Fox News Poll: Voters trust Trump on economy, Clinton on nukes

Aug 3, 2016 77


Voters say the top issues facing the country are the economy and terrorism. They think Donald Trump will handle one of them better than Hillary Clinton, while the candidates tie on the other.

A new Fox News Poll on the 2016 election finds more voters trust Trump than Clinton on the economy (+5 points). He also bests Clinton on handling the federal deficit (+5 points). Those are the only issues where he comes out on top.

It’s a draw on “terrorism and national security,” as the candidates receive 47 percent apiece. In May, Trump led Clinton by 12 points on doing a better job on “terrorism” (52-40 percent).

Equal numbers of voters say the economy and terrorism are the most important issues facing the country today (22 percent each). Education is the only other one to receive double-digit mentions (11 percent). Here’s the rest of the list: race relations (9 percent), the federal deficit (5 percent), health care (5 percent), climate change (4 percent), immigration (3 percent), foreign policy (3 percent), and drug addiction (2 percent).

Clinton beats Trump by wide margins on education (+23 points), and on the lower priority concerns: climate change (+31 points), race relations (+28 points), drug addiction (+19 points), foreign policy (+16 points), and health care (+11 points). She also has the advantage on one of Trump’s signature issues — immigration (+7 points).

Who would do better picking the next Supreme Court justice? That’s a hot topic this election. Voters trust Clinton over Trump by eight points. They also think she’s more likely to “preserve and protect the U.S. Constitution” (+7 points).

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By a 22-point margin, voters trust Clinton over Trump when it comes to using nuclear weapons (56-34 percent). That’s twice the advantage she held in May (49-38 percent).

Yet voters are more likely to trust Trump to destroy terrorist groups like ISIS (+9 points).

The candidates now tie on restoring trust in government (43-43). That’s a shift since May when Trump had an eight-point advantage (46-38 percent).

Despite Trump’s claim that he understands the concerns of everyday Americans, Clinton bests him on empathy. By a 51-40 percent margin, voters say she’ll do a better job looking out for their family during tough economic times. In June 2012, Barack Obama topped Mitt Romney on this measure by 47-36 percent.


How do voters feel about Trump’s praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin? Fifty-two percent of voters say it’s no big deal. For 44 percent, it’s bothersome.

Most Republicans say it’s no big deal (72 percent), while two-thirds of Democrats say it bothers them (66 percent).

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cellphone interviews with 1,022 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from July 31-August 2, 2016. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters.

Obama jumps in the ring with Trump

Aug 3, 2016 67


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On the roster: Obama jumps in the ring with Trump – Time Out: Punctuation won’t brb – Kansas primary voters dump Republican renegade – Clinton allies sick of nominee’s defense of emails – Spider-Man never has these problems

In 2016, sometimes you just have to take a moment to reflect on how much and how fast things are changing in American politics and public life.

For instance, it once would have been unimaginable that a sitting president of the United States would have spoken as harshly and explicitly about a candidate as President Obama did of Donald Trump on Tuesday. That Obama did it from the White House and in the company of a foreign leader makes it all the more astonishing.

Standing beside the Singaporean prime minister at a press conference, Obama declared Trump “unfit to serve as president” and lacking “the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world.”

In another year, it would have been seen as beneath the dignity of the office for a president to engage this way. Presidents are supposed to say that they will leave it to the voters, defer to the nominee of their party and not get into the back and forth, yadda, yadda yadda… But in 2016, it’s sort of “whatevs.”

Part of this is the fraying of institutions and the coarsening of the culture. But most of it is Trump himself, who is already proving to be a catalytic historical figure. If his campaign is really teetering on the brink of collapse and Republicans are near open revolt, as is being reported elsewhere, then Trump would be, in fact, a historical one-off.

But that’s not what seems to really be happening here.

Yes, Trump is trailing in the polls, but his core support seems to be holding, keeping him consistently above the 40 percent mark – about the same the GOP nominee held the week after the conventions in 2012. Trump had a respectable fundraising haul in July and can be expected to bring in plenty of money in the form of small-dollar donations from his army of supporters.

In short, the political system is appalled by Trump, but the voting public, for now at least, is treating him like an ordinary Republican politician. And there’s no reason to believe, based on external signs, that Trump is going anywhere.

Contrary to what many in the press and public life want to believe, this is really happening. And Trump really is going to leave a lasting mark on American politics and culture.

Trump delights in smashing every convention. He attacks his own party with glee, refusing to endorse its leaders in their re-election bids. He’s been in a days-long bitter battle with the parents of a war hero killed in Iraq. He won’t release his tax returns. He engages in the rawest, most personal political conflict we have seen in modern times. He does whatever he wants and he doesn’t care what the rules say.

