Trump attacks judge who blocked border wall plans as ‘Obama activist’

After a federal judge blocked his attempt to build key sections of his border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, Donald Trump criticised the justice for being an “activist” appointed by Barack Obama.

In what may prove a temporary setback to the president, US district judge Haywood Gilliam Jr’s order, issued on Friday, stopped work from beginning on two Pentagon-funded projects: a section of border barrier spanning 46 miles in New Mexico and another covering five miles in Yuma, Arizona.

Trump inherited barriers covering 654 miles, or about one-third of the border with Mexico, the country he insisted during his 2016 campaign would pay for a border wall but which flatly rejected the idea.

Of the 244 miles of barrier covered by contracts awarded so far, more than half is covered by Department of Defense money. All but 14 miles awarded so far are to replace existing barriers, not extend coverage. Ignoring that, Trump has regularly claimed his wall is being built.

On Saturday, from Japan, Trump pledged to file an expedited appeal.

Echoing other controversial attacks on judges, he tweeted: “Another activist Obama appointed judge has just ruled against us on a section of the Southern Wall that is already under construction. This is a ruling against Border Security and in favor of crime, drugs and human trafficking. We are asking for an expedited appeal!”

While Gilliam’s order applied only to two projects, the judge made clear he felt the challengers were likely to prevail at trial on their argument that Trump was wrongly ignoring Congress’s wishes by diverting defense department money.

“Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures, even when that control may frustrate the desires of the executive branch regarding initiatives it views as important, is not a bug in our constitutional system,” the judge wrote in a 56-page opinion.

“It is a feature of that system, and an essential one.”

It was not a total defeat for Trump. Gilliam, who is based in Oakland, rejected a request by California and 19 other states to prevent the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars in Treasury asset forfeiture funds to wall construction, in part because he felt they were unlikely to prevail on arguments that the administration skirted environmental impact reviews.

The administration faces several lawsuits over the emergency declaration but only one other seeks to block construction. A judge in Washington DC on Thursday heard arguments on a challenge brought by the House of Representatives that says the money-shifting violates the constitution.

In February, Trump declared a national emergency after losing a fight with the Democratic-led House that led to a 35-day government shutdown. As a compromise, Congress set aside $1.375bn to extend or replace existing border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

Trump grudgingly accepted the money, then declared the national emergency in order to siphon money from other government accounts, identifying up to $8.1bn. The funds include $3.6bn from military construction funds, $2.5bn from defense department counter-drug activities and $600m from the treasury asset forfeiture fund.

The Pentagon has transferred the counter-drug money. Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, is expected to decide soon whether to transfer the military funds. Gilliam’s ruling gives a green light, at least for now, for the administration to tap the treasury funds.

Trump’s adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress. The administration says Trump was protecting national security as unprecedented numbers of asylum-seeking families arrive at the southern border.

[The Guardian]

Trump Retweets Call for Fox News to Take Andrew Napolitano Off the Air

President Donald Trump is calling for Fox News to take one of the networks biggest critics off their air, in a Sunday morning retweet of Twitter User @HH41848213, aka “HowardH” who joined Twitter in 2016 and has roughly 235 followers until today.

The analysis of  Mueller Report drama — and the competing news narratives that have followed suit — has been, for the most part, predictable. That is to say, that media outlets that have been consistently critical of President Trump have amplified evidence of Executive Branch malfeasance, while those that traditionally take a pro-Trump perspective (take Fox New for example) have been quick to promote Trump’s “no collusion, no obstruction” story.

The most notable exception to that pretty hard and fast rule has been Fox News Senior Legal Analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who has consistently demonstrated his independent judicial perspective, much to the disappointment of Trump and his supporters.

Trump’s retweet:

When you look at the continuous incorrect statements by Napolitano over the past 2 years, it is fair to ask FNC why they allow him to have national air time. The man has been significantly wrong on at least 8 major occasions. Unacceptable! Take him off the air!

