Jim Dorian/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama used a celebration of Mexico’s military victory over the French in 1862 – “one of the great David vs Goliath stories in history” – to reaffirm ties between North American neighbors and reiterate his desire for Congress to get comprehensive immigration reform passed.
“Part of the way we reaffirm it is to reaffirm our commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, because that's who we are as a country. The story of America is a dynamic story. So we're not just going to stop now suddenly and forget everything that helped to build this country,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House, as guests munched on tuna ceviche, grilled yellowtail snapper tacos with cilantro slaw and cinnamon churros with chocolate sauce."
“Congress still needs to step up and ultimately pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said to applause.
“I know that it's so challenging when you know the right thing to do, and there are folks blocking your way, and obstacles in your path. But I just want to remind everybody that progress is not always a straight line,” he said, without listing who the “folks blocking the way” are.
Among the guests were a few notable Hispanic-Americans including HUD Secretary Julian Castro, actress Diane Guerrero of Orange is the New Black and actor Jaime Camil of Jane the Virgin.
Scott Olson/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- She is the presumed favorite of Latino voters and, Tuesday in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton doubled down on what is seen as a gateway issue for that voting bloc.
She laid out her plan for comprehensive immigration reform at a campaign event—including a pathway to citizenship, willingness to take executive action, and reforming detention programs.
At a campaign event on Tuesday, her third since announcing she's running for president, Clinton made immigration reform a defining issue, and on Cinco de Mayo, no less.
Latino leaders consulting her campaign have told ABC News that Clinton is looking for a way to clearly contrast herself with Republican presidential candidates by embracing the full path to citizenship rather than proposing a second class of Americans who can work in the United States but not enjoy the protection of citizenship.
Clinton made the argument that comprehensive immigration reform “strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country.”
“That's why we can't wait any longer. We can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship," she said.
Clinton also took an aggressive stance against Republicans.
“Now this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side,” she said. “Make no mistakes. Today not a single Republican candidate - announced or potential - is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one.”
“When they talk about ‘legal status’ that is code for second-class status,” she added.
She added that her time as Secretary of State showed her the difference of countries that include “second-class status.”
“They never feel they belong or have allegiance…that is a recipe for divisiveness and even disintegration… we are a nation of immigrants,” she said. “Those who say, we can do reform but not a path to citizenship, would be fundamentally undermining what has made American unique… not just in my view the right thing to do for America, if you compare us to other countries.”
And while she said she was unsure if it would be among her first moves if elected president, she did say it would be a priority.
Clinton, speaking at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, where 70 percent of students are Hispanic added that if no action taken, she wouldn’t be adverse to executive authority.
“I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship,” she said. “I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive action that would put dreamers with us today at risk of deportation. If congress refuses to act, as president I would do everything under the law to go even further.”
Last November, President Obama chose a Las Vegas high school to lay out his plans for immigration reform.
Clinton also promised to extend the DREAMer program to undocumented parents of children born in the United States (as President Obama's proposed DAPA program would do) and responded to pushes by immigrant groups to expand protections to parents of DREAMers.
“We have a lot of these blended families,” she said. “I want to do more to make sure that DACA and DAPA and all of the changes that have occurred continue and would like to try to do more on behalf of the parents of dreamers who are not necessarily included.”
She also outlined support for reforms to the detention process currently in place.
“I don’t think we should put children and vulnerable people into the detention facilities bc I think they are at risk—their physical and mental health are at risk,” she said.
She also outlined her support for president Obama’s executive actions and her desire to support his reforms and “then still try and go further”—including family reunification, a desire of many immigrant activists groups.
“Reunification should be one of our goals in comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “In absence of finally passing comprehensive immigration reform a lot of families have been broken up.”
While Clinton has tweeted her support for President Obama's expanded DACA and DAPA programs, activists have wanted her to take it further. Last fall, Clinton was largely silent on the issue. When asked about the by DREAMers in September about the president's use of executive authority to push immigration reform, she replied, "Elect more Democrats." While Clinton is believed to be ahead in the Hispanic vote -- she won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 primary -- Latino groups will be listening today for a timetable for implementation of these changes. President Obama has been faulted with moving too slowly during his first term when he had a Democratic majority and failed to pass immigration reform.
