Washington Free Beacon
The U.S. Senate passed legislation on Thursday that imposes additional sanctions on Russia and the bill is going to President Donald Trump for his approval.
The House of Representatives passed the legislation on Tuesday 419-3, and the Senate passed it on Thursday with a vote of 98-2, CNN reports.
In the bill, new sanctions are imposed on North Korea and Iran.
The White House did not say if Trump would sign the legislation into law or if he would veto it. However, with the overwhelming majorities of members of Congress in favor, the legislation is essentially veto-proof.
The two senators to vote against the bill were Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.).
The post Congress Passes Sanctions Bill on Russia, Now Heads to Trump appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded on Thursday to public criticism from President Donald Trump, saying that he believes that he made the right decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked Sessions in El Salvador about his decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which prompted Trump's public rebukes of him.
"I understand his feelings about it because this has been a big distraction for him, but Tucker, I talked to experts in the Department of Justice, people who are trained in that," Sessions said. "I am confident I made the right decision. The decision is consistent for the rule of law. An Attorney General who doesn't follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice."
"So, I think, with 15 years in that department, having served in that great department, knowing the integrity that is required of the Attorney General, I believe I made the right decision," Sessions added.
Carlson asked Sessions if he planned to stay in his position. Sessions said he would unless Trump were to ask him to resign.
Sessions also said that great progress has been made since he took over the Department of Justice and trumpeted the anti-gang work under his tenure.
The post Sessions Responds to Trump’s Criticism on Recusal: ‘I Made The Right Decision’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
Key lawmakers are threatening to cancel the authorization of sensitive U.S. spy operations until congressional leaders investigate efforts by former top Obama administration officials to leak highly classified national security information in what many believe was a targeted campaign to undermine the Trump administration, according to senior congressional sources familiar with the situation.
Key Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee are pressuring Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) to investigate former senior Obama administration officials believed to be responsible for these anti-Trump leaks, including former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and National Security Council official Ben Rhodes, according to sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about mounting frustration over Congress's failure to adequately investigate these leaks.
Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are prepared to halt key spy operations related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, until Congress performs a full investigation into how damaging classified surveillance information targeting the Trump campaign and administration officials was leaked to the press.
The House Intelligence Committee is engaged in a separate but related probe into efforts by Obama officials to "unmask," or formally identify individuals named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team. That investigation is currently focussed on Power, Rice, and former CIA Director John Brennan.
Sources in the Trump administration and Congress believe the classified intelligence information was "weaponized" and later leaked to the press in order to handicap the Trump administration's credibility and national security priorities.
Still, senior Republican members of Congress do not feel that enough is being done to hold those responsible for the leaks accountable.
By threatening to withhold the reauthorization of section 702 of the FISA Act—which permits the U.S. intelligence community to intercept communications outside of America—lawmakers believe they can force a thorough investigation into these Obama aides, who are suspected of exploiting FISA laws to gather and later leak sensitive intelligence damaging to Trump allies.
Congress is "not going to reauthorize a program if no one is held accountable for breaking the law," said one senior congressional source familiar with the situation. "No one is being held accountable and Congress has done no oversight."
Goodlatte is said to have initially been "really taken aback" by the stiff opposition to reauthorizing section 702, but is now making moves to examine the former administration's role in classified leaks and potential opportunities to question these officials.
Republican members on the committee are said to be "all united" in their desire to investigate former Obama officials such as Rhodes, Rice, and Power, sources said.
These lawmakers "want answers on these Obama officials in order to continue [spy] authorizations they may have abused," one congressional source said. "The members in the conference and these committees have reached a boiling point."
Senior Trump administration officials, as well as those in Congress, have named former Obama administration officials such as Rice and Rhodes as key suspects in the dissemination of classified national security information.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security, which deals with these issues, told the Free Beacon earlier this month that Rhodes and others must be held accountable for any role they might have had in the leaking of classified information.
"I think Congress and some members on the Intelligence Committee can call Ben Rhodes to testify," DeSantis said at the time. "He may be able to invoke executive privilege from when Obama was president, but he definitely can't do that in any interactions he's had since then."
DeSantis further identified Rhodes and other senior Obama administration officials as being "involved with feeding journalists some of these [leaks]. I believe he's in touch with people on the National Security Council. It would be absolutely legitimate as part of leak investigation to bring him in and put him under oath, and I would absolutely support doing that."
The Free Beacon first disclosed last week that Power, a key Obama confidante, was emerging as central to the investigation into efforts by Obama administration officials to identify individuals named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team.
Power's role in this unmasking effort is believed to be particularly questionable given her position as the U.N. ambassador, a post that does not typically require such sensitive unmasking activities, according to former U.S. officials and other sources.
"Unmasking is not a regular occurrence—absolutely not a weekly habit. It is rare, even at the National Security Council, and ought to be rarer still for a U.N. ambassador," one former senior U.S. official told the Free Beacon.
The post Congress Could Halt Spy Authorization Over Obama Aides’ Anti-Trump Leaks appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace compared Fox News to Russian state-run media during a panel discussion Thursday, prompting a strong reaction from guest Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union.
The panel had been discussing Russian dissident and chess champion Garry Kasparov's tweet comparing President Donald Trump's tactics to those of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Schlapp said that the rhetoric was overreaching, specifically on the state of media freedom in the U.S.
Wallace came back by comparing Fox News' editorial culture to state-run outlets.
"Even folks at Fox News will acknowledge pressure to carry the Trump message," she said. "You know that to be true. I know that to be true. How is that different from state-run media in some places?"
Schlapp retorted by asking "is the opposite pressure happening at other news outlets?"
"Not happening here," Wallace said with a laugh. "Can't you tell?"
"I'm saying across the line we all have to admit in the news media generally — we all have lots of friends in it — they are not by and large Trump supporters and are not by and large Republicans," Schlapp said.
MSNBC been criticized as biased in the past, not just for criticizing Trump but for seeming to support Democrats. When Barack Obama won his second presidential term, MSNBC released an ad in which their prime time star Rachel Maddow seemed to celebrate the election result.
Schlapp did not attack MSNBC specifically, but alluded to perceptions of bias in the media.
"The press itself has not done itself a lot of good by always coming across as balanced," he said.
He also argued that the American press has not actually seen any censorship, despite various forms of criticism from the White House.
"We have a free press," Schlapp said. "You all were able to say everything you want to say. This is not a third-world [country], you're not being silenced."
"This is still America, he added. "We're going to be okay, guys."
The post Nicolle Wallace: How Is Fox News Different From State-Run Media? appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
Six Republican senators are calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to explain reports that top State Department lawyers are systematically removing the word "genocide" to describe the Islamic State's slaughter of Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria from official agency documents.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Majority Whip John Cornyn, (R., Texas), Roy Blunt, (R., Mo.,), Cory Gardner, (R., Colo.), James Lankford (R., Okla.), and Ben Sasse, (R., Neb.) sent a letter to Tillerson Thursday requesting "urgent clarification" on the administration's policy on recognizing ISIS mass slaughter of Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Iraq as "genocide."
The senators noted that both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have denounced "this ‘genocide'" in public statements in recent months.
The Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday first reported that Obama "holdover" attorneys at the State Department were removing references to "genocide" against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, according to human rights activists and attorneys familiar with the policies.
"We write regarding disturbing reports that the State Department's Office of Legal Adviser has sought to undermine and perhaps roll back the determination of your predecessor, Secretary of State John Kerry, that ISIS is ‘responsible for genocide' against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities," they said in their letter.
"Next week marks three years since the Islamic State waged a brutal offensive in Iraq, laying siege to Mt. Sinjar, overtaking Iraq's largest Christian city, Qaraqosh, and murdering, enslaving, displacing, and otherwise terrorizing thousands of religious minorities, whose community's roots in these lands go back to antiquity," they wrote. "The full measure of human suffering exacted against these innocents is incalculable."
The senators asked whether Tillerson authorized or supported the deletion of the word "genocide" at is relates to Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Iraq from official documents, how widespread the practice is, and whether State Department attorneys issued any guidance or directives in recent months about the use of the word "genocide" in reference to these populations.
"As we approach this solemn anniversary, and with it persistent questions regarding the long-term viability of these ancient communities, it is vital that we have clarity regarding the policy of this administration, specifically as it relates to the most egregious of all human rights atrocities, genocide," they wrote.
"As such, we respectfully request urgent clarification on this matter including answers to the following questions:Has the Legal Adviser issued any guidance or directives in recent months that would contradict or undermine Secretary Kerry's determination? If so, please provide the language. If the Legal Adviser has engaged on this issue, have you supported these efforts?"
A State Department spokesman Thursday told the Free Beacon that "we are not going to comment on internal processes."
"However, we can say that the premise of a recent article on this issue is inaccurate. We have not removed the word genocide from documents," the spokesman said. "Furthermore, I can confirm that it is the secretary of state's judgement that ISIS is responsible for genocide against groups in areas it controlled, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims."
The spokesman declined to answer a series of follow-up questions, including whether the word "genocide" was removed in any speech written for Tillerson, whether the Office of Legal Adviser ever advised officials to remove the word genocide from any document, finalized or still in the writing process, since President Trump took office, and whether top State Department officials declined to recognize the anniversary of Kerry's March 2016 genocide determination despite an effort by some officials to commemorate it.
"Again, we are not going to comment on internal processes," the spokesman said in response.
