Daily Dose 3/9/17- Ax Attack in Germany

Seven people were injured, three severely, in an ax attack Thursday at Dusseldorf’s main train station, police in Germany said.”A suspect tried to flee and was injured as well,” said an unnamed spokesman who briefed reporters. Two women were among the injured.

“A suspect tried to flee and was injured as well,” said an unnamed spokesman who briefed reporters. Two women were among the injured.

Police believe the suspect, a 36-year-old man who lives in Wuppertal, acted alone in the ax attack. Authorities believe the man has mental problems. Bruno Macedo, a passenger on a train that was due to stop in Dusseldorf, said the train station was closed and his train was diverted to Cologne.

The station remained closed late Thursday as investigators pored over the scene.

South Korea’s Constitutional Court has upheld a decision by the country’s National Assembly to impeach President Park Geun-Hye.

The decision was unanimous, with all eight judges on the court voting to remove Park, the country’s first female president, from office.

Park is the first South Korean president to be impeached. An election for her replacement must be held within 60 days, with Prime Minister and acting President Hwang Kyo-Ahn to set the day.

In December, lawmakers voted to impeach Park by a vote of 234 to 56, stripping away her executive powers. Since then she has remained in the presidential Blue House but has remained largely out of public view.

The court upheld the impeachment because she was judged to have abused her authority in helping Choi raise donations from companies.

Local media and opposition parties have accused Choi of abusing her relationship with the president to force companies to donate millions of dollars to foundations she runs.

The ACLU has submitted an ethics complaint with the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Commission against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, alleging the former senator violated the code of conduct during his confirmation hearing testimony. “Mr. Sessions is the Attorney General of the United States and violated Rule 8.4 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct,” according to the complaint filed Thursday by the ACLU’s Chris Anders, deputy director at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, where he represents the ACLU before Congress and the executive branch. On March 2, Sessions told reporters at the Justice Department that he will recuse himself from “any existing or future investigations” regarding the 2016 presidential campaign, responding to bipartisan pressure to step aside from a probe into Moscow meddling amid revelations he spoke twice with Russia’s ambassador and didn’t disclose it to Congress.

In a press conference, Sessions pushed back forcefully, however, on allegations he misled lawmakers. Though he testified during his confirmation hearing that he had no “communications” with Russia during the campaign, when he was a top surrogate for then-candidate Donald Trump, Sessions defended his answer as “honest and correct.”

http://cnn.com

Daily Dose 3/7/17- Is It TrumpCare or ObamaCare

Congressional conservatives vowed Tuesday to introduce their own legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, escalating their fight against GOP leaders’ long-awaited health care overhaul bill just hours after it was released.

During a lengthy press conference outside the Capitol, lawmakers from the right flank of the Republican Party railed against the new legislation, which key committees plan to take up Wednesday. Signaling the turbulence ahead for party leaders, the lawmakers said they’ll revive a 2015 repeal bill that already passed Congress under former President Barack Obama.

“There’s no reason we should put anything less on President Trump’s desk than we put on President Obama’s,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said.

Jordan, a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, claimed the House leadership bill unveiled Monday “is ObamaCare by a different form.”

South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford asked whether conservatives “have to lower the bar in what we believe simply because we have a Republican in the White House?”

The complaints point to the tough fight ahead as GOP lawmakers try to deliver on their long-standing campaign promise to fix and replace the Affordable Care Act. With conservatives already crying foul, Republican congressional leaders joined with the Trump administration to defend the plan on the table as a positive starting point.

“We’re going to do something that’s great and I’m proud to support the replacement plan released by the House of Representatives,” Trump declared at the White House as he met with the House GOP vote-counting team Tuesday. “We’re going to take action. There’s going to be no slowing down. There’s going to be no waiting and no more excuses by anybody.” If they can’t pass health care legislation after seven years of promises it could be a “bloodbath” in the 2018 midterm election, according to one member present in the meeting.

