(Washington Times) – The State Department broke a judge’s order on the number of former Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails it was supposed to release Thursday, blaming the holiday season for throwing it off track.
The department promised another release of emails next week to make up for its breach, and said even the emails it was releasing Thursday will not be fully processed and won’t be able to be sorted by senders or recipients in the department’s computer system.
“We have worked diligently to come as close to the goal as possible, but with the large number of documents involved and the holiday schedule we have not met the goal this month. To narrow that gap, the State Department will make another production of former Secretary Clinton’s email sometime next week,” the department said in a statement.
It’s the latest embarrassment for the department, which has repeatedly struggled to handle the more than 30,000 emails Mrs. Clinton returned to the government nearly two years after she left office.
The department is under a federal court order to release emails every month since the summer, but broke the order by missing deadlines early on. It had caught up, but has now fallen behind again.
All told, some 5,500 pages of documents will be released later Thursday. It’s not clear yet how many actual individual emails that works out to, since many of them span multiple pages.
Under the court order, the government is supposed to release 4,800 full emails this month. The final 5,400 emails are to be released near the end of next month — just days before Iowa voters hold the caucuses that kick off the primary season, deciding whether Mrs. Clinton will be Democrats’ presidential nominee.
She belatedly returned her emails after the Obama administration, prodded by Congress’s probe into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack, realized she had taken all of her messages with her when she left office. The administration then publicly revealed that Mrs. Clinton had refused to use a regular account on the State.gov email server, instead creating an account on a server she kept at her home in New York.
Hundreds of the messages she returned contain information that has now been deemed classified — though Mrs. Clinton insists it was not secret at the time she sent it. She says she didn’t break any laws in keeping her own account.
Urged state officials to grant real-estate license
(Washington Post) – When Marco Rubio was majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives, he used his official position to urge state regulators to grant a real estate license to his brother-in-law, a convicted cocaine trafficker who had been released from prison 20 months earlier, according to records obtained by The Washington Post.
In July 2002, Rubio sent a letter on his official statehouse stationery to the Florida Division of Real Estate, recommending Orlando Cicilia “for licensure without reservation.” The letter, obtained by The Washington Post under the Florida Public Records Act, offers a glimpse of Rubio using his growing political power to assist his troubled brother-in-law and provides new insight into how the young lawmaker intertwined his personal and political lives.
Rubio did not disclose in the letter that Cicilia was married to his sister, Barbara, or that the former cocaine dealer was living at the time in the same West Miami home as Rubio’s parents. He wrote that he had known Cicilia “for over 25 years,” without elaborating.
Rubio has avoided discussing Cicilia’s case in detail and has declined to answer questions about his relationship with his brother-in-law. Earlier this month, prior to The Post publishing an article about Cicilia’s case, Rubio declined to answer a written question about whether he had helped win the approval of his brother-in-law’s real estate license.
Rubio also declined to say whether he or his family received financial assistance from Cicilia, who was convicted in a high-profile 1989 trial of distributing $15 million worth of cocaine. The federal government seized Cicilia’s home; the money has never been found.
Cicilia, 58, could not be reached for comment. He still lives in the same home as Rubio’s mother and has appeared at campaign events for his brother-in-law. Rubio-affiliated PACs and campaigns, including his ongoing presidential operation, have paid Cicilia’s two sons more than $130,000 in the past decade.
“Orlando made some very big mistakes almost 30 years ago, served his time, and has paid his debt to society,” Rubio’s presidential campaign adviser, Todd Harris, said in an email. “Today he is a private citizen, husband and father, simply trying to make a living. It is appalling and shameful that The Washington Post continues to drag him into the spotlight.
“Marco has recommended scores of Floridians for various professional positions and after Orlando paid his debt to society, Marco was happy to recommend him as well. He believed Orlando should be judged on his own merits and felt it would be highly inappropriate, and could be perceived as exerting undue pressure, if his letter stated that Orlando was a relative.”
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group in Washington, said Rubio’s role concerned her.
“Someone who serves their time should be a productive member of society, and it’s important for families to help each other, but it’s wrong to use your public office for personal or private gain,” Brian said.
By not disclosing his relationship, Rubio withheld a key piece of information from the real estate board, Brian added. “The general rule of thumb I apply to conflicts of interest is, if you can’t eliminate them, you need to manage them by disclosing the conflict,” she said. “I’m uncomfortable that he didn’t acknowledge the conflict.”
