Senator

Hillary Clinton on Friday defended her 2016 campaign strategy after 2020 Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg criticized his party’s previous nominee for being too hopeful and not understanding the struggles of everyday Americans.

“I really do believe that we always have to appeal to our better selves because the wolf is at the door, my friends,” Clinton said during an appearance at the 10th Annual Women in the World New York Summit. “Negativity, despair, anxiety, resentment, anger, prejudice, that’s part of human nature and the job of the leader is to appeal to us to be more than we can be on our own, to join hands in common effort.”

“I was well aware that we had problems that we had to solve, but it’s been my experience that anger, resent, prejudice are not strategies,” the former first lady, secretary of state and senator from New York added. “They stop people from thinking. They don’t enlist people in the common effort to try to find solutions.”

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., told the Washington Post in a profile published January that President Trump connected with the concerns of ordinary Americans in a way Clinton did not.

“Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy,” he said. “At least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”

A senior Clinton adviser blasted Buttigieg’s comments last month via Twitter as “indefensible.”

“[Hillary Clinton] ran on a belief in this country & the most progressive platform in modern political history. Trump ran on pessimism, racism, false promises, & vitriol. Interpret that how you want, but there are 66,000,000 people who disagree. Good luck,” Nick Merrill tweeted.

“It’s pretty simple. Slam HRC…lose my vote,” and another who chimed in: “It is unfortunate when people as smart as @PeteButtigieg engage in this fantasy fiction about 2016. And as a gay American it is disappointing because @HillaryClinton ran a campaign which amongst its many values championed our community,” Merrill also wrote.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters Friday the Pentagon stands ready to dispatch more troops to the border region if President Trump follows through with his pledge to increase the military presence along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

Trump said after touring a section of recently upgraded border fencing in Calexico, Calif., last week, “We’re going to bring up some more military” to deal with what he said were more than 70,000 illegal migrants rushing the border.

Shanahan said the Pentagon has had conversations with the Department of Homeland Security but has yet to receive a formal request.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ll provide more support to the border,” he said in response to a reporter’s question as he prepared to meet with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “Our support is very elastic, and given the deterioration there at the border, you would expect that we would provide more support.” Shanahan said he anticipates the support will be similar to what the military has already provided with several thousand troops, barrier construction, transport, and surveillance.

Shanahan will meet with a planning team at the Pentagon over the weekend to prepare for the potential request, he said.

“It will follow up with where are we on barrier construction, where do we stand on troops deployed, and then in the areas we anticipate, what type of preliminary plans should we be doing prior to receiving a request for assistance,” he said.

Democrats have been highly critical of the deployment of active-duty troops to the border, and many have cited a leaked internal memo the Marine Corps commandant sent to the Navy secretary warning that unexpected expenses, such as hurricane damage and border operations, could force him to cancel routine training and degrade combat readiness.

But in Senate testimony this week, Gen. Robert Neller insisted his memo was being misconstrued. “To say that going to the border was degrading our readiness is not an accurate statement,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.

Neller’s March 18 memo listed eight categories of unfunded and unexpected expenses. Hurricane recovery was at the top of the list, but a number of expenses were included, such as the raise for civilian employees, which was not in the budget.

“We have a shortfall of just under $300 million, of which the border mission is less than 2 percent,” Neller said. “So my intent was to just simply lay out for my boss what these were and ask for support in trying to figure out how we might fund them.”

Pressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Neller conceded some Marines, who are not doing the jobs they would normally do, could see a small degradation in their unit readiness, but he said it depended on the unit.

“Some of the units have gone down there and they’ve done tasks that are more in line with their core mission. Like engineer units or MP units. Aviation units that were assigned to that early on have actually improved their readiness because they are able to fly certain profiles and things,” he testified.

Neller reports to his civilian boss, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, who requested the memo and jumped to Neller’s defense at the hearing.

“The main stress that we were dealing with at the time, senator, was the hurricane, which was imposing the greatest cost on the Marine Corps,” Spencer told Warren. “Five hundred men for a month at the southern border is $1.25 million. In my mind, is that affecting my readiness stress? No, it’s not.”

Neller said so far border operations have cost the Marine Corps $6.2 million.

Thousands of Twitter accounts known as “bots” targeted Bernie Sanders supporters to rally support for the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election after Sanders’ loss to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic primary.

Researchers at Clemson University collaborated with the Washington Post on a report that found tens of thousands of tweets sent from bot accounts controlled by Russian agents drew parallels between the populist, working-class messages of the Trump campaign and that of Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont.

