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May 30, 2015

May 27, 2015

Congress Playing ‘Russian Roulette’ If They Block Patriot Act Extension, Official Warns (Updated)

A senior administration official said Congress is playing 'Russian roulette' if they refuse to extend the Patriot Act. Rand Paul stands in Obama's way. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A senior administration official said Congress is playing ‘Russian roulette’ if they refuse to extend the Patriot Act. Rand Paul stands in Obama’s way. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:17 p.m. | A senior administration official warned Congress would be playing “national security Russian roulette” if they fail to pass a Patriot Act extension by Sunday night.

Several senior administration officials said the various expiring surveillance authorities have proven useful in terrorist investigations far beyond the bulk telephone metadata program that has garnered the most controversy. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 6:38 p.m.
2016, Intelligence

May 26, 2015

Obama Wants USA Freedom Act by Midnight Sunday

Rand Paul and Barack Obama are on a collision course over the USA Freedom Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Paul and Obama are on a collision course over the USA Freedom Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama reupped his push Tuesday for the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act by 12 a.m. Monday to avoid the Patriot Act’s surveillance authorities from going dark. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 3:23 p.m.
Intelligence

May 21, 2015

Obama to Havana? Would ‘Relish’ Cuba Trip

Alan Gross got a standing ovation during the State of the Union Address. He was freed after 5 years in a Cuban prison. Obama now wants to visit Havana. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Alan Gross got a standing ovation during the State of the Union Address. He was freed after 5 years in a Cuban prison. Obama now wants to visit Havana. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama’s bucket list for his remaining time in office has at least one sunny destination on it: Havana, Cuba.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told a reporter in town from Cuba that the president “would relish the opportunity” to visit Havana in 2016.

Earlier, Earnest welcomed the reporter to the United States and the White House. In response to other questions, he said one area of discussion regarding the president’s plans to reopen diplomatic ties with Cuba involves ensuring access by American diplomats to the Cuban people.

Obama has lifted some travel restrictions. And the president, a former smoker, has also loosened rules on bringing Cuban cigars back from the island.

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May 19, 2015

Despite Ramadi, White House Says ISIL Strategy a Success

Secretary of Defense Carter was set to brief Obama Tuesday afternoon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Secretary of Defense Carter was set to brief Obama Tuesday afternoon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite the takeover of the Iraqi city of Ramadi by the Islamic State terror group, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest contended Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has been a success.

Asked repeatedly Tuesday about the loss of the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province despite months of bombing from U.S. and coalition planes, Earnest instead said the president’s strategy, which relies on local forces on the ground, had succeeded in rolling back ISIS gains in Kobani, Syria, and the Mosul Dam, Sinjar Mountain, Tikrit and in other areas in Iraq.

Earnest said the loss of Ramadi was “an indication that Iraqi security forces need to retool their efforts,” but said “we’re optimistic” that together with American air power ISIS gains will be reversed.

As for the overall strategy, Jon Karl of ABC News asked if the president’s strategy was a success.

“Overall, yes,” Earnest said, although moreso than in recent days, he hinted changes could be coming.

He said Obama is “constantly” testing the strategy and asking his commanders about what can be done to improve the strategy. “Including today,” Earnest said.

Obama is set to meet with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter this afternoon.

Earnest also dismissed criticism from Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who said earlier Tuesday that the president should start over with a new strategy and a new proposal for an Authorization to Use Military Force to take on the terror group.

Boehner, Earnest said, as well as other lawmakers in both parties had been “AWOL” on an AUMF against ISIL. He said Boehner has given “excuse after excuse” instead of doing his job and considering the AUMF.

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May 18, 2015

After Ramadi, Boehner Calls on Obama to Change Course on ISIL

Boehner wants Obama to overhaul his ISIL war strategy. ISIS Islamic State

Boehner wants Obama to overhaul his ISIL war strategy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi has Speaker John A. Boehner once again urging Barack Obama to develop a new strategy to win the war against the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIL or ISIS. But so far, the White House is staying the course.

“It is clearer than ever that the Obama administration must rethink its strategy that has repeatedly underestimated ISIL,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “For weeks, as terrorists advanced on Ramadi, the White House insisted that ISIL was on the defensive. Now it says it has no new approach to announce. This must change — quickly.”