What has Napolitano said that has raised the ire of the commander in chief? Where to start? His insights have been remarkably critical of Mueller Report findings on Trump’s obstruction of justice, the behavior of Attorney General William Barrand even the curious behavior of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has flouted previous presidential decorum for years. But the retweeting of some rando on Twitter calling for the ostensible firing of the well-respected legal mind of Andrew Napolitano is a new level that we haven’t quite seen before.

[Mediaite]

Trump: Fox’s Napolitano asked me to pardon his friend, put him on Supreme Court


President Trump
 tweeted Saturday that Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano met with him and urged him to nominate Napolitano to the Supreme Court as well as grant a pardon to one of Napolitano’s friends.

Napolitano, a former superior court judge in New Jersey, works as a legal analyst for Fox News. In a pair of tweets Saturday evening following his campaign rally in Green Bay, Wis., the president accused the commentator of becoming “very hostile” after Trump supposedly turned him down for the nation’s highest court.

“Thank you to brilliant and highly respected attorney Alan Dershowitz for destroying the very dumb legal argument of ‘Judge’ Andrew Napolitano,” Trump wrote.

“Ever since Andrew came to my office to ask that I appoint him to the U.S. Supreme Court, and I said NO, he has been very hostile! Also asked for pardon for his friend. A good ‘pal’ of low ratings Shepard Smith,” the president added, referring to Fox’s chief news anchor, who has often been critical of the White House.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment regarding when the conversation with Napolitano occurred or whom the Fox News commentator supposedly asked Trump to pardon.

Trump frequently showers praise on Fox News figures who are seen as allies of his administration, including Dershowitz, who has defended the president amid the now-concluded investigation into Russia’s election interference and Trump’s campaign.

[The Hill]

Trump Reportedly Told Border Agents to Do Something That’s Illegal

President Donald Trump unsuccessfully pushed to close the border in El Paso, Texas, told Border Patrol agents to turn back migrants despite the fact that doing so would be illegal, and has been pushing to reinstate a more aggressive family separation policy than the one that tore apart more than 2,500 families last spring, CNN reported on Monday. 

Last month, Trump ordered since-ousted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to shut down some or all El Paso border crossings the next day, on March 22, at noon, according to CNN. Nielsen told Trump that would be a bad and even dangerous idea, and that the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, has been very supportive of the President. She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports. She argued that if you close all the ports of entry all you would be doing is ending legal trade and travel, but migrants will just go between ports. According to two people in the room, the President said: “I don’t care.”The federal government is required to process migrants who cross the border without authorization and allow asylum seekers to make their cases for protection if they demonstrate a “credible fear” of being persecuted in their home countries. Trump reportedly told Border Patrol agents in Calexico, California, on Friday that they should simply force back the migrants they encounter.Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.” After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.Trump has also spent months pushing to reinstate some form of the family separation policy that he was forced to abandon in June, CNN and NBC News are reporting. Trump is calling for a more comprehensive version of the policy than the one that was adopted across the border last spring. Instead of separating families who cross the border without authorization by prosecuting them for illegal entry, Trump also wants to split families who come to official ports of entry to request asylum, which now requires weeks of waiting.According to multiple sources, the President wanted families separated even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. The President wanted families separated even if they were apprehended within the US. He thinks the separations work to deter migrants from coming. Sources told CNN that Nielsen tried to explain they could not bring the policy back because of court challenges, and White House staffers tried to explain it would be an unmitigated PR disaster. “He just wants to separate families,” said a senior administration official.

The CNN report comes three days after Trump unexpectedly pulled his nominee to lead US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, one day after Trump pushed out Nielsen, and the same day the New York Times reported that the hardline head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services—the DHS agency responsible for legal immigration—is also expected to leave government soon. Trump’s most important asylum crackdown, known as Remain in Mexico, was also temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Monday.

