Feds plan unusual appeal in emoluments suit vs. Trump | Politico

By Josh Gerstein

The Justice Department is planning an unusual appeal to stop the governments of the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia from using a federal lawsuit to demand access to information about whether President Donald Trump is using his luxury Washington hotel to unconstitutionally profit from his office.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte turned down Trump’s request for permission to seek an appeal of early rulings in the case that went against him. Now, federal government lawyers say they plan to appeal anyway, using a rarely invoked process that can block a wayward judge from pressing on with a course of action alleged to be illegal or improper.

On Friday, the Justice Department informed Messitte that the federal government plans to try to get the Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the case.

“The Solicitor General of the United States has authorized the filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit of a petition for writ of mandamus against this Court’s orders declining to dismiss the case and to certify an interlocutory appeal, as well as an application for a stay of District Court proceedings pending resolution of the mandamus petition,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

Lawyers for Maryland and Washington, D.C.. have asked the judge to open a six-month discovery period where they could take depositions from witnesses, demand records and issue written questions focused on how the Trump International Hotel’s business has benefited from Trump’s election as president.

The suit, filed in June, alleges that Trump is violating two “emoluments” clauses in the Constitution by using his Pennsylvania Avenue hotel to reap financial dividends from his presidency. One provision covers business with foreign governments. The other prohibits federal officials from profiting from financial relationships with individual states.

The Trump Organization has pledged to donate to the U.S. Treasury any profits from hotel business with foreign governments. However, there is little transparency about how those amounts are calculated.

In his ruling last month denying Trump permission to appeal in the case, Messitte also noted that while lawyers representing Trump in the emoluments case were complaining that litigation would be a distracting burden for the president, the president regularly threatens to sue those he feels aggrieved by.
“It bears noting that the President himself appears to have had little reluctance to pursue personal litigation despite the supposed distractions it imposes upon his office,” the judge wrote.

Earlier this year, Messitte — an appointee of President Bill Clinton — issued an opinion turning down arguments from Justice Department attorneys that Maryland and D.C. lacked legal standing to pursue the emoluments issue against Trump. The judge also rejected arguments from Trump’s lawyers that the Constitution’s definition of emoluments includes only direct payment for official services and excludes all private business transactions.

Messitte, who sits in Greenbelt, had indicated he planned to issue an order opening discovery in the case Monday. Without some intervention by the 4thCircuit, the first formal exchange of information would likely be due within a week.

A similar suit against Trump brought by Democratic lawmakers cleared an initial hurdle in federal court in Washington , while a pair of suits filed in New York were thrown out by a judge there. That decision is on appeal.

Source: Politico

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Trump’s List: 289 Accomplishments in 20 Months | Geller Report

As Trump nears the two-year mark of his historic election and conducts political rallies around the country, during which he talks up his wins in hopes it will energize Republican voters, the administration has counted up 289 accomplishments in 18 categories, capped by the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

They include 173 major wins, such as adding more than 4 million jobs, and another 116 smaller victories, some with outsize importance, such as the 83 percent one-year increase in arrests of MS-13 gang members.

Trump’s successes in reducing the cost of taxes and regulations, rebuilding our military, avoiding wars of choice and changing the courts rival those of all previous Republican presidents.

“Trump has an advantage over Ronald Reagan: He has a Reagan Republican House and Senate while Reagan had a [Democratic Speaker] Tip O’Neill House and a pre-Reagan Republican Senate. Reagan and [former GOP Speaker] Newt Gingrich were the ice breakers that allowed Trump’s victories to grow in number and significance,” he added.

Unlike the Year One list which included many proposals and orders still to be acted on, the new collection includes dozens of actions already in place, signed legislation, and enforced executive orders.

And shockingly the NAFTA achievement is presented as a sidebar to the larger achievement that reads, “President Trump is negotiating and renegotiating better trade deals, achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade for the United States.” Under that umbrella are eight trade deals cut with Japan, South Korea, Europe and China.“President Trump is a truly unique leader in American history. He’s a kid from Queens who became an international business leader and made billions by getting things when no one said he could,” said Trump’s 2016 campaign pollster John McLaughlin.“They told him he couldn’t be president and beat the establishment and he did. For two years the establishment is telling him he can’t do things in Washington and he’s succeeding in spite of them. He never retreats. He doesn’t back up. He’s relentless. He just wins,” he added.Comparing the two years shows that the latest has an expanded group of economic achievements while the pro-life category was folded into the health care section.

Along the way, there have been some disappointments, such as failing to replace Obamacare, fund a big infrastructure plan, and build the border wall.

But the White House believes that despite a lack of media coverage of his accomplishments, supporters know about them and will head to the voting polls to help the GOP maintain control of the House and keep the president on what CNN dubbed a “winning streak.”

In the Washington Post Friday, former Bush speechwriter and columnist Marc Thiessen agreed and said that Trump has proven to be successful at keeping his campaign promises. He wrote, “The fact is, in his first two years, Trump has compiled a remarkable record of presidential promise-keeping.”

The list:

Economic Growth

  • 4.2 percent growth in the second quarter of 2018.
  • For the first time in more than a decade, growth is projected to exceed 3 percent over the calendar year.

Jobs

  • 4 million new jobs have been created since the election, and more than 3.5 million since Trump took office.
  • More Americans are employed now than ever before in our history.
  • Jobless claims at lowest level in nearly five decades.
  • The economy has achieved the longest positive job-growth streak on record.
  • Job openings are at an all-time high and outnumber job seekers for the first time on record.
  • Unemployment claims at 50 year low
  • African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American unemployment rates have all recently reached record lows.
    • African-American unemployment hit a record low of 5.9 percent in May 2018.
    • Hispanic unemployment at 4.5 percent.
    • Asian-American unemployment at record low of 2 percent.
  • Women’s unemployment recently at lowest rate in nearly 65 years.
    • Female unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent in May 2018, the lowest since October 1953.
  • Youth unemployment recently reached its lowest level in more than 50 years.
    • July 2018’s youth unemployment rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest since July 1966.
  • Veterans’ unemployment recently hit its lowest level in nearly two decades.
    • July 2018’s veterans’ unemployment rate of 3.0 percent matched the lowest rate since May 2001.
  • Unemployment rate for Americans without a high school diploma recently reached a record low.
  • Rate for disabled Americans recently hit a record low.
  • Blue-collar jobs recently grew at the fastest rate in more than three decades.
  • Poll found that 85 percent of blue-collar workers believe their lives are headed “in the right direction.”
    • 68 percent reported receiving a pay increase in the past year.
  • Last year, job satisfaction among American workers hit its highest level since 2005.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans rate now as a good time to find a quality job.
    • Optimism about the availability of good jobs has grown by 25 percent.
  • Added more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the election.
    • Manufacturing employment is growing at its fastest pace in more than two decades.
  • 100,000 new jobs supporting the production & transport of oil & natural gas.

