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Trump’s First Oval Office Address Filled with False Claims, Conway Keeps Repeating Them Anyway

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WASHINGTON, January 9, 2019 — As the second-longest government shutdown in American history enters its third week, President Trump on Tuesday attempted to galvanize public support for his unpopular proposal to build a wall at the country’s southern border with a televised, prime-time address to the nation.

After the broadcast networks broke into their regularly-scheduled programming, the president appeared on screen shortly after 9 p.m. to address his fellow Americans about what he called “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” caused by “thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country.”

Trump spoke while sitting at the Resolute desk, behind which past presidents have delivered televised remarks at pivotal moments in history. These include John F. Kennedy’s warning to the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Lyndon Johnson’s declining to seek a second full term, and Richard Nixon’s announcing his resignation amidst the turmoil of Watergate, Gerald Ford’s putting an end to the “long national nightmare” by pardoning Nixon days later, Ronald Reagan’s consoling Americans after Challenger disaster, and George W. Bush’s comforting and reassuring a traumatized nation after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Unlike those singular examples of presidential oratory, Trump’s ten-minute-long speech broke no new ground.

Mischaracterizations and falsehoods began almost immediately, with the president’s claim that Customs and Border Protection officers encounter “thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter the country each day.”

The president then attempted to draw a line from the number of aliens — legal and otherwise — arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to a claimed epidemic of violent crime resulting from the lack of a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now,” he said.

Trump also attempted to tie current immigration and border security policies to the nationwide opioid epidemic by repeating his claim that the lack of a border wall has turned the southern border into “a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.”

Trump has frequently suggested that the fentanyl responsible for so many overdose deaths is brought into the United States from Mexico despite the fact that the vast majority of fentanyl sold on American streets comes from Chinese manufacturers and makes its way to the U.S. through the mail or through ports of entry.

Numerous studies have found that immigrants, regardless of status, commit crimes at far lower rates than native-born Americans. Moreover, most drug smuggling — and drug seizures by Customs and Border Protection officers — takes places at ports of entry.

While Trump’s use of the phrase “illegal immigration” brings to mind the image of men and women furtively crossing the border by evading border patrol officers, administration officials openly admit that the number of actual illegal immigrants caught while attempting to cross the border has been on the decline for years. In fact, it is the lowest it has been in decades.

Most people who are residing in the United States illegally came here not through a furtive dash through the desert, but through a passport line on a tourist visa.

Trump also invoked the scourge of human smugglers known as “coyotes” while claiming that 20,000 children “were illegally brought into the country” last month. But as the children in question were granted legal status while their asylum claims are pending, this claim falls flat.

Asked why the president continues to deliberately mischaracterize persons exercising the right to claim asylum in the U.S. as “illegal immigrants,” Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that such a distinction was nothing more than “semantics” because “not everyone who presents a claim of fear has a credible claim of fear.”

Conway complained that under current law, families seeking asylum are required to be released into the United States during the pendency of their claims.

When it was pointed out to Conway that the asylum process is a legal method of immigrating to the United States, she told reporters that “that’s not true” because Mexico is a “safe third country” from which immigrants could apply for asylum. “Under the law, they could certainly stay there while their claims are being processed.”.

While the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act bars asylum to aliens who can be returned to a “safe third country,” the Immigration and Nationality Act requires a bilateral or multilateral agreement to be in place between the United States and that country before the 1996 law can be invoked to deny anyone asylum.

The U.S. has a “safe third country” agreement with Canada, but no such agreement exists between the U.S. and Mexico.

When pressed further, Conway again tried to deny that the asylum process is a legal one, telling BeltwayBreakfast: “As a woman, as a mother, I don’t want these kids raped, trafficked, getting into drugs. I care about the kids on that side on the border, I care about kids on this side of the border, and I think it’s high time that people rise above the partisanship and agree on that very basic point,” she said.

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

Congress

Trump Reveals Details of Pelosi’s Afghanistan Troop Visit and Suggests She Violate Security by Flying Commercial

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Image by activistpost.com

WASHINGTON, January 17, 2009 — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday got an answer to the question of how President Donald Trump would respond to her decision to postpone inviting him to deliver his annual message to Congress: Tit for tat.

In retaliation for her denying him a nationally-televised “State of the Union” address, Trump informed Pelosi that she and a number of her colleagues would not have access to the military aircraft they’d planned to use for an official trip to visit NATO allies and American troops in Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan.

“Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will schedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” Trump said Thursday in a letter to Pelosi’s office.

“I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown. Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.”

Trump’s decision was so sudden and last-minute that lawmakers found out about it while on a bus headed to Joint Base Andrews, where they’d been scheduled to board a flight for the Brussels-bound leg of the trip.

White House officials said the decision was not aimed solely at Pelosi or her colleagues, as any other Congressional travel will be canceled until the government re-opens.

While Pelosi’s rationale for disinviting Trump from the Capitol stemmed from a desire to avoid more strain on the Department of Homeland Security employees – including Secret Service agents – who’ve been working without pay for nearly a month, Trump’s actions won’t have the same effect.

