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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 90)

New Charges in Trump Campaign Finance Inquiry Are Unlikely, Prosecutors Signal

Federal prosecutors signaled in a court document released on Thursday that it was unlikely they would file additional charges in the hush-money investigation that ensnared members of Donald J. Trump’s inner circle and threatened to derail his presidency.

In the document, the prosecutors said they had “effectively concluded” their inquiry, which centered on payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to buy the silence of two women who said they had had affairs with Mr. Trump.

At the same time, other newly released documents from the investigation showed that Mr. Trump was in close touch with Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, when he was arranging the payments.

The day before paying one of the women $130,000, Mr. Cohen spoke twice on the phone with Mr. Trump, according to the documents, which said that “less than thirty minutes after speaking to Trump,” Mr. Cohen took steps to open a bank account to pay the woman.

He also spoke with President Trump the day after wiring the money to the woman’s lawyer, the documents said. It is not known what was said during the phone calls.

For the first time, the prosecutors with the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan also revealed in one document that they had expanded their investigation from campaign finance violations to include whether “certain individuals” lied to investigators or tried to obstruct the inquiry.

The brief report did not identify the subjects of those investigations, although it contained redactions of what appeared to be at least one name. That investigation has also ended, prosecutors said.

As recently as this spring, prosecutors were still considering whether one Trump Organization executive was untruthful when testifying before the grand jury, according to people briefed on the matter.

The Trump Organization reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the hush money he paid to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress. Mr. Cohen also urged American Media Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer, to buy the rights to a former Playboy model’s story of an affair with Mr. Trump. Both deals effectively silenced the women in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in the case. He has said he helped arrange the hush money at the direction of Mr. Trump, and prosecutors have since repeated the accusation in court papers. Mr. Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence.

In a statement from a federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., Mr. Cohen criticized the decision to end the inquiry.

“The conclusion of the investigation exonerating the Trump Organization’s role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and the Department of Justice,” Mr. Cohen said.

Westlake Legal Group trump-presidents-investigations-promo-1557500573411-articleLarge-v4 New Charges in Trump Campaign Finance Inquiry Are Unlikely, Prosecutors Signal United States Trump, Donald J Politics and Government McDougal, Karen (1971- ) Manhattan (NYC) Cohen, Michael D (1966- ) Clifford, Stephanie (1979- ) Campaign Finance

Tracking 29 Investigations Related to Trump

Federal, state and congressional authorities are investigating Donald J. Trump’s businesses, campaign, inauguration and presidency.

Mr. Trump has denied the affairs and any campaign finance violations.

The documents were related to a 2018 raid on Mr. Cohen’s home and office. The prosecutors initially had released the documents in March, with nearly every detail of the campaign finance evidence redacted.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Manhattan, William H. Pauley III, had ordered prosecutors to release the records without redactions.

The search warrant documents shed light on the breadth of evidence the prosecutors amassed against Mr. Cohen even before searching his property and interviewing a number of witnesses.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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

New Charges in Trump Campaign Finance Inquiry Are Unlikely, Prosecutors Signal

Federal prosecutors signaled in a court document released on Thursday that it was unlikely they would file additional charges in the hush-money investigation that ensnared members of Donald J. Trump’s inner circle and threatened to derail his presidency.

In the document, the prosecutors said they had “effectively concluded” their inquiry, which centered on payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to buy the silence of two women who said they had had affairs with Mr. Trump.

At the same time, other newly released documents from the investigation showed that Mr. Trump was in close touch with Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, when he was arranging the payments.

The day before paying one of the women $130,000, Mr. Cohen spoke twice on the phone with Mr. Trump, according to the documents, which said that “less than thirty minutes after speaking to Trump,” Mr. Cohen took steps to open a bank account to pay the woman.

He also spoke with President Trump the day after wiring the money to the woman’s lawyer, the documents said. It is not known what was said during the phone calls.

For the first time, the prosecutors with the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan also revealed in one document that they had expanded their investigation from campaign finance violations to include whether “certain individuals” lied to investigators or tried to obstruct the inquiry.

The brief report did not identify the subjects of those investigations, although it contained redactions of what appeared to be at least one name. That investigation has also ended, prosecutors said.

As recently as this spring, prosecutors were still considering whether one Trump Organization executive was untruthful when testifying before the grand jury, according to people briefed on the matter.

The Trump Organization reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the hush money he paid to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress. Mr. Cohen also urged American Media Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer, to buy the rights to a former Playboy model’s story of an affair with Mr. Trump. Both deals effectively silenced the women in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in the case. He has said he helped arrange the hush money at the direction of Mr. Trump, and prosecutors have since repeated the accusation in court papers. Mr. Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence.

In a statement from a federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., Mr. Cohen criticized the decision to end the inquiry.

“The conclusion of the investigation exonerating the Trump Organization’s role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and the Department of Justice,” Mr. Cohen said.

Westlake Legal Group trump-presidents-investigations-promo-1557500573411-articleLarge-v4 New Charges in Trump Campaign Finance Inquiry Are Unlikely, Prosecutors Signal United States Trump, Donald J Politics and Government McDougal, Karen (1971- ) Manhattan (NYC) Cohen, Michael D (1966- ) Clifford, Stephanie (1979- ) Campaign Finance

Tracking 29 Investigations Related to Trump

Federal, state and congressional authorities are investigating Donald J. Trump’s businesses, campaign, inauguration and presidency.

Mr. Trump has denied the affairs and any campaign finance violations.

The documents were related to a 2018 raid on Mr. Cohen’s home and office. The prosecutors initially had released the documents in March, with nearly every detail of the campaign finance evidence redacted.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Manhattan, William H. Pauley III, had ordered prosecutors to release the records without redactions.

The search warrant documents shed light on the breadth of evidence the prosecutors amassed against Mr. Cohen even before searching his property and interviewing a number of witnesses.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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

House Votes to Raise Minimum Wage to $15, a Victory for Liberals

WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, delivering a long-sought victory to liberals and putting the Democratic Party’s official imprimatur on the so-called Fight for $15, which many Democratic presidential candidates have embraced.

The bill would more than double the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour — about $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours a week, or about $10,000 less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. It has not been raised since 2009, the longest time the country has gone without a minimum-wage increase since it was established 1938.

The measure, which passed largely along party lines, 231-199, after Republicans branded it a jobs-killer, faces a blockade in the Senate, where Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said he will not take it up. Only three Republicans voted for it, while six Democrats opposed it. Most represent swing districts.

But it previews what Democrats would do if they capture the Senate and the White House in 2020, and it demonstrates how fast the politics have shifted since 2012, when fast-food workers began to strike in cities around the country, demanding $15-an-hour wages and a union.

As it passed, the House gallery, filled with restaurant workers, erupted into cheers and chants of “We work! We sweat! We want 15 on our check!”

When the Fight for $15 movement was launched, the figure seemed absurdly high, and even Democrats thought it was politically impossible. In the years since, even Republican states like Arkansas and Missouri have raised minimum wages, encouraging Democrats on Capitol Hill. In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, pushed the issue to the fore when he challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“This is an historic day,” declared Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who argued that raising the minimum would disproportionately help women, who make up more than half of minimum wage workers, and would particularly help women of color. Turning to Republicans, she said: “No one can live with dignity on a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage. Can you?”

As the measure passed, the House gallery, filled with restaurant workers, erupted into cheers and chants of “We work! We sweat! We want 15 on our check!”

“It’s got overwhelming support within the Democratic Caucus, and I think the fact that it could pass in Arkansas gives pause to anybody that’s thinking about voting against it,” said Representative Robert C. Scott, Democrat of Virginia and the measure’s chief sponsor.

Still, Democratic moderates — especially those who represent districts carried by President Trump — were nervous about the measure, and it took champions of the bill months to bring them around. In the end, the sponsors tacked on two provisions: one authorizing a study of the measure’s effects after it has been in place for two years, and another extending the deadline for a $15 minimum wage from 2024 to 2025.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal Democrat from New York and a strong ally of the Fight for $15 movement, called the vote a “huge deal.” But she signaled the fight is not over.

“It’s not just about $15, it’s about $15 and a union,” she said. “Fifteen started 10 years ago, so what is that pegged to inflation today? That’s why what we fight for is a living wage. So I think that this vote is an important milestone.”

The federal government sets the floor for the minimum wage; states can enact higher minimums. Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 will pull 1.3 million American out of poverty and could result in wage increases for up to 27 million workers, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis.

But it would leave 1.3 million people, or 0.8 percent of the work force, out of a job, the same study concluded. While the legislation would boost incomes at the bottom, it would cost richer households and would slightly reduce gross domestic product.

Republicans focused on the C.B.O.’s job loss figure, as well as regional disparities in the cost of living. They invoked their favorite epithet for the Democrats of the new House — “socialist” — in arguing against the measure.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153029943_f7bf851c-2013-45c0-ac2f-c4f34fb2ec39-articleLarge House Votes to Raise Minimum Wage to $15, a Victory for Liberals Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J minimum wage Labor and Jobs House of Representatives Fight for 15

People demonstrating in May in favor of raising the minimum wage near a McDonald’s in Flint, Mich.CreditJake May/The Flint Journal, via Associated Press

“Let’s leave freedom in the hands of the people, in the hands of the states — that’s what this country is all about,” said Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, who managed the bill for Republicans on the House floor. “In socialist regimes, all decision are made by a small group of people at a central government. That is not the American way.”

Economists have increasingly accepted that some level of minimum wage increase can work — coming at a minimal cost to jobs — in some jurisdictions, said David Neumark, an economist at the University of California at Irvine who has studied minimum wages extensively. But a one-size-fits-all policy that more than doubles some businesses’ wage bills could hit employers in lower-pay areas hard, he said.

“It has had what I would say was a remarkable and unexpected political success,” Mr. Neumark said of the $15 minimum. “Does it make sense? Call me skeptical.”

But some advocates of a higher minimum wage want to push pay up even farther. Among them is Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the union-funded Economic Policy Institute, who said even $15 will not be adequate if workers have to wait until 2021, when a Democrat could again occupy the White House.

“The Fight for $15 was launched in 2012, and every year that passes, the purchasing power of $15 goes down,” she said.

Ms. Pelosi had promised a vote on the wage bill soon after Democrats took power in January, but party leaders soon found that was going to be impossible; too many moderates were uneasy with it. Along with Representative Robert C. Scott, Democrat of Virginia and the bill’s chief sponsor, Ms. Pelosi deputized Representative Stephanie Murphy, who represents a swing district in Florida, to build support for the bill.

