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Trump ‘Incompetent,’ British Envoy to US Being Quoted as Saying

Updated July 7, 5:05 pm

A British newspaper reported Sunday that Britain’s ambassador to the United States has described U.S. President Donald Trump as inept and uniquely dysfunctional.

The tabloid Mail on Sunday published the highly unflattering portrait of the U.S. leader, quoting comments allegedly taken from a cache of leaked diplomatic memos from Ambassador Kim Darroch.  

According to the newspaper, Darroch described Trump as someone who “radiates insecurity” and who is “incompetent.”

“We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal,” Darroch is reported to have written.

The ambassador cautioned British officials, however, not to dismiss Trump’s chances for re-election, saying the president has a “credible path” to another four years in the White House.  

The report said Darroch warned that Trump could “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like (Arnold) Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator.”

Britain’s Foreign Office has not denied the comments.  A spokeswoman said ambassadors are expected “to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country.”  She added, “We pay them to be candid.”

The Foreign Office called the leaks “mischievous behavior” but said it would not harm the relationship between the British government and the Trump White House.

The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the subject.

 

Independence Day Celebration Brings Out Trump Supporters and Skeptics

Americans who turned out on the National Mall in Washington to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day ran the gamut from pro-Donald Trump to anti-Trump to mildly optimistic about the Trump-style celebration and a possible second term for the unconventional president.

“He loves our country,” said one supporter, decked out in a tank top emblazoned with “USA 45” (Trump is the 45th U.S. president) and a well-worn red, white and blue cowboy hat adorned with stars and stripes. “He stands for us United States citizens. He has brought pride back to being an American.”

Next to him stood a woman in a MAGA (Make America Great Again) baseball cap, who said Thursday, “I’m everything people think I’m not. I’m from California, Latina, immigrant family, and I love America.”

The two Trump supporters were surrounded by a group of compatriots decked out in patriotic clothing, singing songs and sweating together in the heat and humidity.

Caroline Sarajian shows off her “Armenians for Trump” banner, July 4, 2019, on the National Mall in Washington.

Caroline Sarajian brandished an “Armenians for Trump” banner. She explained why she wants to see Trump re-elected in 2020. 

“He’s great for the country,” she said. “In every single way he’s promised, he’s delivered. And he can be trusted. His motives are clear. His motives are for the people.”

Asked what she thinks about Trump’s claim that investigations of his campaign’s ties to Russia amount to a “witch hunt,” she agreed vigorously. 

“It’s a complete witch hunt right now that’s been going on for two years. The collusion delusion,” she said.

Protesters move a Baby Trump balloon into position before Independence Day celebrations, July 4, 2019, on the National Mall in Washington.

Different point of view

Not all on the National Mall Thursday were Trump supporters, however.

“I think it’s very clear that the president is politicizing a nonpartisan event, particularly by putting himself in the middle of it,” said Amanda Whitehead from Berkeley, California. “I’m here today because people on our borders are being held today in inhumane conditions for inhumane reasons, and not being given the help that I believe their country promises them. And that other people are coming from terrible, terrible situations and need assistance.”

David Barrows, dressed in a shirt and tie with a “Dump Trump” baseball cap, said, “I’m here to stand up for justice and democracy. I’m against what Trump stands for. I’m against how he treats the immigrants, separating children from parents and putting them in deplorable conditions on the border.”

He said he did not approve of Trump’s addition of tanks and fighter jets to the celebration.

“I’m against this event because it celebrates the military,” he said. “It celebrates violence over peace. It celebrates strength — the bad use of strength. … The arrogance of the United States. I’m tired of having to be ashamed of my country.”

People gather on the National Mall during the “Salute to America” Fourth of July event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, July 4, 2019.

Here to celebrate

Others on the Mall said they preferred celebration to controversy.

“It’s not about him,” Phil Hind of New Market, Maryland, said of the president’s attendance at the festivities. “He makes everything about him. … I’m more here for the show, though. It should be fun.”

Mother and son Carrie and Josh Wetzel came from St. Louis, Missouri.

“We’re here for America and for the Fourth of July,” Carrie Wetzel said. “We came and did the celebration [in Washington] 18 years ago. The celebrations were great and the fireworks were great and everything celebrated America. I don’t think there’s any need to add anything to that.”

Her son Josh was optimistic that a change in tradition might not be so bad.

