White House set for 'big immigration launch' to focus on DHS memos, official says

Feb 21, 2017 5

The White House is planning a “big immigration launch” Tuesday morning that will focus on the implementation of the recent Department of Homeland Security proposal that called for the hiring of thousands of officers and fast-tracking deportations, a senior administration official said.

The DHS plan was signed Friday by the agency’s new secretary, John Kelly. If approved by President Trump, it would give federal authorities more power to aggressively detain and deport illegal immigrants inside the country and along U.S. borders.

Kelly called for 10,000 additional ICE officers and agents and 5,000 new hires at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

“The surge of immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” wrote Kelly, citing 10,000 to 15,000 more apprehensions along that border between 2015 and 2016.

He also wrote that building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, as Trump has called for, “necessary.”

Former President Obama’s executive orders on illegal immigration focused on deporting those with criminal records and terrorist connections.

“Criminal aliens have demonstrated their disregard for the rule of law and pose a threat to persons residing in the United States,” Kelly writes in the memorandums. “As such criminal aliens are a priority for removal.”

The expanded relationship with local law enforcement would be carried out through what is known as 287(g) — a section on the federal  Immigration and Nationality Act that allows DHS to deputize state and local law-enforcement officers so they can function as federal immigration agents.

“Regardless of the White House’s response, this document is an absolutely accurate description of the disturbing mindset that pervades the Trump administration when it comes to our nation’s immigrants,” said U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he would have “concerns about the utilization of National Guard resources for immigration enforcement,” believing such a program “would be too much of a strain on our National Guard personnel.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report 

John McCain is again the media's favorite contrarian as he takes on Trump

Feb 21, 2017 6

John McCain is back in his customary role, the maverick adored by the media.

“Mr. McCain has emerged as an outspoken defender of longstanding Republican verities on foreign policy and as one of his party’s most biting critics of the new commander in chief,” says the New York Times.

A Washington Post piece is headlined “John McCain Just Systematically Dismantled Donald Trump’s Entire Worldview.”

And there is little doubt that the Arizona senator views himself as standing up for Republican principles against a president he opposed. But make no mistake, this is personal.

McCain walked it back a bit yesterday after having told “Meet the Press” that without a free and adversarial press, “I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

The statement from his office said: “Let’s be clear: Senator McCain was not comparing anyone to a dictator. He was stating a fact that throughout history, a free press has been essential to holding governments accountable to the people.”

True, McCain only implied that Trump might be headed down the road toward dictatorship.

McCain’s hawkish views on foreign policy, and staunch backing for the Iraq war, set him apart from Trump, who is critical of that war and believes the U.S. has been too quick to resort to military intervention around the world.

Their relationship got off to a bad start during the primaries, when Trump took a shot at McCain’s years in a North Vietnam prison camp: “I like people that weren’t captured.” The media went wild over Trump’s comment, made in reaction to McCain saying that his immigration stance was attracting “crazies.”

At a conference in Germany late last week, McCain said Europeans would be “alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups, especially Muslims.” He also noted a growing unwillingness “to separate truth from lies” and that “more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism.”

The president, for his part, hit back at McCain on Twitter, saying, “He’s been losing so long he doesn’t know how to win anymore.”

McCain skipped the Republican convention, avoided talking about Trump and withdrew even his nominal support after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

I first got to know McCain during the 2000 primaries, spending endless hours on his Straight Talk Express bus. Since he had no money, the senator would talk to reporters all day long and wound up winning New Hampshire before losing to George W. Bush.

McCain continued to get good press during the Bush administration because he was a maverick taking on his own party. And he got sympathetic coverage during the 2008 primaries—that is, after the pundits wrote him off when his campaign nearly collapsed the previous year.

But when McCain was taking on Barack Obama, the coverage turned far more negative, since he wasn’t viewed as a maverick against the country’s first potential black president. McCain limited press access, just like a conventional candidate. And his opposition to Obama’s foreign policy didn’t yield warm reviews from a press corps he had once jokingly called his “base.”  

Could the recent surge of media interest in McCain have something to do with the journalistic opposition to Trump? Well, he’s on the cover of New York magazine, the same publication that in its preelection issue branded Trump a “LOSER.”

I don’t see a rapprochement any time soon. Trump has made clear he won’t be dissuaded by critics in his own party. McCain is 80, newly reelected and has nothing to lose. And their clashes could help shape the direction of the next four years.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz. 