Latino groups also say they will listen for consistency in Clinton's campaign, concerned that what happens in Vegas Tuesday on immigration doesn't just stay in Vegas but is also promised in Iowa and other primary states.
US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- When the Pentagon released a new report last Friday detailing what one top official described as “meaningful progress” in combating the military’s sexual assault epidemic, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was preparing to release a report of her own.
It might as well have been titled, “Not So Fast.”
In a press conference last week, the Pentagon announced a new military-wide survey had estimated the number of sexual assaults dropped from 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact in 2012 to 20,000 in 2014.
Gillibrand, D-NY, said in an interview with ABC News that the Pentagon is distorting the actual numbers of sexual assaults because it doesn’t measure the rates of service members who sexually assault spouses or civilians.
“When they’re talking about the problem of 20,000 sexual assaults a year, that doesn’t encompass this population,” Gillibrand said. “To declare victory by saying prevalence rates have gone down and reporting has gone up distorts the picture.”
In her own independent investigation, Gillibrand found more than half of 107 cases she examined involved civilian women living near military communities and non-military spouses of service members.
“The fact that we just drilled down on 107 cases, just picked one year in the four largest bases, to have to pieces of information that are relatively new to this discussion is what created a massive red flag for me,” Gillibrand said.
The Pentagon acknowledges that although it’s not able to survey the entire civilian population, it did receive reports of 745 alleged sexual assaults on civilians in and around military communities last year.
Department of Defense spokesperson Laura Seal challenged Gillibrand’s assertion, telling ABC News “federal surveys have found that the prevalence of sexual assault for non-DoD civilian women is statistically the same for military women and female spouses of military members.”
Gillibrand began her own investigation in February of 2014 by requesting case files relating to sexual assault and misconduct from the largest bases for each military service for the past five years.
She said despite requests on her behalf from President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel she was only given 107 redacted case files from 2013. She reached a deal with the Department of Defense after then-Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, who had subpoena power, called the DoD and said “you must give her these files.”
Seal told ABC News the department is “committed to working with members of Congress to provide information.”
“Because of the scope of Senator Gillibrand's original request, she and the Department came to an agreement to provide a subset of the documents originally requested,” Seal said.
Gillibrand said she was glad to get the files she could, but it didn’t satisfy her request.
“I’m going to keep asking until a civilian review panel is up and running and doing this job for me,” Gillibrand said. “Because they’re clearly failing. There’s no faith in the system that justice is possible.”
The Pentagon’s own annual report Friday to Congress showed there were 6,131 sexual assault cases filed last year, a 70-percent increase from 2012. However the Pentagon stressed its belief that this was due to more confidence in the justice system, and noted estimates that the actual number of sexual assaults occurring in the military has dropped.
Attorney Susan Burke, a leading advocate for reform in how the military handles sexual assault who was featured in the Emmy-winning documentary The Invisible War, said it suggests the military is purposely hiding the facts.
“What we’re seeing is the same set of patterns applies whether or not you’re dealing with service member or civilian victims,” Burke told ABC News. “That pattern is one of failure to properly investigate, a failure to bring to court-martial, rampant retaliation and a failure to get convictions.”
Gillibrand said the Pentagon not being able to survey civilian populations is “understandable.”
However, she added, “If you're writing a report to the president saying, ‘We only had 20,000 rapes last year and there's more reporting, we are making a difference,’ that really misstates the truth that's happening.”
Image Source Pink/Image Source/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate passed the GOP budget conference report to balance the budget over the next decade with a vote of 51 to 48 Tuesday night.
The House passed the budget last week, but it is non-binding and will not go to President Obama for his signature. Instead, it will act as a blueprint for appropriations bills that will set spending levels for agencies and departments later this year
The plan balances the budget in nine years by cutting more than $5 trillion in spending. But it also increases defense spending by $40 billion next year – a nod to military hawks who want more spending - and repeals President Obama’s signature healthcare law.
The passage fulfills a Republican campaign promise to pass a balanced budget in the new majority.
“The new Republican majority came and opened up the process, exhibited a determination to return to regular order, and so we have a major achievement today,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, said.
But Democrats oppose the measure for its cuts to programs like Medicaid and food stamps and lowering tax breaks for the poor.
“Anyone who takes an objective look at this Republican budget can do nothing else but conclude that this is an absolute disaster for the working people of this country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee and a 2016 presidential candidate, said.
