Posted tagged ‘U.S. Senate’

David M. Friedman is the New US Ambassador to Israel

March 23, 2017

David M. Friedman is the New US Ambassador to Israel, The Jewish PressLori Lowenthal Marcus, March 23, 2017

David Friedman

David Melech Friedman is the new U.S. Ambassador to Israel, following a close 52-46 vote in the Senate on Thursday afternoon. The only Democrats to vote in favor were Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ) and Sen. Joe Manchin (WV).

Friedman, nominated by President Donald J. Trump on his first day in office, was forced to patiently tap his foot before a hearing was scheduled, and then to endure a hostile, at times brutal, grilling during the confirmation hearing process. Nonetheless, the intensely partisan Washington vapors which have infiltrated even previously bipartisan issues such as support for Israel was overcome, and Friedman was confirmed thanks to the Republican majority in the Senate.

Friedman now prepares to head to Jerusalem, where he will attempt to continue dismantling the Obama legacy of hostility towards the Jewish State and, especially, towards Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister.

The first signal people will be watching for is whether Friedman sets up shop in Jerusalem, as he has promised. The U.S. Embassy has been in Tel Aviv which is not the capital of Israel, a sore point between the two strong allies.

Friedman’s nomination hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took place on March 9. That hearing was contentious, with the nominee forced to repeatedly apologize for strongly Zionist statements he had made in writing and public speeches.

A particular focus of the Democrats on the committee was Friedman’s contempt for the “Two State Solution” as the only goal of the peace process, as well as his support for Jewish communities beyond the 1949 Armistice Line. In addition, Friedman was castigated for his bald criticisms of those whose pro-Israel bona fides are strongly suspect, including J Street members and Jonathan Greenblatt, the new head of the Anti-Defamation League.

It is expected that Friedman will quickly leave for Israel where he has long maintained a residence in Jerusalem.

David Friedman Approved as US Amb to Israel by Senate Comm

March 9, 2017

David Friedman Approved as US Amb to Israel by Senate Comm, The Jewish PressLori Lowenthal Marcus, March 9, 2017

David Friedman

The controversial – because so ardently pro-Israel – nominee to become the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday morning.

The contentious hearing on Friedman’s nomination took place back in mid-February. Since then, Friedman and his supporters have been biting their nails, waiting for the committee to vote on the nomination.

In the month between the committee hearing and Thursday’s vote, many U.S. organizations which deal with Israel worked actively to encourage Senators to vote in accordance with those organization’s values.

J Street, the prog-elite organization highly critical of Israel and especially Israel’s security efforts, worked overtime in an effort to derail Friedman’s nomination.

Firmly pro-Israel organizations such as Americans for a Safe Israel, EMET, Iron Dome Alliance, Jews Choose Trump, ZOA, COPMA and JCC Watch hand-delivered a letter to all members of the SFRC urging them to vote in favor of the nomination.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) did not take a position on Friedman’s nomination.

The vote in favor of Friedman went almost strictly along party lines. Almost, because Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ) once again voted his conscience and refused to be intimidated by party leadership. Menendez voted “aye” when his name was announced during the roll call vote on Thursday morning. The New Jersey Senator had also voted against approving the Nuclear Iran Deal which had become a highly partisan issue.

Committee member chair Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) spoke briefly before the vote. His endorsement was read without emotion from a prepared statement. Next to speak was the ranking committee member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who had already announced that he was going to vote against the nomination.

Cardin said the words Friedman had used in various op-eds which were extremely negative suggested to him that Friedman would not prove to be the “unifying force” needed in the region. The Maryland Senator was also critical of Friedman’s statements in opposition to the “Two State Solution.”

Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) also spoke against Friedman’s nomination. Both Senators took umbrage at Friedman’s past written criticisms of far left organizations and members of the U.S. government, including former President Barack Obama.

The four brief statements were then followed by a roll call which resulted in the voting out, with approval, of Friedman’s nomination.

The nomination now awaits a vote by the full Senate.

BREAKING: Senate confirms Rex Tillerson as secretary of state

February 1, 2017

BREAKING: Senate confirms Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, Washington TimesGuy Taylor, February 1, 2017

secstatetillersonFILE – In this Jan. 11, 2017, file photo, Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Trump’s nomination of Tillerson for secretary of state is headed toward Senate confirmation after several Democrats crossed party lines . . . .

The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to confirm Rex Tillerson as the nation’s 69th secretary of state, officially making the former ExxonMobil CEO America’s top diplomat and chief foreign policy advisor to President Trump.

