Trump says NFL players who kneel during national anthem ‘maybe shouldn’t be in the country’

Taking a knee during the national anthem during a National Football League game should “maybe” be a deportable offense, President Donald Trump appeared to say in an interview that aired Thursday morning.

Speaking just moments after the NFL announced that all players who are on the field when the national anthem is heard before a game must stand and show respect — or can choose to remain in the locker room without penalty — Trump praised the new policy but also said it didn’t go far enough in punishing players who might continue to take a knee during the anthem.

“Well, I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said in a wide-ranging sit-down with “Fox and Friends” that took place Wednesday but wasn’t aired until Thursday.

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners did the right thing,” he added.

Under the new policy, teams will be subject to a fine if a player does not comply.

The NFL had previously suggested that players should stand, but it stopped short of enforcing fines. The new policy says clubs can still develop their own work rules for players and personnel who don’t stand, but they must be “consistent with the above principles.” That means teams could choose to pass along fines to players.

The controversy over players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” has raged since 2016, when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback with the 49ers, first refused to stand as a lone protest against police brutality, particularly against black Americans, and racial oppression. Protests expanded, prompting Trump to criticize the the kneeling as “disgraceful.”

Trump, in the interview with Fox, took credit for creating the issue but said it was “the people” who “pushed it forward.”

“I think the people pushed it forward, not me. I brought it out. it could have been taken care of when it first started,” he said.

Trump, in his interview, also discussed immigration, the MS-13 gang and his decision last year to fire former FBI Director James Comey.

“I’ve done done a great service for the country by firing him,” Trump claimed.

The president, who spoke to the network Wednesday following a roundtable discussion on MS-13 and immigration in New York, added that he would not consider an immigration bill that did not include provisions to build his border wall.

“Unless it includes a wall, I mean a real wall … there will be no approvals from me,” Trump said. He said he was “watching one or two” of the bills that are expected to be voted on in the House, following an expected forced vote process by moderate Republicans known as a discharge petition.

The petition would force a vote on bipartisan legislation unveiled in March that would allow for the consideration of four different proposals, including: a conservative immigration bill proposed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; a bipartisan version of the Dream Act; and a bipartisan bill to protect people covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while enhancing border security.

Trump, however, said, “it’s time to get the whole package,” referring to his desire that any immigration deal include not only money for his wall and protections people covered by DACA, but also increased border security measures like ending so-called “chain migration.”

[NBC News]

Trump on deported immigrants: “They’re not people. They’re animals.”

President Donald Trump referred to some people deported from the United States as “animals” during a roundtable discussion with California sheriffs on Wednesday. It’s the latest in a series of statements stretching Trump’s entire national political career that carelessly conflate immigration, criminality, and violence.

From the official White House transcript:

SHERIFF (Margaret) MIMS (Fresno County, CA): Now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.

SHERIFF MIMS: It’s a disgrace.

THE PRESIDENT: And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.

SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

It’s not clear who the president was referring to — whether he was simply picking up on Sheriff Mims’s reference to MS-13 gang members or referring to deportees more broadly. But the president didn’t exactly bend over backward to specify that not all immigrants deported by this administration are “animals.”

Trump has used the term “animals” to refer to members of MS-13 before. In a July 2017 speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, he said: “Few communities have suffered worse at the hand of these MS-13 thugs than the people of Long Island. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They are animals.” In February, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “These are animals. They cut people. They cut them. They cut them up in little pieces, and they want them to suffer. And we take them into our country.”

No matter how Trump is portraying his policy, his administration is not focusing on deporting people who have committed particularly heinous crimes; gang members; or people with criminal records. From Trump’s inauguration to the end of 2017, ICE arrested 45,436 immigrants without criminal records.

To be sure, ICE arrests of immigrants with criminal records ticked up slightly from the last year of the Obama administration (in which immigration enforcement was subdued compared to previous years) to the Trump administration. But arrests of immigrants without criminal records have also spiked. During President Obama’s last year, about 16 percent of ICE arrests were of noncriminal immigrants; each month since July 2017, between 32 and 40 percent of arrestees have been noncriminals.

The Trump administration is still deporting fewer noncriminal immigrants than the Obama administration did circa 2011, and the proportion of deportees who are noncriminals is usually smaller than the proportion of arrestees who are. But the Trump administration is aiming not just to ramp back up to the deportation peak of Obama’s first term but surpass it, and that’s going to require arresting and deporting a lot of immigrants without criminal records.

If Donald Trump understands his own administration’s policy, he’s never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.

