanders 2016 spokesman Michael Briggs

FIVE THINGS BERNIE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT SOCIALISM

Several former Clinton staffers, also speaking to Politico, reported that Sanders’ frequent requests for private planes from the campaign became “a running joke in the office" — in part because Sanders is a socialist, and also because he has pushed for the elimination of carbon-generating heavy aircraft in favor of high-speed rail networks. In all, Sanders reportedly billed the Clinton-Kaine campaign approximately $100,000 for air travel.

Some bad blood remains between the Clinton and Sanders camp, according to insiders, in part because of Sanders’ harsh criticisms of Clinton during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

Talking to the liberal “Pod Save America” podcast in 2017, Clinton said she "couldn’t believe" that, because of Sanders, she was forced into "basically defending President Obama in a Democratic primary." And in her book, the election retrospective "What Happened," Clinton slammed Sanders’ ideas as unrealistic and decried him for using “innuendo and impugning my character” such that she suffered “lasting damage" into the general election.

Then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks aggressively at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane - D1BEULPJOPAC

Then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks aggressively at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane – D1BEULPJOPAC

GREEN NEW DEAL WOULD COST UP TO $92 TRILLION, STUDY SAYS — THAT’S APPROX. $600G PER HOUSEHOLD

Sanders spokesperson Arianna Jones, though, maintained that Sanders put everything he had into helping Clinton once she had secured the Democratic nomination. Jones said it was physically impossible for Sanders to get to all of the Clinton event locations in such a short period of time without chartered flights, especially since the senator was traveling to many smaller markets with limited commercial air travel options.

“That’s why chartered flights were used: to make sure Sen. Sanders could get to as many locations as quickly as possible in the effort to help the Democratic ticket defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders spokeswoman Arianna Jones told Politico. "Sen. Sanders campaigned so aggressively for Secretary Clinton, at such a grueling pace, it became a story unto itself, setting the model for how a former opponent can support a nominee in a general election.”

Jones reported that in the three months prior to the November 2016 election, Sanders supported Clinton by attending 39 rallies in 13 states.

Sanders stunned the Democratic establishment in 2016 with his spirited challenge to Clinton, and his campaign helped lay the groundwork for the leftward lurch that has dominated Democratic politics in the era of President Trump.

Sanders’ campaign said earlier this month that he raised more than $4 million in the 12 hours since announcing his 2020 presidential bid. Previously, the biggest first-day fundraiser in the race had been California Sen. Kamala Harris, who raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign. And this week, Sanders announced he has already signed up a historic 1 million volunteers.

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The question now for Sanders is whether he can stand out in a crowded field of Democrats who embrace many of his policy ideas and who are newer to the national political stage — and whether Sanders can survive with the evident lingering resentment from members of the Democratic Party establishment.

This single family house built on 1981 and located in Burlington, Vermont, is listed to Bernard and Jane Sanders. (Google Maps)

This single family house built on 1981 and located in Burlington, Vermont, is listed to Bernard and Jane Sanders. (Google Maps)

"Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump," the 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist said in an email to supporters announcing his srun. "Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice."

As for whether Sanders — who has pushed for the Green New Deal, which would strive to greatly reduce air travel — would be flying commercial for upcoming campaign trips this year, Jones told Politico he "will be flying commercial whenever possible," and that the "campaign will consider the use of charter flights based on a variety of factors, including security requirements, logistics, and media interest in traveling with the senator.”

Also causing headaches for Sanders’ socialist, penny-pinching image: His high-end income and multiple houses.  Notably, he owns three houses. In 2016, he bought a $575,000 four-bedroom lake-front home in his home state. This is in addition to a row house in Washington D.C., as well as a house in Burlington, Vermont.

“The Bern will keep his home in Burlington and use the new camp seasonally,” Vermont’s Seven Day’s reported in 2016.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Monday he was confident Attorney General Bill Barr would make the right decision about how much of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on the FBI investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials should be made public.

"I think Attorney General Barr is going to make the right decision," Rosenstein said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "We can trust him to do that. He has a lot of experience with this … I think we can count on him to do the right thing."

Rosenstein pointed out that the Justice Department was required by law to inform Congress if the special counsel "proposes to take an action and is overruled by the attorney general or the acting attorney general," but added that "the special counsel is a subordinate employee who reports to the attorney general or the acting attorney general and who complies with department policies … just like an acting United States Attorney, for example, would need to do."

Rosenstein spoke one day after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said he was willing to take the Justice Department to court "if necessary" to obtain the full Mueller report.

"We will obviously subpoena the report," Schiff told ABC News’ "This Week." "We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress … And in the end, I think the department understands they’re going to have to make this public."

SCHIFF: DEMS ‘ABSOLUTELY’ WILL TAKE DOJ TO COURT OVER MUELLER REPORT IF NECESSARY

However, Rosenstein — who has overseen much of Mueller’s day-to-day work since the special counsel’s appointment in May 2017 — appeared to strike a different tone on Monday, saying that "there are a lot of reasons not to be transparent about what we do in government."

"Just because the government collects information doesn’t mean that information is accurate and it can be really misleading if you’re overly transparent about information that the government collects," Rosenstein said. "My view is, the Department of Justice is best served when people are confident that we’re going to operate, when we’re investigating American citizens in particular, we’re going to do it with appropriate sensitivity to the rights of uncharged people."

Justice Department legal opinions have argued that a sitting president cannot be indicted, suggesting prosecutors would not be able to pursue charges against President Trump even if they uncover wrongdoing. That could mean investigators do not make public information they collected on Trump, in deference to the Justice Department’s protocol of not disclosing negative information about people it does not have enough evidence to charge or that, for other reasons, it decides against prosecuting.

MUELLER’S RUSSIA INVESTIGATION: WHAT TO KNOW

"The guidance I always gave my prosecutors and the agents I worked with during my tenure on the front lines of law enforcement were, if we aren’t prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court," Rosenstein said, "then we have no business making allegations against American citizens."

In response to Rosenstein, Schiff tweeted Monday that the Justice Department had a "double standard," alluding to documents made public following the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, as well as information Republicans demanded last year during inquiries into the early stages of the FBI’s Russia investigation.

"For two years, I sounded the alarm about DOJ’s deviation from just that principle as it turned over hundreds of thousands of pages in closed or ongoing investigations," Schiff wrote. "I warned that DOJ would need to live by this precedent. And it will."

Also Monday, two prominent Republicans on the House Oversight Committee requested that Rosenstein appear before the panel later this week alongside Michael Cohen, the president’s onetime personal attorney. In a letter to Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Rosenstein should testify in order to give information "about the [Justice] Department’s views of Cohen’s crimes and conduct."

Jordan and Meadows also said they wanted to question Rosenstein about claims from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that Rosenstein suggested secretly recording Trump in the Oval Office and canvassing Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment in order to remove Trump from office. Rosenstein has denied both claims.

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Monday’s appearance is expected to be one of Rosenstein’s last as deputy attorney general. He is expected to step down in March and Trump has nominated Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen to replace him.

When asked about his time as deputy attorney general, Rosenstein acknowledged that it had been "politically challenging," but added that he was "very confident that when we look back in the long run on this era of the Department of Justice, we’ll be proud of the way the Department’s conducted itself and the president will deserve credit for the folks that he appointed to run the department."