In a 56-43 vote, Republicans picked up three Democratic votes to pierce the minority’s hoped-for united front against Mr. Trump’s unconventional nominee: Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mark R. Warner of Virginia, all of whom face re-election next year. Democratic-leaning independent Sen. Angus S. King Jr. of Maine also voted to advance Mr. Tillerson’s nomination.

Mr. Tillerson, who had an extended lunch meeting with Mr. Trump Wednesday afternoon, was expected to be sworn in during a private ceremony later in the day. Officials said he is unlikely to appear in person at State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom before Friday.

Officials said Mr. Tillerson, who had an extended lunch meeting with Mr. Trump Wednesday afternoon, would be sworn in during a private ceremony. He is not expected to appear at State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom until Thursday or Friday.

Once the swearing in formalities are taken care of, the new secretary of state will be confronted quickly by a slate of delicate issues.

In addition to an already turbulent landscape of foreign policy challenges — from the North Korean nuclear threat to Syria’s civil war, Russian meddling in Ukraine and the international battle against the Islamic State — Mr. Tillerson arrival at Foggy Bottom coincides deep hand-wringing over Mr. Trump’s recent executive order relating to the so-called “extreme vetting” of Muslims trying to enter the U.S.

Recent days brought reports that hundreds of U.S. diplomats and State Department rank and file have signed a scathing dissent memorandum criticizing the order Mr. Trump signed Friday to suspend all refugee access to the U.S. and temporarily halt visas to citizens of seven majority Muslim nations, including Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

“We are better than this,” said the memo, which was submitted as a cable into the State Department’s infamous “dissent channel” and leaked to reporters.

The White House response to those who signed the memo has been confrontational, with administration spokesman Sean Spicer asserting Monday that they “should either get with the program or they can go.”

The new secretary of state will face the immediate and delicate task of trying win back their loyalty and restore morale at the department.

Mr. Tillerson was noncommittal on the visa and refugee issue during his nomination hearing last month. While he voiced apprehension toward Mr. Trump’s campaign trail calls for a ban on “all Muslims” entering the U.S., he also said he might be open to the creation of some kind of registry of Muslims living in the country.

During the hearing, Mr. Tillerson also faced scrutiny over close relationships he built with high-level Russian officials as head of ExxonMobil — he was CEO from 2006 through 2016 — and the extent to which those relationships may influence his view of economic sanctions designed to contain Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine.

Mr. Tillerson was generally elusive on sanctions and Russia. He spoke out against the use of economic penalties as a foreign policy tool. But he also condemned suspected interference by Russia in the U.S. presidential election, and said he believed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula was illegal and worthy of a muscular response from Washington.

Another issue that drew scrutiny during the hearing was Mr. Tillerson view on climate change and the extent to which he hopes to change or renounce the 2015 global Paris Climate Accord that former Secretary of State John F. Kerry fought for in recent years.

Mr. Tillerson said he believes “the risk of climate change does exist” and “the consequences of it could be serious enough that action should be taken.” While he said the “type of action seems to be where the largest areas of debate exist,” he added that it’s “important to recognize the U.S. had done a pretty good job.”

Obama Allies Working to Undermine Trump’s National Security Team

January 21, 2017

Obama Allies Working to Undermine Trump’s National Security Team, Washington Free Beacon, , January 21, 2017

CIA Director-designate Rep. Michael Pompeo, R-Kan. is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

CIA Director-designate Rep. Michael Pompeo, R-Kan. is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (AP

Democrats loyal to former President Barack Obama are waging a behind-the-scenes effort to undermine President Donald Trump’s national security team by blocking key appointees, according to multiple sources familiar with the outgoing administration’s efforts.

The centerpiece of this obstruction is the recent refusal by Senate Democrats to quickly confirm incoming CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Democratic leaders—including Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Patrick Leahy (Vt.)—postponed Pompeo’s confirmation, claiming they need more time to debate the pick, which is widely supported by a majority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The decision to stall Pompeo’s vote, a move that will leave the critical post of CIA director vacant as Trump takes office, is part of a wider effort by the outgoing administration and its allies to hamstring Trump on the national security front, according to multiple sources, including those close to the Trump administration.

Gen. Michael Hayden, a former CIA director who served under former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, told the Washington Free Beacon that he is “puzzled by the objections recently raised” by Senate Democrats.

