Reason 7,483 Why I’ll Never Allow Alexa in My Home

Since the time Alexa was released I have been adamantly opposed to having it or any similar device in my home. They’re not eavesdropping, sure. Any time I shared that fear I was looked at as if I was a wacky conspiracy theorist. Now there’s a story illustrating precisely why my adamant opposition was justified and why it won’t change.

A young Portland couple whose home was outfitted with a full complement of Alexa devices received a phone call from one of the husband’s employees (who lives in Seattle) that changed their view on the intrusive technology. After an unsatisfactory resolution from Amazon, Danielle shared her story with local news station KIRO.

Every room in their home was connected to Alexa, from which the couple controlled the home’s lights, heat, and security system. Danielle told the news station:

“‘My husband and I would randomly joke and say, I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying.’

“But…two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. ‘The person on the other line said, ‘unplug your Alexa devices right now,’ she said. ‘You’re being hacked.’

Whoops.

“That person was one of her husband’s employees, calling from Seattle.

“‘We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house,’ she said. ‘At first, my husband was, like, ‘no you didn’t!’ And she said ,’You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘oh gosh, you really did hear us.’

“The employee, 176 miles away, received the recording out of the blue.”

That could have been extremely awkward, depending on what activities the couple were undertaking at the time.

After unplugging the devices, Danielle called Amazon to find out what the heck was going on.

“‘They said, ‘our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us, they saw exactly what you said happened, and we’re sorry.’ He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and he said we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix!”

According to Danielle, the engineer said the device guessed at what they were saying and sent the audio file. Amazon didn’t confirm that, but told KIRO:

“Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”

Danielle asked for a refund on all of their Alexa products, but Amazon would rather just “de-provision”her devices. She doesn’t want them anywhere near her and is still fighting for a full refund.

I wonder why?

Are there hundreds or thousands or millions of Alexa devices out there either capable of the same thing or already doing the same thing, unbeknownst to their owners? That isn’t out of the realm of possibility and, if Amazon knows about it, they’re probably keeping an extremely tight lid on it while they scramble to find an acceptable fix.

People across the political spectrum vigorously fight for their privacy in the face of laws like the Patriot Act, yet willingly invite a device they know is listening to every word (how else does it know when to turn on?) into their home, sometimes into each room of their home. How gullible are we?

I would advise against anyone having this technology in their home. I’m even thinking of asking each person whose home I visit if they use Alexa or similar devices. There’s no way I will have conversations in such an environment.

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North Korea Still Hasn’t Figured Out Who It’s Dealing With

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

Yesterday, Donald Trump let the North Koreans know that, okay, the talks are over before they began.

I mean, after all, the North Koreans were raising such a ruckus about how they weren’t sure the talks should happen, given the “evil” actions of the United States – actions no different than any other actions that have caused North Korea to rattle their sabres (or whatever scraps of metal they can afford at this point) at us.

And, lo and behold, hours after Trump let them know, they started making noise about how they actually really wanted to have the talk and also they were sorry for acting out like that because they don’t know what got into them at the time.

Now I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating because North Korea, the U.S. foreign policy establishment, and other global leaders still haven’t figured out the most simple of truths in this brave, new world: Donald Trump isn’t playing by any rules except his own.

Trump is crazy. He’s nuts. This isn’t up for debate. He is acting in ways that go against everything we believe to be a societal norm. And yet, amazingly enough, he somehow stumbles across the correct answers from time to time. His dealing with the craziest actors in global politics – Iran, North Korea, and others – has shown that the only way to deal with crazy is to out-crazy them and call their bluffs.

This isn’t an inherently good quality, and it isn’t an inherently bad one. It’s just different, and many of us who have watched and commented on politics for a few years at least have never really seen this before, and I have come to believe that it still secretly stuns a lot of the people who voted for him.

North Korea’s bluff was called. They said “We’re not so sure we want these talks anymore,” and Trump shrugged and said “Okay.” That is clearly not what North Korea expected. They are used to being coddled and hugged until their tantrum is over and they get a lollipop. The Trump Administration appears to be fresh out of lollipops, however, and the North Koreans are stunned.

In all honesty, you can’t do anything other than laugh, really. It’s funny to watch decades of the conventional wisdom in the foreign affairs community get turned on its ear, people scream about it, and the world decidedly not come to an end over it.

It is probably for the best if we do walk away for the moment. We shouldn’t ignore North Korea completely, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, the Korean Peninsula is not a problem that can feasibly be “fixed” in a single presidential term, much less eight years. There are decades of neglect in how North Korea has been dealt with, and it will take time to deal with it.

That’s not to say that Trump is necessarily right here. It’s far too soon to call this a victory for Trump. But, you can’t call it a defeat, either. It’s simply different, and people are freaking out about it.

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Lt. Gov. Patrick is right to shuck off film & video game subsidies

“The lieutenant governor [Dan Patrick] said he would withdraw his support for a Texas film and video game incentives program if it funded depictions of violence, blaming school shootings on a “culture where we’ve devalued life,”” reported the Texas Tribune. “We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through […]
Source: Pratt on Texas


LAPD Chief Beck’s Curious Defense to Trump’s Sanctuary Criticism

Although his department has defended the “rights” of illegal aliens with far more vigor than the civil rights of actual United States citizens and legal residents for decades, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck took great umbrage at President Trump’s recent allegation that the Sanctuary State law led to his department refusing to honor a detainer for an illegal alien who was then arrested for murder.

During a White House roundtable on Sanctuary State policies, Trump said:

“In January, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested an illegal immigrant from Mexico for drug possession. Instead of honoring the ICE detainer, they set him free. Just a few weeks later, he was arrested again, this time for murder. So they arrested him, they had him, they let him go. Tom, you’ve seen this. They let him go, and he killed somebody.”

The media had a field day fact-checking his statements. Factcheck.org wrote:

“That’s not how it happened.

“The murder occurred last summer — before federal immigration officials say they issued a detainer request — so it did not happen after police released him, as Trump implied.”

Chief Beck couldn’t let that stain on the integrity of his department stand. (Remember, this is the guy who, before SB 54 was even drafted, instituted a secret internal policy that made it more difficult for LAPD officers to arrest a known felon illegal alien than an “ordinary US citizen.) The LA Times reports:

“In fact, Beck told the city’s civilian Police Commission, the murder occurred last summer, before the man was arrested in January on suspicion of a minor narcotics violation.

“There was no such request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Beck said.

“‘Not that we would have honored it, anyway, because we believe those requests are illegal,’ the police chief said.

“Beck said the murder occurred in the Van Nuys area and may have been related to the narcotics trade and the Blythe Street gang. He identified the man as Juan Ramirez.”

In other words, Beck says, don’t believe what that bullying orange man says. Pfft, ICE didn’t request a detainer on this illegal alien, known gang member, and probable drug dealer – but if they did, we wouldn’t have honored it anyway because we don’t believe in federal laws.

An ICE spokeswoman gave the Times a different timeline. According to that agency, Ramirez was arrested on November 27, 2o17 and January 7, 2018, and both times a detainer was issued. The Sanctuary State laws did not go into effect until January 1, 2018, but, as previously mentioned, LAPD operated under Beck’s directive long before that.

“Statements that ICE failed to file detainers for each of Mr. Ramirez’ arrests are incorrect,” said [ICE] spokeswoman, Sarah Rodriguez. “ICE has placed three detainers on Mr. Ramirez in the last six months, all of which were not honored, leaving Mr. Ramirez free to reoffend in an escalating fashion rather than be placed in immigration court proceedings and removed from the United States.”

Ramirez was arrested on February 26, 2018 on the murder charge. The date of offense is August 27, 2017, so yes, Beck is correct that if detainers were issued (and ignored) in those cases, it wouldn’t have prevented the murder.  But hey, had he been arrested before that and had ICE issued a detainer, we would have let him go on his merry way!

And, reading Trump’s statement again, it is correct.

The city’s Police Commissioner, Cynthia McClain-Hill, agrees with Beck’s idiotic “It didn’t happen that way, but we wouldn’t have honored detainers anyway” defense.

“I appreciate the chief being so emphatic in defending the actions of the department in not cooperating with ICE, in compliance with the values of the city, the mayor and the commission.”

The LA Times didn’t investigate whether Ramirez had been arrested previously, and a search of news records didn’t turn up any concurrent stories. (If it was a drug murder in Van Nuys, it wouldn’t have made the LA Times, sadly.)

But why is there such a hubbub about this one case and whether or not Trump got it right? There weren’t published fact checks regarding Trump’s comments about Marilyn Pharis, another California victim of illegal alien crime. Jury selection started in the trial of her murderers around the time the roundtable was held, but major media outlets didn’t utter a word about her case. Of Pharis, Trump said:

“We all remember the tragic case of Marilyn Pharis, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been arrested six times prior to breaking into Marilyn’s home, raping her and savagely beating her to death with a hammer.”

Pharis, a 64-year-old Air Force veteran, worked a civilian job at Vandenburg Air Force Base and lived in Santa Maria, California. She awoke one morning in July 2015 to find a man on top of her, sexually assaulting her, while his accomplice stood watch. Her assailant, Victor Ramirez Martinez, had been arrested just two weeks before for possession of methamphetamines. ICE was contacted, but declined to pick him up – but remember, this was in 2015, under the Obama administration’s rules.

She told the 911 dispatcher that she had been strangled and lost consciousness three times. Despite that, former Police Chief Ralph Martin said:

“…Marilyn would not give up. She fought back with all the strength that she could possibly muster, even while receiving repeated blows with the hammer. The suspects left her for dead, but somehow, with her eye sockets shattered from the beating she suffered, including a broken neck bone, she called 911.

“I am not remiss to say that from Washington D.C. to Sacramento, there is a blood trail into the bedroom of Marilyn Pharis.”

Once she arrived at the hospital, she told medical workers she had bitten the assailant “and and I have his hair or tissue in my mouth.”

It’s no secret that the media would rather focus on misstatements by the President about a drug dealer/gang banger/illegal alien murderer than the torture and anguish being visited upon ordinary Americans by criminal illegal aliens.

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Here’s The Interesting Bit About The Harvey Weinstein Arrest No One Wants To Talk About

(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

As noted here earlier, Harvey Weinstein is now facing charges and will turn himself in on Friday to authorities in New York.

There is something about this particular timeline of events that no one really seems to be talking about, and it’s weird to me that we’d just ignore it.

Eric Schneiderman, the now-disgraced former New York attorney general accused of assaulting women during extra-marital sexual encounters, was in charge of the so-called review of the New York District Attorney’s handling of the Weinstein case.

ALBANY – New York’s attorney general will review Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s handling of an investigation into a sexual-abuse allegation against disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s review will focus on Vance’s investigation of allegations in 2015 against Weinstein by model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, which did not result in charges at the time.

This review was apparently still underway as of Schneiderman’s resignation.

So, let’s put some pieces of the puzzle together here: Eric Schneiderman’s office is in charge of a review of the Harvey Weinstein case, a case with a noted abuse of power and plenty of people turning a blind eye to his cruelty. The case does not appear, at least publicly, to have moved forward at all. Suddenly, Schneiderman is accused by four women of assault and steps down. Within weeks, charges are brought against Weinstein.

Anyone notice how suspicious that looks? Or is it just me?

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U.S. Military Reports Alert Status in Light of Tense North Korea Summit Situation

 

On Thursday, the U.S. military reported it had not increased its already-high level of alert toward North Korea after President Trump cancelled the much-hailed June 12th summit due to Kim Jong-un’s currently threatening posture.

In a morning letter sent to Trump by North Korean Foreign Ministry Vice Minister — and longtime nuclear negotiator — Choe Son Hui, hostility ran rampant, with the asian country calling Mike Pence a “dummy” and heaving a doozy of a threat:

“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

Of course, the media prefer instead to print Trump’s letter, calling his decision “bad timing” or “dangerous.” But the reality is, if you’re truly a master of the art of the deal, you don’t meet with someone who threatens to disintegrate you.

Speaking of extermination, the U.S. has its own nuclear mojo and, according to Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, it’s all primed:

“There is a high state of vigilance – the state of vigilance that we always have because [North Korea has] proven to be unpredictable in the past. But it is not a heightened state of vigilance. It is the normal state of vigilance that we maintain.”

In the meantime, government intelligence is trying to assess the validity of Kim’s claim they blew up tunnels at their main nuclear test site, symbolizing a willingness to at least diminish their nuclear program.

Of course, one can hardly trust that they’re downgrading, as they threaten us with a “showdown.”

And so, we’re ready. And waiting. McKenzie explains:

“We’ll see what develops over the next few days, if any provocative actions occur from [North Korea], we will certainly, in concert with our allies and partners in the region, be ready for it.”

 

 

Before the world blows up, follow Alex Parker on Twitter.

And check out some earlier Trump-Kim showdown drama here.

 

 

Also, if you’re up for it, read North Korea’s letter in its entirety below:

At an interview with Fox News on May 21, US Vice-President Pence made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, and so on.
As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president.

If he is vice-president of “single superpower” as is in name, it will be proper for him to know even a little bit about the current state of global affairs and to sense to a certain degree the trends in dialogue and the climate of détente.
We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them.

Soon after the White House National Security Adviser Bolton made the reckless remarks, Vice-President Pence has again spat out nonsense that the DPRK would follow in Libya’s footstep.

It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya’s footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.

In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us.

To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.

Before making such reckless threatening remarks without knowing exactly who he is facing, Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words.

It is the US who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us.

I only wonder what is the ulterior motive behind its move and what is it the US has calculated to gain from that.

We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.

Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.

In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-US summit.

 

 

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Homosexual Priests and the Paradox of Pope Francis

Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m sort of reluctant to post on religious subjects because they can turn into a reenactment of the Thirty Years War in a split second. Especially as we Catholics, both at RedState and in the nation, swim in an overwhelmingly Protestant sea. What follows is an interesting story and my opinion. (As a head’s up, I’m not trying to convert anyone to Catholicism; I’m totally not interested in hearing why I should convert to Protestantism or, the old standby, of why Catholicism isn’t Biblical. So please don’t go that direction in the comments.)

I am not a Pope Francis fan. While I don’t think he’s wildly heretical, I do think he’s shockingly cavalier with his use of language and blindingly arrogant in his refusal to explain or clarify his nebulous statements. And I think he loves his own press clippings. Nowhere has that been more on display than in the subject near and dear to all secular religious reporters: screwing. Particularly that which occurs outside of wedlock and between a couple of hairy, sweaty guys with great fashion sense. This is not to say that his inartful statements are limited to homosexual grappling. His apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia in 2016 seemed to open the door to admission to Communion for Catholics who were divorced and remarried (we believe in one man + one woman for life). And he’s muddied the waters to an incredible degree about the admission of non-Catholics to Communion, so much so that a majority of the German bishops decided that Protestant spouses of Catholics could participate in Communion. And, of course, there was the atheist father in Heaven brouhaha. And his bouts of Gaia worship. And his infatuation with Marxist dialectic.

In regards to homosexuality, in particular, there have been two key events that have led a lot of gay rights activists to conclude that Pope Francis could be prevailed upon to toss out Catholic dogma on homosexuality. There is the “who am I to judge?” episode concerning homosexual priests. And a couple of days ago, there was the “God made you this way and loves you” event.

As I said, I’m no fan of or apologist for Pope Francis, but in the spirit of charity I really believe all of these are best explained by where he comes from (a country that is overwhelmingly Catholic in culture that leads him to believe the rest of the world is the same) and his position there (a big fish in a very small pond who was never questioned or challenged).

Where is this meandering to?

The issue is homosexual men in the priesthood. Technically, this should not be a problem, right? I mean if we are all chaste, celibate, and continent then it shouldn’t make any difference…just like I should be able to shower with the girls so long as I keep my hands to myself. The issue of gay men in the priesthood and the impact is has was definitively explored in the book Goodbye, Good Men.

The macro issue of ordaining men with homosexual tendencies, in general, rather than focusing on the specific case at hand was addressed as an official policy for the first time by Pope Benedict Benedict XVI in 2005.

From the time of the Second Vatican Council until today, various Documents of the Magisterium, and especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church, have confirmed the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

Regarding acts, it teaches that Sacred Scripture presents them as grave sins. The Tradition has constantly considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. Consequently, under no circumstance can they be approved.

Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter[8].

In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question[9], cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”[10].

Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem – for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.

Many had thought that Pope Francis would get rid of this and adopt something softer.

A few days ago, Pope Francis attended a plenary session of the Italian bishops conference (this translation tracks with Reuters).

“If there’s a doubt about homosexuality, it’s better not to have them enter the seminary.”

The words of the Pope in the closed door session with the Italian bishops: “Discernment is needed”. Reaffirmed what was in the Vatican documents of 2005 and 2016

With the pastors of the CEI (Italian bishops conference) – Vatican insider learned – Francis, speaking about the downturn in vocations, one of his “three worries” for the Italian church, he was, instead, more straightforward and, inviting the bishops to oversee more the quality of future priests, then the quantity, explicitly mentioned cases of homosexual persons who desire, for various motives, to enter into the seminary. Then he invited the bishops to a “careful discernment”, adding: “if you have also the slightest doubt it’s better not to let them enter”.

One indication, from the Pope, that expresses his deep concern: these tendencies, which are “deeply rooted”, and the practice of “homosexual acts”, can compromise the life of the seminary beyond that of the young man himself and an eventual future priesthood. They can generate those “scandals” of which the Pope had spoken in his discourse at the opening of the assembly of the Italian bishops in the new hall of the Synod, that disfigure the face of the Church.

And it was reported this way by the gay-friendly magazine, America, of the gay-friendly Jesuit order (Pope Clement XIV really had this right):

The Vatican on Wednesday declared that “persons with homosexual tendencies” cannot be admitted to Catholic seminaries. This reaffirms a 2005 policy now seemingly at odds with Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” response when asked about gay priests in 2013.

Quoting the 2005 teaching, the new document says that men “who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’” cannot become priests.

It goes on to say that gay men “find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.”

“One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” it says.

But men who experience a “transitory” attraction to other men could be admitted to seminaries, it says, again repeating the 2005 document, though “such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.”

This is one of those things that may, or may not, cause some short-lived problems. In the long run, though, it is a positive thing. This goes to the paradox of Pope Francis. Someone on Twitter observed that Pope Francis had great pastoral instincts but is a horrible Pope. I tend to agree to with that. His flirtations with heresy are based in his desire to bring people to God. Whether you can do that by not telling them the Truth, of course, is debatable. They feel better but is that good? On bright line doctrinal issues, though, he’s not strayed from Scripture or Sacred Tradition. Hopefully, he’ll eventually learn to not shoot from the lip and cause confusion but I’m really not counting on it.

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To Pelosi’s Horror, DOJ Meets with GOP, Plus These Two Surprise Guests

 

On Thursday, Justice Department officials met with top Republicans to discuss documents related to what President Trump has called “SPYGATE” — the alleged attempt of FBI infiltration into his 2016 presidential campaign.

As reported previously, Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, had denounced the meeting as super crappy and even crappier that they couldn’t come.

Didn’t expect the words “super crappy,” did you?

Keep comin’ back; I’ll try to keep it interesting.

Anyway, so the meeting went down in spite of Nancy Pelosi’s objections.

She really shouldn’t be so dour. She predicted the literal end of the world if the Republican tax bill passed. She should just be thankful we’re all still here.

But she ain’t.

Didn’t expect “ain’t” either, did you?

Moving on, there were two surprise guests at the meeting. In addition to House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump Attorney Emmet Flood attended.

Eat their dust, Pelosi.

According to a statement from the Trump camp, Flood and Kelly made remarks at the opening of the meeting to “relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible.”

Reportedly, the two then left.

The meeting is a big deal, because:

Thursday’s convening — and the premise upon which it’s based — marks an important turn in the Russia collusion investigation, for once positioning Trump as protagonist rather than villain. Amid the controversy, he’s taking to Twitter to lambast the FBI for either planting or trying to turn an informant within his campaign team.

Having recovered from Armageddon, Pelosi now sees the meeting as the worst thing:

“Never has there been anything so disrespectful of the Congress than what they’re doing today.”

#perspective

The DOJ later briefed the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” for which Pelosi was absent. Kelly and Flood also crashed that party, prompting ire from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.:

“There’s never been a Gang of Eight meeting with that kind of White House presence.”

 

Stay tuned for more in the ongoing saga. In the meantime, get more backstory here and here.

And follow Alex Parker on Twitter.

 

 

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