Posts Tagged ‘Bob Casey’

Trump calls Maxine Waters ‘new star’ of Dems, insults her ‘low IQ’

August 3, 2018

President Trump dubbed Rep. Maxine Waters the “new star” of the Democratic party on Thursday — and then once again ripped her for having a “very low IQ.”

The commander-in-chief delivered his verbal jab during a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for GOP Senate candidate Lou Barletta.

“You know who the new star [of the Democratic party] is?” Trump asked. “Maxine Waters!”


Democrats turn on Al Franken

December 6, 2017
By Carter Sherman Dec 6, 2017
 Image result for al franken, photos

Six female Democratic senators called Wednesday for Sen. Al Franken’s resignation, just hours after Politico published a report detailing how Franken tried to forcibly kiss a former Democratic congressional aide.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and Washington Sen. Patty Murray all called for Franken to resign.

Gillibrand, the first Senate Democrat to call for Franken’s resignation, wrote in a Facebook post that she was “shocked and disappointed” to have learned of his behavior, which include multiple allegations of groping and forcible kissing.

But, she wrote, “While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

McCaskill was more direct: “Al Franken should resign,” she tweeted.

Franken denied the aide’s accusation Wednesday, telling Politico, “This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

The aide is the seventh woman to accuse Franken of groping or forcible kissing. Radio news host Leeann Tweeden became the first woman to come forward in November, when she wrote an essay detailing how Franken kissed her against her will during a 2006 United Services Organization tour and published a photo of Franken groping her as she slept.

In a statement to VICE News at the time, Franken said, “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, suddenly retired Tuesday following the revelation last week that he’d settled a 2015 wrongful termination complaint by a former staffer. The staffer said she was fired after she refused to “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside. I’ve struggled with this decision because he’s been a good Senator and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women. (thread)

Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down.



Eight Democratic senators call on Al Franken to resign after latest sexual misconduct allegation

  • Eight Democratic senators are urging Sen. Al Franken to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations.
  • The Minnesota Democrat vehemently denies the latest accusation against him — by a woman who says he tried to forcibly kiss her in 2006.
  • A Senate ethics investigation into Franken’s behavior is already taking place.

Senator Al Franken talks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017.

Four Democratic senators call for Sen. Al Franken to resign  

Eight Democratic senators urged Sen. Al Franken to resign Wednesday following the latest sexual misconduct allegation against him.

A former Democratic congressional aide is accusing the Minnesota Democrat of forcibly trying to kiss her 11 years ago, Politico reported Wednesday, adding to a string of allegations against him.

In a statement before the calls for his resignation started, Franken denied the latest accusation against him. He had no immediate comment following the calls for him to step down.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., listens during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on several nominees on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017.

Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., listens during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on several nominees on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017.

In statements Wednesday, eight of Franken’s Democratic colleagues pushed for him to step down. Among them was Patty Murray of Washington, the third-ranking Senate Democrat and the highest ranking woman. Here are the Democrats, mostly women, who have called for him to step down:

In separate statements, the senators used words like “egregious” and “unacceptable” to describe Franken’s behavior.

The unidentifed former aide who spoke to Politico said the incident took place after a taping of Franken’s radio show, before he was a senator.

“‘It’s my right as an entertainer,'” the woman says Franken told her after she avoided his kiss.

In response to the latest allegation, Franken said: “This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

Franken is among multiple members of Congress who have faced harassment accusations recently. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., stepped down Tuesday after more than 50 years in Congress following former staffers’ allegations of misconduct.

The push for Franken’s resignation also comes as ex-judge Roy Moore runs for Senate in Alabama amid allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s decades ago.

Time magazine on Wednesday named “The Silence Breakers” — those who have come forward with their stories about being victims of pervasive sexual harassment — as 2017 Person of the Year.

Read the full Politico story here.

Trump Promises Benefits for Millions of Americans From Tax Plan

October 12, 2017


By Toluse Olorunnipa and Jennifer Epstein

  • President warns Congress, ‘you better get it passed’
  • Pennsylvania’s Casey criticizes plan as giveaway to wealthy

President Donald Trump said his tax plan would simplify the tax code and save money for millions of U.S. businesses and families as he campaigns against criticism the proposal is a giveaway to the rich.

“All I can say is, ‘you better get it passed,’’’ Trump said of Congress on Wednesday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during a speech to a group of truck drivers. “They will, I know.”

Democrats say that the tax overhaul’s benefits are skewed to the wealthy, and an independent analysis found that the plan may actually raise taxes on nearly a third of middle-class families, criticism that is weighing on Trump’s plan. A study by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, which used details from previous Republican plans to fill in gaps in the president’s framework, found the Trump plan would raise taxes for almost 30 percent of filers making $50,000 to $150,000 per year.

The president pushed back in Harrisburg, arguing that the tax cuts for corporations that are a centerpiece of his plan ultimately would help middle-class families. Trump said as corporations get to keep more of their profits, they will use some of the added income to pay workers higher wages. That shift along with bringing offshore earnings back to the U.S. would translate into a $4,000 pay raise for an ordinary worker, Trump said.

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President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform during an event at the Harrisburg International Airport, Wednesday Oct. 11, 2017, in Middletown, Pa.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“We can breathe new life into struggling industries and forgotten towns,” Trump said.

Economists disagree on just how much individuals benefit from corporate tax breaks, but even Trump’s own economic advisers have said that the $4,000 benefit would only materialize over eight years. On an annual basis, it’s closer to $500.

