Washington, DC – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was grilled on Friday by Democrats on a House panel over the United States killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and the US response to the coronavirus.
Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee for two hours, Pompeo defended President Donald Trump’s decision to order the assassination of Soleimani, claiming Americans in the Middle East are safer now because Iran has been deterred from aggression.
“We made clear that we are willing and able to impose costs on our adversaries if they threaten or attack us,” Pompeo told the committee in the long-awaited hearing that also included a number of questions on the coronavirus.
First US coronavirus case of unknown origin marks ‘turning point’
Pompeo to face House panel on US killing of Iran’s Soleimani
Timeline of Trump’s shifting justifications for Soleimani killing
The Trump administration has offered shifting explanations for the air attack that killed Soleimani and several others at the airport in Baghdad, Iraq.
Initially, the president and his advisers said they had information that Soleimani was planning an “imminent attack”.
Later, in a legally mandated report to Congress, the Trump administration abandoned that claim and argued prior attacks planned by Soleimani against US forces, coupled with rising provocations from Iranian-backed armed groups in Iraq justified the strike.
“One hundred percent in a very short timeframe, he was in the region actively plotting to kill Americans,” said Pompeo, who appealed to the fractious committee on Friday for support for Trump’s policy towards Iran.
Two Democratic members of the House of Representatives Abigail Spanberger and Joaquin Castro said the intelligence information provided by the administration to Congress behind closed doors in the days after the strike did not show an imminent threat.
“I have seen that classified information and after reviewing it, I don’t think that you are telling us the truth,” Castro told Pompeo pointedly.
Women hold pictures of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who was killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, during a funeral procession and burial at his hometown in Kerman, Iran [File: Mehdi Bolourian/Fars News Agency/WANA/Reuters]
Spanberger, a former intelligence agency officer, said: “Your own report directly contradicts what you and the president told the American people over and over.
“With conflicting information, it is hard for the American people to know what to believe,” she said.
Pompeo dismissed the accusations and argued Soleimani’s role as head of Iran’s Quds Force tied him to the deaths and injuries of as many as 600 US troops during the Iraq war.
“We conducted this attack fully inside our constitutional and statutory authority and the action the president took was fully lawful,” Pompeo said.
“We had communicated clearly that the loss of American lives would incur real consequences,” he added.
Trump has pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran designed to confront Iranian influence in the region and weaken its economy through sanctions after unilaterally pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.
Pompeo was also peppered with questions from Democrats about the rising fears in the US of the coronavirus outbreak. The first case of local infection of an American who had not travelled to or been in contact with someone that had travelled to China, where the virus originated, was identified in California on Wednesday.
Trump has come under pressure by Democrats to take greater action against the virus. Earlier this week, Trump attempted to quell fears and appointed Mike Pence to oversee the federal government’s effort to contain the virus – a move Democrats criticised, citing the vice president’s lack of expertise on public health issues.
“Arrogance. Arrogance,” said Representative David Trone, a Democrat. “The administration’s track record of mishandling crises doesn’t inspire confidence.”
Democratic Representative Ted Deutch also criticised the administration, saying that Trump’s “pattern of misinformation undermines our entire system”.
COVID-19, the formal name for the illness caused by a new coronavirus, emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December. More than 83,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide and more than 2,800 people have died as a result of the virus, the majority of whom were in China. No deaths linked to the virus have been reported in the US.
US President Donald Trump holds a document about the coronavirus as he gives a news conference at the White House [Carlos Barria/Reuters]
Health officials in California, which has a population of 40 million, are monitoring 8,400 people for potential infection, the state’s governor said on Thursday. Testing has been limited because test kits initially provided to the state by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were faulty.
Pompeo defended the Trump administration’s response to the virus, saying the US has made offers to help Iran, which has been hit hard by the outbreak.
“We have made offers to the Islamic Republic of Iran to help, and we’ve made clear to others around the world and the region that assistance, humanitarian assistance to push back against the coronavirus in Iran is something the United States of America fully supports. We will continue to support. That’s true for every nation,” Pompeo said.
Later on Friday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman reportedly said that any US offer to help Iran in its fight against the coronavirus was “ridiculous”.
