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    Opioid bills could net millions for companies


    The House is touting passage of dozens of bills that could help combat the national opioid crisis — but a small handful of companies that have spent millions lobbying Congress could reap a windfall if any of the bills become law.In a two-week...

    The House is touting passage of dozens of bills that could help combat the national opioid crisis — but a small handful of companies that have spent millions lobbying Congress could reap a windfall if any of the bills become law.

    In a two-week legislative blitz, the House cleared several narrowly tailored measures that would spur sales for companies that have ramped up their influence game in Washington, according to a review of the more than five dozen bills up for votes.

    Those poised to benefit include:

    • Alkermes, which spent $1 million lobbying in part to support a bill to fund full-service centers where people can detox, receive medical care and start treatment — a setup that could boost the fortunes of its best-selling product, anti-addiction treatment Vivitrol, which has been held back by the need for patients to fully detox before taking the drug.

    • Indivior, an Alkermes rival that spent $180,000 largely in support of a bill that eases restrictions on certain controlled substances used in injectable anti-opioid treatments — a change that would make it easier for doctors to buy Indivior’s once-a-month injectable Sublocade.

    • Pennsylvania drugmaker Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which spent $100,000 lobbying and backed the same bill because it is developing a competing injectable.

    • A group of drugmakers that produce non-opioid pain relief medications, including California-based Heron Therapeutics, which spent hundreds of thousands to lobby for legislative changes to create an additional Medicare payment for non-opioid pain drugs.


    The measures come as part of a House package that anti-addiction advocates and even some lawmakers say will make only incremental progress toward fighting a public health crisis that’s killing an estimated 115 Americans per day.

    “This is a very energetic effort to pretend we’re doing something significant,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who supported the package but stressed the need to devote greater resources to the opioid fight. “By and large it’s better to do than not, but it falls way short of what is required.”

    Yet as the epidemic morphs into a major campaign issue — and Congress runs out of time to pass other legislative packages — interest in the opioid effort has ballooned. Congress used February’s budget deal to authorize spending $6 billion over two years to address the crisis, prompting more than 300 companies and interest groups to flood Capitol Hill to lobby on opioids during the first three months of 2018, according to disclosure forms.

    “When you hear they’re investing $3 billion in this in 2018 and $3 billion in 2019, everyone’s ears are going to perk up,” said Andrew Kessler, the founder of behavioral health consulting firm Slingshot Solutions. “For years, we got the scraps. And now we’re the big time.”

    Alkermes, a big potential winner, has already attracted attention for its aggressive marketing tactics and Washington lobbying presence. Former HHS Secretary Tom Price toured the company's Wilmington, Ohio, plant last year to tout Vivitrol — stirring controversy by belittling rival medication-assisted treatments that are more widely-used.

    Alkermes spent $1 million lobbying Congress from January through March, focusing on a bipartisan bill from Reps. Brett Guthrie and Gene Green that directs millions of dollars to create full-service centers where people can detox, receive medical care and start treatment under the same roof. The proposal, passed last week in the first wave of House opioid votes, attempts to address the difficulty many patients face finding comprehensive treatment, the lawmakers said.

    It also neatly addresses a chief problem holding back Alkermes’ best-selling product: While Vivitrol is one of just three FDA-approved drugs treating opioid addiction, it’s the only one that requires patients to fully detox before taking it.

    That’s a major roadblock for doctors who are often unsure whether a patient has been in withdrawal for at least a week, and for patients desperate for immediate treatment, crimping Vivitrol’s market potential just as providers increasingly embrace medication-assisted treatment.

    “The issue with Vivitrol is the fact that 25 percent of patients fail the detox component and therefore relapse, and is also one of the reasons why patients prefer Suboxone or Sublocade,” said Biren Amin, a pharmaceutical analyst for Jefferies LLC, referring to competing treatments. “Vivitrol growth [is] clearly impacted."

    By contrast, doctors in the recovery centers proposed by Guthrie and Green could closely monitor and manage patients’ progress, and then start treatment as soon as they’re fully detoxed.

    The bill was one of only two opioid bills that Alkermes targeted in its lobbying, according to disclosure documents. Of the four main lobbyists for the company on the issue, one previously served as Guthrie’s deputy chief of staff. Another was Green’s former legislative director.


    Both Guthrie and Green rejected any suggestion the bill was written to benefit Alkermes, pointing to its support from anti-addiction groups. The bill doesn’t mandate the recovery centers use one medication over another.

    “We met with all the stakeholders,” Guthrie said. “We just think most people need access to all the [treatment] options.”

    In a statement, Alkermes highlighted the legislation’s broad support, adding that it “is not about a particular form of treatment, but rather focuses on ... comprehensive care.” The company said it has always supported using all FDA-approved medications for opioid dependence.

    Though Alkermes ranked among the biggest-spending companies on opioid issues, it’s far from the only firm spending large sums to capture Congress’ attention.

    “Whoever’s stuff is slick gets put to the top of the pile,” one longtime behavioral health lobbyist said of the corporate muscle that’s descended on Capitol Hill.

    Indivior backed a bill from Rep. Ryan Costello that would ease restrictions on certain controlled substances used in injectable anti-opioid treatments — an arcane but important change that would effectively make it easier for doctors to buy Indivior's once-a-month injectable Sublocade. Some view injectable treatments as preferable because they're less likely to be diverted or misused.

    The legislative tweak — which has already passed the Senate — is the only specific House opioid bill that Indivior listed in disclosures showing $180,000 spent on lobbying in the year’s first three months.

    Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which is developing a competing injectable anti-opioid treatment, spent $100,000 over that same period and also listed the Costello bill as the only provision in the House package it focused on.

    Indivior did not respond to specific questions about its lobbying effort, saying in a statement that “government policies impacting these treatments must adapt toensure patients have access to all evidence-based treatment options.”

    Braeburn said the bill simply codifies prior understandings, and that it supports policies that open up access to all treatments for opioid use disorder.

    A spokeperson for Costello said he supports medical innovation and expanding access to a variety of anti-opioid treatments, and noted the bill passed unanimously out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislation wasn’t initially rolled into the House’s main opioid package, but could still be added or passed separately.

    Other bills proposed in the House are more direct in the way they would help specific companies.


    A small group of post-surgery pain drug makers, including Heron Therapeutics, stand to benefit from Rep. Scott Peters’ legislation creating an additional Medicare payment for certain non-opioid pain drugs.

    Heron, which is developing a treatment that would qualify for the payment, spent $40,000 lobbying on rate-setting issues for post-surgical non-opioid drugs from January to March.

    The company is headquartered in Peters’ district, and said in an email that it has discussed opioid and addiction policies with the California lawmaker. But it emphasized that none of its currently approved drugs would benefit from the proposal, and that drugs made by other companies could also qualify.

    A spokesperson for Peters said he met with Heron employees and toured the company’s headquarters as part of his interest in promoting post-surgery opioid alternatives, but he also met with other groups and developed the bill’s language in coordination with federal health officials and other lawmakers.

    A bipartisan effort led by Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), meanwhile, reverses deep cuts to reimbursements for select interventional pain management techniques.

    That qualifies as a victory for the main trade group representing doctors who use non-opioid methods — including epidurals and other injections — to manage pain. In a celebratory blog post, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians said it turned to Congress to restore its pay levels after unsuccessfully lobbying federal health officials.

    “The agency said heck no, we can’t touch it — it needs a legislative fix to be more specific in the intent of Congress,” Shimkus said about when he stepped in. He added that the higher pay rate is needed because those more invasive pain management techniques are often more expensive than prescribing opioids.

    A spokesperson for Krishnamoorthi said the lawmaker's interest stemmed from his support for non-opioid alternatives, and that he never personally met with ASIPP about the legislation. ASIPP’s PAC has donated the maximum $10,000 allowed for this election cycle to both support for the bill.

    Behavioral health and anti-addiction advocates have largely shrugged off those narrow provisions, saying they're a byproduct of a fast-moving, piecemeal effort to address a public health crisis.

    Yet they also acknowledge it means crucial funds will be limited to select groups instead of the broader population.

    That only heightens the importance of Congress continuing to pursue new proposals for curbing drug abuse, Slingshot Solutions‘ Kessler said.

    “There’s a lot of good stuff in there,” he added. “However, there’s a lot to be very, very cautious of as well. And the reason is because as much attention as Congress is paying and as much money as they’re dedicating to it, we’re still not anywhere close to where we need to be."


    Opioid bills could net millions for companies


    The House is touting passage of dozens of bills that could help combat the national opioid crisis — but a small handful of companies that have spent millions lobbying Congress could reap a windfall if any of the bills become law.In a two-week...

    The House is touting passage of dozens of bills that could help combat the national opioid crisis — but a small handful of companies that have spent millions lobbying Congress could reap a windfall if any of the bills become law.

    In a two-week legislative blitz, the House cleared several narrowly tailored measures that would spur sales for companies that have ramped up their influence game in Washington, according to a review of the more than five dozen bills up for votes.

    Those poised to benefit include:

    • Alkermes, which spent $1 million lobbying in part to support a bill to fund full-service centers where people can detox, receive medical care and start treatment — a setup that could boost the fortunes of its best-selling product, anti-addiction treatment Vivitrol, which has been held back by the need for patients to fully detox before taking the drug.

    • Indivior, an Alkermes rival that spent $180,000 largely in support of a bill that eases restrictions on certain controlled substances used in injectable anti-opioid treatments — a change that would make it easier for doctors to buy Indivior’s once-a-month injectable Sublocade.

    • Pennsylvania drugmaker Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which spent $100,000 lobbying and backed the same bill because it is developing a competing injectable.

    • A group of drugmakers that produce non-opioid pain relief medications, including California-based Heron Therapeutics, which spent hundreds of thousands to lobby for legislative changes to create an additional Medicare payment for non-opioid pain drugs.


    The measures come as part of a House package that anti-addiction advocates and even some lawmakers say will make only incremental progress toward fighting a public health crisis that’s killing an estimated 115 Americans per day.

    “This is a very energetic effort to pretend we’re doing something significant,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who supported the package but stressed the need to devote greater resources to the opioid fight. “By and large it’s better to do than not, but it falls way short of what is required.”

    Yet as the epidemic morphs into a major campaign issue — and Congress runs out of time to pass other legislative packages — interest in the opioid effort has ballooned. Congress used February’s budget deal to authorize spending $6 billion over two years to address the crisis, prompting more than 300 companies and interest groups to flood Capitol Hill to lobby on opioids during the first three months of 2018, according to disclosure forms.

    “When you hear they’re investing $3 billion in this in 2018 and $3 billion in 2019, everyone’s ears are going to perk up,” said Andrew Kessler, the founder of behavioral health consulting firm Slingshot Solutions. “For years, we got the scraps. And now we’re the big time.”

    Alkermes, a big potential winner, has already attracted attention for its aggressive marketing tactics and Washington lobbying presence. Former HHS Secretary Tom Price toured the company's Wilmington, Ohio, plant last year to tout Vivitrol — stirring controversy by belittling rival medication-assisted treatments that are more widely-used.

    Alkermes spent $1 million lobbying Congress from January through March, focusing on a bipartisan bill from Reps. Brett Guthrie and Gene Green that directs millions of dollars to create full-service centers where people can detox, receive medical care and start treatment under the same roof. The proposal, passed last week in the first wave of House opioid votes, attempts to address the difficulty many patients face finding comprehensive treatment, the lawmakers said.

    It also neatly addresses a chief problem holding back Alkermes’ best-selling product: While Vivitrol is one of just three FDA-approved drugs treating opioid addiction, it’s the only one that requires patients to fully detox before taking it.

    That’s a major roadblock for doctors who are often unsure whether a patient has been in withdrawal for at least a week, and for patients desperate for immediate treatment, crimping Vivitrol’s market potential just as providers increasingly embrace medication-assisted treatment.

    “The issue with Vivitrol is the fact that 25 percent of patients fail the detox component and therefore relapse, and is also one of the reasons why patients prefer Suboxone or Sublocade,” said Biren Amin, a pharmaceutical analyst for Jefferies LLC, referring to competing treatments. “Vivitrol growth [is] clearly impacted."

    By contrast, doctors in the recovery centers proposed by Guthrie and Green could closely monitor and manage patients’ progress, and then start treatment as soon as they’re fully detoxed.

    The bill was one of only two opioid bills that Alkermes targeted in its lobbying, according to disclosure documents. Of the four main lobbyists for the company on the issue, one previously served as Guthrie’s deputy chief of staff. Another was Green’s former legislative director.


    Both Guthrie and Green rejected any suggestion the bill was written to benefit Alkermes, pointing to its support from anti-addiction groups. The bill doesn’t mandate the recovery centers use one medication over another.

    “We met with all the stakeholders,” Guthrie said. “We just think most people need access to all the [treatment] options.”

    In a statement, Alkermes highlighted the legislation’s broad support, adding that it “is not about a particular form of treatment, but rather focuses on ... comprehensive care.” The company said it has always supported using all FDA-approved medications for opioid dependence.

    Though Alkermes ranked among the biggest-spending companies on opioid issues, it’s far from the only firm spending large sums to capture Congress’ attention.

    “Whoever’s stuff is slick gets put to the top of the pile,” one longtime behavioral health lobbyist said of the corporate muscle that’s descended on Capitol Hill.

    Indivior backed a bill from Rep. Ryan Costello that would ease restrictions on certain controlled substances used in injectable anti-opioid treatments — an arcane but important change that would effectively make it easier for doctors to buy Indivior's once-a-month injectable Sublocade. Some view injectable treatments as preferable because they're less likely to be diverted or misused.

    The legislative tweak — which has already passed the Senate — is the only specific House opioid bill that Indivior listed in disclosures showing $180,000 spent on lobbying in the year’s first three months.

    Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which is developing a competing injectable anti-opioid treatment, spent $100,000 over that same period and also listed the Costello bill as the only provision in the House package it focused on.

    Indivior did not respond to specific questions about its lobbying effort, saying in a statement that “government policies impacting these treatments must adapt toensure patients have access to all evidence-based treatment options.”

    Braeburn said the bill simply codifies prior understandings, and that it supports policies that open up access to all treatments for opioid use disorder.

    A spokeperson for Costello said he supports medical innovation and expanding access to a variety of anti-opioid treatments, and noted the bill passed unanimously out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislation wasn’t initially rolled into the House’s main opioid package, but could still be added or passed separately.

    Other bills proposed in the House are more direct in the way they would help specific companies.


    A small group of post-surgery pain drug makers, including Heron Therapeutics, stand to benefit from Rep. Scott Peters’ legislation creating an additional Medicare payment for certain non-opioid pain drugs.

    Heron, which is developing a treatment that would qualify for the payment, spent $40,000 lobbying on rate-setting issues for post-surgical non-opioid drugs from January to March.

    The company is headquartered in Peters’ district, and said in an email that it has discussed opioid and addiction policies with the California lawmaker. But it emphasized that none of its currently approved drugs would benefit from the proposal, and that drugs made by other companies could also qualify.

    A spokesperson for Peters said he met with Heron employees and toured the company’s headquarters as part of his interest in promoting post-surgery opioid alternatives, but he also met with other groups and developed the bill’s language in coordination with federal health officials and other lawmakers.

    A bipartisan effort led by Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), meanwhile, reverses deep cuts to reimbursements for select interventional pain management techniques.

    That qualifies as a victory for the main trade group representing doctors who use non-opioid methods — including epidurals and other injections — to manage pain. In a celebratory blog post, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians said it turned to Congress to restore its pay levels after unsuccessfully lobbying federal health officials.

    “The agency said heck no, we can’t touch it — it needs a legislative fix to be more specific in the intent of Congress,” Shimkus said about when he stepped in. He added that the higher pay rate is needed because those more invasive pain management techniques are often more expensive than prescribing opioids.

    A spokesperson for Krishnamoorthi said the lawmaker's interest stemmed from his support for non-opioid alternatives, and that he never personally met with ASIPP about the legislation. ASIPP’s PAC has donated the maximum $10,000 allowed for this election cycle to both support for the bill.

    Behavioral health and anti-addiction advocates have largely shrugged off those narrow provisions, saying they're a byproduct of a fast-moving, piecemeal effort to address a public health crisis.

    Yet they also acknowledge it means crucial funds will be limited to select groups instead of the broader population.

    That only heightens the importance of Congress continuing to pursue new proposals for curbing drug abuse, Slingshot Solutions‘ Kessler said.

    “There’s a lot of good stuff in there,” he added. “However, there’s a lot to be very, very cautious of as well. And the reason is because as much attention as Congress is paying and as much money as they’re dedicating to it, we’re still not anywhere close to where we need to be."


    Trump betrays House Republicans on immigration


    Two days ago, President Donald Trump promised House Republicans he'd have their backs "1,000 percent" on immigration. On Friday, he told them to “stop wasting their time” — putting GOP leaders in an impossible position and throwing the conference...

    Two days ago, President Donald Trump promised House Republicans he'd have their backs "1,000 percent" on immigration. On Friday, he told them to “stop wasting their time” — putting GOP leaders in an impossible position and throwing the conference into chaos.

    But House Republican leaders say they plan to forge ahead with an immigration vote next week nonetheless.

    Speaker Paul Ryan's team has spent weeks trying to strike an accord between moderate Republicans from swing districts and conservatives who are petrified of being accused of supporting "amnesty."

    And House Republicans exited a Thursday night meeting saying they believed they had a "breakthrough" between the two wings of the party on a compromise that would help Dreamers and boost border security.

    But Trump undercut his party’s plans Friday, telling them to wait until after the midterm elections to act.

    “Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”


    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor that they would vote next week anyway, a rare act of defiance for the close Trump ally.

    "We have been working very closely with the entire conference, taking all ideas in," McCarthy said. "We had a very productive conference last night, and we'll work through the weekend and you will see that bill on the floor next week."

    Still, the tweet puts Ryan in a serious bind.

    To stave off a discharge petition from moderate Republicans and Democrats, the Wisconsin Republican promised the centrists that he'd give them a vote on some sort of bill they could support. If Ryan listens to Trump and cancels the vote, moderates will be furious.

    “Votes were pledged in order to turn off the discharge petition,” Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told reporters Friday. “The intention is to fulfill it.“

    But if Ryan holds the vote, the result could be catastrophic. GOP members who thought they could support the bill have already started telling leadership that they will no longer vote for it. They simply cannot go up against the president, they say.

    That means the bill likely would fail in spectacular fashion on the House floor, which would be a huge embarrassment to leadership and an affront to the rank in file who have spent hundreds of hours in negotiations.

    The vote could also endanger the lame-duck speaker. Rep. Steve King, a vocal hard-liner, suggested Friday that some conservatives could try to oust Ryan with a motion to vacate the chair, though King was coy about why he thought so.

    “We’ll have to see how that cooks over the weekend,” the Iowa Republican said. “I’m reading the tea leaves, but I believe [a motion to vacate] is prepared.”


    That could fuel a backlash, however. Members across the spectrum have praised Ryan for his work trying to find a GOP solution on immigration, working with all corners of the conference. Conservatives who then punish him could face their own political attacks from Ryan loyalists.

    Trump's tweet suggests that the president has retracted his original view of the bill. While the compromise legislation mirrors his own immigration framework — cracking down at the border and finding a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants — the president didn't like the word "moderate" being used to describe the package.

    Last Friday, he told "Fox & Friends" that he would not sign it, only to be walked back by GOP leaders and White House officials who had been working on the measure. On Tuesday, he came to the Hill to try to tell members it's OK to vote for both the compromise bill and a more conservative immigration bill, which was voted down on Thursday.

    “I am with you all the way," he told them Tuesday night.

    While some members viewed that as an endorsement, conservatives and other skeptics called it "wishy-washy." One member told POLITICO that Trump's speech that night was the "worst speech" he had ever given and did not move the needle.

    Rep. Raúl Labrador told reporters Thursday that he wouldn't be surprised if Trump actually lost votes in the meeting because of his dig at Sanford, who lost his primary last week.

    GOP leaders spent virtually all of Wednesday trying to convince lawmakers that Trump supported the bill. They took some to the White House to speak with him personally, and Trump ended up flipped a few members from "undecided" to "yes."

    Republicans had planned to vote on the “compromise” bill Thursday, but delayed it after rank-and-file lawmakers asked for more time to review the proposal.


    During a Thursday night GOP Conference meeting, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) stood up and told members that Trump told him to deliver a message: pass the compromise bill.

    That would have been the most specific endorsement yet from the president, albeit one that wasn't from his own lips.

    But lawmakers can see through those messages, they say. Many have told POLITICO that Trump simply doesn't want to endorse the legislation lest he get pummeled on the far right. Hard-line immigration groups have been calling the bill "amnesty," and Trump clearly doesn't want to take them on.

    GOP leaders may be starting to get the picture, too: No matter what they do, they can't seem to pin him down.

    Some lawmakers predicted Friday that the immigration vote would be called off.

    "Game over," Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) told CNN when asked if the president's Friday morning tweet marked the end of GOP efforts to pass immigration legislation in the House.

    "It takes the wind out of the sails in what might have been a fairly productive weekend in terms of looking for a compromise. I don't know how it happens," he said. "If you look at how contentious this issue is, how much emotion there is, you know, without the president being out front, without the president having legislators' backs, there's no way they're going to take the risks that would be inherent in a major reform bill."

    But others defied that prediction and called for the roll call.

    “We need to get something done, whatever it takes to get something done,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “What are we going to get 60 Republican senators? I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

    And House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Trump's tweet was not actually an instruction to postpone the immigration vote.

    "He didn’t say to pull it," Scalise said, despite Trump's call to delay the debate until after the midterm elections. "He’s just acknowledging there is no willingness of Democrats to work with us to solve this problem."

    "There’s going to be a bill next week," he said. "If you’re interested in solving this problem, there is a bill for you to vote yes on.”

    Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.


    Trump tries to shift focus to victims of undocumented immigrants


    President Donald Trump on Friday put a spotlight on families who lost loved ones killed by undocumented immigrants — calling them victims of “permanent separation" — as he sought to shift the attention away from his administration’s recently...

    President Donald Trump on Friday put a spotlight on families who lost loved ones killed by undocumented immigrants — calling them victims of “permanent separation" — as he sought to shift the attention away from his administration’s recently halted policy of separating migrant families at the border.

    It was a dramatic way to end a week that saw Trump make a rare reversal in the face of public outcry, and presented a counterargument as mothers and fathers told grisly tales of their children being tortured and murdered — and claimed the media has not covered their stories.

    “You know, you hear the other side. You never hear this side. You don't know what's going on. These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones. The word permanently being the word that you have to think about,” the president said Friday afternoon.

    “They're not separated for a day or two days. These were permanently separated because they were killed by illegal aliens. These are the families the media ignores. They don't talk about them. Very unfair.”

    One by one, mothers and fathers took turns at the podium, invited by the president to share their stories. One mother recalled that her son had been repeatedly strangled and set on fire after he was dead. A father told the crowd of administration officials and law enforcement officers that his daughter had been kidnapped, raped and killed in 1990 and her body left naked in an artichoke field.


    Another father, whose son was shot and killed while working as a clerk on an overnight shift, said his family sets up a Christmas tree on his son’s grave every year. Holding a challenge coin he had been given by acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan, the father said, “I wish some of our media had the same integrity as our president, our vice president.”

    Trump mostly steered clear of directly addressing the family separation issue that sparked an international backlash, although some of the parents alluded to it in their remarks. The president’s comments were more somber than his Twitter outburst early Friday morning, in which he accused Democrats of telling “their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections.”

    Several of the parents carried large photographs of their deceased sons and daughters, many of which appeared to have been autographed by the president.

    “I was going to end my life. I had no purpose, but President Trump coming down that escalator that day and talking about illegal immigration stopped me in my tracks. And I had no clue at that point that I would ever be at the White House,” one mother, who wore the ashes of her son, killed by a drunk driver, in a locket around her neck. “Remember when you go home and hug your kids that there are many of us, thousands of us who don't get to do that anymore.”


    The event marked the end of a week which the White House spent fully on the defensive, pushing back against a tidal wave of outcry over its policy of referring all illegal border-crossers for prosecution, a practice that resulted in the forcible separation of thousands of children from their parents.

    Early in the week, the Trump administration held fast to its position that the administration’s hands were tied on family separation by established law, even though no such law exists and the policy was the result of a Justice Department policy directive that could be easily reversed.

    The White House also argued that the practice could only be ended by a change in the law and therefore it was obstinate Democrats, unwilling to accede to the president’s broader immigration demands, who were to blame for the separations.

    With both White House arguments proving untenable and public pressure mounting in the wake of photographs of children kept in cages at a Texas facility and audio of them crying out for their moms and dads, Trump signed an executive order Wednesday intended to keep families together at the border.

    But even after the president’s order, confusion remained as to what would happen to the already separated families and how exactly families crossing the border illegally would be treated moving forward.


    While administration spokespeople were steadfast in their positions, they quickly found themselves on an island, with Republicans on Capitol Hill growing increasingly vocal in their criticism of the practice.

    The issue remained contentious Friday afternoon on Capitol Hill, where Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), played audio of children wailing inside a detention center on the House floor as Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.), who was presiding over the chamber at the time, tried to gavel him down, accusing him of violating House rules.

    Throughout the week, administration officials complained often that the media’s coverage of illegal immigration and the issue of family separation neglected to reflect the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, a group Trump spotlighted frequently on the campaign trail. Friday’s event, portions of which were carried live by all three major cable news networks, seemed an effort at redirecting the media’s attention.

    “I cannot imagine it being any worse, but we promise to act with strength and resolve," the president said. “We’ll not rest until our border is secure, our citizens are safe and we end this immigration crisis once and for all… Your loved ones have not died in vain.”


    New Pruitt question: Where are his emails?


    An examination of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s government email accounts has uncovered only one message he wrote to anyone outside EPA during his first 10 months in office — a number that has watchdogs questioning whether he...


    An examination of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s government email accounts has uncovered only one message he wrote to anyone outside EPA during his first 10 months in office — a number that has watchdogs questioning whether he is communicating in private.

    EPA says Pruitt mainly holds discussions in person or over the phone, which would explain the meager electronic trail for his external communications. But Pruitt’s critics remain suspicious — especially in light of all the steps the agency has taken to conceal his activities, from refusing to release his meeting calendars to installing a $43,000 soundproof booth in his office.

    Oversight groups said it seems implausible that someone as active as Pruitt, who meets frequently with political and industry allies, would have sent only a single email to someone outside EPA. Agency records also include evidence that Pruitt has used text messages at least once to set up a meeting with an Oklahoma lawyer.

    “The emails, if they exist, could show what these people want and then those emails could be compared to what the EPA does,” said Melanie Sloan, a senior adviser at the watchdog group American Oversight. “Americans should know what the EPA is doing, why it’s doing it and who’s influencing those decisions.”

    American Oversight also expressed doubts that EPA has reviewed all of Pruitt’s communications, as the law requires. Government officials can legally use private email accounts, but agencies are supposed to search those accounts when fulfilling public records requests.


    It’s not unprecedented for high-ranking government officials to shun email, but Pruitt has in the past used his private email for official business when he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

    EPA provided the email in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Sierra Club, which has been seeking Pruitt’s external communications for more than a year. In September, the group filed a lawsuit to compel EPA to respond.

    Agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox offered a simple explanation for the shortage of correspondence, saying in an emailed statement that “Administrator Pruitt works mostly in person through conversations.”

    But outside groups were skeptical.

    “It is entirely possible that he doesn’t use email, but that becomes suspect,” said Justine Cowan, an attorney helping lead the Sierra Club’s legal effort. “How is he conducting business, and is he doing that on purpose so that we don’t get the records? In this day and age, who doesn’t use email?”

    Previously released EPA documents show that a lobbyist helped plan Pruitt’s international travels, and that GOP donors both weighed in on policy decisions and set up meetings with him for friends. That makes the gap in Pruitt’s communications trail especially significant, American Oversight’s Sloan said.

    “When you’re a Cabinet secretary, you have enough people around you to send the emails, and you’re pretty busy,” she said. “On the other hand, I get the feeling Scott Pruitt likes to hide what he’s doing even from top staff, which would mean he’d be likely to correspond on his own.”


    Pruitt is facing a dozen investigations into his behavior, including his heavy spending on personal security and first-class travel, the pricey phone booth, a $50-a-night Capitol Hill condo deal he got from a lobbyist, and personal tasks that he had EPA aides carry out for him. The independent Office of Government Ethics has also expressed concern about more recent accusations that he used his position to try to land a job for his wife, and that he made inquiries to Chick-fil-A about obtaining a fast-food franchise for her.

    From February 2017 to December, the only message Pruitt sent from one of his epa.gov addresses to an external email account was a Sept. 1 response to a consultant with Capitol Hill Consulting Group, according to the records EPA provided to the Sierra Club. The consultant had invited Pruitt to a dinner organized by the American Council for Capital Formation.

    Pruitt also forwarded a second email with a speaking engagement request on Nov. 14 to an address that EPA redacted. The agency cited a legal exception for “personal privacy” in blocking out the address.


    EPA told the Sierra Club that a completed search turned up no other emails from Pruitt to outside groups. Pruitt — like past administrators — has multiple email accounts at EPA, but the Sierra Club agreed to exclude two that the agency said are used only for receiving public comments and scheduling purposes.

    Emails involving Pruitt’s scheduler also show he used what appears to be his personal email account to correspond with a friend and former Oklahoma County district attorney who wanted him to attend the opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington. EPA redacted the address of the account Pruitt used for those messages, however.

    In total, the Sierra Club’s request for Pruitt’s messages to people outside EPA produced 25 pages of documents, including the two emails and nine text messages. The texts do not reveal whom he communicated with or whether the messages were to or from him.

    The Sierra Club says it has asked EPA to either search Pruitt’s personal email for agency-related messages or certify that he never used it for government business. If EPA does not respond, the environmental group could ask a judge to force a review of Pruitt’s personal email account.

    Pruitt has used his private email to conduct government work in the past, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has confirmed. The Oklahoma Bar Association is investigating an ethics complaint alleging that he misled the U.S. Senate when he wrote in response to lawmakers’ written confirmation questions that he had not used his personal email for state business during his seven years as the state’s AG.

    In addition to private email accounts, text messages and encrypted messaging apps also provide possible ways for officials to communicate without using their government accounts. Those technologies are more difficult for groups to seek to search, according to records experts.

    Some of the Pruitt emails released to the Sierra Club raise questions about whether he was using any of these other methods.

    In May 2017, an Oklahoma lawyer who is managing director at Sequoyah Capital, a firm that helps energy companies raise money, emailed Pruitt’s former scheduler Sydney Hupp and said that Pruitt had texted him to set up a meeting.

    “Scott sent me a text and asked me to contact you about setting up a 20 minute meeting in Washington DC,” said Sam Hammons, adding that “although Scott and I have known each other for many years, I have attached my bio for your information.” Those email records were also obtained by the Sierra Club.


    In another message that Pruitt forwarded to an unknown address, Victor Schwartz, co-chair of the public policy practice group at the law firm Shook, Hardy and Bacon, emailed Pruitt in November and said he had “tried all other means” of contacting him. Schwartz wanted to know if Pruitt could speak at a Nashville meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that represents conservative state lawmakers.

    Schwartz, a member of the group’s Board of Scholars, wanted to pursue an ALEC resolution to “curb regulation through litigation.”

    “As you and I discussed in May, it is inevitable the common law courts will try to undermine the deregulation efforts by expanding tort law. An ALEC Resolution would put sunlight on the issue and try to stop it or curb it,” Schwartz said.

    He signed, “Thank you for all you have done, your friend always Victor,” with a smiley face emoji. EPA blacked out the email address that Schwartz wrote to when trying to contact Pruitt.

    While EPA says Pruitt does his government business on the phone or in person, his desk and cell phone call logs show periods where he made or received calls only infrequently. The agency also redacted the numbers contacted in responses to records requests.

    EPA has been slow to respond to requests for information from Pruitt’s office in particular, and many requests have been subjected to an extra layer of review by political staffers, as POLITICO reported in May.

    Alex Guillén contributed to this report.


    Zinke's Halliburton mess deepens


    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met at department headquarters in August with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar and other developers involved in a Montana real estate deal that relied on help from a foundation Zinke established, according to a participant...

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met at department headquarters in August with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar and other developers involved in a Montana real estate deal that relied on help from a foundation Zinke established, according to a participant in the meeting and records cited by House Democrats late Thursday.

    Zinke, Lesar and the others later discussed the development project over dinner that night, the participant in the meeting confirmed to POLITICO.

    The new details raise further questions about Zinke's involvement in the project, and whether his conversations with the developers — especially in Interior's office — violated federal conflict of interest laws given Halliburton’s extensive business before this department. POLITICO reported Tuesday that a foundation Zinke established a decade ago agreed to let the Lesar-backed development build a parking lot on foundation land.

    Zinke has told POLITICO that he was no longer involved in the foundation’s operations since becoming secretary in March 2017, and that has he “resigned as president and board member” of the foundation when he joined President Donald Trump's Cabinet. But he has not said whether he continued holding discussions with the developers, who are pursuing a multi-use project in his hometown of Whitefish.


    Zinke was scheduled to meet at the Interior Department with Lesar and his son and lead project developer Casey Malmquist on Aug. 3, according to an email from his scheduler cited by the House Democrats. About six weeks later, he received an email from Malmquist with plans for the development, which is expected to include shops and a microbrewery — a project initially proposed by Zinke more than five years ago.

    A week after Zinke received Malmquist’s email, Zinke's wife, Lola, signed a letter of intent in her role as president of the foundation agreeing to let the developers use its land.

    “Ryan — our development plan and your park project are an absolute grand slam,” Malmquist wrote in one email to Zinke released via the Freedom of Information Act. “I have never been more excited about a development as I am about this one.”

    Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and other Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to the inspector general's office that the email and meeting with Malmquist and the Lesars raise "troubling questions about whether Secretary Zinke has used federal resources and his position as Secretary of the Interior for personal financial gain and whether he or other DOI staff is actively trying to cover it up.”

    “The American people must be able to trust that Department of the Interior decisions that affect the nation’s welfare on a daily basis are not compromised by individual self-enrichment,” they wrote. “We urge you to investigate the contents of the Politico report and the legal and professional questions raised here at your earliest convenience.”

    The Interior Department did not immediately respond to request for comment.


    Zinke received a private message from his scheduling assistant setting up the 4:30 p.m. meeting on Aug. 3, the Democrats said, citing communications released via the Freedom of Information Act. Zinke’s official calendar blocks out a 90-minute meeting starting at 4:30 p.m. that day, but does not disclose who he met, only marking it as “HOLD.” After the meeting, Zinke conducted a tour at the Lincoln Memorial and had his staff reserve a table for four at a the Biergarten Haus restaurant in Washington, according to the calendar.

    The real estate development, known as 95 Karrow, is likely to increase property values in the area where the Zinkes own multiple parcels, and could put the secretary's family in the position of benefiting financially from investments made by Lesar. Halliburton stands to benefit from many aspects of the Trump administration's energy agenda that Zinke oversees, including expanded opportunities for offshore drilling and relaxed regulations on fracking on public lands.

    Malmquist confirmed he, Zinke and the others met at Zinke’s office, but said they talked only about the Interior Department. “We met in office and discussed history of the DOI [and] discussed 95 Karrow at dinner," he wrote in an email to POLITICO. "Ryan led us on a tour of the Lincoln Memorial with a group — went to dinner after and talked about 95 Karrow."

    Ethics analysts have said Zinke, with his wife serving as the nonprofit’s head, may not be removed enough from its actions to ward off an appearance of conflict of interest.

    Zinke said he resigned his position from the foundation upon becoming secretary, but he was still listed in its annual report filed with the state of Montana until the foundation filed an amended report Tuesday.

    Chris Saeger, executive director of the public lands advocacy group the Western Values Project, said Zinke’s ties to the development project call for an investigation.

    "Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, and the only way to find out for sure is an independent investigation,” Saeger said. “Secretary Zinke is a steward of our public lands, and if he's abusing this position to help his big oil buddies to enrich himself and his family at the expense of taxpayers, he needs to be held accountable."


    Exclusive: Zinke linked to real estate deal with Halliburton chairman


    WHITEFISH, Mont. — A foundation established by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and headed by his wife is playing a key role in a real-estate deal backed by the chairman of Halliburton, the oil-services giant that stands to benefit from any of the...


