Pressure Mounting on Paul Ryan to Join Speaker's Race

Former vice presidential nominee, Wisconsin Congressman and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Paul Ryan has already made it clear he has no interest in running for Speaker of the House. Despite Ryan's objection, the pressure is building by the hour for him to get into the race and according to reporting from Capitol Hill this morning, Rep. Jason Chaffetz is willing to drop out should Ryan choose to jump in.

Ryan endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy here at Townhall over the weekend and issued the following statement yesterday when McCarthy withdrew from the race.

“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision. Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” Ryan said. 

At this point, signals and sources are mixed on whether Ryan has changed his mind about running. 

Regardless, as our friends at The Corner point out, Ryan is being dragged kicking and screaming into the chaos.

The only Republican who does not want Paul Ryan to become the next House speaker, it seems, is Paul Ryan. But the former vice-presidential nominee and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee may be changing his mind. After issuing a statement immediately following House majority leader Kevin McCarthy’s withdrawal from the race reiterating that he will not seek the job, multiple sources tell National Review that Ryan is, at the very least, considering a change of heart. 

“I’m told he’ll sleep on it,” says a source close to Ryan. 

Two additional Republican sources say Ryan has in fact already made up his mind to jump in the race.  

Yesterday Speaker John Boehner, who will stay in his position until a new Speaker is elected, said he is confident someone will be chosen as his replacement within the coming weeks.

Brutal: Trey Gowdy Pens Scathing Letter to Top Benghazi Committee Democrat

This story was more or less lost in the noise of yesterday's palace intrigue, but it's too important to simply let lie.  Do yourself a favor and click through to Gowdy's letter before proceeding any further. Read the entire thing. It's extraordinary, on several levels: First, Gowdy summons his prosecutorial vigor to absolutely demolish the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.  Democrats have seized upon erstwhile Speaker-in-waiting Kevin McCarthy's ill-advised comments to try to shut down the panel's probe -- a continuation of their ongoing, partisan efforts to dismiss its focus as a "phony scandal" and to portray the investigation as a political witch hunt.  Gowdy has been unsparing in his rejection of McCarthy's since-abandoned characterization and unflagging in his defense of the committee's work.  In response to Democrat Elijah Cummings' endless attacks and accusations, the South Carolina Republican drops the hammer:

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Cummings, Gowdy continues, has been acting on duties "not to the American public, but to your Democrat colleagues and to the administration, including former Secretary Clinton," adding that he's disappointed in the Democrat's "complete lack of interest in gathering any facts."  Again, read the whole thing. The letter goes on to ridicule Cummings for objecting to the release of some Clinton emails, noting that both Mrs. Clinton and Cummings himself have stated that all of the messages should be made public: "Only in Washington, DC can both the author of the emails and the ranking member of a committee call for the disclosure of all relevant emails and then complain that all relevant emails were disclosed."  To put a finer point on it, Gowdy announces his intention to release another tranche of Hillary's emails pertaining to Benghazi and Libya.  Several excerpts call into question the impartiality of the State Department's internal "Accountability Review Board" Benghazi investigation, but the biggest revelations expose the former Secretary of State's correspondence with Sidney Blumenthal.  Mr. Blumenthal, you may recall, is a Clinton confidante whose ethical reputation is so suspect that the Obama administration barred Hillary from hiring him at State.  But that didn't stop Hillary from relying on Blumenthal as an off-the-books purveyor of unvetted intelligence.  The New York Times reported several months ago that Blumenthal's ongoing relationship with Sec. Clinton was highly unusual: He was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation while feeding Hillary private intel, which was frequently colored by his own separate financial interests.  The new batch of emails contains startling new details, summarized by the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes:

Here's the relevant passage on the CIA asset:

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They exchanged extremely sensitive material between two unsecure servers. Remember, one of the reasons we know that Hillary Clinton did not hand over all work-related emails as claimed is that Blumenthal's emails were hacked.  Mrs. Clinton downplayed her relationship with Blumenthal after the Times story was published, stating that his messages were "unsolicited."  These emails blow all of that out of the water.  Hayes writes, "In a statement accompanying the letter, Gowdy makes some of his strongest accusations to date about the Obama administration's obstruction of the committee's work. 'These messages should have been made public when the State Department released Secretary Clinton’s other self-selected records on Libya and Benghazi, but there was a clear decision at the time to withhold this information from the American people and the Committee.'"  Gowdy alerts Cummings that the committee "plans on releasing these new emails" next week and plans on questioning Mrs. Clinton about their contents on October 22.  Stay tuned.

Citing Failures, Pentagon Scraps Syrian Rebel Training Program

The Obama administration’s ill-conceived and overly ambitious program to train thousands of Syrian rebels against the Islamic State has failed to produce any results. The Pentagon hoped to train over 5,000 fighters this year, yet as of July, they had equipped only 60. Now that the program has proven to be a waste of time and money ($500 million), the Pentagon is ending the effort and replacing it with a seemingly more realistic one. The New York Times reports:

A senior Defense Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that there would no longer be any more recruiting of so-called moderate Syrian rebels to go through training programs in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Instead, a much smaller training center would be set up in Turkey, where a small group of “enablers” — mostly leaders of opposition groups — would be taught operational maneuvers like how to call in airstrikes.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter admitted to Michael Fallon, the UK's secretary of defense, that it was clear fairly early on the program would not meet their standards.

“I wasn’t happy with the early efforts” of the program, Mr. Carter said during a news conference with Mr. Fallon. “So we have devised a number of different approaches.” Mr. Carter added, “I think you’ll be hearing from President Obama very shortly.”

