Monday, May 8, 2017

Last Call For No Sanctuary At All

Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has followed through on his threat to sign a law banning sanctuary cities into law this weekend, and now we'll see how the judiciary will react to it ahead of the law going into effect on September 1.

Opponents of the law were quick to condemn the signing. Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said that the law was a "colossal blunder" and that the lawmakers who championed it were small-hearted.

"MALDEF will do its level best, in court and out, to restore Texas, the state where MALDEF was founded, to its greater glory, and to help Texas to overcome 'Abbott's Folly,' " he said in a written statement.

Saenz said the law would alienate "nearly half the state population" and make people subject to widespread racial profiling. He said the law undermines voters' rights to choose elected officials who set local policy, makes the job of local law enforcement more difficult by straining relationships with immigrant communities and would cost Texas in trade and tourism, as well as legal challenges.

"This racist and wrongheaded piece of legislation ignores our values, imperils our communities and sullies our reputation as a free and welcoming state," Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas said in a prepared statement. "We will fight this assault in the courts, at the ballot box, and in the streets if we have to."

So what does the law actually do?  It's complicated, messay, and almost surely parts of it will be struck down.

The law will ban cities, counties and universities from prohibiting their local law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status and enforcing immigration law. It will create a criminal charge for police chiefs, county sheriffs and constables who violate the ban and will charge local jurisdictions up to $25,000 for each day they are in violation.

The law will also allow police officers to ask about a person's immigration status during any legal detention, which could include a routine traffic stop.
Opponents have likened the law to Arizona's "papers, please" legislation, parts of which were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Elected or appointed officials who violate the ban could be removed from office -- another portion of the law that is likely to face legal challenges.

Abbott addressed possible challenges in his roughly five-minute Facebook Live signing, saying the key provisions in the bill have been tested at the U.S. Supreme Court and approved.

"It simply makes sense," he said. "Citizens expect law enforcement officers to enforce the law, and citizens deserve lawbreakers to face legal consequences."

Proponents of the ban say it is necessary to keep criminal immigrants off Texas streets. If local law enforcement officials don't turn over unauthorized immigrants to federal authorities, they argue, those people could go on to commit more serious crimes.

But as I've said before, really the law is about fear.  Local cops being drafted as immigration agents will make it all but impossible for Texas to get cooperation from the Latino communities in the state, not to mention stories of overeager cops looking to racially profile and round up "illegal" immigrants will be a nightmare scenario for the state's Republican majority, but this is the path Abbott and the Texas GOP have chosen.

We'll see what the federal courts have to say, but I'm thinking that demographic shift towards the Dems in Texas might start happening sooner than people have expected.

California Dreamin' (Of November In '18)

Sarah Wire at the LA Times reminds us that every single member of California's House GOP delegation voted for Trumpcare 3.0, and if there's any place where Dems can pick up districts that weren't in play before the vote, the Golden State is ripe with opportunity for Team Blue next November.

More than half of the Golden State’s Republicans were among the members who were leery of the bill when it was changed to accommodate the far-right Freedom Caucus, including allowing states to scrap protections for people with preexisting conditions. But an amendment that added $8 billion to offset insurance costs for some people with preexisting conditions appears to have swayed some of the holdouts, including Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), who earlier this week said he would vote against the bill.

House Republican leaders, including House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), insist the bill will still cover people with preexisting conditions such as asthma, pregnancy or cancer. Conditions such as those were used by insurance companies to deny coverage prior to Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act. But most healthcare experts and patient advocates dispute that. The House did not wait for an official report from the Congressional Budget Office on how much the bill would cost or how it would affect Americans.

New tax credits created under the bill could not be spent on any policy that covers abortions, which will significantly affect any Californian who receives federal assistance to pay for insurance. Under California law, all insurance policies offered in the state must include abortion coverage.

As expected, all 39 California House Democrats voted against the bill.

Seven of the 14 Republicans in California’s delegation represent districts that picked Hillary Clinton for president in November, and Democrats have already announced they will focus on winning those seats.

Democrats are expected to lambaste their Republican colleagues in the 2018 midterm election for supporting the bill, just as Republicans did to win a wave of seats after the Affordable Care Act passed.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) opened with a warning during a Thursday morning news conference. "Most people don't even know who their congressperson is in many places. And now they'll find out. They will find out that their congressperson voted to take away their healthcare," she told reporters before the vote.