Fox News’ Jason Donner, Catherine Herridge, Bree Tracey and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Attorneys for Paul Manafort, the convicted former chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, asked a federal judge Monday to sentence the longtime political consultant to a prison term "substantially below the statutory maximum" of 10 years.

In documents filed in federal court in Washington, D.C, attorneys Kevin Downing, Thomas Zehnle and Richard Westling said prosecutors had presented Manafort "as a hardened criminal who ‘brazenly’ violated the law and deserves no mercy." In fact, they argue, Manafort committed "garden-variety" and "esoteric" crimes by illegally lobbying for a pro-Russian politician in Ukraine, "failed to report to the government the source and total amount of income he made from those activities, and he attempted to conceal his actions from the authorities."

The documents also alleged that Special Counsel Robert Mueller prosecuted Manafort because he was "unable to establish that Mr. Manafort engaged in any Russia collusion" and claimed that Manafort had been "widely vilified in a manner that this country has not experienced in decades."

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaving the Federal District Court after a hearing in Washington in May 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaving the Federal District Court after a hearing in Washington in May 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

JUDGE RULES MANAFORT ‘INTENTIONALLY’ LIED TO MUELLER TEAM, VOIDING PLEA AGREEMENT

Manafort pleaded guilty this past September to one count of "conspiracy against the United States" and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He faces up to five years in prison on each count.

The plea came ten days before he was due to go to trial in a Washington federal court on seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering.

"Mr. Manafort has been punished substantially, including the forfeiture of most of his assets," the lawyers added. "In light of his age and health concerns, a significant additional period of incarceration will likely amount to a life sentence for a first time offender."

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Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is to decide Manafort’s sentence, ruled that he had violated his plea deal with prosecutors by lying to federal agents about several subjects, including about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate who the U.S. said had ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort hasn’t been accused of any crimes related to Russian election interference, but court papers have revealed he gave Kilimnik polling data related to the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. A Mueller prosecutor also said that an August 2016 meeting between the two men went to the "heart" of the Russia probe. The meeting involved a discussion of a Ukrainian peace plan, but many other details about it have been redacted in court papers.

In addition to the case in Washington, Manafort faces the possibility of over 19 years in prison in a separate tax and bank fraud case in federal court in Virginia. A jury in that case convicted him of eight felony counts this past August.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Conservative politicians, legal experts, and activist groups are rushing to the all-out defense of President Trump’s D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Neomi Rao, after a freshman Republican senator suggested he might vote against her confirmation because she may harbor pro-choice views.

Rao, who would take now-Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s vacated seat on the nation’s most influential appellate court, was questioned earlier this month by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning her past writings that implied intoxicated women might share some blame if they are raped. The defection of even a handful of conservatives could sink Rao’s confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 53-47 majority.

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley told Axios over the weekend that he had "heard directly from at least one individual who said Rao personally told them she was pro-choice." Hawley clarified: "I don’t know whether that’s accurate, but this is why we are doing our due diligence."

Rao, 45, currently serves as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and observers have said she’s played a key role in executing the Trump administration’s deregulation agenda. She would be the first South Asian woman to serve on a federal appeals court.

WATCH: RAO SCHOOLS CORY BOOKER AFTER FLAMEOUT QUESTION ON LGBTQ LAW CLERKS

However, Rao has never tried a case in state or federal court, and some of her writings — including as a professor at the George Mason University School of Law, later renamed the Antonin Scalia Law School – are leading conservatives to raise last-minute concerns.

Freshman Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has suggested he might vote against Neomi Rao, President Trump's replacement for Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Freshman Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has suggested he might vote against Neomi Rao, President Trump’s replacement for Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

According to Hawley, Rao’s academic writings have indicated she may support the concept of "substantive due process," a legal framework that identifies constitutional rights not expressly provided by the text of the Constitution. Conservatives fiercely have opposed the use of substantive due process to provide for some rights, including the right to privacy and abortion, which are not stated in the constitutional text but instead are purportedly implied by it.

OPINION: I WAS NEARLY RAPED, AND I SUPPORT RAO

"I am only going to support nominees who have a strong record on life," Hawley told Axios. "To me, that means … someone whose record indicates that they have respect for what the Supreme Court itself has called the interests of the unborn child; someone whose record indicates they will protect the ability of states and local governments to protect the interests of the unborn child to the maximum extent … and number three somebody who will not extend the doctrines of Roe v. Wade and Casey, which I believe are deeply incompatible with the constitution."

Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were the seminal Supreme Court cases to find and define a constitutional right to an abortion. But, conservatives and legal scholars are aggressively pushing back on Hawley’s concerns this week, saying variously that there is no evidence that Rao is pro-choice — and some are suggesting that even if she supports abortion rights, her personal views should not bar her from judicial service.

Carrie Severino, the Chief Counsel and Policy Director at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, accused Hawley of continuing the policies of the Democrat he defeated last November, then-Sen. Claire McCaskill.

"Sadly, barely a month after moving to Washington, Josh Hawley is already acting like Claire McCaskill when it comes to judges," Severino said. "Instead of supporting President Trump’s top judicial nominee, he is spreading the very same kind of rumors and innuendo and character assassination that Republican leaders fought during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation.  Hawley could be working to confirm her and other extraordinary nominees, but it seems he’d rather be making headlines.”

Hawley did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Columnist Quin Hillyer, meanwhile, wrote in The Washington Examiner that Hawley’s approach was a "dicey" push for a judicial litmus test.

"Conservatives have argued long and correctly that professional qualifications and personal integrity, along with a basic commitment to the Constitution itself, should be the only determinants of nominees’ fitness for appointment to federal judgeships," Hillyer wrote. "In particular, conservatives have inveighed against any result-oriented, single-issue litmus tests for judges, especially for those below the level of the Supreme Court."

Neomi Rao smiling as President Trump announced his intention to nominate her to fill Brett Kavanaugh's seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last November. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Neomi Rao smiling as President Trump announced his intention to nominate her to fill Brett Kavanaugh’s seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last November. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In a statement, Club for Growth President David McIntosh praised Rao as an "originalist who is faithful to the Constitution," citing her work on deregulation in the Trump White House. McIntosh, whose organization is devoted to reducing taxes, also exalted Rao’s "extensive knowledge of administrative rulemaking."

“I have known Neomi for decades and have no doubt that she will be a principled jurist, cut from the same cloth as Justices Scalia and Thomas,” McIntosh said. "Senate Republicans should not be thrown off track by rumors and innuendo."

LESSONS FROM RAO HEARING — DEMS ARE CLUELESS ABOUT WOMEN

In a barrage of similar statements, other conservative luminaries lined up to defend Rao. Ed Meese, the former attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, said he also personally knew Rao and could vouch for her commitment to constitutional principles.

"I have had the privilege of knowing Professor Neomi Rao, and have observed her work, since she first started teaching at the Scalia Law School at George Mason University," Meese said. "She has made it her life’s work to support the Constitution as it is written, and she understands the proper judicial role in our society and what that requires of judges when they are interpreting the Constitution and the laws.  I have no doubt that she will uphold the rule of law and not legislate from the bench."

Ralph Reed, the chairman of the nonprofit Faith and Freedom Coalition, which focuses on outreach to evangelicals, said he supported Rao’s confirmation and asserted that "her judicial philosophy is antithetical to federal judges issuing rulings untethered from the enumerated rights found in the Constitution."

