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"Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech," said Benjamin Franklin.
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By Alan Rappeport

WASHINGTON — President Trump undercut his own Treasury Department on Friday by announcing that he was rolling back North Korea sanctions that it imposed just a day ago. The move, announced on Twitter, was a remarkable display of dissension within the Trump administration and represented a striking case of a White House intervening to reverse a major national security decision made only hours earlier by the president’s own officials. “It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” Mr. Trump appeared to confuse the day that the sanctions were announced, saying the move occurred on Friday rather than on Thursday. The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed new sanctions on two Chinese shipping companies that it says have been helping North Korea evade international sanctions. The sanctions linked to North Korea were the first that the Treasury Department had imposed since late last year and came less than a month after a summit meeting between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, collapsed in Hanoi, Vietnam, without a deal. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the decision was a favor to Mr. Kim. “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” she said. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary and one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal aides, personally signed off on the sanctions and hailed the decision in a statement accompanying them on Thursday. “The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related U.N. Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome,” Mr. Mnuchin said in the statement. Tony Sayegh, a Treasury Department spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Trump’s tweet on Friday. Treasury and State Department officials, including career staff members and political appointees, spend months carefully crafting sanctions based on intensive intelligence gathering and legal research. Current and former Treasury Department officials were stunned by Mr. Trump’s decision on Friday. Some said they wondered if the move was planned in advance, as a gesture to Mr. Kim. Others feared that America’s vaunted sanctions regime had been compromised. “For an administration that continues to surprise, this is another first — the president of the United States undercutting his own sanctions agency for imposing sanctions on Chinese actors supporting North Korea,” said John E. Smith, the former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, who left the department last year. “It’s a win for North Korea and China and a loss for U.S. credibility.” The department did issue a new round of sanctions against Iran on Friday, targeting a research and development unit that it believes could be used to restart Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. It also announced new sanctions on Bandes, Venezuela’s national development bank, and its subsidiaries, as part of its effort to topple the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

By Daniella Cheslow

The Trump administration has backed Israel's claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The move comes weeks before Israeli general elections and reverses the position U.S. administrations have held for decades. President Trump made the announcement via tweet Thursday. "After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!" the president wrote. After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed the territory, a move not recognized by the U.S. or the international community. For years, the U.S. has tried to broker a regional agreement that would involve Israel exchanging captured territory for peace. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has repeatedly endorsed controversial Israeli positions. In early March the U.S. closed its Jerusalem Consulate, which has been the lead diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, NPR's Daniel Estrin reported. It folded that job into the U.S. embassy to Israel. Last year the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and backed Israel's assertion that the city is its capital. Palestinians claim part of the city as the capital of their future state. Previously, the U.S. held that the status of the city would be determined in peace talks. After the U.S. moved the embassy, Palestinian leaders cut contacts with the Trump administration. Washington has also shut off most funding to the Palestinians, leaving unfinished school and sewage projects in the West Bank.

It’s actually about power — specifically, the conservative attempt to seize it on college campuses.
By Zack Beauchamp

President Donald Trump gleefully pressed on another culture war hot button Thursday afternoon, issuing an executive order that’s supposed to address allegedly serious threats to free speech on America’s college campuses. The order itself does very little in practical terms: As my colleague Ella Nilsen explains, it basically amounts to reminding universities about existing law. But that doesn’t mean the order is insignificant. It reflects, instead, the degree to which the conservative movement, joined by a few prominent anti–political correctness crusaders, has created a panic about the limitation of free speech on college campuses — as Trump demonstrated in his signing statement for the order. “Under the guise of speech codes and safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity, and shut down the voices of great young Americans,” he said. But there is no campus free speech crisis. Certainly, campuses are not perfect havens of free speech — it really is true that conservatives are underrepresented in campus political discussions — but a few problems do not warrant a major panic. Most of the conversation about campus censorship and free speech violations stemmed from a handful of high-profile incidents, inflated by right-wing campus watchdogs and breathless media coverage about the kids these days, in a country with thousands of college campuses and millions of college students. But the fact that Trump issued the executive order at all shows just how central universities are in the conservative cultural imagination, and how devoted the current right is to a political vision in which radical professors and left-wing students are responsible for America’s problems. They are so concerned, in fact, that they are willing to endorse the federal government interfering to punish universities they deem insufficiently friendly to conservatives. That’s because this isn’t a battle about free speech. it’s a fight over political power and cultural control.

The phantom free speech crisis
The relevant portion of Thursday’s executive order instructs 12 federal agencies to ensure that the universities receiving research grants “promote free inquiry.” What this means in practical terms was left unspecified. The order doesn’t change existing law or regulation. It just sends a message to schools to be extra-careful that they’re following “all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies” if they want to keep getting federal dollars. But when conservatives raise the alarm about a “campus free speech crisis,” they don’t speak in terms of violations of federal law. Instead, they allege that dissenting voices are being muzzled on campus in softer ways: conservative speakers disinvited from campus engagements, or professors fired for expressing controversial opinions. Certainly there are instances of political censorship on campuses. But the evidence that they are a major problem, one requiring presidential-level attention, is quite thin. The best work on this front, to my mind, has been done by Acadia University’s Jeffrey Sachs. In a piece published by the center-right Niskanen Center, Sachs marshaled a wealth of data to show that the number of free speech-threatening incidents on US college campuses is small and actually declining. Sachs’s chart of data on campus speaker disinvitations shows that last year, such incidents were at their lowest number in 10 years.

The president said Thursday that American students and values are 'under siege' and universities are 'anti-First Amendment'
By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that would withhold federal research and education funds from colleges if they don't certify that they will protect free-speech rights on campus. "We’re here to take historic actions to defend American students and American values," Trump said at the White House. "They’ve been under siege." Colleges and universities spend as much as $40 billion in federal research and development dollars annually, according to the National Science Foundation, a total which doesn't include higher education grants that would also be subject to the executive order. A senior administration official said federal financial aid for tuition would not be affected by the action. Public colleges and universities are already required to abide by the First Amendment. Trump took a similar approach to try to cut off Justice Department grants to so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. But that executive order has been ruled unconstitutional by multiple federal courts. The idea that universities are cracking down on conservative thought and speech has become a cause celebre on the political right, and one that Trump has taken up as a major political issue as he heads into his re-election campaign. In recent weeks, he has focused attention to an altercation on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, in which an organizer for the conservative group Turning Point USA was punched while "tabling" — or providing information — to students on campus. Neither the student who was punched nor the person charged in the incident, who pleaded not guilty, are students at the school. The university has called the discussion around the incident "willfully distorted and inaccurate."

By Manu Raju and Lauren Fox, CNN

(CNN)House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said Thursday his committee has obtained new information that several senior White House officials have used personal email and messaging accounts to conduct government business, asserting that President Donald Trump's son-in-law communicated with foreign leaders through a private messaging application that appears to lack adequate safeguards. In a Thursday letter to the White House, the Maryland Democrat alleged that Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, had been using WhatsApp, a popular messaging application, to "communicate with foreign leaders" -- something he said that Kushner's attorney had confirmed in a private meeting. He also contended that Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act by her use of private emails. The allegations from Democrats that some of Trump's closest confidants -- as well as former officials Steve Bannon and K.T. McFarland -- used personal email come as Trump continues to attack Hillary Clinton for using a private email system when serving as secretary of state. In the letter, Cummings revealed that his panel learned the new information in a private meeting in December with Abbe Lowell, an attorney for both Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Lowell referred inquiries to the White House and National Security Council about whether Kushner communicated classified information through WhatsApp, something that Cummings said would constitute a "major security breach." "For example during a meeting with Mr. Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, Mr. Lowell confirmed that Mr. Kushner has been using the messaging application WhatsApp as part of his official White House duties to communicate with foreign leaders. Mr. Lowell could not answer whether Mr. Kushner's communications included classified information," Cummings wrote. According to Cummings, when pressed how Kushner was backing up his communications in order to assure that he wasn't violating the Presidential Records Act, Lowell responded that Kushner took "screenshots" and forwarded them to his official White House email account or to the National Security Council. According to Cummings, when Lowell was asked if Kushner ever communicated classified information on WhatsApp, Lowell responded, "That's above my paygrade." The Oversight Committee began looking into the use of personal email at the White House in March 2017, when Republicans still controlled the committee. The committee launched a bipartisan investigation into the use of "personal email and messaging accounts" by "non-career officials at the White House," but Cummings says in the letter that even after he followed up in December 2018 requesting documents on the cusp of becoming chairman, "the White House failed to produce any additional documents" and "failed to provide the promised briefing during this timeframe."

