POTUS attack puts Sessions in bind – BY REBECCA SAVRANSKY AND JORDAN FABIAN – 07/21/17 06:03 AM EDT`


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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in a bind following public criticism from President Trump of his decision to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.

Trump’s scathing criticism in an interview with The New York Times immediately sparked new questions about whether the nation’s top cop, one of the president’s earliest supporters, enjoys his confidence and support.

Sessions on Thursday made it clear he has no plans to leave his post, and several Republican lawmakers rushed to his defense.

“I think Jeff Sessions has been and will continue to be an excellent attorney general,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), an early Trump supporter who says he backed the decision by Sessions to recuse himself. “I don’t expect Jeff Sessions to resign, I would not want him to resign.”
Republicans on and off Capitol Hill marveled at the spectacle of Trump criticizing his own attorney general — and a politician seen as one of his closest allies.

“They need to put this behind them,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, who added that there is no benefit to Trump’s criticism of Sessions.

John Wood, a former U.S. attorney and chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security in the Bush administration, said Sessions could continue to serve despite the criticism. But he said Trump’s comments likely hurt Sessions’ standing and could make it harder for him to lead the department.

“I don’t think it is to the point where Sessions has lost the ability to run the department,” he said.

Trump told The New York Times in a Wednesday interview that he would not have chosen Sessions to serve as attorney general had he known he would recuse himself.

“How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you,'” Trump told The Times.

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Grandma Is Family Again – By Dahlia Lithwick JULY 14 2017 2:15 PM


A judge rules against POTUS’ travel ban guidelines saying grandparents don’t count as close family.

In the latest twist in the travel ban wars, Judge Derrick Watson issued an order late Thursday night finding that the Trump administration’s definition of close family for the purposes of exclusion from the ban is too narrow. In response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling sanctioning part of the ban but voiding it for travelers with “close family” in the United States, the administration issued guidance that defined “close family” as parents or parents-in-law, a spouse, children, siblings, and step and half siblings. (Subsequently, they added fiancées as a protected group.) Judge Watson wrote that the government’s cramped definition—which excluded grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and any other “extended” family members—“represents the antithesis of common sense.”

Watson was the same judge who issued an injunction in March blocking the second version of Trump’s executive order. That travel ban called for a 90-day pause on travel to the United States from six majority-Muslim countries and a 120-day hiatus on refugee resettlement. Watson’s injunction was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But at the end of June, the Supreme Court ordered that a modified version of the travel ban would be allowed to go into effect. Effective immediately, however, travelers able to show a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” would be allowed to come here.

The court explained:

For individuals, a close familial relationship is required. A foreign national who wishes to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member, like Doe’s wife or Dr. Elshikh’s mother-in-law, clearly has such a relationship. As for entities, the relationship must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading EO-2.

It was easy to predict tons of litigation over what a bona fide relationship constituted, and so it’s come to pass.

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Trump Vowed to “Absolutely Prioritize” Black Colleges. Then Came His Budget. – BRANDON E. PATTERSON JUN. 1, 2017 6:00 AM


Is the White House betraying a promise to HBCUs?

On the morning of February 27, more than 70 presidents of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) stood in a West Wing corridor, waiting to enter the Oval Office. The meeting with President Donald Trump would be historic—the first time that the head of every HBCU in the country had been invited to meet with the president at the White House. Top aides Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Reince Preibus mixed and mingled with the group. According to Morgan State University president David Wilson, who was among those attending, Bannon voiced a promise: “If you give us a plan, we will execute it.” The implication was clear, Wilson says: Tell us what resources HBCUs need and the administration will find a way to pay for them in Trump’s budget.

The Oval Office meeting was one of many conversations and phone calls since Election Day between HCBU presidents, leaders of HBCU advocacy groups, and the Trump White House. Earlier that day, the White House had promoted a newspaper story headlined “President Trump Seeks to Outdo Obama in Backing Black Colleges,” which alluded to a plan for “historic” support for the schools. The next day, Trump signed an executive order that relocated a federal office devoted to helping fund and support black colleges from the Department of Education into the White House.

“We will make HBCUs a priority in the White House,” Trump said at the signing, “an absolute priority.”

“What we see now certainly does not meet my definition of substantial investment.”