Conservative groups also have ramped up spending with hundreds of thousands of dollars in media outreach to promote Rao, whose rocky confirmation hearing already gave some analysts cause for alarm. Democrats hammered Rao for working to kill regulations they helped champion, while Republicans questioned her past writings on sexual assault.

In a 1994 opinion column, Rao wrote: "Unless someone made her drinks undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink. And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was a part of her choice."

A good way to avoid a potential rape "is to stay reasonably sober," Rao added.

"To be honest, looking back at some of those writings … I cringe at some of the language I used," Rao told the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month, adding that writings in which she criticized affirmative action and suggested that intoxicated women were partly responsible for date rape did not reflect her current thinking.

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"I like to think I’ve matured as a thinker, writer and indeed as a person," she said.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who recently revealed she was raped by her boyfriend in college, said Rao’s writings "give me pause," in part because of the message they’ve sent to young women who may be reluctant to report a rape.

Fox News’ Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The California Republican Party chose 38-year-old Jessica Patterson as its leader on Monday, and the first-ever woman to chair the state GOP wasted no time in vowing to "take the fight to Democrats" and lead a "Republican comeback" in the liberal stronghold.

Patterson’s appointment comes as state Democrats are foundering on a series of high-profile issues on the national stage, with the White House suggesting it will sue the state to reclaim billions of federal dollars wasted on the state’s constantly delayed — and eventually abandoned — high-speed rail project.

"Let’s serve notice to the Democrats in California that we are back and we are ready to deliver on the Republican comeback," Patterson, who also became the first Latina to ever chair the state GOP, said after winning. "Then let’s dig in and make it happen."

She added: "We’re going to take the fight to Democrats. We’re going to fight them in the press, at community gatherings … and we’re going to beat them in elections.”

Patterson has a lengthy career in Republican politics, and previously directed the organization California Trailblazers, which prepares new candidates to run for office. She previously worked for the administrations of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as the campaign of gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, among others.

Jessica Patterson, candidate for chair of the California Republican Party, speaks to delegates after her nomination during the party convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Jessica Patterson, candidate for chair of the California Republican Party, speaks to delegates after her nomination during the party convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

The state, however, has shifted markedly leftward in recent years. California Democrats hold all statewide offices and a veto-proof supermajority in the state legislature, and Republicans have not won statewide office since 2006. The GOP ranks as third party status in voter registration behind Democrats and independents.

The 2018 election pushed the party further toward the brink of extinction in the nation’s most populous state, with Democrats flipping seven U.S. House seats once considered GOP strongholds and Republicans holding less than a quarter of state legislative seats.

"We’re going to be about one thing: Winning."

— Jessica Patterson

The results stunned Republicans, with then-House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the outcome "bizarre." Despite holding substantial leads on Election Day, many Republican candidates in California saw their advantage shrink, and then disappear, as late-arriving Democratic votes were counted in the weeks following the election.

HOW A MINOR CHANGE IN CALIFORNIA’S ELECTION LAW MAY HAVE DOOMED REPUBLICANS’ CHANCES

Some Republicans blamed a newly legal practice called "ballot harvesting." Two years ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB1921, which legalized the so-called practice of “ballot harvesting.” Previously, only a family member or someone living in the same household was permitted to drop off mail ballots for a voter, but the new allowed anyone – including political operatives – to collect and return them for a voter.

But without substantive evidence of electoral misconduct, the California Republican Party’s delegates had to look inward and decide where the party would go next with its leadership. A majority of about 1,200 delegates chose Patterson, who previously headed a Republican candidate recruitment and training program.

Patterson argued bringing the Republican message into new communities would be the key to success and said she would push candidates to focus on California issues rather than the president’s message.

Her two rivals, former state Assemblyman Travis Allen and party activist Steve Frank, said energizing the party base that loves President Trump was the key to success. Both are strident backers of the president.

Stephen R. Frank, candidate for chair of the California Republican Party, speaks to delegates after his nomination during the party convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Stephen R. Frank, candidate for chair of the California Republican Party, speaks to delegates after his nomination during the party convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

But Patterson had the backing of most elected officials, including top Trump supporters like GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. She was viewed as the candidate better prepared to raise money and do the grunt work required of a chair.

Her opponents argued she represents more of the same leadership that led the party into decline. Both charged the state party has not advocated for strong conservative values and shied away from full-throated Trump support. Allen came in second and Frank placed third.

CALIFORNIA NEWS CREW SURPRISED AS ROBBERS DRIVE UP, ROB THEM, SHOOT THEIR GUARD IN LEG

"California Republicans are every bit as Republican as Republicans across the country," Allen said in an interview last week. "It’s about time we have a Republican party that stands for our values, our ideals and supports our Republican president."

After the vote, Allen said only that he hopes "the Republican party starts fighting again for the good of all Californians."

Patterson said prior to the election she supports Trump. Beyond McCarthy, she had the backing of key Trump supporters such as U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes and the state’s two Republican National Committee members.

Jessica Patterson, right, shares a moment with her mother Julie Millan, after being nominated for chair of California Republican Party during their convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Jessica Patterson, right, shares a moment with her mother Julie Millan, after being nominated for chair of California Republican Party during their convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

But some of Trump’s most fervent California supporters were disappointed by the outcome. Stephanie Sporcich, a teacher, said she got involved with the state party because of Trump’s election. She cast her vote for Allen, and saw the chairmanship race as a battle between the grassroots and the establishment.

"We’re the ones that are the strongest Trump supporters with Trump values," she said, adding she and other new activists have already successfully infiltrated the party structure and will keep working to do so.

ANALYSIS: CALIFORNIA POLITICS WILL GET CRAZY IN 2019. WHAT’S THE SILVER LINING FOR THE GOP?

But Elizabeth Patock, another teacher, liked Patterson’s focus on bringing "non-traditional Republicans" into the party. Patock did not vote for Trump and said she dislikes how ugly national politics have become.

She said Patterson "has a positive message."

U,S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks to delegates during the California Republican Party convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

U,S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks to delegates during the California Republican Party convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Patterson is the first Latina to lead the state party. She did not make her personal heritage a major piece of her campaign, but said the party needs to use "new messengers."

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California Republicans have struggled to appeal to the state’s growing Latino and Hispanic population because of the party’s position on illegal immigration, among other things. Patterson did not provide specifics Sunday on how she will deal with that issue.

As a gesture of goodwill, she named Frank and Allen as co-chairs of a voter registration committee. Both had highlighted the party’s outsourcing of voter registration activities as a major flaw. And she called for unity among California Republicans.

"Our success will be a team effort, no egos, no personal agenda, no drama," she said. "We’re going to be about one thing: Winning."

Fox News’ Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former Democratic leader Harry Reid has unleashed a blistering attack on Donald Trump.

Reid, who has repeatedly slammed the president, renewed hostilities and even managed to spin his dislike of Trump into some unexpected praise for a former political adversary.

“In hindsight, I wish every day for a George Bush again,” Reid told CNN’s Dana Bash.

"There’s no question in my mind that George Bush would be Babe Ruth in this league that he’s in with Donald Trump in the league. Donald Trump wouldn’t make the team," Reid said.

Reid famously sparred with President Bush during his administration calling him a “loser” and a “liar”, making his admission even more cutting toward the current President.

Reid, who is fighting pancreatic cancer and left office in 2017, was asked by Bash if ‘there was anything he thought the President was doing right?’

“I just have trouble accepting him as a person,” Reid replied. “So frankly, I don’t see anything he is doing right.”

