May 28, 2017

Document Suggests Media Matters is Behind O’Reilly Advertiser Exodus

An email obtained by conservative radio host Glenn Beck suggests that progressive media watchdog group Media Matters orchestrated the advertiser exodus from embattled Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s program.

“For years,” the email begins, “Bill O’Reilly has been one of the worst purveyors of misinformation on Fox News. A serial misinformer, pushing many of the most extreme, sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic conservative theories on TV.”

The correspondence was written by Mary Pat Bonner, president of the Bonner Group.  According to the New York Times, Bonner served as a “donor adviser” to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Through her firm, Bonner connects big money donors to liberal groups seeking donations. Bonner’s contracts give her company a sizable commission — around 12.5 percent — on any money she brings in. In addition to Clinton, the Bonner Group has also advised Media Matters and the American Bridge super PAC.

“The Bonner Group gets us the best fundraising product for the lowest cost,” David Brock, founder of Media Matters and American Bridge, told the Times. “In my experience, the commission incentivizes the fundraiser to meet the ambitious goals we set.”

In the email, which was sent April 13, Bonner heralds the success of her firm and Media Matters’ “advertiser education campaign” against O’Reilly.

“We are currently at a critical juncture in this campaign,” she wrote, before inviting recipients to join a couple of “update calls” on Thursday and Friday.

Bonner’s email was revealed just hours after one of O’Reilly’s lawyers, Marc Kasowitz, claimed that the Fox anchor “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”

“This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons,” he continued. “That evidence will be put forth shortly and it is irrefutable.”

Dozens of advertisers have pulled their commercials from O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. time slot in the weeks since the Times reported that O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, have settled to the tune of $13 million with at least five women who have accused the network host of sexual harassment.

And according to Media Matters, the number of brands that have shifted ads away from “The O’Reilly Factor” has topped 80, “with dozens more quietly taking the action or keeping them off in the first place.”

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters,  said “many expect more women will come forward” with allegations against O’Reilly. He also asserted Fox News Co-President Bill Shine “will go too.” Carusone offered no evidence to support either claim.

What’s happening now is a giant smear campaign, and they work

,” Beck said on his radio program Wednesday morning, later adding that the left is “splitting the conservative movement and they’re taking the bear out of the door.”

The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp, a media conglomeration founded by Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, reported Tuesday night that the news network is preparing to sever ties with O’Reilly.

The Journal’s report comes the week after news broke that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch was reportedly ready to cut O’Reilly, who is on vacation until April 24. However, at the time, Rupert Murdoch, James’ father, and 21st Century Fox Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch, James’ older brother, were “more inclined” to stand by the host.

But now it appears the Murdochs are nearing a unanimous decision. And in Beck’s mind, it’s all about money — not principles.

“They’re making the decision based on money, and money has nothing to do with principle,” he said, after earlier telling listeners he “would not be saying this if I had personal information” that the accusations against O’Reilly were true.

If the harassment claims end up being true, Beck said he would be “highly disappointed” with O’Reilly. “If there is evidence that something happened, that’s something different,” he said.

By

The Redistribution of Freedom

Individual rights exist in the empty spaces that government is forced out of.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the right to be left alone the “most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by a free people.” It would even be fair to say that without the right to be left alone no other rights exist.

Amendments one through ten of the Bill of Rights are essentially an enumeration of the ways that government is obligated to leave people alone. This is most explicitly true of the First Amendment which definitively sums up areas of human life into which government under no circumstance may trespass on.

Unlike other amendments, the territory that the First Amendment deals with is intellectual and spiritual, the world of ideas, the realm of faith and the defining right of political advocacy. The freedoms of the mind, heart and voice are the most essential of freedoms because they free us to be individuals. They allow us to have our own values. Without these freedoms, no society is free.

Those who sought to undermine these “Freedoms from Government” did so by offering alternative “Freedoms of Government.” Countering the Founding Fathers’ DMZ’s of self-determination, they promised freedom from social problems. A second Bill of Rights would offer the freedom from fear and want. Instead of a liberation from government, the new rights would trade social benefits for freedoms. A right would not mean a zone of freedom from the government, but a government entitlement.

The Orwellian inversion of rights has meant that civil rights perversely take away rights. No sooner is a right created than it is used to deprive other people of their rights. Instead of rights freeing people from government repression, they act as a means of government repression. Freedom is treated as a limited commodity which, like wealth, must be redistributed to achieve maximum social justice.

The right to be left alone, freedom of speech and conscience, have taken a back seat to the redistribution of freedom. Government rights violate individual rights by compelling everyone to participate in the process of distributing entitlements.

A wedding photographer in New Mexico was ordered by a court to participate in a gay ceremony violating both her First Amendment rights to Freedom of Religion as a Christian and her right to Freedom of Speech as an artist. A baker in Colorado was ordered to make a gay wedding cake or face penalties ranging from fines to a year in prison. The ACLU is after even bigger game suing Catholic hospitals for not engaging in abortion contending that patients are being deprived of their rights.

The fundamental issue in all these cases is whether our rights are defined by the ability to be left alone or by the opposing ability to compel others to do what we want them to. Is the right to force someone else to participate in your wedding or perform your abortion more compelling than the right to opt out of being forced to engage in behaviors that violate your deepest religious convictions?

America is a nation founded by religious dissenters. Its founding documents, from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution and its Bill of Rights make the moral case for dissent. The Declaration of Independence begins by setting out a moral case for separation, for the divorce of authority, based on the moral principle of individual freedom. It makes government conditional on liberty, rather than making liberty conditional on government.

Today the national establishment is intolerant of dissent. It traps the current of freedom in dams of entitlements. It pits the right to be against the right to receive and makes certain that the right to receive, not only the property of others, but their very conscience, mind and liberty, always wins out.

The United States is following the European course of rendering the distinction between the state and the church irrelevant by making the state into the church and mandating that everyone worship it. As in 19th century Europe, deliberate clashes are being stirred up between the values of the state and religious values for the purpose of demonstrating that the values of the state are supreme.

The expansion of state power is rapidly becoming limitless. The old legal justifications that linked Federal intervention in civil rights to interstate commerce and public accommodation have given way to a redefinition of any and all establishments as public accommodations. Courts argue that once an individual begins to sell a product or service, he loses access to all his Constitutional freedoms.

The core issue transcends the hot button social issues such as gay marriage and abortion embraced by the elites of a permissive society and addresses the deeper inversion of rights that is at the heart of the problem.

Reproductive rights and gay rights activists both campaigned to be left alone. There are still gay protests with placards arguing that their marriages are no one else’s business and pro-abortion rallies demanding that politicians stay out of the bedroom. But if the marriage of Adam and Steve shouldn’t be at the disposal of Harry and Julie, why should Harry’s bakery and Julie’s talent be at the disposal of Adam and Steve? If the government should stay out of the bedroom, then why must it dive into the bedroom to compel the owners of companies like Hobby Lobby to subsidize violations of their faith?