Trump exaggerated his role in handling funeral arrangements for McCain, who could not thank him because he was dead
By Shira Tarlo

President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued — and escalated — his unrelenting attacks on former Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has remained one of the president's most prominent targets seven months after his death. In an appearance in Lima, Ohio, Trump claimed McCain"didn't get the job done" for veterans — even though McCain and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., sponsored the Veterans Choice Act in 2014 to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand veterans' access to healthcare and make it easier for department officials to handle misconduct. McCain fought to expand the program after it was first signed into law in 2014 — and Trump signed the expansion into law in May 2018. Trump also complained he did not receive proper gratitude for handling arrangements for McCain's funeral last September. "I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve," Trump said. "I don't care about this, but I didn't get a thank you. That’s OK. We sent him on the way, but I wasn't a fan of John McCain." "I have to be honest, I never liked him much – hasn't been for me. I've really – probably, never will," the president added. Trump authorized the use of military transport to carry McCain's body to Washington, but he only ordered the American flag to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings after facing criticism from his own staff, veterans groups and lawmakers. Other elements of McCain's funeral were not decided by the president. McCain was lain in the Capitol Rotunda – a decision formally approved by Congress. The president's repeated denunciation of a senator from his own party, who passed away in August after a months-long battle with brain cancer and has been hailed as a "maverick," is significant even for a president constantly at war with those he sees as challenging him. It also comes amid a wave of statements in recent days praising McCain in the wake of Trump's attacks. However, while many Republican lawmakers stepped up their defense of McCain, few called out Trump for his insults. "I just want to lay it on the line that the country deserves better, the McCain family deserves better," Sen. Johnny Jackson of Georgia told The Bulwark, a conservative news site, in an interview published Wednesday. "I don't care if he's president of United States, owns all the real estate in New York or is building the greatest immigration system in the world." Trump recently reignited his years-long offensive against the Arizona Republican, lashing out at the late senator on Twitter and telling reporters in the Oval Office that he remains "very unhappy" with McCain. The president voiced his frustration over the late senator's famous late-night thumbs down vote against legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Trump called McCain's pivotal "no" vote against a so-called "skinny" repeal measure of the Affordable Care Act "disgraceful" and claimed McCaine sank efforts by Republicans to repeal the healthcare law, among "other things" which have left him angered. In addition to his 2017 healthcare vote, the president took aim at McCain, who passed away in August after a months-long battle with brain cancer, for his reported role in passing a salacious dossier full of damning allegations about Trump's ties to Russia to the FBI. BuzzFeed News published the 35-page dossier in full in January of 2017, with the disclaimer that the dossier was "not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors." Many of the claims in the document have been confirmed, but the most explosive claims remain unverified.

by Quin Hillyer

One can spend several days trying not to overreact to President Trump’s latest, unprovoked tweetstorm against the late Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., yet still conclude that there is something sick and twisted about Trump’s obsession with the singular American hero Trump disparages. Tom Rogan already in these pages has eloquently explained why, fake heel spurs or no fake heel spurs, Trump could never be fit to wear McCain’s discarded shoes. And lawyer George Conway, husband of top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, has presented a persuasive case that Trump’s fulminations about McCain and other bizarre eruptions are signs of a personality disorder. What remains, though, is a reminder that on facts as well as fulminations, Trump’s flip-out against McCain is full of falsehoods. First, as many others have noted, Trump repeatedly accused McCain of trying to spread the so-called “Steele dossier” as a way to block Trump’s election, but the undisputed evidence shows McCain didn’t even become aware of the dossier until after Election Day. (Plus, McCain did exactly what a senator should do when provided such material: He turned it over to the FBI, without prejudice. But that’s beside the point about Trump’s dishonesty.) What has not been as adequately refuted is Trump’s allegation that McCain voted against a bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and that McCain’s vote was a big surprise. Neither element of that story is true.

First, by the time a healthcare bill finally reached a vote in the Senate, it was in no way, shape or form a “repeal and replace” bill. In reality, it was a shell of a bill known as “skinny repeal,” which did next to nothing other than keep a title and fulfill a promise to repeal the individual and employer mandates from Obamacare. The bill, in short, was an absolute sham. On its own terms, as even most of its supporters admitted, it made no sense, but would have thrown the healthcare market into absolute turmoil. Instead, skinny repeal was meant only to keep alive the anti-Obamacare effort until something could be concocted behind the closed doors of a conference committee with members of the House. As neither the House nor the Senate versions had been vetted in open committee hearings, and as the Senate’s skinny repeal was such a sham anyway, McCain reasoned that whatever emerged from conference committee would be seen by the public as illegitimate. He may or may not have been right in that assessment, but it was not unreasonable. And, as skinny repeal itself was a fraud, McCain was indisputably not breaking his pledge to support a repeal of Obamacare combined with a free-market replacement. Not only that, but he believed, correctly, that the one substantive element of skinny repeal, the elimination of the individual mandate, could be accomplished anyway — as, indeed, it was, in the GOP tax reform bill that later became law. Thus, McCain’s vote effectively blocked no GOP progress on that front, none at all. Finally, it is just a lie to say McCain had not signaled his intentions, and his reasoning, well in advance. Two days earlier, in his tour de force of a major floor speech upon his return to the Senate from his initial cancer treatment, McCain signaled quite clearly where he stood [with my emphases in Italics]: “I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state's governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it. We've tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it's better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don't think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn't.” And he continued in that vein for several more paragraphs. - Only a dirty, scandalous low life would attack the dead.

By Brian Naylor

Amid signs that special counsel Robert Mueller will soon complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump says that he looks forward to seeing the report and that it should be made public. Answering questions from reporters on the South Lawn of the White House prior to traveling to Ohio on Wednesday, Trump said of Mueller's report, "Let it come out. Let people see it — that's up to the attorney general." Federal law requires Mueller to present Attorney General William Barr with a confidential report upon the completion of his work. By an overwhelming vote last week, the House called on Barr to release whatever report Mueller submits to the Justice Department. During his confirmation hearing in January, Barr said his goal "will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law," regarding Mueller's final report, but stopped short of promising to release it. Trump again on Wednesday insisted, "There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing." He added, "I want to see the report, and you know who will want to see it? The tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy that we have ever had." Trump also criticized, although not by name, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russia probe, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee Mueller's work. Rosenstein appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, to conduct the investigation. On Wednesday, Trump said that Sessions "didn't have the courage to do it himself" and said that it was interesting "that a man out of the blue just writes a report," before again recalling his Electoral College victory in 2016.

By Ted Barrett and Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN)Sen. Johnny Isakson said President Donald Trump's criticism of the late Sen. John McCain is "deplorable," and the Georgia Republican promised to continue speaking out against Trump if he continues to speak ill of the deceased war hero and former GOP presidential nominee. "It's deplorable what he said," Isakson told Georgia Public Broadcasting on Wednesday afternoon when asked about a series of critical comments Trump has made about McCain. "That's what I said on the floor of the Senate seven months ago. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again and I will continue to speak out." Isakson continued "There aren't Democratic causalities and Republican casualties on the battlefield, there are American casualties. And we should never reduce the service that people give to this country including the offering of their own lives to any political fodder in Washington, DC, or anywhere else for that matter." In the wake of McCain's death last year, Isakson gave a Senate speech at the time that said "anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping because most of those who would do the wrong thing about John McCain didn't have the guts to do the right thing when it was their turn." Isakson told the station Wednesday, "we can't talk about our veterans in any way but to thank them for the service they render for the job that they do." "If my kids started talking John McCain not being a hero, or because he was a prisoner of war didn't make any difference, they would have a serious conversation with me and I would have it with them," Isakson continued. Isakson previewed his comments Wednesday in remarks to The Bulwark, where said in an interview Tuesday that "I want to do what I said that day on the floor of the Senate." "I just want to lay it on the line, that the country deserves better, the McCain family deserves better, I don't care if he's President of United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world. Nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us," Isakson told the news outlet from the conservative Defending Democracy Together Institute. Isakson has previously made clear his reluctance to criticize Trump.

The ruling temporarily halts drilling on 300,000 acres of leases in Wyoming.
By Juliet Eilperin

A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in the West. The decision by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington marks the first time the Trump administration has been held to account for the climate impact of its energy-dominance agenda, and it could have sweeping implications for the president’s plan to boost fossil fuel production across the country. Contreras concluded that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when making decisions to auction off federal land in Wyoming to oil and gas drilling in 2015 and 2016. The judge temporarily blocked drilling on roughly 300,000 acres of land in the state. The initial ruling in the case brought by two advocacy groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, has implications for oil and gas drilling on federal land throughout the West. In the decision, Contreras---a Barack Obama appointee — faulted the agency’s environmental assessments as inadequate because it did not detail how individual drilling projects contributed to the nation’s overall carbon output. Since greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change, the judge wrote, these analyses did not provide policymakers and the public with a sufficient understanding of drilling’s impact, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. “Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling,” he wrote. Contreras did not void the leases outright, but instead ordered BLM to redo its analysis of hundreds of projects in Wyoming.

By JOSH GERSTEIN

RICHMOND — A federal appeals court panel was indisputably hostile Tuesday to a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from his business dealings with foreign countries seeking to curry favor with his administration. The uphill battle the suit faces was evident before the arguments even began Tuesday morning when it was revealed that all three 4th Circuit Court of Appeals judges assigned to the case are GOP appointees, including two of the court’s most conservative jurists. One of those judges suggested that the suit could be a precursor to attempting to drive the president from office through impeachment. And two of the judges came close to accusing the Maryland-based district court judge handling the suit, Clinton-appointee Peter Messitte, of impropriety for trying to engineer the challenge rather than responding to legal issues presented to him by the officials who brought the suit: the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C. The arguments in the so-called foreign emoluments case test largely uncharted areas of constitutional law, but also serve as a reminder of the numerous ethical challenges Trump’s administration has faced, with a series of Cabinet members departing under clouds of scandal. Maryland and D.C. jointly brought the emoluments case in 2017. Of the three appeals judges who heard more than two hours of arguments Tuesday, Judge Dennis Shedd sounded most skeptical about the case, challenging lawyers for D.C. and Maryland at every turn. Shedd pressed D.C. Solicitor General Loren AliKhan on what her office was looking to get out of the suit beyond a declaration that Trump is breaking the law. “Do you think that will be a basis for a high crime or misdemeanor for impeachment?” asked Shedd, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

Whether Mueller will answer that question is unclear. But House Intel Chair Adam Schiff said he is steering his probe in a new direction to focus on it.
By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — Nearly two years into his investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller has not accused any member of the Trump campaign of conspiring with the 2016 election interference effort — and it's not clear whether he will. But legal experts, along with the congressman leading the House Russia investigation, tell NBC News that the most important question investigators must answer is one that may never have been suitable for the criminal courts: Whether President Trump or anyone around him is under the influence of a foreign government. "It's more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016," said Martin Lederman, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration. "It's more important to know whether he has been compromised as president than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime." Whether Mueller will answer that question in the absence of criminal charges is unclear. But in an interview with NBC News, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he is steering his investigation in a new direction to focus on it — and he will demand any relevant evidence compiled by the FBI or Mueller's team. The California Democrat also expressed concern that Mueller hasn't fully investigated Trump's possible financial history with Russia. "From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it's very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at," Schiff told NBC News. Schiff said the public testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that in 2016 Trump stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a secret Moscow real estate project is a staggering conflict of interest that must be fully explored. "I certainly agree that the counterintelligence investigation may be more important than the criminal investigation because it goes to a present threat to our national security — whether the president and anybody around him are compromised by a foreign power," Schiff said. "That's not necessarily an issue that can be covered in indictments." In fact, most FBI counterintelligence investigations don't result in criminal charges, experts say, because they tend to involve secret intelligence that either can't be used in court or doesn't add up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the FBI assesses that a government official is compromised by a foreign adversary, officials often will quietly remove that person from a sensitive role or wall him or her off from classified information.

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the U.S. government’s authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime - potentially even years - after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies. The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines, with its conservative justices in the majority and its liberal justices dissenting, that federal authorities could pick up such immigrants and place them into indefinite detention anytime, not just immediately after they finish prison sentences. The ruling, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, left open the possibility that some immigrants could challenge their detention. These immigrants potentially could argue that the use of the 1996 federal law involved in the case, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, against them long after finishing their sentences would violate their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution. Most of the plaintiffs in the case are legal immigrants. The law states the government can detain convicted immigrants “when the alien is released” from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers in the case argued that the language of the law shows that it applies only immediately after immigrants are released. The Trump administration said the government should have the power to detain such immigrants anytime. In dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling raises serious due process questions. “It runs the gravest risk of depriving those whom the government has detained of one of the oldest and most important of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms,” Breyer wrote.

Trump doesn’t plan to negotiate with Congress over investigations the way his predecessors did.
By ANITA KUMAR

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler wrote to the White House last month demanding information about President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to fund the construction of a southern border wall. Yet Nadler’s Feb. 22 deadline came and went with no response. Not only did the Democratic congressman not receive the documents he wanted, he didn’t even receive a customary letter back from the White House acknowledging his request. It was just one example of the Trump White House’s unusually hostile — or in this case, non-existent — response to congressional investigators. In their early response to an onslaught of Democratic requests, Trump officials are breaking from norms set by previous administrations of both parties, according to people who worked in the White House or Capitol Hill during the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Over the last two months, Trump’s intent has become clear: He doesn’t plan to negotiate with Congress over their demands for information and witnesses the way his predecessors did. Instead, House Democrats are going to have to fight him for everything. POLITICO contacted the 17 House committees that unsuccessfully requested records or witnesses from the Trump administration over the last two months. In most cases involving the White House itself, as opposed to agencies and departments, the request was ignored altogether. In at least one instance, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone responded with an aggressive letter questioning the committee’s authority to even ask for information. (In contrast to the White House, departments and agencies often delivered requested information politely.) Another deadline came and went on Monday. The White House ignored Nadler’s latest request for a slew of documents about fired administration officials, Russian nationals and Trump businesses, according to a person familiar with the situation. The White House and Committee declined to comment. As a result — despite high hopes among Democrats that they would quickly be in possession of troves of internal Trump administration documents, and grilling a succession of administration witnesses — a long and frustrating fight with Trump lawyers lies ahead, a fight that could end up in court. Splashy demands of the White House made in the early days of the new House Democratic majority, could take many months, possibly stretching well into 2020, to produce results. Democrats are already furious over what they call the brazen stonewalling. But David Bossie, a Trump confidant and adviser who served as the House GOP’s lead investigator into the Clinton White House in the 1990s, predicted that Trump officials will face no serious legal consequences for ignoring the requests — and said they are justified in doing so because Democrats are waging what they call nakedly partisan inquiries. “The White House is taking the exact right tactic to ignore the requests and see what comes of it,” he said. “I wouldn’t respect [the Democrats’] process.”

The House Judiciary Committee set a Monday deadline for 81 people, government agencies, and private organizations to submit material.
By Asawin Suebsaeng, Spencer Ackerman

President Trump’s personal legal team is telling a crucial House committee seeking documents from dozens of Trumpworld associates that it has nothing to turn over–an early signal that both sides are gearing up for a confrontation. Monday is the deadline set by the House Judiciary committee for 81 people, government agencies and private organizations to voluntarily submit substantial amounts of written material relevant to a practically omnibus House Democratic investigation. The Judiciary Democrats are after far more than just the ties to Russia that their Intelligence Committee members are investigating. They want material speaking to abuses of official power, public corruption, and obstruction of justice. In what they characterized on March 4 as an opening salvo, the Judiciary Committee said that recipients of their document requests could, to facilitate production, begin turning over the material they may have already provided to the criminal investigations into Trumpworld run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. But the president’s lawyers believe they’ve got the committee caught in a logic trap. According to a source with knowledge of the response, Trump’s team of outside attorneys informed Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and his committee that they would not be handing over any documents. The brief letter, sent by Trump attorney Jane Raskin, lays out that Jay Sekulow—the Trump lawyer who received the documents request early this month—and the current team never turned over anything pertinent to the document request to Mueller’s office or the Southern District. Hence, the source said, when Nadler asked Trump’s outside counsel for such documents, the attorneys’ position is that the House Democrat was asking for something that didn’t exist. It’s not just the president’s non-White House legal team. At least one former Trump adviser has already signaled his willingness to poke Democratic lawmakers on the committee in the eye. Earlier this month, an attorney for Michael Caputo, a Republican strategist and former 2016 Trump campaign aide, sent a letter informing the Judiciary Committee that he does not plan to testify or cooperate with its inquiry. “My attorney responded to the House Judiciary document request within 24 hours—we have none of the requested documents,” Caputo told The Daily Beast on Monday. “I have testified three times under oath, answering the same questions each time, paying $20,000 to $30,000 each time. I have not yet been invited to testify a fourth time. If I am, I will decline. If I am subpoenaed, I will assert my Fifth Amendment rights. Enough is enough.” - Trump in 2016: The mob takes the Fifth. If Caputo plans to assert his Fifth Amendment right what did he do that is so incriminating? What is Caputo hiding and who might is he protecting?

Democrats are asking the FBI to probe former massage parlor owner Li “Cindy” Yang over her extensive connections with Republican figures and her alleged role in getting Chinese businessmen into political fundraisers, The Miami Herald reports. In a Friday letter, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees reportedly called for “criminal and counterintelligence investigations” into allegations of “potential human trafficking... unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance and other activities” against Yang. Yang, who often posted pictures of herself with Republican figures on social media, also reportedly arranged for a group of Chinese expats to attend a 2017 GOP fundraiser and is “part of a network of organizations” advocating for China to control Taiwan. She also reportedly founded the massage parlor where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly paid for sexual services. While Yang has not been charged with any crimes related to the massage parlor or connections, lawmakers reportedly wrote that her access to Republican figures could enable her and others to “acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes.”

