Trump suggested shooting Hispanic migrants in the legs

President Trump suggested having migrants shot in their legs during a March meeting with White House advisers in the Oval Office, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

The Times’ report is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials involved in the events the week of the meeting. The article is adapted from a forthcoming book by reporters Mike Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” It will be published Oct. 8. 

The aides told the Times Trump suggested to advisors during the Oval Office meeting that they should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. 

The suggestion came after Trump had publicly suggested shooting migrants if they threw rocks, the Times reports. Trump had made the suggestion about shooting migrants that threw rocks during a speech in November

Officials who spoke to the Times also recall Trump often suggesting fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators. 

Trump also “wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” the Times reports. 

When advisors told Trump some of his suggestions were not allowed, he reportedly became frustrated. 

“You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump shouted, according to the Times, citing multiple officials in the room’s description. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”

The meeting was set for 30-minutes and the Times reports it lasted more than an hour. Officials in the room included then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Customs and Border Protection Chief Kevin McAleenan, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Steven Miller, according to the Times. 

A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

[The Hill]

Trump admin delays funds for human-trafficking victims that would help non-citizens

 The Trump administration abruptly delayed a $13.5 million grant to house human trafficking victims just five days after saying that “non-citizens” could be served by the program.

The program’s funds, which were approved two years ago by multiple federal agencies, are now in limbo with no indication when money will be distributed and no public explanation for the change.

The money was intended to support housing and supportive services for victims of sex and labor trafficking, including immediate emergency shelter and short-term housing of up to 24 months, according to the notice of funding availability. The money could also be used for providing trafficking victims with furniture, child care services, trauma therapy, cell phones and household items.

The grants were to be dispersed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. HUD hosted a webinar on August 22 through the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for organizations interested in applying for the money, which the council described on August 13 as an “unprecedented partnership” between the DOJ and HUD.

On September 4, the funding announcement was updated to “allow recipients [of the funds] to serve non-citizens,” including lawful permanent residents and foreign national victims, the funding notice said.

Five days later, the grant solicitation was cancelled, according to the federal government’s grants.gov website, which currently states: “This Funding Opportunity has been CANCELLED and is NO longer accepting applications.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Department told NBC News the program has been “postponed,” not cancelled and that a separate HUD website describing the grant as “cancelled” is a mistake. DOJ has not explained why, but the agency asked for the funds back from HUD and the spokesperson says DOJ will now run the program itself.

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent a letter to HUD and DOJ on Friday criticizing the administration for abruptly stopping the grant and asked the agencies to explain what had happened. “Survivors of trafficking must have access to safe and affordable housing,” wrote Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “A decision to postpone these housing and services grants into oblivion will be a decision to waste anti-trafficking resources already on the table.”

[NBC News]

Trump Attacks Puerto Rico Ahead of the Storm—When the Island Is More Vulnerable Than Ever

Hurricane Dorian is set to make landfall today in Puerto Rico, with the potential of winds up to about 75 mph and heavy rains. The storm will strike only weeks before the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which tore the island apart in September 2017. Even though Zoé Laboy, the governor’s chief of staff, told reporters on Sunday that “Puerto Rico is ready,” recovery takes a long time—and even longer given the political and fiscal challenges the island has faced both internally and from the Trump administration.

“The recovery process from disasters, particularly from a catastrophic event like Maria, is measured in years, in decades,” says Samantha Montano, an emergency management and disaster science expert at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. “When you’re looking at a community already undergoing a recovery process, you’re in a more vulnerable state.”

Both during and after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, the island’s devastation and recovery dominated the headlines. Maria left nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans dead, and damage to the electrical grid meant that almost half a million residents were without power for more than four months. Puerto Rico’s electrical grid had already been in need of an upgrade before the storm, and it took 11 months before the island regained power. An estimated $95 billion in damages burdened a colony already in a decade-long economic slump, unable to contend with $120 billion in outstanding debts and obligations. Economic conditions and the storm caused the island to lose roughly 4 percent of its population, with many young people and families moving to Florida—a dynamic that has further slowed the recovery.

