Trump: US to ‘begin cutting off’ aid to countries associated with migrant caravan

President Trump on Monday said that the U.S. will begin to cut off or reduce aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as citizens of those countries flee for the U.S. as part of a so-called caravan of migrants.

In a trio of tweets, the president escalated his rhetoric surrounding the group of migrants, declaring a national emergency as they approach the border and claiming that “unknown Middle Easterners” had joined the group.

Trump, in the tweets, did not offer any evidence for the charge that people from the Middle East were among those crossing the border.

“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National [Emergency]. Must change laws!”

Trump had previously threatened to cut off aid to those countries if they did not act to stop their citizens from fleeing. It’s unclear if Trump will take unilateral action to reduce foreign aid, as Congress is not scheduled to return to Washington until after the midterm elections.

Experts have noted that human rights laws restrict actions a government can take to prevent its citizens from leaving its borders.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill about plans to cut foreign aid or to declare a national emergency.

[The Hill]

Trump Rails Against Migrant Caravan in Twitter Tirade: ‘A Disgrace to the Democrat Party’

Donald Trump launched a Twitter attack Sunday against a growing Central American migrant caravan hoping to enter the U.S., stating he plans to block it.

“Full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing our Souther (sic) Border,” he wrote Sunday afternoon. “People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first, and if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away. The courts are asking the U.S. to do things that are not doable!”

The Commander-in-Chief then followed-up on that post with a frustrated message calling the caravan “a disgrace to the Democrat Party,” adding, “Change the immigration laws NOW!”

The group of migrants, which has swelled to 5,000 according to the Associated Press, intends to reach the U.S., having overcome efforts by Mexican officials to thwart it.

In a bold assertion made yesterday, Trump told reporters “in many cases, these are hardened criminals.”

The president has been increasingly outspoken on immigration as the November midterms loom.

[Mediaite]

Trump baselessly claims Democrats are behind migrant caravan

Donald Trump thrust a caravan of migrants heading toward the US border into the midterm election campaign, saying at a rally on Thursday night that the race will be “an election of the caravan”.

A group that now numbers about 3,000 people has left Honduras and has reached Guatemala’s border with Mexico, with the ultimate goal of reaching the US – infuriating Trump.

“It’s going to be an election of the caravan. You know what I’m talking about,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Missoula, Montana, declaring his intention to use the migrants’ journey as a bludgeon against Democratic candidates.

There is evidence that Trump’s use of the caravan as a campaign issue may be effective among the Republican base. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 75% of voters who intend to vote for a Republican congressional candidate consider illegal immigration a “very big” problem for the country.

That makes it the top-rated issue for Republican leaning voters. By contrast, only 19% of voters supporting a Democrat called illegal immigration a very big problem. Democratic voters instead called gun violence, the affordability of healthcare and college education, government ethics, the gap between the rich and poor, and a host of other issues very big problems.

Trump claimed, without any supporting evidence, that Democrats were behind the caravan, and raised conspiracy theories that the Central Americans had been paid to come to the United States for political reasons.

“Now we’re starting to find out – and I won’t say it 100%, I’ll put a little tiny question mark at the end. But we’re probably not going to need it, but we have the fake news back there,” he told the crowd, adding a familiar jab at news reporterscovering his campaign appearances.

“A lot of money’s been passing through people to come up and try to get to the border by election day, because they think that’s a negative for us. Number one, they’re being stopped. And number two, regardless, that’s our issue.”

Trump appeared to be referring to a video postedby the Florida representative Matt Gaetz, which he claimed showed women and children being given cash to “storm the US border @ election time”. He suggested without evidence that the source could be “Soros? US-backed NGOs?” referring to George Soros, an American billionaire who is the frequent subject of rightwing conspiracy theories.

A journalist who interviewed people on the ground where the video was taken reported that local merchants had collected money and given it out as aid to migrants. He located the site in Guatemala, not Honduras as the congressman had claimed.

Gaetz later posted a tacit correction, saying he had believed the video was taken in Honduras because it was sent to him by a Honduran official.

Speaking of Democrats, Trump said: “They wanted that caravan. And there are those who say that caravan didn’t just happen. It didn’t just happen.”

Trump threatened on Thursday to close the US-Mexico border and deploy the military if caravan members approach the frontier.

The Mexican government said it was in touch with members of the caravan, some of whom have arrived at the country’s southern border seeking refuge, and will process any legitimate claims for entry in an orderly manner. Mexican officials have said that anyone who enters illegally will be subject to deportation.

Despite the extremist campaign trail rhetoric, the Trump administration has supported a Mexican government plan to work with the United Nations refugee agency to deal with the caravan, USA Today reported.

[The Guardian]

Donald Trump rage-tweets about John Kerry telling Iran to not bother with him

Former Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly met with Iranian leaders and advised them to simply wait out President Donald Trump’s hostility.