“The claim to help Iran in dealing with corona from a country who with their economic terrorism has created widespread pressure for the people of Iran and even closed the paths for buying medicine and medical equipment is a ridiculous claim and political-psychological game,” Abbas Mousavi was quoted by Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency as saying.
House Democrats say more DOJ probes into police departments needed to stop civil unrest
House Democrats on Thursday proposed solving the riots, bloodshed and looting plaguing American cities with more federal investigations of police departments, saying that getting the cops in line would remove the impetus for civil unrest. They want the Justice Department to crack down on police departments with investigations known as pattern-and-practice probes, which were a…
House Democrats on Thursday proposed solving the riots, bloodshed and looting plaguing American cities with more federal investigations of police departments, saying that getting the cops in line would remove the impetus for civil unrest.
They want the Justice Department to crack down on police departments with investigations known as pattern-and-practice probes, which were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to change police culture.
The Trump administration abandoned the inquiries. He said they were unfair to cops and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“We continue to see injustice and we continue to see civil unrest because of the desperation that exists in this country around racism and around injustice and lack of accountability. We just saw it yesterday in the Breonna Taylor case,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, Texas Democrat, said at a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on the federal response to violent protests.
Ms. Escobar made the comments a day after a grand jury indicted only one of three Louisville, Kentucky, detectives involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, who has emerged as a martyr of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The charges, which are minor and are not related to the death of Taylor, applied only to an officer who fired wildly and put Taylor’s neighbors at risk. The other officers were not charged because they were fired upon first by Taylor’s boyfriend when they entered the apartment with a search warrant.
The announcement sparked a new round of demonstrations in cities across the country. In Louisville, two officers were shot just hours after the protests began.
On Thursday, police identified Larynzo Johnson as a suspect in the shooting and said the officers are expected to recover.
All told, 127 people were arrested in Louisville in the protests, police said.
The Louisville protests are the latest to erupt in U.S. cities as anger over the death of unarmed Black men and women, including Taylor and George Floyd, touched off violent demonstrations that included torched vehicles, looted stores and assaults on police officers.
Floyd, a Black man, died while in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, touching off the nationwide protests.
At the hearing on Capitol Hill, Democrats and their witnesses insisted that federal investigations of police departments could have prevented the violence.
“If business leaders want their businesses to be protected and they want to ensure the community is at peace, then they too should want the Justice Department to bring their resources in and conduct a pattern and practice investigation,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told lawmakers.
Ms. Ifill said the Louisville Police Department was ripe for a pattern-and-practice investigation because it “had problems for many, many years.” She said the probe would create a path forward for the community.
“That will help protect businesses as well because it will bring some order, some vision and a road map for public safety in Louisville,” she said.
Republicans pushed back on the idea of more police investigations. The probes end with consent decrees that, they said, hinder officers’ ability to fight crime.
A consent decree is an agreement in which a local department promises the Justice Department that it will make changes to its procedures. Critics point to a rise in crime in cities that have enacted decrees.
Baltimore and the Justice Department entered into a consent decree in 2017 after a federal investigation in the case of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in police custody.
By 2019, Baltimore recorded one of its deadliest years on record with 348 homicides and more than twice as many shooting injuries.
Republicans say the federal government needs to take a more forceful approach to confront rioters.
Rep. Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said Attorney General William Barr should be praised for his heavy-handed response to violent demonstrations.
“If he had not done it, we’d have more of this massive property destruction all across the country,” Mr. Johnson said. “He ought to be applauded for taking a strong stance on that because if he hadn’t, the safety of every single American is in jeopardy.”
The lone Republican witness at the Judiciary Committee hearing was Sam Mabrouk, an Egyptian immigrant who came to the United States over a decade ago. His store in Columbus, Ohio, was looted during the May protests of Floyd’s death.
The loss of merchandise from the store was estimated to be over $70,000 and was not covered by insurance. Mr. Mabrouk told lawmakers that he lost 10 years of savings and hard work in two hours as looters pilfered his store.
Mr. Mabrouk was threatened twice with being shot that night.
“I have been living the American dream, along with all the blood, sweat and tears that it requires,” he said. “Then one day, I woke up to a nightmare of loss and destruction. But I am not a quitter, and I’m ready to work harder than before to get my small business back to where they were before that horrible night of May 29, 2020.”
