Posts by Olivier Knox

  • White House to Democrats: We’ll seek extension to Iran nuclear talks

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 day ago

    President Barack Obama expects to seek an extension in Iran nuclear negotiations past the current Nov. 24 deadline for reaching a deal, White House aides told congressional Democrats on Friday.

    Secretary of State John Kerry could float the idea as early as Friday night to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, White House officials disclosed in the briefing for Capitol Hill aides, which was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House.

    There are “eons to go until Monday, but it’s going to be pretty difficult to get to a comprehensive agreement by Monday,” though “not impossible,” one Obama aide said.

    So it’s a “reasonable expectation that we'll be requesting an extension,” the aide said. He did not specify a duration. The current talks resulted from a first extension that began July 20.

    Iran says it plans to expand the number of its centrifuges, the machines used in enrichment. The United States and its partners say Tehran has no need to do so, pointing to an agreement under which Russia will provide nuclear fuel to Iran’s only nuclear power reactor at Bushehr until 2021.

  • Senate to vote on two controversial Obama ‘ambassadonors’ Dec. 1

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 day ago

    The debate in Washington shifts from undocumented immigrants to questionably credentialed emigrants Dec. 1 as the Senate votes on two of President Barack Obama’s most controversial ambassador nominees — big-time donors seemingly picked only to reward them for scooping up campaign cash.

    Noah Bryson Mamet and Colleen Bell each raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. The president then nominated Mamet to be ambassador to Argentina and Bell to be ambassador to Hungary.

    But each of them ran into trouble early in the Senate confirmation process. Mamet admitted that he had never been to Argentina, while Bell stumbled and stammered her way through answering the question, “What are our strategic interests in Hungary?”

    Their nominations stalled. The Senate went on to confirm other ambassadors, including some big-time Obama donors, nominated after they were.

    But at least he “speaks conversational Spanish.”


  • Obama to transform immigration policy, spare 5 million from deportation

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 2 days ago

    President Barack Obama on Thursday will announce a legacy-defining plan to transform U.S. immigration policy, sparing up to 5 million people from deportation and defying Republicans who charge that he is breaking the law.

    White House officials expressed rock-solid confidence that Obama’s sweeping executive actions will survive any political or legal challenges and practically dared GOP lawmakers to attempt to get their way with a government shutdown.

    But Obama won’t to take any chances in the court of public opinion. The president, top White House aides, and Cabinet officials will crisscross the country to make the case to affected populations and the broader public, officials told reporters at a briefing in the White House Roosevelt Room hours before the announcement.

    Obama’s far-reaching plan rests on three core proposals: Making certain classes of individuals eligible for protection from deportation; raising the bar for what kind of criminal activity triggers deportation; and modestly expanding the number of people qualified to immigrate to the United States legally.

    “We’re going to focus on deporting felons, not families,” one official said at the briefing.

  • Top Obama aide won’t rule out unilateral easing of Cuba policy

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 3 days ago

    President Barack Obama’s pick for the No. 2 job in the State Department repeatedly refused on Wednesday to rule out unilateral action by the White House to ease U.S. pressure on Cuba.

    But the official, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, emphasized that the government in Havana would first have to make progress on democratic reforms and free imprisoned U.S. aid worker Alan Gross. The comments came during Blinken's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    “Do you anticipate, during the rest of the president’s term, that there will be any unilateral change” to sanctions on Cuba absent democratic reforms, asked Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose parents emigrated from Cuba to the U.S.

    “Anything that might be done on Cuba will have to be consistent with the law,” Blinken replied. He added, “Anything that in the future might be done on Cuba would be done in full consultation” with Congress.

    Rubio tried again, noting “chatter” that Obama could try to change relations with Cuba unilaterally before leaving the White House in January 2017.

    At times, Blinken became a target for Senate frustration with the Obama administration.

  • Frustrated senators have questions about Obama’s Islamic State strategy. On Wednesday, they may get answers

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 3 days ago

    Key senators of both parties are deeply frustrated with what they view as President Barack Obama’s confusing strategy for taking on the Islamic State and mixed messages to lawmakers about what sort of legal authority he needs from them to wage war against the radical Islamist militia.

    On Wednesday, they will get their chance to grill Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken on those issues when he appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for what was supposed to be a combative but relatively routine confirmation hearing.

    The White House always knew Blinken’s nomination to hold the No. 2 job at the State Department would be an opportunity for Republicans to criticize Obama’s foreign policy. Administration officials remain optimistic about Blinken's confirmation prospects — he has good relationships with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, few in Washington question his qualifications for the job, and he can count on Vice President Joe Biden’s help in winning over his former Senate colleagues.

    “It’s hard to authorize war if you’re only having briefings behind closed doors,” one source said.

