Posts Tagged ‘Bob Menendez’

Bob Corker’s Final Act: A Middle Finger to Trump’s Foreign Policy

December 7, 2018

The Trump critic has set his sights on one final target: Saudi Arabia.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Bob Corker (R-TN) has just a few weeks left as a United States senator, and he’s determined to use that time to deliver one final rebuke to President Donald Trump.

Corker, the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is cobbling together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in an attempt to force the Trump administration to do something that would undermine a key tenet of its foreign policy: acknowledge that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I know he did it. I want him to be named,” a defiant Corker told The Daily Beast on Thursday, later adding: “I’d like to do something that actually has teeth.”

The crown prince’s culpability has been obvious to lawmakers who have been briefed on U.S. intelligence assessments. But such an unequivocal declaration of the crown prince’s involvement would be consequential for an administration that has invested so much political capital into its relationship with the 33-year-old de facto leader.

If successful, Corker’s crusade would amount to one of Congress’ strongest admonitions of the president, who has openly doubted intelligence assessments that, according to lawmakers briefed on the matter by the CIA, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crown prince was directly involved in the brutal assassination and dismemberment of Khashoggi as well as the clumsy cover-up that followed.

Corker’s efforts are facing stiff resistance from Trump, who according to lawmakers has not acted to hold the crown prince accountable. Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have asserted that there is no “direct evidence” linking the crown prince to the murder, and they have opposed congressional efforts to halt U.S.-Saudi cooperation on a host of issues relating to national security and counterterrorism.

On Thursday, Corker escalated the conflict, saying Trump’s refusal to outwardly condemn the crown prince was “un-American.”

The Tennessee Republican convened a meeting of GOP and Democratic senators Thursday morning in an effort to hammer out a proposal that could win enough votes in both chambers and make it impossible for Trump to block their plan to force him to officially call out the crown prince.

Corker’s actions come after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed top senators earlier this week on U.S. intelligence assessments about the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the Saudi regime. Corker and other lawmakers said the briefing confirmed their view that there was “no question” the crown prince was directly involved in the killing.

Despite Corker’s adversarial relationship with Trump, lawmakers working with him say he’s not trying to spite the president or cement a legacy of his own; rather, they say, he wants to hold Saudi Arabia accountable in a way that the Trump administration has not.

“I think Bob is trying to find the right way to land a correction on Saudi policy that gets as many votes as possible. I don’t think that’s about his legacy,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who joined the Thursday meeting with Corker, told The Daily Beast. “I think that’s just because he thinks, on this one, the president has gone fully off the rails and Congress needs to correct [it].”

The close cooperation with Saudi Arabia has been the linchpin of the Trump administration’s Middle East policies. The White House has placed a strong focus on countering Iran’s influence in the region, and it views Saudi Arabia as a noble partner in that effort. But last week, Corker and 13 other Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to advance a measure that would cut off U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which is fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The conflict has ballooned into a humanitarian crisis, and an estimated 85,000 children have died of starvation.

Republicans hoped the vote would be a wake-up call to the White House and would force the president to punish Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi. But the White House hasn’t budged, and the Senate is preparing to push back with Corker as its ringleader.

“[Trump’s] Saudi policy is just off the rails in a way that almost no other piece of his foreign policy is. On this one, there are no Republicans that are really willing to argue his case here as they may be on some other aspects of foreign policy,” Murphy said.

One of the potential measures—the resolution that would end U.S. involvement in Yemen—is expected to get a full Senate vote sometime next week. Corker doesn’t plan to support that bill; instead, he’ll likely support an amended version of a separate measure that represents even more of a gut-punch to the Saudi regime and, ultimately, to Trump’s entire Middle East strategy.

That bill, written by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Todd Young (R-IN), would suspend all U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and would sanction entities blocking humanitarian assistance in Yemen or supporting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. It would also require the Trump administration to enact mandatory human-rights sanctions on the individuals it determines are responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.

Corker told The Daily Beast that he is hesitant to make those sanctions mandatory because he believes it would give the White House an “out” to not formally name the crown prince as the perpetrator if the president knew that such a declaration would lead to sanctions. He’s seeking to amend the Menendez-Young bill such that it would give Trump zero wiggle-room on naming the Saudi leader.

“We might be better off with permissive sanctions where they name [the crown prince],” Corker said. “Wouldn’t you rather him be named? The first thing is, I want them to name him. That itself has repercussions.”

“We know Putin has done stuff, but we don’t sanction him personally, right?” he added. “We sanction the country. So if it’s mandatory that they sanction him, then the hammer’s so heavy, the outcome would have such an effect, that they would figure out some way not to name him.”

Menendez, the chief sponsor of that bill, told The Daily Beast that the mandatory sanctions are his “holy grail,” but he appeared willing to budge on that provision if it meant the Trump administration was more likely to officially say the crown prince was complicit.

Both sides said they hope these relatively minor disagreements won’t prevent the Senate from, at the very least, adopting a separate resolution declaring in part that the Senate believes the crown prince was complicit in the murder of Khashoggi.

But Corker is aiming for something bigger, and Democrats are more than willing to play ball.


