Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Last Call For Immigration Nation

Yesterday I said that if I were in the House GOP, I'd push for a vote on the draconian Securing America's Future Act, aka the end of immigration.

So now, if I'm Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, I use those three weeks I just got to put in the screws and finish the job. My plan would be to put the House GOP's utterly repugnant Securing America's Future Act to a vote and pass it. I put that legislation in the Senate and when the Dems say no, I say "Well, we put a DACA bill on the table and the Dems rejected it. All bets are off." Then I tinker around the edges of the SAF bill and include it in the CR and see how long the Dems last before they pass it. As a reminder of what SAF entails:

Republicans are essentially asking Democrats to trade the legalization of 700,000 unauthorized immigrants for the criminalization of all others, banning 2.6 million legal immigrants over the next decade, the elimination of almost all family sponsorship preference categories and the diversity visa lottery, deporting tens of thousands of asylum seekers, huge increases in border security spending, a massive new regulatory program that applies to every employee and employer in the country (“E-Verify”), and so much else. This bill has no chance of becoming law, but it is a remarkable illustration of how far apart the parties are on this issue.

That's where I see this fight going. I hope I'm wrong and the Dems smell this trap coming from a mile off and demand a clean DREAM Act bill up front...and the restoration of community health center funding.

Sure enough, the hardliners in the House are jumping on their "DACA deal" legislation right out of the gate.

As Senate moderates pushed their leader to make a commitment to have a bipartisan immigration vote, House conservatives on Tuesday were pushing their leadership to tack to the right on the issue. 
The Republican Study Committee, an influential group of more than 150 Republicans, on Tuesday will announce it has voted to support an immigration bill from conservative hardliners and will push for a vote on the legislation, setting up a potential showdown between the House and Senate on the issue. 
The nearly two-dozen-strong steering committee of the RSC voted to make the decision to back the bill, which also would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from committee and subcommittee chairmen Bob Goodlatte, Mike McCaul, Raul Labrador and Martha McSally, and warned against cutting a deal with Democrats behind conservatives' backs. 
"The Securing America's Future Act is the framework to strengthen border security, increase interior enforcement and resolve the DACA situation," the steering committee said in a statement. "We believe an eventual stand alone floor vote is essential. We oppose any process for a DACA solution that favors a backroom deal with Democrats over regular order in the House."

 The SFA bill is a massive disaster, but here's the biggest part:

The worst enforcement provision is criminalizing simply being in the United States without status or violating any aspect of civil immigration law (p. 170). This would turn millions of unauthorized immigrants into criminals overnight. It would also criminalize legal immigrants who fail to update their addresses, carry their green card with them at all times, or otherwise abide by the million inane regulations that Congress imposes on them. Take, for example, the status provided to Dreamers in this bill. It requires them to maintain an annual income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line (p. 396). If they fall below that level for 90 days—not only are they subject to deportation again—they would be criminals. This bill literally criminalizes poverty among Dreamers. This legislation would immediately undo much of the progress that the Feds have made on criminal justice reform and reducing its prison population.

This legislation is the preamble to mass deportations of millions, period.  This is the GOP plan for a "deal" on Dreamers.  They would get to stay, but by criminalizing millions of other undocumented in the country, it would become the rallying point for massive ICE roundups, detentions, and deportations. Again, I'm hoping the Dems see the trap, because they didn't on CHIP community health center funding.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is escalating the war on sanctuary cities with a new round of legal action designed to intimidate elected officials with the threat of losing billions in federal dollars.

The Justice Department ramped up pressure Wednesday on so-called sanctuary cities seeking public safety grant money, warning state and local officials they could be legally forced to prove they are cooperating with federal immigration authorities. 
Officials sent letters to roughly two dozen jurisdictions threatening to issue subpoenas if they don’t willingly relinquish documents showing they aren’t withholding information about the immigration status of people in custody. The department has repeatedly threatened to deny millions of dollars in important grant money from communities that refuse to share such information with federal authorities, as part of the Trump administration’s promised crackdown on cities and states that refuse to help enforce U.S. immigration laws. 
Many cities have been openly defiant in the face of the threats, with lawsuits pending in Chicago, Philadelphia and California over whether the administration has overstepped its authority by seeking to withhold grant money. 
The 23 jurisdictions that received letters Wednesday include Chicago, New York, Denver, Los Angeles and the states of Illinois, Oregon and California. Officials said the places have been previously warned that they need to provide information about their policies to be eligible to receive grants that pay for everything from bulletproof vests to officer overtime.