Obama was looking to call Trump out for his conduct. We watched rival Republicans try to do the same thing in primary battles with Trump and each time it didn’t work. Rather than being shamed, Trump was empowered and the other guy ended up abasing himself.

Now, that’s not to say that it will work as well in the general election. Hardly.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich summed it up in an interview on Fox Business Network this morning, discussing what he said was Trump’s “very self-destructive behavior”: “Trump is still behaving as though it was the primaries and there were 17 candidates. He has not made the transition to being the potential president of the United States, which is a much tougher league.”

True dat.

But even if Trump doesn’t win the election, he has already remade his party. Watching the agony of GOP members contorting themselves in the pitiful Terpsichore of the simultaneous denunciation/endorsement would be sad if it were happening to people other than politicians.

That was Obama’s point Tuesday when he called out the Republican leadership and urged its members to repudiate Trump: “The alternative is that the entire party, the Republican Party, effectively endorses and validates the positions that are being articulated by Mr. Trump.”

Obama is right, at least in the sense that Republicans have substantially lost their party and its traditional posture. That’s over now. This is a new party that will live or die based on the way the story of Trump ends. The history books leave no room for asterisks next to nominees’ names.

What Obama seems not to grasp is that Trump is changing the rest of politics, too. The president apparently believed he could sacrifice a little more of the dignity and remove of the White House podium in order to shame voters into rejecting Trump. Most of Trump’s voters certainly don’t care, and there’s little reason to believe this kind of tut-tutting does much good in the broader electorate.

Obama was looking to use his office to rise above the moment and be an authoritative voice. But rather than rising above the fray, Obama is climbing into the wrestling ring with Trump.

The Conversation: “Though periods can still signal the end of a sentence in a text message, many users will omit them (especially if the message is only one sentence long). This tendency now subtly influences how we interpret them. Because text messaging is a conversation that involves a lot of back-and-forth, people add fillers as a way to mimic spoken language. We see this with the increased use of ellipses, which can invite the recipient to continue the conversation. The period is the opposite of that – a definitive stop that signals, as linguistics professor Mark Liberman has explained, ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion.’ For some, this can appear angry or standoffish.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions

Average of national presidential polls:
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +5 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8

[Watch Fox: A new national Fox News poll on the heels of both conventions will be released tonight on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”]

Wichita Eagle: “Voters in Kansas’ 1st District primary chose newcomer Roger Marshall over three-term incumbent Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of the most outspoken conservatives in Congress. … Huelskamp would be the third Republican House incumbent to lose this year. On most issues, be it Obamacare, the Second Amendment or Planned Parenthood, Huelskamp and Marshall weren’t that far apart. But Huelskamp’s confrontational, anti-establishment approach had turned off his colleagues on Capitol Hill as well as many farm groups in the sprawling, 63-county district he represented. ‘I think his personality is the underlying issue,’ Patrick Miller, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Kansas, said of Huelskamp. … The race drew millions of dollars in outside money, including $400,000 from the U.S. Chamber alone. In a statement, Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director, called Marshall’s victory ‘decisive.’ ‘Governing was on the ballot,’ he said in a statement Tuesday, ‘and voters spoke clearly.’”

The Hill: “Weeks after the Justice Department decided not to press charges against Hillary Clinton for a private email setup that she has admitted was inappropriate, the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign can’t seem to put the issue to bed. Instead of finding a way to let the issue die, Clinton has time and again inflamed criticism about the ‘homebrew’ server, by at times growing increasingly defensive and refusing to answer questions about the setup in the basement of her New York home. The strategy has caused grumblings within her campaign and led to the persistent image that she is dishonest.”

Dubya rebukes Trump policies – WSJ

Josh Kraushaar explains that Democrats’ path to the Senate may be through the red rather than purple states – National Journal

Kaine voted to block Zika spending, now blames GOP – Weekly Standard

Kaine’s role: raising cash – Politico

Questions persist over Clinton Foundation and State Department pharmaceutical contracts – WashEx

Nate Cohn explains why Clinton’s bounce has a good chance of persisting – NYT

Are Democrats too dependent on Trump? – Vanity Fair

“Republican or Democrat.”– Donald Trump in an interview with WaPo saying that he plans to invest tens of millions of dollars in super PACs to defeat candidates in future elections, potentially including GOP holdouts Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

“Dear Chris, Thank you for your insight and HUMOR. I have always monetarily supported the Republican candidate but unless. Trump can [stay] on message rather than his defensive diversions that he gets hung up on, Trump makes it more and more difficult for me to even vote for him in November. Very Frustrating!!” — Fedora Loth, Surprise, Ariz.

