Home » Archives by category » Political News (Page 2)

Ben Affleck Comes to Capitol Hill to Talk Congo

Ben Affleck Comes to Capitol Hill to Talk Congo

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actor Ben Affleck came to the Senate Thursday to talk about a philanthropic topic -- his Eastern Congo Initiative -- but he couldn’t escape the fame of his other job: Being "Batman."Affleck himself kicked off the Batman talk when he gave a shout out to one of his senatorial co-stars in the upcoming film, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.“To Senator Leahy, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my co-star in Batman. The role is marginally smaller than mine but I understand you're quite good,” Affleck said to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on diplomacy and development Thursday morning.Affleck’s comment essentially confirmed Leahy will make a cameo in the upcoming Batman film. The Vermont senator has appeared in four Batman movies, most famously standing up to Heath Ledger’s The Joker character in The Dark Knight.Affleck testified alongside Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who Affleck described as the “greatest and most important philanthropist in the history of the world.” Another panelist, Scott Ford, CEO of the Westrock Group LLC, lauded the efforts of "Batman" in Congo.“We had the United States ask us would you go to Congo and I said not without Batman,” Ford joked. “And when Batman showed up, we went to Eastern Congo.”At least one senator -- Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. -- was star struck by being in the presence of Batman and snapped a photo of Affleck in the middle of the hearing.

Batman testifying before Appropriations hearing on importance of foreign aid (oh, and @BillGates is here too). pic.twitter.com/LYW1Im7nIJ

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 26, 2015

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Rand Paul Reverses Stance on Defense Spending

Rand Paul Reverses Stance on Defense Spending

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul reversed his stance on defense spending Thursday, when he introduced an amendment to the budget that would increase defense spending by $190 billion over the next two years. This increase in defense spending runs counter to the budget Paul introduced in 2011 just months after joining the Senate. That plan, which failed in the Senate, would have slashed defense spending from $553 billion in 2011 to $542 billion in 2016. Paul’s new amendment failed in the Senate Thursday, with only four senators supporting the measure.Since his flirtation with a presidential bid first began, Paul has walked a tricky line on military spending, and in recent months, the Kentucky Republican has adopted a more hawkish position. In late 2014, Paul began to say he’d be open to increasing defense spending -- but only if there are cuts to other parts of government. Paul’s amendment to increase defense spending would have been offset by reductions to other areas including foreign assistance, the Department of Education, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.“National defense is the number one priority of the federal government. My amendment increases defense spending but pays for it with spending cuts. It is irresponsible and dangerous to continue to put America further into debt,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “We need a strong national defense but we should be honest with the Americana people and pay for it.”Paul’s cuts to foreign assistance infuriated one potential presidential contender: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who held a hearing on the topic just hours before the vote on Paul’s amendment.“There will be a vote on the floor of the United States Senate where a member of the Senate has chosen to reduce this account by 50 percent and give that money to the military,” Graham said. “Here's what I would say on behalf of the military: they don't want this money. They want this account to survive and thrive.”“To those who constantly demagogue foreign aid as being the root of our financial problems -- Please stop because you don't know what the hell you're talking about,” Graham said. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., along with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced his own amendment increasing defense spending to $697 billion next year -- a $78 billion increase. However, the Rubio-Cotton amendment does not provide for a way to pay for the increase.The Rubio-Cotton amendment failed in the Senate with a vote of 32 to 68.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Rep. Aaron Schock Bids Congress Farewell

