The Obama administration pursued a policy in Libya back in 2011 that ultimately allowed guns to walk into the hands of jihadists linked to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda (AQ) in Syria, according to a former CIA officer who co-authored a report on behalf of the Citizen’s Commission on Benghazi (CCB), detailing the gun running scheme.
In Congress, the then-bipartisan group known as the “Gang of Eight,” at a minimum, knew of the operation to aid and abet America’s jihadist enemies by providing them with material support. So says Clare Lopez, a former CIA officer and the primary author of CCB’s interim report, titled How America Switched Sides in the War on Terror, speaking with Breitbart News.
The ripple effects of the illegal policy to arm America’s enemies continue to be felt as the U.S. military is currently leading a war against ISIS and AQ terrorists in Iraq and Syria, according to Lopez.
In late October, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the U.S. would begin “direct action on the ground” against ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria who may have reaped the benefits from the gun-running scheme that started in Libya.
“The Obama administration effectively switched sides in what used to be called the Global War on Terror [GWOT] when it decided to overthrow the sovereign government of our Libyan ally, Muammar Qaddafi, who’d been helping in the fight against al-Qaeda, by actually teaming up with and facilitating gun-running to Libyan al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood [MB] elements there in 2011,” explained Lopez. “This U.S. gun-running policy in 2011 during the Libyan revolution was directed by [then] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and [the late Libya Ambassador] Christopher Stevens, who was her official envoy to the Libyan AQ rebels.”
To avoid having the funds tracked back to the Obama administration, the arms flow to Libya was financed thru the United Arab Emirates, while Qatar served as the logistical and shipping hub, she noted.
“In 2012, the gun-running into Libya turned around and began to flow outward, from Benghazi to the AQ-and-MB-dominated rebels in Syria,” Lopez added. “This time, it was the CIA Base of Operations that was in charge of collecting up and shipping out [surface-to-air missiles] SAMs from Libya on Libyan ships to Turkey for overland delivery to a variety of jihadist militias, some of whose members later coalesced into groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS [also known as IS].”
Jabhat al-Nusra is al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.
“The downstream consequences of Obama White House decisions in the Syrian conflict are still playing out, but certainly the U.S. – and particularly CIA – support of identifiable jihadist groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, the Islamic State and other [jihadists] has only exacerbated what was already a devastating situation,” declared Lopez.
Some of the other weapons that eventually ended up in Syria included thousands of MAN-Portable-Air-Defense-System (MANPADS) missile units, such as shoulder-launched SAMs, from late dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s extensive arms stockpiles that pose a threat to low-flying aircraft, especially helicopters.
“It’s been reported that President Obama signed an Executive Order on Syria in early 2012 [just as he had done for Libya in early 2011], that legally covered the CIA and other U.S. agencies that otherwise would have been in violation of aiding and abetting the enemy in time of war and providing material support to terrorism,” notes Lopez. “Still, such blatant disregard for U.S. national security can only be described as deeply corrosive of core American principles.”
Libya Amb. Stevens was killed by jihadists in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, along with three other Americans.
Echoing a Benghazi resident who provided a first-hand account of the incident, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dennis Haney, a CCB member, suggested to Breitbart News that Hillary Clinton’s State Department armed some of the al-Qaeda linked jihadists who may have killed the four Americans in Benghazi.
“The reason the U.S. government was operating in Libya is absolutely critical to this debacle because it reflects where America went off the tracks and literally switched sides in the GWOT,” points out Lopez. “This is about who we are as a country, as a people – where we are going with this Republic of ours.”
“There can be no greater treason than aiding and abetting the jihadist enemy in time of war – or providing material – weapons, funding, intel, NATO bombing – support to terrorism,” she continued. “The reason Benghazi is not the burning issue it ought to be is because so many at top levels of U.S. government were implicated in wrong-doing: White House, Pentagon, Intel Community-CIA, Gang of Eight, at a minimum, in Congress, the Department of State, etc.”
The State Department and the CIA did not respond to Breitbart News’ requests for comment.
The Democratic presidential frontrunner claimed she was not aware of any U.S. government efforts to arm jihadists in Libya and Syria.
Clinton did admit to being open to the idea of using private security experts to arm the Qaddafi opposition, which included al-Qaeda elements, but added that it was “not considered seriously.”
The 2011 “Gang of Eight” mentioned in this report was comprised of a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers.
President Obama’s effort to grant up to 5 million illegal immigrants work permits and amnesty from deportation suffered a major blow late Monday when a federal appeals court ruled it was likely illegal, in yet another move by the courts to set limits on this White House’s efforts to stretch presidential powers.
The 2-1 decision by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in New Orleans, instantly forces the issue to the fore of the presidential campaigns, where all three top Democratic candidates had insisted Mr. Obama’s actions were not only legal, but vowed to go beyond them and try to expand the amnesty to still more illegal immigrants. Republican candidates, meanwhile, had vowed to undo the moves.
The decision is a huge win for Texas and 25 other states who had sued a year ago to stop the president after he declared he was done waiting for Congress and announced he was acting to “change the law” on his own.
Writing for the majority, Judge Jerry E. Smith said that statement by Mr. Obama weighed heavily against him, since only Congress has the power to rewrite the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“The INA flatly does not permit the reclassification of millions of illegal aliens as lawfully present and thereby make them newly eligible for a host of federal and state benefits, including work authorization,” Judge Smith wrote.
The ruling does not mean those illegal immigrants will be deported – indeed, the judges affirmed that the administration has a lot of leeway to decide who does get kicked out on a case-by-case basis. But the decision means that while leaving them alone, the Homeland Security secretary cannot proactively go ahead and grant them work permits, Social Security numbers and a prospective grant of non-deportation for three years into the future.
The ruling also does not alter Mr. Obama’s 2012 policy granting a similar deportation amnesty to so-called Dreamers, or young adult illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Texas did not challenge that policy.
But the decision does halt the 2014 expansion Mr. Obama announced, which would have lifted the age limit on the 2012 policy so it applied to all Dreamers, and would have extended the grant of amnesty to illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent resident children. Estimates have placed the number of people who would have qualified at up to 5 million.
Mr. Obama had repeatedly insisted he was within the law, and pointed to smaller grants of “deferred action” taken by previous presidents.
The majority of the court, however, said this waiver went far beyond that scope, with Mr. Obama attempting to convert major classifications of illegal status.
Mr. Obama had argued his move, known officially as “Deferred Action for Parental Arrivals,” or DAPA, was not a major new policy, but rather a setting of priorities. He argued that Congress doesn’t give him enough money to deport all illegal immigrants, so he is within his rights to use discretion about whom to deport – and then to grant limited benefits to others who might eventually have a claim to legal status under existing laws.
Judge Carolyn Dineen King, who dissented, agreed with the president’s reasoning.
“Denying DHS’s ability to grant deferred action on a ‘class-wide basis’… as the majority does, severely constrains the agency,” she wrote.
She also agreed with Mr. Obama that the courts had no business even getting involved in the case, saying that the president alone has discretion to make deportation decisions and judges are not allowed to second-guess that.
