Ignoring voilence, Trump admin ends protections for 200,000 Salvadorans

The Trump administration will end protections for certain nationals of El Salvador, a move that could leave more than 200,000 immigrants who have lived in the US more than 15 years without any legal status, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

The termination will come with an 18-month delay, as the administration also recently did in ending other recent Temporary Protected Status for other countries. That time will allow individuals who have lived under the status to either seek other means of staying in the US or prepare to leave. The delay means the more than 250,000 TPS protectees will have until September 9, 2019, to either find a different way to stay in the US or prepare to leave.
The widely expected move culminates a series of similar decisions from the Trump administration to substantially curtail the use of Temporary Protected Status — a protection from deportation and authorization to live and work legally for nationals of countries that have suffered a disaster such as war, an epidemic or natural disasters.

The DHS says more than 250,000 Salvadorans — all of whom are required to have lived in the US continually since 2001 — are covered by TPS. Previous estimates by the department have put the number who will most likely be left without other protections around 200,000.

The administration has pushed to strongly curtail the use of TPS, a protection provided for by law, saying that the repeated extensions of the typically two-year protections by previous administrations of both parties have ended the “temporary” piece of the status.
DHS has made an effort to emphasize that TPS depends on the original reason for the designation, not current conditions. In El Salvador’s case, that was a devastating series of earthquakes prior to its designation in 2001.

In a call with reporters, a senior administration official said Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen decided the termination was “required” given that the original disaster that precipitated the status has been resolved enough to terminate the protections. Officials on the call repeatedly dismissed questions about the violence and economic conditions that persist in El Salvador, including the MS-13 gang that has been a top target of this administration, saying those factors are irrelevant to the decision.
Critics immediately slammed the decision.

“They have resettled, established their families and lives here in the United States. Most of them see themselves much more as American citizens than Salvadoran citizens and to end that protection and program is going to disrupt many communities across the United States,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said on CNN Monday. “It’s inhumane and not consistent with American values.”

The criticism wasn’t limited to Democrats. Florida Republican and immigration reform advocate Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart quickly released a statement in “strong disagreement” with the administration.

“These innocent people fled their home country after a disastrous earthquake, and while living conditions may have slightly improved, El Salvador now faces a significant problem with drug trafficking, gangs and crime,” Diaz-Balart said. “Since 2001, these people have established themselves in the United States, making countless contributions to our society and our local communities. It would be devastating to send them home after they have created a humble living for themselves and their families.”

The issue will now be kicked to Congress. Senate negotiators are discussing potentially including a deal to end the diversity lottery, which is a top target of President Donald Trump, in exchange for some resolution on TPS, according to Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake”

“We can deal with diversity visa, if we pair it with TPS, doing some kind of reallocation visas there,” Flake told reporters on Friday.

[CNN]

Reality

The move comes as Trump continues policies that treat immigrants with brown skin as a threat.

Trump frequently uses the El Salvadorian gang MS-13 as an example of the threats of immigration, but MS-13 got its start in the 1980’s when this exact scenario played out and we sent back Salvadorian immigrants to a violent country because of nothing more than xenophobia.

Mulvaney installs 6 Trump loyalists at CFPB after revelations of anti-administration ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ uprising

Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has installed six Trump loyalists in the agency. The news comes in the wake of revelations about a cadre of anti-Trump CFPB employees who called themselves “Dumbledore’s Army,” a reference to an anti-fascist underground group of students in the Harry Potter books.

As The Intercept’s Ryan Grim reports, Mulvaney announced in a Thursday memo his intention to bring those administration loyalists into the bureau that “by statute, is supposed to be an independent agency that was created in the aftermath of the 2007-08 financial crisis.”

Mulvaney’s short tenure at the helm of the CFPB has already been rife with controversy. In late November, President Donald Trump named him acting director of the agency when the former director stepped down. The move immediately caused scandal because Mulvaney also leads the White House’s Office of Management and Budget — and because the outgoing director had already named his former chief of staff, Leandra English, as his interim successor. Soon after, news that Mulvaney was directing staff to “disregard” English appeared — hence the cabal of resisters within the agency.

As The Washington Post reported shortly after it became clear Mulvaney was taking the reigns of the agency despite mounting legal challenges, the job makes him one of the most powerful men in the country.

The director of the CFPB, a federal judge quoted by the Post once noted, “enjoys more unilateral authority than any other officer in any of the three branches of the U.S. Government, other than the President.”

Of his six new hires, Grim noted Thursday, only three will work full-time for the agency — the other three, like the director himself, will split their time between the supposedly-independent bureau and their other jobs within the Trump administration.

[Raw Story]

Trump’s lawyer wants second special counsel to probe investigators

President Trump‘s legal team said Tuesday it would like a new special counsel to be appointed to probe individuals investigating Russian election meddling.

