As Comcast Lobbyist Hosts Biden’s First Fundraiser, Campaign Boasts of Support from “Top 1%”

APR 26, 2019

H3 biden fundraiser comcast lobbyist philadelphia david cohen

In other campaign news, Biden marked his first day on the campaign trail by attending a $2,800-per-person fundraiser in Philadelphia at the home of Comcast’s top lobbyist, David Cohen. Attendees included Daniel Hilferty, chief executive of Independence Blue Cross, the largest health insurer in the Philadelphia area. Senator Bernie Sanders criticized Biden for holding a fundraiser in the home of a corporate lobbyist. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who co-hosted the Biden fundraiser, appeared on CNN this morning, and said the fundraiser attracted the top 1%.

Ed Rendell: “For 90% of the people who attended last night’s fundraiser, they’re contributing against their own financial interest. They will do better with a Republican president, because they’re in the top 1%. So they’ll do better with a Republican president. It will probably cost them money if Joe Biden wins, because I think he’ll bring some sense to the tax cut and he’ll probably raise rates on the top 1%. So, all these people gave money even though it was against their own financial interest.”

Free “Endless Wars” sticker from moveon.org

Click here or on the image below to get your free “Endless Wars” sticker now.

Two weeks ago, Congress took the historic bipartisan step of reasserting its constitutional war powers to end U.S. participation in the illegal, inhumane, Saudi-led war in Yemen—a war that has killed 85,000 children and is pushing millions to the brink of starvation.

Microsoft employees have demanded the company back out of a deal to provide HoloLens to US Military

A visitor tries a virtual reality (VR) headset Microsoft HoloLens during the Virtuality Paris 2018 show, 8 February 2018HoloLens allows the user to see digital images over real-world backgrounds

At least 50 Microsoft employees have demanded the company back out of a deal with the US military to provide augmented reality technology.

In particular, the group has said the firm’s headset, HoloLens, must not be used to “help people kill”.

In November, Microsoft agreed a $479m (£367m) deal to develop a platform that would involve soldiers using about 100,000 headsets.

“We always appreciate feedback from employees and have many avenues for employee voices to be heard,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

A letter sent around Microsoft on Friday and seen by the BBC has been backed by employees across multiple departments.

“Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the US Army’s ability to cause harm and violence,” it reads.

“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”

HoloLens, first released to developers in March 2016, allows the wearer to see digital images laid over the real world. Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella is expected to announced HoloLens 2 at an event in Barcelona on Sunday, ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show.

Military concern

The letter demands Microsoft cancel the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract, stop developing “any and all” weapons technologies, and draft a public policy statement on the matter.

It also calls for an “independent, external ethics review board” that would oversee compliance with that policy.

The letter was circulated internally at Microsoft on Friday
Image captionThe letter was circulated internally at Microsoft on Friday

It is not the first time that Microsoft employees have spoken out against the firm’s work with government entities.

In June, with the Trump administration mired in controversy over family separations on the US-Mexico border, staff demanded the firm cease providing services to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

Mr Nadella eventually denounced the White House’s actions and said Microsoft’s technology was only being used for standard office-related tasks.

‘War profiteers’

With this latest employee rebellion, Microsoft will not have such an easy defence. According to the contract, the goal is to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy”.

Microsoft is understood to have outbid rival augmented reality developers, such as Magic Leap.

Microsoft’s president and top lawyer Brad Smith has said employees who are not happy with the nature of the firm’s military work would be allowed to work in other departments. However, in the latest letter, employees said that suggestion was flawed.

“Microsoft fails to inform its engineers on the intent of the software they are building.

“There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP).

“These engineers have now lost their ability to make decisions about what they work on, instead finding themselves implicated as war profiteers.”

Microsoft is not the only company to face internal anger over military work. Last year, Google did not renew a contract to work with the US on Project Maven, an artificial intelligence program in development with the Pentagon.

However, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said his firm would enthusiastically work with the military.

“This is a great country – it needs to be defended,” he said during an on-stage interview.

___

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Key senator vows to probe discussions about removing Trump

Senator Lindsey GrahamSenator Lindsey Graham said he was “stunned” by the latest comments by Andrew McCabe

The chairman of the US Senate Judiciary Committee has vowed to get to the bottom of allegations that discussions were held in 2017 on removing President Donald Trump from office.

