Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- It’s not every day you see this: President Obama sitting down with comedian Zach Galifianakis for his video series, “Between Two Ferns.”
During the interview, Obama is deadpan and the two have a few hilarious exchanges.
“In 2013 you pardoned a turkey. What are you going to do in 2014?” Galifianakis asks Obama.
Obama: “We’ll probably pardon another turkey.”
Galifianakis: ”What is it like to be the last black president?’
Obama: “What is it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?”
Obama razzes Galifinakis about how Bradley Cooper carried those Hangover movies, and suggests the third version didn’t work out too well -- just as a third Obama term would not be satisfying.
The president finally gets around to pitching health care reform for young people, apparently the reason the White House agreed to the six-minute interview.
During the wonky parts about signing up for coverage, the bored-looking Galifinakis asks, “Is this about drones?”
“Between Two Ferns” is recorded in front of a black drape, the chairs set between two ferns. Near the end, Obama reaches out and pushes a red button on the table next to him. The backdrop noisily crashes to the floor, revealing the session is actually being taped in the White House Diplomatic Room. The president feigns irritation that anyone cleared Galifinakis into the White House at all.
A White House spokesman confirmed that the interview with Obama was recorded two weeks ago.
Zoonar/S.Heap/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats kept their promise to stay up all night as they powered through a sleepless night into Tuesday morning to talk about climate change.
The all-night session marked the 36th in Senate history, according to the Senate historian’s office.
Thirty senators were slated to speak into Tuesday morning, with younger members such as Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, taking the shifts in the dead of the night.
In one of the more theatrical moments of the overnight session, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., borrowed a page out of the late-night playbook of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, by reading a passage from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
“Recently, the books of Massachusetts author and national treasure Dr. Seuss have been popular and read on the Senate floor. I wish I had the time to read the entirety of his environmental classic The Lorax,” Markey said late Monday night. “But since there are so many senators who want to talk about the impacts of climate change and the benefits addressing it will bring our country, I will just have to close with this short portion.”
“‘But now says the Once-ler, now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not,’” Markey read. “So to my colleagues here in the Senate and everyone watching and following tonight, thank you for caring a whole awful lot.”
Senate Republicans viewed the all-night session as a political stunt, which Democrats denied.
“It’s probably necessary to have something that’s all night, because you keep saying and I hear it over and over, ‘Climate change is real, it’s real, it’s real,’” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said. “Maybe if you keep saying it’s real, people will believe it.”
“Kind of interesting that this is happening during the cold spell that hasn’t been much fun in Oklahoma,” Inhofe added.
Schatz, the Democrat from Hawaii, said in response, “Pointing out a window on a cold day and laughing about climate change is one of the most profoundly unserious things that otherwise good and responsible leaders in this chamber do.”
The Democrats didn’t promote a specific piece of legislation in their overnight session, but it was intended to serve as a rallying cry for the party on the issue of climate change.
The marathon session also will send a message to big Democratic donors, like California hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who has pledged to spend $100 million in the midterm elections to support candidates who support climate change legislation.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our generation,” Steyer said in a statement that praised Senate Democrats’ efforts overnight.
But Senate Democrats who are in tough re-election races, like Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, notably did not participate in the overnight effort.
Democrats were united in calling out Republicans who deny the effects of climate change.
“Climate Change is real. It’s here,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Monday night. “It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis. For example, the oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress have a valid point of view. They don’t.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “Climate change deniers need to wake up and realize that the scientific diagnosis about warming the planet is real. We need to take action.”
Prior to the start of the all-night talk-a-thon, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., tweeted a photo of the senators’ preparing for the overnight session.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., joked about how the senators would power through the night.
metrokom/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Most Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll support economic sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine -- but only if the United States’ European allies participate.
The result marks a general preference in U.S. attitudes for allied rather than unilateral action on international conflicts. In this case, 56 percent support imposing joint U.S.-EU economic sanctions on Russia. But support for the United States acting alone declines to 40 percent.
Views of Barack Obama’s handling of the situation, for their part, are evenly divided, in line with his recent job approval marks overall. His ratings on the issue, as on others, are highly partisan: Seven in 10 Democrats and six in 10 liberals approve, while three-quarters of Republicans and strong conservatives disapprove.
