Here in the United States, campaigning has begun for the 2018 midterms in November, and President Donald Trump has announced his slogan for what he says will be his 2020 re-election campaign. But at one Summer Camp in Washington, young Maira Phillips is getting ready for her White House run, about 27 years from now. Faith Lapidus explains.
Here in the United States, campaigning has begun for the 2018 midterms in November, and President Donald Trump has announced his slogan for what he says will be his 2020 re-election campaign. But at one Summer Camp in Washington, young Maira Phillips is getting ready for her White House run, about 27 years from now. Faith Lapidus explains.
President Donald Trump is wrongly blaming Democrats for a law that he says is forcing migrant children to be taken from their parents at the border. The decision to separate families was made by the Trump administration.
A look at his comment Wednesday during his meeting with local California officials who support the president’s moves on immigration policy:
TRUMP: To Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen: “I know what you’re going through right now with families is very tough but those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It’s a horrible thing where you have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law and they don’t want to do anything about it. They’ll leave it like that ‘cause they don’t want to make any changes. And now you’re breaking up families because of the Democrats. It’s terrible.”
THE FACTS: Not so. No law that “the Democrats gave us” mandates the separation of children from their parents at the border.
A 2008 law designed to combat child trafficking has been described by Trump and his administration as a principal reason for “catch-and-release” policies that he’s trying to end at the border.
The law says children traveling alone from countries other than Mexico or Canada must be released in the “least restrictive setting” — often to family or a government-run shelter — while their cases slowly wind through immigration court. It was designed to accommodate an influx of children fleeing to the U.S. from Central America.
And it had full-throated support from Republicans and Democrats alike, passing both houses of Congress unanimously. Republican George W. Bush signed it into law as one of his last acts as president.
The law says nothing about breaking up families. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entries, pledging to criminally prosecute people with few or no previous offenses. If parents are jailed, they are separated from children who joined them under protocols described in the 2008 law.
Administration officials have acknowledged that about 700 children have been separated from their parents since October. That figure is certain to increase once the zero-tolerance policy takes hold; nearly 50,000 Border Patrol arrests since October were of people who came as families. That’s about 1 in 4 arrests by the agents.
TRUMP: “Our numbers are much better than in the past, but they’re not nearly acceptable and not nearly as good as what we could have. We’re down 40 percent from those other standards, so that’s really good — meaning 40 percent crossings.”
THE FACTS: That claim of a 40 percent drop in illegal crossings in a year is based on outdated numbers. Yes, Border Patrol arrests plummeted to the lowest level since 1971 during the last budget year. But they began a sharp and steady climb after Trump’s first few months in office. One likely explanation is that people who initially took a wait-and-see attitude toward Trump are now taking their chances.
Overall border arrests in April — which add people who are stopped at land crossings and other official points of entry — topped 50,000 for a second straight month. That was more than triple the number from a year earlier, which was the lowest tally on record since the Homeland Security Department was created in 2003.
Border arrests are an imprecise measure of how many people are attempting to enter the country illegally, because the numbers who make it into the U.S. are not known. But when arrests are up, that’s taken by the government to mean that more people are trying.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
AT A CALIFORNIA SANCTUARY STATE ROUNDTABLE
3:19 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I’m greatly honored to be here with the courageous mayors and sheriffs and local leaders from across the state of California. A great state. Each of you has bravely resisted California’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws. You’ve gone through a lot, too, although it’s becoming quite popular what you’re doing. A law that forces the release of illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, gang members, and violent predators into your communities.
California’s law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women, and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals. But we’re moving them out of this country by the thousands. MS-13, we’re grabbing them by the thousands and we’re getting them out, Kevin.
We’re also joined by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jeff, thank you. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen. Secretary, thank you very much. I know you folks are keeping busy, right? Keeping busy at those borders. And Deputy ICE Director, Tom Homan, who’s going to be leaving us soon for a life of retirement. But there’s no such thing as retirement for Tom. (Applause.)
You’ve done a fantastic job, and we appreciate it very much, Tom. Incredible job.
MR. HOMAN: I’m not leaving the fight, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I know that. Oh, you’ll never leave the fight. No, you’ll always be in.
Also with us is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s been a special friend of mine. He represents California’s 23rd Congressional District, and he is very, very popular. And I just recently saw a poll of Kevin. I think the opposition might as well just go home, because Kevin, they love him out there and he’s done an incredible job. He’s brought it home. And we appreciate it, Kevin, the great job you’ve done for the country. Thank you very much.
Unfortunately, Congress — and I’d have to say, congressional Democrats — you take a look at what has been going on and what’s going on with the laws, whether it’s catch and release, whether it’s any of the things that we’re fighting for so hard.
Now, we have started the wall. We’re spending $1.6 billion between fixing and starting. You know, Melissa, what’s been going on. We’re getting it up. We have a lot of folks in California, they don’t talk about it, but they want the wall up, and they’re very happy. That’s one of the reasons we started in California. But we made a lot of progress on it, and now we’re going for the full funding for the wall, and we’re going to try and get that as soon as possible. But it’s become a very popular issue.
In January, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested an illegal immigrant from Mexico for drug possession. Instead of honoring the ICE detainer, they set him free. Just a few weeks later, he was arrested again, this time for murder. So they arrested him, they had him, they let him go. Tom, you’ve seen this. They let him go, and he killed somebody. And it’s happening more and more. And we get them out as fast as we can. We have the worst laws anywhere in the world for illegal immigration. There’s no place in the world that has laws like we do.
Catch and release — think of it. We catch somebody, we find out they’re criminals. We end up having to release them, and they go into our society. Now, we do the best we can, I’ll tell you. We do better than anybody. And our numbers are much better than in the past, but they’re not nearly acceptable and not nearly as good as what we could have. We’re down 40 percent from those other standards, so that’s really good — meaning 40 percent crossings. So that’s good. But we can do — we can do much better.
Part of the problem that we have is our economy is so strong that people are pouring up to get into our economy. They want a piece of our economy. And that makes the job even tougher. But we want to keep — we want people based on merit. We want people to come into our country based on merit. We’re not looking to keep them out. We’re looking to bring them in. We need them. We have companies moving back into the United States like never before. Chrysler is opening up now in Michigan. We have so many companies actually coming from Mexico, even, and coming back in. So we want people coming in based on merit.
We all remember the tragic case of Marilyn Farris who was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been arrested six times prior to breaking into Marilyn’s home, raping her and savagely beating her to death with a hammer.
And this is one example, but there are many examples. I’ve been saying it for a long time. We cannot let this butchery happen in America.
The state of California’s attempts to nullify federal law have sparked a rebellion by patriotic citizens who want their families protected and their borders secured. They want border security. They want protection. That’s what we’re all about. We’re about protection, both from international and from, frankly, people crossing our border illegally.
I will now go around the room and ask these incredible mayors and officials to discuss their brave stand on behalf of their constituents. They are very popular, they are very well respected. These are the top people. And they are people that other people listen to, and they listen to them from around the country.
So I’ll begin by asking California Assemblywoman, Melissa Melendez. And you have been an inspiration to a lot of people, Melissa. So maybe you could say a few words, and we’ll go right around the room, okay?
