Krauthammer: “The storyline now is that the President was wrong”

Charles Krauthammer told viewers Monday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that when it comes to President Trump’s allegations via Twitter about wiretapping by President Obama, “the storyline now is that the President was wrong.”

His comments come after FBI Director James Comey and NSA Chief Michael Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee today regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey said he has “no information to support” Trump’s wiretapping allegations.

“His own FBI director is saying it and speaking on behalf of all the Department of Justice which is Trump’s own department of Justice which makes Spicer look ridiculous,” Krauthammer said. “Because it’s his own department saying the president is wrong. But that’s the price of doing this kind of tweeting.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Considers Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

By Jake Ryan

President Trump’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today to provide an open testimony on his long road to fill the vacant seat of the late Antonin Scalia.

Judge Neil Gorsuch – who is currently a Judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals – intently listened as all 11 Republicans and nine Democrats of the committee laid out the case for and against him becoming the next SCOTUS Justice.

Democrats claim Neil Gorsuch should never have been brought in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee because former President Obama’s replacement, Chief Justice Merrick Garland of the 13th Circuit, was denied the opportunity for a hearing.

Much of Monday’s opening statements by Democrats referenced the lack of consideration by Senate Republicans for Nominee Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch is set for a long week, Tuesday and Wednesday will be reserved for at least 50 minutes of questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee members and Thursday will conclude with a witness panel speaking for or against Gorsuch.

To be the next Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Neil Gorsuch will need all 52 Republicans and eight Democrats for a total of 60 votes. Although, Senate Republicans can perform the “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules to confirm a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority of 51.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck E. Grassley (R-Iowa), vows to refer Neil Gorsuch to the full Senate by April 3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will “confirm him before the April recess.”

Judge Neil Gorsuch attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and obtained his Ph.D. in Law from University College, Oxford, and received the highest rating of “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association. 

Comey, Rogers Testify to House Intelligence Committee

By Jake Smith

FBI Director James Comey and NSA Chief Michael Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee today regarding Russian interference into the 2016 election and President Trump’s accusations of “wiretapping” of Trump Tower by the Obama Administration.

In a rare circumstance, Director Comey confirmed an on-going investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election – “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI -- as part of our counterintelligence mission -- is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

Comey said the investigation “includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

President Trump took to Twitter this morning to say, “James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!” James Clapper is the former Director of National Intelligence under President Barack Obama.

The United States 17 intelligence agencies agree that the Russian government – directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin – interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump.

Although, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes says there is currently no evidence of collusion by the Russian government and the Trump campaign and he “doubts any evidence exists.”

Chairman Nunes pushed Admiral Rogers on whether the Russian interference could have affected vote tallies in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, or Ohio. Rogers answered “no” to the Russians being able to interfere in vote tallies in any of those states.

The FBI head says he has “no information” to support the claim by President Trump that wiretapping of Trump Towers took place during the election.

Comey told the Committee, “With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.”

Chairman Nunes said in his opening statement, “we know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it is still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

This hearing was just the beginning of long political and legal battles of the Russian interference into the 2016 election and the allegation of surveillance of Trump Tower. 

Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch Ready for His Confirmation Hearings

By Bill Mears

In an isolated area of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex, Judge Neil Gorsuch has spent the past few days being put through the rhetorical ringer. For hours on end, he sits alone at a table, peppered with questions about his personal and professional record, all in an effort to see if he will crack under the pressure.

The informal, but intrusive prep sessions are known as "murder boards"  for their intensity, designed to simulate what the 49-year-old nominee to the Supreme Court might face next week in his Senate confirmation hearings.

"He's a home run, he's smooth, he's going to go through great," said Thomas Dupree, a former Bush Deputy Assistant Attorney General, "The [opposing] senators will take their shots, "but I think he's close to a lock."

The stakes are enormous, not only for the nominee but also for the man who selected him from a list of 21 possibles announced during the presidential campaign. Aides say President Trump hopes a successful confirmation will build momentum for his separate political agenda.

