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Friday
May222015

State Department Releases Hundreds of Clinton's Benghazi E-Mails

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department on Friday released 296 emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail account related to the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The documents made public Friday were earlier provided to the House Select Committee on Benghazi several months ago in response to its request for more information about the incident that remains the most troubling moment in Clinton’s tenure at the State Department -- and a major vulnerability as she campaigns for the presidency.

“The emails we release today do not change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during, or after the attacks, which have been known since the independent Accountability Review Board report on the Benghazi attacks was released almost two and a half years ago,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement Friday.

The documents cover the period from January 2011 through Dec. 31, 2012.

“I have said repeatedly I want those emails out,” Clinton said during a campaign stop in Iowa earlier this week. "Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do. I respect the State Department. They have their process that they do for everybody and not just for me, but anything that they might do to expedite that process I heartily support."

Friday’s release is just the tip of the spear: Going forward, another 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton’s e-mails will be made publicly available on a rolling basis. The State Department has until next Tuesday to announce the roll-out plan for the much larger batch of e-mails.

The laborious task of sorting, reading, redacting and reviewing paper copies of what now amounts to hundreds of thousands of pages of documents falls to the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services and its lawyers, better known as the FOIA office -- which stands for Freedom of Information Act.

They’ve established a full-time staff, with one project manager, two case analysts, nine FOIA reviewers and a slew of additional information analysts who have been working since April. The larger trove of e-mails from Clinton’s private email account spans the period from 2009 to 2013.


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Friday
May222015

Obama Seeks To Reassure Jewish Americans About Iran Deal

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama told a Jewish-American audience on Friday that he has a personal stake in making sure the Iran nuclear deal is a success.

“This deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise,” the president said, echoing the comments he made to The Atlantic earlier this week.

Seeking to reassure the Jewish community, the president reiterated that the U.S. and Israel share the same goal: “Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that -- and that's a healthy debate,” he continued. “The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program.  Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution.  I will not accept a bad deal.”

Obama also reiterated that a deal is not yet done and that “all options are and will remain on the table.”

“I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached.  We’re hopeful.  We’re working hard.  But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he said.

The president, wearing a white yarmulke, spoke before the Congregation at Adas Israel at an event marking Jewish American Heritage Month.


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Friday
May222015

Mike Huckabee Defends "19 Kids and Counting" Star Josh Duggar

Yana Paskova/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar responded to allegations of child molestation Thursday by calling his actions "inexcusable."

Now, Mike Huckabee is standing up for him.

"Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn’t mean 'unforgivable.' He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities," the former Arkansas governor wrote in a post on Facebook. "No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things."

According to a report from In Touch magazine, Duggar, 27, was investigated in 2006 for inappropriately touching minors when he as a teenager. Thursday evening, he released a statement that has since been obtained by ABC News in which he said he "would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions."

"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," he added. "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."

Huckabee, who's been friendly with the Duggar family for some time, wrote that "being a minor means that one's judgment is not mature." He added that by admitting and apologizing for his actions, Josh Duggar acted as a testament to his family's "authenticity" and "humility."

"It is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends," he added. "Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support."

A personal representative for the Duggars had no additional comment Friday morning, nor did a rep for TLC.

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Friday
May222015

Who Are the GOP Candidates Most Likely to Be Left Out of the Debates? 

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Presidential primary organizers have quite the dilemma on their hands. The Republican field has more candidates than in any recent primary, and debate organizers have been wrestling with one main question: How can we fit all the candidates on a stage?

The answer from Fox News and CNN, which are separately hosting the first two televised debates, is to invite the top 10 candidates as determined by a national polling average, and leave everyone else out.

Fox will average the last five polls that are conducted by “major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques.” That likely translates to non-partisan polls conducted by live interviewers.

So who’s likely to be left out?

Polling site FiveThirtyEight analyzes which candidates would make a debate held today. See the results here.

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Friday
May222015

Hillary Clinton’s First Campaign Rally Set for June

Feng Li/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Hillary Clinton has set the date for her first big campaign rally: June 13.

While there’s no word on where the event will take place, we do know this — June 13 will officially mark the end of the "ramp up" phase of her campaign.

It’s possible that former President Bill Clinton could attend the rally as well. It would mark his first official appearance with Hillary on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, Clinton will hold two events in New Hampshire Friday with more planned in South Carolina, Florida, Texas and Missouri in the coming weeks. Clinton is also adding Georgia, Rhode Island and even New Mexico into the mix. She's scheduled to swing through for fundraisers at some time in between.

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Friday
May222015

Marco Rubio and the Pitbull Factor

ABC/Donna Svennevik(NEW YORK) — It’s the Florida endorsement Marco Rubio may secretly be vying for — that of hugely popular Cuban rapper Pitbull.

In a BuzzFeed profile of Rubio, an unnamed aide, trying to tout the senator's cool factor, alluded to Rubio's hip hop fluency, and citing that he's on a first name basis with Pitbull.

Rubio has made mention of his favor for Pitbull, whose real is Armando Perez, in the past.

“Pitbull has become a friend and someone from Miami we’re very proud of,” Rubio said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in April.

But Rubio may not have the market cornered on cool. Pitbull has said that his mother and grandmother told him that “politics and religion” are the two things you don’t speak about, according to The Hill.

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Friday
May222015

Clinton Foundation Releases Donor List

Jemal Countess/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Clinton Foundation has released a list of paid speeches by Hillary, Bill and Chelsea showing the payments that were donated to the foundation.

The amount of the payments, which were not disclosed before Thursday night, could total between $12 million and more than $25 million, according to the foundation, which provided only ranges rather than actual amounts.

