Fox News Poll: Majority approves of airstrikes to punish Syria

A majority approves of President Trump ordering missile strikes on Syria in response to that country’s suspected use of chemical weapons. 

On April 13, the U.S. launched precision strikes at Syrian targets associated with chemical weapons capabilities. 

Sixty-one percent of voters approve of the airstrikes, according to a new Fox News poll.

READ THE COMPLETE POLL RESULTS.

A year ago, 67 percent supported the U.S. launching cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in response to a similar situation (April 2017).

syria poll 1

Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to approve (76 percent and 59 percent, respectively).

Despite approval of the airstrikes, voters are mixed on the president’s Syria policies:  16 percent say he has been “too tough” on Syria, while nearly twice as many, 31 percent, say “not tough enough.”  The largest share, 39 percent, says “about right.”

syria poll 2

For comparison, the number saying Trump is “not tough enough” is 30 percent on North Korea, 35 percent on Iran, and 51 percent on Russia. 

Overall, 39 percent of voters approve President Trump’s handling of Syria, while 49 percent disapprove.  That’s a net negative rating by 10 percentage points.  He received net positive ratings a year ago, when 48 percent approved and 45 percent disapproved (April 2017).  That shift has been across the board.  Approval among Democrats is down 6 points since last April, down 9 points among Republicans, and down 12 among independents.

“Now that Trump has launched two separate missile attacks against Syria, he owns the situation and can’t blame former President Obama anymore,” says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Fox News poll with Republican Daron Shaw.  “Until things on the ground improve, sporadic missile attacks are unlikely to improve assessments of Trump’s handling of the situation.”

Meanwhile, 60 percent of voters say President Trump should get the consent of Congress before authorizing military action.  That’s down significantly since 2013, when 78 percent said President Obama should get consent first.

syria poll 3

The shift between then and now comes mainly from the number of Republicans saying Congressional approval is necessary dropping 40 points (from 75 percent to 35 percent), and a 22-point decrease among independents (82 vs. 60). 

Among Democrats, the portion wanting the president to get the consent of Congress mostly held steady:  76 percent in 2013 and 79 percent now. 

“When it comes to dealing with foreign threats, Americans tend to be schizophrenic,” says Shaw.  “They want decisive action from the president, but they also want consultation with Congress as well as friends and allies. It’s a tall order sometimes.”

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cellphone interviews with 1,014 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from April 22-24, 2018.  The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters.

HUD chief Ben Carson proposes hiking rents for some low-income Americans getting housing subsidies

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson unveiled a plan Wednesday to raise public housing rents in an effort to bring more money into the federal housing system and encourage residents to be more self-sufficient.

Carson’s proposed changes would raise the rent paid by public housing residents to 35 percent from 30 percent of household income and eliminate all deductions that could lower that number. Elderly and disabled tenants would be exempt from the increase, and rents would be evaluated every three years instead of annually.

Congress would still have to approve the plan, dubbed the Make Affordable Housing Work Act.

“The way we calculate the level of assistance to our families is archaic and has perverse consequences, like discouraging these residents from earning more income,” Carson told The Associated Press. “It’s clear from a budget perspective and from a human standpoint that this is not sustainable.”

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who grew up in poverty in Boston and Detroit, has long promoted the idea that too much government support creates a culture of dependency. During a 2016 speech at his alma mater, Yale, Carson said: “Government should not keep people in a dependent state. It should be used as a springboard, and not as a hammock.”

Jack Cooper, executive director of the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, called Carson’s proposal “a war on low-income people.”

Cooper told The AP that the likely effect would be to force families into homelessness. He said the nationwide average annual income for public housing residents was $12,000, and many families simply won’t be able to keep up with the additional expenses.

“We’re talking about keeping a roof over people who can’t afford the market,” he said. “They’re devastating folks that are already in dire straits.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cold pizza, cold comfort for GOP in midterms

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On the roster: Cold pizza, cold comfort for GOP in midterms – Mountain of a debate set for West Virginia – Jackson fights for reputation, can he save nomination? – Favorable reception at SupCo for travel ban – He urned his release

COLD PIZZA, COLD COMFORT FOR GOP IN MIDTERMS 
So which is it? A blue wave or a blue ripple? 

We have a few tools at hand in every election cycle to try to forecast what voters are going to do. We certainly pay attention to things like fundraising and retirements, but those are second-order considerations that are themselves shaped by public perceptions of the political climate. 

At a certain point they become self-fulfilling because the perceptions of donors and incumbents do end up shaping actual outcomes. That’s why parties fight so hard to try to control the narrative in the political press. 

There are three things, however, that matter the most when looking at the political climate, especially in a midterm year: Historical trends, generic ballot polling and performance in special elections. 

Historical trends tell us a great deal about a how a given district or state will vote. The way voters behave in 2016 and 2014 give us insights on how they might conduct themselves this year. Past performance help set the boundaries for expected outcomes. 

Polls are useful in every cycle, but we are always careful in these biennial contests to treat individual surveys with some care. House races are especially hard to poll given gerrymandered district boundaries and small populations. It’s generally more useful for the House to focus on how people feel about partisan control in a general sense. 

As we have explained before, the winning parties in recent wave congressional elections, 2010 and 2006 particularly, have enjoyed lopsided advantages in the generic ballot going into the election.