Cases like these show that the issue is not rights, but control. If the only way to obtain what you call your rights is by compelling someone else to give up theirs then what you are really demanding is not a right, but a means of imposing your values and your convictions on someone else. And that is not a matter of civil rights. It is an ideological and religious war with government siding with whoever has the most money to invest in strategic campaign contributions for the culture war.

Individual rights exist in the empty spaces that government is forced out of. Government rights however do not exist until everyone is forced to provide them. That is true of the redistribution of wealth and property, but it is even truer of the redistribution of freedom and the confiscation of conscience.

Whatever right government has to the seizure of wealth, it has none to the seizure of conscience. If there is any place that the government has no right to intrude, not in the name of social justice or political correctness or the progressive utopia awaiting us on the other side of the regulatory mirror, it is the territories of the First Amendment, sacred not only in idea, but also in practice.

There can be no faith, no ideas and no individuality without the First Amendment. Without the right to be left alone in your beliefs, your values and your convictions, there can be no other rights and the very notion of rights, no matter how often it is used to describe everything from free health care to gay marriage, cannot exist.

And it is into this sacred territory that the judicial activists of gay marriage have dared to intrude.

Rights can either be defined by the virtue of the individual in his liberty or the virtue of the government in its authoritarianism. But it cannot be defined by both. Either you have the right to be free or you have the right to the property and the service of another human being. The choice is the fundamental one between freedom and slavery.

Social justice denies the virtue of freedom, it rejects the possibility of self-determination without external intervention, it dismisses the idea that people can be free without a system of redistributing freedom from the oppressors to the oppressed so that the oppressed become the new oppressors. It rejects any alternative to entitlements as entitlement and any alternative to privilege as privilege.

The moral argument for freedom is the self-organizing principle of individuals. The moral argument for compulsion is that the system is superior to individuals. The left has chosen central planning in human rights as it has in every other area of life. It believes with the paradoxical perversity of doublethink that freedom can only come from government because only a central authority is qualified to provide the equal distribution of freedom within carefully planned limits.

This abrogation of freedom is the logical end result of the left’s entire pattern of reasoning which rejects the individual for the collective, the working man for the planner and the people for the ideological expert. These forms of repression are expressions of its rotten notion that the left may do anything and everything in the name of freedom except actually allow the people to be free.

Without the right to be left alone, there are no other individual rights. Without individual rights, there is no such thing as a free society.

Every group is sooner or later faced with choosing whether it wants to win a final conclusive victory over its enemies or whether it wants to be free. The tyrannical choice is tempting, but it unleashes a cycle of conflict and repression that can only end with extermination. And once that choice is made, the formerly oppressed forfeit all their moral authority as they abandon freedom for tyranny.

 Reprinted from article on December 18, 2013

Islamic Terror Attack in Fresno

Fresno shooting spree: 3 people killed, suspect who yelled ‘Allahu Akbar,’ says he ‘hates white people’ in custody

DEVELOPING: Three people were killed after a man went on a shooting spree in downtown Fresno, California on Tuesday while shouting “God is great” in Arabic before he was tackled and taken into custody, police said.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said officers took Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, into custody in connection to the shootings. Dyer said Muhammad went by the nickname “Black Jesus” and shouted “Allahu Akbar” as police tackled him to the ground.

 

Dyer said at a news conference Muhammad told police that he hates white people, and has made posts against white people and the government on his Facebook page. All of the victims of the shooting rampage on Tuesday were white men, according to police.

The shooting spree began around 10:45 a.m. local time, when one person was shot in a PG&E utility truck, a second person was shot on Fulton Street and a third person was shot in the parking lot of Catholic Charities, FOX 26 News reported.

All three shooting locations were close to each other in the downtown area. Around 16 shots were fired during the shooting spree, police said.

“What we know is that this was a random act of violence,” Dyer said. “There is every reason to believe he acted alone.”

Muhammad was already wanted in connection to the killing of an unarmed security guard at a Motel 6 last week, police said.

“Our thoughts are with all involved in the incident that occurred in Fresno today,” PG&E said in a statement. “Public and employee safety is always our top priority. We are still gathering information on what happened, and will work to support first responders and law enforcement in their efforts.”

Dyer said Fresno police have called the FBI to assist in the investigation. Muhammad made other statements to police, but Dyer did not disclose what they were.

The imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno told the Associated Press that Muhammad was not a member of his center.

Sayed Ali Ghazvini told the AP that he and other faith leaders are trying to identify gunman.

“We’re kind of shocked and surprised for what happened,” Ghazvini told the AP. “We are very sorry for this to happen. We offer condolences for the victims, we pray for the victims and their families.”

One of the shooting scenes happened outside a Catholic Charities building, but officials don’t believe the suspect was tied to the nonprofit organization.

Teresa Dominguez, chancellor for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, told the Fresno Bee the diocese is providing support for those who witnessed the shooting.

“The diocese will be present to the needs of all those serving as witnesses to this violent and traumatic event,” she told the newspaper, “such as counseling and pastoral care, and Bishop Ochoa asks for the prayer of all the faithful for the victims of this violent crime and their families, and that law enforcement will be successful in the their investigation in identifying the perpetrator.”

Following the shooting, Fresno city spokesman Mark Standriff said county offices were placed on lockdown, and people were urged to shelter in place.

FoxNews.com

Leftist Soros Used US Tax Dollars to Consolidate Power in Colombia

In a recent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, six U.S. Senators asked for an investigation into whether the United States Agency for International Development was promoting the Open Society Foundations’ left-wing policies abroad.

State Department career officials gave the senators the runaround, but if Tillerson does launch the probe, he need look no further than Colombia.

That South American country offers plenty of evidence that U.S. tax dollars are indeed being used to advance George Soros’ agenda—all under the banner of “peace.”

In November 2016, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a “peace agreement” with the Marxist narco-terrorist group FARC. Though Colombians had earlier rejected the deal in a plebiscite, Santos and the Congress—which his party controls—found a loophole to ratify it, placing it above the Constitution.

The effect of this is that Santos now virtually rules by decree, answering only to an oversight commission—a junta comprised of three terrorists, three Santos cronies, and a few foreign observers.

The separation of powers has been abolished and a new peace tribunal, known as the Jurisdiccion Especial para la Paz has replaced the nation’s courts.

This act to circumvent Colombia’s Constitution was supported by many outside interests, including Scandinavian countries and the Nobel Committee, which awarded Santos the Peace Prize.

Also supportive was the Obama administration—partly through USAID—and Soros-backed nongovernmental organizations, which jointly helped launder the image, atrocities, and fortune of the world’s leading cocaine cartel.

