In her first Sunday morning show appearance since taking office in January, New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned that there is “very real risk” President Trump will win re-election in 2020, and acknowledged that progressive frustration with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also “quite real.”
The comments struck an unusually defensive tone for the 29-year-old progressive firebrand, as Democrats seek to winnow their large list of 23 presidential contenders. Ocasio-Cortez also spoke bluntly on her initiative to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars most federal funding for abortion — and 2020 Democrat frontrunner Joe Biden’s abrupt reversal on the issue earlier this month.
“I think that we have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we do not have a presidential candidate that is fighting for true transformational change in the lives of working people in the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News’ Jon Karl on “This Week” Sunday.
“I think that if we elect a president on half-measures that the American people don’t quite understand — the agenda of a president, you know, that says we’re fighting for higher wages but we don’t want a $15 minimum wage, fighting for education but we don’t want to make colleges tuition-free, fighting for women’s rights, et cetera, but we don’t want to go all the way with that, then I think we have a very real risk of losing the presidency,” Ocasio-Cortez continued.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "I think that we have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we do not have a presidential candidate that is fighting for true transformational change in the lives of working people in the United States" https://t.co/3S3qFJFu4C pic.twitter.com/69eXZuBqKB
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 16, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez said she did not see herself endorsing a particular candidate “any time soon,” however.
Responding to an NBC News poll showing growing support for an impeachment inquiry, Ocasio-Cortez called an impeachment investigation a “constitutional responsibility.” That prompted Karl to press Ocasio-Cortez on reports that progressive Democrats are frustrated with Pelosi, D-Calif., who has resisted calls for impeachment proceedings.
“I think it’s quite real,” Ocasio-Cortez. “I believe that there is a very real animus and desire to make sure that we are — that — that we are holding this president to account.”
A growing progressive anger has also targeted Biden, who said earlier this month he could “no longer support” the Hyde Amendment, which he had backed for decades. Biden said the law makes a woman’s right to an abortion “dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”
The Hyde Amendment prevents the government from providing abortion funding except in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the mother is at stake.
Last week, an abortion activist questioning Biden on his Hyde Amendment flip-flop said the former vice president got in the activist’s face and attempted an arm grab. “I thought he was going to hit me,” the activist said, after posting a brief viral video and photo of the encounter.
The activist also noted the numerous accusations by other women that Biden has made them uncomfortable in close personal encounters.
“In every poll, a plurality of Americans opposes public funding of abortions.”
The Biden campaign did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the matter. Ocasio-Cortez, asked whether Biden has handled the misconduct accusations appropriately, told Karl, “I think that’s something that he has to kind of show the electorate, I think that I, you know, I think that it is an issue where there is a struggle, I’ll be completely honest.”
She continued: “I don’t think that he has — I don’t — I wouldn’t say that it is an incredibly severe — like I don’t think that voters think that he is necessarily guilty of sexual misconduct or anything like that.”
Ocasio-Cortez also said Democrats “probably” made a mistake by not pushing back on Bill Clinton’s treatment of women during his presidency, but said the country has gone through an “evolution” in the years since.
But on the Hyde Amendment, Ocasio-Cortez has been more forceful.
“It’s not the 70s anymore,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an email to backers on Saturday, building support for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. “This is 2019, and none of our leaders should be willing to stand by a policy that disproportionately harms low-income Americans and people of color just to suit the interests of anti-choice zealots. That ends now. We’re going to fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment, and let people access the care that they need. Sign your name if you stand for repealing the Hyde Amendment.”
On Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez said Biden’s new stance on the Hyde Amendment was the bare minimum for a Democrat candidate in 2020. As recently as the last presidential cycle, the Hyde Amendment enjoyed mostly bipartisan support.
“Well, I’m encouraged by the fact that he is now against the Hyde Amendment. I think that that’s where — I think it’s a very base level where all candidates need to be,” Ocasio-Cortez told Karl. “I’m excited to be introducing a repeal of the Hyde Amendment via amendment — we’ll see where it goes — for incarcerated women and the maternal and reproductive health care of incarcerated women is — it should be guaranteed as it is with all women in the United States. And so I think it really depends — and that’s really what the Hyde Amendment is about.”
