Washington Gets Closer to a Strike on Syria

A major Senate hearing and big statements from Congressional leaders point toward an attack. But Americans are still wary.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambrosgambros, Brian Resnick, Patrick Reis, Marina Koren and Matt Berman
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Matt Vasilogambrosgambros Brian Resnick , Patrick Reis and Marina Koren Matt Berman
Sept. 3, 2013, 7:52 a.m.

From Speak­er Boehner and Eric Can­tor to John Kerry and John Mc­Cain, here’s what you need to know about a long day in Wash­ing­ton.

Today’s High­lights:

“¢ The latest from the Sen­ate hear­ing.

“¢ New poll: Amer­ic­ans still largely op­pose a strike.

“¢ Speak­er Boehner and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Can­tor sup­port au­thor­iz­a­tion.

“¢ Ma­jor­ity Whip, Mitch Mc­Con­nell not ready to com­mit.

The Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Hear­ing

Rand Paul Asks: Will the Pres­id­ent Abide By This Vote? (5:44)

Rand Paul said he was proud Obama “was my pres­id­ent” when Obama de­cided to go to ask Con­gress. But he’s wor­ried that the Con­gres­sion­al vote will be dis­reg­arded if the res­ol­u­tion is de­clined. “I want to be proud of the pres­id­ent, but every time I get just about there, I get wor­ried that he doesn’t really mean it,” Paul said. Kerry said he did not know what the pres­id­ent would de­cide in that case, oth­er than that he’s con­fid­ent in the yes vote.

Paul ques­tioned how ef­fect­ive an at­tack on Syr­ia would be, giv­en the ques­tion­able “ra­tion­al­ity” of As­sad. “I don’t think we can say that by at­tack­ing them, he’s not go­ing to launch an­oth­er chem­ic­al at­tack,” Paul said. Kerry said that if the U.S. doesn’t re­spond, “it’s a guar­an­tee” that there will be an­oth­er chem­ic­al at­tack. 

Kerry tells Paul: “I can make it crys­tal clear to you that Is­rael will be less safe un­less the U.S. takes this ac­tion.” Is­rael, however, may not be pleased that Kerry is us­ing con­cern over a Syr­i­an chem­ic­al at­tack on the coun­try to gain con­gres­sion­al sup­port for mil­it­ary ac­tion. “We don’t need Amer­ica to take care of threats to Is­rael,” of­fi­cials told Is­rael’s Chan­nel 2 news Monday night.

Will Rus­sia Get In­volved? (5:34)

The U.S. is not the only mil­it­ary power with a pres­ence in the re­gion. Rus­sia is a key ally of the As­sad re­gime, and has held the po­s­i­tion that there is no defin­it­ive proof that the chem­ic­al at­tacks took place by the re­gime’s or­ders. So, what hap­pens if the U.S. strikes Syr­ia? Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mar­tin De­mp­sey said he was not con­cerned.

“There’s already four Rus­si­an war­ships in the east­ern Med,” De­mp­sey said. “And they are stay­ing a re­spect­ful dis­tance, I don’t see that as a factor.”

“Teresa, I apo­lo­gize for what I’m about to do to John” — Sen­at­or John Mc­Cain’s ques­tions (5:05)

Sen­at­or Mc­Cain began with a jab at the very pro­spect of de­lib­er­at­ing over wheth­er to strike, say­ing “it is ri­dicu­lous to think that it is not wise from a mil­it­ary stand­point to ad­vise the en­emy you’re go­ing to at­tack.” To this, Sec­ret­ary Kerry said he didn’t dis­agree. But he said, re­gard­less, that leaks to news­pa­pers already gave the As­sad re­gime word of a pos­sible at­tacks.

Mc­Cain later asked about the con­sequences of re­ject­ing the res­ol­u­tion. “Doesn’t it send a ser­i­ously bad mes­sage to our friends and al­lies, en­cour­age our en­emies and des­pair at our friends, par­tic­u­larly those fight­ing in Syr­ia?” he asked. Kerry re­spon­ded, say­ing this de­cision was cru­cial for all of the United States’ re­la­tion­ships in the re­gion.

