Things Trump Did While You Weren’t Looking [Updated 8/6/18] | Greed & Malfeasance Never Sleep

This web page contains curated news beginning January 1, 2019 through the end of the year.

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May 6, 2019
Trump takes dig at Dems on disaster aid

President Donald Trump on Monday attacked Democrats for holding up a disaster aid deal, and reupped his claims that Puerto Rico is receiving too much federal assistance.“Puerto Rico has been given more money by Congress for Hurricane Disaster Relief, 91 Billion Dollars, than any State in the history of the U.S,” Trump said in a tweet, in which he also claimed Democratic lawmakers are withholding aid from other states recovering from hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfire and flooding.

Puerto Rico has been given more money by Congress for Hurricane Disaster Relief, 91 Billion Dollars, than any State in the history of the U.S. As an example, Florida got $12 Billion & Texas $39 Billion for their monster hurricanes. Now the Democrats are saying NO Relief to……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 6, 2019

“The Dems don’t want farmers to get any help,” he added. “Puerto Rico should be very happy and the Dems should stop blocking much needed Disaster Relief!”

Top senators negotiating the deal said last week they are nearing an agreement after Republicans laid out a proposal behind closed doors that would increase Puerto Rico’s access to federal recovery cash. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), one of the Trump’s congressional allies, said last week the president was “on board” with the GOP’s offer.

Continue reading at Politico
Massachusetts Republicans move to protect Trump in 2020 primary

The Massachusetts Republican Party is aiming to protect President Donald Trump from primary challengers such as former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld by approving a new winner-takes-all delegate plan.

The MassGOP approved the 2020 plan last week and will now award all of the party’s delegates to the Republican candidate who clears more than 50 percent of the vote in the state presidential primary. The strategy is a departure from the 2016 primary, when the state party used a proportional method to award delegates to the 17 Republicans running for president.

Continue reading at Politico
Grassley: Trump’s new trade deal still stuck over tariffs

President Donald Trump’s meeting with Republican senators on trade last week did nothing to unstick his stalled trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Monday that the president once again refused to lift steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies when pressed, a requirement that Grassley has laid out to consider the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace NAFTA. Trump also refused to rule out imposing tariffs on foreign automakers, Grassley said.

Trump also threatened in recent days to impose 25 percent tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods, a move that raised further fears of a retaliatory tit-for-tat with China.

The meeting left the president’s long-sought trade deal with a grim prognosis in the immediate future.

Continue reading at Politico
Trump pardons ex-soldier convicted of killing Iraqi prisoner

President Trump on Monday signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, to a former Army first lieutenant convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner.

The White House released a statement announcing Trump’s decision to pardon Michael Behenna, who was sentenced in 2009 to 15 years for shooting and killing Ali Mansur Mohamed. The move comes after repeated requests from Oklahoma’s attorney general for Trump to pardon Behenna.

“Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public,” the White House said, noting that more than two dozen generals and admirals as well as numerous Oklahoma officials have expressed support for Behenna, who hails from the state. The statement added that Behenna has been “a model prisoner.”

“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” the statement read.

Continue reading at The Hill
White Mayor Gives Extremely Racist Answer on Why She Won’t Hire Black Candidate

A mayor of an overwhelmingly white city outside of Atlanta is facing calls to resign after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that she stopped considering a candidate for city manager because he is black, reportedly remarking to another city employee that “the city isn’t ready for this.”

According to records obtained the Journal-Constitution, Theresa Kenerly, the mayor of Hoschton, GA, a city of fewer than 2,000 people located 50 miles outside of Atlanta pulled Keith Henry’s application from a group of four finalists for the city manager job. During a closed-door meeting on March 4, Kenerly reportedly told city council member Hope Weeks that she disqualified Henry’s application “because he is black, and the city isn’t ready for this.”

Weeks repeated the comment back to Kenerly after the meeting.

Continue reading at Splinter News
A Senior on the Streets, with Little Chance of a Home

In parts of California, seniors are the fastest growing part of the homeless population.

Rising housing costs compounded by insufficient retirement income and life’s calamities are driving more seniors, such as 71-year-old Carl Russell, onto California’s streets.

Each night, Russell sleeps sitting up. A sleeping bag on a concrete sidewalk is his bed. The front of San Diego’s Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center is his headboard.

He is among the rapidly growing number of homeless seniors across the nation.

As the baby-boom generation has aged, the number of homeless people 62 and older jumped 68.5% across the country from 2007 to 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If that trend continues, thousands more elderly Californians could join Russell.

”I can’t sleep solid because I don’t want to get my throat cut,” said Russell. “I lost a friend here who got stabbed to death.”

Continue reading at Graying California and KPBS
Riot Games workers walk out to protest forced arbitration of sex discrimination suits

More than 200 workers at Riot Games walked out of the video game developer’s Los Angeles headquarters Monday to protest the company’s handling of two sexual discrimination lawsuits.

This action, the first of its kind in the video game industry, comes amid a surge in tech worker activism and a growing interest in unionization among game developers.