Perhaps Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey is correct in his assessment that this program was the Solyndra of foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton: You Know, The NRA and Iranian Terrorists Are The Same Thing

In an effort to use the recent tragedy at Umpqua Community College to boost her political campaign, Hillary Clinton has been attacking the National Rifle Association for days. Earlier this week, the Democratic presidential candidate went so far as comparing the NRA to Iranian terrorists and communists during a town hall style campaign stop. From The Hill

“You know, the NRA’s position reminds me of negotiating with the Iranians or the communists," Clinton said at an Iowa town hall on Wednesday.

The Democratic primary front-runner accused the nation's largest gun lobby of spreading propaganda to keep its dues-paying constituents paranoid.

“The NRA tries to keep gun owners — the ones who are members — really upset all the time so they can keep collecting their money, because they tell them they’re the only thing that’s going to stop the black helicopters from landing in the front yard and people’s guns being seized,” Clinton said. “That’s the argument they make. And it works with some people and it has turned a lot of people into absolutists themselves.”

A few thoughts: 

1) When Hillary Clinton compares the NRA to the Iranian regime, which is responsible for the murders of hundreds of American citizens around the world, she's comparing Americans here at home to Iranian terrorists. The NRA isn't a boogy man, it's a grassroots organization made up of 5 million law abiding, Second Amendment supporters. Clinton is running for President of the United States, which means she's obligated to represent all Americans. 

2) The NRA, not the anti-gun lobby which Clinton is a part of, has been responsible for getting mental health legislation passed in Congress and signed into law by previous presidents

Since 1966, the National Rifle Association has urged the federal government to address the problem of mental illness and violence. As we noted then, “the time is at hand to seek means by which society can identify, treat and temporarily isolate such individuals,” because “elimination of the instrument by which these crimes are committed cannot arrest the ravages of a psychotic murderer.”[1]

More recently, the NRA has supported legislation to ensure that appropriate records of those who have been judged mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed to mental institutions be made available for use in firearms transfer background checks. The NRA will support any reasonable step to fix America’s broken mental health system without intruding on the constitutional rights of Americans.

Most recently, the NRA got behind new mental health legislation introduced by Texas Senator John Cornyn. Further, the NRA has dedicated millions of dollars and thousands of hours to firearms safety programs in every state across the country.

3) Clinton's anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment rhetoric might work in a far left primary, but it won't work in a general election. The number of Americans who believe gun rights should be protected now outweigh those who believe in new gun control measures.

4) Clinton supports the deal recently struck between the Iranians and the White House, so her comparison makes little sense based on her own arguments and positions. 

5) If guns are the problem, when will Hillary demand her 24/7 security team stop carrying them for her protection?

It's easy to attack the NRA for political reasons, but it's hard to come up with real solutions to violence. I'll leave you with this: 

One Student Dead, Three Injured in Overnight Shooting at Northern Arizona University

One student was killed and three more injured in an overnight shooting at Northern Arizona University Friday morning.

The incident occurred in a parking lot at 1:20 a.m. after an argument outside a dorm, reports Fox News.

The shooter is in custody and the victims are being treated at Flagstaff Medical Center.

Authorities have sent out an active shooter alert on campus.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available. 

Update: The shooter has been identified.

Aww: Little Girl Can't Wait to See Her Soldier Dad

As any parent of a young child knows, sometimes kids just bolt and run away from you. Karis Oglesby, 2, was so excited to see her dad for the first time in eight months that she ran away from her mother and sister to give her dad a hug--in the middle of his homecoming ceremony at Fort Carson.

Oglesby had spent the last eight months with his unit in Kuwait. He told reporters that he's "not going to say no" to giving his daughter a hug when he first saw her running at him. And can you blame him?

Former Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa Considering Bid For House Speaker

In case you missed it yesterday, Republicans in Congress were thrown into complete chaos when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy unexpectedly withdrew his name from the race for Speaker. Now, the race is on to find a replacement for outgoing Speaker John Boehner, who will stay in his current position until a new Speaker is elected.

Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Florida Rep. Daniel Webster are still in the race, but another candidate has emerged for the position. 

During an interview with MSNBC's Morning Joe Friday, former Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who spoke to reporters yesterday immediately after McCarthy made his announcement about exiting the race, revealed he is mulling a bid for Speaker.

"The fact is, yes, I think that I could potentially be a candidate. At the same time, I agree with the vast majority of members, I think. We need a Paul Ryan or we need somebody who is A.) experienced, B.) has been a Committee chairman or something other than just up through the leadership ranks," Issa said. "We very definitely need to pick our fights carefully, but we need somebody who is willing to do those fights, when the time comes, because the motion of our party has been to the right. The new members – the members since 2010 – they’re more conservative. They’re more interested in real fiscal reform. And they’ve been denied by the K Street, if you will, influence the ability to actually get votes that were fiscally responsible. We’ve had some tough votes."

Issa also slammed Chaffetz, who took over the position as Oversight Chairman, for failing to continue holding government accountable and pointed out the Utah Congressman hasn't issued a single Committee report since taking over earlier this year.