Trump asked to determine Saudi prince’s ‘role’ in Khashoggi murder — US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

November 21, 2018

US President Donald Trump has been asked to ascertain whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Republican and Democratic leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday sent a letter demanding a second investigation.

Mr Trump earlier defended US ties with Saudi Arabia despite international condemnation over the incident.

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN

Khashoggi was killed on 2 October inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Trump acknowledged that the crown prince “could very well” have known about Khashoggi’s brutal murder, adding: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

He later stated that the CIA had not made a “100%” determination on the killing.

Following the president’s comments, Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democrat Bob Menendez issued a statement on behalf of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In it they called on Mr Trump to focus a second investigation specifically on the crown prince so as to “determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture or other gross violation” of human rights.

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The request, issued under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, requires a response within 120 days.

Saudi Arabia has blamed Khashoggi’s death on rogue agents but denied claims that the crown prince had knowledge of the operation.

US media have reported that the CIA believes Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder.

In an interview on Sunday, Mr Trump told Fox News that he had refused to listen to a recording of Khashoggi’s murder provided by Turkey, calling it “a suffering tape”.

A dark shadow for years to come

By the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, in Riyadh

For Saudis, and especially Saudi leaders, there will be a sigh of relief. But, it’s also what they expected, and what they’ve always said about President Trump – he will be a true friend of the Kingdom.

Both sides want to draw a line under this major crisis – and global outcry. But as Mr Trump acknowledged, and Saudis know, it won’t go away. Not for many in the US Congress, as well as for many others, including countries who will continue to call for greater clarity.

Many Saudis say they don’t believe their country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, would have ordered such a despicable act. Many, who’d long been hoping to see their country move forward, have been shaken by this shocking murder, and regret it will cast a dark shadow for many years to come.

In the words of one prominent Saudi: “It has brought Saudi Arabia 10 steps back.”

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham, a senator from Mr Trump’s Republican Party, has predicted strong bipartisan support in Congress for sanctions against Saudi Arabia “including appropriate members of the royal family”.

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What does Trump’s statement say?

“The world is a very dangerous place!”, Mr Trump states, before holding up Saudi Arabia as an ally of the US against Iran.

The kingdom spent “billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism” whereas Iran has “killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East”, it says.

Mike PompeoImage copyrightEPA
Image captionMike Pompeo backed Mr Trump, saying “it’s a mean, nasty world out there”

The statement also stresses Saudi investment pledges and arms purchases. “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries,” it adds.

While admitting the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was “terrible”, Mr Trump wrote that “we may never know all of the facts” about his death.

“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”

Mr Trump later said he would meet Mohammed bin Salman at a G20 meeting in Argentina next week if the crown prince attended.

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The essence of America First

By Anthony Zurcher, BBC senior North America reporter, Washington

Donald Trump is a different kind of president, and nowhere is that more clear than in his foreign policy, exclamation points and all. His release on the death of Jamal Khashoggi is remarkable for many reasons, and not just its blunt language.

The president quickly tries to change the subject to Iran. He dismisses reports that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder with a maybe-he-did, maybe-he-didn’t shrug. He cites the economic impact of $450bn in investment and arms sales to the Saudis, although much of that is little more than paper promises.

Perhaps most jarring is his casual observation that the Saudis viewed Khashoggi – a permanent US resident – as an “enemy of the state” with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Trump has distilled his “America First” worldview down to its very essence. Morality and global leadership take a back seat to perceived US economic and military security.

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How will the statement play out internationally?

What the take-away will be in the Middle East and beyond is a serious issue, says BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

US policy in the region is so closely aligned with that of two key individuals – Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel – that it is increasingly hard to see how the US can play a role as an independent arbiter, our correspondent says.

Mr Trump’s narrow, interests-based approach will further dismay Washington’s allies in the West, he argues, reinforcing those in Moscow and Beijing who are already applying a “Russia First” and a “China First” approach in international affairs.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted his disgust at the Trump statement, calling it disgraceful.

BBC News
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US lawmakers introduce bill hitting China for Uighur repression

November 14, 2018

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday seeking to punish China over its “human rights abuses” of the majority-Muslim Uighur population in the country’s west, a move that drew immediate anger from Beijing.

Legislation introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives seeks to toughen US President Donald Trump’s administration’s response to what the lawmakers say are gross violations of human rights in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The bill urges US authorities to impose targeted sanctions on members of China’s government, the ruling Communist Party and state security apparatus, as well Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and other officials “credibly alleged to be responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and elsewhere.”

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Two ethnic Uighur women pass Chinese paramilitary policemen standing guard outside the Grand Bazaar in the Uighur district of the city of Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang region on July 14, 2009. A mosque was closed and many businesses were shuttered a day after police shot dead two Muslim Uighurs, as ethnic tensions simmered in restive Urumqi. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s Uighurs have faced unprecedented surveillance in recent years, and the United Nations has determined that up to one million Uighurs have been rounded up in detention camps.

Washington must hold government and Communist Party officials “responsible for gross violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity, including the internment in ‘political reeducation’ camps of as many as a million Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities,” Senator Marco Rubio, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.