Obama last week took steps to freeze the assets of Russian individuals and entities tied to the country’s actions in Crimea and to deny U.S. visas to Russian officials involved in the situation. European leaders are meeting this week to consider economic and diplomatic steps; some analysts say they may feel constrained by greater economic ties between Europe and Russia.
This poll, produced by ABC for Langer Research Associates, finds that backing for sanctions falls by similar levels among Republicans, Democrats and independents -- by 16, 17 and 20 points, respectively -- when moving from multilateral to unilateral action. Democrats and Republicans go to an even split, while independents shift from 53 percent in support to 57 percent opposed.
Liberals and moderates also switch from majority support to majority opposition if European allies aren’t on board. Conservatives go from six in 10 in support to evenly divided.
Support for multilateral sanctions is greater among men, younger adults, college graduates and higher-income earners than among their counterparts. In all groups, though, backing for unilateral U.S. sanctions fails to reach a majority.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The rivalry between a couple of Republican Tea Party darlings intensified Monday as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul took a not-so veiled swipe at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in an op-ed published by the conservative Breitbart News.
While not naming names, Paul referenced comments Cruz made at the recently concluded Conservative Political Action Conference in which Cruz talked about emulating the foreign policy successes of the late President Ronald Reagan along with faulting the GOP for nominating who he considers conservative lightweights such as Mitt Romney and John McCain for president.
Paul, who may be seeking the GOP nod for the White House in 2016, wrote, "I will remind anyone who thinks we will win elections by trashing previous Republican nominees or holding oneself out as some paragon in the mold of Reagan, that splintering the party is not the route to victory."
Although the two senators are in synch about domestic issues, particularly regarding cutting government spending and repealing the new health care law, they split on foreign policy. Cruz has said that he disagrees with Paul's more isolationist approach to handling the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Responding to that, Paul wrote in Breitbart News that the party is more in line with him that Russia should be isolated while holding back militarily, adding, "What we don’t need right now is politicians who have never seen war talking tough for the sake of their political careers."
Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Monday passed the military sexual assault bill, 97 to 0, eliminating the "good soldier defense," but keeping any prosecutions of sexual assaults within the chain of command.
This legislation was an alternative to a measure the Senate narrowly blocked last week that sought to strip military commanders of their authority to prosecute sexual assaults.
The “good soldier defense” has been routinely used over the years, with soldiers holding sterling military records less likely to be prosecuted on assault complaints.
“It is not the end of this,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who along with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sponsored the measure.
She said the overwhelming support “shows the bipartisan commitment we have to stopping the scourge” of sexual assault in the military.
Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a prebuttal Monday to the Democrats' all-night talk session, calling the Democrats' climate change position "cruel" because he believes it negatively impacts workers in the coal industry.
“There is a depression in Appalachia. An absolute depression. Families are losing work because of government attacks on the coal industry. Communities are hurting," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "And tonight you’re going to hear 30 hours of excuses from a group of people who think that’s ok. Well it’s not ok. It’s cruel."
“It’s cruel to tell struggling coal families that they can’t have a job because some billionaire from San Francisco disagrees with their line of work," he said.
“My colleagues say they’ll spend the entire night talking about how we need to wake up and take action. I want to challenge them to think about acting in a way that puts these Americans first. And not spend 30 hours pretending like they don’t exist," he said.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Monday honored college athletes from across the country at the White House, saying they embodied the championship spirit on the field and in their communities.
“No matter what sport you play, no matter where you come from, for the rest of your lives every single one of you is going to be able to call yourselves a national champion,” the president told the students, who all won NCAA Division I championships.
“A title like that means not just performing your best when the spotlight is on and the game is under way, but also pushing yourself even harder when nobody is watching… That’s the championship spirit that we’re celebrating today -- not just the trophies in the display case back home, but the drive and the toughness and the teamwork that put them there,” he said at the ceremony on the White House South Lawn.
The athletes represented a wide range of sports, including soccer, volleyball, hockey, lacrosse, fencing, golf and tennis.
The president also praised the students for being role models and giving back to their local communities. “That’s the kind of ethic that shows this is not just about winning. It’s about learning how to lift other people up. That’s what makes a true champion,” he said.