“I’ve finally had enough of your transition to being part of WaPo. Hillary ‘announces’ her funding while Trump ‘boasts’ his numbers? You are not worthy of me.” – Charlie McCartan

[Ed. note: We are sorry to lose you, Mr. McCartan. We’re not part of the WaPo, but if you see Jeff Bezos handing out any fat checks, be sure to send him our way!]

“What this election needs is a good write in ticket that both sides could rally around. How about Stirewalt/ Kelly? Kelly/Stirewalt? Work out the details with Megyn. Interested?  It would be an improvement over current choices.” — Jim Feakes, Colorado Springs, Colo.

[Ed. note: It would surely be the latter! And it won’t be either since I’m told that they make you lose weight and exercise to run for veep…]

NPR: “The Transportation Safety Administration is reminding Batman enthusiasts to check their superhero weapons when they fly. According to the TSA, people keep trying to carry ‘batarangs’ — the sharp, metal bat-shaped weapons that Batman throws at his enemies — onto planes, only to have them confiscated at airport security checkpoints. Agents have confiscated batarangs at multiple airports, including in San Francisco, where these showed up in a carry-on bag. TSA agents at the Salt Lake City International Airport shared an image on Instagram of multiple batarangs that came through a security checkpoint there, and reminded passengers that the bat weapons should be ‘placed in your checked baggage along with your grapple gun, bat-saw, collapsible bat-sword, and other utility belt items.’”

“People say it’s mistake after mistake. At some point you have to ask yourself, is [Trump] capable of conducting himself in any other way?” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily “Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including “The Kelly File,” “Special Report with Bret Baier,” and “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.

Tea Party conservative to run as Democrat against Shuster

Aug 3, 2016 74

The conservative tea party challenger who was narrowly beaten in the Republican primary by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster says he will run against the eight-term incumbent — as a Democrat.

Art Halvorson, a retired Coast Guard captain from Bedford County, received more than the 1,000 write-in votes in the Democratic primary.

The largely rural, west-central Pennsylvania district hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1933. It includes Bedford, Blair, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton and Indiana counties, and parts of Cambria, Greene, Huntingdon, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

But Halvorson believes the district’s political flavor and divisiveness in both parties could help him win in November.

“A lot of Democrats switched parties in the primary to vote for me,” Halvorson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Tuesday. “What’s unique about this district is the number of Reagan Democrats.”

Halvorson has called Shuster too moderate, and the challenger touts himself as a tea party-backed conservative Christian. Shuster is the House Transportation Committee chairman and is Pennsylvania’s highest-ranked member of Congress. He beat Halvorson in the 2014 Republican primary, but his second victory over Halvorson in April was slim: 49,393 votes to 48,166.

The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →

Halvorson is “betraying Democrats by calling their party Godless while forcing them to accept him as their nominee, but he is also betraying the will of the Republican primary voters that have twice rejected his attempt to get a job in Congress,” Shuster said in a statement.

Megan Sweeney, spokeswoman for the state Republican Party, said the organization remains “firmly behind” Shuster.

Joseph DiSarro, who chairs the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College in the district, said Shuster stood to hold onto the seat he won in a special 2001 election after the retirement of his father, Rep. E. G. “Bud” Shuster.

“But given all the political turbulence that is going on within the Republican Party, with Republican turning against Republican and turmoil at the top of the ticket in the presidential race, this is not a normal election,” DiSarro said.

Halvorson agreed.

“Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump are holding fast to the long-standing orthodoxy of their respective parties,” Halvorson wrote on his website. “Today’s political divide is more about the conflict between an arrogant ruling elite in both parties against the interests of the vast majority of the population who simply want to live their lives, raise their families and contribute to their communities without being bossed around by Washington’s power brokers.”

Trump sees fundraising surge, amid scramble to close ground game gap

Aug 3, 2016 50


With the political conventions behind them, Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee are scrambling to close their ground game gap with Hillary Clinton – boosting fundraising and concentrating on vital battlegrounds, even as some sources suggest they have a long way to go. 

The campaign notoriously has lagged Clinton’s in organizational strength, but faces the unavoidable reality that a ticket to the White House requires victory in key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

In a sign they’re taking the task seriously, the campaign on Wednesday announced $80 million in donations for the campaign and the GOP in July, money that can be used to target their message at these voters. The haul marks a big fundraising surge for the GOP nominee, and comes close to the combined $90 million raked in by Clinton and the Democrats last month. 

“The campaign is in good shape. We are organized. We are moving forward,” campaign manager Paul Manafort told Fox News’ “Happening Now” on Wednesday, saying they’ve now hired 50 state directors.  

