Politics Headlines
Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Border Patrol union slammed the execution of the National Guard deployment to the southern border on Friday, saying that resources were being wasted and that troops were not being used as "initially planned".

"Someone in between President Trump and the folks on the border is not relaying the information correctly," Art Del Cueto, the national spokesperson for the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) told ABC News.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times on Thursday, union president Brandon Judd harshly criticized the deployment of National Guard troops as "a colossal waste of resources" and of "no benefit."

Judd told the Los Angeles Times that when he found out the National Guard was going to the border he was "extremely excited because previous deployments on the border helped alleviate the Border Patrol's workload.

But this time, he told the paper, "that has not happened at all."

The union, which represents around 18,000 agents and support personnel, had hoped troops would be used in similar capacities as past deployments to the border and that they would provide support as the "eyes and ears" for Border Patrol, according to its spokesperson.

"We're not attacking President Trump. It's not his fault, but the people underneath him aren't understanding what he wants," said Del Cuento who added that he hasn't seen evidence that deploying the National Guard has helped the Border Patrol reallocate its workload to the frontlines.

The union endorsed Trump's candidacy and have been staunch supporters of the president.

Border Patrol Chief and acting deputy commissioner Ronald Vitiello defended his agency on Friday against criticism, saying "we’ve already seen dividends from it."

"The categorization that it's wasteful or it's not effective, it's not resonating with me," Vitiello said.

Vitiello said he doesn't think the union realizes that the differences are "based on the lessons learned” from previous deployments.

This comes less than two months after the Trump administration announced that it was deploying troops to the U.S.-Mexico border with the goal of gaining "operational control" of the border.

The exact goals and timeframe for the deployment are unclear.

President Trump has said he wants National Guardsmen to guard the U.S. border with Mexico until a border wall is built. Border Patrol has said the length of the deployment will be "conditions-based" and depend on the amount of funding available.

In 2006 the Bush administration deployed 6,000 guardsmen as part of the border support mission known as Operation Jump Start.

President Barack Obama deployed 1,200 guardsmen in 2010 as part of a similar mission called Operation Phalanx.

The current mission on the border is designed to free-up Border Patrol agents to carry out arrests and interdictions, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees Border Patrol.

National Guard soldiers are not allowed to perform any federal, state, local or tribal law enforcement functions and have been assigned to duties that don't require they be armed.

"We’ve already seen dividends from it," said Vitiello.

He credited about 4,000 arrests and the confiscation of 4,000 pounds of marijuana with direct troop support.

"The Guardsmen have been great partners for us and we’re grateful that they are out there with us," said Vitiello.

As of Friday, there were just over 1,000 on-the-ground troops dedicated to supporting Border Patrol, plus 500 to 600 additional troops to provide logistics and other support, according to Vitiello.

The current on-the-ground missions include air interdiction support, road maintenance and vegetation clearing, operational support with radio operators, fleet maintenance, intelligence analysts and surveillance support.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has authorized up to 4,000 total troops to participate through the end of September.

The Department of Defense had no comment on criticism from the union.

Elizabeth Mclaughlin and Luis Martinez contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Psychologist Michael Rosmann said that whenever he is home at his family's farm in western Iowa he is taking calls or answering emails from farmers asking for help or counseling.

He specializes in behavioral health for farmers and said he has received more requests for assistance in recent months than the last three decades.

"My phone and my email have just been completely filled for the last six months. I work virtually seven days a week if I'm around the phone is always going email is always coming," he told ABC News.

The calls are part of a critical issue faced by farmers, their profession faces the highest overall rate of suicide in the nation — much higher than the number of suicides in the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Debbie Weingarten reached out for help four years ago when she was running a vegetable farm in Arizona. She was a first-generation farmer and said that even without the pressure of maintaining a family farm she felt depressed and anxious about the possibility that they would lose money or crops.

"I felt like the risk that farmers undertake to produce food for eaters is not spread out fairly across the food system, so that's squarely on the backs of farmers," she told ABC News.

She said couldn't find anyone to talk to online who understood her situation until she found a program run by Rosmann. The website said it lost funding a few years before but she called anyway.

"I was grasping at straws," she said.

Rosmann picked up the phone.

Weingarten said she left farming in 2014 but still writes about agriculture. She spent five years researching and reporting a story about the suicide rate among farmers that was published in The Guardian last year.

Farmers in industries that have faced falling commodity prices and international trade disputes have faced additional economic pressure in recent years and farming experts and industry leaders say the uncertainty around the nearly $400 billion dollar Farm Bill adds additional stress for farmers and their families.

“Farmers were going through a very stressful winter weather-wise, a cold and tough winter, and on top of that we are into our fourth year of low milk prices, below the cost of production, and that has been creating a lot of stress,” Robert Wellington, a senior vice president of Agri-Mark Dairy Farmer cooperative, told ABC News on the phone Thursday.

On average, Wellington estimated, small and medium dairy farmers have struggled through four years of milk prices that are 10 to 30 percent below the cost of production.

His group sent a letter to members in January forecasting yet another year of low milk prices. In the letter, they included phone numbers for people dealing with financial and emotional stress and a suicide hotline.

The farm bill has traditionally been bipartisan legislation to maintain subsidies, crop insurance programs, and livestock disaster programs but there has been dramatic debate and delays in this year's bill due to proposals to cut funding from food stamp programs that make up a huge portion of the money allocated by the bill every five years.