From hand jobs to grip and grins with Donald Trump, the scandal is fraught with potential for blackmail.
By David Rothkopf

If the President of the United States is letting a Chinese madam sell access at Mar-a-Lago to Chinese business people while his friends are getting serviced at businesses she started, he is making himself and the country vulnerable to massive blackmail risk. It is a textbook story of how foreign actors gain leverage over senior officials. That point should not be lost amid the eye-popping prurience that runs through this tale, tempting though that might be. We’re talking about Florida, right? It has long been established that Florida is where the crazy goes to happen in America. It is where the rich go to play, the old go to die, political candidates claim they have been abducted by aliens, and everyone seems to want to rob the local convenience store with the aid of their pet alligator. So, when a story about a billionaire being arrested at a Jupiter, Florida strip mall sex spa breaks, our reflex is to snicker and write it off as another case of too many Sunshine State UV rays. And if that story were soon to develop to reveal that the billionaire was a friend of POTUS and that the founder of the spa also was a Mar-a-Lago regular who actually ran a business selling Chinese business people access to the president and his family, we might say, “Well, take Florida and add our zany, sleazemonster of a president and what do you expect?” But don’t shrug it off. And don’t let the crazy details of the story lead you to speculate wildly about what else might be going on with Cindy Yang, Donald Trump, the Orchids of Asia massage parlor or Yang’s other venture, GY US Investments. Just take what we know now, thanks to the great reporting of the Miami Herald and Mother Jones, both of which have broken a series of important stories about this tangled web of creeps trying to make a buck in the worst ways possible: Cindy Yang founded a chain of massage parlors. One of those was busted by Florida police. Robert Kraft, owner of the perennial Super Bowl champions New England Patriots was arrested for what he allegedly did at that spa, as were other prominent men according to several reports. Set aside the gut-wrenchingly horrific details of the sex trafficking that is at the heart of this story for a moment, and you might even see a choice irony in a madam who moved on from selling hand jobs to selling grip-and-grins with a president who himself has made pimping out his high office a signature part of his job.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump spent the weekend venting venom at a bewildering list of targets -- even as much of the rest of the world was still trying to come to terms with a true outrage -- the carnage wrought against Muslims in New Zealand. In a stunning display of personal grievances aired on Twitter, Trump demanded the return of a supportive Fox News host who was missing from her usual spot on Saturday after verbally attacking an American Muslim lawmaker. He escalated his beyond-the-grave feud with late Sen. John McCain. He complained at being lampooned by NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Trump also fulminated against the Russia investigation, "Radical Left Democrats" and took shots at an Ohio union boss before demanding a now-closed GM plant in Ohio be reopened or sold. It isn't that it is unusual for this most unconventional of Presidents to hit out at his foes on Twitter. But this weekend's tirade came across as even more jarring given his tepid tone on Friday when he said that he didn't think white supremacy was a growing global problem after the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50. And Trump did little to follow through on a request by Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, that he show love and sympathy to all Muslims. The President's refusal to be pushed into a more vehement condemnation of white supremacists, after a history of racially charged and anti-Muslim rhetoric put the administration on the defensive. "I don't think anybody can say the President is anti-Muslim," acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said when confronted with evidence like Trump's demand to ban all Muslim immigration during the 2016 campaign and a remark that "Islam hates us." Mulvaney, speaking on CBS "Face the Nation" on Sunday pushed back on the idea that "every time something bad happens ... folks who don't like Donald Trump, blame it on Donald Trump." On "Fox News Sunday" Mulvaney said: "The President is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that."

By Caroline Kelly and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump again attacked late Sen. John McCain Saturday -- prompting the Arizona Republican's daughter Meghan McCain to respond that "no one will ever love" Trump the way they loved her father. Trump's recent attack on McCain, who passed away in August, is the latest in his years-long offensive feud against the late senator, this time targeting McCain's ties to the controversial Russia dossier and his vote against repealing Obamacare. "Spreading the fake and totally discredited Dossier 'is unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain,'" Trump tweeted, quoting Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated then-President Bill Clinton. Starr called the dossier "a very dark stain" against McCain in an interview Saturday on Fox News, but also called McCain "a great man" and "an American hero." The comments referred to a series of memos written in 2016 by retired British spy Christopher Steele. They alleged a widespread conspiracy of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which both sides deny. The most salacious and damning allegations in the dossier remain unverified to this day. But the claims that form the bulk of the memos have held up over time, or at least proved to be partially true. McCain associate and former State Department diplomat David Kramer received copies of the dossier in 2016 and shared it with a reporter at BuzzFeed, according to court records. BuzzFeed then published the dossier in full, following CNN reports that President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump had been briefed about it. McCain denied giving the dossier to BuzzFeed in a 2017 interview with the Daily Callerbut did acknowledge providing it to the FBI. He provided a copy of the unconfirmed memos to then-FBI Director James Comey.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) Once again, President Donald Trump is having a tough time calling out far right-wing white nationalism.
His response to the carnage in New Zealand, where 49 people died in an attack on two mosques, is also raising fresh questions about his attitude toward Islam following a long history of anti-Muslim rhetoric -- and about the extent to which the President has a responsibility to moderate his language given the rise in white supremacy movements across the world. On Twitter and in remarks in the Oval Office, Trump was clear in condemning the killings. But he did not deliver a message of empathy and support to American Muslims, who may feel scared as security is stepped up at US mosques. "I spoke with Prime Minister Ardern of New Zealand to express the sorrow of our entire nation following the monstrous terror attacks at two mosques," Trump said in the Oval Office on Friday afternoon after first condemning the attack as "a horrible massacre in the Mosques" on Twitter. "These sacred places of worship were turned into scenes of evil killing," the President said. "We've all seen what went on. It's a horrible, horrible thing." But asked whether he saw a worrying rise in white supremacy movements around the world, Trump said he did not, blaming a small group of people "with very, very serious problems." He also told reporters that he had not seen the manifesto linked to by a social media account that's believed to belong to one of the attackers, which mentioned Trump by name and saw him as a symbol of renewed white identity. While the President did not reach out to Muslims around the world, his daughter offered the kind of language that might have been expected from a more conventional commander in chief. "We join New Zealand and Muslim communities around the world in condemnation of this evil as we pray for the families of each victim and grieve together," Ivanka Trump tweeted on Friday morning.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called the Christchurch killings a "vicious attack of hate," though she did not specifically mention that the attack was against Muslims. Trump's failure to do more to point out that the worshipers who died in Christchurch were Muslim represents a double standard, given that he has been much clearer in ascribing a religious motivation to other killings. Last year, after an attack on a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh, Trump spoke of an "anti-Semitic" motive in the attack, which itself sparked a debate over whether his inflammatory rhetoric was to blame for a rise in hate crimes. When 28 Coptic Christians died in suicide bombings in Egypt in May 2017, the President decried the "merciless slaughter of Christians" and warned that the "bloodletting of Christians must end." As a candidate, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims" entering the United States, and as President he eventually succeeded in using executive power to ban travel to the US by citizens of seven nations, five of them mainly Muslim. Trump has often been quick to wade in when a Muslim extremist has been a perpetrator of an attack and Muslims are not the victims, or to use such attacks to further his political arguments.

One day after a mass shooting in two New Zealand mosques that left 49 people dead and dozen injured, President Donald Trump said he does not see white nationalism as a rising global threat. “Do you see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?” ABC senior national correspondent Terry Morgan asked after the president vetoed the congressional resolution to blocking his national emergency declaration on the southern border. “I don’t. I don’t really. It’s a small group of people...But it is a terrible thing,” Trump answered. The Thursday night terror attack in Christchurch, which New Zealand prime minister described as “darkest day,” has been linked to a 28-year-old man who wrote a manifesto in which he calls himself a racist. Trump is also named in the 74-page document as "a symbol of white identity." I was just in the Oval Office, and asked President Trump: “Do you see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?” Trump answered: “I don’t. I don’t really. It’s a small group of people...But it is a terrible thing.” pic.twitter.com/dzsBepRug6 — Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) March 15, 2019. - Trump is wrong U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It.

By David Nakamura

President Trump’s claims that reduced tensions with North Korea resulting from his personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un demonstrated progress toward a nuclear deal were undercut Friday as Pyongyang lashed out at the administration’s “gangster-like” tactics and blamed his top aides for the failed summit last month. In the latest sign of mounting hostilities since disarmament talks collapsed in Hanoi, a top North Korean official also declared that leader Kim Jong Un is weighing cutting off bilateral dialogue with the United States. The threat came amid evidence that the regime had recently rebuilt a space-rocket and missile-launch site and raised doubts about the future of the negotiations. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui emphasized at a news conference in Pyongyang that the two leaders maintain a good relationship after the summit ended without a deal. And U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down tensions, responding in Washington that he expected that the two sides would continue “very professional conversations.”Yet behind the scenes, Trump aides have struggled to articulate a path to bridge the wide gaps between Washington’s demands that the North fully dismantle its nuclear weapons program and Pyongyang’s insistence that the United States ease punishing economic sanctions in exchange for incremental steps.In a private briefing in Washington this week, one White House official told foreign-policy analysts that Trump’s talks with Kim last month convinced the president that the regime is unwilling to surrender its nuclear program, said Sue Mi Terry, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who attended the briefing. “What he was saying is that everybody knew North Korea would not give up its nukes, but Trump was not sure,” she said. “And, most significantly, that Trump finally gets that fact, and it’s not easily solvable.”

