Review Category : Poltics

Holder Touts Civil Rights Legacy Ahead of Resignation

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A day after announcing he would leave the Obama administration in the coming months, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would continue to battle “restrictions that discourage, discriminate, or disenfranchise” voters.

“I have no intention of slowing down,” he said Friday at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference.

“My colleagues and I are acting aggressively to ensure that every American — that every American — can exercise his or her right to participate in the democratic process unencumbered by unnecessary restrictions that discourage, that discriminate or that disenfranchise in the name of a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.

Holder has used the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to aggressively enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act, seeking out what the Obama administration perceives as attempts at congressional redistricting to under-represent minority communities or voter suppression. But the practice has been a lightning rod for Republicans who claim Holder uses the office as a political weapon to inflate Democratic impact in elections.

The enforcement has also extended to the administration’s refusal to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, enraging religious conservatives.

His fight has had ups and downs this month. On Wednesday, an Ohio appeals court upheld an extension to early voting after civil rights groups, backed by the Justice Department, claimed its removal would be a burden on low-income communities who needed the time to organize voters. But two weeks before that, a Wisconsin voter ID law assailed by liberal groups was upheld, and seen as a victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Holder will not leave office until a successor is confirmed by the Senate, but he has previously suggested he would continue to remain active in the civil rights community as a private individual.

His horizon would include changing the federal voting status for residents of the nation’s capital.

“Six hundred thousand taxpayers who, like me, live in the District of Columbia and still have no voting representation in Congress. We pay our taxes, we die in the Army, we have a great representative and we do not have voting rights,” Holder said Friday.

For the immediate future, the attorney general announced one new move coming out of the Justice Department. The “Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative” will partner with Georgia, Hawaii and Kentucky, and the Pew Charitable Trust to develop reforms and grants aimed at reducing habitual crime and racial disparity in the juvenile justice system.

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Holder Touts Civil Rights Legacy Ahead of Resignation

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A day after announcing he would leave the Obama administration in the coming months, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would continue to battle “restrictions that discourage, discriminate, or disenfranchise” voters.

“I have no intention of slowing down,” he said Friday at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference.

“My colleagues and I are acting aggressively to ensure that every American — that every American — can exercise his or her right to participate in the democratic process unencumbered by unnecessary restrictions that discourage, that discriminate or that disenfranchise in the name of a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.

Holder has used the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to aggressively enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act, seeking out what the Obama administration perceives as attempts at congressional redistricting to under-represent minority communities or voter suppression. But the practice has been a lightning rod for Republicans who claim Holder uses the office as a political weapon to inflate Democratic impact in elections.

The enforcement has also extended to the administration’s refusal to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, enraging religious conservatives.

His fight has had ups and downs this month. On Wednesday, an Ohio appeals court upheld an extension to early voting after civil rights groups, backed by the Justice Department, claimed its removal would be a burden on low-income communities who needed the time to organize voters. But two weeks before that, a Wisconsin voter ID law assailed by liberal groups was upheld, and seen as a victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Holder will not leave office until a successor is confirmed by the Senate, but he has previously suggested he would continue to remain active in the civil rights community as a private individual.

His horizon would include changing the federal voting status for residents of the nation’s capital.

“Six hundred thousand taxpayers who, like me, live in the District of Columbia and still have no voting representation in Congress. We pay our taxes, we die in the Army, we have a great representative and we do not have voting rights,” Holder said Friday.

For the immediate future, the attorney general announced one new move coming out of the Justice Department. The “Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative” will partner with Georgia, Hawaii and Kentucky, and the Pew Charitable Trust to develop reforms and grants aimed at reducing habitual crime and racial disparity in the juvenile justice system.

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The 5 Biggest Controversies of Eric Holder’s Term as Attorney General

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — After five and a half years leading the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation Thursday.

Holder’s tenure was beset by controversy from the beginning. Just days after his confirmation, he made a provocative statement — “In things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards” — that angered many.

As one of President Obama’s longest-serving and most-trusted advisers, Holder has long been a favorite punching bag for the right.

Here’s a look at the five biggest controversies during his time at the Justice Department:

1. 9/11 MASTERMINDS
If Holder had his way, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, might now be on death row. But staunch political opposition to Holder’s plan to prosecute Mohammed in a Manhattan civilian court prevented the attorney general from carrying out what he thought was a “highly-detailed, formidable case” in a federal court just blocks from Ground Zero, which would have intensified the trial even more.

Instead, Mohammed is still waiting in Guantanamo Bay after Holder shifted his case to military courts at the detention center in 2011, bowing to legislation that bars Guantanamo inmates from traveling to the U.S.

He told Yahoo News this week in an interview, “I will say that if my recommendation had been followed, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his confederates would be on death row right now. Right now.”

