Trump says he will put U.S. military on southern border

President Trump said Tuesday that he plans to deploy U.S. troops along the southern border to prevent illegal crossings “until we can have a wall.”

“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Defense Secretary James Mattis was sitting next to Trump when he made his comments.

Such a move would significantly escalate the U.S. presence along the frontier with Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol — not the military — is tasked with protecting the border.

Trump has recently reverted back to his hard-line stance on immigration, backing away from his efforts to compromise with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Over the past several days, the president has closed the door to a deal to protect young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, called on Mexico to step up efforts to detail illegal border crossers and sounded the alarm about a so-called “caravan” of Central American migrants heading for the U.S. border.

“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic…it’s like we have no border,” Trump said.

Trump tied the caravan to the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program that he ended last fall, even though it does not cover people who crossed the border this year.

The president is coming under mounting pressure from his base to secure a policy win on immigration, after he failed to secure $25 billion to build his proposed border wall in a government funding bill.

Trump even floated the possibility of pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico does not take steps to curb the flow of immigrants crossing the border illegally.

The president on Tuesday claimed the caravan is breaking up “very rapidly” in part because of his threat.

Sending troops the border would be an unusual, but not unprecedented, step.

Presidents Obama and George W. Bush both deployed National Guard troops at the border to help stop illegal immigration. The temporary moves came as they were trying to win conservative support for immigration reforms that would allow millions to seek U.S. citizenship.

“The United States is not going to militarize the southern border,” Bush said when announcing the deployment in 2006. “Mexico is our neighbor, and our friend.”

[The Hill]

Reality

A defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity had no immediate details as to how many troops would be used, or what authorities they would have, but said the presence could be similar to the 2006-2008 patrols U.S. military personnel conducted under Operation Jump Start.

In that operation, President George W. Bush called for up to 6,000 National Guard members to secure parts of the border. Eventually 29,000 military personnel from all over the country were involved in the mission, which had a projected cost of around $1.2 billion in then-year dollars.

In 2012, President Barack Obama deployed Army forces from Ft. Bliss to the Tucson, Arizona and El Paso, Texas areas for Operation Nimbus, a joint operation between U.S. Northern Command and Customs and Border Patrol.

Zinke tells employees diversity isn’t important

Several employees at the Interior Department have told CNN that Secretary Ryan Zinke repeatedly says that he won’t focus on diversity, an apparent talking point that has upset many people within the agency.

Three high-ranking Interior officials from three different divisions said that Zinke has made several comments with a similar theme, saying “diversity isn’t important,” or “I don’t care about diversity,” or “I don’t really think that’s important anymore.”

Each time, Zinke followed with something along the lines of, “what’s important is having the right person for the right job,” or “I care about excellence, and I’m going to get the best people, and you’ll find we have the most diverse group anyone’s ever had,” the sources said.

Interior last year unexpectedly reassigned 33 senior executive staffers, of which 15 were minorities, according to the lawyer of one of the staffers who was moved. Some of those who were reassigned have filed complaints with the US Merit Systems Board.

The accusations against Zinke come as he is under investigation by multiple agencies, including Interior’s inspector general and Office of Special Counsel, regarding employee reassignment and taxpayer spending on possible politically related travel.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift vehemently denied that Zinke said anything along those lines of criticizing the need for diversity, saying, “the anonymous claims made against the secretary are untrue.”

Swift added, “As a woman who has worked for him for a number of years in senior positions, I say without a doubt this claim is untrue, and I am hopeful that they are a result of a misunderstanding and not a deliberate mistruth.”

Swift pointed to two women and an African-American who Zinke has appointed to senior leadership positions, and said “Zinke has filled several other senior positions at the career and appointed level with individuals from diverse backgrounds.”

