TPM News

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Hours after reversing himself to end the forced separations of migrant families, President Donald Trump returned to the warm embrace of his supporters at a raucous rally to defend his hard-line immigration policies while unleashing a torrent of grievances about the media and those investigating him.

Trump downplayed the crisis that has threatened to envelop the White House amid days of heart-wrenching images of children being pulled from their immigrant parents along the nation’s southern border. He made only a brief mention of his decision to sign an executive order after spending days insisting, wrongly, that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision.

“We’re going to keep families together and the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been,” Trump told the cheering crowd in Duluth on Wednesday night.

Seemingly motivated to promote his hawkish immigration bona fides after his about-face on forced separations, the president denounced his political opponents and those who make unauthorized border crossings, suggesting that the money used to care for those immigrants could be better spent on the nation’s rural communities and inner cities.

“Democrats put illegal immigrants before they put American citizens. What the hell is going on?” asked Trump, prompting the crowd to chant “Build the wall!”

He even invoked his campaign kickoff speech, held three years ago this week, in which he declared that Mexico “wasn’t sending their best” in terms of migrants crossing into the U.S. That wasn’t the only throwback moment at the rally, featuring a packed arena festooned with American flags and approximately 8,000 people responding in chants to many of Trump’s cues.

He fumed over what he deemed “dishonest” coverage of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He raved about the economy and his tough new tariffs meant to create fair trade. And he erroneously suggested that a recent Justice Department watchdog report into the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe proved his innocence in the special counsel’s Russia investigation while covering up Clinton’s guilt.

“Have you been seeing this whole scam? Do you believe what you’re seeing — how that no matter what she did, no matter how many crimes she committed, which were numerous, they wanted her to be innocent,” Trump said. “But with me, nothing. No collusion, no nothing. They wanted to put us in trouble.”

The crowd responded with a “Lock her up!” chant. Trump simply shook his head.

Again attacking the special counsel probe as a “witch hunt,” Trump went on to blast the media for focusing on the recent immigration crisis at the expense of covering what he contends is bias against him at the FBI. He also accused the media of providing one-sided reports about his Singapore summit with Kim.

“We had a great meeting. We had great chemistry,” said Trump, who predicted that Kim “will turn that country into a great successful country.”

“These people,” said Trump, gesturing to the media at the back of the arena, “say, ‘He’s given away so much.’ You know what I gave up? A meeting.”

The Duluth rally was Trump’s first in a blue state since taking office. He narrowly lost Minnesota in 2016. And with the industrial and upper Midwest looming large for Trump’s re-election hopes, the president vowed to spend more time there before 2020.

“You know, I hate to bring this up, but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota,” the president said. “And in 2½ years, it’s going to be really easy, I think.”

Trump was in Minnesota to back Pete Stauber, a Republican congressional candidate running in a traditionally Democratic district. Home of the Iron Range, Minnesota is a place where Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel could play especially well. While economists wince and farmers brace for blowback, the crowd cheered when tariffs were mentioned on Wednesday. Trump also held a small roundtable with representatives from the mining industry and local leaders before the rally.

Trump brought Stauber to the stage and offered an enthusiastic endorsement. But he made no mention of the state’s GOP gubernatorial primary to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. It pits former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Trump critic running for his old job, against Jeff Johnson, the state GOP’s endorsed candidate who has been stronger in his support of the president.

Energized by the roaring crowd in his first rally since the Singapore summit, Trump soaked in the applause and caustically dismissed a few protesters who tried to interrupt. He beamed as the crowd chanted “Space Force!” in response to his plan to create a new branch of the military to safeguard the cosmos. And he leaned hard into his self-appointed role as champion of the working class and defender of traditional American values, but also mocked the idea that his opponents — whether liberals or media executives — were always called “the elite.”

“The elite! Why are they elite?” Trump wondered. “I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that he said would prioritize keeping migrant families together while maintaining Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” prosecution initiative for families, including those seeking asylum, who are apprehended at the border.

It’s unclear how exactly the executive order will affect family separations in practice, especially considering a Justice Department official’s admission that the Flores settlement, which limits the time children and families can be detained, still governs migrant detention policy.

One thing is for sure, though: The government has not put forward any concrete plan for reuniting the thousands of families it has already separated under the “zero tolerance” policy. And Trump did not address the issue in his executive order.

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which takes custody of adults after they complete their criminal proceedings, gave a vague statement to the Daily Beast on the issue Tuesday.

