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The Trump administration on Friday informed Congress the president will invoke his emergency authority to bypass lawmakers’ approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the threat to the United States from Iran.

The move comes as Trump announced plans Friday to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran.

TRUMP APPROVES PENTAGON PLAN TO SEND MORE U.S. TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST

“Iran’s malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to Americans at home and abroad. We took this step of prudent diplomatic deterrence to augment our partners’ long-term capacity for self-defense and threat mitigation,” a senior State Department official told Fox News.

The official added, “Congress won’t act, but we will. “

The administration is using an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision-guided munitions, other bombs, ammo and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers’ approval.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, said he was “reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.”

The administration pointed out that this authority has been invoked by past presidents on multiple occasions, including in 1979, 1984, 1990 and 2006.

The plan was swiftly condemned by Democratic senators.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“President Trump circumventing Congress to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In his notification, Pompeo said he had made the determination “that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the weapons “in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” He said the transfers “must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East.”

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

There is a precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s, and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war, respectively.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump’s administration will reportedly reverse his predecessor’s policy of blocking federal funding for religious adoption organizations that refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Administration officials, according to Axios Friday, debated to decide between two different provisions — a religious-based exemption and striking down the previous administration’s rule altogether — to accomplish their goal without facing defeat in the courts.

The policy change would likely come in July and through the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Civil Rights, a group that has been at the forefront of angering progressives with rules advancing Trump’s religious freedom agenda.

Roger Severino, director of that office, reportedly refused to comment directly on the issue.

PROTECTIONS EXPANDED FOR DOCTORS WITH ‘CONSCIENCE’ OBJECTIONS TO ABORTIONS, OTHER PROCEDURES

The administration’s reported decision reflected a broader battle in which states struggled to balance religious interests with those of same-sex couples. Multiple Catholic adoption agencies have already shut down, refusing to comply with anti-discrimination policies due to Church teaching on marriage and sex.

The reported policy drew swift condemnation from the Human Rights Campaign, which has derided similar measures at the state level.

“Quite literally the definition of cruel and evil,” HRC president Chad Griffin tweeted on Friday.

CHRISTIAN ADOPTION AGENCY SUES NEW YORK AFTER STATE TRIES TO SHUT IT DOWN

“Our leaders should be making it easier for children in need of a loving home to find one, not trying to find new ways to license discrimination,” he added. “This is unconscionable and an attack on families.”

Conservatives have maintained that same-sex couples could seek opportunities with secular agencies. They’ve also argued that without religious exemptions, foster children would lose even more resources as longstanding agencies drop their practices altogether.

In Philadelphia, foster families sued the city over an ordinance that would force Catholic Social Services to end its program. The suit, according to the firm that brought the case, represented the first opportunity to test how courts viewed religious freedom in that context. A Christian adoption agency similarly sued the city of Syracuse after it gave them an ultimatum: serve same-sex couples or close shop.

The Supreme Court eventually dismissed a request to grant a preliminary injunction on behalf of the foster families in Philadelphia. Becket Fund senior counsel Lori Windham, who spearheaded that case, said HHS’s current rules violated the First Amendment.

FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS MEDICAID WORK RULES IN SETBACK FOR TRUMP

HHS did not immediately provide comment when requested by Fox News.

“We need all hands on deck finding loving homes for kids. We have already seen this regulation used to try to shut down faith-based agencies in Michigan,” Windham said in a statement provided to Fox News.

“HHS should admit that this rule violates the First Amendment. Then it should remove barriers to the full participation of faith-based adoption agencies.”

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News of the administration’s decision came on the same day that HHS faced blowback over a rule excluding “gender identity” from sex discrimination protections for health care.

HHS, along with the Education Department, took the controversial step of interpreting Title IX — a sex discrimination statute — as only applying to biological attributes rather than self-described identity.

Source: Fox News Politics

Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D-Hawaii), said Friday she would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal if elected to the White House.

On “America’s Newsroom,” Gabbard told hosts Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith that the United States is on the brink of war with Iran, echoing comments she made during an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday night.

“I know where this path leads us and I’m concerned because the American people don’t seem to be prepared for how devastating and costly such a war would be,” Gabbard said.

