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House Judiciary Chair Goodlatte Dismisses Calls for Obama Impeachment

House Judiciary Chair Goodlatte Dismisses Calls for Obama Impeachment

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(NEW YORK) — House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said Sunday on This Week that he won’t push for the impeachment of President Obama, despite recent calls by some Republicans.“We are not working on or drawing up articles of impeachment,” Goodlatte told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. “The Constitution is very clear as to what constitutes grounds for impeachment of the President of the United States. He has not committed the kind of criminal acts that call for that.”Other Republicans, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, have rallied for impeachment charges against Obama. In a recent column published on Breitbart.com, Palin wrote “It’s time to impeach…The many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored.”While Goodlatte said Sunday morning that he won’t pursue impeachment, he did express support for House Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to sue Obama for overstepping presidential authority through his use of executive orders to modify aspects of the Affordable Care Act.We do believe that the president is not enforcing the law,” Goodlatte said. “And that’s why [Speaker Boehner] and many of us in the Congress are getting ready to take legal action to stand up for the people’s right for their elected representatives to be the part of our government that passes laws, not a president with his pen and his cellphone.”In his weekly address, Obama called the lawsuit against him “a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time.”Although Goodlatte stopped short of calling for Obama’s impeachment, he did criticize the President’s handling of the escalating border crisis in the U.S. and his recent request for $3.7 billion in emergency assistance.“Yes, we should do targeted appropriations where it’s needed to make sure that we are able to detain people and send them back to their countries,” Goodlatte said. “But there is an awful lot that the president can do right now without any action on the part of the Congress. ”Goodlatte suggested that President Obama should act to stop the flow of illegal immigration from Central America, saying he should “make it very clear that people who illegally enter the United States are going to be sent home.”“This matter can be addressed if the president will exercise leadership and stop not enforcing the law. He doesn’t enforce law,” Goodlatte told Stephanopoulos. “He’s releasing criminal aliens back onto our streets that have been detained rather than making sure that they get sent back to their home countries.”President Obama described the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border as a “humanitarian crisis” during a recent exclusive interview with Stephanopoulos.
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Holder: Palin Wasn’t a Good VP Candidate, Worse Judge of Who Should Be Impeached

Holder: Palin Wasn’t a Good VP Candidate, Worse Judge of Who Should Be Impeached

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) –  Attorney General Eric Holder is challenging Republicans who are calling for his and President Obama’s impeachment, and denouncing what he calls a “gridlocked Washington” stalled by what he says is a Republican Party bent on blocking any of the administration’s efforts.“For whatever reason, [some] Republicans decided early on that this was a president they were just simply not going to cooperate with,” Holder said in a rare interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas. “And over the past five-and-a-half years, we have seen demonstrations of that, where the president has reached out his hand, offered compromises that have simply not been met [in the way] they have been in the past by a Republican Party willing to do the appropriate things.”Administration efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, for example, have failed. Asked about calls by Sarah Palin to impeach Obama over the administration’s immigration policies, Holder said: “She wasn’t a particularly good vice presidential candidate. She’s an even worse judge of who ought to be impeached and why.”Holder similarly dismissed calls for himself to be impeached for declining to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal. Holder insisted that a special prosecutor isn’t necessary, with “career people” and FBI agents “doing a good, professional job” investigating the matter.As for House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the administration over the Affordable Care Act, Holder said he doesn’t think “that lawsuit’s going to have legs.”“It’s a more, I think, a political gesture than a truly legal one,” he said. “Filing a lawsuit against the president that has no basis is not going to improve the quality of life for the American people.”In the wide-ranging interview for This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Holder spoke at length about race and discrimination in America, saying the country is in “a fundamentally better place than we were 50 years ago.”“We’ve made lots of progress,” he said. “I sit here as the first African-American attorney general, serving the first African-American President of the United States. And that has to show that we have made a great deal of progress.“But there’s still more we have to travel along this road so we get to the place that is consistent with our founding ideals,” he said.Holder said that he and President Obama are treated differently than their predecessors.“There’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me [and] directed at the president,” Holder said. “You know, people talking about taking their country back. … There’s a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus.”Asked about his controversial comments from 2009, in which he called the United States a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race, Holder stood firm.“I wouldn’t walk away from that speech,” Holder said. “I think we are still a nation that is too afraid to confront racial issues,” rarely engaging “one another across the color line [to] talk about racial issues.”In addition, Holder took Republicans to task for efforts to, among other things, enact voter ID laws in some states. He called such moves “political efforts” aimed at making it “more difficult” for “groups that are not supportive of those in power” to “have access to the ballot.”“Who is disproportionately impacted by them? Young people, African Americans, Hispanics, older people, people who, for whatever reason, aren’t necessarily supportive of the Republican Party,” Holder said, noting that “this notion that there is widespread in-person voter fraud is simply belied by the facts.”Holder said the Justice Department is expected to soon file challenges to restrictive voting laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as the department already did in Texas and North Carolina.“I’m attorney general of the United States. I will not stand for — I will not allow people to take away that which people gave their lives to give, and that is the ability for the American people to vote,” Holder said.In the interview, Holder was also asked about the controversy now surrounding the name of Washington’s professional football team, the Redskins.“I think the name ought to be changed,” Holder, a long-time Washingtonian, said. “I think it is an offensive name. And the Redskins are … a team with a storied history that has huge amounts of support in Washington, D.C. And I think in the 21st Century, they could increase their fan base, increase their level of support if they did something that is so, from my perspective, so obviously right.”
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Holder: Palin Wasn’t a Good VP Candidate, Worse Judge of Who Should Be Impeached

