Trumps Fake News

August 4, 2018
Unpacking The QAnon Conspiracy Theory

Trump supporters wearing QAnon T-shirts appeared at a Florida rally on Tuesday. NPR’s Don Gonyea unpacks the QAnon conspiracy theory with journalist Alex Goldman of the Reply All podcast.


If you saw TV coverage of President Trump’s rally this week in Florida, you may have noticed some people in the crowd wearing T-shirts and carrying signs with the message, we are Q. That letter signified allegiance to QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy theory about the president supposedly battling a cabal of liberal elites. One of the people who’s been following the QAnon phenomenon is Alex Goldman, host of “Reply All,” a podcast about the Internet. And Alex Goldman joins me now to help us understand what this represents. Welcome, sir.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Thank you for having me.

GONYEA: So, first, what or who is QAnon? And what do QAnon’s followers believe?

GOLDMAN: Q is a person who started posting on the website Fortune last fall and had posted mostly in rhetorical questions about current events. And, through those rhetorical questions, people who were following their posts started to develop something of a worldview. And the biggest belief that that worldview turns on is that the Mueller investigation is not, in fact, a investigation into collusion with the Russian government by Donald Trump. Rather, it is an investigation into nefarious activities, including child molestation and a variety of other crimes, perpetrated by the Clintons, Barack Obama and a variety of people who work in the deep state. So, essentially, it’s all a big canard.

GONYEA: OK. And are these the same people who propagated the Comet Ping Pong pizza conspiracy? That one claimed that top Democrats were running a child trafficking and sex ring out of a D.C. pizzeria.

GOLDMAN: It’s definitely within the same orbit of people. I would say that the Venn diagram of those two groups of people is close to a circle.

GONYEA: So we’re talking about it because of the T-shirts and signs that showed up on camera at the Donald Trump rally in the past week. What is the relationship between QAnon and Donald Trump?

GOLDMAN: I don’t know that there is a relationship. Donald Trump has never commented on QAnon directly. And when Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked at a press briefing the other day about QAnon, she basically deflected and said, we don’t condone anybody who supports violence, which doesn’t really have much to do with QAnon. However, everything that Donald Trump says is interpreted by members of this conspiracy theory or believers in this conspiracy theory as proof that QAnon exists and is real.

For example, a couple days ago, he was talking about how, before he became president, he had visited Washington, D.C. at most 17 times. Well, the 17th letter of the alphabet is Q. So him repeating the phrase 17 times over and over again was proof to the conspiracy theorists that he was just signaling to them, hey, look. I’m saying 17 times over and over again because Q is real, and this conspiracy is all true.

GONYEA: Since President Trump’s election, several conspiracies have popped up within at least a segment of Trump’s supporters. It’s not just the Comet pizza story but also that groundless story that DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered because he leaked DNC emails – the ones our intelligence community says were hacked by Russians. Why do you think we’re seeing so much of this kind of thinking now?

GOLDMAN: I think that there’s a certain wish fulfillment component to it, certainly. More than that, I think that there is a real fear on the part of Donald Trump supporters that this victory that they had in 2016 is going to be taken away from them. Donald Trump didn’t win the popular vote. So the conspiracy theory is, oh, well, there is massive voter fraud. And then the Mueller investigation seems like this thing that could seriously derail his presidency, and, like, this is a huge victory. That might be taken away. So the idea that the very investigations into Donald Trump are actually not about him at all I think is very seductive

GONYEA: And it justifies attacks on the media or whatever because it all plays into part of that line of thinking.

GOLDMAN: Well, the president himself has a really antagonistic relationship with the media. And if the media is telling you this conspiracy theory you believe in is false, and the president’s telling you, do not trust the media, and you’re a supporter of the president, it is a confirmation of the conspiracy itself.

GONYEA: Alex Goldman is the host of “Reply All.”

Alex, thanks for talking with us and shedding some light on this.

GOLDMAN: Thanks so much.    Source


April 2, 2018
Why Sinclair Made Dozens of Local News Anchors Recite the Same Script

“Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think,” dozens of news anchors said last month, reading from a script provided by Sinclair Broadcast Group. Creditfro nch, via YouTube

On local news stations across the United States last month, dozens of anchors gave the same speech to their combined millions of viewers.

