Trump Defends Child Separation in Contentious Exchange With Lesley Stahl: ‘I’m President and You’re Not’

President Donald Trump‘s interview with Lesley Stahl for 60 Minutesaired on Sunday night, and during one contentious exchange, the president snapped at the CBS News journalist.

Stahl first asked Trump if he had any regrets from his first two years in office, and he replied that the press has treated him “terribly.”

When Stahl pressed, Trump held firm: “I regret that the press treats me so badly.”

Stahl pressed further and eventually asked Trump about his controversial immigration policy that separated migrant children from their parents at the southern border. Trump retorted by falsely claiming his policy was the same as former President Barack Obama‘s.

“It was on the books, but he didn’t enforce it,” Stahl corrected, noting Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. “You enforced it.”

When Trump defended the policy as an effective deterrent to illegal immigration, Stahl asked if he would reprise the program. The president did not respond, but held that “there are consequences from coming into a country, namely our country, illegally.”

Trump eventually called out Stahl for her questions, claiming he was being treated differently than Barack Obama.

“I disagree, but I don’t wanna have that fight with you,” Stahl said.

“Lesley, it’s okay,” Trump snapped back. “In the meantime, I’m president and you’re not.”

[Mediaite]

Trump suggests support for family separations, after earlier practice caused outcry

President Donald Trump suggested on Saturday that he believes the controversial policy of family separations could continue in the United States and that the practice could dissuade immigrants from entering the country illegally.

Trump’s comments come on the heels of a Friday report in The Washington Post that the White House is actively considering plans that could again separate parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The newspaper, which cited several administration officials it did not name, reported that one option under consideration would detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days and then give parents a choice of staying in family detention with their child as their immigration cases proceed or allowing children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians could seek custody.

“We’re looking at a lot of different things having to do with illegal immigration,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

“I will say this: If they feel there will be separation, they don’t come,” Trump said.

The practice of separating children from their parents at the border ignited a firestorm of criticism. Under pressure, Trump in June signed an executive order that said he said would end the practice and allow families to be detained together.

At least 2,600 children were separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that called for prosecuting everyone who entered the country illegally. A federal judge ordered families to be reunified, and in September the government reported it had reunified or released 2,251 children.

The policy, in effect from May 6 through June 20, did not put a significant dent in the number of families crossing the border, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Trump has made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and presidency. On Saturday he insisted he wants workers to come into the country but repeated his refrain that he wants a “merit-based” immigration system and that he opposes the current lottery system.

A bill proposed by Republicans in August would halve the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States while moving to a “merit-based” system of entry. Trump has said he supports that bill.

[NBC News]

Trump an “absolute no” on Puerto Rico statehood, citing feud with mayor

President Trump on Monday declared himself an “absolute no” on the question of statehood for Puerto Rico as long as critics such as San Juan’s mayor remain in office, the latest broadside in his feud with members of the U.S. territory’s leadership.

Mr. Trump lobbed fresh broadsides at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a critic of his administration’s response to hurricanes on the island last year, during a radio interview with Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera that aired Monday.

“With the mayor of San Juan as bad as she is and as incompetent as she is, Puerto Rico shouldn’t be talking about statehood until they get some people that really know what they’re doing,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Rivera’s show on Cleveland’s WTAM radio.

When “you have good leadership,” statehood for Puerto Rico could be “something they talk about,” Mr. Trump said. “With people like that involved in Puerto Rico, I would be an absolute no.”

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, an advocate of statehood for the island, said Mr. Trump’s remarks had trivialized the statehood process because of political differences.

“The president said he is not in favor of statehood for the people of Puerto Rico based on a personal feud with a local mayor. This is an insensitive, disrespectful comment to over 3 million Americans who live in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said.

He also questioned how the president of the United States could be at the U.N. General Assembly promoting democracy around the world while “in his own home there is the oldest and most populated colonial system in the world.”

Cruz responded on Twitter: “Trump is again accusing me of telling the truth. Now he says there will be no statehood because of me.”

Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress, tweeted: “Equality 4 Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be held up by one bad mayor who’s leaving office in 2020 & do not represent the people who voted twice for statehood.”

Mr. Trump’s position on statehood for the island puts him at odds with the Republican Party’s 2016 platform during its national convention, in which it declared support for Puerto Rican statehood.

The president’s remarks followed his claims earlier this month that the official death toll from last year’s devastating storm in Puerto Rico was inflated. Public health experts have estimated that nearly 3,000 people died in 2017 because of the effects of Hurricane Maria. Mr. Trump falsely accused Democrats of inflating the Puerto Rican death toll to make him “look as bad as possible.”

