Thursday, January 16, 2020

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

The Trump regime is shipping asylum seekers to Guatemala by the literal planeload now, being sent to a country they know nothing about, and where they become somebody else's problem. It's only a matter of time before ICE detainees are sent there too...along with US citizens caught up in immigration hell.

The chartered U.S. government flights land here every day or two, depositing Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers from the U.S. border. Many arrive with the same question: "Where are we?"

For the first time ever, the United States is shipping asylum seekers who arrive at its border to a “safe third country” to seek refuge there. The Trump administration hopes the program will serve as a model for others in the region.

But during its first weeks, asylum seekers and human rights advocates say, migrants have been put on planes without being told where they were headed, and left here without being given basic instruction about what to do next.

When the migrants land in Guatemala City, they receive little information about what it means to apply for asylum in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries. Those who don’t immediately apply are told to leave the country in 72 hours. The form is labeled “Voluntary Return.”

“In the U.S., the agents told us our cases would be transferred, but they didn’t say where. Then they lined us up to get on the plane,” said Marta, 43, from Honduras. She sat in a migrant shelter here with her 17-year-old son, who nursed a gunshot wound in his left cheek — the work, mother and son say, of a Honduran faction of the MS-13 gang.

“When we looked out the window, we were here,” she said. “We thought, ‘Where are we? What are we supposed to do now?’ ”

Human rights organizations in Guatemala say they have recorded dozens of cases of asylum seekers who were misled by U.S. officials into boarding flights, and who were not informed of their asylum rights upon arrival. Of the 143 Hondurans and Salvadorans sent to Guatemala since the program began last month, only five have applied for asylum, according to the country’s migration agency. 
Safe third country is one of the Trump administration’s most dramatic initiatives to curb migration — an effort to remake the U.S. asylum system. President Trump has called it “terrific for [Guatemala] and terrific for us.”

But an Asylum Cooperation Agreement is bringing migrants to a country that is unable to provide economic and physical security for its own citizens — many of whom are themselves trying to migrate. In fiscal 2019, Guatemala was the largest source of migrants detained at the U.S. border, at more than 264,000. The country has only a skeletal asylum program, with fewer than a dozen asylum officers.

If Trump is reelected, we will learn only after the fact that hundreds of thousands of US citizens were disappeared into Guatemala.

This was always the plan.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

Indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas is singing like Aretha Franklin at the Super Bowl, not only is he cooperating fully with US Attorneys in Manhattan, he's giving interviews like the one with Rachel Maddow last night, and as Greg Sargent points out, he's nailing Rudy and Trump to the wall.

There are any number of bombshells in Lev Parnas’s new interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, and as we’ve experienced at other major points in this saga, it’s once again hard not to feel overwhelmed by the bewildering scale and magnitude of this scandal.

But the importance of one particular exchange needs special attention: It’s the one in which Parnas flatly accuses Rudolph Giuliani, and also possibly his “client,” as Giuliani likes to put it, of a criminal conspiracy. That “client,” of course, is President Trump.

The exchange in question concerns Trump’s freezing of military aid to Ukraine to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to carry out Trump’s dirty political deeds. Parnas ties Giuliani more directly to this act than anyone else has, and shares what appears to be new information about it, though this still needs to be confirmed.

The key exchange with Maddow comes after she asks Parnas if he met with Sergey Shaffer, a senior Zelensky aide. Maddow notes that it has been reported that Parnas conveyed to Schaffer that Zelensky must announce an investigation of Biden, in order to get the military aid released.

Then this happened:

PARNAS: The message that I was supposed -- that I gave Sergey Shaffer was a very harsh message. I was told to give it to him in a very harsh way, not in a pleasant way. 
MADDOW: Who told you to give it to him a harsh way? 
PARNAS: Mayor Giuliani, Rudy, told me after, you know, meeting the president at the White House. He called me. The message was, it wasn’t just military aid, it was all aid. Basically their relationships would be sour, that he would -- that we would stop giving them any kind of aid that -- 
MADDOW: Unless? 
PARNAS: -- unless there was an announcement made.

