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Trump, singing the border blues, separates from reality

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday. Photo Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

Shake it up, make it up

The questions were about the southern border and Homeland Security, not Robert Mueller, but the answers reinforced the wisdom of Donald Trump's lawyers who opposed letting him testify under oath.

Those family separations in 2018? "I'm the one that stopped it. President Obama had child separation," Trump said in a brief session with reporters. The reality: Under Barack Obama and George W. Bush, the practice was limited to cases of suspected parental abuse or trafficking that put the children's safety at risk. Under Trump, it became a wholesale "zero tolerance" policy.

Trump disputed reports that he wanted to do it again — “We're not looking to do that" — but then made an argument in its favor as a deterrent to the migrants fleeing Central America. “Now, I'll tell you something, once you don’t have it, that’s why you see many more people coming,” he said. “They're coming like it's a picnic because, ‘Let's go to Disneyland.’ ”

What about that housecleaning in the top ranks of Homeland Security? 

"I never said I’m 'cleaning house.' I don’t know who came up with that expression. We have a lot of great people over there," he said.

But a senior administration official told reporters Trump is overhauling the department's leadership because officials weren't moving fast enough to implement changes, including one to give asylum-seeking adults the choice of remaining with their children in detention or sending their children away to government shelters.

Homeland Security officials said Tuesday that more than 103,000 undocumented immigrants crossed the country's southwest border in March, the most in 12 years. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

He'd take the job

Kris Kobach, a hard-liner on both legal and illegal immigration, is openly campaigning to take over Homeland Security.

He previously led Trump's short-lived voter fraud commission, which was created to try to back up the president's claims after the 2016 election that millions of votes were cast illegally. That didn't work out.

Kobach lost his bid for Kansas governor in 2018. A Republican senator from the state, Pat Roberts, told the Kansas City Star that Trump shouldn't nominate Kobach, regarded as extreme by some in the GOP, because "we can’t confirm him."

Barr: Won't show the full Mueller

Attorney General William Barr said on Capitol Hill on Tuesday he will send Congress his redacted version of Mueller’s report “within a week” and that it will include material on the special counsel's obstruction-of-justice concerns, Newsday's Tom Brune reports.

But Barr said he won’t release the full unredacted report to Congress, as Democrats and many Republicans have demanded. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) renewed his threat to subpoena the full original report and its underlying documents.

As Barr took questions at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Democrats aired suspicions that his four-page summary on March 24 painted a rosier picture of the findings than Mueller did.

That's got the White House and Trump's allies worried, too, according to The Associated Press. Though Trump took a victory lap immediately after Barr released his interpretation of the findings, he's gone back to blasting “Bob Mueller’s team of 13 Trump Haters & Angry Democrats.” 

Janison: Resetting the standard 

As the Democrats running for president in 2020 face scrutiny for things critics will say they shouldn't have done, Newsday's Dan Janison notes a context to consider: Trump did them, too.

Has Elizabeth Warren made wispy claims to Native American roots? Sure, but Trump for some odd reason pretends his Bronx-born father came from Germany.

Sen. Corey Booker got money and support from the pharmaceutical industry. But drugmaker Pfizer also gave $1 million to Trump's inauguration fund. 

Whether it's Joe Biden's problem of being too hands-on with women or Amy Klobuchar's reputation as a mean boss, there almost always seems to be a Trump story to match or surpass it.

Treasury consults on Trump taxes

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin acknowledged to lawmakers Tuesday that his department's lawyers have consulted with the White House on House Democrats' demand to see Trump's tax returns — not, Mnuchin contended, that there's anything wrong with that.

"I don't see that as interference," he said. In Capitol Hill appearances Tuesday, Mnuchin said his department intends to “follow the law.” But he dodged answering whether he would comply with the request to supply Trump’s tax returns by Wednesday.

According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, there's no clear public consensus on what the returns would reveal: 30% believe they would reveal information about his finances so serious it would prove he is unfit to be president; 22% think it would be less serious but politically harmful; 27% think they would show nothing untoward; and the rest aren’t sure.

The alt-right stuff

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is hardly the first to accuse Trump aide Stephen Miller, a chief architect of his immigration policies, of having an affinity for a white nationalist agenda. See what Miller's uncle, David Glosser, wrote last year for Politico.

Glosser denounced Miller for turning his back on his heritage as the grandchild of immigrants who fled anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust claimed virtually every family who remained. "I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him," Glosser said.

But after a tweet by Omar called Miller "a white nationalist," Trump and allies including Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) charged that the congresswoman targeted Miller because he's Jewish. She drew no such connection, not even between the lines, but the attack feeds a narrative they are pushing — that Democrats haven't done enough to isolate Omar, one of the first Muslim women in Congress, after comments she made that were more widely criticized as anti-Semitic.

Those comments included suggestions of a dual loyalty on the part of American Jews who support Israel — a trope Trump mirrored recently when, speaking to Jewish Republicans, he referred to Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu as "your prime minister." (Overnight election results show Netanyahu will remain Israel's prime minister.)

Million-dollar Bernie

Bernie Sanders says don't be surprised when his tax returns, due for release by Monday, show the socialist senator and 2020 contender is a millionaire. 

“I wrote a best-selling book,” he told The New York Times. “If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.” 

Sanders did not release his returns when he fought Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination.

What else is happening:

  • Barr hinted during his testimony Tuesday that he's not all that confident the Trump administration will win its legal battle to declare all of Obamacare unconstitutional. When the attorney general was asked about reports he disagreed with Trump's decision to go all out in the suit, he wouldn't say.
  • In a pair of tweetsTrump revisited his 1980s battles with Nadler over real estate development on Manhattan's West Side. Trump referred to him respectfully as "Congressman Jerry Nadler" instead of the nickname that The Washington Post reports he used recently in a private gathering with House Republicans and in public during their past feuds: "Fat Jerry."
  • Trump's tweet about National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day triggered inevitable reminders of how he ridiculed the late Sen. John McCain's war-hero status with the remark, "I like people who weren’t captured." Meghan McCain responded: "No one believes you care about prisoners of war."
  • Trump is expected to issue Wednesday an executive order aimed at making it harder for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York regulators to bar construction of a 124-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York, Bloomberg News reported. The project received federal approval in 2014.
  • Carnage continues in Afghanistan as the administration purportedly negotiates a withdrawal plan. Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks from Locust Valley died with two other Marine reservists, including an FDNY firefighter, when their convoy was hit Monday by a roadside bomb.

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