NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House warned Friday that there is no fallback position if the Senate fails to reach a deal on the Patriot Act before Sunday night’s deadline.
“There is no plan B,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during Friday's press briefing. “There is no executive action that the president can take to give our law enforcement and national security professionals the tools they need, all of the tools that they need, including the tools that are included in the USA Freedom Act.”
If a deal is not reached before 4 p.m. Sunday, the Senate will be exposing the American people to “unnecessary risk,” Earnest said, by forcing the National Security Agency to begin shutting down its phone data surveillance program.
“What our national security professionals will tell you is that they will, if faced with a scenario in which they have some of these tools taken out of their toolbox, they will try to use all of the tools that they currently have to do what's necessary to keep us safe,” he said. “And the point that I would make is that taking those tools away seems like an unnecessary risk.”
“Why would we take the chance, and more importantly, why are we taking the chance?” he said.
In scolding the Senate for the standoff, Earnest said there is no “rational explanation” for the current situation.
“I haven't heard a rational explanation for what exactly is going on in the United States Senate right now,” the press secretary quipped. “There is no good explanation for it.”
While some Senate Republicans contend that the Freedom Act does not go far enough in providing national security officials access to data that can be helpful in counter-terrorism operations, others argue that it would infringe to greatly on civil liberties.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, has staunchly opposed the extension of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act, bucking his own party's leadership.
He filibustered on the Senate floor for about 11 hours last week to protest the NSA's bulk data collection program that monitors Americans' phone records.
"I expect them to take action, and take action swiftly," President Obama said Friday following a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "That's what the American people deserve."
"A whole bunch of authorities that we use in order to prevent terrorist attacks in this country expire," Obama said. He also noted bipartisan support for the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which would leave some surveillance tools intact, saying that there are "Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate who think this is the right way to go."
Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(NEW YORK) -- The past misconduct referenced in Thursday's indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is of a sexual nature, dating back to his time as a high school wrestling coach and history teacher in Yorkville, Illinois, sources with knowledge of the case tell ABC News.
Hastert has not been arrested, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago told ABC News Friday, but his arraignment is expected to take place as early as next week. According to Thursday's indictment, Hastert, 73 had agreed to pay an unidentified individual millions of dollars to "compensate and conceal" misconduct against that person.
Over a span of four years, the Justice Department said, Hastert withdrew $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts, doing so in a way that prevented banks from recording the transactions. Hastert made withdrawals of under $10,000 at a time -- banks are forced to report cash transactions of more than that amount.
Hastert also allegedly lied to FBI agents, saying that he was keeping the money he withdrew for himself.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at a press briefing on Friday that the White House "even though Speaker Hastert served as the speaker of the house in the other party, there's nobody here who...derives any pleasure from reading about the former speaker's legal troubles."
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker of the House John Boehner ripped the Obama administration on Friday, saying that by taking Cuba off of the State Department's list of state sponsors of terror, it had "handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing."
Boehner says the Cuban regime "has offered no assurances it will address its long record of repression and human rights abuses at home" and has failed to indicate that "it will cease its support for violence throughout the region." Boehner has previously made clear that he is against normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a move President Obama announced late last year.
"Removing the regime from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terror is just the latest example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies."
"Fortunately," Boehner added, "it will have little practical effect. Most U.S. sanctions on the Cuban regime are contained in other laws -- laws the U.S. House will ensure remain in place as we work to protect those fighting for freedom, and in many cases, simply their own survival."
The administration announced the removal of Cuba from the state sponsor of terror list on Friday, months after Obama announced the two nations would discuss normalizing relations. Earlier this week, the two nations announced that embassies would re-open in Havana and Washington, D.C. for the first time in more than 50 years.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest downplayed Boehner's concern, saying that "there continue to be issues that need to be worked out," but that recent discussion have seen "important progress."
"Ultimately," Earnest said at a Friday press briefing, "what we think all of that will do is empower the Cuban people, that is the ultimate goal of this policy change, and there is no question that the deeper engagement will empower Cuban people and put additional pressure on Cuban government to do a better job on human rights."
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Catching the social media wave, Ash Carter has become the first defense secretary to join Facebook.
The decision to sign up on Facebook was made in an effort "to personally communicate with our nearly three million service members and civilians on social media," the Pentagon said Friday in a statement.
Like most Facebook users on the road, Carter wanted to share a bit of his travels with his Facebook friends.
