The Third 100 Days (Trump Briefs: July 29-August 4/Day 191-197) Week 28

By Michael Hernandez

 

Saturday, July 29 (Day 191):

Alaska Senator delays vote on Trump administration nominees

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) delayed a vote on six Trump administration nominees, after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke allegedly told Murkowski her vote against the ObamaCare repeal could steer the administration away from policies that could benefit Alaska.

Senator calls for rule change to speed up Trump’s executive nominations

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) called for a change in Senate rules to speed up the confirmation of President Trump’s executive nominations, claiming the slow pace of confirmations was a result of “a breakdown in the Senate.”

“Less than a month from the August recess, the Senate has confirmed only 22 percent of those nominated to serve in the Trump administration. By the same point in President Barack Obama’s first term, the Senate had confirmed 53 percent of Obama nominations,” Johnson wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday.

Johnson argued that Democrats are abusing rules that allow senators to use hours or days to debate a nominee and “have required more than 30 Trump nominees to go through this burdensome and time-consuming process.”

The Wisconsin senator proposed limiting debate on sub-Cabinet and lower level nominees to two hours on the floor, while using Senate committees to vet nominees, which would be reported to the Senate. Leadership would then assign members to speak in favor or against the nominee and then hold a vote.

California Congresswoman attacks new Chief of Staff

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), has accused President Donald Trump of “militarizing” the White House following his appointment of General John Kelly to White House Chief of Staff.

On Friday, Lee (serving California’s 13th Congressional District and in Congress since 1998) claimed, “By putting [General] John Kelly in charge, [President] Trump is militarizing the White House [and] putting our executive branch in the hands of an extremist.”

Outgoing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer condemned the remarks, describing it as “wrong” and “offensive on multiple levels.

Lee was a former supporter of both the Communist Party and the Black Panthers and is now a prominent member of the Resist Movement.  Lee has accused Donald Trump of trying to “bully [students] into silence” after he threatened to cut federal funding if students at Berkeley University  could not respect the first amendment.

“President Donald Trump cannot bully our university into silence. Simply put, President Trump’s empty threat to cut funding from UC Berkeley is an abuse of power. As a senior member of the education funding subcommittee, I will continue to stand up to President Trump’s overreach and defend the rights of our students and faculty.”

Following Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro’s death last November, Lee said she “was very sad for the Cuban people,” claiming Castro “led a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people.”  Lee claims she met with Castro eight different times.

Former Chief of Staff praises President Trump, Steve Bannon

“The amount of bills he’s signed are more than any president in the last 50 years,” former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said. 

Priebus — whose departure from the White House was announced on Friday night — also said that Trump is making a huge impact on federal judgeships, with some 27 replaced since the president took office and — perhaps one of Trump’s biggest wins — the seating of Neil Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court. “Those judicial appointment will impact our children and grandchildren for the good.”

Priebus, who was replaced this week by former head of the Department of Justice’s Homeland Security chief John Kelly, said,  “It’s simply just a change and a reset and I think it’s great,” Priebus said.

Priebus also stated that White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is someone who “only cares about” President Donald Trump’s agenda and thinks about his nationalist-populist platform “24 hours a day.”  “I will say that Steve is doing a great job.  He is a brilliant guy who only cares about the president’s agenda. He thinks about it 24 hours a day. Never quits.”

Bannon has a whiteboard in his West Wing office with all of the promises—including building the “border wall”—that Trump made to his voters in 2016. “My hat is off to Steve Bannon,” Priebus said.

Bannon calls for regulation on tech giants

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon reportedly is calling for regulation on tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

The Intercept reports that former Breitbart News Executive Chairman and current White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has called for tech companies such as Google and Facebook to be regulated in a similar way to public utilities as the influence and reach of these companies grows.

Bannon reportedly stated that companies such as Google and Facebook have become so essential to the internet and to the everyday life of many U.S. citizens that they should be regulated as a natural monopoly.

Bannon’s position is becoming an increasingly popular one amongst tech experts. Jonathan Taplin, the author of Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, recently claimed that tech companies like Google and Facebook have become too big and may need to be broken up.

Pivotal Research reporting recently that Google and Facebook combined accounted for 99% of all online ad industry growth in 2016. Traditional news outlets recently requested an antitrust exemption for congress in order to negotiate with companies like Google and Facebook in relation to advertising partnerships.

David Charen, the chief executive of the News Media Alliance, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal : “The problem is that today’s internet distribution systems distort the flow of economic value derived from good reporting,” said Charen. “Google and Facebook dominate web traffic and online ad income.”

“Together, they account for more than 70% of the $73 billion spent each year on digital advertising, and they eat up most of the growth,” he explained. “Nearly 80% of all online referral traffic comes from Google and Facebook. This is an immensely profitable business.”

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon

Breitbart News:  Five Facts you should know about new Chief of Staff

President Donald Trump named the former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly as the new White House Chief of Staff, replacing Reince Priebus.  Here are five facts you should know about Kelly reported by Breitbart News:

#1: John Kelly is a retired four-star Marine general who last served as the commander of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees U.S. operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean. He became President Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security on January 20.

