‘I don’t have to do it, legally’: Trump says he can invade Iran without Congress’ permission

On Monday, CNN reported that in a new interview, President Donald Trump said that he can invade Iran without congressional approval — and that although he would “like the idea” of keeping Congress in the loop, he doesn’t “legally” have to do so.

“I like the idea of keeping Congress abreast, but I wouldn’t have to do that,” said Trump. In response to the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said he must obtain congressional approval first, Trump said, “I disagree. I think most people seem to disagree.”

“I do like keeping them — they are intelligent people,” added Trump. “They will come up with some thoughts. I actually learned a couple of things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress which I think were helpful to me. I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it, legally.”

[Raw Story]

Reality

https://www.lawfareblog.com/when-does-president-think-he-can-go-war-iran

Trump flips out and threatens ‘obliteration’ after Iran calls him retarded

President Donald Trump on Tuesday angrily hit back at Iran after the nation accused him of being “retarded.”

Writing on Twitter, the president accused Iran of making a “very ignorant and insulting statement” against him, which he said “only shows that they do not understand reality.”

The president then threatened the nation with “obliteration” if it didn’t wise up.

“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force,” he wrote. “In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said this week that Trump’s latest sanctions against Iran would not change his government’s behavior and he said it showed a total lack of strategy on the part of the American government.

“The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded,” Rouhani said, according to a translation from Al Jazeera English.

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.

All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers.

None of the studies were focused on the causes of global warming – an often politically charged issue. Rather, the research examined the wide-ranging effects of rising carbon dioxide, increasing temperatures and volatile weather.

The administration, researchers said, appears to be trying to limit the circulation of evidence of climate change and avoid press coverage that may raise questions about the administration’s stance on the issue.

“The intent is to try to suppress a message — in this case, the increasing danger of human-caused climate change,” said Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “Who loses out? The people, who are already suffering the impacts of sea level rise and unprecedented super storms, droughts, wildfires and heat waves.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who has expressed skepticism about climate science in the past and allegedly retaliated against in-house economists whose findings contradicted administration policies, declined to comment. A spokesperson for USDA said there have been no directives within the department that discouraged the dissemination of climate-related science.

“Research continues on these subjects and we promote the research once researchers are ready to announce the findings, after going through the appropriate reviews and clearances,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“USDA has several thousand scientists and over 100,000 employees who work on myriad topics and issues; not every single finding or piece of work solicits a government press release,” the spokesperson added.

However, a POLITICO investigation revealed a persistent pattern in which the Trump administration refused to draw attention to findings that show the potential dangers and consequences of climate change, covering dozens of separate studies. The administration’s moves flout decades of department practice of promoting its research in the spirit of educating farmers and consumers around the world, according to an analysis of USDA communications under previous administrations.

The lack of promotion means research from scores of government scientists receives less public attention. Climate-related studies are still being published without fanfare in scientific journals, but they can be very difficult to find. The USDA doesn’t post all its studies in one place.

Since Trump took office in January 2017, the Agricultural Research Service has issued releases for just two climate-related studies, both of which had findings that were favorable to the politically powerful meat industry. One found that beef production makes a relatively small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and another that removing animal products from the diet for environmental reasons would likely cause widespread nutritional problems. The agency issued a third press release about soy processing that briefly mentioned greenhouse gas emissions, noting that reducing fossil fuel use or emissions was “a personal consideration” for farmers.

By contrast, POLITICO found that in the case of the groundbreaking rice study USDA officials not only withheld their own prepared release, but actively sought to prevent dissemination of the findings by the agency’s research partners.

Researchers at the University of Washington had collaborated with scientists at USDA, as well as others in Japan, China and Australia, for more than two years to study how rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect rice — humanity’s most important crop. They found that it not only loses protein and minerals, but is also likely to lose key vitamins as plants adapt to a changing environment.

The study had undergone intensive review, addressing questions from academic peers and within USDA itself. But after having prepared an announcement of the findings, the department abruptly decided not to publicize the study and urged the University of Washington to hold back its own release on the findings, which two of their researchers had co-authored.

In an email to staffers dated May 7, 2018, an incredulous Jeff Hodson, a UW communications director, advised his colleagues that the USDA communications office was “adamant that there was not enough data to be able to say what the paper is saying, and that others may question the science.”

“It was so unusual to have an agency basically say: ‘Don’t do a press release,’ ” Hodson recalled in an interview. “We stand for spreading the word about the science we do, especially when it has a potential impact on millions and millions of people.”

