Review Category : Poltics

State Dept. Official: ‘Not Acceptable’ to Use Private Email for Government Business

State Dept photo(WASHINGTON) — A State Department official on Wednesday said that it is “not acceptable” for department employees to use a private email account for official business, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did.

“I think that the actions that we’ve taken in the course of recovering these emails have made it very clear what people’s responsibilities are with regard to record keeping,” Joyce Barr, the assistant secretary at the Bureau of Administration at the State Department, said at a hearing Wednesday.

“We continue to do training, but we’ve sent department notices, telegrams, we’ve talked to directors and I think that, I think the message is loud and clear that this is not acceptable,” she added.

Barr said the agency has made clear to employees that going forward such practices are unacceptable, but she would not specifically answer whether the practice was unacceptable under Clinton’s time at the State Department.

Barr was testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the administration’s efforts to improve access to government records.

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Mitch McConnell Offers Rare Praise for President Obama

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — You don’t see this every day: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., complimented President Barack Obama on his commitment to free trade, despite the opposition of many Democrats.

“At the risk of having some of you literally faint, I want to compliment the president for the way he’s handling the trade issue,” he said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

McConnell’s comments came as a surprise to many as his relationship with the president has shown signs of tension in the past. On the issue of trade, however, McConnell and President Obama apparently see eye-to-eye.

“I thought what he did last year in speaking the truth to his base was welcome and shows that he is intent on working with us to get both the Trade Promotion Authority in place and to subsequently approve, hopefully, [the] Trans-Pacific Partnership deal,” he added.

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Bill Clinton: “Clinton Cash” Allegations ‘Won’t Fly’

FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images(MARRAKECH, Morocco) — Winding down a two-week trip through Africa and the Middle East, former President Bill Clinton continued to defend foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, saying Wednesday that there was “no evidence” of any wrongdoing.

At the Clinton Global Initiative in Marrakech, Morocco, which organizers said would be the last big foreign summit as Hillary takes off on the campaign trail, Bill Clinton addressed Peter Schweizer’s new book Clinton Cash.

“There’s just no evidence” that any foreign donations had influenced Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state, Bill Clinton said. “Even the guy that wrote the book apparently had to admit under questioning that we didn’t have a shred of evidence for this, we just sort of thought we would throw it out there and see if it flies, and it won’t fly.”

“We had a policy when she [Hillary] was secretary of state that we would only continue accepting money from people that were already giving us money, and I’ve tried to recreate that policy as nearly as I can now during the campaign, with minor exceptions for our health care work, which we can talk about if you like,” the 42nd president added.

“And I think people know that. They understand the enormous percentage of health and development work around the world is funded by governments and multinational organizations, and they fund us because they think we’re good and solving problems and taking care … taking advantage of opportunities,” he said.

“But we also have 300,000 other donors and 90 percent of them give $100 or less,” he added.

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Obama Uses Cinco de Mayo to Call (Again) for Immigration Reform

Jim Dorian/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama used a celebration of Mexico’s military victory over the French in 1862 – “one of the great David vs Goliath stories in history” – to reaffirm ties between North American neighbors and reiterate his desire for Congress to get comprehensive immigration reform passed.

“Part of the way we reaffirm it is to reaffirm our commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, because that’s who we are as a country. The story of America is a dynamic story. So we’re not just going to stop now suddenly and forget everything that helped to build this country,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House, as guests munched on tuna ceviche, grilled yellowtail snapper tacos with cilantro slaw and cinnamon churros with chocolate sauce.”

“Congress still needs to step up and ultimately pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said to applause.

“I know that it’s so challenging when you know the right thing to do, and there are folks blocking your way, and obstacles in your path. But I just want to remind everybody that progress is not always a straight line,” he said, without listing who the “folks blocking the way” are.

Among the guests were a few notable Hispanic-Americans including HUD Secretary Julian Castro, actress Diane Guerrero of Orange is the New Black and actor Jaime Camil of Jane the Virgin.

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Senator Says Pentagon ‘Declaring Victory’ as It Distorts Sexual Assault Numbers

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — When the Pentagon released a new report last Friday detailing what one top official described as “meaningful progress” in combating the military’s sexual assault epidemic, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was preparing to release a report of her own.

It might as well have been titled, “Not So Fast.”

In a press conference last week, the Pentagon announced a new military-wide survey had estimated the number of sexual assaults dropped from 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact in 2012 to 20,000 in 2014.

Gillibrand, D-NY, said in an interview with ABC News that the Pentagon is distorting the actual numbers of sexual assaults because it doesn’t measure the rates of service members who sexually assault spouses or civilians.

“When they’re talking about the problem of 20,000 sexual assaults a year, that doesn’t encompass this population,” Gillibrand said. “To declare victory by saying prevalence rates have gone down and reporting has gone up distorts the picture.”