This draft of this year's farm bill in the House would have also provided funding for crisis hotlines and other programs to provide mental health help to farmers.

"Our farmers who feed the world are feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders," one of the sponsors of that bipartisan provision Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn. said on the House floor ahead of the Farm Bill vote.

The House rejected the proposed bill.

In a 2016 report, the Centers for Disease Control found that about 84 out of every 100,000 people in the farming, fishing and forestry industries died by suicide in 2012, the most recent data available. The suicide rate for the general population was about 12 out of every 100,000 people that year, according to CDC data.

That study included data from 17 states but did not include data from states like Iowa, Texas, or California where agriculture is a major part of the economy.

The report said that the high rate among farmers could be due to the potential to lose money in the business, as well as social isolation, lack of mental health services, or access to lethal means.

Rosmann is a psychologist and adjunct professor at the University of Iowa who specializes in behavioral health for farmers. He said farming is physically and emotionally stressful but that the current health system does not deal with all of the physical and mental risks for farmers.

"The bigger picture is that we have not attended to the behavioral well being of the agricultural population the way we have to the general population's need for behavioral health," Rosmann told ABC News.

He said that farmers have a unique psychology that drives them to work hard but that some factors are out of their control, like policy, weather, or commodity prices, resulting in a very stressful situation, adding that there has been increased economic stress on farmers in recent years and that they think they're being economically marginalized.

Rosmann said farmers have a strong bond to their land and their farming operation and that on a psychological scale the stress of a life event like losing a family's farm can be just as traumatic as losing a child.

"It's almost always because of the loss of livelihood that people do such dramatic things as taking their lives," he said.

Rosmann said he strongly supports a provision in the farm bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., to provide more money for states to provide mental health services like crisis hotlines for farmers and ranchers.

He said that some states offer resources like a crisis hotline but they need a stronger network of resources and a national center to help with the problem. In Minnesota the state employs one rural mental health counselor to help roughly 100,000 farmers, according to MinnPost.com.

Earlier in May the president of the National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson, wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to proactively address what he called “the farmer suicide crisis.”

“Farming is a high-stress occupation,” Johnson wrote in his letter. “Due to the prolonged downturn in the farm economy, many farmers are facing even greater stress. USDA’s national reach uniquely positions the Department to assist farmers and ranchers during times of crisis. We urge you to leverage your vision for collaboration across USDA and the entire federal government to develop a response to the farm suicide crisis.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a bipartisan bill on the issue of farmer suicide that would mandate more spending on mental health resources in rural areas. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., also introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this year to provide mental health services for farmers and ranchers.

Emmer's bill was included in the version of the farm bill that was voted down in the House. The Senate's farm bill has not yet been released.

The current farm bill is set to expire in September.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free, confidential support. The organization Farm Aid also offers a hotline for farmers in need of emergency help and a directory of local resources.

ABC News' MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Sam Morris/Getty Images(BOISE) -- Paulette Jordan, an Idaho gubernatorial candidate from the Coeur d'Alene tribe, said she was "birthed into politics," and her upbringing helped pave the way for her political quest to become the country’s first Native American governor.

She grew up on a quiet and peaceful ranch surrounded by wildlife, bluegrass and elders whom she describes as self-sufficient and full of wisdom and teachings that she has carried along with her in life.

“We are very connected to the land,” Jordan said about her community. “My community is very independent and based around prayers.”

She was raised around leaders, and she felt it was her destiny to become one.

“It’s like I inherited a legacy of leadership because of my lineage,” Jordan said. “My responsibility is to continue this legacy.”

Her grandfather was a chief of their tribe and her Toop’ya, or grandmother, was a prominent figure in their community.

Her Toop’ya was known for being an old, pure soul who never cast judgment on anyone. She was known as the “sweetheart” of the Coeur D’Alene community.

Jordan remembers a time when a member of the tribe was about to face punishment, and her Toop’ya intervened to tell others in the community that this is "not our way" and "not who we are as a people."

Since her death, Jordan, a state legislator, has taken her Toop’ya’s ideologies and used them as her political backbone.

“She was small in size, but powerful in her being,” Jordan said. “She taught me to be good to all people, to be sincere. I learned a lot from her in that regard.”

Jordan recently cinched Idaho’s Democratic gubernatorial primary -- a historic win.

The Idaho Statesman, in its endorsement of her ahead of the primary, said voters have a choice between electing a traditional candidate or they could "try something -- and someone -- new."

Former Labor Secretary and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez recently tweeted his congratulations to Jordan, saying, “A big congratulations to fellow DNC member and Idaho's Democratic nominee for governor @PauletteEJordan! We are inspired by you and can't wait to see you soar in November."

Jordan said she sees her role as “significant” to other women, especially amid the current "pink wave" of an increasing number of female candidates seeking office and the #MeToo movement of women speaking out about sexual harassment and assault.

“We’re breaking one barrier after another,” she said. “I want to inspire them to do more, feel emboldened to take on leadership roles. I want more young women to feel strong.”

Jordan also views her platform as pressing in this current political climate.

“We were able to draw out an election that hasn’t happened in government before. People are now invested in improving the system overall.”

Jordan has other issues she’s focused on as well, such as protecting the environment, expanding education resources and health care.

“When we win in November, there will be a major overhaul,” Jordan said. “We’re reminding people this race is about them and building the community. We’re building one Idaho family for the greater good.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Malasian Navy(NEW YORK CITY) -- The former commanding officer of the destroyer USS John S. McCain pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of dereliction of duty for his role in last year's deadly collision that killed 10 sailors.

