Secretary Hagel: It's time for a "fresh" leader

By Justin Fishel, Fox News Channel

In what was likely his last appearance at the Pentagon podium, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel did his best to explain why he’s leaving the job, yet may have left more question unanswered than answered.

After delivering prepared remarks about the DoD’s response to sexual assaults, Hagel was asked why he resigned - and if he was in fact fired – as has been widely reported.

Hagel told reporters that it was a mutual decision that came about after a series of private meetings with the President.  “When I say private, no one else has been in the room,” Hagel said. 

“So with all the speculation and all the smart people figuring out what was said and what wasn't said, only two people know what was said.  That's the president and me.”

Hagel also called President Obama a “friend" and said he couldn’t point to one major issue or point of contention that led to his resignation, but wasn’t clear on the more subtle reasons. 

“This was a mutual decision based on the discussions that we had.  I don't think there's ever one overriding or defining decision in situations like this, unless there's some obvious issue -- and there wasn't, between either one of us.”

Hagel said repeatedly he felt it was time for a “fresh” leader and “you have to know when to leave.”

He suggested the next two years present a whole new set of challenges.  But, when asked if he meant he wasn’t up to those challenges, he scoffed.  “Whether I thought I could do the job was not the issue.”

“No one ever knows about a job, especially a big job, until you get in – until you’re the actual practitioner of the job.  Now – you can read about it, your predecessors can tell you about it, you can think you know about it, and you can write about it and broadcast about it, but nobody knows about these jobs.”

He also suggested it would be good to have new civilian leadership in the department as many of the Joint Chiefs, including the Chairman, are expected to rotate out early next year.

Finally, Hagel got emotional.

“46 years ago today I arrived at Oakland, California on a transit back from Vietnam after I’d spent one year in Vietnam.  46 years ago today.  If anybody would have told Sergeant Hagel walking off that plane with my duffel bag where I’d be 46 years down the road that would have been pretty hard for me to believe.”

House R’s three-part plan to block Obama on executive orders and keep government open facing opposition

By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

The House Republican leadership is running into resistance from conservatives to its three-part plan to fund the government but also blast the Obama Administration for the immigration executive orders. Conservatives don’t like the new path, saying it doesn’t do enough to rebuke the president. It’s not known yet if the problems are deep enough to blow up the entire strategy. But here’s how it works:

Congress must approve a new spending bill by the end of the day on December 11th or the entire government shutters. Again. Many conservatives are hounding Republican leaders to use the spending package to harness money the Department of Homeland Security would use to carry out President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Such a maneuver by the Republican-controlled House would die in the Democratic Senate. It would also face a likely veto threat by the president. So the GOP leadership is offering a bill written by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) which would hamper the president from unilaterally exempting many illegal immigrants from deportation. Some may view that legislation as a fig leaf since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) already said he had no intention to consider the measure if it got through the House. But the Republican braintrust believes the bill would placate conservatives by allowing them to vent their grievances over immigration on a piece of legislation other than the spending bill. The Yoho bill goes before the House Rules Committee at 3 pm et today and would prospectively be on the floor tomorrow.

Come next week, the House would tentatively vote on a measure to fund nearly the entire government through next fall, but only pay for the Department of Homeland Security through late winter. That would allow the new Republican majorities in both bodies of Congress to tackle immigration head-on next year. Plus, it avoids an immediate government shutdown fight before Republicans can even start next year with a clean slate.

Most Democrats abhorred the idea. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, warned Republicans of deviating from a comprehensive spending bill which appropriators have toiled on for months.

“It is dangerous and irresponsible to engage in stunts and gimmicks affecting funding for the agencies under the Department of Homeland Security,” said Lowey. “This is no way to run a government. We should proceed with negotiations and develop a full omnibus.”

As much as Democrats don’t like the plan, it’s certainly not perfect for Republicans. Boehner conceded as much when asked about GOP efforts to counter the president yesterday.