The judges heard oral arguments in the case in July, calling it an expedited appeal because of the seriousness of the matter. That made the three months it took to issue the ruling all the more striking – and Judge King chided her colleagues for taking so long.
“There is no justification for that delay,” she said.
Courts have not been kind to Mr. Obama, a former constitutional law scholar at the University of Chicago. His move to expand recess appointment powers in 2012 was swatted down by a unanimous Supreme Court, while several environmental moves have also been blocked.
And a federal court in Washington, D.C., has ruled the House of Representatives has standing to sue over the president’s moves to try to spend money on Obamacare that Congress specifically withheld.
The immigration ruling joins those rulings as yet another instance where conservatives have turned to the courts to referee a dispute over Mr. Obama’s claims of executive power.
Immigrant-advocacy groups had been anxiously watching the case, and were devastated by the ruling.
“This is a huge setback,” said Voto Latino President Maria Teresa Kumar. “There is a shortage of justice as families live in constant fear of being torn apart from their loved ones and uprooted from their communities.”
She said she was “confident” the Supreme Court will overturn the ruling, if the case gets there.
Mr. Obama announced the amnesty as part of a series of steps last Nov. 20 designed to work around Congress, where House Republicans had balked at passing a legalization bill.
The president said that if they wouldn’t cooperate with him, he was going to take unilateral action to streamline legal immigration and to halt deportations for as many as 9 million of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Those steps all remain in place.
But he also wanted to go beyond that and grant some tentative legal status and benefits to about half of those illegal immigrants – chiefly by giving them work permits, which allows them to come out of the shadows, hold jobs and pay taxes above board.
Granting work permits also entitled the illegal immigrants to driver’s licenses in every state in the county, and to Social Security numbers – which meant they were even able to start collecting tax credits. In addition, some states granted them in-state tuition for public colleges.
But the money states would have to spend on issuing driver’s licenses proved to be the plan’s downfall. Texas argued that meant it would lose money under the plan, which meant it had standing to sue.
Once the judges decided that, they turned to whether Mr. Obama followed the law in making the changes. The majority concluded that he because he never sought public review and comment, which is standard for major changes of policy made by agencies, he broke the Administrative Procedures Act.
Immigrant-rights advocates demanded the Obama administration fight to the Supreme Court, but also said they’ll force the issue into the political realm as well.
Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, called on Hispanics and other voters to punish Republicans at the ballot box over the lawsuit, saying “anti-immigrant conservative politicians… are to blame.”
“We cannot control the courts, but we will have a say in political outcomes. It is now up to us – Latino voters and groups like ours that are working every day to grow our vote in the 2016 national election – to elect candidates who respect our communities and will commit to working on our issues and treating us fairly,” he said.
A federal judge in North Dakota issued a preliminary injunction late on Thursday that will prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward on an ambitious plan to expand the federal government’s power to regulate water pollution.
Judge Ralph Erickson concluded that the 13 states which collaborated to challenge the new Waters of the United States rule were likely to be harmed if the rule was allowed to be implemented, and he also concluded that the rule is unlikely to survive a final court judgment.
The ruling is a tough blow to the Obama administration, which has pushed hard for the new rule. For the time being, the injunction only applies to the 13 states in the lawsuit, while the rule will go into place for the rest of the country starting Friday.
The Waters of the United States rule, proposed in April 2014, the Obama administration’s effort to enforce its vision of the Clean Water Act. The rule would alter the definition of what constitutes the “waters of the United States” under the act, thereby increasing the amount of water subject to federal regulation. Critics, comprising Republicans along with many agricultural and business interests, argue that the new rule is a power grab by the federal government, which would give them unprecedented control over bodies of water located entirely within individual states. Some have argued that even flooded ditches could fall under federal oversight through the new rule.
The 13 states winning in Thursday’s ruling aren’t the only ones challenging the rule. Several other lawsuits have sought injunctions in federal courts, but those injunction requests have not succeeded thus far.
In his ruling, Erickson characterizes the rule as “exceptionally expansive” in how it defines the waters of the United States. If implemented, Erickson writes, it would “irreparably diminish” states’ sovereignty over their own waterways. He also found that states would incur major financial distress from the new rule, noting that North Dakota would now have to spend millions on costly mapping and survey projects before it could approve new oil wells in the state.
“The breadth of the definition of a tributary set forth in the Rule allows for regulation of any area that has a trace amount of water so long as ‘the physical indicators of a bed and banks and an ordinary high water mark’ exist,” Erickson writes. Erickson added that many parts of the rule were made without any clear scientific basis, and thus the rule appears to be “arbitrary and capricious” in nature.
“I am thrilled that Chief Judge Erickson agrees EPA’s WOTUS rule should be enjoined,” said Pam Bondi, chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “EPA overstepped its authority, again. The EPA should not be permitted to intrude unlawfully on state authority and burden farmers, businesses and landowners.”
The League of Conservation Voters, on the other hand, quickly slammed the new injunction.
“This is a terrible decision for the 1 in 3 Americans who have already been waiting too long for these vital protections for their drinking water,”said League legislative representative Madeleine Foote in a statement. “The District Court for North Dakota’s decision puts the interests of big polluters over people in need of clean water. Blocking the implementation of the Clean Water Rule leaves in place an unworkable status quo that jeopardizes the clean water our families, economy, and communities depend on.”
A federal appeals court upheld an injunction against President Obama’s new deportation in a ruling Tuesday that marks the second major legal setback for an administration that had insisted its actions were legal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Texas, which had sued to stop the amnesty, on all key points, finding that Mr. Obama’s amnesty likely broke the law governing how big policies are to be written.
“The public interest favors maintenance of the injunction,” the judges wrote in the majority opinion.
Mr. Obama had acted in November to try to grant tentative legal status and work permits to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, saying he was tired of waiting for Congress to act.
The full amnesty, known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, or DAPA, had been scheduled to begin last week, while an earlier part had been slated to accept applications on Feb. 18. But just two days before that, Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued his injunction finding that Mr. Obama had broken the law.
Administration officials had criticized that ruling, and immigrant-rights advocates had called Judge Hanen an activist bent on punishing immigrants. But Tuesday’s ruling upholds his injunction, giving some vindication to the judge.
It also could mean Mr. Obama will have to appeal to the Supreme Court if he wants to implement his amnesty before the end of his term.
In the 2-1 decision, Judge Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Elrod ruled in favor of Texas, finding that the state would suffer an injury from having to deliver services to the illegal immigrants granted legal status, and ruling that it was a major enough policy that the president should have sent it through the usual rule-making process.
“DAPA modifies substantive rights and interests – conferring lawful presence on 500,000 illegal aliens in Texas forces the state to choose between spending millions of dollars to subsidize driver’s licenses and changing its law,” the judges wrote.
Judge Stephen A. Higginson dissented from Tuesday’s ruling, saying he would have left the fight over immigration policy to the White House and Congress, saying Mr. Obama should have broad discretion to decide who gets deported and how he goes about that.
Just Higginson also said the fight was a political battle, not a legal one
“The political nature of this dispute is clear from the names on the briefs: hundreds of mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, attorneys general, governors, and state legislators – not to mention 185 members of Congress, 15 states and the District of Columbia on the one hand, and 113 members of Congress and 26 states on the other,” he wrote.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking a judge to allow an investigation of the closed-door workings of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, following the discovery that 100,000 illegal immigrants had secretly been given three-year amnesty documents well before a promised start date.