On Tuesday, President Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that Congress granted Puerto Rico $92 billion in aid. According to FEMA’s data on disaster funding, Congress has allocated a total of almost $42.7 billion, less than half of the sum Trump claimed, to the Puerto Rican government for disaster assistance, flood control, and other services related to recovery. Of the amount Congress has approved for Puerto Rico, less than $14 billion has been disbursed to the island so far. In 2017, Trump visited the island in the aftermath of Maria and memorablytossed paper towels to Puerto Ricans in an aid distribution center before cutting short his perfunctory visit to the United States territory.

“Because of federal and local neglect, Puerto Rico is still not prepared for another natural disaster,” says José Caraballo-Cueto of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Puerto Rico. “Two years after Maria, thousands of residents are without roofs, the electrical grid is more or less in the same, weak condition, and many roads and bridges in the countryside were not completely restored.” Caraballo-Cueto, who is also the former president of the Puerto Rico Economists Association, says that instead of establishing a systematic approach to using the funds for recovery, the two entities responsible for distributing the money—the local government and the unelected, federally appointed fiscal control board that makes decisions about how Puerto Rico can spend money—”prefer to depend almost exclusively on NGOs and on the federal government to recover.” 

Although Dorian likely won’t hit the island with a force comparable to Maria’s Category 4 strength, with its 155 mile an hour winds and torrential rain that stalled over the island, for the thousands who remain without roofs, “it doesn’t matter how much it rains, it’s a big issue,” says Jenniffer Santos-Hernández, an expert in emergency management at the University of Puerto Rico’s Centro de Investigaciones Sociales. Santos-Hernández acknowledges that even though the government and some communities have more resources than they did during and after Maria, “the way that FEMA and the emergency management agency in Puerto Rico collaborate is not necessarily the best, because it’s very politicized.” Emergency management in Puerto Rico is “not really a professional career, but a political appointment.” Given Puerto Rico’s colonial status, the “lack of trust among the actors…becomes amplified.”

Puerto Rico’s recent political turmoil further complicates the issue of both preparedness and recovery, should the storm bring greater damage to the island’s already compromised infrastructure. On July 24, less than two weeks after the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo published889 pages of a chat group featuring misogynistic and homophobic language and possible evidence of corruption among the governor and 11 of his associates, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned. On his way out of office, he appointed Pedro Pierluisi as secretary of state—an attempt to ensure that Pierluisi would succeed him as governor—only for a court to rule five days later that the process had been unconstitutional, disqualifying Pierluisi from service. Wanda Vázquez Garced, the island’s secretary of justice, who has faced allegations that she didn’t fully investigate issues around aid distribution after Hurricane Maria, was sworn in as governor on August 7.

The political upheaval caused FEMA to require extra documentation for reimbursement, applicant information, and work plans in Puerto Rico. This policy had been enacted in the fall of 2017 after Hurricane Maria but was eventually rescinded after the government of Puerto Rico established internal controls for the spending. The day after Rosselló’s resignation, FEMA reinstated the policy citing “the ongoing leadership changes within the Puerto Rican government, combined with continued concern over Puerto Rico’s history of fiscal irregularities and mismanagement.”

How that decision would potentially affect funding or additional support should Dorian cause major damage to the island is unclear. But in a response to a March 2019 General Accountability Office review of disaster funding in Puerto Rico, the island’s government said the policy “places an undue burden” on residents applying for federal aid and “significantly delays” reimbursement. The government’s letter asserted, “FEMA has never implemented such a [system] for any previous disaster in the nation.” FEMA did not respond to a request for clarification of this policy.  

