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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday signed a bill that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, making it among the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation.

Under the law that comes into force Aug. 28, doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancies cannot be prosecuted. A legal challenge is expected, although it’s unclear when that might occur.

The measure includes exceptions for medical emergencies, such as when there is a risk of death or permanent physical injuries to “a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” But the lack of exceptions women who find themselves pregnant after being raped or subject to incest has drawn sharp criticism, including from wealthy GOP donor David Humphreys, a Missouri businessman, who had urged the Republican governor to veto the bill and called it “bad public policy.”

Parson defended the lack of exceptions as he spoke to a group of abortion opponents gathered Friday for the bill signing in his Capitol office.

ALABAMA ABORTION LAW CHALLENGED IN PLANNED PARENTHOOD LAWSUIT

“Is it a terrible thing that happens in those situations? Yes it is. … But the reality of it is bad things do happen sometimes. But you have two months to decide what you’re going to do with that issue, and I believe in two months you can make a decision,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri said it was exploring “all options, including litigation, to block the law from going into effect.” The organization’s state legislative and policy director, Sara Baker, in a statement said the bill is “unconstitutional, and it must be stopped.”

Alabama’s governor signed a bill on May 15 making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases. Supporters have said they hope to provoke a legal challenge that will eventually force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationally.

Unlike Alabama’s near-total abortion ban, lawmakers who helped draft the Missouri bill say it’s meant to withstand court challenges instead of spark them. If the eight-week ban is struck down, the bill includes a ladder of less-restrictive time limits at 14, 18 or 20 weeks.

Missouri’s bill also includes an outright ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies, but that would kick in only if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Missouri Right to Life called it “the strongest pro-life bill in Missouri history.”

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF STATES OVER ANTI-ABORTION LAWS

Missouri state House Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in a written statement the new law treats women “as little more than fetal incubators with no rights or role in the decision, even in cases of rape and incest.”

Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia also have approved bans on abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. Some of those laws already have been challenged in court, and similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa have been struck down by judges.

Missouri already has some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion regulations, including a requirement that doctors performing abortions have partnerships with nearby hospitals. Missouri is down to one clinic performing abortions, which is in St. Louis.

A total of 3,903 abortions occurred in Missouri in 2017, the last full year for which the state Department of Health and Senior Services has statistics online. Of those, 1,673 occurred at under nine weeks and 119 occurred at 20 weeks or later in a pregnancy.

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A total of 2,910 abortions occurred in 2018 in Missouri, according to the agency.

The bill also bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis indicating the potential for Down syndrome.

It also requires a parent or guardian giving written consent for a minor to get an abortion to first notify the other parent, except if the other parent has been convicted of a violent or sexual crime, is subject to a protection order, is “habitually in an intoxicated or drugged condition,” or lacks legal or physical custody.

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

The Trump administration proposed revoking Obama-era discrimination protections for transgender people in health care on Friday, a move LGBT groups fear will result in some Americans being denied needed medical treatment.

The Health and Human Services Department released a proposed regulation that in effect says “gender identity” is not protected under federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination in health care.

HUD SECRETARY CARSON WANTS TO ROLL BACK OBAMA MANDATE ON GENDER IDENTITY AT HOMELESS SHELTERS

It fits into a backdrop of administration actions to limit or move back some of the new recognition for LGBT people in areas ranging from military service to housing.

“The actions today are part and parcel of this administration’s efforts to erase LGBTQ people from federal regulations and to undermine nondiscrimination protections across the board,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney on health care at Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization representing LGBT people.

But the HHS official overseeing the writing of the new regulation said transgender patients would continue to be protected by other federal laws that bar discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Roger Severino, who heads the HHS Office for Civil Rights. “We intend to fully enforce federal laws that prohibit discrimination.”

Asked about the charge that the administration has opened the door to discrimination against transgender people seeking needed medical care of any type, Severino responded, “I don’t want to see that happen.”

The Trump administration’s proposed rule reverses the Obama administration, which concluded that the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination section does indeed protect transgender people seeking health care services.

Friday’s action had been expected by activists on both sides of the nation’s social issues divide. Trump’s religious conservative base has argued that the Obama administration stretched the meaning of “sex discrimination” when it included gender identity as a protected class. Civil rights and LGBT groups say that view is logically and legally flawed.

The proposed rule change is unlikely to have immediate consequences beyond the realm of political and legal debate. It faces a 60-comment period and another layer of review before it can be finalized. Court challenges are expected.

