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Jul 212013

Bill Clark/Roll Call(DES MOINES, Iowa) — In an interview for This Week with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz dismissed talk of a potential 2016 White House bid, along with the question of whether he is ready to run for the highest office in the land after having been a senator less than a year.

“We are having a national debate about which direction the country should go…and what I am doing now is trying to participate in that national debate,” Cruz said Friday while in Iowa, a state frequented by those with White House ambitions. “I’m not focused on the politics…the last office I was elected to was student council. So this has been a bit of a whirlwind.”

Karl asked Cruz about his eligibility for the White House, which has been questioned given that he was born in Canada.

“My mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She’s a U.S. citizen, so I’m a U.S. citizen,” Cruz said.
“I’m not going to engage in a legal debate. The facts are clear,” he added. “I can tell you where I was born and who my parents were. And then as a legal matter, others can worry about that. I’m not going to engage.”

Cruz has established himself as a staunch opponent of immigration reform that includes a so-called “pathway to citizenship,” for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, which is a key component of the immigration bill fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — a potential 2016 presidential primary opponent for Cruz — helped push through the Senate.

Cruz, who said that Rubio ”proceeded in good faith” in his efforts to advance immigration reform, nonetheless said he thought including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is unfair to those had have immigrated to the United States legally.

“I think a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally is profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who followed the rules,” Cruz said, adding that he does not think a bill with such a path can pass the House of Representatives.

During the interview with Karl, Cruz criticized President Obama for trying to advance gun control measures following the December massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut that left 20 children dead.

“I think he had a political agenda, which was to restrict the second amendment right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding citizens… They took advantage of that horrible, tragic shooting to push that agenda. And they didn’t focus actually on solving the problem,” Cruz said.

“I think the policies he was advancing were wrong and were dangerous,” he added. “And the point that I was finishing is I admire and respect him in that he fights for his principles, but I think his principles are profoundly dangerous.”

Karl also asked Cruz about arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court at age 32.

“Scalia, Ginsberg, the chief — it was 30 minutes of getting pounded. It was like a head of tuna being thrown to a school of sharks.” Cruz said.

“I will tell you, I have always liked the fact that I sit in my office and I look at a giant painting of me getting my tail whipped 9-0. And it is very good for instilling humility to look and see, ‘ok, that’s what it looks like to lose.’”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 142013

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned from office due to a sex scandal, said Sunday that his early lead in New York City’s comptroller race shows that voters are beginning to warm to his candidacy.

“I don’t take polls and rely upon them, but the poll numbers reflect that the public is interested in having an independent voice in that position,” Spitzer told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on This Week. “That is what I promise I will be.”

Spitzer resigned in 2008 after he was caught patronizing a high dollar prostitution ring. He announced his candidacy for New York City Comptroller last week, which gave him only four days to collect 3,750 signatures in order to get on the ballot.

A Wall Street Journal poll this week showed Spitzer holding a 42 percent to 33 percent lead over his opponent Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer after only a few days in the race.

Yet Spitzer has been dogged by attacks from his political foes who say breaking the law by paying thousands of dollars for prostitutes disqualifies him from public office.

He dismissed the criticism Sunday.

“Opponents will say all sorts of things, the voters will make that determination,” Spitzer said. “When I talk to citizens and they’re saying: ‘Look, you’ve erred, you looked the public in the eye five years ago, and you said you believe in accountability. You stepped forward and accepted responsibility.’”

“And that is what I did and that is a fundamental point that I think the public should look at,” he added.
Citing his push for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, advocacy for low wage workers, and outspokenness on corruption in Wall Street, Spitzer said voters should look at his record and not the scandal that forced his resignation five years ago.

“I have done a fair bit. It’s been five years. I’ve taught, I have written, I have hosted a few TV shows,” Spitzer said. “But I’ve asked the voters of the city for forgiveness, but I’ve also said, look at the totality of my record—the independence of my voice when it came to Wall Street, when it came to standing up for the environment, low wage workers, immigrants.”

Spitzer also called the “not guilty” verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, “a failure of justice.”

“The judicial system is not perfect, and in this case it has failed,” said Spitzer, who formerly served as New York’s attorney general. “And before we get into a conversation of whether the prosecution was flawed that it should have handled it in a different way there is a simple reality here, an innocent young man is walking down the street, was confronted by a stranger with a gun and that innocent young man was shot.”