Ivanka Trump calls for 'religious tolerance' after bomb threats aimed at Jewish centers

Feb 21, 2017 8

Ivanka Trump took to Twitter to call for religious tolerance following the latest wave of bomb threats that were made against 11 Jewish community centers Monday.

“America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our house of worship & religious centers. #JCC,” Trump tweeted.

Trump converted to Judaism before marrying her husband Jared Kushner, who is Orthodox, according to the New York Times.

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters further explained Trump’s message.

“Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom,” Walters said in a statement. “The president has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”

The FBI was investigating the threats placed against centers in New Mexico, Alabama, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Florida and Oklahoma. The threats were deemed hoaxes, but the centers were evacuated as a precaution, the Times reported.

“While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, said in a statement.

President Trump had yet to comment on the threats as of early Tuesday. He received some criticism last week after calling a Jewish magazine reporter’s question about anti-Semitism “insulting” and responding that he was the “least anti-Semitic person in the world.”

Meanwhile, in Missouri, dozens of headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis.

University City police did not say whether the vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery is a hate crime, but it’s believed that some organization was behind the crime and it was not a one individual.

Click for more from The New York Times.

American flag contains 51 stars for Pence visit to European Union

Feb 21, 2017 14

United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, and EU Council President Donald Tusk pose for photographers as Pence arrives at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017.  (AP)

The Star-Spangled Banner looked more starry than usual during one of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s appearances in Brussels.

A background picture of the American flag that went up alongside the European Union flag as Pence and EU leader Donald Tusk spoke on Monday had 51 stars instead of the usual 50, one for each state.

The Brussels version of the flag had three rows of nine stars and three rows with eight stars each. American flags typically feature a total of nine alternating rows of five or six stars

The EU flag featuring 12 stars in a circle against a blue background was configured correctly. And the American flag had the right number of stripes — 13.

The EU Council did not immediately respond when asked about the error with the misplaced star-state.

American flag contains 51 stars for Pence visit to European Union

Feb 21, 2017 11

United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, and EU Council President Donald Tusk pose for photographers as Pence arrives at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017.  (AP)

The Star-Spangled Banner looked more starry than usual during one of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s appearances in Brussels.

A background picture of the American flag that went up alongside the European Union flag as Pence and EU leader Donald Tusk spoke on Monday had 51 stars instead of the usual 50, one for each state.

The Brussels version of the flag had three rows of nine stars and three rows with eight stars each. American flags typically feature a total of nine alternating rows of five or six stars

The EU flag featuring 12 stars in a circle against a blue background was configured correctly. And the American flag had the right number of stripes — 13.

The EU Council did not immediately respond when asked about the error with the misplaced star-state.

Zimbabwe's Mugabe: Give Trump a chance

Feb 21, 2017 12

Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe said Monday that President Trump should be given a chance to prove himself, which the BBC reported it is an unusual move for the man who had his assets frozen by the U.S. in 2001 over allegations of human rights abuses.

“Give him time,” Mugabe said in the interview. “Mr. Trump might even re-look (at) the sanctions on Zimbabwe.”

He went on to say, “When it comes to Donald Trump… talking of American nationalism, well America for America, America for Americans – on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans,” Mugabe said.

Mugabe has been in power since white minority rule ended in Zimbabwe in 1980 after years of war. A big celebration for him is planned in Zimbabwe on Feb. 25, a few days after his birthday.

His 51-year-old wife spoke recently about her husband’s political future. She said Mugabe should run “as a corpse” in next year’s election if he dies before the vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Congressman plans to sue over removal of painting depicting cops as pigs

Feb 20, 2017 14

The office of a Missouri congressman says he intends to file a federal lawsuit over the removal of a constituent’s painting from its display on Capitol Hill.

The painting, which shows a pig in a police uniform, divided members of Congress for its depiction of Ferguson, Missouri, where weeks of protests occurred after the police shooting of an unarmed black man.

The painting, one of 400-plus winning entries in the Congressional Arts Competition, hung in a tunnel leading to the Capitol for more than seven months.

Some conservative media outlets called for its removal and Republican lawmakers took it down and returned it to Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay’s office. Clay put it back up, saying its removal violated a constituent’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Clay’s office said he will file a lawsuit Tuesday “in response to the arbitrary and unconstitutional disqualification and removal” of the painting.

