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Iran likely at ‘inflection point,’ launching attacks to change ‘status quo,’ Defense Intelligence Agency director tells Fox News

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Iran likely at 'inflection point,' launching attacks to change 'status quo,' Defense Intelligence Agency director tells Fox News

Iran is likely at “an inflection point,” and the recent attacks on tankers and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone appear to be part of an effort to change “the status quo,” the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told Fox News exclusively.

“I’d say that they’re probably at an inflection point right now,” the director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., explained in his first national TV interview as the leader of the nearly 17-thousand strong agency. Director Ashley said, based on their activity over the last several years, the Iranians would probably say they were in a “favorable” position with their influence over the Iraqi government and the likelihood their longtime regional ally — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — will remain in power.

But, Director Ashley — whose agency’s mission is to understand foreign militaries and the operational environment — said the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran deal and subsequent sanctions made a major impact on the regime. Later this year, DIA expects to release an unclassified military study on Iran, which follows similar reports on China and Russia.

WATCH MORE OF THE INTERVIEW MONDAY ON FOX NEWS’ ‘SPECIAL REPORT’ AT 6 PM ET AND ‘FOX NEWS @ NIGHT’ AT 11 PM ET

“As you look at the developments of JCPOA (the Iran deal), the lack of an economic outcome for them, and then, really, the sanctions which have put a lot of pressure on the Iranian government… I think this uptick that you’ve seen is a reflection of them trying to kind of change the status quo in the path that they’re on,” Ashley said.

He continued, “I would say the pressure campaign is working and there is hardship. And, you know, the president has asked the question before, “Does this have an impact on the Iranian people?” And, it has an impact on the entire nation when you look at their economy, because the economyʼs moving into a recession and they are struggling.”

When the U.S. surveillance drone was shot down last week, the Defense Intelligence Agency provided immediate analysis of Iran’s military capabilities. This past Friday, Ashley described recent events avoiding operational details citing national security reasons.

“We map those things out for the chairman, for the secretary, for the warfighters, so that they can have a sense of, what are the capabilities the Iranians have, what are the possible reactions that they might take if pressure’s put upon them. And so, we give them options to understand what are the low, mid, and high probability kind of reactions from the Iranians.”

Tehran’s threat this past week to surpass enriched uranium limits brokered by the Obama administration — a deal President Trump abandoned — may be designed to pressure other nations to rein in the U.S., Ashley said. “They’re looking to go beyond 300 kilograms, and with the Iraq heavy water nuclear reactor, to start increasing the – the heavy water – that that produces as well,” Ashley said.

“I think one of the things that Iranians and we assess is, they want to figure out how they can also leverage the European nations to come back in and bring the dialogue back to the floor and to have those discussions… if they were to break out and start fully building out the program, then it’s still about a year out before they can actually get to a weapon.”

On a high-security installation near the Pentagon, Fox News went inside the secretive agency. Its analysts were embedded with Special Forces to track Saddam Hussein to his hiding place, the so-called spider hole, in Iraq, as well as Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden to his Pakistan compound.

“Being in the Air Force I have used information that came from DIA and see the other side of it, and how, if the information isn’t correct or isn’t up to date, how that could impact the warfighters deployed,” Staff Sgt. Leanna Parker, a military forces analyst, said. “They use this (intelligence) on a day-to-day basis. It’s that tactical piece versus strategic — looking five years ahead — this is something they can use today.”

TRUMP WARNS WAR WITH IRAN WOULD LEAD TO ‘OBLITERATION’

Now, the pivot has been away from terrorism to competition between nations.

“China is the long-term concern. If you think about Russia, in so many ways, even though they have thousands of nuclear weapons and a lot of things that are left over from the Soviet era. In a lot of ways they are a declining power, especially economically,” Ashley told Fox News.

But, China and Russia are working together against U.S. interests.

“It is a transactional relationship,” Ashley said. “This is not a relationship that’s built on trust. This is a relationship that’s built on a mutual interest, which is, where do they block us… and in many ways, China looks at Russia as a junior partner and that’s not something that they like.”

Though President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently exchanged letters, Ashley said the findings of the intelligence community — or “IC” — have not changed.