Not one to take an insult lying down, President Trump quickly shot back on Twitter.

“Former Senator Harry Reid (he got thrown out) is working hard to put a good spin on his failed career. He led through lies and deception, only to be replaced by another beauty, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer. Some things just never change!” Trump tweeted.

Reid also gave some advice to Democratic presidential candidates who are seeking to take on President Trump in 2020.

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"The candidates running need not talk about how bad President Trump is, they just need to talk about what’s good for the country,” Reid said.

“Everyone knows, even those people supporting knows what problems he has.”

Source: Fox News Politics

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the decisive vote in a California pay dispute case before a lower court doesn’t count — because the vote came from a judge who died before the ruling was issued.

The case from the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals involved a dispute over pay filed by a Fresno County government employee.

STEPHEN REINHARDT, CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE, ‘PROGRESSIVE ICON,’ DIES AT 87

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who was seen as a progressive icon on the bench, heard the dispute and participated in a preliminary vote. The appeals court then issued an opinion in his name nine days after he passed away in March 2018.

But the high court, vacating the decision of a federal appeals court, said Monday that “federal judges are appointed for life, not for eternity.”

“The upshot is that Judge Reinhardt’s vote made a difference,” said the Supreme Court in its unsigned ruling. “Was that lawful?”

The justices said it was not. “Because Judge Reinhardt was no longer a judge at the time when the en banc decision in the case was filed, the 9th Circuit erred in counting him as a member of the majority.”

The Supreme Court itself follows the same practice.

The votes of Justice Antonin Scalia issued after his sudden death three years ago did not count, even though he had participated in a number of argued cases earlier in the court’s term. No decision is official until it is formally released by the court, and every member of the court must be on the bench at the time.

Reinhardt was one of the longest-serving federal judges when he died at age 87, and one of the most liberal on the 9th Circuit. He was appointed to the federal bench in 1980 by President Carter.

The case was sent back to the 9th Circuit for reconsideration.

Reinhardt died of a heart attack last year during a visit to a dermatologist in Los Angeles, the court spokesperson said.

When he died, Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, called Reinhardt "one of the greatest jurists of our time. A searingly brilliant Angeleno and true progressive icon."

SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE IF WORLD WAR I MEMORIAL ‘PEACE CROSS’ CAN STAND

He was considered a liberal stalwart on the bench. He wrote in one opinion that a Trump administration order to deport a man who entered the country illegally nearly three decades ago and became a respected businessman in Hawaii was “inhumane” and “contrary to the values of the country and its legal system.”

In 2012, he wrote an opinion that struck down California’s gay marriage ban. He also wrote a 1996 opinion that struck down a Washington state law that prohibited doctors from prescribing medication to help terminally ill patients die.

He was among the federal judges who decided that overcrowding in California’s prison system was unconstitutional.

Reinhardt joined another judge in ruling that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance were unconstitutional, a decision that was later overturned.

Fox News’ Amy Lieu and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are both on their way to Hanoi, Vietnam, to meet for the second time since their historic summit in Singapore last year.

In a tweet Sunday, Trump once again emphasized that he expects a "continuation of the progress" made at their first meeting, particularly when it comes to denuclearization. There has even been some speculation that the pair could finally call for an official end to the Korean War, which came to a close in 1953 with an armistice.

Substantial agreements would have to be made in order for that to happen. Their first summit last June ended without firm deals regarding the North’s nuclear disarmament and triggered a months-long stalemate in negotiations.

TRUMP, KIM JONG UN’S SUMMIT IN VIETNAM: WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE LEADERS’ SECOND MEETING

But Trump is hopeful for the future relationship between the U.S. and North Korea and touted some recent victories that came out of their first meeting during his State of the Union address in February.

"Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months," he said.

"Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one."

— President Trump

"If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea," Trump continued to claim. "Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one."

The world leaders will meet on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam — but they won’t be the only ones involved. Here’s a look at some of the key officials who will play critical roles in ensuring the success of the second summit aside from Trump and Kim.

Kim Yong Chol

Kim Yong Chol is traveling to Vietnam with Kim Jong Un.

Kim Yong Chol is traveling to Vietnam with Kim Jong Un. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s former spy chief and a vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party, is accompanying Kim on his long train ride to Hanoi, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency confirmed. Chol has been a key negotiator in talks with the U.S., and Kim Yo Jong, the leader’s sister.

He is often referred to as Kim’s "right-hand man" and was also present during the Singapore summit.

NORTH KOREA SENDS INFAMOUS EX-SPY CHIEF TO US IN BID TO REVIVE PEACE SUMMIT

Chol, who was infamously banned from traveling to the U.S., according to the BBC, was invited to meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York City to deliver a letter from Kim a month prior to their first summit. Trump called the meeting with Chol a "great start" at the time.

Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also involved with the first summit.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also involved with the first summit. (AP)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is joining Trump in Hanoi and will remain in Vietnam through Feb. 28 before heading to the Philippines to meet President Rodrigo Duterte and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr., according to his public schedule.

On "Fox News Sunday," Pompeo said he was hoping for a "substantive step forward." But, he cautioned, "it may not happen, but I hope that it will."

"President Trump has also said this is going to take time. There may have to be another summit. We may not get everything done this week," Pompeo said.

NORTH KOREA KEEPS AMASSING NUCLEAR MATERIAL DESPITE PROMISING TO DENUCLEARIZE, REPORT FINDS

Pompeo said he hoped to put a "road map" in place, but would not discuss the possibility of declaring a formal end to the Korean War or pulling some American troops from South Korea, in keeping with his stand against publicly discussing the issue that could arise during the negotiations.

Pompeo said he believes North Korea remains a nuclear threat, though Trump tweeted after the Singapore summit that "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

Le Hoai Trung

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung is tasked with ensuring everything runs smoothly while the world leaders are in Hanoi.

"Security will be at the maximum level," he told reporters at a briefing meant to showcase the nation’s efforts to welcome Kim and Trump.

Le said he only learned the second summit would take place in Hanoi "mid-February," giving officials only 10 days to prepare," according to the South China Morning Post.

"[A successful summit] is an important priority for Vietnam’s foreign affairs in 2019," Le told the newspaper, noting that he hopes to "demonstrate our foreign policy as a contributor to peace and our role as a responsible actor of the international community."

Nguyen Manh Hung, the leader of the information ministry, said the 3,000 journalists from 40 countries expected in Hanoi could rely on his agency as "you’d count on a family member."

Kim Yo Jong 

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Kyodo via Reuters)

Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, a top decision-making body, was named part of Pyongyang’s delegation to Vietnam, according to Korea JoongAng Daily. During the Singapore summit, Kim Yo Jong spent time with Pompeo.

It’s no surprise Kim Yo Jong is heavily involved with the second summit, as she serves as one of Kim’s "closest aides," managing her brother’s schedule, bodyguards and meetings.

“Kim Yo Jong has a bigger policy portfolio [than her brother], and is more powerful than we’re giving her credit for,” Michael Madden, the director of North Korea Leadership Watch and a visiting scholar at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, previously told Fox News.

Ri Yong-ho

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho. (Reuters)

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho already traveled to Hanoi in December to better understand Vietnam’s economic reform, according to Quartz.

He was reportedly spotted traveling on the green-and-yellow armored train alongside Kim as they headed to Hanoi.

Fox News’ Madeline Farber and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Five members of the Congressional Black Caucus took a $60,000 trip to see Beyoncé and other stars perform in concert in South Africa late last year, according to congressional disclosure records.