“It’s hell being the political football,” Hayden said Saturday afternoon, ahead of a visit by both Trump and Pompeo to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

Democrats cited Hayden’s role under Bush and Obama as a precedent for Pompeo’s holdup.

“Just as Director Hayden served as a bridge between the Bush and Obama presidencies eight years ago, Director [John] Brennan could play the same role for the incoming and outgoing administrations, if the President is willing to keep him on,” Matt House, a Schumer spokesman, said in a recent press statement.

Democrats opposing Pompeo have expressed concerns about his desire to combat terrorism by boosting the collection of personal data in the United States. They also have raised concerns about Pompeo’s stance on enhanced interrogation techniques.

Hayden dismissed these concerns, saying Democratic talking points on the matter are unconvincing.

“With regard to interrogations and surveillance, Congressman Pompeo said that he would follow the law. If his intelligence professionals advised him that current law denied him intelligence opportunities that would be otherwise available, he would so advise the Congress so that they could discuss and debate whether changes in the law might be indicated,” Hayden said. “That is the essence of a professional carrying out his duty within the American political context.”

There is nothing abnormal about Pompeo’s desire to potentially strengthen the interrogation techniques available to the U.S. military, Hayden said.

“No one could reasonably argue that the current army field manual exhausts all legally available interrogation techniques,” he explained. “If director Pompeo and his professionals judged that America was measurably less safe because of the current limitations, their duty would be to inform the president and the Congress of that judgment. They of course would live with the decision of their political and policy masters.  What could possibly be controversial about that?”

The campaign to delay Pompeo’s confirmation appears to be just one piece of a larger effort aimed at undermining Trump’s national security team, multiple sources told the Free Beacon.

There is evidence Obama’s outgoing administration took steps to complicate and delay the building of Trump’s new team, according to one veteran foreign policy insider who has been in close contact with Trumps’ national security transition team.

“Something strange is going on,” the source, who is not authorized to speak on the record, said. “The Trump folks keep loading up accounts and looking at specific jobs, and they’re not finding anything like what should be there. It’s like the Obama national security team went out of their way to cripple the transition on the way out.”

A senior congressional aide familiar with the efforts to hold up Pompeo’s confirmation vote told the Free Beacon that Democrats are playing politics with America’s national security.

“This is nothing more than an exercise in partisan showmanship,” the source said. “Senate Democrats know Pompeo is wholly qualified for this job and that he’ll eventually be confirmed.”

“Playing politics with this confirmation only jeopardizes our national security at a time when the United States faces a multitude of security challenges,” added the congressional source, who asked not to be named so he could speak freely. “They should drop this charade and confirm him.”

Senate panel approves Mattis to be next defense secretary

January 18, 2017

Senate panel approves Mattis to be next defense secretary, Washington ExaminerJacqueline Klimas, January 18, 2017

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday cleared one of the final hurdles for retired Gen. James Mattis to become defense secretary shortly after President-elect Trump takes office.

The committee voted 26-1 that the full Senate should approve the nomination once it’s received, meaning it will not have to be referred to the committee and can be approved by the full Senate as soon as the next president sends it to Capitol Hill, according to a committee press release.

There is precedent for the committee to act on a prospective nomination from someone who is not yet in office. The committee took a similar action to help speed approval of Donald Rumsfeld to be defense secretary on Jan. 19, 2001, one day before the inauguration of former President George W. Bush.

The committee and full Senate passed the waiver last week that will allow Mattis to serve as defense secretary so soon after leaving the Marine Corps. Current law requires someone to be out of uniform for seven years before serving as defense secretary, but Mattis just left the service in 2013.

‘We will not be Trumped’: Sharpton calls for protests against Sessions

January 14, 2017

‘We will not be Trumped’: Sharpton calls for protests against Sessions, Washington ExaminerKyle Feldscher, January 14, 2017

Rev. Al Sharpton called for an occupation of senators’ offices to call on them to block Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Session from becoming President-elect Trump’s attorney general, chanting “We will not be Trumped.”

Sharpton, speaking at a march in Washington organized by his National Action Network, called on his supporters to take action to stymie Trump’s agenda.

“We’ve come not to appeal to Donald trump, because he’s made it clear what his policies are and what his nominations are,” he said. “We come to say to the Democrats in the Senate and in the House, and to the moderate Republicans, to get some backbone and get some guts.”

“We didn’t send you down here to be weak-kneed and to get in the room and try and make friends. We sent you down here to stand up.”

Sharpton issued a warning to Republicans who he believes have targeted African American voting rights in recent years, telling them that an election defeat in 2016 was not tantamount to overturning the progress the civil rights movement made.

