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A federal agency recommended counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, but didn’t offer similar guidance for Obama-era officials cited for Hatch Act rule-breaking.

The Office of the Special Counsel, headed by Henry Kerner, said last week Conway had repeatedly violated the federal law during official media appearances through her endorsements of President Trump’s reelection and attacks on Democrats and recommended she be removed as counselor.

But that investigative body didn’t make similar recommendations when two Obama Cabinet officials — Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro — violated the same law, and then-President Barack Obama never fired nor disciplined the top officials for the one-time judgments.

The inconsistently enforced 1939 law precludes most executive branch federal employees aside from the president and vice president from engaging in electioneering and political activity.

When asked about her Hatch Act violations last month, Conway quipped, “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” Kerner’s report criticized Conway’s “defiant attitude” while labeling her “a repeat offender” and calling upon Trump to “remove Ms. Conway from her federal position immediately.”

When faced with Sebelius and Castro violating the Hatch Act, Obama fired neither official, and his administration defended them.

The OSC said Sebelius violated the Hatch Act “when she made extemporaneous partisan remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity” in 2012. Sebelius was the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign gala in North Carolina, during which she told the crowd to vote against a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Sebelius also told the crowd that “it’s hugely important to make sure that we reelect the president and elect a Democratic governor.”

“These statements were made in Secretary Sebelius’ official capacity and therefore violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using official authority or influence to affect the results of an election,” the OSC said.

But the OSC did not recommend that Obama fire Sebelius or recommend any punishment, simply submitting the report along with a response from Sebelius to the president.

Sebelius pushed back against the ruling, telling the agency that “I believe that you should have concluded that any violation was corrected when the event was reclassified as political.” Sebelius said she was happy that “the OSC has not recommended to the President that any particular action be taken” and told the OSC that “I don’t believe that any action would be appropriate.”

Eric Schultz, an Obama White House spokesman, defended Sebelius as well as the Obama administration’s lack of disciplinary action at the time, saying, “This error was immediately acknowledged by the secretary, promptly corrected, and no taxpayer dollars were misused.”

The OSC also said Castro, now a 2020 presidential contender, violated the Hatch Act’s “prohibition against using one’s official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election” when he “advocated for and against presidential candidates while appearing in his official capacity” during the 2016 election.

Castro praised Hillary Clinton in a 2016 video interview, saying that “the American people understand that she has a positive vision for the country that includes opportunity for everybody and she can actually get it done” and that “it is very clear that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced, thoughtful, and prepared candidate for president that we have this year.”

Castro, at the time a potential Clinton running mate, told Katie Couric, “I don’t believe that is going to happen, but I am supportive of Secretary Clinton and I believe she is going to make a great president.”

The OSC concluded he “impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official government agency business” but did not recommend he be fired or that any disciplinary action be taken, instead just referring their report and Castro’s response to the president.

Castro acknowledged that, even if it wasn’t his intent to violate the law, he’d made an error.

Joshua Earnest, the Obama White House press secretary, at the time defended Castro along with the Obama administration’s decision not to punish him. “To his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made. He owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.”

Castro said last week he thinks Conway should be fired.

“The difference between me and Kellyanne Conway is … instead of saying, ‘Look, I’m going to take these efforts to make sure that doesn’t happen again,’ she said, ‘to hell with that, I’m going to do it,’” he said at a Fox News town hall.

“She did the wrong thing,” said Castro. “And I support the Office of Special Counsel’s determination that because she repeatedly violated it, even though she was clearly told that it was a violation, that she should be removed from office.”

Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, said on Thursday that “the report is based on numerous grave legal, factual, and procedural errors.”

Trump defended Conway on Friday, saying “it looks like they’re trying to take away her free speech” and “I’m not going to fire her.”

The Trump administration’s Iran sanctions are hurting the country’s economy and recent events are exposing Tehran’s strategy to deal with the matter, Gen. Jack Keane claimed.

In the time since President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed the sanctions, Iran has been growing increasingly “desperate,” Keane said on “Fox News @ Night

“I think what the Trump administration is doing is fundamentally trying to change Iran’s behavior, not just with nuclear weapons, but their aggressive behavior in the Middle East,” the retired general said.

