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Posts tagged ‘New Jersey’

Menendez Iran Sanctions Bill Stirs Democratic Unrest.


Image: Menendez Iran Sanctions Bill Stirs Democratic Unrest

By Melissa Clyne

A fight is brewing among Democrats and the White House over a bill proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez that would impose additional sanctions against Iran if the country fails to make good on its promises regarding its nuclear program.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the New Jersey Democrat’s bill has drawn criticism from the White House, which fears that saber rattling over more sanctions could upset efforts to reach a final agreement with Tehran aimed at effectively ending its nuclear program. In December, a large group of Democratic Senate chairman also raised the same concern about threatening new sanctions before talks have even gotten well underway.

The U.S., along with Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, struck a deal with Tehran to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of international sanctions for six months. Menendez and other liberal Democratic heavyweights, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, have voiced skepticism over the interim deal, arguing that it has no “end game” and is not stringent enough.

Two dozen senators – 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans – are cosponsoring the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced by Menendez and Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. Writing in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post last Thursday, Menendez argued that the U.S. needs to operate from a trust and verify stance with Iran, a historically untrustworthy nation.

“The American public supports diplomacy. So do I.” Menendez wrote. “The American public doesn’t trust the Iranian regime. Neither do I.”

The same day, the White House struck back with a statement from National Security Council Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, who accused Menendez and other critics of the deal of being stealth war hawks.

“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action [against Iran’s nuclear development efforts], they should be up front with the American public and say so,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”

Meehan argued that the Menendez-Kirk bill would be counter-productive and “divide the international community . . . and possibly end negotiations.”

Also lining up against Menendez and his camp are 10 Senate committee chairmen, whopenned a Dec. 18 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to reject additional sanctions unless Iran violates the current agreement.

“We believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail,” the letter stated.

But Menendez wrote in his op-ed piece that Iran has already laid the groundwork for breaching terms of the deal reached in Geneva by doing things like firing a rocket into space and improving their ability to develop a long-range ballistic missile. Tehran has also proposed enriching uranium up to 60 percent, well beyond any potential use for peaceful purposes, according to Menendez.

His bill, he argues, “supports continued negotiations, gives the administration a year of flexibility to secure a comprehensive agreement, respects the sanctions relief Iran is set to receive and prevents any new sanctions from taking effect while good-faith negotiations are underway.”

He called measure a “diplomatic insurance policy” and “an act of reasonable pragmatism.”

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Priebus: Christie More Transparent Than Obama.


Image: Priebus: Christie More Transparent Than Obama

By Audrey Hudson

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday said Gov. Chris Christie showed more transparency and openness about the temporary lane closure on the George Washington Bridge than Barack Obama has about numerous scandals that have engulfed his presidency.

“Americans are a forgiving people, but they’re forgiving when you take ownership, when you admit mistakes you take corrective action, and that’s what Chris Christie showed,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“He stood there for 111 minutes in an open dialogue with the press,” Priebus said of the New Jersey Republican’s press conference after the revelation this week that an aide had participated in the decision to shut down numerous bridge lanes for several days last year.

“Now if only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would give us 111 seconds of that, would we find out some things we want to find out about Obamacare, Benghazi the IRS — I mean Chris Christie has been open here,” Priebus said.

NBC Host David Gregory argued that if Obama set the tone for the IRS scandal, as his critics have maintained, then the same should hold true for Christie.

The difference is that “Chris Christie gave us almost two hours of open dialogue and really, cross examination with the press (wherein) you can judge a person’s character, and we had an opportunity to do that,” Priebus said.

“The president never offered that open dialogue so the people could determine the character with the president,” Priebus said.

Gregory also questioned whether Christie had set the tone for petty political retribution within the governor’s office. Emails revealed that the lane closures were for political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, for refusing to endorse Christie’s reelection last year.

The lanes were closed without notice, slowing emergency vehicles and school buses, and were blamed for the death of a 91-year-old woman whose transportation to a hospital was delayed in the traffic.

“He trusted people that lied to him, and he fired those people. The president doubles down on Eric Holder, he doubles down on Hillary Clinton and Lois Lerner and Susan Rice, it’s the opposite,” Priebus said.

The Republican chairman also addressed the new tell-all book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called “Duty,” and an assertion that Clinton’s opposition to the 2007 surge in Iraq was purely political because she was facing Obama in the primary.

“I think she’s a political person,” Priebus said.

“And I think what this country is starving for, are real authentic people who want to serve this country with a pure heart. And when they read these things about Hillary Clinton, when they examine her life, they question it … is she real, is she authentic, is she genuine, does she want to serve this country with a pure heart?” Priebus said.