#2: Kelly served three tours in Iraq, commanding as a two-star general from 2008 to 2009. He commanded a Marine task force as a one-star general during the initial assault into Iraq. Asked then by a Los Angeles Times reporter if he was concerned about Saddam Hussein’s forces, he reportedly said, “Hell these are Marines. Men like them held Guadalcanal and took Iwo Jima. Baghdad ain’t sh-t.”

#3: Kelly’s eldest son, Marine First Lieutenant Robert Kelly, was killed in action in Sangin, Afghanistan, while leading a platoon of Marines on a patrol. Kelly is the highest ranking military officer to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan. He has another son serving in the Marine Corps.

#4: As a Marine general during the Obama administration, he opposed opening combat jobs to women in the Marine Corps, and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. He rejected the argument that the prison served as terrorist recruitment propaganda as nonsense. He told Defense One: “Bombing the living sh-t out of ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria, that would maybe irritate them more than the fact we have Guantanamo open.”

#5: He is 67-years-old, and was born in Boston. Kelly enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970, and became an officer in 1975. He retired in 2016, after serving 40 years in the Marine Corps. He’s a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and received a Master’s degree from Georgetown.

 

Sunday, July 30 (Day 192):

President Trump: ‘Don’t give up on repealing Obamacare’

“Don’t give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace…and go to 51 votes (nuke option), get Cross State Lines & more” said President Donald Trump on his Sunday tweet.

President Trump is urging Republicans not to give up on the healthcare reform effort and threatening that if they do not pass a bill, he will end the federal subsidies to insurance companies.

Trump initially said that he wanted Republicans to wait for ObamaCare to “implode” before continuing to act on legislation to repeal and replace the healthcare law, but changed course in a series of tweets Saturday.

Although Senate leadership has indicated they’re ready to move on to other legislation after a series of failures on healthcare, Trump on Saturday insisted that GOP senators “demand another vote before voting on any other bill!” The president also urged the Senate to change its legislative process in order to pass the legislation.

U.S., South Korea and Japan conduct bomber-jet drills over peninsula

The U.S. and its allies are prepared to use “rapid, lethal and overwhelming force,” if necessary, against North Korea, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces warned Saturday night.

The statement from Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, came after the militaries of the U.S., South Korea and Japan spent 10 hours conducting bomber-jet drills over the Korean Peninsula.

The training mission was a response to North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches and nuclear program, and part of the U.S. regular commitment to defending its allies in the Asia-Pacific region, the general’s statement said. “North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” O’Shaughnessy said.

 

Monday, July 31 (Day 193):

Trump wants insurance companies and Congress to feel Obamacare

“If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays?” tweeted President Trump.

 President Trump used Twitter to ask why insurance companies and Congress are not being hurt by the failings of Obamacare just as the American people are being hit. Trump started the day by noting that the unpopular healthcare law is “hurting people” and asked why it isn’t also hurting insurance companies, and also why Congress is exempt.

Trump had previously threatened to end what he called “bailouts” for insurance companies and Congress after the failing of the GOP-led Senate to pass either a healthcare reform bill, a flat-out Obamacare repeal, or a so-called “skinny repeal” of Obamacare.  The vote on a “skinny repeal” failed Friday after three Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) defected and voted against the measure. The vote failed 49-51.

In the wake of that vote, Trump accused those who voted against the bill of having “let the American people down” and said that it was time to “let Obamacare implode, then deal.”

New Chief of Staff sworn in to role

“We jut swore in General Kelly who will do a spectacular job as Chief of Staff like he has done as Director of Homeland Security,” said President Trump. 

The American Center for Law and Justice said today that “The Chief of Staff is the most influential position in the White House” because he “controls” the President’s “schedule, policy, message.”  General Kelly “is a solid guy, familiar with complex organizations, and obviously truly respects the U.S. military”

According to President Trump, “The border was a tremendous problem.  We have now close to 80 percentage stoppage (illegal traffic).  Very few people are going or not going through our border.  This is the ultimate compliment”

White House Communications Director fired

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has been fired after just a week into the job, according to reports.

Scaramucci was brought in by Trump personally to serve as President Donald Trump’s point man for the media, but lost confidence with staff after having a frank and profane conversation with New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza who published the details.

“Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best.”

Kelly reportedly wanted to set a new tone after taking his new position, using Scaramucci as an example. As a Marine, Kelly wants to install a new sense of discipline in the West Wing.

Scaramucci served in his position for just 10 days before leaving the White House.  When Scaramucci was hired, Trump agreed to allow him to report directly to the president, sidestepping chief of staff Reince Priebus and his authority. Priebus was fired on Friday.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned after Scaramucci took the job and reportedly has been meeting with media executives about his future. Spicer had agreed to stay on for a few weeks while Scaramucci got settled, but is technically still at the White House.