Rubio, a Republican who represents Florida in the U.S. Senate, was a 16-year-old high school junior in 1987 when Cicilia was arrested in one of the largest drug cases in Florida history. There has never been any evidence that Rubio or his family knew that Cicilia was dealing cocaine, although Drug Enforcement Administration surveillance records show Cicilia stored cocaine from the drug ring at his home, a few miles away from where Rubio and his parents lived.
By 2002 — when Cicilia applied for his real estate license — Rubio was accumulating significant power in Tallahassee. He had been tapped as majority whip, and he added to his growing portfolio when he was named chairman of the prominent Task Force on Florida’s Tax Structure. Later that year, he was selected as House majority leader, a position that put him on the fast track to become speaker of the House.
While Rubio was making his mark in Florida politics, Cicilia was reintegrating into the Rubio family and acclimating to life as a free man after 11 1/2 years in federal prison. Cicilia lived with his wife and Rubio’s parents in the future GOP candidate’s childhood home, according to Cicilia’s real-estate-license application. Shortly after his release, Cicilia took a job on the sales staff of a Miami food company and worked his way up to be head of the sales team, according to his application.
Cicilia’s cocaine conviction presented a complication for his application. Unlike some states, Florida does not prohibit felons from holding real estate licenses. Their applications are considered on a “case-by-case basis” by seven members of the Florida Real Estate Commission, who are appointed by the governor. The governor, at that time, was Rubio’s political mentor, Jeb Bush — who is now running against the Florida senator for the Republican presidential nomination. The budget of the agency is controlled by the Florida legislature, where Rubio wielded considerable influence.
Cicilia had one technical issue in his favor. In general, the board frowns upon applicants who have been convicted of fraud and related charges — he had been convicted in a drug trafficking case. Regardless of the charge, felons can plead their cases before the board members and can ask character witnesses to submit letters or testify on their behalf.
“If someone has been found guilty of fraud, that’s going to go against them,” said Chelsea Eagle, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees licensing in the state. “It all depends on the circumstances of the case.”
Cicilia applied for his license in February 2002, and he answered “yes” to a question about whether he had been convicted of a crime. State regulators wanted to know more. Cicilia responded on June 5, outlining his cocaine conviction and sentencing, and saying he had an “impeccable record” during his time in prison.
At the suggestion of an official in the Florida Division of Real Estate, Cicilia asked for his application to be considered at a hearing of the Real Estate Commission in July 2002. Along with his request, he sent three recommendation letters. One was from a real estate executive who said he had known him for 30 years; another was from his boss at the food sales company, who described him as “efficient, punctual, meticulous in his work and in every way a model employee.” The third was from the majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives — his brother-in-law.
“I have known Mr. Cicilia for over 25 years,” Rubio wrote in a July 1, 2002, letter to an official in the Real Estate Division of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. “I recommend him for licensure without reservation. If I can be of further assistance on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.”
Cicilia got his hearing. A letter from the Real Estate Division let him know that his application was placed on the agenda for the Real Estate Commission’s July 17, 2002, meeting.
The next day, he was approved. He was officially a real estate agent.
Three years later, when Rubio was looking for a new home, he turned to the real estate agent in the family to help him arrange the purchase: Orlando Cicilia.
(Breitbart) – On December 28 Reverend Rob Schenck — chair of Evangelical Church Alliance — argued that Christians have no right to use guns for self-defense.
Schenck said he understands the tendency to want to acquire arms — “especially after terrorist attacks” — but he contends that doing is to violate biblical commands.
Writing in The Washington Post, Schenck said:
The gospel begins with God’s love for every human, and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although he once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with “a sword,” that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess.
Christ words are recorded in Luke 22:36(NIV): “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
So in the the midst of a contention that Christians have no right to defend themselves with a gun, Schenck admits that Christ “once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with a sword,” and also suggests Christ posited one as the limit on the number of swords that could be owned. In other words, Schenck’s own proof text betrays him.
In another part of the column Schenck writes:
I disagree with my community’s wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun. For one thing, our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life. And our belief in the basic sinfulness of humankind should make us skeptical of the NRA’s slogan, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” The Bible indicates that we are all bad guys sometimes.
Schenck makes a number of errors here. For starters, when he says we ought to “err on the side of reducing threats to human life” he fails to note that gun ownership is a key part of reducing that threat. This should be evident in light of Schenck’s emphasis on the sinfulness of man. Surely sinful, strong men are going to attack weaker, vulnerable persons. And in that situation a gun is a tool that lets the outnumbered and overpowered person level the playing field.