 In the broader realm, filling the seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia will ensure the high court remains a shaky right-leaning majority. And having that fifth conservative vote will help guide the administration as it makes strategic decisions about which high-profile issues to pursue in court-- like immigration, the environment, transgender rights, and expanded executive authority.

"It's important Democrats and Republicans not roll over on this pick," said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.  "The American people want their justices to be an independent check even to the President nominating you, to follow the Constitution, not their own political values."

But liberal advocacy groups have all but abandoned efforts to defeat Gorsuch through public opinion, with scant paid issue advertising. Many progressives lament Democratic senators have been distracted by other ideological fights.

The justices themselves hope the arrival of Gorsuch will end what court sources say has been a tense 13-month period since Scalia's sudden passing. The current 4-4 ideological divide has kept the court off its internal workplace rhythms-- operating in something of  a judicial vacuum, reluctant to tackle those hot-button issues that would lead to precedent-setting impact.

A Record to Match      

A Fox News analysis of Gorsuch's record on and off the bench-- including some 3,000 rulings he has been involved with-- reveals a solid, predictable conservative record, in many ways mirroring Scalia's approach to constitutional and statutory interpretation. And the Colorado native's flair for colorful opinion writing is much in the mold of Scalia, whose sharp pen and wicked wit delighted conservatives

The issues he has confronted vary widely-- from libel, capital punishment, regulatory enforcement, and tax subsidies. But the overall articulate message remains consistent:  less is more when it comes to interpreting the rule of law.

--"Ours is not supposed to be the government of the 'Hunger Games' with power centralized in one district," he wrote in 2015, with an oft-used reference to pop culture, "but a government of diffused and divided power, the better to prevent its abuse."

--Federal worker protections strive "to prevent employers from callously denying reasonable accommodations that permit otherwise qualified disabled persons to work, not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work," he wrote in a 2014 opinion, displaying sympathy for a Kansas woman undergoing cancer treatment, but nevertheless denying her discrimination claim.

Perhaps his highest profile case was the 2013 concurrence supporting the right of for-profit, secular institutions (and individuals too, he argued) to oppose the Obama's administration mandate to provide contraceptives to their workers. Gorsuch affirmed his past ardent commitment to religious freedom against claims of government "intrusion."

In the so-called "Hobby Lobby" case, the judge concluded, "For some, religion provides an essential source of guidance both about what constitutes wrongful conduct and the degree to which those who assist others in committing wrongful conduct themselves bear moral culpability."

Gorsuch later supported the right of religious non-profits, like Catholic charities, to also challenge the contraceptive coverage mandate. The Supreme Court later partially vindicated Gorsuch's views on both cases.

Sometimes, the judge's conservative bona fides collide, as in the case of a notorious Wyoming inmate.  Andrew Yellowbear, a Native American who murdered his daughter, wanted to use an existing sweat lodge in the prison facility as part of his religious tradition.

Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion that under a federal law,  the inmate deserved that right, striking down the state's discretionary correctional policy. It was a setback for law-and-order supporters.

"While those convicted of crime in our society lawfully forfeit a great many civil liberties," he concluded, "Congress has instructed that the sincere exercise of religion should not be among them-- at least in the absence of a compelling reason. In this record we can find no reason like that."

In his questionnaire to lawmakers, the nominee said none of his own written opinions were ever reversed by the Supreme Court.

One of Gorsuch's off-the-bench remarks is generating some concern, a 2005 opinion piece in "National Journal," written shortly before he donned the judicial robes.

"American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom," he wrote, "relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education. This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary."

And Gorsuch's 2006 book "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia" has both worried and encouraged some fellow conservatives, His conclusion that the doctor-approved procedure was "essentially a right to consensual homicide" might be used by as a red flag by abortion rights activists and death penalty opponents as a parallel argument, even though Gorsuch made clear in the book it should not .           

