Trump Tweets Research From Designated ‘Hate’ Group

President Donald Trump was criticized on Tuesday for tweeting statistics compiled by an anti-immigration organization designated as a hate group by a leading civil rights watchdog.

In the midst of a series of posts about immigration, the proposed border wall and California’s legal status as a sanctuary state, at 8:24 a.m. Trump tweeted:

The second aspect of the above claim–regarding the alleged propensity of immigrants to access legal welfare benefits–linked to by Trump is controversial in the extreme.

Originally sourced to the Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”), the claim is frequently shared by proponents of reduced immigration. In response to the popularity of the claim, the underlying research was debunked as misleading by the Center for Law and Social Policy (“CLASP”) in 2017.

But the problem with Trump’s use of statistics from CIS is not simply their reliability as a source, according to Vox journalist Carlos Maza noted in his tweet calling Trump out.

In 2017, CIS was officially designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Maza noted a few instances cited by the SPLC as to why CIS was tagged with their official designation.

Of note, in January 2017, CIS promoted an anti-Semitic article written by Kevin MacDonald which asked why “Jewish organizations” are promoting “the refugee invasion of Europe.”

Various additional instances of CIS’ racially and ethnically insensitive posture were catalogued as well. In one instance cited by Maza, the SPLC notes:

In June 2016, CIS distributed an article from John Friend, a contributing editor of the anti-Semitic The Barnes Review, claiming that “so-called refugees are committing rape and other horrific crimes against European women and men in increasing numbers.” Friend once described the Holocaust as a “manufactured narrative, chock full of a wide variety of ridiculous claims and impossible events, all to advance the Jewish agenda of world domination and subjugation.”

In response to the SPLC’s designation as a hate group, CIS defended itself. CIS’ Executive Director Mark Krikorian insists that CIS’ incidents of promoting white nationalists and anti-semites is accidental–that after they are published by CIS, some “writers…turned out to be cranks.”

Oppositely, Krikorian has repeatedly defended the work of Jason Richwine, a National Review contributor and blogger for CIS. Richwine once asserted that Latino immigrants are less intelligent than “native whites” and has previously contributed to Richard Spencer‘s online periodical Alternative Right.

[Law and Crime]


The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, wrote last April that “the border wall would have to deter the entry of about 1 million illegal immigrants over the next ten years to break even — an estimated 5 to 6.3 times as many as CIS estimated.

“Furthermore, this means that the border wall would have to permanently deter 59 percent of the predicted border crossers over the next ten years to break even. This does not include the cost of any additional enforcement measures such as hiring more border agents, border returns, or border deportations.”

Cato also estimated that the average undocumented immigrant uses closer to $43,444 more in public services than they pay in taxes, and that building and maintaining a wall would cost closer to $43.8 billion.

Trump administration dismantles LGBT-friendly policies

The nation’s health department is taking steps to dismantle LGBT health initiatives, as political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBT workers and patients, removed LGBT-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBT health.

The sharp reversal from Obama-era policies carries implications for a population that’s been historically vulnerable to discrimination in health care settings, say LGBT health advocates. A Health Affairs study last year found that many LGBT individuals have less access to care than heterosexuals; in a Harvard-Robert Wood Johnson-NPR survey one in six LGBT individuals reported experiencing discrimination from doctors or at a clinic.

The Trump administration soon after taking office also moved to change the agency’s LGBT-related health data collection, a window into health status and discrimination. Last month it established a new religious liberty division to defend health workers who have religious objections to treating LGBT patients.

The changes at the Department of Health and Human Services represent “rapid destruction of so much of the progress on LGBT health,” said Kellan Baker, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who worked with HHS on LGBT issues for nearly a decade. “It’s only a matter of time before all the gains made under the Obama administration are reversed under the Trump administration, for purposes that have nothing to do with public health and have everything to do with politics.”

The policy reversals also come after President Donald Trump repeatedly pledged during his campaign that he would support LGBT causes. “Thank you to the LGBT community!” Trump tweeted in June 2016. “I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

The Trump administration defended its approach to LGBT health as part of its broader health care strategy.

“The policies of the Trump administration are intended to improve the lives of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community,” White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement. “Through actions aimed at making health care more affordable, rolling back burdensome regulations, and combating the opioid crisis, the administration is working to ensure a healthier America.”

