In solidarity with fellow immigrants, no updates here for Feb 16 #DayWithoutImmigrants

NPR reports: Across the U.S., protesters are calling for a “Day Without Immigrants” on Thursday. It’s a boycott calling for immigrants not to go to work, in response to President Trump’s immigration policies and his plan to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

The protest seems to have been organized by word of mouth through social media. It’s unclear how many people will actually participate, though reports suggest restaurants in Austin, Texas; Denver and New York City, as well as the Philadelphia region, plan to join in. But in Washington, D.C., a number of restaurants have already announced that they’ll close for the day in solidarity with immigrant workers. That includes five restaurants owned by celebrity chef José Andrés.

“It was a very easy decision,” Andrés tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “When you have employees that have been with you almost 25 years, and they come to you in an organized way and they tell you, ‘Don’t get upset but Thursday we are not coming to work,’ [the] next thing you ask is, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening?’ So I decided to join them and support them — that’s what we’re doing.”

For Andrés, who came to the U.S. from Spain in 1991 and is now an American citizen, this is also personal. “It seems immigrants, especially Latinos, it seems we are under attack,” he says. “It seems we are part of the American dream, but somehow it seems that America is not recognizing what we are doing.” [Continue reading…]

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How Trump energized the extremists who dream of making America white again

Southern Poverty Law Center reports: After half a century of being increasingly relegated to the margins of society, the radical right entered the political mainstream last year in a way that had seemed virtually unimaginable since George Wallace ran for president in 1968.

A surge in right-wing populism, stemming from the long-unfolding effects of globalization and the movements of capital and labor that it spawned, brought a man many considered to be a racist, misogynist and xenophobe into the most powerful political office in the world. Donald Trump’s election as president mirrored similar currents in Europe, where globalization energized an array of extreme-right political movements and the United Kingdom’s decision to quit the European Union.

Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.

He kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites. He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.

The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.”

Richard Spencer, who leads a racist “think tank” called the National Policy Institute, exulted that “Trump’s victory was, at its root, a victory of identity politics.”

Trump’s election, as startling to extremists as it was to the political establishment, was followed by his selection of appointees with anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and white nationalist sympathies. To lead his domestic transition team, he chose Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the virulently anti-LGBT Family Research Council. As national security adviser, he selected retired Gen. Mike Flynn, who has described Islam as a “malignant cancer” and tweeted that “[f]ear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” His designated CIA director was U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who is close to some of the country’s most rabid anti-Muslim extremists.

Most remarkable of all was his choice as chief strategic adviser of Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet known for promoting the so-called “alternative right” — fundamentally, a recent rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes, albeit one that de-emphasizes Klan robes and Nazi symbols in favor of a more “intellectual” approach. With Bannon’s appointment, white nationalists felt they had a man inside the White House. [Continue reading…]

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Anti-Jewish/pro-Israel: Trump supports extremists in Israel while fueling the rise of anti-Semitism

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Why Flynn’s resignation matters

David Frum writes: Stop talking about the Logan Act.

It was not the violation of this antique and ignored piece of anti-Jacobin legislation that has touched off the biggest foreign-policy scandal since Watergate.

Nobody would care if an incoming national security adviser had confidential conversations with an ambassador of a hostile foreign government before Inauguration Day, if it were believed that the conversations served a legitimate and disinterested public purpose.

But that is exactly what is doubted in this case.

To put the story in simplest terms:

1) Russian spies hacked Democratic Party communications in order to help elect Donald Trump.

2) Donald Trump welcomed the help, used it, publicly solicited more of it—and was then elected president of the United States.

3) President Obama sanctioned Russia for its pro-Trump espionage.

4) While Russia considered its response, its ambassador spoke with the national security adviser-designate about the sanctions

5) The adviser, Flynn, reportedly asked Russia not to overreact, signaling that the new administration would review the sanctions; Russia did not respond.

6) As president-elect and then president, Donald Trump has indicated that he seeks to lift precisely those sanctions caused by Russia’s espionage work on his behalf.

