Review Category : Poltics

Lawyers Who Cleared Christie Donated to RGA Before Report Released

ABC News (NEW YORK) — The law firm that wrote the Chris Christie-sponsored report clearing the governor of any wrongdoing in the New Jersey bridge scandal made a sizable donation to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads, days before the report’s release.

The law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher donated $10,000 to the RGA nine days before it released a report — paid for by New Jersey taxpayers — blaming September’s lane closures to the George Washington Bridge solely on aides and allies and pinning no responsibility on the governor, as reported Wednesday in The Record of North Jersey.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher lawyers were paid $650 per hour for their work examining documents surrounding the lane closure that led to their report released March 24. The law firm made its donation to the RGA March 18, according to tax records.

Christie spoke exclusively with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer the same day the report was released, telling her he was “relieved” to have the facts.

He rejected any suggestion that the outside law firm appointed by his office would “whitewash” its findings to protect him.

“These people have their own professional and personal reputations,” he said. “Six of them were former federal prosecutors. They’re not going to whitewash anything for me and put their reputations at stake.”

The Los Angeles-based law firm defended its actions.

“Gibson Dunn’s annual contributions to the Republican Governors Association long predate our retention by the Office of the Governor and even predate when the current Governor was first elected to office,” Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher spokeswoman Pearl Piatt said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.

“The firm has donated to the RGA since 2009 at the behest of Bill Kilberg, a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office who has served on the RGA’s Executive Roundtable since 2009.”

Christie’s office directed ABC News to Gibson, Dunn for comment.

The Record also reported: “The law firm made two donations to the Republican Governors Association in 2012 each for $10,000, one on Feb. 20 and the other on Dec. 31 of that year. The group donated $15,000 in 2011 and $10,000 in 2010 and 2009.”

It has not donated to the Democratic Governors Association this year, nor the previous two years.

The Republican Governors Association announced in early April that it had raised $23.5 million in the first quarter of 2014, doubling the amount raised at the same time in 2010.

Association officials have not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Michele Bachmann’s Five Pieces of Advice to Young Conservatives

Steve Pope/Getty Images(LYNCHBURG, Va.) — Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the conservative firebrand and former presidential candidate, gave the keynote address Wednesday at Liberty University’s weekly Convocation.

It was Bachmann’s third time speaking at Liberty, the world’s largest private Christian college and home to over 100,000 students. In her speech, the self-proclaimed “Constitutional Conservative,” who is retiring at the end of the year, urged her young listeners to focus on the “things that really matter” politically and personally.

Bachmann gave young conservatives a few key pieces of advice:

1) “When a madman speaks, listen!”

When it came to Iran, Bachmann didn’t mince words.

“Usually they let you know what their intentions are ahead of time”, she said, using Iran as an example of a “madman” that represents a threat to both Israel and the United States. “We’re called the great Satan, Israel the little Satan [...] their intention is to annihilate the Jewish state of Israel, they have also stated that they want to annihilate the United States.”

Bachmann named three factors that make Iran an especially dangerous opponent; their fissile material, their delivery system and the possibility of weaponization. She also listed Libya, Egypt and Lebanon as countries that pose a threat to the United States and Israel.

2) Always “stand with Israel”

“Never before has Israel been in this situation where literally all nations of the world have come against her,” Bachmann said, adding: “I never thought I would see our country be in a position where we, too, are lining up against Israel.”

Bachmann stressed that it was God’s choice to create the land Israel and claimed with reference to a biblical verse that “every nation that blesses that state of Israel will be blessed and every nation that curses Israel will be cursed.”

She concluded: “If Israel gives up that 40 percent of land [...] it will be nearly a suicide pact.”

3) Beware the “future enslavement of literally millions of people”

According to Bachmann, the United States still remains the pre-eminent economic and military powerhouse of the world: “It feels pretty good to be in that situation [...] what wouldn’t feel good would be for the United States to lose [its current status and come to the point where] the U.S. is no longer the big dog in the world. What will it be like if the new leader of the world would be Russia?” she asked, adding, “China also has a different sense and view of the world.”

If any of these countries took over the position as economic and military powerhouse of the world, “the future enslavement of literally millions of people into oppression” and “godless communism” would be the consequence, Bachmann said.

4) “Get ready to serve and get ready for suffering”

“I’m not running again,” Bachmann told her audience, but God “is opening doors for you, too [...]. Be ready for those doors of opportunity!”