MS. MELENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MS. MELENDEZ: I just want to start off by saying, on behalf of everyone here, thank you for inviting us. There are more people in California, I think, that you know who support what you’re doing, who believe in your agenda in securing our borders. Everywhere in between, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you have millions of people who want to see that our borders are secure and that our neighborhoods are safe.
So we want to thank you for what you’re doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MS. MELENDEZ: I have been in office in California for five years now, and it’s interesting to me that you’ve been in office for a year almost?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Seventeen. Seventeen months. Seventeen years would be nice. Seventeen. (Laughter.)
MS. MELENDEZ: But you have invited us here to talk about this issue. I’ve been in office in California for five years. Not once has Governor Brown invited any Republican to discuss this issue in California. And it is a crisis. That’s the point we’re at in California. It’s a crisis.
So for me and my constituents — and those are Democrats and Republicans and independents, alike, because I get emails from all of them — they don’t want to see another Kate Steinle. That’s what I hear every single week. They don’t want to see another Kate Steinle.
So when my husband and I talk about this issue, we have 37 years of service between the two of us. We both served in the Navy. That’s where we met. We know a lot about what it takes to protect our way of life, what it means to protect other people. But we want to make sure that our citizens are protected.
And I think the resistance that started in the Democrat Party, this is your Republican resistance right here against what they’re doing in California.
THE PRESIDENT: And beyond Republican. I mean, this has really become a Democrat issue, a Republican issue. I think a lot of the Democrat politicians don’t understand what’s going on. Because it’s actually good politically. People want safety.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
MS. MELENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Sam, go ahead.
MAYOR ABED: Thank you, Mr. President. I am a proud immigrant here from Lebanon. Thirty years ago, I came here to live the American Dream, and we did well. Jerry Brown wants to take this American Dream from us. I see myself —
THE PRESIDENT: He’ll going to be retired pretty soon, won’t he?
MAYOR ABED: I hope so.
MS. MELENDEZ: End of the year. End of the year.
THE PRESIDENT: Somebody said he’s going to run for President. I said, “Please. Please run.” (Laughter.) But no, I think he’s going to be retired, from what I understand, pretty soon.
MAYOR ABED: I see myself fighting for these values that made our country great, Mr. President. We are aligned with your goals.
Here’s the success story of Escondido. When I was elected mayor in 2010, I made the agreement with ICE. We brought eight ICE agents to Escondido, to our police station. Since then, we deported over 2,700 illegal criminals from our city, and made Escondido as safe as it was in 1980. This is a great success story, and our cooperation with ICE and the San Diego ICE is a very compelling model for the nation to follow.
In our city, more immigrant people report crime. And this narrative that sanctuary city will allow more immigrants to report crime is fake news, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Fake news. Fake news.
MAYOR ABED: We are going — California is going down the drain. It’s going to be — sorry, Congressman McCarthy. But California is the least business friendly, is the poorest city in the nation, the highest poverty rate, the highest taxes, you name it. Instead of fixing the Golden State and making it the American Dream for everyone, they are dealing with illegal criminals.
When Jerry Brown cares more about illegal criminals than he cares about the Hispanic community and the American citizens, this is insanity, and this is unconstitutional. When I swore to be a citizen, and again as mayor, I swore to defend the Constitution and to keep my community safe. This is personal to me. I’m going to work hard to make sure our community is safe. Escondido is a great example of our success. As a result of making Escondido safe, we brought $2 billion in investment to our city, and we outperformed San Diego County in economic growth.
I am passionate about it. When I go back to California, I’m going to start a PAC. And we’re going to fight the fight. We want to make sure if the Supreme Court does not repeal the sanctuary state, we’re going to make sure the grassroot team like you see today, we will repeal that. We are with you. We need to build that wall. We need to end the sanctuary state. We had 11 sanctuary cities not too long ago. Now we have 560. Ten-thousand illegal criminals have been released under the sanctuary cities —
THE PRESIDENT: But now it’s reversing, Sam. And it really got bad, and now it’s reversing. There’s a big change of heart, of mind, of people don’t want sanctuary cities. They’re dangerous; they don’t want them anymore.
So thank you, Sam.
MAYOR ABED: Most of the people support us, Mr. President. Sixty-five percent of the Hispanics support us. The liberal, the Democrat, everybody is supporting our — in my city, 90 percent are with us. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: And I’ll tell you what, I had a lot more support in the state of California than people understand. (Laughter.)
MS. MELENDEZ: That’s right.
THE PRESIDENT: Check the voting records, folks. Please.
MAYOR RUIZ: I’m Crystal from the city of San Jacinto. Can I speak frankly?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MAYOR RUIZ: I’m sitting here in this room in awe of God’s power; how He can take someone who was homeless in a tent, make them the mayor in the city, and bring them before the President of the United States of America who wants to hear the cry of our people. And that’s what’s going on.
Our people are the ones hurting. Sacramento is angry because they lost an election. For God’s sake, get over it. They’re angry. And you know what? Now we’re more angry.
They’re releasing these criminals, not by their houses. They’re not releasing them by their houses. They’re releasing them by our houses. Our children are at risk. My community is my family. You’re putting my family at risk. Every day we’re getting more and more reports from the police department about how they can’t arrest these people. They arrest them — everything is a misdemeanor. Because it’s not near Jerry Brown’s house. It’s not near the elected official’s house. It’s in our communities, and we’re tired of it.
We need help, Mr. President. We need help protecting the city of San Jacinto, Escondido, the state of California. All of us need help getting this solved. I was just at a church the other day. I was at my church, and I went over to another one — a Hispanic church — and all the people from the Hispanic church were out there, and they all came up to me: “Would you tell Mr. Trump that we have a message for him: We want help.”
You see, every one of us came from somewhere else. We all came from different countries. My husband is from Mexico. My family came way back from before the Revolutionary War, and we’ve been fighting for this country ever since. Fighting for the constitutional rights of our country. I’m not going to stop fighting for those rights.
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t fight — look, it’s coming back and it’s coming back fast. Faster than even the people in this room understand. Kevin understands what’s happening. You see it, maybe, better than anybody. But it’s coming back. People are tired of this nonsense, and it’s happening. So don’t give up the fight. Don’t give up the fight.
MAYOR RUIZ: I’m not, Mr. President. You are our leader. And thank God for you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
MAYOR RUIZ: So bless you.
THE PRESIDENT: And yours is an amazing story.
MAYOR RUIZ: Thank you, God. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Sheriff?
SHERIFF D’AGOSTINI: Thank you, Mr. President. John D’Agostini. I’m the elected Sherriff of El Dorado County, California. And the bottom line from sheriffs — and you’ll hear from my peers, as well — is we just want to do our jobs. We want to do what the people elected us to do, and that is respect our Constitution and keep our communities safe.
When this bill was being heard in legislature and it was going through — we have in California what we call “leg days,” where the state sheriffs go and meet with the legislators moving this bill through. And what literally disgusted me was a common term that we heard throughout the discussion of SB 54 from different legislators. And the quote was, “We know this is bad policy but it’s great politics.” That’s wrong. Because this bill absolutely jeopardizes public safety in our communities.
