Day: March 22, 2017


TEAM TRUMP TAPPED? Feds picked up 'incidental' chatter, Nunes says

Members of the intelligence community “incidentally collected” communications from the Trump transition team during legal surveillance operations of foreign targets, a top Republican lawmaker said Wednesday afternoon.

House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said this produced “dozens” of reports which eventually unmasked several individuals’ identities and were “widely disseminated.”

He said none of the reports he had read mentioned Russia or Russians and he was unsure whether the surveillance occurred at Trump Tower — as President Trump has suggested. Nunes also was unsure if then President-elect Trump was captured by the surveillance, which occurred in November, December and January.

“I recently confirmed on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected intelligence,” Nunes said.

Democrats quickly criticized him for his comments. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released a statement:

“This afternoon, Chairman Devin Nunes announced he had some form of intercepts revealing that lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials included information on U.S. Persons, potentially including those associated with President Trump or the President himself. If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been. … The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.”

The revelations could at least partially back up some allegations made by Trump earlier this month, when he tweeted that former President Barack Obama had “wiretapped” him, though top lawmakers have sharply disputed those claims. FBI Director James Comey also testified earlier this week he had no evidence to support the claims. 

Nunes said he told House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier Wednesday about his findings. He later said he briefed Trump, calling some of the collection “inappropriate.” 

Trump commented briefly afterward, saying he felt “somewhat” vindicated by Nunes’ comments. 

“There’s a lot of questions that I think his statement raises, and that I hope we can get to the bottom of,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also said.

He said the NSA had been “very helpful” during the investigation, however, he was unsure if “the FBI is going to comply.”

Nunes said the surveillance collection was “legally collected foreign intelligence under FISA incidental collection.” But Nunes said he was “alarmed” the intelligence “ended up in reporting channels and was widely disseminated.”

It was previously reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was “unmasked” in this way, however, Nunes said “additional names” were unmasked as well.

He said he didn’t know what foreign intelligence value the surveillance had “and why people would need to know that about President-elect Trump and his transition team.” Nunes did not identify which foreign targets were under surveillance.

Asked if he thought Trump was spied on, Nunes replied: “I’m not gonna get into legal definitions here, but clearly I have a concern.”

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UK PARLIAMENT ATTACK 5 dead, 40 injured in London 'terror incident'

Five people, including a London police officer who was stabbed and the alleged assailant, were killed in terror attack that saw more 40 people injured outside the Parliament building on Wednesday in an act described as “sick and depraved” by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Acting Metropolian Police Deputy Commissioner and Head of Counter Terrorism Mark Rowley said there was only one attacker who authorities believe was “inspired by international terrorism.”


Rowley said three civilians were among those killed. He identified the officer killed in the attack as 48-year-old Keith Palmer. 

“One of those who died was a police officer from our Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command who had 15 years service,” he said. 

Rowley said it was “too early” to publiclly release the name of the suspect in the attack, but that officials “think we know who the attacker is and are working to establish who his associates are.”

Armed and unarmed patrols have been stepped up as a precaution across the country, according to Rowley. 

A full counter-terrorism investigation is underway.


Police said a vehicle mowed down pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, leaving more than a dozen with injuries described as catastrophic.

Rowley said the car then crashed near to Parliament, and one man – armed with a knife – continued the attack and tried to enter Parliament.

The knife-wielding attacker stabbed a police officer and was shot on the grounds outside Britain’s Parliament, sending the compound into lockdown for hours.

The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was already listed at severe, and will remain so, according to May. The attack came on the one-year anniversary of the terror attacks in Brussels in which 32 people were killed and more than 300 injured.


ISIS claimed responsibility for the coordinated suicide bombings last year — two at the Brussels Airport in Zaventem and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels. The bombings were the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history.


ISIS has long promoted the use of vehicles and knives in attacks by so-called “lone wolf” terrorists, particularly in Western countries. Senior U.S. officials expected an uptick of terror attacks in Europe as they ramp up the fight to take ISIS capital Raqqa, Fox News is told.

The terrorist group has not claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but a European government official told Reuters that investigators are considering the possibility the attack was inspired by ISIS propaganda.

London police were called to the Parliament building at around 2:40 p.m. local time (10:40 a.m. EST) after reports of a vehicle crashing into a crowd at Westminster Bridge near Britain’s parliament.

The French prime minister said French high school students were among the injured on Wednesday.

Colleen Anderson of St Thomas’ Hospital said a woman died after a vehicle apparently hit pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, near Parliament, according to the Press Association. 

