Report: After Furor Over 'Sex Party' Scandal, Head of DEA To Resign

Yet another government agency is racked by scandal – and this time it will reportedly cost its department head her job:

Michele Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is expected to resign soon, a senior administration official tells CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante.

Leonhart, who was confirmed to her position in December 2010 but has served in an acting capacity since November 2007, has presided over an agency that has been plagued by scandal in recent years. Just last month, a damning report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General revealed that several DEA agents had engaged in "sex parties" with prostitutes paid for by Colombian drug cartels.

The article goes on to explain that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has already determined that “this kind of behavior dates back at least to 2001.” Goodness gracious. The salacious details are almost incomprehensible. Perhaps this is why members of Congress were visibly flabbergasted when Ms. Leonhart was on the hot seat last week.

“I used to work with law enforcement,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said in a recent interview, explaining the bipartisan waves of anger and incredulity steadily growing on Capitol Hill. “I take no great joy in having a conversation with any law enforcement agent like the one we had [last] week. But it was necessary because law enforcement enjoys special privileges and powers and rights in our society – and with that comes a corresponding responsibility.”

For some, however, that corresponding responsibility was completely jettisoned and forgotten. Agents allegedly left their weapons in the hands of shady characters while they attended and participated in these (ahem) "social gatherings" on government property. For obvious reasons, this endangered their lives, as well as prevented them from doing the job for which they are paid to do.

Hence, as Katie noted last week, this is why the Oversight Committee essentially forced her hand.

“Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency,” lawmakers from both parties concluded and wrote in a joint statement released last week.

Like other department heads before her, the damage – as they say – is already done.

There's simply no way to weather such a humiliating and mystifying scandal.

Video: Hillary Camp in Damage Control Mode Over New Book's Revelations


Team Hillary is reacting predictably to news reports about the forthcoming book, "Clinton Cash," which purports to connect the dots on the Clintons' unethical, multimillion-dollar favor bank -- which was awash in unvetted foreign cash. Her Majesty's protectors are doing their thing, savaging the messenger as a right-wing hatchet man, and risibly shrugging off the yet-unveiled revelations as "old news," "conspiracies" and "distractions." I discussed these developments on today's edition of Outnumbered:


As I caution in the clip, it remains to be seen whether the author's work truly has "the goods" on explicit malfeasance, or if the book will simply add some new particles to the ethical cloud.  We'll find out soon enough, but here are two worrying indicators for the Clinton campaign, via the New York Times:

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return. “We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes...“Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book...He writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources, including tax records and government documents, while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.

I'm also eager to hear the candidate herself explain why the tens of thousands of deleted emails from a since-destroyed secret, oversight-free, under-secured email server qualifies a "conspiracy."  Or how the word "distraction" could remotely apply to America's top diplomat being enriched via huge, unexamined contributions from foreign governments (and individuals) while she's actively shaping US foreign policy.  Perhaps we'll get some answers just as soon as she's through huffing and puffing about "toppling" the very rich (exceptions apply!), in an embarrassingly ham-fisted sop to her party's Warrenesque base.  I'll go a step farther than Allahpundit -- I think it's highly likely that her own campaign leaked that quote, eager to satiate the Left's rapacious appetite for class warfare.  Wall Street doesn't believe a word of it, of course, because they know a gal's gotta say what she must in order to fend off any possible primary challenge. You do "you," Hillary.  We'll be waiting to fill those enormous coffers when the time comes. Fun:



Ukrainians Displaced By Conflict Nears 1 Million As Baltics Prepare For War

The number of Ukrainian civilians now displaced due to conflict in eastern Ukraine now exceeds 800,000, according to a recent report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. As the ceasefire with Russian separatists in the region remains shaky, militaries in the Baltic states are bracing themselves for more Russian aggression.

“According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of April 16, a total of 800,961 Ukrainians had filed a request for asylum, a residence permit or another legal status in neighboring countries,” the report states, according to Ukraine Today.

Approximately 660,000 of the refugees have officially registered in Russia, while just over 80,000 have taken refuge in neighboring Belarus. More than 1.2 million people have fled the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe report increasing ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region -- including heavy fighting near the Donetsk airport and more than 700 explosions in the city last Tuesday.

Heavy weaponry that should not even be in the region according to Minsk provisions has been seen regularly.

“I am deeply frustrated by the fact that Russia is in fact failing to implement the Minsk agreements,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said last week. “Ukraine remains committed to the peace process, but it looks like only Ukraine is abiding by the peace process, unlike Russia and terrorists.”

Meanwhile, Germany announced last week that the nation might supply 12 Howitzer-type military artillery vehicles to Lithuania, to arrive next year. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Monday, agreeing to provide an additional $17.7 million in humanitarian assistance.

The United States has been involved in 13 different military training exercises in the Baltic States in the past year as part of the Defense Department’s Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Lithuania -- where a military draft has been instituted and instruction manuals distributed on what to do in the case of invasion -- is conducting training operations without NATO allied militaries.

“There's such a situation where the Lithuanian army needs to learn to act on its own and together with other force institutions,” said Lithuanian Chief of Defense Major General Jonas Vytautas Žukas. “After a lengthy break we are organizing such exercises without the involvement of our foreign partners. We will be learning to act on our own.”

Shocker: Egypt's Ex-President Is Going To Prison For a Long, Long Time

The disgraced and erstwhile Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has been sentenced to two decades in prison for his involvement in criminal acts of violence and torture during his brief tenure as Egypt's head of state. As you may recall, Morsi was deposed two summers ago and has essentially been awaiting trial ever since.

The New York Times reports:

Mohamed Morsi, the deposed president of Egypt, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Egyptian court on Tuesday, in the first verdict handed down in any of the criminal cases brought against him after the military ousted him in 2013.

Mr. Morsi and a dozen other defendants were convicted of inciting violence and directing illegal detentions and torture. The charges stemmed from a night of bloody street fighting between Mr. Morsi’s supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in December 2012. All of the defendants were members of his administration or Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood, which supported him.

Morsi and his co-defendants may have escaped the noose, but tensions have smoldered and reached unsettling heights between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter, for instance, which is now officially labeled a terrorist organization by Egypt's new regime, released this statement following the verdict (via The Guardian):

His supporters were outraged. “His trial has been a travesty of justice, which has been scripted and controlled by the government and entirely unsupported by evidence,” Amr Darrag, a senior figure from the Muslim Brotherhood and a former minister under Morsi, said in a statement in Istanbul reported by Reuters. “They want to pass a life sentence for democracy in Egypt.”

Morsi, for his part, surely maintains the proceedings are also ridiculous and illegitimate. He has said so himself, of course, as he believes he is the rightful ruler. And while the case will reportedly be appealed, his backers are already sounding off, expressing strong disapproval -- and disagreements -- with the ways in which the trial was handled:

In a statement, Amnesty International called the case flawed and full of loopholes, while describing the trial as a "sham." …

Morsi's questioning took place without his lawyers present during his detention in an undisclosed location for four months following his ouster in July 2013.

Amnesty said Morsi's legal team was only able to access case files days before the trial began. It also documented irregularities, such as where abuses of his supporters — not his opponents — were the only evidence documented. The court also ignored what Amnesty said were deaths among Morsi's supporters during the same protests.

Nevertheless, Morsi faces a slew of other charges, including “espionage” and “insulting the court.”

Small wonder, then, his legal troubles are only just beginning.

