White House: US Has ‘Updated’ Monitoring of Released Taliban

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. has updated its efforts to monitor the Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the White House said on Friday.

“None of these individuals has returned to the battlefield, none of them is allowed to travel outside of Qatar, and none has engaged in physical violence,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, when asked about reports that one of the five Taliban fighters has made contact with active terrorists.

Earnest stressed on Friday that the detainees released last May remain in Qatar and that their activities are limited. But, in light of concerns about their possible contact with terror groups, he said “those mitigation efforts and those monitoring efforts have been updated.”

Earnest declined, however, to detail the updates.

“We continue to have confidence that there are measures in place to substantially mitigate the threat that they pose to American national security,” he said.

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White House on Mitt Romney’s Decision Not to Run in 2016

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) — White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not offer any reaction on Friday from President Obama to the news that Mitt Romney will not be making another run at the White House in 2016.

Earnest however said he hopes Romney will use his influence going forward to encourage Republican candidates to focus on ways to boost the middle class.

“He did say in recent days that he hoped that we could have a more robust debate in this country about what we could do to put in place policies that benefit middle-class families,” Earnest said.  “I’m confident that Governor Romney will be someone whose endorsement will be sought by other Republican candidates. And I’m hopeful that Governor Romney will use that influence to try and elevate the debate, and have more attention and focus on policies that actually benefit middle-class families.”

While Earnest did not offer any reaction from the president, he said he knew the announcement not to run was a difficult one.

“Governor Romney is a man of great faith and a man who has tremendous loyalty and commitment to his country, and that is something that is worthy of our respect,” Earnest said. “I’m confident that the announcement that he made today was a difficult one. I think he acknowledged as much. But it’s also an intensely personal decision that candidates and their families make.”

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Compton’s Mayor Aja Brown Promises ‘the Best Is Yet to Come’

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Office of the Mayor(COMPTON, Calif.) — Inside a new community center in Compton, California, music can be heard. It’s the very first song played at a new after-school program designed to keep children safe and sound in the city that’s come to be associated with gangs and violence.

But Compton is undergoing a change.

Juan Ruiz, an instructor, said he developed the program with the help of the city’s mayor, Aja Brown.

Now, the 32-year-old Brown, a Democrat, has injected more than just music into the city since she was elected in 2013.

Brown’s own grandmother was murdered in a home invasion in the city before Brown was born.

“I was able to see the impact it had on my entire family and especially my mother,” she said.

After she graduated from the University of Southern California with honors, Brown worked behind the scenes in urban planning for 10 years before being elected as mayor in 2012. She beat her opponents — the incumbent and a former mayor — handily, and hit the ground running.

In city development meetings, Brown said, she’s usually the only woman.

Her greatest lesson comes from her own mother, who taught her to “be committed and to make sacrifices and…put something in front of you, do something bigger than yourself,” she said.

Brown ended cronyism by making city fiscal business contract decisions and choices and invoices fully transparent and public. And that’s not all.

“Our crime rate is down 25 percent,” she said. “Our unemployment rate [is] down 5 percent, and we have nearly 1,000 new jobs coming into the community.”

Today, the sound of urban renewal — jackhammers and construction — can be heard throughout the city.

“We’re actually bringing major, major retail to the city of Compton, as we speak,” Brown said.

Ruiz credited Brown with the progress in the city.

“We are proud of our mayor,” he said, adding that Brown is loved and is changing lives.

“You can feel it,” he said.

Brown shares his enthusiasm. “I’m proud of the work that we’ve been able to accomplish here, and I’m excited because I know that the best is yet to come,” she said.

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Mitt Romney Not Running for President in 2016: Fellow Pols React

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Mitt Romney spent the past few weeks hinting that he might be considering another bid for the White House — so his announcement Friday morning that he would not run for president in 2016 caught many by surprise.

Here’s how some of the people who might have run against Romney reacted to his official announcement:

Potential 2016ers Weigh In

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — also thought to be considering a White House bid — called the 2012 GOP nominee “a patriot.”

“I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over,” Bush wrote on Facebook. “I look forward to working with him to ensure all Americans have a chance to rise up.”

The two met in Utah earlier this month, fueling speculation that they discussed the 2016 contest. Party pundits had feared pitting the two candidates against one another would divide the Republican establishment. (Bush, however, told reporters they “put aside…awkward” talk of a potential match-up.)

The Florida governor wasn’t the only likely 2016 candidate to weigh in on Romney’s announcement.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who trolled Bush and Romney on Twitter earlier this month, said he wished Romney and his wife, Ann, the best.

“I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward,” Paul wrote.

My family & I wish Mitt & Ann the best. We have gotten to know them over the last few years & deeply respect their family & Mitt’s service.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 30, 2015

I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 30, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was rumored to be in the running to be Romney’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, said in a statement on Friday to ABC News, “Over the past two years, there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t think that Mitt Romney would have been a better president than Barack Obama.”

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Mitt and campaigning for him, was grateful for his support in my Senate race, and I know what a difficult decision this must be given his love of our country,” he added. “He certainly earned the right to consider running, so I deeply respect his decision to give the next generation a chance to lead.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who competed against Romney for the 2008 nomination, thanked Romney on Facebook for his leadership and said he could “understand and respect his decision not to run.”

Former New York Gov. George Pataki mused that Romney would have made “a great president.”

Having served as Governors together, I know @MittRomney would have been a great president. My best to Mitt, Ann and their entire family.

— George E. Pataki (@GovernorPataki) January 30, 2015

Romney’s 2012 running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who officially announced earlier this month that he would not seek the GOP nomination in 2016, also said Romney would have been a “great president.”

“I respect his & Ann’s decision,” Ryan tweeted, “and will work with him to move our party forward in 2016.”

.@MittRomney would’ve made a great President. I respect his & Ann’s decision and will work with him to move our party forward in 2016.

— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) January 30, 2015

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, tweeted on Friday that Romney made his announcement today with “class & grace.”

Best of luck to @MittRomney, who showed great class & grace with today’s announcement – he still has plenty to contribute to our nation

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) January 30, 2015

Democrats Not Quite as Complimentary

Democrats generally were less effusive about Romney.

At a Democratic retreat in Philadelphia on Friday, according to The Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Romney a “wonderful American,” and added, “I don’t want to make a joke about his candidacy.”