But for leaders and advocates of these institutions, the release of Trump’s budgetin late May did nothing of the sort. Not only was there no new funding for HBCUs in the budget, Trump called for slashing millions of dollars from federal programs that also support degree programs at the schools. Trump’s plan appeared to boost Pell grants by extending their use to year-round—but meanwhile called for taking away $5 billion-plus in reserves from the Pell program and cutting at least $1.5 billion from other federal financial aid programs, including work study. Taken together, these cuts would disproportionately affect low-income students at black colleges, and cost the schools millions in revenue.

“The perception that many HBCU presidents were operating under was that the administration was making a commitment to follow up with a substantial investment in the institutions,” Wilson told me recently. “What we see now certainly does not meet my definition of substantial investment.”

“The budget doesn’t match” earlier messaging from the White House, said Walter Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University. “I’ll be interested to see how members of his team will say this undergirds his recent support for HBCUs. At least for Dillard, I can say it’s a loss.”

Advocates were further perplexed by Trump and questioned his commitment when he suggested in a statement in early May that special funding for black colleges could be unconstitutional. (After his comments drew a backlash, Trump expressed his “unwavering support” for HBCUs again in another statement.)

According to HBCU advocates, the Trump administration’s outreach has been spearheaded by senior communications aide Omarosa Manigault and Ja’Ron Smith, who leads urban renewal efforts on Trump’s domestic policy team. Manigualt and Smith, who are Howard University graduates, did not respond to requests for comment.

Early this year, HBCU advocacy groups jointly proposed a plan for federal funding to the Trump administration. They asked that two key Department of Education programs that support HBCUs be funded at $500 million, the maximum level permitted by Congress, and that the Trump administration commit to increasing for HBCUs the percentage of grants and contracts reserved for institutions of higher education in the federal budget. They argued passionately that HBCUs could play a key role in a Trump plan to create new opportunities for African Americans: The schools have an outsize impact, enrolling eight percent of all black college students in America and producing approximately 15 percent of those who earn bachelor’s degrees. (The nation’s approximately 100 HBCUs constitute three percent of the nation’s colleges and universities.) The schools also graduate large numbers of first-generation college students; roughly 70 percent of the more than 290,000 students enrolled at HBCUs are low-income—more than twice the rate for college students nationally. Howard University is especially known for its many graduates who become lawyers, dentists, doctors, and engineers.

Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, says the news about Trump’s budget hasn’t been all bad—HBCUs were mostly insulated from a proposed 13 percent across-the-board cut hitting the Department of Education, which supplies the majority of federal funding to HCBUs. Even being able to retain that core funding under Trump “is something that our community should celebrate,” Taylor says.

Making matters worse, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos described HBCUs in a statement as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

But Kimbrough sees that as “moving the goal posts,” especially after promise was in the air from the White House. He and Wilson told Mother Jones that the other cuts, including those to financial aid programs, could cost their schools six- or possibly even seven-figure sums in revenue, and would impact hundreds of their schools’ students. “When you take away any money from any of the students that are on Pell Grants or coming from limited resource families, you are putting them closer and closer to going back home,” Wilson said. Even with as little as a few hundred dollars per semester—”those dollars actually mean the world for our students.”

For many HBCU families, “it’s a sacrifice to get students to go to school,” Kimbrough said. So even relatively small cuts in federal aid can be devastating for them. Morgan State already spends around 15 percent of its budget on financial aid—a larger percentage than any other college in Maryland, according to Wilson; the school simply can’t afford to subsidize cuts to government aid for more students.

Even after the first Trump budget proposal in March, skepticism was already stirring about the promises from the Trump White House. “This budget proposal is not a new deal for African Americans,” Congressional Black Caucus chairman and Morehouse College alumnus Cedric Richmond said, speaking broadly of Trump’s first budget proposal, which proposed lesser cuts to HBCU funding than the May version. “It’s a raw deal that robs the poor and the middle-class to pay the richest of the rich.”

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POTUS nearing a decision on whether to pull U.S. from Paris climate deal, breaking ranks with more than 190 countries


Play Video 1:18

What you need to know about the Paris Agreement on climate change

 The Paris Agreement is an international agreement to lower worldwide greenhouse gas emissions in order to mitigate climate change. Here’s what you need to know.(Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

This story has been updated.