I asked a USAID official last month whether USAID and the Open Society Foundations were coordinating in Colombia. He answered: “USAID is not funding any activities with Open Society in Colombia, directly or through any past or existing mechanism.”

But just scratching the surface of USAID activities tells a different story.

For example, Verdad Abierta, a web-based portal created by Teresa Ronderos, director of the Open Society Program on Independent Journalism, boasts on its website that it receives support from USAID.

Abierta has helped rewrite Colombia’s history, elevating terrorists to the same level as the legitimate police and military forces, and rebranding decades of massacres, kidnappings, child soldiering, and drug trafficking by a criminal syndicate as simply “50 years of armed conflict.”

Fundacion Ideas para la Paz, once led by peace negotiator Sergio Jaramillo, now a member of the oversight “junta,” is funded by the Open Society Foundations and has received more than $200,000 in U.S. tax dollars.

The left-wing news portal La Silla Vacia, another Open Society initiative, also boasts of being a USAID grantee. Its columnist, Rodrigo Uprimny, whose NGO DeJusticia also partners with USAID and Open Society, is considered one of the architects of the peace deal.

Former National Liberation Army terrorist Leon Valencia—Open Society collaborator and grantee—has received at least $1,000,000 in USAID funding through his NGOs Corporacion Nuevo Arco Iris and Paz y Reconciliacion, and left-wing news portal Las Dos Orillas, which he co-founded.

Leon Valencia, director of the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, speaks at a March 2017 press conference in Bogota, Colombia to support the "peace agreement" reached with the guerilla group FARC. (Photo: Leonardo Muñoz/Efe/Newscom)

Leon Valencia, director of the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation and former guerilla member, speaks at a March 2017 press conference to support the “peace agreement” reached between the government and FARC. (Photo: Leonardo Muñoz/Efe/Newscom)

The list goes on. I’ve written in a separate piece about the long history of collaboration between Soros-funded NGOs and the U.S. State Department to undermine Colombia’s institutions, particularly through the work of Human Rights Watch.

While terrorists are rewarded with unelected seats in Congress and impunity, those who combated them will either confess to crimes they haven’t committed or go to jail.

This leads to Soros’ crowning achievement: Of the five commissioners chosen to select the judges for the new peace tribunal, three are key players in Soros’ network.

Diego Garcia-Sayan is chairman of Open Society’s Global Drug Policy Program, Juan E. Mendez is a 15-year veteran of Soros-funded Human Rights Watch, and Alvaro Gil-Robles collaborated with Open Society on the issue of Roma rights, eventually leading to the creation of the European Roma Institute—a joint initiative of the Open Society Foundations and the Council of Europe.

I recontacted USAID with follow-up questions regarding all the above. The press office declined to answer any of them, but a spokesperson did amend the original statement: “USAID is not funding any activities through Open Society in Colombia.”

Understanding the full scope of USAID and Open Society collaboration requires a government investigation. USAID‘s biggest contracts involve agreements with organizations that aren’t always transparent.

Take Chemonics. This USAID contractor received more than $20 million in 2015 alone. Some of that—USAID declined to say how much—went to formalizing relations between illegal miners in Segovia, Antioquia, and Gran Colombia Gold, the concession holder.

While the sustainability and benefits to the environment of the project are not clear (lawlessness in Segovia has intensified), certainly the company benefitted from a trained workforce not stealing its gold—albeit temporarily—courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

One of the major shareholders of Gran Colombia Gold just happens to be Frank Giustra, a trustee of the Soros-funded International Crisis Group, along with Soros himself.

The six U.S. senators, then, are right to ask for a full accounting of USAID programs. Start with Colombia, where U.S. assistance should be for the purposes of maintaining and strengthening the gains from Plan Colombia.

By Lia Fowler / /

Watch: MOAB Super-Bomb Makes Impact against ISIS Tunnels in Afghanistan

Video released by the Pentagon on Friday showed the “Mother of all Bombs” plummeting from the sky and exploding in eastern Afghanistan, as military officials said it flattened a cave-and-tunnel complex controlled by the Islamic State terror group.

The Department of Defense released the video Friday, less than a day after it dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) atop the Achin district of Nangarhar province, which is close to the Afghan-Pakistan border. Officials said 39 ISIS fighters were killed.

In the 30-second video, the 21,000-pound bomb – the largest non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. military arsenal – could be seen dropping before it exploded midair. Smoke quickly rose from the impact zone, which officials said was more than a mile wide.

The U.S. military headquarters in Kabul said in a statement that the bomb was dropped at 7:32 p.m. local time Thursday.

President Donald Trump, who said he authorized the attack, called it a “very, very successful mission.”

“As [ISIS’] losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers, and tunnels to thicken their defense,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against [ISIS].”

The MOAB was first tested in 2003, but hadn’t been used in combat before Thursday.

The MOAB had to be dropped out of the back of a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane due to its massive size.

“We kicked it out the back door,” one U.S. official told Fox News.

Ismail Shinwari, the governor of Achin district, said the U.S. attack was carried out in a remote mountainous area with no civilian homes nearby. He said there has been heavy fighting in the area in recent weeks between Afghan forces and ISIS militants.

The strike came just days after a Green Beret was killed fighting ISIS in Nangarhar, however, a U.S. defense official told Fox News the bombing had nothing to do with that casualty.

“It was the right weapon for the right target, and not in retaliation,” the official said.

The U.S. estimates that between 600 to 800 ISIS fighters are present in Afghanistan, mostly in Nangarhar. The U.S. has concentrated heavily on combating them, while also supporting Afghan forces battling the Taliban.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

‘Referendum on Trump’ Fails for Dems – GOP Winner in Kansas

GOP SURVIVES FIRST TEST

Kansas state Treasurer Ron Estes held off a stronger-than-expected challenge from Democratic civil rights attorney James Thompson Tuesday night as the GOP won the first special congressional election since President Trump’s inauguration. Estes won 53 percent of the vote to take the seat vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES:

When President Trump plucked conservative members of Congress to fill his Cabinet, it set off a slew of special elections — starting with Tuesday’s contest in Kansas.

These were supposed to be no-brainer affairs.

Trump easily won the Wichita-area district held by Mike Pompeo, now the CIA director, since 2011. The opening offered an easy elevation for the party-picked candidate, Ron Estes, the state treasurer.

But that’s not what happened. Democratic unrest over Trump made this race — and the others coming — a referendum on the new administration.

Democrats have rallied around the underdog, James Thompson, putting him in striking distance.

The political newcomer’s resume made him a candidate to watch: He was homeless as a child, joined the Army and later went to college, becoming a civil rights attorney. He and his wife have one daughter, Liberty.

A Republican loss so early in the special-election season — with an even closer race shaping up next week in Georgia’s 6th District in the Atlanta suburbs — has put the party on high alert.

