Trump administration took nearly $10 million from FEMA’s budget to support ICE

The Trump administration took nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget this summer to help boost U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to budget documents shared with USA TODAY.

The revelation, just ahead of Hurricane Florence’s expected landfall in North and South Carolina, was found by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who first shared the documents live on MSNBC late Tuesday.

He told USA TODAY that after the devastation of last year’s storms, including hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, FEMA should have the funds it needs to be prepared for another disastrous hurricane season.

“It’s almost guaranteed to happen again, so this is just incredibly irresponsible,” Merkley said.

The budgeting document, titled “Department of Homeland Security FY 2018 transfer and reprogramming notifications,” lists $9,755,303 taken from FEMA’s budget, about .9 percent of the agency’s listed overall budget, and given to support ICE.

Money was also taken from other agencies, including millions from the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, to help ICE, the document states.

The document lists the additional money was taken to help ICE detain immigrants along the southern border, fund beds in detention centers and remove undocumented immigrants from the country.

“ICE must have sufficient detention bed capacity to detain illegal aliens when necessary as it enforces the Nation’s immigration laws as fairly and effectively as possible,” the budget document states. “Ensuring adequate funding for the detention beds requires projecting an Average Daily Population (ADP) for adult detainees as well as the daily costs incurred in keeping a detainee in custody.”

The nearly $10 million was taken from various places within FEMA, including training, preparedness and protection, and response and recovery operations.

Tylet Houlton, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees both agencies, dismissed criticism of the document as a “sorry attempt to push a false agenda” and said none of the money transferred came from disaster relief funding.

“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 at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster,” he said in a tweet. “The money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations.”

While it’s not uncommon for agencies to move money around, FEMA’s budget was decimated last year due to the barrage of storms and fires that affected the nation and the agency was criticized heavily for its handling of the disaster in Puerto Rico.

Merkely said he was made aware of FEMA’s budget cuts while looking into a solution for family separation and the detention centers set up along the border. He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA “to build more detention centers.”

Merkely said he believes the budgeting reallocation happened in response to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, which was rolled out earlier this year.

The policy led to thousands of families being separated and housed in detention centers, which he says may have increased the need for more money in ICE’s budget.

Both FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests from USA TODAY.

[USA Today]

 

Trump told Gary Cohn to ‘print money’ to lower the national debt

As a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to balance the federal budget and lower the national debt, promises that are proving difficult to keep.

Once he won, Trump considered an unusual approach that was quickly slapped down by his chief economic advisor, according to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which went on sale Tuesday.

“Just run the presses — print money,” Trump said, according to Woodward, during a discussion on the national debt with Gary Cohn, former director of the White House National Economic Council.

“You don’t get to do it that way,” Cohn said, according to Woodward. “We have huge deficits and they matter. The government doesn’t keep a balance sheet like that.”

Cohn was “astounded at Trump’s lack of basic understanding,” Woodward writes.

The vignette is one of many in the acclaimed investigative reporter’s book that describes a chaotic White House and a president being handled by top aides concerned by his behavior and decision-making.

Several people in Trump’s orbit have called the book’s accuracy into question, while Woodward has maintained several times that he stands by his reporting. In a note at the beginning of “Fear,” the author notes that the work “is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with first-hand participants and witnesses to these events.”

Cohn on Tuesday pushed back on the Woodward book. The former Goldman Sachs banker told Axios: “This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump Administration, and I continue to support the President and his economic agenda.”

Trump, meanwhile, has dismissed the book as a “scam” filled with “made up” quotes.

The president also floated an idea for making money from the recent rise in interest rates, according to Woodward.

“We should just go borrow a lot of money, hold it, and then sell it to make money,” Trump reportedly said.

The president also made clear that he was not pleased by the Federal Reserve’s current policy toward moving interest rates back to historical levels after suppressing them during the decade that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Cohn said he supported the Fed’s move to raise rates.

Trump then told Cohn that he wouldn’t pick him to be Fed chair, according to the book.

