Trump Reportedly Told Border Agents to Do Something That’s Illegal

President Donald Trump unsuccessfully pushed to close the border in El Paso, Texas, told Border Patrol agents to turn back migrants despite the fact that doing so would be illegal, and has been pushing to reinstate a more aggressive family separation policy than the one that tore apart more than 2,500 families last spring, CNN reported on Monday. 

Last month, Trump ordered since-ousted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to shut down some or all El Paso border crossings the next day, on March 22, at noon, according to CNN. Nielsen told Trump that would be a bad and even dangerous idea, and that the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, has been very supportive of the President. She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports. She argued that if you close all the ports of entry all you would be doing is ending legal trade and travel, but migrants will just go between ports. According to two people in the room, the President said: “I don’t care.”The federal government is required to process migrants who cross the border without authorization and allow asylum seekers to make their cases for protection if they demonstrate a “credible fear” of being persecuted in their home countries. Trump reportedly told Border Patrol agents in Calexico, California, on Friday that they should simply force back the migrants they encounter.Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.” After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.Trump has also spent months pushing to reinstate some form of the family separation policy that he was forced to abandon in June, CNN and NBC News are reporting. Trump is calling for a more comprehensive version of the policy than the one that was adopted across the border last spring. Instead of separating families who cross the border without authorization by prosecuting them for illegal entry, Trump also wants to split families who come to official ports of entry to request asylum, which now requires weeks of waiting.According to multiple sources, the President wanted families separated even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. The President wanted families separated even if they were apprehended within the US. He thinks the separations work to deter migrants from coming. Sources told CNN that Nielsen tried to explain they could not bring the policy back because of court challenges, and White House staffers tried to explain it would be an unmitigated PR disaster. “He just wants to separate families,” said a senior administration official.

The CNN report comes three days after Trump unexpectedly pulled his nominee to lead US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, one day after Trump pushed out Nielsen, and the same day the New York Times reported that the hardline head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services—the DHS agency responsible for legal immigration—is also expected to leave government soon. Trump’s most important asylum crackdown, known as Remain in Mexico, was also temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Monday.

[Mother Jones]

Trump Slams Nonexistent ‘Judge Flores’ for Landmark Immigration Ruling Actually Named After Migrant Teen

President Trump had a lot to say Friday about a landmark immigration ruling that limits how long the government can detain undocumented migrant children. Unfortunately, his argument took a turn for the incoherent as soon as he publicly called out a nonexistent judge for a 20-day cap on detaining immigrant minors.

Complaining about a build-up of migrants at the border while visiting Calexico, California, Trump blamed it on “some very bad court decisions,” singling out the “Flores decision” as a “disaster.”

“I have to tell you, Judge Flores, whoever you may be, that decision is a disaster for our country,” Trump said during a meeting with border patrol officials.

The “decision” the president was referring to was Reno v. Flores—otherwise known as the Flores Settlement—which protects migrant children from being held indefinitely in custody and grants them certain basic rights, like the right to food, medical assistance, drinking water, and toilets while in detention. The Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to modify the agreement last year to allow for longer detention periods for minors.

The agreement was named not after a judge, but 15-year-old Jenny Lisette Flores, who fled El Salvador in the 1980s and was detained upon trying to enter the U.S. to live with her aunt. The teen was the lead plaintiff in the case, which came before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. It was settled in 1997, with Clinton-era Attorney General Janet Reno as the defendant.

The Flores Settlement has been an obstacle for the Trump administration since their family separation policy rollout and for current immigration policies, with lawsuits claiming the government is holding children indefinitely and violating the settlement.

Trump’s criticism of the imaginary judge sparked a barrage of mockery on social media, where many were quick to point out the flub came in the same week the president claimed windmills cause cancer and falsely said his father was born in Germany.

Earlier Friday, the president also claimed those approaching the southern border to seek asylum in the U.S. were running a “scam” during his visit to Southern California.

“Asylum, you know I look at some of these asylum people, they’re gang members. They’re not afraid of anything… and they say ‘I fear for my life,’ they’re the ones causing fear for life. It’s a scam, it’s a hoax,” he said, before fitting in a jab at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I know about hoaxes, I just went through a hoax,” Trump said, referring to his previous remarks claiming the “Russia hoax” was “finally dead.”

