Trump requests paperwork to pardon accused US war criminals

President Donald Trump has requested paperwork allowing him to move forward quickly with pardons for accused US war criminals, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The pardons from a President who on the campaign trail expressed support for “tougher” tactics than waterboarding and going after the families of terrorists could come “on or around Memorial Day,” two US officials told the Times.

One military official told the Times that the White House made its request to the Justice Department on Friday, and that while pardon files typically take months to assemble, the Justice Department had stressed the files needed to be completed before the coming Memorial Day weekend.

The Times said those who could potentially receive clemency include a Navy SEAL who is facing trial for shooting unarmed civilians and murdering a wounded person, along with a range of others accused or convicted of shooting or killing unarmed civilians.

Trump previously expressed sympathy for Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL in question, in a March tweet saying he would be moved to “less restrictive confinement” ahead of his trial.

“In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly! @foxandfriends @RepRalphNorman,” Trump tweeted.

Gallagher was charged last year for the various violent incidents in Iraq during 2017.

On the campaign trail, Trump implied he would support torturing detainees as president, and after significant pushback for his enthusiastic comments about waterboarding and killing the families of terrorists, he reversed the position in a statement. But just days after taking the oath of office, Trump again expressed support for torture and said he “absolutely” believed it works.

Trump’s potential pardons for accused and convicted war criminals, if issued, would mark the latest gesture from the US President toward a change in standards for US war efforts and treatment of detainees that he intimated on the campaign trail.

Earlier this month, Trump pardoned Michael Behenna, a former Army soldier who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing a detainee he drove into the Iraqi desert and shot twice. In April, the Trump administration revoked the visa for the chief prosecutor on the International Criminal Court, and a spokesperson said at the time that the US would take necessary steps “to protect our people from unjust investigation.”

The ICC, which the US is not a member of, sought authorization previously to open an investigation into crimes committed by US troops in Afghanistan.

[CNN]

Trump sending ‘500 migrants a month’ to Florida Democratic strongholds

President Donald Trump‘s plans to send potentially hundreds of undocumented immigrants each month to the Democratic strongholds of Broward and Palm Beach counties ignited a torrent of criticism from local Florida officials who called the move political.

“The blatant politics, sending them to the two most Democratic Counties in the state of Florida, is ridiculous,” said state Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat who represents portions of Broward County. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Broward County officials described the plans Thursday in a press release, saying the Trump administration plans to release asylum seekers caught along the southern U.S. border into the county. A month earlier, Trump floated the idea of shipping undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Neither Palm Beach nor Broward counties fit that description, but politically they’re enemy territory for Trump and Republicans.

“That is so typically Trump,” Farmer said. “When the facts don’t fit the narrative, you slightly adjust the narrative.”

Broward County state Rep. Evan Jenne, opposed the move but said the county will do what it can to help those sent its way.

“He has been threatening this for a while, and I’m sure his voters will think it’s a great idea,” said Jenne (D-Dania Beach). “We will do what we can to help them, I’m sure with no help from the federal government.”

Jenne called the Trump policy a form of “fiscal punishment,” a sentiment shared by other regional officials.

A statement from Broward County said Trump “has threatened to send people who illegally cross the border to communities that are considered immigrant friendly.”

“This is a humanitarian crisis. We will do everything possible to help these people,” Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen, a Democrat, said in the statement. “If the President will not provide us with financial assistance to house and feed these people, he will be creating a homeless encampment.”

Adding to the political intrigue, the Trump administration has not said whether it will send immigrants to the state’s most-populous county that’s also a liberal bastion — Miami-Dade, which has Florida’s largest Spanish-speaking and foreign-born population.

Miami-Dade has a large base of support for Trump among Cuban-Americans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican and early backer of some of the president’s detention policies. The mayor’s son has also lobbied for Trump in prior years.

Immigration and Border Patrol spokesperson Kaitlyn Pote referred questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Rubio said the counties will be getting a big influx of undocumented immigrants from the border.

“Unlawful arrivals are overwhelming our system,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “Now I have just been informed by #PalmBeach Sheriff that starting next week Border Patrol will begin transporting 500 migrants a month from border to #Broward & PalmBeach #Florida, & releasing them pending an asylum hearing.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), said he has reached out to the White House and DHS to get additional information. He said Democrats “refuse to help fix” the federal immigration policy.

“There were almost 99,000 apprehensions at the southern border in April, more than double the number of apprehensions in January,” Scott spokesperson Chris Hartline said. “It’s a crisis and needs to be fixed.”

