Fed officials: Current monetary policy is appropriate

FILE – This Feb. 5, 2018, file photo shows the seal of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve System at the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 2:20 PM PT — Friday, February 21, 2020

The Federal Reserve is expected to hold interest rates steady throughout 2020 as the U.S. economy continues to expand.

The presidents of the Atlanta Fed and St. Louis Fed have spoken out about their hopes for the future. Both officials have said they see the current growth pattern continuing throughout this year and feel that monetary policy is in a good place to sustain the current expansion.

“We’re going to be at 2-2.25 percent, employment is going to continue to be strong, (and) inflation is not going to be a significant problem,” stated Raphael Bostic. “As long as that’s going on, the economy can just roll along as it has been.”

Wall Street has taken a hit amid growing fears of the deadly coronavirus, but both officials believe the economic impact of the outbreak will only be a temporary shock to the U.S.

“There’s a high probability that the coronavirus will blow over as other viruses have, be a temporary shock and everything will come back,” stated James Bullard. “There’s a low probability that this could get much worse (and) markets have to price that in, (which) drags the center of gravity down a little bit.”

The Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times in 2019 and has held steady at a range of 1.5 to 1.75 percent in its last two meetings. The bank is forecasting no rate changes through at least the end of the year.

MORE NEWS: Poll: 77% Of Americans Trust Federal Government To Handle COVID-19

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U.S. targets 5 Iranian officials in latest sanctions action

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 12:30 PM PT — Thursday, February 20, 2020

The State Department has blacklisted five Iranian officials, who have been accused of preventing free and fair elections in the Islamic Republic. According to U.S. Special Representative Brian Hook, the sanctions were imposed on members of Iran’s Guardian Council and its Elections Supervision Committee.

Secretary Ahmad Jannati and senior council member Mohammad Yazdi were among those blacklisted. The sanctions will freeze their U.S.-held assets and bar Americans from doing business with them, along with anyone else on the blacklist.

Hook said this isn’t the first time this has happened.

“In 2010, when Iranians protested his sham election, Jannati praised the regime for executing protesters (and) urged more executions until the protest stopped,” he stated. “Jannati is also well known for wishing death to America and Israel whenever the occasion presents itself.”

This new round of sanctions came one day before the nationwide parliamentary vote. Ahead of Friday’s elections, there were 90 sitting lawmakers seeking reelection.

RELATED: Disillusionment Among Women, Youth Seen Dampening Iran Election Turnout

Original Article

Pakistani, UN officials urge Afghan peace settlement at refugee summit in Islamabad

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan addresses the Refugee Summit in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is on a three-day visit to meet with country’s top leadership and attend an international conference to recognize 40 years of Afghans living as refugees. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:00 PM PT — Monday, February 17, 2020

Pakistan hosted a UN Conference to discuss the future of Afghan refugees in the country.

While speaking at the Refugee Summit Monday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the majority of Afghans exiled from their country want to eventually come back home.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, attends the Refugee Summit with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

“Who wants to be a refugee? It is probably the most difficult decision for a human being to leave his home.” stated Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan

Pakistan hosted roughly 1.4 million Afghans, who have been displaced due to an ongoing war.

For their part, UN officials urged a long-term peace agreement and political dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

RELATED: Sen. Rand Paul Speaks Out Against War In Afghanistan, Calls For Bringing Troops Home

Original Article

White House officials do not trust China’s reporting on coronavirus infection

A worker wearing a protective suit gestures to a driver outside a tumor hospital newly designated to treat COVID-19 patients in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 11:47 AM PT — Sunday, February 16, 2020

White House officials appeared to have suspicions about the accuracy of China’s reporting of coronavirus cases. According to a report Saturday, the U.S. did not have high confidence in the information coming from China regarding the number of those affected by the disease.

This came as a number of officials have expressed doubt that China is being fully transparent, including White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks during a tv news interview at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Last week, Kudlow addressed ongoing concerns following a change in China’s measuring criteria, which added 15,000 cases in a single day.

“We thought there was better transparency coming out of China, but it doesn’t appear to be,” stated the economic advisor. “It’s the great unknown and I wish we did know more because, you know, this should not be about politics or for that matter, trade.”

Chinese officials said the number of new cases are dropping overall.

