Day: October 14, 2018

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Pastor freed from Turkey prays with Trump in Oval Office…


WASHINGTON (AP) — Freed American pastor Andrew Brunson fell to one knee in the Oval Office and placed his hand on President Donald Trump’s shoulder in prayer on Saturday, asking God to provide the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”

Trump welcomed Brunson to the White House to celebrate his release from nearly two years of confinement in Turkey, which had sparked a diplomatic row with a key ally and outcry from U.S. evangelical groups.

Brunson returned to the U.S. aboard a military jet shortly before meeting the president. He was detained in October 2016, formally arrested that December and placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.

“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad,” Trump said.

Brunson’s homecoming amounts to a diplomatic — and possibly political — win for Trump and his evangelical base. Coming on the heels of the confirmation of a conservative justice to the Supreme Court, Brunson’s return is likely to leave evangelical Christians feeling good about the president and motivated get to the polls in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Brunson appeared to be in good health and good spirits. When he asked Trump if he could pray for him, the president replied, “Well, I need it probably more than anyone ese in this room, so that would be very nice, thank you.”

Brunson left his chair beside Trump, kneeled and placed a hand on the president’s shoulder. As Trump bowed his head, Brunson asked God to “give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him. I ask that you give him wisdom in how to lead this country into righteousness.”

He continued: “I ask that you give him perseverance, and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you to protect him from slander from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus’ name, we bless you. Amen.”

Brunson, originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, had lived in Turkey with his family for more than two decades and led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church. He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and to aid a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of engineering the failed coup. He faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him.

Administration officials cast Brunson’s release as vindication of Trump’s hard-nosed negotiating stance, saying Turkey tried to set terms for Brunson’s release but that Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. Trump maintained there was no deal for Brunson’s freedom, but the president dangled the prospect of better relations between the U.S. and its NATO ally.

“We do not pay ransom in this country,” Trump said.

Where previous administrations kept negotiations over U.S. prisoners held abroad close to the vest, Trump has elevated them to causes célèbres, striking a tough line with allies and foes alike.

Trump thanked Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had resisted the demands of Trump and other high-level U.S. officials for Brunson’s release. Erdogan had insisted that his country’s courts are independent, though he previously had suggested a possible swap for Brunson.

The U.S. had repeatedly called for Brunson’s release and, this year, sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports citing in part Brunson’s plight.

Trump said the U.S. greatly appreciated Brunson’s release and said the move “will lead to good, perhaps great, relations” between the U.S. and fellow NATO ally Turkey, and said the White House would “take a look” at the sanctions.

Trump asked Brunson and his family which candidate they voted for in 2016, saying he was confident they had gone for him. “I would like to say I sent in an absentee ballot from prison,” Brunson quipped.

Evangelical voters overwhelmingly voted for the president despite discomfort with his personal shortcomings, in large part because he pledged to champion their causes, from defending persecuted Christians overseas to appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court. In the space of seven days, less than a month from the midterm elections, Trump delivered on both fronts.

Prominent evangelical leaders such as Tony Perkins have championed Brunson’s case, as has Vice President Mike Pence. First word of Brunson’s arrival back on American soil Saturday came from Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Perkins tweeted just after noon that he had landed at a military base outside Washington with Brunson and his wife, Norine.

Erdogan said on Twitter that he hoped the two countries will continue to cooperate “as it befits two allies.” Erdogan also called for joint efforts against terrorism, and he listed the Islamic State group, Kurdish militants and the network of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.

Relations between the countries have become severely strained over Brunson’s detention and a host of other issues.

A Turkish court on Friday convicted Brunson of having links to terrorism and sentenced him to just over three years in prison, but released the 50-year-old evangelical pastor because he had already spent nearly two years in detention. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.

Hours later, Brunson was flown out of Turkey, his home for more than two decades. He was taken to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for a medical checkup.

“I love Jesus. I love Turkey,” an emotional Brunson, who had maintained his innocence, told the court at Friday’s hearing.

Brunson’s release could benefit Turkey by allowing the government to focus on an escalating diplomatic crisis over Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post who has been missing for more than a week and is feared dead after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was killed in the consulate; Saudi officials deny it.

Trump maintained the two cases were not linked, saying Brunson’s release amid the Khashoggi investigation was “strict coincidence.”

Turkey may also hope the U.S. will now lift the tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports, a move that would inject confidence into an economy rattled by high inflation and foreign currency debt.

But Brunson’s release doesn’t resolve disagreements over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, as well as a plan by Turkey to buy Russian surface-to-air missiles. Turkey is also frustrated by the refusal of the U.S. to extradite Gulen.

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Associated Press writer Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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Follow Darlene Supervile on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap



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Too much money is too good a problem for Dem hopefuls…


Record-breaking campaign hauls in House races across the country have left some nominees with an enviable conundrum: How can they possibly spend all the money?

At least 60 House Democratic candidates reportedly raised more than $1 million each in the third quarter of the campaign cycle that ended Sept. 30, eye-popping sums that defy even the most optimistic of projections. But with Nov. 6 less than a month away, some political observers have wondered publicly whether a candidate could have too much cash. 

