Jason Chaffetz

House Republicans move forward on Benghazi, analyzing testimony for contradictions

A group of House Republicans are reviewing testimony provided by witnesses who have testified in front of congressional committees looking into the 2012 attack on the American compound in Benghazi which claimed the lives of four Americans.

In an interview with United Liberty on Thursday afternoon, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, explained that he and several other House Republicans have been reviewing testimony from congressional witnesses to look for contradictory statements.

Westmoreland said that he went to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) approximately six weeks ago to get his blessing to form a group consisting of members of three key House committees — Oversight and Government Reform, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs. He wanted members with prosecutorial experience to build a potential case.

“We would look at the testimony, we would look at a list of witnesses that have testified in front of Government Oversight and Foreign Affairs,” Westmoreland told United Liberty. “And we would look at them, and we would look at their testimony and see if there [were] any contradictions in testimonies that may have been presented by somebody else at another committee.”

Boehner’s staff contacted Westmoreland two weeks later, offering staff support to assist the group as it reviews some 50,000 pages of testimony and interviews.

“[I]t’s a small group,” said Westmoreland. “We don’t want any big committee chairs, we wanted the average run-of-the-mill kind of guy that could look at this and not be on TV every night, or be doing interviews and trying to make a lot of gain out of it, because the American people, they want to know the truth, and that’s what we’re doing our best.”

Drop the SOPA: Protect the Internet from censorship

I’m kind of a rare breed of libertarian.  I actually believe in the concept of intellectual property.  As such, some might be under the belief that folks like me would be in favor of something like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

Of course, they would be horribly, horribly wrong.

Regardless of ones feelings on IP, the reality is that SOPA is nothing less than a NDAA or PATRIOT Act for the internet.

You see, the internet is the last bastion of freedom anywhere in the world.  While it’s entirely possible to render something illegal in one country, it’s virtually impossible to stamp it out.  Laws and regulations become meaningless as physical borders mean nothing on a cyberscape free from such lines.

The kick in the butt with this bill, as with many similar bills, is that it really won’t do a whole heck of a lot to combat piracy.  Of course, there are some that will argue that what SOPA seeks to do is crush that freedom. That ideas breed in such freedom, and such ideas can not be allowed to incubate.

I don’t know if I would go that far, but what is clear is that SOPA is nothing more than a powergrab.  Those that are supposed to support and defend the Constitution have instead decided to just ignore the document completely.

SOPA seeks to require your ISP to spy on you.  It seeks to hurt companies like Mozilla that haven’t done what the powerful want it to do.  It seeks to rewrite the current laws regarding the internet and remake it into a place where innovation no longer happens.

Now, SOPA may not be all bad.  After all, plenty of companies will love to open up their nations to the off-shore dollars that are bound to flee the United States after a SOPA-like bill is passed.  While I’m not an opponent of out sourcing per se, I’d prefer it not to be encouraged through idiotic legislation.

SOPA must be shot down by Congress

On the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively shredded the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Habeas Corpus, Congress will likely take up the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) at some point early next year.

For those of you that haven’t followed SOPA, Tina Korbe at Hot Air offers a very good introduction to the legislation:

Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by representatives from both parties (the bill has a total of 31 co-sponsors!), the Stop Online Piracy Act purports to stop “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.”

According to Rep. Smith’s website, “IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such. The bill ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators.”

That sounds relatively harmless, but there has been a lot of concern among tech-advocates that SOPA would would lead to censorship and deter innovation on the Internet.

Korbe continues:

State Department email blamed Islamic militants for Benghazi hours after attack

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) dropped a bombshell during yesterday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing by entering another new post-Benghazi email into the record.

The email, references discussions between the State Department and Libyan ambassador to the United States. The email was previously referenced by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), but Chaffetz read it for the committee and subsequently entered it into the record.

“The subject line is ‘Libya update’ from Beth Jones. The date is September 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm. There’s a paragraph in here that I think is pertinent to our discussions today,” said Chaffetz. “It’s referencing the Libyan ambassador: ‘When he said his government suspected that former Qaddafi regime elements carried out the attacks, I told [the Libyan ambassador] that the group that conducted the attacks — Ansar al-Sharia — is affiliated with Islamic extremists.’”

Here we go again: Congress is trying to pick winners and losers in the marketplace

Sheldon Adelson

The bill introduced by one of the least popular Republican lawmakers, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, has been hit by a series of different sources that have been standing in opposition to the protectionist bill that would favor casinos over online gambling industry, putting the government yet again in the role of picking winners and losers.