Zeroing In

Party sources say Democratic senators will focus much of their attention on seeking Gorsuch's views on abortion, since he has not ruled directly on the right to the procedure.

 "I will not support any candidate who intends to turn back the clock on civil rights, including women's reproductive rights and LGBT equality," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who has not said whether she would ultimately vote for  Gorsuch.

Other areas of Democratic interest:

-- Separation of powers, and whether Gorsuch would be an independent voice to strike down excesses in Trump's executive authority, including the president's revised order banning travel for immigrants from certain countries.

-- Voting rights and campaign finance reform, specifically whether the nominee thinks current unlimited corporate donations to PACs are permissible.  

 -- Workers rights, and whether challenges over pay equity, pension benefits, job discrimination claims, and family and medical leave.

 Some progressives have actually urged Democrats not to ask any questions at the hearings, as a dramatic rebuff for Republicans refusing to give President's Obama's high court nominee-- Judge Merrick Garland-- a hearing or vote.

And they demand a filibuster to prevent Gorsuch from ever getting a floor vote.

Bitter feelings linger. "This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), "and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court."    

Backdoor Grilling

Along with his courtesy visits to more than 70 members of the Senate who will decide his fate, Gorsuch has prepared for the spotlight by reviewing his own record, and enduring those closely-guarded mock hearings.

The private rehearsals are coordinated by the White House Counsel's Office, and include more than a dozen participants-- government lawyers, conservative academics, and some of his former law clerks. The goal is to anticipate every possible line of questioning and danger zone-- to give measured answers but not reveal too much. 

Sources say Gorsuch has settled in being himself, avoiding unscripted responses that might provide the televised "soundbite" to derail what has so far been a flawless confirmation journey. Administration officials are privately confident he will shine in the hearings.

Republicans point to Gorsuch's unanimous 2006 confirmation to his appeals court seat as a template to blunt any efforts to filibuster this time. Sources expect him to repeat  in the upcoming hearings what he said 11 years ago, about the kind of judge he considered unacceptable: "Someone who is not willing to listen with an open mind to the arguments of counsel, to his colleagues, to precedent."

 

 

 

Schumer on Trump 2005 tax return: ‘Where’s he getting this money from?’

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Wednesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that the leaked release of a document from President Trump’s 2005 tax return is wholly insufficient to answering questions about the president’s business interests.

“It’s two pages of one year. What happened over ten years? There might have been a year he was good,” he said, “But much more importantly, where’s he getting all this money from? The key question here is are there Russian sources, and might those have affected or will affect President Trump?”

Schumer went on to say that Trump’s behavior toward Russian president Vladimir Putin has been “much softer” than that of other Republican politicians.

“The question is why? When he makes a deal with Russia, whatever it is, you don’t want anyone suspecting it’s done because he has hotels there,” he said.  

US officials tell Fox News Russian spy ship is back

By Lucas Tomlinson

The Russian spy ship first spotted off the Delaware coast last month is back.

US officials tell Fox News, the Russian spy ship Victor Leonov has returned to waters off the east coast of the United States after a brief stop for fuel and resupply in Havana last week.

The ship has been spotted by US intelligence approximately 20 nautical miles (23 miles) southeast of a US Navy submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia heading north, according to the officials.

The U.S. Navy’s Atlantic fleet of ballistic missile submarines are based in Kings Bay.

The Russian spy ship has remained in international waters, according to officials.

US territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from shore

The Russian spy ship last patrolled off the east coast of the United States two years ago.  The Victor Leonov departed from Russia’s northern fleet based in the Barents Sea near Norway in early January.

At one point last month, the Russian spy ship ventured as far north as 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut, home to another US Navy submarine base. 

In a White House press conference last month, President Donald Trump weighed in on the story first reported by Fox News.

“Hey, the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water.  Everyone in this country is going to say, oh, it's so great.  That's not great.  That's not great.  I would love to be able to get along with Russia.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a tweet the day before Trump’s comments that Russia was trying to “expand influence.”