The new leader of HHS — Alex Azar, who was sworn in as secretary last month — is thought to be more pragmatic than his predecessor Tom Price. Azar previously led U.S. operations for Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company that has been hailed by the Human Rights Campaign, among others, for its pro-LGBT policies. Lilly opposed Indiana’s religious liberty law, advanced by then-Gov. Mike Pence, that LGBT groups said was discriminatory.

However, staff inside the health department have raised concerns about several other Trump appointees now in senior roles who had a history of anti-LGBT comments before joining the agency, Among them is Roger Severino, a former Heritage Foundation official who has said that the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage was “wrong” and repeatedly warned of its consequences.

“[S]ame-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda,” Severino wrote in May 2016, about 10 months before he was tapped by Trump to be the health department’s top civil rights official. “The radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.”

Asked in an interview this month if he stood by those comments, Severino pointed out that since joining the health department he had reached out to LGBT advocates. He also said his responsibility as civil rights chief is to uphold constitutional protections for all Americans.

“Statements I’ve made in the past are not binding on what I do in my role as a public servant,” Severino said. “What I’m guided by, and what I’m required to follow, is the law… I’m dedicated to treating everybody fairly and in accordance with the law.”

HHS officials also pointed to a listening session that Severino convened in April 2017 with more than a dozen LGBT advocates as well as several follow-up conversations with medical experts. “The outreach has been significant,” an agency spokesperson said.

But nearly all of those LGBT advocates said they’ve essentially been ignored since sitting down with Severino nearly a year ago.

“There’s been no communication since then through all the channels that he and his staff know how to reach us,” said Mara Youdelman of the National Health Law Program, who attended last year’s listening session and submitted subsequent requests for information that haven’t been returned. “It was a one-shot deal — and all of their actions speak much louder than words and one listening session.”

New direction under Trump

Though Barack Obama as a candidate for president opposed same-sex marriage, his administration immediately took steps to advance LGBT health issues, like loosening the rules on hospital visitation rights after some same-sex couples had been barred from seeing each other.

“[A]ll across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides… [and] uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans,” Obama wrote in a 2010 memorandum, instructing HHS to expand visitation rights, a policy that still stands.

The Obama administration in 2016 also finalized a regulation, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, that banned discrimination in health care based on sexual orientation and extended those protections to transgender individuals for the first time.

While some conservative groups said that the Obama administration moved too quickly on LGBT health priorities, its leaders argue their efforts were necessary, even overdue. The purpose of the agency is to serve all Americans, not just straight people. Our job was helping everyone,” said Kathy Greenlee, who was appointed as an assistant HHS secretary in 2009 and is openly lesbian. “There was pent-up support for these issues.”

But upon taking office last year, the Trump administration swiftly froze a series of LGBT-friendly rules, including proposed new regulations to further ban discrimination in Medicare and Medicaid. A regulation that would have allowed transgender HHS staff more protections when using the department’s bathrooms and other facilities also was ignored.

“It was signed and technically finished on Jan. 19, 2017, but not posted online,” said one staffer. “And the new administration considered it unpublished and pulled it back.”

The Trump administration also reinterpreted the ACA’s Section 1557 anti-discrimination mandate, with the White House declining to fight a court battle to enforce it and signaling that it would roll back the rule. The health agency’s new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which POLITICO first reported last month, is expected to offer greater protections for health care workers who do not wish to treat LGBT patients.

Meanwhile, the agency’s senior adviser for LGBT health — a lawyer named Elliot Kennedy — was reassigned from the HHS secretary’s office to an HHS office in Rockville, Md., to work on disease prevention. Kennedy’s previous portfolio, including leading a committee to review and advance LGBT policy issues across HHS, also has lost influence, after openly LGBT leaders left the agency and current LGBT staffers say they’ve been dissuaded from attending. The committee’s annual report has not been publicly posted since 2016.

“Elliot Kennedy currently serves in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion as liaison for Healthy People 2020’s LGBT Health Topic and Objectives,” an HHS spokesperson said, in response to questions about the reassignment. “He continues to serve on the HHS LGBT Policy Coordinating Committee.”

Another quiet battle has been over a pair of HHS surveys, with the Trump administration moving to strike questions about sexual orientation that had been added by the Obama administration in order to understand health disparities and LGBT specific health issues. The two surveys are used to shape policy for older and disabled Americans, respectively. The Trump administration subsequently reinstated some of the questions after an outcry.