“Fast and Furious” weapons used to kill ICE Special Agent in 2011

Special Agent Zapata

A weapon used for the murder of Special Agent Zapata was traced back to a U.S. government (ATF) gun-walking operation run out Texas similar to the infamous “Fast and Furious” case based out of Phoenix, Arizona. In the Phoenix case, it was later discovered that two rifles found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in southern Arizona originated from the ATF, “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation.

Two Los Zetas cartel members were found guilty by a federal jury for the ambush and murder of a U.S Immigration and Enforcement on a Mexican highway.

Gunmen with Los Zetas murdered ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata on February 2011 while he and another agent were traveling in Central Mexico near the town of Santa Maria del Rio in San Luis Potosí. The second ICE Agent, Victor Avila, was seriously wounded by gunfire but later recovered from his wounds.

Both agents Zapata and Avila were returning to Mexico City after meeting up with personnel from the U.S. Consulate Monterrey to conduct a transfer of surveillance equipment at a pre-arranged location on highway 57. Both were ordered to make this trip by their supervisors despite their objections, even though this stretch of highway was known to be patrolled and controlled by dangerous criminal organizations. Both agents had voiced their concerns due to a recent travel warning that had been issued by the Regional Security Office (RSO) in Mexico City prohibiting travel in this area indicating, “it is not worth the risk.”  This U.S. Department of State travel warning (No. 2011-3) was issued on January 18, 2011, less than one month before the murder of Agent Zapata.

The verdicts came at the end of a 15-day trial for Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña and Jose Manuel Garcia Sota who were found guilty of four federal offenses: murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an internationally protected person; and using, carrying and brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.

The defendants are among seven Mexican nationals extradited to the U.S. on federal charges in the case related to the murder of Special Agent Zapata and the wounding of Special Agent Avila. The five previous defendants have already pled guilty in this case.

According to the government’s evidence at trial, Garcia Sota and Quezada Piña were members of two Los Zetas hit squads and were on a mission on the day of the shootings to steal vehicles for use in the cartel’s operations. Agents Zapata and Avila were traveling in a government-issued Suburban with diplomatic plates and it’s believed that they were attacked by their assailants in a case of mistaken identity. During the ambush, the cartel members fired at and into the agents’ vehicle with handguns and semiautomatic assault weapons, including AK-47 and AR-15 type assault rifles. Investigators later found approximately 90 shell casings at the scene, a U.S. Department of Justice news release revealed. 

Ex-Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio found guilty of criminal contempt

Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty on Monday of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s court order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. 

Arpaio, 85, was charged with misdemeanor contempt of court, declaring that he willfully defied a judge’s order in 2011 and prolonged his patrols for another 17 months.  He is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 5 and faces up to six months in jail if convicted, though some attorneys doubt Arpaio will face any jail time. 

Arpaio’s lawyers argued that the former sheriff did not intend to break the law. The ex-lawman admitted to prolonging his patrols, but then blamed one of his former attorneys for not fully explaining the court order. 

However, prosecutors insisted that Arpaio ignored the judge’s orders because the former sheriff was attempting to boost his 2012 campaign.  “He wanted to raise money and win re-election, and it worked,” prosecutor John Keller said.

Arpaio’s lawyers said they would appeal the verdict, contending their client’s legal fate should have been decided by a jury, not a judge. They also said U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton violated Arpaio’s rights by not reading the decision in court. “Her verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case,” his lawyers said in a statement. “Arpaio believes that a jury would have found in his favor, and that it will.”  Last week, Arpaio said he felt “optimistic” about his case.

Arpaio’s tough-on-crime approach  over 24 years in office,  included forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in tents outside in the desert heat.  He was voted out of office in November 2016, defeated by little-known retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone. 

 

Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Tuesday, August 1 (Day 194):

GOP Congressman seeks Special Counsel Mueller’s resignation

A senior Arizona congressman is calling on Robert Mueller, special counsel for the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling, to resign. Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, said today that Mueller is in violation of the law that prohibits Mueller from serving as a special counsel if he has a conflict of interest.

Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey have been longtime allies dating back to 2003 when the men both worked in Washington, Mueller as the FBI Director and Comey as Deputy Attorney General. Franks cited the pair’s relationship as a reason for Mueller to be disqualified from the probe.

“Bob Mueller is in clear violation of federal code and must resign to maintain the integrity of the investigation into alleged Russian ties,” Franks said. “Those who worked under them have attested he and Jim Comey possess a close friendship, and they have delivered on-the-record statements effusing praise of one another.

President Trump had also called Mueller’s relationship with Comey “bothersome.”

Franks also cited reports that Mueller hired at least three lawyers who have donated exclusive to Hillary Clinton as well as a bevy of other Democrats.  “Until Mueller resigns, he will be in clear violation of the law, a reality that fundamentally undermines his role as Special Counsel and attending ability to execute the law,” Franks said.

Senate to hold bipartisan Obamacare hearings

The Senate Health Committee will begin holding bipartisan hearings the first week of September on how to stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market, the panel’s top Democrat and Republican announced Tuesday.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — said the goal is for the panel to craft a bipartisan, short-term proposal by mid-September, as insurers must finalize how much their premiums will cost by the end of that month.

