State Department sent taxpayer funds to group trying to oust Netanyahu

Jul 12, 2016 63

The U.S. State Department funneled tax dollars to a group that worked to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Senate report released Tuesday.

OneVoice Movement, a group that supports Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations, received $465,000 in grants from the State Department during a 14-month period ending in November 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report found.

Soon after receiving U.S. funds, OneVoice merged with Israeli group Victory 15, or V15, to launch a multimillion-dollar campaign in Israel with the goal to elect “anybody but Bibi,” a nickname for Netanyahu.

The State Department grants helped OneVoice build its political infrastructure, including voter contact lists, professionally trained organizers and activists, and an expanded social media platform, that was initially intended to mobilize the Israeli electorate to support peace negotiations.

In December 2014, a month after the group stopped receiving U.S. grants, OneVoice diverted its U.S.-funded political resources into its anti-Netanyahu campaign ahead of Israel’s 2015 election, according to the report.

OnceVoice CEO Marc Ginsberg emailed its new plan aimed at ousting Netanyahu to the State Department’s top diplomat in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney, during the grant period. The State Department deleted the correspondence despite the Federal Records Act requirement.

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Trump condemns Ginsburg's comments on his campaign

Jul 12, 2016 43

Donald Trump reportedly condemned Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critical comments about his presidential campaign, calling them “highly inappropriate” and “a disgrace to the court.”

Trump told The New York Times on Tuesday, “It’s highly inappropriate that a United States Supreme Court judge gets involved in a political campaign, frankly … I think she should apologize to the court.”

“I would hope that she would get off the court as soon as possible,” he added.

Ginsburg had said on Sunday that she did not even want to think about what the nation would look like under Trump’s leadership.

“I can’t imagine what this place would be… For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that,” she said in an interview with The Times.

She also jokingly suggested New Zealand as a viable alternative to America if the Republican presumptive nominee wins in November.

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Convention cities adjust security plans after shootings

Jul 12, 2016 83

Rising tensions after the deadly ambush of police officers in Dallas have prompted officials in Cleveland and Philadelphia to adjust security plans for this month’s national political conventions.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams says his department has “ramped up” its security plans for the GOP convention and moved up by a week the activation of a tip line for reporting suspicious activity.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross says the fatal shooting of five Dallas police officers last week will require that police take a different tactical approach, although he would not elaborate.

The Republican National Convention begins Monday in Cleveland and the Democratic convention on July 25.

Anti-Trump Republicans urge Kasich to run as part of last-ditch bid

Jul 12, 2016 41

 

The stop-Trump movement isn’t dead yet — and Ohio Gov. John Kasich could be their last hope. 

Republicans opposed to Donald Trump’s 2016 bid reportedly are making a fresh pitch for Kasich to step up as an alternative candidate ahead of the party’s convention in Cleveland. Former New Hampshire Sen. Gordon Humphrey asked Kasich allies Sunday to contact the former presidential candidate and urge him to offer himself as an alternative at the convention, according to Cleveland.com

“Given our shared effort in the Kasich campaign, I am sure you agree,” Humphrey reportedly wrote. “But, John needs encouragement to make the move. Please email John and offer him your encouragement and continued backing. … It’s not going to get better than this, but time is of the essence.”

Humphrey’s email highlights a key difficulty the anti-Trump Republican have faced – they don’t have an alternative candidate waiting in the wings as a rallying point for those opposed to the billionaire’s nomination.

Prominent anti-Trump commentator William Kristol made a similar call on Sunday, calling for either Kasich or 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney to step in at the last minute.

Kristol previously had tried to convince a number of possible candidates to step up to the plate against Trump, to no avail. He eventually eyed National Review writer David French – who opted not to run.

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Kasich has remained coy about his plans, telling The Washington Post he has no plans to endorse Trump or speak at the convention, but that he is not shutting down his political operation.

“I’m not shutting my political operation down,” the governor of the host state said. “I’m not closing any doors. But my focus right now is going to be on the House, the Senate, and the down-ticket here in my state.”

The anti-Trump movement also faces a hurdle in party rules binding delegates to the candidate they were assigned by their state contests. To have a chance at the convention, supporters have to convince the GOP Rules Committee to change those rules in order to allow delegates to vote their conscience.

The committee is set to meet Wednesday and Thursday.

Politico reports that anti-Trump delegates led by Colorado’s Kendal Unruh are trying to scrape together support for a so-called “conscience clause” at the convention.

