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Obama sidesteps NDAA provision requiring military custody for terror suspects

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WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama announced measures Tuesday allowing civilian investigators to handle cases of terror suspects, effectively sidestepping a 2011 law requiring they be brought before military courts.

The directive provides more flexibility to the president in deciding whether to use military tribunals to try foreign terror suspects, and is likely to upset lawmakers who included the rule in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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“The executive branch must utilize all elements of national power — including military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic tools — to effectively confront the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and its associated forces,” Obama wrote in a presidential directive.

The White House, he added, “must retain the flexibility to determine how to apply those tools to the unique facts and circumstances we face in confronting this diverse and evolving threat.

“A rigid, inflexible requirement to place suspected terrorists into military custody would undermine the national security interests of the United States, compromising our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals,” he added.

Obama signed the NDAA under protest on December 31 which required that foreign terror suspects affiliated with Al-Qaeda and plotting or conducting attacks on US soil be brought before military courts.

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He attached a statement to the bill, saying he signed it “despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”

The December law revived debate over the complicated legal thicket surrounding the treatment of terror suspects and over rules hurriedly drawn up by the previous Bush administration after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Obama has sought to preserve the option of trying some terror suspects in federal courts, or for those accused of plotting new attacks against the United States to be processed through the civilian legal system, and his move Tuesday appeared to solidify that option.

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The directive is aimed in part at preventing a disruption of terror investigations conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


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Sondland was going to testify Trump gave the impression they should coordinate with Giuliani on Ukraine: report

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European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland is slated to give testimony Thursday to the House committees on President Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal.

Sondland was slated to tell investigators that Trump gave him the impression that he and two other officials should coordinate with the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, The New York Times said in an explosive report Wednesday.

"That command effectively created a foreign policy back channel that cut the State Department and National Security Council out of deliberations involving a pivotal ally against Russia," The Times reported.

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Trump’s lawyers are trying to tell Appeals Court they actually won the taxes lawsuit — but are still appealing

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President Donald Trump's lawyers sent out a bizarre letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, making the case that they actually won their case to keep the president's taxes a secret. It's an odd take given that they're filing for an appeal.

Oct. 7, a federal judge dismissed Trump's efforts in a 75-page opinion calling the White House claim "extraordinary."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero explained that no occupant of the White House enjoys "absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind." Such a position "would constitute an overreach of executive power."

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Nate Silver claps back at right-wing pollster for accusing him of fraud

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One of the worst-performing national pollsters in the 2018 election cycle was Rasmussen Reports, a right-leaning outfit that is consistently the only one to show President Donald Trump with a net positive approval rating. In 2018, Rasmussen showed Republicans leading the generic congressional ballot by 1 point — but Democrats won the popular vote by 8.4 points.

Nonetheless, Rasmussen is proud of its methodology and particularly irritated when polling analyst and FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver points out their inaccuracy. Over the past two weeks, they have twice accused him of "fraud" and characterized his analyses as "corrupt."

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