Draft Homeland Security report called for long-term surveillance of some Muslim immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security in a draft report from late January recommended authorities surveil Sunni Muslim immigrants in the United States long-term if it were decided that they fit “at-risk” demographic profiles, Foreign Policy reported Monday.

Upon reviewing 25 terrorist attacks that took place on U.S. between October 2001 and December 2017, the draft report concluded it would be of “great value for the United States Government in dedicating resources to continuously evaluate persons of interest,” according to a copy obtained by FP.

When such immigrants reached American soil, the draft report also reportedly recommended the U.S. track them on a “long-term basis.”

The report could raise new questions about the Trump administration’s policies geared toward Muslim immigrants.

The draft identified a broad group of Sunni Muslim residing within the U.S. who were identified as possibly being “vulnerable to terrorist narratives,” because they matched a set of risk indicators, such as being young, male and having national origins in “the Middle East, South Asia or Africa.”

Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), requested the report on Jan. 22, FP reported, citing internal DHS correspondence.

A CBP spokesperson told the news outlet that the report they obtained was a “first draft,” which has already undergone some revisions and continues to be changed.

“[I]t is extremely important to highlight an important aspect — the document that was improperly provided to you is not a final CBP intelligence assessment, and therefore does not reflect CBP’s policy on this matter,” the spokesperson wrote.

“More specifically, the initial draft assessment in your possession not only is still undergoing internal CBP review, but, at the time of its improper disclosure, did not reflect a large number of substantive comments and revisions that have since been made to subsequent versions of the document as a result of CBP’s internal and external review process,” their email continued.

One department official who reviewed the report told FP it is the only risk-analysis product being shared around DHS and the report’s recommendations are derived from reviews of select cases — even if the report markets it as an all-encompassing review.

“First, this report would steer policymakers to implement unfair and discriminatory surveillance of particular ethnic groups,” the DHS official told the magazine.

“Second, the analysis, which is misleadingly packaged as a comprehensive analysis of post-9/11 terrorism, could lead policymakers to overlook significant national security threats,” the official added.

During his presidential campaign, Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S., a policy that critics say has taken the form of his travel-ban on several Muslim-majority countries.

That ban has been challenged in the judicial system, and the Supreme Court announced plans to review it last month.

[The Hill]

Trump uses Egypt attack to plug border wall, immigration restrictions

In denouncing the terror attack on a mosque in Egypt, President Trump on Friday renewed his calls for for tighter immigration screening in the U.S, and a wall along the border with Mexico.

Trump said he would Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi “to discuss the tragic terrorist attack, with so much loss of life,” adding on Twitter: “We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will. Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt.”

Egyptian state media reported that at least 235 people died and more than 130 were injured during an attack on a Sufi mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai region, the deadliest attack ever on Egyptian civilians by Islamic militants.

Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted: “Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers in Egypt. The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!”

In a readout after the call, the White House said Trump offered his condolences to the people of Egypt after the “heinous attack” on worshippers. Trump “reiterated that the United States will continue to stand with Egypt in the face of terrorism,” the statement said. “The international community cannot tolerate barbaric terrorist groups and must strengthen its efforts to defeat terrorism and extremism in all its forms.”

Trump has used previous terror attacks to promote immigration restrictions that are the subject of many political and legal disputes.

The administration’s proposed ban on immigration from six Muslim majority countries has faced a number of legal challenges. And congressional Democrats have moved to block funding for the proposed wall on the nation’s southern border.

Democrats said the nation has long screened immigrants in an effort to block potential terrorists, and they have accused Trump of making his proposals to keep Muslims and Hispanics out of the United States.

[USA Today]

Reality

Trump proposes a border wall with Mexico to keep out Egyptians and a Muslim ban that does not include Egypt as solutions to prevent terrorism after a terror attack at a mosque in Egypt.

Trump Ends DACA Program

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises.

The administration’s deliberations on the issue have been fluid and fast moving, and the president has faced strong warnings from members of his own party not to scrap the program.

Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. But conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that Congress — rather than the executive branch — is responsible for writing immigration law, helped persuade the president to terminate the program and kick the issue to Congress, the two sources said.

In a nod to reservations held by many lawmakers, the White House plans to delay the enforcement of the president’s decision for six months, giving Congress a window to act, according to one White House official. But a senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, “thinks Congress should’ve gotten its act together a lot longer ago.”