[Mother Jones]

Trump Slams Nonexistent ‘Judge Flores’ for Landmark Immigration Ruling Actually Named After Migrant Teen

President Trump had a lot to say Friday about a landmark immigration ruling that limits how long the government can detain undocumented migrant children. Unfortunately, his argument took a turn for the incoherent as soon as he publicly called out a nonexistent judge for a 20-day cap on detaining immigrant minors.

Complaining about a build-up of migrants at the border while visiting Calexico, California, Trump blamed it on “some very bad court decisions,” singling out the “Flores decision” as a “disaster.”

“I have to tell you, Judge Flores, whoever you may be, that decision is a disaster for our country,” Trump said during a meeting with border patrol officials.

The “decision” the president was referring to was Reno v. Flores—otherwise known as the Flores Settlement—which protects migrant children from being held indefinitely in custody and grants them certain basic rights, like the right to food, medical assistance, drinking water, and toilets while in detention. The Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to modify the agreement last year to allow for longer detention periods for minors.

The agreement was named not after a judge, but 15-year-old Jenny Lisette Flores, who fled El Salvador in the 1980s and was detained upon trying to enter the U.S. to live with her aunt. The teen was the lead plaintiff in the case, which came before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. It was settled in 1997, with Clinton-era Attorney General Janet Reno as the defendant.

The Flores Settlement has been an obstacle for the Trump administration since their family separation policy rollout and for current immigration policies, with lawsuits claiming the government is holding children indefinitely and violating the settlement.

Trump’s criticism of the imaginary judge sparked a barrage of mockery on social media, where many were quick to point out the flub came in the same week the president claimed windmills cause cancer and falsely said his father was born in Germany.

Earlier Friday, the president also claimed those approaching the southern border to seek asylum in the U.S. were running a “scam” during his visit to Southern California.

“Asylum, you know I look at some of these asylum people, they’re gang members. They’re not afraid of anything… and they say ‘I fear for my life,’ they’re the ones causing fear for life. It’s a scam, it’s a hoax,” he said, before fitting in a jab at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I know about hoaxes, I just went through a hoax,” Trump said, referring to his previous remarks claiming the “Russia hoax” was “finally dead.”

Trump also claimed the United States no longer had the capacity to accept more asylum seekers or undocumented migrants entering through the southern border.

“The system is full. We can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum. Whether it’s anything you want. It’s illegal immigration,” Trump said, according to CNN. “Can’t take you anymore. Can’t take you. Our country is full… Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. So turn around. That’s the way it is.”

[Daily Beast]

President Trump Ranted About ‘Getting Rid of Judges’

Apparently, we had something of an “episode” in the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon.

“Sure, it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy,” the president jovially admitted of his proposed shutdown. “It is one of the biggest trade deals in the world that we’ve just done with the USMCA. It is a very big trading partner. Trading is very important, the borders are very important, but security is what most important. I have to have security. And we’re going to have security in this country. That is more important than trade. Let me just give you a little secret, security is more important to me than trade, so we’re going to have a strong border, or we’re going to have a closed border. I’m totally prepared to do it.”

“Well I haven’t made that intention known and I’m ready to close it if I have to close it. Mexico has the strongest immigration laws in the world. Nobody has stronger. I guess some have the same but you can’t get any stronger than what Mexico has and we don’t want people coming up on this dangerous journey and coming in. And what we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal. I could do it in 45 minutes. We need to get rid of chain migration, we need to get rid of catch and release and visa lottery and we have to do something about asylum and to be honest with you, I have to get rid of judges.”

Oh. And there were some pronunciation issues.

Meanwhile, those “rural voters” who, evidently, are the only voters that truly matter, are getting hammered all over the midwest. From NBC News:

Farmers will have to destroy any grains that were contaminated by floodwater, which could also prevent some growers from planting oversaturated fields. Near Crescent, Iowa, farmer Don Rief said the flood damaged more than 60,000 bushels of his grain, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He tried to move the crops before the flood, but dirt roads were too soft from the storm to support trucks. “We were just hurrying like hell,” Rief said. “Hopefully USDA will come in and minimize some of the damage.” The USDA does not have a program that covers flood-damaged grain because farmers have typically received more advance notice of rising waters, allowing them to move crops and limit losses, said Tom Vilsack, who ran the agency under former President Barack Obama.