All of this takes place against the background of Donald Trump’s seeming determination to align U.S. foreign policy ever closer to Russia’s: endorsing the annexation of Crimea, supporting Russia’s war aims in Syria, casting doubt on the U.S. guarantee to NATO allies, cheering on the breakup of the European Union. [Continue reading…]

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Constitutional experts describe how Trump may pose a threat to democracy

Ryan Goodman writes: In his debut on this past weekend’s Sunday morning shows, Stephen Miller, the President’s Senior Policy Advisor, repeated what to some was an alarming statement about the federal judiciary. Defending the White House’s immigration and refugee Executive Order against significant setbacks in federal court including a few days earlier the Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit, Miller said on Meet the Press:

I also want to be clear we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all the branches of government are equal. That’s the point. They are equal. There’s no such thing as judicial supremacy. What the judges did, both at the ninth and at the district level was to take power for themselves that belongs squarely in the hands of the president of the United States.

I posed the following question to some of the most highly respected constitutional law experts across the country, excluding current members of Just Security’s Board of Editors. I separately sent each person excerpts (see here) of transcripts of Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press, and posed the following query:

Some worry that at some point our country may face a constitutional crisis in which President Trump does not comply with a decision of the Supreme Court, whether in the immigration context or some other case. In view of that concern, how do you view Miller’s statements? You might say, for example, whether you think his views are part of a mainstream school of thought in constitutional law, are potentially limited to the immigration context, or represent a view that would support the President’s disregarding judicial orders from the federal courts or the Supreme Court in particular. Please feel free to address any one of those dimensions or another that you think this issue raises.

Throughout the answers below, the emphasis in the text (in bold) is provided by me, not the author of the statement.

1. Strong Rejection of Miller’s Statements as Expression of Attitude or Ideology

Professor Laurence Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard:

We can try to interrogate what Miller said by recourse to different legal schools of thought and the like, but I want to focus on a different plane and the one in which I believe Miller attempted to register his claim. I am concerned that, well beyond a purely theoretical and ignorant account of the role of an independent judiciary, Miller appears to be channeling President Trump’s underlying attitude, one doubtless not formulated in theoretical terms but baked into his personality and his sense of what it means to be a strong president. In that respect, Miller seemed to be engaged in a performance to earn the praise of his boss. The performance was consistent with the attitude Mr. Trump expressed in disparaging the supposedly “Mexican judge” Curiel back during the campaign, in calling U.S. District Court Judge Robart a “so-called judge,” and in saying the remarkably thoughtful 9th Circuit oral argument was “disgraceful” and “political” when it was as far from either as a judicial exchange dealing with a politically explosive issue could be. It is this gestalt—rather than a well formulated theory of the judiciary’s role—that may someday threaten the foundations of our constitutional democracy if not in this litigation under the Trump administration than in another.

[Continue reading…]

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‘Tell on Trump’ appeals to potential leakers

The Wall Street Journal reports: With the Trump administration proving to be a leaky ship in its early days, one news outlet is launching an ad blitz to find the next Deep Throat.

The Gizmodo Media Group’s investigative team has taken to buying highly-targeted Facebook ads to steer potential leakers to a new website, TellOnTrump.com, which lays out a variety of secure methods to pass on sensitive information.

“One thing we know about Donald Trump is that there are a lot of things Donald Trump doesn’t want people to know about. If you’ve reached this page, you might have information about the conduct of Donald Trump or his administration that you’d like people to know about. Here’s how you can tell us,” the site explains.

The Univision Communications Inc.-owned media group, which operates sites like Fusion and the former Gawker Media sites like Gizmodo, Deadspin and Jezebel, started running ads on the social media platform within the last week that specifically target people who list certain government agencies as their employers. The ads don’t specify which news outlet is running the campaign, but the site which the ads point to clearly identifies the Gizmodo special projects desk.

“We are targeting people who are employed by federal agencies because we want them to know that if they see or know about something they think is newsworthy, we are here for them,” said John Cook, Gizmodo’s head of investigations.

Mr. Cook said Gizmodo is also working to purchase bus shelter ads near certain government agencies in Washington, D.C., encouraging people to contact them with information about the Trump administration. [Continue reading…]

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Robert Harward, Trump’s choice to replace Flynn, spent his teens living in Tehran

Reuters reports: As a teenager in the early 1970s retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward played football and basketball, was popular with classmates and, like many American high school students, was known for partying.

But Harward, to whom President Donald Trump has offered the post of U.S. national security adviser, to succeed Michael Flynn, spent his teenage years not in his native Rhode Island, but in pre-revolutionary Iran, where his father, a Navy captain, advised the Iranian military.

