Comey calls impending terrorist diaspora from ISIS territory the "ghost of Christmas future"

By DOJ Producer Matt Dean

Speaking this morning at a national security summit at UT Austin, FBI Director Comey repeated his concerns over a "terrorist diaspora" that he believes will occur once ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria is "crushed" by coalition forces. 

He said that he expects these individuals to flow outward largely to Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and North Africa.

Labeling the impending phenomenon the "ghost of Christmas future," Comey used his remarks to urge government leaders and intelligence officials in Western Europe to "break down the barriers" in the EU and share intelligence and critical information in an effort to crack down on the terrorism threat. He did not make any references to Wednesday's attack in London. 

Comey compared Europe's need to unite on security issues to the United States' national security 180 that followed the 9/11 attacks. He described Western Europe as FBI's front lines in preventing those individuals from committing violence outside of the so-called caliphate.

In speaking to trend shifts the FBI has seen domestically with ISIS followers, Comey said that the foreign traveller issue that peaked during the summer of 2015 "hit the floor" in 2016 and has since stayed there. While ISIS's capacity to direct people to travel to the caliphate has dropped, the FBI chief called the ability of terrorists to use social media and the internet to inspire and enable individuals toward violence a "lingering phenomenon."

Comey said that the FBI currently has in the area of 1,000 open homegrown terrorism cases in the U.S. trying to determine where people are on the spectrum of "consuming poison and acting on that poison." 

Speaking to the difficult nature of the current threat environment, the Director said these consumers of ISIS propaganda are people "of all backgrounds." Comey said that FBI's terrorism-related cases have spanned the age range of roughly 15-60, adding that there is no one particular "hot spot" in the U.S. for extremist activity because a lot of the recruitment and inspiration continues to happen online. 

Notably, Comey acknowledged instances where individuals who had prior contact with the FBI went on to carry out attacks in the U.S. Specifically, he mentioned Orlando Pulse Nightclub attacker Omar Mateen and the fact that the Bureau had already done a months long investigation on him that "produced nothing to incapacitate him on." 

Comey said that he personally reviewed the case file and called the work a "quality investigation," adding that he believes Mateen radicalized closer to the actual attack. 

Asked during the Q&A portion of the event whether his public statements on the findings of the Clinton email investigation had any bearing on his decision Monday to publicly acknowledge the existence of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russian officials, Comey playfully said "I'm not gonna talk about it." 

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. 

US Economy Adds 235,000 Jobs in February

By Jake Smith

President Donald Trump received some positive news on his 50th day in office. The US economy added 235,000 jobs in February lowering the unemployment rate to 4.7%, slightly down from 4.8% in January.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the “employment gains occurred in construction, private educational services, manufacturing, health care, and mining.”

President Trump retweeted the Drudge Report saying “GREAT AGAIN: +235,000.” Press Secretary Spicer also tweeted “Great news for American workers: economy added 235,000 new jobs, unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in first report for @POTUS Trump.”

This gain in jobs is supplemented by a slight improvement in the civilian labor force participation rate to 63.0%. The average hourly earnings of Americans also increased by 0.2 percent in President Trump’s first full month in office.

President Trump’s election in November sparked a stock market rally, this coupled with the continuous decrease in unemployment, and better performing economy sets the stage for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates as early as next week.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Health Care Hurdles?

Senior White House officials say the health care bill is open for negotiation and could possibly be changed along the way to passage.  And when the final bill is presented, the administration and the congressional leadership will make it a binary choice if you vote for it or you watch Obamacare collapse and insurance companies flee this year.

The question now is does President Trump have any leverage on skeptical Republicans or even some Democrats to push the health care bill across the finish line?  Senior officials say the President will make a number of trips to push the healthcare bill.  The White House is not yet confirming a trip Saturday but the "Louisville Courier Journal" is reporting officials there are preparing for a presidential visit to Kentucky.

Kentucky is, of course, home to Senator Rand Paul, one of the most vocal critics of the American Health Care Act as it stands today.  Worth noting that candidate Donald Trump won 118 of Kentucky's 120 counties in November, six more counties than sitting Senator Rand Paul won in his reelection bid.

That election math may play out with House members too.  For the Conservative Freedom Caucus, candidate Trump overwhelmingly won each member's district and their state as well.  And Trump actually got more votes than several of the representatives in the caucus.

In Freedom Caucus Chairman Congressman Mark Meadows district--North Carolina's 11th congressional district-- President Trump won 16 of the 16 counties , 76 of 100 counties in North Carolina, and he came just shy of the congressman's vote total in that district.

In Florida's sixth district, candidate Trump got more votes than Freedom Caucus Congressman Ron DeSantis, winning all four of the four counties in that district, 58 of 67 in Florida.

In West Virginia's second district, candidate Trump got almost 20,000 more votes than Freedom Caucus Congressman Alex Mooney, overwhelmingly winning all 17 counties in that district in West Virginia.

It is not just the leverage on health care, but also on the Judge Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court.  The pressure will be on 11 Senate Democrats who are up for reelection in 2018 in states where candidate Donald Trump won more than 80 percent of the counties.



In Missouri candidate Trump won 111 out of 114 counties in the state where Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill is running for reelection.

In Montana, Democrat Jon Tester runs in a state where candidate Trump won 50 out of 56 counties.

West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin is running for reelection in the state where all 55 counties voted for the Republican Donald Trump.

And finally in Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly is running in a state where 88 of 92 Hoosier counties went to Donald Trump.

There are seven other states just like that which is why outside groups supporting the Trump administration are already running issue ads in many of these 11 states.  One can be seen at the top of this post.

