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Trump’s Mexico border mission may approach last year’s peak size

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Trump's Mexico border mission may approach last year's peak size

U.S. Military troops return from a test deployment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents after conducting a large-scale operational readiness exercise at the San Ysidro port of entry with Mexico in San Diego, California, U.S., January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military is set to deploy 3,500 troops to its mission at the border with Mexico, U.S. officials said on Thursday, bringing the politically charged deployment back to near its peak level of about 5,900 in November, if only briefly.

The figure was disclosed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, who slammed senior Pentagon officials for failing to disclose that information during a hearing before his committee in Congress on the issue on Tuesday.

“This was at best an error in judgment, and at worst flat-out dishonesty,” Smith said, adding he had spoken with acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan about it.

Shanahan told reporters the same day as the hearing that thousands more troops were headed to the border but the 3,500 figure was only disclosed on Thursday. There are currently about 2,350 troops involved in the border mission.

“I have followed up on that hearing with a phone call to Secretary Shanahan, and he has provided more details on the increase. I appreciate his willingness to discuss it with me, but a phone call is not a substitute for transparency before Congress and public candor,” Smith said.

The Pentagon says the U.S. military will operate mobile surveillance cameras in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, a mission that is scheduled to run through Sept. 30. Some of the additional troops will also string up 150 more miles of concertina wire by March 31.

The Pentagon first approved the high-profile deployment of active-duty U.S. troops to the Mexico border in October, ahead of U.S. midterm congressional elections. It was embraced by Trump’s supporters, including Republicans in Congress.

However, critics have assailed the deployment as a political stunt and scoffed at Trump’s comparisons of caravans of Central American migrants, including women and children, to an “invasion.”

Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish

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Charles Hurt calls Medicare, Social Security a ‘slow-rolling catastrophe’

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Charles Hurt calls Medicare, Social Security a 'slow-rolling catastrophe'

The troubling financial situation of Social Security and Medicare represented a “slow-rolling catastrophe,” Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said Tuesday.

“The fact remains that they’re going insolvent and something has to be done about it,” Hurt said on “Special Report”.

His comments came in light of a report in which trustees warned the programs were headed for insolvency.

In 2020, the report said, Social Security’s total costs will exceed its total income for the first time in nearly four decades., and in seven years, Medicare’s hospital trust fund will be depleted.

More progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have proposed expanding Medicare to create a single-payer health care system. According to Hurt, that would only make matters worse by further centralizing power in the hands of bureaucrats.

MEDICARE CHIEF SAYS ‘MEDICARE-FOR-ALL’ IS ‘BIGGEST THREAT TO AMERICAN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM’

“Unfortunately, the idea of ‘Medicare for All’ — on top of the problems that we’re facing right now — is kind of the typical government answer: more centralized governance from Washington. That’s the whole problem in the first place,” he said.

“Massively” expanding Medicare, he added, wouldn’t fix the program. “It’s going to break it,” he said.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor at National Review, argued that while President Trump’s administration ignored the bleak future of Medicare and Social Security, Democrats proposed policies that would worsen the situation.

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“We’re having a massive wealth transfer from young people to old people,” Goldberg said. “It’s not sustainable, it’s got to be ripped up from the ground up.”

Although Hurt acknowledged the situation looked bad, he also predicted that the country’s strong economic situation made it easier for the government to reform those costly programs. “It’s going to be a lot easier to fix these programs with a good economy like the one we have right now,” he said.

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Rush Limbaugh to Republicans: This is Trump’s party, ‘get on board’

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Rush Limbaugh to Republicans: This is Trump's party, 'get on board'

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh didn’t mince words while addressing multiple issues Tuesday on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” but his strongest hits were aimed at Republicans who had yet to fully jump on the President Trump bandwagon.

“Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, we are not in politics. We are media titans, but we are not in politics. It is the party of Donald Trump right now, and the Republicans that don’t realize that had better get on board,” Limbaugh said, reacting to a New York Times op-ed by Joe Lockhart, a press secretary to then-President Bill Clinton.

ERIC SWALWELL: NO APOLOGY NECESSARY FOR SURVEILLING TRUMP CAMPAIGN

“Republicans today are the party of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson — a coalition that, in the face of every demographic trend in America, will mean the long-term realignment of the federal government behind the Democrats,” Lockhart wrote Monday.

Limbaugh said Lockhart’s words were an example of frustration within the Democrats.