Employees filed out into the parking lot, some holding signs reading “I reported and he got promoted” and “Forced is not a word women like.”

At issue is what employees describe as a culture of sexism at the company, as well as Riot’s move last month to force the plaintiffs in two sexual discrimination lawsuits into arbitration rather than trial.

“We stand with the current plaintiffs whose alleged abusers remain in leadership positions at Riot,” said Riot writer and walkout organizer Dylan Buck.

As security guards watched from the doors, Riot employees — first walkout organizers, then any employee who raised a hand for a turn at the megaphone — addressed their coworkers.

“We are not dissident for the sake of dissidence, we are dissident for the sake of justice, for the sake of Riot living up to its values, and for the sake of making Riot the great place that we all want it to be,” said Ronnie Blackburn, a researcher at the company and one of the walkout organizers.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times
Bennet: Medicare for All supporters ‘need to level with the American people’

Sen. Michael Bennet suggested Monday that the “Medicare for All” proposals touted by many of his Democratic primary opponents may not be as popular as they seem, telling CNN that candidates should “be honest” with voters about the realities of such health care policies.

“When you tell people the first thing about Medicare for All — either that it takes insurance away from 180 million Americans that have it through their employer or the taxes we would have to pay to afford that $30 trillion program — that 70 percent support falls to the mid-30s,” Bennet said on CNN’s “New Day.” “I think we need to level with the American people.”

Asked whether Democratic supporters of Medicare for All are being dishonest with voters, Bennet said, “It depends who they are.” He allowed that Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 front-runner and longtime champion of Medicare for All, is “leveling” with the public.

Continue reading at Politico
Deceptive Headline Related
Poll: Majority view socialism as incompatible with American values

A majority of Americans say socialism is incompatible with American values, and only 10 percent of voters in a new poll have a positive view of socialism.

A Monmouth University Poll survey released Monday found that 57 percent of voters believe that socialism is incompatible with American values, compared to 29 percent who said it is compatible.

The poll found that 42 percent of respondents have a negative view of socialism, 45 percent are neutral and only 10 percent have a positive view.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), a self-described democratic socialist, is the only 2020 presidential candidate to openly embrace the term “socialist.”

Still, Republicans have sought to cast all of the Democratic contenders as socialists, pointing to “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal and other policies as evidence of the Democrats’ leftward lurch.

At the same time, the poll found some support for policies that have been criticized as socialist.

For instance, 58 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat support a “universal health care system,” while only 37 percent say they oppose the idea. A majority, 53 percent, say universal health care is not a socialist idea, against 37 percent who say that it is.

“We may be in a period of flux with how these economic systems are viewed,” said Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray. “Socialism still carries a stigma, but many Americans feel they are being left behind by the current capitalist system. Policies that have traditionally been seen as socialist may be getting more popular even if the term itself is not.”

Meanwhile, 39 percent of respondents have a positive view of capitalism, 40 percent are neutral and 17 percent have a negative view.

Continue reading at The Hill
Bernie Sanders hammers Trump for saying Mueller shouldn’t testify: ‘You are not a dictator’

Bernie Sanders on Monday lashed out at Donald Trump in a tweet disparaging the president’s call for special counsel Robert Mueller not to testify before a congressional committee.

“Sorry, Mr. President, you are not a dictator,” Sanders wrote. “In our democracy, when Congress calls on Robert Mueller to testify, he will testify.”

The Democratic primary candidate’s acerbic statement came attached to Trump’s tweet Sunday, accusing Democratic lawmakers of drawing out the special counsel’s investigation, which the president frequently insists found “no collusion” and “no obstruction.”

Continue reading at Politico
Desperate drive to make the debate stage shakes Dem campaigns

Presidential campaigns are resorting to unusual tactics to qualify for the Democratic debate stage thanks to the new donor threshold.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sank a ping-pong ball into a cup of water — a spin on the drinking game, beer pong — and turned the moment into a digital ad urging $1 donations to her presidential campaign. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is hawking bumper stickers for $1 donations and used his recent CNN town hall to make a televised plea for more campaign contributions. Former Rep. John Delaney promised to give $2 of his own money to charity for each of the next 100,000 individual donors who gave to his campaign.

The unconventional, often gimmicky fundraising arms race is part of a desperate scramble to make it past a new threshold set by the Democratic National Committee, 65,000 individual donors, to the first primary debates in June and July. The televised debates could be make-or-break showcases for the 2020 presidential candidates, and the requirement has reshaped the strategy of candidates struggling to cross the donor mark, changing spending priorities and altering the path of their campaigns.

Such is the importance of the debates that some presidential campaigns have decided to prioritize Facebook advertising over hiring staffers in early states, several campaign aides said. Others noted that the rules prioritize chasing viral moments early in the campaign over building traditional vote-getting infrastructure in Iowa and New Hampshire. But defenders of the new rules say that they have just forced campaigns to prove they can compete in the 21st century before the election year.

