Jeh Johnson to Fox: A lot of confidence in the security of electoral infrastructure

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger held a press conference at Reagan National Airport Wednesday morning. 

Asked by Fox News about recent suspected Russia-based hacking activity that targeted two different state electoral systems, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said the Department has “a lot of confidence” in the security of electoral infrastructure in the United States leading up to the November 8 elections.

Secretary Johnson would not comment directly on the Russia allegations, instead citing the FBI investigation into the matter which he said “is not complete.” Johnson added that he continues to urge state and local election officials to consult DHS for ways to secure their systems and to prevent cyber intrusions, noting that “the Department of Homeland Security is in a position to sure up electoral infrastructure.”

Johnson alluded to the complex nature of electoral infrastructure security given that it stretches several different jurisdictions at the state and local levels, but threw water on any notion that the U.S. government wants to federalize the electoral process.

“That’s not what we do. That’s not our mission,” Johnson added. “What we do in the Department of Homeland Security is offer assistance to anyone who comes forward and asks for it.”

Krauthammer: Trump rising poll numbers not surprising

A new CNN poll shows Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by two points, which syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer believes should not come as a surprise.

“I don’t think this is really complicated,” Krauthammer said Tuesday on Special Report. “Every bit of news about her is always about emails, the foundation, the corruption.”

“Of course it’s her numbers declining,” he stated.

Krauthammer told the panel what he found most interesting though was Trump’s support among republicans jumped to 90 percent in the CNN poll after previously being in the high 70s.

“That’s a huge difference,” he said adding “if it shows up in the other polls, that will make a big difference.”



Krauthammer on Obama Administration Iran Payment: “Can they not stop lying about this?”

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer  said Wednesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that the Obama Administration’s acknowledgement it paid $1.3 billion in interest to Iran just days after sending the $400 million hard currency raises the question “can they not stop lying about this?”

The Obama administration acknowledged on Wednesday paying $1.3 billion in interest to Iran in January, two days after sending $400 million in cash to Teheran as principal to settle a decades old dispute over undelivered military equipment. On January 17 the administration sent the $400 million in cash - a combination of foreign currency, including euros -  but the move has been scrutinized since it was used as leverage for the release of four Americans held prisoner by Iran. The administration has maintained that the payment was not a ransom for the four Americans  as critics allege, and the State Department would not elaborate on the January 19 payment due to diplomatic concerns.

In a press conference August 4, President Obama said “we do not have a banking relationship with Iran that we couldn't send them a check and we could not wire the money. And it is not at all clear to me why it is that cash, as opposed to a check or a wire transfer, has made this into a new story. “

But Krauthammer says the revelation that the administration was send funds – not hard currency -  to Iran just two days later raises more questions than it answers: “The president says that we have to send the 400 million in cash because we don't have a banking relationship and we can't write a check. Two days later, they wire the money or they send a check through the banking system, uh, and you say we couldn't do it because of sanctions, well the sanctions were still in place two days later.

“This is one lie after another, and it's an administration attempting to cover its tracks, not because anything illegal happened here, although that's possible, but because it's hugely embarrassing. And it just, I mean Iran has been taking advantage of this knowing that this administration can be walked all over humiliated be forced to abandon all its red lines, for example can launch missiles, we say and do nothing, with impunity.”

Rosen: Evidence in Hillary’s Email Scandal

James Rosen discussed Hillary Clinton’s email scandal Tuesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” saying the FBI “made very clear that their investigation was limited to the handling of the classified information and not even the content of the emails” and in regards to the Clinton Foundation “the FBI demurred on that point.”

While challenging his fellow panelist Charles Krauthammer, Rosen added, “he states that there isn't yet any evidence that have been arrayed of any kind of actual pay for play except for the facetimes and the meetings and the phone calls.”

Questions about Hillary Clinton’s email practices as Secretary of State have dogged Clinton's White House run and triggered an FBI probe that found she was “extremely careless” with sensitive information by using a private server but recommended against bringing charges.

While Clinton leads in the polls nationally and key battleground states, the flood of stories regarding her private email server and donations to the Clinton Foundation demonstrate the former secretary of state won't be able to completely outrun voter skepticism.


US military conducts 8 airstrikes against ISIS in N Syria, Sr. defense official

By Lucas Tomlinson

The US military has conducted eight airstrikes against ISIS in northern Syria in support of a Turkish operation that began Wednesday, according to a senior defense official.

