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: ‘Robert E. Lee was a great general’

President Trump praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee as “a great general” on Friday during a campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio.

“So Robert E. Lee was a great general. And Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia. He couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee,” Trump said before launching into a monologue about Lee, Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

“He was going crazy. I don’t know if you know this story. But Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle. And Abraham Lincoln came home, he said, ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee,'” Trump said.

“And he had all of his generals, they looked great, they were the top of their class at West Point. They were the greatest people. There’s only one problem — they didn’t know how the hell to win. They didn’t know how to fight. They didn’t know how,” he continued.

Trump went on to say, multiple times, that Grant had a drinking problem, saying that the former president “knocked the hell out of everyone” as a Union general.

“Man was he a good general. And he’s finally being recognized as a great general,” Trump added.

Trump has drawn criticism for his defense of Confederate statues, including those of Robert E. Lee.

He drew widespread condemnation last year following a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., saying that white nationalist protesters were there to oppose the removal of a “very, very important” statue.

“They were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said at the time. “This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Trump, speaking at another rally in Ohio last year, said that he can be one of the “most presidential” presidents to hold office. “…With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office,” he said to a crowd in Youngstown.

[The Hill]

Trump’s new EPA chief caught liking racist and conspiratorial social media posts

The acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency was caught liking racist and conspiratorial social media posts using his personal accounts — some as recently as in the past month.

The Huffington Post reported that Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler “liked” a Facebook post showing Barack and Michelle Obama looking at a banana — a racist archetype comparing the former president and first lady to monkeys.

Along with liking the image from an Italian meme page that translates to “My mom is a virgin,” the EPA chief also retweeted infamous Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec.

First uncovered by the liberal American Bridge 21st Century political action committee, most of the posts Wheeler engaged with were made before he came acting EPA administrator in July 2018 following Scott Pruitt’s resignation in the wake of his ethics scandal.

Wheeler retweeted Posobiec from his personal Twitter account in February of 2018 — months after the former Naval intelligence officer had been ousted from military service. The right-wing figure’s ouster followed his promotion of the conspiracy theory that the Democrats were involved in a child sex ring and used a DC pizza parlor as a front for their nefarious gains.

In late September, after taking over at the EPA, Wheeler liked a tweet made by Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson alleging that Twitter discriminates against conservatives.

In an email to HuffPost, the acting EPA chief defending his social media use.

“Over the years, I have been a prolific social media user and liked and inadvertently liked countless social media posts,” Wheeler said. “Specifically, I do not remember the post depicting President Obama and the First Lady. As for some of the other posts, I agreed with the content and was unaware of the sources.”

[Raw Story]

Trump Booted Foreign Startup Founders. Other Countries Embraced Them

A master’s degree from Yale and angel investments in his startup weren’t enough to protect Mezyad AlMasoud from Donald Trump. A little more than a year ago, Trump moved to kill a nascent visa program meant specifically for company founders with capital in hand, such as AlMasoud. The Kuwaiti’s immigration lawyer called his Wall Street office to tell him that without the startup visa, which could have been granted under a plan known as the International Entrepreneur Rule, he had two weeks to leave the U.S. That afternoon, AlMasoud spent hours sitting by the East River, looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge. The thought running through his mind: “How do I tell my 5-year-old daughter I failed?”

As it turned out, he didn’t have to. Flair Inc., his financial technology startup, incorporated in June and is starting to hire engineers who can develop its money-management web services for pro athletes. It’s just not in the U.S. Flair is hiring in Vancouver, where AlMasoud was one of the first people accepted to a startup visa program that looks a lot like the fast-track Obama plan Trump blew up. In the past 18 months, similar programs with a range of perks have sprung up in at least a dozen countries, including the U.K., China, Japan, Israel, Germany, Estonia, Australia, and New Zealand. As with many of his peers, the first choice was always America, says AlMasoud, whose startup is among 130 created by people admitted to Canada’s new visa program since February.

Immigrant founders and co-founders have a strong track record in Silicon Valley (see Google, Tesla, EBay, Stripe), as do the children of immigrants (Apple, Oracle, Amazon.com). But the Valley’s fabled Sand Hill Road is no longer the center of the venture capital world, and as the Trump administration continues to increase restrictions on most forms of immigration, other locales are even more eager than usual to frame themselves as the next great innovation hub. Startups are doing a lot more venue-shopping than they used to, says Merilin Lukk, who runs Estonia’s recruiting program and has brought at least 160 founders to the country since last year, creating about 440 jobs.

Countries have offered all kinds of perks to differentiate themselves. A new program in Israel throws in $20,000 relocation bonuses, a local accountant, Hebrew classes, yearly flights home, and paid cellphones. Other offers include low-interest loans, six-day visa processing, and, most important, the equivalent of a green card. “The fight over tech talent is not something that is coming in the future. It’s happening right now,” says Kate Mitchell, the founder of Scale Venture Partners in Foster City, Calif. “And we are losing.”