Other Democrats chimed in on Twitter:

Farewell, old friend: http://t.co/YBL1bHUbu6 pic.twitter.com/ncP0ykTNxx

— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) January 30, 2015

Congratulations to Mitt Romney for finally saying something the American people want to hear.

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) January 30, 2015

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Sunday on ‘This Week’: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ap scott walker kb 150130 16x9 608 Sunday on This Week: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Andy Manis/AP Photo

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker discusses his potential 2016 GOP presidential bid, only on “This Week” Sunday.

And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, ESPN columnist and CNN contributor LZ Granderson, PBS “NewsHour” co-host and managing editor Gwen Ifill, and National Review editor Rich Lowry.

See the whole political picture, Sunday on “This Week.”

Like “This Week” on Facebook here. You can also follow the show on Twitter here.

Go here to find out when “This Week” is on in your area.

 

Mitt Romney, Chris Christie to Dine Together Friday

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will dine together Friday evening, a source familiar with the plans confirms to ABC News.

The dinner, which was first reported by The New York Times, comes on the same day that Romney announced he would not make a third run for the White House in 2016.

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said on a conference call with supporters Friday.

It also follows a meeting between Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in Utah last week.

Bush, who announced in a Facebook post last December that he would “actively explore the possibility of running for President,” issued a statement on Romney’s decision Friday.

“Mitt Romney has been a leader in our party for many years. There are few people who have worked harder to elect Republicans across the country than he has. Though I’m sure today’s decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defense,” Bush said in a Facebook post.

“Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over. I look forward to working with him to ensure all Americans have a chance to rise up,” he added.

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Mitt Romney Says No to 2016 Presidential Run

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) — For Mitt Romney, it appears that the third time is not the charm.

On a conference call with supporters Friday, Romney is expected to take a pass on another White House bid, according to an advance text of his remarks.

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney plans to say.

Romney will also say: “I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

Romney has been flirting with another White House run in recent weeks.

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Kerry Cancels Plan to Visit Putin in Moscow

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

State Department photo/ Public Domain(MOSCOW) — Secretary of State John Kerry has canceled unannounced plans to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The two were expected to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, where the United States blames Russia for arming and funding the separatist forces. The U.S. has also accused Russia of sending its troops across the border to bolster the rebels. Russia has denied the accusations.

The decision to cancel the visit came just days after an alleged Russian spy ring was broken up in New York, and after last weekend’s offensive by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. This week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggested the United States could expand sanctions on Russia as the fighting in Ukraine continues.

Kerry is still expected to attend next week’s Munich Security Conference, and the possibility remains he may meet his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, there.

Secretary Kerry would have been the first cabinet-level U.S. official to visit Russia since the Ukraine crisis began last year. Kerry’s last trip to Russia came in May 2013, shortly before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow, harming U.S.-Russia relations.

President Obama visited St. Petersburg, Russia, for the -summit in September 2013, but canceled plans for a summit with Putin in Moscow during the same trip after Snowden received asylum in Russia.

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Mitt Romney’s Game Of Phones

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • CALL ME MAYBE?: Mitt Romney, who is considering mounting a third run for the White House in 2016, is convening two invitation-only conference calls today, ABC’s RICK KLEIN and JEFF ZELENY report. The first is with a small group of aides, associates, and members of his inner circle in which Romney will seek guidance and tell them what he’s thinking. The second will involve a far broader group of donors and supporters, a close Romney associate confirms to ABC News. This is not expected to be a formal declaration of candidacy — just moving to the “next phase.” There’s no confirmation of what he will say but the associate said, “It’s going to be big.” All signals, public and private, are that Romney is moving toward a run. But there is worry in Romney world of defections. The second call, at 11 a.m. Eastern, comes just three weeks after he first told a meeting of donors in New York City that he might be interested in running in 2016 after months of firm denials. Romney is scheduled to be in New York today for a charity luncheon where his wife, Ann, as well as Chelsea Clinton and her husband are expected to be in attendance.
  • MIAMI BOUND: The biggest hire — and defection — so far in the 2016 sweepstakes shocked and agitated members of Romney’s inner circle yesterday, ABC’s JEFF ZELENY reports, when Jeb Bush announced he was signing up David Kochel to oversee his exploratory efforts and ultimately run his campaign. Kochel is one of the best Republican operatives in the business, based in Iowa, but involved in races across the country. He was a core part of Romney’s 2008 and 2012 teams, but he is also close to Mike Murphy and others in Bush world. It’s a sign that Bush is more serious than ever about running a campaign not steeped in Washington wisdom. Will other Romney admirers follow suit or stick with Mitt?
  • INSIDE MITT’S HEAD: Multiple aides say Romney has been encouraged by the reception he’s gotten over the past few weeks, despite desertions by former aides and skeptical quotes from all corners of the Republican Party. They cite polls that show him a clear frontrunner, and maintain that Romney has as good a shot at the nomination or better than any of his rivals.
  • ‘I’M ALREADY RICH’ — NOW ON VIDEO AND VINE: By now everyone knows that Mitt Romney told an audience at Mississippi State University Wednesday evening, “You may have heard that I’m thinking of running for president again. … I’m not even thinking about getting rich from the speaking fees after I leave office. As you no doubt hear, I’m already rich.” Now you can watch it: http://abcn.ws/15YURPm
  • MCCAIN MAKES HIS PICKS: From the latest ABC/ESPN “Capital Games” podcast: Sen. John McCain makes his Super Bowl pick as his state hosts the big game – Patriots. (As an Arizona Cardinals fan, he said, “I have mixed emotions about Mr. [Richard] Sherman.”) And on 2016 – Sarah Palin or Lindsey Graham? “Dark horse, watch him coming up – Lindsey Graham,” McCain said. “I have the greatest affection and appreciation for Sarah Palin. But I think that in this time of great national peril, with the rise of ISIS and the challenges we face worldwide, I think Lindsey is best equipped to address the challenges to our nation’s security.” PLAY IT: http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=12249831 DOWNLOAD IT: http://bit.ly/1DlsG8D And you can now subscribe to “Capital Games with ANDY KATZ and RICK KLEIN” free via iTunes.
  • ON THE TRAIL: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee continues his book tour making stops in South Carolina and Georgia. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry will keynote the Republican Party of Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Day Dinner this evening in Harrisburg. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul headlines the Dallas County GOP Reagan Day Dinner in Dallas. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will speak at the Fred Malek lecture series sponsored by the American Action Forum in DC. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie heads to the UK this weekend. –Shushannah Walshe

 

THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker discusses his potential 2016 GOP presidential bid, only on “This Week” Sunday. And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, ESPN columnist and CNN contributor LZ Granderson, PBS “NewsHour” co-host and managing editor Gwen Ifill, and National Review editor Rich Lowry. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. TUNE IN SUNDAY:  http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek

 

THE BUZZ

with ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI

TALIBAN ARE NOT TERRORISTS, OR SO SAYS THE WHITE HOUSE. They act like terrorists, they regularly kill civilians like terrorists, but the White House does not consider the Afghan Taliban to be a terrorist group. “They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained Thursday, but “they have a different classification.” Semantics aside, the Taliban is suspected in multiple attacks in recent days that have killed more than 30 people, including a suicide bombing attack on a funeral in Afghanistan Thursday that killed 16 and wounded 39, ABC’s JONATHAN KARL reports. Even so, the White House does not call the Afghan Taliban a terrorist organization, Earnest explained, because they are “different than an organization like al Qaeda that has a much broader global aspiration to carry out acts of violence and acts of terror against Americans and American interests all around the globe.” And even as Earnest was explaining why the Taliban are not terrorists, he slipped, calling them … “terrorists.” http://abcn.ws/15XFmr0

RAND PAUL IS TURNING OUT TO BE 2016′s TROLLER-IN-CHIEF. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, may be mulling a bid to be the next commander-in-chief in 2016, but he may have already earned the unofficial title of troller-in-chief with his pointed digs at his potential rivals — Democrats and Republicans alike, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes. The latest came on Thursday when Team Paul released audio of a fake “secret tape” of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush talking about their 2016 runs. Paul hits his would-be rivals for being part of a dynasty. (But of course Paul doesn’t point out that he too is following in the footsteps of a famous family member who once sought the presidency: Ron Paul). And on Wednesday, Paul used “#ThingsToRunFrom” to describe former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. http://abcn.ws/1zhRQUU

COUNTDOWN TO 2016: WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT WHEN POTENTIAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WILL ANNOUNCE. With the 2016 presidential race heating up, tracking all the potential candidates can keep your head spinning. Though the list of possible White House hopefuls is growing by the day, no one has officially declared — yet. ABC’s STACY CHEN AND STEPHANIE EBBS outline the full cast of characters likely to be a part of the 2016 contest, and what we know about when they plan to make it official. http://abcn.ws/1wEZAfc

SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO LIFT CUBA TRAVEL BAN. A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Thursday that would end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba — the first legislation to be introduced this year following President Obama’s executive action to start opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. “We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, one of the sponsors of the bill, said. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba. ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ and JEFF ZELENY report that the legislation, titled “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015,” is sponsored by four Republican and four Democratic senators. http://abcn.ws/1CPYGDW

YESTERDAY’S MCCAIN MOMENT. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, earned some applause inside a Senate Armed Services hearing Thursday morning after he erupted at protesters of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, calling them “low-life scum.” Protesters from the group CodePink swarmed behind Kissinger as he arrived alongside two other former Secretaries of State, Madeleine Albright and George Shultz, for a hearing on U.S. national security strategy, ABC’s ALEX MALLIN notes. They held up signs calling Kissinger a criminal and chanted “arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes” — citing some of his more controversial decisions during the Nixon and Ford administrations. “You know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested,” McCain said as Capitol Hill Police tried to remove the protesters. “Get out of here you low-life scum.” WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1ERPNc4

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

WHAT OBAMA’S BRO HUGS AND PARADE VISITS IN INDIA MEAN FOR THE US. During his landmark visit to India this week, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swapped hugs, sat side-by-side at India’s Republic Day Parade, and declared an era of “new trust” between the two nations. But for all the colorful festivities and declarations of good will, what did the visit actually accomplish? “Power Players” posed the question to the highest ranking U.S. diplomat to India, Ambassador Richard Verma, who explained why he believes the visit had “historic” implications. ABC’s JIM AVILA reports from India. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/15L96Yj

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@DavidMDrucker: “A lot of Romney loyalists R frozen because they don’t want 2 go against him. But the freeze will only last so long” http://washex.am/1yKoYkA 

@tackettdc: Today: Obama will announce biomedical research plan @ropear http://nyti.ms/1wHHeKK 

@brianjameswalsh: “McConnell vowed to change the way the Senate conducts its business… He’s followed through with his word.” http://bit.ly/1Cj7WBl 

@LoganDobson: Guy reading Marco Rubio’s An American Son on the metro this morning: you might be a bit much, even for this town

@moody: Because you woke up this morning wondering, @Madeleine Albright says she’s rooting for the Pats in the Super Bowl.

Obama Wants to Boost Spending, End Sequester

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PHILADELPHIA) — Continuing to defy the GOP’s wishes for smaller government and less spending, President Obama instead is proposing a seven percent increase in his $1.1 trillion 2016 fiscal budget proposal.

Obama’s plan, which he outlined to House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia Thursday, would end sequestration, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts affecting both defense and domestic programs for nearly two years.

Although the sequester has sliced the federal deficit in half from its height of $1 trillion, the president feels that these spending cuts will hurt the military and have a negative impact on the economy, which has been growing steadily after years of stagnation.

Republicans have no intention of passing Obama’s budget proposal as is, although a number of them would like to end the sequester and find other ways to reduce spending.

The president told House Democrats that he has no intention of sitting on the sidelines during the last two years of his second term, contending that the party needs to fight for the middle class, millions of whom still haven’t benefited from the economic resurgence.

Obama also rattled off his administration’s accomplishments and took some digs at Republicans, particularly Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP standard bearer who is thinking about another run at the White House.

Without mentioning Romney by name, the president mused how a “former presidential candidate” is “suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.”

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Obama Touts American Progress, Democratic Leadership at House Retreat

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) — President Obama spoke Thursday night at the House Democrats’ annual retreat in Philadelphia, pointing out the progress being made under Democratic leadership.

“As much as we should appreciate the progress that’s been made…it shouldn’t be a cause for complacency,” Obama said, “cause we’ve got more work to do.” Instead, Obama called on Democrats to “stand up and go on offense and not be defensive about what we believe in.”

Asked about the possibility of Republican legislation attempting to undo reforms enacted on his watch, specifically the Affordable Care Act, Obama said, “I would happily veto it. If they try to unravel new rules that we put in place to make sure Wall Street recklessness doesn’t hurt American families again, I’ll be happy to veto it.”