“We need to put out the fire in these collapsing markets wherever these markets are,” Alexander said at the beginning of a HELP Committee hearing on nominations. The committee plans to discuss the issue with insurance commissioners, patients, insurance companies, governors and healthcare experts. The committee’s staff will beginning preparing for the hearings this week, Alexander said.

The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said she welcomed the bipartisan hearings and appreciated Alexander’s willingness to work with her on the issue. Alexander and Murray have previously crafted bipartisan deals, such as a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act last congressional session.

The move comes as some Senate GOP leaders are openly admitting they don’t see a path forward on their seven-year-long campaign pledge to repeal ObamaCare, at least for now, after a scaled-down repeal bill failed to pass the upper chamber early Friday morning.

Even before last week’s vote, some Republicans have called for an open and bipartisan process. Others have said that letting Alexander and Murray work on healthcare in committee is at least one path worth pursuing.

The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House, consisting of 43 Republicans and Democrats, unveiled proposals to fix problems with the Affordable Care Act on Monday. Included in the list was congressional funding for cost-sharing reduction payments.

Insurers have been pleading with Congress for long-term certainty that they’ll continue to receive crucial payments compensating them for subsidizing out-of-pocket costs for certain consumers. Without them, premiums on the ObamaCare exchanges would spike, insurers warn.

Alexander said he has urged the president to continue CSR payments through September to give Congress time to work out a short-term solution.

Stabilizing the individual market could be one area of bipartisanship, though it’s already drawn ire from conservatives, who argue that any action would be providing bailouts to insurance companies.

The Trump administration has been funding these cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers on a monthly basis. In tweets over the weekend, President Trump threatened to cancel the payments, which total $7 billion in fiscal 2017, if Republicans don’t pass a healthcare bill.

Paul Ryan:  ‘It’s time for the wall’

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called for action on President Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in a video he tweeted out on Tuesday.  “RT if you agree,” he posted on Twitter, along with a video of a border visit he made. “It is time for the wall.” 

The video shows Speaker Ryan on a visit to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where he met with Border Patrol officers.  “When you see what they’re up against, it really gives you even greater respect for what they do. They clearly need more tools and more support to do their jobs effectively,” he said.

he video was also posted on the Speaker’s website, under the headline, “The Wall: Let’s Get it Done.”  The accompanying blog post said:  “It’s time for The Wall. That’s why the House voted to fully fund the Trump administration’s request to build it.”

U.S. Senate approves Trump’s choice for FBI Director

The Senate voted 92-5 Tuesday to approve Christopher Wray as President Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with lawmakers confident he can independently lead the bureau and shield its investigations from political interference.

The vote comes less than three months after the president fired former FBI Director James Comey, setting off a chain of events that included the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and possible coordination with members of the Trump campaign.

“I would hope that with all the threats facing us at home and abroad, our Democratic colleagues would not launch the first filibuster of a nominee to be FBI Director, especially one who was reported out of the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20-0,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

President being challenged to revoke Congressional Obamacare subsidy

Top conservatives challenged President Trump on Monday to revoke the special $12,000 Obamacare subsidy members of Congress receive each year courtesy of taxpayers, saying the best way to force lawmakers back to the bargaining table is to force them to fully obey the struggling law.

Mr. Trump appears to be on board, having tweeted twice in recent days that it was unfair for Congress to give itself extra help to pay for insurance premiums when average Americans are struggling.  “Why should Congress not be paying what public pays,” the president wondered on Twitter on Monday. Two days earlier, he decried the money as “bailouts” for members of Congress and insisted they “will end very soon!”

Analysts said Mr. Trump can do more than tweet about it: He can take unilateral action, without having to wait for Congress, by ordering his administration to revoke the Obama-era policy that ruled — despite what they called a clear prohibition in law — that members of Congress could keep collecting money.

Several congressional Republicans said they will work on Capitol Hill to change the law and force lawmakers to fully abide by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. They have tried in the past with no success. Both Democrats and Republicans have resisted efforts to strip out the payments, which cover up to 75 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Some members have voluntarily given up the payments and are working to force their colleagues to do the same. Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, said he pays a check every three months back to the government as reimbursement for the subsidy, which he said works out to more than $12,000 a year. Given members’ $174,000 annual salary, the $12,000 is serious, he said, but nowhere near the pain constituents making just $50,000 have to face. “Until members of Congress are in that same position, we’re not going to fix that problem,” he said. “This is unfortunately probably the only way we’re going to be able to do it.”

Conservatives say that if lawmakers share the pain of average Americans, then they will return to the negotiations and work out a deal that fixes Obamacare — ideally by controlling skyrocketing premiums.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, managed to attach an amendment requiring members of Congress and their office staffers to give up their policies under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program and enroll in Obamacare exchanges.

But the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management, under intense lobbying from members of Congress who feared personal financial hardship and losing staff, decided to continue the employer contribution.

