Trump lines up with Border Patrol
Even as the Homeland Security inspector general released a graphic report of appalling conditions at overcrowded Customs and Border Protection-run detention facilities, and even as DHS' acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan, joined CPB brass in promising to investigate "disturbing" and "inexcusable" posts in a secret Border Patrol Facebook group, Trump is sticking by the agency and its agents.
Trump tweeted that "many of these illegals aliens are living far better now than where they … came from, and in far safer conditions. No matter how good things actually look, even if perfect, the Democrat visitors will act shocked & aghast."
He went on: "Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses … Great job by Border Patrol, above and beyond."
And Trump concluded: "If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!"
McAleenan said the Facebook posts that joked about migrant deaths and denigrated Hispanic members of Congress who were investigating unsafe conditions "are completely unacceptable, especially if made by those sworn to uphold” the agency’s standards. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed calls from progressive Democratic lawmakers for the firing of acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.
On the legal front, the White House blasted a Seattle federal judge's ruling that the Trump administration can't indefinitely lock up migrants who are seeking asylum without giving them a chance to be released on bond.
The Trump administration is seeking to fine some immigrants who are in the United States illegally hundreds of thousands of dollars for failing to take steps to leave after being ordered to do so, NPR and The Washington Post reported.
Trump's July 4: Priceless
There's still no official price tag for the military-infused Trumpification of Washington's July Fourth celebrations, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez, but the president promised in tweets that it "will be very little compared to what it is worth” for "the show of a lifetime!"
The National Park Service is diverting $2.5 million in money initially intended for park repairs across the country, according to The Washington Post, but that's expected to cover only a fraction of the total cost. Democrats complained that the martial display was designed primarily to glorify Trump.
Trump said military leaders are "thrilled" to be taking part. None is known to have said so out loud. Though a White House spokesman said Tuesday that the president's speech from the Lincoln Memorial will be "nonpolitical," senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said it will highlight "the success of this administration in opening up so many jobs for individuals, what we've done for veterans." In other words, the same material as his campaign rallies.
Politico reported anxiety among White House officials and allies that the cheering crowd could be thinner than Trump wants and expects. They are having trouble finding takers for VIP tickets because “they started this too late … people planned their July Fourth activities weeks ago," said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor.
On Tuesday evening as 60-ton tanks rolled through the nation’s capital, the Army issued an advisory to residents: “You’ll see them moving through your neighborhood, but DON’T PANIC.”
Shock to the census
For decades after World War II, an occasional Japanese soldier unaware or disbelieving that his country had surrendered would be discovered on a remote jungle island. At first blush, such stories (except for the soldier part) seemed to provide perspective for Trump's tweet Wednesday morning on his seemingly lost cause of including a citizenship question on the 2020 census. But perhaps not.
"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," the president said.
What Trump labeled "FAKE" were the unambiguous statements Tuesday by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Justice Department lawyers — that they were standing down following a Supreme Court decision blocking the question and were moving forward to print the forms without it, starting next week.
When a federal judge in Maryland who has heard one of the census suits convened an emergency teleconference Wednesday afternoon, a Justice Department lawyer said, "The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president's position on this issue … I am doing my absolute best to figure out what's going on." Then a higher-ranking Justice official chimed in that the department has "been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward."
The New York Times reported that Trump wants to keep the fight alive despite the legal odds and find a way to somehow add the question after the questionnaires have been printed.
Janison: Spirit of ’76 endures
Americans on this Independence Day should enjoy how far this nation remains from having a monarch, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Trump has been dealt setbacks in the courts that no head of state with the powers of a king would have tolerated. The U.S. remains a federal system in which states and localities retain power.
When Trump tweets a whim that smacks of being unconstitutional, it tends to get smacked down. Last November, he vowed to sign an executive order changing the 14th Amendment clause on birthright citizenship. Nothing has happened. For that matter, the First and Second amendments also are alive and well.
The wall just got smaller
An appeals court on a Wednesday upheld a lower court’s freeze on Pentagon money to build a border wall with Mexico, agreeing it was unconstitutional for Trump to make an end run around Congress by declaring a national emergency after it refused to appropriate the funds.
A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco left in place the ruling that prevented the government from tapping Defense Department money to build high-priority sections of a wall in Arizona, California and New Mexico.
“As for the public interest, we conclude that it is best served by respecting the Constitution’s assignment of the power of the purse to Congress, and by deferring to Congress’s understanding of the public interest as reflected in its repeated denial of more funding for border barrier construction,” wrote Judges Michelle Friedland, a Barack Obama appointee, and Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee.
Biden's so-so fundraising
Joe Biden has raised $21.5 million since launching his White House bid in late April, his campaign said Wednesday. While it puts him in the top tier of Democratic fundraisers, ahead of Bernie Sanders and others, he lags behind Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor who was virtually unknown a few months ago.
Biden’s fundraising numbers underscore that he is a fragile front-runner, The Associated Press writes. Some Democratic strategists anticipated a larger number from Biden, given the connections he forged during his years as vice president and as a long-serving U.S. senator.
What else is happening:
- Bill de Blasio is among the Democrats at risk of not making the cut for the second round of Democratic 2020 debates scheduled for July 30-31, according to The New York Times.
- Despite the rise by Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren in primary polls, some female Democratic voters remain fearful that having a woman at the top of ticket could lead to Trump's re-election, The New York Times reported.
- A new ABC News-Washington Post poll of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents showed more modest gains for Harris and Warren than in other surveys after the first debate. It places Biden in the lead with 29%, followed by Sanders at 23% and Harris and Warren, each with 11%.
- A series of Facebook video ads for Trump's re-election show supposed supporters of the president from around the country. But the people in the ads are all actually models in stock video footage produced in France, Brazil and Turkey, CBS News reported. Campaign officials didn't explain why they didn't use genuine Trump supporters.
- Trump in a tweet hailed the acquittal of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher on the most serious war crimes charges against him, including murder, and said, "glad I could help!" Gallagher also thanked Trump. But while Trump had indicated his sympathy for Gallagher, it's unclear how he could have influenced the military jury's verdict.
- More than 20 undocumented workers previously employed by Trump’s company have requested a meeting with their former boss to ask for protection from deportation and discuss how to reform the country’s immigration system, The Washington Post reported.