Trump has repeatedly pitched the tax plan that he and congressional leaders released last month as a boon for middle-class families. But until now, he hasn’t offered many specific numbers to back that claim — and the plan itself contains too few details to determine its precise effects across individual income levels. In citing the $4,000 figure, the White House chose the low end of a range of estimates provided by Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, a senior White House official said.

Trump’s visit to Harrisburg continued his effort to drum up support for his tax proposal by putting pressure on vulnerable Democrats in the Senate.

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey is up for re-election in 2018, one of 10 Democrats running in states won by Trump. Trump has previously traveled to Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri to give speeches on the tax proposal, singling out Democrats who face tough re-election bids next year.

“Congressional Republicans are not pursuing tax reform, just a massive tax giveaway to the super-rich at the expense of the middle class,” Casey said in a statement issued almost as soon as Trump stopped speaking. “Eighty percent of the Republican tax plan goes to the top 1 percent by 2027 — that’s a bad deal for middle class families and workers.”

Trump’s tax proposal also faces some resistance from Republicans, including Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Trump has engaged in a public battle with Corker, attacking the two-term Senator over his height and his decision not to pursue re-election.

On Tuesday, Trump said he did not believe his feud with Corker would impact the tax debate.

“People want to see tax cuts, they want to see major reductions in their taxes, and they want to see tax reform — and that’s what we’re doing,’’ Trump told reporters at the White House. “And we’ll be adjusting a little bit over the next few weeks to make it even stronger.‘’

The president may try to reinforce his message during an interview with Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity that was also part of his Harrisburg schedule.

Trump assails Sen. Schumer for remarks on Comey — “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’ Then acts so indignant.”

May 10, 2017

FILE- In this May 3, 2017, file photo, FBI Director James Comey listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump has fired Comey. In a statement on Tuesday, May 9, Trump says Comey’s firing “will mark a new beginning” for the FBI. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The Latest on the firing of FBI Director James Comey (all times local):

12:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump is criticizing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for comments the New York Democrat made in response to the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Schumer said Tuesday evening that he told Trump in a phone conversation that “you are making a big mistake.” Schumer also questioned why the firing occurred on Tuesday and wondered whether investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia were “getting too close for the president.”

Trump fired back later on his Twitter account, saying: “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’ Then acts so indignant.”

Image result for comey, taking oath, photos

PHOTO: FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 3, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee


11:05 p.m.

FBI Director James Comey was speaking to agents at the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles when the news of his firing broke.

That’s according to a law enforcement official who was present at the time Tuesday. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

The official says television screens in the field office began flashing the news, and Comey initially chuckled. But he continued to speak to the agents, finishing his speech before heading into an office. He did not reappear in the main room.

Comey later left Los Angeles on a plane to return to Washington.

—By Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles


Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

11 p.m.

A former top Justice Department official whose criticism of FBI Director James Comey was used to support his ouster is calling the justification “a sham.”

President Donald Trump said he based Comey’s firing on a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that slammed Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe. Rosenstein cited former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer as saying he agreed it was inappropriate.

Ayer told The Associated Press he thinks the explanation for Comey’s firing is a “sham.” Trump had supported “the most incorrect things that Comey did,” such as speaking out about the closed probe and announcing it was being reopened just days before the election.

Ayer says Rosenstein “should realize that his correct assessment of those mistakes is now being used to justify firing for a very different reason.”


9:15 p.m.

Aides to President Donald Trump are defending his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, saying it was needed to restore confidence in the agency, not about any ongoing investigations.

Counsel to the president Kellyanne Conway says in an interview with CNN, “It’s not a cover-up,” and says it “had nothing to do with Russia.”

Conway says Trump took the recommendation of the attorney general’s office that it was time for “fresh leadership.” She adds, “This is what leaders do. They take decisive action.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says in an interview with Fox that Comey had lost the confidence of rank-and-file members of the FBI and members of Congress.


9:10 p.m.

Newly fired FBI director James Comey is about to leave Los Angeles on a plane to return to Washington.

Authorities say Comey’s motorcade left from a federal building and headed to Los Angeles International Airport. Comey appeared to step out of one of the cars and on to a small private plane at about 5:45 p.m. PDT Tuesday.

Comey had been scheduled to speak at an FBI recruiting event in Hollywood at about the same time, but was fired by President Donald Trump a few hours earlier.

Comey’s departure from the federal building fueled speculation that he might still appear at the event, but FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said he would not be there.

His motorcade instead headed in the opposite direction toward the airport, with several news helicopters hovered above as he crept along the freeway.


8 p.m.

The Senate Republican leading the investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign says he’s “troubled by the timing and reasoning” behind President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the Intelligence committee, said he found Comey to a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal “further confuses an already difficult investigation” by his panel.

Burr said Comey was the most forthcoming with information of any FBI director that Burr could recall.

The North Carolina senator called Comey’s firing “a loss for the bureau and the nation.”


7:35 p.m.

The head of a professional association of FBI agents says a change in leadership at the law enforcement agency should be handled carefully.

FBI Agents Association President Thomas O’Connor says the change should be made with an eye toward ensuring the agency can “continue to fulfill its responsibility to protect the American public from criminal and national security threats.”

He says agents want a voice in the selection process.

The organization says it appreciated Comey’s service and leadership. O’Connor says the fired FBI director “understood the centrality of the agent to the bureau’s mission” and knew agents risk their lives daily.

O’Connor says Comey ensured the FBI’s investigations were constitutional and that agents “performed their mission with integrity and professionalism.”


7:30 p.m.

A White House official says President Donald Trump’s former bodyguard and director of Oval Office operations hand-delivered the White House’s letter to the FBI terminating FBI director James Comey.