It included a warning about fake news, a promise to report fairly and accurately and a request that viewers go to the station’s website and comment “if you believe our coverage is unfair.

It may not have seemed strange until viewers began to notice that the newscasters from Seattle to Phoenix to Washington sounded very similar. Stitched-together videos on social media showed them eerily echoing the same lines:

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.”

“Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias.”

“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

Sinclair’s script for nearly 200 right-leaning local TV stations Video by Robin Sayer

The script came from Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country’s largest broadcaster, which owns or operates 193 television stations.

Last week, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a copy of the speech and reported that employees at a local news station there, KOMO, were unhappy about the script. CNN reported on it on March 7 and said Scott Livingston, the senior vice president of news for Sinclair, had read almost the exact same speech for a segment that was distributed to outlets a year ago.

A union that represents news anchors did not respond immediately to requests for comment on Sunday.

Dave Twedell of the International Cinematographers Guild, who is a business representative for photojournalists (but not anchors) at KOMO in Seattle and KATU in Portland, Ore., said Sinclair told journalists at those stations not to discuss the company with outside news media.

Although it is the country’s largest broadcaster, Sinclair is not a household name and viewers may be unaware of who owns their local news station. Critics have accused the company of using its stations to advance a mostly right-leaning agenda.

“We work very hard to be objective and fair and be in the middle,” Mr. Livingston told The New York Times last year. “I think maybe some other news organizations may be to the left of center, and we work very hard to be in the center.”

Sinclair regularly sends video segments to the stations it owns. These are referred to as “must-runs,” and they can include content like terrorism news updatescommentators speaking in support of President Trump or speeches from company executives like the one from Mr. Livingston last year.

But asking newscasters to present the material themselves is not something that Kirstin Pellizzaro, a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, remembered from her experience as a producer at a Sinclair-owned news station in Kalamazoo, Mich., from 2014 to 2015.

The station had to air “must-run” segments that came from Sinclair, which is based outside of Baltimore. “Some of them were a little slanted, a little biased,” Ms. Pellizzaro said. “Packages of this nature can make journalists uncomfortable.”

Sinclair representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday. But Mr. Livingston told The Baltimore Sun that the script was meant to demonstrate Sinclair’s “commitment to reporting facts,” adding that false stories “can result in dangerous consequences,” referring to the Pizzagate conspiracy as an example.

“We are focused on fact-based reporting,” Mr. Livingston continued. “That’s our commitment to our communities. That’s the goal of these announcements: to reiterate our commitment to reporting facts in a pursuit of truth.”

Ms. Pellizzaro said she can talk about Sinclair more freely now because she is working in academia, whereas journalists at stations owned by Sinclair might feel pressured not to bite the hand that feeds them.

“I hope people realize that the journalists are trying their best, and this shouldn’t reflect poorly on them,” she said. “They’re just under this corporate umbrella.”

Sinclair has been accused of using connections in the Trump administration to ease regulations on media consolidation. In an effort to expand its reach, the company is seeking approval from the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission for a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media.   Source

April 1, 2018
Washington Post
Why U.S.-bound ‘caravans’ of Central American migrants are getting Trump’s attention

In a three-tweet salvo Sunday morning, Trump decried recent struggles with congressional Democrats to reach a deal that would legalize the status of millions of “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children.

“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release,” Trump said in his first tweet. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

DACA refers to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump ended in the fall. The program had allowed dreamers to live in the country without fear of deportation.

Trump, a self-proclaimed “Fox & Friends” fan, appears to have fired off the tweets in response to a segment on the program in the morning (at least the National Border Patrol Council sees a connection, it claimed in a post afterward).

Donald J. Trump


Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!

Why are they moving in a caravan?

The Fox News opinion segment was in response to a BuzzFeed report on Friday that more than a thousand Central Americans, primarily from Honduras, were winding their way up through Mexico to the U.S. border on a nearly month-long trip that began March 25. These migrants are looking to seek asylum from criminal elements back home or slip into the United States undetected.