Gabbard, 38, referred to her time as a service member, saying, “I’m very familiar with the region, the cost of war, and where this path leads us. And, the American people need to understand how devastating and costly such a war would be, how it would impact almost every part of our lives.

“It would undermine our national security. It would strengthen terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. It would take a terrible human toll: the cost of countless American service members’ lives: my brothers and sisters in uniform. The cost to civilians in the region…Increasing the refugee crisis across Europe…And, it would cost trillions of dollars. Trillions of dollars that would come out of our pockets. Taxpayers’ pockets. To pay for this endless war. Resources that we would not be able to use for things like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.”

President Trump  approved the Pentagon’s plan to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, U.S. officials told Fox News on Friday.

Fewer than 1,000 new troops are deploying, but about 600 soldiers who are already deployed will be extended. The 600 are part of a Patriot missile battalion currently deployed in the region.

Gabbard said that the decisions the Trump administration has taken towards Iran have made relations even more strained. “The decisions that this administration has taken towards Iran have made things worse not better. They have made our country, the American people, less safe—not more secure—by pulling out of this Iran nuclear deal.”

Gabbard acknowledged there were “flaws” and “concerns” in the Iran nuclear deal, “…that should’ve been addressed separately while maintaining and upholding the Iran nuclear deal to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

“Instead, by the Trump administration pulling out from this deal, they’ve essentially given Iran an excuse to be able to restart this Iran nuclear weapons program,” said Gabbard. “That makes us and the world far less safe.

“So, as president, I would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal. I would work out the difference separately outside of that and de-escalate the tensions that are, unfortunately, bringing us to the point where we are at a brink of war with Iran today.

“As president, I will end these wasteful regime-change wars. Whether it’s against countries like Venezuela, Iran, or Syria…Work to end this new Cold War that we are in with ever-increasing tensions between the United States and nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China, and end this nuclear arms race and take the trillions of dollars that we would continue to spend on these wars and weapons if we continue down the path we are on. And, take those dollars and put them back in the pockets of the American people. Use those dollars to serve the needs of the American people,” she said.

Source: Fox News Politics

Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign is once again taking aim at Joe Biden for the former vice president’s numerous top-dollar fundraising events from coast to coast.

In a fundraising email to supporters titled “We risk falling behind,” Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir wrote Friday that Biden’s “raising huge sums of money at large fundraising events all across the country. And these are not grassroots fundraising events.”

BIDEN CAMPAIGN TOUTS DIGITAL FUNDRAISING

He said “these are high-dollar functions hosted and attended by corporate lobbyists, health care executives, a Republican casino-CEO, and a union-busting lawyer among others.”

Faiz stressed the independent senator from Vermont’s small-dollar and grassroots approach to fundraising, highlighting that “the truth of the matter is that the American people are pretty sick and tired of the billionaire class of this country buying up our candidates and our elections. We can win elections without begging those people for money.”

Biden has been raising big bucks through small-dollar online donations – his campaign this week touted their online contributions and said those kinds of contributions made up the lion’s share of the whopping $6.3 million it raised in the 24 hours after the former vice president announced his candidacy last month.

But Biden’s also been holding some high-profile, high-end fundraisers. On his first night as a White House contender, he raised $700,000 at the Philadelphia home of a Comcast executive. He also hauled in big bucks at a Hollywood finance event earlier this month and at two Florida fundraisers this week.

The former vice president’s expected to hold two major fundraisers in Boston on June 5, and two more in New York City on June 17, sources close to Biden’s inner circle told Fox News.

Fundraising was far from then-Sen. Biden’s wheelhouse in his unsuccessful White House runs in the 1988 and 2008 presidential cycles. But so far, the third time appears to be the charm, as Biden’s raking in big bucks both at traditional fundraisers with deep-pocketed donors — which he’s opened up to media coverage in a move for transparency — as well as through online contributions.

Biden adviser Brandon English touted in an email earlier this week that the campaign’s “fundraising has been driven by rapid, massive growth over the last month.”

The courting of wealthy donors used to be commonplace, but this time around, the two progressive leaders in the Democratic nomination race — Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have criticized Biden and sworn off those types of donations.

LATEST POLL NUMBERS IN 2020 DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION RACE

But Sanders reportedly has decided to now hold in-person fundraising events and has hired an official to oversee such finance events.