We also pay close attention to the results of special elections since these act as real-world experiments. Everyone remembers Scott Brown’s stunning 2010 upset in Massachusetts, but we are always sifting through the results of special elections to look for clues about the way voters are responding.

When a Republican won a congressional seat in Hawaii in the spring of 2010 we had a pretty good sense that things were lining up for the Red Team. In 2005, in comparison, Democrats may have lost a trio of special House elections but outperformed expectations by large and consistent amounts, foreshadowing the next year’s blue wave. 

What has us puzzled this year, though, is that two of the key indicators – polls and special elections – seem to be at odds. 

The Halftime Report average on the generic ballot shows Democrats with a lead of 5 points. Based on precedent, that might be enough to narrowly take control of the House but would certainly be enough to reduce the Republican majority to the point of almost uselessness. 

Democrats need 23 seats to take control of the House, but if they get anything like 20 it will be enough to make sure that whoever the next Republican Speaker is has an even more miserable time than his predecessor. 

But then we look at results from special elections that show Democrats outperforming by jaw-dropping margins. In Arizona Tuesday, in a hyper-Republican district, former state Sen. Debbie Lesko beat first-time candidate Hiral Tipirneni by just 5 points. A win is better than a loss and certainly Republicans can be relieved that they avoided real catastrophe, but the results must be another warning sign for the party. 

In this race, there was no excuse for the poor GOP performance. Their candidate was competent, the demographics of the district stack up enormously in their favor, protracted early voting allowed for easy get-out-the-vote efforts and national attention wasn’t overwhelming. 

In special elections since the 2016 vote, Democrats have outperformed the partisan baseline by an average of 17 points and Tipirneni exceeded even that threshold, adding further evidence that the Democratic electorate is fired up and ready to storm the polls. Put in a frame with Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va. and other Democratic winners, the Arizona race is a strong indication that the Democratic wave is not abating. 

So why has Democrats advantage in the generic ballot swung so low compared to prior double-digit leads, once as high as 18 points? If results on the ground are consistent is the polling missing something or are special election results outliers? We should remember that it might be a little of both. 

If Democrats everywhere outperform their party’s historical performance by 17 points it would be a bloodbath of biblical proportions for the GOP. A loss of 75 seats or more wouldn’t be out of the question. 

But special elections are just that: Special. 

It’s possible that there are habitual Republican voters who will turn up this November as they do every two years and pull the lever for the red team. Under this theory, some Republicans aren’t excited enough to go vote in a special one-seat election but will do their partisan duty in November. 

Under this scenario special elections and the generic ballot are not contradictory, but just measuring two different things. Call this one the cheap pizza scenario: You’ll eat it if it’s put right in front of you, but you’re not going to go out of your way for it.

Being the Godfathers Pizza of politics doesn’t exactly sound like a compliment, but it would be good news for Republicans. It would mean that the generic ballot is correct and will prove predictive once more attention shifts to the November vote.

If that’s the case, it would also provide guidance for the GOP in how to run this year: Keep pushing issues popular with traditional Republicans, such as tax cuts, and wait for their base to get hungry enough to open the lid.

And that’s probably as good a response as anything. Because if the gap between the special elections and generic ballot rectifies itself in favor of the Democrats there won’t be anything for the GOP to do but watch it burn.

THE RULEBOOK: TREATY YO SELF
“There is nothing absurd or impracticable in the idea of a league or alliance between independent nations for certain defined purposes precisely stated in a treaty regulating all the details of time, place, circumstance, and quantity; leaving nothing to future discretion; and depending for its execution on the good faith of the parties.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 15

TIME OUT: HEAR THAT TRAIN A’ COMIN’
Writer Ian Crouch shares his family’s YouTube serendipity. New Yorker: “My toddler son has decided that what he cares most about in this world is trains, or, as he calls them, in exclamations that range from joyous to angry to plaintive, ‘choo-choos.’ … It was one of those tiny wins of parenting when a recent search pulled up fifty-odd minutes of rather grainy footage of something called ‘Ridin’ the Rails,’ a documentary from 1974 featuring Johnny Cash telling stories and singing songs about the glory days of the American railroad, complete with historical reenactments and period costumes. The movie opens with Cash, dressed in black, walking toward the camera along a train track, a guitar strapped to his back. I like it when Cash says, ‘You know, there’s nothing that stirs my imagination like the sound of a steam locomotive. That lonesome whistle cuttin’ through the night, and that column of black smoke and steam throwin’ shadows across the land.’ My son likes it when Cash pulls the train’s horn. We both like it when he leans out the window, grinning like a kid, his coal-black mane blowing in the wind as the old locomotive comes up to speed.”
  
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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.4 percent 
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent 
Net Score: 
-14.6 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.6 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve – 57% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 40.4% approve – 54.4% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approval – 54% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 39% approve – 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 52% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.8 percent
Democratic average: 46.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 5 points
Change from one week ago: no change Democratic advantage 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% Dems – 39% GOP; ABC News/WaPo: 47% Dems – 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 47% Dems – 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 46% Dems – 43% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems – 44% GOP.]