Trump told Breitbart there could be biker violence against leftists. Sounded even worse after New Zealand mosque massacre manifesto called him "a symbol of renewed white identity."
By Anna Nemtsova

MOSCOW—They call themselves The Night Wolves, “a new kind of motorcycle club,” or, sometimes, “Putin’s Angels.” And just as much as the Orthodox Church or the military, the Wolves have become a symbol of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But the idea that they might be used as his extra-legal enforcers in times of trouble is usually implicit—embedded in their flag-waving Putinized patriotism—never really spelled out. U.S. President Donald Trump is not so subtle, however, especially when he takes his cues from the Kremlin. Leave it to him to put the potential for violent defense of his interests by a motorcycle gang front and center in the public view. “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump—I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” he told Breitbart on Monday in an interview published Wednesday. On Thursday, as the remark was drawing wide and largely unfavorable attention, he tweeted a link to the Breitbart home page. On Friday morning, as news broke of the massacre at mosques in New Zealand allegedly carried out by a right-wing extremist whose sometimes ironic manifesto called Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” the Breitbart tweet came down. Trump, you will recall, learned his special brand of politics from the promoters and crowds at pro wrestling events, where violence in the ring is staged, but that’s not always true in the stands. So he’s not likely to give up on the tough-guy iconography offered by bikers, or the way it can be used to incite others. And Russia remains a great example for him. Here, the Night Wolves are familiar figures, and have been since the 1990s. Their tall, burly, bearded leader Alexander Zaldastanov, nicknamed Khirurg (surgeon), often hugs Putin on camera, usually being careful not to make him look too short. (On bikes they look the same height.)

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) For President Donald Trump, a bad defeat is simply a spark for a future fight. The President reacted with characteristic defiance to Congress' repudiation of the national emergency declared in the cause of funding his border wall. "VETO!" he tweeted, promising to crush the insubordination of lawmakers who had tried, where many others had failed, to rein in his quest for power and contempt for constitutional norms. Trump's crisis management reveals defining attributes of this most unique of political careers: The irrepressible energy of a force of nature personality, a refusal to accept a loss and an instinctive reflex to seek a new opening. But it also showcases less positive traits, including his willingness to trample the truth for his own benefit, a selfish streak for which friendly foreign leaders sometimes pay the price and even a shockingly casual way of talking about political violence. His full political arsenal was on display in a Trumpian masterclass of a photo-op in the Oval Office Thursday with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. A historian 100 years hence could pull the tape of the 16-minute tour de force and learn everything they needed to know about the Trump presidency. Trump's behavior on Thursday offered pointers to how he will attempt to ride out political crosswinds using the unique political tools that made his late-in-life transition from business to Washington so successful. Thursday's rebuke from Congress came amid a spell that would have been disastrous for any conventional politician, as legal and congressional probes suggest tough challenges ahead as special counsel Robert Mueller's final report looms. Unusually, it also included a slap from some Republicans who have been loath to challenge their leader in the first two years of his presidency. Trump's refusal to show weakness or humility in defeat allied with a brazen, relentless temperament and an indifference to shame helps explain why he is so hard to bring down. Showing off sometimes diabolical but compelling political skills, Trump was audacious, provocative and spiteful. He made outrageous boasts about his own success and hinted at his acute sense of human nature and feral appreciation of weakness and discomfort in a political opponent. Trump also showed his indifference, or rude disregard for the political plights of allied leaders, indulged his willingness to trade in falsehoods, and betrayed his obsessions with his predecessor President Barack Obama.

By Jacob Pramuk

President Donald Trump said Friday that “there should be no” report from special counsel Robert Mueller on his Russia investigation. His comments come a day after the House unanimously passed a symbolic resolution calling for public release of the report Mueller gives to the Justice Department about his probe. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tried to bring the measure up in his chamber on Thursday, but Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., blocked it. The former FBI director is looking into the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Mueller is reportedly winding down the probe, which has dogged Trump at every turn since the special counsel’s appointment in May 2017. Mueller has to send his confidential conclusions to the Justice Department. Then, Attorney General William Barr will send his own report to Congress. He can decide what information to give to lawmakers or the public. In a series of tweets, Trump said the special counsel “should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report.” He also claimed Mueller’s investigation was “an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime.” “THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!” he added. Trump has repeatedly railed against the investigation, which he has called an illegal “witch hunt,” as it moves closer to him. The probe has contributed to guilty pleas from several former members of Trump’s inner circle and charges against numerous Russian nationals and companies. For instance, federal prosecutors have said Trump directed his ex-lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to commit campaign finance violations ahead of the 2016 election. They say Cohen paid off two women who claimed to have affairs with Trump in order to influence the election’s result. Cohen pleaded guilty to those charges and others after Mueller’s team referred the case to U.S. attorneys. Still, the charges against some in the president’s orbit, such as his former campaign chief Paul Manafort, did not directly relate to work for the Trump campaign. The president has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Only one in five U.S. taxpayers expect to pay less income tax this year as a result of the tax reform law passed in 2017 by Republicans who promised big savings for everyday Americans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Friday. The poll suggested that the tax overhaul, mostly geared to helping businesses, may not be as strong a 2020 campaign talking point as Republicans and President Donald Trump had hoped. Just prior to approval of the tax reform by the Republican-controlled Congress, Trump said, “This is going to be one of the great gifts to the middle-income people of this country that they’ve ever gotten for Christmas.” The tax overhaul lowered federal income tax rates for individuals as well as for corporations, but it also capped certain deductions, such as for state and local taxes, which could mean that some people will wind up paying more. The March 6-11 survey found about 21 percent of adults who had either filed their taxes or planned to said “the new tax plan that Congress recently passed” would let them pay less this year; about 29 percent said they would pay more; 27 percent said there would be no impact; 24 percent said they were not sure. The responses differed along party lines, with Republican taxpayers more likely than others to expect a tax benefit. According to the poll, about 33 percent of Republicans said they would pay less tax; 17 percent said they would pay more. Among Democrats, about 8 percent said they would pay less; about 45 percent said they would pay more. The $10,000 cap imposed on the deduction of state and local taxes, which was previously unlimited, has been seen having the greatest effect on taxpayers in high-tax states, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, which are all largely Democratic. The Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,755 people, including 1,439 who said they either “already filed” or “will file” an income tax return. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 5 percentage points.

(The Hill) Former President Reagan's budget director David Stockman told Hill.TV on Friday that the vast majority of what President Trump says about the economy is "baloney," taking aim specifically at his 2020 budget proposal. "People ought to recognize that almost everything that Trump is saying about the economy is totally baloney," Stockman, a frequent Trump critic, told hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on "Rising." "We're in deep trouble. We're at the end of a long business cycle that has been very weak, and that he's proposed a catastrophe of a fiscal plan," he continued. Stockman pinpointed Trump's proposed budget, calling the plan unrealistic. "When you look at it, it's an insult to fiscal intelligence, to say nothing of common sense," he said. "He's proposing to add $4 trillion to the deficit just in the next four years." "I think that is nuts at this late stage in the business cycle. In fact, if you look at it, it will cover month 123 to month 171 of this expansion, which began in June of 2009," he added. "The reason I dwell on that is there has never been in the history of the United States been a business cycle that lasted more than 119 months, and that was the tech boom of the 1990s." Trump's proposed budget request includes large cuts to domestic spending, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, while boosting defense spending and requesting $8.6 billion in new funding for a border wall. The budget is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled House, though it sets the stage for another shutdown battle later this year. Trump regularly touts the state of the economy under his administration, pointing to low unemployment and steady job growth.

By Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman

Before he pleaded guilty and began assisting federal prosecutors last summer, Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer, spoke with a lawyer who agreed to reach out to the president’s legal team on his behalf. The lawyer, Robert J. Costello, had about a dozen conversations with Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to emails and documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with people involved in the matter. In one email, the discussions were characterized as a “back channel of communication.” During one of the conversations last April, Mr. Costello said in an interview, he asked whether Mr. Trump might put a pardon “on the table” for Mr. Cohen, who was under federal investigation for a variety of possible crimes, including arranging hush-money payments to two women who had said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. Mr. Giuliani told Mr. Costello that the president was unwilling to discuss pardons at that time, Mr. Costello said in the interview, and they did not discuss it again. Now federal prosecutors have requested the emails and documents from Mr. Costello, according to a copy of the request, which cited an investigation into “possible violations of federal criminal law” but offered no further detail. The request, sent last week, was for any documents related to Mr. Cohen as well as any bills Mr. Costello had sent him. In one of the emails, sent by Mr. Costello in April 2018 after a conversation with Mr. Giuliani, he assured Mr. Cohen, “Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.” He added, in a postscript: “Some very positive comments about you from the White House. Rudy noted how that followed my chat with him last night.” A spokesman for the federal prosecutors, from the United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan, declined to comment.

By Ian Austen and Selam Gebrekidan

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States was grounding Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, reversing an earlier decision by American regulators to keep the jets flying after a second deadly crash in Ethiopia. The Federal Aviation Administration had for days resisted calls to ground the plane even as safety regulators in some 42 countries had banned flights by the jets. As recently as Tuesday, the agency said it had seen “no systemic performance issues” that would prompt it to halt flights of the jet. “The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the White House. The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 killed all 157 people on board, and took place just minutes after takeoff. In October, a 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air, an Indonesian carrier, crashed in similar circumstances and 189 people were killed. The order came hours after Canada’s transport minister said that newly available satellite-tracking data suggested similarities between the crash in Ethiopia and another accident last October. In a statement released after Mr. Trump’s announcement, the F.A.A. also cited “newly refined satellite data” as supporting the decision to ground the jets. Marc Garneau, Canada’s transport minister, had said that satellite tracing data of the vertical path of the Ethiopian jet at take off and comparable data from the Lion Air crash showed similar “vertical fluctuations” and “oscillations.”

By Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff

The Trump administration is preparing to shutter all 21 international offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a move that could slow the processing of family visa applications, foreign adoptions and citizenship petitions from members of the military. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said in an email to staff Tuesday that he is working to transfer those duties — now performed by employees worldwide — to domestic offices and the State Department’s embassies and consulates. He wrote that if the State Department agrees, the agency would move to close its international field offices in coming months “in an effort to maximize our agency’s finite resources.” “I believe by doing so, we will better leverage our funds to address backlogs in the United States while also leveraging existing Department of State resources at post,” he wrote. “Change can be difficult and can cause consternation. I want to assure you we will work to make this as smooth a transition as possible for each of our USCIS staff while also ensuring that those utilizing our services may continue to do so and our agency operations continue undisrupted.” The shift will ripple to offices in New Delhi, Port-au-Prince, Rome and numerous other cities where the agency has offices that handle emergencies, smooth backlogs in immigration petitions, and provide direct information in foreign languages. USCIS foreign offices also investigate fraud. Generally, the offices facilitate applications from potential immigrants to the United States; closing the offices would reassign about 70 USCIS staffers across the world who the agency’s website says provide “valuable information services” and solve a wide array of problems, from aiding someone who lost their green card to helping widows of American citizens and members of the military obtain legal documents.

By Justin Wise

Former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie predicted that Democratic lawmakers will eventually move to impeach President Trump. "I see that's where these Democrats are headed," Bossie, who remains part of Trump's orbit, said on ABC News's podcast, "The Investigation" on Tuesday. "We are headed to impeachment." Bossie made the comments in response to being asked whether he thought the White House was prepared for a possible onslaught of investigations from House Democrats. "I would say you're never ready enough," Bossie said. "I'm just a guy who wants to make sure that you control every aspect of everything. So you know what's coming. You see around corners." "So do I think the White House is ready? From a staff standpoint — I would say no, today," he added. "Do I believe they are in the process of getting ready? Yes." Bossie spoke about the possibility of Trump's impeachment after talking with Republican House minority leaders, according to ABC News. The former Trump campaign official said he told the lawmakers to get a "bigger staff and a bigger budget" as a way to prepare for potential investigations.

Members of the military, HIV testing and border security fare well; not so favored are health programs, farmers and food stamp recipients.
By JENNIFER SCHOLTES

The Trump administration's fiscal 2020 budget proposal won't become law, but the "Budget for a Better America" does make clear which programs the president backs and which ones are on the outs. Members of the military, HIV testing and border security fare well; not so favored are health programs, farmers and food stamp recipients. Here are some nuggets from the budget:

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN)The only thing worse than the near extinction of press briefings in the Trump White House might be actually having a briefing.
In her first appearance behind her iconic podium in 42 days, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Monday did nothing to answer questions boiling up about President Donald Trump, the administration and associated scandals during her long absence. But Sanders was more than happy to use reporters' questions to spread the latest toxin injected into Washington's political bloodstream by the President -- the ideas that Democrats want to kill babies and they hate Jews. Pressed for answers in her first briefing since Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen's blockbuster testimony on Capitol Hill, Sanders deflected on explosive new details about Trump's hush money payments to women before the 2016 election. "I'm not aware of those specific, uh, checks," Sanders said. She also couldn't say when the President will install a permanent defense secretary -- at a time when the US remains at war across the globe. "When the President's ready to make an announcement on that front, he certainly will," said Sanders, who was preceded at the podium by Acting Budget Director Russell Vought. She dodged answering about claims Trump had tried to use the Justice Department to block the AT&T merger with Time Warner, the parent company of CNN -- a possible abuse of power. "I'm not aware of any conversations around that matter," she told CNN's Jim Acosta. But she quickly took the chance to reignite controversy over Trump's comment last week that Democrats are an "anti-Jewish party" following remarks critical of Israel's American supporters by Muslim Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. "Frankly, I think you should ask Democrats what their position is," Sanders said, seizing on a chance to deepen divides between the Democratic leadership and a Washington neophyte who was chastised by her party bosses.

By Katie Rogers

WASHINGTON — On Friday, the White House announced that Karen Pence, the second lady, would lead a delegation to the United Arab Emirates in support of disabled American athletes at the Special Olympics. On Monday, the White House’s budget proposed striking $17.6 million in grants to expand the event. What a difference a few days can make. The Trump administration’s annual budget proposal on Monday envisioned a series of cuts that contrasted with the president’s own words of support for both programs and people — including some groups that make up his political base. To help make way for more military and border spending, it would slash programs large and small, from Medicaid and Medicare — which President Trump as a candidate promised to protect — to safety nets for farmers. Democrats, who control the House, immediately announced the budget proposal dead on arrival, and many of its ideas stand little chance of passing Congress. But it lays down a marker that could help chart the political course ahead, albeit a course that sometimes seems at odds with Mr. Trump’s own pronouncements. Here are a few of the more visible contradictions:

Cuts That Would Affect Farmers.
On Twitter and in speeches, Mr. Trump has made much of the bright future he believes he is securing for farmers. “We’ve had so many good weeks and good days,” Mr. Trump said at the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention in January, “and it’s only going to get better because we’re doing trade deals that are going to get you so much business, you’re not even going to believe it.” But America’s farmers, a key component of the president’s base and a group suffering the effects of his trade war with China, could be among those the budget would squeeze: The White House wants to ax 15 percent, or $3.6 billion, from the Agriculture Department’s budget. According to budget documents, officials plan to “efficiently use taxpayer resources” to find savings by eliminating “overly generous subsidy programs” and examining other safety nets.

By John Hudson

The Trump administration has taken a harder-line approach to denuclearizing North Korea since the summit in Vietnam last month, raising doubts about whether the two sides will reach a deal on the centerpiece of President Trump’s foreign policy. In remarks Monday, a top U.S. envoy said the United States would not lift sanctions on North Korea until it completely dismantles its nuclear and ballistic missiles. The United States is also seeking an end to Pyongyang’s chemical and biological weapons, he said. “We are not going to do de­nuclearization incrementally. The president has been clear on that,” Stephen Biegun, the special U.S. envoy for North Korea, said at a forum hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Biegun added that there was “complete unity” inside the Trump administration on that approach. North Korea has long insisted that any steps it takes to denuclearize must be met with corresponding measures from the United States, including relief from economic sanctions. The Trump administration’s apparent rejection of that approach has left analysts baffled over where the two sides might find room to negotiate an eventual deal. “If we’re going to stay firm on the maximalist position, it’s hard to see where we go from here because there’s no way Kim is going to accept this,” said Vipin Narang, a North Korea expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In advance of Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, U.S. negotiators considered a more modest deal that would trade some sanctions relief in exchange for the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, said diplomats familiar with the negotiations.

Analysis: The president said he'd eliminate the debt. Instead, he borrowed trillions more. But he's betting the red ink won't stain him in 2020.
By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's budget is the confession of a broken promise. As a candidate, Trump famously vowed to eliminate the national debt in eight years. But under the spending blueprint he released Monday — which has "promises kept" in its title — the federal government wouldn't start paying down debt for 15 years. Until then, even under the rosy projections of Trump's budget-writers, Washington would run annual deficits adding to a red-ink total that already stands at more than $22 trillion. Of course, Trump's initial promise was fantastical. But his tax cuts and defense buildup ushered in a new era of trillion-dollar annual deficits. His own budget projects that next year's deficit will weigh in at $1.1 trillion. That's despite calling for massive cuts to entitlement programs, headlined by a plan to force recipients of Medicaid, food stamps and federal housing subsidies to work or otherwise engage in their communities. There was no way, given the state of the national debt or of his preferred policies, that Trump could begin to entertain the idea that he would be able to campaign in 2020 on having kept the promise that he would eliminate the national debt. Instead, what he's setting up to do with this budget is fight with — and blame — members of Congress as he frames his re-election message. The fiscal failure is their fault because they didn't follow his lead, his allies say. "Congress just hasn’t been willing to play ball," Russ Vought, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Monday at a White House press conference. The deficits in Trump's early years in office were necessary, Vought said, "to get the economy going," which was essentially the reasoning for the deficit-financed Obama stimulus plan a decade ago. Now, administration officials and Trump allies say, it's time for Congress to make trade-offs that reflect Trump's priorities. Democrats say he's asking them to harm the poor and the middle-class to maintain low tax rates for individuals and corporations and to continue building up the Pentagon at the expense of non-defense agencies, which would see a 5 percent cut in discretionary spending. "The cruel and shortsighted cuts in President Trump’s budget request are a roadmap to a sicker, weaker America," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "House Democrats will reject this toxic, destructive budget request which would hollow out our national strength and fail to meet the needs of the American people."