The fundraising haul comes despite a rocky post-convention period for Trump that has included dealing with backlash over the candidate’s feud with Muslim parents whose son was killed in Iraq. 

Sources say behind-the-scenes, though, concerns continue to surface that Trump’s ground game isn’t yet strong enough to compete with the Clinton machine.

The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →

“It hasn’t been the smoothest ride,” one source with knowledge of Trump’s field operations in the South told  

Another described the operation as “all over the place.”

But Karen Giorno, a senior Trump adviser and Florida chief strategist, maintains the campaign has a plan in play that includes a coordinated multi-state Trump-RNC push that will challenge Democrats in key states.

She vowed a visible acceleration in the battlegrounds but added it’s “not a one-size-fits-all” plan.

“This is a non-traditional campaign in a non-traditional year,” she told “As you look at Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio – each effort is different.”

Florida, which has 29 electoral votes up for grabs, has emerged in the past two decades as one of the most important battleground states in the country. Giorno said Team Trump has “amassed a large army of volunteers and supporters” in Florida, boasting it’s “a well-oiled machine” that is growing. 

Soon, she’ll put another 10 people on the payroll – mostly in leadership positions. 

Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns are working with their respective national committees — where Democrats likewise have a staffing edge in some places. 

In Florida alone, Democrats maintain a paid team more than twice the size of the Republicans. The goal of the Clinton camp is to have 100 operational field offices in the Sunshine State.

Last month, it set up shop in Miami.

“Miami — and South Florida in general — are going to be a large part of our strategy for success,” Simone Ward, Clinton’s Florida director, told The Miami Herald. “It is a major [get out the vote] universe for any presidential campaign, and in particular ours.”

In Pennsylvania, Democrats have a field staff of more than 100 while Republicans have 54. In Ohio, Democrats have 70 on staff as of June 11; Republicans have 53.  

“Ninety-plus days before a totally winnable election and I’m stunned,” Gary Nordlinger, president of a political consulting firm and adjunct professor at George Washington University’s school of political management, told regarding the on-the-ground organizing. “I’m just shocked that Republicans did not learn from their mistakes in 2012.” 

Despite campaign promises going into the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to step up their operations this month, staffing on the ground may still be spotty. called Trump headquarters in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina — but only in Florida’s office in Sarasota did a person answer the phone. 

Calls on Aug. 1 — and again 24 hours later — to the other three offices either were not answered or not returned when voicemail messages could be left. 

An 11:06 a.m. ET call on Aug. 1 to the Pennsylvania branch led to this message: “The person you’ve called has a voicemail box that has not been set up yet.” 

To Giorno, the comparisons of staffing numbers are not the best way to size up the rival teams.  

“[Clinton’s] playbook is so last century,” she said. “We’re lean and mean and we get to adjust … they have this clunky, old school apparatus.”

Despite the data, Nordlinger says the New York businessman isn’t to blame.

“I’m not laying this at Trump’s feet,” he said. “[The RNC] has had four years to prepare for this.”

But the RNC, too, pushes back on any suggestion their ground game is lacking. 

“The RNC has built the most efficient and effective ground game in the party’s history,” RNC spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told “We are focused on the entire ticket, working to get all Republicans on the ballot elected to office.”

Walters said the RNC has had staff on the ground in key states since 2011. Currently, there are 489 paid staffers, 4,100 trained organizers and thousands of volunteers in the field.

“In total, we have over 775 total staff dedicated to beating Hillary Clinton,” Walters said. “No other campaign, committee, or organization has been doing this for as long as we have. We are the infrastructure for the entire GOP ticket. And the Trump campaign has embraced that.”

Clinton's Court: Legal analysts say gun rights and more at stake in November

Aug 3, 2016 42


The Supreme Court – it’s no secret – is at stake in the 2016 election. But legal experts say the impact will be far more sweeping if Hillary Clinton wins in the fall, and is able to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia with a left-leaning judge.

That point was only underscored at last week’s Democratic convention, where the Democratic presidential nominee pushed for changes on everything from campaign finance to gun rights, at times citing the court’s role.

Here’s a closer look at what’s at stake, with many of these issues likely to come before the next court:

Campaign finance

Appealing in part to Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton made campaign finance restrictions a centerpiece of her convention remarks last week.

“We need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics,” Clinton said in her speech in Philadelphia.

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But many legal experts say doing that also involves rolling back protections on political speech. The focus of the Clinton-Sanders ire is the decision in the case known as Citizens United.