American Income

  • Median household income rose to $61,372 in 2017, a post-recession high.
  • Wages up in August by their fastest rate since June 2009.
  • Paychecks rose by 3.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, the most in a decade.
  • Council of Economic Advisers found that real wage compensation has grown by 1.4 percent over the past year.
  • Some 3.9 million Americans off food stamps since the election.
  • Median income for Hispanic-Americans rose by 3.7 percent and surpassed $50,000 for the first time ever in history.
    • Home-ownership among Hispanics is at the highest rate in nearly a decade.
  • Poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have reached their lowest levels ever recorded.

American Optimism

  • Small business optimism has hit historic highs.
    • NFIB’s small business optimism index broke a 35 year-old record in August.
    • SurveyMonkey/CNBC’s small business confidence survey for Q3 of 2018 matched its all-time high.
  • Manufacturers are more confident than ever.
    • 95 percent of U.S. manufacturers are optimistic about the future, the highest ever.
  • Consumer confidence is at an 18-year high.
  • 12 percent of Americans rate the economy as the most significant problem facing our country, the lowest level on record.
  • Confidence in the economy is near a two-decade high, with 51 percent rating the economy as good or excellent.

American Business

  • Investment is flooding back into the United States due to the tax cuts.
    • Over $450 billion dollars has already poured back into the U.S., including more than $300 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
  • Retail sales have surged. Commerce Department figures from August show that retail sales increased 0.5 percent in July 2018, an increase of 6.4 percent from July 2017.
  • ISM’s index of manufacturing scored its highest reading in 14 years.
  • Worker productivity is the highest it has been in more than three years.
  • Steel and aluminum producers are re-opening.
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and NASDAQ have all notched record highs.
    • Dow hit record highs 70 times in 2017 alone, the most ever recorded in one year.

Deregulation

  • Achieved massive deregulation at a rapid pace, completing 22 deregulatory actions to every one regulatory action during his first year in office.
  • Signed legislation to roll back costly and harmful provisions of Dodd-Frank, providing relief to credit unions, and community and regional banks.
  • Federal agencies achieved more than $8 billion in lifetime net regulatory cost savings.
  • Rolled back Obama’s burdensome Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • Used the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations more times than in history.

Tax Cuts

  • Biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs act into law
    • Provided more than $5.5 trillion in gross tax cuts, nearly 60 percent of which will go to families.
    • Increased the exemption for the death tax to help save Family Farms & Small Business.
    • Nearly doubled the standard deduction for individuals and families.
    • Enabled vast majority of American families will be able to file their taxes on a single page by claiming the standard deduction.
    • Doubled the child tax credit to help lessen the financial burden of raising a family.
    • Lowered America’s corporate tax rate from the highest in the developed world to allow American businesses to compete and win.
    • Small businesses can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.
    • Cut dozens of special interest tax breaks and closed loopholes for the wealthy.
  • 9 in 10 American workers are expected see an increase in their paychecks thanks to the tax cuts, according to the Treasury Department.
  • More than 6 million of American workers have received wage increases, bonuses, and increased benefits thanks to tax cuts.
  • Over 100 utility companies have lowered electric, gas, or water rates thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
  • Ernst & Young found 89 percent of companies planned to increase worker compensation thanks to the Trump tax cuts.
  • Established opportunity zones to spur investment in left behind communities.

Worker Development

  • Established a National Council for the American Worker to develop a national strategy for training and retraining America’s workers for high-demand industries.
  • Employers have signed Trump’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” committing to train or retrain more than 4.2 million workers and students.
  • Signed the first Perkins CTE reauthorization since 2006, authorizing more than $1 billion for states each year to fund vocational and career education programs.
  • Executive order expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students and workers.

Domestic Infrastructure

  • Proposed infrastructure plan would utilize $200 billion in Federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment across the country.
  • Executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects.
  • Federal agencies have signed the One Federal Decision Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) streamlining the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects.
  • Rural prosperity task force and signed an executive order to help expand broadband access in rural areas.

Health Care

  • Signed an executive order to help minimize the financial burden felt by American households Signed legislation to improve the National Suicide Hotline.
  • Signed the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever into law, which will advance childhood cancer research and improve treatments.
  • Signed Right-to-Try legislation, expanding health care options for terminally ill patients.
  • Enacted changes to the Medicare 340B program, saving seniors an estimated $320 million on drugs in 2018 alone.
  • FDA set a new record for generic drug approvals in 2017, saving consumers nearly $9 billion.
  • Released a blueprint to drive down drug prices for American patients, leading multiple major drug companies to announce they will freeze or reverse price increases.
  • Expanded short-term, limited-duration health plans.
  • Let more employers to form Association Health Plans, enabling more small businesses to join together and affordably provide health insurance to their employees.
  • Cut Obamacare’s burdensome individual mandate penalty.
  • Signed legislation repealing Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, also known as the “death panels.”
  • USDA invested more than $1 billion in rural health care in 2017, improving access to health care for 2.5 million people in rural communities across 41 states
  • Proposed Title X rule to help ensure taxpayers do not fund the abortion industry in violation of the law.
  • Reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy to keep foreign aid from supporting the global abortion industry.
  • HHS formed a new division over protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom.
  • Overturned Obama administration’s midnight regulation prohibiting states from defunding certain abortion facilities.
  • Signed executive order to help ensure that religious organizations are not forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs by complying with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate or shutting their doors.

Combating Opioids

  • Chaired meeting the 73rd General Session of the United Nations discussing the worldwide drug problem with international leaders.
  • Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand, introducing new measures to keep dangerous drugs out of our communities.
  • $6 billion in new funding to fight the opioid epidemic.
  • DEA conducted a surge in April 2018 that arrested 28 medical professions and revoked 147 registrations for prescribing too many opioids.
  • Brought the “Prescribed to Death” memorial to President’s Park near the White House, helping raise awareness about the human toll of the opioid crisis.
  • Helped reduce high-dose opioid prescriptions by 16 percent in 2017.
  • Opioid Summit on the administration-wide efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
  • Launched a national public awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid addiction.
  • Created a Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which recommended a number of pathways to tackle the opioid crisis.
  • Led two National Prescription Drug Take Back Days in 2017 and 2018, collecting a record number of expired and unneeded prescription drugs each time.
  • $485 million targeted grants in FY 2017 to help areas hit hardest by the opioid crisis.
  • Signed INTERDICT Act, strengthening efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids before they reach our communities.
  • DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
  • Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
  • Declared the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency in October 2017.

Law and Order

  • More U.S. Circuit Court judges confirmed in the first year in office than ever.
  • Confirmed more than two dozen U. S. Circuit Court judges.
  • Followed through on the promise to nominate judges to the Supreme Court who will adhere to the Constitution
    • Nominated and confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
  • Signed an executive order directing the Attorney General to develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who commit crimes against law enforcement officers.
  • Launched an evaluation of grant programs to make sure they prioritize the protection and safety of law enforcement officers.
  • Established a task force to reduce crime and restore public safety in communities across Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
  • Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
  • Violent crime decreased in 2017 according to FBI statistics.
  • $137 million in grants through the COPS Hiring Program to preserve jobs, increase community policing capacities, and support crime prevention efforts.
  • Enhanced and updated the Project Safe Neighborhoods to help reduce violent crime.
  • Signed legislation making it easier to target websites that enable sex trafficking and strengthened penalties for people who promote or facilitate prostitution.
  • Created an interagency task force working around the clock to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent human trafficking.
  • Conducted Operation Cross Country XI to combat human trafficking, rescuing 84 children and arresting 120 human traffickers.
  • Encouraged federal prosecutors to use the death penalty when possible in the fight against the trafficking of deadly drugs.
  • New rule effectively banning bump stock sales in the United States.

