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Ilhan Omar’s Israel tweets the latest in long line of controversial comments

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MSNBC contributor Michelle Goldberg: GOP wants to ‘exploit’ Rep. Omar’s tweets to divide Dems on Israel

Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar faced a bipartisan wave of criticism this week, including a remarkable rebuke from House Democratic leadership, for weekend tweets deemed anti-Semitic – but this is hardly the first time she’s made controversial comments about Israel.

The uproar that gripped Capitol Hill Monday began after she suggested pro-Israel members of Congress are simply motivated by funding from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders urged Omar to apologize for using “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters.” Omar eventually apologized but reiterated “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”

DEM REP. OMAR APOLOGIZES FOR ISRAEL COMMENTS, CALLS OUT ‘PROBLEMATIC’ ROLE OF AIPAC, ‘OTHER LOBBYISTS’

But while the AIPAC comments generated the most headlines, Omar has made numerous controversial comments ever since she got involved in activism and politics.

Israel criticism

Prior to becoming a congresswoman, Omar was a local Somali-American activist in Minnesota. Unrestrained by the decorum of any elected office, she previously lashed out against Israel using what many regard as an anti-Semitic trope.

“Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” she tweeted in 2012.

Only last month, seven years after she wrote the tweet, Omar addressed the comment, saying, “Those unfortunate words were the only words I could think about expressing at that moment,” referring to Israel’s November 2012 operation against Hamas in Gaza.

Omar came under fire once again last year for doing a flip-flop after her election victory on whether she supports the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against the Jewish state.

REP. ILHAN OMAR SLAMMED FOR SAYING SHE ‘CHUCKLES’ WHEN ISRAEL IS CALLED A DEMOCRACY, COMPARES IT TO IRAN

During the campaign, she told a group of Jewish voters in her home state that the boycott of Israel was “counteractive” and “not helpful in getting that two-state solution” – an indication she was against the BDS movement at the time.

Shortly after her election victory, she came out unequivocally in support of the boycott movement. “Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement, and has fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized,” her campaign told MuslimGirl publication.

More recently, she compared Israel to Iran and said she “almost chuckle[s]” when the Jewish state is described as a democracy.

“I mean just our relationship with the Israeli government and the Israeli state. And so when I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it,” she said during an interview, when asked to explain her comments claiming the Israelis are prioritized by the U.S.

“And we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East I almost chuckle because I know that if we see that any other society we would criticize it, call it out,” the lawmaker continued. “We do that to Iran, we do that to any other place that sort of upholds its religion. And I see that now happening with Saudi Arabia and so I am aggravated, truly, in those contradictions.”

Following the backlash to her comments, she doubled down on her remarks and retweeted another commentator who wrote online that current-day Israel is much like the U.S. South was during segregation.

Blaming ‘our involvement’ for brutal al-Shabab attack

In 2013, Omar described acts of terrorism as a reaction to “our involvement in other people’s affairs,” in the wake of the brutal al-Shabab attack on a Kenyan shopping mall that killed nearly 70 people and wounded another 200.

“When are we gonna decide or realize that terrorism is a reaction? It’s an ideology, it’s a means of things, it’s not an entity, it’s not a place, people. It’s a reaction to a situation,” host Ahmed Tharwat asked then-activist Omar, on the show “Belahdan” on Twin Cities PBS during a discussion about the experience of the Somali community in the U.S. following the attack in Kenya.

ILHAN OMAR ONCE BLAMED ‘OUR INVOLVEMENT IN OTHER PEOPLE’S AFFAIRS’ AFTER AL-SHABAB ATTACK ON KENYAN MALL

“Yes,” she agreed. “What you’re insinuating is what nobody wants to face. Nobody wants to face how the actions of the other people that are involved in the world have contributed to the rise of the radicalization and the rise of terrorist acts.”

She added: “Usually most people want to not look internal and see what [about] their actions that makes another react. For us, it’s always ‘I must have not done anything. Why is it happening to me?’ Nobody wants to take accountability of how these are byproducts of the actions of our involvement in other people’s affairs.”

Leniency for ISIS

Fast forward to 2016, Omar – then a Minnesota state representative – went on to ask a judge to show leniency toward a group of Minnesota men accused of trying to join the Islamic State terror group.

“The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion,” she wrote at the time. “We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to effect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation.”

REP. ILHAN OMAR FACING NEW SCRUTINY OVER PAST EFFORT TO WIN LENIENCY FOR 9 MEN ACCUSED OF TRYING TO JOIN ISIS

The nine Minnesota men were facing decades in prison after being accused in 2015 of making plans, including buying fake passports, in an effort to travel to Syria and fight for ISIS, which was at its peak level of activity and held territory in Syria and Iraq.

“Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to-be 50- or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion,” read Omar’s letter to the judge, as obtained by FOX 9 of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to-be 50- or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion.”

— Ilhan Omar

One of the accused men, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, was facing over 30 years in prison for trying to join the terrorist group. He admitted in court that he wasn’t trying to enter Syria on humanitarian grounds, but rather to participate in the activities of ISIS.

“I was not going there to pass out medical kits or food. I was going strictly to fight and kill on behalf of the Islamic State,” he said.

Daud went on to be sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was found guilty of trying to provide material support to ISIS and conspiring to commit murder overseas.

Graham ‘compromised’?

Last month, Omar was criticized for repeating baseless allegations pushed by MSNBC and liberal activists that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is somehow being blackmailed into supporting President Trump.

The condemnation came after she tweeted that Graham was “compromised.” Omar was responding to a video that suggested Graham pivoted from being a Trump critic to one of the president’s biggest supporters in the Senate.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a national committeewoman for the Republican National Committee, slammed Omar’s comment: “Breathtaking bigotry, homophobia from a member of Congress. It’s not funny, and puzzling why Dems get away with outdated stereotypes and dumb conspiracy theories like this.”

Covington Catholic High School comments

Less than a week later, Omar came under yet another fire – this time for piling on the Covington Catholic High School students, even as video footage already challenged accusations that the students harassed a Native American elder.

REP. ILHAN OMAR DELETES TWEET ATTACKING COVINGTON STUDENTS, AFTER BACKLASH

“The boys were protesting a woman’s right to choose & yelled ‘it’s not rape if you enjoy it’ … They were taunting 5 Black men before they surrounded Phillips and led racist chants … Sandmann’s family hired a right wing PR firm to write his non-apology,” Omar wrote, before deleting the tweet after the uproar.

Many other social media users pointed out that the “5 Black men” Omar claimed were taunted by the students were actually members of the notorious Black Hebrew Israelite group that made multiple anti-white and anti-LGBT comments toward students.

Venezuela support

While Republicans are calling to strip Omar of her seat at the House Foreign Affairs Committee due to anti-Israel remarks, Omar also raised eyebrows after comments on the socialist regime of Venezuela.

She accused President Trump of backing a “coup” in the socialist-led country of Venezuela even as Nicolas Maduro’s government lost legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.

“A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face,” Omar tweeted. “Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We Must support Mexico, Uruguay, & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.”

Her comments came as the U.S. and other countries recognized Juan Guaido, the opposition head of the National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela. Maduro was elected last year in a vote widely seen as fraudulent.

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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Kamala Harris calls for third gender option on federal IDs

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Harris joins Elizabeth Warren’s call for impeachment

HANOVER, N.H. – Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris says she supports putting a third gender option on federal identification cards.

The Democrat from California backed the idea when asked about it during a town hall Tuesday in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire.

“It’s a simple point. There needs to be another category. And I’m open to the idea of doing that. And I think that it’s a good idea,” Harris told Fox News and New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor during an interview later in the day.

HARRIS JOINS WARREN IN CALLING FOR IMPEACHMENT PROCESS TO BEGIN

Harris, a former California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney, has long fought for LGBTQ rights, including refusing to defend a ban on same-sex marriages.

Harris joins 2020 Democratic nomination rival Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in pushing for a third option on IDs. Four states – California, Oregon, Washington, and New Jersey – have embraced nonbinary IDs – as has New York City.

HARRIS PLEDGES EXECUTIVE ACTION ON GUNS

One day after unveiling her plan to implement stricter background checks on gun sales with or without action from Congress, Harris highlighted her plan at town halls at Keene State College and Dartmouth College.

“One very reasonable approach is that we need to have background checks,” Harris told Fox News, as she vowed to take action as president if Congress failed to act

Harris said that if a bill from Congress did not make it to her desk, she would unilaterally mandate background checks for customers purchasing firearms from any dealers who sell more than five guns a year.

Dealers who violate the law, she said, would have their licenses revoked. The other executive orders would prohibit fugitives from purchasing a firearm or weapon, as well as closing the loophole allowing some domestic abusers to purchase firearms if the victim is an unwedded partner.

Harris pointed to a lack of congressional action after mass shootings across the country the past decade.

“There’s so many examples of absolute tragedies and yet Congress has not acted. So, my point is this – when elected, I’ll give Congress the opportunity, but if they don’t act, I’ll act. And, I believe that is reflective of where the American public is. They want reasonable gun safety laws,” she stressed.

