Washington Free Beacon
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said in an interview published Tuesday that he only rebounded after President Trump's election victory when he received a message from on high telling him how important his job is with Trump in the White House.
Schumer told Politico that he fell into a "deep funk" after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race in November and did not recover until he got "almost a message from God."
"He said he fell into a deep funk for three days after Clinton lost and Democrats blew their best chance at taking back the Senate until 2020," Politico reported. "But on the fourth day, Schumer says, ‘it was like a thunderbolt hit me, almost a message from God.'"
"I said to myself if Hillary won and you were majority leader, the job would be more fun and it would be a lot easier. And most importantly you'd get to do some good things," Schumer said. "But with Trump as president and you as minority leader, the job is much more important. That has fueled me ever since."
The New York Democrat also discussed with Politico upcoming Senate battles over Judge Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination and a potential government shutdown. He predicted Democrats would come out on top in both cases, despite the party's weak state after the 2016 elections.
"They're in charge. Government shuts down, it's on their back. We have leverage," said Schumer, who also predicted he would get his way in opposing the Gorsuch nomination, besting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).
Schumer is confident he can block McConnell from filling a Supreme Court vacancy–and that McConnell might not have the votes to gut the filibuster to get Gorsuch through.
"There's been an almost seismic shift in the caucus," against Gorsuch, Schumer said. As for McConnell changing the rules in response, the minority leader added: "I don't think it's a foregone conclusion. … There are people in his caucus who really don't want to change the rules, OK?"
Schumer has come out against Gorsuch's nomination and said Democrats would filibuster a confirmation vote.
After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 23, 2017
Judge Gorsuch's nomination will face a cloture vote & as I’ve said, he will have to earn sixty votes for confirmation. My vote will be "No."
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 23, 2017
Schumer's interview came less than two days after he reportedly yelled at a Trump supporter at a Manhattan restaurant.
The senator yelled at Hilary Califano, wife of prominent Democrat Joseph A. Califano Jr., for supporting Trump, according to Page Six.
"She voted for Trump!" the New York Democrat yelled in the restaurant, according to witnesses. "How could you vote for Trump? He's a liar!"
Another patron of Sette Mezzo, the restaurant, disputed claims that Schumer yelled, saying the conversation was civil.
MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews compared President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's kids on Monday night.
"Let me just say, you know, we kid," Matthews said. "I kid about everything, but Uday and Qusay working for Saddam Hussein – you couldn’t go to a restaurant and have eye contact with those guys without getting killed. These people are really powerful. Imagine getting into a fight in the office with Jared or Ivanka, they have enormous power, and they’re always gonna be there."
Politico reporter Annie Karni responded that this is what worries her about Ivanka and Jared being top officials in the Trump White House.
"This is what I worry about for other people in the White House," Karni said. "Ivanka Trump has been described as her father’s eyes and ears on the ground. That’s a little scary if you’re just a regular White House staffer."
Uday and Qusay Hussein were the sons of Saddam Hussein and were prominent figures during their father's dictatorship. The two sons were responsible for numerous crimes against the Iraqi people. Uday was known for torturing athletes if they didn't perform to his standards, while Qusay ordered the killing of his father's political opponents.
Matthews made the comparison after recent news that Jared and Ivanka's power within the White House is growing. The White House recently announced that Kushner would lead the ‘American Innovation' office at the White House, which is tasked to reform the government using private sector solutions. It was also announced that Ivanka would have her own office within the West Wing.
It isn't the first time Trump's kids were compared to the Iraqi dictator's kids. Back in September, HBO's Bill Maher compared Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump to Uday and Qusay Hussein.
"Donald Trump also once said, ’Sometimes people will come into my office and they will be great. They will look great, they’ll sound great, they dress beautifully. Everything is great. Then after you hire them they turn out to be morons,’ which explains his sons Uday and Qusay," Maher said.
