Trump approves plan for record low number of refugee admissions

President Trump has approved a plan to reduce the cap for refugee admissions to the country for fiscal 2020 to 18,000, the lowest level on record since the program began more than three decades ago. 

In a statement announcing the move this weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “the core of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy is a commitment to make decisions based on reality, not wishes, and to drive optimal outcomes based on concrete facts.” 

Pompeo went on to say that “this year’s determination on refugee admissions does just that, even as we sustain our longstanding commitment to help vulnerable populations and our leadership as the world’s most generous nation.” 

The plan, which was announced in late September, has drawn pushback from Democratic lawmakers, including governors who have said they will continue to welcome refugees to their states despite the steep reduction.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said last month that her state is a “sanctuary state” and that Oregon will continue to “stand with refugees” in light of the executive order issued by the Trump administration, which allows states to turn away refugees. 

“These are people who cannot return home because they fear for their lives and their families. And to make matters worse, the Trump administration wants to slash the number of refugees our country will welcome this coming year to 18,000, the lowest ever on record,” she said then.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said in a letter to Trump last month that his state will continue to accept refugees fleeing violence and added that he was “dismayed” by the administration’s plans to drastically reduce the refugee cap to 18,000 — a significant jump from former President Obama’s proposed cap of 116,000 refugees in 2016.

“To reject refugees outright emboldens the message of those who seek to inspire hatred by saying that we, as Americans, do not have compassion or care for specific groups of people in the world facing persecution or worse,” Wolf wrote in the letter.

According to The New York Times, under the new move by the Trump administration, only 5,000 people who wish to flee their home countries for fear of persecution due to their religion will be allowed admission into the U.S. as part of the refugee program.

Fewer than 2,000 Central Americans will reportedly be allowed admission under the program going forward as well as 4,000 Iraqis who aided the United States military during the Iraq War.

The new cap for Iraqi refugees is reportedly less than half of the 9,829 who were admitted under the Obama administration in fiscal 2014. Under the Trump administration during fiscal 2019, just 153 Iraqi refugees whose applications were given high priority were admitted into the country. 

[The Hill]

Trump suggested shooting Hispanic migrants in the legs

President Trump suggested having migrants shot in their legs during a March meeting with White House advisers in the Oval Office, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

The Times’ report is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials involved in the events the week of the meeting. The article is adapted from a forthcoming book by reporters Mike Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” It will be published Oct. 8. 

The aides told the Times Trump suggested to advisors during the Oval Office meeting that they should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. 

The suggestion came after Trump had publicly suggested shooting migrants if they threw rocks, the Times reports. Trump had made the suggestion about shooting migrants that threw rocks during a speech in November

Officials who spoke to the Times also recall Trump often suggesting fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators. 

Trump also “wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” the Times reports. 

When advisors told Trump some of his suggestions were not allowed, he reportedly became frustrated. 

“You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump shouted, according to the Times, citing multiple officials in the room’s description. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”

The meeting was set for 30-minutes and the Times reports it lasted more than an hour. Officials in the room included then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Customs and Border Protection Chief Kevin McAleenan, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Steven Miller, according to the Times. 

A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

[The Hill]

Trump admin delays funds for human-trafficking victims that would help non-citizens

 The Trump administration abruptly delayed a $13.5 million grant to house human trafficking victims just five days after saying that “non-citizens” could be served by the program.

The program’s funds, which were approved two years ago by multiple federal agencies, are now in limbo with no indication when money will be distributed and no public explanation for the change.

The money was intended to support housing and supportive services for victims of sex and labor trafficking, including immediate emergency shelter and short-term housing of up to 24 months, according to the notice of funding availability. The money could also be used for providing trafficking victims with furniture, child care services, trauma therapy, cell phones and household items.

The grants were to be dispersed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. HUD hosted a webinar on August 22 through the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for organizations interested in applying for the money, which the council described on August 13 as an “unprecedented partnership” between the DOJ and HUD.

On September 4, the funding announcement was updated to “allow recipients [of the funds] to serve non-citizens,” including lawful permanent residents and foreign national victims, the funding notice said.

Five days later, the grant solicitation was cancelled, according to the federal government’s grants.gov website, which currently states: “This Funding Opportunity has been CANCELLED and is NO longer accepting applications.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Department told NBC News the program has been “postponed,” not cancelled and that a separate HUD website describing the grant as “cancelled” is a mistake. DOJ has not explained why, but the agency asked for the funds back from HUD and the spokesperson says DOJ will now run the program itself.

