President Barack Obama said the United States has not overcome its history of racism and is using the N-word to make his case.
In an interview, Obama weighed in on the debate over race and guns that has erupted after the arrest of a white man for the racially motivated shooting deaths of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Obama said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
Obama’s remarks came during an interview out Monday with comedian Marc Maron for his popular podcast, where crude language is often part of the discussion.
The president said while attitudes about race have improved significantly since he was born to a white mother and black father, the legacy of slavery “casts a long shadow and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on.”
Obama also expressed frustration that “the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong” and prevented gun control from advancing in Congress after 20 children and six educators were massacred in a Connecticut elementary school in 2012.
“I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down, and Congress literally does nothing — yes, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted,” he said. “I was pretty disgusted.”
He said it’s important to respect that hunting and sportsmanship are important to a lot of gun-owning Americans. “The question is just is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something or confused about something, or is racist, or is deranged from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing, and can do enormous harm,” Obama said in a reference to suspect Dylann Storm Roof, whose purported 2,500-word hate-filled manifesto talked about white supremacy. Roof faces nine counts of murder in connection with Wednesday’s shooting.
Obama sat for the interview Friday in Maron’s Los Angeles garage studio — close to where the president attended Occidental College — and seemed to marvel at the absurdity of it. “If I thought to myself that when I was in college that I’d be in a garage a couple miles away from where I was living, doing an interview as president, with a comedian … it’s not possible to imagine,” he said. But he said he did the interview because he wants to reach a nontraditional audience and “break out of these old patterns that our politics has fallen into” where “it’s not this battle in a steel cage between one side and another.”
With the campaign to replace him heating up, Obama said he thinks he would be a better candidate if he were running again, because although he’s slowed down a little bit, “I know what I’m doing and I’m fearless.”
“I’ve screwed up. I’ve been in the barrel tumbling down Niagara Falls. And I emerged and I lived. And that’s always such a liberating feeling,” he said.
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In a surprise announcement coming nine months after police in riot gear dispelled racially charged protests, President Barack Obama is banning the federal government from providing some military-style equipment to local departments and putting stricter controls on other weapons and gear distributed to law enforcement.
The announcement comes after the White House suggested last year that Obama would maintain programs that provide the type of military-style equipment used to respond to demonstrators last summer in Ferguson, Missouri, because of their broader contribution to public safety. But an interagency group found “substantial risk of misusing or overusing” items like tracked armored vehicles, high-powered firearms and camouflage could undermine trust in police.
With scrutiny on police only increasing in the ensuing months after a series of highly publicized deaths of black suspects nationwide, Obama also is unveiling the final report of a task force he created to help build confidence between police and minority communities in particular. The announcements come as Obama is visiting Camden, New Jersey, one of the country’s most violent and poorest cities.
Obama plans to visit Camden police headquarters before heading to a community center to meet with youth and law enforcement and give a speech. “I’ll highlight steps all cities can take to maintain trust between the brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line, and the communities they’re sworn to serve and protect,” Obama said in his weekly address out Saturday.
In previewing the president’s trip, the White House said that effective immediately, the federal government will no longer fund or provide armored vehicles that run on a tracked system instead of wheels, weaponized aircraft or vehicles, firearms or ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets or camouflage uniforms. The federal government also is exploring ways to recall prohibited equipment already distributed.
In addition, a longer list of equipment the federal government provides will come under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain it, provide a persuasive explanation of why it is needed and have more training and data collection on the use of the equipment.
The issue of police militarization rose to prominence last year after a white police officer in Ferguson fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking protests. Critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators, and Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment. “There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama last in August.
But he did not announce a ban in December with the publication of the review, which showed five federal agencies spent $18 billion on programs that provided equipment including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft. At the time, the White House defended the programs as proving to be useful in many cases, such as the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Instead of repealing the programs, Obama issued an executive order that required federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes that make sure they are accountable and transparent.
That working group said in a report out Monday that it developed the list of newly banned equipment because “the substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement.” The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry about how many pieces of equipment that are now banned had been previously distributed through federal programs.