“The Department of Justice and FBI can not ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate,” one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement.

Sekulow’s statement calling for a second special counsel, which was first reported by Axios, comes after Fox News published an article on Monday that said the wife of an official in the Justice Department was employed during the campaign by Fusion GPS, the opposition firm behind a controversial dossier of Trump opposition research.

The president’s attorneys, according to Axios, fault the FBI and the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the probe into Russia’s election meddling and any potential ties between Trump campaign staff members and the Kremlin.

Trump has repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt,” arguing Democrats are using Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s presidential election as an excuse for their loss.

“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump said in July.

[The Hill]

Reality

Trump’s lawyers display a fundamental misunderstanding of how special councils work. First, there has to be a crime, and Mueller and the FBI haven’t committed one. Second, a Special Council office was created because of the recusals of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Rod Rosenstein. And finally, a President of the United States calling for an investigation into the investigators, who have already secured two indictments and another two pleas, is not what happens in a democracy.

Nuclear Bombers Poised to Return to 24-Hour Alert After Trump Recalls Retired Pilots

The U.S. Air Force is preparing for nuclear armed B-52 bombers to be put back on 24-hour alert for the first time in 25 years as tensions rise between North Korea and President Donald Trump.

“I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward,” General David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, told Defense One in an interview Sunday.

While the order to have the bombers on alert hasn’t been given by the heads of U.S. Strategic Command or U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Goldfein—a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—said that in the current political climate the Air Force anticipates that it might come. “This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” he said of the preparations.

The last time the bombers were on 24-hour alert was during the Cold War. About 40 strategic bombers armed with nuclear weapons were ready to take off at a moment’s notice from the president from 11 Strategic Air Command bases around the world. The alert was ended in 1991 by the then President George H.W. Bush after the end of the Cold War.

The prospect of returning to 24-hour alert worried former diplomats. “Very hard to understand what would justify returning to costly practice of keeping B-52s on alert, a practice abandoned by GHW Bush in 1991,” wrote Steven Pifer‏, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and foreign service diplomat in Moscow on Twitter.

“Something’s brewing & it makes me queasy,” wrote Adam Blickstein, a former public affairs strategic planner for the Secretary of Defense, online, noting that last Friday President Trump signed an executive order so the Air Force could bring 1,000 pilots out of retirement.

On Sunday a spokeswoman for the Air Force said there are no plans to “recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage.”

Over the summer President Trump threatened military action and “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea after a series of tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) by Pyongyang. The regime has also conducted underground nuclear weapons tests.

In early October Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while the U.S. needed to “ensure we have military options,” that Trump told him and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pursue diplomatic efforts.

Yet during an interview with the Fox Business Network broadcast Sunday Trump said “you would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are” for military action against Pyongyang. “Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is yes. Will that happen? Who knows, who knows,” he said.

“The world is a dangerous place and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” Goldfein said. “It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.”

[Newsweek]

 

White House Didn’t Act on Sally Yates’ Warning Because She’s a “Political Opponent”

The White House has a new explanation for its decision not to immediately fire National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after learning that he could be the target of Russian blackmail efforts: The acting attorney general, who supplied that information, was a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

On January 26, Sally Yates, then acting attorney general, met with White House Counsel Donald McGahn to warn him that Flynn could be compromised by the Russians. He had lied to the Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his conversations with the Russian ambassador, and the Russians knew he had lied. But President Donald Trump waited 18 days before showing Flynn the door for lying to Pence.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the administration’s decision to keep Flynn on as national security adviser for more than two weeks after Yates’ warning by implying that Yates, a Barack Obama appointee, could not be trusted because she was “a strong supporter of Clinton.”

“One thing that I think is important to note is, let’s look at, again, how this came down,” Spicer said. “Someone who is not exactly a supporter of the president’s agenda, who a couple days after this first conversation took place refused to uphold a lawful order of the president’s…she had come here, given a heads up, told us there were materials, and at the same we did what we should do. Just because someone comes in and gives you a heads up about something and says I want to share some information, doesn’t mean that you immediately jump the gun and go take an action.”

Spicer continued, “I think if you flip this scenario and say, what if we had just dismissed someone because a political opponent of the president had made an utterance, you would argue that it was pretty irrational to act in that manner.”

After being asked multiple times if the White House took any steps to reduce Flynn’s role or access to classified information after receiving Yates’ warning, Spicer finally said, “I’m not aware of any.”

Media

White House Fires First Woman to Hold Chief Usher Position

The White House has fired Angella Reid, the first woman and second African American to hold the position of chief usher, the person who serves as the general manager of the building and the residential staff.

