Krauthammer on gun control: ‘[Clinton’s argument] is a rather tepid one… [Trump’s] is strong.’

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Friday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that following the announcement the National Rifle Association with back Donald Trump in the presidential race, the issue of guns in the general election will likely be a winning one for Trump – and a loss for Hillary Clinton.

“It’s true there have been some changes in public opinion as a result of the horrific gun massacres that have occurred, but if you heard Donald Trump speaking about it, and then you heard… Hillary Clinton, which argument is easier to make? Save the Second Amendment, or that meandering, somewhat nuanced, you might say if you were generous, argument that she made?”  Krauthammer asked, referring first to Trump’s commitment to gun owner’s rights -- and then to Clinton’s recent comments that guns don’t solve problems.

“[Her argument] is a rather tepid one, I’m not against it, I’m not for it. His is strong,” Krauthammer said, adding, “The Trump argument is a lot easier to make, and I think in the end, it’s much more of a winner… It’s easier to see and understand.”

US supporting Fallujah operation with air strikes

The United States is supporting an Iraqi military operation to retake Fallujah, the first city to fall to the Islamic State, with airstrikes and is advising the Iraqis at two operation centers in Baghdad and Taqaddum, according to an American military spokesman based in Baghdad.

"We are not pushing guys forward," Col. Steve Warren told Fox News by phone Monday.

US support for the Iraqi military will mirror recent operations to capture Rutbah, a strategic town near Iraq's border with Jordan, Hit and Ramadi also in Iraq's Anbar Province, according to Warren. 

Late Sunday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of his military's operation to retake Fallujah located 40 miles west of Baghdad, an hour drive from the capital. 

Following a string of bombings killing hundreds of Iraqis in Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad, the Iraqi government put the operation to clear ISIS from Fallujah ahead of the one to recapture Mosul, located roughly 250 miles north of Baghdad.

There are reports of Iranian-backed Shia militias participating in the Fallujah operation.  Those forces are located on the outskirts of town. Warren said the US military will not support those forces.

"We are not going to drop bombs in support of the Shia militias," he said. 

Powers: The race has basically been over in terms of delegates probably since March

Fox News contributor and former Clinton-Gore presidential transition team member Kirsten Powers told viewers on "Special Report with Bret Baier" on Thursday that the democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton will be the party’s nominee.  Secretary Clinton’s rival Senator Sanders has shown no sign of quitting the race. In fact, the senator from Vermont vowed to keep his campaign alive all the way through the DNC convention in July,

Kirsten Powers made it clear on the show that in her opinion, “the race has  basically been over in terms of delegates”  for some time. “He [Sanders] wants to stay until the convention and he’s gonna make life difficult for her,” said Powers. Even though the Senator from Vermont thinks  there is still time for his campaign to flip the super delegates, some of whom have pledged their support to Hillary Clinton before Sanders announced his candidacy, Kirsten Power  thinks that’s mission impossible. “He [Sanders] is not gonna overcome her in delegates,” said Powers. 

2 Chinese jets 'buzz' US recon plane Tues in South China Sea

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News Producer

Two Chinese fighter jets ‘buzzed’ a US military reconnaissance plane in the South China Sea Tuesday in an “unsafe” manner according to the Pentagon.  The incident comes a week after a US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 miles of China’s Fiery Cross reef, an artificial island made after months of dredging operations, more proof that tensions in the region are escalating between two global powers.

It was the third time the US Navy sailed a warship close to a contested Chinese island in what the Pentagon calls, “freedom of navigation” operations.

In response to China’s “unsafe” actions Tuesday, the Pentagon is “addressing the issue through the appropriate diplomatic and military channels,” according to Major Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman who said the incident occurred in international airspace during a “routine” patrol by the US aircraft.

In January, China landed civilian jets on a 10,000 foot runway on Fiery Cross reef, more proof that China is militarizing the South China Sea and threatening US allies in the region.  

In February, China  deployed fighter jets to a contested island in the South China Sea, the same place, Woody Island, where China deployed surface-to-air missiles a week before according to satellite imagery exclusively obtained by Fox News.

The dramatic escalation in February came as Secretary of State John Kerry hosted his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at the State Department.

Wang said he hoped that “close up” military flights and patrols by U.S. Navy ships over the contested islands would end.

Kerry said he wanted China to end its militarization of the contested islands in the South China Sea.

"We want to halt the expansion and the militarization of occupied features," he said.

His Chinese counterpart added that he didn't want to see any more U.S. military over flights or patrols.

"We don’t hope to see any more close-up military reconnaissance or the dispatch of missile destroyers or strategic bombers to the South China Sea," said Foreign Minister Wang.

Chinese President Xi pledged not to militarize the South China Sea when he visited the White House this fall.

In February, Adm. Harry Harris, leader of the U.S. military’s Pacific Command, told Congress that China was clearly militarizing the South China Sea. "You would have to believe in a flat earth to think otherwise," he told lawmakers.  