    WHITEFISH, Mont. — A foundation established by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and headed by his wife is playing a key role in a real-estate deal backed by the chairman of Halliburton, the oil-services giant that stands to benefit from any of the Interior Department’s decisions to open public lands for oil exploration or change standards for drilling.

    A group funded by David Lesar, the Halliburton chairman, is planning a large commercial development on a former industrial site near the center of the Zinkes’ hometown of Whitefish, a resort area that has grown increasingly popular with wealthy tourists. The development would include a hotel and retail shops. There also would be a microbrewery — a business first proposed in 2012 by Ryan Zinke and for which he lobbied town officials for half a decade.

    The Whitefish city planner, David Taylor, said in an interview that the project’s developer suggested to him that the microbrewery would be set aside for Ryan and Lola Zinke to own and operate, though the developer told POLITICO that no final decisions have been made.

    Meanwhile, a foundation created by Ryan Zinke is providing crucial assistance. Lola Zinke pledged in writing to allow the Lesar-backed developer to build a parking lot for the project on land that was donated to the foundation to create a Veterans Peace Park for citizens of Whitefish. The 14-acre plot, which has not been significantly developed as a park, is still owned by the foundation. Lola Zinke is its president, a role her husband gave up when he became interior secretary.

    The Zinkes stand to benefit from the project in another way: They own land on the other side of the development, and have long sparred with neighbors about their various plans for it. If the new hotel, retail stores and microbrewery go through, real estate agents say, the Zinke-owned land next door would stand to increase substantially in value.


    Lesar, who also served as Halliburton's chief executive until last year, is providing money to back the hotel and retail development, according to business records and officials at Whitefish city government and Halliburton. He also has a longstanding relationship with the Zinkes. In 2014, he and his wife, Sheryl, gave $10,400, the maximum allowed by law, to Zinke’s first House campaign. His only other federal contributions that year were to Halliburton’s PAC and the campaign of Rep. Liz Cheney, whose father, Dick, ran the company before becoming George W. Bush’s vice president.

    Ryan Zinke did not respond to a list of specific questions but said in a statement that he “resigned as president and board member” of the foundation “upon becoming secretary.”

    The foundation’s 2018 annual report to the state of Montana, however, lists Ryan Zinke as an officer, with Lola Zinke as president and their daughter as treasurer. Zinke said the report was in error and he would seek to amend it.

    In his statement, Zinke declared: “The mission remains to provide a children’s sledding park and community open space in a setting that recognizes the contributions of the railroad and the veterans to the community. ... The subject LLC you mention has been in contact with Lola with the intent of expanding their parking requirements on park property. I understand a concept was provided but no formal proposal or documents have been submitted or agreed upon. I also understand by reading the paper is their proposal is supported by the City Council.”

    He did not respond to questions about the microbrewery, the involvement of Lesar or Lesar’s status as chairman of Halliburton.


    Lola Zinke did not respond to questions left on her Facebook page or messages left at the family’s Montana home. Neither Jennifer Detlefsen, the Zinkes’ daughter and the foundation’s treasurer, nor the foundation’s law firm of Frampton Purdy Law, responded to questions.

    In Whitefish, the plan to use land that was donated to the Zinkes’ foundation as a public park to further a private development strikes residents as a surprise.

    “I’ve never been clear exactly what his intentions are for the place,” said Steve Thompson, who lives near the park and supported Zinke early in his career but has since grown disillusioned with him. He described the current state of the land as “sort of a big puddle, a mudhole puddle.”

    The involvement of the interior secretary’s family in a multimillion-dollar project funded by the chairman of an energy-services giant — revealed here for the first time — is rife with conflicts of interest, ethics experts say, especially since Zinke’s job as interior secretary makes him the custodian of more than 500 million acres of public land and head of a department that sets technical and safety standards for pipelines and drilling.

    Halliburton is the largest American oil-services company, drilling wells and building rigs. It stands to benefit from any new oil and gas exploration on public land or offshore — something the Trump administration has promised to promote — and the company has frequent dealings with the Interior Department in its regulatory capacity.

    For example, federal disclosures show that Halliburton’s in-house lobbyist met repeatedly with Interior officials to discuss the department’s policies on hydraulic fracturing, the oil extraction procedure that some studies have linked to groundwater contamination and earthquakes. Under Zinke, the department last year rescinded Obama-era rules that restricted fracking on federal land, a decision that directly benefited Halliburton, one of the world’s leading fracking companies.


    Marilyn Glynn, who was acting director of the Office of Government Ethics under former President George W. Bush, said the foundation’s involvement in a deal backed by the chairman of Halliburton is clearly inappropriate and, at minimum, should force Zinke to recuse himself from any policy decisions affecting Halliburton.

    “That Halliburton’s chairman would almost be a business partner of Zinke or his wife, he would have to recuse himself from anything involving Halliburton,” said Glynn, adding that the relationship clearly crosses ethical lines.

    She suggested the Trump administration should set a higher ethical standard.

    “In a previous administration, whether Bush or Obama, you’d never run across something like this,” she said. “Nobody would be engaging in business deals” with executives whose companies they regulate.

    Amy Myers Jaffe, a longtime energy analyst now working at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Interior Department, in setting specifications for rig equipment and how much methane can leak from pipelines, has the power to make Halliburton’s business more or less profitable.

    “They spend a tremendous amount on R&D to comply” with government regulations, Jaffe said of oil-service companies. “You wouldn’t want Interior to change specifications and make that equipment no longer commercially viable.”

    She added that Zinke’s conflicts could extend to investigations of accidents involving Halliburton’s equipment.

    “One thing that is most concerning is if Interior would be called upon to investigate the procedures of a service company offshore” in case of an accident, said Jaffe. “A tight relationship [between the interior secretary and the company] would be problematic.”

    Executive branch officials such as Zinke are subject to conflict-of-interest rules requiring that they recuse themselves from government decisions involving people with whom they or their close relatives have a financial relationship.

    Craig Holman, a specialist in federal ethics laws for the advocacy group Public Citizen, said Lola Zinke’s efforts to help the development backed by Lesar would amount to a financial relationship.

    “Entering this type of business relationship could very clearly open the doors [of government] to business interests that have stakes before the office holder,” Holman said. “Clearly, any substantial development project next to the vacant lot owned by Zinke’s foundation would significantly boost the value of the lot. The conflict-of-interest statute would be invoked if even the nonprofit on which Zinke or his spouse serves as an officer, as either paid or unpaid officers, derives a financial benefit.”

    ***

    After 23 years as a Navy SEAL, Ryan Zinke retired from the military in 2008 and returned to Whitefish, the mountain city of roughly 6,000 people where he grew up and where his father and grandfather ran a plumbing business.

    It was, however, a changed community, increasingly popular with tourists and second homeowners for its pristine isolation and proximity to Glacier National Park.

    A city that began as a stopping place for freight trains carrying lumber from the state’s thriving timber industry was fast becoming an upscale resort. In 2009, the year after Zinke’s retirement, about 17 percent of households were making more than $100,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2016, 23 percent of Whitefish households were making that much, adjusted for inflation.


    Whitefish is a particular magnet for California tech entrepreneurs and oil barons from Canada and Texas who have built homes valued at more than $1 million each. Lesar is one of them. He currently has a home behind a gate on a private road looping up one of the nearby mountains.

    As the then 46-year-old Zinke planned his future, he began laying the groundwork for business and political careers more or less simultaneously, and sometimes on parallel tracks. Launching a nonprofit foundation to build a park in Whitefish was one of the first things he did to reintroduce himself to the community, which helped bolster his credentials for office.

    The foundation’s first big donation was from BNSF Railway, the nation’s largest freight railroad, with more than 32,500 miles of track. The railway is one of the state’s biggest landowners, with extensive business before the state government.

    Zinke proudly announced that the donated land would be used for what he dubbed “the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park.” In announcing the gift, he touted his own career in uniform and described the park as a gift to Whitefish. His intent was to combine the railway land and an adjacent city-owned hill into “a children’s winter sledding park in a setting that recognizes the contributions of the veterans and the railroad to the local community,” according to the nonprofit’s publicly available IRS forms.

    "The theme of this park is to celebrate life — why veterans fight," Zinke told a local newspaper in February 2008.

    That same year, he filed paperwork to run for the state Senate.

    He won the race and, shortly after taking office, cast the deciding committee vote on a bill that strongly benefited BNSF. The bill would have pumped millions of taxpayer dollars into railroad construction through a publicly funded Montana Rail Authority.

    Jeff Mangan, Montana’s commissioner of political practices, said the vote, coming so soon after Zinke accepted a donation of land from the railway, would have violated the Legislature’s code of conduct if he did not disclose the relationship. “If there’s an appearance of conflict of interest, they have a duty to disclose that conflict before a vote,” Mangan said. But enforcement of that requirement can be “fairly laid back,” he said.


    There is no record of Zinke making a formal disclosure of his relationship with BNSF before the vote, and Zinke did not respond to questions on the matter.

    Ultimately, then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed the legislation for the Montana Rail Authority, saying he was concerned “that public money will be targeted to build infrastructure that should be rightly financed by the private sector.”

    BNSF continued to donate more land to the Veterans Peace Park with adjoining parcels being given to Zinke’s foundation in 2010 and 2013.

    BNSF spokesman Ross Lane said in an interview, “We would firmly reject that there is any quid pro quo on the donations” for the Veterans Peace Park.

    The land remains mostly in a natural state, and is only lightly utilized, except when local children use it for sledding, as they had before Zinke’s foundation acquired the land. On a recent spring day, the only inhabitants were a pair of Bufflehead ducks sharing a retaining pond that dominates the property with a discarded inner tube.

    Nonetheless, even in an undeveloped state, the land is now valued at more than $500,000, according to the group’s 2016 tax returns, the most recent publicly available. The tax returns also show monetary gifts to the foundation, which increased as Zinke’s political career advanced.

    In 2012, when Zinke launched an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor, the foundation took in $30,000, according to tax records. In 2014, when Zinke ran for the House, the foundation again received $30,000 in contributions and saw its cash holdings grow from $118 to $23,743 over the course of the year. The foundation raised $36,000 in 2015, before seeing its contributions fall to $5,000 the following year, the last before he became interior secretary.


    The Zinkes reported that they gave the foundation $10,000 in 2012, but the source of the rest of the contributions is undisclosed. That lack of transparency is a common concern when politicians control their own charities, said Melanie Sloan, a senior adviser at government ethics watchdog group American Oversight.

    “The main concern is it’s another way for donors and corporations to curry favor with politicians,” Sloan said. “If he’s doing something to benefit those making donations, it’s invisible to us. It undermines the whole interest of transparency.”

    Even as the park continued to lie fallow, Ryan and Lola Zinke turned their attention to pieces of land that they own through various LLCs. In December 2012, while Ryan was preparing to leave the state Senate, the Zinkes announced that they wanted to turn his childhood home into a B&B called the Snowfrog Inn, and also to build a microbrewery on their development land across the street. They planned to call the brewery “Double Tap,” which is a Navy SEAL term for two gunshots.

    Both proposals required public approvals, which put Zinke — one of the state’s rising political stars — in a position of arguing before local politicians. He was steadfast in calling for more commercial development in the face of neighbors’ complaints about traffic and noise.

    The City Council appointed Zinke to a special steering committee of local residents to explore ways to develop the area where the Zinkes’ land was located. The committee included 13 residents of Whitefish, just two of whom lived in the neighborhood, Zinke and one other.

    The committee recommended opening the area for greater commercial development. The City Council and mayor endorsed the plan.


    While the larger planning process was playing out, Zinke won approval in 2013 for the B&B without a microbrewery across the street, as he had initially proposed. The Snowfrog Inn website states that it is still under construction.

    By 2015, Zinke was back before the City Council, this time in his first term as Montana’s sole representative in the U.S. House, arguing passionately for the committee plan to expand development, according to a video of the meeting. He cited his microbrewery proposal as the impetus for the changes to the planning process.

    “In regards to a brewery, I’ve asked for a brewery because that’s what started this whole process,” Zinke declared at a contentious May 4, 2015, council meeting, referring to the changes to the city’s planning rules that he had helped orchestrate.

    Neighborhood activists continued to raise objections, insisting that Zinke had done little in the 29 months since announcing his microbrewery proposal to assuage their concerns about noise and traffic. But Zinke told them they were outnumbered.

    “The same people are going to be against it tomorrow as was at the beginning, but most of the strong majority of the steering committee, which represented every bit of the neighborhoods … all came to the same conclusion, that this [planning change] should stand,” Zinke said, according to a video of the meeting.

    The changes to the planning process did not lead to approval of the microbrewery on the Zinkes’ own development parcel, but they opened the doors to a new proposal for a multiuse development on a much larger plot — a former timber-company lot — between the Zinkes’ land and the veterans’ peace park that they controlled.

    The project, known as 95 Karrow, named for the avenue on which the land sits, was launched in September of last year. Two days after the partnership backing the development was established, Lola Zinke, in her capacity as president of the foundation controlling the peace park, signed an official letter of intent to allow the construction of a parking lot for customers of the microbrewery and other businesses on the parkland, which the developers included in their proposal. The letter said the specific terms of the agreement would be worked out by the parties.

    Taylor, the Whitefish city planner, told POLITICO that the developers “certainly implied that they were working with [Zinke] to find a place for his microbrewery as well as a shared use agreement for parking on the peace park.”


    At least two project maps submitted to the city mark off space specifically for a microbrewery adjacent to the parking lot. The letter Lola Zinke signed and submitted to Whitefish City Council states “it is the intent of the GNVPP Foundation to concur with the general design of the parking, micro-brewery, multiple use path, fence and other supporting elements” of the redevelopment project. Attached to that letter is a map with a handwritten notation indicating a “border adjustment” that would appear to carve out the microbrewery site from the rest of the property.

    The parking lot is also meant to serve the park if the foundation ever does anything with the rest of the 14-acre parcel it owns.

    The developers of the hotel, microbrewery and retail shops are a partnership known as 95 Karrow LLC, which itself is controlled by two individuals and three other entities, according to business registration records filed with Montana’s secretary of state. The two individuals are John and Katie Lesar, who are the son and daughter-in-law of Halliburton's chairman, according to a biography his wife, Sheryl, wrote for a local nonprofit, where she serves as a board member.

    Two of the other entities, BADF LLC and KCM Enterprises Inc., are linked to Bruce Boody, a local architect who worked with the Zinkes on their B&B proposal, and a local developer named Casey Malmquist, according to Montana business records. The third, Greenstream Resources LLC, lists a Texas address but does not disclose any owners in records filed there. However, the P.O. Box it uses matches the address of another business, First Floor Properties LLC, that lists David Lesar as its “general partner” and other family members among its management.

    Both Malmquist and a Halliburton official confirmed that David Lesar is a member of the Greenstream Resources LLC, which is expected to provide a significant portion of the financing for the 95 Karrow project.

    Halliburton spokeswoman Emily Mir said the company had no comment on Lesar’s involvement in the project, calling it a private investment that Lesar was making outside his role in the company.

    Malmquist, who is leading the development project, said that talk of Zinke owning a brewery on the site was premature, as no final decisions have been made on what type of businesses the redevelopment will contain.

    “If and when we get to that point, Ryan Zinke, or anyone else that is interested, can purchase a parcel of property, properly located on the development by use and per zoning, and develop a project that is permitted from the standpoint of zoning designations that determine the permitted uses on the development parcel, as well as following the [covenants, conditions, and restrictions] that are yet to be developed for the property,” Malmquist said in an email.

    ***

    The Zinkes’ mixing of their nonprofit role as stewards of the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation with their role as landowner and developer echoes other ethical concerns raised about the couple.

    In 2012, Ryan Zinke formed a super PAC called Special Operations for America, through which he raised money from donors to attack then-President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign for taking credit for the death of Osama bin Laden. Over the following year, the group paid nearly $40,000 to an LLC established by Ryan and Lola Zinke called Continental Divide International for “strategy consulting” and “fundraising consulting” and to reimburse travel expenses.

    Only $7,000 of the more than $180,000 the group raised in 2012 went to efforts to influence the election, according to the group’s FEC filings.

    The super PAC was Zinke’s foray into a world of political fundraising that would carry through to his time in the Trump administration. Less than a month after being sworn in as interior secretary, he appeared at a fundraiser in the Virgin Islands for another PAC that has been criticized for spending vastly more on administrative expenses than on campaign activities.

    The Virgin Islands GOP PAC has raised $5.7 million since its inception in February 2015. It has spent $76,000 — just 1.3 percent — on congressional candidates, including $3,500 to Zinke’s campaign and SEAL PAC, a subsequent group he launched after his election to the House.

    Meanwhile, two of Zinke’s top aides at Interior, chief of staff Scott Homell and counselor Vincent DeVito, were previously on the payrolls of Special Operations for America and SEAL PAC, respectively.

    Earlier this year, the Interior Department’s internal watchdog criticized Zinke for obscuring his personal interest in some ostensibly official duties — an incident that involved another Whitefish resident, Fidelity National Financial Chairman Bill Foley, who was one of Zinke’s biggest political donors.

    Zinke charged taxpayers more than $12,000 last June for a late-night charter flight from Las Vegas, where he had spoken to a National Hockey League team Foley owns, to Whitefish for meetings at the Western Governors Association that were being held there the following day.

    Speaking to the Las Vegas Golden Knights was a favor to a friend and donor. He “first mentioned during his initial ethics briefing in March 2017 that he wanted to speak to a friend’s hockey team,” according to a report from the IG. He did not mention any specific aspects of his job as interior secretary during the speech, which focused on his time as a Navy SEAL. After Zinke and his staff made plans for the speech, the Interior Department started to schedule an event for him to announce Payment In Lieu of Taxation grants, routine business that is typically handled with a news release.

    The IG’s investigation found that the charter flight could have been avoided with better scheduling, and that Zinke’s prior relationship with Foley should have been disclosed in advance to ethics officials who had reviewed the trip.

    Foley, a West Point graduate who grew up in the Texas panhandle, has been a major presence in Whitefish since buying a home there in 2005. That same year, he purchased a majority share in Winter Sports, the company that runs the Whitefish Mountain Resort in the town. He soon bought Glacier Jet Center, a private airport about 20 minutes outside the city.


    Foley’s development projects, like David Lesar’s and the Zinkes’, are signs of just how far Whitefish has come since Zinke’s childhood. The Pastime Pool Hall and Bar, which Zinke fondly remembered in his autobiography as where his grandfather used to socialize, has been renamed “The Bulldog,” although not much else about it has changed. But the city also boasts a crepiere, an artisanal olive oil shop and a camping store that sells “overnight yurts.” A new yoga studio stands about a minute’s walk down the block from Zinke’s boyhood home.

    “It's gone from a dirty ski town to pretty bougie,” said Cale Knox, a Whitefish native and employee at the Red Caboose coffee shop downtown. In a sign of the times, tech venture capitalist Michael Goguen recently bought the Red Caboose, and there is rumor that it will become a wine bar.

    Only a mile away is the open land that Zinke dubbed his Veterans Peace Park. Ten years after the railroad donated the first piece of land, locals are as flummoxed as ever about what will happen to it. The situation has left some residents worried that what was pitched as an attempt to provide a green space dedicated to children and veterans was instead used to build Zinke’s political profile.

    “It was something to put on his résumé,” Whitefish City Council member Richard Hildner said of the park during a visit there. “Now, it just sits here.”


    Young Trumpies Hit D.C.


    When Matt Mowers moved to Washington in November 2016, he wasn’t expecting a hero’s welcome. The young political operative had worked for Donald Trump’s campaign in New York, where you can hardly walk down the block in many neighborhoods without...

    When Matt Mowers moved to Washington in November 2016, he wasn’t expecting a hero’s welcome. The young political operative had worked for Donald Trump’s campaign in New York, where you can hardly walk down the block in many neighborhoods without spying the words “Fuck Trump” scrawled somewhere on the streetscape.

    But last year, his new neighbors in Dupont Circle, the upscale area known for its stately townhouses and history as a hub of gay life in the District, pulled some moves that surprised even Mowers, by then chief of staff at the State Department’s global AIDS office. In the run-up to Mowers’ first Halloween here, one of his neighbors strung up a skeleton and a pumpkin next to each other on a tree. The pumpkin had a sign: “Now kids, just because you’re orange doesn’t mean you’re related to him!” With the dangling skeleton was a more menacing note: “Donald Trump’s EPA director.”

    There’s always tension when administrations change in Washington; a new cast of characters arrives, and an influx of appointees, lobbyists and hangers-on have to stake out their own ground. But the era of Donald Trump is—as in so many respects—different.

    Washington is a hipper city now than it’s ever been, a place where staffers, especially young staffers who want to drink and date and live normal millennial lives, would want to live. The problem is, if you work for Trump, it’s also more hostile territory than it’s ever been. The president campaigned against the very idea of “Washington,” slammed cities as “war zones” and ran a racially charged campaign whose coded messages weren’t lost on the diverse, Democratic-leaning residents of D.C.’s buzzing neighborhoods. The bar-filled areas that became synonymous with young Washington in the Obama era—Columbia Heights, Shaw, U Street, H Street—are full of anti-Trump T-shirts and street art. Even old Republican redoubts like Spring Valley in upper Northwest aren’t very Trump-friendly.

    So, what’s a young Trumpie to do? Many still do live in D.C., and to understand what their lives here are like, we interviewed more than 30 millennial staffers from the Trump White House and across the administration, both current and former (many have already left), as well as a smattering of their friends and outside observers. Nearly all spoke on the condition of anonymity, to talk candidly about their personal lives or because they were not authorized by their bosses to comment. They told us their horror stories about being heckled on the street and their struggles to get a date. Unlike their predecessors, who made their mark on the city’s social scene, they largely keep to themselves, more likely to hop between intimate apartment gatherings than to hit the town. “Instead of folks looking outward,” explains one young White House aide, “more folks look inward.”

    Faced with open antagonism, Trump’s millennials over the past year and a half have quietly settled on the margins: a stretch of Washington that spans from the Wharf—a shiny new development three blocks south of the National Mall—southeast along the Waterfront and into Navy Yard, on the banks of the Anacostia River. It’s a string of neighborhoods that peer out over the water, separated from most of the city by an interstate, and facing away from official Washington. It’s a bubble within the Washington bubble: Here, young Trump staffers mix largely with each other and enjoy the view from their rooftop pools, where they can feel far away from the District’s locals and the rest of its political class.

    It’s not all a tale of discomfort. Many shrug off the drawbacks by pointing out that at least they’re not in New York or back on their college campuses, where their politics were even less welcome. And they’re learning one lesson that every new wave of operators learns: In Washington—even in Trump’s Washington—as long as you have power, you can manage to feel popular somewhere.

    ***

    It’s a fact of social Washington—or it has been up to now—that each administration’s junior staffers help to set the tone for D.C. “cool.” In the Clinton years, the diverse and lively Adams Morgan—one of a small number of neighborhoods not far from the White House that was affordable and relatively safe in the 1990s—became a hub for young appointees. The arrival of President George W. Bush in 2001 brought a new generation of country club Republicans, and a Texas-Southern flavor, to the city. Bush’s 20-something twin daughters and his youngest aides made the now-shuttered Georgetown bar Smith Point, where boat shoes and cocaine once abounded, and Glover Park’s Town Hall into centers of the social scene. Young, diverse Obama staffers, meanwhile, were on the front lines of gentrifying historically black neighborhoods around U Street, Columbia Heights and Shaw, often preferring group houses where they lived with lots of roommates and threw raucous parties. Regular basketball games, especially Tuesday nights at an Interior Department court, were another hallmark.

    The young Bush and Obama crews mustered a visible social presence in part because so many of them had bonded on the campaign trail; by the time they got to Washington, they were a crowd. But Trump’s slapdash campaign was leaner, his team was thrown together on the fly, and it was riven by factions—meaning those staffers now in D.C. tend to keep a lower profile, in smaller groups. “With Trump, it’s not like there’s a huge contingent of New York people who came in. It’s geographically very disparate,” says a former Trump administration official. “They don’t seem to be leaving the impact on D.C. culturally that Bushworld did.”


    Trump’s young crew have, by and large, avoided the heart of the city. Their prime stomping grounds, from the Wharf to Navy Yard, is a swath of real estate at once more sterile than the vibrant urban neighborhoods preferred by their predecessors and more sightly, with clean new apartment towers and waterfront views. Trump staffers cluster in upscale buildings like Lex & Leo next to the Waterfront Metro stop and Navy Yard’s One Hill South, which features two rooftop hot tubs and rents go as high as $3,000 a month for one-bedroom apartments. The president’s two most famous millennial aides, senior adviser Stephen Miller and former communications director Hope Hicks, both took up residence at CityCenter, in the heart of downtown within walking distance of the White House, an area where many Washingtonians work but relatively few live; at the opulent mixed-use development, majority-owned by the government of Qatar and studded with luxury storefronts, a studio apartment rents for about $3,000 a month.

    Unlike most of the rest of D.C., where gentrifying newcomers find themselves rubbing shoulders with lifelong Washingtonians, this Wharf-to-Navy-Yard stretch is mostly devoid of true locals—meaning young staffers living there are less likely to be bothered by unwelcoming neighbors. Instead, you’ll find yuppies, tourists and affluent empty-nesters visiting from the suburbs. Stocked with brand-new boutiques and restaurants, as well as chains like Ben & Jerry’s, the area imports the feel of a high-end northern Virginia shopping plaza to D.C. Snobbier millennials might call it “basic.” In other words, it’s right in the comfort zone for staffers who are unabashedly Republican but also carry chips on their shoulders about the elite insiders they beat out in 2016.

    “It’s not too ritzy,” a 30-year-old administration ally says of the Wharf, where he recently brunched with three White House staffers at Kirwan’s Irish Pub. “It’s not, like, as ritzy as Georgetown.”

    When the Trump crowd ventures beyond those sprawling new apartment buildings, they tend toward eateries more upscale, conventional and close to work. The bar and steakhouse at the Trump International Hotel, of course, offer the most obvious safe space. Perhaps even more so than their predecessors, Trump’s young staffers also rely on old standbys near the White House: POV, the rooftop bar at the W Hotel that overlooks the White House; Old Ebbitt Grill, a quintessential antebellum Washington establishment; and Joe’s, a seafood and steak spot, are favorites. So are the nearby restaurant-bar The Hamilton and Blackfinn, a gastropub off Farragut Square. Some staffers prefer the Exchange Saloon, a no-frills sports bar just west of the White House. One young former Health and Human Services official confides that Rebellion, a Southern-themed establishment farther north, near U Street, is “one of the few closet Trump bars” in town.

    Even before the era of ubiquitous cellphone cameras and viral social media scandal, young White House staffers sometimes stirred up trouble in public. After the 2008 election, photos emerged of Obama’s young speechwriter Jon Favreau groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton; years later, he was caught on camera again, this time playing drinking games shirtless with fellow staffer Tommy Vietor at a barbecue joint in Georgetown. Trump staffers are perhaps wary of these risks. No one wants to end up like Hope Hicks and White House staff secretary Rob Porter, whom paparazzi caught on a date this past winter. The attention was soon followed by allegations of previous spousal abuse by Porter, who quickly resigned; Hicks departed Washington soon afterward. The caution starts high on the food chain: When the White House arranged for a focus group of four young staffers to sit down with us and sound off on their lives in Washington, we arrived to learn that the session would take place “on background,” the ground rules more often used to brief reporters about sensitive matters of national security.

    “There seems to be a lot of paranoia among people inside the White House that if they step out of line, that they will get their heads chopped off by the president’s Twitter feed,” says John Arundel, a magazine journalist and close observer of the Washington scene who says he has known Trump for 30 years. “They don’t want to be seen as acting inappropriately or being seen out with the wrong person. They feel like they’re targets.”

    There are outliers, however, who choose to make a statement on the social circuit. In April, for the second year in a row, Trump decided to ditch the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in favor of a rally, but he encouraged his staffers to hit the town in his absence. They did, wearing their Trump affiliation on their sleeve, in one case almost literally: Caroline Sunshine, a 22-year-old Disney Channel star turned White House press assistant, showed up at the dinner in a custom-made dress adorned with a collage of tweets and press coverage about her recent hiring at the White House.

    ***

    It’s not so surprising that Trump’s young aides keep to themselves given the politics of the city they’ve colonized. Only 4 percent of the District’s vote went to Trump in 2016; his next-worst showing was Hawaii, where he got nearly 30 percent of the vote. Trump’s inauguration drew a lackluster crowd, and his real welcome to the city came the next day, when hundreds of thousands of protesters stormed the Mall for the Women’s March. A constant stream of anti-Trump demonstrations has followed. Signs declaring “Love trumps hate” and other visible markers of the “resistance” are everywhere. Staffers leaving the White House grounds semi-regularly catch passersby flipping them the bird.

    “I have gotten yelled at a few times walking out of work,” lamented one White House staffer. “I want to get home, not get in a debate in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue.”


    Sometimes, the easiest option is to hide their identities. While under normal circumstances, you could expect young White House officials to work their job titles into conversations at the earliest opportunity, the Trump crew has learned to use the types of dodges more commonly deployed by employees of the CIA. “I’ll just say I work for the federal government,” says a White House aide. After some conversations at bars on U Street and the Hill turned south when his Trump ties came up, one since-departed staffer has learned to reveal his White House past only as a last resort. “Even now, people have to ask five or six times before I say, ‘Yeah, I worked there,’” he says. When being vague doesn’t cut it, staffers can always straight-up lie, as one young administration official learned to do while working out of New York during the campaign. “I told people I was an auditor down on Wall Street, and people just stopped asking me questions after that,” he recalls.

    When it comes to disclosing their affiliation with Trump, no ground is more fraught than courtship. “Trump supporters swipe left”—meaning “don’t even bother trying”—might be the single most common disclaimer on dating app profiles in Washington.

    One beleaguered 31-year-old female administration official described at length her “very, very frequent” scraps with her matches on dating apps. “You do the small talk thing, and you have a very good conversation, and then they might say, ‘You didn’t vote for Trump, right?’” she says. “As soon as I say, ‘Of course I did,’ it just devolves into all-caps ‘HOW COULD YOU BE SUCH A RACIST AND A BIGOT?’ And ‘You’re going to take away your own birth control.’” In one recent star-crossed exchange, the official told a match she worked for the federal government. When he pushed, she revealed she was in the administration. He asked her, “Do you rip babies from their mothers and then send them to Mexico?”

    Evasive answers will get you only so far, though, since many dating apps provide enough information for inquisitive users to sleuth out their matches’ identities. “I literally got the other day, ‘Thanks but no thanks. Just Googled you and it said you were a mouthpiece for the Trump administration. Go fuck yourself,’” says the official. It’s all enough to drive her and some of her colleagues away from at least some of the apps. “I’m no longer on Bumble,” she says.

    Young staffers have had to develop a keen sense of just when to have “The Talk” with romantic partners. “I’ve still been able to hook up with women,” says a male former White House staffer. “But I know that I need to be careful about broaching the Trump stuff. I just know that going in, I need to be able to get it out at the right time and not get it out too early to the point where it’s like, ‘Hey, I worked for Trump, you should stop talking to me,’ but late enough in that eventually they know that there is this information floating out there that I worked for this guy and hopefully you have now seen that I’m not a horrible person and we can go further with this.”


    Another former Trump White House aide says the experience of his single colleagues has given him a new appreciation for life in a committed relationship. “Thank God I’ve had a girlfriend of three years,” he says, “because the last person I would want to be is a single Trump supporter dating in D.C. right now.” Yet another former aide put the best possible spin on the predicament. “My grandmother used to joke that the key to dating is to just be interesting, and I think working in President Trump’s White House is the definition of interesting,” he says.

    A common coping mechanism is to date within the administration, or go on intra-administration double dates. “Other couples often want to do double dates with Vanessa and I,” says Mike Ambrosini, 27, who served last year as special assistant to the president and director of the office of the chief of staff; his fiancée, Vanessa Morrone, also 27, is White House director of regional communications. Other Trump couples in the mix for the outings include Madeleine Westerhout, Trump’s executive assistant, and her boyfriend, Ben Schramm, a political appointee at the Pentagon and a former Marine social aide at the White House, as well as Giovanna Coia, a White House press assistant, and her boyfriend, John Pence, a senior adviser on Trump’s reelection campaign. Coia is also the cousin of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Pence’s uncle, of course, is the vice president.

    ***

    If there’s one thing young Trump staffers share with the legions of young political animals who came before them, it’s career ambition, and a willingness to put up with a lot to enjoy the fruits of their positions. The social ostracism that millennials in this administration face might be unique, but for the most part it’s just one more inconvenience to endure, along with long hours and relatively low pay.

    For all the hostility and awkward Tinder conversations, they told us, Washington still has no shortage of people drawn to prestige. “At the end of the day, if they are part of the establishment and living in D.C., they usually want or need something from the White House, which can be kind of nice,” says one Trump staffer. “It’s a powerful building,” says another. “People respect it.” A junior administration official said some of his neighbors near the H Street corridor discovered he worked at the White House after seeing him on television; even they thought it was cool.

    Besides, if you’re a young conservative, there are worse places to be than Washington. “Being a Republican at college was actually more difficult,” according to one young White House staffer who attended a large Midwestern state school. “People have been more hostile in New York,” adds a young veteran of the Trump campaign who moved down to Washington to work in the administration. “If you’re wearing a Trump jacket in New York, you’re going to get catcalls and stuff like that.”

    As a former Trump appointee explains, her young peers in the administration are old enough to know that, as divisive as American politics is at this moment, some things about the capital never change. “They don’t care that people are hostile to Trump,” she says. “They still have some semblance of power and access, the things that matter in D.C.”


    Mueller seeks to bar Manafort from tying charges to Trump campaign role


    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is seeking to prevent the defense for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, from arguing to jurors that he was targeted for prosecution because of his role in Donald Trump’s presidential bid.In a...

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is seeking to prevent the defense for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, from arguing to jurors that he was targeted for prosecution because of his role in Donald Trump’s presidential bid.

    In a court filing on Friday, prosecutors asked a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, to bar any selective prosecution claims during Manafort’s looming trial on tax evasion, bank fraud and other charges.

    “Manafort should … be precluded from arguing that he has been singled out for prosecution because of his position in the campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump, or otherwise asserting that he has been selectively prosecuted by the Special Counsel’s Office,” Mueller’s team wrote.

    Prosecutors noted that Manafort never filed a legal motion asking for the case to be dismissed on selective-prosecution grounds.

    “Courts have consistently held that claims of selective (or vindictive) prosecution must be presented to the court before trial and cannot be argued to the jury,” the government filing said. “The government’s reasons for initiating a prosecution have nothing to do with whether the evidence at trial proves the elements of the charged offenses, which is the sole question that the jury must answer.”

    Mueller’s team is also looking to sideline several arguments that Manafort’s defense has leveled in pretrial litigation, including claims that Mueller has exceeded the scope of his mandate as special counsel and that his office has filed charges that ordinary Justice Department prosecutors passed up prosecuting years ago.

    “Any such argument would be misleading to the extent it suggests that the Department ceased investigating Manafort before the appointment of the Special Counsel and had decided not to bring charges against him,” the prosecution wrote. “It would also not make a fact more or less true. Instead, it would again invite jurors to consider impermissible factors.”


    The judge in the Virginia case, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, has yet to rule on Manafort’s motion arguing that Mueller went beyond his legal authority in bringing the case.

    Manafort also faces another case brought by Mueller in federal court in Washington, charging him with money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his lobbying related to Ukraine.

    A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment on the new motion seeking to limit his defense’s arguments to the jury. The trial in the Virginia case is set to open in about a month, on July 25, with the D.C. trial set to follow on Sept. 17.


    Trump threatens tariff on European cars


    President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to hit imports of European automobiles with a 20 percent tariff if Brussels doesn’t remove tariffs and other trade barriers.“Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. and it (sic)...

    President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to hit imports of European automobiles with a 20 percent tariff if Brussels doesn’t remove tariffs and other trade barriers.

    “Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. and it (sic) great companies and workers by the European Union, if these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20 [percent] Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here!“ Trump wrote in a tweet.

    The president has become fixated on automotive trade, viewing it as a major irritant between the U.S. and its trading partners in Asia and Europe. Trump's latest trade salvo on Twitter suggests he's serious about advancing plans for auto tariffs, which he considers to be an issue central to his midterm elections strategy and to positioning Republicans as pro-worker, particularly in manufacturing states like Michigan and Ohio.