News of Reid’s firing was first reported by the Washington Post.

The White House said the dismissal was an outcome of the transition to a new administration, but did not provide further details.

“We left on very good terms and wish her the very best and certainly hope for great things for her in the future,” said deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“It’s not uncommon that you might have a transition of staff when a new administration comes in, and it’s simply nothing more than that,” Sanders added.

Though that’s true of many White House jobs, the residence staff and chief ushers typically have held those position for long tenures, often witnessing several presidential transitions. Since the early 20th century, nine people have held the chief usher position.

Reid took the job in 2011 after Adm. Stephen W. Rochon, the first African American to hold the post, left for a job with the Department of Homeland Security. She had previously worked for the Ritz-Carlton hotel group.

The chief usher oversees the activities of the White House building, managing the house staff and working closely with the first family.

“What I think about most when I walk around the house is who has been here, who has done what in this particular space,” Reid told CNN last year. “Because, you know, just to think that I am able to walk here now when 100 years ago, a president or first lady did, or other guests did, or some of my ancestors did.”

Sanders said she believes that the deputy usher will fill Reid’s position.

(h/t Los Angeles Times)

Reality

The speculation is Trump is paranoid about Obama spies in the White House.

Trump Has Political Aides Monitoring the Loyalty of Cabinet Secretaries

As President Trump recently reminded us, when someone has been disloyal to him, he never forgets it. But now that he’s president, it’s become more difficult to keep track of those who have defied him — or who may potentially defy him. That’s why, according to the Washington Post, Trump has embedded political appointees in every cabinet agency and tasked them with keeping tabs on the secretaries’ fealty to the president. Unsurprisingly, this is not going over well with some cabinet members.

The Post is not the first to note the existence of these monitors. Last month, Politico reported that the Trump administration had created the new position of “senior White House adviser” within each agency, placing many former campaign aides in those jobs. Records obtained by ProPublica show that there are at least 16 of these advisers, with Trump loyalists stationed in all the major departments, as well as in some smaller agencies, such as NASA.

There’s some disagreement over who the advisers answer to. The Post says they report to the Office of Cabinet Affairs, which is overseen by White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn. An anonymous White House official said the advisers technically report to the head of each agency, but the White House would not discuss the matter on the record.

The advisers’ ostensible mission is to act as a go-between on policy issues for the White House and the agencies, but eight officials tell the Post their primary task is to make sure agency staffers are carrying out the president’s agenda. Concerns about the president’s authority over the executive branch are not unusual, but no recent president has had such an arrangement.

As New York’s Ed Kilgore noted last month, “People like that can be described as political commissars, to use the term made famous in the Soviet Union for the agents sent to impose ideological discipline, particularly in military units.” Sure enough, the former Marine and fighter pilot assigned to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is privately referred to as “the commissar” within the Pentagon.

But the attitude toward the senior White House advisers varies by agency. Aides at the Departments of Transportation and the Interior described the advisers as part of their teams, and some advisers are picking up the slack in understaffed departments. However, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt has reportedly banned former Washington state senator Don Benton, who ran Trump’s Washington state campaign, from meetings. Per the Post:

These officials said Benton piped up so frequently during policy discussions that he had been disinvited from many of them. One of the officials described the situation as akin to an episode of the HBO comedy series Veep.

Behaving like a member of Selina Meyer’s team doesn’t sound so bad when the alternative is an episode out of Soviet history.

Trump, Without Evidence, Accuses Obama of Wiretapping Trump Tower

President Trump on Saturday claimed President Obama had his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower before Election Day, tweeting the accusation without offering evidence.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he wrote.

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” he added in subsequent tweets. “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

A spokesman for Obama issued a statement denying that his White House had interfered in Justice Department investigations or ordered surveillance on any American, much less Trump.

“A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said.

“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” he added. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

It was not immediately clear whether Trump had any proof or was referencing a report. Breitbart News on Friday reported on conservative radio host Mark Levin’s claim that Obama executed a “silent coup” of Trump via “police state” tactics. White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon was the executive chair of Breitbart before joining Trump’s team.

Observers have noted the president’s tendency to tweet things — including a 2003 photo tweeted Friday of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) with Russian President Vladimir Putin — shortly after they were published on pro-Trump blogs like Gateway Pundit or conservative websites like Drudge Report.

Moments earlier, Trump had also linked Obama to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s meetings last year with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

“The first meeting Jeff Sessions had with the Russian Amb was set up by the Obama Administration under education program for 100 Ambs,” he tweeted.

Sessions on Thursday said he would recuse himself from any investigations into Russia’s links to Trump’s team, after massive outrage over the revelations that he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign, then denied doing so during his confirmation hearings.