Obama lauded the women’s teams in particular for paving the way for his own two daughters. “There was a time when college women’s athletics was relegated to second status. And all of you here are showing the incredible strides that we’ve made over the last couple of decades,” he noted.
Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats kicked off their all-nighter on climate change Monday night with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying they were “standing up against the deniers.”
“Climate change is real. It’s here,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis. For example, the oil barren Koch brothers and their allies in Congress have a valid point of view. They don’t.”
Reid and other Senate Democrats noted the climate change deniers who serve in Congress and urged their colleagues to take action to stem the impact of climate change.
“Despite overwhelming scientific evidence and overwhelming public opinion, climate change deniers still exist, there’s lot of them. They exist in this country. They exist, I’m sorry to say, in this Congress in the House and in the Senate."
“There is only one major political party in the world that denies…the scientific evidence that points to climate change and the fact that the world we’re living in is changing with extreme weather patterns, is changing the life that we lead, and the future for many generations,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
“Climate change deniers need to wake up and realize that the scientific diagnosis about warming the planet is real. We need to take action,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
“Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by humans and climate change is solvable and we will not rest until Congress wakes up and acts on the most pressing issue of our time," Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said.
The all-night session does not focus on any specific legislation, but serves more as a rallying cry for Democrats on the issue of climate change.
The number of senators participating increased to a total of 30 Senate Democrats, according to Schatz. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., tweeted a photo of the senators preparing for the overnight session.
State Dept photo(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a trip to Moscow that was intended to serve as an opportunity for him to consult on the tension in the Crimea region of Ukraine.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the American proposal on resolving the situation in Ukraine is "not suitable to Russia." Lavrov said that one of the issues Russia takes with the proposal is the wording of a document he was given by Kerry which "suggests there's a conflict between Russia and Ukraine."
In a U.S. State Department response, spokesperson Jen Psaki said that Kerry had made clear the American desire to see a "cessation of Russian military advances in Ukraine," and that the State Department had not yet received a formal response to Kerry's questions.
Kerry will still welcome future discussions on how best to de-escalate the tension, Psaki said, despite the fact that Kerry postponed his trip initially planned for this week. However, the State Department has "clear steps" that they believe the Russians must show before discussions will resume. Psaki said that these unspecified steps would serve as "concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these proposals and discussions in a serious way."
Kerry added that any Russian attempt to spread out or control a larger area of Ukraine "would close any available space for diplomacy."
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Get ready for another all-nighter in the Senate. Twenty-eight Democratic senators are expected to take turns speaking on the Senate floor Monday evening through Tuesday morning, all in the name of climate change.
Led by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., the senators are expected to talk about how climate change is affecting their home states and discuss the need to build momentum behind the issue. The all-night talk-a-thon will begin after votes conclude Monday evening and last until approximately 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday.
Five senators – Whitehouse, Schatz, Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. – are taking the shifts in the dead of the night when most of their Senate colleagues will be tucked away in bed.
And how will the senators keep their energy up during the sleepless night? Schatz will give his colleagues an energy boost by providing kona coffee and macadamia nuts from Hawaii, a spokeswoman for Schatz told ABC News, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will bring bagels to round up her colleagues in the morning.
Many of the senators are part of the “Senate Climate Action Task Force,” which was formed in January to “wake up” Congress about the need to address climate change. Senators will promote their overnight session on social media using the hashtag #Up4Climate.
Office of the Governor, NJ(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have subpoenaed records of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as part of an investigation into the business dealings of authority Chairman David Samson, a key ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The investigation in New York comes on top of a similar probe by feds in New Jersey, who are investigating the September closings of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
A spokeswoman for Samson said on behalf of Samson’s attorney, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff: "We are not commenting on the progress of investigations."
Feds are looking into potential conflicts between Samson's private business interests and his actions as chairman of the Port Authority, which runs the region’s airports, Hudson River crossings and the World Trade Center.
Samson is not paid for his chairmanship role. He was a New Jersey attorney general under then-Gov. Jim McGreevey and ran Christie’s transition in 2009-2010. His firm was counsel to Christie’s campaigns.
iStock/Thinkstock(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- The Connecticut state legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee is mulling over a bill that would prevent theaters from showing any film or trailer that exceeds 85 decibels, about the same noise level as an alarm clock on your night table or the sound of traffic on the street.