“If they like this budget so much, why don't they bring their appropriation bills forward, modeled after their budget? No one would vote for that, even Republicans,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said. “I am disappointed that they've come with the budget they have. It's bad for the American people and certainly it sends a -- really a negative image of the Republican Party.”
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House described the Texas shooting on Tuesday outside an exhibit of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an “attempted terrorist attack,” but would not say whether ISIS was responsible.
“I can't speak to what happened in this particular situation, because it's still under investigation,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when asked if ISIS has now come to the U.S.
“What we do know is we know that there are extremists around the globe, including some who are affiliated with ISIL, who are trying to capitalize on the opportunity that's presented by social media to try to communicate with individuals around the world, including inside the United States,” he said.
Earnest said the White House is “mindful” of the threats posed by foreign fighters as well as efforts to use social media to “radicalize individuals and inspire them to carry out acts of violence.”
Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Tuesday nominated the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"I've had a chance to work with him. I've been extraordinarily impressed by Joe. From the Situation Room, where he helped to shape our enduring commitment to Afghanistan to my visit last year to Bagram, where I saw his leadership first hand. I know Joe. I trust him," Obama said of Dunford, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The president said the general is "one of the most admired officers in our military."
"He's one of our military's most highly regarded strategic thinkers. He's known and respected by our allies, by members of Congress on both sides of the aisles and by colleagues across our government," Obama said, speaking at the Rose Garden.
The Senate still needs to approve the nomination. If confirmed, Dunford will succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs ends on Sept. 30.
Dempsey plans to retire after serving four years in the post.
Facebook(WASHINGTON) -- In a message posted on the White House’s Facebook page Tuesday, President Obama said he was “heartbroken” by the death of Dave Goldberg, the Silicon Valley technology executive and husband of Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg.
“He was generous and kind with everybody, and cared less about the limelight than making sure that the people he worked with and loved succeeded in whatever they did,” Obama said in the message, which was signed “-bo,” indicating that the president wrote it himself.
Sandberg responded to the post on Facebook saying: “Thank you President Barack Obama for this beautiful tribute – and for your friendship to our family. Dave Goldberg admired you for your leadership, passion, and your deep love of sports.”
Sandberg's boss, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, also commented on the post: “Thank you for this beautiful tribute.”
Goldberg, the CEO of Survey Monkey, was found lying next to a treadmill last Friday at a hotel gym near Puerto Vallarta. His brother, Robert, found Goldberg’s body, according to the attorney general for the Mexican state of Nayarit.
His brother said Goldberg had fallen and hit the back of his head while running. He was alive when his brother found him, but later died from his injuries.
ABC News(HOPE, Ark.) — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced Tuesday he is running for president in 2016, launching his second bid for the White House before a full concert hall in his hometown.
"It seems perfectly fitting that it would be here that I announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America,” he told the crowd.
His launch event played up his small-town upbringing in Hope, better known as Bill Clinton's hometown. Screens onstage read "Hope to Higher Ground" (Clinton's 1992 campaign dubbed Clinton "The Man from Hope").
Huckabee's wife, Janet, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke before Huckabee. Also, Tony Orlando serenaded the crowd, calling Huckabee "the most trusted man I've ever met in my life."
Huckabee previously ran for president in 2008, when he won the Iowa caucuses, but ultimately lost the nomination.
State Dept photo(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- John Kerry became the first U.S. secretary of state to ever visit Somalia on Tuesday.
Kerry landed in the capital Mogadishu, where he met with government and civil society leaders.
"Visited #Somalia earlier today – honored to be first U.S. #SecState to do so. Met with government & civil society leaders there," he tweeted Tuesday.
According to a preview of his visit from the State Department, Kerry traveled to the Eastern African country to "reinforce the United States' commitment to supporting Somalia’s ongoing transition to a peaceful democracy."
"The U.S. remains committed to supporting #Somalia’s ongoing transition to a peaceful democracy," he wrote on Twitter.
John Paul Filo/CBS(NEW YORK) — President Obama has an idea of how he'll occupy his time once he leaves office, and it includes some fun and games with David Letterman.
Making his eighth and final appearance on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman Monday night, Obama joked to the retiring host, "I was thinking you and me, we could play some dominoes together. We can go to the local Starbucks, swap stories."
