Officials: White House fence jumper tried again, at Treasury

Mar 26, 2017 21

The Secret Service says a woman who got tangled up by her shoelaces after trying to jump the White House fence last week has been arrested again after a similar stunt.

Thirty-eight-year-old Marci Anderson Wahl of Everett, Washington, was arrested after an alarm sounded about 2:15 a.m. Sunday. Officials say she scaled a fence at the Treasury Building, next to the White House.  She was charged with unlawful entry and contempt of court.

Wahl was first arrested Tuesday after trying to jump the White House fence. She was charged with unlawful entry and released on her own recognizance after being ordered to stay away from the area.

She was rearrested Friday after officers saw her near Lafayette Park. She was released again on her own recognizance after a Saturday court appearance.

Iraqi Prime Minister al Abadi says ISIS military defeated 'within weeks'

Mar 26, 2017 23

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi predicted Sunday that his country will defeat Islamic State military forces “within weeks,” but acknowledged the terror group will continue to exist until it’s eradicated in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

“We are defeating them militarily,” al Abadi told “Fox News Sunday.” “As a terrorist organization … they will try. So that’s where we need the efforts of others. Flush them out of Syria and other places.”

Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition, early this year drove Islamic State fighters from the eastern part of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. And the fight has now moved to Mosul’s densely populated western neighborhoods.

Iraqi and coalition forces have increasingly turned to artillery and airstrikes in the difficult fight. The U.S. military, in fact, is being held responsible for a March 17 strike in which at least 100 people were purportedly killed. U.S. officials have opened an investigation.

Al Abadi also suggested Sunday that President Barack Obama didn’t want to get involved in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, but was forced into the situation when the terror group crossed the Syrian border and occupied 40 percent of Iraq.

In 2003, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. However, the effort lasted roughly eight years.

“He just wanted just to forget Iraq,” the prime minister said. “I mean, slaughtering people. There was a lot of pressure on President Obama.”

He also said the United States appears determined to defeat ISIS and that the U.S. and Iraq are allies, which made President Trump’s original travel ban on his country unacceptable.

“We are allies. We are victims of terrorism,” al Abadi said. “It’s not acceptable to us, especially when you have U.S. soldiers … working with Iraqis in Iraq. It was very tough for them to tell Iraqis, ‘I’m working with you, but I consider you as a threat to the U.S.’ ”

Trump campaigned on a promise to dramatically ramp up the assault on Islamic State militants and has vowed to eradicate it. His revised travel ban, held up in federal court like the first one, does not include Iraq.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently met at the State Department with al Abadi and foreign officials to explore new ideas to expand the fight against ISIS in Mosul.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

EMTs, firefighters need guns, Texas lawmakers say

Mar 26, 2017 13

Texas lawmakers introduced legislation last week to allow the state’s first responders to carry a handgun while on duty, KXAN reported.

The proposed legislation would make it possible for firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel who have firearms permits to carry their guns during normal shifts.

“You never really know what you’re getting into,” said Capt. Rick Rutledge, of the Austin-Travis County EMS. “There are certainly risks.”

House Bill 435 also allows for volunteer emergency workers to carry guns. The bill, according to the station, will not require any further training for those who are already licensed to carry firearms.

“You have to assume it’s like a driver’s license,” said State Rep. Dan Flynn, a Republican. “You know how to drive before you get a license; you know how to shoot a gun before you get a license.”

Still, Rutledge questions if the bill will really help the state’s first-responders to remain safe.

“Protecting that weapon, limiting liability, knowing when to use and not use that. It is a specialized area and a course of training that we haven’t had,” Rutledge said.

Chris Barron, the executive director of the State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas, echoed the sentiment: “We are not trained in law enforcement.”

Flynn told KXAN that “hostility towards first responders” is the reason for the bill.

“What we’re finding out is often, someone will set up an attack, they’ll set up a fire just to go after people that they don’t like,” he said.

Click for more from KXAN.com

EPA chief: Trump to undo Obama plan to curb global warming

Mar 26, 2017 20

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says President Donald Trump in the coming days will sign a new executive order that unravels his predecessor’s sweeping plan to curb global warming.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt says the executive order to be signed Tuesday will undo the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

The 2015 rule has been on hold since last year while a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly Republican-led states and more than 100 companies.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Pruitt said Trump’s intention is to bring back coal-mining jobs and reduce the cost of electricity.

Supporters of former President Barack Obama’s plan say it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs.

Witches toil, spell trouble for Trump

Mar 26, 2017 17

Perhaps the forces that ultimately stymied President Trump’s health care overhaul were less political and more…supernatural.

After one of their spells worked just days ahead of the American Health Care Act’s defeat, a group of self-proclaimed witches are set to cast another “binding spell” on Sunday night in an effort to kick Trump out of office, according to the official “Bind Trump” Facebook page. The group plans to perform the spell against “Trump and All Those Who Abet Him” at midnight “on every waning crescent moon.”

Some components of the spell include a small “unflattering” photo of Trump, a Tower tarot card – ostensibly to represent Trump Tower – and a “tiny stub of an orange candle” or a “baby carrot.”

“I call upon you to bind Donald J. Trump so that his malignant works may fail utterly, that he may do not harm to any human soul, not any tree, animal, rock, stream or sea,” a sentence of the spell says.

At the end, a grounding exercise is recommended, including “a good, hearty laugh” because “remember – he hates people laughing at him.”

A variant of the spell suggests using one of Trump’s most famous catchphrases against him.

“In place of ‘So mote it be,’ instead say, ‘You’re fired!’ with increasing vehemence,” the Facebook instructions say. “This should be particularly beautiful as the flames consume his image.”

Science says the spell is a lot of hocus pocus. But anecdotal evidence might keep the cacklers casting.

One of the “witches” wrote on the Facebook page that she performed her own spell on March 20 “to save” ObamaCare.

Four days later, Republican leadership pulled its replacement bill prior to a House vote, effectively leaving ObamaCare in place.

Freedom Caucus' Jordan: End ObamaCare blaming, ‘Let’s get to work’

Mar 26, 2017 16

House Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim Jordan tried Sunday to end the blame being cast upon his group and others for Republicans’ failed ObamaCare overhaul bill, saying, “Let’s get to work.”

“Instead of doing the blame game, let’s get to work,” Jordan, R-Ohio, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Let’s do the responsible thing. Let’s get back to work and do what we told the voters we were going to do.”

Much of the blame has been directed at the conservative group and its roughly 30 members, after House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday realized he didn’t have enough support for the bill in the GOP-led chamber and canceled the final vote on Friday.

However, practically everybody in official Washington is being accused of being at fault — from the caucus for its ideological purity, to Ryan for his inability to get the votes to President Trump for failing to deliver with his vaunted deal-making skills.

Ryan purportedly needed about 20 more votes, mostly from Freedom Caucus members and a handful of GOP House moderates.

None of the chamber’s 193 Democrats supported dismantling President Obama’s signature 2010 health care law, which is struggling under increasing costs and fewer insurance policy choices for Americans.

Jordan argued Sunday that the bill lost on its shortcomings, not over ideology, with just 17 percent of Americans approving of the measure, crafted by Ryan, R-Wis., and his leadership team.

“Maybe the fact that we opposed it did the country a favor because this bill didn’t repeal ObamCare,” he said. “This bill didn’t do what we told the American people we were going to do.”

He argued fiscal conservatives want a bill that “brings back” affordable insurance for their voters and all Americans through a market-based, not government-run, approach.

“Not some one-size-fits-all mandate from Washington,” said Jordan, whose caucus backed a plan by South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans. “That’s what our plan would have accomplished.”