Continue reading at Politico
On campaign trail, Biden keeps his hands to himself

The former veep appears to have gotten the message about his overly familiar touching.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — There‘s been no hair-sniffing. No nose-to-cheek nuzzles. No intimate whispers with strangers.

In his first full week on the road for his 2020 candidacy, Joe Biden is keeping his hands to himself.

Continue reading at Politico
Buttigieg confronts his black voter problem

‘A lot of people don’t know who he is on this side of the country or what he stands for,’ says one top South Carolina Democrat.

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Pete Buttigieg wants to have a conversation with African American voters. But he can’t seem to reach them.

He scheduled a meet-and-greet Monday in Orangeburg — a city that is 76 percent black — but only a dozen or so people of color showed up in a crowd of more than 100. At a town hall the night before — held at a North Charleston high school where minority enrollment is 97 percent in a city that is roughly half-black — it was another overwhelmingly white audience.

The composition of his audiences is a familiar issue for Buttigieg, who has surged in recent national and state polls but struggled to make inroads with one of the party’s most important constituencies.

Recent polling shows Buttigieg winning only 2 percent among African Americans, so he needs to begin addressing the issue quickly to have any hope of contending for the Democratic nomination — or competing in South Carolina, an early primary statewhere African Americans cast roughly 60 percent of primary votes in 2016.

Continue reading at Politico
Young People Who Can’t Pay Court Fees Are Getting Trapped In The Criminal Justice System

Children across the country aren’t able to leave the juvenile criminal justice system when administrative fines and fees pile up. A new bill in Congress would end this.

WASHINGTON — Shyara Hill’s five-year struggle with the criminal justice system started because she hit a boy at school who had been bullying her little brother.

Hill was 16 years old and a student at Upper Darby High School, a Philadelphia-area school with more than 3,500 students. She was sent to the office of a vice principal who never showed up. She says that after hours of waiting, she tried to leave, and that’s when security guards blocked her. When she tried to push past them, they charged her with assault.

“Every time I tried to squeeze between them, they’d say ‘Assault one, assault two,’” she said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service and a year of probation.

“They told me that if I just pled guilty to whatever they said I did, I would just have a record and it would be gone when I turned 18. And I wouldn’t have to worry about anything,” she said. “Then I found out that’s not true.”

At 20 years old, she was still on probation. Not because she had reoffended but because she hadn’t paid hundreds of dollars in administrative fees. Most jurisdictions across the country allow courts to charge youths with administrative fees, public defender fees, probation supervision fees, fines, and an array of other charges.

Often, paying these fees is a condition for being cleared from the system. If a family can’t afford the fees, the child can end up trapped in indefinite parole. More parole can mean more supervision and court fees, pushing a resolution even further away. In some scenarios, not paying the fees can even lead to incarceration, according to Jessica Feierman, senior managing director of the Pennsylvania-based Juvenile Law Center.

Because there has been little federal attention paid to the issue, “we just don’t have a really comprehensive sense of how widespread the problem is,” said Feierman, but black and Hispanic youths are believed to be disproportionately affected.

In 2018, California became the first state to ban all fees for incarceration, court appearances, probation, or drug testing. Contra County reimbursed hundreds of people who had paid such fees. Washington state also passed legislation, and bills have been introduced in Nevada and Maryland.

Continue reading at BuzzFeed
Inside Facebook’s European election war room

The social network has created a team in Dublin to counter wrongdoing, but political ads and misinformation are still reaching voters.

DUBLIN — In a sparsely decorated office in the center of the Irish capital, dozens of Facebook staffers are working to protect the upcoming European election.

The group of twentysomething coders, engineers and content specialists sit hunched over multiple screens, scanning the platform for potential illegal behavior. Wall-mounted television monitors keep them up to date on the latest chatter on the world’s largest social network, Instagram and WhatsApp. A single European Union flag hangs on the wall, next to a poster emblazoned with the slogan “New Ways of Seeing.”

Yet despite Facebook’s 40-person European election “operations center,” which got underway on April 29, the tech giant is struggling to keep on top of the threats.

Political groups from Hungary to Spain have been able to circumvent Facebook’s new political transparency tools to quietly buy partisan social media advertising aimed at swaying potential voters, according to an analysis by POLITICO. That includes paid-for messages by Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, Verein Recht und Freiheit (Association for the Conservation of the Rule of Law and Civil Liberties), a support group for right-wing politicians in Germany and Petra De Sutter, a Belgian candidate for the Green Party.

Far-right groups like Germany’s Alternative for Germany and France’s National Rally also still dominate political discussion on Facebook ahead of this month’s vote.

Continue reading at Politico EU
Seagull turns orange after fall into tikka masala curry

The seagull after it had fallen into the vat of chicken tikka masala

A seagull has turned bright orange after falling into a curry.

The bird fell into a container of chicken tikka masala while trying to get a piece of meat from a factory bin.

The seagull was rescued by workers at the factory in Wales and taken to a wildlife hospital.

