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The Trump administration on Friday informed Congress the president will invoke his emergency authority to bypass lawmakers’ approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the threat to the United States from Iran.

The move comes as Trump announced plans Friday to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran.

TRUMP APPROVES PENTAGON PLAN TO SEND MORE U.S. TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST

“Iran’s malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to Americans at home and abroad. We took this step of prudent diplomatic deterrence to augment our partners’ long-term capacity for self-defense and threat mitigation,” a senior State Department official told Fox News.

The official added, “Congress won’t act, but we will. “

The administration is using an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision-guided munitions, other bombs, ammo and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers’ approval.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, said he was “reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.”

The administration pointed out that this authority has been invoked by past presidents on multiple occasions, including in 1979, 1984, 1990 and 2006.

The plan was swiftly condemned by Democratic senators.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“President Trump circumventing Congress to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In his notification, Pompeo said he had made the determination “that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the weapons “in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” He said the transfers “must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East.”

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

There is a precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s, and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war, respectively.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

President Trump’s administration will reportedly reverse his predecessor’s policy of blocking federal funding for religious adoption organizations that refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Administration officials, according to Axios Friday, debated to decide between two different provisions — a religious-based exemption and striking down the previous administration’s rule altogether — to accomplish their goal without facing defeat in the courts.

The policy change would likely come in July and through the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Civil Rights, a group that has been at the forefront of angering progressives with rules advancing Trump’s religious freedom agenda.

Roger Severino, director of that office, reportedly refused to comment directly on the issue.

PROTECTIONS EXPANDED FOR DOCTORS WITH ‘CONSCIENCE’ OBJECTIONS TO ABORTIONS, OTHER PROCEDURES

The administration’s reported decision reflected a broader battle in which states struggled to balance religious interests with those of same-sex couples. Multiple Catholic adoption agencies have already shut down, refusing to comply with anti-discrimination policies due to Church teaching on marriage and sex.

The reported policy drew swift condemnation from the Human Rights Campaign, which has derided similar measures at the state level.

“Quite literally the definition of cruel and evil,” HRC president Chad Griffin tweeted on Friday.

CHRISTIAN ADOPTION AGENCY SUES NEW YORK AFTER STATE TRIES TO SHUT IT DOWN

“Our leaders should be making it easier for children in need of a loving home to find one, not trying to find new ways to license discrimination,” he added. “This is unconscionable and an attack on families.”

Conservatives have maintained that same-sex couples could seek opportunities with secular agencies. They’ve also argued that without religious exemptions, foster children would lose even more resources as longstanding agencies drop their practices altogether.

In Philadelphia, foster families sued the city over an ordinance that would force Catholic Social Services to end its program. The suit, according to the firm that brought the case, represented the first opportunity to test how courts viewed religious freedom in that context. A Christian adoption agency similarly sued the city of Syracuse after it gave them an ultimatum: serve same-sex couples or close shop.

The Supreme Court eventually dismissed a request to grant a preliminary injunction on behalf of the foster families in Philadelphia. Becket Fund senior counsel Lori Windham, who spearheaded that case, said HHS’s current rules violated the First Amendment.

FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS MEDICAID WORK RULES IN SETBACK FOR TRUMP

HHS did not immediately provide comment when requested by Fox News.

“We need all hands on deck finding loving homes for kids. We have already seen this regulation used to try to shut down faith-based agencies in Michigan,” Windham said in a statement provided to Fox News.

“HHS should admit that this rule violates the First Amendment. Then it should remove barriers to the full participation of faith-based adoption agencies.”

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News of the administration’s decision came on the same day that HHS faced blowback over a rule excluding “gender identity” from sex discrimination protections for health care.

HHS, along with the Education Department, took the controversial step of interpreting Title IX — a sex discrimination statute — as only applying to biological attributes rather than self-described identity.

Source: Fox News Politics

Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D-Hawaii), said Friday she would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal if elected to the White House.

On “America’s Newsroom,” Gabbard told hosts Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith that the United States is on the brink of war with Iran, echoing comments she made during an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday night.

“I know where this path leads us and I’m concerned because the American people don’t seem to be prepared for how devastating and costly such a war would be,” Gabbard said.

Gabbard, 38, referred to her time as a service member, saying, “I’m very familiar with the region, the cost of war, and where this path leads us. And, the American people need to understand how devastating and costly such a war would be, how it would impact almost every part of our lives.

“It would undermine our national security. It would strengthen terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. It would take a terrible human toll: the cost of countless American service members’ lives: my brothers and sisters in uniform. The cost to civilians in the region…Increasing the refugee crisis across Europe…And, it would cost trillions of dollars. Trillions of dollars that would come out of our pockets. Taxpayers’ pockets. To pay for this endless war. Resources that we would not be able to use for things like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.”