Source: Fox News Politics

Among the throng of abortion-rights demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court this week were six Democratic presidential candidates.

They were there to protest new abortion restrictions passed by Republican-dominated legislatures in such states as Georgia, Missouri and especially Alabama, which approved an outright ban on abortions.

SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR PLEDGES TO SIGN ‘HEARTBEAT’ ABORTION BILL

“We are not going to allow them to move our country backward,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota vowed as she spoke to the crowd.

Another White House hopeful, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, called the measures “the beginning of President Trump’s war on women.”

And Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey urged those protesting to “wake up more men to join this fight.”

The demonstration on the steps of the nation’s highest court was the latest sign that the divisive issue of abortion has rocketed to the center of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination — and with a lawsuit filed Friday against the Alabama law, legal proceedings could easily keep the debate hot going into the 2020 general election.

But the question going forward — will the debate mobilize Democrats to the same degree Republicans have used the issue to energize social conservatives in the decades since the landmark Roe v. Wade high court ruling codified abortion protections? Part of President Trump’s 2016 coalition included social conservatives who, despite reservations about the candidate, wanted to ensure federal court vacancies were filled by like-minded jurists.

LA COUNTY OFFICIALS VOTE TO BAN TRAVEL TO ALABAMA OVER ABORTION LAW

And with numerous state abortion laws tempting legal challenges, an epic battle over abortion restrictions could be shaping up in the future before a Supreme Court that Trump has made more conservative since taking office.

On Friday, Missouri’s governor signed a bill banning abortions after eight weeks. Last week, Alabama passed an outright abortion ban, including for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, unless the woman’s life is in danger. Days earlier, Georgia banned abortions absent a medical emergency after six weeks of pregnancy. The measure also made abortions illegal after a fetus’s heartbeat can be detected, which can happen before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.

“More than anything, I think what you’re seeing from both the presidential candidates and the broader Democratic elected and progressive activist universe is a visceral response to blatant attacks on women’s reproductive rights,” said veteran Democratic consultant and communications strategist Lynda Tran. “For so many women — and men — across the country, this isn’t politics as much as it is personal.”

In his 2012 re-election, then-President Barack Obama hammered GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Republicans for waging what he and other Democrats described as a “war on women.”

Four years later, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reiterated the theme as she spotlighted her support for Roe v. Wade — and Trump vowed to put “pro-life justices on the court.”

While the 2020 Democrats largely support abortion rights and criticize the recent state laws, they do differ when it comes to how much emphasis they put on the issue.

Gillibrand traveled to Atlanta last week to protest Georgia’s new measure and once again vowed to nominate judges who would uphold Roe v. Wade.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts produced a new policy proposal to protect access to reproductive health care.

And Sen. Kamala Harris of California has spotlighted the fight for abortion rights on the campaign trail the past couple of weeks.

But it’s not just the female candidates.

Booker earlier this week rolled out a plan that would include creating a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom.

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio, Eric Swalwell of California, and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts also attended the rally outside the Supreme Court.

Social conservatives are banking on the legal challenges against the new state laws eventually ending up before the high court, which they hope will overturn Roe v. Wade.

FOX NEWS POLL: MAJORITY WANT ROE V. WADE TO ENDURE

But public perceptions about the 1973 ruling appear to be shifting.

A Fox News Poll in January indicated that six in 10 registered voters wanted the precedent to remain in place, while just 21 percent wanted Roe v. Wade overturned.

And 28 percent of those questioned in a Quinnipiac University survey released this week said abortion should be legal in all cases, an all-time high in that organization’s polling. Eight percent said abortion should be illegal in all cases, the lowest level since Quinnipiac first asked the question 15 years ago.

Female voters helped drive the Democrats’ success at the ballot box in 2018, as they recaptured the majority in the House. Democratic strategists say the issues will help rally the troops again in 2020.

Tran noted that “Republicans seem to be banking on these laws and this fight helping to turn out their base in 2020.”

But she spotlighted “what it will also likely do is enable Democrats who won huge victories in 2018 thanks to women voters in key districts nationally to drive up what is already heightened voter enthusiasm among progressives even higher.”

The Republican National Committee says the issue of abortion is distracting Democrats from getting the work of the people accomplished.