He said local and state officials failed to adequately ensure his safety and expressed frustration that no one had been prosecuted for the damage to his store.
When asked whether state and local officials protected his property or liberty, Mr. Mabrouk said, “I did not see that.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, expressed sympathy for Mr. Mabrouk but used his testimony to respond to Republican criticism that Democratic lawmakers haven’t forcefully condemned the violence and destruction across the country this summer.
He said Democrats did not respond earlier this summer when Mr. Barr asked them to condemn the violence during an appearance before the full committee.
Mr. Cohen responded that it was not the “appropriate time.”
“We are against looting and unlawful behavior,” he said.
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Democrats threaten to impeach William Barr over John Durham Russia probe
Democrats are turning up the heat on William Barr, accusing the attorney general of trying to influence the November presidential election and threatening impeachment after he gave a fiery speech last week lambasting career federal prosecutors. The chairs of four House committees urged the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to open an “emergency” investigation into whether…
Democrats are turning up the heat on William Barr, accusing the attorney general of trying to influence the November presidential election and threatening impeachment after he gave a fiery speech last week lambasting career federal prosecutors.
The chairs of four House committees urged the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to open an “emergency” investigation into whether Mr. Barr is using U.S. Attorney John Durham’s Russia probe as part of an effort to taint the presidential election.
In a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the four lawmakers said Mr. Barr’s comments and actions could be damaging “to public confidence in the integrity of the DOJ and our democratic process.”
“Attorney General Barr has signaled repeatedly that he is likely to allow DOJ to take prosecutorial actions, make public disclosures, and even issue reports before the presidential election in November,” the lawmakers wrote. “Such actions clearly appear intended to benefit President Trump politically.”
The letter arrived the same day Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, authored a scathing op-ed calling for Mr. Barr’s impeachment and a day after Democratic senators pleaded for Mr. Horowitz to intervene.
A Justice Department spokeswoman and a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office declined to comment.
Democrats were rankled by Mr. Barr’s speech marking Constitution Day last week at Hillsdale College, a school with conservative ties.
Mr. Barr accused his Justice Department prosecutors of acting as “headhunters.” He also compared them to preschoolers, decried them as part of the “permanent bureaucracy” and suggested they should be reined in by politically appointed leaders.
The next day, the Democrats launched a three-pronged assault on Mr. Barr. They targeted the Durham probe in particular.
The Durham probe has been digging into the origins of the Russia collusion probe since May 2019 and veered into a criminal investigation five months later. Democrats now worry that Mr. Durham’s team is cooking up an “October surprise” for the presidential race.
Mr. Barr’s political opponents say his public comments about the investigation could violate Justice Department policy if Mr. Durham releases a report or brings indictment within 60 days of Election Day.
Mr. Barr in 2018 authored a report saying politically charged prosecutorial and law enforcement actions must be avoided within 60 to 90 days of Election Day, but Democrats contend Mr. Barr has changed his mind. They cite an interview the attorney general had earlier this year with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category,” he said in the interview.
Democrats fear Mr. Barr will try to skirt Justice Department rules by having Mr. Durham issue a report instead of filing criminal charges.
“With potentially devastating consequences for our democracy, Attorney General Barr appears to have changed his position and no longer supports the long-standing DOJ policy of refraining from taking overt actions or disclosures in the run-up to an election if there is a possibility the action could impact the election,” the Democrats wrote.
They also asked the inspector general to review Mr. Durham’s legal authority to issue a report about a subject who has not been charged in a federal court. That challenge is likely to fail given that special counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy report touched on several subjects who had not been charged.
Also on Friday, Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, called on Congress to launch an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Barr. Mr. Cohen said the attorney general is conducting a “politically motivated assault on the rule of law, the norms of procedural due process and our election systems.”
“That is why I have attempted to address these concerns by introducing H. Res 1032, calling for an inquiry into whether Barr should be impeached,” he wrote in the opinion piece published by The Hill. “Some people counsel patience, but I’m reminded of what wis
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Democrats exploiting more disasters
ANALYSIS/OPINION: It’s amazing how disasters, both natural and unnatural, have the fingerprints of Democrats all over them. Political riots rage (euphemistically called “social justice demonstrations”) in Democratic cities during this election year as various headlines and articles not so subtly threaten the American public with warning the rioting will continue if President Trump is reelected.…
It’s amazing how disasters, both natural and unnatural, have the fingerprints of Democrats all over them.