Border Security and Immigration

  • Secured $1.6 billion for border wall construction in the March 2018 omnibus bill.
  • Construction of a 14-mile section of border wall began near San Diego.
  • Worked to protect American communities from the threat posed by the vile MS-13 gang.
    • ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division arrested 796 MS-13 members and associates in FY 2017, an 83 percent increase from the prior year.
    • Justice worked with partners in Central America to secure criminal charges against more than 4,000 MS-13 members.
    • Border Patrol agents arrested 228 illegal aliens affiliated with MS-13 in FY 2017.
  • Fighting to stop the scourge of illegal drugs at our border.
    • ICE HSI seized more than 980,000 pounds of narcotics in FY 2017, including 2,370 pounds of fentanyl and 6,967 pounds of heroin.
    • ICE HSI dedicated nearly 630,000 investigative hours towards halting the illegal import of fentanyl.
    • ICE HSI made 11,691 narcotics-related arrests in FY 2017.
    • Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand introduced new measures to keep dangerous drugs out the United States.
    • Signed the INTERDICT Act into law, enhancing efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids.
    • DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
    • DOJ launched their Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
  • Released an immigration framework that includes the resources required to secure our borders and close legal loopholes, and repeatedly called on Congress to fix our broken immigration laws.
  • Authorized the deployment of the National Guard to help secure the border.
  • Enhanced vetting of individuals entering the U.S. from countries that don’t meet security standards, helping to ensure individuals who pose a threat to our country are identified before they enter.
    • These procedures were upheld in a June 2018 Supreme Court hearing.
  • ICE removed over 226,000 illegal aliens from the United States in 2017.
    • ICE rescued or identified over 500 human trafficking victims and over 900 child exploitation victims in 2017 alone.
  • In 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested more than 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges, responsible for
    • Over 76,000 with dangerous drug offenses.
    • More than 48,000 with assault offenses.
    • More than 11,000 with weapons offenses.
    • More than 5,000 with sexual assault offenses.
    • More than 2,000 with kidnapping offenses.
    • Over 1,800 with homicide offenses.
  • Created the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office in order to support the victims and families affected by illegal alien crime.
  • More than doubled the number of counties participating in the 287(g) program, which allows jails to detain criminal aliens until they are transferred to ICE custody.

Trade

  • Negotiating and renegotiating better trade deals, achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade for the United States.
    • Agreed to work with the European Union towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsides.
    • Deal with the European Union to increase U.S. energy exports to Europe.
    • Litigated multiple WTO disputes targeting unfair trade practices and upholding our right to enact fair trade laws.
    • Finalized a revised trade agreement with South Korea, which includes provisions to increase American automobile exports.
    • Negotiated an historic U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement to replace NAFTA.
    • Agreement to begin trade negotiations for a U.S.-Japan trade agreement.
    • Secured $250 billion in new trade and investment deals in China and $12 billion in Vietnam.
    • Established a Trade and Investment Working Group with the United Kingdom, laying the groundwork for post-Brexit trade.
  • Enacted steel and aluminum tariffs to protect our vital steel and aluminum producers and strengthen our national security.
  • Conducted 82 anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations in 2017 alone.
  • Confronting China’s unfair trade practices after years of Washington looking the other way.
    • 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China and later imposed an additional 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
    • Conducted an investigation into Chinese forced technology transfers, unfair licensing practices, and intellectual property theft.
    • Imposed safeguard tariffs to protect domestic washing machines and solar products manufacturers hurt by China’s trade policies
  • Withdrew from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • Secured access to new markets for America’s farmers.
    • Recent deal with Mexico included new improvements enabling food and agriculture to trade more fairly.
    • Recent agreement with the E.U. will reduce barriers and increase trade of American soybeans to Europe.
    • Won a WTO dispute regarding Indonesia’s unfair restriction of U.S. agricultural exports.
    • Defended American Tuna fisherman and packagers before the WTO
    • Opened up Argentina to American pork experts for the first time in a quarter-century
    • American beef exports have returned to china for the first time in more than a decade
  • OK’d up to $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by unfair trade retaliation.

Energy

  • Presidential Memorandum to clear roadblocks to construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • Presidential Memorandum declaring that the Dakota Access Pipeline serves the national interest and initiating the process to complete construction.
  • Opened up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration.
  • Coal exports up over 60 percent in 2017.
  • Rolled back the “stream protection rule” to prevent it from harming America’s coal industry.
  • Cancelled Obama’s anti-coal Clean Power Plan and proposed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule as a replacement.
  • Withdrew from the job-killing Paris climate agreement, which would have cost the U.S. nearly $3 trillion and led to 6.5 million fewer industrial sector jobs by 2040.
  • U.S. oil production has achieved its highest level in American history
  • United States is now the largest crude oil producer in the world.
  • U.S. has become a net natural gas exporter for the first time in six decades.
  • Action to expedite the identification and extraction of critical minerals that are vital to the nation’s security and economic prosperity.
  • Took action to reform National Ambient Air Quality Standards, benefitting American manufacturers.
  • Rescinded Obama’s hydraulic fracturing rule, which was expected to cost the industry $32 million per year.
  • Proposed an expansion of offshore drilling as part of an all-of-the above energy strategy
    • Held a lease sale for offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2018.
  • Got EU to increase its imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States.
  • Issued permits for the New Burgos Pipeline that will cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Foreign Policy

  • Moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
  • Withdrew from Iran deal and immediately began the process of re-imposing sanctions that had been lifted or waived.
    • Treasury has issued sanctions targeting Iranian activities and entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force
    • Since enacting sanctions, Iran’s crude exports have fallen off, the value of Iran’s currency has plummeted, and international companies have pulled out of the country.
    • All nuclear-related sanctions will be back in full force by early November 2018.
  • Historic summit with North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, bringing beginnings of peace and denuclearization to the Korean Peninsula.
    • The two leaders have exchanged letters and high-level officials from both sides have met resulting in tremendous progress.
    • North Korea has halted nuclear and missile tests.
    • Negotiated the return of the remains of missing-in-action soldiers from the Korean War.
  • Imposed strong sanctions on Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro and his inner circle.
  • Executive order preventing those in the U.S. from carrying out certain transactions with the Venezuelan regime, including prohibiting the purchase of the regime’s debt.
  • Responded to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
    • Rolled out sanctions targeting individuals and entities tied to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
    • Directed strikes in April 2017 against a Syrian airfield used in a chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.
    • Joined allies in launching airstrikes in April 2018 against targets associated with Syria’s chemical weapons use.
  • New Cuba policy that enhanced compliance with U.S. law and held the Cuban regime accountable for political oppression and human rights abuses.
    • Treasury and State are working to channel economic activity away from the Cuban regime, particularly the military.
  • Changed the rules of engagement, empowering commanders to take the fight to ISIS.
    • ISIS has lost virtually all of its territory, more than half of which has been lost under Trump.
    • ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital city, Raqqah, was liberated in October 2017.
    • All Iraqi territory had been liberated from ISIS.
  • More than a dozen American hostages have been freed from captivity all of the world.
  • Action to combat Russia’s malign activities, including their efforts to undermine the sanctity of United States elections.
    • Expelled dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, WA.
    • Banned the use of Kaspersky Labs software on government computers, due to the company’s ties to Russian intelligence.
    • Imposed sanctions against five Russian entities and three individuals for enabling Russia’s military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities.
    • Sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs, and 12 companies they own or control, who profit from Russia’s destabilizing activities.
    • Sanctioned 100 targets in response to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine.
    • Enhanced support for Ukraine’s Armed Forces to help Ukraine better defend itself.
  • Helped win U.S. bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
  • Helped win U.S.-Mexico-Canada’s united bid for 2026 World Cup.

Defense

  • Executive order keeping the detention facilities at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay open.
  • $700 billion in military funding for FY 2018 and $716 billion for FY 2019.
  • Largest military pay raise in nearly a decade.
  • Ordered a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure America’s nuclear forces are up to date and serve as a credible deterrent.
  • Released America’s first fully articulated cyber strategy in 15 years.
  • New strategy on national biodefense, which better prepares the nation to defend against biological threats.
  • Administration has announced that it will use whatever means necessary to protect American citizens and servicemen from unjust prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
  • Released an America first National Security Strategy.
  • Put in motion the launch of a Space Force as a new branch of the military and relaunched the National Space Council.
  • Encouraged North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to increase defense spending to their agree-upon levels.
    • In 2017 alone, there was an increase of more than 4.8 percent in defense spending amongst NATO allies.
    • Every member state has increased defense spending.
    • Eight NATO allies will reach the 2 percent benchmark by the end of 2018 and 15 allies are on trade to do so by 2024.
    • NATO allies spent over $42 billion dollars more on defense since 2016.
  • Executive order to help military spouses find employment as their families deploy domestically and abroad.

Veterans affairs

  • Signed the VA Accountability Act and expanded VA telehealth services, walk-in-clinics, and same-day urgent primary and mental health care.
  • Delivered more appeals decisions – 81,000 – to veterans in a single year than ever before.
  • Strengthened protections for individuals who come forward and identify programs occurring within the VA.
  • Signed legislation that provided $86.5 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the largest dollar amount in history for the VA.
  • VA MISSION Act, enacting sweeping reform to the VA system that:
    • Consolidated and strengthened VA community care programs.
    • Funding for the Veterans Choice program.
    • Expanded eligibility for the Family Caregivers Program.
    • Gave veterans more access to walk-in care.
    • Strengthened the VA’s ability to recruit and retain quality healthcare professionals.
    • Enabled the VA to modernize its assets and infrastructure.
  • Signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act in 2017, which authorized $2.1 billion in addition funds for the Veterans Choice Program.
  • Worked to shift veterans’ electronic medical records to the same system used by the Department of Defense, a decades old priority.
  • Issued an executive order requiring the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to submit a joint plan to provide veterans access to access to mental health treatment as they transition to civilian life.
  • Increased transparency and accountability at the VA by launching an online “Access and Quality Tool,” providing veterans with access to wait time and quality of care data.
  • Signed legislation to modernize the claims and appeal process at the VA.
  • Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, providing enhanced educational benefits to veterans, service members, and their family members.
    • Lifted a 15-year limit on veterans’ access to their educational benefits.
  • Created a White House VA Hotline to help veterans and principally staffed it with veterans and direct family members of veterans.
  • VA employees are being held accountable for poor performance, with more than 4,000 VA employees removed, demoted, and suspended so far.
  • Signed the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act, increasing the number of VA employees that can assist justice-involved veterans.

Source: Washington Examiner

MS-13 gang used California farm town as a base for crime | Yahoo News

More than two dozen MS-13 gang members and affiliates were arrested and charged following a monthslong murder and drug trafficking investigation centered on a rural California farm city that the gang turned into a base for its operations, U.S. and state prosecutors said Friday.

MS-13 took advantage of limited resources in the city of Mendota and used it and other areas of Fresno County to “conduct their crimes, to hide out from crimes that they committed in other jurisdictions and to prepare to commit crimes in states as far away as New York,” Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said at a news conference in Fresno with state and federal officials.

Mendota has a population of roughly 11,000 people and lies 35 miles (60 kilometers) west of Fresno in California’s agriculturally rich Central Valley. Nearly the entire population is Hispanic, with many immigrants from El Salvador.

MS-13 is linked to more than 12 murders in Mendota and western Fresno County over the past two years, said McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento. The federal charges announced Friday include allegations that two MS-13 gang members kidnapped and murdered a Fresno County man in December.

Scott said the investigation — dubbed “Blue Inferno” — uncovered evidence tying the gang to at least 30 murders and assaults in Mendota, Los Angles, Las Vegas, New York City and Houston. The evidence has prompted additional prosecutions in other cities, he said.

“This is a good day,” he said. “An extremely violent street gang which has terrorized western Fresno County has been completely dismantled and several murders and violent crimes across the nation have been resolved in a resounding way,” he said.

MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by refugees from El Salvador and is linked to many slayings in certain parts of the U.S. In California, the gang has clashed with rival Nortenos gang members. It also targets its own members for violating gang rules.

Nortenos are a street gang connected to the Nuestra Familia, a prison gang that originally formed in the California state prison system in the 1960s, according to federal prosecutors.

President Donald Trump has singled out the MS-13 gang as a threat to the U.S. and blames weak border enforcement for the group’s crimes. But many gang members were born in the U.S.

Source: Yahoo News

Dinesh D’Souza reveals the big lie about Charlottesville | Western Journal

So the white nationalists are once again coming to Charlottesville. Get ready not only for some bombastic theatrics, but also for a replay of the progressive media’s Charlottesville narrative: Hey, look at those racists in MAGA hats! This proves that, whatever the history of Democratic Party bigotry, racism today is in the Trump column. Bigotry now is on the right.

But this narrative is a lie. First of all, no one has ever conducted a valid empirical survey of neo-Nazis or Ku Klux Klansmen to prove they voted for Trump. This is why the media needs visual images that seem to confirm an unproven thesis. In the aftermath of the initial Charlottesville, I was struck by a solitary white supremacist in a MAGA hat being interviewed by more than a dozen reporters. This one guy — otherwise culturally and politically impotent — was portrayed as visual proof that white nationalism is a malevolent Trump phenomenon.