That’s going to have to change, it seems. We don’t get many warnings about sudden calamities anymore and, the ones we get, we don’t listen to anyway.

[Esquire]

Trump Rips Ninth Circuit and Migrant Caravan to Deployed Troops in Thanksgiving Call

On Thanksgiving morning, President Donald Trump held a long teleconference call with various members of the military deployed overseas from his Mar-a-Lago resort. During the call, he brought up border policy, bashed the ninth circuit, and asked about his trade policies.

In the above clip, the President talks to Brigadier General David Lyons of the U.S. Air Force about immigration and the border before bashing the courts.

“Our mission here, we defend the two busiest airfields in Afghanistan, Kandahar and Bagrām,” said the General as he introduced himself and the troops in the room to Trump. They shouted Happy Thanksgiving, and Trump thanked them, and asked Gen. Lyons how things are going.

“Well both the Taliban and ISIS are resilient adversaries, but I think we’re doing well. We get after them every single day. Our objective here is to fight the away game. And so what I mean by that, we never want this adversary to reach our shores again. And so every airman here is dedicated to keeping this fight away from our shores,” he said. “We do what we do for America, sir.”

When speaking of ISIS reaching our shores, most would associate the comment with fighting terrorism abroad rather than at home, which is the mission in the war on terror in which these troops are serving and for which they are risking their lives. President Trump, however, related it to border policy and immigrants.

“You said what you said better than anybody could have said, keep them away from our shores and that’s why we’re doing the strong borders,” said the President. He said that the General had probably seen the news, mentioning “large numbers” of people who “in many cases they are not good people” that are “forming at our border,” an obvious reference to the migrant caravan. He said we have to be careful with the border, and that it was essentially shut down at the moment.

“We’re not letting in anybody, essentially, because, we want to be very, very careful,” he said. “So you’re right, you’re doing it over there, we’re doing it over here.”

He told the General about the troops at the border, and how the wall was being wrapped with barbed wire.

“Nobody is getting through these walls, and we’re going to make sure they’re the right people. That is what you and your family want, and all of your families, that’s what they want” said Trump. “That is why we are all fighting. We are fighting for borders.”

He turned then to the court.

“We get a lot of bad court decisions from the ninth circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side,” said the Commander in Chief to the Brigadier General. “We always lose, and then you lose again, and again. And hopefully you win at the Supreme Court, which we’ve done.”

“But it’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border, it’s a disgrace,” Trump added.

In closing, he said that he would see Lyons when he returns home, or “maybe I will see you over there, you never know what is going to happen.”

In the next segment of the call, he spoke trade policy. We’ll have that clip shortly.

[Mediaite]

Trump Wishes Everyone Happy Holiday Then Bashes Chief Justice Roberts to Start Thanksgiving Day

President Donald Trump began the Thanksgiving holiday with a nice, generic, brief holiday greeting: “HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL,” he said, in all caps. The exact sort of greeting that you’d want from a president. Too bad twenty minutes later he decided to attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Again.

Chief Justice John Roberts rebuked Trump’s criticism of the judge who ruled against him on immigration in a comment to the Associated Press. Trump had referred to the federal judge as an “Obama judge.” Roberts said in a statement there are no Obama judges or Bush judges but just an independent judiciary.

Trump then returned fire at Roberts saying he was wrong and that the ninth circuit is an activist court.

The attendant outrage, news reports, and Twitter meltdowns escalated things. And so Trump started Thanksgiving with another swipe at the Republican appointed conservative chief justice.

[Mediaite]

Trump hits back at Chief Justice Roberts,

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and President Donald Trump took swipes at each other Wednesday in an extraordinary exchange over just how partisan federal courts really are.