2. MONITORING THE PRESS
Among a number of controversies during his tenure involving journalists, Holder had to temper public anger in 2013 over the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records resulting from an AP article in May 2012.

Holder believed the article on a terrorist plot in Yemen threatened American security, and defended the Justice Department’s need to vet the AP correspondence.

The president of The Associated Press claimed he kept the story from publication until government officials had confirmed there were no national security concerns that could have resulted from the article, and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted President Obama remained a faithful guardian of First Amendment rights.

Holder’s argument came just years after dropping charges against former Justice Department lawyer Thomas Tamm, who leaked details of a Bush administration wiretapping program to the New York Times. Also in 2013, Holder denied attempting to prosecute journalists after reports revealed the Justice Department was monitoring Fox News reporter James Rosen following a story he published in 2009 on Iran.

3. OPERATION FAST AND FURIOUS
In a gunrunning sting gone awry, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost an estimated 1,400 weapons in Mexico — including two guns that resurfaced at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010. The following May, Holder, who technically oversees ATF, testified before the House Judiciary Committee that he had only known about the sting, dubbed “Operation Fast & Furious,” for a few weeks.

But after investigators uncovered memos on Fast & Furious sent to Holder in July 2010, congressional Republicans cried foul. According to the Justice Department, however, Holder never read the memos – and an IG report later “found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed Holder about Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011.”

Holder repeatedly denied a DOJ cover-up, saying only, “This operation was flawed in concept, as well as in execution.” Bolstered by Obama’s assertion of executive privilege, which prevented future prosecution, Holder refused to turn over documents related to Fast and Furious, infuriating congressional Republicans, who accused him of concealing administration failures. He was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012, marking the first time an attorney general has been held in criminal contempt.

4. GAY MARRIAGE
In 2011, the attorney general said he won’t defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which rules that federal interpretation of “marriage” applies only to heterosexual couples. Last year, Holder told ABC News, “From my perspective, [gay marriage] is really the latest civil-rights issue.” So when six state attorneys general said they would not defend laws that ban gay marriage, Holder did not step in. Instead, Holder said they didn’t have to defend the laws if they believed they were unconstitutional.

Holder’s handling of the matter did not sit well with former Justice Department officials, who believed the actions of Obama’s attorney general were anti-democratic. A U.S. attorney general, as head of the Justice Department, is responsible for enforcing federal laws. One critic of Holder, former Virginia Solicitor General William H. Hurd, said, “These are important issues, but the job of an attorney general is not to act as a judge and decide them. His job is to act as an advocate and defend the laws enacted through the democratic process.”

5. DRUG CRIMES
In 2013, Holder modified the Justice Department’s sentencing policy for low-level, drug-related crimes out of belief that they were discriminatory and destabilizing.

“Let’s be honest: Some of the enforcement priorities that we have set have had a destabilizing effect on particular communities…largely poor and of color, and [have been] applied inappropriately,” Holder said in a speech.

In the past, mandatory minimum sentences were implemented to discourage drug use and reduce racially-biased sentences. Holder mandated the modification so that low-level, non-violent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or cartels would no longer be charged with offenses that “impose draconian, mandatory” sentences, and would instead be sentenced on an individual basis. Since the modification last year, the federal prison population dropped by 4,800 — the first time the prison population declined since 1980.

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Gubernatorial Candidate Smokes Pot in Campaign Video

iStock/Thinkstock(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) — One gubernatorial candidate is blazing the campaign trail, quite literally.

Anne Armstrong is a medical cannabis caregiver and patient running as a write-in candidate for Rhode Island governor.

“Yes, I do smoke cannabis, and yes, I do inhale,” she says in a campaign video on her YouTube page. And just in case there was any doubt, she proves it.

Armstrong says that she uses cannabis for medicinal purposes every day, and as governor would pass marijuana legislation for patients and work to remove the stigma associated with the plant.

“I have a vision for our state where common sense, compassion, and cooperation can re-create Rhode Island into a place where everyone can live in abundance,” she writes on her campaign’s Facebook page.

Armstrong was motivated to get into politics when state legislature passed a new law this July limiting the amount of medical marijuana that can be grown, which she described as “very sneaky, very deceptive.”

The candidate, an electrical engineer who previously worked for Raytheon, was attending law school when she was diagnosed with swine flu. She was able to receive a medicinal marijuana card and started her own healing center, which she says has been more beneficial for her and other patients than pharmaceuticals. Though her illness forced her to drop out of law school, she said she now plans on using her engineering and law background to raise awareness on the issue through this campaign.

“I’ve seen miraculous things happen,” Armstrong told ABC News on Thursday. “I walk around saying I’m going to be the next governor, but I’m not attached to the outcome. It’s an opportunity to send this message to the people. That’s why I stepped up, that’s why I’m doing it.”