In 2008, Citizens United — an organization with corporate funding — produced a documentary criticizing Clinton and was sued because there was a ban on such groups mentioning a candidate in a broadcast within 60 days of an election. The Supreme Court allowed the anti-Clinton film to be aired close to elections, by a narrow 5-4 decision. It also went further and said government has no power under the Constitution to ban corporate political speech in general, in turn lifting such spending restrictions. Both President Obama and Clinton condemned that ruling, saying it gives corporations too much power.

Some legal analysts now say a court with a Clinton appointee could rule that companies have no right to run videos that criticize a candidate close to an election.

“I think [Citizens United] would likely be overturned, given the statements from Clinton, and the likely position of her nominees,” UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who specializes in the First Amendment, told

Legal experts told it was the most certain change to expect under a Clinton court.

“The court would definitely be inclined to reverse Citizens United,” said David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University.

Second Amendment  

Clinton also vowed in her convention address that she had no interest in repealing the Second Amendment and wants only to pass common-sense reforms.

But the Democratic candidate has taken issue with the high court’s current view of gun rights. Leaked audio from a Clinton fundraiser in 2015 revealed Clinton telling donors “the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.”

Legal analysts say a Clinton appointee could mean the court would no longer consider Americans to have an individual right to “keep and bear arms” – a right the court only affirmed by a narrow 5-4 decision in 2008.

“They may reverse that decision, or they may limit it so it doesn’t mean much,” Bernstein said.

Several experts said the court would most likely take a stealthy approach to avoid causing too many political problems. But it would still mark a change in the judicial winds for gun rights.

“They would say ‘you have the individual right to bear arms, but it’s subject to reasonable regulation — loosely defined,’” Bernstein said, noting that the “reasonable regulation” could include policies such as a handgun ban for all citizens unless a person could convince authorities they have a “good reason” to own one.

Such bans might then be implemented by cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., which banned handguns until the courts recently forced them to allow ownership.  

Religious freedom

Analysts say a Clinton Supreme Court also would likely weigh in on religious freedoms, potentially by requiring more companies to provide contraceptive coverage and forcing wedding caterers and photographers to serve gay weddings.

“They would probably overturn Hobby Lobby,” Bernstein said, referring to a 5-4 decision in 2014 that said the government may not force companies to provide health insurance for certain kinds of contraception – as long as there are only a few owners of the company and the contraception would conflict with their religious beliefs.

School vouchers at religious schools

Some liberal justices say using school vouchers at religious schools violates the First Amendment clause that forbids the government from establishing a religion.

“There is at least a good possibility that the court would reverse itself and say that you can’t have vouchers that go to religious schools,” Bernstein told, noting the court also might be too concerned about the political repercussions to do so.

Death penalty

While the Constitution itself imposes the death penalty for treason, some liberal justices say the death penalty may still be unconstitutional because it violates other rights. The new 2016 Democratic Party platform also calls for the abolition of the death penalty for the first time.

University of Pennsylvania law professor Kermit Roosevelt, who specializes in the Constitution, said he sees the shift happening on the Supreme Court. “I could see the death penalty being invalidated — it looks as though some of the sitting justices have been moving in that direction,” he said. 

Voter ID laws

This is another subject Clinton tied to the Supreme Court in her convention speech, saying America needs Supreme Court justices who will “expand voting rights, not restrict them.”

Voter ID laws, largely passed by Republican-led states, have been in the crosshairs of Democrats for years. Critics – including allied justices – argue that such laws are unconstitutional because minorities are less likely to have IDs.

Under a Clinton court, Bernstein said, “I think you can expect that voter ID laws will go down.”

Overall impact

Plenty of other issues, from union power to discrimination rules and more, also could come before the new court. Legal experts who spoke with differed on how likely each of the above changes are — but they agreed that major changes would be likely under Clinton.

“The court will side more with the government and against individual liberty,” William and Mary law professor Alan Meese told

Legal experts cautioned that a left-leaning court may not act on all of the above.

“The Supreme Court generally doesn’t like to [overturn recent decisions] because it makes them look political, but for some of these cases I could imagine it happening,” Roosevelt said, adding he thinks a Clinton court would not outright rule that the Second Amendment is not an individual right and would likely leave school vouchers and voter ID laws intact in some cases.

The impact of a Donald Trump court, analysts said, is harder to pin down but likely to cause fewer changes – as a Trump nominee probably would be ideologically similar to Scalia.

“On the average, his justices will be more likely to enforce conservative constitutional principles,” Bernstein told 

The author, Maxim Lott, can be reached on Twitter at @maximlott

Lawmakers: 'Ransom' to Iran puts Americans at risk

Aug 3, 2016 96


Republican lawmakers are fuming over a bombshell report overnight that the U.S. government airlifted the equivalent of $400 million to Iran this past January – as four detained Americans were released by Tehran – and say the transaction has put more Americans at risk of being taken hostage.