In her own independent investigation, Gillibrand found more than half of 107 cases she examined involved civilian women living near military communities and non-military spouses of service members.

“The fact that we just drilled down on 107 cases, just picked one year in the four largest bases, to have to pieces of information that are relatively new to this discussion is what created a massive red flag for me,” Gillibrand said.

The Pentagon acknowledges that although it’s not able to survey the entire civilian population, it did receive reports of 745 alleged sexual assaults on civilians in and around military communities last year.

Department of Defense spokesperson Laura Seal challenged Gillibrand’s assertion, telling ABC News “federal surveys have found that the prevalence of sexual assault for non-DoD civilian women is statistically the same for military women and female spouses of military members.”

Gillibrand began her own investigation in February of 2014 by requesting case files relating to sexual assault and misconduct from the largest bases for each military service for the past five years.

She said despite requests on her behalf from President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel she was only given 107 redacted case files from 2013. She reached a deal with the Department of Defense after then-Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, who had subpoena power, called the DoD and said “you must give her these files.”

Seal told ABC News the department is “committed to working with members of Congress to provide information.”

“Because of the scope of Senator Gillibrand’s original request, she and the Department came to an agreement to provide a subset of the documents originally requested,” Seal said.

Gillibrand said she was glad to get the files she could, but it didn’t satisfy her request.

“I’m going to keep asking until a civilian review panel is up and running and doing this job for me,” Gillibrand said. “Because they’re clearly failing. There’s no faith in the system that justice is possible.”

The Pentagon’s own annual report Friday to Congress showed there were 6,131 sexual assault cases filed last year, a 70-percent increase from 2012. However the Pentagon stressed its belief that this was due to more confidence in the justice system, and noted estimates that the actual number of sexual assaults occurring in the military has dropped.

Attorney Susan Burke, a leading advocate for reform in how the military handles sexual assault who was featured in the Emmy-winning documentary The Invisible War, said it suggests the military is purposely hiding the facts.

“What we’re seeing is the same set of patterns applies whether or not you’re dealing with service member or civilian victims,” Burke told ABC News. “That pattern is one of failure to properly investigate, a failure to bring to court-martial, rampant retaliation and a failure to get convictions.”

Gillibrand said the Pentagon not being able to survey civilian populations is “understandable.”

However, she added, “If you’re writing a report to the president saying, ‘We only had 20,000 rapes last year and there’s more reporting, we are making a difference,’ that really misstates the truth that’s happening.”

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Senate Passes GOP Budget Conference Report

Image Source Pink/Image Source/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate passed the GOP budget conference report to balance the budget over the next decade with a vote of 51 to 48 Tuesday night.

The House passed the budget last week, but it is non-binding and will not go to President Obama for his signature. Instead, it will act as a blueprint for appropriations bills that will set spending levels for agencies and departments later this year

The plan balances the budget in nine years by cutting more than $5 trillion in spending. But it also increases defense spending by $40 billion next year – a nod to military hawks who want more spending – and repeals President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

The passage fulfills a Republican campaign promise to pass a balanced budget in the new majority.

“The new Republican majority came and opened up the process, exhibited a determination to return to regular order, and so we have a major achievement today,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, said.

But Democrats oppose the measure for its cuts to programs like Medicaid and food stamps and lowering tax breaks for the poor.

“Anyone who takes an objective look at this Republican budget can do nothing else but conclude that this is an absolute disaster for the working people of this country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee and a 2016 presidential candidate, said.

“If they like this budget so much, why don’t they bring their appropriation bills forward, modeled after their budget? No one would vote for that, even Republicans,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said. “I am disappointed that they’ve come with the budget they have. It’s bad for the American people and certainly it sends a — really a negative image of the Republican Party.”

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Hillary Clinton Reveals Plans for Immigration Reform, Including Path to Citizenship

Scott Olson/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) — She is the presumed favorite of Latino voters and, Tuesday in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton doubled down on what is seen as a gateway issue for that voting bloc.

She laid out her plan for comprehensive immigration reform at a campaign event—including a pathway to citizenship, willingness to take executive action, and reforming detention programs.

At a campaign event on Tuesday, her third since announcing she’s running for president, Clinton made immigration reform a defining issue, and on Cinco de Mayo, no less.

Latino leaders consulting her campaign have told ABC News that Clinton is looking for a way to clearly contrast herself with Republican presidential candidates by embracing the full path to citizenship rather than proposing a second class of Americans who can work in the United States but not enjoy the protection of citizenship.

Clinton made the argument that comprehensive immigration reform “strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country.”

“That’s why we can’t wait any longer. We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship,” she said.

Clinton also took an aggressive stance against Republicans.