IRAN RESPONSIBLE FOR ‘BLATANT ASSAULT’ ON OIL TANKERS IN GULF OF OMAN, MIKE POMPEO SAYS

“I think it is working because the sanctions are crippling them. They’ve got obviously a little more desperate here.”

“I think Iran’s strategy here is really to use the international community, Europeans, even Japan, to put pressure on the United States to back off. That is what disrupting the world’s main oil artery in the Middle East is about,” he added, appearing to reference the Iran-linked bombings of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for what he called a “blatant assault” on the vessels last Thursday.

In a news conference, Pompeo said: “This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

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He charged Iran was working to disrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and this is a deliberate part of a campaign to escalate tension, adding that the U.S. would defend its forces and interests in the region, although he did not elaborate.

Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

FILE PHOTO: MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers
FILE PHOTO: Jun 9, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder Hunter Pence (24) makes a leaping catch during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

June 18, 2019

The Texas Rangers placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day injured list Monday because of a strained right groin.

Pence sustained the injury Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, when he was playing right field and chasing Jose Peraza’s hit into the corner in the fifth inning. He pulled up near the line as the ball landed and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double.

An MRI exam Monday revealed the strain. Pence, 36, is hitting .294 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 55 games this season, his first with the Rangers after signing as a free agent from the San Francisco Giants.

He is second to Boston’s J.D. Martinez at designated hitter in the first round of All-Star voting in the American League.

–San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing and making contact with” an umpire Saturday, MLB announced.

The suspension was to be served Monday night, with the Padres hosting the Milwaukee Brewers, but it will be delayed after Machado chose to appeal. He told reporters before the game he didn’t believe he made contact with umpire Bill Welke, who ejected Machado in the top of the fifth inning in Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rockies in Denver.

“I didn’t touch him. I didn’t think I touched him. Video says it all,” Machado said of the encounter. .”.. I think we’ve got a good case. I don’t think anyone’s ever gotten suspended a game for arguing balls and strikes.”

–In the span of a week, the New York Yankees’ lineup could get a complete makeover with the addition of American League home run leader Edwin Encarnacion and the healthy return of outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

Encarnacion, acquired from the Seattle Mariners, was in the lineup Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yankees returned home from a road trip for what is setting up as an explosive homestand. Batting fifth as New York’s designated hitter, he went 0-for-4 in the Yankees’ 3-0 win.

The homestand may include more fireworks because the usual middle-of-the-order bombers, Stanton and Judge, are close to being on the field at Yankee Stadium. For Stanton, that will happen Tuesday. Judge is close, and could be back with the team by the end of the weekend after not stepping to the plate since the opening series of the season against the Baltimore Orioles.

–With just days remaining until the end of the first-round of All-Star voting, a pair of Los Angeles outfielders continue to lead.

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers leads all vote-getters with 2,184,251, and the Angels’ Mike Trout tops the American League balloting with 1,904,273.

New voting rules have divided the balloting into rounds. At the conclusion of the first round, which ends Friday, the top three players at each position — nine in the outfield — will move on to the next round of balloting with the vote tally starting over.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda speaks during a group interview at the BOJ headquarters in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda speaks during a group interview at the BOJ headquarters in Tokyo April 10, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank will “certainly” debate heightening overseas risks at a rate review this week, underscoring concerns among policymakers about the economic fallout of a U.S.-China trade war.

The trade frictions and slowing global demand have cast doubt on the BOJ’s forecast that Japan’s economy will continue to expand moderately, pressuring central bank to deploy additional monetary easing to underpin growth.

“As for recent overseas economic developments, there are strong downside risks regarding the Sino-U.S. trade friction and China’s economy,” Kuroda told parliament on Tuesday.

“We’ll certainly debate such overseas developments” at the upcoming rate review, he said, but added that the BOJ is already keeping monetary policy ultra-loose.

At the two-day meeting kicking off on Wednesday, the BOJ is expected to keep monetary policy steady but signal its readiness to ramp up stimulus if growing overseas risks threaten the economy’s modest expansion.