Trump vowed to throw his full support behind the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act during a meeting with House GOP leadership, saying he is “proud” to support a GOP-authored plan to replace Obamacare and told members behind closed doors that he would support it “100%,” according to sources in the room.

But he warned lawmakers of the high-stakes nature of the effort, citing a potential electoral “bloodbath,” a member present said. “He said he hopes members understand that,” the source said.

Daily Dose 3/6/17- New travel ban

 

Iraq was removed from the revised travel ban executive order.

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order Monday that bans immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, dropping Iraq from January’s previous order, and reinstates a temporary blanket ban on all refugees.

 

The new travel ban comes six weeks after Trump’s original executive order caused chaos at airports nationwide before it was blocked by federal courts. It removes out language in the original order that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and called for prioritizing the admission of refugees who are religious minorities in their home countries. That provision drew criticism of a religious test for entry and would have prioritized Christians over Muslims fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East.

The new travel ban, which takes effect March 16, also explicitly exempts citizens of the six banned countries who are legal US permanent residents or have valid visas to enter the US — including those whose visas were revoked during the original implementation of the ban, senior administration officials said.

House Republicans on Monday evening released the text of their long-awaited ObamaCare replacement bill, calling to eliminate the myriad taxes and penalties tied to the original legislation while still preserving certain patient protections.

The bill, called the American Health Care Act, can be read online at readthebill.gop.

The sweeping legislation would repeal ObamaCare’s taxes along with the so-called individual and employer insurance mandates. It also would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies, replacing them with tax credits for consumers.

CLICK TO READ THE TEXT OF THE OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT BILL.

“We begin by repealing the awful taxes, the mandate penalties and the subsidies in ObamaCare,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” in an exclusive interview.

Asked about some conservatives’ concerns that GOP leaders are merely pushing ‘ObamaCare Lite,’ Brady countered, “It is ObamaCare gone.”

Daily Dose 3/5/17- What Wire Tap?

Trump claimed in a series of tweets without evidence Saturday that his predecessor had tried to undermine him by tapping the telephones at Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper where Trump based his campaign and transition operations and maintains a home.

“How low has President Obama gone to tap [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” he tweeted.

Trump’s charge also left many in the White House and Justice Department confused and scrambling over the weekend to find any kind of factual backup for the president’s accusations.

Also Sunday, the New York Times reported that FBI Director James Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s assertion. According to the Times, Comey argued that Trump’s claim falsely implied that the FBI had broken the law. The Justice Department had not issued any such statement about the tap scandal as of Sunday evening.

North Korea has fired four ballistic missiles, three of which landed within 200 nautical miles of Japan, the country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday.

Speaking to the Japanese parliament, Abe said the launch was a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. “It is an extremely dangerous action,” he said.

A US official also confirmed that Pyongyang fired four projectiles, which appeared to be ballistic missiles.

President Donald Trump is planning to sign an updated executive order banning travel from certain Middle Eastern and African countries early next week, possibly as soon as Monday, at the Department of Homeland Security, an administration official told CNN, cautioning that plans could change.

Trump was scheduled to sign the order last Wednesday but pushed it back after his joint address to Congress received overwhelmingly positive reviews.

“We want the (executive order) to have its own ‘moment,’ ” a senior administration official told CNN on Tuesday.

Sources told CNN that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster have all advocated for Iraq to be removed from the administration’s list of banned countries in the new executive order for diplomatic reasons, including Iraq’s role in fighting ISIS. Homeland Security Secretary James Kelly also supported the move, but it remains unclear whether the White House has made a final decision on the issue.

http://cnn.com

Daily Dose 2/2/17- Jeff Sessions recuse

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday he will recuse himself from “any existing or future investigations” regarding the 2016 presidential campaign, responding to bipartisan pressure to step aside from a probe into Moscow meddling amid revelations he spoke twice with Russia’s ambassador and didn’t disclose it to Congress.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Sessions pushed back forcefully, however, on allegations he misled lawmakers. Though he testified during his confirmation hearing that he had no “communications” with Russia during the campaign, when he was a top surrogate for then-candidate Donald Trump, Sessions defended his answer as “honest and correct.”