    The threat against the EU comes after Trump directed the Commerce Department last month to launch an investigation into whether imports of foreign autos were a risk to U.S. national security and should be subject to tariffs or other trade restrictions.

    Trump‘s tweet also comes the same day the EU imposed tariffs on U.S. products, ranging from Kentucky bourbon to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, in retaliation against U.S. tariffs on imports of European steel and aluminum.


    The U.S. already taxes imports of European cars at a rate of 2.5 percent. Trump has often complained about the 10 percent tariff the EU imposes on imports of U.S. cars.

    Republican and Democratic lawmakers have panned the administration's national security investigation of auto imports and any potential auto tariffs that could result from it. At a hearing on Wednesday, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) described how a 25 percent tariff on an average-priced imported car could erase 10 percent of a median U.S. household's $59,000 income.

    "That’s why I call tariffs a tax on American families,” Hatch said.

    Even Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a stalwart defender of Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum — which were imposed for national security reasons — questioned how the administration could apply the same logic to auto tariffs. It “makes it hard to defend national security issues on steel if you apply it much beyond that or if you aim it at Canada,” the Ohio Democrat said after same hearing.

    The German auto industry supports talks to reduce auto tariffs between the U.S. and the EU, but only as part of a larger trade negotiation.

    "The basis for future agreements between the EU and the U.S. must be the rules of the WTO," the German auto industry group VDA said in a statement Thursday. "There is no proposal for unilateral concessions or the mutual dismantling of exclusive car duties."


    The statement followed a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday that U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell was bringing a proposal to Washington from German automakers to eliminate auto tariffs across the Atlantic. While the German auto industry can advocate for such a move, it can’t technically offer any sort of a deal on tariffs, since the EU negotiates trade agreements as a bloc.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, when asked last week how she would react if Trump went through with his plan to impose tariffs on EU car exports, said: “First we are trying to see if we can prevent that from happening — but I can’t predict this, so I don’t want to raise any false hopes. And then, the European Union will hopefully act as united again, as it has done now."

    Merkel, who made the remarks on German public television, cited the EU’s retaliatory tariffs on bourbon and Harley-Davidsons, and said: “We don’t let ourselves be taken advantage of again and again."

    Another one of Trump's Friday morning tweets was directed at Mexico, and he took on a much friendlier tone than usual when discussing the NAFTA partner's trade and immigration policies. Trump praised Mexico's approach to combating illegal immigration, and even said that Mexico's reliance on the U.S. as an export market was acceptable.

    "80 [percent] of Mexico’s Exports come to the United States. They totally rely on us, which is fine with me. They do have, though, very strong Immigration Laws," Trump posted on Twitter, a day after a vote on a compromise immigration measure was postponed in the House. "The U.S. has pathetically weak and ineffective Immigration Laws that the Democrats refuse to help us fix. Will speak to Mexico!"

    Jakob Hanke and Sabrina Rodriguez contributed to this report.


    A little ditty about Ted and Dianne


    Two months after Ted Cruz arrived in the Senate in 2013, he tried to quiz veteran Dianne Feinstein about her understanding of constitutional law during a tense Judiciary Committee hearing on an assault weapons ban she had authored.Pressed by the freshman...


    Two months after Ted Cruz arrived in the Senate in 2013, he tried to quiz veteran Dianne Feinstein about her understanding of constitutional law during a tense Judiciary Committee hearing on an assault weapons ban she had authored.

    Pressed by the freshman whippersnapper about whether Congress could regulate books in the same way Feinstein wanted to regulate guns, the Stanford-educated California Democrat delivered a memorable zinger in response: “I am not a sixth-grader.”

    Five years later, the once-antagonistic Texan and his California colleague are talking daily. The topic now isn’t guns but how to solve the crisis of migrant families separated on the border. And according to people who’ve witnessed their interactions, the two are getting along quite well.

    “I think he’s very constructive,” Feinstein beamed in an interview. “And I’m delighted.”

    “She certainly has expressed a strong and, I hope, sincere interest,” Cruz replied. “So we’re working together on legislation that both conferences can support.”


    The two senators both represent border states but couldn’t be further apart on immigration. Feinstein wants to pass a “clean” bill to enshrine protections for young immigrants threatened by deportation; Cruz warned that Republicans would lose Congress if they provided “amnesty” to those same people.

    But that might be the point: Cruz and Feinstein are trying to hash out a compromise that shields families from being separated and can win a strong majority in the Senate. If these two, of all people, can come to terms on a deal, there’s no reason for anyone in the chamber to vote against it, their colleagues reason.

    “This is a problem that everyone, no matter what end of the political spectrum you are on, believes needs to be fixed. Ultimately, it makes strange bedfellows,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who attended a bipartisan meeting on Wednesday that included Cruz and Feinstein. “Dianne’s a longtime legislator. I think that Sen. Cruz is interested in getting this issue solved.”

    Feinstein and Cruz are ideological and stylistic opposites. The 47-year-old Cruz speaks in a lawyerly but mischievous manner and spent years enraging colleagues from both parties with antagonistic tactics. Since losing to Donald Trump in 2016, however, Cruz, has morphed into a more collaborative and agreeable figure.

    The 84-year-old Feinstein speaks formally though sometimes off the cuff. First elected to the Senate in 1992, the onetime San Francisco mayor has developed a reputation as a dealmaker in the chamber, despite her liberal leanings on gun control and immigration.

    Both senators are up for reelection this year. And though they’re heavily favored to win, they've each seized a chance to work with the other on an important issue and burnish their bipartisan cred at the same time. Feinstein is being challenged from the left by state Senate President Kevin de Leon, and Cruz will face liberal Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

    “Ted Cruz running for reelection is a different person than Ted Cruz running for president. So far, I think it’s a welcome change,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).


    Whether they can strike a deal and avoid getting bogged down by the broader immigration debate that has bedeviled Congress for more than a decade is another matter. President Trump took some pressure off of Capitol Hill this week with his decision to stop the practice of separating families. But his executive order is expected to be challenged in court and potentially be thrown back to Congress to write a new law preventing the practice.

    Cruz and Feinstein each have introduced their own bill to address the family separation issue, and they take divergent approaches. Cruz’s plan would allow asylum-seeking families to be detained together while expediting court hearings, a problem for Democrats; Feinstein’s legislation would be a return to what the GOP calls a “catch-and-release” policy that conservatives loathe. A third bill, written by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), is similar to Cruz's bill but codifies exceptions to a 1997 settlement that Democrats argue would lead to indefinite detention.

    During a meeting in Sen. Susan Collins' (R-Maine) office on Wednesday, senators in both parties discussed requiring the use of ankle bracelets to track families that have been caught crossing the border illegally. So far, Cruz and Feinstein don't seem to have agreed to much other than to keep meeting as the issue wends its way through the courts. Producing a bill remains a long shot.

    Still, Cruz says there is “considerable common” ground with Feinstein about limiting the scope of the immigration debate. And Feinstein says the two have “come a long ways” from their viral tit-for-tat five years ago.

    “There will always be issues on which the two parties have real and significant differences," Cruz said. But "everyone agrees the best place for children is with their parents. So there should be a bipartisan solution."

    “Our job is to try to be constructive and solve problems. And ... you generally work with people ... who show interest,” Feinstein said. “He may have some different views than I have. That works two ways. The key is to sit down and work it out, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

    Still, there‘s a big trust gap between the two parties. Democrats worry that the GOP will put a Republican-only bill ending separations up for a vote and then blame Democrats for voting against it.


    And Republicans suspect Democrats are trying to use the family separation issue to galvanize their voters in the midterms, and that they want the policy to sink the president and the GOP.

    “Sen. Feinstein seems sincere. And I know Sen. Tillis and Sen. Cruz are sincere. And I think there is a deal to be made. Sen. Schumer doesn’t seem to be encouraging them, he seems to be discouraging them,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

    A source familiar with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s thinking said he is encouraging Feinstein and other Democrats to work with Republicans on legislation.

    But success is still a ways off. Most Democrats hope to force Trump to back away even more from his “zero tolerance” border policies. And Republicans aren’t all united behind Cruz’s plan, with some preferring Tillis’ approach because it makes fewer sweeping changes to asylum laws.

    Moreover, Trump’s moves are already reminiscent of the Senate’s last immigration debacle. The president ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and punted it to Congress, which failed in February to approve protections for those young immigrants.

    If recent history is a guide, the same could happen on family separation, an issue that elicits similar public sympathy but could prove just as intractable. The collaboration of two lawmakers who are diametrically opposed on almost everything else, however, has provided some senators with a glimmer of hope.

    “Let’s see what they can do,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine.). “Think of voting for a Feinstein-Cruz bill!”


    Trump Loses His Superpower


    Donald Trump is good at many things, but his greatest gift may be his ability to distract the newshounds by shouting “Squirrel!” and sending them sniffing for a new story. But this week, the dogs wouldn’t stop gnawing on the president’s leg, no...

    Donald Trump is good at many things, but his greatest gift may be his ability to distract the newshounds by shouting “Squirrel!” and sending them sniffing for a new story. But this week, the dogs wouldn’t stop gnawing on the president’s leg, no matter what he said.

    His Cabinet secretaries might be grateful. The crying-babies, kids-in-cages news coverage about the U.S.-Mexican border pushed a Forbes story about Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ foreign investments to the inside pages. And as for every reporter’s favorite Trump administration piñata, the border story has been as great for Scott Pruitt as it has been horrible for Donald Trump.

    A couple of months ago, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator was Washington’s hottest copy, with the press corps lighting him up again and again for his profligate, unethical and dodgy ways. Reporters busted him for everything from dispatching aides to run personal errands to giving political aides huge backdoor raises to renting (at a steep discount) a condo from a lobbyist’s wife.

    As Pruitt’s rap sheet expanded and the news momentum gathered, he looked like a goner. Calls for him to resign came from the usual liberal voices in the environmental protection-industrial complex as well as from unexpected places, including slews of Capitol Hill Republicans, the Weekly Standard, National Review and even a minor Fox News host. As Pruitt twisted in the wind and the media morticians measured him for interment, he was saved twice by other news storms that displaced him as Topic A: The April Bill Cosby verdict and then the on-again, off-again North Korea talks, both of which clogged the headlines like bacon fat poured down the drain.

    Then the border crisis shifted the press’ gaze once more, turning Pruitt into a three-peat winner. But perhaps for the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency, thanks to contradictory policy moves not even his supporters could understand, the president came out the loser.

    The border story couldn’t have arrived at a worse time for Trump. After the inspector general’s report on FBI handling of the Clinton email investigation came out on June 14, Trump seized on it with his demagogic tentacles and started to score points with his misguided supporters about how the deep state had attempted to block his election. He falsely claimed that it “totally exonerates me,” when it does no such thing, and asserted that it “totally discredited” special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, which is also a lie. Given that few of his supporters were ever going to fact-check his bluster by reading the 568-page report, Trump profited politically with his early obfuscations and manipulations of his bases’ prejudices.

    But when the border story took over, two things happened. Just as Cosby, North Korea and the border saved Pruitt by pushing him out of his top news ranking, the border story nullified Trump’s howling about the IG report and the evil James Comey. Nobody wanted to hear about the IG anymore; they wanted to hear Trump justify the border policy. Trump was now facing a story that couldn’t be diluted or contaminated with Twitter truculence.

    Oh, he tried. First he blamed family separations on the Democrats, but nobody believed him. Then he tried to pass the buck to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and that didn’t work at all. As much as he howled, his message about “enforcing the law” couldn’t find footing. His blather was overwhelmed by the emotional punch carried by the pictures and the stories about families breaking up. (MSNBC pushed the story the hardest, applying almost a Fox News thoroughness to nurturing, advancing, and yes, sensationalizing the story.) Even congressional Republicans peeled off in great numbers. It was all too much for the president. On Wednesday, he waved the white flag by signing an order in a stagy TV performance that was supposed to indicate that he was “solving” the problem.

    But what he really did was surrender while declaring victory. For all his constant talk about strength, Trump came off weak and depleted. After he went to Capitol Hill to sell his version of the immigration bill, it failed. And his intervention in the furor over Melania’s jacket—in which he contradicted her office’s explanation of what the jacket slogan meant—came off as doddering and hopeless.

    For three years now we’ve been told that nothing bad sticks to Trump, that his mind games and double-talk make him invulnerable to the protestations of the righteous. That no matter how tight his detractors tie the knot, he’ll always slip out of it. This week we learned differently. Trump can reliably win the battle if it’s fought with words. But against images and descriptions of distraught and traumatized children and parents, Trump’s superpowers fail. If you want to beat Trump, hit him in the heart because he doesn’t seem to have one. He’s a man with zero emotional intelligence.

    ******

    Distract me with email to [email protected]. My email alerts won its case for asylum when I started at Politico 3½ years ago. My Twitter is that merit-based immigrant you hear so much about. My RSS feed was born in a cage and likes it.


    Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy is effectively dead


    President Donald Trump may not admit it, but practically speaking, his administration’s “zero-tolerance” border strategy is dead.Top officials at the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that reality at a meeting Thursday afternoon,...

    President Donald Trump may not admit it, but practically speaking, his administration’s “zero-tolerance” border strategy is dead.

    Top officials at the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that reality at a meeting Thursday afternoon, according to a former department official with knowledge of the meeting.

    “It’s going to be 'catch and release' because they don’t have the detention beds for them,” the former official said.

    That same message was delivered by Brandon Judd, president of a union for Border Patrol agents, who told CNN Thursday that the executive order Trump signed Wednesday requiring families caught at the border to be detained together simply left his agency no choice.

    "We're going to have to release them," he said.


    Homeland Security and Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment.

    But the policy slammed into a series of brick walls that made it all but impossible to fully enforce on the ground — insufficient space for incarcerating the hundreds of families crossing the border, strict legal limits on how migrant children can be detained and political backlash against separating them from their parents.

    Even before Trump signed the executive order, his zero tolerance policy had never approached the "100 percent" promised by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That's because DHS was referring only about 60 percent of suspected border-crossers for prosecution, based on data provided by the department. That 60 percent was double the previous rate and more than enough to overwhelm the system.

    Trump's decision to announce the end to family separation effectively delivered the death knell to zero tolerance simply because the facilities to place families in detention were already close to capacity.


    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintains just 3,326 beds in three family detention centers, according to a 2018 report to Congress. As of June 20, the agency had placed 2,623 people in them. The number of migrant family members arrested by the Border Patrol each month is in the thousands.

    Zero tolerance hit another obstacle as a result of the courts. The 1997 Flores settlement agreement — which outlines the basic standards for treatment of unaccompanied minors in detention — mandated that children spend no more than 20 days incarcerated. U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled in 2015 that the guidelines also extended to children with their parents.

    The Justice Department on Thursday filed a motion with the court to change the agreement to allow for indefinite detention of children with their parents or guardians. But plaintiffs in the case oppose any alternation, and Gee, an appointee of President Barack Obama, is not expected to grant it.


    The political fallout surrounding family separations poses yet another obstacle to maintaining zero tolerance as the Trump administration dodges questions about whether it would reunite the nearly 2,300 children separated over a five-week period from their parents — some of whom were already deported — prior to the executive order.

    DHS officials told several media outlets Friday that 500 of those children had been reunited with parents, but offered no details.

    “The administration either didn’t think it through, or did think it through and didn’t care,” Cecilia Muñoz, White House Domestic Policy Council director under Obama, told POLITICO. “Neither of those is particularly comforting.”

    Sessions announced the first part of the “zero tolerance” policy in early April, directing U.S. attorney’s offices along the southwest border to prosecute offenses under an illegal entry statute “to the extent practicable.” Roughly a month later, Sessions announced that DHS would refer “100 percent of illegal southwest border crossings” for criminal prosecutions — a controversial move that precipitated the rapid rise in family separations.

    “We don’t want to separate families, but we don't want families to come to the border illegally,” Sessions said then. “This is just the way the world works.”

    But 100 percent of border-crossers turned out to be about 60 percent, and the Justice department has not made public the proportion of those 60 percent who were actually prosecuted.

    A senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told The Washington Post on Thursday that the agency would stop referring families caught at the border for prosecution, a further sign of the demise of the hard-line border enforcement stance.


    Sarah Isgur Flores, a DOJ spokeswoman, tweeted that the Justice Department had not changed its part of the zero tolerance policy, but did not provide data requested by POLITICO on its implementation.

    “There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally,” she wrote.

    Whatever the percentage of suspected border-crossers prosecuted, it was more than enough to create chaos. Trump’s executive order was supposed to resolve that crisis, but top administration officials appeared this week to have little idea about how it would work in practice.

    On a call with reporters Wednesday, Gene Hamilton, a top aide to Sessions at the Justice Department and an immigration hard-liner, said he couldn’t offer details on how various federal departments would implement the order.

    “I’m not an operator and I can’t pretend to tell precisely what they’re going to do,” he said. “But that being said, the president’s executive order makes it clear what the policy will be going forward.”


    House Dem in ‘breach of decorum’ for playing audio of migrant kids crying


    Rep. Ted Lieu clashed with Republicans on Friday for playing an audio clip on the House floor of migrant children crying at a detention center. Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.), who was presiding over the chamber, said the California Democrat broke a House rule...

    Rep. Ted Lieu clashed with Republicans on Friday for playing an audio clip on the House floor of migrant children crying at a detention center.

    Rep. Karen Handel (R-Ga.), who was presiding over the chamber, said the California Democrat broke a House rule that prohibits members from playing sound from electronic devices. She called on him to stop playing the clip.

    “Why are we hiding this from the American people?” Lieu responded. “I think the American people need to hear this.”

    Lieu’s move comes days after President Donald Trump reversed his administration’s policy of splitting up migrant families who crossed the border illegally. But Trump’s executive order has left unclear what will happen to the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents.

    “Imagine being ripped away from your mother or father and not knowing if you’re ever going to see them again, and then being placed in a detention facility with strangers. Imagine the horror and fear you will see doing that. What must that sound like?” Lieu said and began playing the clip from ProPublica.


    Lieu played the audio clip for about 30 seconds before Handel banged her gavel and called on him to suspend, citing House Rule 17.

    “The gentleman is in breach of decorum,” Handel said.

    Lieu argued there is no rule that prohibits lawmakers from playing audio of a detention center. He stood at the podium next to a photograph of immigrants in a detention center wrapped in foil blankets. Several people gathered on the rostrum with Handel and looked at what appeared to be a booklet.

    Handel continued to bang the gavel and repeat: “The gentleman will suspend.”

    After about five minutes, Lieu stopped playing the clip.

    “I yield back,” he said.


    House overwhelmingly passes final opioid package


    The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed sweeping bipartisan opioid legislation, concluding the chamber’s two-week voteathon on dozens of bills to address the drug abuse epidemic.The measure combines more than 50 bills approved individually by the...

    The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed sweeping bipartisan opioid legislation, concluding the chamber’s two-week voteathon on dozens of bills to address the drug abuse epidemic.

    The measure combines more than 50 bills approved individually by the House focusing on expanding access to treatment, encouraging the development of alternative pain treatments and curbing the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. It was passed 396-14, with 13 Republicans and one Democrat voting against the package.

    Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) called the legislation, which largely originated in his committee, “the biggest effort Congress has ever undertaken” to address the opioid epidemic. Democrats and anti-addiction advocates criticized the effort for not including more resources, but still supported the legislation.

    The bill, which the White House endorsed, now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers are planning to take up their own opioid legislation. A House Republican aide said leadership hopes to conference the bills in July, though it could slide later into the summer depending on the Senate’s schedule.

    “We urge the Senate to continue the bipartisan tradition of helping Americans who are affected by the crisis, to swiftly pass the legislation from the House, and to get these lifesaving bills to the President’s desk,” the White House said in a statement.


    House lawmakers in both parties have touted their opioid legislation ahead of the midterm elections, with the opioid crisis expected to be a top issue for voters this fall. A CBS News poll from May found that nearly 80 percent of all voters said the federal government should do more to address the epidemic.

    A GOP aide said Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is leading efforts to combine bills from his committee and the Finance and Judiciary committees into a package that will go to the Senate floor. It’s unclear if Senate leadership will allow lawmakers to offer amendments.

    A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said opioid legislation is on the Senate’s summer “to-do list“ but declined to offer a timeline. A House aide said barring any dramatic changes to the Senate bills, they expect a “productive conference.”

    The House legislation is mostly bipartisan, but Democrats complained that it doesn’t go far enough to address the crisis.

    “This bill is far from perfect and does not adequately deal with the magnitude of the crisis that this country is facing,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), adding that Democratic-sponsored provisions included in the bill “ will all make a real difference in our fight against the opioid epidemic.“


    The House package includes a number of bills aimed at increasing access to addiction treatment. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants would be given permanent authority to prescribe buprenorphine, one form of medication-assisted treatment, and certified nurse specialists would be allowed to treat patients with opioid use disorder with buprenorphine for five years.

    In an effort to expand the behavioral health workforce, the legislation creates a loan forgiveness program for addiction care providers in rural areas. It also includes a bill encouraging the use of non-opioid pain medicine after surgery and several measures aimed at preventing opioid misuse in Medicare.

    Advocates say the House bills are a good start, but the epidemic can’t be ended without a sustainable funding stream. They say tens of billions of dollars are needed to address a crisis killing 115 Americans per day.

    “A lot of this stuff is really good because it’s spelling out what we need to do,” said former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a member of the president's opioid commission. “But, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the money is going to follow.”

    Congress earlier this year appropriated roughly $4 billion in new funding to combat opioid abuse. Republican lawmakers say they expect to include more resources in future legislation to address the crisis.

    “I assure you we’re going to come back to this,” Walden told reporters this week. “This isn’t a one and done.”


    Steve King singles out Somali Muslims over pork


    Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Friday that he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at meat-packing plants in his district because they want consumers of pork to be sent to hell.In a Breitbart News radio interview, the eight-term congressman, known for...

    Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Friday that he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at meat-packing plants in his district because they want consumers of pork to be sent to hell.

    In a Breitbart News radio interview, the eight-term congressman, known for his inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric, said his views were shaped by a conversation with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), whom he called “the lead Muslim in Congress.”

    King said Ellison told him that Muslims would require “a special dispensation” from an imam in order to be able to handle pork in one of his district’s meat-packing plants. “The rationale is that if infidels are eating this pork, [the Muslims] are not eating it,” King said. “So as long as they’re preparing this pork for infidels, it helps send them to hell and it must make Allah happy.”

    “I don’t want people doing my pork that won’t eat it, let alone hope I go to hell for eating pork chops,” he concluded.

    Ellison’s office declined to comment on King’s interpretation of the Minnesota congressman’s remarks.


    King said he approached Ellison about the issue because meat-packing plants in his district had informed him they hoped to hire Somalis to work in their facilities. “And I say, ‘Well, Somali Muslims, will they cut pork?’” King recalled of his conversation with the plant leaders. “They looked at each other and said, ‘We don’t know.’”

    King has drawn attention for frequently flirting with fringe, racist political elements. Earlier this week, he retweeted a known British white supremacist’s warning about immigration.

    King’s commentary on pork consumption and Islam doesn’t stop at his district’s edge. Last week, he slammed Sweden, which he said “capitulated to Halal” when the organizers of an international soccer tournament there decided against serving pork to accommodate a large number of Muslim players.

    “I draw the line here and, if need be, will fight for freedom of choice — in our diets,” he tweeted. “Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is the #1 Pork district in America. No takin’ bacon off our tables.”


    Judge turns down Manafort's bid to nix money laundering charge


    A federal judge has rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's attempt to toss out a money laundering charge stemming from his use of offshore bank accounts funded by a lobbying campaign he masterminded on behalf of political interests in...

    A federal judge has rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's attempt to toss out a money laundering charge stemming from his use of offshore bank accounts funded by a lobbying campaign he masterminded on behalf of political interests in Ukraine.

    Manafort's defense team argued that the tens of millions of dollars he's accused of laundering didn't qualify as the proceeds of criminal activity because lobbying for a foreign entity in the U.S. is legal and the only crime Manafort may have committed in that regard is failing to register.

    But U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed.

    "It is a crime to 'act' [as a foreign agent] 'unless' one has registered – the statute does not simply state that the failure to register is unlawful," Jackson wrote in a nine-page decision issued Friday. "These laws are not just about paperwork; their object is to ensure that no person acts to advance the interests of a foreign government or principal within the United States unless the public has been properly notified of his or her allegiance."

    Manafort's attorneys had hoped that they could knock out not only the money laundering charge he faces, but also wipe out a forfeiture claim that appears to have tied up much of the veteran lobbyist's funds as he seeks to mount a costly defense against two criminal cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.


    One case, overseen by Jackson in Washington, involves charges of failing to register as a foreign agent and lying to authorities. The other, before another judge in Alexandria, Virginia, charges Manafort with tax evasion, bank fraud and failing to report overseas bank accounts.

    Manafort's defense has gotten little traction before Jackson, who has turned down a broad challenge to Mueller's authority as well as a motion seeking to suppress evidence the FBI seized from a storage unit Manafort used.

    The most serious blow from Jackson came last Friday, however, as she revoked Manafort's home detention and ordered him jailed after he was hit with new charges alleging that he attempted to coach two witnesses on testimony related to the case. The 69-year-old political consultant is now at a Virginia jail about two hours' drive south of Washington.

    At a hearing last month, the judge overseeing the Alexandria-based case, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, sounded considerably friendlier to the defense as he raised pointed questions about the scope of Mueller's role. However, Ellis has yet to rule on the defense's motion to toss out that indictment.

    Manafort is set for trial in the Virginia case beginning July 25, with trial in the Washington case set to follow on Sept. 17.

    Spokespeople for Manafort and Mueller did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest ruling.


    Which American CEOs did Xi Jinping meet in Beijing? UPS, Pfizer, Goldman all on the list


    This story is being published by POLITICO as part of a content partnership with the South China Morning Post. It originally appeared on scmp.com on June 22, 2018.American executives from the likes of UPS, Pfizer, Cargill, Prologis and Goldman Sachs were...

    This story is being published by POLITICO as part of a content partnership with the South China Morning Post. It originally appeared on scmp.com on June 22, 2018.

    American executives from the likes of UPS, Pfizer, Cargill, Prologis and Goldman Sachs were at a gathering in Beijing when President Xi Jinping called for multinationals to help fight “protectionism” and told them China would remain open for business, according to images in state media reports and on social media.

    U.S. business delegates at the Global CEO Council round-table summit on Thursday included David Abney of UPS, Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, Arnold Donald from Carnival, Cargill’s David MacLennan, Hamid Moghadam of Prologis, Thomas Pritzker of Hyatt and David Solomon from Goldman Sachs, the photographs showed.

    Official media did not provide a full list of foreign executives at the summit, which was held at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.

    The CEO council was set up in 2013 by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, one of Beijing’s diplomatic arms, to improve the government’s ties with multinationals.

    Xi met the executives as a trade war brews between the world’s two biggest economies, after U.S. President Donald Trump escalated the dispute this week by threatening to impose 10 percent tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese products.


    It apparently was an effort to lobby foreign businesses to help ease trade tensions before July 6, when the first batch of U.S. tariffs on Chinese products — and Chinese duties on U.S. goods — will take effect, although there are currently no publicly announced negotiations to try to avert a conflict.

    According to Xinhua, Xi told the delegates on Thursday that the international community should stand up against “protectionism, isolationism and populism,” without naming the U.S. or Trump. He also promised to open China’s market further to foreign investors.

    “The international community is a global village and should not engage in zero-sum games,” Xi was quoted as saying. “China’s door to the outside world will open even wider, rather than being closed.”

    Vice-Premier Liu He, who has led trade talks with the U.S., was also at the gathering along with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and He Lifeng, the country’s top economic planner, Xinhua reported.

    The European contingent included Patrice Caine from Thales, Alstom’s Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Jean-Pascal Tricoire of Schneider Electric, ABB’s Ulrich Spiesshofer and Rajeev Suri from Nokia, according to the photos.

    Herbert Diess of Volkswagen, Dieter Zetsche of Daimler, Frans van Houten of Philips and Lakshmi Mittal of ArcelorMittal, which is registered in Luxembourg, also attended the summit.


    British executives included Pascal Soriot from AstraZeneca, Ralf Speth of Jaguar Land Rover and Merlin Swire from John Swire & Sons. Andrew Mackenzie of BHP was also pictured at the event.

    Goldman Sachs and John Swire & Sons confirmed their executives were at the meeting with Xi when reached by the South China Morning Post, but they declined to provide further details.

    It was Xi’s first appearance at the Global CEO Council summit — Premier Li Keqiang has attended for the past four years, according to state media.

    The president has taken more of a hands-on approach to the global business community since his speech last year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as he tries to convince them that China is committed to globalization and free trade.

    His comments on Thursday were consistent with what he said at the Boao Forum for Asia in April, when he promised China would open its market wider to the outside world.

    Washington is not convinced. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that “Chinese leaders over these past few weeks have been claiming openness and globalization, but it’s a joke.”

    Additional reporting by Eugene Tang.


    Trump endorses Roby despite past disloyalty


    President Donald Trump has endorsed Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, giving her a major boost in a primary battle in which she’s come under attack over her past lack of allegiance to the president.“Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent...

    President Donald Trump has endorsed Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, giving her a major boost in a primary battle in which she’s come under attack over her past lack of allegiance to the president.

    “Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda,” Trump wrote in a Friday morning tweet. “She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!”

    The endorsement was a surprising one for the president, who over the course of the midterm year has been promoting candidates who have demonstrated loyalty to him.

    Roby hasn’t always been supportive of the president. She withdrew her support for then-candidate Trump after the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October 2016 in which Trump could be heard speaking in 2005 about grabbing women without their consent. At the time, the incensed congresswoman called Trump “unacceptable” and said she wouldn’t vote for him.


    Roby’s past lack of support has threatened her reelection hopes this year. She’s been forced into a July 17 runoff against Republican Bobby Bright, a former congressman who Roby unseated in 2010.

    The Friday morning endorsement followed a lobbying effort from House GOP leaders, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, both of whom Roby is close to.

    Trump’s support wasn’t a guarantee: People close to the White House said the president initially needed to be convinced to give his endorsement.

    On Friday morning, Roby’s office contacted Ryan’s team to share the news of the endorsement, according to a senior GOP campaign official. Roby also spoke directly with the president, a person close to the congresswoman said.

    After the election, Roby waged an intense effort to curry favor with the new commander-in-chief, who won her conservative, Montgomery-area district comfortably. She made frequent visits to the White House, appearing at several bill signings and meetings.

    Following a March 2017 Oval Office meeting with Trump, Roby posted an online video in which she recalled: “I sat in the Oval Office and looked the President in the eye and told him I was with him.”

    During last year’s Rose Garden celebration following the House passage of a health care bill, Roby personally offered her congratulations to Trump.

    “Good job,” she told him.


    Supreme Court rules police typically need warrants to access cell phone location info


    The Supreme Court has ruled that police typically need a search warrant before trying to track a person's past movements via their cell phone.Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents in the decision Friday,...

    The Supreme Court has ruled that police typically need a search warrant before trying to track a person's past movements via their cell phone.

    Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents in the decision Friday, which continued an expansion by the Roberts court of privacy rights in a digital age.

    The Justice Department under both the Obama and Trump administrations argued that no warrant is required for access to cell-phone location information, because the user voluntarily reveals that data to the phone company.

    Roberts said the realities of modern life make that distinction too simple, especially considering the way many humans and their phones have become essentially inseparable.

    "A cell phone—almost a 'feature of human anatomy,' ... tracks nearly exactly the movements of its owner. While individuals regularly leave their vehicles, they compulsively carry cell phones with them all the time," the chief justice wrote. "A cell phone faithfully follows its owner beyond public thoroughfares and into private residences, doctor’s offices, political headquarters, and other potentially revealing locales....Accordingly, when the Government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user."

    Roberts said the courts could not look the other way at that intrusion simply because the way phones work requires sharing that information with wireless carriers.

    “Given the unique nature of cell phone location records, the fact that the information is held by a third party does not by itself overcome the user’s claim to Fourth Amendment protection,” the chief justice wrote. “Whether the Government employs its own surveillance technology…or leverages the technology of a wireless carrier, we hold that an individual maintains a legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements as captured through CSLI (Cell Site Location Information)."

    Roberts' majority opinion says police must get a warrant in ordinary investigations, but could access such information without a warrant in an emergency.

    "If law enforcement is confronted with an urgent situation, such fact-specific threats will likely justify the warrantless collection of CSLI," the chief justice wrote. "Lower courts, for instance, have approved warrantless searches related to bomb threats, active shootings, and child abductions. Our decision today does not call into doubt warrantless access to CSLI in such circumstances. While police must get a warrant when collecting CSLI to assist in the mine-run criminal investigation, the rule we set forth does not limit their ability to respond to an ongoing emergency."

    The decision Friday stemmed from the prosecution of Timothy Carpenter for conspiring in a series of armed robberies around Detroit. Law enforcement helped nab Carpenter by obtaining cell phone data showing him in the vicinity of the crimes.


    However, the case involved a relatively imprecise form of cell-phone tracking that reveals which cell-phone tower a phone was connected to and when. The data can also show the rough direction of the phone, but not with the near-pinpoint accuracy of GPS. Collection of that sort of GPS information is also likely to require a warrant in most circumstances under Friday's decision.

    Roberts’ ruling builds on two other Supreme Court cases decided in recent years. In 2012, the high court ruled that attaching a GPS tracker to a suspect’s car bumper constituted a search that required a judge-issued warrant.

    And in 2014, the Supreme Court recognized for the first time the central role of cell phones in the lives of nearly all Americans, holding that police could not rummage through the entire contents of a phone simply because its owner was arrested.

    At arguments in that case, Roberts seemed less than tech-savvy, expressing doubt there would ever be a legitimate reason for a person to have two phones. But the chief justice wound up writing a sweeping majority opinion declaring that phones now contain so much data about a person that they are simply unlike a wallet, purse or any other items that someone would normally have in his or her possession when arrested.

    The court's other conservative justices filed three opinions dissenting from the ruling Friday. Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said the fact that customers voluntarily allow companies to collect location information means they assume the risk of disclosure to the government.

    "Here the Government did not search anything over which Carpenter could assert ownership or control. Instead, it issued a court-authorized subpoena to a third party to disclose information it alone owned and controlled. That should suffice to resolve this case," Kennedy wrote.

    Kennedy also warned that the court was privileging location data over all kinds of other records that police can routinely obtain under prior precedents.

    "According to today’s majority opinion, the Government can acquire a record of every credit card purchase and phone call a person makes over months or years without upsetting a legitimate expectation of privacy. But, in the Court’s view, the Government crosses a constitutional line when it obtains a court’s approval to issue a subpoena for more than six days of cell-site records in order to determine whether a person was within several hundred city blocks of a crime scene," Kennedy wrote. "That distinction is illogical and will frustrate principled application of the Fourth Amendment in many routine yet vital law enforcement operations."

    Alito penned a dissent joined by Thomas saying that records obtained through a subpoena shouldn't be considered a search that implicates the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In Carpenter's case, authorities got the phone records through a subpoena provision in federal law that allows law enforcement to get limited data on phone and email use without satisfying the somewhat greater requirements for a full search warrant.

    Gorsuch went his own way in a solo dissent, urging the court to stop considering individuals' "expectation of privacy" and to instead use a framework that focuses more on intrusions on property rights.

    "Just because you entrust your data—in some cases, your modern-day papers and effects—to a third party may not mean you lose any Fourth Amendment interest in its contents," the court's newest member said. "I doubt that complete ownership or exclusive control of property is always a necessary condition to the assertion of a Fourth Amendment right."

    Gorsuch said he would have ruled against Carpenter because his lawyers never raised the property-based arguments in lower courts.

    However, the high court's only Trump appointee said longstanding precedents allowing relatively easy access to landline phone records and bank records are "wrong" and should be overturned.

    "Where those cases extinguish Fourth Amendment interests once records are given to a third party, property law may preserve them," Gorsuch declared.


    Obama to meet with Kenyan and South African leaders


    Former President Barack Obama will meet with the leaders of Kenya and South Africa on a trip overseas next month, his office said Friday. Obama will meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as well as former...

    Former President Barack Obama will meet with the leaders of Kenya and South Africa on a trip overseas next month, his office said Friday.