He recalled the warning Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sent about Sessions’ nomination to the federal bench in the 1980s, which he lost due to past accusations of racism. Sharpton said it’s time to honor Coretta Scott King by fighting hard against Sessions.

“We owe it to her to have a roll call on those that would put him in the Justice Department,” Sharpton said.

“We want the world to see if you sell us out, we’re going to let everybody know who you are.”

He added that the passion he saw from the crowd, gathered on a rainy Saturday morning in Washington, showed there was plenty of fight in his supporters.

“We are not here because we didn’t have something else to do. We are here because we fought hard to make sure this administration had our pride and we are not going away now,” he said. “Criminal justice and police reform must go forward.”

1/11/2017 Dr. Jasser’s Letter regarding Senator Sessions post as Attorney General

January 12, 2017

1/11/2017 Dr. Jasser’s Letter regarding Senator Sessions post as Attorney General, American Islamic Forum for Democracy

The Islamists groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (a group formally considered persona-non-grata by the FBI due to their position on HAMAS) protesting his appointment are proof positive that his appointment is the right one for national security and our rule of law in the next administration.

**************************

January 11, 2017

The Honorable Chuck Grassley
Chairman
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
152 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Members of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Dear Chairman Grassley, Senator Feinstein, and Members of the Committee:

I am writing to you today to ask that you enthusiastically confirm Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States. I am an American Muslim, former U.S. Naval officer and the son of Syrian political refugees who escaped to the United States in 1966 and instilled in me a love and devotion for the U.S. Constitution, our Bill of Rights and this great nation of ours.

In addition to serving my nation in uniform for 11 years, I have also dedicated my life to countering what many of us Muslims believe to be the root cause of Islamist terror—political Islam or the global identity movements of Islamism. The mission of our American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona is to protect the U.S. Constitution, freedom and liberty thought the separation of mosque and state. This has led us to what we believe to the solution to the threat of global Islamism—our diverse, bipartisan led Muslim Reform Movement with Muslim leaders in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

As an American patriot who loves this nation, it saddens me to no end to see American Islamist sympathizers like Mr. Khizr Khan and his bevy of enabling Islamist and partisan organizations falsely malign an honorable appointee for Attorney General not only on behalf of the far left’s political machinery but in the name of American Muslims and the free practice of the faith of Islam that I love. They have no shame in exploiting the appointment of a conservative, extraordinarily well-qualified Senator in order to speak on behalf of Islamists. They are intentionally spreading false fears of the impending victimization of American Muslims in order to derail Sen. Sessions’ appointment. There is no opportunity that Islamists will not exploit or fabricate in order to victimize, segregate, and collectivize Muslims into a single group. Make no mistake. Muslims are an ideologically, diverse community and Mr. Khizr Khan, CAIR and other Islamist grievance groups do not speak for all of us.

In fact I call upon you to look at the very records of this Judiciary committee to witness, in case you missed it, the long overdue “tough love” for Muslim communities that Sen. Sessions articulately defended when I testified in June 2016 to the Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts on “Willful Blindness: Consequences of Agency Efforts To Deemphasize Radical Islam in Combating Terrorism” chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He said,

“Dr. Jasser, I remember during the Civil Rights days, national TV networks, maybe they were atheist, maybe they were Jewish or whatever, going into churches in the south, sticking a camera in the face of a (white) preacher and asking them, can an African-American, can a black person worship in your church, yes or no? This was a difficult question and it was very tough. But I thought and in retrospect that kind of challenge caused people to realize the position was untenable and could not be defended in public debate. ” (1:53:41-1:57:21 CSPAN Video)

I then responded to him that it is in fact this kind of tough love that refuses to treat Muslim communities and their leaders with a bigotry of low expectations but rather with the respect of genuine equality. Senator Sessions agreed that we Muslim reformers should be given the space to call out the homophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-freedom beliefs of Islamist leaders at mosques and any Islamic institutions.