  • Foreign leaders lavish Obama with gifts he won't keep

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 11 days ago

    The inventory of world leaders’ gifts to President Barack Obama last year reads like the props list from a forthcoming “Hangover” movie. It includes a $2,484 box of chocolates; a 50-inch-tall bronze statue of a cheetah; 12 bottles of pisco, Peru’s national liquor; and 20 white baseball caps with the president’s image on them.

    The State Department’s Office of Protocol released the list of presents Tuesday that American government officials received from foreign government officials from late 2012 through 2013.

    They’re not bribes. By law, Obama must turn them over to the National Archives or other institutions for storage or display. He can pay fair market value for those he wants to keep  — but he appears to have opted not to hold on to any items from his 2013 haul. In each case, under the heading “circumstances justifying acceptance,” the State Department says “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.”

    The State Department also lists gifts to other American officials.

  • John Cleese: U.S. politics are funny but ‘dangerous’

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 12 days ago

    At 6 feet 5 inches, the “Fish Called Wanda” star and “Monty Python” mainstay would be a head-turner even if he weren’t one of the most recognizable comic writer/actors of the last 40 years. He’s in Washington to promote “So, Anyway,” 375 pages of autobiographical recollections, packed with one-liners.

    But it’s not, strictly speaking, a comedy book. It’s not, to the probable dismay of “Monty Python” fans, even a thorough personal history of the absurdist, Ministry of Silly Walks-taking, Black Knight-maiming, you-sold-me-a-dead-parrot-I-want-to-return-it comedy troupe.

    In an interview with Yahoo News at his hotel bar, Cleese discussed his mother, why young comics should steal from more experienced ones, why he’s happy to give autographs but thinks selfies are “poison,” how he’s trying to turn “A Fish Called Wanda” into a musical, and his view that American politics are funny but “dangerous.”

    Yahoo News has edited the hourlong question and answer session. Items in quotes were said, other material is paraphrased.

    Yahoo: What is the most irritating thing that people do when they meet you?

    Why write this book now?

    (Laughs) “No!”

  • Obama doubles US troop levels in Iraq

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 15 days ago

    In a dramatic post-election surge, President Barack Obama is doubling the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 3,000 and asking Congress for $5.6 billion for the war against the so-called Islamic State, officials said Friday. Obama aides denied that the timing was political or that the escalation amounted to "mission creep."

    The Pentagon said the new forces would deploy to Iraq “in a noncombat role, to expand our advise-and-assist mission and initiate a comprehensive training effort for Iraqi forces.”

    It was the second major announcement regarding Obama’s undeclared and open-ended campaign against the extremist group since Tuesday’s elections. After months of rejecting calls to seek new war-making authority from Congress, Obama reversed course on Wednesday.

    The U.S. Central Command overseeing the campaign will use some of the funds to set up two “advise-and-assist operations centers” outside Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurd capital of Irbil. It will also set up sites across Iraq for training 12 brigades of local forces, including nine from the Iraqi army and three of Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

  • Obama says he’s not ‘mopey’ about the election

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 17 days ago

    Casually describing sweeping Republican election gains as “a good night” for the GOP, President Barack Obama promised on Wednesday to work with the GOP to “take care of business” but offered to make few changes to his priorities, principles, staff or style.

    “There’s no doubt that Republicans had a good night,” the president said in his first press conference since Tuesday’s drubbing of Democrats. “It doesn’t make me mopey, it energizes me, because it means that this democracy’s working.”

    Brushing off Republican warnings, Obama defiantly vowed to forge ahead with executive action on immigration if Congress refuses to enact a comprehensive overhaul that cleared the Democrat-held Senate but stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

    “I have no doubt that there will be some Republicans who are angered or frustrated by any executive action that I may take,” he said. “My executive actions not only do not prevent them from passing a law that supersedes those actions, but should be a spur for them to actually try to get something done.”

    “The idea is to right-size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight rather than previous fights,” he said.

  • What the White House is planning for the next 2 years

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 18 days ago

    Life after the midterm elections was never going to be easy for President Barack Obama. In the best-case scenario, he would have watched his influence dwindle steadily as the fight to succeed him heated up. He would have worked to polish his legacy. There would have been work on his “library,” that traditional political-mausoleum project beloved by lame-duck presidents drifting ever closer to the day when they are forgotten but not gone.

    But now Obama finds himself pushed toward the sidelines by two potent forces. One is the Republican capture of the Senate as well as major governorships. The other is frustrated congressional Democrats’ increasing focus on what the party’s 2016 nominee – potentially Hillary Clinton – needs from them over the next two years.

    The president planned the traditional post-election press conference for 2:50 ET Wednesday afternoon, and planned to host House and Senate leaders of both parties at the White House on Friday.

    The Big Fights

    Backers of the deal in both parties say that there is enough Democratic and Republican opposition and support that the accord would be seen as a bipartisan achievement.

    The rest of the domestic agenda.