    Obama will meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as well as former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

    The meetings are the latest in a string of talks the former president has had with sitting world leaders since leaving office. The former president has drawn some criticism for meeting with sitting leaders.

    Among the leaders Obama has met with are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


    For his latest trip, the former president will first visit Spain and Portugal. Obama will speak at the 2018 Circular Economy and Innovation Summit in Madrid, and then at the Climate Change Leadership Porto 2018 Summit in Porto that same afternoon. The trip will span from July 5 to July 7, according to his office.

    The next week, Obama will travel to Nairobi on July 15 and meet with Kenyatta in that city. He will then go to Alego on July 16 to deliver “brief opening remarks” at the inauguration of the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre before departing for Johannesburg.

    The following day, Obama will meet with South Africa’s leader and deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture to commemorate the anniversary of the revolutionary’s birth.

    Rounding out the trip, Obama will hold a town hall event with the 200 newly-selected Obama Foundation Leaders in Africa on July 18.


    Trailing in polls, DeSantis scores Trump's 'full endorsement' on Twitter


    With a new poll showing he’s trailing in the GOP primary for Florida governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis got a Friday boost from President Donald Trump, who made it clear that he backs the congressman's campaign.“Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at...

    With a new poll showing he’s trailing in the GOP primary for Florida governor, Rep. Ron DeSantis got a Friday boost from President Donald Trump, who made it clear that he backs the congressman's campaign.

    “Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes - Loves our Military & our Vets,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!”

    The president’s show of support for DeSantis comes at a critical time for the Florida Republican. On Thursday evening, Fox News released results of a poll showing he was trailing Agriculture Commissioner and former Rep. Adam Putnam 32-17 percentage points among likely GOP voters in the race.

    Still, there are signs that Putnam’s support is potentially soft. “Yet the largest number of voters, 39 percent, is unsure who they will back in the August 28 primary. Meanwhile, 46 percent of those supporting a candidate say they could still change their mind,” Fox noted. Other polls also show Putnam ahead.

    DeSantis’ team has eaten into what was once a vast advantage in financial support enjoyed by Putnam, who has the endorsement of the Republican and business establishment in Tallahassee.

    Including money from affiliated political committees, DeSantis has about $10 million cash on hand, compared with $14 million for Putnam. Putnam and outside groups have spent about $20 million so far, DeSantis’ team estimates.

    DeSantis’ campaign plans to start his ad campaign Monday ahead of a nationally televised debate Thursday with Putnam.

    A frequent guest on Fox, DeSantis has made a name for himself in Republican circles by being a vociferous defender of Trump, who called him one of his “warriors” in Congress. Trump is wildly popular among Florida Republicans, according to polls, and he dominated the GOP presidential primary in the state in 2016, when he beat Sen. Marco Rubio in 66 of 67 counties.

    Trump’s Friday tweet, one of a handful endorsing other candidates in other states, should put to rest the criticism from DeSantis’ critics and opponents who said that the president in December technically didn’t endorse the congressman’s campaign for governor because he didn’t use the word “endorsement.”

    Trump made sure to use that word and more on Friday, telling his 53 million followers in follow-up messages that Republicans will swamp the polls.

    “Midterms will be a red tsunami of patriotic Americans who love our country!” Trump wrote, adding that followers can “JOIN THE MOVEMENT OF WINNERS!” by ordering a free "Make America Great Again" hat if they just pay the cost of shipping.


    Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after DOJ watchdog report


    Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Thursday that he wants to subpoena former FBI Director James Comey to address sharp criticism of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation by the Justice Department's internal...

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Thursday that he wants to subpoena former FBI Director James Comey to address sharp criticism of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation by the Justice Department's internal watchdog.

    Comey declined to testify before the Judiciary Committee at a hearing this week on the report from the department's inspector general, which said Comey made "a serious error of judgment" by telling Congress that the Clinton email inquiry was re-opened days before the 2016 election.

    Grassley quipped during the hearing that Comey "has time for book tours and television interviews, but apparently no time to" testify, and said Thursday that he wants to consult with the committee's top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, about a subpoena.

    "I will want to subpoena him," Grassley said during an interview for C-SPAN's "Newsmakers."

    The Iowan added that committee rules require that he and Feinstein "agree to it, and at this point, I can’t tell you if she would agree to it. But if she will, yeah, then we will subpoena."

    Grassley said he also plans to consult with Feinstein on a subpoena for former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whom the inspector general's report knocked for an "ambiguous" incomplete recusal from the FBI's investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.


    Feinstein took aim at Comey this week for his public comments on the Clinton probe so close to the election while he "remained silent on the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia," a move she said assisted President Donald Trump while hurting Clinton's presidential bid.

    "While I disagree with his actions, I have seen no evidence that Mr. Comey acted in bad faith or that he lied about any of his actions," Feinstein said during the Judiciary panel's Monday hearing.

    Still, Feinstein appears disinclined to support a subpoena for Comey or Lynch. Comey is "involved in the obstruction of justice investigation and won’t be able to speak on those matters, so now isn’t the time," Feinstein said through a spokesman.

    Lynch "would only be able to speak to the Clinton email investigation, which has been investigated ad nauseam, including a 500+ page inspector general report that we had a hearing on last week, so she wouldn’t have anything to add to the committee’s current inquiries," Feinstein added.

    Securing Feinstein's agreement is only one of two paths for Grassley to issue a subpoena under committee rules. The other is a majority vote of Judiciary members.

    Grassley also indicated during the C-SPAN interview, taped to air Friday, that he would be inclined to seek Feinstein's cooperation on an immunity request from Comey's onetime No. 2, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

    Because the inspector general referred a separate conclusion that McCabe misled investigators for a possible criminal probe, McCabe's lawyers have told Grassley that he would be unable to testify without immunity.

    Before he and Feinstein move forward on that request, Grassley said, he wants to talk with McCabe's lawyers "about what he can contribute to our oversight, because if he can’t contribute anything substantive, there’s no point in going through it."

    Asked about potential future testimony from McCabe, Feinstein said: "Immunity needs to be resolved before deciding whether a subpoena is appropriate.”

    Asked whether he agreed with other senior Republicans that special counsel Robert Mueller should wrap up his investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Grassley said he has advised Trump directly to "let it play out."

    Releasing any report on the Russia probe between Labor Day and the November election, would prove problematic, Grassley added — forecasting that Mueller would likely wait until after the midterms if he was unable to finish before the end of the summer.

    And, Grassley said, "I would like to have him speed it up, though."


    I Sat on the Other Side of Stephen Miller’s First Wall


    Each time a new outrage emerges in the saga of Stephen Miller—author of the Muslim ban and chief architect of the child separation policy—I think of the year I spent with him. This was long before Miller, a senior adviser to the president, had earned...

    Each time a new outrage emerges in the saga of Stephen Miller—author of the Muslim ban and chief architect of the child separation policy—I think of the year I spent with him. This was long before Miller, a senior adviser to the president, had earned a reputation as perhaps the cruelest and most ruthless member of the Trump administration.

    It was the year he sat next to me in third grade.

    It’s hard to say how much a kid’s behavior in third grade can really tell you about the inner workings of his soul. And surely the well-documented indicators of Miller’s alt-right beginnings in middle school, high school and college have less impressionistic connections to his current behavior. But here is what I remember.

    Because of our last names, Stephen and I shared a desk. We were not friends, though we weren’t exactly enemies, either. Our teacher, Mrs. Fiske, had the class write stories each week with vocabulary words, and sometimes she let us read them aloud. I wrote a series of stories about a “mixed-up chicken” named Jeremy. I felt proudest, that year, when I got to read my stories in class and they made the other kids laugh.

    It was difficult to make Stephen laugh. I found him difficult to reach at all, and so, it seemed, did most everyone else. He was frequently distracted, vacillating between total disinterest in everything around him—my stories, of course, included—and complete obsession with highly specific tasks that could only be performed alone.

    He especially was obsessed with tape and glue. Along the midpoint of our desk, Stephen laid down a piece of white masking tape, explaining that it marked the boundary of our sides and that I was not to cross it. The formality of this struck me as odd. I was a fairly neat kid, at least at school, and I had never spread my things to his side of the desk. Stephen, meanwhile, could not have been much messier: His side of the desk was sticky and peeling, littered with scraps of paper, misshapen erasers and pencil nubs.

    If this adhesive division kept Stephen on his side of the desk, I was all for it, as unfriendly as it seemed. But instead, the tape became an attractive nuisance. Stephen picked at it with his fingernails, methodically, in a mixture of absentmindedness and what seemed like channeled hostility. This process of effacement left a thin layer of sticky grime, not altogether dissimilar from the rest of Stephen’s desk.

    Stephen rubbed his fingers over this layer of grime, rolling it into little gray pellets until it, too, was gone. Then he applied a new piece of tape, along with a renewed warning that I was not to cross it. Don’t rinse, but do repeat—for months.


    When Stephen wasn’t picking at the tape, he was playing with glue. He liked to pour it into his hands, forming grime-tinted glaciers in the valleys of his palms. Glue thusly in hand, he deployed his deepest powers of concentration to watch these pools harden. The first sign would be a rippling on the surface, as if from a winter gale. This would produce a precarious moment—as Stephen’s urge to stick a finger into the filmy layer became palpable, and his immobilized palm began to tire.

    Invariably, Stephen succumbed to this urge before the glue fully hardened, at which point the prior game transformed into a new one, the game of spreading still-viscous glue across the remainder of his hand. Then, once the glue dried, he picked it off in long strips, the glue pulling the skin on his palm outward as he tugged it with his other hand, the skin snapping back into place when each strip broke off.


    Still, the sticky adhesive beneath the strips of glue remained on his palm. So Stephen rubbed his hands together to produce more little gray pellets, which he collected and rolled together into a mound. This, in turn, was used to blot at and thereby clean (or perhaps dirty) his portion of the desk.

    That is, for better or worse, the full extent of my memory of Stephen that year at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, California, where the sign out front reads, “Be a friend not a bully.” I heard stories about him from friends as we got older, but I wasn’t around to witness things firsthand: I switched to a different school after sixth grade.

    What to make of this now, 25 years later? We were all grimy kids at some point, of course, with sticky hands and short attention spans. But it is at least poetic that Stephen was bent on building a nonsensical wall even back then, a wall that had more to do with what lay inside him than with what lay beyond. He thought he was trying to keep out the chaos of the world, when really he was looking for a way to explain away the chaos on his own side of the desk. For that was where chaos had always been.


    How Mexico Could Force America’s Hand on Immigrants


    What happens next on the U.S. border? Though Donald Trump’s executive order on Wednesday released some political pressure by keeping immigrant families together in detention, rather than separating children from their parents, it’s not likely to be...

    What happens next on the U.S. border? Though Donald Trump’s executive order on Wednesday released some political pressure by keeping immigrant families together in detention, rather than separating children from their parents, it’s not likely to be the end of the story. U.S. law prohibits detaining children for longer than 20 days, so we could be back in a separation situation in July; and the order does nothing at all for the more than 2,000 children already separated from their parents.

    The change is unlikely to mollify critics, who still see the existence of immigrant detention centers—and even the building of new ones, as the order envisions—as an internment-camp policy unworthy of American standards. It’s not clear who will be able to fix it: Though Congress has the power to change the underlying law, that process has been gummed up, with even moderate Republicans balking at a bipartisan alliance to provide a humane and lasting solution.

    But outside Capitol Hill, a new front for accountability opened this week: The Mexican government’s human rights arm, along with its counterparts from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras, launched a formal complaint against the Trump administration at the Organization of American States. Normally a sleepy regional organization with headquarters by Washington’s National Mall, the OAS is now poised to become—by default—the most significant institutional response to Trumpism in what is otherwise a town under one-party control.

    In appealing to the OAS, the five agencies are invoking a little-known tool in international law. Since the 1948 launch of the OAS, the United States has been bound by the terms of the Inter-American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, known as the Bogotá Declaration. The most significant human rights document up to that time (the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights came shortly thereafter), it obliged the states of the Americas to protect “the right to life, liberty and the security” of every human being, to give protection to families and to grant “all children … the right to special protection, care and aid.” In their complaint this week, the five countries are alleging that the “U.S.’ new immigration policy abandoned the protection of the right to family unity and the superior interest of migrant girls, boys, and teenagers, and decided to use family separation as a sanction against people that wish to migrate.”

    After Wednesday’s executive order, the Mexican human rights agency reiterated its complaint, sent monitors to the northern border and called on governments around the world to “form a united front” against Trump’s migration policies and the ongoing detentions and separations.

    Mexico’s complaint now goes to the OAS’ Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. This is a panel of seven human rights experts (currently all non-U.S. nationals) empowered to ask member states to change their policies or make other types of reparations for human rights abuses. In urgent situations in which there is a risk of irreversible damage, the commission can also order what are called “precautionary measures” to safeguard rights—something Mexico specifically asked for on the separation policy, which represented in its view a “total contempt for the rights of children” that posed “irreparable harm” to them

    If the commission orders precautionary measures or ultimately finds the U.S. in violation of the Bogotá Declaration, there’s an open question about what happens next. There’s no enforcement mechanism that applies to the United States; most Latin American countries signed up for the more enforceable obligations of a 1978 convention, which includes the ability to order monetary penalties against states that violate human rights, but the Carter administration was unable to persuade Congress to ratify it.

    Still, there are several reasons why Mexico’s latest move might yield fruit in the ongoing efforts to rein in Trump’s migration policies.

    First, the U.S. is legally bound to follow commission decisions. The OAS has determined that—so long as a country is a member of the organization—it is legally and morally bound to comply. In a landmark 2011 decision, the first of its kind, the commission ruled that the United States had failed to protect the human rights of Jessica Gonzales. In that case, Castle Rock, Colorado, police had failed to enforce a restraining order against her estranged husband, who then abducted and killed her three kids. The U.S. Supreme Court heard her case, and found her constitutional rights had not been violated as a matter of U.S. law. Undeterred, Gonzales then took her case to the commission, which sided with her and confirmed U.S. obligations to fight gender bias in law enforcement. Far from objecting to these proceedings, the George W. Bush administration, and then the Obama administration acknowledged the gravity of the situation, showed up and argued their case—moves that gave the process the implicit if not explicit U.S. seal of approval. The commission’s decision gave Gonzales a tool to push for domestic policy change, which ultimately culminated in a new Justice Department policy on gender bias in 2015.

    Even if the Trump administration completely brushed off a ruling, the formal nature of commission decisions make them harder to ignore than, say, a Justin Trudeau press appearance. Legislatures throughout the Americas will take formal notice of the decisions, which make for compelling citations in lawsuits against Trump or articles of impeachment. Indeed, legal scholars predict that the Gonzales decision will over time influence Supreme Court jurisprudence.

    This legally binding quality sets the OAS’ decisions apart from interventions in other multinational venues. The various trade and investment tribunals around the world lack subject matter jurisdiction over migrants. The U.S. has opted out of compulsory jurisdiction of the global International Court of Justice, and the Trump administration withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday—echoing an earlier decision by George W. Bush not to join during his term. The U.S. can leave the council without leaving the U.N., whereas the U.S. would have to leave the OAS entirely to avoid being bound by commission decisions.

    This gets to the second reason: Trump actually does need the OAS. The OAS is the main organ through which the United States puts pressure on Venezuela and Cuba—a major priority among Florida voters Trump needs to keep in his column heading into the next election. The OAS has regional legitimacy that the administration lacks, and to give this up would be geopolitically and electorally risky.


    In one sense, it’s almost ironic that the OAS could become the vehicle of an international legal rebuke: The OAS is regularly decried in Latin America as a tool of U.S. policy. This makes any decision against the U.S. more profound, sending a signal that the U.S. is isolated in its own backyard. While most of the isolationists and hawks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. may not care about such signals, members of Congress may care more if a body with legitimacy throughout the Americas weighs in—not just on an individual rights violation like Gonzales’, but against an overall policy stance of the U.S. government. Many are concerned about the growing isolation of the U.S. and alienation of its allies. Do policymakers really want to add all of the Americas to the list? When Trump insulted European and Canadian allies at the G-7 summit, Republican senators spoke out immediately, and within a week began helping deliver veto-proof rebukes of the president’s trade agenda. Even if Trump doesn’t value U.S. alliances, many lawmakers do.

    If the commission takes up Mexico’s petition, the precautionary measures could be issued almost immediately, and oversight hearings could also begin right away—all of which can shine an international spotlight on Trump’s policies.

    Nearly 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan apologized for Japanese internment camps with the signing of the Civil Rights Bill of 1988, calling the World War II episode a “mistake” and saying that “no payment can make up for those lost years.” Mexico is giving the U.S. an opportunity not to have to wait more than 40 years to right a wrong by showing it a pathway today. Ironically, it may be Mexico that helps Make America Great Again.


    How Trump’s ‘Space Force’ Could Set Off a Dangerous Arms Race


    “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” President Donald Trump said Monday as he announced the creation of a new “Space Force” to protect U.S. interests and assets in space. “We must...

    “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” President Donald Trump said Monday as he announced the creation of a new “Space Force” to protect U.S. interests and assets in space. “We must have American dominance in space.”

    Past American presidents may have thought the same, and acted accordingly, but rarely have they ever expressed this sentiment so brazenly. It’s yet another way Trump has broken with past precedent—and it could set off a dangerous arms race, potentially sparking a Cold War in space.

    As one top expert on space security, Joan Johnson-Freese of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, put it to me, “This will probably be seen as another indicator that the United States is moving towards a more militaristic position regarding space activity.”

    Trump directed the Pentagon on Monday to establish a sixth branch of the military to focus on space, presumably separating personnel that concentrate on things like military satellites and their ground infrastructure from the Air Force. Though he called American “destiny” in space “a matter of national security,” the president didn’t say anything specific about whether the Space Force will simply be continuing U.S. Air Force activities, or whether it would be launching new ones, such as developing offensive or defensive weapons capabilities. A separate plan for developing missile defense platforms to be deployed in space may be in the works as well, though, if Congress decides to fund it.

    Advocates of militarizing space are thrilled, but Trump’s move threatens to antagonize the U.S.’s biggest rivals in space, China and Russia. Each have hundreds of satellites of their own, and if they see the U.S. taking a more muscular posture in the cosmos, they’ll likely boost their corresponding budgets, possibly including studying how to shoot down or hack American satellites or spacecraft.

    For decades, diplomats have tried to prevent exactly this scenario. International space law, first established by the Outer Space Treaty in 1967, which the U.S. has signed, sees outer space—low Earth orbit and beyond—as a public good to be protected. Like Antarctica, people may travel there and scientists may conduct research, but it’s not viewed as a potential battlefield. “There are significant restrictions on what the military can do,” said Joanne Gabrynowicz, a space law expert at the University of Mississippi. The 51-year-old treaty prohibits launching weapons of mass destruction, like nuclear weapons, into space, and it prohibits military bases and maneuvers on the moon. It also says the use of outer space should maintain international peace and security and promote international cooperation and understanding.

    The treaty is silent about less destructive weapons in open space, say, missile defense systems or non-nuclear attack weapons, but a set of taboos has tended to govern their use. The United States and other space powers have avoided using space for military purposes, refraining from launching or testing space weapons and from equipping satellites with weapons.

    Trump, though, seems to be pulling away from current norms. In March, at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, he called space “a warfighting domain just like the land, the air and sea.” Vice President Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, has sounded similarly militaristic, writing in March that the moon was a “vital strategic goal” and that “America must be as dominant in the heavens as it is on Earth.”

    The justification for the administration’s new space focus seems to be at least partly that China and Russia have been secretly at work on their own space-based military capabilities. “Our adversaries are aggressively developing jamming and hacking capabilities that could cripple critical military surveillance, navigation systems and communication networks,” Pence wrote. Experts say it’s impossible to know whether that is true. But one thing they do agree on: Once the U.S. has sent weapons into space, other countries will follow—blowing up traditional norms and turning low Earth orbit into a dangerous place.

    That fear isn’t just limited to Space Force, which might not make it very far. The proposal resurrects a similar idea for a “space corps,” which was championed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and strategic forces subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). The space corps failed to make it into the National Defense Authorization Act last year, and the congressional opposition that killed it remains. So does skepticism within the upper echelons of the Defense Department: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis himself opposed the idea last year, calling it premature to add new bureaucracy to the department. The Space Force similarly could be quashed if both houses of Congress aren’t on board.

    But there are other plans to militarize space that don’t involve a new military branch. A separate proposal to develop space-based missile defense systems, advocated by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Congress members, did find its way into last year’s authorization bill. If such systems are included in the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review, whose release has been delayed by months, then it would mean that there is sufficient support for them for the military to receive funding to develop the technology and eventually test it.

    “Allies and adversaries alike would see putting interceptors in space as the first time anyone’s put dedicated destructive weapons up there. If you’re concerned about keeping space secure and usable, it would be crossing a line,” said Laura Grego, a Caltech-trained physicist and senior scientist of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    This all for a system of questionable effectiveness. Missile defense systems either need to take long-range missiles out in the brief boost phase or contend with missile countermeasures like decoys and balloons later. Either way, such systems have had a spotty track record in tests so far. Plus, orbiting weapons travel at some 17,000 miles per hour and quickly move out of range, meaning that hundreds or more missile defense systems would be needed to make them worthwhile. Constructing so many systems and sending them out into space would make the costs add up rapidly. Interceptors launched from the ground or ships or even laser-firing drones hovering at low altitude can be much more effective.

    The fear, though, is that missile interceptors are much better offensive than defensive weapons—offensive weapons targeting satellites, Grego told me. A sky full of Chinese and Russian missile defense systems, she said, would be a serious threat to the more than 500 U.S. satellites currently in orbit, which enable everything from GPS to communications and weather forecasting.

    If the U.S. missile defense proposal moves forward, it could be the beginning of a full-scale satellite war. “My biggest concern is that [the U.S.] would do a test bed, to demonstrate that it works. There’s no formal agreement, but there’s an unspoken consensus prohibiting weapons in space. The point of the test bed is to break that taboo,” said George N. Lewis, a physicist and a visiting scholar at Cornell University.

    A test of a space-based interceptor or laser system might seem far-fetched, but it too, was explicitly included in last year’s authorization act. And then if China, for example, felt threatened by such a test, it could demonstrate its own weapons. In 2007, China tested an antisatellite missile launched from the ground, which created more debris in an already crowded orbit, threatening other satellites.

    Once the taboo on space-based weapons is broken, suddenly anything in orbit that can maneuver could be turned into a space weapon. Government or private owners of crucial billion-dollar satellites could feel threatened, such as if a rival’s weapon system parked in orbit in range, risking a Cuban missile crisis 300 miles above the ground.

    In that case, an effort to increase security would have actually undermined it.

    Trump says he wants American domination in space, but “what does that mean, to ‘dominate’?” Johnson-Freese, the space security expert, asked. “We already had that rhetoric under the George W. Bush administration. Now it’s being revived, and it probably will have the same kind of negative unintended consequences.”


    That Time the U.S. Almost Went to War With Canada


    Since President Donald Trump lambasted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “weak” and “dishonest” earlier this month during a trade dispute, many have been shaking their heads in disbelief. Isn’t the U.S. supposed to be friends with...

    Since President Donald Trump lambasted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “weak” and “dishonest” earlier this month during a trade dispute, many have been shaking their heads in disbelief. Isn’t the U.S. supposed to be friends with Canada, its largest trading partner by far, wartime ally, primary supplier of crude oil and home to as many as 2 million Americans living abroad?

    Not necessarily. Trump might not realize that his war of words with the younger and more handsome Trudeau is just one more cross-border squabble in a 200-year history of them. You think the U.S.-Canada relationship has always been as sweet as maple syrup? In fact, it’s long been beset by petty bickering and jealousies. The countries even once saw each other as serious geopolitical foes—going so far as to develop detailed war plans to invade one another. Let’s hope Trump doesn’t decide to make a trip to the Library of Congress archive anytime soon.

    The animosity goes back to the War of 1812, when troops from Canada—then a British colony—marched to Washington, D.C., finished James and Dolly Madison’s unfinished dinner and burned down the White House. After that disastrous war, which both sides claim to have won, fighting between the U.S. and Canada devolved into a series of disputes over just where the border between the two lay, and, quite literally, whose trees or pigs were on which side—a question now thankfully answered by aerial imagery and GPS markers.

    Most of these altercations have comical names, revealing the often flimsy reasons behind the disagreements. The Lumberjack, or Pork and Beans War—so called after the lumberjacks’ favorite meal—took place from 1838 to 1839. It started over an argument about who could chop down the dense forests on the border between Maine and New Brunswick. After Congress authorized a force of 50,000 men to march northward to defend what the U.S. believed to be its trees, Secretary of State Daniel Webster and the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Baron Ashburton came to an agreement, redrawing the borders to increase the size of Maine. “The whole territory we were wrangling about was worth nothing,” Ashburton later sniffed, justifying his sacrifice.

    Twenty years later, in 1859, an argument about the value of a Canadian pig shot while rooting for potatoes in an American’s garden in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington quickly escalated into a full-on naval showdown, known as the Pig War. With 500 American troops and a single ship, the USS Massachusetts, facing off against 2,000 British troops and five warships, the governor of Vancouver ordered the British to attack the weaker Americans. Thankfully, the conflict was resolved with a bit of humor, when Royal Navy Rear Admiral Robert Baynes refused his orders, defusing the tensions by pointing out that “to engage two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig would be foolish.” Both sides agreed to retreat, keeping just 100 men each on either end of San Juan before the borders were made official in 1870. If calm-headedness and a sense of humor are needed to defuse cross-border tensions with Canada, there may well be cause for worry under the current administration.

    The calm didn’t last long. In 1861, during the Civil War, the U.S. Navy arrested two Confederate diplomats traveling to Britain—which had remained neutral—on a British ship, the Trent. Both sides bristled, the governor general of Canada ordered troops to the border and the British accused the U.S. secretary of state of masterminding the whole affair as an excuse to invade Canadian territory. (Canadians had watched that “annexation” of Texas pretty closely.) Eventually, Lincoln decided that one war was enough for the moment and released the Confederate envoys—averting a military clash.

    Six years later, Canada gained its independence from Britain, but the new country’s fears of an invasion by its voracious southern neighbor remained acute. Canada, which didn’t acquire its own official army until 1899, continued to rely mainly on Britain for defense. And after Britain withdrew its troops in 1871, Canada was left with only Britain’s verbal assurance that it would come to the rescue if the United States decided to try and annex its northern neighbor, as so many on both sides of the border assumed it would.

    World War I, which gave America a new place among the world’s most powerful nations, sent these fears to a new high. After the war ended in 1919, Canadian military brass looked to assess their own preparedness for another world war fought closer to home, and commissioned war hero Buster Brown (no relation to the shoe) to create a war plan for invading the U.S.


    Brown donned a disguise, grabbed his Kodak and set out in a Model T to do some reconnaissance along the New York and Vermont borders. He sent back some unintentionally funny commentary. “If Americans are not actually lazy, they have a very deliberate way of working and apparently believe in frequent rests and gossip,” and “the women of the rural districts appear to be a heavy and not very comely lot.” In 1921, following his undercover mission, Brown produced Defense Scheme No. 1, a five-pronged attack designed to invade the United States in “flying columns” of troops across the border and occupy such cities as Portland, Fargo, Niagara and Albany. Maine, of course, would be returned to Canada as well.

    Meanwhile, American war planners feared Britain—chafing at the U.S.’s new power and its insistence that Britain repay U.S. war loans in full—might launch an invasion south from Canada, whose foreign policy was still under British control. The threat seemed credible enough that the U.S. War Department asked the Joint Amy and Navy Board to come up with an invasion plan of Canada, the best defense being a good offense.

    The result, drawn up in 1930, was War Plan Red—a plan to invade Canada and defeat Britain on dominion soil that is an eerie mirror image of Defense Scheme No. 1. The plan began with a three-prong attack by land and sea, starting with a naval blockade of Halifax, sending troop columns from Detroit and Albany to take Toronto and Montreal, from Bellingham to capture Vancouver, and from Boston to capture Halifax, while columns of troops marching from Albany and Vermont, and troops marching from Buffalo take over Niagara Falls, disabling the Canadian power grid. The troop movements were devised with the help of U.S. aviation hero, and later Nazi sympathizer, Charles Lindbergh, who flew secret recon missions behind enemy lines up to Canada’s Hudson Bay to suss out weak points. He recommended the use of chemical weapons.


    War Plan Red didn’t purport to be an easy win—it acknowledged “the RED race” (i.e. the British) is “more or less phlegmatic” but “noted for its ability to fight to a finish.” And the report actually warned not to underestimate the Mounties. But it was deemed a worthy cause, and in 1935, Congress spent $57 million on an updated version of the plan, including the building of three “civilian airports” on the border with Canada. A few months later, a U.S. government brochure accidentally revealed these airports were in fact military airfields, and the story ended up on Page 1 of the New York Times on May 1, 1935. At the same time, War Plan Red prompted the largest war games in U.S. history, involving 36,000 U.S. soldiers at Fort Drum, barely 30 miles from the Canadian border.


    As we all well know, nothing ever came of these schemes. All but fragments of Defense Scheme No. 1 were burned by Brown’s successor. War Plan Red languished amid other secret government documents until it was declassified in 1974, and unearthed, ironically, by a Canadian journalist. You could even argue that today, given the realities of current-day economies, and global media and population flows, the invasion plots are moot: The takeover of Canada by the United States, and, to some extent, the incorporation of the best of Canadian culture in the U.S., from Joni Mitchell to Margaret Atwood to Justin Bieber, has already happened, without a single shot fired. We don’t need Trump to annex Canada; radio, TV, movies and the almighty dollar have done this for us without violence or too many hard feelings. In fact, maybe better to be quiet about all this, another trait Trump lacks, before too many more polite and friendly Canadians notice what happened while they were busily selling us shale oil. They might decide to unearth those fragments of Defense Scheme No. 1.


    Enforcement, Not Separation, Is the Issue


    President Donald Trump climbed down on separating families at the border, but the underlying argument is not going away.The central question at the border isn’t whether we should separate families — even most hard-liners in the Trump administration...

    President Donald Trump climbed down on separating families at the border, but the underlying argument is not going away.

    The central question at the border isn’t whether we should separate families — even most hard-liners in the Trump administration would prefer to hold families together — but whether migrants should stay in the United States or not.

    Trump’s executive order ending family separation aims to salvage his “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all illegal border-crossers by holding parents and kids together. The reaction among immigration advocates has gone from outrage about family separations to consternation about family detention, because their ultimate goal is to let the migrants come into the United States and stay.

    It will surely be only a matter of weeks until the Nazi analogies made about separating kids from parents will be repurposed to apply to keeping kids and parents together.

    This is not to deny that the first iteration of the “zero tolerance” policy was a botch job, and I say that as someone who sympathizes with what the administration is trying to do. Although the reporting on the border has tended toward the hysterical and misleading, it seems clear that the administration overwhelmed its own systems such that parents didn’t know what was happening with their kids or how to get in touch with them. The justifications for the policy from administration officials were different and often clashing, and the effort to pin the whole thing on the Democrats was wildly unconvincing.

    To have any success, spin has to have some loose connection to reality. The fact is that Democrats, in particular, didn’t give us any of the rules that have made closing the border to Central American migrants impossible. The Flores consent decree, which makes it difficult to hold kids longer than about 20 days, grew out of a court case 20 years ago. An anti-trafficking law that prevents us from quickly returning home Central American kids — because they are from noncontiguous countries — was a bipartisan measure signed into law by George W. Bush.

    What is true is that the law makes it impossible to hold Central American parents and children together for any length of time. The children have to be released, and if you are going to keep them together with their parents, the parents have to be released, too. This is the forcing mechanism for waving Central American migrants into the country — more than a quarter of a million children and members of a family group the past 2½ years — and Trump is right that Democrats have no interest in changing it.

    When Republicans this week proposed fixes to remove these perversities in the law and to expedite the asylum process and provide for more detention space, Chuck Schumer had no interest. He thought he could back down Trump unilaterally from the family separations — correctly, as it turned out — and Democrats have no interest in making it easier for Trump to remove anyone from the country.

    It’s easy to lose sight of the radicalism of this position. It’s understandable to oppose deporting an illegal immigrant who has been here for, say, 10 years. He probably has a job. He has a family. He has roots. But these migrants are illegal immigrants who, in some cases, literally showed up yesterday. They have no direct connection to the country themselves and, most of them, no legitimate claim on the United States.

    The question they pose isn’t whether we are going to let illegal immigrants who are already here stay but whether we are constantly going to welcome more, in a perpetual, rolling amnesty. It isn’t whether ICE should hunt people down, but whether it can exclude people. It is, in short, whether we have a border or whether a certain class of migrants can — for no good reason — present themselves to the authorities and expect to be admitted into the country.

    Some of these migrants will claim asylum, but these claims are mostly bogus. There is no doubt that they are desperate, and desperate to get into the United States. But they aren’t persecuted back home, even if they fear gangs or a violent boyfriend. The idea that the only option when a woman is in an abusive relationship in a Central American country is to undertake a monthlong journey to the United States, traversing Mexico without stopping to claim asylum there, is absurd.

    The merits don’t matter under the current system, though. If an asylum-seeker passes a credible fear interview — almost all do — and comes into the United States pending adjudication of his case, it is unlikely that he will ever be seen again. And why not? Who wouldn’t take advantage of that opportunity?

    Trump is right to want to end this dynamic and swiftly and reliably deport new migrants, which would be the only sure deterrent against the ongoing influx. Now, he wants to hold families together. Unless Congress acts, he is going to run up against the same rules he’s been complaining about, and he will still get political opposition, although on changed grounds.

    A subhead in a Vox story about Trump’s action said, “The new order replaces family separation with family detention,” and it doesn’t mean that as a compliment. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum called on Congress to “explicitly end and prevent family separation and the indefinite detention of children.” In perhaps the first totalitarian analogy in this new phase of the debate, immigration advocate Frank Sharry said Ted Cruz’s proposal to hold parents and children together would create “family gulags.”

    Increasingly for the left, the true enemy is enforcement, and the battle has just been joined.


    Banning Family Separation Won’t End the Border Crisis


    Even the Trump administration is now backing away from the immoral and unsustainable policy of separating the families of migrants when prosecuting the parents for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. That’s welcome, but the current...

    Even the Trump administration is now backing away from the immoral and unsustainable policy of separating the families of migrants when prosecuting the parents for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. That’s welcome, but the current proposals—whether banning family separations or expediting the legal processing of apprehended migrants—fail to address the source of the crisis. For years now, border enforcement and security policy have been upended by hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, mostly Central American, who arrive each year at our southwest border.

    This story, which has been unfolding over the past decade, exploded into view during the Obama administration when tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children began to present themselves to Border Patrol agents. This caused a crisis in 2014, with an uproar over images in the news media of crowded Border Patrol stations, children in space blankets and frustration at government agencies that seemed to be incapable of responding adequately.

    We both worked in Customs and Border Protection during the Obama administration, and one of us coordinated policy on unaccompanied children at the National Security Council from 2014 to 2016. We understand the challenges these types of migrants raise. The surge in asylum seekers at the southwest border has created a situation that is dangerous and inconsistent for migrants and extremely difficult for the government.

    The debate over how to respond has been dominated by the extremes. At one extreme are those who want migrants to be punished, ignore our obligations to asylum seekers, and see the migrants as a threat. At the other extreme are many who want anyone who arrives at the southwest border to be able to enter the United States and stay unless they subsequently commit a crime.

    Neither of these approaches is appropriate or consistent with our legal and humanitarian obligations. We should face reality: A large number of Central Americans have legitimate asylum claims and will continue to come to the United States. The U.S. government needs to allow them to do so safely and lawfully, and in a way that does not profoundly disrupt border management and security operations. Specifically, instead of waiting for refugees to show up at the border, the United States should process asylum claims in Central America and then bring people with valid claims directly to the United States.

    This reflects a basic fact: The federal government is simply not organized to process large numbers of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexican border. Our border management system is extremely effective at processing legal trade and travel while also intercepting illegal crossings, but its capabilities were designed to identify and prevent the entry of terrorists and other threats.

    Aside from providing a rational process, there are sound law enforcement and humanitarian reasons for directing asylum claimants into the process sooner. Refugees who travel through Central America and Mexico are easy targets for criminal predation. Gangs target them for robbery and kidnap, and horrific stories of assault and rape are all too common. Further, asylum claimants often hire human smuggling organizations to help them through Mexico and across the U.S.-Mexico border. The thousands of dollars asylum claimants pay smugglers feed the organized crime problem in Mexico. Earlier engagement with asylum claimants can help break the cycle of criminality.