This bit of “shadow diplomacy” with the nation Kerry helped broker a nuclear deal with has enraged Trump, who tweeted about it on Thursday night.

Trump suggested that it was “illegal” for Kerry to meet with Iran and tell them “to wait out the Trump Administration!”

Trump then misunderstood or misrepresented the law by stating that Kerry should have been registered as a foreign agent for giving a foreign nation advice as a citizen.

[Raw Story]

Trump Goes After ‘Illegal Mueller Witch Hunt’ Again Following Manafort Deal: ‘Continues in Search of a Crime’

President Donald Trump went after Robert Mueller and the special counsel investigation this morning two days after the Paul Manafort deal was announced.

Trump didn’t tweet about Manafort specifically, but instead attacked the Mueller probe again as “illegal” and grasping at straws:

[Mediaite]

White House Reiterates Trump Call for Investigation of Anonymous Opinion Writer

The White House press secretary on Monday called for the Justice Department to investigate who wrote an anonymous opinion column last week that was critical of President Trump, echoing the president’s demand for such a probe.

“If that individual is in meetings where national security is discussed or other important topics, and they are attempting to undermine the executive branch, that would certainly be problematic and something that the Department of Justice should look into,” Sarah Sanders told reporters at Monday’s briefing.

Mr. Trump last week said he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation into who in his administration penned the column in the New York Times, which was attributed only to a senior administration official and said there was a secret resistance movement at work in Mr. Trump’s administration that aims to curtail his “worst inclinations.”

The president said he was concerned the author may be involved in discussions about national security issues. “I don’t want him in those meetings,” he said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday. When Mr. Trump raised the prospect of an investigation last week, a department spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t confirm or deny investigations.

Presidents typically avoid calling for Justice Department investigations, particularly ones related to their own administrations, to avoid the perception they are interfering in department matters. Mr. Trump has done so on multiple occasions.

A parade of senior members of Mr. Trump’s administration publicly denied writing the column last week.

Ms. Sanders declined on Monday to say what crime the author of the column may have committed. “I’m not an attorney,” she said. “It’s the Department of Justice’s job to make that determination, and we’re asking them to look into it.”

Asked whether the president was aware that the column was protected under the First Amendment, Ms. Sanders said: “It’s less about that part of it, and whether or not somebody is actively trying to undermine the executive branch of the government and a duly elected president.”

She declined to say whether the White House was launching an internal search for the column’s author, whom she called “gutless.” “We’re certainly focused on things that actually matter,” she said.

[Wall Street Journal]

Trump is accusing his administration’s anonymous op-ed writer of treason. That’s nonsense.

Early Wednesday evening, the president issued the following official statement:

While, in isolation, the tweet is maddeningly enigmatic, most observers immediately recognized that President Trump was referring to a New York Times op-ed written by an anonymous senior official in his administration.

In the op-ed, the official describes themselves and their colleagues as “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” decries the president’s decision-making as “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless,” and says that early in the Trump presidency, there were “whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.”

The last part, presumably, is why Trump is calling the author a traitor.

Treason has a very specific constitutional definition

While there’s obviously a colloquial sense in which “traitor” is used as a general descriptor of disloyal people, the term also has a formal legal definition in the Constitution, and as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was swift to note, the op-ed doesn’t qualify:

Graham is right. The op-ed author isn’t guilty of treason. Nor is Trump or any member of his administration or 2016 campaign guilty of treason because of their ties to a Russian election meddling operation.

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason as follows:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

As UC Davis’s Carlton Larson, one of the few experts on treason law in academia today, explained to me in 2013, this language provides for two types of treason prosecutions.

The first is an “aid and comfort” prosecution, in which the defendant is accused of aiding the war effort of a country presently at war with the United States. Not just “rivals” but literally at war. Aldrich Ames, the CIA officer turned Soviet spy, got at least 10 people killed through his actions, and FBI Russian spy Robert Hanssen indirectly got at least three killed, but neither was charged with treason because the US was not at war with the Soviet Union/Russian Federation at the time of their actions.

By contrast, successful aid-and-comfort prosecutions include those of American Nazi propagandist Robert Henry Best and of Iva Toguri, who was accused of being “Tokyo Rose,” an English-language Japanese propaganda broadcaster meant to lower American service members’ morale in the Pacific (she was later exonerated and received a presidential pardon).

The second type of treason involves “levying war,” in which the defendants themselves waged war against the United States or an individual state. Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s first vice president, was prosecuted for treason on these grounds and acquitted, after being accused of assembling forces to create an independent state in the center of North America. John Brown, the abolitionist revolutionary, was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia on levying war grounds after his raid on Harpers Ferry.

The anonymous senior administration official doesn’t meet either standard

Now, the op-ed author is obviously not going to be prosecuted for levying war. That leaves the claim that he or she provided aid and comfort to our enemies by undermining Trump in print.

