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National Security Adviser Susan Rice Talks Relationship with Israel, Iran Negotiations at AIPAC

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice called the relationship between America and Israel an "alliance...rooted in the unbreakable friendship between our two peoples."

That enduring relationship has been tested somewhat in recent weeks, with Democrats griping about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Tuesday speech before a joint session of Congress. Nonetheless, Rice noted, "the relationship between the United States and the State of Israel is not a partnership between individual leaders or political parties." That relationship, she noted, "has deepened and grown through different presidents and prime ministers for nearly 70 years."

Netanyahu has spoken out in recent weeks against a deal with Iran that would leave them with the capability to one day produce a nuclear weapon.

"I want to be very clear," Rice said Monday about the ongoing negotiations with Iran, "a bad deal is worse than no deal." What makes a good deal? Rice says "a good deal is one that would invariably cut off every pathway for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon."

As far as how those negotiations are proceeding, Rice said that "significant gaps remain between the international community and Iran." She also echoed comments made by President Obama that "we are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."

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"NYT": Hillary Clinton Only Used Personal Email for Correspondence While Secretary of State

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hillary Clinton exclusively used a personal email address during her time as secretary of state, the New York Times reported Monday.

During her four-year tenure at the State Department, Clinton did not have a government email address, the Times says. By using her personal email account to conduct government business, Clinton may have been in violation of federal requirements that officials' correspondence be retained as part of the agency's record.

Additionally, the Times reported, Clinton's aides did not take action to preserve her emails on department servers, which is required by the Federal Records Act.

State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement on Monday night that the department "has long had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton's records -- including emails between her and Department officials with state.gov accounts."

Harf noted that the State Department sent a letter to representatives of former secretaries of state "requesting they submit any records in their possession for proper preservation as part of our effort to continually improve our records preservation and management." In response, Harf said, Clinton provided a number of emails.

The State Department's statement noted that current Secretary of State John Kerry is the first secretary of state "to rely primarily on a state.gov email account."

A spokesperson for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush provided a statement on the story to ABC News on Monday night, saying that Clinton "should release her emails. Hopefully she hasn't already destroyed them."

"Governor Bush believes transparency is a critical part of public service and of governing," the statement added. Bush also tweeted on Monday night, posting a link to his publicly released emails.

 

Transparency matters. Unclassified @HillaryClinton emails should be released. You can see mine, here. http://t.co/wZbtwd8O2j

— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) March 3, 2015

 

Senior administration officials declined to comment on whether any cabinet member or senior staffer operated without a government email address during the Obama administration. They also would not say whether White House officials corresponded with Clinton on her private email address on official business, or whether there were concerns about emailing a non-governmental account.

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Director of National Intelligence on Killing of Putin Critic: 'History Has Been We Never Do Find Out'

Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In remarks made to the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper seemed to question the investigation launched by the Russian government into the death of Boris Nemtsov, an opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, last week.

Asked about the possibility that Putin and his allies had perpetrated the killing, Clapper said that such talk was "an obvious theory." The DNI noted that "there are some Russian Kremlin officials who have suggested we did it, just to create hate and discontent in the political fabric of Russia."

Clapper said U.S. intelligence did not have any insight into who committed the murder. "I would venture the history has been we never do find out," he said, adding, "I'm sure that Putin himself is going to investigate."

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On Iran, a Question of Whether Obama and Netanyahu Really Have the Same Goal

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to nuclear negotiations with Iran, President Obama has said America's goal is to prevent Iran from ever producing a nuclear weapon, while Israel has described a different one: denying Iran the capability of ever getting there.

"Our goal here is to be able to verify that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon," Obama said after a meeting with the emir of Qatar last week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a different take.

"We must prevent Iran from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons. And I want to reiterate that point. Not just to prevent them from having the weapon, but to prevent them from having the capacity to make the weapon," Netanyahu said last year when he spoke at the 2014 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington.

So do the U.S. and Israel really want the same thing?

"I guess you could make the case that there is [a difference in goals]. I'm happy for someone else to do that if they would like to," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

"No one else has laid out a strategy for how to accomplish what apparently the prime minister has laid out as his goal. He hasn't even laid out a strategy for how to accomplish his goal," Earnest said.

Here's Earnest's full response, in which he defended the White House's aims in pursuing the nuclear talks that have sparked so much controversy (transcript via FedNews):

KARL: Actually, the Israeli prime minister has articulated a different goal than what you did at this briefing. You said that the United States is committed to a position where Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon. What Bibi Netanyahu said today, and what he's been saying all along is the goal, is to make sure Iran doesn't get the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

EARNEST: Mm-hmm.

