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Trump Declares National Emergency After He Doesn’t Get His Way With Border Wall Funding

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President Trump announces that he'll be declaring a national emergency to attempt to fund his border wall in the White House Rose Garden on February 15, 2019 (Screenshot/C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2019 — President Donald Trump on Friday reacted to Congress’ refusal to fully fund his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by invoking emergency powers which purportedly allow him to “reprogram” federal funds without the consent of Congress.

“Today I am announcing several critical actions that my administration is taking.”

“We’re going to confront the [national security] crisis on our souther border,” Trump said, adding: “Everyone knows that walls work,” Trump said, citing Israel’s security barrier along the West Bank in the Middle East.

Trump called the idea that most illicit drugs come into the U.S. through ports of entry a “lie” despite statistics from his own Department of Homeland Security which show that most illicit drugs are seized at ports of entry.

“You can’t take big loads through ports of entry,” Trump said. He also suggested that human trafficking was not possible through ports of entry because border agents would see women who are “tied up in the trunk.”

“It’s all a big lie, it’s a big con game. You don’t have to be smart to know you put up a barrier… and people can’t come in until they go right or left and there’s no barrier.”

Trump said that his declaration was not a significant departure from precedent because other presidents had used the National Emergencies Act many times since 1976, when it was signed into law by then-President Gerald Ford.

“It’s been signed many times before. They sign it, nobody cares, I guess they weren’t very exciting.”

“We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs,” he said, citing the existence of “Angel Moms,” a designation for mothers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. The designation was created by anti-immigrant group the Remembrance Project.

“So we’re going to be signing a national emergency,” Trump said, calling it “a great thing to do” because of the “invasion” from our country.

He also suggested that China’s drug policy was superior to the United States’ because China executes drug dealers.

Friday’s announcement, the likes of which Trump has openly considered for months, will undoubtedly set up a confrontation between the executive branch and both the legislative and judicial branches as Congress seeks to retain its own constitutional authority over the public purse.

While Congress has seen fit to appropriate only $1.375 billion for border barrier construction, White House Acting Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that the declaration will allow Trump to redirect three “pots of money.”

These include 600 million from the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon’s anti-drug efforts, and $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s construction budget, regardless of Congress’ express intentions.

A senior administration official said the total of $8 billion will allow Trump to order construction of approximately 234 miles of “bollard wall” barrier.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted the president’s decision in a statement Thursday.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” they wrote

“It is yet another demonstration of President Trump’s naked contempt for the rule of law. This is not an emergency, and the president’s fear-mongering doesn’t make it one. He couldn’t convince Mexico, the American people or their elected representatives to pay for his ineffective and expensive wall, so now he’s trying an end-run around Congress in a desperate attempt to put taxpayers on the hook for it. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities.”

Even some Republicans criticized the decision and suggested it exceeded the president’s constitutional authority.

“We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement Thursday.

Maine Senator Susan Collins noted in a statement that the National Emergencies Act, the 1976 law the White House is making use of, was intended for natural disasters or terror attacks.

“It is also of dubious constitutionality, and it will almost certainly be challenged in the courts,” she added.

Collins’ and Rubio’s convictions may be put to the test if Pelosi and House Democrats pass a so-called “resolution of disapproval” to terminate the emergency, which would force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to hold a vote on the resolution.

McConnell had previously spoken out against the idea of Trump declaring a national emergency on the border, but changed his tune Thursday after the president told him that he’d be signing the appropriations bill needed to stave off another government shutdown.

While Democrats warned that Trump’s invocation of the National Emergencies Act could create a precedent for future Democratic president to follow to take action on gun control or climate change, a senior administration official said Trump’s declaration “creates zero precedent.”

“The president is not waving a magic wand,” the official said, adding that the authority to declare a national emergency has been on the books since 1976.

When asked whether the president was claiming he had authority to ignore specific prohibitions against use of appropriated funds for wall construction, the official claimed that the use of reprogrammed funds in violation of Congress’ prohibition is permissible because those prohibitions do not apply to the previously-appropriated funds the president will be reprogramming.

“This is common authority,” he said.

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Andrew Feinberg covers the White House, Capitol Hill, and anywhere else news happens for BeltwayBreakfast.com and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has reported on policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007, and his writing has appeared in publications like The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Silicon Angle, and Washington Business Journal. He has also appeared on both daytime and prime radio and television news programs on NPR, Sirius-XM, CNN, MSNBC, ABC (Australia), Al Jazeera, NBC Digital, Voice of America, TV Rain (Russia) and CBS News. Andrew wishes he could say he lives in Washington, DC with his dog, but unfortunately, he lives in a no-dogs building in suburban Maryland.

White House

Trump Administration Moves to Block Nearly Every Asylum Request at the U.S.-Mexico Border

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Screenshot from AP Video

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2019 — The Trump administration said Monday that it would move to block nearly everyone from requesting asylum if they arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border by making anyone who did not apply in an another country ineligible.

The forthcoming rule, which is to be published jointly in the Federal Register by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, would bar any alien from receiving asylum “who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border, but who did not apply for protection from persecution or torture where it was available in at least one third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which he or she transited en route to the United States.”

If the rule goes into effect and is enforced, it would have the practical effect of making anyone who arrives in the United States at the southern border ineligible for asylum unless they were denied protection after applying in another country, can demonstrate that they were a victim of “a severe form of trafficking in persons, or if the countries they passed through on the way to the United States were not parties to 1951 and 1967 immigration treaties.