We’re not immigration officers; we never have been, and we’re never going to be. We just want to be able to cooperate with our federal partners so that these folks that end up in our custody and need to be deported, get deported.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Sheriff, I’ll tell you what — it’s not bad politics anymore. You know, if you look at what’s going on — because I think, maybe, more than anyplace else right now, there’s a revolution going on in California. They want safety.
You know, you had the Mayor of Oakland that I read where you had 1,000 people — Tom, you know this because it was your deal — it had 1,000 people together. Many of these were illegals. They were criminals. They were all sorts of — it was work. And she informed them and they all fled, or most of them fled. And that whole operation that took a long time to put together — I mean, you talk about obstruction of justice; I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the Mayor of Oakland, California, Jeff. She advises a thousand people. They told, “Get out of here, the law enforcement is coming.” And you worked on that long and hard. And you got there, and there were very few people there.
To me, that’s obstruction of justice. And perhaps the Department of Justice can look into that with respect to the mayor, because it’s a big deal out there and a lot of people are very angry about what happened. There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of danger involved. And that was a terrible thing.
MAYOR JOHNSON: Mr. President, Natasha Johnson, from the city of Lake Elsinore. As the mayor, April 24th, we took a formal position and adopted a resolution opposing SB 54. It was based on our constitutional duty to serve. I think everyone in this room that is elected knows that public safety is their number-one priority. But we can’t say that we are public safety driven and also turn a blind eye to what is happening.
There was courage and maybe a little risk. We were not risk-averse to step out as one of the first cities to take a position. I think I’m more proud of the fact that we were just listening to what our community wanted — and they don’t want it. They clearly don’t want to have an overreach of their rights. And that’s what really this stands for.
So as far as the city of Lake Elsinore, I think that this is a siloed approach. I think SB 54 is a very — is a great representation, and I think maybe some have forgotten, maybe especially Sacramento, about a siloed approach right before 9/11. And some of the things that we really can look back in history and see — it’s going to take a multi-agency approach. It’s going to take coalition, a revolution, whatever you want to call it. But I’m completely impressed with the room and what we stand for.
This isn’t a fight. This is a battle. This is a war. And I know that we have a lot of work to do. This is just the beginning.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll get it done. Thank you very much.
MAYOR JOHNSON: Secretary Nielsen? Would you like to say something?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Just — mostly just thanks. I’m want to thank you for your leadership, sir, in bringing us all together but in also recognizing what a very important issue this is. And this week, as many of you know, we celebrate police week and we celebrate law enforcement. Everyone in this room is an enforcer of the law, and I thank you for that and I thank you for your leadership.
When states are turning their back on the U.S. Constitution and their communities, you are standing up. And we greatly, greatly appreciate your partnership.
I know Director Homan will give us more details on the dangers of sanctuary cities, which you’re living, as do our officers and folks who work at ICE and other parts of the federal family. But I just want to hear from you and just thank you. Thank you for your partnership and for standing up for your communities. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. And you’re doing a good job, and it’s not an easy job. I know what you’re going through right now with families is very tough. But those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It’s a horrible thing. We have to break up families.
The Democrats gave us that law and they don’t want to do anything about it. They’ll leave it like that because they don’t want to make any changes. And now you’re breaking up families because of the Democrats. It’s terrible.
MAYOR EDGAR: Yeah. How are you doing, there, President Trump? I’m Troy Edgar, Los Alamitos Mayor. It’s an honor to be here.
You know, I just want to say, thank you for inviting us also to the residence earlier today. You know, as a previous ex-Navy guy, and being able to be on a city council of a small city, it’s people like you that are actually bringing the people back to the People’s House — your house, our house. So we really appreciate it.
You know, going through, I also want to say thank you to Secretary Nielsen. There’s a gentleman in our community, Mark Cito (ph), who is on the local ICE officer in charge of Orange County. When we came out, we were the first city. He came, he called right away, he started giving me that bright line between where ICE has problems with local law enforcement.
Secretary Nielsen, thank you.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Thanks to Director Homan.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Troy.
MAYOR EDGAR: Yeah. And then, Attorney General — you know, coming out first has a price to pay. And the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against us. You know, we would really appreciate any direct or indirect funding there — any sort of fiscal help that you could provide us — (laughter) — for, you know, things like potentially putting some of your Attorney General or Assistant Attorney Generals maybe, if they have the base in our military town, or helping us offset some of the costs.
But we really appreciate everything that you’re doing. We also filed the amicus brief to kind of join, and we’re going to plan on intersecting you at the appeals court. One of you guys will appeal, and we think that we’ll have a more substantive amount to offer at that point.
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe we could join in with you, though. We could perhaps join in with you. Because we have a lot of cases like that where we’re with you 100 percent but we’re not in paper. So we’ll join in with you. If it’s at all possible, we’d like to do that.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. President. Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Pam? Thank you very much, Troy.
MS. PATTERSON: So thank you, Mr. President. It’s an amazing honor to meet you, and thank you so much for the invitation.
I served on San Juan Capistrano City Council for the last three years, but I’ve also served on the community engagement panel of the San Onofre Nuclear Power plant, which is — they call it SONGS. And they, back in 2001, were testifying before Congress that the terrorists were saying, “target the power plants.” So the fact that we have this unsecure border is putting us —
THE PRESIDENT: Crazy.
MS. PATTERSON: — at great risk because we know that terrorists are coming in.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s crazy.
MS. PATTERSON: But with respect to the power plant — that is number one — that has the worst safety record in the nation. And one of the questions that I asked —
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a nuclear power plant?
MS. PATTERSON: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: And the terrorists are coming in alongside of the power plant.
MS. PATTERSON: Exactly. And you —
THE PRESIDENT: Isn’t that wonderful? (Laughter.)
MS. PATTERSON: — can get in to that power plant with really — you can just drive in. And so I asked them, actually, during one of the meetings — I said, “So you have a no-fly zone, right?” — with respect to the power plant — and they said, “Yes.” And I said, “So what would happen if an airplane flew into the no-fly zone? Would you shoot it down?” They said, “No.” And that was on the record.
And so I just think that it’s a Fukushima, number one, waiting to happen. It’s on an active earthquake fault, in a Tsunami zone, where they’re storing this radiation which is 124 times that of Chernobyl, and improperly stored, and it’s — there’s no security.
So I think that —
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll check it out.
MS. PATTERSON: Okay.
THE PRESIDENT: It doesn’t sound too good. (Laughter.) It doesn’t sound like the greatest, right?
MS. PATTERSON: Exactly.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll check it out. Thank you very much.
MS. PATTERSON: Okay, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, Margaret?
SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you, Mr. President. You know, sheriffs in California are now in an untenable position when it comes to trying to figure out — now, we have state law, we have federal laws, and here we are stuck in the middle. Sheriffs, especially, because most of us run our county jails.
When there became a legal challenge to the 48-hour holds for ICE, it was very frustrating for us. So what I did is I invited ICE to put their officers in my jails so they’re able to do their work. We didn’t have the staffing to be able to help figure out who they wanted to talk to or didn’t. I said, come on in, work with our people to keep our community safe. Two weeks later, Mr. President, Kate Steinle was murdered.