“That’s fine,” Cohn said, Woodward reports. “It’s the worst job in America.”

Trump chose Jerome Powell to succeed Janet Yellen as Fed chair. However, the president has criticized the Fed for raising rates while the economy surges.

“I’m not thrilled,” he told CNBC’s Joe Kernen in a July interview. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. I don’t really — I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”

[CNBC]

Trump nixes federal pay raise

President Trump on Thursday announced that he would cancel a scheduled 2.1 percent across-the-board pay increase for federal workers, as well as locality pay increases.

“In light of our Nation’s fiscal situation, Federal employee pay must be performance-based, and aligned strategically toward recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets,” Trump wrote in a letter to the Speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.

The proposal sets up a fight with Congress, which could effectively overturn the action in upcoming spending legislation. Without such intervention, the move would affect most of the 2.1 million federal employees around the nation, about 1.7 million of which live in areas outside of the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Members of the military, on the other hand, are on schedule to receive a 2.6 percent pay increase.

Last year, the Trump administration approved a 1.4 percent increase in federal pay and a 2.4 percent increase in military pay.

In the letter, Trump said he had the authority to propose an alternative pay schedule based on Title V of the U.S. Code, which allows the president to alter scheduled pay changes he deems inappropriate in light of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.”

Trump’s 2019 budget proposal sought to freeze federal pay, but the Senate Appropriations Committee included a 1.9 percent pay bump in its spending plans for 2019. The House version of the bill did not include such an increase, and sought reductions to spending on federal pension plans.

The two chambers are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks to work out the differences between their bills, negotiations which could effectively override Trump’s move to cut pay. Trump has not indicated if he would veto such a measure if it included a pay increase.

Democrats, and some Republicans, blasted the move.

“For someone who claims to be a leadership maven, President Trump certainly gives the impression through his actions that he has no idea how to run an effective organization,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

[The Hill]

Reality

Trump’s Space Force: Billions.

Pentagon budget increase: $94 billion.

Trump farm bailout: $6 billion.

Trump golf outings: $77 million.

Mnuchin flights: $1 million+

Price flights: $1 million+

Pruitt flights & phone booth: $211k

Zinke door: $139k

Carson dining set: $31k

Trump was involved in scuttling FBI building across from Trump’s DC Hotel: Inspector General report

The Inspector General of the General Services Administration on Monday released an in-depth report showing President Donald Trump was involved in scuttling plans by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to build a new headquarters.

The president was mentioned over three dozen times in the report.

The Inspector General report found that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy’s testimony before Congress on the scandal, “was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the President or senior White House officials in the decision-making process about the project.”

The Trump administration invoked executive privilege to prevent the inspector general from learning exactly what was said when President Trump allegedly intervened in the rebuilding process.

The FBI plan would have created a large construction zone across the street from Trump’s luxury DC hotel.

The investigation was initiated by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the Vice Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“This IG report demonstrates that Administration officials obscured the White House’s involvement in the FBI headquarters project,” Connolly concluded.

“When we began this investigation, the prospect that President Trump was personally involved in the government-led redevelopment of a property in close proximity to the Trump Hotel was dismissed as a conspiracy theory,” he added. “Now, the president’s involvement in this multi-billion-dollar government procurement which will directly impact his bottom line has been confirmed by the White House Press Secretary and government photographs.”

Connolly also urged further investigation.

“This IG report is only the beginning. We must develop a comprehensive understanding of the President’s involvement in this procurement and what it has cost the United States in terms of both national security and taxpayer dollars. I am calling on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to convene immediate hearings on this matter and to subpoena any GSA officials who are suspected of misleading Congress,” he demanded.

[Raw Story]

Taxpayers charged $34 million to make Trump’s backup jets more ‘presidential’

With the announcement of a new Boeing contract to “update” Air Force Two, the Pentagon is slated to spend $34 million taxpayer dollars to make Donald Trump’s presidential jets fancier.

