Steve Hayes on Obama commuting Manning sentence: “It’s a disgrace and it’s not a surprise from this president.”

Steve Hayes told viewers Tuesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that when it comes to President Obama’s decision to commute the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, “It’s a disgrace and it’s not a surprise from this president.”

“The damage that these leaks did is not theoretical. It’s real, it’s clear, and it’s demonstrable,” Hayes added.

Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, has been serving out a 35-year sentence after leaking classified information to Wikileaks. She will now leave prison nearly three decades ahead of time after spending more than six years in jail. 

US transferring 4 Gitmo detainees to UAE and Saudi Arabia, US officials

The US military will transfer four more Gitmo detainees this week ahead of President Obama leaving office Friday, two US officials with knowledge of the transfers tell Fox News.

Three detainees will be sent to the United Arab Emirates and one to Saudi Arabia on two separate US military flights, the officials said.

41 detainees will remain at Gitmo after the latest transfers are complete.  It is not immediately clear if any more transfers will take place before President Obama leaves office Friday.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to end detainee transfers from Gitmo after taking office Friday.

The four detainees are expected to depart Gitmo Wednesday and arrive in UAE and Saudi Arabia Thursday, the officials said.

The Pentagon does not typically acknowledge detainee transfers until at least 24 after they arrive in third-party nations.

Earlier this week, 10 detainees were transferred to Oman.

In August, 15 Gitmo detainees were sent to the UAE in the largest single transfer to date. 

Juan Williams discusses Trump tweets on Rep. John Lewis

On “Special Report with Bret Baier” Monday, Fox News Contributor Juan Williams discussed President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter reaction to Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who said in an interview with NBC that he doesn’t see Trump as a “legitimate President.”

“I think a lot of people, specifically people who know Civil Rights history, but I would say in particular black Americans of a certain age are just turned out, just think, ‘What is he saying? You can't say that about this guy,’” said Williams.

Trump took to Twitter the day after Congressman Lewis’ comments aired, saying in part that Lewis is “All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!” This was seen by critics as an untimely attack against a Civil Rights leader, just days before the federal holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

Williams also said the visit by Martin Luther King III to Trump tower on Monday was not a demonstration of reaching out.  

“[Trump] didn't take any questions…retreating into the elevator,” said Williams. “I hope he does more on Inauguration Day.”

Goldberg on Obamacare Repeal: “This is a very difficult position that the Republicans are in”

Fox News Contributor and National Review Senior Editor Jonah Goldberg said Wednesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that despite repeated promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act under the new 115th congress, “this is a very difficult position that the Republicans are in.”

Vice President-elect Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with congressional Republicans on the first full workday for the new Congress. After meeting with the House Republican Conference, Pence told reporters  “the American people have spoken.  They want to see us repeal and replace Obamacare, and today, my message to members of Congress is that we are going to be in the promise-keeping business, and the first order of business is to keep our promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan noted that after repealing Obamacare, as they work to implement a replacement plan House Republicans “want to make sure as we give relief to people through Obamacare, we do it in transition that doesn't pull the rug out from anybody  during that transition period.”

But even as the Vice President and congressional Republicans reiterated their pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, Goldberg noted that doing so may not prove as simple as it sounds: “a lot of Obamacare passed with 60 votes, so you can't get rid of those parts through reconciliation.

“You can't keep all of the popular parts of Obamacare, which Donald Trump promises to do, and still call it repeal, it's something else. And lastly, because of Obamacare's own internal flaws, it's sort of like a suicidal dying patient and the Republicans are leaping in to be the doctor of record for the patient, and that's a real political problem for them. They can make it die faster, but they can't save it and they can't get a replacement for it very soon either.”

Krauthammer on Schumer pronouncement America can’t afford a Twitter presidency: “Sore loser”

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s pronouncement that America “can’t afford a Twitter presidency” is mostly baseless.

“Sore loser,” Krauthammer said. “The tweets are working. I mean, if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be using them… Trump has used [Twitter] on North Korea, he’s used it on Ford, General Motors… and it works.”

Krauthammer went on to say that while Twitter has proven to be an effective mode of communication for the President-elect, Trump may not find it as useful after he is sworn in as president.

“I think when he's in office, it'll be a little more problematic, because people will be presuming policy out of this,” he said, concluding, “It's hard to be either detailed or specific enough in a tweet to actually make coherent policy.”

Krauthammer: Obama’s environmental plan “egregious”

Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier”  that President Obama’s plan to ban offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans is “egregious” and reveals the fact that the White House is trying to “nail everything to the floor so it can’t be moved” before Donald Trump takes over.

“Of course it can be moved,” said Krathammer. “The idea that because we're not going to drill the oil or natural gas is not going to be produced is ridiculous and it's going to end up being produced in Nigeria or places all over the world where the environmental standards are infinitely less than they are in the  U.S.”

President Obama invoked a 1953 law -- the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – which gives him the authority to act unilaterally and declare a permanent drilling ban from Virginia to Maine on the Atlantic and along much of Alaska’s coast.