Researchers say the failure to publicize their work damages the credibility of the Agriculture Department and represents an unwarranted political intrusion into science.

“Why the hell is the U.S., which is ostensibly the leader in science research, ignoring this?” said one USDA scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid the possibility of retaliation. “It’s not like we’re working on something that’s esoteric … we’re working on something that has dire consequences for the entire planet.”

“You can only postpone reality for so long,” the researcher added.

* * *

With a budget of just over $1 billion, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service — known as ARS — is often referred to as “one of the best kept secrets” in the sprawling department because of its outsize impact on society. The agency has pioneered a variety of major breakthroughs, from figuring out how to mass produce penicillin so it could be widely used during World War II to coming up with creative ways to keep sliced apples from browning, and has for decades been at the forefront of understanding how a changing climate will affect agriculture.

The agency has stringent guidelines to prevent political meddling in research projects themselves. The Trump administration, researchers say, is not directly censoring scientific findings or black-balling researchon climate change. Instead, they say, officials are essentially choosing to ignore or downplay findings that don’t line up with the administration’s agenda.

Some scientists see the fact that the administration has targeted another research arm of USDA, the Economic Research Service, as a warning shot. Perdue is moving ERS out of Washington, which some economists see as retribution for issuing reports that countered the administration’s agenda, as POLITICO recently reported.

“There’s a sense that you should watch what you say,” said Ricardo Salvador, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s going to result in some pretty big gaps in practical knowledge. … it will take years to undo the damage.”

Among the ARS studies that did not receive publicity from the Agriculture Department are:

  • A 2017 finding that climate change was likely to increase agricultural pollution and nutrient runoff in the Lower Mississippi River Delta, but that certain conservation practices, including not tilling soil and planting cover crops, would help farmers more than compensate and bring down pollutant loads regardless of the impacts of climate change.
  • A January 2018 finding that the Southern Plains — the agriculture-rich region that stretches from Kansas to Texas — is increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, from the crops that rely on the waning Ogallala aquifer to the cattle that graze the grasslands.
  • An April 2018 finding that elevated CO2 levels lead to “substantial and persistent” declines in the quality of certain prairie grasses that are important for raising cattle. The protein content in the grass drops as photosynthesis kicks into high gear due to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — a trend that could pose health problems for the animals and cost ranchers money.
  • A July 2018 finding that coffee, which is already being affected by climate change, can potentially help scientists figure out how to evaluate and respond to the complex interactions between plants, pests and a changing environment. Rising CO2 in the atmosphere is projected to alter pest biology, such as by making weeds proliferate or temperatures more hospitable to damaging insects.
  • An October 2018 finding, in conjunction with the USDA Forest Service, that climate change would likely lead to more runoff in the Chesapeake Bay watershed during certain seasons.
  • A March 2019 finding that increased temperature swings might already be boosting pollen to the point that it’s contributing to longer and more intense allergy seasons across the northern hemisphere. “This study, done across multiple continents, highlights an important link between ongoing global warming and public health—one that could be exacerbated as temperatures continue to increase,” the researchers wrote.

Those were among at least 45 ARS studies related to climate change since the beginning of the Trump administration that did not receive any promotion, according to POLITICO’s review. The total number of studies that have published on climate-related issues is likely to be larger, because ARS studies appear across a broad range of narrowly focused journals and can be difficult to locate.

Five days after POLITICO presented its findings to the department and asked for a response, ARS issued a press release on wheat genetics that used the term “climate change.” It marked the third time the agency had used the term in a press release touting scientific findings in two and a half years.

While spokespeople say Perdue, the former Georgia governor who has been agriculture secretary since April 2017, has not interfered with ARS or the dissemination of its studies, the secretary has recently suggested that he’s at times been frustrated with USDA research.

“We know that research, some has been found in the past to not have been adequately peer-reviewed in a way that created wrong information, and we’re very serious when we say we’re fact-based, data-driven decision makers,” he said in April, responding to a question from POLITICO. “That relies on sound, replicable science rather than opinion. What I see unfortunately happening many times is that we tried to make policy decisions based on political science rather than on sound science.”

President Donald Trump, for his part, has been clear about his views on climate science and agricultural research generally: He doesn’t think much of either.

In each of his budgets, Trump has proposed deep cuts to agricultural research, requests that ignore a broad, bipartisan coalition urging more funding for such science as China and other competitors accelerate their spending. Congress has so far kept funding mostly flat.