“A lot of people think data are really boring. But data are fundamental, especially to public health,” said Baker, the Johns Hopkins researcher. “The only way to have the evidence you need to prioritize and spend wisely to address disparities is to have data about those disparities.”

A listening session followed by silence

The Trump administration says that it’s worked hard to engage LGBT health advocates, pointing to the listening session convened by Severino in April 2017 and attended by 17 representatives from groups that specifically deal with LGBT health.

“We’ve done a lot of outreach to the LGBT community to hear people’s concerns to be open, to listen and to learn,” Severino said. “And we will continue to do that because it’s important. I see my role as serving everybody.”

But all of the LGBT advocacy organizations represented at the April 2017 listening session said that they had concerns about HHS’ approach to LGBT health. Nearly every attendee said they hadn’t had meaningful interactions with Severino or the civil rights division in 10 months and they were underwhelmed by last year’s meeting.

“There’s a difference between hearing and listening,” said Robin Maril of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the attendees. “For a listening session to actually be successful, we would’ve had to see actual, meaningful engagement. And we’ve seen nothing but disappointing and harmful policies come out of HHS and [the civil rights office] since the meeting.”

“A number of us struggled with whether we would participate in something that would be used for exactly this purpose … a charade to be used by folks to suggest they are open-minded,” added Sharon McGowan of Lambda Legal, who also attended. “That was the lost cause that we suspected that it was.”

The Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal were among more than a dozen advocacy organizations that sent follow-up letters to Severino in April 2017 and July 2017 that warned HHS to halt rolling back LGBT protections and better engage the patient community. The advocates say they were ignored.

Only one attendee of last year’s listening session who responded to POLITICO — Ezra Young, a lawyer who has since left the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and is now in private practice — said that he’s been reassured by Severino and HHS’ actions.

“I’m trying to be fair to them. There was a lot of fear based on what Roger wrote in the past,” said Young, a transgender, Latino man. “I don’t know at this point if all that fear is rational based on what has and hasn’t been done.” Young added that he’s been in dialogue with Severino, saying that the two men discussed lunch plans as recently as December.

However, Young’s former employer holds a different view. “This administration continues taking actions that harm our community, which already faces immense bias,” the organization said in a statement to POLITICO.

Christian conservatives hail HHS

Since Trump took office, multiple agencies have pursued policy reversals related to LGBT priorities. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department suggested that federal law doesn’t ban sex discrimination in the workplace for transgender employees, a turnaround from the Obama administration. The Department of Education this month said that it would no longer investigate transgender students’ complaints about access to bathrooms.

But Christian conservatives are noticing, and specifically praising, the reversals at the health department. “Few departments have [historically] given Christians more grief than HHS,” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wrote last month. But “from about-faces on radical sex ed to abortion policy, the White House is turning the Health and Human Services into a virtual promise-keeping factory.”

The Trump administration also has put its mark on the language it has — and hasn’t — included in formal HHS documents.

One recent flashpoint was the department’s four-year strategic plan, a document that’s required by federal law, prepared by career staff and used as an agency roadmap. The latest draft plan, which was released in October, did not make a single reference to LGBT health issues — a notable break from the two previous strategic plans, dating back to 2010. The agency removed the draft plan, which also contained strong anti-abortion language, from its web site late last year.

However, the plan originally contained references to LGBT health, two HHS staffers told POLITICO, until political appointees ordered that the language be stripped from the document. The effort was spearheaded by Shannon Royce, the agency’s liaison with religious groups, who staff say also took steps to include other language favorable to Christian conservatives.

“In our strategic plan, we actually affirmed life from conception to natural death,” Royce said, touting the new language at the Evangelicals for Life conference last month.

HHS did not respond to a question about why references to LGBT health were removed.

Past comments cited by LGBT staff

Beyond policy, staff say there have been clear signals about the personnel chosen to steer the department. For instance, the Obama administration tapped multiple LGBT officials for senior roles, including Richard Sorian to run the agency’s public affairs.

In contrast, the current public affairs chief is Charmaine Yoest, a prominent anti-abortion leader who for years advocated against same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues. For instance, Yoest a decade ago said that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children and that transgender individuals suffered from mental disorders; she declined to comment on whether she still holds those positions now. (POLITICO first reported on Friday that Yoest will soon be leaving HHS.) Royce, the head of the faith-based office, previously worked as a senior leader for organizations that fought same-sex marriage and promoted “conversion therapy,” a controversial practice to change the sexual orientation of LGBT individuals.

Several other top officials also criticized LGBT priorities just months before joining the administration. “Vote LGBT if you want to be forced to have your baby delivered at an abortion clinic by an abortionist,” Matthew Bowman tweeted in April 2016, about nine months before being tapped by Trump to join the health department, where he is currently deputy general counsel. After the Obama administration in June 2016 expanded protections for transgender military members, Severino wrote that the “decision has nothing to do with the Constitution and everything to do with politics and a gender ideology run amok.”

HHS did not respond to specific questions about Yoest, Bowman, Severino and Royce’s past public comments, and made only Severino available for comment. But a spokesperson said that LGBT staff should not be concerned.

“All the HHS staff you refer to in your story have sworn to uphold the law and believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect because of their inherent human dignity,” HHS spokesperson Matt Lloyd said in a statement. “The belief that marriage is between one man and one woman is a mainstream view held by millions of Americans, a belief the Supreme Court has said is based on ‘decent and honorable premises.'”

Severino, the son of Colombian immigrants, added that he’s spent his life working to combat bigotry after experiencing it growing up in California.

“I faced actual discrimination and mistreatment,” Severino said, who said he heard slurs while learning to swim at a public pool and was wrongly steered to remedial classes in high school. “Those sort of inflection points drives me and my passion for civil rights,” he added, pointing to his education at Harvard Law School and subsequent work in the Department of Justice, where he served as an attorney for seven years under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

Career staff say that, regardless of what agency leaders believe or maintain now, their past comments on LGBT priorities have been widely passed around the 80,000-person department. “I photocopied them and left them in the cafeteria,” said one staffer. “It’s important for people to know these are the leaders they work for.”

It’s also fostered a climate where six staffers who are LGBT described removing their wedding rings before coming to work in the morning, taking down photos of their partners and families or ultimately finding new jobs further away from certain political appointees. They did not want to be identified; two said they feared being reassigned for being gay.

“When you have to hide a major part of who you are … it’s really debilitating,” said one staffer. “I wish I had more courage to be out with these people.”

Some LGBT staffers told POLITICO they hesitated to raise their concerns while the agency was run by then-Secretary Tom Price, who as a congressman voted against LGBT priorities and as secretary was backed by the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT group that holds an official position that “homosexual conduct is harmful.”

Long-serving staff who worked with new HHS Secretary Azar, when he served as a senior agency leader in the George W. Bush administration, or observed his work in the private sector say they’re hoping he’ll take a different approach. Under Azar’s watch, Eli Lilly was hailed by the Human Rights Campaign as a company committed to inclusion and LGBT protections. The Indiana-based company also opposed a state law that critics feared could be discriminatory against LGBT people.

“Alex always struck me as a very pragmatic person. Not an ideologue. Very business-like. Very smart,” said one LGBT staffer. “I’m hoping he’ll put some brakes on the ideological stuff.”

Staff also suggested that HHS has bigger priorities than rolling back LGBT health gains. “To the vast majority of Americans, this isn’t that big a deal anymore,” said an employee. “It’s perplexing why they spend so much time on it.”




Trump chief of staff John Kelly suggests some Dreamers ‘too lazy’ and ‘too afraid’ to sign up for DACA

Some immigrants may have been “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Obama-era program that offered protection from deportation, White House chief of staff John Kelly said Tuesday as he defended President Donald Trump’s proposal aimed at breaking the impasse on immigration.

In remarks to reporters, Kelly described Trump’s plan, which would provide a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people — more than Democrats had sought. He noted extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was “beyond what anyone could have imagined.”

“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” he said.

“The difference between (690,000) and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly said.

Kelly spoke as lawmakers have deadlocked in an effort to reach a bipartisan deal on protecting from deportation recipients of the program, known as “Dreamers.”

Barring a last-minute agreement — which seems unlikely — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said his chamber will begin considering the issue, a debate that GOP leaders expect to start next week.

Kelly said Trump would likely reject an effort to pass a short-term extension for the program, which is set to expire on March 5.

But he also noted the March 5 deadline may not have immediate impact. He said immigrants currently protected won’t be priorities for deportation as long as they do not commit crimes.

Kelly said lawmakers need a deadline to force action.

“What makes them act is pressure,” he said.

Kelly in remarks to reporters later Tuesday seemed to double down on his earlier comments about those eligible for DACA, saying “some of them just should’ve probably gotten off the couch and signed up.”

