Review Category : Poltics

White House: No Ransom Paid for Release of US Hostage in Syria

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — No ransom was paid for the release of American journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was freed Sunday after being held hostage for two years by Syrian terrorist group Jabhat Al-Nusrah, the White House said Monday.

“Providing ransoms to terrorist organizations only gives those terrorist organizations more funds and resources. It also makes American citizens more likely targets to terrorist organizations,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.

Earnest added that the U.S. urged Qatar not to pay a ransom either as it helped negotiate the release.

Curtis was handed over to United Nations peacekeepers in Al Rafid village in the Golan Heights Sunday evening, local time, according to the U.N. He received a medical check-up before he was handed over to U.S. officials.

Curtis’ family had been working with the State Department over the past two years to bring Curtis home.

“My heart is full at the extraordinary, dedicated, incredible people, too many to name individually, who have become my friends and have tirelessly helped us over these many months,” said Theo’s mother, Nancy Curtis. “Please know that we will be eternally grateful.”

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Rick Perry’s Lawyers Seek to Get Charges Dismissed

Stewart F. House/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) — Lawyers for Texas Gov. Rick Perry filed a motion Monday, trying to get his criminal charges dismissed. His legal team said prosecuting Perry would violate the separation of powers.

The 60-page writ of habeas corpus was filed Monday in Travis County District Court.

“By seeking to criminalize not merely the veto itself, but the Governor’s explanation for it as well, this prosecution also violates the Governor’s rights under Free Speech Clauses of the United States and Texas Constitution,” the pretrial motion says.

“Subjecting any sitting Governor to a criminal prosecution and injecting the judiciary into a political dispute would be an unprecedented assault on this cherished separation of powers, and would impose an intolerable and incalculable chilling effect on the free exercise of legitimate constitutional powers by future governors,” the motion says.

A judge will decide whether the is sufficient evidence for the case to move forward.

Perry was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on two felony counts — abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official. The charges originate from Perry threatening to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state’s public integrity unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned following a DWI conviction in 2013.

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British Embassy Commemorates Burning the White House 200 Years Ago, Apologizes

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — After joking about the anniversary of British troops invading Washington, D.C. and burning the White House in 1814, the British embassy in D.C. apologized Sunday night.

“Apologies for earlier Tweet. We meant to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today,” read a message posted to the embassy’s official Twitter account.

Here’s the original tweet:

Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time! pic.twitter.com/QIDBQTBmmL

— British Embassy (@UKinUSA) August 24, 2014

Still, U.S. officials took the post in stride, with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf responding with a good-natured tweet:

The difference 200 years can make in foreign relations: 8/24/1814: #ItsComplicated vs 8/24/2014: #SpecialRelationship pic.twitter.com/pKGzT8FNr5

— Marie Harf (@marieharf) August 24, 2014

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British Embassy Celebrates Burning the White House 200 Years Ago, Apologizes

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — After joking about the anniversary of British troops invading Washington, D.C. and burning the White House in 1814, the British embassy in D.C. apologized Sunday night.

“Apologies for earlier Tweet. We meant to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today,” read a message posted to the embassy’s official Twitter account.

Here’s the original tweet:

Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time! pic.twitter.com/QIDBQTBmmL

— British Embassy (@UKinUSA) August 24, 2014

Still, U.S. officials took the post in stride, with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf responding with a good-natured tweet:

The difference 200 years can make in foreign relations: 8/24/1814: #ItsComplicated vs 8/24/2014: #SpecialRelationship pic.twitter.com/pKGzT8FNr5

— Marie Harf (@marieharf) August 24, 2014

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Vacation Ends for Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is back at the White House after another week in Martha’s Vineyard.

Marine One touched down on the South Lawn just after 10:20 p.m. Sunday, concluding 14 days of vacation for Obama. The president arrived with the first lady and daughter Malia in tow, according to pool reporters.

Obama will meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday, but has no public events.

The president’s relaxation time in Massachusetts was largely overcome by events. He played nine rounds of golf and went to the beach with his family twice, by ABC News’ count, but he also addressed TV cameras four times, issued disaster declarations and phoned various foreign leaders.