Currently in Singapore for a meeting of Asian defense ministers, Carter's first post was about his flight aboard a Marine MV-22 Osprey over the Strait of Malacca. He shared a photo of his shaking hands with a Marine crew member during the flight.
It didn't take long for the prime minister of Singapore to welcome him to Facebook with another social media institution, a selfie.
The Pentagon statement said Carter's joining Facebook is "just one more way as secretary of defense he can better communicate with service members and their families and help the Pentagon think 'outside the five sided box' to drive change."
Carter's recent visit to Facebook headquarters, where he met with Facebook employees who are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "drove home for Secretary Carter the impact social media can have on connecting our troops to the American people and improving connections among the forces," the Pentagon said.
"While no Secretary of Defense is able to meet with every service member personally, Facebook will help Secretary Carter reach service members and their families in a way that hasn't been possible before," the Pentagon added.
US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign was thrown a curveball this week after an essay he penned in 1972, at the age of 30, about gender stereotypes and sexual fantasies resurfaced.
Titled "Man-and-Woman" the short essay includes graphic sentences about male and female rape fantasies. "A woman enjoys intercourse with her man -- as she fantasizes about being raped by 3 men simultaneously," it reads.
Written in a stream-of-consciousness style with incomplete sentences and partial dialogue, the short seems to present a couple struggling with ideas of gender roles, sexuality, and female submissiveness.
Sanders's campaign called the essay "a dumb attempt at dark satire ... that in no way reflects his views on women."
The essay was published in an alternative newspaper, Vermont Freeman, according to the news outlet Mother Jones, which featured an image of the essay in a profile piece this week about the senator.
According to campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs, it was "intended to attack gender stereotypes back in the 1970s, though it is as stupid today as it was back then."
"When Bernie got into this race he understood there would be attempts to distract voters from the real issues. He is determined to run a campaign that takes on big issues facing the American people and not a campaign of salacious gossip or anything like that," Briggs continued.
A second article from Mother Jones this morning includes an opinion piece written by Sanders while he was in college in 1963 at the University of Chicago in the campus newspaper. In it, he advocates for sexual liberalization.
"The administrators of this university have the right to believe that unmarried students should not engage in sexual intercourse. ... However, it is inconceivable and intolerable that these men should have the right to forcibly impose their moral, social, and sexual beliefs on the 2000 student of the college."
Sanders, a self-identified Democratic Socialist and independent on Capitol Hill, was the second candidate to officially enter the race for the democratic nomination, along with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to a Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday, Sanders is polling at 15 percent, compared to Clinton's 57 percent, among Democratic voters nationwide. He continues a campaign kickoff tour this week in New Hampshire and Iowa.
United States Congress(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- The Illinois state legislature scrapped plans to construct a statue of Dennis Hastert earlier this month after the former U.S. House speaker asked that the project not move forward.
The Democratic speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, had put forward a bill in early May proposing that $500,000 be set aside to place a statue of Hastert in the Illinois state Capitol. But soon thereafter, he withdrew the proposal at the request of Hastert, whom the feds accused this week of lying to FBI agents and trying to hide financial transactions intended to keep prior misconduct secret.
“About a month ago, the speaker contacted this office and asked that the whole [statue] idea be deferred,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told ABC News. “So, we honored that request.”
Brown said Hastert cited “the state’s fiscal condition” in making the case that the project not move forward. “He thought the state’s fiscal condition made it a not wise use of state funds,” he said.
Though Madigan’s office did not question Hastert’s reasoning, Brown said they had no concerns about the financial viability of the statue project. “We thought it was appropriate,” Brown said of the $500,000 that would have gone to the statue’s construction.
Madigan served alongside Hastert in the Illinois legislature in 1980s. He has declined to comment on Hastert’s recent indictment.
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to launch his 2016 White House bid in Baltimore Saturday, injecting another dose of competition into the Democratic nominating contest that heavily favors Hillary Clinton.
No one denies the herculean effort -- and huge helping of luck -- it would take to stop, or even slow, the Clinton juggernaut, but O’Malley has a message that could resonate during a presidential cycle when so much talk is about dynasty.
“I think that our country always benefits from new leadership and new perspectives,” O’Malley told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on This Week in March. “Let's be honest here, the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families -- it is an awesome and sacred trust to be earned and exercised on behalf of the American people.”
O’Malley will make his decision known to supporters at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore Saturday morning.
Ahead of his announcement, O’Malley released a “hint, hint” video of him playing the guitar. In case you don’t recognize his riff, it’s “Hail to the Chief.”
