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Army Says Still No Decision on Bowe Bergdahl's Fate


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- No decision has been made about Bowe Bergdahl's future, military officials said Tuesday, as an Army general continues to review the circumstances surrounding his 2009 disappearance that led to five years in Taliban captivity.

Since his return to the U.S. last year, the Army has investigated whether Bergdahl willfully left his remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan and whether he should face disciplinary action.

A months-long investigation headed by Major General Kenneth Dahl concluded in early October and was then forwarded to Army leaders at the Pentagon.

In late December, the investigation and its recommendations were forwarded to General Mark Milley, who heads U.S. Army Forces Command, for his review of the matter.

It will be Milley who will decide if Bergdahl should face disciplinary action. If warranted, disciplinary action could take the form of either a court-martial or some form of non-judicial punishment. Milley may also decide that no punishment is warranted in Bergdahl’s case.

The Army issued a statement Tuesday denying media reports that said Bergdahl would be charged with desertion, possibly as early as next week.

Major General Ronald Lewis, the head of Army public affairs, labeled the reports as "patently false."

"To be clear, there have been no actions or decisions on the Sergeant Bergdahl investigation," Lewis said.

The investigation remains with Milley, "who will determine appropriate action -- which ranges from no further action to convening a court-martial," Lewis added.

"There is no timeline to make that decision and General Milley is not being put under pressure to make a decision either way," Rear Admiral John Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday.

Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Milley "is going to be given the time he needs to decide how this case ought to be disposed."

Milley is "still very much in a deliberative process here of working his way through the investigation that General Dahl did. And has come to no conclusions and he has made no decisions," Kirby added.

Bergdahl remains an active-duty soldier assigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, until his case is resolved.

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Benghazi Committee Chair Trey Gowdy: Hillary Clinton ‘Needs to Be Talked To’


State Dept photo(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said Tuesday he still intended to summon former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify as part of the investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya that killed four Americans.

“Every witness who has relevant information needs to be talked to,” Gowdy told reporters after a committee meeting Tuesday.

If he didn’t call Clinton before the committee, Gowdy said, it would be “an incomplete investigation.”

The House Select Committee on Benghazi is charged with delivering the final word on the attack, which has been the subject of an intense political battle.

Several previous congressional investigations into the attack have found no wrongdoing by U.S. officials, but that has done little to cool the partisan acrimony surrounding the incident on whether the State Department under Clinton’s direction did enough to prevent the attack.

Clinton, who is believed to be moving closer to announcing her bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, has said she would testify. But Democrats believe she should have already been called and worry that a delay could interfere with her presidential campaign.

Her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2013 has become a soundtrack for Republican opposition to her candidacy. Her supporters fear another round of testimony would only inflame the partisan debate over the Benghazi attack.

Gowdy told reporters Tuesday that he has been unable to get documents from the State Department pertaining to the attack, which has delayed his call for Clinton to testify. He said the government has been dragging its feet in releasing emails and other documents.

“I am willing to do it sooner rather than later,” said Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican. “What I am not willing to do is do it in a vacuum where I don’t have access to the documents.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, downplayed the criticism over the release of documents. He said Clinton has been willing to testify.

“If the committee wants her to come she is willing to come,” Cummings, D-Md., told reporters. “So if the excuse is that the State Department documents haven’t gotten there, it makes no sense.”


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Pilot of Drone Found on White House Premises Is National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Employee


Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The pilot of the drone that landed on White House grounds on Monday is an employee with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

According to a statement from the NGA, the employee was off-duty at the time of the incident and self-reported what had occurred. The NGA notes that the unidentified individual does not work with drones or unmanned aerial vehicles at the NGA.

"Even though the employee was using a personal item while off-duty, the agency takes the incident very seriously and remains committed to promoting public trust and transparency," the statement read.

The U.S. Secret Service is continuing to investigate the incident.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Announces Formation of Fundraising Committee Ahead of Possible 2016 Run


ABC News(MADISON, Wis.) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday announced the formation of a political fundraising committee that will help him build a potential presidential campaign.

The Wisconsin Republican made the announcement in a statement Tuesday, saying that the group, Our American Revival, "encompasses the shared values that make our country great; limiting the powers of the federal government to those defined in the Constitution while creating a leaner, more efficient, more effective and more accountable government to the American people." Former Republican National Committee Political Director Rick Wiley will serve as the committee's executive director.

"To move this country forward we need new, fresh leadership from outside Washington," Walker said. "We need leaders who are bold. That's how we build a better future for our children and grandchildren." He went on to highlight his success in doing just that in Wisconsin, saying that the same work "can be done across this country with the right leadership."