Speaking before the president’s speech, he said, “If he can do this in the right way, he can really celebrate America and be a good thing for the Fourth of July. … I feel like it could be more uniting [than divisive] if everybody could just come together and celebrate our independence.”
 

Sources: Jeffrey Epstein Arrested in NY on Sex Charges

Updated, July 7, 2019, 5:15 a.m.

Wealthy financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested Saturday in New York on sex-trafficking charges involving allegations that date to the 2000s, according to law enforcement officials. 

Epstein, a wealthy hedge fund manager who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Great Britain’s Prince Andrew, and President Donald Trump, was taken into federal custody, according to two officials.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the pending case. 

Epstein is expected to appear Monday in Manhattan federal court. A message was sent to his attorney seeking comment. 

Epstein’s arrest was first reported by The Daily Beast. 

Plea deal scrutiny

The arrest comes amid renewed scrutiny of a once-secret plea deal that ended a federal investigation against him.  

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of soliciting and procuring a person younger than 18 for prostitution. The deal ended a federal investigation that could have landed Epstein in prison for life.

Instead, he was sentenced to 13 months in jail and was required to reach financial settlements with dozens of his once-teenage victims. Epstein also was required to register as a sex offender. 

Trump labor secretary

Epstein’s deal was overseen by former Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, who is now Trump’s labor secretary. Acosta has defended the plea deal as appropriate under the circumstances, though the White House said in February that it was “looking into” his handling of the deal.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra of Florida ruled earlier this year that Epstein’s victims should have been consulted under federal law about the deal, and he is now weighing whether to invalidate the non-prosecution agreement, or NPA, that protected Epstein from federal charges. 

It was not immediately clear whether the cases involved the same victims since nearly all have remained anonymous. 

Federal prosecutors

Federal prosecutors recently filed court papers in Florida case contending Epstein’s deal must stand. 

“The past cannot be undone; the government committed itself to the NPA, and the parties have not disputed that Epstein complied with its provisions,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

They acknowledged, however, that the failure to consult victims “fell short of the government’s dedication to serve victims to the best of its ability” and that prosecutors “should have communicated with the victims in a straightforward and transparent way.”

The victims in the Florida case have until Monday to respond to the Justice Department’s filing. 

According to court records in Florida, authorities say at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion for what turned into sexual encounters after female fixers looked for suitable girls locally and in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. 

Some girls were also allegedly brought to Epstein’s homes in New York City, New Mexico and a private Caribbean island, according to court documents. 
 

FACT CHECK: Trump on Vets, Economy and History

President Donald Trump roused a political tempest when he decided to plant himself squarely in Independence Day observances with a speech from the Lincoln Memorial. His words from that platform, though, were strikingly measured, except for some befuddlement over American military history.

The unscripted Trump — the one the world sees day to day — was to be found on Twitter and in other venues. It was in such places that the president misrepresented his record on care for veterans, the health of the economy, the state of the auto industry and more.

Some rhetoric in review:

MARS

TRUMP: “Someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars.” — July 4 speech.

THE FACTS: This is not happening soon; almost certainly not while he is president even if he wins a second term.

The Trump administration has a placed a priority on the moon over Mars for human exploration (President Barack Obama favored Mars) and hopes to accelerate NASA’s plan for returning people to the lunar surface. It has asked Congress to approve enough money to make a moon mission possible by 2024, instead of 2028. But even if that happens, Mars would come years after that.

International space agencies have made aspirational statements about possibly landing humans on Mars during the 2030s.

Trump’s speech was almost entirely free of exaggerations about his agenda; this was an exception.

HISTORY

TRUMP: “The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown. Our army manned the air (unintelligible), it rammed the ramparts. It took over the airports. It did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant.” — July 4 speech.

THE FACTS: Trump said the teleprompter stopped working during this passage: “I knew the speech very well so I was able to do it without a teleprompter.”

There were, of course, no airplanes during the War of Independence, and the Battle of Fort McHenry took place during the War of 1812, not the revolution. Trump segued from colonial times to modern times and back to the War of 1812 so fast that it seemed he was conflating wars and misstating aviation history. But the confusion apparently came from his need to wing it when the script went down.

ECONOMY

TRUMP: “The Economy is the BEST IT HAS EVER BEEN!” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: The economy is not one of the best in the country’s history. It expanded at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. That growth was the highest in just four years for the first quarter.

In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.