"Well, look, Jason’s a good man. An honorable man. But he got his job by going to Boehner and saying he would shut down that rancor that was going on. That he would “go along, get along.” And he’s done that. He put shining pictures of Utah on the wall and he basically stopped doing it. There hasn’t been a single Committee report or staff report published since he’s been chairman. The fact is, he’s a good guy, but whatever he was as a freshman, when he was a fighter on our Committee, when he was trying to hold government accountable, he took a break from that. And I think that’s going to hurt him. Not whether I get into the race or not. It’s already hurt him. He didn’t have thirty votes going into the race. I don’t think he’s going to get the 240. But, let’s understand something. I wouldn’t have the hubris to determine whether I’m the 240 candidate or Paul Ryan," Issa said. "This is something where the conference has to dig deep. They have to ask the question, “Who can we unite behind?” This is a job that you can’t run for. You can make yourself available for it. But the conference really has to look hard. Not for who’s got the most whips calling, but who can really make a difference beyond 218. Because the day after you’re speaker, you have to make hard decisions and, like Joe said earlier, you have to be able to go to people and say, “I promise to bring up your issue, but I need you to do this for me now,” and you’ve got to keep those promises. And that was one of those areas that Boehner ran out of the ability to get people to say yes to."

During his time as Oversight Chairman, Issa led the charge to investigate a number of Obama administration scandals including Operation Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservatives and more.

Yesterday Speaker Boehner said he was confident a new Speaker would be selected within coming weeks, but a date for a vote has not been set.

FBI Director Warns About 'Gaps' in Screening of Syrian Refugees

The Obama administration has pledged to take in 85,000 refugees in the next fiscal year, with the number increasing to 100,000 the year after that. While not all of these refugees will be coming from war-torn countries like Syria, many will, and it has Republicans up in arms over the strain on American resources and the security risks it poses.

Speaking on Capitol Hill Thursday, FBI Director James Comey weighed in from a security perspective, lending credence to Republican concerns over proper vetting of refugees.

“My concern there is there are certain gaps ... in the data available to us,” Comey said.

“There is risk associated of bringing anybody in from the outside, but specifically from a conflict zone like that,” he added.

“There is no such thing as a no-risk enterprise and there are deficits that we face.”

In particular, the lack of solid on-the-ground intelligence assets in Syria has clouded the U.S.’s ability to crosscheck the backgrounds of every refugee hoping to come to the U.S., Comey and other national security officials told the Senate panel.

“The intelligence that we have of this particular conflict zone is not as rich as we would like it to be,” said Nicholas Rasmussen, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center. “We’ve got a much more streamlined and effective system to make sure that all of our intelligence holdings are brought to bear as these decisions are made, but you can only review against what you have.”

“We are building that fact into our analysis as well,” he added, “so that we can at least identify what more questions we need to ask.”

Refugees are first recommended by the United Nations, according to the administration, and then screened by multiple U.S. agencies. The White House insists that the vetting process will be thorough.

“We should do the right thing by accepting more, but we should be careful in doing it,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.

Republicans didn’t seem any more comforted by the administration’s assurances, however.

“I’m very skeptical about what I hear,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said during the hearing.

Thus far, roughly 2,000 Syrian refugees have come to the U.S.

DHS IP Address Edits Wikipedia Pages to Accuse McCarthy of Affair

The Wikipedia pages of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Renee Ellmers were edited to accuse the two of having an affair. The IP address that made the edits were reportedly tied to the Department of Homeland Security. 

The changes were made on Thursday, the same day McCarthy unexpectedly dropped out of the race for Speaker of the House. Both members of Congress have denied the affair, however.

“Ellmers is alleged to have been involved in an extra-marital affair with Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy since 2011,” the edited article read, sourcing the information to a Breitbart article that alleged no such thing, and an article on independent website GotNews.

Earlier this week Rep. Walter Jones wrote a letter urging GOP candidates to withdraw from leadership races if they have any skeletons in the closet.

"With all the voter distrust of Washington felt around the country, I am asking that any candidate for Speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself, the Republican Conference and the House of Representatives if they become public," Jones wrote.

DHS told The Daily Caller that the agency has “immediately launched an investigation into this serious matter.”

Sheryl Crow to Perform at CNN's Democrat Primary Debate

CNN is desperate to get viewers for the Democratic primary debate they're hosting next week. They've tried everything: innovative streaming gimmicks, begging Joe Biden to come join (who said thanks but no thanks), and now they're bringing in Sheryl Crow.

On Thursday, CNN announced that the Grammy-award winning singer will be performing the national anthem live on CNN before the debate begins on Tuesday. And, according to the official press release, she could not be more excited.

“I think most people know that I’m a Democrat,” Crow told CNN. “I’m fascinated with the process and I’m going to be excited to actually be there when our candidates debate.” And she isn’t quite ready to make an endorsement yet, adding, “I want to hear what everyone has to say and see where I fall.”

It's kind of amusing, that of all the celebrities who endorsed Barack Obama, CNN landed on Sheryl Crow as their big name to try to woo viewers into watching the debate.

Let's hope this isn't something CNN will look back upon as their Favorite Mistake.

Cruz Cosponsors Bill to Withhold Federal Funds from Sanctuary Cities

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with several other senators, helped introduce the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act this week as a means to crack down on illegal immigration. 

“In light of the threat criminal aliens pose to the safety and security of our communities, we can no longer allow states and municipalities to take federal taxpayer money while turning a blind eye to the illegal aliens in their midst,” Cruz said in a statement. 

Earlier this year, Cruz introduced Kate’s Law to bring attention to the tragic case of Kate Steinle. Steinle was shot and killed in July by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant who, despite being a repeat drug offender and deported five times, was somehow freely walking along the same San Francisco pier as her. Kate’s Law places a minimum five-year prison sentence on any illegal immigrant like Sanchez who reenters the country after committing a crime.

“What happened to Kate Steinle is heartbreaking,” Cruz said. “And the heartbreak is even more tragic given the circumstances. Clearly, our laws are not adequately deterring those who have already been deported from illegally reentering the country. I'm proud to join with my colleagues in sending the message that defiance of our nation's laws will no longer be tolerated. Of course, stiff penalties alone will not suffice. Congress must hold this Administration accountable for its failure-if not its outright refusal-to enforce federal immigration laws and ensure the safety and protection of the American people.”