RELATED:China Reports Over 2K New Cases Of Coronavirus, 143 Deaths

Original Article

French officials confirm first coronavirus death in Europe

French lab scientists in hazmat gear inserting liquid in test tube manipulate potentially infected patient samples at Pasteur Institute in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:00 AM PT — Saturday, February 15, 2020

Officials from the French Health Ministry reported an 80-year-old Chinese tourist succumbed to the coronavirus on Saturday, marking the first virus-related death in Europe since the outbreak began. Up to this point, the only deaths outside of China have been reported in Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines.

The man’s daughter also contracted the virus, but is expected to be released soon. The man and his daughter were both from the Hubei province in China, which officials are calling the epicenter of the outbreak.

“He was hospitalized at the Bichat Hospital under strict isolation measures on January 25th,” stated Health Minister Agnès Buzyn. “His condition deteriorated rapidly, he was in a critical state for several days and he was in intensive care.”

France has confirmed 11 cases of coronavirus so far.

French lab scientists are silhouetted working in a lab at Pasteur Institute in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Meanwhile, President Trump has applauded his administration for its efforts to contain the coronavirus. The president shared a poll during his remarks to the National Border Patrol Council on Friday, which said a majority of American voters approve of his handling of the virus.

This came after he previously received criticism for temporarily banning residents of the Hubei province.

“’61 percent of the voters approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus,’” stated President Trump. “I was criticized by a lot of people at the beginning because we were the first, we’d never done it before, we closed our borders to certain areas.”

As of Friday night, there are 15 people in the U.S. infected with the virus. The president said many of them are getting better and reiterated his theory the virus could weaken as the weather gets warmer.

Original Article

Videos show Chinese officials using force to quarantine residents

In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, photo, a medical worker in a protective suit walks by patients who diagnosed with the coronaviruses settle at a temporary hospital which transformed from an exhibition center in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. (Chinatopix via AP)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 11:48 AM PT — Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Chinese government has come under fire for allegedly using excessive force to quarantine areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak. New videos showed Chinese officials breaking into homes and taking people into isolation by force.

The disturbing footage has sparked concerns that China could be using the epidemic as a pretext to detain dissidents and critics of the regime. Beijing reported 11 million people have been quarantined in and around the city of Wuhan so far.

The UN warned against potential human rights violations amid the virus outbreak.

“All of a sudden, people that have nothing to do with it are stigmatized for any reasons,” stated UN Secretary General António Guterres. “So, I think it’s important to keep the very strong human rights perspective in the way the international community deals with the coronavirus.”

Chinese officials have said they are asking residents in certain areas to self-quarantine for 14 days. They claimed they are only detaining the violators.

Passengers from the cruise ship “World Dream” docked at Kai Tak cruise terminal, wave to family members on shore in Hong Kong, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. denied claims that Beijing is refusing to cooperate with the U.S. on battling the coronavirus. On Sunday, Ambassador Cui Tiankai said China would welcome CDC experts’ help in researching the virus.

Tiankai argued it is still not clear what the virus is and how it affects people. His remarks came amid allegations of a potential government cover-up of the true scale of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ambassador added China is working with the international community to prevent the spread of coronavirus and curb the outbreak.

“We are coordinating with the World Health Organization, because a lot of things are done under the auspices of the World Health Organization,” said Tiankai. “We certainly welcome American experts to join the actual group, the assembly.”

He also rejected criticism of alleged human rights abuses in the province of Xinjiang and reiterated Beijing’s claims of battling Islamic terror there.

Elderly men sit at a park wearing face masks in Hong Kong, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Original Article

London officials urge early release reform after stabbing suspect shown to have history of terror-related offenses

Police officers work at the scene of Sunday’s terror stabbing attack in the Streatham area of south London Monday Feb. 3, 2020. Police in London say the man identified as 20-year-old Sudesh Amman was wearing a fake bomb and stabbed two people Sunday before being shot to death by police was recently released from prison, where he was serving for terrorism offenses. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:15 AM PT — Tuesday, February 4, 2020

London authorities confirmed the suspect involved this past weekend’s stabbing attack was released early for terror offenses, which has prompted calls for reform. The calls to action by the country’s prime minister come after 20-year-old Sudesh Amman went on a stabbing rampage, injuring three people.

Amman was known to promote violent Islamic extremist material, including encouraging his girlfriend to behead her parents. He was released last month after serving half his sentence for possessing and spreading terrorist material.

