Trump Put on the Spot About ‘Sh*thole Countries’ Remark in Presser with Nigerian President

President Trump held a joint press conference today with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and at one point, the African leader was asked about Trump’s infamous comments about “shithole countries.”

Buhari hesitated to weigh in much on this topic, explaining, “The best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

Trump, who didn’t even deny making that comment in the first place, said it didn’t come up in their discussions:

“We didn’t discuss it, and you do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in. But we didn’t discuss it, because the president knows me, and he knows where I’m coming from and I appreciate that. We did not discuss it.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Stands By His ‘Muslim Ban’ Campaign Rhetoric: ‘There’s Nothing to Apologize For’

President Donald Trump apparently stood by his campaign calls for a “Muslim ban” in a news conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, telling a reporter he has “nothing to apologize for” regarding his rhetoric.

The first question of his joint presser went to Washington Times reporter S.A. Miller, who pointed out that the opposition to the Trump administration’s travel ban in court rests on his campaign rhetoric calling for the ban of Muslims from the U.S.

“The lawyers for your opponents said if you would simply apologize for your rhetoric from the campaign, the whole case would go away,” Miller noted.

“I don’t think it would,” Trump replied. “And there’s no reason to apologize. Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster, they’re laughed at all over the world, they’re laughed at, for their stupidity.”

“We have to have strong immigration laws,” Trump continued. “So I think if I apologized it wouldn’t make ten cents of a difference to them. There’s nothing to apologize for. We have to have strong immigration laws to protect our country.”

Despite the administration’s claims that its immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries is not a ban on Muslims, it has struggled against opponents in court cases who use Trump’s campaign rhetoric calling for a “Muslim ban” against him.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump Asks If There Are Hispanics In The Room Before Demanding His Wall

President Donald Trump was met with silence at a campaign-style rally in Michigan Saturday night when he asked if there were any Hispanics present, then repeated his demand for a border wall.

Trump skipped the White House Correspondents Dinner to instead regale his fervent supporters in Washington, Michigan. After taking credit for Hispanic unemployment numbers dropping, the president said this:

“Any Hispanics in the room?” Trump asked to relative silence. “Naw, not so many? That’s OK.”

Then he took a swerve into: “In all fairness, Kanye West gets it. He gets it.” The president was referring to the rapper’s recent show of support for him.

Satisfied the audience was lacking in Hispanics, Trump launched into a tirade repeating his demand for his border wall, and said those illegally crossing into the U.S. are somehow voting for Democrats in elections.

“All of these people pouring across are gonna vote Democrat,” he claimed, even though studies have shown few undocumented people vote for anyone, Democrats or otherwise, except in the few places where their votes are specifically allowed.

“They do it for a lot of reasons,” Trump said. “A lot of times they don’t even know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, but we have to have borders and we need it fast.”

He threatened to “close down the country” if he doesn’t get funding for his wall in next year’s budget.

Before Trump attempted to reach out to Hispanic voters in South Florida earlier this month, he employed a similar tactic of surveying the audience.

“Are there any Hispanics in the room?” Trump asked during a roundtable discussion on tax cuts, The Washington Post reported.

He didn’t wait for an answer.

“No, I doubt it,” he said.

[Huffington Post]

Trump floats September shutdown for ‘border security’

President Donald Trump told supporters at a speech on Saturday that if Congress did not meet his funding demands for border security, he may support a government shutdown this fall.

Trump was speaking in Washington Township, Michigan, at the same time that the White House correspondents’ dinner was taking place back in Washington, DC, with some lawmakers and current and former members of his administration in attendance. During his remarks, he alluded to the appropriations deadline at the end of September.

“We have to have borders, and we have to have them fast,” he said. “And we need security. We need the wall. We’re going to have it all. And again, that wall has started. We got 1.6 billion. We come up again on September 28th, and if we don’t get border security, we’ll have no choice. We’ll close down the country because we need border security.”