“The BOJ will guide monetary policy appropriately taking into account the impact overseas economic changes could have on Japan’s economic outlook and the momentum for achieving our inflation target,” Kuroda said.

Under a policy dubbed yield curve control (YCC), the BOJ guides short-term interest rates at -0.1% and the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent in an effort to accelerate inflation to its elusive 2 percent target.

Some analysts say the central bank could be forced to ease more if the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates in coming months and trigger an unwelcome yen rise against the dollar in a blow to Japan’s export-reliant economy.

Many BOJ policymakers are wary of deploying stimulus any time soon, given their dwindling ammunition and the rising cost of prolonged easing such as the damage years of near zero rates are inflicting on financial institution’s profits.

Barclays expect financial markets to start factoring in the chance of additional easing at the BOJ’s July policy meeting.

“We expect the BOJ to keep any actual easing measures on hold for now, instead strengthening its forward guidance” at the July meeting, their analysts wrote in a research note.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher & Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Championship Parade
Jun 17, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and team mates show off the Larry O’Brien trophy to fans during a parade through downtown Toronto to celebrate their NBA title. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

June 18, 2019

Four people sustained non-life-threatening gunshot wounds at Monday’s rally celebrating the Raptors’ championship, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

Three arrests were made, according to Saunders, who added that the investigation was ongoing.

A reported 1.5 million parked Toronto’s downtown for the Raptors’ parade and subsequent rally at City Hall. The shootings occurred at Nathan Phillips Square, adjacent to City Hall. Addition people sustained minor injuries attempting to flee the scene after the shots were heard.

Mayor John Tory said in a statement, “It is disappointing and I’m sure a source of anger for more than just me that anyone would carry a gun and discharge it at what was otherwise a joyous celebration.”

–While the Raptors celebrated, the next chapter for the team sits in limbo based on the future of star forward Kawhi Leonard.

“Holding that trophy, there’s nothing more special than that,” Ed Rogers, chairman of Rogers Communications, partial owner of the Raptors, said at the rally. “The three of us are going to do everything we can to not make this a one-year thing, but make this a dynasty.”

Leonard will opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent. The Raptors expected this bit of paperwork even before Leonard was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs last summer. What they won’t know until at least June 30 is whether Leonard ever will wear a Toronto uniform again, and Leonard declined to offer any hints Monday.

–Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said he isn’t concerned by reports of tension between James Harden and Chris Paul.

In a wide-ranging interview on ESPN Radio, Morey also disputed reports that Paul has asked to be traded and confirmed that he intends to come to contract terms with head coach Mike D’Antoni. As to an ESPN story that said there’s unrest between All-Stars Harden and Paul, Morey said the frustration stems from a desire to win.

“Two competitive superstars at that level, there’s going to be times when they are extremely competitive, extremely focused on how do we get to that next level, and when we don’t, there’s going to be frustration,” Morey said. “I’m frustrated, our top players are frustrated, Mike D’Antoni is frustrated. We want to take the last step and be the champion, and I think it’s good that there is tension in the sense that we all want to win.”

–The New Orleans Pelicans picked up the 2020-21 option for head coach Alvin Gentry, putting him under contract for the next two seasons.

Gentry, 64, has spent the past four seasons coaching the Pelicans, going 145-183 and leading the team to the second round of the playoffs in 2017-18.

The Pelicans went 33-49 this season. Anthony Davis requested a trade in the middle of the campaign and sat out or had his minutes limited for much of the second half.

–Pelicans forward Julius Randle will opt out of his $9.1 million player option for 2019-20, The Athletic reported.

The 6-foot-9 Randle signed a one-year contract with the Pelicans last summer that included the player option for 2019-20. With his expected opt-out, Randle and the Pelicans could negotiate a new deal, or Randle could pursue another team.

The Pelicans agreed to trade All-NBA star Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for a hefty return of players and draft picks earlier this week. They now have the No. 1 and 4 overall picks in Thursday night’s draft, and they are expected to select Duke’s Zion Williamson with the top pick.

–Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason after the Brooklyn Nets declined to make a qualifying offer, ESPN reported.