“#BlackMenForBernie Leader Switches to Trump! I will Never Vote for Hillary, Welcome aboard the Trump Train,” said one tweet sent by a Russian bot. The account described itself as a “Southern., Conservative Pro God, Anti Racism” Twitter user from Texas.

Another Russian bot, called “Red Louisiana News,” tweeted: “Conscious Bernie Sanders supporters already moving towards the best candidate Trump! #Feel the Bern #Vote Trump 2016.”

In an effort to have Sanders’ supporters defect from Clinton’s Democratic Party, the bots also highlighted questionable tactics Sanders’ supporters claimed took place in order to rig the Democratic nomination process for Clinton.

“I think there is no question that Sanders was central to their strategy. He was clearly used as a mechanism to decrease voter turnout for Hillary Clinton,” said Darren Linvill, researcher and Clemson University associate professor of communications.

The analyzed tweets “give us a much clearer understanding of the tactics they were using. It was certainly a higher volume than people thought.”

Nearly 12% of voters who supported Sanders in the Democratic primary crossed party lines and voted for Trump in the general election, according to a post-election survey by NPR. The numbers are particularly stark in light of Trump’s upsets in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which clinched the election for him.

Last month, Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary committees, briefing them of the “principal conclusions” in Mueller’s Russia investigation. The summary said the special counsel did not find evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Does Vice President Mike Pence care about your sexuality? And will the Left and the media ever get over it if the answer is no?

During a speech a few days ago to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said “If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

Buttigieg was lauded for really taking the argument to Pence.

The comments were made in response to Pence’s recent comments … oh, that’s right, there were no Pence comments. In fact, the two seemed to have a very pleasant relationship while both served the people of Indiana, Buttigieg as mayor of South Bend and Pence as governor.

The Daily Caller points out that “In 2014, for example, Pence called Buttigieg on the day of his deployment to Afghanistan — USA Today described Pence as “noticeably moved” during the call. Pence responded with support in 2015 when he heard Buttigieg had come out as gay, asserting, “I hold Mayor Buttigieg in the highest personal regard. I see him as a dedicated public servant and a patriot.”

That monster!

[Related: Mike Pence says Mayor Pete Buttigieg is attacking ‘my Christian faith’]

Buttigieg’s answer to an argument Mike Pence didn’t make is a good one. But if you have to build up straw-men with which to argue, perhaps it’s because Mike Pence isn’t the guy you think he is.

There so much common wisdom about Mike Pence that has so little basis in reality. At the top of that list is that “Mike Pence believes in gay conversion therapy.” But there is no evidence that Pence supports or has ever supported the odious practice, which purports to “electro-shock” away the gay.

The Snopes website states “Pence never stated that he supported the use of electric shocks or ‘gay conversion therapy.'” The rumor is based on a clause Pence wanted added to a AIDS funding bill which read, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” That can mean institutions that promote safer sex, that can mean institutions that work against promiscuity. That people took that line and decided it meant “gay conversion therapy” is, frankly, insane. That this idea continues to go unchallenged is a failure of our media.

When Joe Biden got in trouble a few weeks ago for calling Pence “a decent guy,” actress Cynthia Nixon took to Twitter to call Pence “America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader.” She didn’t explain what made him so LGBT and no one called her on it. Instead, Biden apologized for complimenting Pence.

The obsession over gayness isn’t Pence’s, it belongs to his critics.

Last year, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver put out a book A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, a parody of the children’s book Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President, written by Pence’s wife and daughter. In the Oliver book, the bunny is, wait for it, gay. How daring. The book, of course, got fawning write-ups in places like the New York Times.

Last month, the media was obsessed with the Irish prime minister bringing his boyfriend to meet Pence. Article after article chronicled Pence’s reaction, which was to treat the prime minister and his boyfriend exactly as he treats anyone else.

In January, sites got their clicks by urging you to “Watch Mike Pence swear in the first openly bisexual Senator, Kyrsten Sinema.” If you watched you’d find that the vice president swore her in without incident or any marked discomfort.

And in 2018, the media wanted you to know that “Pence swears in Trump’s most prominent openly gay official” at the ceremony for Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany.

Pence either has the world’s best poker face or else he doesn’t actually have an issue with gay people. In fact, one of Pence’s very few tweets mentioning the word “gay” is one where he notes “If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore.” He simply doesn’t live up to his caricature.

Pence is a private person. He’s not a tweeting machine like President Trump. This lets people project their intense anti-administration feelings onto him. The problem is that these people never get any pushback from the media, who only claim to care deeply about facts. The facts have shown Mike Pence not to be the homophobe his foes imagine him to be.

Karol Markowicz is a columnist for the New York Post.

