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They’ve both defended authoritarian regimes

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling out his primary campaign rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the latter’s comments praising the authoritarian Fidel Castro regime in Cuba, but he might want to rethink that tactic given what he’s previously said about the authoritarian Communist regime in China.

During a Sunday night interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Sanders was confronted with some of his past comments supporting the repressive regime in Havana. When asked about them by show contributor Anderson Cooper, the senator said that he still does support aspects of the Castro government’s rule.

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” Sanders said to Cooper before offering his defense of the regime. “But it’s unfair to say that everything is bad.”

Sanders then went on to say that “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing even though Fidel Castro did it?”

Cue Mike Bloomberg’s retort. The New York billionaire was one of many people who took issue with Sanders’ partial defense of the communist government, putting out his criticism in the form of a Monday afternoon tweet.

“Fidel Castro left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people,” the former mayor wrote. “But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program.”

While Bloomberg’s criticism may have been apt, indeed, for the matter at hand, the former mayor doesn’t come from too strong of a position to lecture others on not defending repressive regimes.

Lest we forget, just a few months ago Bloomberg went as far as to say that Chinese leader Xi Jinping was not a dictator and that the regime in Beijing has to listen to its constituents and claimed an effort to boost air quality by moving coal-fired plants away from cities as an example.

“The Communist Party wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public,” Bloomberg said in a September interview with PBS. “When the public says ‘I can’t breathe the air’ — Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”

“He’s not a dictator?” PBS’ Margaret Hoover asked.

“No,” the former New York City mayor responded, “he has a constituency to answer to.”

But if Xi Jinping isn’t a dictator, as Bloomberg has posited, his government certainly does a lot of dictatorial things.

The statement came after the literally months of reports about violent crackdowns against Hong Kong protesters by Beijing. It also was made a few months too long after stories of concentration camps holding over one million Uighur Muslims, as well as the numerous reports about Beijing’s high-tech surveillance operation against the religious minority.

In addition there’s the 2018 report that served to bolster the long-standing charges that the Chinese government sanctions live organ harvesting of members of the Falun Gong religious group, as well as the 2019 tribunal that concluded that the regime was harvesting organs from prison camp detainees, some of whom were still alive.

When it comes to religious and political repression, the Chinese government also routinely jails dissidents and led the world in political prisoners in 2018. Freedom House notes that “in its attitude toward political dissent, the Chinese Communist Party has proven much harsher than the old Soviet regime of the Brezhnev era.”

In additionally, the regime has been engaged in a yearslong crackdown against Christian churches, which has even included the government trying to rewrite scripture. A report from January 2019 found that repression of Christianity in the country is at its worst levels since Mao Zedong’s infamous Cultural Revolution.

But sure, let’s talk about moving coal plants.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Michael Bloomberg hits Bernie Sanders on Cuba. He must have forgotten his own comments on China’s regime.

“President Trump is doing what he said he would do”

In an effort to speed up wall construction along the southern border, the Department of Homeland Security is planning to wave some of the rules about how the federal government agrees to work with contractors.

DHS said Tuesday that it will waive 10 federal laws that include requirements that the government hold open competition for contracts and get bonds from contractors before the work can start, according to the Associated Press. The department explained in the story that the waivers will help speed up construction on 177 miles of border wall.

The report also notes that acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf is waiving the laws under statutory authority given to him by a 2005 law that was also used multiple times during the George W. Bush administration.

“President Trump is doing what he said he would do and is building a wall to secure the border,” tweeted DHS spokesperson Heather Swift about the news. “DHS will now waive certain procurement regulations in 6 border sectors. We can quickly build 177 miles of new wall using already vetted and tested contractors.”

The waivers will be applied to border construction projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, the Associated Press reported.

In a Tuesday morning appearance on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” Wolf explained that while the waiver authority had previously been used to get around environmental requirements, this would be the first time the department used it in the procurement process. The secretary said that the change would “allow us to speed up a lot of our contracts that the Army Corps [of Engineers] has, anywhere from 30 to 45 to 60 days. And so we hope that that will accelerate some of the construction that’s going along the southwest border.”

During the appearance, the acting secretary also pledged that the administration had put “about 120 miles of new border wall system in the ground today” and would be up to 450 miles of constructed border wall “by the end of the calendar year.”

