What was supposed to be a 3-minute speech turned into 14 minutes of droning that even the other global warming nutbags in the room didn’t want to hear.
The IRS did mishandle tea party and conservative groups’ nonprofit applications, but their behavior didn’t break any laws, the Justice Department said in a letter to Congress Friday that cleared the tax agency and former senior executive Lois G. Lerner of any crimes.
“Ineffective management is not a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik said in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee. “The Department of Justice’s exhaustive probe revealed no evidence that would support a criminal prosecution. What occurred is disquieting and may necessitate corrective action – but it does not warrant criminal prosecution.”
The decision comes more than two years after the IRS’s internal watchdog reported that auditors singled out tea party groups’ applications for special scrutiny and delayed those applications beyond reasonable timelines, preventing the groups from being able to say they were officially recognized nonprofits.
The agency initially admitted its bad behavior, and President Obama vowed an investigation – but he later said, in the middle of the probe, that there was no evidence of corruption.
Some Republicans have questioned the validity of the probe from the beginning, after learning that one of the Justice Department lawyers assigned to the investigation was a contributor to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns.
In its letter Friday the Justice Department specifically cleared Ms. Lerner, a senior executive in charge of approving the groups’ applications, who had authored a number of emails that suggested a bias against the tea party movement.
Investigators said none of the witnesses they interviewed believed Ms. Lerner acted out of political motives, and said that Ms. Lerner seemed to try to correct the inappropriate scrutiny once she “recognized that it was wrong.”
“In fact, Ms. Lerner was the first IRS official to recognize the magnitude of the problem and to take concerted steps to fix it,” Mr. Kadzik wrote.
The FBI refused to cooperate Monday with a court-ordered inquiry into former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email server, telling the State Department that they won’t even confirm they are investigating the matter themselves, much less willing to tell the rest of the government what’s going on.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan had ordered the State Department to talk with the FBI and see what sort of information could be recovered from Mrs. Clinton’s email server, which her lawyer has said she turned over to the Justice Department over the summer.
The FBI’s refusal, however, leaves things muddled.
“At this time, consistent with long-standing Department of Justice and FBI policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation, nor are we in a position to provide additional information at this time,” FBI General Counsel James A. Baker wrote in a letter dated Monday – a week after the deadline the Justice Department had set for the FBI to reply.
Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm that is pursuing at least 16 open records cases seeking emails from Mrs. Clinton and her top aides, said at this point it’s not even clear what Mrs. Clinton provided, since all that’s been made public at this point are the former secretary of state’s public comments and some assertions, made through her lawyer, to the State Department.
Judicial Watch is prodding the courts to try to delve more deeply into Mrs. Clinton’s emails, and the group said a number of questions persevere about both Mrs. Clinton and top aides such as Huma Abedin, who did public business on an account tied to the server Mrs. Clinton maintained.
“We still do not know whether the FBI – or any other government agency for that matter – has possession of the email server that was used by Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin to conduct official government business during their four years of employment at the State Department,” Judicial Watch said.
“We also do not know whether the server purportedly in the possession of the FBI – an assumption based on unsworn statements by third parties – is the actual email server that was used by Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin to conduct official government business during their four years of employment at the State Department or whether it is a copy of such an email server. Nor do we know whether any copies of the email server or copies of the records from the email server exist,” the group said in its own court filing Monday afternoon.
Judicial Watch did release more than 50 pages Monday of emails it obtained from Ms. Abedin’s account on Mrs. Clinton’s server, and said it was clear she was talking about “sensitive” topics that shouldn’t have been discussed on an insecure account.
Many of those were details of Mrs. Clinton’s movements overseas, such as hotels she was staying at.
“These emails Judicial Watch forced out through a federal lawsuit show that Huma Abedin used her separate clintonemail.com account to conduct the most sensitive government business, endangering not only her safety but the safety of Hillary Clinton and countless others,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
He questioned what reason Ms. Abedin – who did maintain an account, firstname.lastname@example.org, on State.gov servers – would have for using the other account for important business. Mrs. Clinton said she kept only one account, the one on the clintonemail.com server, because it was more convenient, but that reasoning does not appear to apply to Ms. Abedin.
The State Department is making all of Mrs. Clinton’s emails public under order of Judge Rudolph Contreras. But the department has said it won’t make all of the emails public from Ms. Abedin or other top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills or Philippe Reines. Instead the department only plans to release those messages specifically requested in open records demands.