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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) reportedly caused a scene at a New York City restaurant on Sunday, where he was seen yelling at a wealthy and well-connected supporter of President Donald Trump, calling Trump "a liar."
Schumer was dining at Upper East Side restaurant Sette Mezzo Sunday night with friends, according to Page Six. During the dinner, Schumer encountered former secretary of health, education, and welfare under President Jimmy Carter and domestic policy adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Joseph A. Califano Jr.
Califano was dining with his wife Hilary, the daughter of the founder and current chairman of CBS. Hilary voted for Trump, but her husband is a well-known Democrat.
An onlooker said that Califano complimented Schumer on what he has done with health care, and then joked about how his wife voted for Trump. Schumer then began yelling, "She voted for Trump!"
Schumer reportedly followed the couple outside, where he yelled, "How could you vote for Trump? He’s a liar!"
Hilary confirmed the incident to Page Six.
"Sen. Schumer was really rude . . . He’s our senator, and I don’t really like him. Yes, I voted for Trump. Schumer joined us outside and he told me Trump was a liar. I should have told him that Hillary Clinton was a liar, but I was so surprised I didn’t say anything," she said.
But according to a spokesman for Schumer, nothing dramatic occurred.
"[He] and his wife ate at the café on Sunday, engaging in unremarkable conversation with patrons who approached their table. There were no heated exchanges with anyone."
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Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) blasted Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Monday for Schumer's criticisms of the House Intelligence Committee chairman.
Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), has been criticized for a trip to the White House he made to go through classified material related to possible surveillance over President Donald Trump during his transition. After Schumer asked Nunes to be removed from his position as chairman, Gowdy went after Schumer, Fox News reports.
"I just love it when Senator Schumer gives Republicans advice on what we ought to do," Gowdy said on Monday. "Devin is doing exactly what the chairman is to do."
"I wish Senator Schumer and some of the other Democrats would be interested in the authenticity and reliability of the underlying data the means by which it was acquired," Gowdy continued.
Gowdy has served on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and was an active watchdog of the Obama administration.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley blasted former President Barack Obama's Iran Nuclear Deal on Monday during a question and answer session at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.
"At the U.N., what is the attitude about the enforcement of the Iran Deal and how to hold Iran accountable, most importantly how to hold Iran accountable for the deal and for the threats it's posing?" Dan Senor, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and the moderator for the conference, asked.
"It's concerning, and the reason it's concerning is because when the Iran Deal took place, all it did was empower Iran and it empowered Russia," Haley said. "And it emboldened Iran to feel like they could get away with more."
"You can put sanctions on a country. To take sanctions away, it's very hard to go back and put sanctions back on, so what we have said is we are going to watch them like a hawk. We are going to make sure that every single thing they do is watched, processed, and dealt with," Haley added.
Haley added that she was concerned there was a "lot of love" for the Iran Deal in the U.N. Security Council, calling the situation "unfortunate."
"Why that was ever allowed to go through, why that was ever passed is beyond me. I mean, it's terrible," Haley said.
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Ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) called on Monday for Chairman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) to recuse himself from an on-going investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Schiff was responding to the revelation that Nunes met on White House grounds with a source privy to incidental surveillance of President Donald Trump and his associates. In a statement posted to Twitter, Schiff suggested Nunes's involvement undermined public confidence in the committee's investigation.
"I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the President's campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the Chairman," Schiff said.
After much consideration I believe Chairman should recuse himself from involvement in investigation/oversight of Trump campaign & transition pic.twitter.com/jpfA1x80Si
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 27, 2017
Schiff also called for Nunes to avoid investigating incidental surveillance of Trump's transition team, as Nunes was a part of that team.
"This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the Chairman and I have worked together for several years, " Schiff said, before denouncing Nunes recent actions.
Nunes told Bloomberg that the source he met with was an intelligence official, not a White House staffer, and that they met on White House grounds because it was the most secure and convenient location with a computer connected to the system that held the reports.