KARL: Which he says, and is, a different view. So, what do you say about his view, that the whole point of this effort is to ensure not just that Iran doesn't get a weapon, but that Iran doesn't get the ability to build a weapon?

EARNEST: Well, I assume that the -- the prime minister will have an opportunity to elaborate on what he means when he says the ability to acquire a nuclear weapon.

KARL: I can tell you what he means.

EARNEST: OK.

KARL: He's referring to an enrichment capability. He's also talked about the fact that they have a ballistic missile program that would enable a delivery system for a nuclear weapon. That's what he's talking about. When Iran has the ability to produce highly enriched uranium, it is the fuel to make a nuclear bomb. He believes that's a threat to Israel's survival because it puts them on a path to getting or to building a bomb.

EARNEST: And has he laid out a strategy for how to prevent them from -- how to accomplish the goal that he has laid out? I guess the point is, you don't have to speak for him any longer. The point is, he has not -- he has not laid out that strategy. The president has laid out a clear strategy that we are working to achieve that would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is a clearly stated foreign policy goal and it is a priority that this president has made because it's in the clear national security interest of the United States. It also happens to be in the national security interests of our closest ally in the region, Israel.

KARL: So is he correct, though, to say that your goal, then, is not to prevent Iran from getting the capability to build a bomb. It's to prevent them from getting a bomb.

EARNEST: Well, the... [CROSSTALK]

EARNEST: Well, if he says that there's a difference there, he's allowed to do that. The point that I'm making...

KARL: You don't think there's a difference between those two positions?

EARNEST: Well, I guess you could make the case that there is one. I'm happy for someone else to do that if they would like to. The point is that we believe -- the president has made a strategic decision about what he believes is clearly in the best interests of the United States. And it happens to be in the best interests of Israel. No one else has laid out a strategy for how to accomplish what apparently the prime minister has laid out as his goal. He hasn't even laid out a strategy for how to accomplish his goal. And by the way, I'm not even sure that the military option that some people consider to be an alternative to the president's strategy would even accomplish his goal because it would require not just a detailed destruction of Iran's infrastructure, but it also would require the removal of knowledge that Iran has already obtained.

So, the fact is the goal that the president has set out that would ensure that -- or that is consistent with our national security imperatives here in this country, is to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. And the best way for us to do this is at the negotiating table. Those negotiations are underway even as we speak. But the other thing that I have not mentioned so far in this briefing that's important for everybody to realize is it continues to be the case that our likelihood of success when it comes to reaching a deal in the context of these negotiations is only at best 50-50. There are difficult decisions that need to be made by the Iranian government in terms of their willingness to sign onto this agreement. And this president has made clear that he's not going to sign a bad deal.


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2016 Campaign Playlist: Potential Presidential Candidates Pick Their Theme Songs

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Though none of the potential 2016 candidates has yet to formally announce a presidential campaign, each contender has likely spent plenty of time thinking about what their campaign platforms will look like.

But what will their campaigns sound like?

ABC News recently asked prospective Republican candidates what they might choose as their campaign theme song.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he’d probably go with one of his favorite tunes, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

“It’s about an underdog taking on big challenges,” Jindal said in an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “I think we need a candidate who’s going to fight for us, fight for our principles, and have fun doing it.”

Former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, on the other hand, chose an American classic: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Former 2012 candidate Rick Santorum said it would be hard to beat his previous campaign song from 2012, “Game On.” The tune was written and performed by two teenage girls who were inspired by a speech Santorum gave at the Iowa caucuses.

“I’m still partial to that,” the former senator from Pennsylvania said. “That’s a pretty cool little song.”

Business mogul Donald Trump said he’d probably go with the song “Dream,” but clarified that it wouldn’t be the theme of his campaign. “My campaign theme would be ‘Make America great again,’ because that’s what we have to do,” Trump said.

And Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina said she has yet to think about what her campaign song would be. “I don’t have anything in mind yet,” she said.


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Obama Unlikely to Watch Netanyahu Speech Tuesday

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amid frustration with a speech that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to give to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Obama is unlikely to watch, the White House says.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said as much during Monday's press briefing. "I haven't looked at the president's schedule for tomorrow," Earnest admitted, while saying that he "[doubts] he will want to spend his whole time watching the speech."

