Fox News Flash top headlines for Dec. 18 are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats may wait to send their articles of impeachment against President Trump to the GOP-controlled Senate, for fear that they are incapable of holding a fair trial.
Pelosi held a press conference on Wednesday following the House impeachment vote and was asked what would qualify as a "fair trial."
"We'll make a decision as a group, as we always have, as we go along," she replied.
Pelosi was then asked about possibly withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate until they get certain reassurances, and the Speaker refused to give a direct answer.
"Again, we'll decide what that dynamic is, but we hope that the resolution of that process will be soon in the Senate," she said.
Pelosi proceeded to read a statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about impeachment procedure and used it as an example of what she considers to be an unfair process.
"Let me tell you what I don't consider a fair trial," she told the crowd of reporters. "This is what I don't consider a fair trial — that Leader McConnell has stated that he's not an impartial juror, that he's going to take his cues, in quotes, from the White House, and he is working in total coordination with the White House counsel's office."
She finally deferred to the Senate as the final arbiter of Trump's fate and accused the president of withholding vital documents from Congress.
"It's up to the senators to make their own decision working together, hopefully in recognition of their witnesses that the president withheld from us, their documents that the president withheld from us and we would hope that that information would be available in a trial to go to the next step. Because that's another level in terms of conviction, in terms of this," Pelosi said. "But right now the president is impeached."
The Speaker then repeatedly fended off questions about withholding the articles, before saying it would ultimately be a joint decision between the House and Senate.
"We will make our decision as to when we're going to send — when we see what they're doing on the Senate side, but that's a decision that we will make jointly," she said.
The impeachment vote total on the abuse-of-power count was 230–197, with Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voting present. The obstruction vote total was 229–198, with Gabbard also voting present on that count too.
Will the voices of moderate Democrats be heard or squashed by the extreme left? Fox News contributor Charles Hurt weighs in.
WASHINGTON — An all but inevitable House floor vote to impeach President Trump is poised to come down to a few dozen moderate Democrats who, under heavy and sustained pressure from both sides of the debate, are staying steadfastly mum on how they'll vote.
“I will not operate on anyone’s timeline,” said freshman Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., who is a prime target of GOP efforts to either kill impeachment or at least encourage Democratic defections. “I will not operate on pressure from anyone.”
Rose is among the 31 House Democrats from districts where Trump won in 2016. Those swing districts were critical to Democrats' winning control of the House last year, and now a majority of those members are needed by the party leadership if Trump is to become the third president ever impeached.
Rose announced he was against impeachment in the wake of the Russia report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but then supported the inquiry over Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
“We have to give this the level of thought and analysis and judicious consideration that it is deserving of,” Rose told reporters Tuesday.
Fellow freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., also hasn’t said how she’ll vote. Slotkin, who penned an op-ed with six other freshman Democrats to help launch the impeachment inquiry, said her constituents expect her to make an objective decision.
“I’m not waking up in the morning looking for a golden poll,” she said Wednesday.
The House is expected to vote next week on two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Democrats narrowly crafted the charges against Trump to focus on his pressure on Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. In a July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, Trump asked for investigations that could have influenced his 2020 reelection chances while the White House had a freeze on nearly $400 million in aid. Trump and his allies deny any quid pro quo tied to aid, and insist the discussions with Ukraine were "perfect."
A few Trump-district Democrats have been outspoken in their support of impeachment, including Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., said he speaks regularly to other swing-district Democrats and believes most will be joining him in voting for impeachment — even if they’ve stayed quiet.
“Not all of them have come out publicly. I think many of them would prefer to announce any decision in their districts,” Malinowski said.
“I think it's the right way to go,” he said of the narrowly crafted articles. “It's very easy for all of us … to point to what President Trump did in extorting a foreign country to help him in the next election as symbolic of what he did in inviting a foreign country (Russia) to help him in 2016. So it's a great opportunity to talk about the full range of his abuses of power.”
The House has 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans and one independent. If all members are present and voting, Democrats would need 216 votes for impeachment and could afford about 17 defectors, assuming all Republicans will side with Trump.
Already two Democrats voted against launching the initial inquiry – Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, while independent Rep. Justin Amash joined with Democrats to secure 232 votes on Halloween to kick off impeachment proceedings.
Republicans are smelling blood. Right-leaning groups continue to target moderate Democrats and inundate them with advertising.