Despite his campaign pledge to make Mexico pay for his proposed wall on the US-Mexico border, Trump has demanded that Congress fund the project. Last month, he signed a bill that funds the government through September after expressing frustration with a spending package that included $1.6 billion for border security, but not the wall.

In his speech Saturday night, Trump railed against the Democratic Party on a range of issues, including immigration.

“A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime,” Trump said.

He continued, “The open border policies of the Democratic Party are not just wrong, they’re dangerous, and they’re in fact deadly. They’re deadly.”

[CNN]

Trump challenges Native Americans’ historical standing

The Trump administration says Native Americans might need to get a job if they want to keep their health care — a policy that tribal leaders say will threaten access to care and reverse centuries-old protections.

Tribal leaders want an exemption from new Medicaid work rules being introduced in several states, and they say there are precedents for health care exceptions. Native Americans don’t have to pay penalties for not having health coverage under Obamacare’s individual mandate, for instance.

But the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. “HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,” according to a review by administration lawyers.

The Health and Human Services Department confirmed it rebuffed the tribes’ request on the Medicaid rules several times. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, conveyed the decision in January, and officials communicated it most recently at a meeting with the tribes this month. HHS’ ruling was driven by political appointees in the general counsel and civil rights offices, say three individuals with knowledge of the decision.

Senior HHS officials “have made it clear that HHS is open to considering other suggestions that tribes may have with respect to Medicaid community engagement demonstration projects,” spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said, using the administration’s term for work requirements that can also be fulfilled with job training, education and similar activities.

The tribes insist that any claim of “racial preference” is moot because they’re constitutionally protected as separate governments, dating back to treaties hammered out by President George Washington and reaffirmed in recent decades under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, including the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

“The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” said Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?”

Tribal leaders and public health advocates also worry that Medicaid work rules are just the start; President Donald Trump is eyeing similar changes across the nation’s welfare programs, which many of the nearly 3 million Native Americans rely on.

“It’s very troublesome,” said Caitrin McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board, noting that Native Americans suffer from the nation’s highest drug overdose death rates, among other health concerns. “There’s high unemployment in Indian country, and it’s going to create a barrier to accessing necessary Medicaid services.”

Native Americans’ unemployment rate of 12 percent in 2016 was nearly three times the U.S. average, partly because jobs are scarce on reservations. Low federal spending on the Indian Health Service has also left tribes dependent on Medicaid to fill coverage gaps.

“Without supplemental Medicaid resources, the Indian health system will not survive,” W. Ron Allen — a tribal leader who chairs CMS’ Tribal Technical Advisory Group — warned Verma in a Feb. 14 letter.

The Trump administration has allowed three states — Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana — to begin instituting Medicaid work requirements, and at least 10 other states have submitted or are preparing applications. More than 620,000 Native Americans live in those 13 states, according to 2014 Census data. And more states could move in that direction, heightening the impact.

Some states, like Arizona, are asking HHS for permission to exempt Native Americans from their proposed work requirements. But officials at the National Indian Health Board say that may be moot, as federal officials can reject state requests.

Tribal officials say their planning process has been complicated by HHS’ refusal to produce the actual documents detailing why Native Americans can’t be exempted from Medicaid work requirements. “The agency’s official response was that they couldn’t provide that [documentation] because of ongoing, unspecified litigation,” said Devin Delrow of the National Indian Health Board. HHS did not respond to a question about why those documents have not been made available.

While the tribes say they hope to avoid a legal fight, their go-to law firm — Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker LLP — in February submitted a 33-page memo to the Trump administration, sternly warning officials that the health agency was violating its responsibilities.

“CMS has a duty to ensure that [Native Americans] are not subjected to state-imposed work requirements that would present a barrier to their participation in the Medicaid program,” the memo concludes. “CMS not only has ample legal authority to make such accommodations, it has a duty to require them.”

Meanwhile, tribal leaders say the Trump administration has signaled it may be seeking to renegotiate other aspects of the government’s relationship with Native Americans’ health care, pointing to a series of interactions they say break from tradition.