Asked how such a move would be received in a state such as New Hampshire, where the rights of gun owners are well guarded, Harris explained she believed “most people understand – gun owner or not gun owners – that we need reasonable gun safety laws in our country. That’s what this is targeted at.”

She continued, “I’m very clear in my mind – I think most people are – that it’s a false choice to suggest that you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”

Harris is now calling on the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to launch impeachment proceedings following the release last week of the report by Special Counsel Robert Muller on the Russia investigation.

“I believe the process should begin. Where it ends up, I don’t know, but there’s no question that the Mueller report, what we know of it, has outlined facts that leads one to reasonably believe that obstruction occurred,” Harris said.

Asked if such a move would bolster President Trump’s claims that impeachment would be a purely political move by Democrats, which could potentially help his re-election effort, Harris said, “I don’t know what his playbook is.”

LATEST 2020 POLLS IN CRUCIAL PRIMARY STATE

Harris’s return to New Hampshire marked her second visit to the crucial early voting state since she launched her presidential campaign last January. It comes as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg – a one-time 2020 long-shot – has surged over the past month and soared above Harris in many public opinion polls – including two of the most recent in New Hampshire.

Asked if she was concerned, Harris said, “the only polls that matter are on Election Day. Period.”

Harris was interviewed before the town hall at Dartmouth. She spoke and took questions from a capacity crowd of more than 400. Minutes earlier, the senator went outside to a speak with an overflow crowd of a couple hundred.

Harris stopped in Claremont on her way from Keene to Hanover. The brief visit included a stop at the Uptown Bakery, where the candidate chatted with employees and customers and bought donuts and pastries for her staff.

BUTTIGIEG TO TAKE PART IN FOX NEWS TOWN HALL IN NH MAY 19

Claremont is the location of next month’s Fox News town hall with Buttigieg.

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Treasury’s Mnuchin misses congressional deadline to hand over Trump tax returns

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Treasury's Mnuchin misses congressional deadline to hand over Trump tax returns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to meet a final congressional deadline on Tuesday for turning over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers, setting the stage for a possible court battle between Congress and the administration.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the “State of the International Financial System” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

The outcome, which was widely expected, could prompt House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal to subpoena Trump’s tax records as the opening salvo to a legal fight that may ultimately have to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Neal set a final 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) deadline for the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury to provide six years of Trump’s individual and business tax records. But the deadline passed without the panel receiving the documents.

After the deadline lapsed, Mnuchin released a letter to Neal in which he pledged to make “a final decision” on whether to provide Trump’s tax records by May 6. It was the second time the administration had missed a House deadline for the tax returns since Neal requested them on April 3.

“Secretary Mnuchin notified me that once again, the IRS will miss the deadline for my … request. I plan to consult with counsel about my next steps,” Neal said in a statement.

In his letter, Mnuchin said he was still consulting with the Justice Department about Neal’s request, which he termed “unprecedented.”

“The department cannot act upon your request unless and until it is determined to be consistent with the law,” the Treasury secretary told Neal.

Democrats want Trump’s returns as part of their investigations of possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves the public as president.

Republicans have condemned the request as a political “fishing expedition” by Democrats.

Trump broke with a decades-old precedent by refusing to release his tax returns as a presidential candidate in 2016 or since being elected, saying he could not do so while his taxes were being audited.

But his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told a House panel in February that he did not believe Trump’s taxes were under audit. Cohen said the president feared that releasing his returns could lead to an audit and IRS tax penalties.

‘NOT UP TO THE PRESIDENT’

Earlier on Tuesday, the White House said Trump was unlikely to hand over his tax returns. “As I understand it, the president’s pretty clear: Once he’s out of audit, he’ll think about doing it, but he’s not inclined to do so at this time,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News in an interview.

“This is not up to the president. We did not ask him,” said a Democratic committee aide, who cited a law saying the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” taxpayer data upon request from an authorized lawmaker.

Neal informed IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig earlier this month that failure to comply with the deadline would be viewed as a denial.

Legal experts said House Democrats could vote to hold Mnuchin or Rettig in contempt of Congress if they ignored a subpoena, as a pretext to suing in federal court to obtain Trump’s returns. Experts say administration officials could ultimately risk financial penalties and even jail time by defying the committee.

As Ways and Means chairman, Neal is the only lawmaker in the House of Representatives authorized to request taxpayer information under federal law. Democrats say they are confident of succeeding in any legal fight over Trump’s tax returns.

