January 21, 2018

Democrats Shut Down Government

 #schumershutdown

Russell M. Nelson is Set Apart as 17th President of LDS Church

SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson is the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the church’s Public Affairs Committee made the announcement during an unprecedented live broadcast from the Salt Lake Temple on historical Temple Square.

“I declare my devotion to God our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ,” President Nelson said during the broadcast. “I pledge to serve them with every remaining breath of my life.”

LDS apostles serve for life and are considered “special witnesses” of Jesus Christ to the world. Three apostles form the First Presidency. Twelve more make up the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Christofferson said the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met Sunday morning in the Salt Lake Temple and voted to reconstitute the First Presidency, which had dissolved automatically upon the death of President Thomas S. Monson on Jan. 2.

They voted to make the senior apostle, President Nelson, 93, the church’s new president.

 

President Nelson then selected President Dallin H. Oaks as his first counselor and President Henry B. Eyring as his second counselor in the First Presidency.

“It was a sacred and humbling experience,” President Nelson said. “How could I choose only two of the 12 apostles, each of whom I love dearly.”

He said he was grateful to Elder Oaks and Elder Eyring for accepting their new roles in the First Presidency.

President Oaks, as apostle second in seniority, also became the president of the Quorum of the Twelve. However, because he is now in the First Presidency, the apostle who is third in seniority, President M. Russell Ballard, became acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve.

President Oaks ordained and set apart President Nelson as the church’s new leader.

Those actions ended the 12-day apostolic interregnum since President Monson’s death. During these periods, the Quorum of the Twelve administers the church until a new president is set apart.

This apostolic administration was the longest since 1889, when 20 months passed during the transition from President John Taylor to President Woodruff.

President Monson’s First Presidency included President Eyring as first counselor and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as second counselor. President Nelson said now-Elder Uchtdorf had returned to his place in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and had accepted new assignments unique to his capabilities.

President Nelson expressed appreciation to church members for their service and for their prayers on behalf of church leaders. He encouraged them to stay on the convenant path and qualify for, receive and live temple covenants.

“For each one of you, I’m most humbly grateful,” he said.

He also invited those who have left the path to return saying, “Whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this church.”

President Nelson also said the church’s system of leadership is divinely mandated and wise.

“Each day of an apostle’s service is a day of learning and preparing for more service in the future,” he said, adding that “during that time he gains insight into each facet of the church.”

President Oaks was called as an apostle at the same time as President Nelson in 1984, but ordained several weeks afterward because a work assignment outside Utah kept him from attending the general conference where he was called.

He expressed gratitude and love for President Nelson, whom he has sat next to in the quorum for 34 years.

President Eyring mentioned church growth saying, “what will accelerate is the growth of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

At 10 a.m. MST, President Nelson will address the media at a press conference that also will be streamed live by the Deseret News.

Associate in Hillary Clinton Uranium One Russian Bribery Case Indicted

An 11-count indictment has been handed down from a grand jury investigating possible Russian bribery involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Uranium One deal negotiated when she was part of the Obama administration, a report says.

The indictment was levied against Maryland resident Mark Lambert, a former co-president of a nuclear transportation company involved in Hillary Clinton’s deal to sell U.S. uranium interests to a Russian company. A Department of Justice statement says that the 54-year-old Lambert was charged with “one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of violating the FCPA, two counts of wire fraud and one count of international promotion money laundering.”

The statement added:

The charges stem from an alleged scheme to bribe Vadim Mikerin, a Russian official at JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX), a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation and the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide, in order to secure contracts with TENEX.

The charges come on the heels of an eight-year investigation into the sale of Uranium One to the Russian company. The sale was completed in 2013.

Peter Schweizer, Government Accountability Institute president and Breitbart News senior editor-at-large, broke the Uranium One scandal in his book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.

The Uranium One scandal centers on the partial sale of the Canadian firm Uranium One to Russia’s atomic energy giant Rosatom. The Obama administration was required to approve the sale because it transferred 20 percent of U.S. uranium stocks to Russia. As it happens, Hillary Clinton was on the federal board that approved the deal in 2010.

In his Clinton Cash bestseller, Schweizer reported that nine foreign investors in the deal gave $145 million to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s personal charity, the Clinton Foundation. Also around that time, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech in Moscow, raising serious questions about backdoor “pay-to-play” payoffs.

In December, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the DOJ to re-examine the evidence in the Uranium One investigation, fulfilling a promise one of his subordinates made to Congress to take another look at the case.

It is unclear if this re-examination resulted in the indictment, but it is clear that the case had become dormant during the last few years.

Even the New York Post suggested that Sessions should re-open the investigation into the scandal, saying in a November editorial, “If crimes were committed to further Russia’s nuclear goals here, Americans need to know.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

MOBY: CIA Recruited Me to Spread False Narrative of Trump-Russia Collusion

Singer Moby claimed his friends in the CIA asked him to spread the word that President Trump has ties to Russia because he has a larger social media following than the government agency.

Moby, whose birth name is Richard Melville Hall, told Kentucky radio station WFPK in an interview this week that he has friends in the CIA who asked him for his help.

The subject came up after the host, Kyle Meredith, asked the electronic singer about his cryptic Facebook post he wrote in 2017. The post stated that after he spent time with friends who “work in D.C.” he could “accurately post” that the Fusion GPS Dossier was “100% real. He’s being blackmailed by the Russian government.” The post also claimed Trump has colluded “with the Russian government, and has been since day one,” wants to go to war and there are “right-wing plans to get rid of Trump.”

Moby said he wrote the post because his “friends” he claimed are “active and former CIA agents” asked him to “pass on some information.”

“They were like, ‘This is the Manchurian Candidate, like [Putin] has a Russian agent as the President of the United States,’” he told Meredith. “So they passed on some information to me and they said, like, ‘Look, you have more of a social media following than any of us do, can you please post some of these things just in a way that sort of put it out there.’”

Moby concluded by saying he did not know if “there was collusion” but “where there is smoke there is fire.”

Meredith and Moby spoke more about politics before ending the interview asking the singer who he would like to see run for president next.

Moby said his dream candidate would be former first lady Michelle Obama.

Trump and the Kremlin have repeatedly denied allegations that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded in the 2016 presidential election. A special counsel, led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed to investigate the potential wrongdoing.

Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Running for Senate in Arizona

Republican Joe Arpaio, a close ally of President Trump and former sheriff known for his provocative approach to combatting illegal immigration, is running for Senate in Arizona.

The 85-year-old Arpaio could shake up the late August Republican primary in a critical open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Trump pardoned Arpaio last summer, sparing the former sheriff jail time after he was convicted of ignoring a federal court order in a racial-profiling case.