The White House official says Keith Schiller delivered the letters from the president and top Justice Department officials. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe Schiller’s activities.

Video of Schiller outside FBI headquarters was aired by CNN. Comey was traveling to an event in Los Angeles at the time.

Schiller is a former detective with the New York Police Department who worked for Trump’s security team for nearly two decades before joining the administration.

— Contributed by Ken Thomas.


7:25 p.m.

Republican John McCain says Congress must form a special committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

The Arizona senator said he has long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russian interference in the election and said Trump’s decision to remove Comey “only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”

McCain said he was disappointed in Trump’s decision, calling Comey a man of honor and integrity who led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said Comey’s dismissal “will raise questions” and said “it is essential that ongoing investigations are free of political interference until their completion.”

He said Trump must nominate a well-respected person to replace Comey.


7:25 p.m.

The top Democrat in the Senate says he told Donald Trump “you are making a big mistake” when the president called to inform him that he was firing FBI Director James Comey.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday night that he received a call from the president.

Schumer questioned why the firing occurred on Tuesday and wondered whether investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia were “getting too close to home for the president.”

He called on the deputy attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor.

Said Schumer: “This investigation must be run as far away as possible” from the president.


7:20 p.m.

The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee called President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey “shocking” and deeply troubling.

Sen. Mark Warner said it’s especially so because it comes during an active FBI investigation into possible improper contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

The Virginia Democrat is helping lead a Senate investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He says Comey’s firing comes after he dismissed acting Attorney General Sally Yates and nearly every U.S. attorney.

Warner said Trump’s actions “make it clear to me that a special counsel also must be appointed” to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. He said an independent investigation is the only way the American people will be able to trust the results of an investigation.


7:05 p.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says former Justice Department officials agree FBI Director James Comey mishandled the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Rosenstein says the FBI is “unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes” and promises not to repeat them. He made the comments in a memo titled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.”

Rosenstein says Comey has refused to acknowledge his errors and “cannot be expected to implement necessary corrective actions.”

President Donald Trump says he fired Comey Tuesday based in part on Rosenstein’s memo.


7:05 p.m.

More Democrats are renewing calls for a special prosecutor following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey amid a complex counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaigns’ possible ties with Russia.

Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey say the dismissal is reminiscent of the Watergate scandal and the national turmoil during that time.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings says Congress needs to have immediate emergency hearings. Cummings says Comey was the one independent person to investigate Trump and his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia.


7:05 p.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says FBI Director James Comey’s public announcement that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges over her emails was a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

Rosenstein says in a Tuesday memo that Comey was wrong to announce his own conclusions about “the nation’s most sensitive criminal investigation” without approval from Justice Department leaders.

He says federal prosecutors should have made a decision on whether to charge Clinton.

Comey has defended his announcement on reopening of the probe just before Election Day, saying “concealing” it from Congress would have been worse. But Rosenstein says that’s a loaded term and “silence is not concealment.”

He says federal agents have a policy of not speaking publicly.


7:05 p.m.

A former top aide to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign says President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is “related to Russia, not related to Clinton.”

Clinton’s spokesman during her 2016 presidential bid, Brian Fallon, said Tuesday that “the timing and manner of this firing suggests that it is the product of Donald Trump feeling the heat on the ongoing Russia investigation, and not a well-thought-out response to the inappropriate handling of the Clinton investigation.”

In announcing the firing, the White House circulated a memo written by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, criticizing Comey’s handling of an investigation into Clinton’s email practices.

Fallon said the administration is “falsely citing the very thing that propelled him to the presidency as a convenient excuse” for firing someone “conducting an aggressive investigation into his campaign’s connections to the Russian government.”


7 p.m.

Two Democratic senators are criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to fire the FBI director in the middle of an investigation into the president’s associates’ ties with Russia.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden says Trump’s decision is “outrageous.” Wyden says FBI Director James Comey should be immediately called to testify about the status of the Russia investigation.

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says the timing of Comey’s firing “raises massive questions.”

Both Wyden and Whitehouse are members of Senate committees that are doing their own investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.


6:50 p.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says FBI Director James Comey was wrong to announce his conclusion that the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information should be closed without criminal charges.

Rosenstein says in a memo that Comey usurped the authority of then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch by announcing his findings. Comey was fired Tuesday.

Rosenstein says Comey should have said the FBI had completed its investigation, then presented its findings to prosecutors.

Rosenstein says Comey instead held a news conference “to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.” Comey had said Clinton should not be charged but criticized her work habits.

Rosenstein says Comey “laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without trial.”


6:40 p.m.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley says dismissed FBI Director James Comey had lost the “public trust and confidence.”

President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey Tuesday. Grassley said Comey’s decisions on controversial matters “have prompted concern from across the political spectrum” and from career law enforcement experts.

Grassley criticized Comey’s investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email practices, saying the FBI was slow to answer questions from his committee.

Grassley said: “The effectiveness of the FBI depends upon the public trust and confidence. Unfortunately, this has clearly been lost.”


6:35 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says James Comey was fired from his post as FBI director because the law enforcement agency needs a “fresh start.”

In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump and released by the White House, Sessions says the FBI director must be someone who follows “faithfully the rules and principles” of the Justice Department. Sessions also says the individual must be someone who “sets the right example” for law enforcement officials and others in the department.

Session did not go into detail in the one-page letter dated Tuesday in which he recommended to Trump that Comey be removed as FBI director.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced Tuesday that Trump had fired Comey.

Spicer says the search for a new FBI director was beginning immediately.


6:30 p.m.