Defense One reported that over the past 14 months, the Defense Department has spent tens of millions of dollars contracting aircraft monolith Boeing to “refurbish” the interiors of two backup Air Force One planes that are frequently used by the vice president and cabinet officials.

The most recent contract, as first reported by the Washington Examiner, is for more than $16 million to create an “appearance more commensurate with [the] presidential section” of Air Force One on the twin-engine 757. According to the Pentagon, the latest Boeing contract will include “upgraded interior elements,” “refurbished interior elements” and “painting and cleaning.”

This isn’t the first of such contracts the DOD has taken out with Boeing. Defense One noted that on June 30, 2017, the Pentagon awarded the corporation nearly $18 million for “engineering support services for refurbishment of the interior” of the other backup Air Force One.

[Raw Story]

President Trump takes credit for canceling costly military parade he proposed

President Trump claimed Friday that sticker shock led to the scrapping of his much maligned military parade.

Trump accused local Washington politicians of price gouging, despite the fact that the jaw-dropping projected $92 million cost was largely due to Pentagon figures for aircraft, equipment and personnel.

“Maybe we will do something next year when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” the President tweeted.

The claim came hours after the Defense Department had already said the parade wouldn’t happen this year.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday that the military and the White House “have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”

The Associated Press and CNBC reported on Thursday the parade would cost about $92 million — $80 million more than the price first suggested by the Trump administration.

A majority of the taxpayer funds, roughly $50 million, would cover costs for aircraft, tanks, transportation and personnel for the Nov. 11 spectacle.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser knocked Trump and his finger-pointing tweets.
“Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad),” she tweeted.

The President announced that he’ll be skipping town the weekend of Veterans Day, when the parade was planned to take place.

Trump said he “will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th.”

France hosts an annual parade to commemorate the end of hostilities during World War I on Armistice Day, which coincides with Veterans Day in the U.S.

But Trump’s initial plans for a celebration of military might appeared more in line with authoritarian-style displays seen in China and North Korea.

Some critics speculated that there were other reasons beside the price tag for the sudden cancellation.

Several veterans’ groups were expected to launch protests in D.C. to counter Trump’s parade.

Activist and Vietnam era vet John Penley said he received approval to stage an anti-war rally in a park near the route.

“We have no doubt that the rapidly growing number of requests for protest permits in DC and the intel they have on the possible number of protests and people planning to protest Trump’s Military Parade caused the President and the Pentagon to… announce that the date of the parade had been changed to next year,” Penley said in a statement. “Well, as far as I know at this point nobody is cancelling their Veterans Day weekend protests and we definitely are not.”

Common Defense, a progressive group of vets and military families, also planned a counter-demonstration.

“Trump’s arrogant attempt to use our brothers and sisters in uniform as his unwilling political props suffered a major defeat, and that defeat could not have happened without the organizing of veterans and military families,” said Common Defense executive director Pam Campos, a former Air Force military intelligence analyst.

[New York Daily News]

Trump Claims Power to Bypass Limits Set by Congress in Defense Bill

When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers.

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

The statement was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s emerging broad vision of executive power. His personal lawyers, for example, have claimed that his constitutional authority to supervise the Justice Department means that he can lawfully impede the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election no matter his motive, despite obstruction-of-justice statutes.

Signing statements, which are generally ghostwritten for presidents by Justice Department and White House lawyers, are official documents in which a president lays out his interpretation of new laws and instructs the executive branch to view them the same way.

Once obscure, the practice became controversial under President George W. Bush, who challenged more provisions of new laws than all previous presidents combined — most famously a 2005 ban on torture championed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. (Democrats are pressing for access to any White House papers of Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, related to that statement.)

Mr. McCain is now fighting brain cancer, and Congress named the new military law in his honor. But Mr. Trump pointedly did not mention his name when signing the bill, the latest slight in the long-running acrimony between the two men. Mr. Trump’s signing statement also quoted only part of the bill’s title, evading any acknowledgment of the senator.