But Zinke’s alleged comments were particularly surprising to those who feel the agency has struggled to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

In a hallway meet-and-greet shortly after Zinke was confirmed, one staffer told CNN that Zinke was asked about diversity at Interior, a department with about 68,000 employees, of which more than 70 percent are white, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
“(Zinke) flat out said, ‘I don’t really think that’s important anymore. We don’t need to focus on that anymore.’ He obviously needed someone to provide him with better talking points,” the staffer said.

A similar comment was made during another hallway greeting session with a different group of employees.

“He said it several times. I think it’s just how he speaks – he has his canned talking points,” said the second source, who heard the same comment from Zinke months later at a holiday party.

A third person, someone who is a minority in a leadership position in the department, said he heard a similar comment during a management meeting.

“That told me everything I needed to know,” the person said. “It’s a hard business as it is, and then not to be respected or appreciated for the diverse perspective that you bring to the situation — and that’s why it’s important in my opinion. It’s the fact that we don’t look at things the same way. When we have conversations about public lands and how they’re used, we cannot afford to have a small percentage of people making those decisions.”

Zinke came under fire from the public and at least one member of Congress earlier this month over remarks seen by some as insensitive. In testimony before the House Natural Resources committee, he greeted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) with the Japanese greeting “Konichiwa” after she told a story about her grandparents being held in internment camps during World War II, and asked why he was cutting funding to preserve those sites.

Days later, after numerous news stories calling the remarks inappropriate, Zinke doubled down in a comment to reporters, saying “How could ever saying ‘Good morning’ be bad?”

[CNN]

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services drops ‘nation of immigrants’ from mission statement

Tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free need not apply.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services no longer uses language that describes the country as “a nation of immigrants” in its official mission statement, an agency official said Thursday.

The USCIS, the federal agency tasked with granting visas and citizenship, has changed to a new statement that “clearly defines the agency’s role in our country’s lawful immigration system and the commitment we have to the American people,” according to a letter sent to employees by agency director L. Francis Cissna that was obtained by NBC News.

“The agency’s new mission statement was developed and debuted within the agency by USCIS Director Cissna during his first conference with USCIS senior leadership from around the world,” a USCIS public affairs officer said in a statement to NBC News. “It reflects the director’s guiding principles for the agency. This includes a focus on fairness, lawfulness and efficiency, protecting American workers, and safeguarding the homeland.”

The previous mission statement said the agency, “secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”

The new statement now reads:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”

Cissna also said the new mission statement will also no longer refer to visa applicants as “customers” because the term “promotes an institutional culture that emphasizes the ultimate satisfaction of applicants and petitioners, rather than the correct adjudication of such applications and petitions according to the law.” He added that the term implied that the agency serves anyone other than “the American people.”

President Donald Trump’s pick, Cissna was sworn in as director of USCIS in October.

The wording change was not welcomed by some pro-immigration groups.

“Our nation is one built by immigrants — removing this language does nothing to change that fact, it only reveals the insidious racism harbored by those in this administration,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at the Human Rights First, in a statement. “We cannot separate ‘immigrants’ from ‘Americans’ — we are intrinsically linked as children, parents, neighbors, and loved ones. By seeking to distinguish between the two, the administration is turning its back on our nation’s proud history and engaging in dangerous revisionism.”

[NBC News]

Jeff Sessions strays from prepared remarks to praise ‘Anglo-American heritage’ of sheriffs

Update

Jeff Sessions was using a legal technical term “Anglo-American” law, which is a reference to the legal tradition of common law that the American sheriff’s system shares with England.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions strayed from his prepared remarks to comment on the “Anglo-American” historical origins of the sheriff.

Sessions spoke Monday to a the National Sheriffs Association, which represents about 20,000 law enforcement officials across the U.S., but video recordings show an apparent improvisation from the prepared remarks distributed ahead of time to reporters, according to Splinter News.

“The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” Sessions said. “We must never erode this historic office.”

The remarks quickly raised eyebrows on social media, where commenters perceived the reference as racist in light of the attorney general’s racially problematic history.

