Flooding in Houston

Reporting by Trace Gallagher

The numbers are unimaginable in their scope.

In Texas Alone up to 50 counties are being told to expect up to 50 inches of rain by Thursday. Two feed has fallen in the Houston area since the weekend.

In all, Harvey has so far produced nine trillion gallons of water.

With the catastrophic flooding and mandatory evacuations officials in Houston say the situation remains “very dangerous” as they prioritize rescue.

56,000 9-1-1 calls have been reported in the nation’s fourth largest city, overwhelming the system, with at least 2,000 residents evacuated so far by air and boat. Thousands more forces to seek a dry escape.

“It was just so real,” said one Houston resident. “We had to bust a window when they told us that the current was getting high. We had to bust a window to get out.”

Federal officials say at least 30,000 people are staying in temporary shelters and as many as 30,000 more may need a place to stay. Many facilities in Houston could soon approach capacity.

“I plan on staying here for the time they let us stay here,” said Houston resident Miranda Nowell. “Four or five days until the rain stops and then go home.”

To protect the city center long term, two area reservoirs released more water, adding to the short term concern. And adding to the chaos, a sad reality, with the rain often come looters.

“We’ve had four people that tried to loot and they were arrested,” said Chief Art Acevedo of the Houston Police Department. “After these events, frequently especially nce the natural disaster piece of it, where there are active floods going on, folks move in from around other states and even other cities and other regions to come in and loot and create problems.”

It’s a scene played out across Texas in communities’ big and small—stranded residents on roofs, cars and even in trees.

Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard tells Fox News they have “multiple flight crews” and have “thrown ever Coast Guard asset available” at the response, but there are conditions still where it is just not safe to fly.

With some coastal areas like Corpus Christi just beginning the massive cleanup officials estimate 450,000 people may require federal disaster assistance.

National Guard and citizen volunteers continue patrolling flooded-out streets and neighborhoods.

New Details: Manafort raid

Reporting by Catherine Herridge

The FBI’s July raid on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s Virginia home lasted 10 hours and involved a dozen federal agents, according to a source close to the investigation who described the raid as heavy-handed and designed to intimidate.

The source—whose account was backed up by a second individual not authorized to speak on the record—said both Manafort and his wife were asleep when armed FBI agents entered the Alexandria, VA condo, without warning at about 6 o’clock in the morning, concluding the search by late afternoon.

FOX News is told that agents copied his electronics through a process known in law enforcement circles as “mirroring” and agents collected records, including several documents marked “attorney-client” that included privileged material to prepare Manafort for congressional testimony.

The FBI raid came the same week Manafort appeared before two senate committees, providing documents on a voluntary basis. A spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller declined to comment. A former Justice Department official pointed to the timing’s significance, saying: “The timing of all this is unusual because ordinarily if you are in the process of testifying before Congress and turning dogs over to Congress you would think the prosecutors might say, well this person is cooperating and there is no need for us to go in and get a search warrant. The fact that Mueller, nonetheless, went in, got a search warrant, and raided his home, suggests that there is something else going on here.”

 In a separate development, congressional investigators are reviewing a campaign email sent bu Rick Dearborn, now the president’s deputy chief of staff. A source tells FOX that Dearborn got an offer to set up a meeting between top Trump campaign officials and the Russian President. Dearborn was skeptical, but still forwarded the email, ultimately refusing the offer.

And on this week’s closed door testimony about the unverified Trump dossier, at least one Senator, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, wants the transcript public.

McConnell v. Trump

Reporting by James Rosen

House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected President Trump’s pledge to shut down the federal government if congressional Democrats block funding for the border wall the chief executive has vowed to build.

“I don’t think a government shutdown is necessary and I don’t think most people want to see a government shutdown, ourselves included,” Ryan told reporters.

At Tuesday night’s boisterous rally in Phoenix, the president said immigration control was, quote, “one of the reasons I’m here.”

Also in Phoenix, the president urged a drastic change to parliamentary protocol—one that GOP leaders have termed unnecessary.

“We have to get rid of what’s called the filibuster rule; we have to. And if we don’t, the Republicans will never get anything passed. You’re wasting your time,” the president told the crowd.

Such comments stand only to deepen tensions between a non-ideological president and party stalwarts anxiously eyeing the 2018 midterm elections.