Democrats are insisting on an independent prosecutor to investigate possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia following FBI Director James Comey’s firing.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California tweets: “I’ve said it before and will again — we must have a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI’s Russia investigation. This cannot wait.”

Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said “our democracy is in danger,” and he pressed Speaker Paul Ryan to appoint a bipartisan commission to investigate the Trump-Russia relationship.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, stood on the Senate floor and said he would await word from the White House on whether the investigation will continue.

Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.


6:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump called at least two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee minutes before the White House announced the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California both said they received calls from Trump. Graham is heading the panel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Feinstein is the top Democrat on the committee.

Neither senator criticized the decision. Graham was supportive, saying that “given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.”

Feinstein said Trump told her the FBI needed a change, and that the next director “must be strong and independent.”


5:46 p.m.

President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, ousting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s election meddling.

In a letter to Comey, Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI. Comey has come under intense scrutiny in recent months for his role in an investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email practices, including a pair of letters he sent to Congress on the matter in the closing days of last year’s election.

Trump made no mention of Comey’s role in the Clinton investigation. But the president did assert that Comey informed him “on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.”

Trump Fires FBI Director Comey — “The timing of this firing is deeply troubling.”

May 10, 2017

Fox News

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

Reaction to President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey was split along partisan lines Tuesday, with Republicans claiming that Comey’s dismissal would mark a fresh start for the bureau, even as Democrats called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials.

Comey told lawmakers in March that the FBI was conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election campaign, an investigation that included possible links between members of the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he told Trump “you are making a big mistake” when the president called to inform Schumer that he was firing the FBI director.

“The first question the administration has to answer is, ‘Why now?’” Schumer told reporters. “Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?”

Schumer then called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor, saying “America depends on you to restore faith in our criminal justice system, which is going to be badly shattered after the administration’s actions today.”

Other Democrats attributed sinister motives to Comey’s firing, with two Senators, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, describing it in press statements as “Nixonian.” Another Democratic senator, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, said the firing “is disturbingly reminiscent of the Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate scandal and the national turmoil that it caused,” later adding “We are careening ever closer to a Constitutional crisis.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the firing “raises the ghosts of some of the worst Executive Branch abuses” and called for “an independent, bipartisan commission” to continue the Trump-Russia investigation.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. said that Comey “should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of the investigation into Russia and Trump associates at the time he was fired.”

However, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., told Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” that claims Comey was fired to blunt the Russia investigation were “patently absurd.”

“This is just one person. It’s the director,” Collins said. “The investigation is going forward, both at the FBI and in the Senate Intelligence Committee in a bipartisan way.”

The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” for Comey’s dismissal.

“In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee,” Burr said in a statement. “Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.”

Burr’s statement was echoed by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who said “the timing of this firing is deeply troubling.”

“Jim Comey is an honorable public servant, and in the midst of a crisis of public trust that goes well beyond who you voted for in the presidential election, the loss of an honorable public servant is a loss for the nation,” Sasse said. “As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee, I have reached out to the Deputy Attorney General for clarity on his rationale for recommending this action.”

Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. tweeted that he had “spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported Comey’s ouster, citing Comey’s actions during the 2016 election campaign: “Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acknowledged that the timing of Comey’s firing “will raise questions.”

“It is essential that ongoing investigations are fulsome and free of political interference until their completion,” Corker added, “and it is imperative that President Trump nominate a well-respected and qualified individual to lead the bureau at this critical time.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was “disappointed” in Trump’s decision to fire Comey, calling the dismissed director “a man of honor and integrity” who “has led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances.”

“I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” McCain added. “The president’s decision to remove the FBI Director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also weighed in, saying in a brief statement, “I have immense respect and admiration for Jim Comey. This is a tremendous loss for the FBI and the nation.”

Includes video:


F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.

But in his letter to Mr. Comey, released to reporters by the White House, the president betrayed his focus on the continuing inquiry into Russia and his aides.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday. White House officials refused to say anything more about the three occasions Mr. Trump cited.


The officials said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed for Mr. Comey’s dismissal. But many in Washington, including veteran F.B.I. officers, saw a carefully choreographed effort by the president to create a pretense for a takedown of the president’s F.B.I. tormentor.

Document: White House Announces Firing of James Comey

“I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in another letter that was released by the White House, “and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

Reaction in Washington was swift and fierce. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said the firing could make Americans suspect a cover-up. Mr. Trump lashed back later Tuesday night in a Twitter post: “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’ Then acts so indignant.”

Many Republicans assailed the president for making a rash decision that could have deep implications for their party. Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, said on Twitter that he now supports an independent commission to investigate the Russia links to Mr. Trump. He called Mr. Trump’s claim that Mr. Comey had cleared him three times “bizarre.”

“I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing,” Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said on Twitter. “I just can’t do it.”

In a sign of the F.B.I.’s intense interest in Mr. Trump’s advisers, a grand jury in Virginia issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to the former White House national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to an American official familiar with the case. Mr. Flynn is under investigation for his financial ties to Russia and Turkey. Grand jury subpoenas are a routine part of federal investigations and are not a sign that charges are imminent. It was not clear that the subpoenas, which were first reported by CNN, were related to Mr. Comey’s firing.

The dismissal ended the long-deteriorating relationship of Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, who repeatedly collided publicly and privately. For Mr. Trump, a president who puts a premium on loyalty, Mr. Comey represented an independent and unpredictable director with enormous power to disrupt his administration.


