Trump requests paperwork to pardon accused US war criminals

President Donald Trump has requested paperwork allowing him to move forward quickly with pardons for accused US war criminals, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The pardons from a President who on the campaign trail expressed support for “tougher” tactics than waterboarding and going after the families of terrorists could come “on or around Memorial Day,” two US officials told the Times.

One military official told the Times that the White House made its request to the Justice Department on Friday, and that while pardon files typically take months to assemble, the Justice Department had stressed the files needed to be completed before the coming Memorial Day weekend.

The Times said those who could potentially receive clemency include a Navy SEAL who is facing trial for shooting unarmed civilians and murdering a wounded person, along with a range of others accused or convicted of shooting or killing unarmed civilians.

Trump previously expressed sympathy for Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL in question, in a March tweet saying he would be moved to “less restrictive confinement” ahead of his trial.

“In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly! @foxandfriends @RepRalphNorman,” Trump tweeted.

Gallagher was charged last year for the various violent incidents in Iraq during 2017.

On the campaign trail, Trump implied he would support torturing detainees as president, and after significant pushback for his enthusiastic comments about waterboarding and killing the families of terrorists, he reversed the position in a statement. But just days after taking the oath of office, Trump again expressed support for torture and said he “absolutely” believed it works.

Trump’s potential pardons for accused and convicted war criminals, if issued, would mark the latest gesture from the US President toward a change in standards for US war efforts and treatment of detainees that he intimated on the campaign trail.

Earlier this month, Trump pardoned Michael Behenna, a former Army soldier who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing a detainee he drove into the Iraqi desert and shot twice. In April, the Trump administration revoked the visa for the chief prosecutor on the International Criminal Court, and a spokesperson said at the time that the US would take necessary steps “to protect our people from unjust investigation.”

The ICC, which the US is not a member of, sought authorization previously to open an investigation into crimes committed by US troops in Afghanistan.

[CNN]

Former DHS officials blocked Trump plan to arrest thousands of migrants before being ousted

Former leaders at the Department of Homeland Security, including then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, pushed back on a White House plan for mass arrests of migrants shortly before their ouster, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration had planned to arrest thousands of parents and children in 10 major U.S. cities to deter further migrants, the Post reported, citing seven current and former DHS officials. The plan involved fast-tracking immigration court cases and expanding the government’s authority to deport migrants who did not show for their hearings. Arrests of the no-shows would involve coordinated raids of the homes and neighborhoods of parents with children, according to the Post.

Nielsen and then-acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ronald Vitiello put a stop to the plan, citing lack of preparation by ICE personnel and public relations concerns, according to the Post.

“There was concern that it was being hastily put together, would be ineffective, and might actually backfire by misdirecting resources away from critical border emergency response operations,” one DHS official told the Post.

Major boosters of the plan within the administration included senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Matthew Albence. The plan, which is reportedly still under consideration, incorporated cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to the Post.

The two officials’ pushback was a major factor in their ouster, according to the Post, citing administration officials. When Trump announced the withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination as ICE director in April, he expressed a desire to go in a “tougher” direction without further elaborating.

“Both he and Nielsen instinctively thought it was bad policy and that the proposal was less than half-baked,” a DHS official told the Post.

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

[The Hill]

‘Shoot them!’: Trump laughs off a supporter’s demand for violence against migrants

A roar rose up from the crowd of thousands of Trump supporters in Panama City Beach on Wednesday night, as President Trump noted yet again that Border Patrol agents can’t use weapons to deter migrants. “How do you stop these people?” he asked.

“Shoot them!” someone yelled from the crowd, according to reporters on the scene and attendees.

The audience cheered. Supporters seated behind Trump and clad in white baseball caps bearing the letters “USA” laughed and applauded.

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump replied, smiling and shaking his head. “Only in the Panhandle.”

Though Trump didn’t explicitly endorse the suggestion to shoot migrants, his joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The president has long been accused of endorsing acts of violence through his incendiary rhetoric and allusions to the potential for violence at his rallies, a charge that members of his administration deny.

Reached for comment by The Washington Post on Trump’s reaction at the Florida rally, Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, pointed to a response he had given to many critics on Twitter. The president, he noted in his tweet, had specifically said that Border Patrol wouldn’t use firearms to stop migrants from entering the country.

The incendiary remark from the crowd came as Trump, standing before roughly 7,000 people who had gathered at an outdoor amphitheater in the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast town, railed against what he described as an “invasion” of migrants attempting to enter the United States. Often, he claimed, only “two or three” border agents will contend with the arrival of “hundreds and hundreds of people.”

“And don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said of the border agents. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”

The fans seated directly behind Trump wore serious, perturbed frowns, which were quickly replaced by broad grins after the shouted suggestion that the solution involved firearms. Uproarious laughter rippled across the room as audience members whistled and offered a round of applause.

To critics, Trump’s failure to outright condemn the idea of shooting migrants amounted to a “tacit endorsement” of the sentiment. Many pointed out that such rhetoric was especially concerning in light of the fact that an armed militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, had been searching the borderlands for undocumented migrants and detaining them against their will.