Mrs. Clinton turned over about 30,000 email messages in December, while her aides turned over more than 100,000 pages between them, with the final set only being returned, by Ms. Abedin, earlier this month, the department said in court filings.
Without those documents in hand, the State Department has been unable to do full and complete searches in response to subpoenas, congressional inquiries or Freedom of Information Act requests.
The State Department has asked for dozens of cases to be put on hold while it tries to get a single judge to coordinate all of its searches in more than two dozen cases. But the people requesting the records have objected, and say the State Department has nobody to blame but itself.
“The State Department acts as if Ms. Abedin’s and Ms. Mills’ documents fell from the sky on the eve of the State Department’s production deadline, but that is not remotely the case,” Citizens United, one of the plaintiffs who has sued under the FOIA, said in a filing late last week.
Citizens United says the State Department missed its own deadline for producing Ms. Mills’ and Ms. Abedin’s documents.
The Obama administration countered that it went above and beyond its duties under the law by asking Ms. Abedin and Ms. Mills to return their records and then to search them in response to open records requests. The State Department says it’s moving as quickly as possible, but says the sheer number of documents – and the number of requests for them – calls for a stay in most cases.
But of the 26 requests where the State Department has sought to halt proceedings, six have already been denied. Only one has been granted, one was granted in part and denied in part by the same judge, and another is being held in abeyance.
The State Department told one of the federal judges Monday that it’s facing nearly 100 different open records lawsuits – not all of them related to Mrs. Clinton’s email server – that have stretched officials to their limit.
Monday’s FBI letter underscores the tangled situation Mrs. Clinton’s emails have produced. The letter was addressed to Mary McLeod, a lawyer at the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI – and which means, in effect, that the FBI is refusing to talk to its own parent department about the matter.
Mr. Baker pointedly noted in his letter that he was aware the response would be submitted to the court, which would presumably make it public.
Earlier this month the Justice Department, in another pleading, insisted Mrs. Clinton didn’t do anything wrong in being the one who decided which of her messages were official business records that must be returned to the government and which were purely personal and able to be expunged.
Judicial Watch said that raises thorny questions for a department that is supposedly investigating Mrs. Clinton.
Last week Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, called for Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to name a special counsel to oversee the investigation, citing too many potential conflicts of interest.
We’ve all been stopped at airport security with a forgotten bottle of water, which we can either toss away or drink quickly in front of airport security. But what happens if that liquid is not water, but an entire bottle of European cognac? For airline passenger Miss Zhao, there was only one solution: slam it back at once.
Zhao was transferring to a Wenzhou flight at Beijing Airport at noon on August 21 when she was stopped at airport security. A worker told the woman in her forties that she was not able to bring the imported cognac through the security checkpoint in her carry-on. As it was too late to transfer the cognac to her checked-in luggage, Zhao did what any responsible person that hates wasting food would do: she sat down in a corner and drank the entire bottle of cognac herself.
That created a new security problem though, and it had to do with the bottle of cognac that was now inside her.
Zhao started acting wildly and yelling incoherently. Due to her massive inebriation, when Zhao fell to the floor, that’s where she stayed. When police arrived at the scene, they decided not to let her board her flight out of concern that she had become a security risk to others and herself as Zhao was travelling alone.
Zhao was taken to a convalescence room and was checked out by a doctor. It wasn’t until 7pm when she sobered up and realized what she had done. Zhao was eventually released by police to her family who had come to Beijing Airport to escort her home.
Hard choices have been made before at security checkpoints in Chinese airports. This past June, two brothers were stopped at the security checkpoint at Guangzhou Airport for having wine stashed in their carry-on. The brothers explained that this wine had special medicinal properties used to help male fertility. However, the security workers were adamant in enforcing regulations, and so the brothers decided to drink the RMB 8,000 bottle of wine themselves (below).
And if you’re thinking this would make a funny scene in a Chinese movie, well, it already has been. In Xu Zheng’s breakout hit Lost on Journey (2010), Wang Baoqiang’s yokel character is prevented by airport security from bringing a drink onto the airplane, so he decides to drink it himself. Of course, the distinction here is that Wang’s character chugs down an entire bottle of milk.
President Reuven Rivlin has refused to meet with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter during his upcoming visit to the region, due to his stances over recent years seen as “anti-Israel.”
In recent years, Carter has become one of the most prominent critics of Israel, notably when during last summer’s war with Hamas he denounced the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza as illegitimate.