“This doesn’t seem to be isolated to the work requirements,” said McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board.

The Trump administration also targeted the Indian Health Service for significant cuts in last year’s budget, though Congress ignored those cuts in its omnibus funding package last month, H.R. 1625 (115). The White House budget this year proposed eliminating popular initiatives like the decades-old community health representative program — even though tribal health officials say it is essential.

Tribal officials noted that both HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan skipped HHS’ annual budget consultation with tribal leaders in Washington, D.C., last month. The secretary’s attendance is customary; then-HHS Secretary Tom Price joined last year. However, Azar canceled at the last minute. His scheduled replacement, Hargan, fell ill, so Associate Deputy Secretary Laura Caliguri participated in his place. That aggravated tribal leaders who were already concerned about the Trump administration’s policies.

Another point of contention for the tribes is that HHS’ civil rights office — while rejecting Native Americans’ Medicaid request on grounds that they’re seeking an illegal preference — simultaneously announced new protections sought by conservative religious groups.

HHS further stressed that the administration remains committed to Native Americans’ health.

“Secretary Azar, HHS, and the Trump administration have taken aggressive action and will continue to do so to improve the health and well-being for all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” according Oakley, of HHS.

But tribal leaders and public health experts say the administration’s record hasn’t matched its rhetoric. “Work requirements will be devastating,” said Smith, the former Indian Health Service acting director. “I don’t know how you would implement it. There are not jobs to be had on the reservation.”

[Politico]

Trump Judicial Nominee Appears to Have Called Undocumented Immigrants “Maggots”

Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Michael Truncale, whom Donald Trump selected to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. A longtime Republican donor and activist, Truncale built his career opposing progressive policies, including the Affordable Care Act, gun control, and abortion access. He also appears to have referred to undocumented immigrants as “maggots.”

Truncale made this comment in 2012, when running for Congress in Texas’ 14th Congressional District, a seat that came open upon the retirement of Rep. Ron Paul. (He ultimately lost, coming in third place in the GOP primary.) During a candidate forum hosted by the Galveston County Republican Party and the Republican Network of Galveston County, Truncale said that the state’s Southern border is “very porous.” He continued:

And as a result of the nature of that border we have all sort of bad influences coming in. We have drugs, we have illegal gangs, there is the possibility of bombs from a host of other countries and people from overseas and we must secure that border. I think we should do it with boots on the ground. As a citizen taxpayer, I think that we should take some of the equipment that is coming back from Iraq that citizens have already paid for and instead of sending it to some warehouse in Nebraska or some place, let’s get it to the border patrol. … There can be some fencing, there can be electronic surveillance, and things of that nature to secure the border. But that’s the first thing.

Truncale then added that “with regard to immigration, we must not continue to have the maggots coming in.”

It is difficult to read this statement, first flagged by Harsh Voruganti of the nonpartisan legal blog the Vetting Room, as anything other than a reference to undocumented immigrants. The apparent slur raises obvious questions about Truncale’s impartiality in cases involving Latinos and immigrants, as well as his overall fitness for the bench. Judges may hold strong feelings about border security. But Truncale’s decision to publicly malign unauthorized immigrants raises doubts about his ability to separate personal prejudices from his professional duties.

In that respect, Truncale resembles Jeff Mateer, Trump’s previous nominee to the Eastern District of Texas. Mateer notoriously calledtransgender children part of “Satan’s plan.” (The White House eventually withdrew his nomination.) Like Mateer, Truncale was recommended to Trump by Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. Presumably, Cruz and Cornyn chose him because of his enduring support for the GOP: Truncale served on the executive committee of the Texas Republican Party from 2006 to 2014 and has donated nearly $7,000 to Cornyn’s campaigns over the past dozen years. (He also gave Cruz $1,000 in 2015.) Moreover, Truncale served as a Republican delegate for John McCain in 2008 and volunteered for the Trump campaign. (He has spent his legal career at the firm Orgain, Bell & Tucker, practicing civil defense and white-collar criminal defense.)