I can­not em­phas­ize enough how much they are look­ing to us now, mak­ing judg­ments about us for the long term, and how crit­ic­al the choice we make here will be — not just to the ques­tion of Syr­ia — but to the sup­port we may or may not an­ti­cip­ate in the Mideast peace pro­cess, to the fu­ture of Egypt, to the trans­form­a­tion of the Middle East, to the sta­bil­ity of the re­gion and oth­er in­terest that we have.

There is no way to sep­ar­ate one thing from all of the rest. Re­la­tion­ships are re­la­tion­ships. They are in­teg­rated and that is why this is so im­port­ant.

Why Wait on Con­gress for a Strike? (4:52)

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz., took is­sue with why the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion would wait for a strike, and burn time on a strike by go­ing to Con­gress for au­thor­iz­a­tion. In re­sponse, Sec­ret­ary Kerry said that “it’s some­what sur­pris­ing to me that a mem­ber of Con­gress…is go­ing to ques­tion the pres­id­ent ful­filling the vis­ion of the Found­ing Fath­ers” by go­ing to Con­gress. Kerry said that “we’re not los­ing any­thing by wait­ing, and I per­son­ally think there are ad­vant­ages.” Those ad­vant­ages, as Kerry sees them, in­clude be­ing able to con­sult Con­gress and get sup­port from the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity. Kerry em­phas­ized that wait­ing and go­ing to Con­gress doesn’t hurt the mis­sion to de­grade As­sad’s chem­ic­al weapons sys­tems.

Kerry did, however, say that he be­lieved that if there was to be an­oth­er chem­ic­al at­tack, he thinks that the cur­rent pro­cess would be sped up.

How Many Op­pos­i­tion Fight­ers Are There in Syr­ia?

When pressed by Sen. Ron John­son, R-Wis., Sec­ret­ary John Kerry gave some es­tim­ated num­bers about op­pos­i­tion fight­ers in Syr­ia. There are “up to 100,000” people “in total op­pos­i­tion, “tens of thou­sands” of which are “op­er­at­ive, act­ive com­batants,” Kerry said. In terms of ex­trem­ists, like mil­it­ants tied to al-Nusra, Kerry said the num­bers were “ac­tu­ally lower than former ex­pect­a­tions,” and that the Syr­i­an people want to re­main sec­u­lar, as they have been his­tor­ic­ally.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio: Bashar al-As­sad Is “An Anti-Amer­ic­an Sup­port­er of Ter­ror­ism”

Marco Ru­bio, in his open­ing ques­tions/state­ment bashed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for “lead­ing from be­hind” on Syr­ia and not tak­ing stronger ac­tion earli­er. The sen­at­or said “this is what hap­pens when we ig­nore the world…[prob­lems] only get worse and more dif­fi­cult to solve.”

Ru­bio also warned that if the U.S. doesn’t take more ac­tion in the world, there may be “an Egyp­tian bomb” one day.

John Kerry: “Boots on the Ground” May or May Not Be On a Table

In re­sponse to a ques­tion from Sen. Men­en­dez, Sec­ret­ary Kerry got a bit dizzy­ing on wheth­er or not the U.S. would rule out put­ting troops on the ground in Syr­ia: 

I think the pres­id­ent will give you every as­sur­ance in the world, as am I, as is the sec­ret­ary of de­fense and the chair­man, but in the event Syr­ia im­ploded, for in­stance, or in the event there was a threat of a chem­ic­al weapons cache fall­ing in­to the hands of some­body else and it was clearly in the in­terest of our al­lies and all of us, the Brit­ish, the French, and oth­ers, to pre­vent those weapons of mass de­struc­tion fall­ing in­to the hands of the worst ele­ments, I don’t want to take off the table an op­tion that might or might not be avail­able to a pres­id­ent of the United States to se­cure our coun­try.