Trump tweeted support of Estes on Tuesday morning and recorded a robocall, according to the Wichita Eagle.

“Ron Estes is running TODAY for Congress in the Great State of Kansas. A wonderful guy, I need his help on Healthcare & Tax Cuts (Reform),” Trump tweeted.

Top Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz  of Texas and Pat Roberts of Kansas, offered their services.

Losing one seat to Democrats wouldn’t necessarily be devastating for House Republicans. They are in no immediate danger of losing their robust majority.

But a win would carry big symbolism for Democrats, who continue to struggle to find their political footing after the 2016 loss to Trump.

And it could set the stage for the summer as campaigns start forming for the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats will try to win back seats from the GOP majority in the House and Senate.

In what is sure to be a low-turnout spring vote, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted its assessment of the GOP’s hold on the Kansas seat from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”

“Even a single-digit finish in a seat like KS-04 … would portend big trouble for Republicans in next week’s special primary election in GA-06,” according to the Cook analysis. “There is a real chance Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is dramatically outspending the rest of the field while the main GOP contenders turn on each other, could hit 50 percent on April 18 and avoid a runoff. As such, we are moving GA-06 to Toss Up.”

New Global Warming Study, Terrible News for Alarmists, Good News for Plants, Animals and People

A new study published in the highly influential journal Nature suggests rising global temperatures during the 19th and 20th centuries may be linked to greater plant photosynthesis.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at Merced, estimated based on its models “the sum of all plant photosynthesis on Earth grew by 30 percent over the 200-year record captured,” according to an article published on the UC Merced website.

Photosynthesis is the process of converting carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, which power plants, using sunlight.

According to the UC Merced article, “The research did not identify the cause of the increased photosynthesis, but computer models have shown several processes that could, together, create such a large change in global plant growth.”

“The leading candidates are rising atmospheric CO2 levels, a result of emissions from human activities; longer growing seasons, a result of climate change caused by CO2 emissions; and nitrogen pollution, another result of fossil fuel combustion and agriculture,” the article also claims.

In other words, more carbon dioxide, which is being produced by humans at record levels, has improved plant growth, which in turn improves food production for humans and animals.

“The rising CO2 level stimulates crops yields,” said lead researcher Elliott Campbell, a professor at UC Merced.

Campbell said the evidence shows “a fundamental shift in the Earth’s plants” and that “global plant growth should be a central goal for the human race.”

However, don’t too excited, Campbell warns. He says despite the researchers’ findings, which clearly show global warming helps plants—and thus also helping humans and animals—global warming has many negative effects, too, such as causing “climate change, which will increase flooding of coastal cities, extreme weather and ocean acidification.”

The researchers’ study in Nature provided no proof of the claim global warming is caused by humans or that global warming will cause the severe problems Campbell said it will in the quotes provided by the UC Merced article. The study also offered no solutions for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions without causing severe economic and social problems for billions of people.

The study did, however, show increased carbon-dioxide levels have, generally, helped plants and crops.

By  

Gorsuch Sworn in as Supreme Court Justice

Justice Neil Gorsuch was sworn in to the Supreme Court Monday, capping a grueling confirmation process and filling the seat once held by the late Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch took the Constitutional Oath in a private ceremony, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Supreme Court’s Justice’s Conference Room. He was accompanied by his wife Louise, who held the Bible, and his two daughters.

Later, in a public ceremony at the White House, Justice Anthony Kennedy – Gorsuch’s former boss – administered the Judicial Oath.

“We are here to celebrate history,” President Trump said, calling Gorsuch a man of “unmatched qualification” and “deeply devoted” to the Constitution.

“I have no doubt you will rise to the occasion, and the decisions you make will protect our Constitution today and for many generations of Americans to come,” he said.

Gorsuch takes the seat of the late Justice Scalia, who died in February last year, and whom Gorsuch has been compared favorably to by conservatives hopeful for another originalist on the court.

Gorsuch is likely to cast a deciding vote in a number of high-profile cases, which in part explains the terse and partisan hearing the 49-year-old faced. The high stakes led Republicans to trigger the “nuclear option” last week to kill the 60-vote filibuster threshold for Supreme Court nominees.

Here’s a preview of what Justice Gorsuch will be looking at:

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley

Seen as the hot-button case of the Court’s sitting, this case involves a Lutheran preschool in Missouri that was denied state funds to improve a playground due to a law banning prohibiting government aid to schools with religious affiliations. Trinity Lutheran and supporters are hoping that, given Gorsuch’s rulings on past church-state issues, he will back them in this one.

Weaver v. Massachusetts and Davila v. Davis

The first case surrounds a 16-year-old who murdered a 15-year-old in 2003, and his lawyers claim his Sixth Amendment rights were violated and he was given inadequate representation after a court kept his family locked out while a jury was selected and his lawyers did not object.

The Davila case involves a Texas gang member convicted of killing a 5-year-old and her grandmother in a shooting. But lawyers claim he was given ineffective counsel, and specifically they question the legal remedies given to capital defendants.

Maslenjak v. U.S.

Justices will hear the case of an ethnic Serb from Bosnia, who was stripped of U.S. citizenship for lying about how she came to the country. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that a naturalized citizen can be stripped of citizenship in a criminal proceeding based on immaterial false statements. Gorsuch’s record is unclear on immigration issues, and he only ruled on a few in his time on the 10th Circuit.

California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc.

This case involves the question of whether certain class-action securities lawsuits can be barred because they were filed too late.

The retirement fund in California has sued various financial institutions over their alleged role in the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

How the justices rule in this case is expected to have serious consequences for institutional investors and also will determine whether putative class members must file individual complaints before the three-year period imposed by Section 13 of the Securities Act has run out.

Fox News’ Bill Mears and Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Washington Post Calls Susan Rice a Liar on Syria Chemical Weapons

Former Obama official Susan Rice’s claim just a few months ago that the Assad regime “voluntarily and verifiably” gave up its chemical weapons stockpile earned a full rebuke from a prominent fact-checker on Monday in the wake of last week’s chemical attack.

The Washington Post fact-checker gave the former national security adviser a rating of “four Pinocchios” — the worst rating on their truth scale.

“The reality is that there were continued chemical-weapons attacks by Syria,” the Post wrote.

This was after another fact-checking outfit, PolitiFact, retracted its “mostly true” rating for a 2014 claim from then-Secretary of State John Kerry that “100 percent” of those weapons were removed from Syria.

Rice’s claim, however, was more recent. In January, she told NPR that the Obama administration was able to “find a solution” on Syria that didn’t require the use of force – and still dealt with the chemical weapons threat, using diplomacy.

“We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile,” she claimed.

Then came last week’s attack that killed dozens and that the U.S. suspects involved sarin nerve gas. The strike prompted President Trump to launch missiles late last week against the base suspected of being used to carry out the attack.