Cornyn and Cruz might’ve hoped that Truncale would prove to be less controversial than Mateer. But he is likely to face tough questions at his hearing next week, as Democrats and some Republicans have lost their patience with openly biased nominees.

[Slate]

Trump threatens to pull funding for California National Guard deployment

President Donald Trump lashed out at California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday, insisting that his administration won’t pay for the state’s National Guard deployment unless the troops help enforce US immigration laws at the border.

“Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy ‘up to 400 National Guard Troops’ to do nothing,” Trump tweeted. “The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!”

Later Thursday, Trump tweeted more about immigration policy.

“Sanctuary Cities released at least 142 Gang Members across the United States, making it easy for them to commit all forms of violent crimes where none would have existed. We are doing a great job of law enforcement, but things such as this make safety in America difficult!”

Trump’s tweets comes less than 24 hours after Brown, a Democrat, agreed to send more National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border. Brown said that the mission would be limited.

“Let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission,” Brown said. “This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”

Trump’s comments seemingly contradict an earlier tweet from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

“Just spoke w @JerryBrownGov about deploying the @USNationalGuard in California,” Nielsen wrote on Wednesday. “Final details are being worked out but we are looking forward to the support. Thank you Gov Brown!”

Asked for comment on Trump’s tweet, Brown’s office pointed to Nielsen’s comments.

[CNN]

Reality

Violent crime across the country is at an all time low.

Trump blasts ‘breeding’ in sanctuary cities. That’s a racist term.

What exactly did President Donald Trump mean by “breeding” when he tweeted Wednesday about cities that will not cooperate with the federal government to deport the undocumented.

This is Donald Trump. He meant exactly what you think.

The tweet, offered Wednesday morning, argued that Californians prefer his hard-line policies to those of Gov. Jerry Brown.

“There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!”

It is true that the government of Orange County has voted twice now to opt out of the state’s so-called “sanctuary” law.

Whether there is full-blown “Revolution” in California seems less likely.

But it’s the next part of the tweet that is more difficult to understand.

“Sooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept,” according to the President.

What exactly does he mean by “breeding concept?” It appears to be a new addition to his rhetoric on immigration. He doesn’t appear to have used it before on Twitter or in recent public remarks on sanctuary cities.

There is great danger in trying to dissect every word of a Trump tweet, but in this case it is worth trying to figure out. CNN has reached out to the White House to figure out exactly what he meant.

The tweet has not been deleted at the time of this writing, so he means for those words to remain out there. In other words, it’s not likely to be at typo. He has been known to correct those in the past.

A simple Google search doesn’t uncover any specific mention of a “breeding concept” with regard to sanctuary cities in the conservative media, so it’s a little unclear what he’s referring to.

Taken literally, the most likely explanation is that he’s talking about sanctuary cities as places where undocumented immigrants breed.

If that’s right, there’s a racial undertone in the comment should slap you in the face.

Fear of immigrants from certain countries “breeding” has been a staple of nativist thought for hundreds of years. The “breeding” fear has been affixed to Jews from Eastern Europe, Catholics from Ireland and Italy, Chinese and, now, Latinos, Filipinos, Africans and Haitians. This is dog-whistle politics at its worst.

“Breeding” as a concept has an animalistic connotation. Dogs and horses are bred. So his use of it is, at best, dehumanizing to the immigrants he appears to be referring to.

The other possible definition of the word has to do with manners passed down through generations. In that case, Trump is saying people in sanctuary cities weren’t raised right. That doesn’t seem to work within the context of the tweet.

Plus, there is Trump’s obsession with the idea of immigrants flooding the US. He’s insisted that immigration reform end the concept of what opponents call “chain migration.”

“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” Trump said during his State of the Union address. Politifact called that claim “misleading.”

At the outset of his presidential campaign, he seemed in tent on challenging the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship.

