HARRY REID QUICKLY PASSES TORCH TO CHUCK SCHUMER FOR DEMOCRATIC LEADER

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Durbin is also supporting Schumer and won’t seek the top spot

by SAHIL KAPUR | READ MORE | MARCH 27, 2015

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) caused a political earthquake on Friday by announcing he won’t seek reelection in 2016, opening up the coveted perch of Democratic leader that he has held since 2005.

Before the jockeying could begin to succeed the mild-mannered political brawler as the chief caucus leader, Reid endorsed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat, within hours of his announcement.

“I think Schumer should be able to succeed me,” Reid told the Washington Post, predicting that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat, would stand down. Reid said he spoke to Durbin by phone before the interview.

Indeed, it turns out Durbin is also supporting Schumer and won’t seek the top spot.

“Senator Durbin told Senator Schumer late last night that he wasn’t running for Leader, and that Schumer has his support,” a Durbin spokesman told TPM. “Durbin intends to run again for Whip and has Senator Reid’s support. He’s been speaking with senators this morning.”

Schumer would have been the clear favorite to win a race, multiple Democratic sources said.

“Schumer is clearly the frontrunner,” said one Democratic Senate aide, who is unaffiliated with each of the three senators. “He’s just positioned himself that way both publicly and privately. He’s worked very hard to earn the loyalty of the caucus, certainly in a way that Durbin just hasn’t. He tries to engage directly and be a resource and an asset to individual members, to stick up for them and fight for them in leadership meetings.”

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BREAKING: DHS Official Gave Special Favors To Hillary Clinton’s Brother

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CHUCK ROSS
Reporter
Alejandro Mayorkas, the former director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, favored projects championed by Nevada U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and Hillary Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham, according to an explosive new report from the Department of Homeland Security inspector’s general (IG).

The IG concluded its investigation into whether Mayorkas, now the deputy secretary at DHS, “exerted improper influence” in the adjudication of the Employee-Based Fifth Preference (EB-5), which allows aliens to invest $500,000 in U.S. companies in order to gain residency for themselves and their families.

And indeed, the IG determined that Mayorkas did improperly exert his influence, and on behalf of companies with ties to Reid, McAuliffe, and Rodham.

“Mayorkas communicated with stakeholders on substantive issues, outside of the normal adjudicatory process, and intervened with the career USCIS staff in ways that benefited the stakeholders,” the report reads, noting that in each of those cases the outcome would have been different if not for Mayorkas’ intervention.

The report also noted that more than 15 USCIS employees at all levels conveyed “the same factual scenario: certain applicants and stakeholders received preferential access to DHS leadership and preferential treatment in either the handling of their application or petition or regarding the merits of the

The IG, which began its investigations in Sept. 2012, also found that the number and variety of witnesses was “highly unusual” and characterized Mayorkas’ level of intervention as “unprecedented.”

In one case, Mayorkas intervened on behalf of GreenTech Automotive, an electric car company controlled by Gulf Coast Funds Management. McAuliffe was chairman of Gulf Coast’s board while Tony Rodham was CEO.

In an unrelated case, Rodham’s position with Gulf Coast earned him a spot on the board of a gold mining company with interests in Haiti. Rodham met the owner of that company, VCS Mining, at an event for the Clinton Global Initiative, his sister’s charity.

The IG report shows that Mayorkas became involved in the Gulf Coast’s application in July 2010. He opposed USCIS employees’ decision to deny the company’s EB-5 visa applications, though staffers felt that the GreenTech project fell outside of the scope of the program and that it was “really not so good of a project.”

But McAuliffe pushed for EB-5 and continuously called and met with Mayorkas on the matter. According to the IG report, after Gulf Coast’s application was initially denied, Mayorkas took a deep and special interest in the project, telling staff that he would personally oversee it. During one meeting, he shocked staffers by saying that he would take materials related to the application home so that he could work on the case.

Many USCIS staff believed that Mayorkas’ interest in the project indicated that Gulf Coast was “wired in” to the agency.

In early 2013, Mayorkas backed off of his hands-on involvement with the application. But it was understood within the agency that he still hoped to see its application approved. On Jan. 29, 2013, Rodham sent Mayorkas sent an email regarded processing delays. Mayorkas forwarded the email to staff with a “high importance” designation, according to the inspector general.

Gulf Coast’s fourth amendment for application was approved in Feb. 2014.

WHERE WAS OBAMA DURING BENGHAZI ATTACK?

