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After Commerce Department Says It Will Print Census Sans Citizenship Question, Trump Calls Reports ‘FAKE’

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WASHINGTON, July 3, 2019 — President Trump on Wednesday denied reports that the Commerce Department would soon begin printing 2020 census questionnaires without the citizenship question his administration had hoped to include, despite his own Commerce Secretary’s assertions to the contrary.

“The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!” Trump tweeted, adding that his administration is “absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.”

Trump’s latest comments on the census directly contradict officials at the Commerce and Justice departments who say that the 2020 questionnaires are on their way to the printers.

“The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Tuesday. The Justice Department also confirmed that the question would not appear on the 2020 census in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling which found that Ross had not been forthright when he claimed that adding a citizenship question was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The President’s tweet took White House officials by surprise, leaving aides to do little more than refer questions to the same agencies Trump was contradicting, though two administration sources contacted by BeltwayBreakfast suggested that the President may have been mistaken.

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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

New Court Documents Suggest Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway Knew About Porn Star Hush Money Deal

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Donald Trump and adult film star Stormy Daniels

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2019 — Newly-available court documents suggest that two of President Trump’s closest 2016 campaign advisors may have known about a “hush agreement” and financial settlement meant to keep adult film actress Stormy Daniels from talking about her affair in the days before the November 2016 election.

According to unsealed search warrant documents, a Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent reveals that Hope Hicks, the former White House Communications Director and Trump campaign press secretary, participated in a three-way call with then-candidate Trump and his attorney, Michael Cohen, at the same time that Cohen was exchanging phone calls and text messages with American Media, Inc. executives Dylan Howard and David Pecker, and Keith Davidson, then the attorney for Ms. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

While the agent does not reveal the contents of the calls, their existence strongly suggests that Hicks was involved in the discussions that led to Cohen making what was later found to be an illegal campaign contribution by paying Daniels money to keep her from talking about her affair before the election.

The same documents also show that Cohen, who is currently in federal prison for campaign finance law violations, contacted Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on the same day that the hush money had been transferred to Daniels.

Neither Hicks nor Conway immediately responded to requests for comment.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

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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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