Clinton Foundation: Oh, We Made Additional $12-26 Million From Speeches Given By the Former First Family

So, the Clintons have been making some big money since January of 2014. They’ve made $25 million worth of speaking fees since then, and Guy noted that after they left the White House; Bill began earning $24,000 a day. But, remember they were “dead broke,” or something. Nevertheless, this attempt at transparency is overshadowed by the rather disconcerting allegation that Clinton staffers at the State Department might have blocked some FOIA requests (via Politico):

Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton brought in more than $12 million in speaking fees since 2002 that was donated directly to their family foundation, covering a a total of 97 speeches across the U.S. and around the world, according to data made public for the first time Thursday night.

The new list of paid speeches gives a more complete financial picture of the Clintons’ high-dollar public appearances. A personal financial disclosure filed last week by Hillary Clinton shows that the couple made over $25 million in personal income on public speeches since the beginning of 2014.

The release of appearances where fees went directly to the family charity offered no explanation for how the Clintons decided which speeches should go to the foundation and which to the Clintons’ own pockets.

Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey wrote that the Clintons listed these speaking fees as Foundation revenue–and didn’t disclose them per an agreement with the Obama administration:

There are a couple of notable entries on the new set of books released by the foundation. Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who owns a considerable interest in the New York Times, paid Hillary Clinton as much as $500K for one speech through his Telmex Foundation. Qatar First Bank paid Bill Clinton a similar amount. The government of Qatar also arranged for another Bill payday in the same range at the Brookings Institution for the US Islamic World Forum.

Needless to say, the two instances of government involvement in the Clinton Foundation are more than problematic during the tenure of Hillary at State, especially Qatar. Nominally a US ally, Qatar was until last summer the main diplomatic partner of Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by State. What is the Secretary of State doing by accepting cash from Qatar through a spouse while representing the US as its top diplomat in that highly sensitive and precarious relationship? What would Israel (among others in the region) think about the direction of US policy while someone who’s getting money indirectly from the then-partner of Hamas?

In a sane world, this kind of corruption would be disqualifying

Santorum: These New Debate Rules at Fox Are Kind Of BS

Let’s be serious: Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) is running for president in 2016.

But after reviewing the questionable new debate rules being implemented this year by Fox News, as Guy wrote up earlier this week, wherein candidates polling in eleventh place or higher are essentially denied participation rights, the former senator spoke to National Journal in an exclusive interview.

And, of course, he wasn't very happy.

"I'm probably the best person to comment on this,” he said. “In January of 2012 I was at 4 percent in the national polls, and I won the Iowa caucuses. I don't know if I was last in the polls, but I was pretty close to last. [And so] the idea that a national poll has any relationship to the viability of a candidate—ask Rudy Giuliani that. Ask Phil Gramm that. You can go on down the list of folks who were doing real well in national polls and didn't win a single state and were not a viable candidate."

His frustration is understandable, though I don’t believe he has any chance of winning the nomination. But he raises an interesting point: Shouldn’t he at least be allowed on stage, even if he isn’t polling high enough, given how he fared in 2012? That is to say, doesn’t he have more credibility than any other first-time candidate, even if that particular candidate edges him in the polls? While there is a case to be made that all candidates should be allowed to debate on stage at once, Santorum’s argument is particularly strong given he went further than any other GOP hopeful in 2012 before conceding the nomination. As it stands now, however, it seems likely that Santorum will be denied access to key nationally televised debates, while less serious and credible personalities will not be.

Naturally, this issue isn’t going away. But at the same time, the major networks have to contend with a field that has roughly 16 candidates. How do they give them all a fair shake, without appearing biased and partisan?

That, my friends, is the million dollar question.

Islamic State Takes Ramadi, Obama Preaches Climate

On this week's Townhall Review:

Bill Bennett and Mark Thiessen on Islamic State’s stunning capture of Anbar province–formally secured by the United States before President Obama pulled the troops. Dennis Prager on Islamic State’s continued triumphs. Hugh Hewitt with Kirsten Powers, author of “The Silencing.” Charles Krauthammer and Hugh Hewitt discuss Obama’s ongoing itch to vilify Fox News. Prager on Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receiving the death penalty–and Boston’s pathetic anti-death penalty reaction to it. Bill Bennett with Jonathan Last, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, they discuss fatherhood. Michael Medved on California Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez (D) and her caught-on-camera Native American war yelp during campaigning.

The Friday Filibuster: All For Nothing?

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

Closing numbers:

60% of Americans who believe terrorists are likely living in their communities.

55,000—the number of Hillary Clinton’s emails the State Department plans to release 'portions' of in January 2016.

51% of Democrats pretty much want to destroy the First Amendment.

6—the number of Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray were charged.

32-15—the final vote in the Nebraska legislature in favor of abolishing the death penalty.

$26 million—the amount the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose in payments. 

$30 million--the amount party of the people Bill and Hillary have banked since last January. 

Foreign policy failures

The key Iraqi city of Ramadi has fallen to ISIS in their biggest victory to date this year, and it’s wasn’t Bush’s fault. According to Robert Gates, Iraq was in pretty good shape in 2010 and early 2011. Ramadi’s capture shows that, even though the White House believes otherwise, the U.S.’s current strategy to defeat ISIS has failed, which is an assessment coming from Gen. Jack Keane. The White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did admit, however, that defeating the group will ‘take some time.’ That’s not surprising given that President Obama thinks global warming is a more pressing national security threat. Meanwhile, here at home, the NYPD Police Commissioner is so worried about ISIS in the Big Apple that he wants 400 officers dedicated to combating the threat, and the FBI is already reaching out to students in high schools across the Tri-State area warning them about ISIS’s online recruitment threat. And in other foreign policy news, Iran says that nobody is allowed to inspect its nuclear facilities. Worse yet, in the event of an Iranian missile launch, neighboring countries only have four minutes to react

Campaign & election news

Another presidential candidate jumped in the race this week (Sen. Lindsey Graham), while others dropped hints that they would likely be running as well (Govs. Bobby Jindal and John Kasich). Given the expansive field, Fox News and CNN are setting up some boundaries ahead of the first Republican debate that will “require contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event.” 

Planned Parenthood asked supporters to vote for which Republican presidential candidate (both announced and tbd) poses the worst threat for women in 2016. Among their options? Carly Fiorina, the only female GOP candidate. Unreal. 

HRC happenings

The Clinton Foundation has some more disclosure problems and Hillary’s email scandal continues. According to a NYT report, her emails contain sensitive information that trace the Benghazi story, and she also used an address her lawyers claimed didn’t exist. Oh, and while at state (where she had no achievements according to Iowa Dems), her staff sometimes blocked FOIA requests. Guy Benson has some questions for Her Majesty, even though she hates questions from journalists. There will be a lot after Friday's document dump, however. By the way, did she already reveal her running mate as Julian Castro?

Groan-inducing stories of the week:

  • Administrators at a South Carolina high school told a student he couldn’t fly the American flag out of his truck. Fortunately, however, this story has a feel-good ending: the order prompted dozens of parents, students, and veterans to protest, waving the flag out of their vehicles.
  • Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., compared the struggles of Afghan women to a college student who lied about rape.
  • The Boy Scouts banned water gun fights between scouts because they are “unkind.”
  • You know how much the government spent on the TSA full body scanners? Forty million. Now, can you guess how little they’re selling them for, some of which are brand new? Ten dollars. 
  • And in case you missed it, the USDA has actually published a guide to roasting marshmallows. Sigh.. 

In other news:

From coast to coast, Obamacare is still awful. The NAACP lost a court battle to silence a black pro-life activist critical of the organization’s policies. In D.C., a federal judge struck down a provision of its new carry law that required applicants to show “good reason,” ruling that it is unconstitutional. Cortney also caught up with Taya Kyle, who spoke about the controversies surrounding the film “American Sniper,” her lasting love for her husband, her new book, and more.

Graphics by Townhall Graphic Designer
Feven Amenu. 

Friday Document Dump: State Department Releases First Round of Clinton Emails (All 298 Of Them)

Just in time for the long, three-day, kick-off to summer Memorial Day weekend, the State Department has released the first round of emails belonging to former Secretary Hillary Clinton. There are just under 300 of them. I would post some of the documents here, but the page on hosting them is down (naturally).  UPDATE: Back up. You can read the emails here

Although the emails reportedly cover the time period when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked on 9/11/2012, State Department Deputy Press Secretary Marie Harf insists the emails contain no new information.