“You and I together made some really tough choices,” Obama told the congressmen and women attending the retreat. “Sometimes politically unpopular choices. America has come back.”

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Mitt Romney Isn’t Thinking About Speaking Fees, Jokes ‘I’m Already Rich’

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Mitt Romney is thinking about making a third  run for the White House, telling an audience at Mississippi State University Wednesday evening, “You may have heard that I’m thinking of running for president again.”

This was greeted with cheers, but it was his next line where he made a self-deprecating joke and also managed to jab Hillary Clinton at the same time that may find its way into quite a few of Romney’s future rivals’ television ads, if he takes the plunge again.

Mitt Romney Portrays Hillary Clinton As ‘Clueless’ on Jobs, Foreign Policy

“I’m not even thinking about getting rich from the speaking fees after I leave office,” the 2012 GOP nominee quipped. “As you no doubt hear, I’m already rich.”

Romney was referring to the recent news stories about his wealth and large homes, something the Democrats tried to use last time to say he was unrelatable.

This time they are trying to hit back at  these stories, with a Romney aide saying it’s Hillary Clinton, her high speaking fees, and “jet-setting lifestyle” who is out of touch.

Click on the link above to watch. 

White House Crash Drone Owner Blames Manufacturer Glitch for ‘Whole Fiasco’

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

U.S. Secret Service(WASHINGTON) — The owner of the drone that crashed onto the White House grounds Monday morning — prompting a pre-dawn security scare — says his friend who borrowed the ill-fated aircraft shouldn’t be blamed for the “whole fiasco.”

Instead, the drone’s owner told ABC News that both of them are now convinced the company that manufactured the drone deserves much of the blame.

The owner said drones sold by China-based DJI have a “well-documented” problem with so-called “flyaway” – when an operator loses control of a drone already in the air.

“It just goes rogue,” said the owner, speaking to ABC News on the condition of anonymity. “It goes where it wants.”

Indeed, countless messages posted on DJI’s own online forum and several videos posted on YouTube report instances of “flyaway.” One post calls it “an amazing product flaw.”

But at least one message on the DJI forum cites “pilot error” and “environmental interference” from microwave and cell towers as some “primary causes.”

Nevertheless, the owner of the drone that landed just yards from the West Wing early Monday morning said a “fundamental flaw” with his drone played a “decisive part in the whole fiasco.”

“It’s not his fault,” said the drone’s owner, referring to his friend, a “hard-working civil servant” who is now facing potential criminal charges in the matter.

“This never would have happened at all without that DJI flaw,” said the drone’s owner, adding that if a vehicle had a similar flaw, authorities would have issued a nationwide recall.

The owner said he bought his drone in November from Amazon.com for $499. Over the next couple of months, he and his friend repeatedly flew the drone with no problems, often sending it airborne above a high school in suburban Virginia.

About two weeks ago, his friend borrowed the drone. Alone early Monday morning — having returned hours earlier from a date — the friend launched the drone above an adjacent building, the drone’s owner said he was told by his friend.

Then, all of a sudden, the drone “shot up so high he couldn’t see it anymore,” with a last glimpse showing it heading east toward the National Mall, according to the drone owner.

In a pre-dawn phone call, the pair guessed it would crash on a rooftop and decided to look for it in the morning, the owner said.

But instead, it crashed inside the White House complex, prompting what the Secret Service called “an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex,” and then a federal investigation.

When the drone owner’s friend realized what was happening, he called his supervisor at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and they notified the Secret Service, which then questioned the federal employee and the drone’s owner.

Now prosecutors in Washington are mulling over whether to file charges against the man who flew the drone early Monday.

Local law prohibits drone flights inside Washington, D.C., and federal regulations prohibit such flights near the White House. In addition, federal law makes it a crime to deliberately interfere with air traffic, but law enforcement officials concluded early on that the drone operator had no malicious intent.

By all accounts, those who have spent time with the man behind the White House scare describe him as a “great guy” who is “clearly very intelligent and passionate about his work.”

An online search shows him to have a long-established interest in aviation.

“I hope that this incident doesn’t ruin his impressive career with the U.S. government,” said an acquaintance who has hung out with him many times at social events.

Emails and calls seeking comment from DJI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned.

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Taliban Are Not Terrorists, or So Says the White House

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — They act like terrorists, they regularly kill civilians like terrorists, but the White House does not consider the Afghan Taliban to be a terrorist group.

“They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained Thursday, but “they have a different classification.”

Semantics aside, the Taliban is suspected in multiple attacks over just the last 48 hours that have killed more than 30 people, including a suicide bombing attack on a funeral in Afghanistan Thursday that killed 16 and wounded 39.

Even so, the White House does not call the Afghan Taliban a terrorist organization, Earnest explained, because they are “different than an organization like al Qaeda that has a much broader global aspiration to carry out acts of violence and acts of terror against Americans and American interests all around the globe.”

The issue has come up because the White House insisted on Wednesday that a prisoner exchange between Jordan and ISIS would be different than the prisoner exchange the United States made last year with the Taliban to gain the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“Our policy is that we don’t pay ransom. We don’t give concessions to terrorist organizations,” Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Wednesday. “This is a longstanding policy that predates this administration. And it’s also one that we’ve communicated to our friends and allies across the world.”

Schultz explained that the exchange the United States made with the Taliban — releasing five Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl — was consistent with that policy because the Taliban is an “armed insurgency” and not a terrorist organization.

But the Obama administration isn’t entirely consistent on this point.

On one hand, the Afghan Taliban are not on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (the Pakistan Taliban is on that last). On the other hand, the Taliban is on the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, a classification that allows their assets to be frozen.

And even as Earnest was explaining why the Taliban are not terrorists, he slipped, calling them…“terrorists.”

“We have not ruled out that there would be some situations in which U.S. service members would still carry out operations in self-defense against the Taliban or other terrorists who are operating in Afghanistan,” Earnest said.

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Senate Passes Keystone XL Pipeline Legislation

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — The Senate passed legislation on Thursday to approve the Keystone XL pipeline bill.

The legislation passed by a vote of 62-36 and will now be sent to the House of Representatives for final passage before being sent to President Obama’s desk. Obama has repeatedly threatened to veto the legislation, were it to make it to his desk.

On Thursday, the veto threat was repeated by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who said that Obama “will not sign it, will veto it.”

Congress has not yet shown that it has sufficient votes to override a presidential veto.