“We’re unifying behind the idea that we need to help hardworking families make ends meet,” said Ms. Murphy, whose district includes Disney World, which recently agreed to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

To fast-food workers like Terrence Wise, 40, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., and makes $12 an hour working full-time at McDonald’s, the vote shows the power of grass-roots activism.

“We’re a powerful voting bloc,” said Mr. Wise, a longtime leader of the Fight for $15 movement, “and we will take that power to the ballot box.”

The push for a $15 minimum wage began in New York City, when a group called New York Communities for Change started visiting fast-food restaurants and talking to workers about their grievances.

“Fast food workers always believed that there would be a national shift to $15,” said Mary Kay Henry, head of Service Employees International Union, which has helped provide institutional support to Fight for $15 from the outset. She recalled marching alongside them in 2012 and thinking that the goal was ambitious — because Democrats were talking about $9 and $10.10 minimums at the time. “I remember thinking, ‘Holy moly. How long is this going to take us?’”

Seven states have now passed legislation to gradually raise wages to $15, and cities including San Francisco and New York City already pay that much. In total, 29 states now have floors higher than the federal minimum, according to the Labor Department.

Companies have even joined in, with corporations including Amazon and Target raising their base wages to $15. By the 2016 midterm elections, $15 was resonating at a national level, making it into the Democratic Party platform. Support for striking workers has become common among Democratic presidential hopefuls including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

“The successes in the municipalities and states are key,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who has advised Republican presidential candidates and is now president of the American Action Forum. “All of that laid down the predicate that people wanted this.”

But Mr. Holtz-Eakin said raising the national minimum wage would be a mistake, in part because labor conditions vary dramatically around the country. He said it is unlikely that the minimum wage will pass at $15 by 2025, even if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020.

“Politically, it’s a popular one, there’s no question,” he said. “I think it gets bargained down in the process.”

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

Trump Disavows ‘Send Her Back’ Chant as G.O.P. Frets Over Ugly Phrase

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday disavowed the “send her back” chant that broke out at his re-election rally Wednesday night when he railed against a Somali-born congresswoman, as Republicans in Congress tried to distance themselves and their party from the ugly refrain.

Mr. Trump said that he “was not happy” with the chant and that he had tried to cut it off, a claim contradicted by video of the event. Asked why he did not stop the chant, Mr. Trump said, “I think I did — I started speaking very quickly.”

In fact, as the crowd roared “send her back,” Mr. Trump looked around and seemed to bask in the enthusiastic refrain.

“I was not happy with it,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday at the White House. “I disagree with it.”

Mr. Trump’s effort to distance himself from his own campaign rally reflected the misgivings of his allies. Republicans pleaded privately with the White House on Thursday to avoid allowing the party to be tied to the message embraced by the crowd in Greenville, N.C., even as they declined to criticize Mr. Trump.

Republican leaders have struggled all week to respond to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the House, and three other Democratic congresswomen of color who he tweeted over the weekend should “go back” to their countries, even though all but Ms. Omar were born in the United States.

Now Republican officials must contend with the increasingly ugly fervor of his supporters as captured in a frenzied moment in North Carolina, with a rageful refrain that they worry could damage their party’s brand.

“Those chants have no place in our party or our country,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, told reporters.

Those were almost the exact words used by Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm, earlier Thursday, when he repudiated the chant, but insisted that the Twitter posts that appeared to have inspired the slogan had been mere mistakes of wording.

“There’s no place for that kind of talk,” Mr. Emmer said at a breakfast in Washington where he was asked about the chant. “I don’t agree with that.”

“There’s not a racist bone in the president’s body,” he added, referring to Mr. Trump’s tweets. “What he was trying to say, he said wrong.”

[The painful roots of Mr. Trump’s “go back” comment.]

Ms. Omar shrugged off the attacks, saying there was nothing new about the Mr. Trump’s behavior or the response of his supporters. She cited his years of false claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

“He does that every single day, and it’s no different,” Ms. Omar said at the Capitol. “What I’m going to be busy doing is uplifting people, and making sure they understand: Here in this country we are all Americans, we are all welcome, irregardless of what he says.”

But even the House’s chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, could not help but join the fray. He opened the House’s session on Thursday with a pointed prayer: “This has been a difficult and contentious week in which darker spirits seem to have been at play in the people’s house. In your most holy name, I now cast out all spirits of darkness from this chamber, spirits not from you.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158120271_076b60c7-8760-4fce-9818-aa3fc5243074-articleLarge Trump Disavows ‘Send Her Back’ Chant as G.O.P. Frets Over Ugly Phrase United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Presidential Election of 2020 Omar, Ilhan Muslims and Islam impeachment

“What I’m going to be busy doing is uplifting people, and making sure they understand: Here in this country we are all Americans,” Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said on Thursday at the Capitol.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Mr. Emmer’s comments came on the heels of gentle criticism on Wednesday night by Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, a top official in the party’s messaging arm, who took to Twitter once the rally had ended to distance himself from the ugly scene. But like Mr. Trump, Mr. Walker sought to shift the focus to criticism of Ms. Omar.

“Though it was brief, I struggled with the ‘send her back’ chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar,” Mr. Walker wrote. “Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.”

Their comments came amid widespread repudiation of the chant, which Democrats and minority advocacy groups denounced as racist, xenophobic and part of a hateful message peddled by Mr. Trump.

Ms. Omar would not respond to a question about whether she feared for her safety, but at least one organization, Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group, said Wednesday that Mr. Trump’s tweets and language were endangering the lives of Ms. Omar and Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, the other Muslim woman elected to Congress in November.

“The president’s open, calculated, anti-Muslim bigotry is something we expect to see much more of throughout the 2020 campaign,” Madihha Ahussain, the group’s special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry, said in a statement. “All Americans, including all Democrats and Republicans, should unequivocally and immediately disavow this hatred.”

Mr. Trump’s tweets targeted Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, as well as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. All of them are American citizens.

“This president is evolving, as predicted, deeper into the rhetoric of racism, which evolves into violence,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday. She said that she was worried for her safety and that House Democrats were discussing how to address security concerns that have stemmed from Mr. Trump’s targeting of their members.

Mr. Emmer tried to minimize the president’s remarks.

“What he was trying to say is that if you don’t appreciate this country, you don’t have to be here,” Mr. Emmer said. He quoted a constituent who told him that Ms. Omar’s statements led people to believe that she hated America, adding, “How about a little gratitude with that attitude?”

The latest criticism of Mr. Trump’s language comes two days after the House took the remarkable step of passing a resolution condemning his tweets and asserting that they were “racist comments that legitimized and increased hatred of new Americans and people of color.” Only four Republicans voted yes. All others, including Mr. Emmer and Mr. Walker, voted no.

Hours before the chant broke out at the president’s re-election rally, the House killed an attempt by Representative Al Green, Democrat of Texas, to impeach Mr. Trump for the statements, which he said had sullied the office of the president.

But on Thursday morning, his race- and ethnicity-based insults were cited by Representative Peter Welch of Vermont, the latest Democrat to call for impeachment, as one piece of evidence that his presidency had “wrought an unprecedented and unrelenting assault on the pillars and guardrails of our democracy.”

“Instead of embracing the fundamental responsibility of every American president to unite our country, this president has unleashed a torrent of attacks on fellow citizens based on their race, gender, religion and ethnic origin,” Mr. Welch said in a statement.

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

House, in Victory for Liberals, Votes to Raise Minimum Wage to $15

Westlake Legal Group 18dc-minimum-facebookJumbo House, in Victory for Liberals, Votes to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J minimum wage Labor and Jobs House of Representatives Fight for 15

WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, delivering a long-sought victory to liberals and putting the Democratic Party’s official imprimatur on the so-called Fight for $15, which many Democratic presidential candidates have embraced.

The bill would more than double the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour — about $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours a week, or about $10,000 less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. It has not been raised since 2009, the longest time the country has gone without a minimum-wage increase since it was established 1938.

The measure, which passed largely along party lines, 231-199, after Republicans branded it a jobs-killer, faces a blockade in the Senate, where Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said he will not take it up. Only three Republicans voted for it, while six Democrats opposed it. Most represent swing districts.

But it previews what Democrats would do if they capture the Senate and the White House in 2020, and it demonstrates how fast the politics have shifted since 2012, when fast-food workers began to strike in cities around the country, demanding $15-an-hour wages and a union.

As it passed, the House gallery, filled with restaurant workers, erupted into cheers and chants of “We work! We sweat! We want 15 on our check!”

When the Fight for $15 movement was launched, the figure seemed absurdly high, and even Democrats thought it was politically impossible. In the years since, even Republican states like Arkansas and Missouri have raised minimum wages, encouraging Democrats on Capitol Hill. In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, pushed the issue to the fore when he challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“This is an historic day,” declared Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who argued that raising the minimum would disproportionately help women, who make up more than half of minimum wage workers, and would particularly help women of color. Turning to Republicans, she said: “No one can live with dignity on a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage. Can you?”

As the measure passed, the House gallery, filled with restaurant workers, erupted into cheers and chants of “We work! We sweat! We want 15 on our check!”

“It’s got overwhelming support within the Democratic Caucus, and I think the fact that it could pass in Arkansas gives pause to anybody that’s thinking about voting against it,” said Representative Robert C. Scott, Democrat of Virginia and the measure’s chief sponsor.

Still, Democratic moderates — especially those who represent districts carried by President Trump — were nervous about the measure, and it took champions of the bill months to bring them around. In the end, the sponsors tacked on two provisions: one authorizing a study of the measure’s effects after it has been in place for two years, and another extending the deadline for a $15 minimum wage from 2024 to 2025.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal Democrat from New York and a strong ally of the Fight for $15 movement, called the vote a “huge deal.” But she signaled the fight is not over.

“It’s not just about $15, it’s about $15 and a union,” she said. “Fifteen started 10 years ago, so what is that pegged to inflation today? That’s why what we fight for is a living wage. So I think that this vote is an important milestone.”

The federal government sets the floor for the minimum wage; states can enact higher minimums. Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 will pull 1.3 million American out of poverty and could result in wage increases for up to 27 million workers, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis.

But it would leave 1.3 million people, or 0.8 percent of the work force, out of a job, the same study concluded. While the legislation would boost incomes at the bottom, it would cost richer households and would slightly reduce gross domestic product.

Republicans focused on the C.B.O.’s job loss figure, as well as regional disparities in the cost of living. They invoked their favorite epithet for the Democrats of the new House — “socialist” — in arguing against the measure.

“Let’s leave freedom in the hands of the people, in the hands of the states — that’s what this country is all about,” said Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, who managed the bill for Republicans on the House floor. “In socialist regimes, all decision are made by a small group of people at a central government. That is not the American way.”