Sen. Sessions further concluded that,

“the Islamic world and the Muslim religion is a great religion. Millions of people follow its doctrines and don’t believe in these things.” (1:53:41-1:57:21 CSPAN Video)

This is the unvarnished non-partisan truth regarding my last very public interaction with Sen. Sessions on Muslims, Islam, Islamism, national security and religious freedom. I have testified repeatedly to Congress on no less than four occasions in the past five years of the need to shift the U.S. government away from the feckless mission to simply “Counter Violent Extremism (CVE)” to the more accurate mission of “Countering Violent Islamism (CVI)”. Such a move would not mean that we Muslims would ever agree to giving up one iota of our constitutionally protected civil rights. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Public monitoring of non-violent Islamist precursors of violent Islamist terrorists is perfectly appropriate and should be part of the public-private partnerships in honest counter-radicalization programs. It is incumbent upon us in the Muslim communities to reform against the theocratic ideas which radicalize our youth. Sen. Sessions has shown a profound understanding of that need and the fact that the government should not and cannot do that. Again, this is not to suggest any illegal intrusions upon privacy, religious freedom, or the intimidation or shuttering of any mosques that are not advocating imminent acts of violence in violation of the Supreme Court decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio.

I defy anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, protesting the appointment of Sen. Sessions to find one iota of evidence that his policies and enforcement of the U.S. Constitution and our laws will violate the religious freedoms of Muslims or put us at risk. As I said to Sen. Sessions in the June 2016 hearing, there is no better way for Muslims to melt away any bigotry that may exist than for Americans to see us lead the battle of ideas against the theocratic ideas that radicalize our youth.  In fact, I believe Sen. Sessions would be a long overdue refreshingly honest partner with American Muslim communities with regards to the hard work we have yet to do against the radicalizing conveyor belt of political Islam (Islamism). That, in and of itself, uniquely qualifies him for the position.

Indeed the job of Attorney General includes a large portfolio with obviously many other interest groups and communities affected beyond the Muslim communities. I will let others speak to that. But I felt it very important that your committee understand that there are patriotic American Muslims who love our country and our faith and believe that Sen. Sessions will be unwaveringly loyal and true to lady justice. As Byron York recently reminded us, in Sen. Sessions own words when he grilled Attorneys General Reno or Gonzales, he asked them if they will have “the backbone to walk into the Oval Office, pound your fist on the desk and say, ‘Mr. President, you can’t do that.

The Islamists groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (a group formally considered persona-non-grata by the FBI due to their position on HAMAS) protesting his appointment are proof positive that his appointment is the right one for national security and our rule of law in the next administration.

Sincerely yours,

Zuhdi Jasser, MD
Phoenix, ArizonaPresident, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Co-Founder, Muslim Reform Movement

Biden declares ‘it is over’ as he declares Trump the winner

January 6, 2017

Biden declares ‘it is over’ as he declares Trump the winner, Washington ExaminerNicole Duran, January 6, 2017

Vice President Joe Biden on Friday shut down a Democratic challenge to the congressional certification.

“It is over,” he said when the third challenge was lodged by a House Democrat, to a rousing cheer from Republicans.

Biden later gaveled down similar protests from Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. Jackson Lee stood four times to protest, but each time was shut down by Biden.

Parliamentary rules prohibit “debate in a joint session,” Biden said at one point. “The objection cannot be entertained” without a senator’s signature, he added.

Democrats were expected to protest Donald Trump‘s election, but were not expected to be able to slow down the proceedings significantly because no senators joined House Democrats. Their protests were on grounds varying from complaints that members of the Electoral College in various states were illegitimate, to voting rights violations on Election Day to Russia’s interference in the election.

House members from Florida, Georgia and several other states rose to object but without the sign off from one of their home state senators, Biden rules the protests out of order.

Toward the end of the process, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., stood and asked if any senator would stand with House members, but none did.

But at the end, Biden announced the expected result: Trump got 304 electoral votes, and Hillary Clinton got 227. Just as Biden finished, three protesters interrupted the process and were escorted out of the gallery.

The final tally gave seven electoral votes two other candidates. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell got 3 votes, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Native American activist Faith Spotted Eagle each got one vote.

Sessions Looks to Face Tougher Grilling for Attorney General Job Than Trump’s CIA Pick

November 19, 2016

Sessions Looks to Face Tougher Grilling for Attorney General Job Than Trump’s CIA Pick, PJ MediaBridget Johnson, November 18, 2016

confirmationsThen-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), chat during committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 13, 2010. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s nominations to lead the Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency received mixed reactions today, with the harshest criticism from Democrats reserved for the position that will not come before the Senate for confirmation — national security advisor.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was the first senator to endorse Trump, and in the 1980s and early ’90s was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.

After the news broke of Trump’s pick for the nation’s top cop, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Sessions “will make a great attorney general.”

“The attorney general has the responsibility to act as an independent public servant who will uphold the law and keep our communities safe,” Toomey said. “Jeff will do just that.”