Trump also claimed the United States no longer had the capacity to accept more asylum seekers or undocumented migrants entering through the southern border.

“The system is full. We can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum. Whether it’s anything you want. It’s illegal immigration,” Trump said, according to CNN. “Can’t take you anymore. Can’t take you. Our country is full… Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. So turn around. That’s the way it is.”

[Daily Beast]

President Trump Ranted About ‘Getting Rid of Judges’

Apparently, we had something of an “episode” in the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon.

“Sure, it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy,” the president jovially admitted of his proposed shutdown. “It is one of the biggest trade deals in the world that we’ve just done with the USMCA. It is a very big trading partner. Trading is very important, the borders are very important, but security is what most important. I have to have security. And we’re going to have security in this country. That is more important than trade. Let me just give you a little secret, security is more important to me than trade, so we’re going to have a strong border, or we’re going to have a closed border. I’m totally prepared to do it.”

“Well I haven’t made that intention known and I’m ready to close it if I have to close it. Mexico has the strongest immigration laws in the world. Nobody has stronger. I guess some have the same but you can’t get any stronger than what Mexico has and we don’t want people coming up on this dangerous journey and coming in. And what we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal. I could do it in 45 minutes. We need to get rid of chain migration, we need to get rid of catch and release and visa lottery and we have to do something about asylum and to be honest with you, I have to get rid of judges.”

Oh. And there were some pronunciation issues.

Meanwhile, those “rural voters” who, evidently, are the only voters that truly matter, are getting hammered all over the midwest. From NBC News:

Farmers will have to destroy any grains that were contaminated by floodwater, which could also prevent some growers from planting oversaturated fields. Near Crescent, Iowa, farmer Don Rief said the flood damaged more than 60,000 bushels of his grain, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He tried to move the crops before the flood, but dirt roads were too soft from the storm to support trucks. “We were just hurrying like hell,” Rief said. “Hopefully USDA will come in and minimize some of the damage.” The USDA does not have a program that covers flood-damaged grain because farmers have typically received more advance notice of rising waters, allowing them to move crops and limit losses, said Tom Vilsack, who ran the agency under former President Barack Obama.

That’s going to have to change, it seems. We don’t get many warnings about sudden calamities anymore and, the ones we get, we don’t listen to anyway.

[Esquire]

Trump Rips Ninth Circuit and Migrant Caravan to Deployed Troops in Thanksgiving Call

On Thanksgiving morning, President Donald Trump held a long teleconference call with various members of the military deployed overseas from his Mar-a-Lago resort. During the call, he brought up border policy, bashed the ninth circuit, and asked about his trade policies.

In the above clip, the President talks to Brigadier General David Lyons of the U.S. Air Force about immigration and the border before bashing the courts.

“Our mission here, we defend the two busiest airfields in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Bagrām,” said the General as he introduced himself and the troops in the room to Trump. They shouted Happy Thanksgiving, and Trump thanked them, and asked Gen. Lyons how things are going.

“Well both the Taliban and ISIS are resilient adversaries, but I think we’re doing well. We get after them every single day. Our objective here is to fight the away game. And so what I mean by that, we never want this adversary to reach our shores again. And so every airman here is dedicated to keeping this fight away from our shores,” he said. “We do what we do for America, sir.”

When speaking of ISIS reaching our shores, most would associate the comment with fighting terrorism abroad rather than at home, which is the mission in the war on terror in which these troops are serving and for which they are risking their lives. President Trump, however, related it to border policy and immigrants.

“You said what you said better than anybody could have said, keep them away from our shores and that’s why we’re doing the strong borders,” said the President. He said that the General had probably seen the news, mentioning “large numbers” of people who “in many cases they are not good people” that are “forming at our border,” an obvious reference to the migrant caravan. He said we have to be careful with the border, and that it was essentially shut down at the moment.

“We’re not letting in anybody, essentially, because, we want to be very, very careful,” he said. “So you’re right, you’re doing it over there, we’re doing it over here.”

He told the General about the troops at the border, and how the wall was being wrapped with barbed wire.

“Nobody is getting through these walls, and we’re going to make sure they’re the right people. That is what you and your family want, and all of your families, that’s what they want” said Trump. “That is why we are all fighting. We are fighting for borders.”

He turned then to the court.

“We get a lot of bad court decisions from the ninth circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side,” said the Commander in Chief to the Brigadier General. “We always lose, and then you lose again, and again. And hopefully you win at the Supreme Court, which we’ve done.”