He also made clear that conservatives will hold Trump and Ryan to the same standards moving forward on such issues of tax reform and building the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“Let’s make sure we actually secure the border, build the wall, like we told the American people we were going to,” he said. “That’s what the Freedom Caucus was created to do — fight for those simple principles.”

Priebus on ObamaCare overhaul: It’s time for GOP to 'start governing’

Mar 26, 2017 24

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday acknowledged that Democrats are not the culprits in Republicans’ failed ObamaCare overhaul bill, saying it’s time for the GOP to “start governing.”

“You’re right,” Priebus said to questions on “Fox News Sunday” about President Trump calling out Democrats after the bill died Friday in the GOP-controlled House amid insufficient GOP support.

“At the end of the day, it’s time for the party to start governing,” Priebus continued. “I also think though, that Democrats can come to the table as well.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., canceled the vote on the bill upon realizing he was about 20 votes shy of the minimum 216, amid strong opposition from the roughly 35-member, conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Trump said afterward, “We have no Democratic support. We have no votes from them. They weren’t going to give us a single vote.”

On Saturday, Trump hinted that overhauling ObamaCare is still alive, perhaps through bringing Democrats into the process, with widespread bipartisan concern about the 2010 health care law’s increasing costs and fewer insurance policy options for Americans.

“ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great health care plan for THE PEOPLE,” Trump tweeted. “Do not worry!”

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, later Saturday seemed open to such discussions, acknowledging that ObamaCare indeed has problems, including too few tax credits for poor Americans to help them pay for the insurance.

“ObamaCare is not perfect. We need to fix things” he said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “This is all fixable if we sit down as reasonable people.”

Priebus also told “Fox News Sunday” that Trump was “100 percent correct” in a tweet earlier in the morning in which the president blamed the Freedom Caucus along with Washington conservative groups the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation for nixing the overhaul bill, crafted by Speaker Ryan and his leadership team.

“We can’t be chasing the perfect all the time,” Priebus said. “Sometimes you have to take good and put it in your pocket and take the win. … I think it’s time for our folks to come together. And I also think it’s [time] to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board, as well.”

Still, Priebus acknowledged that Trump has an ambitious policy agenda that includes tax reform and perhaps an infrastructure bill on which he’ll need support from conservatives.

“We’ll give these guys another chance,” he said.  

Trump hits Freedom Caucus, Washington conservatives for nixing ObamaCare overhaul

Mar 26, 2017 23

President Trump on Sunday criticized conservative Republicans for nixing the party’s ObamaCare overhaul plan, saying, “Democrats are smiling” because the conservatives saved the struggling health care law and Planned Parenthood.

“Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!,” Trump tweeted.

On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan canceled the final vote for the ObamaCare replacement bill, upon concluding he didn’t have enough votes despite the chamber’s GOP majority.

Ryan, R-Wis., was purportedly about 20 votes short of the requisite 216, amid strong opposition from the chamber’s conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has 30 to 40 Republican members.

The conservative groups The Heritage Foundation and the fiscally conservative Club for Growth group also opposed the overall plan, written by Ryan and his leadership team and backed by Trump.

Did the Air Force Dash Hopes for Building More F-22s?

Mar 26, 2017 23

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.

He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be slightly less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

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F-22 Raptors at Air Combat Exercise Red Flag 17-1

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Trump TV surrogate Boris Epshteyn leaving White House, officials confirm

Mar 26, 2017 29

Boris Epshteyn, a special assistant to President Donald Trump who was in charge of television surrogates for the White House, has been let go from his position, four senior administration officials told Fox News.

White House sources told Fox News that they “are exploring other opportunities within the administration.”

Epshteyn could potentially have a less “visable” position, but is “expected to remain in the administration,” Politico reported.

Epshteyn had been in charge of overseeing television appearances for White House officials, according to Politico.

Eric Trump and Epshteyn had developed a friendship during their time at Georgetown University.  

Fox News’ Serafin Gomez contributed to this story.