Fifteen senators in total, including Democrats Robert Menendez and Elizabeth Warren, are sponsoring the legislation. A companion bill was introduced in the House by congressman Chris Smith, an ardent critic of China’s human rights policies.

Menendez described China’s treatment of Uighurs as “beyond abhorrent,” and urged Trump to formulate a “clear and consistent approach” to China.

The measure would mandate a US intelligence report on the regional security threat posed by China’s crackdown; a list of Chinese companies involved in building and operating the camps; and an FBI report on efforts to protect Americans from Chinese government harassment.

It would also require a State Department report on the scale of the crackdown and beef up the department’s monitoring of the region, and urge a review of US Commerce Department export controls.

Beijing delivered a scathing response.

“Where do US lawmakers get this inexplicable sense of superiority from, and how can they make irresponsible remarks about the internal affairs of other countries?” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a briefing.

“Unfortunately, they always choose to ignore their own domestic issues while over-enthusiastically interfering with other country’s domestic affairs with irresponsible remarks, which are based on incorrect information and strong ideological bias,” she added.

The defense chiefs and top foreign affairs officials of the two countries met in Washington last week for a regular dialogue that had been pushed back amid months of spiraling tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

© 2018 AFP



U.S. Lawmakers urge possible China sanctions — Talk of Xinjiang crackdown is “gossip” China says

November 14, 2018

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Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister

U.S. lawmakers will introduce legislation on Wednesday urging a stronger response by the Trump administration to China’s crackdown on minority Muslims, including possible sanctions against a senior official, a move China decried as hypocrisy.

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Uighurs living in Turkey set a Chinese flag on fire as they stage a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Ankara on July 5, 2012. – AFP File Photo

The legislation will also ask President Donald Trump to condemn China’s actions in its western region of Xinjiang, call for a new “special coordinator” of U.S. policy on the issue and seek consideration of a ban on export of U.S. technology Beijing could use in surveillance and mass detention of ethnic Uighurs, according to a copy of the measure seen by Reuters.

The lawmakers want the Trump administration to consider human rights-related sanctions against Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who is also a member of the powerful politburo, and other officials “credibly alleged to be responsible” for the security crackdown, the measure will say.

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“Chinese government officials should be held accountable for their complicity in this evil and U.S. businesses should be barred from helping China create a high-tech police state in Xinjiang,” said Republican U.S. Representative Chris Smith, one of the sponsors of the bipartisan legislation to be presented in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill, which is also being put forward by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the United States and its lawmakers had no right to interfere in other countries, considering their own racial problems.

“It’s too strange, they always selectively overlook the various problems their own country is facing, zealously interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, moreover based on wrong information and with strong ideological prejudice,” she told a daily news briefing.

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Hua cited statistics on the higher rate of miscarriages of justice for African Americans versus their white counterparts and the economic disadvantages facing minority groups.

“I hope U.S. lawmakers can care a bit more about domestic U.S. matters, and do their job a bit better,” she added.


Trump’s senior aides recently have become more vocal in their criticism of China’s treatment of its minority Muslims in Xinjiang, which has sparked an international outcry.

Any sanctions, however, would be a rare move on human rights grounds by the Trump administration against China, with which it is engaged in a bitter trade war.

Beijing has dismissed accusations of abuses in Xinjiang, urging the United States and other countries to stay out of its internal affairs.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Tuesday the world should ignore “gossip” about developments in Xinjiang and trust authorities there, when asked if Beijing would allow international observers to inspect camps for Muslims in the region.

Western countries including Canada, France, Germany, and the United States have urged China to shut down camps in Xinjiang, where activists say as many as 1 million members of the Uighur minority and other Muslims are being detained.

Far western Xinjiang faces a threat from Islamist militants and separatists, China has said in the past.

Rubio said in a statement that some Chinese officials were responsible for “possible crimes against humanity.”

For several months, the Trump administration has been weighing sanctions against Chinese officials and companies operating in Xinjiang, U.S. officials have said on condition of anonymity.

The new bill calls for consideration of measures under the Global Magnitsky Act, which hits rights violators with freezes on U.S. assets, U.S. travel bans, and prohibitions on Americans doing business with them, and also under a federal law to target those involved in religious repression around the world.

It will urge the administration to report back to Congress on Chinese companies involved in the camps and ask the FBI to act against any Chinese government efforts to intimidate Uighurs living in the United States.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez





China top diplomat: Ignore ‘gossip’ over Uighur detention camps

Foreign minister says Xinjiang camps needed to fight ‘terrorism’ as western nations seek clarification on Uighur camps.

China top diplomat: Ignore 'gossip' over Uighur detention camps
Reports of mass detentions and strict surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslims have prompted the US to consider sanctions against Chinese officials and businesses (File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

The world should ignore “gossip” about China’s Xinjiang region and trust authorities there, the government’s top diplomat said on Tuesday, when asked if Beijing would allow international observers to inspect camps holding Muslims there.

Western countries, including Canada, France, Germany and the United States, have urged China to shut down camps in Xinjiang, where activists say as many as one million members of the Uighur minority and other Muslims are being detained.