    If structured appropriately, a new asylum process could act as a meaningful deterrent for illegal crossing and bogus asylum claims. The United States could require claimants in Central America to make their claims at designated U.S. facilities. A claimant who travels to the U.S. border to make a claim would not be eligible for U.S. asylum, and could claim asylum only in Mexico as the first safe country the claimant encountered. This would provide a major incentive for migrants to use legitimate channels. And families would not need to be separated.

    Provisions could also be made for the safety of migrants who have to leave their homes because of imminent threats. Many of the applicants are fleeing real violence, and they deserve to have their claims heard and, if legally and factually supported, granted. The United States could work with Mexico to establish an asylum claim center near Mexico’s southern border. This would provide a safe place for those migrants who are genuinely fleeing violence to present asylum claims to the U.S. or Mexican governments. In addition, the United States could establish an expedited “credible fear” determination process: Those who establish credible fear in their home countries would be sent to the United States to complete the asylum process.

    Such a process would require significant resources, of course. The State Department and Department of Homeland Security would have to send additional personnel, obtain additional facilities and, potentially, deploy technology like video-conferencing to facilitate claims. The resources required, however, would almost certainly be much less than those necessary to house tens of thousands of unaccompanied children in the United States and to prosecute many of their parents.

    If asylum claims were processed in Central America instead of at the border, it would help ensure that the people who are genuinely most in need of humanitarian protections are able to apply. The people making the journey now are those who are able to pay thousands of dollars to smugglers. People who may be in even more desperate situations and do not have the money to get to the U.S. border remain trapped. And the U.S. personnel who are stationed in the home countries of asylum claimants are the most informed about the relevant conditions and circumstances.

    Some may argue that this sort of process would take too long to set up, and the urgency of the situation requires responses that can be put into effect immediately. But the United States is now five years into the Central American crisis, and it is still relying on temporary emergency facilities to house children on the southwest border. There are no “immediate” solutions.

    Even so, we can meaningfully reduce the number of people claiming asylum at the U.S. border, while ensuring a real opportunity to seek asylum for those in need. This approach is completely compatible with a belief in the importance of effective enforcement at the border. Tens of thousands of Central Americans are being allowed into the country under the current system. A new approach would not actually increase overall numbers. Instead, we would be processing migrants in a planned, responsible way that is consistent with the United States’ legal and moral obligations to receive and process asylum applicants.

    Such a change would, of course, require that policymakers take an honest look at an immigration problem and make responsible decisions. In the current environment, that may be a tall order.


    Is It OK to Sleep With Your Sources?


    Why shouldn’t reporters have sex with the people they cover?The answer, everybody will tell you, is orgasmically obvious: It’s the same reason reporters shouldn’t partner in a business with their sources or go vacationing with them! Such mixing...

    Why shouldn’t reporters have sex with the people they cover?

    The answer, everybody will tell you, is orgasmically obvious: It’s the same reason reporters shouldn’t partner in a business with their sources or go vacationing with them! Such mixing contaminates the end product with the unforgivable taint of compromise and conflict of interest, hence the taboo. Also, sleeping with a source can be interpreted as payment for information—another no-no in American journalistic circles. A third worry: Any normalization of sex-for-news-tips transactions would increase the already onerous demands and expectations that some sources force on reporters—mostly female reporters—to put out for them.

    So on this we all agree: Journalists shouldn’t sleep with their sources, something most in-house ethics manuals endorse. If you score with somebody you cover or with a source, you’re supposed to tell your boss and recuse yourself from the beat. New York Times guidelines instruct the paper’s journalists to maintain social distance from sources and subjects to “avoid creating an appearance of coziness,” explicitly ruling out golfing regularly with subjects and sources or playing cards with them. As for “romantic involvement” (Times speak for bouncy-bouncy) with a news source, Times reporters are supposed to alert their superiors of any such entanglement, leaving it to them to decide whether a conflict exists and how to remedy it, including transfers to other beats.

    But the hard and fast rules of ethics manuals, not to mention taboos, don’t always deter journalists from blending business with pleasure. This month, to put a news peg on it, New York Times reporter Ali Watkins was faulted for having grown too close to one of her potential sources, former Senate Intelligence Committee aide James A. Wolfe. Wolfe, recently indicted for lying to FBI agents investigating a leak of classified information from his committee, pleaded not guilty last week. Watkins, who worked at McClatchy, HuffPost, BuzzFeed and then Politico before going to the Times, had a four-year romantic relationship with Wolfe, according to the indictment, running from December 2013 until December 2017. The two exchanged tens of thousands of electronic communications over that time, met frequently at her apartment and elsewhere, and took two trips overseas together.

    (Disclosure: Watkins and I enjoyed a collegial rapport during her Politico tenure, but we never worked on any story or column together.)

    I describe Wolfe as a “potential source” because Watkins has denied to the Times that he was one. Wolfe also denied to investigators that he gave Watkins information that was not publicly available, classified or otherwise. And the indictment does not assert that he leaked classified information to her. But allegations presented in the indictment point with all fingers on both hands toward the likelihood that he leaked to her. (The indictment also documents Wolfe’s regular contacts with three other reporters, but does not hint at any personal relationships.)

    While working for BuzzFeed in April 2017, Watkins broke the big story that Russian spies attempted in 2013 to recruit Carter Page (who would later join the Trump campaign). Nobody anywhere has disputed the accuracy of her story. The indictment suggests this scoop likely originated as classified information in Wolfe’s possession. One message Wolfe sent to Watkins in December 2017, included in the indictment, smacks of a leaker’s confession: “I always tried to give you as much information that I could and to do the right thing with it so you could get that scoop before anyone else,” Wolfe wrote. “I felt like I was part of your excitement and was always very supportive of your career and the tenacity that you exhibited to chase down a good story.”

    Merging business and romance has a long journalistic history — see these overviews on the topic in the American Journalism Review and the Los Angeles Times for the leading examples. Hollywood has adopted this forbidden pairing as a trope to power its stories, usually with female reporters bedding male sources. A short list of reporters and sources having sex in contemporary movies and TV shows include Thank You for Smoking, Absence of Malice, Nashville, Scoop, Scandal, Trainwreck, Top Five, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Fly, Fletch, Mr. Deeds, Three Kings, The West Wing, Crazy Heart, and Iron Man. As her detractors have noted, Watkins commented on the wisdom on sleeping with sources before she got involved with Wolfe — tweeting this in April 2013 about the House of Cards reporter who does: “I wanted to be Zoe Barnes…until episode 4. Sleeping with your source—especially a vindictive congressman? #badlifechoice #HouseofCards.”

    Forbidden romances can manifest on any news beat, but presidential campaigns produce hot pairs better than almost any mechanism this side of Match.com. Reporters and the campaign staffers share interests — the candidate, the issues, the outcome of the election and politics in general. They tend to speak the same language, nudging them closer to the sack. Everybody ends up drinking and bunking in the same hotels, often traveling on the same plane or bus together for weeks or months, and the increased mutuality engendered by close proximity breeds attraction. Considering the circumstances, we should be less astonished that reporters and sources sometimes get it on than that they don’t get it on more often.

    In prospecting for news, a reporter must signal to his source his deep interest in the topic, his fascination with his source, and his trustworthiness. If the interest and fascination are sincere, great. But if the story is important enough, reporters have been known to fake it. If rebuffed, the reporter must continue to charm and flatter his way to a source’s confidence. When going out for drinks with a source (is not alcohol the ultimate truth serum?), the reporter must laugh at his source’s jokes, especially if they’re not funny. From the outside, the source-building scrimmage can look a lot like courtship. It’s a lot like a mating dance — only you mustn’t mate.

    Newsrooms prohibit journo-source romances because, as we’ve learned, romance impedes journalistic impartiality. But there are other ways to shed impartiality. Reporters become over-dependent on favorite sources all the time, parroting their every position without ever getting intimate. Friendships blossom on the beat, and sources and reporters grow dependent on one another. Editors end up policing romances because it’s easy to show that a reporter has lost his impartiality because he’s shtupping his source. It’s harder to prove that friendship has made a reporter a pushover for his sources, so platonic relationships tend to go uncontested, and we stupidly reserve the scarlet letter of lost impartiality for romancing journalists only. The ethics cops seem oblivious to the fact that people you haven’t slept with often wield more influence over you than those who have.

    Should the Watkins controversy be mitigated by the fact that she got the scoop and that nobody, as of yet, has contested her stories? No. But a generation ago a leading journalist by the name of Laura Foreman made such a case. While reporting for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Foreman fell in love with and had a long-term affair with a Henry J. “Buddy” Cianfrani, a powerful Pennsylvania state senator who later went to prison on racketeering charges. She remained on the politics beat and wrote repeatedly about him for the Inquirer. She also accepted gifts worth $43,000 in today’s money, including a mink coat and a Morgan sports car. In 1977, she moved on to the New York Times, where she reported on politics for the paper’s Washington bureau. When the Times top editor, A.M. Rosenthal, learned of the Philly relationship, he demanded her resignation. “It’s OK to fuck the elephants — just don’t cover the circus,” Rosenthal said. Foreman and Cianfrani married in 1980 after he completed 27 months in prison on charges unrelated to Foreman. The couple were still married when he died in 2002.

    Foreman argued in a 1978 piece for the Washington Monthly that journalists had become too distant from the politicians they covered, and that this “Olympian” remove had kept them from covering their subjects as human beings. Although she apologized for “having gone too far in the other direction,” she insisted journalistic traditions had prevented reporters from covering their subjects as “human and therefore fragile.” “I never slanted a story in his favor,” Foreman stated. On this point her editor, Paul Critchlow, agreed in Esquire. “Foreman wrote nothing about Cianfrani — who was and is a legitimate, colorful and politically shrewd operator — that I have not written in my own coverage.”

    “I got closer than most, it’s true, and the situation was tricky at times, but I think it paid off in terms of what I was able to write,” Foreman asserted.

    Foreman was the press story of the year. Her indiscretions were featured in the Village Voice, the Washington Post, Newsweek, the Washington Star, the Philadelphia Inquirer (17,000 words by Inky aces Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele) and elsewhere. Writing for Esquire's February 1978 issue, Eleanor Randolph framed the story in the context of the rising numbers of women joining not just newsrooms but all walks of business life. Randolph didn’t defend sleeping with your source, but she held that women were the victims of a nasty double standard.

    Writing in the Washington Post in October 1977, columnist Richard Cohen took a similar tack. “Male reporters … have been having affairs with women they cover for as long as there have been reporters, women and spare time,” he wrote. “Suffice it to say, though, that some affairs have been conducted at fairly high levels and suffice it to say, too, that no man has been chastised by his fellows for this kind of activity.” According to Cohen, the operational assumption in American journalism was that when a male reporter slept with his female source, he was “using” her the way James Bond uses the Russian agents he seduces. That Foreman could have been using Cianfrani did not seem to occur to those who judged her, Cohen concludes.

    Randolph showcased a marquee example of the double standard for female reporters in her Esquire piece. Chicago reporter Jay McMullen had covered City Hall for the Chicago Daily News for 23 years and for the last four or five years on the beat he openly dated Jane Byrne, the mayor’s right-hand woman (and later mayor herself).

    “I don’t get all this new sanctimonious shit,” McMullen said of his critics. “I’ve screwed girls who work at City Hall for years. All those goddamn bluenoses who think you get stories from press conferences — hell, there was a day when I could roll over in bed in the morning and scoop the [Chicago] Tribune. Anybody who wouldn’t screw a dame for a story is disloyal to the paper.” (Is it a great thing or an awful thing that reporters don’t talk like this anymore?)

    Talking to Randolph, Times editor Rosenthal laid out his ethical and pragmatic reasons for sacking Foreman, with an emphasis on the pragmatic.

    “Everybody agreed that she could not work in Washington," he said, “so maybe she could go to New York. So what is that supposed to mean, that everybody in Washington had to be ethical but everybody in New York didn’t? Laura had gotten herself in a position where she couldn’t cover any story, and that’s what we had hired her to do. It was a question of a consistent, clandestine relationship with a major political person whom she was writing about. It had nothing to do with sexual morality. I’m not in loco parentis for my reporters. But I am the guardian of the reputation of the Times.”

    It’s never OK for reporters to sleep with their sources — or with elephants. Ali Watkins deserves a good scolding and professional reprimands if she crossed that line. But based on what we know about her case, she deserves a second chance. Given all the male reporters over the years who’ve escaped punishment for their sins of the flesh, it’s only fair.

    ******

    A.M. Rosenthal's elephant one-liner is worded differently depending on where you find it. See Barry Popik’s blog, which catalogues all of the variations. The only thing worse than having to sleep with your source is having to sleep with them a second time. Send journalistic smut to [email protected]. My email alerts once suggested an unconventional liaison with my Twitter feed, which called the ethics cops. My RSS feed lives in an ethics-free zone.


    How Donald Trump and Chuy Garcia Broke the Chicago Machine


    In the words of one of his staunchest political allies, Edward M. Burke is “an alderman among aldermen.” One of the last of the Southwest Side Irish political bosses who ruled Chicago for most of the 20th century, Burke is the longest-serving...

    In the words of one of his staunchest political allies, Edward M. Burke is “an alderman among aldermen.” One of the last of the Southwest Side Irish political bosses who ruled Chicago for most of the 20th century, Burke is the longest-serving alderman in the history of the City Council, and chairman of its most powerful committee, Finance. Burke joined the council in 1969, at the age of 25, winning a special election to replace his recently deceased father, Joseph P. Burke, who had been elected 14th Ward alderman in 1953. It’s a Chicago political dynasty second only to the Daleys in influence and durability, and, like the Daley dynasty, it’s a family business. Every ward boss needs a guy in Springfield, so in 1990, Burke got his younger brother, Dan, elected to the Illinois state legislature. Burke also chairs the Cook County Democratic Party’s Judicial Slating Committee, which enabled him to place his wife, Anne, on the state Supreme Court, where she has sat since 2006.

    Burke is, in short, a big deal in Chicago politics, with impeccable Democratic Party bona fides—but he suddenly finds himself facing an unexpected headache: his affiliation with Donald Trump.

    Burke and his wife live in a three-story compound the Chicago Sun-Times once called a “palace.” Burke didn’t build that house with his $109,994-a-year City Council salary. He built it with the profits from his law firm, Klafter & Burke, which specializes in winning property tax breaks for wealthy developers. While it may be lucrative, Burke’s legal business is now damaging his family’s political fortunes. Until recently, one of his clients was 401 North Wabash Venture, LLC, more commonly known as the Trump International Hotel & Tower. Burke began representing the future president’s 92-story condominium and hotel on the Chicago River in 2006, and over the past decade, he has saved the real estate baron $14.1 million in property taxes.

    Burke won tax reductions for Trump by persuading the Cook County assessor and/or the Board of Review that the building’s failure to find tenants for its retail space made it less valuable than the assessor’s original estimate. “[W]e believe that this vacant unused space, at this time, adds no value of the fee simple market value of the property,” argued a report filed with a 2012 tax objection. Burke has also saved money for owners of the building’s 480-plus condos, whose property taxes fell accordingly.

    When Burke’s tax objections were denied, he took Trump’s case to court. Burke’s firm filed six lawsuits against the Cook County treasurer, alleging that the Trump Tower’s assessment “is not based upon the fair market value of the property and is excessive, and is illegal in that the property is being assessed disproportionally higher than similar property.”

    When the relationship between Burke and Trump began, Trump was just a New York blowhard who hosted "The Apprentice." But Burke continued to represent Trump, even after Trump’s 2015 presidential campaign announcement calling Mexican immigrants drug dealers, criminals and rapists; even after he turned Chicago into a political punching bag, calling the liberal city’s murder rate “totally out of control” and threatening to send in the National Guard. In fact, Burke’s most recent suit was filed on May 31, 2017, four months after Trump was sworn in as president. So far, one suit has been dismissed, while the rest are still pending in Cook County Circuit Court.

    “It was a strict business deal,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago who served with Burke on the City Council in the 1970s. But that’s not how many voters in his district see it.

    Back in the 1950s, when the Burkes came to power, the Southwest Side was populated by Irish, Poles and Lithuanians, some of whose families had been drawn there by now-closed Union Stockyards made famous in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. In recent years, though, its closely spaced multifamily brick houses have filled up with Mexican immigrants who have opened taquerias and found jobs in steel processing plants. The neighborhood is now 70 percent Latino, and the community was electrified politically by the 2015 mayoral race, when Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff.

    Trump’s name is poison in Chicago, where he received 12 percent of the vote, his worst showing in any of the nation’s 15 largest cities, and which he continues to disparage as a failed city rife with murder and illegal immigration. The president is especially reviled by Mexican-Americans, whom he has scapegoated as murderers, gang members and rapists threatening the lives of his native-born base.

    Emboldened by their success in citywide politics, and angered by their alderman’s relationship with Trump, Mexican-Americans saw an opportunity to finally seize power from the Irish who still control politics in their neighborhoods. In the March primary, they united behind a 26-year-old high school guidance counselor who defeated state Rep. Dan Burke—and now some of them are talking about taking down the venerable alderman himself.

    ***

    The question now is, will Ed Burke’s business dealings with Trump threaten his half-century hold on his ward, on the City Council and on the local Democratic Party? Although he has aspired to higher office—congressman, state’s attorney, mayor—the 74-year-old Burke has never made it out of the council chambers, so he has focused his political energies on amassing unprecedented political power there. Burke’s campaign war chest exceeds $10 million—many times the capitalization of any other alderman. That money tends to find its way to places that matter: His campaign fund, Friends of Edward M. Burke, loaned then-Gov. Pat Quinn $200,000 for his 2010 election campaign, and donated another $52,000. Coincidentally or not, Quinn named Burke’s daughter, Jennifer, to a six-figure job on the Illinois Pollution Control Board.


    Although today they have nothing in common politically, Burke once practiced the brand of white-backlash politics that now define Trump’s political persona. During the Council Wars of the 1980s, 29 of the council’s 50 aldermen blocked the legislation and appointments of Harold Washington, the city’s first African-American mayor. As a leader of “The 29,” who were almost all white, Burke took control of the Finance Committee. According to Chicago Politics: Ward by Ward, by David K. Fremon, he also “assumed the role of vocal point man for anti-Washington attacks. By most accounts, he relished it. Burke attacked the Washington transition team’s report of racial bias in the city (while firing seven black members of his committee).”

    As a result of a death threat he received in 1986, Burke was assigned police bodyguards, who still follow him around, decades after Council Wars ended. Invariably dressed in a pinstriped suit with coordinated tie and pocket square, he delivers lengthy speeches on the council floor, quoting Winston Churchill, Horace Greeley or the proverbial Wise Man. (“As a wise man once said ...”) His lavish office is the lair of a Hibernian grandee, its walls covered with political cartoons lampooning Burke, its china saucers monogrammed with his initials: EMB. Burke is an amateur historian, so visitors are often sent home with a copy of Inside the Wigwam, a book he co-wrote about Chicago’s political conventions. “With Best Wishes on the occasion of your visit to Chicago’s historic City Hall,” he signs it.

    Despite his power over the City Council, Burke has taken heat for his relationship with Trump from at least one colleague. Fellow Alderman Ameya Pawar scolded Burke on the council floor, telling him to “[s]top representing Donald Trump and his interests. You are representing a racist and a bigot and a demagogue who wants the tax cut to further defund the institutions … we all represent. There are times like this when chasing the dollar—chasing every last dollar—[is not right]. We have a moral responsibility to think about the city first.” (Burke has never spoken publicly about his work for Trump. His spokesman, Donal Quinlan, did not return a phone call requesting comment for this article.)

    But the real threat to Burke’s hold on power is coming from his own backyard, where the area’s ballooning Latino population is looking for champions of its own. Such as Aaron Ortiz—a 26-year-old guidance counselor at a high school on the Southwest Side of Chicago and son of Mexican immigrants whose father still drives a forklift.

    In spite of his youth, and his lack of money, Ortiz entered this March’s Democratic primary against Dan Burke. He thought he had two things in his favor. One was the fact that Chuy Garcia would also be on the ballot, as a candidate for Congress. Garcia’s 2015 run for mayor—he gave incumbent Emanuel a real scare—“gave a lot of Latino leaders in the community, like myself, a sense of hope,” said Ortiz, who consulted with Garcia before entering the race and posed with him for campaign flyers. “It is possible to go up against elected officials with big money.” The other was the Burke family’s business relationship with Trump.

    To exploit the Trump issue, Ortiz put together a mailer showing a smiling Ed Burke and Donald Trump posing together at a 2015 City Club of Chicago luncheon, and listing details of Burke's work for the president. As a result of Trump’s tax breaks, the mailer pointed out, “[h]omeowners in the district pay an extra $150,000 in property taxes.” When Ortiz knocked on doors in the district, and heard voters complaining about Trump, he brought up the real estate connection. “Que verguenza!,” they would reply. “How shameful!” Although he was outspent 3 to 1, Ortiz won the March 20 primary by 700 votes.

    “I think [Trump] was a huge issue,” Ortiz told me. “When I would explain we were giving tax breaks to these individuals, people were upset that he’s representing a largely Latino community, and he’s representing someone who has disparaged Latinos. A lot of people have justified that he’s an attorney, that’s his side gig. You’ve got to be someone who represents your community.”


    Ever since Garcia’s run for mayor, Chicago’s Mexican-Americans have experienced a surge in political empowerment. Garcia himself won the Democratic primary in the Latino-majority 4th Congressional District, which has been represented since 1992 by Puerto Rican Luis Gutiérrez, who is retiring. Michael Zalewski, a Polish-American alderman who represents a Latino-majority ward on the Southwest Side, recently resigned his seat and is expected to be replaced by state Rep. Silvana Tabares. It’s been a coming of age for a community that makes up the largest portion of the Southwest Side’s population, but has lagged in attaining political power because its members were either not citizens or were too young to vote.

    “We’ve been striving for political empowerment of Latinos for several decades,” Garcia told me, but it was Trump’s election that provided the breakthrough. The area was already ripe for ethnic turnover, from the legacy Irish to the rising Mexicans, when Burke gave his opponents a weapon with which to attack his family’s dynasty.

    “Donald Trump began his campaign attacking Mexicans as criminals,” Garcia said. “And then Alderman Burke is his lawyer in seeking reductions of property taxes in Trump Tower. He provided a motivation for people to say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

    ***

    Losing his brother’s legislative seat finally convinced Burke that working for Trump was a political liability. In May, he filed letters with the Cook County Circuit Court and the Illinois State Property Tax Appeal Board, informing them that Klafter & Burke is no longer representing Trump, due to “irreconcilable differences.”

    Dumping Trump, however, will not be enough to wipe the president’s muck off the alderman’s pinstriped suits. Expect Burke’s political opponents to continue using the Trump attacks that were so successful against his brother.

    “Too little, too late,” is Garcia’s response to the legal divorce. “If there had been a reflection by the alderman about what he was doing, it could have begun with an apology for representing [Trump]; he already took his money.” Dropping Trump as a client after his brother’s defeat and before his own potential reelection campaign “makes it look like it’s simply a political calculation,” Garcia said.


    But while Burke’s relationship with a politician reviled by Chicagoans cost his brother a seat in the legislature, it might not be enough to unseat The Man himself. Dan Burke is a Springfield backbencher who the Chicago Tribune called “burned out” in its endorsement of Ortiz. Ed Burke is master of the City Council. Even Burke’s critics concede he’s an excellent alderman: “He delivers garbage cans, he trims trees,” said Alderman Ricardo Munoz, a Garcia ally. “Eighty percent of an alderman’s job is housekeeping.” He was instrumental in bringing the ward a $20 million-plus charter high school that opened just last year. It would take a powerful candidate, and a powerful campaign, to persuade 14th Ward voters to give up that kind of clout.

    Still, some of Burke’s constituents would love to see him turned out of office. In May, Southwest Side activist Jose Torrez confronted Burke about his relationship with Trump when the alderman addressed a meeting of the Archer Heights Civic Association, a 14th Ward neighborhood organization.

    “One of my questions is regarding immigration,” Torrez told Burke. “A lot of new community members, my neighbors moving in are Latinos, they’re Spanish-speaking, and one of the biggest questions they have is, ‘How welcoming are you in Archer Heights toward immigrants?’ The biggest reservation they have is with your client, Donald Trump. The question is, ‘Are you willing to cut your relationship with him?’”

    Burke ignored Torrez’s question. Instead, he talked about his sponsorship of Chicago’s Matricula Consular ordinance, which made Mexican Consulate ID cards a legal form of identification in the city. When the ordinance was passed, in 2002, the Federation for American Immigration Reform claimed it would help undocumented Mexicans evade the nation’s immigration laws. He also drew on his Irish roots to claim a shared immigrant culture.

    “Historically, Chicago has a record of being welcoming,” Burke said. “As a matter of fact, many people don’t know that Chicago, going back to the 1850s, took a position against the Fugitive Slave Act, where Chicago officials mandated that law enforcement officials could not cooperate with U.S. marshals who would be tracking down fugitive slaves. So Chicago’s ‘sanctuary city’ status today—which has been affirmed by the federal courts—is a welcoming concept that’s gone back many years. Almost all of us are children or grandchildren of immigrants and should recognize the importance of welcoming immigrants, who add so much to our commonweal.”

    Burke’s supporters note that in 2015, when Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner sought to turn away Syrian refugees, the alderman argued that their placement should be the federal government’s decision, and he sponsored a resolution reaffirming Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city and “refuge for refugees from around the world.” It’s hard to imagine rhetoric more hostile to the anti-immigrant posturing that defines Trump’s political persona. For that reason, say Burke’s supporters, attempts to use his business dealings to tie him to Trump’s immigration policies are an unfair attack on an alderman who has adapted to his changing ward by becoming a staunch supporter of Mexican-American aspirations. Burke supports Latinos, they say; he just doesn’t support the brand of left-wing Latino politics represented by Garcia and his followers.

    Garcia’s run for mayor, and his expected move to Congress, have made him both the most prominent Latino and the most prominent progressive politician in Chicago. His new profile has given him an opportunity to wreak a measure of revenge on Burke, whom he considers an antagonist to both communities. The grudge between the two men dates all the way back to the Council Wars: Garcia was elected to the City Council in 1986, as an ally of Harold Washington. A few years later, Garcia moved to the state Senate, but Burke helped put him out of that job by backing a police officer who belonged to the Hispanic Democratic Organization, a cog in Mayor Richard M. Daley’s political machine.

    “Chuy Garcia represents reform politics, and Burke represents the old machine politics, although he understands 21st-century life,” said Dick Simpson.

    Garcia and Burke were even on opposite sides of the 2016 Democratic primary. Garcia backed Bernie Sanders, who had endorsed him for mayor; Burke’s African-American adopted son, Travis, was a Hillary Clinton delegate at the Democratic National Convention. (As the 14th Ward Democratic Committeeman, the ward’s party chairman, it was Burke’s task to get out the vote for Clinton, by listing her name atop the palm cards his precinct captains handed to voters outside the polls. In this, he succeeded: Clinton carried the 14th ward, 79-16.)

    Burke does have supporters in the Mexican-American community. The most loyal among them is Gery Chico, a Southwest Side native Burke hired to work for his Finance Committee in 1983. Chico went on to a distinguished career that included serving as chief of staff to Daley and president of the Chicago Board of Education.

    “I think this is about a way of politics that is far more left of center and wants to see its way of thinking dominate the process,” Chico told me. “There are some people, maybe the Bernie Sanders wing, who want to make it look like people like Ed Burke are in the way.”

    Burke has promoted the careers of numerous mainstream Mexican-American politicians, including Chico himself, who was the first Latino to run for statewide office when he campaigned for U.S. Senate in 2004, and who had Burke’s endorsement for mayor in 2011. (Chico lost those races to Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel.) Illinois comptroller Susana Mendoza, the first Mexican-American to hold statewide office, got started in politics by running for state representative on the Southwest Side, with Burke’s support. Burke has also slated several Latino judges who serve on the Cook County courts. As the ward has changed, so has its alderman: Burke offers constituent services in Spanish and has even learned to speak the language himself—although some of his Latino colleagues on the City Council say they wish he wouldn’t. (At first, Burke tried to escape demographic destiny by moving his ward west to follow the path of white flight, but he ran out of city.)

    “I’ve never heard Ed Burke say anything nice about Trump,” Chico said. “I think he was shocked by Donald Trump’s comments. I think it is wrong to associate Burke today with Trump.”

    On the neighborhood level, where aldermanic races are won and lost, Burke has won the goodwill of his Mexican-American constituents through small acts such as raising money to keep a Catholic school open. When Southwest Side resident Maria Vega heard that the archdiocese planned to close her daughter’s school, Pope John Paul II, she contacted Burke, who “assured me that he would do everything in his power to ensure the school didn’t close.” The well-connected Burke reached out to wealthy donors, chaired a fundraising dinner, obtained a car to raffle off, and met with then-Archbishop Francis Cardinal George. Today, the school educates 185 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, most of them Latino.

    Burke has run unopposed in 10 of his past 11 elections, but progressives emboldened by his brother’s defeat are talking about fielding an opponent against him in next February’s aldermanic election.

    “If I were a betting man, I would say there’s enough interest now that the confidence of the community would be instilled,” Garcia said. “I’ve been called by people who are interested in running, but it’s too early to say. Clearly, he has lost touch, if he had it, with the community. The audacity of being Trump’s lawyer, attacking the largely Mexican-American constituents of his ward. He put his interest in collecting attorney’s fees ahead of the people he represents.”

    Burke has not yet announced for reelection, but when City Hall reporters asked whether he would run for a 13th term, he told them “Why would you wonder?” and pointed out that his brother won the 14th Ward — albeit by only 145 votes.

    “I expect him to get a challenge,” said Simpson, but that challenge will succeed “only if a very substantial candidate runs against him. The fact that it would be Latino would help. He’s been there so long and has done so many favors for constituents and has done so much to provide services in the ward. He’s in a pretty powerful position in the City Council, so the argument about city services is pretty strong.”

    Whoever runs against Burke will publicize his association with Trump on campaign mailers, Simpson predicted, but now, “Burke will be able to answer.”

    When Burke does decide to retire, he will almost certainly be replaced by a Latino. And that, ultimately, may be the significance of Aaron Ortiz’s defeat of Dan Burke. Latinos have become the dominant ethnic group on the Southwest Side, the traditional seat of Irish power in Chicago, and finally constitute enough voting-age citizens to start claiming the elective offices. In fact, Latinos may become to 21st century Chicago politics what the Irish were to the 20th: masters of the city. In the ward remap after the next census, they stand to gain City Council seats at the expense of both whites and blacks, whose populations are dwindling on the South Side. Garcia’s 44 percent showing against Emanuel proved that a Latino can compete for a citywide office. Last year, Latinos surpassed African-Americans as the city’s second-largest ethnic group, 29.7 percent to 29.3 percent, and are closing in on non-Hispanic whites, who are at 32.6 percent. Garcia’s run for Congress means there won’t be a Latino candidate for mayor next year, but he sees a Latino mayor coming “probably within the next eight years, maybe the next four years,” as the Latino voting population increases. “The breakthrough in 2015 is we showed the city that Latinos have a voice.”

    Trump has helped speed that process along. His anti-immigrant rhetoric has inspired Latinos to get involved in politics, and his Chicago real estate interests provided a campaign issue that helped them defeat a once-invincible Irish political machine. The white identity politics that have been so successful for Trump on a national level contributed to the defeat of a white candidate at the local level — a result that would surely horrify the president.

    “Without Trump,” said Ortiz of his 700-vote victory, “it would have been a lot closer.”


    Trump Is Nothing Without the Senate


    For Democrats looking to win back a piece of national political power, the House is where the heart is. With a gain of 23 seats needed for control, and the Cook Political Report listing 29 Republican seats at risk (and only three imperiled Democrats),...

    For Democrats looking to win back a piece of national political power, the House is where the heart is. With a gain of 23 seats needed for control, and the Cook Political Report listing 29 Republican seats at risk (and only three imperiled Democrats), it’s a plausible political target. Last week, Barack Obama’s political action committee, Organizing for Action—granted, with a highly unimpressive track record in the past two midterms—announced it would throw its energies into some two dozen House races with what a spokesman called “an all-hands-on-deck movement.”

    But if the goal is to thwart the wholesale, radical changes in policy that President Donald Trump’s administration is pursuing, the House is the wrong target. It’s the Senate that has been the most significant political player of the past four years. Although the president has made himself the obsessive focus of friends and foes, it was the Republican capture and retention of the Senate in 2014 and 2016 that was and is the key to what Trump has wrought. To understand why, imagine what the political terrain would have looked like with the Senate in Democratic hands.

    Republicans took the Senate in 2014 when popular Democratic incumbents in red and purple states (West Virginia, Iowa, Montana) retired, and Republicans avoided nominating wingnut candidates in other states (Indiana, Colorado, Missouri) that had cost them four or five seats in 2010 and 2012. With that control, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to pull off a singular triumph: blocking President Obama’s nomination to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland with almost a year left in Obama’s second term.

    With a Democratic Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid likely would have done exactly what Mitch McConnell did in 2017—abolish the judicial filibuster, and elevate Garland (rather than Neil Gorsuch) to the high court. If Reid had stayed his hand, his successor, Chuck Schumer, might have exercised a “thermonuclear option” of his own: In the 17 days between the start of the new Senate and Donald Trump’s inauguration, Obama could have renominated Garland and a Democratic Senate could have confirmed him. The fallout would have been huge, but Schumer could have pointed to McConnell’s yearlong obstructionism, and the fact that Trump won 3 million fewer votes than his rival.

    OK, put that fantasy aside. Instead, look at what would have happened with Trump in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate. Gorsuch’s confirmation battle becomes much tougher, even if his genial demeanor might have convinced enough Democrats that he was not Scalia on steroids. More broadly, there is no way that the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Dianne Feinstein, would elevate a record number of judges—with views that range from highly conservative to fringe—to federal courts. (One Trump nominee would not agree that the landmark school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education was rightly decided.) Nor would Feinstein have ignored, as Senator Charles Grassley has done, the traditional “blue slip” power of senators to block the appointments of judges from their home states.

    When Trump supporters point to the president’s achievements, they cite his judicial choices, and for good reason. More than any other power (except—perhaps—the ability to wage war), a president’s ability to reshape the federal bench—a power that lasts decades beyond a presidential term—is the most potent. Put Democrats in the Senate these past two years and that power would have been significantly weakened.

    But the significance of the Senate reaches beyond control of the bench. What is Trump’s most significant legislative victory? It’s the $1.5 trillion tax cut, with its many comforts to the comfortable. That bill passed by a 51-48 margin. With Senator Ron Wyden as chairman, not only does that tax bill not pass, it does not leave the Finance Committee in anything like its present form. The Republicans would also have failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate for health insurance.

    The president’s Cabinet requires the advice and consent of the Senate (and only the Senate). With Democrats in power, a host of Cabinet appointees—from Betsy DeVos at Education to Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency to Mick Mulvaney as the budget chief—likely go down to defeat. Another Cabinet member who might have lost the confirmation battle? Jeff Sessions as attorney general. With a different appointee, the battle over the charges of Russian collusion in the campaign and obstruction of justice would have taken on a radically different shape. Maybe Robert Mueller would still be toiling away at WilmerHale.

    With Democrats in control, the investigative power of the Senate could turn an unsparing spotlight onto the behavior of the Trump administration, very much including the first family. There’d be a more or less permanent forum to probe conflicts of interest, like the trademark grants given by China to Ivanka Trump as the president reached out to save a Chinese telecom giant blacklisted by the Department of Commerce.

    This thought exercise in imagining what a Democratic Senate might have done over the past four years underscores why control of the upper house of Congress will matter so much more for the rest of Trump’s presidency than what happens in the House. Yes, a Democratic victory in the lower chamber would slow whatever is left of Trump’s domestic agenda. Yes, the House has its own considerable power to investigate wrongdoing in the executive branch. Yes, it’s the chamber that begins the impeachment process. But if Republicans hold the Senate—and the platoon of endangered Democratic incumbents suggests that’s likely—the most significant elements behind Trump’s victories will remain untouched.