White House aides caution that — as with everything in the Trump White House — nothing is set in stone until an official announcement has been made.

Trump is expected to formally make that announcement on Tuesday, and the White House informed House Speaker Paul Ryan of the president’s decision on Sunday morning, according to a source close to the administration. Ryan had said during a radio interview on Friday that he didn’t think the president should terminate DACA, and that Congress should act on the issue.

A spokesman for Ryan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “A decision is not finalized. We will make an announcement on Tuesday.”

The president’s expected decision is likely to shore up his base, which rallied behind his broader campaign message about the importance of enforcing the country’s immigration laws and securing the border. At the same time, the president’s decision is likely to be one of the most contentious of his early administration, opposed by leaders of both parties and by the political establishment more broadly.

The White House and Congress have tried to pass the issue off on each other – with each arguing that the other is responsible for determining the fate of the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who are benefiting from DACA. Though most Republicans believe that rolling back DACA is a solid legal decision, they are conscious of the difficult emotional terrain. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch joined Ryan in cautioning Trump against rolling back the program.

The president is likely to couch his decision in legalese. Many on the right, even those who support protections for children brought into the country illegally through no fault of their own, argue that DACA is unconstitutional because former President Barack Obama carried it out unilaterally instead of working through Congress.

Some Republican lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have said that Congress needs to pass a law to protect the so-called Dreamers.

“My hope is that as part of this process we can work on a way to deal with this issue and solve it through legislation, which is the right way to do it and the constitutional way to do it,” Rubio told CNN in June.

Trump’s expected decision to scrap DACA within six months represents another challenge for Ryan and fellow congressional Republicans, who are facing an end-of-September deadline to avert a government shutdown and government debt default, while also tackling a Hurricane Harvey relief package and a major tax reform push.

It’s not clear that Congress will be able to come to an agreement on the future of DACA.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who previously said he was very disappointed by Trump’s lack of action on DACA, expressed fresh frustration on Sunday night with the idea of a delayed implementation.

“Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law. Delaying so R Leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide,” King tweeted.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who has called on Trump to stand up for the Dreamers, tweeted out her displeasure with Trump’s expected announcement.

“After teasing #Dreamers for months with talk of his ‘great heart,’ @POTUS slams door on them. Some ‘heart’…” she wrote.

[Politico]

Reality

As a candidate, he pledged that on the first day of his presidency he would terminate Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Instead, on the 229th day of his presidency, he trotted out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce that the Trump administration will gradually wind down the program over the next six months. DACA will end more than a year after Trump took office — or possibly not at all. The delay is intended to give Congress time to pass a replacement measure that could provide similar protections to those known as “dreamers.”

 

Donald Trump Goes All In On Slashing Legal Immigration

President Donald Trump threw himself behind a bill on Wednesday that would make it dramatically more difficult for people to come to the U.S. legally, in spite of his past claims that he did not want to cut the number of people allowed into the country.

Trump held an event at the White House with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) to boost the latest iteration of their bill to slash the ways foreign nationals can move to the United States.

The bill from Cotton and Perdue, known as the RAISE Act, would end the practice of prioritizing green cards for adult children and extended family of people already in the U.S., discontinue an immigration lottery program and limit the number of refugees to be accepted into the U.S. to only 50,000.

The president said the bill would be “the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century” and would “reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars.”

He also claimed the current green card system provides a “fast-track to citizenship” ― although in truth, having a green card is the standard path to citizenship.

The bill would favor applicants “who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Trump said.

The president said the legislation would require immigrants to be more self-sufficient and prevent them from collecting safety net benefits. “They’re not gonna come in and just immediately collect welfare,” he said.

Current law already bars anyone who might become a “public charge” from receiving a green card, and prevents lawful permanent residents from receiving most safety net benefits for five years. But immigration hawks have long complained of loopholes in those restrictions. For instance, food stamps and Medicaid ― two of the country’s biggest safety net programs ― are exempt from the public charge criteria.

The idea, according to the president and senators, is to move toward a “merit-based” immigration plan, along the lines of the systems in Canada and Australia. But this legislation wouldn’t simply change the makeup of who can come into the country ― it would dramatically reduce the number of immigrants admitted overall, the bill’s proponents say.