It rejects all accusations of mistreatment and denies mass internment. It says far western Xinjiang faces a threat from Islamist separatists.


Escape from Xinjiang: Muslim Uighurs speak of China persecution

After initial denials, however, Chinese officials have said some people guilty of minor offences were being sent to “vocational” training centres, where they are taught work skills and legal knowledge aimed at curbing militancy.

After meeting Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, State Councillor Wang Yi said he hoped people would understand and support the Xinjiang regional government’s efforts to fight terrorism, end the spread of “extremism” and ensure social stability.

“(People) should not listen to gossip or rumour, because the Xinjiang regional government, of course, understands the situation in Xinjiang best, and not some other people or organisations,” said Wang, who is also foreign minister.

Mass detentions

“The efforts are completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism, and are an important part of the global fight against terrorism,” Wang told reporters.

“If we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root.”

Wang’s remarks followed Monday’s comments by Maas that there was a need for more information on the Xinjiang situation and that China needed to be transparent.

“In any case, we cannot accept re-education camps. We need transparency in order to properly judge what is happening there,” Maas said in Beijing.

Reports of mass detentions and strict surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslims have prompted the US to consider sanctions against officials and companies linked to suspected human rights abuses.

Researchers have said spending on security-related construction in Xinjiang tripled in 2017, and that despite the “vocational training” campaign, Xinjiang government data shows employment has not markedly improved.

Under-reported: The treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xi's China

Under-reported: The treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xi’s China


Democrats try to save Bob Menendez

October 19, 2018

Smiling at Corruption

Democrats try to save Bob Menendez months after his bipartisan admonishment.



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Democrats have failed all year to find a cogent midterm campaign theme, but one appears to be attaching to them all the same: Listen to what we say; ignore what we do.

Nowhere is this truer than in blue, blue New Jersey, where Sen. Bob Menendez is suddenly struggling. Businessman and Republican nominee Bob Hugin has spent months educating Garden State voters on Mr. Menendez’s adventures with a now-convicted criminal. The more the voters learn, the tighter the race becomes. Recent public polls have awarded Mr. Menendez a 6- or 7-point lead, though a new internal Hugin poll claims the gap is now less than 2.

Democrats are alarmed enough that the Senate Majority PAC this week decided to reroute a precious $3 million to bolster Mr. Menendez with television advertising. The decision is extraordinary, given the number of Senate seats Democrats are already struggling to defend, many in states President Trump carried. But it is even more extraordinary for the statement—campaign theme, if you will—Democrats are rolling out with this ad buy. Namely, don’t believe us.

This is the party that claims to be running against a Republican “culture of corruption.” Democrats have highlighted the conviction of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and introduced anticorruption bills in Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in August even provided her members a “toolkit” for talking about supposed GOP misdeeds. They present the Trump White House as some mix of the yakuza and a drug cartel.

Yet here Democrats are intervening on behalf of the one federal lawmaker to have been definitively judged by his peers as corrupt in recent years—to have abused his office, to have scorned ethics rules, to have brought “discredit” on the Senate. A bipartisan letter from the Senate Ethics Committee in April “severely admonished” Mr. Menendez, finding that for six years he had “knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value” from his close friend and Democratic Party donor, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. The gifts included luxury private-plane flights, soirees in Paris hotels, and free accommodation at a Dominican Republican villa—where Mr. Menendez stayed not once or twice but 19 times.

Throughout this, Mr. Menendez just happened to be advancing Dr. Melgen’s business interests in Washington—lobbying a cabinet official over a Medicare billing dispute, and supporting visa applications for Dr. Melgen’s overseas girlfriends. Some people might call this a quid pro quo, and federal prosecutors did, obtaining an indictment against Mr. Menendez in 2015. The charges were dropped after the Supreme Court tightened the standards on proving such cases. Dr. Melgen, however, was convicted last year of Medicare fraud and has been sentenced to 17 years in federal prison.

One last poignant detail to add to this Democratic theme of anti-anticorruption: The 2015 Menendez indictment noted that in 2012 a fundraiser for a powerful Democratic political outfit accepted two $300,000 contributions from Dr. Melgen’s company, and then earmarked them for Mr. Menendez’s re-election that year. The political outfit? The Senate Majority PAC, the group spending millions to now rescue Mr. Menendez.

Political spending aside, Mr. Menendez’s Democratic colleagues have also shown they are more than happy to tolerate corruption in their own ranks—at least if it means one more Senate seat. After the feds dropped charges, Democrats allowed Mr. Menendez to regain his position as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They permitted him to keep that job even after the Ethics Committee issued its four-page letter admonishing Mr. Menendez.

Following the federal indictment, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lauded Mr. Menendez as “one of the best legislators in the Senate.” Fellow New Jerseyite Sen. Cory Booker offered his unabashed support even after the Senate admonishment. The Garden State’s Democratic establishment squeezed out the only declared primary challenger to Mr. Menendez, Michael Starr Hopkins, who failed to raise any real money from any Democratic power brokers. Those scions instead all endorsed Mr. Menendez for re-election.