Read the rest:

Pre-Primary Stories Fly: Hillary Clinton Aides Kept a “Hit List” Of People That Crossed Her; Robert Gates Says Conduct of Obama White House “Offended” Her

January 13, 2014

During her 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s aides kept a meticulous “political hit list” containing the names of members of Congress who had “burned her” by endorsing Barack Obama, an upcoming book on Clinton’s political “rebirth” reveals.

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News

“We wanted to have a record of who endorsed us and who didn’t and of those who endorsed us, who went the extra mile and who was just kind of there,” a member of Clinton’s 2008 campaign team told Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the authors of “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton,” in an excerpt published by Politico. “And of those who didn’t endorse us, those who understandably didn’t endorse us because they are [Congressional Black Caucus] members or Illinois members. And then, of course, those who endorsed him but really should have been with her.”

The data “ensured that the acts of the sinners and saints would never be forgotten,” the authors wrote. “There was a special circle of Clinton hell reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post or written a recommendation to ice their kid’s application to an elite school.”

The list, kept on an Excel spreadsheet, included ratings for each member on a scale from 1 (“most helpful”) to 7 (“most treacherous”).

So just who were the “most treacherous”? According to the excerpt, Sens. John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller, Claire McCaskill, Bob Casey, Patrick Leahy the late Ted Kennedy, and Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Baron Hill and Rob Andrews each were assigned a rating of 7 for their public endorsements of Obama.

McCaskill’s endorsement, in particular, irked Clinton because the Missouri Democrat had already publicly dinged Bill Clinton. “He’s been a great leader,” McCaskill said on “Meet the Press” in 2006, “but I don’t want my daughter near him.” McCaskill later apologized, but in 2008 became the first female senator to endorse Obama.

Kennedy, though, “had slashed Hillary most cruelly of all, delivering a pivotal endorsement speech for Obama just before the Super Tuesday primaries that cast her as yesterday’s news and Obama as the rightful heir to Camelot.”

According to the book, Clinton aides would later joke among themselves about those they felt had betrayed them: “Bill Richardson: investigated; John Edwards: disgraced by scandal; Chris Dodd: stepped down; Ted Kennedy: dead.”

Read the rest:


Hillary Clinton (left) and Bob Gates are pictured. | AP Photo

Gates writes that Clinton opposed the Iraq surge because of her 2008 campaign. | AP Photo

By KATIE GLUECK | 1/7/14 5:37 PM EST Updated: 1/8/14 2:42 PM EST

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saw the Obama administration as deeply “controlling” on national security issues, Defense Secretary Bob Gates wrote in an essay published Tuesday and adapted from his forthcoming book.

“The controlling nature of the Obama White House, and its determination to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me,” Gates writes in the piece published in The Wall Street Journal.

His new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” is set for publication on Jan. 14.

“The President deeply appreciates Bob Gates’ service as Secretary of Defense, and his lifetime of service to our country,” a White House statement reads. It continues, “As has always been the case, the President welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies.”

(PHOTOS: Who’s talking about Hillary Clinton 2016?)

According to an early writeup of the book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, Gates at times writes reverently about Clinton, who is expected to decide later this year whether to pursue a presidential bid.

“I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” Gates wrote.

At another point, Gates writes that both Clinton and President Barack Obama opposed the troop surge in Iraq out of concerns that it would negatively affect their 2008 presidential candidacies.

“Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary,” writes Gates in his forthcoming memoir, according to the Woodward excerpt. “… The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

The White House took exception to Gates’ descriptions.

“It’s well-known that as a matter of principle and sound policy, President Obama opposed going to war in the first place, opposed the surge of forces, and then ended the war in Iraq as president,” a White House official wrote in an email. “Any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong.”

While as a senator Clinton voted for military action in Iraq in 2003, during the 2008 primary she took a more dovish approach amid fierce criticism of the war from the left.

A spokesman for Clinton would not respond to POLITICO’s requests for comment.

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Bangs: Hillary Clinton, pictured here with husband Bill at Bill De Blasio's inauguration as New York Mayor last week, is the subject of constant speculation over her political ambitions.
Bangs: Hillary Clinton, pictured here with husband Bill at Bill De Blasio’s inauguration as New York Mayor last week, is the subject of constant speculation over her political ambitions



*Frustration, anger, self righteousness, pain….

Rand Paul: ‘I would have relieved you of post’…

Hillary Clinton is pictured. | AP Photo

Clinton says the U.S. still has problems in areas like pay equity and work-family balance. | AP Photo

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Hillary Clinton staked out her Iraq policy in late 2006 not on a military calculation, but based on how she could aid her soon-to-come presidential campaign, according to Gates' memoir.
Hillary Clinton staked out her Iraq policy in late 2006 not on a military calculation, but based on how she could aid her soon-to-come presidential campaign, according to Robert Gates’ memoir

Iran could seize on new sanctions bill to drive wedge between Israel lobby, U.S. public

December 29, 2013

One big difference between looming clash and previous AIPAC-Administration showdowns: Americans couldn’t care less about AWACs – but are dead set against war with Iran.
By     |      Dec. 29, 2013

The Huffington Post headline “Saboteur Sen. Launching War Push” on December 19 and the enraged Jewish reactions to it escaped intense scrutiny because of end-of-the-year vacations and the media’s need to sum up 2013.   The incendiary headline, however, should serve as a shot across the bow, intended or not, about the malevolent maelstrom that could engulf the American Jewish establishment in the wake of its unequivocal and nearly unanimous support for new sanctions on Iran.

Under the headline, in the middle of the homepage of the most-widely read news site in the world, was a picture of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of the main sponsors of the proposed Nuclear Iran Prevention Bill 2013. He was speaking from a podium, behind a lectern on which the name and emblem of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC was boldly displayed.

