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House Democrats are reportedly considering retaliatory moves against two top American and Israeli diplomats in response to Israel’s decision to block Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib from entering the country.

Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering legislative action against Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, according to McClatchy.

According to the report, the Democrats are discussing a possible vote on a statement of no confidence in Dermer, as well as the opening up of an inspector general investigation into Friedman.

Meanwhile, Tlaib’s 90-year-old grandmother, Muftia Tlaib, who lives in the West Bank, used fiery language as she ripped President Trump for his comments about the banned trip: “Trump tells me I should be happy Rashida is not coming,” she said, according to Reuters. “May God ruin him.”

Earlier in the week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited Omar and Tlaib’s anti-Israel statements in saying it would block her and another Democratic congresswoman from entering Israel as part of a planned trip.

The move – announced shortly after Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow them in – has ignited a massive outcry from Washington Democrats, as Netanyahu’s government stands by the decision arguing the U.S. lawmakers have an ulterior, anti-Israel agenda.

Both Omar and Tlaib are Muslim. They are also outspoken critics of Israel and have expressed support for boycotts of the country.

Still, while blocking the planned trip, the Israeli government said it would accept a humanitarian request from Tlaib to visit her Palestinian grandmother. But on Friday, Tlaib said she would not travel to the West Bank to visit family, despite getting permission hours before from Israel’s interior minister.

Trump blasted Tlaib’s decision not to visit on humanitarian grounds.

“Rep. Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup. The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!”

Netanyahu has said that Tlaib and Omar’s itinerary “revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.” He said Israel welcomes critics with the exception of those who support boycotts of the Jewish State.

Omar and Tlaib had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian organization aimed at highlighting the plight of the Palestinians.

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and Brie Stimson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Alex Pappas

Source: Fox News: House Dems could retaliate against US and Israel ambassadors after banned visit: report

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., on Thursday accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of implementing his own “Muslim ban” after his government said it would block her and another Democratic congresswoman from entering Israel.

The move – announced shortly after President Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow them in – has ignited a massive outcry from Washington Democrats, as Netanyahu’s government stands by the decision arguing the U.S. lawmakers have an ulterior, anti-Israel agenda.

“It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government,” Omar said in a statement. “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected members of Congress.”

Both Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., the other lawmaker barred by Israel, are Muslim. They are also outspoken critics of Israel and have expressed support for boycotts of the country. In a tweet, Tlaib ripped the decision as “a sign of weakness.”

In her statement, Omar defended her desire to travel to the region, saying the trip is intended to be educational.

“Denying entry into Israel not only limits our ability to learn from Israelis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories,” Omar said. “Sadly, this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.”

Netanyahu, explaining the decision at length on his office’s Twitter account, said that Tlaib and Omar’s itinerary “revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”

Netanyahu said their travel plans referred to a trip to “Palestine,” not Israel, and the congresswomen were not interested in meeting with Israeli officials. He went on to note that the Palestinian organization that planned the visit, MIFTAH, supports the boycott movement, and that people associated with the group have supported terror against Israel in the past.

He said Israel welcomes critics with the exception of those who support boycotts of the Jewish State.

Omar and Tlaib had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian organization aimed at highlighting the plight of the Palestinians. Tlaib’s family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank, where she still has close relatives.

Shortly before the decision was announced, Trump had tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed them to visit. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds,” he said, calling the two congresswomen “a disgrace.”

Other Democrats in the U.S. Congress denounced Israel’s decision.

Top ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was a sign of weakness instead of strength and “will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America.”

A close colleague of Omar and Tlaib — New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — tweeted that Netanyahu’s “discriminatory decision” to ban members of Congress from Israel “harms” diplomacy. She said she would not visit Israel “until all members of Congress are allowed.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., similarly said: “Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel.”

“Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy,” presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a tweet. “The Israeli government should reverse this decision and allow them in.”

Meanwhile, some Republicans and staunch Israel allies also criticized Israel’s decision. Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC tweeted that while they disagree with Omar and Tlaib’s positions, “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that, “I disagree 100% with Reps. Tlaib & Omar on #Israel & am the author of the #AntiBDS bill we passed in the Senate … But denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake.” Omar and Tlaib were among 17 members of Congress who voted against a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in July.

Added Rubio: “Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state.”

Fox News’ Brie Stimson and Ronn Blitzer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Alex Pappas

Source: Fox News: Ilhan Omar accuses Netanyahu of imposing ‘Muslim ban’ as Dems decry decision to block Israel visit

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging caution and patience in response to those in her party clamoring for impeachment proceedings against President Trump, her top deputies are signaling it’s only a matter of time before they begin.