MOUNTAIN OF A DEBATE SET FOR WEST VIRGINIA 
Fox News: “Three candidates make up the top tier in West Virginia’s Republican Senate nomination contest, according to a Fox News Poll released Tuesday. Congressman Evan Jenkins garners 25 percent among West Virginia likely GOP Senate primary voters, while the state’s Attorney General Patrick Morriseyreceives 21 percent and businessman Don Blankenship takes third with 16 percent. The edge Jenkins holds over Morrisey is within the poll’s margin of sampling error, and the same is true for Morrisey’s edge over Blankenship. No other candidate gets more than four percent support: Tom Willis (4 percent), Bo Copley (2 percent), and Jack Newbrough (1 percent). The race appears fluid.  In addition to the sizable group of undecideds (24 percent), another 41 percent of those currently backing a candidate say they could change their mind before the May 8 primary. Fox News is hosting a West Virginia GOP Senate primary debate Tuesday, May 1 with co-moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum at the Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown, West Virginia from 6:30-7:30PM/ET.”

Knives out for Blankenship – NYT: “Don Blankenship is running for the United States Senate as a proud West Virginian with Appalachian roots, but his primary residence is a $2.4 million villa with palm trees and an infinity pool near Las Vegas. Mr. Blankenship, a Republican loyalist of President Trump, is running an America First-style campaign and calls himself an ‘American competitionist,’but he admires China’s state-controlled economy and has expressed interest in gaining Chinese citizenship. The former coal mining executive is widely known for spending a year in prison for his role in a mining explosion that claimed 29 lives. Yet he is running as a champion of miners and has bought TV ads that challenge settled facts about his role in the disaster. And even as Mr. Blankenship seeks to join the Republican majority in Washington, a ‘super PAC’ linked to the party establishment is attacking him as a ‘convicted criminal’ and a hypocrite.”

Poll shows Heller and Rosen in a tight race for Nevada Senate seat – The Nevada Independent: “Sen. Dean Heller is in a dead heat with Democratic challenger Rep. Jacky Rosen in one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country, according to a new poll released today by The Nevada Independent. The poll, conducted by The Mellman Group in mid-April, found that 39.7 percent of voters favor Heller in the U.S. Senate race compared to 39.3 percent who favor Rosen, a first-term congresswoman currently representing Nevada’s 3rd District, with 21 percent undecided. Heller, the only Republican senator up for re-election in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, is considered a key target by Democrats in their attempt to win back control of the Senate. The survey also found that a majority of Nevadans have negative opinions about President Donald Trump…”

Bredesen leads Blackburn in Tennessee – Tennessean: “Another poll on the U.S. Senate race between former Gov. Phil Bredesen and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn has the Nashville Democrat with a narrow lead, according to a survey released Wednesday. The survey, commissioned and released by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy, found 46 percent of respondents supported Bredesen, while 43 percent favored Blackburn, a Brentwood Republican. Eleven percent of respondents remained undecided on the race. Bredesen’s narrow lead falls within the poll’s margin of error, which was plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll, conducted April 17-19, surveyed 625 registered Tennessee voters using cell phones and land lines. Although the Mason-Dixon survey is the latest to show Bredesen with a lead over Blackburn, the congressman’s performance in East Tennessee provided her a bright spot.”

Chafee may mount primary challenge against Whitehouse – Providence Journal: “Lincoln Chafee wants to return to the U.S. Senate, he said Wednesday, and hopes to capitalize on the Bernie Sanders movement to oust Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a Democratic primary. Chafee, who until roughly a week ago was mulling a run for governor, on Wednesday morning told the Journal he had turned his sights on Congress after speaking with Rhode Island Sanders supporters upset that Whitehouse had backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary. … Chafee, the former governor who did not seek re-election in 2014, first announced his interest in a Senate run on WPRO radio this morning. He told the Journal he is 90-percent sure he will run for Senate.”

Pence postpones Missouri trip amid ongoing scandal for Greitens – St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Vice President Mike Pence’s office says it canceled a Missouri rally and fundraiser next month because of a scheduling conflict — and not out of concern that the trip would too closely coincide with the felony trial of Gov. Eric Greitens, with whom Pence has had some close political ties. Pence won’t attend a previously announced public rally in Springfield, Mo., scheduled for May 9, nor a fundraiser that night for U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, the White House said Tuesday. A White House spokeswoman said the Springfield event was never confirmed, but that the vice president plans to come to Missouri in the weeks following that date. She said the Hawley fundraiser also will happen at that later date.”

JACKSON FIGHTS FOR REPUTATION, CAN HE SAVE NOMINATION?
AP: “His nomination in peril, Veterans Affairs nominee Ronny Jackson fought to convince lawmakers of his leadership abilities as more details of accusations against him emerged, ranging from repeated drunkenness to a toxic work environment as he served as a top White House doctor. … A watchdog report requested in 2012 and reviewed by The Associated Press found that Jackson and a rival physician exhibited ‘unprofessional behaviors’ as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit. The six-page report by the Navy’s Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as ‘being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.’ ‘There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on ‘eggshells,’’ the assessment found. The inspector general report reviewed by The AP included no references to improper prescribing of drugs or the use of alcohol, separate allegations revealed by a Senate committee.”