Now, I wasn’t the only sheriff to do that. Sheriff Youngblood did, Sheriff Christianson. And it was perfect — because we didn’t have to take our time, with our staff, to do anything. ICE was in there doing their work in a safe, controlled, environment. And then, the initiatives started happening — the TRUST Act, the TRUTH Act, and finally, SB 54, the Values Act. And that is causing us all kinds of turmoil.
So here we are, stuck in the middle, trying to decide. We have federal law, we have state law. And that’s why I welcomed Attorney General Sessions’s lawsuit, because that will provide us the clarity that we need and direction that we need. What do we do? Because here we are.
And I appreciated Mr. Homan and ICE. We had a great relationship; we still do. But now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.
SHERIFF MIMS: It’s a disgrace.
THE PRESIDENT: And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.
SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.
THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.
The dumbest laws — as I said before, the dumbest laws on immigration in the world. So we’re going to take care of it, Margaret. We’ll get it done. We’re going to ask that man right there, because that man can do it. (Laughter.) Right now he’s the most important man in the room. Kevin can do it.
MAJORITY LEADER MCCARTHY: Well, first of all, I want to thank all of you, because most people around the country do not realize how your hands are tied behind your back. The only thing you want to do is to have safe streets, safe neighborhoods, and protect your communities. And for California legislature to go against the Constitution — one of the greatest strengths of this nation, and we’re fortunate to be in this room, is the rule of law. They are breaking down society by breaking down the rule of law; that you have a known criminal that you can’t communicate with ICE about.
We know how bad this is. But from one aspect, we should be excited because we have a new President that understands this problem. Since he has taken office, we have lowered the illegal crossings across this border. That stops gang members from coming across. He has started building the wall — $1.6 billion. And you know where that wall is starting to be built? In California. He has pushed a number of bills through — one, to try to stop sanctuary cities; to reward those who uphold the Constitution. Second, to stop the MS-13 gang members. And you know what’s interesting, after you moved that bill? A Governor of New York, Mr. Cuomo, who thought that wasn’t a problem, I saw him sign one similar just the other day because he watched what was happening, as well.
So, collectively, it was city councils and sheriffs — city council is not your full-time job, but you listened to your community, you saw the problem that was going on. So things are improving, and that’s why I’m so thankful for this President to call us together, because collectively we’ll be stronger. The Secretary is doing an amazing job. I’ll tell you, the number of times we meet or call at all hours of night, trying to make sure she can protect it. The Attorney General just talked to me last night, around 10 o’clock.
And so, from that perspective, we are in this together, but we are in it for the Constitution. We’re in it for the security and the safety of our streets, and I thank you for leading the charge.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we want to thank you, Kevin. You have done an incredible job. You’re sort of going against the tide, but now the tide is sort of with us because you see it in the room. I mean, a year ago, two years ago, this would have been unthinkable to have you all in the room talking the way we’re talking. But you’re fed up with what’s happening.
And, Kevin, thank you very much. You’re doing really great.
MS. MONTGOMERY: Thank you very much. I just want to say thank you for your leadership in your office and on this issue. I am delighted and privileged to be here. And it is so wonderful to be here among all of you as well, because you’re all on the frontlines in your own communities fighting this fight.
I was born and raised in California, been an attorney there for 24 years. Got my start in the law when Three Strikes was starting out in California, and developed a real passion for prosecution. I was the appointed district attorney, and I’ve been the elected district attorney now for four years. And in the last four years, I have seen California become a disaster. It’s been tragic to watch my state pass laws that basically have sent our communities into a very dangerous place.
In Lassen County, we’re a very small community. But I’m pleased to say, when you’re talking about voting, that you have supporters in California. Lassen County voted overwhelmingly for you in California. I believe we had the highest margin in all the 58 counties in California. You are loved in Lassen County.
And I believe that, to a certain extent, we are sort of a forgotten part of California. We are rural California, and we do not stand for the policies in Sacramento. We have a horrible problem in our public lands, in our forests. We’ve got illegals, marijuana — excuse me, drug cartels that have come up to grow on our public lands and in our forests, and they are decimating it. They are killing wildlife.
THE PRESIDENT: And you can’t really do anything about it.
MS. MONTGOMERY: There’s not a thing we can do. We work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, who file charges that do the best that they can. But these people are coming into our forests, they’re endangering our citizens. They are armed. They’re setting up camps, and they’re growing mass amounts of marijuana on our public lands. They are killing wildlife. They’re diverting streams. The damage that they’re causing, both to the economy and to our public lands, is going to be generational. A large portion of these people that are coming in to do this are illegal immigrants.
Because of the legalization of marijuana in California, now we’re seeing those same individuals working with other criminal groups — the Asian groups, the Russian groups, the motorcycle groups, all kinds of organized crime. It’s bringing into rural —
THE PRESIDENT: So legalization made it worse?
MS. MONTGOMERY: The legalization made it worse. Yes. I believe the legalization made it worse. I’ve been appalled, as a district attorney, someone who’s sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the state, that we have fallen so far in California.
We also have other issues. We are prosecuting an illegal immigrant right now who has been deported several times and has had a violent criminal history, who hit and killed a 16-year-old kid — a boy in our community — and fled the scene. So his case is pending right now. After I brought the suit, I was promptly served with a gag order to prevent me from talking about the case. It’s been very frustrating.
Also, I have received correspondence — and I know that every DA’s office in California has received correspondence from the ACLU and their affiliate organizations, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and the California Public Information Act wanting to know what policies — “We want to see what policies your office is implementing. What have you done to ensure compliance with SB 54?”
Well, the response from my office was very simple: We have nothing. Because this office will stand for the rule of law. Lassen County stands for the rule of law. And we have no policies to give you because we will not issue such policies from this desk and from this office.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Good job.
MS. MONTGOMERY: We stand with you. We are delighted with the actions that you have taken, Mr. Sessions. The people of Lassen County stand with you, I stand with you, and we appreciate everything that you’re doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Yep. Thank you, Stacey.
MS. MONTGOMERY: You’re welcome.
THE PRESIDENT: Beautifully said. Thank you very much.
MR. HOMAN: First of all, Mr. President, I want to thank you for having this meeting today — this roundtable. We appreciate your leadership on this issue. The Secretary, I appreciate your leadership and how you support law enforcement and the rule of law. And the AG, I can’t say enough good things about what you’ve done for law enforcement.
You know, I hear a lot of things today about sanctuary cities and the wall. I’m not the smartest guy at this table by any means, but in sanctuary cities. they want to take the Attorney General on to get their funding. Even though they violate federal law to keep criminal aliens in, they don’t want a wall to keep them out. To me, that’s just backwards.
And I want to talk — I just want to spend a minute to say — separating fact from fiction, please. I hope the American people can understand the fight about sanctuary cities. And I appreciate the American patriots in this room that have joined this fight, which is the good fight, it’s the right fight.
The intentional mis-messaging of sanctuary cities and what they do — I hear, “They protect the immigrant communities.” And they don’t. It’s the complete opposite. When you release a criminal alien from a jail, they’re going to go to the very communities in which they live and reoffend. Anybody can Google recidivism rates. Over half reoffend the first year against the very immigrant communities in which they live. So you’re not protecting the immigrant community. You’re putting them at greater risk of crime.