During his teenage years, Harward lived in an Iranian neighborhood, attended school with Iranian-American students and played sports against Iranian teams. Those experiences gave him an unusual familiarity with Iran’s culture and people in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted the pro-American Shah.

“During very formative years of his life, he was exposed to everything that was Iran,” said Joseph Condrill, who knew Harward, known by his classmates as Bobby, when they were students at the Tehran American School. “Iran was one of our homes, and we got to know the Iranian people very well, in a very intimate way.”

The Trump administration has offered Harward the job of national security adviser, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if Harward had accepted, the sources said. [Continue reading…]

Thomas Ricks writes: Harward is, like the ousted Michael Flynn, a retired military flag officer. But I think he would be very different from Flynn.

Most importantly, he is not an ideologue, as Flynn seemed to have become in the last few years. Harward thinks of himself as a national security professional — and indeed once served on the NSC staff, during the Bush Administration. Before that, early in the Afghan war, he headed the Special Operations task force in Kandahar.

Harward also would work well with Defense Secretary James Mattis. When Mattis was chief of Central Command, Harward was his deputy. Mattis trusted him enough to put him in charge of planning for war with Iran. Mattis has urged Harward to take the NSA job.

If Harward becomes NSA, Mattis would emerge from the Flynn mess in a uniquely powerful position: He would have two of his former deputies at the table in some meetings. The other one is John Kelly, now secretary for Homeland Security, who was his number two when Mattis commanded a Marine division early in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

At this point, Mattis has far greater influence over former military officers than the president does. His presence at the Pentagon is the sole reason some are considering climbing aboard Trump’s sinking ship. [Continue reading…]

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Flynn’s ouster leads to more chaos in Trump world

Politico reports: The resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn did little to calm the chaos at the White House, where staff spent Tuesday scrambling to deflect blame for the rising scandal about Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials — including who knew what about the conversations and when.

Other ongoing controversies intruded on the White House’s ability to impose its own narrative on the Flynn situation, adding to the sense of confusion in President Donald Trump’s Washington.

Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub released a letter recommending that the White House investigate Kellyanne Conway and consider disciplinary action against her for encouraging the public to buy clothes from the line marketed by Ivanka Trump, the president’s oldest daughter, after Nordstrom stopped carrying it.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have been hesitant to chastise the new administration, also began asserting some distance from the president. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a request to the White House on Tuesday for answers about security protocols at Mar-a-Lago and details about potentially sensitive documents after club members photographed the president and senior staff reading on the club’s dining terrace Saturday.

And Senate Republicans called for investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) left the door open to supporting an independent investigative commission, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared to support the idea of requiring Flynn to testify before committee investigations. “What I’d like to know is, did Gen. Flynn make this phone call by himself? If he was directed, by who?” Graham asked. “Did they try to engage the Russians before they were in office? Was this part of a continuing pattern between the Trump people and Russia?”

White House staff seemed disorganized in their response to the crises.

For the second time in less than a day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer contradicted statements from others in the White House. He told reporters at Tuesday’s daily press briefing that Trump demanded Flynn’s resignation, whereas senior administration officials said Monday night that Flynn decided to step down on his own. [Continue reading…]

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Head of U.S. Special Operations Command concerned about ‘unbelievable turmoil’ in Trump administration

The New York Times reports: Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House. “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” he said at a military conference on Tuesday.

Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

But Mr. Flynn’s late-night departure just added to the broader sense of chaos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In record time, the 45th president has set off global outrage with a ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban and watched as federal courts swiftly moved to block the policy, calling it an unconstitutional use of executive power.

The president angrily provoked the cancellation of a summit meeting with the Mexican president, hung up on Australia’s prime minister, authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL member, repeatedly lied about the existence of millions of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election and engaged in Twitter wars with senators, a sports team owner, a Hollywood actor and a major department store chain. His words and actions have generated almost daily protests around the country. [Continue reading…]

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Congress should call for special counsel to investigate Flynn and Trump

Adam Goldberg writes: All U.S. attorneys general have the authority to appoint someone to conduct investigations, vesting investigative and prosecutorial powers in them. Wholly apart from the independent counsel law that expired in 1999, U.S. attorneys general have used this authority precisely at times like these when greater independence is necessary. Most recently, President Bush’s Department of Justice exercised this ability in 2003, when Attorney General Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation into the leaking of a CIA officer’s identity and Deputy Attorney General Comey appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as special counsel.