Armstrong’s chances might not be that good. Democratic state general treasurer Gina Raimondo and the Republican mayor of Cranston, Allan Fung, won the state’s gubernatorial primary election and will appear on the ballot in November.

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Attorney General Eric Holder to Resign, DOJ Official Says

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Eric Holder will resign, a Justice Department official tells ABC News.

Holder is the nation’s first African-American attorney general.

According go to the official:

“Attorney General Holder has discussed his plans personally with the President on multiple occasions in recent months, and finalized those plans in an hour-long conversation with the President at the White House residence over Labor Day weekend. At a formal announcement later today, the Attorney General plans to express his personal gratitude to the President for the opportunity to serve in his administration and to lead the Justice Department, which he will call the ‘greatest honor of my professional life.’ He will note he has loved the Justice Department since, when he was a boy, he watched how, under Attorney General Kennedy, the Department played a leadership role in advancing the civil rights movement. During his tenure as Attorney General, Holder has had Attorney General Kennedy’s portrait in his conference room.”

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Why the State Department Tweeted ‘Photos’ of Dead ISIS Fighters

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Think Again Turn Away — the U.S. State Department’s anti-jihad Twitter messaging arm — tweeted warnings and images Wednesday meant to dissuade anyone from being radicalized and becoming a terrorist.

The account, @ThinkAgain_DOS, tweeted photos that appear to show U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and dead bodies being zipped into body bags, apparently ISIS fighters killed in the bombing campaign.

The U.S., along with several Arab nations, began a bombing campaign on Monday to eliminate ISIS targets in Syria. The bombs began falling late at night on Sept. 22, in Eastern time, which would be Sept. 23 in Syria — the date referenced on the photos.

The images lack context, so it’s not certain that the corpses belong to ISIS fighters, who took the photos, or where they were taken.

The State Department and the @ThinkAgain_DOS account have not yet returned ABC News requests for comment.

The account highlights messages from the State Department, ISIS atrocities, jihadists wanted or arrested by law-enforcement authorities and favorable tidbits about the Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS. All are part of an anti-jihad PR campaign aimed at countering the spread of Islamic extremism online.

Another tweet, from Tuesday, showed Pentagon video of U.S. strikes against ISIS.

ISIS has gained infamy for using social media to communicate propaganda, spread its ideology, and recruit fighters from around the world. @ThinkAgain_DOS has served as the State Department’s antidote to that trend.

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Bill Clinton Drops Clue About Grandchild’s Gender in Interview

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Is former President Bill Clinton going to have a grandson?

Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Clinton and his wife, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hasn’t revealed the gender of the child she’s expecting, but, in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City, the former president may have let slip that his daughter is having a son.

During the interview — which covered a wide range of topics, including security at the White House in wake of a recent highly publicized breach — Stephanopoulos asked Clinton about “grandfather watch,” asking Clinton what he most wanted to teach his new grandchild.

Clinton replied: “I want my grandson…” and he paused, adding — “or granddaughter –,” and at that point, Stephanopoulos interrupted, saying he thought the president may have revealed the news.

“No no no. I’m proud of my son-in-law and my daughter for not wanting to know,” Clinton said, referring to the baby’s gender.

And, speaking of the baby, he said: “I want them to get up every day and look at the world with wonder and reverence. I want them to respect everyone they meet, whatever their background…”

Clinton also said he wanted the child to “really love being alive…And when they grow up, I want them to believe they have certain obligations to people who don’t have all the opportunities they’ll have…”

The interview aired Wednesday on Good Morning America.

For nearly a decade, the CGI has worked to affect the lives of more than 430 million people. Its annual meetings unite world leaders, CEOs and celebrities to take action on the world’s biggest challenges, including the environment and energy, education, global health, human rights and peace.

Through the work of more than 2,900 projects and programs in more than 180 countries, the initiative puts ideas into action, among them the “Billion Oyster Project” at the New York Harbor School, an effort to restore a billion live oysters to the harbor ecosystem with the help of school children.

Other CGI programs are designed to help inspire the next generation. 826 National helps students explore their creativity and improve their writing skills, all while helping those students pursue science-driven careers. Another program, Tech Girls Rock, helps girls discover their interest in technology, a field overwhelmingly populated by males.

The initiative also seeks to empower women through programs such as “Women Veteran Entrepreneur Corps,” which helps women veterans grow their small business.

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Bill Clinton Bucket List Includes Riding Horse in Mongolia Like Genghis Khan

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Bill Clinton still has a few items to check off his bucket list, including riding a horse in Mongolia like Genghis Khan and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

“I still haven’t been to Mongolia. I do want to ride a horse across the Mongolian steppes, try to imagine what it was like to be in Genghis Khan’s horde. I’d still like to climb Kilimanjaro before the snow goes,” Clinton, 68, told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.