Former Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, repeatedly tried but failed to force the Senate to vote to repeal the money. At one point, he asked the Senate’s small-business committee to authorize subpoenas to the D.C. exchange, hoping to pry loose documents. The committee, which Mr. Vitter chaired, refused to back him, with five Republicans siding with Democrats in denying his request.

The D.C. exchange says about 11,000 Capitol Hill personnel are enrolled through the city’s small-business exchange. Congress argued that its members qualified because each office was a small business.

Google announces new YouTube censorship policies

Content creators on YouTube who follow all of the site’s rules may still face censorship by the platform, under new plans announced by Google. According to a post on YouTube’s official blog, videos will now be subject to the rule of the mob. If enough users flag a video as “hate speech” or “violent extremism,” YouTube may impose restrictions on the content even if it breaks none of the platform’s rules.

We’ll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren’t illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism. If we find that these videos don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state. The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes.

YouTube has also rolled out a “trusted flagger” program, in which 15 “expert NGOs and institutions” to help them identify hate speech and extremism on their platform. Among these organizations are the No Hate Speech Movement, a left-wing project pushed by the Council of Europe, as well as the Anti-Defamation League, an organization whose president has been accused of “manufacturing outrage” by the World Jewish Congress.

YouTube is also planning to artificially alter its search results so that searches for “sensitive” topics on YouTube no longer return the most popular videos, but a “playlist of curated YouTube videos that directly confront and debunk violent extremist messages.”

The platform also plans to artificially promote videos created via its “Creators for Change” program,  which, in YouTube’s words, features creators who are “using their voices and creativity to speak out against hate speech, xenophobia and extremism.”

YouTube framed its blog post around fighting “terror content,” yet their announcement also strays into areas that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism, like the company’s diversity efforts. The blog post boasts about YouTube’s involvement with the  “Creators for Change workshop” in which “creators teamed up with Indonesia’s Maarif Institute to teach young people about the importance of diversity, pluralism, and tolerance.”

YouTube’s “Creators for Change” program is filled with progressives who, in YouTube’s words, are “tackling social issues and promoting awareness, tolerance and empathy on their YouTube channels.”

Sarah Sanders Blasts Press for ‘Russia Scandal Fake News’, Points to Clintons’ Real Russia Relationships

New White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders flipped Russia conspiracy questions during Tuesday’s press briefing, pointing to a lack of evidence against the Trump Administration and a host of evidence against Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Sanders slammed media questions aimed at showing that there were any “misleading” actions by the Trump campaign or Trump Administration with regards to Russia.

“The thing I see misleading is a year’s worth of stories that have been fueling a false narrative about this Russia collusion. And a phony scandal based on anonymous sources. And, I think if we’re gonna talk about misleading, that’s the only thing misleading I see in this entire process.”

Sanders then accused the media of being focused on a meeting that Trump’s son Don Jr. took, which she characterized as having “no consequence. The Democrats actually colluded with a foreign government like Ukraine,” she pushed back. “The Democrat-linked firm Fusion GPS actually took money from the Russian government while it created the phony dossier that’s been the basis for all of the Russia scandal fake news.

“Look no further than the Clintons,” for a relationship with Russia, Sanders retorted as reporters attempted to interrupt her statements. She cited the $500,000 former President Bill Clinton accepted to give a speech to a Russian bank. She added that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself thanked Clinton for giving the speech.

Sanders mentioned how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sold one-fifth of United States’ uranium to a Russian firm. Sanders added that the firm’s investors included Clinton Foundation donors. Evidence of Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling U.S. uranium to Russian state atomic energy agency Uranium One during her time as Secretary of State is documented in Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash. The book also referenced the New York Times story on the half a million paid to Bill Clinton for the Russian bank speech.

An email released through Wikileaks may also be shedding new light on inquiries into links between Hillary Clinton’s opposition to the Magnitsky Act and Bill Clinton’s speech in Moscow. “The Clinton campaign chairman’s brother lobbied against sanctions on Russia’s largest bank and failed to report it,” Sanders added.

Tony Podesta, the brother of Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta, was paid $170,000 over six months in 2016 to represent Russia’s largest bank and lobby to end economic sanctions against Russia, according to the Daily Caller.

The Press Secretary said the media seemed “obsessed” with discussing Russia relations — and for that the press should look toward the Clintons. “If you want to talk about somebody who’s actually been tough on Russia, look at President Trump,” she said before stating that Trump wants “more fracking, more coal, more energy, a stronger military, a stronger defense. Those things aren’t good for Russia.”

Sanders accused the media of trying to “create a narrative that just doesn’t exist.”

President Trump celebrates LA Olympics in 2028

President Donald Trump celebrated the successful bid by Los Angeles to host the Olympic Games in 2028.  “For the first time in a generation, the Olympics are coming back to the United States, and I am proud to support LA 2028,” Trump said in a statement.

