Why are Republicans pushing secret OBAMA plan without disclosing what is in it?

Obama makes last-ditch plea to Dems ahead of showdown vote on trade

Now PlayingWhite House scrambles to save trade deal

President Obama went to Capitol Hill Friday morning to make a final plea to congressional Democrats for his trade agenda, ahead of a showdown vote in the House.

The president met with House Democratic leaders ahead of a caucus meeting. While it is extremely rare for a president to make a visit like this before a big vote, the last-minute lobbying comes after the president also made a surprise appearance at the annual congressional baseball game between Democrats and Republicans the night before. His personal involvement underscores how fragile the effort is — Fox News is told the effort is still short on the votes — and how important he sees it to his second-term legacy.

The night before, a bizarre scene unfolded as the crowd crammed inside Nationals Park lurched into a chant about the legislation.

“TPA! TPA! TPA!” chanted Republican congressional aides seated near the first base dugout when Obama stepped onto the field at the top of the fourth inning.

This wasn’t quite the drunken, Bronx throng at Yankee Stadium cantillating “Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE!” after Reggie Jackson swatted three consecutive home runs in Game Six of the 1977 World Series. This was gamesmanship, Washington-style. A game in which most congressional Republicans find themselves backing the Democratic president’s efforts to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a framework for a big trade deal the administration hopes to advance later this year.

TPA, which would give the president the ability to “fast-track” future trade deals, is one of two bills due up in the House on Friday. And it’s anybody’s guess if the bills will pass. Members of Congress may have been mixing it up on the diamond. But there is just as much gamesmanship underway on Capitol Hill as lawmakers try to leverage passage or defeat of the trade legislation.

More on this…

  • Stage set for vote to give Obama fast-track trade authority

First, the basics.

Most House Republicans want to approve TPA. But they don’t quite have the votes to do it on their own. They need Democratic support. Yet the irony is that even though Obama is pushing the deal, only about 20-plus House Democrats support their own chief executive on this issue.

So various political gambits kick in.

Republicans find it absurd that Obama can’t persuade more than two-dozen Democratic members to support the trade plan. Conversely, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is stunned that House Republicans, boasting a 246-188 majority, can’t excavate at least 200 GOPers to approve the package.

So Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, cut a deal. Neither side promised a certain number of votes to the other. But both House leaders forged a plan which could conceivably reward both sides with a political victory and concurrently test their respective abilities to gin up votes.

Pelosi and Boehner engineered a deal to advance the trade framework to the floor – so long as Democrats scored a vote on something called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

TAA is a program near and dear to the hearts of many Democrats. It’s a method to cushion the blow for various workers and industries damaged by business reallocations in trade agreements. So House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., teed up  two votes for Friday: One for TAA and one on TPA. But a TPA vote was contingent on the House first adopting TAA. The procedural maneuver would require Republicans to carry most of the freight to adopt TPA. But to get there, Democrats would be expected to provide the lion’s share of votes for TAA. If the House doesn’t approve TAA, everything comes to a screeching halt and there’s no vote on TPA.

Further complicating matters, Pelosi has spoken openly against the trade accord but has yet to definitively say how she’ll vote.

Capitol Hill is weird. Weird enough to have Republicans serving as Obama’s TPA cheerleaders – both at the ballpark and in the House chamber. It’s even weirder to have House Democrats working against Obama on this. And then there’s Pelosi – stuck in the middle.

On trade, Pelosi is a switch-pitcher. She’s trying to keep the Democratic caucus from embarrassing Obama with a paltry vote total for TPA. Yet she’s working to make sure most of her caucus gets what it wants: a defeat of TPA. At the same time, Pelosi secured a deal for the TAA vote – which could help pass TPA … or blow it up.

Major League Baseball has a rule for ambidextrous pitchers, few as there may be. Such cross-hurlers must first declare whether they intend to pitch left-handed or right-handed to each batter. There’s no such rule on Capitol Hill. That’s why when it comes to trade, Pelosi is chucking political curveballs from both sides of the mound.