Sen. Bob Cork­er called the an­swer on boots-on-the-ground “not very ap­pro­pri­ate.” In re­sponse to that, Kerry said “let’s shut that door now,” say­ing that he was only rais­ing a hy­po­thet­ic­al.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Hagel: “The Risk of Chem­ic­al Weapons Pro­lier­a­tion Poses a Dir­ect Threat”

In his pre­pared testi­mony, De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said that Syr­ia’s use of chem­ic­al weapons could spill over to oth­er coun­tries in the re­gion, and pave the way for groups like Hezbol­lah to use them. He said:

The Syr­i­an re­gime’s use of chem­ic­al weapons poses grave risks to our friends and part­ners along Syr­ia’s bor­ders ““in­clud­ing Is­rael, Jordan, Tur­key, Le­ban­on and Ir­aq. If As­sad is pre­pared to use chem­ic­al weapons against his own people, we have to be con­cerned that ter­ror­ist groups like Hezbol­lah, which has forces in Syr­ia sup­port­ing the As­sad re­gime, could ac­quire them. This risk of chem­ic­al weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion poses a dir­ect threat to our friends and part­ners, and to U.S. per­son­nel in the re­gion. We can­not af­ford for Hezbol­lah or any ter­ror­ist group de­term­ined to strike the United States to have in­cent­ives to ac­quire or use chem­ic­al weapons.

Sec­ret­ary of State Kerry: “Only the Most Will­ful De­sire to Avoid Real­ity Can As­sert…That the Re­gime Did Not Do It.” 

In his open­ing re­marks, Sec­ret­ary John Kerry con­tin­ued his verbal as­sault on Syr­ia’s Bashar al-As­sad, call­ing him a “dic­tat­or.” He said:

We’re here, be­cause against mul­tiple warn­ings from the pres­id­ent of the United States, from the Con­gress, from our friends and al­lies around the world, even from Rus­sia and Ir­an, the As­sad re­gime, and only un­deni­ably the As­sad re­gime, un­leashed an out­rageous chem­ic­al at­tack against his own cit­izens.

Kerry also as­ser­ted that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has “un­deni­able” evid­ence that the As­sad re­gime was be­hind the chem­ic­al at­tacks. “We know these things bey­ond a reas­on­able doubt that is the stand­ard by which we send people to jail for the rest of their lives,” he said. “This de­bate is about the world’s red line. It’s about hu­man­ity’s red line.”

“Let me be clear. Pres­id­ent Obama is not ask­ing Amer­ica to go to war,” Kerry said. There will be no boots on the ground, he said. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to the sec­ret­ary of state, is just look­ing for a way to de­ter the use of chem­ic­al weapons by the As­sad re­gime. 

The sec­ret­ary didn’t shy away from the com­par­is­ons some are mak­ing to the au­thor­iz­a­tion of force in Ir­aq. Kerry told the com­mit­tee that the ad­min­is­tra­tion did not want to re­peat a Con­gres­sion­al vote based on “faulty” in­tel­li­gence, and that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clas­si­fied an “un­pre­ced­en­ted amount” of in­form­a­tion. 

Kerry voted yes for the use of force in 2003. Which he later said was a mis­take.

Sen. Bob Men­en­dez: “The World Can­not Ig­nore the In­hu­man­ity and Hor­ror of This Act”

Sen. Bob Men­en­dez, the chair­man of the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said on Tues­day that he will sup­port a res­ol­u­tion that will give Pres­id­ent Obama the au­thor­ity to strike Syr­ia fol­low­ing al­leged chem­ic­als weapons use.

Men­en­dez, who voted against the war in the Ir­aq and has been in fa­vor of the draw­down of troops in Afgh­anistan, said, “The world can­not ig­nore the in­hu­man­ity and hor­ror of this act,” af­firm­ing that he would sup­port “the use of mil­it­ary force in the face of this hor­rif­ic crime against hu­man­ity.”

