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Some local support for Jerusalem step, but violence feared

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 6:19 PM


            Palestinian protestors chant slogans as they wave their national flags and pictures of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat during a protest at the main Square in Gaza City, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Defying worldwide warnings, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke with decades of U.S. and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.(AP Photo/Adel Hana)
            Adel Hana
Palestinian protestors chant slogans as they wave their national flags and pictures of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat during a protest at the main Square in Gaza City, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Defying worldwide warnings, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke with decades of U.S. and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.(AP Photo/Adel Hana)(Adel Hana)

President Donald Trump’s move to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there was not completely unexpected but will likely fuel more violence in the region, local residents whose loyalties lie on both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict said Wednesday.

“It’s a cosmetic decision,” said Kindy Ghussin, a Muslim who grew up in Jerusalem and now serves on the board of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton. “The system is already broken… the system is discriminatory toward Muslims and Christians. It doesn’t do anything for peace except hacking it with a machete.”

Trump’s announcement broke with decades of U.S. and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

RELATED: Why is Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

Despite urgent appeals from Arab and European leaders and the risk of anti-American protests and violence, Trump declared that he was ending an approach that for decades has failed to advance the prospects for peace. He also for the first time personally endorsed the concept of a “two-state solution” for Israel and the Palestinians, provided both sides agree to it.

The announcement is provocative, but not new politically, because Congress voted to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1995, said Marshall Weiss, editor of The Dayton Jewish Observer.

The “Jerusalem Embassy Act,” formally recognized the city as the nation’s capital and called for the U.S. Embassy to be moved there by 1999. But lawmakers, recognizing the potential for volatility over such a move, created a waiver option.

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all postponed the embassy move every six months for each of the 22 years since the law was enacted.

“Every candidate has said they are going to do it,” Weiss said. “No one has ever acted on it.”

Trump declined to sign the waiver by the deadline earlier this week and is now directing his administration to begin preparations for the embassy move.

In announcing his decision Wednesday, he said this “new approach” in no way signals a departure from the U.S.’s commitment to peace in the region.

“After more than two decades, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement,” he said. “This is nothing more or less than the recognition of reality.”

RELATED: For Tillerson, a lonely job defending Trump’s Jerusalem move Trump maintained that his decision would not compromise the city’s geographic and political borders, which will still be determined by Israel and the Palestinians.

Ahead of Trump’s speech, Arab and Muslim leaders spoke about the potential for violence. In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags. They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as their “eternal capital” — language that Israelis similarly use for their nation.

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. It’s also home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites. Perceived threats to Muslim claims to the city in the past has triggered protests in the Holy Land and beyond.

Pope Francis in his weekly address said the status quo should be maintained at religious sites, which Trump echoed in his speech.

A University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll conducted in November found that Americans disagreed with the idea of moving the embassy to Jerusalem immediately by a 2-to-1 margin.

“It’s an emotional issue. The Arab world is very angry about this,” Weiss said. “Right now the peace process is all but dead.”

Ghussin said he’s concerned for the safety of people of all faiths who live in Jerusalem.

“It’s unanimous among the Muslim community that this is an unfair community,” he said. Trump’s decision just confirms Palestinian views that, “U.S. policy is biased toward Israel,” he said.

The Jewish Federations of North America released a statement welcoming the decision. “We also welcome the affirmation of a two-state future negotiated between the parties in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side with secure and recognized borders,” the statement by Board Chair Richard Sandler said.

The Anti-Defamation League also put out a statement supporting the recognition of Jerusalem.

Anita Gray, regional director for the ADL in Cleveland, said moving the embassy and future steps toward a two-state solution need to be handled in a thoughtful manner and in consultation with regional leaders so as to reduce tensions.

“There’s never any justification for violence and terrorism,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Going through FBI texts, Republicans discover five missing months

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 11:30 PM

Already raising questions about possible investigatory bias inside the FBI, Republicans in Congress are now demanding more answers about how five months of text messages between two senior FBI employees on the Hillary Clinton email probe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, were not archived and properly retained by the bureau.

“The loss of records from this period is concerning because it is apparent from other records that Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page communicated frequently about the investigation,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in a letter to the FBI Director.

The FBI says the texts weren’t kept because of a misconfiguration of software upgrades on cell phones issued to employees.

That explanation fell flat on Capitol Hill.