Senator Lindsey Graham pledged to issue subpoenas “if that’s what it takes”.

Ex-acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe has said deputy US attorney general Rod Rosenstein discussed the numbers needed to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Mr Rosenstein has in the past denied discussing invoking the clause.

The amendment provides for the removal of a president if deemed unfit.

How have these allegations arisen again?

They are certainly not new.

They have returned to the spotlight on Sunday, with Mr McCabe appearing on the 60 Minutes show on CBS in the US.

In comments released ahead of the airing of the show, he details what he says Mr Rosenstein discussed as regards the 25th Amendment.

Mr McCabe says: “The discussion of the 25th Amendment was simply [that] Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort.

Andrew McCabeAndrew McCabe was fired as deputy director in March last year

“The deputy attorney general was definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity and about his intent at that point in time.”

He restates his allegation that Mr Rosenstein had considered wearing a wire in meetings with Mr Trump.

Mr McCabe took over the FBI in 2017 after Mr Trump fired James Comey amid tension over the investigation into alleged collusion between his campaign team and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

Mr McCabe was himself fired as deputy director in March last year just two days before he was due to retire. He has now written a book on his time in the post.

On the Russia inquiry, Mr McCabe says he was “very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly and reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace”.

How did Senator Graham respond?

The Republican was interviewed on CBS on Sunday morning, after some of Mr McCabe’s comments were released early.

“It’s stunning to me that one of the chief law enforcement officers of the land would go on national television and say, oh by the way I remember a conversation with the deputy attorney general about trying to find if we could replace the president under the 25th Amendment,” Mr Graham said.

“I think everybody in the country needs to know if it happened. I’m going to do everything I can to get to the bottom of Department of Justice [and] FBI behaviour toward President Trump and his campaign.”

He pledged to hold a hearing to determine “who’s telling the truth”.

What has Mr Rosenstein previously said?

Last September he strongly denied discussing invoking the constitutional clause to oust President Trump.

US Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Rosenstein previously said there was “no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment”

America’s second most senior law official said the allegation was “inaccurate and factually incorrect”.

He said: “Let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

A source told the BBC that the comment that Mr Rosenstein was thinking of secretly recording Mr Trump was sarcastic.

In January, US media reported that Mr Rosenstein was planning to quit, although no timeframe had been set.

What is the 25th Amendment?

It provides for the removal of a president if he is deemed unfit for office. Duties are transferred to the vice-president.

Activating the relevant section of the 25th Amendment would require the approval of eight of the 15 members of Mr Trump’s cabinet, the vice-president and two-thirds majorities in Congress.

Ronald Reagan and George W Bush used the amendment to temporarily transfer power when they were medically anaesthetised.

Bill Cosby issues statement from prison saying he has ‘no remorse’ and is a ‘political prisoner’ like MLK, Gandhi and Mandela

Bill Cosby, in jail, calls himself a ‘political prisoner’ and expresses no remorse

Bill Cosby has a unique perspective of his time in prison so far: He’s calling it “amazing.” He’s also making it clear that he’s unremorseful and calls himself a “political prisoner” not unlike Martin Luther King Jr.

The disgraced TV star, serving three to 10 years for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, allowed his spokesman to talk about his day-to-day serving time at SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security prison in Collegeville, Pa., which is about 20 miles outside Philadelphia. The comedian, 81, is now with the general population, but has his own room and has prisoners who serve as his helpers, due to his age and being legally blind.

“Despite the circumstances, this is an amazing experience” for the millionaire entertainer, Cosby publicist and crisis manager Andrew V. Wyatt told NBC 10 Philadelphia in a two-part interview that aired this week.

Wyatt also said Cosby was unapologetic. “When I visit him, it’s nothing sad about it,” he said. “He’s not sad. He’s not remorseful because he did nothing wrong.”

Bill Cosby says he will “never have remorse.”

Cosby issued a statement Wednesday to confirm that he indeed is not remorseful. In it, he paints himself as a “political prisoner” among the likes of King, Gandhi and Mandela.