In fact, there are many signs that growth is slowing, partly because of Trump’s trade fights with China and Europe. Factory activity has decelerated for three straight months as global growth has slowed and companies are reining in their spending on large equipment.

Most economists forecast the economy will expand at just a 2% annual rate in the April-June period.

Trump is pushing the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, to cut short-term interest rates to shore up the economy. That isn’t something a president would do amid the strongest economy in history.

Economists mostly expect the Fed will cut rates, either at its next meeting in July or in September. Lower rates make it easier for people to borrow and buy new homes and cars.

Powell said last week the economy is facing growing uncertainties and he indicated the Fed would take the necessary steps to sustain the expansion, a sign that the Fed could cut rates soon.

The economy is now in its 121st month of growth, making it the longest expansion in history. But most of that took place under Obama.

The economy grew 2.9% in 2018 — the same pace it reached in 2015 under Obama — and simply hasn’t hit historically high growth rates.

NORTH KOREA

TRUMP, on North Korea’s help in returning the remains of U.S. troops from the Korean War: “The remains are coming back as they get them, as they find them. The remains of our great heroes from the war. And we really appreciate that.” — remarks Sunday to Korean business leaders in Seoul.

TRUMP: “We’re very happy about the remains having come back. And they’re bringing back — in fact, we were notified they have additional remains of our great heroes from many years ago.” — remarks June 28 in Japan.

THE FACTS: His account is at odds with developments.

No remains of U.S. service members have been returned since last summer and the U.S. suspended efforts in May to get negotiations on the remains back on track in time to have more repatriated this year. It hopes more remains may be brought home next year.

The Pentagon’s Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, which is the outfit responsible for recovering U.S. war remains and returning them to families, “has not received any new information from (North Korean) officials regarding the turn over or recovery of remains,” spokesman Charles Prichard said Wednesday.

He said his agency is “still working to communicate” with the North Korean army “as it is our intent to find common ground on resuming recovery missions” in 2020.

Last summer, in line with the first summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un that June, the North turned over 55 boxes of what it said were the remains of an undetermined number of U.S service members killed in the North during the 1950-53 war. So far, six Americans have been identified from the 55 boxes.

U.S. officials have said the North has suggested in recent years that it holds perhaps 200 sets of American war remains. Thousands more are unrecovered from battlefields and former POW camps.

The Pentagon estimates that 5,300 Americans were lost in North Korea.

VETERANS

TRUMP, on approving private-sector health care for veterans: “I actually came up with the idea. I said, ‘Why don’t we just have the veterans go out and see a private doctor and we’ll pay the cost of the doctor and that will solve the problem?’ Some veterans were waiting for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, they couldn’t get any service at all. I said, ‘We’ll just send them out.’ And what I thought it was a genius idea, brilliant idea. I came back and met with the board and a lot of the people that handled the VA. … They said, ‘Actually sir, we’ve been trying to get that passed for 40 years, and we haven’t been able to get it.’ I’m good at getting things done. … It’s really cut down big on the waits.” — call on June 25 with military veterans.

TRUMP: “We passed VA Choice and VA Accountability to give our veterans the care that they deserve and they have been trying to pass these things for 45 years.” — Montoursville, Pennsylvania, rally on May 20.

THE FACTS: Trump did not invent the idea of giving veterans the option to see private doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system at government expense. Nor is he the first president in 40 years to pass the program.

Congress approved the private-sector Veterans Choice health program in 2014 and Obama signed it into law. Trump expanded it.

Under the expansion which took effect last month, veterans still may have to wait weeks to see a doctor. They program allows veterans to see a private doctor if their VA wait is 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is only 30 minutes.

Indeed, the VA says it does not expect a major increase in veterans seeking care outside the VA under Trump’s expanded program, partly because wait times in the private sector are typically longer than at VA. “The care in the private sector, nine times out of 10, is probably not as good as care in VA,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told Congress in March.

TRUMP: “On average, 20 veterans and members take their own lives every day. … We’re working very very hard on that. In fact, the first time I heard the number was 23, and now it’s down somewhat. But it’s such an unacceptable number.” — call on June 25 with military veterans.

THE FACTS: Trump incorrectly suggests that he helped reduce veterans’ suicide, noting that his administration was working “very, very hard” on the problem and that in fact the figure had come down. But no decline has been registered during his administration. There was a drop during the Obama administration but that might be due to the way veterans’ suicides are counted.