Commander Alfredo J. Sanchez was sentenced to a letter of reprimand and a $6,000 fine, as part of his plea deal agreement he will be required to retire from the Navy.

On August 21, 2017 10 sailors were killed when the destroyer collided with an oil tanker as it entered the busy waterway into the port of Singapore. The collision occurred two months after seven sailors were killed when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan.

Both collisions resulted in the removal of senior leaders in the Navy's Seventh Fleet and to criminal proceedings against the senior leaders and some of the crew members of both ships.

Sanchez, the McCain's commanding officer, was on the bridge when the warship collided with the Alnic MC following an apparent loss of steering control.

A Navy investigation later determined that Sanchez did not follow the recommendations of his command team to have the ship's most experienced bridge team on duty as destroyer entered the busy waterway into Singapore. Investigators also found that Sanchez and the bridge team lacked a familiarity with some of the helm consoles that led to a perceived lack of steering.

Originally charged with negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vehicle, Sanchez pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of "dereliction in the performance of duties through neglect resulting in death" as part of a plea deal agreement.

He entered his plea at a special court martial hearing held at the Washington Navy Yard.

"I am ultimately responsible and stand accountable for the actions and decisions leading to USS John S. McCain's collision and death of my ten Sailors," an emotional Sanchez told the court. "I will forever question my decisions that contributed to this tragic event and fully recognize that no actions or desires will bring our sailors back."

Sanchez told family members of the 10 sailors, "I will never forget them and they will never be forgotten."

Sanchez acknowledged that he should have "taken the conn" in the three-minute time frame preceding the collision with the tanker. "I should have injected myself into the situation earlier," he said.

In testimony, Sanchez told the court his belief that he should have also been more rigorous with the crew’s training.

“That’s my job,” he said, “To bring your ship and more importantly your crew back safe.”

The judge in the case sentenced Sanchez to a punitive letter of reprimand and a fine of $2,000 in pay for three months. He received credit for the non-judicial punishment given to him last year where he was also given a letter of reprimand and the forfeiture of half a month’s pay totaling $4,498.

As part of the plea deal agreement Sanchez will be required to retire from the Navy, and Friday's guilty plea could impact whether he is allowed to retire at his current rank of commander or at a lower rank.

Killed in the collision were Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith; Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley;Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez; Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell; Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake; Electronic Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr.; Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram; Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon; Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III and Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, 23.

During the sentencing phase of Friday's hearing surviving family members read victim impact statements describing the grief of lost sons, brothers and fathers.

Ricardo Lopez described how his brother's wife and two daughters grieve the loss of his death on a daily basis.

Lopez told the court his brother was on the last deployment of a nearly 20-year naval career and three months away from retiring and that the family is not receiving his retirement benefits "because of this incident".

Riho Findley had met and married her husband Charles in Japan and recalled how she looked forward to visiting the United States with him. But her first visit to America was for his funeral, it was also the first time she met his family.

Findley's sister, Amy Winters, said her brother had once reassured her about his time at sea that the McCain "was one of the safest places to be."

Seven impact statements were read by Kevin Bushell's family members who described their continuing grief over the loss of their son and brother.

"Why was such a wonderful person taken away from us so soon?" asked Krystal Bushell.

Sanchez's wife, Maria Zapata Yordan, also told the court of the emotional toll the collision has had on her husband, noting that some nights he will be yelling orders in his sleep.

In an empathetic aside prior to reading the sentence Captain Charles Purnell,the presiding judge at Friday's hearing told Sanchez, “Don’t become the 11th casualty of the McCain. I am convinced you still have a whole lot to contribute.”

On Thursday, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Jeffery Butler, who was in charge of training sailors on the McCain in using steering equipment, was demoted in rank after also pleading guilty to a charge of dereliction of duty for his role in the collision.

Two weeks ago Lt. Junior Grade Sarah Coppock received a letter of reprimand and a loss of pay after pleading guilty to negligence for her role in the collision of the USS Fitzgerald. At the time of the collision Coppock was the Officer of the Deck as the ship maneuvered through the busy shipping lanes outside Tokyo Bay.

Commander Bryce Benson, the commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald, has waived a right to a preliminary hearing, no date has been set for a potential court martial. He faces charges of negligent homicide, hazarding a vessel and dereliction of duty.

Two other junior officers aboard the USS Fitzgerald are waiting to hear whether they will face courts martial following preliminary court hearings two weeks ago.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump signed executive orders Friday that take aim at what White House officials described as an overly bureaucratic and extensive process of firing “poorly performing” civil servants.

The orders would also limit the power and funding from the federal unions set up to protect them.

The head of the largest federal workers' union said the Trump administration "seems hellbent on replacing a civil service that works for all taxpayers with a political service that serves at its whim."

In a call with reporters, administration officials described the three executive orders taking a wide variety of actions, including rolling back the amount of time that "poorly performing" civil servants have to correct their behavior before being fired – and making it harder for fired workers to move to a separate agency.

A second executive order will create a federal 'Labor Relations Working Group' intended to analyze government contracts with federal unions and remove "wasteful expenditures."

The third executive order restricts the amount of time federal employees can spend on "union work," and aims to charge federal unions for rent space in federal buildings and eliminates their ability to expense their travel to the government. The order will also halt payments to unions specifically related to their time lobbying Congress.