“The de­cision rests with us,” the New Jer­sey Demo­crat said in his open­ing state­ment on Tues­day. “It is not polit­ic­al. It is a policy de­cision that must be based on what we be­lieve is in the na­tion­al se­cur­ity in­terest of the United States.”

In his open­ing state­ment, Sen. Bob Cork­er, the rank­ing Re­pub­lic­an on the Sen­ate com­mit­tee, asked for the wit­nesses to bring “clar­ity” to the situ­ation in Syr­ia, and spe­cific­ally pushed on how the U.S. plans to help the Syr­i­an op­pos­i­tion.

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry and De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel are set to testi­fy be­fore the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee in the com­ing minutes. More to come.

Poll: Amer­ic­ans Still Largely Op­pose a Strike

Amer­ic­ans do not agree with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ar­gu­ment that a mil­it­ary strike on Syr­ia is in the best in­terest of the United States.

Ac­cord­ing to sep­ar­ate polling from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter (48 per­cent to 29 per­cent) and from the Wash­ing­ton Postand ABC News (59 per­cent to 36 per­cent) show that the Amer­ic­an people op­pose a strike on Syr­ia in re­tali­ation for al­leged use of chem­ic­al weapons. The lat­ter poll shows that sup­port for a strike dra­mat­ic­ally rises to 46 per­cent if the U.S. were to strike with the sup­port of oth­er in­ter­na­tion­al al­lies, like the Brit­ish or the French. Ad­di­tion­ally, op­pos­i­tion to arm­ing rebel fight­ers re­mains high, sit­ting at 70 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to The Post/ABC poll.

As­sad Us­ing Hu­man Shields, Mov­ing Weapons in An­ti­cip­a­tion of At­tack:

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad is hid­ing mil­it­ary equip­ment and re­mov­ing troops in­to ci­vil­ian areas ahead of a po­ten­tial re­mote strike by U.S. mil­it­ary, the AP re­ports:

The main West­ern-backed op­pos­i­tion group says that dur­ing the buildup last week to what seemed like an im­min­ent U.S. at­tack, the army moved troops as well as rock­et launch­ers, ar­til­lery and oth­er heavy weapons in­to res­id­en­tial neigh­bor­hoods in cit­ies na­tion­wide. Three Dam­as­cus res­id­ents, speak­ing on con­di­tion of an­onym­ity for fear of re­pris­als, con­firmed such move­ments.

A U.S. of­fi­cial con­firmed there are in­dic­a­tions that the Syr­i­an re­gime is tak­ing steps to move some of its mil­it­ary equip­ment and bol­ster pro­tec­tion for de­fense fa­cil­it­ies.

Nancy Pelosi: Use of Force ‘Is In Our Na­tion­al In­terest”

The House Minor­ity lead­er sent a let­ter to con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats Tues­day af­ter­noon, call­ing the pre­ven­tion of chem­ic­al weapons use “a core pil­lar of our na­tion­al se­cur­ity.” You can read the full let­ter here.

Big Names in Con­gress Still Not Con­vinced

Tues­day morn­ing with sup­port from Speak­er Boehner and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Can­tor, but they still don’t have a full GOP lead­er­ship sweep.

House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy, R-Cal­if., said that he’s not “there yet” on a de­cision on Syr­ia. He did say that the White House meet­ing was “very pro­duct­ive,” but that he still has “some con­cerns and ques­tions that I need answered.”

Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., did not speak with oth­er Con­gres­sion­al lead­ers fol­low­ing the White House meet­ing. After the meet­ing, the sen­at­or is­sued a brief, non-com­mit­tal state­ment:

I ap­pre­ci­ate the Pres­id­ent’s brief­ing today at the White House and would en­cour­age him to con­tin­ue up­dat­ing the Amer­ic­an people. While we are learn­ing more about his plans, Con­gress and our con­stitu­ents would all be­ne­fit from know­ing more about what it is he thinks needs to be done — and can be ac­com­plished — in Syr­ia and the re­gion.