A leading spender in the effort, American Action Network, launched an $8.5 million TV impeachment ad blitz targeting Democratic members including Jared Golden of Maine, Susie Lee of Nevada, Slotkin of Michigan, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Elaine Luria of Virginia.
“Impeachment is going to be a political death sentence for every vulnerable Democrat — no matter how they vote,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams told Fox News. “Either they are going to alienate the independent voters they need or alienate their Democratic Trump-hating base, which they also need to win.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., got an earful at a recent town hall in her district, when some voters shouted at her for saying the allegations against Trump are “incredibly, incredibly serious.”
“It’s a lie. It’s all a lie,” one man shouted at the freshman pol.
Help is on the way for these Democrats — namely from one very rich Democrat. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced this week he’d spend $10 million to protect vulnerable Democrats under attack from the GOP. The White House hopeful already spent $100 million to help Democrats win the majority and his latest donation was cheered by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that seeks centrist legislation, also declined to say whether he’s supporting the articles of impeachment.
“I have no comment on that right now,” said Suozzi, who is facing a progressive challenger in a district that is considered safely Democratic.
A fellow Problem Solvers caucus ally Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., didn’t say how he’d vote on impeachment after failing in his long-shot effort to censure Trump instead.
Politico reported that Gottheimer on Monday tried to revive an idea of censuring Trump instead of filing articles of impeachment along with about 10 other vulnerable Democrats. Others seeking a lighter option were Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Anthony Brindisi of New York and Ben McAdams of Utah.
“I need to see all the facts. I’m not going to prejudge anything until we get every bit of information in and then I’ll make a decision,” Gottheimer said Wednesday.
Pelosi claimed Thursday she’s not pressuring moderate Democrats for votes.
“We are not whipping something like this. … People need to come to their own conclusions,” Pelosi said.
Pressed again by reporters she said: "I'm not asking anyone what their vote is. This is a vote that people will have to come to their own conclusion on and the facts are clear — irrefutable,” she said.
Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher weighs in on 'Fox & Friends.'
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., defended President Trump taking action on reviewing the case of disgraced Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher – saying he was “very comfortable” with the president making the final choice on whether Gallagher will keep his rank despite objections from top naval brass.
"I think the president as commander in chief can make this decision," Wicker said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." “I feel very comfortable with him making it.”
Earlier this weekend, the New York Times reported that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Commander Rear Adm. Collin Green had threatened to resign if the Navy carries out the request by Trump to restore Gallagher’s rank to chief petty officer after he was demoted last summer. Spencer has denied the claim.
Gallagher was found not guilty of murdering an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter during a 2017 deployment to Iraq, but was convicted of posing for a photo with the corpse. His case and trial made international headlines and caught the attention of President Trump, who tweeted on Wednesday in support of Gallagher.
"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin," Trump said.
“This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” he added. The Trident pin signifies membership of the elite SEAL force.
There is concern at the Pentagon that the president is micromanaging the military justice system, according to multiple officials who asked not to be identified. This, following the president’s recent pardons issued to two Army officers, as well as ordering Gallagher’s rank be restored.
Officials say the president should not be deciding who can or cannot be a Navy SEAL.
However, Spencer told reporters the president has every right to intervene in military justice proceedings.
On Nov. 15, Trump granted clemency to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, six years after he was found guilty of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire and kill three men in Afghanistan. His supporters say the men they killed were Taliban fighters. However, nine members of his unit testified against him, saying the men were innocent.
Trump also granted clemency to Maj. Matt Golsteyn, a former Green Beret, and said the murder charges will be dropped against him. Golsteyn was charged in the 2010 premeditated murder of a suspected Taliban bomb maker. His trial was expected to begin next month.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.
“Jim Jordan has been in all these depositions and been part of it,” McCarthy said during an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “But [Adam Schiff] is trying to control everything.”
McCarthy announced on Friday that Jordan, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee and a staunch defender of President Trump, would temporarily replace Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., for the duration of the hearings.
“Jim Jordan has been on the front lines in the fight for fairness and truth. His addition will ensure more accountability and transparency in this sham process," McCarthy said in a statement on Friday.
Under current terms, Jordan, as the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, has been in the room for most closed-door depositions. Because he is not a member of the Intelligence Committee, though, the Ohio Republican cannot ask questions.