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” he said.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul marched to the House side of the Capitol Thursday morning, knocked on a locked door and demanded to see a copy of the House’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which he believed was being kept under lock and key.

Aides in the room told the senator — before dozens of reporters in a crowded hallway — that there was no bill to see. In fact, it wasn’t the room where GOP members of the Energy and Commerce Committee were told to meet with staff to review the current draft of their bill at all. But that did little to dissuade Paul, openly critical to the House Republican leadership’s preferred path on the process, from making his underlying point.

“This should be an open and transparent process,” Paul said. “This is being presented as if it were a national secret, as if this was a plot to invade another country, as if this were national security. That’s wrong.”

http://cnn.com

Daily Dose 3/1/17- The U.S. future with Trump

President Donald Trump reached for poetry and conjured a vision of common national purpose Tuesday during his first address to Congress, shifting his tone from the dark, searing approach of his previous big speeches to the nation. Though his language was more lofty and unifying than normal, Trump gave little quarter on the substance of his policies on issues ranging from trade, defense, immigration, and counterterrorism. The result was a populist, nationalistic prescription that he said would yield “a new chapter of American greatness.”

Russian air forces bombed a site perilously close to U.S. troops in Syria on Tuesday, a near-miss in the fog of war against the Islamic State — though the strikes still hit U.S.-backed forces.

U.S. Lt. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said Wednesday the incident occurred after Russian pilots began bombing what they thought were ISIS fighters in a “bunch of villages” in northern Syria.

They ended up hitting forces with the U.S.-backed Syrian Arab Coalition.

U.S. troops were several miles away, and the bombing stopped after U.S. officials made “quick calls … to deconfliction channels,” said Townsend, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, the joint operation to stop ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Dow soared 303 points to close above 21,000 for the first time ever on Wednesday. The milestone comes barely a month after the Dow hit 20,000 for the first time.

Trump’s prime-time address to Congress on Tuesday received high marks from viewers and has clearly left Wall Street in good spirits, too. The Dow generated its biggest point gain since November 7, a rally that came after the FBI cleared Hillary Clinton in the email investigation.

President Trump’s administration confirmed it is reviewing the United States’ participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, warning Wednesday that it wants the international body to reform its agenda and end its “obsession with Israel.”

Washington critics have argued that the Geneva-based council unfairly targets Israel over allegations of human rights violations and alleged war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“The United States … remains deeply troubled by the Council’s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel,” Erin Barlacy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Switzerland. “No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item. How is that a sensible priority?”

Barclay also questioned why the council was not taking action on other international matters including claims that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is bombing hospitals and that North Korea and Iran are denying citizens freedom of “religion … of peaceful assembly and association, and of expression.”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/donald-trump-congress-speech/

Daily Dose 2/27/17- The Border Fiasco

In the city of Douglas Arizona, a Border Patrol surveillance camera is fixed on a 10-foot-high border fence with Mexico. After a few seconds, the footage shows a figure appearing out of nowhere and the fence suddenly opens to allow a pickup truck through. A car follows, and they speed off into adjoining neighborhoods while the makeshift gate slams shut.

The Wild West still has a foothold here, more than 100 years after gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday called Douglas home. Only the outlaws are cartels and traffickers.

And while President Trump is vowing to step up enforcement and seal off the southern border, agents in Border Patrol say they are still grappling with fallout from the Obama years – which they contend allowed security problems like this to fester.

More bomb threats have been called into Jewish community centers and day schools in at least 12 states, according to statements from the Anti-Defamation League and JCCA.