The polarizing yet iconic former Maricopa County sheriff, beloved by many conservatives for his hawkish immigration policies, presents an alternative to the unimpressive Kelli Ward and a potential obstacle to Rep. Martha McSally. She is expected to launch within days and is widely viewed as the Republicans’ strongest general election candidate.

In a telephone interview with the Washington Examiner, Arpaio shrugged off concerns about his age, dismissed Republican insiders’ anxiety that his poor reputation with nonwhite voters would put the seat in play for the Democrats in the midterm, and discussed plans to work with Trump on behalf of Arizona.

“I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump,” Arpaio said. “I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted. But I would not being doing this if I thought that I could not win. I’m not here to get my name in the paper, I get that everyday, anyway.”

Arpaio served as the elected sheriff of Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix and surrounding suburbs, for 24 years until a Democrat ousted him in 2016.

Through strict opposition to illegal immigration and unorthodox policing methods, Arpaio cultivated a national image as a tough, law-and-order cop. That made him a favorite of conservative media and popular on the GOP endorsement circuit as Republicans throughout the country sought to bolster their border security bona fides in primaries.

Arpaio’s sharp rhetoric and law enforcement practices also drew intense criticism. Democrats, some Republicans, and advocates for immigrants — both legal and illegal — accused him of unconstitutional racial profiling and even bigotry. Arpaio said he expects more of the same in his Senate campaign, but vowed not to alter his approach.

“My mother and father came here from Italy, legally of course. I have a soft spot for the Mexican community having lived there,” he said. “I’m not going to get into my personal life, but I will say we have four grandkids and some have a different ethnic and racial background. I don’t say that. I don’t use my grandkids. So, I have a soft spot, but still, I’m going to do my job. You have to do it.”

“Being a U.S. senator is a little different than being the sheriff, because you can do a lot of things in the U.S. Senate, and I have many plans, believe me. It’s tough. It’s a tough decision. But, if you’re going to come across that border, you should be arrested and get the consequences of it,” Arpaio added.

Trump won Arizona in 2016 by just 4.1 percentage points. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was rising in the state until the final 10 days of the presidential campaign, when the FBI revealed that it was taking a fresh look into her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state and halted her momentum.

Trump’s job approval numbers with nonwhites and suburbanites since have been poor. That’s potentially significant in Arizona, where both voting blocs can be influential.

To be sure, Arpaio’s reputation and close affiliation with Trump is virtually guaranteed to rev up a conservative base that had pushed the pragmatic Flake into retirement because of his feud with the president. That could work in his favor in a midterm, elections in which Republican turnout has tended to dominate. But in an election shaping up as challenging for the GOP, Arpaio’s candidacy could make nervous a party defending a 51-49 Senate majority.

Even if Arpaio loses the primary to McSally, he would have had seven months to push her to the right and define GOP messaging on a host of issues — and not just in Arizona. Trump is sure to promote Arpaio’s campaign, and Republican primary candidates all over the country might follow his lead.

Arpaio said he relishes the fight, whether from the Left or from supporters of McSally on the Right.

“I am outspoken. I’m looking forward to it. Let them come. They’ll have their political firing squads and bring tons of money here, because they don’t want to lose,” he said. “I just want to do everything I can to support our president.”

Arpaio said he expects Democrats to make an issue of the pardon. It was granted on Aug. 25, his wife’s 86th birthday. Arpaio noted that fact, and that he shares a birthday with Trump — June 14 — with a sense of satisfaction, as he did the periodic calls from the president to check in on his wife’s health.

The former sheriff said he has not personally discussed his Senate bid with Trump and emphasized that he didn’t ask for the pardon nor did he know that it was coming. But Arpaio did not apologize for it, calling his conviction part of a political witch hunt by former President Barack Obama and his first attorney general, Eric Holder.

Unprompted, Arpaio added that Flake, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., with whom he said he has a “love-hate” relationship, opposed the pardon.

“This started under Obama and Holder 60 days after they took office and it took them all these years to get me on a contempt of court charge, a misdemeanor. You get the same time for barking dogs,” he said.

Arpaio was vague on his policy agenda beyond immigration enforcement. That’s not unusual. Candidates, especially at the beginning of a campaign, tend to try and keep their message focused on a few bullet points and maintain flexibility by not putting down too many markers.

Arpaio’s main offer to Arizonans: He would support Trump unflinchingly, should he win the nomination and defeat the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. That’s not insignificant. Both Flake and McCain have a contentious relationship with the president, and he with them.

To that end, Arpaio suggested he could support some form of legalization of participants in the since discontinued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that protected illegal immigrants brought in as children from deportation. Of course, in typical fashion, Arpaio offered his own view of what should be done.

“I have a far-out plan, which may look stupid,” he said. “When they come to your attention that they’re here illegally, these young people, deport them back to Mexico — or whatever — and then try to put them on a fast track to come back into the United States legally with special permits. What’s wrong with that? They’d say they don’t know where their home country is, so let them go there and spend six months, because it might take that long to do paperwork to get them here legally and let them see their home country and see what it’s really like. They ought to be proud where they came from. I’m proud being an Italian American. I’m proud of Italy. I’m proud my father, mother came over, proud of it. So, you could kill two birds with one stone.”

“That would be no amnesty, everybody would be happy, you deport them and then let them come back with all their education here. I’m sure they could find a temporary job or help the foreign countries and build up relations and come back. That’s just a big picture that I have. People may say I’m crazy. What am I crazy about? It just makes sense.”

CIA Chief Pompeo Defends President, Blasts Anti-Trump ‘Fire & Fury’ Book as ‘Absurd’

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Sunday vehemently defended his boss, President Trump, against allegations made in the new tell-all book “Fire and Fury” about the president’s competency, saying the statements are “absurd, just pure fantasy.”

“I’m with him almost every day,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday.” “We talk about some of the most serious matters facing America and the rest of the world, complex issues. The president is engaged. He understands the complexity, asks really difficult questions from our team at CIA. I’ve watched him do that.”

Pompeo spoke two days after the official release of the book by author Michael Wolff that portrays the president as intellectually and emotionally incompetent to run the country.

Wolff says the book his based on hundreds of interviews, including ones with Trump family members, White House aides and at least “one recent talk with the president.”

“Statements likes the one Mr. Wolff made about how we all think about the president are just ridiculous and frankly beneath the conversation this morning,” Pompeo told show host Chris Wallace. “They are the conversation because you’re making them the conversation.”

On Trump’s comment Saturday that he’s “genius,” Pompeo said, “I’m not going to dignify that question with a response. President Trump is completely capable of leading us.”

