Donna Brazile Defends Obama over Russian Meddling in 2016 Election: ‘Did Everything They Could’

Longtime Democrat operative and newly minted Fox News contributor Donna Brazile defended former President Barack Obama and his administration over Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election, saying she believes they did “everything they could.”

“I think they did everything they could without sounding all of the alarm bells,” Brazile said on Fox News’s The Daily Briefing.

“If Obama did more on Russian meddling, she said, critics would have accused him of trying to help his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in her race against then-candidate Donald Trump,” Fox News reported.

“He was in a box,” Brazile said of the former president. 

“Perhaps President Trump is in a box,” she added, before calling for action to prevent future meddling. 

In the Fox report, Brazile claimed it was the Trump campaign that “exploited” information from WikiLeaks, which has suspected ties to Russia.

“Every day, the Trump campaign would get the WikiLeaks information; they would blast it,” Brazile said. “He used it in his daily rallies and daily meetings.”

“Brazile, who served as interim Democratic National Committee chair during the election, backed away from making any determination about whether her party should pursue impeaching the president,” Fox reported.

The Mueller report concluded that neither President Trump nor anyone in his presidential campaign colluded with Russia but stopped short of clearing the president of obstructing justice.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to leave the obstruction question open has been snapped up as what Democrats have called a “road map for impeachment.”

One of the Democrat presidential candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), announced on Twitter on Friday that she supports starting impeachment proceedings.

But Brazile backed away from endorsing an effort to get the president removed from office.

“I think it’s premature to talk about what the next step is,” she said. “Before we can move into what I call the impeachment gear, perhaps we should just dive into this report.”

“Like Brazile, DNC Chair Tom Perez appeared to sidestep impeachment questions on Thursday and said it was unclear whether or not obstruction occurred,” Fox reported.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.

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The US embassy in Sri Lanka warned expats and tourists to find shelter and exercise ‘extreme caution’ after a series of bombings

The US embassy in Colombo has asked travellers to follow instructions from local authorities and advised them saying “Please shelter in place and exercise extreme caution.”

The United Kingdom, too, has issued a travel advisory for tourists travelling to Sri Lanka.

“There have been a number of explosions in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, on Sunday 21 April. Please follow the instructions of local security officials and follow travel advice for updates,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK said while issuing a notice for people travelling to and from Sri Lanka.

More than 156 have been killed as multiple explosions that targeted churches and hotels in the country’s capital, Colombo.

Hundreds of worshipers gathered at the St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, Kotahena, St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya in Katana, and the Zion church in Batticaloa to commemorate Easter Sunday, at the time of the explosions. The other three blasts where reported at the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels in Colombo.

The Indian High Commission has issued helpline numbers for Indians stranded in Sri Lanka. Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, Government of India, also tweeted “I am in constant touch with Indian High Commissioner in Colombo. We are keeping a close watch on the situation.”

The security at the Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport has also been increased with travellers being told to reach the airport at least four hours prior to departure time.

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Kamala Harris Says Legalize Marijuana to ‘Restore Justice’

Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris on Saturday called for legalization of marijuana at the federal level for the purpose of restoring justice.

“It’s time we legalize marijuana at the federal level and restore justice to our communities,” she posted to Twitter Saturday. “Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. We must reverse this trend.”

The message comes on a day celebrated by marijuana proponents, April 20, better known as 4/20.

Harris stated publicly in a February radio interview that she smoked marijuana “a long time ago.” 

The current U.S. senator from California has changed her stated view on the issue over the past decade, according to CNN, which reported that in 2010 she opposed legalization. At the time she was serving as San Francisco district attorney. She went on to take the office of California attorney general in 2011 and was elected to the Senate in 2016.

Her new book cited in the CNN report states that she now supports a position similar to some other 2020 Democrat presidential contenders. According to the report, she says in the book that she backs legalization of the drug and clearing convictions for non-violent offenses associated with marijuana. “We need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives,” she is quoted as saying in her book.

The report added that in 2015 Harris supported ending what she called a “federal ban” on the drug but did not call for full legalization. During a 2014 KCRA interview while she was attorney general of California, she laughed at her political opponent’s support for legalizing recreational marijuana.

Michelle Moons is a White House Correspondent for Breitbart News — follow on Twitter @MichelleDiana and Facebook.

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At least 138 people killed in Sri Lanka after churches and luxury hotels hit by explosions

At least 156 people have reportedly been killed and more than 400 have been injured, according to Reuters news agency, after a series of bomb blasts hit a number of churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

The BBC reports that the death toll could rise significantly as hospitals report casualty figures.

Three churches in Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa were targeted as worshippers attended Easter services, one of the biggest dates in the Christian calendar.

In just one church, St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, more than 50 people were killed, a police official told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the hotels targeted are among the most luxurious in the country’s capital: The Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury.

Another explosion in a hotel in Dehiwala, near Colombo, was later reported.

British, Dutch and American citizens are among the 35 foreigners to have been killed dead, AFP cited hospital sources as saying.

As yet, no group or organisation have claimed the attacks.

Priests comfort eachother after an attack on Kochchikade church.
REUTERS / Dinuka Liyanawatte

On Twitter, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera called the attacks “a well coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy.”

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe put out a timely warning against the proliferation of fake reports or videos on social media, saying: “I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today.

“I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

Wickremesinghe has since invoked an island-wide curfew from 6 PM to 6 AM.

The vast majority of the Sri Lankans are Buddhist, however, Christians make up a not-insignificant 7.6 per cent of the country’s population, according to the 2012 census.