Anderson said: “There were people across the bridge. There were some with minor injuries, some catastrophic. Some had injuries they could walk away from or who have life-changing injuries.”

A woman was also pulled alive from River Thames. The Port of London Authority said the female member of the public was recovered from the river, injured but alive.


Rick Longley told the Press Association that he heard a bang and saw a car plow into pedestrians and come to a crashing stop. Images from the scene showed pedestrians sprawled on the ground, with blood streaming from a woman surrounded by a scattering of postcards.

“They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben,” he said. “A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman. I have never seen anything like that. I just can’t believe what I just saw.”

The former Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski posted a video on Twitter that seems to show people lying injured in the road on Westminster Bridge.

Sikorski, a senior fellow at the Harvard Centre for European Studies, says he saw at least five people lying on the ground after being “mown down” by a car.

Sikorski told the BBC he “heard what I thought what I thought was just a collision and then I looked through the window of the taxi and someone down, obviously in great distress.

“Then I saw a second person down, and I started filming, then I saw three more people down, one of them bleeding profusely.”


Prime Minister Theresa May was rushed to safety after the attack.

“The thoughts of the PM and the government are with those killed and injured in this appalling incident, and with their families,” May’s office said in a statement.

In a prime-time address to the nation outside 10 Downing Street, May praised the “exceptional bravery” of police, and thanked them and other emergency services “on behalf of the whole country.”

May said it was “no accident” the attacker chose Parliament, which stands for democracy, freedom and rule of law.

The White House condemned the attacks, adding that President Trump is continuing to monitor developments out of London.

Spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday Trump spoke with May and said that the White House applauds “the quick response of British police and first responders.”

The White House said Trump “pledged the full cooperation and support of the United States Government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice.”

The U.S. State Department said it is closely monitoring the incident and urged Americans in London to avoid the area.

Spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday: “We stand ready to assist in any way the U.K. authorities would find helpful.”

He added that the U.S. Embassy in London is closely following the news and stands ready to help any affected Americans.

“Our hearts go out to those affected,” Toner said. 

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the British government’s “top priority” is the security of its people, following the attack.

“The British people will be united in working together to defeat those who would harm our shared values: values of democracy, tolerance and the rule of law,” Rudd said in a clip broadcast on Sky News. 

Daily Mail journalist Quentin Letts said he saw a man in black attack a police officer outside Parliament before being shot two or three times as he tried to storm into the House of Commons.

“He had something in his hand, it looked like a stick of some sort, and he was challenged by a couple of policemen in yellow jackets,” Letts told the BBC. “And one of the yellow-jacketed policemen fell down and we could see the man in black moving his arm in a way that suggested he was stabbing or striking the yellow-jacketed policeman.”

Dennis Burns, who was just entering Parliament for a meeting, told the Press Association he heard a radio message saying an officer had been stabbed. Police and security rushed outside as he was going in.

“When I got inside I was wondering what the hell was going on and I saw dozens of panicked people running down the street,” he said. “The first stream was around 30 people and the second stream was 70 people. It looked like they were running for their lives.”


British security has thwarted some 13 terror plots over the past four years, but the UK has largely been spared major international terror attacks such as the ones seen in Belgium and France.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a US/World News Editor/Writer for

She can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

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Ryan voices confidence on ObamaCare repeal as conservatives call to ‘start over’ – Dem Strategist: Republican health care plan D.O.A. in Senate

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that Republicans have a “moral obligation” to avert an ObamaCare collapse and pass replacement legislation heading for the floor, voicing confidence about the looming vote despite mounting turbulence inside the party.

As an influential conservative faction urged GOP leaders to “start over” and warned more than two-dozen members are against the bill, Ryan asserted in an interview with Fox News’ Dana Perino that they are “adding votes, not losing them.”

“We are in the fourth quarter of the House passing this bill which is the fourth committee—that’s when a lot of negotiations intensify near the end of the process,” Ryan said of the American Health Care Act. “This is called legislating—we have to broker compromises to make sure we draft legislation that can actually pass.”

He spoke as a key House committee was prepping the legislation for an expected floor vote on Thursday. President Trump and Vice President Pence also were doing what they could to sway hold-out Republicans.

Ryan told Fox News that Trump is a “fantastic closer” and has convinced about 10 members so far to switch their votes.

“The president has been bringing members down and talking to members and closing the deal,” Ryan said. “This is so encouraging—we’ve never seen this kind of presidential engagement with our members before—President Trump and Vice President Pence are rolling up their sleeves.”