Rice’s comments about the 2013 agreement to purge the Assad regime’s chemical weapons quickly were called into question, along with the claims of other Obama officials.

The Washington Post noted, “the Obama administration had a tendency to oversell what was accomplished, perhaps because Obama received so much criticism for not following through on an attack if Syria crossed what Obama had called ‘a red line.’”

“The reality is that there were continued chemical-weapons attacks by Syria — and that U.S. and international officials had good evidence that Syria had not been completely forthcoming in its declaration and possibly retained sarin and VX nerve agent,” the Post wrote.

Citing Rice’s exact words, the fact-check column ruled: “She did not explain that Syria’s declaration was believed to be incomplete and thus was not fully verified — and that the Syrian government still attacked citizens with chemical weapons not covered by the 2013 agreement. That tipped her wordsmithing toward a Four.”

FoxNews.com

PALM SUNDAY ATTACKS – 43 Dead, Over 100 Injured in ISIS Bombings

At least 43 people were killed and more than 100 injured in two separate Palm Sunday attacks at Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, each carried out by the ISIS terror group.

The first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said.

Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.

A second explosion – which Egypt’s Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria — left at least 16 dead, and 41 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II — leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria — finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed.

At least three police officers were killed in the St. Mark’s attack, the ministry told The Associated Press.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq media agency, following the group’s recent video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, who the group describes as “infidels” empowering the West against Muslims.

The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi ordered the immediate deployment of troops to assist police in protecting vital facilities across the country.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” against the U.S. ally but added that he has “great confidence” that el-Sissi, “will handle the situation properly.” The two leaders met at the White House on April 3.

“Either a bomb was planted or someone blew himself up,” provincial governor Ahmad Deif told the state-run Nile TV channel, Sky News reported.

The attack in Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt’s Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists.

Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar — the leading center of learning in Sunni Islam — condemned the attacks, calling them a “despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents.”

Across the street from St. George, neighbor Susan Mikhail, whose apartment has a clear balcony view of the church and its front yard, said the explosion violently shook her building midmorning, at a time when the church was packed.

“Deacons were the first to run out of the church. Many of them had blood on their white robes,” she told The Associated Press. Later, the more seriously wounded started to come out, carried in the arms of survivors and ferried to hospitals in private cars, she
said.

Pope Francis decried the bombings, expressing “deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation.” Word of the attacks came as Francis was holding Palm Sunday services in St. Peter’s Square.

Both Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement ruling neighboring Gaza also condemned the bombings.

Turkey also condemned the attacks.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted his condolences and said, “We strongly condemn the heinous terror attacks on churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday today.”

Mehmet Gormez, the head of religious affairs in Turkey, “cursed” the attacks and said they are the shared problem of all humanity.

“The immunity of a place of worship, no matter the religion it belongs to, cannot be violated and the bloodthirsty killing of innocent worshipers cannot ever be forgiven,” Gormez said in an official statement.

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also published a statement denouncing the attack on St. George Church.

“We convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the whole people of Egypt,” the statement said before a second attack hit an Alexandria church.

The bombings add to fears that Islamic extremists who have long been battling security forces in the Sinai Peninsula are shifting their focus to civilians.

A local Islamic State affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai Peninsula that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country. The group has threatened further attacks.

A militant group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for an April 1 bomb attack targeting a police training center in Tanta, which wounded 16 people. The group, believed to be linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has mainly targeted security forces and distanced itself from attacks on Christians.

Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.

FoxNews.com/The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Judge Gorsuch confirmed to Supreme Court

The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Friday, filling the critical ninth seat that has been vacant for over a year and capping a tumultuous debate that saw Republicans overhaul the way the chamber operates in order to overcome what they described as an unprecedented Democratic filibuster.

The 54-45 vote, in which three Democrats crossed party lines to support the appeals court justice, is expected to restore a 5-4 conservative tilt on the bench. Once sworn in, Gorsuch will join the court and begin to hear cases, in the seat once held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

“He’s going to make the American people proud,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

Republicans lauded Gorsuch as an eminently qualified jurist and a fitting successor to Scalia. But Democrats accused him of giving evasive answers during his confirmation hearing, and claimed his past rulings showed a tendency to favor business interests over workers. More broadly, Democrats remain furious that Republicans under McConnell’s leadership blocked consideration of former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, in turn allowing Trump to nominate Gorsuch.

These partisan tensions exploded on the Senate floor this week, as Democrats mounted a filibuster against Gorsuch, prompting Republicans to use what’s known as the “nuclear option” Thursday to force a final vote.

Each party blamed the other for the escalation, accusing the other side of damaging long-standing institutions.

“Damage was done to our democracy,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Friday. “Raw political power has been exercised to break the rules and norms of this body.”

But McConnell claimed that Republicans only triggered the nuclear option to “restore norms” that Democrats had defied.

Republicans pursued that course after Democrats blocked the nominee on Thursday, denying him the 60 votes needed to proceed to a final roll call. McConnell in turn executed a series of parliamentary maneuvers that resulted in the threshold being lowered to 51 votes. With that standard, Gorsuch easily advanced to the final vote on Friday.

McConnell said he made the move “for the sake of our country.”

McConnell’s predecessor as Senate majority leader Harry Reid, now retired, took the first step down the “nuclear” road by lowering the threshold for other nominees in 2013 – a controversial move Republicans frequently brought up on the road to Friday’s final vote.

But lowering the threshold for a Supreme Court pick is a more significant step. It means for the foreseeable future, the minority party will have significantly less leverage to oppose any nominee to the highest court in the land, no matter who is president.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said there will be “less faith in the Supreme Court” going forward.

Republicans say Democrats have been unfair to an otherwise qualified nominee and have wrongly cast him as an ideologue.

“Rarely has this body seen a nominee to the Supreme Court so well-qualified, so skilled, [with] such command of constitutional jurisprudence, with such an established record of independence and such judicial temperament,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Friday.

All Republicans present voted yes on Friday; Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., struggling with health issues, did not vote. Vice President Pence presided.

The three Democrats who voted for Gorsuch were North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly — all moderate Democrats facing challenging reelection bids next year in red states.

Gorsuch is expected to take the oath on Monday.

By Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Bill Mears contributed to this report.

UPDATE–US Launches Missiles into Syria in Response to Chemical Weapons Attack

The United States launched nearly five dozen cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, the first direct assault on the Damascus government since the beginning of that country’s bloody civil war in 2011.

“It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles targeted an airbase at Shayrat, located outside Homs. The missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said initial indications were that the strike “had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment … reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”

Trump said the base was used as the staging point for Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on rebel-held territory, which killed as many as 72 civilians, including women and children.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said from Mar-a-Lago, Fla. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

The U.S. missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, 3:45 a.m. Friday morning in Syria. Syrian state TV reported a U.S. missile attack on a number of military targets and called the attack an “aggression.”