The lawmakers were U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York, Barbara Lee of California, Bobby Rush of Illinois, Terri Sewell of Alabama and Hank Johnson of Georgia, according to the data.

They attended the “Global Citizen Mandela 100” concert from Dec. 1-3 to celebrate the centenary birth of the late Nelson Mandela and raise awareness of global poverty. In addition to Beyoncé, other musical acts included her husband Jay Z, Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams and Chris Martin.

DEMS FLY TO PUERTO RICO ON CHARTERED JET, MEET WITH LOBBYISTS, SEE ‘HAMILTON’ AS SHUTDOWN DRAGS ON

The lawmakers appeared in a photo that the Rev. Al Sharpton, who also attended the event, posted on his Twitter page.

The trip was paid for by Global Citizen, a nonprofit that lobbies for anti-poverty programs around the world, the Washington Examiner reported. The group said the presence of members of Congress at the concert would “showcase America’s ongoing commitment [to] health equality and global human rights.”

NEW FOOTAGE SHOWS DEMS AT SWANKY ‘COCKTAIL RECEPTION’ IN PUERTO RICO AMID GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Other celebrities at the event included Oprah Winfrey and “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah.

“In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, we pledge to keep working with our colleagues in Congress, across the country and across the aisle, to make sure that every child in Africa and at home has the opportunity to thrive and grow in a safe and prosperous world,” Meeks said, according to the Examiner.

“As a Sr. member of the Foreign Affairs Comm[ittee] who understands the importance of both multilateral & bilateral relations on trade & foreign policy, developing that relationship is crucial,” Meeks said when asked how the trip was related to his congressional duties.

CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS TRAVELED TO HAWAII WITH UTILITY EXECUTIVES AS WILDFIRES RAGED

The National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group, called the trip a “mockery.”

"These members of Congress that were given an all-expense paid vacation to party with Oprah, Jay Z, and Beyoncé in South Africa are claiming with a straight face this was needed to help poor children around the world live better lives," Tom Anderson, president of the NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, told Examiner. "This was in fact, a mockery of House ethics rules on gifts and travel, the truly poor, and all Americans that expect members of Congress to live not only by the letter of the law but by the spirit and intentions of the rules of the House of Representatives."

"These members of Congress that were given an all-expense paid vacation to party with Oprah, Jay Z, and Beyoncé in South Africa are claiming with a straight face this was needed to help poor children around the world live better lives."

— Tom Anderson, president, National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project

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A representative for Sewell said her travel "was pre-approved by the House Ethics Committee and was not paid for at taxpayer expense" and that "Rep. Sewell and several other members attended the Global Citizen Mandela 100 Festival, a platform for world leaders to speak out against racial injustice and inequity, and voice their support for international assistance for underprivileged populations."

According to the travel itinerary, the congressional members were in South Africa for one full day and used two partial days for travel.

In January, a group of Democrats was criticized for flying to Puerto Rico for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC gathering in San Juan, where they also attended a special performance of the Broadway play "Hamilton."

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President Donald Trump has picked Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, as his nominee to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Trump says in a pair of tweets Friday evening that Craft "has done an outstanding job representing our Nation" and he has "no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level."

Two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters had told The Associated Press that Trump had been advised that Craft's confirmation would be the smoothest of the three candidates he had been considering to fill the job last held by Nikki Haley.

Trump's first pick to replace Haley, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew over the past weekend.

Source: NewsMax

The Trump administration announced Friday that it intends to bar taxpayer-funded family planning centers from promoting or perfoming abortions or referring women to other clinics for them — a move that is likely to yank money from groups like Planned Parenthood.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Title X program, a family-planning grant that helps approximately four million women a year, would be subject to a revision of regulations — including one that “prohibits the use of Title X funds to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.”

COUPLE SUES PLANNED PARENTHOOD FOR CHILD SUPPORT AFTER FAILED ABORTION

Title X costs approximately $260-million-a-year and is intended to pay for birth control, STD-testing, infertility testing and other screening services. The release by HHS notes that from the beginning of the fund in 1970, Congress “was clear that Title X funds cannot be used to support abortion.”

“Consistent with the statutory requirement that no funds may be expended where abortion is a method of family planning, this regulation no longer requires, and affirmatively prohibits, referral for abortion as a method of family planning,” it says.

The new regulation “permits, but no longer requires, nondirective pregnancy counseling, including nondirective counseling on abortion.”

PLANNED PARENTHOOD ACCUSED OF MISTREATING PREGNANT EMPLOYEES: REPORT

The final regulation was published Friday on an HHS website. It’s not official until it appears in the Federal Register and the department said there could be "minor editorial changes."

The move is likely to have support from President Trump’s conservative base, while enraging pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood. The Washington Examiner reports that Planned Parenthood covers roughly 40 percent of people who use Title X to get medical services and receives between $50-60 million from Title X.

Republicans have long called for Planned Parenthood to be defunded, and while this move does not achieve that, it will be seen as a significant step toward that goal by conservatives.

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The rule meanwhile is likely to see a court challenge from groups opposed to the move.

"This rule intentionally strikes at the heart of the patient-provider relationship, inserting political ideology into a family planning visit, which will frustrate and ultimately discourage patients from seeking the health care they need," Clare Coleman, head of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A top Virginia Republican announced Friday that the state’s judiciary committee will invite the two women accusing  Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault to testify when the legislature returns in April.

Del. Rob Bell, chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, made the announcement after demands from the accusers’ lawyers that the legislature take action on the allegations before it adjourns this weekend.

JUSTIN FAIRFAX ACCUSER SAYS DEMS ARE DUCKING HER CASE: ‘PURE COWARDICE’

“Today, the Courts of Justice Committee will schedule a meeting,” Bell said on the House floor. “We will invite Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Ms. Merideth Watson to testify. We will also be inviting Lt. Gov. Fairfax to testify to give all parties a chance to be heard.”

Bell cited the committee’s responsibility to “investigate the conduct” of “all public officers and agents concerned” to protect the public interest.

The move came after Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox,  a Republican, said Thursday that he had been working to organize a bipartisan committee to investigate the allegations against Fairfax. But Cox said Democrats resisted the idea.

A source close to Cox told Fox News on Friday that the speaker wanted the committee to be bipartisan but, absent participation of Democrats, Cox was concerned the effort would be seen as a partisan operation.

While that effort has stalled, the announcement of a hearing marks a significant development following concerns from the accusers and their attorneys that Richmond officials might move past the controversy without investigating the underlying allegations. Virginia House Democrats, earlier this week, reiterated calls for Fairfax to resign, but said they “believe the law enforcement investigation should proceed encumbered and outside of the political arena.”

Tyson’s attorney Debra Katz on Thursday raised alarm that the legislature could adjourn without action. “It is unfathomable that the Virginia General Assembly appears intent on ending its current session without addressing this issue in any meaningful way,” Katz said, urging the General Assembly to hire independent investigators to conduct a probe.

Watson’s legal team also accused state Democrats of “pure cowardice” in allegedly ducking the issue, while calling for hearings.

FAIRFAX ACCUSER CALLS ON DEMS TO PROBE CLAIMS IMMEDIATELY

Tyson, the first to come forward, has claimed that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex at a hotel in Boston during the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Fairfax has denied the allegation, saying their relationship was consensual. Tyson has maintained it was not.