The White House said that, piece by piece, member by member, they are getting “much closer” on a health care deal. During the daily White House press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president believes the health care bill will pass the House on Thursday.

“We’re going to get it done,” Spicer said, adding that there was no “Plan B” for health care.

Despite confidence stemming from the House Republican leadership and the Trump administration, more than 25 House Freedom Caucus members plan to vote ‘no,’ according to the conservative bloc. 

“I can tell you that opposition is still strong—they don’t have the votes to pass this tomorrow,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said on Wednesday. “We believe that they need to start over and do a bill that actually reduces premiums.”

A House Republican senior aide said Wednesday there are no plans to pull the bill or delay the vote planned for Thursday.

Much is on the line for both Ryan and the Trump White House, after Republicans vowed repeatedly during the 2016 campaign to replace the Affordable Care Act. But they’ve had difficulty striking the right balance in a bill to win over a majority not only in the House but the Senate.

Republican leaders have tried to assuage conservative concerns by giving states more flexibility on Medicaid, further curtailing the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion and also offering more health care aid to elderly residents.

While this doesn’t go far enough for some conservative lawmakers – and Democrats are opposed to virtually every aspect of the overhaul – Ryan told Fox News that passing the AHCA is important so that they can “move onto tax reform and economic growth.”

“Governing is tough—we’ve gone from being the opposition party for the last 10 years to being a governing party within the last four months,” Ryan said, noting that the AHCA would cut $1 trillion in ObamaCare taxes. “It looks messy, but this is the system the founders envisioned—we either repeal and replace and make tax reform easier, and if we don’t, it will make tax reform $1 trillion harder.”  

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

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HBO producer pleads guilty to moving doctor's body after overdose

An HBO producer pleaded guilty ​Tuesday ​to dragging a married Long Island doctor​, unconscious from a cocaine overdose, to the lobby of his drug dealer​ pal​’s Chelsea apartment building ​where he left her to die.

“I was scared, frightened and panicked,” Marc Henry Johnson — a producer of “The Deuce,” an HBO pilot about ​Manhattan’s seedy 42nd Street porn ​and prostitution trade in the ’70s and ’80s — told a Manhattan federal judge​ in his plea​.

The feds said Johnson, 52, helped ex-con James Holder drag Dr. Kiersten Rickenbach Cerveny out of Holder’s apartment after she overdosed from a night of hard partying.

PHOTOS: Hollywood mugshots

Johnson then abandoned ​the mother of three​ as EMT workers arrived to find her unresponsive ​and ​with her panties in her purse, law enforcement officials said.

On Tuesday, Johnson said he did it because Holder demanded that they “get her body out of here” once Cerveny, 38, ​became unresponsive.

Johnson said he wanted to help Holder protect his illegal drug business. “This was wrong,” the Hollywood producer said, his voice quavering.

Johnson ​insisted that he’d t​r​ied to give Cerveny CPR after Holder took off, and ​thatn he called 911 — although​ ​​federal prosecutors ​have said he declined to give his name to emergency operators.

Johnson was ​arrested more tha​​n six months after Cerveny’s death and charged with attempting to distribute cocaine and acting as an accessory after the fact.

He pleaded guilty to one count of acting as an accessory after the fact and is expected to serve no more than two years in ​prison according to the terms of a plea deal he cut with prosecutors.

“Marc Henry Johnson’s immediate response to seeing a dying overdose victim should have been to summon help. Instead, Johnson helped his cocaine dealer cover up the drug crime by moving the victim’s body,” Acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim said​ after the plea​.

Text messages from earlier in the night showed Johnson telling a friend that he planned to head to his dealer​’​s house “for a pickup” before meeting with Cerveny and her friends​ at a bar.

Once Johnson arrived at the girls’ night out on the Lower East Side, “he had a significant amount of cocaine, which he offered to share,” the feds said.

This article originally appeared in the New York Post.

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Lawyer for Russian whistleblower's family plummets from apartment

A Russian lawyer linked to a case exposing corruption in Moscow plummeted from his fourth-story apartment on Tuesday — as one of his top clients called it “extremely suspicious.”

Nikolai Gorokhov, 53, fell from his fourth-floor apartment on Tuesday as a crane was lifting a large bathtub into his home.

“They were lifting a Jacuzzi through the window,” according to Anastasia Berezina, 22, a neighbor who called an ambulance for Gorokhov. Berezina said that the equipment Gorokhov and other workers were using was “ramshackle,” The Associated Press reported. Russian media also described it as an accident, reporting that a rope snapped.


