Who is Obama administration official who spilled beans?
Alex Diaz reports: The former Obama administration official who admitted earlier this month that her former colleagues tried to secretly gather intelligence on President Trump’s team was no low-level staffer.
“I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill… get as much information as you can. if [Trump staffers] found out how we knew what we knew about their … the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.”
Evelyn Farkas was once considered the most senior policy officer for Russia within the Pentagon, and she is now apparently defending the leaks that have been coming out of the Trump White House.
Farkas was one of the Obama administration’s go-to people on Russia.
“We have good intelligence on Russia… that’s why you have the leaking. People are worried.”
— Evelyn Farkas
Now an MSNBC analyst and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Farkas has “advised three secretaries of defense on Russia policy,” according to a senior defense official quoted in Politico. She has served on the Council on Foreign Relations and the Senate Armed Services Committee, among others, and was executive director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in 2008-2009.
In an appearance on MSNBC earlier this month, Farkas told Mika Brezinski about her role in the efforts to collect intelligence on Trump’s team, and their alleged ties with Russia, in the Obama adminstration’s final days.
“I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill… get as much information as you can,” Farkas said, adding that her big fear was “if [Trump staffers] found out how we knew what we knew about their … the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.”
At the end of the interview, Farkas said, “we have good intelligence on Russia… that’s why you have the leaking. People are worried.”
Farkas was responding to a report in The New York Times suggesting the “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.”
Farkas notably served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia under President Obama, and parted ways with the White House in 2015 after some five years amid the ongoing debate over how to respond to Russia’s role in the unfolding conflict in Ukraine. Farkas reportedly supported Ukraine’s request for weapons in the fight against Russian-backed rebels. The White House opted to send millions in “nonlethal” aid.
News of her resignation broke just over a year later, at the end of September 2015. It was on Sept. 28, 2015, that President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Read the rest of this entry »
Sources: Former Obama officials, loyalists planted series of stories to discredit Flynn, bolster Iran deal.
Adam Kredo reports: The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes tohandicap President Donald Trump’s national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.
The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.
The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration’s efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.
“The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran. So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn.”
Insiders familiar with the anti-Flynn campaign told the Free Beacon that these Obama loyalists plotted in the months before Trump’s inauguration to establish a set of roadblocks before Trump’s national security team, which includes several prominent opponents of diplomacy with Iran. The Free Beaconfirst reported on this effort in January.
“After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump. Last night’s resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won’t be the last.”
Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation and avoid interfering with the White House’s official narrative about Flynn, which centers on his failure to adequately inform the president about a series of phone calls with Russian officials.
Flynn took credit for his missteps regarding these phone calls in a brief statement released late Monday evening. Trump administration officials subsequently stated that Flynn’s efforts to mislead the president and vice president about his contacts with Russia could not be tolerated.
However, multiple sources closely involved in the situation pointed to a larger, more secretive campaign aimed at discrediting Flynn and undermining the Trump White House.
“It’s undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him,” said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. “This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters.”
The Free Beacon first reported in January that, until its final days in office, the Obama administration hosted several pro-Iran voices who were critical in helping to mislead the American public about the terms of the nuclear agreement. This included a former Iranian government official and the head of the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which has been accused of serving as Iran’s mouthpiece in Washington, D.C. Read the rest of this entry »
Many in the mainstream media are reacting with righteous indignation over comments from a senior Trump adviser suggesting the administration views the traditional media as an opponent. But if we’re to take these apostles of press freedom seriously, they should first explain why the Trump Administration is worse than the Obama Administration.
After all, the Obama Administration literally tried imprisoning an uncooperative journalist, monitored journalists’ every digital move, and “hammered” at least one challenging reporter with IRS audits.
Let’s rewind the tape.
The Obama Administration began with lofty promises of being “the most transparent administration in history.” Instead it ended up setting a record, by the Associated Press’s count, for denying the most Freedom of Information Act requests.