“Here’s why I have ‘no’ remorse and will never have remorse,” said Cosby, who maintain that his 2004 encounter with Constand, with whom he settled with a civil lawsuit, was consensual. “I was given a deal; I settled out of court for $3.8 million; I waived my 5th amendment rights; I was declared Not Guilty in 2005 by the Commonwealth — never charged. However, a low-life District Attorney and a corrupt Judge needed me Guilty now. Not for justice, but for their political aspirations. They say, Mr. Cosby, you must attend these classes. Why? One word. Entrapment!”

The statement continued, “My political beliefs, my actions of trying to humanize all races, genders, and religions landed me in this place surrounded by barb wire fencing, a room made of steel and iron. So, I now have a temporary residence that resembles the quarters of some of the Greatest Political Prisoners — Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Randal Robinson, and Dr. Benjamin Chavis. I stand upright as a Political Prisoner and I Smile. The Truth is Strong!”

In his interview, Wyatt painted Cosby as a man doing the best he can under the circumstances. He said the star has lost weight, waking up at 3 a.m. to do calisthenics and he gave up coffee. He said The Cosby Show star rinses off his prison food in a cup of water before every meal to reduce his salt intake. And if he needs any extras in prison, he certainly has the cash in his commissary account. Wyatt said that Cosby’s many fans from around the world have sent him money to spend in jail. He added that Cosby is “mentally strong” and had long prepared himself for being in prison because he felt the district attorney was out to get him.

As reported, his wife of more than 50 years, Camille, hasn’t visited him and doesn’t plan to. Same with their daughters. That was Cosby’s idea, said Wyatt. However, Cosby does speak to Camille three times a day for three minutes a call — the maximum amount of time he can spend on the phone.

Wyatt said he visits Cosby every other week — and the star’s attorneys visit as well.

Trump to sign border security bill and declare emergency over wall (how do you think Susan Collins voted on that one?)

 

Senator McConnell supports the president; Speaker Pelosi warns it sets a dangerous precedent

President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency to fund his planned border wall with Mexico, the White House says.

He is to sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown – but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”.

Congress must first pass the bill before it is signed by the president.

Building the wall was a key election promise but Mr Trump has so far been unable to get the necessary funding.

What did the White House say?

“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.

She added he would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.

The compromise legislation includes $1.3bn (£1bn) in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards Mr Trump’s wall. Mr Trump had wanted $5.7bn for the wall.

When Mr Trump warned that he might declare a national emergency over his wall earlier this year, some Republicans argued it would only set a dangerous precedent.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, however, party leader Mr McConnell indicated his support for the move, saying the president was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”.

The Senate has passed the border security bill, which is now expected to go to the House of Representatives at about 18:30 EST (23:30 GMT).

How have Democrats responded?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already suggested a legal challenge from Democrats should the president make an emergency declaration.

She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also issued a strongly worded joint statement condemning the move.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” they said.

“He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it.”

The Democrats vowed that Congress would “defend our constitutional authorities”.

Presentational grey line

Getting around Congress, not through it

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

A month ago, in the midst of the federal government shutdown crisis, a consensus had emerged that the easiest way out for the president was to back down from his demands for congressional border wall appropriations while declaring a “national emergency” to commandeer funds from other sources.

It took a while, but the path of least resistance was the one Donald Trump followed.

He extricated himself from a predicament of his own making, while taking action that he can cite to supporters as evidence that he’s fulfilling his “build the wall” campaign promise.

Of course, the drawbacks to this course that were apparent in January are still there.

Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress.

The emergency declaration is sure to get bogged down in court challenges, which means it may not have much tangible benefit anytime soon.

And, as much as the president may like to spin this as a victory by other means, he still backed down in the face of Democratic resistance in Congress.

The shutdown fight was always about more than just the wall – it was a battle over who would set the political agenda for the next two years of the Trump presidency.

And if this resolution is any indication, if the president wants to get his way he’s largely going to have to find ways around Congress, not through it.

Presentational grey line

What is a national emergency?

A state of emergency is declared in times of crisis. In this case, Mr Trump says the crisis is being caused by migrants arriving on the US-Mexico border.

Experts say declaring a national emergency would give the president access to special powers that effectively allow him to bypass the usual political process.