A punitive federal response to Puerto Rico’s internal political problems was not restricted to FEMA. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on August 2 that roughly $9 billion in disaster mitigation funds earmarked for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands would be separated from overall disaster mitigation funding for nine other states. Before the HUD decision, funding for the states and the territories was going to be disbursed together, but the new decision allowed HUD to give money to the states while delaying money for the territories. In a statement, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “Recovery efforts in jurisdictions prepared to do their part should not be held back due to alleged corruption, fiscal irregularities and fiscal mismanagement occurring in Puerto Rico.” He cited the July 10 arrest and indictment of Julia Keleher, the island’s former education secretary, on charges of improperly steering sizable contracts to associates in 2017.

[Mother Jones]

Trump whines about paying for disaster relief in Puerto Rico as another storm barrels down on US territory

President Donald Trump complained — again — about disaster relief aid for Puerto Rico for hurricane relief as another storm approached.

The president has repeatedly and falsely claimed that Congress had allocated $92 billion of aid money to the U.S. territory for relief aid for 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which inflicted an estimated $90 billion in damage.

In fact, the island was allocated $42.5 billion but actually received only a fraction while the bulk of the aid has remained in Washington as part of a bureaucratic approval process.

The president tweeted out another complaint about the spending as Tropical Storm Dorian approached Puerto Rico.

[Raw Story]

The DOJ sent immigration court employees a link to a racist and anti-Semitic blog post attacking immigration judges

The Justice Department sent immigration court employees an email this week that linked to an article attacking immigration judges with offensive and anti-Semitic slurs, BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday.

The article was posted on the white nationalist website VDare, which routinely traffics in racist and anti-immigration rhetoric and has explicitly targeted immigration judges in the past.

Ashley Tabbador, the head of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in a letter to the Justice Department that the email came from the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

Tabbador wrote that the article “directly attacks” immigration judges “with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” and the label ‘Kritarch,'” according to BuzzFeed. “The reference to Kritarch in a negative tone is deeply offensive and Anti-Semitic,” Tabbador added.

Kritarch is a term derived from the concept of a “kritarchy,” or a society run by judges. It’s referenced in the Old Testament’s Book of Judges as a type of rule in ancient Israel. VDare has repeatedly used the term to pejoratively refer to immigration judges. 

Tabbador called on James McHenry, the head of EOIR, to take action following the dissemination of the article.

“Publication and dissemination of a white supremacist, anti-semitic website throughout the EOIR is antithetical to the goals and ideals of the Department of Justice,” she wrote. She added that the court should withdraw the email and issue an apology to immigration judges.

“Separately, EOIR should take all appropriate safety and security measures for all judges given the tone and tenor of this posting,” she wrote.

The post was sent to immigration court employees as part of a daily briefing that usually includes links to news reports about immigration, BuzzFeed reported.

EOIR Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly told Insider in a statement, “The daily EOIR morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included. The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.”

[Business Insider]

Trump officials unveil rule allowing indefinite migrant family detentions

The Trump administration on Wednesday said it would unveil a new rule that would allow migrant families to be held indefinitely, ending a procedure known as the Flores Settlement Agreement that requires children to be held no longer than 20 days.

The decision is a momentous change in detainee policy that the administration has sought as a disincentive for people crossing the border. 

“This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.

Under the new system, immigrant families could be held for the duration of their court proceedings, which officials claim could be resolved within three months.

McAleenan said the new rule takes aim at a 2015 “reinterpretation of the Flores Settlement Agreement” in which a California district court ruled accompanied minors are subject to the same detention limits as unaccompanied minors.

The 2015 change, McAleenan said, “has generally forced the government to release families into the country after just 20 days, incentivizing illegal entry, adding to the growing backlog in immigration proceedings, and often delaying immigration proceedings for many years.”

The Trump administration has frequently blamed Flores for the spike in family border crossings over the last few years, claiming the promise of eventual release creates an incentive to enter the country illegally. On Wednesday, it defended the change as closing a “loophole exploited by human smugglers.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), however, panned the move, saying it will “put even more stress on our immigration system and add to the chaos the Administration continues to create.”