By comparison, a blow dryer runs at about 100 decibels and a wailing child hits your ear at about 110 decibels, according to the American Tinnitus Association.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that sound is kept below 85 decibels within a working environment to minimize hearing loss. But that standard only applies to sustained noise levels.
Vans Stevenson, a senior vice president with the Motion Picture Association of America, said his organization is against regulating the sound levels of movies.
“We already have voluntary standards in place at the direction of the National Association of Theater Owners and groups involved in sound technology. Those standards were set for the comfort and safety of patrons and we think further legislation is unnecessary,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson also said that limiting the noise in movies is a First Amendment issue.
“The state would be saying how a movie can be presented and the same standards wouldn’t apply to rock concerts, sporting events or any other sound in the world. That would be discriminatory,” he said.
Stevenson said the voluntary guidelines that movies now follow keep the average sound level in a movie or preview below the 85-decibel threshold but admitted that an explosion or burst of gunfire can briefly exceed the limits.
Such exceptions are the problem, according to William Young, a Stamford resident who pushed for the measure. He said his own tests found that prolonged busts of noise during previews climb as high as 110 decibels.
“Who wants to sit there in pain?” Young said. “These companies shouldn’t subject people to harmful sounds.”
Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, was part of a delegation that introduced the bill to the legislature but said he thought a legal solution might not be the best fix.
“If there are other corrective measures without legislation and it takes care of the problem, that would be the better choice,” he said.
Stevenson of the Motion Picture Association of America said theater owners want their patrons to be happy and safe. And if there was a problem, consumers would be complaining.
If anything, owners hear more requests to turn up the sound, not down, Stevenson said.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- Back in November 2012, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were hoping they’d be riding around in Air Force One and Air Force Two right about now. Instead, they’ve had to settle for the security line at the Jacksonville, Fla., International Airport.
That’s where the former Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees reunited on Sunday.
Ryan had his family in tow: His wife, Janna, and children, Liza, Samuel and Charles. (They were all reportedly on their way home from a private event organized by the conservative American Enterprise Institute this weekend in Sea Island, Ga., according to CNN).
Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama invited Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the White House this week for a discussion of the tension in the Crimea region of Ukraine.
Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken announced the invitation on NBC's Meet the Press. Blinken added that the U.S. would not recognize a referendum that would allow Crimea to become a part of Russia, if the vote occurs as scheduled on March 16.
Yatsenyuk took over as Prime Minister after President Viktor Yanukovych left the city of Kiev during prolonged violent protests.
United States Congress(NEW YORK) -- Sunday morning on This Week, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., warned about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the kinds of things that he will do that he thinks is in Russia’s best interests,” Rogers said on This Week Sunday. “The [Obama] administration thought, ‘Well, if we — you know, if we just act nice, everyone will act nice with us.’ And that’s just, unfortunately, not way that Putin and the Russian Federation sees the rest of the world.”
Rogers noted that Putin is “scoring huge points” back home with his forceful foreign policy, using it to assert himself internationally.
“Domestically, he doesn’t have a lot going on. That’s a problem,” Rogers said. “I do think that he wants to be back on the world stage, he wants to be a world influence. And if he has to do it through brute force, he’s going to do it. That’s his mentality.”
During the interview, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz also asked Rogers about the investigation of Flight MH370, the Malaysia Air flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that has been missing since Saturday, with 239 people on board. Reports have raised concerns that two of the flight’s passengers may traveled with stolen passports.
“Unfortunately, it’s not common, but it is not unheard of, either, that stolen passports can be re-purposed and used, mainly for the quality of the passports themselves. So, given the right circumstances, and in this case clearly it worked, they were able to board and gained entry,” Rogers said.
Rogers described the ongoing international investigation to determine the identity of these two passengers traveling with invalid identification.
“What they’ll do now is they’ll go back through the airport and make a determination through cameras and other means to try to identify the individuals and then track that back,” Rogers said. “So it’s really very, very early. They’re going through those processes now. And it will be just — it will be a matter of time. They’ll probably identify them.”