Cohen claims ‘regular contact’ with Trump legal team when crafting false statement to Congress

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Friday he was in “close and regular contact” with Trump’s White House staff and legal team when he prepared a statement for Congress that he now says falsely downplayed Trump’s effort to land a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a filing seeking a lenient sentence, Cohen’s attorneys say his false statement to Congress — which Cohen pleaded guilty to on Thursday — was based on Trump and his team’s efforts to “portray contact with Russian representatives” by Trump, his campaign or his company “as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.”

“Seeking to stay in line with this message, Michael told Congress that his communications and efforts to finalize a building project in Moscow on behalf of the Trump Organization, which he began pursuing in 2015, had come to an end in January 2016, when a general inquiry he made to the Kremlin went unanswered,” Cohen’s lawyers Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester write.

But “Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications,” they wrote. “He and [Trump] also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel.”

They also say Cohen kept Trump “apprised” of his contacts with Russia during the campaign.

In the filing, Cohen’s lawyers say his false statement to Congress arose out of loyalty to Trump, who they refer to throughout as “Client-1.”
“Furthermore, in the weeks during which his then-counsel prepared his written response to the Congressional Committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel to Client-1,” his lawyers wrote.

Cohen’s filing also explicitly describes his efforts to silence two women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to making hush-money payments to one woman and arranging an effort with the National Enquirer to bottle up the other’s story in violation of campaign finance laws.

Cohen’s lawyers explicitly describe the payments as “centered on extramarital affairs of a presidential candidate.”

They also repeatedly refer to Cohen, 52, as “Michael,” an attempt to cast him in a softer light as he prepares to be sentenced. The filing includes two dozen letters of support from Cohen’s family, friends and associates attesting to his character.

Petrillo and Lester say Cohen should be sentenced to “time served” rather than face incarceration based on his remorse and his ongoing cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Michael participated in seven voluntary interview meetings with the Special Counsel’s Office of the Department of Justice,” they wrote. “He intends to continue to make himself available to the SCO as and when needed for additional questioning. He also agreed to plead guilty to an additional count, namely, making false statements to Congress, based in part on information that he voluntarily provided to the SCO in meetings governed by a limited-use immunity proffer agreement.”

Petrillo and Lester say Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller, as well as New York prosecutors investigating the Trump Foundation, underscore his “personal resolve, notwithstanding past errors, to re-point his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law abiding life.”

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, who once called Cohen an “honest” person, has repeatedly slammed him as a self-serving liar since he turned on Trump over the summer.

After Cohen’s second guilty plea this week, Giuliani reemphasized Cohen’s history of lying.

“It’s no surprise that Cohen lied to Congress. He’s a proven liar who is doing everything he can to get out of a long-term prison sentence for serious crimes of bank and tax fraud that had nothing to do with the Trump Organization,” Giuliani said in a statement. “It is important to understand that documents that the Special Counsel’s Office is using to show that Cohen lied to Congress were voluntarily disclosed by the Trump Organization because there was nothing to hide.”

Giuliani said Trump had been “open and transparent” about his efforts to build a Trump Tower Moscow. In fact, Trump had long sought a deal to build in Russia but as his campaign gained traction, he downplayed his business relationships there and repeatedly insisted he had nothing to do with Russia, a denial he underscored repeatedly after the discovery of Russia efforts to interfere in the election.

[Politico]

Trump Says Pardon for Paul Manafort is ‘Not Off the Table’

President Donald Trump declined in a new interview to rule out the possibility that he could pardon Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

“It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” Trump told the New York Post.

The President’s comments come following special counsel Robert Mueller’s accusation that Manafort violated his plea agreement and lied to Mueller’s team after being found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes in August.

[CNN]

Trump Dismisses Report on Ivanka: She ‘Did Some Emails,’ They Weren’t Classified Like Hillary’s

President Donald Trump dismissed the Washington Post report on his daughterIvanka Trump, accessing and sending government-related emails on her private email account.

“Early on, and for a little period of time, Ivanka did some emails,” the president said. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33 [thousand] … She wasn’t doing anything to hide her e-mails.”

Trump claimed that his daughter’s emails were in the presidential record. The Washington Post piece was unclear on that point.