“Jeff has been a strong advocate for our men and women in uniform, and for our nation’s safety and security,” Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said. “He has also shown a willingness to listen to and work with senators on both sides of the aisle. I support his nomination to be the next attorney general, and I look forward to his timely and fair hearing in the Senate.”

The chairman who will preside over that hearing, Judiciary Committee leader Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), predicted Sessions’ nomination will pass the committee.

“Sen. Sessions is a respected member and former ranking member of the Judiciary Committee who has worked across the aisle on major legislation,” Grassley said. “He knows the Justice Department as a former U.S. attorney, which would serve him very well in this position.”

Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said “the American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.”

“The attorney general must be independent and fair. The attorney general must be deeply committed to the rule of law and must ensure that all people are treated equally before the law. This means that he or she is also the chief protector of civil rights and civil liberties for everyone in our nation,” Leahy said. “That has never been more important than in this moment, when hate crimes have spiked across the country, especially against Muslim and LGBTQ Americans. And when we have a president-elect who has proposed religious tests, a return to torture, and a deportation force that threatens to remove millions of immigrants.”

Leahy acknowledged he and Sessions “have had significant disagreements over the years, particularly on civil rights, voting rights, immigration and criminal justice issues,” but “unlike Republicans’ practice of unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s nominees, I believe nominees deserve a full and fair process before the Senate.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who will be the top Judiciary Dem in the next Congress, stressed that “the attorney general is the lawyer for the people, not the president.”

“His or her primary loyalty must be to the Constitution and the rule of law — and sometimes that means telling the president no,” she said. “Senator Sessions has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for many years so he’s well aware of the thorough vetting he’s about to receive.”

Trump picked Tea Party Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Select Committee on Benghazi, to lead the CIA. He served in the Army and was an attorney before entering Congress in 2011.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said he was “confident” that Pompeo’s nomination “will be widely supported within the CIA.”

“Mike has spent an immense amount of time in the field all across the world meeting with our intelligence professionals and service members on behalf of the House Intelligence Committee,” Nunes said. “One of the most respected voices in the House of Representatives on national security issues, Mike will undoubtedly develop a close working relationship with Congress in his new post.”

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who quit Trump’s transition team on Monday, said that “once confirmed,,” Pompeo’s “military and legal backgrounds will serve him well in one of the United States government’s most demanding jobs.”

“As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I watched how Mike Pompeo worked. Smartly, deliberately, and quietly,” Rogers added. “That ethos will fit in perfectly at CIA.”

The leading Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), told CNN that Pompeo is “very well qualified” and “a solid pick.”

“A very smart guy. Hard working. He can be partisan. We’ve certainly had our differences over Benghazi. But I’m confident he’ll put that aside,” Schiff said. “The CIA role is a role of supplying the best intelligence to the administration and the Congress. And I know he’ll play a very good role and do a very good job.”

Schiff, who said he’d spoken with Pompeo already to offer his congratulations, said he thinks the Kansas lawmaker’s nomination won’t be all that controversial with Senate Dems.

“There will certainly be apprehension about the very vocal role in Benghazi. He was among just a couple of members to file a dissenting report to even the majority report, not feeling the majority report was strong enough,” he noted. “But he’s a very talented guy. I think he will do his homework. He’ll do the very best to manage the agency well. I have a lot of confidence in his abilities.”

Schiff wasn’t feeling so positive about Trump’s pick for national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“One, on a lot of policy matters, his views really scare me, frankly. He has difficult time differentiating between the entire faith of Islam and those who pervert it, like al-Qaeda and ISIS. A lot of his statements are inflammatory that play into the narrative that ISIS has that it’s the West against Islam. Very concerned about that,” the top House Intelligence Dem continued.

“Also, profound questions about his temperament. This is someone, I think, at DIA, had a reputation of being very hotheaded. Not a consensus builder. In the NSA position, you need to bring together disparate voices within the national security infrastructure to come together on tough policy. Those aren’t really his skills… in running an agency, in tamping down the impulsive nature of the president-elect, to have another volatile character in the Oval Office scares me.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, noted that “Trump has vowed to be a president for all Americans, but, with his selection of General Flynn, I don’t think he is making good on that promise.”