After the US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed past China’s artificial island last week, China scrambled fighter jets to show its displeasure.

NBC was first to report the latest incident.

DHS Secy Johnson: We Will Not Compromise Aviation Security in Face of Heightened Wait Times

Per Matt Dean, Fox News producer

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger today rolled out a 10 point plan aimed at addressing increased wait times at security screening lines at airports around the country. 

As part of that plan, the agency is expediting the hiring of additional TSA officers - 576 are expected to enter the TSA training academy in Georgia by mid June.

TSA also plans to maximize the use of overtime for its existing officers.

A reduction in size and number of carry on bags will also result in this new plan, something Secretary Johnson said DHS has been in touch with airlines about recently.

Johnson said repeatedly that TSA will not compromise aviation security in the face of heightened passenger volume and longer wait times. He added that recent events around the world confirm the need for continued vigilance.

Johnson did note that there are no specific, credible threats to the homeland at this time. 

Asked about airport security concerns post-Brussels and the potential target non-sterile zones paint given those long screening lines, Johnson said that airport security is being stepped up and reevaluated around the country. He added airport security is a shared responsibility with TSA and local law enforcement. 

In his remarks Johnson warned there will be wait times and that passengers should set "appropriate expectations." 

Johnson said that he would not characterize the current issue of heightened airport wait times as a national crisis, instead he noted that it is an aviation security imperative. Johnson added that DHS and TSA are going to work to bring more resources to face this problem. 

As to his thoughts about airports threatening to privatize security screening, he noted that this is already in place in certain airports in the U.S. - notably San Francisco - and that he is not entirely opposed to the use of private screeners.

Speaking to yesterday's incident at Phoenix's airport, Administrator Neffenger said that the problem occurred as a network switch at the airport failed. He added that airport officials called in the manufacturer of the baggage screening mechanism who worked throughout the night to remedy the problem. Neffenger added that TSA is analyzing the issue and that they believe the problem was isolated. 

Krauthammer: Trump/Ryan meeting “a sham marriage”

Charles Krauthammer told viewers Thursday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that when it comes to the meeting between House Speaker Paul Ryan and presidential candidate Donald Trump in Washington today, “this is a sham marriage.”

Krauthammer predicted an eventual “perfunctory” endorsement from Ryan between now and the election.

He also said the difference between the two candidates joining together today is “good will” and not common principles.

“Paul Ryan is a conservative, has been all his life, and committed to certain conservative principles,” Krauthammer said. “Trump has made clear he is not a conservative. He’s a nationalist, populist

Ingraham says Trump Tax returns only matter to Hillary and maybe Mitt Romney

Conservative Radio Host Laura Ingraham told viewers on Wednesday's Special Report with Bret Baier that Donald Trump's tax returns aren't going to matter much in this election. 

Ingraham questions why Mitt Romney, the former 2012 Republican presidential nominee, would suggest that by not releasing his tax returns, Donald Trump is "disqualifying" himself from the race with voters.   "I don't know what Mitt Romney is doing... I guess at this point, he's in it to help Hillary,"  says Ingraham.

Trump insists he won't release his returns until the Internal Revenue Service has finished auditing them and his wealth has long been a subject of discussion since he entered the race last year. 

Ingraham says the Republican party is moving to a "populist, slightly more nationalistic party" and only Hillary Clinton is going to go after the billionaire nominee with respect to his tax returns. 

"Trump's not a doctrinaire conservative. We all know that but that's where the party has moved," Ingraham points out.  "Tax returns," the radio talk show host continued, "I don't  think that in this election cycle with so much on the line is going to have much of an affect, even though Hillary will try to make it."  

Krauthammer: Trump can't win in November without cooperation from Ryan

Charles Krauthammer told viewers Monday on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have an opportunity to bridge the ideological gap between them - but that without that cooperation, Trump won't win in November.

"The fundamental issue is that, as we heard [Trump] say, 'yes, I'm a conservative, but the party is not necessarily a conservative party' - it's clear that he is, at best, a newly-minted conservative," the syndicated columnist said. "Ryan represents his whole life - 20, 30 years - of being a Reagan Republican."

"The Catholic Church once had two Popes - one in Rome, and one in Avignon," he added. "Trump is in control of Rome, and Ryan is now holed up in Avignon. And he's saying, look, I represent an important wing of the party, the traditional ideological wing - you represent new people, new ideas, and it's a populous nationalism. It's a different thing."

Krauthammer said that the two factions of the GOP can come together in a way that doesn't necessarily compromise their core beliefs.

"Unless the breach is healed, I don't see how [Trump] can win," he said, "but it is a breach-able one if each recognizes the others' positions without necessarily conceding them."