“The Obama Administration appears to have already been issuing expanded work permits, in direct contradiction to what they told a federal judge previously in this litigation,” Paxton said in a Thursday statement describing his legal request, which was signed by the governors or attorneys general of 26 states.
“The circumstances behind this must be investigated, and the motion we seek would help us determine to what extent the Administration might have misrepresented the facts in this case,” he added.
The judge has frozen Obama’s amnesty since Feb. 16, pending the future decisions of appeals court judges. Without the judge’s decision, Obama’s deputies already would be preparing work permits and tax rebates for illegals.
Paxton’s hardball response was cheered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. ”I commend Attorney General Paxton for continuing to hold the Obama Administration accountable, and I’m confident an investigation would find the Administration knowingly or recklessly misled a Federal Court in issuing thousands of amnesty documents illegally,” he said Thursday.
“President Obama has continued to show complete disregard for the Rule of Law by acting beyond his Constitutional authority at every stage of this process,” he added.
The judge, Andrew Hanen, showed his skepticism about the administration in a 2014 case, when he said border officers were being used by the administration to illegally transfer foreign children from Central America to their parents living illegally in U.S. cities.
On Feb. 16, Hanen froze Obama’s two-part amnesty, which was intended to provide residency, work permits and tax rebates to at least four million illegals, after concluding it likely violated the federal government’s rule-making process.
The amnesty for roughly 1 million younger illegals is called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and it was launched in June 2012, five months before the 2012 election. Obama’s November amnesty extends the work permits given to the younger illegals from two years to three years.
The amnesty for roughly 4 million parent illegals is called DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Obama’s plan would give them work permits, tax rebates, Social Security numbers, drivers’ license and a fast-track to citizenship.
In November, administration statements had declared it would not start the DACA upgrade until Feb. 18, and would not start the DAPA amnesty until in May 2015. On Jan. 15, Obama’s lawyer told the judge that “no applications for the revised DACA… would be accepted until the 18th of February.”
But Obama’s deputies were already handing out the three-year DACA amnesties. By mid-February, 100,000 three-year amnesties had been given to illegals who had received two-year amnesties in 2012 or 2013.
On March 3, Obama’s lawyers admitted to the judge that officials had already given the three-year DACA amnesties to 100,000 people, according to a March 4 article in the Washington Examiner.
“Out of an abundance of caution, however, Defendants wish to bring one issue to the Court’s attention,” said the administration’s document given to the judge. “Between November 24, 2014 and the issuance of the Court’s [Feb. 16] Order, USCIS granted three-year periods of deferred action to approximately 100,000 individuals who had requested deferred action under the original 2012 DACA guidelines.”
The officials excused the deception by claiming that the announced Feb. 18 start date “may have led to confusion about when USCIS had begun providing three-year terms of deferred action to individuals already eligible for deferred action under 2012 DACA.”
The administration’s “confusion” was exposed March 3, the same day that top GOP leaders allied with Democrats to pressure GOP legislators to pass a budget bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The budget did pass, and it doesn’t block funding for Obama’s unpopular and possibly illegal amnesty.
A federal judge in Texas on Monday granted a temporary injunction halting President Obama’s executive-order driven amnesty program.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ordered the government not to proceed with any portion of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, DAPA.
In his order the federal judge said the court found “that at least one plaintiff has satisfied all the necessary elements to maintain a lawsuit and to obtain a temporary injunction.”
“The United States of America, its departments, agencies, officers, agents and employees and Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of United States customs and Border Protection; Ronald D. Vitiello, deputy chief of United States Border Patrol, United States Customs and Border Protection; Thomas S. Winkowski, acting director of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and Leon Rodriguez, director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services are hereby enjoined from implementing any and all aspects or phases of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents…”
The outline of plans was “set out in the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s memorandum dated November 20, 2014.”
The injunction is until “a final resolution of the merits of this case or until a further order of this court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit or the United States Supreme Court,” the judge ordered.
He cited the Obama administration’s failure to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act.
Hanen also ordered that federal officials and agencies are further enjoined from implementing “any and all aspects or phases of the expansions (including any and all changes) to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
That was the program begun several years ago by Obama.
The judge also explained the defendants will be allowed to “reapproach this court for relief from this order, in the time period between the date of this order and the trial on the merits, for good cause, including if Congress passes legislation that authorizes DAPA or at such a time as the defendants have complied with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.”
He scheduled a conference call for counsel following a Feb. 27, 2015, deadline for a schedule for the case to be processed.
In Austin, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, “President Obama abdicated his responsibility to uphold the United States Constitution when he attempted to circumvent the laws passed by Congress via executive fiat, and Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the president’s overreach in its tracks. We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the president’s attempt to by-pass the will of the American people was successfully checked today. The district court’s ruling is very clear – it prevents the president from implementing the policies in ‘any and all aspects.’”
It’s one of two pending cases challenging Obama’s amnesty.
The other actually was developed first, and was thrown out at the district court level.
But it now is on a fast track before an appellate court in Washington, D.C.
It was filed by attorney Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, on behalf of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Klayman told WND he’s waiting now for the government to respond to the appellate court.
“We want the D.C. court to enter a preliminary injunction, stopping everything in its tracks,” he said. “We’re confident that they will agree with us.”
Obama’s amnesty plans are forecast to allow at least another five million illegal aliens in the U.S. to be given a legal status, where they could hold jobs, driver’s licenses – and critics say they would even be allowed to vote.
WND had reported earlier on the significance of the case, which was brought by 26 states against the federal government. It was predicted to go far beyond amnesty and immigration.
The fight will determine whether the United States can be run by a president and his decrees, or by a chief elected official who enforces the laws Congress writes, according to Mark Krikorian, chief of the Center for Immigration Studies, which watches the immigration situation.
“If I were a Republican politician, I wouldn’t even be arguing this on the basis of immigration,” he told WND in an interview. “I would be talking about this as just the latest and most egregious example of a president’s rule by decree.”
He said the coming dispute, which very well may extend into the 2016 presidential election or beyond, is going to decide “the balance of powers, whether Congress actually makes law or is an advisory body like the U.N. General Assembly, which is how Obama sees it.”
Obama already has challenged America’s laws a multitude of times, simply issuing orders to make changes to the Obamacare law, and on a variety of other issues, all without the benefit of a decision by Congress, which originally wrote the laws.
The fight over amnesty is one of two focal points – the other is Obamacare – of a letter-writing campaign to encourage GOP members of the U.S. House to replace Speaker John Boehner.
The “Dump Boehner Now” campaign allows voters to reach every single Republican House member with hard-copy letters asking them to reconsider their choice as speaker. The letter says House members had the chance to stop Obamacare and amnesty, but Boehner failed to take advantage.
Joseph Farah, WND founder and campaign organizer, set up the letters campaign. He said the opposition to Boehner is based on the Obamacare and amnesty program that voters rejected in the 2014 midterm elections.