The last time a Democrat won an open Senate seat in Arizona, he was helped along by a GOP candidate who never recovered from a campaign misstep in which he “shot a burro in the ass,” as the winning candidate’s campaign manager memorably put it recently. That candidate, Dennis DeConcini, was last elected in 1988. He retired after that term.

So how will liberal activists reward Kyrsten Sinema for becoming the first Democratic senator from Arizona since DeConcini? If Fight for the Future, a net neutrality pressure group, has its way, thanks will come in the form of a giant billboard “at one of the busiest intersections in Phoenix” calling Sinema “corrupt” and in the pocket of “corporate donors.” Her infraction is to be the only Democrat not to sign on to a net neutrality bill and instead to work with Republicans to craft a bipartisan bill that stands a chance of passing.

In this political climate, bipartisan cooperation is an unforgivable sin, and Sinema is repeatedly guilty of it.

Arizona has a new maverick.

Sinema, 42, has a compelling personal story that’s unique in one way: It informs her centrism, rather than serving as a platform for radicalism. By the time Sinema was 5, her middle-class Tuscon family was fracturing, her father mired in debt. He and her mother divorced, and Sinema was put into poverty. For a time, her Florida home was an old, remodeled gas station. “She’s a survivor,” former Democratic caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., said in 2015. “I think she’s smart about how she does it. I think a lot of people underestimate her.” The comment rings prophetic; in 2018, Crowley lost his own reelection bid against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the phenom freshman. In the same year, Sinema turned one of Arizona’s Senate seats blue for the first time in three decades.

[ Related: Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally have one thing they agree on: They hate each other]

During that winning campaign, she emphasized her credibility as a independent Democrat rather than a party hack. Asked by an Arizona radio station if she considered herself a “proud Democrat,” she responded: “Gosh, it’s hard to say proud. I don’t know that — I’m not sure that people are even proud of parties anymore, because I feel like the parties are not doing a good job. So I would say that I’m a proud Arizonan. That’s something I’m very proud of. And I’m proud of the work that I have done in Washington, D.C., and the work I’ve done in the state Senate and the statehouse before going to Congress. But I’m not particularly proud of the parties.”

Sinema was, according to the Arizona Republic, one of two members of the state’s Democratic House delegation who “sided with President Donald Trump’s agenda more in the past three months than most Republicans in the state’s House delegation.” But those three months weren’t much of an outlier for Sinema. In 2015, she opposed President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. She didn’t buy into the aggressive selling point that the only alternative to it was war. “I think it’s hyperbole and I think it’s not necessarily true,” Sinema told the Huffington Post. “It’s possible that if the deal didn’t go through, war could be one option and it could become more likely. But it doesn’t mean we don’t have options in front of us. I’m frustrated by these false dichotomies.”

Sinema also is a dissenter from left-wing orthodoxy on big banks. When, as senator-elect, she was given a spot on the Senate Banking Committee, the Washington Examiner wrote, “Sinema was long a friend of big banks in the House, and the committee appointment represents the return on a well-made investment. … During her Senate race against Republican Rep. Martha McSally, Sinema was in the top 20 of recipients of campaign contributions from both the banking and the finance sectors.Washington Examiner Commentary Editor Timothy P. Carney explained: “Sinema fought for the realtors and against Arizona’s taxpayers (disdain for whom she has repeatedly shown). Those efforts may explain why the realtors have spent $34,000 on ads supporting her Senate bid — the most they’ve spent on any Senate race this fall. In the House, one of Sinema’s core crusades was saving and expanding the Export-Import Bank. … Ex-Im is a corporate welfare agency that extends taxpayer-backed financing to foreign buyers of U.S. goods.”

[ Also read: Sinema forging paid leave plan deal with GOP]

And then there’s the issue that’s always a touchstone for Arizonans, immigration. In the House, Sinema had voted for legislation that would impose stiffer penalties on undocumented immigrants who reenter after being deported, as well as forcing immigrants who seek a healthcare tax credit to verify their status with the government first. Sinema took a harder line on asylum-seekers and, in October, backed Trump’s call to station more military personnel on the border with Mexico.

One advantage, according to Democratic campaign strategist Brad Todd, is that “she has been everything from a socialist anti-war protester to a vote against Nancy Pelosi, depending on what advanced her most in the moment.” Todd told the Washington Examiner that this worked especially well in 2018 because “Arizona’s Democratic talent bench was short and its base desperate for victory.”

