‘NOT ON MY WATCH’: Rand Paul Blocks $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package

WASHINGTON (Washington Times) — Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday blocked the Senate’s attempt to fast-track President Biden’s $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine over concerns there is insufficient oversight and transparency into how the money is being spent.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, both hoped for a swift final passage of the bill, after the House overwhelmingly approved the aid 368-57 on Tuesday.

But Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican, blocked Mr. McConnell’s request for unanimous consent on the measure Thursday afternoon without the addition of language into the bill that would create a special inspector general to oversee the disbursal of aid to Ukraine.

The move was met with vitriol from both the Democrat and Republican leaders anxious to get the aid out the door. Mr. Paul’s objection will push the Senate’s final vote on the measure into next week.

“He is simply saying my way or the highway,” Mr. Schumer said. “When you have a proposal to amend a bill, you can’t just come to the floor and demand it by fiat. You have to convince other members to back it first. That is how the Senate works.”

The Washington Times’ Haris Alic and Joseph Clark contributed to the contents of this report.


REPORT: Trump Considering Executive Order to Push Coronavirus Relief

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering sidestepping congress to to provide Coronavirus relief via executive order now that the Senate has failed to reach a deal, says the Washington Post.

According the report, the president is considering allocating funding for school vouchers, and improving the temporary payroll tax deferral through the Economic Stabilization Fund, which was established by Congress last March and is said to have hundreds of millions in funds waiting to be disbursed. The funds would also be used to to boost the airline industry and federal unemployment benefits.

Trump hinted days ago that he may be considering moving forward with or without congressional approval

“We have $300 billion in an account that we didn’t use — and we are willing to use that,” the president said at a White House press conference last week. “I think there is a theory that I could do it without having to go back [to Congress], but I think it would be appropriate to go back, and I would ask Congress to approve it.”

Leaders on both sides of the political isle have accused each other of playing politics when it comes to getting a much needed economic relief bill passed.

“Democrats just point fingers, call names and keep blocking American families from getting any more help before the November election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R)-Ky., said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., countered MCConnell’s remarks by asking why the majority leader continued to push a bill that he knows won’t pass.

“Is it because they really don’t want a bill, but a political issue — one that will ultimately backfire on them, I believe?” Schumer said.

Calls for comment to McConnell’s spokesperson were not immediately returned.

TRUMP MEETS DEMS IN BORDER SHOWDOWN: Says government shutdown ‘could be a long time’

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday met with Democratic and Republican leaders in another failed effort to resolve the ongoing government shutdown.

During a Cabinet meeting at the White House, his first public appearance of the new year, Trump said the shutdown will last “as long as it takes” as he works to convince Democrats to approve a $5 billion budget bill to fund a wall between the United States and Mexico.

“Could be a long time or could be quickly,” he told reporters.

The president’s comments come as the country entered it’s the 12th day of a partial shutdown, resulting from the Democrats’ refusal to fund the wall, which the president insists is a matter of national security.

Saying the current border is “like a sieve”, Trump said tougher security at the wall is essential in deterring the flow of illegal immigration.

“If they knew they couldn’t come through, they wouldn’t even start,” Trump said at the meeting, joined by Cabinet secretaries and several of his top advisers, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

In a jab at House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who spent the holiday break vacationing at a luxury resort in Hawaii, Trump complained that he had been “lonely” at the White House, having skipped his getaway to Mar-a-Lago in Florida to work instead on securing the nation’s border. He said his only companions during that time were the “machine gunners,” referring to security personnel, adding “they don’t wave, they don’t smile.”

In response, Pelosi blamed Trump for the ongoing shutdown, claiming that the president is the one who is refusing to cooperate.

“We are giving the Republicans the opportunity to take yes for an answer,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues of the Democrats’ plan to “end the Trump Shutdown” by passing legislation Thursday to reopen the government.

“Senate Republicans have already supported this legislation,” Pelosi wrote, “and if they reject it now, they will be fully complicit in chaos and destruction of the President’s third shutdown of his term.”


TRUMP SUMMIT: North Korea says it may be a no-show if ‘sinister’ US insists it give up nukes

Washington, D.C. — North Korea on Wednesday said it may reconsider attending a much-anticipated summit with the United States if the Trump administration continues to insist on North Korea giving up its nuclear program.

Quoting first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s central news agency said the fate of the scheduled June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit remains unclear as long as Washington continues to push for denuclearization of the rogue state.

The statement, which added U.S. President Donald Trump would remain a “failed president” if fails to come to an agreement with North Korea, was met with a cool reaction by Trump.