Economists have increasingly accepted that some level of minimum wage increase can work — coming at a minimal cost to jobs — in some jurisdictions, said David Neumark, an economist at the University of California at Irvine who has studied minimum wages extensively. But a one-size-fits-all policy that more than doubles some businesses’ wage bills could hit employers in lower-pay areas hard, he said.

“It has had what I would say was a remarkable and unexpected political success,” Mr. Neumark said of the $15 minimum. “Does it make sense? Call me skeptical.”

But some advocates of a higher minimum wage want to push pay up even farther. Among them is Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the union-funded Economic Policy Institute, who said even $15 will not be adequate if workers have to wait until 2021, when a Democrat could again occupy the White House.

“The Fight for $15 was launched in 2012, and every year that passes, the purchasing power of $15 goes down,” she said.

Ms. Pelosi had promised a vote on the wage bill soon after Democrats took power in January, but party leaders soon found that was going to be impossible; too many moderates were uneasy with it. Along with Representative Robert C. Scott, Democrat of Virginia and the bill’s chief sponsor, Ms. Pelosi deputized Representative Stephanie Murphy, who represents a swing district in Florida, to build support for the bill.

“We’re unifying behind the idea that we need to help hardworking families make ends meet,” said Ms. Murphy, whose district includes Disney World, which recently agreed to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

To fast-food workers like Terrence Wise, 40, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., and makes $12 an hour working full-time at McDonald’s, the vote shows the power of grass-roots activism.

“We’re a powerful voting bloc,” said Mr. Wise, a longtime leader of the Fight for $15 movement, “and we will take that power to the ballot box.”

The push for a $15 minimum wage began in New York City, when a group called New York Communities for Change started visiting fast-food restaurants and talking to workers about their grievances.

“Fast food workers always believed that there would be a national shift to $15,” said Mary Kay Henry, head of Service Employees International Union, which has helped provide institutional support to Fight for $15 from the outset. She recalled marching alongside them in 2012 and thinking that the goal was ambitious — because Democrats were talking about $9 and $10.10 minimums at the time. “I remember thinking, ‘Holy moly. How long is this going to take us?’”

Seven states have now passed legislation to gradually raise wages to $15, and cities including San Francisco and New York City already pay that much. In total, 29 states now have floors higher than the federal minimum, according to the Labor Department.

Companies have even joined in, with corporations including Amazon and Target raising their base wages to $15. By the 2016 midterm elections, $15 was resonating at a national level, making it into the Democratic Party platform. Support for striking workers has become common among Democratic presidential hopefuls including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

“The successes in the municipalities and states are key,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who has advised Republican presidential candidates and is now president of the American Action Forum. “All of that laid down the predicate that people wanted this.”

But Mr. Holtz-Eakin said raising the national minimum wage would be a mistake, in part because labor conditions vary dramatically around the country. He said it is unlikely that the minimum wage will pass at $15 by 2025, even if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020.

“Politically, it’s a popular one, there’s no question,” he said. “I think it gets bargained down in the process.”

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

Trump’s Crowd Chanted ‘Send Her Back,’ but Republicans Don’t Blame Him

Westlake Legal Group 18dc-trump-facebookJumbo Trump’s Crowd Chanted ‘Send Her Back,’ but Republicans Don’t Blame Him United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Race and Ethnicity Presidential Election of 2020 Omar, Ilhan Muslims and Islam impeachment

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Thursday tried to distance themselves from the “send her back” chant that broke out at President Trump’s re-election rally Wednesday night when he railed against a Somali-born congresswoman, but they once again declined to criticize Mr. Trump directly.

Republican leaders have struggled all week to respond to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the House. Now they must contend with the increasingly ugly fervor of his supporters.

Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm, said Thursday that there was “no place” for the “send her back” refrain screamed by Mr. Trump’s audience at a rally in Greenville, N.C., as the president attacked Ms. Omar, a Somalian refugee who is one of four freshmen lawmakers of color who he tweeted over the weekend should “go back” to their countries. (The other three were born in the United States.)

But Mr. Emmer insisted that the Twitter posts that appeared to have inspired the crowd’s slogan had been mere mistakes of wording.

“There’s no place for that kind of talk,” Mr. Emmer said at a breakfast in Washington where he was asked about the chant. “I don’t agree with that.”

“There’s not a racist bone in the president’s body,” he added, referring to Mr. Trump’s tweets. “What he was trying to say, he said wrong.”

[The painful roots of Mr. Trump’s “go back” comment.”]

Ms. Omar shrugged off the attacks, saying there was nothing new about the Mr. Trump’s behavior or the response of his supporters. She cited his years of false claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

“He does that every single day, and it’s no different,” Ms. Omar said at the Capitol. “What I’m going to be busy doing is uplifting people, and making sure they understand: Here in this country we are all Americans, we are all welcome, irregardless of what he says.”

But even the House’s chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, could not help but join the fray. He opened the House’s session on Thursday with a pointed prayer: “This has been a difficult and contentious week in which darker spirits seem to have been at play in the people’s house. In your most holy name, I now cast out all spirits of darkness from this chamber, spirits not from you.”

Mr. Emmer’s comments came on the heels of gentle criticism on Wednesday night by Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, a top official in the party’s messaging arm, who took to Twitter once the rally had ended to distance himself from the ugly scene. But like Mr. Trump, Mr. Walker sought to shift the focus to criticism of Ms. Omar.

“Though it was brief, I struggled with the ‘send her back’ chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar,” Mr. Walker wrote. “Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.”

Their comments came amid widespread repudiation of the chant, which Democrats and minority advocacy groups denounced as racist, xenophobic and part of a hateful message peddled by Mr. Trump.

Ms. Omar would not respond to a question about whether she feared for her safety, but at least one organization, Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group, said Wednesday that Mr. Trump’s tweets and language were endangering the lives of Ms. Omar and Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, the other Muslim woman elected to Congress in November.

“The president’s open, calculated, anti-Muslim bigotry is something we expect to see much more of throughout the 2020 campaign,” Madihha Ahussain, the group’s special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry, said in a statement. “All Americans, including all Democrats and Republicans, should unequivocally and immediately disavow this hatred.”

Mr. Trump tweets targeted Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, as well as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. All of them are American citizens.

“This president is evolving, as predicted, deeper into the rhetoric of racism, which evolves into violence,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday. She said she was worried for her safety and that House Democrats were discussing how to address security concerns that have stemmed from Mr. Trump’s targeting of their members.

Mr. Emmer tried to minimize the president’s remarks.

“What he was trying to say is that if you don’t appreciate this country, you don’t have to be here,” Mr. Emmer said. He quoted a constituent who told him that Ms. Omar’s statements led people to believe that she hated America, adding, “How about a little gratitude with that attitude?”

The latest criticism of Mr. Trump’s language comes two days after the House took the remarkable step of passing a resolution condemning his tweets and asserting that they were “racist comments that legitimized and increased hatred of new Americans and people of color.” Only four Republicans voted yes. All others, including Mr. Emmer and Mr. Walker, voted “no.”

Hours before the chant broke out at the president’s re-election rally, the House killed an attempt by Representative Al Green, Democrat of Texas, to impeach Mr. Trump for the statements, which he said had sullied the office of the president.

But on Thursday morning, his race- and ethnicity-based insults were cited by Representative Peter Welch of Vermont, the latest Democrat to call for impeachment, as one piece of evidence that his presidency has, “wrought an unprecedented and unrelenting assault on the pillars and guardrails of our democracy.”

“Instead of embracing the fundamental responsibility of every American president to unite our country, this president has unleashed a torrent of attacks on fellow citizens based on their race, gender, religion and ethnic origin,” Mr. Welch said in a statement.

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As Washington Seeks Budget Deal, Negotiators Try to Sideline Mulvaney

Westlake Legal Group 17dc-budget-sub-facebookJumbo As Washington Seeks Budget Deal, Negotiators Try to Sideline Mulvaney United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Shutdowns (Institutional) Mulvaney, Mick Federal Budget (US)

WASHINGTON — As the federal government inches closer toward a potentially disastrous default on its debts, lawmakers and some Trump administration officials desperate for a budget deal have carefully maneuvered negotiations away from the man who has emerged as the common enemy: Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

Mr. Mulvaney made his name in the House as an ardent opponent of federal spending, even willing to risk a default crisis to secure deep budget cuts. But in the coming days, Washington must come together to raise the government’s statutory borrowing limit before the Treasury Department runs out of money to pay its bills, possibly in early September, and raise spending caps to stave off across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to sweep through the government next year.

To do it, congressional negotiators from both parties have elevated Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, at Mr. Mulvaney’s expense.

“Mulvaney is one of the people who shut down government because they didn’t want to lift the debt ceiling, and so he has no credibility on the subject whatsoever,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said.

Over the past week, Ms. Pelosi has spoken to Mr. Mnuchin on the phone at least five times, sometimes multiple times a day, and the conversations have prompted cautious optimism among lawmakers that a deal can be reached before the House is set to leave next week.

“We are understanding each other,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday, after she and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, spoke with Mr. Mnuchin for about 30 minutes. “We would like to have something on the floor next Thursday.”

Mr. Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC on Thursday, said that the pair had agreed on how much to raise both domestic and military spending over the next two years as part of a two-year debt ceiling increase. Left up for debate is how to offset some or all of the new spending and what Mr. Mnuchin called “certain structural issues.”

“I don’t think the markets should be concerned,” he said. “We’re working hard, we’ll get there one way or another.”

Since Congress emerged bruised and battered in January from a record 35-day shutdown, lawmakers have been eager to avoid a budgetary breakdown. They have been blunt about their distrust of Mr. Mulvaney, a founder of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus whose political career was shaped by crusading against the type of deal the White House and Congress are now seeking. Senior officials on Capitol Hill involved in the budget talks describe him alternately as a “problem child” or a “troublemaker” or just “not helpful.”

A former congressman from South Carolina, Mr. Mulvaney came of age politically during the Tea Party movement, helped orchestrate a government shutdown during the Obama era and has expressed doubts about what virtually all economists say would be the dire consequences of defaulting on government debt. Giving him a seat at the budget talks, lawmakers say privately, is like putting an arsonist at the table to establish a fire prevention plan.

“This is a man who never voted for an appropriations bill,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “He doesn’t bring a great deal of credibility to it.”

The Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, prefers to note Mr. Mulvaney’s presence in the room — “He was there,” he said after one meeting — before pivoting to the importance of having Mr. Mnuchin doing the talking.

Wall Street analysts are also watching Mr. Mulvaney warily. Henrietta Treyz, the economic policy director at Veda Partners, a market analysis firm outside Washington, wrote in a note to clients this week that the threat of a presidential veto and Mr. Mulvaney’s hawkish views were the most significant risks to a deal falling apart.

