Friday, June 22, 2018

Gowdy scorches Comey in blistering opening statement at IG hearing






House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy scorched James Comey in a blistering opening statement at a high-profile congressional hearing on Tuesday, declaring “we can’t survive with a justice system we don’t trust.”

Gowdy kicked off the hearing featuring testimony from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on his review of the Hillary Clinton email case. The top DOJ watchdog is on Capitol Hill for the second day in a row to discuss the explosive report.

But Gowdy launched into Tuesday's session -- a joint hearing held by the House oversight and judiciary panels -- with a fiery condemnation of the former FBI director and certain agents in the bureau he led.

Referring to IG findings that Comey defied his superiors in his handling of the Clinton email case, Gowdy accused the ex-director of essentially operating by his own rules.

"We see Jim Comey and Jim Comey alone deciding which DOJ policies to follow and which to ignore," he said.

Gowdy accused Comey of watering down his initial statement on the investigation's findings and making other decisions on his own. While Comey has suggested he acted unilaterally out of concern for the Justice Department's handling of the case, Gowdy questioned why he didn't seek a special counsel -- as he indirectly did regarding concerns about the Trump administration.

“Instead, he appointed himself FBI director, attorney general, special counsel, lead investigator and the general arbiter of what is good and right in the world according to him,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy said that Horowitz’s report, which was released last Thursday, should “conjure anger, disappointment and sadness in anyone who reads it.”

He also said that, in the wake of the IG report, there were FBI agents and attorneys who decided to "prejudge" the outcome of the Clinton case.

“These exact same FBI agents and attorney prejudged the outcome of the Russia investigation before it even began,” he added.

He said “prejudging the outcome of an investigation before it ends, and prejudging the outcome of an investigation before it begins” is the “textbook definition of bias.”

Horowitz also testified on Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In that hearing, he confirmed that his office was investigating Comey for potentially mishandling classified information, regarding the sharing of memos detailing conversations with President Trump.

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.



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FBI agent Peter Strzok ‘escorted’ from FBI building, lawyer confirms



Peter Strzok, the FBI agent under fire over a series of anti-Trump text messages, was "escorted" from the FBI building, his lawyer confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday.

Strzok's lawyer, Aitan Goelman, argued that even though his client has "played by the rules," he has been targeted by "unfounded personal attacks, political games and inappropriate information leaks."

"All of this seriously calls into question the impartiality of the disciplinary process, which now appears tainted by political influence," a statement from Goelman said.

He said that Strzok "has complied with every FBI procedure, including being escorted from the building as part of the ongoing internal proceedings." The attorney did not say exactly when Strzok was escorted out.

"Instead of publicly calling for a long-serving FBI agent to be summarily fired, politicians should allow the disciplinary process to play out free from political pressure," Goelman said. "Our leaders and the public should be very concerned with how readily such influence has been allowed to undermine due process and the legal protections owed to someone who has served his country for so long. Pete Strzok and the American people deserve better."
The FBI had no comment when contacted by Fox News.

News of Strzok's removal came after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed during a Congressional hearing earlier Tuesday that his office was looking into whether Strzok's anti-Trump bias played a role in the launch of the bureau's Russia probe.

Horowitz's report on the Clinton email investigation, which was released last week, revealed a text sent by Strzok to his then-colleague and lover Lisa Page.
The IG report said Page texted Strzok in August 2016, prior to then-candidate Donald Trump's election night win, saying "[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"

"No. No he won't. We'll stop it," Strzok responded.

Roughly 50,000 text messages were sent between the pair over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign and Trump's first year in the White House. Among them included comments that focused on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, while others bashed the president.

Others also showed an allegience to former FBI Director James Comey in the wake of his firing.

When asked to comment about the FBI official being escorted from the agency, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told Fox News that "it's way past time for Peter Strzok to hopefully start to find a different career and restore some credibility to the FBI that most of us love and admire and certainly lady justice has to be someone who wears a blindfold and with Peter Strzok it was obvious with his text messages that that was not the case."

Fox Business' Bruce Becker and Fox News' Bill Mears, Brooke Singman, Alex Pappas and Jason Donner contributed to this report.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Yes, Obama separated families at the border, too


By Franco Ordonez & Anita Kumar | McClatchy


Photo From The Obama Administration In 2014: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz. The CPB provided media tours in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing unaccompanied children. - Associated Press/June 18, 2014

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama separated parents from their children at the border.

