By Patricia Zengerle, Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball (Reuters) - A bitter dispute between the CIA and the U.S. Senate committee that oversees it burst into the open on Tuesday when the committee chairwoman accused the agency of spying on Congress and possibly breaking the law. Veteran Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said the CIA had searched computers used by committee staffers examining CIA documents when researching the agency's counter-terrorism operations and its use of harsh interrogation methods such as simulated drowning or "waterboarding. ...
By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. defense officials are bracing for a brutal season of budget negotiations, warning U.S. lawmakers that the U.S. military will gradually become unable to respond to emerging crises if Congress blocks the Pentagon's plans to cut military compensation, close bases and retire entire fleets of aircraft. Senior officials have also begun mapping out in stark terms what additional weapons and capabilities will be sacrificed if Congress does not reverse mandatory budget cuts that are due to resume in fiscal 2016 under a process known as sequestration. ...
By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Republican David Jolly won an expensive battle to fill a vacant U.S. Congressional seat in a special election watched by both major parties for what it portends for November when all 435 congressional seats will be up for grabs. Jolly, 41, defeated Democrat challenger Alex Sink, 65, a former state chief financial officer, by 3,500 votes or a 1.87 percent margin - 48.43 percent to 46.56 percent, according to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website. Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby took 4.83 percent of the votes. Republicans were quick to declare the result a repudiation of President Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act, known as Obamacare.
Tue, 11 Mar 2014 23:01:24 -0400
IMF funding issue delays U.S. Congress Ukraine bill
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Tuesday he would introduce a bill to address the crisis in Ukraine including $150 million in aid, sanctions against Ukrainians and Russians responsible for violence and human rights violations in Ukraine, and backing for a shift in funding for the International Monetary Fund. ...
Tue, 11 Mar 2014 22:18:17 -0400
By Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the bloodiest day of anti-government protests in Ukraine was drawing to a close last month, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called President Viktor Yanukovich for the second time in three days and delivered a blunt message. Pull back your security forces now and accept a European-brokered settlement or you will be held accountable, Biden warned the pro-Russian leader. "It WILL catch up with you." Initially defiant, Yanukovich sounded subdued by the end of the hour-long call, according to a senior U.S. official knowledgeable of the conversation. ...
The latest snowfall was a bigger story in Washington this week than Tuesday's private meeting between the estranged president and House speaker - their first in more than a year. Since Barack Obama recently signaled he has all but given up on legislating with Republicans, and since John Boehner has flat out said he can't trust the president, the assumption in Washington is that the chances for big legislation anytime soon are basically zero, whether the White House breaks out the good china or not.
Ten years ago this week, John Kerry barely held off John Edwards in Wisconsin's Democratic primary, prolonging for another few weeks his plodding, uninspiring march to the party's presidential nomination. Kerry went on to lose an eminently winnable election, after which most Democrats in Washington expected him to disappear, like Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis.
Democrats in Washington don't have to worry much about the kind of fratricidal disorder that plagues the modern Republican Party. But neither should they take too lightly the intraparty breach that seems to be widening in New York, where the mayor of the nation's biggest city is staring down the governor of its third largest state.
Let's be clear about this much: no matter what the soothsayers on cable TV tell you, Hillary Clinton is no more likely to clear the Democratic field and avoid a primary in 2016 than Dennis Rodman is to become her secretary of state. Walter Mondale couldn't pull that off in 1984, and Al Gore couldn't do it in 2000, and the conditions for Washington-anointed frontrunners have only gotten exponentially harder since then.
Thu, 06 Feb 2014 07:00:00 -0500
What Obama still hasn't figured out about being president
For a week leading up to the president's Tuesday address, White House advisers were trying out yet another new catchphrase, telling any reporter they could find that President Barack Obama had discovered he had "a phone and a pen," and he intended to use them in the year ahead.
Thu, 30 Jan 2014 05:20:05 -0500
Senators accuse the CIA of spying on their work. The CIA accuses a Senate panel of stealing its documents. It's "a defining moment" that will determine whether Congress can fulfill its duty to watch over the nation's spy agencies, says Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein.
Wed, 12 Mar 2014 03:27:22 -0400
A look at the Senate's CIA interrogation report
The Senate report at the center of the heated public dispute between Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and the CIA is a detailed investigation of the agency's rendition, detention and interrogation program, which the George W. Bush administration started after 9/11 and which ended in 2009.
Wed, 12 Mar 2014 03:26:37 -0400
WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Dianne Feinstein's outspoken criticism of "CIA interference" in a congressional investigation is in sharp contrast to her defense of an intelligence-gathering community that some say tramples on civil liberties.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama has threatened to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan if a new security agreement is not signed by the end of the year, but there is no legal reason the U.S. has to resort to the "zero option," as administration officials have repeatedly claimed.
