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Conservative Revolt Over Immigration Sinks House Farm Bill

In an embarrassment for House Republican leaders, conservatives on Friday scuttled a bill that combines stricter work and job training requirements for food stamp recipients with a renewal of farm subsidies popular in GOP-leaning farm country.

Hard-right conservatives upset over the party’s stalled immigration agenda opposed the measure, which failed by a 213-198 vote. Some 30 Republicans joined with every chamber Democrat in opposition.

The vote was a blow to GOP leaders, who had hoped to tout its new work requirements for recipients of food stamps. The work initiative polls well with voters, especially those in the GOP political base.

More broadly, it exposed fissures within the party in the months before the midterm elections, and the Freedom Caucus tactics rubbed many rank-and-file Republicans the wrong way.

“You judge each piece of legislation on its own,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. “You don’t hold one thing hostage for something that’s totally different and has nothing to do with it. I would say that’s a mistake in my view.”

Key conservatives in the rebellious House Freedom Caucus opposed the measure, seeking leverage to win conservative policies an advantage in a debate on immigration next month. Negotiations with GOP leaders Friday morning failed to bear fruit, however, and the unrelated food and farm measure was defeated.

Conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said some members had concerns over the farm bill, but said, “That wasn’t my main focus. My main focus was making sure we do immigration policy right” and “actually build a border security wall.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., took steps to call for a re-vote in the future but it’s not clear when the measure might be revived. A handful of GOP moderates opposed the bill, too, but not enough to sink it on their own.

Reaction from Democrats

The farm bill, a twice-per-decade rite on Capitol Hill, promises greater job training opportunities for recipients of food stamps, a top priority for House leaders. Democrats are strongly opposed, saying the stricter work and job training rules are poorly designed and would drive 2 million people off of food stamps. They took a victory lap after the vote.

“On a bipartisan basis, the House rejected a bad bill that failed farmers and working families,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Republicans wrote a cruel, destructive farm bill that abandoned farmers and producers amid plummeting farm prices and the self-inflicted damage of President Trump’s trade brinkmanship.”

Currently, adults 18-59 are required to work part-time to receive food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or agree to accept a job if they’re offered one. Stricter rules apply to able-bodied adults 18-49, who are subject to a three-month limit of benefits unless they meet a work or job training requirement of 80 hours per month.

Under the new bill, the tougher requirement would be expanded to apply to all adults on SNAP, with exceptions for seniors, pregnant women, caretakers of children under the age of 6, or people with disabilities.

“It sets up a system for SNAP recipients where if you are able to work, you should work to get the benefits,” said Ryan. “And if you can’t work, we’ll help you get the training you need. We will help you get the skills you need to get an opportunity.”

The measure would have greatly expanded funding for state-administered job training programs, but Democrats and outside critics say the funding for the proposed additional job training would require huge new bureaucracies, extensive record-keeping requirements, and that the funding levels would fall far short of what’s enough to provide job training to everybody covered by the new job training requirements.

“While I agree that there are changes that need to be made to the SNAP program, this is so clearly not the way to do it,” said Rep. Colin Peterson of Minnesota, top Democrat of the Agriculture Committee. “The bill cuts more than $23 billion in SNAP benefits and will result in an estimated 2 million Americans unable to get the help they need.”

He said it “turns around and wastes billions … cut from SNAP benefits to create a massive, untested workforce training bureaucracy.”

Farm safety-net programs

In addition to food stamps, the measure would renew farm safety-net programs such as subsidies for crop insurance, farm credit and land conservation. Those subsidies for farm country traditionally form the backbone of support for the measure among Republicans, while urban Democrats support food aid for the poor.

On Thursday, supporters of the agriculture safety net easily defeated an attempt to weaken the government’s sugar program, which critics say gouges consumers by propping up sugar prices.

The measure mostly tinkered with farm programs, adding provisions aimed at boosting high-speed internet access in rural areas, assisting beginning farmers, and easing regulations on producers. But since the measure makes mostly modest adjustments to farm policy, some lawmakers believe that the most likely course of action this year is a temporary extension of the current measure, which expires at the end of September.

In the Senate, the chamber’s filibuster rules require a bipartisan process for a bill to pass. There, Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., promises a competing bill later this month and he’s signaling that its changes to food stamps would be far more modest than the House measure.

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In Speech, Pompeo to Call for ‘Broad Support’ Against Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will outline a “diplomatic road map” next week that he hopes will convince European and other allies to apply pressure on Iran and force it back to the negotiating table, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

Rebuffing appeals from France, Germany and Britain, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States 10 days ago from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, saying the agreement did not adequately curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions or address Iran’s ballistic missile program and what the Trump administration views as its destabilizing role in the region.