The VA estimated in 2013 that 22 veterans were taking their lives each day on average (not 23, as Trump put it). The estimate was based on data submitted from fewer than half the states. In 2016, VA released an estimate of 20 suicides per day, based on 2014 data from all 50 states as well as the Pentagon.

The estimated average has not budged since.

Trump has pledged additional money for suicide prevention and created in March a Cabinet-level task force that will seek to develop a national roadmap for suicide prevention, part of a campaign pledge to improve health care for veterans.

Still, a report by the Government Accountability Office in December found that the VA had left millions of dollars unspent that were available for suicide prevention efforts. The report said the VA had spent just $57,000 out of $6.2 million available for paid media, such as social-media postings, due in part to leadership turmoil at the agency.

MILITARY PAY

TRUMP: “You also got very nice pay raises for the last couple of years. Congratulations. Oh, you care about that. They care about that. I didn’t think you noticed. Yeah, you were entitled. You know, it was close to 10 years before you had an increase. Ten years. And we said, ‘It’s time.’ And you got a couple of good ones, big ones, nice ones.” — remarks June 30 to service members at Osan Air Base, South Korea.

THE FACTS: He’s been spreading this falsehood for more than a year, soaking up cheers from crowds for something he didn’t do. In May 2018, for example, he declared to graduates of the United States Naval Academy: “We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years.”

U.S. military members have received a pay raise every year for decades .

Trump also boasts about the size of the military pay raises under his administration, but there’s nothing extraordinary about them.

Several raises in the past decade have been larger than service members are getting under Trump — 2.6% this year, 2.4% last year, 2.1% in 2017.

Raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4% or more.

Pay increases shrank after that because of congressionally mandated budget caps. Trump and Congress did break a trend that began in 2011 of pay raises that hovered between 1% and 2%.

AUTOS

 

TRUMP: “We have many, many companies that left our country and they’re now coming back. Especially the automobile business. We have auto plants being built all over the country. We went decades and no plant was built. No plant was even expanded.” — remarks Monday in Oval Office.

THE FACTS: There’s no evidence that car companies are flooding back to the U.S. He’s also incorrect in saying that auto plants haven’t been built in decades. A number of automakers — Toyota, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen among them — opened plants in recent decades, mostly in the South.

Government statistics show that jobs in auto and parts manufacturing grew at a slower rate in the two-plus years since Trump took office than in the two prior years.

Between January of 2017, when Trump was inaugurated, and May of this year, the latest figures available, U.S. auto and parts makers added 44,000 jobs, or a 4.6 percent increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in the two years before Trump took office, the industry added 63,600 manufacturing jobs, a 7.1 percent increase.

The only automaker announcing plans to reopen a plant in Michigan is Fiat Chrysler, which is restarting an old engine plant to build three-row SUVs. It’s been planning to do so since before Trump was elected. GM is even closing two Detroit-area factories: One builds cars and the other builds transmissions. Toyota is building a new factory in Alabama with Mazda, and Volvo opened a plant in South Carolina last year, but in each case, that was in the works before Trump took office.

Automakers have made announcements about new models being built in Michigan, but no other factories have been reopened. Ford stopped building the Focus compact car in the Detroit suburb of Wayne last year, but it’s being replaced by the manufacture of a small pickup and a new SUV. That announcement was made in December 2016, before Trump took office.

GM, meantime, is closing factories in Ohio and Maryland.

RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

TRUMP: “Robert Mueller is being asked to testify yet again. He said he could only stick to the Report, & that is what he would and must do. After so much testimony & total transparency, this Witch Hunt must now end. No more Do Overs.” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: It’s highly questionable to say Trump was fully cooperative in the Russia investigation.

Trump declined to sit for an interview with the special counsel’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.

In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted. The report instead factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, specifically leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter.

IRAN

TRUMP: “Iran was violating the 150 Billion Dollar (plus 1.8 Billion Dollar in CASH) Nuclear Deal with the United States, and others who paid NOTHING, long before I became President – and they have now breached their stockpile limit. Not good!” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: To be clear, there was no $150 billion payout from the U.S. treasury. The money he refers to represents Iranian assets held abroad that were frozen until the international deal was reached and Tehran was allowed to access its funds.

The payout of about $1.8 billion is a separate matter. That dates to the 1970s, when Iran paid the U.S. $400 million for military equipment that was never delivered because the government was overthrown and diplomatic relations ruptured.