“While Democrats continue to espouse extreme positions on abortion,” argued RNC press secretary Blair Ellis, “they neglect the real and substantive work they promised the American people.”

A veteran GOP consultant thinks the significance of abortion’s impact on the 2020 election is overstated.

“The issue of abortion rights is a hot button issue for a small portion of either party,” said Lauren Caren, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential and Senate campaigns.

“What the middle of the road person expects is common sense. So I don’t see this issue as being the pinnacle of all issues for this election cycle,” added Carney, who served as a top adviser to Carly Fiorina’s 2016 White House bid.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump vowed Friday to uncover the origins of the Russia investigation for all to see after he approved the declassification of documents related to the surveillance of his campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Before departing the White House for a trip to Japan, the president defended his decision in the face of Democratic accusations that he had overridden “longstanding rules” on classified material.

“We want to be very transparent, so as you know, I declassified everything,” Trump told reporters. “We are exposing everything.”

TRUMP GIVES AG BARR AUTHORITY TO DECLASSIFY DOCUMENTS RELATED TO 2016 CAMPAIGN SURVEILLANCE

The president said his decision will ensure that investigators looking into the origins of the probe have everything they need, “so they’ll be able to see how and why this whole hoax started.” He reiterated his charge that the probe was an “attempted takedown of the president of the United States.”

He added: “You’re gonna learn a lot. I hope it’s going to be nice, but perhaps it won’t be.”

The president, meanwhile, denied that he has “payback” in mind as Attorney General Bill Barr launches the review of the Russia probe, now being led by a top federal prosecutor.

In his Thursday directive, Trump ordered members of the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr’s probe.

“The Attorney General has also been delegated full and complete authority to declassify information pertaining to this investigation, in accordance with the long-established standards for handling classified information. Today’s action will help ensure that all Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred, and the actions that were taken, during the last Presidential election and will restore confidence in our public institutions,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The president and the attorney general have both claimed that the Trump campaign in 2016 was a target of “spying,” though intelligence community and law enforcement officials maintain they acted lawfully. Barr came under criticism for testifying last month that “spying did occur” — but his defenders note that the use of surveillance warrants and informants during that period already has been widely reported.

DOJ AGREES TO SHARE SOME MUELLER DOCUMENTS WITH DEMOCRATS

With the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the DOJ review opens up another front in the seemingly never-ending battle over the Russia allegations. Democrats, not satisfied with the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation which found no evidence of collusion and left the obstruction question open, have escalated their own probes and continue to debate internally over whether to pursue impeachment proceedings. But Trump has long maintained that the true scandal lies in the opening of the FBI probe itself.

At the helm of the DOJ review is U.S. Attorney from Connecticut John Durham. According to sources familiar with the latest investigation, Durham has been working on his review of the Russia probe “for weeks.” He is expected to focus on the period before Nov. 7, 2016—including the use of FBI informants as well as alleged improper issuance of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants.

A source also told Fox News that Barr is working “collaboratively” on Durham’s investigation with FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Durham is also working with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is currently reviewing allegations of FISA abuses and the role of FBI informants during the early stages of the Russia investigation.

Meanwhile, Trump on Friday accused congressional Democrats of being “very unhappy” with the results of Mueller’s nearly two-year-long Russia investigation.

“They want to do a re-do of the Mueller report,” Trump said. “They lost. There’s no re-do.”

But Democrats, like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., are blasting the president for allowing the release of classified materials, calling it a “corrupt escalation of the president’s intention” to politicize the intelligence community.

“The clear intent of this abuse of power is to override longstanding rules governing classified information to serve the President’s political interests, advance his ‘deep state’ narrative, and target his political rivals,” Schiff said in a statement Friday.

Source: Fox News Politics

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On the roster: ‘The torch; be yours to hold it high’ – The GOP’s long game to diminish Biden – How Socialist Bernie became Bernie the millionaire – Phony Pelosi video blows up on right wingers – *ahem* A clean getaway

‘THE TORCH; BE YOURS TO HOLD IT HIGH’
We feel self-conscious to even talk about Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old” because so few people have discussed it. 

If social media engagement is a reflection of interest in the masterful film that heartbreakingly tells the story of the war that made the modern world compared to those from any television show about sexy dragon masters or sexy serial killers or sexy pirates, or… God help us.