In contrast, Mr. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood film producer, tends to be the Trump administration’s voice of moderation, willing to compromise to reach a deal. Last month, Mr. Mnuchin emerged from a meeting in Ms. Pelosi’s office to tell reporters that the White House was not looking for a shutdown fight or flirting with a debt limit default. Mr. Mulvaney stood, red-faced, to his left, waiting for a chance to interject.

When the Treasury secretary stopped speaking, the acting chief of staff jumped in, charging Ms. Pelosi with having raised her spending demands and asserting — incorrectly — that she had promised to raise the debt ceiling no matter what, a shift, he insisted, from her previous position.

“I shouldn’t even be engaged in a conversation that has him mischaracterizing,” Ms. Pelosi later said.

By no means has Mr. Mulvaney been completely shut out: A White House official said that on Tuesday, Mr. Mulvaney participated in a meeting with the president about the debt ceiling. And two administration officials said that Mr. Trump’s lack of interest in the talks meant that the acting chief of staff could dip in and out of the discussions, sticking to the big picture without getting sucked into the minutiae.

At times, he has privately expressed bemusement at what he calls Mr. Mnuchin’s naïveté when it comes to haggling with Congress. In the spring, when Mr. Mnuchin suggested that House Democrats would be amenable to a “clean” raising of the debt ceiling — without preconditions, like raising the spending caps — Mr. Mulvaney insisted that Ms. Pelosi would surely try to extract concessions — as he would have.

He is likely to be proved right.

And Mr. Mulvaney certainly sees himself in charge. At a Heritage Foundation forum on Wednesday, Mr. Mulvaney said that he often joked that the White House budget office was now under the conservative think tank’s management.

But two administration officials acknowledged that Mr. Mulvaney’s diminished role in the budget negotiations could be in response to the bipartisan contingency on Capitol Hill that does not want him there. Mr. Mulvaney was seen poorly by those legislators, White House officials suggested, because they want to spend more than he does.

Like Ms. Pelosi, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has also singled out Mr. Mnuchin as the preferred lead negotiator among the three administration officials — Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Mulvaney and the acting budget director, Russell T. Vought — who have traipsed up to the Capitol in recent weeks for talks.

“By all accounts, Secretary Mnuchin is very outcome driven and that’s what this is about,” said Antonia Ferrier, a former top aide to Mr. McConnell. “He’s uniquely positioned to work this through, because he’s dispassionate, he listens, he’s respected and he’s not playing games.”

Aides to Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Mulvaney say that the two men have a constructive working relationship, but that their backgrounds, ideologies and negotiating styles starkly differ. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said, “The president has confidence in his team and the progress that is being made.”

At times they have knocked heads: Last year, Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Mulvaney clashed over who would have the final say about rules for enforcing the Republican tax overhaul passed in 2017. Mr. Mulvaney, then the head of the budget office, succeeded in wresting control over how to interpret tax regulations from the Treasury Department over Mr. Mnuchin’s objections.

When Mr. Trump needed to replace his chief of staff in late 2018, some of Mr. Mnuchin’s aides privately expressed dismay that Mr. Mulvaney was tapped for the job.

Aides to both men have said that their differences were largely institutional rather than personal. John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Mr. Mulvaney, said that despite the fact that his style differed from Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Mulvaney was ultimately looking for an outcome that would be good for the economy.

“Good cop, bad cop, he’s happy to play any role that gets the best deal for the hard-working American taxpayer,” Mr. Czwartacki said.

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At Trump Rally, Chants of ‘Send Her Back’ as President Attacks Liberals

Westlake Legal Group 17dc-trump-hp-facebookJumbo At Trump Rally, Chants of ‘Send Her Back’ as President Attacks Liberals United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J tlaib, rashida Republican Party Pressley, Ayanna Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 Omar, Ilhan Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria Greenville (NC)

GREENVILLE, N.C. — President Trump road-tested his attacks on four Democratic congresswomen on Wednesday, casting them as avatars of anti-American radicalism and reiterating his call for them to leave the country, as a raucous crowd chanted, “Send her back! Send her back!”

The performance here was a preview of a slash-and-burn re-election strategy that depicts Mr. Trump as a bulwark against a “dangerous, militant hard left.”

“These left-wing ideologues see our nation as a force for evil,” Mr. Trump told a packed arena. To roaring applause, he railed against what he called “hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down.”

“They don’t love our country,” he said. “I think, in some cases, they hate our country. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.”

In recent days, similar comments by Mr. Trump have been met with repugnance across the country. But the capacity crowd in an arena at East Carolina University seemed to savor them. After Mr. Trump reeled off several controversial comments made by one of the four congresswomen, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, including ones that he depicted as sympathetic to Al Qaeda, the crowd started its “Send her back” chant, which could become the 2020 rejoinder to 2016’s “Lock her up!”

It was the latest sign that the president’s plan for winning a second term in office involves playing to racial and nationalist themes that shock the consciences of many Americans, but which seem to delight his most ardent supporters.

Mr. Trump doubled down with relish on his previous calls for the congresswomen — Ms. Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts — to “go back” to their countries of origin, even though all but one were born in the United States and all four are citizens. It left no doubt that he was undaunted by furious condemnations of his remarks as racist, including a Tuesday vote by the House.

As his raucous audience booed repeatedly at his mentions of the women, the atmosphere had echoes of a pro-wrestling match at which the crowd thrills in its collective disdain for the villain of the moment.

Wednesday night’s event was billed as a “Keep America Great” rally — a boastful variant of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“Big Rally tonight in Greenville, North Carolina,” the president tweeted early Wednesday, saying he would play up economic growth and the booming stock market in a state that has narrowly tilted right in the past two presidential contests.

Many Republicans, including some of Mr. Trump’s advisers, wish he would stick to those themes, saying they think that he is overshadowing an economic success story by engaging in name-calling and divisive cultural clashes. Some feel that his relentless focus on immigration and other nationalist themes before last November’s midterm elections alienated suburban swing voters and helped enable Democrats to win the House.

But while the president did devote time to the nation’s recent economic growth, and took credit for data showing that China’s gross domestic product is growing at its slowest rate in 27 years, he was most animated when attacking his Democratic rivals, particularly Ms. Omar, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Pressley, who are collectively known as “the squad.”

Mr. Trump denounced Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for branding federal migrant detention centers along the southwestern border “concentration camps,” saying she had, in effect, called border agents Nazis. And he recalled the way Ms. Tlaib had used what he called a “vicious” expletive when she vowed in January that Mr. Trump would be impeached.

“That’s not somebody that loves our country,” the president said.

Mr. Trump also ridiculed the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, like mocking the name of Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and saying that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had “choked” in the last Democratic primary debate after Senator Kamala Harris of California challenged him on the issue of busing.

Depicting the 2020 Democrats as a hapless and left-wing lot, Mr. Trump delivered what may have been his core pitch: “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country. A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American Dream — frankly, the destruction of our country.”

Mr. Trump also boasted about an afternoon vote in the House on a resolution to impeach him that had been introduced by Representative Al Green, Democrat of Texas. The measure, opposed by House Democratic leaders wary of a potential backlash, failed 332 to 95.

“We just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment, and that is the end of it,” Mr. Trump said after his arrival to the rally. “Let the Democrats now go back to work.” The vote did not preclude the possibility of future impeachment action.

Mr. Trump first announced the rally shortly after House Democrats set Wednesday as the date for the former special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify about his report on Russian election interference. That was widely seen as an effort by the president to counterprogram that testimony, which has since been delayed.

During his speech on Wednesday, he only briefly mentioned the investigation, denouncing it as “a hoax,” and never mentioned Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Trump carried North Carolina in 2016 with 49.8 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 46.2 percent. The state also voted Republican, for Mitt Romney, in 2012, after Barack Obama won it narrowly in 2008.

In his remarks before leaving Washington, the president responded to a question about Ms. Omar, who has faced scrutiny for filing tax records with her first husband while legally married to her second.

An investigation of public records and state documents by The Minnesota Star Tribune last month could not substantiate a claim circulated online — and which Ms. Omar has denied — that her first husband was her brother, whom she allegedly married for immigration benefits.

Mr. Trump accepted the opportunity to weigh in on the subject.

“There’s a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to her brother,” the president said, stating as fact something that is unproved. “I know nothing about it,” he said, adding that “I’m sure that somebody would be looking at that.”

Ms. Omar, for one, stood firm in the face of the vitriol the president and his supporters had directed at her.

Shortly after Mr. Trump’s rally ended, she retweeted a comment by Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, saying that the crowd’s chant of “Send her back!” was “one of the most chilling and horrifying things I’ve ever seen in politics.”

Above that statement, she quoted the poet Maya Angelou, writing in part: “You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

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How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story

On the last day of March, Kirstjen Nielsen set off for what was supposed to be a weeklong trip to Europe with a packed itinerary. In London, she would meet with British officials on counterterrorism matters, then travel on to Stockholm to discuss election security with her Swedish counterparts and finally head to Paris, where she would represent the United States at a meeting of Group of 7 interior ministers. These are some of the far-flung obligations of the secretary of homeland security, who bears responsibility for not only thwarting terrorist attacks and preventing foreign interference in American elections but also cleaning up after hurricanes and ensuring that the United States doesn’t cede control of the Arctic to Russia and China.

But the Department of Homeland Security’s mission had increasingly been telescoped into a single, all-encompassing concern. “Under Trump,” says Juliette Kayyem, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who served as an assistant secretary at the department under President Barack Obama, “it’s a department that looks at homeland security only through a lens of border enforcement.” A few days before Nielsen left for London, she learned that, in March, the number of undocumented immigrants Customs and Border Protection stopped as they were crossing the country’s Southwest border would top 100,000 — the first time the monthly statistic had hit six figures in 12 years. In response, President Trump threatened to halt all cross-border traffic, people and goods between the United States and Mexico — a move that would wreak havoc not only on the Mexican economy but on the American one as well.

Nielsen went ahead with the trip to Europe and spent her flight to London ordering “emergency surge operations” on the border. At least 750 Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to process cars and trucks at ports of entry were redeployed to the border to hunt for people who crossed the border illegally. But after 24 hours in Britain, following a series of calls with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Nielsen cut her European trip short. She rushed back to the United States to conduct a series of emergency border visits, if only to demonstrate to the president — her “audience of one,” as a Nielsen adviser described him — that she was working to fix the problem. Stockholm and Paris were scrapped in favor of El Paso; Yuma, Ariz.; and Calexico, Calif., where, on the first Friday in April, she met Trump at the Calexico Border Patrol Station.