Indeed, the New York Times reports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, believing the Trump presidency effectively doomed, has not spoken to the president since an angry August 9th phone call in which both men vented frustrations they have also aired, in more measured tones, publicly.

McConnell: “Our new president has, of course, not been in this line of work before, and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the Democratic process.”

Trump: “I said, Mitch, get to work and let’s get it done. They should have had this last one done. They lost by one vote. For a think like that to happen is a disgrace.”

Last Wednesday, McConnell issued a statement saying he and the president share an agenda focused on tax reform and infrastructure, adding, with respect to the Times report…”Anyine who suggests otherwise is clearly not a part of the conversation.”

No figure stands more precariously between the two feuding titans than Senator McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who is also President Trump’s transportation secretary, and who told the Times with characteristic delicacy, “ I stand by my man—both of them.”

It might be a Tuesday thing...

Reporting by John Roberts

It might be a Tuesday thing. A week ago, President Trump got into an argument with the media at Trump Tower over Charlottesville. Last night the argument was more one-sided, but today –day two of the president’s western swing—a much more tempered environment.

In Reno it was a much different President Trump than one who commanded the podium in Phoenix last night, signing new protections for America’s veterans, preaching healing and unity in the wake of Charlottesville violence.

“It’s time to heal the wounds that have divided us, and to seek a new unity based on common values that united us,” the president said. “We are one people, with one home, and one flag.”

In Phoenix it was the president unbound by a restriction of protocol or policies, unloading on a number of topics, including a 30 minute rant on the media:

“For the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people, and they’re bad people. And I really think they don’t like our country. I really believe that….the only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself, and the fake news.”

President Trump also swung back against criticism that his response to Charlottesville was not enough.

“I said everything. I hit him with neo-Nazi, I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there, let’s say KKK, we have KKK. I got them all.”

He warned Democrats against standing in the way of a border wall:

“Let me be very clear to Democrats and Congress who oppose a border wall and stand in the way of border security. You are putting all of America’s safety at risk.”

He predicted talks to renegotiate NAFTA would likely fail:

“I think we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point, Ok? Probably—“

And against the protests of Phoenix’s Democratic mayor hinted at a pardon for former Sherriff Joe Arpaio…

“He should have had a jury, but you know what? I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK? But--but I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to cause any controversy.”

The rally was as strident and boisterous as anything we saw in the head of the election campaign. The crowd ate it up. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gave it two thumbs down. He never wanted the president to come in the first place.

“It just wasn’t the right time for a speech like that,” Stanton said. “ And, unfortunately, last night, the president gave a speech that did continue to divide this country. He did nothing to united this country, and did indicate he will be pardoning Sheriff Joe.”

The sharpest criticism came from the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has never been a fan of the president. He mused maybe Trump was trying to find a way out of the job—

“I really question is ability to-his fitness to be in this office…the is behavior and this divisiveness and the complete intellectual, moral and ethical void that the President of the United States exhibits.”

The White House says there is no decision or timing on a pardon of Joe Arpaio just yet, but FOX News has been told that the paper necessary for the pardon and the talking points for surrogates to sell it are prepared and ready to go.

President Trump to address the nation

Reporting by John Roberts

At President Trump’s only public appearance of the day—watching the eclipse—there was no mention of his address to the nation where he is expected to announce more U.S. troops will be heading to Afghanistan.

In 2013, long before Afghanistan was his responsibility, Donald Trump was a fierce advocate of complete withdrawal from Afghanistan in a series of tweets, writing:

“We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!”

And “I agree with President Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money—rebuild the U.S.!”

As a candidate, President Trump conceded he has little choice but to continue the fight.

“I would stay in Afghanistan. It’s probably the only place we should have gone in the Middle East because it’s adjacent and right next to Pakistan which has nuclear weapons. So I think you have to stay and do the best you can, not that it’s ever going to be great but I don’t think we have much of a choice.”

The president made his decision after a meeting of his full national security at Camp David on Friday.

Three basic options were on the table—stay and increase troop levels, pull out, or replace U.S. troops with private contractors.

Private contractors –an idea advocated by the president’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon wouldn’t fly with military leaders. Pulling out, according to Newt Gingrich, isn’t an option either.