Moving in a large group is expected to blunt the efforts of criminal gangs and cartels known to isolate and later rob immigrants, many of whom bring large sums of money to make the long journey north through Mexico. The caravan organizers, Pueblos Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders, appeared to have concluded that it is safer for these people to travel together.

That trip can be deadly as people find their way along various routes that go directly north to Texas, northwest to Arizona or along the coast to California.

Just about every route is more than a thousand miles long and is canvassed by robbers and corrupt police who shake down the immigrants, who have little access to legal recourse. A network of commercial locomotives is veined throughout Mexico in a 1,450-mile cannonball run. Migrants ride on top of the trains, occasionally falling off and breaking bones or suffering severe dehydration.

Members of the caravan said they would attempt to ride the trains, but in 2014, more guards and trains moving faster through stations made it more difficult for migrants to catch rides.

Migrants have many names for the trains, such as “El tren de los desconocidos” (the train of the unknowns) and “El tren de la muerte” (the train of death).

What is Mexico doing about the flow of migrants?

“Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!” Trump said in his second tweet.

Mexico is doing something — with the help of the United States. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid flow to Mexico every year, including funds for strengthening its border with Guatemala, where migrants generally cross.

Billions in additional spending authorized by President Barack Obama in 2014 was prompted by thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border, mostly Central Americans fleeing horrific crime waves and economic crises in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. About 300,000 migrants were detained by Mexican authorities in the next two years.

The caravan began in Tapachula, BuzzFeed reported, nestled just on the other side of the border, and no authorities in Mexico appear to have stopped it as of Friday.

What is Trump doing about it?

Trump’s proposals to reduce aid to Mexico would raise the possibility that the country would be less able to stem flows of migrants and drugs coming across its border.

The president has been caught in a contradiction of policy on the border before.

The budget for the U.S. Coast Guard stayed flat in 2018 despite spending increases across the Pentagon (the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security). But the service seizes three times as much cocaine moving by sea as what U.S. agencies intercept at border checkpoints, putting a dent into Trump’s argument that a border wall would dry up the supply of hard drugs in the United States.

Adolfo Flores


My first dispatch while on the trail with hundreds of Central Americans who have boldly crossed immigration check points, military bases, & police in a desperate, sometimes chaotic march toward the US 

Adolfo Flores


This morning the caravan, anticipating a long day walk, got up at 4am to beat the sun.

View image on Twitter

Trump has been more focused on DACA and the border wall lately. He has suggested that the program may be the reason the caravan has massed.

“These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!” Trump said in a tweet.

He later said outside a church before Easter services Sunday: “A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA. They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it.”

But that description of DACA appears to misrepresent the program’s intent, which was to provide protection for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. The adults in the caravan wouldn’t qualify for DACA. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

“I asked some of the migrants on the caravan what they thought about Trump saying they were going to the US for DACA,” BuzzFeed reporter Adolfo Flores tweeted Sunday. “Some laughed and others said they thought (correctly) they wouldn’t qualify.”

Flores reported Friday afternoon that the caravan had gone more than 200 miles northwest in less than a week, crossing into the Mexican state of Oaxaca.  Source

April 1, 2018
‘No more DACA deal,’ Trump says as he threatens to ‘stop’ NAFTA if Mexico doesn’t better secure border

President Donald Trump spent his Easter morning here on an anti-immigrant tirade, declaring Sunday that there would be no deal to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” and threatening to exit the North American Free Trade Agreement unless Mexico increases border security.

Trump thrust the future of millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children into peril by promising “NO MORE DACA DEAL,” and he directed congressional Republicans to pass tough anti-immigration legislation.

An hour after he wished Americans a “HAPPY EASTER,” Trump fired off three tweets in which he vented, sometimes in all caps, about immigration laws he derided as “ridiculous” and “dumb” and about border enforcement he deemed dangerously lax.

In his first of the immigration-related tweets, Trump wrote, “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

It was Trump who last fall canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was begun in the Obama administration to provide temporary protection to dreamers.

“A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA,” Trump told the traveling press pool. “They had a great chance. The Democrats blew it.”

The president added, “Mexico has got to help us at the border. . . . They flow right through Mexico; they send them into the United States. It can’t happen that way anymore.”