Mulvaney’s Kinsley gaffe: Donors get better treatment in Congress – WaPo: “Mick Mulvaney, interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on Tuesday told banking executives that as a South Carolina congressman he always met with constituents, but never out-of-town lobbyists unless they gave him campaign money — part of an exhortation to the bankers to push their agenda on Capitol Hill. ‘We had a hierarchy in my office, in Congress,’ said Mulvaney, who was a leading conservative in Congress until Trump tapped him as his budget director (a role he also continues to serve in). ‘If you were a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you.  If you were a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.’ But, he said, the priority was given to local constituents. ‘If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talk to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,’ Mulvaney said at the American Bankers Association, according to a transcript by the CFPB.”

FAVORABLE RECEPTION AT SUPCO FOR TRAVEL BAN
Fox News: “The Trump administration enjoyed a favorable reception Wednesday from the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in the first significant legal test of this president’s policies and power, as the justices reviewed the high-stakes challenge to the so-called travel ban. At issue is whether the third and latest version of President Trump’s travel restrictions, affecting visitors from five majority Muslim nations, discriminate on the basis of nationality and religion, in the government’s issuance of immigrant visas. … Despite some speculation over Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch – given a recent ruling in which he sided with liberal colleagues on an immigration case – the conservative jurist seemed to offer indirect support Wednesday as he called into question a federal judge’s prior attempt to suspend the travel ban nationwide.”

Judge sets 90-day deadline for Trump on DREAMers – Fox News: “A George W. Bush-appointed federal judge on Tuesday ruled that President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, ‘was unlawful and must be set aside.’ U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington became the third judge to rule against the White House’s plans to end the program. Judges William Alsup and Nicholas Garaufis, both Clinton appointees, had each issued injunctions earlier this year preventing the administration from terminating DACA based on its stated rationale that the Obama-era program was an illegal executive overreach. Bates’ decision does not hold that the Trump administration lacks the authority to rescind DACA.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Congressional Black Caucus looks for an enhanced role in post-Pelosi world – Politico

Chait: ‘Democrats Are Rushing Into a Job Guarantee. It Could Be a Huge Mistake’ – NY Magazine

Abbot schedules special election to replace Farenthold for June 30 – Texas Tribune

Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone was unanimously confirmed to NSA, Cyber Command – Politico

AUDIBLE: MISDIRECTION PLAY 
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America. It’s divisive and it’s horrible.” – New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft in a leaked recording of a meeting among NFL owners and players discussing President Trump’s campaign against players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality. Kraft has been a visible, ardent supporter of Trump. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, I saw your response on not using the Rasmussen polls but am not convinced. I know everyone believes their own organization’s polls are the best, but you sidestepped the fact that the Rasmussen Poll was a more accurate forecast of the 2016 election outcome than the Fox or other major network polls. Why were they right & you guys wrong in the last Presidential election polling? Please explain- – or simply eat a little crow & add Rasmussen into your polling summaries.” – Glenn Fuller, Laurel, Md.

[Ed. note: There was an octopus named Paul at an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany who had a knack for picking the winners of big soccer games. His keepers would present him with two boxes containing food, identical in every way except for the national flag of the World Cup competitors on the outside. Whichever box Paul chose to eat from first was declared his choice in the upcoming match. He chose correctly for four of six matches in 2008 and became something of a celebrity in 2010 when he chose correctly in 11 of 13 contests. Unfortunately for German soccer fans, the average lifespan for Paul’s species is only about three years. RIP Paul. This is not to say that Rasmussen Reports is an octopus, but it is to say that methodology matters. We exclude many, many polls from our average, including Rasmussen, which is consistently championed by President Trump and his supporters. We understand why MAGA Nation loves Rasmussen since the survey routinely shows more favorable results for the president and other Republicans, just as some polls consistently show advantages for Democrats. We don’t include online polls like YouGov or Zogby or Ipsos or GFK or Survey Monkey or anybody else who’s working online. Many of those polls tend to consistently show bias toward Democrats. Neither do we include pollsters like Rasmussen, who are by law not able to call people on their cellphones. That includes firms like Public Policy Polling, We Ask America and others in addition to Rasmussen. You are right when you say that Rasmussen finished pretty close to the final national popular vote in 2016 showing Hillary Clinton winning by two points, but most polls, including the one that Fox News conducted, were fairly close to the mark showing her leading in the low single digits. I would encourage you to think differently about polling. The reason we do an average is to get a snapshot of certain trend lines, but no single poll should be taken as gospel, regardless of whether you like or dislike its findings. While we devote considerable time to analyzing poll results, our emphasis is more on how races are run and how voters are responding. Polls are only one of many tools for assessing those things.]    

“Chris, I am baffled at your use of polls which either use no qualifications or just include ‘Registered Voters’. I understand why people do such polls, they’re cheap… and you get what you pay for. If you are really interesting in understanding what is going on out in the real world you must use only use ‘Likely Voters’ or best of all ‘Tracking Polls’ of Likely Voters, they are expensive but they also provide a real picture, if operated by competent organizations. If you have any doubt about my concern, just look at who got the last election correctly…” – Paul Hill, New Bern, N.C.