The message couldn’t be clearer: Menendez was a warmonger. And the people backing him, inspiring him and/or pushing him belonged to AIPAC and the pro-Israel community.

Jewish reactions were fast and furious: David Harris of the American Jewish Committee was “appalled” by the “shameful attack” on Menendez. The Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman wrote in a letter to the editor published on the Huffington Post website that the photo of Menendez speaking at an AIPAC event “implies that he was trying to ‘sabotage’ the administration’s efforts on Iran for reasons related to Israel under pressure from American Jews. We are shocked that a version of the anti-Semitic theme that ‘Jews manipulate the U.S. Government’ was boldly featured on your site.”

Foxman also disputed the basic premise of the disputed headline:  “We and many in the U.S. and around the world believe that setting the table now for future sanctions against Iran that would kick in if diplomacy fails to achieve a nuclear accord will enhance the likelihood for reaching that agreement without the need for military action.”

This is not the view of the Administration, which has warned with varying degrees of insistence and alarm that the sanctions bill could derail nuclear talks with Iran and thus, inevitably, increase the chances of a military confrontation. American Jewish leaders privately  go so far as to suspect that the inspiration for the kind of incendiary headline that Huffington Post chose was the direct result of background briefings and prodding by Administration officials.

Whether it was or it wasn’t, it is the kind of insinuation that Jewish groups should be bracing for, many times over, as the battle over the sanctions bill is bound to escalate as soon as the 113th Congress reconvenes for its Second Session next week.  Given that all of the major Jewish groups – with the exception of J-Street –  have spoken out publicly and unequivocally in support of a position that is so staunchly rejected by the Administration, the stage is being set for a showdown that more than justifies comparisons to similar face-offs in the past, including the 1981 skirmish with the Reagan Administration over the sale of early-warning AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia and the 1991 clash with George H Bush over settlements and loan guarantees.

The pro- Israel lobby lost both of those campaigns, but those defeats didn’t kill it – they only made the lobby stronger. As JJ Goldberg recounts in his book “Jewish Power” the campaign against the AWACS sale galvanized the Jews, consolidated AIPAC’s standing in Washington and convinced the Reagan Administration that it was a force to be reckoned with and, if possible, enlisted on the Administration’s side. In 1992, the loan guarantees for Soviet immigrant absorption remained frozen until Yitzhak Rabin replaced Yitzhak Shamir as Israeli prime minister, but George Bush went on to lose the November elections, thus creating the unspoken myth that even a president could pay with his job if he tangled too strongly with those powerful Jews and their allies.

Win or lose, however, there is one stark difference between those two renowned altercations and the current situation vis-a-vis Iran: U.S. public opinion couldn’t care less about AWACS and loan guarantees, one way or another, but a military engagement with Iran is something that the American people worry about, and largely – and sometimes vehemently – oppose. A campaign in support of the Senate’s Iran sanctions bill could pit the Jewish establishment not only against the Administration, but also put it on a dangerous collision course with large segments of US public opinion, mostly on the left, and with the American media as well.

But even that altercation would pale in comparison to the unprecedented and untenable situation that the Jewish leadership might find itself in if the Administration loses the sanctions fight, despite a presidential veto, and if its worst case scenarios of  an Iranian walkout and an escalation in military tensions are borne out.

Supporters of sanctions, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish groups that support the current Senate bill, maintain that Iran has its back against a wall of economic hardships  created by the current sanctions and that the threat  of even more sanctions  would only increase Tehran’s willingness to make nuclear concessions.

There are those – including the editors of the Huffington Post, evidently – who view this line of reasoning as disingenuous and its proponents as seeking to lead the US to a military confrontation. But even if one ignores such skepticism, supporters of the sanctions bill cannot rule out the possibility that the Iranian regime will either feel compelled to break off talks because of internal pressure by Iranian hardliners, or might even view a new sanctions bill as a unique opportunity to drive a huge wedge between Israel and its lobby, on the one hand, and the Administration and large parts of the American public on the other.

After all, the Administration is already coming close to claiming that legislation of new sanctions, even if they are conditional and set to kick in only in the future, is tantamount to a violation of the November 24 interim nuclear accord signed in Geneva. Iran might very well decide to break off talks, to pin the blame on Congress and the Jews, to cite the Administration’s own statements as corroborating evidence and to leave the P5+1 countries, their politicians and their publics to bicker and recriminate among themselves.

Some people might compare this situation to the 2003 Iraq War, in which Israel and right-wing American Jews were also accused of pushing America to war. In that case, however, the war enjoyed sizeable public support, at least at the outset, Israel and organized Jewry played only a minor public role in prodding the Administration to act and the Administration itself had no history of suspicion and ill will with Israel or its supporters and no interest in pinning the blame on either.

Iran, it should be clear, is no Iraq, in any way, shape or form. Whatever one’s view of the Iranian talks and of the wisdom of new sanctions legislation, it would be foolhardy to ignore the precarious predicament that U.S. Jews may soon find themselves in – one in which headlines alluding to warmongering senators and their Jewish supporters will be much more the rule than the exception but may also be the least of Jewish worries.


Top Iranian official calls for direct talks with US amid fear nuclear deal will come apart

December 27, 2013
Mideast Iran US Nucle_Leff.jpg

Oct. 26, 2010 – FILE photo of worker riding a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. The top foreign adviser to Iran’s supreme leader on Friday called for separate talks directly with the US amid the multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. (AP)

TEHRAN, Iran –  The top foreign adviser to Iran’s supreme leader on Friday called for separate talks directly with the United States amid the multilateral negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The remarks Friday by Ali Akbar Velayati signaled a high-level endorsement of the policies of President Hassan Rouhani, who has  been sharply criticized by hardliners over the landmark nuclear deal that Iran reached with world powers last month and over other contacts with the U.S.