Trump in the past has promised to show “great heart” in dealing with DACA. In his comments Sunday, he appeared to be confused about the rules of the program. To qualify, immigrants must have lived in the United States since 2007, have arrived in the country before age 16 and have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012. No one arriving in the country after that date is eligible.

After canceling DACA, Trump said he would like to reach a deal with Congress to protect dreamers from deportation in exchange for funding to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. The president, however, went on to reject immigration proposals from congressional Democrats in recent months.

“Catch and release” is not a law but shorthand for immigration officials freeing up detention center space by allowing immigrants to remain at large if they are not seen as security risks. The Trump administration has frequently claimed that the policy ended when the new president took office.

But detention centers have continued releasing low-risk immigrants, as the backlog of immigration court cases reaches the hundreds of thousands. On March 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed immigration court judges that they could rule against asylum seekers without full hearings, which conservatives see as a way, in the long term, to open more space in detention centers.

Trump – who has spent his time in Palm Beach hanging out with family, playing golf with friends and watching television – may have tweeted in response to commentary on Fox News, which he is known to view regularly.

“Fox & Friends” aired a segment earlier Sunday morning about Central American migrants traveling through Mexico en route to the United States. It carried the headline: “CARAVAN OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS HEADED TO U.S.”

Trump’s Sunday comments may have been mere musings by an impassioned “Fox & Friends” viewer and may not signal a substantive shift in administration policies. Still, White House officials have long said Trump’s tweets are official presidential statements, and he has been known to use Twitter to preview formal policy pronouncements.

Trump sent his tweets on the fourth and final day of his vacation in Florida, where he has been staying at his private Mar-a-Lago Club with a small coterie of aides. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly did not travel with him, but senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a proponent of hard-line immigration policies, has been with Trump.

The president also has been spotted spending time – both over dinner Friday at Mar-a-Lago and on Saturday at the nearby Trump International Golf Club – with Fox host Sean Hannity. An outspoken immigration hard-liner, Hannity is a Trump booster and informal presidential adviser, in addition to hosting a radio show and prime-time Fox show.

Trump’s tweets baffled some Democrats, who had seen the president distinguish between DACA recipients and other immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“Time and time again, the president has walked away from bipartisan proposals that are exactly what he asked for,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “When an agreement to protect the Dreamers is reached, it will be despite this president rather than with his leadership.”

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said on Twitter that Trump had once again revealed a racial animus behind his immigration policy. “The mask of deceptions and lies with which Trump has tried to gaslight the country for months just fell away: ‘no more DACA deal.’ ” Beyer tweeted. “His true position was always anti-immigrant.”

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill., a leading advocate for a DACA deal in the House, tweeted that Trump had “demonstrated his complete ignorance” on immigration policy.

“Everyone who qualifies for DACA must show they lived in US almost 11 years ago,” he wrote. “Apparently every day is April Fool’s Day at White House.”

Conservative reaction to the tweets was relatively muted, and no Republican member of Congress had a comment or statement Sunday afternoon. At Breitbart, the tweets were reported as Trump refusing to “negotiate a deal between the GOP establishment and Democrats,” in “a return to his ‘America First’ immigration agenda.”

On Facebook, the conservative author Ann Coulter, who had condemned Trump for not securing border wall funding so far this year, urged the president to show and not tell.

“Try to get a message to the commander in chief for that wall,” she wrote.

But some Republicans joined the chorus of criticism. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a GOP primary opponent of Trump in 2016 and possibly again in 2020, tweeted in response: “A true leader preserves & offers hope, doesn’t take hope from innocent children who call America home. Remember, today is Easter Sunday. #DACA #Hope”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a supporter of immigration reform who represents Miami and is retiring this year, took a sarcastic approach: “Such a strong message of love and new beginnings from @realDonaldTrump on Easter Sunday.”

By calling for Republicans to use the “Nuclear Option” to pass tough immigration measures, Trump seemed to urge a parliamentary procedure by which Senate Republicans could pass legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes as opposed to the 60-vote majority required to end debate and bring a vote to the floor.

But in mid-February, just 36 of the Senate’s 51 Republicans backed an immigration bill that mirrored White House demands. Congressional negotiations on DACA stalled just weeks later, when the Supreme Court upheld a decision that prevented the Trump administration from denying new program renewals.