This is who Donald Trump has been for his entire political career. The worst-case scenarios about his dehumanizing rhetoric — that they would foment large-scale mob violence or vigilantism against Latinos in the United States — have not been realized. But neither have any hopes that Trump, as president, might ever weigh his words with any care at all, especially when encouraging Americans to see human beings as less than human.

[Vox]

Update

The White House said that President Trump was “clearly” referring to members of the MS-13 gang when he called some immigrants “animals” and argued the controversial label is more than appropriate.

Media

Kelly says undocumented immigrants ‘don’t have the skills’ to assimilate into US society

White House chief of staff John Kelly said he believes the vast majority of undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border into the US do not assimilate well because they are poorly educated.

“Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS13,” Kelly told NPR in an interview released late Thursday, referring to the criminal gang. “But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society.”

The former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said the undocumented immigrants don’t speak English and are “overwhelmingly rural people” from countries where “fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm.”

don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws,” he went on to say.

According to NPR, Kelly supports DHS’ decision in ending temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sudan, and more recently Honduras.

However, he floated the idea of finding a path to citizenship for the more than 425,000 immigrants, many of whom have lived in the US legally for decades under TPS.

“I think we should fold all of the TPS people that have been here for a considerable period of time and find a way for them to be on a path to citizenship,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who is seen inside the Trump administration as a “hardass” on immigration, was previously accused of degrading undocumented immigrants in February, when he suggested that some were “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the President sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” he said on Capitol Hill after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to audio posted by The Washington Post.

“The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly added.

After another meeting on Capitol Hill, Kelly later said some people who were DACA eligible but didn’t sign up had reasons but most probably “needed to get off the couch.”

[CNN]

Trump praises conservative activist Candace Owens as a ‘very smart thinker’

President Trump on Wednesday praised conservative activist Candace Owens, who he said “is having a big impact” on American politics.

“Candace Owens of Turning Point USA is having a big impact on politics in our Country,” the president wrote on Twitter.

“She represents an ever expanding group of very smart ‘thinkers,’ and it is wonderful to watch and hear the dialogue going on…so good for our Country!”

Owens is the communications director for Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit that focuses on working with students on college campuses.

Rapper Kanye West recently heaped similar praise on Owens and the two later met in person.

“I love the way Candace Owens thinks,” West wrote on Twitter.

The president last year praised the founder of Turning Point USA just one day after an investigation revealed that an official with the organization had sent racist text messages. The organization fired the employee following the report.

“’The President has accomplished some absolutely historic things during this past year.’ Thank you Charlie Kirk of Turning Points USA,” Trump wrote at the time on Twitter, referring to the organization’s founder.

“Sadly, the Fake Mainstream Media will NEVER talk about our accomplishments in their end of year reviews. We are compiling a long & beautiful list.”

[The Hill]

Reality

The inflammatory Owens used a TMZ appearance to come to the defense of neo-Nazis and call the police killings of black men a trivial issue. She insisted that Trump has neither proposed harmful policies nor made offensive remarks towards African Americans.

Top staffer at a pro-Trump super PAC doubles down on claim that black people are ‘statistically’ lazier than whites

Carl Higbie, a former Trump administration official who now works as a high-ranking staffer at a super PAC connected to the president’s agenda distanced himself from racist comments he made on the radio that led to his resignation in January. Now, however, he is doubling down on his claim that black people are “statistically” lazier than whites and claiming the comments were taken out of context.

CNN’s KFILE, the blog that originally revealed the America First Policies’ staffer’s numerous bigoted comments, reported Tuesday that Higbie has since recanted his apology for the remarks he made on his radio show in 2013 and 2014. During those shows, Higbie said he believes “wholeheartedly” that the “black race as a whole” are lazier than white people. He also claimed black women use welfare “as a form of employment,” and that he doesn’t like Muslims because their “ideology sucks.”

When resigning from his position leading the government program that sponsors Americorps, Higbie said that his comments from years prior “do not reflect who I am or what I stand for” and claimed to “regret saying them.”

During a radio appearance on Friday, however, the former Trump administration official said he stands by his comments.

“They dig up a couple things, a couple. Look, I had a radio show,” Higbie told Virginia talk radio DJ John Fredericks. “How many times have you said something on radio that could possibly be construed as very controversial when taken completely out of context? What, daily?”

Higbie went on to tout his time spent “in low-income, urban minority communities” as well as his “mission trips in high school to Dominican Republic, Central America [and] South America” before saying he made a “statistical observation” about black people as a race.

“It fit their narrative,” he said of KFILE’s reporting that led to his resignation. “And because I made a statistical observation, they think that’s racist.”

CNN noted that America First Policies, Higbie’s employer, has hosted a number of events that have been attended by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who is scheduled to attend another such event tonight where the staffer will reportedly be. The super PAC also used to employ Pence’s chief of staff before he took his job in the White House.