Ocasio-Cortez continued: “The Hyde amendment isn’t about abortion per se. The Hyde amendment is — is truly about equality of health care and health care access for low-income women and women of color and women that get caught in our — in our mass incarceration system.
“We’re talking about 50, 51 percent of the American public being impacted by the realities of the Hyde Amendment,” she concluded.
But Democrats risk overplaying their hand on the issue, analysts warn, even as an increasing number of conservative-dominated states pass aggressive pro-life measures. A recent article in Slate by William Saletan, titled “Abortion Funding Isn’t As Popular As Democrats Think: Recent polls debunk much of what progressives believe,” contains a sobering analysis of the issue for the Democrat field.
Saletan concluded that while most Americans generally agree with Democrats on the issue of abortion and don’t support defunding abortion clinics, the recent progressive push goes too far.
“On the question of direct payments [for abortion],” Saletan wrote, “most voters agree with the GOP. If Democrats make that question a litmus test, they’ll regret it.”
Nevertheless, last week Illinois enacted a sweeping pro-choice law that eliminated spousal consent, waiting periods, criminal penalties for abortion providers and restrictions on abortion facilities, such as licensing requirements and health and safety inspections. It also repealed the state’s Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act and established “that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the law, of this State.”
The Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm based in Chicago, declared the bill tantamount to “legalizing the death penalty, with no possibility of appeal, for viable unborn preemies.”
Karl did not ask Ocasio-Cortez about her role in torpedoing Amazon’s plan to locate a headquarters in New York, or a range of her policy proposals, prompting conservatives to dismiss the ABC sit-down as a softball interview.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Says He’s Not Resigning After Private Chat Scandal
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Monday that he has no plans to resign or give up his leadership of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party after a fierce public outcry over the release of profanity-laced and derogatory private chat messages with other officials and close associates.
Rosselló did say in a radio interview, however, that as a “tactical measure” he would think about whether he should seek re-election next year.
The messages, which included homophobic and misogynistic comments, have been strongly condemned by other officials in his party and drawn protests outside the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan. Some excerpts of the chats, on the instant messaging service Telegram, were leaked to local media on July 8th. The island’s Center for Investigative Journalism, which received the 889 pages from a source, published them in their entirety on Saturday.
In the chats, the group used disparaging and sexist terms to refer to San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, as well as former New York City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito. They also belittled the death of independence movement leader Carlos Gallisá and slammed the federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.
The group used a homophobic comment in relation to international pop star Ricky Martin, who is from Puerto Rico. On Twitter, Martin urged Rosselló to step down.
The governor, Martin tweeted, “lacks the abilities of a true leader, who inspires, stimulates and guides by example so that our people attain a higher level of life.”
Over the weekend, a group of mayors and officials from the governor’s New Progressive Party, including the president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Mendez, had urged Rosselló to “re-evaluate” and reflect on his position. In a statement, they wrote that “the most recent publications of the content in the Telegram chat do not reflect in any way how our delegation or the party feels.”
On Saturday, Rosselló announced that other top officials who participated in the chats had submitted their resignations. This included the secretary of state, Luis G. Rivera Marín, who would have been next in line for the governorship if Rosselló were no longer in his position.
The commonwealth’s chief financial officer, Christian Sobrino, who is also the governor’s representative to the federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances, also announced he was stepping down. The federal control board was a topic in the chats.
The island’s justice secretary, Wanda Vázquez, announced that she was appointing a special task force to determine whether the comments in the chats broke any laws. On Monday, Rosselló said he had reviewed the chats and he said he had committed no wrongdoing.
The messaging scandal comes on the heels of the arrests of the island’s former secretary of education, Julia Keleher, and five other people on charges of steering federal money to unqualified, politically connected contractors.
It also occurs against the backdrop of the U.S. commonwealth’s ongoing attempts to recover after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017 as well as Puerto Rico’s ongoing financial crisis.
Trump Says Progressive Congresswomen Should ‘Go Back’ and Fix the Places They ‘Originally Came From’
President Donald Trump on Sunday said progressive congresswomen should “go back” and try to fix the “crime infested places” they “originally came from” before telling the U.S. government how to handle its problems.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump wrote in a series of three tweets.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” the president continued. “Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Though he did not mention anyone by name in his tweets, the president appeared to be referring to a group of progressive congresswomen who have generated headlines and whose influence was recently downplayed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
That group includes Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Tlaib, a Palestinian American, was born in Michigan; Omar, a Somali refugee, moved to the U.S. when she was 12 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen; Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Latin-American descent, was born in New York; and Pressley, who is African American, was born in Cincinnati.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to Trump on Twitter Sunday afternoon, saying “the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States.”
