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Politicians react to Billy Graham’s death: He was a ‘pastor to presidents’

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Rev. Billy Graham was a “pastor to presidents” and a “faithful servant” of God, politicians commented early Wednesday after learning about the preacher’s death at 99.

“The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him!” President Trump tweeted shortly after news broke of Graham’s death. “He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”

Vice President Mike Pence echoed Trump, saying Graham’s ministry “changed the lives of millions.”

“We mourn his passing but I know with absolute certainty that today he heard those words, ‘well done good and faithful servant,’ Pence tweeted. “Thank you Billy Graham. “

Reverend Billy Graham, 78, delivers a sermon to over 22,500 persons at the Bay Area Billy Graham Crusade October 10 at the Cow Palace arena in San Francisco. Graham, perhaps the best known evangelist in the world has Parkinson's disease and is battling prostate cancer.

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Billy Graham preached to millions of people across the world.

 (Reuters )

During his lifetime, Graham preached in person to more than 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories across the world. But he was also known for the counsel his gave to decades of presidents.

In 1983, former President Ronald Reagan awarded Graham the Presidential Medal of Freedom — America’s highest civilian honor. Additionally, the Billy Graham Museum and Library in Charlotte, N.C., was dedicated to him in 2007.

“When he prays with you in the Oval Office or upstairs in the White House, you feel he’s praying for you, not the president,” former President Bill Clinton once said of Graham.

Read on for a look at how politicians are reacting to Graham’s death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.



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U.S. officially points the finger at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi killing

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WASHINGTON — A long-awaited American intelligence report made public Friday concludes that the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia approved the gruesome political killing of a dissident journalist who lived in Virginia and wrote for the Washington Post.

While that overall conclusion by the CIA and other agencies about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was first reported two years ago, its official publication on U.S. government letterhead shines a spotlight on the dilemma facing President Joe Biden, who has emphasized the importance of human rights in foreign policy but is not prepared to cut ties with a key American ally.

Said the report, “We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Mohammed bin Salman‘s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi.”

As it became clear the intelligence assessment would be released this week, the Biden administration sought to balance American ideals and American interests, emphasizing a “recalibration” with Saudi Arabia even as officials acknowledged they would still be doing business with a key partner in the fights against terrorism and Iran.

Click here to read the report.

“We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters this week.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke by phone with his Saudi counterpart Thursday, after which Biden had a call with King Salman, the father of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi leader accused in the report of approving the killing of Khashoggi.

The signal was clear: The Biden administration wants to keep MBS, as he is known, at arms length. How that will work going forward remains to be seen. King Salman is 85, and MBS, at the moment, is his heir.

In November 2019 Biden promised to make the Saudis “pay” for the killing of Khashoggi, as he answered a question from Andrea Mitchell of NBC News during a Democratic debate.

“We were going to in fact make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are,” Biden said.

But experts say that is not realistic.

“The world economy still needs that Saudi oil, even if we don’t need it here in the U.S. per se, and the Saudis need our military protection, and we don’t want them to lose a war against Iran,” Middle East expert Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution told CNBC’s Shepard Smith Thursday evening. “We are not going to make the Saudis a pariah nation, if what you hear by that word, as I do, is North Korea or Iran itself or some other extremist government.”

O’Hanlon added, “The two sides need each other.”

Still, the decision to release the declassified intelligence summary — which had been mandated in a law passed by Congress and sought in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit — represents a clear break by Biden with former President Donald Trump’s policy of equivocating about the Saudi state’s role in a brutal killing that was widely condemned by members of Congress, journalists and a U.N. investigator.

The president confirmed to reporters late Wednesday that he had read the intelligence report.

Khashoggi, 59, was a Saudi citizen working as a Washington Post columnist when he was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, and killed by a team of intelligence operatives with close ties to the crown prince. His body was dismembered in part with a bone saw, American officials have said, and the remains have never been found.

After first denying the killing, the Saudi government changed course and asserted that Khashoggi was killed by accident as the team sought to forcibly extradite him. The Saudis say that the team acted on its own and that the crown prince was not involved.

Eight men were convicted in a trial that international observers called a farce; five got the death penalty. Their sentences were commuted to 20 years after they were allegedly forgiven by Khashoggi’s relatives.

Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the U.N., accused Saudi Arabia of a “deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law.”

The CIA presented the White House with its assessment in 2018, but it did not appear to change Trump’s friendly relations with Saudi Arabia and with the crown prince in particular.

Trump bragged in 2019 that he had protected MBS from congressional scrutiny in recorded interviews with journalist Bob Woodward.

“I saved his ass,” Trump said. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”

“Do you believe that he did it?” Woodward asked.

“No, he says that he didn’t do it,” Trump replied.

Biden has ended American support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, but he has not fully severed the military relationship with an important Middle East ally and counterterrorism partner.



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Time to deliver! Boris urged to slash EU red tape to unleash Brexit Britain Covid recovery

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BRITAIN must relentlessly hack through EU red tape if it is to secure the nation’s economic recovery once the coronavirus pandemic subsides, a UK think tank chief has warned.

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White House wants businesses to promote Covid vaccine, warns decline in new cases has plateaued

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration wants more businesses to encourage their employees and customers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, part of a continued push to convince Americans to receive the vaccine ahead of an influx of more doses.

White House officials also warned that after weeks of seeing new infection rates falling, the drop off appears to have hit a plateau.

The administration is asking large business lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and Business Roundtable, to encourage their members to make it easier for employees to get vaccinated with paid time off or other compensation, said Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for Covid-19 response.

The push comes as officials say they are seeing a troubling trend in the number of cases in the U.S. in recent days. After weeks of declines, the number of new cases appears to be plateauing at just under 70,000 a day and there has been a slight uptick in the number of deaths this week. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency is discouraging states from lifting restrictions at this point given the elevated numbers across the U.S.

“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” said Walensky, in a briefing with reporters. “We cannot get comfortable or give into a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.”

The administration is also asking businesses to require masks and social distancing on their premises and echo the CDC recommendations, Slavitt said.

He pointed to some examples of how companies can help, including Uber, PayPal and Walgreens agreeing to provide $10 million worth of free rides to vaccination centers. Lyft is partnering with CVS and the YMCA to provide 60 million free or discounted rides to vaccination sites, Slavitt said.

The federal government also announced it will open mass vaccination centers at the United Center in Chicago that will administer 6,000 shots a day and the Four Seasons Center in Greensboro, N.C. that will give 3,000 shots a day. The federal government has already opened seven community mass vaccination centers and plans to open nine more.

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