DC Attorney General ‘Looking Into’ Photo Of Two GOP Congressmen With AR-15 Rifle

The D.C. Attorney General is “looking into” whether Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) broke any of the city’s stringent gun laws when the two congressman posed with an inoperable AR-15 assault rifle (via The Hill):

Having the AR-15 in the Cannon House Office Building could be a violation of the District’s strict gun laws, and the Washington, D.C., Attorney General’s Office is “looking into the matter,” a spokesman told The Hill.

Buck told The Hill the rifle is “inoperable” and that he received approval from U.S. Capitol Police to bring it to his office, where it is on display in a locked case.

“I have a very patriotic AR-15 hanging in my office. It hangs directly above my Second Amendment flag,” Buck said.

“While safety protocols call for all guns to be treated as if they are loaded, this one isn't. Further, a close inspection of the only public photo of the rifle will show that the bolt carrier assembly is not in the rifle; it is in fact in Colorado.”

“It is a beautiful, patriotic paper weight,” he added.

The publication also noted the David Gregory incident, where the former host of NBC’s Meet The Press presented a high-capacity magazine on live television in December of 2012. Gregory was interviewing the NRA’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. After two years and a lawsuit, William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection was able to obtain a copy of what would have been Gregory’s arrest warrant. Irvin Nathan–the city’s attorney general at the time–decided not to go forward because, as Jacobson put it, “Gregory was just too nice a guy and had no other criminal intent.”

It’s another episode that reinforces the notion that D.C. is still hostile to our Second Amendment rights.

Marco Rubio Answers Google Questions in New Campaign Ad

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wants you to know a few things: he's an American, he's a conservative, he's a Roman Catholic, and he's not a twin.

In a new campaign ad, Rubio answers some of the most commonly Googled questions about himself, including, bizarrely, if he has a twin.

I thought this was a cute way for the candidate to communicate in a clear-as-day format some of his basic beliefs and fun facts about himself. There have been questions about Rubio's religious views, and he was under fire during the "Gang of Eight" efforts to reform immigration. Rubio now says he would vote "no" on that bill.

Rubio has a bit of an uphill battle in the polls (although, seriously, it's April of 2015 why are we even doing polls gah everything is terrible), he's got lots of potential. Showing his everyday normal human side, especially in contrast to Hillary Clinton's clunky attempts to communicate with the proletariat (zomg SHE WENT TO CHIPOTLE!!1!!11! She's JUST like us!) is definitely a good thing.

Finally: Dems Abandon Filibuster of Anti-Trafficking Bill After 'Compromise'


UPDATE: The Associated Press reports a deal has been reached, details pending:


Via John McCormack, the GOP held firm on Hyde Amendment protections, meaning that Democrats blinked -- which may explain some of Reid's crankiness noted in the original post:



-- Original Post --

After weeks of obstruction, Senate Democrats may finally end their filibuster of a bill to combat sex trafficking, clearing the way for a confirmation vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. The bipartisan legislation ran into trouble in March, when Democrats suddenly turned against a bill many of them had co-sponsored and supported in committee. Why? Because special interest groups decided to mount a fight over routine language in the bill barring taxpayer funding of abortion. Every single excuse and argument Democrats have offered on this front has been debunked, and minority leadership has objected to a vote on stripping out the "objectionable" language -- they knew they'd lose; the decades-old moratorium on taxpayer-funded abortion is broadly supported by the public. Now, finally, the upper chamber appears to be approaching a compromise that would allow Democrats to extricate themselves from their radical corner step out of the way of overwhelming passage:

The Senate is nearing a resolution to a monthlong dispute that’s halted a human trafficking bill and confirmation of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, even as Minority Leader Harry Reid on Monday resumed his rhetorical assault on Republicans for the delay. Top sources in both parties — and even Reid himself — said negotiators had made headway toward a compromise on abortion language included in the sex trafficking bill that Democrats have strongly opposed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed that the trafficking bill must be completed before the Senate votes to confirm Lynch...“We’re getting closer, but we’re not quite done yet,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who wrote the trafficking bill and is working closely with Reid on a way forward. “The negotiations are ongoing and somewhat delicate.”...“There seems to be a path forward, but there is no guarantee,” Reid said. “Every day that passes without a newly confirmed attorney general proves once and again Republicans can’t lead and they certainly can’t govern.” A GOP aide was more bullish than Reid: “I’m pretty optimistic we’re going to get to where we need to be on this.”

Harry Reid never ceases to be the nastiest partisan in the room, a role he'll evidently relish until his career is at last consigned to the ash heap of history in January 2017.  Reid cynically heaped praise upon Jeb Bush, a man he called a "loser" not long ago, for responding to a question that the Senate ought to confirm Lynch, whose nomination Mitch McConnell has tied to a Democratic stand-down on their radical abortion stance:

“No wonder Jeb Bush stood up for Lynch in New Hampshire,” Reid said Monday. “Bush didn’t just show grace in doing that. He also showed more common sense than his brother showed in eight years as president of the United States. Jeb Bush has to know that Sen. Mitch McConnell hijacking this process does him absolutely no good.”

One can't imagine McConnell is particularly interested in advice on functional leadership and Republicans' best interests from Harry Reid, of all people. The decision to stall Loretta Lynch -- whose nomination is fraught with controversy over the president's unlawful power grab on immigration -- has allowed the GOP to again register its strong opposition to that executive order, and to exert leverage on what should be a nonpartisan human trafficking bill. The American people afforded McConnell this leverage when voters sent nine new Republicans to the Senate in 2014. I recently discussed the political dynamics of the Lynch/immigration/trafficking fight on Fox News:


The agreement to end this standoff isn't finalized yet.  Democrats must not be rewarded for their extreme, dishonest obstructionism; Republicans cannot accept any solution that serves to undermine longstanding Hyde Amendment abortion precedent.

Howard Dean: The 'Right Wing Press' is Lying that Hillary Campaign Event Was Staged

In her campaign announcement video, Hillary Clinton said she was looking forward to being a "champion for everyday Americans," suggesting she was going to be an authentic candidate. The only problem is, her first attempt at authenticity was reportedly staged. Austin Bird, one of the “lucky” few who got to sit and chat with Clinton in an Iowa coffee shop last week, told The Daily Mail that he had been specifically chauffeured to the event.

'What happened is, we were just asked to be there by Troy,' Bird said Wednesday in a phone interview.

'It was supposed to be a strategy meeting,' Bird recalled, 'to get our thoughts about issues. But then all of a sudden he says, "Hey, we have Secretary Clinton coming in, would you like to go meet her?"'

'And then we got in a car – Troy's car – and we went up to the coffee house, and we sat at a table and then Hillary just came up and talked with us.'

It’s not hard to guess why Clinton’s campaign wanted Bird at the table. He took part in several Iowa Democratic Party events, interned with President Obama's 2012 presidential re-election campaign, and was tapped to chauffeur Vice President Joe Biden in October 2014 when he visited Davenport.

Despite all this context, former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) still thinks the “right wing media” is to blame for the report. He said as much on Morning Joe Friday. Newsbusters has the video:

“It’s the Daily Mail, why would you believe this? It’s entertaining, but it’s like the New York Post…Do I think it’s possible the right wing press makes stuff up? I absolutely do. They do it every day.”

Even Mika Brzezinski, who is a huge Hillary fan, criticized the Clinton campaign for feigning what should be sincere town hall events.

“Here’s the deal: the past couple days — and I really wish you wouldn’t make me say this, because I’d love to see her break out and do well. It would be so exciting to me. But what I’ve seen of her the past few days are very set up conversations with very flat-voiced messaging made up because they can’t have her in a crowd with people coming at her and really asking her questions.”