“And there are a few other places I haven’t been that I’d like to go. I’d like to travel and I hope that I’ll still be strong enough and well enough to travel when I have a grandchild old enough to take with us. Meanwhile, I’ll try to get Hillary to go with me and Chelsea and Marc when they’re ready again,” he said referring to his wife, daughter and son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky.

As he works toward finishing off his bucket list, the former president is also poised to add “grandfather” to his resume as his daughter nears the end of her pregnancy, and the former president is ready to share his life expertise with the first Clinton grandchild.

“I want them to get up every day and look at the world with wonder and reverence. I want them to respect everyone they meet, whatever their background. I want them to be aware of all the people that make their world and not just the people that they are introduced to,” Clinton said.

“I want them to really love being alive. It’s my first and whatever other grandchildren I have — that’s what I want. And when they grow up, I want them to believe they have certain obligations to people who don’t have all the opportunities they’ll have and to the larger society,” he said.

Chelsea Clinton and her husband are expecting their first child in the coming days. While speaking at the CGI meeting on Tuesday, President Obama joked that Chelsea Clinton could commandeer his motorcade to navigate through traffic if she went into labor.

“I was just discussing with President Clinton that if Chelsea begins delivery while I’m speaking, she has my motorcade and will be able to navigate traffic,” Obama said with a smirk. “I don’t know what the problem is. Everybody hypes the traffic, but I haven’t noticed.”

Chelsea Clinton’s child will be born into a family of political titans and could potentially experience the first few years of life on the campaign trail should her grandmother, Hillary Clinton, decide to run for president in 2016. But at least one member of a political dynasty — former first lady Barbara Bush — thinks it’s time for another family to be in the White House.

“If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run,” Mrs. Bush said earlier this year. “I think that the Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes — there are just more families than that.”

Asked what he thought of Mrs. Bush’s comment, Bill Clinton said, “I guess it’s what she thinks.”

“I don’t know if they know whether Jeb’s going to run for president or not. But we never discussed it,” Clinton said.

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Signs That President Obama May Ditch His BlackBerry for the iPhone 6

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) — Is President Obama looking to give up his beloved BlackBerry?

The president was spotted on the sidelines of United Nations meetings Tuesday eyeing the ambassador of Bahrain’s phone.

According to news reports, the president asked if it was the new iPhone 6 and the ambassador confirmed that indeed it was.

The president famously fought to bring his BlackBerry into the Oval Office when he was first elected. He won the battle and was given an upgraded, secure device to become the nation’s first e-mailing president.

But now it seems he’s hoping to upgrade his smartphone.

The president has an Apple iPad and admits to loving the device, but has not been given the green light to get an iPhone.

“I am not allowed, for security reasons, to have an iPhone,” he explained at a White House Youth Summit last year. “I have noticed that Sasha and Malia seem to spend a lot of time on it.”

The Obama daughters have been spotted on numerous occasions on their Apple devices.

Until the Secret Service finds a way to make the phone secure for their dad, maybe they’ll let the president take theirs for a spin?

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Chelsea Clinton Fears Her Baby Could Live on a ‘Planet Without Elephants’

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — If there is one thing Chelsea Clinton is most worried about, it may be that her soon-to-be child will grow up in a world without elephants.

Standing alongside her mother, Hillary Clinton, at the Clinton Global Initiative Tuesday, the very-pregnant former first daughter warned the plight of African elephants, killed for their ivory tusks, is an “existential” one, and said that if the current poaching rates continue, elephants could be few and far between within the next decade.

If so, this means Chelsea Clinton’s favorite animal could be something her child would never know.

“The child Marc and I are waiting to bring into this world could grow up in a planet without elephants,” Clinton cautioned, before announcing a new commitment to stop the killing of African elephants and the trafficking of ivory.

Chelsea Clinton said the African elephant crisis is not only a “moral” and “ecological disaster,” but also a “security threat,” as ivory is increasingly being used by the world’s most nefarious terror groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army and Boko Haram. She pleaded that “it’s in all of our interests” to stop the growing practice.

Saving the elephants is a favorite mission for the Clinton women. While making the announcement at the family’s annual philanthropic meeting Tuesday, Hillary Clinton described the issue as something she and her daughter are “passionately committed” to, and said that Chelsea Clinton has made it a “priority” of the Clinton Foundation.

Ahead of the birth of her child, Chelsea Clinton teamed up with the website BRIKA.com, to launch a line of elephant-themed gifts to benefit groups working to stop the international poaching of African elephants. She told the blog Refinery 29, she’s even contemplating buying some of the pieces herself for an elephant-themed nursery.

“We’re very baby-oriented right now, so we’ll definitely be buying a felt elephant or two. I think those will look great in our nursery. And, it’s safe to say that as last year, this year too, a lot of our friends will be getting elephant-themed Christmas presents,” Clinton said.

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