This is the first major attack in Sri Lanka since the civil war, which ended almost 10 years ago after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. However, there have been sporadic bouts of inter-religious violence in the years that followed.

In March last year, Sri Lanka declared a 10-day, nation-wide state of emergency after clashes between Muslim and Buddhist communities reached fever pitch.

Sunday’s bombings will likely put a dent in the country’s rising tourism sector — it was named Lonely Planet’s No.1 place to travel in 2019,

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US to clean up toxic Vietnam air base

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Media captionThe toxic legacy of the Vietnam War

The US has launched a multi-million dollar clean-up operation at an air base in Vietnam it used to store the notorious chemical Agent Orange.

The ten-year programme, unveiled more than four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, will cost $183m (£141m).

The site at Bien Hoa airport, outside Ho Chi Minh City, is considered the most contaminated in the country.

Agent Orange was a defoliant sprayed by US forces to destroy jungles and uncover the enemy’s hiding places.

It contained dioxin, which is one of the most toxic chemicals known to man and has been linked to increased rates of cancers and birth defects.

Vietnam says several million people have been affected by Agent Orange, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects.

At Bien Hoa the chemical has contaminated the soil and seeped into nearby rivers.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The site at Bien Hoa airport is considered the most contaminated in Vietnam

The amount of dioxin in the area is four times higher than that found at Danang airport where a similar operation was completed in November.

A statement from the US development agency USAID, which is behind the clean-up, described the site as the “largest remaining hotspot” of dioxin in Vietnam.

“The fact that two former foes are now partnering on such a complex task is nothing short of historic,” US ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, said at Saturday’s programme launch.

More than 80 million litres of Agent Orange are estimated to have been sprayed by US forces over South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.

From the 1960s, doctors in Vietnam began to see a sharp rise in birth defects, cancers and other illnesses linked to exposure to the chemical.

The US compensates its veterans exposed to the defoliant, but does not compensate Vietnamese nationals.

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FBI arrests member of armed group stopping migrants in New Mexico

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By Phil Helsel, Natalie Obregon and Sumiko Moots

The FBI on Saturday arrested a man described as a commander of an armed group that has been detaining migrants in New Mexico, the state attorney general’s office said.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, of Flora Vista, New Mexico, was arrested for allegedly being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and the FBI said.

The arrest comes after New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, demanded that members of a militia group, some of whom are armed, stop detaining migrants at the New Mexico-Mexico border.

Balderas said in a statement that Hopkins is “a member of the armed group of individuals reportedly detaining migrants near Sunland Park, New Mexico.”

“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas said. “Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”

Jim Benvie, a spokesman for United Constitutional Patriots, said Hopkins is their “national commander.”

In a letter Thursday to Lujan Grisham and Balderas, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said United Constitutional Patriots had arrested nearly 300 people Tuesday near Sunland Park, a city about 10 miles from El Paso, Texas.

Hopkins is scheduled to appear in federal court Monday in Las Cruces. It was unclear if he has an attorney. A message left at a phone number that public records show might belong to Hopkins in Flora Vista was not immediately returned Saturday.

The FBI said no other information would be released until after Hopkins’ court appearance, and it was not immediately clear what the underlying felony conviction was.

Lujan Grisham said this week that state officials would be working with local police to stop the militia group from arresting migrants.

Balderas warned that “these individuals should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement.”

Benvie claimed Saturday that Hopkins’ arrest was politically motivated and that the United Constitutional Patriots is an “armed patriot group” not an armed militia. He said Hopkins is a Vietnam veteran and former “fugitive recovery officer,” or bounty hunter.

“I believe that this was an attack from the governor ordered to the AG’s office to come out to our camp and find something that they could find to either shut us down, get us removed from the property that we’re on, or do something else to harm the integrity of the organization,” Benvie said.

The FBI said it arrested Hopkins on a federal complaint and did not mention an armed group.

A group of Brazilian migrants board a U.S. Border Patrol van in Sunland Park, New Mexico, on March 20, 2019.Paul Ratje / AFP – Getty Images

Reuters reported Thursday that United Constitutional Patriots, made up mainly of veterans, has been patrolling in the Sunland Park area since late February. They have been posting videos almost daily of members in camouflage, armed with semi-automatic rifles, holding asylum-seekers until Border Patrol officers arrive, the news agency reported.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that it “does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.”

Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come, the Associated Press reported. But unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children.

In the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which has emerged as the second-busiest corridor for illegal crossings after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, 86% of arrests in March were people who came as families or unaccompanied children, the AP reported.

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US ‘border militia member’ arrested

A member of Constitutional Patriots New Mexico Border Ops Team militia is pictured on patrol at the US-Mexico borderImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Members of the United Constitutional Patriots have been seen patrolling with weapons

US authorities have arrested an alleged member of a militia that has been stopping migrants trying to cross the US-Mexico border.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was detained in New Mexico as a felon in possession of a weapon.

It comes just days after a video emerged of militia members detaining dozens of migrants in the desert.

The group, United Constitutional Patriots, has been condemned by civil rights groups and local officials.

“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

“Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”

While his statement said Mr Hopkins had been arrested as a felon, it did not specify what the underlying conviction had been.

The alleged militia member is expected to appear in court on Monday.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionFive numbers that explain US border crisis

United Constitutional Patriots, a small volunteer group, argues it is helping US Border Patrol to deal with a surge in migrants crossing America’s southern border. It is one of several militias operating in the region.

As details of this week’s latest video emerged, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Twitter that “menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease”.

US Customs and Border Protection have previously said they are opposed to civilians patrolling the border in search of illegal crossers.

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