For that to be the case, though, one would have to determine that the op-ed was designed to aid a specific foreign enemy with whom the US is at war, and there is no such country in the world right now.

Attempting to help al-Qaeda or any associated violent extremist groups might qualify under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after 9/11, and indeed, an American-born al-Qaeda operative was indicted for treasonin 2006 for aiding the organization. The indictment cites the AUMF as well as Osama bin Laden’s statements that al-Qaeda is at war with the United States to demonstrate that by adhering to al-Qaeda, the operative in question, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, was helping a group with which the US was at war.

But the op-ed author rather obviously did not write the New York Times piece with the express purpose of aiding al-Qaeda. Even if he did want to help al-Qaeda (a claim that, again, is preposterous), the treason allegation would be iffy. Consider the Supreme Court case of Cramer v. United States, in which Anthony Cramer, an American man who met with Nazi agents in the US, saw his treason conviction overturned on the grounds that merely meeting the enemy isn’t enough to count as treason.

In his opinion in that case, Justice Robert Jackson asserted that only a defendant who can be found to have “adhered to the enemy” and “intended to betray” the US could be found guilty of treason — even if he did provide aid and comfort to the enemy.

Proving that the op-ed author not only provided aid and comfort to al-Qaeda by the mere act of writing the op-ed, but also consciously intended to betray the United States of America, would be basically impossible. That holds even in the incredibly unlikely world where those were the intentions of, say, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley or White House chief economist Kevin Hassett or Russia Ambassador John Huntsman or any of the many other officials floated as being the op-ed author.

Treason is a very limited crime. It’s rarely prosecuted outside of wartime; Gadahn was the first person charged with treason since World War II. And it definitely doesn’t apply to this case.

[Vox]

Trump suggests that protesting should be illegal

President Trump has long derided the mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” and lashed out at NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, he took his attacks on free speech one step further, suggesting in an interview with a conservative news site that the act of protesting should be illegal.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller hours after his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was greeted by protests on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that,” Trump said. “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

He added: “In the old days, we used to throw them out. Today, I guess they just keep screaming.”

More than 70 people were arrested after they repeatedly heckled Kavanaugh and senators at Tuesday’s hearing.

Trump has bristled at dissent in the past, including several instances in which he has suggested demonstrators should lose their jobs or be met with violence for speaking out.

In July, ahead of his visit to Britain, Trump told the Sun newspaper that reports of large-scale demonstrations against him in London — including a 20-foot-tall blimp depicting an angry baby Trump — had offended him.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump said. Months earlier, Trump had implicitly rejected reports that his initial plans to visit in the spring were scuttled because of fears of protests.

Last September, Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem to protest systemic racial injustice.

And in several appearances during the 2016 campaign, when demonstrators interrupted his rallies, Trump at times appeared to encourage violence against them.

Trump has also prompted cries of “dictator envy” for remarks in which he seemed to emulate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same,” Trump told Fox News Channel in an interview after his Singapore summit with the North Korean leader.

[The Washington Post]

Trump Calls Access Hollywood Tape ‘Illegal,’ Claims He Prepped Lawsuit Against NBC After It Leaked

President Donald Trump claimed NBC broke the law by recording his infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he can be heard bragging about groping women without their consent, as he told the Daily Caller today that it “was illegal what they did.”

Trump said that he believes NBC’s release of the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was “worse than CNN with Harvey Weinstein,” though it appears that the president meant to say NBC instead of CNN, as the Peacock Network is still in hot water for botching one of the biggest Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct stories last year.

“NBC is very dishonest in its reporting of me,” Trump added — though, he would not call for the NBC chairman Andy Lack’s job, nor would he demand NBC lose it’s licensing. “[Lack] runs an organization which as far as its reporting on me is very dishonest.”

He went on to call into question the legitimacy of the tape, which was released just weeks before the end of the 2016 presidential race.

“There’s even questions about the tape, there’s many things going on.” Trump said — claiming that it was both “done in a trailer secretly” and “illegal.”

“I had a lawsuit prepared, a lawsuit that was prepared to be filed against NBC because they leaked that tape,” he added.“I had a lawyer hired to bring a suit right after the election ended, but one problem arose. I won the election.”

Trump concluded his thoughts on the subject by saying that he couldn’t sue them because he “won the election,” so there were no damages caused to him.

However, the president did not provide any evidence to back these claims and did not explain why the recording was “illegal.”

[Mediaite]

Trump attacks Jeff Sessions for not forcing the Justice Department to ignore Republican crimes

President Donald Trump on Monday publicly criticized his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for allowing Republican congressmen to be indicted for alleged criminal behavior.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff…” Trump tweeted.

The president was apparently referring to Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY). Hunter was charged with illegally using campaign funds to pay personal expenses while Collins was charged with taking part in an insider trading scheme.

“….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!” Trump added in another tweet.

[Raw Story]

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