“The Trump Administration has managed to find a new low in its continued despicable treatment of migrant children and families. Terminating the Flores settlement is illegal and goes against our longstanding American values about the treatment of children,” Thompson said in a statement.

The new rule would establish new standards for conditions in detention centers while simultaneously removing the 20-day maximum detention limit that has existed since the original 1997 court ruling.

“Large numbers of alien families are entering illegally across the southern border, hoping that they will be released into the interior rather than detained during their removal proceedings,” the two agencies that created the rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

“Promulgating this rule and seeking termination of the FSA [Flores Settlement Agreement] are important steps towards an immigration system that is humane and operates consistently with the intent of Congress.”

The rule will be published in the Federal Register on Friday and will be effective 60 days later — if it is approved by the courts.

However, the process is likely to take significantly longer.

“Obviously, there will be litigation, as you know, all new immigration rules have faced litigation in my career,” said McAleenan.

Under the terms of the 1997 consent decree that eventually led to the 20-day limit in Flores, the regulation must be approved by Judge Dolly M. Gee of United States District Court for the Central District of California, who heard the original case.

Gee, who was appointed by President Obama, denied the administration’s request last year to extend family detentions after a 2015 ruling that officials could not hold unaccompanied children in unlicensed facilities longer than 20 days.

The upcoming litigation means the proposed rule could be significantly delayed or sidetracked in the courts.

“This rule contemplates terminating the Flores Settlement Agreement. And actually, there’s a legal proceeding just to do that coming out of the implementation. So we do expect litigation but we do hope to be able to implement as soon as possible,” said McAleenan.

Trump officials have sought to address Gee’s concerns with indefinite detention by creating a federal government licensing regime which includes public audits of facilities conducted by a third party.

And McAleenan painted a rosy picture of family detention units under the new rule.

“For example, the first family residential center in Berks, Pa., has a suite for each family [to be] housed separately. Furniture, bedding, towels, clothing and toiletries are provided,” said McAleenan.

He added the facilities would include medical care and educational wings, as well as leisure activities for detainees.

But DHS has bed space for 2,500 to 3,000 individuals in family units at current funding levels, a fraction of the number of Central Americans who claim asylum every month.

McAleenan blamed Congress, where Democrats worked to limit the administration’s capability to detain immigrants, for the limited facilities.

“Just a quick reminder, we did ask Congress for additional family beds in the 2019 budget process and the supplemental, and we did not receive them. So I think that’s important to recall,” said McAleenan.

Additional legal challenges to the rule are likely from immigration advocacy groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought several Trump administration immigration policies, slammed the rule as “yet another cruel attack on children.”

“The government should NOT be jailing kids, and certainly shouldn’t be seeking to put more kids in jail for longer,” the group tweeted.

“This is yet another cruel attack on children, who this administration has targeted again and again with its anti-immigrant policies.”

McAleenan said the “multihundred-page rule” would preserve the original intent of Flores, granting asylum-seeking families a safe place to live while their cases go through immigration courts.

The rule comes amid a flood of federal action to limit both legal and illegal immigration, and another lengthy rule to submit documented immigrants to a “public charge” test that’s been shown to be rife with inconsistencies.

That rule would make a receipt of public benefits, like food stamps or Medicaid, a negative factor when considering a noncitizen’s application for a visa or green card.

Earlier in the summer, the administration announced a rule expanding authority for expedited deportation, where immigration cases are not reviewed by judges, from within 100 miles of the border to anywhere in the U.S.

It also promulgated a rule which would deny asylum claims for immigrants who pass through another country before reaching the southern border.

All of those moves, which experts say would severely limit immigration, face legal challenges.

[The Hill]

Emails show Stephen Miller pressed hard to limit green cards

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller wasn’t getting an immigration regulation he wanted. So he sent a series of scorching emails to top immigration officials, calling the department an “embarrassment” for not acting faster, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.