“This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens,” Trump said. “This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”

Most economists say that immigration is actually beneficial to the economy and that curtailing legal immigration would slow growth. And Canada and Australia both admit legal immigrants at a far higher rate relative to their total populations than the U.S. does, including on the basis of family ties.

Trump also claimed that the current immigration “has not been fair to our people,” including immigrants and minority workers whose jobs, he said, are taken by “brand new arrivals.”

In fact, the bill could disproportionately affect nonwhite Americans, who are more likely to be recent immigrants and still have relatives living abroad, by making the already difficult process of bringing their families to the U.S. next to impossible.

Cotton previously said the bill would help prevent people from immigrating to the U.S. and then bringing over their “village” or “tribe.”

Trump told The Economist in May that he was not looking to reduce the number of legal immigrants. “We want people coming in legally,” he said at the time.

Immigration reform groups and even one Republican senator immediately panned the bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who pushed for a broad immigration reform bill in 2013, said in a statement that he supports merit-based immigration but believes cutting legal immigration would hurt the economy.

“I fear this proposal will not only hurt our agriculture, tourism and service economy in South Carolina, it incentivizes more illegal immigration as positions go unfilled,” he said. “After dealing with this issue for more than a decade, I know that when you restrict legal labor to employers it incentivizes cheating.”

[Huffington Post]

Trump Administration Quietly Rolls Back Civil Rights Efforts Across Federal Government

For decades, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments, ensuring access for the disabled and defending the religious.

Now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ appears to be turning away from this storied tool, called consent decrees. Top officials in the DOJ civil rights division have issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees — which would result in no continuing court oversight.

The move is just one part of a move by the Trump administration to limit federal civil rights enforcement. Other departments have scaled back the power of their internal divisions that monitor such abuses. In a previously unreported development, the Education Department last week reversed an Obama-era reform that broadened the agency’s approach to protecting rights of students. The Labor Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have also announced sweeping cuts to their enforcement.

“At best, this administration believes that civil rights enforcement is superfluous and can be easily cut. At worst, it really is part of a systematic agenda to roll back civil rights,” said Vanita Gupta, the former acting head of the DOJ’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama.

Consent decrees have not been abandoned entirely by the DOJ, a person with knowledge of the instructions said. Instead, there is a presumption against their use — attorneys should default to using settlements without court oversight unless there is an unavoidable reason for a consent decree. The instructions came from the civil rights division’s office of acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler and Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore. There is no written policy guidance.

Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for the DOJ, declined to comment for this story.

Consent decrees can be a powerful tool, and spell out specific steps that must be taken to remedy the harm. These are agreed to by both parties and signed off on by a judge, whom the parties can appear before again if the terms are not being met. Though critics say the DOJ sometimes does not enforce consent decrees well enough, they are more powerful than settlements that aren’t overseen by a judge and have no built-in enforcement mechanism.

Such settlements have “far fewer teeth to ensure adequate enforcement,” Gupta said.

Consent decrees often require agencies or municipalities to take expensive steps toward reform. Local leaders and agency heads then can point to the binding court authority when requesting budget increases to ensure reforms. Without consent decrees, many localities or government departments would simply never make such comprehensive changes, said William Yeomans, who spent 26 years at the DOJ, mostly in the civil rights division.

“They are key to civil rights enforcement,” he said. “That’s why Sessions and his ilk don’t like them.”

Some, however, believe the Obama administration relied on consent decrees too often and sometimes took advantage of vulnerable cities unable to effectively defend themselves against a well-resourced DOJ.

“I think a recalibration would be welcome,” said Richard Epstein, a professor at New York University School of Law and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, adding that consent decrees should be used in cases where clear, systemic issues of discrimination exist.

Though it’s too early to see how widespread the effect of the changes will be, the Justice Department appears to be adhering to the directive already.

On May 30, the DOJ announced Bernards Township in New Jersey had agreed to pay $3.25 million to settle an accusation it denied zoning approval for a local Islamic group to build a mosque. Staff attorneys at the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey initially sought to resolve the case with a consent decree, according to a spokesperson for Bernards Township. But because of the DOJ’s new stance, the terms were changed after the township protested, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for the New Jersey U.S. attorney’s office declined comment.

Sessions has long been a public critic of consent decrees. As a senator, he wrote they “constitute an end run around the democratic process.” He lambasted local agencies that seek them out as a way to inflate their budgets, a “particularly offensive” use of consent decrees that took decision-making power from legislatures.

On March 31, Sessions ordered a sweeping review of all consent decrees with troubled police departments nationwide to ensure they were in line with the Trump administration’s law-and-order goals. Days before, the DOJ had asked a judge to postpone a hearing on a consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department that had been arranged during the last days of the Obama administration. The judge denied that request, and the consent decree has moved forward.

The DOJ has already come under fire from critics for altering its approach to voting rights cases. After nearly six years of litigation over Texas’ voter ID law — which Obama DOJ attorneys said was written to intentionally discriminate against minority voters and had such a discriminatory effect — the Trump DOJ abruptly withdrew its intent claims in late February.

[ProPublica]

DeVos ‘Not Going to Be Issuing Decrees’ on Civil Rights Protections

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos clashed with Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday over protections for LGBT students, balking when asked directly if she would ban private schools from receiving federal funds if they discriminate against these students.

The Trump administration wants to invest millions into an unprecedented expansion of private-school vouchers and public-private charter schools, prompting critics to worry that religious schools, for example, might expel LGBT students or, more broadly, that private schools might refuse to admit students with disabilities. Testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, DeVos told Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., “Let me be clear: Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law. Period.”

But after another Democrat, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, pointed out that federal law is “somewhat foggy” surrounding LGBT student protections, DeVos simply repeated that schools must follow federal law, adding, “Discrimination in any form is wrong.”

Merkley pressed again, asking DeVos point-blank whether private and charter schools receiving federal funds under Trump’s budget proposal could discriminate against students based on sexual orientation or religion.

She said the department “is not going to be issuing decrees” on civil rights protections.

Merkley asked Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who chairs the subcommittee, to note that DeVos refused to directly answer the question.

DeVos came under fire last month for a nearly identical exchange, refusing to tell a House Appropriations subcommittee whether she would block federal voucher funding to private schools that discriminate against LGBT students. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told DeVos, “To take the federal government’s responsibility out of that is just appalling and sad.”

DeVos’ spokeswoman later said the controversy stemmed from a “fundamental misunderstanding” by lawmakers about what the secretary was talking about. On Tuesday, DeVos sought to clarify that she wasn’t talking about a specific voucher proposal. “It is really appropriations language,” she said.

During the nearly two-and-a-half-hour hearing, DeVos defended the Trump administration’s proposed $9 billion cut to education, saying the planned 13% reduction in funding may seem shocking, but it’s necessary.

“I’ve seen the headlines, and I understand those figures are alarming for many,” DeVos told lawmakers, according to her prepared testimony. The proposed 2018 budget, she said, refocuses the department on supporting states and school districts in their efforts to provide “high-quality education” to all students while simplifying college funding, among other efforts.

Overall, Trump plans to eliminate or phase out 22 programs that the administration says are “duplicative, ineffective, or are better supported through state, local, or private efforts.”

The administration wants to cut teacher training, vocational training and before- and after-school programs, among others. It also wants to eliminate subsidized loans and a new loan forgiveness program for students who commit to public service after college. Trump wants to funnel the savings into several school choice proposals — including a $250 million fund for expanding public funding of private-school vouchers.

The proposal faces an uphill battle in Congress. On Tuesday, Blunt, a Republican, called it “a difficult budget request to defend,” saying deep cuts to programs like after-school would be “all but impossible” to get through the committee.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Trump’s budget request “can be summed up in one word: abysmal.”

As she has recently, DeVos on Tuesday took a swat at past federal efforts to reform education, noting that discretionary spending at the U.S. Department of Education quadrupled between 1989 and 2016, from $17.1 billion to $68.3 billion.

The “seemingly endless” reform efforts, she said, have been top-down and have generated “more publicity than results,” failing to close long-standing achievement gaps between white, middle-class students and their low-income and minority peers. They’ve also produced disappointing results for high school graduation and college completion rates.

While achievement has been mixed in recent decades, high school graduation and college completion rates have actually risen, sometimes sharply. Federal data show that in 2015, the graduation rate for public high school students rose to a record-high 83%. U.S. colleges also awarded more degrees — 961,167, up 35.2% from a decade earlier.

