Sen. Carl Levin 'Deeply Disturbed' About US Aid to Pakistan

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told ABC News he is "deeply disturbed" about U.S. aid to Pakistan and has launched an informal investigation into whether high levels of the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden's whereabouts.

"We need these questions about whether or not the top level of the Pakistan government knew or was told by the ISI, their intelligence service, about anything about this suspicious activity for five years in a very, very centralized place," Levin said in an interview with ABC News.

Levin, for one, believes high levels of the Pakistani government had to know where bin Laden was.

"I think at high levels, high levels being the intelligence service, at high levels they knew it," Levin said.  "I can't prove it.  I just think it's counterintuitive not to."

This year alone, the United States gave Pakistan more than $3 billion in military and economic aid.

"Some of it is in our interest.  Some of it seems to be, is not clearly in our interest, and that's why the questions that we are asking the Pakistan government to answer need to be answered," Levin said.

As for the U.S. operation to get bin Laden, Levin said he is unconcerned that details of the story told by the White House have changed.

"There was a firefight on the first floor, and then the most dangerous guy in the world that was being captured on the third floor makes a move, which was an evasive move, guns in his room, big guns, you know, powerful guns," Levin said.  "And here's a man who sends out suicide bombers, who himself was easily expected could have a suicide vest himself and blow up the whole thing."

Levin added, "The bottom line is the right thing was done in the right way." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Poll: Most Americans Now Believe Obama Was Born in Hawaii

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While some questioned the wisdom of the White House for apparently legitimizing the suspicions of those who don't believe President Obama was born in the U.S., last week's decision to release his original birth certificate appears to be paying off.

A Washington Post poll released Thursday finds that seven in 10 Americans are now convinced that Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961.  One year ago at this time, only 48 percent of respondents held that view.

In May 2010, about 20 percent of Americans said there was either "solid" evidence or that they had "suspicion" to believe that Obama was born in another country, making him constitutionally ineligible to serve as president.  However, with the release of the birth certificate, just 10 percent polled by the Post say they now maintain that belief.

Obama has admitted that some people, no matter what he does, will always think he was born somewhere other than where his birth certificate says he was.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No Fireworks at First Republican Primary Debate

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(GREENVILLE, S.C.) -- With some of the biggest names and biggest personalities in the Republican primary taking a pass on attending, the first Republican primary debate of the 2012 campaign was a rather sedate and polite affair.

On stage at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina for the Fox News/South Carolina Republican party debate were five relatively unknown Republican candidates: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

Despite the best efforts of the Fox moderators to try and create some sparks, the candidates stayed away from attacking each other -- or even those who weren’t on stage.

When Cain was asked why he, as a supporter of former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2008, was running against him now, Cain replied, “He didn’t win so I’m gonna try my time.”

When Pawlenty was asked whether he was worried about Mike Huckabee beating him in Iowa, he said, “I love the Huck.”

The hosts tried to get Santorum, a well-known social conservative, to tee off on former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s messy personal life, but Santorum didn’t take the bait.

“Just because you fall short doesn’t mean you can’t stand up and say this is the right way,” Santorum said.

It was Pawlenty, however, who had the most to gain -- or lose -- by his performance at the debate.  Despite his low standing in the polls, Pawlenty is seen as the candidate most able to position himself as the challenger to the current leader in GOP polls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In the end, Pawlenty played it safe.  He didn’t gain anything, but he didn’t lose anything either.

He kept his aim on President Obama’s policies on everything from health care to Libya to the economy.  He even used a question about his own liabilities in the primary, his support for cap and trade legislation as governor, as an opportunity to present himself as a straight shooter.

Calling it a mistake, as he’s done for a while now, Pawlenty said, “I just admit.  I don’t try to duck it, bob it, weave it, try to explain it away.  I’m just telling you I made a mistake.”

Still, he wasn’t the most charismatic candidate on stage.  Nor was he particularly aggressive.  When asked to comment on Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, Pawlenty demurred, saying, “Governor Romney isn’t here to defend himself so I’m not going to pick on him. “

But for Pawlenty, who says he sees this race as a marathon and not a sprint, it’s all about staying on pace and conserving his energy for the many miles yet to come.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stand Clear of Michelle and a Tamale, President Says About Wife

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and the first lady welcomed a big crowd to the White House Thursday evening for a Cinco de Mayo reception in the East Room.

Hispanic politicians, Hispanic Americans serving in the Obama administration, and members of a commission on exploring the creatiion of a new national museum of the American Latino were among those in attendance.

"Welcome to the Cinco de Mayo at the White House," Obama told the enthusiastic crowd before promising he wouldn’t speak too long.  "Nothing ruins a good fiesta like a long speech from a politician, so I’m going to keep it short."

The president called Cinco de Mayo a chance to commemorate the shared heritage between Mexicans and Americans.

"It’s a day for remembering that America is a richer, stronger, more vibrant place thanks to the contributions of Mexican Americans to the life of this nation."

The crowd also learned a little tidbit about the first lady, courtesy of her husband.