President Trump  approved the Pentagon’s plan to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, U.S. officials told Fox News on Friday.

Fewer than 1,000 new troops are deploying, but about 600 soldiers who are already deployed will be extended. The 600 are part of a Patriot missile battalion currently deployed in the region.

Gabbard said that the decisions the Trump administration has taken towards Iran have made relations even more strained. “The decisions that this administration has taken towards Iran have made things worse not better. They have made our country, the American people, less safe—not more secure—by pulling out of this Iran nuclear deal.”

Gabbard acknowledged there were “flaws” and “concerns” in the Iran nuclear deal, “…that should’ve been addressed separately while maintaining and upholding the Iran nuclear deal to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

“Instead, by the Trump administration pulling out from this deal, they’ve essentially given Iran an excuse to be able to restart this Iran nuclear weapons program,” said Gabbard. “That makes us and the world far less safe.

“So, as president, I would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal. I would work out the difference separately outside of that and de-escalate the tensions that are, unfortunately, bringing us to the point where we are at a brink of war with Iran today.

“As president, I will end these wasteful regime-change wars. Whether it’s against countries like Venezuela, Iran, or Syria…Work to end this new Cold War that we are in with ever-increasing tensions between the United States and nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China, and end this nuclear arms race and take the trillions of dollars that we would continue to spend on these wars and weapons if we continue down the path we are on. And, take those dollars and put them back in the pockets of the American people. Use those dollars to serve the needs of the American people,” she said.

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

How costly would a war with Iran be for the U.S.? One 2020 presidential candidate says it would be “devastating.”

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a U.S. military veteran who served in Iraq and Kuwait, laid out a bleak scenario for the U.S. if the country was to engage in military action against Iran.

“I know where this path leads us and I’m concerned because the American people don’t seem to be prepared for how devastating and costly such a war would be,” Gabbard said Thursday during an appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

“I know where this path leads us and I’m concerned because the American people don’t seem to be prepared for how devastating and costly such a war would be.”

— U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii

IRAN BUILDING NEW CROSSING ON SYRIA BORDER THAT WOULD LET IT SMUGGLE WEAPONS, OIL, EXPERTS SAY

The 38-year-old former member of the National Guard, who has been a member of the U.S. House since 2013 after serving as a Hawaii state lawmaker, told host Tucker Carlson that a war with Iran would embolden the Islamic State and other terrorist groups and put American military personnel at odds with the very militias they are training now.

“So, what we are facing is, essentially, a war that has no frontlines, total chaos, engulfs the whole region, is not contained within Iran or Iraq but would extend to Syria and Lebanon and Israel across the region, setting us up in a situation where, in Iraq, we lost over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniform,” Gabbard said. “A war with Iran would take far more American lives, it would cost more civilian lives across the region.”

Gabbard also said a U.S.-Iran war would likely send millions of refugees fleeing into Europe, further destabilizing that continent.

“Not to speak of the fact that this would cost trillions of taxpayer dollars coming out of our pockets to go and pay for this endless war that begs the question as a soldier, what are we fighting for? What does victory look like? What is the mission?”

The Pentagon on Thursday presented proposals to the White House for sending military reinforcements to the Middle East to beef up defenses against Iran as tensions heighten in the region, Fox News learned.

Meanwhile, in comments aired by Iranian state-run media, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, declared that the U.S. was an “arrogant and pharaonic threat” that invited “all Iranians to enter the fields of jihad, full alert, and the mobilization of more power.”

During his conversation with Gabbard, Carlson asserted that President Trump is not interested in a war with Iran but national security adviser John Bolton “clearly is.”

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Gabbard then criticized Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and reiterated that a war with Iran would not benefit the U.S.

“How does a war with Iran serve the best interest of the American people of the United States? And the fact is it does not,” Gabbard said. “It better serves the interest of people like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Bibi Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia who are trying to push us into this war with Iran.”

Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Democrats critical of President Trump would prefer to hurl insults and launch investigations instead of passing meaningful laws, a Republican congressman claimed Thursday.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., charged on “Hannity” that Democrats would rather investigate Trump.

He said they would rather seek impeachment proceedings than legislate to the benefit of the American people.

“They have pledged to resist oppose, impeach, everything and anything,” he claimed. “They would prefer to insult, incite and investigate rather than legislate and it’s unfortunate.”

BEN CARSON HITS BACK AT ILHAN OMAR AFTER SHE KNOCKS HIS PERFORMANCE DURING HOUSE HEARING

The Long Island lawmaker claimed Democrats believed they could “obstruct and investigate” enough to lead America toward “greater prosperity [and] greater freedoms.”