Trump on Saturday at Camp David also called the book a “work of fiction” and said that Wolff’s purported White House interviews with him exist only in the author’s “imagination.”

“I went to the best colleges,” he continued. “I … was a great student, made billions of billions of dollars, was one of the top business people, went into television and for 10 years was a tremendous success as you’ve probably heard.

“Ran for president one time and won. And then I hear this guy who doesn’t know me at all, didn’t interview me for three hours, his imagination. ….  I consider [the book] a work of fiction.”

Earlier in the day, Trump hit back at the suggestions and accusations about his intellect and emotional state by tweeting, “my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.”

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence…..” he wrote in one tweet.

Trump continued minutes later: “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star…..”

Trump ended with: “….to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

FBI Launches New Clinton Foundation Investigation

The Justice Department has launched a new inquiry into whether the Clinton Foundation engaged in any pay-to-play politics or other illegal activities while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of State, law enforcement officials and a witness tells The Hill.

FBI agents from Little Rock, Ark., where the foundation was started, have taken the lead in the investigation and have interviewed at least one witness in the last month, and law enforcement officials said additional activities are expected in the coming weeks.

The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the probe is examining whether the Clintons promised or performed any policy favors in return for largesse to their charitable efforts or whether donors made commitments of donations in hopes of securing government outcomes.

The probe may also examine whether any tax-exempt assets were converted for personal or political use and whether the foundation complied with applicable tax laws, the officials said.

One witness recently interviewed by the FBI described the session to The Hill as “extremely professional and unquestionably thorough” and focused on questions about whether donors to Clinton charitable efforts received any favorable treatment from the Obama administration on a policy decision previously highlighted in media reports.

The witness discussed his interview solely on the grounds of anonymity. He said the agents were from Little Rock and their questions focused on government decisions and discussions of donations to Clinton entities during the time Hillary Clinton led President Obama’s State Department.

The FBI office in Little Rock referred a reporter Thursday to Washington headquarters, where officials declined any official comment.

Clinton’s chief spokesman, Nick Merrill, on Friday morning excoriated the FBI for re-opening the case, calling the probe “disgraceful” and suggesting it was nothing more than a political distraction from President Trump‘s Russia controversies.

“Let’s call this what it is: a sham,” Merrill said. “This is a philanthropy that does life-changing work, which Republicans have tried to turn into a political football. It began with a now long-debunked project spearheaded by Steve Bannon during the presidential campaign. It continues with Jeff Sessions doing Trump’s bidding by heeding his calls to meddle with a department that is supposed to function independently.”

Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian took a more muted response, saying the new probe wouldn’t distract the charity from its daily work.
“Time after time, the Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations, and time after time these allegations have been proven false. None of this has made us waver in our mission to help people,” Minassian said. “The Clinton Foundation has demonstrably improved the lives of millions of people across America and around the world while earning top ratings from charity watchdog groups in the process.”

The Wall Street Journal reported late last year that several FBI field offices, including the one in Little Rock, had been collecting information on the Clinton Foundation for more than a year. The report also said there had been pushback to the FBI from the Justice Department.

A renewed law enforcement focus follows a promise to Congress late last year from top Trump Justice Department officials that law enforcement would revisit some of the investigations and legal issues closed during the Obama years that conservatives felt were given short shrift. It also follows months of relentless criticism on Twitter from President Trump, who has repeatedly questioned why no criminal charges were ever filed against the “crooked” Clintons and their fundraising machine.

For years, news media from The New York Times to The Daily Caller have reported countless stories on donations to the Clinton Foundation or speech fees that closely fell around the time of favorable decisions by Clinton’s State Department. Conservative author Peter Schweizer chronicled the most famous of episodes in his book “Clinton Cash” that gave ammunition to conservatives, including Trump, to beat the drum for a renewed investigation.

Several GOP members of Congress have recently urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to look at the myriad issues surrounding the Clintons. Justice officials sent a letter to Congress in November suggesting some of those issues were being re-examined, but Sessions later testified the appointment of a special prosecutor required a high legal bar that had not yet been met.

 

 

Officials also said the Justice Department was re-examining whether there are any unresolved issues from the closed case into Clinton’s transmission of classified information through her personal email server. Former FBI Director James Comey in 2016 concluded Clinton was “extremely careless” in handling that classified information and that there was some evidence of legal violations, but he declined to recommend charges on the grounds that he could not prove Clinton and her top aides intended to break the law.

His decision was roundly criticized by Republicans, and recent revelations that his statement was watered down by edits and that he made the decision before all witness interviews were finished have led to renewed criticism.

A senior law enforcement official said the Justice Department was exploring whether any issues from that probe should be re-opened but cautioned the effort was not at the stage of a full investigation.

One challenge for any Clinton-era investigation is that the statute of limitations on most federal felonies is five years, and Clinton left office in early 2013.

President Thomas S. Monson, 16th prophet of the LDS Church, dies

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Clinton Backer Paid Women $500G to Accuse Trump of Sexual Misconduct

One of Hillary Clinton’s wealthy pals paid $500,000 in an unsuccessful effort to fund women willing to accuse President Trump of sexual misconduct before the 2016 election, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Susie Tompkins Buell, the founder of Esprit Clothing and a major Clinton campaign donor for many years, gave the money to celebrity lawyer Lisa Bloom who was working with a number of Trump accusers at the time, according to the paper’s bombshell report.

Bloom solicited donors by saying she was working with women who might “find the courage to speak out” against Trump if the donors would provide funds for security, relocation and possibly a “safe house,” the paper reported.

Former Clinton nemesis turned Clinton operative David Brock also donated $200,000 to the effort through a nonprofit group he founded, the paper reported in an article entitled, “Partisans, Wielding Money, Begin Seeking to Exploit Harassment Claims.”

Bloom told the Times that the effort was unproductive. One woman requested $2 million then decided not to come forward. Nor did any other women.

Bloom said she refunded most of the cash, keeping only some funds for out-of-pocket expenses accrued while working to vet and prepare cases.

The lawyer told the paper she did not communicate with Clinton or her campaign “on any of this.”

She also maintained that she represented only clients whose stories she had corroborated and disputed the premise that she offered money to coax clients to come forward, the paper reported.

“It doesn’t cost anything to publicly air allegations,” Bloom said. “Security and relocation are expensive and were sorely needed in a case of this magnitude, in a country filled with so much anger, hate and violence.”

The Times article said it learned of Buell and Brock’s connection to Bloom from two Democrats familiar with the financial arrangements who also said Bloom’s law firm kept the money from Brock’s nonprofit group but refunded the $500,000 that Buell contributed.