Successful implementation of the rule would mark a major victory for President Donald Trump and his administration. Ending the ability of mostly non-white refugees from South and Central America to seek asylum has long been a priority for Trump, who largely based his 2016 campaign on a promise to build a concrete wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump and his allies have frequently complained that the United States’ laws governing asylum — which are based in part on treaty obligations implemented in the 1980 Refugee Act — are a “magnet” which draws undesirable people to the United States.

The President has also frequently repeated the false claim that those seeking asylum are “illegal immigrants,” despite the fact that asylum is a legal process and those who seek it have rights which are guaranteed under the United States Constitution.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan said the rule is necessary because the supplemental appropriations bill passed by Congress will not be sufficient because Congress has not taken action to amend laws governing the asylum process and make other changes to the immigration system.

“Until Congress can act, this interim rule will help reduce a major ‘pull’ factor driving irregular migration to the United States and enable DHS and DOJ to more quickly and efficiently process cases originating from the southern border, leading to fewer individuals transiting through Mexico on a dangerous journey,” he said.

Attorney General William Barr also defended the rule, calling it “a lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum.”

But Congressional Human Rights Council Chairman Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., called the Trump administration’s latest attempt to limit asylum claim an “un-American” rule which “once again highlights the Trump administration’s obsession with inflicting cruelty and pain on refugees seeking legal asylum from violence.”

“It contradicts the spirit of laws which Congress has passed to protect asylum seekers and is not legal under the statutes they cite. I hope the courts hold the administration accountable to the rule of law and put an end to this nonsense as quickly as they can,” he said.

In a statement, ACLU Immigrant Rights Project Deputy Director Lee Gelernt said the Trump administration “is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger.”

He added that the new rule is “patently unlawful” and said the ACLU will sue to block it “swiftly.

The immigration treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory are the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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Saying The Quiet Part Loud

Trump Unleashes Racist Smear Against House Dems’ ‘Squad’

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L-R: Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ayanna Pressley D-Mass., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2019 — President Trump on Sunday cribbed a line from a Jim Crow past most Americans hoped was well behind them, by suggesting that the four progressive House Democrats collectively known as ‘the squad’ should return to the countries associated with their ethnic backgrounds.

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning, just before leaving for yet another round of golf at a Trump Organization property.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how t is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!” he added.

Trump’s tweet was directed at four freshman Democrats with minority backgrounds who’ve have often drawn the ire of both Republicans and more moderately-minded Democrats since joining the House in January, and was reminiscent of taunts hurled at civil rights activists in the Jim Crow south, telling them to “go back to Africa.”

Two of them, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., are the first Muslim-American women ever elected to Congress, while the other two gained their seats by defeating more moderate veterans.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., became the youngest person ever elected to the House after knocking off then-Democratic caucus chair Rep. Joseph Crowley in a shocking primary upset. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., took a similarly meteoric path to Washington by defeating then-Rep. Mike Capuano, a 20-year veteran of the House.

Despite Trump’s insistence that all four should “go back,” most have nowhere to go back to except their home states.

While Tlaib is of Palestinian descent, she was born in Detroit, Michigan. Pressley, the Massachusetts freshman, was born in Ohio, Ocasio-Cortez, the Bronx (despite suggestions from her Republican critics that she is from Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States and not a foreign nation).

Only Rep. Omar, who came to the United States as an 11-year-old refugee after her family fled Somalia, was born abroad, but she has been a citizen since 2000.

The first Somali-American to serve in Congress, Omar has been the subject of a constant drumbeat of attacks from the more conspiracy-minded corners of conservative media since she won the seat vacated by now-Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who’d been the first Muslim-American elected to Congress.

And although tensions between Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had been flaring since the foursome broke ranks to vote against a supplemental appropriations package they said lacked provisions for oversight of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, Pelosi on Sunday was one of the first to weigh in in defense of the so-called “squad.”

“When [Trump] tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again,” she tweeted.

Also speaking up in their defense was Tlaib’s fellow Michigander, Rep. Justin Amash.

Amash, who recently became an independent after bolting the GOP this past July 4, called Trump’s comments “racist and disgusting.”

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Trump Tweets

Appeals Court Says Trump Can’t Block Twitter Critics

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WASHINGTON, July 9, 2019 — A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has found that President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter’s “block” feature against his critics violates the First Amendment because he uses his private Twitter account for official government business.

The unanimous decision upholds a prior district court ruling which rejected the Justice Department’s argument that Trump was acting as a private individual when he blocked several critics from viewing tweets on the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account.

“[The] First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” Circuit Judge Barrington Parker explained.

Barrington, who was named to the Second Circuit by President George W. Bush, took care to note that the court did not consider whether elected officials could block users from a “wholly private” social media account.

“The salient issues in this case arise from the decision of the President to use a relatively new type of social media platform to conduct official business and to interact with the public,” he wrote.

Writing for himself and his colleagues — George W. Bush appointee Peter Hall and Obama appointee Christopher F. Droney — Barrington explained that the court found that Trump “has consistently used the [@realDonaldTrump] Account as an important tool of governance and executive outreach,” based on his use of Twitter to announce personnel actions, promote administration initiatives, and numerous statements from administration officials which concede that his tweets are official statements from the President of the United States.

The three judges were “not persuaded” by the Justice Department’s arguments that the President’s Twitter account is a private vehicle for his own use and not a public forum, that blocking an individual does not prevent a user from accessing Trump’s tweets, or that the tweets are exempt from the First Amendment under the “government speech” doctrine.

“We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the Account is overwhelming. We also conclude that once the President has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.” he wrote.

When reached by email, Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco reiterated the government’s argument that Trump’s decision to block users from his personal Twitter account does not violate the First Amendment.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision and are exploring possible next steps,” she wrote.

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