The Hugin campaign dropped another tough ad this past week, referencing a 2015 federal court filing that states the government had been “presented with specific, corroborated allegations that defendants Menendez and Melgen had sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.” Mr. Menendez strenuously denies that. It is nonetheless remarkable to watch Democrats and their media allies close ranks to insist there is a soaring standard of proof for such serious claims. This in light of their uncorroborated claims against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Mr. Mendendez’s own moralizing complaints that we live in a world in which a woman can “speak truth to power about a sexual assault,” but “they will not believe you.”

And with that, we are back again to Democrats’ 2018 theme. You can listen to what they say. Or you can believe your own nonlying eyes.

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‘Kiss of Death’: Democrats keep Hillary off campaign trail

October 13, 2018

“Hillary Clinton is the kiss of death and she represents the part of the Democratic Party that led to historic losses and that elected Donald Trump president,” said a leading Democratic strategist who requested anonymity because of fear of political retribution.

Hillary Clinton was once the face of the Democratic Party, a celebrity name who could draw thousands to rallies and was the all-but-certain first female president of the United States. Now, she is viewed as “the kiss of death” for candidates.

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Hillary Clinton. Credit Getty Images

As the midterm election campaigns enter the home stretch, the former secretary of state, first lady, senator, and 2016 Democratic nominee is almost completely absent from the campaign trail. Most Democrats are keen to keep it that way, fearing that her reappearance could cost them a golden opportunity of winning back control of Congress.

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are due to go back on the road next month, embarking on a 13-city tour in which they will conduct “one-of-a-kind conversations” about “the most impactful moments in modern history”. But Democratic strategists are relieved that their first event will be 12 days after Americans go to the polls on Nov 6.

“I think they’re measuring how they can have the best, positive impact and have kind of decided to wait until after the election,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

One House Democrat said the Clintons were not missed. “I have not seen Hillary or Bill at all — and I’m very grateful for that,” he said. “When I think of people who have been part of our push to retake the House, I just don’t think of them at all. … I think it’s a very good thing that they’re not being visible. It wouldn’t help our candidates.”

With under four weeks until Election Day, Hillary Clinton’s footprint on the 2018 scene has been remarkably light, with her involvement focused on fundraising behind closed doors rather than being seen by voters. She is slated to headline a pair of fundraisers in New York for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday, alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Additionally, Hillary Clinton is set to headline a fundraiser for Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Monday evening.

“Hillary Clinton is the kiss of death and she represents the part of the Democratic Party that led to historic losses and that elected Donald Trump president,” said a leading Democratic strategist who requested anonymity because of fear of political retribution.

Hillary Clinton headlined her first public event last week for J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic nominee for governor of Illinois: a roundtable on leadership. She is planning to appear alongside Andrew Gillum, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida, in late October.

This is a far cry from other top-tier Democratic surrogates like Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who announced plans to campaign in nine states ahead of Election Day for various congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislature candidates. Former President Barack Obama has also ramped up his public appearances ahead of Election Day. Thus far, he has campaigned for candidates in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. The same cannot be said of Hillary Clinton, who many Democrats are eager to avoid.

Both Menendez and Pritzker carry considerable baggage. Menendez was once under federal indictment for corruption before the case was dropped earlier this year, while Pritzker was investigated for removing toilets from one of his luxury homes along Chicago’s Gold Coast to avoid property taxes.

The Democratic strategist said: “It’s no surprise that one of the very few Democrats that would welcome her is someone who was formerly under federal indictment and the most scandal-plagued Democrat in the country.”

According to multiple Democratic senators up for re-election in states, ranging from ruby red to deep blue, and those involved in 2018 strategy, Hillary Clinton has not been called upon and isn’t expected to be. In many cases, she is an afterthought.

“No. I haven’t asked her,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., noting that Biden recently fundraised for her before explaining why Clinton hasn’t been involved. “It’s a good question. I probably should, but we’ve done events. We do five a week, and they’re small. I don’t think I’m doing a big, huge event.”

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who is running in a state that voted for President Trump in 2016, said that he is “not aware” of anything Clinton is doing for her campaign. Additionally, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Clinton’s running mate during the 2016 campaign who is up for re-election, said he wasn’t sure why she was maintaining a low profile heading into the election.

“I don’t really know,” he said of her pre-election day involvement, adding that he isn’t sure if she’ll do anything on his behalf ahead of Nov. 6. “Not yet. We don’t have a plan yet, but I’m so close to her people in Virginia.”

Clinton’s popularity sits at a record low, according to a Gallup poll taken in September. Only 36 percent view her favorably, including 30 percent of independents and 77 percent of Democrats.

She is a particularly divisive figure in GOP “red” states, especially those that Trump won overwhelmingly two years ago and where Democratic senators are up for re-election in November. In North Dakota, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has criticized her on multiple occasions, most recently for comments this week that Democrats cannot be civil with Republicans, calling them “ridiculous.”

“I think it’s pretty wise for her not to show up,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., adding that her impact in a red state is not helpful.

“It would be pretty harmful.” Durbin said with a laugh: “They’re red [states] because she didn’t carry them.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, said that it remains up to each campaign if they want Clinton or anyone else to be involved in their races, but noted that he did not believe she was doing anything for anyone except Menendez.