Brock declined comment, according to the paper.

Clinton campaign representatives said they were unaware of his work with Bloom.

Buell would not comment on the financial arrangement, according to the Times.

Still, she claimed she was frustrated that Trump had escaped the repercussions that have befallen many other powerful men accused of similar misconduct.

The Times article expanded on a report in The Hill two weeks ago that said that worked with campaign donors and tabloid media outlets during the final months of the presidential election to arrange compensation for the alleged Trump victims and a commission for herself, offering to sell their stories.

In one case Bloom reportedly arranged for a donor to pay off one Trump accuser’s mortgage and attempted to score a six-figure payout for another woman.

The woman with the mortgage ultimately declined to come forward after being offered $750,000, The Hill reported.

The paper reported reviewing one email exchange between one woman and Bloom that suggested political action committees supporting Hillary Clinton were solicited, without naming which ones.

Bloom, who is the daughter of famous attorney Gloria Allred and, like her mother, specializes in representing women in sexual harassment cases, worked for four women who were considering accusing Trump. Two went public, and two declined.

FoxNews.com

Pres. Trump: ‘People are Proud to be Saying Merry Christmas Again’

When he ran for the White House in 2016, Donald Trump promised to make America great again.

Late Sunday night, on what appeared to be a busy Christmas Eve at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, the president took a bow for what he views as his successful role in making Christmas merry again.

“People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again,” the president tweeted shortly before 10 p.m. EST. “I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!”

Sunday’s tweet seemed as if the president were claiming “mission accomplished” following some comments he made in October at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in Washington.

“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct,” the president said to cheers. “You go to department stores and they’ll say ‘Happy New Year,’ or they’ll say other things and it’ll be red, they’ll have it painted.”

“Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

Earlier Sunday, the president and first lady Melania Trump released an official photo, showing them making calls to children across the U.S. as part of the traditional NORAD tracking of Santa’s annual trip around the globe.

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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump make Christmas calls to children from their home at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 24, 2017.  (White House photo)

The president and first lady each spoke to 11 children in all. The kids ranged in age from 5 to 12.

Trump also communicated to U.S. troops who were spending the holiday overseas.

“Today and every day, we’re incredibly thankful for you and for your families,” Trump told the troops via a video hook-up at Mar-a-Lago. “Your families have been tremendous. Always underappreciated, the military families. The greatest people on Earth.”

The president was addressing members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard stationed in Qatar, Kuwait and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and patrolling the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.

The president complimented each branch of the armed forces, starting with the Army’s “Iron Brigade” combat team in Kuwait, which he said is performing a “vital mission” by partnering with the Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi Arabian and Jordanian armies.

He said a Kuwait-based, Marine Corps air-ground task force has provided more than 4,000 flight hours of close air support in the campaign against the Islamic State group, and he thanked sailors aboard the USS Sampson for defending “high-value assets” in the Strait of Hormuz.

President Donald Trump points to the video screen during a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the mIlitary at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Donald Trump communicates with U.S. troops via a video hook-up at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 24, 2017.  (Associated Press)

Trump also singled out the Air Force’s 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron in Qatar for engaging more than 700 IS and Taliban targets in five separate countries and winning two trophies in an Air Force bomb competition.

He showered the most praise on the Coast Guard, which impressed him with its rescue operations during a devastating hurricane season.

“You’ve done such an incredible job in Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico,” Trump said. “Many Republicans are very happy but, I have to tell you, the people of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and lots of other states are even more happy. What a job you’ve done … saved thousands and thousands of lives.”

In closing, Trump offered thanks to those who are spending time away from their families to “defend all of our families, our freedoms and our pride.”

“Every American heart is thankful to you and we’re asking God to watch over you and to watch over your families,” he said, before he asked journalists to leave the room so he could begin answering any service member questions.

“Every American heart is thankful to you and we’re asking God to watch over you and to watch over your families.”

– President Donald Trump, in a Christmas Eve call to U.S. troops stationed overseas

Trump began the day by tweeting against a top FBI official he has suggested is biased against him, as well as the news media. The president also spent several hours playing golf at his private club in West Palm Beach.

Later, Trump ate Christmas Eve dinner with his family before attending worship services with the first lady at the Episcopal church in Palm Beach where they were married in 2005.

Fox News’ Joseph Weber and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Congress Approves Final Tax Reform Bill, Handing Trump Year-end Victory

The House gave the final stamp of approval Wednesday to a sweeping tax reform package, handing President Trump his first major legislative victory and most Americans a tax cut starting next year.

With a 224-201 House vote, Congress sent the $1.5 trillion package to Trump’s desk. The biggest rewrite of the federal tax code since the Reagan administration will usher in steep rate cuts for American companies, double the deduction millions of families claim on their annual returns and make a host of other changes taking effect in a matter of weeks.

“This bill means more take-home pay. It will be an incredible Christmas gift for hard-working Americans,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting moments before the vote.

While the bill already earned House approval earlier Tuesday, the Senate had to ship it back for a final vote after stripping out three provisions that violated chamber rules, in a last-minute glitch. Twelve Republicans once again defected Wednesday to vote with Democrats in opposition.

President Trump sits at the White House with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to talk taxes last month. The tax bill passed both the House and the Senate on Tuesday.  (AP)

Though Democrats uniformly opposed the package, the White House and GOP leaders were triumphant, vowing that the bill’s popularity would improve once taxpayers see the effect. 

“It’s going to give us better jobs, higher wages, bigger paychecks and a simplified system,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends.”

The Tax Policy Center estimates that 80 percent of taxpayers will see a tax cut next year.

Democrats sustained their vocal opposition to the bill – they’ve dubbed it a “scam” benefiting the wealthy – into the final moments. Protesters interrupted votes in both chambers. During the Senate vote overnight, they chanted “kill the bill, don’t kill us,” as Vice President Pence repeatedly called for order.

Vice President Mike Pence gives thumbs up after attending the republican caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vice President Pence on Capitol Hill ahead of the Senate vote on tax reform.  (AP)

Pence did not have to serve as a tie-breaker, with the bill passing the Senate on a 51-48 vote; only Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is recovering from brain cancer treatment, was not present for the vote.

The passage of the bill, just before the end of the year and the looming congressional recess, gives Trump a long-sought Capitol Hill victory, after repeated attempts to overhaul ObamaCare failed in the face of internal Republican divisions and unified Democratic opposition. The tax bill does include one major rollback of the Affordable Care Act, repealing the individual mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance.

The changes to the tax system are more sweeping.