“Using personal emails for government business could violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all official White House communications and records be preserved as a permanent archive of each administration,” the piece read.

“What Ivanka Trump did, all in the presidential records, everything is there,” Trump said. “There was no deletion, no nothing. What it is is a false story. Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 e-mails, she had a server in the basement, that is the real story.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Just Blurted Out, Unprompted, That He Installed His Pet Attorney General Over the Russia Probe

Wednesday, we explored the career timeline of Matthew Whitaker, the man whom Donald Trump, American president, appointed acting attorney general after firing Jeff Sessions the day after the midterms. Trump passed over multiple Senate-confirmed officials in the actual line of succession to pick Whitaker, who’d become Sessions’s chief of staff close to a year earlier after repeatedly going on CNN to defend Trump against the Russia probe with the expressed intent of getting the president’s attention and a job. Even some conservative legal commentators have suggested his appointment was unconstitutional, and the state of Maryland is suing to that effect.

This was about as blatant a move to obstruct the investigation as the president could have made. Whitaker is an obvious Trump loyalist and longtime Republican operative who time after time attacked the special counsel’s investigation, including by promoting a story suggesting Robert Mueller’s team was a “lynch mob.”Whitaker has close ties to Sam Clovis, a grand-jury witness in the probe who advised him to start going on CNN to catch Trump’s eye.

After he got the job as Sessions’s chief of staff, Whitaker was described by Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly as the White House’s “eyes and ears” in the Justice Department—an assault on the department’s independence and the rule of law. And even well before all this, Whitaker allegedly politicized a federal investigationas a U.S. attorney in Iowa, participated in scams and grifts in his business dealings, and once flexed his background in federal law enforcement to run protection for a company—of which he was on the board—that the Federal Trade Commission fined $26 million and shuttered as a criminal enterprise.

Still, no matter how clear something is, it helps to hear it from the horse’s mouth. The President of the United States, who once said on national television he was considering “the Russia thing” when he fired FBI Director James Comey, was happy to oblige in a typically freewheeling interview with The Daily Caller. As first flagged by journalist Brian Beutler, Trump seized on a softball question to spill the beans on Whitaker’s appointment.

THE DAILY CALLER: Sure. Could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the attorney general position? I know you’re happy with Matthew Whitaker, do you have any names? Chris Christie —

POTUS: Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man. He’s — and he’s, very importantly, he’s respected within DOJ. I heard he got a very good decision, I haven’t seen it. Kellyanne, did I hear that?

WHITE HOUSE ADVISER KELLYANNE CONWAY: 20 pages.

POTUS: A 20 page?

THE DAILY CALLER: It just came out right before this, sir.

POTUS: Well, I heard it was a very strong opinion. Uh, which is good. But [Whitaker] is just somebody who’s very respected.

I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, um, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.

It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.

THE DAILY CALLER: Right.

Right.

The president just admitted, unprompted, that he fired the head of the Justice Department and installed a loyalist over a Justice Department investigation into him and his associates. This is obstruction. This is corrupt. This is an untenable assault on the rule of law in a democratic republic. And the Republican majorities in Congress—to say nothing of his base—will happily let him get away with it.

Oh, and by the way: Trump’s claim he only knows Whitaker through Sessions is a blatant lie. And not just because Trump’s chief of staff said Whitaker was their “eyes and ears.” Here’s Trump on October 11, 2018—a month ago:

“I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy,” President Trump said in a Fox News interview. “I know Matt Whitaker.”

This is not the first time he’s lied about knowing Whitaker since appointing him to, incredibly obviously, interfere in the Mueller investigation.

All that said, there is a beautiful symmetry here. The rear-end of Donald Trump, a lifetime grifter who’s just trying to lie his way to the end of each day while his brain is steadily melted by television, may ultimately be protected by a ‘roided-out Mr. Clean who came to him through the teevee—and who once threatened peopleon behalf of a company peddling Big Dick Toilets. America the Beautiful.

[Esquire]

Trump: We will ‘build tent cities’ for migrant caravan

President Trump during an interview on Monday said that the administration is planning to “build tent cities” for the thousands of migrants seeking asylum who are heading towards the Southern border.