But this is our note, and we think what Jackson has accomplished needs far more attention. In fact, our culture is in terrible need of the movie right now. You can find discussions of libertarianism and intersectionality in “Game of Thrones” elsewhere, if that’s your bag.

Jackson took 100 hours of mostly unseen films and 600 hours of taped interviews with veterans of the Great War that had been moldering at the Imperial War Museum and turned them into an arresting, evocative work that we will not soon forget.

The movie was made to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of the war last November, and made it to some American theaters this year, but is now widely available to stream at home.   

Its title comes from the 1914 poem “For the Fallen” by Lawrence Binyon.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old://Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.//At the going down of the sun and in the morning//We will remember them.” 

It is a movie told entirely in the voices of the survivors – there is no narrator – but it is most certainly about the dead. Binyon, too old for service but who would later make it to the front in 1916 as a medic, was writing with the pang of guilt that many of his countrymen felt when the terrible cost of the war was first becoming clear.

Fighting a war with 20th century technology and 19th century techniques produced immediate, catastrophic losses. In one battle alone – Verdun, where Binyon tended to the wounded – more than 300,000 men were killed. 

British losses were staggering. Nearly a million subjects of the empire were killed. More than 2 percent of the United Kingdom’s entire population was dead by the time the guns were finally silenced. Nearly an entire generation of men lost.  

Our losses were a pittance by comparison. More than 116,000 Americans died “over there,” something like 20 times fewer fatalities as a percentage of our population compared to Britain. 

You may notice that British people wear paper poppies on their lapels in the month of November to commemorate Armistice Day when, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the senseless, industrialized slaughter finally was allowed to end. 

We celebrate our Veterans Day at the same time, but it has a very different meaning for us than it does to our British cousins. We use that day to thank our neighbors who served. They are called to stand up at church or the football game to hear our grateful applause. We celebrate the living. They mourn the dead of a million soldiers who fought with ancient methods against modern means. 

The poppies are from another war poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by Royal Army surgeon John McRae after the battle of Ypres in Belgium.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow//Between the crosses, row on row,// That mark our place; and in the sky//The larks, still bravely singing, fly//Scarce heard amid the guns below.//We are the Dead. Short days ago//We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,//Loved and were loved, and now we lie,//In Flanders fields.”

For Americans under 35, there is an answer to Veterans Day. Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident? Do you have a high school diploma or the equivalent? Do you meet medical, moral and physical requirements? Your local recruiter would be happy to talk.

But there isn’t such an answer for Britons to Armistice Day. 

There will, Lord hear our prayer, never be another war like those that devastated the Western world in the first half of the last century. Modern technology and techniques have changed the way we fight, and the existence of nuclear weapons has for more than 70 years ensured that great powers avoid direct confrontations.

Nov. 11 is a day for Americans to celebrate those who served. It is a day for the British to mourn the dead.

We have our own day for that.

Memorial Day is many things in our culture: The unofficial start of summer, a much-needed long weekend and a good time to buy a mattress. But its purpose is clear in its name: To lift high the memory of our own war dead. 

Memorial Day grew out of Decoration Day, when the survivors and widows of the Civil War would festoon the graves of those killed in our own great, tragic war.

The war to end slavery and preserve the union claimed nearly 700,000 lives, a proportion of our population that time roughly equivalent to the losses Britain suffered in World War I. 

And like the Great War, the slaughter was industrial in scale. There were more than 12,000 casualties before noon at the Battle of Antietam alone. 

This weekend is the time for Americans to pause over a hard truth: The freedom and prosperity we enjoy was bought with blood. More than 1.3 million Americans have died in conflicts back to the revolution that made us a nation. That’s about the population of Dallas. And they too shall not grow old.

Because we are free, we can observe Memorial Day any way we choose. And life is indeed for the living, so we should enjoy these first ardent rays of the summer sun. 

But we would suggest that you make some room in your playlist amid the dragon-fired bodice rippers for Jackson’s masterful work. You will find it engrossing for sure, but it may also stir in you a fresh desire to be the kind of citizen who would be worthy of their sacrifices.

[Ed. note: In observance of Memorial Day, the Halftime Report will not be published on Monday.
   