Rep. Aaron Schock Bids Congress Farewell

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Aaron Schock returned to the Capitol on Thursday, casting a final vote in the House before delivering a farewell address to close a nearly two-month drama for the Illinois Republican.On the final day of legislative business before his March 31 resignation becomes official, Schock cast a vote in favor of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the so-called “Doc-Fix.”“I leave here with sadness and humility,” Schock said. “For those whom I've let down, I will work tirelessly to make it up to you.”“I know that God has a plan for my life,” he added. “I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves. And I know that this is not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.”Schock made headlines this winter when his congressional office was redecorated to mirror the PBS television show, Downton Abbey. Like Schock’s congressional career, the popular British drama is ending after about six years.After his speech, Schock chatted with colleagues at the back of the House chamber and in the Republican cloak room before rushing out of the Capitol.The four-term congressman ignored questions about a nascent criminal investigation into his financial dealings. Asked what’s next, Schock replied, “Easter.”Pressed about the criminal probe, Schock politely answered “Have a nice day” before ducking into an awaiting vehicle.During his farewell address, Schock pointed out that Abraham Lincoln held the same congressional seat in central Illinois for a single term before he became president. “Few faced as many defeats in his personal, business and public life as [Lincoln] did,” Schock said. “His continual perseverance in the face of these trials - never giving up - is something all Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life. I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves.”He also recalled taking the oath of office in 2009, when he was sworn in as the youngest member of the 111th Congress.“I remember feeling so excited about the opportunity that lied ahead,” Schock said. “I remember vividly this chamber and all it meant to me and the country -- the men and women debating the big issues of the day, not always agreeing, but always fighting without apology for what they believed in.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Bipartisan Vote Sends Permanent ‘Doc Fix’ Bill to Senate

Bipartisan Vote Sends Permanent ‘Doc Fix’ Bill to Senate

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- By an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives pulled together on Thursday to send the Senate what supporters are calling the most-significant entitlement reform of the past 20 years.In a rare display of bipartisanship, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came together to strike a deal, repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate and replacing it with a long-term solution to Medicare repayment, as well as extending funding for community health centers for two years.By a vote of 392-37, the bill, formally known as Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, now heads to the Senate where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid comes under pressure to back the bipartisan deal.

Just four Democrats opposed the House vote, while 180 supported it. Thirty-three Republicans also voted against the measure.

To date, Reid has been somewhat reluctant to endorse the deal, pouring cold water on the idea of bringing the measure up for a vote quickly in the Senate.“The SGR is still a work in progress, and I personally am going to wait until we see it having pass the House before we start speculating on what we need to do with it, if anything,” Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday.Since 2003, Congress has spent nearly $170 billion in short-term patches to avoid cuts imposed by the SGR.

“This is a bill that will provide better health care for seniors and real savings for taxpayers,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference shortly before the vote. “This'll be the first real entitlement reform that we've seen in nearly two decades, and that's a big win for the American people. It was a true bipartisan agreement.”Boehner urged the Senate to pass the bill prior to the March 31 deadline.“I was pleased to hear the president would sign the bill, and I would urge the Senate to pass it expeditiously,” Boehner said.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

DEA ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Drug Cartels, IG Report Says

DEA ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Drug Cartels, IG Report Says

DEA.gov(WASHINGTON) — Senior Drug Enforcement Administration agents working overseas allegedly participated in “sex parties” with prostitutes funded by drug cartels, according to a newly-released Department of Justice Inspector General report on the handling of sexual misconduct allegations by law enforcement agencies.The conduct occurred over a period of years, according to the report. In addition to soliciting prostitutes, the foreign officers interviewed for the report allege three DEA supervisory special agents were “provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members."Some DEA agents who participated in the parties denied knowing about cartel involvement, but the IG report says, “information in the case files suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds.”The sex parties occurred in government leased living quarters where “agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices and other government-issued equipment were present,” posing a security risk and “potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion.”In another instance, two DEA special agents allegedly solicited prostitutes for a farewell party for a senior DEA official.That official, an acting assistant regional director, allegedly had “sexual relations with prostitutes” and there were “allegations operational funds were used to pay for the party and the prostitutes,” according to the report.The report also alleges that one prostitute was assaulted by someone associated with DEA supervisors following a payment dispute. The report was critical of DEA’s treatment of allegations of sexual misconduct, often dealing with incidents as local management issues and not reporting information up the chain of command.The report also looked at allegations of misconduct against the U.S. Marshals Service, ATF and the FBI.One case of alleged sexual harassment involved an FBI “Supervisory Management and Program Analyst’s repeated unprofessional behavior, including cornering his subordinates in their cubicles and displaying the size of his genitals by tightening his pants,” the report details. Subordinates of that employee endured his conduct for three years before it was reported to headquarters. The analyst was eventually suspended, demoted and reassigned to another office.The Department of Justice said in a statement that it is working “with the law enforcement components to ensure a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and misconduct is enforced and that incidents are properly reported." Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Lawmakers Told Top DHS Official Played Politics, Appeared to Violate Ethics