Her Senate victory over McSally, who was later appointed to fill the seat of the original “maverick,” the late Republican Sen. John McCain, seemed only to reinforce her independent streak. In addition to her net neutrality sacrilege, Sinema is joining Republican colleagues to address paid family leave. According to Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is leading the effort, Sinema was the first to cross the aisle on it, making it “the first bill that is bipartisan” on the issue. The plan, Cassidy told the Washington Examiner in early April, is likely to involve Social Security, perhaps allowing people to take benefits earlier to pay for family leave in return for delaying retirement.

Sinema signed on to an effort led by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to get the Commerce Department to release a classified report on auto tariffs and national security. She took heat from pro-abortion groups for supporting one of Trump’s judges, Arizona District Court nominee Michael Liburdi, in February. She was also one of only three Democrats to back the confirmation of Attorney General William Barr. She defended her vote in a statement: “As Arizona’s senior Senator, I will evaluate every presidential nominee based on whether he or she is professionally qualified, believes in the mission of his or her agency, and can be trusted to faithfully execute and uphold the law as it exists. After meeting with Mr. Barr and thoughtfully considering his nomination, I believe Mr. Barr meets this criteria.”

Perhaps most significant, however, was Sinema’s reaction to the controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. Omar is one of the members of the “Squad,” most notably the freshman trio of Omar, Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ocasio-Cortez, who has turned her social media fame and grassroots devotion into an ability to set congressional Democrats’ priorities. An example is her climate boondoggle, the Green New Deal. It’s opposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., but that didn’t stop Democratic presidential hopefuls from signing on to it. This tension really came to a head over Israel, however.

Omar has repeatedly accused American Jews of dual loyalty. On one occasion, she claimed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, was paying off politicians to put Israel’s welfare before America’s. Tlaib had made similar dual-loyalty insinuations. Ocasio-Cortez stood by her colleagues, and when Pelosi tried to pass a resolution criticizing Omar’s anti-Semitism, Ocasio-Cortez and the grassroots led a revolt and won. The resolution was broadened far beyond anti-Semitism, and the final version was aimed at white nationalists more than anyone else. In March, the pro-Israel lobbying group held its annual conference, and Omar pushed Democrats to avoid it.

What was Sinema’s reaction to all this? The day of Omar’s tweet about the group, Sinema was at its regional dinner. The next morning, she tweeted: “Our support for a secure Israel as a beacon of democracy must remain unwavering. Proud to speak at @AIPAC‘s Phoenix dinner last night about strengthening and deepening this alliance.” She also spoke at the group’s national conference on March 25.

With Democrats increasingly souring on the alliance with Israel, Sinema is determined to stand athwart history shouting “Stop.”

Is her maverick status sustainable, or will pressure to conform amid increasing polarization be too strong? “My guess is if she’s going to have a primary challenge,” Brad Bannon, president of the D.C.-based Bannon Communications Research, told the Washington Examiner, “it’ll be more likely she gets a primary challenge from a Latino, because of the demography of the state, more than an ideological challenge.” Bannon says, “Politics is very much a function of the state you represent.” And Sinema “represents a state that is about as closely divided, in partisan terms, as you can get.”

Perhaps being a maverick in the McCain mold is the way to survive in Arizona statewide politics. For Sinema, that required transcending her reputation for radical anti-war politicking in the early 2000s. She was up to the task. “Few blue state politicians have the range to pull off that transformation, or the electoral room to pull it off,” says Todd. More Democrats, Todd told the Washington Examiner, should be taking notes: “I have been surprised [Alabama Sen.] Doug Jones has not tried it. Or that [former Missouri Sen.] Claire McCaskill didn’t try it.”

Despite the heat Sinema is taking from her left flank, Bannon thinks Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other party floor leaders will happily shrug off left-wing complaints: “My guess is Chuck Schumer doesn’t care. He’s trying to assemble a Democratic Senate majority, and in order to do that, he’s going to accommodate Kyrsten Sinema and other Democrats like her who may be running for either open seats or GOP seats in 2020.” Party leaders understand reality, Bannon told the Washington Examiner, and “the reality is, you can have a caucus that is monolithically liberal or monolithically conservative, but you can’t have a monolithic caucus if you’re in the majority.”

For that reason, Bannon says, “they’re willing to accommodate mavericks like Kyrsten Sinema.”

Seth Mandel is executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine.

Both the White House and Republican lawmakers are looking for ways to narrowly change the nation’s immigration policy to stop a massive surge in illegal immigration along the southern border.

The GOP senator leading the charge is Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee. Johnson told the Washington Examiner he plans to introduce legislation “shortly” after lawmakers return from a two-week recess in April that would address the way immigration officials determine who can claim asylum to remain in the United States.