It's an ugly tactic and one designed to divide the country, if not outright provide justification for arresting local lawmakers ahead of ICE roundups.  That groundwork is being laid, and we're getting closer and closer to a national mass police action.

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile In Bevinstan...

Republicans in Kentucky have been wanting to scrap liquor license limits in the state for years now, and it looks like they'll take another shot at it during this year's General Assembly session.

Retired Southern Baptist minister Donald R. Cole of Webster County fears “a bar or liquor store on every other corner and a package store in every drug store” if new alcohol regulations proposed by Kentucky take effect. 
“The more alcohol sales you have, the more social problems you have,” said Cole, executive director of the Louisville-based Kentucky League on Alcohol and Gambling Problems, formerly known as the Temperance League. “We don’t need these new regulations that are one more step toward the deregulation of the alcohol industry in Kentucky.” 
The Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control Board last month filed proposed administrative regulations that would repeal rules that limit the number of licenses available for retail package liquor stores and by-the-drink sales of liquor. 
The number of licenses is limited based on the population of a given community — one license per 2,300 people for package stores and one license per 2,500 people for drink sales. 
Perry Colliver, owner of Route 11 Liquors in Mt. Sterling, opposes the changes. 
“I’ve been in this business 40 years, not a millionaire, but have made a decent living,” Colliver said. “Now the state wants to come along and end the quota system, saying they want to expand the market. The pie for this business is so big. If you have more stores, the pie will get smaller for people like me.” 
State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, a Republican from Richmond who operates four Liquor World stores in Central and Eastern Kentucky, said he thinks the proposed change “will get a ton of opposition.” 
“You either regulate the alcohol industry or not,” Morgan said. “This goes towards deregulation and hurts existing businesses.” 
The board, in an impact and analysis statement, said “eliminating quotas may encourage entrepreneurship, foster creativity for new business models and create jobs.” 
“The board believes that market forces rather than arbitrary quota limits should determine the number of businesses competing in a community,” the analysis stated. 
The board also said elimination of the quota system provides “equitable treatment of all alcoholic beverage licenses.”

What Republicans want to do is have more big chain stores sell alcohol and put package stores out of business, then turn around and say "Look, we actually reduced the number of retailers that sell liquor in Kentucky, isn't that what you wanted?"

It's a pretty good deal for big retailers who want to break into Kentucky as a market, not so good for existing local stores, but that's always been the case with big retailers.  I don't trust this plan any farther than Bevin can throw me.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

While the shutdown drama was playing out last week, there have been several developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's continuing probe into the Trump regime, money laundering, Russian influence, and obstruction of justice this week.  First, current FBI Director Chris Wray threatened to resign last year over intense pressure from both the White House and the Justice Department to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge. 
Wray's resignation under those circumstances would have created a media firestorm. The White House — understandably gun-shy after the Comey debacle — didn’t want that scene, so McCabe remains. 
Sessions told White House Counsel Don McGahn about how upset Wray was about the pressure on him to fire McCabe, and McGahn told Sessions this issue wasn’t worth losing the FBI Director over, according to a source familiar with the situation. 
Why it matters: Trump started his presidency by pressuring one FBI Director (before canning him), and then began pressuring another (this time wanting his deputy canned). This much meddling with the FBI for this long is not normal.

McCabe is still expected to resign later this year apparently, but that's not a guarantee.  Both Trump and Jeff Sessions (not to mention a bucketful of slavering Republicans in Congress and on TV) wanted McCabe's head because he's "too close to the Clintons".  They contend McCabe is the one standing between them and locking up Hillary Clinton.  They may be right.

But Wray, to his credit, stood up to Sessions and Trump and their attempt to purge the FBI.  It should disturb but not surprise anyone to find out that the White House and Justice Department wanted to fire anyone in the FBI who could have done the Trump regime harm.