That we need a special counsel now is clear from three key facts. First, General Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before President Trump took office and lied about it. If, as some say, this could not possibly be a violation of the Logan Act — prohibiting private citizens from interfering with U.S. foreign policy — why lie about it? If General Flynn’s discussions were typical transition work, why deceive the country and the Vice President?

Second, in General Flynn’s resignation letter he stated that he gave “incomplete information” to the Vice President and others, but General Flynn notably omitted giving incomplete information to President Trump. Perhaps that is because he never discussed the issue with President Trump. It is at least as likely, however, that he did — that President Trump knew about the full content of General Flynn’s discussions and did so at the time General Flynn made them. Can we trust President Trump’s own Department of Justice to investigate him? [Continue reading…]

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The bureaucracy, the press, the judiciary, and the public are fighting back against Trump with some success

Peter Beinart writes: Nothing Donald Trump has done since becoming President is particularly surprising. The attacks on judges and the press, the clash of civilizations worldview, the ignorance of public policy, the blurring of government service and private gain, the endless lying, the incompetence, the chaos — all were vividly foreshadowed during the campaign. The Republican-led Congress’ refusal to challenge Trump was foreseeable too. The number of Republicans willing to oppose Trump’s agenda pretty much equals the number who refused to endorse him once he became the GOP nominee.

Less predictable has been the response of other elements of the American political system: The bureaucracy, the press, the judiciary and the public. Here, the news is good. So far, they’re not only pushing back, they’re having some success.

The latest example is the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn’s resignation is a welcome development both because he held crudely bigoted views of Muslims and because he was unable to competently manage the foreign policy process. But that’s not why he lost his job. He lost his job because of an independent bureaucracy and a vigorous press.

CNN’s Brian Stelter has reconstructed the chain of events. On January 12, a “senior U.S. government official” told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that, “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the [Russian] hacking” of the presidential election. Three days later, CBS’ John Dickerson asked Vice President Mike Pence about the call, and Pence insisted that Flynn had not discussed “anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

But the Washington Post followed up, citing “nine current and former officials” who claimed that Flynn had discussed exactly that. The New York Times reported that there was a transcript of the call. Eventually, it became impossible to deny that Flynn had lied, and caused Pence to lie. If the Trump administration had been able to deny reality, as it so often does, Flynn would likely still have his job. But good reporters, aided by government sources, made that impossible. As the Columbia Journalism Review notes, “it wasn’t the lying that got him [Flynn] fired; it’s that his lying leaked to the press.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump ready to abandon U.S. support for the creation of a Palestinian state

Al Jazeera reports: US President Donald Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday, their first meeting since the inauguration and one that could shape policy in the region for years ahead.

Trump and Netanyahu are likely to discuss peace efforts between Israel and Palestine, as well as expanding settlements, the Iran nuclear deal and the war in Syria.

Trump’s campaign pledge to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would infuriate Palestinians and the Muslim world, will also be a discussion point.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was working to achieve a comprehensive agreement ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The way forward toward that goal will also be discussed between the president and the prime minister,” he said.

Trump, who is relentlessly pro-Israel and has repeatedly spoken disparagingly about Palestinians has challenged the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for a state.

On Tuesday, a White House official said that Trump supported the goal of peace between the Israel and the Palestinians, even if it does not involve the two-state solution. [Continue reading…]

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Stephen Miller a no-show on The Late Show

 

 

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Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence

The New York Times reports: Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the Russian government outside of the intelligence services, the officials said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.

The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Russia and Ukraine. The officials declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls. [Continue reading…]

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Trump knew Flynn misled officials on Russia calls for ‘weeks,’ White House says

The Washington Post reports: President Trump was aware for “weeks” that his national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled White House officials and Vice President Pence about his talks with the Russian ambassador before Flynn was forced to resign on Monday night.

During a briefing with White House Counsel Don McGahn late last month, Trump learned that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak despite his claims to the contrary. The briefing came “immediately” after McGahn was informed about the discrepancy by the Department of Justice, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday.

Sally Yates, the acting attorney general at the time, and a senior career national security official at the Justice Department had informed McGahn at his office about their concerns on Jan. 26, according to a person familiar with the briefing. Spicer said that the president and a small group of senior aides were briefed by McGahn about Flynn that same day. [Continue reading…]

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