That’s a bit of an overstatement for the time being, but the U.S. certainly isn’t trying to match those offers. The Trump administration derailed the legacy Obama program a week before its planned rollout last year, and although a lawsuit by the National Venture Capital Association managed to force the feds to eyeball an initial handful of applications, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the program “does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S. workers” and that the agency intends to officially scrap the program as soon as it has finished reviewing public comments on the matter.

The move is part of a broader set of moves to restrict visa immigration, including the H-1B visas that have historically gone overwhelmingly to tech workers. Critics of the program, including labor advocates as well as Trump-style nationalists, say the visas have too often been abused by outsourcers and companies that simply want to pay workers less. There may be some truth to that: More than 50 percent of the country’s working science and engineering Ph.D.s are foreign-born. But another way to look at those numbers is that America needs immigrants.

Canada is one of many countries that seem less conflicted, says AlMasoud, who’s enjoying his weekend hikes in the Vancouver area without looking over his shoulder. The Canadian immigration agency says it has approved 200 applicants for permanent residency since February, and AlMasoud is hoping he’ll be on that list soon, too. For now, he’s trying to get Flair to a point where he can apply for approval from American financial regulators and start showing it off publicly. Only occasionally, as when he reminisces about NBA games or his bygone ’67 Pontiac GTO, does he grow wistful about the opportunities he left behind. “It had always been my dream to start a business in the U.S.,” he says. “Because of what Trump has done, now I have to hire Canadians.”

[Bloomberg]

Trump anti-discrimination official once called most hate crimes hoaxes

A senior Trump appointee responsible for enforcing laws against financial discrimination once questioned in blog posts written under a pen name if using the n-word was inherently racist and claimed that the great majority of hate crimes were hoaxes.

Eric Blankenstein, a policy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, expressed those and other controversial views more than a decade ago on a political blog he co-authored with two other anonymous contributors.

In a 2004 post, Blankenstein wrote that a proposal at the University of Virginia to impose harsher academic penalties for acts of intolerance was “racial idiocy.” He questioned how authorities could know the motivation of someone using a racial slur.

“Fine . . . let’s say they called him n—– ,” he wrote, spelling out the slur. “. . . would that make them racists, or just a——-?”

Blankenstein also wrote that “hate-crime hoaxes are about three times as prevalent as actual hate crimes.”

The details about Blankenstein’s blog have not been previously reported. He wrote under the name “egb3r,” an alias built from his initials. The Washington Post verified the writer is Blankenstein by examining biographical details in the blog that include his age, his graduation from the University of Virginia, the date of his marriage and a reference to his father, a lawyer.

In a statement, Blankenstein acknowledged that he had written the posts but said they have no bearing on his work today. “The insight to be gained about how I perform my job today – by reading snippets of 14 year old blog posts that have nothing to do with consumer protection law — is exactly zero,” he said.

“Any attempt to do so is a naked exercise in bad faith, and represents another nail in the coffin of civil discourse and the ability to reasonably disagree over questions of law and policy,” he said. “The need to dig up statements I wrote as a 25 year old shows that in the eyes of my critics I am not guilty of a legal infraction or neglect of my duties, but rather just governing while conservative.”

Blankenstein, 39, is one of several Trump appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency created by President Barack Obama following the 2008 financial meltdown. He is among the highest paid employees in the government, earning $259,500, records show.

He is responsible for supervising lenders and enforcing an array of consumer protection laws, including the four-decade-old Equal Credit Opportunity Act, landmark civil rights legislation aimed at protecting blacks and other minorities from discriminatory practices and promoting “fair lending.”

[Washington Post]

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 Administration Targets Immigrants on Public Assistance

Legal immigrants who use or appear likely to tap public assistance programs could find it harder to come to the U.S. or stay permanently under a Trump administration proposal released Saturday.

Legal immigrants could be denied a green card, which grants permanent residency, if they have received certain government assistance which they were legally allowed to access. About 27 million people live in families that have received benefits and had at least one immigrant family member, according to a June analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

The proposal released by the Department of Homeland Security shows President Donald Trump is not backing off tightening immigration despite a backlash and court action over some policies, including the separation this summer of children and parents entering the country illegally.

Conservatives have cheered the new proposal, which was first floated last year, as necessary to prevent immigrants from becoming a drain on public services such as Medicaid and food stamps. Democrats and immigrant rights groups argue the rule would punish people who are entitled to benefits and legally live in the U.S.

The proposed rule must still be finalized following 60 days for public comment. Certain groups, including refugees, would be exempt.

The change would broaden the framework the U.S. considers when deciding status and entry for immigrants who are likely to receive public benefits such as nutrition assistance, low income housing subsidies and Medicaid above a specific threshold, according to the information released Saturday.

“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement. She added that “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

“Building on the traumatic separation of families at the border, the Trump administration has taken another cruel step,“ Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said Saturday in a statement. ”This proposed rule change will similarly result in the separation of families and is just the latest assault on immigrant families.”

[Wall Street Journal]

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]

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