Netanyahu was invited to give the speech by House Speaker John Boehner, without consulting with the administration. That fact bothered some Democrats, who also have voiced concern about the speech coming so near Netanyahu's bid for reelection.

Netanyahu has voiced concerns over ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, a topic on which Earnest warned against releasing information. "Releasing that information would betray the trust that exists between two allies," he said Monday.

Earnest noted that the White House has kept Israel apprised of the Iran negotiations, and that the administration was not particularly happy with the instances in which Israeli officials have chosen to "cherry pick" tidbits of information to criticize the U.S. stance.

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Obama: Now Is the Time to Change Policing

Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post(WASHINGTON) -- Receiving a report Monday from his post-Ferguson, Missouri task force on policing, President Obama said now is the time to make changes in law enforcement practices.

“A lot of our work is going to involve local police chiefs, local elected officials, states recognizing that the moment is now for us to make these changes,” Obama said, appearing briefly with his Task Force on 21st Century Policing earlier Monday.

“We have a greater opportunity, coming out of some great conflict and tragedy, to really transform how we think about community law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer,” he said.

The president noted a need for more data -- specifically on how often police shootings occur.

“We do not have a good sense…of how frequently there may be interactions with police and community members that result in death, result in a shooting,” Obama said.

The task force’s report will be made available online.

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Bill Clinton’s Portrait Artist Secretly Includes Monica Lewinsky

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Here's one issue the Clintons may -- or may not -- want to brush off.

In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, the artist who painted the official portrait of President Bill Clinton that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., revealed a surprise -- the portrait “subtly” incorporated Monica Lewinsky.

Artist Nelson Shanks told the newspaper that the shadow on the left side of the portrait was cast by a mannequin in a blue dress -- a nod to the president’s affair with his 22-year-old intern.

Shanks, who described Clinton as “the most famous liar of all time,” told the Philadelphia Daily News that the shadow represents a metaphorical “shadow on the office he held.”

Shanks painted the portrait while standing in the Oval Office.

He says he placed a mannequin in a blue dress to cast a shadow on the mantle while he was painting. However, the mannequin and the president were never in the room at the same time, he noted.

According to Shanks, the Clintons are pressuring the National Portrait Gallery to remove the painting. However, a museum spokesperson told ABC News that they have not received any requests from the Clintons to remove the portrait.

The portrait is currently not on display, but it is in the museum’s gallery of collection.

The portrait originally stirred controversy when it was released in 2006 for the notable absence of a wedding ring on the president’s hand.

Shanks did not immediately respond to request for comment from ABC News.

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Sen. Barbara Mikulski to Retire

United States Senate(BALTIMORE) -- Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the longest-serving woman in Congressional history, announced on Monday that she will retire.

Mikulski, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986, said she made the decision to fight for the people of Maryland instead of campaigning for herself another time around.

"I'm gonna be around. I'm Senator Barb,” Mikulski, 78, said at a news conference in Baltimore Monday. “I don’t want to spend my time campaigning for me. I want to campaign for the people.”

Here’s a look at some of the things you might not know about the storied career of the senator known to many as “Senator Barb”:

DEAN OF THE WOMEN SENATORS

As the longest serving female senator, Mikulski is known as the dean of the women senators. She often organizes bipartisan gatherings for the female senators and acts as a mentor for them.

In January, she hosted a meet and greet for the two new female senators -- Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

GIRL SCOUT

Mikulski is a proud Girl Scout and often celebrates the group’s anniversary with speeches on the Senate floor.

"If you noticed I'm dressed in green today, and I also have on a Girl Scout pin. Don't I look like a little Girl Scout standing here?” Mikulski said last year as she celebrated the 102nd anniversary of the group. “I feel like a Girl Scout because I was a Girl Scout, and once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout!”

"I believe the values I learned as a Girl Scout were the lessons of a lifetime. And quite frankly, if I can live up to the Girl Scout law today, I think I'll be a pretty good Senator,” she said. “So hats off to Girl Scouts everywhere, a big thanks to the leaders who do it, and let's eat those cookies -- even if you're on a different kind of program than they're often called for!"

SOCIAL WORKER

Mikulski started her career as a social worker, helping at risk children and seniors in Baltimore. Her foray into activism came when she campaigned against plans to build a highway through two Baltimore communities.

She started in politics with a seat on the Baltimore City Council. She then served in the House of Representatives for 10 years before becoming a senator in 1986.