“What happens is they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby,” he told Fox News in August 2015 as he was taking command of the Republican field. “Many lawyers are saying that’s not the way it is in terms of this,” and went on to say, “They are saying it is not going to hold up in court. It will have to be tested but they say it will not hold up in court.”

In an interview around the same time with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, he said, “You have people on the border and in one day, they walk over and have a baby and now all of the sudden, we’re supposed to pay the baby.”

Changing interpretation of the 14th Amendment is not an issue he’s pursued as President, but it’s clear from those early interviews that he has at times wanted to pursue it and that he’s been nervous about immigrant children.

More recently, he’s raised concerns that immigrant women coming into the US have, in large numbers, been raped.

All of those things put together suggest Trump’s “breeding concept” tweet, consciously or not, is in line with his efforts use ever more divisive rhetoric on immigration.

[CNN]

Trump’s latest nominee for district judge is not sure about desegregation

Wendy Vitter is Trump’s latest nominee for district judge in Louisiana. Her nomination is highly controversial, and not only because the counsel for New Orleans’ Catholic archdiocese has only ever judged one federal case, over two decades ago. During her confirmation hearing, Vitter also made waves by refusing to discuss certain established US civil rights.

Yesterday, Vitter was questioned by lawmakers about her long-held anti-abortion and anti-contraception views. The nominee refused to disavow false claims about birth control, hormonal contraceptives, and abortion that she has made in the past: In 2013, while leading a panel titled “Abortion Hurts Women” Vitter claimed that that oral contraceptives can be linked to adultery and a promiscuous lifestyle that can expose women to increased risk of “violent death.” At the same panel, she encouraged anti-abortion doctors to offer brochures claiming that abortion causes cancer—a statement for which there is no scientific evidence. At a 2013 rally against Planned Parenthood, she falsely claimed that the organization “kills 150,000 female a year.”

If confirmed as a judge, Vitter could end up deciding cases invoking the right to abortion provided by the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Roe v Wade. Based on past statements, her stance on abortion and birth control could threaten Louisiana women’s access to birth control and abortion, in a state where there are only three abortion providersleft.

But while the judge nominee’s antagonism towards reproductive rights was known ahead of the hearing, another civil rights wrinkle emerged during her confirmation hearing. Asked whether Vitter supports the Supreme Court 1945 decision on Brown vs Board of Education, which ended the racial segregation in schools, she responded that she would “get into a difficult area” by commenting on SCOTUS decisions which, she says, though correctly decided, “she may disagree with.”

However, Vitter did say that as district judge she would set aside her own “personal, political and religious views” to respect the Supreme Court’s legal precedent.

“It is binding,” Vitter says, “I would be bound by it and of course I would uphold it.”

[Quartz]

Trump nominee to lead migrant agency shared Clinton, DNC conspiracies

President Trump’s pick to lead a United Nations migrant relief organization made hundreds of comments pushing conspiracy theories about Islam and Democrats, according to a CNN investigation published Thursday.

Ken Isaacs, the Trump administration’s choice to lead the UN’s International Organization for Migration, has faced additional scrutiny after CNN uncovered old social media posts where he appeared to equate all Muslims with terrorists.

On Thursday, CNN published a new trove of past comments.

CNN found that Isaacs also shared conspiracy theories about the Clintons and about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

In the summer of 2016, Isaacs tweeted that Switzerland should consider building a wall in the Alps to keep refugees from crossing the border, and responded to a terrorist attack in Nice, France, by saying Islam “is not peaceful.”

Last August, he retweeted a user who claimed climate change is a “big hoax,” and wrote that scientists “can’t predict path of a visible storm yet but certain of manmade climate change.”

Isaacs previously apologized after CNN uncovered his initial comments about Muslims, saying his social media use was “careless.”

He declined to comment on Thursday’s story, and the State Department pointed to a past statement of support for his nomination.

If confirmed, Isaacs will lead the International Organization for Migration, which oversees the use of roughly $1 billion in migrant aid across the world.

[The Hill]

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