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Price tag of ongoing National Guard presence in D.C. up to $500 million: report

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The deployment of National Guard troops in the nation’s capital through mid-March is costing roughly $500 million, The Hill reported Thursday evening.

This price tag, a defense official confirmed to the publication, surpasses the at least $480 million that Bloomberg first reported Thursday afternoon.

The defense official did not have a more detailed breakdown of the costs, according to The Hill, with the costs not including those taken on by the city.

Following a violent mob storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, roughly 26,000 National Guardsmen from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three territories flooded the city and established high-security zones around vital locations in the heart of D.C.

Fearing similar attacks on or surrounding the date of President Joe Biden‘s January 20 inauguration, such zones included the Capitol Complex, National Mall, and massive swaths of downtown D.C. with armed guards, barricades, and razor-tipped fences.

RELATED: Up to 25,000 National Guard troops to be in D.C. on Inauguration Day

However, around 5,000 troops are set to remain stationed at the Capitol until at least the middle of next month, at the request of Capitol Police and in accordance with a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bulletin warning that after inauguration the threats still linger.

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin reads.

The Pentagon, it should be noted, has not gone into detail about the specific threats which spurred them to rubber-stamp the request.

One of the upcoming events in D.C. that people believe could be subject to threats is former President Donald Trump‘s Senate impeachment trial, which is set to commence on Tuesday. According to The Hill, believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory are falsely claiming that Trump will be sworn in again on March 4, the original date of presidential inaugurations before the 20th Amendment in 1933 shifted it to January 20.

However, some Republican politicians have expressed scrutiny over the ongoing presence of troops in D.C.

“I sit on the Intelligence Committee, but I’m aware of no specific, credible threat reporting — as distinguished from aspirational, uncoordinated bluster on the internet — that justifies this continued troop presence,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote in a Fox News opinion piece last week. “Thus, I believe the rest of these soldiers should also go home to their families and civilian jobs.”

After 11 Republicans headed by Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) last week penned a letter to acting Army Secretary John Whitley asking for a briefing regarding intelligence on threats to the Capitol Complex, Whitley and Waltz spoke on the phone Tuesday. However, the phone call did not satisfy Waltz.

“I appreciate the call from Secretary Whitley and believe the Army must push Congress and the FBI for more clarity as what specific threat requires the Army to have a larger presence on Capitol Hill than we have in Afghanistan and Iraq combined,” Waltz said in a statement afterward.

“In the past year, COVID-19, social unrest, natural disasters and war zone requirements have repeatedly pulled the Guard from their jobs and families, causing tremendous stress on the force,” he said. “Lawmakers continue to be left in the dark on actual threat assessments and a long-term strategy. I hope we will have a briefing for lawmakers scheduled in the near future.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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