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Overheard on Acela: Teachers’ Union President Plots to Shut Puerto Rico Schools From First Class Car

Teachers' union president Randi Weingarten is plotting a teachers' strike to shut down schools in Puerto Rico, according to a conversation overheard Friday in the first-class car of an Acela train heading to New York. Puerto Rico is in the midst of implementing school-choice reforms, opposed by Weingarten's American Federation of Teachers. Last month Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed legislation to increase the number of charter schools and voucher programs. Weingarten said she does not want to use the word "strike," but wants to use the strategy of recent teacher walkouts in Oklahoma and West Virginia as a model to fight against school-choice reforms. "We never use the word strike," Weingarten was overheard saying on the phone in a first-class car. "We are a human shield for the kids … teachers are doing this in the stead of parents and kids." Weingarten said the union's goal should be "cloaking this in Oklahoma and West Virginia" and asked the unknown person on the other end of the line, "Does that concept work?" Weingarten also mentioned working with the "lobbyists we have" on the plan. "We should be careful about the words we use," Weingarten cautioned. "Let everyone call in for a personal day so they can't open schools," she said. "Let them call in for a sick day. They're sick to death about the schools. They're so anxiety ridden about the schools." "It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I would be talking about how to fight back against the attacks on public education in Puerto Rico and that educators want to act as a human shield to protect public schools and their students just as they’ve done in West Virginia and Oklahoma," Weingarten told the Washington Free Beacon. "It’s too bad whoever was listening to my phone conversation didn’t get it right and the Free Beacon would rather cover what people overhear on trains instead of what’s happening on the ground in Puerto Rico in terms of the school closings and the all out assault on public education on the island. What the governor is doing is destroying what the hurricane didn’t destroy and escalating the exodus. It is a catastrophe." Weingarten's protest plan to shut down schools comes after she protested Puerto Rico's decision to close 238 schools last week in the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Officials say school enrollment has dropped by 38,700 students in just one year because of the hurricane and departing families. The school-choice legislation signed by Rosselló allows for the establishment of charter schools and voucher programs to fund private school. "For the first time, 10 percent of the schools will have charter school pilot programs, which will be run independently from the district schools," the Washington Post reported. "Private school vouchers will be offered in the 2019-20 school year to 3 percent of students." Weingarten said the school closures and choice reforms that will give vouchers to nearly 10,000 students were an "attack" on students. "By backing closures, charter schools, and so-called school choice, the governor and his education secretary are imposing chaos and sowing more instability for the families and communities vital to Puerto Rico's recovery," Weingarten said in a statement. "In their eyes, teaching, learning, and economic recovery isn't as important as feeding Wall Street vultures. We will fight this perversion of priorities." After the school-choice bill passed, Weingarten hinted her group was not finished fighting the reforms. "This fight is far from over," she said. "We are disappointed the powers that be in Puerto Rico have bought the wrongheaded [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos and Trump spin that charters and vouchers are a panacea." The post Overheard on Acela: Teachers’ Union President Plots to Shut Puerto Rico Schools From First Class Car appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Comey: Trump ‘Possibly’ Obstructed Justice During Flynn Conversation

Former FBI Director James Comey said President Donald Trump "possibly" obstructed justice last year when Trump told him he hoped he could let the investigation into Michael Flynn go. In an interview on ABC News airing Sunday, Comey recounted the Feb. 14, 2017, Oval Office meeting where he said Trump asked him to stay behind following a terrorism briefing. According to Comey, Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room along with everyone else. "He knows he's going to say something that others shouldn't hear," host George Stephanopoulos said of Trump. "That was my read," Comey said. Flynn had just been fired after revelations he lied to Pence about conversations he had during the presidential transition period with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak. He later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those conversations. That's when Comey said Trump told him Flynn was a "good guy" and he hoped he could let the investigation into him go, which the then-FBI Director said he took as a "direction" to end the probe. As he's previously stated, Comey said he merely agreed Flynn was a "good guy" and the meeting ended. "But it's possible that in the moment, I should have—another person would have said, ‘Sir, you can't ask me that. That's a criminal investigation. That could be obstruction of justice,'" Comey said. "Was President Trump obstructing justice?" Stephanopoulos asked. "Possibly," Comey said. "It's certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice." Comey's interview with Stephanopoulos is the first of a flurry of interviews he's doing to promote his new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, which will be released Tuesday. The post Comey: Trump ‘Possibly’ Obstructed Justice During Flynn Conversation appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Comey: ‘It Sucked’ to Be Me in Final Days of 2016 Campaign, ‘Everybody Hated Me’