The sheriff indeed originated in medieval England, and the name derives from Anglo-Saxon words for the guardian, or reeve, of a county, or shire.

English colonists brought the tradition to America and elected their own sheriffs in the 1600s, and various right-wing fringe movements promote the legal fallacy that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the United States.

[RawStory]

Media

Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as ‘shithole’ nations

President Donald Trump on Thursday referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on the meeting told NBC News.

Trump’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the group of nations referred to also included El Salvador.

The comments came as senators huddled in the Oval Office with the president to discuss a path forward on an immigration deal. Trump questioned why the United States would want people from nations such as Haiti while he was being briefed on changes to the visa lottery system.

According to the aide, when the group came to discussing immigration from Africa, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from “all these shithole countries” and that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway. Thursday’s meeting came one day after Trump met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House.

A source familiar with Thursday’s meeting told NBC News the president was particularly frustrated during discussions about the visa lottery system — a program Trump has railed against repeatedly in recent months.

The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC Thursday, as part of a lengthy statement that did not directly dispute the language reportedly used in the meeting.

“He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”

It’s not the first time reports have surfaced of Trump speaking unfavorably about immigrants, and Haitians in particular. The New York Times reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration.

According to the Times, Trump also targeted Nigerian immigrants during that meeting, complaining that once they came the United States they would never “go back to their huts.” The White House vigorously denied the claims in the story at the time.

[NBC News]

CDC banned from using ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based’ on official documents

The Trump administration has reportedly banned the Centers for Disease Control from using the phrases “evidence-based” and “science-based” on official documents.

Senior CDC officials distributed the list of “forbidden” words and phrases to policy analysts at the CDC on Thursday, the Washington Post reported Friday. The list also bans the use of “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus.”

Analysts are reportedly prohibited from using the phrases on official documents they prepare for the 2019 budget, which is expected to be released in February.

An analyst who attended the meeting at the CDC in Atlanta told the Washington Post that instead of “evidence-based” or “science-based,” policy analysts are instructed to use the phrase, “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The analyst told the Post that other branches of President Trump’s health department are likely adhering to the same list of banned words. The source said that others at the meeting reacted with surprise when given the list.

“It was very much, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’” the analyst said, “In my experience, we’ve never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint.”

The Trump administration has been repeatedly scrutinized for declining to acknowledge science-based findings, particularly related to climate change. Trump himself has not said whether he believes in climate science, and numerous members of his administration and his appointees have denied aspects of scientific consensus related to global warming.

[The Hill]

Trump administration lawyers claims the KKK is a protected class

In the circus surrounding the Masterpiece Bakeshop case, in which a Colorado baker refused to serve gay customers, lost a discrimination case and then appealed it all the way to the Supreme Court, a strange tidbit emerged yesterday. In explaining why Jack Phillips, the bakery’s owner, should not be compelled to serve people whose lifestyles go against his religious beliefs, Solicitor General Noel Francisco kept saying that a black sculptor should not be compelled to make art for the Ku Klux Klan.

As Imani Gandy at Rewire pointed out Wednesday, Francisco, who serves as the government’s lawyer, got at least one half of his argument right — no lawyer could successfully argue that it’s discriminatory for an African-American artist to deny service to a KKK member. But that’s because, unlike LGBTQ people, KKK members are not members of a “protected class.”

“The anti-discrimination law doesn’t require every business to serve every person on the planet,” Gandy wrote. “It merely requires that a business not refuse service based on a person’s protected characteristic.”

Under Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, “places of public accommodation” like businesses, restaurants, stores and hotels are not permitted to refuse service to someone based on protected characteristics. Those characteristics include “disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin and ancestry.”

“A protected or ‘suspect’ class,” she continued, “is made up of ‘discrete and insular minorities’: a group of people who have historically been subjected to discrimination, comprise a discrete minority (meaning there aren’t a lot of them, percentage-wise), and have immutable characteristics (meaning characteristics that cannot be changed).