“This is a “my dog ate my homework” level excuse,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). “Americans deserve to know if there was rampant anti-Trump bias at the FBI, and certainly if there was an effort to cover it up.”

The review of how the FBI handled the Clinton email case has gone hand in hand with assertions by Republicans that officials inside the FBI were biased in favor of Clinton, and biased against President Donald Trump, saying that may have bled into the subsequent investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a joint statement, three House GOP lawmakers said the details of newly revealed texts were “extremely troubling,” and showed bias involved in the investigation.

“The omission of text messages between December 2016 and May 2017, a critical gap encompassing the FBI’s Russia investigation, is equally concerning, ” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

The texts between Strzok and Page, would have covered a period during the Trump transition, running up to the time that Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation began.

Few specifics were released from the latest batch of FBI texts to detail what exactly the Republicans had found, as GOP lawmakers instead focused on the overall situation – for example, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said the texts he saw “revealed manifest bias among top FBI officials.”

The discovery of the missing texts swiftly brought back memories for Republicans of how thousands of emails went missing of Lois Lerner, a top Internal Revenue Service officials involved in a controversy about bias against more conservative groups seeking non-profit status.

Strzok and Page are important figures for two reasons – they were both part of the Clinton email investigation, and then had roles in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Two were found to be having an affair; Strzok, a senior counterintelligence official, was reassigned from the Mueller probe after the discovery of the text messages between the two.

President Trump signs bill ending government shutdown

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 12:16 PM
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 9:02 PM

What You Need to Know: Government Shutdown

A Senate standoff that partially shuttered the federal government for nearly three days ended Monday when Senate Democrats agreed to support a bill to re-open the federal government through Feb. 8.

Sen. Sherrod Brown joined 31 Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine in backing the spending bill, which they did under the condition that the GOP permit debate on a bill to provide protection for the children of undocumented immigrants, a program known as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA.

The final vote to move forward was 81-18. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also backed the measure. The House passed the bill later Monday on a 266-150 vote.

President Donald Trump signed the bill just before 9 p.m. Monday.

WATCH LIVE: Senate votes on shutdown

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D–N.Y., announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor shortly before a scheduled vote on a bill to keep the government open 17 days. The bill would also extend for six years a popular program that provides billions of federal dollars to the states to pay for the health care costs of low-income children.

"We expect that a bipartisan bill on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up–or–down vote on the floor," Schumer said.

Earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R–Ky., pledged to have the Senate will take up immigration after the government re-opens. In a floor speech Monday morning, McConnell promised “an amendment process that is fair to all sides.”

“This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset,” McConnell said.

Said President Trump in a statement: "I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children."

In a separate e-mail to supporters, he exulted: "Democrats CAVED — because of you ... We can’t let them get away with it. We will never forget the names of EVERY single liberal obstructionist responsible for this disgusting shut down, and we will work to FIRE them come November."

However, even if the Senate does ultimately vote on a bill on DACA, it's unclear whether the House will follow suit.

Not a big impact in D.C.

Still, the spending agreement cut off what had been an inconvenient but not overly disruptive morning on Capitol Hill — the first regular work day since the government closed at midnight Friday. While some Capitol staff had been furloughed because of the partial shutdown, Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, kept their staffs at full capacity.

Some of the Capitol’s restaurants and entrances were closed. A popular coffee place in a Senate office building couldn’t serve sandwiches after 1:30; it had run out of bread because of the flood of customers. Some federal workers who had driven into D.C. Monday morning to get furlough notices returned home only to find that the government was to reopen. In all, it was anticlimactic.

LATEST: Dems align on plan to fund government, end shutdown

But Republicans and Democrats seemed to disagree on the takeaway. Brown and others said they were hopeful that the agreement would be the beginning of a new era of bipartisan compromise. Republicans, meanwhile, argued that Democrats learned the hard way what congressional Republicans learned in 1995 and 2013: that it is difficult to prevail in a partial shutdown against a White House that will not budge. 

In 2013, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanded that the price for keeping the federal government open was for President Barack Obama to scrap his signature 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare. Obama held firm and the congressional Republicans collapsed in acrimony. Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan later acknowledged that the plan had not worked.

“I think if we’ve learned anything during this process it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something that the American people didn’t understand and wouldn’t have understood in the future,” McConnell said.

Portman echoed those comments. “It was wrong of Democrats to vote against continuing the operations of the government for something unrelated,” he said.