“When parents are removed without their children, ICE, [the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the sub-agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that takes custody of children separated from their families], and the consulates work together to coordinate the return of a child and transfer of custody to the parent or foreign government upon arrival in country, in accordance with repatriation agreements between the U.S. and other countries,” the spokesperson said.

The Daily Beast said the Department of Homeland Security had “conceded that parents have been deported without their children,” in the publication’s words.

That may be putting it lightly.

Last week, Mimi Marziani, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, told TPM that it wasn’t clear to her, nor to parents the organization had spoken to who’d been separated from their children, “what this procedure is” for reunification.

“It’s not just that they’re getting separated,” she said. “It’s that no one is telling these parents where their kids are, what sort of care they’re getting, when they’re going to see them again.”

A week later, not much appears to have changed: An ICE spokesperson told BuzzFeed Monday that “reunification typically does not occur until the removal stage of the process,” but by then, parents and children are often in different states, having already been separated into the custody of distinct federal agencies.

BuzzFeed said the spokesperson, Danielle Bennett, could not provide the number of families, nor even give examples of families, reunified since the “zero tolerance” policy took effect.

“We don’t have any metrics to provide at this point and we wouldn’t proactively give examples of this,” Bennett said.

“We’ll get a promise of coordination and then it doesn’t happen,” an unnamed attorney who’s represented children in ORR custody told the Intercept Tuesday. “There’s just not any commitment to the coordination of removal or reunification before removal. There doesn’t seem to be any plan.” 

“I don’t see any evidence of any plan to reunify the parent and the child after the conclusion of the adult’s criminal case,” Chris Carlin, a public defender in Alpine, Texas, told the Daily Beast.

Add to all of this the recent development that ORR will be conducting joint fingerprint-based background checks with DHS for potential sponsors seeking to take children out of ORR care, and the process becomes more complicated still.

On a May 29 call with reporters in which he discussed the change, Steven Wagner, an HHS official whose department oversees ORR, dismissed concerns that undocumented potential sponsors may be unwilling to submit data to DHS.

“If somebody is unwilling to claim their child from custody because they’re concerned about their own immigration status, I think that, de facto, calls into question whether they’re an adequate sponsor and whether we should be releasing a child to that person,” Wagner said.

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Interesting bit of background from one of my colleagues. As I mentioned below, a briefing from the DOJ’s Gene Hamilton this afternoon makes clear what we discussed: the Executive Order is illegal on its face. The White House knows this. You can’t detain kids for more than 20 days. (Technically, the child separation policy isn’t detention. They’re separated from their parents, turning them into abandoned kids — “Unaccompanied Minors” — which the government then must house.) Hamilton made clear that what happens from here is that the administration will begin detaining families intact with a 20 day countdown until President Trump blames a court for forcing him to separate families again.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Fair or not, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will probably always be the face of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The brusque 46-year-old former Bush administration official this week became known as the Cabinet member who skewed the facts at a combative press conference in defense of President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, and who convened a “working dinner” at a Mexican restaurant while audio of hysterical Spanish-speaking children circulated on social media.

On Wednesday, she helped Trump walk it back with a new executive order that would reverse the decision. She got praise from the president. But several congressional Democrats had already demanded her resignation, with one senator repeatedly accusing her of lying and quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in a tweet criticizing the Cabinet secretary.

“He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it,” tweeted Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., after reports that Nielsen had denied family separations at the border was a form of child abuse.

“We have high standards,” Nielsen had told reporters earlier this week in defending the policy. “We give them meals and we give them education and we give them medical care. There are videos, there are TVs.”

According to people close to the secretary, family separations weren’t her idea. One person, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Nielsen had been “working nonstop” to find a solution.

The polarizing path Nielsen has taken is somewhat surprising for a government bureaucrat and policy wonk known more for her loyalty to White House chief of staff John Kelly and her expertise in cybersecurity than the hardline immigration views espoused by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House adviser Stephen Miller.

Nielsen was considered an expert in both homeland and national security policy who worked in the Bush administration and had a hand in its handling of Hurricane Katrina.

Two years after the 2005 hurricane, Congress issued reports that faulted the White House Homeland Security Council — where Nielsen directed preparedness and response — for failing to take the lead in staying on top of the unfolding disaster.

Following Trump’s election, Nielsen joined the transition team, on the recommendation of several former co-workers, to help guide Kelly through the confirmation process to become Trump’s secretary of homeland security. Nielsen quickly won the retired general’s trust, impressing him with her work ethic and command of the issues.