Mr. Trump’s pronouncements have roiled politics in Florida, which has crucial races for governor and U.S. Senate. The state was already home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans before Hurricane Maria slammed into the island a year ago. Tens of thousands of residents fled Puerto Rico in the aftermath, with many of them relocating to Florida.

The issue of statehood for Puerto Rico — or some form of semi-autonomous relationship — has divided island residents in recent years. The debate over the island’s “status” is the central feature of its politics and divides its major political parties.

The federal government has said previously it would accept a change in the status of Puerto Rico if the people of the island clearly supported the decision. But for decades, Puerto Ricans have been divided between those who favor statehood and those who want to maintain the commonwealth, perhaps with some changes. A small minority continue to favor independence.

The last referendum, in 2017, strongly supported statehood but opponents questioned the validity of the vote because of low turnout.

Any changes would need to be approved by Congress. Statehood legislation, with support from Republicans and Democrats, was introduced in June but appears unlikely to gain momentum as politicians remain hesitant to take up such a thorny issue.

[CBS News]

Trump Once Again Rejects Puerto Rican Death Toll : ‘FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER – NO WAY!’

On Friday night, President Donald Trump tweeted out a quote from the Washington Post in a pair of tweets defending his decidedly false claim that 3000 people did not die as the result of hurricanes in Puerto Rico.

“’When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria.’ The Washington Post. This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, ‘3000 PEOPLE KILLED.’ They hired…” Trump tweeted out in the first part of the tweet.

Then 18 minutes later, he added: “GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?). This method was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER – NO WAY!”

The quote Trump tweeted out appears to be referencing this statement from WaPo:

When Trump visited the island territory last October, officials told him in a briefing that 16 people had died from Maria. But Puerto Rican officials doubled the death toll to 34 later that day.

That quote comes from an article titled, “Trump creates political storm with false claim on Puerto Rico hurricane death toll.”

The reference to GWU Research refers to the independent research study the Puerto Rican government commissioned to track the hurricane deaths.

The whole kerfuffle started with another, earlier tweet where Trump wrote, “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico.”

As CNN and WaPo noted, Trump’s claim that 3000 people did not die does not stack up to the facts.

[Mediaite]

DHS transferred $169 million from other programs to ICE for migrant detention

The Department of Homeland Security transferred $169 million from other agencies to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention and removal of migrants this year, according to a document sent to Congress by DHS.

Many of the transfers came from key national security programs, including $1.8 million from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, $9.8 million from FEMA, $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard and more than $34 million from several TSA programs. DHS also transferred $33 million from other ICE programs to pay for detention and removal, making the total amount of money transferred $202 million.

The FEMA and Coast Guard transfers were first reported by “The Rachel Maddow Show.” On Tuesday night, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announced on the show that nearly $10 million was moved from FEMA’s budget to ICE. The budget document Merkley cited, which was later released and publicized by the DHS Watch program at America’s Voice, an advocacy group based in Washington, showed a breakdown of how DHS moved money between different programs and agencies.

The department has the authority to move funds around internally with the approval of Congress and transfers are not unusual. The total DHS budget for fiscal 2018 was $65 billion; FEMA’s total budget was $15.5 billion.

DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton tweeted Tuesday night that, “Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts. This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda.” He also said that the transferred money came from routine operating expenses and “could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations.”

On Wednesday, FEMA director Brock Long told Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, that none of the $10 million transferred from FEMA to ICE came from the Disaster Relief Fund, saying that Merkley was “playing politics” ahead of Hurricane Florence.

However, money was taken from the response and recovery, preparedness and protection and mission support operations budgets, which are used to prepare for emergencies like Florence. Those FEMA budgets are for “training for all hazards, preparing our warehouses, making sure we have things ready to go so that we can pre-deploy like you see FEMA doing now,” Moira Whelan, FEMA’s former chief of staff for the office of Gulf Coast rebuilding, told Maddow on Wednesday.“Taking money away from that operation doesn’t just harm [FEMA’s hurricane response], it harms us with any disaster we face.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the other transferred funds.

DHS stated in the document that the transfers to ICE were made due to “increasing operational demands.” The transfers were requested so ICE could add more than 2,000 detention center beds on top of 38,000 adult beds it predicted it would need in its initial budget request for the year. Those beds cost an additional $93 million above the allocated budget, according to the document provided to Congress.

The number of detained migrant children in federally contracted shelters has also increased, growing fivefold in the past year,The New York Times reported Wednesday.

ICE also expanded two kinds of flight operations as part of its removal program, increasing the cost of the already $369 million program by $107 million. Its daily air charter services alone increased by 28 percent this year.