THE RULEBOOK: EQUAL REPRESENTATION 
“Taking each State by itself, its laws are the same, and its interests but little diversified. A few men, therefore, will possess all the knowledge requisite for a proper representation of them.” – Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 56

TIME OUT: BRIGHT STARS
Atlantic: “The first stars ignited billions of years ago… The stars blazed until they exploded in bursts powerful enough to forge heavy chemical elements. … The new elements found their way into other stars, and then planets, and, eventually, life. It’s a remarkable cosmic tale, with a recent twist. Some of the stardust has managed to become sentient, work out its own history, and use that knowledge to better understand the stars. Astronomers know stars so well, in fact, that they can tell when one doesn’t belong—when it’s migrated to our galaxy from a completely different one. Today astronomers study the chemical compositions of stars near and far… Astronomers take starlight, absorbed and collected by telescopes, and break it down into its constituent lines, same as a prism of glass stretches light into the colors of the rainbow. These lines correspond to different elements, from the light kind … to the heavy stuff…”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 41.6 percent
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent
Net Score: -11.6 points
Change from one week ago: down 4.2 points 
[Average includes: CBS News: 41% approve – 52% disapprove; Monmouth University: 41% approve – 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve – 57% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve – 53% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve – 52% disapprove.]

THE GOP’S LONG GAME TO DIMINISH BIDEN
Vanity Fair: “Welcome to the plot to take down Joe Biden, the 2020 candidate most feared by President Donald Trump and the Republican insiders working to re-elect him. For years, decades really, Biden was largely written off as a buffoon. … After a couple years lashed to the Trump merry-go-round, Uncle Joe looks like the steady, centrist status quo. … With laser-like precision, the G.O.P. machine plans to expose it all… Republicans want to rewind the clock and re-write the script, recasting Biden as the rhetorically cringe-worthy second coming of Crooked Hillary, responsible for nearly everything that’s gone wrong in Washington during Biden’s 50 years walking the corridors of power. To pull it off, the R.N.C., working hand in hand with the Trump campaign, has assembled perhaps its largest-ever war room, with approximately six to seven operatives working in opposition research and four to five conducting near ‘round-the-clock rapid media response. The effort—featuring public document requests and other standards of the dirt-digging trade—has been well underway since last year.”

Bill Weld gets Trumpian with Trump – ABC News: “President Donald Trump’s lone Republican primary challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, ratcheted up his attacks on the president Tuesday night. Speaking at the first in a series of Kennedy Institute events focused on the 2020 election cycle, Weld levied a number of his harshest verbal jabs yet, saying earlier this week that the president preferred an ‘Aryan nation.’ ‘I celebrate that America has always been a melting pot,’ Weld said at the speaking event on Tuesday. ‘It seems he would prefer an Aryan nation.’ … When asked to explain what specifically he meant by ‘Aryan nation,’ Weld told ABC News that he believes the president ‘would prefer a nation with no immigrants.’ The comment, which appeared to be a step further than Weld had gone with past attacks aimed at the president, even elicited a justification from the long-shot candidate himself.”

HOW SOCIALIST BERNIE BECAME BERNIE THE MILLIONAIRE
Politico: “Based, though, on a deeper examination of [Bernie Sanders’] financial disclosures, his tax returns, property records in Washington and Vermont and scarcely leafed-through scraps of his financial papers housed here at UVM, Sanders’ current financial portrait is not only some stroke-of-luck windfall. It’s also the product (with the help of his wife) of decades of planning. The upward trajectory from that jalopy of his to his relative riches now—as off-brand as it is for a man who once said he had ‘no great desire to be rich’—is the product of years of middle-class striving, replete with credit card debt, real estate upgrades and an array of investment funds and retirement accounts. As an immigrant’s son who started close to the bottom and has ended up nearer to the top, Sanders has a narrative arc that would form the backbone of the campaign story of almost any other candidate. But it’s more complicated for him. There’s never been anybody like Sanders in the modern political history of this country—somebody who made a career out of haranguing millionaires … and who is now a millionaire himself.”

Castro speaks out against Trump’s merit immigration plan – NPR: “Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro has a plan to change immigration policy in the U.S. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary wants to address immigrant detention, family reunification and the immigration court system. In stark contrast to current policy, he also wants to decriminalize crossing the border illegally, a plan he outlined in a Medium post in April. ‘For a long time in this country we actually did not treat crossing the border as a criminal act. We treated it as a civil violation,’ Castro told NPR. ‘A lot of the problems that we see in the system today flared up after we started treating it as a criminal offense.’