Obama prosecuted mothers for coming to the United States illegally. He fast tracked deportations. And yes, he housed unaccompanied children in tent cities.

For much of the country — and President Donald Trump — the prevailing belief is that Obama was the president who went easier on immigrants.

Neither Obama nor Democrats created Trump's zero-tolerance policy, which calls for every illegal border crosser to be prosecuted and leads to their children being detained in separate facilities before being shipped to a shelter and eventually a sponsor family.

But Obama's policy helped create the road map of enforcement that Trump has been following — and building on.

“It's been going on for many, many decades and many years,” Trump said this week. “Whether it was President Bush, President Obama, President Clinton — same policies. They can't get them changed because both sides are always fighting. ...This is maybe a great chance to have a change.”


Obama took several actions that led to an outcry of fear and distrust, though his actions failed to get the attention the Trump administration has.

The White House declined to comment on specific actions of previous presidents. But a DHS official said it’s frustrating to be blamed for conditions at facilities that predate Trump and for creating new policies that were already in action.

“We’re enforcing the rule of the law,” said the DHS official, who is not authorized to speak publicly. “This is something that the previous administration didn’t do. ... The decades of ignoring this is what has led to today’s crisis.”

No numbers on children separated from their parents under Obama is available because the Obama administration didn’t keep them, according to Trump DHS officials.

Leon Fresco, a deputy assistant attorney general under Obama, who defended that administration's use of family detention in court, acknowledged that some fathers were separated from children.

Most fathers and children were released together, often times with an ankle bracelet. Fresco said there were cases where the administration held fathers who were carrying drugs or caught with other contraband who had to be separated from their children.

“ICE could not devise a safe way where men and children could be in detention together in one facility,” Fresco said. “It was deemed too much of a security risk.”

One of the most controversial measures that Obama took was to resurrect the almost-abandoned practice of detaining mothers and children to deter future illegal immigration.

The government had one lightly used 100-bed facility in central Pennsylvania and added three larger facilities in Texas and New Mexico holding thousands.

The New Mexico facility would later close and Obama would face legal challenges that stopped him from detaining mothers and children indefinitely.

A federal judge in California ruled that the Obama administration was violating a 20-year old case, known as Flores when it kept families detained for longer than 20 days. The Trump administration has used the Flores settlement as the backbone for the separation practice and Wednesday's order will likely cause more court challenges to Flores.

Chris Chmielenski, Numbers USA's director of content and activism, said the Obama administration was put "under incredible pressure" not to hold families.. Chmielenski argued the administration didn’t fight hard enough. "It's part of the reason we're in the position we are in," he said.

Obama took other controversial steps as well, including fighting to block efforts to require unaccompanied children to have legal representation and barring detained mothers with their children from being released on bond.

The administration also deported a teenage mother and her son back to Honduras soon after she attempted suicide at Texas family detention center.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Trump signs executive order to stop family separations at border




President Trump blames Democrats for inaction on immigration reform, says he is 'working on something'; chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports.

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order to allow children to stay with parents caught crossing the border illegally -- moving to stop the family separations that have triggered a national outcry and political crisis for Republicans. 

The measure would allow children to stay in detention with parents for an extended period of time. This comes as congressional Republicans scramble to draft legislation to address the same issue, but face challenges mustering the votes. 

In signing the measure, Trump said he wants to keep families together while also enforcing border security. He vowed his administration's "zero tolerance" policy for illegal immigration would continue.

Trump, previewing the measure earlier in the day during a meeting with lawmakers, said the move would "be matched by legislation." He also said he's canceling the upcoming congressional picnic, adding: "It didn't feel exactly right to me."

The separations stem from the administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which aims to prosecute all illegal border crossers. But because of a 1997 order and related decisions, children cannot be detained for longer than 20 days with the adults. 

Sources told Fox News that the executive action by Trump could be seen to run afoul of the 1997 order and would likely draw a lawsuit. But the White House wants to try to take steps to uphold the enforcement of the law, while at the same time lessening the trauma of children being separated from their parents.