Hollis-Jefferson later tweeted: “Brooklynnnnn I Love You.. can’t believe it’s been 4 years ha.. Thank you”

Hollis-Jefferson, 24, averaged 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in four years with the Nets, who acquired him in a draft-night trade after the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the 23rd pick in the 2015 draft. He started 147 of 234 games in Brooklyn, averaging a career-best 13.9 points in 2017-18.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Fox News host Sean Hannity blasted former CIA chief John Brennan Monday saying he pushed the “dirty dossier” authored by Christopher Steele.

“At the very same time, Christopher Steele, Hillary Clinton’s dirty Russian dossier with Russian lies, misinformation, propaganda was allegedly being pushed by then CIA Director, a guy by the name of John Brennan,” Hannity said on his television show.

TRUMP SAYS HE WOULD ‘WANT TO HEAR’ DIRT ON 2020 RIVALS FROM FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS, SUGGESTS HE WOULDN’T CONTACT FBI

Hannity pointed out that everything he believes Brennan did that influenced the Russia investigation happened under the Obama administration’s watch.

“All of this happened on Obama and sleepy, creepy, crazy uncle Joe’s watch, not Donald Trump’s. Brennan, now a paid official 24/7 Trump hater, on conspiracy TV MSNBC… he should be very worried tonight. He has previously called the president treasonous. But tonight it looks far more likely, far more plausible that in fact, it was Brennan who used his huge power and influence at the Central Intelligence Agency to spread lies, propaganda, misinformation, to influence a presidential election,” Hannity said.

Hannity added, “How deep this goes we won’t find out and it is not just Brennan who needs to be held accountable.”

The Fox News host also made it clear how powerful the nation’s intelligence community is but noted how it was important it is that they are not “weaponized” politically.

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“Now, we do entrust what is absolutely, positively — I’m proud of this because we need them. The world’s single most powerful tools of intelligence to protect us against many enemies both foreign and domestic. Those enemies are real,” Hannity said.

“These powerful tools, however, are never to be weaponized against the American people for or political opponents or political campaigns.”

Source: Fox News Politics

President Donald Trump late Monday announced on Twitter that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin the process of “removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the U.S.,” but did not elaborate on what new measures will be taken.

“They will be removed as fast as they come,” Trump said.

Mike Morgan, the director of the agency, did not announce any new initiatives during his stop in Louisville on Sunday, where he spoke about the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border.

ICE did not immediately respond to an email from Fox News for comment.

Earlier this month, Trump announced that the U.S. reached a deal with Mexico that includes plans to return migrants seeking asylum to Mexico, where they will remain until they can be processed.

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Trump praised Mexico in the tweet, saying the country has been doing a very good job at stopping those trying to gain access to the U.S. border.

Source: Fox News Politics

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro speaks during an interview with Reuters in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro speaks during an interview with Reuters in Caracas, Venezuela June 12, 2018 in this still image taken from a video. REUTERS TV/ via REUTERS

June 18, 2019

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela on Monday freed opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro, who was detained in April in what allies said was a violation of his parliamentary immunity, the opposition-controlled National Assembly said on Twitter.

The move by President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which faces a challenge to its legitimacy from National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, comes days before a visit by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, to meet victims of rights abuses and speak with both leaders.

“The parliamentarian Gilber Caro should never have been jailed,” the National Assembly said. “Today he comes out from behind bars, but just like all Venezuelans, he still is not free.”

In January, Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, calling Maduro a dictator and saying his 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by dozens of countries, including the United States and most South American neighbors.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup. He retains control of state functions and Venezuela’s armed forces.

The U.N. last month criticized the Maduro government’s handling of Caro’s arrest, saying its failure to confirm his fate and whereabouts constituted an “enforced disappearance” under international law.

Caro, who had previously spent 18 months in jail on treason and weapons charges between 2017 and 2018, was freed from the Sebin intelligence agency’s Caracas headquarters, known as the Helicoide, attorney and former lawmaker Pedro Diaz-Blum told Reuters.