“Those are decisions that are left to every campaign,” Van Hollen said. “We welcome the participation of anybody who wants to help, but we leave it to the campaigns to work with them.”

Hillary Clinton also isn’t expected to do any work on behalf of Democratic candidates running for GOP-held seats as campaigns for both Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have not, and do not, plan to reach out for Hillary Clinton’s help.

“Democrats don’t want her to campaign for them because everywhere she goes she carries this stench of death and is the only political figure in America that is less popular than Donald Trump,” said the Democratic strategist. “That’s a real testament to her.

“People don’t want her or her husband around anymore. She represents the past of the Democratic Party. If Democrats are going to win back the House, and a lot of them are next generation, younger Democrats, they don’t want to be associated with the Clintons and all of their baggage.

“I don’t know that it’s necessarily about her. I’m sure if people wanted her to, she’d campaign, but she’s a liability. Every time that she goes out and speaks, it’s a bad thing for the Democratic Party. … She had the most catastrophic presidential campaign in history. If we’re trying to say, ‘We want to turn the page, we want to usher in a new era of Democratic politics,’ she is the worst possible spokesperson, face, or endorser for any campaign that’s trying to do that.”

While Hillary Clinton’s top attribute remains fundraising, which she will be doing all day Monday, some sources involved in Senate races argued that she isn’t especially missed in that sphere either. They pointed to the large amounts of fundraising candidates have done with small-dollar donors and the $20 million Michael Bloomberg announced he is donating to the Senate Majority PAC.

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton did not respond to a request for comment.

See also:

Hillary Clinton’s security clearance withdrawn at her request

Rand Paul battles Fox News host over US military policy

October 10, 2018

Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday fought on the air with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade over what the Kentucky Republican called an overly interventionist U.S. military policy.

Paul said he wants President Trump’s next ambassador to the United Nations to reflect Trump’s own position that the U.S. needs to stop using its military so frequently around the world.

“I’m of the opinion we need to have a strong national defense, we need to balance our budget, but we don’t need to be in everybody’s civil war,” Paul said. “And the president agrees with me.”

“Well, the only problem is when we leave Iraq, in comes ISIS,” Kilmeade replied. “If we leave Afghanistan, out comes al Qaeda, and then buildings start falling here, so you’ve got to be responsible.”

Image result for Rand Paul, Photos

Rand Paul

“The other half of that, Brian, though, is we went into… Iraq, toppled the regime there, and guess what?” Paul said. “It made Iran stronger. So really, we tipped the balance of power in favor of Iran when we went into Iraq, so we have to think of the unintended consequences of always intervening in everyone’s civil war.”

“Well, we don’t always intervene in everyone’s civil war,” Kilmeade said.

“Well, we’re involved in about seven civil wars right now, particularly the Yemen civil war,” Paul fired back.

Paul said it’s been a mistake to arm Saudi Arabia, which he said is making things worse in Yemen.

“That was a mistake,” Kilmeade said. “Should we give Yemen to Iran, would that be better?”

“No,” Paul said. “I think we should understand that the world’s a little more complicated than that, Brian. That there’s civil war there with many different factions in Yemen, and this isn’t Iran, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. There are many different factions …”

“You’re oversimplifying,” Brian said. “You’re oversimplifying, senator.”

“No, the Sunnis and the Shia have been at war with each other for 1,000 [years], they will be at war with each other for another 1,000 years. It doesn’t mean we always have to intercede,” Paul said.

The exchange ended with an eye roll from Kilmeade.

Paul is pushing the Senate to vote on his language that would block arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of the disappearance of a reporter, Jamal Khashoggi. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has said he is looking to block arm sales to Saudi Arabia over that country’s backing of armed forces in Yemen.

The Menendez Method

October 10, 2018

The Senator who abused his power is now distorting his opponent’s record.

Sen. Bob Menendez speaks at a news conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18.
Sen. Bob Menendez speaks at a news conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18. PHOTO: AARON P. BERNSTEIN/GETTY IMAGES

After narrowly dodging a corruption conviction, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez faces a re-election dogfight against former Celgene CEO Bob Hugin. The Senator is now lying to voters about his opponent’s business record the way he dissembled about his political corruption.

Democrats always treat a Republican candidate from business as if commerce is by definition criminal, and Mr. Hugin is no exception. The GOP Senate candidate joined the New Jersey-based biotech firm Celgene in 1999 in its infancy and rose to CEO in 2010. He helped grow Celgene into one of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

Big pharma is a perennial target for politicians, and Mr. Menendez has been vilifying Mr. Hugin for ordinary business practices. Among other things, his ads charge that Mr. Hugin settled a lawsuit for $280 million “for hiding information about potentially fatal side effects” and “raised the cost of a cancer drug three times in one year.” These distortions need to be corrected since the truth is that tens of thousands of patients have benefited from Celgene’s innovations.

Celgene’s biggest blockbusters have been Thalomid and Revlimid, which treat the rare blood cancer multiple myeloma and are based on the compound thalidomide. While thalidomide was found to cause birth defects in the 1950s, research in the 1990s suggested it could treat conditions including AIDS.