PHONY PELOSI VIDEO BLOWS UP ON RIGHT WINGERS 
WaPo: “Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now grow at the speed of the Web. The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a ‘coverup,’ was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, had been viewed more than 2 million times by Thursday night, been shared more than 45,000 times, and garnered 23,000 comments with users calling her ‘drunk’ and ‘a babbling mess.’ The origin of the altered video remains unclear…”

Giuliani tweets unclear apology for sharing the video – WashTimes: “Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s attorney, gave a confusing statement Friday after sharing and deleting a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday that was doctored to display her as inarticulate. ‘Ivesssapology for a video which is allegedly is a caricature of an otherwise halting speech pattern, she should first stop, and apologize for, saying the President needs an ‘intervention.’ Are,’ Mr. Giuliani tweeted along with a gif of a basketball game celebration, which was screenshotted by Mediaite. Mr. Giuliani followed it up with another tweet that makes his point better. ‘Nancy Pelosi wants an apology for a caricature exaggerating her already halting speech pattern. First she should withdraw her charge which hurts our entire nation when she says the President needs an ‘intervention. ‘People who live in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones,’’ he tweeted.”

TRUMP GIVES BARR AUTHORITY OVER CLASSIFIED RUSSIA DOCS
AP: “President Donald Trump has granted Attorney General William Barr new powers to review and potentially release classified information related to the origins of the Russia investigation, a move aimed at accelerating Barr’s inquiry into whether U.S. officials improperly surveilled Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump on Thursday directed the U.S. intelligence community to ‘quickly and fully cooperate’ with Barr’s investigation of the origins of the multiyear probe of whether his campaign colluded with Russia. Former intelligence officials and Democratic lawmakers criticized Trump’s move, which marked an escalation in his efforts to ‘investigate the investigators’ as he works to undermine the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Trump’s announcement came amid mounting Democratic calls to bring impeachment proceedings against him.”

Rep. Nadler says Mueller willing to do private testimony – NBC News: “Special counsel Robert Mueller has expressed interest in giving private testimony to Congress about his two-year investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. Mueller has told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler that he is willing to make a public opening statement, but leave his testimony behind closed doors, Nadler said on ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ Thursday night. Nadler, D-N.Y., has made repeated efforts for Mueller to speak in front of Congress. If Mueller did proceed with private testimony on his report, the public would get a transcript, Nadler said.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Pelosi makes it to recess, doesn’t cave to impeachment pressures – Politico

UK PM Theresa May announces resignation amid fury over Brexit – Fox News

Trump unveils a second, $16 billion bailout for farmers hit by his trade war – WSJ

AUDIBLE: LET THE GAMES BEGIN 
“When he engages in the general, it will be like tagging Hulk Hogan into the ring.” –Rep. Eric Swalwell talking about what he expects when President Obama gets involved in the general election. 

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris and Brianna, Thank you for sharing the story of ‘Crechale’s Cafe’s Highway Legacy’ by John Edge. This has to be more than serendipitous as my wife and I have a July trip planned to Jackson MS. We will be visiting to see our son umpire the MiLB series between Jackson Generals v Pensacola Blue Wahoos. I promise to email a review of both Crechale’s and the ballpark’s fare.” – Dan Burch, Turlock, Calif.

[Ed. note: Oh good! Ours is a world filled with delights for those willing to see them. But little could ever surpass a truly great onion ring.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

*AHEM* A CLEAN GETAWAY 
Boston Globe: “When Nate Roman came home from work on May 15, he could tell that a stranger had been in his house. Roman, 44, lives in a single-family home on a typical suburban tree-lined street in Marlborough. He said it’s possible that he forgot to lock his back door, because whoever entered his house didn’t break anything to gain entry. But here’s the strange part: whoever ventured into his home didn’t take anything. They just thoroughly cleaned his house. Roman looked around and saw that they neatly made the beds, vacuumed the rugs, and scrubbed the toilets. … Marlborough Police Sergeant Daniel Campbell said the department hasn’t heard of any other situations like this one. … Roman said he still doesn’t know who did it. The best theory he could come up with is that a housekeeping service mistakenly went to the wrong address and showed up at his house.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The premise of a free market is that people can withhold their labor if they find the conditions under which they work intolerable.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing for Time magazine on Jan. 31, 2003.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Source: Fox News Politics

Democrats should embrace identity politics rather than running away from the issue, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams said on Wednesday.