Bogen, the Broward mayor, suggested a place to house the hundreds of undocumented immigrants: Trump-owned properties.

“In my opinion, the people that we can’t find shelter for and will become homeless, I would suggest that we bring them to the Trump hotels and ask the President to open his heart and home as well,” Bogen said.

During Florida’s recently-adjourned legislative session, one of the most divisive issues was legislation outlawing sanctuary cities. Democrats and immigration activists flooded the Capitol in protest, but the bill easily passed the Legislature and is supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a longtime Trump political ally.

In a statement after the bill cleared the Legislature, DeSantis said he would sign the proposal.

“We are a stronger state when we protect our residents, foster safer communities and respect the work of law enforcement at every level,” he said.

[Politico]

Former DHS officials blocked Trump plan to arrest thousands of migrants before being ousted

Former leaders at the Department of Homeland Security, including then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, pushed back on a White House plan for mass arrests of migrants shortly before their ouster, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration had planned to arrest thousands of parents and children in 10 major U.S. cities to deter further migrants, the Post reported, citing seven current and former DHS officials. The plan involved fast-tracking immigration court cases and expanding the government’s authority to deport migrants who did not show for their hearings. Arrests of the no-shows would involve coordinated raids of the homes and neighborhoods of parents with children, according to the Post.

Nielsen and then-acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ronald Vitiello put a stop to the plan, citing lack of preparation by ICE personnel and public relations concerns, according to the Post.

“There was concern that it was being hastily put together, would be ineffective, and might actually backfire by misdirecting resources away from critical border emergency response operations,” one DHS official told the Post.

Major boosters of the plan within the administration included senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Matthew Albence. The plan, which is reportedly still under consideration, incorporated cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to the Post.

The two officials’ pushback was a major factor in their ouster, according to the Post, citing administration officials. When Trump announced the withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination as ICE director in April, he expressed a desire to go in a “tougher” direction without further elaborating.

“Both he and Nielsen instinctively thought it was bad policy and that the proposal was less than half-baked,” a DHS official told the Post.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

[The Hill]

‘Shoot them!’: Trump laughs off a supporter’s demand for violence against migrants

A roar rose up from the crowd of thousands of Trump supporters in Panama City Beach on Wednesday night, as President Trump noted yet again that Border Patrol agents can’t use weapons to deter migrants. “How do you stop these people?” he asked.

“Shoot them!” someone yelled from the crowd, according to reporters on the scene and attendees.

The audience cheered. Supporters seated behind Trump and clad in white baseball caps bearing the letters “USA” laughed and applauded.

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump replied, smiling and shaking his head. “Only in the Panhandle.”

Though Trump didn’t explicitly endorse the suggestion to shoot migrants, his joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The president has long been accused of endorsing acts of violence through his incendiary rhetoric and allusions to the potential for violence at his rallies, a charge that members of his administration deny.

Reached for comment by The Washington Post on Trump’s reaction at the Florida rally, Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, pointed to a response he had given to many critics on Twitter. The president, he noted in his tweet, had specifically said that Border Patrol wouldn’t use firearms to stop migrants from entering the country.

The incendiary remark from the crowd came as Trump, standing before roughly 7,000 people who had gathered at an outdoor amphitheater in the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast town, railed against what he described as an “invasion” of migrants attempting to enter the United States. Often, he claimed, only “two or three” border agents will contend with the arrival of “hundreds and hundreds of people.”

“And don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said of the border agents. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”

The fans seated directly behind Trump wore serious, perturbed frowns, which were quickly replaced by broad grins after the shouted suggestion that the solution involved firearms. Uproarious laughter rippled across the room as audience members whistled and offered a round of applause.

To critics, Trump’s failure to outright condemn the idea of shooting migrants amounted to a “tacit endorsement” of the sentiment. Many pointed out that such rhetoric was especially concerning in light of the fact that an armed militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, had been searching the borderlands for undocumented migrants and detaining them against their will.

Last month, after the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the FBI said that the 69-year-old claimed militia members were training to assassinate former president Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and prominent Democratic donor George Soros.

One member of that militia had also questioned why the group wasn’t killing migrants, according to a police report first obtained by left-leaning news outlet The Young Turks.

[Washington Post]

Media

Trump pardons ex-soldier convicted of killing Iraqi prisoner

President Trump on Monday signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, to a former Army first lieutenant convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner.