And when you force an ICE agent, where he can take someone — the custody of somebody in the safety and security of a county jail and force them into neighborhoods, you put our officers at risk. You’re already putting the public at risk. And we’re going to find others who weren’t even on our radar. So you put the community at greater risk of crime, you put them at greater risk of ICE arrest, and you put the heroes — the law enforcement officers — at great risk.
This is National Police Week, as said earlier. And I want to talk about the messaging — the mis-messaging from some of these groups and some of these politicians about what ICE does. When you read that sanctuary cities protect the immigrant communities, but also, we don’t want to be commandeered, we don’t have the ICE agents — we have never asked anybody to be an ICE agent. We don’t want any law enforcement officer to be an ICE agent. What we want is access to a county jail to talk to somebody that we know is here illegally, in violation of federal law, that committed yet another crime. You can’t tell ICE to prioritize criminal aliens and not give me access to the jail. It just don’t make sense.
And the final point I want to make in defense of the brave men and women of the Border Patrol and ICE: I’m sick and tired of the constant vilification of these men and women who leave their home every day and strap a gun to their hip; leave the safety and security of their families to defend this nation and to defend their neighborhoods.
When you have a congressman standing in front of the ICE office in New York City and call us the Gestapo, comparing what we do to war crimes. When you got a congressman who said, quote, “The cowardly acts of ICE officers that terrorize innocent immigrant communities.” ICE does more to protect the immigrant than any politician ever has done. We arrested several hundred-thousand criminals removed from the streets.
For all these people who want to keep vilifying the men and women who took a sworn oath, who are enforcing laws enacted by you, Congress, the next time you think about vilifying the men and women of ICE, I want you to do what I did this week. I want you to go to our National Law Enforcement wall, I want you to walk that wall, and read the names on that wall: over 400 Border Patrol agents and ICE officers whose hearts stopped beating defending this nation. It’s a dishonor to these men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to vilify the men and women that carry the badge and gun. So think twice before you do it.
And as far as the hate that I take for defending the men and women of ICE and the Border Patrol, that will stop the day my heart stops to beat. And it won’t end. And even though I may be retiring soon, this fight doesn’t end with me. I will stay engaged, and I will keep fighting for you, sir. So thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
MR. HOMAN: I’ve worked for six Presidents, and I respect them all. But no President has done more than you for border security and for law enforcement. I think every law enforcement officer at this table would agree with me.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. No, that’s very nice. That’s a great compliment, believe me — because you have, indeed, worked for six. And all six respected you greatly. None more than me. Thank you very much. I just wish you could have said that to the press, but — (laughter) — here’s the good news: You have such a beautiful, full head of hair, you look good even from that angle. (Laughter.)
I appreciate it, Tom. That’s really nice. Thank you very much.
MAYOR GENNAWEY: Good afternoon, Mr. President. And thank you for inviting us here to share our thoughts with you. I’m Elaine Gennawey, Mayor of the city of Laguna Niguel in Orange County, California. And so, really appreciate the opportunity to let you know what our residents are feeling.
But first, I’d like to ask Director Homan, please let the men and women of ICE know that they have our gratitude and our deep, deep appreciation for what they do.
MR. HOMAN: Thank you.
MAYOR GENNAWEY: But, you know, Laguna Niguel took a stance against SB 54 because that is the greatest threat to the safety of all of California residents — all of our residents, all of our communities. And that includes our immigrant communities. The siloing or preventing law enforcement agencies from talking to each other is a threat to our agents and to the communities. And our country learned a very tragic lesson on September 11th — and that’s what happens when law enforcement does not communicate.
So isn’t it ironic that in an age of calls for increased transparency, that the California legislature wants to prevent that. So we think that all of our residents deserve to live in a safe community. And also, Mr. President, there is an area where we need your assistance with. We will support you on preventing SB 54 and upholding what ICE does, but in California we need your help with sober living homes. Orange County has become known as the “Rehab Riviera.” So H.R. 5724 is just being introduced, and we would appreciate help with that, because local control is being attacked from Sacramento every single day, and this is one other issue.
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll take a look. We’ll take a look. I’ll take a look on that. Thank you very much.
MAYOR GENNAWEY: Okay, thank you. Appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Steve Miller, would you like to say something?
MR. MILLER: Just what an honor it is to be able to work for a President who has the backs of our law enforcement officers. Everything you’re doing every day is saving so many lives all across this country, and it’s just an endless honor to be a part of it, and even in any a small way. So thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Stephen. That’s great. A great job you do, too.
MS. GASPAR: Good afternoon, Mr. President. It’s an honor to be here. I’m Kristin Gaspar representing the largest county here today, San Diego County. I have 3.5 million constituents that I’m responsible for their public safety. If you look around this room, your tiny but mighty team, this is what Governor Brown classifies as low-life politicians. Well, here we are.
You’ve heard about the problems. You’ve heard about the statistics. And I could have thought of a million things to say to you. I have a stack of 3,000 emails in my office. These are the emails that have come in — thank yous, people supporting what we’re doing. And I have a tiny little stack of less than 50 where people are very upset with what we’re doing in San Diego County.
THE PRESIDENT: How is the wall going? How is the wall? (Laughter.)
MS. GASPAR: It’s going. It’s going.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re getting it built, right?
MS. GASPAR: It is being built.
THE PRESIDENT: They wanted it so badly — San Diego. They wanted it so badly. And I said, you know, if we build it, we will lose a big constituency, because there won’t be anybody saying, “We want the wall.” But we had to build it. So I know they’re very happy about it.
MS. GASPAR: And I’d like to share with you a story, because sometimes humanizing the issue is really important. And a family reached out to me, and I brought with me one single photo on that plane, since the stack of 3,000 emails is a little difficult to carry. But that photo was the last photo taken of 27-year-old Alexander Mazin, who was gunned down by an illegal immigrant who had previously been deported.
Now, as his family picks up the pieces of their lives that have been shattered, his killer lives openly and freely in a Tijuana motel.
Now, it’s really interesting what’s happening in San Diego with our borders, because we’ve created a situation where Governor Brown makes San Diego a great place to commit a crime because you have options. You can either be across the border in a matter of minutes and shielded by Mexico, or you have the option of simply staying put, shielded by Governor Moonbeam. So there are options, but there are real consequences for what’s happening. And my heart just broke talking to Mr. Mazin about his son. And he described his son dying like a filthy rat in a parking lot, while this killer gets to just live freely in Mexico, and being robbed of ever having the opportunity to have grandchildren.
Now, he said something that stuck with me. He said, “You know, my son, he was a true patriot. He was a wonderful human being, an exemplary citizen, lost because of the problem at our border.” So this case, and so many others, these are the faces — this is what we’re fighting for. And we’re all in, because we’re going to fight to protect our public safety, and we are going to speak freely about this issue until we can look back at our own children and guarantee their safety in our community.
Thank you for your advocacy.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. And you find Mexico helps or it does nothing for us?
MS. GASPAR: Mexico does not help with cases like this because it will take years —
THE PRESIDENT: Mexico does nothing for us. They do nothing for us.
MS. GASPAR: And this family will —
THE PRESIDENT: Mexico talks, but they do nothing for us, especially at the border. Certainly don’t help us much on trade, but especially at the border, they do nothing for us.