A GOP mega-donor and four-time chair of the Michigan Republican Party, DeVos previously ran an organization that promotes private-school choice. DeVos last month called school choice critics “flat-earthers” and said expanding families’ educational choices is a way to bring U.S. education “out of the Stone Age and into the future.”

On Tuesday, she said more choice would help families in more ways than one, noting that when parents decide proactively which school their child should attend, “there’s a lot more engagement, naturally, as a result of that.”

Media

 

 

Betsy DeVos Would Not Agree to Bar Discrimination by Private Schools That Get Federal Money

President Trump’s budget proposal includes deep cuts to education but funds a new push for school choice.

When pressed by representatives at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on the budget, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declined to say if, when or how the federal government would step in to make sure that private schools receiving public dollars would not discriminate against students.

She repeatedly said that decisions would be left to school districts and parents.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) stressed that Milwaukee’s school voucher program has resulted in years of failure. When he pressed DeVos on whether the federal government would hold recipients of public money accountable, DeVos punted.

“Wisconsin and all of the states in the country are putting their ESSA plans together,” said DeVos, referring to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a school accountability law. “They are going to decide what kind of flexibility … they’re allowed.”

“Will you have accountability standards?” Pocan asked.

“There are accountability standards,” DeVos said. “That is part of the ESSA legislation.”

That’s not true. ESSA’s regulations state that the law’s accountability rules do not apply to private schools.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) asked DeVos about a Christian school in Indiana that gets state dollars through a voucher program but explicitly states that gay students may be denied admission.  “If Indiana applies for funding, will you stand up and say that this school is open to all students?” Clark asked.

DeVos said states make the rules.

“That’s a no,” Clark said. Then she asked what if a school doesn’t accept black students.

“Our [civil rights] and Title IX protections are broadly protective, but when our parents make choices,” DeVos started.

“This isn’t about parents making choices,” Clark interrupted. “This is about the use of federal dollars.”

After a few more rounds like this, DeVos said that her “bottom line” is that “we believe that parents are best equipped to make decisions for their schooling.”

Clark said she was shocked by this response.

DeVos’ staff later came to her defense, saying that the line of questioning in the hearing concerned a “theoretical voucher program” and indicated a “misunderstanding” about the federal government’s role in education.

“When States design programs, and when schools implement them, it is incumbent on them to adhere to Federal law,” DeVos’ press secretary Liz Hill said in an email. “The Department of Education can and will intervene when Federal law is broken.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Media

 

Trump Administration Cites Segregation-Era Ruling To Defend Its Travel Ban

In a brief defending its ban on citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department approvingly cited a segregation-era Supreme Court decision that allowed Jackson, Mississippi, to close public pools rather than integrate them.

In the early 1960s, courts ordered Jackson to desegregate its public parks, which included five swimming pools. Instead, the city decided to close the pools. Black residents of Jackson sued. But in 1971, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, decided that closing the pools rather than integrating them was just fine.

The dissents, even at the time, were furious. “May a State in order to avoid integration of the races abolish all of its public schools?” Justice William O. Douglas asked in his dissent.

“I had thought official policies forbidding or discouraging joint use of public facilities by Negroes and whites were at war with the Equal Protection Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment, Justice Byron White wrote in another dissent. “Our cases make it unquestionably clear, as all of us agree, that a city or State may not enforce such a policy by maintaining officially separate facilities for the two races. It is also my view, but apparently not that of the majority, that a State may not have an official stance against desegregating public facilities and implement it by closing those facilities in response to a desegregation order.”

The ruling in Palmer v. Thompson didn’t explicitly uphold segregation. But it did call for courts to avoid investigating the constitutionality of officials’ motivations.

It is difficult or impossible for any court to determine the ‘sole’ or ‘dominant’ motivation behind the choices of a group of legislators,” the majority opinion said. “Furthermore, there is an element of futility in a judicial attempt to invalidate a law because of the bad motives of its supporters.”

The Trump administration emphasizes this in its citation of the case, arguing that looking into “governmental purpose outside the operative terms of governmental action and official pronouncements” is “fraught with practical ‘pitfalls’ and ‘hazards’ that would make courts’ task ‘extremely difficult.’”

But in some cases, such as the closure of the Jackson pools, officials’ motivations are clear, said Paul Brest, the director of Stanford University’s Law and Policy Lab.

