Trump vetoes Yemen War Powers Resolution, his 2nd veto since taking office

President Donald Trump issued the second veto of his presidency Tuesday, stopping a congressional resolution that would have sought to end US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”

This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump wrote to the Senate Thursday.Trump added that the resolution is “unnecessary” in part because there are no United States military personnel in Yemen “commanding, participating in, or accompanying military forces of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in hostilities in or affecting Yemen.” Trump was expected to issue the veto as the resolution was seen as a rebuke of Trump’s Middle East policies.

Supporters of the War Powers Resolution argued the US shouldn’t be involved in the war without explicit permission from Congress. Opponents argued the US does not have “boots on the ground” and is offering noncombat technical assistance to Saudi Arabia, an ally.

Several supporters made clear their votes were also aimed at expressing their frustrations with Trump’s continued support for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been implicated in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The bill passed the House 247-175. Sixteen Republicans voted yes with Democrats and one voted present. In the Senate the vote was 54 to 46, with seven Republicans voting with Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not responded to questions on whether she intends to seek a vote to override the President’s veto.

In a statement Tuesday night, Pelosi called on Trump to “put peace before politics.”

“The conflict in Yemen is a horrific humanitarian crisis that challenges the conscience of the entire world. Yet the President has cynically chosen to contravene a bipartisan, bicameral vote of the Congress and perpetuate America’s shameful involvement in this heartbreaking crisis,” Pelosi said.

“This conflict must end, now. The House of Representatives calls on the President to put peace before politics, and work with us to advance an enduring solution to end this crisis and save lives.”

The only other veto Trump has issued was his veto of a resolution of disapproval for his emergency declaration to build barriers along the US border with Mexico. Trump vetoed that resolution last month.

[CNN]

Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary

President Trump is picking David Bernhardt, a former energy lobbyist, to be the Interior Department’s next secretary. “I am pleased to announce that David Bernhardt, Acting Secretary of the Interior, will be nominated as Secretary of the Interior,” Trump tweeted Monday. Bernhardt, whose past clients include oil companies and others with business before the Interior Department, will lead an agency that oversees about 500 million acres as well as the energy production on that land. He became the agency’s deputy secretary in 2017 and has led the department on an interim basis since former Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned amid ethics scandals in January. In the weeks since Zinke’s departure, Bernhardt has risen to the top of the list as the most likely candidate Trump would choose for the post. “David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!” Trump will have to send Bernhardt’s nomination to the Senate, where a majority of senators will have to approved him. “It’s a humbling privilege to be nominated to lead a department whose mission I love, to accomplish the balanced, common sense vision of our President,” Bernhardt said in a statement Monday. The department has 70,000 employees in various agencies overseeing federal land, offshore drilling, endangered species and American Indian affairs, among other duties. As deputy secretary, Bernhardt, a Colorado native, worked hand in hand with Zinke on his oil and gas leasing agenda and took the lead on many others, including the administration’s push to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the rollback of a number of Endangered Species Act regulations. In the past he’s called the ESA an “unnecessary regulatory burden.” The rule proposal he helped roll out in July would make it easier to delist an endangered species and would withdraw a policy that offered the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species unless otherwise specified. Bernhardt has worked at Interior in various capacities, including solicitor during the George W. Bush administration. He has also had multiple stints at the lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, representing clients including Eni Petroleum, Sempra Energy, Halliburton Energy Services, Targa Energy, Noble Energy and the Westlands Water District. Under ethics standards, he has recused himself from matters involving so many former clients that he carries a card with him listing the recusals. Environmental groups immediately denounced Bernhardt’s nomination Monday. “The ethical questions surrounding David Bernhardt and his commitment to pandering to oil, coal, and gas executives make former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke look like a tree-hugging environmentalist in comparison. And Ryan Zinke was a disaster,” Vicky Wyatt, lead climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said in a statement. “We already let Bernhardt do enough damage to our federal lands and waters as deputy secretary —  we have to stop him before he destroys some of this country’s best ideas including the Endangered Species Act.” “David Bernhardt’s nomination is an affront to America’s parks and public lands,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group that has been vocally critical of the Trump administration. “As an oil and gas lobbyist, Bernhardt pushed to open vast swaths of public lands for drilling and mining. As deputy secretary, he was behind some of the worst policy decisions of Secretary Zinke’s sad tenure, including stripping protections for imperiled wildlife.” The industries Interior regulates have largely been supportive of Bernhardt. “We have always been supportive of acting Secretary Bernhardt. We supported his nomination and would support him if the president decides to nominate him to be secretary,” Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters Monday. “In these transitional phases, it’s important that we have strong political leadership, and I think he’s demonstrated that leadership in his time as acting secretary.” Supporters say Bernhardt’s agenda on fossil fuels would likely continue in the same vein as Zinke. “Bernhardt possesses an impressive depth of experience at the Department and knowledge of Interior issues. His selection as secretary will assure that important energy and conservation policies will not miss a beat in the transition,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore oil and wind companies.