The State Department announced plans earlier this week the rest of Clinton's emails, which were hosted on a personal server before they were deleted, should be reviewed and released by January 2016.

More to come.

A Liberal Woman Admits She Has a Gun And It's Awesome

When I get asked about how to change the perspective of an anti-gunner, particularly on the left, I always tell people to extend an invitation to the shooting range. Why? If the invitation is accepted, the person you take will more than likely have a fantastic time and will want to go again. This can eventually lead to their first gun purchase and the rest become history. But most importantly, taking them to the range allows them to find out that the media has been lying to them about guns for years.

Earlier this week a woman named Jenna Glasser published a piece titled "I'm a Lefty With a Gun" over at xoJane as an "unpopular opinion." She writes about why she bought a gun as a liberal who is supposed to be against them. Her choice to be a firearm owner comes down to two main things: personal security and fun (bolding is mine). 

For years, I was what we lefties in Texas refer to as, "A bright blue dot in a big red state." I believe in recycling, social services, a woman's right to choose, and immigration. I spent a lot of time defending these things around my red friends, and bemoaning this defense around my fellow blue dots.

And then I bought a gun, and everything changed. I was shamed by the blue dots and consoled by the red. I turned purple.

When my fellow blue dots found out I owned a gun, they were shocked. Gape-mouthed and stunned to speechlessness, they usually recovered with, “What are you thinking?” or, “How could you?!”

How could I? Here’s how: I lived alone in a sweet 1905 cottage in a historic section of east Dallas, with original heart pine on the floors and exposed shipboard walls. The first vacation I took after I bought it, someone entered uninvited and stole my new drill, my cheap DVD player, and my expensive tequila. The next three unwanted advances cost me three different laptops and over 100 CDs. And those were just the physical costs.

The emotional costs were much greater. After each break in, I wouldn’t sleep for days. I would move into the guest room, and curl into a tight ball of nerves with a comforter pulled over my head. Despite taking Nyquil, I would wake each time a squirrel ran the perimeter of my backyard fence, convinced someone was coming for me. My dreams were all of victimization, or revenge.

As the little slips of paper with police report numbers on them piled up, I became familiar with the questions detectives would ask when they learned of my prior break-ins.

I took every precaution I could think of before buying a gun. I built a better fence. I added a wrought iron gate. I got a dog, though he is more likely to lick someone to death than bite him. I put in a better alarm system. I eventually added cameras, and I could see the feed from them on my phone. I checked it multiple times while at work; if I was out of town, the first thing I did in the morning, and last thing I did at night, was check on my house.

Here’s the truth about guns that no one, on either side of the debate, wants to tell you: shooting them is fun. I’m a bleeding-hearted, left-leaning liberal and I get a cheap, easy thrill out of shooting my little .38 caliber pistol. The “I am woman; hear me roar,” thrill I’ve gotten the few times I shot an Uzi, AK, or even a Glock is enough to leave a tremble running up my arms (though in reality, that’s likely just kickback).

But the emotional component here is huge. That thrill at the range translates to confidence outside of it. And confidence was a great comfort.

When you live alone, in a house that has been broken into five times, and people keep saying to you, ‘Just move,’ or, ‘It’s only a matter of time before they come while you’re home,’ then you can decide that getting a gun isn’t right for you. But for now, this is what’s right for me.”

That usually shuts them up.

The gun became my sleep-aid. Each night, I would take it from its locked case, load it with six beautiful brassy bullets, and rest it on my nightstand, where I could reach it without opening my eyes.

This is just a heavy excerpt, the entire piece is worth reading and can be found here.

"That thrill at the range translates to confidence outside of it. And confidence was a great comfort," she wrote. "This is what's right for me." Isn't that the truth. That's the great thing about gun ownership and why having the choice to own a gun is so crucial. Each individual person has their own reasons and circumstances for purchasing a firearm that can't, and shouldn't be, determined by anyone else (especially the government).

The reality is, Glasser's opinion is only unpopular among her liberal peers. Her "unpopular" is opinion is popular with the majority Americans. In fact according to Gallup, more people in the United States believe gun rights should be protected rather than infringed upon with gun control.

To back up Glasser's sentiments about gun ownership and shooting, data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation and polling from Gallup repeatedly shows that the number one, overwhelming reason people buy their first firearm is for self-defense purposes. Further, the fastest growing demographic of shooters and gun owners are women.

I may disagree with Glasser on a number of other political issues, but on gun ownership, rock on sister.

Josh Duggar Resigns from FRC Action After Molestation Admission UPDATE: TLC Removes Show From Lineup

Reality TV star Josh Duggar has resigned from his post as Executive Director of FRC Action after admitting to having molested five underage girls, including some of his own sisters, as a teen in 2002. A police report was filed in 2006, but no charges were filed. The statute of limitations had since passed.

Josh is the oldest of the 19 Duggar children featured on the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting." His wife, Anna, is pregnant with their fourth child.

In a statement released to People magazine, Josh admitted that the reports were true and that he is "extremely sorry" for his actions.

"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends," Josh, 27, tells PEOPLE in a statement. "I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar also released a statement via their family's Facebook page saying that the events 12 years ago were "difficult times" and brought the family closer to God. Josh's wife also said in a statement that Josh had informed her about his "past teenage mistakes" two years prior to their marriage.

The Family Research Council denied knowing anything about the allegations prior to hiring Josh.

TLC has yet to release a statement about the matter. Given that the network quickly canceled "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo" after it was revealed that June Shannon, mother of "Honey Boo-Boo," was dating a man who had previously molested one of her other daughters, I wouldn't be too surprised to see "19 Kids and Counting" meet the same fate.

UPDATE: Reruns of the show have been pulled from TLC's lineup.

Surprise: Insurers Anticipate Significant 2016 Obamacare Premium Hikes

We opened the week on Obamacare, so let's close up shop on the same topic. Via Philip Klein:

In recent weeks, large insurers selling coverage through Obamacare have proposed massive rate increases for 2016 – even exceeding 40 percent – because they haven't been able to sign up enough young and healthy customers. This is an ominous sign for the future of Obamacare, because two federal programs that were supposed to act as training wheels for insurers in the early years of Obamacare by absorbing excess risk are set to expire after 2016. If insurers don't do a better job of attracting a healthier risk pool, 2017 promises to be a rocky year for insurance markets, regardless of which party is in control of the White House. In the first two years of the implementation of Obamacare's insurance exchanges (2014 and 2015), insurers set rates with the expectation that the government would absorb a certain degree of risk and they made assumptions about the medical costs of their enrollees. Now that insurers have had more time to look at the claims coming in from those enrolling from Obamacare, they're finding that the pool of customers is older and sicker than originally projected, driving up medical costs...

Klein notes that "bailout"-style safety net payments for insurers aren't meeting expectations, and echoes what experts have been predicting: Once those programs sunset, premiums are likely to jump even higher. He walks through some of the 2016 data:

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the largest health insurer in Maryland, proposed an average increase of 30.4 percent for 2016 (with a range of 19.3 percent to 45.7 percent). A similar story is playing out among insurers who have filed rate proposals throughout the country. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee asked for an average increase of 36.3 percent. In South Dakota, Wellmark proposed a 42.9 percent average increase. In Oregon, Moda Health, which serves roughly half of the state's individual market, is aiming to raise rates by an average of 25.6 percent.

Senate Republicans are highlighting double-digit spikes across the country. Klein quotes the always-insightful Bob Laszewski, who puts the new data into context:

"What we are seeing is a mixed bag in terms of how carriers are responding to their 2016 rates. There seems to be a trend growing where carriers with the largest market share are coming out with the eye-popping increases. Carriers with the least share are still coming in with the smaller increases." Part of this might be that in the first two years of Obamacare, when they were expecting more federal help, larger insurers were able to offer "teaser rates" to rapidly build up their market share, but now that they have access to more data, they're increasing their rates. Larger insurers, he noted, have access to more data. "The key to getting a insurance risk pool that eventually supports lower rates is to attract as many people into it as possible," Laszewski said. "Lower rates will attract more people and provide a better chance of getting more sustainable rates." But, he said, "even with the lower rates the Obamacare reinsurance program enabled, only about 40 percent of those eligible eventually signed up after two full open-enrollments. Carriers need more like 75 percent of an eligible pool to get the most efficient pool. Things just haven't worked out."

