Fox News host Neil Cavuto told Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Trey Gowdy (R-SC), that his on-going investigation into the attacks will only "carry currency" if the FBI acts against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or "recommends taking actions with the Justice Department."
Following the January 14 Republican presidential debate on the Fox Business Network, Neil Cavuto suggested to Gowdy that the only way for the Benghazi Select Committee to "carry currency" is "if the FBI acts on this or recommends taking actions with the Justice Department." Gowdy responded by suggesting that the committee's findings were a forgone conclusion, claiming "the smoking gun is the fact that she had her own unique server arrangement," but noted "whether or not there's any criminality ... the voters can judge that:
NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): At the Benghazi hearings a lot of people were saying, alright, Gowdy's got to deliver a knockout blow here. And after all those hours, [people are] amazed by your legal skills and ability to parlay this and go after her, maybe the mainstream media attention, all that they said in the end they didn't lay a glove on her. What do you make of that?
TREY GOWDY: I think the smoking gun is the fact that she had her own unique server arrangement.
CAVUTO: And that ironically could be her real Achilles heel.
GOWDY: But you know the world we live in Neil, once people know that she had her own server, that's no longer the smoking gun. But go back two years ago. If you were told that a Benghazi committee would find her emails that nobody else found, Chris Stevens' emails that nobody else found, and Patrick Kennedy, Susan Rice, you would say "they did a great job." Those are all home runs.
CAVUTO: But it's like people almost want to say, this will only carry currency I think, and I think you raise a number of great issues to your point, if the FBI acts on this or recommends taking actions with the Justice Department. What do you think happens if that happens, Congressman, but the Justice Department doesn't act?
Gowdy: There's one jury that our framers gave us every four years in November and the fact that DOJ may or may not do something, the voters can certainly mete out their own discipline and to Senator Rubio's point the mishandling of information, the decision to have your own server, whether or not there's any criminality, the jury can judge that. The voters can judge that.
The latest admission by Cavuto and Gowdy that the goal of the select committee is to "deliver a knockout blow" to Hillary Clinton comes after months of allegations that the committee abandoned conducting a comprehensive investigation into the attacks, turning its mission instead into a political "sham" meant to damage Clinton.
In October 2015, The New York Times reported that Bradley Podliska, a former investigator on the Republican-led Benghazi committee, accused the committee of becoming "preoccupied with the State Department's role in the controversy surrounding the Benghazi attack and less interested in a comprehensive investigation."
A month earlier, in September 2015, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), came under fire for comments he made on Fox News' Hannity in which he boasted that the Benghazi committee was damaging Hillary Clinton's poll numbers. McCarthy's comments led to a repudiation from House Republicans with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) calling on McCarthy to apologize.
Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently announced his support for a "convention of the states," an idea heavily promoted by conservative media figures, particularly conservative radio host and author Mark Levin. Constitutional scholars and Supreme Court Justices have said that if enacted, the idea dangerously opens up the U.S. Constitution to outside influences.
Rubio announced his support for the initiative during December campaign stops in Iowa, saying, "One of the things I'm going to do on my first day is office is I will put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states." He described it as "the only way that we are ever going to get term limits on members of Congress or the judiciary and that is the only way we are ever going to get a balanced-budget amendment."
His official campaign website followed up with a post saying, "Marco supports establishing a Convention of the States with the sole purpose of passing amendments to limit the power of the federal government: like implementing term limits, requiring a balanced budget, and sending power out of Washington, back to the states." The campaign promised, "On the campaign trail, Marco's going to keep talking up the Convention of the States." The site also embedded a post from Levin highlighting Rubio's endorsement of his idea.
The idea of a constitutional convention has gotten attention from other Republican politicians as well. Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) recently endorsed the convention of the states, describing it as "the Texas Plan to restore the Rule of Law and return the Constitution to its intended purpose." He appeared on Levin's radio show and on The Kelly File on Fox News to discuss his decision.
The convention of the states proposal is based on Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress can call a convention for proposing amendments if two-thirds of state legislatures formally make a proposal. This is a departure from how the 27 previous amendments to the Constitution have passed, where Congress has passed the amendments and then sent them down to the states to be ratified.
