TrumpWatch, Day 237: A Trump-Democrat Deal on “Dreamers” and No Wall with Mexico?

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House and Senate Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer. September 6, 2017 (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty)

Trump reverses on ending program for young immigrants — but has he given up The Wall?


Developments on Day 237 of the Trump Administration:

Democratic Leaders Declare Agreement After Meeting with Trump

The top Democrats in Congress, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi, announce an agreement with Donald Trump on the “Dreamer” program for young undocumented immigrants and on the dropping of Trump’s proposal for a wall along the US-Mexican border.

After a Wednesday night dinner in the White House, Schumer and Pelosi said they and Trump “agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding The Wall, that’s acceptable to both sides”.

The development continues a stunning turnaround in Trump’s approach and policies over the past week. On September 5, the Justice Department announced the suspension of DACA, with the prospect of deportation of almost 800,000 young immigrants from March 2018.

However, the next day Trump stunned a White House meeting with Congressional leaders when he turned against the Republicans — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — and agreed with Minority Leaders Schumer and Pelosi to raise the Federal Government’s debt limit and provide funds to maintain government operations until December 15.

Congressional Republican leaders were not at Wednesday’s dinner.

White House Tries to Pull Back Trump

Soon after the meal, White House staff tried to row back the Democratic portrayal of a broad agreement.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted, “While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to.”

White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said while Trump and the Democrats agreed on legislation for DACA, the claim of a deal that would exclude wall funding was “intentionally misleading”.

Schumer’s office then issued a clarification that “the President made clear he would continue pushing The Wall, just not as part of this agreement”.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with the Democratic leadership to assess the way forward.

“It’s the beginning of a listening that the President asked us to do,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got a broken immigration system we’ve got to fix. It was the beginning of a discussion where we were listening to concerns.”


Former National Security Advisor Rice Turns Tables on Trump & Co. Over “Unmasking” in Intelligence Reports

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice turns the tables on an attempt by Donald Trump’s allies to divert from the Trump-Russia inquiry by proclaiming her guilt over the “unmasking” of the identities of Trump officials in intelligence reports.

For months, the Trump team and allies in Congress and the media have argued that Rice may have acted illegally when she asked US intelligence services to provide the identities of those involved in sensitive discussions with foreign actors. The claim was linked, without evidence, to “leaking” and media revelations of the contacts between Trump’s advisors and Russian officials.

On Wednesday, Rice told investigators for the House Intelligence Committee that the “unmasking” was over a visit by the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates to New York in late December 2016 to meet members of the Trump transition team — a trip that may have set up the UAE’s brokering of a meeting for a Trump-Russia “back channel” before the January inauguration.

The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, saw several top Trump officials, including future National Security Advisor Michael Flynn; Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; and his top strategist Steve Bannon.

He did not disclose the visit to the Obama Administration, prompting Rice to ask for the information from US intelligence agencies.

Weeks later, the UAE helped arrange a meeting between Erik Prince — the founder of the paramilitary firm Blackwater and an ally of the Trump team — with a Russian official in the Seychelles.

Sources said there was no direct connection between the three-hour December meeting in Trump Tower and the Seychelles meeting, with discussion focusing on Iran, Yemen, and the Middle East peace process.

However, Rice’s answers appeared to defuse the attempt to make her the center of attention, rather than the Trump team’s meetings with foreign operatives.

Representative Troy Gowdy of South Carolina, who had led the attempt to question Rice, said that “nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude” that she had improperly unmasked the names of Trump associates or leaked information to the press.


Flynn Pushed Middle East Nuclear Plan For Which He Received Consultancy Money

Trump transition advisor and future National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pushed a Middle East nuclear proposal for which he received at least $25,000.

After the November 2016 election, Flynn continued to communicate with the private-sector backers of the plan for dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle East. Meanwhile, he supported the initaitive inside the transition and discussed its merits with others beyond Trump Tower, according to “sources within and close to the Trump team” at the time.

Flynn first publicly disclosed his consultancy for the Virginia-based X-Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge Group in a February 11 federal filing, two days before he resigned as National Security Advisor. He did not specify how much he had been paid, and it is unclear if he had disclosed the work to White House officials.

Flynn is already under scrutiny in the Trump-Russia investigation for his receipt of at least $530,000 from Turkish entities and more than $55,000 from Russia State firms.

The National Security Advisor resigned in mid-February over his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on December 29, as President Obama announced new sanctions on Moscow over its interference in the 2016 election. Donald Trump unsuccessfully tried to get FBI Director James Comey to drop the inquiry before firing Comey in early May.


White House Calls for Firing of Journalist Over Her Criticism of Trump

In an extraordinary intervention, the White House has called for the firing of a journalist for the ESPN television channel.

Anchorwoman Jemele Hill tweeted on Tuesday:

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded yesterday, “That is one of the more outrageous comments that anybody could make and certainly is something that is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

Doing so, Sanders may have broken a US law concerning “wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions by a Member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch”.

ESPN has reprimanded Hill over her criticism of Trump and his supporters, such as the singer Kid Rock who is standing for the US Senate in Michigan: “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”

Hill tweeted early Thursday, “My comments on Twitter expressed my personal belief,”the Sportscenter anchor wrote. “My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for my company and my colleagues remains unconditional.”


Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Requested Government Jet for His Honeymoon

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested use of a government jet for his honeymoon in Scotland, France, and Italy earlier this summer, prompting an “inquiry” by the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General.

“Officials familiar with the matter” said Mnuchin’s office put the request for the jet, which can cost about $25,000 per hour to operate, but it was deemed unnecessary after further consideration of by Treasury officials.

Mnuchin already prompted a review of his travel for using a government jet to travel to Louisville and Fort Knox, Kentucky last month. The inspector general is investigating whether the trip was for the Secretary and his wife, actress Louise Linton, to have a prime view of the solar eclipse.

Mnuchin’s office said that he in Kentucky to attend meetings on tax reform, and that the Mnuchins would reimburse the government for Linton’s travel costs.

A Treasury spokesman said Mnuchin requested government travel for his honeymoon to ensure a secure method of communication:

The Secretary is a member of the National Security Council and has responsibility for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. It is imperative that he have access to secure communications, and it is our practice to consider a wide range of options to ensure he has these capabilities during his travel, including the possible use of military aircraft.

A senior Treasury official who has worked with a series of past secretaries said military aircraft are only used in “extreme” circumstances, for example, if the Secretary has to be rushed back to a meeting in Washington with the President.

Another former senior Treasury official who worked closely with Mnuchin’s predecessor, Secretary Jack Lew, said it was “exceedingly rare” for Secretary Lew to use military aircraft for official business. He added that “there’s not a chance in hell that Secretary Lew would have considered using military air” for private travel.

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