"Things just haven't worked out" sounds like a plausible slogan for the law. Klein notes that based on the administration's own data, sign-ups among healthy young adults are nowhere near White House projections, and that overall enrollment is lagging far behind the pace needed to hit stated goals. Avik Roy has examined Obamacare supporters' spin on "new" enrollments, and finds it wanting. I'll leave you with this:

Has China Eclipsed America as World’s Superpower?

In an issue that gets little attention these days, we sat down with Dr. Michael Pillsbury, author of The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, to discuss his new book and if China has really surpassed the US as the world’s superpower.Dr. Pillsbury is an expert on US-China relations and was previously the Assistant Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning in the Reagan administration responsible for implementation of the program of covert aid known as the “Reagan Doctrine.”

Q: Congratulations Dr. Pillsbury on your new book, The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower! You were once one of the strongest advocates inside the U.S. government for closer ties with China. Why have you changed your views so drastically about the threat the nation poses?

I changed my views because the reality is that China was not developing into a peaceful partner according to our wishful thinking. My book outlines five assumptions that experts in the U.S. had about China going back to the 1980s. All of them proved to be overly optimistic and wrong. As I also note, President Reagan warned about this back then.

Most Americans have no idea that Beijing has had a decades long strategy to take advantage of our expertise, technology, and good will to overtake us. It breaks my heart every time I hear conservatives talk about the coming collapse of China when in fact China grew three times faster last year and some years as much as six times faster than us.

Q: You’ve discovered some fascinating things about what official Chinese textbooks teach about American history. What did you find most surprising?

The most surprising is the gap between how the Chinese leadership portrays themselves in propaganda to the West, as compliant friends and partners, while at home approving textbooks that claim Americans are brutal barbarians that have been stopping China’s rise for 150 years.

Probably the weirdest discovery is how the Chinese portray Abraham Lincoln as an evil mastermind against them. Of course, Lincoln had a few more pressing concerns during his administration than keeping China down.

Q: How has the Obama administration performed on China? And what should the next president do about it?

President Obama has slowly been waking up to China’s ambitions. However, China has not been a high priority for him. None of his senior staff speak Chinese or are considered to be experienced dealing with China.

A new president will have to take stock of our wishful assumptions and design a whole new approach for dealing with the China that’s about to surpass us.

Q: Why do we resist discussing China as a Communist power?

Because we’ve been seduced into believing China’s claims that they are pursuing something akin to a free market economy. It’s not true. Roughly half of the economy is still state-controlled, as are China’s largest companies.

"Mistake": Clinton Foundation Admits Failing to Disclose $26 Million in Payments

After weeks of officials trying to explain why the Clinton Foundation is refiling it's taxes after "mistakes were made," new information published by the Washington Post shows at least $26 million was not disclosed properly. Where is the money from? More speeches of course. 

The Clinton Foundation reported Thursday that it has received as much as $26.4 million in previously undisclosed payments from major corporations, universities, foreign sources and other groups.

The disclosure came as the foundation faced questions over whether it fully complied with a 2008 ethics agreement to reveal its donors and whether any of its funding sources present conflicts of interest for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins her presidential campaign.

The money was paid as fees for speeches by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Foundation officials said the funds were tallied internally as “revenue” rather than donations, which is why they had not been included in the public listings of its contributors published as part of the 2008 agreement.

Oops. Where the money came from is as shady as ever, with a Nigerian newspaper paying Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech. 

Not only do we see a pattern of favorable moves by the State Department toward people and governments that donated to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton's time as secretary, we now see a pattern of non-disclosure and "mistakes" as well. This pattern begs the question: What else have the Clinton's failed to disclose? And if the media doesn't find the non-disclosure first, will the Clinton Foundation ever voluntarily reveal the issue? After all, the Clinton Foundation has raised $2 billion over the past 15 years, that's a lot of cash to sift through.

Cringe-Worthy Yearbook Quote Goes Viral

It's that time of year again: school is ending, graduation season is upon us, and yearbooks are being distributed. While it's hardly uncommon to look back at one's yearbook and cringe, an image from one yearbook has gone viral. In it, a says that if she had founded America she would have ended "women sufferage"[sic].



Suffrage, of course, is the right to vote. "Sufferage" is not a word. While women in colonial America certainly had fewer rights than they do right now, I think that most would agree that ending women's suffrage would be a backwards step. Now, I'm not going to use this quote to vilify the American education system, but I will say that it's astounding that this made it through rounds of editing and into the final product. One would think/hope that at least someone would have spoken up.

The image was initially posted to the hosting site Imgur, where it received nearly 400,000 views in a matter of hours.

Indicted: All Six Baltimore Police Officers Involved In The Death Of Freddie Gray Charged

Freddie Gray was arrested in Baltimore on April 12, suffered a severe spinal injury en route to the police station, slipped into a coma, and died a week later. The police van ride was 45 minutes long, with officials piecing together what happened that led to his death. Anger poured into the streets, where Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to maintain order. The State Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby, filed charges against the six police officers involved in Gray’s death. Now, nearly three weeks after the charges being filed, the grand jury has decided to indict all of them (via Baltimore Sun):

Some charges were slightly different than what Mosby announced on May 1. The grand jury review is a procedural step to move the case forward to a higher court, from District Court to Baltimore City Circuit Court.

New charges included reckless endangerment, while charges of false imprisonment were removed by the grand jury.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson, the driver of the van used to transport Gray on April 12, remains charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, which is the most serious charge among all six officers. He was also charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, vehicular manslaughter -- gross negligence, vehicular manslaughter -- criminal negligence, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, which is a new charge.

Lt. Brian W. Rice was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. A second-degree assault charge and false imprisonment charge Rice had been facing were removed.

Sgt. Alicia D. White was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, which is a new charge.

Officer William Porter was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment, which is a new charge.

Officer Garrett E. Miller was charged with second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. A second-degree assault charge and false imprisonment charge were removed.

Officer Edward M. Nero was charged with second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. A second-degree assault charge and false imprisonment charge were removed.

All six officers have been free on bail.

Police has reportedly been “hesitant” to conduct their duties in Baltimore, leading to a surge in crime. As of three days ago, the rise in crime is ongoing, with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calling it “disheartening.”

The mayor has also received criticism for saying “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well” at the onset of the unrest; the first wave being on the night of the White House Correspondence Dinner on April 25. The more destructive phase of the rioting occurred two days later–April 27–when Gray was laid to rest.  

The attorneys of the police officer had asked Ms. Mosby to recuse herself citing conflict of interest issues; the Gray's family attorney gave her a campaign contribution and was on her transition team.  Mosby has also been criticized by some, especially the police union, for acting too hasty in bringing the charges against the officers. 

Nebraska Legislature Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

Nebraska is on the verge of making history. In a bipartisan move, the state’s legislature on Wednesday voted 32 to 15 to abolish the death penalty. All that stands in the coalition’s way at this point is Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, a staunch defender of capital punishment, who has promised to veto the measure.

The Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have united to support the bill oppose the death penalty on moral, religious, fiscal, and limited government grounds.

If passed, the measure would replace lethal injection for life imprisonment. According to Attorney General Doug Peterson, in Nebraska, this sentence would effectively mean life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If the bill becomes law, the Cornhusker State would be the first red state to abolish the practice since North Dakota did in 1973.

“The conservative Republicans’ positions as expressed in Nebraska are basically a microcosm of what’s going on with conservatives about the death penalty nationwide,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Christian Science Monitor. “Abolition in Nebraska could empower conservatives in other 'red' states to move forward because they know it can be done.”

The legislature needs 30 votes to override a veto from Gov. Ricketts, which could come as early as Tuesday.