The final bill – a combination of previously passed House and Senate legislation – would slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. It would double the standard deduction used by about two-thirds of U.S. households, to $24,000 for married couples. And the $1,000-per-child tax credit would double to $2,000, with up to $1,400 available in IRS refunds for families who owe little or no taxes.

The corporate tax cut would be permanent, while the tax cuts for individuals would expire in 2026.

The Trump administration presumes that doubling the standard deduction would lead to even more families claiming it.

But those who itemize would lose some deductions.

The bill would set a new $10,000 cap on the deduction that millions use in connection with state and local income, property and sales taxes. The cap remains in the final bill. It also would limit the mortgage interest deduction to loans up to $750,000, down from $1 million.

And it imposes a low one-time tax on companies’ overseas earnings, nudging them to return money they’ve stashed abroad.

At the same time, the bill would lower the top rate for individual and married filers from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. Further, it would set a deduction for “pass-through” business income at 20 percent. And it would curb the so-called estate tax.

These provisions and others fueled Democratic complaints that the legislation was skewed to favor corporations and the wealthy – while expanding the deficit.

On the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., mocked Republicans who say passage of the bill would be a Christmas gift to the American people.

“I have never seen such intellectual dishonesty,” Sewell said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s more like the Grinch that stole Christmas.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke in front of a giant sign that read, “#GOPTAXSCAM.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, speaks during a news conference in opposition to the Republican tax bill, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans muscled the most sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax laws in more than three decades through the House. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

 (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The bill would bring average initial tax cuts for Americans across all income lines, but by 2027, it would boost average levies for everyone earning up to $75,000, which includes most taxpayers, Congress’ nonpartisan tax analysts estimated Monday.

A separate study by the Tax Policy Center, a private nonpartisan group, found that individual taxes would be reduced on average next year by $1,600. That ranged, on average, from $60 for people earning below $25,000 to $7,640 for those making above $149,000. Those in the top 1 percent, earning over $733,000, would see average tax cuts of $51,140.

Fox News’ Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Congress Votes Yea on ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’: What it Means for You

The House approved the final version of the new tax reform legislation on Tuesday, meaning the bill will now head to the Senate for a late-night vote.

The bill passed on a 227-203 vote. No Democrats voted for the new legislation.

If all goes as planned, President Trump is expected to sign the bill, formally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, before Christmas.

In the meantime, here are the key takeaways of the tax bill.

Do corporations get a big tax cut?

Yes. The new bill lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.

How does it impact my personal income tax?

The bill keeps the seven tax brackets while reducing the rates for five of them. The new rates start at 10 percent and rise to 12, 22, 24, 32, 35 and 37 percent.

The highest rate — 37 percent — applies to individuals whose income exceeds $500,000. For joint filers, the threshold is $600,000. This rate is being lowered from 39.6 percent.

Will I still be penalized if I don’t have health insurance?

No. Starting in 2019, the new legislation eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

What about the alternative minimum tax rate (AMT) ?

The alternative minimum tax rate is essentially a secondary tax on the wealthy; put in place to offset the benefits a person with a high income could receive. The new bill eliminated the AMT for corporations, but keeps it for individuals. It raises the exemption to $500,000 for single taxpayers and $1 million for couples.

How does the new bill affect the child tax credit?

Under the new bill, taxpayers can claim $2,000 credit for each qualifying child under the age of 17. The tax credit applies to single filers and married couples, and is fully refundable up to $1,400.

And what about estate taxes?

The new bill keeps the estate tax at 40 percent but doubles the exemption levels — which are currently at $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for married couples.

What about my state and local tax deductions, or SALT?

Under the finalized bill, families can deduct up to a total of $10,000 in local property and state and local income taxes.

What if I want to buy a new home?

For new homebuyers, the mortgage-interest rate deduction will be available for mortgages up to $750,000. That’s down from $1 million.

How are pass-through provisions affected?

Pass-through businesses are typically sole proprietorships, joint ventures, limited liability companies and S corporations. They are not taxed as corporations. Instead, the profits from these business are counted in the owners’ personal tax returns.

The finalized bill gives businesses a 20 percent deduction for the first $315,000 of joint income.

What if I have student loans? And what about medical expense deductions?

The new tax bill keeps the current deductions for student loan interest. Additionally, the tuition waivers that are received by graduate students will remain tax free.

If you have expensive medical bills, this portion of the bill could be beneficial to you. The legislation allows taxpayers to deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent their adjusted gross income.

Fox News’ Madeline Farber, Sam Chamberlain and Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

FBI’s McCabe Texts on ‘Insurance’ Against Trump

Top Republicans are turning their focus to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as they scrutinize a host of anti-Trump texts exchanged between two bureau officials, raising questions about one in particular that seemed to reference an “insurance policy” against a Trump presidency.

That text was revealed on Tuesday night when the Justice Department released hundreds of messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were romantically involved and at one point worked on Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office – that there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok texted on Aug. 15, 2016. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

Some lawmakers surmise “Andy” is a reference to Andrew McCabe, and now want to know about his communications with Page and Strzok.

“This [text] is the one that concerns me the most,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday, one day after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended the Mueller probe in testimony before Goodlatte’s committee.

“Andy is presumably Andrew McCabe … and this text is very troubling because it suggests that they’re doing something, they have a plan to take action to make sure that Donald Trump does not get elected president of the United States at the highest levels of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Strzok, who was a counterintelligence agent at the FBI, was removed from Mueller’s team after the discovery of the texts and re-assigned to the FBI’s human resources division. Page also was briefly on Mueller’s team, but returned to the FBI over the summer.

When asked about the “insurance policy” text message and whether it referred to McCabe, a Justice Department spokesperson told Fox News they could not comment on the nature of the messages — but that Strzok has been cleared to be interviewed by Congress.  

The FBI also told Fox News they had no comment on whether that text message referred to McCabe or someone else.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also raised concerns about that message, penning a letter Thursday to Rosenstein — who oversees the special counsel probe since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself earlier this year.

“Some of these texts appear to go beyond merely expressing a private political opinion, and appear to cross the line into taking some official action to create an ‘insurance policy’ against a Trump presidency,” Grassley wrote Thursday. “Presumably, ‘Andy’ refers to Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. So whatever was being discussed extended beyond just Page and Strzok at least to Mr. McCabe, who was involved in supervising both investigations.”

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe announces the results of the national health care fraud takedown during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RC187D475C60

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe announces the results of the national health care fraud takedown during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2017.  (Reuters)

Grassley requested the Justice Department turn over records by Dec. 27 relating to “the conversation” that allegedly occurred with Strzok and Page in McCabe’s office, and all records relating to McCabe’s communications with Strzok and Page between Aug. 7 and Aug.  23, 2016.