As the administration’s popularity began tumbling early into its first year, the Obama White House declared war on Fox News. The White director of communications, Anita Dunn, warned they would henceforth treat Fox News “like an opponent,” insisting, “we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”
The Obama administration made good on that threat. Soon thereafter, the administration sought to deny Fox News’ participation in executive branch news-making events — which only failed after other networks admirably refused to participate if Fox News were excluded.
As you’ll see in the montage above, President Obama blamed Fox News and talk radio for virtually every problem his administration encountered, warning in his waning days that these “domestic propagandists” were far more damaging to America than any interference from hostile powers like Russia.
When Fox News’s State Department correspondent, James Rosen, reported accurate information about North Korea leaked by a member of the Obama State Department, Eric Holder ordered his movements to be tracked, his phone records seized, and went “judge shopping” until he found one willing to grant such a warrant without telling Rosen himself. Holder even told Google to not notify Rosen that the government was monitoring his email.
“To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job — seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public — deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based,” the Washington Post wrote at the time. Read the rest of this entry »
Source says State Department has notified Ramallah the funds will not be immediately available, while it examines the transfer.
Avi Issacharoff and AP report: The Trump administration has informed the Palestinian Authority that it is freezing the transfer of $221 million which was quietly authorized by the Obama administration in its final hours on January 20, a senior Palestinian source has told The Times of Israel.
“Kerry formally notified Congress that State would release the extra $221 million money Friday morning, just hours before President Donald Trump took the oath of office.”
US officials conveyed to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday that the funds were not expected to be handed over in the immediate future, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“I am deeply disappointed that President Obama defied congressional oversight and released $221 million to the Palestinian territories.”
On Tuesday, the State Department said it was reviewing the last-minute decision by former secretary of state John Kerry to send the funds to the Palestinians despite objections to the transfer by congressional Republicans.
“I worked to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars would fund the Palestinian Authority unless very strict conditions were met. While none of these funds will go to the Palestinian Authority because of those conditions, they will go to programs in the Palestinian territories that were still under review by Congress. The Obama Administration’s decision to release these funds was inappropriate.”
–Kay Granger, House Appropriations Committee member, in a statement on Tuesday
The department said it would look at the payment and might make adjustments to ensure it comports with the Trump administration’s priorities. Read the rest of this entry »
The Obama administration disclosed to Congress on Tuesday that it transferred a total of $1.7 billion in cash through Swiss banks to Iran around the time American hostages were released this year, about four times the amount originally disclosed to the public, sources told Circa.
The State Department admitted Thursday that the US would not hand over $400 million in cash to Iran until it released four American hostages — two weeks after President Obama insisted the payment was not a “ransom.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby was asked at Thursday’s press briefing: “In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?”
“That’s correct,” Kirby replied.
In an Aug. 4 press conference, President Obama said the opposite.
“We do not pay ransom. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future,” the president told reporters, speaking of the Jan. 17 payment and hostage release.
Families “know we have a policy that we don’t pay ransom. And the notion that we would somehow start now, in this high-profile way, and announce it to the world, even as we’re looking in the faces of other hostage families whose loved ones are being held hostage, and saying to them ‘We don’t pay ransom,’ defies logic,” Obama added at the time. Read the rest of this entry »
Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transferransom payment authorized by Mr. Obama took place.
WASHINGTON — Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee report: New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran.
“‘Our top priority was getting the Americans home,’ said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were ‘wheels up’ on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.”
The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.
President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the U.S. owed the money to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.
“The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17.”
“Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.”
The use of an Iranian cargo plane to move pallets filled with $400 million brings clarity to one of the mysteries surrounding the cash delivery to Iran first reported by The Wall Street Journal this month. Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer authorized by Mr. Obama took place. Executives from Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, organized the round-trip flight from Tehran to Geneva where the cash—euros and Swiss francs and other currencies—was loaded onto the aircraft, these people said.