Brzezinski makes a significant point. How can Hillary expect to gain support if her campaign recruits people who would vote for her anyway and won't challenge her with tough questions?

Hillary’s Scooby van is off to a bumpy start.

ICYMI: Ohio Will Recognize All Out-Of-State Concealed Carry Permits

Remember the friendly police officer from Ohio who thanked a couple for having their concealed carry permits following a routine traffic stop? Well, it seems any out-of-state concealed carry permit holder will be recognized in the Buckeye State, even to those who live in states without reciprocity agreements (via Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office) :

A person who is temporarily in Ohio and has a valid concealed handgun license issued from another state, regardless of whether the other state has entered into a reciprocity agreement with the Attorney General, that out-of-state license will be recognized in Ohio during the time that the person is temporarily in Ohio.

The new law actually went into effect on March 23, but it also includes a more rigorous background check process. Yet, it also allows hunters to use suppressors, alters the definition of an automatic weapon, and loosens regulations on buying ammunition. Of course, the pro-gun control crowd wasn’t happy when this law passed last month (via Columbus Dispatch):

A new state law … will allow hunters to use suppressors on guns; permit Ohioans to buy rifles, shotguns and ammunition from any state; and implement a more-rigorous background check for concealed-carry permits.

It also reduces the training required to get one of those permits from 12 hours to eight, including some of it online for the first time; changes the definition of an “automatic” weapon; and makes concealed-carry permits issued from other states valid in Ohio, even without a reciprocity agreement.

“This is a very comprehensive bill,” said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “Over time, people will look back and see this as a watershed law that fixed a lot of little things.”

Jennifer Thorne, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, sees things differently. “There are a number of troubling provisions in the bill,” she said. “There’s nothing for us to celebrate in this bill.”

Thorne said, “Elected officials could have done better for Ohio. It reduces training and there is an expansion of reciprocity.”

“Everyone who is carrying a gun is a good guy up until the moment they aren’t,” she said.

Oh my, where to go with that statement? So, all gun owners are potential criminals? John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center took this hypothesis to the woodshed last year when the Violence Prevention Center issued the “Concealed Carry Killers” report. He used the Michigan data to point out the flaws [emphasis mine]:

Now a look at the murder and manslaughter statistics as presented by the Violence Policy Center report. These cases would surely be relevant, but they are not counted correctly. This is how the Michigan State Police report the numbers:

  • 2007–08: Pending 5, Convicted 0
  • 2008–09: Pending 0, Convicted 1
  • 2009–10: Pending 1, Convicted 2
  • 2010–11: Pending 5, Convicted 4
  • 2011–12: Pending 3, Convicted 4
  • Total: Pending 14, Convicted 11

In other words, during 2007–08, five cases were pending and there were no convictions. The Violence Policy Center makes several fundamental mistakes. First, it can’t add simple numbers up correctly. While the VPC claims 20 pending cases and 14 convictions, the Michigan State Police report a total of 14 and 11 cases respectively.

Secondly, since it can take years for a murder case to go to trial, some of the homicides may have occurred well before 2007. In addition, the Michigan State Police report doesn’t provide information on how the murder was committed, so gun murders make up only a portion of this total.

Third, and perhaps the worst mistake, the Violence Policy Center actually adds the “pending” and “conviction” numbers together. Convictions are obviously what should be counted. After all, some of the “pending” cases do not result in a conviction, and adding them more than doubles the total number.

Yet, put aside all these problems for a moment. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the Violence Policy Center’s claim that concealed-handgun permits were responsible for 636 deaths in seven years is correct. One has to note that there are over 11 million concealed-handgun permits in the U.S. right now. With an annual number of deaths of 90, that means 0.00083 percent of concealed-carry permit holders were responsible for a shooting death each year. Removing suicides from the total reduces the rate even more, to 0.00058 percent

In 2011, he used Texas and Florida as examples to further his claims that concealed carry holders are not harbingers of crime; he used Texas and Florida since they “provide detailed records on the behavior of permit holders.”

During over two decades, from October 1, 1987 to February 28, 2011, Florida has issued permits to over 1.96 million people, with the average person having a permit for more than a decade. Few -- 168 (about 0.01%) -- have had their permits revoked for any type of firearms related violation, the most common was accidentally carrying a concealed handgun into a gun-free zone such as a school or an airport, not threats or acts of violence.

Over the last 38 months, only four permit holders have had their permit revoked for a firearms related violation -- an annual revocation rate of 0.0003%. The numbers are similarly small in Texas. In 2009, there were 402,914 active license holders. 101 were convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony, a rate of 0.025 percent, with only few of these crimes involving a gun.

Regardless, good on Ohio for expanding our Second Amendment rights.

(H/T Truth About Guns)

Loretta Lynch to Get a Vote This Week

Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, who testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January as part of her confirmation process, will reportedly receive a vote from the Senate later this week

"I'm glad we can now say there is a bipartisan proposal that will allow us to complete action on this important legislation," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday morning about a bill combating human trafficking that has become entangled in partisan bickering. "As soon as we finish the trafficking bill ... we'll move to the president's nominee for attorney general hopefully in the next day or so."

In February, Lynch was approved by the Judiciary Committee 12-8. Despite expressing support for President Obama's executive action on illegal immigration, she is expected to be approved by the full Senate.

UPDATE: It should be noted Lynch's nomination has been stalled as a result of Democrats filibustering a human trafficking bill. You can read more about that here.

Iran: Yeah, We're Not Going to Allow Any Inspections at Military Sites


With disastrous nuclear negotiations with Iran set to resume in the coming days, please consider the following stories. First:

International nuclear inspectors will be barred from all Iranian military sites under any deal with world powers, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard said Sunday, setting up a possible standoff as negotiators try to reach a final deal. Gen. Hossein Salami, the Guard's deputy leader, told Iranian state television that allowing foreign inspection of military sites is tantamount to "selling out," raising the stakes as talks between Iran and the six-nation group are to resume April 22 in Vienna. "We will respond with hot lead (bullets) to those who speak of it," Salami said. "Iran will not become a paradise for spies. We will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy." ... A fact sheet on the framework accord issued by the U.S. State Department said Iran would be required to grant the U.N. nuclear agency access to any "suspicious sites." Iran has questioned that and other language in the fact sheet.

Second, we're now confronting our "peace partners" in another theater.  Their export of terrorism continues unabated, and is not addressed in the nuclear framework:


Third, more belligerence from Ayatollah "Death to America" Khamenei:

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told military commanders on Sunday the United States had created the "myth" of nuclear weapons to portray Iran as a threat, hardening his rhetoric before nuclear negotiations resume this week. Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, has supported the nuclear talks but continues to express deep mistrust of the United States. "They created the myth of nuclear weapons so they could say the Islamic Republic is a source of threat. No, the source of threat is America itself, with its unrestrained, destabilizing interventions," Khamenei said in a televised address to a hall of several hundred military commanders.

Fourth, another brutal, authoritarian finger in America's eye:

Iranian authorities are charging The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, with espionage and three other serious crimes, including “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment,” according to his lawyer in Tehran. Providing the first description of the precise charges against Rezaian since his arrest nine months ago, the lawyer said that an indictment alleges Rezaian gathered information “about internal and foreign policy” and provided it to “individuals with hostile intent.” The statement, issued from Tehran by Rezaian���s attorney, Leila Ahsan, was provided to The Post by the family of the imprisoned reporter.