He would be able to divert money from existing military or disaster relief budgets to pay for the wall.

Other presidents got money for a border barrier – why not Trump?

However there is debate about whether the situation at the southern US border constitutes such an emergency.

On the one hand, more than 2,000 people were turned away or arrested at the border each day during November alone. Supporters say this equals an emergency.

Others argue the figure is far lower than a decade ago, and many of the thousands of people who travelled north from countries like Honduras are presenting themselves as asylum seekers, looking to enter the country legally.

How did Maine Senator Susan Collins Vote?

Date Bill No. Bill Title Outcome Vote
Feb. 14, 2019 H J Res 31 Making further continuing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2019, and for other purposes Conference Report Adopted – Senate
(84 – 15)
Yea
Feb. 14, 2019 PN 17 Nomination of William Pelham Barr to be Attorney General of the Department of Justice Senate
(54 – 1)
Yea
Feb. 12, 2019 PN 17 Nomination of William Pelham Barr to be Attorney General of the Department of Justice Cloture Invoked – Senate
(55 – 44)
Yea
Feb. 12, 2019 S 47 Natural Resources Management Act Bill Passed – Senate
(92 – 8)
Yea
Feb. 5, 2019 S 1 Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 Bill Passed – Senate
(77 – 23)
Yea
Jan. 8, 2019 S 47 Natural Resources Management Act Senate Co-sponsor
Jan. 3, 2019 S 1 Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 Senate Co-sponsor

You weren’t suprised, were you?download (2)

‘Agreement in principle’ reached to avoid US government shutdown

Announcement of possible deal comes as Trump heads to El Paso to make case for a border wall that Democrats oppose.

A man holds a sign during a march by members of Border Network for Human Rights to protest against Trump's proposed wall, in El Paso, Texas [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]
A man holds a sign during a march by members of Border Network for Human Rights to protest against Trump’s proposed wall, in El Paso, Texas [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

Negotiators in the US Congress say they have reached an “agreement in principle” to fund the government and avoid another partial government shutdown.

The emerging agreement was announced late on Monday by a group of politicians, including Republican Senator Richard Shelby and Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, after a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Shelby did not give an outline of the deal but said staff members would work out the details.

Negotiators scrambled on Monday afternoon to save the talks after they fell apart over the weekend due to disagreements over immigrant detention beds and physical barriers along the US-Mexico border.

Top Democrat: There won’t be another shutdown over Trump’s wall

US President Donald Trump‘s December demand for $5.7bn to help construct a border wall triggered the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month. It was the longest government closure of its kind in US history.

Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow congressional negotiators time to find a compromise on government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

Duelling rallies

Meanwhile, on Monday night, Trump held a campaign-style rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas.

Trump has repeatedly pointed to El Paso to make his case that a border wall was necessary, claiming that barriers turned the city from one of the nation’s most dangerous to one of its safest. The claim comes despite statistics showing El Paso had a murder rate of less than half the national average in 2005, a year before the most recent expansion of its border fence.

State of the Union: What Trump said on wall, economy, Venezuela

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that El Paso’s annual number of reported violent crimes dropped from nearly 5,000 in 1995 to around 2,700 in 2016. But that corresponded with similar declines in violent crime nationwide and included periods when the city’s crime rates increased year over year, despite new fencing and walls.

The Trump campaign released a video showing El Paso residents saying the wall helped reduce crime. But many in the city have bristled at the prospect of becoming a border wall poster child.

But the Republican president was also greeted by thousands of anti-wall protesters.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds, reporting from El Paso, said many of the anti-wall protesters “felt insulted that the president pictured the city as a community rife with crime, drugs, human trafficking and a very unsafe place in his State of the Union speech last week and said that’s false.”

Leading the protesters was hometown Democrat Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman who in November lost a close election for a US Senate seat in Texas to Republican Ted Cruz. He is now considering seeking his party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has sought to crack down on immigration.

Trump made a border wall one of his central campaign promises in 2016, saying it was needed to curb irregular immigration, drug trafficking and other crimes.

Democrats, who took control of the House last month from Trump’s fellow Republicans, oppose a wall, calling it ineffective, expensive and immoral.