The separate report from the 21st Century Policing task force has a long list of recommendations to improve trust in police, including encouraging more transparency about interactions with the public. The White House said 21 police agencies nationwide, including Camden and nearby Philadelphia, have agreed to start putting out never-before released data on citizen interactions like use of force, stops, citations and officer-involved shootings. The administration also is launching an online toolkit to encourage the use of body cameras to record police interactions. And the Justice Department is giving $163 million in grants to incentivize police departments to adopt the report’s recommendations.
Ron Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice, told reporters he hoped the report could be a “key transformational document” in rebuilding trust that has been destroyed in recent years between police and minority communities.
“We are without a doubt sitting at a defining moment for American policing,” said Davis, a 30-year police veteran and former chief of the East Palo Alto (California) Police Department. “We have a unique opportunity to redefine policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence of justice.”
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Urging Americans to “do some soul-searching,” President Barack Obama expressed deep frustration Tuesday over recurring black deaths at the hands of police, rioters responding with senseless violence and a society that will only “feign concern” without addressing the root causes.
“This is not new. It’s been going on for decades,” Obama said from the White House a day after rioting erupted 40 miles north in Baltimore following the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal cord injury after being arrested.
Gray is the latest black man to die at the hands of police, prompting protests and calls for criminal justice reform. Some have criticized America’s first black president for not speaking out forcefully enough as he tries to avoid criticism of law enforcement, and he responded by calling the deaths “a slow-rolling crisis.”
“We have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African-American, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions. It comes up, it seems like, once a week now,” Obama said. He said although such cases aren’t unprecedented, there’s new awareness as a result of cameras and social media. “We shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.”
Still, Obama showed no sympathy for rioters, saying those who stole from businesses and burned buildings and cars should be treated as criminals. Obama said they distracted from days of peaceful protests focused on legitimate concerns “over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray and that accountability needs to exist.”
“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday,” Obama said. “It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement, they’re stealing.”
But he also criticized a society that doesn’t do enough to uplift poor minority communities. He said the solution to deep-seeded problems that spur violence include early education, criminal justice reform and job training, while suggesting that kind of a response is out of reach with a Republican Congress. “I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities,” Obama said.
“It’s too easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law-and-order issue as opposed to a broader social issue,” Obama said.
The president spoke during a state visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at one point apologizing to his guest for taking nearly 15 minutes of their news conference to discuss it. “I felt pretty strongly about it,” he said.
In an attempt to connect directly with Americans struggling with the issue, Obama taped an interview Tuesday with “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” a radio show targeting primarily African-American audiences. The interview was to air Wednesday morning, the White House said.
In his news conference earlier, Obama said America should not just pay attention to these communities “when a CVS burns” or when “a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.” He said he can’t force police departments across the country to retrain their officers, but he can work with them and help pay for body cameras to improve accountability.
“In those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there, without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem,” he said. “And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away and then we go about our business as usual.”
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The White House counsel’s office was not aware at the time Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of state that she relied solely on personal email and only found out as part of the congressional investigation into the Benghazi attack, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The person said Clinton’s exclusive reliance on personal email as the nation’s top diplomat was inconsistent with the guidance given to agencies that official business should be conducted on official email accounts. Once the State Department turned over some of her messages in connection with the Benghazi investigation after she left office, making it apparent she had not followed the guidance, the White House counsel’s office asked the department to ensure that her email records were properly archived, according to the person who spoke on a condition of anonymity without authorization to speak on the record.
Clinton announced in a late-night tweet Wednesday that she wants her emails released. She asked the State Department to vet the 55,000-plus pages she handed over, leaving the diplomatic agency with the intensely politicized task of determining which can be made public.
The State Department said it would review the emails as quickly as possible but cautioned it would take some time.
The email saga has developed as the first major test for how the White House and President Barack Obama’s administration will deal with Clinton’s likely 2016 presidential campaign — and the inevitable questions that will only get louder as 2016 approaches.