Jeff, thank you very much. Jeff.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: Mr. President, great to be with you. I want you to know that the President has made clear to all of us that we have to do better. We are going to do better in our Department. We’re reviewing everything we’re doing. And we’re going to probably have twice as many prosecutions, add a whole bunch of judges, and do the things that we can to move this agenda forward.
But I want to tell you, in my opinion, having been here and a lot of battles over this issue, this year — Kevin, and I know you and I were talking about it — could be the year — this is the year that we have to move Congress. I’ve always said Congress will pass anything as long as it doesn’t work. (Laughter.) If you come up with a bill that will actually improve our sheriffs’ and our ICE officers’ and Border Patrol officers’ ability to do their job, to deport people who have entered illegally, then they object, and we seem to come up short. This time, let’s not come up short.
We’ve got a leader. He can articulate this message effectively. And if we all get behind our leader, we’ll get something done this year that’s historic.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jeff. Thank you very much.
SHERIFF GRANGOFF: Mr. President, Ray Grangoff, Deputy with the Orange County Sheriffs Department. And thank you so much for fighting for law enforcement. It’s much appreciated.
You know, for us, as the Mayor said, the biggest issue with SB 54 is not being able to communicate with law enforcement partners. We need to be able to talk. And since 9/11, we have done a great job of opening up the communication at the local, state, and federal level, and addressing our shared threats.
And in communicating with ICE, we were able to address the shared threat of getting criminal offenders off our streets. We had a 287(g) program in Orange County, where we were able to screen all our inmates, and some of those people that we were able to identify were people that weren’t even yet on ICE’s radar because they were just new to the country. And so we were able to put them on ICE’s radar and get them out of here.
One of them that stands out, and it was back in October of 2016, a 21-year-old that was in jail on child molestation charges. We screened that person and we were able to alert ICE, and now that person is serving time and will be out of the country. But that goes away with SB 54, and we’re not able to talk, and that is not a good thing. We need to address the shared threats.
So we will reap these bad policies that have been sown. But the lawsuit and what your administration is doing to fight that is a huge help. So keep it up, and thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Sheriff. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
MAYOR HACKBARTH-MCINTYRE: Hi. Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, city of Barstow. We sit — we have the longest cul-de-sac. The National Training Center is 27 miles from the city of Barstow.
When we joined the amicus brief, it was — we recognized that — myself and my councilmembers — was that federal law reigns over immigration, not the state. What is happening — in listening around this table of what’s happening in other communities, I haven’t had anything personal from the ICE of illegal immigration yet, but I know it’s coming, because we can’t enforce anything. The crime rate is up in California, and it’s going to continue to rise as long as these policies —
THE PRESIDENT: It’s true.
MAYOR HACKBARTH-MCINTYRE: — are blanketed across California. And they don’t — they’re not talking to the small communities. We talk to our citizens every day. They’re afraid —
THE PRESIDENT: And we have — the crime rate in the nation is way down. But in California, it’s up. Because of the ridiculous laws. Go ahead.
MAYOR HACKBARTH-MCINTYRE: Yes. And I just appreciate, Mr. President, for you here, listening to our concerns, listening to — it’s going to take all of us and I think we’re ready to make the fight to California to say, “Enough is enough. We’re done.” The blanketed policies across California aren’t working. So we need help. I’m glad that you’re making this fight known. We appreciate everyone in your staff, in your administration, helping and pushing through to make sure that our communities are safe.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.
MAYOR PRO TEM KUSUMOTO: Mr. President, I’m Warren Kusumoto from the tiny town of Los Alamitos. And we were first, and we were boldest — (laughter and applause) —
PARTICIPANT: Here, here.
MAYOR PRO TEM KUSUMOTO: We’ve done something that no other city has done. We’ve actually passed an ordinance and exposed our city to a lawsuit, as Mayor Edgar said. And in this experience, there’s a silent majority of patriots out there — I’m sorry, I’m getting broken up — that they want this. They want us to do what we’re doing. And that anyone with common sense knows this California Values Act was put in place to protect those that are here breaking the law.
And the message I got from this whole experience is, the citizens of our state and our city feel like they have less rights than the entitled illegal aliens, and the entitled attitude is a thing that really just makes me really unhappy. They feel that they’re entitled to something that we don’t even get. So please, sir, we need your help. We appreciate your leadership.
And because —
THE PRESIDENT: And by the way, you gave us great leadership, too.
MAYOR PRO TEM KUSUMOTO: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t kid yourself. You did a great job.
MAYOR PRO TEM KUSUMOTO: But the state — you know, the double-speak from the politicians in the State of California — the commandeering — they’ve commandeered our police force by tying their hands. And so that’s the double-speak that comes out of the bullies there. We just poked the bully. And I think being the lowlifes that we are, we’re closest to the people. We know what the people want, and we’ve gone forward with that boldly. And I’ve asked other cities to step up and do at least — consider the matter, listen to their constituents, and they’ll know what they’re supposed to do.
Thank you, sir, for having us here.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks very much. Great job. Thank you.
MS. STEEL: Mr. President, Michelle Steel from Orange County.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
MS. STEEL: Thank you very much by inviting us. And I just want to say, as a Korean-American — first generation Korean-American — went through legal process to coming in here, really appreciate for the release of three Korean-Americans from North Korea. So we really appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. We’re very happy about that.
MS. STEEL: At the same time that — for SB 54 — that because of City of Los Alamitos, they have 11,700 people living there, and they had the gutsy move and then Orange County led, as of now, the 9 counties of 58 in California that they passed an ordinance — they passed the ordinances or resolutions to go anti-sanctuary state. And then more than 35 cities as of now.
This is really an interesting experience because I was never called — I married to — you know, Kevin knows my husband, John Steel, who is a national committeeman from California —
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Good. Say hello.
MS. STEEL: This is the first time that I was called — because I was going out for anti-sanctuary state — “a racist big ‘B’.” I mean, on the email that you get this — and I said, “Oh my God, first generation. How desperate that the other side are” — (laughter) — “that being called.”
But I am very, very excited that Orange County actually filed a lawsuit to join Attorney General’s lawsuit. So June 5th, that court is going to decide we can join them — join the federal government or not. If it’s not, then we’re going to file the lawsuit.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MS. STEEL: So we’re going to work together in Orange County. Most of cities that we came from — Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano — Orange County is all with you. And you know what? People — and I got all these emails; mostly positive. And then, actually, Berkeley study came out where 57 percent are against us — so for sanctuary state — and 41 percent against sanctuary state. I don’t think that polling is really right because whatever we get, we got all mostly positive ones except that person called. Yep.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. Right. Well, you have done a great job, Michelle.
MS. STEEL: Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: We appreciate it. Fantastic job. Sheriff?
SHERIFF CHRISTIANSON: Well, Mr. President, thank you for having us. And first of all, thank you for being a defender of the rule of law, and for your overwhelming support of public safety and standing with the men and women who put their lives on the line every day. That’s just tremendous.