In my new book, Death of a Nation, I examined the lives of the leading white nationalists in America today. Virtually without exception, they are on the left. Let’s start with Jason Kessler, organizer of last year’s Charlottesville rally. The Southern Poverty Law Center looked into his background and was astounded to discover that he had been an Obama supporter and active in the left-wing Occupy Wall Street movement.

What could be more interesting than to examine why an Obama supporter could become a white supremacist? Or how an Occupy activist transitioned into a defender of the white cause? Yet the progressive media went dead silent on this one. Only one local Charlottesville newspaper, The Daily Progress, bothered to dig into this, noting that Kessler’s previous tweets, his neighbors and several of his friends “attest that he held strong liberal convictions.”

Laura Kleiner is a Democratic activist who dated Kessler for several months in 2013. According to the article, “She said Kessler was very dedicated to his liberal principles, and that he was a strict vegetarian, abstained from alcohol and drugs, embraced friends of different ethnicities, and was an atheist.” Kleiner added of Kessler, “He broke up with me and a lot of it was because I was not liberal enough. I am a very progressive Democrat, but he didn’t like that I’m a Christian.”

I mentioned Kessler’s leftist background on social media and he lashed out angrily by releasing a video denouncing me. The video itself is rambling, incoherent and laced with obscenities. The most interesting thing about it is that Kessler attacks me as a rich, brown-skinned guy who only stands up for big business and special interests. In other words, notwithstanding his disavowal of my portrait of him, Kessler sounds just like the left-wing racist I made him out to be.

Andrew Anglin is the co-editor of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. In March 2007, Anglin posted about Donald Trump, attaching a video clip from a roast of former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani. Giuliani appears in the video in drag, and Trump rams his face into Giuliani’s chest. It was all apparently in fun. Even so, Anglin describes them both as “fags” and writes that Giuliani is clearly involved in a “twisted homosexual transvestite affair with Donald Trump.”

Anglin visited Southeast Asia in 2010-2011 where he became a rainforest activist, dated Filipina women, and railed on his podcast against Christian missionaries. “You see the way white people — and it is white people — went around the whole world and f***ed everybody. I think the white race should be bred out.” This was a sentiment he routinely expressed.

Lisa Turner, women’s coordinator of a white nationalist group called the World Church of the Creator — which is interestingly enough an atheist organization — insists that the greatest problem in the world is Christianity. “The philosophy behind Christianity,” she says, “is utterly poisonous. Turn the other cheek, love your enemy—these kinds of ideas have put a guilt trip on the white race. The biggest enemies we have out there are the Christian churches.” Doesn’t sound very much like Trump to me.

Finally, there is Richard Spencer, the poster boy of white supremacy, who is so controversial that when he showed up to speak in Florida the governor declared a state of emergency. Spencer is unfailingly portrayed in the mainstream media as a right-winger. To check this out, I interviewed Spencer for my new movie Death of a Nation. The film is now out nationwide, and when the audiences hear Spencer describe his convictions in his own words, they gasp out loud.

Why? Because it becomes clear that Spencer is no conservative; in fact, he is firmly on the left. He flatly rejects the idea that “all men are created equal.” He insists that rights don’t come from God; they come from the centralized state. He rejects the Reagan agenda of individual liberty and free market capitalism, embracing the concept of an expanded welfare state including nationalized health care. He doesn’t think Reagan was a great president, naming as his favorites a series of Democratic presidents including Democratic Party founder Andrew Jackson. At one point he breaks down and confesses he’s a progressive.

What really blows away the audience is not merely Spencer’s left-wing politics, but the full realization that we have all been victims of a bogus narrative. Some white nationalists collaborate in this narrative, because it brings fame and notoriety to their otherwise powerless group. In exchange they provide the mainstream media with an ideological script extremely useful to the left. But the script is fake, because in reality conservatives and white nationalists are not only in different camps, they are in opposed camps.

Source: Dinesh D’Souza

Trump administration says it won’t return children to immigrant parents in custody, but a judge orders families be reunited | LA Times

Hours after a Trump Cabinet member told Congress that the administration would not reunite migrant children with parents still held in immigrant detention facilities, a federal judge in San Diego ordered the government to begin doing just that.

In a preliminary injunction issued late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite nearly all children under age 5 with their parents within 14 days and older children within 30 days.

The administration’s actions related to separating families “belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution,” the judge wrote. “This is particularly so in the treatment of migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers and small children.”

The order appears to set the stage for a legal clash over a crisis that was created by the White House and has sown increasing levels of fear and confusion.

Earlier Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, testifying on Capitol Hill, said the only way parents can quickly be reunited with their children is to drop their claims for asylum in the United States and agree to be deported.

If parents pursue asylum claims, administration officials planned to hold them in custody until hearings are complete — a process that can take months and in some instances years because of a backlog of several hundred thousand cases.

And while that process takes place and the parents are in custody, their children would not be returned to them, Azar said, citing current rules that allow children to be held in immigrant detention for no more than 20 days.

“If the parent remains in detention, unfortunately, under rules that are set by Congress and the courts, they can’t be reunified while they’re in detention,” Azar told the Senate Finance Committee. He said the department could place children with relatives in the United States if they can be located and properly vetted.

Azar’s department has custody of 2,047 children separated from their parents after they were apprehended crossing the border illegally since May. That’s when the Trump administration began enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy that required prosecution of all adults crossing the border — and separate detention of any minors with them.

His statement brought angry protests from Democrats and immigrant advocates.

“The administration is holding children hostage to push parents to drop their asylum claims,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tweeted.

The uncertain fate of the children, and wrenching reports of their plight, has created a political firestorm for the White House and a nightmare for the families affected. In some cases, parents have been deported without their children, or infants and young children have been moved to distant states while their parents await court processing.

The “zero tolerance” policy already has run partially aground over a lack of resources. On Monday, Border Patrol officials announced they had stopped handing over immigrant parents for prosecution because they were running out of beds. The reversal means newly apprehended families, in theory, could be released pending their court dates.

The limit on how long children can be held in immigrant detention facilities stems from a 1997 court ruling known as the Flores settlement. The administration has asked a federal judge to modify those rules and allow families to be held together in custody for longer periods.The Obama administration made a similar request in 2015, but a judge refused.

The White House has also asked Congress to change federal law to allow longer detentions. That process is moving slowly, and President Trump has proved an uncertain ally for Republican leaders, vacillating as to whether he wants new legislation or not.

The House is scheduled to vote on a Republican-drafted bill on Wednesday that would overhaul the immigration system, but its prospects are dim — and it almost certainly would die in the Senate.

Last-minute arguments over what should be in the bill led one of its lead sponsors, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), to declare the measure essentially dead.

“At the end of the day it is very clear that the Republicans cannot pass an immigration bill,” Denham said late Tuesday. “I think it’s a very clear message that Democrats and Republicans need to work together on an American solution. That’s the only way this is going to get done.

If the bill fails, as expected, the House may take up narrower legislation focused specifically on family separation. But Congress is set to recess on Thursday for an extended Fourth of July holiday, so the schedule will allow just hours to consider that proposal.