Meanwhile, speaking of Attorney General Sessions, it seems his time under Robert Mueller's harsh spotlight has come.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman. 
The meeting marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of Mr. Trump’s cabinet
The spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed that the interview occurred in response to questions from The New York Times. 
Mr. Sessions announced in March that he had recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 election, including the Russia inquiry. The disclosure came after it was revealed that Mr. Sessions had not told Congress that he met twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, during the campaign. Mr. Sessions was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s presidential run.

2018 has already seen Mueller zero in on Steve Bannon for a few words, now we know he has interviewed Jeff Sessions as well.   Mueller is zeroing in on Trump by hitting Trump's inner circle with gusto.  We know Mueller has talked with Trump's personal assistant Hope Hicks late last year too, and we know he's setting up for an interview with Trump himself soon.  The other big key player in this is Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and I suspect we'll find out pretty soon about his fate.

Clock's ticking, and Trump knows it.  Because now we know what Mueller was up to at the end of last year: holding several key interviews with intelligence directors and Trump staffers about James Comey's firing, and it all stated with Michael Flynn's big mouth a year ago.

Flynn's FBI interview on Jan. 24, 2017, set in motion an extraordinary sequence of events unparalleled for the first year of a U.S. presidency. A national security adviser was fired after 24 days on the job, an acting attorney general was fired ten days after the president took office, an FBI director was allegedly pressured by the president to let go an investigation into the ousted national security adviser, and then eventually fired. 
An attorney general recused himself from a federal investigation into Russia's meddling in a U.S. election and possible collusion with the sitting president's campaign, and a special counsel was appointed.

The developments ensnared the president in an obstruction of justice inquiry, which resulted in his top intelligence and law enforcement chiefs cooperating in some form with that probe.

By the end of 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had spoken with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, former FBI Director James Comey, and numerous members of Trump’s campaign and White House inner circle. Flynn pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI during his January 24 interview and is cooperating with the Russia investigation.

NBC News also has learned that former acting attorney general Sally Yates, who informed the White House about Flynn’s interview two days after it took place, has cooperated with the special counsel. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who was allegedly asked by Trump to lean on Comey to drop his investigation, has also been interviewed, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

One person familiar with the matter described Pompeo, Coats and Rogers as "peripheral witnesses" to the Comey firing. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who played a key role in Comey's departure and was a top adviser on the Trump campaign, was interviewed by Mueller last week as the investigation inches closer to Mueller's team possibly questioning the president himself.

You catch that last part? The walls are closing in and Trump knows it.  Expect him to become considerably more erratic and dangerous in the coming months, especially since Mueller is now expected to interview Trump himself over James Comey's firing...and Michael Flynn's involvement in Russia.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is seeking to question President Trump in the coming weeks about his decisions to oust national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with his plans. 
Mueller’s interest in the events that led Trump to push out Flynn and Comey indicates that his investigation is intensifying its focus on possible efforts by the president or others to obstruct or blunt the special counsel’s probe
Trump’s attorneys have crafted some negotiating terms for the president’s interview with Mueller’s team, one that could be presented to the special counsel as soon as next week, according to the two people.

The president’s legal team hopes to provide Trump’s testimony in a hybrid form — answering some questions in a face-to-face interview and others in a written statement.

There may not have been any new indictments for a while, but I'm betting that changes very quickly.   Those previous indictments are now producing bountiful fruit.

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has quietly added a prominent white-collar attorney, Tom Green, to his defense team, signaling that Gates' approach to his not-guilty plea could be changing behind the scenes. 
Green, a well-known Washington defense lawyer, was seen at special counsel Robert Mueller's office twice last week. CNN is told by a source familiar with the matter that Green has joined Gates' team. 
Green isn't listed in the court record as a lawyer in the case and works for a large law firm separate from Gates' primary lawyers. 
Green's involvement suggests that there is an ongoing negotiation between the defendant's team and the prosecutors. At this stage, with Gates' charges filed and bail set, talks could concern the charges and Gates' plea. The defense and prosecution are currently working together on discovery of evidence.

No wonder Republicans are literally inventing conspiracy theories to attack Mueller and the FBI.


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