Here are the specific provisions of the Stop Sanctuary Policies Act, provided by Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) office:

· Prohibits sanctuary jurisdictions from receiving federal funds under the Community Development Block Grant Program and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

· Requires transparency to show which local jurisdictions are currently not in compliance with federal immigration law.

· Protects local jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies by preventing them from being sued for obeying the law and complying with federal immigration law enforcement requests.

· Increases criminal penalties for illegal immigrants who have illegally re-entered the United States after deportation and for those who have committed aggravated felonies.

· Endorsed by National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA.

This bill cannot return Kate Steinle to her grieving family, but it can hopefully prevent more unnecessary tragedy in the future.

The full list of the bill’s cosponsors are as follows: Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

Chaos: House Republicans in Complete Disarray, No Easy Fix in Sight

UPDATE - News:

- Original Post -

Boehner's out.

McCarthy's out.

Now what? Nobody seems to have the faintest clue. Capitol Hill sources are uniformly astonished and bewildered by the whirlwind of disunity and dysfunction that has pushed Republicans' historically large House majority in to open chaos.  A top leadership aide declined to even speculate on when the hastily-postponed Speaker election might take place.  Of the two remaining candidates for the position, one is an obscure back-bencher with little institutional support; the other is sowing doubts about his own fitness for the job:

It's a common refrain these days, but its undeniable truth bears repeating: Given the unchanged political dynamics within the fractured GOP caucus, who would want this job right now? The next Speaker will inevitably endure harsh criticism a relatively small group of dissatisfied conservatives, who often seem long on complaints but short on workable strategies.  This faction's intransigence has hamstrung party leaders repeatedly over the last five years; they've now collected two prized "establishment" scalps, yet appear to have no viable alternative in mind.  The next Speaker will answer to dozens of moderate-leaning members intent on retaining swing district seats won over back-to-back midterm landslides.  The next Speaker will also contend with an entrenched, very liberal, very disciplined Democratic minority -- on whom he or she may occasionally be forced to rely for votes, thanks to the "hell no" hard-right flank's tactics.  (This phenomenon, incidentally, affords Democrats much more leverage than they'd otherwise have, allowing them to extract policy concessions as a price for their cooperation, making legislation less conservative).  And the next Speaker will have to navigate all of these perilous crosscurrents with a string of unpleasant deadlines looming:

Once again, plausible consensus picks are shrinking from the spotlight. Trey Gowdy wants to continue pressing forward on the Benghazi committee, whose work and reputation was damaged by Kevin McCarthy's foolish recent remarks.  McCarthy conceded today that his major gaffe contributed to his decision to withdraw from the Speaker's race.  Paul Ryan, who is among the best-positioned Republicans to try to pick up the pieces, wants no part of it, preferring to maintain his powerful chairmanship and influence the party's agenda as a wonky ideas leader.  Any chance he might reconsider?  Doesn't look like it:

Katie suggested Cathy McMorris Rodgers, but as a member of the current leadership team, does she have the ability to heal the caucus and shake the dreaded "establishment" label?  Tough task.  And when frustrated conservatives inevitably turn their rhetorical fire against her, does anyone doubt for a nanosecond that Democrats would exploit the fissure as the latest evidence of the Right's mythical "war on women"?  See, they even attack their own women, they'd gleefully point out.  What about an interim Speaker -- someone who's retiring or who pledges to vacate the chair after the 2016 election?  Two big problems.  First:

Not only would a lame duck Speaker be a fundraising catastrophe for the party, the ongoing uncertainty and internecine fighting would hand Democrats a turnkey electoral message in races across the country: "Republicans are manifestly incapable of governing the country.  They can't even govern their own party."  Let's not sugarcoat this: An ideological and tactical crisis has befallen the Republican Party.  The road to reconciliation is unclear at best.  A haze of confusion and resentment has set in.  What comes next is literally anyone's guess.  I'll leave you with one name to keep an eye on, and a telling quote from the ex-next Speaker: 

Is this rock bottom?  Nah, it could conceivably get even worse:

Boehner: Confident We Will Elect a New Speaker Within Weeks

House Speaker John Boehner is confident the House will elect a new Speaker soon after news broke earlier today Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will no longer pursue the position. 

“After Leader McCarthy’s announcement, members of the House Republican Conference will not vote today for a new Speaker. As I have said previously, I will serve as Speaker until the House votes to elect a new Speaker," Boehner said. "We will announce the date for this election at a later date, and I’m confident we will elect a new Speaker in the coming weeks. Our conference will work together to ensure we have the strongest team possible as we continue to focus on the American people’s priorities.” 

Congressmen Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy have already made clear they will not put their name in the race for Speaker. Jason Chaffetz said today he will stay in the race, but didn't sound confident he is the man for the job. 

Jason Chaffetz "Stunned," Paul Ryan "Disappointed" McCarthy Dropped Out of Speaker's Race

Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who issued a challenge to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy last week for Speaker of the House, has made a statement in response to McCarthy dropping out of the race. 

"I am stunned," Chaffetz said to a gaggle of reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Congressman and Chairman of the House Weighs and Means Committee Paul Ryan, who endorsed McCarthy here at Townhall earlier this week, has also issued a statement. 

“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision. Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” Ryan said.

As of now, there is no immediate successor for the Speakership and it is unclear where Republicans will go from here. Chaffetz will remain in the race, but a vote has been indefinitely postponed. Current House Speaker John Boehner will remain in his position until a new Speaker is elected. 