Fifth, capitulation:

President Barack Obama on Friday left open the door to "creative negotiations" in response to Iran's demand that punishing sanctions be immediately lifted as part of a nuclear deal, even though the initial agreement calls for the penalties to be removed over time. Asked at a White House news conference whether he would definitively rule out lifting sanctions at once as part of a final deal aimed at keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Obama said he didn't want to get ahead of negotiators in how to work through the potential sticking point. He said his main concern is making sure that if Iran violates an agreement, sanctions can quickly be reinstated — the so-called "snap back" provision.

Recall the logistical hurdles to "snap back" sanctions, which would likely require the blessing of countries like China (currently building an oil pipeline with Iran) and/or Russia (selling Iran an advanced weapons system).  Also recall Obama's assertion that the sanctions haven't worked, making their potential reintroduction a rather toothless consequence for Iranian malfeasance.  The Wall Street Journal's editors are justifiably concerned that Obama is willing to cut virtually any deal with Tehran at this stage:

Give Ayatollah Ali Khamenei credit for knowing his opposition. Two weeks ago the Supreme Leader declared that Western sanctions had to be lifted immediately as a condition of a nuclear deal. And sure enough, on Friday President Obama said Iran would get significant sanctions relief immediately upon signing a deal. The Ayatollah knows that Mr. Obama wants an agreement with Iran so much that there’s almost no concession the President won’t make. So why not keep asking for more? Keep in mind that the talks began with the U.S. and its European partners demanding that Iran dismantle its nuclear program. But to persuade the Ayatollah to accept the recent “framework” accord, Mr. Obama has already conceded that Iran can keep enriching uranium, that it can maintain 5,060 centrifuges to do the enriching, that its enriched-uranium stockpiles can stay inside Iran, that the once-concealed facilities at Fordow and Arak can stay open (albeit in altered form), and that Iran can continue doing research on advanced centrifuges. All of these concessions are contrary to previous U.S. positions, and we’re no doubt missing a few. But none of that was enough for the Ayatollah, who quickly asserted two new deal-breaking objections: immediate sanctions relief, and no inspections under any circumstances of Iran’s military sites...These latest events reinforce a conclusion that the Iranian talks are heading toward a deal that confers Western blessing on Iran as a nuclear-threshold state. Tehran will retain the facilities and means to develop a bomb at the moment of its choosing. The main question now is how many more concessions the Ayatollah will squeeze from a U.S. President he believes is desperate for a deal.

Setting aside those two deal-breaker demands from Iran and the enormous concessions already made, President Obama has all but admitted that the regime could follow the deal's terms to the letter, and still emerge as a nuclear threshold state as soon as Western-imposed restrictions begin to expire in 13 years.  In what possible sense is any of this acceptable?  Flashback:



Hillary Clinton: Why Are All of These Republicans Talking About Me?

Sole Democratic candidate for President Hillary Clinton just doesn't understand why "all of these Republicans" are talking about her. 

In her first real interview with the press since announcing her presidential campaign more than a week ago, the former Secretary of State isn't answering questions about allegations she traded political favors for donations to the Clinton Foundation, but is instead complaining about all of those Republican presidential candidates talking about her.

"Your reaction please to these book allegations. Did foreign entities receive any special treatment for making any kind of donations to the Clinton Foundation or your husband," ABC News correspondent Celia Vega asked Clinton during an event in New Hampshire yesterday.

"We're back into the political season and therefore we will be subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks and I'm ready for that. I know that that comes unfortunately with the territory" Clinton responded without answering the question. "The Republicans seem to be talking only about me. I don’t know what they’d talk about if I wasn’t in the race. But I am in the race and hopefully we’ll get on to the issues and I look forward to that."


ABC Breaking US News | US News Videos

Considering Clinton is the only Democrat who is seriously running for president, I'm not sure what she expected. Regardless, her dodge on the direct question was certainly predictable. 

Americans also look forward to "getting onto the issues" as Clinton suggested, which includes explanations about her time at the State Department.

Team Clinton Sends Former Obama White House Advisor John Podesta to Hillary's Defense on Foreign Donations

As Americans, DC insiders and political operatives anxiously wait for the May 5 release of investigative journalist Peter Schweizer's new book, Clinton Cash, Team Clinton is sending long-time ally, Clinton 2016 Chair and former Obama White House advisor John Podesta to her defense. Podesta also served as chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton. 

Naturally Podesta is calling Schweizer's book a bunch of "conspiracy theories" compiled together in one place, despite the fact he hasn't seen or read the book yet. 

"He's [Schweizer] cherry-picked information that's been disclosed and woven a bunch of conspiracy theories about it. The facts, there's nothing new about. The conspiracy theories we'll get to judge when we read the book," Podesta said.

Clinton Cash has been grabbing headlines on multiple news networks for more than 24-hours now and will reportedly show upon publishing that Hillary Clinton exchanged political favors as Secretary of State in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments and companies. 

On Sunday the New York Times published a piece previewing Schweizer's book, saying it is well documented, researched and fair.

"Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

He writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources, including tax records and government documents, while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.

His reporting largely focuses on payments made to Mr. Clinton for speeches, which increased while his wife served as secretary of state, writing that “of the 13 Clinton speeches that fetched $500,000 or more, only two occurred during the years his wife was not secretary of state.”

Schweizer, who has a history of investigating Republicans and Democrats in Washington D.C., has presented his work to reporters at the Washington Post, Fox News and the New York Times for vetting and further journalistic pursuit.

Yesterday the White House would not confirm or deny whether Clinton did in fact take donations in exchange for political favors at the State Department during her tenure. 

"The President continues to be extraordinarily proud of the work that Secretary Clinton did as the Secretary of State," Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

It’s No Big Deal, But ISIS Might Be In Afghanistan

The Obama administration might have to reassess the strategic situation in Afghanistan after allegations that the horrific suicide bombing in Jalalabad on April 18 was the work of the Islamic State. People waiting to collect their salaries formed a line outside the New Kabul Bank branch, where a man detonated his vest, killing 35 and wounding over 100 people, according to NPR. The Taliban did not claim responsibility; they actually condemned the attack.

While the Afghan president has said ISIS claimed responsibility, this hasn’t been confirmed yet. If true, it complicates the withdrawal plans for the Obama administration, which is trying to draw down American presence in both theaters (via the Atlantic):

Appearing on national television after the attack, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani claimed that a local affiliate of the Islamic State, also referred to by its Arabic acronym Daesh, was responsible.

"Taliban did not claim responsibility, but Daesh claimed responsibility," he said.

The involvement of ISIS has not been independently confirmed. But if Ghani is correct, Saturday's attack is an ominous development in a country struggling to combat a brutal insurgency from the Taliban, an indigenous Afghan group recently strengthened by an influx of foreign fighters.

On Saturday, a Taliban spokesman denied responsibility for the attack. But the group remains a lethal presence in Afghanistan. According to the Council on Foreign Relations,

Taliban violence claimed the lives of over 8,600 civilians in 2013 alone, and the group threatens government control of an estimated 40 percent of the country's 373 districts. A military crackdown on Islamic extremism in Pakistan has caused militants to cross the border into Afghanistan, where they have found refuge with the Taliban. With the onset of spring—the traditional fighting season in Afghanistan—extremist violence will only intensify.

"Considering the influx of foreign fighters in Afghanistan, this fighting season will be the bloodiest fighting season," Atiqullah Amarkhel, a military analyst in Kabul, told the Washington Post.

Afghanistan's violence poses a significant problem for the Obama administration, which seeks to wind down American involvement in the country. In March, Ghani persuaded Obama to maintain around 10,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan through the end of 2015—double the number that Obama had planned. Additional revisions to Obama's plan appear likely.