The president offered some kind words to Letterman, whose final Late Show will air on May 20. He said, "We've grown up with you. The country I think has, after a tough day at the office, coming home from work, knowing you've been there to give us a little bit of joy, a little bit of laughter, it has meant so much, and you're part of all of us."
"You've given us a great gift and we love you," Obama concluded.
In turn, Letterman told Obama he was funny at the recent White House Correspondents Dinner, and asked him if his material was written for him. Obama quipped, "No. I came up with it all myself."
There were some serious moments during the interview, too. Obama addressed the Baltimore riots and the six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. He commented, "Those officers who have been charged, they deserve to be represented and to let the legal system work its way through. We don't have all the facts yet and that's going to be presented in a court of law."
When Letterman asked if racism is still a factor in this country, Obama said there was a "buildup" in American history, with slavery, Jim Crow laws and discrimination. However, he noted that society has made extraordinary strides, adding, "I'm a testament to that."
Obama mentioned that once his second term ends, he and first lady Michelle Obama, who appeared on Late Show last week, hope to continue to help military families and work on issues such as climate change.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) — A year after announcing his $200 million "My Brother's Keeper" initiative to empower young African-American and Hispanic men, President Obama Monday talked about the next phase of the project at Lehman College in the Bronx called My Brothers' Keeper Alliance.
He explained that it's a new non-profit organization of private sector organizations and companies that have committed themselves to continue the work of opening doors for young people.
Obama said celebrities, athletes, companies and former government officials are getting on board with the plan that intends to help young men in a variety of ways that includes school work, life skills and becoming responsible citizens.
The president acknowledged, "There's no shortage of people telling you who and what is to blame for the plight of these communities. But I'm not interested in blame, I'm interested in responsibility and I'm interested in results."
Speaking of recent incidents involving conflicts between African-Americans and law enforcement authorities, Obama claimed that one of the important ways to improve police community relations is to give young men of color more opportunities.
Photo by Jeff Haynes/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Air Force One is one of the most iconic symbols of the American presidency. But as a flying monument tasked with transporting the commander-in-chief, it is also one of the most vulnerable targets.
“Every movie, they go after Air Force One,” co-pilot Lt. Col. Tom O'Boyle joked with ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl during an interview in the rarely-seen cockpit of Air Force One. “Whether it's a TV show or it's Iron Man, they're always trying to blow up Air Force One, which is a little concern to me because this is my day-to-day job, but in the real world he is very well protected."
The secrets of the recognizable blue-and-white Boeing 747 plane -- heavily modified by the military to be strong enough to function as an airborne bunker for the nation’s commander-in-chief while also providing the ultimate comforts fit for the traveling White House -- are closely guarded by a specially trained Air Force unit tasked with its operation and protection.
As the plane marks 25 years of flying presidents, ABC News was granted an exclusive nose-to-tail tour of the plane and its super-secure hangar -- fortified behind a military checkpoint and two layers of fencing within the boundaries of the already-secure Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington, D.C.
In a briefing to prepare for the plane’s 393rd mission on Monday, a simple flight to New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport and back, every detail and possible interference -- down to the precise location of construction and alternative taxiing routes--– is accounted for ahead of time.
“Every day is not only game day, but it's the Super Bowl,” Air Force One Commander Col. David Banholzer, the 14th presidential pilot in history, told the crew members in the planning meeting. “It doesn't matter if we're on a week-and-a-half trip around the world or just up to JFK out and back, you always have to keep your guard up and anything can happen on any given day.”
But despite all the contingency plans, the plane’s head of security CM Sgt. Daniel Jacobs conceded that the greatest threats are those that are unknown and impossible to fully anticipate.
“When we're parked out on JFK it's a national monument, it's sitting out there for many people to see and it's more vulnerable at that time,” Jacobs said.
The unpredictable nature of protecting the president means that the Air Force team must constantly evolve. With the recent landing of a gyrocopter in the shadow of the Capitol and a drone that crash-landed on the White House grounds earlier this year, Jacobs said his team’s training now includes preparing for drones and other small flying devices that could pose a threat to the president.
“This week we just completed a joint-training exercise with the Secret Service, and we prepare for those exercises and those scenarios,” Jacobs said.
Whether it is a drone or a ground-to-air missile, Air Force One has an impressive array of defensive security measures to make it a flying fortress. Though many details are classified, the plane is equipped with features that allow it to repel airborne missiles and jam enemy radar. The plane also has the ability to stay airborne indefinitely thanks to a feature that makes the plane capable of being refueled mid-flight.