The officials pushed back on the idea that the moves were politically motivated, insisting that it was more about increasing efficiency in government and saving taxpayer dollars.

“This executive order is about promoting better use of taxpayer dollars and helping support the hundreds of thousands of federal civil servants that come to work every day to do a great job on behalf of their country and have consistently said the government's inability to effectively manage poor performing employees is a problem,” one official said. “We don't view this as an administration as a particularly political issue.”

White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Andrew Bremberg said in a statement that the orders are in line with the public opinion inside the civil service itself.

"Every year the federal employee viewpoint survey has consistently shown that less than one-third of federal employees believe that poor performers are adequately addressed by their agency," Bremberg said. "These executive orders will make it easier for agencies to remove poor performing employees and ensure that taxpayer dollars are more efficiently used."

Federal worker unions quickly objected. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 700,000 federal workers, issued a statement saying "President Trump is attempting to silence the voice of veterans, law enforcement officers, and other frontline federal workers through a series of executive orders intended to strip federal employees of their decades-old right to representation at the worksite."

"This is more than union busting – it's democracy busting," AFGE National President J. David Cox said in the statement. "These executive orders are a direct assault on the legal rights and protections that Congress has specifically guaranteed to the 2 million public-sector employees across the country who work for the federal government."

As for the amount of taxpayer dollars saved as a result of the orders, the officials said their current estimates predict that it will save taxpayers “at least $100 million” annually." They could not say just how many civil servants would be cut from the federal government as a result of the orders.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration has reached a deal with Chinese telecom ZTE to lift economic sanctions on the firm, a move likely to frustrate much of Congress, two sources familiar with the arrangement have confirmed to ABC.

The Commerce Department will lift a seven-year ban on ZTE’s ability to buy American parts, which was imposed after the company violated U.S. sanctions and did business with Iran and North Korea. The U.S. government is also concerned that the state-backed company was using its devices to spy on users.

In a statement, a White House official said, “This is a law enforcement action being handled by Commerce. We are making sure ZTE is held accountable for violating U.S. sanctions, pays a big price, and that we are protecting our security infrastructure and U.S. jobs.”

The effect of the action, however, weakens the existing sanctions on ZTE. The U.S. will instead require the company to pay a fine, install U.S. compliance officers and change board members.

A spokesperson for the Commerce Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. President Donald Trump has asserted that loosening sanctions on ZTE will strengthen the U.S. hand in broader trade negotiations with China and lead to China purchasing more American goods. Trump had previously tweeted that China was willing to increase agricultural imports from the U.S.

Earlier this week, as President Trump tweeted his intention to execute this agreement, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio warned that the new deal would not be enough to change ZTE’s bad behavior. The U.S. has already fined the company $1.2 billion.

“We're basically saying, we're going to give you the same deal you violated the first time, and by the way you can keep spying,” Rubio told ABC in an interview Tuesday.

Democrats were also quick to condemn the move. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement linking the agreement to contemporaneous reports that China had agreed to fund the construction of a Trump-linked hotel in Indonesia, which White House officials have dismissed as unrelated.

“The President’s ZTE deal is a staggering betrayal of the American people,” Pelosi said. “Although Trump pledged to fight for hard-working Americans, he is now using U.S. government resources to enrich a foreign company – right after the Chinese government reportedly agreed to funnel half a billion dollars into one of his family’s resorts.”

Congress has already taken additional steps to block ZTE’s influence in the United States. A measure blocking the military from working with contractors that use ZTE devices and networks will likely soon pass as part of its annual defense authorization bill, and the Pentagon has already banned the sale of ZTE devices on U.S. bases.

House and Senate committees are also working on bills to prohibit the Trump administration from unilaterally lifting the seven-year ban on ZTE’s ability to purchase U.S. supplies. The Senate measure, introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., passed the Banking Committee Tuesday by an overwhelming margin.

Congress is also exploring ways to expand the U.S. government’s ability to review foreign transactions through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Banking Committee also approved a bill by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., that would do just that.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed Friday that it has spent more than $3.5 million on Administrator Scott Pruitt's security team since taking office, significantly more than his two predecessors.

As more ethical questions prompted investigations into the cost of Pruitt's security detail and travel, members of Congress have questioned whether the increased spending was justified.

The agency says that Pruitt needed 24/7 security – more than previous administrators – in response to an "unprecedented number of threats" against him. Because of the threats, the EPA says, Pruit and his security team needed to fly first class and the total includes those costs.

Documents released by the EPA show that the agency spent more than $2.7 million on payroll for the administrator's security detail between April 2017 and March 2018 and nearly $760,000 on travel for his detail during the same 12 months.

Pruitt was sworn in in mid-February 2017. The agency spent almost $500,000 in that January - March fiscal quarter but it's not clear how much of that was after Pruitt was confirmed.

The documents show that agency spent significantly less on the security detail for the two previous EPA administrators under the Obama administration, Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy. Payroll and travel for Jackson's detail cost about $1.9 million for her first year in office in 2009 and 2010. McCarthy's detail cost almost $2 million for her first year starting in July 2013.

An EPA spokesman said the agency plans to proactively release security costs multiple times a year to be more transparent. The documents released this week are posted on a page of the EPA's website for materials frequently requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

“Administrator Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and to provide transparency EPA will post the costs of his security detail and pro-actively release these numbers on a quarterly basis. Americans should all agree that members of the President’s cabinet should be kept safe from violent threats," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement.