Wolf says that funding for the affected projects will come from appropriated DHS funds as well as from the Department of Defense. Last week, the Pentagon announced that it would transfer $3.8 billion in reprogrammed funds to assist in the wall construction efforts, per President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration last year.

While this latest move is sure to spark its own specific backlash, DHS’ border construction waiver authority has already been a target of environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers.

“DHS secretaries during the George W. Bush and Donald Trump Administrations have used the waiver in all four U.S. states along the U.S.-Mexico border to override important environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act,” the Sierra Club said on its website. “This unprecedented power must not be allowed to remain on the books.”

In March 2019, the Democrat-led House Homeland Security Committee passed an act aimed at rescinding the waiver authority in a party-line vote.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Trump administration to waive contract laws in effort to speed up border wall construction

The poll also has good news for the GOP

President Donald Trump’s approval rating has hit a new high and the Republican Party’s image is the best it’s been since 2005, according to new Gallup polling released Tuesday morning.

The poll, which was conducted in January during President Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, puts the president’s job approval at 49%, the highest approval rating Trump has seen from Gallup since he took office in January 2017.

A post from Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones attributed the higher numbers to higher levels of approval among Republicans and independents and points to his 94% approval rating among Republicans, which is up 7 percentage points from early January. His approval rating among independents is up 5 points to 42%, the poll found.

While reaction to the impeachment efforts against the president may be a factor in driving the numbers, Gallup also said that economic confidence, Trump’s recent victory on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, and his recent actions squaring off against Iran may have played a factor.

Trump wouldn’t be the first president to see his numbers jump after being impeached. To put things in historical context, the polling firm noted that former President Bill Clinton also saw an approval rating spike after the House voted to impeach him and that his numbers remained above pre-impeachment levels through the rest of his 1999 Senate trial.

The polling also had some positive news for the Republican Party as a whole. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they had a positive image of the GOP, which is the first time that the party has risen above the 50% mark since the George W. Bush administration in 2005. That statistic stands in contrast to the Democratic Party’s 45% approval rating, which is down 3 points from September.

The poll of a random 1,033 respondents Jan. 16-29 in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial formally began on Jan. 16 and is expected to conclude with a final vote Wednesday.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Amid impeachment trial, President Trump gets highest job approval rating since taking office: Gallup

In the latest development in the House of Representatives’ impeachment saga, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has now called on her Democratic colleagues to move ahead with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

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In a Thursday morning address from the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi said, “The facts are uncontested: The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit, at the expense of our national security, by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival.”

She added that Trump’s “actions have seriously violated the Constitution” and that he “leaves us no choice but to act.”

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America,” Pelosi concluded, “today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.”

The announcement comes one day after the House Judiciary Committee held its first public hearing of the impeachment process, where the panel heard from a group of law professors about the constitutional grounds for impeaching a president, and just two days after Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee voted to approve the findings of the committee’s investigation into the president’s behavior.

This development also raises the question of when the House will actually vote on impeachment, which still remains unclear. Earlier this week, a member of Pelosi’s team reportedly suggested that a vote ahead of Christmas “doesn’t fit the holiday spirit.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Nancy Pelosi calls on Dems to move forward with articles of impeachment: Trump ‘leaves us no choice but to act’

And those are just the cases that authorities caught.More than 600 children were “recycled” by human traffickers looking to exploit loopholes in the American immigration system during the past fiscal year, a federal immigration official told lawmakers Wednesday.

At a hearing to evaluate border statistics during fiscal year 2019, which ended Sept. 30, Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Deputy Director Derek Benner told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that the figure was a result of a DHS initiative called “Operation Noble Guardian” to identify situations “where fraudulent families were released into the interior, and then the children were separated from those unrelated adults and they were taken to an airport and flown back” to Central America.

“We’ve identified over 600 children that have been recycled in this methodology,” Benner explained. “We interviewed several of the children as they were departing the United States, and some of them had indicated they’ve made the trip as many as eight times with separate, unrelated adults every time.”

Benner explained during his opening statement that the recycling process is migrants seeking to use children as “passports” when apprehended at the border so that they can be released into the United States interior rather than face deportation at the border.

