Trump encourages Israel to ban Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib

President Trump tweeted Thursday that it would show “great weakness” if Israel were to allow Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to enter the country during an upcoming congressional delegation visit on Friday.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

Why it matters: As Axios’ Jonathan Swan and I previously reported, Trump has privately been telling advisers that he thinks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should use an anti-boycott law to bar the two freshman congresswomen over their support for the BDS movement. In response to our story, the White House said that Trump didn’t pressure Israel in any way and that Israel can do whatever it wants.

The state of play: Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer had previously said Israel would allow Tlaib and Omar to enter, but Netanyahu — a staunch Trump ally who is facing an election in the fall — is now reconsidering as a result of pressure from the president.

  • According to Israeli officials, Netanyahu is trying to find a solution that will address the pressure from the White House but will not totally bar Omar and Tlaib.
  • As of 5 a.m. EDT, no decision had been made. One of the possibilities floated would be allowing the congresswomen to enter Israel but limiting their movements only to the Palestinian Authority.
  • Another option is to allow them in on humanitarian grounds. An Israeli official told me that if Tlaib filed a humanitarian request to visit her relatives, the Israeli government will consider it favorably.

[Axios]

Update

One hour after Trump’s tweet:

Trump Administration Seeks Decertification Of Immigration Judges’ Union

The Justice Department late last week moved to seek the decertification of the union representing hundreds of U.S. immigration judges, ratcheting up a simmering battle over the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies.

The department filed a petition Friday asking the Federal Labor Relations Authority to determine whether the certification of National Association of Immigration Judges as the union representing some 440 immigration judges should be revoked “because the bargaining unit members are management officials under the statutory definition,” according to a Justice Department spokesperson.

“This is nothing more than a desperate attempt by the DOJ to evade transparency and accountability, and undermine the decisional independence of the nation’s 440 Immigration Judges,” Judge Ashley Tabaddor, speaking in her capacity as president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in an emailed statement. “We are trial court judges who make decisions on the basis of case specific facts and the nation’s immigration laws. We do not set policies, and we don’t manage staff.”

The administration and the immigration judges union have been at loggerheads over a variety of issues, including the judges’ status as employees of the Justice Department. Judges are appointed by the attorney general and they are not part of the independent judiciary. They have publicly argued for their separation from the Justice Department.

Last year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the unusual step of reviewingsome judicial decisions in the name of reducing the backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases clogging the courts.

Sessions also ordered judges to end the practice of temporarily removing cases from their dockets without issuing decisions, a move known as “administrative closure.”

The Justice Department also imposed a quotasystem on judges, linking the number of cleared cases to their performance evaluations. The judges’ union said the courts need more immigration judges, not assembly-line proceedings.

President Trump has appointed 190immigration judges since taking office. As of June 2019, there are more than 900,000 pending cases in immigration courts, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The move to decertify the immigration judges’ union comes as no surprise to many judges.

“Clearly they want to use the judges to ramrod through cases and ramp up deportation regardless of any due process defects their policies have,” said one judge who isn’t authorized to speak for the union and requested anonymity. Without the union, judges would be effectively muzzled and unable to publicly share their views about the courts, the judge added.

This is not the first time the Justice Department has tried to decertify the immigration judges’ union. The Clinton administration sought decertification, but the Federal Labor Relations Authority rejectedthe notion that judges are managers who make policy. But some judges are concerned that the FLRA under the Trump administration would be less sympathetic to the union. 

“It’s absurd that anyone would consider us managers,” said Tabaddor, a judge based in Los Angeles. “We don’t even have the authority to order pencils.”

[NPR]

Trump hammers Federal Reserve, cites commentary from Fox Business

President Trump on Wednesday spent a portion of the day at his New Jersey golf club blasting the Federal Reserve as stocks took a dive amid signs of a potential recession.

The president sent three tweets over a 90-minute span in which he quoted multiple Fox Business Network personalities who echoed Trump’s criticisms of the central bank and defended Trump’s tariff policy toward China.

Trump expressed agreement with Mark Grant, a guest on Stuart Varney’s show who suggested the Federal Reserve should act to boost the U.S. economy.

“Correct! The Federal Reserve acted far too quickly, and now is very, very late. Too bad, so much to gain on the upside!” Trump tweeted.

He later shared comments from Fox Business host Charles Payne, who criticized Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for his handling of the central bank.

“I agree (to put it mildly!)” Trump tweeted.