A senior House Democratic aide tells Fox News that Democrats allowed the personnel shift because “it is customary that whoever the minority proposes is accepted.”
Jordan would not have been on the dais during open hearings this week to counterpunch. Republican leadership all week had been weighing the Jordan move, and considering adding Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., as well. But in order to position Jordan on the panel, Republican leadership is required to remove one of the current Republicans on the panel. Removing three, to also include Meadows and Zeldin, would be somewhat of a feat.
The assignment comes just days before the first open hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry.
On Wednesday, Schiff announced that the first public hearings as part of the inquiry would be held next Wednesday and Friday, featuring current and former officials with knowledge of the Ukraine controversy.
The first public hearing will feature Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who already testified behind closed doors before congressional investigators that the president pushed Ukraine to investigate election interference, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, and their Ukrainian dealings — and that he was told U.S. military aid and a White House meeting were used as leverage to get a public announcement from Kiev that the probes were underway.
Kent, the deputy assistant Secretary of State, also will appear with Taylor. Kent testified behind closed doors last month, and told the committees that he had concerns about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Ukrainian natural gas firm, Burisma Holdings, in 2015, but was rebuffed by the former vice president’s staff, which said the office was preoccupied with Beau Biden’s cancer battle.
Meanwhile, next Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will appear in a public setting. She testified last month behind closed doors as well, telling lawmakers that Ukraine told her about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s campaign to oust her from her post in the administration. Yovanovitch was pushed out of her job in May on Trump’s orders.
Yovanovitch said she learned from Ukrainian officials last November or December that Giuliani was in touch with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, “and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me.”
The impeachment inquiry was opened after a whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump, during a July phone call, pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter as military aid to the country was being withheld.
A transcript released by the White House shows Trump making that request, but he and his allies deny that military aid was clearly linked to the request or that there was any quid pro quo. Some witnesses coming before House committees as part of the impeachment proceedings have challenged that assertion.
The White House, though, has maintained the president did nothing wrong.
The House of Representatives, last week, passed a measure largely along party lines, formalizing the process and setting “ground rules” for the impeachment inquiry, including for public witness testimony.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.
President Trump delivers remarks on withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria the White House.
President Trump vigorously defended on Monday his decision to withdraw United States troops from northern Syria ahead of a planned invasion of the region by Turkey, even as his Republican allies in both the Senate and House vehemently criticized the move.
In his first public comments since news broke early Monday of the troop withdrawal, Trump said he understood the concerns raised by his fellow Republicans, but added that it was time to fulfill his campaign promise to bring the troops home.
“We want to bring our troops back home and I got elected on that,” Trump said during a news conference Monday. “I fully understand both sides but I promised to bring our troops home.”
He added, “We're not a police force.”
Separately, a U.S. official told Fox News the U.S. military no longer will allow Turkish flights in Syria along the border with coalition aircraft and no longer will share intelligence from drone feeds in the region with President Recep Tayyip Ergodan's forces.
The GOP lawmakers, who have stood lockstep with the president on almost every other issue, have expressed concern that the withdrawal could lead to the genocide of the U.S.’s Kurdish allies and a return to power of the Islamic State in the region.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Trump to reconsider his “precipitous withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Syria, arguing that ISIS and other terrorist organizations “remain dangerous forces in Syria and the ongoing Syrian civil war poses significant security and humanitarian risk.”
McConnell, R-Ky., continued, “I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners.”
The response by Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was not as measured as McConnell’s.
“Withdrawing U.S. forces from northern Syria is a catastrophic mistake that puts our gains against ISIS at risk and threatens America’s national security,” the House Republican Conference chairwoman said in a statement, referencing the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Pulling out of northern Syria ignores that painful lesson, represents an abandonment of our Kurdish allies despite their vital contributions to the fight against ISIS, emboldens Iran and serves as an undeserved gift to the Ergodan regime, which has only continued its steady march toward Moscow.”
Trump vociferously defended his decision in a long series of tweets on Monday, saying the ISIS “Caliphate” has been defeated and lamenting that the U.S. was in the region years longer than planned. Reprising the rhetoric on foreign wars he has often used on the campaign trail, he described the fight as a regional conflict for Turkey and other countries to wage — not America's problem.
“The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight. When I arrived in Washington, ISIS was running rampant in the area. We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate,” he tweeted.