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent a letter to HUD and DOJ on Friday criticizing the administration for abruptly stopping the grant and asked the agencies to explain what had happened. “Survivors of trafficking must have access to safe and affordable housing,” wrote Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “A decision to postpone these housing and services grants into oblivion will be a decision to waste anti-trafficking resources already on the table.”

[NBC News]

TRUMP THREATENS “CIVIL WAR” IF HE’S IMPEACHED

Over the past two and a half years, Donald Trump has carved out a niche for himself as a manic, deranged tweeter the likes of which the Oval Office—nay, the world—has never seen. In times of great stress—the Special Counsel’s investigation, the blue-wave midterms, a Fox News host not sufficiently fellating him—the president has amped up his output, tweeting dozens of times a day. But Sunday may have set a new record when the leader of the free world fired off a whopping 46 messages to the universe, including retweets from random supporters and one from an account called “Trump But About Sharks,” which replaces random words from his tweets “to make them about sharks.”

Most notable, though, was the president’s quoting of pastor/Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress, who made a rather bold impeachment prediction on air:

For those of you keeping up at home, threatening a Civil War is an escalation from Trump’s go-to prediction regarding what will happen to the country if he loses power, which is typically a stockmarketcollapse. Democrats, characteristically, condemned the retweet, but it inspired noteworthy pushback from one Republican corner as well: “I have visited nations ravaged by civil war,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a veteran, tweeted back. “I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant.”

[Vanity Fair]

Trump blasts ‘savages’ — Ocasio-Cortez, three other women of color, Schiff, Nadler

President Donald Trump blasted six members of the House of Representatives as “savages” on Saturday morning.

“Savages” began to trend on Twitter following the president’s post, which comes amid an impeachment inquiry over his dealings with Ukraine.

Some Twitter users pointed out that Trump’s latest broadside against Democrats focused on four women of color as well as the two heads of committees helping to lead the impeachment inquiry — Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and Adam Schiff of California, who leads the Intelligence Committee.

“AOC plus 3” apparently refers to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, and the three other members of the so-called “squad” of progressive congresswomen: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, an immigrant from Somalia; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who is black; and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who is of Palestinian descent.

The three are among at least 225 House Democrats who now support some type of impeachment action.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry this week following claims that the president might have withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure officials there to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

Biden is currently a front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination for president.

Trump has described the impeachment inquiry as “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” and “A total Witch Hunt Scam by the Democrats!” on Twitter.

His Saturday morning broadside came a day after Schiff — as well as Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Oversight Committee — wrote a letter demanding that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turn over documents related to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

[NBC News]

Trump administration files statement supporting a Catholic high school that fired a gay teacher

The Trump administration filed a “statement of interest” supporting an Indiana Catholic School being sued by a former teacher who was fired for being in a same-sex marriage.

Joshua Payne-Elliot filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in July alleging that it “illegally interfered with his contractual and employment relationship” with Cathedral High School after the school fired him in June. 

The Justice Department announced in a Friday news release that it filed the statement of interest in the case, alleging that “the First Amendment protects the right of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis to interpret and apply Catholic doctrine.”

“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of religious institutions and people to decide what their beliefs are, to teach their faith, and to associate with others who share their faith,” Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said in the news release. “The First Amendment rightly protects the free exercise of religion.” 

Archbishop Charles Thompson said in a letter sent to parents and students after the firing that “continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage would result in our forfeiting our Catholic identity.”

It also called the choice to fire Payne-Elliot “agonizing” for school officials.

In the news release, the Justice Department said that “courts cannot second-guess how religious institutions interpret and apply their own religious laws.”

“The former teacher’s lawsuit attempts to penalize the Archdiocese for determining that schools within its diocese cannot employ teachers in public, same-sex marriages, and simultaneously identify as Catholic. Supreme Court precedent clearly holds that the First Amendment protects the Archdiocese’s right to this form of expressive association, and courts cannot interfere with that right,” the news release said. 

The lawsuit filed by Payne-Elliot stated, “For thirteen years, Mr. Payne-Elliott was a cherished educator of countless students at Cathedral High School. Cathedral renewed his annual teaching contract on May 21, 2019.” 

“But on June 23, 2019, Cathedral’s President told Mr. Payne-Elliott that the Archdiocese had ‘directed’ Cathedral to terminate him, and that Cathedral was following that directive,” the court filing reportedly continued.