The oth­er sen­at­or from Ken­tucky, Rand Paul, is a prob­able no vote.

Ma­jor Re­pub­lic­ans aren’t the only mem­bers of Con­gress on the fence. Reps. Chris Van Hol­len, D-Md., and Ger­ald Con­nolly, D-Va., said on Tues­day they would draft new lan­guage that would put lim­its on the pres­id­ent’s abil­ity to strike Syr­ia, say­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ori­gin­al res­ol­u­tion was left too open, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports. Dur­ing a Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing on Tues­day, Chair­man Bob Men­en­dez, D-N.J., and oth­er sen­at­ors also said there should be fur­ther lim­its on Obama, which would re­quire new lan­guage.

On the oth­er hand, Rep. Steny Hoy­er, the House Demo­crat­ic whip, gave strong sup­port Tues­day:

While re­cog­niz­ing that the de­tails of the au­thor­iz­a­tion lan­guage have yet to be fi­nal­ized, the use of chem­ic­al weapons, in­clud­ing against in­no­cent chil­dren, is in­tol­er­able and can­not go un­answered.

Look­ing to Con­stitu­ents for An­swers

As Wash­ing­ton gears up for the big af­ter­noon hear­ing, mem­bers of Con­gress, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., are gauging the opin­ions of their con­stitu­ents about a pos­sible U.S. mil­it­ary strike. Fol­low­ing a clas­si­fied brief­ing with ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials on Sunday, Amash re­mained un­swayed. The people with­in his dis­trict, he says in a mes­sage to House GOP lead­er­ship, widely dis­agree with Obama’s plan to seek con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al for an at­tack.

.@Speak­er­Boehner @GOPLead­er I just fin­ished 2nd stop of 11 to listen to con­stitu­ents on #Syr­ia. Al­most un­an­im­ous op­pos­i­tion to U.S. strikes.

— Justin Amash (@repjusti­n­amash) Septem­ber 3, 2013

Amash’s re­ports from his tour jibe with re­cent sur­veys of the gen­er­al pub­lic on Syr­ia. Ac­cord­ing to a Re­u­ters/Ipsos poll from last month, 60 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans sur­veyed said the coun­try should not in­ter­vene in Syr­ia, while 9 per­cent said Pres­id­ent Obama should take ac­tion. However, in a CNN/ORC poll this spring, 66 per­cent said the U.S. would be “jus­ti­fied” in us­ing mil­it­ary force if the ad­min­is­tra­tion presen­ted con­vin­cing evid­ence that the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment used chem­ic­al weapons on its cit­izens.

In an NBC poll con­duc­ted at the end of Au­gust, just 50 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans sup­por­ted a mis­sile strike. That’s more sup­port than Rep. Amash is see­ing among his con­stitu­ents, but it’s hardly a strong pub­lic call for ac­tion.

CNN: Sen. Harry Re­id “Con­fid­ent” Sen­ate Will Pass Au­thor­iz­a­tion

This is ac­cord­ing to a tweet from Dana Bash:

Just in: source fa­mil­i­ar with @Sen­Harry­Reid think­ing tells cnn he is con­fid­ent Syr­ia au­thor­iz­a­tion will pass the sen­ate.

— Dana Bash (@Dana­Bash­CNN) Septem­ber 3, 2013

The Tues­day Morn­ing White House Meet­ing

The White House man­aged to get a strong wave of sup­port for the au­thor­iz­a­tion of force in Syr­ia fol­low­ing meet­ings at the White House this morn­ing. Some of those re­ac­tions are be­low.

Amer­ic­ans, by a large ma­jor­ity, be­lieve that the pres­id­ent should be re­quired to seek ap­prov­al from Con­gress be­fore launch­ing a strike, which is the path that the pres­id­ent has de­cided to take. But it’s not like Amer­ic­ans are cur­rently in­clined to just agree with whatever Con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship says. Con­gress, after all, as an ap­prov­al rat­ing of just 14 per­cent in a re­cent Gal­lup poll

Pres­id­ent Obama: “We Will Be Stronger If We Take Ac­tion To­geth­er.”