Nunes's spokesman Jack Langer stated on Monday that Nunes had been looking into "improper unmasking" before Trump claimed that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.
"Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source," Langer said. "The chairman is extremely concerned by the possible improper unmasking of names of U.S. citizens, and he began looking into this issue even before President Trump tweeted his assertion that Trump Tower had been wiretapped."
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Army Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch is set to lose his job after emailing classified information in 2014 that former President Barack Obama revealed during a publicized speech in 2011.
The incident occurred in February 2014, when Branch, then a public affairs officer for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), reviewed a proposed article by Boeing for the company's internal news service, the Washington Times reported Sunday.
The article discussed SOAR personnel visiting a Boeing unit in Mesa, Arizona, and revealed the regiment's role in transporting Navy SEAL Team 6 to Pakistan for the 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden. Branch reportedly recognized that the Pentagon had never officially acknowledged SOAR's role in the bin Laden operation and emailed his superior saying Boeing should delete the sentence.
Branch also wrote the sentence in an official .mil email.
Because Branch forwarded the sentence, which contained sensitive information, in an unclassified email, an investigation was launched and he was ordered home.
A superior officer had seen the email and notified Army intelligence. About two months later, Branch agreed to a nonjudicial punishment known as an Article 15 hearing, during which he received an oral reprimand and thought the matter was done.
The Army transferred Branch to South Korea. But then the service in 2015, pressured by budget cuts, sought to reduce personnel and identified blemished soldiers through the Quantitative Management Program. Branch was identified as a blemished soldier because his Article 15 resulted in a one-time poor performance evaluation, and the investigation was relaunched.
Branch received high marks on all prior and subsequent performance reviews, according to the Times.
Branch appealed to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to nullify his single bad performance mark, but the board twice refused. The sergeant was desperate and went public, appearing on the Fox TV station in El Paso, Texas to tell his story.
The Criminal Investigation Command then launched a probe into Branch and cleared him of wrongdoing, but that ended his service extension.
Branch, who is now stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, has just over a week to persuade the Army to change its decision or he will lose his career. On Friday, Branch's commanding officer handed him a "counseling letter" that permanently revoked his security clearance and "served as his termination notice," the Times reported.
Branch is being punished for emailing in 2014 the same sensitive information that Obama revealed three years earlier in a publicized speech.
Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden discussed SOAR's connection to the bin Laden raid in 2011, days after the operation, when they visited Fort Campbell, Kentucky and personally thanked the "Night Stalkers," in private, for their role. The Army subsequently published a story on the meeting on its website, Army.mil.
Another article from May 9, 2011, an Army New Service Story published on Army.mil, reported on the Obama visit.
"It was the Night Stalkers who are credited with flying the mission in Pakistan that transported the Navy's ‘Seal Team 6' on an operation that resulted in the capture and kill of terrorist Osama bin Laden," the story said.
Branch told the Times that the military service "doesn't want to take responsibility" for Obama's prior remarks on the sensitive information in question.
"The Army just doesn't want to take responsibility for the fact that Obama told 2,000-plus Fort Campbell soldiers in a public forum after the private meeting with SOAR," Branch said.
"In 2011 it was on the Army home page," he added. "It makes no sense to dismiss me from service. Policy dictates that anything published on the Army home page has to be properly vetted through various organizations. Obama visiting Campbell and talking about the bin Laden raid is considered mission and operational security info, [which] means it has to get vetted. It's still on the home page today."
The Times noted that Branch's actions were "far less serious" than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of an unsecured private email server to communicate sensitive information.
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Government employees spent nearly 3.5 million hours conducting union business, costing taxpayers $162.5 million in 2014, according to a new report.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) revealed that official time increased by more than 10 percent between 2008 and 2014—the most recent data available. Official time is the practice of allowing a federal worker to remain on the clock even as he conducts business for his labor organization, rather than his government job.