In another possible approach, Fox News is told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will recommend to Trump that he throw his support behind developing House legislation or, if that doesn't pass, a standalone bill to close the “loopholes” regarding family detention. During the order-signing, Nielsen again called on Congress to act.

These measures are being pursued following days of escalating calls from both sides of the political divide for Trump, or Congress, to end the controversial family separation policy.

Rep. Peter King of New York became the latest Republican to join the chorus on Wednesday when he called on Trump to suspend the family separation policy if House immigration legislation does not pass.

Speaking on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” King said that while he agrees with the president’s goals in regards to immigration, the current policy of separating migrant children from parents charged with entering the country illegally is “really terrible for families.”

Republicans in both the House and Senate are struggling to shield the party's lawmakers from the public outcry over images of children taken from migrant parents and held in cages at the border. 

But they are running up against Trump's shifting views on specifics and his determination, according to advisers, not to look soft on his signature immigration issue, the border wall.

“The Democrats do not have a strong policy,” King said on Fox News. “But at the same time we are playing into their hands by allowing this to happen.” 
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that the House will vote Thursday on legislation to allow families to remain together in Homeland Security custody throughout their legal proceedings.

“We do not want children taken away from their parents,” Ryan said. “We can enforce our immigration laws without breaking families apart.”

That followed a closed-door meeting in Washington on Tuesday evening, where Trump told House Republicans he is "1,000 percent" behind their rival immigration bills. But it's unclear whether any bill has enough support to pass.

Under the administration's current policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

More than 2,300 minors were separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
In the House, GOP leaders scrambled Tuesday to produce a revised version of the broader immigration bill that would keep children in detention longer than now permitted — but with their parents.

The major change unveiled Tuesday would loosen rules that now limit the amount of time minors can be held to 20 days, according to a GOP source familiar with the measure. Instead, the children could be detained indefinitely with their parents.

The revision would also give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to use $7 billion in border technology funding to pay for family detention centers, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and commented only on condition of anonymity.

Even if Republicans manage to pass an immigration bill through the House, which is a tall order, the fight is all but certain to fizzle in the Senate.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader from New York, is adamant that Trump can end the family separations on his own and that legislation is not needed.

Without Democratic support, Republicans cannot muster the 60 votes needed to move forward on legislation.

Democratic reticence and their opposition to a border wall have come under intense scrutiny from Trump, who has blamed the party for the failure of Congress to pass immigration reform.

“It’s the Democrats fault, they won’t give us the votes needed to pass good immigration legislation,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “They want open borders, which breeds horrible crime. Republicans want security. But I am working on something - it never ends!”

On the Senate side, Republicans are rallying behind a different approach. Theirs is narrow legislation proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow detained families to stay together in custody while expediting their hearings and possible deportation proceedings.

Cruz's bill would double the number of federal immigration judges, authorize new temporary shelters to house migrant families and limit the processing of asylum cases to no more than 14 days — a goal immigrant advocates say would be difficult to meet.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters he's reaching out to Democrats for bipartisan backing.

The discord over the family separation spilled into the streets as protesters clashed with law enforcement in Philadelphia and other cities on Tuesday -- and Democratic lawmakers accosted senior administration officials and even the president himself over the policy.

As Trump walked out of the session in the Capitol basement, he was confronted by about a half-dozen House Democrats, who yelled, "Stop separating our families!"

Later in the day, protesters heckled Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen as she ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, chanting "Shame!" and "End family separation!"

A department spokesman tweeted that during a work dinner, the secretary and her staff heard from a small group of protesters who "share her concern with our current immigration laws."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

John Roberts currently serves as the chief White House correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network as a senior national correspondent in January 2011, based in the Atlanta bureau.

Gallup: Satisfaction with direction of country highest since 2005





Satisfaction with the direction the country is going is higher today than it's been since 2005, according to the most recent Gallup survey

Another Gallup poll shows that thirty-eight percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States today, similar to last month's 37% satisfaction rate but marking the numerical high since a 39% reading in September 2005.

The satisfaction rate, which Gallup has measured at least monthly since 2001, has now topped 35% three times this year – a level reached only three times in the previous 12 years (once each in 2006, 2009 and 2016).

Satisfaction with the nation is now back to the historical average of 37% for this trend, which was first measured in 1979, but is far below the majority levels reached in the economic boom times of the mid-1980s and late 1990s.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are more ebullient about the direction of the country compared to Democrats.  