The president congratulated the United States Olympic Committee, reminding the world that they led the in Olympic medals.  “No country has won more Olympic medals or trained more Olympic and Paralympic athletes,” he said. “America always shines brightly during the Games, and LA 2028 will be no exception.”

llegal immigrant make up more than one-fifth of prison population

A stunning 22 percent of the federal prison population is immigrants who have either already been deemed to be in the country illegally or who the government is looking to put in deportation proceedings, the administration said Tuesday.

President Trump requested the numbers as part of his initial immigration executive orders.  The 22 percent is much higher than the population of foreign-born in the U.S. as a whole, which is about 13.5 percent.  All told, the government counted more than 42,000 aliens in federal prisons as of June 24. About 47 percent already face final deportation orders, making them illegal immigrants, and 3 percent are currently in immigration courts facing deportation proceedings.  Almost all of the rest are being probed by federal agents looking to deport them.

Immigrants who commit serious crimes, even if they once had legal status, can have that status revoked and can be subject to deportation, which explains the high number of cases where an alien is still being probed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The U.S. Marshal Service, meanwhile, is holding about 12,000 “self-reporting” aliens, and almost all of them have already been ordered deported. Government officials said they’re still working to try to collect information on the foreign-born population in state and local prisons and jails.

Immigrants who commit serious crimes, even if they once had legal status, can have that status revoked and can be subject to deportation, which explains the high number of cases where an alien is still being probed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Military Generals and Admirals Divided over Transgender Ban

More than a dozen retired generals and admirals have signed a letter to President Trump thanking him for his announced policy to ban transgender people from the armed forces.

The letter came as the Palm Center, a research nonprofit that promotes the LGBT agenda, released a competing statement from 56 retired admirals and generals who say re-imposing the ban will hurt readiness, not help it.

After being pressed by social conservatives, Mr. Trump announced his decision on July 26 via his favorite communications mechanism — Twitter. Defense Secretary James Mattis and the top brass, issued statements saying nothing would change until they received written White House orders.

Wednesday, August 2 (Day 195):

National Security Advisor firing loyal Trump supporters

A top official on the National Security Council was fired last month by National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster reportedly after he argued in a memo that President Trump’s administration is under sustained attack from globalists and Islamists.

Rich Higgins, a former Pentagon official who served in the NSC’s strategic-planning office as a director for strategic planning was fired on July 21, The Atlantic first reported.The memo, written in late May, described threats to the administration by globalists, bankers, the “deep state,” and Islamists.

“Globalists and Islamists recognize that for their visions to succeed, America, both as an ideal and as a national and political identity, must be destroyed,” it said.  Higgins was called into the White House counsel’s office two weeks ago and asked about the memo. Later that week, he was told by McMaster’s deputy that he was losing his job.

Sources told The Atlantic that Higgins had also pushed to declassify documents having to do with radical Islam and Iran, including Presidential Study Directive 11, produced by the Obama administration before the Arab Spring outlining unrest throughout the Middle East.

The report said the memo outlined many of the same ideas he laid out in an interview with the Daily Caller last year. In the interview, he said political warfare includes non-violent and violent actions working in synthesis.  He said the left, working with enemy-friendly Muslim Brotherhood allies, is able to control the dominant cultural narrative with the media and the government, blinding Americans in the war on terror and influencing how they think, according to its report.

McMaster also recently removed Derek Harvey, the senior director for the Middle East. Before his removal, Harvey reportedly produced a list of NSC holdovers and presented it to McMaster, who declined to fire them, the report said.

McMaster has particularly sparred with other members of the administration on an Afghanistan plan with an increase of 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops there. Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly did not support the plan.

President Donald Trump’s National Security adviser H.R. McMaster allowed former President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice to maintain her security clearance to access classified information — despite reservations Trump had about her motives.

McMaster sent an official letter to Rice informing her that she would maintain unfettered access to classified information, according to a report from Circa’s Sara Carter.  The president was not aware of his actions, according to two senior White House officials and an intelligence official.

As Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported, McMaster also concluded that Rice did nothing wrong by unmasking Trump transition officials. Rice celebrated the exit of former national security advisor Michael Flynn and welcomed Trump’s decision to hire McMaster. “Congrats to Lt Gen McMaster. I wish you every success as National Security Advisor,” she wrote on Twitter. “Hope you will be able to choose your team, have direct reporting and daily access to POTUS, and can eliminate Strategic Initiatives Group.”

On April 12, Trump used the story to defend his accusations that the Obama administration was spying and leaking on his transition team in an interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. “When you look at Susan Rice and what’s going on and so many people are coming up to me and apologizing now,” Trump said. “They say, ‘You know, you were right when you said that.’” When Bartiromo told Trump that Rice denied doing anything political, he dismissed it. “Does anyone really believe that?” he said. “Nobody believes that, even the people that try to protect her in the news media.”

Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes continues to investigate the hundreds of unmasking requests from former Obama officials, including those of former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

The Trump staffers fired by McMaster had repeatedly clashed with career government staffers and holdovers from the Obama administration on issues as diverse as military strategies for Syria and Afghanistan, whether to tear up Obama’s landmark Iran deal, the controversial détente with Cuba, the U.S. role in confronting Islamic radicalism, and the Paris Climate Accord, according to these sources.