[Raw Story]

Trump Put on the Spot About ‘Sh*thole Countries’ Remark in Presser with Nigerian President

President Trump held a joint press conference today with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and at one point, the African leader was asked about Trump’s infamous comments about “shithole countries.”

Buhari hesitated to weigh in much on this topic, explaining, “The best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

Trump, who didn’t even deny making that comment in the first place, said it didn’t come up in their discussions:

“We didn’t discuss it, and you do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in. But we didn’t discuss it, because the president knows me, and he knows where I’m coming from and I appreciate that. We did not discuss it.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Stands By His ‘Muslim Ban’ Campaign Rhetoric: ‘There’s Nothing to Apologize For’

President Donald Trump apparently stood by his campaign calls for a “Muslim ban” in a news conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, telling a reporter he has “nothing to apologize for” regarding his rhetoric.

The first question of his joint presser went to Washington Times reporter S.A. Miller, who pointed out that the opposition to the Trump administration’s travel ban in court rests on his campaign rhetoric calling for the ban of Muslims from the U.S.

“The lawyers for your opponents said if you would simply apologize for your rhetoric from the campaign, the whole case would go away,” Miller noted.

“I don’t think it would,” Trump replied. “And there’s no reason to apologize. Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster, they’re laughed at all over the world, they’re laughed at, for their stupidity.”

“We have to have strong immigration laws,” Trump continued. “So I think if I apologized it wouldn’t make ten cents of a difference to them. There’s nothing to apologize for. We have to have strong immigration laws to protect our country.”

Despite the administration’s claims that its immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries is not a ban on Muslims, it has struggled against opponents in court cases who use Trump’s campaign rhetoric calling for a “Muslim ban” against him.

[Mediaite]

Media

Corey Lewandowski flashes white power ‘OK’ symbol on stage at Trump’s Michigan rally

Corey Lewandowski, who was campaign manger for Donald Trump in 2016 until being fired for being charged with battery after he grabbed a female reporter, joined Donald Trump on stage in Michigan Saturday night.

Lewandowski briefly took the microphone, and confusedly introduced Trump as “the next president of the United States.”

But not before he appeared to flash the “OK” symbol, as captured by Fox News cameras which had a wide-view shot at the time.

The “OK” symbol is widely used by white supremacists like Richard Spencer, though alt-right types like Stephen Miller and random interns also use it.

While the symbol is used by white supremacists as a symbol of their common beliefs, they also claim it’s a meta-troll and that people are getting angry about an “OK” symbol. The Anti-Defamation League says it’s not a hate symbol—it’s just a symbol made by right-wingers who want to show they have an affinity with Nazis but who are not Nazis.

[Raw Story]

Trump Asks If There Are Hispanics In The Room Before Demanding His Wall

President Donald Trump was met with silence at a campaign-style rally in Michigan Saturday night when he asked if there were any Hispanics present, then repeated his demand for a border wall.

Trump skipped the White House Correspondents Dinner to instead regale his fervent supporters in Washington, Michigan. After taking credit for Hispanic unemployment numbers dropping, the president said this:

“Any Hispanics in the room?” Trump asked to relative silence. “Naw, not so many? That’s OK.”

Then he took a swerve into: “In all fairness, Kanye West gets it. He gets it.” The president was referring to the rapper’s recent show of support for him.

Satisfied the audience was lacking in Hispanics, Trump launched into a tirade repeating his demand for his border wall, and said those illegally crossing into the U.S. are somehow voting for Democrats in elections.

“All of these people pouring across are gonna vote Democrat,” he claimed, even though studies have shown few undocumented people vote for anyone, Democrats or otherwise, except in the few places where their votes are specifically allowed.

“They do it for a lot of reasons,” Trump said. “A lot of times they don’t even know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, but we have to have borders and we need it fast.”

He threatened to “close down the country” if he doesn’t get funding for his wall in next year’s budget.

Before Trump attempted to reach out to Hispanic voters in South Florida earlier this month, he employed a similar tactic of surveying the audience.

“Are there any Hispanics in the room?” Trump asked during a roundtable discussion on tax cuts, The Washington Post reported.

He didn’t wait for an answer.

“No, I doubt it,” he said.

[Huffington Post]

Trump challenges Native Americans’ historical standing

The Trump administration says Native Americans might need to get a job if they want to keep their health care — a policy that tribal leaders say will threaten access to care and reverse centuries-old protections.

Tribal leaders want an exemption from new Medicaid work rules being introduced in several states, and they say there are precedents for health care exceptions. Native Americans don’t have to pay penalties for not having health coverage under Obamacare’s individual mandate, for instance.