He also referenced a quote from Varney’s program which downplayed concerns over the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, arguing it had yet to negatively impact the American economy.

Stocks sank sharply Wednesday morning after the U.S. bond market signaled an impending recession. The dip came one day after Trump announced he would delay further tariffs on Chinese imports until after the bulk of the holiday shopping season, reflecting mounting fears that the trade war could derail the robust U.S. economy.

In a pair of tweets later in the afternoon, Trump emphasized that “China is not our problem,” saying the trouble lies with the Fed.

Trump is at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for the week, and he had no public events listed on his schedule for Wednesday. He has repeatedly hammered the Fed and Powell for its decisions to raise or lower interest rates, arguing that its decisions have held back the economy. 

“This guy has made a big mistake,” Trump said Tuesday at an event in Pennsylvania, referring to Powell. “He’s made a big mistake — the head of the Fed. That was another beauty that I chose.”

The constant critiques have worried critics, who note the central bank has historically been independent of politics.

[The Hill]

Trump blasts media, Biden, Warren in Pennsylvania

President Trump blasted the media, U.S. trading partners and his Democratic rivals for the White House in a Tuesday speech that had been advertised as focusing on energy and manufacturing.

Trump spent roughly an hour in Monaca, Pa., speaking to workers at a Shell petrochemical plant. While his speech was sprinkled with references to his administration’s efforts to expand pipelines, produce more energy and cut regulations, the president regularly went off on tangents swiping at critics.

“Can you imagine if I got a fair press? I mean, we’re leading without it. Can you imagine if these people treated me fairly? The election would be over,” Trump said, taking a dig at the media.

In another random aside directed at the media, Trump mocked the Academy Awards and suggested the annual show had seen a drop in ratings because it didn’t align with his supporters.

“The Academy Awards is on hard times now,” Trump said. “You know why? Because they started taking us on. Everyone got tired of it.”

The president swiped at various other familiar targets, including the Green New Deal, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and the World Trade Organization.

At one point, he disputed claims that he’s profited off the presidency by claiming that lawsuits over the Emoluments Clause and other legal fees have cost him a “fortune.”

“I don’t care. You know, if you’re wealthy it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I just want to do a great job.”

Trump has a tendency to go off script at official White House events. Standing behind the official presidential seal, he often ignores the teleprompter in favor of ad-libbed remarks recounting his 2016 victory, predicting his 2020 opponent and admonishing those who doubt him.

Tuesday was no different. Trump was in Pennsylvania to tour a Shell petrochemical facility where natural gas will be turned into plastic.

The president at times made references to energy and manufacturing as promised. He touted his administration’s decision to roll back regulations that prevented plants like the one he visited Tuesday from being built and cited the boom in energy production during his presidency.

But even some of his energy-related remarks were retreads from his campaign-style rhetoric. He jabbed at 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over her comments dismissing the future of coal miners in West Virginia and accused New York state of caring more about suing him than about boosting jobs with fracking.

Trump again mocked the use of wind as an energy source and ripped the progressive Green New Deal and the Democratic presidential candidates who support it.

“I don’t want to speak badly about it. I want to encourage them. That should be their platform, I don’t want to do it too early. I did it very early with Pocahontas. I should’ve probably waited. She’s staging a comeback on Sleepy Joe,” he said, referring derisively to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden, respectively.

“I don’t know who’s going to win,” he continued. “But we’ll have to hit Pocahontas very hard again if she does win. But she’s staging a little bit of a comeback. What a group. Pocahontas and Sleepy Joe. I don’t think they give a damn about western Pennsylvania.”

Parts of Trump’s speech were intended to highlight his personal role in boosting economic prospects for some in Pennsylvania, which will serve as a key swing state in the 2020 election as he seeks to retain support in Rust Belt communities that helped propel him to victory four years ago.

The president won the state by roughly 45,000 votes in 2016 and won the county where Tuesday’s speech took place by 18 percentage points.

Even though plans for the Monaca plant were first announced while former President Obama was in office, Trump attempted to broadly take credit for the economic conditions in the state.

[The Hill]

Trump defends promoting conspiracy theory about Epstein’s death: ‘It was a retweet’


President Trump
 on Tuesday defended promoting a baseless conspiracy theory that ties the Clintons to the death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, saying it was “fine” because he was only retweeting what someone else said.