Krauthammer added this move will not allow us to compete with foreign countries saying, “the Chinese are opening a coal fired plant every week. It’s not going to stop. What we don’t do they’re going to do and all we’re doing is exporting jobs, exporting the waste and exporting the danger.”

Stoddard on Obama’s Syria comments: ‘It was so painful for him’

RealClearPolitics associate editor A.B. Stoddard said Friday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that she was moved by President Obama’s comments at his annual end-of-the-year press conference on the massacre of civilians in Syria

“I just thought it was very poignant to hear President Obama use phrases like, ‘We were not successful,’ and, ‘I feel responsible,’” she said. “He was so heavy with responsibility, and it was so painful for him.”

Stoddard explained that the president felt there were no easy choices in Syria, and that he believed it would be too much to ask Americans, who already were in the midst of two wars, to invade that country militarily and rescue its people.

“It was a very painful discussion about how there are no options, even for Donald Trump,” she said, concluding, “[President Obama’s remarks] set up for all of us going forward the lack of choices there are at this point, and how much Donald Trump will be boxed in trying to get out of the mess in Syria.

Krauthammer on Syrian Civil War: "Obama decision of doing nothing"- "We see the result now.'

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Thursday on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that Obama did not do enough to intervene in the Civil War in Syria. Saying "when the redline was crossed we were in a position, the French were gonna help us, of purely an attack from the air or cruise missiles to wipeout the Assad Airforce and to disable the airfields.  That is not invasion, that would have meant you can't drop the barrel bombs."  Krauthammer added "the job of a super power is to deter the other super power.  There was no penalty the Russians had to pay at any stage at tipping the balance in the war and that was a role we could have played short of anything like a ground invasion."

Krauthammer added that Obama's inaction led the Russians to take advantage "when the Russians started to maneuver we didn't have to invade."

He pointed out that "people talk about there are only two alternatives, the passivity of Obama which ended today with Aleppo or invasion." And added " to put it up as the only alternative is to back up the Obama decision of doing nothing and we see the result now."

 

ISIS may have surface-to-air missile system, US gen says

ISIS may have taken Syrian regime surface-to-air missile site

The Islamic State may have taken possession of a Syrian military surface-to-air missile system, the top US general in Iraq told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.  ISIS recaptured the Syrian city of Palmyra over the weekend after Syrian regime troops fled in a hurry, leaving behind a trove of weapons.

“We believe it includes some armored vehicles and various guns and other heavy weapons, possibly some air defense equipment," Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, said. "Anything they seized poses a threat to the coalition.”

Townsend emphasized that if the Russians do not take out the weapons seized by ISIS, “we will.”  In the meantime, Townsend said he would let the Russians “sort that out” since Palmyra is in western Syria where the Russians and Syrian regime routinely carry out strikes. 

A separate US defense official tells Fox News, ISIS is in control of an SA-3 missile system taken from the Syrian regime outside Palmyra.  Townsend would not go into specifics about the possibility that ISIS had in its possession some “air defense equipment.”  

The Washington Post first reported ISIS had taken possession of the SA-3 surface-to-air missile system.  It is not immediately clear if ISIS knows how to use it.

ISIS continues to plan attacks against the West from Raqqa

“They still have the ability to plot and cast into motion attacks on the West and that’s a great concern to us,” said Townsend about ISIS inside Raqqa, reiterating earlier concerns from his last press briefing in late October.  “We are hammering away at them to prevent that.”  Townsend said the three ISIS leader killed in a drone strike last week were actively plotting attacks against the West.

Mosul – 25% retaken by US-backed  Iraqi forces

Townsend says that 25% of Mosul has been recaptured by US-backed Iraqi forces.  He warned that fighting in western Mosul, separated by the Tigris River, could be “potentially harder” because ISIS had put up more defensive positions there.

Townsend said the “locus” of ISIS’s chemical weapons program is based in Mosul, but believes it could be moved as Iraqi forces gain ground there.  He did not specify where the weapons would be moved.

12-15,000 ISIS fighters left

Townsend agreed with special envoy Brett McGurk’s estimation that roughly 12-15,000 ISIS fighters remained in Iraq and Syria.  It’s “ballpark close enough,” Townsend said.

Raqqa – “double or triple” more US-trained Syrian forces needed

Townsend said there have been 3,000 Arab fighters trained to date by the US military in Syria.  He said it would take “double or triple” that number before a US-supported assault force is ready to retake the ISIS capital.  The shortage of US-trained Arab fighters is a “big problem,” he said.  Training more Arab Syrian forces is part of the reason behind the deployment of 200 more US troops to Syria, he said.

Aleppo – US general says his focus is ISIS

“So I watched Aleppo on TV, it's horrible.  Like most of you, and I read intelligence so I get special access to intelligence about Aleppo, but Aleppo is not in our charter here.  So I'm blessed although it's a curse,” said Townsend.

It does complicate our life here, imagine fighting one war with another war raging just beside, and sometimes overlapping our war against ISIL here in northern Syria, so it's certainly a complicator,” he said.