Former FBI Director James Comey said "it sucked" to be him the final 10 days of the 2016 presidential campaign and he felt "everybody hated me" after his late October letter to Congress about the reopening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. "What did it feel like to be James Comey in the last 10 days of that campaign after you sent the letter?" ABC host George Stephanopoulos asked in an interview airing Sunday night. "It sucked," Comey said. "I walked around vaguely sick to my stomach, feeling beaten down, felt like I was totally alone, that everybody hated me, and that there wasn't a way out, because it really was the right thing to do." Comey's Oct. 28, 2016, letter to Congress announcing newly discovered emails related to Clinton's private email server is still viewed by Clinton and her allies as one of the key reasons for her loss. Clinton has even remarked that if the election had been held Oct. 27, she would have been the 45th president. Comey continued to defend his decision to send the letter about reopening the investigation during his interview with Stephanopoulos, saying he didn't see any other course of action. The emails were discovered on the computer of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin. "We know there are hundreds of thousands of Hillary Clinton's emails there. That's an affirmative act of concealment," Comey said. Stephanopoulos, a former top communications aide to President Bill Clinton, scolded Comey over his decision, saying he appeared to be alone in his conclusion to send the letter. "If you knew that letter would elect Donald Trump, you'd still send it?" Stephanopoulos asked. "I would," Comey said. Comey has also said his belief that Clinton would defeat Trump possibly played a role in his decision to send the letter. The post Comey: ‘It Sucked’ to Be Me in Final Days of 2016 Campaign, ‘Everybody Hated Me’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Rubio Turns Question on NRA Support into Speech About Desire for Liberties, Press Freedoms in Cuba and Venezuela