Lawmakers Told Top DHS Official Played Politics, Appeared to Violate Ethics

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Homeland Security Inspector General told Congress Thursday that the federal agency's second in command violated his own ethics policy at least three times by giving special access -- or the appearance of favorable treatment -- to powerful political insiders seeking help with immigration matters.Asked directly by lawmakers if Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had violated the ethics policy he had put in place, Inspector General John Roth said yes."We believe that policy was not followed," Roth said.The questions before the House Committee on Homeland Security came two days after the agency's internal watchdog issued a lengthy report about Mayorkas' management at the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of an obscure immigration program that grants visas to foreigners who agree to invest $500,000 in a qualified, U.S. job-creating venture.The IG report came on the heels of an ABC News investigation that revealed that a number of visa recipients were approved despite objections from career officials, who found instances where foreign applicants accused of fraud, money laundering, even involvement in child pornography, had received permission to move to the U.S. The ABC News investigation also found evidence that spies and even possible terrorists had attempted to exploit the visa program to enter the country.The IG report focused on alleged political favoritism by Mayorkas and specifically highlighted three cases where Mayorkas intervened after being contacted by powerful Democrats, including a past and current governor and the brother of Hillary Clinton."We believe there was an appearance of favoritism," Roth told the committee.House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he was "extremely troubled" by the findings."The alleged exertion of undue influence ... that resulted in benefits for politically connected and powerful individuals is extremely concerning,” he said.Mayorkas had denied favoring anyone based on political considerations, saying he was seeking to reform a program rife with problems.Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson said he believed the Inspector General had misunderstood the actions Mayorkas took in cases where powerful Democrats had reached out to him.Thompson called him "an activist manager" who was shaking up a department with low morale."I'm a little concerned you went along way to say he didn't do anything wrong," Thompson said.Roth said, "He violated an ethical cannon, Congressman."The three cases studied were developments that sought funding from foreign investors who would receive visas in exchange.One was an electric car venture headed by Terry McAuliffe, now the Virginia governor, and supported by a business run by Anthony Rodham, Clinton's brother. Both McAuliffe and Rodham made contact with Mayorkas while the car venture was being reviewed, the investigation found. The probe found Mayorkas intervened and reversed staff decisions to assist the project.Similar findings related to a Las Vegas hotel backed by Sen. Harry Reid and film projects pushed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.“The juxtaposition of Mr. Mayorkas’ communication with external stakeholders on specific matters outside the normal procedures, coupled with favorable action that deviated from the regulatory scheme designed to ensure fairness and evenhandedness in adjudicating benefits, created an appearance of favoritism and special access,” the IG report said.Earlier this week Mayorkas wrote a robust response to the IG report, saying his efforts were focused on improving a troubled program, and were always vetted by agency attorneys.

On Tuesday, he issued a statement saying, "While I disagree with the Inspector General’s report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process.""The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS," he said. "I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes."

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pope Francis to Visit White House in September

Pope Francis to Visit White House in September

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Pope Francis will visit the White House on Sept. 23, White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced on Thursday.A day later, as previously reported, Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress, becoming the first pope in history to do so.During his visit to the White House, President Obama and the pope will pick up the conversation they started last March when the president visited the Vatican.Their discussion will cover "a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities," Earnest said in a statement.Francis' trip to Washington, D.C. in September will mark his first visit to the U.S. as pope.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton Botches Parking Job Outside Capitol Building

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton Botches Parking Job Outside Capitol Building

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton may need to work on her parking skills.

In video obtained by ABC News, Norton, 77, is seen exiting her vehicle Wednesday morning, which was parked awkwardly in an angled parking spot on Capitol Hill. Norton, a 12-term Democrat representing Washington, D.C., in Congress, pulled straight into the spot, coming very close to each vehicle.

Some congressional staffers who witnessed the parking fail Wednesday morning laughed at the display.