Furthermore, Bachmann claimed that there is a generation of young people that isn’t learning “essential truths”: “If you want to be a leader, as the scripture tells us, you need to be willing to be a suffering servant first.”

5) “Never despise small beginnings”

Bachmann also drew upon her personal background. After her parents split up “we literally lost everything overnight. We moved into a tiny apartment. We qualified for public assistance. We had nothing.”

But, she assured: “The crucibles of suffering will be the greatest blessing God will ever bring to your life.”

As an example, Bachmann told the story of how she had worked three years as an adolescent in order to be able to afford contact lenses. When she finally had saved enough money to buy contacts and wore them riding her bike, she lost one of them. Coming home devastated, her mom drove her back and found her lens.

Bachmann concluded: “I was able to get back what I thought I’d lost; never despise small beginnings [...]. That suffering and that work taught me the value of a dollar. I put myself through college, law school, postdoctoral program and working [...]. It taught me servanthood and love for people and a broken heart for people in a challenge.”

After nearly eight years in Congress, Bachmann will retire at the end of 2014. She ended her speech with the words: “When we come together, when we contend for what matters, when we walk through that door of opportunity: That’s how a nation changes [...]. I’m ready to hand off the baton, and the question is: Are you ready to take it?”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Counsels Students on Options to a Four-Year Degree

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PITTSBURGH) — It would be a cultural shift, but the Obama administration is hoping to change the perception of two- and four-year universities and what is needed for success.

Through two new skills-training programs, utilizing grant money announced in 2010, the administration is encouraging a competition to foster courses developed by industry at the community college level and an apprentice job scholarship program.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appeared at a community college in Pittsburgh Wednesday to announce $500 million in grant funding for community college job-training programs and $100 million in funding for apprenticeship grants.

Speaking in an auto bay where students at the Community College of Allegheny County learn “mechatronics” — “It sounds like something Godzilla would be fighting,” Obama said — the two elaborated on the need for middle-class opportunities and presented a view of a rebounding U.S. economy in which companies are ready to add jobs but are having trouble finding skilled workers to fill them.

“In today’s economy it has never been more important to make sure that our folks are trained for the jobs that are there and the jobs of the future,” he said. “Find out what are the jobs that need to be filled and make sure folks are being trained and matched to those good jobs. We have to move away from a train and pray approach. We train them and we pray that they get a job.

“The problem there is when they go to a community college, when they go to four-year university, they are taking on debt. They are straining their budgets. We have to make sure it pays off for them. So we need to take a job-driven approach.”

Before the event the president and VP received a tour of the school and met with mechatronics students enrolled in a 360-hour program, who showed them a motor-control system, which was set up to simulate a garage door opener.

Obama joked with the students, “We’re lawyers, we barely understand garage door openers.”

The administration cites that 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs with an average starting salary of $50,000.

The president has mentioned community colleges many times but has fallen short of his initial plans to add over $10 billion in funding to them through grants.

He launched an American Growth Initiative in 2009 that was to inject community colleges with sweeping new funds. Here’s Slate’s Christopher Beam on that push in July 2009:

“Community colleges don’t get a lot of respect. Except, as of this week, from President Obama. In a speech Tuesday in Warren, Mich., he proposed sinking nearly $12 billion into revamping the country’s community-college system. The plan would provide $9 billion in grant money to boost academic programs and raise graduation rates, plus another $2.5 billion to upgrade school facilities. It would also fund open-source online courses so that schools don’t have to build more classrooms to admit more students.”

The $500 million Obama announced Wednesday isn’t new, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AAOC); it’s the fourth installment of $2 billion in funding Congress passed in 2009, in lieu of Obama’s original proposal.

A congressional aide confirmed that, after the CBO scored Democrats’ 2009 student-loan bill less favorably on a second pass, education funding was less than what the president and Democrats had initially hoped. Community-college funding was one of the programs that felt the axe.

“It had a very bittersweet ending for us,” David Baime, vice president of government relations for AAOC, told ABC News. While the group was “very pleased” to get $2 billion in grant funding for community colleges, Baime said, “unofficially we were very upset.”

Obama, while not necessarily more supportive of community colleges than other presidents, has nonetheless put a valuable spotlight on them, Baime told ABC.

The vice president joined Obama for the tour, introducing the president as “a buddy of mine.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Joe Biden (and His Aviators) Now on Instagram

Instagram/@VP(WASHINGTON) — Just a week after dusting off his old Twitter account, Vice President Joe Biden joined Instagram.

In his first post on the photo-sharing social network, Biden’s staff shared a photo of the vice president’s iconic Ray-Ban aviators, with a blurry Biden in the background.

