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John McCain, War Hero and Longtime Senator, Honored in Washington Ceremonies

September 3, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media



John McCain at GOPAC Fall Charter Meeting in Washington, D.C., 2006. Photo courtesy of Levan Ramishvili.

John McCain, Senior Senator from Arizona, was honored and remembered on Saturday during an invitation-only ceremony before he was laid to rest in the US Naval Academy. He died on August 25, at the age of 81 and will be buried on Sunday, September 2.

Services for the feisty, Vietnam veteran who was held captive for over five years in what is euphemistically referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton” took place throughout the week in Arizona, his home state, and Washington, DC, where he served in government for over 40 years.

Attending the service, held at the Washington National Cathedral, were political dignitaries from both sides of the aisle, including former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Obama eulogized the Navy aviator for about 20 minutes, as did Bush. Meghan McCain, the Senator’s daughter, spoke in moving language about her father’s life, integrity, generosity, love of family, and fierce patriotism.

Last Friday McCain’s casket was brought into the Rotunda of the US Capital during his Lying in State Ceremony. The ceremony is reserved as a rare honor bequeathed by a congressional resolution or approved by congressional leadership if the family grants permission. Since 1852 only 30 people have had such an honor, including President Abraham Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy, and Senator Daniel Inouye in 2012, the last such ceremony until McCain.

During the ceremony members of the public were permitted to pass by the casket and pay their respects while members of the armed forces stood guard.

President Trump did not attend any of the ceremonies, but Vice President Mike Pence represented the Executive Branch of the Government and laid a wreath at the Lying In State Ceremony.

Uncertainty Over Brennan’s Security Status

August 29, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

John Brennan

On August 15 President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that he was revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, along with the clearances of 9 other individuals. The move was an unprecedented demonstration of the president’s power to decide who has or doesn’t have security clearance.
“I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” read Sanders. “Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets.”

Brennan responded at the time with pointed criticism of the move.

“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent,” Brennan said in a tweet shortly afterwards.

Now, almost two weeks later, Brennan has not heard anything more about the status of his security clearance- not from the White House; the CIA; or any other official body or person from the administration.

“Whether or not my clearances have been stripped, I’m still uncertain about,” Brennan said in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC.

Several experts are saying that it is not at all clear if Brennan’s clearance has been nullified.

“In any other administration, the words of the president are presumed to have intrinsic actionable meaning — that is, they are themselves policy and agencies will respond to them as such,” said Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution senior fellow. “With this president, there is an almost total disconnect between what the president says in public and the actions of the executive branch.”

“Therefore, when the president says he is doing something, you have to ask a question that you would never ask with any other president, which is: Is he doing that thing, or is he just saying that he’s doing that thing?” Wittes added.

The President’s move to revoke Brennan’s clearance conflicts with a 1995 executive order illustrating the detailed method that must be used to decide who can or can’t have access to secret information. The order says that the government has to show “as comprehensive and detailed a written explanation” of the reason the person does not meet the requirements to have access to the country’s most important classified information. In addition, those whose clearance has been revoked can appeal the decision, in person and in writing.

However, the president can choose to ignore such an executive order, and just like with the power to pardon, can revoke security clearances without any over-site or accountability.

Military Parade Cancelled by Disappointed Trump

August 20, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

Bastille Day. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After attending a military parade in France for Bastille Day last year, President Trump began to plan for a similar event in Washington, DC, to coincide with Veteran’s Day, 2018. However, when made aware of what such a parade would cost the Federal budget, Trump backed down and cancelled, blaming the mayor of DC and local politicians of price gouging.

“The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up!”

The initial estimate on the cost of a parade was given at $12 million, but soon after the price tag rose to $30 million, and not long after that, $92 million.

A short time after the decision to cancel was announced and reported by CNBC, the Pentagon made its own announcement, saying the parade was only postponed, and not cancelled outright. The Defense Department did explain what changed their minds, but they did say that they were planning to “explore opportunities in 2019.”

Trump’s plan for a parade was first introduced in February, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Since the plan for a US parade has been shelved for the time being, Trump is beginning to formulate what he will be doing this coming Veteran’s Day.

“I will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th,” the president posted online this past Friday. “Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!”

Unite the Right Rally Has Minuscule Participation

August 13, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

Unite the Right rally organizer Jason Kessler. Image cropped from original source. Courtesy Wikipedia.

As the first anniversary of the right supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia approached, law enforcement and counter-protestors prepared for the worst. Luckily, the day passed in relative peace, while a tiny number of white supremacists gathered across the street from the White House surrounded by dozens of police, many on horseback, as well as a “sea of counter protestors.”

Last year’s “Unite the Right” rally left one woman dead and several injured after a car rammed them during the riot, and two police officers who died when their helicopter crashed.

This year, the far-right group had a permit to protest in Lafayette Square on Sunday, until 7:30pm. They left a little bit after an hour together, at about 5pm, after it began to rain.

When asked about the sparse turnout, Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Unite the Right Event, said the small numbers were irrelevant.

“People were rightly scared of coming out,” Kessler said. “We had to prove the point we could do this rally and people would be safe.”

Last year Donald Trump was highly criticized for his response to the violence, saying that both sides had “good and bad people.” This year Trump tweeted his desire for Americans to “come together.”

“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump said. “We must come together as a nation.”