Political riots rage (euphemistically called “social justice demonstrations”) in Democratic cities during this election year as various headlines and articles not so subtly threaten the American public with warning the rioting will continue if President Trump is reelected.
Nathanael Blake at the Federalist writes, “The quiet part is becoming very loud. Threats of left-wing political violence if President Trump is reelected have gone from subtext to the plain text. Writing at The Atlantic, Shadi Hamid warns of ‘mass unrest and political violence across American cities’ if Mr. Trump wins. The Democrats are embracing their inner movie villain: It votes for Biden, or it gets the riots again.”
We have Antifa and the BLM Marxist group setting fire to our urban areas, and now we have the horrors of the wildfires ravaging the American West. Once again, we can point directly to Democratic policies for the last 30 years contributing to the wholesale destruction. Western states are a tinderbox because of 30 years of Democratic policies making them that way.
So what do Democratic politicians do? Like children who have been caught doing something forbidden, their instinct is to blame everyone else in an effort to cover their tracks. They blame other people, and the ever-useful and ubiquitous “climate change.”
Moving along that narrative, because we can’t have the Democrats admit their idiotic and deadly policy failures, Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden made a statement about the fires and climate change attempting to blame President Trump for the massive fire destruction, bizarrely labeling Mr. Trump a “climate arsonist.”
Mr. Biden then went on to claim that Mr. Trump could control the weather. During the statement in Delaware, not far from his basement, Mr. Biden went on an accusationpalooza, “If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires? How many suburbs will have been flooded out? How many suburbs will have been blown away in super-storms? If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if more of America is ablaze?”
The Biden response isn’t the result of his basement team scrambling to find a way to distract from the culpability of Democratic policies regarding forest management. Instead, it is the national Democratic narrative, as they once again face a disastrous situation for the country that exists only because of their disastrous policies.
Barack Obama chimes in, tweeting: “The fires across the West Coast are just the latest examples of the very real ways our changing climate is changing our communities,” he wrote on Twitter. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, desperate to distract and deflect and is blaming climate change for the conflagration. Politico reports, “Trump and others have … suggested the state’s environmental protections have deterred tree removal and other steps to prevent forest fires. Newsom, along with climate experts, instead say that California is suffering from unusual weather cycles caused by global warming.”
And what is the Center for Disaster Philanthropy saying? In cases where a cause is determined, they cite human activity such as pyrotechnic devices or arson. The other major cause is lightning strikes. The CDP also points to forest management, i.e. the lack thereof, as a factor in feeding these fires, making them giants.
As an example, for California’s raging Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest they report, “The fire is exhibiting extreme fire behavior, in part because 80-90% of the trees in that area have died from the bark beetle making them a high fuel load.”
Strangely, the massive wildfires stop at the Canadian border. The CDP mentions this by noting, “North of the border, Canada’s wildfire season is below average across the board.” So, then did climate change stop at a border?
And who knew that climate change could cause a pyrotechnic device to be used at a gender reveal party causing the massive El Dorado fire in San Bernardino county? And then there’s the amazing discovery that Molotov cocktails are caused by climate change. A man was arrested in Oregon for starting fires with a Molotov cocktail. Inexplicably, they released him and, yes, he was arrested again for setting six more fires, reported the New York Post.
On Twitter, California Sen. Melissa Melendez addressed the absurdity of blaming the fires on anything other than the facts of the matter.
She writes, “Radical environmentalist groups have destroyed our forests with the help of the spineless legislators who refuse to stand up to them, for fear of losing the coveted “A” rating … For decades they have blocked legislation to thin forests, allow timber harvesting, brush removal and controlled burns … All the dead undergrowth is left to build up, becoming fuel for fire.
“Add to that the fact that they even managed to keep ranchers from allowing grazing which helps keep the forest floor clean … So when you hear Democrats criticize comments about forest management, ask those Democrats how much money they’ve received from groups like the Sierra Club to let our forests and homes burn to the ground.”
The devastation wrought by Democratic policies is clear, and the only thing Democratic leadership cares about is not getting caught by cravenly attempting to gaslight you into believing another one of their malleable schemes.
• Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk-show host.
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