The White House released a statement announcing Trump’s decision to pardon Michael Behenna, who was sentenced in 2009 to 15 years for shooting and killing Ali Mansur Mohamed. The move comes after repeated requests from Oklahoma’s attorney general for Trump to pardon Behenna. 

“Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public,” the White House said, noting that more than two dozen generals and admirals as well as numerous Oklahoma officials have expressed support for Behenna, who hails from the state. The statement added that Behenna has been “a model prisoner.”

“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” the statement read.

Prosecutors argued Behenna shot and killed Mansur, an alleged al Qaeda operative, in the desert in 2008 in retaliation for an improvised explosive device (IED) attack. Mansur had previously been ordered released because of a lack of evidence of his connection to the terrorist group, and Behenna reportedly killed him while returning him to his hometown after attempting to question him about the IED attack.

Behenna was paroled in 2014 and was to remain on parole until 2024 prior to the pardon. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) recently petitioned the Trump administration to pardon the Oklahoma native, writing to Attorney General William Barr in April that Behenna was convicted because of improper jury instructions and because prosecutors did not turn over evidence bolstering his claim of self-defense. Hunter had previously petitioned for the pardon in February 2018.

“I commend President Trump’s decision to grant a full pardon for Mr. Behenna,” Hunter said in a statement Monday evening. “Mr. Behenna served his country with distinction, honor and sacrifice. He has admitted to his mistakes, has learned from them and deserves to move on from this incident without living under its cloud for the rest of his life.”

“My hope is that Michael and the rest of his family can rest easy this evening knowing they can put this tragic situation behind them.”

[The Hill]

Trump demands Democrats investigate themselves for impeachable offenses in bonkers early morning tweet

President Donald Trump on Monday said Democrats need to stop talking about impeaching him — and then demanded that they launch investigations into themselves over their own purported “crimes.”

Reacting to comments about impeaching Trump made by Rep. Al Green (D-TX), the president insisted that House Democrats had no grounds to impeach him.

“You can’t impeach a president for creating the best economy in our country’s history,” the president wrote. “Also, there are “No High Crimes & Misdemeanors,” No Collusion, No Conspiracy, No Obstruction. ALL THE CRIMES ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE, and that’s what the Dems should be looking at, but they won’t.”

Even though Trump has claimed that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference was a “total exoneration,” he has nonetheless bitterly complained about it and he said over the weekend that Mueller should not be allowed to testify before Congress about his work.

And contrary to the president’s assertion that the report found “no obstruction,” it actually outlined multiple instances that it said could constitute obstruction of justice, including the president ordering his White House counsel to fire Mueller and the president trying to pressure former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of Mueller’s probe.

[Raw Story]

Trump Calls FBI and Justice Department Officials ‘Scum’

During a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, President Donald Trump called FBI and Justice Department officials “scum.”

“We’re taking on the failed political establishment and restoring government of, by and for the people,” Trump said. “It’s the people, or you’re the people. You won the election.”

Then turning to talk of his own intelligence officials he said this: “And if you look at what’s happened with the scum that’s leaving the very top of government, people that others used to say, oh, that’s one — these were dirty cops. These were dirty players.”

He continued on: “You take a look at what’s going on, there’s 21 of ‘em already. And I’m not even doing — they’re just leaving because they got caught like nobody ever got caught.”

The crowd cheered.

“And in the truest sense of the word, what we are doing now is draining the swamp,” the president continued on to louder cheers. “That’s true.”

The crowd then chanted “Drain the Swamp!”

[Mediaite]

Trump says US is sending immigrants to sanctuary cities: ‘That was my sick idea’

President Trump said late Saturday that the U.S. is already sending immigrants to sanctuary cities and that it was his “sick idea.” 

“Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources like nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said during a rally in Green Bay, Wis. “Now we’re sending many of them to sanctuary cities. Thank you very much. They’re not too happy about it. I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea.”

“What did they say? ‘We want them,'” Trump continued. “I said we’ll give em to you.”

The comments came just a day after Trump said in a speech to the National Rifle Association that the U.S. was forced to release migrants and that it gave sanctuary cities “as many as they can handle,” according to CNN

The Washington Post first reportedearlier this month that Trump administration officials had floated the idea to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The administration had reportedly unsuccessfully tried to persuade DHS to release thousands of detainees in small and midsize cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. 

The move was reportedly meant to put pressure on Democratic lawmakers. 

Trump said in a tweet on April 12 that his administration was actively considering the move. 

