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Obama to tackle dashed hopes for bipartisan change

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Barack Obama on Wednesday returns to the Midwestern city where his White House journey began, to sell progress made in office and address one of the great failings of his presidency.

Standing in frigid Springfield, Illinois in 2007, Obama told anyone listening that he was running for president.

The young senator pitched himself, above all, as an outsider who could soothe divisive partisan politics.

He told the bundled-up crowd: “You believe we can be one people, reaching for what’s possible, building that more perfect union.”

In case anyone missed the point, Obama’s remarks were delivered from the same spot where Abraham Lincoln — that great unifier — declared “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

American voters, after years of divisions over Iraq, responded warmly to Obama’s bipartisan message by handing him the White House — and, ironically, a thumping partisan majority in Congress.

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With control of government at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Obama bypassed Republican opposition to enact sweeping reform of Wall Street and health care.

Of course, the situation is very different now.

Republicans, who now control Congress, accuse him of governing by executive order and of riding roughshod over “American values” on issues from gay marriage to abortion.

Nine years later, Obama returns to the city where it all began and where he was once a state senator.

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By his own admission, Obama the president has come up short on his campaign pledge to ease partisanship.

“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency  —  that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said during his last State of the Union address.

“There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.

“I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office,” he added, a frank admission for a president who has always looked to history as a guide and measuring post.

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In an election year, when campaigns have been dominated by tough talk and trenchant ideology on both sides, that is a massive task.

– A house divided –

On the campaign trail, Republicans and Democrats — divided enough within their parties — have shed any pretense of working with the other side.

“We didn’t get a leader, we got someone who wants to divide the country up,” said Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush in describing Obama’s presidency.

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As if to reinforce the point, on the eve of his Springfield speech, Obama submitted a budget to the Republican-controlled Congress.

Republican leaders promptly said they would ignore it and draft their own.

During his address, Obama is likely to put today’s partisanship in the context of fierce political challenges faced by Lincoln and others.

A decade after Lincoln’s “house divided” speech, a brutal Civil War killed more than 600,000 men.

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It was a time when, as Lincoln put it, “the heavens are hung in black.”

Obama will likely try to provide a more positive vision, recalling his time in the still troubled Illinois state legislature when bipartisanship worked.

He is also expected to outline measures that he believes can ease the enmity: campaign finance reform, more civil discourse, more participatory democracy and fewer rigged districts.

The president will outline “steps states can take to make it easier for people to participate,” the White House said.

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But while Obama will likely decry issues like the role of money in politics, the realities remain stark.

After the speech, he will jet to California for a series of Democratic fundraisers, where it is normally good for business to take a few jabs at Republicans.

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Establishment Dems pressuring new congress members to attend AIPAC Israel junket: report

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For years, freshman Democratic lawmakers have faced pressure to attend an AIPAC sponsored trip to Israel, where they were denied access to Gaza and other territories controlled by Israel.

The pressure remains stronger than ever today, reports The Intercept, even as Israel's mideast policy is increasingly questioned.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) assured AIPAC that this year the trip would be as well attended as it has been previously. “Like many of you, I’ve traveled to the communities in the south of Israel that have endured rockets and tunnels. I’ve traveled with over 150 of my fellow Democratic members of Congress to meet with those who live under the constant threat of terror,” he said in an April address to AIPAC.

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Trump leveled by retired general for making Iran war decisions based on advice from Fox News hosts

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During a panel discussion on the increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran after a drone was shot down by the Middle Eastern country in international airspace, a retired general claimed he was worried about Donald Trump's response based upon who it appears the president listens to when it comes to advice.

Speaking with host John Berman, retired Lt. General Mark Hertling warned that the shootdown was a dangerous provocation.

"It's huge, John," Hertling explained. "You can go all the way from backing down completely to a full-scale war -- that's what's dangerous about this situation."

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DOJ money laundering probe of Deutsche Bank includes Kushner transactions: report

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting a criminal investigation of possible money laundering violations by Deutsche Bank, and the New York Times is reporting that the probe will include taking a look at some 2016 transactions involving Kushner Cos. — the business owned by the family of Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

In banking, reports of possibly suspicious activity are known as “suspicious activity reports,” and the DOJ is investigating why Deutsche Bank prepared such alerts for activity involving Kushner Cos. but did not file them. A key figure in the DOJ’s investigation is whistleblower Tammy McFadden, who helped prepare suspicious activity reports for Kushner Cos.-related transactions. McFadden is a former compliance officer for Deutsche Bank.

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