The announcement comes after Walker spent the weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit, where numerous potential Republican candidates for 2016 spoke.

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Obama to Propose Doubling Funding to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The White House said on Tuesday that President Obama plans to propose legislation that would double the funding to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing public health issues facing the world today," the White House said in a statement, noting that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about two million Americans fall ill and 23,000 die each year due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. "Antibiotic resistance," the administration concludes, "limits our ability to quickly and reliably treat bacterial infections, and the rise of resistance could hamper our ability to perform a range of modern medical procedures from joint replacements to organ transplants, the safety of which depends on our ability to treat bacterial infections that can arise as post-surgical complications."

The president's 2016 budget will therefore include $1.2 billion in funding to combat and prevent antibiotic resistance. That money will go towards strengthening risk assessment, surveillance and reporting, as well as driving research innovation.

The CDC estimates that antibiotic resistance accounts for $20 billion in excess direct health care costs and up to $35 billion in lost productivity due to hospitalization and sick days.

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First Lady's Visit to Saudi Arabia Sends Strong Message About Women


State Dept photo(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) -- In a country where women have few rights, first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday seemed to lead by example.

The pictures say it all.

There she was, standing side-by-side with her husband as he stepped off Air Force One in Riyadh Tuesday, where, during a brief visit, the president offered condolences for the recent death of King Abdullah and met with his successor, King Salman.

The first lady accompanied the president throughout the stay, embodying some of the reforms that her husband is pushing the country to adopt.

Wearing pants and her head uncovered, Mrs. Obama stood dutifully beside her husband as he shook hands with the Saudi delegation on the airport tarmac Tuesday morning and again at Erga Palace on the outskirts of Riyadh.

At times she reached out to shake an occasional hand, but mostly she stood back and offered just a smile.

According to reporters traveling with the president, due to the cultural constraints, the first lady purposely stood slightly behind her husband and waited for a gesture to be made to her by the men in the receiving line. If one of the men initiated a handshake, she returned; if not, then she simply smiled or nodded politely.

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Boehner Threatens Second Lawsuit Against Obama on Immigration


Official Photo by Caleb Smith/Office of the Speaker(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that a lawsuit might be the best -- or only -- option to try and overturn President Obama’s executive action on immigration, ABC News has learned.

“We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue, one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” Boehner told GOP lawmakers at their weekly conference meeting, according to a Republican official in the room.

One month before the Homeland Security Department runs out of funding, Republican leaders are scrambling to find alternative ways to express their displeasure over the president’s decision last year to grant work visas to up to five million undocumented immigrants.

The department runs out of money on Feb. 27, under an agreement Congress reached last year to keep the rest of the government running, and Republican leaders are unwilling to risk a government shutdown over another immigration fight.

But the lawsuits against Obama from Congress are beginning to stack up.

Last year, House Republicans took legal action against the president over the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit is already on its third set of lawyers on the Republican side and no quick resolution is in sight in the courts.

The discussion of legal action from Boehner comes one day after Republican leaders bulled a bill to strengthen security along the southern U.S. border amid concerns it might not pass because some lawmakers believed the measure didn’t go far enough. After the closed-door meeting, Boehner downplayed any problems with the immigration funding fight.

“It's all about working with our members, listening to our members, and working through what are some very difficult issues,” Boehner told reporters.

Some hardline immigration critics in Congress are unlikely to get behind a plan to file a lawsuit, which they see as another example of GOP leaders failing to stand up aggressively enough to the White House.

The challenge facing the new Republican-controlled Congress is finding a way forward that is acceptable to immigration critics in the House that can also pass the Senate.

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NJ Gov. Christie Stands by Storm Response; Dallas Trip No Big Deal to NJ Residents


WABC-TV(NEW YORK) — There’s a long history of politicians’ future ambitions being walloped by snowstorms and other weather-related incidents, but this one turned out not to be as bad as we all thought it might be.

When ask asked whether the travel bans and mass transit shutdowns may have been overblown for the less-than-epic snowstorm, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in his signature style, told ABC’s New York City television affiliate WABC-TV, “My response is we were listening to all of you!”

Many residents of New York City and nearby cities in New Jersey were surprised to wake up Tuesday morning to less snowfall than weather forecasters had initially predicted.

Meanwhile, other Garden State headlines about Gov. Christie’s hug with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t seem to bother New Jersey residents.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 70 percent said the controversy over his trip to Dallas, paid for by Jones, was politically motivated and only 11 percent say it is a serious issue.  Just 13 percent of voters in the state think less of Christie because he is a Cowboys fan. See the full poll results here.

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Obama Pays Short Visit to Saudi Arabia, Meets New King


SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) -- President Obama has left Saudi Arabia after spending just over four hours on the ground there Tuesday, offering condolences for the death of King Abdullah and meeting with his successor, King Salman.