An Israeli diplomatic official told The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister publication Ma’ariv that the Foreign Ministry recommended Rivlin not meet with Carter, in order to transmit the message that those who harm Israel will not meet with the president.
Carter is reportedly expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks.
Carter has criticized successive U.S. administrations for failing to clinch an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He has advocated controversial positions, chief among them that the West should engage Hamas in diplomatic negotiations.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is refusing to participate in a live debate in his home state’s capital.
The Democratic incumbent is running in one of the most contentious races this fall, but decided to skip on free air time at CBS 4.
Denver’s CBS affiliate has a long history of hosting live debates for candidates for U.S. Senate. This is the first time in four decades the station won’t be airing an “open and honest” debate to help Colorado’s voters decide the election.
Udall committed to four debates before the November election, while Cory Gardner, his Republican opponent, committed to 16.
Democratic strategist Penfield Tate said Udall’s refusal to participate in the major network’s debate could create backlash from voters.
“I think it will cause many a voter to ask why – why didn’t you go on tv and do the live debate,” Tate said. “This could be one of the cuts that combined with others, could be harmful.”
A new Denver Post poll Friday has Udall up four points over Gardner, but voters are still split on which candidate would be “most trustworthy.” Can’t see Udall ducking Gardner helps voters out with that decision.
House Speaker John Boehner indicated on Sunday that if Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t proceed with the contempt charge against former IRS official Lois Lerner, that will be the end of it.
“The contempt charge has gone to the attorney general. And it’s up to the attorney general, Eric Holder, to prosecute this. And to assign someone to prosecute the case. Now will they do it? We don’t know. But the ball is in his court,” Boehner told Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo.
Asked if he would consider issuing an arrest warrant for Lerner, Boehner said although the Constitution allows it, he won’t do it.
“And so that’s a — I’m not quite sure that we want to get on that path,” he said.
“So you’re not looking to do that?” Bartiromo asked him.
“No. It’s never been used,” Boehner said. “I’m not the historian here. But it has never been used. And I’m not sure that it’s an appropriate way to go about this. It’s up to Eric Holder to do his job.”
“Do you think he will?” Bartiromo asked.
“I don’t know,” Boehner said – leaving it at that.
(Press reports noted that Congress did arrest someone cited for contempt, once, in 1935.)
The House of Representatives voted 231-187 last week to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about her role in the targeting of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status before the 2012 election.
Lerner invoked her 5th Amendment rights after reading an opening statement in which she declared she’d done nothing wrong. Republicans said the fact that she gave a statement made her fair game for questioning.
The House also passed a resolution last week asking Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS tax-exempt office.
Holder himself was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012 for failing to produce documents subpoenaed by Congress in connection with the Fast and Furious gun-running investigation.
In 1979, there was a student takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran. For 444 days, 52 Americans were held hostage. Then President Jimmy Carter was lambasted for his weak foreign policy which lead the Iranians to view him as an inconsequential leader. Therefore, they did not fear America. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, with the spinelessness of Jimmy Carter purged from the White House, the hostages were released on the very day of his inauguration.
But, the pain of those nearly 15 months in captivity would linger not just for those held hostage, but for America as the people remembered that horrible time in our history. The country would have to recover and again position itself as a world leader to be feared and respected.
We have seen our position of power in the world erode over the last 5 years, with the most recent indicator being the invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who is unafraid of Obama’s weak warnings.
As the world has watched this invasion, events that some believe are a signal to the beginning of another Cold War, the pain caused by the Iran hostage crisis some 35 years ago is being renewed.
Hamid Abutalebi has been selected by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as their United States Ambassador. Abutalebi was one of the hostage takers of those 52 Americans. While he claims he only served as a translator and negotiator, the United States Congress voted unanimously to deny his entry into the United States, since the U.N. meetings are held in New York.
The bill passed by Congress was authored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and Congressman Doug Lamborn from Colorado. After the bill passed unanimously with bi-partisan support, Cruz and Lamborn released the following statements in calling for Obama to sign the bill to prevent terrorists from obtaining visas to enter the U.S. as U.N. ambassadors.
Congress has voted unanimously in support of a bill to reject Iran’s deliberately insulting nomination of a known terrorist – one of the 1979 hostage-takers – to be their ambassador to the United Nations,” said Sen. Cruz. “I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting it, and urge the President to act quickly. We, as a country, can send an unequivocal message to rogue nations like Iran that the United States will not tolerate this kind of provocative and hostile behavior.”
