- Created on 16 February 2013
Former US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was charged Friday with scheming to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. His wife was charged with filing false income tax forms.
Federal prosecutors filed a charge of conspiracy against the former congressman and charged his wife, Sandra, with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2011. Both agreed to plead guilty in plea deals with federal prosecutors.
- Created on 13 February 2013
(CNN) -- As with any State of the Union address, President Barack Obama this year had several audiences and there were multiple aims for the White House: To show that he understands the economy is still struggling and that he will do more to help the unemployed find jobs, and to portray a different side of himself than what was seen on Inauguration Day -- one willing to reach out to the other party.
While the president did offer some new proposals -- including increasing the minimum wage and guaranteeing preschool -- many of the ideas he pushed were repeating what he had previously offered but went nowhere in divided Washington. And we saw a president trying to expand the use of executive power to help push his agenda.
Here are five things we learned Tuesday night:
1. It's still the economy, stupid
It very well could have been a campaign speech given last year -- the president talking about the need for a balanced approach to deficit reduction, at least four references to protecting the middle class, the need to reignite "the true engine of America's economic growth."
With the recovery still weak, unemployment at 7.9% and the nation's growth rate shrinking the last three months of 2012, the president and his team know much of his legacy may be dependent on helping reignite the economy. The president pushed for 15 manufacturing hubs to help spur high tech job growth.
With $85 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect on March 1, Obama pushed for a replacement of them because some economists warn they could lead to a recession. However, he did not give any ground on what he would accept as an alternative -- setting up the next major fiscal fight with Republicans.
2. Mr. Bipartisan?
Facing hundreds of members of the opposing party, Obama took a decidedly different approach than he did in his aggressive inaugural address.
"They do expect us to put the nation's interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all," the president said early on in the address.
He even praised some Republicans -- he pointed to how Sen. John McCain, his 2008 opponent, worked with then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat turned Independent, on climate change. He mentioned his 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, and said we should try his idea of tying the minimum wage to the cost of living.
While he talked about how chances are good for bipartisan approaches on tax and immigration reform, Republicans can be expected to say they haven't seen a different approach so far from the president on many key issues: He wants more tax revenues and more government spending on his priorities, which are non-starters among Republicans.
Fifty-three percent of those surveyed in a CNN/ORC instant poll of speech-watchers said they did not believe the address would lead to bipartisan cooperation while 39% said they thought it would.
3. Show me the money
Proposals he floated would make high-quality preschool available to every child, provide tax credits for businesses to hire and invest, promote more scientific research and development, further shift cars and trucks away from gasoline, and invest in infrastructure. "Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime." he said. "It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth."
But White House officials refuse to put a price tag on the programs -- or to reveal how, in fact, they would be paid for. They promised more details when the White House's budget proposal is released in a few weeks.
4. If they won't, I will
The president demonstrated clearly how he plans to aggressively use executive actions to push policy if Congress thwarts him and he announced action on climate change and cybersecurity.
"If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will," he said. "I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."
After efforts dealing with cybersecurity failed to pass Congress, the president signed an executive order to increase information-sharing and to help the private sector develop standards. These moves came after the president last month approved 23 executive actions dealing with gun control.
Obama also used the speech to make his base happy by emphasizing such liberal priorities as climate change and equal treatment and benefits for gay Americans as well as announcing a bipartisan commission to improve the voting system and pushing for a hike in the minimum wage.
5. Even presidents can't control the news
While the White House tried to build up suspense around what the president would say, as soon as news broke Tuesday afternoon that accused cop-killer Christopher Dorner was believed to be holed up in a cabin in the California mountains, much of the media immediately switched gears.
What would have been hours of coverage of what was expected from the speech, what Obama's message might be and discussion of his agenda did not happen.
Would this be another split-screen State of the Union similar to when networks flashed news of the verdict in O.J. Simpson's civil trial during Bill Clinton's 1997 address?
That did not happen this time but as soon as Obama wrapped up most news organizations quickly updated viewers on the Dorner story.
But the president might have gotten an unintended benefit from the other story of the day -- interest in Dorner might have helped boost the audience for the address.