Since the revelations surfaced this week, the Obama administration has been pummeled by endless questions about Clinton, who hasn’t formally announced a run. In the absence of an official campaign to defend her, the White House press secretary has been put in the awkward position of being a de facto Clinton spokesman and the most public voice speaking on her behalf.
While trying to avoid doing political damage to Clinton, the White House has put the onus on her aides to explain exactly what happened.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged Wednesday that Clinton would have emailed White House officials on a non-government account. But the person familiar with the matter said the White House was not aware that was her sole method of email and that she wasn’t keeping a record of her emails at the State Department.
The person said the White House’s concern was that agencies much maintain records for historical and legal purposes in the case of a Freedom of Information Act request or subpoena. If the State Department didn’t control the records, officials there could not search and ensure they are turning over what is required and that could create a legal issue for the agency.
Earnest said the guidance given to government officials is that they should forward work emails on a personal address to official accounts or even print them out and turn them over to their agency to ensure they are properly maintained.
“If in fact Secretary Clinton’s team did what they say they did — and that is reviewed her email, collected all of her personal email that was related to her official government work and turn that over to the State Department so that they could properly preserve and maintain it — that would be consistent with the Federal Records Act, and that’s the president’s expectation,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
The Associated Press has reported that Clinton’s account was set up on a computer email server traced to her home in Chappaqua, New York. On Wednesday, the Republican-led Select Committee on Benghazi issued subpoenas for emails from Clinton’s personal email related to Libya.
Top White House aides have been in contact with Clinton’s team to clarify specific facts that the White House is likely to be asked about. The White House also reached out to Clinton’s team ahead of Tuesday’s press briefing to advise them of what the White House planned to say, according to a senior White House official, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.
“It’s almost impossible for the White House to give firm answers because there’s just too much you don’t know,” said Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s former press secretary. “It’s an extraordinarily delicate dance they have to do to not throw someone overboard, but not get anyone in the White House in deeper trouble.”
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President Barack Obama is open to negotiating with Congress on his request for new authorization for military force against Islamic State militants, including his proposed three-year time limit on U.S. military action and the use of American troops, according to the White House.
After a weeklong holiday break, lawmakers return to Washington on Monday and start work on Obama’s request. Some Republicans say Obama’s proposal is too restrictive for the mission to succeed. On the other side, some Democrats want more limitations on Obama’s authority so the United States doesn’t sign on for another open-ended war.
White House officials said Obama is firmly opposed to any geographic restrictions on where the U.S. military can pursue Islamic State militants, who have strongholds in Iraq and Syria but have been operating across international boundaries. But they said he is open to debate on much of the rest of his offer and is willing to discuss the three-year time limit in Obama’s draft and the hotly debated section on ground troops.
“I’m not at all going to be surprised if there are members of Congress who take a look at this legislation and decide, ‘Well, I think there are some things that we should tweak here, and if we do, we might be able to build some more support for,'” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “So I think it is fair for you to assume that this reflects a starting point in conversations.”
Obama argues he doesn’t need a new authorization to pursue Islamic State terrorists legally — and he’s been launching strikes against them for months based on authorizations given to President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But critics say Obama’s use of those authorizations is a stretch at best, and the White House has taken a new position that makes it clear it doesn’t see reliance on that authority as ideal, either. White House officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations on the record.
The White House now says if a new authorization is signed into law, Obama will no longer rely on the authority approved in 2001 to pursue the Islamic State group and instead solely rely on the new powers. A White House official said Congress could make that clear within the statute by adding that limitation to the authorization. The official said if they do not add such language but still pass a new authorization, Obama will consider it his sole basis for operations against the militant group.
The change would prevent any future president from interpreting the law the way Obama has since last year — if not directly in the law as passed by Congress, through precedent once Obama declares a new authorization his sole authority for military action against IS.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been pushing the White House to include a sunset of the 2001 authorization as part of the new debate.
“I’m very skeptical about our ability to rewrite the 2001 authorization after we go through a debate on the ISIL operation,” Schiff said in an interview. “I’m not sure we have the appetite to go through another round.”