“But it’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border, it’s a disgrace,” Trump added.

In closing, he said that he would see Lyons when he returns home, or “maybe I will see you over there, you never know what is going to happen.”

In the next segment of the call, he spoke trade policy. We’ll have that clip shortly.

[Mediaite]

Trump Wishes Everyone Happy Holiday Then Bashes Chief Justice Roberts to Start Thanksgiving Day

President Donald Trump began the Thanksgiving holiday with a nice, generic, brief holiday greeting: “HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL,” he said, in all caps. The exact sort of greeting that you’d want from a president. Too bad twenty minutes later he decided to attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Again.

Chief Justice John Roberts rebuked Trump’s criticism of the judge who ruled against him on immigration in a comment to the Associated Press. Trump had referred to the federal judge as an “Obama judge.” Roberts said in a statement there are no Obama judges or Bush judges but just an independent judiciary.

Trump then returned fire at Roberts saying he was wrong and that the ninth circuit is an activist court.

The attendant outrage, news reports, and Twitter meltdowns escalated things. And so Trump started Thanksgiving with another swipe at the Republican appointed conservative chief justice.

[Mediaite]

Trump hits back at Chief Justice Roberts,

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and President Donald Trump took swipes at each other Wednesday in an extraordinary exchange over just how partisan federal courts really are.

Roberts said Wednesday morning there are no “Obama judges or Trump judges” after the president attacked the judge who ruled against his attempt to restrict asylum seekers at the border earlier this week.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

Later in the afternoon, Trump hit back with two posts on Twitter:

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an ‘independent judiciary,’ but if it is why…..,” the president wrote, followed by: “…..are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security — these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”

The statement from Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, was a stark divergence from the chief justice’s stoic aversion to publicly criticizing Trump, even as the president has railed against federal judges who did not rule in his favor.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, called Trump’s comments against the judiciary “unprecedented” in modern history and praised Roberts for defending the Judicial branch. Chief justices have historical avoided fighting with the other co-equal branches of government, but Tobias said he was “heartened” by Wednesday’s break from deference to keep Trump in his lane.

“I think it’s great that the chief justice has said something, because the Senate has done nothing on these issues and somebody has to protect the independence of the judiciary,” Tobias said. “So I’m not troubled.”

The Associated Press first reported Roberts’ comments.

Talking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Trump criticized Judge Jon Tigar of U.S. District Court in Northern California, who ruled against his policy announced this month that would require migrants to apply for asylum at legal border crossings. Currently, migrants can present themselves to immigration officers after illegally crossing the border and request asylum. Cases from the Northern District of California are appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A number of advocacy groups sued the Trump administration shortly after it announced the policy, and Tigar issued a temporary restraining order effectively thwarting the president’s efforts. Trump on Tuesday accused Tigar of being an “Obama judge” and called the 9th Circuit a “disgrace.” Tigar was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2012.

“Every case gets filed in the 9th Circuit because they know that’s not law. They know that’s not what this country stands for. Every case that gets filed in the 9th Circuit, we get beaten.” Trump said. “People should not be allowed to immediately run to this very friendly circuit and then file their case.”

He also said, “The 9th Circuit is really something we have to take a look at because it’s not fair.”

Trump added that he felt confident the case over his asylum policy would go to the Supreme Court where his administration would prevail — similar to his travel ban on citizens of several majority Muslim countries. A modified version of that policy was upheld in the Supreme Court after several challenges in lower federal courts, with Roberts writing the majority opinion in that case.

Even before Trump’s presidency, Republicans have tried to fill federal courts with conservative judges, blocking Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from getting a Senate vote. Trump ultimately filled the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death with Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Republicans stalled several of Obama’s appointees to federal courts until former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unleashed the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules requiring only a simple majority to approve most federal judicial nominations.

This year, Republicans and Democrats engaged in a dramatic fight over the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh — Trump’s second nominee to the high court — which was mired in allegations of sexual assault. Both parties accused each other of toying with parliamentary procedure and manipulation in order to block or ram through the confirmation.

Trump has a track record of attacking the judiciary. He disparaged a federal judge in Hawaii last year as practicing “unprecedented judicial overreach” when he blocked an executive order barring entry to citizens of some majority Muslim countries.

