Sanders home recovering from heart attack

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., departs Burlington International Airport after disembarking from a plane in South Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Sanders is back home in Vermont after being treated for a heart attack in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is back at his Vermont home after being treated for a heart attack in Las Vegas.

The plane carrying the 78-year-old senator arrived in Vermont just before 6 p.m. Saturday, one day after he was released from a hospital.

As he left the airport he told reporters “I’m feeling great, thank you.”

He was then driven home in a motorcade where he was greeted by family at the front door.

Sanders was attending a campaign event Tuesday when he experienced chest discomfort and was taken to a hospital.

Sanders’ campaign released a statement from his doctors that said two stents were inserted to open up a blocked artery in his heart.

The doctors said the rest of his stay was “uneventful with good expected progress.”

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Intel watchdog to testify on questionable Trump ‘promise’?

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The government’s intelligence watchdog is set to testify Thursday in a closed session before the House intelligence committee about the handling of a whistleblower complaint.

The Washington Post reported the complaint involves an intelligence official’s allegation that President Donald Trump made an unspecified “promise” to an unidentified foreign leader. The Post cited two anonymous former U.S. officials.

The Associated Press has not confirmed the report.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says inspector general Michael Atkinson determined the whistleblower complaint was “credible and urgent” and should be “transmitted to Congress.”

Atkinson is scheduled to testify Thursday.

The White House had no immediate comment.

Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, has refused to discuss details. He is expected to testify publicly about the whistleblower complaint on Sept. 26.

Schiff subpoenaed Maguire, saying he was withholding a whistleblower complaint from Congress and questioning whether he had been directed to do so by the White House or the attorney general.

Schiff did not divulge the subject of the complaint, but said the committee “places the highest importance on the protection of whistleblowers and their complaints to Congress.”

In a letter Tuesday, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jason Klitenic, wrote that the agency is protecting the whistleblower and argued the allegation does not meet the definition of “urgent concern.” He said the complaint “concerned conduct from someone outside the intelligence community and did not relate to ‘intelligence activity’ under the DNI’s supervision.”

Schiff said last week that Maguire is required to share the complaint with Congress and said the attempt to hold it back “raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct.”

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Walsh announces 2020 primary run against Trump

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman ad tea party favorite turned radio talk show host, announced a longshot challenge Sunday to President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, saying the incumbent is “completely unfit” for office and must be denied a second term.

“Somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative” among Republicans, Walsh told ABC’s “This Week,” adding that “the country is sick of this guy’s tantrum. He’s a child. … He lies every time he opens his mouth.”

Already in the race is former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

Walsh narrowly won a House seat from suburban Chicago in the 2010 tea party wave but lost a 2012 reelection bid and has since hosted a radio talk show. He has a history of inflammatory statements regarding Muslims and others and declared just before the 2016 election that if Trump lost, “I’m grabbing my musket.”

But he has since soured on Trump, criticizing the president in a recent New York Times column over growth of the federal deficit and calling him “a racial arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia to rouse his base.”

Walsh promises to contest Trump from the right as opposed to Weld, who is regarded as fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Weld was the 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee.

The road ahead for any Republican primary challenger will certainly be difficult.

In recent months, Trump’s allies have taken over state parties that control primary elections in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere. State party leaders sometimes pay lip service to the notion that they would welcome a primary challenger, as their state party rules usually require, but they are already working to ensure Trump’s reelection.

South Carolina Republicans have gone so far as to discuss canceling their state’s GOP primary altogether if a legitimate primary challenge emerges to eliminate the threat.

At the same time, polling consistently shows that Trump has the solid backing of an overwhelming majority of Republican voters. An Associated Press-NORC poll conducted this month found that 78% of Republicans approve of Trump’s job performance. That number has been hovering around 80% even as repeated scandals have rocked his presidency.