Obama has said he wants to refine and ultimately repeal the 2001 authorization. But besides the Islamic State campaign, the president also is also using the law as the legal basis for the continued operation of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and attacks on militants in Yemen and elsewhere.
Obama’s proposal includes a three-year limit that would require the next president to come back to Congress and ask for renewal — if, as Obama predicts, the fight against the Islamic State is still ongoing. He also proposes a ban on “enduring offensive combat operations” as an attempt to bridge the divide in Congress over the role of ground troops.
Obama said the language gives him the ability for rescue missions, intelligence collection and the use of special operations forces in possible military action against Islamic State leaders. “It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq,” Obama said as he announced the proposal Feb. 11.
But White House officials say they are open to alternatives to that language as long as they maintain the president’s flexibility to send in ground troops for targeted missions when needed.
In a signal of the measure’s uncertain future, the White House and lawmakers are calling on one another to take responsibility to see the legislation through with neither side wanting to be responsible for the political failure if it doesn’t.
“Now they are seeking something, so it’s incumbent on them to come up and lay out a way forward,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who plans to hold hearings on the legislation over the next couple of weeks. In an interview, Corker said he’s keeping options open on the best way to proceed — whether it’s by amending Obama’s proposal or to “start whole cloth from a clean fresh beginning.”
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President Barack Obama sent Congress legislation Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State fighters, asking lawmakers to “show the world we are united in our resolve” to defeat militants who have overrun parts of the Middle East and threaten attacks on the United States.
In urging Congress to back military force, the president ruled out “enduring offensive combat operations,” a deliberately ambiguous phrase designed to satisfy lawmakers with widely different views on any role for U.S. ground troops.
Majority Republicans in Congress responded warily to the request.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, expressed doubt it would “give our military commanders the flexibility and authorities they need to succeed and protect our people.” He said changes were likely before the measure comes to a vote, although an initial House committee hearing was set for Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., like Boehner, said the proposal would receive serious consideration.
There was no timetable for Congress to act on the president’s request, which triggers the first war powers vote in Congress since President George W. Bush sought and won an authorization in 2002 before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
In a letter to lawmakers that accompanied the three-page draft legislation, Obama said the Islamic State “poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East and to U.S. national security.”
While asking Congress to bar long-term, large scale ground combat operations like those in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama said he wants the flexibility for ground combat operations “in other more limited circumstances.” Those include rescue missions, intelligence collection and the use of special operations forces in possible military action against IS leaders.
The issue of ground forces is likely to prove difficult in the administration’s attempt to win passage of legislation.
While some Republicans favor their use, many Democrats oppose it, mindful of the long and deadly war in Iraq.
The House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, issued a statement that refrained from endorsing Obama’s proposal. It said Congress should act judiciously and promptly to pass legislation “narrowly tailored” to the fight against IS. She has said previously she opposes deploying U.S. “boots on the ground.”
Obama arranged to speak publicly about the request later Wednesday.
In his letter, he referred to four American hostages who have died in Islamic State custody — at least three of them beheaded. He said the group, if left unchecked, “will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.”
Among the four hostages was Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old humanitarian worker whose death under unknown circumstances was confirmed Tuesday. In addition, the group has urged sympathizers to attacks Western targets.
Obama proposed a three-year time limit on the authorization for the use of force, a schedule that would leave the legislation in force through the first year of his successor’s term in office.
He also proposed no geographic limitations where U.S. forces could pursue the militants. The authorization covers the Islamic State and “associated persons or forces,” defined as those fighting on behalf of or alongside IS “or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
Obama’s resolution would repeal a 2002 authorization for force in Iraq but maintain a 2001 authorization against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He said in his letter to lawmakers his goal is to refine and ultimately repeal that measure as well.
The silence on the 2001 authorization drew criticism from some Democrats. “It makes little sense to place reasonable boundaries on the executive’s war powers against ISIL while leaving them unchecked elsewhere,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., in a statement, using an acronym for the terrorist group.