“We know the last time we allowed Afghanistan to be an empty space it was filled by the Taliban an al-Qaeda. The planning for 9/11 was done in Afghanistan. We know if we pull out and the government collapses you’re going to have some combination of ISIS, and al-Qaeda and Taliban running the country again.”

The president’s announcement tonight will be welcomed by the military, which has advocated a larger troop presence to deal with insurgents. But the president may be on less-friendly territory tomorrow when he travels to Phoenix.

Phoenix’s Democratic mayor has said he’d prefer President Trump stay home—pointing to the president’s meandering response to Charlottesville and his pronouncement to FOX News that he is considering a pardon for controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio who faces charges of criminal contempt of court.

Present Trump avoided a potential confrontation in Washington, announcing that he and the First Lady will skip December’s Kennedy Center Honors. The president said he did not want to be a political distraction. Three of the five artists being honored said they either would or were thinking about boycotting the traditional pre-show White House reception.

And the Secret Service today denied a report that the increased demands of protecting President Trump and his family have left the service so strapped for cash that it can’t pay overtime for its agents and officers.

The Secret Service did acknowledge some 1100 personnel would put in overtime they wouldn’t be paid for, but in a statement said, “This issue is not one that can be attributed to the current administration’s protection requirements, but rather has been an ongoing issue for nearly a decade due to an overall increase in operational temp.”

Kelly to Bannon: You're fired

Reporting by John Roberts

In the early days of the administration Steve Bannon appeared untouchable--the campaign chairman turned top strategist who shared a virtual mind-meld with the president on populist ideology.

But today, the release from the White House:

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

The writing had been on the wall for weeks. President Trump is said to have grown frustrated at the reputation Bannon developed as the real power in the White House. A figure portrayed on late-night as a grim reaper/Darth Vader character who pulled the president’s strings.

But while President Trump had growing reservations about Bannon, it was the new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly who sealed the deal.

An administration source tells FOX News discussions about Bannon leaving have been in the works for almost since Kelly came on board.

At the presidents now infamous Trump Tower press conference on Tuesday, Bannon appeared to be on thin ice, with President Trump replying “we’ll see” when asked whether Bannon would remain in his position.

The next day, he gave a stunning interview to the left-wing American Prospect magazine in which he attacked his colleagues and contradicted the president’s North Korea policy. An administration official told FOX News the interview “didn’t help” Bannon’s case.

Bannon’s departure drew the expected reaction from the left. The environmental group Sierra Club wrote:

Good riddance to Steve Bannon, as his disgraceful brand of hate and vitriol deserves no place in the White House.”

Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York on the other hand lauded Bannon’s expertise and smarts, saying “He’s someone that brought a lot of talent and wisdom. He understands world history like few others do in this country. So, he brought a lot of skills.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi welcomed Bannon’s departure using an opportunity to bash the president in a statement: “Personnel changes are worthless as long as President Trump continues to advance policies that disgrace our cherished American values.”

Controversy over the contraceptive mandate

Reporting by Garrett Tenney

More than three months after signing an executive order on religious freedom, the Trump administration is poised to roll-back one of the Affordable Care Act’s most controversial policies—the so-called contraception mandate.

Federal health officials are expected to issue new rules overturning the Obama-era requirement that forced most employers to provide birth control coverage to their workers, with no out-of-pocket costs.

According to a draft of the new regulation, not only will religiously affiliated hospitals, schools, and businesses be allowed to opt-out of providing contraception, but any employer with religious or moral objections will now be eligible for an exemption.

Evangelical Christians have been fighting that mandate in court for the last six years, arguing that providing some forms of contraception, such as the morning-after pill, was a violation of their religious beliefs, equating the drugs to a form of abortion.

“This is an issue of respecting religious freedom,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “This is the ability for people to enter into the marketplace, enter into public policy, enter into education or wherever they go and do so guided by their faith, not having to check faith at the door, not having to hide it.”

White the new regulation is still being finalized, several pro-choice groups are already preparing to challenge it in court.

“We’re all readying ourselves for a big fight on this,” said Kaylie Hanson-Long of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “This is something that we won’t back down from. It’s basic and lifesaving health care and we should do everything we can to make it more affordable and accessible for women.”