Holder: Palin Wasn’t a Good VP Candidate, Worse Judge of Who Should Be Impeached

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) –  Attorney General Eric Holder is challenging Republicans who are calling for his and President Obama’s impeachment, and denouncing what he calls a “gridlocked Washington” stalled by what he says is a Republican Party bent on blocking any of the administration’s efforts.“For whatever reason, [some] Republicans decided early on that this was a president they were just simply not going to cooperate with,” Holder said in a rare interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas. “And over the past five-and-a-half years, we have seen demonstrations of that, where the president has reached out his hand, offered compromises that have simply not been met [in the way] they have been in the past by a Republican Party willing to do the appropriate things.”Administration efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, for example, have failed. Asked about calls by Sarah Palin to impeach Obama over the administration’s immigration policies, Holder said: “She wasn’t a particularly good vice presidential candidate. She’s an even worse judge of who ought to be impeached and why.”Holder similarly dismissed calls for himself to be impeached for declining to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal. Holder insisted that a special prosecutor isn’t necessary, with “career people” and FBI agents “doing a good, professional job” investigating the matter.As for House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the administration over the Affordable Care Act, Holder said he doesn’t think “that lawsuit’s going to have legs.”“It’s a more, I think, a political gesture than a truly legal one,” he said. “Filing a lawsuit against the president that has no basis is not going to improve the quality of life for the American people.”In the wide-ranging interview for This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Holder spoke at length about race and discrimination in America, saying the country is in “a fundamentally better place than we were 50 years ago.”“We’ve made lots of progress,” he said. “I sit here as the first African-American attorney general, serving the first African-American President of the United States. And that has to show that we have made a great deal of progress.“But there’s still more we have to travel along this road so we get to the place that is consistent with our founding ideals,” he said.Holder said that he and President Obama are treated differently than their predecessors.“There’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me [and] directed at the president,” Holder said. “You know, people talking about taking their country back. … There’s a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus.”Asked about his controversial comments from 2009, in which he called the United States a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race, Holder stood firm.“I wouldn’t walk away from that speech,” Holder said. “I think we are still a nation that is too afraid to confront racial issues,” rarely engaging “one another across the color line [to] talk about racial issues.”In addition, Holder took Republicans to task for efforts to, among other things, enact voter ID laws in some states. He called such moves “political efforts” aimed at making it “more difficult” for “groups that are not supportive of those in power” to “have access to the ballot.”“Who is disproportionately impacted by them? Young people, African Americans, Hispanics, older people, people who, for whatever reason, aren’t necessarily supportive of the Republican Party,” Holder said, noting that “this notion that there is widespread in-person voter fraud is simply belied by the facts.”Holder said the Justice Department is expected to soon file challenges to restrictive voting laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as the department already did in Texas and North Carolina.“I’m attorney general of the United States. I will not stand for — I will not allow people to take away that which people gave their lives to give, and that is the ability for the American people to vote,” Holder said.In the interview, Holder was also asked about the controversy now surrounding the name of Washington’s professional football team, the Redskins.“I think the name ought to be changed,” Holder, a long-time Washingtonian, said. “I think it is an offensive name. And the Redskins are … a team with a storied history that has huge amounts of support in Washington, D.C. And I think in the 21st Century, they could increase their fan base, increase their level of support if they did something that is so, from my perspective, so obviously right.”
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Latest Syria Threat ‘More Frightening Than Anything’ Else, Holder Says