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Sudesh Amman. Police in London say he strapped on a fake bomb and stabbed multiple people on a London street before being shot to death by police. (Metropolitan Police via AP)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now calling for the reform of early release laws for suspected terrorists.

“We do think it’s time to take action to ensure that people, irrespective of the law that we’re bringing in, do not qualify automatically for early release,” he stated. “A terrorist, people convicted of terrorist act offenses.”

The country’s justice secretary told members of parliament that terror offenders will only be considered for early release after serving two-thirds of their sentence. This will apply to current and future offenders.

Meanwhile, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

RELATED: Police shoot man dead in London after stabbing described as terrorism

Original Article

Calif. officials confirm 11th case of coronavirus in U.S.

FILE – In this illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:14 AM PT — Monday, February 3, 2020

Health officials in California confirmed an 11th case of coronavirus in the U.S. On Sunday, authorities from both Santa Clara County and San Benito County confirmed three new cases of the deadly virus.

Two of those people were husband and wife in San Benito. Neither of them have left the house since finding out they have the virus. In the meantime, a family in Santa Clara has been quarantined after a woman sought medical help after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China, which is where the virus was first detected.

Authorities are still not sure how the coronavirus spreads from person-to-person.

“There has been some question at this point whether people who are not symptomatic, but infected, can spread this even before they develop symptoms — we don’t know the answer to that,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, health officer in San Benito County. “The CDC is looking into that and trying to figure out, with the information our researchers are doing, whether indeed you can spread it.”

This comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced more flights to evacuate American citizens from virus-stricken China. He made the announcement during a news conference Sunday, while meeting with Uzbekistan’s prime minister. The announcement comes after nearly 200 Americans were evacuated from Wuhan, China last week and placed under a 14 day federal quarantine.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint news conference with Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov following the talks in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (AP Photo)

Secretary Pompeo said the flights will be scheduled within the next couple of days and the U.S. may bring back citizens from other countries as well. He made the following comments regarding the move:

“Yes, we have a handful more flights that will be heading to China to bring Americans back home from Hubei Province. The exact timing of those, we’re still coordinating with the Chinese government. We anticipate that they will happen in the next handful of days and we’ll return those American citizens. We may well end up bringing some citizens back from other countries as well. We’re working through the details on that.”

Moving forward, U.S. officials will continue to work closely with the Chinese government to resolve the coronavirus global epidemic. So far, the virus has killed over 360 people and infected over 17,500 worldwide.

RELATED: Oil falls as coronavirus hits demand; OPEC+ considers deeper cuts

Original Article

Officials confirm eighth case of coronavirus in U.S.

Employee Cynthia Bao, who is pregnant wears a protective mask to avoid getting sick, as she interacts with customers at the Beyond Services notary in Alhambra, Calif., Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 1:18 PM PT — Saturday, February 1, 2020

An eighth case of the deadly coronavirus has been discovered in the United States. On Friday, officials confirmed a man in Massachusetts contracted the virus after visiting Wuhan, China.

The man sought care and has been quarantined since returning to the states. Those whom he’s had contact with are also being monitored for symptoms.

This came after officials in northern California confirmed the seventh coronavirus case in the nation.

“Earlier today, the CDC notified us that a resident of our county is confirmed to have the novel coronavirus,” stated Dr. Sarah Cody. “As you know, this is the first case in Santa Clara County and in the Bay Area.”

The Santa Clara resident had also traveled to Wuhan and tested positive for the illness upon his return home. Officials said anyone who made contact with him will be quarantined for 14 days.

Medical workers in protective suits move a coronavirus patient into an isolation ward at the Second People’s Hospital in Fuyang in central China’s Anhui Province, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)

The Trump administration declared a public health emergency in the U.S. on Friday amid the rising number of coronavirus cases. The World Health Organization has also declared the outbreak a global health emergency in the wake of its rapid spread.

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” explained WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The greatest concern is for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, which are ill prepared to deal with it.”

So far, over 250 people have died and more than 12,000 have been infected worldwide.

MORE NEWS: Spain Announces Country’s First Case Of Coronavirus

Original Article

Report: Officials believe Al-Qaeda leader killed in U.S. airstrike

Screengrabs of Qassim al-Rimi, via Rewards for Justice website and official CNN report.