Last month, the Trump administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply to sexual orientation.

[The Hill]

Trump Pushes Baseless Smear That Ilhan Omar ‘Partied’ on 9/11

President Donald Trump on Wednesday used his Twitter account to boost a baseless smear claiming that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) danced at an event last week on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, a claim that’s based on footage that wasn’t actually taken from that day.

Trump’s tweet circulated a video from conservative personality Terrence Williams, in which Williams declared that Omar “partied on the anniversary of 9/11.” In his video, Williams comments on footage of the Muslim congresswoman dancing and fumes that she’s disrespecting the memory of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But the footage of Omar dancing actually came from a Sept. 13 event hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus and wasn’t taken on the eleventh, as Williams and Trump wrongly claimed. 

Trump, however, used Williams’ video to declare that Omar would help Republicans win Minnesota. “Ilhan Omar, a member of AOC Plus 3, will win us the Great State of Minnesota,” the president tweeted. “The new face of the Democrat Party!” 

Williams’ original tweet was deleted from Twitter at some point on Wednesday. Twitter confirmed to The Daily Beast that the video post was not removed by the social-media site’s administrators but was instead deleted by Williams or someone with access to his Twitter account.

Williams did not respond to a request for comment.

Omar blasted Trump’s smear on Wednesday, tweeting that he has put her life in danger.

“The President of the United States is continuing to spread lies that put my life at risk,” she wrote. “What is Twitter doing to combat this misinformation?”

Trump has frequently targeted Omar with smears, inspiring death threats against the Somali-American lawmaker. In July, Trump suggested that Omar had married her own brother to commit immigration fraud—a baseless claim that’s become increasingly popular on the right, despite being based entirely on a single, anonymous message-board post. 

[The Daily Beast]

Mike Pence speaks at fundraiser for anti-LGBT hate group – a week after the White House denied he is homophobic

On Thursday, September 13, Pence was the headline speaker at the black tie gala for evangelical group Concerned Women of America, which lobbies against LGBT+ inclusion.

Anti-extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center notes that the group has claimed that “gay marriage entices children to experiment with homosexuality”, and that “homosexuality carries enormous physical and mental health risks”.

The CWA has claimed: “Homosexual activists use same-sex ‘marriage’ as a political juggernaut to indoctrinate young children in schools to reject their parent’s values and to harass, sue and punish people who disagree.”

The $100-a-head gala was hosted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, and was also addressed by Second Lady Karen Pence and anti-LGBT+ Republican Mike Huckabee.

Mike Pence hails ‘freedom to discriminate’ orders.

In his speech, Pence cited the Trump administration’s creation of “conscience rights” loopholes in discrimination protections, adding: “We’ve had two and a half years of action… and we’re just getting started.”

He said: “The source of our prosperity is that foundation of faith and ideals of the American people, things the CWA has been all about from the beginning. President Trump has been busy strengthening the constitutional foundation and the commitment to those ideals from day one.

“I promise you, this is an administration that will always defend the freedom of religion of every American.

“The president promised back in 2016 to defend your right to fully practice your religion as individuals, as business owners, and as academic institutions, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

CWA founder Beverly LaHaye said in a release: “This event is so special for me and for Concerned Women for America.

For CWA to continue to draw notable honoured guests like our vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, and his lovely wife, Karen, and governor Mike Huckabee – is an indication of God’s continued favour over Concerned Women for America these last 40 years.

“I am grateful for that favour and blessing; it has truly been the honour of my lifetime to lead CWA.”

Vice president has anti-LGBT+ record.

Pence’s three years as vice president have become defined by frequent spats over LGBT+ rights and criticism over his closeness to anti-gay hate groups.

A 2018 report alleged that Pence has played a pivotal role in actions taken by the Trump administration to dismantle civil rights protections for LGBT+ people.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere claimed earlier this month that Mike Pence isn’t “anti-gay” because he had lunch with gay Irish leader Leo Varadkar and his partner.

He tweeted: “For all of you who still think our VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the Second Lady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland.”

[Pink News]

Trump dismisses idea of allowing Bahamians into U.S. after Hurricane Dorian

President Donald Trump on Monday downplayed the idea of allowing Bahamians fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Dorian into the United States on humanitarian grounds, hours after his acting Customs and Border Protection chief said it was worth considering.

“We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation because the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there,” Trump said on the White House South Lawn before departing for a campaign rally in North Carolina, where he also planned to survey Dorian damage.