It may come to a point where another influx of American forces is needed to provide further stability to the region. Moreover, the chances of American forces engaging ISIS are now increased if this does turn out to be an ISIS attack, which is something the Obama administration has been trying to avoid.

While jobs and the economy will be the central issues of the 2016 election, foreign policy looks as if it will play a larger, though not overbearing, role next year.  Another pickle for Hillary who will have to answer to the ongoing failure of Obama's foreign policy, which she presided over as our chief diplomat for much his presidency.  

ISIS Video Claims To Show Murders of 30 Ethiopian Christians

A 29-minute video released by the Islamic State yesterday claims to show the slaughter of 30 Ethiopian Christian prisoners by Islamic State fighters.

The Ethiopian News Agency has confirmed the deaths of 30 citizens, captured in Libya by the Islamic State branch there, and shown to be executed in two groups in the video. The victims are given the choice to convert to Islam, or die, and are then shot in the head or beheaded.

“To the nation of the cross, we are back again,” the narrator says in Arabic, according to CNN. “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap.”

“We swear to Allah... you will not have safety even in your dreams until you embrace Islam,” he continues, according to the Guardian.

The video is titled “Until There Came to Them Clear Evidence,” and primarily focuses on providing justification for the group’s targeting of Christians. The narrator claims that slaughtering Christians is permitted if they refuse to convert to Islam and fail to pay a protection tax to the Islamic State.

People who claim to be Christians are also featured in the video, testifying that they are living happily under the Islamic State in cities like Aleppo and Raqqa, Syria, after paying the tax.

The Guardian explains:

The video... begins with a recounting of the early history of Christianity and an outline of the schisms that led to the creation of the Coptic, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, as well as the development of Protestantism.

The video condemns the doctrine of the Trinity as a form of apostasy, and brands Christians as infidels. The narrator says Christians must pay the “jizya” – a protection tax imposed on them during the early Islamic conquests in Asia and Europe, or face slaughter.

“You pay (tax) with willing submission, feeling yourselves subdued,” the narrator says, according to CNN. “Our battle is a battle between faith and blasphemy, between truth and falsehood, until there is no more polytheism -- and obedience becomes Allah's on its entirety,” the narrator says.

The video mirrors one released by Islamic State showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya.

“We tell Christians everywhere that the Islamic State will spread, God willing,” the narrator says at the end of the video, according to the Guardian. “It will reach you even if you are in fortresses. Those who embrace Islam or jizya will be safe. But those who refuse... will have nothing from us but the edge of the sword. The men will be killed, the women and children enslaved, and the money seized. That is Allah and the prophet’s judgment.”

Pew: Highest Support for Gun Rights in 25 Years

For the first time in 25 years, a majority of Americans say gun rights trump gun control, according to the Pew Research Center.

In a survey conducted in December 2014, it was revealed that 52 percent of Americans believe defending gun rights is more important than gun control, as opposed to 46 percent who believe gun ownership should be restricted.

Another shifting statistic revealed in the poll was the percentage of Americans who believe guns makes homes safer. While 15 years ago 51 percent said guns make a house more dangerous, today only 30 percent believe that, while a majority, 63 percent, say they provide more safety.

Americans are increasingly embracing their gun rights because they recognize firearms are an important resource for self-defense. In March 2013, Americans cited protection as the top reason for purchasing a gun - and it seems the trend has only continued.

These numbers suggest that Americans are rejecting the Obama administration's gun control agenda. Two years ago, after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama showed real remorse for the young lives lost, yet offered a misguided response by trying to push through anti-gun legislation. His gun control measure, which would have expanded background checks and banned "assault weapons," didn't get very far in Congress. Now, it's clear his gun control agenda is just as unpopular outside Capitol Hill. 

The Obama administration hasn't let this failed bill halt their anti-gun plans, however. One look at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) efforts suggests he and his cohorts are more determined than ever to restrict gun access. However, some of his administration's methods are being exposed by members of Congress who are concerned about an unfair rollback of the Second Amendment rights. 

It's time the president stops following his misguided intuition and starts paying attention to the numbers.

Oh My: Graham Says Paul Is ‘Behind’ Obama And Hillary On Foreign Policy

As Dan mentioned, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is 91 percent sure that he’ll run for president in 2016–with Meghan McCain saying he would do well; I'll just leave this here. While the 91 percent comment may have been somewhat facetious, it seems to be another event in the annals of what appears to be a Paul-Graham feud.

Now, Graham has said that his disagreements with Paul isn't personal. Earlier today, he noted on Morning Joe that both of them play golf, and have backed the similar legislation in the Senate, namely reforms bills for Social Security and Medicare. Foreign policy is where this (sort of) professional friendship hits rocky shoals. Graham contends that Paul has “a isolationist view of the world that I don’t share.” 

Joe Scarborough pushed Graham by asking if he supports Rand Paul or Hillary Clinton’s worldview. Graham said he’s more aligned with anyone who feels that America should be leading force in the world, but also said that Hillary backed a president who has led from behind. Then, he circled back to Paul:

Rand Paul is one step behind leading from behind. So yes, even Obama is more aggressive. Obama believes you can kill Anwar al-Awlaki, without getting a court order. Obama believes you can hold enemy combatants, unlawful enemy combatants at Gitmo, without a criminal trial because this is law-of-war detention. So Rand Paul is behind Obama, not just Hillary Clinton.

Earlier this month, Politico  had a piece that charted the clashes between these two men, which at times have become heated; the “Crazy Bastard” fight on the Senate floor over Guantanamo Bay probably serves as the best example of the deep, ideological differences these men have on foreign policy.  As the article mentioned, It's probably the reason why Graham feels compelled to enter the race to stop Paul:

In 2012, Paul’s political action committee began airing TV ads attacking West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who was up for reelection, for opposing a Paul-sponsored bill that would have blocked foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan and Libya. In response, Graham, who oversees a key Appropriations subcommittee charged with disbursing foreign aid, went so far as to appear on a conference call with Manchin to argue that cutting off the packages could have adverse effects in the region.

Paul steamed. “I don’t see myself campaigning against a Republican in a general election ever, that’s why I think it’s extraordinary that Graham is supporting a Democrat in a general election,” he said at the time.

A month later, Graham and Paul appeared on the Senate floor to debate whether to close the Guantánamo Bay terrorist detention facility. What ensued would soon become known as “The Crazy Bastard Fight.”

“Simply stated,” Graham said, “the American people don’t want to close Guantánamo Bay, which is an isolated, military-controlled facility, and bring these crazy bastards who want to kill us all to the United States.”

“I want to make formal objection to the ‘crazy bastard’ standard,” Paul swung back. “If we’re going to lock up all the crazy bastards, for goodness sakes would you not want, if you’re a crazy bastard, to have a right of trial by jury?”

In 2013, Graham appeared on the floor to lash Paul for his nearly 12-hour protest over the Obama administration’s drone policy — which the South Carolina senator labeled a “disservice.”

The most recent flareup came on Sunday, when Graham, appearing on Fox News, said Paul’s “foreign policy is to the left of President Obama.” He added that any Republican candidate would have struck a better Iran deal than Obama. “Except maybe Rand Paul.”

The publication added that Graham’s aides are saying the South Carolina Senator is setting himself up as “foil” to be used to attack Rand’s views, especially during the debates. Paul supporters have refused to comment thus far, fearing it will only add fuel to a Graham candidacy. Then again, Jesse Benton, a former Paul campaign manager who is helping running point on a pro-Rand super PAC, told Politico, “Punching down third-tier candidates doesn’t often make a lot of sense.”