That left people, businesses and governments in each country indebted to partners in the other, and these complex claims took decades to sort out in tribunals and arbitration. For its part, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses.

The day after the nuclear deal was implemented, the U.S. and Iran announced they had settled the claim over the 1970s military equipment order, with the U.S. agreeing to pay the $400 million principal along with about $1.3 billion in interest. The $400 million was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane, which gave rise to Trump’s dramatic accounts of money stuffed in barrels or boxes and delivered in the dead of night. The arrangement provided for the interest to be paid later, not crammed into containers.

Justice Department Still Working to Add Citizenship Question to Census

Justice Department attorneys confirmed Friday that they were still working to add a citizenship question to the census, although they did not provide a new rationale for doing so, a requirement the Supreme Court set last week. 
 
In a Maryland court filing, the Justice attorneys said they had been “instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow for the inclusion of the citizenship question on the census.” 

Critics have said adding such a question could suppress the count of minorities. 
 
Before the filing, President Donald Trump said he was considering “four or five” ways to add the citizenship question to the census. 
 
“We are working on a lot of things, including an executive order,” Trump told reporters Friday outside the White House. He also said that “we could start the printing [of census forms] now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision.”  

In court, however, Justice attorneys said the Commerce Department had not yet adopted a new rationale for the citizenship question. 

“In the event the Commerce Department adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial Census consistent with the decisions of the Supreme Court, the government will immediately notify this court so that it can determine whether there is any need for further proceedings or relief,” the filing said. 

Critics’ complaint

Trump’s Democratic opponents have said that including the citizenship question is a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not participating in the census out of fear that immigration officials might target those found to be in the country illegally for deportation. An undercount in Democrat-leaning areas with large immigrant and Latino populations could result in reduced congressional representation for some states and less federal aid. 

FILE – Immigration activists rally outside the Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments over the Trump administration’s plan to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, in Washington, April 23, 2019.

The Supreme Court ruled June 27 that the government’s reasoning for including the citizenship question on census forms did not meet standards for a clear explanation. The matter then seemed settled Tuesday, when the Justice and Commerce departments made public statements and comments in legal cases that the printing of census forms was going forward to meet a deadline. 
 
But with a series of tweets, Trump injected uncertainty back into the citizenship question matter: “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.” 

At the start of the country’s Independence Day holiday, Trump tweeted that Commerce and Justice officials “are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!” 
 
So far, rulings have focused on the administrative process and whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted reasonably in pursuing his agency’s goals. An examination of equal protection challenges would bring into the case whether the administration sought to suppress the count of minorities in the census. 

Clarity sought
 
The attorneys general of California and New York asked federal courts to hold conferences Friday so that the Justice Department could make its positions clear after what happened in the Maryland district court and with the changing statements from the Trump administration. 
 
In a conference call with the Maryland court on Wednesday, Justice Department special counsel Joshua Gardner admitted that he was still sorting out how to respond to Trump’s statements. 
 
“The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president’s position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and your honor,” Gardner said. “I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture, other than what the president has tweeted. But, obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.” 
 
Gardner added, however, that the Census Bureau had not stopped the census forms printing process. 

The Census Bureau had previously set a target date of early July to begin printing the questionnaire in order to have it prepared for delivery to the American public by the April 1, 2020, deadline. 

Warren Pitches Executive Orders on Race and Gender Pay Gap

Democratic 2020 hopeful Elizabeth Warren says that if elected president she would sign executive orders aimed at addressing the wage and employment leadership gap for women of color, punishing companies and contractors with historically poor records on diversity and equality by denying them contracts with the federal government.

The Massachusetts senator detailed her latest plan Friday in a post on Medium, positioning her ideas as moral and economic imperatives.

It’s the latest in a parade of proposals that have become a trademark of her 2020 Democratic presidential bid and helped boost her in the primary polls, particularly among black women.

“Our economy should be working just as hard for women of color as women of color work for our economy and their families,” Warren wrote. “For decades, the government has helped perpetuate the systemic discrimination that has denied women of color equal opportunities. It’s time for the government to try to right those wrongs — and boost our economy in the process.”

Warren’s plan comes on the eve of her appearance at Essence Fest, an annual music and cultural conference that is the largest gathering of black women in the country, with an expected 500,000 attendees. Also expected to speak this weekend at the conference in New Orleans are 2020 contenders Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg.