“I would argue that identity politics is exactly who we are, and it’s exactly how we won,” she told an audience at event held by the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

She pointed to efforts in Florida and Georgia where, she indicated, Democrats attracted new voters.

Her comments came as the party wrestled with how moderate it should appear before the general election in 2020. Conservatives have criticized identity politics as a way of fragmenting the electorate according to their skin color and other attributes.

But according to Abrams, identity politics helped her party connect with voters.

“When we refuse to engage in the conversation of identity politics, when we refuse to acknowledge that we see you and we understand you and we understand the barriers that you face, then what we are met with is a lack of trust,” she said.

HEMINGWAY ON GILLIBRAND’S ‘IDENTITY POLITICS’ PUSH: ‘COME UP WITH A BETTER GIMMICK THAN BEING YOUNG AND A WOMAN’

She also pushed back on criticism of the tactic, arguing that detractors used the term “identity politics” as a “dog whistle.”

“The notion of identity politics has been peddled for the last 10 years, and it’s been used as a dog whistle to say that we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the new voices coming into progress,” she said.

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“We have to recognize that the internal threat we face is a fear of who we are,” she said.

Abrams caught scrutiny after she refused to concede her loss in the Georgia governor’s race in 2018, citing allegations of voter suppression.

She has been outspoken about voter suppression and indicated she might throw her hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Source: Fox News Politics

“Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace said Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was trying to get “under President Trump‘s skin” this week and “clearly succeeded to some degree” in her efforts.

Wallace reacted on “America’s Newsroom” to the ongoing feud between Pelosi, D-Calif., and Trump, which erupted this week after Pelosi accused Trump of engaging in a “cover-up” and the president cut short a meeting on infrastructure with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Tensions escalated further Thursday when Trump blasted Pelosi at a news conference, calling her a “mess,” prompting Pelosi to call for him to act “more presidential.”

PELOSI SCRAMBLES TO TAMP DOWN TRUMP IMPEACHMENT FRENZY IN CAUCUS

“I’m not sure who was trolling whom,” said Wallace, noting Trump’s reaction to Pelosi having said she was “praying” for the president and wishing his family would have an “intervention” for the good of the country.

“Clearly she succeeded to some degree in getting under his skin when yesterday at that press conference he called on about four or five members of his administration to confirm the fact that he didn’t have a temper tantrum when he ended the meeting on infrastructure,” said Wallace, adding that Trump “gives as good as he gets.”

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Wallace said the whole episode was “very entertaining” to political reporters, but it’s “concerning” to Americans because the government needs to function and many important issues must be handled.

He said beyond infrastructure spending, the debt limit must be raised this year, an agreement to fund the government must be reached before October 1st and Trump’s new trade deal must be passed.

“There’s a lot of business they need to get done and at this point, they’re not getting any of it done,” he said.

Source: Fox News Politics

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler had to receive medical attention Friday after a health scare at an event in New York City.

Despite reports that the powerful New York Democrat appeared to pass out, his office said he merely felt ill but did not faint. A spokesman for Nadler told Fox News that the congressman is “okay” and “seems to have been dehydrated,” describing the room as “very warm.”

Nadler, 71, was speaking at a press conference on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, alongside 2020 Democratic hopeful New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, when the incident happened. De Blasio could be seen checking on him and patting him on the shoulder, as someone brought over a glass of water.

Fox News is told the congressman was being taken to a hospital in an ambulance.

“He is now responsive and receiving a check-up,” a spokesman told Fox News.

Nadler’s office noted that he was sitting down, so he “did not faint or anything.”

But local reporters on social media attending the event said that Nadler appeared to have briefly passed out.

Nadler’s committee is currently battling with the Trump administration over access to an unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report. Earlier this month, his panel voted to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for the full report and its underlying documents and evidence.

Nadler, as judiciary committee chairman, would also oversee any impeachment proceedings should Democrats launch them — a question that has divided the party.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report. 

Source: Fox News Politics


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