The Trump administration has made efforts to combat the practice of human smugglers using children to evade detention, most notably through an executive order from earlier this year that allowed federal authorities to keep family units in detention past the court-set mandate. However, that effort is currently facing a challenge in the federal court system and is expected to end up before the Supreme Court.

Benner also explained that widespread knowledge of the use of rapid DNA testing to weed out fraudulent family claims at the border has been helpful in cutting down on the practice.

“We’ve found, with rapid DNA, about a 13 to 15 percent hit rate on fraudulent families,” Benner told committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “Now initially, Senator, when we first got there during the height of the crisis, we were showing showing percentages that were above 20 percent, 25 percent, because the amount of fraud was rampant.”

A pilot DNA testing program at the border found that roughly 30 percent of of suspected fraudulent family units were not genetically related, according to a Washington Examiner report from May.

“Word spreads,” Benner explained to the Senate panel. “The cartels are the best advertisers of what works and what doesn’t, and within a short period of time, it was getting back to the organizations that they needed to pivot their operations.”

Following Benner’s explanation, Johnson clarified to the hearing room that the 600 statistics “are people we catch, and we don’t even know how many people we don’t. We don’t understand the magnitude of this problem.”

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: ICE official says feds identified over 600 migrant children being ‘recycled’ at the border by traffickers

‘You should be outraged if you’re an American at what’s happening here’

Decrying a lack of transparency in the House Democrats’ impeachment process against President Donald Trump, House Republicans gathered in the basement of the Capitol Wednesday morning to demand entry into proceedings they’ve been barred from thus far. And they reportedly got in.

At a news conference outside the SCIF, dozens of Republican representatives announced that they would seek to gain entry to the secure room — in which the Democrats of the three committees behind the current impeachment push were conducting a deposition — by demanding to be let in as a group.

SCIF stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It’s a secure room where classified intelligence and other secret information is discussed. Congress’ SCIF is where much of the House Democrats’ investigation has so far taken place and where Republicans not on the investigating committees have not been allowed to enter.

“If behind those doors they intend to overturn the results of an American presidential election, we want to know what’s going on,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said while pointing to the SCIF entrance.

“And it’s only reasonable that we would have questions,” Gaetz added, noting that the impeachment investigation has “been marked by secret interviews, selective leaks, weird theatrical performances of transcripts that never happened, and lies about contacts with a whistleblower.”

Gaetz’s last two examples were a specific reference to Schiff’s conduct in recent weeks, for which he recently dodged a censure effort brought by House Republicans.

“You should be outraged if you’re an American at what’s happening here,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said. “You should be allowed to confront your accusers; this is being held behind closed doors for a reason — because they don’t want you to see what the witnesses are like.”

“This is a Soviet-style impeachment process,” Biggs added. “I don’t care whether you are the president of the United States or any other citizens of this country: You should be allowed to confront your witnesses.”

According to a senior GOP source who witnessed what happened next, the group went into the anteroom of the SCIF and chanted, “Let us in” outside the door guarded by Capitol Police. After that, the source said, the door opened, someone grabbed it, and a group of Republican members forced their way in.

After members attempted to sit in on the closed-door testimony that was occurring, “Chairman Schiff immediately left with the witness,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) told reporters while flanked by a handful of other House Republicans.

Later, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) said that Democrats are “threatening to file ethics complaints against those of us that want to be in the room.”

The secrecy of the three committees’ investigation has drawn an immense amount of criticism from GOP lawmakers since last week, when members were first turned away from impeachment proceedings. Schiff has defended the clandestine process by comparing it to a grand jury.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Republicans force their way into secret impeachment proceedings; Adam Schiff reportedly takes witness and leaves

He said the released transcript ‘reads like an organized crime shakedown’

A day after President Donald Trump released the transcript of a phone call with the president of the Ukraine at the center of Washington’s latest impeachment drama, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) decided to offer his own version of events.

As part of his opening statement at a House Intelligence Committee hearing regarding the whistleblower’s complaint behind the phone call controversy and featuring testimony from Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Schiff offered a fictional version of a conversation of the July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Schiff said that the transcript of the July phone conversation between the two world leaders “reads of like an organized crime shakedown.” He then attempted to offer a summary of the conversation that was “Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words”:

We’ve been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what, I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though, and I’m going to say this only seven times so you better listen good.