“Despite the goals of this White House … courts have been clear for decades that prohibitions on sex discrimination encompass discrimination against transgender individuals,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union. Her organization, she added, will challenge the proposal in court.

Melling said the potential impact of the proposed rule goes beyond transgender people and could also subject women to discrimination for seeking or having had an abortion. The proposal would remove “termination of pregnancy” as grounds for making a legal claim of sex discrimination in health care.

Abortion opponents had argued that the Obama regulation could be construed to make a legal argument for federal funding of abortions.

In a twist, the rule would also affect the notices that millions of patients get in multiple languages about their rights to translation services. Such notices often come with insurer “explanation of benefits” forms. The Trump administration says the notice requirement has become a needless burden on health care providers, requiring billions of paper notices to be mailed annually at an estimated five-year cost of $3.2 billion.

HHS official Severino said that the Trump administration is going back to the literal text of the ACA’s anti-discrimination law to correct what it sees as an overly broad interpretation.

The Obama rule dates to a time when LGBT people gained political and social recognition. But a federal judge in Texas said the rule went too far by concluding that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is a form of sex discrimination, which is forbidden by civil rights laws.

Under the original rule, a hospital could be required to perform gender-transition procedures such as hysterectomies if the facility provided that kind of treatment for other medical conditions. The rule was meant to carry out the anti-discrimination section of the ACA, which bars sex discrimination in health care but does not use the term “gender identity.”

In the Texas case, a Catholic hospital system, several states and a Christian medical association argued that the rule went beyond the law as written and would coerce providers to act against their medical judgment and religious beliefs.

Severino also said that the proposed rule does not come with a new definition of a person’s sex. Earlier, a leaked internal document suggested the administration was debating whether to issue an immutable definition of sex, as based on a person’s genital organs at birth.

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 care 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

President Trump has approved the Pentagon’s plan to send roughly 2,000 more troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, U.S. officials told Fox News on Friday.

The plan is intended to bolster security for existing American and allied forces in the region and deter attacks from Iran, officials say.  Any additional destroyers or submarines sent to the region would be equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, they said.

TRUMP TEAM BRIEFS CONGRESS ABOUT IRANIAN THREAT: ‘THIS IS ABOUT DETERRENCE, NOT ABOUT WAR’

“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops,” the president told reporters outside the White House on Friday. “Mostly protective. Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we’ll see what happens.”

No large military units, such as U.S. Army brigade combat teams, are expected to deploy. Instead, senior military leaders want to deploy an additional Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery, a defensive weapon system. They also want to deploy another warship or submarine to the region, more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and potentially more Air Force fighter jets.

On Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had rejected news reports saying 5,000 or 10,000 troops could be sent to the region, saying the number was “not accurate.” But he did acknowledge more forces could soon be heading to the region for force protection.

The U.S. began reinforcing its presence in the Persian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

In early May, the U.S. accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Mideast and sent four B-52 bomber aircraft to the region. The Pentagon also decided to move a Patriot air-defense missile battery to an undisclosed country in the area.

GEN. JACK KEANE: SENDING THOUSANDS MORE TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST AMID IRAN THREAT WOULD BE OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE

On Friday, an anti-war Republican ally of the president urged him to reverse his decision.

“I strongly urge @realdonaldtrump to reconsider more troops to the Middle East,” tweeted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. “This escalation doesn’t get us out of our decades long, seemingly endless wars Mr. President. Trust your instincts and follow what you ran on, not the neocons around who want to repeat past mistakes.”

On Tuesday, top officials in the Trump administration were dispatched to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers about the escalating tensions with Iran, saying afterward they are focused on trying to deter attacks and avoid war.

“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” Shanahan told reporters after the briefing. “We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, not about war.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the briefing: “Our efforts and our ultimate objective over the past days has been to deter Iran.”

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But some lawmakers, after the briefing, still expressed concern about war breaking out.

“We were lied to in terms of Iraq supposedly having weapons of mass destruction,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. “A war with Iran would be an absolute disaster, far worse than the war with Iraq. I hope the people tell this administration that we will not go to war in Iran.”

Other lawmakers said the threats from Iran were specific, necessitating actions from the administration to prevent attacks.

