ICYMI: A CLINTON COVER-UP? The State Department claimed late Friday it "can't find" any emails belonging to Brian Pagliano, the top Clinton aide who was paid on the side to maintain her secret server. POLITICO reports: The State Department has told Senate investigators it cannot find backup copies of emails sent by Bryan Pagliano, the top Hillary Clinton IT staffer who maintained her email server but has asserted his Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer questions on the matter. State officials told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a recent closed-door meeting that they could not locate what's known as a ".pst file" for Pagliano's work during Clinton's tenure, which would have included copies of the tech expert's emails, according to a letter Chairman Chuck Grassley sent to Secretary of State John Kerry that was obtained by POLITICO. The department also said the FBI has taken possession of Pagliano's government computer system, where traces of the messages are most likely to be found.
Hillary Clinton is struggling to excite younger women. The New York Times reports: That Mrs. Clinton's candidacy has not yet sparked among young women the kind of excitement about making history that Mr. Obama generated among black voters in 2008 speaks to the progress that women have made, said Erin Gloria Ryan, 32, formerly the managing editor of the feminist website Jezebel … The generational gap haunted Mrs. Clinton in the 2008 primary: In Iowa, Mr. Obama took 51 percent, John Edwards 19 percent and Mrs. Clinton just 11 percent of the caucus vote among women younger than 24. The only demographic cohort that Mrs. Clinton won, exit polls showed, was women older than 65.
Clinton's campaign events are "curiously mechanical and lacking in electricity." POLITICO reports: Eight months into the campaign slog, Hillary Clinton's events on the road are medium in size, predictable in nature. Emblematic of the candidate, her town halls and rallies are often controlled, substantive, and almost never veer off script. They often leave attendees hugely impressed with Clinton's knowledge of the issues, but not necessarily in love. The rallies are, at bottom, a microcosm of Clinton's campaign so far – methodical, professional, but also curiously mechanical and lacking in electricity … But around the edges lurk the detractors, constant reminders on the trail of how divisive Clinton has been during her two decades in public life and the baggage that trails her.
President Obama is changing his public relations strategy regarding ISIS but not his failed military strategy. CNN reports: President Barack Obama will visit the Pentagon on Monday to review the military campaign against ISIS with national security advisers, his first visit since attacks in San Bernardino and Paris. White House press secretary Josh Earnest cautioned on Friday that no major policy shifts would come as a result of the meeting but that it is more of an "update" … Obama's ISIS policy has been under renewed scrutiny from Republicans following attacks on Paris and in San Bernardino. A CNN/ORC poll -- taken before the San Bernardino attack -- found that 60% of Americans disapproved of the President's handling of terrorism while 38% approved.
While Democrats continue to emphasize climate change and gun control in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, Americans rate terrorism as the No. 1 problem facing the country. Gallup finds: After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Americans are now more likely to name terrorism as the top issue facing the U.S. than to name any other issue -- including those that have typically topped the list recently, such as the economy and the government. About one in six Americans, 16%, now identify terrorism as the most important U.S. problem, up from just 3% in early November. This is the highest percentage of Americans to mention terrorism in a decade, although it is still lower than the 46% measured after 9/11.
The Visa vetting process overlooked inflammatory Islamist social media postings from one of the San Bernardino attackers. The New York Times reports: Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by American immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. But none uncovered what Ms. Malik had made little effort to hide — that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad. She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it. American law enforcement officials said they recently discovered those old — and previously unreported — postings as they pieced together the lives of Ms. Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, trying to understand how they pulled off the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. Had the authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country.
Another ObamaCare program is failing to meet expectations. Kaiser Health News reports: A health law insurance program that was expected to boost consumer choice and competition on the marketplaces has slipped off course and is so far failing to meet expectations …"Conceptually, the idea just didn't have legs," says Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at The Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute. "It's too hard to find an insurer who could suddenly compete across the breadth of states and do better on rates than existing insurers." The multi-state plan program's halting start threatens to undermine one of the key tenets of the health law: that boosting competition in the individual market will lead to lower premiums and better coverage. It doesn't help that health insurance co-ops are shutting down in a dozen states.
IN THE STATES …
In Kansas, residents are up in arms about the possibility of terrorists being unilaterally moved to Leavenworth. WIBW-TV in Topeka reports: President Barack Obama's plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay continue to spark concern -- especially in Leavenworth, Kansas … But like many Americans, the residents of Leavenworth aren't so accepting of the rest. Community members expressed their concern about the possible transfer during a town hall meeting at the Heritage Center Friday. Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Mike Pompeo (R-KS) held the meeting to discuss the President's plan and hear from the Leavenworth citizens. "I want to know how can we get this point across to President Obama, that he is terrorizing the American people by what he's doing," said one Leavenworth resident. Another resident followed, "before they even get here, as soon as we know for a fact they're coming...the value of our housing will go down."