In his first foreign policy speech on Monday, Pompeo will call for broad support to address “the totality of Iran’s threats,” said Brian Hook, senior U.S. policy advisor, adding that Washington is seeking a diplomatic outcome with Iran.

“The goal of our effort is to bring all necessary pressure to bear on Iran to change its behavior and to pursue a new framework that can resolve our concerns,” Hook told reporters.

“We very much want to be, to have a kind of uptempo diplomacy, one that’s very focused and very determined to achieve our national security objectives,” he said, adding: “Our broad approach now that we have been emphasizing is that we need a new, a framework that’s going to address the

totality of Iran threats.”

It was not immediately clear whether Britain, France and Germany would agree to join the U.S. coalition as Washington moves to reimpose sanctions against Iran and they try to salvage economic and trade ties with Tehran that followed the 2015 nuclear deal.

Under the agreement, reached to halt what Western countries long suspected was Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons, Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against it. Iran has denied it sought in the past to develop an atomic weapon, saying its nuclear program has always been for purely peaceful purposes.

Hook said the Iran nuclear accord had given countries a false sense of security and the United States wanted to ensure any new agreement covered not only Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities, but also curbed its regional activities.

“This involves a range of things around its nuclear program, missiles, proliferating missiles and missile technology and support for terrorists and its aggressive and violent activities that fuel civil wars in Syria and Yemen,” said Hook.

Pompeo had been in discussions with European allies since Trump’s announcement Washington was withdrawing from the deal and Hook said he believed differences could be overcome.

“We have a period of opportunity to work with our allies to try to come up with a new security architecture, a new framework,” said Hook, “I think people are overstating the disagreements between the U.S. and Europe.”

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Trump to Nominate Wilkie to Head Department of Veterans Affairs

President Donald Trump said on Friday he will nominate Robert Wilkie to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, replacing David Shulkin, who was pushed out amid alleged ethics problems.

Wilkie, 55, has been acting secretary of the department since Trump fired Shulkin in March over concerns about unauthorized travel expenses.

The Republican president’s first choice to replace Shulkin, Trump’s physician Ronny Jackson, withdrew from consideration last month after allegations that he had been lax with prescription drugs and drank alcohol on the job.

Jackson denied the allegations but faced questions in the Senate confirmation process over whether he had enough experience for the job.

Wilkie successfully went through the Senate confirmation process last year after Trump nominated him to be undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The veterans agency has long been criticized for the quality of care it provides and the red tape that veterans encounter.

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Key Differences Over Denuclearization Put Trump-Kim Summit in Peril

Although the U.S. stated Thursday that summit preparations are moving forward, North Korea’s threat to cancel the planned talks with the U.S. signals its frustration over Washington’s position on how to denuclearize Pyongyang, said former U.S. officials who dealt with North Korea extensively.

The experts said North Korea’s threat could increase the chance for delaying or even canceling the summit. Christopher Hill, a chief U.S. delegate who negotiated with North Korea during the George W. Bush administration, said, “I would read the chances of a summit right now as well under the 50 percent.”

North Korea expressed its discontent over what it considers to be a “unilateral” nuclear demand by the U.S. through its state news agency KCNA on Wednesday, stating that it must rethink the summit, which is scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12 between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

“If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the [North Korean]-U.S. summit,” said North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.

Kim also expressed Pyongyang’s dissatisfaction over National Security Adviser John Bolton’s mention of using the so-called Libyan model on North Korea, calling it an “awfully sinister move” to compare Libya’s nascent nuclear weapons program from 2003 to North Korea’s program that has already produced a significant nuclear arsenal. Libya’s nuclear weapons program was completely dismantled and destroyed in 2003.

North Korean officials have said that after Libya gave up its nuclear program, a foreign military intervention toppled that nation’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, who was killed by rebels. 

The U.S. responded to Pyongyang’s threat to cancel the summit by stating Thursday that preparations for the summit will move forward. “At this point if North Korea wants to meet, we’ll be there,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders at a regular news briefing.

Following the news briefing, Trump said North Korea will get strong security protections and that the U.S. will not use a Libyan-style denuclearization process toward North Korea.

Former U.S. officials warned on Thursday that the key differences on denuclearization between Washington and Pyongyang might have put the rare opportunity for the summit in peril.

“I think there was a disappointment after Pompeo’s visit,” said Hill, referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent trip to Pyongyang to prepare for the upcoming summit.

“I think they realized that after Pompeo visited Pyongyang, there was no willingness to work out sanctions step-by-step” along with a denuclearization process, Hill said, adding that North Korea is trying to say Trump is “essentially giving nothing for the summit. There is no sanctions relief, no security issues.”

