Trump expands federal contractors’ ability to cite religious freedom in discrimination cases

The Trump administration issued a directive earlier this month that critics argue will allow federal contractors to assert their right to a religious exemption from LGBT discrimination charges.

The Department of Labor directive, issued on Aug. 10, expands the circumstances under which federal contractors can claim they have a religious exemption when battling discrimination charges.

The directive addresses an executive order enacted in 1965 that blocks businesses that work with the federal government from discriminating against people on the basis of sex, gender identity, race, sexual orientation and other factors.

The new notice cites recent Supreme Court decisions, including a ruling in favor of a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and the 2014 Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision that certain corporations can be exempt from regulations over religious objections.

It also cites recent executive orders by President Trump, including his order earlier this year directing federal agencies to respect and protect religious liberty and political speech.

Critics told BuzzFeed News that the new directive would contradict a promise Trump made when he took office last year to not to touch an executive order issued by former President Obama that banned federal contractors from engaging in LGBT discrimination.

Department of Labor and White House officials told the news outlet that the Obama-era executive order remains in place, but declined to answer questions on when the religious exemption directive could be utilized by contractors.

“The purpose of Directive 2018-03 is to ensure [the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] guidance on the religious exemption is consistent with federal law related to religious freedom and religious accommodation, including recent U.S. Supreme Court precedents and Executive Orders, which OFCCP is obligated to follow,” a Labor Department official told BuzzFeed News.

The official noted that the executive order enacted in 1965 allows “religious organizations to make employment decisions on the basis of religion.”

The new directive also states that it “supersedes” a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) memo on the illegality of anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The previous FAQ did not reflect recent Supreme Court decisions regarding religious freedoms,” the Department of Labor official told BuzzFeed News.

“President Trump and his Administration are working diligently to improve the lives of all Americans, including faith-based and LGBT communities,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told BuzzFeed News. “We will continue to ensure anti-discrimination protections are in place for all Americans.”

Advocates opposing the new directive told the news site that the policy opens the door for contractors to cite religious exemptions when discriminating against LGBT employees.

“This Administration apparently recognizes — correctly, in our view — that rescinding [Obama’s 2014] executive order outright would cause a huge public outcry,” Shannon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the current head of Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed News. “So instead, this Administration is trying to accomplish the same end through different means.”

McGowan noted that a fifth of the federal workforce is employed through federal contractors, telling the news site that the “damage that could be done here cannot be overstated.”

[The Hill]

White House: ‘Can’t guarantee’ no tape of Trump using N-word

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday refused to definitively rule out the possibility that President Trump has used the N-word, but repeatedly pointed out the president has denied uttering the racial slur.

“I can’t guarantee anything,” Sanders said when asked if she can assure that the public will never hear a recording of Trump saying the racial slur.

Sanders said she has not “been in every single room” but added that “the president addressed this question directly” and that she has “never heard him say it.”

The remarkable exchange came after former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman wrote in her new tell-all book “Unhinged” that there are tapes of Trump saying the racial slur on the set of his old reality show, “The Apprentice.”

Trump denied that claim in a Monday night tweet, saying an “Apprentice” producer called him “to say that there are NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word as attributed by Wacky and Deranged Omarosa.”

Manigault Newman’s book has caused a major headache for the White House, and Trump has spent the past several days publicly denying her claims and attacking her credibility. The president escalated those attacks on Tuesday morning, calling her a “lowlife” and a “dog.”

“The president is certainly voicing his frustration with the fact that this person has shown a complete lack of integrity,” Sanders said when asked about the tenor of Trump’s rhetoric.

She also denied that his scorched-earth approach is motivated by Manigault Newman’s race. Before her ouster, she was the highest-ranking African-American in the West Wing.

“The president is an equal-opportunity person who calls things like he sees it,” she said, adding that he will always “fight fire with fire.”

Even though Trump and his staff have spent several days pushing back on the book, Sanders blamed the news media for the amount of attention the book is receiving.

“The individuals in this room continue to create a large platform for somebody they know does not have a lot of credibility,” she said.

Trump’s campaign has filed for arbitration against Manigault Newman, claiming she violated a nondisclosure agreement with the publication of “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.”

[The Hill]

Media

Donald Trump calls Omarosa Manigault Newman ‘that dog’

Donald Trump has escalated a bitter row with his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, praising his chief of staff, John Kelly, for “quickly firing that dog”.

Manigault Newman, a former adviser to the US president and contestant on the reality TV show The Apprentice, has released three secret recordingsrelated to her firing as she promotes her memoir, Unhinged.