Bipartisan House Committee Created to Investigate Planned Parenthood

A new House panel has been created with the sole purpose of investigating Planned Parenthood’s misuse of fetal tissue and federal funds. While the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government committees have held hearings on the organization to determine whether it still deserves taxpayer funding, the Center for Medical Progress investigation has demanded a further probe into the organization’s practices.

The House voted 242-184 to form a panel as part of the Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday after Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the resolution. A bit more information on the makeup and goals of the new panel:

The 14-member panel will be appointed by the speaker of the House and will be made up of eight Republicans and six Democrats. The chairman must be a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which had started a Planned Parenthood investigation that will now be taken over by the select panel.

The panel is charged with investigating and releasing a report that includes: medical procedures and business practices of groups involved in fetal tissue procurement, federal funding and support for abortion providers, and medical procedures for the care of a child born alive during an attempted abortion.

In light of the barbaric footage the CMP has uncovered, our legislators should be keeping a close eye on Planned Parenthood. It has become increasingly clear they broke the law and their tendency to view unwanted pregnancies with dollar signs in their eyes is downright inhumane. Their lack of ethics is screaming for some oversight. A specific committee is a good start.

The House Judiciary Committee’s second hearing on Planned Parenthood's pro-abortion agenda will take place Thursday at 2 p.m. You can watch it live here.

Kevin McCarthy Withdraws from Speaker Race

This post has been updated.

Capitol Hill was shocked Thursday morning with news that the perceived frontrunner for Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has withdrawn from the race.

The only possible explanation for his exit is his disastrous comments about the Benghazi select committee. They were so damaging, that the Clinton campaign used the sound bite in a campaign ad and a prominent conservative group announced they were supporting his opponent, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL). The chairman of the Benghazi committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (S-SC), did his best to defend the work he and his colleagues have done on the bipartisan panel. 

In a press conference Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said McCarthy will be staying on as Majority Leader and his endorsement will be "most important" for the candidates running. John Boehner will remain in his role as Speaker until a replacement is found.

Along with Webster, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is also still in the running to replace Boehner as speaker. Despite multiple calls to run, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said he will not be entering his name.

McCarthy had over 200 votes secured for the Oct. 29 vote, which has now been pushed to a later date. This race is suddenly blown wide open.

McCarthy spoke to the press Thursday afternoon and ensured them that his initial comments about the Benghazi committee were wrong. He said the committee was only created to find answers for the families of our murdered ambassadors and he said he doesn't want to be a "distraction" from the select committee's efforts.

Here is McCarthy's official statement regarding his decision:

A few more reactions from influential members in the House:

Chaffetz, speaking on the hill, was "stunned" by the decision. The GOP has a lot of "internal fractures," he said, and they need to find some unity. 

As for current House Speaker Boehner, he is "confident" his successor will be named soon:

“After Leader McCarthy’s announcement, members of the House Republican Conference will not vote today for a new Speaker. As I have said previously, I will serve as Speaker until the House votes to elect a new Speaker. We will announce the date for this election at a later date, and I’m confident we will elect a new Speaker in the coming weeks. Our conference will work together to ensure we have the strongest team possible as we continue to focus on the American people’s priorities.”

WATCH: Trey Gowdy Defends Benghazi Select Committee

After House Majority Leader and Speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy tied Hillary Clinton's diving poll numbers directly to the creation of the Benghazi Select Committee last week, Republicans have been in damage control to protect the credibility of the Committee and its work. 

Last night on The Kelly File, Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy defended the Committee and said despite calls for it to be shutdown, the investigation will move forward. Clinton is expected to testify in front of the Committee on October 22. 

"Kevin is wrong and I would ask your viewers and anyone else who's suspicious and those that have been supportive, don't focus on the words that people not on the Committee use, focus on the actions of those of us who have been on the Committee for the last year and a half. Megyn, out of the 54 witnesses interviewed, 41 of them by the way no other Committee interviewed, not a single one of them has been named Clinton. Of the 50,000 documents, new documents that we have accessed, less than 5 percent have anything to do with her and if you look at the public hearings we've had so far, her name has not crossed my lips," Gowdy said. "She was the Secretary of State at all relevant times, we would be crazy not to talk to her."

"She's [Clinton] going to be treated professionally, she's going to be treated fairly," Gowdy continued.

The Chairman also revealed that McCarthy has "profusely apologized" for his remarks. 

"Kevin is a friend, that does not insulate him from being wrong, but he has apologized profusely and I have accepted it," Gowdy said.

Meanwhile Democrats on the Committee, with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings leading the charge, are still calling for the Committee to be disbanded ahead of Clinton's testimony near the end of the month.

Hillary Runs From Trans-Pacific Partnership, Once Called It 'The Gold Standard In Trade Agreements'

Yesterday Hillary Clinton embodied one of the top words being used to describe her on the campaign trail by voters: fake. It isn’t a good situation regarding word association, but her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), despite being for it during her tenure as Secretary of State, only screams political opportunism–and shows that her campaign is wary of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ challenge on her left. To make things more embarrassing, Clinton’s statement on why she opposes the agreement is almost funny, blaming Republican obstruction for weakening U.S. competitiveness, thus creating an environment that isn’t safe for our workers if TPP passes Congress, which is another battle in itself. This comes after she called TPP the “gold standard in trade agreements.”