“They haven’t been able to ‘defeat me’ in 30 years. They can’t defeat Trump. They haven’t been able to stop him, and I think they are frustrated. They have thrown every weapon they have in their arsenal at Donald Trump, and nothing’s worked. Things they’ve used over the years that have been readily available to get rid and take out any Republican they want, they have bounced off of Trump,” Limbaugh told Martha MacCallum.

Limbaugh criticized the Republican party for not fully standing behind Trump and celebrating his “victory” when the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released. He also noted that Trump wasn’t just taking on the Democratis but was battling the Washington establishment — including Republicans.

“Where’s the Republican party with the celebratory emails to their voters? Even fund-raising, or just celebrating the victory, where are they? You don’t hear them. The reason is, Martha, because this is a battle not between two parties, this is a battle between the Washington establishment and the deep state, I call them the administrative state, and outsiders and Americans who feel disenfranchised or unattached,” Limbaugh said.

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Limbaugh also went after Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, for saying he was “sickened” by the president’s actions as documented in the Mueller report.

“There is no reason not to get behind him unless you don’t like his voters, and that is where I think the key to understanding this is,” Limbaugh said.

Fox News’ Martha MacCallum contributed to this report.

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Democrats to press star witness of Mueller report to repeat performance in Congress

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Democrats to press star witness of Mueller report to repeat performance in Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel described in the Mueller report as repeatedly standing up to President Donald Trump, could become a star witness again if congressional Democrats get their way in their investigation of whether Trump used his office to obstruct justice.

FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn sits behind U.S. President Donald Trump as the president holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Since the April 18 release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and any ties to Republican Trump’s campaign, Democrats have seen McGahn as someone who could be as important as Mueller himself, according to a source familiar with the matter.

But the Democrats are likely to face Trump’s resistance. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the White House planned to oppose a subpoena by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee for McGahn to testify.

Mueller’s 448-page partially blacked out report portrayed McGahn as one of the few figures in Trump’s orbit to challenge him when he tried to shut down the investigation that has clouded his more than two years in the White House.

“Mr. McGahn has been touted as a man of integrity and he is a major witness in the Mueller report,” said Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the judiciary committee.

The White House did not immediately comment on the Washington Post report, which said Trump will claim executive privilege, a legal doctrine allowing the president to withhold information about internal executive branch deliberations from other branches of government.

McGahn’s attorney, William Burck, did not respond to requests for comment.

Democrats are particularly interested in hearing McGahn describe in his own words and in Congress an account in the Mueller report in which McGahn refused Trump’s instructions.

In June 2017 Trump called McGahn to say he should tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to remove the special counsel because he had conflicts of interest, the report said.

Trump also failed to get McGahn to dispute media reports that the president tried to fire Mueller, the report said.

“That, in itself, could be an obstruction of justice, as Mr. McGahn would be able to testify – that he was asked to do it and then asked not to tell anyone what he’d been asked to do,” Lee said.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who has subpoenaed the U.S. Department of Justice to provide the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence, issued a subpoena on Monday for McGahn to provide the committee with documents by May 7 and testify on May 21.

But it was not clear that McGahn would comply, especially if the White House asserts executive privilege. Nor could Democrats predict how much the former White House counsel would be willing to discuss, even if he does testify.

On Tuesday evening, Nadler said, “The moment for the White House to assert some privilege to prevent this testimony from being heard has long since passed.”

The House of Representatives has the sole power under the U.S. Constitution to impeach the president, and any effort would be led by the judiciary panel.

Mueller’s report concluded that there was not enough evidence to establish that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow. However, the report outlined multiple instances where Trump tried to thwart Mueller’s probe.

Mueller stopped short of concluding whether Trump could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice, a criminal charge that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

But such a high standard would not apply to Democrats if they decided to bring impeachment proceedings.

In the days following the Mueller report’s release, McGahn came under attack from Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani who called into question the veracity of his statements to Mueller’s team of prosecutors.

“I would ask which of the three versions is McGahn standing by. There are three versions he gives of that account,” Giuliani told CNN over the weekend. “I’m telling you, he’s confused.”

A prominent elections lawyer, McGahn served as Trump’s campaign counsel before being named White House counsel in November 2016.

He played a pivotal role in helping Trump reshape the federal judiciary in a conservative direction and roll back regulations on a range of industries.

Reporting by David Morgan, Karen Freifeld and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool

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