But Democrats including Brown seemed heartened that the agreement would mean not only fewer short-term spending bills, but possible compromises on pensions and other issues.

Their optimism appeared to carry to the Senate floor, where Republicans and Democrats chatted amiably with one another before the vote.

An unusual scenario

 Sen. Dick Durbin, D–Ill., said the dialogue over the weekend was something he’d not seen in years: “constructive bipartisan conversation and dialogue on the floor.”

Brown, meanwhile, said senators had “better conversations than we’ve seen in a long time, more substantive and more sort of directed.”

He said he had voted against the spending bill that failed, shutting down the government, largely because of his frustration with the temporary, month-to-month spending measures.

“You can’t run a government like that,” he said, saying the agreement reached Monday “fundamentally changes it.” If Republicans keep their part of the agreement and allow a debate on DACA, he said, it will be the first time they have allowed a Democratic amendment on the Senate floor since Trump has been president.

Although most analysts do not believe a brief shutdown will have any meaningful impact on the November elections, Senate Democrats such as Brown and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania were among those under intense pressure to keep the government open, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee airing ads online against they and other Democrats in states that Trump won in 2016.

Privately, Republicans in a closed door meeting after the vote wondered if they would need to end a rule that requires 60 votes to pass a spending bill in order to prevent further shutdowns.

If there was any agreement, it was this: Republicans and Democrats would have to rely on one another in order to forge compromise; they’d have to leave Trump out of it.

Filing taxes? Here’s how a government shutdown impacts the process

 

Congress ends government shutdown, as Senate agrees to immigration debate

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 1:11 PM

Ending a three day stalemate that resulted in a federal government shutdown, Democrats on Monday dropped their filibuster of a temporary spending bill in the Senate, allowing the Congress to swiftly approve a resumption of government funding, which will put hundreds of thousands of federal workers back on the job immediately.

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses,” President Donald Trump said in a written statement issued by the White House, as Republicans said Democrats had folded under pressure.

The Senate voted 81-18 to re-open the government. The House followed soon after, voting 266-150 in favor of the plan.

The deal reached on Monday between the two parties not only allows government funding to resume, but will re-start negotiations on major budget issues, as well as the question of what should be done with illegal immigrant “Dreamers” in the United States.

“We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country,” the President said, as he met separately with Senators of each party on the matter.

When asked if they had been on the short end of the shutdown fight, Democrats emphasized the deal on immigration legislation, which will allow a Senate debate if there is no negotiated deal by February 8.

“What other choice did we have?” said Sen. Bill Nelson (R-FL) to reporters. “Otherwise, to go in gridlock and shutdown for weeks? I mean, that’s not acceptable.”

Lawmakers also approved language that will insure federal workers and members of the military will be paid, despite the funding lapse of the last three days.

While this agreement ended the shutdown, it didn’t solve the underlying problems which contributed to the high stakes political showdown.

Both parties must still work out a deal on how much to spend on the federal government operations this year – President Trump wants a big increase in military spending, while Democrats want extra money for domestic programs.

And then, there is immigration, which has bedeviled the Congress for years, and could again, as lawmakers try to work out a deal with something for both sides.

“There’s a symmetric deal to be done here on these DACA young people,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who joined a small group of other GOP Senators in meeting with the President this afternoon on immigration.

Perdue says the deal is simple – Democrats get protections for illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” while Republicans would get provisions “to provide border security, end chain migration issues, and end the diversity visa lottery.”

The White House emphasized that as well.

But to get something into law, lawmakers will need some help from the President.

“What has been difficult is dealing with the White House, and not knowing where the President is,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as Republicans have complained publicly about conflicting signals on immigration from Mr. Trump.

“Congress should act responsibly to allow these young people to stay,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said of the “Dreamers.”

Schumer’s ‘cave’? Shutdown deal puts spotlight on Dem leader

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 4:17 PM
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 4:36 PM


            Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks at a news conference about the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 20, 2018. Congress appeared to make little headway early Sunday toward ending a two-day-old government shutdown, trading blame as lawmakers reconvened for another rare weekend session. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
            ERIN SCHAFF
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks at a news conference about the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 20, 2018. Congress appeared to make little headway early Sunday toward ending a two-day-old government shutdown, trading blame as lawmakers reconvened for another rare weekend session. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)(ERIN SCHAFF)

Republicans tried to make Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer the face of the government shutdown. Now, he’s becoming the face of the Democratic retreat.