If Graham decides to run–and it sounds as if he's more than willing–his 2016 game plan is to “exceed expectations in Iowa, finish in the top-tier in New Hampshire, and win South Carolina.” He figures by then, only three of four candidates would be in a condition to move on with their presidential aspirations–and he think he can be in that group.

It’s a becoming a mighty crowded field, Senator. That’s all I’ll say.

NARAL Colorado Not Fans of Bill That Would Criminalize the Murder of a Fetus

The nation was stunned by the vicious assault on Michelle Wilkins, a 26-year-old woman in Colorado whose unborn child was ripped from her womb while she answered a Craigslist ad for baby clothes. Even though her unborn child was killed in the attack, the attacker, Dynel Lane, would not face murder charges as it was uncertain whether or not the infant was alive outside of the womb. People were furious with this development, and a YouGov poll showed that vast majorities of people say that they feel the attack should have been classified as a murder. Colorado's legislature is considering the "Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act," which would allow for murder charges to be filed in a case like the attack on Wilkins.

Apparently the people of NARAL Colorado are not among the 76 percent who think that the attack was more than an assault. Earlier today, they tweeted this:

Call me crazy, but I'm not seeing how this is exactly a bad thing. Even trying to see the bill from the point of view held by NARAL's employees, I'm at a loss as to how someone could be against a murder charge for someone who literally ripped open a woman's body to extract her baby during an assault. This isn't even close to the same thing as a woman going in for an abortion--this was an assault that resulted in the death of a person.

NARAL Colorado followed up their tweet with this one, which didn't do much to explain their point of view:

Again, this simply isn't true. Wilkins' infant was seven months along, and had the baby been born in a hospital instead of in a bathtub following a botched Cesarian section, he would probably still be alive today. Despite this life that was snuffed out, Lane won't be charged with murder because Colorado law won't allow this. That's absurd.

It's also interesting that NARAL chose to use the term "mother" in their first tweet. What, pray tell, is the woman a mother of if (in NARAL's view) they are not a person until they are born?

Revealed: How Partisan Prosecutors Harassed and Intimidated Wisconsin Conservatives


Those of you who've followed the Left's crusade against Scott Walker in Wisconsin are probably at least passingly familiar with the secret "John Doe" investigations that were launched by abusive prosecutors, then egregiously misreported by the media.  With Walker safely re-re-elected and his budget victories won, observers can now examine the truly frightening treatment of the governor's friends and allies at the hands of an out-of-control, partisan prosecutor, free from the passions and urgency of a contested election.  Make no mistake: The Left's tactics were aimed squarely at achieving partisan ends, not serving the interests of justice.  But just because they failed to destroy Walker doesn't make their actions any less heinous, nor does it mean that conservatives should drop the issue because the immediate political threat has passed.  Writing at National Review OnlineDavid French interviews some of the victims of the "John Doe" persecution, giving voice to those who were simultaneously targeted, humiliated, intimidated and muzzled. Here's one of several terrifying vignettes:

Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking. She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram. She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door. “I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic. TOP STORY: Carly Fiorina Has Hillary Defenders Worried “I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.” She got the dogs safely out of the house, just as multiple armed agents rushed inside. Some even barged into the bathroom, where her partner was in the shower. The officer or agent in charge demanded that Cindy sit on the couch, but she wanted to get up and get a cup of coffee. “I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.” They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off. The neighbors started to come outside, curious at the commotion, and all the while the police searched her house, making a mess, and — according to Cindy — leaving her “dead mother’s belongings strewn across the basement floor in a most disrespectful way.” Then they left, carrying with them only a cellphone and a laptop.

Click through to read similar accounts from "Anne" and "Rachel," both of whom were similarly instructed not to contact their lawyers, and not to share the details of their ordeal with anyone:

Don’t call your lawyer. Don’t talk to anyone about this. Don’t tell your friends. The kids watched — alarmed — as the school bus drove by, with the students inside watching the spectacle of uniformed police surrounding the house, carrying out the family’s belongings. Yet they were told they couldn’t tell anyone at school. They, too, had to remain silent. The mom watched as her entire life was laid open before the police. Her professional files, her personal files, everything. She knew this was all politics. She knew a rogue prosecutor was targeting her for her political beliefs. And she realized, “Every aspect of my life is in their hands. And they hate me.”

Megan McArdle sums things up:


Read the whole thing (and here's what SWATing is, for those who haven't heard of it).  French's reporting identifies the chief culprit in all of this as hardcore Democrat and Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisolm, who was skewered in this lengthy piece by Stuart Taylor last year.  Taylor quoted a former prosecutor explaining how Chisolm, at the prodding of his wife -- a fanatical Walker opponent -- made bringing down Walker his "personal duty."  Posters depicting the pro-union 'blue fist' emblem hung on the walls of Chisolm's supposedly nonpartisan office.  Milwaukee's top prosecutor became the Democratic Party's top hatchet man, abetted by a rubber-stamp judge (who has since recused herself), and vested with the full powers of the state.  His partisan thuggery was carried out by men with badges and guns, all under the pretense of a legitimate criminal investigation.  The probe has gone nowhere, incidentally, having been halted by two separate court rulings; it's has been the subject of legal wrangling ever since.  French notes that the intense dispute is approaching its denouement, on two separate tracks:

Largely hidden from the public eye, this traumatic process, however, is now heading toward a legal climax, with two key rulings expected in the late spring or early summer. The first ruling, from the Wisconsin supreme court, could halt the investigations for good, in part by declaring that the “misconduct” being investigated isn’t misconduct at all but the simple exercise of First Amendment rights. The second ruling, from the United States Supreme Court, could grant review on a federal lawsuit brought by Wisconsin political activist Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the first conservatives to challenge the investigations head-on. If the Court grants review, it could not only halt the investigations but also begin the process of holding accountable those public officials who have so abused their powers.

Sooner than later, we'll know if John Doe's targets will finally be freed from this unnerving legal purgatory, and if they'll be afforded a path to seek legal relief against their tormentors.  I'll leave you with another piece of political news out of the Badger State:



White House on New Clinton Donor Revelations: President Obama is Proud of Hillary's Work at State

A new book by investigator Peter Schweizer and set to be published May 5, Clinton Cash, will reportedly show that Hillary Clinton traded political favors for donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation during her time as Secretary of State.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Schweizer writes in the book.

The White House is calling that accusation "spurious," lacking in evidence and is reassuring the press that President Obama is "proud" of Clinton's work at the State Department. Further, Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to say if foreign governments received preferential treatment in return for donations as part of the administration. 

"I know there's been a lot of accusations made about this but not a lot of evidence," Earnest said Monday. "The president continues to be extraordinarily proud of the work that Secretary Clinton did as the Secretary of State."

"There are lots of accusations like this but there's nobody that's marshaled in an evidence to indicate this," Earnest continued. "I'm not sure there's anybody that has any tangible evidence to indicate that it did [happened. I'm not going to be in the positions here that anytime somebody raises a spurious claim that I'm going to be the one who says it's not true...for these specific accusations that are presented without any evidence I'd refer you the political types who are more well versed in those types of things."

The New York Times reported yesterday. Bolding is mine:

"Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.  

He writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources, including tax records and government documents, while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.

His reporting largely focuses on payments made to Mr. Clinton for speeches, which increased while his wife served as secretary of state, writing that “of the 13 Clinton speeches that fetched $500,000 or more, only two occurred during the years his wife was not secretary of state.”