Video of the pres­id­ent’s state­ment from this morn­ing’s White House meet­ing on Syr­ia.

The pres­id­ent also got some un­usu­al sup­port away from Con­gress:

With ut­most firm­ness I con­demn the use of chem­ic­al weapons.

— Pope Fran­cis (@Pon­ti­fex) Septem­ber 3, 2013

Boehner: “I’m Go­ing to Sup­port the Pres­id­ent’s Call for Ac­tion” 

After a meet­ing at the White House with Pres­id­ent Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and oth­er con­gres­sion­al lead­ers, Speak­er Boehner told re­port­ers that “I be­lieve my col­leagues should sup­port the pres­id­ent’s call for ac­tion.” Boehner said that the use of chem­ic­al weapons in Syr­ia “is not to be tol­er­ated” and has to be “re­spon­ded to.”

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., tweeted his sup­port:

I in­tend to vote to provide the Pres­id­ent of the United States the op­tion to use mil­it­ary force in Syr­ia. ht­tp://t.co/kS­B9k­FlY­OV

— Eric Can­tor (@GOPLead­er) Septem­ber 3, 2013

Can­tor’s sup­port is ob­vi­ously cru­cial to Boehner, help­ing to present a uni­fied front in Re­pub­lic­an House lead­er­ship be­fore a vote that could be a ma­jor test of the speak­er’s lead­er­ship.

Can­tor’s back­ing could also play a ma­jor role in mov­ing Re­pub­lic­an votes. After all, Boehner’s ad­vocacy hasn’t al­ways been a sure path to votes. His threats to strip Con­gress mem­bers’ com­mit­tee as­sign­ments couldn’t save a stop­gap spend­ing bill in late 2011, which fell through due to a lack of Re­pub­lic­an sup­port. This sum­mer, Boehner couldn’t pull to­geth­er enough votes to pass a farm bill due to Tea Party op­pos­i­tion. Tea Party forces have been dom­in­at­ing the budget con­ver­sa­tion in the House this year, and will likely fight Boehner on Syr­ia.

House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi: “The In­tel­li­gence is Clear that As­sad Per­pet­rated This At­tack of Us­ing Weapons of Mass De­struc­tion.”

Rep. Pelosi, D-Cal­if., came out in sup­port for the au­thor­iz­a­tion of force fol­low­ing the White House meet­ing. “Pres­id­ent Obama did no draw the red line” on chem­ic­al weapons, Pelosi said. “Hu­man­ity drew it dec­ades ago.”

She con­cluded: “This is be­ha­vi­or out­side the circle of civ­il­ized hu­man be­ha­vi­or. And we must re­spond.”

Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein: This Meet­ing “One of the Best I’ve Ever Been To.”

After the Con­gres­sion­al meet­ing at the White House, Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, D-Cal­if., said that the “dis­cus­sion was ap­pro­pri­ate” and that “my hope is that mem­bers left this meet­ing with a great sense of pur­pose “— to get an au­thor­iz­a­tion of force passed in both houses of Con­gress. Fol­low­ing Fein­stein, Rep. Dutch Rup­pers­ber­ger, D-Md., called the meet­ing the “most ef­fect­ive bi­par­tis­an meet­ing since I’ve been in Con­gress.” 

Rep. Rup­pers­ber­ger has been in Con­gress since 2003.

Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden Will Be Stick­ing Around D.C.

The vice pres­id­ent is put­ting off a sched­uled trip to Flor­ida this week to fo­cus on Syr­ia and help the White House’s push for con­gres­sion­al au­thor­iz­a­tion. Pres­id­ent Obama, mean­while, leaves Wash­ing­ton Tues­day night for a trip to Sweden, and then Rus­sia for the G20 sum­mit.

This isn’t the first time Biden has been set-up for a key role on an is­sue close to the White House. It hasn’t al­ways worked.

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Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

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