In 1998 FDA approved Celgene’s application of thalidomide to treat leprosy, which affects about 100 Americans each year. The following year the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found thalidomide “had substantial antitumor activity in patients with advanced myeloma,” which is incurable with conventional chemotherapy.

Celgene began to highlight thalidomide’s potential to treat multiple mylenoma before the FDA approved Thalomid and Revlimid in 2006. A former employee in 2010 sued Celgene for $40 billion under the False Claims Act for allegedly engaging in illegal off-label promoting, paying kickbacks to doctors and billing Medicare for the therapies.

Companies under FDA rules aren’t supposed to promote drugs for uses that haven’t been approved by the FDA, but some courts have ruled this restriction violates the First Amendment. Doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs for unapproved indications, and Medicare will reimburse off-label cancer uses that are supported by clinical research.

Many doctors prescribed Celgene’s drugs for multiple myeloma because they were superior to existing therapies and caused fewer severe side effects. The Justice Department under Barack Obama decided not to intervene in the “qui tam” lawsuit, and a federal judge dismissed allegations of kickbacks. Celgene settled remaining claims last year for $280 million. Mr. Hugin’s job was to maximize value for shareholders, and settling dubious lawsuits is often a cost of doing business.

As for the accusation that Mr. Hugin gouged patients, the unfortunate reality is that curing cancer isn’t cheap. Between 2010 and 2017, the list price for a monthly dose of Revlimid doubled to about $18,000. Most patients pay far less out-of-pocket.

Generic manufacturers have complained that Celgene has used the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program as a pretext to withhold samples of Revlimid that could be used to develop and test alternatives. This common industry ploy can extend a patent life by years. But Revlimid’s patents don’t expire until 2027, and earlier this year it agreed to allow Natco Pharma to introduce a generic competitor in 2022.

With competition from CAR T-cell treatments on the horizon, Celgene may now be trying to maximize profits from Revlimid that are necessary to fund research and development into other treatments. Celgene has trials for more than 40 new drugs or indications in the pipeline. Earlier this year Celgene purchased the biotech startup Juno, which has been a CAR T-cell pioneer.


None of Celgene’s business practices are corrupt—unlike Mr. Menendez’s machinations to procure visas for his doctor friend Salomon Melgen’s girlfriends. The Senator also intervened for the doctor with the Department of Health and Human Services in a Medicare billing dispute that involved reused vials of a macular degeneration drug that put patients at risk of infection.

Mr. Menendez escaped conviction thanks to the Supreme Court’s McDonnell ruling that made it harder for prosecutors to prove quid-pro-quo corruption. But the Senate Ethics Committee “severely” admonished him, and New Jersey voters now have an opportunity to oust a man who abused his power to help a campaign donor in favor of an entrepreneur who helped to save lives.

Appeared in the October 10, 2018, print edition.

Bob Menendez faces trouble with New Jersey voters

October 10, 2018
Almost 20% of Hispanic voters remain undecided
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, right, and Republican opponent Bob Hugin, left.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, right, and Republican opponent Bob Hugin, left.

Nearly one of every five Hispanic likely voters in New Jersey haven’t decided whether to vote for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendezthis fall, according to a poll released Monday.

While Menendez, D-N.J., led former Celgene Corp. executive Bob Hugin, 57 percent to 20 percent (Libertarian Party Murray Sabin had 3 percent) among Hispanic voters, the key number was 19 percent.

That was the percentage of Hispanics who remained undecided in the survey by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy for the Telemundo stations in New York, WNJU Channel 47, and Philadelphia, WWSI Channel 62.

“That was the one number that jumped out,” said Brad Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director. “He’s kind of their guy, he probably hits 80-90 percent of their vote routinely, and it’s one month out and you have 1 in 5 not convinced.”

What Dems are doing to save Menendez

What Dems are doing to save Menendez

There”s no panic, but a little bit of concern, among Democrats in Washington.

Coker suggested that Menendez’s ethical problems may have turned off Hispanic voters. They said honesty and integrity in government was the third most important issue facing the country (15 percent), behind only the economy (21 percent) and immigration (18 percent).

Honesty in government had not been offered as a choice in Mason-Dixon polls of Hispanic voters in other states, but so many respondents in New Jersey named it as their top concern without prompting that it was added to this survey, Coker said.

“That issue isn’t even on the radar screen anywhere else,” Coker said. “It’s pretty safe to say that has soured people, even people in the Hispanic community.”

Through June 30, Hugin pumped $15.5 million of his own money into the campaign, most of it for television ads attacking Menendez, who was only the 12th senator ever indicted.

His trial ended up with a hung jury, and after a judge acquitted him of some counts, federal prosecutors declined to try him again. The Senate, however, severely admonished him for intervening with federal agencies on behalf of a friend an campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.

“It’s a lack of enthusiasm,” Coker said. “They just may say, ‘Screw it’ and not bother to vote.”

Rep. Albio Sires, D-8th Dist., said he will expect Hispanic voters to eventually vote in big numbers for Menendez. He said the senator got a warm reception during Sunday’s 43rd annual Hispanic Parade on Sunday in Hudson County.