“The action taken by the administration is totally appropriate,” Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said after the Tuesday briefing, saying the actions are designed to deter attacks by Iran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump is considering potential pardons for military members and contractors accused of war crimes as Memorial Day approaches — deliberations that have prompted warnings from critics that the move could undermine the rule of law but also raised the hopes of their families who say the servicemembers were wrongly prosecuted.

Jessica Slatten, in an interview Thursday, told Fox News she’s praying for Trump to pardon her brother, Nicholas Slatten, one of several Blackwater contractors charged in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in September 2007.

CONRAD BLACK BLASTS PROSECUTORS, FBI IN FIRST US INTERVIEW SINCE PARDON FROM TRUMP

“Nick is innocent and our family is terrified that he will die in prison for a killing that someone else confessed to multiple times,” she said.

The Blackwater case, and the 2007 massacre at the heart of it, is one of the more controversial portfolios before the president. The New York Times first reported that Trump was weighing possible pardon decisions on an expedited basis going into the holiday weekend.

The report spurred harsh criticism from Democratic lawmakers as well as former top military officials, especially since not all of the accused have faced trial yet.

“Obviously, the president can pardon whoever he thinks it’s appropriate to pardon, but … you have to be careful as a senior commander about unduly influencing the process before the investigation has been adjudicated,” said retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, former head of Joint Special Operations Command.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement: “If he follows through, President Trump would undermine American treaty obligations and our military justice system, damage relations with foreign partners and give our enemies one more propaganda tool.”

The lawyers and family members of the accused, however, insist these cases are not as clear-cut as they’ve been portrayed — and, to the contrary, have been marred by legal problems.

The cases include those of former Green Beret Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who admitted to killing a suspected Taliban bomb maker; Navy SEALS Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, whose own SEALS turned him in for allegedly shooting unarmed civilians and killing a 15-year-old ISIS suspect in his custody with a knife; four Marine snipers who were caught on video urinating on the corpses of suspected Taliban members; and Slatten.

Slatten is one whose case did go to trial. In fact, he faced three of them.

The first ended in a conviction, but it was later thrown out — as federal judges said he should have been tried separately from three other co-defendants, one of whom said he, and not Slatten, fired the first shots.

The second ended in a mistrial, and the third resulted in a guilty verdict. He faces a mandatory life sentence without parole, but his legal team is fighting to set him free.

“Prosecuting veterans for split-second decisions in war zone incidents is wrong,” Slatten’s attorney said in a letter to the White House counsel’s office obtained by Fox News. “Prosecuting ones for killings they did not commit is doubly so.”

The letter is dated Tuesday, three days after the Times reported on the possible pardons.

Slatten’s team argues that prosecutors have the facts of his case all wrong. The letter says that he was not the one who shot and killed Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, and that one of his teammates confessed to the shooting multiple times. Additionally, it claims that any shooting from their side was in self-defense. Further, the letter says Iraqi eyewitnesses changed their story about what happened after the fact.

Slatten and other Blackwater contractors were in the “Red Zone” in Baghdad on that day in 2007, trying to rescue a diplomat after a car bomb had gone off in the area, his defense says. They were told to watch out for a white Kia sedan and, when they saw a car matching that description coming toward them, Slatten’s teammate fired, killing the driver, the letter says. At that point, a firefight erupted, resulting in Slatten’s team’s vehicle taking damage.

As it turned out, driver Al Rubia’y was a civilian, not a car-bomber.

Prosecutors said that Slatten was the one who killed Al Rubia’y and that the Blackwater team opened fire on a crowd of unarmed Iraqis, 14 of whom were killed. Even more were injured.

The jury foreperson explained the reasoning behind the guilty verdict to The Washington Post.

“There had been a lookout for a white Kia,” the foreperson said. “But there’s a million Kias in Iraq, you don’t just shoot every white Kia.”

Still, the foreperson questioned the charge of first-degree murder, without any lesser charges for the jury to consider: “I understand it, but there’s a bit of unjustness to it.”

File photos of former Blackwater Worldwide guards Paul Slough (Dec. 8, 2008), Nicholas Slatten (June 11, 2014), Evan Liberty (June 11, 2014) and Dustin Heard (Jan. 6, 2009).

File photos of former Blackwater Worldwide guards Paul Slough (Dec. 8, 2008), Nicholas Slatten (June 11, 2014), Evan Liberty (June 11, 2014) and Dustin Heard (Jan. 6, 2009). (AP)

Three of the other Blackwater contractors involved in the incident — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were convicted of manslaughter, but the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that their mandatory 30-year sentence was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

The sentences had been so severe due to a charge related to the use of machine guns. The court noted that the charge was based on a statute meant to combat gang violence, not contractors in a war zone using government-issue weapons. Their cases were sent back down to a lower court, and they are awaiting new sentences.