In the video, Norton appears to rub up against each vehicle. A visual inspection hours later showed that neither vehicle parked on either side of Norton appeared to sustain any body damage.

Sources say Norton left her car in the spot for about 30 minutes before returning to move it, leaving a business card on the windshield of the Nissan Extera.

A spokesman for Norton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. This story was first reported by Roll Call.

World News Videos | US News Videos

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

DOJ Inspector General Finds Waste and Mismanagement in Government’s Use of Drones

DOJ Inspector General Finds Waste and Mismanagement in Government’s Use of Drones

DOJ(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice's Inspector General on Wednesday released a report detailing "waste and mismanagement" in the federal government's use of drones.The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent approximately $600,000 on drones, the report says, but never flew them operationally. The ATF's drone program was suspended in 2014, but a week after the suspension, a separate unit within the bureau purchased five small drones for about $15,000. The ATF, though, is just one example of the problems the DOJ Inspector General found with the federal government's drone programs. The FBI, for instance, has 17 drones, but only one pilot team adequately trained on all of the drone models. The Inspector General also made a series of recommendations, urging the FBI to "implement a systematic process to reassess regularly [drone] capabilities, technological developments, and resource and training needs" to ensure that the bureau is able to use drones "efficiently and effectively." The report also urges the ATF to "perform a thorough needs analysis" concerning its drone usage and capabilities.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

FBI Director James Comey on 9/11 Report, ISIS Propaganda

FBI Director James Comey on 9/11 Report, ISIS Propaganda

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday spoke with a trio of 9/11 Commissioners on the release of a report that looked at potential new evidence on the 2001 attacks, offering some insight into ISIS propaganda and the American effort to counter it as well.The report, released on Wednesday, says that the FBI needs to improve its analysis and intelligence collecting, as well as do a better job of integrating information from local law enforcement agencies, in an effort to fight homegrown terrorism. Comey said Wednesday that the FBI had declassified as much of the report as possible. The message, Comey said, is that the agency has "done great...it's not good enough."9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer said at the release of the report that Middle Eastern countries need to aid in fighting ISIS propaganda online.Comey was asked about ISIS propaganda, including a list of names and addresses of military-tied targets posted online over the weekend. "[ISIS]'s M.O. is simply to ask those who aspire to be part of their sick world, to act," the FBI director said. "So there isn't a clear line between aspiration and operation." He added that the FBI takes the "so-called 'target lists'" seriously, "because there could be a sick person out there who wants to [secure] their bona fides by acting."Still, when asked who in the U.S. government should be tasked with countering ISIS' propaganda messages online, Comey said definitively that the responsibility should not fall to his bureau. "The FBI should not, does not and will not engage in counter-narrative. We don't communicate the messages about what people should believe, think, act, especially with respect to a faith."

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Would Biden Run Against Lindsey Graham in 2016? VP Says ‘Hell Yeah!’

Would Biden Run Against Lindsey Graham in 2016? VP Says ‘Hell Yeah!’

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- When Vice President Joe Biden returns to his old stomping grounds in the Senate, you can always count on a moment of Biden being Biden.Biden, who was on the Hill Wednesday for an address by Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, bro-ed out with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, an old friend and potential 2016 rival.“President Graham. Do y’all know President Graham?” Biden hollered over at the reporters speaking to Graham.“He just guaranteed me I’ll be secretary of state,” Biden joked.“You can be U.N. ambassador,” Graham said. “You’ve got the skills, you really do.”When asked by ABC News whether he will run for president against Graham, Biden said, "Hell yeah!"“He’ll kick my butt,” Graham said.“We’re going to travel together, debate all over the country,” Biden said before walking off."We'll wear out every reporter," Graham said with a laugh.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Why 2016 Presidential Candidates Are Waiting to Jump In