Speaking to reporters at the White House Wednesday, the president vowed he would not back down on insisting the regime dismantle its nuclear program and hinted that North Korea may be testing its limits. Asked if leader Kim Jong-un is bluffing by suggesting he could pull out of the summit, Trump responded, “we’ll see what happens.”

“We haven’t been notified at all,” the president said.

In an unlikely message of support, Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York urged Trump Wednesday to stand firm with North Korea and not to give Kim “anything for free.” In a tweeted statement, the Senate minority leader said, “We must be strong, and we must be resolute — this exercise should move forward.”

The State Department has said it will continue to plan for the summit until or unless it is notified that the meeting has been called off.


WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS: Trump sit-down with special counsel a no go as critics warn firing Meuller would be ‘political suicide’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump is reportedly reconsidering his decision to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller in the wake of Monday’s FBI raid on his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

According to a report published by ABC 7 Chicago, Trump, who has been engaged in negotiations with Meuller’s legal team to arrange a sit-down interview for the past several months, see’s Monday’s raid of Cohen’s office as a game changer.

Just last month, Trump said he would be “happy” to sit down with Mueller and answer any questions he may have in regard to what, if anything, the president knew about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But now, one source close to the White House says the president is “understandably less trusting” of Mueller and his team.

Monday evening after Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, confirmed the raid, a visibly angry Trump addressed the media inside the White House Cabinet Room, calling the search of Cohen’s office “a disgrace”.

Mueller’s Russia investigation is “not only a political witch hunt but an attack on our country,” said Trump. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

As reported by The New York Times, FBI agents were looking for information relating to a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels in exchange for a confidentiality agreement she signed in the midst of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels, who now claims the agreement was void because it was never signed by Trump, claims to have had a sexual relationship with Donald Trump more than a decade ago after having denied of any sort of relationship with the then-private citizen Trump in the past.

The warrant also called for any and all documents connected to a $150,000 donation given to a Trump charity in 2015 by a Ukrainian businessman who is also on the record as having given tens of millions of dollars to Bill and Hillary Clinton in the past.

Not holding back in showing his anger, Trump openly questioned whether or not he should fire Mueller, who serves as the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian influence on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

“Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on — we’ll see what happens,” Trump said on Monday.

The Mueller team is “the most conflicted group of people I’ve ever seen,” he added, pointing out the fact that a majority of Mueller’s aides are Democrats who had worked for President Barack Obama.

“They’re not looking at the other side,” he complained, referencing the ongoing longstanding investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. “They’re not looking at the Hillary Clinton horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that she committed.”

Meanwhile, a top Republican senator said Tuesday that it would be “suicide” for President Trump to fire Mueller.

“I have confidence in Mueller. The president ought to have confidence in Mueller. I think … it would be suicide for the president to want, to talk about firing Mueller,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told Fox Business Network. “The less the president said on this whole thing, the better off he would be, the stronger his presidency would be.”

The second- highest ranking Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, says he too is confident that Trump won’t fire Mueller.

Addressing a crowd of reporters on Tuesday, Cornyn said Mueller “ought to be permitted to complete his work and I have confidence he’ll do so in a professional way.”

When asked why he thinks Mueller won’t be removed despite the president’s openly considering of the idea, Cornyn said: “I think the consequences of doing so are some that not even the president can anticipate. And I think it would be a mistake.”

Angry over the president’s comments on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) challenged the president’s comments in a speech Tuesday morning on the Senate floor.

“Special counsel Mueller, the FBI, federal prosecutors and U.S. attorneys are following the due process of our legal system. Calling that an attack on our country undermines the rule of law,” Schumer said.

Schumer added that firing Mueller would be crossing a “red line” and called on Congress to pass legislation to protect Mueller from being removed before his investigation is complete.

Senators had initially unveiled bipartisan legislation designed to protect Mueller in 2017 but decided not to move forward on the grounds that they no longer felt it necessary.

Calls to Mueller’s office for statement were met with “no comment”.




SECOND AMENDMENT SHOWDOWN: Congress returns as debate over gun control rages on

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress returned to work Monday after a ten-day break with advocates on both sides of the gun control debate demanding to be heard.

The Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and President Donald Trump’s subsequent calls on Congress to take action are expected to top the list of issues congressional members will face following their return.

In the wake of the deadly shooting in which 17 people were reportedly killed, the president called for a stricter background-check system for Congress to raise the minimum age for some gun purchases to 21. On Tuesday, the president also directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to draft regulations that would ban “bump stocks,” devices which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire at a faster pace.