President Trump is nearing a final decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, with one White House official saying Wednesday that the president is leaning toward an exit but three others cautioning that he has not reached a verdict.

The matter has deeply divided the administration for months. Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have urged the president to remain in the deal, and White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have been pushing for a withdrawal.

[Whatever Trump decides on Paris, he has already taken the U.S. out of the climate game]

A withdrawal would put the United States in the same camp as Nicaragua and Syria: a tiny group of countries refusing to participate in the almost universally supported Paris climate change agreement.

Trump added to the intense speculation about the future of the agreement Wednesday morning, tweeting that his decision will be announced “over the next few days.”

Later in the day, he again stoked the uncertainty during a brief appearance with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the White House. He told members of the White House press pool that he would have a decision about the Paris agreement “very soon.”

“I’m hearing from a lot of people, both ways,” he said.

More than 190 nations agreed to the accord in December 2015 in Paris, and 147 have since formally ratified or otherwise joined it, including the United States — representing more than 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A U.S. withdrawal would remove the world’s second-largest emitter and nearly 18 percent of the globe’s present-day emissions from the agreement, presenting a severe challenge to its structure and raising questions about whether it would weaken the commitments of other nations.

[These experts say it may actually be best if the U.S. left the Paris climate agreement]

Trump has already, through executive orders, moved to roll back key Obama administration policies, notably the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, that comprised a key part of the U.S.’s Paris promise to reduce its emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025.

As of 2015, emissions were 12 percent lower, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Paris decision has deeply divided the administration, with internationalists, such as Tillerson, arguing that it would be beneficial to the United States to remain part of negotiations and international meetings surrounding the agreement, as a matter of leverage and influence.

Conservatives, such as Pruitt, have argued that the agreement is not fair to the United States and that staying in it would be used as a legal tool by environmental groups seeking to fight Trump environmental policies.

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Macron says long POTUS handshake ‘not innocent’ – By KAIT BOLONGARO 5/28/17, 11:30 AM CET Updated 5/28/17, 12:43 PM CET


Holding onto U.S. president’s hand showed he won’t make even small concessions, French leader explains.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his extended handshake with Donald Trump before a NATO summit was “not innocent” and intended to show he did not make even small concessions.In an interview with the Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday, the French leader said his interaction with the American head of state was “a moment of truth.”

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Source: Macron says long Trump handshake ‘not innocent’ – POLITICO

POTUS reportedly urged James Comey to drop Michael Flynn investigation -Tom McCarthy, Lauren Gambino, Sabrina Siddiqui and Ben Jacobs First published on Tuesday 16 May 2017 18.00 EDT


Comey memos show president asked the former FBI director to ‘let go’ investigation, and House Republicans have called for a release of any documents

Trump reportedly asked James Comey to drop an investigation into the former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Donald Trump directly asked the former FBI director, James Comey, to drop an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, according to notes kept at the time by Comey and first reported on Tuesday by the New York Times.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to Comey’s record of the meeting, as reported by the Times. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

The latest crisis to beset the White House came just 24 hours after the first reports emerged of Trump having shared classified intelligence with Russia during Oval Office talks.

The new development spurred Republicans in the House of Representatives, whose support Trump needs, out of their stance of passive support for the president. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the oversight and government reform committee, formally asked the FBI to turn over to the committee all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings referring or related to any communications between Comey and the president”.

A spokesperson for House speaker Paul Ryan encouraged the move. “We need to have all the facts, and it is appropriate for the House oversight committee to request this memo,” Ryan’s office said.

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Members of Congress Demand POTUS Provide Legal Justification for Syria Attack


NEARLY THREE WEEKS AFTER ordering a cruise missile attack against one of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s airfields, Donald Trump has yet to explain how that was legal without congressional authorization.

Two Democratic members of Congress are demanding that Trump offer some sort of legal justification beyond off-the-cuff remarks from administration officials.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Rep. Adam Schiff of California sent a stern letter to the White House on Tuesday, warning that Trump could be setting a dangerous precedent for conducting pre-emptive strikes and risking war with major powers, while cutting Congress out of the picture.

Two days after the missile strike, Trump sent Congress a notice that he had ordered it and that he had the “constitutional authority” to do so.

Source: Members of Congress Demand Trump Provide Legal Justification for Syria Attack