Tyson’s legal team noted that she has “made clear that she is willing to cooperate in any investigation” by the Assembly and by the Suffolk County District Attorney—which has jurisdiction over the alleged incident. Last week, the district attorney’s office offered to hear from Tyson, saying in a statement that the office’s “resources” were available to her. The district attorney’s office on Friday did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the status of those possible talks.

Watson’s allegations surfaced days after Tyson’s. She claimed that Fairfax, in 2000 while they were students at Duke University, raped her.

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Fairfax has said that the encounters with Watson and Tyson were consensual and suggested that both women’s accusations are part of a political smear campaign to prevent him from succeeding Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam if he’s forced to resign amid a racist photo scandal.

“I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” Fairfax said. “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. Such an investigation will confirm my account because I am telling the truth.”

Fox News’ Alex Pappas, Garrett Tenney and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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House Democrats moved Friday to neutralize President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border, introducing a resolution to block the edict – and setting up a fight that could lead to the president’s first veto.

The resolution from Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, whose brother Julian is running for president, enjoys overwhelming support from fellow majority Democrats in the House. He announced overnight the measure had 222 cosponsors, slamming what he dubbed the “FakeTrumpEmergency” and the border wall the president wants to fund.

16 STATES SUE OVER BORDER DECLARATION

The level of support all but guarantees it will pass the House. But there is a chance the Republican-controlled Senate could follow suit.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said earlier this week she’d support such a measure. Several other Republicans have voiced concern over the president’s declaration – raising the possibility the measure could clear the chamber. Such a scenario would expose a striking fracture in the party over the president’s decision, while likely compelling Trump to issue the first veto of his administration – one likely to be sustained.

“All Members take an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution. The President’s decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to colleagues seeking support. “We have a solemn responsibility to uphold the Constitution, and defend our system of checks and balances against the President’s assault.”

Trump, though, maintains the wall is needed to protect the country from illegal immigration, crime and drugs. He has highlighted construction already underway, while pledging to press forward with more as he braces for not only the fight with Congress but a legal battle launched earlier this week by more than a dozen Democrat-led states.

BETO BACKS PATH TO LEGAL STATUS FOR UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

In response to that lawsuit, he slammed “Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left.”

The brief resolution filed Friday simply says Trump’s emergency proclamation “is hereby terminated.”

A staff aide introduced the measure during a short pro forma session of the House in which Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., presided over an almost empty chamber.

Pelosi has promised that the House will "move swiftly" to pass the measure, predicting in her letter to colleagues that "the resolution will be referred to the Senate and then sent to the President’s desk."

Trump declared the emergency last Friday, a decision tied to his signing of a government spending package that averted a second shutdown. While that package included $1.4 billion to build 55 miles of border barrier – far less than Trump sought – Trump aims to use the emergency declaration and other tools to free up billions more.

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That money would be transferred from a federal asset forfeiture fund, Defense Department anti-drug efforts and a military construction fund. Federal officials have yet to identify which projects would be affected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Two leading Democratic presidential candidates — U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have reportedly said they support reparations for black Americans affected by slavery, reflecting a shift in the importance of race and identity issues within the party.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Harris doubled down on her support for reparations after agreeing with a host on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club” that the race-conscious policy was necessary to address the legacies of slavery and discrimination in the United States.

"We have to be honest that people in this country do not start from the same place or have access to the same opportunities," Harris said in the statement to the Times. "I’m serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities."

Warren also supports reparations.

DEM MOCKED FOR IGNORING SLAVERY, CLAIMING ‘NEVER IN HISTORY’ HAVE PEOPLE WORKED WITHOUT PAY IN US

“We must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences, including undermining the ability of black families to build wealth in America for generations,” she told the Times. “We need systemic, structural changes to address that.”

"We must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences."

— U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

BERNIE SANDERS FLATLY CALLS TRUMP ‘RACIST’ IN FIERY ADDRESS

Julian Castro, another Democrat running for president, has indicated that he would support reparations.

Fox News reached out to all three campaigns but did not immediately hear back late Thursday.

Reparations would involve the federal government’s acknowledgment of the ongoing legacy of slavery and discrimination and providing payment to those affected. Policy experts say it could cost several trillion dollars.

Scholars estimate that black families earn just over $57 for every $100 earned by white families, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is also running for president, has proposed helping poor children by giving them government-funded savings accounts that could hold up to $50,000 for the lowest income brackets, the Times reported. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., supports a plan to allow Americans without checking accounts bank at their local post office.

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Other prominent Democrats have stopped short of backing reparations, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who dismissed the idea in 2016. Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama have also expressed reservations.

Supporting reparations could come with much political risk. Republicans have long attempted to paint Democrats who support policies aimed at correcting racial inequalities as anti-white, according to the Times, and polling shows reparations for black Americans remains unpopular.

Source: Fox News Politics

Sen. Kamala Harris, who once labeled the Jussie Smollet attack claim an "attempted modern day lynching," spoke out on Thursday after Smollett was charged and arrested with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.

The California lawmaker tweeted a statement expressing her sadness, frustration, and disappointment on the same day Smollett, who’s been released from jail, appeared before Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr.

“When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward,” Harris wrote.

CHICAGO POLICE BLAST JUSSIE SMOLLETT ‘PHONY ATTACK’: ‘BOGUS POLICE REPORTS CAUSE REAL HARM’

Smollett, who is openly gay and black, reported that on Jan. 29 he was attacked by two masked men as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant. He claimed that the men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs at him, poured a substance on him, threw a rope around his neck and shouted, "This is MAGA country!"

Harris tweeted on the matter following the alleged assault, likening it to a lynching.

“No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin,” she tweeted on Jan. 29 while describing Smollett as “one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know.”

Continuing her statement Thursday, the lawmaker cited FBI statistics while claiming that more and more hate crimes were occurring in the U.S.

SHARPTON, AT MEETING WITH KAMALA HARRIS, SAYS SMOLLETT SHOULD FACE ‘MAXIMUM’ PUNISHMENT IF ALLEGATIONS TRUE

“Part of the tragedy of this situation is that it distracts from the truth, and has been seized by some who would like to dismiss and downplay the very real problems that we must address. We should not allow that,” she wrote, vowing to stand up against racism and homophobia.

“We must always confront hate directly, and we must always seek justice,” she continued. “That is what I will keep fighting for.”

Earlier this week, Harris appeared to be caught off guard when a female reporter asked her whether she wanted to amend her Jan. 29 tweet amid developments in the case.

"Which tweet? What tweet?" Harris asked. As the reporter specified the tweet to which she was referring, Harris appeared to look around for a campaign staffer before responding.

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"OK, so, I will say this about that case," she said Monday. "I think that the facts are still unfolding, and, um, I’m very, um, concerned about obviously, the initial, um, allegation that he made about what might have happened.

"And it’s something we should all take seriously whenever anyone, um, alleges that kind of behavior, but there should be an investigation," Harris added. "And I think that once the investigation has concluded then we can all comment, but I’m not going to comment until I know the outcome of the investigation."

Smollet’s legal representatives have denied all claims against the actor.

Fox News’ Sasha Savitsky, Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A veteran IRS employee has been charged with leaking the banking records of President Trump’s onetime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

John C. Fry, 54, was charged with one count of unlawful disclosure of information obtained from so-called Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and was released on $50,000 bond after appearing in federal court in San Francisco.