The court’s move effectively nixed a March 6 deadline that the administration had set for ending DACA. Before leaving for Easter recess, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill with no DACA fix, even though advocates saw that as the best must-pass vehicle for one.

Trump lashed out at Mexico in his second of the three tweets Sunday. He threatened to “stop” NAFTA unless Mexican authorities do more to secure the border with the United States.

Trump wrote: “Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”

And in the third tweet, the president wrote, “These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!”

Trump’s tweets come amid tense negotiations over NAFTA between his administration and that of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. A call between the two men in February became testy after Trump refused to publicly affirm Peña Nieto’s position that Mexico will not pay for the wall’s construction, leading the Mexican leader to cancel a planned visit to Washington.  Source

March 31, 2018
Chicago Tribune
Fact check: Trump administration departs from reality on wall, census, Amazon

Hope Yen and Jill ColvinAssociated Press

President Donald Trump hailed the start of his long-sought U.S.-Mexico border wall this past week, proudly tweeting photos of the “WALL!” Actually, no new work got underway. The photos showed the continuation of an old project to replace 2 miles of existing barrier.

And on Saturday, he ripped Amazon with a shaky claim that its contract with the post office is a “scam.”

Trump and his officials departed from reality on a variety of subjects in recent days: the census, Amazon’s practices and the makeup of the Supreme Court among them. Here’s a look at some statements and their veracity:

TRUMP: “Great briefing this afternoon on the start of our Southern Border WALL!” — tweet Wednesday, showing photos of workers building a fence.

TRUMP: “We’re going to be starting work, literally, on Monday, on not only some new wall — not enough, but we’re working that very quickly — but also fixing existing walls and existing acceptable fences.” — Trump, speaking the previous week after signing a bill financing the government.

THE FACTS: Trump’s wrong. No new work began on Monday or any other time this past week. And the photos Trump tweeted were misleading. They showed work that’s been going on for more than a month on a small border wall replacement project in Calexico, California, that has nothing to do with the federal budget he signed into law last week.

The Calexico project that began Feb. 21 to replace a little more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of border wall was financed during the 2017 budget year. A barrier built in the 1990s mainly from recycled metal scraps is being torn down and replaced with bollard-style barriers that are 30 feet (9.1 meters) high.

Ronald D. Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, defended the president’s statements, saying Friday “there’s construction” underway.

TRUMP: “If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.’ This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” — tweet Saturday.

TRUMP: “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump is misrepresenting Amazon’s record on taxes, the U.S. Postal Service‘s financial situation and the contract that has the post office deliver some Amazon orders. Federal regulators have found that contract to be profitable for the Postal Service.

People who buy products sold by Amazon pay sales tax in all states that have a sales tax. Not all third-party vendors using Amazon collect it, however.

As for the post office, package delivery has been a bright spot for a service that’s lost money for 11 straight years. The losses are mostly due to pension and health care costs — not the business deal for the Postal Service to deliver packages for Amazon. Boosted by e-commerce, the Postal Service has enjoyed double-digit increases in revenue from delivering packages, but that hasn’t been enough to offset declines in first-class letters and marketing mail, which together make up more than two-thirds of postal revenue.

While the Postal Service’s losses can’t be attributed to its package business, Trump’s claim that it could get more bang for its buck may not be entirely far-fetched. A 2017 analysis by Citigroup concluded that the Postal Service was charging below-market rates as a whole for parcels. The post office does not use taxpayer money for its operations.

Trump is upset about Amazon because its owner, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post, one of the targets of his “fake news” tweets.

TRUMP: “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich. Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!” — tweets Sunday and Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump is floating the idea of using “M” — the Pentagon’s military budget — to pay for his wall with Mexico. Such a move would almost certainly require approval from Congress and there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical about the notion of diverting military money for this purpose.

Only Congress has the power under the Constitution to determine federal appropriations, leaving the Trump administration little authority to shift money without lawmakers’ approval.

Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood referred all questions on the wall to the White House. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to reveal specifics, but said Trump would work with the White House counsel to make sure any action taken was within his executive authority.