U.S. military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack in an effort to avoid any accident involving Russian forces. Nevertheless, Russia’s Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”

Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that “there are Russians at the base,” but said they had been warned “multiple times” to leave. He did not know whether Russian aircraft were at the base when the missiles hit.

The U.S. also notified its partner countries in the region prior to launching the strikes.

U.S. defense officials tell Fox that two warships based in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Porter and the USS Ross, have been training for the past two days to execute this mission.

“Our forward deployed ships give us the capability to quickly respond to threats,” said a Navy official. “These strikes in Syria are a perfect example – this is why we’re there.”

The original plans called for two targets, the airbase and a chemical weapons storage facility. However, Pentagon planners decided late Thursday to target just the airbase.

As a candidate, Trump warned against against the U.S. getting pulled into the Syrian civil war. But the president earlier in the week appeared moved by the photos of children killed in the chemical attack.

“I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes and shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Florida earlier , where he was holding a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Late Thursday, a U.S. government official told Fox News that the intelligence community has high confidence that the attack was carried out by Syrian government aircraft.  The official said the analysis was consistent with eyewitness reports that fixed-wing aircraft launched the strike.

The official described the use of sarin gas in the attack as a watershed. The Assad government had agreed to disband its chemical weapons capability by 2014 under an agreement coordinated with the Obama administration and Russia. Tuesday’s attack was considered a breach of that agreement.

The Turkish ministry of health says the preliminary results show the use of sarin gas. Sarin is a colorless, odorless liquid and is highly volatile moving easily from liquid to a gas, that unlike chlorine which the Assad government has used on a regular basis, does not dissipate quickly. This explains the high number of fatalities. The victims in Syria and Turkey show all the hallmarks of a sarin attack – including twitching, jerking and foaming at the mouth.

Trump’s decision to attack Syria came three-and-a-half years after President Barack Obama threatened Assad with military action after an earlier chemical weapons attack killed hundreds outside of Damascus. Obama had declared the use of such weapons a “red line.” At the time, several American ships in the Mediterranean were poised to launch missiles, only for Obama to abruptly pull back after key U.S. ally Britain and the U.S. Congress balked at his plan.

He opted instead for the Russian-backed plan that was supposed to remove and eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

The world learned of the chemical attack earlier in the week in footage that showed people dying in the streets and bodies of children stacked in piles.

The U.S. show of force in Syria raises legal questions. It’s unclear what authority Trump is relying on to attack another government. When Obama intervened in Libya in 2011, he used a U.N. Security Council mandate and NATO’s overall leadership of the mission to argue that he had legal authority — arguments that many Republicans opposed. Trump can’t rely on either justification here.

Unclear also is whether Trump is adopting any broader effort to combat Assad. Under Obama, the United States largely pulled back from its support for so-called “moderate” rebels when Russia’s military intervention in September 2015 led them to suffer a series of battlefield defeats. Instead, Obama sought to work with Russia on a negotiated transition.

Trump and his top aides had acknowledged in recent days the “reality” of Assad being in power, saying his ouster was no longer a priority. But the chemical weapons attack seemed to spur a rethink. In Florida on Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said of Assad: “There’s no role for him to govern the Syrian people.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel . She joined FNC in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

GOP Pushes Nuke Button, Opening Way for Gorsuch Confirmation

Senate Republicans have voted to stop the Democrats’ filibuster of President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, invoking the so-called nuclear option.

Following a precedent set by Democrats under Harry Reid, senators voted 52-48 along party lines to change the Senate’s precedent, lowering the threshold for advancing Neil Gorsuch from 60 votes to a simple majority.

They then immediately voted 55-45 to advance the nominee to a final confirmation vote, which is expected to occur Friday afternoon after thirty hours of more debate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) initiated the rules change by raising a point of order asserting that simple-majority votes should advance Supreme Court nominees to final confirmation votes.

Democrats tried to delay it by offering motions to postpone a vote and to adjourn the chamber, but both fell short as Republicans remained unified.

Earlier Thursday, McConnell said the rules change would restore the Senate’s tradition of considering a Supreme Court nominee based on credentials instead of ideology–something the Democrats have transformed over a period of decades. He called the Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch “a radical move” and something “completely unprecedented in the history of our Senate.”

“This threatened filibuster cannot be allowed to succeed or to continue for the sake of the Senate, for the sake of the court and for the sake our country,” he said.

McConnell accused Democrats of having steadily ratcheted up the “judicial wars” over the years and noted that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Bill Clinton’s pick for the court in 1993, once advocated for the abolishing Mother’s Day but was still confirmed by a 96-3 vote.

The American Bar Association rated Gorsuch as unanimously well-qualified, but Democrats criticized him for not revealing his personal judicial philosophy during confirmation as well as for several opinions they said showed he tended to favor powerful interests over “the little guy.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued that Republicans didn’t have to change the rules to put Gorsuch on the court, and that the more sensible option would have been to ask Trump to pick a new nominee. Of course, his argument is twisted and self-defeating. He said replacing Gorsuch would be fair after Republicans refused to give President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing or a vote last year.

Republicans said they wanted to seat Gorsuch on the court no matter what it took, praising him as an eminently qualified judge who a decade ago would likely have won strong bipartisan support for confirmation.

Times of have changed since the Senate confirmed Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, to the court in 2005 with an overwhelming vote of 78-22.

PUBLIUS, with contributions from

GOP Goes Weak in the Knees, Again–Nunes Steps Aside

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Thursday stepped down temporarily from his role leading the committee’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible surveillance of Trump associates by the prior administration.

Nunes in a statement cited the efforts of “several leftwing activist groups” to lodge “entirely false and politically motivated” accusations against him with the Office of Congressional Ethics as his reason for sidelining himself.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, is now set to lead the committee “with assistance” from Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.

Nunes said he would “continue to fulfill all my other responsibilities as Committee Chairman” and had requested to speak with the Ethics office “in order to expedite the dismissal of these false claims.”

In a written statement, Nunes suggested the accusations against him were timed to distract from reports about the names of Trump associates being “unmasked” in intelligence files during the latter weeks of the Obama administration by former National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

“The charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power,” he said.

A source close to Nunes called the alleged Democrat-led campaign to file complaints with the Office of Congressional Ethics a “clever political trick.” Even if vindicated — which Nunes believes he will be — too much political damage had already been done for Nunes to remain in his role leading the Russia/spying investigations, the source said.

Another congressional staffer agreed with the claim that the complaints were a “coordinated tactic” organized by Democrats, and said the move was made to get the conversation off of Rice. The staffer said the news came on the eve of the Easter recess in order for it to have maximum impact.

In a statement, the House Committee on Ethics said it was looking into allegations that Nunes “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or other standards of conduct.”