But Kelly added, “But that doesn’t really matter now because President Trump has given them the status,” referring to Trump’s proposal.

In exchange for making citizenship a possibility, Trump wants $25 billion for border security, including money to build parts of his coveted wall along the U.S.-Mexico boundary. He also wants to curb legal immigration, restricting the relatives that legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and ending a lottery that distributes visas to people from diverse places like Africa.

“I can’t imagine men and women of good will who begged this president to solve the problem of DACA” would oppose Trump’s proposal, said Kelly, using the program’s acronym. He added, “Right now, the champion of all people who are DACA is Donald Trump.”

A court ruling earlier this month also has blunted the deadline. A federal judge has indefinitely blocked Trump from terminating DACA’s protections for the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as children and are living here illegally. The program shields them from deportation and gives them the right to hold jobs.

Still, many lawmakers are uneasy about what might happen to the Dreamers after March 5, and Democrats — and Trump himself — are using that uncertainty as leverage to help force a deal. Kelly’s remarks seemed aimed at easing worries that major deportations of Dreamers could begin right away — a scenario that could be damaging to members of both parties.

“They are not a priority for deportation,” Kelly said of Dreamers who’ve not accumulated criminal records.

[NBC News]

Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as ‘shithole’ nations

President Donald Trump on Thursday referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on the meeting told NBC News.

Trump’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the group of nations referred to also included El Salvador.

The comments came as senators huddled in the Oval Office with the president to discuss a path forward on an immigration deal. Trump questioned why the United States would want people from nations such as Haiti while he was being briefed on changes to the visa lottery system.

According to the aide, when the group came to discussing immigration from Africa, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from “all these shithole countries” and that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway. Thursday’s meeting came one day after Trump met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House.

A source familiar with Thursday’s meeting told NBC News the president was particularly frustrated during discussions about the visa lottery system — a program Trump has railed against repeatedly in recent months.

The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC Thursday, as part of a lengthy statement that did not directly dispute the language reportedly used in the meeting.

“He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”

It’s not the first time reports have surfaced of Trump speaking unfavorably about immigrants, and Haitians in particular. The New York Times reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration.

According to the Times, Trump also targeted Nigerian immigrants during that meeting, complaining that once they came the United States they would never “go back to their huts.” The White House vigorously denied the claims in the story at the time.

[NBC News]

Sarah Sanders: Trump OK With Businesses Hanging Antigay Signs

President Trump’s press secretary said her boss would have no problem with businesses hanging antigay signs that explicitly state they don’t serve LGBT customers.

Hours after oral arguments concluded in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case — where a Colorado baker argued to the Supreme Court that his religion allows him to refuse service to gay people — Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was confronted on legalized discrmination during today’s White House press briefing.

“The lawyer for the solicitor general’s office for the administration said today in the Supreme Court if it would be legal, possible for a baker to put a sign in his window saying we don’t bake cakes for gay weddings,” The New York Times‘s Michael Shear asked. “Does the president agree that that would be ok?”

“The president certainly supports religious liberty and that’s something he talked about during the campaign and has upheld since taking office,” Sanders replied.

When pressed on whether that included support for signs that deny service to gay people, Sanders responded: “I believe that would include that.”



Trump Scolds the Wrong Theresa May After Criticism Over Him Sharing Anti-Muslim Videos

The President of the United States, who shared a racist far-right group’s unverified anti-Muslim videos, responded to criticism from the office of Prime Minister Theresa May––who felt that the President of the United States should NOT be sharing a racist far-right group’s unverified anti-Muslim videos––by saying that she should not “focus on me” and focus on radical Islam instead, but in doing so he TAGGED THE WRONG THERESA MAY.

The account he linked to does not belong to the British prime minister, it belongs to another woman named Theresa who’s about to get a lot of angry and confused tweets.

Theresa May’s account is @theresa_may.



There’s no evidence of extremist takeover of areas in Europe or the United States. This is a myth pushed by Fox News that has no basis in reality.


The President deleted the tweet and corrected it.

White House defends Trump’s Muslim tweets

The White House on Wednesday defended President Trump’s widely condemned retweets of videos purporting to show violence committed by Muslims.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that whether the inflammatory videos are real or not, “the threat is real.”

“I’m not talking about the nature of the video,” she told reporters at the White House. “I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real and that is what the president is talking about.”