Trump signed an executive order last week that he said would halt the separation of parents and children by detaining families together. Since then, his administration has struggled to articulate a plan to reunite families.

Over the weekend, the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services released a joint statement saying they had come up with a central database to link families and were working on ensuring children stayed in contact with their parents.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Health and Human Services officials refused to say whether they were still receiving children taken from parents at the border. The government has not released data on the ages of children in custody, nor how many in total have been separated or released.

Jonathan White, head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a branch of the Health and Human Services Department, said only that the department was working with other agencies “to facilitate reunification with a child as soon as that is practical.”

He suggested the department’s sole responsibility for now “is to determine whether the child has a safe place to go.”

White said his office knew “the status, whereabouts and care of every child” in its custody. “We have always known where all the children are,” he said.

But Azar conceded in his Senate testimony that the department has not yet been able to put all the parents in communication with their children.

“We want every child and every parent to be in communication at least twice a week so that they’re talking, by Skype or by phone,” he said. “We want this to happen.”

He also warned that if parents remain in a detention facility and the agency gives custody of a child to someone else — a relative in the U.S., for example — the parents eventually might have to go to court to get the child back.

“We cannot sort of pull a child back from a relative. We don’t have the legal authority,” he said.

Lawyers decried officials’ decision not to reunite children with their parents in detention as inhumane.

Jodi Goodwin, a south Texas immigration lawyer who mobilized a rapid-response team of attorneys to aid immigrant parents detained at the Port Isabel Detention Center on the Texas Gulf Coast, said officials needed to release parents with ankle monitors or bond so that they can be reunited with their children.

“That’s the only way to end the tragedy that has happened,” she said.

Zenen Jaimes Perez of the Texas Civil Rights Project said parents were so desperate they would waive their rights, drop their asylum claims and agree to deportation, not understanding that even that choice does not guarantee they will see their children again. Of the 400 parents his organization has interviewed, only four have been reunited with their children, he said.

“We know a lot of people are making these decisions under duress, with no counsel, and that is particularly cruel,” he said.

As families grappled with that choice, 17 states — including California — and the District of Columbia filed suit against the administration over its detention policies. The case joins a growing pile of lawsuits against the administration’s policies.

The continued action in Congress and the courts will keep the emotion-charged family separations in the public eye as lawmakers return to their districts four months before the midterm election.

Trump has blamed Democrats for the stalemate in Congress, but he has given wildly mixed signals about what he wants from Republicans.

The president initially said he opposed the compromise bill, then told Republican lawmakers he was “1,000%” for immigration legislation, and then tweeted that Republicans “should stop wasting their time” by trying to pass an immigration bill before the November election.

House Republican leaders acknowledged that they still don’t have the 218 votes needed to pass the compromise bill despite holding 235 seats in the chamber. They blamed Democrats, however, for not supporting their bill.

“Why doesn’t a few Democrats move over? If they are honest about wanting to secure the border, here is the opportunity,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said Monday on Fox News.

Few Democrats are inclined to help rescue Trump from a crisis he created. Moreover, Democrats had no role in crafting the bill.

“It’s just a bad bill. It has nothing to do with even being locked out of the process — it’s just a bad bill,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) said.

At his weekly news conference Tuesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) wouldn’t discuss a proposed bill targeting only the family separations. A Senate proposal would add 225 immigration judges and expedite court proceedings for families, and there are indications that plan could get a vote this week.

Ryan said he wants to “do as well as we possibly can” in Wednesday’s vote, adding, “If that doesn’t succeed, then we’ll cross that bridge.”

Source: LA Times

Weekly Update: Mueller Hypocrisy Exposed By Podesta Docs Release | Judicial Watch

Top Hillary Aide John Podesta Records Released – Show Ties to Podesta Group

Those of us who have been watching the Mueller Circus avoid the real collusion with Russia are no longer surprised when we see even more hypocrisy oozing from the Swamp.

Consider:

We just uncovered new documents from the U.S. Department of State showing the Podesta Group working on behalf of the pro-Russia Ukrainian political group “Party of Regions.” The documents also show then-Obama White House Counsel John Podesta lobbying on behalf of his brother’s firm.

We obtained the documents in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the State Department filed on November 20, 2017, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-02489)). The lawsuit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a September 13, 2017, FOIA request for:

  • All records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
  • All records produced related to any meetings or telephonic communications between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
  • All records regarding the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
  • The FOIA request covers the timeframe of January 1, 2012 to the present.

A March 28, 2013, email from now-Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State Baxter Hunt shows the Podesta Group, led by Tony Podesta, a Clinton bundler and brother of Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, represented the Party of Regions, a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

In the March 2013 email, to a number of officials including then-U.S. Foreign Service Officer John Tefft (who would go on to be U.S. Ambassador to Russia in 2014) and State Department Director for the Office of Eastern Europe Alexander Kasanof, Hunt writes:

See below, I also stressed to them the need for GOU to take concrete steps to get new SBA with IMF and avoid PFC/loss of GSP. Podesta Group is noted among host of Ukraine lobbyists in article I’ll forward in article on low side.

Ben Chang and Mark Tavlarides of the Podesta Group, which is representing the Party of Regions, told us they were working with Klyuyev on a visit he plans to make to Washington in early May. They are working to broaden the POR’s contacts on the Hill, including setting up a meeting for Klyuyev with Chris Smith, and have advised Kyiv to stop trying to justify their actions against Tymoshenko in Washington. They also noted that during his recent meeting with former EC President Prodi, HFAC Chairman Ed Royce said that Congress would not be enacting sanctions legislation against Ukraine.

The Party of Regions served as the pro-Kremlin political base for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014.

Like Paul Manafort, who is currently under indictment in the errant special counsel Russia investigation, the Podesta Group had to retroactively file Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosures with the Justice Department for Ukrainian-related work. The filing states that the Podesta group provided for the nonprofit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine “government relations and public relations services within the United States and Europe to promote political and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the West. The [Podesta Group] conducted outreach to congressional and executive branch offices, members of the media, nongovernmental organizations and think tanks.” Unlike Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, the Mueller special counsel operation hasn’t indicted anyone from the Podesta Group.

Also, the new emails show then-Obama White House Counselor John Podesta lobbying on behalf of the Podesta Group’s efforts to secure a maintenance facility from Jet Blue and Lufthansa for Puerto Rico.

In a June 27, 2013, email former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and current New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy writes to John Podesta, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the American Embassy in Berlin Seth Winnick, and others:

Jet Blue and Lufthansa are considering 2 locations for a maintenance center – Puerto Rico or Mexico. The Governor of PR wants this badly. The question is can we get to LH at the right levels to make the case. Either John or colleague OR John’s brother Tony or colleague will get to us with more details.

Winnick then writes to John Podesta: “Washington alerted us to this advocacy issue and we are on it. Phil will try to connect in the next few days and we will follow up.”

Later that day, in an email sent to his brother Tony Podesta and Winnick, John Podesta writes: “Thanks Seth. The Governor is a friend of mine. My brother Tony represents Puerto Rico and will follow up with details.”