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:05 PM PT — Friday, January 31, 2020

U.S. officials reportedly believe they may have killed the leader of Al-Qaeda following a recent airstrike in the Arabian Peninsula. Friday reports said the U.S. conducted a strike targeting terror leader Qassim al-Rimi in Yemen, but have yet to confirm his death.

The Pentagon has not elaborated on the situation.

“While we are aware of the reports alleging the death of AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi, the Department of Defense has nothing to offer on this matter,” one State Department told CNN.

Authorities reportedly said they’ll continue to assess whether al-Rimi was killed in the strike by monitoring social media and messaging apps for evidence.

MORE NEWS: Pentagon Requests Iraqi Government Ramp Up Air Defenses At U.S. Facilities To Deter Future Iranian Attacks

Original Article

Impeachment vote may have undercut Dems’ efforts to subpoena White House officials

closeWhite House on Senate impeachment trial limbo, Trump's remarks on John DingellVideo

White House on Senate impeachment trial limbo, Trump's remarks on John Dingell

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley weighs in on what's next for impeachment and the backlash over the president's comments on late Michigan Rep. John Dingell on 'Outnumbered Overtime.'

Within minutes of the vote to impeach President Trump Wednesday night, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals demanded that House Democrats explain whether the development undercut their legal demands for testimony from White House Counsel Don McGahn and for documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

The case could have broad implications for Democrats' efforts to obtain access to Trump administration officials and their files, as the impeachment proceedings afforded Congress greater legal authority to go to court and demand access.

In a pair of orders directed at both House Judiciary Committee Democrats and the Department of Justice, the appellate court sought arguments by Monday as to "whether the articles of impeachment render this case moot and whether expedited consideration remains necessary."

As they barrelled towards an impeachment vote, Democrats had argued that the case needed to be heard in January. Earlier this month, House Democrats had argued to the D.C. Circuit that the materials were needed primarily for impeachment purposes.

Trump speaks from White House after impeachment vote, announces Rep. Jeff Van Drew is joining the GOPVideo

"The Department of Justice (DOJ) takes extraordinary positions in this case,” the House Judiciary Committee said in a filing. “It does so to avoid disclosing grand-jury material needed for the House’s impeachment of President Trump and the Senate’s trial to remove him from office.”

READ THE DC CIRCUIT'S ORDER ON THE MCGHAN CASE

READ THE DC CIRCUIT'S ORDER ON THE GRAND JURY MATERIALS

Now that the impeachment proceedings have concluded in the House, the Democrats should explain whether they still seek to compel McGahn's testimony and, if so, whether it would be "in furtherance" of an impeachment inquiry or as a matter of "legislative oversight," the first D.C. Circuit order stated. It was signed by George H.W. Bush appointee Karen Henderson, George W. Bush appointee Thomas Griffith, and Clinton appointee Judith Rogers.

The White House has asserted longstanding executive privileges to bar McGahn from supplying documents and testimony to House investigators, saying internal White House deliberations must remain protected. McGahn’s interview with special counsel investigators factored prominently into the section probing whether the president obstructed justice, including a claim that McGahn disobeyed Trump’s call to have him seek Mueller’s removal.

White House counsel Don McGahn has been blocked by the White House from providing documents. The White House has cited privilege.

White House counsel Don McGahn has been blocked by the White House from providing documents. The White House has cited privilege. (Associated Press)

“On June 17, 2017, the president called [White House Counsel Don] McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,” the report stated, referencing the Watergate scandal.

The report also revealed that when the media reported on the president’s request for McGahn to have Mueller removed, the president directed White House officials “to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the special counsel removed.”

PELOSI MOCKED FOR SHOOTING DOWN IMPEACHMENT QUESTIONS AT HEATED PRESSER

Concerning the Mueller grand jury materials, House Democrats similarly would need to explain whether they were needed as part of an impeachment probe, the appellate court said. That order was signed by Trump appointee Neomi Rao, as well as Rogers and Griffith.

Justice Department lawyers have argued that House Democrats already had sufficient evidence from Mueller's investigation, including copies of summaries of FBI witness interviews. A small amount of information was redacted from the report available to Congress in order to protect ongoing grand jury proceedings, as required by law.

In response, Democrats could argue that they intend to launch a new impeachment inquiry — risking significant political backlash — or they could attempt to justify their subpoenas based on more limited existing legislative authority.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, has suggested that she might hold the articles of impeachment in the House, without sending them to the GOP-controlled Senate.