The regulation in question would allow the Department of Homeland Security to bar legal immigrants from obtaining green cards if they receive certain government benefits. The rule will likely be released in the coming days, according to a pair of current and former Trump officials briefed on the timeline.

The emails, which POLITICO obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shed new light on how aggressively Miller has pressured the Department of Homeland Security to move faster on regulations to limit immigration. Critics say the new rule will be used to shore up Trump’s political base in the coming election year, and that it’s an illegitimate tool to reduce legal immigration. 

One former Trump official said Miller has maintained a “singular obsession” with the public charge rule, which he’s argued would bring about a transformative change to U.S. immigration.

At the receiving end of Miller’s pressure campaign was U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Francis Cissna, an immigration hawk with strong support from restrictionist groups who resigned in May amid a broader Homeland Security Department shakeup that also saw the exit of former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other top officials.

In an email sent on June 8, 2018, Miller lambasted Cissna for the pace of his efforts to implement the public charge rule. “Francis — The timeline on public charge is unacceptable,” Miller wrote. “The public charge reg has been in the works for a year and a half. This is time we don’t have. I don’t care what you need to do to finish it on time. You run an agency of 20,000 people.”

In the message, Miller derided Cissna’s overall performance at USCIS, the agency charged with screening visa applicants and processing immigration paperwork. Cissna was known for his deliberate approach to the regulatory process.

“It’s an embarrassment that we’ve been here for 18 months and USCIS hasn’t published a single major reg,” Miller barked.

According to a version of the rule proposed in October 2018, the regulation would allow federal immigration officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who’ve received food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies or Section 8 housing vouchers. It could also deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to receive such government benefits in the future.

With Trump poised to make immigration a centerpiece of his 2020 reelection campaign, a new crackdown on legal immigrants who receive government assistance could energize voters who view immigration — even when done legally — as a fiscal drain and cultural danger.

“This is something that will play well going into the next election, especially considering the prevailing view among the Democratic candidates who are talking about admitting more immigrants and offering more benefits,” said Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for lower levels of both legal and illegal immigration. 

But Miller’s previously undisclosed emails could raise legal questions about whether the public charge rule was rushed to completion. The regulatory process will almost certainly be challenged in court, according to opponents bracing for the change.

In addition, the emails could reinvigorate Democratic efforts to compel Miller to testify before Congress. The White House in April denieda voluntary invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The committee chairman had pressed Miller to explain his role in the development of what he called “troubling” immigration policies.

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli — Cissna’s replacement at the agency and another immigration hawk — said the public charge regulation will demonstrate that Trump remains committed to his immigration agenda.

According to a version of the rule proposed in October 2018, the regulation would allow federal immigration officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who’ve received food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies or Section 8 housing vouchers. It could also deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to receive such government benefits in the future.

With Trump poised to make immigration a centerpiece of his 2020 reelection campaign, a new crackdown on legal immigrants who receive government assistance could energize voters who view immigration — even when done legally — as a fiscal drain and cultural danger.

“This is something that will play well going into the next election, especially considering the prevailing view among the Democratic candidates who are talking about admitting more immigrants and offering more benefits,” said Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for lower levels of both legal and illegal immigration. 

But Miller’s previously undisclosed emails could raise legal questions about whether the public charge rule was rushed to completion. The regulatory process will almost certainly be challenged in court, according to opponents bracing for the change.

In addition, the emails could reinvigorate Democratic efforts to compel Miller to testify before Congress. The White House in April denieda voluntary invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The committee chairman had pressed Miller to explain his role in the development of what he called “troubling” immigration policies.

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli — Cissna’s replacement at the agency and another immigration hawk — said the public charge regulation will demonstrate that Trump remains committed to his immigration agenda.

[Politico]

Trump Just Strong-Armed Guatemala Into a “Safe Third Country” Agreement.

The United States and Guatemala have reached a deal that has the potential to end most asylum seekers’ ability to seek protection at the US-Mexico border.