Last month, after the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the FBI said that the 69-year-old claimed militia members were training to assassinate former president Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and prominent Democratic donor George Soros.

One member of that militia had also questioned why the group wasn’t killing migrants, according to a police report first obtained by left-leaning news outlet The Young Turks.

[Washington Post]

Media

Trump pardons ex-soldier convicted of killing Iraqi prisoner

President Trump on Monday signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, to a former Army first lieutenant convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner.

The White House released a statement announcing Trump’s decision to pardon Michael Behenna, who was sentenced in 2009 to 15 years for shooting and killing Ali Mansur Mohamed. The move comes after repeated requests from Oklahoma’s attorney general for Trump to pardon Behenna. 

“Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public,” the White House said, noting that more than two dozen generals and admirals as well as numerous Oklahoma officials have expressed support for Behenna, who hails from the state. The statement added that Behenna has been “a model prisoner.”

“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” the statement read.

Prosecutors argued Behenna shot and killed Mansur, an alleged al Qaeda operative, in the desert in 2008 in retaliation for an improvised explosive device (IED) attack. Mansur had previously been ordered released because of a lack of evidence of his connection to the terrorist group, and Behenna reportedly killed him while returning him to his hometown after attempting to question him about the IED attack.

Behenna was paroled in 2014 and was to remain on parole until 2024 prior to the pardon. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) recently petitioned the Trump administration to pardon the Oklahoma native, writing to Attorney General William Barr in April that Behenna was convicted because of improper jury instructions and because prosecutors did not turn over evidence bolstering his claim of self-defense. Hunter had previously petitioned for the pardon in February 2018.

“I commend President Trump’s decision to grant a full pardon for Mr. Behenna,” Hunter said in a statement Monday evening. “Mr. Behenna served his country with distinction, honor and sacrifice. He has admitted to his mistakes, has learned from them and deserves to move on from this incident without living under its cloud for the rest of his life.”

“My hope is that Michael and the rest of his family can rest easy this evening knowing they can put this tragic situation behind them.”

[The Hill]

Trump: We’re ‘looking into’ banning of right-wing commentators on social media

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that his administration is “looking into” the banning of right-wing media personalities from prominent social media platforms — following a purge by Facebook of accounts belonging to several controversial political figures.

The president lamented the apparent suspension of actor and Trump supporter James Woods’ Twitter account, as well as the shuttering of Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson’s Facebook profile this week.

“So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook!” Trump tweeted.

Infowars chief Alex Jones, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and activist Laura Loomer were among the other incendiary characters bootedThursday from Facebook and its 

Trump and Republican members of Congress have long railed against Silicon Valley for what they claim is a perceived bias at the world’s largest tech firms against conservative viewpoints.

“The wonderful Diamond and Silk have been treated so horribly by Facebook,” the president wrote online, referring to the pro-Trump video-bloggers who have repeatedly claimed that the company is unfairly silencing them.

“They work so hard and what has been done to them is very sad – and we’re looking into,” Trump tweeted of the sisters, whose real names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson.

“It’s getting worse and worse for Conservatives on social media!”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued Twitter and three of its users in March, alleging that he was defamed and that the social media juggernaut selectively enforces its terms of service to benefit opponents of the Republican Party.

Trump last Tuesday met with with Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, in the Oval Office — hours after the president complained online about his treatment on the platform.

“No wonder Congress wants to get involved – and they should. Must be more, and fairer, companies to get out the WORD!” Trump tweeted.

[Politico]

Trump says US is sending immigrants to sanctuary cities: ‘That was my sick idea’

President Trump said late Saturday that the U.S. is already sending immigrants to sanctuary cities and that it was his “sick idea.” 

“Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources like nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said during a rally in Green Bay, Wis. “Now we’re sending many of them to sanctuary cities. Thank you very much. They’re not too happy about it. I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea.”

“What did they say? ‘We want them,'” Trump continued. “I said we’ll give em to you.”

The comments came just a day after Trump said in a speech to the National Rifle Association that the U.S. was forced to release migrants and that it gave sanctuary cities “as many as they can handle,” according to CNN

The Washington Post first reportedearlier this month that Trump administration officials had floated the idea to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The administration had reportedly unsuccessfully tried to persuade DHS to release thousands of detainees in small and midsize cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. 

The move was reportedly meant to put pressure on Democratic lawmakers. 

Trump said in a tweet on April 12 that his administration was actively considering the move. 

“The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities,” he wrote in a separate tweet on April 13. “We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!”

DHS has made no formal announcement related to sending migrants to sanctuary cities or Trump’s statement. 

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

[The Hill]

Trump ignores black #1 NFL pick to congratulate white player with history of racist tweets

In his first tweet on Saturday morning, President Donald Trump ignored the first player picked in the NFL draft, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, who is black, to praise the number two pick — a white player with a history of racist tweets.

In his tweet, Trump skipped over the Heisman Trophy winner to celebrate Ohio State’s Nick Bosa — who missed most of the 2018 season — for being picked second.