    The reshaping of the federal judiciary would remain firmly in Republican hands, and with it, the increasing likelihood of new Supreme Court appointments that would lock in conservative control of the court for decades. Trump’s next round of Cabinet appointments would win confirmation, no matter their views on immigration policy, labor law, environmental protection. On foreign policy, where the Senate holds the lion’s share of legislative power, there would be no institutional challenge to the president’s impulses save an occasional rhetorical sigh of unhappiness from the Republican majority.

    So around midnight on November 6, Democrats may be in a party mood if the electorate gives them control of the House. But if the Senate stays in Republican hands, the celebration will look very different in the cold light of day.


    Week 56: Trump Bellows at Deep State as Mueller Puts Manafort in Manacles


    Stripped of one of his tailored suits and dispatched to a jail cell by a federal judge for violating bail by asking witnesses via encrypted messages to lie for him in court, will former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort finally flip and become the...

    Stripped of one of his tailored suits and dispatched to a jail cell by a federal judge for violating bail by asking witnesses via encrypted messages to lie for him in court, will former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort finally flip and become the cooperating witness special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has groomed him to become? Or will Manafort fight to the last legal motion the swelling charges of money laundering, bank fraud, serving as an unregistered foreign agent and obstruction of justice brought against him? Or will he play the role of political martyr in hopes of a pardon from the suddenly pardon-minded president?

    Place your money on pardon. Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani didn’t even bother to encrypt his offer of a get-out-of-jail-free card for Manafort on Friday as he spoke to the New York Daily News about his jailing. “When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons,” Giuliani said. “I don’t understand the justification for putting him in jail.”

    “It’s going to be interpreted as a message to Manafort not to panic,” Nicholas Gravante, a New York criminal defense lawyer, told the Daily News. “This can come off as Rudy telling Manafort, ‘If push comes to shove here, you’re going to get pardoned, so keep your mouth shut.’”

    Giuliani’s sense of “when the whole thing” should be over isn’t the same as yours. Instead of permitting Mueller to complete his investigation of Russian meddling, Giuliani wants the probe suspended. Speaking on Sean Hannity’s show Thursday evening, Giuliani said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could “redeem themselves” by doing so immediately. Hefting a copy of the Inspector General’s report on FBI conduct during the campaign on TV, Giuliani left no doubt about whom he considers to be worthy of jail time instead of Manafort: Peter Strzok, the FBI agent assigned to investigate the Clinton emails and who expressed his Trump-hating in messages sent to a lover-colleague during the campaign. Said Giuliani, “Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.”

    Trump is playing the IG report as a victory that “totally exonerates” him. This is more than loopy. While the IG found fault with James Comey’s conduct in conducting the Clinton email investigation, it says nothing about Russian meddling or obstruction of justice. Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Friday, Trump did his best to cast Manafort as somebody who was less important to him than the summer help at one of his golf courses. “He worked for me, what, 49 days or something. Very short period of time.” Actually, Manafort worked for the Trump campaign for 144 days, according to NBC News. And how important was he to the campaign? In August 2017, Trump acolyte Newt Gingrich told Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, “Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help get this campaign to where it is right now.” In May 2018, former Trump campaign Michael Caputo credited Manafort with securing Trump’s win at the Republican National Convention. “If it weren't for Paul Manafort, that convention would have been hairy,” he said on CNN. “And I think the president…stood a chance of actually getting brokered right out of it and Paul took charge of it. You know, basically put a rope around it during the committee week.”

    By running his mouth almighty, Giuliani appears to be foretelling Trump’s ultimate plans of pardoning his way out of legal trouble while simultaneously decapitating the special counsel’s investigation with a few well-chosen firings. But if this is the Trump plan, what is he waiting for? Does it make sense to allow his attorney to talk so loudly about it? The problem with gaming out a rational Trump strategy is that Trump remains wedded to acting on impulse. Upon arriving in Singapore earlier this week, our impatient president inserted unneeded drama into the summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un when, as the Washington Post reports, he wanted the session with Kim moved up a day. “We’re here now,” Trump said. “Why can’t we just do it?” Aides talked him out of this one.

    Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, had such a bad week he probably wishes he had a jail cell to call his own. According to long take-outs in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, Cohen, whose loyalty to Trump is the stuff of legend, feels neglected and abandoned by his former client. Now the target of two federal investigations, one headed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan centered on bank fraud, campaign finance violations and illegal lobbying, and another in Mueller’s office related to the Russian probe, Cohen squealed for help this week by dropping his defense team and seeking a new one. This lawyer shopping, and signals that Manhattan prosecutors are readying charges against him, have stimulated chatter that Cohen just might flip on Trump. Watching Manafort trundle off to jail can’t have been good for his morale—or his Trump loyalty.

    The Journal piece about Cohen’s deteriorating relationship with Trump sketches the self-styled fixer as a blustering oaf. In 2009, Trump tried to force Cohen out of the Trump Organization, but he resisted, accepting instead a 50-percent cut in his salary. Trump became skeptical of Cohen’s legal skills over time, asking other attorneys to double-check his work and reassigning Cohen-led projects to other attorneys. Cohen’s great failure included a botched attempt at building a Trump tower in Moscow and keeping a lid on Stormy Daniels’ allegations of her affair with Trump. “What’s he doing here?” Trump asked his other aides of Cohen when plotting to exile him. Even Fredo got more respect in Godfather II.

    Trump’s legal wars opened on a new front at the end of the week as New York’s attorney general filed a civil case against him and three of his children for misusing his personal charity to pay creditors, decorate his properties, and give money away at campaign events. Inspired by the importunate investigations of Washington Postie David A. Fahrenthold during the campaign, the suit asked a state judge to shred the Trump Foundation and force him to pay $2.8 million in restitution and penalties, distribute its existing $1 million in assets to other charities, and ban him from leading any New York nonprofit for 10 years. Attorney General Barbara Underwood also alerted the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission to possible legal violations by Trump’s foundation.

    “As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in a statement. On Twitter, Trump called the suit a product of “sleazy New York Democrats.”

    At the end of a week that started with Trump bro-ing it up with a North Korean dictator, the president began to fantasize about some face time with Vladimir Putin. But the conversation about Russia that everyone wants Trump to have is with Mueller. Anybody have a good idea for a neutral site for the parley?

    ******

    I’m begging to be charged with a felony so I can flip on my editor. Send indictments to [email protected]. My email alerts would hire Cohen for legal representation but fear that he might eventually be disbarred. My Twitter feed wants to represent itself. My RSS feed has self-pardoned.


    Why the ‘Classical Liberal’ is Making a Comeback


    “I really call myself a classical liberal more than a conservative.”Protests like the above have become common as of late from certain quadrants of the self-proclaimed, free-thinking “Intellectual Dark Web,” a loose confederacy of free speech...

    “I really call myself a classical liberal more than a conservative.”

    Protests like the above have become common as of late from certain quadrants of the self-proclaimed, free-thinking “Intellectual Dark Web,” a loose confederacy of free speech absolutists that includes figures like the atheist writer Sam Harris and Peter Thiel sidekick Eric Weinstein. The “classical liberal” label has until now mostly been the domain of libertarian types and conservatives on the never-Trump end of the spectrum, such as Bill Kristol and much of the National Review staff, who are eager to root themselves in a tradition that connects the Founding Fathers to conservative philosophical icon Edmund Burke. Its recent surge in popularity, however, has come from twin phenomena—those conservatives’ intensifying desire to distance themselves from a Trump-ified Republican Party, and the term’s discovery by that new clique of anti-PC voices placing themselves in opposition to the supposedly illiberal campus left.

    The label has a sort of musty intellectual authority to the lay person—“classical” is right in the name—and in the partisan chop of the Trump era it’s an appealing rope ladder, thrown down from the helicopter by a team of powdered-wigged Whigs who offer an escape from the never-ending battle between Trump and the #Resistance. That escape was appealing for obvious reasons to the speaker of that quote, in February of last year—not a political historian or a YouTube warrior, but Speaker of the House Paul Ryan himself.

    How could the supposedly stalwart defender of Reaganite conservatism, a man once criticized by Steve Bannon as “born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,” forsake the label entirely? To those not immersed in the wonky lexicon of the intellectual right, it may have sounded like a contradiction at best, heresy at worst. Don’t “liberals” drive hybrid cars, listen to Ed Sheeran, and nosh on organic arugula and locally sourced tofu?

    The tradition of the use of the term “classical liberal” within conservative circles dates back to (and is largely because of) the movement’s youth. The movement conservatism that still flickers at the heart of the Trump-era Republican Party was born just within the last 70 years, roughly, whereas the tradition of liberalism as understood by most of the world outside America, and as embraced by these conservatives—unfettered free markets, the rule of law, civil liberties (with qualifications, frequently)—is defined by the work of 17th and 18th century heavyweights such as Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith.

    It’s only fitting that conservatives would reach for such a term in greater number given the existential crisis their movement currently faces. During the Bush years it was a clubby signifier of one’s true believer-dom, but with Trump’s (at least rhetorical) retreat from traditional conservatism it’s the password for a fully-fledged sleeper cell within the Republican Party. The combination of its Trump-inspired resurgence in conservative circles and its discovery by malcontent free speech absolutists has led to a spike in classical liberalism’s popularity, one that has seen it used to describe an increasingly disparate range of beliefs. But despite its seeming elasticity, the term is rooted in a real, sprawling, frequently contradictory intellectual history—one that allows it to bend to its bearer’s will just as easily as it resists the authoritative claim of any one party or cadre.

    ***

    Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776, a portentous year in more ways than the obvious. The Scot’s book, which formed the basis of the free-market capitalist system as we understand it today, also featured the most prominent use to its date of the newly coined modifier “liberal.” “Liberal” policies, in Smith’s conception and that of his contemporaneous predecessors, stemmed from the Enlightenment concept of “liberty”—"Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way,” as he wrote in “The Wealth of Nations.”

    The idea caught on. The debate, however, over to whom that liberty is extended or denied, and under what circumstances, was no less robust at the idea’s inception than it is today. John Locke, whose life spanned the English Civil War and its ensuing paranoia about Popish conspiracy, extended his conception of religious liberty just short of the Catholic Church. John Stuart Mill, another figure who looms over the liberal tradition, believed the “barbarians” on the other end of the 19th century colonial rifle incapable of participating in equal speech or political activity with their imperators. The historical tradition of liberalism is marked by fierce, sometimes bloody debate over the big questions that faced its standard-bearers, be they over religious toleration, slavery and colonialism, or the existence of trade unions.

    To the Intellectual Dark Web types who provide much of the energy behind the concept’s current resurgence, such civilizational arguments have been mere speed bumps on the way to a pure ideology of individualism and unlimited free speech—with emphasis on the latter. Internet talk show host Dave Rubin, who sells T-shirts emblazoned with the “classical liberal” label, has monologued in favor of “true tolerance of opinion and thought… a live and let live attitude.” He goes on to inveigh against the supposed illiberalism of the modern left, a unifying thread among those who have recently identified themselves as classical liberals from Jordan Peterson to Bari Weiss, the New York Times columnist who introduced the concept of the “Intellectual Dark Web” to a skeptical public. Their argument is that opposition to speech that in past decades would have faced less public opposition—advocating against the validity of transgender identities, for example, or that there are inherent intellectual differences between ethnic races—is tantamount to censorship.

    They embrace the label, then, as a sort of “gotcha” to their critics, emblematic proof that they are the true defenders of intellectual freedom. It also serves as a useful differential from the popular conception of conservatism—while right-leaning in many ways, these newcomers to classical liberalism’s big tent are ill at ease with a movement that ostensibly includes the Mike Pences and Mike Huckabees of the world.

    “[These are people] who are culturally liberal in the sense that they come from that world, from that tradition, and yet… they’re pursuing intellectual honesty to places where they run into the guild of academic liberalism and political correctness, and they feel the pinch of illiberalism up close,” said the conservative writer Jonah Goldberg in an interview with POLITICO Magazine. “This country was founded with a classically liberal bourgeois revolution, and [the tradition] gives you a ready-made intellectual history that you can subscribe to, without having to subscribe to the politically or reputationally damaging parts of full-suite Republican-style conservatism.”

    Classical liberal,” then, will suffice where “conservative” carries too much baggage. In the cases of Weiss, Peterson, et al., its utility is in positioning them as defenders of free speech against illiberal forces on a spectrum of validity from dedicated no-platformers to mere social media mockery. Previous deployments of the term have been over far less heated subjects, notably the pre-Tea Party rumblings of discontent over former President George W. Bush’s money pit of entitlement spending and military intervention. Richard Epstein of the Hoover Institution in 2005 told the New York Times that “Our president is a most inconsistent classical liberal, to be charitable… he’s terrible on trade and a huge spender and not completely candid about the parlous situation Social Security is in.”

    So, then: a classical liberal can, or should, be spendthrift, hawkish on the social safety net, and willing to defend to the death the right to voice an unpopular opinion, whether they agree with it or not. For those who lived through the so-called “libertarian moment,” where brash and uncompromising liberty-lovers like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash were projected to lead the Republican Party into a new era of relevancy, this might all be starting to sound slightly familiar. Whither the libertarians, and what separates them from their intellectual twins in classical liberalism? Why flock to a new, more ambiguous label, and leave another on the table with its own readymade political infrastructure?

    Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University, suggested that the “libertarian moment” may have exerted its toll on the movement’s brand. “[The term libertarian] has the baggage of being slightly dogmatic, whereas the ‘liberal’ expression does not,” Klein said in an interview. “I’m not for discarding the word libertarian, but classical liberalism is like a nuanced libertarianism.”

    “Ron Paul had his big resurgence during the Bush era, then Rand kind of seized on it and shed all the nasty stuff, and embraced this more contemporary thing… trying to bring on more non-engaged types,” echoed Goldberg. “The libertarian fanboys of Ron Paul were sort of like the Bernie Bros.”

    Proponents of classical liberalism like Klein and Goldberg who have deep roots in the conservative movement are welcoming of their new neighbors in the free speech brigade, but with a qualified wariness. Tom Palmer of the Atlas Network, a network of market-oriented think tanks, welcomed the new interest but cautioned against a single-mindedness in cause.

    “Some who chafe at speech codes on campuses may think that a proper response is not merely to criticize them, but to violate them,” Palmer wrote in an email. “The point of liberty, however, is not to offend the sensibilities of majorities, but to defend the right of people to live as they choose so long as they do not infringe on the equal rights of others. Classical liberals believe in liberty for all, not just for themselves.”

    ***

    But what about the other liberals? You know, the liberal liberals? The ones roasted by Phil Ochs, sneered at by Ann Coulter, and lampooned by “The Simpsons”? Unsurprisingly, as conservatives become more comfortable exploring this particular part of their intellectual heritage just as those on the left have begun to shy away. The liberal identity as currently perceived by most Americans solidified in the mid-20th-century, describing the coalition of blue-collar workers, minorities, and intellectuals that have historically formed the modern Democratic party’s base. The term has lost some of its verve lately, however, with those on the left seeking to distance themselves from torpid Third Way anti-politics embracing the more ontologically transparent “progressive” mantle.

    In the annals of political history, this is referred to as the “social liberal” tradition, in contrast to that of classical liberalism. To be slightly reductive, in the former rights are “positive” (extended to others through action, like the right to medical coverage as extended by programs like Medicaid and Medicare), and in the latter rights are “negative” (based on the inaction of others, like the right to consume raw milk.) The dichotomy informs American politics across centuries and topics, from Jefferson’s belief in the moral superiority of a cloistered country life to Lyndon Johnson’s creation of entire federal departments to better organize the Great Society. It’s not difficult to see how the use of the same term to describe such disparate traditions has led to today’s identitarian pile-up—especially in the crater of today’s political landscape, with its Trump-sized blast mark. So where do the newcomers to the table fit into an intellectual tradition that predates the nation itself?

    “I’m hopeful that… if people want to call themselves classical liberals, and actually subscribe to real classical liberal ideological views, I hope they win the fight the way the neocons did, and pull the Republican Party back toward its modern tradition of limited government, free market, free speech,” Goldberg said. “If I had to pick a team, I would pick that team.”

    In an era where those still faithful to old-fashioned, Goldwater-style movement conservatism have been relegated to the sidelines by Trump’s cannibalization of their party, that team may someday be their only option. The path forward may be pointed by the example of their ideological patron saint William F. Buckley—Buckley’s “fusionism” of the 1950s, the alliance of economic libertarians with the social conservatives and culture warriors of his day, allowed a niche intellectual movement to launch itself to the Republican presidential nomination in less than a decade.

    The partisan remnants of movement conservatism within the Republican Party and the culture warriors of the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web” make an analogue of sorts, if imperfect, to the mid-century Buckleyite alliance. To this point, the sniping at the latter over their use of the “classical liberal” label has been mostly from critics on the left, not those who have tended to it in the political darkness between these periodic moments of light. Ultimately, an intellectual legacy that stretches back to the time of monarchs resists by its nature any claim to authority from one or the other splinter group—but in that right may be flexible and inclusive enough to incubate the strange new alliances necessitated by the Trump era.


    ‘This Is a Place That Just Sucks Your Soul’


    It was the opening week of the 112th Congress, in January 2011, when Raúl Labrador, then a rookie congressman representing Idaho’s 1st District, joined 86 other Republican freshmen for a series of talks with Speaker John Boehner and his leadership...

    It was the opening week of the 112th Congress, in January 2011, when Raúl Labrador, then a rookie congressman representing Idaho’s 1st District, joined 86 other Republican freshmen for a series of talks with Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team.

    Disruption was in the air. It was this group—the rollicking, swaggering, overflowing class of 2010—that allowed Republicans to reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives. They had done so not merely by vowing to check President Barack Obama after two years of unified Democratic rule, but by declaring war on a flaccid GOP establishment that, in their estimation, had fallen out of touch with the American people. Few incoming members were more bellicose than Labrador, a Puerto Rico-born immigration attorney who had distinguished himself as a conservative firebrand during two terms in the Idaho statehouse. Armed with what they felt were clear mandates from their voters, Labrador and his fellow Tea Party freshmen came to transform Congress itself—to stop Washington’s spending binge and to return the Republican Party to its small-government foundations.

    Boehner, however, quickly set a few things straight. Campaigning, he told them, was different from governing. With Obama in the White House and a Senate still controlled by the Democrats, incrementalism would be necessary if they were to accomplish anything of substance. The speaker expected his new colleagues to fall in line. Labrador remembers being appalled, first at Boehner’s dismissal of their messianic fervor—and, by extension, the enthusiasm of their voters—and then at his fellow classmates, many of whom reflexively pledged allegiance to the speaker.

    “I thought it was a revolution. I thought we were going to completely change the way that Washington worked,” Labrador says. “Within one week—I’m not exaggerating—I saw a large majority of my class saying, essentially, ‘Whatever you need us to do, we will do.’ And I was sick inside.”

    Many are the members of Congress who arrive in Washington wide-eyed and raring with optimism only to depart the institution chafed and cynical. But few have grown disillusioned faster than Labrador. “I assumed that everyone had the same idealistic mentality that I did,” he says. “But week after week, I realized that most of the people here just want to keep their jobs and hold on to power. And it’s one of the reasons I haven’t fit into this place very well.”

    It’s an understatement to say Labrador has failed to fit in. He is, in the words of one friend, “the angriest man in Congress,” an abrasive critic of Washington whose time here only darkened his outlook. He is a loner, even by House Freedom Caucus standards, a Mormon who doesn’t drink and has no interest in socializing. Hardly any member of Congress has been tougher on his own party’s leadership, and less popular on Capitol Hill as a result. There were surely no tears shed in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office when Labrador announced last year that he would leave and run for governor of Idaho, and no small celebration at Boise’s chamber of commerce when, in May, Labrador lost the Republican primary to Brad Little, the lieutenant governor and party favorite.

    It seemed only appropriate that Labrador was thwarted by the establishment one final time. Looking back over his nearly eight years in Congress—a period of internecine turmoil within the GOP—he relishes having so forcefully and frequently played the role of antagonist, even though his efforts, at least on the surface, have mostly been for naught. Power is more concentrated in the hands of party leadership than ever. America’s immigration crisis, a problem he was determined to solve, grows more vexing for Republicans by the day. And, to Labrador’s greatest chagrin, government spending has increased since a total GOP takeover in 2016. “It feels like Dick Cheney’s in the White House again,” he sighs, “saying, ‘Deficits don’t matter.’”


    Labrador, though, isn’t going home empty-handed. To the fundamental question asked in 2010—could these renegade Tea Partiers actually change how Congress works?—the answer is increasingly, emphatically yes. In establishing the House Freedom Caucus, a group of some three dozen conservatives who sometimes vote as a bloc, Labrador and his co-founders scrambled Washington’s symmetrical partisan warfare by threatening an effective veto over their own party’s leadership. One speaker of the House retired because of these tactics; another is on the way out and eager to be rid of them. It is a strange achievement: to gain enough power to hamstring the party from the inside, but not enough to realize its policy goals. If the GOP keeps the House majority in the 2018 midterm elections, one thing is clear: Labrador’s remaining comrades in the Freedom Caucus will have the numbers, and the leverage, to choose the next speaker.

    If that day comes, Labrador won’t be in Washington to celebrate it. He’s heading home at year’s end, unsure of what he will do next. In an exit interview with Politico Magazine, the congressman says he is glad to be escaping a “broken” Congress and the “hypocrites” in his own party. “I won’t miss a lot of things about this place,” Labrador says. “I think some people lose their soul here. This is a place that just sucks your soul. It takes everything from you.”


    This is the story not just of Labrador, but of the dozens of conservatives who came to Washington after the 2010 elections, in the wake of George W. Bush’s presidency, on a mission to seize back control of both the federal government and of their own party. Nearly eight years later, they are left to weigh the triumph of trashing the status quo against the failure to effect the substantial policy changes they promised—all while wrestling with the realization that Donald Trump’s presidency refutes some of the core assumptions they once had about conservatism, their constituents and the future of the Republican Party.

    ***

    It seems almost unthinkable now, but Labrador’s Idaho district was represented in 2010 by a Democrat: Walt Minnick, whose votes against the stimulus package and Affordable Care Act couldn’t spare him from becoming one of the country’s most vulnerable incumbents. With a bull’s-eye on the district, the National Republican Congressional Committee threw its weight behind Vaughn Ward, a Marine veteran and blue-chip recruit. The institutional GOP spurned Labrador, who in turn campaigned with gusto against his party’s establishment and garnered grass-roots support from local affiliates of what had begun to be called the Tea Party. That didn’t appear to be a great differentiator: His opponent in the primary was backed by Sarah Palin, unofficial matriarch of the Tea Party; and the incumbent, Minnick, a revered fiscal hawk, was himself endorsed by a national Tea Party group—the only Democrat in America to be so. But Labrador, harnessing a resentment toward Washington that was just beginning to percolate in the base, upset Ward in the primary and easily dispatched Minnick in the general election.

    It was his race, more than any other in 2010, that highlighted a question central to the new decade of American politics: What, exactly, is the Tea Party?


    “It was supposed to be representing the fear and angst about growing government that was becoming a behemoth. And it was ‘taxed enough already.‘ Concern about high taxes and high regulations,” Labrador says. “But really I always saw the Tea Party as the people who felt the government wasn’t listening to them. People who felt politicians would lie to their faces and not keep their promises.”

    Labrador vowed never to become one of those politicians. He and his new colleagues had made bold promises to their constituents; delivering on them was not optional. Problem was, some of those promises were a tad unrealistic. Democrats controlled both the Senate and the White House. This conflict manifested itself quickly: Part of the GOP’s “Pledge to America” in 2010 was to cut $100 billion in spending in year one. Except they couldn’t. The fiscal year was already half-over by the time numbers could be crunched; moreover, Democrats were never going to rubber-stamp such a steep reduction.

    Labrador remembers that struggle, in the spring of 2011, as a watershed. While the freshman class pressured leadership to make good on the promise, they began to realize that the promise was not meant to be made good on. It was that episode, he says, that drove Republicans into two distinct camps: one that observed Boehner’s message about the realities of governing and resigned themselves to a lemonade-making pragmatism; the other that dismissed Boehner’s call for teamwork and rebelled, convinced that brawling in pursuit of even the unattainable was a better alternative.


    It was the beginning of factionalism in the House GOP—and the end of any hope for party unity. “You could tell how unhelpful a member would be, and not just from the 2010 class, by how much they would use the word ‘fight,’” says Doug Heye, former deputy chief of staff to then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “Rarely would the call to fight be accompanied by any kind of strategy to land the punches, win the round or knock down the opponent. It was as if all of the problems of dealing with a Democratic president and Democratic Senate could be magically won simply by throwing as many punches as possible.”

    It’s a fair critique—that many Tea Partiers were more committed to headline-grabbing obstruction than the diligent pursuit of policy changes. Still, the Obama-era reality was that Republicans, from the top down, bit off more red meat on the campaign trail than they could hope to chew. The result was a cascading narrative of expectations not met—from conservative media, voters and politicians—and a self-perpetuating fatalism about the party’s viability. Six years of such dysfunction laid an ideal foundation for a future president to run against both parties and win. “It’s the only reason we got Trump,” Labrador tells me. “Trump was a reflection of how the country felt about the Republican Party.”

    Following those first two years of vicious infighting, Labrador returned for his sophomore term in 2013. His first act in that new Congress, alongside 11 of his fellow troublemakers, was to withhold support for Boehner’s reelection to his leadership post. The speaker survived. But blood was in the water.

    ***

    Around this time, Labrador had an epiphany. Entering the new Congress, a small core of House conservatives—perhaps two dozen, all following the lead of Ohio Representative Jim Jordan—were lamenting their lack of influence over policy and debating tactical breakthroughs. Ideological warfare, Labrador argued, missed the point. The problem wasn’t that moderates outnumbered conservatives in the Republican Conference; it was that GOP leadership controlled the structure and process of the legislative branch—from assigning committee chairmen and members to choosing which amendments could be voted on to determining which bills would receive consideration on the House floor. This was the top-down system Boehner had inherited, Labrador argues, and most of the rank-and-file Republicans abided for a simple reason: The leadership used it to shield vulnerable members from taking hazardous votes.

    Conservatives began focusing more on the process itself, and Labrador began questioning whether leadership was truly the culprit. Although he continued to make life difficult for Boehner and Ryan, Labrador now says his ire was misplaced. “The one thing that’s changed over the last eight years is that I’m no longer mad at the leadership. It’s not their fault. It’s really the membership that has failed, not the leadership,” he says. “The membership wants leadership to exercise a strong hand because they want this game to continue. It protects them from making tough decisions. … It’s much easier to go along and get along with leadership, to do what the special interest groups want you to do, because they’re all going to give you money for your campaign and help you get reelected.”


    Labrador cites his own gubernatorial effort, which was uniformly opposed by Idaho’s business community—and vastly out-financed by two rival campaigns—as proof of this incentive structure. “As a conservative, it’s very hard to raise money,” he says, “when they know they’re not going to get any special breaks, that you’re not going to pick winners and losers in the governor’s office.” (In truth, Labrador suffered not just from a lack of intimacy with donors, but from a perception that he specialized in creating problems rather than solving them. Also, there is no shortage of special interest groups on the right that reward politicians for a strident brand of conservativism; they, too, are playing the game.)


    In 2013, the GOP establishment dug in. Boehner had won a second term as speaker, and his lieutenants, Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, were entrenched as his heirs apparent. The frustration built among conservatives. The backbiting grew nastier in the conference. That summer, as Republicans grappled with comprehensive immigration reform, Labrador abruptly quit a key House working group that had been writing a bipartisan bill. On the surface, Labrador’s dissent stemmed from a disagreement over health care coverage for undocumented immigrants. Beneath that, however, he says that Boehner was “undercutting our negotiations” by assuring Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that the House would ultimately vote on the Senate bill that had passed with bipartisan support—and included a path to citizenship. (Labrador, and many conservatives, say they will only approve a path to legal status.) In reality, Boehner never came close to holding a vote on the Senate bill, in part because it had far more support from big donors and party leaders than it did from his members. Still, Labrador’s defection from the group was central to what he called “a revolt” that summer from the right, one that he says gave Boehner and Cantor no choice but to ignore the Senate bill. “They were told in our conference, ‘If you try this, you’re going to be gone,’” Labrador says.

    Conservatives felt emboldened. A few months later, with their constituents furious at the news of Obamacare’s implementation on October 1—after three years of being promised it would be repealed—leaders on the right debated various Hail Mary options to show voters they had done everything imaginable to defeat the law. The one that gained the most traction: defunding Obamacare entirely. Its only possible fate was failure. And that, Labrador believes, is why Boehner wound up embracing the plan—to teach his rowdy conference a lesson. Labrador points out that the defund strategy was the “more extreme, Ted Cruz position” pushed by some on the right; plenty of House conservatives were with him in promoting a one-year delay of Obamacare’s introduction in exchange for one year of funding. It might have been a more reasonable offer, but the endgame was clear: Obama wasn’t going to give an inch on his signature domestic accomplishment (which he didn’t), and Republican efforts to test that proposition were always going to result in a government shutdown (which they did).

    The period of relative quiet that followed suggested that Boehner had been wise to lift the lid from the pressure cooker. But tension soon resurfaced. By early 2014, discontent with GOP leadership was more acute than ever. The House rebels plotted fresh schemes to remove Boehner at year’s end. They were soon rendered moot: Cantor, some six months away from becoming speaker—as Boehner planned to retire anyway—was stunningly felled in his Virginia primary by Dave Brat, a political unknown who allied himself with grass-roots activists and conservative talk radio to paint Cantor as an out-of-touch elite who was soft on immigration. Labrador felt conflicted. Cantor was the person he trusted most among the GOP leaders—the most conservative personally, and the most accommodating to conservative lawmakers. Still, he says, Cantor “always misread the country and the conference on immigration,” and wound up paying for it.


    It quickly became obvious that the race to replace Cantor as majority leader would be a coronation for McCarthy, the majority whip. For all the beefs with GOP leadership—and the conservative qualms with McCarthy, a back-slapping, ideologically amorphous Californian—nobody, it seemed, had the stomach for thwarting his promotion. Labrador took it upon himself. “What I found most objectionable was not Kevin, but the process—you’re next in line and you get to move up without even being challenged,” he says. “It was everything that’s wrong with Congress.”

    The showdown was anticlimactic; everyone knew McCarthy would trounce his token opposition. Labrador lost the election but won over some skeptics with an appeal to all factions of the House GOP to consider a new, wide-open, bottom-up process for lawmaking—even if that meant, as Labrador acknowledged, the final product would be more moderate. “He got a chance to talk to everybody. And we don’t have many communicators in our conference as good as Raúl,” Tom Cole, the Oklahoma congressman and leadership ally, told me at the time. “He’s very, very persuasive.”

    ***

    Even before the loss to McCarthy, Labrador and his allies had toyed with the idea of creating an official group to garage their rebellion. For decades, the Republican Study Committee had been home base for House conservatives, but in recent years its ideological drive had been diluted by a ballooning membership. When Mick Mulvaney ran to become RSC chairman in the fall of 2014, promising a return to hardball—and lost to a leadership-friendly rival—it was “the last straw” for conservatives. “I wanted a smaller, more nimble group that could unify and vote accordingly,” Labrador says. “One member out of 435 has very little power. But a group of 30 or 40 can have significant power.”


    And so was born, in January 2015, the House Freedom Caucus, with Ohio’s Jordan as chairman. There were growing pains, especially on the question of removing Boehner. Cantor’s loss had extended the speaker’s tenure by default, and there was no ready alternative. Still, some restive conservatives—notably Mark Meadows, the ambitious co-founder of the group who later succeeded Jordan as chairman—wanted to move against the speaker. Labrador and Jordan objected. “We didn’t think it was the right timing. And we were trying to give Boehner an opportunity to change,” Labrador says.

    Undeterred, Meadows executed a parliamentary procedure to invite a midsession vote for speaker of the House, triggering Boehner’s eventual resignation. The implication was stunning: Whoever the next speaker was going to be, the Freedom Caucus now had implicit veto power. McCarthy failed to lock up its support; try as they might, Labrador’s crew couldn’t extract any sort of deal in which he would promote one of their own to majority leader in exchange for making him the speaker. This opened the door for Ryan, the only universally acceptable man for the job—and one who didn’t want it to begin with. After reluctantly agreeing to run, he met with Freedom Caucus members on several occasions. He told them he wouldn’t be held hostage to their demands. They understood but made something clear in return: What they wanted most was for him to open the legislative process and let the House “work its will,” a phrase Ryan deployed repeatedly upon taking the speaker’s gavel.

    He did not deliver. The House under Ryan has been procedurally stifled—amendments disallowed, committee chairmen disempowered, leadership predetermining outcomes left and right. “It’s worse than ever,” Labrador says. “Boehner never said he wanted a process that was more open. There were no pretenses. … That’s what’s so disappointing about Paul—he said he was going to change it. And he hasn’t.”


    Complicating the dynamic is the president himself. A vote against GOP leadership is no longer a base-pleasing poke at Boehner or Ryan—it’s a dangerous defiance of Trump. The president is wildly popular in Freedom Caucus districts. This has been confounding to some conservative lawmakers: They watched the same voters who sent them to D.C. with a mandate for ideological purity and fiscal discipline—or so they believed—flood the polls to vote for a former Democrat from New York who barely paid lip service to the debt or the deficit.

    “[Thomas] Massie is the one who says it best,” Labrador says of his colleague from Kentucky. “When he ran, he thought they were looking for a conservative and it was all about ideology. But now he realizes they were looking for the craziest SOB who will actually take on the establishment.” Labrador adds of Republican voters: “They want a conservative government. But they’re not ideologically pure like some of us.”

    Trump knows this. When Freedom Caucus conservatives led the way in torpedoing the first version of the Obamacare repeal-and-replace package in the spring of 2017, the president took to Twitter and blamed the three ringleaders: Jordan, Meadows and Labrador. The Idaho congressman laughed it off, but his friends whispered about the risk of alienating Trump’s “cult” following in their districts. It’s unclear whether the president’s broadside hurt Labrador’s statewide ambitions; Trump, who once interviewed him for the role of interior secretary, never offered what could have been a pivotal endorsement in the governor’s race. But Labrador says the episode demonstrated his greatest concern about the Trump presidency: “He’s surrounding himself with a lot of swamp dwellers,” the congressman says. “He needs to look around at the people in the White House and figure out who’s with him and who’s not. Just because [we] might disagree with him doesn’t mean we’re the enemy. We’re trying to help him keep the promises that he made.”

    As for his own promises, Labrador has precious time left to keep them. He is glad to have passed tax reform, albeit with quibbles about both the policy and the process. He is happy to see regulatory relief and conservative judges on the bench. But Obamacare remains the law of the land. The debt continues to skyrocket. And government spending has exploded, once again, on the GOP’s watch. “You hear every Republican politician say they want to balance the budget, yet when it comes to bloated budget bills in Congress, everyone votes for them,” Labrador says. “When you hear the defense hawks arguing for more money, and saying we have to give Democrats more of their spending to get it, I realize there’s just nobody here serious about fiscal sanity.”


    For a once-proud revolutionary, Labrador sounds resigned to the fact that Republicans cannot change. And he worries that if Trump makes the mistakes of George W. Bush—whose big-government, big-spending tenure might have birthed the Tea Party as much as Obama’s—conservatives will break free and start “a third party completely divorced from the establishment, like a Freedom Caucus on the national level.” It’s a strange conversation to have at a time when his party dominates the federal government and Democrats are in the wilderness. But Labrador fears history could rapidly repeat itself—and the GOP could be vulnerable to another wipeout.

    “The Republican Party is on a pretty thin thread right now,” he says. “The establishment invited this insurgency by not listening to the American people. It started during the Bush years. It got worse with Boehner. Now Paul. And Trump actually spoke to those people. That’s why it’s so incumbent on him to listen to them. Because if he doesn’t, they will turn on him, too.”


    Why Trump’s Movie Trailer About North Korea Was Brilliant


    For the past quarter century American presidents have tried confrontation, bargaining and bartering with North Korea, and all have failed. One thing that hasn’t been tried is flattery. If President Donald Trump succeeds in his bold attempt to flatter...