“The criminal justice system should be able to deal with situations like that,” he added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 302013

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — When asked whether same-sex marriage bans across the country will eventually be struck down following the landmark Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, that he didn’t think that it would be “inevitable.”

Despite this week’s rulings, which declared part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and dismissed an appeal made by supporters of Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage in California, Brown downplayed the victories claimed by gay marriage supporters, saying that the Court did not establish a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case that considered the California ban passed in 2008.

“The court said, well, the proponents don’t have standing. It did not say that there was a constitutional right to redefine marriage,” Brown said on ABC’s This Week Sunday.

President of the Human Rights Campaign Chad Griffin also joined This Week and said he’s prepared to continue to “fight this battle on all fronts,” through referenda, state legislation and federal court cases to expand same-sex marriage rights further.

Brown said the precedent set in California, where state officials refused to defend Proposition 8 — a law passed by popular referendum — is “horrific for our republic.”

“If the governor and attorney general don’t to want defend that law, you’ve just gutted the initiative and referendum process. This is not an American value,” Brown said.

Brown called Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority decision in the DOMA case an “absolute travesty” and “incoherent.”

He added that Justice Kennedy “says something that is patently untrue,” that a person who believes “this truth, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman is somehow motivated by animus and discrimination.”

Such an assumption, Brown said, “leads to discrimination against those of us who know that there’s something unique and special about husbands and wives, mothers and fathers coming together in marriage.”

“There will be a lot of attempts to use this decision to redefine marriage in other states. And we will stand for the truth wherever it is,” Brown said.

Griffin, an advocate of gay marriage whose wins this week prompted congratulatory calls from President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, spoke of the broader status of same-sex marriage across the United States.

“At the same time while we celebrate, we have to acknowledge that there are 37 states in this country that still don’t have equality,” Griffin said.

Asked if he thought gay marriage supporters will win victories to expand same-sex marriage to other states, Griffin said, “I have all expectation that we will.”

Griffin pointed to the history of social movements to predict the outcome of the same-sex marriage debate.

“This country has always moved historically — whether it was women’s rights, or the Civil Rights Movement of the 50′s and 60′s to today — we have always moved to greater inclusion and treating all of our citizens equally under the law,” Griffin said.

“We’re well on our way. We’re not there yet, but we’re well on our way,” he added.

 Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 092013

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence committees defended the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs revealed last week, saying that the programs are “within the law” and have been critical in thwarting potential terrorist attacks.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on This Week Sunday that the NSA phone surveillance program revealed in reports last week is limited in scope to viewing phone records, not listening to private conversations, while reiterating that court orders are required for further information.

“The program is essentially walled off within the NSA. There are limited numbers of people who have access to it,” Feinstein said on This Week. “The only thing taken, as has been correctly expressed, is not content of a conversation, but the information that is generally on your telephone bill, which has been held not to be private personal property by the Supreme Court. If there is strong suspicion that a terrorist outside of the country is trying to reach someone on the inside of the country, those numbers then can be obtained. If you want to collect content on the American, then a court order is issued.”

“The National Security Agency does not listen to Americans’ phone calls and it is not reading Americans’ e-mails. None of these programs allow that,” added Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Both Feinstein and Rogers said that the phone and internet surveillance programs has been instrumental in stopping terrorist attacks, citing the 2009 terror plot by Najibullah Zazi, the Colorado resident who was arrested in Sept. 2009 after plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Feinstein said the program also helped to track the case of David Headley, a Pakistani-American who traveled to Mumbai to scope the Taj Mahal Hotel for an attack.

“I can tell you, in the Zazi case in New York, it’s exactly the program that was used,” Rogers said, later adding, “I think the Zazi case is so important, because that’s one you can specifically show that this was the key piece that allowed us to stop a bombing in the New York subway system.”

Feinstein said the shadow of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still loom in her mind, and that strong intelligence from the type of surveillance conducted by the NSA is needed to prevent future attacks.

“I flew over World Trade Center going to Senator [Frank] Lautenberg’s funeral, and in the distance was the Statue of Liberty. And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building, hitting the canopy,” Feinstein said. “Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe. Human intelligence isn’t going to do it, because you can’t – it’s a different culture. It is a fanaticism that isn’t going to come forward.”