Pruitt said he would tell his staff to switch him to more flights in coach earlier this year but the former head of his security detail has defended the decision to increase security. Investigations into threats against Pruitt that have been publicly released found no imminent threat to his safety, despite language like calling Pruitt "evil" or a message saying that they hope a family member would die.

At least two investigations into reported threats against Pruitt are still ongoing.

The agency released documents with the cost of both salary and travel for the administrator's protective detail on its website, with the total cost for each fiscal quarter going back to the 2009 fiscal year.

Despite the criticism over the cost of his security detail President Donald Trump has defended Pruitt, saying that Pruitt received death threats.

Documents released by the EPA inspector general, however, have questioned whether the threats were credible and properly vetted to justify upping Pruitt's security to 24/7. The inspector general also found that the agency decided to increase Pruitt's security before he took office, saying that one office was told "Pruitt requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as administrator."

The EPA's inspector general is currently looking into the cost of Pruitt's security detail.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

US House Office of Photography(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was already facing a tough re-election bid in California’s 48th Congressional District – with 15 candidates running against him, including a former protégé – when he told a delegation of Orange County realtors that it is acceptable to refuse to sell homes to LGBTQ people.

“Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone [if] they don’t agree with their lifestyle,” Rohrabacher told an Orange County Association of Realtors delegation at a May 16 meeting in Washington, D.C., Wayne Woodyard, a former Orange County Realtor president who was at the event, told the Orange County Register.

Rohrabacher told the Orange County Register Thursday that homeowners should have "a right to choose who they do business with."

“We’ve drawn a line on racism. But I don’t think we should extend that line," he told the paper. "A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”

Rohrabacher’s campaign confirmed to ABC News the sentiments in the comments were accurate.

Campaign spokesman Greg Blair said in a statement that the congressman "does not believe the federal government should force those with strong religious convictions into a personal or business relationship that is contrary to their religion.”

Rohrabacher made the comments to a group of realtors including members of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) who were meeting with the congressman to seek his support for including LGBTQ protections under the Fair Housing Act, according to a letter sent by the group's founder, Jeff Berger, to the president of the National Association of Realtors.

The National Association of Realtors had included Rohrabacher in its "President's Circle" – a list of candidates it prompted members to donate to this election cycle.

The group pulled the congressman from this list after reports of the comments surfaced, telling ABC News "after reviewing all new, relevant information, it was determined that Representative Rohrabacher will no longer receive support from NAR’s President's Circle."

Rohrabacher is seeking a 16th term in office – he's been in Congress for three decades – but his comments come as he faces his toughest primary yet in California's 48th Congressional District, which is centered in Huntington Beach in Orange County.

The top-two primary, in which the two most-voted candidates will move on to the general election regardless of party, is June 5 – and Democrats had seen an opening as talk of a 'blue wave' in Southern California intensified in neighboring districts.

Democratic candidate Harley Rouda, a favorite of national Democrats to win a place on the November ballot, took no time to condemn the congressman's comments.

"Rohrabacher's comments are appalling and unacceptable," said. "These comments show once again that Dana Rohrabacher has no right being in office and representing the people of this district."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The bill establishing Pentagon policy for the next fiscal year includes items on President Donald Trump's military wish list, including giving service members a pay raise, laying ground rules for a military parade and making progress on establishing a military branch focused on outer space.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of a more than $700 billion military authorization bill Thursday and is now awaiting a Senate floor vote, while the House of Representatives has already passed its version, where some of Trump’s wish-list items are better detailed. The National Defense Authorization Act sets spending levels, but then Congress must pass a separate bill to actually allocate funds.

Here’s a look at some of the items that President Trump will likely be paying closest attention to:

SERVICE MEMBER PAY RAISE: In both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA service members get a 2.6% pay raise. The House version also extends special pay and bonuses to service members in high-demand fields. Earlier this year Trump erroneously said he gave service members their first pay raise in 10 years, when in fact they have had their salaries raised at least 1 percent every year for more than 30 years. What is correct is that this is the largest pay increase service members have seen in nine years.

MILITARY PARADE: The House version of the NDAA gives the Secretary of Defense the authority to fund a military parade in Washington, D.C., to satisfy President Trump’s stated desire for an event like the Bastille Day parade he witnessed during his trip to Paris. In a statement, House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry said he “agrees with President Trump that it is appropriate to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose.”

But the bill also puts significant limits on the amount of military equipment and personnel that can be devoted to the parade – all at the Secretary of Defense’s discretion.

Language in the House bill allows the Secretary of Defense to expend funds specifically “for the display of small arms and munitions” as well as the participation of ceremonial military units, but it also expressly prohibits the use of funds for “motorized vehicles, aviation platforms” and munitions other than those used for customary ceremonial honors. Thornberry’s statement added that his proposal would prohibit the use of operational units or equipment in the parade if the Secretary of Defense believes their inclusion would hamper readiness.

The Senate version, named after Armed Services Committee chair John McCain, R-Ariz., does not contain any language covering President Trump’s desire for an elaborate military parade in Washington D.C. like the one he witnessed during a trip to Paris which commemorated Bastille Day. “There was discussion about it in committee but it ultimately was not added,” a Senate Armed Services Committee aide told reporters Friday.

SPACE FIGHTING: President Trump has occasionally expressed his desire to see the United States’ military dominance expand in outer space, alluding to an eventual new military corps. "I said, 'Maybe we need a new force. We'll call it the Space Force,'” he said at an event in March. "And I was not really serious. And then I said, 'What a great idea. Maybe we'll have to do that. That could happen. That could be the big breaking story.”

So far, Congress and the military haven’t caught up to Trump’s lofty plans, but they have been laying the groundwork. Last year, in fact, the House Armed Services Committee tried to establish a Space Corps within the Air Force, similar to the Navy’s Marine Corps, but the Senate committee sought to expressly prohibit any such setup. The compromise between the two committees was to require several bureaucratic steps to consolidate the Air Force’s command of military space operations.

This year, the House’s request is slightly different. It seeks to establish a fighting force, housed within the Air Force, which would be dedicated to space warfighting, giving it less autonomy than a separate corps would. It also requires the Secretary of the Air Force to increase the number and improve the quality of its civilian and military “space cadre,” submitting a report to Congress on its plans by next March.

The Senate’s bill has no language on space but an aide said last year’s NDAA provided a “pretty significant homework assignment” for the Air Force to focus on, including standing up Air Force Space Command as the single authority for all decisions related to space security.

“The committee is waiting to see what comes out of the department on that,” the aide said.

The Senate could vote on its NDAA as soon as the first week of June, after which point the two committees must merge their bills in a conference committee.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Twenty-two Republicans have now signed onto a petition to force a freewheeling immigration debate in the House of Representatives, as Speaker Paul Ryan continues to warn that the rare procedural maneuver will not produce legislation President Donald Trump would sign into law.

GOP Reps. Tom Reed of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania signed the discharge petition on Thursday, and with just a few more GOP signatures needed, that inches Congress closer to an immigration floor fight as soon as next month.

Preferring not to team with Democrats on a DACA remedy, Ryan said he and his leadership team are “trying to find that sweet spot” on an alternate immigration package that would garner a majority vote behind only Republican ayes.

“We’re having a very productive conversation with our members,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday. “Obviously we don’t think a discharge petition is a good idea. It will not produce a result that will make it into law, and so we’re having very constructive conversations with our members about how we can find consensus on a bill that could actually solve the problem and make it into law.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also signed the petition, pushing the total to 213 signatures - just five short of the 218 needed to succeed.

If all 193 Democrats sign on, 25 Republicans would be needed to satisfy the threshold. Right now, two Texas Democrats, Reps. Filemon Vela and Vicente González, have maintained they won’t sign the petition, so in all likelihood, the effort needs five more Republican signatures to succeed.

“If we go down this path or that path, meaning failed paths that are guaranteed no law gets made, it’s kinda an exercise in futility as far as I’m concerned,” Ryan said.

The House Republican Conference will meet June 7 for a special immigration meeting to plot out a course of action, as leaders strive to find elusive consensus on legislation that will receive a vote before June 25, when the discharge petition fully ripens.

In the case of the discharge petition, moderate Republicans and most Democrats are hoping to advance H.Res 744, bipartisan legislation introduced in March. The bill would allow the full House to debate as amendments a range of four competing DACA proposals, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s “Securing America’s Future Act.”

House Republican leaders have worked for months to advance the Goodlatte bill, but concede they are far short of 218 Republican votes needed to send it to the Senate.

Two more bills that would advance to the floor during the debate are the bipartisan “Dream Act of 2017, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.,” as well as the “USA Act of 2018,” fronted by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif. That bill is essentially comprised of the DREAM Act with an extra $25 billion added for border security.

Ryan would also be able to choose any other single piece of legislation to plug the fourth slot in the "Queen of the Hill" approach.

Under Queen of the Hill rules, if more than one alternative obtains a majority, the winner is the one that receives the greatest number of votes. It is unclear if any of the competing measures would garner a majority.

Despite Ryan’s pessimism, Pelosi believes the Queen of the Hill approach would at minimum produce a bipartisan product to send to the Senate.

“Queen of Hill gives Congress a chance to work its will in the most generous way,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “Everybody will have their chance to vote on, whether it's Goodlatte, the ‘Make America White Again’ bill, or it's pure DREAM Act, which would be ideal.”

Ryan and the GOP leadership team have pressured rank and file Republicans to stay off the petition.

“Now, they are threatening Committee assignments, support in campaigns,” Pelosi observed. “We hear all kinds of things that they are threatening Members if they do not abandon this. But we'll see. Let's see.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Steven Ferdman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A tweet Friday morning from a former top Trump advisor set Twitter afire, reading simply, “Dgfffcf,” with an apparent picture of Hillary Clinton and controversial movie mogul Harvey Weinstein at a dinner event.

The mysterious phrase appeared to be from the Twitter account of Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security advisor.

Flynn pled guilty in December to making false statements related to his contact with Russians - reduced charges in exchange for cooperating in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Flynn last tweeted the day after he pled guilty.

Twitter followers pounced. Many offering a link to a once mysterious Trump tweet, “Covefe.”

The tweet was ultimately deleted, and Flynn’s son sent out a tweet-explainer of his own, “FYI @GenFlynn Twitter account was hacked this morning....currently addressing...”

A source confirmed this to ABC News saying, “It appears that his Twitter account was hacked. General Flynn did not send the tweet.”

Weinstein on Friday turned himself into police in New York City to face rape and sexual misconduct charges, before being released on $1 million cash bail and fitted with a GPS tracking device.

In the photo, sitting alongside Clinton and Weinstein - which appeared to be from Planned Parenthood's 100th-anniversary gala last year- was Huma Abedin, top confidante to the former Secretary of State.