While the idea has been at the fringes of the conservative movement for decades, Levin gave a huge boost to the proposal in his 2013 book The Liberty Amendments. In an interview with the conservative news site CNSNews, Levin said his proposal "is the only way out" because "The federal government, Congress, the Supreme Court, the president, the bureaucracy, they are not going to reform themselves, they are not going to limit their activities. Only we can--through our state representatives from the bottom up."
Conservative media outlets promoted Levin and the book's ideas. Sean Hannity turned over an entire episode of his Fox News show (with a studio audience) to interviewing Levin about The Liberty Amendments.
Rush Limbaugh urged his listeners to buy the "wonderful book," and said "something" like a convention of the states "is going to be necessary, because the Constitution is broken."
On his radio show, Glenn Beck said Levin had "made that case" for a convention. In a story published on Breitbart.com and FrontPageMag.com, Spyridon Mitsotakis wrote that Levin "has now shown us a way that we the people can save ourselves." Michelle Malkin called the book "a bold, provocative manual for restoring the American republic and righting the balance of powers." Hugh Hewitt told his listeners to go into bookstores and "If you can't find it, demand that they put it up front." On Fox's Your World, host Neil Cavuto interviewed Levin and recommended reading the book "to get some historical perspective of what the hell is going on." On The Five, co-host Eric Bolling called the book "fantastic."
Before he had declared his candidacy, Donald Trump called it "a truly great & important book."
Coinciding with the release of Levin's book, a campaign called Convention of the States, which is a project of another group called Citizens for Self-Governance , was formed in order to organize and promote the concept at the state level. In a blog post, Citizens for Self-Governance said the Convention of the States is "a grassroots plan to implement the important ideas Mark Levin has begun to publicly advocate." The post also promoted Levin's Hannity appearance: "Tune in to watch Levin on Hannity Friday, then go visit our website at www.ConventionOfStates.com and see how you can get involved and play a part in history."
Those two groups are led by Michael Farris and Mark Meckler. Meckler was the co-founder of the group Tea Party Patriots. Meckler recently described Rubio's endorsement as a "game-changer" for his campaign and hailed him for pushing the idea into "the mainstream of presidential politics."
Levin told Conservative Review "I have wholeheartedly endorsed the Convention of the States project" and "I serve on its Legal Board of Reference because they propose a solution as big as the problem. And they are promoting state applications for a convention for the purpose of limiting the scope, power and jurisdiction of the federal government. And that's what needs to be done."
The Convention of the States website also features testimonials from conservative media figures like Hannity, Beck, Allen West, and Sarah Palin.
In an April 2015 report on the movement to call a new convention with the aim of passing a balanced budget amendment, the Washington Post reported on the possible pitfalls of this amendment process. They note, "the founding document is silent on how such a convention would operate," and add, "There's no indication that a convention could be limited to just one topic. Hypothetically, delegates could take up any issue they wanted, from reinstating Prohibition to eliminating the direct election of senators. More extreme scenarios envision delegates revisiting the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery, or inserting corporate giveaways into the Constitution."
Figures on both the left and right have pointed out that such a convention would be dangerous.
Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe said the process would be "putting the whole Constitution up for grabs."
Even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia has described the idea as dangerous, noting, "I certainly would not want a constitutional convention. Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it?"
The late Justice Arthur Goldberg also criticized the idea, saying, "There is no enforceable mechanism to prevent a convention from reporting out wholesale changes to our Constitution and Bill of Rights." In 1983 Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote, a "Constitutional Convention today would be a free-for-all for special interest groups."
Slate's Jamelle Bouie writes, "It's worth noting that this renewed push" for a constitutional convention "comes at a time the United States is becoming younger, browner, and more liberal. For a movement whose electoral health is tied to an aging population of white conservatives, it's increasingly now or never for right-wing ideologues, or at least, moves that block liberals from achieving their goals."
From the January 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the January 7 edition of CNN's Wolf:
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From the January 7 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
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The editorial board of New York City's El Diario and Los Angeles' La Opinión explained why the Republican zeal to defund Planned Parenthood would hurt Latinas the most.