The letter explains to members of the U.S. House that two issues have “prompted Americans to turn in droves to the Republican Party in November 2014 – Barack Obama’s blatantly unconstitutional executive action to provide amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, and the deliberately deceptive restructuring of America’s health-care system through Obamacare, which threatens to unravel the greatest health delivery system in the world.”
Pointing out that Republicans before the election “solemnly vowed to STOP this lame-duck president,” the letter states: “Now you have the power, right and duty to stop him.
“But it won’t happen with John Boehner leading you. You know this to be true. The trillion-dollar budget deal is just the latest proof that Boehner is not capable of leading the House to victory during this critical period.”
It’s because during the lame-duck Congress, Boehner agreed to Obama’s plan to continue funding for Obamacare and amnesty into 2015.
MSNBC did a report only days ago speculating on whether Hanen would halt the federal plan. MSNBC called Hanen “a critic of the Obama administration’s immigration policies.”
Worried MSNBC, “If Hanen decides against the Obama administration, he could block the implementation of the executive measures, which are scheduled to kick in Feb. 18. If that were to happen, the Department of Justice would almost certainly appeal the decision, which would then go to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals – yet another conservative-leaning court.”
The fact that more than half the states are participating in the case has alarmed amnesty supporters, but they still hope more and more illegals come out of the shadows and claim a place at the head of the line of those awaiting official recognition in the U.S., or at least it appears that way.
Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center told MSNBC, “People have been waiting so long for a chance to come forward and be able to work with authorization and not be looking over their shoulder all day long. We’re really trying to send the message that this should be business as usual.”
House Republicans, under Boehner, also have said they are going to take court action, but haven’t yet.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the decision was a victory.
“And a crucial first step in reining in President Obama’s lawlessness,” he added.
Klayman has explained it’s not a case mainly about immigration.
“This is fundamentally about the rule of law and our constitutional system,” he said.
“I know we would prefer, like all conservatives and patriots, to have a clear ruling that executive overreach by any president is a dangerous injury to our Constitution. Lawyers do recognize, however, that courts try to find the easiest way to reach a result. We hope to reach a ruling that the executive branch cannot rewrite the nation’s laws whether they go through the Administrative Procedures Act process or not,” Klayman said.
In an accompanying 123-page memorandum, Hanen wrote about the states’ interest in not allowing “their own resources” to be drained by the “constant influx of illegal immigrants.”
He found “States ultimately bear the brunt of illegal immigration.”
The opinion noted specifically that Washington “maintains that none of the plaintiffs have standing to bring this injunctive action. The states disagree, claiming that the government cannot implement a substantive program and then insulate itself from legal challenges by those who suffer from its negative effects.”
The judge noted the reality of the immigration situation.
“When apprehending illegal aliens, the government often processes and releases them with only the promise that they will return for a hearing if and when the government decides to hold one. In the meantime, the states – with little or no help from the government – are required by law to provide various services to this population.”
He continued, “It is indisputable that the states are harmed to some extent by the government’s action and inaction in the area of immigration.”
The judge said Obama’s program isn’t only a situation where there aren’t enough resources, so program managers pick and choose which cases to handle. Washington’s current program “is an announced program of non-enforcement of the law that contradicts Congress’ statutory goals.”
“The DHS does have discretion in the manner in which it chooses to fulfill the expressed will of Congress. It cannot, however, enact a program whereby it not only ignores the dictates of Congress, but actively acts to thwart them,” the judge said.
Last week we reported that the tip of the Republican spear aimed at President Obama’s Executive-Order-turned-proclamation on immigration was the coalition of states that have joined the suit filed and led by TX Attorney General Greg Abbott.
At the time of reporting, the coalition of states in the suit stood at a healthy 17, but that number has now swelled to 24. With the potential for more states to sign on in the coming weeks, more than half of the states in the union could be taking on the federal government for its overreach.
Abbott remarked in a statement Wednesday on the coalition’s suit, “The president’s proposed executive decree violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law, circumvents the will of the American people and is an affront to the families and individuals who follow our laws to legally immigrate to the United States.”
The suit now includes the following states, reports CNN: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Conservatives who had wanted to see language to block President Obama’s executive actions inserted into the massive, must-pass government funding bill are expressing frustration and anger at House Republican leadership’s lack of an appetite to fight amnesty now.
“The fix is in, which I’ve been saying all along,” Rep. Matt Salmon said after leaving the GOP’s conference meeting Wednesday morning.
Tuesday night the House Appropriations Committee posted its $1.1 trillion spending package. The measure is expected to receive a vote Thursday. If no funding bill is passed by that night, the government would shut down.
“Promises around here – regardless of who they are made by – don’t seem to mean anything,” Salmon told reporters.
He explained that lawmakers’ phones have been “lighting up” with constituents asking them “do what [they] were elected to do.”
The Arizona lawmaker is spearheading an amendment with other conservative lawmakers to attach an amendment to the funding bill that would prohibit funding for Obama’s executive amnesty. His spokesman estimated to Breitbart News that the amendment currently has 55 co-sponsors. The amendment is, however, unlikely to receive a vote.
Leadership’s spending package instead is designed to fund most of the government through September, but only fund the Department of Homeland Security into February, when Republicans will have more reinforcements in the Senate to pursue a fight against Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
“Without a threat of a government shutdown, this sets up a direct challenge to the president’s unilateral actions on immigration when we have new majorities in both chambers of Congress,” House Speaker John Boehner explained to reporters.
Conservative lawmakers Wednesday not only expressed frustration with the short amount of time given to consider the 1,603 page bill and the fact that it does not defund executive amnesty immediately, but they also questioned whether leadership would actually give a full-fledged fight next year.
“What is there to suggest that a few months from now you will oppose the amnesty that you have today funded?” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), also a co-sponsor of the defund amendment, asked.
“My biggest concern is that there are a significant number of Republicans who support amnesty, they just don’t support the way in which the president did it. That is a big distinction,” the Alabama conservative said.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), another of the defund amendment’s co-sponsors, told Breitbart News that his constituents have been calling him to support of defunding executive amnesty.
According to Fleming “an avalanche” of calls from constituents could move the needle to get more members to push for defunding amnesty now.
“That’s what it takes. Otherwise I think Republicans are at serious risk of going out there and supporting something the American people do not support,” Fleming said.
He anticipated that many of the co-sponsors of the defund amendment will vote no on the package.
“For every one of us they’re going to have to find one [Democrat],” Fleming said.
Some of the ability to fight Obama on executive amnesty will be lost if House Republicans go along with allowing it to be funded, if only for a short time, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) argues.
“My point is you either defend the Constitution when the president violates it or you lose some of your ability and traction to do so later,” King said. “I think its better to fight now than it is later. So therefore I have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, that’s for this Congress and I expect to be standing on the floor January 6th taking another one. I don’t want to have voted to fund the lawless, unconstitutional act by the president and then I could take an oath and mean it.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), another defund amendment co-sponsor, said stopping amnesty is “the issue of the day,” saying the executive actions will already be implemented come next year when leadership hopes to have the fight against them.
“That’s probably impossible to undo it in late February. This idea we’re going to take it up next year, it’s too late if you’re going to wait until after the DACA has been implemented,” he argued.