Latest Syria Threat ‘More Frightening Than Anything’ Else, Holder Says

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Recent intelligence indicating that bomb-makers from Yemen have teamed up with terrorists in Syria to develop a new generation of undetectable explosives is “more frightening than anything” else the Obama administration has seen, Attorney General Eric Holder warned, becoming the first U.S. official to publicly confirm ABC News reporting on the threat.In recent days, U.S. officials have boosted security measures at airports overseas amid deepening concerns that terrorists in war-ravaged Syria could be looking to down a U.S.- or European-bound plane, with help from one of the thousands of Americans and other foreign fighters carrying U.S. and European passports who have joined terrorist groups in the region.Holder called it “a deadly combination,” in which people with technical know-how are now “married” to “people who have this kind of fervor to give their lives in support of a cause that is directed at the United States and directed at its allies.””It’s something that gives us really extreme, extreme concern,” Holder said. “In some ways, it’s more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general.”Holder sat down for a rare and exclusive interview with ABC News in London, where the attorney general was wrapping up meetings with U.K. officials and other European counterparts to discuss the issue.Days earlier, Holder held similar meetings with officials in Oslo, Norway, to “exchange information in the way that you can’t if you’re not present” and “come up with techniques to thwart those who would try to do us all harm,” as he described it.Earlier this year, U.S. officials learned that a particularly extreme “subset” of terrorist groups in Syria was working alongside operatives from al Qaeda’s prolific offshoot in Yemen to produce “creative” new designs for bombs, as one source put it.Specifically, associates of the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria — the Al Nusrah Front — and radicals from other groups were teaming up with elements of the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which built such innovative devices as the “underwear bomb” that ultimately failed to detonate in a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.U.S. officials have been outspoken about the dangers posed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and — separately — the threat of foreign fighters in Syria, but the latest intelligence shows that the two threats have bonded in an unusually powerful way, essentially creating a sum more worrisome than its parts. And more recent intelligence has increased the concern.The latest potentially lethal partnership is at least part of what sparked an advisory to airlines earlier this year to look out for explosives-laden toothpaste tubes, cosmetics and shoes.And just days before the July Fourth holiday — coming several months after the initial intelligence was obtained — the Department of Homeland Security announced it would be increasing security measures at certain airports overseas.In particular, DHS said that if some overseas passengers flying to the United States want to bring cell phones and other electronic devices onboard with them, they’re going to have to show that the devices can turn on.”Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft,” the Transportation Security Administration, part of DHS, said in a statement.It’s unclear exactly which airports overseas will have to implement the expanded security measures. TSA has been in close contact with all carriers affected by the new measures, particularly American, Delta and United airlines.In his interview with ABC News for This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Holder called the new security measures “appropriate” and “prudent steps that are necessary to protect the flying public” in light of developments in Syria and neighboring Iraq, where the group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — or ISIS — is now wreaking havoc and recruiting Westerners to fight.”This is not a test,” Holder said of the new measures. “We’re doing something in reaction to things that we have detected.”Holder insisted he’s “really confident in our capacity to understand what’s going on, to monitor what’s going on and working with our allies.”FBI Director James Comey recently said the government is spending “a tremendous amount of time and effort trying to identify” anyone who’s gone to Syria, but “the challenge” is not missing anyone.About 7,000 foreign fighters, including dozens of Americans, have now joined nearly 16,000 other fighters operating in Syria.While in Norway, Holder publicly addressed European officials and advocated for a multi-national strategy to stem the flow of foreign fighters, urging other countries to conduct more undercover investigations and enact stronger laws criminalizing support for terrorists.
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Former White House Lawyer Convicted of Attempted Murder

Former White House Lawyer Convicted of Attempted Murder

(STAMFORD, Conn.) — After more than six hours of deliberations, a jury  found a former White House lawyer guilty of attempting to murder his wife. John Michael Farren, a 61-year-old who served as an attorney in both Bush administrations, was convicted Friday on charges of first-degree assault, risk of injury to a child, and attempted murder for a 2010 incident. Prosecutors claim that Farren beat his wife, Mary Margaret Farren, with a metal flashlight and choked her in their Connecticut home in January 2010. The attack came shortly after his wife served him divorce papers. In closing arguments, the defense argued that Farren was a logical man who turned emotional following the threat of divorce, and he didn’t intend to kill her during the beating since he stopped when she was “vulnerable.”Farren will be sentenced on Sept. 11 and faces a maximum punishment of 50 years in prison. He was named deputy White House counsel in 2007 under George W. Bush, and also worked for the older Bush as under secretary of commerce for international trade.
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Four Things You Might Not Know About Attorney General Eric Holder