Boehner has been one of Obama’s most persistent critics in Congress on the issue, frequently urging him to do more to take on the terror group.

Eric Schultz, the White House deputy press secretary, acknowledged to reporters Monday that ISIL has made gains, after on May 15 declaring that their momentum has been “blunted.”

“There’s no denying that this is indeed a setback. But there’s also no denying that we will help the Iraqis take back Ramadi,” he said, per a pool report.

Schultz had no preview of any new strategy.

“Today we are supporting the Iraqi forces and the government of Iraq with precision airstrikes and advice to the Iraqi forces. Our aircraft are in the air right now and searching for ISIL targets. They will continue to do so until Ramadi is retaken. … ISIL will ultimately be defeated in Ramadi and elsewhere in Iraq because we believe the Iraqi forces have the capacity to ultimately take Ramadi with coalition support.”

Boehner, meanwhile, said the House stands ready to work with Obama to provide the resources needed to win:

“As I’ve said again and again, if we’re going to win this fight we need a broad, overarching strategy to defeat and destroy our terrorist enemies. While this is something that only President Obama, as commander-in-chief, can do, the president should know that the U.S. House of Representatives is ready to work with him to ensure our troops – as well as our Middle East partners – have the resources they need to carry out their missions.

Last week the House passed legislation with bipartisan support to reinforce our mission against ISIL. This legislation authorizes resources for security assistance to Iraqi forces, approves a pilot program to counter propaganda efforts and reaffirms our commitment to working with the sovereign Government of Iraq to bring peace and stability to the region. We hope President Obama will reconsider his opposition to this important legislation, which fully funds the president’s defense requests for fiscal year 2016, and stand ready to do what it takes to defeat these brutal terrorists and keep America safe.”

Related:

Are We Losing the War Against ISIL?

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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Elizabeth Warren: You Can’t Trust Barack Obama’s Promises

Warren dismissed "empty promises" made about trade agreements. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Warren dismissed “empty promises” made about trade agreements. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After President Barack Obama called out Elizabeth Warren for being a politician “like everybody else,” the Massachusetts senator is calling out the president, suggesting you can’t trust his promises.

Warren released a 15-page report Monday saying the United States had failed to enforce labor and environmental standards for two decades in previous trade agreements.

A statement from her office noted Obama recently promised the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be “the most progressive trade bill in history” and will have “higher labor standards, higher environmental standards,” and “new tools to hold countries accountable.” Full story

May 15, 2015

Are We Losing the War Against ISIL?

A member of the Iraqi interior ministry's anti-terrorism forces stands guard on a vehicle outside the Habaniyah military base, near Anbar province's capital Ramadi, on May 8. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

A member of the Iraqi interior ministry’s anti-terrorism forces stands guard on a vehicle outside the Habaniyah military base, near Anbar province’s capital Ramadi, on May 8. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

It seemed like the right question to ask, with fighters from the Islamic State terror group making sweeping gains in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province in Iraq — “Are we losing this war?” Full story

May 14, 2015

Takeaways From Obama’s Press Conference

Warren and Obama have been trading barbs of late over trade. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Warren and Obama have been trading barbs of late over trade. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama says his fight with “Elizabeth,” as in Warren, has never been “personal.”

He’s happy the Senate is moving forward on his fast-track trade bill but wants to keep reaching out to opponents on the left.

Full story

May 12, 2015

Obama Tries to Revive Fast-Track Trade Bill After ‘SNAFU’ (Updated) (Video)

Schumer's currency enforcement would come first in a new offer to revive Obama's trade agenda. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Schumer’s currency enforcement measure would come first in a new offer to revive Obama’s trade agenda. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:52 p.m. | President Barack Obama — and Senate Democratic leaders — are working to resurrect his trade agenda, according to aides on the Hill and in the administration.

Full story

White House Brushes Off Fast-Track Failure As Temporary ‘SNAFU’ (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:32 p.m. | The White House is brushing off what is now expected to be the imminent filibuster of President Barack Obama’s fast-track bill on the Senate floor, with Press Secretary Josh Earnest blaming a “procedural SNAFU” for Democrats planning to vote en masse to block it. Full story

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