State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday that it is "categorically false" that officials removed references to genocide against Christians and Yazidis from documents.
"We have looked through documents ourselves—the word genocide is in there—that has not been removed," she said.
She said that Tillerson "firmly believes" that Christians and Yazidis were victims of ISIS genocide but declined to take any follow up questions.
"Okay, that's all I'm going to say about that. I hope I've been clear," she said.
Human rights activists and Catholic leaders are worried that recent efforts at the State Department to avoid using the word "genocide" in reference to religious minorities in Iraq is aimed at rolling back Kerry's decision. Kerry's much-anticipated genocide designation came after months of equivocation and detailed documentation by interested parties that the Islamic State is responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.
The senators expressed similar concerns, stressing that Kerry only made the genocide determination after Congress forced Kerry to come to a conclusion on the genocide question. Congress passed language in the 2016 omnibus spending bill requiring the State department to weigh the detailed evidence and make a conclusion.
Kerry announced his decision at a March 2016 press conference called for that purpose, the senators said.
"It was only the second time in history that a U.S. secretary of state made a genocide determination and it was widely heralded," they wrote. "Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed resolutions along similar lines."
Rubio, along with a bipartisan group of Capitol Hill lawmakers and activists, was hoping that the genocide designation would help direct millions of dollars in relief funds to Christian, Yazidi, and other persecuted religious minority communities in Iraq.
ISIS murders and kidnappings have decimated the Christian population in Iraq, which numbered between 800,000 and 1.2 million in 2002, reducing it to fewer than 250,000 now. Without action, activists and charities say, Christians could disappear completely from Iraq in the near future.
After meeting with Pope Francis in May, President Trump vowed to do everything in his power to defend and protect the "historic Christian communities of the Middle East."
Activists and Catholic leaders are now calling on Trump to turn the rhetoric into action on the ground and help get U.S. aid to these persecuted communities trying to rebuild their homes and their lives in Iraq.
The post GOP Senators Ask If State Department Lawyers Are Removing References to ISIS ‘Genocide’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
An internal United Nations report revealed that the organization's has been mishandling cases of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers.
The report, from the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services, indicated that the UN's bureaucracy has not properly handled, investigated and documented crimes committed by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR), Fox News reports. MINUSCA, the leadership of the peacekeeping force, was particularly criticized.
For years, sexual abuse by peacekeepers has been a problem in the CAR, and commanders have been terminated due to the ongoing scandal. Addressing sexual abuse in the CAR has been a key focus of new U.N. Secretary General Antonio Buterres.
However, sexual abuse still occurs under the UN's leadership of 10,700 peacekeepers in the land-locked African nation.
Potential problems have been identified in over half of 37 UN bases in the CAR. Criticism also included a lack of trained personnel and a lack of safe spaces for victims to go.
Critics of the UN's personnel in the CAR say that the soldiers stationed there operate with a "culture of impunity," and are generally unaccountable for their crimes.
120 Congolese soldiers were sent back home on "disciplinary grounds" for sexual abuse-related cases in February of 2016. Other soldiers from that unit are still in the CAR.
The post Internal UN Report Shows Peacekeepers’ Sexual Abuse Scandal Not Properly Responded To appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
A senior CIA analyst said China is continuing to conduct aggressive cyberespionage operations against the U.S., contrary to claims by security experts who say Beijing curbed cyberattacks in the past few years.
"We know the Chinese are very active in targeting our government, U.S. industry and those of our partners through cyberespionage," said Michael Collins, deputy assistant CIA director and head of the agency’s East Asia Mission Center.
"It’s a very real, big problem, and we need to do more about it," Mr. Collins told a recent security conference in Aspen, Colorado.
Read the entire article at the Washington Times.
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci communicated his displeasure with regular leaks from the White House in a phone call Wednesday night.
Scaramucci reached out to New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza after Lizza tweeted a scoop about Scaramucci and Fox News host Sean Hannity having dinner at the White House with President Donald Trump. He wanted to know who, exactly, had told Lizza about the dinner.
Leaking has been a serious problem for the Trump White House, with at least one national security leak per day since Trump took office. Scaramucci promised that he would fire his whole department if it was needed to clear out leakers.
"What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over," he told Lizza.
When Lizza refused to tell him if the leaker was an assistant to the President, Scaramucci said, "O.K., I’m going to fire every one of them, and then you haven’t protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks."
He also attacked his White House colleagues, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon.
"I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock," he said. "I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country."
As for Priebus, Scaramucci called him "a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac," and intimated that he expected the Chief of Staff to soon depart the West Wing.
"Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly," he told Lizza.
Scaramucci said that Priebus was working in a concerted campaign against him, evidenced by the dinner leak as well as the public release of Scaramucci's financial disclosure, which he has called a "leak."