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the ground troop limitation would allow special operations missions, such as potential raids targeting Islamic State leaders and the failed attempt last summer to rescue Mueller and other hostages held by the group.
“It’s impossible to envision every scenario where ground combat troops might be necessary,” Earnest said in the White House’s first interview laying out its case for the resolution.
“The president believes this sort of strikes the right balance of enforcing what he has indicated is our policy, while preserving the ability to make some adjustments as necessary,” Earnest told The Associated Press.
In the past, Obama has said the congressional authorizations that President George W. Bush used to justify military action after the Sept. 11 attacks are sufficient for him to deploy more than 2,700 U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces and conduct airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria.
Obama cast the vote as an important message to America’s allies and enemies. “I can think of no better way for the Congress to join me in supporting our nation’s security than by enacting this legislation, which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat” from IS, he wrote to lawmakers.
A model of ambiguity, the White House isn’t saying it favors a role for U.S. ground forces in combatting Islamic State terrorists. But it isn’t saying it opposes one, either.
Instead, the White House is floating legislation that pledges no “enduring offensive combat role” in authorizing the use of military force against extremists who have captured parts of Syria and Iraq, imposed stern Sharia law and summarily executed a string of hostages.
Applause was audible Tuesday from inside the room where White House officials presented the overall proposal to Democratic senators. But afterward, on the eve of the legislation’s formal launch, there were lingering questions.
“I don’t know what the word ‘enduring’ means. I am very apprehensive about a vague, foggy word,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Other concerns came from Republicans who had been briefed earlier.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said administration officials had told him their proposal would not provide for the protection of U.S.-trained Syrian rebel troops on the ground in the event of an air attack by Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
“It’s an unsound military strategy. I think it’s immoral if the authorization doesn’t allow for us to counter Assad’s air power,” Graham said.
The White House’s efforts to forge a compromise were shadowed during the day by confirmation of the death of a 26-year-old American aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, who had been held hostage by the Islamic group. Obama vowed justice for her killers, and Republican Sen. John McCain, who represents the state where she was from, seemed to grow emotional as he eulogized her on the Senate floor.
The White House and lawmakers in both parties said they hoped Congress would act quickly on the president’s request, and its fate seemed likely to turn on the search for a compromise that could satisfy Democrats who oppose the use of American ground forces in the fight against IS, and Republicans who favor at least leaving the possibility open.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., discussing the White House’s opaque formulation, predicted, “That’s where the rub will be.” He also said it was not yet clear if the proposal would cancel an authorization for the use of force that Congress approved shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Several other lawmakers who were briefed in earlier meetings said the legislation would be targeted exclusively against the fighters seeking establishment of an Islamic state, wherever they are and whatever name they use.
It also is intended to cancel a 2002 law that authorized the use of force against Iraq.
There is little evident dispute in Congress that a new authorization is needed, both to replace outdated laws and to underscore a bipartisan desire to defeat the terrorists seeking an Islamic state.
Obama so far has relied on congressional authorizations that President George W. Bush used to justify military action after 9/11. He said last year he had the legal authority necessary to deploy more than 2,700 U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces and conduct ongoing airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria.
Looking ahead to Obama’s expected request, some Democrats expressed concern about a three-year timeline, noting that would leave the next president free to carry out ground operations that Obama refused to approve.
On the other side of the political aisle, some of Obama’s die-hard foes seemed unlikely to vote for anything that involved placing their trust in the current occupant of the White House.
Other Republicans have urged the president to request legislation now emerging, and they praised his willingness to do so, up to a point.
“This president, you know, is prone to unilateral action. But when it comes to national security matters, and particularly now fighting this barbaric threat — not only the region but to our own security — I think it’s important to come to Congress and get bipartisan support,” said John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican leader.
Cornyn and other Republicans have said it’s important to have a military strategy robust enough to enable victory, and accused Obama of failing to do so.
Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress will face some resistance in a vote to authorize President Barack Obama’s war against Islamic State militants despite international outrage over video of militants beheading their captives and burning one alive.