The trip’s use of a military aircraft meant it would not have involved any federal workers who are currently going without pay, as the Defense Department is fully funded for fiscal year 2019.

Still, a president who owns his own Boeing 757 might see the idea of forcing the Speaker of the House to fly commercial as a fun bit of revenge.

However, Trump’s revelation of her destination and suggestion that she travel commercially might not be a laughing matter.

Because Afghanistan is considered an active combat zone, the details of Pelosi’s trip had been a closely-guarded secret, with her staff asking news organizations to hold off on reporting that the trip would take place for national security reasons.

A Christmastime trip to Iraq by President Trump also took place under similar conditions, with the pool of reporters who travel with him kept from reporting on the trip until he had left Iraqi airspace.

But it’s not just Trump’s reveal of Pelosi’s destination that goes against established protocol. By suggesting that Pelosi fly commercial, he encouraged her to violate important protocols established after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters during her weekly press conference on January 17, 2019 Breakfast Media / Andrew Feinberg

Because the Presidential Succession Act puts the Speaker of the House second in the presidential line of succession — after Vice President Mike Pence but before the Senate President Pro Tempore, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa — her security needs are more complex than the rest of her leadership.

While Pelosi doesn’t have a Secret Service detail, as Speaker she is guarded round-the-clock by a group of Special Agents from the U.S. Capitol Police Dignitary Protection Division.

The USCP bodyguards – whose “Special Agent” status allows them to protect Pelosi anywhere in the United States – are drawn from the same elite group as the two USCP officers who gained acclaim two years ago, after defending a group of House Republicans when they were shot at on a Virginia baseball field.

But the security measure Trump suggested Pelosi cavalierly ignore originated to deal with an even more insidious threat than a mass shooter. Unlike most members of Congress, the Speaker of the House has generally not flown on commercial aircraft since the day Al Qaeda terrorists flew hijacked passenger planes into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center.

This precaution began in the wake of those terror attacks, when the Defense Department found that military transport aircraft should be provided for the use of then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Scott Palmer, who served as Hastert’s chief of staff, told BeltwayBreakfast that one major concern behind the decision was ensuring that the White House Situation Room be able to reach the Speaker at all times.

“When you’re sitting on a commercial plane, that’s not very easy,” said Palmer, who served as Hastert’s top aide from his election in 1986 through 2007, when the now-disgraced Illinoian retired after losing the gavel to none other than Pelosi.

“It was essentially a security measure and a presidential succession issue,” he explained.

Pelosi’s air transport also attracted attention during her first go-round in the Speaker’s chair when Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, then the GOP Whip, suggested that Pelosi had demanded she be allocated an Air Force C-32 transport – the same model of plane frequently used by the Vice President – to travel between Washington and her San Francisco, California home.

Blunt suggested the C-32, which he called a “flying Lincoln bedroom,” was meant to be at Pelosi’s beck and call to transport her and whomever else she so desired.

Then-President George W. Bush’s White House stood behind Pelosi’s access to military aircraft.

Asked about Blunt’s comments, then-White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters that her air travel needs had the support of the White House and Pentagon.

“After September 11th, the Department of Defense — with the consent of the White House — agreed that the Speaker of the House should have military transport,” said Snow, who passed away in 2008. “Speaker Hastert had access to military aircraft and Speaker Pelosi will, too,” he said at the time.

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House

Trump Entices ‘Problem Solvers’ to White House in Unsuccessful Attempt to Squeeze Pelosi on Shutdown

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Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock; MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, January 16, 2019 — President Donald Trump’s second consecutive attempt to publicly drive a wedge between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team and rank-and-file Democrats was as ineffective as the first.

Although seven Democratic members of the House’s moderately-minded Problem Solver’s Caucus joined their Republican colleagues in a White House Situation Room meeting with the president, they made clear that their presence would in no way indicate a willingness to allow Donald Trump to dictate terms on border security funding while the longest-ever partial government shutdown in American history continues.

In a statement, the seven House Democrats — New York Reps. Anthony Brindisi, Thomas Suozzi and Max Rose, Freshman Reps. Dean Phillips, D-Minn. and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., second-term Rep. Vincente Gonzales, D-Texas and caucus co-chair Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. made clear that ending the nearly-month-long government shutdown is a necessary precondition for a successful negotiation on border security.

“Over the last weeks, we have been listening to our constituents and speaking with our fellow Members of Congress — in both parties and in both chambers. There is strong agreement across the aisle and around the country: We must reopen the government” they said in a statement.

“Our security, safety, and economy have been compromised, and millions of families are suffering.”

The Problem Solver’s Caucus members suggested that there is bipartisan agreement that reopening the government would provide the possibility of both parties coming together to fix some of the country’s toughest problems.

“But that conversation can only begin in earnest once the government is reopened. We accepted the White House’s invitation to meet today to convey that message.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders had this to say about the meeting: “The President and his team had a constructive meeting with bipartisan members of the problem solvers caucus. They listened to one another and now both have a good understanding of what the other wants. We look forward to more conversations like this.”