But it is striking that the largest increase in satisfaction occurred in rural America compared to big cities and small towns.

Much has been written in recent months about rural America's disappointment with Trump.  These numbers seem to belie that reporting.

Now, at the midpoint of 2018, as the United States continues to enjoy a nine-year-long economic expansion, the number of Americans finding satisfaction in the country's direction is on the rise.
 
This reflects more than a growing comfort with Donald Trump as president; growth in satisfaction has outstripped growth in Trump's approval rating.
 
And it is more than economic good news – the percentage satisfied has risen more over the past two months than the percentage who think the economy is in good shape or the percentage who think it's a good time to find a quality job.

As the nation moves toward November's midterm elections, as the Mueller investigation continues to unfold, as Trump continues to surprise both friends and foes with his actions, there are a multitude of possibilities for news that could affect satisfaction significantly in either direction.

The transient news of the day is not as important as trends.  This is a trend, and it favors the GOP.  It's more evidence that the "Blue Wave" predicted almost since Trump took office may be a mirage come November.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Separating Families At The Border: The Hysteria Overlooks Some Key Facts




EDITORIAL


Illegal Immigration: The latest outrage by the Trump administration is its policy of "ripping" children away from parents who've crossed the border illegally. As with so many other things involving Trump, there's plenty of emotion but precious little in the way of facts.

The furor reached critical mass after the Department of Homeland Security said on Friday that 1,995 children had been separated from their illegal border crossing parents from mid-April through May. That number included, DHS said, cases where the adults were arrested for illegal entry, immigration violations, or possible criminal conduct.

The practice has generated a rising storm of protests, including from Republicans, ever since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration's "zero tolerance" for illegal border crossers. Laura Bush took to the Washington Post's op-ed page to decry it as "cruel" and "immoral." Trump supporter Franklin Graham called it "disgraceful."

Trump himself says he doesn't want to see families separated while the legal process works its way out, and then went on to blame Democrats for the problem.

So what's going on here?

First, it's important to note that many of the "separations" don't last long at all.

As Rich Lowry explains in a detailed article in National Review, "when a migrant is prosecuted for illegal entry, he or she is taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals," in which case, as when other adults are incarcerated in the U.S., they are separated from their children.

Lowry notes that "The criminal proceedings are exceptionally short, assuming there is no aggravating factor such as a prior illegal entry or another crime. Migrants generally plead guilty, and then are sentenced to time served, typically all in the same day."

The Los Angeles Times reports that Rio Grande Valley border agents prosecuted 568 adults and separated 1,174 children since the administration announced its "zero tolerance" policy in early April. However, it only took a matter of hours to reunite more than a third of these children with their parents.
That hardly constitutes an inhumane policy of "ripping" children away from their parents.

Most of the concern about family separations centers on the administration's handling of asylum seekers who've crossed the border illegally.

In the past, the practice has been to simply detain these families for a short time in an ICE facility. But rather than return for their asylum hearing, many just disappeared into the country.

Under the "zero tolerance" policy, Trump has tried to put an end to this "catch and release" policy, by arresting every adult caught illegally crossing the border.

If parents choose to seek asylum, they can end up separated from their children for months while the asylum process plays out.

Asylum Claims

The administration is right to point out, however, that there is a legal process for seeking asylum that won't involve facing such a choice — just show up at a port of entry to make the asylum claim.

"As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted over the weekend.

Critics complain that the legal process just takes too long, as a way to justify illegal border crossings. 

But illegal border crossers are not only jumping the line. Under the old system they could vastly increase their chances of staying in the country — with or without gaining asylum status.

Is it wrong for Trump to try to close this unfair and potentially dangerous loophole?

Another fact conveniently overlooked amid all the hysteria is that just because a group claims to be a family, doesn't mean it's true. 

The Department of Homeland Security says that from October 2017 to February 2018 it saw "a 315% increase in the number of cases with minors fraudulently posing as 'family units' to gain entry."

Presumably that's because they think posing as a family will improve their chances of avoiding deportation. Whatever the reason, those children's separation from their parents occurred long before the border patrol showed up.

What To Do?

To be sure, the administration's bungling response to the outcry over its policies has made it harder to understand, much less defend, what's going on.