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Texas Legislator Instructs Staff: Ask Muslims to Pledge Allegiance to America

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Credit: Allan Baxter/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) — A Texas state representative on Thursday said she instructed her staff to ask Muslim constituents to “publicly announce allegiance to America.”

“Today is Texas Muslim Capital [sic] Day in Austin,” newly-elected Republican state Rep. Molly White wrote on Facebook. “I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups.”

“We will see how long they stay in my office,” she added.

Texas Muslim Capitol Day, an initiative organized by the Texas Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, serves as “an opportunity for community members to learn about the democratic political process and how to be an advocate for important issues,” according to the CAIR website.

In response to White’s post, CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw sent a letter to Texas Speaker Joe Straus asking if White violated any House ethics rules by “creating such an internal office policy that is selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities.”

White later commented on Facebook, “I do not apologize for my comments….if you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not.”

“Isn’t it amazing when you stand for America, our allies and against terrorism how much vile and angry responses you get? I will never cow to anti Americanism and extremists,” she wrote in another comment.

“I am banning users that are insulting,” she added.

In a post earlier Thursday, the Texas lawmaker insisted that “becoming an American” is “not the intent of most Muslims who move to America.”

“Remember, in the Koran, it is ok to lie for the purpose of advancing Islam,” she wrote. “Texas must never allow fringe groups of people to come here so they can advance their own culture instead of becoming an American.”

Neither Rep. White nor Speaker Straus immediately responded to requests by ABC News for comment.

Her message was echoed by a slew of protesters at the Capitol. A few dozen men and women waving signs proclaiming “Go home and take Obama with you,” “Muhammad is dead” and “Radical Islam is the New Nazi” protested against the Muslim community members standing on the Capitol steps.

“Islam and the false prophet Muhammad — Islam will never dominate the United States, and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas,” one protester yelled before she was removed by an officer at the scene.

“Muhammad is dead!” she screamed as she was dragged away. “Muhammad did nothing but made himself a pervert. We love America, we love Jesus Christ!”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office declined to comment.

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FTC Bars Website Operator from ‘Revenge Porn’ Business in Settlement

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

jrwasserman/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Trade Commission has banned the operator of an alleged “revenge porn” website as part of a settlement after the operator allegedly illegally acquired and posted nude photographs and offered a fake “takedown” service.

The FTC accused Craig Brittain of using deception to obtain and post lewd photographs of women, then referring those women to another website he controlled, “where they were told they could have the pictures removed if they paid hundreds of dollars.”

“This behavior is not only illegal, but reprehensible,” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. She added that “the illegally collected images and information will be deleted, and this individual can never return to the so-called ‘revenge porn’ business.”

Brittain allegedly obtained the photographs through different means, including by posing as a woman on Craigslist and offering nude photos in exchange for photos from other women. When women provided him with photos of themselves, Brittain allegedly posted them on his website without their knowledge or permission.

He is also accused of soliciting viewers of his site to submit more nude photos to the site, requiring “sensitive personal information” about the pictured women. Some women claimed they received unwelcome contact from strangers who received their information from the site.

The FTC claims that Brittain featured photographs of more than 1,000 individuals on his site. Under the terms of his settlement, he will permanently delete all images and personal information obtained during the time he operated the site, and he will be prohibited from sharing intimate photos or videos of individuals without their affirmative consent. He is also to be barred from misrepresenting how he will use personal information collected online.

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What We Know About When Potential Presidential Candidates Will Announce

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

JPLDesigns/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — With the 2016 presidential race heating up, tracking all the potential candidates can keep your head spinning.

Though the list of possible White House hopefuls is growing by the day, no one has officially declared — yet.

Here’s the cast of characters likely to be a part of the 2016 contest, and a look at what we know about when they plan to make it official:

DEMOCRATS

Hillary Clinton

Announcement expected by: July

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, said last September that — hypothetically — if she were to consider running for president again, “I am going to be making a decision probably around the first of the year.”

Although we don’t yet know whether she has made up her mind, it certainly seems like all systems are go.

Politico, citing “top Democrats,” reported on Jan. 29 that Clinton could delay any official announcement until June, which would allow her to continue sculpting her campaign in private. According to Politico, Clinton could announce an exploratory committee in April.

Jim Webb

Announcement expected by: January or February

Former Sen. Jim Webb was the first potential 2016 candidate to launch an exploratory committee last November. In an appearance at the National Press Club last September, he said discussions about his potential run would continue through January or February.

REPUBLICANS

Mitt Romney

Announcement expected by: Early February (if Larry King is to be believed)

Despite earlier assertions that he wouldn’t run for president in 2016, Mitt Romney, the two-time presidential candidate who won his party’s nomination in 2012, is reportedly thinking about mounting a third bid for the White House.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the former governor told a dozen top Republican donors on Jan. 9 that he may run again. And talk show host Larry King, who recently ran into the Romneys at the Salt Lake City airport, said Romney said “he’ll decide about a run for president within two weeks.”

Rick Perry

Announcement expected by: May or June

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also ran in 2012, will announce his intentions in the 2016 presidential race in May or June, he told The New York Times. He held a series of fundraisers last November where he was likely met with potential supporters and Republican operatives, according to Politico.

Jeb Bush

Announcement expected by: Unknown

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced in a Facebook post in December 2014 that he would “actively explore the possibility of running for President.”

Though he hasn’t publicly set a timeline for a formal announcement, Bush met with Mitt Romney earlier this month, fueling speculation that the two potential rivals were discussing their possible campaigns. Bush launched a leadership PAC called “Right to Rise” on Jan. 6.

Ted Cruz

Announcement expected by: June

Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz, who says he believes that the field of GOP candidates will solidify in June, said on Fox & Friends that he is looking at a campaign very seriously.

Cruz has certainly proceeded as if he is already a candidate for 2016, visiting early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, expanding his staff, and even renouncing his Canadian citizenship.

Chris Christie

Announcement expected by: May or June

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to make a final decision about 2016 by “the end of the Spring,” according to Time magazine. He launched a political action committee, Leadership Matters for America, on Monday Jan. 26.

Marco Rubio

Announcement expected by: March to May

A Marco Rubio senior adviser told ABC News that Rubio has told them to “proceed as if he is running for president.” According to two unnamed Republicans, Rubio told about 30 core supporters that he would decide by the spring about whether or not to run for president.