Said Obama: "I asked Michelle the other day, I said, ‘What’s your favorite food’ -- because we were sitting around with the girls.  She said, ‘Ah, Mexican food.’"

The crowd loved the news.

"You do not want to be between Michelle and a tamale," joked the president.  "It’s true.  It’s true.  But she’s moving, though, so she can afford to have as many tamales as she wants," said Obama in a nod to his wife’s "Let’s Move!" health campaign.

But the night was not without politics.  Obama said that the country needs to fix the "broken" immigration system and address the status of undocumented workers.  He also said he hopes to sign the Dream Act into law one day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fox News Drops Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum Ahead of 2012 Campaign

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are no longer under contract with Fox News, the company confirmed Thursday after Politico first reported on the change.

Fox suspended the two potential 2012 presidential contenders in March and said they were no longer being paid. It gave them a deadline of May 1 to declare their candidacies or choose to remain with the network. 

The expiration of their contracts is now a sign both men are gearing up to formally enter the presidential race, though neither has done so yet.  Santorum is participating in a Fox News-sponsored presidential debate Thursday night in South Carolina; Gingrich is not attending.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin both remain on the payroll, a Fox spokeswoman said. Neither were given a deadline to announce their intentions for the race, she added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Donald Trump Cancels Indy 500 Appearance

Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With Donald Trump’s announcement on Thursday that he is canceling plans to be the pace car driver at the Indianapolis 500 later this month, he offered his clearest indication yet of his timeline for his presidential announcement.

According to a statement from representatives for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Trump informed officials there “that he may be announcing shortly his intention to run for the office of President of the United States, and therefore he thought it would be inappropriate to drive the Pace Car for the 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.”

Trump has previously said he would use the season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice on May 22 to reveal the time and place of an announcement that he will -- or will not -- jump into the Republican nominating contest.

As Trump adviser and special counsel, Michael Cohen, told ABC News, “due to FEC rules and regulations, Mr. Trump cannot make his decision until his hit television show aired its finale.” Trump has also vowed to make his decision public prior to June.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Meet with Navy SEALs Who Killed Osama Bin Laden

MILpictures by Tom Weber(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will personally thank the Navy SEALs team who killed Osama bin Laden, and the president told firefighters in New York City on Thursday that tracking and killing bin Laden showed the world that "when we say 'We never forget,' we mean what we say."

The president will meet the SEALs' elite Team 6 Friday at Fort Campbell, Ky., the second day in a row Obama will leave Washington to commemorate Sunday's precision assassination of bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Passes "Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act”

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday aimed at restarting an American offshore leasing program, which would require the administration to move forward with lease sales along the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico that it has delayed or canceled.

The bill passed by a count of 266-149. Thirty-three Democrats crossed the aisle to vote, with all but two Republicans in favor of the bill.

The Obama administration has also announced its opposition to the measure.

This is the first of three bills coming to the floor in the coming days that is intended to free up domestic energy production.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Biden Opens Deficit Talks with 'Good, Productive' First Meeting 

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joe Biden opened debt talks with the six appointed lawmakers at Blair House Thursday morning, in the start of the process of bipartisan negotiations on reducing the nation’s soaring deficits.

Biden said there are "two looming concerns" -- the debt limit, and the "much larger looming issue of the long-term debt,” which he said aren’t technically connected, though they are, “practically and politically” speaking.

“We're all in agreement that we have to deal with both these issues and we have to make some progress,” Biden said at the top of the meeting. “This is an opening meeting, where today I had a chance to talk a little bit with each of my colleagues.  We're going to lay down not hard negotiating positions but make sure each of us understand where the other guy's coming from, why we think the plan we put forward and each of have put forward makes the most sense.”

The vice president said he is “optimistic” at their chances. “But then again, I was in the Congress for 36 years and I've always been optimistic,” he added.

Participants in the meeting include Sen. Daniel Inouye, Sen. Jon Kyl, Sen. Max Baucus, Rep. Eric Cantor, Rep. James Clyburn, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jacob Lew, and Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling.

After the meeting, while walking from the Blair House back to the White House, Biden said that it was a “good, productive” first meeting.

The group will meet again on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lawmakers to President Obama: Get Out of Afghanistan

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- With the corpse of Public Enemy No. 1 now submerged on the floor of the Arabian Sea, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced new legislation in the House of Representatives on Thursday to require the Obama administration to present an exit strategy for all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

The bill would require President Obama to transmit to Congress a plan with a timeframe and completion date on the transition of U.S. military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Karzai government, establish a quarterly report from the president on the status of the transition and the cost of remaining in Afghanistan, including increased deficit and public debt, and would oblige the administration to disclose to Congress any savings should the U.S. accelerate redeployment to conclude the transition of operations within six months.

The current plan from the White House would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan this July, and transition security to the Afghan government in 2014, but the lawmakers are pressing the president for an extensive decrease and a plan to eventually bring all troops home, not just a token withdrawal of a few thousand troops this summer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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