“I think she’s political and I think Robert Gates’ book shows that once again.”

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

McCain: US Should Have Kept Residual Forces in Iraq.


Image: McCain: US Should Have Kept Residual Forces in Iraq

By Amy Woods

U.S. Sen. John McCain suggested Sunday sending Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, and Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq, back to the Mideast to help quell the violence spreading throughout the region.

“[Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki trusts them,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s not just Iraq,” he said. “When you look at Iraq/Syria, you are seeing an al-Qaida enclave there, and that is very dangerous to American national security.”

The recent al-Qaida insurgence in Iraq has the country slipping toward a civil war less than three years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Now we see Fallujah vehicles driving down the main street with al-Qaida flags,” McCain said. “It’s very distressing to those veterans who fought so hard. This president wanted out. We got out. It would never say the number of troops that they wanted to have there, so Maliki decided to go his own way, and we’re now seeing dramatically increased Iranian influence there in Iraq.

“We could have kept a residual force there, and anybody who tells you we couldn’t is not telling the truth,” he added.

During the interview, the Republican slammed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for refusing to consider amendments to the unemployment-insurance bill.

“If we could have open debate in the United States Senate and amendments, then maybe we could make it better in the long run,” McCain said. “Instead, it’s being rammed through, cut off debate, no amendments, and that’s not the way the Senate should function.”

McCain addressed the Chris Christie bridge scandal on the talk show and said the New Jersey governor and likely presidential candidate will survive “as long as another shoe doesn’t drop.”

“I don’t think he could have handled it any better than he has so far,” McCain said of Christie’s lengthy press conference last week in response to revelations about a politically motivated traffic jam planned by the governor’s staff.
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Giuliani on Bridge-gate: Christie ‘Pretty Darn Credible’.


Image: Giuliani on Bridge-gate: Christie 'Pretty Darn Credible'

By Greg Richter

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says “it’s pretty darn credible” that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was unaware his aides had purposely shut down most lanes of the George Washington Bridge as a form of political retaliation.

After all, Christie was in the middle of his re-election bid, Giuliani said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” and during “campaign mode” you miss a lot of things. He compared Christie’s situation to that of President Barack Obama, who initially denied terrorism was involved in the Benghazi attacks.

“This is what happens in political operations. People get wrong messages,” Giuliani said. “People in the IRS thought President Obama wanted them to do this. President Obama didn’t want them to do this,” he said of the IRS scandal in which conservative and tea party groups were targeted for added scrutiny.

In Christie’s case, aides ordered lane shutdowns for what most news organizations are reporting as political payback to Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing his re-election. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has theorized it was over a fight on state Supreme Court judicial nominees. 

Either way, Giuliani said he believes the issue will “just go away” because Christie addressed it fully in an exhaustive press conference on Thursday.

That is, unless facts come out to implicate the governor.

“If it turns out there’s some evidence that he knew about it, he’s taken the complete risk that his political career is over,” Giuliani said.

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Poll: Most New Jersey Voters Believe Christie Knew About Lane Closures, Should Resign if Proven.


Image: Poll: Most New Jersey Voters Believe Christie Knew About Lane Closures, Should Resign if Proven

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Most New Jersey voters think that Gov. Chris Christie was aware of lane closures planned for the George Washington Bridge before they happened last September, and should step down if a connection is proven, reveals a new poll.

The telephone survey of 800 likely New Jersey voters, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, shows that 54 percent believe “it’s at least somewhat likely” that Christie was aware that the lanes on the nation’s busiest bridge, leading from Fort Lee to New York City, were closed over retaliation over the city’s mayor refusing to support his reelection.

The survey was taken Thursday night following Christie’s nearly two-hour long press conference, in which he apologized, repeatedly insisted he did not know the lane closures were anything except a routine traffic jam, and announced he fired former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who he said lied to him about her involvement.

The damaging poll numbers were released before New Jersey speaker-elect Vincent Prietosaid Saturday that the state’s General Assembly would be called into special session to investigate the accusations being made about the governor and his staff.

“Many questions remain unanswered about this threat to public safety and abuse of power,” Prieto said. “I expect to call the Assembly into special session on Thursday to consider legislation that would reauthorize subpoena power so this investigation can continue.”

Meanwhile, the poll showed mixed opinions among the state’s normally loyal Christie supporters. Just over one-third, or 36 percent, still believe it’s unlikely Christie knew anything about the plan to close the lanes before it happened, and another 30 percent think it was very likely he was aware. Just 17 percent of the voters said it was not at all likely Christie knew beforehand.

If it turns out that Christie knew beforehand, 56 percent of the states residents think he should step down, but 29 percent disagree.