More purges are said to be on the way, according to multiple insiders who described a list of at least four other senior NSC officials McMaster intends to target. Other sources confirmed the likelihood of more purges, but disputed some details on that list.

“McMaster basically has this list and over the next two weeks he’s going to phase out” more senior officials loyal to Trump, said one administration insider intimately familiar with the upheaval occurring at the White House National Security Council. “They’re taking out people who were chosen to best implement the president’s policy that he articulated during the campaign.”

The latest victim of this purge is Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a senior NSC official originally hired by ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House acknowledged in a statement late Wednesday evening on Cohen-Watnick’s departure that McMaster viewed him as in conflict with his vision for the NSC.

Victoria Coates, another Flynn hire who served as a senior NSC member up until this week, has been reassigned at her request to the administration’s Middle East peace team. The move is being viewed as a promotion and it is expected she will continue to play a role in the Iran portfolio, sources said. “McMaster’s agenda is different than the president’s,” said one administration source with knowledge of the situation.

The moves have sparked outrage inside and outside of the administration, with multiple sources telling the Free Beacon that Trump is being pushed in a direction antithetical to the campaign promises that brought him into office. One of the central flashpoints in this internal battle has been Iran and the future of the nuclear accord, multiple sources independently confirmed to the Free Beacon.

NSC officials such as Cohen-Watnick, Harvey, and others had been making the case that Trump should scrap the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal over increasingly aggressive Iranian ballistic missile activity and mounting evidence Tehran is breaching the accord.  McMaster, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top Obama-era State Department officials who worked on the deal, have aggressively urged maintaining it.

“One of the first things H.R. McMaster did when he took over the NSC was order all the staffers who came in with Trump to stop talking about Obama ‘holdovers.’ It was an actual, literal, explicit instruction,” the source said. “He didn’t want anyone pointing out how Obama loyalists were still in place, undermining President Trump, and leaking against him.”

The Israel angle on McMaster’s purge of Trump loyalists from the National Security Council is that all of these people are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds. McMaster in contrast is deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump. According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.

In May, Adam Lovinger, a pro-Trump national security strategist on loan from the Pentagon’s office of net assessment was summarily informed that his security clearance was revoked. He was fired and escorted from the White House like a spy and put on file duty at the Pentagon. Lovinger is a seasoned strategic analyst who McMaster hated because he supported India over Pakistan, among other things.

Lovinger has not been told the grounds for his sudden loss of clearance but Mike Cernovich reported that the grounds were that he traveled to Israel for a family bar mitzvah. In other words, there were no grounds for dismissal. His boss at the Pentagon — unbelievably named James Baker, is an Obama hire who hates Trump and supports Obama’s agenda.

H.R. McMaster

Thursday, August 3 (Day 196):

National Security Adviser meets with President

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster met with President Trump Thursday amid his purge of Trump loyalists from the White House National Security Council, a heated debate about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and a report that he allowed former Obama administration aide Susan E. Rice to keep her security clearance.

The head of a conservative group called for Gen. McMaster to be fired, citing the leaks Thursday of transcripts of Mr. Trump’s phone conversations with foreign leaders. “The only option President Trump has is to clean house at the National Security Council, starting at the top with General McMaster,” said Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning. “The threat posed to the country by the National Security Council leaking requires immediate and swift action.”

But a group of national security analysts at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Thursday called Gen. McMaster “the right leader for a tough, determined president who only wants the best for the American people.”

“For months, there have been reports of strong disagreements in the White House. There’s nothing wrong with that. In our view, that’s often the best way tough decisions get made,” wrote analysts Jim Carafano, Walter Lohman, Tom Spoehr, Luke Coffey, David Shedd and Nile Gardiner.

Gen. McMaster reportedly has been ousting NSC staffers connected to a memo outlining how Mr. Trump was under attack from “globalists” and “Islamists” trying to undermine his agenda.

Gen. McMaster and other members of the president’s national security team have been pushing him to send about 3,500 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, a move that the president has been resisting.

General Counsel impanels grand jury in Russia Probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Reuters also reported that grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with the meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer and others last year.  Russia has denied having a hand in the U.S. presidential election. President Trump, too, has strongly denied allegations of collusion and has frequently called the investigation a “witch hunt.” 

Grand juries allow prosecutors to subpoena documents and get witness testimony on the record. They also can seek indictments. 

Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, told Fox News on Thursday he wasn’t aware that Mueller had impaneled a new grand jury but said, “We favor anything that brings this investigation to a swift conclusion.”  Cobb also told reporters that, “Grand jury matters are typically secret,” and the White House “is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”   Trump attorney Jay Sekulow downplayed the significance of the grand jury, calling it “a standard operating procedure when you’ve got a situation like this.” “We have no reason to believe President Trump is under investigation,” Trump attorney John Dowd told Fox News.