In a January 6 editorial that ran in both El Diario and Los Angeles' La Opinión -- the daily Spanish-language newspapers with the largest circulation in the U.S. -- the board bemoaned the latest Republican push to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, saying it's "an aggression directed at low-income women who currently depend on the organization to obtain basic health services." According to research from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, existing disparity in access to healthcare for Latinas has "gone from bad to a human rights violation." As the editorial board noted, the move to defund Planned Parenthood would disproportionately affect the Hispanic community, and demonstrates how reproductive rights have become one of the most important issues driving millennial Latinas to the polls.
According to the board, "hundreds of thousands" of young Latinas receive important services from Planned Parenthood health centers, which have become a crucial resource for the community, considering that Latinas "present the highest levels of reproductive cancers, unplanned births and sexually-transmitted diseases."
From the January 6 editorial in El Diario and La Opinión (emphasis original):
The House of Representatives' latest attempts to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood reveals that, for them, it is a priority to be tough on abortion even when the only real harm being done is limiting access to medical services for low-income women.
An independent estimate found that only 12% of Planned Parenthood's activities are related to abortion. Most of their work focuses on cancer detection, tests, venereal disease treatment, family planning and a guide to navigate Obamacare.
Planned Parenthood provides an important service to hundreds of thousands of Latinas, generally young ones. Hispanics women present the highest levels of reproductive cancers, unplanned births and sexually-transmitted diseases.
If the purpose of cutting these funds is to prevent taxpayer money from being used to pay for the abortions of the poor, that protection is already in place. Although it is not necessary to suspend the funding, the real intention is to destroy Planned Parenthood regardless of the consequences. Redistributing the funds to other clinics does not guarantee that they will provide the same services as Planned Parenthood.
This zeal against Planned Parenthood is an aggression directed at low-income women who currently depend on the organization to obtain basic health services.
Reversing on their past condemnation of the use of a budget procedure called "reconciliation," The Wall Street Journal praised Republicans for using the tactic in their latest attempt to repeal Obamacare. The Journal also bashed, the law falsely claiming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has resulted in "huge" premium increases, and showed little concern for the millions of Americans who would lose healthcare if the law is repealed.
In a January 5 editorial, The Wall Street Journal praised Senate Republicans for narrowly passing legislation that would repeal the ACA via a parliamentary procedure called "reconciliation" -- a Senate budget tactic to avoid filibusters. After praising the GOP's repeal bill, which President Obama has vowed to veto, The Journal went on to attack the health care reform law, falsely claiming that the "law is failing on every level" and creating "huge" increases in health care premiums. From The Journal:
Republicans are now using the special "reconciliation" procedure that allows a budget bill to pass with a simple majority--which can only be used once a year--to get around Harry Reid's bone yard. Kvetchers on the right who say the Congress never does anything should be pleased, unless their griping was merely for political show.
This achievement is all the more notable for traveling through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations or blowing up century-old Senate rules, as some activists have demanded. The bill passed through patient, unglamorous legislative work, with House and Senate Republicans working together to make policy advances instead of degenerating into infighting and recriminations as usual.
This is what the GOP promised voters in 2014. Fifty-two of the 54 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, which passed 52-47 over unanimous Democratic opposition. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois were the two GOP dissenters.
Reconciliation is the process where the U.S. Senate can vote on budget amendments with a simple majority of 51 votes, and a senator cannot object to force a 60-vote threshold to move forward as is the case with all other bills and amendments. The Journal referred to Republicans using this tactic to attempt to gut Obamacare as a so-called "achievement" that traveled "through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations." But The Journal failed to mention that in the past its editorial board held the opposite view on the use of reconciliation to make changes to health care. The Journal also did not explain that perhaps the reason no "Armageddon-style confrontations" occurred is because the bill will be vetoed by the president and Republicans could only muster 52 votes in support of repeal, far below the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The bill is dead on arrival, as was the case the previous 60 times congressional Republicans passed symbolic repeal votes.
In 2010, when the bill that would become the Affordable Care Act was being considered, The Journal was loudly opposed to Senate Democrats using reconciliation to pass legislation that conservatives were derisively calling "Obamacare." The Journal called passing Obamacare via reconciliation "an abuse of the traditional Senate process" and claimed "we have entered a political wonderland." Journal editorial board member Daniel Henninger even wrote a column proclaiming "reconciliation could damage the institution of the Senate for years."