The polling was sharply divided among party lines, with 75 percent of the Democrats polled saying Christie knew beforehand, and 73 percent of Democrats saying he should step down if he was involved. Only 34 percent of GOP voters said they think the Republican governor knew beforehand, and just 50 percent of them think he should step down.

But even while voters are mixed over beliefs that Christie was involved in the bridge-gate scandal, most believe it’s likely that his staff retaliated against other political officials who refused supporting his reelection bid last year. Seventy-one percent of the voters polled think his staff acted in retaliation, while 41 percent said it was very likely, and only 17 percent said it was not at all likely.

In addition, 81 percent of the voters thought the staff members should be fired, while 41 percent believe they should face criminal prosecution.

The poll also showed that Christie’s numbers are down among New Jersey voters. Last October, just before his landslide election, 63 percent had a favorable opinion, but that dropped to 55 percent after the bridge scandal broke, and 44 percent view him unfavorably.

However, despite the bridge controversy, most voters, at 60 percent, approve of Christie’s job performance, compared to only 52 percent approving of President Barack Obama’s.

The scandal has also hurt Christie’s numbers when it comes to a potential presidential run. Last year, 44 percent of voters said they would vote for the governor if he runs, but now, 43 percent said they would choose Hillary Clinton over him.

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Report: Bridge-gate May Have Been Over Judicial Nominee.


Bridge-gate may not have been retaliation over a failed gubernatorial endorsement at all, but rather a fight over state Supreme Court nominees.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow first theorized the connection on her show on Thursday, noting that the email ordering “traffic problems in Fort Lee” came just 12 hours after an angry Gov. Chris Christie removed a Supreme Court justice’s name from re-election in a fight with Democratic state senators.

The issue began in 2010 when Christie refused to submit the name of Democratic Justice John Wallace for renomination – something that no governor had done since the state constitution was rewritten in the 1940s. Under the constitution, Supreme Court justices are nominated for initial seven-year terms, then can be re-nominated after serving the first term. If confirmed again, they can serve until age 70.

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Republican Christie declined to renominate Wallace at the end of his initial seven years even though there had been no complaints about his service, Maddow said.

Democrats were furious, and fights ensued over the next two nominees. Then, when a Republican, Helen Hoens, came up for nomination in 2013, Democrats vowed to fight.

Christie held a press conference on Aug. 12, pulling Hoens off the bench because, he said, “I was not going to let her loose to the animals.” Democrats should have thought about the ramifications “before opening their mouths,” he added.

The next morning, Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly sent out an email saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Fort Lee is in the district of New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

Weinberg told the New York Post she believes there is more to the story. “The governor hasn’t come clean yet,” she said.

Most news organizations have been reporting that the closing of lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge leading into New York City from Fort Lee, N.J., was retaliation against Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse him in his re-election bid. But Maddow noted that both Sokolich and Christie had downplayed those theories, with Sokolich noting that the governor had never pressed him for an endorsement.

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By Greg Richter

Haley Barbour: Liberal Press Going Overboard on Christie’s Bridge-gate.


Image: Haley Barbour: Liberal Press Going Overboard on Christie's Bridge-gate

By Elliot Jager

Haley Barbour, the prominent Republican Party leader, former Mississippi governor and a mentor of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, declared that “the liberal media elite” is treating the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal “like the Lincoln assassination,” NJ.com reported.

Christie staffers are alleged to have purposefully slowed traffic off the bridge and into North Jersey’s Fort Lee for four days in September 2013 as part of a political vendetta against that city’s Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich. Christie and Sokolich both deny that they had been feuding.

Barbour, who is associated with the moderate wing of the GOP, lauded Christie for apologizing and taking responsibility rather than claiming the behavior was someone else’s responsibility. The New Jersey governor told a Jan. 9 news conference that he was “embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.”

He fired his deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and his veteran campaign manager Bill Stepien. Christie’s senior political operative on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the George Washington Bridge, David Wildstein, also resigned.

“He stepped up to the plate and said what a great Democratic president once said: ‘The buck stops here. I take responsibility,'” said Barbour. “The American people are dying for that after five years of President Obama always saying it’s someone else’s fault,” Barbour told The Star-Ledger.

United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman also came under criticism from Barbour for launching an investigation into the lane closings.

“The Justice Department, while they don’t investigate the IRS for trampling on the rights of conservative groups, is going to be after this like a dog with a bone because it’s all about politics,” Barbour said.

While some political operatives are wondering whether a “smoking gun” will yet emerge to link Christie directly to the lane closings, Barbour pointed out that Christie is himself a former federal prosecutor.

“He understands that most people in politics who get in trouble don’t get in trouble for what they did, they get in trouble for not telling the truth.”

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