A constant presence in Kelly’s orbit, Nielsen followed the retired general to the White House and quickly established herself as the West Wing “enforcer.” But, people inside and outside the White House also complained she was controlling access to Kelly, alienating staffers and failing to return phone calls — criticism that often comes with any chief of staff job.

Trump eventually tapped Nielsen to take over as head of the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, and the Senate confirmed her last Dec. 5.

By April, Sessions announced there would be “zero tolerance” at the border for people crossing illegally. That meant that anyone who did not arrive at a designated port of entry and claimed asylum would be arrested.

As public backlash grew, Nielsen misled the public by denying that separating families was part of U.S. policy. While the policy never specifically called for children to be taken from parents, separation became inevitable. That’s because the adult was detained and charged — and any children traveling with them couldn’t go to jail with them.

Nielsen, like Trump, also suggested that it was up to Congress to fix the problem — even though the enforcement of laws happens at the president’s discretion. The Bush and Obama administrations largely allowed families to stay together.

Nielsen undercut her own argument Wednesday when she abruptly reversed course and headed to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on an executive order ending separations.

While her allies say she was merely following the law, it’s likely there was another reason Nielsen tirelessly defended the policy: She has a track record of working to make her bosses happy. Also, her history with Trump was bumpy. Earlier this spring, Trump had unloaded on Nielsen during a Cabinet meeting over a spike in border apprehensions and legal setbacks, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Nielsen, one person said, tried to explain the issues were complex and that the department’s powers were limited by legal restrictions. She told the president her team was doing everything it could, but the president was left unconvinced.

After news of the dressing-down spread, Nielsen did not deny the meeting had grown heated and issued a statement saying, “I share his frustration.”

By Tuesday, Nielsen appeared to be back in Trump’s good graces, with the president tweeting praise for her press conference. And at the order-signing Wednesday, Trump invited first Vice President Mike Pence and then Nielsen, standing to his right, to speak. She thanked Trump for his leadership.

The president looked over his shoulder at Nielsen and issued more praise: “Great job.”

Trump then signed the order and handed Nielsen the pen.

___

AP reporters Colleen Long, Jill Colvin and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

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After two days of confusion — with some but not all county election officials enforcing a Kansas voting restriction struck down by a federal judge Monday — the Kansas Secretary of State’s office instructed local officials Wednesday that proof-of-citizenship was not required to register to vote.

The instructions marked the end — or at least a pause — in a years-long saga of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach fighting tooth and nail to keep his signature voter restriction alive, despite multiple court rulings against it.

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Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed the publisher of the National Inquirer as part of their probe into Michael Cohen’s business dealings, including the hush money payments he brokered with women who claimed to have slept with Donald Trump.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that officials in the Southern District of New York want information from American Media Inc. about the $150,000 August 2016 payment they made to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to catch-and-kill a story about her alleged affair with the President.

Specifically, prosecutors are searching for evidence that Cohen coordinated with American Media to negotiate this arrangement, sources familiar with the matter told the Journal.

In a statement to the newspaper, AMI said: “American Media Inc., has, and will continue to, comply with any and all requests that do not jeopardize or violate its protected sources or materials pursuant to our first amendment rights.”

Both Cohen and Trump are close friends with AMI chairman and CEO David Pecker. A “person familiar with the matter” told the Journal that phone records showed frequent contact between Cohen and Pecker at the time the deal with McDougal was being negotiated.

Prosecutors are also looking into the $130,000 payment Cohen brokered to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election to keep her from speaking publicly about her alleged sexual liaison with Trump.

Cohen is under investigation for possible campaign finance violations, bank fraud, and other financial crimes.

This post has been updated.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Fallon is opening up about the personal anguish he felt following the backlash to his now-infamous hair mussing appearance with Donald Trump.

The host of “The Tonight Show” tells The Hollywood Reporter he “made a mistake” and apologized “if I made anyone mad.” He adds that he “would do it differently” looking back on the Sept. 15, 2016 episode.

Trump opponents criticized Fallon for a cringeworthy interview only weeks before the election where Fallon playfully stroked Trump’s hair. Fallon’s show eventually lost more than one-fifth of its audience and its late-night crown to Stephen Colbert’s new and more political “The Late Show” for CBS.

Fallon said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast that he wasn’t approving of Trump or his beliefs just because he joked with him: “I did not do it to ‘normalize’ him or to say I believe in his political beliefs or any of that stuff.”