Being a member of the Klan or other bigoted groups is not unchangeable, nor does it subject one to historic discrimination (no matter what racist right-wingers would have you believe).

[RawStory]

Trump Attacks ESPN After Anchor Calls Him a White Supremacist

President Trump has a new target in the media — ESPN.

The president said on Twitter on Friday morning that ESPN “is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth.”

He was apparently referring to ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, who in a recent tweet said that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Hill’s assertion caused an uproar, particularly in conservative media circles, where ESPN’s political bent has been a point of contention for years.

Wall Street analysts and ESPN executives generally agree that ESPN’s subscriber losses are primarily a result of cost-conscious consumers and a changing business model.

But the president, through his tweet on Friday, sided with the conservative commentators who say it’s really liberal bias that is poisoning ESPN and dragging down the business.

His call for an apology is also noteworthy. Hill addressed the controversy earlier this week, but pointedly did not apologize for her “white supremacist” statement. She only expressed regret for painting ESPN in an unfair light.

ESPN said in a followup statement that the network accepted her apology.

The network clearly wants to move on — but Trump might make that more difficult.

Neither Hill nor ESPN immediately responded to the president’s Friday morning tweet, and ESPN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hill, an African American woman, has been an outspoken critic of Trump all year long. The current controversy erupted on Monday night she called him a “bigot,” a “threat” and a “white supremacist” on Twitter.

The next day, as people who were outraged by the tweets demanded action from ESPN, the network said that Hill’s tweets “do not represent the position of ESPN.”

“We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate,” the network said.

When White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about it on Wednesday, she said Hill’s criticism of the president should be considered a “fireable offense by ESPN.”

The next day, on Fox News, Sanders reiterated this: “I think it was highly inappropriate, and I think ESPN should take actions. But I’ll leave that up to them to decide, and I’ll stay focused on my day job.”

ESPN had 90 million subscribers as of September 2016, the most recent numbers it has reported. That’s down 2 million from a year earlier and down from a high of 100 million in 2010.

On Fox, it’s a popular talking point that those subscriber losses are due to rampant liberal bias. There’s little evidence to support that theory.

As the monthly cable bundle has become more and more expensive, and streaming has become more popular, some homes have dropped the big bundles that include ESPN, the priciest channel on cable. Others have discontinued cable altogether and turned to streaming services.

The vast majority of U.S. homes continue to pay for cable, including ESPN. But the cutbacks have put pressure on ESPN and other sports networks.

To address this, ESPN is planning to roll out a direct-to-consumer streaming service next year.

[CNN]

Trump sides with white nationalists and praises ‘beautiful’ Confederate statues

President Donald Trump followed up his early morning tweet storm on Thursday by lamenting that Confederate statues are being taken down all across the U.S. and saying it’s “sad.”

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” wrote the president, who has come under the heaviest fire of his administration in recent days over his gross mishandling of the response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA.

He followed up by saying, “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

And then, “Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

[Raw Story]

 

Trump Lashes Out at Sen. Lindsey Graham For Comments on Charlottesville

President Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday morning, claiming the Republican from South Carolina falsely stated his words about violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In a tweet on Thursday, Trump said “publicity seeking” Graham incorrectly stated that the president said “there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists. … and people like Ms. Heyer.”

Trump Lashes Out at Sen. Lindsey Graham For Comments on Charlottesville

Heather Heyer was killed after she was struck by a car driven into a crowd of people who were protesting a white nationalist rally in Virginia.

In a statement on Wednesday, Graham said Trump “took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

Trump on Monday explicitly condemned white supremacists and “racist” violence, two days after he condemned hatred and violence “on many sides” without specifically denouncing white supremacist groups.

At a heated news conference on Tuesday, Trump doubled down on his initial response, blaming “both sides” for the violence.

[CNBC]

Reality

By claiming both sides were to blame for violence at the Unite the Right rally, Trump made a moral equivalence between Nazis and their protesters.

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