“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.
“Mr. Obama said on Aug. 4 the payment had to be in cash because the U.S. and Iran have no banking relationship, eliminating the possibility of a check or wire transfer.”
The payment marked the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration announced it had reached with Tehran in January to resolve a decades-old legal dispute traced back to the final days of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His government paid $400 million into a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 for military parts that were never delivered because of the Islamic revolution that toppled him. Read the rest of this entry »
‘We would not, we have not, we will not pay ransom to secure the release of US citizens.’
Jonah Goldberg writes: One of my all-time favorite lines is from Henry Thoreau: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
It came to mind this week when the White House and State Department insisted that the charge the US paid a ransom to get back American hostages was purely circumstantial. Sometimes, a $400 million payoff in laundered money, delivered in the dead of night in an unmarked cargo plane, isn’t what it looks like.
“Sometimes you just have to marvel at the way smart people can talk themselves into stupidity.”
Jan. 16 was “Implementation Day” for the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, in which the state sponsor of terror received sanctions relief possibly worth as much as $150 billion — which would be roughly equivalent to 40 percent of its GDP — in exchange for some guarantees against developing nuclear weapons … for a while. (The merits, and even the nature, of the Iran nuclear deal are hotly disputed, but that’s a topic for another time.)
That same day, the Obama administration announced a prisoner swap between the US and Iran, in which we traded seven Iranian criminals and removed another 14 from an Interpol “most wanted” list. In exchange, they returned four innocent Americans, illegally held by the Iranian regime.
Back then, Secretary of State John Kerry boasted about what a masterful diplomatic breakthrough it was. Those Americans were freed thanks to “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks,” Kerry preened.
Yes, well, maybe. But few things really cement a solid working relationship like $400 million in cash. Kerry failed to mention that part in his press conferences or congressional testimony. In fact, the Obama administration kept the whole thing a secret.
“The whole point of not paying ransoms to terrorists isn’t to save money. The reason we don’t pay kidnappers is that we understand that it will only encourage more kidnapping.”
The White House concedes that it all looks very bad. But it insists this was in no way a ransom payment; the trout got in the milk for perfectly normal reasons. You see, the Iranians were suing for funds deposited with the Pentagon in 1979 for a weapons purchase that was later blocked when the ayatollahs deposed the Shah. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Kredo reports: More than half a million aliens overstayed their temporary visas in the United States in 2015, with more than 482,000 of those individuals believed to be still residing illegally in the United States, according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security.
“By not enforcing visa overstays, the administration has flung the border open—millions get temp visas and then freely violate their entry contracts and shred their eviction notices. Further, DHS has refused to complete the legally required biometric tracking system.”
Around 527,127 aliens temporally granted U.S. business and tourist visas were found to have stayed in the United States longer than legally permitted, according to DHS’s 2015 entry and exit overstay report.
Of those who did not leave the United States on time, around 482,781 are believed to still be illegally residing in the United States, according to the report, which was issued by DHS amid debate in Congress over an Obama administration initiative to permit around 170,000 new immigrants from Muslim-majority nations in 2016.
Senior Obama administration officials had trouble in the past year informing Congress about the number of individuals who had overstayed their visas. The administration also could not provide Congress with statistics about the number of Syrian refugees who had been granted residency in the United States in 2015.
Concerns about visa overstays come as Congress is investigating a sharp uptick in the number of terror plots hatched by foreign-born individuals legally granted entrance to the United States. Lawmakers estimate that at least 113 foreign-born individuals have been implicated in domestic terror plots since 2014.
Last year there were 219 illegal overstays from Afghanistan, 681 from Iraq, 564 from Iran, 56 from Libya, 1,435 from Pakistan, 440 from Syria, and 219 from Yemen, according to the report. Many are still in the United States illegally. Read the rest of this entry »
Should the Department of Homeland Security respect online privacy, even if terrorists are behind it? How did these ISIS sympathizers involved in the San Bernardino massacre pass visa screenings? Should immigration check social media before granting visas?