In the squat, sand-colored building in the Sonoran Desert, Nielsen looked on as Trump held a press event with C.B.P. officers. He praised their work capturing migrants trying to cross the border and praised Mexico for its recent efforts to prevent migrants from reaching it. “I’m totally willing to close the border, but Mexico, over the last four days, has done more than they’ve ever done,” Trump said. “They’re apprehending people now by the thousands and bringing them back to their countries, bringing them back to where they came from.” During those four days, Nielsen had been in regular contact with Mexican officials, assuring them that Trump “was as serious as a heart attack about sealing the border,” a former administration official told me. When Mexico responded, the official says, “it felt like the president had been walked back from the brink.”

Then Trump charged toward a different precipice. Still speaking to the C.B.P. officers but now directing his comments to potential immigrants, he made a proclamation. “This is our new statement,” Trump said. “The system is full. Can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, it’s illegal immigration. We can’t take you anymore. We can’t take you. Our country is full.” Trump went on: “So turn around. That’s the way it is.”

This position had long been a bone of contention between Trump and Nielsen. A year earlier, during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, told Trump that to solve the immigration crisis, his homeland security secretary, Nielsen, simply needed to stop letting people into the country, according to two former administration officials. (Sessions could not be reached for comment.) Nielsen tried to explain that this wasn’t something she believed that she — or the United States, for that matter — could do. Under federal law and international treaties, people fleeing persecution in their home country may seek to live in safety in the United States. If someone arriving at the border requested asylum, she said, the United States could not legally turn that person away without processing the claim, and there was no legal mechanism by which the United States could hang a “no vacancy” sign at its borders.

But Trump brushed her argument aside, dressing her down for several minutes, in front of her cabinet colleagues, for being weak and naïve. The tongue-lashing was so intense that after the meeting, Nielsen discussed with Pence whether she should resign. (Pence told her she shouldn’t.)

After the C.B.P. press event, Nielsen, sporting aviator sunglasses and a navy blue quilted vest, escorted Trump across a dusty field to inspect a new section of border wall. Briefly pulling him aside from the Kevlar-clad C.B.P. officers and gun-toting local law-enforcement officials who were accompanying them, Nielsen, according to two people familiar with the conversation, reviewed with the president the options available to him short of refusing to let people in. Trump wasn’t pleased. Kevin McAleenan, then the commissioner of C.B.P., one of the agencies under the D.H.S. umbrella, was also on the wall-inspecting trip. According to two people familiar with the encounter, Trump urged him to block asylum seekers from entering the United States. If McAleenan went to prison for doing so, Trump said, he would pardon him. (The White House has denied that Trump said this.)

Flying back to Washington that evening, Nielsen arranged for a meeting with the president in the White House residence on Sunday afternoon. According to the former administration official, she intended to ask the president to create a “border czar” position, headquartered in the White House, to oversee the administration’s border and immigration policy in her place. It was an extraordinary request — a cabinet member voluntarily proposing to cede a share of her power. Before she could fully discuss it, though, Trump told her that he thought it was time for a change. Nielsen offered to step down, left the White House and wrote her resignation letter.

On Sunday night, she was preparing to leave her post, when, according to two former senior administration officials, she and her advisers received urgent calls from White House officials, asking her to stay in the job a few extra days. Trump intended to name McAleenan as acting secretary, but in order for him to do so, the White House would need to fire Nielsen’s acting deputy secretary, Claire Grady — who by law would become acting secretary once Nielsen stepped down. Nielsen would also need to rewrite the department’s orders of succession so that in the absence of a secretary and a deputy secretary, the head of C.B.P. became acting secretary.

In a subsequent conversation, Nielsen told Mulvaney, according to a person familiar with the exchange, that she thought it was a bad idea and that Trump should just nominate McAleenan to be secretary. But Mulvaney explained that Trump preferred the “flexibility” of having his homeland security secretary be an acting one. (Mulvaney currently serves as Trump’s acting chief of staff.) Nielsen acceded to Trump’s wishes. “I share the president’s goal of securing the border,” Nielsen told a gaggle of reporters outside her rowhouse in Alexandria, Va., the next morning as she headed to D.H.S. headquarters. “I will continue to support all efforts to address the humanitarian and security crisis on the border. And other than that, I’m on my way to keep doing what I can for the next few days.”

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Migrants climbing the border fence in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 25, 2018.CreditPedro Pardo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mick Mulvaney’s Master Class in Destroying a Bureaucracy From Within

April 16, 2019

From the first day of his 2016 presidential campaign, when he used his kickoff speech in Trump Tower to rail against Mexican immigrants who were “rapists” and who were “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States, immigration has been Trump’s lodestar. In his first week in the White House, Trump issued his “travel ban” executive order blocking citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Last December, he shut down the federal government for five weeks — the longest government shutdown in American history — over congressional Democrats’ refusal to allocate $5 billion for the construction of a border wall. Today, Trump’s extreme focus on combating illegal immigration is manifested in the overcrowded detention facilities packed with sick, unwashed and hungry adults and children along the Southwest border.

Supporting Trump in all this are a group of immigration restrictionists — officials and advisers who have single-mindedly pursued a policy of not just cracking down on illegal border-crossing, in the manner of conventional immigration hawks, but also limiting all immigration to the best of their ability. Chief among them is Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. Since arriving in Washington a decade ago, Miller, who is 33, has been even more focused than Trump on reducing both illegal and legal immigration to the United States. In 2014, as an aide to Sessions — who was an Alabama senator at the time and who holds similar views — Miller worked with media allies at Breitbart and The Daily Caller to gin up conservative outrage that was instrumental in scuttling bipartisan immigration-reform legislation. In 2016, as a staff member on Trump’s presidential campaign, he not only wrote the candidate’s hard-line anti-immigration speeches but also often served as the warm-up act at his rallies. “They say, ‘Oh, well, we’re going to secure the border,’ ” Miller told a crowd in Las Vegas in June 2016. “Do they ever get it secure, folks?” The crowd roared: “Nooooooo!”

Miller is the architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policy — but staffing an entire federal government with Stephen Millers is an unrealistic proposition. Expertise and experience must be drawn on, however reluctantly; career agency employees can’t just be fired and replaced en masse. A defining conflict of the Trump administration, accordingly, has been the one between the small group of ideologues like Miller and the much bigger cadres of conventional Republican appointees who have gone to work for Trump.

For that group, Trump’s presidency has offered a Faustian bargain. Because many of the senior, thoroughly qualified Republicans who would have filled out, say, a Jeb Bush administration refused — or were refused — jobs under Trump, his presidency has provided a remarkable opportunity for more junior, or less distinguished, bureaucracy climbers to ascend to heights of government that they might not otherwise have reached anytime soon, if ever. But doing so has required them to acquiesce to, and often execute, policies that both Democratic and Republican administrations previously considered beyond the pale — all while reassuring themselves that if they were not there, the administration’s policies would be even more extreme.

Perhaps nowhere has the bargain been rendered in starker terms than in the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most of the country’s immigration system. This article is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former department and government officials. Most of them requested anonymity so that they could speak candidly and because they feared retribution. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a list of detailed queries regarding this article. In response to an inquiry, Hogan Gidley, the principal deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement: “These are just more baseless, phony fabrications from angry Beltway bureaucrats who oppose the president’s strong determination to create a lawful, sane immigration system that serves the American people.”

The story the current and former officials tell is one of a cabinet department buffeted by “irrational” demands and “silly ideas,” as it has struggled with its role as the tip of the spear of the president’s top policy priority. Indeed, for the past two and a half years — whether it was the travel ban or family separation or now the humanitarian crisis at the border — D.H.S. has found itself at the center of some of the Trump administration’s greatest political controversies and moral dilemmas.

Migrants in a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Tex., on June 10. Government inspectors deemed it overcrowded.CreditOffice of Inspector General/Department of Homeland Security, via Getty Images

The third-largest cabinet department, behind Defense and Veterans Affairs, D.H.S. has an amorphous, and often contradictory, internal culture. This is partly because of its newness — the department is not even 20 years old — but also a result of its myriad components, which were kludged together by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks. C.B.P. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for instance, tend to be conservative, aggressive law-enforcement agencies. (This month, ProPublica revealed a secret Facebook group for current and former C.B.P. agents, in which its 9,500 members joked about the deaths of migrants and made vulgar remarks about Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic politicians.) The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coast Guard, by contrast, are better known for rescuing people than for arresting them. It often seems as if the only thing the various component parts of the department share is an intense inferiority complex. “It’s set up so there’s not a thing D.H.S. can do that’s an achievement,” says Scott Shuchart, an attorney who used to work at the department. “All D.H.S. can do is avoid blame for bad things happening.”

In the months after Trump’s election and before his inauguration, immigration restrictionists who had been on his campaign (including Miller and Steve Bannon) or who had joined the transition team (like Gene Hamilton and Rick Dearborn, both of whom had worked with Miller in Sessions’s Senate office) pushed Trump to appoint Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who shared their views, as homeland security secretary. But after a meeting with Kobach at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump grew cold on the idea. (Transition officials had their own set of concerns. According to a recent Axios report, Kobach’s vetting documents listed “white supremacy” as one of his “political vulnerabilities.” Kobach could not be reached for comment.)

Trump ultimately offered the D.H.S. job to John Kelly, a retired Marine general. The immigration restrictionists around Trump seemed amenable to the choice. Although they didn’t view him as an ideological fellow traveler in the mold of Kobach, they, like Trump, believed that Kelly’s military background would make him a reliable ally and someone who would follow orders.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s homeland security secretary, was friendly with Kelly from when they both worked in the Pentagon. In late November 2016, they met to discuss the job at Arlington National Cemetery by the grave of Kelly’s son, Robert, who was killed while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. Johnson’s initial orientation as secretary had been toward counterterrorism, which, under his predecessors, had been the cornerstone of its mission. But illegal immigration soon became a focus as well. Obama was trying to get House Republicans to support a comprehensive immigration-reform package that had passed the Senate, and he felt he needed to show a good-faith effort on enforcement in order to win their support. (The effort ultimately failed.) During Johnson’s tenure, the department expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include over four million more immigrants who came to the United States as undocumented children; it also cracked down on people who crossed the border illegally and undocumented immigrants with criminal records, deporting nearly three million individuals during Obama’s eight years in office — the most of any president, including Trump, to date.

Johnson left his conversation with Kelly thinking that Kelly would take a similar approach. “I believe that his mind-set then was pro-enforcement with some compassion,” Johnson recalls. “I think he actually could have been Hillary Clinton’s D.H.S. secretary.”

As the head of the United States Southern Command — his last military post before retiring from the Marines in 2016 — Kelly spent three years working in Latin America. While he favored strong border security and enforcement, he also believed, according to his advisers, that the United States wouldn’t be able to stanch the immigration flow unless it helped the Mexican, Honduran, El Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments improve economic and security conditions in their countries. “He understood the motivation of people in Central America to get the hell out of Central America and go to the United States,” says James Nealon, a former United States ambassador to Honduras who worked with Kelly at Southern Command.

During the transition, restrictionists close to Trump pushed for Kobach to become Kelly’s deputy secretary, but Kelly disagreed with Kobach’s policies, like his goal of immediately barring all Syrian refugees. According to Trump transition officials, Kelly was also turned off by Kobach’s insistence that as deputy secretary, he would require his own plane and dedicated security staff.

Similarly, Kelly was cool to Miller’s intentions to appoint the heads of the National Border Patrol Council and the National Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Council, two department employee unions that endorsed Trump during the campaign, as the directors of C.B.P. and ICE. “They’d never been supervisors, not even GS-13s” — a lower supervisory rank — “and Stephen wanted to elevate them to be agency heads,” says a former homeland security official who served on the transition team. “It was ridiculous.”

Miller and other Trump transition officials in turn nixed some of Kelly’s preferred hires. After Kelly offered his chief of staff job to Alan Metzler, a former Air Force colonel who had served as a senior counselor to Johnson at the department, he was told by transition officials to rescind the offer. He turned instead to Nielsen, who had been his “sherpa” — the Washington word for the adviser who guides a nominee through Senate confirmation hearings. She worked as a midlevel aide on homeland security during George W. Bush’s administration — both in the White House and at the Transportation Security Administration — and later ran a cybersecurity consulting firm. She volunteered for Trump’s homeland security transition team with an eye toward possibly landing an under secretary job, but Kelly believed that she was suited to a larger role and tapped her as his chief of staff. Thad Bingel, a former D.H.S. official who was on Kelly’s transition team, says, “He saw that she was relentlessly dedicated.” According to Bingel, during the transition Nielsen typically put in 18-hour days despite a respiratory infection that caused her to cough so hard she cracked a rib. Kelly’s wife, Karen, described her as “a pit bull.”

According to a transition official, Miller and other immigration hard-liners wanted Kelly, during his Senate confirmation hearings, to testify in favor of building a border wall and freezing the asylum process. Kelly argued that it was standard for cabinet nominees not to commit to specific policies. Things came to a head the Friday before his Monday confirmation hearings, during a prep session at transition headquarters in Washington, in which Kelly and Dearborn got into a heated argument over whether Kelly would have to return for additional sessions that weekend. Only when Kelly flat out refused did Dearborn relent.

On Jan. 27, his seventh full day in office, Trump signed an executive order — drafted primarily by Miller and Bannon — banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. Homeland security officials, including Kelly and Nielsen, were given just a couple hours’ notice. Miller had provided Kelly’s staff with a thick binder full of immigration action items that the administration hoped to implement in its first 90 days, but the travel ban was not one of them, and now department officials scrambled to determine how to enforce it at the nation’s ports of entry. On the Friday evening after the travel ban was signed, Kevin McAleenan, then the head of C.B.P., emailed Hamilton, who was now working as a lawyer at D.H.S., asking if the ban applied to green-card holders from the seven countries: “We have 300 in the air inbound right now,” McAleenan wrote.

At airports across the country, travelers with the legal right to enter the country suddenly found themselves detained for hours in windowless rooms. Airlines struggled to advise their passengers, as thousands of protesters — including several Democratic senators — and volunteer lawyers massed outside arrival and departure halls. The travel ban threw the department into disarray for a week, until a federal judge blocked the order. The debacle momentarily strengthened Kelly’s hand. When Miller or his allies came to him with policy recommendations, Kelly would tell them, “My boss is the president of the United States.”

Protests against the travel ban, Kennedy Airport, Jan. 28, 2017.CreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times

In early March, Kelly traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a meeting on how the administration could put travel restrictions in place. In attendance were Trump, Miller, Sessions, Jared Kushner, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and a host of other top immigration officials — as well as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was spending that weekend at his home near Mar-a-Lago and apparently wandered into the meeting. Kelly argued that D.H.S., working with the State Department and the intelligence community, should establish a methodology for determining which countries warranted additional scrutiny of their citizens.

Over the next several months, D.H.S. did just that. Miller would question the methodology, arguing that a host of other African and Asian nations should face restrictions as well. “He’d say: ‘These are shitty countries with lots of criminals. Why aren’t they under restrictions?’ ” the former administration official recalls. “And then we’d have to explain to him, ‘Well, look, when the embassy went to those countries, they’d clearly met baseline standards, and they were also deemed to be a low threat.’ He was frustrated by that.” (Miller declined to comment.)

When the revised travel ban was issued in September, it covered eight countries, not the two dozen or so that Miller sought. Nonetheless, Kelly continued to worry about what immigration policies were being developed without his knowledge and what was on, as Nielsen described it to several people, Miller’s “secret scroll.”

Trump, meanwhile, seemed surprised by the limitations of his — and the American government’s — power to curb immigration. According to former senior administration officials, Trump frequently suggested that C.B.P. officers venture a few hundred yards into Mexico to prevent migrants from reaching the border — only to be reminded that because the officers would be in Mexico, they would be violating the law unless they were authorized to be there.

Trump repeatedly returned to a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the federal law that governs immigration and citizenship. The provision, Section 212(f), grants the president broad authority to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens” if the president determines that such entry “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Miller cited the provision in the January 2017 executive order instituting the travel ban — a third version of which, still citing the provision, was finally upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-to-4 decision in June 2018 — and made 212(f) a buzzword among fellow immigration hard-liners, like the Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, who regularly talks to Trump. Trump has invoked 212(f) when encouraging administration officials to enact extreme — and most likely illegal — policies, including freezing asylum applications and denying migrants deportation hearings before sending them home.

ICE Launches Raids Targeting Migrant Families

July 14, 2019

“The president would endlessly sit in meetings with the secretary and say, ‘I don’t know why you’re dicking around,’ ” the former administration official recalls. “ ‘You have this magical authority — it’s called 2-something-something; it allows you to keep anyone out.’ ” When administration officials, including White House counsels, informed Trump that 212(f) does not in fact give him the legal authority to override other parts of that or any other federal law, the president would often tell the story of how he once put up a giant flagpole at Mar-a-Lago. It violated Palm Beach ordinances, resulting in fines and a lawsuit by Trump, but he was ultimately allowed to keep it after he and Palm Beach officials agreed to a court-ordered settlement.

“His constant instinct all the time was: Just do it, and if we get sued, we get sued,” a former senior administration official says. “To him, it’s all a negotiation. Almost as if the first step is a lawsuit. I guess he thinks that because that’s how business worked for him in the private sector. But federal law is different, and there really isn’t a settling step when you break federal law.”

A caravan of migrants in Mexico, en route to the United States border on Oct. 21, 2018.CreditPedro Pardo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When Kelly became White House chief of staff in July 2017, his deputy at D.H.S., a career official named Elaine Duke, became acting secretary. But Miller, according to senior administration officials, deemed Duke to be “not on the team,” and she was never considered as a permanent successor. After several months of fruitless searching, Kelly ultimately recommended Nielsen — who had come to the White House with him and was serving as his principal deputy chief of staff — for the job.

Nielsen has maintained to friends and colleagues that she took the position only reluctantly and out of a sense of duty — that she believed in the department’s mission and wanted to prevent someone worse from becoming secretary. “As long as Kelly and Nielsen were going to be in the Trump administration,” the former administration official says, “Kris Kobach was not.”

But it was also a remarkable opportunity. After all, Nielsen had a much thinner résumé than her predecessors at the job: former governors, judges and upper-echelon government lawyers. James Nealon, who worked with Nielsen as the department’s assistant secretary for international engagement, describes her as “a super staffer.” But it’s a general rule of Washington that staff members, even super staffers, don’t become cabinet officers — much less when they’re still in their 40s.

Not long after Nielsen was sworn in as homeland security secretary in December 2017, according to a current and a former administration official, McAleenan alerted her to a rise in illegal border crossings. If the trend continued, he warned, by the spring — when border crossings typically peak — the immigration system would most likely be so overwhelmed that the department would no longer be able to process, much less interdict, new arrivals. Together with Thomas Homan, then the acting director of ICE, and L. Francis Cissna, then the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services — the agency that handles the country’s legal immigration procedures — he urged Nielsen to take some sort of drastic action.

One option McAleenan, Homan and Cissna presented to Nielsen, according to the current and former administration officials, was instituting a policy of separating migrant children from their families. Because of a consent decree known as the Flores settlement, C.B.P. is prohibited from holding immigrant children caught illegally crossing the border with their guardians for more than 20 days. This meant that adult immigrants, if they illegally came across the border with their children, would be released — often immediately or at the longest after 20 days — when their children were required to be released. Separating the children from their parents, department officials argued, would allow C.B.P. to detain the adults longer.

According to former senior administration officials, Kelly, when he was homeland security secretary, had been urged by other administration officials to institute such a family-separation policy. Publicly, Kelly said he was considering such a move. “I would do almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States,” he told CNN in March 2017. But according to former senior administration officials, he privately rejected it, and the idea was tabled.

Now Nielsen rejected it as well. But as the border numbers kept rising, the pressure on Nielsen to do something only grew — and it was no longer coming from just her deputies. Toward the end of 2017, Gene Hamilton, Miller’s old ally at D.H.S., moved over to the Department of Justice, where he was reunited with Sessions, his old Senate boss. Not long after Hamilton’s arrival, the attorney general began to assert himself more aggressively on immigration matters. In early April 2018, Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would institute a policy of “zero tolerance” for undocumented immigrants. For the last two decades, under Democratic and Republican presidents, people who were caught crossing the border for the first time were typically charged with misdemeanors and then released. Under the zero-tolerance policy, all undocumented immigrants would be “met with the full prosecutorial power of the Department of Justice,” as Sessions put it.

The timing of the attorney general’s announcement caught Nielsen by surprise — and it presented her with a problem. For the Trump administration to be able to prosecute all undocumented immigrants, C.B.P. would have to refer their cases to the Justice Department, which would mean separating parents from their children while the parents awaited prosecution. Later that April, McAleenan, Homan and Cissna wrote Nielsen a memo recommending that D.H.S. start doing just that.

According to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the memo, they noted that the Trump administration had run a pilot zero-tolerance program along parts of the border in Texas and New Mexico for four months in 2017 and that the number of families trying to cross illegally had gone down 64 percent, only to rise again when the program was paused. After receiving the memo, Nielsen met with McAleenan, Homan and Cissna at the Ronald Reagan Building near the White House. There, according to former senior administration officials, she told them that she felt boxed in, but she agreed to their recommendation.

Nielsen and department officials would insist that they never approved, nor sought to impose, a policy of family separation per se — that they were just following the Justice Department’s new zero-tolerance policy. In May 2018, under questioning from Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, Nielsen told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that “we do not have a policy to separate children from their parents. Our policy is if you break the law, we will prosecute you. You have an option to go to a port of entry and not illegally cross into our country.” The next month Nielsen tweeted: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

But, of course, the end result of enforcing zero-tolerance was a policy of family separation — one for which the Trump administration turned out to be woefully unprepared. D.H.S. officials maintain that Justice Department officials assured them that the prosecutions would be swift — often within hours, and almost certainly within days, so the children could be reunited with their parents and then sent back to their home countries before the Flores settlement provisions kicked in. But those assurances turned out to be false.

By the end of May, about six weeks after the zero-tolerance policy went into effect, more than 2,000 children had been separated from their parents, and many remained so. Sometimes parents were informed about what was happening. Other times they were not. Some migrant parents told reporters and judges that C.B.P. officers took their children away under the pretense that the children were going to get baths. Worse, the Trump administration did not have a plan to reunite the children with their parents. The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services later determined that the government had no centralized database to track the children or to match them with their parents. In a July 2018 court filing, the administration admitted that 463 parents who were separated from their children were deported while the children remained in the United States.

As children were kept in mass detention centers that ranged from tents to an empty big-box store, or were placed with foster families thousands of miles from the border, and parents appeared before judges tearfully pleading for information about where their children were and when they would see them again, the Trump administration was facing a crisis of its own making. Obama, momentarily abandoning his reluctance to comment on the Trump presidency, released a statement asking, “Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?” The former first lady Laura Bush wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in which she declared the zero-tolerance policy “cruel” and “immoral.” The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement saying that the Trump administration was guilty of “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

In the middle of June, with public furor at a fever pitch, Nielsen was on a flight back to Washington when Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, called. Sanders wanted Nielsen to explain the administration’s immigration policy in the White House press room that afternoon. When Nielsen landed, she immediately headed to the White House and Kelly’s office, where she met with Kelly, Sanders and a handful of White House and D.H.S. aides.

According to people familiar with the conversation, Kelly told Nielsen that she should not go in front of the press. “You are not the brains behind this policy,” Kelly said, “so you shouldn’t be the face.” But Sanders countered that the White House did not want the brains — Sessions — to mount its defense. “She’s a female, she’s a little bit more articulate and she’s not a Southern man in his 70s who’s been tagged with being racially insensitive,” a former White House official explains. Nielsen agreed to do it.

How Long Can John Kelly Hang On?

Feb. 26, 2018

Nielsen, according to people close to her, still has not watched the video of her June 18 news conference. For nearly 30 minutes, she was bombarded with questions that she struggled to answer. “Have you seen the photos of children in cages?” the ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega asked Nielsen. “Have you heard the audio clip of these children wailing?” Vega continued, referring to a recording released that day by ProPublica of a 6-year-old Salvadoran girl, separated from her parents by C.B.P. agents, crying for her mother and father.

Nielsen said she had neither seen the pictures nor heard the audio. “But I have been to detention centers,” she added. “And again, I would reference you to our standards.”

“How is this not child abuse?” another reporter asked.

“Be more specific, please,” Nielsen replied. “Enforcing the law?”

When the White House briefing was over, Kelly’s warning to Nielsen had proved true. “Family separation is her legacy,” says Kayyem, the former homeland security official. “She could have saved America from a Category 20 hurricane, and there’d still be no other legacy for her.”

Kirstjen Nielsen at the White House briefing on family separation on June 18, 2018.CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images

The evening after the briefing, Nielsen went to dinner with her chief of staff at an upscale Mexican restaurant near the White House. In the middle of her meal, a swarm of protesters, tipped off to her presence there by another diner, descended on the restaurant and surrounded her table chanting: “Shame! Shame!” One protester shouted, “How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you are deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?!” Nielsen stared down at her phone. A few days later, protesters appeared outside Nielsen’s rowhouse in Alexandria, Va. In January, an anonymous person called 911 to falsely report that someone at Nielsen’s home address was holding hostages inside. A SWAT team was sent, only to be intercepted by Nielsen’s Secret Service detail.

On June 20, the morning after Nielsen’s interrupted dinner, Trump alerted Nielsen and other administration officials that, in part because of entreaties from Melania and Ivanka Trump, he was ready to end the policy of family separation — that he wanted, in other words, to make a show of fixing the problem he had caused. He intended to issue an executive order stating that it was now the policy of the Trump administration to keep families together. He wanted the order to be issued that day.

Nielsen rushed to the White House, where Don McGahn, the White House counsel at the time, and other officials were scrambling to comply with Trump’s wishes. That afternoon, she stood behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, having just read what she thought was a copy of the executive order Trump was signing in front of reporters. But when she returned to D.H.S. headquarters, according to former senior administration officials, she discovered that her draft was an early one and that Trump had actually signed a different version, containing contradictory instructions. In their haste to put something in front of the president to sign — most executive orders take days if not weeks or months to draft — administration officials had written an order calling for an end to separating immigrant children from their parents but also reaffirming Sessions’s zero-tolerance policy. Nielsen huddled with aides and decided that keeping families together was Trump’s intention and that D.H.S. would stop referring cases involving families to the Justice Department.

Over the subsequent months, Trump would occasionally muse to Nielsen and other administration officials that he was thinking about reinstating a policy of family separation — which, of course, Nielsen and those officials maintained was never an actual policy. After Democrats took back the House of Representatives in November, Nielsen, according to former senior administration officials, became especially adamant that Trump and other administration officials understand the difference, as she viewed it, between zero-tolerance and family separation. She was concerned that House Democrats, now armed with subpoena power, might investigate her for perjury, because she had testified before Congress that there was no policy of family separation — only the Justice Department’s zero-tolerance policy.

By then, though, potential perjury charges were merely one among many worries for Nielsen. Trump was in a state of near panic over caravans of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico toward the United States border. Although immigration activists and Democrats suspected that the caravan crisis was an attempt by Trump to help Republicans in the midterm elections, the president, according to people who discussed the matter with him, appeared to be quite sincere in his fears. Some administration officials theorized that Trump was overly influenced by Fox News, which was giving the caravan extensive coverage.

Trump was impressed by an incident that occurred at the San Ysidro border crossing in November, when C.B.P. officers used tear gas to disperse immigrants on the Mexican side of the border. Although the decision to use tear gas was made by the C.B.P. officers stationed there, Trump, according to a former administration official, believed that Nielsen had ordered it. “He thought, ‘Man, she’s got balls,’ ” recalls the former administration official. “And then he started to say to her: ‘You’re being really tough. I had no idea you had this in you.’ ” No one disabused Trump of his misimpression.

Migrants fleeing tear gas fired by C.B.P. officers near San Diego on Nov. 25, 2018.CreditKim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Managing Trump’s media-shaped understanding of the reality at hand was half the task when it came to another one of his immigration policy priorities: his crusade to build a new border wall. Originally conceived during the 2016 campaign as a mnemonic device by the Trump campaign aides Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone to get Trump to remember to bring up immigration at his rallies, it had become, for Trump, the physical embodiment and sine qua non of his pledge to “stop illegal immigration” — enough so that it has often distracted him, and administration officials, from pursuing other responses to the problem that homeland security officials considered more effective. “The president had one thing he wanted,” a former administration official says, “and so his dedication to that one thing forced us to compromise on everything else.”

The biggest initial hurdle administration officials faced with the wall was Trump’s insistence that it be concrete, so as to look more intimidating. C.B.P. officials had told Kelly that they preferred a material besides concrete, because the inability to see what was on the other side of it would interfere with operational safety. Kelly and Nielsen took these concerns to Trump, but he was unmoved. They eventually explained to Trump that the concrete version might be structurally unsound, which seemed to persuade Trump — but it introduced a new complication. Although Trump was fine with the steel-bollard wall favored by the C.B.P., he couldn’t abide by the wall’s “anti-climb” feature — barrels that sit atop the barrier — which he doubted would deter climbers, and the steel stabilization bar that ran across the top of the bollards, which he found aesthetically displeasing.

Nielsen, who by this time was homeland security secretary, at one point resorted to taking a portable video player to the Oval Office so Trump could watch footage of people trying (and failing) to scale a wall with the anti-climb feature. Trump acknowledged its apparent efficacy but still objected to the stabilization bar. “It needs to be beautiful,” he told Nielsen and other administration officials.

Slowly, Nielsen and her colleagues began to bring Trump around to the proposed features, but not without hiccups. On several occasions, Trump was watching Fox News when old sections of border barrier would flash on the screen. Thinking it was new construction, he called Nielsen and other officials in a fury, according to people familiar with their exchanges, only to be told that Fox was running “B-roll” — old footage of pre-existing sections.

In a December 2018 Oval Office meeting with Nielsen and several other administration officials, Trump abruptly raised the topic of the wall and announced that he had some other design improvements he wanted incorporated, including sharper spikes and black paint on the bollards. “We couldn’t even believe we were having this conversation with him again,” the former administration official says. Nielsen took Trump’s ideas back to D.H.S. and had C.B.P. wall experts mock up an image of a steel wall with pointed slats, with a Border Patrol S.U.V. at its base for scale. Trump was overjoyed and tweeted out the image, writing, “A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful!” The next day, Trump shut down the government over Congress’s refusal to include $5.7 billion in funding for the wall in its budget deal.

During the 35-day shutdown, Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, inserted himself into the negotiations to try to reopen the government. Part of Kushner’s effort included receiving a crash course on immigration policy. (The Washington Post reported that when Kushner once explained to the president and a group of administration officials what compromises he believed Democrats were looking for, Trump interjected, “Apparently, Jared has become an expert on immigration in the last 48 hours.”) One January evening at the White House during a meeting on immigration with McAleenan, Miller and several other administration officials, Kushner posed a question to McAleenan, according to a person familiar with the exchange. Which would he choose: congressional funding for a wall across the 2,000 miles of the Southwest border and nothing else, or Congress instead closing the legal loopholes that incentivized illegal immigration, including overriding the Flores settlement, tightening asylum rules and amending anti-trafficking laws to expand expedited processing for children? The wall, McAleenan told Kushner, would reduce illegal immigration by 20 or 30 percent. Closing the loopholes, he said, would reduce illegal immigration by 70 to 80 percent.

CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

As the wall fight raged on, Miller was pursuing another policy vision. He had long been a proponent of an especially aggressive form of “interior enforcement,” in particular directing ICE to arrest and deport migrant families living illegally in the United States far from the Southwest border — an expansion of the Obama-era policy, which targeted only undocumented migrants accused of serious crimes. Kelly and Nielsen had both resisted the idea at various points in the Trump administration. Although immigration activists have objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would terrorize migrant families, those who opposed it inside the administration tended to couch their objections in operational terms — namely that the federal government lacked the resources to pursue and hold so many undocumented immigrants while they awaited deportation, and that therefore the emphasis should remain on felons.

But early this year, Miller returned to increased interior enforcement with a renewed focus and fury. He began summoning administration officials, many of them junior, for regular meetings, sometimes on Friday afternoons in the White House Situation Room, about immigration and border policy. During these meetings, according to the former senior administration official, Miller began agitating for ICE to expand its deportation efforts, pursuing not just felons for deportation but families as well. His entreaties struck a chord with Matthew Albence, the deputy director of ICE, who had been in charge of ICE’s removal and enforcement operations. “Stephen found an ally in Albence,” a D.H.S. official says. And Albence began drawing up detailed plans for a sweeping interior-enforcement operation that would target tens of thousands of illegal migrants, and their families, in 10 large cities.

The plan also reflected Trump’s own preoccupations. “The president himself is very personally insecure that the deportation numbers under the Obama administration were higher than his numbers are,” the former administration official says, noting that the 256,000 undocumented immigrants deported by the Trump administration last year paled in comparison with the nearly 410,000 the Obama administration deported in 2012.

According to people familiar with his plans, Albence hoped to begin the operation without Nielsen’s knowledge or approval. In March, he took the plan to his boss, Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, and told him that he intended to start the operation in the next 72 hours. Vitiello told Albence that he needed to get Nielsen’s go-ahead. Albence and ICE officials then briefed Nielsen. After several meetings, Nielsen refused to give the operation — which came to be known inside D.H.S. as the “family op” — her O.K. on the grounds that ICE’s plans were still inadequate and that after the family-separation debacle the public backlash would be too intense.

But within weeks, Nielsen had resigned and Trump had withdrawn Vitiello’s nomination to be ICE director. “Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction,” the president explained. McAleenan, replacing Nielsen as acting secretary, argued for a more limited operation that didn’t target families, but he did not veto the plan outright. Mark Morgan, the Obama-era head of the Border Patrol whom Trump tapped to succeed Vitiello at ICE after Morgan staked out a hard-line anti-immigration position on Fox News, enthusiastically supported the operation.

In early July, the acting C.B.P. commissioner, John Sanders, resigned, and Trump moved Morgan over to C.B.P., elevating Albence to acting director at ICE. Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general and avowed restrictionist, took over as the acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. In early July, he told the Fox Business Network that the interior-enforcement operation was imminent. “The president’s determined about it,” Cuccinelli said. “I’m sure Matt Albence is ready and raring to go.”

The game of musical chairs at D.H.S. has given Miller what only two years ago seemed impossible: a department staffed with Stephen Millers. For all of Kelly’s and Nielsen’s compromises and failures to rein in or redirect — much less reject — the extreme policies promoted by Miller and other restrictionists, D.H.S. during their tenures did at least provide a counterweight to the restrictionists’ most extreme ideas and impulses, a speed bump on the road to the harshest immigration policy in America’s recent history. Now that obstacle is gone.

In the wake of Nielsen’s departure, numerous other senior D.H.S. officials have followed her to the exits — so much so that the department currently has a handful of political appointees performing the jobs for which the Senate confirmed them. “Since Nielsen left,” a former D.H.S. official says, the department “has been gutted at all levels, from component heads to assistant secretaries to senior staff to counselors. It’s just been gutted.”

“This is exactly what the White House gets,” a former administration official says of D.H.S. today, “when this is their way of managing.” Which, of course, may well have been the intention all along.


Photographs at top by John Moore/Getty Images; Mike Blake/Reuters; Kirsten Luce.

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As Congress Seeks Budget Deal, Negotiators Try to Sideline Mulvaney

Westlake Legal Group 17dc-budget-sub-facebookJumbo As Congress Seeks Budget Deal, Negotiators Try to Sideline Mulvaney United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Shutdowns (Institutional) Mulvaney, Mick Federal Budget (US)

WASHINGTON — As the federal government inches closer toward a potentially disastrous default on its debts, lawmakers and some Trump administration officials desperate for a budget deal have carefully maneuvered negotiations away from the man who has emerged as the common enemy: Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

Mr. Mulvaney made his name in the House as an ardent opponent of federal spending, even willing to risk a default crisis to secure deep budget cuts. But in the coming days, Washington must come together to raise the government’s statutory borrowing limit before the Treasury Department runs out of money to pay its bills, possibly in early September, and raise spending caps to stave off across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to sweep through the government next year.

To do it, congressional negotiators from both parties have elevated Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, at Mr. Mulvaney’s expense.

“Mulvaney is one of the people who shut down government because they didn’t want to lift the debt ceiling, and so he has no credibility on the subject whatsoever,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said.

Over the past week, Ms. Pelosi has spoken to Mr. Mnuchin on the phone at least five times, sometimes multiple times a day, and the conversations have prompted cautious optimism among lawmakers that a deal can be reached before the House is set to leave next week.

“We are understanding each other,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday, after she and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, spoke with Mr. Mnuchin for about 30 minutes. “We would like to have something on the floor next Thursday.”

Mr. Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC on Thursday, said that the pair had agreed on how much to raise both domestic and military spending over the next two years as part of a two-year debt ceiling increase. Left up for debate is how to offset some or all of the new spending and what Mr. Mnuchin called “certain structural issues.”

“I don’t think the markets should be concerned,” he said. “We’re working hard, we’ll get there one way or another.”

Since Congress emerged bruised and battered in January from a record 35-day shutdown, lawmakers have been eager to avoid a budgetary breakdown. They have been blunt about their distrust of Mr. Mulvaney, a founder of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus whose political career was shaped by crusading against the type of deal the White House and Congress are now seeking. Senior officials on Capitol Hill involved in the budget talks describe him alternately as a “problem child” or a “troublemaker” or just “not helpful.”

A former congressman from South Carolina, Mr. Mulvaney came of age politically during the Tea Party movement, helped orchestrate a government shutdown during the Obama era and has expressed doubts about what virtually all economists say would be the dire consequences of defaulting on government debt. Giving him a seat at the budget talks, lawmakers say privately, is like putting an arsonist at the table to establish a fire prevention plan.

“This is a man who never voted for an appropriations bill,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “He doesn’t bring a great deal of credibility to it.”

The Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, prefers to note Mr. Mulvaney’s presence in the room — “He was there,” he said after one meeting — before pivoting to the importance of having Mr. Mnuchin doing the talking.

Wall Street analysts are also watching Mr. Mulvaney warily. Henrietta Treyz, the economic policy director at Veda Partners, a market analysis firm outside Washington, wrote in a note to clients this week that the threat of a presidential veto and Mr. Mulvaney’s hawkish views were the most significant risks to a deal falling apart.

In contrast, Mr. Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood film producer, tends to be the Trump administration’s voice of moderation, willing to compromise to reach a deal. Last month, Mr. Mnuchin emerged from a meeting in Ms. Pelosi’s office to tell reporters that the White House was not looking for a shutdown fight or flirting with a debt limit default. Mr. Mulvaney stood, red-faced, to his left, waiting for a chance to interject.

When the Treasury secretary stopped speaking, the acting chief of staff jumped in, charging Ms. Pelosi with having raised her spending demands and asserting — incorrectly — that she had promised to raise the debt ceiling no matter what, a shift, he insisted, from her previous position.

“I shouldn’t even be engaged in a conversation that has him mischaracterizing,” Ms. Pelosi later said.

By no means has Mr. Mulvaney been completely shut out: A White House official said that on Tuesday, Mr. Mulvaney participated in a meeting with the president about the debt ceiling. And two administration officials said that Mr. Trump’s lack of interest in the talks meant that the acting chief of staff could dip in and out of the discussions, sticking to the big picture without getting sucked into the minutiae.

At times, he has privately expressed bemusement at what he calls Mr. Mnuchin’s naïveté when it comes to haggling with Congress. In the spring, when Mr. Mnuchin suggested that House Democrats would be amenable to a “clean” raising of the debt ceiling — without preconditions, like raising the spending caps — Mr. Mulvaney insisted that Ms. Pelosi would surely try to extract concessions — as he would have.

He is likely to be proved right.

And Mr. Mulvaney certainly sees himself in charge. At a Heritage Foundation forum on Wednesday, Mr. Mulvaney said that he often joked that the White House budget office was now under the conservative think tank’s management.

But two administration officials acknowledged that Mr. Mulvaney’s diminished role in the budget negotiations could be in response to the bipartisan contingency on Capitol Hill that does not want him there. Mr. Mulvaney was seen poorly by those legislators, White House officials suggested, because they want to spend more than he does.

Like Ms. Pelosi, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has also singled out Mr. Mnuchin as the preferred lead negotiator among the three administration officials — Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Mulvaney and the acting budget director, Russell T. Vought — who have traipsed up to the Capitol in recent weeks for talks.

“By all accounts, Secretary Mnuchin is very outcome driven and that’s what this is about,” said Antonia Ferrier, a former top aide to Mr. McConnell. “He’s uniquely positioned to work this through, because he’s dispassionate, he listens, he’s respected and he’s not playing games.”

Aides to Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Mulvaney say that the two men have a constructive working relationship, but that their backgrounds, ideologies and negotiating styles starkly differ. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said, “The president has confidence in his team and the progress that is being made.”

At times they have knocked heads: Last year, Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Mulvaney clashed over who would have the final say about rules for enforcing the Republican tax overhaul passed in 2017. Mr. Mulvaney, then the head of the budget office, succeeded in wresting control over how to interpret tax regulations from the Treasury Department over Mr. Mnuchin’s objections.

When Mr. Trump needed to replace his chief of staff in late 2018, some of Mr. Mnuchin’s aides privately expressed dismay that Mr. Mulvaney was tapped for the job.

Aides to both men have said that their differences were largely institutional rather than personal. John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Mr. Mulvaney, said that despite the fact that his style differed from Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Mulvaney was ultimately looking for an outcome that would be good for the economy.

“Good cop, bad cop, he’s happy to play any role that gets the best deal for the hard-working American taxpayer,” Mr. Czwartacki said.

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