In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is earning praise for keeping his promise to pass legislation repealing ObamaCare. The Bowling Green Daily News editorializes: All too often, we hear promise after promise from candidates seeking to be elected or re-elected. And all too often, those promises don't come to fruition. It's a sad reality, because the voters put their trust in the candidates to do what they pledged to do. So, when politicians do keep their promises, they deserve credit. Last fall, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised that if he were re-elected to the Senate he would get the necessary votes to vote to repeal Obamacare. Early this month, McConnell stuck to that promise and almost on a party-line vote passed legislation that would repeal Obamacare. Similar legislation to repeal Obamacare passed the House in late October.
In New York, Clinton's close ties to Wall Street are causing problems for her campaign. WNYC reports: One former tech worker, Dave Mariansky, who was laid off, as he put, it, by Carly Fiorina when she ran Hewlett-Packard, described himself as a Clinton supporter...but. "I'm a little worried about her ties to Wall Street," he told me. "Which I don't understand fully. Bernie's the total opposite of that." A lot of people don't seem to understand her corporate ties fully. And Sanders is making the most of it. His has a simple message: Income inequality is the biggest problem the country faces, and he's the candidate who can really take it to the billionaires, because he doesn't take their money… At the last Democratic debate, Sanders landed his anti-Wall Street critique with particular sharpness. "I mean, let's not be naïve about it," Sanders said. "Why, over her political career, has Wall Street been a major — the major — contributor to Hillary Clinton? Now maybe they're dumb, and they don't know what they're going to get, but I don't think so."
In Ohio, a local health insurance company is pulling out of the federal ObamaCare exchange. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: Cleveland-based insurer HealthSpan is disbanding its physicians network and has notified brokers it will stop paying commissions for small group and individual customers, citing concerns about its financial viability in those markets. The company, which insures 200,000 people statewide, also said it has laid off employees in its small group and individual sales units. The decision to back away from those markets raised alarms among local brokers who stand to lose commissions and assistance from HealthSpan in serving their clients … HealthSpan is not the only insurer to pull away from the individual market focused on people who buy plans through the federal exchange created under the Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealthcare has also expressed concerns about its financial performance in the market, signaling that it may pull out in 2017.
In Rhode Island, the Clinton Foundation is coming under fire for its questionable business practices. The Providence Journal editorializes: But it's also clear that the foundation is not run with the transparency and integrity that one would expect from a major non-profit headed by a former U.S. president and his presidential candidate wife. As we've noted before, among other problems, the Clinton Foundation was placed on watchdog group Charity Navigator's "Watch List" because of its "atypical business model," whereby it does not distribute grants, but rather performs its work in-house. This shields the organization from the transparency that is typically expected of charities. And we've also noted the appalling conflict of interest that the Clinton Foundation subjected Hillary Clinton to while she served as secretary of state: the foundation continued to accept funds from foreign governments while Ms. Clinton was serving as the nation's top diplomat. The foundation also botched its tax filings for several years. And now comes strange news from South America. As the website the Washington Free Beacon first reported, the Clinton Foundation has been operating a $20 million private equity fund in Colombia. The fund is run by Clinton Foundation staffers, and operates out of its Bogota offices — an odd undertaking for a charity, to say the least … The nagging questions regarding the Clinton Foundation continue to fester. The Clinton Foundation is devoted to doing good in the world, but its myriad problems — the opacity, the conflicts of interest — are not doing any good for the American people's trust in Ms. Clinton, or for her presidential hopes.
In Texas, Republican Congressman Will Hurd is helping lead the fight to secure the homeland from radical Islamic terrorists. The Dallas Morning News reports: San Antonio Republican Rep. Will Hurd has more hands on experience dealing with terror threats then most. Hurd is a former undercover CIA officer, who is touting legislation that passed the House this week to tighten the visa waiver program, which Hurd calls "a weak spot" in U.S. defenses. "I was the guy in the back alleys at four o'clock in the morning, chasing bad guys like al-Qaeda and the Taliban," Hurd said in the weekly Republican address. "So when we talk about the threat we're facing right now — from ISIS and other terrorist groups — I know from first-hand experience, that they are a clear and present danger to the United States." This is second security bill prompted by the Paris attacks to pass the House, but much less controversial than legislation cracking down on the Syrian refugee program, passed last month. The visa waiver program bill, which passed 407 to 19, is also backed by the White House.