DAVID SHULKIN, citing reasons Trump fired him as Veterans Affairs secretary: “I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way. But despite these politically based attacks on me and my family’s character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity.” — op-ed Thursday in The New York Times.

THE FACTS: His statement that he and his family were subjected to politically based attacks is disingenuous, though politics contributed to his dismissal.

White House support for Shulkin eroded after a blistering report in February by VA‘s internal watchdog, a non-partisan office. The inspector general’s office concluded that he had violated ethics rules by accepting free Wimbledon tennis tickets. The inspector general also said Shulkin’s chief of staff had doctored emails to justify bringing the secretary’s wife to Europe with him at taxpayer expense.

It is true, though, that Shulkin had encountered resistance from about a half-dozen political appointees at the VA and White House who rebelled against him. In an extraordinary telephone call, John Ullyot, a top communications aide, and VA spokesman Curt Cashour asked the Republican staff director of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to push for Shulkin’s removal after the release of the inspector general’s report. The staff director declined to do so. Those political appointees were not involved in drafting the inspector general’s report.

Shulkin expressed regret for the “distractions” caused by the report and agreed to pay more than $4,000 to cover the costs of his wife’s coach airfare and the Wimbledon tickets. He continues to insist he did nothing wrong and point to what his staff did in doctoring his emails as a “mistake.”

TRUMP: “THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED! As much as Democrats would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, NO WAY. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: As a basics civics lesson, Trump’s tweet falls short. The Supreme Court is the unelected branch of government and no party can “hold” it. That said, both parties try to win confirmation of justices who are considered likely to vote the way they want.

Republican-nominated justices have formed a majority of the Supreme Court for nearly 50 years. The five more conservative justices were appointed by Republicans while the four more liberal justices were Democratic nominees.

Republicans would have the opportunity to cement ideological balance in their favor if Justice Anthony Kennedy — the most moderate of the conservatives — or one of the older and more liberal justices were to retire with Trump in office and Republicans in control of the Senate.

Trump was citing retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who called in a New York Times article for repeal of the Second Amendment to allow for gun control legislation. Democratic leaders are not proposing repeal of the amendment, as Trump implies. Also noteworthy: Stevens was nominated by a Republican president, Gerald Ford.

WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN SARAH SANDERS, on the Trump administration’s decision to ask people about their citizenship in the 2020 census: “This is a question that’s been included in every census since 1965 with the exception of 2010, when it was removed. … And again, this is something that has been part of the census for decades and something that the Department of Commerce felt strongly needed to be included again.” — press briefing Tuesday.

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT: “Between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.” — statement on Monday.

THE FACTS: Sanders is incorrect. The Commerce Department statement is also problematic. Both are trying to play down the risk of a severe undercount of the population if many immigrants, intimidated by the citizenship question, refuse to participate.

The Census Bureau hasn’t included a citizenship question in its once-a-decade survey sent to all U.S. households since 1950, before the Civil Rights era and passage of a 1965 law designed to help ensure minority groups in the count are fully represented.

The nation’s count is based on the total resident population — both citizens and noncitizens — and used to determine how many U.S. representatives each state gets in the U.S. House.

The citizenship question was not in the 1960 census, according to a copy of the form posted on the Census Bureau website, and no census was held in 1965.

From 1970 to 2000, the question was included only in the long-form section of the census survey, sent to a portion of U.S. households. After 2000, the question has been asked on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, a separate poll designed to replace the census long form and sent only to a sample of U.S. households.

The Commerce Department’s assertion that the citizenship question was asked on “almost” every decennial census between 1820 and 1950 also pushes the limits of reality. According to the Census Bureau, the question wasn’t asked in four of those censuses —1840, 1850, 1860 or 1880.

Between 1820 and 1950, a total of 14 censuses were held. That means more than 1 in 4 surveys during that time period lacked the citizenship question.

Not exactly “almost.”    Source

March 27, 2018
Chicago Tribune
Trump privately presses for U.S. military to pay for border wall

President Donald Trump, who repeatedly insisted during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for a wall along the southern border, is privately pushing the U.S. military to fund construction of his signature project.