In fact, let’s go down memory lane to 2012, where then-Secretary Clinton said in South Australia at Techport, that TPP is the exact opposite of what see told us in her recent statement:

Australia is also a growing market for growing exports even as we welcome more trade from you. In fact, our exports to Australia jumped more than 40 percent between 2009 and 2011 raising from under 20 billion to more than 27 billion, and in the first nine months of this year, they're up another 20 percent. President Obama set a goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years, and we've seen extraordinary progress in our relationship with Australia.

So it's fair to say that our economies are entwined, and we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.

That's key, because we know from experience, and of course research proves it, that respecting workers' rights leads to positive long-term economic outcomes, better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions. And including everybody in that, those who have been previously left out of the formal economy will help build a strong middle class, not only here in Australia or in our country, but across Asia. And that will be good for us.

CNN’s Jake Tapper has a deep list citing the 45 times Clinton said she was for TPP. Yet, as with her decision with the Keystone Pipeline*, Clinton is trying to make sure Sanders’ challenge on her left doesn’t overwhelm her. The self-described democratic socialist has been surging in the polls, has solid favorability numbers, has top-notch fundraising skills, and has Hillary beat in Iowa and New Hampshire by double-digits. All of this while Hillary’s favorability has plummeted; she’s losing in the two key primary contests while pegged as the prohibitive favorite–and she’s lost major support between black and women democratic voters; two groups that she’ll need to beat Sanders after New Hampshire.

Nevertheless, overall, Hillary is still the favorite, but let’s just say the possibility that she could still lose the nomination is closer to entering the realm of possibility, given that the Democratic base wasn’t really enamored with her anyway. Millennial feminists don’t really like her, women are fleeing her because they think she’s lying about the server, New Hampshire voters find her condescending, and now her electability is being questioned since she’s either trailing or running neck-and-neck with the top of the heap in the GOP field.

On the flip side, given what seems to be an endless cycle of bad news for the Clinton campaign, die-hard Clintonites aren’t leaving her, and Democrats still have a favorable view of the former first lady, despite the “meh” attitudes displayed at her events compared to that of Sanders. Still, there could be a case made that Clinton didn’t have to flip-flop on trade, though it was worth taking the risk if it meant possibly losing labor unions:

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, Clinton led Sanders 42 percent to 24 percent among all Democrats. Among self-described liberals, the race was closer, but Clinton still led Sanders by 10 points. In an August WaPo-ABC survey, 80 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of Clinton while 18 percent had an unfavorable one. Among liberals, 66 percent had a favorable view as compared to 33 percent who saw her in an unfavorable light. There's plenty more evidence out there that liberals like -- if not love -- Clinton, and would be fine voting for her.

And yet, Clinton decided to reverse herself on TPP -- no matter what her campaign says, she was a supporter of the deal -- and take the flip-flopper flak rather than risk putting distance between herself and the party base. Worth noting: Vice President Biden, a longtime friend of organized labor, continues to mull a run for the Democratic nomination. So it's possible Clinton was trying to box Biden as well as Sanders out with this decision

Team Clinton needs organized labor’s political infrastructures that will be critical next year. And Clinton had ample warning from these groups on TPP. In an interview with USA Today’s Susan Page, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made it clear that his organization might not endorse anyone for president next year, and that Clinton’s support for the trade deal could be a deal-breaker (via RCP):

RICHARD TRUMKA: I don't know [where Hillary Clinton stands on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement]. She is going to have to answer that. She won't be able to go through a campaign without answering that. And people take it seriously and it will affect whether they vote for her or do not vote for her.

She may not know whether it is a good deal or not, but she'll get a chance to read it, and when she does she will have to declare one way or the other. Support it or she won't support it, she either believes in fast track or she doesn't.

What if Hillary supports the TPP?

TRUMKA: It would be tougher to mobilize working people. It will be tougher to get them excited and working, out there door-knocking and leafleting. And phone banking and all the things that are going to be necessary for her if she is the candidate.

And we would endorse her, this would make it far more difficult.

Well you aren't going to support Republicans?

TRUMKA: Well, there is another alternative as well, we could not endorse for president. That is conceivable. If both candidates weren't interested in raising wages and creating jobs. If neither one had a program that we were convinced they would fight for, not just a poll-tested slogan, but an actual agenda they will fight for.

If we are convinced that neither candidate has that, I think we would spend our money elsewhere. Probably on Senate and Congressional candidates and governors and statehouses where we would have a much greater effect.

As for the Sanders factor, there's a growing number of AFL-CIO members that are getting behind Bernie. Trumka had to remind them of their organization's bylaws over the summer, along with a stern warning not to endorse anyone under the AFL-CIO banner. Still, it's another reason to give the Clinton campaign some pause.  

Sanders from the beginning has been against TPP, saying it’s a “disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.”

*Clinton also could be trying to avoid a situation where environmentalists could sink her campaign in a key state, like Florida.

Drip: Unauthorized Subcontractors Stored Hillary Emails on 'The Cloud,' Targeted With Cyber Attacks

Yesterday, we learned that a second IT company -- beyond this infamous case -- had possession of the data on Hillary Clinton's private email server, which violated government rules and compromised  national security. As the new editor-in-chief of Red State,  Leon Wolf, noted, this new development raised serious new issues regarding the security and integrity of her sensitive data. As you read this excerpt, remember that officials have already identified hundreds of classified emails in her archives (she said there were none) -- including messages that she personally sent and received (she said she hadn't done so), as well as work-related emails that she never turned over (she swore she'd surrendered every single one):

The cooperation of a second tech company raises new questions about whether the FBI is now obtaining any of the emails that Clinton says she and her attorneys deemed to be personal and deleted, as Republican critics have demanded to know if any of those emails were really work-related emails that should have been turned over to the State Department along with other federal records. Datto's cooperation also raises more questions about whether anyone at the company, where employees do not have security clearances, had access to classified information that was in Clinton’s server. The source familiar with the investigation said that like all major tech companies on the front lines, Datto has faced cyberattacks, another subject of great interest to the FBI in its probe of Clinton’s server.