But those protesting family separations should at least acknowledge that there are reforms available that don't involve returning to the days of "catch and release," while still keeping families together — which is the ideal solution — such as letting children stay in detention centers for more than 20 days, and boosting funds for family shelters at the border.

Getting such reforms done in today's massively polarized environment, however, is unlikely. 

The question is, who's to blame for that?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Airport Control Tower Is No Place for Racial Redress


By Jason L. Riley | The Wall Street Journal 

The air-traffic control tower at San Francisco International Airport. 
Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Obama FAA grounded qualified candidates in the name of justice. Why isn’t Trump moving to reverse?

Andrew Brigida is the son of a former New York City police officer. When he was 12, his family moved to a suburb of Phoenix, and at the urging of a neighbor he decided to become an air-traffic controller. In 2013 he graduated with two aviation-related bachelor’s degrees from Arizona State University, one of the dozens of schools with which the Federal Aviation Administration has partnerships to vet candidates for its air-traffic-control training program.

Graduates of these Collegiate Training Initiative schools then must pass the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam, or AT-SAT. This eight-hour test is designed to assess numeric ability, tolerance for high-intensity work, capacity for solving problems, and so forth. 

The goal is to determine their likelihood of completing the requisite training to become an air-traffic controller. Training a controller is expensive—on average it costs more than $400,000—and the CTI system has proved an accurate predictor of who’s got what it takes.

Mr. Brigida completed the college program, aced the AT-SAT and received a strong recommendation from an academic adviser. He was then placed on a list with other prospective controllers, who would be sent to Oklahoma City for the mandated 15 weeks of training. Five years later, Mr. Brigida still is not working as an air-traffic controller. 

What happened is the Obama administration.

In 2013 the Obama FAA changed the process for hiring controllers and then applied the new policy retroactively. 

No longer would the FAA give hiring preference to applicants with degrees from CTI schools or military experience, as it had in the past. 

In order to foster “diversity” in control towers, the agency would move away from merit-based hiring and toward more subjective measures. 

To attract a higher percentage of candidates from racial and ethnic minorities, a “biographical questionnaire,” or BQ, was added to the screening process. 

Applicants were asked about their upbringing, family hardship and the like. Those who didn’t score well enough on the BQ were deemed ineligible, regardless of how well they had performed on tests measuring cognitive skills.

What’s worse, Mr. Brigida and some 2,600 others already on the FAA referral list were notified that their AT-SAT results would be tossed and that they would need to reapply. Mr. Brigida did so but was told that he had failed the BQ and was no longer eligible to become an air-traffic controller.

“The most shocking thing to me is that nobody in that room when this change was decided—not the secretary of transportation, not the head of the FAA—raised his hand and said that we’re talking about airline safety here,” said William Perry Pendley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm that is representing Mr. Brigida and other plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit against the federal government.

“We’re not talking about somebody driving a truck. We’re talking about somebody guiding an aircraft into snowbound Chicago.”

Equally shocking is the revelation that the Trump administration is fighting in court to preserve the Obama-era policy. 

Like its predecessor, this administration is ignoring the fact that thousands of people like Mr. Brigida dedicated years of their lives to getting the proper schooling—in some cases incurring significant debt—only to see the rules changed in the middle of the game. 

Moreover, the changes weren’t to streamline the process or improve safety but rather to achieve what the government decided (for now) is the “right” racial mix.

The Trump administration should be returning to a sensible system that prioritizes objective measures of competence. 

After all, being a controller means making life-or-death decisions on a regular basis. Instead, the administration has opted to preserve a policy that in practice amounts to thinly disguised discrimination in the service of boosting the number of minority air-traffic controllers.

The Trump administration didn’t respond to my questions about the case, but the proper course of action is clear: Settle with Mr. Brigida and the thousands of other eminently qualified plaintiffs. Allow them to embark on careers as air-traffic controllers. 

And then reverse the wrongheaded and potentially dangerous hiring procedures implemented by an Obama administration obsessed with racial balance.

Mr. Pendley believes that his clients are victims of blatant racial discrimination and that the FAA’s current hiring practices won’t withstand scrutiny by the courts. 

If you care more about your plane landing safely than about the racial makeup of folks manning the airport control tower, you should hope his lawsuit succeeds.