Trump has told advisers that he was spurned in a large spending bill last week when lawmakers appropriated only $1.6 billion for the border wall. He has suggested to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and congressional leaders that the Pentagon could fund the sprawling project, citing a “national security” risk.

After floating the notion to several advisers last week, Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that the military should pay for the wall, according to three people familiar with the meeting last Wednesday in the White House residence. Ryan offered little reaction to the idea, these people said, but senior Capitol Hill officials later said it was an unlikely prospect.

Trump’s pursuit of defense dollars to finance the U.S.-Mexico border wall underscores his determination to fulfill a campaign promise and build the barrier despite resistance in the Republican-led Congress. The administration’s last-minute negotiations with lawmakers to secure billions more for the wall failed, and Trump grudgingly signed the spending bill Friday after a short-lived veto threat.

Four days later, Trump continued to express regret over signing the $1.3 trillion package, which funded the government and averted a shutdown, saying it was a mistake and he should have followed his instincts.

In another interaction with senior aides last week, Trump noted that the Defense Department was getting so much money as part of the spending bill that the Pentagon could surely afford the border wall, two White House officials said. The Pentagon received about $700 billion in the spending package, which Trump repeatedly lauded as “historic”.

Meanwhile, the $1.6 billion in the bill for some fencing and levees on the border not only fell far short of the $25 billion that Trump was seeking, but it came with tight restrictions on how the money could be spent.

The individuals and officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about private discussions.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deflected a question Tuesday about money dedicated to the military being used to fund construction of the wall. “I can’t get into the specifics of that at this point, but I can tell you that the continuation of building the wall is ongoing, and we’re going to continue moving forward in that process,” Sanders told reporters.

“Build WALL through M!” Trump recently wrote on Twitter. He retweeted those words Tuesday, noting that “our Military is again rich.” Two advisers said “M” stood for “military.”

The president has suggested to Mattis that his department, instead of the Department of Homeland Security, could fund the construction, two Trump advisers said. But the military is not likely to fund the wall, according to White House and Defense Department officials.

The Pentagon has plenty of money, but reprogramming it for a wall would require votes in Congress that the president does not seem to have. Taking money from the current 2018 budget for the wall would require an act of Congress, said a senior Pentagon official.

To find the money in the 2019 defense budget, Trump would have to submit a budget amendment that would require 60 votes in the Senate, the official said.

Democrats in Congress would probably chafe at military spending going to the construction of a border wall, and military officials may also blanch, White House advisers said.

Defense hawks in the Republican ranks would balk at taking money now dedicated to the Pentagon for aircraft, weapons and improvements to the armed forces’ readiness and instead steering it toward construction of the wall.

“First Mexico was supposed to pay for it, then U.S. taxpayers, and now our men and women in uniform? This would be a blatant misuse of military funds and tied up in court for years. Secretary Mattis ought not bother and instead use the money to help our troops, rather than advance the president’s political fantasies,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Trump has grown frustrated watching constant TV criticism of the spending package and is determined to find a new way to fund the wall, several advisers said, privately grousing that his political supporters could become disenchanted without progress. After a recent trip to see prototypes of the wall in California, Trump has grown more animated by the issue, advisers said.

The president’s comments raising the possibility of using Pentagon funds to build the wall came after the collapse of negotiations with Democrats to secure $25 billion in long-term wall funding in exchange for protections for young immigrants at risk for deportation because of Trump’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The White House offered three years of protections for DACA recipients, according to multiple congressional aides, but Democrats demanded protections for a larger group of “dreamers,” including those who never applied or are ineligible for DACA. The negotiations fell apart before the spending bill was drafted and passed last week.

The urgency to strike a deal reflected the growing sense that the spending bill represented the last chance for the Trump administration to secure substantial wall funding, at least in the president’s first term. Top Republicans believe it is all but certain that Democrats will gain House seats in November’s midterm elections — and perhaps take the majority — greatly enhancing their bargaining position in future spending negotiations.

Only $641 million is earmarked for new primary fencing in areas that currently have no barriers, and most of the money can be spent only on “operationally effective designs” that were already deployed as of last May. That means the prototype designs the Trump administration is exploring cannot be built, except along a stretch of the border near San Diego where a barrier is already in place.    Source

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