On December 28 three alleged home invaders forced their way into a home in Ohio where a mother was at home with four children. All the invaders were armed and the lives of the mother and four children were at risk. But the danger ended when the mother managed to retrieve a gun she kept hidden in the house, after which she opened fire on the invaders, killing one.
Would Schenck rather have seen the mother unarmed and left to the whims of the three invaders? What about the children?
Schenck also makes a big mistake in arguing that mankind’s universal sinfulness rules out one man being the “good guy” who stops a bad guy with a gun. If we followed his line of thinking to its logical end we would have to contend that no amount of authority can be given to any man in any time or place because all men are sinful and therefore untrustworthy.
Instead, our Founding Fathers understood that even fallen men can display social good, but it is a good that has to be constantly monitored and hedged in with checks and balances.
In Federalist 51 James Madison wrote:
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
And just as each of the various branches of our government were designed to be check on the tendency toward evil in those occupying offices in other branches, so too the right to keep and bear arms was hedged in as way for one neighbor to keep a check on the evil of another and one for community to keep a check on the evil of fiends and marauders who might enter a town to steal, kill, and defile.
To argue that pacifism is the correct response to evil is tantamount to arguing that the weak must remain defenseless.
(Politico) – President Barack Obama’s bid to assert himself in his final year will begin with long-awaited executive actions on gun control, expected to be released next week, shortly after he returns to Washington.
The White House is putting finishing touches on several measures in an effort to make progress on curbing gun violence, an issue the president and close aides have found frustratingly intractable, before the race to replace him enters prime time.
According to gun industry insiders and others familiar with the proposals, the changes include requiring an expanded number of small-scale gun sellers to be licensed — and therefore conduct background checks — whenever selling a weapon. This wouldn’t close the so-called gun show loophole, though it has the potential to narrow it.
The administration is also expected toimpose tighter rules for reporting guns that get lost or stolen on their way to a buyer.
Neither comes close to the stronger gun control measures Obama sought in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting of schoolchildren in Sandy Hook and that he has said he still wants. But with Congress unlikely to approve any new gun curbs before the 2016 election, the measures are in line with what gun-control advocates were hoping would be adopted before Obama leaves office.
As with every aspect of the president’s final year, the decisions about the gun actions are being made with a sense of limited time and the 2016 political calendar. Obama will be returning from his Hawaii vacation, eager to make a splash; an earlier-than-normal State of the Union address on Jan. 12 is central to that strategy. But with the Iowa caucuses taking place on Feb. 1, Obama will have only a small window to act before the primary melee begins to crowd out other political news.
The background check change has been anticipated for months. Obama will tighten the definition of what it means to be “engaged in the business” of firearms sales. Currently, the law says people who sell guns with the “principal objective of livelihood and profit” have to get a dealer’s license through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — and therefore conduct a background check on buyers no matter where they sell, including online or at a gun show.
It’s unclear whether a lot more dealers would line up for licenses. But gun-control advocates say a better definition would make it much easier to prosecute sellers who should, but don’t. Only about half of the people who are tried for selling guns without a license are convicted by juries, according to a report from Everytown, the pro-gun control group led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In an interview, Everytown officials couldn’t confirm whether the White House was heeding their advice. But, said legal director Liz Avore, “Any kind of clarification would be beneficial in this context because right now most sellers and prosecutors are kind of flying blind.”
It’s not clear whether Obama has settled on final language yet. But as one of the major proponents of a change, Everytown has recommended adding several factors to the definition — including selling guns in their original packaging, reselling a gun shortly after acquiring it, maintaining a certain quantity of guns for sale or selling more than 25 guns a year — as possible signals that someone needs a license.
A top gun industry executive defended the current definition, saying it requires dealers to make most of their living from gun sales before requiring a license. Based on conversations with ATF officials this month, the executive described the upcoming change as “overreach”: “If you are not doing it for the principal purpose of earning a livelihood AND earn a profit, you are not engaged in the business as defined by Congress,” he said in an email.
Another victory for advocates is likely to be a requirement for all licensed dealers and manufacturers to report to federal authorities any guns that are stolen in transit to a buyer as missing from their inventory. Currently, advocates say, thieves often target packages addressed to gun retailers in the hopes of stealing unregistered guns that are harder to trace. And while buyer and seller might sort out refunds or replacements on their own, they’re not required to report the missing guns to the National Crime Information Center.