Rand Paul

Announcement expected by: March to May

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul confirms he will certainly be on the ballot in 2016 — but hasn’t officially declared whether it will be as a presidential candidate or merely a senator. In September 2014, Paul announced that he will not make a decision about 2016 until the spring. He told the The Washington Times that ultimately, his decision to launch a bid will be depended on GOP’s willingness to endorse a “new kind” of Republican.

Scott Walker

Announcement expected by: June

Gov. Scott Walker established a political committee called “Our American Revival” on Tuesday. A Walker aide told ABC News that the governor plans to wait until late spring or summer to decide on 2016. He will most likely make his official announcement around June.

Ben Carson

Announcement expected by: May

Dr. Ben Carson said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos that he would make a decision about running for president by May 1.

Despite a busy schedule, and the formation of a political action committee, “One Nation”, he says he’s not ready to make any commitments to a presidential campaign yet.

“I don’t know what my role will be in the future,” Carson said, “but I know that I will continue to fight extremely hard for these principles.”

Rick Santorum

Announcement expected by: Unknown

The former senator from Pennsylvania has been busy traveling to important primary states this past year. Although he has declined to identify a timeline for when he would make an official announcement, all signs point to another run for the White House.

Lindsey Graham

Announcement expected by: Unknown

Sen. Lindsey Graham launched an exploratory committee on Thursday to “test the waters” for a potential 2016 run. His supporters include 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain, who has publicly supported his candidacy.

“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” McCain joked in a news conference earlier this month. “I am strongly encouraging Senator Lindsey Graham particularly with the world the way it is today.”

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Senators Introduce Legislation to Lift Cuba Travel Ban

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Ruskpp/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Thursday that would end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba -– the first legislation to be introduced this year following President Obama’s executive action to start opening diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the sponsors of the bill, said. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.”

“It makes no sense to have this prohibition,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., another sponsor of the bill, said.

The legislation, titled “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015,” is sponsored by four Republican and four Democratic senators. The Republican senators include: Flake, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John Boozman of Arkansas. They said they expected other farm-state senators to join them in lifting the travel ban. The Democratic sponsors are Leahy, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Even though the bill has Republican support, it’s an open question whether the legislation to lift the travel ban will be called for a vote in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been critical of the administration’s Cuba policy, saying he defers to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is an ardent critic of lifting the travel ban or the embargo.

Earlier this month, the White House eased restrictions on the U.S. travel ban by permitting travel to Cuba for 12 categories of people, including Americans with family in Cuba, employees on official business for the U.S. and foreign governments, along with journalists.

Congress will need to pass legislation lifting the travel ban in order for all Americans to travel to the country located just 90 miles from the United States.

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McCain Calls Out Protesters Who Swarmed Henry Kissinger

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. John McCain earned some applause inside the Senate Armed Services hearing Thursday morning, after he erupted at protesters of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, calling them “low-life scum.”

“I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” said McCain, R-Ariz.

Protesters from the group CodePink swarmed behind Kissinger as he arrived alongside two other former secretaries of State — Madeleine Albright and George Shultz — for a hearing on U.S. national security strategy.  

They held up signs calling Kissinger a criminal and chanted “arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes,” citing some of his more controversial decisions during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

“You know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested,” McCain said as Capitol Hill Police tried to remove the protesters. “Get out of here you low-life scum.”

Kissinger didn’t acknowledge the protesters, who again interrupted him later in the hearing prior to his opening statement.

“Dr. Kissinger, I hope on behalf of all of the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle — in fact, from all of my colleagues, I’d like to apologize for allowing such disgraceful behavior towards a man who served his country with the greatest distinction,” McCain said. “I apologize profusely.”

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Rand Paul Is Turning Out to Be the 2016 Troller-in-Chief

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., may be mulling a bid to be the next commander-in-chief in 2016, but he may have already earned the unofficial title of troller-in-chief with his pointed digs at his potential rivals — Democrats and Republicans alike.

The latest came Wednesday evening, when Paul used “#ThingsToRunFrom” to describe former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. 

The same old candidates running for President #ThingsToRunFrom pic.twitter.com/MIljwji097

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 28, 2015

The first Republican-on-Republican trolling came in December, when Paul called out Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for opposing the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Hey @marcorubio if the embargo doesn’t hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

Senator @marcorubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

He trolled Bush and Romney after their meeting in Utah earlier this month.

Jeb Bush apparently gave Mitt Romney a “third time’s a charm” bracelet at their meeting in Utah today: pic.twitter.com/uaOsZfMJEq

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 22, 2015

Mitt Romney’s friendship band to Jeb Bush at today’s meeting in Utah: pic.twitter.com/eprVgg2YUx

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 22, 2015

He’s aired his grievance on Festivus…

I’ve got a lot of problems with you people (mostly in DC), and today you’re going to hear about it! Stayed tuned for #Festivus grievances

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 23, 2014

…and critiqued his fellow Republicans’ fashion choices.

We all know having a fashion forward campaign is important to success, as @RickSantorum showed us in 2012 #Festivus pic.twitter.com/qAeGIp2wpo

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 23, 2014

No matter how many times I ask @Team_Mitch, he won’t let me borrow this awesome sweater vest pic.twitter.com/VACHu6RdVY

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 23, 2014

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Romneys and Clintons to Attend NYC Lunch After Mitt’s Attack on Hillary

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Romneys and the Clintons could meet sooner than in 2016. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston confirms to ABC News that the two couples are expected to attend a New York City lunch together Friday to benefit the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Disorders.

Chelsea Clinton’s husband Marc Mezvinsky is on the board of the center.

The lunch was first reported by The New York Times.

The Times points out the lunch will now be quite awkward after Romney went on the attack against Clinton Wednesday night in his speech to Mississippi State University.

In his speech, he said, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney said.  He also went after Clinton on the economy and he joked about his own wealth by also jabbing Clinton: “I’m not even thinking about the speaking fees I can earn,” Romney said. “As you no doubt heard, I’m already rich.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham Launches 2016 Exploratory Committee

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has officially launched an exploratory committee to “test the waters” for a potential 2016 run, a spokesman for the South Carolina senator confirms.

The exploratory committee is dubbed “Security Through Strength” and is described on its website as a “political committee helping United States Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. ‘test the waters’ for a potential 2016 run for president. The committee will fund the infrastructure and operations allowing Graham to travel the country, listen to Americans, and gauge support for a potential presidential candidacy.”

Graham, who was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and the House of Representatives in 1994, has long said he would consider a White House run and has been urged by his friend and colleague Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, to run in 2016.

“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” McCain said in a news conference earlier this month. “I am strongly encouraging Senator Lindsey Graham particularly with the world the way it is today.”

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What Obama’s Bro Hugs, Parade Visits in India Mean for the US

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — During his landmark visit to India this week, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swapped hugs, sat side-by-side at India’s Republic Day Parade, and declared an era of “new trust” between the two nations.

But for all the colorful festivities and declarations of good will, what did the visit actually accomplish?

ABC News/Yahoo! News posed the question to the highest ranking U.S. diplomat to India, Ambassador Richard Verma, who explained why he believes the visit had “historic” implications.

“We talk about transformational moments, and transformational visits, I think this was one of them,” Verma said.

Obama’s visit to India — his second as president — came just four months after he welcomed Modi to the White House as India’s new prime minister.

“He was the first president to be here for India’s Republic Day; he was the first sitting president to visit India twice; and although these are symbolic gestures, they’re really indicative of where I think he wants to see the relationship go,” Verma said. “It’s very rare for two heads of state to come together, shake hands, [and] outline a very ambitious agenda.”

Verma pointed to the expansive scope of issues on which the two leaders declared cooperation as one measure of the trip’s success.

“If you look at the range of issues that the president and the prime minister talked about, I don’t think there’s hardly a subject that wasn’t covered,” Verma said. “From education to health to climate to energy, defense, nuclear energy, nuclear power, intelligence cooperation, homeland security, people-to-people contact, culture, intellectual property — they ran the gamut on subjects.”

In real terms, the visit produced specific agreements on a civil nuclear development program for India and also marked the renewal of a decade-long defense partnership deal, among other measures.

And though Verma said he would argue that India and the U.S. have had a good relationship for many years, he acknowledged certain tensions in the past.

“We can’t ignore history,” Verma said. “India had a proud and still has a proud history of being an independent country. …I would say we’ve been close, we’ve gotten closer over the last decade, and now I think, we have got a really great opportunity to take it even further.”

The display of a new U.S.-Indian friendship also had the effect of exposing fissures in the U.S. and India’s relationship with one of India’s neighbors: China.

“Our relationship with China, like India, has elements of cooperation and elements of competition,” Verma said. “To the extent that India and the United States can help promote democracy, can help promote a rules based border and defend the kind of peaceful resolution of these disputes in Asia, across the Indo-Pacific and into East Asia, that’s important.”

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Mitt, We Meet Again

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • ROMNEY PORTRAYS HILLARY CLINTON AS ‘CLUELESS’: Mitt Romney spoke about poverty in a speech in the nation’s poorest state last night while directly taking aim at Hillary Clinton, saying she “cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia.” At Mississippi State University, Romney outlined an early line of attack he may employ if he again runs for president, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney said. “The Middle East and much of North Africa is in chaos. China grows more assertive and builds a navy that will be larger than ours in five years. We shrink our nuclear capabilities as Russia upgrades theirs.” According to reporters who attended the speech, Romney joked about his wealth while also getting in a jab at Clinton, saying, “I’m not even thinking about the speaking fees I can earn. … As you no doubt heard, I’m already rich.” http://abcn.ws/1zcAqJl
  • AWKWARD POWER LUNCH: Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston confirms to ABC News that the Romneys and Clintons are expected to attend a New York City lunch together tomorrow to benefit the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Disorders. Chelsea Clinton’s husband Marc Mezvinsky is on the board of the center. The lunch was first reported by The New York Times.
  • WHY MITT MAY HAVE A MANSION PROBLEM (AGAIN): Romney’s lavish homes, especially the beachfront property in La Jolla, California, were steady targets of Democratic criticism during the 2012 presidential campaign, ABC’s ALI WEINBERG and RICHARD COOLIDGE note. And as Romney now appears to be edging toward a third presidential bid, he’s reportedly considering selling the La Jolla mansion, which he’s currently in the process of renovating. http://abcn.ws/1yzBCTh
  • A BRIEF HISTORY OF ROMNEY’S REAL ESTATE: On a recent weekend, ABC News caught Romney and his wife Ann inspecting the house’s construction site, walking through the framework of the second floor before descending a ladder to get down to the first. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1EQgRIQ
  • WORD FROM ROMNEY WORLD: A Romney aide would not comment on the former and potentially future presidential candidate’s real estate plans, but did send a statement dinging Hillary Clinton: “It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous.”
  • ON THE CALENDAR: New Hampshire doesn’t want to be outdone by Iowa, so the New Hampshire GOP will hold its own “cattle call, the ”First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit,” in Nashua on April 17 - 18. Meanwhile, today Mike Huckabee will continue his book tour today making stops in North Carolina, as well as first in the South state, South Carolina. -Shushannah Walshe

 

ANALYSIS

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Say this for Mitt Romney: If he chooses to launch a third presidential bid, he’ll know exactly what he’s getting in to. That’s not just based on long memories. On Wednesday, on the same day he was scheduled to give a speech in Mississippi, two national newspapers did separate stories about enormous Romney houses – different enormous houses. In Romney’s appearance came nods to his mistakes from last time, along with some extremely familiar jokes (complete with “wildest dreams”). It was a more relaxed Romney on display, attacking Hillary Clinton in part by saying he wouldn’t run again to boost speaking fees: “As you no doubt heard, I’m already rich,” Romney said. We’re getting hints of his frustration with the way campaigns are covered along the way, and reminders of the awkward humor that fed that coverage so often. What’s more apt to change: Romney himself, or the whirlwind of media that surrounds his campaign?

 

THE BUZZ

with ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI

ATTENTION FUTURE PRESIDENTS — AIR FORCE ONE IS GETTING AN UPGRADE. Future U.S. presidents will be flying on a new set of wings, and they’ll be made by Boeing. The Air Force announced Wednesday that the Boeing 747-8 aircraft has been chosen as the upgrade for Air Force One from the current VC-25 model, which is also manufactured by Boeing, ABC’s STEPHANIE EBBS reports. “The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest.” http://abcn.ws/1HffgkM

SENATOR TO AG NOMINEE LORETTA LYNCH: ‘YOU’RE NOT ERIC HOLDER, ARE YOU?’ That question, posed to Loretta Lynch nearly two hours into her confirmation hearing to be the next attorney general, seemed to encapsulate what every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee was likely thinking. “No, I’m not,” Lynch assured Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, with a wry smile. “I will be myself. I will be Loretta Lynch [if confirmed.]” Some of the most contentious moments of the hearing focused on whether Lynch believed undocumented immigrants inside the United States have a right to work. Lynch at first didn’t offer a clear response, but by the end of the hearing she insisted: “There is no right to work for an undocumented immigrant.” According to ABC’s MIKE LEVINE, over and over, Lynch vowed to be an “independent and objective” attorney general, pointing to her long record as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. And, she pledged, when she and lawmakers inevitably disagree on an issue, she will hear their concerns and “be open to discussion.” http://abcn.ws/1yP6Tqg

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@DavidMDrucker: Repubs optimistic they can beat Hillary Clinton. Optimism real, but what else R they going to say? Please fund my losing campaign?