Wed, 12 Mar 2014 03:21:39 -0400
Washington Insiders Say Chris Christie Won 2013
After a whirlwind year of crippling partisanship, bungled policy rollouts, and a government shutdown, most public figures are leaving this year with quite a few more chips to their image than they had in January. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie-a growing puzzle for Democrats and continuing headache for his fellow Republicans-emerged as the winner of 2013 on the political stage, according to a National Journal Political Insiders poll. Sixty percent of Democrats said Christie had the best 2013 of political figures, while 71 percent of Republicans said the same. The runners-up were barely any competition, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scoring 24 percent from Democrats and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pulling a mere 11 percent from GOP insiders.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:40:05 -0500
Sorry Pope Francis, 2013 Was the Year of Quinoa
This year has seen tanking approval ratings for just about everybody in Washington, thanks to bungled policy initiatives, stalled legislation, and a government shutdown. It's quinoa, a highly nutritious, centuries-old grain, at least according to the United Nations. In February, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2013 the international year of quinoa, not for the grain's place in Western society as a healthy, even upscale ingredient that's tough to pronounce, but for its impact on food security around the world. The price of quinoa, often called "the miracle grain of the Andes" for its origins, has tripled since 2006, The Guardianreported early this year.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 10:56:47 -0500
2013 Was Actually the Year of Quinoa
Between bungled or stalled policy initiatives and a government shutdown, moving the needle on progress on either side proved nearly impossible. According to the United Nations, 2013 was the year of quinoa, a highly nutritious, centuries-old grain. In February, the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization declared 2013 the international year of quinoa, not for the grain's place in Western society as a healthy, even upscale ingredient that's tough to pronounce, but for its impact on food security around the world. The price of quinoa, often called "the miracle grain of the Andes" for its origins, has tripled since 2006, The Guardianreported early this year.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 09:41:49 -0500
Republican Insiders to Tea Party: You're Not Helping Us
For Republicans, the group is something akin to a flesh-eating virus that threatens to chomp away at the GOP. The civil war between establishment and tea-party Republicans intensified this week when House Speaker John Boehner slammed outside conservative groups for "ridiculous" pushback against the bipartisan budget agreement, which cleared his chamber Thursday. Sixty-five percent of Republican influencers on the Hill called tea-party challengers to Republican lawmakers "very unhelpful" to the GOP, according to a National JournalPolitical Insiders poll published Friday. Their presence on the campaign trail leads to further splintering of the Grand Old Party, whose widening rift between establishment and tea-party members has not gone unnoticed by both Democratic opponents and the general public.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 06:31:57 -0500
Republican Look-Alike Sites Mocking Democrats May Violate Rules
The National Republican Congressional Committee proudly launched a faux campaign website for Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia this week, mocking him as a "career politician . asking for your vote." They even bought Google ads to direct New Yorkers to www.domenic-recchia.com, designed at first glance to look like it could be Recchia's own, down to the same yellow star replacing the dot in the 'i' of his last name. The problem is such a look-alike site, with a banner blaring "Domenic Recchia for Congress," may violate Federal Election Commission regulations for confusing the public, election lawyers say. (Screengrab) "This doesn't even strike me as a close call," said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog group. The Recchia site is just the latest in a series of mocking microsites the NRCC has put online to attack, taunt, and otherwise annoy Democratic congressional candidates from Montana to New York to West Virginia.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 04:30:06 -0500
Voters in Florida's 13th Congressional District are heading to the polls today in a special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Bill Young, who died in October. By the end of the day, either Democrat Alex Sink or Republican David Jolly will be elected...
Senate Democrats kept their promise to stay up all night as they powered through a sleepless night into the morning to talk about climate change. The all-night session marked the 36th in Senate history, according to the Senate historian's office. Thirty senators were slated to...
WASHINGTON - Get ready for another all-nighter in the Senate. Twenty-eight Democratic senators are expected to take turns speaking on the Senate floor this evening all the way through Tuesday morning, all in the name of climate change awareness. While there is no specific legislation...
A top US lawmaker's hotly disputed charge that the CIA illegally spied on Senate staff has roiled the intelligence community, fraying ties between the agency and its overseers in Congress. Senator Dianne Feinstein brought what had been a behind-the-scenes spat into the public glare Tuesday with her furious broadside against the Central Intelligence Agency, saying its agents searched computers used by staffers investigating its interrogation methods. "I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution," Feinstein said on the Senate floor. She alleged the CIA may have breached federal law as well as the executive order that bars it from domestic spying, but the agency's director John Brennan quickly denied the allegations.