The AP reported Wednesday that according to the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, DHS notified Congress on June 30 that it wanted to transfer $200 million from other agencies to ICE, including the funds from FEMA. Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the transfer was approved by the Republican subcommittee chairs and no Democrats signed off on it.

The transfers occurred in August. Ur Jaddou, director of DHS Watch, called the reshuffling of funds an example of “upside down priorities.”

Jaddou said the document suggests the Trump administration would rather separate families “and detain and deport parents [than] prepare for hurricanes.”

[NBC News]

Trump says Puerto Rico death toll inflated by Democrats: ‘3000 people did not die’

President Trump on Thursday accused Democrats, without evidence, of inflating the 3,000-person death count from last year’s hurricanes in Puerto Rico in order “to make me look bad.”

The stunning accusation is Trump’s latest attempt to defend his handling of natural disasters as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Southeastern U.S.

In a series of tweets, Trump disputed an independent report commissioned by Puerto Rico’s government that raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to 2,975.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths,” Trump tweeted. “As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

The president said the number was manufactured “by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”

“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” he added.

Trump’s latest comments drew an instant rebuke from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who accused the president of minimizing the plight of Puerto Rico.

“This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!” she tweeted.

As he prepares for Hurricane Florence, Trump has repeatedly argued that his response to Hurricane Maria was a success, despite the record-high death toll, widespread devastation and power outages and intense criticism from local officials.

The president warned Americans in Florence’s path to take precautions while meeting with federal officials to show his administration is ready for the potentially devastating storm.

But he has also made several remarks claiming he has not received proper credit for his response to Maria at a time when Puerto Ricans have given him very low marks for his handling of the storm.

A Washington Post–Kaiser Family Foundation study showed 80 percent of island residents disapprove of his response.

Trump’s claims fly in the face of a George Washington University study commissioned by Puerto Rico’s governor examining the effects of Maria in the six months following landfall in September 2017.

The long time period was used to determine the hurricane’s lingering effect on deaths on the island. It compared the death rates in the post-hurricane period to other periods not affected by natural disasters.

Puerto Rico’s government endorsed the results of the study once it was released and raised its official death toll, which previously sat at 64. Skeptics believed the number was too low, given that Maria resulted in widespread property damage and destroyed key infrastructure across the island.

Nonetheless, Trump has sought to convince Americans that his account of the hurricane response is correct.

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

Those comments have reignited Trump’s feud with Puerto Rican officials, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has typically avoided confrontations with the president.
“No relationship between a colony and the federal government can ever be called ‘successful’ because Puerto Ricans lack certain inalienable rights enjoyed by our fellow Americans in the states,” Rosselló said in a Wednesday statement.
 
The governor also called on Trump to redouble federal assistance for recovery efforts so that the island can fully recover, calling Maria “the worst natural disaster in our modern history.”
 
Trump has struggled at playing the role of consoler-in-chief in times of national crisis. He drew criticism during his post-hurricane tour of Puerto Rico last October for throwing paper towels to people in a crowd and feuding with Cruz.
 
The president at the time downplayed the damage caused by Maria, saying it paled in comparison to a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina, which killed an estimated 1,800 people along the Gulf Coast in 2005. He also complained that federal relief efforts in Puerto Rico blew a hole in the federal budget.
“The missing part was empathy,” Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said in an interview with The New York Times. “I wish he’d paused and expressed that, instead of just focusing on the response success.”
 
Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly from a Category 3 to Category 2 storm. But it is expected to cause widespread property damages, millions of power outages and possible loss of life in the Carolinas and Georgia.

[The Hill]

Trump Attacks Puerto Ricans, ‘Totally Incompetent’ San Juan Mayor Ahead of Hurricane Florence

MAs Hurricane Florence is about to bear down on the southeastern U.S. coastline, President Trump is attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her criticism of the government’s “unappreciated great job” of how it handled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Here’s the part where Trump advised people to take appropriate safety measures to prepare for Florence.

Yesterday, Trump held a pool spray where he bragged about about the federal government’s “unsung success” in handling the disaster in Puerto Rico last year. These remarks were panned immediately by critics who wonder how Trump can possibly call the recovery a success when almost 3,000 died as a result of the storm.

Last night, Cruz responded to Trump by blasting his “despicable” comments and “lack of understanding of reality.” Puerto Ricans governor Ricardo Rosselló also gave a statement, saying the island is still in the middle of a crisis, and he also criticized the “unfair and unAmerican” relationship between Puerto Rico and Washington.