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-highest-ranking Democrat in the House, said in an interview Sunday that he believes impeachment proceedings ultimately will be launched against Trump at some point in the future. He suggested Democrats are already laying the groundwork in Congress.

I think we’ve already begun,” Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’ve got all of these committees doing their work, we’re having hearings.”

He added: “We do believe that if we sufficiently, effectively educate the public, then we will have done our jobs, and we can move on an impeachment vote and it will stand, and maybe it will be what needs to be done to incent the Senate to act.”

Last week’s public statement from Robert Mueller, the special counsel who led the Russia investigation, emphasizing that his report did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice accusations has triggered an avalanche of calls from Democrats to begin impeachment.

In a radio interview last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., whose committee would lead impeachment proceedings, said “there certainly is” justification for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, but said it was critical for the American public to be on board before launching the process.

“Impeachment is a political act, and you cannot impeach a president if the American people will not support it,” Nadler said Friday. “The American people, right now, do not support it because they do not know the story. They don’t know the facts.”

Mueller’s statement has put renewed pressure on Pelosi, who has resisted the calls and questioned the political wisdom of moving forward. During a speech at the California Democratic Party’s convention on Saturday, Pelosi was greeted with “impeach” chants from liberal activists. Pelosi has been non-committal about impeachment and said last week, “Many constituents want to impeach the president. But we want to do what is right and what gets results.”

Despite the momentum, Democrats, even with their congressional majority, still appear to have some work to do in convincing their own party. A New York Times tally says 54 House Democrats support impeachment, 58 do not support it and 123 have not committed. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash is the only House Republican to support impeachment. It takes just a simple majority of the House to impeach.

However, even if they impeach, Democrats do not appear to have the votes in the Senate – where a super majority is required and Republicans have control – to remove Trump from office.

Other top House Democrats, though, are acknowledging the long odds of success.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that impeachment “is destined for failure.”

“I think we’re going to do what is right for the country, and at this point, the speaker has not reached the conclusion, and I haven’t either, that it’s the best for the country to put us through an impeachment proceeding that we know will, is, destined for failure in the Senate,” Schiff said.

The momentum inside the party comes as Trump is overseas. On Monday, he met with Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family at Buckingham Palace amid D-Day commemoration ceremonies.

In a tweet on Sunday, the president ripped into Democrats for focusing on impeachment, saying Congress needs to focus on other issues, involving the border, drug prices and infrastructure.

“Democrats can’t impeach a Republican President for crimes committed by Democrats,” the president tweeted, dismissing the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Author: Alex Pappas

Source: Fox News: Impeachment dam breaking as Pelosi deputies tip hand: ‘We’ve already begun’

The launch of a formal inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation — being led by one of the Justice Department’s toughest prosecutors — has touched off a new round of behind-the-scenes finger-pointing among Obama administration officials who could have some explaining to do about efforts to surveil the Trump campaign.

A key dispute that flared this week concerns whether then-FBI Director James Comey or then-CIA Director John Brennan — or both of them — pushed the unverified Steele dossier containing claims about President Trump and his relationship to Russia. The dossier’s more sensational claims were never substantiated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

“Amazing—James Comey says that in 2016, John Brennan insisted on including the dossier in their IC assessment. But Brennan says: no no, COMEY wanted to use the dossier,” North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican who has long demanded answers about the origins of the probe, tweeted Thursday in reference to a prior Fox News report.

Meadows added: “They know the truth is coming. And now they’re all throwing each other under the bus.”

Sources familiar with the records told Fox News that a late-2016 email chain indicated Comey told bureau subordinates that Brennan insisted the dossier be included in the intelligence community assessment on Russian interference, known as the ICA. That email chain has not been made public.

But in a statement to Fox News, a former CIA official put the blame squarely on Comey.

“Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report,” the official said.

Clapper previously testified that the dossier was not ultimately used in the ICA. News that Comey had briefed Trump personally on the dossier before the inauguration — purportedly to warn him of potential blackmail threats — leaked within days and opened the door for media outlets to publicize the dossier’s lurid claims.

Fox News has reached out to Comey’s legal team twice, and provided the statement from the former CIA official, but did not receive a reply on the record. Comey, who often posts on Twitter, has not commented publicly on the story.

Meanwhile, another top FBI official, in a podcast interview, acknowledged that he and others were worried that it could look like Comey was trying to blackmail Trump when he first told him about the allegations in the dossier.