However, Gorokhov’s former employer, British businessman Bill Browder, suggested this may not have been an accident.

“It is extremely suspicious,” Browder told The AP by telephone from London, suggesting the fall could be related to Gorokhov’s work challenging President Vladimir Putin’s government. “Gorokhov is a serious problem for the Putin regime as he has spent the last seven years exposing their complicity in the death of Sergei Magnitsky.”


The family of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower who died in jail in 2009, had hired Gorokhov. The attorney was due to represent Magnitsky’s mother Wednesday in a Moscow court and was acting as a witness in a U.S. money laundering case.

Browder said that Gorokhov was determined to fight the Moscow court’s refusal to investigate organized crime.

Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison at the age of 37 after accusing officials of stealing $230 million via tax rebates.

Supporters said Magnitsky died from a severe beating, the BBC reported, but official records showed that he died of heart failure and toxic shock from untreated pancreatitis.

His death — and the exposed corruption — weakened relations between Moscow and the West.

The U.S. passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 that sanctioned five Russian officials involved in alleged human rights violations in the Magnitsky case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Michigan HS athlete dies after collapsing at tryout

A 15-year-old Lincoln Park student who collapsed Monday night during spring basketball tryouts has died. He was airlifted to the hospital and died Tuesday morning.

Xavier Carter loved basketball and was trying out for the spring team when he suddenly collapsed as his heart stopped. FOX 2 spoke with Xavier’s aunt and she says he had been feeling run down this past month, but had no known heart problems.

“I prayed for him. I prayed so hard; I had everyone else pray for him,” said his friend Jaelon Coleman. “My friend texted me and said Xavier didn’t make it.”

Xavier died Tuesday morning at the University of Michigan Hospital where he had been airlifted after he collapsed. His friends are shocked and hurting.

More on this…

“Whether it was us playing football together, basketball or doing track together we could always get down and could talk about anything that happened,” said Michael Johnson.

The high school sophomore was said to always be entertaining.

“If someone is sitting in the room, you’re bored, he would be the person who turned on some music and started dancing,” said Coleman.

But Xavier also had a serious side.

“That was the only person at the end of the day I considered that I could call at any time and you would find a way to come get me,” Johnson said. “(He) could find something that would help me no matter what.”

“If I had any problems with anything, he was there,” Coleman said. “He was the person I went to. I vented to him about everything. He knows me more than anybody knows me. Just to see that go away, I’m going to miss him.”

A GoFundMe account set up by the family asks for donations to help cover hospital and funeral expenses. If you’d like to donate, you can do so here.

Click for more from Fox 2 Detroit.

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Medieval man gets face

Gizmodo calls his face “haunting,” but to UK researchers, seeing the mug of the man known as Context 958 is nothing short of astounding. His visage was revealed at the two-week-long Cambridge Science Festival this month, as were details about who he was: in short, a 13th-century working-class man who died in middle age, had apparently lived a life of indigence, and whose face was reconstructed by scientists based on his teeth and bones, per a Cambridge press release.

Context 958’s skeleton, analyzed as part of the university’s “After the Plague” project, was discovered along with about 400 others between 2010 and 2012 in a medieval-era graveyard underneath one of the college’s schools.

The bodies, which date from the 1200s to the 1400s, came from the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist, which used to exist across from the cemetery.

Context 958, who was found buried face-down in his burial spot, is believed to have been a few ticks older than 40 and boasted a “robust skeleton with a lot of wear and tear,” which means he likely had a physically challenging job, says Cambridge professor John Robb.

However, unlike others who lived in poverty, Context 958 appears to have chowed down on meat and fish, suggesting that he worked in a specialized niche that gave him access to this ample food supply.

What makes the discovery of his body and others in the same demographic notable, Robb says, is that it gives researchers a chance to study how the poor lived in England more than 700 years ago.

“The less money and property you had, the less likely anybody was to ever write down anything about you,” he notes. (This living man’s face was reconstructed using 3D printing.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: This Man Lived 700 Years Ago

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Facebook Live gang-rape: Teen afraid to come home after attack, mom says

The mother of a 15-year-old girl who authorities say was sexually assaulted in an attack streamed live on Facebook said Wednesday that her daughter has received online threats since it happened and that neighborhood kids have been joking about it and harassing her family.

The woman was reunited with her daughter on Tuesday, two days after the girl went missing and a day after police learned of the attack. She said her daughter is staying with a relative and is scared to come home, and that she shares that fear.