NYT: Hillary Emails Contain Sensitive Information, Trace Benghazi Story

The New York Times got a crack at the first tranche of Hillary's emails, and turned up a few interesting tidbits. Before we go any further, please allow me to remind you that the emails being released by the State Department (following a court order to expedite the process) are only the ones that Mrs. Clinton's inner circle didn't unilaterally delete. In other words, these are the emails she's comfortable with the public seeing, via a server she wasn't allowed to have in the first place. Her "I want these emails released, too!" posturing is deeply disingenuous. This point cannot be emphasized enough.  Nevertheless, what has the Times uncovered in the first few hundred pages?

href="">already aware, Secretary Clinton often circulated un-vetted memos of questionable provenance that were provided by political mercenary Sid Blumenthal, without attribution.  The emails indicate that Amb. Chris Stevens, later murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, was asked to weigh in on the analysis and intelligence that came from an unnamed "Clinton friend," whom the Obama White House had explicitly banned from working at the State Department.

(2) Blumenthal helped shape the administration's Benghazi narrative, wrongly reporting the "spontaneous demonstration/YouTube video" claim just after the attacks, before changing his tune the very next day.  Was Blumenthal the original source of the White House's infamous lie?  Why did Hillary, Obama and others stick to the false story for weeks, even after Blumenthal's revised intel quickly aligned with what the US government discovered almost immediately?

Citing “sensitive sources” in Libya, the memo provided extensive detail about the episode, saying that the siege had been set off by members of Ansar al-Shariah, the Libyan terrorist group. Those militants had ties to Al Qaeda, had planned the attacks for a month and had used a nearby protest as cover for the siege, the memo said. “We should get this around asap” Mrs. Clinton said in an email to Mr. Sullivan.

Note Hillary's response. Blumenthal was confirming the true story, which US intelligence was already piecing together -- and she obviously found it compelling and important. Days later, though, she was still spinning an untruthful tale to victims' families.  Why?  Perhaps because of... (3) concerns stressed in a separate email from Blumenthal, warning of Benghazi-related political liabilities:

In early October 2012, a month before Mr. Obama was re-elected, Mr. Blumenthal forwarded Mrs. Clinton an article on a left-leaning website. The article cautioned that the Republicans could exploit the attacks in a “Jimmy Carter Strategy” and use them to paint Mr. Obama as weak on terrorism. Mrs. Clinton forwarded the email to Mr. Sullivan. “Be sure Ben knows they need to be ready for this line of attack,” Mrs. Clinton wrote. She did not say to which Ben she was referring, but one of Mr. Obama’s senior national security advisers is Benjamin J. Rhodes, who handles communications and speechwriting.

Yes, that would be this Ben Rhodes.  (4) "Mrs. Clinton’s emails show that she had a special type of government information known as 'sensitive but unclassified,' or 'SBU,' in her account. That information included the whereabouts and travel plans of American officials in Libya as security there deteriorated..."  It's unclear how much classified material passed through Hillary's under-secured personal server, but given that she used it as her exclusive email source, it seems likely that some did.  A defense intelligence analyst and the former acting CIA director have both stated that foreign intelligence agencies almost certainly penetrated Clinton's "home-brew" email system.  A few additional takeaways from this initial document dump:

Hillary's original excuse for her secret email scheme was the need to consolidate everything to just one mobile device.  This never made any sense, but we've since discovered that she used multiple devices anyway.  Also, her lawyers claimed that the email address she was using in that first screenshot didn't exist at the time.  Oops.  And requests like "please do not forward" obviously do not apply to the Clintons, even when they come from high-ranking White House officials.

White House Press Secretary: Defeating ISIS is “Going to Take Some Time”

The situation in Iraq and Syria appears to be quickly unraveling as ISIS gains ground and continues sacking cities. Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed (and reaffirmed) on Thursday that such territorial losses are not going to induce the president to change his stated strategy.

“What this administration will continue to do is to implement the strategy that the president has laid out, which is to build up the capacity of local fighters on the ground in Iraq and in Syria to take the fight against [ISIS],” he said. “But they will have the strong support of the United States and the coalition of 60 countries that the president leads.”

“And they’ll have that support in the form of offering training and equipment to those local fighters,” he continued. “They’ll be able to get some battlefield advice from coalition personnel that are deployed to Iraq, and they will—importantly—have the support of coalition military air power.”

And yet, this strategy doesn’t appear to be working. The cities of Ramadi and Palmyra have already fallen, raising major questions about how the White House is prosecuting the war.

Earnest, however, suggested a lack of troops—and training—is the chief reason for all the “setbacks,” not the strategy itself.

“We’ve acknowledged for a year now that our efforts in Syria to build up a ground force that can work closely with the coalition is going to take some time,” he said. "There is no natural force that’s there. So there is an active training mission that’s taking place to fill this force.”

“But the president is not going to be in a position where he is going to consider a large scale, US military deployment,” he added. “And for those who are calling on a change in strategy, I would encourage them to be specific. I don’t think that they will find a lot of support on the part of the American people for a large-scale deployment of military resources to essentially re-invade Iraq—or invade Syria.* The president does not believe that would be in the best interests of the United States.”

Contrast the tone of the press secretary’s comments this afternoon to what two national security experts said earlier today in front of the Senate Armed Services committee. There is a very stark difference.

*Fact check: That's not necessarily true.

Illegal Alien Charged With Child Molestation and Pornography Able To Work With Kids Thanks to Obama Amnesty

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley has sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why an illegal alien who was working as a camp counselor, charged with child molestation and with distributing nearly 1000 images of child pornography, may have avoided deportation under President Obama's deferred action program (DACA). 

"This month, I write to you again about another potential DACA recipient who has allegedly distributed and possessed hundreds of images of child pornography and who has used his position at a summer camp, employment he may have legally obtained only with employment authorization he achieved as a DACA recipient, to molest and victimize the children he was tasked with helping. Recent press accounts have reported that Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla, a night counselor at a popular science camp in California was charged with sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy along with distribution and possession of child pornography. Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla allegedly applied for and received deferred action under the DACA program. On Monday, Covarrubias was charged with four felonies, which included possession and distribution of more than 600 child porn images and a charge for lewd and lascivious act with a child under 14," the letter states (bolding is mine). "The Santa Clara County Office of Education confirmed that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla worked at two campsites over the past two years in various capacities that involved contact with children. According to news accounts, since this story broke last week, the Santa Clara Sheriff’s office has received over 100 calls and 50 emails from concerned parents. Reportedly, at least some of these calls are from parents who believe that their children were among Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s victims."

According to Grassley and cited whistleblowers, Covarrubias-Padilla was scheduled for deportation but approved for DACA and a work permit in October 2012. Further, it seems DHS was aware his heinous behavior and allowed him to stay in the country anyway, jeopardizing the safety and well being of the children he was working with. 

"Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla also allegedly filed an application for employment authorization in October of 2012 that was approved with validity until May of 2015. The Committee has received reports that on November 17, 2014, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed a note in Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s record that indicated that he was part of an ongoing investigation for exploiting children and distributing child pornography. Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla has been employed at the camp for the last two years," Grassley wrote (bolding is mine). "These allegations are deeply troubling because, if true, they suggest that DHS was aware for months or years that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla posed a public safety threat to the children he was monitoring, yet took no action to revoke his DACA authorization. Of note, news sources have reported that the Santa Clara Sherriff’s Office initiated Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s arrest after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contacted them with concerns about Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla’s involvement in child exploitation and child pornography. These reports raise significant questions concerning the coordination of ICE and USCIS, in regards to DACA recipients. These allegations are particularly alarming because they suggest that Mr. Covarrubias-Padilla would not have been placed in a position to abuse and exploit children had DHS properly vetted DACA recipients."

Over the past two months, Grassley has written two letters to Secretary Johnson with inquiries about other criminal illegal aliens. Emanuel Rangel-Hernandez, who was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in North Carolina, and Jose Bojorquez who was recently charged with second degree murder. Rangel-Hernandez and Bojorquez were both scheduled for deportation but were able to staying in the United States thanks to, again, President Obama's DACA program.

Secretary Johnson has been asked to respond to a series of questions about Covarrubias-Padilla and how this happened by May 29.