Under an agreement announced Friday afternoon, asylum seekers who travel through Guatemala on their way to the United States would be returned to Guatemala and forced to seek protection there. That would largely block Salvadorans and Hondurans from receiving asylum in the United States, as well as large numbers of asylum seekers from around the world who travel by land to the US border after flying to South America. Instead, only Mexicans and Guatemalans would be able to seek protection at the border.

The agreement would not apply to children who arrive at the border alone and would remain in effect for two years, according to a copy released by the Guatemalan government (in Spanish).

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said on a press call that he expects the deal, which is known as a safe third country agreement, to take effect in the next few weeks. Earlier this month, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court blocked President Jimmy Morales from unilaterally signing such an agreement. It is still not clear how Morales’ administrations plans to get around that. 

Beyond that it is unclear how Guatemala—which has become the leading sending country of migrants to the United States under Trump—plans to provide refuge for the thousands of asylum seekers who could arrive from El Salvador, Honduras, and elsewhere. As the Washington Post‘s Mexico and Central America bureau chief, Kevin Sieff, pointed out on Twitter, Guatemala doesn’t exactly have much recent experience handling asylum claims.

The deal, if it goes into effect, would be one of Trump’s two most important efforts to undermine the asylum system. The other is the Remain in Mexico program, which is forcing thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are pending in US immigration courts. Combined, the two policies could block the vast majority of asylum seekers who come to the southern border from entering the United States. People who fly or travel by sea to the United States would still be eligible to apply for asylum. (The problem for asylum seekers, particularly those who aren’t wealthy, is that it is often impossible to get a visa to fly to the United States, which is why people turn to smugglers instead.)

McAleenan said that by requiring people to apply for asylum in Guatemala, the agreement would “increase the integrity of the [asylum] process, keep vulnerable families that are really economic migrants out of the hands of smugglers, and allow us to reach those with asylum claims more expeditiously.”

Morales was supposed to come to the White House on July 15 to sign a safe third country agreement, but the trip was canceled at the last minute in response to the Constitutional Court decision. Trump responded to the Guatemalan court decision this week by threatening to impose tariffs on Guatemala and ban Guatemalans from entering the United States. 

Like Trump, Morales is a former television personality who ran for president in 2015 as a political outsider. Since then, Morales has worked aggressively to undermine a renowned UN-backed anti-corruption commission that has targeted members of his family. His administration also has gone out of its way to please Trump, moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem immediately after the United States did. The Trump administration has been largely silent about Morales’ efforts to undermine the rule of law in Guatemala.

[Mother Jones]

DONALD TRUMP FALSELY CLAIMS HE DIDN’T HAVE ‘TALKING POINTS’ ON MINORITY CONGRESSWOMEN, DESPITE PHOTOS

In the aftermath of fierce condemnation for issuing racist tweets at minority congresswomen earlier this month, President Donald Trump lashed out on Twitter Monday, labeling reports that his decision to double down on his remarks involved pre-determined talking points and opposition research as “fake news.”

Trump falsely claimed “there were no talking points” just days after issuing a speech at the White House on July 15, where he used a “Made in America” event intended toshowcase U.S. manufacturing to again tell four Democratic lawmakers—Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota—they “can leave right now” if they were dissatisfied with the U.S.

Photos captured by a Washington Post photographer showed that Trump’s notes did, in fact, have talking points about the progressive lawmakers who’ve been dubbed “The Squad”—all of whom are U.S. citizens and of whichthree were born in the U.S. The president’s notes specifically referenced Omar, a Somali refugee who came to the U.S. in 1995 after fleeing her country years earlier because of a civil war.

“She came here at 10 years old and is now a congresswoman. That could ONLY happen in America,” Trump’s notes read. “It is SAD that these women have a record of saying anti-Semitic and anti-American things all the time.”

Trump’s prepared remarks continued: “It’s actually DANGEROUS — because it seems like they hate America. My point was if you are not happy here, you can leave.”

