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Former Defense Secretary warns: ISIS is back, and Trump can’t ‘pretend it’s not there’

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On Tuesday’s edition of CNN’s “OutFront,” former Defense Secretary and CIA head Leon Panetta warned that ISIS is gaining strength in the Middle East again — and that after all of President Donald Trump’s boasts that he had utterly defeated the terrorist organization, now it is time for him to get serious.

“Roughly estimated 15,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria now,” said host Kate Bolduan. “Secretary Pompeo saying the terror group is, in some ways, stronger than it was three or four years ago. How big of a concern should the news be for Americans?”

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“It should be a very serious concern for the president of the United States and for our country,” said Panetta. “Because his first responsibility is to protect our country. And we learned from 9/11, the fact that these terrorists have one fundamental aim, which is to attack the United States and attack countries in the West. And now what we’re hearing is that ISIS is clearly re-mobilizing to the tune of almost is 15,000-18,000, that are mobilizing into secret cells, mobilizing into attack teams, conducting not only attacks but kidnappings and assassinations and bombings, as we saw in Afghanistan. So this is, in the end, a national security threat that the United States cannot simply stand back and pretend it’s not there.”

“If we simply withdraw our forces and pretend that ISIS and the remnants of al-Qaeda are no longer a threat, make no mistake about it, it is an open invitation to terrorists to establish the kind of base from which they can conduct attacks against the United States,” continued Panetta. “We can’t let that happen again.”

“Well, Secretary, that’s a terrifying proposition because that’s under consideration, that’s a real conversation that’s happening right now, is, will troops be leaving Syria? How long will troops be in Afghanistan where ISIS is becoming a threat there now as well.”

“I think the president has to be very careful here about just going ahead and promising that somehow we will pull back all troops from the region without any assurances that ultimately this problem will be dealt with,” said Panetta. “He says let others deal with the problem, that we’ve got — we’re 7,000 miles away. But that has always been a false promise by isolationists. They used that argument in the 1930s that said, because of our oceans, we didn’t have to worry about Nazi Germany. And today we say that somehow we can withdraw and be able to be protected. We are not protected.”

“Should something keep the president up at night?” asked Bolduan.

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“Well, let me put it this way,” said Panetta. “I think most presidents would be kept awake by the concern that our national security could be threatened … I think the indication that this doesn’t represent a threat to our country is something that we shouldn’t be hearing from the president. Look, we live in a dangerous world. I think it’s more dangerous than ever today. It’s not only the threat from China and rash. It’s the threat from ISIS. It’s the threat from Iran, from those conducting cyber-attacks again our own country. There are a lot of flash points in the world that ought to frankly keep this president awake and concerned.”

Watch below:

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Congress still has one big tool left to rein in Trump’s corruption: Oversight Committee Democrat

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Senate Republicans may have managed to quash the impeachment trial without calling forth any new witnesses or seriously considering the evidence against President Donald Trump. And the president may feel vindicated and largely invulnerable as a result.

But, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday, that doesn't mean Democrats don't have one last big play to rein in the president's abuses of power. They can use the first and strongest authority delegated to them: the power of the purse.

"What can Democrats really do when it comes to oversight of the president?" asked Cooper. "I mean, now that impeachment is over, does seem like there are fewer and fewer guardrails, if any."

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The depths of Trump’s paranoia: One person who may know him the best explains what’s ahead

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President Donald Trump's biographer, Michael d'Antonio, knows a great deal about his life, his behavior, and his long history of paranoia. A piece in The New York Times Monday summed up the president's state of mind during the impeachment with one word: "paranoid."

Speaking to the long history of paranoia, d'Antonio recalled that in Trump's book The Art of the Comeback, he wrote ten tips for an effective comeback. No. 3, he said, was "be paranoid."

"He thinks that paranoia is an effective strategy when it comes to managing people and when it comes to doing business," said the biographer. "And I think all of the attitudes that we see him bring into the presidency are things that evidence themselves early in his life. So, he's never trusted people very readily and is very quick to identify someone as an enemy. And then try to root out those who aren't loyal enough. So paranoia is something that's always been a trait for the president, and he considers it a useful, even constructive thing."

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Trump lawyer goes down in flames trying to explain away Bill Barr’s corruption

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On Monday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," former federal prosecutor Elie Honig took former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz to the cleaners when he tried to defend Attorney General William Barr's conduct.

Schultz initially tried to claim that the 2,000 federal prosecutors calling for Barr's resignation had a political axe to grind. "You have a lot of folks that have a partisan agenda pushing this thing out, before the facts have really, have really been discovered, as it relates to what happened," said Schultz. "And Barr is vehement about stating that, you know, that decision was made long before any of the tweets, long before — and before the president made my statements on this matter ... he has to have the trust in the folks that are working below him."

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