Obama left for Martha’s Vineyard on Aug. 9, returned to Washington, D.C. late at night on Aug. 16 for three days of meetings and a live, televised appearance to discuss Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri, then went back to the Vineyard on Aug. 19 and came back Sunday night.

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Former NASA Leader: US Space Program Held Hostage by Russia

ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) — What’s next for NASA?

The legendary space agency that landed a man on the moon, launched the Voyager spacecraft into infinity, the Hubble Space Telescope to unlock the mysteries of the universe, and landed legendary rovers on Mars, is now searching for its next mission.

It’s tough to plan for a long-term mission, when each new administration presses the reset button, with many programs that have been started and cancelled.

Can NASA recapture the glory of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, when millions of people around the world watched Neil Armstrong step gingerly onto the lunar surface? Or did the 30 years of space shuttle flights make spaceflight too routine?

Three years ago the shuttles were retired, sent to museums, and U.S. astronauts lost their own ride to space, forced to buy seats on Russian rockets to get back and forth to the International Space Station.

That has put the U.S. in a very bad position, according to former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin,

“We’re in a hostage situation; Russia can decide, if it wishes to do so, no more U.S. astronauts can ride to the International Space Station, and that’s not a position that I want our nation to be in,” Griffin said.

Even before Malaysia Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, new tensions were rising between the U.S. and Russia. The Russian deputy prime minister threatened this spring: if America wants astronauts in space, it should get a trampoline.

There is however, a new space race. Private companies are competing for billions of NASA dollars to build the next spaceship for U.S. astronauts and NASA will soon decide which of the competitors will get the contract.

Sierra Nevada is building a newer, sportier version of the old space shuttle. It is a sleeker passenger craft that could land anywhere a 747 lands — perhaps at one of the many spaceports popping up around the country.

SpaceX has the Dragon, the first commercial ship to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, but it is not yet rated to carry humans.

Boeing is developing an Apollo-like capsule, the CST 100, which would carry seven astronauts.

NASA wants the winning design to launch by 2017. But many want the U.S. to go beyond just Earth’s orbit.

Getting a consensus from Congress is the challenge. Should NASA go back to the Moon, or send humans to Mars? Or proceed with the plan to capture an asteroid?

Griffin says these missions are tied together — one step leads to another.

“We should be preparing to go to Mars,” he said. “We should be using the experiences that we gain learning how to live on the moon to enable us to learn how when we get to Mars to live there for a while, because when we go to Mars, you’re not coming home quickly. It’s going to be a six or seven-month trip one way. Then you’re going to be there for a year, and then you’re going to come home.”

Griffin added, “It’ll be the kind of thing that human beings haven’t done since the great voyages of discovery.”

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Six Questions for Washington Free Beacon Editor Matthew Continetti

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — This week, ABC News spoke with Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, to discuss President Obama, Iraq and 2016.

1) Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized President Obama for playing golf after he delivered the statement addressing the brutal and tragic murder of journalist James Foley. What do you make of that criticism? Fair?

MC: Of course it’s fair. Even the liberal New York Times agrees with Vice President Cheney on this one. I only wish the Times took to heart more of Cheney’s wisdom.

What surprises me about the recent criticism of Obama is that it’s happening. How is this vacation any different from the rest of Obama’s second term? Golf, eating out, hobnobbing with celebrities, lecturing the world on what its best interests are–these aren’t exceptions to Obama’s behavior since reelection. They are the norm.

2) Here’s a scenario. The president calls you up and asks your advice on Iraq. What do you tell him?

MC: I would refer him to his secretary of defense, who recently said ISIS is ‘an imminent threat to every interest we have.’ That type of threat requires a ferocious, unlimited response: expanded airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, generous weapons supplies to the Kurds and to the few remaining decent opponents of Assad, and more troops on the ground–some are already there–as needed. I know it’s important to the president to honor his campaign pledge to end the war in Iraq. But that position is no longer tenable. The war ends not when ISIS is contained. It ends when ISIS is defeated.

3) Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri said he was “thunderstruck” by some of the images that initially came out of Ferguson, the “over-militarization” of the police. What’s your reaction to what has been going on there?