That arrangement might be unconstitutional and wind up in its own court battle, former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz argued in a column Thursday.

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"It is difficult to imagine anything more unconstitutional, more violative of the intention of the Framers, more of a denial of basic due process and civil liberties, more unfair to the president and more likely to increase the current divisiveness among the American people," Dershowitz wrote. "Put bluntly, it is hard to imagine a worse idea put forward by good people."

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Original Article

Trump paid more than $2M to charities to end Trump Foundation lawsuit, officials say

closeJudge orders President Trump to pay $2 million settlementVideo

Judge orders President Trump to pay $2 million settlement

Lawsuit claims Trump misused the Trump Foundation for business, political reasons; chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports from the North Lawn.

President Trump paid more than $2 million in a court-ordered settlement to end a lawsuit in which he was accused of misusing funds at his charitable foundation for political gain.

The payment and the remaining $1.8 million in the Trump Foundation's bank account were distributed among eight charities, New York Attorney General (AG) Letitia James announced Tuesday.

Those charities are Army Emergency Relief, the Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals on Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Each received $476,140, James said.

TRUMP FOUNDATION AGREES TO DISSOLVE AFTER LAWSUIT ALLEGED 'ILLEGAL CONDUCT'

Trump Foundation to dissolve under court supervisionVideo

“Not only has the Trump Foundation shut down for its misconduct, but the president has been forced to pay $2 million for misusing charitable funds for his own political gain," James said in a statement.

The lawsuit filed in June 2018 accused Trump and his three eldest children of using the Donald J. Trump Foundation to boost Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, settle legal disputes and for the purchase of sports paraphernalia, among other items.

NY AG PROMISES TO 'USE EVERY AREA OF THE LAW' TO PROBE TRUMP, FAMILY

Last month, a judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million in damages. James' office had originally pushed for $2.8 million in restitution and a $5.6 million penalty. As part of the settlement, Trump admitted to misusing Trump Foundation funds and agreed to limitations and restrictions on future charitable work.

"Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president’s abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law," James said. "My office will continue to fight for accountability because no one is above the law — not a businessman, not a candidate for office, and not even the president of the United States.”

The settlement also called for mandatory training requirements for Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, which all three have completed, James said.

Donald J. Trump foundation says it wanted to dissolve before it was made into a lawsuit, but wasn’t allowed toVideo

Attorneys for the Trump Foundation accused James of timing her announcement to deflect attention from her office's Tuesday loss against Exxon Mobil in a climate change lawsuit.

“The AG’s office doesn’t want the media to focus on the massive trial they lost today," attorneys Marc Mukasey and Alan Futerfas told Fox News in an emailed statement. "Our case was amicably resolved weeks ago. The judge commended both parties for the resolution. The legacy of the Trump Foundation — which gave away many millions to those most in need at virtually no cost — is secure.”

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The three-decades-old foundation reached a deal with the New York Attorney General to shut down in December 2018 amid the lawsuit. Authorities claimed Trump ran the foundation as an extension of his business empire and presidential campaign.

Last month, Trump said James had deliberately mischaracterized the settlement for political purposes. The foundation's attorney argued that the lawsuit was politically motivated, which a judge rejected.

Original Article

GOP senators seek records on ‘connection’ between Dem operatives, Ukrainian officials in 2016

closePresident Trump demands 'fast' impeachment in House so there can be a 'fair trial' in the SenateVideo

President Trump demands 'fast' impeachment in House so there can be a 'fair trial' in the Senate

House Democrats move to draft articles of impeachment; reaction and analysis from Fox News contributors Richard Fowler and Rachel Campos-Duffy.

The GOP chairmen of the Senate committees that would be involved in an impeachment trial are seeking records and interviews related to allegations that a Democratic National Committee consultant solicited derogatory information about the Trump campaign from Ukrainian embassy officials ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

In a news release Friday, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said they are looking to obtain records and transcribed staff interviews with two individuals reportedly involved in an effort by Ukrainian embassy officials to “undermine” the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

IN TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, SENATE REPUBLICANS COULD TURN TABLES ON DEMS

“To believe that the mainstream media will investigate all things Russia or Ukraine is to hope against hope,” Graham said in a statement Friday. “The hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails was done by the Russians and no one else. Whether there’s a connection between Democratic operatives and Ukrainian officials during the 2016 election has yet to be determined.”