Regardless, resistance is simmering in the Republican ranks. Since seizing the House majority in 2011, GOP leaders have had little margin for error when it comes to passing major pieces of legislation. They’ve had to turn to Democrats to lug significant pieces of legislation to passage. The most-notable case came this past February. The Republican leadership put a bill on the floor to suspend the debt ceiling. The measure passed, but with a scant 27 yeas from Republicans. 199 Democrats hauled the rest of the freight to passage, averting yet another debt limit crisis.

As it stands now, Republicans can only lose 18 of their own before having to turn to Democrats to keep the government open. Reid called the Republican effort to only fund DHS through March “a shame.” But the Nevada Democrat didn’t completely torch the House Republican maneuver. He hinted he might accept something less than a so-called “omnibus” bill which would fund all quarters of government through September 30, 2015.

“That would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all of the appropriations subcommittees except one,” said Reid.

But it could be a different tale for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi has long-backed the “year-long” omnibus plan. And last week, perhaps anticipating the fix in which House GOPers might find themselves, Pelosi tipped her hand.

“We will not be enablers to a Republican shutdown, partial or otherwise,” said Pelosi, well-aware of previous scenarios where the GOP implored Democrats for assistance on the floor.

Republican sources indicated there may be some “softness” in GOP ranks for the trifecta plan. But GOP aides noted that over the past four years, the Republican Conference has traditionally lost 30-50 members on its side when it comes to voting on big legislative initiatives.

“This is just what we always go through,” lamented one senior aide familiar with previous vote-counting efforts.

The main goal for House Republicans is to extinguish all fires for this Congress and live to fight again – and actually do so with authority – next year. But Republicans may have to just fund all of government for a few weeks and again dive into another spending scuffle early next year.

This is a BIG test of the new GOP leadership team..and particularly the whipping skills of new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The stakes are also high for Boehner. He could face an uprising from conservative members during the vote for Speaker next year if they don’t feel he has fought hard enough to counter the president. This is why the right-wing of the party is insisting on a limited funding plan for DHS for the time being.

It will be interesting if Boehner has to just cut his losses and pass a bill to keep the government open next week..with LOTS of help from Democrats. And that will ignite an internal firestorm in GOP ranks. 

Reports: Obama to Nominate Carter as Next Secretary of Defense

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

Senior White House officials say President Obama has decided to nominate Ashton Carter as the next Secretary of Defense, a number of news outlets are reporting. The New York Times reports that the administration will hold off on making the official announcement until at least the end of the week, as the vetting process is still underway.

Though a Yale and Oxford trained physicist by trade, Carter has previously worked the number 2 and 3 positions in the Pentagon after being unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

Before serving as both Leon Panetta’s and Chuck Hagel’s deputy, he was the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. The role placed Carter at the helm of, among other things, managing the DOD’s stock of weaponry.  

Carter also has significant fiscal management experience within the DOD, as he was tasked with carrying out the 2012 $500 billion sequester cuts within the department.

Republican Senator Jim Inhoffe, a member of the Committee on Armed Services, today spoke of his support for Carter as the nominee.

“I’m very pleased he is going to be our Secretary of Defense,” Sen. Inhoffe told the AP, “I can’t imagine that he’s going to have opposition to his confirmation.”

The move comes as the President’s short list for the potential nominees got even shorter in recent days—top candidates including Michelle Flournoy, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), and current Homeland Security Jeh Johnson all removed themselves from consideration.

Many defense analysts say the White House’s tendency to micromanage DOD initiatives as well as a breadth of immediate foreign policy issues to face leaves the position largely undesirable.

“It’s very unlikely you will get political visibility or credit for being the secretary,” Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the AP, “There are just too many problems and uncertainties.”

Carter would become the administration’s 4th Secretary of Defense in 6 years. 

Lawmakers push for package to renew tax breaks just through the end of the year

By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

Fox News is told a coaliation of lawmakers is trying to convince House leaders to vote later this week on a plan to re-up a number of tax breaks which lapsed and extend them. Remarkably, the renewal of the breaks would only run through the end of this year.

Republicans were floored last week when President Obama issued a veto threat on a $400 billion potential package which had been worked out between Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the Capitol.