[Ed. note: The issue about “likely” versus “registered” voters doesn’t really have anything to do with money. There are a lot of cost considerations in the cost of conducting a poll – hiring quality interviewers, obtaining accurate phone lists and having experienced professionals to oversee the process – but time is really the issue. And finding out whether someone is a likely voter or not doesn’t really take much time. The best polls have to ask multiple questions to determine if someone is a likely voter, since we want to know their voting history. The likeliest voters are the ones who participate regularly in elections. But again, asking someone two or three questions during a survey is not that time consuming. The problem with likelihood so early in an election cycle is that today’s likely voter might be an unlikely voter in November and vice versa. The time to start limiting polls is in the weeks immediately before a contest. For example, it was quite appropriate to limit the recent Fox News poll of West Virginia Republican primary voters to those who say they’re likely to participate because the vote is just two weeks away. For now, though, it’s still too soon to start closing the door. Democratic voter intensity is very high right now and a likely voter poll conducted today might unreasonably skew toward the Blue Team. There’s plenty of time and no need to hurry.]

“Dear Mr. Stirewalt, I do not understand your continued reporting every possible negative thing about President Trump. Sure, the main stream media is chocked full of it so it makes easy material but I always felt you rose above that fray. Today reporting how he carelessly is throwing Dr. Ronny Jackson under the bus to rehashing all the trouble with other nominations. I did not see any mention of how Democrats are slow walking any and every possible way in a unified ‘resistance’ I agree that President Trump seems to be a bumbling klutz that continues to step on his own messaging as well as that of his charge but let’s try to talk about the good things that he is doing for our country previously thought unlikely for the past 30 years or so. Record unemployment, particularly with minorities, perhaps the closest we have ever been to a ‘real’ NK deal, tough trade talk appears to be bringing our nemesis countries around to a reasonable compromise, fellow members of NATO seem to be considering paying their ‘fair share’ and we have not only pretty well defeated ISIS but have formed an unlikely coalition of Muslim countries to step it up. Lots of moving parts and pieces but a pretty amazing first 15 months in my humble opinion.” – Jim Burrow, Colleyville, Texas

[Ed. note: All fair points, Mr. Burrow, but I would submit that covering the news is sort of like eating an elephant: You have to do it one bite at a time. However things turn out for Jackson, the mishandling of this nomination has been a master class in administrative nincompoopery. It matters to us because it will have consequences among persuadable voters if they perceive this administration as incompetent. It will also matter to voters how the economy is, how secure they feel, how they perceive Washington to be working overall and a thousand other considerations. By our lights, this week revealed a trend about executive execution worth noting.]

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 Email us at
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HE URNED HIS RELEASE

Kennebec [Maine] Journal: “Kevin Raymond Curtis, of Augusta held up an evidence bag Tuesday containing two small, clear plastic bags of a white sandy material. Police had suspected the grainy substance was heroin. It was actually his father. The 48 grams of suspected heroin seized after a car crash Saturday morning in Manchester proved instead to be human remains – specifically, the cremated remains of Robert Clinton Curtis Sr., who died five years ago in Brookville, Florida. ‘This was the first time my father was ever in lockup right here, and it took me forever to get him out of it,’ Curtis said. In fact, it took about 48 hours to have the cremains returned from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office after a field test showed the substance was negative for heroin. … The elder Curtis probably would have been pleased with the result; after all, he had worked as an auxiliary officer for the Hallowell Police Department in the late 1950s…”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.

Senate primary gets nasty: ‘This is West Virginia, not NJ. We are respectable’

Turns out, the Garden State is a central part of the Senate primary in the Mountain State.

That’s because the frontrunner in a Fox News poll of likely GOP Senate primary voters, Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.V., is dismissive of his opponent Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s combative style.

Jenkins said Morrisey has a “New Jersey approach.”

“Why don’t you let me finish?” Jenkins asked Morrisey, who was contesting a point about water regulations, during a Tuesday debate broadcast on WSAZ NewsChannel3. “This is West Virginia, not New Jersey – we are respectable and polite in our state.”

Morrisey, Jenkins and fellow Republican candidate Don Blankenship are set to participate in the West Virginia GOP Senate primary debate hosted by Fox News on Tuesday, May 1. The debate, which will be co-moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, will be held at the Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown, West Virginia from 6:30-7:30PM/ET.

FOX NEWS POLL: THREE TOP-TIER CANDIDATES IN WEST VIRGINIA GOP SENATE PRIMARY

When asked in an interview Wednesday to elaborate on what embodies the so-called “New Jersey approach,” Jenkins called Morrisey “pushy.”

Morrisey grew up in New Jersey, attended Rutgers University, and later mounted a congressional bid in the state.

But he insists, that was a long time ago.

“I really think what you saw yesterday during the debate is that he’s become a little bit unhinged,” Morrisey said of Jenkins. “I’ve been the Attorney General of two terms, people know that I’ve been standing up for West Virginia in court and going after the Obama administration.”

“I got to move here by choice in my life,” Morrisey continued. “I love this state so passionately, and so you know for him to do this shows just how desperate his campaign is.”

Peter Doocy is currently a Washington D.C.-based correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC).  He joined the network in 2009 as a general assignment reporter based in the New York bureau.