“The retweet — which is what it was, it was a retweet — was from somebody that is a very respected conservative pundit. So I think it was fine,” Trump told reporters before heading to Pennsylvania for a speech.

Asked later if he truly believes the Clintons are involved in Epstein’s death, Trump said “I have no idea” before pointing to former President Bill Clinton‘s relationship with the disgraced financier.

Trump, who ran in the same social circles with Epstein before he said they had a falling out, said he would like there to be a “full investigation” into the convicted sex offender’s death.

“I want a full investigation and that’s what I absolutely am demanding,” Trump said.

Trump on Saturday shared a tweet from Terrence K. Williams that blamed Epstein’s death on Bill and Hillary Clinton without providing any evidence. 

The tweet included the hashtags #ClintonBodyCount and #ClintonCrimeFamily, as well as a photo of both the former president and former secretary of State.

Attorney General William Barr said Monday that Justice Department officials will thoroughly investigate “serious irregularities” at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide over the weekend.

Epstein was found dead early Saturday in his jail cell in the New York federal prison, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges. He had been a registered sex offender following an earlier conviction in 2008 of soliciting sex from underage girls.

Trump and Epstein were known to run in the same social circles in New York and Florida. Trump told New York magazine in a 2002 article that Epstein is a “terrific guy” and “a lot of fun to be with.”

The president said last month in the wake of fresh charges against Epstein that the two had a falling out 15 years ago.

“I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. I mean, people in Palm Beach knew him,” Trump said a day after the charges against Epstein were unsealed. “He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn’t a fan.” 

[The Hill]

Trump Calls Chris Cuomo an ‘Out-of-Control Animal’ Who Uses ‘Horrible’ Language and ‘Spews Lies’

President Donald Trump weighed in on the viral outrage of the day by calling CNN anchor Chris Cuomo an “out-of-control animal” who also “spews lies every night,” while also seeming to criticize Cuomo for not assaulting the man who taunted him.

During an impromptu press gaggle in New Jersey Tuesday afternoon, Trump was asked about his tweets attacking Cuomo over the aborted bar fight that was caught on video.

“I think that what Chris Cuomo did was horrible,” Trump told reporters. “His language was horrible, he looked like a total out-of-control animal. He lost it.”

“And frankly, I don’t think anybody should defend him, because he spews lies every night,” Trump continued. According to The Washington Post, Trump recently made the 12,000th false or misleading statement of his presidency.

The president then paraphrased his earlier assertions, saying “I don’t know why anybody would defend him, but, Chris Cuomo was out of control, I watched it I thought it was terrible. So I don’t know who is defending him, maybe they didn’t see it, maybe they haven’t gotten the whole picture, but I think anybody that would have seen Chris, would have said that was a disgrace. You’ve never seen me do that.”

Trump has, in the past, offered to pay the legal fees of rallygoers if they carried out violence on his behalf.

Trump was then asked if his tweets undermine the validity of so-called “red flag” laws.

“Well I think Chris Cuomo was so out of control that I would not have wanted to see a weapon in his hand,” Trump said, then appeared to criticize Cuomo for not punching the man who accosted him, saying “I guess his fist is not a weapon, or he would have done something, you know he talked about it but he didn’t do anything.”

Seconds after observing that Cuomo did not commit violence during the altercation, Trump again insisted “But I think Chris Cuomo was very much out of control actually.”

[Mediaite]

Trump’s Chris Cuomo Jab Appears to Make Light of ‘Red Flag’ Laws

As millions of Americans woke up to the news that Chris Cuomo hadthreatened a guy for calling him “Fredo,” President Trump inserted himself into the most important story of our time with his usual measured perspective:

The tweet appears to be both an attack on Cuomo — the president would never miss the opportunity to go after a CNN anchor — and a joke about “red flag” laws, which grant authorities the power to remove guns from those who have been deemed unstable by their family or law enforcement. (Cuomo’s tough-guy act isn’t exactly the kind of thing the regulation’s architects had in mind.)

In the aftermath of the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last weekend, Trump indicated his support for red-flag laws, which have recently gained traction as a point of rare bipartisan compromise. Since 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February 2018, the number of states with such rules on the books has more than tripled from five to 17. If Trump’s endorsement means he’s in favor of a federal red-flag mandate — it’s unclear whether that’s the case — he could conceivably sign one into law after Congress reconvenes in September. That is, if he can pull himself away from Twitter.