At a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Wednesday evening, attendees chanted “send her back” after Trump again accused Omar in his prepared remarks of not being a proud American, being sympathetic to al-Qaeda and saying she “looks down with contempt on hardworking Americans.”

Trump’s Monday morning tweet also included denials about information in a Washington Poststory, which said that “advisers wrote new talking points and handed him reams of opposition research on the four congresswomen.” According to the article, allies, aides and confidants reportedly struggled to relay to the president why his remarks that “The Squad” should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” were racist and that he should pivot to new messages.

“The Amazon Washington Post front page story yesterday was total Fake News. They said ‘Advisors wrote new talking points and handed him reams of opposition research on the four Congresswomen.’ Now really, does that sound like me?” Trump wrote in a series of tweets. “What advisors, there were no talking points,……..except for those stated by me, & ‘reams of paper’ were never given to me. It is a made up story meant to demean & belittle. The Post had no sources. The facts remain the same, that we have 4 Radical Left Congresswomen who have said very bad things about Israel & our Country!”

However, Trump did not respond to the images of his talking points that were taken by photographers last week.

In another tweet, Trump continued to berate “The Squad,” calling them “a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart.”

Following Trump’s racist tweets, the Democratic-led House moved swiftly last week to pass a resolution of condemnation. But the formal rebuke to the president only mustered support from four Republican members. Some of the few GOP representatives who publicly condemned Trump failed to vote for the resolution.

The four freshmen congresswomen that make up”The Squad” have hit back repeatedly at Trump on Twitter and in comments to reporters. The women have quickly becomepolitical firebrands, often making headlines with their strong ridicule of Trump and even sometimes acting as a thorn in the side of Democratic leadership.

“This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms or it’s happening on national TV. And now, it’s reached the White House garden,” Omar said last week at a press conference with her colleagues of “The Squad.”

“He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender orientation, or immigration status,” the freshman lawmaker continued, “because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together across all of our differences.”

[Newsweek]

Trump: I don’t have a racist bone in my body

President Trump on Tuesday insisted he is not a racist amid sustained criticism of his attacks on four minority, progressive Democratic congresswomen.

The president’s latest defense of his tweets telling the lawmakers to “go back” to their home countries, even though they are all U.S. citizens, came hours before the House is set to vote on a resolution condemning them as racist.

“Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” Trump tweeted.

Trump condemned the “so-called vote” on the resolution as a “Democrat con game,” sending a message to Republicans to vote against the measure.

“Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap. This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat,” he tweeted.

Trump also repeated his belief that the four Democratic lawmakers “hate our Country.”

Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) — the group targeted by Trump — held a press conference Monday to push back against his statements the previous day.

Omar accused Trump of launching a “blatantly racist attack” against her and her three colleagues and said he is advancing the “agenda of white nationalists.” 

As the controversy raged on for a third day, the president telegraphed his strategy to elevate the group of lawmakers in an attempt to paint Democrats as extreme during his reelection race.

Nancy Pelosi tried to push them away, but now they are forever wedded to the Democrat Party. See you in 2020!” Trump tweeted.

But his attacks have also galvanized Democrats who have been plagued by infighting, in part due to a public spat between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the group of four progressive lawmakers.

The House plans to vote on its resolution against Trump’s comments later Tuesday. The text of the measure “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.”

In a series of tweets Sunday, Trump wrote that the women should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Three of them are natural-born U.S. citizens and the fourth, Omar, is a naturalized citizen who was a refugee from Somalia.

The tweets are the latest instance of Trump stoking racial animus since he burst onto the political stage. Before he was elected president, Trump questioned whether former President Obama was a U.S. citizen even though he was born in Hawaii. Trump also lashed out at a federal judge by arguing his Mexican heritage would not allow him to fairly decide lawsuits against Trump University.

Almost two years ago, Trump drew widespread condemnation for saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of a violent protest in Charlottesville, Va., where a white nationalist killed a counterprotester.

[The Hill]

Reality

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