Hmmm: Fox, CNN Announce Controversial GOP Debate Rules

"Controversial" because the networks are understandably trying to limit the number of participants, as to avoid unwieldy spectacles of 16 candidates trying to get a word in edgewise.  We touched on that concern earlier in the week.  Excluded or marginalized parties will inevitably cry foul ("the establishment is silencing my voice!" or what have you), whipping up anger among their supporters.  Would they have a point, or are Fox and CNN right to establish some boundaries?  The truth may lie somewhere in between, and we'll discuss arguments on both sides in a moment -- but first, here are the hosts' newly-announced ground rules, starting with Fox News:

Fox News announced guidelines Wednesday that will winnow the field of participants in the first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential campaign. The network will require contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event, narrowing what is expected to be a field of 16 or more by the Aug. 6 event in Cleveland. The rule could trigger an early rush of spending by lower-tier candidates seeking to boost their standing in national surveys before the pivotal first forum.

How would those regulations play out if the debate were held today?

It remains to be seen how many candidates will be included in the Fox News debate under the criteria, which could allow more than 10 participants if some are tied in the polls. The top?10 contenders in the five most recent national polls are former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, real estate tycoon Donald Trump and former Texas governor Rick Perry, according to a Washington Post analysis. Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are a fraction of a point behind Perry. Lagging behind those 12 are Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and former New York governor George Pataki.

Under this rubric, the clownish Donald Trump -- who'd actually have to formally declare a candidacy and file requisite paperwork, rather than publicly threaten to run to gain attention -- would make the cut, while a sitting governor (and a minority, for those who care about racial optics), a sitting senator, and the only woman in the race would be excluded.  Is that a desirable outcome for the party?  Fox says candidates who fail to make the cut will be afforded airtime on the day of the forum.  CNN is trying a two-tiered approach:

The CNN Republican primary debate on Sept. 16 will be divided into two parts featuring two different sets of candidates: those who rank in the top 10 according to public polling, and the remaining candidates who meet a minimum threshold of 1 percent in public polling, the On Media blog has learned. "The first 10 candidates – ranked from highest to lowest in polling order from an average of all qualifying polls released between July 16 and September 10 who satisfy the criteria requirements ... will be invited to participate in 'Segment B' of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate," the network states in its candidate criteria. "Candidates who satisfy the criteria and achieve an average of at least 1 percent in three national polls, but are not ranked in the top 10 of polling order will be invited to participate in 'Segment A' of the September 16, 2015 Republican Presidential Primary Debate." The network also stipulated that "if the number of candidates who qualify for the debate is 14 or fewer, CNN reserves the right to limit the number of participants in 'Segment B' to eight candidates. The remaining qualified candidates will be invited to participate in 'Segment A' of the debate."

So "segment B" is, in effect, the A-team; "segment A" of CNN's debate is already being dubbed the kids' table.  I'm quite sympathetic to the argument that constricting the number of participants, or shunting them into categories of viability, at this early stage is counter-productive.  How useful are national polls at the very beginning of the cycle, really?  Each candidate should be given an opportunity to advance his or her case under the bright lights near the beginning of the campaign season, this line of thinking goes, after which more concrete limitations based on public polling becomes more equitable.  Fair enough, but do attractive and feasible alternatives exist?  Allahpundit floats a series of one-on-one debates, which is great fun to consider, but simply isn't going to happen. DrewM recommends killing the traditional-format debates and replacing them with forums: "Just bring out each candidate and let them respond to two or three questions from a panel of conservative journalists and/or policy experts. Jim DeMint hosted one of these on Labor Day 2011 to great effect. There's no reason it can't be replicated."  Not a terrible plan, but I doubt any of the networks would play along.  The best compromise I've seen comes from Ace:

For one thing, this isn't a normal year. We have a lot of serious candidates. So do we stick with the usual, or do we adjust our practices to take into consideration the unusualness of this season? I think the latter. My proposal is that they split debate night into two panels, over two nights. (Or two panels on one night-- but that would be a long night, with around three hours total debate time plus time in between.) The top six in the polls would do a random draw to be split between the panels, three and three. Everyone else would do another random draw to determine which panel they'd be in. You'd end up having about 6-8 people per panel, which is a workable number.

Using the current RCP national average, the top six -- Bush, Walker, Rubio, Paul, Huckabee and Cruz -- would be randomly split evenly among the two panels, with all remaining qualified candidates being selected (again, randomly) to round out each bifurcated debate field.  Each debate is conducted independently, and could either air on the same night, or be held on back-to-back evenings.  Everyone would receive a reasonable amount of face time, viewers would learn about candidates with whom they're less familiar, and subsequent debate could be winnowed down using various methods.  Those who end up on the outside would still kick up a fuss, but they'd at least have had their shot.  Major changes seem unlikely at this point, but CNN's set-up would only have to be tweaked to accommodate this plan.  Fox's system is far less flexible, although I full expect the network's highly capable triumvirate of moderators -- Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace -- to do an excellent job.  One other point to those who are clamoring for elaborate changes to debate formats: Television is a business, and putting on these debates is quite expensive. Asking a network to pay for, and grant air time to, consecutive debates is no small thing.  And somebody is always going to be unhappy with the rules. The trick is to balance the public good, good television, airtime constraints, and the bottom line. It's a thorny calculus.

Editor's note: Guy Benson is a Fox News contributor.

51 Percent Of Democrats Pretty Much Want To Destroy The First Amendment

So, National Review’s Charlie Cooke found an interesting poll showing that a majority of Democrats–and a substantial proportion of Republicans–want to upend the foundation of First Amendment law in the United States. They want to criminalize so-called hate speech. Nevertheless, 60 percent of Americans say that it’s “okay” publish Muhammad cartoons, and over 70 percent approve of our right to offend. So, what’s going on here?

Party affiliation is the only place where we see a majority for making hate speech a crime. That honor is awarded to the Democrats, where 51 percent agree with that sentiment, according to a YouGov poll. Yet, 37 percent of Republicans also agree, along with 35 percent of Independents. When it comes to age, 18-29 year olds break 42/26 in favor of making hate speech a crime, with 32 percent replying that they’re not sure. More 30-44 year-olds oppose the notion of making hate speech a crime, breaking 38/41/21 in supporting, opposing, or saying they’re not sure when asked about the proposed measure. Similar feelings are exhibited from 45-64 year-olds, who break 38/43/19, but 49 percent of those 65-years of age and older support redefining free speech law. Thirty-three percent oppose and 17 percent aren’t sure in that 65 and older group.

When it comes to gender, men break 38/43/19 concerning supporting, opposing, or not being sure. With women, the numbers are almost the opposite 43/32/25.

Overall, 41 percent support a law against hate speech, while 37 percent oppose; 22 percent are not sure.

I guess the silver lining is that there are a lot of people across the board that are not sure if we should fundamentally change free speech in America. Also, public opinion is highly moldable.

Yet, we seem to be suffering from split personalities because when YouGov asked if hate speech does or does not allow people to say things “intended to stir up hatred against a group based on such thins as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation,” 56 percent of Americans said it does allow for such statements, 17 percent disagreed, and 27 percent said they aren’t sure.

There’s also a significant gender gap on this issue. Again, breaking down the numbers between does allow/does not allow/not sure–men overwhelmingly agree that the First Amendment permits hate speech 66/17/18. The same cannot be said of women 47/18/35.

With age group, majorities in all brackets show support for free speech. 18-29 year-olds break 57/18/35; 30-44 year-olds 53/15/32; 45-64 year-olds 58/19/24; and 65 years of age and older 56/21/22. When it comes to party affiliation, a plurality of Democrats agree 48/26/26, but Independents (58/12/31) and Republicans (64/17/19) believe that hate speech is allowed under the First Amendment. If that’s the case, then how could a significant proportion of Americans think that hate speech should be criminalized?

If hate speech is permitted under the First Amendment, then it’s protected speech and laws against it would be considered unconstitutional. Moreover, case law undercuts the imposition of such laws. Hate speech has no defined legal meaning in U.S. law, so the first hurdle would be defining which forms of expression–which at the time would be considered free expression in this heinous alternate universe–should be suppressed by the government. Eugene Volokh wrote in the Washington Post about this matter. It’s a rather dangerous legal minefield [emphasis mine]:

…“hate speech” also doesn’t have any fixed legal meaning under U.S. law. U.S. law has just never had occasion to define “hate speech” — any more than it has had occasion to define rudeness, evil ideas, unpatriotic speech, or any other kind of speech that people might condemn but that does not constitute a legally relevant category.