“I know that General Flynn and I are united in our goal of defeating and destroying ISIS, but the inflammatory and hateful remarks he has made only further fuel those who wish to do us harm,” Carper said. “In order to continue to take the fight to ISIS on the battlefield, we must be ready to keep working with Muslim Americans as well as our allies abroad from predominantly Muslim countries, and offensive generalizations about Islam are not only uncalled for, but entirely unproductive.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), sponsor of the Magnitsky Act signed in 2012 to sanction Russian officials involved in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, said he’s “disturbed by General Flynn’s relationships and ties with Russian actors,” among other issues.

“I am concerned about General Flynn’s relationship with RT, a television network funded by the Russian government and well-known for promoting the Kremlin’s political agenda, but which Flynn has characterized as no different than CNN or MSNBC. General Flynn was paid to attend RT’s 10-year anniversary gala in Russia, where he gave a talk on world affairs and was photographed sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin – a photograph Mr. Putin has used repeatedly to promote his own causes,” Cardin said. “…I have serious questions about the fact that while General Flynn was sitting in on the classified national security briefings given to Donald Trump since August 2016, his lobbying firm, the Flynn Intel Group, was providing foreign government clients with ‘all-source intelligence support.’”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of Trump’s transition team, told MSNBC today that Trump “is taking a non-traditional and unexpected approach.”

Asked about Flynn’s assertions that people are talking too tough on Russia and Vladimir Putin, Blackburn replied, “What we have to do is look at the fact that Russia is intertwining themselves with other countries. Whether it is China, whether it is Iran, whether it is other nation states, if you will, who have cyber warfare units. So Russia is not singular unto itself. And having individuals there that understand the way these threats move, the way they coalesce and form their participations I think is important.”

“Looking at China and their propensity for embedding hardware. Indeed, The New York Times had an article in this week about their embedding spyware into their hardware, and looking at these points of vulnerability in the virtual space,” Blackburn added. “That is something that you want your NSA director and your CIA director to have an appreciation and an understanding for as well as the physical threat.”

Yes, Trump’s Going to Dump the Iran Deal

November 15, 2016

Yes, Trump’s Going to Dump the Iran Deal, Center for Security Policy, Fred Fleitz, November 15, 2016

(Interesting food for thought. — DM)

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Source: National Review

In the days following Donald Trump’s victory, a variety of experts — mostly Trump critics — pronounced that, despite Trump’s frequent statements during the presidential campaign that the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is one of “the worst deals ever made by any country in history,” he has no choice but to stick with the agreement after he assumes office.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was one of the first to insist as much, claiming a Trump administration cannot back out of the nuclear deal because it is not a bilateral agreement between the United States and Iran but “an international understanding annexed to a Security Council resolution.”

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (which The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith once described as “the tip of the spear of the Iran lobby” in the United States) echoed Zarif’s statement. In a November 11 Foreign Policy article, he argued Trump can undermine the Iran deal but cannot directly dismantle it because the JCPOA is a multilateral agreement “codified by the UN Security Council.” Any attempt by a Trump administration to renegotiate the deal would violate international law and isolate the United States, Parsi said.

Even some conservative experts have suggested Trump probably won’t try to significantly modify or discard the nuclear agreement, but will instead try to goad Iran into withdrawing by strictly enforcing the deal.

But Trump senior national-security adviser Walid Phares poured cold water on speculation that Trump plans to walk back his statements about the Iran deal, when he commented on Facebook over the weekend that the “Iran Deal will be dismantled.”

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This firm statement by Phares confirmed previous statements he and Mr. Trump have made that the deal is a dangerous agreement that needs to be either significantly renegotiated or abandoned. As an expert who has followed the Iran nuclear program for many years inside and outside of government, I would like to expand on their statements by offering three key points about the nature of the deal and ten guidelines for renegotiating it.

1. The Iran deal is a dangerous fraud.

Donald Trump was exactly right when he called the Iran deal a “horrible” and “disastrous” agreement. The U.S. agreed to huge concessions to get this agreement, from no restrictions on Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism to no inspections of military facilities. There were secret side deals withheld from Congress that permitted Iran to inspect itself for past nuclear-weapons work and receive secret planeloads of cash in exchange for freeing U.S. hostages. To get the $150 billion in sanctions relief Iran wanted, there was another secret side deal — also withheld from the U.S. Congress — which granted Tehran exemptions for failing to meet some of the agreement’s key requirements.

So what did the United States get for these concessions?

Not much. The Obama administration claims the deal keeps Iran a year away from a nuclear deal for ten to 15 years. But in fact, the time to an Iranian nuclear bomb will drop dramatically under the deal, since Iran will be able to enrich uranium, develop advanced centrifuges, and, with Chinese assistance, finish construction of a heavy-water nuclear reactor that will produce one-quarter of a weapon’s worth of plutonium per year.