We are being told by two sources that it's not a done deal that the House would move the plan, but supporters are trying to gin up interest in an effort to force a vote later this week and that the Rules Committee could meet to prep the plan for floor action as early as Tuesday

The original tax plan idea would have included breaks for major businesses, research and development and write-offs for capital, but the new idea to create a patch which would run only through the end of the year would be an effort to blunt disruption for the new tax season, simultaneously giving people the chance to make the claim for those breaks over the next few weeks.

Most major breaks expired at the end of last year and haven't been renewed.

President Obama threatened a veto last wek because he viewed the plan as favoring corporations. The president wanted extensions of the child tax creidt and earned-income tax credit (EITC) beyond the end of 2017.

New ISIS Terror Threats at Home

Grapevine: Putin's tiger wanted for goat deaths in China

Table Games: Sometimes, you have to put your money on the table and sometimes the table is worth a heck of a lot of money.

Kean University in New Jersey is under fire for buying a $219,000 conference table from China -- a country where the taxpayer-supported school is trying to expand its campus.

The 22-foot table has an illuminated world map and a motorized two-tiered glass turntable.

The price tag is prompting one lawmaker to ask the New Jersey attorney general to review the bidding process.

Quote -- "Whether or not this is legal, it's certainly not ethical and it's a waste of taxpayer money...I don't need a study to know a university shouldn't be spending up to $219,000 for a conference table. I already know it's wrong. So do the students and families struggling to afford a higher education."

The university's president told The Record News that the school got a good deal by going to China.

They're Great: Russian President Vladimir Putin's tiger is wanted by Chinese authorities.

State media say one of the Siberian tigers that Putin released into the wild is the prime suspect in a series of goat deaths in China.

Three goats are still missing.

The tiger -- which carries a tracking device -- crossed into China last month after being set free in May by the Russian president.

I Pardon Thee: Finally, tomorrow President Obama will fulfill his traditional role in pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

But in Seattle, the mayor is putting a West Coast spin on the tradition.

The mayor of Seattle has pardoned a tofurky.

It even had a name Brayburn the Tofurky.

For the unaware, tofurky is not a living creature.

It is a vegan food made of protein and tofu that is supposed to taste like turkey.

The event was part of a food drive competition between the city council and the Mayor's office, with the losing office having to hand deliver doughnuts to the winners.

Washington Reacts to Ferguson Decision

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

“There is inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it will make for good TV,” President Obama said minutes after the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced, “But what we want to do is to make sure that we’re also focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is possible . . . and we need to lift up that kind of constructive dialogue that’s taking place. . . I join Michael's parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully." 

But viewers tuning into the President’s call for calm simultaneously saw the heart-wrenching images of scores of violent protesters silencing any “constructive dialogue” in the town of Ferguson, Missouri.

By shortly after midnight, at least 2 police cars and over 2 dozen business buildings in the area had burst into flames. Countless businesses were vandalized. Many of them were looted—including the very same store 18 year old Michael Brown stole cigars from moments before his death.

Those on the scene heard over a hundred rounds of shots fired throughout the night. Reports indicated that firefighters couldn’t rush to quench the flames after they themselves were the targets of several of those gun shots.

Many of the incidents occurred underneath a large banner that read, “Seasons Greetings.”

The decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of 18 year old African-American Michael Brown refueled already heighted racial tensions following Brown’s death on August 9th.

“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation,” the President said, “The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. . . I’ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement.”

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement late Monday emphasizing an ongoing, independent federal investigation into both the incident as well as regular practices of the Ferguson police force. He also went on to caution against violence, which wouldn't "honor the memory" of Brown. 

On Capitol Hill, the Congressional Black Caucus deplored the grand jury’s decision as a “miscarriage of justice” and a “slap in the face.”

“This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions,” CBC Chair Marcia Fudge (D-Oh) indicated in a statement before the violent clashes broke out, “This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.”  

Other CBC members took to twitter to call for more meaningful roads to healing and change.

“I know this hard. I know this is difficult. Do not succumb to the temptation of violence. There is a more powerful way,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga).

“This fight for justice, in Ferguson and all over, demands far more firmness of purpose than a fight in the street,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D- Mo), adding in another tweet, “It will take a coalition, not a confrontation. “

Both Missouri US Senators also weighed in.  