Trump added in another tweet that if Erdogan's government did anything that “I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits,” the U.S. would “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey.”
The president’s reassurances aside, the White House’s move to withdraw troops and effectively green-light the Turkish invasion has been opposed even by some of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress.
Speaking on “Fox & Friends” Monday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called it an “impulsive decision” by Trump that would undo U.S. gains in the region and give ISIS fighters a “second lease on life.”
He tweeted: “If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has had a mixed relationship with the president ever since the 2016 election, went on a tweetstorm himself on Monday in which he lambasted the decision and said it would be “disgraceful” to abandon the Kurds.
“It would also be DISGRACEFUL if we sat idly by while Turkey slaughters the Kurds, as public reports suggest that Turkish leader Erdogan explicitly told President Trump he intends to do. Kurds risked their lives—for many years—to fight alongside us,” Cruz tweeted.
Hours after the White House announcement, Kurdish-led forces in Syria reported that American troops had started withdrawing from areas along Turkey's border. A video posted by a Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles apparently heading away from the border area of Tal Abyad.
The decision to give Ankara the green light was seen by the Kurdish fighters as a major shift in U.S. policy. Over 11,000 mostly Kurdish fighters in the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been killed fighting ISIS in Syria.
Along with congressional Republicans, the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been staunchly criticized by current and former government and military officials, with former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley calling it “a big mistake.”
“We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” Haley tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”
One U.S. commander who helped lead the anti-ISIS effort told Fox News the decision amounted to a propaganda victory for China and Russia, saying those countries could tell would-be U.S. partners that America will abandon them.
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton's hawkish approach brought him into conflict with some of President Trump's top foreign policy initiates; State Department correspondent Rich Edson reports.
As the Trump administration’s decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria reverberated around the world, insiders point out that the controversial plan had created discord in Washington long before it was ever implemented.
President Trump first made waves on the issue in December 2018, when he abruptly announced the U.S. would completely pull its troops from Syria, tweeting that the mission to defeat ISIS was completed. The move prompted the resignation of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and a coordinated campaign by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton to try to protect the Kurds, America's fighting partner in the region.
Trump’s foreign policy decision on Syria, which he had promised back on the campaign trail in 2016, was reportedly the final straw for Mattis. His decision to resign was based on principle, sources told Fox News at the time.
"Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position," Mattis wrote at the time.
Meanwhile, Bolton was left to try to smooth over backlash in Washington and abroad over Trump’s policy decision on Syria.
Bolton and other officials in the White House worked “behind the scenes” to slow the president’s order to pull all 2,000 troops from Syria, with Bolton pushing for the U.S. departure from Syria to include the condition that Turkey guaranteed it would not target Kurdish fighters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Bolton of making a “serious mistake” in complicating Trump’s Syria withdrawal — and Bolton would ultimately also exit his post after being fired by Trump in September.
In announcing Bolton’s termination, Trump said he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.”
Trump on Monday defended the decision to pull back from Syria, saying the ISIS "Caliphate" has been defeated and lamenting that the U.S. was in the region years longer than planned. Reprising the rhetoric on foreign wars he has often used on the campaign trail, he described the fight as a regional conflict for Turkey and other countries to wage — not America's problem.
"The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight. When I arrived in Washington, ISIS was running rampant in the area. We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate," he said.
Fox News' Hollie McKay and Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.
President Trump faced swift criticism early Monday after the White House announced its decision to move U.S. troops from northern Syria and give way for Turkey’s planned military incursion in the region.Original Article
McCabe suing to get benefits and pension back; Kristin Fisher reports.
Federal prosecutors appear to be close to a decision on whether to charge former FBI official Andrew McCabe over the circumstances that led to his firing from the bureau last year, Fox News has learned.
A source close to the process said that McCabe has had a “target on his back” because of the Justice Department inspector general findings against him over actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, as well as his role in the surveillance warrants against Trump campaign associates during the Russia investigation. McCabe is a former deputy and acting director of the FBI.
The New York Times, which first reported the developments Monday, said McCabe’s lawyers recently met with DOJ attorneys who would handle a prosecution – an indication of a possible indictment.
McCabe's legal team and the Justice Department declined to comment.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. has not responded to a Fox News request for comment.
The McCabe developments come just days after CNN announced it has hired the former FBI official as a paid commentator – a move that has drawn criticism. President Trump tweeted last week that the hiring of McCabe was “disgraceful.”