“Any improper political influence or motives in the course of any FBI investigation must be brought to light and fully addressed,” Grassley wrote. “Former Director [James] Comey’s claims that the FBI ‘doesn’t give a rip about politics’ certainly are not consistent with the evidence of discussions occurring in the Deputy Director’s office around August 15, 2016.”

That text was just one of 10,000 messages the Justice Department was reviewing between Strzok and Page — and hundreds turned over to Congress that contained anti-Trump and other politically charged comments.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that the “politically-oriented” messages between the two were found in his office’s initial search, which led to the watchdog requesting all their messages through the end of last November. The messages were produced by the FBI on July 20 of this year. Muller and Rosenstein were informed about them a week later, on July 27.

Some of the other anti-Trump text messages called then-candidate Trump a “menace” and a “loathsome human.”

Lawmakers peppered Rosenstein with questions on Capitol Hill Wednesday over the appearance of an “insider bias” on Mueller’s team, zeroing in on the text messages between Strzok and Page.

But Rosenstein stood by Mueller, whom he appointed, and stressed that he has discussed the appearance of “bias” with Mueller.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions,” Rosenstein said. “I believe Director Mueller understands that, and recognizes people have political views but that they don’t let it [affect their work].”

Rosenstein underscored that he had oversight over the special counsel probe.

“I know what he’s doing,” Rosenstein said of Mueller’s investigative actions, noting that he would take action should the special counsel do something “inappropriate.”  “He consults with me about their investigation, within and without the scope.”

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report. 

Student Debt Is a Symptom of Our Broken Education System

We are facing an education crisis in this country.

While the value of continued education after high school is undeniable, our nation’s singular focus remains on the necessity of traditional four-year degrees, which come at a soaring cost to students and their families.

For many students, a classic bachelor’s degree earned at a brick-and-ivy university is a worthwhile investment that provides the necessary knowledge to succeed in their given field post-graduation. But that is certainly not the case for all students.

Estimates suggest that a quarter to nearly half of college graduates are underemployed, and often work in jobs that do not require a college degree. And college tuition does not come cheap—the amount of student loan debt held by the American people is now higher than credit card debt.

There has to be a better way to give our students the opportunities they deserve while helping drive down the astronomical educational costs that are burdening working-class families.

I recently introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act, a bill that would foster innovative solutions to the process of higher education accreditation and would essentially put choice and affordability back into the hands of students.

Our country’s burgeoning student loan debt has been driven, in part, by the accrediting agencies that accredit higher education bodies and decide who is worthy of government funding by way of student loans.

The regional accreditation bodies, the universities, and the Department of Education essentially act as a cartel that controls who can enter the system. This impedes the innovation that is needed to tackle high costs, lack of school choice, and the decline of value in four-year degrees.

The HERO Act aims to break up that cartel, opening up higher education to more Americans by empowering individual states to develop their own systems of accrediting educational programs. All accredited programs would then be eligible to receive federal student loan money.

The HERO Act would enable our post-secondary education system to become as diverse and nimble as the industries that are looking to hire.

States would be able to accredit nontraditional education options, such as single courses or vocational programs, to meet the particular needs of their local economy. Students would be able to put federal loan money toward single learning courses, online opportunities, and apprenticeships in skilled trades.

Freeing up states to decide how they wish to accredit education options would spark a new era of competition. Trade schools and nontraditional organizations could directly compete for funding, making their appeals to students who have a variety of interests and seek a return on their investment.

Florida could decide to accredit specialized mechanics apprenticeship programs to cater to our robust flight industry, while California might empower Silicon Valley companies to teach coding programs to students who do not necessarily need a four-year degree.

Not only would the HERO Act allow states to fulfill the educational needs they have identified, but it would give students far greater flexibility to tailor their education to their needs. With the fast pace of innovation and an ever-changing economy, workers can often find themselves in need of educational programming mid-career.

Under the reforms proposed by the HERO Act, students could take shorter courses catered to their specific educational needs rather than leave the workforce completely to go back to school.

It is important to note that this bill would not alter current federal accreditation systems. Federal agencies would, however, have to recognize that individual states are on equal footing to know where the current system is failing, and to accredit programs that will fill this void.

Greater competition would force colleges and universities to reassess their federally subsidized pricing practices and help break the cycle of government subsidies that contributes to rising tuition rates. Some students may no longer choose time-consuming and costly four-year degrees if another educational opportunity at a lower cost could impart the necessary knowledge and skills.

Additionally, the HERO Act would require institutions to publish information regarding student success, to prove that they are fiscally accountable, and to ensure schools are held accountable for student loan defaults.

The HERO Act would expand higher education opportunities to millions of Americans who are underserved by our current system. We cannot allow the iron triangle that currently controls accreditation to stifle innovation and shut out potential students from accessing higher education in a manner that works for them.

Simply put, receiving a four-year degree is not the only means of achieving career success, and our federal education policy should reflect that truth.

Roy Moore Accuser Admits She Forged Part of Yearbook

One of the women who accused Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of making advances on her when she was a teen and he a local prosecutor admitted Friday to forging part of the yearbook inscription she offered as proof.

Beverly Young Nelson the latest accuser of Alabama Republican Roy Moore, shows her high school yearbook signed by Moore, at a news conference, in New York, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Nelson says Moore assaulted her when she was 16 and he offered her a ride home from a restaurant where she worked. Anticipating Nelson's allegations at the news conference, Moore's campaign ridiculed her attorney, Gloria Allred, beforehand as "a sensationalist leading a witch hunt." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Beverly Young Nelson now says part of the inscription near Roy Moore’s signature was not written by Moore.  (AP)

Beverly Young Nelson told ABC News she wrote part of the disputed note in her high school yearbook that she and famed attorney Gloria Allred presented as proof the then-30-something Moore sought an inappropriate relationship with her in the late 1970s. Nelson still insisted that Moore wrote most of the message and signed the inscription, but said she made “notes” to it.

“He did sign it,” Nelson told ABC’s Tom Llamas.

Beverly Young Nelson, the latest accuser of Alabama Republican Roy Moore, reads her statement at a news conference, in New York, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Nelson says Moore assaulted her when she was 16 and he offered her a ride home from a restaurant where she worked. Moore says the latest allegations against him are a "witch hunt." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

 (Beverly Young Nelson has accused Republican Roy Moore of making advances on her when she was a teen.)

Moore has denied signing the yearbook and said he did not know Nelson at the time. Moore, who went on to become a judge and then the chief justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court, later ruled against Nelson in a 1999 divorce case.

Moore, 70, is running against Doug Jones in a bruising special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who President Trump named Attorney General, and then held on an interim basis by Luther Strange. The election is Tuesday.