- Created on 07 February 2013
(CNN) -- President Barack Obama recently discussed an upcoming spring visit to Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed Tuesday in the daily press briefing.
While overseas, Obama will also visit the West Bank and Jordan "to continue his close work with Palestinian Authority officials and Jordanian officials," Carney added.
The trip to Israel would mark Obama's first visit as president. While Obama traveled to the country in 2008 during his presidential campaign, he did not visit Israel during his first term.
Carney added "additional details, including dates of travel, will be released at a later time."
The president discussed the visit while on the phone with Netanyahu on January 28, shortly after the prime minister was re-elected for the third time in the country's elections last month.
"The start of the president's second term and the formation of a new Israeli government offer the opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern including of course Iran and Syria," Carney said.
Obama campaign aides said last summer that the president would make a trip to Israel should he be re-elected.
Obama's not the first president to go to Israel during his second term. President George W. Bush went to the country in both January and May of 2008. Former President Ronald Reagan did not visit the U.S. ally at all during his two terms.
Meanwhile, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, both Democrats, visited the country during their first four years in office.
CNN's Ashley Killough, Gregory Wallace and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
- Created on 07 February 2013
Fearful that the confirmation hearings of John Brennan for CIA director would be derailed before they started, President Obama relented and gave Congress a secret legal memo explaining his justification for drone strikes on Americans suspected of working with terrorists.
The issue is sure to be a central question in the Senate hearings today of Brennan, a longtime CIA official who left the agency to become Obama's counterterrorism expert and the czar of the drone program. Obama was coming under increasing criticism from members of Congress for not releasing the memo — which the administration had previously claimed didn't exist.
The president undoubtedly was pressured by the leaking of the memo to NBC News, which released it earlier in the week. The undated 16-page memo is titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operation Leader of al Qaeda or An Associated Force." The administration argues that the killing of an American can be ordered even in the absence of an "active plot" to attack the United States.
According to some estimates, the CIA and the U.S. military have undertaken more than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people — many of them civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates a higher number — that from 2004 to 2013, CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to 3,461 people — up to 891 of them civilians.
Read the full story on Atlanta Black Star - http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/02/07/obama-releases-secret-memo-to-senate-on-drone-program/
- Created on 06 February 2013
(CNN) -- A new poll shows more than seven in 10 Americans support policies that would pave a path toward citizenship or residency for undocumented immigrants.
Seventy-two percent say they favor allowing those here illegally to become legal residents or citizens if they meet certain requirements, according to the Gallup survey released Thursday.
That Gallup poll was conducted at the end of January, shortly after President Barack Obama and members of Congress began resurrecting immigration reform as a top issue on the legislative agenda.
A strong majority of Americans support four other measures of potential reform, including:
- Requiring employers to verify that all new hires are living in the U.S. legally (85% approve)
- Creating a system to track the departure of foreigners who enter the U.S. through airports and seaports (71% approve)
- Increase the number of visas for legal immigrants who have advanced skills in technology and science (71% approve)
- Increase government spending on security measures and enforcement at U.S. borders (68% approve)
Also of note, a majority of Republicans support all five measures asked about in the poll, including 59% who favor a chance to become legal residents or citizens.
The survey comes as Obama and Congress have pushed immigration reform to the forefront of national dialogue in recent days. Obama met with labor leaders and CEOs at the White House Tuesday to discuss the issue and traveled to Las Vegas last week to highlight his own proposals.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders have also been calling for major reform. A bipartisan group of eight senators, including Republican Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio, last week laid out their framework for immigration reform, which includes a pathway to citizenship.
The so-called Gang of Eight's plan would call for border security measures to a higher priority than building a pathway to citizenship, but the Gallup survey shows that Americans "give roughly equal support to both."
Obama has said he'd like to see legislation pass in the first half of the year and vows to introduce a bill of his own should Congress fail to act. The bottom line is that both parties largely agree reform should take place, though they disagree on the details.
Gallup surveyed 1,019 adults by telephone from January 30-31, with a sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.