Winnick replies to John and Tony Podesta: “Happy to help on this one. I think we have the details we need for now from SelectUSA at Commerce but will come back if any issues arise.”

Puerto Rico was selected by the airlines for the facility to service A320s in 2014.

Judicial Watch is waiting to hear on any additional documents the State Department may produce in response to our Podesta Group FOIA lawsuit.

By the standards of the Mueller special counsel operation, these emails alone would have been enough for the Podestas to have been hauled before a grand jury or worse. These emails are a stark reminder that the Mueller’s special counsel operation seems more interested in the alleged foreign ties of the Trump team, rather than Hillary Clinton’s (and Barack Obama’s) associates.

Do you think Robert Mueller’s partisan prosecutors have even thought of looking into this? I had a few choice things to say about his spurious quest in this interview with Lou Dobbs. If and when we get more Podesta documents I’ll be updating you here.

Arizona Border Ranchers Live in Fear as Illegal Immigration Crisis Worsens

Our southern border is an abstraction for most people, a topic for talking heads on TV. But for those who call it home, life on the border is a gritty and dangerous reality. And the reality is, despite dramatic change in approach to border issues the Trump administration, our Southern border remains largely open to illegal aliens.

Our Corruption Chronicles blog provides an unsettling and astonish first-hand look.

More than half a million illegal immigrants of several dozen nationalities have been apprehended on John Ladd’s sprawling cattle ranch in southeastern Arizona. Ladd has also found 14 dead bodies on his 16,500-acre farm, which has been in his family for well over a century and sits between the Mexican border and historic State Route 92. The property shares a 10 ½-mile border with Mexico, making it a popular route for human and drug smugglers evading a meager force of Border Patrol agents in the mountainous region. “As big as that number sounds, many more got away,” said National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd of the hundreds of thousands arrested on Ladd’s parcel. Judd spent a chunk of his decades-long career with the agency patrolling the area and he knows it well. “It’s gotten more violent. It’s gotten worse.”

As part of an ongoing investigation into the critical security issues created by the famously porous southern border, Judicial Watch visited frustrated ranchers and residents in Sierra Vista, a Cochise County town located 75 miles southeast of Tucson with a population of around 44,000. The town sits in the picturesque Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by the scenic Huachuca Mountains. Illegal immigrants and drug smugglers are devastating the area and many longtime residents live in fear. Some are too scared to enjoy a simple pastime—horseback riding on their own land. “I can’t guarantee there’s not a dead body somewhere in my ranch right now,” said Ladd pointing to his property as he stood in front of the U.S. government’s border fence, an area known as the “shit ditch” because illegal immigrants use it as a toilet and trash. Sporting a thick, gray mustache and a dapper cowboy hat, Ladd said 200 to 300 illegal aliens are caught daily passing through his property. “We don’t have any control of the border,” he said. “I see it every day.”

A 60-foot wide dirt road, known as a federal easement, separates Ladd’s ranch from Mexico. Some portions have an 18-foot iron fence along the border that Ladd says illegal immigrants “easily climb with a pack of dope.” Other sections have a laughable wire fence that has been repeatedly penetrated with vehicles speeding through from Mexico. Some areas have been visibly patched where holes were carved out for passage. The fence is such a joke that the Border Patrol installed concrete barriers along a busy two-mile stretch across the 60-foot dirt road, right in front of the barbwire barrier on Ladd’s property line to stop smugglers. “Smugglers even put a hydraulic ramp, so a car or truck could blow through,” Ladd said. He estimates that around 70% of the traffic that comes through his ranch is human smuggling and 30% is drug smuggling. In the last three years most of the illegal border crossers have been Central American, Ladd said. The veteran rancher first became concerned with the unprotected border decades ago because sick Mexican cows threatened his herd. The problem became more serious over the years. “First it was Mexican cows, then people then dope,” Ladd said. “Now it’s really bad.” Ladd has traveled to the nation’s capital seven times to bring attention to the crisis in Sierra Vista, but Washington bureaucrats have failed to take any action.

Instead, the federal government has placed ineffective or faulty surveillance equipment in the region that smugglers easily evade. “The smugglers know the radio range and avoid it,” Judd said, adding that cameras are installed in the wrong spot and don’t have great resolution. On a hill adjacent to Ladd’s ranch stands an imposing camera tower that could never capture illegal border crossers because its view is completely blocked by a sea of lush trees below. The government spent $1.3 million on the useless equipment and never bothered to study the terrain’s impact on the technology. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) simply installed the equipment based on a predetermined formula that separates the cameras by a fixed number of miles without considering the landscape, according to Judd. “They didn’t do any research on the topography,” he said. These kinds of failures frustrate local ranchers, who feel increasingly threatened by the barrage of illegal crossers rampaging through their property. With both thumbs resting on his thick, bronze belt buckle, Ladd looked up at the pointless camera tower smiling and quipped: “Now that’s a big boondoggle right there, a total waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Another troubled property owner, John Guerrero, took Judicial Watch on a nighttime tour of a nearby smuggling route that is inexplicably unprotected. The dirt road runs through the Coronado National Forest and Guerrero, a retired U.S. Army Ranger and intelligence officer who served in Iraq and Somalia, has felt the impact of the government’s failure to adequately guard it. Five strands of barbwire serve as the physical boundary between the U.S. and Mexico in a remote portion of the park, which is closed to the public at night and is heavily transited by drug and human smugglers. Illegal immigration has had such a devastating impact on the area that Guerrero wrote a book offering detailed anecdotes of what he and his family endure because they live near the Mexican border. This includes drugs and illegal immigrants piling into vehicles on the road adjacent to his four-acre property and ultralight aircraft flying near his rooftop, just above the trees, en route to make a drug drop. “Local residents are increasingly fearful,” Guerrero said.

The event that has most impacted Guerrero occurred when smugglers burned down a beloved chapel, Our Lady of the Sierras, situated on a hill across the road from his home. A 75-foot Celtic cross outside the chapel remains lit through the night and serves as a navigational tool for smugglers and the grounds are regularly used to transfer drugs. In 2011, illegal immigrant smugglers started the fire along the border to escape the Border Patrol during a pursuit. Besides the chapel, which has since been rebuilt, the fire destroyed nearly 30,000 acres and dozens of homes. Guerrero and his family were forced to evacuate. Widespread media coverage omitted that illegal immigrants were responsible for the fire, but a local news station finally reported that the Cochise County Sheriff confirmed the fire started 200 yards north of the Mexican border in an area known as Smuggler’s Gulch. “There was absolutely no mention by the federal government as to the true origin of the fire,” Guerrero said.

Judd, who heads the union that represents some 16,000 Border Patrol agents nationwide, says the border can be secured. “There has to be political will to secure the border,” he said. The frontline agency had tremendous faith that the Trump administration would finally get the job done, but the stats tell a different story. Shortly after Trump became president there was a dip in the number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. through Mexico, Judd said. However, “by April 2018 we were back to the Obama high of illegal border crossers,” Judd confirmed. Sierra Vista residents like Ladd and Guerrero continue to suffer the consequences of anemic border control and worry about the crime that has infested their once-idyllic town. The problem is so rampant that Ladd often sees smuggling spotters from his property on the nearby mountains in the Mexican side. “They’re right there every day,” he said. “They live in camps and have solar generators. Their job is to look out.” Residents in Sierra Vista feel no one is looking out for them.