By Science News Staff

For the third year in a row, President Donald Trump’s administration has unveiled a budget request to Congress that calls for deep spending cuts at many federal science agencies, including a 13% cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a 12% cut for the National Science Foundation (NSF), while providing hefty increases for the military. But the $4.7 trillion request for the 2020 fiscal year that begins 1 October, released today, is already drawing bipartisan pushback from lawmakers in Congress and—as with past Trump administration requests—many of the cuts are unlikely to be enacted into law. The president’s science adviser, Kelvin Droegemeier, calls the request “an important down payment on America’s future.” A statement from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which he leads, says the president’s budget “promotes responsible spending [by] prioritizing high-impact programs that have been shown to be effective.” The OSTP statement cites artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science, wireless 5G communications, and advanced manufacturing as administration priorities. It says the request would allocate $850 million for AI development and $430 million for quantum science across several agencies. But it’s impossible to tell whether that level of investment is higher or lower than current spending. What is clear, however, is that those investments would be part of a diminished federal research enterprise. The OSTP statement says the president’s 2020 request represents an overall federal investment of $134 billion in R&D. That figure, if enacted, would be 11% lower than the estimated $151.5 billion being spent this year on R&D. Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS (which publishes ScienceInsider) in Washington, D.C., says a reduction of that magnitude “would derail our nation’s science enterprise.” The president’s 2020 budget doesn’t match the administration’s rhetoric on the importance of research in preserving a healthy U.S. economy, says Holt, who calls on Congress to reverse the cuts, as it has done since Trump took office.

By Alexandra Hutzler

Before Donald Trump was even confirmed as the Republican Party’s nominee for the White House in the summer of 2016, he was besieged with threats of impeachment for his rabble-rousing rhetoric on the campaign trail. Then he actually became president. Now, just over two years since he entered the Oval Office, calls for his removal are verging on deafening. Billionaire activist Tom Steyer has promised to spend a further of $40 million in order to get rid of Trump in an effort to flood the airwaves and the halls of Congress. A newly elected Democratic representative, just hours after being sworn into Congress, enthusiastically told her supporters that “We’re going to impeach this motherf***er.” Just this week another Democrat insisted that impeachment must begin before the country gets distracted by the necessity of the 2020 election. Even a man who once proudly exclaimed that he'd take a bullet for Trump couldn’t hold back on the alleged criminality of his former boss. “He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Trump's former lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen told lawmakers, under penalty of perjury, in incendiary testimony on Capitol Hill last week. The accusation was enough to put impeachment advocates into a tailspin. But Harvard Law constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe wants people to know that impeachment can be a double-edged sword. “Impeachment is neither a magic wand nor a doomsday device,” Tribe writes in his book To End a Presidency, which hit shelves last year and got a paperback release featuring a new epilogue this week. "Instead, it is an imperfect and unwieldy constitutional power that exists to defend democracy from tyrannical presidents." The book, written with attorney Joshua Matz, offers a guide to the process of removing a president from office, the potential consequences and what role impeachment plays in our current state of partisan politics.

By John Wagner

As part of an ongoing effort to convince the public that his campaign did not collude with Russia, President Trump on Friday dramatically misrepresented comments made by the judge who presided over the sentencing of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort was sentenced to nearly four years in prison on Thursday for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud. The case was prosecuted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office but was unrelated to his core mission of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. During Thursday’s proceedings in a courtroom in Alexandria, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III noted the distinction, saying that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election.” In a tweet and later when talking to reporters, Trump incorrectly suggested that Ellis’s comments had cleared his campaign of wrongdoing. “Both [Manafort’s] lawyer, a very respected man, and a highly respected judge, the judge said there was no collusion with Russia,” Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House en route to Alabama to view tornado damage. Trump said he was “very honored” by the judge’s words, adding: “It’s a collusion hoax. It’s a collusion witch hoax. I don’t collude with Russia.” A tweet sent earlier Friday morning sought to make the same point. Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia. But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019. “Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia,” Trump wrote. “But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country!” Trump’s tweet and comments to reporters referenced Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing, who told reporters outside the courthouse that “there is absolutely no evidence Paul Manafort worked in collusion with any government official from Russia.” Trump’s tweet prompted immediate pushback from lawmakers, including Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). “This case doesn’t prove there was no collusion because that wasn’t the subject of the trial,” King said during an appearance on CNN. At a trial last year, Manafort was found guilty of hiding millions he made lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian politicians in overseas bank accounts, then falsifying his finances to get loans when his patrons lost power. Prosecutors highlighted his lavish lifestyle, saying his crimes were used to pay for high-end clothes and multiple properties.

By Julie Small

A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. government to identify thousands more migrant families separated at the border before the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy was announced in 2018. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw's ruling vastly expanded the number of migrant families potentially eligible for relief under a federal class action lawsuit that challenged the legality of the practice, and ultimately banned further family separation. On June 26 of last year, Sabraw ordered the government to reunite the affected families. At the time, the government was holding some 2,800 children separated from parents in shelters nationwide. Since the June ruling, immigration officials have reunited nearly all of those children with parents, or released them to relatives or sponsors in the U.S. In his order expanding the class, Sabraw cited a recent report by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that found the government had initiated family separations at least a year earlier than the court knew. The inspector general said, "thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court." The IG's investigation also revealed that inconsistent record keeping of those separations meant there was no way to know the total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities. Attorneys with the ACLU who represent migrant parents called the OIG's report a bombshell.

By Jeff Daniels

The Trump administration is refusing to pay more than $300 million in federal funds California sought to repair the Oroville Dam, which suffered a spillway crisis in 2017 after heavy rains that led to nearly 200,000 residents getting evacuated downstream from the nation’s tallest earthen dam. State officials worked to plug a hole in the flood-control spillway and put the estimate to repair the dam at about $1.1 billion back in 2018. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to reimburse California for only $333 million of the cost, instead of the $639 million sought by the state. The administration’s rejection of $306 million in costs for the Oroville Dam means the federal government would pay less than one third of the total cost the state was forced to spend on the emergency repairs. According to the California Department of Water Resources, FEMA notified the state this week that “it does not consider some spillway construction to be eligible for reimbursement based on information submitted by DWR to date. DWR will work with FEMA to provide further information to support the department’s assertion that all reconstruction work should be eligible for reimbursement.”

His budget request reportedly includes a 70 percent cut to the Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.
By Kiley Kroh

As President Donald Trump prepares his to release his fiscal year 2020 budget request, he is expected to propose massive cuts to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency budget. This attempt comes despite similar requests being roundly rebuked by Congress in the past two years, and the fact that clean energy remains extremely popular among Republican lawmakers and voters. “The United States is at the forefront of clean-energy efforts,” Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) wrote Friday in the Washington Post. “We are committed to adopting reasonable policies that maintain that edge, build on and accelerate current efforts, and ensure a robust innovation ecosystem.” Earlier this week, in the first Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing dedicated to climate change in years, Murkowski singled out research, innovation, and efficiency as areas in which her committee can contribute to the ongoing debate over congressional action on climate change. The White House doesn’t appear to be listening. Trump’s proposal will slash the budget for DOE’s Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EERE) from $2.3 billion to $700 million — a roughly 70 percent cut — Bloomberg reported this week, citing a department official familiar with the plan. The full budget request is expected to be released Monday.

(Axios) - From a White House source, the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide, according to a senior Democratic aide involved in handling the documents. Why it matters: The Trump administration's problems with leaks will now benefit Congress, making it harder for the White House to withhold information from Democratic investigators. The news: The White House this week rejected the committee's request for documents on the process for granting security clearances to staffers. The twist: But the House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process, from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018, on how both Kushner and Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances. The senior Democratic aide who was involved in handling the documents told Axios that two staffers on the Oversight Committee said the documents are "part of the puzzle that we would be asking for" from the White House, "so we appreciate having this upfront." The House Oversight Committee, via deputy communications director Aryele Bradford, declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The documents leaked to the Oversight Committee provide detailed information on the timeline for how Kushner's and Trump's security clearances were approved and who the people were involved in processing and the final decision.

By Jessica Kwong

George Conway, the husband of Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, tweeted early Monday that if President Donald Trump had ordered ex-White House economic adviser Gary Cohn to pressure the Department of Justice to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, it would “unquestionably be grounds for impeachment.” Conway, a fierce Trump critic despite his wife’s prominent position at the White House, was responding to a New Yorker story that reported Trump had directed Cohn to press the Justice Department to prevent the merger in the summer of 2017. “I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened! I’ve mentioned it fifty times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!” Trump told then-chief of staff John Kelly, The New Yorker reported, citing “a well-informed source.” “If proven, such an attempt to use presidential authority to seek retribution for the exercise of First Amendment rights would unquestionably be grounds for impeachment,” Conway tweeted. Conway, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton & Katz, proceeded to quote a full paragraph from The New Yorker story in two separate tweets. “Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, evidently understood that it would be highly improper for a President to use the Justice Department to undermine two of the most powerful companies in the country as punishment for unfavorable news coverage...and as a reward for a competing news organization that boosted him. According to the source, as Cohn walked out of the meeting he told Kelly, “Don’t you f***ing dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way,” Conway wrote, quoting directly from the article.