I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it. On this and on that. I’m going to put you in touch with people, and not just any people: I’m going to put you in touch with Attorney General of the United States, my attorney general, Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him and I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy [Giuliani]; you’re going to love him, trust me.

You know what I’m asking, so I’m only going to say this a few more times in a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again; I’ll call you when you’ve done what I’ve asked.
Schiff went on to call his characterization “in sum and character what the president was trying to communicate.”

Here’s video of the statement:

The transcript of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky was released Wednesday amid a flurry of calls for impeachment from Democrats. The document outlined a conversation in which the two world leaders discussed a variety of issues but did not show Trump making any quid pro quo offer or demand on investigating matters related to former Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter Biden.

The current controversy centers on President Trump’s request that Zelensky look into an investigation of a Ukrainian natural gas company that employed Hunter Biden as a board member.

Here’s the transcript section where Trump discusses the Bidens:

Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great … The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.
Later in the hearing, Schiff’s opening statement was criticized by Republican committee member Mike Turner (Ohio), who said that, while the transcript of the Ukrainian phone call was “not OK,” it was also “not the conversation that was in the chairman’s opening statement.”

Schiff responded to Turner’s criticism that his “summary of the president’s call was meant to be, at least part, in parody” and added “the fact that that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself.”

An official Trump 2020 campaign Twitter account responded to Schiff’s “parody” claim saying that “Democrats KNOW President Trump didn’t do anything wrong, so they’re resorting to making things up to trick you!”

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: Schiff makes up fictional version of Trump-Ukraine call at hearing, later says it was ‘parody’

‘No doubt at this very minute, the smuggling cartels are getting the word out … Congress is going to legalize millions, just get there’

America is currently facing a massive border crisis, and House Democrats along with seven Republicans responded to it Tuesday evening by passing an amnesty bill with absolutely no border security money or asylum system reforms. The final vote was 237-187.

House Resolution 6, or the “American Dream and Promise Act of 2019,” would extend amnesty to at least 2.5 million illegal immigrants who were either brought to the U.S. as minors or have been on “Temporary Protected Status.” That number is well beyond the estimated 700,000 to 800,000 total DACA recipients. This would take the form of green card status with a path to citizenship.

“The Dream, and now Dream and Promise Act, is urgent for our country,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at the bill’s introduction in March, before trying to sell the legislation under a few lines from a Ronald Reagan speech.

However, critics point out that the legislation would do absolutely nothing to address the border enforcement problems and legal loopholes that created the current crisis in the first place.

Conservative Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) took to social media Tuesday to say the bill would cost the American taxpayer $34.6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while providing “$0 (ZERO) dollars for border security” and no asylum reforms.

“What is it?” Roy asked rhetorically. “A complete dereliction of our constitutional duty to #SecureTheBorder and address the ongoing humanitarian crisis at our southern border.”

Indeed, according to a summary sheet from House Judiciary Committee Republicans, the total cost of the bill comes from the combined estimated costs of the two bills that make up the legislation in its current form.

But that’s not all. The summary also explains that “time constraints” kept the CBO from being able to calculate the potential public cost of aliens who could seek citizenship by violating the terms of their visas and then become eligible for green cards: “That cost is unknown.”

Other critics say that the bill’s barriers against applicants with criminal histories are too low.

Briefing materials about the bill from the office of Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) say that “applicants with several misdemeanor convictions can obtain a green card, even if the misdemeanors were violent and resulted in death or bodily injury.”

The bill’s language bars illegal immigrants who have been convicted of felonies or three separate misdemeanors involving total jail time over 90 days from getting green cards. It also disqualifies those who have been convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude” and those convicted of domestic violence.

However, the bill bars DHS from using state and federal gang databases as the determining factor in disqualifying potential beneficiaries.

“The Democrats are making us consider a bill that will worsen — give a green light — to the border crisis, incentivizing more people to cross our borders illegally in hopes of getting a piece of the amnesty pie,” House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said on the House floor Tuesday. “No doubt at this very minute, the smuggling cartels are getting the word out … Congress is going to legalize millions, just get there.”

Meanwhile, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security says that the current level of migrants in custody is “beyond sustainable capacity” while this year has seen record levels of border apprehensions.

Author: Nate Madden

Source: The Blaze: House responds to border crisis by passing a mass amnesty bill with zero border security funding

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