Continue reading at BBC News
May 5, 2019
Trump: 2 years of my term were ‘stollen’

President Donald Trump on Sunday floated the idea of extending his constitutionally limited time in office, complaining online that two years of his first White House term were “stollen” as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“I now support reparations — Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup,” Jerry Falwell Jr., a conservative religious leader and Trump ally, tweeted in a message reposted by the president.

After the best week ever for @realDonaldTrump – no obstruction, no collusion, NYT admits @BarackObama did spy on his campaign, & the economy is soaring. I now support reparations-Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup

— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 5, 2019

Trump echoed Falwell’s sentiment in a pair of tweets an hour later, writing online: “Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stollen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back.”

Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stollen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2019

He added: “The Witch Hunt is over but we will never forget. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Continue reading at Politico
How the ACLU is setting up Trump for a field day in 2020

The group is deploying hundreds of people to get Democratic candidates on video taking positions on hot-button topics like felon voting.

The debate over allowing the Boston Marathon bomber to vote started with a man named Rick in Muscatine, Iowa.

At a town hall in early April, he reminded Bernie Sanders that prisoners in his home state of Vermont are allowed to vote and asked whether that right should be extended nationally. Sanders agreed it should, and before he knew it, he was being asked variations of the question at Fox News and CNN town halls. Sanders critics pounced, and the conservative outrage machine kicked into gear, fueled by President Donald Trump.

The chain of events didn’t start by accident: Its genesis was orchestrated by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is coaching activists like Rick as part of a multimillion-dollar, below-the-radar campaign to get the 2020 candidates on record about its civil liberties priorities. In Hanover, N.H., an ACLU-linked voter got Kamala Harris’ commitment to support adding a third-gender marker on federal ID cards. The group is also putting Democratic hopefuls on the spot with sensitive questions about immigration and abortion rights.

Continue reading at Politico
Cheat sheet: Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan to expand agriculture and rural policies

The 2020 contender calls for breaking up big agriculture companies and restructuring USDA programs.

Bernie Sanders on Sunday released a sweeping rural and agriculture plan that targets big companies and calls for more federal investment in struggling rural areas.
What’s the reason for the plan?

Appearing at a county fairgrounds in Osage, Iowa, Sanders made the case that liberal policies in Republican strongholds are what’s needed to save a slumping farm economy and distressed communities.

“Some people are writing off rural America,” said Sanders, one of the leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He was introduced by several local farmers before taking the stage.

“But I come from one of the most rural and beautiful states in the United States,” the Vermont senator said. “I will not write off rural America.”

Sanders is the second candidate, following Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), to get serious about trying to win over traditionally red regions by rolling out comprehensive policy plans that seek to restructure government programs and step up antitrust enforcement.

Continue reading at Politico
California lawmakers again protect the loophole of unlimited political cash

This isn’t meant to be a trick question: Are there limits to the size of campaign contributions that a California lawmaker can accept?
Yes, there are — unless the money is given to a political committee that’s supposed to either support or oppose a ballot measure. Then the answer is no; the politician can collect in donations of all sizes. And it’s been that way for almost two decades.

“It is time to close the loophole, so that candidates and elected officials cannot use money intended for promoting or opposing ballot measures to instead promote themselves and their campaigns,” state Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) told a Senate committee last month.

But it’s not going to change anytime soon, as Bates learned when the panel killed her Senate Bill 401 on a bipartisan vote. It was the fifth attempt since 2004 to stop what observers say is a campaign money maneuver that California voters unknowingly blessed through a ballot proposition in 2000.

That measure, Proposition 34, was written by prominent Democratic and Republican lawmakers who promised it would do just as well as more strict limits that had been blocked in a federal court. But the proposition focused its attention only on candidate campaigns. Soon after, state lawmakers began raising money for ballot measures — the kind of campaign money that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1981 poses no real risk of corruption and thus isn’t subject to contribution limits.

But in practice, the donors to a candidate’s campaign committee and ballot measure committee are often one and the same — interest groups seeking to curry favor or reward action. State campaign finance records show that 31 members of the Legislature — Democrats and Republicans alike — have active ballot measure campaign committees. Few have spent money to support or oppose a proposition; most spend it on things like political consultants, polling and travel. The rules don’t require the committee to ever engage in ballot measure politicking.

California regulators tried to impose candidate campaign donation limits to these committees in 2005, sparked by the ballot-measure fundraising of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But a state appeals court said that only the Legislature, not the state’s government watchdog agency, had the power to make such a sweeping change.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times
Trump taps Obama-era Border Patrol chief to take over ICE

President Trump announced Sunday that Mark Morgan, who led Border Patrol during the last few months of the Obama administration, is his choice for chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I am pleased to inform all of those that believe in a strong, fair and sound Immigration Policy that Mark Morgan will be joining the Trump Administration as the head of our hard working men and women of ICE,” Trump tweeted.

“Mark is a true believer and American Patriot. He will do a great job!”

Morgan left Border Patrol in late January 2017, one day after Trump signed an executive order to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In his return to the Trump administration, Morgan will replace former acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello, who resigned earlier this month. Vitiello left his post after Trump announced he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction with the agency.