Her TV appearances, and her claim to have heard a tape of Trump using the N-word and other racial slurs during filming for The Apprentice, have annoyed the president, who levelled another barrage of attacks at her on Tuesday, tweeting: “When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

On Tuesday morning, Manigault Newman revealed on CBS News a third tape that she says records a 2016 conference call among Trump campaign aides who are discussing how to address potential fallout from the release of tapes that allegedly show Trump using the N-word.

The campaign aides had previously denied that any such conversations took place.

On Monday, Trump denied claims of racism and said Manigault Newman was a liar for claiming he used the N-word: “I don’t have that word in my vocabulary and never have. She made it up.”

When Kelly fired Manigault Newman in December in the White House situation room, she secretly taped it, in an apparent breach of security protocol.

In the recording, which she played on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Kelly told Manigault Newman the firing was the result of “significant integrity issues” and that she could face damage to her reputation if she did not make it a “friendly departure”.

On Monday, Manigault Newman released another recording in which Trump appeared to express surprise that she had been fired. “Omarosa? Omarosa, what’s going on? I just saw on the news that you’re thinking about leaving? What happened?” Trump says on the tape, played on NBC’s Today show.

In a later interview on Monday, Manigault Newman said she “absolutely” had more tapes in her possession and warned that there were more to come.

The controversy has raised questions about whether she could face legal repercussions for recording in the situation room.

Defending her actions, Manigault Newman said the recordings were necessary in a White House “where everybody lies”.

Trump’s scathing attack on Manigault Newman is the latest in a string of insults directed at prominent African American people. This month, Trump questioned the intelligence of the basketball star LeBron James, who had criticised the president in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon. Trump called Lemon the “dumbest man on television”.

Days earlier, Trump said the black California congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat, had a “very low IQ”.

[The Guardian]

Ben Carson moves to roll back Obama-era fair housing rule

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is taking new steps to roll back an Obama-era rule intended to combat housing segregation.

On Monday, the Trump administration formally began the process of revamping a 2015 rule that required cities and towns to examine historic patterns of segregation and create plans to combat it, or lose federal funding.

The administration argued that the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule hinders the development of affordable housing.

The current rule is “suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods that need our investment the most,” Carson said in a statement. “We do not have to abandon communities in need.”

Sara Pratt, a former Obama official who helped develop the rule, said that the Trump administration’s moves would enable communities to ignore long-standing barriers to fair housing and integration.

“You’re going back to communities willfully blinding themselves to patterns of segregation,” said Pratt, whose law firm is representing a coalition of groups suing the Trump administration for its earlier efforts to suspend the rule. “Without this rule, communities will not do the work to eliminate discrimination and segregation.”

The Trump administration said it would instead focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing across the country. Carson told The Wall Street Journal that he would “encourage the development of mixed-income multifamily dwellings all over the place” by making HUD money contingent on looser zoning rules.

Conservatives had vocally opposed the original rule by arguing that it was “an attempt to extort communities into giving up control of local zoning decisions,” according to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.. Despite Carson’s stated interest in using federal funds to shape local zoning policies, they praised the Trump administration for taking the next big step in undoing the original rule.

“Secretary Carson’s work to rollback Obama’s overreaching housing rule is a great step in the right direction,” Gosar said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing HUD completely rescind the utopian Obama regulation.”

[NBC News]

Trump says he condemns ‘all types of racism’ ahead of Charlottesville anniversary

President Trump on Saturday tweeted that he condemns “all types of racism and acts of violence” ahead of the one-year anniversary of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump has been under intense pressure to condemn last year’s violence and speak out against white supremacists organizing an anniversary rally set to take place on Sunday.

“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” he tweeted. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1028271447632957441

The president faced significant criticism over his response to the white supremacist rally last August that left one counter-protestor dead, saying that there was “blame” as well as “very fine people” on “both sides” of the rally. While Trump does not repeat that claim in his Saturday tweet, he also does not assign blame for racism.

The second iteration of the white nationalist gathering is set to take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. Events are also planned in and around Charlottesville, where authorities have declared a state of emergency in preparation.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Two Virginia state troopers also died as they were responding to the violence when their helicopter crashed.

D.C. officials are already taking security precautions ahead of Sunday’s protest to prevent a repeat of such violence. Police Chief Peter Newsham and Mayor Muriel Bowswer (D) announced Thursday that guns would not be allowed at the rally – even for gun owners with legal permits – and that protesters and counter-protesters would be kept separate.

[The Hill]

Trump renews attacks on NFL players, calling for suspensions

President Trump on Friday renewed his attacks on NFL players who protest during the national anthem, claiming they “wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define.”

“The NFL players are at it again — taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted.

“Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest,” he continued. “Most of that money goes to the players anyway.”

“Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!” Trump added.