“I think we’re going to have a great bill put forward very soon having to do with background checks, having to do with getting rid of certain things and keeping other things, and perhaps we’ll do something on age,” Trump said in a Fox News Channel interview Saturday night. “We are drawing up strong legislation right now having to do with background checks, mental illness. I think you will have tremendous support. It’s time. It’s time.”

The president also called for select, specially trained educators to carry weapons on school grounds.

“Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them,” he tweeted (https://tinyurl.com/y7so7rbf). “Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”

But anti-gun advocates claim those steps are simply not enough and are demanding that lawmakers ban AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles like those used in the shooting.

“The real test of President Trump and the Republican Congress is not words and empathy, but action,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y said on the matter. “Will President Trump and the Republicans finally buck the NRA and get something done?” Schumer asked. “I hope this time will be different.”

Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Sunday he planned to renew an effort with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks for commercial gun sales, but he said he was “skeptical” about proposals to raise the minimum age for civilians to buy guns.

“I’m very skeptical about that because the vast majority of 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds are law-abiding citizens who aren’t a threat to anyone,” Toomey told host NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) agreed with Toomey’s stance on implementing higher age restrictions and praised the president’s call to arm educators.

“Those are false senses of security,” he told “Meet the Press” on raising the age requirement to purchase certain firearms to 21 (https://tinyurl.com/ya2vgfsh). “And in 10 years we’re still going to have school shootings unless you propose real legislation like President Trump has proposed, that would allow teachers to be armed.”













‘ART OF THE DEAL’: Senate works together to avoid government shutdown, passes spending plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate leaders announced on Wednesday a proposed spending plan that would boost defense spending and avoid another dreaded government shutdown.

“I am pleased to announce that our bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on defense spending and other priorities have yielded a significant agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an announcement on the House floor. “The compromise we’ve reached will ensure for the first time in years our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep them safe.”

If passed, the two-year budget deal would boost military and non-defense budgets by $300 billion and clear the way for more than $80 billion in disaster relief, with roughly $160 billion dedicated to Pentagon spending and another $128 billion toward non-defense government programs.

Less enthusiastic than McConnel, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said of the agreement, “We have reached a budget deal that neither side loves, but both sides can be proud of.”

The agreement would also include disaster relief for areas stricken by natural disasters and impose a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A $6 billion budget for opioid treatment is also factored into the bill as is $20 billion to be set aside for infrastructure.

Just prior to the proposed legislation being formally made public, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced she will vote to prevent it’s passage if the deal isn’t revised to include funding for DACA.

“This morning, we took a measure of our Caucus because the package does nothing to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers in the House,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.”

The House passed a short-term spending bill Tuesday, which was aimed at keeping the government operational until a budget deal could be made. That bill also included a full-year of funding for defense spending, which both parties agreed was necessary.


‘TAKE YOUR PICK’: Trump administration says, ‘No wall? No DACA’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration has drawn a red line in the sand when it comes to demands from Democrats regarding DACA. No wall? No DACA. It’s that simple.

Appearing on Fox News‏ Channel’s “America’s Newsroom,” White House aide Kellyanne Conway said President Donald Trump has made it very clear to Democrats there would be “no DACA without funding for the wall.”

“This president won in part on taking a tough stand against illegal immigrants just coming over the border,” said Conway. “People want to know that our borders are secure, and this president has a 70-point immigration plan. I know people on the left want to boil it down to DACA and DACA alone. He put out a 70-point immigration plan. Read it. it is there for you to see and transparent.”

“The president has made very clear, and he hasn’t wavered that there is no DACA without funding for the wall, Conway continued. “The wall is to be built. He made that promise. It has begun and very important for folks to see tangibly that we are getting tougher on border security. The president has also made very clear his immigration vision includes an end to chain migration, an end to the visa lottery program and more ICA agents, immigration and border patrol agents at the border so that the men and women there who bravely do their work every day have more support and resources. He has talked about a merit-based immigration system. So it’s a very comprehensive plan that people should look at and not boil it down to just DACA. Democrats know how he feels about this.”

The president’s touch stance on the issue follows an end of year meeting between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California which took place in late December in which the pair demanded that President Trump protect the Obama-era program that allows children brought to the US illegally to stay in the country.

The president, however, who campaigned heavily on a promise to build a secured border wall dividing the United States from Mexico, said he refuses to grant demands on DACA until full funding is approved to build the wall.

In September of 2017, Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, permitting a six-month delay to allow Congress to pass legislation protecting those who had arrived in the U.S. as children.

Congressional Republicans have said they would support some form of legislation to protect so called “Dreamers”, but would want it paired with tighter border security measures.