Trump says airstrikes on Syria underway

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FILE – In this April 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens as he meets in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington. Trump said Thursday, April 12, that an attack on Syria could take place "very soon or not so soon at all!" (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

President Donald Trump says the United States has "launched precision strikes" on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons program.

Trump spoke from the White House Friday night. He says a "combined operation" with France and the United Kingdom is underway.

Trump says that last Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Assad deployed chemical weapons in what was a "significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime."

Rep. Jim Jordan says he’s open to a run for Speaker of the House
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a key member and founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, heads to a House Republican Conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 28, 2017.

WASHINGTON – Conservative Ohio congressman Jim Jordan – a longtime thorn in the side of Republican leaders on Capitol Hill – says he’s open to a run for Speaker of the House following incumbent Paul Ryan’s announcement that he won’t run for re-election next year.

Conservative activists displeased with current GOP leaders have publicly urged the House Freedom Caucus co-founder from Champaign County to seek the job. Other potential candidates to succeed Ryan include House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

"If and when there is a Speaker’s race, colleagues have approached me about running and that’s something I’m open to doing," said a statement Jordan released on Friday.

"What’s important is not who the next Speaker is, but what the next Speaker does," Jordan’s statement said. "It’s time to start delivering on what we told the American people we would do. We have six more months to prove Republicans deserve to keep the majority."

Jordan has regularly received protest votes for House Speaker even when he hasn’t run, but his chance of beating candidates who rose through the party hierarchy seems slim. Jordan has lost multiple bids to chair the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, and the Freedom Caucus’ refusal to back some of the party’s legislation has convinced some Republicans Jordan isn’t a team player.

Nonetheless, his entry into the race could siphon conservative votes from other candidates and be used as leverage to attain his group’s goals.

"House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement yesterday that he will not seek reelection offers congressional Republicans an opportunity to pull out of the political death-spiral that imperils their majority and invites the impeachment of President Trump," said a statement from Frank Gaffney, one of the conservative activists who has been urging Jordan to run.

.@Jim_Jordan on @SpeakerRyan not seeking re-election: "The most important thing to me is not who the Speaker is but what the Speaker does… And what we need to do is get refocused on what the American people sent us here to do." pic.twitter.com/0a1S6jKAxx

— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) April 13, 2018

Gaffney, who heads the Center for Security Policy, said that Republicans could use the leadership change to excite their base voters, or alienate them by imposing "another establishment politician, presumably drawn from the ranks of Ryan’s lieutenants.

"If, instead, in the days ahead the House GOP embraces as its next leader an authentic conservative with passion, energy and, most importantly, Make America Great Again principles, they will give the base a reason to turn out – and prevail: Jim Jordan for Speaker," his statement concluded.

In an interview that will air on Sunday’s "Meet the Press," Ryan told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he favors McCarthy to succeed him.

"We have a great story to tell," Ryan told Todd, according to a transcript released by NBC." We have a great record to run on. We have made a huge positive difference in people’s lives, and people are more confident as a result of it. More jobs are being offered. Bonuses are being handed out. And so we have made a difference in this country. This leadership team has done that, and so I really do envision a more seamless transition, versus say the time when I came in."

Democrats targeting six Ohio congressional seats
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico believes five Ohio seats in the U.S. House of Representatives that are currently held by Republicans could switch hands in November’s election.

WASHINGTON – Democrats hope to pick up as many as six congressional seats in Ohio this November as they try to win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives by riding a grassroots backlash against President Donald Trump.

In a briefing with reporters on Friday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico identified 104 Republican seats around the country as winnable for Democrats, including those held by Holmes County’s Bob Gibbs, Bainbridge Township’s Dave Joyce, Cincinnati’s Steve Chabot, Dayton’s Mike Turner and Columbus’ Steve Stivers.

The Democratic campaign organization also believes the Columbus-area seat vacated by Republican Pat Tiberi’s resignation to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable might be winnable, Lujan said.

"The quickest way to restore checks and balances in America is winning back the House of Representatives," said Lujan, who said Republicans hold many seats because of gerrymandered districts that Democrats can win if there’s strong turnout.

Republicans were skeptical of the Democrats’ clams.

"The DCCC can’t wish a seat into play," said Jesse Hunt of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "They are remarkably consistent when it comes to over-promising and under-delivering, and they’ll fail to flip every one of these seats."

Lujan praised Democratic challenger Ken Harbaugh of Avon for holding town hall meetings in the district represented by Gibbs, one of the Republican held areas where "people are frustrated because their representatives aren’t holding town halls." Harbaugh’s campaign recently announced it has raised more than $1 million.

Lujan said Joyce’s Democratic challenger – attorney Betsy Rader of Russell Township – has also demonstrated strong fundraising, collecting nearly $400,000 before the end of 2017.

DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said the congressional seat that will be vacated by Wadsworth Republican Rep. Jim Renacci’s decision to run for U.S. Senate could also make it onto her group’s target list, which is constantly being reevaluated.

A spokesman for Gibbs’ campaign dismissed the contention that Harbaugh could win the seat.

"Gibbs will continue to represent the conservative values of the constituents of the seventh district," said Gibbs’ spokesman Dallas Gerber.

Joyce spokesman Dino DiSanto said his boss has been a DCCC target "since before he was elected."

"This election is still months away and Dave is going to focus on the job he has been sent to Washington to do for the people of Northeast Ohio," DiSanto said. When the time is right, we will put forward Dave’s strong record of protecting the Great Lakes, supporting small business, and finding a solution to the opioid crisis."

Lujan said he believes the Cincinnati-area seat held by Chabot represents the best chance for a Democratic pickup. Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval – who defeated politically connected GOP incumbent Tracy Winkler to win that job in 2016 – is now seeking Chabot’s seat.

The organization last month named Pureval part of its "Red to Blue" program, which provides "top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support" as well as strategic guidance and candidate training. Pureval is the only Ohioan in that program.

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