Why 2016 Presidential Candidates Are Waiting to Jump In

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- We know they're running -- so why don't they say so?The looming 2016 presidential campaign has no shortage of putative contestants, from the big-name players like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton to the relative unknowns like neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Most of them are talking and acting like candidates, making frequent trips to early primary states, raising money for their political organizations, lining up campaign staff, and courting support from local Republicans and key activist groups.But so far, only one has announced he's running for president: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, officially launched the 2016 presidential race when he announced his candidacy at Liberty University this week.Some presidential races start earlier than others. In 2008, when the White House was similarly about to be vacated by a second-term president, Hillary Clinton announced her campaign in January 2007, while then-senator Barack Obama and Mitt Romney announced theirs in February. In 2012, things happened a bit later, with Newt Gingrich entering in May and Romney in June.Things used to get underway much, much later. Sen. Eugene McCarthy didn't announce his 1968 presidential campaign until November 1967. Nowadays, campaigns usually take up much more time, and candidates jump in early.So what's causing our current contestants to wait?Big-Timers Don't Need to DeclareFor the likes of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, perceived frontrunners whose last names precede them, there's less advantage to jumping in early. Primary voters already know who they are, so the media buzz of a campaign announcement isn't as valuable as it is for someone like Cruz."There will always be relative unknowns like Ted Cruz who don't register very high in the national polls but see a benefit in getting out ahead of the pack and establishing themselves early," said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Romney on his presidential runs."As a first time candidate in 2008, Mitt Romney found himself in that position and he wanted to get out of the blocks early so he could introduce himself nationally and begin to raise his name ID," Fehrnstrom said. "In 2012, he was in a different place -- he was better known, with an existing support network -- and he could delay an announcement."It's About the MoneyCandidates want to post the strongest fundraising totals they can, especially early in a campaign, in order to appear strong, impress donors and prove they're viable.For that reason, it makes sense to wait until the beginning of a quarter to start raising money."I'd expect a lot of them to announce in early April to give themselves three months to show they have some fundraising chops," said David Keating, president of the conservative Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes current campaign-money restrictions.Campaigns will report their fundraising totals quarterly in 2015, and the second quarter begins on April 1. According to Keating, it might be a good idea to wait until after the quarter begins to post the biggest-possible numbers in July.Super PAC ActionOnce you're a candidate, you're bound to federal campaign-money restrictions, and you can't solicit donations over the $5,200 limit if that money will be used to support your candidacy.But until then, you can get away with a little bit more.Jeb Bush, for instance, reportedly raised money for the super PAC that will eventually back his candidacy, appearing at a $25,000-per-couple fundraiser this week. Once he becomes a presidential candidate, he must officially cut ties with the super PAC -- and only ask for donations of $5,200 or less, according to the federal limit.It's not about message coordination, just fundraising, Keating said: "It would be very dangerous for someone who's not a candidate to sit down with a super PAC and say, 'If I become a candidate, this is what my plan is, and this is what I'd need you to do.' I think that would be a pretty clear violation."He might not be able to plan his super PAC's moves, but once Bush announces, his super-PAC fundraising days will be over. In the meantime, he can play a bit looser within the rules.Senators Will Probably Get in EarlierHere's one reason Ted Cruz might have jumped in first: Unlike Bush and other governors and former governors who haven't yet announced, Cruz and his fellow senators are already beholden to federal restrictions.As federal officeholders, Cruz and Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham can't solicit donations over $5,200 -- while Bush and the governors are either beholden to state laws or no laws at all.So for Cruz and the senators, there's less of an advantage to waiting.For Everyone Else, the Waiting Game Is RealFor candidates who aren't frontrunners and who don't have established fundraising networks or relationships with national activist groups, there's a lot more to think about: Is running for president worth it? Will anyone donate to my campaign if I run? Can I actually win?For the lower-tier candidates, it's worth watching and waiting to see how audiences and activist groups respond in Iowa and New Hampshire -- and whether any bigger-name candidates make mistakes and drop in the polls, opening up some room for everyone else.Avoiding the Microscope -- For NowOnce a candidate announces, the media turns on the bright lights, turning heightened attention to a candidate's policies and record. That's one deterrent from getting in."Better-known candidates tend to wait as long as possible to avoid full-on media scrutiny and regulatory oversight," Fehrnstrom said.In other words: It's not just the campaign-finance rules, but the added attention that constitutes the downside of officially jumping in.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