Zeldin said such a thought was absurd.

He also claimed some Democrats engaged in a “double standard” and were practicing “moral equivalency” when speaking about abortion rights.

Zeldin pointed to comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who said on the House floor she was “frustrated” with the abortion debate.

Omar claimed, “when it comes to [some politicians’] life and their choices, they want to talk about freedom, but when it comes to other people’s lives and other people’s choices, they want to talk about religion.”

Zeldin said people instead should be “speaking up against abortions and standing firm.”

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Earlier this month, Omar defended abortion access as multiple states — particularly Alabama — passed laws imposing abortion restrictions. “Women’s rights are human rights,” she previously tweeted.

“No child or woman should be forced to have pregnancy against her own will. These laws do not protect women’s rights, it protects the violator committing these crimes,” she said alongside an article about Alabama’s ban.

Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors voted this week to enact a one-year ban on official travel to Alabama over that state’s controversial abortion law, which all but outlaws the procedure.

Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who co-authored the motion with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, called the law an “attack not only confined to the residents of those states but an act of aggression upon all of us.”

The motion prohibits officials conducting business on behalf of the county from traveling to Alabama except for emergency response, training or assistance or “legally required matters where the failure to authorize such travel would seriously harm the County’s interests,” Solis said in a statement.

ALABAMA LAWMAKER SEEKS TO CENSURE DEMOCRAT FOR COMMENTS ABOUT ABORTION, TRUMP JR.

This photograph released by the state shows Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signing a bill that virtually outlaws abortion in the state on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Montgomery, Ala. (Hal Yeager/Alabama Governor's Office via AP)

This photograph released by the state shows Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signing a bill that virtually outlaws abortion in the state on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Montgomery, Ala. (Hal Yeager/Alabama Governor’s Office via AP)

“We must stand in solidarity and in opposition against extremist and unconstitutional laws that put the health and wellbeing of families at risk,” she added. “The constitutional and human right to a safe and legal abortion is part of the very fabric of the United States. As such, Los Angeles County will stand against all attempts to dismantle the protections afforded by Roe v. Wade and the U.S. Constitution.”

LESLIE MARSHALL: ALABAMA LAW BANNING ABORTIONS WON’T STOP ABORTIONS AND IS WRONG – HERE’S WHY

Alabama’s anti-abortion law makes performing one a felony in nearly all cases except for when the mother’s life is at risk. It does not make exceptions for rape and incest. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the legislation earlier this month, prompting protests and calls from pro-choice advocates to boycott the state.

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“Everyone knows that banning abortion won’t stop women from accessing abortion services even when it puts them in unsafe medical situations,” Kuehl said.

Solis said a letter will be sent to Ivey and other Alabama state lawmakers notifying them of the travel restriction. Another letter will be sent to governors of other states — Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah – that have passed or floated similar anti-abortion bills.

Source: Fox News Politics

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim of a presidential “cover-up” is the second generation of the Russia collusion “witch hunt,” according to a White House spokesman.

Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley made the claim Thursday on “The Story,” describing the continuing Democrat push for further investigations as “the Russia collusion hoax witch hunt 2.0.”

RUSH LIMBAUGH: TRUMP ATTACKS FROM DEMS DUE TO ‘INABILITY TO ACCEPT THEY FAILED’ WITH RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Gidley claimed Democrats first accused President Trump of, “colluding with a foreign power without proof or evidence,” but have been forced to move on to another charge.

“Now, Nancy Pelosi is saying the president is engaged in a cover-up without proof and without evidence,” he said.

Gidley implored the media to ask Democrats to prove their probes into the Trump administration are valid, adding that Democrats should show their cards.

“If you have all of this proof, why are we going through with the investigations?” Gidley asked. “It’s not the president who’s suffering here. He’s doing well.”

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He said he believes the American people want their government to, “roll up their sleeves and get to work,” but Democrats “refuse to do that.”

The comments came after Trump on Wednesday demanded Democrats end what he called their “phony investigations” before he’ll negotiate with them on issues like infrastructure, as he delivered a fiery statement from the Rose Garden after cutting a meeting short with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

The flare-up comes as top Democrats have steadily ramped up pressure on the Trump administration. On Tuesday, the Justice Department reached an agreement with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to turn over some documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, in a rare de-escalation. But it only came after Democrats issued a subpoena, one of many that congressional Democrats have approved for Trump-related investigations. They’ve also pursued a contempt citation against Attorney General Bill Barr and could do the same for former White House counsel Don McGahn.

Source: Fox News Politics


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