The cash transfer, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, was the first installment paid in a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a failed 1979 arms deal dating from just before the Iranian Revolution.

The cash flown to Iran consisted of euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies because U.S. law forbids transacting American dollars with Iran. While the Obama administration denied the cash transfer was done to secure the release of the four Americans, GOP lawmakers said it was tantamount to “ransom.”

“Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk,” Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said in a statement. “While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages.”

The four released Americans are Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine; Christian pastor Saeed Abedini; and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose case had not been publicized before the release.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said their release was on an entirely separate track from the settlement payment and, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, said any suggestion it was tied to ransom is “utterly false.”  

“We just don’t pay ransom. … This was not ransom,” he said.  

Kirby further said there was “no secret” about the payment.

“It was their money,” Kirby told Fox News, noting the funds had been frozen and it “made no sense for us to continue to drag out their claim.” He argued the “compromise” struck with Iran worked to the “taxpayers’ benefit” because potentially billions more could have been on the line. 

In a written statement, Kirby said the negotiations over the Americans and over the settlement were even conducted “by different teams on each side.” He said: “The funds that were transferred to Iran were related solely to the settlement of a long-standing claim at the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal at The Hague.” 

However, the Journal says U.S. officials acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.

The Journal also reported that President Obama did not disclose the $400 million cash payment when he announced Jan. 17 that the arms deal dispute had been resolved. The administration has not disclosed how the $1.7 billion was paid, except to say it was not paid in dollars.

“The logistics of this payment — literally delivering a plane full of cash to evade U.S. law — shows yet again the extraordinary lengths the Obama administration will go to accommodate Iran, all while hiding the facts from Congress and the American people,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement. “Hundreds of millions in the pockets of a terrorist regime means a more dangerous region, period. And paying ransom only puts more American lives in jeopardy.”

Since the cash was airlifted, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans. Tehran also has detained dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. in recent months.

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Attacks on police spur interest in San Antonio cop jobs

Aug 3, 2016 100

The national wave of attacks on cops and a surge in local crime are boosting police recruitment efforts in San Antonio, where the thin blue line has gotten thinner.

A San Antonio Police Department application drive last month drew 199 applicants. In June, just 53 showed up.

“Based on comments from some of the applicants, we definitely feel that the events in Dallas spurred people to come out and look into a career in law enforcement,” SAPD Sgt. Jesse Salame told

“Lots of applicants talked of applying because they wanted to serve their communities. We have not seen a shortage of interested candidates.”

Applications also jumped in Dallas, where Police Chief David Brown, in the wake of the July 7 assassination of five officers, called for protesters to apply to his department to “be part of the solution.”

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Criticize Donald Trump? Sure. Question his sanity? That's nuts.

Aug 3, 2016 134


It has come to this: Critics are calling Donald Trump crazy, and he’s calling Hillary Clinton the devil.

Most. Bizarre. Campaign. Ever.

Now Trump didn’t directly call his opponent Satan, although a Google search brings up images of HRC with horns or a pitchfork. He said at a rally in Pennsylvania that Bernie Sanders, in endorsing his rival, “made a deal with the devil. She’s the devil.” A pretty common phrase, but one that should be avoided in a presidential campaign. How do you escalate from the gates of hell? 

But the latest media assault on Trump isn’t just colloquial, as in, hey, the guy is acting nuts lately. Some pundits are flat-out questioning his sanity.

This new effort to put Trump on the couch follows his war of words with Khizr Khan, the Muslim father whose son was killed in Iraq and who denounced the nominee at the Democratic convention.

Now it’s fair to question whether Trump overreacted to Khan’s speech, whether he should have brushed it off, whether he fueled the story, whether it makes sense for a presidential candidate to be debating sacrifice with a couple who lost their son in wartime.

The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →

But Trump’s detractors don’t stop there.

Gene Robinson, the liberal Washington Post columnist and MSNBC contributor, felt compelled to declare:

“I am increasingly convinced that he’s just plain crazy.”

Leaving aside Trump’s policies, Robinson writes, “at this point, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that Trump’s grasp on reality appears to be tenuous at best.” He adds: “What kind of man has so little empathy for a grieving mother’s loss? Is that normal? Is it healthy?”

Robinson appeared yesterday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and Joe Scarborough—who had a friendly relationship with Trump during the primaries—went off on him:

“I’ve known him for a decade. I’ve never seen him act like this before,” the former GOP congressman said. “It’s unhinged, it’s not the Donald Trump I’ve known for over a decade.”

Scarborough said he has been talking to plenty of Republicans and conservatives, “and everybody was asking me about his mental health.”