It is unclear if Slough, Liberty or Heard are among those Trump is considering for pardons, but Slough’s wife Christin is hoping for the best.

“I think that we’re cautiously optimistic,” she told Fox News. She said that her husband is “more than well deserving” of a pardon and is hoping that Trump will come through where other administrations have not.

Legally, a pardon can be issued at any time, not just after a conviction. President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon despite Nixon not facing formal charges. The acceptance of a pardon is technically an admission of wrongdoing, according to the Supreme Court’s 1915 decision in Burdick v. United States, which factored into Ford’s decision.

The case of former Green Beret Golsteyn has a degree of mystery to it. He first drew attention when he admitted during a 2011 CIA job interview that he shot and killed a suspected bomb maker. The Army investigated, stripped him of awards and sent him a written reprimand, but did not charge him.

When Golsteyn appeared on Fox News in 2016, he told host Bret Baier that he shot the suspect. This sparked a second Army investigation, and Golsteyn was charged with murder in December 2018.

RELEASE OF ‘AMERICAN TALIBAN’ JOHN WALKER LINDH FROM PRISON IS UNCONSCIONABLE, SAYS POMPEO

According to The New York Times, Army documents showed that an Afghan tribal source expressed fear that they would be in danger if the suspect went free. Golsteyn and another American soldier also worried that U.S. troops would be in jeopardy, the documents said.

His wife Julie Golsteyn, in a recent interview with Fox News, blasted the prosecution in the case. “I am heartbroken as Matt’s wife, and a mother, and an American that this is how we treat somebody who put himself in such grave danger to make sure that his men came home,” she said.

Gallagher, meanwhile, is scheduled to go to trial on May 28 for allegedly stabbing a teen ISIS suspect to death. His defense maintains that he is innocent and that SEALS turned him in because he was demanding and they wanted to get rid of him.

His attorney, Timothy Parlatore, said his client would accept a pardon, but that he would like to have Gallagher acquitted.

“We want the opportunity to exonerate my client,” Parlatore told the Times. “At the same time, there is always a risk in going to trial. My primary objective is to get Chief Gallagher home to his family. To that end, Chief Gallagher would welcome any involvement by the president.”

Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of the consequences that pardons could bring.

“Absent evidence of innocence of injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers accused of warcrimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the Law of Armed Conflicts seriously,” Dempsey tweeted Tuesday. “Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us.”

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg also expressed concern. In a Washington Post interview, the Afghanistan War veteran described the potential pardons as “so dangerous and so insulting to people who’ve served.”

Trump’s decision could come in time for the Memorial Day holiday. Despite warnings that a pardon might not be appropriate for cases that have not concluded, Christin Slough noted Trump is not a “traditional president.”

She said he is “more interested in what’s right,” than how things are normally done.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

A lone Republican congressman single-handedly stalled a $19 billion disaster aid bill that lawmakers had expected to pass before the Memorial Day weekend.

Texas Rep. Chip Roy took to the House floor late Friday morning to object when lawmakers tried to approve the legislation using a fast-track tactic, with many members of Congress already gone for the holiday.

SENATE PASSES DISASTER AID BILL 

“If I do not object, Congress will have passed a bill with $19 billion without being here to vote on it,” Roy said.

Railing against the “swamp,” Roy objected to speeding the measure through a nearly-empty chamber, complained it wasn’t paid for and challenged a decision not to include President Trump’s $4.5 billion request for dealing with the migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Under House rules, it only took one opposing member to derail the vote. The package likely will now be delayed at least until early June.

Democrats slammed Roy in response. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., called the turn of events “tragic.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., said in a statement it is “deeply disappointing that House Republicans are now making disaster victims wait even longer to get the help they need.”

The surprise development comes after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation Thursday afternoon to help several states and Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes, floods and wildfires – this, after Trump himself backed off from his demand that border security money be added.

Senators had passed the measure on an 85-8 vote; eight Republicans opposed it. Trump then said he would sign the measure, tweeting: “The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!”

The legislation is crucial to states still reeling from devastating hurricanes over the past two years and epic flooding that drenched Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. It would provide over $600 million in nutrition assistance and $304 million in aid for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics


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