Of course, one can certainly argue that First Amendment law should be changed to allow bans on hate speech (whether bigoted speech, blasphemy, blasphemy to which foreigners may respond with attacks on Americans or blasphemy or flag burning or anything else). Perhaps some statements of the “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech” variety are deliberate attempts to call for such an exception, though my sense is that they are usually (incorrect) claims that the exception already exists.

I think no such exception should be recognized, but of course, like all questions about what the law ought to be, this is a matter that can be debated. Indeed, people have a First Amendment right to call for speech restrictions, just as they have a First Amendment right to call for gun bans or bans on Islam or government-imposed race discrimination or anything else that current constitutional law forbids. Constitutional law is no more set in stone than any other law.

But those who want to make such arguments should acknowledge that they are calling for a change in First Amendment law, and should explain just what that change would be, so people can thoughtfully evaluate it. Calls for a new First Amendment exception for “hate speech” shouldn’t just rely on the undefined term “hate speech” — they should explain just what viewpoints the government would be allowed to suppress, what viewpoints would remain protected, and how judges, juries, and prosecutors are supposed to distinguish the two. Saying “this isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech” doesn’t, I think, suffice.

The beautiful thing about this country is that you have the right to offend; you can say things that are racist, offensive, and outright absurd without the fear of the secret police placing a black bag over your head later that night. Now, while this is a right, it does not guarantee immunity from the consequences. Don Imus was fired from CBS for calling members of the Rutgers women’s basketball “nappy headed hoes.” ESPN fired a headline writer who wrote, “chink in the armor” about Jeremy Lin, who was playing for the New York Knicks at the time. Paula Deen received intense media scrutiny for admitting to using the N-word multiple times when she was sued for discrimination two years ago. So, it’s not like people who decided to say outrageous things aren’t met with punishment.

Nevertheless, Volokh aptly notes how such a law would fundamentally change the face of the country. I dread the day where we have to debate what’s an acceptable form of expression and what is not, along with legal procedures to censor such speech. A test of one’s citizenship here is showing how much you can stomach things said by individuals you just can’t stand. Instead of supporting laws that would ban this person from exercising his right to free speech, get into the trenches on your own–you can say that he or she is wrong. If you’re not confrontational, just keep moving on with your day; that’s also your right.

Gatekeepers: When Hillary Was Top Diplomat, State Dep’t Staff Sometimes Blocked FOIA Requests

Okay. Let’s recap. In March, we discover that Hillary Clinton had a private email system she used to conduct all of her business when she was Secretary of State. It appears to have been a blatant attempt to circumvent FOIA requests. Nevertheless, she turned over 55,000 pages of emails she deemed were related to her work at State, then deleted nearly 32,000 emails she said were personal. She also wiped the server clean, rendering a third party review totally pointless. Then, we found out from the State Department’s Inspector General that its staff at the department isn’t properly preserving emails. Moreover, Hillary’s emails, which are suppose to be preserved for the public record, were not–and only recently did the State Department begin routinely archiving email correspondences with senior officials.

Now, we have news that State Department staffers sometimes blocked documents requested by FOIA from being released, and sources close to the process said that public records law expert were brought into a meeting to discuss how to “shield documents from disclosure.” The documents related to the Keystone pipeline project in this successful FOIA request, released emails between an official at our Ottawa embassy and a Canadian lobbyist for the project; an environmental group submitted the request. Clinton has been tight-lipped about her position on Keystone, much to the chagrin of green groups. Nevertheless, the release of these documents prompted Hillary’s Chief of Staff at the time–and board member of the Clinton Foundation–to allegedly quarterback the review process for ALL Keystone-related materials that were set to be disclosed. Also, some FOIA interference was reportedly run regarding former President Clinton's speaking engagements. When Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, the former president said he would submit his paid speech proposals to state for review (via WSJ):

When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her staff scrutinized politically sensitive documents requested under public-records law and sometimes blocked their release, according to people with direct knowledge of the activities.

In one instance, her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, told State Department records specialists she wanted to see all documents requested on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and later demanded that some be held back.

In another case, Ms. Mills’s staff negotiated with the records specialists over the release of documents about former President Bill Clinton’s speaking engagements—also holding some back.

The Clinton political staff’s scrutiny of Keystone documents arose after a document request that succeeded. In it, the environmental group Friends of the Earth obtained emails that were sent to Paul Elliott, a lobbyist for the company seeking to build the pipeline, by an official of the U.S. embassy in Ottawa—which is part of the State Department.

In a blog post, Friends of the Earth called the email a “smoking gun” showing “definitive evidence of bias.” A State Department spokeswoman said at the time that the emails weren’t evidence of any bias.

After the episode, Ms. Mills insisted on reviewing all Keystone-related documents being prepared for release, and flagged as problematic a few that the department’s records-law specialists felt obligated to release, said the person with knowledge of the situation.

The Keystone documents Ms. Mills objected to were all either held back or redacted, the same person said. After Ms. Mills began scrutinizing documents, the State Department’s disclosure of records related to Keystone fell off sharply, documents that include a court filing show.

Two others with knowledge of State Department records procedures said political appointees were allowed greater say than the FOIA experts thought was appropriate. It was hard to push back against the political staff, one said.

The pipeline project was so sensitive that an expert on FOIA was invited to a State Department policy meeting to advise on how to prospectively shield documents from disclosure, such as by marking them as involving the “deliberative process,” said a person who attended.

Documents relating to ex-President Clinton’s speeches also sparked scrutiny, said a fourth person familiar with State Department records releases.

Mr. Clinton had agreed, when his wife became secretary of state, to submit proposals for his paid speeches to the department for review. Some document requests related to the reviews. On this matter, too, Ms. Mills’s office sometimes objected to the release of records FOIA specialists thought ought to be handed over, this fourth person said.

Asked who had final say, the person said, “We negotiated it out,” and some documents were withheld or redacted.

Experts on FOIA said it might be acceptable for records reviewers to seek the views of political appointees, but there should be no negotiation. “Ultimately, the career people have to be the ones who make the final call,” said Miriam Nisbet, who recently retired as director of the federal FOIA ombudsman office at the National Archives and Records Administration.

On Tuesday, a federal judge said that the 55,000 pages of emails Clinton turned over must be released on a “rolling basis.” The Republican National Committee is seeking to know more about this alleged FOIA stonewalling from staffers to Mrs. Clinton when she served as out top diplomat (via McClatchy):

In a letter to the department obtained by McClatchy, the Republican National Committee, asks for all records, including memos and correspondence, that mention, reference or relate to FOIAs, including the requests themselves that were sent to or from 41 employees, including Clinton and many of her top aides, including chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.

Also, Hillary's private email use was probably open to hacking from foreign sources,according to security experts.  Oh, and of course, the State Department isn't commenting on the reported FOIA meddling conducted by Ms. Mills at State at this time.

Retired Army General at Committee Hearing: "We Are Losing This War"

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee convened a hearing to evaluate and scrutinize the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. General Jack Keane, who was the first witness to testify, argued that the fall of Ramadi signals—and indeed proves—that the Obama administration's current strategy in the region has failed.

“While there has been some progress and some success, looking at this strategy today, we know now that the conceptual plan is fundamentally flawed,” he stated. “The resources provided to support Iraq are far from adequate. The timing and urgency to provide arms, equipment, and training is insufficient. And as such we are not only failing, we are losing this war.”

“Moreover, I can say with certainty that this strategy will not defeat ISIS,” he added.

And yet, he also explained the importance of defeating ISIS in Syria, which is where the group is headquartered and carries out its operations.

“We have no strategy to defeat ISIS in Syria,” he intoned. “We have no ground force which is [how we defeat them].”

“Yes we have air power,” he added, “but air power will not defeat ISIS. It has not been able to deny ISIS freedom of maneuver or the ability to attack at will. Syria is ISIS’ sanctuary. We cannot succeed in Iraq if ISIS is allowed to maintain that sanctuary in Syria.”

Worse, Keane argued, ISIS is rapidly expanding their baleful influence into other regions of the world.