There are others. Foreign policy expert Robert Kagan, also writing in the Post, says: “One wonders if Republican leaders have begun to realize that they may have hitched their fate and the fate of their party to a man with a disordered personality.”

So: A businessman who beat 16 other GOP candidates, including governors, senators and a Bush, to win the nomination, is off his rocker?

A guy who built a successful business and global brand based on his last name is a nutjob?

A performer who created a reality TV show that was a hit for NBC for 14 years is a loony tune?

And how is this screwball running a competitive race with a former first lady, senator and secretary of State? Post-convention polls are giving Clinton a lead of 6 to 9 points, but Trump is still within striking distance, especially in key swing states.

Trump, for his part, has been assailing the “dishonest people” of the press, saying at a rally:

“We are going to punch through the media. We have to! The New York Times is totally dishonest. Totally dishonest. The Washington Post has been a little bit better lately but not good….

“And CNN. CNN is like all Trump all the time. All Trump all the time. You walk out of an interview and you say, ‘that was a good interview’ and then you get killed for the rest of the weekend. So they are so biased toward Crooked Hillary.”

Some of this has been bubbling up for awhile, on the right as well as the left. The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes wrote this in late July:

“Yes, Donald Trump is crazy. And, yes, the Republican party owns his insanity.” Hayes was writing about Trump linking Ted Cruz’s father to Lee Harvey Oswald, saying, “This isn’t the behavior of a rational, stable individual.”

And Salon carried this headline: “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?” That was back in April. But now it’s growing louder.

The Democrats have intensified their effort to marginalize Trump as a dangerous and dangerously unfit candidate, as we saw in Philadelphia. And now we’re in mental health territory.

The price of running for president is opening your entire life to fierce scrutiny: your judgment, your policies, your background, your temperament. All that serves as a test of how you’d handle the pressures of the presidency.

But arguing that Donald Trump doesn’t have all his mental faculties? That’s crazy.

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. 

State lawmaker planned to profit from tax hike, prosecutors say

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As Tennessee lawmakers raised cigarette taxes to 62 cents per pack in 2007, one veteran representative wanted even more, saying it “should have been a dollar.”

Prosecutors say that was part of Rep. Joe Armstrong’s elaborate scheme not to raise revenue or curb smoking rates but to line his own pockets. He’s accused of failing to pay taxes on money he made — more than $300,000 — by buying tax stamps at the old rate and selling them at the higher one.

Armstrong’s attorneys said at his federal trial Tuesday that he isn’t corrupt, but simply a victim of his accountant’s poor advice.

The indictment against Armstrong alleges he devised a scheme beginning in 2006 to profit from the cigarette tax hike planned by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a fellow Democrat. Armstrong was by Bredesen’s side when he toured east Tennessee to promote the 42-cent increase as a way to raise education funding and said at the time it should have been as much as $1 per pack.

According to the charges, the longtime legislator from Knoxville borrowed $250,000 to buy tax stamps through a wholesaler at the old 20-cent rate and then sold them at a profit after lawmakers more than tripled the tax in 2007.

His attorney, Gregory Isaacs, argued in court that there was nothing illegal about Armstrong making money off the purchase of the cheaper tax stamps. In fact, Isaacs said, he had every intention of paying taxes on the profits.

Isaacs blamed Armstrong’s accountant for failing to turn over money he gave him to the Internal Revenue Service.

“Joe did what a lot of Tennesseans did,” Isaacs told the jury. “They’re going to try to get him convicted for listening to his longtime accountant.”

Prosecutors argue that political considerations drove Armstrong, who was then the chairman of the House Health Committee, to conceal his role and withhold the taxes.

“He couldn’t be seen to be getting money from Big Tobacco,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Dale said.

“Show Mr. Armstrong that he’s not above the law,” Dale urged the jury.

Isaacs responded that the government’s case hinges on the testimony of Charles Stivers, the accountant who filed the lawmaker’s tax returns. Isaacs said Armstrong had paid Stivers the money to cover the taxes, but that the accountant had pocketed that amount instead of paying the IRS.

According to Stivers’ plea agreement, the return on the purchase of $250,000 worth of tax stamps was $750,000, and he agreed to a 15 percent cut for funneling the proceeds through his bank. That 15 percent cut would have covered Armstrong’s tax burden, Isaacs said.

The longtime legislator wasn’t alone in taking advantage of the lag between when the tax hike passed and when it took effect. State officials saw a $9 million surge in tax stamp sales during that four-month period.

Earlier Tuesday, prosecutors succeeded in excluding the lone African-American potential juror from the trial over what they called “race-neutral reasons.”