You know, the great part about being last is there’s not much else to say. (Laughter.) So I won’t, in the interest in time and out of respect of your time, I’ll only add one point. And I know this is something that we’ve had conversations with Director Homan and Attorney General Sessions, and that’s the detainer issue. For the sheriffs, that’s a real problem for us. The federal court has said that honoring detainers is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. That puts us in a very precarious position from a point — a liability standpoint.
And we really need to be able to do our jobs without all of the interference that’s going on. And certainly, I’m going to reaffirm Director Homan’s comments. We have an outstanding relationship with ICE. We work very closely with them. Since 9/11, sir, we have an unbelievable partnership with our federal law enforcement agencies. And there shouldn’t be anybody interfering with a sheriff’s ability, a chief’s ability, or anybody in this room at this table today from defending people against those who exploit and victimize them. There should be no interference in our ability to protect our communities, to protect our national security.
I’m privileged to live in the Central Valley, where agriculture is the number-one economic industry — multi-billion dollar industry. We feed the world. ICE is not out sweeping through those agricultural communities. We’re looking for the people, the criminals. Not the people who are working, seeking a better life in America, sent their kids to school, are out every day in agriculture, whether that’s nuts, fruits, poultry, dairy, you name it. That’s not what we’re doing, sir. We’re focused on those individuals who victimize and exploit the weak and defenseless. And we should be able to do that without interference.
Thank you for having us.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Adam. That’s fantastic. I want to thank everybody for being here, very special people. And we are — step by step, we’re bringing it back, and we will bring it back. We will not fail. We’ll bring it back. So thank you very much. Thank you very much. Please. Go ahead. Thank you. Thank you.
END 4:14 P.M. EDT
Embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said he doesn’t remember asking his security detail to use lights and sirens to speed his government-owned SUV through Washington traffic, even as Democratic senators disclosed an internal email saying he did.
The email written in February 2017 by then-EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta has the subject line “Lights and Sirens” and added “Btw – Administrator encourages the use.”
Pruitt later promoted Perrotta to lead his personal protective detail. Former EPA officials have told The Associated Press that Pruitt made the change after Perrotta’s predecessor refused to use lights and sirens in non-emergency situations, such as when the administrator was running late for dinner reservations or going to the airport.
Under sharp questioning by Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the top Democrat on a Senate appropriations subcommittee that questioned Pruitt on Wednesday, the EPA chief denied making the request.
“I don’t recall that happening,” Pruitt said, adding that he was confident his security team followed the applicable policies.
It was one of several instances during Wednesday’s hearing that Pruitt either said he couldn’t recall details about requests he made regarding his personal security or where he blamed subordinates for making those decisions.
Two weeks ago, Pruitt announced Perrotta’s early retirement amid questions about whether he improperly recommended a business partner for an EPA security contract and outside work he performed as a private investigator for a tabloid newspaper.
The panel’s chairman, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, kicked off the hearing by expressing concern that allegations over Pruitt’s ethical missteps are overshadowing the Trump administration’s pro-business regulatory rollbacks.
“I’m being asked, really constantly asked, to comment on security and on housing and on travel. I’m reading about your interactions with representatives of the industries that you regulate” Murkowski told Pruitt at a hearing normally expected to focus on budget matters.
Udall also cited the Government Accountability Office’s finding in April that Pruitt’s purchase of a $43,000 private office booth for telephone calls broke federal law because the EPA failed to notify Congress in advance of an expenditure over $5,000.
Udall accused Pruitt of continuing to flout legal requirements to inform lawmakers about that and other big-ticket spending, and “treating your position of public trust as a golden ticket for extravagant travel and fine dining.”
Pruitt had some success batting away ethics questions lobbed by Democrats when he appeared before two House panels last month, but on Wednesday the senators hammered the EPA chief with prosecutor-like follow up questions.
Protesters sitting behind Pruitt silently rose up twice in the first minutes of the hearing, once waving signs and once simply standing up in unison, wearing green T-shirts with slogans saying “Impeach Pruitt.”
The EPA chief has been the subject of a steady stream of damaging headlines in recent months, including revelations from the EPA’s inspector general this week that Pruitt requested and received 24-hour security beginning his first day in office. That challenges Pruitt’s account that the round-the-clock security was a result of threats against him after taking office.
On Wednesday, Pruitt repeatedly dodged directly answering whether he requested the stepped-up security coverage, saying career EPA officials made the decision.
The Associated Press reported last month that Pruitt’s preoccupation with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers, as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes. Altogether, the agency has spent about $3 million on Pruitt’s 20-member full-time security detail, which is more than three times the size of his predecessor’s part-time security contingent.
Despite the mounting investigations, President Donald Trump has said he supports Pruitt. Asked Friday if he still had confidence in the EPA chief, Trump told reporters, “I do.”
At one of the House hearings last month, Pruitt spoke broadly of taking responsibility for changes at his agency, and said he had “made changes” in his practice of first- and business-class travel. Perrotta drafted a memo last year saying Pruitt needed to fly in premium class seats because of security threats.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox did not respond to a question from AP on Tuesday about whether Pruitt was now flying coach.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told Pruitt he was a walking example of “ego run amok,” calling him an embarrassment to the agency he leads. The senior senator called “silly” Pruitt’s claims he needed to fly in first class after unpleasant interactions with other travelers.
“Nobody even knows who you are,” Leahy told the EPA chief. “We want environmental protections that work. Forget about your own ego and your first class travel and your special phone booths that just make you a laughingstock and your agency a laughingstock.”
President Donald Trump says the United States has “little to give” in contentious trade talks with China, and Beijing has a lot to give, because he says the United States for years has been losing trade battles with China.
Wednesday, he defended his call to rescue China’s giant technology company ZTE, which the U.S. Commerce Department last month barred from buying American-made components for its consumer products for seven years after it was caught violating U.S. trade bans with Iran and North Korea. ZTE said with the cut in U.S. parts it had ceased “major operating activities.”
“Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal,” Trump said on Twitter. His assessment came days after he said “too many jobs” were being lost in China because of ZTE’s difficulties and that he had “instructed” the Commerce agency to “get it done!” to help ZTE “get back into business, fast.”
The U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest economies, are in the midst of contentious trade talks this week in Washington, after Trump threatened to impose higher tariffs on $150 billion worth of Chinese exports and Beijing responded in kind to say it would impose higher levies on American products. Earlier talks in Bejing proved fruitless.
“Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year with China,” Trump said of last year’s $375 billion annual U.S. trade deficit with China.
Trump’s call to help ZTE has mystified some U.S. lawmakers, who say that use of the Chinese company’s products presents a national security risk for the U.S. The House of Representatives Intelligence Committee concluded in 2012 that ZTE “cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus [poses] a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”
Senator Marco Rubio, who lost the 2016 Republican presidential nomination to Trump, is attacking the U.S. leader’s attempt to help ZTE as misguided.
“It’s not a trade issue,” Rubio told VOA. “ZTE’s been sanctioned for helping Iran and North Korea evade sanctions. So how are we going to be able to enforce the cancellation of the Iran [nuclear] deal if we’re not going to be enforcing it on companies in powerful countries that are helping Iran evade sanctions already?”
“That’s a law enforcement function that really shouldn’t have anything to do with trade,” Rubio said, “Chinese telecom companies are agents of the Chinese government. They don’t just steal national security secrets, they steal commercial secrets. Like they will use a ZTE phone to spy on an American company and steal their intellectual property.”