The Journal's January 5 editorial was not only a flip-flop on reconciliation, it was laden with inaccuracies about the law, some of which ignored The Wall Street Journal's own reporting. The one specific issue the paper wished to focus on as a so-called "failure" was the myth that premium increases have been unexpectedly "huge" since the law took effect and are set to spike in 2016. On the contrary, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently noted, premium costs and subsidies came in under expectations in 2014 and 2015. Typical health insurance premiums for 2016 are predicted to have a higher rate increase than the past two years, but The Journal failed to point out that much of this increase was not only expected, it will be covered by insurance subsidies.
After accounting for available subsidies, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the average national premium rate increase from 2015 to 2016 will be 3.6 percent. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is predicting slower-than-expected premium growth, and has revised its numbers to show federal spending on premiums will be 20 percent less than previously projected:
Furthermore, The Journal also failed to mention that insurance customers are free to choose new plans and providers every year, some of which may prove more cost effective than others. Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net pointed out that because individuals can change insurers, it is important to shop around and that those who do so may see smaller increases for 2016.
In yet another flip-flop, The Journal falsely claimed that no one ever "argued that a new entitlement couldn't reduce the uninsured rate." In fact, The Journal made such claims in an October 25, 2015 editorial hyping fears that supposedly low insurance enrollment for 2016 meant health care reform "won't survive." Such enrollment fears from The Journal were later debunked and research showed enrollment numbers had been adjusted because more Americans stayed on employer-provided insurance than originally anticipated.
In spite of its previous remarks against using reconciliation, its attempts to delegitimize enrollment numbers, and the fact that expected insurance premium costs have been revised downward, The Wall Street Journal still celebrated the latest, fruitless Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare, which if successful could strip health care coverage from at least 17 million Americans.
Conservative media lambasted House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) after the passage of a year-end budget package, calling it "an absolute betrayal" and saying that "Paul Ryan" is "already a disaster" for delivering "wins" to President Obama in a move that will "boost the candidacy of the Republican establishment's preferred contenders."
From the December 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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A House hearing called out witness Newt Gingrich for his shady financial dealings seeking to undermine the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Gingrich, who works as a Fox News contributor and Washington Times columnist, appeared as a witness before a December 16 House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing entitled, "Examining the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Mass Data Collection Program." During the hearing, Gingrich attacked the pro-consumer bureau for purportedly being "dictatorial" in its collection of consumer data.
Gingrich has worked as a paid adviser for the U.S. Consumer Coalition, a secretive group that is attempting to dismantle the CFPB. Gingrich is also a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition. (Gingrich acknowledged his connections to both groups during the hearing.)
While Gingrich claimed during the hearing that he wasn't trying to be secretive about his anti-CFPB financial connections, that wasn't the case this summer. Gingrich wrote a July 1 Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the CFPB and promoting the U.S. Consumer Coalition. The op-ed did not disclose any of his financial ties, simply identifying Gingrich as a former House speaker. Following criticism by Media Matters and The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, the Journal issued an "amplification" that he is "a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition, which opposes some policies of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."
Mother Jones had previously reported that the staffers at Wise "do double duty at the Consumer Coalition" and "Setting up groups like the Consumer Coalition seems to be a big part of what Wise Public Affairs offers its customers." However, it's difficult to decipher who is funding Gingrich and the campaign against consumer protections. Mother Jones noted that the "group's true funders may never be known. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Consumer Coalition is permanently exempt from revealing its donors."
That shady funding came into focus during the hearing, when Gingrich was asked by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) about who funds the U.S. Consumer Coalition. Gingrich -- a "US Consumer Coalition Senior Advisor" -- professed to not know anything about the group's funding.
During the hearing, Rep. Al Green (D-TX) cited Media Matters' research and criticized Gingrich for initially failing to disclose during the hearing that he was "a paid adviser to the Wise Public Affairs group."
He noted that it's "very interesting that there seems to be a sort of a stealth campaign that's taking place under the radar, entities that can't be properly identified" that want "to make sure that the CFPB is emasculated and eviscerated if possible. This is unbelievable."
Rep. Green added: "The people of this country are absolutely being fed bad information. Yes, they are intelligent. Yes, they're smart. Yes, they can sift through the sand and find pearls -- pearls of information -- but they can't do it if you're getting bad information. And that's what this is all about, which is why we have put so much emphasis on what has happened with reference to this stealth organization, this mystery organization."