“I have been working hard with House Leadership to move this bill even before it passed the Senate,” said Congressman Lamborn. “I appreciate House Leadership’s rapid response to my request to quickly bring the Cruz/Lamborn bill to the House Floor for a vote. It will give the President the power to prevent an Iranian terrorist from entering our country with diplomatic immunity. This is a great example of leadership in action by both Houses of Congress. After Senator Cruz worked to ensure Senate passage earlier in the week, I felt that it was extremely important that the House respond in-kind by considering the Cruz/Lamborn bill in an expedited manner. It is great to see Congress send a strong, bipartisan message that Iranian evildoers will be treated like terrorists, not tourists. Terrorists, from Iran or elsewhere, should not be allowed to walk the streets of Manhattan with diplomatic immunity.”
Individuals with diplomatic immunity cannot be prosecuted or even charged with so much as a traffic ticket, let alone an act of terrorism.
Eight days later, President Obama has signed the bill into law, but, according to the Washington Examiner, he immediately released a statement saying that he would not enforce the law. While Obama recognized the concerns of Congress regarding allowing a terrorist to gain access to our country, he stated the following to explain his decision to ignore the law of the land.
“Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’s concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our Nation.”
When Bush was president, then Senator Obama was extremely critical of him for signing such statements stating that, “Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it or he can sign it.” The statements that Bush signed did not grant a terrorist unfettered access to our country.
Now that Obama is president, he has demonstrated time and again his complete disregard for any laws that he does not like. Certain laws, like his signature legislation Obamacare, are deemed the law of the land that must be followed. However, he very often changes parts of that law unconstitutionally via executive order to fit his political needs. With others, such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he would, in his lawlessness, decide that he would not enforce the law.
His decision to sign the bill into law, but immediately state that he will not enforce it flies in the face of the rule of law upon which this country was built and endangers America.
Obama’s disregard for the law as passed by Congress and signed by him, thereby allowing a known terrorist who committed an act of terrorism against the American people unto American soil, comes days after the one year anniversary of the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. Iran was insistent that the terrorist Abutalebi was their choice for ambassador. When the U.S. threatened denial, they requested an investigation by the U.N.
Thanks to Obama, no investigation is needed. The President of the United States is going to allow a known terrorist to violate the law with no repercussions and give him complete access to America and its citizens with diplomatic immunity.
Maybe we should start talking about the Isaias brothers instead of the Kochs.
The donations kept pouring in: hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to President Obama and more than a dozen members of Congress, carefully routed through the families of two wealthy brothers in Florida.
They had good reason to be generous. The two men, Roberto and William Isaias, are fugitives from Ecuador, which has angrily pressed Washington to turn them over, to no avail. A year after their relatives gave $90,000 to help re-elect Mr. Obama, the administration rejected Ecuador’s extradition request for the men, fueling accusations that such donations were helping to keep the brothers and their families safely on American soil.
“The Isaias brothers fled to Miami not to live off their work, something just, but to buy themselves more mansions and Rolls-Royces and to finance American political campaigns,” President Rafael Correa of Ecuador told reporters last month. “That’s what has given them protection,” he added, an allegation the Obama administration and members of Congress reject.
So we have fugitives funneling money to Obama and nobody seems to care.
Donations from the relatives of criminal suspects have proved vexing before. In 2012, Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign said it would return more than $200,000 raised by relatives of a Mexican casino magnate who had fled charges in the United States and sought a pardon to return.
The White House says that the decisions in the Isaias case are not influenced by donations.
Of course not. Even the NY Times, which reports this, is instead obsessing over the Kochs, two men who are legal citizens who’ve broken no laws. Yet these fugitives give thousands to Obama and get protection. We’re officially living in a banana republic.
This video is actually from last summer, but I saw it for the first time this week and thought it was too awesome not to share here.
According to The Chronicle-Telegram’s story from August, the woman in the video is 32-year-old Ebony Burks, and she was being arraigned on domestic violence charges. Burks was appearing via video from Lorain County Jail and actually was pretty composed when she pleaded not guilty. But things took a turn for the worst when she realized that terms of the restraining order imposed by Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett included her avoiding all contact with the two alleged victims, meaning she couldn’t go to the home she shared with her grandfather.
As soon as Burks puts it together that she can’t go home, the fireworks begin. I mean she just brings out the A+ attitude. She tells the judge “I bet I do” go home as if she’s the boss, and then she just can’t shut up as the judge continues to hit her with 30-day contempt of court charges. It starts off at 30 and escalates all the way up to 300, which was a record for Bennett, thanks to a couple of hearty F-bombs at the end. She was just like that kid trying to be cool in elementary school while the teacher is threatening with detention. Only this was real life, and jail is much worse than detention.