Last month, Mr. McCain issued a statement calling Mr. Trump’s Helsinki summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

The American Bar Association in 2006 took the position that presidents should not use signing statements, but should instead veto legislation if it has constitutional defects so that Congress has an opportunity to override that veto if lawmakers disagree. But presidents of both parties, including Barack Obama, have continued to use them, with current and former executive branch lawyers arguing that the focus should be on the credibility of the legal theories that presidents invoke when they make their objections.

Mr. Trump’s new statement relied upon a mix of theories, some of which had greater support in Supreme Court precedent than others. For example, in 2015, the court upheld presidents’ constitutional authority to disregard a statute requiring American passports to say that Jerusalem is part of Israel, which could support Mr. Trump’s claim that he could recognize Crimea as part of Russia if he wanted.

But many of Mr. Trump’s challenges invoked his purported powers as commander in chief, a type of objection that the Bush administration frequently made but that the Obama administration generally shied away from.

For example, Mr. Trump also declared that he could bypass a provision in the bill that extended restrictions on certain bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Russia.

He also challenged a provision requiring the Pentagon to create a senior civilian position charged with coming up with uniform standards for counting — and reducing — civilian bystander deaths as a result of American military operations, and a provision that would halt certain in-flight refueling of Saudi and Emirati aircraft over Yemen unless those countries took more steps to bring an end to the civil war there and to reduce civilian suffering and collateral damage from their airstrikes.

And the president said he could disregard a restriction against reducing the number of active-duty troops stationed in South Korea below 22,000, unless Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis were to certify that doing so would be in the national-security interest of the United States and would not undermine the security of regional allies like South Korea and Japan.

In May, Mr. Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down troop levels in South Korea ahead of his Singapore summit meeting with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. But later in June, Mr. Mattis said that current troop levels of about 28,500 would remain in place.

[The New York Times]

Trump blasts Robert Mueller’s spending on Russia probe

President Donald Trump is reacting to a report on special counsel Robert Mueller’s spending, slightly overstating the figure for the Russia probe he has dismissed as a ‘witch hunt.’

Trump tweets Friday: “A.P. has just reported that the Russian Hoax Investigation has now cost our government over $17 million, and going up fast.”

He adds: “No Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

A Thursday report by the Justice Department revealed that Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign cost $10 million between October and March. That’s on top of the $6.7 million spent on the probe the previous four months.

The Justice Department says a large portion of the costs, about $9 million, would have been spent regardless of the special counsel’s appointment.

[PBS]

Reality

Government waste? That’s quaint. Trump has spent $67 million dollars alone on his weekly golf trips to resorts he still owns, operates, promotes, and receives profits from.

The Special Council investigation into Bill Clinton cost $80 million in 1999 dollars.

Trump: We’ll put sanctions on Russia ‘as soon as they very much deserve it’

President Trump on Wednesday said his administration would levy additional sanctions on Russia “as soon as they very much deserve it.”

The comments, made at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, capped a four-day stretch of confusion over whether the Trump administration would punish Moscow for its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

Trump began to walk away from the microphone, but returned to answer a shouted question about the sanctions. He then went on to tout his record on confronting Russia.

“There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” the president said, restating one of his common talking points.

He noted that he has helped raise money for NATO, as well as touted a recent military strike in Syria that was carried out in coordination with France and the United Kingdom.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haleysaid on Sunday that additional sanctions against Russia would be announced as soon as Monday in response to its alleged role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

However, the White House said Monday that Trump had decided not to impose sanctions, contradicting Haley’s comments.

Haley quickly fired back, saying “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

Kudlow later apologized, but the incident sparked speculation that all of the Trump administration was not on the same page regarding its policy toward Russia.

Trump has faced criticism from lawmakers for being hesitant at times to speak out forcefully against Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[The Hill]

Trump’s push to redo $1.3T spending bill he signed sparks GOP revolt

A regretful President Donald Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law, but Republicans who helped craft the legislation are in open revolt.