The Nelson accusation had bolstered claims by other women that Moore sought relationships with teenage girls in the late 1970s. Leigh Corfman claims Moore molested her when she was 14. Another woman claims Moore groped her in his office in 1991.

FoxNews.com

Top DOJ Official Demoted Amid Probe of Contacts with Trump Dossier Firm

A senior Justice Department official was demoted this week amid an ongoing investigation into his contacts with the opposition research firm responsible for the anti-Trump “dossier,” the department confirmed to Fox News.

Until Wednesday morning, Bruce G. Ohr held two titles at DOJ: associate deputy attorney general, a post that placed him four doors down from his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; and director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), a program described by the department as “the centerpiece of the attorney general’s drug strategy.”

Ohr will retain his OCDETF title but has been stripped of his higher post and ousted from his office on the fourth floor of “Main Justice.”

Initially senior department officials could not provide the reason for Ohr’s demotion, but Fox News has learned that evidence collected by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., indicates that Ohr met during the 2016 campaign with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the “dossier.”

Later, a Justice Department official told Fox News, “It is unusual for anyone to wear two hats as he has done recently. This person is going to go back to a single focus—director of our organized crime and drug enforcement unit. As you know, combatting transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking is a top priority for the Attorney General.”

Additionally, House investigators have determined that Ohr met shortly after the election with Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS – the opposition research firm that hired Steele to compile the dossier with funds supplied by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. By that point, according to published reports, the dossier had been in the hands of the FBI, which exists under the aegis of DOJ, for some five months, and the surveillance on Page had been commenced more than two months prior.

Glenn Simpson

Glenn Simpson met with a top DOJ official after the election, Fox News has learned.

Former FBI Director James Comey, testifying before the House in March, described the dossier as a compendium of “salacious and unverified” allegations against then-candidate Donald Trump and his associates. The Nunes panel has spent much of this year investigating whether DOJ, under then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, used the dossier to justify a foreign surveillance warrant against Carter Page, an advisor to the Trump campaign.

The contacts between Ohr and Steele, and between Ohr and Simpson, have not been publicly disclosed nor shared with HPSCI staff.

The panel has issued numerous subpoenas for documents and witnesses related to the dossier but claims DOJ and FBI have “stonewalled,” an assertion that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., seconded in a rare public statement in October.

While the agencies say they have cooperated extensively with Nunes and his team, including the provision of several hundred pages of classified documents relating to the dossier, it was only last weekend that DOJ and FBI agreed to make available to the committee for questioning Peter Strzok, the high-ranking FBI official who was disciplined in July for having sent-anti-Trump texts to a colleague while playing a decisive role in last year’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s private server.

Strzok was removed from the staff of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and demoted to a position on the FBI’s human resources division. The agencies’ decision to make Strzok available to House investigators came on the same day the New York Times and Washington Post disclosed the existence of the anti-Trump text messages, and Fox News disclosed that Strzok’s conduct in the Clinton case was under review by the FBI’s Office of Inspector General.

The demotion of Ohr thus marked the second time within a matter of months that the Justice Department and the FBI have disciplined for misconduct a senior official connected in some form or fashion to the Trump-Russia case.

According to congressional sources, Simpson and Ohr met sometime around Thanksgiving last year, when President-elect Trump was in the process of selecting his Cabinet, and discussed over coffee the anti-Trump dossier, the Russia investigation, and what Simpson considered the distressing development of Trump’s victory.

How exactly Simpson and Ohr came to know each other is still being investigated but initial evidence collected by the House intelligence committee suggests that the two were placed in touch by Steele, a former FBI informant whose contacts with Ohr are said by senior DOJ officials to date back to 2006.

Nunes, who has instructed HPSCI staff to draft contempt-of-Congress citations against Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray – preparatory to a House vote on whether the citations should be enforced – issued a fresh subpoena on Thursday specifically covering Ohr and his files.

James Rosen joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 1999 and is the network’s chief Washington correspondent.

Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.

Democrat Al Franken Announces Resignation from Senate Amid Groping Allegations

Franken resigns from Senate amid new claims of sexual misconduct, backlash from Dems

Calling it “the worst day of his political life,” Sen. Al Franken said Thursday he will resign from the U.S. Senate following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Minnesota Public Radio reported late Wednesday he would resign, though Franken’s office pushed back saying it wasn’t a done deal yet.

It will be up to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to appoint a successor.

Multiple sources reported that the likely candidate could be Democratic Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a close ally of Franken. Any successor, if he steps down, would serve until a special election is held in 2018 to determine who would fill the final two years of Franken’s term.

On Wednesday, Franken faced a tidal wave of resignation calls by members of his own party.

By mid-afternoon, 23 of them wanted him gone.

“Enough is enough,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand’s sentiment was echoed by Sens. Kamila Harris of California, Marie Hirono of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

“Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down,” Harris, D-Calif., said.

Hassan, D-N.H., tweeted, “It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women. He should resign.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, weighed in.

“It now appears Senator Franken has lost the support of his colleagues, and most importantly, his constituents,” McConnell said.

“I do not believe he can effectively serve the people of Minnesota in the U.S. Senate any longer,” he added.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the largest newspaper in Franken’s home state, called for his immediate resignation late Wednesday. They questioned his ability to “function effectively” after “losing the confidence of so many colleagues.

“If this is to be an actual turning point in our culture, there must be real and lasting consequences to behaviors that never should have been accepted,” the editorial board wrote. “That these incidents came so late in Franken’s life should make him all the more accountable. Instead, he has mostly offered hollow apologies that failed to acknowledge what happened.”

Franken’s political career has been in peril since California radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden posted a blog detailing how he kissed and groped her without her consent in 2006. She also tweeted a picture showing a grinning Franken standing over her as she sleeps, his hands over her breasts.

Franken has since apologized, but other allegations from seven additional women have surfaced since Tweeden’s claims.

The latest was a woman who claimed she was groped at a Media Matters party during the first Obama inauguration.

Before that, another woman accused Franken of forcibly trying to kiss her – this time after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

The woman, who spoke to Politico, claims Franken pursued her after her boss had left and she was collecting her things. The woman was in her 20s at the time.

The accuser, who was not identified, said Franken tried to kiss her but that she ducked.

Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” performer who was a host on the now-defunct “Air America” radio network at the time, allegedly followed up by telling her it was his “right as an entertainer.”

“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me,” she told Politico. “It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked.”

Franken has strongly denied those allegations.

The calls for Franken to step down came one day after Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., retired following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

In Alabama, several women have accused Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when they were in their teens, including one who said she was 14 when Moore molested her.

Moore denies the allegations.