Four Things You Might Not Know About Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) — As new terror threats emerge from the Middle East and the battle continues over border enforcement in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder is urging lawmakers both internationally and at home to take action. Check out four things you might not know about Holder.1. His personal life Holder was born in New York City and went to Stuyvesant High School. He earned an undergraduate degree in American history from Columbia University and later a law degree from Columbia Law School. He is married to Dr. Sharon Malone, an obstetrician-gynecologist, and they have three children.
2. His careerHolder is the 82nd Attorney General of the United States and the first African-American to hold the position. He was nominated by President Barack Obama and took office on February 3, 2009. Holder was also the first African-American to hold the position of Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. He was unanimously confirmed for that post by the Senate. Before being confirmed as President Obama’s Attorney General, Holder was a partner at the law firm Covington and Burling LLP.3. His prickly relationship with Republicans as AG  Holder — who is the only member of the cabinet to be held in contempt of Congress — has had an especially prickly relationship with some House Republicans. The animosity between the Attorney General and House GOP members has spilled into the open more than once, including Holder once describing conduct by Rep. Darrell Issa during a May 2013 Judiciary Committee hearing as “shameful” and memorably sparring with Rep. Louie Gohmert at a April 2014 hearing.4. His Reagan connection Despite his seemingly tense relationship with Congressional Republicans, some might be surprised to know Holder actually was nominated by President Reagan in 1988 to become an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
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President Obama’s Weekly Address: ‘Do Something, Congress’

President Obama’s Weekly Address: ‘Do Something, Congress’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama implored Republicans in Congress to act on anything, calling their planned lawsuit against him a “political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time.”Obama says Republicans have “blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class,” pointing the blame for political gridlock at the GOP. Instead of blocking action and filing lawsuits, however, the president says he has an idea for how Republicans in Congress should spend their time.”I have a better idea: do something, Congress. Do anything to help working Americans. Join the rest of the country. Join me, I’m looking forward to working with you,” he urges. Read the full transcript of the president’s address:Hi, everybody.  This week, I spent some time in Colorado and Texas, talking with people about what’s going on in their lives.   One of them was Elizabeth Cooper, who’ll be a college junior this fall.  She wrote to tell me something I hear often: how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college.  And she shared something I know many of you feel when you wonder what’s going on in Washington.  She said she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.” I ran for President to fight for Americans just like Elizabeth – people who work hard, do everything right, and just want a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families. And after the worst economic crisis in generations, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months.  The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008.  By almost every measure, our economy is better off than it was five years ago. But while we’ve created more jobs at this point of the year than any year since 1999, too many families barely earn what they did in 1999.  It’s harder to pay for college, save, or retire, because people’s wages and incomes have not gone up.  Nearly all the gains of the recovery are going to the very top – and aren’t making a difference in your lives.   And I believe America does better when the middle class does better.  And I’ve laid out an opportunity agenda to create jobs, train workers, educate our kids, and make sure hard work actually pays off. These are the things we should be doing to grow the middle class and help folks work their way into the middle class.  And it’s pretty uncontroversial stuff. I hope we can work together on it.  And I’m always willing to compromise if folks have other ideas or if it advances generally the interests of working Americans. But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.  Lifting the minimum wage, fair pay, student loan reform – they’ve said no to all of it.  And that’s when I’ve acted this year to help working Americans on my own– when Congress won’t act.   I’ve taken actions to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages, help students pay off their loans, and more.  And the Republican plan right now is not to do some of this work with me – instead, it’s to sue me.  That’s actually what they’re spending their time on.  It’s a political stunt that’s going to waste months of America’s time.  And by the way, they’re going to pay for it using your hard-earned tax dollars. I have a better idea: do something, Congress.  Do anything to help working Americans.  Join the rest of the country. Join me, I’m looking forward to working with you. You know, on Tuesday, I met with Carolyn Reed and her husband David, who own six Silver Mine Sub shops in Colorado.  Two days later, they announced they’re giving their hourly employees a raise to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.   They’re not waiting for Congress.  Carolyn said, “We are happy to be a part of what I hope will be a growing voluntary trend in increased wages.” Carolyn and Americans like her all across the country are happy to do their part.  Congress now needs to step up and do its part.  And next week, I’ll travel to a couple of job sites to talk about how Democrats and Republicans can work together to grow the economy and protect nearly 700,000 jobs by passing a highway bill by the end of the summer.  I’m here because hardworking Americans like Elizabeth and Carolyn.  That’s something I’ll never forget – it’s something I’ll never stop fighting for.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.
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GOP Weekly Address: People, ‘Not Government’ Source of America’s Greatness