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt called Brown’s death a tragedy and said that “the right of Americans to exercise their free speech must be balanced with the rights of people to live peacefully and safely in their communities.”

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill indicated that she’s “praying that the good people of St. Louis and local law enforcement will remain peaceful and respectful of one another” while the DOJ looks into “solutions to systematic issues highlighted by this tragedy.”

What's next for Scott Brown?

President Obama to Bypass Congress and Grant Legal Status to 5 million

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

President Obama tonight will announce his plans to bypass Congress and issue an executive action to shield over 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. And while the President’s legal path appears to be clearing, the door is closing on the GOP’s first funding plan to block Obama’s action.

Though White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to divulge into specifics, White House officials and briefed Democratic lawmakers have disclosed significant details of the plan.

The bulk of the effected illegal immigrants, about 3.7 million, would be permitted to stay in the U.S. through a provision granting temporary legal status to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents.  

An additional 1.5 million illegal immigrants would be granted legal status through the removal of the age limit found in the Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The 2012 memorandum previously permitted those under 30 years of age, illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents, employment authorization and temporary legal status. The parents of these 1.5 million, however, are not expected to be eligible for legal status.

The plan will also reportedly contain added visas for those pursuing STEM fields

White House officials claim that the plan won’t include a path to citizenship or eligibility for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D- NM) also indicated that those affected must undergo a background check and pay any taxes they may owe.

Unspecified border buffers will be part of the plan, as Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson told reporters last week.

The executive action comes as President Obama repeatedly indicated that bypassing Congress would be illegal, previously stating “that’s not how our constitution is written,” later adding, “I’m the President of the United States, not the Emperor of the United States.”

After saying Sunday that his position “hasn’t changed,” the Washington Post Fact Checker awarded the President an “Upside-Down Pinocchio”--   the most grave of The Post Fact Checker’s ratings.  

“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority,” Speaker John Boehner stated through his spokesman, “he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue—and many others.”

As the GOP furiously cautions the powerful precedent that the executive action may set, strategies to counteract the plan vary.

Perhaps the most discussed mechanism was to defund the executive action in the spending bill to be voted on December 11th. But that path appears to be crumbling.

The House Appropriations Committee today put out a statement saying, “The primary agency for implementing the President’s new immigration executive order [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)] . . . is entirely self-funded through fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its appropriations . . . Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to ‘defund’ the agency.”

“We’re considering a variety of options,” Senator Mitch McConnell said today on the Senate floor, “but make no mistake—make no mistake—when the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for blocking President Obama’s nominees (except those relating to national security) until the President reverses his action.

Others, like current Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbot, say they will almost immediately file a lawsuit protesting the constitutionality of the President’s actions.  

President Obama himself told Telemundo in 2013 that executive actions on immigration would be “very difficult to defend, legally.”

But because tonight’s executive action would not grant a path to citizenship, just “deferred action”, 136 law professors sent a letter to the White House justifying the President’s actions under “prosecutorial discretion.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler also points out that there is some level of presidential precedent, though not to this extent. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush granted up to 1.5 million work permits to spouses and children of illegal immigrants who gained legal status through a law passed 4 years earlier. The 1986 law placed numerical limits on permits, which President George H.W. Bush later expanded through executive authority.

GOP aides say there would be no public, official response to the President’s remarks slotted for 8 pm tonight.

Banking on the plurality of Americans who disapprove of the President acting alone on immigration, one GOP lawmaker told Fox News, “Let him self-immolate, we don’t want our reaction to become the news” 

Dr. Fuad Hussein

Dr. Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to Kurdish President Barzani, sat down with Bret for an exclusive interview for The Daily Bret. Dr. Fuad is here as part of a delegation from the Kurdish Regional Government to meet with administration officials on the recent advances in the US policy on ISIS in Iraq.

He spoke to Bret about the situation on the ground in the Kurdish region of Iraq as they defend against ISIS, and their remaining needs from the US government.

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White House officials say the hacking of Sony Entertainment data is a serious national security matter. Sony has canceled the release of the movie 'The Interview' after hackers threatened violence against movie-goers.

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