Is the White House really going to go against statements from the New York Times that the book is well researched, investigated and documented? That appears to be the case. The bigger question is whether Hillary Clinton, who is now running for president, was bought and paid for by foreign governments.

White House Won't Require Iran to Release Americans As Part of Nuclear Deal

Speaking to reporters at the White House Monday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the release of American journalist Jason Rezaian, who works as a correspondent for the Washington Post, will not be required as part of a deal over Iran's nuclear program. 

"On the Jason Rezaian case, why can't you just say to the Iranians on a condition of making this deal final you've got to free Jason Rezaian? I understand you're not going to resolve all of your issues with Iran exporting terrorism throughout the region, all of those issues that are very complicated perhaps? Some would argue maybe not but here you have one case of an American who has been held prisoner since July of last year now brought up on what you just said are absurd charges, why not say, 'Look we're  not going to sign a deal until you let him go,'" ABC's Jon Karl asked.

"The effort to build the international community's strong support for a diplomatic resolution or a diplomatic agreement that would shut down every pathway Iran has for a nuclear weapon is extraordinarily complicated and so we are trying to focus on these issues one at a time and that's why you continue to see regular, consistent and pretty forceful statements from the United States that these Americans should be released," Earnest responded.

Rezaian has been held by the Iranian regime since July 2014. Today his attorney told CNN he has been charged by the Iranians with four different crimes, including espionage. The White House is calling the charges outrageous, but still won't include his release in the upcoming nuclear deal with the terror state.

Other Americans being held by Iran include American Marine Amir Hekmati and Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini.

Graham: There's a '91 Percent' Chance I'm Taking the Plunge in 2016

That statement might seem a little bizarre at first blush. Ninety-one percent? But I think context is important here.

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace prefaced his question about whether or not Lindsey Graham is running for president by reminding him that Carly Fiorina recently noted on his show that her chances of running were “higher than 90 percent.”

“What’s the percent chance that you’re going to get in?” he then asked him.

“91 percent ... I think I got a good message, I think I've been more right than wrong on foreign policy ... I've been a problem-solver in Washington. And I think I've got something to offer the party and the nation. I’ll make that decision in May [and] if I can raise the money, I’ll do it.”

Presumably, however, if you ask grassroots conservatives what they think of Lindsey Graham running for president in 2016, the responses would range from mild amusement to intense anger for all the reasons Wallace brings up. But maybe he’s got two things going for him: First, he would likely be running for president at a time when national security issues are at the forefront. Consequently, as a foreign policy hawk, this would be a distinct advantage, especially as ISIS continues its murderous atrocities and Iran moves closer to the bomb. Second, he’s also a deft and savvy campaigner. Graham, as he points out in the interview, soundly defeated six primary opponents in 2014 when he was largely viewed as extremely vulnerable. It also doesn’t hurt that South Carolina is conveniently situated as a key early primary state—a state he thinks he can win despite what the polls say.

“If I’m on the ballot, I’m going to win South Carolina,” he told Chris Wallace.

Perhaps. But where does he go from there? Newt Gingrich won South Carolina in 2012—and flamed out shortly thereafter. Graham therefore would not only need to win South Carolina, but not lose any momentum (or deplete his coffers) for months afterwards. And how likely is that?

In any case, he’s going to run, or so it seems. So I guess a reasonable question might be why shouldn’t he?

Hell, everyone else is.

Polls: Rubio Rises Among GOP Voters, Leads Hillary in Florida


Marco Rubio's strong campaign launch week has propelled him into the top tier of contention for the GOP nomination, according to a new CNN poll. Despite his strong favorability numbers among Republican voters, the Florida Senator had been stuck in the mid-single digits on 2016 primary ballot questions. That's changed, at least for now, as Rubio has bounced into double-digit territory and is tied for third place:

Overall, 17% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents back Bush for the GOP nomination, while 12% support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Paul and Rubio stand at 11% each, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 9% and Cruz at 7%… On one metric, however, Bush has an emerging challenger. While 18% see Bush as the candidate who best represents the future of the Republican Party, the same share say fellow Floridian Rubio is the best representation of the GOP’s future. Paul, at 10%, is the only other candidate in double digits on this question…

Rubio also fares best in CNN's national head-to-head numbers against Hillary Clinton, "only" trailing her by...14 points.  He's the only Republican who breaks into the 40's against Hillary, with most others mired in the high 30's.  Ted Cruz fares worst, pulling in 36 percent against Hillary's cool 60 percent.  Three caveats: CNN's general election polling has been especially unfavorable to Republicans so far, Hillary Clinton has universal name recognition (unlike virtually every Republican in the race), and swing-state polling has been much more competitive -- in Iowa, Colorado, and now Florida, too:

Both leading Republican candidates from the Sunshine State now lead Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida. Statewide, former governor Jeb Bush leads Clinton 47%-43% and Senator Marco Rubio, who trailed Clinton in January, has a slightly larger 49%-43% advantage. Predictably, support divides sharply along partisan lines, with Bush and Rubio holding strong leads among Republican voters and Clinton well ahead among Democrats. Bush and Rubio are ahead because both are running stronger with independents. The gender gap, which Clinton hopes to exploit in her quest to become the first female president, is present. However, that gap exposes that her deficit among men is a stronger force than her advantage among women.

Florida is a must-have for the GOP in 2016.  Take a gander at this map:


You can play around with various states (flip New Mexico/Colorado/Nevada to Blue, and Florida to red, for example, and Republicans win), but without the Sunshine State's 29 electoral votes, the GOP's path to victory is basically nonexistent.  And then there's the small matter of winning back Ohio and Virginia, too.  In any case, it'd be wise not to get too excited or alarmed by any 2016 polling at this stage.  Current surveys tend to reflect several trends that aren't likely to budge anytime soon: Hillary Clinton, despite staggering flaws, will be formidable.  The Republican nominating contest features a deep field and will be very competitive.  And the GOP electorate is far from settled in its preferences.  The good news for Rubio is that his announcement made a splash and moved the needle.  He helped himself, broke through with primary voters, and reportedly made a good impression on the big money class to boot.  But with a parade of announcements scheduled over the coming weeks, it won't necessarily be surprising to see his surge subside a bit, as future news cycles showcase new entrants.  Meanwhile, while the Obama/Hillary foreign policy continues to crater, young Muslim Americans try to join ISIS in disturbing numbers, the national debt churns ever higher, Obamacare harms millions of consumers, and the economy limps along in its historically tepid recovery, the media is busy tallying which Republican candidates would attend a loved one's same-sex wedding.  Rubio got the question first, and handled it well.  He's a "yes" (adding that he believes sexual orientation is innate, not chosen).  Rick Santorum is a "no," Ted Cruz dismissed the hypothetical and instead addressed the Constitutional and policy questions, and now Scott Walker weighs in with a, "yes, and I already have, actually."  At some point, Republicans are going to need unify and address "gotcha" questions with a hybrid Rubio/Cruz approach.  Address the underlying issue succinctly and smartly, then emphasize how frivolous some lines of questioning have become.  And while the whole GOP field is getting quizzed on hypotheticals involving the potential nuptials of roughly three percent of the population, the effective Democratic nominee is taking zero questions, period.  I'll leave you with CBS News asking if President Rubio would sign the 'Gang of Eight' immigration bill he co-sponsored in the Senate:



Horror: CBS News’ 60 Minutes Airs Footage Of The 2013 Sarin Gas Attack In Syria

Last night, Scott Pelley’s segment on CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired some of the most graphic footage in the program’s history. Pelley returned to the 2013 sarin gas attack that happened in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21, 2013; an attack that killed over 1,400 people, including 426 children. Pelley noted how it’s been a year and half since UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared the attack a “crime against humanity,” but no one has been held responsible.