[Politico]

John Bolton Threatens Sanctions for ‘Illegitimate’ International Criminal Court: ‘Already Dead to Us’

National Security Advisor John Bolton delivered his expected condemnation of the International Criminal Court on Monday, vowing to bring sanctions against the organization if it continues to investigate American activity in the Middle East.

As Bolton spoke before the Federalist Society, he promised retaliation for the ICC’s “unjust prosecution” of alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He called the organization a threat to American national security, saying it “claims authority separate from, and above, the Constitution of the United States. It is antithetical to our nation’s ideals.”

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

The speech continued with Bolton describing the ICC as an “illegitimate” investigative body that failed to adequately prosecute illegal activity abroad despite its “dangerous” levels of unchecked accountability. He said the U.S. will ban the ICC’s court judges from the country and enforce sanctions against any nation cooperating with them if they continue to prosecute America or its allies.

“We will take the following steps, among others, in accordance with the American Service-Members’ Protection Act and our other legal authorities. We will negotiate even more binding bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering U.S. persons to the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists in ICC investigation of Americans. We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the U.S. and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation.”

[Mediaite]

Trump blasts FBI, DOJ over report on Carter Page surveillance warrants

President Trump slammed officials at the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) on Saturday over a report from a conservative watchdog group about the warrants to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Trump pointed to a report from the conservative group Judicial Watch that said the court overseeing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests held no hearings on the applications targeting Page.

In a series of tweets, Trump accused the FBI and broader Justice Department of being “completely out to lunch” when it came to fighting corruption and supposed “deep state” elements within the government.

“It is astonishing that the FISA courts couldn’t hold hearings on Spy Warrants targeting Donald Trump. It isn’t about Carter Page, it’s about the Trump Campaign. You’ve got corruption at the DOJ & FBI,’ ” Trump wrote on Twitter, quoting Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.

“‘The leadership of the DOJ & FBI are completely out to lunch in terms of exposing and holding those accountable who are responsible for that corruption,’” he added.

Trump’s comments came a day after Judicial Watch published its report, which claimed that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests sent to the Justice Department revealed this week that FISA courts approved a 2016 warrant to spy on Page without holding hearings beforehand to review the government’s evidence.

“Perhaps the court can now hold hearings on how justice was corrupted by material omissions that Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the DNC, a conflicted Bruce Ohr, a compromised Christopher Steele, and anti-Trumper Peter Strzok were all behind the ‘intelligence’ used to persuade the courts to approve the FISA warrants that targeted the Trump team,” Fitton wrote in the report.

Trump has frequently and inaccurately accused federal investigators of launching an probe into his campaign based solely on an unverified dossier of claims relating to Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

A memo released by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee in February indicated that former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos sparked the investigation with a conversation to Australian officials about the possibility of Russia obtaining Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Last year, the president also shocked Washington by accusing former President Obama, without evidence, of wiretapping Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election.

[The Hill]

Immigration judge removed from cases after perceived criticism of Sessions

The Justice Department plans to take dozens of cases away from an immigration judge who has delayed deportation orders, in part for perceived criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the union representing immigration judges said Wednesday.

CNN reported Tuesday that the Justice Department replaced Philadelphia Immigration Judge Steven Morley with an assistant chief immigration judge last month to hear a single case on his docket, which resulted in a young undocumented immigrant, Reynaldo Castro-Tum, being ordered deported.

Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack Weil told Morley that comments in the Castro-Tum case were perceived as “criticism” of the Board of Immigration Appeals and attorney general’s decisions and that they were “unprofessional,” according to the grievance filed by the National Association of Immigration Judges. The cases all involve young undocumented immigrants and whether they got adequate notice from the government about hearings at which they failed to appear. Weil also told Morley that he himself should have either ordered Castro-Tum deported or terminated the case altogether.

It’s the most public fight yet between the union that represents the nation’s roughly 350 immigration judges and Sessions, who has intently focused on the immigration courts under his purview. The immigration judges have long bemoaned their structure under the Justice Department, but have taken particular issue with many of the moves pursued by the Trump administration that they say interfere with their ability to conduct fair and impartial court proceedings.

Unlike federal judges, immigration judges are employees of the Justice Department and the attorney general has the authority to hire them, manage their performance measures and even rule on cases with binding authority over how the judges must decide similar issues.