But the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. “HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,” according to a review by administration lawyers.

The Health and Human Services Department confirmed it rebuffed the tribes’ request on the Medicaid rules several times. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, conveyed the decision in January, and officials communicated it most recently at a meeting with the tribes this month. HHS’ ruling was driven by political appointees in the general counsel and civil rights offices, say three individuals with knowledge of the decision.

Senior HHS officials “have made it clear that HHS is open to considering other suggestions that tribes may have with respect to Medicaid community engagement demonstration projects,” spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said, using the administration’s term for work requirements that can also be fulfilled with job training, education and similar activities.

The tribes insist that any claim of “racial preference” is moot because they’re constitutionally protected as separate governments, dating back to treaties hammered out by President George Washington and reaffirmed in recent decades under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, including the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

“The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” said Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?”

Tribal leaders and public health advocates also worry that Medicaid work rules are just the start; President Donald Trump is eyeing similar changes across the nation’s welfare programs, which many of the nearly 3 million Native Americans rely on.

“It’s very troublesome,” said Caitrin McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board, noting that Native Americans suffer from the nation’s highest drug overdose death rates, among other health concerns. “There’s high unemployment in Indian country, and it’s going to create a barrier to accessing necessary Medicaid services.”

Native Americans’ unemployment rate of 12 percent in 2016 was nearly three times the U.S. average, partly because jobs are scarce on reservations. Low federal spending on the Indian Health Service has also left tribes dependent on Medicaid to fill coverage gaps.

“Without supplemental Medicaid resources, the Indian health system will not survive,” W. Ron Allen — a tribal leader who chairs CMS’ Tribal Technical Advisory Group — warned Verma in a Feb. 14 letter.

The Trump administration has allowed three states — Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana — to begin instituting Medicaid work requirements, and at least 10 other states have submitted or are preparing applications. More than 620,000 Native Americans live in those 13 states, according to 2014 Census data. And more states could move in that direction, heightening the impact.

Some states, like Arizona, are asking HHS for permission to exempt Native Americans from their proposed work requirements. But officials at the National Indian Health Board say that may be moot, as federal officials can reject state requests.

Tribal officials say their planning process has been complicated by HHS’ refusal to produce the actual documents detailing why Native Americans can’t be exempted from Medicaid work requirements. “The agency’s official response was that they couldn’t provide that [documentation] because of ongoing, unspecified litigation,” said Devin Delrow of the National Indian Health Board. HHS did not respond to a question about why those documents have not been made available.

While the tribes say they hope to avoid a legal fight, their go-to law firm — Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker LLP — in February submitted a 33-page memo to the Trump administration, sternly warning officials that the health agency was violating its responsibilities.

“CMS has a duty to ensure that [Native Americans] are not subjected to state-imposed work requirements that would present a barrier to their participation in the Medicaid program,” the memo concludes. “CMS not only has ample legal authority to make such accommodations, it has a duty to require them.”

Meanwhile, tribal leaders say the Trump administration has signaled it may be seeking to renegotiate other aspects of the government’s relationship with Native Americans’ health care, pointing to a series of interactions they say break from tradition.

“This doesn’t seem to be isolated to the work requirements,” said McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board.

The Trump administration also targeted the Indian Health Service for significant cuts in last year’s budget, though Congress ignored those cuts in its omnibus funding package last month, H.R. 1625 (115). The White House budget this year proposed eliminating popular initiatives like the decades-old community health representative program — even though tribal health officials say it is essential.

Tribal officials noted that both HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan skipped HHS’ annual budget consultation with tribal leaders in Washington, D.C., last month. The secretary’s attendance is customary; then-HHS Secretary Tom Price joined last year. However, Azar canceled at the last minute. His scheduled replacement, Hargan, fell ill, so Associate Deputy Secretary Laura Caliguri participated in his place. That aggravated tribal leaders who were already concerned about the Trump administration’s policies.

Another point of contention for the tribes is that HHS’ civil rights office — while rejecting Native Americans’ Medicaid request on grounds that they’re seeking an illegal preference — simultaneously announced new protections sought by conservative religious groups.

HHS further stressed that the administration remains committed to Native Americans’ health.

“Secretary Azar, HHS, and the Trump administration have taken aggressive action and will continue to do so to improve the health and well-being for all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” according Oakley, of HHS.

But tribal leaders and public health experts say the administration’s record hasn’t matched its rhetoric. “Work requirements will be devastating,” said Smith, the former Indian Health Service acting director. “I don’t know how you would implement it. There are not jobs to be had on the reservation.”

[Politico]

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