OPM found that employee representatives logged 3,468,170 hours doing official union activities in 2014, a 20 percent jump from the 2008 fiscal year. OPM concluded that official time cost taxpayers $162.5 million based on average salary and benefits payments made to federal workers, a $5 million increase from 2012.
Union representatives increased their time away from the job by 30,000 hours from 2012, according to OPM, which surveyed more than 50 agencies to complete the report. A minority of departments was responsible for the increase, while the majority actually reduced the use of official time.
"Thirty-seven agencies reported reductions in the total number of official time hours used whereas twenty (20) reported increases and four (4) reported no changes in the total number of official time hours used," the report found.
Smaller agencies with fewer union members experienced the largest increases in official time, which can involve grievance or discipline issues, as well as bargaining. The International Boundary and Water Commission, which maintains international waters standards along the U.S.-Mexico border under the State Department umbrella and employees fewer than 1,000 workers, experienced a 543 percent increase in official time between 2012 and 2014. Union representatives logged 135 hours on official time up from 21 in 2012.
The State Department overall witnessed a 50 percent increase over that time period. Homeland Security also witnessed a 30 percent climb in official time from 2012 to 2014. That increase coincided with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers ratifying a union contract with the agency in 2012. The TSA employs more than 40,000 airport screeners and other security officers, a large portion of the 240,000 people who work at DHS.
These gains were offset by declines at other large agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, which fell 10 percent, the Energy Department, down 50 percent, and the Treasury Department, down 13 percent.
The increase in union activities came despite the fact that union membership in the federal workforce has fallen in recent years. Unions represented 1.2 million non-postal employees in 2014, a 1.5 percent drop from 2012. Unions lost about 20,000 members in the past two years, following broader labor trends in which union membership has fallen to historic lows in the post-World War II era.
Union watchdogs have targeted official time at the state and local level in recent years. Groups in Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, and Arizona have launched lawsuits challenging the practice as a misappropriation of public taxpayer dollars for the benefit of a private organization.
Trey Kovacs, a labor policy expert at the pro-free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the Trump administration should cut down on the practice to fulfill his campaign promises to pare back the budget to offset increased military spending. He said spending money on official time distracts from "real priorities, like veterans' services or environmental protection."
"Most taxpayers have no idea that their money is spent paying federal employees to perform union business unrelated to their public duties," Kovacs said in a statement. "Employees on official time are off lobbying on behalf of their union, attending union conventions, or doing some other union-related business. The Trump administration and Congress should waste no time in eliminating this subsidy for federal employee unions."
A Kentucky lawyer involved in a half-a-billion-dollar Social Security disability fraud scheme has pleaded guilty.
Eric C. Conn, a flashy lawyer in the mold of the Breaking Bad character Saul Goodman, worked with an administrative judge and doctors to approve sham disability claims. The scheme resulted in fraudulent claims that cost the government $550 million, with Conn himself earning over $5.7 million.
The Department of Justice announced Conn pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government money and one count of payment of gratuities on Friday.
"According to the plea, from October 2004 to April 6, 2016, Conn participated in a scheme with former SSA administrative law judge David B. Daugherty and multiple doctors that involved the submission of thousands of falsified medical documents to the [Social Security Administration] SSA," the government said. "As a result of the scheme, Conn and his co-conspirators obligated the SSA to pay more than $550 million in lifetime benefits to claimants for these fraudulent submissions."
Over the seven-year period, Conn paid Daugherty $10,000 a month to approve fraudulent disability claims to clients of Conn.
"As part of his plea, Conn admitted that he submitted the falsified medical documents, and Daugherty authored decisions granting disability benefits, in well over 1,700 claimants' cases," the Department of Justice said. "Conn admitted that he paid medical professionals to sign medical forms that he fabricated before evaluations of claimants took place."
The widespread disability fraud scheme was revealed in 2013, after a two-year investigation led by Tom Coburn, the former Republican senator from Oklahoma.