By CAITLIN OPRYSKO

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly spoke freely for the first time Wednesday evening about his tenure in President Donald Trump’s administration and broke with the president on immigration and other core issues. In an onstage interview at Duke University, the retired four-star general said he viewed his nearly two-year stint in the Trump administration — first as Homeland Security secretary and then as Trump’s chief of staff — as his civic duty to the country. He also said he likely would have made the same choice had a President Hillary Clinton offered him the job, according to several media outlets. Though he had once reportedly called his service for Trump “the least enjoyable job” he’d ever had, Kelly insisted that it was the most important one he’d held. While Kelly said Wednesday he couldn’t answer questions about whether the president ordered him to grant Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a security clearance over the objections of intelligence officials, citing executive privilege, he notably diverged from Trump on his marquee campaign issue: immigration. Kelly rebuked one of the president’s constant refrains about undocumented immigrants: That migrants who cross into the U.S. illegally are dangerous criminals and pose a serious threat. “They’re overwhelmingly not criminals,” Kelly said Wednesday. “They’re people coming up here for economic purposes. I don’t blame them for that.” He also reiterated his position that a border wall spanning the entire U.S.-Mexico border would be a “waste of money,” despite overseeing the beginning of what would become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history over Trump’s demand that Congress fund such a project. Though there are areas where a border wall would be effective, Kelly said, “We don’t need a wall from sea to shining sea.” The retired general also defended NATO, which Trump has repeatedly maligned as having a cost to the U.S. that outweighs its benefits.

By Jordan Fabian

(The Hill) President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his assertion he did not break the law when he involved himself in a scheme to pay two women who alleged in the lead-up to the 2016 election that they had extramarital affairs with him. “It was not a campaign contribution, and there were no violations of the campaign finance laws by me. Fake News!”  Trump tweeted. It was not a campaign contribution, and there were no violations of the campaign finance laws by me. Fake News! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2019. The comments come after The New York Times reported Trump signed checks to reimburse his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, while he was serving as president. Cohen last year pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, in addition to other financial crimes, and lying to Congress. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen implicated Trump in the scheme in court and in congressional testimony. Federal prosecutors in December alleged that Cohen acted at the direction of “Individual-1,” a person widely believed to be Trump, when he committed the campaign finance violations. Prosecutors said the payments to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who said she slept with Trump, broke the law because they were meant to influence the outcome of the election. Cohen reached the agreement with Daniels in October 2016, one month before Election Day. During his explosive testimony last week to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cohen presented several checks signed by the president he said were meant to reimburse him for payments to Daniels. The Times reported Wednesday that Trump authorized one of the checks for $35,000 in October 2017, nine months after his inauguration. While the checks do not prove Trump committed a crime, they could be used as evidence by prosecutors should they pursue a case alleging that the president directed an illegal hush money scheme while in office. Trump initially denied any knowledge of the payments to Cohen, but then shifted his explanation after Cohen pleaded guilty, saying the payments did not violate the law because they “didn’t come out of the campaign.” Then in December, Trump said he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law” while repeating his assertion that Cohen’s actions in the hush money scheme were not illegal.

By David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey

President Trump proclaimed in a freewheeling speech to a conference of conservatives last weekend that “America is winning again.” But his administration has been on a pronounced losing streak over the past week. Trump is losing ground on top priorities to curb illegal immigration, cut the trade deficit and blunt North Korea’s nuclear threat — setbacks that complicate his planned reelection message as a can-do president who is making historic progress. Late last week, Trump flew home empty-handed from a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi — and, within days, new satellite images appeared to show that the North was secretly rebuilding a rocket-launching site. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that unauthorized border crossings have spiked to the highest pace in 12 years — despite Trump’s hard-line rhetoric and new policies aimed at deterring migrants. And on Wednesday, the Commerce Department said that the nation’s trade deficit is at a record high — in part due to punitive tariffs Trump imposed on allies and adversaries. Trump vowed throughout his 2016 campaign and during his presidency to shrink the trade deficit, which he views as a measure of other nations taking advantage of the United States. “The president hasn’t shown much of an ability to cut good deals with Congress or anyone else,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who is mulling a Senate run in 2020. “Almost the only time he has been successful at one of his goals is when he can set the terms unilaterally. That’s why he’s done a lot of executive orders, executive actions, like the travel ban, deregulations, emergency declaration. Those are things that don’t require any negotiation at all.”

By Katie Lobosco, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump routinely talks about how his predecessors' trade deals were "the worst," usually before pledging as he did in last month's State of the Union to reverse "decades of calamitous trade policies" in order to bring back jobs, expand agricultural markets and sell more US-made cars abroad. He's clearly taken care of the first part by upending a number of trade relationships the United States has around the world. But so far, there's been relatively little progress toward his goal of revitalizing struggling American industries and cutting US dependence on the rest of the world's products. Despite Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum as well as billions in consumer goods from China, Americans are importing more than they're selling abroad. The trade deficit has widened by more than $100 billion since Trump took office and hit a 10-year high in 2018, according to data released by the Census Bureau on Wednesday. "The administration made it seem like a quick tweak in some trade agreements would bring back the manufacturing workforce, but the problems have to do with technological change," said Phil Levy, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs who served as a senior economist for trade under President George W. Bush. "That's an impossible thing to fix with aggressive trade policy." The President promised as a candidate and since taking office that he would use his deal-making skills to extract better deals from other nations, including allies. The latest target is India, which learned on Monday that the Trump administration is taking steps to end a special tariff agreement after a round of talks in late February. One of Trump's first moves was to pull out of the new 11-country Trans-Pacific Partnership. He then renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. He's also put tariffs on Chinese goods as a way to get Beijing to the table to negotiate a new trade deal, and is considering new tariffs on autos as his administration pursues a separate deal with the European Union. Foreign steel and aluminum have also received tariffs as a way to protect US industries from unfair trade practices. But so far, the results have largely been invisible to American workers and consumers. Tariffs on steel, for example, have bolstered the US industry, which saw an increase in demand and prices for its products last year. But the rebound hasn't translated into a huge new demand for steelworkers. While some mills have reopened and more than 2,000 jobs were created last year, employment in the industry is still down about 43% since 1990. And the jobs being created on the producer side are coming at the expense of industries that buy steel, like nail and farm equipment manufacturers. Tariffs have made foreign steel more expensive, and allowed US companies to raise prices. That holds true for US importers that buy Chinese goods from abroad, like luggage, hats and semiconductors, that have been hit by tariffs. While Trump has often suggested that the tariffs have forced China to pay billions of dollars to the United States, it's actually US businesses that pay the tariffs on foreign goods.
Import tariffs cost American consumers and businesses $3 billion a month at the end of 2018, according to a paper released this week by the Center for Economic Policy Research. Plus, foreign countries have retaliated to Trump's tariffs by putting taxes on US goods. They've hurt manufacturers and farmers that rely on big exports markets, like soybean growers. The clearest effect of Trump's trade moves is the economic slowdown in China. That in turn, hurts US companies like Apple, which has warned investors to expect lower iPhone sales in China this year.

By Tal Axelrod

President Trump on Wednesday responded to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) refusing to let Fox News host a Democratic primary debate by threatening to “do the same thing” with other networks during the general election. “Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!” Trump tweeted Wednesday. Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2019. President Trump on Wednesday responded to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) refusing to let Fox News host a Democratic primary debate by threatening to “do the same thing” with other networks during the general election. “Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!” Trump tweeted Wednesday. Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2019. Trump has maintained a bitter relationship with the press since the campaign trail, often painting mainstream media outlets as “fake news” following critical coverage of himself or his administration. The president alone would not have the power to prevent outlets from hosting a general election debate. The DNC and Republican National Committee (RNC) work with media outlets on arrangements for hosting their respective primary debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which the DNC and RNC jointly sponsor, sets up the general election debates. The DNC announced that it would not allow Fox News to host a primary debate after The New Yorker reported on the network's deep ties to Trump. “Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in the statement.

By Brooke Seipel

The Trump administration has instructed border agents running an asylum program to target Spanish speakers and Latin American migrants, according to memos obtained by The Associated Press. The program was launched in late January to handle the cases of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. and initially only was applicable to those turning themselves in at border crossings. According to The Associated Press, a memo from a top Border Patrol official says the program expanded last week to include those illegally crossing the border. The memo also reportedly laid out instructions on who to allow through the traditional asylum process and who to send back to Mexico. Those allowed to go through traditional processes include LGBT migrants, pregnant women, Mexican asylum seekers, children traveling alone, and those in medical distress, according to the AP. Another directive in the memo reportedly orders border officials to check if those seeking asylum are convicted of any felonies and to notify Mexico at least 12 hours prior to their return. Critics have pointed out that the program's guidelines almost solely target Central Americans. A second memo sent to top Border Patrol officials on Tuesday reportedly revealed that the agency is being pressured to employ the program as much as possible. Another memo obtained by the AP showed that the program is being expanded to include people who cross the border illegally between crossing points. The news of the reported memos comes as the southwest border saw a significant jump last month in apprehensions and denials of people attempting to enter the United States.

Donald J. Trump White House Page 1

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