The proposals by Warren, who also posted to the Essence website, are aimed not only at black women but also at Latina, Asian and Native American women.

Additional details

To address the underrepresentation of women of color in leadership in the federal workforce, Warren says she would issue an order to recruit from historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions; establish paid fellowships for federal jobs for minority and low-income applicants, including formerly incarcerated people; and require federal agencies to incorporate diversity into their strategic plans and mentorship efforts.

Another order targets companies and contractors disproportionately employing women of color. Under the proposal, Warren would ban companies seeking federal contracts from using forced arbitration and non-compete clauses, which she argues make it more difficult for employees to fight wage theft, discrimination and harassment, issues particularly affecting minority women. 

Contractors also would be banned from asking applicants for past salary information and criminal histories and would have to pay a $15 minimum hourly wage and offer benefits including paid family leave, fair scheduling and collective bargaining rights to all employees.
 

Democrat Harris Reports Raising $12M in 2nd Quarter 

Sen. Kamala Harris of California raised $12 million in the past three months, her presidential campaign said Friday. 
 
Harris’s second-quarter total was less than those of some other first-tier 2020 White House hopefuls, who had already released their totals ahead of the July 15 deadline to report to the Federal Election Commission. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg brought in $24.8 million, former Vice President Joe Biden raised $21.5 million and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont collected $18 million, their campaigns said. 
 
Harris’s announcement came a week after the first presidential debate, during which she confronted Biden about his comments on his decades-old relationship with segregationist senators and his record on public school busing during the 1970s. Since then, her campaign has sought to capitalize on the moment. 
 
Previously, her campaign said it received online donations from roughly 63,000 people in the 23 hours following the debate, and that more than half of those donors had not previously supported her campaign. 
 
The Harris campaign added Friday that, of the money she raised this quarter, $500,000 came from her online store.  
  
The campaign is pointing to sales of a shirt that highlights a moment from her exchange with Biden during first Democratic presidential debate. The shirts feature a childhood photo of Harris, who at the debate discussed her childhood experience with the busing integration of elementary schools in Berkeley, Calif., in 1968. 
 
The $12 million that Harris raised was roughly equal to the amount the California senator brought in in the first fundraising quarter, which ended March 31. 
 

FILE – Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Celebration in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 9, 2019.

Also Friday, Steve Bullock reported more than $2 million in contributions during the second quarter. The Montana governor entered the 2020 primary race in mid-May, halfway through the quarter. 
 
Bullock’s campaign said he’d amassed his total without any transfers of money from other accounts. He missed the polling qualification cutoff for the first Democratic presidential debates in Miami but has a strong chance of making the stage for this month’s second set of debates in Detroit. 

Trump, Protesters Gear Up for an Untraditional July Fourth

In a sweltering capital threatened by storms, the traditional Fourth of July parade Thursday served as a warm-up act to a distinctly nontraditional evening event at the Lincoln Memorial, where President Donald Trump made plans to command the stage against the backdrop of a show of military muscle.
 
Protesters unimpressed by his “Salute to America” program inflated a roly-poly balloon depicting Trump as an angry, diaper-clad baby.

With his decision to add his own production to the usual festivities, Trump set himself up to be the first president in nearly seven decades to address a crowd at the National Mall on Independence Day. “I will speak on behalf of our great Country!” he said in a morning tweet. “Perhaps even Air Force One will do a low & loud sprint over the crowd.”

But thunderstorms threatened, with periods of “torrential rain” forecast by the National Weather Service and a flash-flood watch in effect.

A supporter of President Donald Trump, who gave his name as Moto Moto of Brooklyn, N.Y., debates with protesters before Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, July 4, 2019.

Not since 1951, when President Harry Truman spoke before a large gathering on the Washington Monument grounds to mark the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, has a commander in chief made an Independence Day speech to a sizable crowd on the Mall. Protests erupted in 1970 when President Richard Nixon taped a message that was played to crowds on the Mall at an “Honor America Day” celebration organized by supporters.

In the shadow of the Washington Monument, the anti-war organization Codepink erected a 20-foot tall “Trump baby” balloon to protest what it called the president’s co-opting of Independence Day.
 
“We think that he is making this about himself and it’s really a campaign rally,” said Medea Benjamin, the organization’s co-director. “We think that he’s a big baby. … He’s erratic, he’s prone to tantrums, he doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. And so this is a great symbol of how we feel about our president.’
The balloon remained tied down at the Mall because park officials restricted the group’s permission to move the balloon or fill it with helium, Benjamin said.