District Judge Thomas W. Phillips agreed with prosecutor Charles Atchley’s argument that the 68-year-old retired caregiver had been “disengaged” during jury selection and that she would have had difficulty following a complex tax case.

“I have to have good jurors on this case,” Atchley told the judge.

Isaacs had argued that his client, who is black, deserved to be tried by a jury of his peers and there was no legitimate reason to exclude the juror.

Armstrong became Knox County’s youngest commissioner in 1982, and was first elected to the state House in 1988. A former president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, he is tied with two other lawmakers as the longest-serving members in the lower chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Prosecutors said they expect to wrap up their portion of the trial by Thursday, which is also when Tennesseeholds its primary election. Armstrong faces no Democratic opponent, but his political future hinges on the outcome of the trial.

Republican lawmakers are circulating a petition to call a special session to oust Armstrong along with Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham, who allegedly had improper sexual interactions with more than 20 women.

How Trump can play to his strengths to expand the electoral college map against Clinton

Aug 3, 2016 63


Donald Trump recently canceled a campaign appearance planned for Upstate New York on Thursday, the latest sign he is backing away from his initial intention to contest states that have not been in play for a generation.

Reports from the Trump camp suggest the Republican nominee for president will concentrate almost exclusively on Pennsylvania, Ohio, and one or two other states that would deliver an Electoral College victory by the barest of margins in November.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to focus on just those three states,” said a political expert.

On the surface, it makes some sense. Why waste time in a state like New York, which he is never going to win, when every vote in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida will have outsized influence over the outcome? But there is a danger in writing off most of the country this early in the campaign.

“As much as I would tell you I’d like it, for obvious reasons because it’d be paying attention to my state, I do think that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to focus on just those three states,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. “There may be a wider path.”

While his GOP primary opponents built traditional campaigns focused on winning endorsements from local leaders and building voter-turnout operations, Trump flew above them, dominating the field with wall-to-wall media coverage everywhere he went. Replicating that strategy would be harder in a general election, where airtime will be more balanced. Still, with the modern national media landscape, Trump can reach any audience he wants — wherever he speaks.

With the modern national media landscape, Trump can reach any audience he wants — wherever he speaks.

The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →

So while it makes sense to air campaign ads in vote-rich swing states and make plenty of visits to them, Trump can address the job anxiety concerns of working-class voters in Pennsylvania just as easily while addressing an audience in Milwaukee as he can in Pittsburgh. Voters worried about Syrian refugees and terrorism in Florida will get Trump’s message even if he is talking to voters in Maine.

One of the few clear advantages Trump enjoys over Hillary Clinton is his willingness to make himself accessible to the media. While Clinton is reluctant to subject herself to questioning from the press, preferring situations she can tightly control, Trump rarely turns down interviews or ducks questions.

While that sometimes gets him in trouble, it could allow him to dominate Clinton in local and regional media outlets. That advantage would largely be neutralized if he spends most of his time in two or three states.

Democrats have a built-in advantage: The party has won 18 states with 242 Electoral College votes in every election since 1992. That puts Clinton 28 shy of victory. Most experts believe Trump must turn Florida and Ohio, which — assuming he wins the states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 — would put him within 17 votes of the magic number. Several battleground states have trended more Democratic since 1992. But Pennsylvania has , making the Keystone State and its 20 votes an attractive target.

Madonna said while it makes little sense for Trump to burn unnecessary resources in California or New York, he should not foreclose alternatives to Pennsylvania, which last voted Republican in a presidential election in 1988. He noted that Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Colorado — all states where Republicans have been competitive or Trump has polled well — have more electoral votes combined than the Keystone State.

“I don’t know that you need to be a genius to figure this out,” he said.

Candice Nelson, academic director of the Campaign Management Institute at American University in Washington, said Trump’s narrower focus may be a concession to finances. Clinton has dramatically out-raised Trump and had more than twice as much money on hand at the end of June than he did, according to campaign finance reports.

“It may be a resource question,” she said. “He may have thought expanding the map was a good idea but then realized he doesn’t have the finances.”

By all accounts, Trump got a late start in building a first-rate campaign organization at the state level. It is logical to focus those efforts on the handful of make-or-break states. Nelson it would be easy and relatively inexpensive to add additional campaign stops to the itinerary if opinion shifts.

“He could do that later on if it looks like states that are not in play are coming into play,” she said.

Nelson said voters in many states are used to not seeing campaign ads and other activity. But Trump will raise eyebrows if he skips states that are accustomed to highly visible presidential campaigns, she said.

“If a state that saw a lot of activity suddenly didn’t, they might wonder why,” she said.

Brendan Kirby is a senior political reporter for