That was the question from the Twitterverse when Roll Call reported last week that Democrat Amy McGrath had raised an astounding $3.65 million in the third quarter — one of the largest sums reported so far — in her bid against Republican Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th District. “How do you even spend that much money in KY-06?? Wow!” tweeted Alixandria Lapp, president of House Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to House Democratic leadership. 

One response came from Democratic campaign veteran Brandon Lorenz: “Yard signs?”

A joke, but seriously, Democratic strategists say the fundraising hauls could pose a real challenge to any campaign, especially in areas where the money goes a lot further. The way a campaign responds to the largesse could be a clear indication of how well — or how poorly — it is run.

Flashback: Democratic Candidates Raise Millions in Second Quarter Fundraising

Wheat from the chaff

Good campaign managers will know how to manage their money so they have an “arc of spending” throughout the campaign, said Ian Russell, who spent six years with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now does congressional consulting for Beacon Media. 

“We would tell clients, ‘It’s not worth spending the money at a certain point.’ They might as well light a fire with it in the middle of the room,” he said. “Hopefully, they have a team that can start spending earlier.”

Mike Fraioli, whose firm Fraioli & Associates provides campaign consulting to Democrats, said campaigns rarely make it all the way through their wish lists for spending. 

“If you have that much more money, all your broadcast is covered, now you buy TV Land, the Hallmark Channel,” he said. “You just keep going down your list.”

He brushed aside concerns that candidates run the risk of “voter fatigue,” turning off potential supporters by bombarding them with too many advertisements and face-to-face appeals. 

“There is a long list of candidates who would like to have that problem,” he said. 

And complaints about having too much cash are hard to find.

Having worked on many campaigns, some that were well-funded and some that were under-funded, I was never at a point when I was like, ‘Oh, I have too much money,’” said Brian Smoot, a partner and founder of marketing agency 4C and a former political director at the DCCC. “That has never happened.”

McGrath’s $3.65 million, for context, is 69 times the $52,000 median household income in the district in the heart of Kentucky’s bluegrass country.

And that’s only half of the $6.65 million the Marine veteran’s campaign has raised since it launched in August of last year. She finished the third quarter with $1.7 million in the bank.

As to how she was going to spend the extra cash, her campaign is remaining tight-lipped. 

“I’m not especially inclined to tell a reporter (i.e. the public) how I’m spending my extra money late so that our opponent knows what to anticipate. So, I’ll have to politely decline comment for now,” McGrath campaign manager Mark Nickolas said in an email.

Barr’s campaign did not return a request for comment.

More Democratic dough

McGrath is among the top fundraisers this cycle, but other Democrats aren’t far behind. Thirty have raised more than $2 million each and eight have raised more than $3 million, DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico said at a Bloomberg News breakfast last week.

Luján declined to say which campaigns he was referring to, and candidates don’t have to report their third-quarter fundraising totals to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 15.

Besides McGrath, more than 20 other candidates have reported third-quarter hauls of $1 million or more. Almost all of those are Democrats running for the House, where they have a better chance of taking majority control.

They include Josh Harder, who raised $3.5 million in California’s 10th District; Andrew Janz, who reported bringing in $4.3 million in California’s 22nd; and Elissa Slotkin, who raised $2.6 million in Michigan’s 8th, according to figures from Daily Kos Elections, which has been keeping a tally of third-quarter fundraising results over $1 million.

Much of that money is coming from small, individual donations, candidates have said.

Again for context, New Jersey Democrat Mikie Sherrill splashed headlines over the summer for raising $1.9 million in the second quarter ending June 30, which was more than what many Senate candidates raised during the same period. 

Some of the candidates who have reported the largest numbers have benefited from national profiles. McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot, filmed a campaign ad that went viral. Janz, a local prosecutor, has benefited from the progressive fury directed at his opponent, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a Trump loyalist who has attempted to block the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign. 

Democrats attribute the windfall to voters who have been riled up since President Donald Trump’s unexpected victory two years ago, and say it shows they will have more than enough momentum to net the 23 seats needed to retake the House.

New calculus

Being able to post such big numbers so late in the campaign season has been a complete game changer for Democrats, said Russell of Beacon Media. 

Republicans, meanwhile, are reporting numbers on par with what they raised in 2016, according to The Washington Post. 

The GOP’s national campaign committees were crushing their Democratic counterparts in fundraising at the beginning of the year and could have easily underestimated their opponents until late in the summer when the third quarter numbers started to trickle out, Russell said. In those cases, candidates might have thought they could easily “extinguish a lot of Democratic hopes early on” by saturating the airwaves.

“The thing they didn’t realize was that the Democrats had the money to fight back,” he said. “I guarantee you that was not in the plan.”

Russell’s schedule is a sign of the times.

“It’s one of the reasons why I’m doing a bunch of shoots this week,” he said during a layover while crisscrossing the country to file campaign ads. “These numbers are unbelievable. I’ve been in politics a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

As for any leftovers, Fraioli had this pro tip: Throw a big party for everyone who helped.

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