A small crowd gathered to take pictures with the balloon, which drew Trump supporters and detractors.

Kathleen Otal, of Arlington, Va., holds up a sign before Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, July 4, 2019.

Kevin Malton, a Trump supporter from Middlesboro, Kentucky, came with his son for the holiday and took pictures with the balloon. He was glad to see the mix of political beliefs at the event, he said.  “Even though everybody has different opinions,” he said, “everybody’s getting along.”

In a message marking the 243rd anniversary of the Founding Fathers’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump called the document a milestone that “cast off the shackles of tyranny.”

The White House said Trump would speak at the Lincoln Memorial in front of a ticket-only, VIP crowd of Republican donors, administration and campaign officials, family members and those who had come to see him or protest what they saw as a divisive intrusion on a traditionally unifying national holiday.

Trump had sounded a defensive note Wednesday, tweeting that the cost “will be very little compared to what it is worth.”

“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel,” he said, referring to Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews, home for some of the planes expected for the holiday flyover. “We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.”

Trump glossed over the expense of shipping tanks and fighting vehicles to Washington by rail and guarding them for several days, and other costs.

One of the Democrats running for president said “this business of diverting money and military assets to use them as a kind of prop, to prop up a presidential ego, is not reflecting well on our country.” Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is a Navy Reserve veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2014.

Some of the Republican president’s supporters welcomed his stamp on the holiday.

Rachel McKenna of McKinney, Texas, said her relatives have served in the military and she thought it was important to say “`We love you guys, we appreciate everything you do,’ and I love the fact I can see that,” as she pointed to the Bradley fighting vehicle positioned near the Lincoln Memorial.

FILE – Two Bradley Fighting Vehicles flank the stage being prepared in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, ahead of planned Fourth of July festivities with President Donald Trump, July 3, 2019.

“I’ve never ever seen one,” she said. “I just think it’s so cool.”

Under White House direction, the Pentagon was arranging for an Air Force B-2 stealth bomber and other warplanes to conduct flyovers. There will be Navy F-35 and F-18 fighter jets, the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team, Army and Coast Guard helicopters and Marine V-22 Ospreys. A small number of Army Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles were stationed in the zone.

Two groups, the National Parks Conservation Foundation and Democracy Forward, want the Interior Department’s internal watchdog to investigate what they say may be a “potentially unlawful decision to divert” national parks money to Trump’s “spectacle.”

Trump and the event’s organizers could be on the hook to reimburse the government millions of dollars if he goes into campaign mode, in violation of federal appropriations law and the Hatch Act, which bars politicking on government time, said Walter Shaub, who left the Office of Government Ethics in 2017 after clashing with the White House over ethics and disclosure issues.

Trump originally wanted a parade with military tanks and other machinery rolling through downtown Washington ever since he was enthralled by a two-hour procession of French military tanks and fighter jets in Paris on Bastille Day in July 2017 .

Later that year Trump said he’d have a similar parade in Washington on the Fourth of July, 2018, and would “top” the Paris show. The event ended up being pushed to Veterans Day, which conflicted with one of Trump’s trips abroad, before it was scuttled after cost estimates exceeding $90 million were made public.

Washington has held an Independence Day celebration for decades, featuring a parade along Constitution Avenue, a concert on the Capitol lawn with music by the National Symphony Orchestra and fireworks beginning at dusk near the Washington Monument.

Trump altered the lineup by adding his speech, moving the fireworks closer to the Lincoln Memorial and summoning the tanks and warplanes.

US Republican Who Called For Trump’s Impeachment Defects From Party

Justin Amash, the only U.S. Republican lawmaker who has called for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, quit the party on Thursday, Independence Day in America, to become an independent.

Amash, a 39-year-old, five-term congressman from the Midwestern state of Michigan, said in a Washington Post opinion article that the country’s two-party political system is broken, with modern politics “trapped in a partisan death spiral” between warring Democrats and Republicans.

Amash angered Trump and Republican colleagues in Congress when he recently called for Trump’s impeachment, based on allegations that Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Amash now becomes the only independent lawmaker in the 435-member House of Representatives.

After Amash’s defection from the Republicans, Trump launched a new attack on him.

‘Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party,” Trump said on Twitter. “No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!”

In the newspaper article, Amash decried what he said are the “consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost. Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis.”