“Bernhardt understands that conservation and enhancement of natural resources can and does occur in conjunction with development of natural resources for energy — both on and offshore,” he said. Bernhardt’s nomination will go to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for an initial hearing, and then a vote before the full Senate. That panel’s leaders, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), both voted to confirm him to the deputy secretary position in 2017. Only three other Democrats — Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — voted for him, and Heitkamp and Donnelly lost reelection last year. Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, so Bernhardt’s confirmation is likely to go through. One of the most recent controversies surrounding Bernhardt involved the recent partial government shutdown, which furloughed most of Interior’s workforce. He drew criticism after announcing the National Park Service would pull from their entrance fee revenue coffers in order to pay for the clean-up and maintenance of parks left up to the public during the shutdown. “We must provide opportunities for people to access and enjoy our wonderful parks, and we must do so in a way that ensures the same opportunity for future generations to enjoy,” he wrote. Environmentalists, park rangers and politicians alike questioned the legality of the move under the National Park Service Organic and Antideficiency Acts, the main pieces of legislation that govern federal parks and shutdown procedures respectively. The NPS is currently conducting a legal review of that decision. Bernhardt also was criticized for bringing certain furloughed workers back to work on oil and natural gas drilling permits, offshore drilling and drilling in the Alaska refuge. The House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee for Interior, led by Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), will hold a hearing this week on the work that Interior did during the shutdown and whether it was legal. Bernhardt floated to the top of a crowded field of potential replacements for Zinke. The candidates included many current or former Republican politicians, according to people familiar with the process, such as ex-Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), ex-Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) and ex-Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

[The Hill]

Trump’s pick to chair new climate panel once said CO2 has been maligned like “Jews under Hitler”

The Pentagon and several federal agencies have repeatedly warned over the years that climate change is a threat to national security. Yet the White House is reportedly convening a panel to question it anew.

The Washington Post, citing a National Security Council (NSC) discussion paper it obtained, reports that White House staff are preparing an executive order for President Donald Trump’s signature that would establish a Presidential Committee on Climate Security to be chaired by a notorious climate change denier.

That man, NSC senior director William Happer, argued on CNBC in 2014 that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

John Whitehouse of Media Matters dredged up the video

Happer’s views have gotten no less extreme since then. When he was under consideration for the role of Trump’s science adviser in early 2017, Happer sent an email to a Jezebel reader asserting that the “demonization of CO2” “really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels.”

Media Matters has previously detailed how Happer, a retired Princeton professor who is not trained as a climate scientist, has tried — unsuccessfully — to conceal the fact that oil interests have directly funded his “research.” And as a recent paper in Nature Climate Change noted, the fossil fuel industry has long been involved in campaigns in US politics “aiming to refute, confuse and obstruct acceptance of the reality of climate change,” using scientists just like Happer to spread misinformation.