“Secretary Mnuchin is again choosing to violate the law to keep Trump’s records hidden away. This administration’s contempt for rule of law is without peer,” Representative Bill Pascrell, who has been leading the Democratic push for Trump’s tax records, said in a statement on Twitter.

“I stand beside @RepRichardNeal as he continues the crusade to impose plain oversight on this corrupt administration.”

Slideshow (2 Images)

Despite the law’s clarity, Democrats have long acknowledged that the effort would likely result in a legal battle that could end up with the Supreme Court.

“If the IRS does not comply with the request, it is likely that Chairman Neal will subpoena the returns,” Representative Judy Chu, a Democratic member of the Ways and Means Committee, told Reuters.

“If they do not comply with that (subpoena), a legal battle will begin to defend the right of oversight in Congress,” she said.

Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Peter Cooney

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White House to fight Dems’ subpoena of ex-White House counsel Don McGahn

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White House to fight Dems' subpoena of ex-White House counsel Don McGahn

The White House will fight House Democrats’ subpoena of testimony and documents from ex-White House counsel Don McGahn, Fox News is told.

That would set up a series of contentious legal showdowns as Democrats seek to publicly question current and former Trump aides who featured prominently in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation.

Fox News is also told the White House intends to vigorously oppose subpoenas that might run up against executive privilege, a power sanctioned by the Supreme Court that allows the president and members of the executive branch to shield certain internal communications from disclosure, absent a compelling overriding justification.

Neither the “presidential communications privilege,” which protects discussions by the president and senior aides, and the “deliberative process privilege,” which protects even lower-level talks concerning policy discussions, were invoked by the White House to redact any sections of Mueller’s report.

IN PRIVATE CONFERENCE CALL MONDAY, DEMS BACK OFF IMPEACHMENT PLANS — EVEN MAXINE WATERS PUMPS THE BRAKES

But as Democrats ramp up their investigations following the report’s release, Trump and his team have begun pushing back on a campaign of probes they say are nakedly partisan.

White House counsel Don McGahn looks on as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

White House counsel Don McGahn looks on as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The White House scored an early victory in that effort on Tuesday, after House Democrats agreed to postpone a subpoena deadline for Trump’s financial records, following Trump’s lawsuit challenging the subpoena.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Monday subpoenaed McGahn to testify publicly next month. Nadler described McGahn, who stepped down as White House counsel in October 2018, as “a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Special Counsel’s report.”

EX-TRUMP ATTORNEY DOWD DISPUTES MUELLER REPORT, SAYS TRUMP NEVER ORDERED MCGAHN TO FIRE MUELLER

“The Special Counsel’s report, even in redacted form, outlines substantial evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction and other abuses,” Nadler said. “It now falls to Congress to determine for itself the full scope of the misconduct and to decide what steps to take in the exercise of our duties of oversight, legislation and constitutional accountability.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pressed Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on a section of the Mueller report outlining how Trump allegedly told McGahn to inform the acting attorney general that Mueller should be removed in June 2017 — a demand that McGahn ignored. Trump has strongly suggested that claim was ‘bulls—.'”

“If he had fired him, there wouldn’t have been an obstruction,” Giuliani began. “So, as long as he was replaced by somebody, which he would have been, and there were good reasons- arguable reasons.”

Giuliani insisted that accounts of McGahn’s story have changed multiple times and that Trump was merely calling for Mueller’s supposed conflicts of interests to be “considered.”

Mueller’s report contained purported conversations between Trump and McGahn that have raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill.

“Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump said, according to Mueller’s report. The special counsel said McGahn responded that he keeps notes “because he is a ‘real lawyer’ and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing.”

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These notes appear to have angered Trump, but also allowed Mueller to conclude that McGahn was a credible witness “with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.”

Last week, Trump unleashed a series of broadsides concerning claims that his associates had given Mueller damaging information.

“Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue,” Trump tweeted. “Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed.”

John Dowd, who served as a member of President Trump’s legal team from June 2017 until March 2018, backed up Trump on “Fox & Friends” Monday.

Asked when Trump said to fire Mueller, Dowd said: “He never did. I was there at the same time that the report says McGahn mentioned this, and I was assigned to deal with Mueller and briefed the president every day. …  At no time did the president ever say, ‘you know, John, I’m going to get rid of him.’ It was the opposite.”

Dowd contnued: “Here’s the message the president had for Bob Mueller, he told me to carry — number one, you tell him I respect what he is doing; number two, you tell him he has my full cooperation; number three, get it done as quickly as possible; and number four, whatever else you need, let me know. That was always the message and that is exactly what we did.”

Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.

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