Stephen Dinan reports: President Obama’s marquee deportation amnesty has been stalled by the courts, but the rest of his executive actions on immigration, announced exactly a year ago, are moving forward — including his move protecting more than 80 percent of illegal immigrants from any danger of deportation.
The amnesty, dubbed Deferred Action for Parental Accountability was supposed to grant full tentative legal status — including work permits, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses — to more than 4 million illegal immigrants. It has been halted by a federal appeals court, and its fate will soon rest with the Supreme Court.
But the rest of the dozen actions Mr. Obama announced on Nov. 20, 2014, are still advancing, including a far-reaching set of priorities that effectively orders agents not to bother deporting nearly all illegal immigrants.
“There are 7 or 8 or 9 million people who are now safe under the current policy. That is a victory to celebrate while we wait for the Supreme Court,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who was among the chief cheerleaders pushing Mr. Obama to go around Congress and take unilateral steps last year.
The actions — often mislabeled by the press as executive orders — also included changes to the legal immigration system, such as making it easier for spouses of guest workers to also find jobs; allowing foreigners who study science and technology at U.S. universities to remain and work in the country longer; pushing legal immigrants to apply for citizenship; and waiving the penalty on illegal immigrant spouses or children of legal permanent residents so they no longer have to go to their home countries to await legal status. Read the rest of this entry »
Screening outposts to be set up in Iraq, Lebanon as U.S. urges Arab nations to do more.
The Obama administration is moving to increase and accelerate the number of Syrian refugees who might be admitted into the United States by opening new screening outposts in Iraq and Lebanon, administration officials told Reuters on Friday.
The move comes after President Barack Obama pledged in September to admit an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, torn by four years of civil war and disorder.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the plans to open a refugee settlement processing centre in Erbil, Iraq, before the end of 2015, and to resume refugee processing in Lebanon in early 2016, said spokeswoman Danna Van Brandt.
The White House would not say how many additional refugees it may take in beyond the 10,000, but two senior administration officials said they are seeking ways to increase the number.
Refugees and migrants arrive from the island of Lesbos to the port of Piraeus on Friday. About 25,000 refugees and other migrants are heading to the Greek mainland from the eastern Aegean islands after the country’s seamen’s union called off ferry strikes. (Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press)
“We want to be in a place where we can push out really ambitious goals,” said one of the officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
The State Department runs nine screening centres worldwide that serve as meeting points for refugees and U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees who have to decide who is suitable for resettlement in the United States.
Enrollment is falling short. The Obama administration projects that it will have roughly 10 million people on the state and federal exchanges by the end of next year, a staggering climb-down from prior expectations.
Rich Lowry writes: For the press, the debate over ObamaCare is over. There may be a few proverbial Japanese soldiers wandering on isolated islands yammering on about the failure of ObamaCare, but word will eventually filter down to them, too. This assumption is so deeply embedded that it is impervious to new evidence that ObamaCare is an unwieldy contraption that is sputtering badly.
“ObamaCare is a monopoly. It gives money to people to buy its product and through the individual mandate punishes those who don’t. And yet it’s still having trouble making the sale.”
Yes, ObamaCare has covered more people and has especially benefited those with pre-existing conditions (to be credible, Republican replacement plans have to do these things, as well), but the program is so poorly designed that, surely, even a new Democratic president will want to revisit it to try to make it more workable.
“Premiums are rising. Not everywhere, but steeply in some states. Indiana is down 12 percent, but Minnesota is up 50 percent.”
Enrollment is falling short. The Obama administration projects that it will have roughly 10 million people on the state and federal exchanges by the end of next year, a staggering climb-down from prior expectations. The Congressional Budget Office had predicted that there would be roughly 20 million enrollees.
Premiums are rising. Not everywhere, but steeply in some states. Indiana is down 12 percent, but Minnesota is up 50 percent. Health care expert Robert Laszewski points out that it’s the insurers with the highest enrollment and therefore the best information about actual enrollees that have tended to request the biggest increases — a sign that they don’t like what they’re seeing in their data. Read the rest of this entry »
Dave Boyer reports: When President Obama signs into law the new two-year budget deal Monday, his action will bring into sharper focus a part of his legacy that he doesn’t like to talk about: He is the $20 trillion man.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017. This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.”
— Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation
Mr. Obama’s spending agreement with Congress will suspend the nation’s debt limit and allow the Treasury to borrow another $1.5 trillion or so by the end of his presidency in 2017. Added to the current total national debt of more than $18.15 trillion, the red ink will likely be crowding the $20 trillion mark right around the time Mr. Obama leaves the White House.
“Of this $154 billion, about $78 billion is paid for honestly. The remaining $56 billion of the legislation — mostly the war spending increase and interest costs — is not paid for at all.”
When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.
“When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.”
“Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”
“We will be raising the debt ceiling in an unlimited fashion. We will be giving President Obama a free pass to borrow as much money as he can borrow in the last year of his office. No limit, no dollar limit. Here you go, President Obama. Spend what you want.”
— Sen. Rand Paul
Some budget analysts scoff at the claim made by the administration and by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, that the budget agreement’s $112 billion in spending increases is fully funded by cuts elsewhere. Mr. Boehner left Congress last week.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017,” said Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bridget Johnson reports: ISIS beheaded four Peshmerga in a grisly video released today with a retribution message to President Obama — delivered by an American-sounding executioner — for last week’s raid to rescue 69 prisoners near Hawija, Iraq.
“…There is still no compelling reason to believe that anything we are currently doing will be sufficient to achieve the President’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL.”
— Senator John McCain
Three of the Kurds are forced to watch the fourth prisoner being beheaded before they are subjected to the same fate.
“Obama, you have learned a new lesson. Six of the soldiers of the caliphate faced 400 of your children. They killed and injured them, by Allah’s grace. You were probably surprised by this. O Crusader, it is the support of Allah you did not gain anything, you returned to your base with loss and humiliation.”
The video, viewed by PJM, includes night-vision images of a helicopter attack, though it’s unclear if it’s footage from that night. It also shows clips of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, dead bodies and a field of rubble while ripping off coalition footage of the strikes. U.S. forces said they leveled the compound after the prisoners, who were set to be killed later that day, were rescued.
“Obama, you wage war against Allah. He supports us against you; it is the promise of Allah. Allah will never fail in his promise.”
A narrator speaking in Arabic walks through the decimated compound as he recounts ISIS’ version of events and includes alleged witnesses.
Chuck Ross reports: Hillary Clinton sent an email to her daughter, Chelsea, on Sept. 11, 2012 in which she asserted that an al-Qaida-like group was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, it was revealed on Thursday during the former secretary of state’s testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The email, which was revealed by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan , indicates that Clinton knew early on that the attacks which left four Americans dead was carried out by terrorists. But as Jordan pointed out, Clinton and others in the Obama administration had already begun crafting the narrative that the attack was spontaneous and that the attackers were motivated by a YouTube video many Muslims found offensive.
“Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group,” Clinton wrote.
But shortly before the email, after it was revealed that Ambassador Chris Stevens had been murdered in the onslaught, Clinton implied that the YouTube video had served as a motive.
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted to the Internet,” Clinton said in a statement shortly after Stevens’ death.
The Obama administration continued for days after the attack to claim that the YouTube video — entitled “Innocence of Muslims” — had sparked protests which turned violent. Critics of the administration’s handling of the response to the attack assert that the YouTube video was used as political cover to protect Obama ahead of his re-election bid. Obama had been on the campaign trail insisting that he had destroyed al-Qaida.
….Here’s how the shutdown weapon works. The president and his Democratic allies in Congress dictate their priorities on the budget and spending. If Republicans don’t go along, if they pass a budget that doesn’t spend as much as the president wants, Democrats use the filibuster and the veto to block the budget and shut down government. They then use “shutdown theater”—things like erecting barriers around public monuments that require no federal money to stay open—to make this seem like a bigger crisis than it is, and they depend on the press to put all the blame on Republicans. The House GOP, seeing the public approval of Republicans taking a hit, backs down. That’s how the last two Democratic presidents have used the shutdown to beat a hostile Congress into submission.
Democracy isn’t a machine — it’s a dance. Americans have some recourse against Obama’s shutdown theater.
So long as Obama and the Democrats can use a government shutdown as a credible threat, they neutralize House Republicans’ power of the purse. And so long as that’s the case, the House GOP can’t do anything substantial. They’re reduced to pleading, “We can’t do anything until we have the Senate,” and then, “We can’t do anything until we have the presidency.” And eventually the Republican base and the Tea Party types get fed up and conclude that Republican leaders never really wanted to do anything in the first place, that they’re just marking time before they can go to K Street or Wall Street and cash out. (Which is partly correct.)
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
The House GOP needed to find a good opportunity to go to the matt on the government shutdown and force Democrats to compromise. If they had done that, they could have used budget negotiations to get at least some of what the base wanted, instead of caving in all the time…(read more)
Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday. They were almost all in western Syria. They did not fall on the Islamic State or the other terrorist groups raping and pillaging the Syrian countryside, creating the largest international refugee crisis in decades.
Rather, the Russian airstrikes fell on the moderate rebel groups that the U.S. has been notionally supporting against the country’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
President Obama seems surprised by this, but his surprise is inexcusably disingenuous or obtuse.
McCain: Putin’s Ambitions ‘Blindingly Obvious’
Assad is and has long been an ally of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Russia entered the Syrian civil war as any rational person would have expected, on the side of his ally and of the Iranian paramilitaries that support him.
Does anyone in the administration dare to say they were shocked — shocked — that Putin is indifferent to both the horror and the strategic threat posed by the Islamic State. Why, yes the Obama administration does dare to claim surprise. When Russian bombs began to fall on their predictable targets, American officials reacted by claiming they were “taken aback,” as if they were genuinely wounded and upset.
On Monday, Obama had addressed the United Nations with the ridiculous idea that Washington and Moscow might would work together in Syria. “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama said. Read the rest of this entry »
A decision on whether to act could come soon, close to a major state visit by President Xi Jinping.
Ellen Nakashima reports: The Obama administration is developing a package of unprecedented economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals who have benefited from their government’s cybertheft of valuable U.S. trade secrets.
The U.S. government has not yet decided whether to issue these sanctions, but a final call is expected soon — perhaps even within the next two weeks, according to several administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“The indictments were a strong move. This is going to be an even stronger move. It’s really going to put China in the position of having to choose whether they want to be this pariah nation — this kleptocracy — or whether they want to be one of the leading nations in the world.”
— Rob Knake, a former White House cyber official and currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Issuing sanctions would represent a significant expansion in the administration’s public response to the rising wave of cyber-economic espionage initiated by Chinese hackers, who officials say have stolen everything from nuclear power plant designs to search engine source code to confidential negotiating positions of energy companies.
Any action would also come at a particularly sensitive moment between the world’s two biggest economies. President Xi Jinping of China is due to arrive next month in Washington for his first state visit — complete with a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House and an elaborate State Dinner. There is already tension over a host of other issues, including maritime skirmishes in the South China Sea and China’s efforts to devalue its currency in the face of its recent stock market plunge. At the same time, the two countries have deep trade ties and the administration has sometimes been wary of seeming too tough on China.
But the possibility of sanctions so close to Xi’s visit indicates how frustrated U.S. officials have become over the persistent cyber plundering.