In another respect, Col. Banholzer points out, the flying White House is safer than the one on the ground: It’s a moving target. "The air space around us is always secure, so honestly we have a level of security that isn't afforded to the White House because we're mobile," Banholzer explained.
Though the Air Force has gone to great lengths to make the plane a presidential bunker in the sky, there are some rumored security features that remain the stuff of popular myth.
“There's no escape pod, really?” Karl asked Banholzer, a reference to the popular Harrison Ford movie Air Force One.
“There is no escape pod,” Banholzer said matter-of-factly. “Our take-offs always equal our landings. Sorry to disappoint.”
Escape pod aside, the flying White House comes with a number of other mind-blowing features:
Make that two
Though its title implies that it is one-of-a-kind, there are actually two identical planes that compose “Air Force One.”
Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when then-President George W. Bush was unable to address the nation from Air Force One, the military updated the plane to install video capabilities.
"Immediately after 9/11, we re-modified the airplane and now we have video capability to both do video teleconferences and if we need to, do a broadcast off of the airplane," Banholzer said.
Video is only the most recent update to the plane’s impressive communication abilities, which also include 87 secure telephone lines and high-speed Internet.
Flying emergency room
The plane has a medical annex that can operate as a fully functional operating room in the event of an emergency. The president’s appointed physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, travels with the president whenever he flies and has a well-stocked pharmacy and medical tools at his disposal. On certain trips, there is even an extra supply of the president’s blood type on hand in a special refrigerator along with vaccinations that might not be easily available at the given destination. Stars on the carpet
The president and accompanying passengers enjoy 4,000 square feet of internal space aboard the plane across three decks. The spacious presidential quarters -- which are distinguishable by star-patterned carpet -- includes a living area complete with beds, a private bathroom and shower, a Situation Room, and presidential office. The office is so spacious the president can use a mobile treadmill, kept in the cargo hold but brought up for exercise sessions during long-haul flights.
Taking airplane cuisine to the next level
The president’s plane is equipped with two kitchen galleys capable of serving 100 people with carefully prepared food fit for a president. If the president doesn't like what's on the menu, staff keeps a supply of groceries on hand to prepare whatever he’s craving. Much of the food preparation is done by a dedicated team of Air Force chefs that go on undercover shopping trips to nearby local grocery stores to purchase the president’s food and vacuum-seal the ready-made meals prior to putting them in a secure location aboard the plane’s kitchen galleys. World’s shiniest plane?
Every inch of the president’s mammoth of a plane is waxed by hand by the plane’s maintenance team before each and every mission. It goes without saying that every element of the plane’s engine and operational devices are also hand-checked before take-off.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to testify again before House Benghazi investigators, but her attorney says she only wants to do it once.
Hillary Clinton’s lawyer responded on Monday to a letter from Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, seeking testimony from the former secretary.
While Gowdy wanted Clinton to testify twice on the matter over the coming six weeks, Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, wrote she will stay to answer as many questions as needed, but will not appear twice when “one will suffice.”
“Respectfully, there is no basis, logic, or precedent for such an unusual request,” Kendall writes in the letter. “The Secretary is fully prepared to stay for the duration of the Committee’s questions on the day she appears.”
Kendall also asked the select committee to set a date for Clinton’s testimony the week of May 18, writing, “to answer questions the Committee may have about her email use at the same hearing – whether that be during the week of May 18th or at a later date.”
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials confirmed that President Obama will nominate Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commandant of the Marine Corps, to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who currently commands U.S. Transportation Command, will be nominated to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I can confirm that General Joseph F. Dunford, who is currently serving as Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, will be nominated to serve as the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” said a White House official. “A formal announcement is expected at the White House tomorrow (Tuesday).”
If confirmed by the Senate, Dunford will succeed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs ends on September 30. He plans to retire after serving four years in the post.
Dunford has been Marine commandant since October; prior to that he was the senior U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.
He has experienced a fast-track career over the past decade since commanding the first Marine unit to enter Iraq in the 2003 ground invasion.
Dunford skipped a rank when he was promoted to the three-star rank of lieutenant general from the one-star rank of brigadier general.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the president’s principal military advisor and is often described as the nation’s top military official.