The defund amendment will be presented to the House Rules Committee by another leader in the effort, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), later Wednesday according to Salmon’s spokesman.
While Salmon told reporters he “is sure [Rules] won’t” accept the amendment, he stressed that conservatives still have to try. He added that he still expected the overall funding measure to pass despite the opposition from conservatives frustrated over funding amnesty.
King told Breitbart News that he is not co-sponsoring the Salmon and Mulvaney effort but will instead try to get the House Rules Committee to take up an effort that that goes even further, to target not only Obama’s most recent executive amnesty but also DACA and the Morton Memos.
“Somebody’s got to preserve our constitutional argument and if I don’t bring my amendment there is a concession,” he explained.
A coalition of seventeen states joined together today to file suit against the Obama administration, arguing that President Obama swept aside the constitutional limits on his power and violated his constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” when he moved to unilateral dismiss enforcement of the immigration laws against 4 million illegal aliens.
“This lawsuit is not about immigration,” said the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. “It is about the rule of law, presidential power, and the structural limits of the U.S. Constitution.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is the governor-elect of Texas, explained the states’ argument.
“The President’s unilateral executive action tramples the U.S. Constitution’s Take Care Clause and federal law,” Abbott said in a statement. “The Constitution’s Take Care Clause limits the President’s power and ensures that he will faithfully execute Congress’s laws – not rewrite them under the guise of ‘prosecutorial discretion.’”
In the complaint itself, the states pointed out that Obama had admitted, in a speech in Chicago, that he had in fact changed the law.
“On November 20, 2014, the President of the United States announced that he would unilaterally suspend the immigration laws as applied to 4 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States,” says the complaint. The President candidly admitted that, in so doing, he unilaterally rewrote the law: ‘What you’re not paying attention to is, I just took an action to change the law.’”
The seventeen states joining in the suit are: Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Maine.
They are asking for the court to block the president’s action.
President Obama leapt directly into the net neutrality fight Monday, urging the Federal Communications Commission to claim expansive new powers over the Internet to enact the “strongest possible” regulations.
“‘Net neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation – but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted,” Obama said in a video posted on the White House website. “We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.”
Under his plan, the FCC would classify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a provision the agency already uses to regulate telephone companies. His statement is a huge win for Internet activists, who have been warning the future of the Internet could be at stake unless the FCC invokes stronger authority to prevent abuses by Internet providers.
But broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon have been lobbying fiercely against applying the provision to the Internet, warning it would strangle their industry with utility-style regulations. Shares of major broadband providers sank early Monday following the announcement. Verizon issued a statement saying it supports an “open Internet,” but warned that Obama’s plan would face “strong legal challenges.”
It’s also a confrontational move against congressional Republicans, who just won control of the Senate last week. They consider Title II an archaic provision designed for a time when a single monopoly controlled all telephone service. They warn that using the provision on the Internet would destory jobs and mean slower Internet for everyone. The new GOP Congress will be sure to try to repeal any net neutrality rules the FCC enacts.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, tweeted Monday that net neutrality is the the “Obamacare of the Internet” and that the “Internet should not operate at the speed of government.” But Democrats, including Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Anna Eshoo, praised Obama’s statement and urged the FCC to enact the stronger rules.
In his statement, Obama noted that the FCC is an independent agency and that the ultimate decision will be up to Chairman Tom Wheeler and the four other commissioners. But his statement puts tremendous pressure on the Democratic appointees to seize the controversial new powers.
Wheeler thanked Obama for his input Monday, but didn’t explicitly say he would follow the president’s directions. The various net neutrality proposals raise “substantive legal questions,” Wheeler said, and he’ll need more time to develop rules that can hold up in court. The FCC chief had previously said he wanted new rules on the books by the end of the year.
Under Obama’s plan, the FCC would ban Internet providers from blocking websites, throttling Internet service, or creating any special Internet “fast lanes” for websites that pay more. The rules would apply equally to a home Internet connection and mobile devices.
He also said the FCC should consider applying regulations to the interconnection points on the backend of the Internet, which would help Netflix and other companies deliver large video files without having to pay Internet providers for better connections. Traditionally, net neutrality has only covered how Internet providers must handle traffic once its on their networks.
Title II would give the FCC a slew of new powers over the Internet, including the ability to control prices and determine which customers a company has to serve. Obama said the FCC should waive the rate regulation requirements and “other provisions less relevant to broadband services.”
Net neutrality advocates argue that Title II is the only way to enact rules that can survive in court. The FCC first enacted net neutrality regulations in 2010, but a federal court struck them down earlier this year.
Wheeler proposed new rules in May that wouldn’t invoke Title II and would allow for Internet “fast lanes” in some cases, but his proposal prompted a massive backlash and more than 3.7 million people filed comments with the FCC.
Although Obama has long supported the concept of net neutrality, Monday is the first time he outlined which specific legal authority the FCC should use.
Despite what you may have heard, net neutrality is not about protecting consumers from rapacious Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It would not make broadband more available in rural America, or lower prices for small businesses. And it has nothing to do with protecting free speech or dissenting voices. Net neutrality is crony capitalism pure and simple – an effort by one group of private interests to enrich itself at the expense of another group by using the power of the state.
For all the arcane talk about “Title II” and “common carriage,” this is not complicated. The rules favored by net neutrality advocates would ban or restrict payments from one type of business – “edge providers” – to another type of business – broadband ISPs – while placing no limits on what ISPs charge consumers. It is easy to see why edge providers like Netflix would lobby for such rules, but difficult to understand how they would benefit consumers or serve the public interest.
Indeed, the arguments advanced by net neutrality advocates don’t withstand even momentary scrutiny. Do broadband providers enjoy too much market power – are they “monopolists”? Not according to the Federal Communication Commission, which waxes eloquent about the strong performance of the broadband marketplace, citing the billions of dollars invested each year and the rapid increase in speeds and performance. And while much is made of consumers’ limited choices, the broadband market is actually less concentrated than the markets for search engines, social networks, and over-the-top video services: discriminatory regulation of ISPs cannot be justified on the basis of market power.
Other arguments for regulation are just as flawed. For example, net neutrality advocates say that without new regulations, ISPs would discriminate against Internet start-ups. But such discriminatory pricing hasn’t occurred so far, and no one can explain why ISPs would want to impede the ongoing explosion of innovative content and applications that makes their services valuable in the first place – especially since such companies pose no competitive threat to the ISPs. Nor can anyone cite an example of an American (as opposed to Chinese or Russian) ISP muzzling a dissenting voice or limiting free speech. In fact, to the extent that any firms in the Internet ecosystem have issues with free speech, it is the content providers like YouTube and Yahoo, who are under constant pressure (which they mostly, and laudably, resist) to take down “offensive” material.
Finally, there’s the argument about fast lanes and slow lanes, or, in regulatory jargon, “paid prioritization.” The simple reality is that edge providers like Netflix require prioritization for their services to work. It’s just the “paid” part they don’t like.
The key to understanding net neutrality lies in the fact that broadband ISPs operate in what economists call a “two-sided market.” One side consists of consumers, who value access to content and applications; the other side consists of content and application providers, who value using the network to reach the customers. Such markets are not unusual: newspapers, for example, serve both advertisers and subscribers. The challenge for such firms is to set prices for each customer group in such a way as to attract the optimal mix: newspapers need enough advertisers to keep subscription prices low, but they don’t want too many ads because it would drive away readers.
The FCC’s primary theory of net neutrality regulation is that the edge providers generate so much innovation and other “external” benefits that they should be subsidized by the other side (that is, by consumers) through a rule that forces consumers to pay 100 percent of the costs of the network while edge providers pay zero. This is a fine theory – but there is not a scintilla of empirical evidence to support it. Indeed, academic research suggests the external benefits generated by ISP’s investments in broadband infrastructure are likely at least as large as the benefits from innovation at the edge.
At the end of the day, the one unarguable fact about net neutrality regulation is that edge providers, big and small, and those who fund them and profit from their success, have a powerful economic interest in getting the FCC to guarantee free access to the ISPs’ networks.
Many net neutrality supporters are no doubt sincere in believing regulation is needed to “protect the open Internet,” and there is nothing illegal or even immoral about wealthy and well-connected private companies seeking to advance their interests through the use of state power. But the results can prove highly damaging. In the case of net neutrality, the danger is that the dynamic, pragmatic, business-and-engineering-driven approach that has made the Internet such a remarkable success will be replaced by an inevitably static, bureaucratic, politicized regulatory regime, not unlike the one that oversees the U.S. Postal Service.
On the global front, a decision by the U.S. to embrace economic and political control of the Internet would legitimize the efforts of tyrants everywhere to impose far more repressive forms of statist intervention.
From a consumer perspective, net neutrality regulation is just one more government-mandated rip-off – another few bucks out of our pockets to subsidize a politically influential interest group. So, the next time you hear an over-the-top video provider arguing for net neutrality, keep this in mind: there’s nothing neutral about it.
When the FCC isn’t protecting us from bad language, it concerns itself with markets created by and for communication networks. It allocates the airwaves used by old-school television, talk radio, mobile phones and Wi-Fi; it oversees mergers and acquisitions among communications companies such as NBC Universal, Comcast, AT&T, and Sprint; and in the current century it has expended considerable resources on micro-managing the technical operations and business models of broadband Internet Service Providers.
While the agency would seem to be plenty busy carrying out its statutory responsibilities with respect to spectrum and mergers, it has chosen to become embroiled in an extra-curricular affair of its own making, the “net neutrality” controversy. This kerfuffle dates back to philosophical meditations on regulation and innovation before the turn of the current century.
It got real in 2007 when self-styled public interest groups filed a complaint with the FCC alleging that Comcast was picking on piracy-oriented BitTorrent networks to protect its TV business. Although Comcast was actually protecting voice competitor Vonage, it stopped using the offending system as soon as it had a higher-quality alternative. The FCC rapped Comcast’s knuckles anyway, which led the company to give the FCC a shellacking in court. This in turn caused the agency to devise a new set of Internet regulations in 2010, only to have them vacated by the court this January.
Somewhere along the way, most net neutrality wonks stopped caring whether it was good policy for innovators or even what the term means: now it’s all about winning. The FCC has decided it can’t passively accept the status quo and has issued 100 pages of questions on various approaches it might take to satisfy the warring clans in the Internet economy’s Game of Thrones, none of which is broadly popular.
At the heart of the conflict lies a misconception about how the Internet works; this naturally leads to a series of counter-productive prescriptions. The very first of the net neutrality papers, “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination” by then-Virginia law professor Tim Wu, imagined a magical Black Box connecting ISPs with the Internet. Wu realized that the Internet is rife with “discrimination”, content and services offered at various prices with widely divergent levels of quality and utility. He also recognized that neighborhood broadband networks do a number of different things that depend on discrimination: in addition to connecting to the Internet, they supply cable TV and furnish telephone service.
Wu feared ISPs had incentives to degrade competitors, especially video and voice services that went toe-to-toe with core elements of their business model. So he took the unusual step of granting an effective monopoly to the ISPs for voice and video by making the Black Box favor web surfing over other uses. Wu may have sought to design a system that would make ISPs structurally incapable of bad behavior, but he ended up favoring the Web over emerging Internet applications. Banishing the devils has a way of eliminating the angels as well.
Given that it’s committed to making new rules for the Internet, the FCC has a choice between basing its authority on a terse direction in the law allowing it to promote investment in advanced networks (Section 706) or on another portion pertaining to the traditional telephone network, Title II of the Telecom Act. In either case, the agency seems convinced that the Black Box is a winner, at least at the ballot box.
Networks that can’t discriminate are incapable of supporting the wide range of uses that more agile networks can handle. A Black Box network must necessarily be tuned to a single, dominant application instead of being responsive to a diverse pool of uses. Whatever else we know about the future, it’s certain that the Internet will be expected to do more things for more people ten years from now as it was ten years ago.
If we’re going to have a robust and growing market for network applications in the future that improve quality of life and grow the economy, we’re going to need networks that can move information quickly or cheaply, reliably or pervasively, securely or accurately and in several other modes as well.
Consequently, the locus of concern for regulatory policy must shift from preventing the bad to promoting the good. The FCC can do this by drafting rules consistent with the desire to promote meaningful competition, network investment, and service diversity.
Most of the content we get from the Internet comes to us through a kind of fast lane known as a Content Delivery Network that accelerates our access by placing duplicate copies of the content around the web. It’s a law of engineering that short distances can always be crossed more quickly than long ones. It’s also the case that sensitivity to the fundamental elements of network service quality – information loss and delay – depends on the application in use. Backing up a hard drive is less time sensitive, more loss averse, and more data volume-intensive than making a phone call. Network systems such as Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and 4G/LTE wireless recognize this fact with built-in mechanisms to match network service to application needs.
The Black Box rules these adaptations out of bounds, effectively forcing applications to adapt to the whims of policy makers and an arbitrary network. This approach compromises innovation and economic growth, and ultimately erodes quality of life.
The business practices of network industries need the same sort of anti-trust scrutiny that every industry faces, but they do not need precautionary prescriptions that throw the baby out with the bath water. Twenty years of experience with the commercial Internet has proved that fast-lane services like CDNs are beneficial, so we should be looking for ways to grow the Internet economy by creating more services like them.
Network neutrality is simply a bad idea that has run its course.
NET NEUTRAILTY 101: WHY IT’S TERRIBLE
NET NEUTRAILTY RULING: THE INTERNET WORKS, DON’T ‘FIX’ IT
STEFAN MOLYNEUX: THE TRUTH ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY
Extortion: Radical Democrat activist groups stand to collect millions from Attorney General Eric Holder’s record $17 billion deal to settle alleged mortgage abuse charges against Bank of America.
Buried in the fine print of the deal, which includes $7 billion in soft-dollar consumer relief, are a raft of political payoffs to Obama constituency groups. In effect, the government has ordered the nation’s largest bank to create a massive slush fund for Democrat special interests.
Besides requiring billions in debt forgiveness payments to delinquent borrowers in Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago and other Democrat strongholds – and up to $500 million to cover personal taxes owed on those checks – the deal requires BofA to make billions in new loans, while also building affordable low-income rental housing in those areas.
If there are leftover funds in four years, the settlement stipulates the money will go to Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA), which provides legal aid for the poor and supports left-wing causes, and NeighborWorks of America, which provides affordable housing and funds a national network of left-wing community organizers operating in the mold of Acorn.
In fact, in 2008 and 2009, NeighborWorks awarded a whopping $25 million to Acorn Housing.
In 2011 alone, NeighborWorks shelled out $35 million in “affordable housing grants” to 115 such groups, according to its website. Recipients included the radical Affordable Housing Alliance, which pressures banks to make high-risk loans in low-income neighborhoods and which happens to be the former employer of HUD’s chief “fair housing” enforcer.
BofA gets extra credit if it makes at least $100 million in direct donations to IOLTA and housing activist groups approved by HUD.
According to the list provided by Justice, those groups include come of the most radical bank shakedown organizations in the country, including:
• La Raza, which pressures banks to expand their credit box to qualify more low-income Latino immigrants for home loans;
• National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Washington’s most aggressive lobbyist for the disastrous Community Reinvestment Act;
• Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, whose director calls himself a “bank terrorist;”
• Operation Hope, a South Central Los Angeles group that’s pressuring banks to make “dignity mortgages” for deadbeats.
Worse, one group eligible for BofA slush funds is a spin-off of Acorn Housing’s branch in New York.
It’s now rebranded as Mutual Housing Association of New York, or MHANY. HUD lists MHANY’s contact as Ismene Speliotis, who previously served as New York director of Acorn Housing.
A former Deputy Chief of Veterans Claims in the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs pleaded guilty Monday to extortion in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain over $1.4 million in veterans benefits.
The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Kim R. Lampkins of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.
In January 2011, U.S. Army veteran David Clark, age 67, of Hydes, Maryland, retired from the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs as the deputy chief for veterans claims. Clark’s duties included submitting claims and documentation on behalf of veterans in Maryland who appointed the MDVA to represent them in obtaining federal benefits from the VA. Clark also submitted documents to the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation in support of veterans’ applications for property tax waivers.
According to his plea agreement, while serving at Deputy Chief of Claims, Clark fraudulently obtained VA compensation for himself and at least 17 others, by submitting false documents to the VA purporting to show that the claimants had been diagnosed with diabetes, and in some cases, that the claimant had served in Vietnam when they had not. The claimants paid Clark half of the retroactive lump sum payment they received in cash or some other amount of cash. These payments to Clark were made in unmarked envelopes, at MDVA offices in Bel Air; at the Fallon Federal Building in Baltimore; and at other locations.
In support of these claims, Clark submitted fake letters from doctors purportedly treating the veterans, which falsely stated that the claimants suffered from Type II diabetes. Clark used the names and addresses of real doctors who were unaware of his conduct. Each letter stated that the diagnosis of Type II diabetes had been made a year or more prior to the date of the letter, which entitled each claimant to a retroactive lump-sum payment. The letters also stated that the claimants were currently taking insulin, which increased the amount of compensation the VA paid the claimant.
Clark created counterfeit versions of a Defense Department form for himself and five others, which falsely stated that each had served in Vietnam. These forms also falsely stated that these individuals had received various awards and decorations for the Vietnam service, including that Clark himself had been awarded the Purple Heart Medal. These documents were submitted to the VA to provide false evidence that they qualified for compensation benefits for diabetes.
Clark also submitted false certifications to the SDAT, on behalf of claimants that owned homes in Maryland, that the filers were entitled to a property tax waiver due to a service-connected disability.
The false claims cost the government $1,151,219 and the loss from the property tax evasion is $255,555, for a total loss of $1,407,134, officials said.
Clark faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Clark has agreed to forfeit $1,407,134.
A sentencing date is scheduled for Nov. 17.
Eight other veterans have previously pleaded guilty to paying Clark cash to submit false documentation to receive VA benefits:
* John Bratcher, 56, of Conowingo, Maryland, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force
* Richard Genco, 71, of Baltimore, a veteran of the U.S. Navy
* Paul Heard, 65, of Baltimore, a veteran of the U.S. Navy
* George Kulla, 68, of Baltimore, a veteran of the U.S. Army
* Sandra Tyree, 65, of Baltimore, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and former employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
* Kenneth Webster, 68, of Pasadena, Maryland, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a former police officer with AMTRAK
* Raymond Sadler, 63, of Middle River, Maryland, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps
* Kenneth Williams, age 65, of Baltimore, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
A black reverend stiffed by the Cochran campaign has exposed an alleged criminal conspiracy by Cochran staffers to commit massive voter fraud ahead of Tuesday’s controversial U.S. Senate Republican runoff election in Mississippi.
Reverend Stevie Fielder, associate pastor at historic First Union Missionary Baptist Church and former official at Meridian’s redevelopment agency, says he delivered “hundreds or even thousands,” of blacks to the polls after being offered money and being assured by a Cochran campaign operative that Chris McDaniel was a racist. “They [the Cochran campaign] told me to offer blacks fifteen dollars each and to vote for Thad.”
It is illegal under several provisions of Mississippi law and federal law for campaign officials to bribe voters with cash and punishable up to five years in jail. (MS Code 97-13-1; MS Code 97-13-3 (2013) (Federal Code 18 U.S.C. 597, U.S.C. 1973i(c)) Voter fraud schemes are not unusual for Mississippi. In 1999 Mississippi’s attorney general reported massive voter fraud allegations throughout the Magnolia state. In 2011, a Mississippi NAACP leader was sent to prison for voter fraud, according to the Daily Caller.
It would seem that laws were broken here, too. At the direction of the Cochran campaign, Reverend Fielder went “door to door, different places, mostly impoverished neighborhoods, to the housing authorities and stuff like that,” telling fellow blacks that McDaniel was a racist and promising them $15 per vote. “They sold me on the fact that he was a racist and that the right thing to do was to keep him out of office,” Fielder says.
Text messages released to Got News and a recorded interview with Reverend Fielder confirmed that Saleem Baird, a staffer with the Cochran campaign and current legislative aide to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, and Cochran campaign manager, Kirk Sims, were involved in a $15-per-vote cash bribery scheme to target members of the black community.
“They said they needed black votes,” said the Reverend Fielder on the phone. He says Baird told him to “give the fifteen dollars in each envelope to people as they go in and vote. You know, not right outside of the polling place but he would actually recruit people with the $15 dollars and they would go in and vote.” Fielder said he received thousands of dollars in envelopes from Baird and distributed them accordingly. Fielder also says he went to the campaign office on another occasion to pick up $300 in cash and was among a room full of people who were doing the same thing he was.
Fielder said that Saleem Baird was doing the same thing with people all over the state. Fielder believes that the racism charge against McDaniel and the promise of $15 a vote motivated ‘thousands’ of black Democrats like him to vote for Cochran in the runoff. When asked if Fielder would have been more suspicious of Baird’s promises had he been white, Fielder replied, “Yes, definitely.”
For his efforts, Fielder says the Cochran campaign and Baird promised him $16,000 for paying black voters $15 a vote, but Baird wound up stiffing him. Baird even asked him to delete all texts between the two of them. In addition to Baird, Fielder says he spoke with Kirk Sims, the Cochran campaign manager, and a woman named “Amanda” with the campaign, most likely Amanda Shook, director of operations to re-elect Thad Cochran. All refused to pay him the agreed upon amount of $16,000.
Baird realized he had been lied to when he “took a good look at the campaign ads” and realized “McDaniel was not a racist… me and other people were misguided and misled.”
Fielder confronted Saleem the weekend before the election and asked about whether or not McDaniel was actually a racist and Baird confirmed it. Baird “personally confirmed that McDaniel was a racist.” Baird ‘manipulated me to manipulate many other people,” says Fielder. Baird did not disclose that he worked as a paid legislative staffer for Senator Roger Wicker. Fielder also says he spoke with campaign manager Kirk Sims about getting paid and about the ethical complaints he had.
Fielder is a Democrat but said he has voted for Republicans in the past. And though Fielder is being paid for his story by Got News, he says he’d come forward anyway. “I thought what I did was wrong.” Fielder said he was motivated mostly by concerns that McDaniel was a racist, not money.
As to what should happen next, ‘definitely the election should not be allowed to stand,” says Fielder, who says he’ll support McDaniel in event of a special election. ‘He’s been done wrong. He’s not what they said that he is.’
Got News tried calling both Baird and Sims with Fielder on the line. We got through to Sims but Sims insisted that there was a bad connection when Fielder asked about the racist smear campaign against Chris McDaniel and hung up. Were Baird found to have violated any laws in this matter, this would not be his first time he had a brush with the wrong side of the law. In 2011, Baird, who is a legislative staffer with U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, was allowed to keep his job with the senator after being arrested on charges of running an illegal strip joint in Jackson.
Fully aware that we have helped reveal the Cochran campaign may be involved in a criminal conspiracy, Got News will turn over any and all evidence to law enforcement.Joel Gilbert produced the video of the phone call for Got News.
Federal charges have been filed against dozens of people in Georgia who allegedly set up a scheme that funneled $18 million worth of food stamps through grocery stores in what a Department of Justice official is calling “one of the largest federal food program frauds ever.”
Fifty-four people were indicted for their roles in the massive fraud which involved the illegal purchase of WIC and food stamp benefits.
The fraud “allegedly involved the purchase of more than $18 million in WIC vouchers and Food Stamp benefits for cash through a number of purported grocery stores set up throughout Georgia.”
Another 34 defendants were indicted for selling their benefits. Through the WIC program, participants receive 3-month supplies of vouchers which can be exchanged for food at authorized stores. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food stamp benefits to low-income families.
It is illegal to sell WIC and SNAP benefits for cash, though that did not stop the 88 people involved in the scam.
“Many of the defendants allegedly canvassed low-income neighborhoods and solicited WIC and Food Stamp participants to illegally exchange their benefits not for food but for cash,” the DOJ’s charge reads.
After setting up grocery store operations throughout Georgia, the defendants bought the benefits for a fraction of their face value.
The defendants then allegedly laundered the $18 million they received from the scheme.
Another 34 defendants who were charged separately allegedly sold over $1,000 worth of WIC and food stamps for cash.
“This prosecution is one of the largest federal food program frauds ever brought,” said U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver in a statement.
The 54 defendants were charged with one count each of mail and wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. The charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The government seeks the forfeiture of $20 million in bank accounts and assets, including two luxury vehicles, a 2008 Mercedes Benz and a 2008 Land Rover. Defendants began appearing in federal court on Tuesday and will continue to appear on Wednesday.
The powerful House Ways and Means Committee will get everything from disgraced former IRS official Lois Lerner’s email account since a few weeks before Barack Obama became president.
And Republican committee members are hoping they’ll find a smoking gun tying the Obama administration to the years-long scheme to play political favorites with nonprofit groups’ tax-exemption applications.
After eight months of back-and-forth stonewalling, the IRS has agreed to turn over the complete contents of Lerner’s email account, along with other documents that two congressional committees have been demanding.
‘If there’s not a Holy Grail email in this round of documents,’ a senior staffer to a Ways and Means committee member told MailOnline, ‘then we’re not going to find it.’
‘Whether that’s because Lerner covered her tracks or because the IRS is shredding documents, we’re probably never going to know.’
The committee’s chairman, Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp, seems eager to put his staff to work sifting through thousands of messages in search of an explanation for the program that has been a major embarrassment to the White House.
‘This is a significant step forward and will help us complete our investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups,’ Camp said Friday.
‘From the few Lerner documents we have received, we know that Washington, DC orchestrated the targeting of groups applying for tax-exempt status, surveillance of existing tax-exempt groups and formed the proposed 501(c)(4) rules designed to push conservative groups out of the public forum.’
Camp warned the IRS in a February 24 letter that he would start issuing subpoenas if the agency didn’t turn over the documents he wanted.
The IRS has proposed a rewrite of its regulations governing communications restrictions on ‘public benefit’ organizations that are exempt from paying federal income taxes.
That redesign of the rules began long before Lerner herself exposed the IRS’s pattern of holding up right-wing groups’ applications, often with dozens of intrusive questions over several years.
The effects of the agency’s desired rule change would be substantial: Organizations would be prohibited from emailing information, or publishing anything online, about candidates’ voting records during the last 60 days before an election.
Tea party groups, which began their rise to prominence five years ago, comprised most of the organizations that the IRS targeted beginning in 2010. Their political free-speech concerns have driven more than 146,000 public comments to the IRS, demanding that the regulatory revisions be scrapped.
Cleta Mitchell, a board member of the American Conservative Union Foundation, said Friday during that organization’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference that the new rules would affect the event where she was speaking.
‘It would mean that in even-numbered years, CPAC could have no speakers who are candidates for office,’ she said, dumbfounded.
Mitchell, an attorney, is representing some of the tea party groups in lawsuits related to the IRS targeting scheme.
The House Oversight Committee, chaired by California Rep. Darrell Issa, has cast a larger public shadow than Ways and Means has on the IRS targeting scandal.
Lerner has appeared before Issa-led hearings twice, both times invoking her Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to testify, despite President Obama’s insistence in a February interview that the IRS displayed ‘not a smidgen of corruption’ in the damaging episode.
Becca Glover Watkins, the Oversight Committee’s communications director, told MailOnline that Issa’s and Camp’s committee staffers are working hand-in-hand.
‘The Oversight Committee and the Ways and Means Committee have worked in partnership during the course of this investigation,’ Watkins said.
‘We expect the IRS will also be delivering a copy [of the complete Lerner files] to the Oversight Committee.’
A spokesperson for the Ways and Means Committee told MailOnline that it was the new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, who broke the inertia after months of requests.
‘We have been asking for the materials for months, and after many discussions the new IRS Commissioner has said the IRS will comply with the request,’ said the committee’s Sarah Swinehart.
Lerner ‘was clearly at the center of the IRS targeting and was running it out of the Washington, D.C. office,’ she added. ‘We expect her documents to provide a fuller picture of this.’
Koskinen took over the tax agency on December 23, ending a 13-month period during which two interim commissioners served as caretakers.
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.