The important thing here is that Parnas is alleging that Giuliani directly told him to convey the message to Ukraine that the military aid was contingent on announcing the investigations Trump wanted — after talking to Trump about it.

Let’s state clearly here that this is just Parnas’s word, and that we need more confirmation. Parnas is a slippery character who’s trying to cooperate with federal prosecutors, probably for a reduced sentence, having been indicted on campaign finance charges last fall.

Giuliani has generally responded that Parnas is lying, without offering a specific rebuttal.

But here’s the thing. We already know for a fact that this message — that Trump made the military aid conditional on announcing investigations that would smear Biden and absolve Russia of 2016 electoral sabotage — actually was delivered to Ukraine, by one of Trump’s top henchmen.

That henchman would be Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who has testified that he told a top Zelensky aide that the money was conditioned on Zelensky announcing those investigations.

Not that the fact Trump directed a criminal conspiracy will matter one bit to his current impeachment trial, and now McConnell has to absolutely bury any hope of witnesses or Parnas will be called, but here we are.

Trump did it.  He's guilty.

And it doesn't matter one bit.

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Con't

With Lindsey Graham as the Senate Judiciary chair having to pretend to be impartial for the impeachment trial next week, Mitch McConnell temporarily needs a new enforcer to keep the likes of Susan Collins and Mitt Romney in line, and that thug is apparently Rand Paul.

Sen. Rand Paul is waging a fierce campaign to prevent the Senate from hearing witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, vowing to force tough votes on his fellow Republicans if they break with the president or back Democrats' demands for new evidence.

The Kentucky Republican is occasionally at odds with Trump, from his killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani to his national emergency to build his southern border wall. But when it comes to impeachment, Paul is taking the hardest line possible in Trump’s favor.

Paul says if four or more of his GOP colleagues join with Democrats to entertain new witness testimony, he will make the Senate vote on subpoenaing the president’s preferred witnesses, including Hunter Biden and the whistleblower who revealed the Ukraine scandal — polarizing picks who moderate Republicans aren’t eager to call. So he has a simple message for his party: end the trial before witnesses are called.

“If you vote against Hunter Biden, you’re voting to lose your election, basically. Seriously. That’s what it is,” Paul said during an interview in his office on Wednesday. “If you don’t want to vote and you think you’re going to have to vote against Hunter Biden, you should just vote against witnesses, period.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned Republicans not to divide the party and endanger his slim GOP majority, but Paul’s play could be useful to him. If the pressure campaign stifles the small group of Republicans open to hearing from witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, McConnell will be able to conclude the trial in the swift fashion he’s long sought.

But if a majority of the Senate agrees to hear witnesses, Paul is ready to go all out to make sure everyone in the Senate is on the record about whether they stand with Trump.

“My first preference would be to be done with it as soon as possible and not to have any witnesses,” Paul said. “If they insist on having people like Bolton coming forward, my insistence will be not just one witness. But that the president should be able to call any witnesses that he deems necessary to his defense.”

Paul’s threat is backed up by real power under the process envisioned by McConnell and allowed for under Senate rules.

After hearing opening arguments and questioning from House impeachment managers and the White House counsel, the Senate is expected to take a vote on whether to consider the witness issue at all, according to senators familiar with McConnell’s plans. If the Senate agrees to hear witnesses, every senator will have the chance to force a motion seeking testimony.

In other words, Paul is promising scorched earth if any witnesses are called, ranging from Hunter Biden to whoever Trump wants to call, and Trump has previously said he wants Rep. Adam Schiff, Joe Biden, and the Ukraine whistleblower to take the stand to be grilled on national TV for who knows how long, and Paul probably has the votes to make those rules stick.

Paul's threat isn't really for Susan Collins, it's for Doug Jones and Joe Manchin, and maybe Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown and other blue state Dems. The White House says it wants the trial over before Trump's State of the Union speech on February 4, where he can take a national victory lap on TV and bask in that for several weeks.

This is still by far the most likely outcome, but it would be amazing to see Collins and company actually stand up and do the right thing.

But like I've said time and again, depending on Republican senators to contain Trump in any real way is a sucker's bet every time.


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