The US Congress demanded Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine and urged US President Barack Obama to impose punitive economic sanctions on Moscow. The Senate expressed its support for Ukraine by passing strongly worded resolutions, using tough language against Russia and urging it be suspended from the Group of 8 world powers. The non-binding resolution, passed by unanimous consent, called for targeted economic sanctions to "compel President Vladimir Putin to remove his armed forces from Ukrainian territory and return that territory to full Ukrainian sovereign control." The measure also called on world soccer's governing body FIFA to reconsider its decision to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
A campaign finance scandal has ensnared a Hillary Clinton aide who court papers show secured illegal funding for a 2008 campaign operation, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Senior campaign advisor Minyon Moore was linked to a scheme to fund pro-Clinton operations in four states and Puerto Rico to the tune of $608,750 during Clinton's tough campaign for the Democratic presidential primary, the daily reported, citing documents from US District Court in Washington. The revelations, potentially damaging to the former secretary of state who is mulling a second White House bid, came to light in statements by Washington businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty Monday on corruption charges in a case largely relating to his role in the capital city's 2010 mayoral race.
A further 940,000 Americans registered for President Barack Obama's health care plans in February, bringing to 4.2 million the number of people who have signed up so far, officials said Tuesday. The White House also geared up for what it said would be a "surge of enrollment" for the system, now that a malfunctioning website that hampered the law's rollout has been fixed, before a March 31 sign-up deadline. "As more Americans are learning just how affordable marketplace plans can be, more are signing up to get coverage," said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The new figures were unveiled on a day that comedy website "Funny or Die" debuted a new online video of the president braving the satirical jabs of comedian Zach Galifianakis, to market the plan to the site's young fans.
The nominee to head the US National Security Agency on Tuesday defended the use of bulk data collection but said he also wants more transparency about the secretive spy service. Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, nominated by President Barack Obama to head the agency at the center of a public firestorm over surveillance, told lawmakers the NSA needs to be able to access the vast amounts of metadata to thwart terror attacks. In a written response to questions from a Senate panel for his confirmation hearing, Rogers said he sees a need to maintain the law authorizing bulk collection of phone records, known as Section 215, which has come under fire for trampling on the rights of Americans and others. But Rogers told the senators in a hearing he believes the public has a right to have better information in view of the revelations in recent months from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry failed again Tuesday to bridge differences on resolving the crisis in Ukraine, with a potentially explosive breakaway vote in Crimea just days away. A fresh phone conversation between the two diplomats did not forge any common ground, both sides admitted, as the clock ticks to Sunday's controversial referendum in Ukraine's pro-Moscow southern peninsula where thousands of Russian troops have been deployed. In the latest move in days of intense diplomacy, the two men spoke after Kerry unveiled a series of proposals on how to dial back tensions that have escalated since ousted president Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev last month. Lavrov's "answers largely were stated positions that we heard" in talks in Paris and Rome last week, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on the eve of a highly-symbolic visit to the White House by interim Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
A US financial regulator warned consumers Tuesday that using the online currency Bitcoin is fraught with risks including theft by hacking and fraud. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued the general warning amid a spate of scandals involving the digital currency, which has rocketed in popularity and been the focus of much speculation over the past two years. "Buying and using digital currency such as Bitcoin carry risks. Speculative trading in bitcoins carries significant risk," FINRA said.
The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency said Tuesday that terrorism could not be ruled out in the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner, describing the plane's fate as a "mystery." CIA Director John Brennan said there had been reports of claims of responsibility for downing the missing jet, but stressed that these were far from confirmed. The former counter-terrorism adviser to President Barack Obama stressed that it was too early to draw any conclusions about the Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished Saturday with 239 people on board after taking from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.
The wife of one of the "Cuban Five" -- intelligence agents convicted in a 2001 US spy case -- appealed Tuesday to President Barack Obama to free the remaining three men. A humanitarian solution, one that's in the hands of President Obama," Adriana Perez O'Connor told a conference organised by Cuba's diplomatic mission at the UN in Geneva. Perez O'Connor is the wife of Gerardo Hernandez, who was arrested in 1998 along with four other Cuban intelligence agents for infiltrating the Key West Naval Air Station and Cuban exile groups in Miami.
Burning midnight oil, dozens of senators seeking to push climate change higher up the US political agenda launched into a rare all-night session Monday highlighting the need to reduce the global warming threat. At least 28 Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were participating in the session -- mocked by Republicans as a stunt -- that began after the last vote Monday and was due to wrap up Tuesday morning. The overnighter is the first major effort by the newly-created Climate Action Task Force in Congress, which wants to kick-start public debate on climate change. The coterie of Democrats was "sending a clear message: it's time for Congress to wake up and get serious about addressing this issue," Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said.