Abedin’s ex-husband, disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner, created a firestorm on Twitter when a lewd selfie was posted to his account. He claimed, at first, that he had been hacked. That was later proved untrue.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- President Trump delivered a commencement address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland Friday, declaring to the graduating class that “America is back” and “respected again” on the international stage.

“We are witnessing the great reawakening of the American Spirit and of American might. We have rediscovered our identity, regained our stride and we're proud again,” Trump said. “Our country has regained the respect that we used to have long ago abroad, yes they’re respecting us again, yes, America is back.”

The president's commencement address comes a day after the president cancelled a planned summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which had been scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12th, saying it would be "inappropriate" to move forward with the meeting given the "tremendous anger and open hostility" expressed in a previous statement from North Korea that threatened the possibility of nuclear showdown and disparaged Vice President Mike Pence as a "political dummy."

The president told the graduates that his interest in building up the military is as a means to prevent war but also told the graduates that “victory, winning, beautiful words” would be the only option in the event of inevitable conflict.

“The best way to prevent war is to be fully prepared for war, and hopefully we never have to use all of this beautiful new powerful equipment but you know you're less likely to have to use it if you have it,” Trump said. “And if a fight must come there is no other alternative: Victory, winning, beautiful words, but that's what it's all about.”

As he drew near to the end of his remarks, the president pointed out that he was given the option to leave the commencement ceremony after delivering his speech, or to stay for just the top awardees, or stay to shake the hands of each graduate.

“What should I do? What should I do?” the president asked rhetorically, canvassing the audience.

“I'll stay, I'll stay,” the president said, responding to the applause from the audience.

At one point, the president made a vague reference to the Naval Academy’s winning streak in the annual Army-Navy matchup, saying he didn’t want to mention who won the game, but applauding the school’s record of “winning.”

“Let me take a guess you're still not tired of winning. Winning is such a great feeling, isn't it a great feeling? Winning, a great feeling, nothing like winning, gotta win,” Trump said.

In closing his remarks, the president applauded the graduates for their service to country and their skill as warriors.

“You are warriors, you are champions, and you will lead us only to victory,” Trump told the graduates. “Anchors away!”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said Friday the summit with North Korea on June 12 may still happen despite his decision to cancel it less than 24 hours ago.

“It could even be the 12th, we’re talking to them now, they very much want to do it, we want to do it, we’re going to see what happens," Trump told reporters at the White House Friday.

Reacting to a statement from North Korea in which they signaled a continued interest in sitting down with the US in response to President Trump's letter to Kim Jong Un that he had decided to cancel the planned June 12 summit, the president said the statement was welcome.

“We're going to see what happens. We're talking to them now, it was a very nice statement they put out, we’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

Trump, calling it a "sad moment in history," wrote in a letter to Kim yesterday that it would be "inappropriate" to move forward with the planned summit given the "tremendous anger and open hostility" displayed by North Korea in a previous statement early this week in which they disparaged Vice President Mike Pence as a "political dummy" and warned about going head to head in nuclear warfare. The president issued an ominous warning in retort.

"You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used," Trump wrote

Asked by ABC News' chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl if he thinks the North Koreans are playing games with him, the president replied, “Jon everybody plays games you know that, you know that better than anybody.”

Trump ally and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told NBC News on Friday that the president had told him he thought the North Koreans were "playing him."

Though President Trump isn't ruling out the potential for a June 12th summit to move forward, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday evening that it would be difficult at this point to properly organize a meeting on June 12th, as previously planned, given the short timeline.

“There's really not a lot of time," the official said. "We've lost quite a bit of time that we would need in order to -- I mean there's an enormous amount of preparation that's gone on the past few months…. but a certain amount of dialogue needs to take place so that agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders. And June 12th is in 10 minutes, but the president has said that he someday looks forward to meeting with Kim.”


Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's nominee for the top State Department position for refugees and migration has drawn fierce criticism over several of his past comments about immigrants.

Dr. Ronald Mortensen, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and a former Foreign Service officer, is known for his hardline views on immigration. He's also criticized top Republicans as advocating for amnesty, and he accused Arizona Sen. John McCain of rolling out a welcome mat for ISIS.

The White House formally nominated Mortensen Thursday to be the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, the agency's top diplomat tasked with solving refugee crises overseas and potentially resettling refugees in the U.S.

The Trump administration has admitted a historically low number of refugees so far this fiscal year, and advocates are concerned he "has been sent to dismantle the refugee protection and resettlement program at the State Department," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant group America's Voice.

"This is like Richard Spencer being appointed head of the civil rights unit at [the Department of Justice]," Sharry told ABC News, referring to the white supremacist. "It's not the fox guarding the chicken coup. It's a monster in charge of the chicken coup."

The previous assistant secretary also was critical of Mortensen's nomination.

Anne Richard, appointed by President Barack Obama and now a professor at Georgetown University, told ABC News in an email: "I'm hoping the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will use the confirmation process to determine whether we are still a country that welcomes refugees and immigrants. This was an unshakable part of our identity as Americans, but the Trump administration has unilaterally changed this 241-year old policy."

Neither the White House nor the State Department have responded to requests for comment.

Mortensen has written extensively about his views on immigration, consistently arguing, as he wrote in an op-ed for The Hill last year: "The vast majority of adult illegal aliens are committing felonies by virtue of being active in America."

He's also said immigrants in the U.S. illegally are "lying, cheating and destroying the lives of innocent American children for their own selfish purposes."