Continue reading at The Hill
DNC finance chairman Muñoz steps down, replaced by Korge

Henry Muñoz, a co-founder of the Latino Victory Fund, has been the DNC’s finance chairman for more than six years.

Henry Muñoz, the longtime national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is stepping down from the position after more than six years in the role, he told POLITICO.

Muñoz, 59, is the first openly gay person and first Latino to hold the party’s top finance role. The party committee raised more than $600 million while he was finance chairman, and he hosted or co-hosted more than 100 fundraisers nationwide. The DNC has named Chris Korge, a Florida attorney who was a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as Muñoz’s interim replacement until the full DNC can elect him permanently at its summer meeting in San Francisco in August.

Continue reading at Politico
Here’s How Deep Biden’s Busing Problem Runs

And why the Democrats can’t use it against him.

Brett Gadsden is a professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of Between North and South: Delaware, Desegregation, and the Myth of American Sectionalism.

In the summer of 1974, the freshman Senator Joe Biden found himself under siege from white suburbanites at a meeting just south of Wilmington, Del. The possibility that their children would be bused into “black schools” in the city and that black children would be bused to their schools had sent a wave of consternation through the white community.

Civil rights activists had recently won a lawsuit in which a federal District Court recognized that state-sponsored discriminatory education and housing policies had led to segregated metropolitan-area schools. The court was then poised to demand a two-way busing program that would transfer students between the city and suburban districts to advance racial balance.

For two hours, Biden paced the auditorium stage and absorbed the ire of the 250-member audience. Unable to offer them any assurance on the court ruling, he made a promise to oppose busing when he returned to Washington for the next legislative session. And he did: Biden spent the next four years pushing legislation to thwart the implementation of busing schemes like the one demanded by the courts in Wilmington around the country .

Now that he has declared his candidacy for president, a number of commentators have suggested his record on busing would hurt him in the Democratic primary.

But don’t count on it. School desegregation, as part of a broader suite of civil rights reforms, was once as a vital component of the Democratic Party platform. Yet since the 1970s, Democrats, in the face of concerted white backlash, have largely accommodated themselves to increasing segregation in public schools across the nation. Party leaders, even the most progressive among them, rarely propose serious solutions to this vexing problem. A sincere critique of Biden’s busing record would require a broader reckoning of the Democratic Party’s—and by extension the nation’s—abandonment of this central goal of the civil rights movement. And it’s hard to see that happening anytime soon.

Continue reading at Politico


May 3, 2019

Trump contradicts his own advisers, says Putin ‘not looking’ to get involved in Venezuela
President Trump on Friday claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin is not “looking at all to get involved” in Venezuela, contradicting some of his top advisers who have condemned Moscow for bolstering embattled President Nicolás Maduro.

Trump spoke with Putin over the phone for more than an hour on Friday, and the two discussed North Korea, trade, the special counsel’s investigation and the ongoing situation in Venezuela.

“He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela. And I feel the same way,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with the Slovak prime minister.

Trump said the U.S. is hoping to get humanitarian aid to Venezuela, where citizens are grappling with a worsening crisis.

“I thought it was a very positive conversation I had with President Putin on Venezuela,” he said.

Top Trump administration officials have blamed Russia and Cuba for propping up Maduro’s government, putting Moscow on the opposing side of the U.S., which has recognized General Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

Continue reading at The Hill
Trump, Putin discussed Venezuela, Mueller during hour-long call

President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin for more than an hour, discussing the situation in Venezuela and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on interference in the 2016 election, the White House said Friday.

Trump wrote on Twitter that he “had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia.”

“As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he continued. “We discussed Trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Nuclear Arms Control and even the ‘Russian Hoax.’ Very productive talk!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters earlier that the two leaders talked about a number of topics, including the violence in Venezuela. She said Trump made “clear that the United States stand with the people of Venezuela” and that the president’s primary aim is to ensure that food and humanitarian aid are able to get through to the country.

Continue reading at Politico
How Erik Prince Used the Rise of Trump to Make an Improbable Comeback

HEN ERIK PRINCE arrived at the Four Seasons resort in the Seychelles in January 2017 for his now-famous meetings with a Russian banker and UAE ruler Mohammed bin Zayed, he was in the middle of an unexpected comeback. The election of Donald Trump had given the disgraced Blackwater founder a new opportunity to prove himself. After years of trying and failing to peddle a sweeping vision of mercenary warfare around the world, Erik Prince was back in the game.

Bin Zayed had convened a group of close family members and advisers at the luxurious Indian Ocean resort for a grand strategy session in anticipation of the new American administration. On the agenda were discussions of new approaches for dealing with the civil wars in Yemen, Syria, and Libya, the threat of the Islamic State, and the United Arab Emirates’ longstanding rivalry with Iran. Under bin Zayed’s leadership, the UAE had used its oil wealth to become one of the world’s largest arms purchasers and the third largest importer of U.S. weapons. A new American president meant new opportunities for the tiny Gulf nation to exert its outsized military and economic influence in the Gulf region and beyond.