‏@politicoalex: Some of the threats more serious than others, but it shows that divisions in GOP still deep at ’16 doorstep http://politi.co/1zg8YKR 

@mlcalderone: US now classifying how money is spent in Afghanistan: http://nyti.ms/1yDgMT5 

@llerer: former Romney backer on his latest rebrand: “I don’t want him to be like Brett Farve.” http://ow.ly/I91PP 

@Alex_Roarty: Nobody is talking about challenging John Boozman. But he’s dillegently preparing for re-election anyway. http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/meet-the-gop-s-doomsday-preppers-20150128 …

Farewell Ceremony Held for Resigning Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is still on the job until his successor — Ash Carter — is confirmed by the Senate, but on Wednesday the military held a farewell ceremony for the resigning secretary.

The event, held at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, including a marching honor guard and the Marine Band. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey all attended and spoke about Hagel’s commitment to service. Obama and Biden also shared stories of their time spent with Hagel in the Senate.

The president thanked Hagel for his “guiding hand” and said that because of him “this institution is better positioned for the future.”

“We have a lot of obligations as a country,” Vice President Biden said during his remarks. “We only have one truly sacred obligation…to equip those who we sent to war and care for them and their families while and when they come home from war.”

“No one has been more committed to fulfilling that obligation than you,” Biden told the secretary of defense.

Hagel also gave what was billed as a farewell address. Among the points Hagel made in the speech was the need to hold those who serve in the U.S. military to high standards, the ability of the U.S. to self-correct from mistakes and the acknowledgement that the U.S. does make mistakes. Hagel also called for the wise use of America’s power, praising the “courage and dignity of America’s servicemen and women all over the world.”

“With all the world’s travails and problems,” Hagel said, “it is still a hopeful world. This, I believe.”

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Civilian Army Contractor Charged in Bribery Case

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

VladimirCetinski/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A U.S. Army civilian contractor was charged on Wednesday with soliciting bribes from executives bidding on a contract that he managed out of the Pentagon.

James Glenn Warner, 44, allegedly made arrangements to meet with two executives of a Virginia-based company which held a five-year contract with the U.S. Army worth up to $120 million. During the meeting, the FBI claims that Warner had the two executives from the company communicate by typing into his cell phone, then later passed a menu to the executives containing a piece of paper with outlines soliciting a bribe and extortion.

Specifically, Warner allegedly suggested that if the company paid $500,000 it would secure a contract renewal with the Army, even suggesting that damaging information about the company would be destroyed.

The FBI says that the executives declined the offer, reported the conduct and cooperated with law enforcement agents. At the direction of law enforcement, a company executive met with Warner four subsequent times, paying him a total of $50,000 cash bribes.

If convicted, Warner faces up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1.5 million.

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Why Mitt Romney May Have A Mansion Problem (Again)

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) — Mitt Romney’s lavish homes, especially his one in La Jolla, California, were steady targets of Democratic criticism during the 2012 presidential campaign.

And as Romney now appears to be edging towards a third presidential bid, he’s reportedly considering selling the beachfront mansion, which he’s currently in the process of renovating.

An aide would not comment on Romney’s real estate plans, but did send a statement dinging potential Democratic candidate and, if she runs, likely front-runner Hillary Clinton: “It’s going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney’s wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million-dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

On a recent weekend, ABC News caught Romney and his wife Ann inspecting the house’s construction site, walking through the framework of the second floor before descending a ladder to get down to the first.

Romney had been in town giving a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, held on nearby Coronado Island.

The 2012 Romney camp also had to answer Democratic attacks on the trappings of the former Massachusetts governor’s personal fortune, which they painted as an indication that he couldn’t relate to average Americans — especially one particular element of the La Jolla renovation, a “car elevator” that would be used to store multiple vehicles in tight spaces.

“While Governor Romney has been quite specific about putting the finishing touches on his car elevator in La Jolla, he has hid many of his domestic and foreign policy plans under lock and key,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told reporters at the time.

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Democrats Propose Legislation to Consolidate Food Safety into Single Agency

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — A pair of Democrats in Congress proposed legislation on Wednesday that would consolidate 15 different agencies currently in charge of food safety oversight into one independent food safety agency.

“The fragmented nature of our food safety system has left us more vulnerable to the risk of foodborne illness,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. The proposed legislation “would transfer and consolidate food safety authorities for inspections, enforcement, labeling and research into a single food safety agency.” The two Democrats also note that a single food safety agency could “allow us to prioritize system-wide food safety goals and targets.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., added that the fact that the food safety system is “hopelessly fragmented and outdated” means that “lives are unnecessarily put at risk.”

Co-sponsors for the bill include Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

The proposal would additionally provide authority to require the recall of unsafe food, require risk assessments and preventive control plans to minimize adulteration of food products, strengthen contaminant performance standards, improve the inspection of foreign food and require full traceability to identify the sources of outbreaks.

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White House Declines Comment on Michelle Obama’s Decision Not to Wear Headscarf in Saudi Arabia

Posted on: January 28th, 2015 by ABC News No Comments

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The White House on Wednesday declined to say whether first lady Michelle Obama’s decision not to wear a headscarf while in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was intended to be a political statement.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters that “the attire the first lady wore on this trip was consistent with what first ladies in the past have worn,” naming Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as examples.

Schultz responded to a question regarding a tweet from Sen. Ted Cruz which congratulated the first lady for “standing up for women,” saying only that Michelle Obama “felt like she was warmly welcomed by the King” and “very much enjoyed her visit to both India and Saudi Arabia.”

 

Kudos to @FLOTUS for standing up for women & refusing to wear Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia. Nicely done http://t.co/TlSw4Qc9KQ

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 28, 2015

 

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