MC: My reaction has been disgust at the media, which inflamed a combustible situation and turned a horrible sequence of events into a spectacle, one of the most watched summer reality shows on television. I think Governor Nixon mishandled this situation, hemming and hawing before finally calling in the National Guard, and demanding the prosecution of Officer Wilson before the investigation into the death of Michael Brown is complete. The events surrounding Brown’s death need to be investigated. If a crime was committed, justice needs to be served. But the time to debate the “over-militarization” of the police is after the looting has stopped and the riots have ended. Not in the middle of them.

4) Rep. Paul Ryan – who could potentially run for president himself of course — said he’d love to see former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney run for president again. What are your thoughts on that? And who do you see as the GOP front runner at this point?

MC: There is no GOP frontrunner, which is why you hear speculation that Mitt may run again. Should he? “Third Time’s the Charm” would make for a good bumper sticker. So would “I Told You So.”

5) Speaking of 2016, do you think Hillary Clinton has major vulnerability at this point should she decide to run?

MC: I’ve noticed that Hillary’s numbers are falling to Earth the closer we get to 2016. She is a formidable candidate, and remains the frontrunner to win the presidency. But sure she’s vulnerable. If she gives a few more interviews like the one she gave to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the left won’t stand for it. They will either rally behind a noninterventionist inside the Democratic party, or embrace one outside the party. And certainly Hillary has to worry about the perception that she changes her positions at the drop of a hat, shifting to accommodate the circumstances of any given time. That worked for her husband, but she lacks his talent. Shape-shifting isn’t as easy for her.

6) So you are the EIC of the Washington Free Beacon and you work with your father-in-law Bill Kristol, who is an ABC News contributor and also the editor of the Weekly Standard. He’ll be on the roundtable Sunday. You announced recently your site will be going private and featured a large gif of model Kate Upton in the post announcing the shift, which isn’t something the Weekly Standard, for example, might do. Does this choice say something about your own approach to conservatism or did you just like the gif?

MC: Kate Upton stands for everything good about America. I can’t imagine an approach to conservatism that excludes her. Indeed, I would say Kate Upton is American freedom personified. What better way to announce that the Free Beacon is now for-profit? It got your attention.

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GOP Address: ‘Democrats are Standing in The Way of Progress’

“In the last 18 months the House of Representatives, which is run by Republicans, has passed hundreds of bills to improve the lives of Americans. The sad part is, over 350 of those bills, including 43 jobs bills, are stuck in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate. Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats are standing in the way of progress. And President Obama has other priorities.”

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‘Kissing Congressman’ Makes Ballot, Faces “Duck Dynasty” Snub

mcallister.house.gov(NEW ORLEANS) — Louisiana’s “Kissing Congressman” Vance McAllister, seeking a political rebound after he was caught on a surveillance video kissing a staffer, qualified to be on the ballot Friday, but he also got a challenge from the Ducky Dynasty family that helped him get elected in the first place.

The Republican congressman for Louisiana’s 5th District was supposed to qualify on Thursday, but missed his time slot because he said he was stuck in traffic, arriving at the Secretary of State’s office after it had already closed for the day.

“We were coming down yesterday and traffic was backed up in Baton Rouge,” McAllister told ABC News. “It was bumper to bumper stand-still for over an hour.”

Friday is the last day in a three-day qualifying period that requires all candidates seeking public office in Louisiana to file the necessary paperwork.

After qualifying for the ballot in the morning, McAllister donned a New Orleans Saints jersey and was doused with a bucket of icy water, joining in what has become a viral campaign to raise money for research and awareness of ALS.

“I chose today after the close of my qualifying,” McAllister said. “I thought it was fitting to do it down there with my Saints jersey on.”

McAllister’s participation in the ALS challenge came just days after House ethics rules warned members of Congress that their participation in the charitable challenge could be an ethics violation.

“No doubt, this is for an admirable cause. There is a prohibition in the Members Handbook and in the Ethics Manual on the use of official resources for the promotion or benefit of any private charitable cause,” The House Administration Committee told members in an email obtained by Politico.