The sanctions would mark the first use of an order signed by President Obama in April establishing the authority to freeze financial and property assets of, and bar commercial transactions with, individuals and entities overseas who engage in destructive attacks or commercial espionage in cyberspace.
“China is not the only country that hacks computer networks for trade secrets to aid its economy, but it is by far the most active, officials say. Just last month, the FBI said that economic espionage cases surged 53 percent in the past year, and that China accounted for most of that.”
The White House declined to comment on specific sanctions, but a senior administration official, speaking generally, said: “As the president said when signing the executive order enabling the use of economic sanctions against malicious cyber actors, the administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront such actors. Read the rest of this entry »
Predictable Catastrophe: Money Squandered as Confusing and Lenient Policies Encourage Border Crossings
Stephen Dinan reports: The U.S. government paid for a classroom full of computers in El Salvador, but the Salvadoran government never bothered to hire a teacher, investigators said Wednesday — one of a series of bungles in the Obama administration’s plan to flood Central America with U.S. money to try to stem another surge of illegal immigration.
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families.”
In an expansive report on last summer’s surge, the Government Accountability Office said confusing and lenient U.S. policies pushed illegal immigrants to make the crossing, and even cited administration officials who said President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty for so-called Dreamers did entice some of the surge.
President Barack Obama attempts to respond to Ju Hong (lower left), who began to heckle him about anti-deportation policies at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
“Initially officials blamed dangerous and economically depressed conditions in three key Central American nations for pushing illegal immigrants north, but eventually Homeland Security officials admitted that confusing and lenient policies — at least as far as illegal immigrants were concerned — were serving as a magnet to draw illegal immigrants.”
Trying to get a handle on the flood, Mr. Obama has requested hundreds of millions of dollars to try to bolster society in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three countries chiefly responsible for the surge, but GAO investigators said corruption or incompetence among the Central American governments may hinder those efforts.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Homeland Security officials poured money into public relations campaigns to try to warn would-be crossers against attempting it, but the government has no idea if those efforts worked, the GAO said.
“The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers.”
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families,” the GAO said in its report.
Both the State Department and Homeland Security admitted they need to do a better job collecting information and evaluating what they’re doing.
The report comes a year after the surge of illegal immigrant children and families reshaped the immigration debate, drawing attention to a still-porous border and helping sidetrack President Obama’s hopes of getting Congress to approve a bill legalizing illegal immigrants already in the country.
The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers. Read the rest of this entry »
Daniel Halper writes: Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill today the U.S. government will not be revealing the contents of secret side deals with Iran to the American people. Senator Tom Cotton wanted to know why it can’t be made public.
“Why can’t we confirm or deny the content of these agreements in public? Why is this classified? It’s not a sensitive U.S. government document.”
— Senator Tom Cotton
“We don’t have their authorization to reveal what is a confidential agreement…”
— Secretary of State, recreational windsurfer, John Kerry
Watch the exchange:
“So the ayatollahs will know what they agreed to but not the American people?”
“Effective July 21, 2015, new guidance (PA-2015-001) in the USCIS Policy Manual clarifies the eligibility requirements for modifications to the Oath of Allegiance. Reciting the Oath is part of the naturalization process. Candidates for citizenship normally declare that they will “bear arms on behalf of the United States” and “perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States” when required by the law. A candidate may be eligible to exclude these two clauses based on religious training and belief or a conscientious objection,” an email from USCIS clarifying the requirements states (bolding is mine).
The new guidance:
-May be eligible for modifications based on religious training and belief, or conscientious objection arising from a deeply held moral or ethical code. -Is not required to belong to a specific church or religion, follow a particular theology or belief, or to have had religious training in order to qualify. -May submit, but is not required to provide, an attestation from a religious or other type of organization, as well as other evidence to establish eligibility.Read the rest of this entry »