DC Metro: Gridlock in Miniature

By Joe Fiocco, College Associate: Special Report

From all walks of life, denizens of the nation’s capital step onto the city’s subway platforms, uncertain if they’ll be late for work. Although it’s in vogue to joke about the city’s ailing Metro network, the underlying decay is no laughing matter. The politicized inner workings of the Metro raise a mirror to the inaction many Americans see in Congress.

In recent years, Metro has suffered a decline in efficiency and safety. Their on-time percentage has fallen to 84% from 90% last year. Recent safety trends are worrisome as well.  Employee injuries have risen 30% since last year. Metro’s mechanical failures of recent memory expose a lagging safety culture. Exposed electrical cables have started fires, closing numerous stations. Also, automated train piloting has had deadly consequences. In 1996, the automated system ignored an ongoing blizzard, and accelerated the train on slippery tracks. The resulting brake failure and crash at the Shady Grove station killed the train operator. For the first time, doubts arose about Metro’s automated guidance system since its inception in 1976. Another crash at the Fort Totten station killed 6 people in 2009, pressuring Metro executives to switch to manual piloting. However, these instances reveal a failure of Metro management to learn from previous mistakes.

Conflicts between Metro workers and management contributed to the lack of a safety culture. Former Metro executive John B. Catoe remembers calling safety training meetings, with only one third of workers showing up. He recalls station managers pulling workers out of those meetings to keep trains on schedule. The Metro culture put safety and efficiency at odds. Metro workers also feared being labelled troublemakers for pointing out mechanical flaws. Critics claim their union benefits stall necessary investments in maintenance. Fringe benefits come in at $431 million for FY 2016, out of a total operating budget of $1.81 billion. However, the unions did not mandate this amount; it came after negotiations with management, with the unions as the only party contributing to the fund. The conflict here underscores greater financial woes for Metro.

As it stands, Metro does not have a designated source of funding, such as a sales tax. The agency has to request funds from local governments in Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Congress. Politicians in those districts wouldn’t risk their seats over a new tax. Although local jurisdictions have been willing to match federal contributions to Metro’s budget, they only do so if it means the Metro will expand. The political implications are clear. The potential economic boom of the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport gave Virginia officials tunnel vision. In 2006, Virginia members of Metro’s Board of Directors ousted Dan Tangherlini, the interim general manager, for trying to institute cost cutting measures. The board believed replacing short escalators with stairs and recycling old car designs would stall expansion of the Silver Line into their districts.

The Metro is not yet doomed, though. Metro board member Jack Evans believes introducing a dedicated sales tax wouldn’t hurt the public. He claims a 1% tax would net $700 million a year in the surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties. With relatively low debt outstanding, issuing 30 year bonds would reduce Metro’s dependency on federal funding sustainably. In addition, to end the cycle of political patronage on Metro’s board, Rep. John Delaney of Maryland introduced a bill requiring board appointees to be certified in the management, transportation, or financial fields. There have also been proposals to introduce a Governance Commission to the agency. This would require the DC mayor, along with the governors of Virginia and Maryland to meet once a year to coordinate their budget contributions, preventing distractions from other local issues.

Metro’s situation bears a likeness to what many perceive as deadlock in Congress. Conflicting political ties halt legislative progress; a strict attachment to the status quo prevents new ideas and people from entering the discussion, and past mistakes seem to repeat themselves.  All the while, rising costs grow more difficult to cover. Yet, voices calling for consensus and common sense still ring out. All it requires for such measures to succeed is a willingness to bear the political and financial costs and remain patient with the leadership. From there, the halls of Congress and the tunnels of the Metro can begin to regain the public’s trust.

Trump on a potential VP: ‘I’m looking at some wonderful people’

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke with Bret Baier Thursday on “Special Report,” and addressed, among other things, questions about who he might choose as a running mate.  

“I think somebody with political experience that really has a close relationship with the Senate, with Congress, where they go in and help, so we don't have to sign executive orders like President Obama does every hour,” Trump said. “It would be nice to actually get something passed, as opposed to just, 'We're signing it anyway.' And I think we have some people that are very good candidates. I'm looking at some wonderful people. Some were on the stage with me, and some are not.”

While Trump wouldn’t weigh in on whether he’s considering New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R) to be his vice president, he did dismiss reports that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) is in the running.

“She's very fine, but she's not under consideration,” he said.

Baier also asked Trump whether former competitor Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) might be on the short list for running mate, despite the fact the two shared nasty barbs on the campaign trail.

“We’ve had really nice conversations, not necessarily about that,” Trump said, adding, “We always had a very good relationship, Bret, Marco and I. Then it got a little bit nasty… Marco’s a good guy, a really nice guy, and I like him. Not necessarily with respect to any position, but it could happen.”

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Up to two-dozen Gitmo detainees will be transferred this summer to a number of countries, citing long standing desire of Obama administration to transfer as many detainees as possible from the Guantanamo Bay prison.

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