Feinstein said she would be open to public hearings on the surveillance programs, and said that the Senate Intelligence Committee has made information on the programs available to all senators. But she noted the difficulty of being fully public without disclosing classified information.

“The instances where this has produced good – has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks – is all classified, that’s what’s so hard about this,” Feinstein said. “So that we can’t actually go in there and, other than the two that have been released, give the public an actual idea of people that have been saved, attacks that have been prevented, that kind of thing.”

“If you tell our adversaries and enemies in the counterterrorism fight exactly how we conduct business, they are not going to do business the same ever again,” Rogers added. “It makes it more difficult.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who has raised warnings about the domestic surveillance methods in recent years, said he hopes the released information will spark debate over the NSA’s methods, and will lead to re-opening the Patriot Act to limit the NSA’s abilities.

“I think it’s an opportunity now to have a discussion about the limits of surveillance, how we create transparency, and above all, how we protect Americans’ privacy,” Udall said this morning on This Week. “My main concern is Americans don’t know the extent to which they are being surveilled… I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security Administration is collecting.”

Udall said he did not believe the right balance is being struck currently between privacy and security.

“We do need to remember, we’re in a war against terrorists, and terrorism remains a real threat, but I also think we have to cue to the Bill of Rights, and the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unlawful searches and seizures, ought to be important to us,” Udall said. “It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here. That is what I’m aiming for.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 262013

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on This Week, retired Gen. John Allen discussed the toll the Pentagon investigation into emails he exchanged with a Tampa socialite took on him and his wife, Kathy – who was suffering from auto-immune health issues.

“Every phone call was pretty grim. And they were getting worse by the minute…For many years, I had told– Kathy, as we had dealt with these issues, that– the day that this becomes too big, I will drop my letter the next day. She wasn’t going to tell me, but I was afraid where this would all end up [with her health]. And I finally made the decision it was time to go home,” Allen said.

The investigation into Allen, which concluded with him being completely cleared of any wrongdoing, took place after emails between him and Jill Kelley came to light during an investigation into exchanges between then CIA director David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, his biographer. Petraeus later resigned after his affair with Broadwell became public.

Allen told Raddatz the investigation led to personal reflection as he led coalition forces in Afghanistan. He retired last month turning down a NATO command. He now advises Secretary of Defense Hagel on Middle East peace talks.

“I had to reflect on whether I could– I believed I could remain in command. And I believed I could. In fact, I felt an obligation to a duty to remain in command…I had to deal with– the realities of something that was going on back here. I won’t– tell you that– that there wasn’t a lot of pressure in that regard. But my sense of duty to the war effort, and more importantly, my sense of duty to the troops demanded that I remained focused on that,” he said.

“Any time you’re investigated…and you have to remember back across three years– I hadn’t– I didn’t have any concerns about what was in the content of the e-mails…I was just interested in putting it behind me as quickly as we could,” he said.

Kathy Allen expressed surprise over the investigation into emails between her husband and Kelley, who she also was in communication with as well.

She also discussed her concern about the pressure the investigation would place on her husband.

“When someone shares an e-mail with her husband, you know, I thought, ‘Is somebody thinking this is a little odd that, you know, they’re taking this so seriously?’…I have a lot of faith in him. I have a lot of faith in our relationship…My biggest concern was for him because I thought, I don’t know how he can run a war and then have this added pressure,” she said.

Allen later invited Petraeus to his retirement party – saying he couldn’t retire without Petraeus and his wife present given the close relationship between the families.

“Dave and Holly Petraeus are like family…given all that he and I had experienced together, and our families had had together, I couldn’t retire without asking for Dave and Holly Petraeus to be present, ” he said.

Allen added that said he has not discussed the investigation with Petraeus.

“It doesn’t require that we have a conversation about it,” he said.

During the interview with Raddatz, Allen also addressed the current state of affairs in Iraq.

“My fear is that we could see a polarization of the principle elements in Iraq…the increase in violence for all of us that served there, in particular those of us who served in the Anbar Province, which was a really violent area…We don’t want to see it return to that.”

Raddatz asked Allen if the country would be more stable today had the United States kept a military presence in the country.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Allen said.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio