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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 68)

How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House

WASHINGTON — When historians try to explain how opponents of immigration captured the Republican Party, they may turn to the spring of 2007, when President George W. Bush threw his waning powers behind a legalization plan and conservative populists buried it in scorn.

Mr. Bush was so taken aback, he said he worried about America “losing its soul,” and immigration politics have never been the same.

That spring was significant for another reason, too: An intense young man with wary, hooded eyes and fiercely anti-immigrant views graduated from college and began a meteoric rise as a Republican operative. With the timing of a screenplay, the man and the moment converged.

Stephen Miller was 22 and looking for work in Washington. He lacked government experience but had media appearances on talk radio and Fox News and a history of pushing causes like “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” A first-term congresswoman from Minnesota offered him a job interview and discovered they were reading the same book: a polemic warning that Muslim immigration could mean “the end of the world as we know it.”

By the end of the interview, Representative Michele Bachmann had a new press secretary. And a dozen years later, Mr. Miller, now a senior adviser to President Trump, is presiding over one of the most fervent attacks on immigration in American history.

The story of Mr. Miller’s rise has been told with a focus on his pugnacity and paradoxes. Known more for his enemies than his friends, he is a conservative firebrand from liberal Santa Monica, Calif., and a descendant of refugees who is seeking to eliminate refugee programs. He is a Duke graduate in bespoke suits who rails against the perfidy of so-called elites. Among those who have questioned his moral fitness are his uncle, his childhood rabbi and 3,400 fellow Duke alumni.

Less attention has been paid to the forces that have abetted his rise and eroded Republican support for immigration — forces Mr. Miller has personified and advanced in a career unusually reflective of its times.

Rising fears of terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks brought new calls to keep immigrants out. Declining need for industrial labor left fewer businesses clamoring to bring them in. A surge of migrants across the South stoked a backlash in the party’s geographic base.

Conservative media, once divided, turned against immigration, and immigration-reduction groups that had operated on the margins grew in numbers and sophistication. Abandoning calls for minority outreach, the Republican Party chose instead to energize its conservative white base — heeding strategists who said the immigrant vote was not just a lost cause but an existential threat.

Arriving in Washington as these forces coalesced, Mr. Miller rode the tailwinds with zeal and skill. Warning of terrorism and disturbed by multicultural change, he became the protégé of a Southern senator especially hostile to immigration, Jeff Sessions of Alabama. And he courted allies in the conservative media and immigration-restriction groups.

Mr. Miller, who declined to comment for this article, affects the air of a lone wolf — guarded, strident, purposefully provocative. But he has been shaped by the movement whose ideas and lieutenants he helped install across the government as he consolidated a kind of power unusual for a presidential aide and unique in the Trump White House.

“I don’t agree with his policy on reducing legal immigration, but I’m in awe of how he’s been able to impact this one issue,” said Cesar Conda, who battled Mr. Miller on Capitol Hill as an aide to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “He’s got speech writing, he’s got policy, he’s got his own little congressional-relations operation, he’s got allies whom he’s helped place across the government.”

“Years ago, the restrictionist movement was a ragtag group” with no strong ties to either party, he added. Mr. Miller “embodies their rise into the G.O.P. mainstream.”

The story that has defined Mr. Miller’s life began two decades before his birth, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a 1965 law ending quotas that chose immigrants based on their national origin and heavily favored white people from Northern Europe. Although Mr. Johnson called the new law a largely symbolic measure that would neither increase immigrants’ numbers nor alter their ethnic mix, it did both on a vast scale — raising the foreign-born share of the population to near-record highs and setting the United States on course for nonwhite Hispanics to become a majority of the population.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00miller-johnson-articleLarge How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Miller, Stephen (1985- ) Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration discrimination Conservatism (US Politics)

President Lyndon B. Johnson said the immigration bill he signed in 1965 would be a largely symbolic measure. Instead, it sent the foreign-born share of the population soaring.CreditBettmann/CORBIS, via Getty Images

Opposition initially came from the left, especially from environmentalists worried about population growth.

The first major immigration-control group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, was founded in 1979 by Dr. John Tanton, a Michigan ophthalmologist and Sierra Club member, with funding from Cordelia Scaife May, an heiress to the Mellon banking fortune. Mindful of the bigotry in earlier anti-immigration movements, Dr. Tanton vowed to keep it “centrist/liberal in political orientation.”

[Newly unearthed personal writings by Cordelia Scaife May reveal why she dedicated her fortune to the cause.]

But his arguments about environmental harm and wage competition found little traction in a Democratic Party eager to court minorities. By the mid-1980s, Dr. Tanton was making the racial arguments he had pledged to avoid, decrying the “Latin onslaught” and insisting on the need for “a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

How Immigrants’ Share of the Population Has Changed

Since the late 1960s, a surge of immigrants from Latin America and Asia has altered America’s ethnic mix and has driven the foreign-born share of the population close to a record high.

Westlake Legal Group byregion-720 How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Miller, Stephen (1985- ) Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration discrimination Conservatism (US Politics)

Foreign-born share of the population by region of origin

In 1921, Congress imposed national-origin

quotas, which it toughened three years later.

13.6% total

foreign-born

in 2017

President Lyndon B.

Johnson ended quotas

based on national

origin in 1965.

7.0% Latin America

1.5% Europe

0.9% Other

Westlake Legal Group byregion-460 How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Miller, Stephen (1985- ) Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration discrimination Conservatism (US Politics)

Foreign-born share of the population by region of origin

In 1921, Congress imposed national-origin

quotas, which it toughened three years later.

13.6% total

foreign-born

in 2017

President Lyndon B.

Johnson ended quotas

based on national

origin in 1965.

7.0% Latin America

1.5% Europe

0.9% Other

Westlake Legal Group byregion-300 How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Miller, Stephen (1985- ) Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration discrimination Conservatism (US Politics)

Foreign-born share of the population by region of origin

In 1921, Congress imposed national-origin

quotas,which it toughened three years later.

13.6% total

foreign-born

in 2017

President Lyndon B.

Johnson ended quotas

based on national

origin in 1965.

7.0% Latin America

1.5% Europe

0.9% Other

Sources: U.S. Census; American Community Survey 2012-17

By Juliette Love

At the time, the Republican Party was divided on immigration. While cultural conservatives were wary of rapid demographic change, businesses wanted cheap labor and Cold Warriors embraced anti-Communist refugees, including large waves of Cubans and Vietnamese. Running for president, a conservative as definitional as Ronald Reagan hailed “millions of immigrants from every corner of the earth” as a sign that God had made America a “city on a hill.”

But by the 1990s, the Cold War had ended, and globalization was sending manufacturing abroad. The business wing of the Republican Party, its main pro-immigrant faction, had less need for foreign workers. “It’s not that the business lobby became anti-immigration; it’s just that they cared a lot less,” said Margaret Peters, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Where Immigrants’ Population Share Has Grown the Most

Green areas had an increase in their share of foreign-born, with darker shading signifying a larger uptick. Purple areas had a decrease.

Westlake Legal Group map-720 How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Miller, Stephen (1985- ) Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration discrimination Conservatism (US Politics)

Percentage change in the foreign-born share of the population by county, 1990-2017

Westlake Legal Group map-460 How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Miller, Stephen (1985- ) Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration discrimination Conservatism (US Politics)

Percentage change in the foreign-born share of the population by county, 1990-2017

Westlake Legal Group map-300 How Stephen Miller Rode an Anti-Immigration Wave to the White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Miller, Stephen (1985- ) Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration discrimination Conservatism (US Politics)

Percentage change in the foreign-born share

of the population by county, 1990-2017

Sources: U.S. Census; American Community Survey 2012-17

By Juliette Love

Not least among the forces shaping the debate was immigration itself: It accelerated and spread to the South, with the number of unauthorized immigrants growing especially fast.

In 1986, President Reagan signed a compromise law that gave legal status to nearly three million people while adding new penalties to curb flows of illegal immigrants. But enforcement proved weak, and the unauthorized population reached a record 12 million. Restrictionists, feeling betrayed, swore never to allow another “amnesty.”

President Ronald Reagan signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which gave nearly three million people legal status.CreditBettmann, via Getty Images

After a Republican backlash in the 1990s led more immigrants to vote for Democrats, Mr. Bush ran in 2000 as a pro-immigrant conservative. He saw Latinos as proto-Republican — religious, entrepreneurial, family-oriented — and was considering a legalization plan when the Sept. 11 attacks consumed his administration.

By the time he returned to the issue in 2007, his party’s skepticism toward legalization had hardened into implacable opposition. Amplified by talk radio, populist critics denounced his plan as “shamnesty”; one called it an effort to make America a “roach motel.” Three-quarters of Republican senators opposed it.

Just a year before, a rising Republican star had urged fellow conservatives not to abandon the party’s Reaganite support for immigration.

“We are either going to prove that we believe in the ideas enshrined on the Statue of Liberty, or the American people will go looking elsewhere,” said a congressman from Indiana, Mike Pence.

But the party’s shift proved decisive. Now, as vice president, Mr. Pence loyally defends the policies set by the president and Mr. Miller.

The forces that pushed the Republican Party to the right also shaped Mr. Miller.

Born in 1985, he grew up in a post-Cold War world where the acceptance of refugees was no longer seen as part of America’s resistance to a hostile foreign power. Rapid ethnic change was shaping his world.

The son of an affluent real estate investor, he entered high school in a self-consciously multicultural Santa Monica in 1999, just as California became a majority-minority state. At the start of his junior year, the attacks on Sept. 11 took nearly 3,000 lives.

The terrorist plot was central to his political awakening. Complaining that school officials were insufficiently patriotic, Mr. Miller won an uphill fight to make them enforce regulations requiring the Pledge of Allegiance. “Osama bin Laden would feel very welcome at Santa Monica High School,” he wrote in 2002 in a local publication.

Tellingly, he took his case to talk radio, as a frequent guest on “The Larry Elder Show.” It was a pattern Mr. Miller would repeat in subsequent years: airing hyperbolic claims of liberal treachery to conservative media allies. “He loved being the provocative conservative behind liberal lines,” said Ari Rosmarin, who was editor of the school newspaper and now works on criminal justice issues at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mr. Miller’s main issue was assimilation, or what he saw as its failures. Writing in a local paper, he complained that “a number of students lacked basic English skills,” and his yearbook page quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “There can be no fifty-fifty Americanism.” The school paper ran a parody of him railing against ethnic food and demanding white bread and “fine Virginia hams, just as the founding fathers used to enjoy on their bountiful plantations.”

Classmates were often unsure whether his provocative views were sincere or a bid for attention. “Am I the only one who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have janitors who are paid to do it for us?” he said in a speech for student government. A video shows him flashing a self-satisfied smile as classmates jeer.

His uncle, Dr. David S. Glosser, a vocal critic, dismissed the antics as “just an early adolescent desire to be noticed.”

“This talk of his philosophy seems disingenuous to me,” he said in an interview. “It’s very seductive. All the sudden, you become the darling of media big shots and you get notoriety for it at home.”

A Santa Monica High School yearbook. Mr. Miller’s classmates were often unsure whether his provocative views were sincere or a bid for attention.

Some of Mr. Miller’s Latino classmates say his comments made them feel personally attacked. In an interview, Jason Islas said Mr. Miller told him he was ending their friendship for reasons that included “my Latino heritage.” He added, “I think he is a racist.”

But with prominent allies like David Horowitz, a conservative author and organizer, Mr. Miller headed to Duke in 2003 with the beginnings of a national reputation.

The defining issue of Mr. Miller’s college career was the arrest, when he was a junior, of three white lacrosse players accused of raping a black stripper. Mr. Miller leaped to the players’ defense, charging that administrators and faculty members saw them as emblems of white privilege and simply assumed they were guilty — a case he made on the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor,” then the most-watched cable news program. He demanded that the school president be fired and the prosecutor jailed.

The case collapsed. North Carolina’s attorney general declared the players innocent, the prosecutor was disbarred for misconduct and the accuser was later convicted of murdering her boyfriend. For Mr. Miller, it was a two-part vindication — reinforcing his conviction that liberal dogma about racial oppression was wrong and that his scorched-earth tactics were effective.

In his last column for the Duke Chronicle before graduating, he called himself “a deeply committed conservative who considers it his responsibility to do battle with the left.” Then he headed for Washington.

Most of Mr. Miller’s work for Mrs. Bachmann was unrelated to immigration. He wrote news releases about gas prices and fire department grants. But in February 2008, soon after he began the job, an undocumented immigrant in rural Minnesota, Olga Franco, drove through a stop sign and killed four children. Mrs. Bachmann appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor,” where she framed the issue as “anarchy versus the rule of law.”

Although Ms. Franco was convicted of vehicular homicide, the National Academy of Sciences, a group founded to convey academic consensus, has written that immigrants are “much less likely than natives to commit crimes,” and recent evidence suggests that the undocumented are no exception.

But immigrant crime would be a running theme in Mr. Miller’s career, and his emphasis on the issue borrowed from the broader restrictionist movement. To erode public support for immigration, FAIR maintains an online archive of “serious crimes by illegal aliens.”

Mr. Miller was working for Representative Michele Bachmann in 2008 when, in a campaign debate, she said immigrants were “bringing in diseases, bringing in drugs, bringing in violence.”CreditDave Schwarz/The St. Cloud Times, via Associated Press

In a 2008 congressional campaign debate, Mrs. Bachmann’s opponent accused her of exploiting the tragedy, but she argued that unauthorized immigrants were “bringing in diseases, bringing in drugs, bringing in violence” — language nearly identical to what Mr. Trump would later employ with Mr. Miller as his aide — and she mustered a slender win.

Soon after that election, Mr. Miller went to work for Representative John Shadegg of Arizona, and then quickly crossed the Capitol to work for Mr. Sessions. Perhaps the leading immigration foe in the Senate, Mr. Sessions was a product of a region where immigration had soared, largely in places unaccustomed to it. In two decades, the number of immigrants had grown fourfold in Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina; fivefold in Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee; and sixfold in North Carolina.

Mr. Miller had opposed immigration mostly on cultural grounds, warning that newcomers were failing to learn English and endangering public safety. But Mr. Sessions emphasized economic concerns and what he called “the real needs of working Americans,” saying foreigners threatened their jobs and wages.

As a defender of the working class, Mr. Miller had uncertain credentials. If his high school gibe about janitors was a joke, he returned to the issue at Duke. He mocked a campaign to have students thank their dorm-cleaning staff, arguing that employment was thanks enough. “The janitors need a job, which we provide,” he wrote.

Striking a self-consciously elitist pose, he ridiculed calls for improved relations with working-class Durham, N.C. (“one of the last spots in America anyone would visit”) and asked for a student smoking lounge with “plenty of mahogany and leather.”

The impact of immigrants on jobs and wages is much debated — they take jobs but make jobs, too. Most economists see greater downward pressure on wages coming from other forces, including the decline of the minimum wage (adjusted for inflation), weak unions, outsourcing and technological change.

The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2017 that immigration’s overall effect on wages was “very small,” but added that “some studies have found sizable negative short-run impacts for high school dropouts” (who account for about 8 percent of the work force). Even among dropouts, some economists find the effects modest or nonexistent.

One prominent scholar, the Harvard economist George Borjas, consistently finds negative impacts much larger than his peers do. He is the figure Mr. Miller most often cites.

In moving to Mr. Sessions’s Senate suite, Mr. Miller arrived at a crossroads for the restrictionist movement’s people and ideas.

As head of communications, Mr. Miller acquired a deep knowledge of the movement’s players and policy goals. Others in the office would also go on to influential jobs in the Trump administration, not least Mr. Sessions himself, who as attorney general presided over a policy that separated thousands of young immigrant children from parents illegally crossing the border.

Mr. Miller’s minor moment of Capitol Hill renown stems from his efforts to defeat the so-called Gang of Eight bill, a bipartisan attempt to pair new enforcement measures with legalization for most of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, and to offer them a long path to citizenship.

He opposed the bill with the same zeal that had inspired high school parodies, haranguing reporters into the night and earning a gadfly reputation.

In retrospect, three elements of Mr. Miller’s approach foreshadowed his future exercise of power. One was his rejection of the view that Republicans needed to court minorities. The Gang of Eight bill was born after the 2012 presidential race, in which the defeated Republican, Mitt Romney, lost the Latino vote by 44 points.

Mitt Romney conceding the 2012 presidential race, having lost the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points.CreditJosh Haner/The New York Times

No less a hard-liner than the Fox News host Sean Hannity called for legalizing most of the country’s undocumented immigrants. “Pathway to citizenship — done,” he said on his radio show. The Republican National Committee urged the party “to empower and support ethnic minorities” and “champion comprehensive immigration reform,” meaning legalization.

Mr. Miller took the opposite view, which the party ultimately followed: Mobilize the white working-class base, among whom turnout had fallen.

While Mr. Bush had seen Latinos as natural Republicans, most restrictionists saw them as an electoral threat. “If four out of five Latinos are registering with the Democrats, perhaps less immigration would be in the interest of the Republican Party, no?” wrote Jon Feere of the Center for Immigration Studies, a spinoff of FAIR. (Mr. Feere later joined the Trump administration as an immigration adviser. )

A second feature of Mr. Miller’s efforts was his symbiotic relationship with conservative media, especially online publications like Breitbart News.

Lacking gatekeepers, the internet was a medium tailor-made for anti-establishment causes. Right-wing populism had long flourished on talk radio, but Breitbart, with few restrictions on space, could cover the issue in greater depth, bringing intense scrutiny to hot-button issues. And social media made articles easy to share.

Breitbart ran three stories making the false charge, circulated by Mr. Sessions’s staff, that the bill offered undocumented immigrants free cellphones.

Mr. Miller and Breitbart worked together closely.

“Sessions: Special Interest, Extremist Groups Wrote Immigration Bill,” claimed one Breitbart headline.

“Sessions: ‘Tide is Beginning to Turn’ Against Immigration Bill,” announced another.

A third element of Mr. Miller’s work involved his alliance with outside groups, especially three that Dr. Tanton helped create and that received millions of dollars from Mrs. May’s foundation. (Over a recent 12-year period alone, the foundation gave the Center for Immigration Studies $17.6 million, FAIR $56.7 million and NumbersUSA $58.2 million.)

Once a lonely cause, restrictionism had grown into a mature movement — an intellectual ecosystem of sorts — with groups specializing in areas as diverse as litigation and voter mobilization.

When Mr. Sessions claimed on a conference call that the Gang of Eight bill threatened jobs, an analyst from the Center for Immigration Studies was on the line to vouch for the data, and Breitbart covered it as news. When the center presented its journalism award, Mr. Miller was the speaker, and his first-name references to the Center’s staff — “all the great work that Mark and Jessica and Steve are doing”— made it clear that he felt among friends.

Despite Mr. Sessions’s opposition, the bill passed in the Democratic Senate in 2013. As it headed to the Republican House, Mr. Miller drafted a 30-page memo that Mr. Sessions shared with the House Republican caucus, urging members to oppose the bill on behalf of “millions of struggling American workers.”

House leaders were mulling how to proceed when, in June 2014, an obscure Virginia professor toppled the majority leader, Eric Cantor, in a Republican primary. Though vastly outspent, the newcomer, Dave Brat, prevailed in large part by attacking Mr. Cantor for being “in cahoots” with Democrats on immigration.

“The world just changed,” Mr. Miller exulted the next day.

Indeed, it had. Among those commenting in Breitbart was the “conservative provocateur” Donald J. Trump, who said the upset showed that the Republican establishment was at risk. “Everybody is now vulnerable,” he said.

Circulating the article, Mr. Miller told friends that he wished Mr. Trump would run for president. When Mr. Trump did — demanding a wall and a ban on Muslims entering the country — Mr. Miller soon signed on.

Mr. Miller rose quickly on the small staff. A prolific writer and combative surrogate, he was the person most knowledgeable about the campaign’s central issue, and he lavished Mr. Trump with praise. (The Trump candidacy, Mr. Miller said, had altered “Western civilization.”) He also served as an ideological chaperone to a candidate given to sudden reversals of signature policies, a role Mr. Miller continues to play in the White House.

Mr. Miller, in the foreground, has consolidated power over a single issue in a way that’s unusual for a presidential aide and unique in the Trump White House.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Mr. Trump scored a coup by winning the support of some tech workers who, after being laid off by the Walt Disney Company, were forced to train foreign replacements admitted on temporary H-1B visas.

The workers embodied Mr. Trump’s larger argument that immigration hurt American employment. Yet days after appearing with them at a rally, Mr. Trump said in a televised debate that he would drop his plan to restrict the H-1B program.

“I’m changing, I’m changing,” he told the stunned interviewer. “I’m softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country.”

Within hours, Mr. Trump reversed himself again, issuing a statement to assure his followers that he planned to “end forever the use of H-1B as a cheap labor program.”

Despite the president’s public image as an unrelenting immigration foe, some restrictionist leaders view him as soft — a businessman whose desire for labor will lead him to support more immigration. That unreliability, they say, makes Mr. Miller’s presence especially important.

“If he weren’t there, I’m pretty sure it’d be worse,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Mr. Miller now occupies a large West Wing office and has influence on virtually every element of immigration policy, from the words the president uses to the regulations he promulgates. Mr. Miller is a speechwriter, policy architect, personnel director, legislative aide, spokesman and strategist. At every step, he has pushed for the hardest line.

When Mr. Trump wavered on his pledge to abolish protections for 800,000 so-called Dreamers — people brought illegally to the United States as children — Mr. Miller urged conservative states to threaten lawsuits. Mr. Trump then canceled the protections.

When the president later mulled a deal to restore them, Mr. Miller stacked the negotiations with people who opposed the move, leading Mr. Trump to abandon compromise and rail against immigrants from “shithole countries.”

“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere,” complained Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who supported a deal.

President Trump at the United States-Mexico border in April with the Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, left, shortly before she was pushed out of the job.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

The Trump effort to curb immigration has played out amid so much chaos — judicial setbacks, congressional defeats, personnel purges, Twitter wars — that it can be hard to keep a running tally of its impact.

The attempt to revoke Dreamer protections has been blocked in court. An effort to bar travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries was struck down twice. The promised border wall has not been built. A campaign to deter illegal immigration by separating thousands of children from their mothers was abandoned amid blistering criticism, including some from the right.

Still, Mr. Miller has left a big mark, in ways both obvious and obscure. After two highly publicized failures, he helped craft a travel ban that passed court muster. A fervent critic of refugee programs, he has helped cut annual admissions by about three-quarters since the end of the Obama administration.

Writing in Politico, his uncle, Dr. Glosser, expressed an “increasing horror” at his nephew’s hostility to refugees and noted that their ancestor, Wolf-Leib Glosser, arrived at Ellis Island after fleeing Russian pogroms. Had Mr. Miller’s policies prevailed then, he wrote, the Glossers probably “would have been murdered by the Nazis,” as most in their village were.

With less fanfare, Mr. Miller has guided a series of policy changes that critics liken to building an “invisible wall.” The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group, counted more than 100 of them, noting that “most have moved forward untouched.”

The Trump administration quadrupled the number of work site investigations. It slowed the processing of temporary H-1B visas. It imposed new performance measures on immigration judges, to encourage faster deportations.

Though Mr. Miller was often the driving force, many of these changes were longstanding goals of the restrictionist movement. “He comes from a community of people who’ve been working on this, some of them, since the ’90s,” said Roy Beck, the president of NumbersUSA.

Beyond the commas and clauses of government rules, Mr. Miller and Mr. Trump are trying to change something deeper: America’s self-conception as a land of immigrants. Mr. Trump is the son of an immigrant. Two of the three women he married are immigrants. Four of his five children have an immigrant parent. Yet his immigration agency rewrote its mission statement to remove the phrase “nation of immigrants.”

Mr. Miller even took to the White House briefing room to offer a revisionist view of the Statue of Liberty. Like many in his movement, he argued it should not be seen as welcoming immigrants because it was originally built for a different purpose (to celebrate political freedom) and that the Emma Lazarus poem hailing the “huddled masses” carries little meaning because it was added later.

Speaking to reporters in 2017, Mr. Miller dismissed the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty that includes the line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”CreditDoug Mills The New York Times

The border wars intensified this spring as large numbers of Central American families sought asylum and Mr. Trump, with Mr. Miller urging him on, purged top officials from the Homeland Security Department, including the secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen; he argued they weren’t doing enough to keep them out.

But a quieter bureaucratic story may have revealed as much about Mr. Miller’s priorities and bureaucratic skill.

After long deliberation, the administration last week released a 217-page rule making it easier to deny admission or permanent residency to low-income immigrants deemed likely to receive public benefits. Unlike the border disputes, this so-called public charge rule affects only legal immigrants, since the unauthorized are already barred from most safety-net programs.

Critics say the rule is already causing needy immigrants to forgo health care and nutritional aid. They call it a backdoor way of circumventing Congress and creating a new immigration system that admits fewer people, excludes the “huddled masses,” and favors Europeans over poorer Mexican and Central Americans.

Mr. Miller was so eager to see the rule enacted, he helped push out a one-time ally, L. Francis Cissna, the head of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, for not moving fast enough.

Mr. Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies argued that the rule would have only modest effects on immigrant numbers but praised Mr. Miller for asserting a principle. “The point of immigration policy is to benefit Americans,” he said, not “strain the social safety net.”

While the restrictionist movement had long taken that principle to heart, he said “Stephen understood how to operationalize it.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Israel’s Alliance With Trump Creates New Tensions Among American Jews

A rabbi in St. Louis Park, Minn., was more than six thousand miles from Jerusalem when he heard the Israeli government decided to bar two Muslim members of Congress from making an official visit to the Jewish state.

But within minutes, his phone was flooded with calls from congregants, local Jewish agencies and lay leaders who plunged into what had become a familiar routine: Figuring out how to respond to yet another political battle over their congresswoman, Representative Ilhan Omar, and Israel.

“There was very much an attitude of, ‘oh, here we go again,’” said Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky. “The pendulum keeps swinging left and right, left and right. It’s dizzying and exhausting and distracting. Emotions are raw.”

For months, American Jews in Ms. Omar’s district and beyond have found themselves enmeshed in a deeply uncomfortable debate over the growing distance between traditional liberal American Jewish values and the political realities of an Israeli government that’s embraced hard-line policies and a deep alliance with President Donald Trump. On Thursday, in one of Mr. Trump’s most audacious moves yet, he successfully urged Israel to deny entrance to Ms. Omar and Representative Rashida Tlaib, who planned to tour the West Bank.

At Shabbat dinner tables, in synagogue sanctuaries, and even at summer camps, the new political firestorm in Washington and Jerusalem — and Mr. Trump’s fierce determination to turn anti-Semitism and support for Israel into partisan issues — has forced a series of emotional conversations over the place of Jews in American political life. It’s a conversation that comes at a particularly fraught moment, less than a year after deadly attacks on synagogues in Poway, Calif., and Pittsburgh, and as support for Israel divides the Democratic Party as never before.

To some Jews, the president’s attacks on the congresswomen are a fierce renunciation of anti-Semitism and a defense of Israel. But many others see their identity being used as a pawn for the political ambitions of Mr. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a dynamic they fear could undermine the historically strong alliance between the United States and Israel and increase the security risks for their community at home.

“If Israel equals Trump, then there is a concern that opposition to Trump will transition, God forbid, into opposition to Israel,” Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who leads Ohev Sholom, an Orthodox congregation in Washington, D.C., said a few hours before shabbat on Friday. “It is very dangerous.”

In a striking sign of united concern, major American Jewish organizations largely opposed the Israeli government’s decision to block the congresswomen on Thursday, even as some condemned the women for what they described as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic positions. Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the bulwark Israel lobbying organization, took the unusual step of breaking with the Netanyahu government.

Sheila Katz, who leads the National Council of Jewish Women, called Israel’s ban “undemocratic and shortsighted.”

“I don’t think any of us want to be in this position and we don’t think it is actually helpful for Israel either,” said Ms. Katz. “We’d ask the president to not influence and pressure the prime minister of Israel to be carrying out what feels like bullying because of issues he has with congresswomen here in the U.S.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 16Jews-02-articleLarge Israel’s Alliance With Trump Creates New Tensions Among American Jews United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J tlaib, rashida Synagogues Omar, Ilhan Netanyahu, Benjamin Jews and Judaism

The American Jewish community has found itself emmeshed in a fraught debate over President Trump’s efforts to demonize Ms. Omar and the only other Muslim congresswomen.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

In Houston, congregants at United Orthodox Synagogues discussed the situation at breakfast after Friday morning services. Some people wondered why President Trump would get involved, some suggested Israel’s decisions were connected to the September election there, and some thought it was an opportunity for Mr. Trump to energize his own electoral base, said Rabbi Barry Gelman.

He said he did not think the entire debacle was good for relations between the United States and Israel.

“I’d like to think that both the president and the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are all allies of the American Jewish community,” he said.

In Omaha, a purple dot in a red state, Rabbi Steven Abraham spent time on Friday considering how to address the latest controversy at services this weekend.

“Right now, in the Jewish community, this is becoming a left-right issue, support for Israel, the settlements, all those conversations are becoming a huge divide,” said Rabbi Abraham, who leads Beth El synagogue, a Conservative congregation. “There is a real wedge being created in the Jewish community.”

Some worry that the implicit effort to exploit Democratic Party divisions over Israel for political gain will only worsen as the presidential campaign season unfolds, pointing to Jewish populations in key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, as a reason for both sides to keep Jews in the political spotlight.

“We fear that in places like Florida over the campaign the weaponization of Jews and of Israel could become totally out of control,” said David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, a nonpartisan pro-Israel advocacy organization. “You have a very substantial Jewish voting population, that’s to some degree older, and perhaps more vulnerable to these kinds of anti-Israel, anti-Zionism fears.”

For other Jewish voters and activists, this political moment has roused both ancient fears and modern security concerns. Hate crimes against Jews have risen for three years, according to the F.B.I., accounting for a majority of all religion-based hate crimes at 58.1 percent of incidents. Muslims were the second most frequent target, at 18.6 percent.

Armed guards and metal detectors in synagogues and schools have become more prevalent at Jewish institutions in the United States.

Jewish Republicans are standing by a president that they see as a strong supporter of Israel, pointing to steps taken by his administration including breaking with decades of U.S. policy to relocate the United States Embassy last year from Tel Aviv to the holy city of Jerusalem.

“I don’t think our president did anything wrong at all. He has a first amendment right to say what he thinks,” said Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based Republican donor who sits on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, “My God, when I look at what he’s done for Israel, I’m not going take issue with anything he’s said or done.”

But Democrats fear that Mr. Trump’s alliance with Mr. Netanyahu will further politicize support for Israel, driving liberals away from backing the Jewish state and driving more observant Jews away from backing the Democratic Party.

Democrats fear that Mr. Trump’s alliance with Mr. Netanyahu will politicize support for Israel.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

While Jews still vote overwhelmingly with the Democratic Party, polling reflects a partisan divide that tracks along levels of religious observance.

Seventy-nine percent of Jews voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterms, according to exit polls. But eight percent of ultra-Orthodox and 33 percent of modern Orthodox Jews consider themselves Democrats, compared to 64 percent of reform Jews and 58 percent of self-identified secular Jews, according to the annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion released in June.

The political dynamics haven’t made it any easier for Jewish leaders forced to confront political concerns along with their security challenges.

At the politically-divided Conservative congregation in Los Angeles led by Rabbi David Wolpe, a humanitarian drive for families at the border led to a debate over immigration policy.

“I’m trying to depoliticize the conversation in my own congregation,” he said. “To say not everything is about Trump and not everything is about ‘the squad.’ There is so much more to life.”

In Pinecrest, Florida, just south of Miami, an area known for its strong support of Israel, Rabbi Rachel G. Greengrass who leads Temple Beth Am, a Reform congregation, called Mr. Trump’s move “shocking,” and separate from the conversations about the congresswomen’s views of Israel, which some in the Jewish community have seen as anti-Semitic or tone-deaf.

She said there is a growing division between American and Israeli Jews, and division that often arises within families as well, as young people in her area are more likely to speak critically about Israel.

“Many congregations tend to avoid talking about things like this because there is so much conflict,” said Ms. Greengrass.

In Oakland, Calif., Rabbi Gershon Albert said he supported Israel “unequivocally,” and yet when he first saw Mr. Netanyahu’s decision, he worried. Anti-Semitic posters have appeared near the doors of his Orthodox congregation, Beth Jacob, in recent months. A man was recently arrested after threatening a repeat of the shooting that took place this year at a synagogue in Poway, near San Diego.

“I personally see the erosion of support for Jews and Israel as the only Jewish state on both the far right and the far left,” said Rabbi Albert. “Anti-Semitism seems to be a blind spot on both sides, I’m concerned this could expand that blind spot.”

And in Minnesota, Ms. Omar’s district, Rabbi Olitzky is still thinking about a call he joined with local Jewish leaders, the congresswoman and her staffers a week ago. Local Jewish leaders suggested places to visit in Israel and offered to arrange meetings during her trip.

“Ms. Omar represents a district that has a great number of friends of Israel so some of us were actually hopefully that she’d go to Israel and maybe the ball would be begin to move a bit,” he said. “Instead, we’re back to just emboldening the extremes on both sides. It’s bad for the Jewish community in the U.S. and it’s bad for the world.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing

Despite wild swings stemming from the trade war, gains over the last 12 months have been tiny.

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-300 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-335 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-600 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-1050 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date change +15.2%

12-month change +1.7%

Source: Refinitiv

By The New York Times

Aug 17, 2019


The stock market is having a banner year.

The stock market has barely budged in the past year.

Both of those statements are true: The S&P 500 is up about 15 percent in 2019, a great performance by historical standards, but it is essentially flat since last August. And that is just one of the many paradoxes bedeviling investors this strange summer.

The economy is humming, with historically low unemployment levels, yet the economy is flashing warning signs, some of which have turned out to be false alarms in the recent past. The Federal Reserve went from raising interest rates to lowering them to now, under pressure from President Trump, appearing poised to cut them again. From day to day and from tweet to tweet, the country’s trade war with China runs hot and cold and hot again.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.2 percent on Monday, jumped almost 2 percent on Tuesday, tumbled 3 percent on Wednesday, didn’t move at all on Thursday and then closed out Friday with a 1.44 percent rally.

Given all the mixed messages emanating from the economy and central bankers and politicians, the turbulence this past week is likely to continue. The question is where it will come from. And when it will hit. And how violent it will be.

This matters to anyone with a 401(k) or a mutual fund. But it especially matters to the president, who has repeatedly used the market’s performance as a proxy for his performance in the White House. As the 2020 campaign intensifies, the market’s ups and downs will therefore take on even greater importance.

It is impossible — or at least unwise — to predict where the market is heading. What’s clear is that some of the powerful engines that propelled stock markets to record highs over the last year have been sputtering.

The Republican tax cuts that took effect in 2018 juiced companies’ earnings and catapulted stocks higher. But the sugar high appears to be fading: Corporate profits at S&P 500 companies probably shrank 0.4 percent in the three months that ended in June, according to FactSet, a provider of financial data.

If that happens, it will put pressure on companies’ stock prices, which will discourage corporate spending, which will weaken the economy, which will erode corporate profits, and round and round we go. This is what economists call a negative feedback loop.

Already, the mighty United States economy — in its 10th year of an expansion, boasting the lowest unemployment rate in a half-century — is showing signs of wear and tear. Growth slowed to a 2.1 percent annual pace in the second quarter from a 2.5 percent clip last year. Job growth and production in manufacturing are waning.

Americans are also becoming more cautious — a potentially ominous sign for an economy that relies on healthy consumer spending. On Friday, the University of Michigan’s closely watched index of consumer confidence showed a sharp drop for August.

Making matters worse — certainly less stable — the trade war is dealing a direct blow to the world’s major economies. China’s economy, second only to that of the United States, has softened fast, while Germany’s, the world’s fourth largest, has shrunk.

“What we see right now is what we call already an industrial recession,” said Iaroslav Shelepko, an economist with Barclays in London.

Investors have more reasons to be anxious. A financial metric known as the yield curve — basically the difference between interest rates, or yields, on bonds that come due relatively soon and those with longer maturities — is now inverted. That means interest rates on some long-term bonds are below those on shorter-term bonds.

This odd phenomenon signals that nervous investors are hunting for super-safe places (like long-term bonds) to park their money. Inverted yield curves are also one of the most reliable leading indicators of recession. Indeed, every recession in the past 60 years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve.

The fact that an obscure finance metric entered the vernacular this summer is testament to America’s economic jitters — and that is where Mr. Trump comes in.

Even before he was sworn in as president in January 2017, Mr. Trump was treating the stock market as a yardstick of, and a referendum on, his leadership. Over the nearly three years since his election, the S&P 500 is up 35.5 percent.

But since last August, the market has been treading water with a 1.7 percent rise that’s slightly behind the pace of inflation.

That is not to say things have been calm. In the final months of 2018, markets plunged nearly 20 percent — the toll coming due for an intensifying trade war and the prospect that central banks, most of all the Fed, would continue to push interest rates higher to prevent the economy from overheating.

Then the Fed signaled it would stop raising rates, and investors celebrated, driving stocks to their best start since 1987. Stocks surged 8 percent in January and were up almost 18 percent through April.

By early June, even after trade tensions took a turn for the worse, investors happily — and correctly — anticipated that the Fed would react by cutting interest rates. The central bank said the cut, which it delivered on July 31, was “intended to ensure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade tensions.”

By then, the market had fully clawed its way back from its late-2018 meltdown, notching a series of new highs that Mr. Trump noted triumphantly.

Now, though, the euphoria has again vanished, amid increasingly hostile trade talk shooting back and forth between Mr. Trump’s Twitter account and Beijing and economic data in the United States and other countries that hints at tougher times to come.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Trump was frustrated. “Our problem is with the Fed,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, as stock markets suffered one of their worst declines of the year. “Raised too much & too fast. Now too slow to cut.”

This coming week, central bankers are scheduled to gather in Jackson, Wyo., for an annual conference where policymakers sometimes telegraph shifts in their thinking about interest rates and other aspects of monetary policy.

If Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s chair, suggests that the central bank intends to keep slicing interest rates, investors — and Mr. Trump — are likely to smile, or at least relax a little.

If he doesn’t, prepare for another round of turbulence.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing

Despite wild swings stemming from the trade war, gains over the last 12 months have been tiny.

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-300 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-335 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-600 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-1050 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date change +15.2%

12-month change +1.7%

Source: Refinitiv

By The New York Times

Aug 17, 2019


The stock market is having a banner year.

The stock market has barely budged in the past year.

Both of those statements are true: The S&P 500 is up about 15 percent in 2019, a great performance by historical standards, but it is essentially flat since last August. And that is just one of the many paradoxes bedeviling investors this strange summer.

The economy is humming, with historically low unemployment levels, yet the economy is flashing warning signs, some of which have turned out to be false alarms in the recent past. The Federal Reserve went from raising interest rates to lowering them to now, under pressure from President Trump, appearing poised to cut them again. From day to day and from tweet to tweet, the country’s trade war with China runs hot and cold and hot again.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.2 percent on Monday, jumped almost 2 percent on Tuesday, tumbled 3 percent on Wednesday, didn’t move at all on Thursday and then closed out Friday with a 1.44 percent rally.

Given all the mixed messages emanating from the economy and central bankers and politicians, the turbulence this past week is likely to continue. The question is where it will come from. And when it will hit. And how violent it will be.

This matters to anyone with a 401(k) or a mutual fund. But it especially matters to the president, who has repeatedly used the market’s performance as a proxy for his performance in the White House. As the 2020 campaign intensifies, the market’s ups and downs will therefore take on even greater importance.

It is impossible — or at least unwise — to predict where the market is heading. What’s clear is that some of the powerful engines that propelled stock markets to record highs over the last year have been sputtering.

The Republican tax cuts that took effect in 2018 juiced companies’ earnings and catapulted stocks higher. But the sugar high appears to be fading: Corporate profits at S&P 500 companies probably shrank 0.4 percent in the three months that ended in June, according to FactSet, a provider of financial data.

If that happens, it will put pressure on companies’ stock prices, which will discourage corporate spending, which will weaken the economy, which will erode corporate profits, and round and round we go. This is what economists call a negative feedback loop.

Already, the mighty United States economy — in its 10th year of an expansion, boasting the lowest unemployment rate in a half-century — is showing signs of wear and tear. Growth slowed to a 2.1 percent annual pace in the second quarter from a 2.5 percent clip last year. Job growth and production in manufacturing are waning.

Americans are also becoming more cautious — a potentially ominous sign for an economy that relies on healthy consumer spending. On Friday, the University of Michigan’s closely watched index of consumer confidence showed a sharp drop for August.

Making matters worse — certainly less stable — the trade war is dealing a direct blow to the world’s major economies. China’s economy, second only to that of the United States, has softened fast, while Germany’s, the world’s fourth largest, has shrunk.

“What we see right now is what we call already an industrial recession,” said Iaroslav Shelepko, an economist with Barclays in London.

Investors have more reasons to be anxious. A financial metric known as the yield curve — basically the difference between interest rates, or yields, on bonds that come due relatively soon and those with longer maturities — is now inverted. That means interest rates on some long-term bonds are below those on shorter-term bonds.

This odd phenomenon signals that nervous investors are hunting for super-safe places (like long-term bonds) to park their money. Inverted yield curves are also one of the most reliable leading indicators of recession. Indeed, every recession in the past 60 years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve.

The fact that an obscure finance metric entered the vernacular this summer is testament to America’s economic jitters — and that is where Mr. Trump comes in.

Even before he was sworn in as president in January 2017, Mr. Trump was treating the stock market as a yardstick of, and a referendum on, his leadership. Over the nearly three years since his election, the S&P 500 is up 35.5 percent.

But since last August, the market has been treading water with a 1.7 percent rise that’s slightly behind the pace of inflation.

That is not to say things have been calm. In the final months of 2018, markets plunged nearly 20 percent — the toll coming due for an intensifying trade war and the prospect that central banks, most of all the Fed, would continue to push interest rates higher to prevent the economy from overheating.

Then the Fed signaled it would stop raising rates, and investors celebrated, driving stocks to their best start since 1987. Stocks surged 8 percent in January and were up almost 18 percent through April.

By early June, even after trade tensions took a turn for the worse, investors happily — and correctly — anticipated that the Fed would react by cutting interest rates. The central bank said the cut, which it delivered on July 31, was “intended to ensure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade tensions.”

By then, the market had fully clawed its way back from its late-2018 meltdown, notching a series of new highs that Mr. Trump noted triumphantly.

Now, though, the euphoria has again vanished, amid increasingly hostile trade talk shooting back and forth between Mr. Trump’s Twitter account and Beijing and economic data in the United States and other countries that hints at tougher times to come.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Trump was frustrated. “Our problem is with the Fed,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, as stock markets suffered one of their worst declines of the year. “Raised too much & too fast. Now too slow to cut.”

This coming week, central bankers are scheduled to gather in Jackson, Wyo., for an annual conference where policymakers sometimes telegraph shifts in their thinking about interest rates and other aspects of monetary policy.

If Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s chair, suggests that the central bank intends to keep slicing interest rates, investors — and Mr. Trump — are likely to smile, or at least relax a little.

If he doesn’t, prepare for another round of turbulence.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing

Despite wild swings stemming from the trade war, gains over the last 12 months have been tiny.

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-300 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-335 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-600 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date

change +15.2%

12-month

change +1.7%

Westlake Legal Group market-12-months-1050 A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Recession and Depression Interest Rates Inflation (Economics) Federal Reserve System

Year-to-date change +15.2%

12-month change +1.7%

Source: Refinitiv

By The New York Times

Aug 17, 2019


The stock market is having a banner year.

The stock market has barely budged in the past year.

Both of those statements are true: The S&P 500 is up about 15 percent in 2019, a great performance by historical standards, but it is essentially flat since last August. And that is just one of the many paradoxes bedeviling investors this strange summer.

The economy is humming, with historically low unemployment levels, yet the economy is flashing warning signs, some of which have turned out to be false alarms in the recent past. The Federal Reserve went from raising interest rates to lowering them to now, under pressure from President Trump, appearing poised to cut them again. From day to day and from tweet to tweet, the country’s trade war with China runs hot and cold and hot again.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.2 percent on Monday, jumped almost 2 percent on Tuesday, tumbled 3 percent on Wednesday, didn’t move at all on Thursday and then closed out Friday with a 1.44 percent rally.

Given all the mixed messages emanating from the economy and central bankers and politicians, the turbulence this past week is likely to continue. The question is where it will come from. And when it will hit. And how violent it will be.

This matters to anyone with a 401(k) or a mutual fund. But it especially matters to the president, who has repeatedly used the market’s performance as a proxy for his performance in the White House. As the 2020 campaign intensifies, the market’s ups and downs will therefore take on even greater importance.

It is impossible — or at least unwise — to predict where the market is heading. What’s clear is that some of the powerful engines that propelled stock markets to record highs over the last year have been sputtering.

The Republican tax cuts that took effect in 2018 juiced companies’ earnings and catapulted stocks higher. But the sugar high appears to be fading: Corporate profits at S&P 500 companies probably shrank 0.4 percent in the three months that ended in June, according to FactSet, a provider of financial data.

If that happens, it will put pressure on companies’ stock prices, which will discourage corporate spending, which will weaken the economy, which will erode corporate profits, and round and round we go. This is what economists call a negative feedback loop.

Already, the mighty United States economy — in its 10th year of an expansion, boasting the lowest unemployment rate in a half-century — is showing signs of wear and tear. Growth slowed to a 2.1 percent annual pace in the second quarter from a 2.5 percent clip last year. Job growth and production in manufacturing are waning.

Americans are also becoming more cautious — a potentially ominous sign for an economy that relies on healthy consumer spending. On Friday, the University of Michigan’s closely watched index of consumer confidence showed a sharp drop for August.

Making matters worse — certainly less stable — the trade war is dealing a direct blow to the world’s major economies. China’s economy, second only to that of the United States, has softened fast, while Germany’s, the world’s fourth largest, has shrunk.

“What we see right now is what we call already an industrial recession,” said Iaroslav Shelepko, an economist with Barclays in London.

Investors have more reasons to be anxious. A financial metric known as the yield curve — basically the difference between interest rates, or yields, on bonds that come due relatively soon and those with longer maturities — is now inverted. That means interest rates on some long-term bonds are below those on shorter-term bonds.

This odd phenomenon signals that nervous investors are hunting for super-safe places (like long-term bonds) to park their money. Inverted yield curves are also one of the most reliable leading indicators of recession. Indeed, every recession in the past 60 years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve.

The fact that an obscure finance metric entered the vernacular this summer is testament to America’s economic jitters — and that is where Mr. Trump comes in.

Even before he was sworn in as president in January 2017, Mr. Trump was treating the stock market as a yardstick of, and a referendum on, his leadership. Over the nearly three years since his election, the S&P 500 is up 35.5 percent.

But since last August, the market has been treading water with a 1.7 percent rise that’s slightly behind the pace of inflation.

That is not to say things have been calm. In the final months of 2018, markets plunged nearly 20 percent — the toll coming due for an intensifying trade war and the prospect that central banks, most of all the Fed, would continue to push interest rates higher to prevent the economy from overheating.

Then the Fed signaled it would stop raising rates, and investors celebrated, driving stocks to their best start since 1987. Stocks surged 8 percent in January and were up almost 18 percent through April.

By early June, even after trade tensions took a turn for the worse, investors happily — and correctly — anticipated that the Fed would react by cutting interest rates. The central bank said the cut, which it delivered on July 31, was “intended to ensure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade tensions.”

By then, the market had fully clawed its way back from its late-2018 meltdown, notching a series of new highs that Mr. Trump noted triumphantly.

Now, though, the euphoria has again vanished, amid increasingly hostile trade talk shooting back and forth between Mr. Trump’s Twitter account and Beijing and economic data in the United States and other countries that hints at tougher times to come.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Trump was frustrated. “Our problem is with the Fed,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, as stock markets suffered one of their worst declines of the year. “Raised too much & too fast. Now too slow to cut.”

This coming week, central bankers are scheduled to gather in Jackson, Wyo., for an annual conference where policymakers sometimes telegraph shifts in their thinking about interest rates and other aspects of monetary policy.

If Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s chair, suggests that the central bank intends to keep slicing interest rates, investors — and Mr. Trump — are likely to smile, or at least relax a little.

If he doesn’t, prepare for another round of turbulence.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Debate Flares Over Afghanistan as Trump Considers Troop Withdrawal

Westlake Legal Group 16dc-prexy-facebookJumbo Debate Flares Over Afghanistan as Trump Considers Troop Withdrawal United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Presidential Election of 2020 Muslims and Islam Khalilzad, Zalmay Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Al Qaeda Afghanistan War (2001- )

WASHINGTON — President Trump met with top national security officials on Friday to review near-final plans for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, a prospect that has already prompted fierce political debate but could offer Mr. Trump a compelling talking point for his 2020 re-election campaign.

The president and his advisers gathered at his golf club in New Jersey to assess a deal reached with Afghan insurgents by his special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, during several weeks of negotiations in Qatar. Mr. Trump is a longtime skeptic of the United States’ 18-year military presence in Afghanistan and campaigned against expensive foreign interventions.

His decision point on Afghanistan, and the widespread belief that he is impatient to begin a withdrawal before the next election, has already kicked off an argument in Washington about whether an exit would amount to a premature retreat or a crucial step toward long-overdue peace. That debate scrambles partisan lines, with some prominent Republicans warning that leaving would be reckless, while top Democrats applaud the idea of concluding the war in Afghanistan, a goal that eluded President Barack Obama.

For Mr. Trump, initiating a departure from Afghanistan would allow a president who once promised to “bomb the hell out of” terrorists and has spoken of wiping Afghanistan “off the face of the earth” to present himself as a peacemaker.

That could be particularly useful at a moment when his nuclear diplomacy with North Korea has achieved little tangible promise and his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has failed in its goal of bringing Tehran to the negotiating table, said Vali Nasr, a professor of international relations at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

“This is as close as Afghanistan has been to a political settlement to end this war,” Mr. Nasr said. “I do think if a deal is signed, Mr. Trump says that we can talk to our enemies and we can cut a deal with them. And to actually get a deal with the Taliban may domestically compensate for the lack of a deal with North Korea or Iran.”

But skeptics of the agreement — which has not been finalized and could still fall apart or be rejected by Mr. Trump — fear it is meant more for the American political calendar than for the complex realities of the Afghan conflict and the enduring terrorist threat against the United States, and warn that it could end in disaster for both countries.

“The withdrawal is coming. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when or how fast,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “My sense of it, though I can’t prove it, is that it’s all over with by Election Day 2020.”

Several people familiar with the agreement say that it provides for the phased withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan, likely in a first step of 5,000, over a period of about two years or less. In exchange, the Taliban would renounce ties to international terrorism and promise not to harbor or assist groups like Al Qaeda or the Islamic State. That would address what has long been the United States’ stated mission in the country: to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a home base for terrorists who want to strike the West.

Skeptics say it is naïve to trust Taliban assurances. Mr. Joscelyn insisted that a potentially fatal flaw would be a failure to ensure that the Taliban, which he said have perfected “weasel” language, specifically name groups that they will shun. Another person familiar with the draft agreement said that had been a sticking point in the negotiations. But defenders of the deal say any withdrawal would be conditioned on the Taliban delivering on their promises.

Among those meeting with Mr. Trump on Friday in Bedminster, N.J., where he is spending a working vacation, were Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper; John R. Bolton, the national security adviser; and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Khalilzad presented the group his agreement with the Taliban, which would be only a first step toward peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban have demanded that the United States commit to leaving Afghanistan before their leaders begin negotiations with the country’s United States-backed government over its political future. Details of that process remain unresolved and could threaten the pace of American withdrawal.

Even if the Taliban reach an agreement with the Afghan government, current and former government officials fear it may be only a matter of time before they seek to reconquer the entire country, as they did in the 1990s, creating a radical religious government that provided safe haven to the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The United States now has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, a number that rose after Mr. Trump, pressured by top advisers and generals who wanted more leverage over the Taliban, reluctantly ordered more troops there in August 2017.

He had inherited a troop presence of 8,400 from Mr. Obama, who after approving a peak force of 100,000 in 2011 significantly lowered his expectations for defeating the Taliban and reshaping the shattered Central Asian country.

The Taliban are Sunni Muslim fundamentalists who for years have battled Afghan and American forces, and have mounted ruthless terrorist attacks on civilians. But even as they provided Al Qaeda with continued harbor, the Taliban did not seek to conduct terrorist attacks beyond Afghanistan, and they have battled openly with the Islamic State, whose presence has grown in the country in recent years.

Supporters of an extended troop presence in Afghanistan are trying to remind Mr. Trump of Mr. Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Iraq’s security forces were unprepared to fight on their own and, three years later, the Islamic State rampaged through the country, capturing major cities and plotting attacks against the West.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article last week, David H. Petraeus, a retired Army general who commanded United States forces in Afghanistan under Mr. Obama, warned that a “complete military exit from Afghanistan today would be even more ill-advised and risky than the Obama administration’s disengagement from Iraq.”

“President Trump should learn from President Obama’s mistakes,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who often advises the president, said Friday in a statement. “Any peace agreement which denies the U.S. a robust counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan is not a peace deal.”

Democrats are sympathetic to the goal of wrapping up the war. In a Democratic presidential primary debate in June, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who served in Afghanistan, reflected on his party’s prevailing opinion when he declared: “We will withdraw. We have to.”

And a former senior Obama administration official who worked on Afghanistan policy offered positive reviews for the emerging plan as he understood it.

“It’s a very complex problem,” the former official said. “I’d have a hard time improving upon what they’ve come up with, and give them credit for making progress with something that has been years in the making.”

In a statement on Friday evening, Mr. Pompeo said that the United States was working closely with the Afghan government toward a “comprehensive peace agreement, including a reduction in violence and a cease-fire, ensuring that Afghan soil is never again used to threaten the United States or her allies, and bringing Afghans together to works towards peace.”

It is unclear when or where Mr. Trump might announce that he has reached an agreement with the Taliban, and Mr. Khalilzad may return to Qatar for still more talks before that happens. Mr. Joscelyn said on Friday that several government officials have told him they expect Mr. Trump’s initial decision to be delivered via Twitter.

The United States invaded Afghanistan weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which were planned and directed from the country by Bin Laden. In the nearly 18 years since, the war has killed tens of thousands of Afghans and more than 3,500 American and coalition forces, and its price tag is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Speaking to reporters alongside Pakistan’s prime minister last month, Mr. Trump sent clear signals of his desire to end America’s role in the conflict, complaining that the war’s duration was “ridiculous” and that the United States was “not fighting to win” but “building gas stations” and “rebuilding schools.”

“The United States, we shouldn’t be doing that,” the president said. “That’s for them to do.”

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Trump and Netanyahu Put Bipartisan Support for Israel at Risk

WASHINGTON — By pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel into barring an official visit by the first two Muslim women in Congress, President Trump is doubling down on a strategy aimed at dividing the Democratic Party and pushing some Jewish voters into the arms of Republicans.

But people in both parties warn that over the long term, the president could further erode bipartisan support for Israel, which has long relied on the United States as its most important ally.

In the run-up to his 2020 re-election campaign, Mr. Trump has spent months attacking the two freshman Democrats, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, angering the Democratic Party as he seeks to paint Republicans as Israel’s only true friend in Washington.

He has also marched in lock step with Mr. Netanyahu, who faces legislative elections in a few weeks. Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line settlement policies and rigid bond with ultra-Orthodox Jews have also alienated Democrats, including many American Jews, posing a threat to the bipartisanship that has been fundamental to the two countries’ relationship since Israel’s founding in 1948.

If Israel becomes a partisan issue in the United States, advocates warn that there could be negative consequences for both countries. Israel’s security would be severely undermined without the political, economic and military support that flows from bipartisan backing in Washington. And if Israel is weakened, so too is the United States’ position in the Middle East, which is always stronger when both parties are behind it.

“You have a situation where Netanyahu is relying on Trump to help him in his re-election, and Trump is expecting Netanyahu to reciprocate,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel under President Bill Clinton. Mr. Trump’s election strategy, he said, was to paint Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar as the “face” of a Democratic Party that is anti-Israel because the two women have been critical of the country.

In a string of Twitter posts on Friday evening, Mr. Trump said just that, writing that Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar “are fast becoming the face of the Democrat Party” and that Ms. Tlaib had behaved “obnoxiously” toward Israel.

The bond between Israel and the United States has long been rooted in what Aaron David Miller, a veteran Middle East negotiator for both Republican and Democratic administrations, calls “a confluence of interests and values,” such as free speech and an open society. The cancellation of the congresswomen’s trip, he said, raised questions about those shared values.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_152608935_22bd3ed6-543d-4804-9e3b-839936b98015-articleLarge Trump and Netanyahu Put Bipartisan Support for Israel at Risk United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J tlaib, rashida Republican Party Omar, Ilhan Netanyahu, Benjamin Jews and Judaism Israel Democratic Party Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) American Israel Public Affairs Committee

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in March at the White House. The two leaders have a close relationship.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar both support the boycott Israel movement and had planned a four-day fact-finding tour that was largely centered around examining the condition of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Tensions deepened on Friday, when Ms. Tlaib rejected an offer by Israel to allow her to visit her grandmother, who lives on the West Bank, on humanitarian grounds, switching course after she had agreed in writing not to “promote boycotts against Israel” during her trip. Ms. Tlaib’s reversal under pressure drew criticism from Mr. Trump, who said on Twitter that she had “grandstanded.”

“There is a perception, right or wrong, true or untrue, that the Netanyahu administration and the Trump administration are working hand in glove,” said Mark Mellman, the president of Democratic Majority for Israel, a nonprofit that works to ensure that the Democratic Party remains pro-Israel.

Israel’s stance, Mr. Mellman said, has made his task harder. “In our hyperpartisan world,” he said, “the friend of my enemy is my enemy, and to the extent that Democrats look at Trump as the enemy, if they see Israel or the Netanyahu administration as operating hand in glove, that gives them real pause.”

Mr. Netanyahu made clear his affinity for the Republican Party long before Mr. Trump moved into the White House. His relations with President Barack Obama were so strained that in 2015, in a rare breach of protocol, he circumvented the White House in accepting an invitation to address the Republican-led Congress. Representative Nancy Pelosi, then the Democratic leader, called the address an “insult” to the United States, and dozens of Democrats skipped it.

With Mr. Trump in office, the Netanyahu-Republican alliance has only strengthened. Mr. Trump’s policies, including moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights (where Mr. Netanyahu named a new town after Mr. Trump in June, erecting a sign with his name in gold block letters), have made him more popular in Israel than he is at home. When the president pushed Mr. Netanyahu to bar entry to Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, he was effectively calling in a favor.

Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful and assiduously bipartisan pro-Israel lobbying group known as AIPAC, has split with the Netanyahu government on its decision. AIPAC typically backs Israel no matter who is in power, but its view is that while presidents and prime ministers come and go, support for Israel in Congress is essential.

“What is the one mantra of the pro-Israel organizations for 30, 40 years?” asked William Kristol, a conservative critic of Mr. Trump who fought Mr. Obama’s policies toward Israel. “It’s congressional support. Presidents have their own views, but Congress is the core. So to pick a fight with members of Congress, which is going to force half of Congress to rally to their defense, is really foolish.”

While support for Israel among congressional Democrats remains strong, polls show that support has long been slipping among Democratic voters. A survey last year by the Pew Research Center found the partisan divide in support for Israel was at its widest in four decades, with 79 percent of Republicans sympathizing with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians, versus 27 percent of Democrats.

That is evident on the presidential campaign trail, where Democrats once vied to see who could be the most supportive of Israel. Now, some are vying to see who can be the most critical. Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, recently called Mr. Netanyahu a “racist.” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont accused the Netanyahu government of “racism” and proposed using American aid to Israel as leverage to change its policies.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi in March at the AIPAC conference in Washington. The pro-Israel lobbying group split with the Netanyahu government on its decision to bar an official visit from two Democratic members of Congress.CreditJose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which aims to woo Jews to the Republican Party, said it was wrong to lay the dwindling Democratic support at the feet of Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.

“When you have a leading Democratic presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders who can call the prime minister of Israel a racist and nobody says anything, you tell me who’s responsible for it,” Mr. Brooks said. “We have a president who is the most pro-Israel president ever in history.”

Traveling to Israel is a rite of passage for members of Congress, especially freshmen. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, and Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the Democratic leader, held a joint news conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, along with dozens of members, in a show of bipartisan support.

“We understand the importance of this relationship,” Mr. McCarthy said then. “We understand undeniably the bond that has to be maintained, and you have that support in the House.”

Both men urged then that Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar be allowed to visit. When Israel refused, citing what officials viewed as the congresswomen’s one-sided itinerary, Mr. McCarthy issued a careful statement on Twitter saying they should have come with their colleagues, and that it was “unfortunate that a few freshmen members declined to join this opportunity to hear from all sides.”

As Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to portray themselves as the only party for American Jews, Democrats in Congress have gone to great lengths this year to show their support for the Jewish state and to isolate Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar.

Last month, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, known as B.D.S. After Ms. Omar criticized AIPAC in remarks that were widely construed as anti-Semitic, Democratic leaders called on her to apologize — she did — and the House later passed a resolution condemning hatred of any kind.

But the Israeli government’s decision to bar the two women has strong supporters of Israel like Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey and no fan of Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar, taking issue with the Jewish state. Mr. Gottheimer, a centrist, called Israel’s decision “a serious, strategic mistake.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu have also helped turn Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar into victims in the eyes of the liberal left. That has energized the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which is already deeply critical of the Netanyahu administration, and thrust Israel policy into the center of the 2020 electoral debate.

“Trump and Netanyahu are enabling one another to make Republicans the go-to party on Israel and Democrats the devil, eroding the bipartisanship that is so critical to the U.S.-Israel special bond,” said Mr. Miller, the former Middle East negotiator. “It is not yet fatal. But a few more years of the Trump-Netanyahu experience and it may well be.”

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Trump Doubles Down on Effort to Push Jewish Voters to G.O.P.

WASHINGTON — By pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel into barring an official visit by the first two Muslim women in Congress, President Trump is doubling down on a strategy aimed at dividing the Democratic Party and pushing some Jewish voters into the arms of Republicans.

But people in both parties warn that over the long term, the president could further erode bipartisan support for Israel, which has long relied on the United States as its most important ally.

In the run-up to his 2020 re-election campaign, Mr. Trump has spent months attacking the two freshman Democrats, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — who are part of a liberal foursome that has dubbed itself “the squad” — roiling the Democratic Party as he seeks to paint Republicans as Israel’s only true friend in Washington.

He has also marched in lock step with Mr. Netanyahu, who faces legislative elections in a few weeks. Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line settlement policies and rigid bond with ultra-Orthodox Jews have also alienated Democrats, including many American Jews, posing a threat to the bipartisanship that has been fundamental to the two countries’ relationship since Israel’s founding in 1948.

If Israel becomes a partisan issue in the United States, advocates warn that there could be negative consequences for both countries. Israel’s security would be severely undermined without the political, economic and military support that flows from bipartisan backing in Washington. And if Israel is weakened, so too is the United States’ position in the Middle East, which is always stronger when both parties are behind it.

“You have a situation where Netanyahu is relying on Trump to help him in his re-election, and Trump is expecting Netanyahu to reciprocate,” said Martin Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel under President Bill Clinton. “Part of Trump’s election strategy is to paint the squad as the face of the Democratic Party and argue that because they are critical of Israel, therefore the Democratic Party is anti-Israel.”

In a string of Twitter posts on Friday evening, Mr. Trump said just that, writing that Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar “are fast becoming the face of the Democrat Party” and that Ms. Tlaib had behaved “obnoxiously” toward Israel.

The bond between Israel and the United States has long been rooted in what Aaron David Miller, a veteran Middle East negotiator for both Republican and Democratic administrations, calls “a confluence of interests and values,” such as free speech and an open society. The cancellation of the congresswomen’s trip, he said, raised questions about those shared values.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_152608935_22bd3ed6-543d-4804-9e3b-839936b98015-articleLarge Trump Doubles Down on Effort to Push Jewish Voters to G.O.P. United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J tlaib, rashida Republican Party Omar, Ilhan Netanyahu, Benjamin Jews and Judaism Israel Democratic Party Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) American Israel Public Affairs Committee

President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House in March. The two leaders have a close relationship.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar both support the boycott Israel movement and had planned a four-day fact-finding tour that was largely centered around examining the condition of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Tensions deepened on Friday, when Ms. Tlaib rejected an offer by Israel to allow her to visit her grandmother, who lives on the West Bank, on humanitarian grounds, switching course after she had agreed in writing not to “promote boycotts against Israel” during her trip. Ms. Tlaib’s reversal under pressure drew criticism from Mr. Trump, who said on Twitter that she had “grandstanded.”

“There is a perception, right or wrong, true or untrue, that the Netanyahu administration and the Trump administration are working hand in glove,” said Mark Mellman, president of Democratic Majority for Israel, a nonprofit that works to ensure that the Democratic Party remains pro-Israel.

Israel’s stance, Mr. Mellman said, has made his task harder. “In our hyperpartisan world, the friend of my enemy is my enemy, and to the extent that Democrats look at Trump as the enemy, if they see Israel or the Netanyahu administration as operating hand in glove, that gives them real pause.”

Mr. Netanyahu made clear his affinity for the Republican Party long before Mr. Trump moved into the White House. His relations with former President Barack Obama were so strained that in 2015, in a rare breach of protocol, he circumvented the White House in accepting an invitation to address the Republican-led Congress. Representative Nancy Pelosi, then the Democratic leader, called the address an “insult” to the United States, and dozens of Democrats skipped it.

With Mr. Trump in office, the Netanyahu-Republican alliance has only strengthened. Mr. Trump’s policies, including moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights (where Mr. Netanyahu named a new town after Mr. Trump in June, erecting a sign with his name in gold block letters), have made him more popular in Israel than he is at home. When the president pushed Mr. Netanyahu to bar entry to Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, he was effectively calling in a favor.

Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful and assiduously bipartisan pro-Israel lobbying group known as AIPAC, has split with the Netanyahu government on its decision. AIPAC typically backs Israel no matter who is in power, but its view is that while presidents and prime ministers come and go, support for Israel in Congress is essential.

“What is the one mantra of the pro-Israel organizations for 30, 40 years?” asked William Kristol, a conservative critic of Mr. Trump who fought Mr. Obama’s policies toward Israel. “It’s congressional support. Presidents have their own views, but Congress is the core. So to pick a fight with members of Congress, which is going to force half of Congress to rally to their defense, is really foolish.”

While support for Israel among congressional Democrats remains strong, polls show that support has long been slipping among Democratic voters. A survey last year by the Pew Research Center found the partisan divide in support for Israel was at its widest in four decades, with 79 percent of Republicans sympathizing with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians, versus 27 percent of Democrats.

That is evident on the presidential campaign trail, where Democrats once vied to see who could be the most supportive of Israel. Now, some are vying to see who can be the most critical. Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, recently called Mr. Netanyahu a “racist.” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont accused the Netanyahu government of “racism” and proposed using American aid to Israel as leverage to change its policies.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the AIPAC conference in Washington in March. The pro-Israel lobbying group split with the Netanyahu government on its decision to bar an official visit from two Democratic members of Congress.CreditJose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which aims to woo Jews to the Republican Party, said it was wrong to lay the dwindling Democratic support at the feet of Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.

“When you have a leading Democratic presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders who can call the prime minister of Israel a racist and nobody says anything, you tell me who’s responsible for it,” Mr. Brooks said. “We have a president who is the most pro-Israel president ever in history.”

Traveling to Israel is a rite of passage for members of Congress, especially freshmen. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, and Representative Steny Hoyer, the Democratic leader, held a joint news conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, along with dozens of members, in a show of bipartisan support.

“We understand the importance of this relationship,” Mr. McCarthy said then. “We understand undeniably the bond that has to be maintained, and you have that support in the House.”

Both men urged then that Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar be allowed to visit. When Israel refused, citing what officials viewed as the congresswomen’s one-sided itinerary, Mr. McCarthy issued a careful statement on Twitter saying they should have come with their colleagues, and that it was “unfortunate that a few freshmen members declined to join this opportunity to hear from all sides.”

As Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans have sought to portray themselves as the only party for American Jews, Democrats in Congress have gone to great lengths this year to show their support for the Jewish state and to isolate Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar.

Last month, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, known as B.D.S. After Ms. Omar criticized AIPAC in remarks that were widely construed as anti-Semitic, Democratic leaders called on her to apologize — she did — and the House later passed a resolution condemning hatred of any kind.

But the Israeli government’s decision to bar the two women has strong supporters of Israel like Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey and no fan of Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar, taking issue with the Jewish state. Mr. Gottheimer, a centrist, called Israel’s decision “a serious, strategic mistake.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu have also helped turn Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar into victims in the eyes of the liberal left. That has energized the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which is already deeply critical of the Netanyahu administration, and thrust Israel policy into the center of the 2020 electoral debate.

“Trump and Netanyahu are enabling one another to make Republicans the go-to party on Israel and Democrats the devil, eroding the bipartisanship that is so critical to the U.S.-Israel special bond,” said Mr. Miller, the former Middle East negotiator. “It is not yet fatal. But a few more years of the Trump-Netanyahu experience and it may well be.”

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Tlaib Renounces Trip to West Bank Under Israel’s Conditions

JERUSALEM — Israel relented slightly on Friday after barring Representative Rashida Tlaib under pressure from President Trump, and said she could visit her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank.

Israel acted after Ms. Tlaib, an outspoken Palestinian-American in her first term, agreed in writing not to promote boycotts against Israel during the trip. But Ms. Tlaib, facing criticism by Palestinians and other opponents of the Israeli occupation, quickly reversed course herself, saying she could not make the trip under “these oppressive conditions.”

“Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me,” she said of her grandmother in a Twitter post. “It would kill a piece of me.”

The day’s switchbacks and recriminations appeared to lock in the political effects, in Israel and abroad, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision Thursday to bar the planned official visit by Ms. Tlaib, of Michigan, and another Democratic lawmaker, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, citing their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Israelis concerned about the health of the relationship with the United States worried aloud on Friday that by barring members of Congress at all, let alone because of their political views, the Netanyahu government had gravely jeopardized Israel’s bipartisan support in Washington.

“The damage has been done to Israel’s standing in the Democratic Party, and in enhancing the stature of B.D.S. — and I don’t know if it’s over,” said Michael Oren, a former deputy minister under Mr. Netanyahu and former ambassador to the United States.

Those rooting for Mr. Netanyahu to capture a fifth term in September’s election lamented that the episode could play into the hands of detractors on the left and center who have long warned that Mr. Trump’s showering of the prime minister with political gifts — an embassy in Jerusalem, an endorsement of Israel’s claim on the Golan Heights — would eventually come at a price.

Mr. Netanyahu has posted billboards portraying him as Mr. Trump’s peer and declaring that he is in a “different league” from other Israeli leaders.

But by having appeared to knuckle under to Mr. Trump’s public pressure, including a tweet saying that allowing the congresswomen into Israel would “show great weakness,” Mr. Netanyahu suddenly looked, in American terms, more like a red-state candidate who might have to swallow an embarrassment or two for the sake of a coveted Trump endorsement.

The Israeli-American relationship already has become a particularly divisive campaign issue in both the 2020 presidential race in the United States and the Sept. 17 election in Israel, where Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is in a neck-and-neck race with its closest rival, the center-left Blue and White alliance.

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President Trump had privately lobbied the Israeli prime minister to bar two Democratic lawmakers.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Under Israel’s parliamentary system, any migration of support from Likud to further-right parties could threaten Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to retain the premiership.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s allies to the right generally approved of his decision, saying Israel owed its adversaries nothing, regardless of their prominence or high office. And analysts said Likud voters would look past any bowing and scraping because they believed Mr. Trump’s usefulness to Israel was worth it.

Even Blue and White’s candidate, Benny Gantz, faulted Mr. Netanyahu for “zigzagging” on Ms. Tlaib’s visit, and said it had “caused damage internationally,” but said nothing about the prime minister’s fealty to Mr. Trump, who is overwhelmingly popular in Israel, including with the right-of-center voters Mr. Gantz’s party is trying to peel away from Likud.

About the only interested party appearing to have emerged in better shape was the B.D.S. movement itself, which declared that “attempts by Israel’s far-right regime to humiliate @RashidaTlaib failed.”

To reinforce its critique of Israel, the movement circulated an old news clipping reporting on South Africa’s rejection of a visit by a congressman to that country over his outspoken opposition to apartheid.

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said the decision forced upon Ms. Tlaib was “just the smallest microcosm of the daily humiliations that Palestinians face at the hands of Israeli policies every day, when they are forced to choose between their dignity and their basic rights.”

Because of Ms. Tlaib, he said, “Americans have now had the opportunity to witness it through the eyes of a member of Congress.”

Experts on the Israeli-American relationship said the episode underscored how bipartisan consensus support for Israel’s security and for a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict were under strain now from the right and the left.

“It’s being threatened by people like the president, who care nothing about two states and are prepared to watch Israel annex the West Bank, create a binational state, and to weaponize support for Israel in America’s partisan political wars,” said Daniel Shapiro, who was President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Israel and is now an analyst at a Tel Aviv research group.

“It’s being challenged by those on the left who care nothing for Israel’s legitimacy and are also willing to forgo two states and to weaken the U.S.-Israel bond, as Israel drifts toward a binational state,” Mr. Shapiro added. The effect, he said, would “ leave those who hew to the traditional positions clinging to narrower ground.”

The Israeli Interior Ministry had initially approved a planned official visit by Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar. But after a public objection by President Trump, it blocked them on Thursday, citing their support for the B.D.S. movement.

Pressure from the White House forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to choose between ignoring Mr. Trump or angering Democratic leaders in Congress.CreditPool photo by Oded Balilty

Overnight, Ms. Tlaib appealed to the Israeli interior minister, Aryeh Deri, to be allowed to see her relatives, particularly her grandmother, who lives in Beit Ur al-Fouqa, a small Palestinian village west of Ramallah.

“This could be my last opportunity to see her,” Ms. Tlaib wrote on congressional letterhead. “I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”

“In light of that,” Mr. Deri’s office said on Friday, the minister decided to allow her into Israel and “expressed hope that she would keep her commitment and that the visit would truly be solely for humanitarian purposes.”

Late Friday, after Ms. Tlaib said she would cancel her trip, Mr. Deri said this showed that her intentions were “provocative” and “aimed at bashing the State of Israel.”

“Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother,” Mr. Deri wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Tlaib’s quick initial acceptance of Israel’s conditions for a personal visit raised concerns among some opponents of the Israeli occupation that she had unwittingly set back the cause.

“What is truly upsetting is that @RashidaTlaib fell in this trap and accepted to demean herself and grovel,” Nour Odeh, a political analyst based in Ramallah and a former Palestinian Authority spokeswoman, wrote on Twitter.

Beyond mere appearances, if Ms. Tlaib had held to her promise to refrain from promoting boycotts, it could have been a setback for opponents of an Israeli law that allows the country to deny entry to foreign supporters of the boycott campaign.

When Israel tried last year to use that law to bar an American student, Lara Alqasem, from studying in Jerusalem because she had belonged to a group that supports B.D.S., Israeli officials tried to get her to renounce the campaign and promise not to promote it while in the country.

She refused, despite spending weeks in jail, and instead took the case to the Israeli Supreme Court. Ultimately, Ms. Alqasem was granted a visa that allows the country to eject her if she promotes B.D.S., but she made no promises not to do so, said her lawyer, Leora Bechor.

Ms. Bechor warned that Ms. Tlaib, by having promised in writing not to promote boycotts during her planned visit, had likely given Israel ammunition to demand similar commitments from other Americans who support a boycott of Israel — even those who are married to Israelis or Palestinians and live in the country or on the West Bank.

“She’s creating a situation where families who are not here for a one-week visit, but are living here permanently, are not going to be able to enter unless they renounce all of their activities,” said Ms. Bechor, who said she handles many family reunification cases. “Israel will take advantage of this and say, `If you don’t renounce, you can’t live here anymore.’ ”

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U.S. Can Block Migrants Seeking Asylum, but Only in Some States, Appeals Court Rules

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A federal appeals court said Friday that President Trump can begin blocking some Central American migrants from applying for asylum in the United States, but only along parts of the border with Mexico.

Migrants who seek asylum in New Mexico and Texas can be subjected to the administration’s new rules, which effectively prohibit them from requesting protection if they traveled through another country on their way to the United States unless they already tried and failed to receive asylum in that other country or countries, the court said.

But the ruling by the three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco is only a partial victory for Mr. Trump, whose immigration agenda has repeatedly been delayed by judges.

In July, a lower court had blocked the president’s new asylum rules after finding that the administration had probably violated the procedures required to put those regulations in place. The judge suspended the asylum rules nationwide while the court challenge continued.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court, but said that the judge had not provided enough evidence that the rules should be blocked across the country. The appeals panel narrowed the judge’s ruling, deciding that the tough asylum rules could not go into effect in the Ninth Circuit, which covers California and Arizona.

The ruling means that the administration can begin blocking the Central American migrants in two border states: New Mexico, which is covered by the 10th Circuit, and Texas, which is covered by the Fifth Circuit. Immigrants from Honduras, for example, who enter the United States through those states will be eligible for asylum protections only if they had been denied asylum in Guatemala or Mexico first.

Lee Gelernt, the lead lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in the legal challenge to the asylum rules, said his organization plans to provide the judge in the case with more information about why the president’s rules should be blocked nationwide.

“We will put in additional evidence about the need for a nationwide injunction,” Mr. Gelernt said. “We are hopeful and optimistic that the nationwide injunction will be reinstated.”

But Mr. Gelernt also expressed optimism that the court would eventually conclude that the president’s policy violates federal law and should be permanently blocked from going into effect. He said the court rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the policy should be allowed to go into effect nationwide.

“The overriding takeaway was that the court did not feel this was clearly legal,” Mr. Gelernt said.

It was not clear whether the Trump administration would immediately begin implementing the new rules in Texas and New Mexico. A spokesman for the Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment about the ruling by the appeals court.

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