Back on a road to nowhere
When Republicans still controlled Congress, Donald Trump floated ideas to remake the nation's immigration system. They went nowhere. If there is one enduring legacy from that effort, it was his vulgar description of countries of color that he considered undesirable sources of immigrants.
The president is going to try again Thursday with a speech in the White House Rose Garden to present a plan devised by Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law. Kushner previewed it the other day for Senate Republicans, who were underwhelmed by the presentation, according to The Washington Post. Lawmakers from both parties are skeptical, and little expectation from most of Trump's aides that the plan will move forward, The Post reported.
Nevertheless, Trump persists. The plan would move U.S. immigration toward a “merit-based system” that prioritizes highly skilled English-speaking workers while sharply scaling back admissions of people with family ties in the U.S.
What the plan won't do
It contains no provision for providing legal status to people brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, which is favored by Democrats and some moderate Republicans, nor does it address the fate of millions of others now living here without documentation. It does call for construction of some of the president’s border wall.
It would eliminate the diversity visa lottery, instead offering additional ‘points’ under the merit system to citizens of certain countries, Bloomberg News reported. Officials did not say which countries would be favored. But Trump wouldn't cut the overall number of green cards as some immigration hard-liners want to do.
According to Bloomberg, human rights groups are expected to argue the new proposal would limit access to the U.S. for individuals in developing or war-torn nations. The plan could also face opposition from employers in fields such as construction and agriculture who rely on immigrants for low-skilled jobs.
But White House aides said Trump wants to unify Republicans on immigration policy and demonstrate to 2020 voters that the party is not against legal immigrants.
De Blasio's 2020 vision
And away he goes. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visits a local Democratic club Friday in Sioux City, Iowa, billed by the group as “his first stop on his Presidential announcement tour.” The group also spelled his name "di Blasio" but fixed it.
Here is the announcement video, a portion of which may have been recorded in Gracie Mansion, which might be examined as a municipal no-no equivalent to a uniformed officer appearing in a political ad.
"Donald Trump is playing a big con on America, I call him 'Con Don' every New Yorker knows we know his tricks, we know his playbook. I know how to take him on," de Blasio said on Good Morning America.
Long odds in a big pack
By any name, he's a long shot. Polling so far showed little appetite for a de Blasio White House bid. He conceded to Spectrum News NY1 earlier this month that he is unlikely to meet the fundraising threshold to qualify for next month’s Democratic National Committee debates, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo.
Several analysts noted that as a straight, white man and progressive Democrat, de Blasio doesn’t have a “lane” that isn’t already covered by another contender in the crowded primary.
He's slated for a Manhattan appearance before traveling to Iowa late Thursday and Friday and South Carolina on Saturday and Sunday, his campaign said.
Janison: The doppelganger's all here
De Blasio the progressive couldn't be more different from Trump the nationalist, except for their similarities, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Both men brought family members into the halls of public power. Both glide on fair economic winds and spend freely, not heeding warnings from fiscal conservatives that they will leave behind gaping deficits. Both have ties to real estate — Trump through inheritance, wheeling and dealing, while de Blasio goes to the industry for campaign dollars.
Both have drawn questions about their work habits and snarl at most of the news media. And De Blasio, like Trump, tends toward the grandiose when claiming accomplishments.
The White House upped its resistance to House Democrats' investigations another notch, notifying the House Judiciary panel that it would refuse to comply with sweeping requests for documents and witness testimony, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone accused the panel led by Rep. Jerry Nadler of seeking a “do-over” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Nadler said the White House’s arguments were “ridiculous” and “un-American” and would hold the president above the law. He added, for the first time, that the committee was seriously considering “very large” fines for witnesses who do not comply.
While Nadler was not amused by the multifront battles, Attorney General William Barr seemed to be. Waiting for Trump to arrive at the 38th annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Wednesday morning, Barr approached House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and said loudly, according to witnesses: "Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?"
Pelosi smiled and told Barr that the House sergeant-at-arms was present at the ceremony, should an arrest be necessary.
Trump: We'll make Iran talk
Amid worries that the U.S. could lurch into a conflict with Iran, Trump is saying no, he's got this. "I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon,” the president said in a tweet ridiculing stories about "infighting" within his administration.
The State Department on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of nonemergency staff from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, citing intelligence indicating an increased risk of an attack from Iran or its proxies in the region.
Republicans who have been briefed said the threats are real. Some U.S. allies, including the British, were skeptical.
Iranian leaders in the past have said they won’t consider negotiations unless Trump returns the U.S. to the nuclear agreement reached during the Obama administration.
Kudlow cut low
Trump chewed out National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow for acknowledging in a TV interview that American consumers end up paying for the administration’s escalating tariffs on Chinese imports, a White House official told The Washington Post.
Trump telling Kudlow several times to “not worry about it.” Axios reports that Trump actually believes his own myth that China, not U.S. importers and consumers, pay the tariffs, according to a consensus of current and former administration officials.
What else is happening:
- The U.S. military is going to provide and build tents to house 7,500 migrants at six locations near the border, but the sites probably will not be on military bases, NBC News reported. TSA is recruiting hundreds of volunteers from its ranks to reinforce beleaguered border patrol agents.
- The White House announced an unprecedented campaign asking internet users to share if they had been censored on Facebook, Google and Twitter, tapping into Trump's long-running claim that tech giants are biased against conservatives, The Washington Post reported.
- A chorus of 2020 Democratic candidates condemned the passage of a law in Alabama that would place a near-total ban on abortions in the state and potentially set up a bid to overturn Roe v. Wade.
- Republican strategists wish Trump would ease off on attacking Joe Biden, concerned he is just elevating the former vice president's standing as a 2020 opponent, The New York Times reported.
- The president paused his feud with the anchors of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" after Joe Scarborough remarked that Trump looks "20 years younger than a lot of Democratic candidates." Trump tweeted: "Thank you Joe and remember, the BRAIN is much sharper also!"
- Beto O'Rourke, trying to reboot his candidacy, is still oversharing. In January, he livestreamed getting a dental cleaning. On Wednesday, he got a haircut on Facebook. An excerpt from his narration: “We’re cutting out some of this ear hair that you get when you get older.”
- Another prized Trump property has suffered from association with his name, The Washington Post reports. The Doral resort near Miami saw its operating income drop 69% between 2015 and 2017, and a tax consultant hired by the Trump Organization to seek lower property taxes said, “There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”
- Trump is scheduled to return to Trump Tower Thursday evening for the first time since last September as he heads to Manhattan for a campaign fundraiser, reports Newsday's Figueroa.