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS

Mikulski was the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, the powerful committee responsible for funding government agencies and departments. She chaired the committee from 2012 until this January when Republicans won control of the Senate.

EQUAL PAY

Mikulski has long been a champion for equal rights, specifically when it comes for equal pay for women. She has introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act to try to put an end to disparity between women and men.

CRAB CAKE AFICIONADO

Mikulski cites crab cakes as her ideal meal and has a killer recipe handed down from her mother. But don’t worry -- it’s not a family secret. Mikulski spreads the crab cake love and has posted the recipe on her website.

"When I’m not eating delicious crab cakes, I follow what I call a heart healthy diet, which isn’t always easy,” she wrote on her website. “I like parsley, but I like pizza better.”

THE 4'11" SENATOR

Mikulski is quite small compared to some of her Senate colleagues at 4 feet and 11 inches tall. She reportedly once described herself as a “little stealth rocket, a heat-seeking missile, under everybody's radar."

Though small in stature, she is well known as one of the most feisty lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

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Obama Praises Sen. Mikulski's Career

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama praised Sen. Barbara Mikulski's career on Monday, after she announced she was retiring to fight for the people of Maryland.

"Senator Mikulski is more than just a legendary senator for the people of Maryland, she’s an institution in the United States Senate. Barbara’s service to the people of Maryland spans decades, but her legacy will span generations," Obama said in a statement.

"Barbara is the longest serving woman in Congress, and her leadership serves as an inspiration to millions of women and girls across the globe to stand up and lead," the president continued.

At a news conference Monday, Mikulski, D-Md., said she doesn't want to spend her time "campaigning for me. I want to campaign for the people."

Mikulski, 78, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986, added, "I'm gonna be around. I'm Senator Barb."

Read President Obama's full statement on Sen. Barbara Mikulski below:

Senator Mikulski is more than just a legendary senator for the people of Maryland, she’s an institution in the United States Senate. Barbara’s service to the people of Maryland spans decades, but her legacy will span generations. Barbara is the longest serving woman in Congress, and her leadership serves as an inspiration to millions of women and girls across the globe to stand up and lead.
 
As the Chairwoman and now Vice Chairwoman of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, Barbara has always known that our budgets should reflect our deepest held values. In that spirit, Barbara has wielded her gavel and used her booming voice to advocate on behalf of paycheck fairness, childcare, health care, education, women’s rights and countless issues that have contributed to the strength of America’s families.

Thanks to her leadership, more women excel in their careers, more children have access to quality education, more families have health insurance and more people are treated fairly under the law.

I look forward to working with Senator Mikulski over the course of the next two years, and Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to Barbara in her next endeavors.

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Report: Hillary Clinton to Announce Candidacy for President in April

Feng Li/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Supporters of Hillary Clinton for president may not have to wait much longer for the former secretary of state to declare her intentions.

The Wall Street Journal
reported Sunday evening that Clinton, 67, and her close advisers are dropping strong hints to potential donors that she may announce her candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination as soon as April.

In this way, Clinton, the presumed Democratic frontrunner, can get a jump on raising an estimated $1 billion her campaign feels will be necessary to win the nomination and presidency.

An April launch will put her supporters’ minds at ease as there have been rumors that Clinton might opt out of a second run White House due to physical concerns and other family considerations.

According to the WSJ, Clinton insider John Podesta, who was part of the Obama White House, is expected to have a major role in the campaign to elect the former first lady.

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John Kerry Stands by Claim Americans Face 'Less' Daily Threat

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he stands by his statement that Americans are facing fewer daily threats, even though he's received heavy criticism for his remarks.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz on This Week, Kerry explained the rationale behind his claims to Congress earlier this week, which came at the same time Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said this has been the most lethal year for global terrorism.

"Well, I understand," he said. "Of course I understand it, Martha, because people are thinking about the day-to-day vision of what is happening on the ground in Syria, in Libya, where 21 Coptic Christians had their heads cut off, where a soldier is burned and a pilot in a cage, where American journalists have been beheaded publicly. We understand that."

"But I still stand by what I said, which is in long terms, compared to the last century, there are, in fact, fewer people dying of the means -- that you look at, by state war, violence, health, etc.," Kerry said.

"But that's not what's important," he continued. "What's important right now is what James Clapper said. There is an uptick in the level of terrorism and specific incidents of people being killed. And that threat is very, very real. Nobody is trying to minimize it."