War authorizations are among the most difficult issues confronting members of Congress. Several Democrats will be reluctant to approve new war powers unless there is a clear deadline or some way to pay for the military operation. Some Republicans, strong foes of the president, will object to giving Obama the authority.
Obama is poised in coming days to ask Congress for new authority to use U.S. military force against IS, the White House said Thursday. But the top House Republican warned it won’t be easy to pass the measure. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it will be up to the president to rally support from lawmakers and the public.
“His actions are going to be an important part of trying for us to get the votes to actually pass an authorization,” Boehner said Thursday. “This is not going to be an easy lift.”
In the U.S. battle against IS, Obama has been relying on congressional authorizations that President George W. Bush used to justify military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Critics say the White House’s use of post-9/11 congressional authorizations is a legal stretch, at best.
Obama has insisted that he had the legal authority to send U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces, and to launch airstrikes since September against targets in Iraq and Syria. Now, the administration wants to get a new so-called Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, with bipartisan support from Congress.
“The president believes it sends a very powerful signal to the American people, to our allies, and even to our enemies, that the United States of America is united behind this strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
Republicans generally want a broader authorization of military action against the militants than Democrats have been willing to consider. Obama has said he does not intend to deploy U.S. combat troops, though many Republicans believe that option ought to be available.
“I have always believed that when it comes to fighting a war that Congress should not tie the president’s hands,” Boehner said.
Earnest declined to discuss specific provisions being considered, such as how long the authorization will last, what geographical areas it will cover and whether it will allow for ground troops. He said details were still being worked out with lawmakers from both parties.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California said talks with the administration are focusing on an authorization that would last three years, with other issues still being debated. Pelosi told journalists it will be a challenge for Democrats, the White House and Republicans to forge an agreement, but that she ultimately expects one to be reached.
“I’m not saying anybody’s come to an agreement on it,” Pelosi said. “I think it’s going to be a challenge, but we will have it.”
Pelosi said she hopes Congress will repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for the war in Iraq but retain the 2001 authorization for military action in Afghanistan. Earnest said the White House also supports repeal of the Iraq authorization replaced by the new authorization.
Late last year, Secretary of State John Kerry said whatever new authorization Congress passes should not limit U.S. military action to Iraq and Syria or prevent the president from deploying ground troops if he later deems them necessary. He also said that if the new authorization had a time limit, there should be a provision for it to be renewed.
Islamic State militants released a grisly video this week of a Jordanian Air Force pilot being burned alive inside a cage. Pelosi said that the U.S. should “move quickly” to steer military aid to Jordan, which has stepped up a campaign against the militants, including a series of airstrikes in Syria.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, already introduced authorization legislation rather than wait for Obama’s version. His bill would authorize the use of force against IS in Iraq and Syria for three years, but prohibit the use of ground forces in a combat mission in either nation. He has said if the president later decided to deploy ground troops, he could return to Congress to ask for new authority.
“It is my hope that the administration will be willing to accept important limits in a new authorization as well as the sunset or repeal of the old AUMFs, as this will be necessary to ensure strong bipartisan support and meet the goals the president set last summer of refining and repealing the prior authorizations,” Schiff said in a statement Thursday.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.
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Amid the measles outbreak stemming from California, the White House is telling parents that science indicates they should vaccinate their children.
President Barack Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, said Friday that decisions about vaccinations should be left to parents, but the science on vaccinations “is really clear.” Some parents continue to believe debunked research linking vaccines to autism and refuse vaccinate their children.
“I’m not going stand up here and dispense medical advice,” Earnest said when asked whether the president supports parents who choose not to vaccinate. “But I am going to suggest that the president’s view is that people should evaluate this for themselves, with a bias toward good science and toward the advice of our public health professionals, who are trained to offer us exactly this kind of advice.”
About 100 cases of the measles have been reported in the U.S. since last month in the second-biggest outbreak in at least 15 years. Most have been traced directly or indirectly to Disneyland in Southern California.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is 97 percent effective at preventing measles. The American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors should bring up the importance of vaccinations during visits but should respect a parent’s wishes unless there’s a significant risk to the child.