President Trump – who had multiple allegations of sexual harassment against himself when running for president – has endorsed Moore.

The Republican National Committee is also supporting him.

By Barnini Chakraborty | Fox News

Trump to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Will Move US Embassy

President Trump on Wednesday will order the State Department to begin moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, senior administration officials said, a move that fulfills a campaign promise made to religious conservatives but one that could inflame tensions across the Middle East.

In his announcement, Trump will say that the U.S. government recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. One official described it as an “honest” acknowledgement of a “seven-decade old fact.”

“While President Trump recognizes that the status of Jerusalem is a highly sensitive issue, he does not think it will be resolved by ignoring the simple truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, its Supreme Court, the prime minister and is such the capital of Israel,” one official said.

The U.S. would be the first country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. Other countries who have diplomatic relations with Israel keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.

But the embassy move would not be immediate and could take at least three or four years.

The U.S. officials said there are currently about 1,000 personnel in the embassy in Tel Aviv. They added that there is no facility in Jerusalem ready to serve as the embassy site, and it will take time to address security, design and cost concerns.

“It will take some time to find a site, address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility — working with Congress, obviously — and build it,” one official said. “So this is not an instantaneous process.”

Ahead of the announcement, Trump spoke Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has said he supports the U.S. moving its embassy. But Abbas has warned of the “gravity of consequences” should the move become official for “the peace process and security and stability in the region and world.”

An international affairs adviser for Abbas said that the move “totally destroys any chance that he can play a role as an honest broker” in Middle East peace negotiations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that moving the capital was a “red line” for Muslims, and such an action could result in Turkey severing diplomatic ties with Israel.

The controversy surrounding the move of the embassy dates back decades. A law passed in 1995 under the Clinton administration considers Jerusalem the capital, and even mandates the move of the embassy there.

But the law allows for a loophole used by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – an option to issue waivers every six months to delay the move from Tel Aviv.

Trump also took advantage of the loophole, which Republicans have long called to be closed. Trump’s first waiver was signed in June, which drew praise from the Palestinians and some disappointment from Israel.

The administration officials said Tuesday that Trump will still sign a waiver to keep from jeopardizing State Department funding while the relocation process begins.

In January, Republican Sens. Dean Heller, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz introduced legislation that would move the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital, after the Obama administration abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Kelly Chernenkoff contributed to this report, along with The Associated Press.

President Trump Visits LDS Welfare Square

“We’re really proud of you. What you do is like nobody else.” Those were the words of U.S. President Donald J. Trump in his first visit to Salt Lake City since becoming president nearly a year ago. President Trump met with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Welfare Square Monday, December 4, 2017.

He was greeted by President Henry B. Eyring of the Church’s First Presidency; President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric; and Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president.

Church leaders took the president on a late-morning tour of the bishops’ storehouse and Deseret Bakery, where he learned about the Church’s welfare facilities and self-reliance programs, which are dedicated to serving the needy of many faiths around the world.

“We’re here in a place where we have food and materials that we give to the poor,” explained President Eyring. “This is simply an example of what we do across the world, the idea being that we think we have an obligation to God to look out for the people who, without our aid, have tragedy in their lives, be it poverty or hunger.”

While stopping at the bakery, the president invited volunteers to come out and take pictures and shake his hand.

In referring to the Church, President Trump said, “This is very exciting for me. The job you’ve done is beyond anything you could think of — taking care of people the way you take care of people and the respect that you have all over the world.”

Resources at Welfare Square come from member donations. Most of the people who process the goods are volunteers. The Church also owns farms, ranches, orchards and lands that supply the raw materials. Volunteers also assist in harvesting the crops.

In recent months, 50 semi-trailers of food from Welfare Square and other Church facilities were sent to Houston to assist in hurricane relief efforts, including 2 million pounds of commodities and non-food items. Church members throughout Texas and surrounding states also volunteered more than a million hours of labor in ongoing cleanup and recovery efforts.

Others included in the Salt Lake City visit were U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah and staff from the White House.

President Eyring and President Nelson expressed their appreciation to the president for the efforts by his administration to protect religious freedom. President Eyring gave the president a Christus statue before he departed for the Utah State Capitol.

In a long-standing tradition, many United States presidents have visited with Church leaders in Utah, beginning in 1875 when Ulysses S. Grant met with Church President Brigham Young and other Latter-day Saint leaders. U.S. presidents who have visited Church leaders in Utah in the past 70 years include presidents Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Supreme Court Permits Full Enforcement of Trump Travel Ban 7-2

Handing the White House a huge judicial victory, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of President Trump’s travel ban affecting residents of six majority-Muslim countries.

The justices said the policy can take full effect despite multiple legal challenges against it that haven’t yet made their way through the legal system.

The ban applies to people from Syria, Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Lower courts had said people from those countries with a “bona fide” relationship with someone in the United States could not be prevented from entry.

Grandparents and cousins were among the relatives courts said could not be excluded.

The nine-member high court said in two one-page orders late Monday afternoon that lower court rulings that partly blocked the ban should be put on hold while appeals courts in Richmond, Va., and San Francisco take up the case.

Liberal-leaning Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have left the lower court orders in place.

The justices offered no explanation for their order, but the administration had said that blocking the full ban was causing “irreparable harm” because the policy is based on legitimate national security and foreign policy concerns.

Both courts are scheduled to hear arguments in those cases this week.

Both courts are also dealing with the issue on an accelerated basis, and the Supreme Court noted it expects those courts to reach decisions “with appropriate dispatch.”

Quick resolution by appellate courts would allow the Supreme Court to hear and decide the issue this term, by the end of June.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley called the ban “lawful and essential to protecting our homeland.”

Gidley added in a written statement, “We look forward to presenting a fuller defense of the proclamation as the pending cases work their way through the courts.”

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to allow us to fulfill this most vital mission performed by any sovereign nation.  DHS will continue to fully implement the President’s robust and Constitutional counterterrorism agenda in accordance with the law,” the Department of Homeland Security’s acting press secretary, Tyler Q. Houlton, said.

Trump’s travel ban has been challenged in separate lawsuits by Hawaii and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both have argued the ban discriminates against Muslims and should not go into effect under immigration laws.

“President Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret — he has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims. We continue to stand for freedom, equality, and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones. We will be arguing Friday in the Fourth Circuit that the ban should ultimately be struck down.”

Trump issued his first travel ban within days of being sworn in as president. That version tightened the country’s refugee and visa policies and suspended almost all refugee admissions for four months.

Trump issued a revised version in March after the first was blocked by federal courts. The second one expired in September after a lengthy court fight and was replaced with the current version.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson, Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.