US military airstrikes are “still ongoing,” and there could be additional strikes in the hours ahead, a second US defense official added.

US Air Force A-10 attack aircraft from nearby Incirlik Air Base in Turkey as well as F-16s took part in the strikes in northern Syria, the official said.

The Turkish military launched an operation with tanks and ground forces into ISIS-held Jarabulus in northern Syria located on the border Wednesday.  There are an estimated 100-200 ISIS fighters in the city according to the official.  Turkish officials claimed Wednesday afternoon the city was secured by Turkish-backed fighters.  

“This is a crucial location because of [ISIS] foreign fighter flow,” one official said.

There are “no US boots on the ground in Jarabulus,” in the Syrian-Turkish border town, one official said.  But added that the US military had provided intelligence information with their Turkish counterparts.  It was “planned and coordinated” before the operation started the official said.

The US warplanes destroyed ISIS fighters, fighting positions and mortar positions, according to the official.

An unknown number of moderate Syrian opposition fighters trained by the US military are also taking part in the ground operation in northern Syria, the US senior defense official said.

When asked if there was any concern the Turkish military would expand their operation in northern Syria to include Kurdish forces, some aligned with the United States, the official said the US support to the Turks is to strike ISIS only.

“We are partnering with [Turkey] in counter-ISIL operations,” he said using another acronym for ISIS.

Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan said the Turkish army will target ISIL and a US-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria known as the YPG, in a move that could further escalate tensions in the region.  Erdogan called both the YPG and ISIS terrorist organizations in remarks Wednesday.

The YPG is seen as a key US ally on the ground against ISIS in Syria.  US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the YPG, routed ISIS fighters from Manbij, located 24 miles south of Jarabulus in the past few weeks. 


US Army confirms Hillary Clinton photo used in training slide for handling classified information

The US Army confirms that a soldier used a photo of Hillary Clinton in an official training slide over a year ago about proper handling of classified information.

Clinton’s photo was listed alongside Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Navy Yard shooter Alex Alexis, and General David Petraeus.

Maj. Thomas G. Campbell III, a US Army spokesperson confirmed the incident in an email to Fox News:

"We have confirmed that the slide was developed 18 months ago and used locally as a part of a training presentation on best practices for handling classified material and maintaining operational security.  As is common with Army training requirements, the local unit was given latitude to

develop their own training products to accomplish the overall training objective.  This particular presentation had not been reviewed or approved by the unit's leadership, and does not reflect the position of the Army. The training presentation has since been removed."


Hayes: Clinton was ‘lying’ about Clinton Foundation favors

Fox News Contributor Stephen Hayes told viewers of "Special Report with Bret Baier” Monday that it is clear Hillary Clinton lied about The Clinton Foundation’s ties to the State Department.
“People are gonna try to dress this up and use all sorts of euphemisms for what she was doing to avoid saying she was lying,” said Hayes. 
A newly released email shows Bahrain was granted a meeting with the former Secretary of State after reaching out to The Clinton Foundation.
According to Hayes, the uproar over this issue will ultimately get blamed on Republicans.
“This isn't about Republicans,” said Hayes. “This is about Hillary Clinton having made repeated representations that have turned out to be false and we're seeing evidence that they were false in black and white.”

US officials: Up to 100,000 Iran-backed fighters now in Iraq

As many as 100,000 Iranian-backed fighters are now on the ground in Iraq, according to American military officials -- raising concerns that even if the Islamic State falls, it may only be replaced by another anti-American force which fuels more sectarian violence in the region.

The ranks have swelled inside a network of Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces. Since the rise of Sunni-dominated ISIS fighters inside Iraq more than two years ago, the Shiite forces have grown to 100,000 fighters, Col. Chris Garver, a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, confirmed in an email to Fox News. The fighters are mostly Iraqis.

Garver said not all the Shia militias in Iraq are backed by Iran, adding: “The [Iranian-backed] Shia militia are usually identified at around 80,000.”

According to some experts, this still is an alarmingly high number.

“The effect of the Obama administration’s policy has been to replace American boots on the ground with the Iranian’s. As Iran advances, one anti-American actor is being replaced with another,” Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in a recent phone interview.

Garver said other Popular Mobilization fighters also consist of Sunni tribal fighters from Anbar and Nineveh provinces in Iraq.