Sanders said the videos underscore the need for Trump’s push to bolster national security and secure the nation’s borders.

“Those are very real things. There is nothing fake about that,” she said.

Trump retweeted videos posted by Jayda Fransen, a leader of the far-right organization Britain First. The group is considered a fringe entity in the U.K. and Fransen has been convicted of a hate crime.

The tweets set off a massive backlash against the president on both sides of the Atlantic.

U.S. civil rights leaders accused Trump of fanning anti-Muslim sentiment and the British government condemned the tweets.

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect,” British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said in a statement. “It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

The Council of American-Islamic Relations also condemned the tweets. The group’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said Trump is “clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims.”

“Trump’s posts amount to incitement to violence against American Muslims,” he said. “His actions should be condemned by all American political and religious leaders, regardless of their party or faith.”

Fransen’s first tweet read: “VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”

“VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” read another. “VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” read a third.

The videos have not been independently authenticated.

[The Hill]

Donald Trump retweets far-right group’s anti-Muslim videos

Donald Trump has retweeted three inflammatory videos from a British far-right group.

The first tweet from Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, claims to show a Muslim migrant attacking a man on crutches.

This was followed by two more videos of people Ms Fransen claims to be Muslim.

Responding to Mr Trump’s posts, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said it was “wrong for the president to have done this”.

Britain First was founded in 2011 by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP).

The group has grabbed attention on social media with controversial posts about what they deem “the Islamification of the UK”.

It has put up members to run in European elections and by-elections on anti-immigration and anti-abortion policies, but has not secured any seats.

It also contested the most recent London mayoral election, receiving 1.2% of the vote.

The original video was shared by US conservative commentator Ann Coulter who Mr Trump follows.

Ms Fransen has more than 52,000 followers on Twitter.

She responded enthusiastically to Mr Trump sharing her tweets. She posted on her account: “Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers!”

“God bless you Trump! God bless America!” she added. The message was also shared on Britain First’s Twitter account.

Donald Trump is once again using Twitter to weigh in on contentious religious-tinged political issues in the UK.

In the past, he’s attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan for mishandling a militant attack just hours after it occurred. He misattributed a rise in crime in England and Wales to the “spread of radical Islamic terror”. Now, he has retweeted a series of unverified videos posted by a far-right British nationalist group.

For the president, directing attention toward the UK seems to serve a domestic political purpose.

He cites events and opinions there as a warning to Americans of what could happen in the US if they do not heed his policy prescriptions on immigration and border security. The Muslim ban, the US-Mexico wall, increased deportations, the sharp reductions on refugee resettlement – it’s all part of the president’s “national security” package.

While most Americans probably haven’t heard of Britain First and are unfamiliar with European radical nationalist movements, there are white supremacist groups in the US that follow the actions of these overseas operations quite closely. The president on Wednesday signalled that he watches them too.

Earlier this month, Ms Fransen was charged with using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” during speeches she made in Belfast.

She will appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 14 December.

[BBC News]

Anger over Donald Trump’s UK crime tweet

Donald Trump has been accused of fuelling hate crime with a tweet erroneously linking a rise in the UK crime rate to “radical Islamic terror”.

He said crime in the UK had risen by 13% amid the “spread” of Islamist terror – despite the figure referring to all crimes, not just terrorism.

The Labour MP, Yvette Cooper, said the statement was “inflammatory and ignorant”, while ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Trump was “a moron”.

The Home Office declined to comment.

Mr Trump’s tweet used data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)’s latest crime update, which reported a 13% increase across all offences in the 12 months to June.

It covered England and Wales, not the whole of the UK.

Police recorded 5.2m offences in the last year, the bulk of which were not associated with terrorism.

Rises were recorded in crime public order offences, stalking and harassment, possession of weapons and robbery.

The statistics – which made no reference to “radical Islamic terror” – showed that 35 out of the 664 homicides in England and Wales were caused by terror attacks in London and Manchester.

US media outlets have speculated whether Mr Trump’s tweet followed a TV report on One America News Network, a conservative TV channel, which aired the statistics on Friday morning.

Donald Trump is half right.

Crime has gone up by 13% – but not in the UK. The increase announced yesterday covered England and Wales whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland publish their data separately.

But overlooking that mistake, what about the phrase that appears to connect the increase to the “spread of radical Islamic terror”?