Diaz-Blum is a member of the Boston Group, a network of U.S. and Venezuelan legislators that has served as an intermediary between the government and the opposition for more than a decade. The group on Monday posted a brief video on Twitter of Caro greeting some of its members in an office.

Rights group Penal Forum said Melvin Farias and Junior Rojas, two men it called political prisoners and said had been jailed for more than a year, had also been freed.

Several politicians close to Guaido who have been arrested in recent weeks remain behind bars, including his chief of staff Roberto Marrero and National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera; Additional reporting by Tibisay Romero in Valencia; Writing by Luc Cohen and Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

The Department of Education will investigate the potential bias of a taxpayer-funded college conference which the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill hosted in partnership with Duke University earlier this year, after allegations of anti-Semitism surfaced at the event, according to a letter obtained Monday by Fox News.

Rep. George Holding, a North Carolina Republican, told Fox News in a statement that he had sent a letter to Education Secretary Besty DeVos in April about the March conference entitled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities.”

Holding claimed the conference featured “severe anti-Israeli bias and explicit anti-Semitism.”

Education Secretary Besty DeVos is investigating the potential bias of a taxpayer-funded college conference after concerns raised by Republican Rep. George Holding of North Carolina. (Getty/George Holding, File)

Education Secretary Besty DeVos is investigating the potential bias of a taxpayer-funded college conference after concerns raised by Republican Rep. George Holding of North Carolina. (Getty/George Holding, File)

In his letter to DeVos, the congressman said about the conference, “Reportedly, speakers and panelists distorted facts and misrepresented the complex situation in Gaza.” He added: “Examination of the official program reveals that several of the conference’s speakers are actively involved in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”

He also alleged that a rapper performed a brazenly anti-Semitic song at the conference.

The event’s organizers did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.

The conference used $5,000 in grant money from the Education Department, The Raleigh News & Observer reported.

DeVos wrote to Holding that: “Grantees must use funds to support activities that ‘reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of vires and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.’”

She added: “I am troubled by the concerns outlined in your letter. In order for the Department to learn more about this matter, I have directed the Office of Postsecondary Education to examine the use of funds under this program to determine if the Consortium violated the terms and conditions of its grant.”

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The Education Department did not comment to Fox News.

Holding told Fox News: “I’d like to thank Secretary DeVos for treating this matter with the seriousness and attention it deserves. I hope we can all agree that it is irresponsible and immoral for taxpayer dollars to fund overtly biased advocacy under the guise of constructive academic discourse.”

Source: Fox News Politics

FILE PHOTO: A pumpjack is seen at sunset outside Scheibenhard, near Strasbourg
FILE PHOTO: A pumpjack is seen at sunset outside Scheibenhard, near Strasbourg, France, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

June 18, 2019

By Aaron Sheldrick

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices were falling for a second day on Tuesday, after more signs that global economic growth is being hit by U.S.-China trade tensions, although losses were limited amid tensions in the Middle East after tanker attacks last week.

Brent crude futures were down 16 cents, or 0.3%, at $60.78 a barrel by 0215 GMT. They fell 1.7% in the previous session on concerns about slowing global growth.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 12 cents, or 0.2%, at $51.92. They dropped 1.1% on Monday.

The New York Federal Reserve said on Monday that its gauge of business growth in New York state posted a record fall this month to its weakest level in more than 2-1/2 years, suggesting an abrupt contraction in regional activity.

U.S. business sentiment has sagged as tensions over trade have escalated between China and the United States and on signs of softness in the labor market.

“The (oil) market is in a rut and desperately in need of some robust economic data to get it out of this funk,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at Vanguard Markets in Bangkok.

Oil prices have fallen around 20% since 2019 highs reached in April, in part due to concerns about the U.S.-China trade war and disappointing economic data.

U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping could meet at the G20 summit in Japan later this month. Trump has said he would meet Xi at the event, although China has not confirmed the meeting.

Putting further pressure on oil, the U.S. energy department said on Monday that shale oil output is expected to reach a record in July.

But tensions in the Middle East are likely to keep prices supported, analysts said.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked, which Washington has blamed on Tehran. Iran has denied involvement.

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford)

Source: OANN


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