“He got a great reception; nobody said boo or anything like that,” Sires said. “People don’t like to commit. They know who they’re going to for vote but they don’t like to say it on the phone.”

Hispanics accounted for 13 percent of the electorate in the 2017 gubernatorial election, according to NBC News exit polls.

If the 19 percent of undecided Hispanics stay home, that could shave two or three points over Menendez’s final vote percentage, Coker said.

That’s the difference between Menendez and Hugin in a recent Stockton University poll, though Menendez led by 11 points in a Quinnipiac University survey and six points in a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey. Those three polls were of likely voters.

The issue with Hispanic voters mirrored Menendez’s problem with his fellow Democrats in the FDU survey, in which 22 percent of Democratic likely voters said they were undecided in the race.

“He could still bring home the Democratic vote,” Coker said. “I don’t think it’s doomsday yet. He’s got 30 days and a heads up. But he’s got to spend time rebuilding his base

“For every hour he’s doing that, that’s an hour he’s losing going after the so-called swing voters.”

Sires said there’s nothing to worry about.

Even if Hispanics say they’re undecided now, “that doesn’t mean they’re not going to go for him,” Sires said. “At the end of the day, they’ll all come home.”

The poll of 625 registered Hispanic likely voters was conducted Oct. 1-4 and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on FacebookFind Politics on Facebook.

Taiwan’s Minister of National Defence Yen Teh-fa Plans U.S. Trip; U.S. Lawmakers signal moving closer to Taiwan

September 6, 2018

Business group ignores mainland China’s warnings as Yen Teh-fa becomes first Taiwanese defence minister to receive invite to event in decade

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 10:37am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 11:01am

Taiwan’s defence minister Yen Teh-fa has been invited to take part in the US-Taiwan Defence Industry Conference this October.

The move is certain to irk Beijing, which has warned Washington and other countries against having high-level military exchanges with the self-ruled island.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, which organises the event, confirmed to the South China Morning Post that the council has invited Yen to the event.

If Yen accepts the invitation, he will be the first defence minister from Taiwan to take part in the event since 2008.

Taiwan’s Minister of National Defence Yen Teh-fa described Beijing’s continued pressure on the island as “almost useless”. Photo: EPA-EFE

The US-Taiwan Defence Industry Conference 2018 will be held between October 28 and 30 in Annapolis, Maryland.

It will be the 17th edition of the annual event which, according to the council, is intended to address future US cooperation with Taiwan, the defence procurement process and Taiwan’s security needs.

This year, the conference will open with a discussion on Taiwan’s role in the US Indo-Pacific strategy, and look at how Taiwan can increase regional engagement on defence and national security issues, it said.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland and has not ruled out the use of force to do so.


US senators introduce legislation to punish Taiwan allies who switch sides, accusing Beijing of ‘bullying’

The legislation would authorise the State Department to downgrade US relations with any government that shifts away from Taiwan, and to suspend or alter US assistance

A bipartisan group of US senators on Wednesday announced that they had introduced legislation to discourage Taiwan’s few remaining allies from switching their diplomatic recognition to Beijing, after El Salvador became the third country this year to make the shift.

The legislation, titled the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, was introduced on Monday by Republican Senators Cory Gardner and Marco Rubio, and Democrats Ed Markey and Bob Menendez, according to a press release published on Wednesday on Gardner’s official website.

Cory Gardner is one of the lawmakers introducing the legislation. Photo: Reuters

“This legislation is intended to strengthen Taiwan’s standing around the world and comes in response to several nations breaking official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, due to Chinese pressure and bullying tactics,” the press release said.

The latest legislation effort by US lawmakers came as Central American country El Salvador cut its formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan last month, leaving it with only 17 remaining diplomatic allies. China regards Taiwan as a wayward province to be brought to its rule by force if necessary. The US maintains unofficial relations with the island and considers it a staunch ally, although Washington switched its formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

[The legislation would] allow the US government to downgrade the diplomatic relationships we have with nations that choose to follow the bullying of China

The State Department had said the United States was “deeply disappointed” by El Salvador’s decision and was reviewing its relationship with San Salvador, without elaborating further.

The Taipei Act authorises the US State Department to downgrade US relations with any government that takes adverse actions with regard to Taiwan. It also authorises the State Department to suspend or alter US foreign assistance, including foreign military financing, in such circumstances, the press release continued.

A US strategy is required to engage with governments around the world to support Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition or strengthen unofficial ties with Taiwan, it added.

Gardner, who is also the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Asia subcommittee, told reporters on Wednesday on the sidelines of a Senate hearing that the legislation will “force” the US to develop such a strategy to help Taiwan.


The bill would also “allow the US government to downgrade the diplomatic relationships we have with nations that choose to follow the bullying of China”, Gardner said, and would require reports on the status of affairs in China and around the world relating to Taiwan.

“When it comes to Taiwan, [and] the relationships around the globe with Taiwan, this would require a comprehensive strategy for the United States,” the Republican senator added.,

Several members of Congress, who see Beijing as a threat to US security and international influence, have expressed frustration with what they see as US President Donald Trump’s failure to adopt a strategy for Taiwan.

Additional reporting by Reuters