“Now this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side,” she said. “Make no mistakes. Today not a single Republican candidate – announced or potential – is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one.”

“When they talk about ‘legal status’ that is code for second-class status,” she added.

She added that her time as Secretary of State showed her the difference of countries that include “second-class status.”

“They never feel they belong or have allegiance…that is a recipe for divisiveness and even disintegration… we are a nation of immigrants,” she said. “Those who say, we can do reform but not a path to citizenship, would be fundamentally undermining what has made American unique… not just in my view the right thing to do for America, if you compare us to other countries.”

And while she said she was unsure if it would be among her first moves if elected president, she did say it would be a priority.

Clinton, speaking at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, where 70 percent of students are Hispanic added that if no action taken, she wouldn’t be adverse to executive authority.

“I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship,” she said. “I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive action that would put dreamers with us today at risk of deportation. If congress refuses to act, as president I would do everything under the law to go even further.”

Last November, President Obama chose a Las Vegas high school to lay out his plans for immigration reform.

Clinton also promised to extend the DREAMer program to undocumented parents of children born in the United States (as President Obama’s proposed DAPA program would do) and responded to pushes by immigrant groups to expand protections to parents of DREAMers.

“We have a lot of these blended families,” she said. “I want to do more to make sure that DACA and DAPA and all of the changes that have occurred continue and would like to try to do more on behalf of the parents of dreamers who are not necessarily included.”

She also outlined support for reforms to the detention process currently in place.

“I don’t think we should put children and vulnerable people into the detention facilities bc I think they are at risk—their physical and mental health are at risk,” she said.

She also outlined her support for president Obama’s executive actions and her desire to support his reforms and “then still try and go further”—including family reunification, a desire of many immigrant activists groups.

“Reunification should be one of our goals in comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “In absence of finally passing comprehensive immigration reform a lot of families have been broken up.”

While Clinton has tweeted her support for President Obama’s expanded DACA and DAPA programs, activists have wanted her to take it further. Last fall, Clinton was largely silent on the issue. When asked about the by DREAMers in September about the president’s use of executive authority to push immigration reform, she replied, “Elect more Democrats.” While Clinton is believed to be ahead in the Hispanic vote — she won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 primary — Latino groups will be listening today for a timetable for implementation of these changes. President Obama has been faulted with moving too slowly during his first term when he had a Democratic majority and failed to pass immigration reform.

Latino groups also say they will listen for consistency in Clinton’s campaign, concerned that what happens in Vegas Tuesday on immigration doesn’t just stay in Vegas but is also promised in Iowa and other primary states.

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White House on ‘Attempted Terrorist Attack’ In Texas

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House described the Texas shooting on Tuesday outside an exhibit of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an “attempted terrorist attack,” but would not say whether ISIS was responsible.

“I can’t speak to what happened in this particular situation, because it’s still under investigation,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when asked if ISIS has now come to the U.S.

“What we do know is we know that there are extremists around the globe, including some who are affiliated with ISIL, who are trying to capitalize on the opportunity that’s presented by social media to try to communicate with individuals around the world, including inside the United States,” he said.

Earnest said the White House is “mindful” of the threats posed by foreign fighters as well as efforts to use social media to “radicalize individuals and inspire them to carry out acts of violence.”

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Obama Nominates Gen. Joseph Dunford as Next Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Tuesday nominated the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I’ve had a chance to work with him. I’ve been extraordinarily impressed by Joe. From the Situation Room, where he helped to shape our enduring commitment to Afghanistan to my visit last year to Bagram, where I saw his leadership first hand. I know Joe. I trust him,” Obama said of Dunford, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The president said the general is “one of the most admired officers in our military.”

“He’s one of our military’s most highly regarded strategic thinkers. He’s known and respected by our allies, by members of Congress on both sides of the aisles and by colleagues across our government,” Obama said, speaking at the Rose Garden.

The Senate still needs to approve the nomination. If confirmed, Dunford will succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs ends on Sept. 30.

Dempsey plans to retire after serving four years in the post.

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Obama Nominates Gen. Joseph Dunford as Next Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Tuesday nominated the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I’ve had a chance to work with him. I’ve been extraordinarily impressed by Joe. From the Situation Room, where he helped to shape our enduring commitment to Afghanistan to my visit last year to Bagram, where I saw his leadership first hand. I know Joe. I trust him,” Obama said of Dunford, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The president said the general is “one of the most admired officers in our military.”

“He’s one of our military’s most highly regarded strategic thinkers. He’s known and respected by our allies, by members of Congress on both sides of the aisles and by colleagues across our government,” Obama said, speaking at the Rose Garden.

The Senate still needs to approve the nomination. If confirmed, Dunford will succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs ends on Sept. 30.

Dempsey plans to retire after serving four years in the post.

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