Kerry told the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that "despite ISIL, despite the visible killings that you see and how horrific they are, we are actually living in a period of less daily threat to Americans and to people in the world than normally -- less deaths, less violent deaths."

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Republicans Blocking DHS Funding Are 'Delusional,' Rep. Peter King Says

Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly(WASHINGTON) -- House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Peter King called some members of his Republican caucus "self-righteous and delusional" for opposing a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security on ABC's This Week Sunday.

"I said the other night, when I was at the Republican meeting, that they are self-righteous and delusional," King said on This Week of the Republican contingent holding up the bill because of their opposition to President Obama's executive action on immigration.

"We're talking about maybe 40 or 50 people at most, out of a caucus of 247, out of a Congress of 435. We cannot allow such a small group to be dominating and controlling what happens in the United States Congress, especially at a time when we're confronting terrorism," the New York Republican told ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

House Republicans have tied funding for DHS to legislation that would roll back Obama's executive orders on immigration, a move King calls "irresponsible."

"Listen, I am as opposed to this immigration action as they are. But the fact is, it's essential that we fund the Department of Homeland Security," King said. "We saw what happened in Denmark, in Paris, what ISIS is doing with the beheadings. We had the people being arrested in New York just the other night. And for these people to be threatening to defund the Department of Homeland Security at a time when our threat streams have never been greater at any time since 9/11, it's absolutely irresponsible."

Despite a looming shutdown, the bill to fund the Homeland Security Department has been stalled in Congress for weeks. On Friday night, the House approved a one-week funding extension in order to avoid a partial shutdown, after voting down a longer extension, in a major failure for House Speaker John Boehner.

But King said he maintains his confidence in Boehner's ability to wrangle his party's votes, and he called for a "up or down" vote on a clean funding bill this week.

"We have to stand behind John Boehner and John Boehner has to find a way this week, as soon as possible in the week, once Prime Minister Netanyahu finishes his speech, to bring the clean bill to the floor of the House for a vote, an up or down vote. That's all we're asking for is democracy. Let that come to a vote," King said. "There's no doubt it will pass."

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John Kerry Doesn't Want Benjamin Netanyahu Visit to Become 'Some Great Political Football'

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak to a joint session of Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry said the prime minister is welcome to speak in the U.S. but worries it injects far too much politics into the relationship.

“The prime minister of Israel is welcome to speak in the United States, obviously,” Kerry said Sunday in an exclusive interview on ABC’s This Week. “I talk to the prime minister regularly, including yesterday."

But, Kerry added, "we don't want to see this turned into some great political football.”

Kerry echoed frustrations expressed by the White House that House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu was inappropriate.

“It was odd, if not unique, that we learned of it from the speaker of the House and that an administration was not included in this process," he said. "But the administration is not seeking to politicize this.”

But Kerry’s remarks were far more measured than those of National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who said last week that the speech would be “destructive to the fabric of the relationship.”

The White House has expressed anger with both the Republican-led House of Representatives and with Netanyahu’s office, not only for excluding them from the invitation process, but also for making the invitation so close to Israel’s elections on March 17 and the final stages of a potential American nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

Yet, while departing Israel for Washington, D.C., on Sunday morning, the prime minister seemed to be brimming with confidence. Speaking in Hebrew to reporters at the airport, Netanyahu called it a “crucial and even historical mission.”

“I feel I am representing all the citizens of Israel, even those who do not agree with me,” Netanyahu said. “I feel a deep and sincere concern for the safety of all the citizens of Israel and the fate of the state and the fate of our people. I will do everything in my power to secure our future."

The prime minister’s critics say he’s too hawkish on Iran and that he’s been warning for decades they are on the cusp of building a bomb. His supporters say a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran won’t work and that the only way to stop them is to punish them with further economic sanctions. Even many House Democrats say that they will vote for further sanctions if a deal isn’t reached by the end of the month.

Kerry told This Week that the negotiations with Iran have benefited Israel.

“Israel is safer today because of the interim agreement that we created,” he said. “The 20 percent enriched uranium has been reduced to zero. We have stopped the centrifuge production. We are inspecting inside of their facilities.”

Kerry also said the defense relationship with Israel has never been stronger.

“We have a closer relationship with Israel right now in terms of security than at any time in history," he said. "I was reviewing the record the other day - we have intervened on Israel's behalf, in the last two years, more than several hundred - a couple of hundred times in over 75 different fora in order to protect Israel.”

After the interview, Kerry left Washington for Geneva, Switzerland, where he’ll be attempting this week to finalize and nuclear deal with Iran.