Well done, Burks, well done. I guess if you’re going to go hard, might as well go all the way.
Web-users who want to protect their privacy have been switching to a small unheard of search engine in the wake of the ‘Prism’ revelations.
DuckDuckGo, the little known U.S. company, sets itself aside from its giant competitors such as Google and Yahoo, by not sharing any of its clients’ data with searched websites. This means no targeted advertising and no skewed search results.
Aside from the reduced ads, this unbiased and private approach to using the internet is appealing to users angered at the news that U.S. and UK governments (the National Security Agency (NSA) in the U.S. and GCHQ in the UK), have direct access to the servers of big search engine companies, allowing them to ‘watch’ users.
Within just two weeks of the NSA’s operations being leaked by former employee Edward Snowden, DuckDuckGo’s traffic had doubled – from serving 1.7 million searches a day, to 3million.
‘We started seeing an increase right when the story broke, before we were covered in the press,’ said Gabriel Weinberg, founder and CEO, speaking to The Guardian.
Entrepreneur Mr Weinberg had the idea for the company in 2006, while taking time out to do a stained-glass making course. He had just sold successful start-up Opobox, similar to Friends Reunited, for $10million (£6.76million) to Classmates.com.
While on the course he realised that the teacher’s ‘useful web links’ did not tally up with Google’s search results, and realised the extent of the personalised skewing of results per user.
From there he had the idea to develop a ‘better’ search engine, that does not share any user information with any websites whatsoever.
Search data, he told the paper, ‘is arguably the most personal data people are entering into anything. You’re typing in your problems, your desires. It’s not the same as things you post publicly on a social network.’
DuckDuckGo, named after an American children’s tag game Duck Duck Goose (though not a metaphor), was solo-founded by Mr Weinberg in 2008, in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
He self-funded it until 2011 when Union Square Ventures, which also backs Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Kickstarter, and a handful of angel investors, came on board.
The team has expanded to a few full-time people, many part-time contributors and a bunch of open-source contributors.
‘If you’re wondering how you would turn that into a verb… Duck it!’ he says on the company website.
The 33-year-old CEO, who lives in Paoli, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and two children, explains that when other search engines are used, your search terms are sent to that site you clicked on; this sharing of information is known as ‘search leakage’.
‘For example, when you search for something private, you are sharing that private search not only with your search engine, but also with all the sites that you clicked on (for that search),’ he points out on his website.
‘In addition, when you visit any site, your computer automatically sends information about it to that site (including your User agent and IP address). This information can often be used to identify you directly.
‘So when you do that private search, not only can those other sites know your search terms, but they can also know that you searched it. It is this combination of available information about you that raises privacy concerns,’ he says.
The company offers a search engine, like Google, but which does not traffic users, which has less spam and clutter, that showcases ‘better instant answers’, and that does not put users in a ‘filter bubble’ meaning results are biased towards particular users.
Currently, 50 per cent of DuckDuckGo’s users are from the U.S., 45 per cent from Europe and the remaining 5 per cent from Asia-Pacific (APAC).
On June 3, the company reported it had more than 19million direct queries per month and the zero-click Info API gets over 9million queries per day.
It has partnerships with apps, browsers and distributions that include DuckDuckGo as a search option: Browsers, distributions, iOS, and Android. Companies can use DuckDuckGo for their site search, and the firm offers an open API for Instant Answers based on its open source DuckDuckHack platform.
Speaking on U.S. radio channel, American Public Media, Mr Weinberg said: ‘Companies like DuckDuckGo have sprung in the last couple years to cater to the growing number of data dodgers.
‘There’s pent up demand for companies that do not track you,’ he says.
User feedback on the company website say the search engine reminds them of the early days of using Google; it’s like an ‘honorable search site to complement Wikipedia’; and other are ‘amazed’ that a search engine company is ‘doing exactly the right thing’.
Critics of the company remain cautious of the sudden surge in success, however, pointing out that 3million searches per day is just a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared with the 13billion searches Google does every day.
Writing on his website, Danny Sullivan, who runs the Search Engine Land site and analyses the industry, said big companies like Ask.com and Yahoo had tried pro-privacy pushes before and failed to generate huge interest.
Perhaps in the wake of the NSA and GCHQ revelations, however, users may think twice about their search engine provider.