“ISIS is expanding beyond Iraq and Syria into Sinai, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan,” he intoned. “They are also inspiring and motivating radical sympathizers throughout the world.”

“Yet there is no strategy with our allies to counter that expansion,” he continued. “I would go farther to say that there is no strategy to counter the destabilization of the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Frederick Kagan—who is perhaps most famous for helping devise President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy—also testified before the committee, noting that ISIS is probably the gravest threat of the 21st century.

“This is not a terrorist organization,” he said. “This is an army that is conducting military maneuvers on an operational level with a great deal of skill. It is not an accident that Ramadi fell over the weekend and Palmyra fell yesterday.”

“This was a coherent campaign plan and a very intelligent one—very well executed,” he continued. “What I can’t discern from the daily operations, let alone from the statements from the administration, is any coherent American strategy to respond to this threat.”

He also argued—compellingly—that ISIS poses a significant and serious national security threat to the United States.

“ISIS is one of the most evil organizations that has ever existed in the world,” he said. “We really have to reckon with that. This is not a minor annoyance. This is not a group that we can maybe negotiate with down the road someday. This is a group that is committed to the destruction of everything decent in the world.”

“This is a group that sells captives into slavery—it’s a major source of financing for them,” he added. “This is a group that engages in mass rape. This is a group that conducts mass murder. And this is a group that is calling for and condoning and supporting and encouraging lone wolf attacks—and it will soon, I think, not be just lone wolf attacks—in the United States and the West. This is a group of unfathomable evil, and unfortunately they are extremely effective. And they have a degree of military capability, not terrorist capability, that we have not seen before in an al Qaeda organization. This is not something where we should be spectators."

Bipartisan Bill Prohibits Rapists From Seeking Child Custody

Republicans, Democrats, pro-abortion advocates and pro-lifers all found some common ground Tuesday when Congress passed H.R. 2772, The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act. The legislation, cosponsored by Reps. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), is an amendment to S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The new bill would provide protection for children conceived in rape and give more power to rape victims themselves by helping prevent sexual predators from gaining child custody.

Rep. Tom Marino’s (R-PA) office provided more details:

The mission of this legislation is simple: prohibit rapists from seeking custody of a child conceived through rape, against the protests of the rape survivor. If signed into law, the legislation would incentivize states to correct an overly complex child custody framework by revoking the parental rights’ of rapists.

The bill also protects rape survivors from further trauma, harassment, and intimidation by their rapist. That protection is vital for a mother who makes the personal decision to keep a child conceived through rape.

The representative also explained what this meant for the vulnerable victims' personal well-being:

“This legislation is crucial for rape victims and their mental wellbeing. It is also vital to the child. This bill is a clear directive to states that demand better protections for rape survivors that are not only necessary but long overdue,” said Marino.

Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, agreed with her politically polar opposite colleague and applauded the legislation.

“This bipartisan bill, which is part of the larger JVTA legislation, is an important step forward for rape survivors, who deserve commonsense protections under the law. No state should allow a rapist to use parental rights as a weapon against a survivor,” said Schultz.

H.R. 2772 passed in the Senate last month, also on a bipartisan basis, with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) leading the charge.

There was a time when it was dubious whether or not the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would even see the light of day. For weeks, congressmen bickered over the legislation’s pro-life language. The provision in question would enforce the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer dollars from going toward abortion. The two sides eventually managed to reach a compromise, and the concluding bill passed unanimously.

Yet, it's only the beginning.

Sadly, and shockingly, this law does not exist in almost two dozen states, National Journal reports. For the states who do enforce this legislation, one look at the fine print proves there is still a ways to go until rape victims get their due justice.

It merely gives states that pass parental-custody restrictions up to 10 percent more in Violence Against Women Act grant money. Most of that money would then go to support programs that assist women who are survivors of sex crimes.

Despite the missing pieces, H.R. 2772 is a good step forward. All congressmen who voted and supported it deserve credit for putting their differences aside and standing up for victims of rape.

Terrific: Ayatollah Khamenei 'Rules Out Broad Nuclear Inspections' in Iran Deal

If you're just joining the Iran negotiations debate, let's bring you up to speed: The Obama administration and international partners struck an interim deal with the regime in Tehran in late 2013, the ostensible purpose of which was to "freeze" Iran's rogue nuclear program while affording more time to hammer out a lasting agreement.  Iran cheated, eliciting excuses from the White House.  Iran also violated other existing international obligations related to weapons procurement as talks were underway, a fact that has been largely shrugged off.  A preliminary framework for a final accord was announced this spring, with US officials extolling it as a tough agreement that would significantly delay Iran's so-called "breakout" capabilities.  Iranian officials responded by rejecting the State Department's 'fact sheet' summary of the agreed-upon terms, insisting that core American demands on inspections and sanctions relief were overstated in the document.  This further alarmed critics who already viewed the West's apparent concessions as a dramatic climb down from established US stances on a host of issues -- from "ending" Iran's nuclear program, to the continued use of secret underground enrichment bunkers, to the testing of advanced centrifuges.  In addition to unleashing a series of goalpost-shifting, eleventh-hour demands, Tehran insisted that international governments lift all nuclear-related sanctions immediately upon the completion of an accord.  The regime's defense minister added that inspectors will not have unfettered access to certain military sites.  The country's 'supreme leader' evidently agrees:

Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday ruled out inspections of Iranian military sites and interviews of Iranian nuclear scientists in any potential deal on its nuclear program...After the last round of talks ended on Friday, a barrage of complaints erupted on the Iranian state news media over reported demands by the United States for broad mandates for nuclear inspectors working for the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The comments by Ayatollah Khamenei seemingly cement the Iranian position that a requirement for inspections of sites not designated by the country as part of its nuclear energy program is a nonstarter. While not new, the statement could further tie the hands of Iran’s negotiating team, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who on Friday said that a comprehensive deal before the self-imposed June 30 deadline was still possible.

If Iran manages to secure an agreement that entails unconditional sanctions relief and limits inspections to pre-approved, designated sites, the accord would no longer be a bad deal.  It would be an abject capitulation.  Let's recall that two different reports released in the last month have cited evidence of ongoing nuclear cheating by Tehran, that "snap-back" sanctions are a pipe dream (a reality helpfully confirmed by the Russians), and that President Obama has effectively conceded that even if Iran abides by the deal, they'll be a threshold nuclear power just as soon as Western restrictions expire in a little over a decade.  Oh, and there's this:

Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain. “We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research,” one of the Arab leaders preparing to meet Mr. Obama said on Monday, declining to be named until he made his case directly to the president. Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former Saudi intelligence chief, has been touring the world with the same message...“Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” he said at a recent conference in Seoul, South Korea.

It's almost as if events and actions are vindicating virtually every major fear raised by opponents of the deal. But ephemeral 'legacy' enhancements are more important than realities to some people, it seems. Others have more concrete and lasting concerns:

A Worthy Anti-Poverty Experiment In Central Florida

State are the laboratories for democracy–and what better way to put that framework to good use than test out new ways to fight poverty. Texas has proven to be a leader in justice/prison reform. In Orlando, Florida, the Community Food and Outreach Center (CFOC) is looking for a solution to break the cycle of dependency and making sure Americans, who might be down on their luck, have full bellies, a sense of self-worth, dignity, and have the training capable to putting themselves back on the right track towards a better future.

Typically, the road to dependency starts with handouts in either food or clothing. That short-term need is met, but charitable giving isn’t a consistent base of support. It’s a resource that eventually becomes depleted. The individual continues to struggle, limping on through government assistance. Now, there are some in Washington D.C. who thinks that’s a good thing; more people dependent on government is a surreptitious–and craven–way of enhancing political power.

At CFOC, they offer much more than just affordable food. Individuals are given a case manager who gives them the guidance and training needed to set these individuals on the right path. That training includes skills to obtain a job, life skills, crisis care, and continued mentoring to make sure these individuals find the exit to self-sufficiency.

Through collaborative partners, who are listed on CFOC’s website, emergency housing, utility assistance, long-term housing, medical, and domestic abuse care are also included.

On their website, co-founder Scott George was motivated to do something about the working poor after seeing the many impoverished neighborhoods around Orlando. The city has the lowest median pay out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Central Florida also has the largest share of low-paying jobs in the country, with almost 40 percent living on less than $25,000 a year.