On the latest episode of the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery” broadcast on Tuesday, Baker said he and others were so concerned about Comey briefing Trump on Jan. 6, 2017 that “analogies” were made to J. Edgar Hoover, the former FBI director who famously abused his power to blackmail individuals.

“We were quite worried about the Hoover analogies, and we were determined not to have such a disaster happen on our watch,” Baker said, hoping to convey to the incoming president that they did not want to continue the “legacy” of Hoover’s blackmailing.

The finger-pointing comes as Attorney General Bill Barr has assigned John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct an inquiry into alleged misconduct and alleged improper government surveillance.

The Justice Department’s watchdog, Michael Horowitz, also is expected to conclude his internal review of how the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was used to secure the original surveillance warrant for former Trump aide Carter Page in October 2016, as well as for three renewals. Horowitz’s team has questioned why the FBI considered Steele a credible source, and why the bureau seemed to use news reports to bolster Steele’s credibility.

U.S. Attorney John Huber earlier was appointed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to review not only alleged surveillance abuses by the Justice Department and the FBI, but also their handling of the investigation into the Clinton Foundation and other matters. The status of Huber’s work is not known.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Gregg Re and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Author: Alex Pappas

Source: Fox News: Obama spymasters point fingers amid Russia probe review: ‘Throwing each other under the bus’

President Trump departed for Hanoi Monday

Kim Jong Un en route via train from Pyongyang.

President Trump on Monday announced that an American oil worker who was held hostage for more than a year in Yemen has been freed.

“It is my honor today to announce that Danny Burch, a United States citizen who has been held hostage in Yemen for 18 months, has been recovered and reunited with his wife and children,” the president tweeted.

Trump expressed his appreciation for the “support” of the United Arab Emirates in securing Burch’s freedom but did not reveal other details of the recovery.

“Danny’s recovery reflects the best of what the United States & its partners can accomplish,” the president said. “We work every day to bring Americans home. We maintain constant and intensive diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement cooperation within the United States Government and with our foreign partners.”

Burch’s family told news organizations in 2017 that Burch, an American engineer at a Yemeni oil company, was abducted from his car by gunmen in Sana.

President Trump on Monday announced that Danny Burch, an American oil worker who was held hostage for more than a year in Yemen, has been freed.

“They did it in broad daylight in front of everyone,” his wife, Nadia Forsa, told the New York Times in 2017.

The president said recovering American hostages is a priority for his administration, adding, “we have now secured freedom for 20 American captives since my election victory.” Trump’s tweets came as he was flying to Vietnam for his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We will not rest as we continue our work to bring the remaining American hostages back home!” Trump said.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Author: Alex Pappas

Source: Foxnews: Trump says US citizen who was held hostage in Yemen for 18 months has been freed

What makes the border security crisis now a national emergency?

Former Trump administration EPA official Mandy Gunasekara says President Trump wants to build the wall to keep America safe.

Liberal activists are planning nationwide protests on Monday against President Trump’s national emergency declaration on the southern border, embracing the hashtag #FakeNationalEmergency.

The demonstrations are being organized for Presidents Day, the federal holiday on Monday that some workers have off. Many have been scheduled to take place at noon.

“We’re mobilizing rapid-response events on Presidents Day—Monday, 2/18—against Trump’s fake crisis and racist deportation force and to stand with immigrant, Muslim, and Black and brown communities to stop Trump’s dangerous and illegal power grab,” the liberal MoveOn.org posted on its website.

Some local protests have been listed on the website Rallylist.com.

President Trump said Friday he is declaring a national emergency on the southern border, tapping into executive powers in a bid to divert billions toward construction of his long-promised wall.

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border … one way or the other, we have to do it,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.

The move is expected to face a swift and forceful legal challenge that could stall the attempt in the courts for the near future. But the declaration and other money-moving plans allow Trump to continue to fight for border wall construction while also averting another partial government shutdown — which would have been triggered at midnight on Friday absent the new funding package.

Trump, in the Rose Garden, declared once again that “walls work” as he confirmed the emergency declaration would accompany the spending legislation.

“We’re talking about an invasion of our country,” Trump said.

And in an almost-casual tone, the president predicted a legal fight that will wind up before the Supreme Court.

“We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued,” Trump said, adding that the federal appeals courts could well rule against his administration. “Then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake, and we’ll win at the Supreme Court — just like the [travel] ban.”

A senior administration official told Fox News that the White House plans to move $8 billion in currently appropriated or available funds toward construction of the wall. Of that, $3 billion could be diverted with help from the emergency declaration.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Author: Alex Pappas

Source: Foxnews: Liberal activists planning day of protests against Trump’s national emergency declaration

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