The talk show host has discussed the episode before, explaining in a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair that he was just “trying to have fun” with Trump, but revealed that he was “devastated” to learn that people had a negative reaction. He also told The New York Times: “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”

But in the podcast, Fallon reveals the backstage fallout to the criticism that he had been too soft on Trump. “It’s tough for morale,” he said. “You go, ‘Alright, we get it. I heard you. You made me feel bad. So now what? Are you happy? I’m depressed. Do you want to push me more? What do you want me to do? You want me to kill myself? What would make you happy? Get over it.'”

He said he works hard and is one of the “good people,” but faced a “gang-mentality” online. “People just jump on the train, and some people don’t even want to hear anything else. They’re like, ‘No, you did that!’ You go, ‘Well, just calm down and just look at the whole thing and actually see my body of work.'”

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Fascinating, convoluted and really complicated story today in The Guardian. The gist is that top Putin-aligned oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s U.S. lobbyist, Adam Waldman, met repeatedly in 2017 with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Deripaska is Manafort’s guy. Or rather, Paul was Deripaska’s guy. He was the one Manafort was offering private briefings to when he was riding high as Trump’s campaign manager in the summer of 2016. He was also the one Manafort owed some $20 million to and who wanted to collect his debt. Waldman met repeatedly with Assange over the course of 2017, with meetings heavily weighted toward the first months of the year.

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Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who lost his congressional primary after President Donald Trump endorsed his more Trump-aligned challenger, said Wednesday that the President “was booed” by Republican lawmakers Tuesday.

That, along with other reports, contradicts a tweet from Trump Wednesday afternoon that Republicans “applauded and laughed loudly when I mentioned my experience with Mark Sanford.”

Trump, according to multiple reports and at least one other member of Congress in the room, sarcastically asked Republicans during a closed-door meeting Wednesday if Sanford was in attendance, because he wanted to congratulate him on his (unsuccessful) race.

Politico’s Jake Sherman and several others reported that Trump was “booed, a bit” after Trump then called Sanford a “nasty guy.” Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) said Wednesday that “Nobody applauded or laughed” after the snark, and that “People were disgusted.”

Sanford appeared to confirm that Wednesday.

“I do think it’s humbling, one, that in this case the President was booed by colleagues in the House who basically said we don’t go along with what the President is suggesting, and two, I think that there is a bigger message for all of us to take away from what occurred that goes well beyond the President’s comments, well beyond the election in the first district, and that is the importance and the value of dissent in our political system,” the outgoing congressman, who was not in attendance Tuesday, said.

Because he’d spoken up at times against the President, Sanford said, “I was singled out.”

“I think part of what the President did yesterday was to send a very chilling message to my colleagues on, ‘Hey, if you speak up against me, there will be consequences,'” he said. “And I think that’s the last thing we need in our political system.”

Watch below:

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After a months-long fight, an anti-gerrymandering initiative has officially been approved for the November ballot.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve the proposal by Voters Not Politicians, a citizens group. The effort grew out of a Facebook post by local activist Katie Fahey, who urged voters frustrated by sweeping Republican victories in the 2016 election to come together to “take on gerrymandering.” The all-volunteer ballot initiative ended up securing over 425,000 signatures in 110 days.

“We look forward to being on the ballot in November, and giving voters a chance to change our current system, where politicians and lobbyists operate behind closed doors to draw district lines for partisan gain,” Fahey said in a statement on the Board of Canvassers vote. “Our polling and our volunteer signature collection and canvassing results show Michigan voters support our plan for a transparent, non-partisan, Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.”

A final decision on the legality of the proposed initiative is still pending in state Supreme Court. A group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), which is backed by the state Chamber of Commerce, sued to block the initiative in May, claiming it made so many changes to the state constitution that it should require a constitutional convention.

The initiative proposes taking map-drawing control for both congressional and state legislative districts away from lawmakers. A citizens’ commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents randomly chosen by the secretary of state would assume control of the process.

The commission would be required to follow “accepted measures of partisan fairness” and other guidelines.

On June 7, the state court of appeals ruled 3-0 that CPMC’s complaint was “without merit” and that the proposal had a “single purpose”: ending partisan gerrymandering in the state. CPMC appealed to the state Supreme Court, which has yet to release a final ruling.

“We fully expect the Supreme Court will concur with the Court of Appeals that the pro-gerrymandering campaign to keep the Voters Not Politicians proposal off the ballot is without merit,” Fahey said in her statement.

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