Cameras got a brief glimpse of Obama and the new king shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries ahead of their bilateral meeting at the ornate Erga Palace on the outskirts of Riyadh.

At one point, the president was overheard exclaiming, “This is beautiful!”

“Now that you're here, Mr. President, it’s even more beautiful,” the king responded, through a translator.

Later, after introducing their high-powered delegations, the leaders shared a lavish meal consisting of kafta, shish tawook, baked lobster, grilled veal, seafood rice and much more.

The pair was due to talk about the fight against ISIS, the recent unrest in Yemen and nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia's arch-rival, Iran.

First lady Michelle Obama accompanied the president throughout the visit. Wearing pants and her head uncovered, Mrs. Obama stood beside her husband as he shook hands with the Saudi delegation on the airport tarmac Tuesday morning and again at the palace.

The president and first lady are scheduled to return to U.S. soil on Wednesday.

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Boehner Acknowledges 'Couple of Stumbles' with GOP-Led Congress


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After pulling two bills from the floor in the past week that lacked enough Republican support to pass, House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged “a couple of stumbles” early on in the new congressional majority.

“We wanted to get off to a fast start this year and as a result, taken bills that have passed in the past and put other bills together in spite of the fact that committees in many cases have not had their organizational meetings,” Boehner, R-Ohio, explained Tuesday. “Yeah, there have been a couple of stumbles -- all in our effort to show the American people that we're here to listen to their priorities.”

Last week, House Republican leaders pulled a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. On Monday, leadership pulled a bill to beef up security along the southern border.

“It's all about working with our members, listening to our members, and working through what are some very difficult issues,” Boehner stressed.

So far, Republicans face nine presidential veto threats, including the House’s bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year. A bill is due on the president’s desk by the end of February.

Boehner refused to reveal how the House may proceed if the Senate rejects the House-passed bill, where it does not appear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 60 votes to pass it.

“Well there's no reason for me to speculate on what we will or won't do,” Boehner said. “At this point it's up to the Senate to act and I expect that they will soon.”

As for critics who contend Boehner broke protocol when he invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress, Boehner boasted that he was within his constitutional rights to extend the offer.

“The House of Representatives is an equal branch of the government and we had a right to do it and we did it,” Boehner said. “And I'm frankly proud of the fact that the prime minister has accepted our invitation and will be here on March 3rd to talk to the members of Congress about the serious threat that Iran poses and the serious threat of radical Islam.”

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President Obama Talks Religion, Race in India Farewell


PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) -- On his final day in India, President Obama declared U.S. relations with the world’s largest democracy "one of the defining partnerships of this century," while nudging his Indian counterpart, Narenda Modi, to pursue greater economic equality, women’s rights and religious tolerance.

In a speech to New Delhi youth, Obama sought to leverage three days of back-slapping and bonhomie into a subtle challenge to the right-wing, Hindu nationalist government of his host. One Indian media outlet went so far as to describe Obama’s words as a "snub."

"India will succeed as long as it’s not splintered along religious lines," Obama declared, a message some viewed as a direct reference to the anti-Muslim policies of Modi’s ruling party and their efforts to constrain Muslim and Christian groups that do evangelization and religious conversion.

"In our lives, Michelle and I have been strengthened by our Christian faith. Still, as you may know, my faith has at times been questioned -- by people who don’t know me -- or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing," he said. "Every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution and fear."

Obama called for celebration of racial diversity, invoking Michelle Obama’s ancestral ties to "slaves and slave owners" and occasions when he was "treated differently because the color of my skin."

He also upheld Mrs. Obama as a model of women's rights, calling her a "very strong and talented" wife who "frequently" tells him he’s wrong.

"I'm surrounded by smart women," the president said. "Every woman should be able to go about her day -- to walk the street, or ride the bus -- and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity."

The president, who was greeted by the crowd of 1,500 at Delhi's Siri Fort Auditorium with chants of "Obama! Obama!," leaves India after three days on an upbeat note. He was the first American president to visit twice and the first to be honored as chief guest on Republic Day.

"I am the first American president to come to your country twice. But I predict I will not be the last. Because, as Americans, we believe in the promise of India," he said.

Ahead of the speech, the Obamas met with three Indian youth who were rescued from child slavery and Kailash Satyarthi, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner who shared the award with Malala Yousafzai.

Satyarthi is a leading anti-child slavery advocate. He was overheard telling President Obama that there are still five million child slaves around the world.

"Thanks to your administration in America the number of child slaves has gone down," he said.

Mrs. Obama kept her arms around 12-year-old Payal Jangid the entire time.