Unruh told Fox News Tuesday that the rules committee delegations from five states, as well as two individuals, are preparing to announce their support for a rule change, and that she has the support of more than a dozen others.

Anti-Trump delegates were given a small boost Monday when a Virginia judge ruled that the state can’t force its delegates to vote in a winner-take-all fashion, as stated in an obscure portion of Virginia election law. But the law in question was so obscure that Republicans had already decided to allocate delegates in a proportional fashion, based on the results of the state’s March 1 primary, which Trump won. The ruling leaves that unchanged.

Still, Virginia delegate Carroll Correll Jr., who filed the lawsuit last month, counted the ruling as a symbolic victory.

“Requiring delegates to vote for any candidate is unconstitutional and today’s announcement is a blow to Trump’s efforts,” said Correll.

Fox News’ Peter Doocy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sanders expected to finally endorse Clinton, in New Hampshire

Jul 12, 2016 62

 

Bernie Sanders is offering his long-awaited endorsement to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, hoping to transfer the energy of his insurgent campaign into the party’s fight against Republican Donald Trump.

Sanders and Clinton were returning to New Hampshire Tuesday for the first time since he won a 22-point landside over Clinton in the state’s presidential primary.

Democrats familiar with the plans said Sanders will publicly endorse Clinton’s White House bid after weeks of negotiations between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. The Democrats spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Sanders’ formal announcement.

The joint event at a Portsmouth high school will seek to project Democratic unity before Republicans formally nominate Trump next week in Cleveland. Clinton has campaigned with President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in recent weeks, warning Democrats of the threat of a Trump presidency.

While Clinton took only a few days to endorse Obama after the primaries in 2008, Sanders has held out for the past month, seeking to influence the party’s platform and future. The Democratic candidates met at a Washington hotel in June and their campaigns have been in frequent contact since then.

Clinton last week rolled out proposals on college affordability and access to health care, winning praise from Sanders, and the platform agreed to last weekend in Florida includes many of Sanders’ priorities, including a $15 an hour minimum wage.

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Recent polls have shown that many Sanders voters plan to back Clinton but have reservations about her honesty. Sanders has said he will do all he can to prevent Trump from winning the White House and the senator’s vouching for Clinton could help her with the independents, liberals and millennials who flocked to his primary campaign.

The Vermont senator saw his longshot bid for the White House quickly catch fire in 2015 at large-scale rallies where he denounced income inequality, the influence of Wall Street and the role of big money in politics.

His campaign was powered by an impressive online fundraising machine that raised more than $200 million and threatened Clinton’s once overwhelming lead in the primaries with the help of voters drawn to his anti-establishment message.

Sanders’ unruly white hair and glasses was often depicted in campaign offices and on T-shirts and a campaign catch-phrase, “Feel the Bern,” marked his rise online. Comedian Larry David portrayed Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” and the senator made an appearance on the show before the New Hampshire

Sanders’ challenge influenced Clinton’s shift to the left on several issues, including her opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the U.S. and her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement.

Clapper says he won't deny intelligence briefings to Clinton, despite GOP calls

Jul 12, 2016 107

 

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied a Republican request Monday to block Hillary Clinton from getting classified intelligence, after the FBI concluded she was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information as secretary of state.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had written to Clapper on July 6, after the FBI slammed Clinton’s use of a private server but recommended no charges be brought against her. Ryan told Clapper he wanted Clinton prohibited from receiving classified information “for the duration of her candidacy for president.”

“There is no legal requirement for you to provide Secretary Clinton with classified information, and it would send the wrong signal to all those charged with safeguarding our nation’s secrets if you choose to provide her access to this information despite the FBI’s findings,” Ryan wrote.

In a letter Monday, however, Clapper said he would not withhold intelligence briefings from any nominated presidential candidate.

“Nominees for president and vice president receive these classified briefings by virtue of their status as candidates, and do not require separate security clearances before the briefings,” Clapper said. “Candidates are advised of the classified nature of the material, and operation and policy matters are not addressed.”

“Accordingly, I do not intend to withhold briefings from any officially nominated, eligible candidates,” Clapper said.

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He pointed out that presidential and vice presidential candidates have received such briefings since President Harry Truman initiated them in 1952, and said they are “provided on an even-handed, non-partisan basis.” 

The letter was made public as Attorney General Loretta Lynch was set to testify Tuesday before a House committee on the email case. 

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

GOP rejects call to back off gay marriage opposition

Jul 12, 2016 95

Republican officials rejected an emotional plea Monday to back off the GOP’s opposition to same-sex marriage, renewing the party’s embrace of religious conservative values as delegates prepared to welcome Donald Trump to their national convention.