He added: “It will only be found by looking. We intend to look.”

The requests from Grassley, Graham and Johnson come as House Democrats are entering what may be the final phase of their impeachment inquiry ahead of introducing articles of impeachment for a vote. Should the House approve impeachment articles and trigger a trial in the Senate, Republicans plan to turn the tables on Democrats, by looking more closely at issues that House Democrats glossed over during their hearings.

Friday’s requests are a continuation of an inquiry that Grassley launched in 2017 when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Grassley, at the time, was questioning the actions of then-DNC consultant Alexandra Chalupa, which he said seemed to show that she was “simultaneously working on behalf of a foreign government, Ukraine, and on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign, in an effort to influence not only the U.S. voting population but U.S. government officials.”

Chalupa has denied the accusations: “For the record: I have never worked for a foreign government. I have never been to Ukraine. I was not an opposition researcher. In 2008, I knew Manafort worked for Putin’s interests in Ukraine. I reported my concerns about him to the NSC in 2014 & sounded the alarm bells in 2016,” Chalupa tweeted last month.

In addition to the interview and records requests, Johnson, Grassley and Graham are requesting “staff-led transcribed interviews” with Chalupa, and Andrii Telizhenko, a political officer within the Ukrainian embassy at the time. Telizhenko reportedly was ordered to assist in an off-the-books investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, which included then-Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort’s prior business dealings in the region.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Friday blasted the latest GOP efforts, saying it "undermines our democracy."

“Putin and his intelligence services disinformation campaign team in Moscow couldn't have cooked up a more useful tool for spreading conjured and baseless conspiracy theories than the one Chairmen Graham, Grassley and Johnson announced today," Schumer said in a statement.

Last month, Johnson and Grassley also requested information from the National Archives and Records Administration regarding meetings that took place in 2016 involving Obama administration officials, Ukrainian government representatives, and Democratic National Committee officials. They also requested Justice Department records related to the FBI’s interactions with Chalupa.

The Republicans emphasized Friday that their interest in Ukraine does not mean they deny Russia's meddling in 2016.

“The senators’ inquiries are unrelated to an uncorroborated theory that Ukraine was also behind the hack of the DNC servers,” the statement from the senators said. “U.S. intelligence officials and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack.”

The three senators have also recently requested information related to potential conflicts of interest and political influence by Ukraine, including the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, which employed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, on the board. At the time, the elder Biden was running U.S.-Ukraine relations and policy for the Obama administration.

And Graham, last month, alone, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting the release of any documents related to contacts between Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and to a meeting between son Hunter Biden’s business partner and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

This pertains to questions surrounding the elder Biden’s role in pressing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been investigating the founder of Burisma. Biden denies any wrongdoing, but Republicans have pressed for details throughout the impeachment process, in a bid to show that even though President Trump’s pressure campaign on Kiev triggered the impeachment inquiry, his concern was legitimate.

At the center of the impeachment inquiry, which began in September, is Trump’s July 25 phone call with Kiev. That call prompted the whistleblower complaint to the intelligence community inspector general, and in turn, the impeachment inquiry in the House. Trump challenged the accuracy of the complaint, though the transcript released by the White House did support the core allegations that he pressed for politically related investigations.

The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats and witnesses have claimed shows a "quid pro quo" arrangement. Trump denies any wrongdoing.

TRUMP THREATENS TO HAVE SCHIFF, BIDENS, PELOSI TESTIFY IN SENATE TRIAL AS HE DARES HOUSE TO IMPEACH

Meanwhile, Trump challenged House Democrats this week to impeach him "fast" so that he can have a "fair trial" in the Senate. He also threatened to seek testimony from the Bidens, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, D-Calif., then dramatically called for the House to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment.

"The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power," Pelosi said.

But despite his threats, the president does not, alone, have the power to call witnesses to testify in those proceedings. In the Senate trial, three separate parties have input to how it will play out: Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House.

A senior Senate Republican aide told Fox News last month that once they receive articles of impeachment, they will begin working on two resolutions — one that governs the timeline of the trial, and the other that sets up witnesses for closed-door depositions, as well as which witnesses will be required to testify on the stand.

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The aide suggested that Republican senators – like Graham, Johnson, and Grassley – could be attempting to help “shape” the witness list and the trial in their recent attempts to obtain documents and information from the administration and companies related to Hunter Biden.