Whether the force size is 80,000 or 100,000, the figures are the first-known estimates of the Iranian-backed fighters. The figure first surfaced in a recent Tampa Bay Times article and  marks the latest evidence of Tehran’s deepening involvement in the war against ISIS, with the U.S. military also confirming that Russian bombers are now flying into Syria from a base in Iran. The growth also could create greater risk for Americans operating in the country, as at least one Iran-backed group vowed earlier this year to attack U.S. forces supporting the Iraqis.

Even more troubling to the U.S. military are reports that Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general who commands the the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, is now on the ground outside Mosul ahead of an expected ground operation to retake Iraq’s second-largest city which has been under ISIS control for the past two years.

According to the Long War Journal, a spokesman for the Iranian-backed forces said earlier this month that Soleimani is expected to play a “major role” in the battle for Mosul.  

When asked about Shia militias participating in the liberation of Sunni-dominated Mosul, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said last week, “The government of Iraq is in charge of this war. We're here to support them. So, who they [want in] the campaign is really their decision.” 

A U.S. military official could not confirm Soleimani’s presence in Mosul, but said Soleimani had been seen throughout Iraq and Syria in the past two years coordinating activities.

Garver stressed Tuesday there is no coordination between the U.S. and Iranians. “We are not coordinating with the Iranians in any way, we are not working with them in any way,” he said during a press conference, adding: “However the government of Iraq comes up with the plan, we are supporting [their] plan for the seizure of Mosul.”

Last August, Fox News first reported Soleimani’s visit to Moscow 10 days after the landmark nuclear agreement in July to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and top Russian officials to plan Russia’s upcoming deployment to Syria in late September.

Soleimani is banned from international travel through United Nations Security Council resolutions. He was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. Soleimani’s Quds Force is the special forces external wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxies across the Middle East.

At his confirmation hearing last year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked how many Americans were killed by Iranian-backed forces under the command of Soleimani. 

"The number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren't always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn't necessarily have the forensics to support that," Dunford said.  

The threat to American troops remains. Last month, firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr -- responsible for attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq a decade ago – once again called for his supporters to kill American troops.

“[U.S. forces] are a target for us,” he said on his website.  

In March, one Iranian-backed group said it would attack U.S. forces after the Pentagon announced that hundreds of U.S. Marines were supporting Iraqi forces with artillery fire.  

"If the U.S. administration doesn't withdraw its forces immediately, we will deal with them as forces of occupation," said Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), said on its TV channel.

The Iranian-backed group has claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq since 2006 and operates under the supervision of Soleimani, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.

Meanwhile, there are more indications that Russia and Iran are expanding their military ties. The U.S. military has confirmed that Russian bombers flying from a base in Iran have bombed three areas in Syria.

In addition to the up to 100,000 Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, there are thousands of Iranian-backed forces in Syria as well in support of President Bashar al-Assad.  Some of these Iranian-backed forces come from as far as Afghanistan and hundreds have recently died fighting Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo, according to recent reports.  



Charles Lane on Trump changing course on immigration, NATO: ‘Tacit concessions to his critics’

Washington Post opinion writer Charles Lane said Monday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s pronouncement that, under his immigration policy, those who support hatred or bigotry will not be admitted to the United States was, in a word, ironic.

“This is a guy who, by Paul Ryan's account, made a racist statement about a federal judge based on his Mexican heritage and now is… calling for only admitting people who are free of intolerance. Very interesting,” he said.

More broadly, Lane said Trump’s comments in Youngtown, OH on immigration and supporting the NATO alliance were “tacit concessions to his critics.”

“The whole thing is revealing in it is backtracking. He is backtracking on the original Muslim ban, and now is sort of recasting it as extreme vetting based on values,” Lane said, adding, “Same as NATO, which he disparaged over and over again, and now he's talking about how great NATO is. He can say what he wants, but all of that is a result of the negative blowback his campaign suffered because of those previous statements.”

Krauthammer: Trump gave ‘classic Republican agenda’ in economic speech

Charles Krauthammer told “Special Report with Bret Baier” viewers Monday that he thought Trump handled his major economic speech “reasonably well.”

“He gave the classic Republican agenda on economics: cut taxes. I think every Republican would agree,” said Krauthammer.

Trump previewed his economic plans during his Detroit speech, but also spent a large amount of the time attacking the policies of Hillary Clinton, his opponent, and attempted to paint her as a candidate of the past.

Krauthammer said what stood out to him is how strongly Trump reiterated his anti-trade stances.

“He's to the left of [Clinton] on trade and that leaves us with an election where there's nobody to defend trade,” said Krauthammer. “This is new in modern American political history.”



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