Velayati said Iran benefits by talking separately with each of the so-called “5+1” powers — the grouping of the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany, with which it negotiated the interim nuclear deal and with which it is still to work out a permanent accord. Each has separate interests, he said in comments on television that were also carried on the semi-official Mehr news agency.

“We aren’t on the right path if we don’t have one-on-one talks with the six countries,” he said. `We have to talks with the countries separately. … It would be wrong if we bring the countries into unity against us, since there are rifts among them over various international issues.”

Hard-liners have blasted the nuclear accord as a surrender to Western pressure and have criticized Rouhani over phone conversation he had with President Barack Obama in September when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his American counterpart. U.S. officials have also said Iran and the Americans met in secret for months ahead of the nuclear deal. Under the accord, reached in Geneva, Iran is to limit its uranium enrichment for six months in return for an easing of some sanctions, pending negotiation of a permanent deal.

Experts from Iran and the world powers will hold a new round of talks Monday in Geneva on implementing the interim accord, one of Iran’s senior negotiators, Abbas Araghchi, and Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge saying its program is only for peaceful purposes, including power generation and developing medical treatments.

Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said late Thursday that the country is building a new generation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment but they need further tests before they can be mass produced. His comments appeared aimed at countering hard-liner criticism by showing the nuclear program is moving ahead and has not been halted by the accord.

“The new generation of centrifuges is under development. But all tests should be carried on it before mass production,” Salehi said, according to state TV. He did not elaborate on how long that would take.

He also said Iran has a total of 19,000 centrifuges, though he did not say how many were operational. In August, Iran said it had 18,000 including some 1,000 advanced ones centrifuges. Iran previously gave the U.N. nuclear watchdog information on the new generation of machines, which are able to enrich uranium faster.

Under the Geneva deal, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to 5 percent and neutralize its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium.

Enriched uranium can be used to build a weapon if it is enriched more than 90 percent. At lower levels, it is used to power nuclear reactors.



Fox News is also reporting on Friday afternoon, December 27, 2013, that Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is now voicing very serious reservations about the deal on Iran’s nuclear program favored by the Obama Administration.


From Huffington Post earlier in the week:

WASHINGTON — As the United States finally puts a decade of war behind it, a group of senators, including 15 Democrats, is defying the White House and threatening to push the country into a fresh war with Iran.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is leading the charge to pass legislation in January that would impose tougher sanctions on Iran, despite dire warnings from the White House, Iranian leaders, 10 Democratic committee chairs and a host of liberal groups that such an effort could sink a delicate nuclear agreement already in place. Under that Nov. 24 deal, Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions for a period of six months.

The Senate bill, which has 19 Republican cosponsors, takes a hard line, levying new sanctions on Iran unless the country’s leaders agree to abandon all uranium enrichment — what some have called an “absurd” stance. In the past, both John Kerry, then a U.S. senator, and Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, have said that Iran has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said earlier this month that if the Senate moved forward with its bill, the current nuclear deal would be dead. A senior Obama administration official went further, telling The Huffington Post that Senate action makes it “far more likely that we’ll be left only with a military option” regarding Iran.

Here are the 15 Democratic senators willing to risk a war with Iran rather than let White House and Iranian leaders continue negotiations.

1. Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the bill’s sponsor

robert menendez

2. Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska)

mark begich

3. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.)

richard blumenthal

4. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)

cory booker

5. Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.)

ben cardin

6. Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.)

robert casey

7. Sen. Chris Coons (Del.)

chris coons

8. Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.)

joe donnelly

9. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)

kirsten gillibrand

10. Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.)

kay hagan

11. Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.)

mary landrieu

12. Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.)

joe manchin

13. Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.)

mark pryor

14. Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)

chuck schumer

15. Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)

mark warner

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Secretary of State John Kerry’s stance on Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. As a senator, Kerry said that he believed Iran had such a right. But as secretary of state, he said last month that “there is no inherent right to enrich” and that the current proposed agreement states that Iran could only do that by mutual agreement.

Republican senator: Democrats ‘procedurally blocked’ new Iran sanctions bill

November 21, 2013

By Michael Wilner

Senator implies sanction legislation on hold for time being; Obama says first-step deal will give Iran only limited sanctions relief.

US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama  Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON — The highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate  Foreign Relations Committee is accusing Democrats of blocking progress on a bill  that would further sanction Iran for its continued nuclear  work.

“Democrats have procedurally blocked the Senate from taking any  action on Iran this week,” Bob Corker (R-Tenn), said in a statement. “As such,  we will closely monitor what happens in Geneva and examine the details of any  interim deal.”

The comments politicize an issue often treated as bipartisan on  Capitol Hill. Both Democrats and Republicans have called on the White House to  restrict its concessions to Iran as much as possible in the negotiating process,  and have disagreed only over the timing of the new sanctions language, which  would ruthlessly target Iran’s remaining oil exports and access to foreign  exchange reserves.

Corker’s comments come just after a meeting with US  President Barack Obama at the White House, and as a delegation of US diplomats  is in transit to Switzerland, where they will try and cut an interim agreement  with Iran that would include limited sanctions relief.

Obama personally lobbied key members of the  Senate on Tuesday not to move forward with new sanctions legislation against  Iran, just a day before the third round of negotiations were set to begin in  Geneva

The  meeting came shortly after Iranian parliamentarians warned that, should new  sanctions proceed through the US Congress, Iran would pull its diplomats from  the negotiating table.