The message those seven Democrats conveyed to the president also seemed to put an end to the tactic he’s employed in his quest to force Democrats to accept blame for the shutdown, which is almost 26 days old.

For the second time in as many days, moderate-minded members refused to put themselves between Trump and House Democrats. White House officials had been attempting to portray Pelosi and other Democratic leaders as out of touch with the rank-and-file of their caucus.

The White House initially invited a number of House Democratic backbenchers to have lunch with a group of their Republican colleagues and the president on Tuesday

There appeared to be little rhyme or reason to who received invitations apart from some members of the Blue Dog Caucus, a group of moderate Democrats who mostly reside in so-called “red” states.

However, not one of those who were invited took the president up on his invitation.

One member of House Democratic leadership said the White House’s futile pursuit of Democratic allies reveals how badly the president has miscalculated.

“The president is definitely underestimating how unified Democrats are, but more importantly, he’s missing how completely isolated he is in the country right now” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and a leadership liaison to the caucus’ junior members. “Nobody wants to be a pawn in Trump’s bizarre game.”

Raskin told BeltwayBreakfast he has “no idea” why Trump continues to focus on House Democrats when the Senate has yet to take up any of the GOP-authored appropriations bills the House has passed in recent days. Those pieces of legislation, which members of the upper chamber had approved unanimously, were authored as part of a compromise which the president upended after criticism from right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and anti-immigration commentator Ann Coulter.

“No one is going to budge in terms of demanding the reopening of the government. Either the president does not understand the political dynamics of the situation, or this is a comical effort to distract attention from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate who could reopen the government today” Raskin said.

The second-term Progressive Caucus member said that many of his GOP colleagues are dismayed over the president’s stubbornness, and are despairing of the political consequences yet to come if the shutdown continues.

“They want to see the whole thing go away,” Raskin said, predicting that if Senate Republicans begin to break away from McConnell and vote to reopen the government, enough of their House counterparts would join with Democrats that a veto of any funding bill could be easily overridden.

“The moment that any significant number of Senate Republicans blow the whistle, you’re going to see a cascade of Republicans joining the movement to reopen the government — I don’t think they can sustain the kind of political isolation that is Donald Trump’s calling card.”

 

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America Held Hostage

DC-Area Senators Ask Trump to Meet with Furloughed Feds, White House End-Run Around Pelosi Falls Flat

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WASHINGTON, January 15, 2019 — Senators from the Washington area are urging President Trump to meet with some of the federal workers who have gone without paychecks during the longest partial government shutdown in United States history.

“We have spoken to federal workers who will not be able to afford to keep their home, purchase their medication, or put money in their child’s school lunch account if this shutdown continues,” said Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., in a Monday letter to the president.

“These civil servants are proud of their jobs, and this government shutdown is preventing them from doing important work for the American people.”

The four Senate Democrats noted that Trump has been itching to shut down the government over funding for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border since at least early last year when he tweeted about the need for a “good shutdown.”

“If you heard directly from [the federal workers], it would be clear that there is no such thing as a good government shutdown,” they wrote.

More than 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or forced to work without pay since December 22, when funding for numerous federal agencies expired after Trump upended a bipartisan funding deal.

That deal, which would have provided nearly $2 billion for new border security funding, drew the ire of right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

Responding to their demands, Trump declared that he would not sign the compromise funding bill, which the Senate passed unanimously shortly before Christmas.

The House has since moved to pass the Republican-authored appropriations bills which the upper chamber had approved by voice vote not one month ago.

Enough Senate Republicans have expressed support for reopening the government that the bills would easily pass the Senate if brought up for a vote, but the legislation has so far gotten a cool reception in the chamber that had birthed it, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, refusing to bring any funding bill to the floor without Trump’s permission.

Moreover, negotiations toward resolving the impasse have been non-existent since the president walked out of a meeting between Democratic and Republican leaders of both chambers last week.

The walkout occurred after Pelosi refused to accede to Trump’s demand for approximately $5 billion to pay for the border wall he once claimed would be paid for by Mexico.

Trump’s feint toward bipartisanship falls flat

With both sides deeply dug in and the shutdown entering its 25th day, the president on Tuesday attempted to make an end-run around the House’s newly-installed Democratic leadership by inviting a number of House Democrats to the White House for lunch. Not among those invited, however, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or any other member of her leadership team.

White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp touted the invitations as evidence that the president was willing to bypass an allegedly unwilling-to-negotiate leadership team to work directly with “rank-and-file Democrats,” presumably in the hope that those hailing from conservative-leaning swing districts would be more receptive to the president’s unwavering demands.

Unfortunately for Trump, none of the five Democrats who received invitations took the president up on his offer.

Among those turning down the chance to participate in what would have amounted to a bipartisan photo opportunity was Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.

“I continue to believe the Senate should pass and the President should sign the bills reopening government that the House already passed,” Murphy said in a statement.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assailed Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for allegedly being unwilling to negotiate, while the president and his team “are working hard to find solutions to solve the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border and reopen the government.”

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