Roberts said Wednesday morning there are no “Obama judges or Trump judges” after the president attacked the judge who ruled against his attempt to restrict asylum seekers at the border earlier this week.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

Later in the afternoon, Trump hit back with two posts on Twitter:

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an ‘independent judiciary,’ but if it is why…..,” the president wrote, followed by: “…..are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security — these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”

The statement from Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, was a stark divergence from the chief justice’s stoic aversion to publicly criticizing Trump, even as the president has railed against federal judges who did not rule in his favor.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, called Trump’s comments against the judiciary “unprecedented” in modern history and praised Roberts for defending the Judicial branch. Chief justices have historical avoided fighting with the other co-equal branches of government, but Tobias said he was “heartened” by Wednesday’s break from deference to keep Trump in his lane.

“I think it’s great that the chief justice has said something, because the Senate has done nothing on these issues and somebody has to protect the independence of the judiciary,” Tobias said. “So I’m not troubled.”

The Associated Press first reported Roberts’ comments.

Talking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Trump criticized Judge Jon Tigar of U.S. District Court in Northern California, who ruled against his policy announced this month that would require migrants to apply for asylum at legal border crossings. Currently, migrants can present themselves to immigration officers after illegally crossing the border and request asylum. Cases from the Northern District of California are appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A number of advocacy groups sued the Trump administration shortly after it announced the policy, and Tigar issued a temporary restraining order effectively thwarting the president’s efforts. Trump on Tuesday accused Tigar of being an “Obama judge” and called the 9th Circuit a “disgrace.” Tigar was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2012.

“Every case gets filed in the 9th Circuit because they know that’s not law. They know that’s not what this country stands for. Every case that gets filed in the 9th Circuit, we get beaten.” Trump said. “People should not be allowed to immediately run to this very friendly circuit and then file their case.”

He also said, “The 9th Circuit is really something we have to take a look at because it’s not fair.”

Trump added that he felt confident the case over his asylum policy would go to the Supreme Court where his administration would prevail — similar to his travel ban on citizens of several majority Muslim countries. A modified version of that policy was upheld in the Supreme Court after several challenges in lower federal courts, with Roberts writing the majority opinion in that case.

Even before Trump’s presidency, Republicans have tried to fill federal courts with conservative judges, blocking Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from getting a Senate vote. Trump ultimately filled the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death with Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Republicans stalled several of Obama’s appointees to federal courts until former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unleashed the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules requiring only a simple majority to approve most federal judicial nominations.

This year, Republicans and Democrats engaged in a dramatic fight over the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh — Trump’s second nominee to the high court — which was mired in allegations of sexual assault. Both parties accused each other of toying with parliamentary procedure and manipulation in order to block or ram through the confirmation.

Trump has a track record of attacking the judiciary. He disparaged a federal judge in Hawaii last year as practicing “unprecedented judicial overreach” when he blocked an executive order barring entry to citizens of some majority Muslim countries.

[Politico]

John Bolton Threatens Sanctions for ‘Illegitimate’ International Criminal Court: ‘Already Dead to Us’

National Security Advisor John Bolton delivered his expected condemnation of the International Criminal Court on Monday, vowing to bring sanctions against the organization if it continues to investigate American activity in the Middle East.

As Bolton spoke before the Federalist Society, he promised retaliation for the ICC’s “unjust prosecution” of alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He called the organization a threat to American national security, saying it “claims authority separate from, and above, the Constitution of the United States. It is antithetical to our nation’s ideals.”

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

The speech continued with Bolton describing the ICC as an “illegitimate” investigative body that failed to adequately prosecute illegal activity abroad despite its “dangerous” levels of unchecked accountability. He said the U.S. will ban the ICC’s court judges from the country and enforce sanctions against any nation cooperating with them if they continue to prosecute America or its allies.

“We will take the following steps, among others, in accordance with the American Service-Members’ Protection Act and our other legal authorities. We will negotiate even more binding bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering U.S. persons to the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists in ICC investigation of Americans. We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the U.S. and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation.”

[Mediaite]

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