(CNN) – The Secret Service is always on the alert for aerial assaults - but on Thursday, White House grounds were hit by one unexpected airborne threat.
A swarm of honey bees took over a bush located between the Northwest security gate of the White House and the area where television networks stand-up positions are located early Thursday.
CNN photojournalist John Bodnar said he came through the Northwest gate around 12:30 pm and was warned about the bees by Secret Service on duty in the guard post. "I walked out and thought it was a swirl of blossoms blowing in the wind, but turns out it was a swarm of bees," he says. Half an hour later, they were still issuing warnings."
White House carpenter Charlie Brandts, who is also a beekeeper and will be managing two bee hives in Michelle Obama's garden, came over to the area around shortly before 2 pm wearing protective gear and carrying a cardboard box. Brandts was reportedly able to get the queen bee in the cardboard box and many, though not all, of the other bees followed. CNN has not yet been able to confirm the capture of the winged invaders.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Multiple Obama administration officials tell CNN that the White House is not pushing to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. While it's a top priority for the President's first term, White House spokesperson Nick Shapiro says "the president has consistently said that he wants to start the discussion later this year because our immigration system is broken…but the economy comes first."
The White House has made no secret of the fact that the President wants to see health care and energy reform passed this year, and would be loathe to cripple those efforts with a fight over an issue as controversial as immigration reform. And White House strategists have to be keenly aware of the possible impact on House Democrats from red districts.
But the mood on Capitol Hill could be different.
Jim Manley, Sen. Harry Reid's senior communications advisor, tells CNN that the Majority Leader "intends to try to take comprehensive immigration reform to the floor later this year, probably in the fall." The situation in the House is trickier – a vote on the hot-button issue could hurt freshman Democrats who were elected in swing districts.
But House Democrats were presented with compelling evidence that voters want to see them trying to fix the immigration system. During the House Democrats' February retreat, Pete Brodnitz - who works for the same firm that does polling for the president - argued that Democratic House members should promote their own immigration reform plans.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – CIA Director Leon Panetta has carried through on his pledge to prohibit independent contractors from conducting interrogations of terror suspects.
In a message to Agency employees on Thursday, Panetta said he had notified the Congressional oversight committees about the current CIA policy regarding interrogations.
Besides discontinuing the use of contractors, the director outlined the other steps taken in response to the executive orders issued by President Obama in January.
The harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration will no longer be used. Panetta said questioning of suspected terrorists will follow the approaches authorized in the Army Field Manual. The Director said the Agency will "not tolerate, and will continue to promptly report, any inappropriate behavior or allegations of abuse." He added that the guidelines applied both to suspects held by Americans and to those who might have been transferred to other countries.
(CNN) – Hillary Clinton's camp is offering up a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to her supporters: American Idol season finale tickets.
In an e-mail sent to online supporters on the former democratic presidential candidate's e-mail list serve, democratic strategist James Carville solicited donations from backers to help Clinton pay off her campaign debt.
A contribution will enter participants in a contest to win one of three prizes: a day attending events with former President Bill Clinton followed by "your own special weekend" in New York City, a lunch and political conversation in DC with Democratic political strategists James Carville and Paul Begala, or the chance to attend the American Idol season finale in Los Angeles.
"Your contribution today not only gives you the chance at winning one of these fantastic prizes – it'll also help our dear friend, Hillary Clinton, pay off the very last of her campaign debt," Carville appeals in the e-mail.
Upon suspending her campaign in June 2008, Clinton's debt peaked at $25.2 million, but has since dropped to less than $6 million.
(CNN) - Does Montel Williams want to embark on the well-worn path from television personality to politician?
In a Thursday interview with Politico, Williams, who was a daytime talk show host for 17 years and is launching a radio show on Air America this week, said running for office is something he wants to do - just not anytime soon.
"The sight in mind is 17 years in radio - I may have to take a break for just a little while in those 17 years to run for office, but that won't be for at least ten years," he told Politico. " So you're going to be listening to me to persuade others to do the right thing, and then I'm going to step up myself."
Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is a prominent advocate for legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, also said he has had discussions at "multiple levels of government about the responsibility of us all who feel as if we have the audacity to open our mouths and complain about what happens in our society and then not step up to the plate to do something about it."
The best way to do something about it is through public service," he said.
(CNN) – New Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is ripping a page from the GOP's 2008 playbook.
In a fundraising e-mail sent to supporters Thursday, Steele looks to link community organizing group ACORN with the 2010 census which the new administration will conduct.
"It seems the Obama Administration has plans to rig the Census results," Steele says in the message.
"President Obama's old friends from ACORN . . . has [sic] been chosen by the Administration as a 'partner' with the Census Bureau to determine population counts in cities around the country."
"ACORN's community organizers are eager to once again take action to aid their old friend in the White House," says Steele. "You can be sure they'll be manipulating population numbers."
In a statement to CNN, Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief organizer, denies Steele's assertions.
"I am disappointed in Mr. Steele's repetition of lies and distortions about our work for crass fundraising purposes," Lewis says. "ACORN is not getting billions from the federal government. We are not in charge of the Census. Just like the accusations of 'voter fraud,' – charges that were debunked repeatedly – these are imaginary and false. The truth is that ACORN is deeply engaged in ending the foreclosure crisis."
During the 2008 White House race, the GOP repeatedly suggested that ACORN and its employees were involved in voter registration fraud that might benefit Barack Obama, then the Democrat nominee for president. The accusation was subsequently leveled at ACORN by the McCain-Palin campaign, which also suggested ties between Obama, his campaign, and the community organizing group.
Both ACORN and the Obama campaign denied engaging in voter registration fraud.
(CNN) – Three-quarters of all Americans think that the federal government should let General Motors or Chrysler go bankrupt rather than pumping more money into the struggling automakers, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll - and most now say that the economy would not face major problems if those companies went into bankruptcy.
The public used to think that the automakers were too big to fail, but not any longer. In December, two-thirds say auto bankruptcies would create major problems or a crisis for the U.S. economy. Now most say that would only cause minor problems or no problems at all.
And Americans don't see any effect on their own lives if the automakers fail: 55 percent say they would face no problems at all if the auto companies went bankrupt. Only 37 percent say they would buy a car from a bankrupt company. But that number rises to 57 percent if the federal government stands behind the warranty on those cars.
The survey includes telephone interviews with 1,023 adult Americans. It was conducted April 3-5, 2009, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
(Full results after the jump)
(CNN) – South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is firing back against critics who say he should accept the entire $2.8 billion in federal stimulus funds allotted to his state, launching a one-minute TV spot in which he argues a substantial portion of the money will only saddle the state with further debt.
"The truth is more tax dollars will be spent in our state this year then ever before. But there must be a stopping point," the South Carolina Republican, who has not ruled out a 2012 White House bid, says in the ad. "Going further into debt will not solve a problem that was created by too much debt."
"There must be a price that we will not impose on future generations," he ads. "For me the easy thing would be to accept money handed out from Washington, but the easy thing isn't always the right thing,"
The ad is financed by Carolinians for Reform, a 501(c) chaired by Jim Kuyk, a South Carolina attorney and Sanford supporter.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Two Democratic congressional sources confirm President Obama is submitting an $83.4 billion request for supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The request includes $75 billion for the Defense Department - the rest is non-defense money for diplomacy and assistance to areas like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
This will be the last supplemental request for the rest of 2009. Going forward, President Obama has pledged to include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in his budget.
(CNN) – Organizers turned down Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele's recent request to speak at a conservative gathering in Chicago because the event is focused on "everyday citizens," one of the event's organizers told CNN Thursday.
A representative for Steele reached out Tuesday to Eric Odom, one of two lead organizers for an April 15 gathering in Chicago that is part of the so-called "tea party" movement against government spending and in favor of the free enterprise system. Odom responded to the Steele request via e-mail on Wednesday.
"We respectfully asked that he attend but said that we would not be giving him stage time [to speak]," Odom told CNN.
Steele's rejection was based in the organizers' desire to have the event focused on the views and participation of the conservative grassroots rather than on elected officials holding political office or official positions in political parties.
"This is an opportunity for everyday citizens to speak and for elected officials to listen," Odom said Thursday. "We've been listening to them for years. On April 15, we are taking this opportunity to speak to them. It's not an opportunity for them to speak to us."
The national "tea party" movement was inspired by CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli's late February outburst on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Joined by several traders, Santelli expressed frustration about the Obama administration's plan to increase government spending in the hopes of turning around the economy and helping homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. During the outburst, Santelli suggested the idea of having a "Chicago tea party" on the shores of Lake Michigan.