According to an affidavit by Linda Cieslak, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Treasury, Fry repeatedly searched law enforcement databases for information relating to Cohen. Fry is accused of gaining access to five SARs, which are filed by banks when transactions are spotted that raise questions about possible financial misconduct.

AVENATTI GIVES UP CONTROL OF FIRM AFTER BEING ACCUSED OF HIDING MILLIONS: REPORT

One of the reports Fry allegedly accessed showed Cohen’s Essential Consultants had received a total of $500,000 from Columbus Nova, a company associated with Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch who donated money to Trump’s inauguration fund. Other payments to Essential Consultants came from AT&T ($200,000) and pharmaceutical company Novartis (approximately $399,920).

Cieslak said Fry called Avenatti from his cellphone three separate times and relayed the information from the SARs to the attorney verbally. The agent added that Fry admitted to doing so when investigators confronted him in November.

The affidavit says Avenatti made the information he obtained from Fry public on Twitter May 8, writing: "Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen have a lot of explaining to do." Avenatti declined to say how he obtained the records, telling Fox News at the time: "That’s my work product and will not be disclosed."

AVENATTI RUNS LAW FIRM LIKE ‘PONZI SCHEME,’ FORMER CLIENT CLAIMS IN COURT FILING

The affidavit also includes exchanges between Fry and reporter Ronan Farrow, who wrote a story for the New Yorker magazine about the motives behind the leak. Farrow, who is identified as "Reporter-1" in the affidavit, wrote in an article published May 16 that the law enforcement official who released the report had grown concerned after he was unable to find two other reports on Cohen’s financial activity that he believed should have been in a government database.

According to Cieslak, Fry told investigators in November that Farrow had contacted him to confirm information supplied to Farrow by Avenatti.

Avenatti tweeted Thursday evening: "Neither I nor R. Farrow did anything wrong or illegal with the financial info relating to Cohen’s crimes (the courts have found that the [federal Bank Secrecy Act] does not apply … And if we did (we didn’t), then every reporter in America would be jailed and unable to do their job."

At the time of the disclosures, Avenatti was locked in a legal battle with Cohen over a $130,000 payment to Daniels in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The payment was made in exchange for Daniels’ silence about an alleged sexual encounter with the married Trump that took place more than a decade ago. Cohen pleaded guilty last August to federal campaign finance and other violations and has been sentenced to three years in prison.

If convicted, Fry faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 13.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling has been released from federal custody.

Skilling was discharged Thursday after serving 12 years in prison and six months in a halfway house after being convicted for his actions that led to one of the worst corporate meltdowns in history.

The 65-year-old was initially sentenced in 2006 to 24 years in prison and fined $45 million for multiple counts of securities fraud, conspiracy and other crimes. In 2013, the sentence was reduced to 14 years.

Houston-based Enron collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001 after years of illicit business deals and accounting tricks that put more than 5,000 people out of work, eliminated over $2 billion in employee pensions and rendered worthless $60 billion in Enron stock.

Source: Fox News National

A Nebraska sheriff’s deputy charged with sexually assaulting a woman more than a decade ago now is linked to at least five other potential victims, and the investigation began with a polygraph test for a state patrol job he was seeking.

Nicholas Bridgmon, a Seward County sheriff’s deputy, is charged in Johnson County with forcible sexual assault, which allegedly occurred Dec. 1, 2006. Bridgmon has been placed on administrative leave, and his attorney didn’t return a message Thursday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Authorities have said the other alleged assaults listed in court records occurred in several unspecified counties.

A court affidavit in support of the charge says an investigation began when he was applying for a job with the Nebraska State Patrol. A pre-employment lie detector test in November showed some deception on his part.

MICHIGAN MOTHER FATALLY SHOT 3 YOUNG DAUGHTERS IN WOODS BEFORE KILLING SELF: POLICE

A patrol investigator says in the affidavit that Bridgmon later acknowledged that when he was 19, he’d had sex with two girls who may have been under the legal age of consent. He also said he’d had sex with women who’d slept heavily or passed out after drinking alcohol.

Bridgmon’s boss, Sheriff Michael Vance, said Thursday that Bridgmon was given a polygraph test before his hiring in November 2015. He doesn’t know what questions the two polygraph operators asked or what questions may have tripped up Bridgmon on the state patrol exam.

A lie test isn’t fail-proof, Vance said, but it can be useful in making hiring decisions.

"It helps, especially with people you don’t know," said Vance, who became sheriff after his election in November. He also said there have been no allegations of criminal conduct against Bridgmon since his employment by Seward County.

State patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said he couldn’t share what questions the patrol polygraph operator asked.

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The court affidavit includes a woman’s recounting of what she said was her rape by Bridgmon when he was 19 and she was 17 in or around July 2007. She said he groped her in his car as they drove away from her parents’ home and then raped her at a remote location outside the Johnson County community of Cook. The village sits about 51 miles south of Omaha.

Source: Fox News National

A Coast Guard lieutenant who authorities say espoused white nationalist views and compiled a hit list of Democratic lawmakers and prominent media personalities should be held without bail for at least two weeks while federal prosecutors continue to investigate his activities, a judge ruled Thursday.

Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, was arrested Friday in the parking garage of the Coast Guard’s Washington headquarters on drug and gun charges. Federal agents recovered 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from Hasson’s Maryland apartment.

Prosecutors alleged in court documents filed Wednesday that Hasson had compiled a spreadsheet of so-called "traitors" that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and presidential hopefuls including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Also mentioned were such figures as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Van Jones.

Investigators say Hasson repeatedly studied a manifesto authored by Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage. Prosecutor Jennifer Sykes claimed Thursday that Hasson would also log onto his government computer during work and spend hours searching for information on such people as the Unabomber, the Virginia Tech gunman and anti-abortion bomber Eric Rudolph. Hasson also allegedly Googled topics like "most liberal senators," "best place in dc to see congress people," and "civil war if trump impeached"

Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson appears in federal court Thursday.

Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson appears in federal court Thursday.

Prosecutors’ motion for pre-trial detention included extracts from a 2017 draft email in which Hasson wrote that he was "dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth."

Also, Hasson sent himself a draft letter in 2017 that he had written to a neo-Nazi leader and "identified himself as a White Nationalist for over 30 years and advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland," prosecutors said. Hasson’s public defender, Julie Stelzig, identified that neo-Nazi leader as white separatist Harold Covington, who died this past July.

Stelzig accused prosecutors of making inflammatory accusations against her client without providing the evidence to back them up. "It is not a crime to think negative thoughts about people," she said.

She also questioned whether the government is trying to make an example out of Hasson in response to criticism that authorities have overlooked domestic terrorists.

"Perhaps now they can say, ‘Look, we’re not targeting only Muslims,’" she said.

Stelzig said Hasson doesn’t have a criminal record and has served 28 years in the Coast Guard. She described him as a "committed public servant" and a loving husband and father.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride confirmed to Fox News that Hasson entered the service in March 1996. He was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer in 2012 and Lieutenant in 2015. He was assigned to the Coast Guard’s Washington headquarters in June 2016. Hasson was previously an aircraft mechanic in the Marines, serving from 1988 to 1994. He also served in the

It is not clear how Hasson came to the attention of investigators, but McBride said the Coast Guard Investigative Service began looking into the lieutenant this past fall after "after the Coast Guard Insider Threat Program first identified concerns about him." He did not elaborate.