Mueller, who now has a team of 16 attorneys, was brought on as special counsel in May. Prior to his involvement, federal prosecutors reportedly had been using another grand jury, in Alexandria, Va., to help with their criminal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The Flynn case focuses on his work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests. 

Trump and his allies have in recent weeks openly criticized Mueller, with one Republican lawmaker even calling for him to step asideOther lawmakers have responded with proposals that could serve to shield Mueller from being fired.

Trump also has fumed about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia case, which cleared the way for Mueller’s eventual appointment — though Sessions has recently been told by the White House his job is considered safe. 

West Virginia Democrat Governor changes party; Trump hailed at rally

During a speech at President Trump’s rally in West Virginia on Thursday, the state’s Governor, Jim Justice announced he is changing his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

Governor Justice said,  “Now listen to me and listen really good, we hurt a lot of people. We hurt our vets and our teachers and our disabled and our weak and we walked away from the old. Now I can promise you just this, I came to only get something done. Let me just say this to you as bluntly as I can say it, West Virginia, at the altar, when we had it done, like it or not like it, but the Democrats walked away from me. Now, today I will tell you, with lots of prayers and lots of thinking, today I’ll tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor. So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

“Now let me go one step further and say just this, what in the world is wrong us as peoples? Have we not heard enough about the Russians? I mean, to our God in heaven above think about it, the stock market’s at 22,000. And this country has hope. And we’re on our way.  Trump has made us, as common, everyday Americans, feel good and be proud of who we are.”

President Donald Trump told West Virginians on Thursday that even though the stock market is hitting record highs, he will continue to fight for people who are not in the workforce and may not be benefiting from the booming stock market.

In West Virginia before a jam-packed and raucous audience, Trump spoke about the stock market reaching “yet another all-time” high during his presidency, “boosting the retirement savings, hopefully, of everybody in this room.” He then said the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low  during his presidency.

The blue-collar billionaire said that the country’s leaders cannot forget about the hard-working people who are the “absolute backbone of America” who may not be invested in the stock market.  “I will never forget the millions and millions of people out there that want jobs, that don’t register on the unemployment rolls because they gave up looking for jobs,” Trump said. “So I accept the [the record economic] number, but we all know that there are millions of people out there we love—the forgotten men and women—and they’re looking for jobs.”

Trump promised these Americans who may not be seeing their economic conditions improve with the booming stock market that they will get jobs as he brings factories back and pushes for a massive infrastructure bill that rebuilds the country while putting more Americans to work.

“We can build anything.  We can dream anything.   We all relate to the same American flag made by the same Almighty God….We will never fail…We will make America strong again, wealthy again, proud again, safe again and we will Make America Great Again.”

Governor Justice

 

 Trump Administration cracking down on sanctuary cities

The Trump Administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration continues with further pressure on sanctuary cities. The Daily Signal reports that the Justice Department has confirmed that it will block Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which account for the lion’s share of federal aid to states and localities for criminal justice, from sanctuary cities, specifically jurisdictions that keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement from talking to local officials and interviewing inmates, or not notifying ICE when they release aliens ICE wants to deport. 

It is significant because a large share of the funds awarded in this program go to sanctuary jurisdictions. For example, according to Justice Department records, the four largest grants, and seven out of the top 10 recipients of the Byrne/JAG grants are sanctuaries.

Under the new rules announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, these four top grant-getters (New York City; Cook County, Illinois; Los Angeles; and Philadelphia) are likely to be disqualified from these grants in the future if they maintain their current policies toward ICE.

Sanctuary jurisdictions received $32.7 million in 2016 with Oxnard receiving more than $100,000.

 

Friday, August 4 (Day 197):

Trump promotes legislation curbing legal immigration

President Trump is hoping to curb legal immigration through GOP sponsored legislation.  “Just this week, we announced a historic immigration bill to create a merit-based Green Card system that ends the abuse of our welfare system, stops chain migration, and protects our workers and our economy,” the president said in his weekly address.

Trump unveiled the legislation – which fulfills a key campaign promise – during an event at the White House this week with GOP Senators Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.).

Proponents said the bill would move the U.S. to a “merit-based” immigration system and away from the current model, which is based on family ties. The legislation would eliminate immigration preferences given to extended family members and adult children of U.S. citizens seeking green cards, as well as put an end to the State Department’s Diversity visa lottery. The legislation also gives a preference to English speaking immigrants. 

The White House’s endorsement of the legislation marked a watershed moment for groups that have been pushing the idea for years, though the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate where it’s expected to get pushback from Democrats and some Republicans who oppose stricter limits on legal immigration.

The Oath of Allegiance was sworn by 50 local children and 2 adults at the Channel Islands National Park’s Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center. Photo Credit: Tim Pompey

Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service, founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in West Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 23 years as a middle school teacher.  Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email: [email protected] 

Mr. Hernandez is dedicating himself to advance the 13 spheres –as a “City Upon A Hill”; developing an interactive California citizens news platform as an alternative to mainstream media; while building local school-community partnerships.


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