[New York Magazine]

Trump Mocks ‘Nuts’ Chris Cuomo as ‘Fredo’ After CNN Host’s Bar Altercation: He’s ‘Totally Lost It!’

President Donald Trump weighed in on “Fredo-gate” Tuesday morning, calling out Chris Cuomo after a video of the CNN anchor getting after it with some heckling jerk at a Shelter Island bar.

A surreptitiously recorded video of Cuomo getting into with an unidentified individual went viral late Monday night, which spawned a lustful debate over Cuomo’s behavior. Was he justified in going after the alleged heckler, particularly because he was with his daughter in a public place? Or did he cross a line in his hyperbolic threats of violence?

Oddly, the bigger online debate has focused Cuomo’s claim that “Fredo” (a term that the heckler referred to Cuomo as) is an ethnic slur akin to calling a person of color the N-word.

Well if it is a slur, President Trump just jumped on the offensive train, as he called Cuomo “Fredo also,” adding “The truth hurts.” Trump tweeted:

The first-born son of President Donald Trump — and Executive Vice President of the Trump Org — also weighed in on “Fredo-gate” when he quote-tweeted Trump campaign advisor Katrina Pierson, to offer his unsolicited opinion on where Fredo stands on the offensive spectrum. Don Jr tweeted:

The ephemeral meaning of words — and this case, fictional characters names — has never been on clearer display here, as Don Jr. is far from the only opinion that matters. Sure, he may have some expertise on what it’s like to either be (or have) a “dumb brother,” but someone with German and Czechoslovakian descent, he may not find the same meaning in “Fredo” as does someone who self-identifies as Italian-American. To wit, the supportive insights provided by fellow Italian-American, Anthony Scaramucci:

[Mediaite]

Immigration Chief: ‘Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Who Can Stand On Their Own 2 Feet’

“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Tuesday, twisting Emma Lazarus’ famous words on a bronze plaque at the Statue of Liberty.

Cuccinelli was speaking to NPR’s Morning Edition about a new regulation he announced Monday that targets legal immigration. The rule denies green cards and visas to immigrants if they use — or are deemed likely to need — federal, state and local government benefits including food stamps, housing vouchers and Medicaid. The change stands to impact hundreds of thousands of immigrants who come to the United States legally every year.

The final version of the “public charge” rule is scheduled to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register. A public charge refers to a person who relies on public assistance for help.

On Tuesday, Cuccinelli described the public charge as a “burden on the government.” He told NPR the new regulation was a prospective rule, “part of President Trump keeping his promises.”

The new rule will go into effect Oct. 15, and only government aid used after that point will be assessed, Cuccinelli said.

Welfare benefits will be just one factor that immigration service officers use to determine an applicant’s fate in the United States, in addition to age, health, education and financial status.

“If they don’t have future prospects of being legal permanent residents without welfare, that will be counted against them,” Cuccinelli said.

“All immigrants who can stand on their own two feet, self-sufficient, pull themselves up by their bootstraps” would be welcome, he added.

Asked if that changes the definition of the American dream, Cuccinelli said, “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American.”

Then he clarified: “It is a privilege to become an American, not a right for anybody who is not already an American citizen, that’s what I was referring to.”

He said the welcoming words from the 1903 plaque at the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor,” were put there “at almost the same time” as when the first public charge law was passed — in 1882.

Critics have denounced the rule as a sweeping attempt to stem immigration and favor wealthy migrants. The regulation is expected to be challenged by immigration groups in court.

Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, said the case could wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I also expect lawsuits from individuals who say that, at the end of the day, if Congress provided certain benefits to be accessible by certain groups of immigrants, that meant that they did not want them then banned under the public charge rule,” Fresco told NPR.

Rumors that the Trump administration was considering the regulation already led to a chilling effect on immigrants looking to put down roots through legal and permanent residency. Public health and social service providers report that immigrants are worried about seeking medical and housing aid for themselves and their children, who may be U.S. citizens.

Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general, has long held a hard-line stance against immigration and asylum policies. President Trump tapped him to be the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in June, bringing him to the helm of an agency he had never worked in.

[NPR]

Trump tore out magazine picture of Justin Trudeau, scrawled odd message and mailed it to Canadian embassy

Donald Trump reportedly tore out a magazine picture of Justin Trudeau, scrawled a brief note about the Canadian prime minister “looking good”, and made White House officials mail it to the neighbouring country’s embassy.