Here is a breakdown of the donors:

BANKS


To any Democrats sensitive to Clinton’s perceived ties to the finance industry, this won’t look particularly good. Goldman, JP Morgan, Citi and Carlyle each donated between $250,000 and $500,000. Charles Schwab gave $100,000 to $250,000, as did Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
 
FOREIGN FRIENDS


Thailand’s ministry of energy paid a boatload, as did Qatar First Investment Bank, the Vancouver Board of Trade, and several other foreign companies. Chinese companies Alibaba, Beijing Huaduo Enterprise Consulting Company, China Real Estate Development Group, Xinjiang Hualing Industry & Trade Co. and Zhong Lu Corp also donated.
 
CASH FROM CHARITY


Between $50,000 and $100,00 was paid for a Clinton speech by Chicago House, a social-services group in Chicago that helps people “who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness, and/or gender nonconformity by providing housing, employment services, medical linkage and retention services, HIV prevention services, legal services and other supportive programs,” according to its website.
 
WHAT THE CLINTON FOUNDATION IS SAYING


“In addition to the more than 300,000 donors who are all listed on our website, posting these speeches is just another example of how our disclosure policies go above and beyond what's required of charities,” Craig Minassian, Chief Communications Officer of the Clinton Foundation said in a statement. “This funding allows the Foundation to effectively and efficiently use our resources to implement programs that are fighting HIV/AIDS and childhood obesity, increasing opportunity for women and girls, lifting people out of poverty and combating climate change."

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Thursday
May212015

White House Sticks by Its Strategy Against ISIS

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The White House says the president’s strategy against ISIS is working, despite the fact that ISIS is in control of much of Syria and has gained control of the capital city of Iraq’s largest province.

"We are in the degrade portion of this operation,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters in Thursday’s press briefing, pushing back against those who are calling for an overhaul of the current strategy and drawing a hard line against the consideration of a large-scale military deployment.

“The president is not going to be in a position where he's going to consider a large-scale U.S. military deployment,” Earnest added. “And for those who are calling on a change in strategy, I would encourage them to be specific.”

Instead of overhauling current strategy, Earnest told ABC News' Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl that that President Obama and his national security team are looking for ways to apply strategies that have worked in other places -- using Kobani and Tikrit as examples of success -- to areas where the United States is experiencing setbacks.

“What's under consideration is how can we learn from those situations where we have had success and made progress and how can we apply those lessons to this area where we have experienced a setback,” Earnest told Karl.

Though Earnest said the White House is “deeply concerned” about the situation in Palmyra, the administration is not changing its current strategy in Syria.

“Until we're able to build up local forces on the ground in Syria who can take the fight to ISIL in their own country, you know, this is going to continue to be a difficult challenge, and one that is not going to be solved overnight, but rather, one that will require a long-term commitment,” he said.


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Thursday
May212015

Historic First: Cuban Reporter Asks a Question at White House Briefing

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It was a historic first at the White House, as Press Secretary Josh Earnest took a question from a Cuban reporter in Thursday’s press briefing.

“Welcome to the United States and to the White House,”  Earnest told a group of visiting Cuban journalists before taking a question from a reporter who identified her affiliation with Cuba’s government-run national television network.

“First, do you think that it's possible to see a scenario in which we will open embassies in Havana and Washington? In that future scenario, is the administration committed to be more respectful of the Vienna Convention towards the behavior of the American diplomats in Havana?” the reporter asked Earnest.

After affirming hopes that the United States and Cuba will re-open embassies in each respective country, Earnest said it’s a priority that the two countries reach an agreement that will allow U.S. diplomats to do in Cuba what they “do in countries around the world, which is to not just engage the leaders of the government, but also to engage the people.”

Diplomatic movement within Cuba has been a sticking point in the ongoing negotiations to restore full diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Earnest also used the exchange as an opportunity to pointedly voice concerns about Cuba’s human rights record.

“We continue to have significant concerns about the way that the Cuban government all too often fails to respect the basic universal human rights that we hold so dear in this country,” he said. “That there are too many Cuban political activists, Cuban journalists, who see their freedom of speech, their freedom of assembly, their freedom of expression trampled by the Cuban government. That continues to be a source of significant concern, not just on the part of the president of the United States, but by a lot of Americans.”

Asked about the likelihood of a presidential visit to Cuba, Earnest said there’s one person in particular who is eager to for the president to make a visit to the island country in the near future: President Obama himself.

“I know that he would relish the opportunity to visit the island of Cuba, and Havana in particular,” Earnest said.


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Thursday
May212015

Capitol Police Officers Get Bathroom Training After Leaving Firearms in Restrooms

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine says his officers are receiving potty training (get it?) after three separate incidents this year when officers left firearms unattended in the Capitol’s public restrooms.

“We are now providing additional training on what to do when you have to go to the bathroom,” Dine told lawmakers during a hearing on Wednesday.

Dine said a first-time offender would be suspended for five days under current policy for leaving a weapon unattended, but he is considering toughening the penalty to 30 days or even potential termination for a first offense because of the seriousness a single error can carry.

“There are no excuses for these mistakes,” he stressed.

The chief appeared before the House Committee on Administration to discuss a number of troubling issues that have plagued his police force in the past year, including the widely publicized gyrocopter landing on the Capitol lawn on April 15.

Dine defended his officers’ actions during that event, telling lawmakers that his agency had little heads-up of the possibility Douglas Hughes - the pilot who was indicted Wednesday on six counts related to the incident - might be heading to the Capitol on his helicopter-like aircraft.

“I think the officers acted properly, heroically, swiftly and efficiently," Dine said.

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