“But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet,” she continued. She added that Trump is “angry because” he doesn’t “believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected [Omar], where [Tlaib] fights for Michigan families, where [Pressley] champions little girls in Boston.”
“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us,” she said. “You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.”
Omar also responded to Trump in a tweet on Sunday, saying she and her fellow members swear an oath only to the U.S., “Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”
As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States.
Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen. https://t.co/FBygHa2QTt
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 14, 2019
Pelosi on Sunday blasted Trump’s screed, saying that when the president “tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again.”
“Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,” the California Democrat added.
Trump’s tweets were swiftly condemned by other congressional Democrats, including presidential candidates, who called them “racist” and “bigoted.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted that Trump’s comments were “vile,” “racist” and “xenophobic.”
“This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it,” Warren said of the Democratic congresswomen. “They should be treated with respect.”
Let’s be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen. This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it. They should be treated with respect. As president, I’ll make sure of it. https://t.co/WupieDquLA
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 14, 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent also running to be the Democratic nominee, tweeted: “When I call the president a racist, this is what I’m talking about. We must stand together for justice and dignity towards all.”
Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, a member of the House Democratic leadership, blasted Trump, tweeting, “A racist tweet from a racist president,” while Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia wrote, “This is undisguised racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and everyone in Congress regardless of party should condemn it.”
Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, meanwhile, said Trump was “spending his Sunday morning sending bigoted tweets.”
“Fact check: 3 of the 4 colleagues of mine he’s targeting were born in the U.S. And those of us serving in Congress who immigrated here or are children of immigrants like myself are American,” he tweeted. “Period.”
A weeklong feud involving the progressive congresswomen and Democratic leadership might have played a role in Trump’s tweets. Referring to the four women, Pelosi said in a Maureen Dowd column published in The New York Times last week: “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”
In response, Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that she and her fellow progressives were being singled out by Pelosi as “newly elected women of color,” saying, “it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful.”
Trump jumped into the fray himself last week, defending Pelosi and saying Ocasio-Cortez is the one who’s been disrespectful.
“A group of people that came from — I don’t know where they came from — I’m looking at this Omar from Minnesota,” he added. “And if one-half of the things they’re saying about her are true, she shouldn’t even be in office.”
Sanders said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he thought Pelosi was being “a little” too tough on the freshman lawmakers.
“You cannot ignore the young people of this country who are passionate about economic and racial and social and environmental justice. You’ve got to bring them in, not alienate them,” Sanders said.
Trump Labor Chief Alex Acosta Resigns Due to Jeffrey Epstein Case
Embattled Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, who came under fire this week over a decade-old plea deal with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, is resigning, President Donald Trump said Friday.
Epstein, 66, was arrested over the weekend and charged in the Southern District of New York with sex trafficking dozens of girls, some as young as 14, in New York and Florida. That arrest brought new scrutiny to the earlier plea agreement, which has been widely criticized as too lenient.
Acosta appeared with Trump on the White House South Lawn Friday morning where he said he had called the president earlier in the morning to tell him he was resigning.
Trump told reporters that the decision for Acosta to quit “was him, not me” and praised him as a “tremendous talent.”
In the earlier case, in 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution, which required him to register as a sex offender and serve about a year in a Florida county jail. He was able to leave the jail almost daily for work, and was allowed to have his own private security detail behind bars.
Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time of the original Epstein criminal case, has faced calls from Democrats to resign his Cabinet post following the latest Epstein charges.
Acosta’s office reached the secret non-prosecution deal in 2008 with the wealthy financier to halt the federal sex abuse investigation involving dozens of teenage girls in return for Epstein pleading guilty to lower state charges involving a single victim.
The latest charges against Epstein, however, allege that he trafficked girls during the same time period as the earlier Florida probe.
Federal prosecutors in New York allege the politically connected financier, who has socialized with Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, sexually abused dozens of minors and paid his victims to recruit others, allowing him to build a vast network of girls to exploit.
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