White House Continues to Back Yemen as Model for Successful Counterterrorism

White House Continues to Back Yemen as Model for Successful Counterterrorism

Brent Stirton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House continues to hail Yemen -- a country that is descending into chaos -- as a model for fighting extremism, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.“The White House does continue to believe that a successful counter-terrorism strategy is one that will build up the capacity of the central government to have local fighters on the ground to take the fight to extremists in their own country,” Earnest told reporters at the White House. “That is a template that has succeeded in mitigating the threat that we face from extremists in places like Yemen.”President Obama has long pointed to the counterterrorism campaign in Yemen as a model for the fight against ISIS.“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” Obama said in September as he outlined his strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS.But today, the U.S. strategy in Yemen has virtually collapsed amid the fall of the American-backed government. The U.S. embassy in Yemen has been shut down and U.S. military personnel have been evacuated.“We have not seen that kind of progress in terms of strengthening the central government, I think you could make a pretty strong case that we've seen the opposite of that, but we do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counterterrorism security relationship with the security infrastructure that remains,” Earnest said. “There are elements of the Yemeni government that we continue to be in touch with that continue to further our efforts to apply pressures to extremists that seek to operate in that country.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Park Service Turns to Dogs to Fix National Mall’s Ongoing Problem

Park Service Turns to Dogs to Fix National Mall’s Ongoing Problem

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Spring in Washington, D.C. means cherry blossoms and hordes of tourists flocking to the National Mall. And with peak season right around the corner, the National Park Service is dealing with a “crappy” problem as well.Large swaths of the National Mall are covered in feces, courtesy of the very large population of Canada Goose that make their home on the picturesque grounds.The National Park Service says that just one goose produces as much as "2-3 pounds" of waste per day.It’s not just disgusting for the folks who step in it. The geese waste may be causing major damage to the infrastructure on the National Mall, including the famous Reflecting Pool that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.“The presence of geese is leading to the degradation of the [Reflecting] pool water due to defecation in and on walkway near the [Reflecting] pool,” the Park Service said.The Park Service announced it has launched a new program that it calls “goose harassment services” -- and it could be a very clever solution to a really crappy situation. Cue the Collies -- the Park Service wants to use border collies to fix the goose problem.These dogs are bred to herd sheep so the Park Service's goal is to have them do the same with the geese, forcing them into different areas to do their business and enabling park officials to clean up the mess and maintain some spots as “geese free.”This is not a job for rookies. The Park Service says that dog handlers must have five years of experience with Canada Goose harassment with dogs in order to take part.Wildlife on federal lands is not a new issue for the Park Service, which oversees 23 national parks just within the District of Columbia.In 2012, it launched a project to cull the exploding population of white-tailed deer in the Washington’s Rock Creek Park. Sharpshooters were used to hunt the deer and the meat was later donated to local soup kitchens.But don’t worry -- the geese on the Mall will be kept safe.The National Park Service specifically says in its contract: “No water fowl or other living creature shall be killed, harmed or injured in any way.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Madison opting out of test could cost Idaho $10 million

Madison opting out of test could cost Idaho $10 million(Courtesy Idaho Education News) REXBURG — Madison School District Superintendent Geoff Thomas says his students will not be taking the state-adopted standardized test next month, even though that may defy a federal requirement and could cost Idaho more than $10 million. “It certainly could be that extreme,” said Tim Corder, special assistant to Superintendent of […]

Romney on Emerging 2016 Field: I’m ‘Going to Be Aggressively Neutral’

Romney on Emerging 2016 Field: I’m ‘Going to Be Aggressively Neutral’

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) — As the 2016 presidential race looms ahead, former Republican nominee Mitt Romney assessed the fresh crop of potential Republican nominees Tuesday, starting with newly-minted presidential candidate Ted Cruz. “He is a person of very sound capability and I think you’re going to hear a lot from him,” Romney said of Cruz, who announced the launch of his campaign on Monday. Romney said that he remembers Cruz speaking at the RNC in 2012 without notes and noted the Texas senator “spellbound the audience there.” On his own 2016 endorsement, Romney said, “I’m going to be very, very aggressively neutral in this process.” “I like Jeb Bush a lot. I think he’d be a terrific president. I like Marco Rubio. Scott Walker, I like a lot…Chris Christie, boy the guy tells the truth in your face if he disagrees with you.” Asked if Christie can overcome low poll numbers, Romney said, “America loves a comeback, and Chris is poised to do that.”Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Jeb Bush Calls US Approach to Iran ‘Foolish’