The caption on the photo read, “Vice President Biden’s getting ready to head to Pennsylvania with President Obama this afternoon, where he’ll lay out steps we can take to train America’s workers with the skills they need for good middle-class jobs.”

A second photo of Biden departing a helicopter was posted around two hours later. The caption accompanying that photo read: “Wheels up for Pennsylvania: Vice President Biden is in Pittsburgh with President Obama to talk about the importance of expanding job-training programs so more Americans have the skills they need to find good middle-class jobs. Watch at 3:45pm ET on wh.gov/live.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Washington’s Cherry Blossom Trees: The Complicated Roots

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Washington’s cherry blossoms have become an iconic image of springtime in the nation’s capital. And while the trees can be appreciated solely for the ethereal beauty they cast on the shores of the Potomac River, the historical roots of the trees are more complicated.

Ann McClellan, a recognized expert on the trees who has written two books on Washington’s annual festival celebrating the blossoms, told the ABC News/Yahoo! News series Power Players that the first trees given to Washington from Japan in 1910 were a symbol of international friendship.

“When they gave the gift of trees they were really giving something of themselves, because they were grateful to the United States for brokering the treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War,” McClellan said. “It was the first time Japan was treated as a bona fide member of the international community.”

The trees were given in honor of then-first lady Helen Taft, wife of the 27th president William Taft, who had developed an interest in the blossoming trees from her travels to Japan and was working to beautify the park area around today’s tidal basin, which was a swampland at the time.

“Mrs. Taft had seen the trees, not blooming but saw how they were planted and thought Washington, which was just under construction at that time, would be a great place for them, and boy was she right,” McClellan said.

Japan sent thousands of full-grown trees to Washington to beautify the park, but those trees would never be planted on the shores of the Potomac. After the Department of Agriculture inspected the trees, it was determined that the trees had to be destroyed.

“Of course, trees that have been in the ground have bugs, worms and all sorts of pests,” McClellan said. “So the Department of Agriculture inspected them, deemed them impossible, and forced them to be burned.”

The final decision to burn Japan’s gift was made by President Taft himself. But instead of causing a diplomatic crisis, Japan sent 3,000 more trees in 1912 that met the Department of Agriculture’s standards and were the start of the trees that still line the tidal basin today.

The trees, though planted successfully, were planted incorrectly.

“In 1912, when they planted the gift, the gift came with instructions; it was in Japanese, and nobody bothered to read it,” McClellan said. “Instead of planting the trees in groves and alleés as the instructions recommended, we instead planted them close together along the water’s edge of the tidal basin.”

The mistake meant that the growth of the trees was irreversibly stunted, McClellan said: “What that does is it creates this lovely cloudlike effect because the branches intersect but it means that they can’t grow to their full height. …We’re all agog, so it’s fine, but that is one of the reasons they tend to be a little smaller here.”

Since Mrs. Taft, first ladies have continued to play an instrumental role in maintaining the cherry blossoms.

“The first ladies have been very involved…especially Lady Bird Johnson was involved in them and the Japanese gave a gift of several thousand trees in her honor. Those are planted around the Washington Monument,” McClellan said.

For more about the trees, including McClellan’s cautions about the permanent damage that people cause to the trees by plucking their blossoms, check out this episode of Power Players.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Washington’s Cherry Blossom Trees: The Complicated Roots

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Washington’s cherry blossoms have become an iconic image of springtime in the nation’s capital. And while the trees can be appreciated solely for the ethereal beauty they cast on the shores of the Potomac River, the historical roots of the trees are more complicated.

Ann McClellan, a recognized expert on the trees who has written two books on Washington’s annual festival celebrating the blossoms, told the ABC News/Yahoo! News series Power Players that the first trees given to Washington from Japan in 1910 were a symbol of international friendship.

“When they gave the gift of trees they were really giving something of themselves, because they were grateful to the United States for brokering the treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War,” McClellan said. “It was the first time Japan was treated as a bona fide member of the international community.”

The trees were given in honor of then-first lady Helen Taft, wife of the 27th president William Taft, who had developed an interest in the blossoming trees from her travels to Japan and was working to beautify the park area around today’s tidal basin, which was a swampland at the time.

“Mrs. Taft had seen the trees, not blooming but saw how they were planted and thought Washington, which was just under construction at that time, would be a great place for them, and boy was she right,” McClellan said.

Japan sent thousands of full-grown trees to Washington to beautify the park, but those trees would never be planted on the shores of the Potomac. After the Department of Agriculture inspected the trees, it was determined that the trees had to be destroyed.

“Of course, trees that have been in the ground have bugs, worms and all sorts of pests,” McClellan said. “So the Department of Agriculture inspected them, deemed them impossible, and forced them to be burned.”

The final decision to burn Japan’s gift was made by President Taft himself. But instead of causing a diplomatic crisis, Japan sent 3,000 more trees in 1912 that met the Department of Agriculture’s standards and were the start of the trees that still line the tidal basin today.

The trees, though planted successfully, were planted incorrectly.

“In 1912, when they planted the gift, the gift came with instructions; it was in Japanese, and nobody bothered to read it,” McClellan said. “Instead of planting the trees in groves and alleés as the instructions recommended, we instead planted them close together along the water’s edge of the tidal basin.”

The mistake meant that the growth of the trees was irreversibly stunted, McClellan said: “What that does is it creates this lovely cloudlike effect because the branches intersect but it means that they can’t grow to their full height. …We’re all agog, so it’s fine, but that is one of the reasons they tend to be a little smaller here.”

Since Mrs. Taft, first ladies have continued to play an instrumental role in maintaining the cherry blossoms.

“The first ladies have been very involved…especially Lady Bird Johnson was involved in them and the Japanese gave a gift of several thousand trees in her honor. Those are planted around the Washington Monument,” McClellan said.

For more about the trees, including McClellan’s cautions about the permanent damage that people cause to the trees by plucking their blossoms, check out this episode of Power Players.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Diplomatic Incident over Kim Jong-Un’s Haircut

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) — Kim Jong-un’s distinctive haircut is no laughing matter for North Korea. A London hair salon that put up a promotional poster of the country’s leader, with the tag line “Bad Hair Day?” is at the center of a diplomatic dispute.

The North Korean embassy has asked the British government to take action against the hair salon, calling the poster a “provocation.”

A British spokesman tells ABC News that the government in London “will respond in due course.”

After putting the poster in the window to advertise a special deal, the hair salon got a visit from two men in black suits from the North Korean embassy earlier this week.

Barber Karim Nabbach tells BBC News that the men demanded to know the name of the person who put the poster up.

“I said you’re not having my name. If you want to take it any further, bring your lawyers in and we can take it from there,” Nabbach said.

Nabbach said they contacted Scotland Yard about the visit, and police found the poster “funny.”

“Everyone finds it funny except for the North Korean embassy,” he said.

The embassy was unavailable for comment.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Boehner Supports US Forces in Afghanistan Past 2014

Alex Wong/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A top U.S. lawmaker is giving his support to keeping a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of most coalition forces by the end of 2014.

Meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that American troops “fought to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and to ensure it can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States.”

The Obama administration has been at loggerheads with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers in the country in a training and advisory role past 2014.

Karzai, who wants various concessions from Washington, says he will leave it up to his successor to determine whether a post-war pact is right for Afghanistan.

A week-and-a-half ago, millions of Afghans went to the polls to select a new leader but the outcome may not be known for some time. Even then, a run-off is predicted between the two top candidates, which could further delay the signing of the BSA.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Boehner Supports US Forces in Afghanistan Past 2014

Alex Wong/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A top U.S. lawmaker is giving his support to keeping a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of most coalition forces by the end of 2014.

Meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that American troops “fought to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and to ensure it can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States.”

The Obama administration has been at loggerheads with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers in the country in a training and advisory role past 2014.

Karzai, who wants various concessions from Washington, says he will leave it up to his successor to determine whether a post-war pact is right for Afghanistan.

A week-and-a-half ago, millions of Afghans went to the polls to select a new leader but the outcome may not be known for some time. Even then, a run-off is predicted between the two top candidates, which could further delay the signing of the BSA.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Highway Funds in Danger of Running Out

pictureimpressions/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration is telling Congress that it’s either the president’s way or funds for highway projects will soon run out.

That message is being delivered by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is currently on a bus tour of eight states.

The Highway Trust Fund is due to be depleted by August. If that happens, states won’t have the money for big projects or even much needed repairs and improvements. That situation will of course lead to layoffs at a time when the economy finally seems to be rebounding.

Congress has been faced with this problem time and time again and the usual course of action is a quick money infusion that usually lasts a couple of months until things turn into crisis mode again.

President Obama is looking a long-term fix that would provide over $300 billion for four years. Some of the money would come from closing corporate tax loopholes, which Republicans are adverse to doing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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