The message – first reported by Axios – is said to have been written by the US president on the torn-out cover of a May 2017 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, which featured an image of Mr Trudeau alongside a caption reading “The Anti-Trump”.

On it, Mr Trump reportedly jotted a note reading something to the effect of, “Looking good! Hope it’s not true!” according to the US news outlet.

The Canadian ambassador considered the note so strange he thought it was a prank, but after calling US officials was told the note was genuine.

Although some White House staff reportedly considered the note inappropriate, the National Security Council ultimately decided it was done in good humour and would be considered by Ottawa to be friendly contact.

Another exchange in December of that year reportedly saw Mr Trump send Mr Trudeau a document purporting to show a US trade deficit with Canada.

Mr Trudeau reportedly responded by including in his letter a printout of a US government website showing America actually has a trade surplus over its neighbour when services are included with goods.

The Canadian prime minister reportedly included a smiley face alongside the document.

Months later, on Dec. 8, 2017, President Trump falsely told a rally crowd in Pensacola, Florida, that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada. Around that same time, Trump also mailed Trudeau a document purporting to show that the U.S. had a trade deficit with Canada, according to a source with direct knowledge.

  • Trump wrote in Sharpie on the document: “Not good!!” or something to that effect, the source recalled. Trump’s document only mentioned America’s deficit in the trade of goods and ignored its surplus in services (the two combined would gave the U.S. its overall surplus).

A few weeks later, Trump received a handwritten letter from Trudeau. The note, on Trudeau’s official stationery marked by the Maple Leaf, began with a friendly tone, but ended with a drop of acid.

  • “Dear Donald,” Trudeau wrote in the letter dated Dec. 20, 2017, according to a source with direct knowledge of its contents, which 2 other sources confirmed. “It’s been a busy year! Enjoy the Christmas holidays — you deserve it.”
  • “One thing,” Trudeau added. “You gave a great speech in Pensacola, but you were slightly off on the balance of trade with Canada. USTR says so! All the best for 2018, Justin.”

The second page of the letter brought the kicker. Trudeau enclosed a printout of Canada’s informational page from the website of the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

  • Trudeau underlined the section on the USTR website, which at the time reported that “the U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $12.5 billion in 2016.” Trudeau circled the $12.5 billion and drew a cheeky little smiley face next to it, according to a source with direct knowledge.

A Canadian government official responded to this reporting: “We’re not going to comment on whether or what paper was exchanged between our 2 countries. There was a lot of back and forth. That said, it is certainly true that there were disagreements between our 2 countries about the figures, and we repeatedly pointed to USTR and U.S. Commerce’s own figures. On your second point (the Bloomberg cover), no comment, but we don’t deny it.”

Why this matters: The U.S.-Canadian relationship is, in normal times, low-friction. But not under Trump, who views Trudeau as an irritant at best. In a conversation in the White House last year, Trump told aides he thought Canada was “the worst” country to negotiate with. “Who would think? Canada?” Trump said.

  • Trump now says very little about Trudeau, according to an adviser, and believes he and his trade representative Bob Lighthizer got the better of the Canadians in their trade negotiations.

Behind the scenes: Trump privately refers to Trudeau as a “wise guy,” per sources with direct knowledge. He describes Trudeau as young and cocky, and he resents it when Trudeau comments on American politics.

  • Trump has gleefully recounted to aides how he threatened the Canadians with auto tariffs. He says it got him a better deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
  • Trump has also privately described Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland as “very nasty,” according to senior administration officials.
  • Trump was pleased with the optics of the G7 last year, an adviser said. Trump says he dominated Trudeau there, the adviser added, and loves the viral photo of himself sitting with his arms crossed as world leaders hover over him. Trump also relished leaving the summit early — snub to Trudeau, who Trump said had treated him with disrespect.
  • The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The big picture: The president is in Year 3 of his relationships with foreign leaders, and in some cases they’ve changed substantially. Trump’s bromance with France’s 41-year-old leader Emmanuel Macron has faded, and Trump privately places Macron in a similar “wise guy” category as the 47-year-old Trudeau.

  • Last week, Trump chided Macron on Twitter for “purporting” to represent the U.S. in conversations with Iran.
  • Trump has also hammered China with escalating tariffs and increasingly tough rhetoric — a significant change from his more frequent emphasis on his close personal relationship with President Xi Jinping in Year 1.

[Yahoo News ,Axios]

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