ATF first proposed the new regulation in August 2014, which industry opposed, saying a voluntary reporting program was working just fine. But the year-and-a-half lag between the rule’s proposal and finalization is another factor urging Obama to act forcefully as he enters the last year in his term.
It is not clear whether the measure will take the form of a new regulation (which would take months longer to finish because of requirements for public comment) or clarification of an existing rule, which would take less time but might not carry as much weight with the courts — or a future administration.
“We have not been told that they are drafting a proposed rule,” the industry executive said. “But it remains to be seen.”
The White House declined to comment on the substance of the executive actions or their timing. Communications Director Jen Psaki told reporters at an event hosted by Bloomberg News in mid-December that the new gun measures were coming in “weeks, not months.”
This latest round of executive moves follows 23 actions related to gun violence that Obama ordered in 2013, in the months following the Sandy Hook massacre, plus two more in 2014. During that same period, Vice President Joe Biden led a failed campaign with congressional Democrats to pass a bill to impose near-universal background checks.
The president’s announcement of new gun actions will be more like his immigration executive orders in late 2014 — currently held up by the courts — issued as part of a broader campaign to pressure Congress and draw a contrast with Republicans.
White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett also raised gun-control advocates’ hopes for new domestic violence provisions last month. In a post on the actress Lena Dunham’s website, Jarrett noted that guns are the most likely cause of death for women who are victims of domestic partner violence.
Gun-control activists acknowledged that changing the rules for licenses might have limited impact on what sellers actually do in the short term. But in this political environment, they’ll take whatever measures they can, no matter how incremental.
“Setting cultural norms,” said Everytown research director Ted Alcorn, “is something that laws do.”
(Conservative Tribune) – GOP front-runner Donald Trump thinks we need a real president.
It’s been a chaotic 2015 around the world, partially thanks to President Barack Obama’s inattention to radical Islamic terrorism at home and abroad.
We’ve seen attacks in France, Egypt and San Bernardino, not to mention the ongoing war in Syria and the concomitant refugee crisis.
However, when it comes to these things, Barack Obama’s mind doesn’t seem to be present. In fact, it often seems like it’s in a galaxy far, far away.
Yes, in spite of the tenuous world situation and worsening relations with both Russia and China, President Obama thought it would be hilarious to cut off a recent news conference to go see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
In his latest viral campaign advertisement, Donald Trump noted this, pointing out that in spite of real wars raging all over the world, Obama joked that he was cutting off a press conference to go see the new “Star Wars” movie.
Here’s the new 16-second campaign ad, which had already garnered over 30,000 likes on Instagram in about a day over the caption “We need a real president”:
He wasn’t lying, either — Michelle Obama had organized a viewing of the new movie with service members and their families. I’m assuming Obama had to cut out early so that someone could finally get him to memorize what the branches of the U.S. armed forces were in case someone asked him.
After Obama’s mic drop, The Hill reported, White House press secretary Josh Earnest came out flanked by stormtroopers. (Please note this isn’t a joke; I couldn’t make this up if I tried.)
One reporter yelled out, “Now we know what side of the force you’re in, Josh.”
As if there was ever any question.
The Dec. 18 press conference wasn’t the first instance the president has shown insouciance in the face of great adversity for this country, but it’s certainly one of the most disgusting — and immature — in recent memory.
The world is demonstrably a more violent, dangerous place because of this president’s actions. At one of his final media appearances of the year — with over a dozen dead in San Bernardino, over a hundred dead in Parisand thousands dead in Syria and Iraq, all at the hands of the Islamic State group or its sympathizers — he had a chance to solemnly and honestly assess what was going on in the world.
Instead, this is what he chose to do. No wonder Americans are flocking to Donald Trump.
(Daily Caller) – A Kansas City mosque owned by an Islamic umbrella organization with deep ties to the U.S. arm of the Muslim Brotherhood has received millions of dollars in federal grants over the past several years, according to a federal spending database.
The Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City has received $2,739,891 from the Department of Agriculture since 2010, a Daily Caller analysis has found. The money largely went to the mosque’s Crescent Clinic to provide services through the Women, Infant and Children nutrition program, known as WIC.
[dcquiz] The most recent federal payment — in the amount of $327,436 — was handed out Oct. 1.