By the way, those seven Republicans (in order of largest Clinton margin to smallest):

  • David Valadao (CA-21, Hanford)
  • Ed Royce (CA-39, Fullerton)
  • Darrell Issa (CA-49, Oceanside)
  • Steve Knight (CA-25, Palmdale)
  • Mimi Walters (CA-45, Irvine)
  • Jeff Denham (CA-10, Modesto)
  • Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48, Costa Mesa)
Getting rid of Issa (the wealthiest person in Congress by far, worth a quarter-billion plus!) has to be the top target of California Dems, with Rohrabacher a close second.  Let's help make this happen, guys.  I know I have more than a few readers on the West Coast, if not in and around these districts, so let's go get some seats back.

The Great Yates Debates

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was canned by the Trump regime less than two weeks into the new "administration" presumably over her refusal to support the clearly unconstitutional Muslim immigration and refugee ban program, but the real reason may have been what she found out about fired Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn when she took over in January.  Now Yates will testify to the Senate today about what she found out about Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in those key first days.

Lawmakers want to question Yates about her conversation in January with White House counsel Donald McGahn regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn. People familiar with that conversation say she went to the White House days after the inauguration to tell officials that statements made by Vice President Pence and others about Flynn’s discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were wrong, and to warn them that those contradictions could expose Flynn or others to potential manipulation by the Russians.

Yates’s testimony Monday is expected to contradict public statements made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who described the Yates-McGahn meeting as less of a warning and more of a “heads up’’ about an issue involving Flynn.

In February, Spicer told reporters that Yates had “informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give a heads up to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict. . . . The White House counsel informed the president immediately. The president asked him to conduct a review of whether there was a legal situation there. That was immediately determined that there wasn’t.’’

The same month, Priebus described the Yates conversation in similar terms, telling CBS’s “Face the Nation’’ that “our legal counsel got a heads up from Sally Yates that something wasn’t adding up with his story. And then so our legal department went into a review of the situation. . . . The legal department came back and said they didn’t see anything wrong with what was actually said.’’

People familiar with the matter say both statements understate the seriousness of what Yates told McGahn — that she went to the White House to warn them that Flynn could be compromised — or blackmailed — by the Russians at some point if they threatened to reveal the true nature of his conversations with the ambassador.

Those people said that although Yates’s testimony may contradict Spicer and Priebus, her appearance Monday is unlikely to reveal new details about the FBI’s investigation into whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian officials to meddle with last year’s presidential election, in part because many of the details of that probe remain classified. Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. is also scheduled to testify at Monday’s hearing. Lawmakers had invited another Obama administration official, Susan E. Rice, to testify but she declined.

In other words, as acting AG, Yates immediately took a look at the situation with the ongoing investigation into Mike Flynn and his relationship with the Russians and immediately notified Trump's White House counsel that Flynn was compromised, and that keeping him around as National Security Adviser was a direct threat to the country.

The Trump regime is terrified of this, to the point of looking to sacrifice Flynn to the Gods of Political Expediency as soon as Yates testifies, according to the gang at Politico 2.0.

On Monday, Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general under President Obama, is expected to tell a Senate panel how she warned top White House officials that Gen. Flynn misled the Vice President and others about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. It should be an uncomfortable morning for the West Wing.

The White House's strategy to push back:
  1. Brand Yates as a Democratic operative who was out to get Trump from the beginning and willing to torque the facts to advance her agenda;
  2. Put as much distance as possible between Flynn and the man whose side he rarely left during the campaign (which could be a tall order.)
  3. Portray Flynn, and no one else, as responsible for this mess.

Here's the case against Flynn that administration officials — including Flynn's former allies — have been making anonymously to reporters:
  • Flynn's only priority was getting the president on board with his agenda.
  • The White House and the national security process is infinitely more synchronized and functional without him. He isn't missed.
  • Flynn pushed his own points of view — selectively presenting information to Trump in ways favorable to his own positions — rather than serving as an honest broker as national security advisors should.
  • His lawyer's statement that Flynn "certainly has a story to tell" and that he'd only tell it if granted immunity, looked "desperate," according to a senior administration official. (Harvard Law professor Alex Whiting made the same case back in March in a post on the site Just Security that's well worth a read.)

Our thought bubble: It's worth noting that the one person in the White House who remains reluctant to undermine Flynn is the man who fired him. President Trump says Flynn is the victim of a Democrat/media-fuelled "witch hunt," and has publicly endorsed Flynn's request for immunity.

Get ready for a nasty week in Washington, even by this regime's standards.


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