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The artist behind one of the defining images of the 2008 presidential campaign -- the “Hope” poster -- says President Obama has not lived up to the ideal expressed in the artwork.
In an interview with Esquire, artist Shepard Fairey said Obama hasn’t even come close to embodying the break with the past administration that Fairey and so many voters hoped he would, but said the president is also a victim of the political system.
“I'm not giving him a pass for not being more courageous, but I do think the entire system needs an overhaul and taking money out of politics would be a really good first step,” he said, adding that he was surprised that drones and domestic spying, in particular, have become hallmarks of the Obama administration.
The White House did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.
Fairey, 45, said he also blamed the public.
“I hate to say Americans are ignorant and lazy, but a lot of them are ignorant and lazy,” he said, urging more U.S. citizens to vote and research the public servants they support.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush focused on the economy and job creation at a speech in Michigan Thursday night.
An aide for Bush passed along an excerpt of the speech to ABC News:
"In Washington, D.C. the last six years, we’ve had the most tepid recovery in modern history, growing at about a 2 percent rate. The kind of rate that creates more demands on government, that makes it harder and harder for us to imagine how we’re going to get out from this hole," the former Florida governor said.
"Forty percent -- 40 percent -- of the eight and a half million people that are unemployed have given up looking for work all together. Workforce participation rates today are lower than they were thirty years ago," Bush added.
"There are five million more people in poverty than the day that Barack Obama got elected as president," he said.
Robert Giroux/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Marco Rubio has decided not to spend money to compete in the Iowa Straw Poll -- delivering another blow to the Iowa tradition once considered a staple for presidential candidates.
“We're running a lean operation, so we're only going to spend money in contests where delegates are at stake,” Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, confirmed to ABC News.
Asked if Rubio would actually attend the straw poll, Conant said the schedule for August is not yet determined.
Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee have also indicated they won’t play in the straw poll in Boone, Iowa on Aug. 8.
US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lindsey Graham announced Thursday that he is retiring from the Air Force Reserves this summer.
“I’ll turn 60 this summer which is the mandatory retirement age for the Air Force Reserves,” Graham said. “Although I would cherish the opportunity to continue to serve, I know that the time has come for me to end my service and transfer to the retired reserves.”
Graham served in the Air Force on active duty for six and a half years in the 1980s, including four years served in Europe. He has also served in the South Carolina Air National Guard and then joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves in 1995.
If Graham officially enters the 2016 presidential race as he is expected to do next week, he will be one of the few running this cycle who served in the military. Others include Rick Perry, Jim Webb and Jim Gilmore.
The 404 page on Rick Santorum's campaign website. (RickSantorum.com)(WASHINGTON) -- Iowa and New Hampshire typically play host to the rough-and-tumble early days of presidential campaigning, but in recent weeks another arena has gained traction in the battle for voters’ hearts and minds: candidates’ website error pages.
Campaigns on both sides of the aisle have put a creative spin on the usually boring “404 page,” the website page that appears when a URL is entered incorrectly. Animal puns, pleas for donations and a video that tells voters to, “just scoot down,” greet visitors who click a broken link or type in the wrong URL on certain candidates’ sites.
Here’s a round-up of the 2016 contenders who have made their mark in the mistaken web page world:
Hillary Clinton: Link not ‘what it was quacked up to be’
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s 404 page features a cute, old photograph of herself with former President Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea -- complete with Donald Duck and cartoon hats.
"Oops, that link wasn't what it was quacked up to be," quips the error message. “But while you’re here, how about signing up to volunteer?”
Rick Santorum: More helpful than Hillary?
A large photo of Clinton holding her phone -- similar to an image previously used by Clinton on her Twitter profile -- greets visitors lost amid the Web pages of Republican Rick Santorum’s site.
So does a dig at the former diplomat, who’s been criticized for using a private email account as secretary of state. She has said she did so out of “convenience.”
“We’re sorry, but we couldn’t find that page,” Santorum’s error page reads. “But we do have this search box. You know, ‘for convenience.’”
Bernie Sanders: ‘Just scoot down’
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., takes his 404 page to an entirely new level, with a video in which he tries to help visitors get out of Internet purgatory.
“The good news is, you’re on the right website, and it’s a really good website,” says Sanders, the longest-serving independent member of Congress in U.S. history. “The bad news is, you’re on the wrong page."