“This is just disturbing and to think the kids think it is funny,” the mother, 32, told The Associated Press. The AP isn’t naming her to protect the identity of her daughter.

She said that since the attack, people have threatened on Facebook that “they are going to get her” daughter and that neighborhood children have been laughing about the incident and ringing the family’s doorbell looking for the girl. She said she’s shocked by the callousness people have shown since the attack, which was viewed live by about 40 people on Facebook Live — none of whom reported it to the police.

“I can’t stay here,” she said of Lawndale, the West Side neighborhood where her family lives. “I have other kids, too. I let them walk to school and now I have to take them.”

Police said Wednesday that they hadn’t arrested anyone in the attack, which involved five or six men or boys. A police spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said the girl knows at least one of her attackers and that investigators are making good progress identifying those involved.

Police only learned of the attack on Monday afternoon, the day after the girl went missing. Her mother went to a Lawndale police station and filled out a missing person report, then spotted the head of the city’s police department, Superintendent Eddie Johnson, outside the station and approached him. She told him her daughter had been missing since Sunday and showed him screen grab photos of the assault that friends of her daughter had sent her.

Guglielmi said Johnson immediately ordered detectives to investigate and the department asked Facebook to take down the video, which it did.

Andrew Holmes, a local activist, said a friend of the girl’s mother called him Monday asking if he could help find the video online and get it to the police, which he did. He said to him, the video showed that the girl was frightened and trying to get away.

“You could see where she was fearful. … You could see the look of fear and where she is resisting, pushing back,” he told the AP. “It looked like … she was in total shock.”

Holmes said the video shows someone pulling the girl to a bed as she struggled to get away. He said he was struck by the indifference of the others who were there.

“Other individuals were there standing around and talking and someone says, ‘Cut the lights off,'” he said, adding that the lights kept going on and off during the video, which was several minutes long.

The mother said her daughter was still terrified after police found her.

“She went to the hospital, but she was so scared she didn’t want anybody to touch her,” the mother said. She said her daughter had bruising on her neck but she was told of no other significant bruises or cuts by the doctors.

The mother said she thinks the attack happened Sunday night, and that she learned of it from friends of her daughter who saw the video, recognized her daughter, a high school freshman, as a basketball player they know, and called her, the mom.

“They couldn’t send me the video so they sent screen shots,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Facebook, Andrea Saul, declined to comment on the girl’s case, specifically, but she said the company takes its “responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously.”

“Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook,” she said.

The video marks at least the second time in recent months that the Chicago Police Department has investigated an apparent attack that was streamed live on Facebook. In January, four people were arrested after a cellphone footage showed them allegedly taunting and beating a mentally disabled man.

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TODD STARNES: Trump compared to Hitler, Mussolini in New York school lesson – Parents speak out after lesson includes Trump

A group of moms in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has decided to fight back against what they call the radical left-wing indoctrination that has infested the local school system.

They call themselves the “Conservative Chicks” and one of their leaders contacted me after reading my new book, “The Deplorables’ Guide to Making America Great Again.”

She realized it was time to take a stand after a teacher at the local high school led a classroom presentation on fascism that included a graphic portrayal comparing President Donald Trump to Hitler and Mussolini.

That’s right, folks.

A tenth-grade teacher at Saratoga Springs High School led a discussion on the rise of fascism during World War II by referencing President Trump.

 To continue reading Todd Starne’s column, click here.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is “The Deplorables’ Guide to Making America Great Again.” Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

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Native Alaskans divided over oil drilling in pristine Arctic refuge and the potential riches it could bring

Attempts to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have for years faced stiff opposition from some groups of Native Alaskans, who consider the land sacrosanct and say drilling would destroy a delicate environment.

But not all indigenous Alaskans think this way. With a Congress and White House that look at drilling more favorably, some Alaska Native corporations are now looking to cash in on any future oil revenues.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the only regional Native corporation that has rights to future oil revenues from the subsurface land it owns beneath ANWR, has demanded that other corporations stop asking Congress to require the company to share any of its oil wealth, according to a letter obtained by the Alaska Dispatch News.

“We also indicated our unhappiness at attempts by a few to re-open a long-resolved issue and attempt to undermine a settlement agreement from years ago,” Ty Hardt, ASRC’s director of communications, said in an email to the newspaper. The ASRC represents around 13,000 Iñupiat Eskimo shareholders in northern Alaska.