Adam Stolzberg, a Coast Guard contractor who had worked for the past six months with Hasson on a Coast Guard cutter project, told Fox News that he sat 50 paces from the lieutenant at Coast Guard headquarters and saw no sign of white supremacist or terrorist sympathies.

Stolzberg described Hasson as someone who was "a little more serious, didn’t smile or joke." He added that Hasson kept a clean desk, rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to work and had tattoos and a shaved head.

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Bob Davis, who rents a house from Hasson in coastal Currituck County, North Carolina, and met him a few times, said he was "absolutely shocked" by the allegations.

"He was a very stern military guy. That’s how I saw him. I truly nothing but respected him. There are people in life who are not 100 percenters. He was a 100 percenter," Davis said, meaning Hasson worked hard and didn’t slack off. "He portrayed in a very professional manner. He was honorable. … He was a good man."

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

Source: Fox News National

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo focusing on the redeployment of forces from Yemen’s key port and the situation in Venezuela.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Yemen and Venezuela were the main focus of their 30-minute meeting Thursday afternoon, which was requested by Pompeo.

He said Guterres and Pompeo discussed the importance of Yemen’s government and Houthi Shiite rebels implementing a December agreement reached in Stockholm and starting the withdrawal of their forces from Hodeida, whose port handles about 70 percent of Yemen’s imports, and two smaller ports.

Dujarric provided no details on the Venezuela discussion.

Guterres has offered his good offices if President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido ask. The Trump administration has recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

Source: Fox News World

A U.S. citizen has been charged with kidnapping and other counts for his alleged role in the abduction of a freelance journalist who was held hostage in Somalia for nearly three years, according to federal charging documents unsealed Thursday in New York.

According to a criminal complaint, Abdi Yusuf Hassan was part of a conspiracy to kidnap the journalist in January 2012 in Galkayo, Somalia, and demand $20 million in ransom. The journalist was released Sept. 23, 2014.

While the journalist is not named in the complaint or in a superseding indictment, the dates of his capture and release, and several details outlined in the court documents, match the experiences of author Michael Scott Moore, a German-American who was abducted by pirates in Somalia while he was there writing a book about piracy.

Moore’s publicist said he was unreachable for an interview Thursday. In November, Moore confirmed to the New York Times that another man indicted in the case, Mohamed Tahlil Mohamed, was one of his captors. Mohamed and Hassan are listed as co-defendants.

According to court documents, Hassan, 51, was born in Mogadishu and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He faces six counts, including kidnapping conspiracy, hostage-taking conspiracy and unlawful use of firearms.

He was arrested in Minneapolis on Friday and will be returned to New York to face charges. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney in New York to comment on his behalf.

The charging documents say the journalist was in a vehicle on Jan. 21, 2012, in the vicinity of Galkayo when he was surrounded by a group of heavily armed men carrying what appeared to be AK-47 assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He was abducted and struck with weapons, injuring his head and wrist.

He was taken to different areas in Somalia, and at one point was held in a vessel off the Somali coast. He told investigators that he and another hostage were typically guarded by about 10 men, all armed with assault rifles or belt-fed machine guns. In December 2013, he was moved to a residence near Galkayo, which was frequently visited by Hassan, the complaint says.

The complaint says Hassan spoke English and was a translator for the hostage takers; the journalist, who identified Hassan from a lineup, said he also appeared to hold a leadership position over the other guards.

Multiple times during the journalist’s captivity, Hassan ordered him to call a family member to try to demand more money for ransom. During one call on Jan. 30, 2012, the journalist told a family member that his captors were demanding $20 million "and that if they did not receive the money within 24 hours, they would stop providing food and water to Victim-1," the complaint said.

In another call in May 2012, the journalist said things had "gotten very serious" and another hostage had been tortured in front of him. The journalist said there was a real threat that if the ransom didn’t come through, he would be sold to al-Shabab.

In May 2012, the pirates released a video, showing the journalist in an undisclosed location with a prayer shawl over his head, surrounded by masked kidnappers who pointed a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade at him.

The journalist was released in September 2014. Moore has said his family raised $1.6 million for his release.

According to the complaint, Hassan entered the U.S. in New York on Sept. 15, 2015, and was interviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He allegedly said he worked as the Minister of the Interior and Security for Galmudug State in Somalia, which includes Galkayo, and his job included arranging for the release of kidnapped people, including the journalist.

___

Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti

Source: Fox News National

A Houston officer who the police chief says lied in an affidavit that led to a deadly drug raid has been discharged from the hospital.

Officer Gerald Goines’ attorney, Nicole DeBorde, says Goines was discharged Thursday from Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Police Chief Art Acevedo says Goines lied in the affidavit that justified the warrant for the Jan. 28 raid on a home in which a 59-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman died. Four officers, including Goines, were shot as they forcefully entered the home.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing more than 1,400 cases Goines has worked in his 34 years with the Houston Police Department, and the FBI has begun investigating whether the two slain residents’ civil rights were violated.

Source: Fox News National

An Islamic State follower asked a Phoenix-area sheriff’s sergeant during a violent encounter six weeks ago to shoot him after he threw rocks at the officer and walked toward him with a knife in hand, according to a court document authorities were forced to release Wednesday.

The probable-cause statement from the investigation of Ismail Hamed was released after The Associated Press and other news organizations protested an effort by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s office to keep videos and other records from the Jan. 7 attack under seal. Body-camera video from the encounter and recordings from 911 calls that Hamed made before the attack were released last week.

Hamed, 18, is accused of striking the sergeant with rocks and wielding a knife in a parking lot of a sheriff’s substation in suburban Fountain Hills, 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix.

Investigators say Hamed ignored warnings to drop the knife and instead continued walking toward the sergeant with the weapon in his hand. Eventually, the officer shot Hamed, who fell to the ground but ultimately survived gunshot wounds to his abdomen and right shoulder.

In the 911 recordings, Hamed professed allegiance to the Islamic State. He also told a 911 operator that he was armed with a knife and rocks and wanted to speak with a sheriff’s deputy as part of a protest over people suffering in the Middle East.

The probable-cause statement explains comments made by Hamed on the video that were hard to discern because of the low volume of his comments.

"Shoot me," the court document quoted Hamed as saying.

The county sheriff’s office said it was examining whether Hamed was intending to die by what is known as "suicide by cop" and whether Hamed had contacts with members of the Islamic State.

A woman at the office of Hamed’s attorney, Faisal Ullah, said the law firm had no comment.

The probable-cause record said the officer feared for his life when Hamed wielded the knife, leading the officer to shoot Hamed to stop the threat.

Hamed has pleaded not guilty to the aggravated assault and terrorism charges.

The FBI has characterized the encounter between Hamed and the sergeant as a "lone wolf" attack.

Sheriff Paul Penzone had previously said he doesn’t think there was an indication that Hamed planned to carry out other attacks.

Hamed remains jailed on a $500,000 bond.

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Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud

Source: Fox News National

Mexico’s Senate has unanimously approved a watered-down version of the militarized National Guard the government wants to use to combat a rising wave of crime.

Senators want to avoid militarizing law enforcement, but President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants a force with military discipline.

The senate voted to place the new guard under the civilian public safety department. But members will initially come from federal and military police units and will have joint military-civilian command and training.

The bill also places a five-year limit on using the military for police duties.

Because it changed a version passed earlier by the lower house, the bill will apparently have to return to a conference committee. Because it involves constitutional changes, it must still be approved by a majority of state legislatures.

Source: Fox News World


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