The U.S. has said that North Korea must take concrete steps toward denuclearization before any sanctions can be relaxed.

Alexander Vershbow, who served as an ambassador to South Korea during the George W. Bush administration and now is a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council, thinks Pyongyang’s threat to cancel is “a very serious setback” that raises a question “whether the summit in Singapore can take place.”

Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, does not think the summit will be canceled, but said that “it is possible that the U.S. will decide it’s not the time yet for the summit.”  

Wilder said North Korea, in essence, is pushing for an incremental approach toward denuclearization.

“Their position is that this has to be action-for-action, step-by-step,” Wilder said. “So, I think they are trying to warn Mr. Trump that that is not a way to negotiate, that that would not be successful.”

Vershbow said North Korea is attempting “to define the agenda in their own terms” by disagreeing with the U.S. demand on complete denuclearization. 

“It sounds like North Korea is trying to go back to the kind of old way of doing business in terms of incremental approach to denuclearization rather than the CVID approach that the administration is looking for,” Vershbow said, referring to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) that the Trump administration has been demanding from Pyongyang.

Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction under the Barack Obama administration, thinks Pyongyang is raising an issue on certain language in the terms of denuclearization that Washington is putting on the table.

“The Trump administration is probably asking for language in the summit declaration that the North Koreans find unacceptable. For example, the deadline for completing disarmament or specific language about steps North Korea has to take to achieve disarmament,” he said.

Wilder believes North Korea’s threat to cancel the summit signifies that it gained a position of leverage over the U.S. after renewing rapprochement with Beijing. He said putting pressure on China will be significant going forward, as he speculates Pyongyang could have received an economic reward from Beijing for closing Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which is close to the Chinese border. 

“There are a lot of things going on between the Chinese and the North Koreans that suggests to me that the Chinese are rewarding the North Koreans for closing the nuclear test site,” Wilder said.

Earlier in the week, hours before Kim threatened to cancel the summit, North Korea canceled a high-level inter-Korean meeting scheduled for Wednesday over Max Thunder, joint military drills by South Korea and the U.S. North Korea called the military exercise a rehearsal for invasion through KCNA. The two-week Max Thunder drill began last week, involving about 100 warplanes and 1,500 U.S. and South Korean military personnel.

On Thursday, North Korea vowed to boycott the talks with South Korea unless Seoul stops joint military exercises with the U.S.

Soyoung Ahn contributed to this story, which originated in the VOA Korean Service. 

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Lack of Paper Trail a Concern Amid Fears of US Election Hacking

As the midterm congressional primaries heat up amid fears of Russian hacking, roughly 1 in 5 Americans will be casting ballots on machines that do not produce a paper record of votes.

That worries voting and cybersecurity experts, who say lack of a hard copy makes it difficult to double-check results for signs of manipulation.

“In the current system, after the election, if people worry it has been hacked, the best officials can do is say, ‘Trust us,’ ” said Alex Halderman, a voting machine expert who is director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Computer Security and Society.

Georgia, which holds its primary on Tuesday, and four other states — Delaware, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — exclusively use touchscreen machines that provide no paper records allowing voters to confirm their choices.

Such machines are also used in more than 300 counties in eight other states — Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas — according to Verified Voting, a nonprofit group focused on ensuring the accuracy of elections.

In all, about 20 percent of registered voters nationwide use machines that produce no paper records.

Confident about accuracy

Many election officials in states and counties that rely on those machines say they support upgrading them but also contend they are accurate. In many jurisdictions, the multimillion-dollar cost is a hurdle.

The focus comes as states gear up for the first nationwide elections since Russian hackers targeted 21 states ahead of the 2016 presidential contest. U.S. intelligence agencies have said that there is no evidence any vote tallies were manipulated but that Russians and others are intent on interfering in American elections again.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that recommended replacing machines that don’t produce paper records of votes cast.

Some states already have taken that step or are doing so.

Virginia last year banned paperless touchscreen machines two months before the state’s gubernatorial election. This year, Kentucky ordered that all new machines produce paper trails.

Not enough money

Congress has allocated $380 million to help states with election security upgrades, but that is just a small fraction of what would be needed to replace all paperless machines.

Louisiana is soliciting bids to replace the state’s nearly 10,000 such machines ahead of the 2020 election, though all the money has yet to be allocated. Funding also is an issue in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has ordered that counties planning to replace their electronic voting systems buy machines that leave paper trails.

“It’s important because everybody needs to have confidence in the voting process,” Wolf said. “And given what is alleged to have happened in 2016, I think there’s some concern that maybe people aren’t as confident as they should be.”

The rest of the country uses either paper ballots that are filled out by hand and then read by optical scanners, or touchscreen machines that print out ballots so voters can verify their selections before inserting them into other machines to record their votes.