Thanks to our Judicial Watch team who traveled to the Southwest border to compile this report. We will follow up with more investigations and, I’m sure, lawsuits as part of JW’s efforts to secure our borders through the rule of law!

Source: Judicial Watch

Democrats are repudiating FDR’s precedent of détente with Russia | RT & The Nation

By Stephen F. Cohen

By criminalizing alleged “contacts with the Kremlin” – and by demonizing Russia itself – today’s Democrats are becoming the party of the new and more perilous Cold War.

Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics (at NYU and Princeton), and John Batchelor hold their (usually) weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fourth year, are at TheNation.com.)

In light of recent events, from Washington to the false alerts in Hawaii and Japan, Cohen returns to a theme he has explored previously: the ways in which the still-unproven Russiagate allegations, promoted primarily by the Democratic Party, have become the number-one threat to American national security. Historical context is needed, which returns Cohen briefly to related subjects he has also previously discussed with Batchelor.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of what is usually said to have been the full onset of the long Cold War, in 1948. In fact, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of US-Russian cold wars, which began with the Russian Civil War when, for the next 15 years, Washington refused to formally recognize the victorious Soviet government – surely a very cold relationship, though one without an arms race. The first of several détente policies – attempts to reduce the dangers inherent in cold war by introducing important elements of cooperation – was initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, when he formally extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union, then ruled by Stalin. That is, FDR was the father of détente, a circumstance forgotten or disregarded by many Democrats, especially today.

Three major détentes were pursued later in the 20th century, all by Republican presidents: Eisenhower in the 1950s, Nixon in the 1970s, and by Reagan in the second half of the 1980s, which was so fulsome and successful that he and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, thought they had ended the Cold War altogether.

And yet today, post–Soviet Russia and the United States are in a new and even more dangerous Cold War, one provoked in no small measure by the Democratic Party, from President Clinton’s winner-take-all policies toward Russia in the 1990s to President Obama’s refusal to cooperate significantly with Moscow against international terrorism, particularly in Syria; the role of his administration in the illegal overthrow of Ukrainian President Yanukovych in 2014 (a coup by any other name); and the still-shadowy role of Obama’s intelligence chiefs, not only those at the FBI, in instigating Russiagate allegations against Donald Trump early in 2016.

(Obama’s so-called “reset” of Russia policy was a kind of pseudo-détente and doomed from the outset. It asked of Moscow, and got, far more than the Obama administration offered; was predicated on the assumption that Vladimir Putin, then prime minister, would not return to the presidency; and was terminated by Obama himself when he broke his promise to his reset partner, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, by overthrowing Libyan leader Gaddafi.)

It should also be remembered that the current plan to “modernize” US nuclear weapons by making them smaller, more precise, and thus more “usable” was launched by the Obama administration.

Which brings Cohen to President Trump, who, whether Trump fully understood it or not, sought to be the fourth Republican president to initiate a policy of détente – or “cooperate with Russia” – in times of perilous Cold War. In the past, a “dovish” wing of the Democratic Party supported détente, but not this time. Russiagate allegations, still mostly a Democratic project, have been leveled by leading Democrats and their mainstream media against Trump every time he has tried to develop necessary cooperative agreements with President Putin, characterizing those initiatives as disloyal to America, even “treasonous.”

Still more, the same Democratic actors have increasingly suggested that normal “contacts” with Russia at various levels – a practice traditionally encouraged by pro-détente US leaders – are evidence of “collusion with the Kremlin.” (A particularly egregious example is General Michael Flynn’s “contacts” with a Russian ambassador on behalf of President-elect Trump, a long-standing tradition now being criminalized.) Still worse, criticism of US policy toward Russia since the 1990s, which Cohen and a few other Russia specialists have often expressed, is being equated with “colluding” with Putin’s views, as in the case of a few words by Carter Page – that is, also as disloyal.

Until recently, Democratic Russiagate allegations were motivated primarily by a need to explain away and take revenge for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential election. Now, however, they are being codified into a Democratic Party program for escalated and indefinite Cold War against Russia, presumably to be a major plank in the party’s appeal to voters in 2018 and 2020, as evidenced by two recent publications: a flagrantly cold-warfare article coauthored by former Vice President Joseph Biden, who is clearly already campaigning for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, in the current issue of Foreign Affairs; and an even more expansive “report” produced by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin purporting to show that Putin is attacking not only America, as he purportedly did in 2016, but democracies everywhere in the world and that America must respond accordingly.

Both are recapitulations of primitive American (and Soviet) “propaganda” that characterized the onset of the early stage of the post-1948 Cold War: full of unbalanced prosecutorial narratives, selective and questionable “facts,” Manichean accounts of Moscow’s behavior, and laden with ideological, not analytical, declarations.

Indeed, both suggest that “Putin’s Russia” is an even more fearsome threat than was Soviet Communist Russia. Tellingly, both implicitly deny that Russia has any legitimate national interests abroad and, with strong Russophobic undertones, that it is a nation worthy in any way. Both preclude, of course, any rethinking of US policy toward Russia except for making it more aggressive.

These latter approaches to Soviet Russia were eventually tempered or abandoned during the era of détente for the sake of diplomacy, relegated mainly to fringe groups. Now they are becoming the proposed policies of the Democratic Party.

Leave aside, Cohen continues, the consequences of another prolonged Cold War for a “progressive agenda” at home. Consider instead the supremely existential and real danger of nuclear war, which as Reagan wisely concluded, “cannot be won and therefore must never be fought.” And consider the false alarms of incoming nuclear missiles recently experienced in Hawaii and Japan. These episodes alone should compel any Democratic Party worthy of the name to support Trump’s pro-détente instincts, however inadequate they may be, and urge him to pursue with Putin agreements that would take all nuclear weapons off high alert, which gives both leaders only a few minutes to decide whether such alarms are authentic or false before launching massive retaliation; adopt a reassuring mutual doctrine of no-first-use of nuclear weapons; and move quickly toward radical reductions of those weapons on both sides.

But for that to happen, the Democratic Party would need to give American national security a higher priority than its obsession with Russiagate, which is currently very far from the case.

Some Democratic members of Congress seem to understand this imperative, at least privately, but evidently lack the civic courage to speak out. And, to be ecumenical, so do those Republican members and their media who now allege that Russiagate is somehow a function of “Russian propaganda” having been smuggled into American politics.

Hegel liked to say, “The Owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk” — that wisdom comes too late. A Hegel-like historical irony may also be unfolding. FDR was the first pro-détente president. Due primarily to today’s Democrats, Trump might be the last.

Stephen F. Cohen is a professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University and a contributing editor of The Nation.

Source: RT & The Nation