Townsend said Aleppo would not have a significant impact on the US-led coalition’s battle against Raqqa.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Electoral College and Certifying the Electoral Vote



Per Pergram-Capitol Hill

The Founders feared a direct, “popular” election of the President. So while the Founders erected a system for eligible voters to cast ballots for President, they simultaneously constructed a series of circuit-breakers to potentially curb the will of the masses. This would diffuse political power when selecting a chief executive – and is the quintessence of the electoral college.

Creation of the electoral college is the first circuit-breaker. The Founders distributed “electoral votes” based on the population of each state. They granted the smallest states a minimum of three electoral votes – based on the standard distribution of at least two U.S. Senators and one member in the U.S. House of Representatives. But bigger states would command more sway in the electoral college, because, well, they were bigger. Hence, the reason New York and Virginia were power players in the early years.

In essence, voters were choosing “electors” for their state who would cast ballots on behalf of the candidate who emerged victorious. However, electors are free to vote the way they want and not bound to the candidate who prevails in a state. That produces the periodic phenomenon of “faithless” electors casting ballots in the electoral college. 29 states and Washington, DC have laws latching electors to candidates. But those statues are generally viewed as unenforceable. There have only been 157 instances of faithless electors for President or Vice President in the history of the republic. No faithless electors have swayed the outcome of an election.

The last faithless elector incident came in 2004. An unknown elector from Minnesota cast their ballot for then-Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, instead of now-Secretary of State John Kerry, the Democratic standard-bearer.

Here’s a general outline on the process from here through inauguration day:

In the spring and summer of a presidential year, the political parties of each state nominate electors for each candidate. These electors are typically “loyal” to a given party.

Then election day hits. Technically, voters are casting ballots for electors, not the actual presidential candidates. A candidate “wins” a given state and all of that state’s electoral votes (the exceptions being Maine and Nebraska, which allocate electoral votes proportionally).

The first big step in the process is December 13. This is when all state recounts, challenges and disputes must be resolved.

The Electoral College meets on December 19, by state, in each state capital. The electors then present their ballots for president and vice president.

Each state crafts six certificates of of votes, comprised of two, separate lists. One list compiles electoral votes for President. The other for Vice President. The Governor of each state certifies each list and attests to their accuracy via a certificate.

One certificate is then sent to the President of the Senate. Two go to each state’s Secretary of State.

December 28 is the deadline for the President of the Senate to receive the electoral ballots.

Per the Constitution, the Congress convenes at noon on January 3. Once the new Congress meets, the Archivist of the United States transmits to both the House and Senate the electoral certificates provided by the governors.

January 6 is then the official tabulation of the electoral college. Congress meets in a Joint Session (usually in the House chamber) with the Speaker of the House and the CURRENT Vice President (as President of the Senate) presiding). A simple majority (270 out of 538) are required to win.

Congress tabulates the states electoral slates in alphabetical order. Four vote counters, known as tellers, announce the results. The tellers are typically two House and two Senate members.

Debate can be called for if there is a dispute over a state’s electors. And that’s why the Founders dictated that the House and Senate would serve as the ultimate arbiter of each state’s electoral slate. This is the second circuit-breaker.

If there’s a disagreement, a member of the House and Senate must jointly contest an individual state’s electoral ballots. If that happens, the House and Senate dissolve into their separate bodies, debate the issue for two hours and then vote to accept or reject that state’s electoral vote. The House and Senate later reconvene to finally settle the issue in the Joint Meeting with the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate (the Vice President) presiding.

In early 2001, various members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) aimed to challenge Florida’s electoral slate from the previous fall’s disputed presidential election. Then-Vice President Gore repeatedly asked each CBC member if they had a Senate sponsor to jointly contest the Florida electoral slate. None did.

“I don’t care that it is not signed by a senator,” famously proclaimed Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) when pressed by Gore if she had a Senate advocate.

The irony of course is that the person who stood to benefit from a successful challenge of Florida’s electoral ballot was none other than Gore – the 2000 Democratic Presidential nominee.

In other words, this was getting awkward.

But not for long.

“The chair would advise that the rules do care,” Gore chastened Waters as he rejected her petition.

The move triggered applause from Congressional Republicans in the House chamber.

Officials reported voting irregularities in Ohio in 2004. The late-Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) raised the issue about Ohio’s electoral slate during the January, 2005 Joint Meeting of Congress certifying the electoral college. Only this time around, Tubbs Jones found a Senate patron in Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The House and Senate then met separately to debate and vote on the Tubbs Jones/Boxer objection. The House and Senate eventually found the Ohio electoral votes to be in order. President George W. Bush secured a second term in the White House.

There is a final circuit-breaker. Let’s say the House and Senate cannot settle a dispute over the electoral vote and no candidate hits 270? That’s when the House decides the President in what is called a “contingent” election. This has only happened twice in U.S. history. The House votes by state delegation (one vote per state, so California is no more influential than say, North Dakota). A contingent election in 1801 elected Thomas Jefferson. The contingent election of 1825 tapped John Quincy Adams.

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