Trump on Saturday also blasted Obama for meeting with Kislyak 22 times while president, tweeting: “Just out: The same Russian Ambassador that met Jeff Sessions visited the Obama White House 22 times, and 4 times last year alone.”

Trump’s team has sought to push back on accusations of coziness with Russia by pointing out instances of Democrats meeting with Kislyak. Critics have responded that the issue isn’t that Sessions met with the ambassador, but that he falsely told Congress he hadn’t while under oath.

Former national security advisor Michael Flynn was ousted last month after revelations that he misled top White House officials about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak.

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

Donald Trump appears to have read this in an article from Breitbart news, who repeated claim from right-wing talk radio host Mark Levin. Both offered zero evidence for this claim.

If this is true then Trump’s claim would be important for two reasons:

  1. Presidents do not have the authority to wiretap a private citizen’s phone, Barack Obama would be the first.
  2. Since federal judges are the only once with the authority to wiretap a phone, and they can’t do it without probable cause, that means Trump did something very wrong and is under investigation.

Trump Signed Off on Checking White House Staffers’ Phones

President Donald Trump signed off on press secretary Sean Spicer’s decision to check aides’ cell phones to make certain they weren’t communicating with reporters by text message or through encrypted apps, multiple sources confirmed to CNN on Monday.

The decision sent a signal across the administration that Trump is furious at leaks from inside the White House. The sources also said the President gave his blessing before Spicer blocked reporters from the briefing last Friday.

When reached by CNN, Spicer denied that Trump was involved in either decision.

“(Trump) did not sign off or even know what I did. That is not accurate,” he said, later adding, “I don’t believe he even knew there was a gaggle and in no way was it discussed with him or any other staffer.”

On Friday, CNN and other news outlets were blocked from attending an off-camera White House press briefing that other reporters were hand-picked to attend.

And Politico reported on Sunday that Spicer was cracking down on leaks coming out of the White House, where at one point staffers were asked to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check.”

The sources also told CNN that Trump and his top advisers also knew of the contacts Spicer and others made to intelligence chairmen and other government officials, hoping to push back on news accounts of Russian links.

The sources added that Spicer is on higher standing inside the West Wing than he has been in earlier weeks. He has been eager to prove his loyalty but has also not pushed back on carrying out any orders or requests from the Oval Office.

One person close to the situation described Spicer as the “enforcer.”

(h/t CNN)

Trump Says Obama Behind Leaks

President Donald Trump said he believes former President Barack Obama has been behind the leaks within his administration and the sizable, angry town hall crowds Republicans have faced across the country.

Trump was asked in an interview on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” if he believed Obama was responsible for the town hall protests against Republicans this month.

“It turns out his organization seems to do a lot of these organizing to some of the protests that these Republicans are seeing around the country against you. Do you believe President Obama is behind it and if he is, is that a violation of the so-called unsaid presidents’ code?” Trump was asked.

“No, I think he is behind it. I also think it is politics, that’s the way it is,” Trump replied.

Trump then discussed the leaks that have disrupted his first month in office.

“You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes. You know, you’re probably right or possibly right, but you never know,” Trump said in the interview, a clip of which was released Monday night. “No, I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, which are really serious because they are very bad in terms of national security. But I also understand that is politics. In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”

Trump did not offer any evidence for his claim in the clip released by Fox Monday night. CNN has reached out to Obama’s office for comment.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to expand Tuesday on Trump’s claim that Obama was behind the protests, telling reporters that she would let the comments stand by themselves.

When asked if the White House believes Obama is behind the protests, Sanders added, “I think the bottom line here is we all have condemned the protests. I think that is the bigger story here, and the focus we should be talking about that this isn’t something that helps and moves us forward and that is what we are focused on right now.”

A broad coalition of groups, including Organizing For Action, the SEIU, MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress have been working to help with grassroots organizing around GOP town halls.

Organizing for Action, the group formed from Obama’s campaign organization, has 14 professional organizers, for example, who are involved in teaching local activists skills to effectively vocalize opposition to the GOP’s top agenda items.

Earlier this month, Trump told Fox News that reports of his calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were caused by leaks from “Obama people.”

Trump’s administration has been beset by leaks within his administration to the media, and he has continually railed against those doing the leaking and the media since taking office. He has said the leaks are damaging to national security.

Approval ratings for the President’s job performance have been at historic lows. A recent Quinnipiac University survey found that 55% of American voters disapprove of Trump’s performance.

But the President said he would give himself an “A” in achievement but in messaging a “C or C plus.”

“In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C plus,” Trump said. “In terms of achievement I think I’d give myself an A. Because I’ve done great things, but I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American people.”

The President also gave himself an “A” for “effort.”

(h/t CNN)

Media