GOP Weekly Address: People, ‘Not Government’ Source of America’s Greatness

Photo Courtesy Joni Ernst for U.S. Senate(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican Address, Iowa State Sen. and U.S. Senate nominee Joni Ernst pointed to the American people as the source of the country’s greatness, “not government.”In calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment, a domestic energy plan to create jobs, increased national security, individualized healthcare and stronger public schools, Ernst blamed “liberals who think government is the solution to every problem” for the current state of America. “They think that nothing can be solved unless Washington is involved.”Read the full transcript of the Republican address:Hello, this is Joni Ernst. I’m a mother and grandmother, a soldier, and proud to be Iowa’s Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. I get asked all the time what made me want to join the military. And the answer is simple. When I was attending college, I went on an agricultural exchange to the Soviet Union. And I saw with my own eyes what a nation without freedom looks like. I saw what happens to people when they lose their liberty. When I came home, I decided that it wasn’t enough for me to simply enjoy freedom and liberty. I had to do my part to protect and preserve it. Decades later, I am a Lt. Colonel and battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard. In fact I am recording this message a few days early, and by the time you hear this, I will be on active duty leading my troops for the next two weeks. Growing up on a farm in a small town in Iowa, I learned that America’s greatness comes from people, not government. The problem in America today is that Washington is full of liberals who think government is the solution to every problem.  They think that nothing can be solved unless Washington is involved. And so they grow our government, every year making it more intrusive and more involved in our lives. Today government tells us what doctors to see, what kinds of light bulbs to use, and in some places, even how much soda we can drink. I wake up at night worried that the failed policies coming out of Washington pose a grave threat to our ability to pass along the same great nation we once inherited to our children – like my teenage daughter – and future generations to come. But as Republicans, it’s not enough to simply say “no”. We need to provide solutions and be able to explain what we would do differently. First, we believe we need a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to force Washington to stop spending more than it takes in. That is how we run our households and we should expect nothing less from Washington. It is simply irresponsible to saddle our kids with a debt averaging $55,000 for every one of America’s youth. Speaking of our children, we need an economy that is growing and providing better paying jobs. We need the government to get out of the way and foster an economic environment that encourages real, lasting growth. We believe by safely and responsibly tapping into America’s domestic energy supply we can create hundreds of thousands of new, good-paying jobs in our communities while also strengthening our national security. We believe Obamacare is not improving healthcare in America, but making it worse. We need, and must demand, more individual control over our health care decisions, not less. Parents and doctors know what’s best when it comes to the health of their child – not the government.  We need to start over and create real, meaningful heath care reform that allows us- Americans to choose the plans they want, the doctors they need, at a cost they can afford. We believe we must preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare and keep our promise to today’s seniors.  But we also believe, as do some of our friends in the Democratic Party, that these programs must be reformed so America not only keeps its promise to today’s seniors but is also able to guarantee a safety net is available for our children and grandchildren. We believe strong schools are critical for the future success of our nation. I send my own daughter to the very same public school that I graduated from. To strengthen local schools, we believe we need to take power and money away from Washington politicians and bureaucrats, and give it to local parents, teachers and administrators, so they can decide what’s best for their children’s education. We know, and we believe that Americans know what’s best for their communities more than Washington bureaucrats. And part of that bureaucracy is failing our veterans, and the stories we’ve heard about the failures of the VA are heartbreaking. As an active member of the Iowa National Guard and the wife of a retired U.S. Army ranger, I believe this isn’t a partisan issue. It’s an American problem that must be solved. Growing up on that southwest Iowa farm, my family didn’t have much. My mother canned our food and made our clothes – teaching us the lessons of not spending what you don’t have. In our small town, we relied on each other – our neighbors lent us a helping hand when we needed it and we would do the same in their time of need. Today, to get America back on track it is going to take each of us working together to advance real solutions to our problems – not more tired rhetoric. Again, this is Joni Ernst. Thank you. God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
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Senate Committee Requests Details on CDC Lab Problems

Senate Committee Requests Details on CDC Lab Problems

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Friday called on the Department of Health and Human Services to answer questions related to a series of incidents at labs run by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.The CDC responded to the incidents earlier Friday, acknowledging at least three instances in which active viruses or bacteria being found in unauthorized labs. The discovery of the three incidents, according to the HELP Committee, “necessitates a serious and careful review of HHS’s policies, procedures, and actions with respect to the appropriate handling of select agents and other serious pathogens.”The Senate Committee, led by Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, requested details from HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and CDC Director Thomas Frieden on Friday.
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Hagel Talks Gaza Crisis with Israeli Defense Minister

Hagel Talks Gaza Crisis with Israeli Defense Minister

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Friday to offer American assistance in negotiating a peaceful end to the crisis in Gaza.Hagel said that he made clear that the U.S. wants “to do everything we can to help stop what’s going on and encourage all sides to not escalate, to not let these hostilities get more out of control than they are.” He also reiterated that the U.S. would be willing to play the role in negotiations.When asked whether an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, a possibility not denied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, would complicate United States involvement, Hagel declined to comment.
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Pair of Senators Request Information on Pricing of Breakthrough Hepatitis C Drug