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Secret Service Working to 'Regain the Trust of the American People,' Says Director

ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  The new head of the Secret Service has this piece of advice for anyone thinking about trying to breach White House security: Don’t.

“I wouldn’t suggest it,” Secret Service director Joseph Clancy told ABC News in an expansive sit-down interview that explored the scandals that have rocked his agency and the path he’s now charting to protect the First Family and “regain the trust of the American people.”

“We have not received an unfair rap,” he conceded to ABC News’ Pierre Thomas. “I think when you fail, and we have failed, we own it. Now, it’s up to us to correct it.”

In September, a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the White House’s perimeter fence and made it deep inside the presidential building. That came more than two years after the Secret Service was shaken by the 2012 prostitution scandal out of Cartagena, Colombia.

At the time those scandals and others unfolded, Clancy was the head of security for Comcast, having left the government in 2011 after 27 years with the Secret Service. Clancy was “shocked” by what happened, he said.

Then, last month, a small drone flew over the fence and crashed on the White House grounds - prompting a pre-dawn security scare. President Obama was in India at the time, and although the incident turned out to be a recreational flight gone awry, Clancy said he's “certainly concerned” about the threat a drone like that could pose.

The newly-appointed Secret Service director was with President Obama in India, and the president “was very concerned, as he should be” about the breach, said Clancy, who found himself briefing the commander-in-chief on the matter.

"He wanted to know what happened," and he "had very specific questions," Clancy recalled. "But he has faith in the work that we’re doing."

Clancy said the Secret Service and other federal agencies “have been doing a lot of research” to develop countermeasures related to drones. He declined to discuss specific ones already in place.

In retrospect, Clancy said, the poor judgment in Cartagena and the failures at the White House five months ago came down to one thing: “Just a lack of self-discipline.”

He dismissed suggestions the high-profile scandals were the product of a culture within the Secret Service that condones poor behavior. He said he “can certainly respect” such claims but insisted the only culture at the Secret Service is quite a different one.

As an example, he pointed to a recent trip he took with President Obama to China, Burma and Australia. An agent became so sick that he had to be hospitalized, but when Clancy visited the agent at the hospital, one of the first things the agent said was, “Sir, I’m sorry I’m out of the mix. I’m sorry I’m not there to pick up my post there,” Clancy recalled.

“That’s the culture that we have,” said Clancy. “Nobody wants to let the agency down, the president down, or the American people. Most importantly, we don’t want to let the American people down.”

Clancy said the more time he spends leading the Secret Service, the more he realizes an insider like himself is the only one who could get that job done.

Two months ago, a bipartisan, independent panel commissioned by the Obama administration to analyze the embattled agency recommended someone with no experience inside the Secret Service, saying “only a director from outside” can “do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment” needed.

“You need some experience in this position,” Clancy told ABC News, adding he plans to win over skeptics.

Clancy said he has three changes in mind to help make that happen: Hire more people, improve training, and raise the fence around the White House.

“We’ve got to do a better job of mentoring, coaching, teaching, and training our people,” he said. “[And] if we can build up our staffing, it will allow us to get more people out to training. With that, as we get more people trained, it’ll help our morale.”

As for the fence, Clancy said he is “very anxious” to make it taller, but that is “a long-term process.” So in the meantime, the Secret Service is planning to implement a series of interim enhancements, including “additional features” atop the fence, according to Clancy.

Those changes will be in place in the “near future,” he said, without offering any more details about the planned enhancements.

The need for a taller fence and better training is only growing, Clancy indicated. In recent years, the Secret Service has seen what he called “a large number” of people, many with some form of mental illness, coming to the White House or Capitol looking to air their grievances.

“That's where our people have to be so well-trained,” he said. “You have to be able to distinguish those that have some mental illness and need help, and those who really have a desire to cause harm. So our people have to show great restraint, but also a great expertise in how to handle these.”

Furthermore, the Secret Service has some big assignments coming up in the next year – Pope Francis is expected to visit as many as three U.S. cities in September, the following month about 190 heads of state will come to New York to celebrate the United Nations’ seventieth anniversary, and then the 2016 presidential race gets underway.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” Clancy said. “But we have had these challenges before … Our people will be very busy during that time frame, but we’re up to the challenge.”

Clancy became acting director of the Secret Service in October. President Obama officially appointed him as the Secret Service’s 24th director a little over a week ago.

“I think we’re on the right track,” he said.

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