Property records show the mosque is owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which acts as a financial holding company for Islamic organizations. It offers sharia-compliant financial products to Muslim investors, operates Islamic schools and owns more than 300 other mosques throughout the U.S.
Founded in 1973 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Muslim Students Association, NAIT’s most controversial connection is to the 2007 and 2008 Holy Land Foundation terror financing cases. Along with other Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), NAIT was named a co-conspirator in the federal case but was not indicted.
At the Holy Land Foundation trial, evidence was presented that ISNA diverted funds from the accounts it held with NAIT to institutions linked to Hamas and to Mousa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas leader.
Federal prosecutors introduced evidence in the case that “established that ISNA and NAIT were among those organizations created by the U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood.” Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of checks drawn from ISNA’s account and deposited in the Holy Land Foundation’s account with NAIT were made payable to “the Palestinian Mujahadeen,” which is the original name for Hamas’ military wing.
While Hamas was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 1997 and is considered the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the larger Muslim Brotherhood is not itself designated as a terrorist group.
And while the Obama administration has largely remained agnostic towards the organization, the British government released a scathing report earlier this month noting that the Muslim Brotherhood remains supportive of Hamas and that much of its ideology and many of its tactics “are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security.”
Some American politicians, such as Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz , seem to agree with that sentiment. Both Republicans introduced legislation this year to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group.
NAIT has other ties to the Holy Land Foundation case. Its newly-appointed executive director, Salah Obeidallah, was a founding member and former president of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson, N.J.
In the 1990s, the imam at that mosque was Mohammad El-Mezain, a founding member of the Holy Land Foundation who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for helping fund Hamas. Obeidallah has said that he was not aware of El-Mezain’s terror funding activities.
In being owned by NAIT, the Kansas City organization is in company with numerous mosques with ties to known terrorists, terror sympathizers and fundamentalist Islamists.
Purportedly backed by money from Saudi Arabia and supporting a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, NAIT holds the deed to the Islamic Society of Boston, which operates the mosque attended by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the so-called Boston Marathon bombers.
It also controls the Islamic Center of San Diego, which was attended by Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, two al-Qaeda members who helped fly American Flight 77 into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
According to a 2002 Newsweek investigation, members of the San Diego mosque helped the two terrorists obtain housing, driver’s licences and social security numbers. They claimed not to have known about the men’s terror plans.
NAIT also owns the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Fairfax Co., Va. — a known hotbed of terrorist activity. Al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki served as imam at that location in 2001 and 2002. He was killed by an American drone in Yemen in 2011.
The Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City has its own loose links to terrorist activities. The mosque made news earlier this year when it held the funeral for Nadir Soofi, one of the two jihadis who attempted to pull off a terrorist attack in Garland, Tex. Soofi, who was 34, and his accomplice, 30-year-old Elton Simpson, opened fire outside of an art exhibit featuring cartoons of Muhammad, but were killed by a security guard.
Both Soofi and Simpson attended the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, which land deeds show is owned by NAIT.
That particular mosque posted $100,000 bond for Simpson following his 2010 arrest for lying to FBI agents about his plans to travel to Somalia to join a terrorist group. Simpson was given three years probation in that case.
The Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City has also hosted Imam Khalid Yasin, an American-born convert to Islam, who has publicly supported sharia law and claimed that homosexuals should receive the death penalty.
As a May 2010 Yahoo! message board post shows, Yasin visited the Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City and other area mosques that month to hold a series of lectures and workshops about Islam.
That was nearly two years after Yasin touted the virtues of sharia law and capital punishment in a speech at a British mosque.
According to a journalist for The Telegraph, Yasin said that sharia law works because:
Then people can see, people without hands, people can see in public heads rolling down the street, people got [sic] their hands and feet from opposite sides chopped off and they see them crucified…they see people put up against the pole and see them get lashed in public they see it, and because they see it, it acts as a deterrent for them because they say I don’t want that to happen to me.
The Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City did not respond to an email from TheDC seeking comment about its relationship with NAIT and for more information about its federal grants.
Several other Islamic organizations have received grants from the Department of Agriculture, the federal government’s spending database, USASpending.gov, shows. One is Ar-Razzaq mosque in Durham, N.C., which received nearly $820,000 in grants from 2011 to 2014. It does not appear to be affiliated with NAIT.
Fox News reported last year that NAIT itself has directly received $10,000 in farm subsidies since 1998 for all of the land that it owns. The subsidies were put on hold for several years following the organization’s involvement in the Holy Land Foundation case but resumed in 2011.