Countering the narrative on the other side of the Capitol, three senators held an impromptu press conference Tuesday afternoon, calling on the Obama administration to go ahead and work around Congress.
Huddled against the south wall of the Senate chamber, upstaging Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s official weekly presser just feet away, Sens. Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, and Mark Udall offered praise for the administration’s proposal to end the National Security Administration’s practice of collecting phone data. But all three senators tacked on one big addendum: Do it now.
President Obama, who has said he will increasingly rely on his executive authority this year, much to the chagrin of congressional Republicans, said this week that his administration will have to wait for congressional approval before the NSA can cease its data collection program. But Paul, Wyden, and Udall argued Tuesday that the president doesn’t need Congress in this instance.
“They never quite got congressional permission to do it in the first place,” Paul said Tuesday, referring to the collection of millions of Americans’ phone records. “So I think they can stop immediately.”
But these senators are not taking themselves entirely out of the equation either. All three said Tuesday that they want an NSA change codified into law — presumably lest some other president reinstate the program, or Obama change his mind — but getting legislation through Congress takes too much time and can be done after the fact.
“It may take a little time to get the legislation passed, but they can stop right now — right now,” Wyden said.
In the interim, the senators said they will “insist” that the NSA seek warrants to access Americans’ phone records, rather than pursuing blind collection, while leaving an exemption for emergency situations.
“There’s emergency authority which ensures that in the period between now and the time we try to get the legislation passed, we’re protecting the constitutional rights of the American people, while at the same time dealing with a very real threat,” Wyden said.
Paul, long a proponent of the Fourth Amendment, argued that the Supreme Court may also have to weigh in on the issue, a process that could take even longer.
“If you notice, most of what they say — and this could be the White House or any defenders of this program — they will say, ‘Da da da da da, we have these privacy controls, we’re going to do da da da da da,’ but records are not protected by the Fourth Amendment,” he said. “This is still a big question. I think it will still have to be decided by the Supreme Court.”
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."