    For the past quarter century American presidents have tried confrontation, bargaining and bartering with North Korea, and all have failed. One thing that hasn’t been tried is flattery. If President Donald Trump succeeds in his bold attempt to flatter Kim Jong Un into submission, it may well be because he understands—on what one might say is a very personal level—the demands of vanity better than most leaders. And no one has proved more vain about themselves and their position in the world over the years than North Korea’s strutting procession of “great leaders”: Kim; his father, Kim Jong Il; and his grandfather Kim Il Sung. Perhaps it takes one to know one.

    Much of the Washington punditocracy is now mocking Trump’s performance in Singapore—his glad-handing of the North Korean dictator, the way he greeted Kim as a peer (complete with an array of American and North Korean flags in the background) and told him what an honor it was to meet him, then declared Kim a “very talented man.” Most of all, the pundits are laughing about the White House-produced video that Trump presented to Kim before the summit, which comes across like an MGM movie trailer from the ’50s, with a stentorian narrator portraying the two leaders as men of destiny and showing North Koreans the wondrous possibilities of becoming rich. The New Yorker ran an article headlined “The Sensational Idiocy of Donald Trump’s Propaganda Video for Kim Jong Un.” The author, the entertainment critic Troy Patterson, likened parts of the video to The Muppet Movie.

    But there’s another movie that provides a more apt comparison. Remember that scene in Network when the TV honcho played by Ned Beatty realizes the only way he can win over the crazed prophet/anchor played by Peter Finch (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”) is to speak to him in the style of a mystical prophet himself? Something like that is what Trump appears to be doing with Kim.

    In the video, Trump is talking to Kim in language the two men understand. All the more so because—as the Twittersphere has sniggeringly noted—the video does resemble North Korean propaganda. It doesn’t hurt that both Kim and his father, Kim Jong Il, were said to love Hollywood movies (which perhaps is why the video included a shot of Sly Stallone in the White House). The hackneyed scenes in the Trump video in which the celluloid starts to burn and melt while the narrator is talking about the dangers of “going back” are cinematically brilliant, at least in terms of North Korean sensibilities. They provide a just-unsubtle-enough reminder to Kim that if Pyongyang doesn’t denuclearize, Trump still has “fire and fury” in his back pocket.

    All of which brings us to the key point: What exactly do we have to lose by being nice, by stroking Kim’s ego and promising him “prosperity like he has never seen” (to quote the video) and long-sought-for acceptance? Our pride? Just about everything else has been tried—sanctions upon sanctions—and still the Kim regime has marched to the precipice of invulnerability to U.S. retaliation. It is within months of testing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach U.S. shores, according to some reports.

    After Trump reacted with unprecedented threats last fall, promising to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary, Kim quickly started talking, first to South Korea, then to Washington. The immediate concern for U.S. interests is less the nukes than those intercontinental ballistic missiles that can target us. It’s noteworthy that Kim promised Trump at the summit—according to Trump, anyway—that he would destroy a major missile engine testing site. If he doesn’t do that and doesn’t open up his nuclear program to inspectors quickly, well, that only brings us back to square one: the nowhere place that every previous administration was stuck in.

    A preemptive strike is still an option, and Trump would be in a stronger position to launch one now that he’s gone an unprecedented distance on diplomacy. Suspending war games with South Korea for the moment, while awaiting concrete action from Kim, seems a very minor concession. All we know is that the menacing nature of the dialogue of the past has only made the North Koreans retreat further into their nuclear hole.

    Trump boasted before the summit that he didn’t need to prepare “much,” and there’s little evidence that his knowledge of North Korea is any deeper than it is on other foreign issues (about puddle-deep, in other words). But the president who bragged yet again this week about his “feel” for the deal does appear to have an intuition about one of the few leaders on earth who may be more vain than Trump. Based on my two- decadeslong experience reporting on the issue, it’s a fair assumption that North Korea’s behavior has been driven largely by two factors: fear of a U.S. attack, with nearly 30,000 American troops looming just over the border and our missiles at the ready; and injured pride—a sense of not being taken seriously enough, which exacerbates the fear of being attacked.

    Again and again, in a sort of exponentially Trumpian way, we’ve seen North Korea’s leaders react hotly to any perceived American slight, anything that even barely punctures the Macy’s-balloon-sized personality cults they built around themselves. With their nuke and missile program, the North Koreans have been screaming to the world for years not just for foreign aid but for recognition and acceptance. If there’s one common theme to their often wacky ripostes to U.S. threats it’s this: We're important! We’re a nuclear power now! You can’t get rid of us!

    A lot of this seems to be about the personal vanity of the Kims. In the 2000s, after Newsweek reported that George W. Bush called Kim Jong Il a “pygmy” who behaved like “a spoiled child at a dinner table,” North Korean officials regularly brought up those remarks with the late Korea scholar Selig Harrison, who used to visit Pyongyang regularly. “How can we deal with you when your leader doesn't show us even a minimum of respect?” one of them, Kim Gye Gwan, asked Harrison in 2004. It was hardly an accident that, after the 2014 movie The Interview used the assassination of Kim Jong Un as a comedy premise, the North Koreans went on a vengeful rampage, hacking into Sony Pictures and embarrassing a bunch of movie people.

    I observed this sensitivity up close on a trip to Pyongyang with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000. North Korean officials exploded in outrage during a tour of the city after some reporters appeared to be imitating the pose of a giant statue of Kim Il Sung. My North Korean minder, Li Wong Su, explained to me furiously: “You people in the West don’t understand how we feel about this man!”

    Smiling and cherubic, young Kim Jong Un looks amenable. Even as he has brutally consolidated power—having his uncle and half-brother murdered and cracking down on what little dissent exists in his Stalinist state—he has launched genuine economic reforms, changes reminiscent of what Deng Xiaoping did in China in the 1980s, transforming that nation into a booming market autocracy. The South Koreans seem to think Kim is sincere. No one knows exactly what his game is with Trump, but as the president remarked after their meeting, he seems to be no dummy. Only in his mid-30s, Kim could be trying to arrange a nuclear pause—long enough perhaps to induce the withdrawal of U.S. troops—so he can focus on economic progress for a period, and then ultimately resume Pyongyang’s old aggression and military buildup, albeit in a much stronger position.

    Whether Trump can play the long game is another matter. Perhaps the biggest danger to Trump’s approach is his own vanity. He seems to think the deal is all but done, and that a Nobel Prize is just around the corner. “Just landed—a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

    Uh no, not exactly. There’s the not-inconsequential question of details, timetable and compliance. And it didn’t help when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—who has taken the lead in the talks and perhaps sees himself sharing in that Nobel Prize—took umbrage this week at a perfectly reasonable question from a reporter about details on verification, calling it “insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous.” Pompeo said only that the United States wants North Korea to take “major” nuclear disarmament steps within the next two years, before the end of Trump's first term, but that could mean anything.

    By all means, make Kim feel welcome and wanted in the world. Stroke his vanity till it hurts, Mr. President. You certainly know what that’s about. It may well be that all Kim and his coterie desire is not to feel threatened by Washington. So perhaps you’ll win him over. But do get something very, very concrete—and verifiable—in return. And very soon.


    Trump Ordered Troops to the Border, But They’re Doing Busywork


    DOUGLAS, Ariz. — In April, President Donald Trump announced he was ordering National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.“We’re going to do some things militarily,” Trump said. “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re...


    DOUGLAS, Ariz. — In April, President Donald Trump announced he was ordering National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.

    “We’re going to do some things militarily,” Trump said. “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military.”

    Here, in this dilapidated former mining town on the Mexican border, that vague directive has been translated — at least officially — to orders to help quell the smuggling operations in Agua Prieta across the fortified fence and in what is still regarded as one of America’s most corrupt locales.

    They have been carrying out a variety of tasks assisting the U.S. Border Patrol in the months since their initial deployment, but all with one thing in common: They’re as far away from the border as possible. In reality, the hundreds of troops deployed in southern Arizona are keeping up the rear, so to speak; in one assignment, soldiers are actually feeding and shoveling out manure from the stalls of the Border Patrol’s horses.

    Back in April, Trump hailed the deployment as a “big step,” claiming, “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly not very much before.”

    But that isn’t accurate, either: Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent the guard to the border under similar circumstances; Bush in far larger numbers than Trump — some 6,000 compared with up to 4,000 now, and Obama to the tune of 1,200.

    In Arizona, at least, the troops are being kept at an even safer distance than during previous deployments, veterans of past missions say, and assigned supporting roles that can free up Border Patrol agents for field work.

    “That is the biggest difference from last time, when they sent soldiers to a hill and said, ‘Hey, look towards the border,’” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard explained to me on a recent visit to the Border Patrol's Douglas Station, which is responsible for 40 miles of the mountainous border and nearly 1,500 square miles that includes Douglas — population about 17,000 — and its urban terrain of ramshackle homes, warehouses and junkyards.

    “There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Mora said. Indeed, the troops are not permitted to take part in patrols or to participate in any operations to detain the men, women and children being trafficked by criminal organizations across the border or trying to slip undetected into Douglas.

    None of the troops are even armed — “and there is no anticipation that will change,” Mora told me.

    Some are helping wherever they can, such as those assigned to tend to the Border Patrol’s horses stabled in the area for mounted patrols (everyone’s favorite is Snuggles the Mustang).

    Other soldiers, like Sgt. Jonathan Sanchez, 35, a cook, are performing maintenance on the Border Patrol’s heavily used vehicles.

    “We fix flats,” he explained on a steamy afternoon after completing his shift in the motor pool a few miles north of town.

    Other troops with proper security clearances have also been given a crash course in how to monitor a network of remote cameras deployed along the border and report anything suspicious — all from the Border Patrol’s air-conditioned tactical operations center out on Highway 80.

    “Most have never run a surveillance system like this,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Cider.

    A few National Guard helicopters and crew have also been enlisted to join the Border Patrol fleet for aerial surveillance, but more troops are clearing vegetation, serving as office clerks and making basic repairs to Border Patrol facilities.

    They are freeing up some of the 3,600 Border Patrol agents assigned to southern Arizona that normally carry out such tasks for enforcement duties.

    But it is also a strategy to keep the troops out of trouble.

    Supervisory Agent Juan Curbelo, a 22-year veteran of the Border Patrol, recounted in the Douglas Station how criminal organizations on the other side of the border have grown more sophisticated and more violent as the U.S. has deployed additional personnel and new technology over the years to make illegal cross-border traffic more difficult.

    “They scout us quite a bit from the south side,” he reported.

    He was here during the previous National Guard deployments and said that during each iteration the Border Patrol has been more innovative in finding useful things for the troops to do that keep them from interacting with people crossing the border illegally.

    The reality, multiple officials related, is that the part-time soldiers are not well-suited for what is largely a law enforcement mission — and they worry that inexperienced weekend warriors might, for instance, mistakenly kill civilians or create an international incident.

    “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” Mora explained of what he called the “much safer environment” they are in, miles away from the actual border.

    It’s a lesson learned from those previous National Guard deployments.

    In 2006, Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border — the first time military forces were expressly sent to help stanch illegal immigration, as opposed to the illegal drug trade. Then in 2010, Obama, under pressure from lawmakers from border states following the murder of an Arizona rancher, reluctantly dispatched some 1,200 troops to combat smugglers who had become increasingly sophisticated and violent.

    Trump’s order called for as many as 4,000 troops from various states to help police the border stretching from California to Texas.

    But still casting a shadow over the deployments is the 1997 incident in which a Marine Corps Patrol in Texas killed a local sheepherder while on border duty.

    “You learn from each of these deployments,” Border Patrol Agent Stephanie Dixon told me in explaining why guard forces are used so selectively and in support roles.

    Keeping troops as a rear guard on the border has “always been part of the mix,” said Tim Dunn, a sociology professor at Salisbury University in Maryland, who has studied previous military deployments to the border.

    He describes the public message in previous deployments like this: “We are just here to support. We are not going to be out in the field.” Or “we will be out there in limited way and not in direct contact with the public.”

    But it is even more pronounced this time around, Dunn said. Despite Trump’s amped-up rhetoric around immigration and border issues such as drug smuggling, “They have reined it in more.”

    Not everyone is happy about it.

    A major union representing about 15,000 Border Patrol Agents has been the most vocal, calling the decision to limit what the troops can do “a colossal waste.”

    Last time, said Brandon Judd, the Border Patrol Council’s president, “they were allowed to do a lot more than they are under the Trump administration. They were allowed to be in lookout and observation posts. They were allowed to be out grading the roads and mending fences. They were allowed to be our eyes and ears, freeing us up.”

    The effort has also been slow going.

    Mora said that a little over 200 Arizona National Guard troops have been put to work so far — out of total of 682 that have been authorized. The rest, he said, have yet to arrive due to what he called “other training requirements.”

    Finding useful things for them to do has also been a challenge, explained Capt. Aaron Thacker, a spokesman for the Arizona National Guard.

    “Deployment includes the process of going through medical evaluations, administrative reviews, ensuring security background checks are up to date if required, so on and so forth,” he said. “And then they have to be married up with a job that their skill set can do.”

    “Not to mention, additional training may be required,” he added.

    The effort is also funded only through September — and it is not clear if the mission, which is mostly paid for out of the Pentagon budget, will continue.

    But a few of the guard troops may get down to the border after all.

    “Some are getting recruited,” Mora said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some become Border Patrol agents.”


    Why Trump Was Right to Sit Down With Kim Jong Un


    From the beginning of his presidency we have found most of Donald’s Trump foreign policy initiatives to be imprudent, unwise, unduly politicized and almost willfully counter to America’s national interests.But even a broken clock is right twice a...

    From the beginning of his presidency we have found most of Donald’s Trump foreign policy initiatives to be imprudent, unwise, unduly politicized and almost willfully counter to America’s national interests.

    But even a broken clock is right twice a day. And while Trump’s lack of impulse control and his rush to the summit (and the history books) squandered valuable U.S. leverage with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a summit might have been the only way to change the dynamic with Pyongyang. Whether this high-risk gambit will work remains to be seen. But we believe that Trump—with all his bumbles and stumbles—was right to try for several reasons.

    1. Nothing Was Working

    Trump was right when he opined that U.S. diplomatic efforts over the past two decades to resolve the North Korean nuclear threat had all failed, and that he inherited a problem that was made much worse by these repeated failures to halt, cap and reverse North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. As one Korea expert has noted, North Korea is the “land of lousy options.” And Americans should know because we tried almost all of them — from engagement and negotiations to sanctions, isolation, pressure and military saber-rattling to the so-called strategic patience of the Obama years, which largely amounted to the U.S. sticking its head in the sand. By the time Trump assumed office, North Korea was well on its way to acquiring the capability to hit the continental United States with ICBMs carrying nuclear warheads and had more than enough nuclear weapons to obliterate South Korea and Japan. Trump was right to put this issue at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda and to convert strategic patience into impatience.

    The one approach Washington had not tried until the Singapore summit was to meet at the very top with the North Korean decider-in-chief to start clearing the air of the hostility and mutual suspicion that hung over the two countries and to begin building mutual trust as the basis for concluding meaningful agreements on denuclearization. Indeed, it was high time to start talking to North Korea and not just about North Korea. On this, Trump’s instincts were not entirely wrong. As one comprehensive study of the history of U.S. engagement with North Korea concluded, North Korea has behaved less provocatively over the past 25 years when the U.S. is negotiating with it in either a bilateral or multilateral format.

    2. Talking Is a Lot Better Than Shooting

    Only the interminably obtuse or irresponsible would conclude that the course Trump set with Kim this week is worse than the one he was on barely a year ago. Then it was fire and fury, locked and loaded, “Little Rocket Man” and a tsunami of ad hominem attacks against Kim that, even if contrived to demonstrate Trump’s toughness and unpredictability, could have triggered an incident leading to war. Kim was popping off missiles and threatening Guam and there was talk of unilateral military action. At this time last year, as sober a head as Secretary of Defense James Mattis was talking about war with North Korea dominating Cabinet discussions. As recently as February of this year there were reports that the national security adviser was even pushing the option of a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea.

    Whether or not Trump’s summit gambit produces an actual agreement on denuclearization, it’s to be hoped that we’re in for a prolonged period of relative stability in U.S.-DPRK relations. There are likely to be no North Korean missile nor nuclear tests while this process unfolds and the rhetorical war should abate. The U.S. military exercises that put the North Koreans in high dudgeon are likely to be canceled during negotiations, as Trump promised—but they’re easy enough to restart if talks fall apart.

    Most importantly, for the first time since Trump became president, there will be both the time and political space to test whether dialogue and negotiations can deal with the challenges in U.S.-North Korean relations. By any standard of logic and rationality, the course Trump has set is far preferable to military action or a status quo that would only increase Kim’s missile and nuclear capacity.

    3. Engaging Kim Was Essential

    Kim Jong Un is arguably the world’s last truly totalitarian leader—which is why dealing directly with him is critical. After all, the nuclear project is inextricably linked to decades of the Kim family’s dynastic aspirations; and if Trump wants to get Kim to constrain, or even eliminate, his nuclear arsenal and infrastructure (in our view magical thinking), there’s no alternative but going to the top—the only guy who has the authority and legitimacy to make decisions about any of this. It remains a counterfactual, but it’s hard to imagine that a “Sherpa” approach—months or maybe even a year or more of lower-level discussions before scaling the summit—would have worked. One of us spent a great many years pursuing Arab-Israeli peace. And the reality was that only leaders—most often in the heat and urgency of a summit—can be expected to make big decisions on (properly teed-up) core issues.

    And with Kim, the challenges are greater. His opacity and unpredictability, the limited U.S. contact with him since he ascended to power in 2011, and a negotiating experience with North Korea filled with so much talk of cheating and betrayal that it crushed trust and confidence between the two sides—all of that argued for an initial meeting to create a measure of trust and confidence. So, though it was risky, Trump was not wrong to engage Kim. But he overdid it, especially with all the gushing and gauzy rhetoric about how much Kim is beloved by his people, and now has little to show in return.

    4. There Was an Alternative

    If Trump deserves high marks for trying to achieve a historic breakthrough with North Korea, he earns barely a passing grade for execution. His handling of the summit once again demonstrated that, his braggadocio notwithstanding, he really is a lousy negotiator. Although Kim was the demandeur for the summit, Trump signaled that he needed a successful summit more than Kim despite his empty threats of being willing to walk away.

    Second, all his loose talk prior to the summit about withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea, a longstanding North Korean demand, conveyed to Kim that he would not have to pay a price for this idea because at some point in the future Trump was prepared to act unilaterally to save money.

    Third, by legitimizing Kim with the summit and dropping the phrase “maximum pressure,” he undercut the international sanctions campaign and paved the way for other countries—especially China—to drop their efforts at diplomatically isolating the North Korean regime.

    Finally, by trying to marginalize China from the summit process and coordinating poorly with South Korea and Japan, especially on the decision to cancel U.S. military exercises, he created wedges that North Korea can easily exploit. In all these ways, Trump squandered sources of American leverage.

    Kim, on the other hand, seems to have borrowed a page from Napoleon’s playbook, who famously observed, “never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.” He played a weak hand smartly, while Trump played a strong hand weakly. The president gave him the gift of a summit without getting anything of commensurate value in return. He demanded nothing in return for his decision to cancel U.S. military exercises. One would have thought that the “world’s greatest negotiator” would have at least extracted a written or even oral assurance from North Korea that it would freeze testing of all ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as long as the U.S. froze its military exercises or for as long as U.S.-DPRK negotiations continue. Nope. And before agreeing to the summit, the Trump administration should have at least held out for North Korean agreement to invite IAEA inspections of their “destroyed” nuclear test site and an agreement to shut down one or two facilities, with verification, that produce weapons-grade nuclear material. After all, if Kim was sincere when he declared that North Korea’s development of its nuclear deterrent is now complete, then why does it need to produce more fuel for more nuclear weapons?

    Many presidential summits fail because they try to accomplish too much. In the case of the Trump-Kim meeting, the opposite may have occurred. Having reduced expectations to an optical zero and hyped what he didn’t accomplish, Trump has played into the hands of every naysayer, critic and Trump hater for miles around inside and outside of the Beltway. And perhaps with good reason. We have our doubts, too. But still we sound a cautious note. We don’t know everything that was said or transmitted during the hours of high-level meetings between U.S. and North Korean officials. And more important, even the critics would argue that this summit was designed to launch a process. To channel Seinfeld, as of now the Singapore meeting was a show about nothing; it might—depending on how Kim and Trump play it and how the negotiations led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo evolve—turn into something. And if it doesn’t, well, rest assured there will be plenty of time for score-keeping and score-settling later.


    White House aide Miller targeted in backlash over family separations


    Stephen Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, was noticeably absent from public view this week as the White House first vociferously defended and then caved on separating migrant children from their...


    Stephen Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, was noticeably absent from public view this week as the White House first vociferously defended and then caved on separating migrant children from their parents.

    That wasn’t an accident. Among White House insiders, there is a sense that the president’s senior adviser for policy is a bad front man for the issue he’s most passionate about. Miller stayed entirely out of the spotlight during days of mounting political pressure, though behind the scenes he visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday night along with Trump to sell House Republicans on immigration legislation.

    While other White House aides, like national security adviser John Bolton and National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, are prized by Trump for their smooth defense of his policies on television, Miller is the opposite, valued as a source of ideas that the president believes appeal to his base. That includes not just the “zero-tolerance” immigration enforcement stance that triggered the family separations but the 2017 travel ban targeting visitors from predominantly Muslim countries, which generated a cascade of litigation for the young administration.

    It’s hard to overstate Miller’s influence on the administration’s positions on immigration, according to interviews with a dozen current and former administration officials and Republicans close to the White House. Immediately after signing his executive order Wednesday suspending family separation at the border, Trump took his former campaign speechwriter-turned-immigration czar along for the ride on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota.

    But the backlash over the policy has opened cracks in Miller’s support network on Capitol Hill and among Republicans both inside and outside the White House, who have viewed the separation of migrant families as a huge political and policy misstep for the White House — and, for some, as a moral lapse.

    “He led the president down a path that again ended in disaster,” said one Republican congressional staffer. “The Muslim ban and the immigration executive order are things that have activated both sides of the aisle and caused widespread pushback and disgust. I just think the president should think twice before following in his lead in the future on these issues.”


    To many in Washington, it seemed wild that the originator of Trump’s immigration policy had so aptly wriggled out of becoming the face of it. And it reminded many of the way Miller coauthored the travel ban only to later shift the blame for that slapdash executive order onto White House lawyers who failed to properly vet it.

    “It is amazing that Miller is getting a free ride. He urged the president to pull out of DACA, and now he’s done this immigration policy,” said one former administration official. “Miller managed [to] blame the travel ban on the White House lawyers for not executing it right. Now he is blaming Congress for the immigration policy. Miller is very much like the president — just deny, deny, deny.”

    Republican Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) called for Miller to be fired in a tweet on Thursday afternoon. “The President should fire Stephen Miller now,” Coffman tweeted. “This is a human rights mess. It is on the President to clean it up and fire the people responsible for making it.”

    For Democrats, Miller has come to encapsulate the most hated policy decisions of the Trump administration.

    “I don’t think that most Americans understand that a 33-year-old individual with connections to white supremacists is actually crafting policies that are going to literally destroy our country and what we stand for,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, one of the first Democratic lawmakers to visit the child detention centers. “I have demanded that Stephen Miller be fired. He should not be in the White House.”

    Miller and the White House press office did not respond to requests for comment.

    After taking a backstage role during the campaign and serving as the key policy adviser across issues, Miller — who is, in fact, only 32 — made a series of poorly received Sunday show appearances in February 2017 defending the travel ban as well as Trump’s overblown claims about crowd size at his inauguration. He won points inside the White House for a combative turn at the briefing podium last summer to introduce his proposal for a points-based immigration system to replace the existing visa lottery.

    He was escorted off the CNN set in January after unloading on anchor Jake Tapper over questions about internal White House drama — an interview Trump applauded on Twitter.


    Miller has nevertheless proved himself to be a deft operator in a White House known for backbiting, said several current and former administration officials. He does not unnecessarily pick fights with others. He has purposely kept a very low profile, and he’s stuck to a narrow lane of developing immigration policy across agencies and the White House Domestic Policy Council, even though his title of senior adviser for policy suggests a far broader role.

    He’s also well-liked inside the White House, staffers said. Chief of staff John Kelly, a like-minded immigration hawk, even had Miller over to his house for Thanksgiving last fall.


    In addition to exhibiting extreme loyalty to Trump, Miller is a workhorse. He consistently puts in 18-hour days at the White House, eschewing any social life, said one former administration official. He works weekends and holidays and always makes himself available to travel with the president, giving him face time with Trump at odd hours, colleagues said.

    Miller also speaks to the president in an effusive fashion, constantly telling Trump that the media are treating him unfairly. He frequently tells the president that his speeches or executive orders are groundbreaking or that he’ll be the most consequential president ever, according to a Republican close to the White House.

    For years, he’s been pushing to drive down the number of immigrants entering the country — legally as well as illegally — dating back to his days as a top adviser to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general. Back then, Miller and Sessions held what many Republican lawmakers then considered fringe positions.

    One former Department of Homeland Security official who remembers Miller from those days said officials inside the agency considered him a “nut.”

    “Everyone in DHS circles thinks he is a nuisance and a zealot, with no idea what the operational impact of his policies are,” the official added.


    Yet, as public outrage over the separation of children grew to a crescendo this week, it was Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who took center stage as the de facto defender of Miller’s policy, taking reporters’ questions at a tense Monday briefing and then standing beside Trump as he backtracked and signed his executive order.

    The move was a climbdown from Trump’s previous position that only congressional legislation can stop parents and kids from being split up by border authorities. But the chaos of the separations — which involved warehousing children in former big-box stores — succeeded in shifting public debate so that the administration’s fallback position — jailing migrant kids indefinitely with their parents while they wait for court dates — now seems like a more humane option.

    And even as the administration said that it was prepared to stop separating families and children, Miller had other under-the-radar plans in the works including proposed agency rules that would enact aggressive immigration policies ahead of the 2018 midterms.

    Some Republicans say they’re worried that these moves, especially any that involve children, might generate additional unanticipated blowback.

    “When you’re on the campaign, you don’t have to set policy. You just have to talk about it,” said a third Republican close to the White House. “When Miller got to the White House, people realized he had limitations because of how detailed and intricate White House policymaking is. He can’t be in charge of everything anymore.”


    Trump's herky-jerky immigration moves sow confusion


    President Donald Trump’s administration was gripped by confusion on Thursday as agencies struggled to implement his executive order halting the separation of migrant families at the U.S. border. At the heart of the problem was uncertainty about how to...

    President Donald Trump’s administration was gripped by confusion on Thursday as agencies struggled to implement his executive order halting the separation of migrant families at the U.S. border.

    At the heart of the problem was uncertainty about how to begin detaining families together and whether the government would make any effort to reunite parents still in the U.S. with children currently held in separate shelters or foster facilities.

    The mixed messaging began Wednesday, just hours after Trump signed his order, when the Department of Health and Human Services sent out a statement saying one of its spokespeople “misspoke” in saying that children who were already separated would not be returned to their parents but rather processed as unaccompanied minors.

    On Thursday, the Department of Justice took issue with a report that border crossers would no longer automatically be referred for prosecution — the central tenet of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” enforcement policy, announced in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    The chaos followed the hasty development of the executive order in response to a growing public outcry over the separations, which resulted in even babies and toddlers being sent alone to shelters. Two people familiar with the process said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told only her inner circle about the executive order, keeping top officials at DHS — including those at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection — out of the loop.


    One of the people familiar with the process compared it to Trump’s January 2017 travel ban, which was signed the week after his inauguration and triggered widespread chaos at airports across the U.S. as customs officials struggled to understand who must be detained.

    Frustrated White House aides said the damage created by the herky-jerky policy process is twofold. The president’s sudden decision to sign the executive order threw off a planned House vote that could have set in motion the permanent legislative fix the White House has been seeking.

    More importantly, these aides said, the original zero-tolerance policy championed by senior presidential adviser Stephen Miller was not run through the Domestic Policy Council, which Miller oversees. Some in the White House are also unclear whether the executive order is legal, which is something that would have been determined by a regular policy process.

    Aides also argued that zero-tolerance had been a massive miscalculation that has served only to distance Republican lawmakers and GOP voters from the president ahead of the midterms.

    On Capitol Hill, senior Republicans were also unsure how the policy change would play out.

    “We keep hearing that they’ll keep prosecuting the cases and we’re trying to figure out a way to keep families together,” Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in an interview.

    Trump, Nielsen and other top officials spent days insisting that only Congress could resolve the growing crisis at the border, where about 2,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents and sent to government shelters.

    Under pressure from Congress and the public after the release of photographs showing kids kept in large cages and harrowing audio of children wailing for their moms and dads, Trump reversed course Wednesday, signing a document that called for DHS to keep families together.

    An administration official told POLITICO the shift happened very quickly Wednesday and led to uncertainty earlier in the day about what exactly Trump was planning to sign. The White House continues to view the order as a temporary measure designed to buy time until Congress takes action, the official added.

    But at a rally Wednesday night and again on Thursday, Trump stuck to his line about remaining “tough” on immigration, continuing his habit of characterizing migrants from Latin American countries as a menace.

    “The media never talks about the American victims of illegal immigration,” Trump told a raucous crowd of nearly 9,000 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday. “What’s happened to their children, what’s happened to their husbands, what’s happened to their wives — the media doesn’t talk about American families permanently separated from their loved ones.”

    On Thursday at the White House, he told reporters before a Cabinet meeting: “Look, if we took zero tolerance away you would be overrun as a country.”

    He added: “I signed a good executive order, but it’s limited, no matter how you cut it.”

    As he spoke, first lady Melania Trump was in McAllen, Texas, for an unannounced visit to a child detention center, where she visited migrant children alongside HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

    “She wanted to see everything for herself,” a spokesperson for the first lady said. “She supports family reunification. She thinks that it’s important that children stay with their families.”


    The administration’s disarray became apparent soon after the order was signed, when a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said there would not be an effort to reunite children already held in shelters with their families.

    “There will not be a grandfathering of existing cases,” said Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. “I can tell you definitively that is going to be policy.”

    HHS quickly moved to walk back that statement, saying Wolfe “misspoke” and that the department was awaiting further guidance from the White House on the matter.

    By Thursday, Nielsen was saying that there is, in fact, a plan to reunite families — though she did not spell it out. “We have a plan to do that,” she said at an event on Capitol Hill. “It’s a combination of DHS, DOJ, HHS reunited as quickly as we can.”

    The confusion was compounded on Thursday when The Washington Post reported that the White House was temporarily suspending the prosecution of adults who cross the border with children because Customs and Border Patrol doesn’t have the resources to process all of the cases while keeping families together.

    The Justice Department, which is spearheading the policy alongside DHS, quickly denied the story.

    “The Washington Post never reached out to the Department. Their story is not accurate,” a Department of Justice spokesperson said in a statement. “There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.”

    However, there were several news reports from border areas of Texas on Thursday that immigrants who crossed the border with a child were having their criminal cases dismissed or that Border Patrol officials were told not to present such individuals in court.

    A Justice Department spokeswoman said there could be delays in some cases as officials shift to a system in which border crossers and their family members were detained together in immigration custody while prosecutions went forward.

    The Associated Press reported that a public defender’s office for western Texas said U.S. Attorney John Bash indicated that pending criminal cases would be dismissed against those who had crossed the border with children, absent unusual circumstances. POLITICO located two cases where female immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador who were picked up on misdemeanor illegal entry charges earlier this month had their criminal cases dismissed on Thursday with prejudice, meaning they could not be refiled.

    In a statement, Bash's office confirmed some cases were dismissed, but insisted the zero-tolerance policy remains in place.

    "Following the President’s executive order, we are moving quickly to keep families together as we process the criminal charges for those who crossed illegally," the statement from the federal prosecutor's office said. "The zero tolerance policy is still in effect but there is a necessary transition that will need to occur now that those charged are no longer being transferred to the custody of US Marshals and are staying together with their children in the custody of our partners at DHS. As part of that transition, the office today dismissed certain cases that were pending when the President issued the order."

    Immigrant-rights advocates said Thursday that they intended to battle Trump’s policies in court, even if he moved toward the family detention model he appeared to promise on Wednesday. Two Democratic state attorneys general, Xavier Becerra of California and Bob Ferguson of Washington, announced Thursday that at least eight states planned to sue over the previous family separation policy. They also denounced Trump’s new executive order, although it was unclear how it would figure in the suit, expected to be filed late Thursday.

    Attorney General Barbara Underwood of New York also vowed to sue over the separation policy Thursday, although it was not clear whether she would join the other states or sue separately. “Keeping children separated from their families is unconscionable and illegal—and we’ll be filing suit to stop it,” she wrote on Twitter.

    Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union also denounced Trump’s new policy, but said they were still hoping that a judge in San Diego would issue an injunction soon blocking authorities from separating asylum seekers from their families. Arguments in the case were held last month. The judge considering the case issued an order on Wednesday taking note of Trump’s new directive and scheduling a telephone conference with the lawyers for Friday afternoon.

    The Justice Department, meanwhile, filed an emergency motion on Thursday asking a federal judge in Los Angeles to modify a decades-old consent decree to permit immigrant families to be detained together for more than 20 days. A prior ruling that the settlement in the case forbade long-term detention of children and teenagers has contributed to a “destabilizing migratory crisis,” administration lawyers said.

    Nonprofit groups working at the border said they were seeing changes on the ground.

    Zenén Jaimes Pérez, spokesman from the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project, said a representative from his group saw a federal court in McAllen, Texas, decline to charge 17 adult migrants on Thursday morning because they were heads of household.

    However, Pérez said that those migrant parents were still expected to be released into ICE custody and were separated from their children days earlier — and that their processing in court came with no announcement of a change in the administration’s current policy of prosecuting all those who illegally cross the border.

    By the time Friday’s round of court hearings take place, Perez added, immigrant advocates should have more clarity on whether Trump’s executive order prioritizing “family unity” is having a meaningful effect on the treatment of newly detained parents.

    Burgess Everett, Elana Schor, Andrew Restuccia and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.


    At least one major advertiser drops Fox News’ Ingraham over migrant comments


    At least one major advertiser has dropped Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show in the wake of her comments on Monday about immigrant children separated from their parents. With advertising time on the conservative daily talk show down since Monday night,...

    At least one major advertiser has dropped Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show in the wake of her comments on Monday about immigrant children separated from their parents. With advertising time on the conservative daily talk show down since Monday night, it’s possible that other companies have also bailed on “The Ingraham Angle.”

    The media and internet company IAC will no longer be running ads for HomeAdvisor or Angie’s List on the show, an IAC spokesperson confirmed on Thursday. The day after Ingraham’s statements, David Hogg, a survivor of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, called on advertisers, including IAC, to boycott Ingraham, a reprise of the highly successful boycott campaign he launched against her in April, after she insulted him on Twitter.

    During her show on Monday night, Ingraham described the detention centers for immigrant children separated from their parents on the Mexican border as “essentially like summer camps,” further comparing them to “boarding schools.”

    Between June 4 and 15, IAC was Ingraham’s second-biggest advertiser, according to Kantar Media, running 13 ads for HomeAdvisor. The company had already stopped airing ads for Match.com after Hogg’s previous boycott campaign.

    A Fox News spokesperson said the network was unaffected by any loss in advertising resulting from Ingraham’s latest comments.

    “There’s been no impact on our business, and new advertisers continue to opt in for our powerful prime-time lineup,” the spokesperson said.


    The CEO of IAC, Joey Levin, appeared on CNBC late Wednesday afternoon and seemed to indicate that the company would be pulling its ads.

    “Staying politically neutral is a hard thing to do, but I also think it’s an important thing to do,” he said, expounding on the importance of neutrality, before adding, “That’s not to say when we’re seeing things where our ads are, where things are being said that we are not happy with, that we won’t pull them, which is what we did in the case of that particular show.”

    Though advertisers have not been as quick to publicly abandon Ingraham as they were during Hogg’s previous campaign — many major national brands are already gone — there was a clear decline in advertising time on Ingraham’s show after Monday night. According to Kantar, Ingraham’s show on Monday carried a national advertising load of 10:45, before dropping to 7:40 on Tuesday. Kantar did not have figures available for Wednesday, though a POLITICO review found a roughly two-minute decrease from Monday. Thursday night’s show was also down about two minutes from Monday.

    There can be some fluctuation in ad time between programs. According to Kantar’s figures, over the past four weeks, Ingraham has averaged 9:30 in national ads. But Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research, said that such a sudden drop in the middle of a week was “notable.”