“Russia is acting like it has a permission slip to expand influence, test limits of reach. Questions are obvious: does it, and if so, why?”

Ingraham: White House trying to salvage GOP healthcare proposal

Laura Ingraham said on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Tuesday she thinks President Donald Trump is not fully behind the Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act since the bill is not “popular” among conservatives and moderates alike.

“I think he’s given orders to fix this if possible,” Ingraham argued. “The fact that he doesn’t want his name on this from the very beginning… he’s a brand guy and if this brand is going down he doesn’t want to be tagged with it, and that’s why you see the shift over to this is going to be Ryan’s game to fix or to start over.”

In an intensive effort, the White House is trying to salvage support for the GOP plan a day after the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis showing 14 million fewer Americans would be insured next year under the GOP plan.

“He [Vice President Pence] is making the rounds in conservative media and it’s not popular and I think Donald Trump wants this to be popular and I don’t blame him,” added Ingraham. “I think he’s seeing the threads are slowly coming unraveled.”

Hemingway: CBO estimates “notoriously bad”

Mollie Hemingway told viewers Monday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that new figures about the American Health Care Act come from an office that is “notoriously bad” when it comes to such estimates.

Earlier, the Congressional Budget Office released its estimate that the GOP health care plan would decrease the budget deficit by $337 billion over a 10 year period. It also estimated that under the plan, 14 million people would lose health care coverage next year – a number that would grow to 24 million people in the next decade.

Hemingway cited previous examples of CBO problems.

“Think back to 2010 when they said that under Obamacare you would have 23 million Americans insured. It is actually 12 million this year,” she said. “They also made a forecasting error so they dramatically underestimated the cost of Medicaid. So we need to keep these things in mind as we are talking about this scoring as well.”

 

The CBO Scores the Republican Obamacare Replacement Plan

By Jake Smith

The Congressional Budget Office released their score of the GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – the Republican placement is called the American Health Care Act.

The CBO projects the AHCA will reduce the federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period. The CBO writes “the largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for nongroup health insurance.”

The Republican replacement would increase the number of uninsured people by 14 million by 2018 and 24 million by 2026 – “an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law” – according to the new report.

Under the Republican’s American Health Care Act, by 2026 “premiums in the nongroup market would be 20 percent to 25 percent lower for a 21-year-old and 8 percent to 10 percent lower for a 40-year-old – but 20 percent to 25 percent higher for a 64-year old.”

The average premiums for single policyholders would also increase by 15 percent to 20 percent due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalties.

Additionally, the CBO estimates an 18 percent increase in premiums under the new GOP healthcare bill.

The Congressional Budget Office’s new score projects a reduction in the deficit, but this new score will be tough to sell to conservative Republicans and Democrats because of the increase in uninsured and rising premiums.

(Video above from Bret Baier's interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan following release of CBO report)

In Six Years 465,000 Killed in Syrian Civil War

By Jake Smith

The Syrian civil war began six years ago on Wednesday following the start of the Arab Spring, and since its beginning, 465,000 people have been killed or gone missing, according to a new report by The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

The war began as an uprising against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Since then, the country has been a hotspot for terrorism and regional power struggles, allowing the Islamic State to develop significant territorial control.

The conflict has caused the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, with an estimated 4.8 million refugees who have been forced to leave their homes to seek safety.

Violence against civilians is far from over in Syria – 2016 was the worst year for children in Syria. Child injuries rose by 25 percent and death by 20 percent. The war has caused 321,000 deaths, and the Observatory estimates 96,000 of those deaths were civilians.

The Trump Administration continues to assert its committment to destroying ISIS, announcing on March 9th it will send an additional 400 troops to Syria. The additional troops would increase U.S. presence in Syria to its highest ever.  The U.S. began their intervention in Syria on September 22nd, 2014. Since then, over 5,000 US and allied airstrikes have hit ISIS positions.

 

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We continue to monitor the Gorsuch confirmation hearing to see if he can gain the support to become the next Supreme Court justice.

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