Pair of Senators Request Information on Pricing of Breakthrough Hepatitis C Drug

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — A pair of U.S. Senators, in a bipartisan request, have asked why a new Hepatitis C virus drug is so incredibly costly. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and senior Finance Committee member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa requested more details on the pricing of the new drug, Sovaldi. The drug reportedly will cost $84,000 for a standard treatment, but the Food and Drug Administration has speculated that costs could be higher for patients who require longer treatments. Wyden and Grassley strongly support transparency in health care and have requested more information from the drug’s creator, Gilead Sciences Inc. The company has hailed the breakthrough drug which could help the 3.2 million Americans with Hepatitis C. The cost of Sovaldi could “dramatically increase federal spending in Medicare and other programs,” a statement on the request said, including health care for prisoners with the disease.
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Budget Deficit to Reach Lowest Level of Obama’s Presidency

Budget Deficit to Reach Lowest Level of Obama’s Presidency

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Office of Management and Budget announced on Friday that the federal budget deficit is set to reach the lowest point during Barack Obama’s presidency.The White House budget office is projecting a $583 billion budget deficit this year, about $100 billion lower than last year’s deficit, and a big turnaround from the trillion-dollar deficits during Obama’s first term. The OMB projection is echoed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which expects just a $492 billion deficit.The deficit decline is believed to be the result of tighter spending, a tax hike on the wealthy in 2013 and greater tax revenue helped by an improving economy.
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Kerry, German Foreign Minister to Discuss Spying

Kerry, German Foreign Minister to Discuss Spying

Credit: US Department of State(WASHINGTON) — What’s the German word for that feeling you get when you have to meet with someone from the country who kicked out your CIA chief?Secretary of State John Kerry will probably know after he meets in Vienna over the weekend with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, where the two will likely discuss Germany’s expulsion of the CIA’s top official in Berlin over allegations of U.S. spying.They’ll both be in town for high-level talks over Iran’s nuclear program, but Steinmeier already made it clear in a series of tweets that spying will be high on his priorities list when the two meet.His Twitter account @GermanyDiplo said the request for the U.S. representative to leave Germany was a “necessary + appropriate reaction to breach of trust.”In a second tweet, Steinmeier is quoted as saying, “We want to reinvigorate our partnership+friendship w/ the #USA on an honest basis. This will be my message to @JohnKerry.”A statement from the State Department was less explicit that spying will be on the agenda when the two meet one-on-one: “The stop in Vienna will allow the Secretary and Foreign Minister Steinmeier to discuss the P5+1 talks and issues such as the situations in the Middle East and in Ukraine, as well as bilateral issues.”But in this case “bilateral issues” likely means “talking about spies.”
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White House: Obama Is a ‘Big Fan’ of LeBron James

White House: Obama Is a ‘Big Fan’ of LeBron James

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is a “big fan” of NBA star LeBron James, who announced on Friday that he is leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.”I think he’s, like many of us, even those of us who are not quite as avid as NBA fans, that the president is a fan of somebody that has demonstrated such tremendous skill and athleticism on the court, and the president enjoys watching him play,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.Earnest noted that Obama has met James personally a few times and the president considers the athlete to be a “fine young man” that carries himself professionally.Earnest said James’ decision to go back to Cleveland is a “testament to the kinds of values that he has incorporated into his life.””I think it’s a pretty powerful statement about the value of a place that you consider home,” he added.
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Rep. Rubén Hinojosa Calls Rep. Henry Cuellar a ‘Blue Dog’

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa Calls Rep. Henry Cuellar a ‘Blue Dog’

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — The Congressional Hispanic Caucus presented a unified front Friday at a press conference as it voiced public support for the Obama administration’s handling of the “humanitarian crisis” on the border and the importance to defend children fleeing from brutal and violent regions. 
Chairman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, said that the Obama administration has promised a meeting with the caucus as early as next week and should confirm a date Friday afternoon.
Not in attendance Friday was Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, who has been critical of the administration’s handling in recent days.
Hinojosa was clear: “Cuellar does not represent the Hispanic Caucus.” He called Cuellar a “blue dog,” who rarely comes to the caucus meetings.
Hinojosa repeated, “He does not speak for CHC.”
Criticizing Republican members for holding up funding on the issue, Rep. Luis Gutierrez said that he wants the president to be as bold and generous as Republicans have been petty on this issue. He gave a passionate defense of the children crossing the border — “we see the faces of our children” in them, “our community” — and teared up for a moment.
Gutierrez, D-Ill., urged the Republicans to stop using these children as political leverage. He said he wants a clean bill without riders to deal with this humanitarian crisis.
It is not clear if the caucus will support a bill with riders — the response was “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”At next week’s meeting, the caucus plans to present a list of recommendations on handling deportations that was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in April. The list can be read here.
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John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi Team Up to Sign Bill