Today, another revelation:

A Connecticut company, which backed up Hillary Clinton‘s emails at the request of a Colorado firm, apparently surprised her aides by storing the emails on a “cloud” storage system designed to optimize data recovery. The firm, Datto Inc., said Wednesday that it turned over the contents of its storage to the FBI on Tuesday…There were conflicting accounts as to whether the developments could lead to retrieval of any of Clinton’s more than 31,000 personal emails, which she said she deleted from her private server upon turning over her work-related emails to the State Department, at its request, in December 2014. Congressional Republicans have voiced skepticism as to whether the 30,940 business emails that the Democratic presidential candidate handed over represented all of those related to her position as secretary of state. Clinton has said her lawyers carefully pruned them. The FBI is separately investigating whether Clinton’s arrangement put classified information at risk but has yet to characterize it as a criminal inquiry.

A few points: (1) Republicans can be more than skeptical that all of the deleted and withheld emails were purely personal; they can be confident she's lying because that's already been proven. (2) Of course this email scheme put classified information at risk.  Her server had no encryption whatsoever for several months, and its overall security was much, much weaker than those of government networks that were breached by foreign hackers.  (3) Clinton defenders can parse and nitpick until they're blue in the face.  This is a criminal investigation.  (4) The fact that Mrs. Clinton reportedly had no idea that a second company was involved in this data storage arrangement doesn't matter much. As a public official holding the highest security clearance and trafficking in the most sensitive of state secrets, it was Mrs. Clinton's duty to take every requisite step to guarantee the safekeeping of this material.  The very existence of her unsecure private server, on which she conducted all of her business, represents a reckless disregard for those responsibilities.  Outsourcing the data storage to a second-rate IT firm put this information at even greater risk.  And the involvement of a subcontractor expands the circle of vulnerability.  Among the classified content discovered on the server were top secret emails.  Mrs. Clinton continues to trot out the "they weren't marked classified" excuse, but public officials are required to identify sensitive information when they see it.  The materials in those emails were "born classified," experts explain, rebutting the inaccurate Clinton claim that these emails were only deemed classified retroactively.  Plus, it doesn't take someone as experienced as the former Secretary of State to recognize that messages about North Korean nuclear weapons and the Iranian nuclear negotiations were obviously secret in nature. (5) By the way, we now know that Clinton's right-hand woman at the State Department twice forwarded classified information to...the Clinton Foundation, the other source of major ethics questions that continue to swirl around Hillary Rodham Clinton.  I'll leave you with two video clips; one of journalist Ron Fournier lambasting Clinton for refusing to answer important email scandal questions -- and the second of a supporter introducing Hillary at a rally, announcing that nobody cares about any of this:

Well, many voters care, it would seem.  Also, as Katie mentioned earlier, the Associated Press is reporting that Clinton's campaign "did not answer detailed questions" about possible security breaches, preferring instead to attack Republicans.

French Train Hero Spencer Stone Stabbed

According to CBS News, Airman Spencer Stone, one of the Americans who tackled an armed terrorist on a French train, is in critical condition after being "repeatedly stabbed" on Wednesday night.

This story will be updated as more details emerge.

UPDATE: Per NBC, Stone is in stable, not critical, condition. NBC is also reporting that Stone was stabbed in Sacramento.

UPDATE: The stabbing is not believed to be connected with terrorism, but was "not random." Stone was stabbed outside of a bar.

The Sacramento Bee reports:

One source with knowledge of the investigation said Stone was with two men and three women at Badlands Dance Club at 20th and K streets, then left and walked one block east, where the altercation began and Stone was stabbed. Police do not believe the attack was a hate crime.

Officers initially thought Stone would not survive the stabbing. However, once he arrived at the UC Davis Medical Center staff was able to stem the bleeding and he is expected to survive. Stone’s parents were at the hospital Thursday morning.

Sacramento police did not identify the stabbing victim as Stone, but the Air Force has since confirmed his identity.

The Air Force Times said that Stone had been stabbed in the chest four times. Sacramento police said that Stone was with a group of friends when a “physical altercation” occurred with two assailants, one of whom stabbed Stone.

Detectives are investigating the stabbing and are looking for possible video recordings from area security cameras.

ABC Family: Our Name Is Too 'Wholesome,' Time For a New One

With shows ranging from “The Fosters,” featuring a lesbian couple raising their family, to “Greek,” which is littered with explicit sexual references and acts, party scenes, drunk students, and sometimes harsh language, it’s no wonder that viewers may’ve scratched their heads wondering why such shows were on a network called ABC Family.

Instead of ditching the shows clearly intended for a more mature audience, the network has instead opted to change its name entirely. Beginning in January 2016, Disney-owned ABC Family is turning into Freeform, a name that “reflects our ongoing priority to super-serve Becomers, fans on that epic new adventure of becoming an adult—from first kiss to first kid!” a statement reads.

“For us, this doesn’t feel like a radical departure, this is an evolution,” ABC Family president Tom Ascheim told Entertainment Weekly. “For the last 10-to-12 years, we’ve been targeting young people, Millennials, and then something happened. Millennials started getting older. The oldest ones are nearly 40. So do we follow Millennials or stay with the ‘life stage’ that got us here?”

The name was chosen after being tested in a focus group this past year. ABC Family, it turned out, conjured up attributes like “family-friendly” and “wholesome” among non-viewers, Ascheim discovered through market research.