Nunes last month held a news conference in which he discussed viewing classified reports that appeared to show the unmasking of Trump associates. He then controversially went to brief the president before meeting with the intelligence committee.

Some detractors have wanted Nunes removed from the investigation for awhile, pointing to his role as a member of Trump’s transition team and arguing that he could not lead an impartial investigation. Viewing the classified documents on White House grounds and briefing Trump only added fuel to the fire.

House Speaker Paul Ryan backed Nunes’ decision.

“Devin Nunes has earned my trust over many years for his integrity and dedication to the critical work that the intelligence community does to keep America safe,” Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. “He continues to have that trust, and I know he is eager to demonstrate to the Ethics Committee that he has followed all proper guidelines and laws.”

Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has publicly criticized Nunes’ conduct and characterizations for weeks, however, he was conciliatory on Thursday.

“I know this was not an easy decision for the Chairman, with whom I have worked well for many years,” Schiff said in a statement. “He did so in the best interests of the committee and I respect that decision.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and John Roberts contributed to this report.

Failure to Launch-Time to Shut Down North Korea

The Pentagon now assesses the North Korean missile launch Wednesday likely was a failure, Fox News has learned.

The missile did not go as far as intended, officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence reports said. It did not reach Japanese waters and may have “pinwheeled in flight,” according to one official.

What’s more, the missile might be an older SCUD and not the advanced land version of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (KN-15), as first assessed by the U.S. Pacific Command last night. North Korea launched a KN-15 missile in February — as President Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida.

In a 23-word statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear the administration was moving in a new direction: “North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”

U.S. officials have said they hope China will play a larger role in easing tensions in the region. While China opposes the deployment of a U.S. military anti-ballistic missile system to North Korea, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday called for de-escalation of tensions. “China has noticed such reports, we all know that the Security Council at the United Nations has issued regulations related to the missile launch by North Korea. We think that all sides involved should exercise restraint and not do anything that will escalate the difficult situation in the region.”

The Pentagon continues to see signs North Korea is close to conducting another nuclear test, after two tests last year.

The KN-15, known as “Pukguksong-2” in North Korea, uses pre-loaded solid fuel, which shortens launch preparation times, boosts its mobility and makes it harder for outsiders to detect ahead of liftoff. Most North Korean missiles use liquid propellant, which generally must be added to the missile on the launch pad before firing.

The South Korean military said the missile was fired from land near the east coast city of Sinpo and flew about 40 miles.

Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Honolulu, said he was expecting North Korea would do something significant to coincide with President Trump’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week.

The missile launch may be a precursor, with more to come as the summit starts Thursday, Cossa said. “I’ve joked before that they don’t mind being hated but they definitely hate to be ignored.”

Analysts also say North Korea might time nuclear and long-range rocket tests to the April 15 birthday of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, the late grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea is pushing hard to upgrade its weapons systems to cope with what it calls U.S. hostility. Many weapons experts say the North could have a functioning nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. within a few years. North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year.

The rogue nation’s latest missile launch also came during annual military drills between the United States and South Korea. North Korea sees the drills as an invasion rehearsal.

By Lucas Tomlinson / The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Lucas on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Rice Caught in Lie on National TV: ‘I Know Nothing About This’

Susan Rice claimed ignorance on Trump team surveillance, before role in unmasking revealed

Less than two weeks before sources said it was Susan Rice who requested to unmask the names of Trump associates caught up in sensitive intelligence reports, former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser said she knew “nothing about” surveillance allegations.

Rice told PBS on March 22 that she “was not aware of any orders given to disseminate that information.” She did skirt the issues of whether she herself unmasked or disseminated information outright. Rice also limited her remarks to Trump’s debunked early March tweet claiming a wiretap of Trump Tower and vague remarks made by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes.

“I know nothing about this.” – Susan Rice, on the unmasking of Americans

“I know nothing about this,” Rice said at the time. “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today … So today, I really don’t know to what Chairman Nunes was referring. But he said that whatever he was referring to was a legal, lawful surveillance and that it was potentially incidental collection on American citizens.”

Fox News reported that the names, once unmasked, were widely disseminated through the intelligence community – and to some in the Obama White House.

Rice’s remarks on March 22 focus on the strict legality of the issue — instead of whether the unmasking was appropriate or of intelligence value. Since Monday’s reporting, her defenders have downplayed the significance of her apparent requests.

“What I know is this … If the intelligence community professionals decide that there’s some value, national security, foreign policy or otherwise in unmasking someone, they will grant those requests,” former Obama State Department spokeswoman and Fox News contributor Marie Harf said on “The First 100 Days.” “And we have seen no evidence … that there was partisan political notice behind this and we can’t say that unless there’s actual evidence to back that up.”

Harf stressed that just because Rice requested names doesn’t mean she leaked them either.

The identities of U.S. citizens collected during surveillance on foreign targets are supposed to be shielded unless they are unmasked by a top official, ostensibly for national security reasons.

Rice hasn’t made any public statements since her PBS appearance and a Wall Street Journal op-ed released the same day excoriating the behavior of the Trump administration. In the opinion piece, Rice scolded the Trump White House, saying it “deliberately dissembles and serially contorts the facts.”

Rice, however, has her past issues with public statements.

She infamously went on Sunday morning talk shows in the wake of the Benghazi terror attack to claim the assault was spurred on by a little-known YouTube video, an allegation that proved false.

She also said former Taliban hostage Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction” in June 2014, soon after his release from enemy captivity. Seven months later, Bergdahl was court martialed on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

By

Gorsuch Wins Senate Panel Endorsement

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Monday along party lines to endorse Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, setting up a showdown between Democratic and Republican senators in a series of final votes expected later this week.

The 20-member committee voted 11-9 for Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick for the high court seat left by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

“The nominee’s opponents have tried to find a fault with him that will stick. And it just hasn’t worked,” said committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who allowed all 20 members to speak before the final vote. “Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified. He’s a mainstream judge who’s earned the universal respect of his colleagues on the bench and in the bar. He applies the law as we in Congress write it.”

Despite such praise from the GOP side, all Democrats on the committee voted against the nominee, in a sign of the clash to come as the nomination advances to the full Senate.

The chamber’s Democratic leaders appear ready to try to hold up the nomination through what’s known as a filibuster. Republicans have 52 senators and would need the support of eight Democrats to reach the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and head to a final vote.

That appears out of reach. Prior to the committee vote, more than 40 Democrats said they were willing to block the Gorsuch nomination — increasing the likelihood that majority Republicans would use the so-called “nuclear option” to push the nomination through.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, returned to her party’s repeated argument that Judge Merrick Garland, former-President Barack Obama’s nominee, should have been considered for the Scalia seat, but leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate held off until after the 2016 presidential election.