More on this…

“Congressman Clay is seeking an appropriate remedy through this federal litigation and he is proud to defend both the fundamental rights of his constituent and the First Amendment,” according to an advisory his office sent in advance of a press conference Clay intends to hold Tuesday outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

EXCLUSIVE: Felix Sater, man at center of Ukraine peace plan, said he was only trying to help

Feb 20, 2017 17

He was at the center of Ukraine peace plan that came amid the troubling allegations that Russia tried to influence the presidential election to help elect Donald Trump.

In an exclusive Fox News interview, Felix Sater strongly denies any wrong doing by trying to push the plan, and says that he was never a connection between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“What could be wrong in helping stop a war and trying to achieve peace? I have done so much for my country and thought that promoting peace was a good thing,” he told Fox News. “People are getting killed, it’s a war.”

Sater is a long time New York real estate developer who had worked for years with the Trump organization and the now-president on various real estate projects.

The New York Times reported that the Ukraine peace plan was drawn up by Sater, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and a Ukraine opposition lawmaker, Andrii Artemenko. Cohen is alleged to have left the proposal on the desk of then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, though the White House says that it has no record of that and that the envelope was never presented to the president.

Sater, who is 50 years old and was born in Moscow, also insists that he was not a link between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Reports have claimed that there was “repeated contact” between top campaign officials and Russian intelligence operatives throughout presidential race. The charges have been denied by both President Trump and White House officials. The allegations of Russian influence are being investigated by the F.B.I. and a variety of congressional committees.

“I was absolutely not a link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government,” he said. “I have no contact with anyone in the Russian government.”

As for Moscow’s intentions, he says “I have no idea. I don’t have the foggiest notion of what the Russians were or were not doing. I have no business interests in Russia or business interests in the Ukraine. I just hoped that I could help stop a war. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

He also says that he is being portrayed unfairly in the media, because of his heritage.

“The press refers to me as ‘a Russian businessman.’ I came here when I was 7 years old,” he said. “I am an American businessman of Russian descent, who happens to have been born in Russia.”

Sater bristles at the mentions of his 1998 guilty plea in what was described as “a major Mafia-linked stock-fraud scheme.” He was also sentenced to prison for slashing a man in a 1991 bar fight.

‘It feels horrible and terrible to be dragged through the mud for no reason whatsoever,” he said.

Sater said what largely goes unnoticed is that for more than a decade, in the 1990s, he helped federal prosecutors who went after fraud cases in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, and elsewhere.

The former Eastern District U.S. Attorney who went on to become President Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, wrote a letter to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch praising Sater during her confirmation hearings two years ago.

Lynch wrote in part, “Felix Sater, provided valuable and sensitive information to the government during the course of his cooperation, which began in or about December 1998. For more than 10 years he worked with prosecutors in my office, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies, providing information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra.” 

Sater said that so far, he has not been contacted by law enforcement.

CPAC disinvites Milo Yiannopoulos from conservative conference

Feb 20, 2017 16

Organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference have disinvited professional provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos after a video interview emerged of him appearing to condone pedophilia emerged.

“Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference,” ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a statement Monday.

Yiannopoulos, an editor at Breitbart News, said in a Facebook post on Sunday that selective editing resulted in his words being taken out of context and that he does not support pedophilia, according to Mediate

Well-known on the political fringes, the 32-year old writer has gained more prominence with the ascension of Donald Trump and former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon into the White House.

It was Yiannopoulos’ appearance at the University of California – Berkeley and the ensuing protests that resulted in his cancellation that drew national attention and a presidential tweet.

“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Trump tweeted after Yiannopoulos’ speech was cancelled after violent protests broke out on the campus.

The reaction was one of the reasons for this appearance at CPAC.

“An epidemic of speech suppression has taken over college campuses. Milo has exposed their liberal thuggery and we think free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective,” Schlapp told The Hollywood Reporter.

Shortly after the Saturday announcement, some conservatives began voicing opposition to his selection – even before the Reagan Battalion released video clips on Twitter.

The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg said Yiannopolous’ invite represented the “mainstreaming a mainstreamer of alt-right, anti-Semitism and other un-conservative views.”

Taking down student painting violated First Amendment, lawmaker claims in lawsuit

Feb 20, 2017 16

A U.S. congressman is filing a federal lawsuit alleging that the constitutional rights of a Missouri man were violated when the Architect of the Capitol ordered the removal of his painting from a congressional display.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., announced Monday that he is suing Stephen Ayers, Architect of the U.S. Capitol, in response to the “arbitrary and unconstitutional” removal of a painting created by former St. Louis student David Pulphus.