The long, detailed White House meeting focused on  the technicalities of the prospective “first step” deal being forged in  Switzerland between Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, the United Kingdom,  Russia, China, France and Germany – and not on rising tensions between the White  House and Israel’s government over how best to proceed.

“The president  underscored that, in the absence of a first step, Iran will continue to make  progress on its nuclear program by increasing its enrichment capacity,  continuing to grow its stockpile of enriched uranium, installing advanced  centrifuges, and making progress on the plutonium track,” White House Spokesman  Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing.

In a prepared statement released  after the meeting, the White House said that the discussion, which lasted over  two hours, had included a lengthy explanation by the president as to why a  six-month interim agreement – temporarily halting key aspects of Iran’s nuclear  program in exchange for marginal sanctions relief – was in the US’s best  national security interests.

“The president noted that the relief we are  considering as part of a first step would be limited, temporary and reversible,  and emphasized that we will continue to enforce sanctions during the six-month  period,” the statement read.

“The president is determined to prevent Iran  from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and firmly believes that it would be preferable  to do so peacefully,” it continued.

“Therefore, he has a responsibility  to pursue the ongoing diplomatic negotiations before pursuing other  alternatives.”

According to the statement, Obama “dispelled the rumors  that Iran would receive $40 billion or $50b. in relief, noting those reports are  inaccurate” – a reference to figures first floated by Intelligence Minister  Yuval Steinitz last week.

Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, told CNN on Tuesday the amount of Iranian assets that would be unfrozen under the deal with Iran would be less than $10 billion.

“We’re talking about a modest amount of money,” she said.

Obama injected a note of caution on the prospect of closing a deal with Iran, telling a Wall Street Journal forum on Tuesday that, “We don’t know if we’ll be able to close a deal with Iran this week or next week.”

After meeting with the president, Senator  Corker implied that any new legislative push was on hold for the time  being.

“Let’s face it,” Corker said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “At the end of  the day, there aren’t going to be new sanctions put in place” before Geneva. And  “Senator [Harry] Reid has filled the tree,” he said, describing the Senate  majority leader’s ability to prevent new amendments from getting floor time for  consideration.

“Congress has no say on the easing of sanctions,” Corker  added. “The president has full waiver authority.”

Senator Mark Kirk announced Tuesday evening that he will pursue an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act with fellow Republicans this week that would include the sanctions language, bucking the White House. But it’s unclear whether Reid will allow that to happen.

One source familiar  with the legislation told The Jerusalem Post that if negotiators clinched an  interim deal this weekend, progress on the new sanctions bill was “unlikely”  before December of this year – if at all.

But that has not stopped  lawmakers in both chambers from urging the Obama administration to toughen the  deal going into talks on Wednesday.

A bipartisan group of senators, many  of whom met with the president on Tuesday, wrote to US Secretary of State John  Kerry that the deal under consideration in Geneva allowed up to $10b.

in  sanctions relief – too high a price for too few concessions, they  asserted.

“While the interim agreement may suggest that Iran could be  willing to temporarily slow its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, it  could also allow Iran to continue making some progress toward that end under the  cover of negotiations,” the senators wrote. “This does not give us confidence  that Iran is prepared to abandon unambiguously its nuclear weapons pursuit  altogether, as it must.”

The group included senators Robert Menendez,  John McCain, Bob Casey and Charles Schumer, among others.

At the House of  Representatives – which already passed its version of the sanctions bill last  summer – congressmen Ed Royce (R-California), who chairs the House Foreign  Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel (D-New York), ranking member of the  committee, sent a letter to the president on Tuesday cautioning against a deal  that would allow Iran to continue progressing in its nuclear program in any  capacity.

“Mr. President, the United States cannot allow Iran to continue  to advance toward a nuclear weapons capability while at the same time providing  relief from the sanctions pressure we worked so hard to build, and the  Administration has worked to enforce,” the congressmen wrote.

In his  interview with CNN, Corker said the administration did not see the deal as a  “fait accompli” going into talks, describing the interim agreement as far from  certain.

Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman  flew to Geneva on Tuesday to lead the US negotiating team.

Her first  meeting on Wednesday will be with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, the  State Department said.

Responding to concerns aired repeatedly and  publicly by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the Geneva deal is shaping up  poorly for Israel, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that it was his  “prerogative” to express his opinion as negotiations continued.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

“I think  you can both respect concerns and also disagree with them,” Psaki said. “I  certainly don’t refute the notion that there’s a difference of  opinion….

One of the reasons we’re pursuing this is because of Israel’s  security.”

Psaki said that US diplomats entering the third round of talks  were “hopeful about the path forward.”

“There’s either a diplomatic path,  or a path toward aggression.

We continue to believe that,” she said. “If  this does not work, we will be leading the charge for more  sanctions.”

Meanwhile, in Tehran, Iranian Jews demonstrated Tuesday outside a United Nations facility in support of Iran’s declared right to  peaceful nuclear energy, as protected by the Nuclear Non-proliferation  Treaty.

“Jews from all Iranian Jewish communities, especially from  Tehran, will take part in this gathering to show their solidarity with the  Islamic Republic of Iran’s stances in the recent talks, especially the issues  proposed to Group 5+1,” said Siamak Marreh Sedq, representative of the Jewish  minority in Iran’s Parliament, in announcing the rally.

The Post could  not confirm attendance at the rally.

The US notes that the NPT protects  the right of all nations to peaceful nuclear power, but it objects to Iran’s  claim that the treaty protects Tehran’s right to enrich uranium. Reuters contributed to this report.

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