Tag Archives: impeach

President Obama Asks Medvedev for ‘Space’ on Missile Defense — ‘After My Election I Have More Flexibility’

President Obama Asks Medvedev for ‘Space’ on Missile Defense — ‘After My Election I Have More Flexibility’

SEOUL, South Korea — At the tail end of his 90 minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev Monday, President Obama said that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”

The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.

The exchange:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

When asked to explain what President Obama meant, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes told ABC News that there is room for the U.S. and Russia to reach an accommodation, but “there is a lot of rhetoric around this issue — there always is — in both countries.

A senior administration official tells ABC News: “this is a political year in which the Russians just had an election, we’re about to have a presidential and congressional elections — this is not the kind of year in which we’re going to resolve incredibly complicated issue like this. So there’s an advantage to pulling back and letting the technical experts work on this as the president has been saying.”

-Jake Tapper

SOURCE

22 “Fast and Furious” facts: What did the Obama White House know and when did they know it?

22 “Fast and Furious” facts: What did the Obama White House know and when did they know it?

“Fast and Furious” is not about cars and women but about guns, drugs and murder!

“What did the President know, and when did he know it?”: Howard Baker, Vice Chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee

What do President Obama and Eric Holder know, when did they know it and will the “Fast and Furious” operation to sell weapons to Mexican drug cartels be the scandal that brings the Obama White House down?

Are there still any truly investigative mainstream media journalists out there along the lines of Woodward and Bernstein of The Washington Post, who actually felt it was their job and duty to break the Watergate story?

There actually may be a few still out there (H/T Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News)!

22 “Fast and Furious” facts that could be extremely problematic for the Obama White House and for the President’s 2012 reelection bid!

#1 During Operation Fast and Furious, ATF agents purposely allowed thousands of guns to be sold to individuals that they believed would get them into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

#2 ATF agents were specifically ordered not to intercept the guns before they crossed the border. The following is a brief excerpt from a CBS News report that detailed the fierce objections that many ATF agents expressed when they were ordered to stand down….

On the phone, one Project Gunrunner source (who didn’t want to be identified) told us just how many guns flooded the black market under ATF’s watchful eye. “The numbers are over 2,500 on that case by the way. That’s how many guns were sold – including some 50-calibers they let walk.”

50-caliber weapons are fearsome. For months, ATF agents followed 50-caliber Barrett rifles and other guns believed headed for the Mexican border, but were ordered to let them go. One distraught agent was often overheard on ATF radios begging and pleading to be allowed to intercept transports. The answer: “Negative. Stand down.”

CBS News has been told at least 11 ATF agents and senior managers voiced fierce opposition to the strategy. “It got ugly…” said one. There was “screaming and yelling” says another. A third warned: “this is crazy, somebody is gonna to get killed.”

#3 Operation Fast and Furious remained a secret until the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December. Two guns that were sold during Operation Fast and Furious were found at the scene of the murder.

#4 ATF Special Agent John Dodson was one of the first to blow the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious. Dodson explained to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on June 15, 2011 that many ATF agents were becoming extremely frustrated when they were ordered to cut off surveillance on the weapons that were being sold because they knew “that just days after these purchases, the guns that we saw these individuals buy would begin turning up at crime scenes in the United States and Mexico.”

#5 It appears that Operation Fast and Furious began some time around September 2009. At that time, the ATF began pressuring gun shops near the border with Mexico to participate in a new covert operation that was being set up. The gun storeowners were told to help the ATF get guns into the hands of people that would take them back to the Mexican drug cartels.

The following description of the mechanics of Operation Fast and Furious comes from a recent Los Angeles Times article….

In the fall of 2009, ATF agents installed a secret phone line and hidden cameras in a ceiling panel and wall at Andre Howard’s Lone Wolf gun store. They gave him one basic instruction: Sell guns to every illegal purchaser who walks through the door.

For 15 months, Howard did as he was told. To customers with phony IDs or wads of cash he normally would have turned away, he sold pistols, rifles and semiautomatics. He was assured by the ATF that they would follow the guns, and that the surveillance would lead the agents to the violent Mexican drug cartels on the Southwest border.

When Howard heard nothing about any arrests, he questioned the agents. Keep selling, they told him. So hundreds of thousands of dollars more in weapons, including .50-caliber sniper rifles, walked out of the front door of his store in a Glendale, Ariz., strip mall.

#6 In some gun stores, cameras were set up so that top ATF officials could actually watch these transactions take place. Back in June, U.S. Representative Darrell Issa stated the following….