John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi Team Up to Sign Bill

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In a rare showing of bipartisan teamwork, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — joined by Reps. John Kline of Minnesota, California George Miller and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina — met to formally sign the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.“This is a great opportunity for us to show that we can get things done, listen to the American people, work together on their behalf,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said shortly before signing. The bill is focused on workforce development programs on the local and regional level that can help customize skills and job training to specific communities. The lawmakers called it a forward-thinking, innovative bill that customizes work needs by region and enterprise. “This is really important in making sure we have a workforce for the 21st century,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The American people have the talent and skills and now they will have the training to match.”Kline, chairman of the House Education Committee, applauded the bipartisan support the bill received.“This has been a really good week — a good week for America, a good week for this institution,” said Kline, R-Minn. “It shows what happens when we come together and work toward a common goal.”
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When the CIA Keeps the President in the Dark

When the CIA Keeps the President in the Dark

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — When President Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about Ukraine last week, there could have been an awkward moment prompted by the arrest the day before of a double agent allegedly working secretly for the CIA within German intelligence. At least there likely would have been, had Obama known about the arrest or the undercover spy to begin with.But the president went into the call blind and Merkel didn’t bring it up, according to White House National Security spokesperson Caitlin Hayden. The incident has left “frustrated” White House officials to question why the CIA didn’t immediately tell the administration about the bungled operation, The New York Times reported.It’s unclear who is responsible for the breakdown in communication about the arrest — Hayden and the CIA won’t say — but two retired senior intelligence officials told ABC News it should not be surprising that most likely the president and his national security advisor all along were not aware of the alleged recruitment of the German agent, as well as that of another recently discovered purported U.S. spy in the German Defense Ministry.As former White House counter-terrorism advisor and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke put it, “never in a million years” would the president be briefed on what Clarke called such “totally mundane” recruitment targets. A third retired senior CIA covert operations specialist disagreed in this case, saying it was a “real possibility” the White House was aware of the operation. As former White House counter-terrorism advisor and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke put it, “never in a million years” would the president be briefed on what Clarke called such “totally mundane” recruitment targets. A third retired senior CIA covert operations specialist disagreed in this case, saying it was a “real possibility” the White House was aware of the operation.Either way, all three said it’s up to the CIA’s “good judgment” whether to let the White House in on what one called “pure espionage.”There are times when by law the CIA must not only inform but seek the approval from the president for certain operations — most notably for covert actions. Covert action is defined by U.S. law as “an activity or activities of the United States government to influence political, economic or military conditions abroad, where it is intended that the role of the United States will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly…” As put more simply by former CIA Inspector General L. Britt Snider, covert action is “doing something in another country merely beyond gathering information.”Some more recently exposed major covert action programs include the CIA’s targeted killing drone program, the joint CIA-military mission to kill/capture Osama bin Laden and the reported Stuxnet cyber-attack on the Iranian nuclear program.In his book Good Hunting, longtime CIA veteran Jack Devine, who once led the CIA’s largest Cold War-era covert action program assisting the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Russians, emphasizes that all CIA covert action over the years — including the most controversial — were approved or ordered by the president at the time.“It is true that the CIA’s biggest mistakes involved covert action,” writes Devine, who spent more than 30 years in the shadows for the Agency. “But it is also true that these mistakes, without exception, also involved operations carried out at the behest of presidents pursuing flawed policies. And for every covert action that failed spectacularly, there have been others that enabled presidents and policy makers to achieve ends in the nation’s interest with an unseen hand, which is almost always preferable to a heavy footprint.”Retired veteran CIA attorney John Rizzo told ABC News, “Covert actions are the ones that have tended to become messy over the years, going back to the days of the wink and nod from the president” and now come with a whole “legal regime” to ensure that all bureaucratic checks are in place, including briefings for the correct members of Congress.But none of those rules apply to the CIA’s regular intelligence collection, or “pure espionage,” according to Rizzo.“Unlike covert action, the president does not have to approve intelligence collection operations. That’s what CIA does, recruit foreign agents when they can,” said Rizzo, author of Company Man. “There’d be no reason for [Obama] to have known, for instance, if the CIA has in fact recruited German citizens.”Clarke said the only time the CIA would likely inform the White House about a recruitment mission is if the target is politically sensitive.”Let’s say you were recruiting the secretary to a president…You’re recruiting the butler to the prime minister, something fairly high up,” then, Clarke said, the CIA may decide to inform the White House. “But it’s up to the CIA pretty much to determine what a politically sensitive recruitment is.”Devine told ABC News that in his mind, the equation is simple: “This is espionage. Espionage doesn’t require the president’s approval. Having said that…if you think the case is going to get to the president’s desk, you should brief him on it.”The German operation has certainly hit the president’s desk, as well as newspaper headlines the world over.When asked if the president was originally briefed on the alleged recruitment of the Germans, National Security Council spokesperson Hayden said she would “definitely” not get into “who knew what and when.”While Devine said doing anything with human intelligence in Germany was risky due to raised tensions after revelations months before that the U.S. was tapping the communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both Rizzo and Clarke said that from what’s been in the media, the suspected agents wouldn’t fit the bill for being “politically sensitive” enough to require a White House heads up.“If [the German allegations] did happen, this was just a classic recruitment of a foreign citizen,” Rizzo said.Unless something goes wrong, as it apparently did in Germany.In that case, Clarke said the CIA should have informed the White House immediately, most likely the with word coming from CIA Director John Brennan to Susan Rice, the president’s National Security Advisor.“I’m sure it wasn’t intentional” that the president wasn’t briefed until after the call with Merkel, Clarke said, guessing that the news maybe just hadn’t spread rapidly enough in the intelligence community.Whatever the case, the U.S. may have underestimated the diplomatic fallout of the bungled operation. Twice the U.S. Ambassador in Berlin was summoned to German government offices to “clarify” the spying allegations, and Thursday the German Foreign Office announced it had requested America’s top intelligence official in Berlin be sent packing.“The way I see it, if you consider this with a healthy dose of common sense, it’s a waste of energy to spy on one’s ally,” Chancellor Merkel said Thursday, according to a translation by German news outlet Deutsche Welle. Other prominent German politicians demanded the U.S. cease all spying in their country.For days the White House, the CIA and the State Department have either declined to comment or offered deflecting statements, but have not denied the allegations.State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki announced Thursday Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to speak with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in coming days.“I would also say that, last year the president underwent a review of all of our intelligence gathering,” Psaki said. “The Secretary was engaged in that, as were administration officials across the board. There are, of course, a range of factors that are taken into account… keeping Americans safe, keeping allies in other countries safe as well as taking steps to reform and revise some of our systems when needed, and he did just that.”However, Psaki was presumably referring to the government’s review of signals intelligence in the wake of disclosures about National Security Agency’s electronic eavesdropping, a review that doesn’t deal with old-fashioned human spying. Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