The president has also repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus on climate change. After the government released its latest national climate assessment in November, a sweeping document based on science, Trump bluntly told reporters: “I don’t believe it.”

Officials at USDA apparently took the hint and the department did not promote the report, despite the fact that it was drafted in part by its own scientists and included serious warnings about how a changing climate poses a threat to farmers and ranchers across the country.

* * *

The USDA’s failure to publicize climate-related research does more than just quell media coverage: It can also prompt universities, fearful of antagonizing a potential source of funding, to reconsider their own plans to publicize studies.

The saga of the rice study last spring shows how a snub from USDA can create spillover effects throughout the academic world.

Emails obtained by POLITICO from one of the study’s co-authors show that ARS communications staff actually wrote a release on the study, but then decided not to send it out. The Agriculture Department and UW in Seattle had initially planned to coordinate their releases, which would both be included in a press packet prepared by the journal Science Advances, which published the study in May.

The journal had anticipated there would be significant media interest in the paper. Several earlier studies had already shown that rice loses protein, zinc and iron under the elevated CO2 levels that scientists predict for later this century, raising potentially serious concerns for hundreds of millions of people who are highly dependent on rice and already at risk of food insecurity. This latest study by ARS and its academic partners around the world had confirmed those previous findings and — for the first time — found that vitamins can also drop out of rice in these conditions.

Several days before the paper was slated to be published, Hodson, the UW communications official, sent ARS communications staff a draft of the press release the university was planning to send out. ARS officials returned the favor, sending UW their own draft press release. The headline on USDA’s draft was clear: “Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Can Reduce Vitamin Content in Rice,” though the body of the release did not mention the word “climate.”

All seemed to be on track for the rollout. A few days later, however, Hodson got a phone call from an ARS communications staffer. She told him that the agency had decided not to issue a press release after all and suggested UW reconsider its plans, noting that senior leaders at ARS now had serious concerns about the paper, according to the emails.

The staffer explained that officials were “adamant that there was not enough data to be able to say what the paper is saying, and that others may question the science,” Hodson wrote in his email to his colleagues shortly after the call.

Having the Agriculture Department question the data just days before its publication struck many of the co-authors as inappropriate. The paper had already gone through a technical and policy review within ARS, both of which are standard procedure, and it had gone through a stringent peer-review process.

Kristie Ebi, one of the co-authors from UW, replied to Hodson: “Interesting — USDA is really trying to keep the press release from coming out.”

Nonetheless, senior leaders at UW took USDA’s concerns about the paper seriously, Hodson said. (It also wasn’t lost on anyone, he said, that other parts of the university receive substantial grant funding from the Agriculture Department.) The university conducted an internal review and determined that the science was sound. It went ahead with its press release.

The USDA’s attempt to quash the release had ripple effects as far as Nebraska. After catching wind of USDA’s call to the University of Washington, Bryan College of Health Sciences, in Lincoln, Neb., delayed and ultimately shortened its own release to avoid potentially offending the Agriculture Department.

“I’m disappointed,” said Irakli Loladze, a mathematical biologist at Bryan who co-authored the rice paper. “I do not even work at the USDA, but a potential call from the government agency was enough of a threat for my school to skip participating in the press-package arranged by the journal. Instead, our college issued a local and abbreviated release.”

A spokesperson for Bryan College said that the institution supports Loladze’s work and noted that the college ultimately issued its own press release and covered the study in its own publications.

“There was no omission or intentional delay based on what others were saying or doing,” the spokesperson said.

Despite the efforts of the Agriculture Department, the rice paper attracted substantial international press coverage, largely because many of the outside institutions that collaborated on the study, including the University of Tokyo, promoted it.

Kazuhiko Kobayashi, an agricultural scientist at the University of Tokyo and co-author on the paper, said he couldn’t understand why the U.S. government wouldn’t publicize such findings.

“It’s not necessarily bad for USDA,” he saidin an interview.“Actually, it’s kind of neutral.”

“In Japan we have an expression: sontaku,” he said, offering his own speculation about the political dynamic in the United States. “It means that you don’t want to stimulate your boss … you feel you cannot predict your boss’s reaction.”

A USDA spokesperson said the decision to spike the press release on the rice study was driven by a scientific disagreement, not by the fact that it was climate-related.