“When it is absolutely clear that an official acted for unconstitutional purposes … [the courts] should be willing to strike down that decision because, even though the decision might have been reached legitimately, a public official violates the constitution when he or she acts for unconstitutional reasons,” Brest said. “It’s as simple as that. … Race discrimination is the best example of where courts are quite willing to take people’s motivations into account — or religious discrimination.”

Palmer is one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever handed down in regards to race, said Michele Goodwin, the chancellor’s professor of law at the University of California, Irvine.

“Citing Palmer is like citing Buck v. Bell for a premise of equal protection,” Goodwin says. (Buck v. Bell legalized eugenics.) She added that a case like Palmer also doesn’t hold up over time.

“[Palmer] doesn’t represent our view of how law, how people, how society [and] how equality has evolved in the United States,” she said. “To cite a case that, in and of itself, coheres ideas about inequality and explicit racism in spaces where racism could mean the end of someone’s life, then one would really have to question why a president would cite such a case — given how much it’s been refuted.”

John Paul Schnapper-Casteras, a special counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, wrote in a Sunday blog post that it’s “stunning” to see the Department of Justice approvingly cite a case that “at best allowed pretextual measures for avoiding racial integration ― and, more realistically, facilitated segregation by turning a blind eye to what was clearly going on in the City of Jackson.”

Justice Department lawyers know exactly what they’re doing ― citing different doctrines in an attempt to thwart any reason to examine what Trump on the campaign trail “said, very unambiguously, was to ban Muslims from coming into the country,” he told HuffPost.

“This is less about national security and more about them trying to find any way to insulate the motivation behind this order. Sometimes they invoke national security cases,” Schnapper-Casteras said. “In this case, they invoked a case about segregation.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

(h/t Huffington Post)

State Dept. Official Reassigned After Conspiracy Theory Attacks From Breitbart

The Trump administration has moved a second career government employee out of a top advisory role amid pressure from conservative media outlets that have publicly targeted individual staffers, questioning their loyalty to the new administration.

Some State Department officials believe the individual, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, was shifted because of the media attacks and are alarmed at the message such a move sends to civil service and foreign service employees, who are supposed to be protected by law from political retaliation.

“It puts people on edge,” said a State Department official familiar with Nowrouzzadeh’s situation.

Nowrouzzadeh, a civil service employee who helped shape the controversial Iran nuclear deal, had been detailed since last July to the secretary of state’s policy planning team, where she handled ongoing issues related to Iran and Gulf Arab countries. Her yearlong assignment was cut short earlier this month, after critical stories about her and others appeared in the Conservative Review and on Breitbart News, according to the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. Nowrouzzadeh did not want to be reassigned, according to the official.

The State Department said in a statement that Nowrouzzadeh has returned to the Office of Iranian Affairs, but it would not specify her new role or address questions about why she was shifted. The department’s statement noted that Nowrouzzadeh “has an outstanding reputation in the department and we expect her to continue to do valuable work in furtherance of U.S. national security. We’ll decline additional comment on the internal [human resources] matters of career employees.”

Nowrouzzadeh declined to comment for this story.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A second person familiar with the situation confirmed that the conservative media attacks on Nowrouzzadeh had rattled people in the upper ranks of the Trump administration.

Nowrouzzadeh is an U.S.-born American citizen of Iranian descent who joined the federal government in 2005, during the George W. Bush administration. Stories published recently on conservative websites have questioned whether she should remain in her position, calling her a loyalist to former President Barack Obama and mentioning her past links to the National Iranian American Council, an advocacy group that has come under criticism from the right.

Nowrouzzadeh is at least the second career staffer to be shifted after conservative media criticism.

Earlier this month, administration officials said Andrew Quinn, who had been appointed to the National Economic Council, was being sent back to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. No reason for the reassignment was given, but Quinn’s appointment to the NEC had drawn fire from Breitbart News and other conservative corners that noted the career government employee had helped the Obama administration negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal from which President Donald Trump has withdrawn.

Conservative media outlets first wrote about Nowrouzzadeh during the Obama years, when she served on the National Security Council and helped usher through the Iran nuclear deal, which was heavily criticized by many Republicans. Her name, which gives away her Iranian ethnicity, attracted attention from reporters, unusual for a lower-level staffer.