Partial transcript below [Warning: graphic content]

About two in the morning, August 21st, 2013, hundreds in the suburbs of Damascus were awakened by the panic of their last breath stuck in their throats. Neighbors carried neighbors to makeshift clinics.

Victims were stripped and washed. Everything was tried but nothing could be done. There was no forcing life into lungs that could not accept it. Their nerves, electrified by sarin, fired non-stop. Muscles seized until death released them.

Sarin has no color, no odor. Often the dead drop never knowing what happened. But their eyes bear witness. The seizures draw the pupils tight. And the world goes dark--which might be a blessing.

This father had willed his daughters through months of hunger. Now he's shouting, "Do you know what they said before going to sleep? I gave her food. She said, 'Dad it's not my turn to eat, it's my sister's...,'" he goes on, "What should we do good people? What are we to do? Look at that face, look at that face."

The history of sarin begins in the 1930s. It was a Nazi weapons program. The name is an acronym of the scientists' last names. In 1997, sarin, and other chemical weapons were outlawed. And, the world set up the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Scott Cairns is a chemist and lead inspector for that organization.

Scott Pelley: A person who is exposed to sarin, what do they experience?

Scott Cairns: A number of physical symptoms and some psychological effects. You get this overwhelming sense of doom and hopelessness and fear.

Scott Pelley: And what causes death?

Scott Cairns: Typically, it's the paralysis of the respiratory system eventually. Your muscles don't work. You lose the oxygen to your brain. It just puts you into overload. It's a very horrible way to die.

Scott Cairns: I'd just gotten up and what I thought I'd heard was another regular bombardment of conventional weapons to the east of Damascus.

He had heard the rockets in route to the largest sarin massacre of civilians since Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 1988. Cairns demanded access. They raced in, in U.N. trucks and the shooting started.

Scott Pelley: What happened?

Scott Cairns: The gunman was firing on the first two vehicles.

Scott Pelley: So, the vehicles were hit?

Scott Cairns: Oh, the vehicles were hit. The first vehicle was disabled.

Scott Pelley: Did you find out who was shooting at you?

Scott Cairns: No.

Scott Pelley: Why do you think they were shooting at you?

Scott Cairns: They were shooting at us just to tell us, send us a message. If they wanted to kill us, they would've killed us. At no point was there any interest in the turning around and going back to the hotel.

Scott Pelley: Finding and documenting the truth was worth risking your life for.

Scott Cairns: Yes.

Scott Pelley: How'd you go about your work?

Scott Cairns: Very quickly. We didn't have a lot of time. We had places where we could set up our interview stations. We could take samples. Biomedical samples from people. Blood, urine, hair.

They also collected cellphone videos and swabbed samples from mangled rockets. Days later, in a community called Zamalka, they discovered the rockets were much larger and had delivered even more gas. Never before had investigators arrived at a chemical crime scene so soon.

Scott Cairns: Well over 90 percent of the samples that we took tested positive for Sarin.

With the threat of airstrikes, President Obama forced Assad to give up his chemical arsenal. But if Assad was the triggerman there is one thing odd about the timing.

Scott Pelley: Why would anyone launch the largest chemical weapons attack in decades while chemical weapons inspectors are in town?

Scott Cairns: I ask myself that a lot. I don't know.

Scott Pelley: We don't know why.

Scott Cairns: No. I don't think we'll ever truly know.

Pelley said he revisited this story because it’s “not the kind of thing you want to report on for a couple of days and then walk away and never remember again." The images are truly horrifying. As to the situation in Syria, it’s equally dire. Over 200,000 people have been killed, and besides dealing with the nation's dictator–Bashir al-Assad–the Islamic State has been able to establish a foothold in the country. Last August, Joint Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey said the United States couldn’t defeat ISIS without confronting them militarily, diplomatically, and economically in Syria–“all the tools of national power.” He also said a successful strategy would also require assistance from our allies in the Middle East.

As for training the Syrian rebels, the process has been slower than molasses. It was initially reported by Josh Rogin of Bloomberg that Major General Michael Nagata, who’s been leading the mission, was leaving his post. He updated his article after Central Command informed him Nagata would remain with the Syria mission. Yet, one of the problems the mission is facing is that we aren’t currently projected to hit our goal of training 5,000 men [emphasis mine]:

The nascent program has a slew of other problems. For one, the U.S. has not been able to recruit enough fighters to achieve the goal of churning out 5,000 battle-ready Syrians to fight against the Islamic State in the first year. The U.S. is also not sure it can convince the fighters, once trained and armed, to actually fight the jihadists instead of their prime enemy, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The theory is that the fighters will be dependent on the U.S. military for logistical and intelligence support, and therefore will have to obey U.S. instructions to point their guns only at the terrorists. But nobody knows if that will play out as envisioned.

In addition, there’s no real agreement with the countries that are supposed to host the training camps, which include Jordan and Turkey, as to what the program's goals are. The Turks, in particular, still want the force to fight the Assad government. Until the U.S. agrees to broaden the mission, Turkey is limiting its overall involvement in the coalition fighting inside Syria.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the White House has not yet decided if and how it will protect the newly trained Syrian rebels when Assad's forces attack them, as the Syrian leader has promised. The current plan is to keep the rebels in areas where the Syrian regime has no ground forces. But this won't protect them from Assad's air forces, infamous for using crude "barrel bombs" filled with explosives.

In previous years, when the CIA armed and trained Syrian rebels, the program was secret and nobody was able to judge success or failure, although most of the U.S.-supported groups have now been defeated. This new program, run by uniformed military, was supposed to be more transparent. Yet the administration holds close any details about its progress or trajectory.

This has led some in Congress to doubt whether White House is really serious about it in the first place. The suspicion is that the administration no longer thinks Assad’s departure is good, at least in the near term, and worries the rebels will fight Assad no matter their U.S. overseers tell them. Yet the administration benefits by keeping the program alive, if only because it is Obama’s alibi when people accuse him of not having any strategy in Syria at all.

Sen. Manchin: I'm Running For Re-election, Not Governor

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who previously served for six years as the governor of West Virginia, was widely considered to be taking a serious look at running for his old job again once it becomes vacant in 2016.

On Sunday on Face the Nation, however, he threw a curve ball: He will run for re-election instead in 2018:

West Virginia is a crimson state, once nearly voting for a convicted felon over President Obama during the 2012 Democratic presidential primary. (That is not a joke, my friends). But Sen. Manchin, perhaps because he represents such a conservative electorate, is one of the few Senate Democrats ready and willing to break with his own party. For instance, he is in favor of bringing the ‘controversial’ anti-human sex trafficking bill up for a vote (stalled in Congress by Senate Democrats) and even vowed to repeal the president's illegal executive amnesty. He also has spectacularly high approval ratings and isn’t afraid to criticize his own party or fellow Democrats. Running for re-election, therefore, will improve his party’s chances of retaining the seat, while also giving him an opportunity to continue, as he put it in the clip above, “[serving] the people of West Virginia, the most patriotic people in the country” at the national level.

Of course, I wouldn't say he is necessarily a shoe-in for re-election. But based on how he performed during the 2012 election cycle, I imagine Democrats are resting a little easier knowing he isn't giving up his seat voluntarily, right?