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) answered a question from a Cuban reporter about his support from the National Rifle Association with a speech about his wish for nations like Venezuela and Cuba to have the same kinds of personal and press freedoms that exist in the United States. Rubio traveled to Peru to represent the U.S. at the Summit of the Americas—along with Vice President Mike Pence—following President Donald Trump's decision to cancel his trip there. At a press conference, reporter Sergio Gomez brought up the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, which thrust Rubio's gun rights support into the spotlight. "I wonder if the influence lobbyists hold on politicians was in the agenda, specifically the NRA from whom you’ve received more than $3 million. What do you say to your voters from Lima? Will you continue to accept money from that organization? What do you say to the Parkland victims?" he asked. The Cuban-American Senator expressed gratitude for the question and Gomez's ability to challenge a public official. "I think this is important because I am willing to answer questions in an open forum where you can have discrepancies," he said in Spanish. "There are people in my country that don’t agree with how the Second Amendment of the Constitution is interpreted. Those people who are in disagreement with my stance on this issue have the right to vote against me." Rubio invoked Cuba and Venzuela, two countries for which he has been a longtime advocate for democratic reforms. Cubans have languished for decades under the rule of the Castros, and Venezuela is mired in a horrific domestic crisis due to socialist policies and crackdowns by Nicolas Maduro. Both countries have abysmal human rights and press freedom records. "My wish is that Cuba, Venezuela and every country who has differences can decide them in the polls," Rubio said. "Not through violence, not through illegitimate political movements. That’s what I wish. At the end of the day I think that in a free society, those who have disagreements with a political stance can vote against that politician. In five years, I will have to run again." Gomez again asked if Rubio would keep accepting NRA money, and Rubio replied that he supported the Second Amendment and had the support of those who did also. "It’s simple. In the United States, in comparison to Cuba, we have a free press," Rubio said. "The press can question and criticize me all they want, and they do so daily. I’m glad we’re able to hold a debate, because in Cuba you can’t have a debate. The answer is that in the U.S. the people know my stance. We also have transparency on who donates and who doesn’t." "Yes, I support the Second Amendment and those people who support that Amendment support me," he added. "Those who don’t support it can vote against me. I wish you could also do that in Cuba, because you can’t." Rubio has worked closely with the Trump administration on Latin America policy. According to the Washington Post, Rubio drafted the list of Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses, which became the basis for U.S. sanctions. He also advised Trump to roll back the Obama administration policy opening relations with Cuba. Rubio has been directly asked the NRA question before, at a CNN town hall one week after the Parkland massacre. He told student Cameron Kasky he would continue to accept the donations of anyone who supported his agenda. Full exchange: SERGIO GOMEZ: The central theme of the summit is the fight against corruption. I wonder if the influence lobbyists hold on politicians was in the agenda, specifically the NRA from whom you’ve received more than $3 million. What do you say to your voters from Lima? Will you continue to accept money from that organization? What do you say to the Parkland victims? MARCO RUBIO: Where are you from? What news outlet? GOMEZ: Sergio Gomez, from Cuba. Granma newspaper. RUBIO: Which one? GOMEZ: Granma. RUBIO: I’m glad you can come here and freely express yourself and I welcome you. I think this is important because I am willing to answer questions in an open forum where you can have discrepancies. There are people in my country that don’t agree with how the Second Amendment of the Constitution is interpreted. Those people who are in disagreement with my stance on this issue have the right to vote against me. Even though I won the elections, in my country, those individuals who disagree with me on that topic can vote against me. Millions voted against me, but millions more voted in my favor. That’s my greatest desire. My wish is that Cuba, Venezuela and every country who has differences can decide them in the polls. Not through violence, not through illegitimate political movements. That’s what I wish. At the end of the day I think that in a free society, those who have disagreements with a political stance can vote against that politician. In five years, I will have to run again. GOMEZ: Will you continue accepting the money? It’s a direct question. RUBIO: It’s simple. In the United States, in comparison to Cuba, we have a free press. The press can question and criticize me all they want, and they do so daily. I’m glad we’re able to hold a debate, because in Cuba you can’t have a debate. The answer is that in the U.S. the people know my stance. We also have transparency on who donates and who doesn’t. Yes, I support the Second Amendment and those people who support that Amendment support me. Those who don’t support it can vote against me. I wish you could also do that in Cuba, because you can’t. The post Rubio Turns Question on NRA Support into Speech About Desire for Liberties, Press Freedoms in Cuba and Venezuela appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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U.S. Preparing New Sanctions on Russia over Syria, Haley Says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is preparing new sanctions on Russia over its continued support of Syrian President Bashar-al Assad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said Sunday. In an interview with CBS’ "Face the Nation," Haley said that the sanctions would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "They will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use," Haley said. The post U.S. Preparing New Sanctions on Russia over Syria, Haley Says appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Schiff: Trump’s Message With Libby Pardon Is ‘If You’re With Me, I Have Your Back’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s pardon of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was meant to send a message about the Russia investigation. Schiff said on ABC's "This Week" it was not credible that Trump could have chosen to pardon Libby at random. He did not address the specifics of Libby’s conviction. "You would have to believe that the president picked the Scooter Libby out of a hat, out of the thousands of people seeking a pardon, this was a complete coincidence," Schiff said. "I don't find that the least bit credible." Schiff said Trump utilized the pardon to tell people he is willing to pardon them if they obstruct justice to shield the president in the investigation into Russian election interference. "I think the president is sending a message, basically: ‘I will use the pardon power to pardon people even that have been convicted of leaking or obstruction of justice. If you're with me, I have your back.’ I think that is the very blatant message the president is trying to send," Schiff said. Schiff then described legislation he is proposing to mandate the president provide information to Congress about those he pardons. "I am working on legislation in which any pardon the president issues in which he is a potential witness, subject, or target, the files ought to be provided to Congress so the American people can tell whether this is part of an obstruction of justice," Schiff said. The White House’s explanation of Libby’s pardon was quite different from Schiff’s. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that Libby’s pardon was based partly on the evidence in his favor. "In 2015, one of the key witnesses against Mr. Libby recanted her testimony, stating publicly that she believes the prosecutor withheld relevant information from her during interviews that would have altered significantly what she said," Sanders said. "The next year, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated Mr. Libby to the bar, reauthorizing him to practice law. The Court agreed with the District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel, who stated that Mr. Libby had presented ‘credible evidence' in support of his innocence, including evidence that a key prosecution witness had ‘changed her recollection of the events in question.'" The post Schiff: Trump’s Message With Libby Pardon Is ‘If You’re With Me, I Have Your Back’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Comey: Assuming Clinton Would Win ‘Must Have’ Influenced Decision to Disclose Investigation

Former FBI director James Comey said in an interview that he revealed the reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails in part because he expected her to win the election. Comey, whose upcoming book examines other things the events surrounding President Donald Trump’s election, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was influenced by the assumption that Clinton would win. In an interview clip aired Sunday morning, Stephanopoulos asked directly whether Comey disclosed the FBI’s actions to Congress because he thought Clinton’s lead over Trump was secure. "At some level, was the decision to reveal influenced by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win and concerned that if she wins, this comes out weeks later, that is taken by her opponents as a sign she's an illegitimate president?" Stephanopoulos asked. "It must have been," Comey replied. "I don't remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been, because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. And so I’m sure that it was a factor." He explained his actions were based on the idea that it would damage the legitimacy of Clinton’s presidency if the reopening of the investigation came to light only after she was elected. "I don't remember spelling it out, but it had to have been—that she's going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected, the moment this comes out," Comey said. Trump criticized Comey on Twitter Sunday for incorporating Clinton's poll numbers into his calculation about the investigation, which Comey describes in his book. "Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe," Trump wrote. "In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!" Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018 The reopening of the investigation occurred when Clinton aide Huma Abedin's estranged husband Anthony Weiner had his laptop seized by the FBI. The laptop contained emails with confidential information, but the FBI concluded the law was not violated. Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, will come out Tuesday. The post Comey: Assuming Clinton Would Win ‘Must Have’ Influenced Decision to Disclose Investigation appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Kaine Won’t Support Pompeo for Secretary of State: He Has ‘Tendency to Oppose Diplomacy’

Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) said Sunday he would vote against Mike Pompeo's confirmation to be the next Secretary of State, in spite of voting in favor of him to be CIA Director last year. Kaine told CBS host Margaret Brennan on "Face The Nation" he had elected to not vote for him because he felt Pompeo was inclined to "oppose diplomacy." Pompeo was tapped by President Donald Trump to replace the fired Rex Tillerson. "I've decided to vote against him to be Secretary of State," Kaine said. "I did vote for him as CIA Director. He has an intel background that I thought suited him for the position. But look, we have a president who is anti-diplomacy, and I worry that Mike Pompeo has shown the same tendency to oppose diplomacy. He was not just against the Iran deal when he was a House member, but he spoke about the relative ease of wiping out Iran's nuclear capacity with a bombing run." "I don't want a Secretary of State who is going to exacerbate President Trump's tendencies to oppose diplomacy," Kaine added, hitting Trump for insulting allies and not sufficiently funding the State Department. Pompeo, who graduated first in his class at West Point and served in the Persian Gulf War, addressed his "hawk" reputation during the hearing, saying war should always be "the last resort." "There's no one like someone who understands the value of diplomacy and the terror and tragedy that is war like someone who has served in uniform," Pompeo said. "It's the last resort. It must always be so." Kaine's "no" vote, along with other Democrats and Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) in opposition to Pompeo, means he will not get a favorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It does not mean Pompeo won't be confirmed by the full Senate. The post Kaine Won’t Support Pompeo for Secretary of State: He Has ‘Tendency to Oppose Diplomacy’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Haberman Says White House Felt Comey’s Book ‘Could Have Been Worse,’ Doesn’t Seem Like ‘There’s a Ton of News in It’

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said Sunday the White House isn't particularly fazed by former FBI Director James Comey's new book, adding it doesn't seem like "there's a ton of news in it." "From their perspective, this was not as bad as they thought it was going to be," Haberman said on ABC's "This Week." "I have obviously not read the book. Does not seem like there's a ton of news in it, based on what I've seen … They felt like it could have been worse." Comey's book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, recounts his interactions with President Donald Trump, who he blasts as "untethered to truth" and compares to a mob boss. Out April 17, the book reportedly does not offer major revelations on the Russia investigation, which Comey led before Trump fired him last May. "The View" co-host Meghan McCain criticized an excerpt of Comey's book where he noted his hands were larger than the president's when they first met, saying it belied his portrayal of himself as a "boy scout." "Pretty salacious, gossipy things to be putting in a book that I thought was supposed to be about just clearing the truth on this," McCain said. McCain said Comey's book felt more like Fire and Fury, gossip author Michael Wolff's inside look at the administration released in January. It came under criticism for its hazy sourcing and mistakes, in addition to Wolff's unsubstantiated implication that United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley was sleeping with Trump. Haberman added the White House felt things like Comey's attack on Trump's hand size actually helped Trump. "In terms of Comey and in terms of Fire and Fury … these are books that don't offer a whole lot of new information," she said. "They affirm what we have seen over the course of time … I don't know that it changes [anything]." Comey's book has come under heavy fire from the GOP, and Trump himself has tweeted several attacks at Comey, calling him a "slime ball" and the worst FBI Director in the bureau's history. The post Haberman Says White House Felt Comey’s Book ‘Could Have Been Worse,’ Doesn’t Seem Like ‘There’s a Ton of News in It’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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Ellison: ‘Women Are Dying Because We Are Losing Elections’

Rep. Keith Ellison (R., Minn.) told an audience at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) that progressives have a moral imperative to defeat Republicans at the polls, saying "women are dying" because they're losing. Ellison, who is the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, spoke at the political action committee’s candidate training event Friday and said women’s lives depend on progressives being elected, in a clip posted by IJR. He cited mortality rates among expectant mothers as a reason for enacting more progressive policies. "Did you know that in Missouri and in Texas, and maybe other places, maternal mortality has risen?" Ellison said. "Women are dying because we are losing elections," he added. "We don't have the right to lose a damn election. We have to win. We have to win." PCCC is closely associated with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who is also on the Democratic Party’s left wing. The group seeks to nominate and elect "bold progressives," and Ellison himself was the progressive choice to head the DNC, although former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez was ultimately chosen. The post Ellison: ‘Women Are Dying Because We Are Losing Elections’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

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