“The concern was about nutritional claims, not anything relating to climate change or C02 levels,” the spokesperson said in an email. “The nutrition program leaders at ARS disagreed with the implication in the paper that 600 million people are at risk of vitamin deficiency. They felt that the data do not support this.”

The spokesperson said no political appointees were involved in the decision.

Authors of the rice study strongly disagreed with the concerns USDA raised about their paper. In an email leading up to publication, Loladze, the Bryan College researcher, accused the department of essentially “cherry picking” data to raise issues that weren’t scientifically valid, according to the emails.

* * *

When the Agriculture Departmentchooses to promote a study, the impact can be significant, particularly for the agriculture-focused news outlets that are widely read by farmers and ranchers.

Earlier this year, when the agency decided to issue its release about the study finding that producing beef — often criticized for having an outsize carbon and water footprint — actually makes up a very small fraction of greenhouse gas emissions, the agricultural trade press cranked out several stories, much to the delight of the beef industry. The study had also been supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The USDA’s efforts to hide climate work aren’t limited to ARS. A review of department press releases, blog posts and social media shows a clear pattern of avoiding the topic. These platforms largely eschew the term “climate change” and also steer clear of climate-related terms. Even the word “climate” itself appears to have now fallen out of favor, along with phrases like carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and sequestration.

In April, for example, USDA sent out a press release noting that USDA officials had signed on to a communique on the sidelines of a G-20 agricultural scientists’ meeting that reaffirmed their commitment to “science-based decision making.” The release made no mention of the fact that most of the principles USDA had agreed to were actually related to “climate-smart” agriculture.

Scott Hutchins, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics, told POLITICO at the time that he emphasized science-based decision-making in the release — not climate — because that was the strength the participants brought to these international dialogues. He added that there was “no intent whatsoever” to avoid including the words “climate smart” in the release.

A spokesperson for USDA said that department leadership “has not discouraged ARS or any USDA agency from using terms such as climate change, climate, or carbon sequestration, or from highlighting work on these topics.”

But David Festa, senior vice president of ecosystems at the Environmental Defense Fund, which works with farmers and ranchers on climate mitigation, said tensions within the USDA over climate issues are preventing a more robust discussion of the effects of climate change on American agriculture.

“USDA really could and should be leading … and they’re not,” Festa said.

Aaron Lehman, an Iowa farmer whose operation is roughly half conventional, half organic grain, said farmers are simply not getting much information from USDA related to how to adapt to or mitigate climate change.

“My farmers tell me this is frustrating,” said Lehman, who serves as Iowa Farmers Union President.

The gap in the conversation is particularly pronounced right now, he said, as an unprecedented percentage of growers across the Midwest have had difficulty planting their crops because fields are either too wet or flooded — an extreme weather scenario that’s been disastrous for agriculture this year.

“Farmers have a sense that the volatility is getting worse,” he said.

“You get the sense that it’s very sensitive,” Lehman said of the current dynamic around climate science at USDA. “But if you can’t have an open conversation about it, if you feel like you’re being shunned, how are we going to make progress?”

* * *

Even during the George W. Bush administration, when climate change was first deemed a “sensitive” topic within ARS — a designation that means science and other documents related to it require an extra layer of managerial clearance — the department still routinely highlighted climate-related research for the public.

In the first three years of Bush’s second term, for example, USDA promoted research on how farmers can change their tilling practices to reduce carbon being released into the atmosphere, a look at how various farm practices help capture carbon into soil, and a forecast on how rising CO2 levels would likely affect key crops. The communications office highlighted work showing that using switchgrass as a biofuel in lieu of ethanol could store more carbon in soil, which would not only mitigate greenhouse gas emissions but also boost soil health. There was also a release on a study simulating how climate change would pose challenges to groundwater.

Under Bush,the department publicly launched a five-year project on “Climate Friendly Farming” and touted a sweeping initiative aimed at better understanding and reducing agriculture’s greenhouse emissions.

“Even a small increase in the amount of carbon stored per acre of farmland would have a large effect on offsetting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” an ARS release noted in 2005.

Jim Connaughton, who served as chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy during the Bush administration, said he was encouraged that USDA and other agencies have so far been able to continue conducting climate science even as the issue has become more politically sensitive within the current administration. However, he noted it was “really unusual” for research agencies to systematically hold back scientific communication.

During the Bush era, he said, “The agencies were unfettered in their own decisions about publicizing their own science.”

“The tone from the top matters,” he added. “The political appointees are taking signals about their own communication products.”