For two days, Schumer, perhaps the most powerful Democrat in Washington, succeeded in keeping his party unified in a bid to use the government funding fight to push for protections for some 700,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. But as the shutdown moved into its third day, the New York Democrat and his party buckled as several Democrats backed a deal to end the shutdown in exchange for a Republican pledge to address the immigration debate in the near future.

Schumer quickly became a punching bag for the right and left.

“It’s official: Chuck Schumer is the worst negotiator in Washington — even worse than Trump,” said Murshed Zaheed, political director for the liberal group CREDO.

“Schumer caved,” tweeted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ally to President Donald Trump. He added, “Lessons learned — Schumer burned.”

Schumer had little margin for error in this first major test of his muscle and maneuvering as leader.

The pragmatist was balancing the demands of a liberal base eager for a fight with the president and the political realities of red-state senators anxious about their re-election prospects this fall.

As liberals embraced the fight, some vulnerable senators met with Schumer on Sunday morning and urged a compromise to end the shutdown.

“The question is, how do we get out of here in a way that reflects what the majority of the body wants to do,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who is among the Democrats on the ballot in November. She added: “It is critically important that we get this done today.”

The Senate voted Monday to advance a bill that would extend government funding through Feb. 8. In a bid to win over a few Democratic holdouts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also pledged to take up legislation on immigration and other top Democratic priorities if they weren’t already addressed by the time that spending bill would expire.

McConnell’s pledge was enough to sway the handful of Democrats he needed to pass the spending bill.

Democratic aides said that while Schumer, who spent the weekend calling members on his flip phone, initially appeared to be holding the party together, the desire to end the shutdown won out.

Liberal leaders across the country hosted a conference call before Monday’s vote to encourage Schumer and other Democrats to oppose any deal that excludes protections for the young immigrants.

“To anyone considering such a move, let me be clear: Promises won’t protect anyone from deportation,” said Greisa Martinez Rosas, a so-called “Dreamer” and the advocacy director for the liberal group United We Dream. “Delay means deportation for us.”

Despite controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, Republicans pinned the blame for the shutdown squarely on Schumer, accusing him of being captive to liberals and advocacy groups which opposed any spending package that didn’t result in a solution for the young immigrants. The White House and GOP officials branded the funding gap the “Schumer Shutdown,” spreading the phrase as a hashtag on social media.

Immigration advocates hoped Schumer would see that as badge of honor, but there was anxiety about his resolve.

“He went to the mats,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice. “He had the backbone to lead his caucus into a high-stakes, high risk battle. It thrilled progressives.”

Should Democrats blink first, he predicted, “The era of good feeling quickly will be replaced by anger and disappointment.”

Schumer isn’t the most natural fit for the role of champion of the left.

The energetic, four-term senator is viewed as more of a pragmatist than an ideologue. He has long faced skepticism from some liberals, thanks, in part, to his Wall Street ties. He frustrated many Democrats with his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal championed by President Barack Obama.

In 2013, Schumer was part of a bipartisan group of senators who worked on a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s fractured immigration laws. The package, which would have created a pathway to citizenship for millions of people in the U.S. illegally, was narrowly approved in the Senate but never taken up by the House

Just last month, immigration advocates, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, were furious with Schumer and Democratic leaders for not forcing a fight over the young immigrants. Democratic aides said despite the pressure from some of his party’s most energized forces, Schumer knew his caucus would not hold together at that point. Indeed, 18 Democratic senators ultimately voted for the short-term spending bill that kicked both the budget battle and the immigration fight into the new year.

The dynamic shifted in January. Democrats began the year hopeful that Trump, who has expressed sympathy for the young immigrants, would be willing to make a big deal. When those plans collapsed, Schumer found more enthusiasm even among moderate Democrat senators to withhold support for a spending bill that didn’t address immigration, even if it meant forcing a shutdown.

He was helped along, according to multiple Democratic aides, by revelations that Trump had told lawmakers during a private meeting that he wanted less immigration from “shithole” countries in Africa and more from places like Norway.

Schumer experienced a sea change after the remarks, according to one aide, who like other Democrats and Trump advisers, insisted on anonymity in order to describe private deliberations.

Some liberals fear the sea change is over.

“Today’s cave by Senate Democrats — led by weak-kneed, right-of-center Democrats — is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “These weak Democrats hurt the party’s brand for everyone and make it harder to elect Democrats everywhere in 2018.”