The judge’s union says DOJ broke the collective bargaining agreement by violating Morley’s independent decision-making authority.

Morley denied those comments were unprofessional and reiterated he made the proper decisions in the case based on the facts and due process, the grievance said.

“He’s being targeted for what is perceived to be criticism of the attorney general when it is in fact just a judge doing his job, raising concerns about due process,” Judge Ashley Tabaddor said Wednesday on behalf of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

[CNN]

Reality

The removal of Judge Steven Morley subverted the judicial process, undermined his independence, and impugned his competence and integrity, all to obtain a particular outcome in the case, according to the judges’ union and its labor complaint.

Trump Pardons Dinesh D’Souza, Who Pleaded Guilty To Campaign Finance Fraud

President Trump has pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions in other people’s names.

On Twitter on Thursday, Trump said D’Souza was “treated very unfairly by our government.”

The White House later issued an official statement saying D’Souza was, “in the president’s opinion, a victim of selective prosecution” — an opinion that was roundly rejected by a federal judge when D’Souza was sentenced. The White House also noted that D’Souza “accepted responsibility for his actions” and completed community service.

D’Souza has been an outspoken supporter of President Trump.

This is the fifth pardon of Trump’s presidency. He told reporters on Air Force One on Thursday that he is considering using his clemency power in other high-profile cases, as well.

He said he is weighing a pardon for Martha Stewart, who served time for conspiracy and lying to federal investigators but has been free for more than a decade. Trump said she was “unfairly treated” and “used to be my biggest fan in the world.”

And the president said he was considering commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to more than a decade in prison for corruption after he tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by former President Barack Obama.

Trump said Blagojevich was put in jail “for being stupid and saying things that … many other politicians say.” He also noted that Blagojevich is a Democrat.

“I don’t know him other than that he was on The Apprentice for a short period of time,” Trump said, referring his former reality TV show. Blagojevich was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice in 2010.

D’Souza is a best-selling author and successful filmmaker who served as an adviser in the Reagan administration. He’s also a prominent Christian activist; he used to be the president of a Christian college but resigned after he became engaged to one woman while still married to another. He is also a former commentator on NPR.

In 2014, when he was charged with violating federal election campaign laws, D’Souza alleged that he was the victim of selective prosecution, targeted for his conservative beliefs. He had been sharply critical of Obama, whose administration prosecuted him.

A judge rejected that defense, calling it “all hat, no cattle.” Then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who prosecuted the case, emphatically denied any political motivation.

“As our office’s record reflects, we will investigate and prosecute violations of federal law, particularly those that undermine the integrity of the democratic electoral process, without regard to the defendant’s political persuasion or party affiliation,” he said in 2014. “That is what we did in this case and what we will continue to do.”

D’Souza ultimately admitted to donating tens of thousands of dollars to a U.S. Senate campaign, well above the individual contributions limit of $5,000, by funneling money to other people and donating in their names.

As part of his guilty plea, D’Souza admitted that he “knew what he was doing was wrong and something the law forbids,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said in a statement.

D’Souza was sentenced to five years of probation, including eight months’ confinement in a community center.

He has continued to protest his prosecution as political, and celebrated when Bharara was pushed out of office by the Trump administration.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood blasted Trump’s pardon of D’Souza.

“President Trump is undermining the rule of law by pardoning a political supporter who is an unapologetic convicted felon,” Underwood said in a statement.

In addition to the five people pardoned, Trump has granted one commutation since taking office.

All the cases have involved public figures or received media attention — from Scooter Libby to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Trump is moving to grant pardons much more quickly than his most recent predecessors. At this same point in their presidencies, former Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton had not issued any pardons.

While issuing pardons used to be more common, presidents in the past few decades have waited until closer to the end of their terms before granting large amounts of pardons, particularly those that might be considered controversial.

Clemency advocates have noted that high visibility in the press — on Fox News in particular — and personal appeals from celebrities seem to help when seeking clemency from Trump.

Actor Sylvester Stallone successfully lobbied for a posthumous pardon for legendary boxer Jack Johnson.

On Wednesday, reality star Kim Kardashian West met with Trump at the White House to make the case for clemency for Alice Marie Johnson, a great-grandmother serving life in prison for a first-time drug offense.

Kardashian West tweeted after the meeting that she hopes Trump will act on Johnson’s case.

[NPR]

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