Scaramucci promised that he was going to pursue leakers to the best of his ability.
"O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago," he said. "This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice."
He also promised that leakers would be prosecuted for felonious leaking.
Lizza appeared on CNN several hours after the phone call; while discussing the phone call, Scaramucci called in to counter Lizza's account and say that a tweet he sent shortly after the phone call was not meant as a threat to Priebus.
"Let me tell you something about myself," he told viewers. "I am a straight shooter."
The post Scaramucci Says Priebus Will be Fired, Leakers Prosecuted in Phone Call appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
Senate Democrats unanimously refused to support a Medicare-for-all health care bill on Thursday, with five voting "no" and 43 voting "present."
The bill, proposed by Republican Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.), would have extended Medicare to cover all Americans, Business Insider reports. All 52 Senate Republicans voted against the bill, meaning it did not receive a single yes vote.
Why, then, was the bill put up? To see which, if any, Democrats would back single payer given the chance.
"I do not support a single-payer system, but I believe Americans deserve to see us debate different ideas, which is why I am bringing forward this amendment," Daines said in a statement. "It's time for every senator to go on the record on whether or not they support a single-payer health care system."
Daines' bill was part of the ongoing floor battle over the Senate's version of the Republican health care reform plan, which was originally intended to repeal and replace Obamacare. After a close vote to proceed to debate on Tuesday, the Senate has voted both against the current version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the bill offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), and against a straight repeal of Obamacare without a replacement.
The single-payer amendment was attacked by Medicare-for-all supporter Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) as a "sham" and an "old political trick."
But, according to a statement from Sanders, it seems that he may propose an amendment of his own supporting a single-payer system.
"Once Republicans show us their final bill, Sen. Sanders looks forward to getting a vote on his amendment that makes clear the Senate believes the United States must join every major country and guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege," Sanders' office said in a statement.
The post Senate Dems Unanimously Refuse to Vote in Favor of Medicare for All appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
A senior Planned Parenthood official told undercover investigators that its abortionists skirt the federal ban on partial-birth abortion by documenting the use of a poison that they never end up using in late term procedures.
Dr. Suzie Prabhakaran, a vice president of medical affairs at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, told investigators at the Center for Medical Progress that she and other abortionists are trained to lie about using poison to ensure that a late-term baby is killed prior to extraction.
The nation's largest abortion chain provides its doctors with forms that document the intent to use digoxin to kill a second or third trimester baby before dismembering them in the womb in order to comply with the federal partial-birth abortion ban, according to Prabhakaran. She goes on to say she does not use the drug and that "there's never been a problem" from federal or state regulators tasked with enforcing the abortion ban.
"Some people train to just document that like, you know to comply with the partial-birth abortion ban … every time you do a procedure, that's how you document. So, like, there's like a checkbox," she said in the video released Thursday. "I trained to just do the documentation and not do digoxin."
Center for Medical Progress President David Daleiden said in a release that the video demonstrates that abortionists at Planned Parenthood only follow the "law on paper," while ignoring it in practice. He called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood's late-term abortion practices and to scrutinize the documents related to the use of dismemberment techniques.
"Planned Parenthood medical directors and abortion doctors feign compliance with the federal partial-birth abortion law on paper, knowing full well that ‘what ultimately happens doesn't matter' so long as no one is scrutinizing what they actually do to women and children in the operating room," he said. "The fact that Planned Parenthood has a ‘dismemberment' ‘checkbox' on their abortion forms should tell the public and policymakers everything they need to know about this barbaric abortion business."
Planned Parenthood did not return request for comment. The organization has denied any wrongdoing in connection to the Center for Medical Progress videos, which have shown its officials candidly discussing organ-harvesting operations.
Planned Parenthood receives more than $500 million taxpayer dollars each year in connection to its birth control and Medicaid operations. Congressional Republicans are now attempting to re-direct those payments to women's health clinics that do not provide abortions. The measure has run into opposition from moderate Republicans. Pro-choice Republican senators Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) joined Senate Democrats to vote down an amendment to the failed Obamacare repeal on Wednesday. Daleiden called on Congress to continue to fight to defund Planned Parenthood.
"The U.S. Congress must stop forcing taxpayers to subsidize Planned Parenthood's brutal abortion empire," he said.
Daleiden's videos have landed him in legal trouble. The state of California has charged him and a fellow videographer with 15 felonies for falsifying documents to pose as undercover organ procurers at abortion conventions, as well as invading the privacy of the abortionists captured on camera. A Texas judge threw out similar charges against him in 2016. A California judge held him in contempt on July 17 for continuing to release footage in the run-up to his trial.
The post Planned Parenthood Doctor Says Forms are Smokescreen for Dodging Partial-Birth Abortion Ban appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.