“Acting Director Melson was able to sit at his desk in Washington and himself watch a live feed of straw buyers entering the gun stores and purchasing dozens of AK-47 variants.”

#7 It has also come out that in some cases ATF agents were actually the ones buying the guns and getting them into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The following is how author Michael A. Walsh recently explained this in an article in the New York Post….

This just might be the smoking gun we’ve been waiting for to break the festering “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal wide open: the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives apparently ordered one of its own agents to purchase firearms with taxpayer money, and sell them directly to a Mexican drug cartel.

Let that sink in: After months of pretending that “Fast and Furious” was a botched surveillance operation of illegal gun-running spearheaded by the ATF and the US attorney’s office in Phoenix, it turns out that the government itself was selling guns to the bad guys.

#8 According to the Los Angeles Times, guns that were purchased during Operation Fast and Furious have “turned up at dozens of additional Mexican crime scenes, with an unconfirmed toll of at least 150 people killed or wounded.”

#9 Mexican authorities were never informed that thousands upon thousands of guns were being allowed into Mexico.

#10 Authorities in Mexico have asked the U.S. government over and over to explain what in the world happened during Operation Fast and Furious but they have not been given an adequate answer. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Obama administration has not even responded to questions from the attorney general of Mexico….

Marisela Morales, Mexico’s attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told The Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious from news reports. And to this day, she said, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation gone awry, nor have they apologized.

#11 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been withholding key documents about Fast and Furious from Congress and has been consistently stonewalling U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and other members of Congress that have attempted to look into this matter.

#12 The acting director of the ATF, Kenneth Melson, had been cooperating with the investigation. At the end of August he was suddenly transferred to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.

#13 Several other key officials that were heavily involved in Operation Fast and Furious actually got promoted.

#14 On May 3rd, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified under oath in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Operation Fast and Furious. During that testimony, Holder made the following statement….

“I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

#15 Since that time, a large amount of evidence has come out that Holder was not telling the truth. For example, a recent Fox News article discussed some of the very revealing memos about Fast and Furious that have been discovered recently….

However, newly discovered memos suggest otherwise. For instance, one memo dated July 2010 shows Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, told Holder that straw buyers in the Fast and Furious operation “are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”

Other documents also indicate that Holder began receiving weekly briefings on the program from the National Drug Intelligence Center “beginning, at the latest, on July 5, 2010,”

#16 Holder now claims that he simply misunderstood the question. He now says that he had heard of Operation Fast and Furious previously but that he was not aware of the specific details.

#17 Emails exchanged between two Department of Justice officials last October make it abundantly clear that high-level officials at the DOJ were very aware of what was going on…

Two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010. “It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions,” says Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replies, “I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like; “Finally they’re going after people who sent guns down there.”

#18 House Republicans are now asking for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate whether or not U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder lied to Congress during his recent testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Operation Fast and Furious.

#19 U.S. Representative Darrell Issa believes that those involved in the Fast and Furious gun trafficking operation may have violated international arms trafficking agreements and could potentially face very serious criminal charges.

#20 U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is absolutely convinced that a major cover-up is going on….

“But I can tell you this. They’re doing everything they can, in a fast and furious way, to cover up all the evidence or stonewalling us. But here’s the issue, if he didn’t perjure himself and didn’t know about it, the best way that they can help us, Congressman Issa and me, is to just issue all the documents that we ask for and those documents will prove one way or the other right or wrong.”

#21 Did Barack Obama ever know about Operation Fast and Furious? He says that he did not authorize the program. On March 22, 2011 Obama made the following statement….

“I did not authorize [Fast and Furious]. Eric Holder, the attorney general, did not authorize it. There may be a situation here in which a serious mistake was made. If that’s the case, then we’ll find — find out and we’ll hold somebody accountable.”

#22 CBS News investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson claimed on the Laura Ingraham show the other day that officials in the Obama administration were literally screaming and yelling at her for aggressively investigating the Fast and Furious scandal….

Ingraham: So they were literally screaming at you? ?Attkisson: Yes. Well the DOJ woman was just yelling at me. The guy from the White House on Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me. [Laura: Who was the person? Who was the person at Justice screaming?] Eric Schultz. Oh, the person screaming was [DOJ spokeswoman] Tracy Schmaler, she was yelling not screaming. And the person who screamed at me was Eric Schultz at the White House.”