The Trump administration keeps trying to muddy the waters about climate science

The Post’s report about the White House’s new panel is the latest indication that the Trump administration is trying to actively mislead the public on the well-established science of climate change.

As Vox’s Umair Irfan and Alex Ward have reported, many agencies in the executive branch of Trump’s own government have been warning the president and the American people of the severe threats of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

“The impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming,” according to the National Climate Assessment, released in November.

Asked about the National Climate Assessment by a reporter in November, Trump flatly said, “I don’t believe it.”

Last month, the Pentagon released a report detailing the national security threatposed by climate change. Weeks later, the intelligence community released its annual consensus World Threat Assessment. The document echoes the Pentagon’s finding that climate change is a major threat:

Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.

The NSC discussion paper obtained by the Post about the new panel suggests it would be created with an eye toward muddying the waters about the Pentagon and intelligence community’s findings. Though the paper acknowledges that a number of federal government reports have concluded climate change is a major threat, it goes on to claim “these scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.”

Given Happer’s views, there’s little doubt that he’ll indulge Trump if he wants to use the panel to deny the well-established science of climate change. In doing so, the consequences are grave: He’d further imperil the United States and future generations everywhere.

[Vox]

In public fight with Democrats, Trump says he would be ‘proud’ to shut down government over border wall

President Donald Trump and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi bickered at length on Tuesday in an explosive public meeting at the White House over the president’s promised border wall and threat to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t fund it.

“If we don’t get what we want one way or the other … I will shut down the government,” Trump said during a highly unusual fight that played out in front of the press before the official meeting began. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security. … I will take the mantle of shutting it down.”

If Trump and Congress can’t agree to a funding bill by Dec. 21, large parts of the federal government will run out of operating authority. The Defense Department, however, is funded through the end of next September.

Trump said it was unlikely that he would strike a deal Tuesday with Pelosi, a California Democrat who is expected to become House speaker next month, and Schumer, a New York Democrat who is the Senate minority leader.

“We may not have an agreement today,” he said. “We probably won’t.”

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress, demanded Monday night that $5 billion be included for the wall in any spending bill, while the Democratic leaders have been open to accepting less than $2 billion.

Earlier in the day, according to two sources who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity, Pelosi told House Democrats that she and Schumer would offer the president a deal to pass six appropriations bills and a yearlong extension of current funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Short of that, she said, they would agree to a basic extension of funding through Sept. 30, 2019, for all seven appropriations bills, including the one that funds Homeland Security.

Before Trump took ownership of a possible shutdown, Pelosi took an early dig at him in her opening remarks and noted that his party still controls both the House and Senate until January.

“We must keep the government open,” she said. “We cannot have a Trump shutdown.”

“A what?” he snapped at her.

“You have the White House, you have the Senate, you have the House of Representatives,” Pelosi responded.

But, she noted, not all Republicans are on board with his plans to build a physical barrier.

“There are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall,” Pelosi said.

“If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them in one session,” Trump countered. “It would be done.”

But for two years, he has been unable to muster those votes for his core campaign promise during the 2016 election — a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump vowed Mexico would pay for.

Vice President Mike Pence watched Tuesday’s spectacle unfold in silence as Trump and the Democrats also fought over the results of last month’s midterm elections and their meaning.

Outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly and presidential advisers Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller were also in the room for the meeting.

Pelosi urged the president to stop bickering in front of the media.

“This is spiraling downward,” she said.

The private portion of the discussion was brief, as Pelosi and Schumer emerged quickly to talk to reporters outside the White House.

Schumer said Trump threw a “temper tantrum.”

Later, back at the Capitol, he said the meeting was “productive” in that “the president showed what he wanted: shutdown.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a top Trump ally, cheered the president on from the sidelines of Twitter.

“Great job sticking to your guns on border security, Mr. President!” he wrote. “You are right to want more border security funding including Wall money. They are WRONG to say no.”

Graham also advocated for Trump to add into the mix a provision protecting certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children from deportation to put pressure on Democrats to approve money for the wall.

Likewise, some Democrats took to social media to back their leaders.

“Remember when Mexico was going to pay for the President’s wall?” Rep. Val Demings of Florida tweeted. “Shutting down the government over this foolish idea would be wildly irresponsible. A shutdown would cripple the economy and degrade transportation security during the holidays.”

[NBC News]

Reality

Donald Trump lied multiple times and threw a very public temper tantrum during a photo op at the White House with Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi over the southern border wall funding and averting a government shutdown, which Trump said he would take full credit for.

Trump, who promised his supporters Mexico would pay for a wall, instead demanded the American taxpayers pay for his wall.

Some of the lies include:

* Trump claiming parts of his wall has been built. Even his supporters know this is a lie.

* Trump said illegal traffic is down in areas where a wall was built. Again no construction has been completed.

* Trump said 10 terrorists have been apprehended. This is a lie.
* Trump repeated white nationalist and KKK talking points when he claimed immigrants bring crime and disease.

Media

Trump Blasts Macron For Proposing ‘European Army’ Upon Arrival in France: ‘Very Insulting!’

President Donald Trump ripped French President Emmanuel Macronon Friday upon his arrival in France, calling him out for proposing a European military.

“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump tweeted Friday.

Trump is set to meet with Macron Saturday morning at the Élysée Palace in Paris, per USA Today.

Macron proposed, in an interview earlier this week, a “real European army” to protect against “China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security,” Macron said.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” he continued. In response to threats from Russia, Macron argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.”

[Mediaite]

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Dedicates 2 Miles of Donald Trump’s ‘Border Wall’ With Fencing

On Friday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen dedicated a newly completed replacement section of border fence in Calexio, California. The fences and barriers have existed for years, but recently received routine scheduled maintenance and upgrades.

However the DHS Secretary spun a different tale of what the invited and gathered media looked at.

According to Nielsen, the open bollard style fence constitutes a wall. And not just a wall, but the border wall from President Donald Trump’s campaign and rally promises.

But yeah, that’s a fence.

The President specified in his campaign that a wall would be built, not a fence. And when reporters asked about the fence, Nielsen reiterated the fence was a wall.

When asked if the 30-foot tall fence of steel bollards was a fence, Nielsen said:

“It’s different than a fence in that it also has technology. It’s a full wall system. It’s a wall, this is what the president has asked us to do. It’s part of a system.”

But the prior fence that Trump deemed inadequate also utilized additional technology beyond just fencing. However the new fence is taller.

The Trump administration contracted for and tested eight border wall prototypes at a reported cost of $20 million. However all of the prototypes failed in testing.

Back in March, Trump tweeted that old photos of another section of replacement fence was his wall under construction, but was quickly corrected. This time Nielsen faces the brunt of the pushback over passing a fence off as a wall.

During the presidential campaign and subsequent rallies, Trump promised a “big, beautiful wall” that would definitely not be a fence. He also promised Mexico would pay for it.

Neither campaign promise came to fruition yet.

But despite the obvious fence visible in the background, Nielsen persisted in talking about the first section of Trump’s border wall being completed. And workers even welded a plaque to the fence to commemorate the event which was livestreamed.

[Second Nexus]

The Trump administration reportedly wants the government to revoke civil rights protections from transgender people

The Trump administration is weighing making its biggest attack on transgender rights yet in a maneuver that would strip federal recognition of the gender identity of some 1.4 million Americans — and require genetic testing in some cases to match a person’s gender with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Erica Green, Katie Benner, and Robert Pear of the New York Times reported on Sunday that the Department of Health and Human Services is floating a memo that would establish the legal definition of sex under Title IX — the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination in education on the basis of gender — that would render immutable the sex of a person at birth. In other words, the government would not recognize a person’s gender other than the one based on their genitalia when they’re born.