President Obama now turns to a much different alliance, making a rare and impromptu visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on his way home.

The president will pay his respects to the Saudi royal family after Friday's death of Kind Abdullah, mark the transition to King Salman, and discuss the fight against ISIS and the situation in Yemen, White House officials said.

Obama brings with him more than two dozen top dignitaries, including Republican Sen. John McCain, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and former George W. Bush Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Obama is due back on U.S. soil on Wednesday.

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Christie Launches PAC Ahead of Presumed White House Bid


ABC News(NEW YORK) — Even as he deals with a major snowstorm that has walloped the region, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie is clearly setting his sights on national office.

Last week, Christie filed paperwork to launch the political action committee "Leadership Matters for America," a major step in running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Although no Republican of note has officially declared his candidacy, the field is expected to get crowded very quickly. Despite this, Christie feels he has a legitimate shot at becoming the party's standard bearer next year.

The PAC will afford Christie the opportunity to travel around the country as he gauges interest in his presumed run while attempting to draw deep-pocketed donors who might fund a possible campaign in 2016.

On his website, Christie declares, "America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us Why? Because leadership matters. It matters if we want to restore America's role in the world, find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education."

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Senate Votes Against Ending Debate on Keystone XL Pipeline


Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The weather and some angry Democrats were responsible Monday for keeping debate on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline alive, quashing the GOP's hopes of bring the issue up for a quick vote.

Republicans needed 60 votes to end debate on the pipeline, which would bring oil down from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico while purportedly creating tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. The House has already voted to approve construction of the project.

However, the final tally of 53-39 was seven votes shy, partly because some Republicans' travel plans were waylaid by the oncoming blizzard in the Northeast.

Although the GOP has enough Democratic support required to pass approval of the pipeline, some of those same lawmakers were still mad at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for tabling a number of their amendments last week. Thus, debate on the bill will continue at least through next week.

Even if the Senate passes a measure, the White House has threatened a veto, contending that it's still awaiting a final review from the State Department about the environmental feasibility of the pipeline.

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House Cancels Monday Votes Due to Inclement Weather


Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives canceled the votes scheduled for Monday night due to the impending blizzard.

The announcement from the House Majority's office is likely due to the number of lawmakers who were set to travel back to Washington on Monday following a three-day weekend in their districts. The inclement weather which was expected to hit the Northeast from D.C. up through Maine caused weather problems for many.

Instead, the House Majority's office said, the first votes of the week would occur no earlier than 1 p.m. Tuesday. The House is slated to discuss human trafficking suspensions and the export of liquefied natural gas on Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

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Chris Christie Spends 'Blizzard of 2015' Tweeting with Constituents


Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent his Monday night inside, tweeting back and forth with his constituents and followers as a blizzard rocked the Northeast.

At about 8:30 p.m. Monday, Christie announced a travel ban would go into effect at 11 p.m., preventing any vehicles from being on New Jersey roads -- excluding emergency vehicles, public safety personnel and utility companies -- in an effort to keep New Jersians safe. Shortly thereafter, the governor tweeted, asking his nearly 500,000 followers how they were spending the "Blizzard of 2015."

 

Alright, its 9pm New Jersey. What's everyone doing at home tonight? #blizzardof2015

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

 

It seems most of Christie's followers were abiding by the travel ban, with many followers saying they were spending time with the families or friends.

 

awesome. send us a pic when you're done RT @AmericasMazz: @GovChristie building a Lego batmobile. 3500 pieces. Incredible fun with my boys

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

 

 

pokemon is still a thing? RT @Americapaldi: @GovChristie playing some pokemon and enjoying your awesome tweets

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

 

 

looks awesome RT @warren_kruse: @GovChristie pic.twitter.com/IuBrPCS3j6

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

 

 

me too. Summer cant come soon enough RT @dnj1999: @GovChristie thinking about this summer down the shore ??????????

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

 

 

The office is great. Knitting hats? A skill I don't have RT @courtneywrightt: @GovChristie watching the Office and knitting some warm hats!

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

 

Christie even answered one follower's question as to his wardrobe plans for Tuesday.

 

too cold for the fleece RT @the_real_kuzi: Wonder if @GovChristie is going to be wearing his fleece tomorrow

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

 

In advance of the storm, Christie declared a state of emergency, telling New Jersey residents to plan for "really hazardous conditions."

"This is gonna be a lotta snow no matter how you add it up," the governor said Monday. Still, he said he felt as though the state was "prepared, and we're ready, and if you all stay home and help that will make things significantly safer for you and your family and significantly easier for the men and women who are going to be working hard to try to restore New Jersey to normalcy after the storm is over."

 

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