 

Rogan: Trump and Clinton Commander and Chief Forum Performance "a lot to be disappointed about."

Columnist for the National Review, Tom Rogan said Thursday on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that both the Donald Trump and Hillary campaigns should be "disappointed" about their performances on the Commander and Chief Forum Wednesday night. 

“I think both candidates, both campaigns quite frankly have quite a lot to be disappointed about last night."

Rogan said that both candidates had to explain statements they made in the forum the following day.  Hillary Clinton had to set the record straight about having troops in Iraq and Donald Trump stated that he really wasn't for the war in Iraq, despite statements he made to the contrary on the Howard Stern show.

Rogan went on to say that Trump and Clinton used the forum to show how the other candidate was not fit to be the Commander and chief.

"Clearly Hillary Clinton is trying to make that her Pivot, that you can't trust Donald Trump in any sense of sitting in

that situation room on the flip side, Donald Trump saying you can't trust Hillary Clinton because of the decisions she has made."

Rogan said that as the election is heating up and that the candidates will be  "increasingly unrestrained" in the coming days and weeks.  

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.”

Riley: Wisconsin “very big deal” for potential Trump nomination

Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal told viewers Monday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that “Wisconsin is a very big deal” for businessman Donald Trump in his quest for the Republican nomination for president.

“If Trump does well there, it could mean no contested convention. He could win on the first ballot in Cleveland,” Riley said.

He noted that aspects of Wisconsin will play to Trump’s strengths, like the state’s many blue collar voters and lack of Evangelicals.

Former candidate and current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is expected to endorse a candidate in his state as soon as tomorrow and has hinted in interviews that he will support Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

That and a lack of talk radio support in Wisconsin are among the reasons that Trump is fighting to win there with measures including holding campaign events.

“He’s in for a fight and that’s why I think he has decided to go and campaign,” Riley theorized. “How novel is that, in the state?”

Making Pumpkins Great Again

By Katy Ricalde

A woman in Ohio is trying to make pumpkins great again. Jeanette Paras is known for "pumpkinizing" celebrities and political figures with her artwork since 1998 and her latest creation showcases presidential candidate Donald Trump. The "Trumpkin" as Paras calls it started as a 374lb pumpkin and took about 10 hours to create. Paras says she "pumpkinizes" visible figures in the media--so naturally Trump was an easy choice.

The idea came to Paras and her husband Peter after visiting an agriculture pumpkin show in their home state. The pair brought home a few of the "smaller" pumpkins with the hopes of carving them. Jeanette recounts the story, saying that Peter was getting ready to "stab" the pumpkin when she suggested they sketch it out first. They went to bed and the next morning the sketch became her first creation. Since then the pumpkins have grown and sometimes local growers donate them. Jeanette says she couldn't do it without the local pumpkin growers in Ohio--and gave a special shoutout to this years donor, Dan Kirts of London, OH.

Paras has to find just the right pumpkin to fit the celebrity she wishes to create and they take on average anywhere from 10-15 hours. Recently she was worried Paras Pumpkins would have to skip this year. Jeanette is a 14 year cancer survivor and last month she had to have a nine hour surgery for a recurrence of stage 1 breast cancer. 

"When I found out I had cancer I cried. Not because of the cancer--I knew I could beat that--but because I wouldn't be able to paint my pumpkin." 

Luckily for all involved her doctors said she would be back to painting three weeks post surgery. In fact, they told Paras she had to paint her pumpkin as part of her recovery--"doctors orders" this year she joked. 

She has never sold one of her pumpkins and has no desire to for her own purposes. She is considering partnering with local cancer hospitals in hopes to raise money for cancer research in the future. We asked Jeanette who she plans to "pumpkinize" next, but she says that is a secret. She did say her home has a "non-partisan pumpkin porch" if that is any hint to her fans.

Paras has turned pop-culture icons, politicians, world leaders, sports stars and more into art using giant pumpkins. About 82 over the years. She doesn't call herself an artist, but rather does it "for fun" and because it gives her a lot of joy. Paras told us her greatest moments come from watching others smile and laugh at the pumpkins.

Thank you for sharing your work with us, Jeanette! We wish you the best as you fight breast cancer and we got a good laugh from your art.  We can't wait to see who gets "pumpkinized" next. Might we suggest our anchor--

All photos are courtesy of Paras Pumpkins and to view more of her creations visit her Facebook page!

Krauthammer on Trump’s plea to Iowa voters: ‘I’m melting, help me out here’

By Anna Olson

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Wednesday on “Special Report” that presidential hopeful Donald Trump may have slipped up in a speech to Iowa voters Tuesday, after several polls showed him trailing Dr. Ben Carson in that state.

“That was a very weird speech he gave last night,” Krauthammer said, adding, “When you say to the audience openly, 'This election isn't about you, it's about me,' when you're supposed to say, 'It's all about you’…then you've gone over a line.”

Krauthammer said Trump’s comments were amusing, but they weren’t smart strategically.

“What kind of person, even trying to make an amusing point, is going to say something like that, 'Get my numbers up,' basically, 'I'm melting, I'm melting, help me out here,’” he asked.

Krauthammer went on to say that Trump “defines everything in life as winning and losing,” and in a tough campaign, he needs to be able to stay strong.

“When [Trump] loses, can he handle it? If it’s anything like what he did yesterday, this could be an inflection point,” Krauthammer said. “If not, he can recover.”

Donald Trump on why he is running and his late night tweets

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President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan continue their last-minute push on Thursday to inch the American Health Care Act over the finish line.

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