House GOP’s Lawsuit to Focus on Obamacare’s Employer Mandate

House GOP’s Lawsuit to Focus on Obamacare’s Employer Mandate

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House Republican lawsuit against President Obama will center solely on Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday. The focus of the litigation will be the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans decided against including immigration and other executive actions in the lawsuit, officials tell ABC News, to strengthen the legal case and improve the chances of a federal judge allowing the legal action to move forward. “There are many examples of executive overreach by the president, but his actions on the health care law are the ones that give the House the best chance of success in the courts,” according to a draft resolution authorizing the lawsuit. The legislation to authorize the lawsuit will be debated as early as next week in the House, with a vote coming before the end of July.In a statement released Thursday night, Boehner said: “Today we’re releasing a draft resolution that will authorize the House to file suit over the way President Obama unilaterally changed the employer mandate. In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work.  No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”In a counter-statement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said: “It is disappointing that Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans have decided to waste time and taxpayer dollars on a political stunt. At a time when Washington should be working to expand economic opportunities for the middle class, Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the President on behalf of hardworking Americans. As the President said today, he is doing his job — lawsuit or not — and it’s time Republicans in Congress did theirs.”
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DOJ Opts Against Launching Criminal Probe in CIA-Senate Spat

DOJ Opts Against Launching Criminal Probe in CIA-Senate Spat

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice declined to launch a criminal probe after both the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA accused each other of improperly accessing the other’s computers.”The Department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation, DOJ Spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement Thursday.
In March, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California accused the CIA of hacking into computers used by Intelligence Committee staffers. CIA Director John Brennan denied those accusations.The CIA had previously claimed that Senate staffers had obtained access to classified documents, without authorization, to the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program. The DOJ notified both parties of its decision on Thursday.
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House Side of Capitol Building Reopens After Asbestos Incident

House Side of Capitol Building Reopens After Asbestos Incident

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — The House side of the U.S. Capitol Building was briefly closed down on Thursday morning after officials said there was a “potential release” of asbestos during overnight repair work.U.S. Capitol Police officers stood guard at every entry point to the House side of the building, while only the basement level was open. Laura Condeluci, public affairs specialist for the Architect of the Capitol, said on Thursday that the potential release occurred during “ongoing asbestos abatement work,” and that samples were collected to determine the extent of asbestos release.By 9:15 a.m. the House wing of the Capitol Building was re-opened, with the exception of the grand staircase and the Tip O’Neill Room. The House had been scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. Thursday, but that was pushed back. The Architect of the Capitol and the U.S. Capitol Police are investigating the incident.
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