“We still continue to assess within the IC that Kim Jong Un is not ready to denuclearize… We’re still doing everything we can to make sure that we can characterize the capability that the North Koreans have, that they continue to train hard and build out their forces. And so, whether weʼre in discussions or whatever is happening on the political side of that, for the policymakers and for the senior decision makers, our job is to make sure that we’re able to tell them what is happening, because they may go into a negotiation and hear something, but we’re able to give them as much ground truth as possible which gives them leverage and advantage.”

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One of Ashley’s goals is the MARS project — which is short for Machine-Assisted Analytic Rapid-Repository System — which brings together current military intelligence databases with artificial intelligence to put together “a virtual environment so that the decision makers can understand strength, weaknesses, capabilities, and that we can do it in a very dynamic fashion.”

Ashley said, “the goal is not to go to war, it’s to prevent war, and that really is the outcome that we desire. But, if we do go to war, obviously the objective is to win.”

Fox News’ Cecilia Duffy contributed to this report.

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in ‘SMEAR story’

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in 'SMEAR story'

President Trump blasted The New York Times over its supposed bombshell report on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, calling on “everybody” involved in the “smear” to resign.

“I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story, and while you’re at it, the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is just as phony!” Trump tweeted Monday evening.

“They’ve taken the Old Grey Lady and broken her down, destroyed her virtue and ruined her reputation… She can never recover, and will never return to Greatness, under current Management. The Times is DEAD, long live The New York Times!”

NEW YORK TIMES CRITICIZED FROM BOTH SIDES OVER NOW-REVISED KAVANAUGH ALLEGATIONS

Late Sunday, The New York Times walked back an explosive report about a resurfaced allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh from his college days. The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, adapted from their forthcoming book, alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party.

However, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway — who reviewed an advance copy of the book – flagged an omission and the paper eventually revised the controversial story after being lampooned on social media over the gaffe.

The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault. The newspaper also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.

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Trump was asked about whether anyone from The Times should be “fired” over the controversy. He called it a “fair” question but didn’t directly give an answer.

“I think The New York Times made another terrible mistake,” Trump said. “It’s a shame that a thing like that could happen… They used to have a thing called fact-checking. They don’t have fact-checking anymore.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will hold one of his signature rallies on Monday night in New Mexico, a longtime Democratic stronghold his campaign has added to the list of states it hopes to win in the November 2020 election.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The last time New Mexico supported a Republican in a presidential race was 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by 8 percentage points three years ago.

Trump’s campaign sees an opening in the state with Latinos, who it believes will swing his way despite tough immigration policies, including a crackdown on migrants from Central America and a push to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats have criticized those efforts. But a Trump campaign aide said the Republican president could win over Latinos who came to the United States legally and believe others should, too.

“Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN. Your Border Wall is getting stronger each and every day — see you in a few hours!” Trump tweeted ahead of his trip.

The campaign also views Trump’s support for the fossil fuel industry as a plus in the state, which is rich in oil and natural gas, said the campaign aide, who declined to be named. Trump is likely to discuss energy on Monday night.

Trump won the White House in 2016 with electoral votes from traditional Republican-leaning states and some surprise Democratic-leaning ones.

The Trump campaign says it wants New Mexico’s five electoral votes to augment the 306 electoral votes the president received in his first election, not create a separate path for victory. A candidate must get 270 electoral votes nationally to win.

Democrats, who did well in New Mexico during the 2018 mid-term elections, are skeptical.

“Last cycle, Democrats crushed Republicans in New Mexico because voters are fed up with President Trump’s toxic healthcare agenda and broken promises,” said David Bergstein, a communications director for the Democratic National Committee focused on battleground states.

“We take nothing for granted, but this GOP strategy looks like they’re concerned about a realistic pathway to 270 electoral votes,” he added.

Trump won electoral-vote-rich swing states such as Ohio and Florida in 2016, while also picking up Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from Democrats.

The campaign says it is eyeing more pickups in 2020, including Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nevada.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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California adds Iowa to ‘travel ban’ over refusal to fund gender transitions

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California adds Iowa to 'travel ban' over refusal to fund gender transitions

California announced Monday that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding “travel ban” list because of that state’s new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.

The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.

Becerra’s authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The list already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

WATCH: LIBERAL POLICIES BLAMED FOR WORSENING CALIFORNIA’S HOMELESSNESS CRISIS

Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state’s sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.

At the federal level, the Trump administration has disputed the idea that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under law include protections for gender identity. The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that “gender identity” was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.

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Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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