It’s programs like these that will constitute the blueprint for combating poverty in a sustainable fashion. We also cannot forget about faith-based groups who also have been major players in combating urban-based poverty.

Right now, one could say that there’s an empathy gap in politics, along with solutions being erased through partisan bickering. Commentary’s Noah Rothman, formerly of Hot Air, spoke about this at Americans for Prosperity’s Texas Online conference last year. In a panel discussion about culture, the conversation veered into Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comments, where Rothman noted that just because 47 percent of Americans are on some form of government assistance doesn’t mean they want to be there.

On May 12, Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute joined President Obama and Harvard Prof. Robert Putnam for a conversation about poverty in America. Not only did Brooks reiterate the points made by Rothman, he said that the social safety net is something that should be celebrated as an accomplishment of free enterprise–that we can provide some assistance to Americans we don’t even know since prosperity and wealth creation from the free market has been so great. At the same time, Brooks added that such a safety net should be reserved only for the truly destitute.

So how are we on the center right talking about poverty in the most effective way? Number one is with a conceptual matter. We have a grave tendency on both the left and the right to talk about poor people as “the other.” Remember in Matthew 25, these are our brothers and sisters. Jim Olsen and I have this roadshow -- we go to campuses and everybody wants to set up something, right-left debates, and it never works out, because it turns out we both have a commitment to the teachings of the Savior when it comes to treating the least of these, our brothers and sisters.

When you talk about people as your brothers and sisters you don’t talk about them as liabilities to manage. They’re not liabilities to manage. They’re assets to develop because every one of us made in God’s image is an asset to develop. That’s a completely different approach to poverty alleviation. That’s a human capital approach to poverty alleviation. That’s what we can do to stimulate that conversation on the political right, just as it can be on the political left.

One concept that rides along with that is to point out -- and this is what I do to many of my friends on Capitol Hill -- I remind them that just because people are on public assistance doesn’t mean they want to be on public assistance. And that’s the difference between people who factually are making a living and who are accepting public assistance. It's an important matter to remember about the motivations of people and humanizing them. And then the question is, how can we come together? How can we come together?

I have, indeed, written that it's time to declare peace on the safety net. And I say that as a political conservative. Why? Because Ronald Reagan said that; because Friedrich Hayek said that. This is not a radical position. In fact, the social safety net is one of the greatest achievements of free enterprise -- that we could have the wealth and largesse as a society, that we can help take care of people who are poor that we've never even met. It's ahistoric; it's never happened before. We should be proud of that.

But then when I talk to conservative policymakers, and say how should you distinguish yourself from the traditional positions in a marketplace of ideas from progressives, you should also talk about the fact that the safety net should be limited to people who are truly indigent, as opposed to being spread around in a way that metastasizes into middle-class entitlements and imperils our economy.

It seems in Central Florida, the “truly indigent” are also getting some great assistance from the Community Food and Outreach Center.

Oh Boy: During Special Obamacare Enrollment Period, Zero People Enrolled in Expensive Hawaii Exchange

Earlier this year, Americans across the country were given an extended period of time to sign up for Obamacare in order to avoid being fined by the IRS for failing to obtain health insurance. Under the new law, those who don't have health insurance are penalized. In other words, the government is forcing people to get insurance or be punished.

Like many other aspects of Obamacare, the special enrollment period was an abysmal failure. 

According to Americans For Tax Reform, not a single person enrolled in Hawaii's Obamacare exchange during the extended special session. 

While Hawaii enrolled zero individuals and is the worst performing state, it is not alone. Vermont signed up only 97 households, while Rhode Island enrolled just 25 households.

Hawaii’s dismal performance should not be surprising. The website cost taxpayers $205 million but could only enroll 8,592 individuals in year one. Cost to taxpayers per enroll: $23,899.

The state legislature recently rejected a $28 million bailout for the website meaning that a contingency plan to dismantle the exchange and migrate to the federal exchange will be implemented immediately. Unfortunately, taxpayers are not off the hook yet as it is expected that moving to the federally run will cost $30 million.

Unfortunately, the ongoing failures aren't isolated to the island state.

Hawaii is not the first website to implode. Oregon’s $305 million exchange was officially abolished earlier this year at an additional cost and of $41 million. The exchange is currently under investigation by numerous federal organizations for how it wasted so much money.

In all, states received $5.4 billion from the federal government for state-based Obamacare exchanges with no strings attached and zero oversight over spending decisions.

But remember everyone, Obamacare is a success...or something

Keep working America!

Bin Laden Documents Declassified: Inside the Mind of The World's Most Wanted Terrorist

After years of waiting and controversy, the United States government has declassified 100 documents from the May 2, 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound. The collection is being called "Bin Ladin's Bookshelf" by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

"On May 20, 2015, the ODNI released a sizeable tranche of documents recovered during the raid on the compound used to hide Usama bin Ladin. The release, which followed a rigorous interagency review, aligns with the President’s call for increased transparency–consistent with national security prerogatives–and the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act, which required the ODNI to conduct a review of the documents for release. The release contains two sections. The first is a list of non-classified, English-language material found in and around the compound. The second is a selection of now-declassified documents," DNI stated on its website about the documents. "The Intelligence Community will be reviewing hundreds more documents in the near future for possible declassification and release. An interagency taskforce under the auspices of the White House and with the agreement of the DNI is reviewing all documents which supported disseminated intelligence cables, as well as other relevant material found around the compound. All documents whose publication will not hurt ongoing operations against al-Qa‘ida or their affiliates will be released."

The documents counter the narrative put out by the Obama administration that Bin Laden had become an irrelevant player in al Qaeda before his death and show Bin Laden's obsessive goal of killing Americans. Documents also show he was in constant communication with other al Qaeda leaders about potential attacks, current events in the world and specifically wrote to al Qaeda in Iraq (which gave birth to ISIS) to praise them for their work against the United States. 

"O people of Iraq who are carrying sharp swords, destroy the infidels' tanks, smash their heads, stab their throats, increase the prayers, and truly keep the promise and may Allah reward you with the best," Bin Laden wrote. "I direct my speech to the Islamic nation in general. Hear me and learn, the matter is great, and it is the greatest and most important matter in today's world. This is a third world war, which was started by the Zionist-Crusader alliance, against
the Muslim nation, and it is taking place in the land of Iraq, today's world revolves around the house of the Caliphate, Baghdad. Today, the entire world is watching this war, and is watching the two enemies, the Muslim nation on one hand and America and its allies on the other hand. Either good life and pride or suffering and humiliation. Today, the Muslims have a rare and precious opportunity to stop following the West and its slavery, and to destroy the restraints which the Crusaders handcuffed us with."

Further, Bin Laden wrote a letter directly to the American people and talks about the economy and the status of moral in the U.S. military. 

"First of all, I would like to say that your war with us is the longest war in your history and the most expensive for you
financially. As for us, we see it as being only halfway finished. If you were to ask your wise thinkers, they would tell
you that there is no way to win it because the indications are against it. How will you win a war whose leaders are pessimistic and whose soldiers are committing suicide? If fear enters the hearts of men, winning the war becomes impossible. How will you win a war whose cost is like a hurricane blowing violently at your economy and weakening your dollar?" he wrote. Jihad against the tyrants and the aggressors is a form of great worship in our religion. It is more precious to us than our fathers and sons. Thus, our jihad against you is worship, and your killing us is a testimony. Thanks to God, Almighty, we have been waging jihad for 30 years, against the Russians and then against you."

An Al Qaeda job application is found within the document release and includes a section about who the terror organization should contact should the jihadist applying "be martyred."  The application requires applicants to provide detailed information about themselves and asks questions like, "Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?" and "What objectives do you want to accomplish on your jihad path?"

Bin Laden Instructions to Terror Applicants

I'll leave you with this: 

"Bin Laden was in the compound. He heard those helicopters landing and he knew that that meant he was in dire trouble. The next thing he heard was pop, pop, pop and he heard some of his guards going down and then he heard voices, probably initially Arab voices but then, he heard American voices. And eventually, he has an American in the room with him and he was facing his death and he knew it." -General Jack Keane