Per the Times:

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

According to the Times, it would “eradicate federal recognition” of some 1.4 million transgender Americans.

HHS is preparing to formally present the new definition to the Justice Department before the end of the year, and if the department decides the change is legal, it could be enforced across Title IX laws and government agencies, including the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor.

The effects could be far-reaching — it could impact which locker rooms and bathrooms transgender students could use as well as which sports teams students join or what happens to single-sex classes, the Times points out. If enacted, it could even require some people to produce DNA tests as part of their educational experience — an unprecedented step to enforce a biological definition of gender.

The Trump administration has been terrible on transgender rights

The Obama administration worked to advance transgender rights and loosen federal regulations to allow for more gender fluidity including defining gender identity as protected by Title IX. President Donald Trump and his administration have taken steps to reverse that.

Soon after taking office, the Trump administration sent out a letter officially revoking Obama-era guidance on protecting trans students in federally funded schools, saying it was federal overreach. Trump has sought to ban transgender people from serving in the military, rescinded a memo protecting trans workers, and stripped protections for trans prisoners. It has also worsened protections for transgender people in health care.

Trump on the campaign trail said he would embrace LGBTQ people and said he would “fight” for them while Hillary Clinton would bring in “more people that will threaten your freedoms and believes.” But as Vox’s German Lopez pointed out, he’s done quite the opposite:

As president, Trump has acted more or less how you would expect a typical anti-LGBTQ Republican to act. Maybe that reflects his own opinions. Maybe it reflects the views of the people he’s surrounded himself with in his administration, including Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, both of whom have very long histories of anti-LGBTQ causes.

This new assault on transgender people — and one that includes genetic testing — is just the latest chapter.

[Vox

]

Trump nixes federal pay raise

President Trump on Thursday announced that he would cancel a scheduled 2.1 percent across-the-board pay increase for federal workers, as well as locality pay increases.

“In light of our Nation’s fiscal situation, Federal employee pay must be performance-based, and aligned strategically toward recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing Federal employees and those with critical skill sets,” Trump wrote in a letter to the Speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.

The proposal sets up a fight with Congress, which could effectively overturn the action in upcoming spending legislation. Without such intervention, the move would affect most of the 2.1 million federal employees around the nation, about 1.7 million of which live in areas outside of the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Members of the military, on the other hand, are on schedule to receive a 2.6 percent pay increase.

Last year, the Trump administration approved a 1.4 percent increase in federal pay and a 2.4 percent increase in military pay.

In the letter, Trump said he had the authority to propose an alternative pay schedule based on Title V of the U.S. Code, which allows the president to alter scheduled pay changes he deems inappropriate in light of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.”

Trump’s 2019 budget proposal sought to freeze federal pay, but the Senate Appropriations Committee included a 1.9 percent pay bump in its spending plans for 2019. The House version of the bill did not include such an increase, and sought reductions to spending on federal pension plans.

The two chambers are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks to work out the differences between their bills, negotiations which could effectively override Trump’s move to cut pay. Trump has not indicated if he would veto such a measure if it included a pay increase.

Democrats, and some Republicans, blasted the move.

“For someone who claims to be a leadership maven, President Trump certainly gives the impression through his actions that he has no idea how to run an effective organization,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

[The Hill]

Reality

Trump’s Space Force: Billions.

Pentagon budget increase: $94 billion.

Trump farm bailout: $6 billion.

Trump golf outings: $77 million.

Mnuchin flights: $1 million+

Price flights: $1 million+

Pruitt flights & phone booth: $211k

Zinke door: $139k

Carson dining set: $31k

Trump expands federal contractors’ ability to cite religious freedom in discrimination cases

The Trump administration issued a directive earlier this month that critics argue will allow federal contractors to assert their right to a religious exemption from LGBT discrimination charges.

The Department of Labor directive, issued on Aug. 10, expands the circumstances under which federal contractors can claim they have a religious exemption when battling discrimination charges.

The directive addresses an executive order enacted in 1965 that blocks businesses that work with the federal government from discriminating against people on the basis of sex, gender identity, race, sexual orientation and other factors.

The new notice cites recent Supreme Court decisions, including a ruling in favor of a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and the 2014 Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision that certain corporations can be exempt from regulations over religious objections.

It also cites recent executive orders by President Trump, including his order earlier this year directing federal agencies to respect and protect religious liberty and political speech.

Critics told BuzzFeed News that the new directive would contradict a promise Trump made when he took office last year to not to touch an executive order issued by former President Obama that banned federal contractors from engaging in LGBT discrimination.

Department of Labor and White House officials told the news outlet that the Obama-era executive order remains in place, but declined to answer questions on when the religious exemption directive could be utilized by contractors.

“The purpose of Directive 2018-03 is to ensure [the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] guidance on the religious exemption is consistent with federal law related to religious freedom and religious accommodation, including recent U.S. Supreme Court precedents and Executive Orders, which OFCCP is obligated to follow,” a Labor Department official told BuzzFeed News.

The official noted that the executive order enacted in 1965 allows “religious organizations to make employment decisions on the basis of religion.”

The new directive also states that it “supersedes” a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) memo on the illegality of anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The previous FAQ did not reflect recent Supreme Court decisions regarding religious freedoms,” the Department of Labor official told BuzzFeed News.

“President Trump and his Administration are working diligently to improve the lives of all Americans, including faith-based and LGBT communities,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told BuzzFeed News. “We will continue to ensure anti-discrimination protections are in place for all Americans.”

Advocates opposing the new directive told the news site that the policy opens the door for contractors to cite religious exemptions when discriminating against LGBT employees.

“This Administration apparently recognizes — correctly, in our view — that rescinding [Obama’s 2014] executive order outright would cause a huge public outcry,” Shannon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the current head of Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed News. “So instead, this Administration is trying to accomplish the same end through different means.”

McGowan noted that a fifth of the federal workforce is employed through federal contractors, telling the news site that the “damage that could be done here cannot be overstated.”

[The Hill]

White House stops announcing calls with foreign leaders

The White House has suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Donald Trump’s phone calls with world leaders, two sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN, bringing an end to a common exercise from Republican and Democratic administrations.

It’s unclear if the suspension is temporary or permanent. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Official descriptions of the President’s calls with foreign leaders — termed “readouts” in Washington parlance — offer administrations the chance to characterize in their own terms the diplomacy conducted at the highest levels between countries. While news is rarely contained in the rote, often dry descriptions, they do offer the only official account that a phone call took place.

Trump has had at least two calls with other leaders in the last two weeks, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The White House confirmed that the calls took place after they were reported by foreign media, but declined to elaborate on what was said.

Calls with world leaders are highly coordinated events that in the past have required careful planning by the President’s national security team. Leaders are typically patched through the Situation Room, and sometimes aides listen in. Once the call is over, both sides typically publish a readout of what was discussed. However, readouts have been known to differ between governments.

After Trump spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in April 2017, the two sides offered vastly different accounts of what was discussed.

“President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke today. The two leaders discussed the dairy trade in Wisconsin, New York State, and various other places. It was a very amicable call,” the White House’s version read.

Canada’s readout was more descriptive.

“The prime minister and the President reaffirmed the importance of the mutually beneficial Canada-US trade relationship,” Canada’s readout said. “On the issue of softwood lumber, the prime minister refuted the baseless allegations by the US Department of Commerce and the decision to impose unfair duties.”

Tony Blinken, who served as the deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration from 2015 to 2017, said there are two main reasons why issuing the readouts are important.

“One is transparency,” Blinken told CNN. “There is a public interest in knowing who he talked to and what they talked about. Secondly, these readouts help shape the narrative.

If we aren’t doing a readout, but the other country is, their narrative is going to prevail. ”

[CNN]

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