During the Obama years, USDA became increasingly outspoken about climate change and the need to involve agriculture, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

The department came up with sweeping action plans on climate change and climate science and highlighted its work on a number of different platforms, including press releases, blog posts and social media blasts. In 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also launched Climate Hubs in 10 regions across the country aimed at helping farmers and ranchers cope with an increasingly unpredictable climate.

“We were trying to take science and make it real and actionable for farmers,” said Robert Bonnie, who served as undersecretary for natural resources and the environment at USDA during the Obama administration. “If you’re taking a certain block of research and not communicating it, it defeats the purpose of why USDA does the research in the first place.”

[Politico]

Trump accuses NYT reporter of breaking the law by alerting FBI to Kushner meetings with Russians

President Donald Trump accused a New York Times reporter of breaking the law by tipping off the FBI to developments in the Russia investigation.

Times reporter Michael Schmidt alerted the FBI’s assistant director for public affairs in March 2017 that he and some colleagues had found out Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn had met in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who then set up a meeting between Trump’s son-in-law and a Russian banker.

Schmidt’s email was then forwarded to FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who was leading the bureau’s Russia investigation, and Jonathan Moffa, an FBI counterintelligence officer, reported the Washington Examiner.

Trump reacted with a pair of tweets suggesting that Schmidt had fed false information to the FBI.

“Just revealed that the Failing and Desperate New York Times was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper. Is what they have done legal?”

[Raw Story]

Trump Rebrands Air Force One to “Trump Force One”

President Trump on Thursday displayed a model of a redesigned Air Force One during an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The plane featured a red, white and blue paint design, which Trump has been pushing for as part of a contract for new Air Force One jets.

The model plane sat on a desk in front of the two leaders as they discussed Iran, China and other topics for roughly 10 minutes.

“It’s going to be terrific,” Trump said of the new plane, calling it an “upgrade” over the current model.

Trump last week shared renderingsof the redesigned presidential plane during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. The red, white and blue design would replace the traditional white and baby blue that has been used on the presidential aircraft dating back to the Kennedy administration.

Some observers noted that the new pattern is similar to the former Trump Shuttle planes that the president managed decades ago as a private businessman.

The new Boeing planes are set to be delivered by the end of 2024, which would be the end of a possible second term for Trump.

The president’s desired redesign could face a roadblock, as a House panel voted last week to approve an amendment that would require the Trump administration to get congressional approval for any “work relating to aircraft paint scheme, interiors and livery” before it takes place.

[The Hill]

Trump threatened Time magazine reporter with prison time

President Trump reportedly appeared to threaten a Time magazine reporter with prison time after a photographer tried to take a picture of a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Time reports.

During an interview with the publication in the Oval Office on Monday, Trump asked the reporters to go off the record while he showed them the letter he received from Kim.

According to the interview transcript, the photographer appeared to try and snap a photo of the document, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it wasn’t allowed.

Later on in the interview, the publication asked Trump about former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who testified that the president, “under threat of prison time,” told him to direct former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election interference.

“Excuse me,” Trump said. “Under Section II — well, you can go to prison instead, because, if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter I gave you … confidentially, I didn’t give it to you to take photographs of it.

“So don’t play that game with me,” Trump said.

“I’m sorry, Mr. President,” the reporter responded. “Were you threatening me with prison time?”

“Well, I told you the following. I told you you can look at this off-the-record. That doesn’t mean you take out your camera and start taking pictures of it. O.K.?” Trump said. “So I hope you don’t have a picture of it.”

“You can’t do that stuff,” he continued. “So go have fun with your story. Because I’m sure it will be the 28th horrible story I have in Time magazine. … With all I’ve done and the success I’ve had, the way that Time magazine writes is absolutely incredible.”

[The Hill]

Trump vows mass immigration arrests, removals of ‘millions of illegal aliens’ starting next week

President Trump said in a tweet Monday night that U.S. immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting “next week,” an apparent reference to a plan in preparation for months that aims to round up thousands of migrant parents and children in a blitz operation across major U.S. cities.

“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” Trump wrote, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets. In 2018, Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, Calif., with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.

Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the “rocket docket.”

In April, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were ousted after they hesitated to go forward with the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness and the risk of public outrage from images of migrant children being taken into custody or separated from their families.

Vitiello was replaced at ICE by former FBI and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan, who had impressed the president with statements on cable television in favor of harsh immigration enforcement measures.