“Look, this isn’t easy to do. … I’m opening up my life to tweets and attacks. Everything I’ve said and tweeted now, Trump’s going to go after, and his bullies are going to go after,” Walsh told ABC.

Asked whether he was prepared for that, Walsh replied: “Yes, I’m ready for it.”

Walsh, 57, rode a wave of anti-President Barack Obama sentiment to a 300-vote victory over a Democratic incumbent in the 2010 election. He made a name for himself in Washington as a cable news fixture who was highly disparaging of Obama.

Walsh was criticized for saying that the Democratic Party’s “game” is to make Latinos dependent on government just like “they got African Americans dependent upon government.” At another point, he said radical Muslims are in the U.S. “trying to kill Americans every week,” including in Chicago’s suburbs.

He lost his 2012 reelection bid by more than 20,000 votes to Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who was elected to the U.S. Senate four years later.

Walsh told Obama to “watch out” on Twitter in July 2016 after five police officers were killed in Dallas. Just days before Trump’s 2016 win over Hillary Clinton, Walsh tweeted: “On November 8th, I’m voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?” Walsh later said on Twitter that he was referring to “acts of civil disobedience.”

Walsh wrote in his New York Times column that “In Mr. Trump, I see the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade.”

“On more than one occasion, I questioned Mr. Obama’s truthfulness about his religion,” Walsh wrote. “At times, I expressed hate for my political opponents. We now see where this can lead. There’s no place in our politics for personal attacks like that, and I regret making them.”

Walsh said his 2016 vote for Trump was actually against Clinton and faulted Trump for his unwillingness to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He encouraged Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he refuses to take foreign threats seriously as we enter the 2020 election. That’s reckless,” Walsh wrote. “For three years, he has been at war with our federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as he embraces tyrants abroad and embarrasses our allies. That’s un-American.”

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Associated Press writers Tom Davies in Indianapolis and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.

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Franken regrets resigning from Senate

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., second from right, holds hands with his wife Franni Bryson, left, as he leaves the Capitol after speaking on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota told The New Yorker magazine in a story published Monday that he “absolutely” regrets resigning from the Senate after several women accused him of unwanted kissing or touching.

In the same article, seven current or former senators say they regret calling for Franken’s resignation in December 2017. Franken resigned his seat after conservative talk radio host Leeann Tweeden and seven other women accused him of sexual harassment.

The article, Franken’s first interview since leaving the Senate, calls into question some of the assertions against Franken and quotes several female former staff members and close friends who described him as physically clumsy but not predatory.

Franken said at the time that the allegations were false, and he repeats that in The New Yorker article. A former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” Franken resigned amid a national wave of sexual harassment allegations against men in powerful positions as the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum.

Both Franken and Tweeden had called for an independent investigation at the time, but none was conducted before fellow Democrats forced Franken to resign three weeks after Tweeden made her claims.

Asked by The New Yorker whether he regretted stepping down, Franken said: “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.”

“I can’t go anywhere without people reminding me of this, usually with some version of ‘You shouldn’t have resigned,’” he told the magazine.

Tweeden alleged in 2017 that Franken told her during a USO tour to entertain soldiers in 2006 that he had written a comedy skit with her in mind that required her to kiss him. She said Franken forcibly kissed her and stuck his tongue in her mouth during a rehearsal of the sketch before they performed it in Afghanistan.

The New Yorker cited two actresses, Karri Turner and Traylor Portman, who had played the same role as Tweeden on earlier USO tours with Franken. Both told the magazine that they had performed the same role as Tweeden on earlier tours with Franken and that there was nothing inappropriate about his behavior.

Tweeden also released a photo showing Franken, who was then a comedian, reaching out toward her breasts, as if to grope her, as she slept in a flak jacket while on a military aircraft during the USO tour. The New Yorker reported that the pose echoed another USO skit in which a “Dr. Franken” approaches Tweeden’s character with his hands aiming at her breasts.