From the December 14 edition of CNN's New Day:
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Right-wing media are repeating the false claim that a Defense Department email sent to Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff showing U.S. military forces were ready to "move to Benghazi" the night of the September 11, 2012 attacks contradicts former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's testimony about the attacks. In fact, the congressional testimony that conservatives claim the email contradicts shows that military forces were deployed that night.
From the December 8 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Media outlets roundly urged Congressional leaders to pass gun safety legislation in the wake of the deadly San Bernardino mass shooting -- including stronger gun violence prevention laws on military-style weapons, background checks, and rolling back concealed-carry laws -- and chastised politicians for their complicity in the "crisis in American society" where "gun carnage ... has come to define America."
MSNBC reported that former House Benghazi Select Committee investigator Brad Podliska, is suing the committee for defamation after allegedly facing retaliation for claiming the committee was "hyper-focus[ed]" on Hillary Clinton.
Podliska was fired in late June after working for almost ten months as an investigator for the committee partly for, according to Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), mishandling classified information. On October 11, during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on State of the Union, Podliska called the committee's investigation "partisan" and claimed the focus shifted almost exclusively to Clinton after it was reported that she utilized a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.
Gowdy and the committee denied the allegations, and said Podliska was "terminated for cause." A committee spokesperson issued a statement accusing Podliska of his own bias in his work, claiming he participated in an effort to direct committee resources to create a "'hit piece' on members of the Obama Administration, including Secretary Clinton." The statement said the committee would not be "blackmailed into a monetary settlement for a false allegation." Gowdy also issued his own statement, claiming he never spoke directly with Podliska and was confident no one on the committee instructed him to focus on Clinton. This occurred just weeks after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) bragged to Fox's Sean Hannity that Clinton's "numbers are dropping" because of the Select Committee's work.
The Benghazi Select Committee is largely a creation of Fox News and other members conservative media, who endlessly called for Congress to investigate Clinton over the Benghazi attacks. After McCarthy acknowledged the partisan nature of the committee, Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Bill O'Reilly and Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume conceded that the purpose of the investigation was political.
MSNBC reported that Podliska is not seeking monetary compensation from the defamation suit, but rather for Gowdy to release a statement admitting his allegation Podliska mishandled classified information was false. He is also asking for an injunction to prevent Gowdy from repeating the claim:
Last month, Brad Podliska, an Air Force Reserve major, alleged the Benghazi committee terminated him based on his military obligations and his refusal to advance an agenda targeting Hillary Clinton. Now, Podliska is detailing those charges in court in a new filing that alleges Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy broke the law by defaming him in their public battle over Podliska's firing.
Gowdy previously said Podliska was terminated partly for mishandling classified information.
The suit cites Gowdy's claim from a press release and an interview with NBC News, and argues it was a damaging line of attack, since allegations of such a "serious crime" have "ended the careers of many professionals in national security-related industries."
But the charge was totally false, the suit says, because the information Podliska handled was drawn entirely from "sources from the Internet." Podliska adds that the committee staffer who made the allegation later admitted the material "was not classified." The committee has not withdrawn the allegation.
Suing Gowdy for defamation reflects a confrontational legal strategy, as Podliska is moving beyond the details of his termination - a largely staff-level issue - to directly impugning Gowdy's conduct afterward. It also means that Monday's filing goes further than expected, not only suing the Committee, but naming Gowdy as an individual defendant.
The filing emphasizes Podliska is not seeking money for the defamation claim. Instead, he is calling for a statement establishing that Gowdy's allegation was false, and asking the Court to bar Gowdy from repeating it.
Beyond the legal claims, the filing includes some other detailed accusations sure to draw attention in Washington.
The suit says Gowdy conveyed to staff that he thought his Staff Director and Deputy "were incompetent," that senior Republican committee staffers regularly drank alcohol together in the "office during the workday," and that a nonpartisan security staff member deleted documents to avoid detection by Democratic committee members.
Podliska is seeking a jury trial, raising the prospect of one of the most high profile Washington courtroom dramas since the 2007 prosecution of Scooter Libby, a senior aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney.