Washington (CNN) - Leaving a vehicle full of explosive material in New York City's Times Square is a terrorist act, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.
Asked if the Saturday incident was a terrorist incident, Gibbs said the act of putting a vehicle with such dangerous materials in Times Square "was intended to terrorize."
"Whoever did that would be categorized as a terrorist, yes," Gibbs said.
Gibbs added that the identity of the person or people responsible remained unknown.
CNN's Ed Henry helps first lady Michelle Obama - with Jay Leno and Robert Gibbs - send out her first tweet. (PHOTO CREDIT: Erika Dimmler/CNN)
Washington (CNN) - It was my first chance to spend some quality time at dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama, so I decided to do what my pal Ali Velshi would probably do in the same situation: get her hooked on Twitter.
I was sitting with the first lady and Jay Leno at the head table for Saturday night's White House Correspondents Association Dinner because I'm a member of the association's board, a front-row seat to the slew of celebrities who walked up to gawk at Mrs. Obama and the president, who was a few seats from me.
Teen sensation Justin Beiber, famous-for-being-famous Kim Kardashian, comedian Chevy Chase and actor Morgan Freeman all walked up to the rope line separating the head table from the rest of the ballroom to send the first couple a shout-out.
I was snapping pics of the celebrity parade on my iPhone and posting them to my Twitter account, @edhenrycnn, during dessert, just a few minutes before the president and Leno would take their turns at telling some jokes.
Leno, a social media skeptic, finally turned to me with squinted eyes and said in a conspiratorial tone, "Are you tweeting right now?"
I confessed to Leno that I was, sparking Mrs. Obama to ask me whether journalists find value in social media or whether it's mostly trivial. I said I find it helpful to get feedback, good and bad, from people who follow my tweets.
When Mrs. Obama mentioned that she had never tweeted, I noted that the president had sent out his first tweet a few months ago from a Red Cross account to promote relief to Haiti and wondered aloud: "Why don't you send out your first tweet on my iPhone?"
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama spoke by phone Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the Middle East peace process, including how to get to direct peace talks "as soon as possible," the White House announced.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the 20-minute phone call discussed "how best to work together to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East, in particular by making full use of substantive proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians and transitioning to direct negotiations as soon as possible."
"They also discussed regional challenges, and the president reaffirmed his unshakable commitment to Israel's security," Gibbs said.
(CNN) - South Carolina's Attorney General has decided that Gov. Mark Sanford will not face criminal charges following an investigation into his travel and campaign expenses.
"After conducting a thorough investigation, the evidence does not support beyond a reasonable doubt that the governor knowingly, willfully, and intentionally set out to break state law, which is the criminal prosecutorial standard that must be reached," Attorney General Henry McMaster said Monday at a press conference in Columbia.
For the last five months, McMaster had been reviewing the results of a state ethics investigation into Sanford's use of state planes and campaign funds - a probe that started after media organizations began examining the governor's financial practices following his disclosure of an extramarital affair last June.
The closure of the main entrance to the Supreme Court is part of an ongoing modernization program. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES/FILE)
Washington (CNN) - Two Supreme Court justices have labeled as "unfortunate" plans to permanently close the court's front entrance, where visitors have for decades passed under the famous words "Equal Justice Under Law."
The court announced that starting Tuesday, the primary entry for most visitors will be through two ground-level doors on each side of the marble front steps. Those wanting to enter the building could until now walk up the steps and enter through the magnificent Great Hall, with its vaulted ceilings and massive columns, leading the public to the first-floor courtroom. Those who did so included lawyers coming to argue cases and tourists wanting to observe how the highest court in the United States operates.
The change is part of the court's ongoing modernization program for the 75-year-old building. The court said the new entrances will provide a "secure, reinforced area to screen for weapons, explosives, and chemical and biological hazards."
(CNN) – The founder of Focus on the Family, the influential socially conservative organization, is switching his endorsement in the divisive Republican Senate primary battle in Kentucky.
James Dobson Monday endorsed Rand Paul after originally backing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson last week.
"Have you ever made an embarrassing mistake? I did just that last week. I was given misleading information about the candidacy of Dr. Rand Paul, who is running in the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate. Senior members of the GOP told me Dr. Paul is pro-choice and that he opposes many conservative perspectives, so I endorsed his opponent," Dobson said in a statement released Monday by the Paul campaign.
"But now I've received further information from OB/GYN's in Kentucky whom I trust, and from interviewing the candidate himself. I now know that he is avidly pro life. He believes that life begins at conception," added Paul.
The Obama administration is assisting efforts to combat the massive oil spill threatening the Gulf Coast. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
(CNN) - A month after announcing plans to expand offshore drilling, President Obama visited ground zero of the Gulf Coast oil disaster and warned that residents could be facing a "potentially unprecedented environmental disaster."
"The oil that is still leaking from the well could seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf states and it could extend for a long time. It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home," Obama said Sunday in Venice, Louisiana.
The president reiterated that oil company BP is responsible for the leak and will foot the cost of the cleanup. He pledged to "spare no effort to respond to this crisis for as long as it continues."
Obama's remarks were a stark contrast from his late March proposal to open swaths of U.S. coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling.
Atlanta (CNN) - "Beam me up, Scottie," to Capitol Hill, so says former Democratic congressman turned ex-con Jim Traficant.
Traficant, who served seven years in prison for charges that included racketeering, obstruction of justice, tax evasion and bribery, filed papers Monday to run again for Congress – this time as an independent.
Traficant is one of the more colorful lawmakers to serve in the House in recent times. While in Congress, Traficant often recited the famous Star Trek line, "Beam me up Scottie," from the House floor and relished the attention he received for being out of step with the typically button up, conservative Capitol Hill.
If he qualifies for the general election, Traficant is likely to face off against one of his former congressional staffers, Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who now holds the seat. The Ohio primary is Tuesday, when Democrats and Republicans will choose their candidates for the midterm elections. The non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report currently rates the race as "safe" for Ryan to win re-election. Ryan crushed his Republican opponent in 2008.
Listen: CNN Political Editor Mark Preston on Traficant
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Washington (CNNMoney.com) - One of the nation's top banking regulators has taken a swipe at what has become a signature piece of Senate Democrats' Wall Street reform package: cracking down on complex financial products.
Federal Deposit of Insurance Corp. Chair Sheila Bair said she's concerned that the Senate bill goes too far, in a letter sent Friday to the authors of the measure, Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.
Bair is taking aim at a provision that blocks all banks from trading complex financial contracts called derivatives. The bill would force banks to spin off the desks that trade derivatives, known as swaps desks.
"One unintended outcome of this provision would be weakened, not strengthened, protection of the insured bank and the Deposit Insurance Fund, which I know is not the result any of us want," Bair wrote in the letter.
The provision in question is among key controversial hang-ups for lawmakers debating the Wall Street overhaul on the Senate floor this week.
"In Tea Party Patriots, we have no place for that," Jenny Beth Martin said on CNN's American Morning. "If we see somebody who's doing something racist, we tell them to leave our events. We're there for our core values. We want to reclaim our founding principles in this country."
Martin, who's the national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, said the conservative grassroots movement is dedicated to furthering three core values: fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets. Asked whether the Tea Party movement is political movement or a protest movement, Martin responded that it is "a little bit of both."
And Martin said the movement is open to everyone, including racial and ethnic minorities, notwithstanding the fact that some national polls have indicated Tea Party activists and supporters of the movement are predominantly Caucasian.
Martin said there's "absolutely" a place for minorities in the conservative movement. "This is about ordinary citizens in America and we're reclaiming our founding principles. And those principles are liberty – it affects everyone in this country regardless of race or age."