[Mediaite]

US cracking down on citizenship for hundreds of Hispanics along border

The Trump administration is reportedly accusing hundreds of Hispanics living along the U.S.-Mexico border of having fraudulent birth certificates, stripping some of their passports and throwing their citizenship into question.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that cases it examined and interviews with immigration attorneys suggest a dramatic increase in immigration enforcement and a decrease in the number of passports issued by the U.S.

Some passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in detention facilities as they await immigration proceedings, while others have had their passports revoked when they tried to reenter the U.S., The Post reported.

The newspaper did not say exactly how many people the U.S. appears to be investigating for allegedly having fraudulent birth certificates. The Post reported that the administration “is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands.”

A State Department official told The Hill in a statement that the agency “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications.”

“There are numerous reasons why a customer may be asked to provide additional documentation or information. The burden of proving one’s identity and citizenship falls on the applicant for a U.S. passport regardless of where the application was submitted,” the official said.

The official said that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”

The U.S. government has alleged that fraud is sometimes perpetrated by midwives and other birth attendants who sell legal birth certificates to children born in Mexico.

“This fraud is often documented through convictions, plea agreements, and confessions by midwives, mothers, and other family members,” the State Department official said.

According to The Post, the State Department under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama investigated people who had been delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley based on a 1993 case in which a midwife pleaded guilty to selling Texas birth certificates to parents of children born in Mexico.

After the government settled in a case involving the American Civil Liberties Union in 2009, the number of passport denials dropped off, according to The Post.

Now, the government is apparently denying passports to those it suspects of having fraudulent birth certificates at an increasing rate, regardless of whether they were delivered by midwives, the newspaper reported.

The State Department official emphasized that “the standard for determining whether a person is entitled to a passport, regardless of whether the person was born in a home, hospital, or with the assistance of a doctor or midwife, is the same. The applicant must demonstrate through a preponderance of evidence that he or she was born in the United States.”

“Applicants who have birth certificates filed by a midwife or other birth attendant suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities, as well as applicants who have both a U.S. and foreign birth certificate, are asked to provide additional documentation establishing they were born in the United States,” they added.

“Individuals who are unable to demonstrate that they were born in the United States are denied issuance of a passport,” the official said. “The Department’s determination in such cases affects only the passport, and not citizenship status, of the applicant.”

[The Hill]

Trump Reaffirms Praise For Gov’t Response to Puerto Rico as Death Toll Updated to 2,975: ‘Fantastic Job’

President Donald Trump responded to the new shocking death toll in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria last year by saying the government “did a fantastic job.”

The new toll, which was found by researchers at George Washington University who were commissioned by Puerto Rico, raised deaths caused by the disaster from 64 to just below 2,975.

“I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico. We’re still helping Puerto Rico. The governor is an excellent guy, he’s very happy with the job we’ve done,” Trump told reporters today. “We’ve put billions and billions of dollars into Puerto Rico, and it was a very tough one.”

He continued by saying that “we’ve put a lot of money and a lot of effort into Puerto Rico” and added that he thinks “most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.”

The comments echoed what Trump has said in the past about the US territory, as he infamously bragged just days after the storm that only “16 people [died] verses in the thousands,” which he claimed was good compared to “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement of her own after the new death toll came out this week, saying, “The President remains proud of all of the work the Federal family undertook to help our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Slams Democrats Over Mollie Tibbetts Death: Their Policies Are ‘Spilling Very Innocent Blood’

Speaking at an Ohio Republican State Party fundraiser in Columbus Friday evening, President Donald Trump invoked the death of Mollie Tibbetts to slam Democrats on immigration.

Shortly after saying the Republican party “stands strongly behind ICE,” Trump then brought up how “they charged an illegal alien in the murder of a college student Mollie Tibbetts.

“Everybody loved her. Everybody that met her loved her,” Trump said. “And the father was saying she’s coming back, she’s coming back… This went on for a long time. When they found out that it was this horrible, illegal immigrant that viciously killed her, all of a sudden that story went down. They didn’t want to cover it the way it should have been covered. But what happened to Mollie was a disgrace.”

He added “Our hearts go out. We mourn for Mollie’s family.”

Tibbetts family has said publicly they do not want her death politicized.

Yet, Trump did not stop at Tibbetts’ tragedy to make his point.

He then mentioned the death of an elderly homeless woman in New York City who was allegedly beaten to death by an undocumented immigrant who Trump said “was not supposed to be in this country” and a rape of a young child in the “sanctuary city” of Philadelphia also allegedly at the hands of an illegal immigrant.

“Democrat immigration policies are destroying innocent lives and spilling very innocent blood,” he concluded. “We believe that any party that puts criminal aliens before American citizens should be voted out of office, not into office.”

The audience applauded.

[Mediaite]

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