“Just scoot down to the bottom of the page,” he adds, waving his hand, “and you’ll find your way back home to where you should be.”
“FUMBLE! You seem a little lost,” proclaims the error page on Sen. Marco Rubio’s site. The Florida Republican’s website gives viewers a taste of his favorite football team, with an image of a Miami Dolphins player in the background.
And like Sanders, Rubio shares a video -- although his is a more inspirational, professionally produced clip about his work coaching youth football.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, gets casually punny with visitors to his website who have lost their way.
On his 404 page, a photo shows Huckabee relaxing on a boat with a happy-looking dog and a fishing rod, alongside a message that reads: “Oops! Looks like you caught the wrong page.”
California businesswoman Carly Fiorina gets a bit simpler -- and more direct -- with her site’s error page.
Next to giant buttons asking for contributions to her campaign, the Republican uses a video to implore visitors to join her cause.
“We can do this, together,” she says, before giving viewers an opportunity to submit their email address and “Join the Team.”
Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department has charged former House Speaker Dennis Hastert with lying to FBI agents and trying to hide financial transactions intended to keep prior misconduct secret, prosecutors alleged Thursday.
The 73-year-old Hastert, a top Republican on Capitol Hill before he left Congress in 2007, agreed five years ago to pay an unidentified person $3.5 million “to compensate for and conceal” prior “misconduct against” that person, according to prosecutors.
Over the next four years, Hastert withdrew about $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided that money to the unidentified person, according to the Justice Department.
Starting in July 2012, Hastert allegedly structured those cash withdrawals in such a way that it would prevent banks from having to report the transactions. Under federal law, banks are required to report cash transactions over $10,000. Hastert allegedly withdrew $952,000 in increments of under that $10,000 limit.
When the FBI questioned Hastert in December 2014 about the transactions, he allegedly told the FBI that he was keeping the cash for himself, prosecutors said.
A grand jury indicted Hastert with one count of structuring currency transactions to evade currency transaction reports and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.
Hastert, of Plano, Illinois, will be arraigned in the coming days.
If convicted on both counts, he faces as many as 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The Justice Department insisted that, like all defendants, Hastert is “presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial.”
zabelin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The year-long travel ban against the five Taliban detainees freed in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Berghdal is set to expire on Monday, prompting critics of the controversial prisoner swap to voice security concerns and ask if the Obama administration is seeking to extend that travel moratorium.
The White House and the State Department have both said this week that there is nothing new to announce about travel restrictions on the former Taliban leaders, who had been at Guantanamo Bay for nearly 12 years before being transferred to the Qataris in May 2014.
Bergdahl, who was the U.S. military’s only prisoner of war in Afghanistan, was charged with desertion nearly a year after President Obama announced his release. Bergdahl was heavily criticized by his former comrades for endangering the lives of those who searched for him and they blamed him for the administration’s decision to the release of five high-value Taliban prisoners.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, released a statement Thursday expressing his desire for the administration to extend the travel ban.
“Unless something changes, those terrorists will be free to return to the fight on Sunday,” Thornberry said. “News reports suggest their activities since they left Gitmo are already a cause for concern.”
Three of the former detainees attempted to make contact with active members of the Taliban while under supervision of the Qataris, U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News earlier this year.
Thornberry called those reports “cause for concern” and said the release of these former detainees (many of whom are considered too old to actually pick up arms) “will endanger our troops abroad and our families at home.”
The House Intelligence Committee also sent a letter last week to President Obama requesting the administration work with the Qataris to extend that travel ban.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(PEMBERTON, New Jersey) -- Governor Chris Christie says Common Core education standards are “not working” for New Jersey, and he wants the state to try a new, more Jersey-focused system.
“It’s now been five years since Common Core was adopted," Christie said. "And the truth is that it’s simply not working."
The presumed Presidential hopeful joins ranks of Republican governors who are critical of the education standards, including Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Common Core is currently in use in over 40 states, including New Jersey.
The system creates a set of Math and English teaching standards for K-12 classrooms. South Carolina and Indiana, two states that have successfully backed out of the system have come under fire for creating their own standards that are criticized for being nearly identical copies of Common Core.
Christie's remarks come in sharp contrast to the support Florida Governor Jeb Bush has recently expressed for the education standards. Neither has announced whether they will run for president in 2016, though both are considered potential candidates.
"It is time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities,” read Christie’s prepared remarks. “This new era can be even greater by adopting new standards right here in New Jersey – not 200 miles away on the banks of the Potomac River.”