While members are forbidden from posting the videos to their official accounts, personal and campaign accounts are permitted.

McAllister has not posted a video to any of his official accounts.

Though McAllister didn’t qualify as planned on Thursday, his Duck Dynasty challenger Zach Dasher did. Dasher is the nephew of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

“It was a surreal experience. I had my whole family there,” Dasher told ABC News of qualifying for the ballot, but adding jokingly that it was his 8-year-old son Max who stole the show.

“He told me that he wants to run for office someday,” Dasher said. “I am against career politicians, but I think my son Max might be a career politician someday.”

Robertson endorsed McAllister’s candidacy in last year’s special election, but this year he is trying to defeat McAllister and elect his nephew instead.

“He is going to be very involved,” Dasher said of his uncle Phil. “But being related to Phil doesn’t make me qualified to be the next congressman. What it does is it gives me this platform to promote that our rights do not come from man, they come from God… I’m someone who will fight to dismantle the federal takeover of state rights and restore God back to government.”

Though the endorsement is an outright rejection of McAllister as a politician by the Robertson clan, the congressman said he’s not taking it personally and still considers the family his friends.

“They are supporting a family member,” McAllister said. “They wouldn’t be the family I know them to be if they didn’t support a family member. So, there are no hard feelings whatsoever.”

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‘Kissing Congressman’ Makes Ballot, Faces “Duck Dynasty” Snub

mcallister.house.gov(NEW ORLEANS) — Louisiana’s “Kissing Congressman” Vance McAllister, seeking a political rebound after he was caught on a surveillance video kissing a staffer, qualified to be on the ballot Friday, but he also got a challenge from the Ducky Dynasty family that helped him get elected in the first place.

The Republican congressman for Louisiana’s 5th District was supposed to qualify on Thursday, but missed his time slot because he said he was stuck in traffic, arriving at the Secretary of State’s office after it had already closed for the day.

“We were coming down yesterday and traffic was backed up in Baton Rouge,” McAllister told ABC News. “It was bumper to bumper stand-still for over an hour.”

Friday is the last day in a three-day qualifying period that requires all candidates seeking public office in Louisiana to file the necessary paperwork.

After qualifying for the ballot in the morning, McAllister donned a New Orleans Saints jersey and was doused with a bucket of icy water, joining in what has become a viral campaign to raise money for research and awareness of ALS.

“I chose today after the close of my qualifying,” McAllister said. “I thought it was fitting to do it down there with my Saints jersey on.”

McAllister’s participation in the ALS challenge came just days after House ethics rules warned members of Congress that their participation in the charitable challenge could be an ethics violation.

“No doubt, this is for an admirable cause. There is a prohibition in the Members Handbook and in the Ethics Manual on the use of official resources for the promotion or benefit of any private charitable cause,” The House Administration Committee told members in an email obtained by Politico.

While members are forbidden from posting the videos to their official accounts, personal and campaign accounts are permitted.

McAllister has not posted a video to any of his official accounts.

Though McAllister didn’t qualify as planned on Thursday, his Duck Dynasty challenger Zach Dasher did. Dasher is the nephew of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

“It was a surreal experience. I had my whole family there,” Dasher told ABC News of qualifying for the ballot, but adding jokingly that it was his 8-year-old son Max who stole the show.

“He told me that he wants to run for office someday,” Dasher said. “I am against career politicians, but I think my son Max might be a career politician someday.”

Robertson endorsed McAllister’s candidacy in last year’s special election, but this year he is trying to defeat McAllister and elect his nephew instead.

“He is going to be very involved,” Dasher said of his uncle Phil. “But being related to Phil doesn’t make me qualified to be the next congressman. What it does is it gives me this platform to promote that our rights do not come from man, they come from God… I’m someone who will fight to dismantle the federal takeover of state rights and restore God back to government.”

Though the endorsement is an outright rejection of McAllister as a politician by the Robertson clan, the congressman said he’s not taking it personally and still considers the family his friends.

“They are supporting a family member,” McAllister said. “They wouldn’t be the family I know them to be if they didn’t support a family member. So, there are no hard feelings whatsoever.”

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