Since 2016, 46 Texas counties have upgraded their electronic machines, according to the secretary of state’s office. Of those, only 11 went to systems with paper trails.

San Jacinto County, north of Houston, is among those that continued with a paperless system when it bought new touchscreen machines. County election administrator Vicki Shelly said that voters have not raised concerns and that she is confident in the new equipment.

“There’s a lot of checks and balances,” she said.

In Georgia, the cost to switch to paper-based machines in the state’s 159 counties ranges from $25 million to more than $100 million, depending on the technology adopted. The state is eligible to receive a little over $10 million from Washington.

Steps taken

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has said extensive security measures and cyberdefense upgrades make the state’s current system reliable. Those measures include outside security monitoring, regular checks for system vulnerabilities and a backup of voter data that is stored in a secure location.

Amanda Strudwick, 43, a nurse from Decatur, said she has to take Georgia election officials at their word.

“If somebody wants to screw it up, they can do it,” she said at an early voting center in metro Atlanta. “That does not mean opting out of voting. Too many people have fought throughout history for my right to vote.”

Concerns about Georgia’s voting machines have been prominent in the race for the state’s next election chief, with both Democratic and Republican candidates saying the equipment should be replaced.

GOP candidate Josh McKoon released a campaign video showing him taking a baseball bat to a voting machine. During a recent debate, he said close elections such as the 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race require a recount that involves paper records, not just running the tallies on the voting machines a second time.

“Having the paper ballot that can be read and verified for the voter is essential,” he said.

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In Film, McCain says Americans Deserve More From Washington

Sen. John McCain ends a documentary about his life by sending the message that Washington is not giving the American people the government they deserve.

 

The Arizona Republican also makes clear he is doing everything he can to fight the brain cancer that has stricken him. He says he loves life and wants to stick around forever but also believes “there is a great honor that you can die with.”

 

McCain’s comments come in the HBO documentary “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The title stems from McCain’s favorite book and his current condition. The 81-year-old was diagnosed in July with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. He left Washington in December and has yet to return, though he continues to weigh in on an array of issues.

 

Earlier this month, he urged his fellow senators to reject President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA. A White House aide subsequently dismissed his opposition, saying it “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway,” setting off a firestorm of criticism and calls for a public apology.

 

There was no mention of that episode as dozens of McCain’s Senate colleagues took nearly two hours out of their day to watch the documentary Thursday afternoon. Some of them spoke about McCain before the movie aired.

 

“The movie is excellent. It tells the story, warts and all,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of McCain’s closest friends.

 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she will always remember McCain interrupting a supporter in her home state to stick up for Barack Obama, his Democratic opponent in the 2008 presidential race. The supporter had said she couldn’t trust Obama and called him an “Arab.”

 

McCain replied: “No, ma’am, no, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

That scene made it into the movie, which was followed by praise from Obama, who said he admired McCain’s civility in an uphill battle. “For John, in the middle of that to say, ‘Hold on a second. We don’t demonize each other. We’re all Americans. We’re all on the same team,’ I thought was an indication of who John fundamentally was,” Obama said.

 

Indeed, praise from Democrats was featured prominently in the film, including from former Vice President Joe Biden, previously a colleague of McCain’s in the Senate, and former Sen. Joe Lieberman. In the film, McCain expresses regret for not picking Lieberman as his running mate in place of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He said advisers talked him out of it.

 

“That was another mistake that I made,” McCain said.

 

Fewer appearances were made by Republican lawmakers. Trump, with whom he has feuded, is not interviewed, though Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, was.

 

The film’s closing moments include McCain’s deciding vote against the GOP’s health care bill and his Senate speech before departing for Arizona. As bells begin to toll, McCain gives a quick take on Washington: “We need to make sure we give the American people what they deserve, and right now they’re not getting it.”

 

And on his current circumstances: “I’m confident, I’m happy and I’m very grateful for the life I’ve been able to lead and I greet the future with great joy.”

 

The final scene includes McCain’s October address after receiving the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal. In the speech, he blasted a “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in the United States “cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

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Young Girls Get a Head Start for a Life in Politics

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.

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AP Fact Check: Trump Misplaces Blame for Family Splits

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.

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Remarks by President Trump at California Sanctuary State Roundtable

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP

AT A CALIFORNIA SANCTUARY STATE ROUNDTABLE

 

Cabinet Room

 

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.  

 

     Yes, ma’am.

 

     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.  

 

Kevin?  Please.

 

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.

 

     Stacey.

 

     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.

 

Tom?

 

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.  

 

Elaine?

 

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

 

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US EPA Chief Pruitt Faces Senators’ Question on Spending, Security

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.

‘Golden ticket’

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.”

 

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