“There was a huge perception gap between the people who know us well and the people who don’t know us at all,” Ascheim told TV Insider. “That largely comes from our label, the name. That bit of data is the thing that finally convinced us that it was time, after a lot of thinking and pondering, to get this done.”

Conservative Group That Helped Oust Boehner Endorses McCarthy Rival

In a blow to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House Freedom Caucus is endorsing one of his rivals for speaker of the House – and he’s a long shot. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), a member of the caucus, told the Daily Signal why 80 percent of the conservative group is backing Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) during Thursday’s secret ballot:

“I think this reflects the fact that guys and gals are most interested in process reform, regular order and rules changes,” Mulvaney said of Webster’s getting the nod. “Daniel’s track record of [supporting] open process and regular order is a real attraction to us right now.”

The House Freedom Caucus is a group of conservatives with some serious sway; they were largely responsible for booting Boehner from office. McCarthy has reason to be concerned, therefore, after making the unfortunate link between the Benghazi Select Committee and Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. McCarthy has since tried to walk back his comments, but could not stop Clinton’s team from using the sound bite in a new campaign ad suggesting Republicans’ Benghazi probe was purely political.

Conservatives have every right to sour on him.

Yet, it seems McCarthy will have a chance to undo the damage he’s done and prove his conservative credentials to his colleagues. The caucus said they could still change their minds come Oct. 29, when the full House votes to elect the next speaker.

Confirmed: China, South Korea and Germany Tried to Hack Clinton's Private Email Server

We've heard for months now from technology security experts about the strong likelihood the private server used by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to conduct official government business and to host classified information was hacked by foreign governments. Now we have confirmation hack attacks did in fact occur. From CBS News

Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email server, which stored some 55,000 pages of emails from her time as secretary of state, was the subject of attempted cyberattacks originating in China, South Korea and Germany after she left office in early 2013, according to a congressional document obtained by The Associated Press.

While the attempts were apparently blocked by a "threat monitoring" product that Clinton's employees connected to her network in October 2013, there was a period of more than three months from June to October 2013 when that protection had not been installed, according to a letter from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. That means her server was possibly vulnerable to cyberattacks during that time.

Not surprisingly, Team Clinton is responding to hacking revelations with accusations of partisanship and is trying to discredit Republican Senators questioning the security vulnerability of Clinton's private server.

A spokesman for the Clinton campaign did not answer detailed questions from The Associated Press about the cyber intrusions. Instead, spokesman Brian Fallon attacked Johnson by linking him to the House Benghazi committee inquiry, which the campaign dismissed in a recent media ad as politically motivated.

"Ron Johnson is ripping a page from the House Benghazi Committee's playbook and mounting his own, taxpayer-funded sham of an investigation with the sole purpose of attacking Hillary Clinton politically," campaign spokesman Fallon said by email. "The Justice Department is already conducting a review concerning the security of her server equipment, and Ron Johnson has no business interfering with it for his own partisan ends."

At this point, 400 pieces of documentation found on Clinton's private server have been deemed classified. In addition, at least four documents found on her server are classified as top secret. Keep in mind Clinton deleted at least 55,000 emails she deemed "personal" before her departure from the State Department. 

Yesterday, the FBI reportedly seized four additional computers from the State Department as their criminal investigation of Clinton's private email server use continues. Further, new information shows Clinton may have instructed subordinates to start deleting information two years ago as investigations about her email practices were ramping up and as FOIA requests for her emails started to roll in. 

Clinton is scheduled to testify October 22 on Capitol Hill.

Ivy League Professor on Ben Carson: "If Only There Was a Coon of the Year Award"

Tenured University of Pennsylvania Religious Studies Professor Anthea Butler, who has a history of making derogatory and racially fueled comments, is now under fire for suggesting Dr. Ben Carson deserves a "coon of the year award" for his support of flying the Confederate Flag on private property. She made the suggestion on Twitter last week. Campus Reform has the details: 

“If only there was a ‘coon of the year’ award…” Professor Butler tweeted in response to another tweet linking to a Sports Illustrated article in which Carson was quoted defended the right of NASCAR fans to fly Confederate flags during races.

“Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people too … and yet they still exist in our museums and places like that,” Carson observed during the event in North Carolina with NASCAR legend Richard Petty. “If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn't take it down,” he added, noting that NASCAR races are held on private property.

The word “coon” is an offensive term to slander Africans, deriving from the Portuguese word “barracoos,” which is a hut-like dwelling used to store slaves during auctions, according to Online Etymology.

In effect, then, Butler’s tweet insinuated that Carson is a metaphorical slave who belongs in a wooden shed.

Yesterday, Juan Williams took issue with Butler's comments during The Five

In the past, Butler (again, a religious studies professor) has referred to God as a "white racist" who "stalks young black men with guns."

As of now, the University has no plans to reprimand Butler for her comments. You can bet if Butler was a white woman, she would have been fired immediately.

Coast Guard Suspending Search for El Faro Survivors; Full List of Crew Released

The Coast Guard is suspending their search for any survivors of the El Faro incident at sunset tonight. El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 souls aboard. All are presumed lost.

Maine Maritime Academy, the alma mater of four members of the crew (including one who had just graduated this past May), released a touching statement on its Facebook page memorializing the crew and reassuring the student body that while the jobs they are training for are dangerous, they will prevail through this tragedy together as a community.

Dear MMA Community, We have been anxiously waiting to hear more about the crew of the El Faro, and unfortunately, we...

Posted by Maine Maritime Academy on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Unspeakably tragic. Please keep the loved ones of the crew in your prayers.