Republicans who gathered to shape their party platform in Cleveland this week also refused to reverse their opposition to bathroom choice for transgender people, exposing a rift with their presumptive presidential nominee — despite internal warnings that social conservative policies on gay rights alienate voters.

“All I ask today is that you include me,” said Rachel Huff, a Republican delegate from Washington, D.C., who is openly gay.

“If our party wants a future … we must evolve,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

Asked to respond to Huff, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin later explained that opposition to same-sex marriage has “been the longtime tradition of the Republican Party.”

“She’s still welcome in the party. Everyone is,” Fallin said.

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The debate comes as anxious conservatives try influence the direction of a party facing deep uncertainty about Trump’s positions on social issues.

Delegates will adopt an updated set of policy prescriptions — known as the party platform — when the Republican National Convention begins next week. Delegates began the tedious process of updating the 62-page document this week. Changes adopted Monday signaled renewed support for religious conservative values.

The New York billionaire has been reluctant to embrace social conservative positions in some cases, particularly as Republicans across the country push for new restrictions on bathroom access for transgender people.

Trump, who claims strong support from the gay community, has invited transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner to use whichever bathroom in Trump Tower she’d like. He also said North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom law,” which directs transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates, has caused unnecessary strife.

Yet Republicans on Monday let stand language that attacks the Obama administration for directing schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identities. “Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it,” reads the platform.

Delegates also changed language that offers a warning to children of same-sex parents: “Children raised in a traditional two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, less likely to sue drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage.”

Annie Dickerson, a Republican delegate from New York, said the change relied upon “outrageous, horrible evidence” and represented “another poke in the eye to the gay community.”

“Stop repelling gays for God’s sake,” she declared.

Trump opposes same-sex marriage, but often avoids discussing conservative social issues on the campaign trail. Facing the possibility of a delegate rebellion at the convention next week, his campaign has been taking a hands-off approach to the platform debate.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who led the platform committee, said he was given Trump’s blessing during a private meeting last week in Washington.

“I’ve asked him to embrace the platform and I believe he will,” Barrasso said of Trump.

Most ObamaCare co-ops have now failed

Jul 12, 2016 94

Only a third of ObamaCare co-ops are still in operation after two more co-ops announced they were closing their doors in the past week.

Connecticut’s co-op, HealthyCT, was placed under an immediate order of supervision on July 5 after being forced to pay $13.4 million for the Affordable Care Act’s risk adjustment program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services initially awarded HealthyCT $75.8 million in June 2012, then awarded it $3.8 million in November 2013 and $48.4 million in September 2014.

“It became evident that this risk adjustment mandate would put the company under significant financial strain,” said Katharine Wade, Connecticut’s insurance manager. “This order of supervision provides for an orderly run-off of the company’s claim payment under close regulatory oversight.”

Three days later, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services announced it would place Oregon’s Health Co-Op in receivership and liquidate the company’s assets. The co-op lost $18.4 million in 2015 due to medical claims and individual policies and owes $900,000 to pay for Obamacare’s risk adjustment program. The co-op was awarded a total of $56.7 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We understand changing plans in the middle of the year will be difficult for Oregonians, but this action was necessary given the sudden deterioration of the company’s financial position,” said Patrick Allen, director of the department. “Unfortunately, as a startup, Oregon’s Health CO-OP is not in a position to sustain these losses while meeting its obligations to policyholders.”

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Lawmakers set to grill Lynch on policing, Clinton investigation

Jul 12, 2016 71

 

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is expected to face questions about policing and race, as well as the Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of private email while secretary of state, in a House hearing.

Lynch was to appear Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, where she’s expected to be asked about police interactions with minorities in the aftermath of a violent week that brought that issue to the forefront.

The attorney general last week appealed for calm one day after a sniper who said he wanted to kill whites fatally shot five police officers in Dallas. The attack began during protests over the police killings of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot near St. Paul, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling, who was shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after being pinned to the pavement by two white officers.

Lynch, who was sworn in as attorney general on the same day as racially tinged riots occurred in Baltimore, has repeatedly said that one of her top priorities in office is to improve relationships between police and the communities they serve.

The hearing also marks Lynch’s first appearance before Congress since the Justice Department closed without charges the federal investigation into Clinton’s private email server, a move that angered Republicans who believed evidence showed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee had illegally mishandled classified information.

She made the announcement a day after FBI Director James Comey recommended against prosecution, saying there was no evidence that Clinton or her aides intended to violate laws governing classified actions.