But Democrats are working against Pelosi. A senior House GOP leadership source says Republicans can only provide 50 to 70 votes for TAA. Democrats must make up the difference. However, many Democrats now see a means to an end. Some intend to vote no on TAA simply to detonate the entire process and never get the TPA bill to the floor — which they so despise.

The House nearly voted to truncate the entire process before the first pitch, coming close to voting down a procedural vote just to get the measures to the floor.

Some observers interpreted the uneven procedural vote as a harbinger of things to come Friday on the trade bills. Some lawmakers wondered if Obama – fresh off his dugout diplomatic mission — might ring up lawmakers and implore them to vote aye.

One longtime Democratic member doubted that would happen, noting that Obama had already done all of the calling he could do.

There are games here, too. The same lawmaker signaled that some colleagues might not even take the call if the president phones. In fact, they might even keep their phones switched off.

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Jason Amerine Why is this war hero being investigated?

Why is this war hero being investigated?

Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, pictured in 2001, played a key role in overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Story highlights

  • Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, who helped liberate Afghanistan, faces probe in hostage disclosure
  • Peter Bergen: It appears to be a case of a war hero being investigated for doing the right thing

Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. He is the author of “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden — From 9/11 to Abbottabad.”

(CNN)Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, a Special Forces war hero who played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Taliban in the months after 9/11, is under investigation over a purported unauthorized disclosure relating to a U.S. hostage held overseas that was made to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter’s office.

Hunter, a California Republican, has been a vocal advocate in Congress for pushing efforts to help free American hostages held by al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Peter Bergen

A plan was developed in the Pentagon by Amerine, most recently a planner on the U.S. Army staff, to secure the release of those American hostages, according to a staff member on Hunter’s committee.

The plan was to release Haji Bashir Noorzai, a prominent member of the Taliban who is in prison in the States on drug trafficking charges, in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdal, who was held by the Taliban until last year as well as other Taliban hostages. They were: Caitlin Coleman, a U.S. citizen, and her husband, Canadian citizen Joshua Boyle, and Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker held by al Qaeda who was inadvertently killed in a CIA drone strike in January.

It’s not clear how far, if anywhere, this plan of action went.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Army Criminal Investigation Command is probing what Amerine may have disclosed to members of Congress months ago. Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command told the Post that, “As a matter of policy, we do not confirm the names of individuals who may or may not be under investigation to protect the integrity of a possible ongoing investigation, as well as the privacy rights of all involved.” He also said, “We reject any notion that Army CID initiates felony criminal investigations for any other purpose than to fairly and impartially investigate credible criminal allegations that have been discovered or brought forward.”

CNN first reported the investigation of Amerine in April.

In a Facebook post this month, Amerine made his first public comments about the investigation, writing: “I have been under criminal investigation for the last four months for whistleblowing to Congress over our completely dysfunctional system for recovering hostages. The FBI formally complained to the Army about me reporting to Congress about their failed efforts to recover Warren Weinstein, Caitlin Coleman and the child she bore in captivity…If I learned nothing in my 22 years of service I learned that we never leave people behind.”

What makes the investigation of Amerine so strange is that he is a bona fide war hero. According to research that I conducted for “The Longest War,” a history of the war on terror, in the months after the 9/11 attacks, then-Capt. Jason Amerine was the leader of the U.S. Special Forces team embedded with Hamid Karzai, the future leader of Afghanistan, in Tarin Kowt, the provincial capital of the Afghan province of Uruzgan.

Bergen: Secrets of the bin Laden treasure trove

On November 16, 2001, the people of Tarin Kowt rose up against the Taliban and chased them out. A day later Karzai headed into the town in a 20-vehicle convoy and set up shop in the governor’s mansion. Arriving around midnight, Karzai met with local Pashtun tribal leaders, who welcomed him and told him with some trepidation that there was a column of some 100 vehicles approaching from Kandahar and containing up to 500 Taliban who would reach the town by the next day intent on taking it back.

The 100-vehicle convoy sent to retake Tarin Kowt for the Taliban was Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar‘s last shot at hanging on to power.

Amerine started to plan how to repel the much larger Taliban force, while his combat controller sent out an urgent warning to U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft in the area that they would be needed shortly.

Remembering the hostages killed in the U.S. drone strike

Remembering the hostages killed in the U.S. drone strike 02:25
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Amerine gathered as many of Karzai’s guerrillas as he could. His plan was to stake out some higher ground with those guerillas outside Tarin Kowt and call in airstrikes from there onto the fast-approaching Taliban convoy.

Around two hours after Amerine was first alerted to the approaching Taliban column, Navy F/A-18 fighters spotted a group of about 10 four-wheel drives and started bombing them. Three hours later, at 5 a.m., the larger convoy of dozens of Taliban vehicles came into view.

Heavily outnumbered, Karzai’s group of Afghan guerrillas took flight and sped back to Tarin Kowt, followed by Amerine and his Special Forces team. Back in Tarin Kowt, Amerine told Karzai, “The Taliban are coming, there are a lot of them. These (Afghan) fighters we are with don’t understand our capabilities; they kind of ran. I need to take these vehicles and get out there and keep doing what I’m doing.”

Amerine drove back outside the town at around 7 a.m. to direct deadly accurate bombing runs on the approaching Taliban convoy. Three hours later the battle was over, and what remained of the convoy was in full retreat.

Bergen: Could Warren Weinstein have been saved?

Hank Crumpton, who was running the CIA’s operation in Afghanistan, recalls that the battle was decisive because Karzai was the only man who could unify the country’s fractious ethnic factions: “Karzai was the lynchpin between north and south. The Uzbeks, the Tajiks, the Hazara, they all respected Karzai. They knew that he understood the concept of a nation-state.”

But the importance of the Tarin Kowt battle was not well understood at the time because the vast majority of the international media covering the war were concentrated in the north of the country and focusing on the fall of Kabul five days earlier.

Following the news of the debacle at Tarin Kowt, Mullah Omar finally abandoned Kandahar, the city he had controlled absolutely for seven years.

Karzai arrived just outside Kandahar on December 5 to begin the discussions of the terms of the Taliban surrender agreement. The following day, around 9 a.m., the Afghan leader was talking with a local tribal chief when suddenly there was an enormous bang and the doors and windows of the building he was in blew out.

A U.S. investigation later determined that the cause of the explosion was a 2,000-pound American bomb that had fallen 2 kilometers short of its intended target, instead landing on Karzai and his security detail. Three American Special Forces soldiers were killed.

Amerine, who had grown close to Karzai in the weeks he had protected him, was wounded in the leg and evacuated.

Karzai would go on, of course, to become the first democratically elected Afghan President.

President Barack Obama has ordered a review of U.S. government policies as they relate to hostages. The recent history of American hostage recoveries has mostly been one of failure. Journalists James Foley, Steve Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller, Peter Kassig and Weinstein have all been killed.

Does the White House need a ‘hostage czar’?

Families of hostages have also complained about a lack of communication with them, a lack of coordination between the agencies responsible for securing the release of their family members, and even threats of prosecution if they entered into negotiations with the terrorists holding their loved ones.

The hostage review process, the final findings of which are likely to be made in coming weeks, will surely help to solve some of these problems.

Hunter released a statement in April, saying, “The only government organization seriously developing options to recover Weinstein and others in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region was within the Pentagon — led by war hero Jason Amerine.”

Since the Army is saying little, it is not exactly clear what the grounds are for its investigation of Amerine. That said, it’s strange that this officer appears to be being penalized for simply doing the right thing: coming up with novel ideas about how to return American hostages home and communicating with members of Congress who have taken an interest in the issue.