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Republican senators on Friday put pressure on President Obama to confirm his whereabouts during the night of the Benghazi attack, after an ex-White House spokesman revived the debate by telling Fox News he was not in the Situation Room. 

The detail about the president’s location the night of the attack is just one of many revelations that have, in a matter of days, kicked up the controversy to a level not seen since last year. After new emails were released raising questions about the White House response to the attack, a key panel on Friday subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry and House Speaker John Boehner announced a special investigative committee. 

On Friday afternoon, three GOP senators wrote a letter to Obama asking about his whereabouts and spokesman Tommy Vietor’s comments to Fox News. 

“Last night, the former Communications Director for the National Security Council, Tommy Vietor, stated that on the afternoon and night of September 11, 2012 — while the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya was under attack — that you never visited the White House Situation Room to monitor events,” they wrote. 

Claiming that Americans still do not have an “accounting of your activities during the attack,” the senators asked him to confirm Vietor’s account. The letter was signed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. 

In the earlier interview with Fox News, Vietor said he was in the Situation Room during the Benghazi attack — where four Americans including the U.S. ambassador died — but Obama was not. 

He said Obama was in the White House. 

“It is well known that when the attack was first briefed to him it was in the Oval Office and he was updated constantly,” Vietor said Thursday, adding he did not know where the president was at all points in the night because he does not have a “tracking device on him.” He said Obama does not have to be in the Situation Room to monitor an ongoing situation. 

Though officials have described the president as being in the loop that night, Republicans have questioned those claims. The matter was last debated during congressional testimony in February 2013. 

At a hearing, top Defense officials said they had just one conversation with Obama during the course of the attack. 

Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said they spoke with Obama at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 11 that night. They were both on the same call, and said it lasted about 30 minutes. 

Dempsey said they did not speak again until the attack was over. 

Graham, at the time, said Obama “has to account for his leadership” and questioned whether Obama showed “any curiosity” as the attack unfolded. 

Panetta said there was “no question” Obama “was concerned about American lives,” and he assumed the chief of staff was keeping him updated.   

The new letter questioning the president on his whereabouts marks just one front in Republicans’ revived effort to get answers on the 2012 attack. 

The decision by Boehner to call a vote on forming a select committee was a significant development, as Boehner for months has resisted calls by rank-and-file lawmakers to do so. 

The new emails apparently pushed him to change his mind. 

The emails in question were obtained and published by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. One email showed White House adviser Ben Rhodes discussing a “prep call” with then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, before she went on several Sunday shows and made controversial and flawed statements linking the attack to an anti-Islam Internet video 

Top Republicans said those emails should have been turned over to Congress months ago. 

But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid blasted Boehner’s decision as an election-year stunt. 

“There have already been multiple investigations into this issue and an independent Accountability Review Board is mandated under current law,” Reid said in a statement. “For Republicans to waste the American people’s time and money staging a partisan political circus instead of focusing on the middle class is simply a bad decision.”

Mark Levin says GOP has ‘no guts’

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Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, Levin dubbed Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “one of the most despicable, dumbest men to ever be leader in the Senate,” but added that Reid is “running circles around the Republicans.”

“That’s what happens when you have no principles, no strategy and no guts,” Levin said of Congressional Republicans. “It’s time for a new Republican Party.”

“No more excuses. No more whining. No more lying to get you elected. No more crony deals with the U.S. Chamber of crony capitalism,” Levin said, taking a political shot at the business community powerhouse U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Levin made clear his opposition to likely 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

“We are not a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of citizens,” Levin said to applause. “I am sick and tired of the American citizen being demeaned and treated as a second-class citizen while anybody who crosses the border is treated as the most virtuous human being on the face of the earth.”

Levin said some GOP presidential candidates have referred “to us as essentially lazy and racist and themselves rejecting the belief of American exceptionalism, insisting that the nation owes its current and future greatness, if not existence, to uninterrupted massive waves of low-skilled and unskilled aliens from the third world.”

“This has never been the American experience. Immigration is to be managed, limited, gradual to allow for assimilation and Americanization,” Levin said. “You see, Mr. Bush, we love our country, too.”

Top Republican donors and strategists have argued presidential candidates should strike a more inclusive tone on immigration reform, noting that Hispanics are an important constituency needed to win elections.

President Obama’s immigration policies have been a hot-button issue in recent days as lawmakers barely agreed to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Tea Party conservatives had hoped to block DHS funding unless it came with language to defund President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

With just two hours left until a shutdown took hold, lawmakers reached a one-week stopgap funding deal late Friday night.