“The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities,” he wrote in a separate tweet on April 13. “We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!”

DHS has made no formal announcement related to sending migrants to sanctuary cities or Trump’s statement. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[The Hill]

Trump ramps up attacks on media ahead of White House Correspondents’ Dinner

President Trump has reignited his attacks on the news media in the days leading up to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, underscoring the White House’s use of the press as an effective foil.

Trump will skip the dinner for a third straight year, opting to hold a rally in Wisconsin instead on Saturday night. He has also directed other administration officials not to attend.

“The Correspondents’ Dinner is too negative. I like positive things,” Trump said earlier this month in explaining his decision.

Within hours of those comments, he had taken to Twitter to characterize the press as “the enemy of the people,” a favorite insult that has appeared to get under the skin of some in the media.

Trump has continued his near-constant criticisms of the news media in the weeks since, repeatedly lashing out in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.

The latest wave of criticism reached its crest on Tuesday, when he fired off seven tweets castigating the press and singling out specific outlets and reporters by name. It included shots at “Psycho Joe” Scarborough of MSNBC and applied the term “enemy of the people” to The New York Times, despite its publisher warning Trump about the dangerous implications of the phrase.

The White House essentially trolled journalists on Thursday when press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSanders made her first appearance at the briefing room podium in 45 days — complete with an appearance by Vice President Pence — at a mock Q&A for children as part of Take Your Kids to work day. Reporters were unable to ask questions.

None of the Trump attacks are the least bit shocking and they are likely to only continue as the president seeks another four years in the office.

Trump has scored political victories in part by running against the press, which delights his core supporters. In 2020, there is every indication that the president will continue with this strategy, framing the election in part on a Washington elite symbolized by the mainstream media seeking to thwart his effort to win another four years in the Oval Office.

Trump has a long history with the White House Correspondents Association and its dinner, which is a key part of the story surrounding how Trump became president and of his relationship with the media.

Trump was the subject of ridicule at the 2011 event from both Seth Meyers and President Obama, who made fun of Trump’s decision-making and importance with references to “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Trump, Obama said at the time, recognized the need to fire Gary Busey and not Lil John or Meatloaf in a recent episode.

“And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night,” Obama said, mocking Trump. “Well handled, sir. Well handled.”

The jokes started a narrative that Trump had launched his presidential campaign because of the jokes at his expense, though The Washington Post’s Roxanne Roberts, who sat next to Trump at the 2011 dinner, has largely shot down that theory.

As president, Trump has stayed away from the dinner, which nonetheless provoked a huge controversy last year after comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a searing set that mocked the press, congressional Republicans and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who attended in Trump’s place.

The fallout led to changes at the dinner itself, which will feature biographer Ron Chernow as the keynote speaker in lieu of a comedic act.

The White House was unmoved by the shift in tone, as Trump directed other administration officials not to attend.

Trump will still loom large over Saturday evening’s proceedings. His consistent attacks on the media have raised concerns among First Amendment and press freedom watchdogs, and his rally could lead to split screen coverage of the festivities in D.C.

The president’s campaign rallies are typically rife with jabs at the media. Trump often references “fake news,” whipping his supporters into a frenzy while pointing at reporters in the back of the venue.

The press has served as a useful political foil for Trump, who has rallied his base by portraying himself as an outsider unwelcome by the Washington establishment, and a victim of unfair coverage and punditry.

[The Hill]

Trump ignores black #1 NFL pick to congratulate white player with history of racist tweets

In his first tweet on Saturday morning, President Donald Trump ignored the first player picked in the NFL draft, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, who is black, to praise the number two pick — a white player with a history of racist tweets.

In his tweet, Trump skipped over the Heisman Trophy winner to celebrate Ohio State’s Nick Bosa — who missed most of the 2018 season — for being picked second.

“Congratulations to Nick Bosa on being picked number two in the NFL Draft. You will be a great player for years to come, maybe one of the best. Big Talent! San Francisco will embrace you but most importantly, always stay true to yourself. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he tweeted.

According to to the San Franciso Chronicle,”Bosa recently deleted tweets in which he called Colin Kaepernick a ‘clown,’ referred to Beyonce’s music as ‘complete trash’ and called ‘Black Panther’ the worst Marvel movie. On Thursday, the website Blacksportsonline posted threads showing Bosa following and liking accounts that feature white nationalist posts. The twitter feed @rzstprogramming showed Bosa retweeted a tweet referring to ‘crappernick.’”

[Raw Story]

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