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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.

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President Trump’s choice for VA Secretary withdraws his nomination

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 8:28 AM

Facing numerous questions about his past work record, White House physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson withdrew from consideration for VA Secretary on Thursday morning, calling a variety of claims about him, ‘false and fabricated.’

“If they had any merit, I would not have been selected,” Jackson said in a written statement. “I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination,” Jackson said in a written statement.

Jackson’s nomination had been in peril all week, as allegations piled up against him, and his confirmation hearing on Wednesday had been postponed indefinitely.

The move came after President Trump had openly suggested earlier in the week that Jackson did not have to pursue the post.

“I even told him a day or two ago – I saw where this was going,” the President said in a telephone interview on “Fox and Friends.”

Even before questions were raised about incidents during his time as the White House physician, there were GOP Senators who were not pleased about the President’s choice for VA Secretary, wondering aloud vetting procedures at the White House.

“I don’t know whether that process is being short circuited now,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

GOP lawmakers quickly said the President needed to find a VA nominee who was familiar with the troubles confronting the massive federal agency.

“The next VA Secretary must have the experience and commitment needed to continue that progress,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “We owe it to those who have served our country.”

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Trump’s personal lawyer to take the Fifth in Stormy Daniels case

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 7:32 PM

Over two weeks after being the subject of an FBI raid, President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer filed notice in a California federal court on Wednesday that he would exercise his right against self-incrimination, and refuse to answer questions about a lawsuit linked to a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who has claimed she had a past affair with Mr. Trump.

“Based upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my 5th amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Cohen said in a court declaration.

The legal battle centers on the $130,000 payment – which Daniels said amounted to ‘hush money’ – to keep her quiet before the 2016 election, money which Cohen has publicly acknowledged that he paid.

In his court filing on Wednesday, Cohen made clear “the FBI seized various electronic devices and documents in my possession, which contain information relating to the $130,000 payment.”



Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, immediately seized upon the decision by Cohen, labeling it a ‘stunning development.’

Meanwhile, the President seemed to be ready to personally get involved in Cohen’s legal battle over the evidence seized in the FBI raids, which involved information and electronic devices in his home, office and hotel room in New York.

In a letter sent to Federal Judge Kimba Wood in New York, lawyers for Mr. Trump wrote, “our client will make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf.”

It’s not clear what documents the government has seized from Cohen which would involve the President, what subjects they might cover, and how it is related to any investigation of Cohen.

Judge Wood set a Thursday midday hearing to get an update from the FBI on what exactly was seized in the April 9 raids, and what has been duplicated and shared with Cohen and his lawyers.

For now, those documents are in the hands of a special FBI team, which is not linked to the investigation of Cohen; the judge has suggested she might appoint a “special master” to oversee the handling of that evidence.

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Without mentioning Awan, House panel takes first steps to respond to IT case

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 1:05 PM

With few answers yet as to why a group of IT aides were fired by House Democratic lawmakers in 2017, a U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a series of plans designed to tighten internal procedures for internet technology workers who have ‘privileged access’ to the House internet network, focusing on those who work for multiple members of Congress.

“It’s important that we actually get this right,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who led a task force that looked at how to more closely monitor part-time workers known on Capitol Hill “shared employees.”

Under the plan, House officials would get 30 days to report back on how they would implement the changes, which Davis said would include ‘a much needed background check system.’

“It will strengthen the regulations associated with individuals known as ‘shared employees,’ who are employed by three or more offices,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the Chairman of the House Administration Committee.

During the committee’s meeting on Wednesday, there was never a mention of the name of Imran Awan, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has become the focus of press allegations that he – and his relatives – may have compromised information on the House computer system, while working for several dozen House Democratic offices over a number of years.

No official explanation has been given as yet – by lawmakers or House officials – as to why Awan, his wife, and a handful of their relatives were suddenly terminated, and while no charges have been filed, it was clear from the proposed policy changes advanced on Wednesday that lawmakers believe tighter controls are needed for the future.

The new proposals for U.S. House employees would include:

+ A requirement for background checks “as a condition of privileged access” to the network not only for IT workers, but also for other ‘shared employees’ who do budget, payroll or other financial work for a lawmaker.

+ Setting up a task force to routinely review polices related to IT workers employed by multiple members of Congress.

+ Develop a new employee ID badge which clearly identifies ‘shared employees’ who are doing work on Capitol Hill.

+ Make it easier to block access for those workers – not only to the Congressional IT network – but also limit physical access for them if there are issues with the employees.

+ Not allow shared employees to also be engaged in an outside business activity which sells/leases/provides goods or services to any House office.

The changes were approved with little debate in an eleven minute meeting of the House Administration Committee.  There were no direct references made to the Awan investigation, and no hints at any further developments in the probe of why Awan, his wife, and relatives were fired in February and March of 2017.

As of now, no charges have been filed for any wrongdoing involving the House IT system, though Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, face federal bank fraud charges involving a home equity loan.

A federal court hearing on the next step in that fraud case has been postponed repeatedly, and is next scheduled for May 4.

U.S. Capitol Police have refused to make any detailed comments on the investigation into the IT matter.

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U.S. Supreme Court takes up Trump travel order 3.0

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 3:04 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his “Muslim ban.”

Before the Court is the third version of the Trump travel order, which began just a week into his Presidency, as an effort to stop travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

After the first two versions were blocked by the courts – this third one would limit visits to the United States by people from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, and slow down the number of refugees accepted into the U.S.

“As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said as he issued the third version of the travel order in September of 2017.

Lower courts have ruled against the Trump plan.




The travel order is being challenged by the state of Hawaii, which has tried to use the President’s past statements and tweets about the threat of Islamic terrorism against the travel order, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect while the case was being litigated.

“The arguments against the travel ban come from every corner of our country,” says Neal Katyal, who will carry Hawaii’s case before the Justices.

“It comes down to who we are as a nation,” Katyal wrote.

Interest in the case has been strong, as the line for public seats began forming on Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

The arguments on the Trump travel order come as lower courts are still duking it out over efforts by the President to terminate the DACA program from the Obama Administration – that question is expected to reach the Justices in coming months.

On Tuesday evening, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. became the third to block the President’s effort to end DACA, the program which allows younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to temporarily stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation proceedings.

“DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” wrote Judge John Bates, though he gave the feds 90 days to better explain the decision.

As with the Trump travel order, the President’s effort on DACA could be on the docket next term for the Justices.

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