Prince was no stranger to the Emiratis. He had known bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the UAE, since 2009, when he sold the sheikh on creating an elite counterterrorism unit. That deal ended badly for Prince, but Trump’s election had recalibrated his usefulness. As a prominent Trump supporter and close associate of Steve Bannon, not to mention the brother of incoming cabinet member Betsy DeVos, Prince was invited to the meeting as an unofficial adviser to the incoming administration.

When Prince joined the Emirati royals and other government officials on a deck overlooking the Indian Ocean, bin Zayed made it clear to everyone there that “Erik was his guy,” said a source close to the Emirati rulers, who was briefed by some of those in attendance. Prince, in bin Zayed’s view, had built and established an elite ground force that bin Zayed had deployed to wars in Syria and Yemen, the first foreign conflicts in his young country’s history. It was because of Prince, bin Zayed said, that the Emiratis had no terrorists in their country. Prince had solved their problem with Somali pirates. “He let his court know that they owed Erik a favor,” the source said.

Continue reading at The Intercept
‘Lock her up’ redux? Biden’s son becomes the right’s new target

Clinton veterans say the attacks on Hunter Biden are giving them painful flashbacks to 2016.

President Donald Trump’s political allies and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have begun mobilizing to cast a legal cloud over Joe Biden and demanding that the Justice Department should open an investigation that could ensnare the former vice president as he launches his 2020 presidential bid.

“Biden conflicts are too apparent to be ignored and should be investigated quickly and expeditiously,” Giuliani tweeted Thursday morning.

The suggestion of illegal behavior and the specter of putting a political opponent behind bars sounded familiar to some senior campaign aides to Hillary Clinton, who believe Trump and his allies are running a version of their “Crooked Hillary” playbook from 2016.

“Last time, he had the right-wing conspiracy media to boost his chants of ‘lock her up,’ but this time he’s going to actually weaponize the federal government against our nominee,” said Jesse Ferguson, a senior spokesperson on the Clinton campaign.

The attacks on Biden pivot off the lucrative business activities of his son Hunter during the Obama administration, most notably Hunter’s work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings. As part of a long campaign to pressure Ukraine to combat corruption in 2015 and 2016, then-Vice President Biden leveraged financial aid to the country in order to persuade the government to fire the country’s top prosecutor.

Continue reading at Politico

A Constitutional Showdown Between the White House and Congress Just Got Closer

Barr’s stall tactics are speeding up an inevitable court fight. Here’s how Democrats are already laying the groundwork.

Attorney General William Barr’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his refusal to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, underscored why Democrats are determined to get the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. Members of Congress are outraged about Barr’s deceptive answers to their questions. Some even want to prosecute him for it. But the fight that matters most is over his agency’s disclosure of the full report and all its underlying investigative material, not whether he lied to Congress.

And that fight, with grave implications for our constitutional system of checks and balances, seems destined for a courtroom in the not-too-distant future. Recent events indicate that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who gave Barr until 9 a.m. Monday to comply with the subpoena for the investigative materials, is positioning himself to win that battle while Barr’s actions create delay and roadblocks for Democrats but ultimately undercut the administration’s legal position.

Some suggested that the administration’s outlandish position, particularly Trump’s vow to “fight all the subpoenas,” could be written off as rhetoric that would soon yield to constitutional norms. But Barr’s actions this week indicate that this position is part of a strategy to delay Democrats’ investigation of the evidence of obstruction of justice found by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Barr’s refusal to appear before House Judiciary fits that pattern. Barr waited until the eve of his agreed-upon testimony to decline to appear, complaining that it would be inappropriate for the committee to use staff attorneys to question him. This ensured additional delay while Democrats subpoenaed Barr. If Barr refuses to comply, Democrats can hold him in contempt of Congress, but that process could take months to play out.

Continue reading at Politico
Feinstein calls on Border Patrol to review pursuit tactics after L.A. Times-ProPublica investigation

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday called on the U.S. Border Patrol to review its actions during high-speed car chases, weeks after an investigation by ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times found the agency’s pursuit tactics and policies were long out of date and had grown increasingly deadly in recent years.

In a letter sent to John Sanders, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Feinstein said the agency’s policy “offers insufficient protection against possible injuries and fatalities, either to bystander members of the public or occupants of a pursued vehicle.”

“This has led to catastrophic and unwarranted results,” she wrote.

Feinstein (D-Calif.) cited the fact that Border Patrol chases have resulted in 22 deaths and 250 injuries from 2015 to 2018, figures first revealed as part of an analysis published by ProPublica and The Times on April 4.

Reporters from both publications mined more than 9,000 federal criminal complaints filed against suspected human smugglers from 2015 to 2018 to build a database about Border Patrol pursuits and tactics. The documents described agents’ reasons for initiating a pursuit, whether there was a crash and how it happened. The database is almost certainly an undercount, as it does not include cases in which the driver got away or died, because the complaints are filed only after arrests.