Jeb Bush Calls US Approach to Iran ‘Foolish’

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In an op-ed posted Wednesday in the National Review, Jeb Bush says that in the Middle East, Iran is “primary instagator” of the region’s conflict, and calls the United States “foolish” in its approach for handling that nation.“Consider American policy towards Iran, a nation that has waged a relentless campaign of terror and war-by-proxy against U.S. troops and American allies for more than three decades. The administration believes Iran will become a responsible partner for peace once it signs up to a deal that largely leaves in place its nuclear infrastructure,” the 2016 presidential hopeful writes. “In a region that is in a near-constant state of conflict -- with Iran as a primary instigator -- this approach is foolish.” Bush notes that he’s previously criticized President Obama’s foreign policy, most recently at the Chicago Global Forum, where he called Obama’s foreign policy “weak and uncertain.” With Iran, Bush writes, “Instead of projecting American determination and leadership, [Obama] has either withdrawn from the stage or chosen to trust our enemies.”In recent days, Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the P5+1, a six-nation group of global powers, have achieved “substantial progress” on an agreement, which would allow Iran nuclear capability, providing they will not use it to make an atomic bomb.Bush says, however, that the deal is too risky.“It is clear that nothing -- not public opinion, not opposition from his own party in Congress, and not even the facts -- will deter President Obama from a potentially risky agreement that may well allow Iran to intimidate the entire Middle East, menace Israel, and, most of all, threaten America.” Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Congress May Further Probe Special Immigration Program for Wealthy

Congress May Further Probe Special Immigration Program for Wealthy

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans in Congress voiced strong objections Tuesday in response to a scathing Homeland Security investigation that found a senior official appeared to give special treatment to politically-connected applicants when he ran a little-known federal program that offers visas to those who invest $500,000 in a job-creating business.U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he viewed the findings of the Homeland Security Inspector General “extremely concerning” and said he will hold hearings Thursday to determine if further investigation is needed."These allegations appear to be at odds with [the immigration agency’s] expressed mission to 'administer the nation’s immigration system fairly, honestly and correctly,'" McCaul said.The Inspector General’s investigation focused on the leadership of Alejandro Mayorkas, who served as director of the immigration program known as EB-5, an obscure but increasingly popular method for obtaining highly-sought-after American Green Cards. The program caters to wealthy foreigners, requiring them to invest $500,000 or sometimes $1 million in a qualifying U.S. project that promises to create jobs.