SOURCE

Fill in the Blanks

Custom Search

By BILL KELLER
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Inaugurations, of course, are ceremonial ephemera. After the “Ask not” comes the Bay of Pigs. After the 60-plus approval rating comes the 9-plus unemployment rate. But it is worth pondering how we got from that day to this partisan clamor, how we lost that sense of common cause, and how it became a consensus of the commentariat that Barack Obama is in serious danger of being a one-term president.

The decline in Obama’s political fortunes, the Great Disappointment, can be attributed to four main factors: the intractable legacy bequeathed by George W. Bush; Republican resistance amounting to sabotage; the unrealistic expectations and inevitable disenchantment of some of the president’s supporters; and, to be sure, the man himself.

Obama inherited a country in such distress that his Inaugural Address alluded to George Washington at Valley Forge, marking “this winter of our hardship.” Unfunded wars, supply-side deficits, twin housing and banking crises enabled by an orgy of regulatory permissiveness — that was the legacy Obama assumed. In our political culture if you inherit a problem and don’t fix it, you own it. So at some point it became the popular wisdom that Iraq and Afghanistan were “Obama’s wars,” and that the recession had become “Obama’s economy.” Given the systemic burden Bush left for his successor, that judgment seems to me to be less about fair play than about short memories. But this is what passes for accountability in our system. And the Republicans have been relentlessly effective at rebranding every failing of the Bush administration as Obama’s fault. The historical truth, therefore, is no longer a viable political shelter for the Obama presidency. At best we can hope it serves as a caution against those who preach a return to the indiscriminate tax cuts and regulatory free-for-all that helped produce our lingering mess in the first place.

Another toxic legacy of the Bush years is an angry conservative populism, in which government is viewed as tyranny and compromise as apostasy. The Tea Party faction has captured not only the Republican primary process, but to a large extent the national conversation and the legislative machinery. In Congress the anger is pandered to by Republicans who should know better, since their nihilism discredits not only the president they have cynically set out to make a failure, but their own institution. Voters are frustrated by this — Congress has the approval rating of bedbugs — but it remains to be seen whether the electorate will punish the real culprits or simply reward the candidates who run against that bogeyman, “Washington.”

The disenchantment of the liberals may seem less consequential; it’s not as if they are going to vote for Rick Perry. But Obama needs their energy if he is to keep his office and have any allies left in Congress. What he gets instead is a lot of carping. Obama’s deal to continue the Bush tax cuts, his surrender of a public option on health care, his refusal to call the Republicans’ bluff on the debt ceiling rather than swallow budget cuts — these and other compromises amount, in the eyes of the Democratic left, to crimes of appeasement.

There is an element of partisan cynicism in the Democrats’ disappointment. For example, last week Obama was excoriated for putting Medicare cuts on the table. His offense was apparently not so much that he was wrong on the merits, but that his move “cancels out any bludgeoning that Democrats might give the Republicans” on the potent issue of geriatric entitlements, in the remarkably candid words of one House Democrat.

Jonathan Chait pointed out in The Times Magazine recently that the liberal repudiation of Obama “wishes away any constraints upon his power.” (See Republican intransigence, above.) It also undervalues some real accomplishments, achieved despite a brutally divided government. Lost in the shouting is the fact that Obama pulled the country back from the brink of depression; signed a health care reform law that expands coverage, preserves choice and creates a mechanism for controlling costs; engineered a fairly stringent financial regulatory reform; and authorized the risky mission that got Osama bin Laden.

Some of those who projected their own agendas onto the slogans and symbols of the Obama campaign were victims of wishful thinking — fed by Obama’s oratory of change. Anyone who paid attention while candidate Obama was helping President Bush pass the 2008 bank bailout should have understood that beneath the rhetorical flourishes Obama has always been at heart a cautious, cool, art-of-the-possible pragmatist. When he sees that he lacks the power to get what he wants, he settles for what he can get.

Obama can be faulted for periods of passivity (his silence as Republicans have sought to defund financial reforms), for a naïve deference to Congress (his belated engagement in the details of the health care bill), for a deficit of boldness and passion, for not doing more to stiffen the spines of his caucus on Capitol Hill, for not understanding — at least until his latest barnstorming on the jobs bill — that governing these days is a permanent campaign.

It is partly a failure of presidential communications that Republicans have succeeded in parodying each of his accomplishments, turning “stimulus” into an expletive, portraying “Obamacare” as socialized medicine and attacking the Dodd-Frank financial reform as an assault on capitalism.