He concluded, “Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well represented by either of the two major parties. In fact, the parties have become more partisan in part because they are catering to fewer people, as Americans are rejecting party affiliation in record numbers.”

“Preserving liberty means telling the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that we’ll no longer let them play their partisan game at our expense,” he said. “Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.”

At least 80 of the 235 Democrats in the House have called for Trump’s impeachment or an inquiry that could lead to his impeachment. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic-controlled chamber, has resisted the call for an impeachment inquiry while supporting multiple committee investigations into Trump and his presidency.

Mueller concluded that Trump did not conspire with Russia to help him win the election three years ago, but reached no conclusion whether, as president, he obstructed justice. Subsequently, however, Attorney General William Barr and then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided that obstruction charges were not warranted against Trump.

Mueller is set to testify about his 22-month investigation before two House committees on July 17.

 

 

 

Courts Seek Clarity After US Justice Department Changes Course on Census Question

This story was updated 8:33AM.

U.S. federal courts and states that challenged the Trump administration’s decision to include a citizenship question on the country’s 2020 census are asking for clarity after the Departments of Justice and Commerce suddenly reversed what had been an acceptance of finalizing the questionnaire without inquiring about citizenship status.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that the government’s reasoning for including the citizenship question did not meet standards for a clear explanation of why it should be asked during the count of people in the United States that takes place every ten years.  

The matter seemed further settled on Tuesday when the DOJ and Commerce Department made public statements and comments in legal cases that the process of printing the census was going forward without a citizenship question in order to meet deadlines for carrying out the count on time.

But with a series of tweets President Donald Trump injected uncertainty back into the process as he proclaimed, “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.”

The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE! We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019

At the start of the country’s annual Independence Day holiday, Trump tweeted that Commerce and Justice department officials “are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!”

Friday hearing

U.S. District Judge George Hazel of Maryland has set a deadline of 2 p.m. Friday for the government to either say the citizenship question will not appear on the census, or to explain how the court should proceed with an unresolved challenge that the government violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

So far, rulings have focused on the administrative process and whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted reasonably in pursuing his agency’s goals.  An examination of equal protection challenges would bring into the case whether the administration sought to suppress the count of minorities in the census.

FILE – U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks at the 11th Trade Winds Business Forum and Mission hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, in New Delhi, India, May 7, 2019.

Trump’s Democratic opponents have claimed that including the citizenship question is a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not participating in the census out of fear that immigration officials might target them for deportation when they determine that they are in the country illegally. An undercount in Democrat-leaning areas with large immigrant and Latino populations could reduce congressional representation for such states and cut federal aid.

The attorneys general of California and New York have asked federal courts in those states to hold conferences Friday so that the Justice Department can make its positions clear after what has happened in the Maryland District Court and with the changing statements from the Trump administration.

What’s going on

In the conference call with the Maryland court on Wednesday, Justice Department special counsel Joshua Gardner admitted that they were still sorting out how to respond to Trump’s statements.

“The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president’s position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and your honor,” Gardner said. “I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture, other than what the president has tweeted. But, obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.”

FILE – Demonstrators are seen at the Supreme Court as justices deliberate on a census case involving an attempt by the Trump administration to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 27, 2019.

However, Gardner added that the Census Bureau has not stopped its current process of printing the census without a citizenship question, as the government continues to weigh what options it may have.

The Census Bureau had previously set a target date of early July to begin printing the questionnaire in order to have it prepared for delivery to the American public by the April 1 deadline.

The census is important because it determines how many seats in the House of Representatives each state is allotted and how $800 billion in federal aid is disbursed.

After the Supreme Court heard arguments on the citizenship question but before it ruled, documents emerged from the files of a deceased Republican election districting expert showing that the citizenship question was aimed at helping Republicans gain an electoral edge over Democrats.

Congressional hearing

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the House Oversight Committee, announced Wednesday that the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, will testify at a hearing on July 24 on the status of planning and preparations for the 2020 Census.

FILE – Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., counters arguments by Republicans on the House Rules Committee as they vote to authorize contempt cases, June 10, 2019.

“It is time for the Census Bureau to move beyond all the outside political agendas and distractions and devote its full attention to preparing for the 2020 Census,” said Raskin, a Maryland Democrat. “This hearing will examine the current status of the bureau’s readiness for the census next year — especially in areas where the bureau may be falling behind such as IT, security and public education.”