Many affected institutions were declared clear and have returned to regular operations. Monday’s threats targeted JCCs in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In addition, cemeteries in Pennsylvania and St. Luis have been vandalized and their tombstones ruined. 

http://www.cnn.com

Daily Dose 2/26/17- phones searched

 

As the Trump administration hunts for the source of a series of politically embarrassing leaks that have plagued the young administration, dozens of White House staffers have had their phones searched in what is being termed “recess” compared to what may be planned, two top administration officials said. One official said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called nearly two dozen staffers into his office and demanded the staffers’ cell phones in order to check for evidence of leaks. Spicer warned that the initial search would be “recess” compared to what awaits staffers in round two of the investigation if the leaker or leakers aren’t discovered.

 

A second senior administration official confirmed the first official’s account, adding that staffers were instructed to place their phones on a desk as soon as they walked in.

President Donald Trump will call for a substantial increase in military spending and look to safeguard Social Security and Medicare from any cuts in his first major step toward compiling a budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, a senior administration official told CNN on Sunday.

The White House on Monday will issue the outlines of a budget proposal to federal agencies, a document that has largely been drafted by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, the official said.

The budget outline will also call for spending cuts to several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

The announcement will come a day before Trump’s joint congressional address on Tuesday, where he is expected to lay out his agenda and legislative priorities.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of the Navy withdrew from consideration on Sunday, the second time a Trump nominee to lead one of the armed services bowed out because of government conflict-of-interest rules.

Trump last month nominated Philip Bilden, a private equity executive, and former military intelligence officer, to lead the Navy, which the president has pledged he will expand.

In a statement on Sunday, Bilden said that “after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”

http://www.foxnews.com

Daily Dose 2/24/17- Reporters Ban

News outlets were blocked on Friday from attending an off-camera White House press briefing that other reporters were hand-picked to attend, raising alarm among media organizations and First Amendment watchdogs.

The decision struck veteran White House journalists as unprecedented in the modern era and escalated tensions in the already fraught relationship between the Trump administration and the press.

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico and BuzzFeed were also among those excluded from the meeting, which was held in White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s office. The meeting, which is known as a gaggle, was held in lieu of the daily televised Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room.

When reporters from these news organizations tried to enter Spicer’s office for the gaggle, they were told they could not attend because they were not on the list of attendees.

President Trump took another step Friday to roll back government red tape, signing an executive order requiring every federal agency to form a “regulatory reform task force” that would root out regulations for repeal.

A day after chief strategist Steve Bannon vowed a “deconstruction of the administrative state,” Trump directed each agency’s task force to evaluate existing rules and identify which ones should be modified or sent to the chopping block.

Joined in the Oval Office by business executives, Trump said “unnecessary” and “burdensome” regulations are “killing jobs” and “driving companies out of our country like never before.”

Those regulations, according to the White House, will be a focus of the new task forces.

Trump said reducing the regulatory burden will “unleash economic activity.”

http://www.foxnews.com

Daily Dose 2/23/17- White House

The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.

But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate.

White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday withdrew an Obama-era Justice Department memo that set a goal of reducing and ultimately ending the Justice Department’s use of private prisons.

In a one-page memo to the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons, Sessions wrote that the August 2016 memo by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates “changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”

A Justice Department spokesman said Sessions’ memo “directs the Bureau of Prisons to return to its previous approach to the use of private prisons,” which would “restore BOP’s flexibility to manage the federal prison inmate population based on capacity needs.”

BOP currently has 12 private prison contracts that hold around 21,000 inmates. Yates had said that private prisons compared “poorly” to BOP prisons. Her memo followed a damning report from the Justice Department’s inspector general which found that privately run facilities were more dangerous than those run by BOP.

The White House said Thursday it expects law enforcement agents to enforce federal marijuana laws when they come into conflict with states where recreational use of the drug is permitted.

“I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said regarding federal drug laws, which still list marijuana as an illegal substance.

That’s a reversal from the Obama administration’s stance, which laid out in an official memo that the federal government wouldn’t interfere in states where the nonmedical use of marijuana is allowed.

http://www.foxnews.com