The number of cases of murder and attempted murder linked to Islamist-related extremism, has indeed gone up substantially.

Of the 664 homicides recorded in the year ending June 2017, 34 resulted from the Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks – there were no such deaths last year.

The attacks also accounted for the majority of the 426 additional attempted murders registered by police.

Arrests for terror-related offences went up as well, from 226 to 379, across England, Wales and Scotland, though that number also includes people detained for far-right extremism.

But in terms of overall offending, this increase in terror-related crime represents a fraction, when you consider that there were an extra 579,553 offences recorded by police compared with the year before.

[BBC News]

Trump Asked Sessions About Closing Case Against Arpaio

As Joseph Arpaio’s federal case headed toward trial this past spring, President Trump wanted to act to help the former Arizona county sheriff who had become a campaign-trail companion and a partner in their crusade against illegal immigration.

The president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether it would be possible for the government to drop the criminal case against Arpaio, but was advised that would be inappropriate, according to three people with knowledge of the conversation.

After talking with Sessions, Trump decided to let the case go to trial, and if Arpaio was convicted, he could grant clemency.

So the president waited, all the while planning to issue a pardon if Arpaio was found in contempt of court for defying a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people merely because he suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. Trump was, in the words of one associate, “gung-ho about it.”

“We knew the president wanted to do this for some time now and had worked to prepare for whenever the moment may come,” said one White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the action.

Responding to questions about Trump’s conversation with Sessions, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “It’s only natural the president would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters. This case would be no different.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Trump’s Friday-evening decision to issue his first pardon for Arpaio was the culmination of a five-year political friendship with roots in the “birther” movement to undermine President Barack Obama. In an extraordinary exercise of presidential power, Trump bypassed the traditional review process to ensure that Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, would face no time in prison.

Trump’s pardon, issued without consulting the Justice Department, raised a storm of protest over the weekend, including from some fellow Republicans, and threatens to become a stain on the president’s legacy. His effort to see if the case could be dropped showed a troubling disregard for the traditional wall between the White House and the Justice Department, and taken together with similar actions could undermine respect for the rule of law, experts said.

Arpaio faced up to six months in prison and was due to be sentenced in October. During his 23 years as Maricopa County sheriff, Arpaio was a lightning rod, in part because of his aggressive crackdown on illegal immigrants. He also was accused of racial profiling, failure to investigate sex crimes, poor treatment of prisoners and other instances of police misconduct.

To Trump, however, Arpaio is an American hero — a man who enlisted in the military at 18 after the outbreak of the Korean War, worked as a beat cop in Washington and Las Vegas and as a special agent investigating drug crimes around the world, then was elected sheriff in the epicenter of the nation’s roiling immigration debate.

Arpaio’s age weighed on Trump, some of his confidants said. The 71-year-old president could not stomach seeing an 85-year-old he admired as a law-and-order icon wasting away in a jail cell.

Trump’s spring inquiry about intervening in Arpaio’s case is consistent with his alleged attempts to influence the federal investigation of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser. Trump also made separate appeals in March to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio “was his backhand way of doing what he wanted to do at the front end,” said Robert Bauer, a former White House counsel in the Obama administration. “He just wanted to kill the prosecution off. He couldn’t do it the one way, so he ended up doing it the other way. This is just another vivid demonstration of how far removed from an appropriate exercise of the pardon power this was.”

Presidents can set law enforcement priorities, but they are expected to steer clear of involvement in specific cases to avoid the perception of politicizing the impartial administration of justice.

Trump backed off the Arpaio case after being advised it would be inappropriate, but that he even tried is “beyond the pale,” said Chiraag Bains, a former senior counsel in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Bains said he believes Trump “has a sense that the chief executive controls everything in the executive branch, including the exercise of criminal power. And that is just not the way the system is set up.”​

Trump and Arpaio became brothers in arms five years ago. As they saw it, the two provocateurs — one a celebrity real estate developer, the other a polarizing sheriff — were pursuing justice in the form of supposed evidence that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent.

As caretakers of the false “birther” conspiracy, Trump and Arpaio relentlessly probed Obama’s birth in Hawaii and nurtured a lie to damage the legitimacy of the nation’s first African American president.

“There was no collusion,” Arpaio said in an interview Saturday. “I started my birth certificate investigation around the same time he did his.”