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe in March 2018 after the Justice Department inspector general report found he had repeatedly misstated his involvement in a leak to The Wall Street Journal regarding an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
Was Gen. Flynn set up during Russia investigation questioning? Rep. Devin Nunes and Fox News contributor Sara Carter weigh in.
A source close to the process confirmed to Fox News that the inspector general files on McCabe went to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is probing the origins of the Russia case, to investigate his actions.
The complaint contends that the two officials responsible for demoting and then firing McCabe — FBI Director Chris Wray and Sessions — created a pretext to force him out in accordance with the president's wishes.
The stated reason for the firing was that McCabe had misled investigators over his involvement in a news media leak, but McCabe says the real reason was "his refusal to pledge allegiance to a single man."
McCabe has been singled out for attacks by the president since before he was elected after news emerged in the fall of 2016 that McCabe's wife had accepted campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during an unsuccessful run for the state senate there. McAuliffe is a close ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who was being investigated at the time for her use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state.
McCabe has denied any wrongdoing and has said the inspector general's conclusions relied on mischaracterizations and omissions, including of information favorable to McCabe.
McCabe spent 21 years with the FBI. He became the acting director in May 2017 after the president fired former director James Comey.
Fox News' Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
The Supreme Court will begin to hear arguments in November. A ruling is expected in the presidential election year, putting the high court at the center of one of the most politically charged issues of debates. A decision in favor of Trump would allow for the president to deport more than one million young adults residing in the U.S. under DACA protection, the New York Times reported.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was created under an executive order in 2012. The program gives some illegal immigrants — known as "Dreamers" — who were brought to the United States as children– the opportunity to receive a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation and become eligible for a work permit.
In 2017, the Trump administration announced its plan to phase out the program, but federal courts have ruled that the phase-out could not apply retroactively and that the program should be restarted.
The White House fought back on those decisions, saying the president has broad authority over immigration enforcement policy. Federal appeals courts around the country have rejected efforts by the federal government to move ahead with phasing out the Obama-era program.
DACA proponents have also argued that Trump’s planned termination of the program violates federal law requiring adequate notice-and-comment periods before certain federal rules are changed, as well as other constitutional equal protection and due process guarantees.
A decision from the Supreme Court to end DACA could galvanize young Americans to ensure Trump does not see another four years in the White House, the Times report stated. On the other hand, if the Court chooses to continue the Obama-era program, conservatives could argue Trump needs another four years to fulfill his campaign promises on immigration.
Prior to Israel's decision, Trump tweeted that "it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit." "They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds," he added.
“Denying entry to members of the United States Congress is a sign of weakness, not strength," he said in a statement released on Thursday.
"It will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America. No democratic society should fear an open debate. Many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed in this decision, which the Israeli government should reverse.”
Pelosi's comments followed a pattern in which leading Democrats have expressed solidarity with the younger, more progressive lawmakers. Omar, Tlaib, and the rest of their "squad" previously clashed with Pelosi when she downplayed the amount of political power they had in her chamber.
The Israeli government makes a last-minute decision to ban the progressive 'Squad' members from entering Israel ahead of their scheduled visit on Friday; Trey Yingst reports from Jerusalem.
In a surprise move, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee chided the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for barring two freshman Democratic congresswomen from entering the country ahead of a planned visit.
In a tweet, AIPAC stated that while the organization does not agree with the support Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota have voiced for a Palestinian-led boycott movement – or for Tlaib’s calls for a “one-state solution” to the decades-long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians – it believes the two lawmakers should be permitted to enter Israel.
“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” AIPAC tweeted on Thursday. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”
AIPAC's nonprofit arm, the American-Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), hosts annual Israel trips for freshman lawmakers. Critics have argued those trips cast the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a negative light for Palestinians.
The unprecedented move to bar Tlaib and Omar from visiting marks a deep foray by Israel into America's bitterly polarized politics. It came shortly after President Trump tweeted that the Israeli government would "show great weakness" if it allowed the lawmakers into the country. It is also a sharp escalation of Israel's campaign against the international boycott movement.
"They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds," Trump said before calling the two congresswomen "a disgrace."
In a statement, Netanyahu said Israel is "open to critics and criticism," except for those who advocate boycotts against it.
"Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress," Netanyahu said. He added that their itinerary "revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel's legitimacy."
The two newly-elected Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Tlaib's family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank. Israel said it would consider any request from Tlaib to visit relatives on humanitarian grounds.
Israel has sought to combat the BDS movement, which advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli businesses, universities and cultural institutions. The country passed a law permitting a ban on entry to any activist who "knowingly issues a call for boycotting Israel."
The decision to ban the congresswomen could further sharpen divisions among Democrats over the issue of Israel ahead of the 2020 elections. Republicans have amplified the views of left-wing Democrats like Tlaib and Omar to present the party as deeply divided and at odds with Israel. Democratic leaders have pushed back, reiterating the party's strong support for Israel, in part to protect representatives from more conservative districts.
Other American Jewish organizations also have objected to barring the two lawmakers from entering the country. The American Jewish Congress said that despite Omar and Tlaib's planned "propaganda exercise," it believed that "the costs in the U.S. of barring the entry of two members of Congress may prove even higher than the alternative."
Dan Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, said that he knew of "no such precedent" for Israel barring an elected American official from entering the country. He called the government's decision "short-sighted."
"There's no reason to prevent members of Congress, including critical ones, from coming, seeing and learning, offering them every possible briefing," Shapiro said. "By refusing them entry, it will only fuel the very things that Israel claims to be unhappy about" when it comes to calls for boycotts.
“I gave myself a month and I’m running up on that deadline,” Sanford said Wednesday as he sat down for an interview with Fox News in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary in the race for the White House.
Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford sitting down for an interview during a stop in Concord, N.H., on Tuesday.
The trip was Sanford’s first to one of the early-voting states in the primary and caucus nominating calendar as he mulls whether to run for the presidency or maybe form a think tank devoted to fiscal conservatism.
“People are politically aware here,” Sanford said. “More than any other state out there … this is a state where you can get a grassroots opinion real fast on a good idea, bad idea, go, no-go.”
One way or another, the aim of the longtime deficit hawk is to make the explosion of federal spending and a ballooning national debt a conversation in the presidential campaign.
“I think we need to have a conversation as Republicans about what it means to be a Republican,” Sanford explained. “One of the cornerstones to the Republican Party historically was, do we spend beyond our means? Do we believe in some level of financial sanity? And that seems to have gone out of the window of late.”
Sanford warned that “we’re about to drive the train off the tracks on debt, spending and accumulating deficits. And if we don’t all speak up, as Americans and as Republicans we’re going to pay the price.”
Pointing to plans with hefty price tags being proposed by the two dozen Democrats running for the White House, Sanford said “there’s something wrong with a robust debate taking place on the Democratic side where it’s simply a debate of more versus more versus more versus more, with nobody worried about who’s going to pay for it — and no debate taking place on the Republican side.”
Sanford, a Trump critic, criticized the president for failing to take action to curb the debt.
“It’s a problem that he hasn’t used the microphone to talk about how profound this challenge is and how it’s going to hurt every one of us if we don’t do something about it,” Sanford argued. “He’s ruled out action on the very things that drive our debt and spending. It’s irresponsible.”
Sanford’s visit came one day before Trump is to hold his first campaign rally in New Hampshire – it's a key general-election battleground state – since the eve of the 2016 election.
Trump enjoys strong support among Granite State Republicans. The latest evidence: a new poll released this week from the University of New Hampshire showing Trump with an 82 percent approval score among Republicans.
Asked if he believes he can pull off a primary upset – or if he would get in just to spotlight fiscal conservatism – Sanford said "you try to do both. Your immediate goal is, can you have an impact? Can you help shape the debate? Can you have some degree of educational impact? And, your second, longer-term goal of the process is, can you win?”
But, he admitted, “I think you have to acknowledge up front that it’s a long shot.”
Sanford spent his day sitting down for a few select media interviews – and meeting with Republican veterans of the state’s presidential primary. Among them were former state party former state attorney general Tom Rath, a top adviser to then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, and former state GOP chair Fergus Cullen, one of the leaders of the “Never-Trump” movement in New Hampshire.
There’s already a Republican challenging Trump in the primaries – former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. He’s been making near-weekly trips to New Hampshire since February and officially launched his bid in April. But he’s failed – to date – to make a dent in the polls.
Asked how he could succeed where Weld hasn’t, Sanford answered, “That would be the test of time.”