It’s not just that he has failed to own his successes. He has in a sense failed to define himself. He is one of our more elusive presidents, not deeply rooted in any place or movement. David Remnick’s biography called Obama a shape-shifter. At the fringes, that makes him vulnerable to conspiratorial slanders: he is a socialist, a foreign imposter, a jihadist, an adherent of black liberation theology. To a less paranoid audience, his affect comes across as aloofness or ambivalence.

PERSONALLY, I can stand a little ambivalence in our leaders, particularly compared with the blinkered certitude of the previous administration. But in politics there are few greater liabilities than a perceived lack of definition.

Against Obama we have a cast of Republicans who talk about the federal government with a contempt that must have Madison and Hamilton spinning in their coffins. The G.O.P. campaign sounds like a contest for the Barry Goldwater Chair in States’ Rights: neuter the Fed; abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and a few other departments; turn Medicare and Social Security into individual 401(k) programs; dismantle national health care and revoke consumer protections. Rick Perry, who likes to rouse Texans by claiming the right to secede from the union, sometimes sounds as if he has expanded his view to encompass the secession of all 50 states. Even Mitt Romney — at heart a Republican technocrat (and the only candidate I’ve ever seen give a campaign speech with PowerPoint) — talks as if the main role of the president is to grant waivers from any kind of mandate upon the states. Such is the power of our new, centrifugal populism.

Do they really believe this, or are they just playing to the Ron Paul libertarian niche? Do you really want to find out?

So let’s get real. Yes, Obama could do better. But we could do a lot worse.

SOURCE

Donations First, Safety Last: White House Pressure for a Donor?


White House Pressure for a Donor?

The four-star Air Force general who oversees Air Force Space Command walked into a highly secured room on Capitol Hill a week ago to give a classified briefing to lawmakers and staff, and dropped a surprise. Pressed by members, Gen. William Shelton said the White House tried to pressure him to change his testimony to make it more favorable to a company tied to a large Democratic donor.

The episode —confirmed by The Daily Beast in interviews with administration officials and the chairman of a congressional oversight committee —is the latest in a string of incidents that have given Republicans sudden fodder for questions about whether the Obama administration is politically interfering in routine government matters that affect donors or fundraisers. Already, the FBI and a House committee are investigating a federal loan guarantee to a now failed solar firm called Solyndra that is tied to a large Obama fundraiser.

Now the Pentagon has been raising concerns about a new wireless project by a satellite broadband company in Virginia called LightSquared, whose majority owner is an investment fund run by Democratic donor Philip Falcone.

According to officials familiar with the situation, Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked in advance to the company. And the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, officials said.

“There was an attempt to influence the text of the testimony and to engage LightSquared in the process in order to bias his testimony,”
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) said in an interview. “The only people who were involved in the process in preparation for the hearing included the Department of Defense, the White House, and the Office Management and Budget.”

Turner is chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee that oversees Shelton’s space command and GPS issues; the panel explored the issues between LightSquared and the Pentagon at a hearing Thursday.

On Thursday, LightSquared CEO,Sanjiv Ahuja told The Daily Beast that his company was not trying to use politics to affect the regulatory process and the firm’s goal was to expand broadband access across America.

“Any suggestion that we have run roughshod over the regulatory process is contradicted by reality: Our plans to begin implementing America’s first privately funded, wholesale, affordable, coast-to-coast wireless broadband service have been delayed for a year and we have been forced to commit more than $100 million to find a solution that will allow consumers to benefit from both our service and GPS,” Ahuja said.

“For a company that allegedly is ‘wired’ inside the Beltway, we’ve been unable to even get the House Armed Services Committee to allow us to have one representative today’s hearing — a hearing in which we are the subject,”
he said.

Shelton finally gave his testimony Thursday, and made clear the Pentagon’s concern about LightSquared’s project.

The general told Turner’s committee that preliminary tests of a new LightSquared proposal to use only a portion of the band that it was licensed originally in 2004 would cause significant disruptions to GPS.

He said the GPS spectrum was supposed to originally be a “quiet neighborhood,” meaning that lower strength signals could exist near the GPS spectrum. Speaking of the LightSquared plan, he said, “If you put a rock band in the middle of that quiet neighborhood, that’s a different circumstance.”

The White House confirmed Wednesday that its Office of Management and Budget suggested changes to the general’s testimony but insisted such reviews are routine and not influenced by politics. And it said Shelton was permitted to give the testimony he wants, without any pressure.

OMB “reviews and clears all agency communications with Congress, including testimony, to ensure consistency in the administration’s policy positions,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “When an agency is asked by a congressional committee to testify, OMB circulates the agency’s proposed [draft] testimony to other affected agencies and appropriate [executive office of the president] staff. If a reviewer has a comment to the proposed testimony, that suggestion is typically conveyed to the agency for their consideration. When divergent views emerge, they are often reconciled through discussions at the appropriate policy levels of OMB and the agencies.” The general’s office declined to comment.

LightSquared has previously acknowledged it met with officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as it tried to shepherd the project, which is consistent with President Obama’s goal of trying to expand broadband wireless access nationwide. That office has a mandate to meet with members of private industry.

Melanie Sloan, who runs the nonpartisan ethics groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the emerging allegations about possible White House involvement in LightSquared’s matter seemed to mirror earlier allegations in the Solyndra case.

“With this new set of facts, it starts to sound like a pattern of the White House improperly pressuring people at agencies involving decisions that affect companies tied to donors and fundraisers,
” Sloan said. “It’s always a problem when the White House is pressuring anyone’s testimony. I don’t care if you are a four-star [general] or a GS-15 [career employee], you should be giving your true opinion and not an opinion the White House is seeking for political expediency.”

Sloan recalled similar instances during the Bush administration, when officials were accused of trying to meddle with climate scientists’ testimony. “It doesn’t matter what party is in charge, money frequently trumps good policy in Washington,” she said.

Mr. Ahuja gave a little more than $30,000 to both the Democratic and Republican parties in the last two years. Mr. Falcone and his wife have gave more than $60,000 in 2009 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Mr. Falcone has also given a smattering of money to Republicans.

At issue is a conditional Federal Communications Commission waiver granted in January to LightSquared to build cheap terrestrial wireless capacity in a section of the wireless spectrum close to the GPS bandwidth. Harbinger Capital, the hedge fund belonging to Falcone, owns a majority stake in LightSquared.

“There was an attempt to influence the text of the testimony and to engage LightSquared in the process in order to bias his testimony,”
said Rep. Mike Turner.

The FCC license has come under scrutiny because technical experts have warned that LightSquared’s proposal to build tens of thousands of ground stations for a wireless network could drown out the GPS signal. On Tuesday, the FCC issued a public notice stating that LightSquared may not move forward on establishing its wireless service until further testing proves the GPS would not be harmed.

Falcone says the FCC waiver was spurred by the demands of the wireless industry. “LightSquared wanted the waiver because some of its wholesale partners wanted the choice of being able to sell devices with either satellite only, terrestrial-only or combined satellite-terrestrial service,” he told The Daily Beast. “The waiver allows us to meet the specific needs of our customers — but it in no way affected the spectrum issue.”

Falcone added, “The GPS industry decided not to oppose us in the early 2000’s because they thought we’d never be successful. It was only after they realized we were not just a concept, but a viable technology with a viable business model, that they decided to oppose us. Meanwhile, LightSquared invested billions of dollars — that is money that comes from private individuals all over the country — based on the promise the FCC gave us under a Republican administration six years ago. The point is that any suggestion that the waiver created LightSquared out of thin air is both specious and absurd.”

Turner said Shelton told his committee that LightSquared had obtained his earlier prepared testimony. But Jeffrey J. Carlisle, Executive Vice President for Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy for LightSquared said Thursday that the company never received Shelton’s testimony scheduled for August 3.

A U.S. government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the White House specifically asked Shelton to include a paragraph in his testimony that stated the military would continue to test the proposed bandwidth for ways LightSquared could still use the spectrum space without interfering with GPS. The proposed language for Shelton’s testimony also stated that he hoped the necessary testing for LightSquared would be completed within 90 days.

The White House has said it did not try to influence the licensing process for LightSquared at the FCC. Chairman Julius Genachowski also has said the White House never lobbied him about LightSquared. Republicans are now questioning whether the administration has been rushing approval of the project over the objections of experts ranging from GPS companies like Garmin to the military’s own advisory committee on satellites.

The FCC’s fast-tracking of LightSquared raises questions about whether the government is rushing this project at the expense of all kinds of other things, including national security and everyone who uses GPS, from agriculture to emergency medical technicians,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). “Without transparency, and with media coverage of political connections in this case, there’s no way to know whether the agency is trying to help friends in need or really looking out for the public’s interest.”

In April, Grassley asked Genachowski to hand over all records of communications, including emails between Falcone and the FCC, and LightSquared and the FCC. Genachowski declined to turn over those records.

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, published emails this week it had obtained showing meetings between White House technology advisers and LightSquared officials.

SOURCE