More on this…

The Alaska Native Corporations is a group of 12 regional corporations that was established in 1971 when Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which settled land and financial claims made by the Alaska natives.

In the letter – dated Feb. 10 – the president of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., Rex Rock Sr., asked Bering Straits Native Corp. President Gail Schubert to stop lobbying Congress to pass legislation requiring Rock’s company to share any future oil revenues from ANWR with the other corporations.

Rock’s letter comes at a time of high hopes from the Native Corporations – and Alaska’s congressional delegation – that the four decade-long ban on oil exploration in ANWR will be lifted under President Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress.

Trump’s appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary buoyed the hopes of many energy industry insiders and Alaskan lawmakers who have seen attempts to drill the ANWR  thwarted during President Obama’s time in office.

“As we work with members of our Congressional delegation to finally conclude more than four decades of effort to authorize a responsible oil and gas program in ANWR, we understand that you are attempting to enlist Congress’ assistance in taking private property owned” by ASRC, Rock said in his letter. “ASRC and its shareholders strongly oppose this proposed taking.”

At the heart of the battle over ANWR – a 19 million-acre tract of land flanked by the Brooks Range to the south, the Beaufort Sea to the north and Canada’s Yukon province to the east – is a section of the refuge called the coastal plain, or section 1002.

On one side of the debate: Alaska’s Republican lawmakers, its Native corporations and a fossil fuel industry that sees the estimated 7.7 billion barrels of oil under the coastal plain a boon to the state’s flagging economy that has suffered from low oil prices on the global market and a decline in crude flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

On the other side: Environmental groups and the indigenous Gwich’in people, who consider the coastal plain sacred land and say oil drilling would ruin a fragile habitat for gray wolves, polar bears, porcupine caribou and more than 200 species of migratory birds.

“ANWR is a national treasure and an amazing piece of land,” Nicole Whittington-Evans, the Wilderness Society’s Alaska regional director, told Fox News. “It is not a place where oil and gas development should be allowed.”

The refuge was created in 1980 as part of comprehensive public-lands legislation signed into law by President Jimmy Carter that put more than 100 million federal acres in Alaska under conservation protection. Lawmakers at the time recognized the potential for oil drilling on the coastal plain, but they prohibited leasing or other development on the land unless authorized by a future Congress.

ANWR Facts

  • Refuge was created in 1980 under Carter Adminstration
  • Encompasses 19 million acres along Alaska’s northesatern border with Canada
  • Home to polar bears, porcupine caribou, gray wolves and over 200 species of migratory birds
  • There are an estimated 7.7 billion barrels of oil under ANWR’s coastal plain

That is basically where the issue has stood for the past 37 years as Alaskan lawmakers’ and oil industry executives’ advances have been thwarted in Congress.

In 1995, the Alaskan delegation inserted a provision opening ANWR to development in a budget reconciliation bill, but the bill was vetoed by President Bill Clinton. In 2005, despite having the Senate, House and White House all in Republican hands, a push to open ANWR was also unsuccessful as a number of moderate Republicans voted against it

But with a more polarized Congress in 2017 – and little willingness from either party to cross the aisle – both supporters and opponents of drilling in ANWR see drilling as a very real possibility.

One option available to Alaskan lawmakers – and a scenario that increasingly concerns environmental groups – is repeating their move in 1995 and attaching an ANWR provision to a budget reconciliation bill. This only requires 51 votes, cannot be filibustered and, unlike in 1995, won’t face the threat of a veto by a Democratic president.

“Republicans may try to put drilling in the Arctic into the budget reconciliation bill,” Athan Manuel, the director of the land protection program at the Sierra Club, told Fox News. “So we have our work cut out for us to win over some Republicans.”

Whether or not ANWR makes it into a budget reconciliation bill anytime soon is still unclear, but what is clear are the divisions between the Alaska Native Corporations that have boiled up to the surface in light of the prospect of drilling in the region.

Arctic Slope Regional Corp. has already pulled out of the Inuit Arctic Business Alliance – a group that, along with Bering Straits Native Corp., it helped found in 2015 to ensure that each corporation benefited from development in the Arctic.

Rock said that his company’s departure from the group had nothing to do with the conflict over ANWR, but the move came three weeks after his sharply worded letter in which he called Schubert’s lobbying to Congress “a breach of terms and obligations.”

“I therefore request that you cease these efforts immediately and desist from any further efforts that would result in an infringement of ASRC’s property rights,” Rock wrote. “Otherwise, ASRC will take any and all legal remedies available to rectify the situation.”

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