Sessions stays mum on Rosenstein speculation, Cohen probe at Senate hearing

Attorney General Jeff Sessions kept quiet Wednesday about whether he would recuse himself from the criminal investigation into Trump attorney Michael Cohen and refused to speculate on resigning should President Trump choose to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

During a hearing held by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Sessions was pressed by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy on whether he had “honored” his recusal from the investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates ahead of the 2016 election.

“Sen. Leahy, I am honoring the recusal in every case, in every matter that comes before the Department of Justice. I have honored that, and will continue to honor that,” Sessions said.

Leahy, D-Vt., then asked whether the attorney general would recuse himself from the Cohen case, following the announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York that Cohen was under criminal investigation, and the empaneling of a grand jury for that case.

“It is the policy of the Department of Justice that those who have recused themselves not state the details of [the recusal] or confirm the existence of an investigation, or the scope or nature of the investigation,” Sessions said. “So, I feel like by following the rules of the Department, which I am teaching all of our people to do, I cannot answer that question.”

cohen ap fbn

Former Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation as part of a grand jury probe.

 (AP)

Leahy’s question regarding a potential recusal from the Cohen case came after a Bloomberg News report on Tuesday, suggesting Sessions would not recuse himself from the Cohen investigation.

Justice Department officials refused to confirm the report, telling Fox News they could not talk about recusals because that would confirm the existence of the investigation. Justice Department officials also told Fox News that they could neither confirm nor deny a Sessions recusal because the existence of the investigation already was public knowledge, and the confirmation of a recusal would reveal the scope and nature of the investigation.

Sessions doubled down on his initial answer, telling Leahy and the panel that he would “comply” with his recusal.

SESSIONS REPORTEDLY SAYS HE MAY QUIT IF ROSENSTEIN SACKED; WHAT IS TRUMP SAYING? 

“The best answer for me is that I should not announce that. Recusals are not made public, but internally binding,” Sessions said. “I can assure you I have not violated my recusal.”

Leahy, the appropriations committee’s vice chair, went on to press Sessions on whether the attorney general would resign should Trump choose to remove Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation for the Justice Department. Leahy cited a Washington Post article from last week suggesting Sessions would quit amid a potential Rosenstein termination. 

“That calls for a speculative answer… I’m not able to do that,” Sessions replied with a smile.

JUDGE WON’T LET TRUMP ATTORNEY COHEN REVIEW SEIZED FILES BEFORE THE FEDS, AS STORMY DANIELS SPEAKS OUT 

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attends a briefing at the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, on leaks of classified material threatening national security, one week after President Donald Trump complained that he was weak on preventing such disclosures. (AP Andrew Harnik)

There have been reports for weeks that President Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

 (AP)

Leahy responded: “Your smile answers the question.”

Last week, during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reporters pressed Trump on whether he would fire Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 

“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” Trump said, referring to the media reports suggesting Mueller and Rosenstein’s potential ouster. 

Cohen, who formerly worked at the Trump Organization, is under criminal investigation as part of a grand jury probe into his personal conduct and business dealings, including a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2016.

Sessions was asked whether President Trump would pardon Cohen, to which Sessions did not answer, noting he would not reveal conversations he had with the president. 

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report. 

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

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens Gave a Speech. At a Prayer Breakfast. For Police.

WASHINGTON – It is an odd day in the nation’s capital that begins with the president of France’s kicking the ass of the current president* of the United States all over the chamber of the House of Representatives, and ends with said president* tweeting out his thanks to his new best pal, and probably the Scott Baio of the 2020 re-elect, Kanye West. So we really should try to end it with at least a couple of laughs.

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Down in Missouri, embattled—and twice-accused of felonies—Governor Eric Greitens remains defiant. He will hold onto to his office until they pry it from his cold, dead (and, allegedly, nimble on the keyboard) fingers. To that end, he’s doing everything he can to shore up support and, on Wednesday, he went out and made a public appearance.

At a prayer breakfast.

For police.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“I can tell you, the people of Missouri stand with you,” Gov. Eric Greitens told the annual memorial prayer breakfast of the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association at St. Charles Convention Center, for which he was keynote speaker. “There is a strong, silent majority of people throughout the state” who support police even in controversial circumstances, the Republican governor told them.

And, if you wouldn’t mind, can you identify yourselves in case the legal defense fund runs a bit dry?

Laughter is really the only alternative sometimes.

What the Supreme Court Said About Trump’s Travel Ban

WASHINGTON – One day long ago, when she was in high school, Karen Korematsu was doing that half-listening thing you do in high school where one of your classmates is giving a book report when she heard something that snapped her attention like a bowstring. Her friend’s report was on a book called Concentration Camps USA, and she was talking about the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, as black a mark on American history (and on constitutional law) as any other. Karen’s attention heard a name she recognized.

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It was her father’s.

“My parents were waiting until they thought I was old enough to know about it,” she said. “You have to understand—there was a code of silence about those days. There was shame and there was embarrassment. Nobody talked about it. People lost homes. They lost marriages. Some of them lost their lives and then, do you know what they did at the end of the war, when they sent all those people home? They gave them $25 and a bus ticket.”