Trump in recent days has been stoking fears that violent gang members may be part of the so-called migrant “caravan,” which includes thousands of Central Americans fleeing violence and dire economic conditions in their home countries. The migrants are still weeks away from reaching the border.

The president during a pre-recorded interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham said the administration will “hold” the migrants who apply for asylum rather than releasing them pending their court dates, as previous administrations have done.

“If they applied for asylum, we’re going to hold them until such time as their trial takes place,” Trump told Ingraham.

“Where? We have the facilities?” she asked.

“We’re going to put up – we’re going to build tent cities,” Trump replied. “We’re going to put tents up all over the place. We’re not going to build structures and spend all of this, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars — we’re going to have tents.”

“They’re going to be very nice,” he added.

Trump has called the caravan of Central American migrants an “invasion.” He has also referred to the midterms as the election of the “caravan.”

Democrats and immigration-rights activists have accused the president of drawing on xenophobic and racist images in an effort to frighten the electorate ahead of Election Day. The migrants are still over one thousand miles away.

Ingraham during the interview asked Trump to respond to former President Obama, who denounced the president’s rhetoric about the caravan during a recent campaign event.

“Now the latest, they’re trying to convince everybody to be afraid of a bunch of impoverished, malnourished refugees a thousand miles away — that’s the thing, it’s the most important in this election?” Obama said during an event in Florida this week. “We’re scare-mongering people on the border.”

Trump responded by saying that there are people from “gangs” in the caravan. His claim has not been proven.

[The Hill]

Media

Pentagon to deploy 5,200 active duty troops to Mexico border as Trump escalates threats against migrant caravan

A week out from the midterm elections, the Pentagon said Monday it is sending 5,200 troops, some armed, to the Southwest border this week in an extraordinary military operation to stop Central American migrants traveling north in two caravans that were still hundreds of miles from the U.S. The number of troops is more than double the 2,000 who are in Syria fighting the Islamic State group.

President Donald Trump, eager to focus voters on immigration in the lead-up to the elections, stepped up his warnings about the caravans, tweeting: “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

His warning came as the Pentagon began executing “Operation Faithful Patriot,” described by the commander of U.S. Northern Command as an effort to help Customs and Border Protection stiffen defenses at and near legal entry points. Advanced helicopters will allow border protection agents to swoop down on migrants trying to cross illegally, he said.

“We’re going to secure the border,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Northern Command leader, said at a news conference. He spoke alongside Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Eight hundred troops already are on their way to southern Texas, O’Shaughnessy said, and their numbers will top 5,200 by week’s end. He said troops would focus first on Texas, followed by Arizona and then California.

The number of people in the first caravan has dwindled to 3,500 from about 7,000, though a second one was gaining steam and marred by violence. About 600 migrants in the second group tried to cross a bridge from Guatemala to Mexico en masse on Monday but were met by ranks of Mexican federal police who blocked them from entering. The riverbank standoff followed a more violent confrontation Sunday when the migrants used sticks and rocks against Mexico police. One migrant was killed Sunday night by a head wound, but the cause was unclear.

The first group passed through the spot via the river — wading or on rafts — and was advancing through southern Mexico. That group appeared to begin as a collection of about 160 who decided to band together in Honduras for protection against the gangs who prey on migrants traveling alone and snowballed as the group moved north. They are mostly from Honduras, where it started, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala.

Overall, they are poor, carrying the belongings that fit into a knapsack and fleeing gang violence or poverty. It’s possible there are criminals mixed in, but Trump has not substantiated his claim that members of the MS-13 gang, in particular, are among them.

The president’s dark description of the caravan belied the fact that any migrants who complete the long trek to the southern U.S. border already face major hurdles, both physical and bureaucratic, to being allowed into the United States. Migrants are entitled under both U.S. and international law to apply for asylum, but it may take a while to make a claim. There is already a bottleneck of asylum seekers at some U.S. border crossings, in some cases as long as five weeks.

McAleenan said the aim was to deter migrants from crossing illegally between ports, but he conceded his officers were overwhelmed by a surge of asylum seekers. He also said Mexico was prepared to offer asylum to the caravan.