Tweeden, during her KABC-AM radio show in California on Monday, briefly reacted to The New Yorker article by saying she wishes she had been among the women who performed the kissing skit with Franken and didn’t feel like they had been harassed.

“I wish I was in that group,” she said.

Seven senators who had called for Franken’s resignation said they’d been wrong to do so. They are Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, now-former Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and now-former Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.

Leahy said that seeking Franken’s resignation without first getting all the facts was “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” in his 45-year Senate career.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was among the first to call for Franken’s resignation. Some Democratic donors have turned away from Gillibrand because of that, hurting her 2020 bid for the presidency.

“I’d do it again today,” Gillibrand said in the article. “If a few wealthy donors are angry about that, it’s on them.”

Asked at an event in New York late Monday if she regretted calling for Franken’s resignation, Gillibrand said she “could have told” any of the senators who are now expressing remorse that “there is no prize for someone who tries to hold accountable a powerful man who is good at his day job. But we should have the courage to do it anyway.”

“So no,” Gillibrand added. “I do not have any regrets.”

She also noted that female senators like herself were hounded every day about whether they would call for Franken’s resignation while their male colleagues were not.

“Let’s be clear, there is absolutely a double standard,” Gillibrand said. “Women are asked to hold accountable their colleagues; the men are not. Who is being held accountable for Al Franken’s decision to resign? Women senators, including me. It’s outrageous. It’s absurd.”

Franken was replaced in the Senate by Tina Smith, a Democrat appointed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton who had been serving as his lieutenant governor. Smith won a special election in 2018 and is running in 2020 for a full six-year term. Several Republicans are weighing bids to challenge her.

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Trump uses paid models for fake endorsement ads

This frame from a series of Facebook video ads for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign shows a model portraying an actual Trump supporter. The people in the videos are all models in stock video footage produced far from the U.S. in France, Brazil and Turkey, and available to anyone online for a fee. (Trump Make America Great Again Committee via AP)

A series of Facebook video ads for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign shows what appears to be a young woman strolling on a beach in Florida, a Hispanic man on a city street in Texas and a bearded hipster in a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., all making glowing, voice-over endorsements of the president.

“I could not ask for a better president,” intones the voice during slow-motion footage of the smiling blonde called “Tracey from Florida.” A man labeled on another video as “AJ from Texas” stares into the camera as a voice says, “Although I am a lifelong Democrat, I sincerely believe that a nation must secure its borders.”

There’s just one problem: The people in the videos that ran in the past few months are all actually models in stock video footage produced far from the U.S. in France, Brazil and Turkey, and available to anyone online for a fee.

Though the 20-second videos include tiny disclaimers that say “actual testimonial, actor portrayal,” they raise the question why a campaign that can fill arenas with supporters would have to buy stock footage of models. It’s a practice that, under different circumstances, Trump himself would likely blast as “fake news.”

Trump campaign officials declined repeated requests for comment on Tuesday. Political experts say that, while it’s not unusual for stock footage to find its way into ads, a presidential campaign should have been more careful.

“As a producer, you want to control — you want people to look a certain way and you want them to sound a certain way,” said Jay Newell, a former cable TV executive who teaches advertising at Iowa State University. “The fact that the footage is from outside the U.S. makes it that much more embarrassing.”

There are plenty examples of such gaffes. In the last presidential primaries, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio ran an ad titled “Morning in America” with shots from Canada. A super PAC supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush put ads on TV with video reportedly from the English countryside and workers from Southeast Asia.

Trump himself has used video from abroad before. His 2016 TV ad vowing to build a wall to keep out immigrants from Mexico showed people streaming across the border — but the shots of refugees were taken in Morocco.

The existence of the stock footage in this series of Trump ads, reported last week by Judd Legum for his website Popular Information , underscores an increasingly aggressive, targeted approach by the Trump campaign to reach out to voters on Facebook.

The Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which was behind the testimonial videos, is by far the biggest spender on political Facebook advertising, shelling out more than $2.7 million on 27,735 ads in the last 90 days alone, according to the social network’s running database of campaign ad spending. That’s in addition to the more than $1 million spent on more than 14,500 ads in the same period by Donald J. Trump for President Inc.

Trump’s campaign gets to such totals by running the same ads numerous times, all at slightly different audiences.

“Thomas from Washington,” featuring the bearded young man behind a coffee shop counter, appeared aimed at evangelicals, with the voice-over quote saying the president and his family are “in our prayers for strength and wisdom from God almighty.” ″AJ from Texas” seemed focused on Hispanic men. And “Tracey in Florida” was aimed specifically at a demographic in which Trump is historically weak — young women.

All are models for Turkish, Brazilian and French companies, respectively, that supply hundreds of photos and video to the popular site iStock run by Getty Images, which caters to publications, filmmakers and advertisers looking for professional, inexpensive imagery.

According to the site, licenses for the video clips used in the Trump ads can be had for as little as $170.

The blonde on the beach appears to be particularly prolific. Her photos and videos from the French company Tuto Photos in Roubaix, France, show her twirling in a wedding gown, walking spaniels in a meadow, getting her teeth checked at the dentist and working in a warehouse.

And the star of iStock’s “Bearded and tattooed hipster coffee shop owner posing” — also known as Trump’s “Thomas from Washington” — is a fixture on the videos and photos contributed by the company GM Stock out of Izmir, Turkey. His unmistakable beard and tats can be seen on the image site strolling with a woman on the beach, sitting by a campfire and pumping iron in the gym.

So what do these models think of being held up as model Trump supporters?

That’s not clear because none of the companies they’ve posed for would give a detailed comment to The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for Getty Images would not identify the models, citing privacy concerns.

Fred Davis, a campaign consultant who’s produced ads for George W. Bush and other Republican presidential candidates, said the Trump campaign’s use of such footage is not surprising, given the volume of political ads on the internet these days.

“Whoever did this is probably 22 years old, and they’re going through pictures and thought, ‘This is a great picture,’” Davis said.

“This is a great shot of Thomas from Washington. It’s a shame it’s not Thomas from Washington.”

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Judge denies Trump use of military funds for border wall

People look on from the Mexican side, left, as U.S. Border Patrol agents on the other side of the U.S. border wall in San Diego. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

A federal judge on Friday prohibited President Donald Trump from tapping $2.5 billion in military funding to build high-priority segments of his prized border wall in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. in Oakland acted in two lawsuits filed by California and by activists who contended that the money transfer was unlawful and that building the wall would pose environmental threats.

“All President Trump has succeeded in building is a constitutional crisis, threatening immediate harm to our state,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led a 20-state coalition of attorneys general in one lawsuit.

Speaking Saturday at a press conference marking the end of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Trump called the decision “a disgrace.”

“So we’re immediately appealing it and we think we’ll win the appeal,” he went on to say. “There was no reason that that should have happened. And a lot of wall is being built.”

The decisions are in line with Gilliam’s ruling last month that blocked work from beginning on two of the highest-priority projects — one spanning 46 miles (74 kilometers) in New Mexico and another covering 5 miles (8 kilometers) in Yuma, Arizona.

But the fight is far from over. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to take up the same issue of using military money next week.

At issue is President Donald Trump’s February declaration of a national emergency so that he could divert $6.7 billion from military and other sources to begin construction of the wall, which could have begun as early as Monday.

Trump declared the emergency after losing a fight with the Democratic-led House that led to a 35-day government shutdown.

The president identified $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from Defense Department counterdrug activities and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.

The judge Friday didn’t rule on funding from the military construction and Treasury budgets.

In the second suit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the judge determined that the use of the $2.5 billion for two sectors of the wall was unlawful, although he rejected environmental arguments that wall construction would threaten species such as bighorn sheep.
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