Karen’s father, Fred Korematsu, was born in Oakland, California in 1919. His parents had come to this country from Japan in 1905. In 1940, Fred was called up for military service, but he was rejected by the Navy for health reasons. He became a welder, working in the shipyards in California. He lost one job before Pearl Harbor. After Pearl Harbor, he lost everything. Then, in the wake of the attack, when a local military official forbade all Japanese citizens in the area from leaving, Fred Korematsu refused to obey the order and got arrested. Eventually, he ended up in a concentration camp in Utah.

Japanese Americans arrive at an interment camp in California in 1942.

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He fought his case through the courts all through World War II until, in 1944, in a decision called Korematsu v. U.S., a 6-3 majority of the Supreme Court said that, while the decision to intern Japanese citizens was constitutionally dubious, it was justified because of wartime necessity. Writing for the majority, Justice Hugo Black said:

“It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers—and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps, with all the ugly connotations that term implies—we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order.

“To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders—as inevitably it must—determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot—by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight—now say that, at that time, these actions were unjustified.”

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Fred Korematsu, far left, in 1983.

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In dissent, Justice Robert Jackson was having none of this.

“Now, if any fundamental assumption underlies our system, it is that guilt is personal and not inheritable. Even if all of one’s antecedents had been convicted of treason, the Constitution forbids its penalties to be visited upon him, for it provides that ‘no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.’ But here is an attempt to make an otherwise innocent act a crime merely because this prisoner is the son of parents as to whom he had no choice, and belongs to a race from which there is no way to resign.”

This was all news to Karen Korematsu when she was in high school, but she has spent her life fighting against the forces in our society that brought about her father’s imprisonment. In 1983, Fred Korematsu’s conviction was overturned on the grounds that the government had suppressed evidence that disproved its theory about the disloyalty of Japanese Americans. In 1988, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Korematsu v. U.S. sits there in the law, like an unexploded bomb in the town square.

See, here’s the thing. Fred Korematsu was cleared, but Korematsu v. U.S. was never overturned. It sits there in the law, like an unexploded bomb in the town square of which everyone is aware but nobody wants to defuse. Which is why Karen Korematsu was in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to listen as the Court heard the case of Trump v. Hawaii, as a guest of Senator Maisie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, the latest challenge to the latest iteration of the administration*’s Muslim travel ban.

(Remember the travel ban? It was one of the first actions that brought masses of people into the streets—and into the airports—to express the opinion that the country had elected an unqualified xenophobic dolt to be its president*. It seems like all of that happened a decade ago.)

Demonstrators outside JFK airport in New York in January 2017.

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This latest version of the travel ban was the result of a presidential proclamation last September. This prohibition covers only people from eight countries—Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, Venezuela and North Korea. (Chad recently was removed from the list.) One would have to be dreadfully cynical to opine a ) that Venezuela and North Korea are on the list so it would not look quite so much like a Muslim ban, and b) that Chad was removed so Solicitor General Noel Francisco could point to it as an example of how careful the administration* was being this time around.

The smart money says that a majority of the Court will uphold the current ban. Both Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to lean heavily on a president’s right to make national security calls. In a truly weird byplay, Roberts asked Neal Katyal, representing Hawaii:

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“What if the military advisors tell the President that, in their judgment, the President ought to order a strike, an air strike against Syria, and the President says, well—does that mean he can’t because you would regard that as discrimination against a majority Muslim country?”

This smacked the old gob. Roberts has to know better than this. A ban on immigrants from Syria is a completely different exercise of presidential powers than ordering a damn airstrike. This is apples and fruit-bats. Katyal, to his credit, did not dissolve into helpless, spluttering laughter. “I don’t think there’s any immigration issue in your hypothetical,” he responded. “I might be misunderstanding it, Mr. Chief Justice.”

Trump excites a crowd during a campaign rally.

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At which point, the argument turned in an interesting direction.

“Why, under your theory, wouldn’t that constitute, or the argument would be that that’s discrimination under your Establishment Clause argument that that’s discrimination on the basis of faith because he has said in the past, if you accept the arguments, that he is anti-Muslim?” Roberts asked.

This was a serious subtext underlying the whole proceeding—how much should a president’s campaign rhetoric be factored into a legal debate on a subsequent policy. (The law school answer is, of course, “Not at all.”) The current president* made it quite clear, over and over during the campaign, and as a means of energizing the darker parts of the national Id, that he was a bigot and a xenophobe. It may have been economic insecurity that got people curious about him, but it was the attacks on the Other that got them into the rallies. It is tres declasse for the nine members of the Supreme Court to admit that they are in any way affected by the grubby realities of how we elect people, so this got shuffled off in a quick hurry.

Again, from Roberts: “If your argument based on discrimination is based on the campaign statements, the one that you do make based on the campaign statements, is there a statute of limitations on that, or is that a ban from presidential findings for the rest of the administration?”

Karen and her brother, Ken Korematsu, pose near photographs of their father Fred Korematsu during a presentation of his portrait to the National Portrait Gallery in 2012.

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But, out in the gallery, Karen Korematsu knew that the forces summoned up in the last political campaign differed not at all from the forces that sent her father to a camp, that fought him all the way through the legal system, and that finally apologized to him 45 years after the damage was done. And that case is still on the books.

“We came out after 9/11, when there were people actually citing my father’s case in favor of interning Muslim citizens,” she said, as rain pattered down on the marble steps beneath her feet. “We are here today because we know what can happen.”