    “Usually you see stability,” he said. “I’m not aware of most programs changing their ad loads with any regularity. It’s kind of set.”

    That would indicate that other companies may have dropped Ingraham, as well. “It’s safe to assume there are more,” said Joseph Bonner, a senior analyst at Argus Research.

    Wieser was more cautious about drawing conclusions that additional advertisers had left, calling it “a possibility.”

    POLITICO reached out to several advertisers on Ingraham’s show, most of whom declined to discuss their ad programs or did not respond.

    Though Facebook aired a commercial during “The Ingraham Angle” on Monday, but not Tuesday or Wednesday, a spokesperson for the company said there had been no changes to the company’s advertising plans with Fox News.

    Duracell also aired an ad on Monday, but not Tuesday or Wednesday. A spokesperson for the company declined to say whether there had been any change, however, adding, “Duracell does not comment on media buys.”

    Similarly, though Toyota aired an ad on Monday during “The Ingraham Angle,” but not Tuesday or Wednesday, the company declined to answer whether it had dropped Ingraham.

    “Toyota’s ads and product placement should not be interpreted as endorsing or condoning the views or actions of the characters or actors, hosts, guests, callers or participants of these shows or events,” a company spokesman said. “We will continue to monitor and make adjustments to our ad placement strategy on an ongoing basis.”

    After making her comments on Monday night, Ingraham seemed aware of the reaction forming against her. Toward the end of her show, she tried to address her statements, saying: “Apparently, there are a lot of people very upset because we referred to some of the detention facilities tonight as essentially like summer camps. The San Diego Union-Tribune today described the facilities as essentially like what you would expect at a boarding school. So I will stick to there are some of them like boarding schools.”

    The Tribune story, though, also included the many ways the facilities are not like boarding schools — most notably, the fencing, constant surveillance and the fact that some 10 percent of the children there were separated from their parents at the border. Backlash against Ingraham was swift.


    On Tuesday morning, Hogg tweeted, “So @IngrahamAngle we meet again. Who are you biggest advertisers now?”

    He then tweeted a list of several Ingraham advertisers.

    Prominent figures from the entertainment world have also spoken out against Fox News’ coverage of the child immigrant situation. In response to Ingraham, Steve Levitan, the co-creator of “Modern Family,” tweeted that he would consider taking his show away from Fox’s production studios, saying, “I’m disgusted to work at a company that has anything whatsoever to do with Fox News.”

    The previous dust-up between Ingraham and Hogg sprouted from her mocking the Parkland survivor and gun-control activist for lamenting on Twitter how he had been rejected from some colleges. Though Ingraham’s advertising has recovered somewhat from that boycott campaign — which saw companies like Bayer, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Nestlé and Hulu drop the show — her advertising load had not reached her previous levels.

    The ardent pro-Trump conservative has courted controversy with other statements, including in February when she said that LeBron James should not express political views, and instead “shut up and dribble.”

    After her most recent statements, Fox News released a statement in support of Ingraham, alluding to her adoption of a child from Guatemala.

    “Laura Ingraham’s very personal, on-the-ground commitment to the plight of impoverished and abandoned children — specifically in Guatemala — speaks for itself,” a Fox News spokesperson said. “So, too, does her strong belief in a common-sense, legal immigration system, which will continue to be a focus of her show. Fox News will never tolerate or give in to attempts to silence diverse viewpoints by agenda-driven intimidation efforts.”


    Trump administration asks court to alter decree to OK family detention


    The Justice Department asked a federal judge on Thursday to alter a decades-old settlement in order to allow the Trump administration to implement a new policy for detaining families taken into immigration custody after crossing the border with...

    The Justice Department asked a federal judge on Thursday to alter a decades-old settlement in order to allow the Trump administration to implement a new policy for detaining families taken into immigration custody after crossing the border with Mexico.

    The emergency motion, filed with U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles, seeks to change provisions in the so-called Flores agreement that typically bar detention of minors for more than 20 days, as well as a requirement that children be held in facilities licensed as state-approved day care centers.

    The Justice Department request came in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on Wednesday seeking to quell a political firestorm over a policy that led to thousands of children being separated from their parents. That practice followed the Trump administration’s adoption of a “zero tolerance” approach calling for prosecution of nearly all adults caught crossing the border illegally.

    The Thursday filing said that a 2015 ruling from Gee, holding that the consent decree covered children entering the U.S. with a family member, effectively made it impossible to detain immigrant families and led to a surge in migrants crossing the border with children.

    “These realities have precipitated a destabilizing migratory crisis: tens of thousands of families are embarking on the dangerous journey to the United States, often through smuggling arrangements, and then crossing the border illegally in violation of our federal criminal law,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote. “This entire journey and ultimate crossing puts children and families at risk, and violates criminal laws enacted by Congress to protect the border. Those illegal crossings must stop.”


    The government lawyers noted that three years ago, under the Obama administration, the Justice Department asked Gee to modify the consent decree and that she declined. “Several material changes in circumstances” justify her doing so now, the federal government attorneys said.

    “Undeniably the limitation on the option of detaining families together and the marked increase of families illegally crossing the border are linked,” the Justice Department filing said. “This Court … has the authority and responsibility to resolve these growing concerns by immediately permitting family detention.”


    A Justice Department spokesman stressed that the request to the court was no substitute for a move by lawmakers to address the issue.

    “Irrespective of the Court’s decision in Flores, it is incumbent for Congress to finally act to keep families together, end catch-and-release, and create the foundation for an immigration system that serves the national interest,” the spokesman said.

    One immigrant-rights advocate involved in the Flores litigation, which dates to 1985, said those representing the children’s interests in the case planned to fight the administration’s move.

    “We will challenge the motion and believe prior precedent is in our favor,” said Holly Cooper, a co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the UC Davis School of Law.


    Another attorney representing children in the long-running case said on Wednesday that no change to the agreement was needed.

    “There is nothing in the Flores settlement that prevents the secretary of Homeland Security from detaining children with their parents as long as the conditions of detention are humane and the child remains eligible for release unless the child is a flight risk, or a danger to herself or others, or the child’s parent does not wish the child to be released,” said Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

    The government’s motion does not seek to modify the Flores agreement’s requirements pertaining to food, water and access to bathrooms, but only the mandate to obtain state licenses.


    Trump’s immigration buckle tests Democrats’ resolve


    Democrats quickly united against Donald Trump’s decision to separate young children from their parents at the border. His reversal will test whether they can keep it up.The president’s edict Wednesday aimed to end one problem — separating migrant...

    Democrats quickly united against Donald Trump’s decision to separate young children from their parents at the border. His reversal will test whether they can keep it up.

    The president’s edict Wednesday aimed to end one problem — separating migrant children from their parents — but would create another, allowing those families to be held together indefinitely. The executive order strains the legal limits of a 1997 federal court settlement that restricted how long the government can hold young migrants and is likely to be overturned, according to Democrats.

    “He’s doing what he always does: running the country on an hour-by-hour basis,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said of the president. “The kids are now locked up with their parents, but within days this is likely to be struck down by the courts. So we’re back to square one.”

    For now, Democrats have won their argument that Trump can reverse his own policies. But the issue could soon land back in lawmakers’ laps, in a way that doesn’t give Democrats the undisputed moral high ground they’ve had amid the horror stories of the past few weeks.

    The question of how to deal with extended detentions is a harder call for the party, especially Senate Democrats from conservative states who don’t want to be tagged as soft on illegal immigration in their reelection campaigns this fall.


    During a meeting in Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ office with more than a dozen senators from both parties to deal with the family separation issue, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) described “a sense that whatever the president did today is not going to solve the problem long term.”

    “So we need to do something to make sure this never happens again,” said McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats on the ballot this fall.

    Republicans had tried to put red-state Democrats on the defensive over family separations. The GOP challengers to McCaskill and Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are slamming the incumbents for backing a proposed fix championed by liberals. Democrats were unmoved by those broadsides before Trump’s executive order on Wednesday, which may force the politically endangered members to re-evaluate their stance.

    Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who remarked earlier Wednesday that signing onto California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to halt separations was an easy choice for him, said later in the day that he would have to take a closer look at Trump’s new action before weighing in.

    Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), underscoring that she had yet to read the order in full, welcomed “any day when there’s some hope that we could find a compromise.”

    “This doesn’t solve all the problems, but it offers at least movement on [Trump’s] part that suggests that this was not a good idea, to take children away from their parents,” she said in an interview.

    Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and spent Father’s Day visiting immigration detention facilities, said after Trump announced his order that it’s “not acceptable to allow the indefinite imprisonment of children” as a response to the separation crisis.

    But asked whether Democrats would remain united against the administration’s latest move, Van Hollen said that “where that conversation will go, I just can’t speculate until I see the details.”


    Digging in against Trump’s immigration policy is an easy call for Democrats in safe seats, even after Trump retreated. Detaining families indefinitely raises troubling issues of its own, said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

    It “really evokes the picture of Japanese-Americans being incarcerated” during World War II, she said.

    “I fear that this is just a recognition that they were losing on the politics and as long as we have a president who doesn’t make decisions on moral foundations, that we have some real rocky times ahead,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who is up for reelection this fall.

    Whether Tester, McCaskill, Manchin and other Democrats targeted by the GOP can stay on the offensive on immigration — an issue that bitterly divided the party during this winter’s government shutdown fight — is another matter.

    Republicans are still calling for a vote codifying the end of the family separation practice because they want “long-term certainty,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said. He offered a new bill Wednesday that would put a legal end to the policy, which liberals hate because it would enshrine harsher detentions of families that cross the border illegally.

    “They’re going to hold families together … and see if someone will take it to court and fight it in court,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “Ultimately, it would be ideal if we could back that up by passing a law.”

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) backs Tillis’ bill but has not committed to putting it to a vote. McConnell is wary of giving vulnerable Democrats an opportunity to vote for it, only to see the rest of the minority party band together to block the legislation over the detention issue, according to Republican sources.

    Passing a law would require bridging a partisan chasm on immigration that the Senate failed to close this past winter. Democrats forced a shutdown over immigration reform, only to see their opportunity to pass a bill scuttled by Trump’s insistence on cuts to legal immigration.

    The group that met Wednesday — which included lawmakers ranging from the conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to the liberal Hirono — is “not trying to write a bill as a team,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), but rather agree generally that something needs to be done.



    Even compromise-minded Democrats warned that rolling back the 1997 settlement, as Trump’s order envisions and GOP bills propose, would do nothing to alleviate humanitarian harm caused by his “zero tolerance” prosecution of all migrants crossing into the United States.

    “Where in this country do we currently detain children with their parents for weeks or months pending trial?” asked Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “How is that a good idea?”

    Trump’s order Wednesday maintains the “zero tolerance” policy that has led to family separations, even as it asks the Department of Homeland Security to keep “alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” Immigrant-rights advocates quickly disputed the White House portrayal of the order as representing a complete end to the splintering of migrant families.

    The order also requires Congress to supply the administration with more money for detention facilities, a fight that likely will also fall to Congress to resolve.

    Yet even the most liberal Democratic senators admitted that Trump’s attempt to end a crisis of his own making was a positive, if incomplete, step. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called it a “relief” but said Trump has more work to do.

    “To the extent that families stay together, it’s a good thing,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said. “But indefinite detention is not a solution.”


    Judge rejects Manafort bid to suppress storage-unit evidence


    A federal judge Thursday rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s bid to suppress key evidence from his upcoming criminal trial.U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with special counsel Robert Mueller and against a motion...

    A federal judge Thursday rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s bid to suppress key evidence from his upcoming criminal trial.

    U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with special counsel Robert Mueller and against a motion from Manafort lawyers who argued that materials the FBI seized last May from a self-storage owned by Manafort’s firm were taken in violation of Manafort’s constitutional rights.

    The FBI initially entered Manafort’s storage unit in Alexandria, Virginia, with consent from one of his employees but without a warrant. An agent the same day then described what he saw in his application to a magistrate judge for a warrant, noting there were “approximately 21 bankers’ boxes that could contain documents, as well as a five-drawer metal filing cabinet” that might be relevant to the investigation.

    Manafort was indicted by Mueller’s grand jury last October in Washington, D.C. The longtime GOP operative was charged with money laundering and acting as a foreign agent without registering with the Justice Department. The special counsel has also indicted Manafort in Virginia on charges that include tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to report foreign bank accounts. That trial is scheduled to begin July 25.

    The former Trump campaign chairman, who has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, was placed under house arrest after his initial October indictment. But Jackson last Friday ordered the ex-Trump aide jailed pending his trials after prosecutors claimed Manafort attempted to tamper with the testimony of two potential witnesses in the Washington case.

    Ahead of the Washington trial, which is slated to begin Sept. 17, Manafort’s defense team tried to get the storage-locker evidence suppressed from the case by claiming the agent’s initial entry was illegal because the employee didn’t have the authority to let them into the locker. His lawyers also argued that the warrant was too broad and that the FBI took more from the locker than the warrant allowed.


    But Jackson rejected the defendant’s pleading, noting the employee who allowed the FBI agent into the unit was identified as the lessee of the locker, had a key to the premises and also gave the bureau written permission to go inside.

    “Law enforcement agents do not need a warrant to enter a location if they have voluntary consent, and they do not need to have the consent of the person under investigation if they receive permission from a third party who has, or who reasonably appears to have, common authority over the place to be searched,” she wrote in her 36-page opinion. “Therefore, the preliminary inspection of the unit falls within the consent exception to the warrant requirement.”

    Jackson’s ruling Thursday also said the FBI did not violate Manafort’s Fourth Amendment rights because the agent submitted an affidavit explaining the reasons “to believe that Manafort had been engaged in criminal activity in the conduct of his business, and that his business records had been moved to, and remained in, the locker rented for that purpose.”

    She also said the warrant was not overbroad since it called for records related to specific offenses.

    “And even if this Court were to conclude that the warrant could or should be have been more tightly drawn, the agents relied in good faith on a warrant that had been reviewed and signed by a United States Magistrate Judge, and therefore, the evidence seized during the execution of the warrant should not, and will not, be excluded,” she wrote.

    Jackson’s ruling Thursday applies only to Manafort’s Washington trial. A separate motion from Manafort raising the same issues ahead of his Virginia trial are still awaiting arguments and a judge’s ruling.

    In a separate order Thursday, Jackson spelled out three directives for Manafort while he’s being held in a Warsaw, Virginia, jail. He must be confined “to the extent practicable” apart from other inmates awaiting or serving sentences or being held in custody pending an appeal; have a “reasonable opportunity” to meet in private with his attorneys; and be brought to the court for any proceedings if summoned by the judge or a Mueller attorney.

    Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.


    Mueller worried 'widespread media attention' may have biased jurors


    Special counsel Robert Mueller's team wants to use a written questionnaire to gauge whether “widespread media attention” has biased potential jurors for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s upcoming criminal trial.The lead Russia...

    Special counsel Robert Mueller's team wants to use a written questionnaire to gauge whether “widespread media attention” has biased potential jurors for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s upcoming criminal trial.

    The lead Russia investigator filed an eight-page motion on Thursday raising concerns about how both his overall probe into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Moscow election meddling, as well as the Manafort case specifically, had generated extensive media coverage — not all of it correct — that could taint the jury pool. Manafort is facing a series of financial fraud, tax and lobbying charges in cases spiraling out of Mueller’s broader probe.

    “The reporting, at times inaccurately, comments on the nature of the evidence collected in the case or activities of the parties,” Andrew Weissmann, one of Mueller’s lead prosecutors, wrote, noting it had found thousands of references to the investigation in its search of newspaper, television and radio coverage.

    “Furthermore, the amount of publicity about this case is only likely to grow as the trial date approaches, and such publicity increases the possibility that jurors will form biases or pre-formed opinions that may prejudice one or both parties,” Weissmann added.

    To help pick jurors for a possible three-week trial in Alexandria, Virginia, Mueller’s team provided a list of 52 potential questions seeking more information about the jurors, including whether they’d “seen, read, or heard anything at all about this case in any form of media, including newspaper, television, radio or internet.”

    If a potential juror checks the yes box, they’re asked to explain what they’ve seen and the “source of that information.”

    The questionnaire also asks potential jurors to explain any personal ties with law enforcement and the IRS. Separately, it probes whether the person has opinions about hearing from witnesses who may be “individuals who were involved in crimes themselves” and may testify “pursuant to a cooperation agreement with the government or an immunity order.”


    Earlier this year, Manafort's business partner Rick Gates, who was also a Trump campaign aide, agreed to a plea deal that saw Mueller drop the charges against him in exchange for his cooperation.

    Previewing the Manafort trial ahead, Mueller’s questionnaire asks possible jurors whether they already have opinions about crimes including bank fraud, filing false tax returns and failing to report foreign bank accounts, as well as whether they have any ties to Ukraine — issues related to Manafort’s charges.

    Mueller himself is the topic of one suggested question to jurors, which asks: “In this case, the United States is represented by the United States Department of Justice through Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III. Is there anything regarding the Special Counsel’s Office that would prevent or hinder you in any way from rendering a fair and impartial verdict in this case based solely on the evidence presented and the Court’s instructions on the law?”

    Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all of Mueller’s charges, which are set to go to trial in two different federal venues, first in Northern Virginia on July 25, then in a separate case in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17.

    The former Trump campaign chairman and longtime GOP operative was placed under house arrest after his initial indictment last October. But he was jailed Friday after prosecutors claimed he attempted to tamper with the testimony of two potential witnesses in the Washington case.


    Outside of its court pleadings, Mueller’s team has avoided much of anything in the way of public comment about its overall Russia investigation. In its motion Thursday, however, the team made clear it had been following the extensive media coverage disparaging both Mueller’s office and Manafort.

    “Some of the media accounts question the legitimacy of the Special Counsel’s investigation, tending to advance the opinion that the investigation is ‘tainted’ and therefore its results are suspect. Other media accounts, by contrast, include disparaging descriptions of the defendant,” Weissmann wrote.

    A Manafort spokesman declined comment.


    Trump’s war against Mueller borrows from Bill Clinton’s playbook


    Donald Trump isn’t the first president to go to war against a federal prosecutor scrubbing his past.Some 20 years ago, Bill Clinton and his allies wrote the playbook for discrediting an investigator— in that case, independent counsel Kenneth Starr,...


    Donald Trump isn’t the first president to go to war against a federal prosecutor scrubbing his past.

    Some 20 years ago, Bill Clinton and his allies wrote the playbook for discrediting an investigator— in that case, independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who probed everything from Clinton’s investments to his affair with a White House intern.

    “There’s going to be a war” against Starr, the Clinton strategist James Carville declared in early 1998. An unnamed White House aide told The New York Times that a recent spate of political attacks had been “part of our continuing campaign to destroy Ken Starr.”

    Another Clinton operative, Paul Begala, blasted Starr as “corrupt,” “out of control” and mounting a “witch hunt.” “I think we need a truly independent investigation of the investigation itself,” Begala added.

    "This is a partisan political pursuit of the president, and it's time for Ken Starr to start wrapping up pieces of his investigation and get to the bottom of it,” then-White House strategist Rahm Emanuel said in February 1998.

    Clinton lawyers blasted Starr for leaking. They openly questioned his personal motives and cast aspersions on his team of prosecutors. They said his probe was taking too long and costing too much. Clinton’s attorney general actually did investigate the investigator, launching an inquiry into allegations of misconduct by Starr’s team. Clinton’s wife even famously insisted that her husband had become the victim of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

    None of which is news to Trump and his advisers, who have used Clinton’s response to guide their own counterattack against the Russia special counsel, Robert Mueller. In private conversations, Trump has asked his advisers how Clinton survived the onslaught of scandals that hounded his presidency. Trump aides and lawyers have in turn sought insights from both Republican and Democratic veterans of the Clinton-Starr wars. For his new White House counsel, Trump even tapped lawyer Emmet Flood, who worked on Clinton’s defense team during his impeachment proceedings.


    Democrats insist that this time is very different. Trump and his allies, they say, are punching harder, more recklessly — and with less regard for the truth — than the Clintonites ever dared. Where Trump constantly lambastes Mueller and Justice Department officials, Clinton himself was tempered in his remarks about Starr and other federal officials. Where Trump repeatedly threatens to shut down Mueller’s operation, Clinton allies didn’t go there. (Asked in 1998 whether Starr should resign, Emanuel replied: “Politically, that’s ridiculous for us to say so.”)

    The president’s team has developed a “Trump-hybrid model” building off those Clinton examples, said David Bossie, a former deputy Trump campaign manager who was also an investigator for House Republicans as they probed Clinton’s record.

    “I have no doubt the president’s team has studied what Bill Clinton’s team did and is emulating what they believed worked,” said Bossie, who met with senior White House officials soon after Mueller’s appointment to share his Clinton-era experiences. “You always are going to make your own tweaks and adjustments for time and circumstance, but generally it’s the same approach at this point,” Bossie said.

    Trump officials have also sought help from Democrats like Lanny Davis, a former Clinton White House legal adviser who spent countless hours defending Clinton on television in the late 1990s. Davis said he has spoken with Steve Bannon, the former White House senior strategist, and several other Trump associates and lawyers about his experience, answering questions about how attorneys and White House staff should interact with each other and where the line should be drawn for challenging the investigators.

    Davis said he advised Trump’s team to avoid directly attacking Mueller’s motives — something Davis now says he regrets having done himself. Davis has recalled that Republican Sen. John McCain refused in 1999 to shake his hand for “attacking Mr. Starr’s motives,” including Davis’ assertions that Starr had unseemly personal ties to right-wing anti-Clinton figures.

    “The more you argue the law and you don’t get personal, the better off you are,” Davis said in an interview.


    Under Clinton, the attacks often were personal: Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, trashed Starr as a “federally paid sex policeman spending millions of dollars to trap an unfaithful spouse.”

    In 1998, Sidney Blumenthal, then a Clinton White House strategist, blasted Starr deputy Hickman Ewing as “a religious fanatic who operates on a presumption of guilt.”

    Starr himself in an interview last month with CBS News said there was “no question” of the parallels between how Clinton treated him and Trump’s team was handling Mueller. “Anytime a president is under attack, the president, or at least the president’s partisans and supporters, will likely go on the attack,” the former independent counsel said.

    Today, Democrats argue that the attacks on Mueller amount to obstruction of justice. But in February 1998, Carville dismissed the idea that the Clinton camp’s assault on Starr amounted to interference with his probe.

    “What is it that says if you criticize Ken Starr, you’re creating an obstruction of justice?” the Democratic operative asked the Dallas Morning News as Starr’s team battled with the Clinton White House over its attempt to force grand jury testimony from Blumenthal about his work spreading opposition research about the independent counsel’s prosecutors.

    Amid the parallels are some role striking reversals.


    Joe diGenova, who now serves as an informal Trump legal adviser and frequent defender on cable television, told the Los Angeles Times in December 1996 that Carville’s attacks on Starr were legal but “unseemly.”

    “It is a very aggressive campaign and it is making it look like they have something to hide,” diGenova added.

    In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich, then the Republican House speaker, also indignantly denounced Democratic attacks against Starr. "I am frankly sickened at the degree to which there has been a deliberate politicizing and a deliberate smear campaign against a former federal judge," the Georgia lawmaker said in March 1998.

    But in his defense of Trump, Gingrich has variously called Mueller “out of control” and “the deep state at its very worst” and likened the FBI’s Mueller-instigated search warrant on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen to “Gestapo” tactics.

    Gingrich also recently sparked outrage by openly suggesting that Trump might pardon associates swept up in the Russia investigation. Trump has not ruled out that option. Neither did Clinton — not even after his 1996 presidential campaign rival, Bob Dole, challenged him in a debate “to say tonight he's not going to pardon anybody he was involved in business with who might implicate him later on.”

    Clinton wound up issuing one pardon related to the investigations into his conduct: In the final hours of his presidency, he pardoned Susan McDougal, a former business partner who was jailed for 21 days for refusing to testify against him in the federal Whitewater probe, which focused on an Arkansas real estate investment Clinton made in the 1970s. The probe was officially closed by the time of McDougal’s pardon.


    When Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani recently demanded action to “investigate the investigators” — claiming bias and misconduct at the Justice Department and on Mueller’s team — he may have been aware of a Clinton-era precedent for that. In March 1999, a federal appeals court upheld Attorney General Janet Reno’s call for the Justice Department’s public integrity section to examine whether Starr’s office had leaked to the media and whether his prosecutors improperly tried to negotiate an immunity deal with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky without her lawyer present.

    Trump lawyers have seized on other Clinton-era examples to bolster their own defense. In a June 2017 letter to Mueller, Trump personal attorney Marc Kasowitz argued the president cannot obstruct justice by firing an FBI director, noting the president’s constitutional power to pick his own staff and referencing Clinton’s ousting of William Sessions from the top of the bureau in 1993 when it “had multiple open investigations implicating the Clintons.” In January, Trump personal lawyer John Dowd argued in a letter to Mueller that he hadn’t met the threshold for getting the president to sit down for an interview. He cited a 1997 federal appeals court decision stemming from an independent counsel investigation into Clinton Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

    Another striking parallel is the one between the damage political attacks inflicted on Starr and the toll they are taking on Mueller. At one point, Starr’s favorable rating hit 11 percent.

    Months of Trump-led attacks are having a similar, if less dramatic, effect on Mueller. POLITICO-Morning Consult polling shows the Russia investigator’s unfavorable ratings among Republicans, Democrats and independents have hit all-time highs since the poll started asking questions about him last summer.

    “I think we’ve done a good job of flipping public opinion, at least for now,” said Giuliani, the former New York mayor now representing Trump as a personal attorney. He added that the lessons learned from the Clinton era — including its attacks on the investigator — have now become second nature to the Republican president and his legal team. Those lessons could serve Trump well should he face impeachment proceedings in Congress — a process Clinton survived, thanks in no small part to his campaign against Starr.

    “It’s in our memory bank,” Giuliani said.


    The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics


    Every week political cartoonists throughout the country and across the political spectrum apply their ink-stained skills to capture the foibles, memes, hypocrisies and other head-slapping events in the world of politics. The fruits of these labors are...

    Every week political cartoonists throughout the country and across the political spectrum apply their ink-stained skills to capture the foibles, memes, hypocrisies and other head-slapping events in the world of politics. The fruits of these labors are hundreds of cartoons that entertain and enrage readers of all political stripes. Here’s an offering of the best of this week’s crop, picked fresh off the Toonosphere. Edited by Matt Wuerker.

    #ItsJustAJacket: Melania Trump's team does fashion damage control on her border trip


    Melania Trump's team on Thursday struggled to recover after the first lady was called out for wearing a jacket that read "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" on her way to visit a child detention center in South Texas.The backlash to the fashion choice — which...


    Melania Trump's team on Thursday struggled to recover after the first lady was called out for wearing a jacket that read "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" on her way to visit a child detention center in South Texas.

    The backlash to the fashion choice — which was similar to the widespread criticism Melania Trump received last year for wearing stilettos on her way to visit hurricane victims — was swift on Twitter.

    And it threatened to severely undercut the compassionate photo-op, which was already competing with her husband's insistence on Thursday that he's not backing off his administration's "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal immigration.

    The first lady’s communication director, Stephanie Grisham, said there was nothing to read into the choice of Zara jacket. “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe," she said in a statement.

    Grisham later tweeted, "Today’s visit w the children in Texas impacted @FLOTUS greatly. If media would spend their time & energy on her actions & efforts to help kids - rather than speculate & focus on her wardrobe - we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children. #SheCares #ItsJustAJacket."

    Melania Trump did not wear the jacket on her tour in Texas, but she had it back on when she exited the plane back in Washington.

    A short while later, President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter.

    “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media,” he wrote. “Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!“


    Melania Trump's trip to the border came one day after the president bowed to public pressure and halted his administration's policy of separating families who illegally cross the border.

    But the executive order has failed to halt the outcry, as questions remain about how the policy will be implemented and what will happen to the thousands of children already forcibly removed from their parents.

    The trip from Melania Trump was an unusually high-profile moment from the normally reserved first lady and comes as her office has tried to emphasize her desire for the migrant children to be treated humanely.

    “We all know they're here without their families, and I want to thank you for your hard work, your compassion and your kindness you're giving them in these difficult times,” Melania Trump said during remarks to staff members of the Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas. Fifty-eight children are currently being held at that shelter.


    Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was also on the trip, which included a tour of Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center, a Customs and Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security intake center.

    The White House said in a statement that the first lady‘s goals are to “thank law enforcement and social services providers for their hard work“ in addition to hearing more on how the administration can build on efforts to reunite children with their families.

    A White House official on Wednesday told POLITICO that the first lady had been arguing behind the scenes to end family separation, and specifically had conversations with her husband about it. She first released a statement Sunday saying that she “hates to see children separated from their families” and called for a bipartisan solution.


    But the facility Melania Trump visited on Thursday — with extensive cameras present for the tightly held trip — included a brightly colored backdrop that looked more like an elementary school and served as a jarring contrast to the images of children detained in cages and the audio of young children wailing for their parents.

    And despite Melania Trump's soft-touch visit, the president on Thursday emphasized to reporters at a Cabinet meeting that he is not easing up on the hardline immigration stances that have been the hallmark of his campaign events and time in office.

    "If we took away zero tolerance, you would have millions of people at the border," Trump said.

    In Texas, Melania Trump asked during a roundtable how many times children are allowed to speak to their family and in what physical and mental state the children are brought in. She was told that children are allowed to make two calls, with officials noting there is a process to verify they are in fact speaking to family.

    The first lady was also told the children are "usually distraught" when they arrive, but "when they see the environment they start relaxing."

    Melania Trump's office offered reporters extensive information about the trip, including that the first lady asked her staff on Tuesday to begin planning a trip as soon as possible.


    That was before Trump signed an executive order halting the practice of separating children form their parents who cross the border illegally. Grisham said she was unsure whether Melania Trump knew the executive order was coming.

    “She wanted to see everything for herself…She supports family reunification. She thinks that it’s important that children stay with their families,” Grisham said, according to a pool report. “This was 100 percent her idea. She absolutely wanted to come.”

    The president supported the first lady’s trip but did not send her, the pool report said.

    “My wife, first lady, is down now at the border because it really bothered her to be looking at this,” the president said during a cabinet meeting.


    Grisham said that the first lady had seen the photos from detention centers in addition to hearing audio of children who were separated from the parents sobbing.

    After staying quiet as international outcry grew over the Trump administration's family separation policy, Ivanka Trump on Thursday also called on families to be “swiftly” reunited.


    “Now that an EO has been signed ending family separation at the border, it is time to focus on swiftly and safely reuniting the families that have been separated,” the president’s daughter and West Wing adviser tweeted. She was criticized earlier this week as she was mum on the administration‘s practice.

    When asked whether Melania Trump was making the trip to try and persuade the president to do things differently, Grisham said: “She wants to see these children and she wants to help children. It’s not about anything more than that.”

    Grisham, however, later said that she is sure that Trump will “continue to give her husband opinions on what she’s thinking along the way.”

    “I’m sure she’ll continue to let her husband know her opinions. She does that often,” Grisham said.

    A senior administration official said the first lady is visiting a permanent facility that is funded and regulated by the Health and Human Services department, according to the pool report. The children at the center stay for about 58 days, with half of the children being placed with their parent, 40 percent placed with a relative in the U.S. and about 10 percent going into foster care or to family friends.

    The first lady met with several children during her visit. She also signed a flag made by the children at the center that said “Welcome first lady.“

    “I'm here to learn about your facility and which I know you have children on a long-term basis,” she said during the roundtable with staff. “And I also would like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families.”


    Sweeping Trump proposal seeks to shrink government, merge agencies


    The Trump administration issued an ambitious proposal Thursday to shrink government and reorganize how services are delivered to citizens, a plan that touches on nearly every corner of American life, from pizza to postal delivery.The proposal would merge...

    The Trump administration issued an ambitious proposal Thursday to shrink government and reorganize how services are delivered to citizens, a plan that touches on nearly every corner of American life, from pizza to postal delivery.

    The proposal would merge the departments of Education and Labor into a new Department of Education and the Workforce. Safety net services and food aid would be consolidated into the newly named Department of Health and Public Welfare, and rural housing assistance, now at the Department of Agriculture, would shift to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Food safety programs, now overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, would be consolidated into a new Federal Food Safety Agency.

    The proposal is the result of a yearlong effort by Mick Mulvaney, a small-government crusader who leads the White House Office of Management and Budget. He called the plan the biggest reorganization of government since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-era New Deal.

    “It’s been almost 100 years since anybody really reorganized the government at this type of scale. It’s been since FDR and his New Deal, where he changed the way the government worked,” Mulvaney said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “We haven’t changed it very much since then, which means we’re almost 20 percent into the 21st century, but we’re still dealing a government that is from the early 20th century.”


    Nearly every administration has sought to streamline government bureaucracy, but attempts at structural reforms have run afoul of Congress or been abandoned because they didn’t cut costs. The last successful effort was in 2002, when Congress established the Department of Homeland Security after Sept. 11, 2001.

    Mulvaney’s proposal borrows from previous administrations, but it still faces a steep climb. Congress currently lacks the bandwidth and bipartisan geniality required to push complex reforms, and with midterm elections looming, the document could be dismissed as a political messaging tool rather than a serious proposal.

    “A wish list for anti-government ideologues,” is how Rep. Gerry Connelly of Virginia, the No. 2 Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, described the proposal. “Like every other plan rolled out by this administration, this is a blueprint for failure that would create dysfunction and chaos in the federal government.”

    The 132-page plan highlights some of the absurdities of government bureaucracy that President Donald Trump’s predecessors, Democrat and Republican alike, also tried to fix. Pepperoni pizzas, for example, are regulated differently from cheese pizzas, something President Barack Obama noted in his own reorganization plan.

    “One of my favorites: If you have a saltwater fish — you have a salmon, and it’s in the ocean, it’s governed by the Department of Commerce. Once it swims up river, it’s governed by the Department of Interior. And to get there, it has to go up a fish ladder governed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” Mulvaney said. “This is stupid.”


    Changes that don’t require consent from Congress already are in the process of being put into place. For example, government employee background checks, now the responsibility of the Office of Personnel Management, will be transferred to the Department of Defense.

    There’s a lot more Trump can do without approval from Congress. Entire divisions — and their budgets — can be moved from agency to agency, for example. But bold moves risk infuriating Congress and could lead to micromanagement by lawmakers, which in turn makes reform even more difficult.

    “If the executive branch wants to do it tomorrow, they could. But the quicker they do it, the higher the likelihood Congress comes back the following fiscal year and undoes everything,” said Thomas Hill, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.

    “One thing to consider is they have no intention of this actually coming to fruition, that it’s messaging,” Hill said. “The White House wants to point out that it wants to drain the swamp and here are the entrenched bureaucrats stepping in.”

    OMB Deputy Director Margaret Weichert said change is necessary to bring government into the modern age. Other countries, for example, combine functions of the Labor and Education departments under a single roof.

    “The goal isn’t to downgrade any of the major missions of the two organizations, but really integrate and, frankly, upgrade our thinking about education and labor and preparing children for the workforce, as well as re-skilling adults,” Weichert told reporters.


    She couldn’t explain why the administration chose the word “welfare” to label the proposed social services agency, a word lawmakers deliberately shed in the 1970s with the establishment of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    “What I can say is we’re far more interested in the content and substance of the proposals,” Weichert said. “It’s business as usual in Washington to politicize things and miss the spirit and real drive for change. I’m hopeful we don’t get distracted by political debates.”

    The proposal would eliminate the popular Community Development Block Grant program and limit government mortgage subsidies. Government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be privatized and shrunk.

    Statistical agencies, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, would be consolidated under the Commerce Department. Their data collection, including surveys, would be integrated and streamlined.

    The plan seeks to restructure and possibly privatize the U.S. Postal Service. Power assets owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Department of Energy would be sold and clean-up programs housed at several departments would be consolidated within the Environmental Protection Agency’s multibillion-dollar Superfund program.

    The Army Corps of Engineers’ civilian work would be moved out of the Department of Defense to the Department of Transportation. Management of dams, ecosystem-restoration work and the Clean Water Act permitting program would go to the Department of the Interior, a proposal that mirrors efforts by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.),

    Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, praised the proposed changes Thursday, saying that the "federal government is long overdue for a serious overhaul."

    Sarah Ferris, Alex Guillèn, Annie Snider, Katy O’Donnell, Kimberly Hefling and Michael Stratford contributed to this report