Conn ran a flashy practice in Floyd County, Kentucky, where he erected a $500,000 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln, and a replica of the Statue of Liberty outside his office. Conn called himself "Mr. Social Security" and used massive billboards and hired women known as "Conn's Hotties" to attract clients.
He also filmed a music video with Amber Lee Ettinger, who became known as the "Obama Girl" after she released a viral video of her singing she had a "crush on Obama" in 2007. Conn paid Ettinger $25,000 to appear in his video, where she sang that Conn can "help Obama" and "learned Spanish off a tape."
Conn said he hired Ettinger because she "looked good, and I thought it'd be fun."
Conn also paid a former Miss Kentucky USA a $70,000 salary for public relations, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.
Conn was one of the highest-paid disability lawyers in the country, receiving $23 million from the Social Security Administration over a 10-year period, the paper reported.
Conn was indicted last year, along with Judge Daugherty and Alfred Adkins, a clinical psychologist who performed medical evaluations for Conn for seven years. Adkins signed off on fraudulent medical evaluations for physical or mental disabilities for Conn's clients.
Conn will be sentenced in July. Several of Conn's charges were dropped as part of his plea agreement, and he now faces up to 12 years in prison. He plans on selling his Abraham Lincoln statue to help pay back what he owes the government.
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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D.) vetoed a bill on Friday that aimed to allow victims of domestic violence to carry concealed firearms without obtaining a permit.
House Bill 1852 would allow anyone in Virginia who has a protective order and is over 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a permit for up to 45 days after the order is issued. It would then give anyone with an active order an additional 45 days to carry concealed should they apply for a permanent concealed-handgun permit, which can take up to 45 days to process. The person with the protective order would be required to show police the order or permit application and photo ID if stopped.
Governor McAuliffe noted in a statement that the bill bypasses the training and background check requirements associated with obtaining a Virginia concealed handgun permit and said it would make domestic violence situations worse, not better. "The bill perpetuates the dangerous fiction that the victims of domestic violence will be safer by arming themselves," he said. "It would inject firearms into a volatile domestic violence situation, making that situation less safe, not more.
"In 2014, there were 112 family and intimate-partner related homicides in Virginia. Sixty-six of those deaths were with a firearm. I will not allow this bill to become law when too many Virginia women have already fallen victim to firearms violence at the hands of their intimate partner."
McAuliffe's office did not respond to questions about whether the governor believed victims of domestic violence should ever arm themselves or what victims, especially those located far from police stations, should do if they find themselves in life-threatening situations.
Gun-rights advocates who championed the bill decried the governor's veto and said it would likely cost innocent lives.
"Governor McAuliffe claims we don't need to introduce a gun into a ‘volatile situation,' where there is a protective order in place," Philip Van Cleave, the Virginia Citizens Defense League's president, told the Washington Free Beacon. "He's completely wrong. That situation is exactly where we DO want to introduce a firearm. Knowledge that the victim is armed is a great incentive for the aggressor to stay away."
Van Cleave said the first 48 hours after a protective order is issued are the most crucial time for a potential victim to be armed.
"Protective orders really enrage the aggressor and the vetoed bill would have allowed the victim to be fully armed, yet in a discreet manner, even during those initial 48 hours," he said. "Sadly, the governor's veto will likely cost innocent lives."
The bill passed by a vote of 63-31 in the house of delegates and 26-14 in the senate. A veto override would require a two-thirds majority in both houses.The National Rifle Association said McAuliffe's veto was driven by his association with gun control groups.
"Victims of domestic abuse should be free to protect themselves with more than a piece of paper," Catherine Mortensen, a spokesperson for the NRA's lobbying arm, told the Beacon. "This bill would allow a victim of abuse who already has a protective order to immediately protect herself with a concealed firearm. Governor McAuliffe is siding with the gun control lobby that funds his campaign over victims of abuse who want more than a piece of paper to protect themselves."
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