Trump’s new attack came a day after the first big slate of NFL preseason games on Thursday night, during which players from several teams protestedduring “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

[The Hill]

President Trump bashes LeBron James over CNN interview: Don Lemon made him ‘look smart’

It seemed inevitable that President Donald Trump would weigh in on LeBron James’ recent interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.

After four days, Trump finally let loose in a Friday night tweet in which he bashed James and said Lemon’s interview made the new Los Angeles Lakers star “look smart.” The president also alluded to preferring Michael Jordan over James.

After four days, Trump finally let loose in a Friday night tweet in which he bashed James and said Lemon’s interview made the new Los Angeles Lakers star “look smart.” The president also alluded to preferring Michael Jordan over James.

James sat down with Lemon for the interview Monday after he cut the ribbon on his foundation’s new I Promise School in his native Akron, Ohio. James spoke at length on the intersection of sports, culture and politics.

James lamented Trump “using sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.”

“Sports has never been something that divides people. It’s always been something that brings someone together,” he said.

James’ recent criticism of the president is not new. He has been an outspoken critic, famously calling Trump a “bum” after he rescinded a White House invitation to the Golden State Warriors this past season.

However, it appears Trump did not always feel that way toward James. In what is now a seemingly regular occurrence, there’s a tweet for that, as they say. In a post from May of 2013, Trump tweeted, “LeBron is a great player and a great guy!”

[USA Today]

Trump administration tells ACLU to find deported parents

The Trump administration on Thursday informed a federal judge that it isn’t responsible for locating deported parents separated forcibly from their children at the southern border.

DOJ said in a court filing that the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit over family separations, should instead take the lead in reunifying deported parents with their children.

“Plaintiffs’ counsel should use their considerable resources and their network of law firms, NGOs, volunteers, and others, together with the information that defendants have provided (or will soon provide), to establish contact with possible class members in foreign countries,” DOJ said.

The administration suggested that the ACLU find out whether the deported parents wish to be reconnected with their children, or whether they waive that option.

An administration official said Thursday evening that the filing “simply asks the court to require the ACLU to determine the wishes of and fulfill their obligations to their clients, as they have repeatedly represented in court that they would.“

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has statedrepeatedly that no parents were deported without first being given the option to take their children with them. But a Trump administration official told POLITICO on July 25 that an estimated three-quarters of the parents who left the country alone left no record behind that they ever consented to leave their children in the U.S. “We don’t see it in the documentation,” the official said.

At a Senate hearing earlier this week, Matthew Albence, executive associate director for Enforcement and Removal Operations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, repeatedly dodged questions about whether DHS could document that it secured deportee parents’ consent to leave their children behind.

[Politico]

Update

A federal judge has said the Trump administration is 100% responsible to find the lost parents.

Trump threatens government shutdown over border security

President Trump warned on Sunday that he would be willing to “shut down” the government over border security.

“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT!” he said in a morning tweet.

“We need great people coming into our Country!” he added.

The president in an earlier tweet on Sunday morning said “many” border crossers are using children for “sinister purposes.” He also blasted existing U.S. immigration laws and urged followers to vote for Republicans.

“Please understand, there are consequences when people cross our Border illegally, whether they have children or not – and many are just using children for their own sinister purposes. Congress must act on fixing the DUMBEST & WORST immigration laws anywhere in the world! Vote ‘R,’ ” he said.

[The Hill]

Trump Goes on Anti-Immigrant Rant: They’re ‘Changing The Culture’ of Europe

President Donald Trump, whose family once immigrated to the United States from Germany and Scotland, slammed immigrants coming into Europe for changing the continent’s “culture.”

Times editor Francis Elliott asked Trump about his remarks to The Sunthat Europe is “losing [its] culture” because of immigration.

“I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago,” he told The Sun, the last remark presumably referring to the fabled “no-go zones” of London dreamt up by Breitbart bloggers.

In the presser with Theresa May, Trump doubled down, stating immigration has “been very bad for Europe.”

“You see the same terror attacks that I do,” he said. “I just think it’s changing the culture. It’s a very negative thing for Europe.”

“It’s not politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I’ll say it, and I’ll say it loud,” he continued. “I think they better watch themselves because you are changing culture. You are changing a lot of things.”

Theresa May, the UK prime minister, had a different response to the question.

“The UK has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country,” she said. “We have a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to our country to contribute to our economy and contribute to our society. And over the years, overall immigration has been good for the UK. It’s brought people with different backgrounds, different outlooks here to the UK.”

“Of course what is important is that we have control of our borders, what is important is we have a set of rules that enable us to determine who comes into our country,” she added. “And of course that is what, as a government, we have been doing for a number of years and will continue to do in the future.”

[Mediaite]

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