In late 2013, Mayorkas was promoted by President Obama to deputy secretary of the department over objections from Republicans who had already begun to hear rumblings of problems with his handling of the immigration program.The IG report came on the heels of an ABC News investigation that revealed that a number of visa recipients were approved despite objections from career officials, who found instances where foreign applicants accused of fraud, money laundering, even involvement in child pornography, had received permission to move to the U.S. The ABC News investigation also found evidence that spies and even possible terrorists had attempted to exploit the visa program to enter the country.The Inspector General’s report focused on allegations that Mayorkas had exerted improper influence on behalf of politically connected EB-5 applicants.“The juxtaposition of Mr. Mayorkas’ communication with external stakeholders on specific matters outside the normal procedures, coupled with favorable action that deviated from the regulatory scheme designed to ensure fairness and evenhandedness in adjudicating benefits, created an appearance of favoritism and special access,” the report found.Mayorkas wrote a robust response to the report, saying his efforts were focused on improving a troubled program, and were always vetted by agency attorneys. On Tuesday, he issued a statement saying, "While I disagree with the Inspector General’s report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process.""The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services]," he said. "I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes."The Inspector General's findings did not reach conclusions about Mayorjas's motives.“Regardless of Mr. Mayorkas’ motives, his intervention in these matters created significant resentment in USCIS. This resentment was not isolated to career staff adjudicating within the EB-5 program, but extended to senior managers and attorneys responsible for the broader USCIS mission and programs,” it said.Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, an early critic of the EB-5 program, said the Inspector General’s findings validated his objections to the way Mayorkas had run the immigration office.“Digging into the report and reading about specific cases, you can see just how questionable Mr. Mayorkas’ ethics and judgment were,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “And, just as bad, is the blind eye that the Obama administration turned when elevating this individual to the number two slot at the Department of Homeland Security.”Both the ABC News investigation and the Inspector General’s report were based on numerous interviews with a group of insiders that included senior immigration officials and documents provided by agency whistleblowers. The inspector general said 15 different federal employees shared similar stories of Mayorkas intervening on behalf of influential applicants.“The sheer number of whistleblowers who came forward is a darn good indication as to how bad things were at the agency,” Grassley said. “They are courageous people for reporting these very serious allegations despite fear of retaliation, especially given that Mr. Mayorkas was being elevated by the President to be Deputy Secretary.”Reaction to the report fell largely along partisan lines, and the report may have lasting political reverberations. Among those who profited from the EB-5 program was Anthony Rodham, the brother of presumptive Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The report specifically noted that Rodham attempted to contact Mayorkas. Messages left for Rodham by ABC News were not returned.While Republicans voiced strong objections, Democrats rallied around Mayorkas, focusing on the fact that the Inspector General failed to find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, issued a statement saying the investigators and whistleblowers misunderstood Mayorkas’ actions.“The Inspector General provided no definitive determination of wrongdoing and instead found that Deputy Secretary Mayorkas’ hands-on and reform-minded leadership style may have been misinterpreted,” Thompson said, adding that the report “paints a picture of an advocate and manager who demanded reform and responsiveness from his agency.”Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, had a similar reaction, praising Mayorkas as a “dedicated, thoughtful, and talented public servant” and a change agent.“As many of us know, change at any kind of organization isn’t always easy and can meet resistance,” he said.But even Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged in a statement that the report raised issues that should not be ignored or overlooked.“I believe there are lessons to be learned from the Inspector General’s report -- by Ali, and all of us who are leaders in public service,” Johnson wrote. “Each of us in leadership must be mindful that, when we become involved in individual matters that happen to reach our desk, we risk the appearance of preferential treatment and the suspicion of our subordinates. As public servants, we must maintain the trust and confidence of all those around us, and be above reproach. I have discussed this with Deputy Secretary Mayorkas and I am confident he understands this.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

President Obama Mistakenly Refers to Afghan President Ghani as ‘President Karzai’

President Obama Mistakenly Refers to Afghan President Ghani as ‘President Karzai’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- While announcing his plan to slow the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan on Tuesday, President Obama made a high-profile slip of the tongue, and somehow wound up complimenting the very leader he mean to criticize. The U.S. will maintain 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015 “in part so that President Karzai – who has taken on the mantle of commander-in-chief in a way that we have not seen in the past from an Afghan president – can do a serious review,” Obama said during a press conference in the East Room Tuesday, gesturing towards the new Afghan president. Problem is, the current president of Afghanistan isn’t Karzai – it’s Ashraf Ghani. Obama’s comment was presumably meant as a not-so-subtle jab at Ghani’s predecessor, President Hamid Karzai, whose icy relationship with Obama made headlines. Karzai, whose second term ended in 2014, repeatedly slammed the U.S. for its role in Afghan civilian casualties, claimed America had attempted to undermine the Afghan government, and even suggested the U.S.-led forces could “leave” the country. Ghani, on the other hand, has routinely lauded the U.S./Afghanistan partnership and Tuesday thanked American troops – and even “the American taxpayer” – for their role in his nation’s security.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Report: State has ‘sunk’ $61 million into Schoolnet

Report: State has ‘sunk’ $61 million into Schoolnet(Courtesy Idaho Education News) The state has “sunk” about $61 million into a flawed statewide instructional management system, and now has few options going forward. That’s the conclusion of a state report criticizing the Schoolnet project — a system that was supposed to provide teachers with real-time data on student development and growth. “Poor management, […]

Advertise With Us

Would you like to advertise on East Idaho News? Fill out this form to contact a representative.
  • Full and Last
  • The name of your company, business or brand.