“If you’re already seeking asylum, you’ve been given a generous offer,” he said of Mexico. “We want to work with Mexico to manage that flow.”

The White House is also weighing additional border security measures, including blocking those traveling in the caravan from seeking legal asylum and preventing them from entering the U.S.

The military operation drew quick criticism.

“Sending active military forces to our southern border is not only a huge waste of taxpayer money, but an unnecessary course of action that will further terrorize and militarize our border communities,” said Shaw Drake of the American Civil Liberties Union’s border rights center at El Paso, Texas.

Military personnel are legally prohibited from engaging in immigration enforcement. The troops will include military police, combat engineers and others helping on the southern border.

The escalating rhetoric and expected deployments come as the president has been trying to turn the caravans into a key election issue just days before the midterm elections that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of Congress.

“This will be the election of the caravans, the Kavanaughs, law and order, tax cuts, and you know what else? It’s going to be the election of common sense,” Trump said at a rally in Illinois on Saturday night.

On Monday, he tweeted without providing evidence: “Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border.”

“Please go back,” he urged them. “you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

The troops are expected to perform a wide variety of functions such as transporting supplies for the Border Patrol, but not engage directly with migrants seeking to cross the border, officials said. One U.S. official said the troops will be sent initially to staging bases in California, Texas and Arizona while the CBP works out precisely where it wants the troops positioned. U.S. Transportation Command posted a video on its Facebook page Monday of a C-17 transport plane that it said was delivering Army equipment to the Southwest border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

The U.S. military has already begun delivering jersey barriers to the southern border in conjunction with the deployment plans.

[CNBC]

Trump: Saudi Journalist Could Have Been Murdered By ‘Rogue Killers’

President Donald Trump spoke out on Monday about his call with the Saudi King to discuss allegations his government killed and dismembered Washington Post writer and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Monday, Trump repeatedly noted Saudi Arabia’s denial of alleged killing was “very strong,” even adding that Khashoggi could have been murdered by “rogue killers.”

“I just spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge with what took place,” Trump said. “And he firmly denies that.”

Trump added that he has sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi King Salman.

“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it, he didn’t really know, maybe, I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” Trump said. “Who knows, we’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”

“He told me in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it,” Trump continued. “He said it very strongly.”

“His denial to me could not have been stronger,” Trump added.

Turkish officials say they have proof that Khashoggi — missing since he entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 — was murdered by a team of Saudi agents. Trump has repeatedly stressed that the Saudis vehemently deny their involvement in his disappearance. In a tweet on Monday morning, he emphasized that U.S. resident Khashoggi is a “Saudi citizen,” and that King Salman “denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened.”

The disappearance and possible murder of Khashoggi poses a problem for Trump administration attempts to build a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, notably through Jared Kushner‘s relationship with young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

[Mediaite]

Reality

Trump & Saudi Business:
•1991: Sold yacht to Saudi Prince
•2001: Sold 45th floor of Trump World Tower to Saudis
•Jun 2015: I love the Saudis…many in Trump Tower
•Aug 2015: “They buy apartments from me…Spend $40M-$50M”
•2017: Saudi lobbyists spent $270K at Trump DC hotel

Donald Trump Says ‘Every Single Democrat in the US Senate Has Signed Up for…the Open Borders Bill’

At his rally in Topeka, Kansas, Saturday, President Donald Trump spoke of a bill created by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. The bill Trump spoke of is called the Open Borders Bill.

He stated:

“Every single democrat in the US Senate has signed up for open borders and its a billed called The Open Borders Bill and it’s written by, guess who, Dianne Feinstein. Remember the leaking, right? The leaking Dianne Feinstein.”

“If the democrat’s bill ever becomes law, a tidal wave of drugs and crime will pour into our nation like never ever before.”

Trump’s supporters echoed his statements online to bolster support for Republican candidates leading up to the November midterms.

Trump went on to state:

“Democrats also support deadly sanctuary cities that release violent predators and blood-thirsty killers like MS-13 into our communities.”

“Republicans believe our country should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminal aliens. And Republicans stand proudly with the brave men and women of ICE, Border Patrol, and law enforcement.”

There is a problem with the President’s characterizations of the bill however, namely, that the bill does not actually exist.

A review of the bills currently in committee in the Senate as well as those officially submitted or up for other review or vote yields no records of an “Open Borders Bill” or one that does the things Trump claims his fictitious Feinstein bill would do.

In addition to Twitter amplifying the President’s false claims of a Democrat created and fully supported “Open Borders Bill,” the Steve Bannon founded Breitbart and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars jumped on Trump’s false claims.

Both featured stories that included the President’s rally claims as well as adding a few extra details from the nonexistent bill’s contents. Breitbart even made up another nickname for the fictitious Open Borders Bill.

[Second Nexus]

Media

Trump suggests Chicago implement ‘stop and frisk’ to curb violence

President Trump said Monday that he’s directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to provide federal assistance to the city of Chicago to limit gun violence and suggested the city implement the controversial practice of “stop and frisk.”

“We want to straighten it out and straighten it out fast. There’s no reason for what’s going on there,” Trump told law enforcement officials at a convention for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Trump said he’s urging Chicago officials to “strongly consider stop and frisk.”

“It works, and it was meant for problems like Chicago,” Trump said, garnering applause from the audience.

Trump previously suggested during his 2016 presidential campaign that stop and frisk could be used to help prevent violence in black communities. He has cited its effectiveness in New York City under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who is now his personal lawyer.

The city’s use of the practice, in which police stop, question and frisk a person on the grounds of reasonable suspicion that either the person is dangerous or a crime has been committed, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013.

In addition to proposing Chicago implement the policy, Trump said Monday that he’d like city officials to change a 2016 deal between the police department and the American Civil Liberties Union that required city police to document every street stop they made in an effort to curb racial profiling.

The president suggested that law enforcement had their hands tied by the agreement.

“The crime spree is a terrible blight on that city, and we’ll do everything possible to get it done,” Trump said. “I know the law enforcement people in Chicago, and I know how good they are. They could solve the problem if they were simply allowed to do their job and do their job properly.”

Trump’s directive to get the federal government involved in Chicago comes days after a city police officer was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.

The shooting prompted numerous protests across the city, and the conviction renewed tensions between the community and city law enforcement.

While activists and residents praised the decision as a measure of justice, the Chicago Police union blasted the jury’s decision, calling it a “sham trial and shameful verdict.”

Chicago has long struggled with a reputation as a city beset with gun violence, though The Chicago Tribune reported that there have been fewer shooting victims so far in 2018 than at the same point in the previous two years.

[The Hill]

Reality

Donald Trump isn’t the “law and order candidate,” but the “every failed police tactic that targeted minorities candidate.”

Trump failed to mention that in every city where stop-and-frisk was implemented, they have become case studies in the perils of such an approach.

Four of the five biggest American cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia — have all used stop-and-frisk tactics in an attempt to lower crime. Despite what Trump says, the results are mixed, and in each city the methods have been found unconstitutional for disproportionately targeting minorities.

For example, in Donald Trump’s hometown the NYPD’s practices were found to violate New Yorkers’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and also found that the practices were racially discriminatory in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Trump wants to take this nationally.

The most proven form of policing is when officers work with communities thereby gaining trust of a population. So when there is an issue in their neighborhood, residents are more likely to open up and offer evidence.

Media

Trump administration abruptly ends key law enforcement program at wildlife refuges

The Trump administration is abruptly ending a decades-long program that trained national wildlife refuge managers with law enforcement capabilities to police often remote spots of public land.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced to employees on Sept. 21 that refuge managers who were also trained to police the area would no longer be able to act in any enforcement capacity and would be stripped of their firearm, according to an internal FWS email shared with The Hill.

Sources said the decision came as a shock to many of the people who have worked in the position, known as dual-function officers, including retirees who had spent decades in the role at their respective refuges.

Critics argued it would lead to new violations in the refuges.

“It means there will be lots of violations, wildlife violations as in over-bagged hunting areas, damaged fences, signs, roads and all kinds of damage to the environment. If there is no one there to enforce the law, that would spread like wildfire,” said Kim Hanson, who retired from FWS in 2008 after more than 30 years at the agency. “It’s an extreme disservice to the American people because they expect us to take care.”