Original Article

Pentagon mulls sending up to 7,000 additional forces to Middle East, officials say

closeFox News Flash top headlines for Dec. 5Video

Fox News Flash top headlines for Dec. 5

Fox News Flash top headlines for Dec. 5 are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com

The Pentagon is considering a plan to add up to 7,000 additional forces to the Middle East to counter what it sees as an increasing threat from Iran, two U.S. defense officials tell Fox News, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper has “not made any decision,” according to the Pentagon’s top policy adviser.

“We're watching this situation where the Iranians both have conducted attacks in recent months, and we are concerned about the threat stream that we are seeing,” John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said during Senate Armed Services Committee testimony Thursday when asked about the Iranian threat.

Rood replied, “yes,” when asked by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., if the Pentagon was considering deploying more forces to the Middle East, without being more specific. Rood added that the U.S. military constantly was considering options for moving troops around, not only to the Middle East, but to and from elsewhere in the world.

Iran admits to killing protesters, calls them armed riotersVideo

The additional American forces being considered are not Army or Marine infantry units, but air and missile defense units, as well as additional warships, officials said. These forces would be similar to the types of reinforcements announced in May. One of a group of a Patriot anti-missile batteries was held in reserve at the time of the announcement last spring.

The aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, delayed for months following an electrical problem this fall, finally went out to sea. It’s currently outside the Mediterranean and is expected to make its way eventually to the Middle East to relieve the USS Abraham Lincoln, who has been at sea in and around the Persian Gulf since May.

Late last month, Lincoln entered the gulf for the first time in the past six months. Both nuclear-powered aircraft carriers Truman and Lincoln could steam together for a “show of force” to Iran a few days before Lincoln leaves for San Diego, Calif., as part of a long-scheduled port shift.

Truman alone was bringing over 5,000 additional sailors and a full air wing of roughly 80 aircraft, including dozens of F/A-18 Super Hornet attack and fighter jets.

Since May, the Pentagon has deployed over 14,000 additional forces — half aboard warships — to the Middle East to join over 60,000 American troops currently deployed in the region known inside the Pentagon as Central Command, an area stretching from Egypt through Afghanistan.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farah pushed back strongly on a report Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal saying as many as 14,000 additional troops were being considered.

"As discussed in the hearing today, we are constantly evaluating the threat situation around the world and considering our options. We adjust our force posture and troop levels based on adversary action and the dynamic security situation. Secretary Esper spoke to Chairman Inhofe this morning and reaffirmed that we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East at this time," Farah said. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has been the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

When asked by Blackburn if the Pentagon was considering adding not 14,000 troops but a “lesser number,” Rood replied, “The secretary of defense has not made any decision to deploy additional troops.”

Iranian journalist speaks out against protester deaths, brutal crackdown in IranVideo

That could change in the coming weeks, according to three officials who spoke to Fox News on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

President Trump was asked Thursday at the White House about the potential to deploy more forces to the Middle East.

"We’ll announce whatever we do, we’ll announce, but certainly there might be a threat and if there is a threat it will be met very strongly, but we’ll be announcing whatever we may be doing — may or may not be doing," Trump said.

In addition to being blamed for slaughtering over 1,000 protesters inside the Islamic Republic since mid-November, Iran has continued to ship missiles to its proxy forces in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, according to officials.

Iran's supreme leader claims anti-government protests are part of US-backed 'conspiracy'Video

Not all of the Iranian weaponry had reached its destination.

As reported earlier this week, a U.S. warship, the guided-missile destroyer Forrest Sherman, recently intercepted a shipment of Iranian missile parts bound for Yemen.

SEE THE PHOTOS: 'SIGNIFICANT CACHE' OF IRANIAN MISSILE PARTS CAPTURED

The State Department released the photos after its special representative for Iran spoke to reporters in Washington.

"This is the worst political crisis the regime has faced in its 40 years," Brian Hook said about the spate of killings inside Iran since last month.

“Look, they even jail and murder environmentalists when they organize like the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation," he added.

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From the end of World War II to 1980, virtually no American troops were killed in the Middle East. Since 1990, just about every American military casualty has been from there, according to Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and author.

Asked by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., if the additional forces sent to the Middle East since May had deterred Iran, Rood said the fact no American troops had been killed over the past six months in Iraq was evidence it has.

Original Article