In his first two weeks on the job at ICE, Morgan has said publicly that he plans to beef up interior enforcement and go after families with deportation orders, insisting that the rulings must be carried out to uphold the integrity of the country’s legal system.

“Our next challenge is going to be interior enforcement,” Morgan told reporters June 4 in Washington. “We will be going after individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation.

“That will include families,” he said, adding that ICE agents will treat the parents and children they arrest “with compassion and humanity.”

U.S. officials with knowledge of the preparations have said in recent days that the operation was not imminent, and ICE officials said late Monday night that they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter.

Executing a large-scale operation of the type under discussion requires hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of U.S. agents and supporting law enforcement personnel, as well as weeks of intelligence gathering and planning to verify addresses and locations of individuals targeted for arrest.

The president’s claim that ICE would be deporting “millions” also was at odds with the reality of the agency’s staffing and budgetary challenges. ICE arrests in the U.S. interior have been declining in recent months because so many agents are busy managing the record surge of migrant families across the southern border with Mexico.

The family arrest plan has been considered even more sensitive than a typical operation because children are involved, and Homeland Security officials retain significant concerns that families will be inadvertently separated by the operation, especially because parents in some households have deportation orders but their children — some of whom are U.S. citizens — might not. Should adults be arrested without their children because they are at school, day care, summer camp or a friend’s house, it is possible parents could be deported while their children are left behind.

Supporters of the plan, including Miller, Morgan and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence, have argued forcefully that a dramatic and highly publicized operation of this type will send a message to families that are in defiance of deportation orders and could act as a deterrent.

According to Homeland Security officials, nearly all unauthorized migrants who came to the United States in 2017 in family groups remain present in the country. Some of those families are awaiting adjudication of asylum claims, but administration officials say a growing number are skipping out on court hearings while hoping to live and work in the United States as long as possible.

Publicizing a future law enforcement operation is unheard of at ICE. Trump administration officials blasted Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf last year for warning immigrants about an impending raid, saying she endangered agents’ safety.

“The Oakland mayor’s decision to publicize her suspicions about ICE operations further increased that risk for my officers and alerted criminal aliens — making clear that this reckless decision was based on her political agenda with the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold,” then-ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan said at the time.

Homan later retired, but last week Trump said Homan would return to public service as his “border czar.” On Fox News, Homan later called that announcement “kind of premature” and said he had not decided whether to accept the job.

Schaaf responded late Monday to the president’s tweet teasing the looming ICE roundups.

“If you continue to threaten, target and terrorize families in my community . . . and if we receive credible information . . . you already know what our values are in Oakland — and we will unapologetically stand up for those values,” she wrote.

[Washington Post]

Trump Afraid to Say He Doesn’t Trust Kim Jong Un Because ‘It Would Be Very Insulting To Him’

President Donald Trump said that even if he no longer trusted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, he would not say so because “it would be very insulting to him,” but thankfully for Kim’s feelings, Trump went on to say that he does still trust Kim.

In yet another telling exchange during his series of interviews with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Trump closely guarded the relationship he has cultivated with the dictator whom Trump says he has fallen “in love” with.

During a sit-down in the Rose Garden, Stephanopoulos asked Trump about his blunt declaration, one year ago, that “there’s no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

“But there is a nuclear threat today, isn’t there?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Well, it could change,” Trump replied. “I would say not much. There’s been no testing, no anything. But it could change.”

North Korea conducted two short-range missile tests within the space of a week in early May, which Trump would acknowledge during the interview.

“But they have stockpiles,” Stephanopoulos interrupted. A recent study estimated that North Korea possesses a stockpile of up to 30 nuclear warheads.

In an exchange that was edited from the broadcast of the interview, but included in the transcript, Trump then offered to show Stephanopoulos a letter he had received from Kim, and praised the dictator as “tough” and “smart.”

“I will actually show you the letter,” Trump said. “But– I’d show it to you a little bit off the record. But it was– a very nice letter. But I’ve received many very nice letters. And he’s a very tough guy. He’s a very smart person. He doesn’t treat a lot of people very well, but he’s been treating me well. Now, at some point that may change. And then I’ll have to change, too. But right now, we have a very good, you know, relationship. We have a really very strong relationship.”

“So you still trust him?” Stephanopoulos asked, a question which was included in the broadcast.

“Well, look, I, I don’t, I — first of all, if I didn’t, I couldn’t tell you that,” Trump said, adding “It would be very insulting to him.”