“Congratulations to Nick Bosa on being picked number two in the NFL Draft. You will be a great player for years to come, maybe one of the best. Big Talent! San Francisco will embrace you but most importantly, always stay true to yourself. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he tweeted.

According to to the San Franciso Chronicle,”Bosa recently deleted tweets in which he called Colin Kaepernick a ‘clown,’ referred to Beyonce’s music as ‘complete trash’ and called ‘Black Panther’ the worst Marvel movie. On Thursday, the website Blacksportsonline posted threads showing Bosa following and liking accounts that feature white nationalist posts. The twitter feed @rzstprogramming showed Bosa retweeted a tweet referring to ‘crappernick.’”

[Raw Story]

Trump defends Charlottesville comments by praising a Confederate general

President Trump on Friday defended his comments after the 2017 “Unite the Right” protests in which an avowed neo-Nazi killed a woman and injured dozens of others in Charlottesville, arguing that his focus was on the protesters defending the monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Trump, pressed on whether he stood by his comments that there were “very fine people on both sides,” told reporters, “If you look at what I said, you will see that that question was answered perfectly. And I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general.”

Former vice president Joe Biden resurrected Trump’s response to the deadly rally by self-professed white supremacists in a video to launch his presidential campaign on Thursday. In it, Biden said Trump’s remarks “shocked the conscience of this nation.”

“With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it,” Biden says in the video. “And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.”

Trump, who spoke to reporters en route to a speech to the National Rifle Association in Indiana, said, “People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.”

Trump and others have tried to distinguish between the self-proclaimed white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and the other supporters of Confederate monuments, who were all marching in Charlottesville that weekend.

But the events that weekend were organized by a self-proclaimed white nationalist, Richard Spencer, and those in attendance wore swastikas and chanted anti-Semitic slogans.

James Alex Fields Jr., who killed Heather Heyer and injured 35 other people when he plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters at the rally by self-proclaimed white supremacists, pleaded guilty to hate crimes in federal court earlier this month.

Fields, 21, of Ohio admitted guilt to 29 of 30 counts in a federal indictment as part of a deal with prosecutors, who agreed they would not seek the death penalty in the case. Fields is set to be sentenced July 3.

Some Trump supporters have become Charlottesville truthers, arguing that Trump’s comments were taken out of context. They maintain, as Trump does, that he was not calling self-proclaimed neo-Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people,” and in fact, he said they should be condemned.

Post writer Aaron Blake more thoroughly examined the fallacies of this argument, noting that it’s hard to make the case that there were “very fine people” marching alongside people chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

[Washington Post]

Reality

Then on August 15, 2017 Trump again defended the backlash of his comments equating neo-Nazis with those protesting the neo-Nazis by first claiming it was “the left” who was violent and initiated the violence, then again and again stuck to his guns that “both sides” were to blame, which is when Trump made the statement “there was very fine people on both sides.” Later in the press conference Trump said he’s not defending the neo-Nazis, but the obvious problem is this.

First, It was a neo-Nazi rally.

It was always billed as a neo-Nazi rally with prominent white supremacists, such as Richard Spencer, David Duke, and others, all to support the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a traitor who fought the United States specifically for the right to own humans of African descent as property.

Second, Trump later in the press conference, while clarifying his remarks, said that the night before the rally he saw the Unite the Right protesters walking very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee.

They were not walking very quietly, but were all carrying tiki torches and chanting “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”

And finally Trump attacked the “left” for showing up to protest the neo-Nazis without a permit, and pointing out the neo-Nazis had a permit and a right to be there.

Donald Trump was absolutely giving neo-Nazis a pass, and morally equating them with people protesting neo-Nazis.

Watch the press conference in full.

Trump threatens to send ‘gang members’ and ‘human traffickers’ to sanctuary cities in latest immigration meltdown

President Donald Trump again threatened to send asylum seekers to sanctuary cities.

“Democrats must change the immigration laws fast,” Trump demanded, despite nothing being done during the two years of his presidency that Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

Trump then branded immigrants as “criminals of all shapes.”

“If not, sanctuary cities must immediately act to take care of the illegal immigrants – and this includes gang members, drug dealers, human traffickers, and criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds,” Trump continued.

“Change the laws now,” he demanded.

[Raw Story]

Trump told CBP head he’d pardon him if he were sent to jail for violating immigration law

During President Donald Trump’s visit to the border at Calexico, California, a week ago, where he told border agents to block asylum seekers from entering the US contrary to US law, the President also told the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, that if he were sent to jail as a result of blocking those migrants from entering the US, the President would grant him a pardon, senior administration officials tell CNN.

Two officials briefed on the exchange say the President told McAleenan, since named the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants,” as one of the officials paraphrased.

It was not clear if the comment was a joke; the official was not given any further context on the exchange.The White House referred CNN to the Department of Homeland Security. A DHS spokesman told CNN, “

At no time has the President indicated, asked, directed or pressured the Acting Secretary to do anything illegal. Nor would the Acting Secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law.”

[CNN]

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