“My attitude is, your word is your bond,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said, in his first public comments on the Trump plan.

Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) is among more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending. Nearly all said they feared that it could erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills.

The skeptics included the newly appointed Senate Appropriations chief, Richard Shelby, who met with Trump on Wednesday.

“We need to look at what we agreed on with the other side and keep our word, keep our agreements,” the Alabama Republican told POLITICO just before his one-on-one with Trump.

He added that the Senate has had little appetite for the idea in the past: “Rescissions has never been a big thing over here.”

The White House is seeking to essentially take a scalpel to last month’s $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, scratching out any funding that Trump doesn’t personally back.

Budget experts have said a rescissions package of that scale would likely be unprecedented: One party’s leaders in Congress and the White House have never before unilaterally agreed to unravel a spending deal that has already been sealed.

“I think the whole rescission effort is unrealistic and dangerous,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a longtime appropriator, told reporters. “It’s hard enough to make a bargain around here. But you can’t break your word when you do. … You’d never have another deal ever.”

Multiple lawmakers, including Cole, said they don’t believe House GOP leaders are taking the idea seriously — despite Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s own involvement in the budget scheme. They think it’s really being pushed by Trump’s belt-tightening budget director, Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Most are doubtful that the cutbacks could even land a floor vote.

“It seems like this is just an exercise in appeasing the president and the Republican ‘no’ votes on the omnibus,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters.

“We could have made the original budget framework smaller. I would have been fine with that,” Dent said. But he cautioned that going back on the agreement now, months later, would have a “chilling effect” on future deals.

Republicans, particularly in the House, have little desire to revisit the unpopular spending deal, H.R. 1625 (115), in an increasingly dire midterm campaign cycle. The package included huge boosts to domestic funding, which GOP leaders worked hard to sell to their own members in the name of securing more Pentagon funding.

Ultimately, 90 House Republicans backed the spending bill, in part because they were promised cover by the White House.

But Trump’s 180-degree reversal on that deal left the Republican lawmakers who backed the omnibus feeling spurned. Trump further infuriated members of his own party after he threatened to veto the bill and accused GOP leaders of choosing to “waste money” in the bill.

Those same Republican leaders have sharply disputed Trump’s claim that there was no close scrutiny of spending. “When you put together a $1.3 trillion bill, you look into all these accounts,” Frelinghuysen said in defense of the bill.

“You don’t throw your friends under the bus who did exactly what you wanted them to do,” Cole said, calling it a “hare-brained scheme.”

Just one appropriator out of nine polled by POLITICO this week expressed interest in a rescissions package.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who oversees Agriculture spending, said he was “absolutely” open to the idea.

“We’re all just getting back, we gotta sit around the table and talk about it, but I don’t dismiss the idea at all,” said Aderholt, who is in a tight race to take over as House Appropriations chairman next year.

No lawmaker has seen any details out of the White House or GOP leadership about which programs would be cut. The Trump administration would have until mid-June to submit its request, after which it would be up to the House Appropriations Committee to turn the package into legislative language.

That work would need to be done at the same time the Appropriations panels are knee-deep in drafting bills for fiscal 2019, which begins Sept. 30.

And with an already abbreviated House calendar this year, lawmakers say there’s hardly time or interest to jump back into the previous fiscal year.

“We’ll see how that comes together. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to happen, but we’ll see if it does,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) said.

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have accused the GOP of “buyer’s remorse” after the most recent spending deal. And Democrats are already cautioning that Republican efforts to walk back this year’s spending deal would be seen as an attempt to void the entire two-year budget agreement.

Without that agreement, which also delivered huge increases in defense spending, the Pentagon’s budget would actually shrink next year.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) said he won’t decide whether to support a rescissions package until he sees the details. But he added that Congress’ spending panels tend to take the blame for the nation’s mounting debt — even though nondefense discretionary spending accounts for just 15 cents out of every dollar spent by the government.

“At Appropriations, we’re the most visible and easy target,” he said.

[Politico]

1 2 3