Multiple stories on Breitbart and other conservative sites pointed out that she once worked for the National Iranian American Council, which some critics allege has links to the Iranian government. But Nowrouzzadeh’s defenders note that she was merely an intern at NIAC as a college undergraduate, and that the advocacy group did not take positions on U.S. policy while she was there. NIAC, which is now more politically active, has denied working on behalf of Iran’s government.

Nowrouzzadeh is “very smart, deeply knowledgeable about Iran,” said Philip Gordon, who served as a top Middle East adviser to Obama and who has publicly defended Nowrouzzadeh in the past. “Like many civil service experts and career foreign service officers, she possesses just the sort of expertise political leaders from either party should have by their side when they make critical and difficult foreign policy decisions.”

Since Trump took office, a fresh round of stories in the Conservative Review, Breitbart and other outlets have raised questions about Nowrouzzadeh, as well as several other career government officials who have dealt with sensitive issues such as Iran, Israel and trade. Some stories have questioned why Trump kept the career staff in their roles, singling them out as “Obama holdovers,” even though some joined government years before Obama became president.

In general, U.S. law is supposed to protect career government employees from politically motivated firings and other retaliation not related to work performance. However, the political appointees of incoming administrations have wide latitude in terms of where to assign people or whom to promote, so it’s possible to shuffle people around without breaching their legal protections.

The State Department official familiar with the situation said there’s been no announcement about a replacement for Nowrouzzadeh on the policy planning team, which acts as an in-house think tank for the secretary of state.

When asked about the media attacks against her and others several weeks ago, a State spokesman said the stories in the conservative press contained a slew of misleading information. Some of the conservative media reports about Nowrouzzadeh, for instance, relied on Iranian state-run media, which often publishes “propaganda and falsehoods,” the spokesman said at the time.

Gordon said the conservative media attacks on individual government staffers may be roundabout attempts by some on the right to influence Trump’s policy agenda, especially on some sensitive issues that animate the Republican base.

“If people writing these pieces are not happy with the Trump foreign policy that may be because the president and vice president and Cabinet officers decided not to do things that are not in their interest,” Gordon said. “If Donald Trump hasn’t torn up the Iran nuclear deal, it may be because he realized that would be a bad idea. And it’s not because one of his policy planning staffers has a family of Iranian origin.”

(h/t Politico)

AG Sessions Says DOJ to ‘Pull Back’ on Police Department Civil Rights Suits

Donald Trump’s attorney general said Tuesday the Justice Department will limit its use of a tactic employed aggressively under President Obama — suing police departments for violating the civil rights of minorities.

“We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“So we’re going to try to pull back on this,” he told a meeting of the nation’s state attorneys general in Washington.

Sessions said such a move would not be “wrong or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.” Instead, he said people in poor and minority communities must feel free from the threat of violent crime, which will require more effective policing with help from the federal government.

While crime rates are half of what they were a few decades ago, recent increases in violent crimes do not appear to be “an aberration, a one-time blip. I’m afraid it represents the beginning of a trend.”

Sessions said he will encourage federal prosecutors to bring charges when crimes are committed using guns. Referring local drug violations that involve the use of a firearm, for example, to federal court can result is often a stiffer sentence than would be imposed by state courts.

“We need to return to the ideas that got us here, the ideas that reduce crime and stay on it. Maybe we got a bit overconfident when we’ve seen the crime rate decline so steadily for so long,” he said.

Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department opened 25 investigations into police departments and sheriff’s offices and was enforcing 19 agreements at the end of 2016, resolving civil rights lawsuits filed against police departments in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, New Orleans, Cleveland and 15 other cities.

On Monday, Sessions said he is reviewing the Justice Department’s current policy toward enforcing federal law that prohibits possession of marijuana, but has made no decision about whether to get tougher.

His opposition to legalization is well known, and he emphasized it during an informal gathering of reporters . “I don’t think America will be a better place when more people, especially young people, smoke pot.”

States, he said, can pass their own laws on possession as they choose, “but it remains a violation of federal law.”

The current policy, spelled out in a 2013 memo from former deputy attorney general James Cole, said federal prosecutions would focus on distribution to minors, involvement of gangs or organized crime, sales beyond a state border, and growing marijuana plants on federal land.

(h/t NBC News)

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