A coalition of conservative groups has fired off a letter to congressional leaders in opposition to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which would ban online gambling, calling the measure “a broad overreach by the federal government over matters traditionally reserved for the states.”

The legislation, S. 2159 and H.R. 4301, is backed by Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to Republicans such as Sen. Graham himself. The bill is also backed by a coalition he started that included what The Washington Post reported as an army of lawyers and lobbyists to make sure that the bill passes in both chambers.

When leaders of a certain industry come together with lawmakers, it means that the very existence of competitors could soon enough pose a risk. While making poorly constructed arguments in an attempt to win over some hearts and minds, Adelson could never make the moral or financial case to support the ban on online gambling.

State legislatures push back against online gambling ban

online gambling

The proposal to ban online gambling introduced at the behest of casino owner and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson has been met with opposition from the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan group that serves legislators across the country.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the proposal, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (H.R. 4301 and S. 2159), in their respective chambers at the end of March. While the supporters are making this out to be some sort of moral crusade, Adelson is using his money and influence to protect brick-and-mortar casinos from competition.

But the National Conference of State Legislatures is pushing back against the measure, telling federal lawmakers that regulation of online gambling should be left up to state lawmakers:

In a letter to lawmakers on Thursday, the bipartisan group said the push would amount to the federal government usurping the role of the states to decide the legality of gambling online.

CNN uncovers explosive new Benghazi details

A little more than a week after President Barack Obama hit Republicans for their focus on what he called “phony scandals,” Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s The Lead, reported last night that the CIA had “dozens of people” on the ground in Libya the night of the attack that claimed four American lives and that the Agency going to great lengths to keep them from talking to the media:

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the assault by armed militants last September 11 in eastern Libya.

Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings.

The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.

It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.

In exclusive communications obtained by CNN, one insider writes, “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.”

Another says, “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”

Congressman: Impeachment is in the “Realm of Possibility”

On Monday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) floated the possibility of impeaching President Barack Obama over the administration’s handling of the terrorist attack on the American compound in Benghazi:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz says President Barack Obama’s handling of the government’s response to the Benghazi terrorist attack could be an impeachable offense and vows to continue digging at the “lies of highest magnitude” from the White House.

“It’s certainly a possibility,” the Utah Republican said Monday when asked about impeachment. “That’s not the goal but given the continued lies perpetrated by this administration, I don’t know where it’s going to go. … I’m not taking it off the table. I’m not out there touting that but I think this gets to the highest levels of our government and integrity and honesty are paramount.”

Chaffetz did clarify, however, that he’s not necessarily calling for impeachment. As he explained during an interview on CNN, he was asked about impeachment, so merely answered the question.

House Republicans changing their tune on spending cuts?

Recently, I noted that the national debt has increased by over $1.59 trillion since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. Most Republican apologists will dismiss this since Speaker John Boehner and company have to work with a Democratic Senate and President Barack Obama. It’s a valid point, but only to an extent. Why? Because a chunk of House Republicans are constantly voting with House Democrats to prevent spending cuts.

And we’re not talking about massive spending cuts here. The Club for Growth notes that 95 House Republicans recently voted against a 0.27% across the board spending cut (that’s not a typo) to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Over at RedState, Erick Erickson notes some other proposed spending cuts that went down thanks to House Republicans:

You probably didn’t realize this because, for some reason, no one is reporting it. So here are just a few of the amendments the House defeated last week. If you’re not happy with this record House Republicans are compiling this election year, let them know now!

Amendments to H.R. 5325, the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, which contains more spending than last year’s bill:

Taxpayers to foot hefty bills for former presidents

We all know that President George W. Bush was a fiscal nightmare, largely laying the groundwork for his successor. Veronique de Rugy noted in her analysis on spending under Bush, that domestic spending alone went up by more than 20% in his first term. He expanded Medicare and expanded the bloated federal bureaucracy.

And even though he’s not in office anymore, The Daily Caller notes that Bush is still a burden to taxpayers thanks to a free ride for expenses given to former presidents:

Former President George W. Bush is budgeted to receive the most money from taxpayers of all the living ex-presidents.

Bush, the most recent former president, is requesting more than $1.3 million in taxpayer dollars for fiscal year 2013, according to a budget proposal document prepared by the General Services Administration.

Among expenses, the GSA budget document says the younger Bush is requesting $85,000 for phone costs. Hannah Abney, a spokeswoman for Bush, declined to comment on that when reached by The Daily Caller on Tuesday.

This is something from which all living presidents benefit. For example, Clinton has been budget just over $1 million; so just picking on Bush isn’t fair, but at the same time it’s hard not to equate this sort of spending with pork projects for companies already turning a profit.

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