He hopes the measure can be bipartisan and believes, based on comments from the Democrats on his committee, that both parties will be on board.

“I was very encouraged by a number of Democrats walking by me, on the dais, just basically saying lets get to work on this, we have to fix this,” Johnson said.

Johnson held a hearing last week to examine the latest surge of illegal immigration along the southwest border. At the hearing, Johnson displayed a chart he’s been distributing around the Capitol lately as he tries to draw attention to the ways in which illegal immigration surges are tied to the nation’s immigration policy.

So far this year, Johnson’s chart points out, 240,000 migrants have been apprehended, some at ports of entry but most at points in between along the southwest border.

[Related: US expands program returning asylum seekers to Mexico]

Much of the increase, the chart notes, accelerated after July 2015, when a federal judge ruled that illegal immigrant parents must be released with children soon after they are apprehended.

The court ruling attracted mass family migration from Central America as adults learned bringing children to the U.S. border would prevent them from being detained or immediately sent home.

The White House is moving along a parallel track in seeking ways to make changes that would discourage mass migration. The Trump administration is planning changes that don’t require congressional approval, which, despite Sen. Johnson’s optimism, could prove to be difficult to obtain in the House where Democrats are in charge.

Trump kicked off the effort to reform the Department of Homeland Security by ousting Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Her departure was soon followed by the resignation of other top DHS officials. The purge has caused bipartisan alarm on Capitol Hill.

According to a senior administration official, the Homeland Security Department will be directed to employ a higher threshold for allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the United States under the “credible fear” standard. Up to 90% of Central American migrants are allowed to remain in the United States initially after making such a claim to agents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

[Also read: Facts not fear: Here’s what DOJ stats say about asylum seekers and court dates]

Only 10-15% of those making such claims are ultimately determined to qualify for asylum when their cases are more thoroughly reviewed by asylum officers. More than 90% of those initially let go under the “credible fear” claim end up staying in the country illegally.

“Individuals conducting the exam are part of the problem,” the senior administration official said. “One of the biggest frustrations is that USCIS hasn’t changed its culture from the Obama years. The reflexive tendency is to believe stories even if they don’t stand up to fact.”

The Trump administration is also seeking new regulations that would allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold families and children for much longer than 20 days in order to provide time for a more thorough review of asylum claims.

Johnson said he is working with the Senate Judiciary Committee to craft legislation that would alter the nation’s asylum policies and the law governing how long illegal immigrant families can be detained.

“Right now, when 85% of asylum claims are denied, there is something wrong with that initial determination,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he’s not in favor of changing the current standard for granting asylum in the United States, “but change the bar for that initial determination.”

Johnson has the backing of Senate Republican leaders, who have criticized Trump for his recent purge at Homeland Security but have long agreed with him that the surge in illegal immigration along the border is rooted in bad policy and has to be fixed.

“We desperately need some immigration legislation,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week on Fox News “Special Report.” “The president’s entirely correct about the crisis at the border and the fact that our immigration laws do not allow us to deal with the crisis at the border.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday he was concerned about reports of more imminent departures in the White House after the latest shakeup of top immigration positions.

During a Monday night interview on Fox News, Grassley said he was caught off guard by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen submitting her resignation but understood that President Trump has the prerogative to decide who he wants to run the department.

“I am very surprised. But the president has a right to have whoever he wants,” Grassley said. “And the acting person is very well qualified.”

Trump announced Nielsen’s departure over Twitter Sunday after a heated meeting on the border and immigration. But Grassley said he is more concerned about reports that others could be on the cutting board, according to the Washington Post.

L. Francis Cissna, the head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John Mitnick, a senior member of Nielsen’s team, might be pushed out next, and Grassley said this makes him “very, very concerned.”

“One, those are good public servants,” he said. “Secondly, besides the personal connection I have with them and the qualifications they have, they are the intellectual basis for what the president wants to accomplish in immigration.”

When Grassley served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cissna and he worked closely together.

“The president has to have some stability and particularly with the number one issue that he’s made for his campaign, throughout his two and a half years of presidency,” Grassley said, noting he has been in contact with Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, about the issue Monday.

The senior senator from Iowa also knocked Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s senior policy advisers and an immigration hardliner who reportedly played a big role in orchestrating Nielsen’s ouster.

“I think it would be hard for him to demonstrate he’s accomplished anything for the president,” Grassley said.

This shakeup also includes the coming departure of Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, who Trump reportedly called “Dumbo” behind his back. James Murray was named as Alles’ replacement and Nielsen is set to be replaced by Kevin McAleenan.

The departures come days after the nomination of Ron Vitiello, who was to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was suddenly pulled from consideration.


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