Congressional correspondent Michael Bowman contributed to this report.
Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he couldn’t remember whether he had discussed the Russia investigation with his father.
That’s according to transcripts of his interview with the panel last year. The committee on Wednesday released more than 1,800 pages of transcripts of interviews with Trump’s son and others who met with a Russian attorney at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election.
Trump Jr. deflected multiple questions during the interview, including whether he discussed the Russia probe with his father.
According to the transcripts, Trump Jr. also said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with attending the Trump Tower meeting in which he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The meeting is under scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI are investigating Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct political data firm embroiled in a scandal over its handling of Facebook Inc user information, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have sought to question former Cambridge Analytica employees and banks that handled its business, the newspaper said, citing an American official and others familiar with the inquiry.
Cambridge Analytica said earlier this month it was shutting down after losing clients and facing mounting legal fees resulting from reports the company harvested personal data about millions of Facebook users beginning in 2014.
Allegations of the improper use of data for 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 U.S. election campaign, have prompted multiple investigations in the United States and Europe.
The investigation by the Justice Department and FBI appears to focus on the company’s financial dealings and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources, the Times said.
Investigators have contacted Facebook, according to the newspaper.
The FBI, the Justice Department and Facebook declined to comment to Reuters. Former officials with Cambridge Analytica was not immediately available to comment.
Cambridge Analytica was created around 2013, initially with a focus on U.S. elections, with $15 million in backing from billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer and a name chosen by future Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, the New York Times has reported. Bannon left the White House on August 2017.
The head of the Department of Homeland Security defended the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from parents when the family is being prosecuted for entering the U.S. illegally, telling a Senate committee Tuesday that removing children from parents facing criminal charges happens “in the United States every day.”
Kirstjen Nielsen, who has headed the agency since December, came under attack by Democratic senators days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said a “zero tolerance” policy toward people entering the country illegally could lead to more families being split up while parents are prosecuted.
In a contentious exchange with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Nielsen said her department was not taking children from parents as a way to deter illegal immigration. Rather, Nielsen said, if a person crosses the border illegally: “We will refer you for prosecution. You’ve broken U.S. law.”
When Harris pressed her about what that would mean for a 4-year-old child whose family faces charges of entering the country illegally, Nielsen said, “What we’ll be doing is prosecuting parents who’ve broken the law, just as we do every day in the United States of America.”
The children are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services within 48 hours, she said. That department then finds people for the children to stay with while the parents are in custody, she said.
“They will be separated from their parent,” said Harris, who’s considered a possible contender for her party’s 2020 presidential nomination.
“Just like we do in the United States every day,” Nielsen replied.
But she did not dispute criticism by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., that the government could do a better job of monitoring the children it places in a family’s custody to make sure they’re safe.
“I could not agree with your concerns more, period,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that her agency and HHS have procedures aimed at making sure the people caring for the children are not criminals.
“It is our duty to protect them, to keep them in a safe environment,” Nielsen said.
DHS has said it would refer all arrests for illegal entry to federal prosecutors, backing up Sessions’ policy, announced last month, to expand criminal prosecutions of people with few or no previous offenses. A conviction for illegal entry carries a maximum penalty of six months in custody for first-time crossers – though they usually do far less time – and two years for repeat offenses.
Nearly one in four Border Patrol arrests on the Mexican border from October through April was someone who came in a family. That means any large increase in prosecutions will likely cause parents to be separated from their children while they face charges and do time in jail.
Just last week, President Donald Trump criticized Nielsen at a Cabinet meeting for not doing enough to stop illegal border crossings. He discounted her explanation that her department faces legal restrictions on what it can do, according to people familiar with the exchange.
The agency has denied a report by The New York Times that the confrontation left Nielsen close to resigning.
Voters cast ballots on Tuesday in crucial party primaries in Pennsylvania, a state that has become central to Democrat’ hopes of retaking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The state offers Democrats the opportunity to pick up as many as five seats from Republicans in congressional elections in November, analysts said. Democrats need a net total of 23 to assume the House majority, which would likely derail Republican President Donald Trump’s policy agenda.
The polls closed at 8 p.m. and final results were expected within hours. Voters in the state were also choosing Republican nominees to take on incumbent Governor Tom Wolf and U.S. Senator Bob Casey, both Democrats.
Pennsylvania’s politics were thrown into turmoil earlier this year when the state Supreme Court found that the current congressional districts had been unconstitutionally tailored to favor Republicans. The redrawn map has made some districts more competitive.
In addition, six incumbent House Republicans are not running for re-election, further scrambling the races and requiring voters to become familiar with a raft of first-time candidates.
81 candidates for 18 seats
Some 81 candidates are running for 18 congressional seats, including 10 Democrats in a single race.
Democrats feel confident they can ultimately win three districts in suburban Philadelphia regardless of which candidates win their primaries on Tuesday because of the liberal tilt of those areas.
A more interesting contest comes in the northeastern district being vacated by retiring Representative Charlie Dent, one of the few remaining moderate Republicans in the House.
Huge job losses
The largest city in the district, Allentown, sustained huge job losses with the 1995 closing of the Bethlehem Steel plant, once been a pillar of the region’s economy.
The three top contenders represent the diverse viewpoints in the modern Democratic Party: Greg Edwards, a pastor backed by progressive U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and the Congressional Black Caucus; Susan Wild, endorsed by the abortion rights group Emily’s List; and John Morganelli, who opposes abortion rights and has been supportive of Trump’s hardline immigration policies.
Earlier this month, Sanders, who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, visited Allentown to campaign with Edwards, drawing a crowd of more than 1,000.
Terry Madonna, an expert on state politics at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said Democrats risked losing the Allentown race if a candidate viewed as too liberal wins Tuesday’s primary. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton edged Trump in the district by a single percentage point in the presidential election, he noted.
Democrats are also hoping to pick up a seat held by first-term Republican Brian Fitzpatrick in another district outside of Philadelphia. Attorney Scott Wallace faces Navy veteran Rachel Reddick in the Democratic primary there.
Nebraska is also holding a primary on Tuesday that could affect the balance of power in the House. Two Democratic candidates, moderate former U.S. Representative Brad Ashford and progressive Kara Eastman, are battling to take on Republican Representative Don Bacon in an Omaha-area district Democrats believe they can win.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt requested and received around-the-clock security from his first day in office in 2017, the agency’s watchdog on Monday told a lawmaker questioning Pruitt’s expensive security detail.
Prior EPA administrators have not had blanket protection.
Pruitt, under pressure from Congress for his high travel and security spending in his position at America’s top environmental regulator, has said his 24-hour security was installed due to unusual threats against him.
In a May 14 letter, EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. said the decision was made by the agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training after being informed that Pruitt had requested that such protection begin once he was confirmed as administrator.
The inspector general’s office “played no role in this decision,” Elkins added.
The letter was addressed to Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, who had asked the office how and why Pruitt was getting 24-hour protection.
“EPA’s Protective Service Detail handles security decisions and this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA,” agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an email.
During hearings last month, Pruitt, who was confirmed Feb. 17, 2017, justified his security spending by citing threats he had received since taking office.