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President Barack Obama said Monday he wants to ensure the U.S. isn’t building a “militarized culture” within police departments, while maintaining federal programs that provide the type of military-style equipment that were used to dispel racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Instead, the president is asking Congress for funding to buy 50,000 body cameras to record events like the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown and look for ways to build trust and confidence between police and minority communities nationwide. He announced the creation of a task force to study success stories and recommend ways the government can support accountability, transparency and trust in police.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday new Justice Department plans aimed at ending racial profiling and ensuring fair and effective policing.
“In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement, which will institute rigorous new standards — and robust safeguards — to help end racial profiling, once and for all,” Holder said in Atlanta.
With protests ongoing in Ferguson and across the country, Obama spoke to reporters at the end of a White House meeting with police, civil rights activists and local leaders and acknowledged the participants told him that there have been task forces in the past and “nothing happens.”
“Part of the reason this time will be different is because the president of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different,” Obama said. He said he was upset to hear the young people in the meeting describe their experiences with police. “It violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful even after they’ve done everything right.”
At least for now, Obama is staying away from Ferguson in the wake of the uproar over a grand jury’s decision last week not to charge Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Brown. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof. Justice also has launched a broad investigation into the Ferguson Police Department.
Obama is proposing a three-year, $263 million spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and add more resources for police department reform. The package includes $75 million to help pay for 50,000 of the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job, with state and local governments paying half the cost. Estimates vary about the precise number of full-time, sworn law enforcement officers in communities across the U.S., though some federal government reports in recent years have placed the figure at roughly 700,000.
Brown’s family wants to see every police officer working the streets wearing a body camera. The Rev. Al Sharpton told reporters afterward he would convey to Brown’s parents what had occurred in the meeting and expressed confidence it would bring change because Obama put his “full weight behind it.”
“What happens after the meeting will determine whether we just had a feel-good session or whether we’re moving toward change,” Sharpton said.
Cameras potentially could help resolve the type of disputes between police and witnesses that arose in the Ferguson shooting. Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him. The officer who shot him said he feared for his life when Brown hit him and reached for his gun. But there are issues to be worked out — including privacy concerns for police, suspects, victims and bystanders; legal questions over who has access to the recordings; and training to make sure officers are using the cameras and don’t have them turned off at a critical time.
The White House said those are the types of concerns that could be addressed by Obama’s newly created Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which will include law enforcement and community leaders. The task force is being co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University and former assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.
After the Brown shooting and resulting protests in August, critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators. Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment. “There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama said in August.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president concluded he does not want to try to repeal the programs that are authorized by Congress because they have proven to be useful in many cases, citing the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. “But it is not clear that there is a consistency with regard to the way that these programs are implemented, structured and audited, and that’s something that needs to be addressed,” Earnest said.
The White House review shows the wide scope of the programs — $18 billion in the past five years from five federal agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury, plus the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The report says most of the equipment the programs provide are routine — like office furniture, computers and basic firearms — but about 460,000 pieces of equipment primarily used for military purposes have been provided to local police, including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft.
Obama said he will issue an executive order that will require federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations and recommend changes within four months to make sure the programs are accountable and transparent.
“We’re going to make sure that we’re not building a militarized culture inside our local law enforcement,” Obama said. He said the goal instead is to ensure that “crime goes down while community trust in the police goes up.”
Demands for police to wear the cameras have increased across the country since Brown’s death. Some officers in the St. Louis suburb have since started wearing the cameras, and the New York Police department became the largest department in the U.S. to adopt the technology when it launched a pilot program in early September.
A report from the Justice Department, which had been in the works before the Ferguson shooting, said there’s evidence both police and civilians behave better when they know there are cameras around. In a recent Cambridge University study, the police department in Rialto, California — a city of about 100,000— saw an 89 percent decline in the number of complaints against officers in a yearlong trial using the cameras. The number of times the police used force against suspects also declined.
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