The nation has 562 national wildlife refuges spread across 20.6 million acres of public land. Unlike national parks, mining, drilling, hunting and farming are all regulated activities on certain refuges.

“Our dual-function officers were an integral aspect of refuge management during a time that allowed for multiple functions within a single position,” stated the memo outlining the change, first obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

“In the 21st Century the threats facing visitors and wildlife are more complex than ever. Protection of the National Wildlife Refuge System now requires a full-time officer corps that combines a concentrated effort on conservation protection, traditional policing and emergency first response to protect, serve and educate the public and Service staff.”

The announcement will strip 51 refuge employees of the enforcement role in two stages between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1, according to the memo.

Hanson for years woke up as early as 4 a.m. to make sure wildfowl hunters on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge didn’t accidentally kill protected animals or use more bullets than they were allotted.

He was there to both oversee the refuge and police land users to make sure they hunted safely and legally in a role used for decades by the Interior Department.

It was a role he said worked well because he knew the refuge and its regulations better than anyone. The program also didn’t cost the FWS any additional money, as dual-officers were not paid for their law enforcement role but were trained just as much as a full-time officer and had to undergo classes annually.

Under the new plan, he worries that full-time officers won’t be able to cover all the refuges that need policing and that the remaining refuge managers will now have to sit back and witness any violations they see.

“They just have to watch. There is nothing they can do. They can see the violation and their hands are tied,” he said.

There are 230 full-time law enforcement officers policing refuges and FWS officials say they plan to replace the vacant dual-officer positions with 15 full-time officers in 2019 as a way to modernize the enforcement ranks and save costs.

FWS says the change will take away the burden of refuge managers having to perform law enforcement duties.

“Federal Wildlife Officers are expected to perform the same full range of dangerous duties that all uniformed police officers perform. This includes conducting search warrants, eradicating marijuana grows, providing border security, arrest violent offenders and drug dealers; and assist local and state police with persons under the influence drugs and narcotics such as fentanyl and opioids,” a FWS spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. “Dual-function officers carried out their full-time non-law enforcement duties as well as conducted law enforcement on a part-time basis. They will now be enabled to focus fully on their full-time duties within the Refuge System.”

But instead of spreading relief, dual-officer veterans said the decision will likely do more harm than good.

Dozens of refuges in the short-term, they say, will now not have police, and in the long run many of those refuges will only see a law enforcement presence intermittently.

The move comes as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has increased access for more hunters and anglers across various wildlife refuges. In early September, he announced that 251,000 new acres on refuge lands would be open to hunting or fishing. By the 2018-2019 hunting season, 377 refuges will allow hunting and 312 will allow fishing.

Critics say the rollback of law enforcement officers in any capacity seems like odd timing.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Lloyd Jones, who retired from the FWS in 2013 after decades of working at multiple refuges across South Dakota as a dual-officer.

“The dual functions that have been there for decades have been extremely effective in compliance, and now it’s being taken off the table almost over night,” Jones said.

Jones spent a lot of his time at refuges in North Dakota policing neighbors to make sure they were not draining the wetlands on or near the public land.

In that capacity, he sometimes had heated or dangerous encounters with angry landowners.

He doesn’t doubt that without the dual-officers, owners will take advantage of the opportunity to break their easements and drain the wetlands, which could lead to negative environmental impacts for waterfowl and migratory birds that breed there.

“They are trying to do everything in their power to violate the terms of that easement. Once they realize there is going to be void in that law enforcement presence, there is going to be a tremendous impact —  that’s a given. That’s an absolute,” he said.

But Jones’s biggest fear is what could happen to the remaining refuge managers who are now stripped of their law enforcement tools but still feel compelled to protect the lands they work on.

“The biggest fear is that some refuge person, a biologist or manager, is going to respond or react to a situation and either themselves or the public may get hurt,” he said.

“A refuge person isn’t simply going to turn their back on some kind of a situation. They will want to do something about it. And without law enforcement authority or being equipped, they are not only putting the public in danger, they are putting themselves in danger,” Jones said.

[The Hill]

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