She also caused a stir following a meeting with Bill Clinton last month aboard her plane in Phoenix that she said was unscheduled. Though she said the two did not discuss the Hillary Clinton email investigation, she expressed regret for the meeting and acknowledged that it had “cast a shadow” on the public perception of the Justice Department’s independence. Lynch then said that she would accept whatever recommendation the FBI and her prosecutors presented.

Lynch is also likely to be asked at the hearing about the June 12 massacre inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida that left 49 dead.

After Dallas, New York Times calls Trump 'volatile' and 'hotheaded'

Jul 12, 2016 93

 

In the wake of Dallas, Donald Trump is getting pummeled by the press.

In the wake of James Comey, Hillary Clinton is getting thumbs down from a majority of voters.

And these dynamics are unfolding at a crucial stretch of the campaign: Trump must settle on a running mate in the next couple of days, while Clinton needs to pick a running mate by next week.

Let’s start with Trump.  It’s true, according to my sources, that his campaign had a daylong debate on how to respond to the murder of five police officers in Dallas, and took the cautious route. Trump gave no interviews and limited himself to a few comments on Twitter and a 90-second Instagram video. “Prayers and condolences to all of the families who are so thoroughly devastated by the horrors we are all watching take place in our country,” Trump tweeted.

It’s also true that the campaign reached out to try to set up a meeting with New York police officers, and this was vetoed by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. I’m told Trump was quite angry that his staff made this move without his knowledge.

Still, Trump basically struck a note of unity. But look at the way the New York Times renders this in a news story:

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His advisers “raced to do the seemingly impossible: transform an often hotheaded candidate into a figure of leadership and calm.”

The episode “highlighted just how limited Mr. Trump has proved in the general election — a figure so volatile and hard-line that simply speaking in public can be a risk.”

And despite Trump’s caution, “he might still have paid a price for his tendency for fulmination and fury”—because Clinton did speak out on the shootings in interviews and appearances. 

Bottom line, also in the aftermath of Orlando, according to the Times: “His advisers have tried to seize opportunities for him to project a sense of calm leadership. So far, this has been unsuccessful.”

Keep in mind, that’s a news story, not an op-ed or editorial.

Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza pronounced Trump’s last two months “absolutely disastrous.”

Trump should have remained laser-focused on the FBI scolding of her mishandling of classified information, he writes. But at a Cincinnati rally last week, “something snapped. He threw away the notes and lit into the media — and society, more generally — over two recent controversies: (1) his campaign tweeting out and then removing an image that looked suspiciously like the Star of David, and (2) his comments about how late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ‘so good’ when it came to dealing with terrorists…

“It’s hard to explain how bad that turnaround is for Trump. And how avoidable it all was. What’s even more remarkable is that he seemed to have the blueprint — read the speech, blast Clinton, get out of the way — for a good day. Instead, he voluntarily dipped into two issues — debating whether he was anti-Semitic and defending his praise for a brutal dictator — that are straight losers, politically speaking.”

And yet Trump just gave Cillizza a 25-minute interview on his veep search (more on that in a moment).

Meanwhile, the FBI has closed its case against Clinton, but a new poll has this stunning finding:

“A majority of Americans reject the FBI’s recommendation against charging Hillary Clinton with a crime for her State Department e-mail practices and say the issue raises concerns about how she might perform her presidential duties, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

“Six in 10 voters say the outcome will have no impact on their vote this November, even as those who do largely say it discourages them from backing the presumptive Democratic nominee.”

Fifty-six percent of those surveyed disagree with no legal charges against Clinton, while 35 percent agree. That means 56 percent essentially think Hillary is a crook, or at least that she should have been forced to stand trial over her handling of classified information.

Given the battering that Trump has taken in the press over the last month, he should be 20 points down. But Trump is up 2 points in a Rasmussen poll, and down just 4.5 points in the Real Clear Politics average. That obviously has something to do with who he’s running against.

On the VP front, Trump seemed to rule out Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and tilt toward Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, telling Cillizza:

“I don’t need two anti-establishment people. Someone respected by the establishment and liked by the establishment would be good for unification. I do like unification of the Republican Party.”

Pence, who would face a tough reelection fight, fits those criteria. But he doesn’t fit another of Trump’s desires: someone who has “great chemistry with me.”

Trump would be far more comfortable with another governor, Chris Christie, but he faces internal opposition.

In the end, Trump is right: a running mate almost never helps you win. The same goes for Clinton. But those two picks will dominate the media coverage as we head toward Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.