“I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”

Earlier Monday, acting Customs and Border Protection chief Mark Morgan said during a press briefing that while there has not been any formal grant of temporary protected status, or TPS, for Bahamians affected by Dorian, it was not something he had ruled out. TPS provides legal status to migrants from countries affected by war or natural disaster and allows them to live and work in the U.S. for a set period of time.

Morgan said he had yet to discuss it with Trump but said, “I think it would be appropriate to have that circumstance. History shows we’ve done that before.” He added that if it’s a “lengthy time” before residents of the Bahamas can get back on their feet, he expected the discussion to happen.

Instead of allowing Bahamians into this country — which Trump said is “also recovering from the hurricane” — Trump suggested those struggling in devastated areas of the Bahamas could go to the “large sections” of their country that were not hit.

The conflicting stances came a day after more than 100 Bahamians were forced off a ferry boat before it could reach Florida, according to two U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

Those removed from the boat were supposed to be taken to the Bahamas capital of Nassau first to get visas, a process that authorities in the United States have been coordinating with the Bahamas government on to ensure is done correctly, Customs and Border Protection officials said in a statement on Monday.

The ferry boat operator had not coordinated the evacuation with U.S. authorities first, the officials said.

Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Monday that it is “supporting the humanitarian mission with interagency partners in the Bahamas” following Dorian, one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded.

“CBP continues to process the arrivals of passengers evacuating from the Bahamas according to established policy and procedures — as demonstrated by the nearly 1,500 Hurricane Dorian survivors who arrived at the Port of Palm Beach, Fla., aboard a cruise ship on Saturday and were processed without incident,” the agency said.

The agency added it was “notified of a vessel preparing to embark an unknown number of passengers in Freeport and requested that the operator of the vessel coordinate with U.S. and Bahamian government officials in Nassau before departing The Bahamas.” The agency said that it has already processed nearly 1,500 storm survivors at the Port of Palm Beach, Fla., aboard a cruise ship on Saturday.

Video of the evacuees being ordered off the boat was first shared by Miami’s WSVN reporter Brian Entin late Sunday.

Anyone arriving in the U.S. from another country needs to first meet with a Customs and Border Protection officer at official ports of entry and must have valid identity and travel documents, the agency’s statement said.

Dorian has killed at least 44 people in the Bahamas, according to the country’s health minister. The storm hit the islands as a Category 5 last Sunday and Monday, leaving tens of thousands of residents homeless. It then slammed North Carolina’s Outer Banks Islands before pounding Canada’s Atlantic Coast.

[NBC News]

Trump Threatens to Ban Washington Post Reporters From White House Over Critical Reporting

President Donald Trump and his administration have a tendency to rage at media coverage. Few single reports have drawn such intense acrimony as the Washington Post’s recent story on Trump’s “lost summer,” which reported on a season “defined by self-inflicted controversies and squandered opportunities.”

The piece prompted a rare rebuke in the form of an op-ed, written by White House communications staffers Stephanie Grisham and Hogan Gidley, for the Washington Examiner on Friday.

Trump — who has spent most of his time focused on hurricane maps this week — took aim at the two authors of the Post report, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, in a tweet sent out Saturday morning.

“The Washington Post’s @PhilipRucker (Mr. Off the Record) & @AshleyRParker, two nasty lightweight reporters, shouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of the White House because their reporting is so DISGUSTING & FAKE,” Trump wrote, before touting one of his accomplishments: “Also, add the appointment of MANY Federal Judges this Summer!”

As CNN’s Brian Stelter points out, Trump’s threat to ban the two reporters from the White House is “notable because his admin has tried booting individual reporters twice now, and lost in court both times, as recently as this week.”

He’s referring to CNN political analyst and Playboy reporter Brian Karem, whose press pass was revoked after a verbal spat with Seb Gorka on the White House lawn — until a judge ordered the White House to restore it this week. CNN’s Jim Acosta also sued the White House after it suspended his press pass, which was also restored.

The op-ed from Trump’s comms team criticizing the Post has faced media criticism in its own right. After all, in the piece Grisham and Gidley accuse the Post of failing to report on accomplishments that the Post reported on thoroughly. In an inadvertent display of the Post’s necessity, their piece even links to the paper’s coverage of a topic they complain the paper didn’t cover.

Watch Rucker defend his reporting on MSNBC Friday below:

[Mediaite]

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