In those four years, Border Patrol agents engaged in more than 500 pursuits in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Of those, 1 in 3 ended in a crash. The number of people hurt in Border Patrol chases increased by 42% during President Trump’s first two years in office, compared with the final two years of the Obama administration.

The deadly trend has continued into 2019. Two people died and six others were injured in a pair of Border Patrol chases that took place on the same night near San Diego in February. Last week, another Border Patrol chase left one person dead and four others hospitalized near Chula Vista, authorities said.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times
Trump administration lawyers are derided for legal attack to void entire healthcare law

The Trump administration is urging a conservative U.S. appeals court to cancel Medicaid coverage for 12 million Americans, insurance subsidies for 10 million more and the protections for 133 million people with preexisting conditions.

But it’s the legal rationale being advanced by the administration that has many raising eyebrows: Justice Department attorneys are claiming that a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act is exactly what the Democratic-controlled Congress of 2010 and the Republican-controlled Congress of 2017 would have wanted.

It’s a legal argument that scholars on the right and left have dismissed as blatantly political. Congress in 2010 voted to pass the law, and lawmakers in 2017 tried but failed to repeal it.

In the past, the Supreme Court has said that if judges decide one provision of a law is unconstitutional, they should “sever” the rest and try to preserve as much as possible— “consistent with Congress’s basic objectives in enacting the statute.”

But Trump administration lawyers took a nearly opposite approach in a legal brief filed this week. They said if one provision of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the entire law must be voided. The provision in question is the so-called individual mandate requiring Americans to have insurance or pay a fine. It was largely gutted as part of the GOP tax reform bill in 2017, when lawmakers reduced the tax penalty to zero for those who did not buy insurance.

University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley said the legal argument is extreme. “This is not a ‘well, reasonable minds can disagree’ position. It’s legal nuttery and nakedly partisan. Not a single reputable lawyer — of any political stripe — has endorsed it,” he said.

He said the legal claim reflects poorly on Atty. Gen. William Barr. “Part of the job of attorney general includes pushing back on the White House.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times
Senate judiciary chair offers Mueller opportunity to testify

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate judiciary committee, Lindsey Graham, on Friday offered U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller the opportunity to testify before his committee about any misstatements Attorney General William Barr might have made about Mueller’s investigation.

“Please inform the Committee if you would like to provide testimony regarding any misrepresentation by the Attorney General,” Graham wrote in a letter to Mueller, who was probing alleged Russian interference into the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

Curated from Reuters
John Kelly joins board of company that operates facilities for migrant children: report

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly is now a member of the board of directors for a holding company whose subsidiary operates some of the largest shelters for unaccompanied migrant children in the country, CBS News reported Friday.

Kelly has joined the board of Caliburn International, the parent company of Comprehensive Health Services, which operates the Homestead shelter in Florida and three other shelters for unaccompanied migrant children in Texas.

Homestead is the largest shelter for migrant children in the country.

“With four decades of military and humanitarian leadership, in-depth understanding of international affairs and knowledge of current economic drivers around the world, General Kelly is a strong strategic addition to our team,” James Van Dusen, Caliburn’s CEO, said in a statement reported by CBS.

“Our board remains acutely focused on advising on the safety and welfare of unaccompanied minors who have been entrusted to our care and custody by the Department of Health and Human Services to address a very urgent need in caring for and helping to find appropriate sponsors for these unaccompanied minors.”

The Caliburn board counts some former high-ranking military personnel among its members, including retired Adm. James Stavridis, Gen. Anthony Zinni and Rear Adm. Kathleen Martin. CBS also noted that the company’s portfolio includes a variety of work in defense sectors.

Continue reading at The Hill
Is this economy too good to be true?

The U.S. economy again defied expectations in April, as another month of strong hiring and falling unemployment forced experts to reevaluate just how good the economy can get — and how long the current expansion can last.

Employers added 263,000 new jobs last month, a record 103 straight months of job growth, and the official unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent, the lowest since 1969, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The latest piece of good news comes accompanied by strong wage growth, hot stock markets and a first-quarter growth report last week that smashed expectations. Equally noteworthy is what economists aren’t seeing: the high levels of inflation that have accompanied previous expansions.

As the economy continues to grow past what many predicted was possible, some analysts and officials are wondering if the current state of the economy is too good to be true — and that experts must be missing warning signs.

Some expressed concerns about rising debt after the Trump administration undertook heavy borrowing to fund tax cuts and additional government spending to boost growth. President Trump is actively pushing for more, including a $2 trillion infrastructure package, additional military spending and extra stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

But few, if any, deny the remarkable overall strength of the U.S. economy.

Continue reading at the Washington Post
Newsom goes national with universal health care ads — and not everyone is thrilled
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom launched a double-barreled campaign this week to amplify pressure on Democratic presidential candidates to commit to universal health care, while also looking to raise his national profile and tout his aspirational persona as California’s “health care governor.”His message, in online and social media ads and through campaign email blasts, is aimed at summoning Democrats in the crowded 2020 presidential field to “commit to establishing universal health care in all 50 states.”