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

Former President George H.W. Bush out of intensive care, and docs are said to be pleased

Former President George H.W. Bush was moved Wednesday from the intensive care unit to a regular patient room at Houston Methodist Hospital, according to a statement from a family spokesman.

Jim McGrath tweeted that the 93-year-old Bush was “alert and talking with hospital staff, family and friends, and his doctors are very pleased with his progress.”

The 41st president has been hospitalized since Sunday, a day after his wife’s funeral, for treatment of an infection that had spread to his blood.

Barbara Bush, the former first lady, died April 17.

The Bushes had been married for 73 years.

“He also wants to assure everyone that, as good as he feels now, he is more focused on the Houston Rockets closing out their playoff series against the Minnesota Timberwolves than anything that landed him in the hospital,” the statement continued.

An aside: The Rockets lead the Timberwolves 3-1 in their best-of-seven NBA playoff series.

Bush also thanked Houston for its “professionalism and obvious care” during the memorials and services for Barbara.

In a tweet posted Wednesday morning, Bush thanked Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the city police and transit agency, Second Baptist Church and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church “and really all Houstonians” for “making Barbara’s visitors and funeral guests feel so welcomed.”

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

John Bolton says National Security Council staff changes are coming, and some employees aren’t happy

National security adviser John Bolton has informed National Security Council employees that staff changes are imminent, including an influx of new people and a reorganization, a Trump administration source told Fox News on Wednesday.

In a memo sent by Bolton on Wednesday morning, he informed staffers that the changes could include combining higher-level director positions.

The source said that while some at the National Security Council (NSC) welcome Bolton’s changes, the news will upset many White House staffers who are overworked and overwhelmed as a result of the administration’s mercurial foreign policy. The source added that it is possible that skilled NSC staffers will leave their posts as a result of the changes, making it hard to attract other potential staffers.

Bolton is the third national security adviser to serve under President Donald Trump in the 15 months of the Trump administration. He succeeded H.R. McMaster earlier this month. And McMaster succeeded Michael Flynn, who resigned in February 2017. (Flynn has since pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in the course of the bureau’s investigation into contacts between Russian officials and Trump’s presidential campaign.)

A number of top national security officials — including NSC spokesman Michael Anton, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert and deputy national security advisers Ricky Waddell and Nadia Schadlow — have either been pushed out by Bolton or have chosen to leave because of his appointment. One of those former NSC officials, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, was chosen Monday by Vice President Mike Pence to serve as his national security adviser.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

White House doubles down in defense of embattled VA nominee Ronny Jackson

The White House on Wednesday doubled down in its defense of embattled Veterans Affairs nominee Ronny Jackson, who faces a range of accusations including drinking on the job and creating a toxic work environment.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Jackson’s record has been “impeccable” and that background checks revealed “no areas of concern. Sanders also noted that Jackson has worked “within arm’s reach of three presidents.”

“Given his unique position of trust and responsibility, Dr. Jackson’s background and character were evaluated during three different administrations,” she said. “Dr. Jackson has had at least four independent  background investigations conducted during his time at the White House including an FBI investigation conducted as part of the standard nomination vetting process.”

Sanders noted that he had received “glowing evaluations” including several from President Obama. Fox News obtained documents showing glowing praise from Obama, calling him “a tremendous asset to the entire White House team.”

DOCUMENTS SHOW OBAMA PRAISED VA NOMINEE JACKSON, SUPPORTED PROMOTION ‘IMMEDIATELY’ 

Sanders’ remarks come after President Donald Trump had backed Jackson a day earlier, saying he stood by Jackson no matter what but, “If I were him … I wouldn’t do it.”

“It’s totally his decision, but he’ll be making a decision,” Trump said of Jackson.

The comments come after The New York Times and others reported that Jackson has been accused of overseeing a hostile work environment as White House physician, drinking on the job and allowing the overprescription of drugs. A 2012 report by the Navy’s Medical Inspector General accused him of exhibiting “unprofessional behaviors” amid a power struggle over the White House medical unit.

VA NOMINEE JACKSON WAS ‘UNPROFESSIONAL’ IN POWER STRUGGLE WITH RIVAL, 2012 WATCHDOG REPORT SAYS 

Amid the allegations, Jackson’s confirmation hearing originally set for Wednesday was postponed.

Jackson met with Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday. The Associated Press reported that the president urged him to keep fighting to win confirmation, and that Jackson denied the allegations.

Jackson is the latest Trump official to be dogged by controversy in an administration filled with controversies and departures. 

Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has struggled to get past a Senate panel, while Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, is in hot water after he reportedly said he only met with lobbyists who had contributed to his campaign. 

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney said at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington this week, according to the Times. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

But amid a seemingly endless litany of complaints about Trump officials, it opens the door for the White House and Trump allies to blame the Jackson controversy on Democratic obstructionism and even over-reaction.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, noted that one of the drugs Jackson is supposed to have doled out was sleep aid Ambien. According to the Times, Cornyn said it was not a problem that Jackson distributed such drugs as he was a doctor.

“On overseas travel, yeah, sure, people take Ambien to help them transition through time zones,” he said. “It’s pretty common, I’m led to believe.”

Fox News’ Judson Berger and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for FoxNews.com. He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.