The Manhattan mogul sent Arpaio a fan letter and flattered him on social media. “Congratulations to @RealSheriffJoe on his successful Cold Case Posse investigation which claims @BarackObama’s ‘birth certificate’ is fake,” Trump tweeted in 2012.

Three years later, in July 2015, when Trump swooped into Arpaio’s hometown of Phoenix for the first mega-rally of his upstart presidential campaign, the sheriff returned the favor by testifying on stage to “the silent majority” that Trump had begun to awaken.

Backstage at that rally, Arpaio recalled, the two men talked about their shared birthday — June 14, which is Flag Day. Their friendship blossomed and Arpaio became a fan favorite at Trump rallies. “I had a gut feeling that he was going to win,” Arpaio said.

Even as Trump went on to win last November, however, Arpaio lost his reelection — and that was the least of his troubles.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Arpaio last October. Trump was paying attention to the case and he called Arpaio to check in on him around Thanksgiving, according to the former sheriff. That’s when Arpaio told the president-elect that his wife, Ava, had cancer.

On July 31, Arpaio was convicted by a judge, as opposed to a jury. Arpaio and his lawyer, Mark Goldman, said they did not contact Trump during this period, nor ask anyone in the administration for a pardon.

“I didn’t ask for the pardon,” Arpaio said. “He wanted to do it because I think he understood what I was going through.”

Inside the West Wing, the pardon process was set in motion. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who had gotten to know Arpaio through their work on immigration policy during the campaign, advocated internally for the pardon, as did chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

The White House Counsel’s Office had quietly begun preparing the paperwork and communications staffers had started drawing up talking points when Trump foreshadowed his intentions Aug. 15 by retweeting a Fox News story reporting that the president was “seriously considering” pardoning Arpaio.

Around the same time, Arpaio received a call from the White House Counsel’s Office asking whether he would accept a pardon if one were issued. He told the presidential lawyer that he would, according to Goldman.

The drumbeat culminated Tuesday when Trump returned to the Phoenix Convention Center — the site of the July 2015 rally — for a “Make America Great Again” campaign event.

As Air Force One rumbled toward Arizona, Sanders tried to douse speculation by telling reporters that the president would have “no discussion” and “no action” pertaining to Arpaio at the rally.

Arpaio said he was eager to attend the rally and visit with the president backstage, but decided, “I didn’t want to cause any harm or riots, so I stayed away, which really hurt me.”

When Arpaio heard Sanders say Trump would not talk about a pardon, he said he turned to his wife and told her, “Don’t believe anything you hear because I know how he is.”

Sure enough, Trump bellowed from the stage, “I’m just curious: Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?”

The crowd burst into applause.

“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked.

More applause.

“He should have had a jury, but you know what? I’ll make a prediction,” the president said. “I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to cause any controversy. . . But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”

Arpaio and his legal team did not feel very good the next night, when they read a CBS News report that Trump was being advised not to pardon Arpaio until after his sentencing.

Goldman wrote a two-page letter to White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II, sent on Friday morning, saying, “Hopefully this is more fake news,” and telling McGahn that a delay until after sentencing “would place Sheriff Arpaio in an untenable and unprecedented position.”

Without a pardon, Goldman said, Arpaio could be “sentenced, handcuffed, given a ‘perp walk’ and incarcerated” and “left to languish in federal custody.”

McGahn did not immediately reply, but a few hours later, at about 6:30 p.m. D.C. time, another lawyer in his office called Goldman’s co-counsel to double-check that Arpaio would accept a pardon. A few minutes later, an email arrived from the White House with a single page attachment: an “Executive Grant of Clemency” for Arpaio signed by Trump in his thick, black script, complete with a golden Justice Department seal.

Goldman printed out three copies of the document and drove out to Arpaio’s home in Fountain Hills, a suburb of Phoenix, where the former sheriff was getting ready to take his wife to dinner at Arrivederci, an Italian restaurant, to celebrate Ava’s 86th birthday.

“Of course, his first question was, ‘Is this a fake document?’ ” Goldman recalled. “We know the sheriff has looked into fake documents.”

The Arpaios still went out for their spaghetti dinner. As of Saturday, Arpaio had not heard from Trump personally, but said if the president were to call he would advise him to take a lesson from his Arizona adventures.

“If they can do it to me, they can do it to anybody, including the president of the United States,” Arpaio said. Alluding to the Russia probe, he said, “He’s been under a lot of fire right now, him and his family, and I’ve been through the fire quite a while.”

[Washington Post]

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