“Universal health care is at the top of my agenda, and it’s what I’ll be looking for from our Democratic presidential candidates,” Newsom said in a “Gavin for Governor” email that went out to supporters Thursday.

Newsom, who just took office in January, says he’s not launching his own 2020 campaign for the White House. But he’s trying to inject himself into a hot national debate about the future of the American health care system and how to achieve universal coverage.

Though wide disagreement remains on how to get to universal health care, most Democrats — including high-profile candidates seeking to defeat President Donald Trump — have already said they want to achieve it.

Newsom may be using the opportunity more to introduce himself to voters across the country as a progressive on health care, burnish his credentials as an antagonist to Trump and lay the groundwork for future national aspirations.

“A core component of Gavin Newsom’s political message is ‘Hey, I was early on that’ …

Continue reading at Politico

ON WEDNESDAY, Human Rights Watch released a troubling report about a phone application made by the Chinese government. The app provides law enforcement with easy, daily access to data detailing the religious activity, blood type, and even the amount of electricity used by ethnic minority Muslims living in the western province of Xinjiang.

The app relies heavily on facial recognition software supplied by Face++, a division of the Chinese startup Megvii, a relationship that sparked questions in the press for Megvii investors. One of the most prominent of these investors is Alibaba Group Holding, which was co-founded by Jack Ma, the wealthiest Chinese billionaire and an icon for the country’s image of entrepreneurship.

The flurry of media reports about private investment in China’s increasingly sprawling surveillance state left out a prominent investor: Hunter Biden.

The flurry of media reports this week about Face++, Ma, and the role of the private sector in building China’s increasingly sprawling surveillance state, however, left out another prominent investor in the company: Hunter Biden.

The son of the former Vice President Joe Biden has spent much of the last decade building overseas investments and business deals, arrangements that could complicate his father’s bid for the presidency by posing an array of potential conflicts of interest.

Hunter Biden’s investment company in China, known as Bohai Harvest RST, has pooled money, largely from state-owned venture capital, to buy or invest in a range of industries in the U.S. and China.

Continue reading at The Intercept
Trump’s Labor secretary comes out against giving workers a raise

Alexander Acosta may bear the title of U.S. secretary of Labor, but you wouldn’t know it from the policies he has implemented as head of the one Cabinet-level department explicitly devoted to the welfare of American workers.

Since taking office in April 2017, Acosta has rolled back an Obama administration rule that would have doubled the maximum wage at which workers would be eligible for overtime pay and tied the ceiling to inflation in the future. He also scrapped an Obama-era rule that limited the ability of franchise owners to dodge liability for workplace and wage violations at their restaurants and stores.

This week, Acosta again showed his fealty to business lobbies instead of workers. In separate appearances before congressional committees Wednesday and Thursday, he expressed his opposition to increasing the federal minimum wage, which sits at $7.25 an hour.

If workers do not deserve [a raise] at this time, then when do they?


On both occasions, Acosta relied on a fatuous claim that raising the federal minimum would be tantamount to allowing the 29 states that have raised their minimums above the federal level to “impose their cost structures on the remaining 21 states.”

Acosta also misrepresented a Washington Post editorial on the topic by implying that it expressed opposition to the increase. Here’s its headline: “Congress should raise the minimum wage — the right way.” The editorial states that “the federal minimum wage does need an update.”

Acosta’s comments before the House Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday were chiefly aimed at a bill to raise the federal minimum to $15 over time. The measure was introduced by Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.), the chairman of the House committee.

To place the federal minimum in perspective, it has been eaten away since 1968, when it peaked in inflation-adjusted terms at $10.15 (that is, in 2018 dollars). In other words, the federal minimum is lower today than it was 50 years ago. The rate has not been raised since 2009, when it was increased from $6.55.

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times
Court Strikes Down Ohio Congressional Map, Says It’s Gerrymandered To Benefit GOP

The court blocked the state from using its current map in any future elections. It gave lawmakers until June 14 to come up with a new one.

A panel of three federal judges struck down Ohio’s congressional map on Friday, ruling the districts were so severely drawn to benefit Republicans that they violated the U.S. Constitution.

The panel blocked Ohio lawmakers from using the map in any future elections, and it gave lawmakers until June 14 to come up with a new plan.

Republicans controlled the redistricting process in 2011 and drew lines that gave them a 12-4 electoral advantage in the state’s congressional delegation. They have maintained that advantage since.

The court said the map violated the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as Article I. Article I gives states the power to draw electoral lines, but it also says members of the U.S. House shall be chosen by the people.

By gerrymandering, Ohio lawmakers blocked people from choosing their preferred members of the House.

“We are convinced by the evidence that this partisan gerrymander was intentional and effective and that no legitimate justification accounts for its extremity,” the panel wrote. “Performing our analysis district by district, we conclude that the 2012 map dilutes the votes of Democratic voters by packing and cracking them into districts that are so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined.”

Continue reading at the Huffington Post

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