It will be very hard to verify the agreement since military sites — where Iran is likely to conduct covert nuclear-weapons work — are off limits to inspectors. The deal dumbed down the IAEA’s quarterly Iran reports, making it difficult for the world to know the true extent of Iran’s compliance. Certainly, there already have been reports of significant Iranian cheating.

Further, the deal was supposed to improve Iran’s international behavior.

Instead, from ballistic-missile tests to increased support to Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Tehran’s behavior in the Middle East has significantly worsened. Just in the last year, Iran has captured and held at gunpoint ten U.S. sailors and fired anti-ship missiles at American and UAE ships. Is this what a new era of cooperation with Iran was supposed to look like?

2. The deal is not legally binding on us.

Knowing that a bipartisan majority of Congress opposed the nuclear deal and that the U.S. Senate would never ratify it as a treaty, the Obama administration arranged to go around the Senate by negotiating the deal as an executive agreement endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. Because Security Council resolutions are binding on all U.N. members, it could therefore be argued that the nuclear deal was binding on the United States even though it had not been ratified by the Senate.

But that is not how our constitutional order works. American presidents historically have decided which international agreements are to be treated as treaties, but the Iran deal specified that it be ratified by the Iranian parliament.

If President Obama wanted to make a long-term international agreement binding on the United States, he needs consent from Congress. Anything else is a serious affront to the Constitution, and no U.N. endorsement changes that.

(This is not the only example of President Obama’s lawless approach to international agreements: The Paris climate-change agreement was deliberately negotiated to make it binding on the United States without Senate ratification and difficult for a future U.S. president to cancel. The same principles apply, however, and I expect President Trump pull out of the climate agreement as soon as possible.)

3. It’s not a true multilateral agreement.

The Obama administration also attempted to entrench the Iran deal making it a multilateral agreement, but this was just window-dressing.

The deal is technically a multilateral pact agreed to by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, but it is actually a bilateral agreement negotiated almost entirely between the United States and Iran. Iran has only looked to the United States for additional concessions since the deal was announced, and if we want to end the deal, we can.

So it is clear the deal must be either discarded or substantially renegotiated, and that we have every right to do so.

The first steps to renegotiation should be (1) assembling a new anti-Iran coalition of our European allies, Israel, and the Gulf states, and (2) imposing new sanctions on Iran in response to its nuclear program, ballistic-missile program, sponsorship of terrorism, and belligerent behavior. Russia and China could be allowed into the new coalition, but they should not be given a veto over any new agreement. This coalition also must be kept out of the United Nations.

Building the new coalition and renegotiating the agreement won’t be the easiest task, but given Iran’s belligerent behavior and the power new U.S. sanctions can have, a strong president and secretary of state can do it.

An agreement that truly addresses the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and the wider threats Iran poses will require reversing all of the irresponsible concessions made to Iran by the Obama administration.

Such negotiations must start from the following ten guidelines:

  1. Iran must cease all uranium enrichment and uranium-enrichment research.
  2. Iran cannot have a heavy-water reactor or a plant to produce heavy water.
  3. Iran agrees to robust verification, including “anytime, anywhere” inspections by IAEA inspectors of all declared and suspect nuclear sites.
  4. Iran must fully and truthfully answer all questions about its past nuclear-weapons-related work.
  5. Iran must agree to limitations on its ballistic-missile program.
  6. Sanctions will only be lifted in stages, in response to Iranian compliance with the agreement.
  7. Iran must agree to end its meddling in regional conflicts and its sponsorship of terror.
  8. Threats by Iran to ships in the Persian Gulf, U.S. naval vessels, and American troops must stop.
  9. Iran must cease its hostility toward Israel.
  10. Iran must release all U.S. prisoners.

Renegotiating or terminating the Iran deal will not just end the threat from a dangerous international agreement.

It will signify that this agreement was an aberration by an incompetent U.S. president who tried to subvert the U.S. Constitution, and it would send a powerful message to the world that the Obama administration’s policies of American weakness and appeasement are over.

Trump critics have argued that renegotiating or terminating the nuclear deal would isolate the United States and hurt America’s global stature. But in reality, President Obama’s foreign policy has already undermined America’s reputation around the world.

Fixing or killing the Iran nuclear deal will be President Trump’s first step toward restoring America’s global leadership.