Feinstein also revisited a ruling Gorsuch made on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Colorado, in which he sided with a company that fired a trucker for disobeying orders by unhitching his vehicle from a malfunctioning tractor-trailer and driving off — after waiting hours for help in sub-zero temperatures.

“So this is not the usual nominee,” she said. “Therefore, I cannot support the nominee.”

So far, just three Senate Democrats have announced support for Gorsuch, a graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Law and Oxford University.

They are Sens. Joe Donnelly, of Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota; and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — all representing states Trump won in November and all up for re-election next year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that Gorsuch nevertheless will be confirmed by Friday.

He was noncommittal on whether he was prepared to trigger to so-called “nuclear option,” a change in precedent that would allow the Senate to break the filibuster with a simple majority of 51 votes.

But on Monday, a Republican colleague spoke bluntly and indicated the party would go that route. South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Judiciary committee member, said: “This will be the last person subject to a filibuster. … Ironically, we are going to change the rules … for somebody who has been a good judge over such a long time.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Gorsuch would not pass the 60-vote benchmark and argued that Trump should “try to come up with a mainstream nominee.”

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat on the committee, like Feinstein argued that Gorsuch had too often sided against the “little guy.”

“In case after case, he favored corporations, lawyers and the special interest elite … over workers, consumers, people of disability and victims of discrimination,” he said.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican on the committee, said Gorsuch likely thought the firing of the trucker was “foolish.”

“But that wasn’t the question before him,” Lee said. “The law, as he carefully analyzed it, would not allow judicial intervention.”

FoxNews.com / The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Unmasked: Obama’s Susan Rice Requested to Unmask Names of Trump Transition Officials

Multiple sources tell Fox News that Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama, requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance.

The unmasked names, of people associated with Donald Trump, were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan – essentially, the officials at the top, including former Rice deputy Ben Rhodes.

The names were part of incidental electronic surveillance of candidate and President-elect Trump and people close to him, including family members, for up to a year before he took office.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, asked about the revelations at Monday’s briefing, declined to comment specifically on what role Rice may have played or officials’ motives.

“I’m not going to comment on this any further until [congressional] committees have come to a conclusion,” he said, while contrasting the media’s alleged “lack” of interest in these revelations with the intense coverage of suspected Trump-Russia links.

When names of Americans are incidentally collected, they are supposed to be masked, meaning the name or names are redacted from reports – whether it is international or domestic collection, unless it is an issue of national security, crime or if their security is threatened in any way. There are loopholes and ways to unmask through backchannels, but Americans are supposed to be protected from incidental collection. Sources told Fox News that in this case, they were not.

This comes in the wake of Evelyn Farkas’ television interview last month in which the former Obama deputy secretary of defense said in part: “I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill – it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration.”

Meanwhile, Fox News also is told that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes knew about unmasking and leaking back in January, well before President Trump’s tweet in March alleging wiretapping.

Nunes has faced criticism from Democrats for viewing pertinent documents on White House grounds and announcing their contents to the press. But sources said “the intelligence agencies slow-rolled Nunes. He could have seen the logs at other places besides the White House SCIF [secure facility], but it had already been a few weeks. So he went to the White House because he could protect his sources and he could get to the logs.”

As the Obama administration left office, it also approved new rules that gave the NSA much broader powers by relaxing the rules about sharing intercepted personal communications and the ability to share those with 16 other intelligence agencies.

Rice is no stranger to controversy. As the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, she appeared on several Sunday news shows to defend the administration’s later debunked claim that the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Libya was triggered by an Internet video.

Rice also told ABC News in 2014 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction” and that he “wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield.”

Bergdahl is currently facing court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for allegedly walking off his post in Afghanistan.

By Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.

NBC’s Chuck Todd Grills Sen Schumer For Hypocrisy to Block Neil Gorsuch

An interview between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and NBC host Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” became heated Sunday when Todd pressed the Democratic senator over his opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Todd began by reminding Schumer of comments a member of his caucus recently made about the Gorsuch situation. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said last week that she would be voting for Gorsuch, although she still isn’t happy how Merrick Garland was treated by Senate Republicans. But Heitkamp said “two wrongs don’t make a right” and Senate Democrats shouldn’t punish Gorsuch for what happened in the past.

“Why not give Neil Gorsuch an up or down vote, Senator Schumer?” Todd pressed.

Schumer, in typical fashion, completely ignored the question. Instead, he issued a proposal. Schumer said that President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans and Democrats should come together and decide on a “mainstream nominee,” given that Gorsuch will likely not reach the 60 vote threshold needed for confirmation.

“Look, when a nominee doesn’t get 60 votes, you shouldn’t change the rules,” Schumer said. “You should change the nominee.”

Schumer went on to bash Republicans for not holding hearings on Garland last year and said that now that Democrats are in a position to block Trump’s nominee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shouldn’t change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch.

“The other side didn’t get their nominee,” Schumer said. “Sit down and worth with us and we will produce a mainstream nominee.”

But Todd wasn’t buying what Schumer was trying to sell. He wanted to know why Republicans should sit down to work with Democrats when it was Democrats who first used the “nuclear option” in the Senate to bypass the 60 vote requirement.

Schumer responded by saying that he doesn’t regret his support for changing the rules in 2013 to confirm lower court justices — much to the chagrin of Republicans — but said that it would be different if Republicans did it for a Supreme Court nominee. Schumer cited “tradition” of the court in his opposition to changing the rules for Gorsuch.

“Then why did you change the rules in the first place?” Todd grilled.

Schumer didn’t really answer the question and again reiterated his desire for Trump to nominate a more “mainstream” candidate.

Watch the exchange below:

In addition to Heitkamp, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) have said they will vote for Gorsuch later this week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Gorsuch’s nomination on Monday and the vote will go to the full Senate later in the week. McConnell said Sunday that Gorsuch “will be” confirmed, but the process by which it happens is up to Senate Democrats.

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Russia Trolls Democratic Party in Epic April Fools’ Day Prank

Russia is known for many things—communism, vodka and bizarre dancing, for starters—but one thing Russia is not well-known for is its sense of humor. Perhaps that’s about to change.

In what could go down as one of the most interesting April Fools’ Day pranks of all time, the Russian Foreign Ministry posted on its Facebook page an audio file that supposedly showed the agency’s new switchboard message.

The message begins with, “You have reached the Russian Embassy. Your call is very important to us.”

“To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponent, press 1,” the recording continues (in both English and Russian). Users are then instructed to “press 2” in order “to use the services of Russian hackers.” For “election interference” requests, “press 3.”

The Associated Press reports—because, apparently, AP felt the need to check—it was able to confirm the recording was meant as a “joke.”

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized those in the United States who continue to play the “Russian card” to score political points, alluding to the Democratic Party. He also called the accusations of election interference made against his government “endless and groundless,” according to a report by CBS News.