Although his views aren't too far from Trump's, Mortensen also has bashed other Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for being "amnesty advocates."

But some of his sharpest words have been for McCain, whom he accused of "roll[ing] out the welcome mat for ISIS on America's southern border."

"McCain has provided ISIS with unfettered access to the United States for both its personnel and their weapons of death and destruction," Mortensen wrote in a 2014 op-ed. "Should ISIS or some other terrorist group take advantage of McCain's welcome mat, he will only have himself to blame as he goes in the eyes of many from war hero to collaborator."

He went on to claim that ISIS may be "pre-positioning" on the Mexican side of the border "with car bombs ready to go."

Some advocates said they were skeptical Mortensen would be confirmed because of his comments about Republicans because, as is true with most assistant secretary positions, that's up to the Senate.

For all of his pieces on immigration, however, Mortensen has written and said little about refugee resettlement in America, let alone the massive refugee-aid programs to which the U.S. contributes, including endeavors to protect, repatriate and locally integrate refugees, migrants and others displaced by conflict.

The Trump administration was strongly criticized for admitting less than a quarter of the 45,000 refugees it set as a cap for the fiscal year at the halfway point. The 45,000 figure was already the lowest ceiling in the refugee resettlement program's 43-year history.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Top congressional leaders met with senior intelligence and law enforcement officials Thursday in a series of White House-brokered meetings to review highly-classified information about the Russia investigation, including possible details about a reported FBI informant in touch with several Trump campaign advisers during the 2016 presidential campaign.

And in a surprise development, the president's new lawyer handling the Russia investigation, Emmet Flood, attended and participated in at least part of the briefings as did White House chief of staff John Kelly, sources confirmed to ABC News.

Democrats have raised questions about the appropriateness of any White House involvement, concerned that it would further politicize what is supposed to be an independent probe.

President Donald Trump has said the briefings could provide proof of his unsubstantiated claim the FBI was likely spying on his campaign.

Responding to questions about why Flood and Kelly were there, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying "Neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law."

"They also conveyed the President’s understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government. After making their brief comments they departed before the meetings officially started," her statement continued.

At noon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, met at the Justice Department with FBI Director Chris Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Ed O'Callaghan, a Justice Department official and deputy to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Nunes and Gowdy left about an hour later without speaking to reporters.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, joined Gowdy and Nunes in the initial briefing at noon, at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s request after Democrats were initially excluded by the White House.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., attended the noon briefing as well because he was scheduled to travel to Texas for a fundraiser for House Republicans, according to an aide. Other congressional leaders were scheduled to get their DOJ briefing Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill.

Ryan later put out a statement referring to the House Intelligence Committee Nunes chairs, saying "Inherent in the committee’s work is the responsibility to ask tough questions of the executive branch. That is why we have insisted and will continue to insist on Congress’s constitutional right to information necessary for the conduct of oversight."

Kelly had helped arrange what was originally planned as just a DOJ briefing for Nunes and Godwy as Republicans continue to spar with the Justice Department on requests for documents and information related to a myriad of GOP investigations into the department.

The meeting comes as President Trump continues to stoke unsubstantiated claims that the FBI planted a spy inside his presidential campaign.

“A lot of bad things have happened. We now call it ‘Spygate,’” Trump said as he departed the White House Wednesday. Countering Trump, Schiff has said the controversy should be called "Lie-gate."

After the second briefing concluded, Schiff read a statement on behalf of himself, Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner - Democratic members of the so-called "Gang of 8" – congressional leaders who get high-level intelligence briefings.

"Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign, or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols,” Schiff said.

Following protests from top Democrats and Republicans, the White House arranged a second briefing for members of the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of top lawmakers in both chambers who have access to the most sensitive intelligence.

As of Thursday morning, some details remained in flux.

The meetings are the result of a subpoena Nunes issued earlier this month demanding classified documents related to the source, a request the Justice Department denied over national security concerns.

The Washington Post
and New York Times first reported that the FBI sent an informant to talk to several campaign aides during the 2016 election as evidence that a second special counsel is needed.

After Nunes threatened to move to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress over the refusal, the Justice Department invited Nunes and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy to DOJ for a briefing on the documents.

On Sunday, Trump entered the fray, calling for the DOJ to investigate whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign, and whether it was ordered by Obama administration officials – allegations he has not backed up with evidence.

The Justice Department subsequently directed the DOJ inspector general, the agency's watchdog, to expand its ongoing investigation of surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the presidential election to include the president's concerns.

Nunes has said the request relates to classified information relevant to his ongoing investigation into allegations of political bias at the Justice Department related to the Russia investigation, but it was unclear to both Republicans and Democrats Thursday what information the group will learn about the alleged informant.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the meeting “unacceptable and very inappropriate” and accused Republicans of setting up the session to learn information to aid Trump’s defense in the Russia investigation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday that the meeting “should be called off,” and called Nunes a “known partisan whose only intent is to undermine the Mueller investigation.”

Pelosi and Schiff have also expressed concern that Kelly, the White House chief of staff, could potentially participate in a meeting related to the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. The Justice Department said Kelly would participate in both meetings, but Schiff said he had been informed by the head of one intelligence agency that Kelly would not take part in the sessions.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



WJTN News Headlines for May 25, 2018

Leaders of the bi-partisan caucus that local Congressman Tom Reed co-chairs has signed a discharge petition that would force floor votes on four immigration and border security bills...  ...

Read More