“But the answer is, yeah, I believe that he would like to do something,” Trump continued. “I believe he respects me. It doesn’t mean it’s going to get done. This has been going on for many, many decades with the family. But I get along with him really well, I think I understand him, and I think he understands me.”

Asked if he still believes Kim is building nuclear weapons, Trump replied: “I don’t know. I hope not. He promised me he wouldn’t be. He promised we– me he wouldn’t be testing.”

And in another portion that was edited from the broadcast, Trump said, “I think he’d like to meet again. And I think he likes me a lot. And I think– you know, I think that we have a chance to do something.”

Trump has gone out of his way to praise Kim Jong Un, and recently shared his love of heckling former Vice President Joe Biden with the dictator.

[Mediaite]

Trump calls newspaper report on Russia power grid ‘treason’

President Donald Trump has lashed out at The New York Times, saying it engaged in a “virtual act of treason” for a story that said the U.S. was ramping up its cyber-intrusions into Russia’s power grid.

The Times reported on Saturday that the U.S. has bored into Russian utility systems in an escalating campaign meant to deter future cyber activity by Russia. It comes as the U.S. looks for new ways to punish Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and prevent a recurrence.

The Times, in its official public relations account, called Trump’s accusation “dangerous” and said it had told officials about the story before it was published and no security issues were raised.

The newspaper, basing its reports on three months of interviews with current and former government officials, said this campaign was conducted under new cyber authorities granted by Trump and Congress. But it also reported that two administration officials believed the president had not been briefed in detail, fearing he might countermand the action against Russia or reveal sensitive information to foreign officials.

In a pair of tweets sent Saturday night, Trump asserted the story wasn’t true and denounced reporters as “cowards.”

“Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country,” he wrote.

The story reported the deployment of American computer code into Russia’s grid and other targets to act as a deterrent. The newspaper also said the U.S. Cyber Command, part of the Department of Defense, has explored the possibility that Russia might try to initiate selective blackouts in key states to disrupt the 2020 election.

In a second tweet, Trump added about the story: “ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

The New York Times’ response also noted that the paper described the article to government officials before publication. “As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns.”

The paper said there was no evidence the US had actually activated the cyber tools.

[Associated Press]

TRUMP INSISTS THE CONSTITUTION’S ARTICLE II ‘ALLOWS ME TO DO WHATEVER I WANT

President Donald Trump insisted that Article II of the U.S. Constitution “allows” him to do “whatever” he wants, arguing that he never planned to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller but had every legal right to do so.

The president made the remarks during an exclusive interview with ABC News’ host George Stephanopoulos, part of which was released last week and another part of which was released ahead of its airing on Sunday.

Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on specific allegations of obstruction of justice, as many legal experts have defined them, laid out in the second portion of Mueller’s report. One of the primary examples that critics of the president often point to, is the allegation that Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller.

“Number one, I was never gonna fire Mueller,” Trump insisted. “I never suggested firing Mueller.”

Stephanopoulos pushed back, pointing out that McGahn’s testimony to the special counsel and the report told a different story.

“I don’t care what he says,” Trump replied. “It doesn’t matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was. Now he may have got confused with the fact that I’ve always said to anybody that would listen: Robert Mueller was conflicted.”

The president also argued that McGahn lied under oath about being told to fire Mueller because he “wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer” or perhaps misunderstood Trump, because he constantly criticized the special counsel. “Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest,” the president argued.

“Look, Article II [of the Constitution], I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller,” he asserted. “Assuming I did all the things… Number one, I didn’t. He wasn’t fired … But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him,” Trump claimed.

Again, the president insisted that he “wasn’t gonna fire” Mueller, pointing out that actions like that did not go very well for former President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office back in 1974. “I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody, and that didn’t work out too well,” he said.

Article II of the Constitution outlines the powers given to the president of the United States. The duties outlined in the article include making treaties in conjunction with the Senate, commanding the U.S. military and delivering the annual State of the Union address.

Legal experts disagree over whether or not Trump legally could fire the special counsel. Some have argued that he would have had to tell a Justice Department official to make the call, and they would have had to choose if they would carry out the demand. Others have contended, as Trump did to Stephanopoulos, that he had the legal authority to simply fire Mueller whenever he wanted to. However, many have viewed such an action as obstructing justice, as the special counsel was specifically tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether or not the Trump campaign conspired in that effort.

[Newsweek]

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