The Trump administration has labeled this regulation as an interim final rule, meaning it will take effect without any public comment, as soon as the final version is published. For now, the White House isn’t saying when that will be.

The Charlottesville effect

After deadly riots in Charlottesville, Lexington, KY Mayor Jim Gray tweeted about his plans to remove these two Confederate statues from downtown.

The mayor tells Fox News he defends the timing of this tweet which launched Lexington into the center of the controversial issue and grabbed the attention of white supremacy groups.

For two years Lexington city officials have discussed plans to remove the statues of John Breckenridge and General John Hunt Morgan from the old county courthouse, once home to one of the largest slave auction sites in the south.

At a meeting Tuesday, council members voted unanimously to move ahead with plans to relocate the statues.

Nearly all of the Lexington residents who spoke agree with the decision, but others worry extremist groups, like the Socialist Workers of America Party which organized in Charlottesville, are taking advantage of the statue discussion in Lexington.

In a radio interview, Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin says racism is “disgusting” and “heartbreaking” but he disagrees with the mayor’s call to remove the statues, calling it“sanitation of history.”

Lexington’s chief of police says the department is partnering with federal agents like the FBI to ensure law enforcements greets any violent protestors.

In a statement today, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell said bigotry and hate of white supremacy groups is not welcome in Kentucky or America.

Leaders respond to President Trump's presser on Charlottesville

Reporting by Kevin Corke

After a wave of CEO’s resigned from his advisory councils following his response to the deadly rally in Charlottesville, President Trump reacted by abruptly dissolving the groups on Twitter.

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”

A change in tone from yesterday when he tweeted that CEO’s dropping out were “grandstanders” and he had plenty of replacements.

Members had begun to distance themselves from the Trump White House because of his contention that “both sides” at the rally were to blame for the violence that ended with one woman being killed.

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” the president said. “Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”

Drawing parallel between the groups at the rally unleashed a torrent of political criticism across the aisle from former presidents and governors, to sitting U.S. senators in condemnation and pushing the president to take a tougher stance.

The president’s suggestion that the “alt-left” protestors were part of the problem in Charlottesville drew praise from former Klansman David Duke, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”

It’s the latest challenge for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly who stared at the floor as his boss launched into his stream of consciousness Tuesday—a stark contrast to his comments just the day before.

In a two pronged approach to manage the fallout, the White House today named longtime aide Hope Hicks interim communications director filling –for now—the post vacated by Anthony Scaramucci.

Fox News also obtained White House talking points about the president’s response to the rally which encouraged surrogates to say:

“The President was entirely correct. Both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility. The President condemned—with no ambiguity—the hate groups fueled by bigotry and racism over the weekend, and did so by name yesterday, but for the media that will never be enough.”

Acknowledging that a similar rally is planned for Lexington, KY, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement today “there are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms.”

A subtle shot across the bow perhaps at a president who has gone to great lengths to criticize him.

North Korea weapons capability

The already advanced timeline to address North Korea’s weapons capability is now even shorter.

North Korea is achieving weapons technology faster than previous estimates as the US intensifies its international campaign to counter Kim Jong-un’s regime.

According to an assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency, North Korea now has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit in a missile.

The news prompted President Trump, speaking at an event on opioid addiction, to mirror recent North Korean rhetoric.

“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Asia, already pressing allies and adversaries to enforce sanctions against North Korea, isolate it and constrict its resources.

Analysts claim North Korea’s recent missile launches show it’s missiles can reach the Unilted States. The regime would still need to successfully mount a nuclear warhead to an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and demonstrate it could hit a target.

The United Nations Security Council has approved stricter sanctions against North Korea. China joined more than a dozen nations in unanimously voting for the additional measures.

“I think China feels this,” said Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. “I mean when I talk to the Chinese ambassador, when the missile test took off, they felt it in China. It was so close to their border and the ground shook.”

China has failed to fully enforce previous sanctions. It accounts for 90% of Norkt Korea’s trade, thoug the administration sees China slowly shifting to address its aggression while the U.S. argues North Korea’s behavior is also a threat to China’s economic plans and prosperity.

In response to the latest round of U.N. Security Council Sanctions, North Korea says of the U.S. and its allies that they are “packs of wolves coming in attack to strangle a nation and that physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength.”

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