What to Know in Washington: Trump’s Deadline for Asylum Changes
President Donald Trump gave Democrats two weeks to work on immigration reform and stem the flow of migrants at the southern border, but cast doubt on getting action from Congress and vowed to go ahead with a roundup of people facing deportation.
“I want to give the Democrats every last chance to quickly negotiate simple changes to Asylum and Loopholes,” Trump said in a tweet yesterday, referring to laws he’s seeking to change. “Probably won’t happen, but worth a try. Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke by telephone with Trump Friday night, asking him to call off the raids, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Pelosi said the delay was welcome. “Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform,” she tweeted.
Officials in some cities where raids were planned protested and vowed non-cooperation. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’d ordered police to cut federal agents’ access to databases related to immigration enforcement activities. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on ABC said rounding up immigrants “stokes fear and panic” in the community.
Trump began last week with a vow to begin deporting “millions” of undocumented migrants, focusing on one of his signature issues as he tries to make the case that voters should re-elect him in 2020. He’s also putting pressure on Democrats, who’ve been using a funding bill they hope will block his immigration policies. Trump faulted their plans on Sunday.
“If the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it’s good politics, everything would be solved immediately,” Trump said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that was taped Friday and broadcast yesterday. “But they refuse to do it. They refuse to do it. You know what? If they change those, I say, I used to say 45 minutes. It’s 15 minutes. If they changed asylum and if they changed loopholes everything on the border would be perfect .” Read more from Josh Wingrove, Billy House and Mark Niquette.
Photographer Cesar Rodriguez/Bloomberg
Border Funding Debate: Meanwhile, House and Senate lawmakers plan to pass dueling funding bills in the next few days for humanitarian needs at the border, possibly sending a final version to Trump before lawmakers depart for a brief recess at the end of the week.
House Democrats released a $4.5 billion supplemental appropriations bill on Friday that is expected to come up for a vote tomorrow. Passage then would leave enough time for a quick final negotiation to hash out differences between the House and Senate measures by the end of the week. Lawmakers plan to leave Washington Thursday for a weeklong recess.
The House bill appears to be less bipartisan than the Senate measure, indicating lawmakers have some issues to work out before striking an agreement.
BGOV legislative analysts Michael Smallberg and Naoreen Chowdhury cover more details of the House measure in this BGOV Bill Summary. Find details of the Senate measure in this BGOV Bill Summary.
Also Happening on the Hill
Sanders’ Student Aid Plan: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will propose canceling the nation’s outstanding $1.6 trillion of student debt and offsetting the cost with a tax on Wall Street transactions. The 2020 presidential contender will propose legislation today that would provide debt relief to 45 million Americans who owe college student loan debts, according to a fact sheet provided by his Senate office. The plan would include a 0.5% tax on stock transactions, a 0.1% tax on bond trades and a .005% tax on derivatives transactions.
The proposal, which comes ahead of this week’s Democratic debates, would also provide states $48 billion annually to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, a long-standing Sanders campaign promise. Democratic House lawmakers including reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) — both members of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing — will introduce the legislation to their own chamber today. Read more from Laura Litvan.
Big Tech’s Data Collection Targeted: Two Senators plan to introduce a bipartisan bill today that would require tech companies to disclose how they’re monetizing the personal information they collect from users, and allow those users to have their information deleted upon request. The so-called Dashboard Act would require companies with more than 100 million monthly active users — like Facebook, Twitter and Google — to file an annual report on the assessed value of user data they’ve collected and any third parties connected to that data collection. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are cosponsoring the bill. Read more from Naomi Nix and Ben Brody.
White House Official to Avoid Testimony: Annie Donaldson, who was chief of staff to former White House counsel Don McGahn, has reached an agreement with Democratic lawmakers to avoid testifying before the House Judiciary Committee for now, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing her lawyer. Donaldson was subpoenaed to testify today after the White House instructed her and Hope Hicks, a former White House communications director, not to provide the committee with documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Her notes a re cited extensively in Mueller’s redacted report. The committee instead agreed to submit written questions to Donaldson and possibly seek her testimony later this year, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter it didn’t identify. The arrangement is partially due to Donaldson’s pregnancy, the newspaper said. Read more from Jim Jia.
Politics & Elections
Big Week for Biden: Joe Biden kicks off the most high-stakes week of his campaign so far, as he heads into the first Democratic debate with the opportunity to solidify his front-runner status — or jeopardize with a gaffe, an inappropriate joke or a tone-deaf comment. The former vice president doesn’t need to win the debate, he just needs not to lose, as his 19 rivals seek to break out of the unprecedentedly large Democratic field by taking him on. And he has given them plenty of ammunition with recent unforced errors such as comments about his civil relationships with segregationist senators in the 1970s and his flip-flop on federal abortion funding.
Biden benefits from high name recognition, strong relationships with party leaders and a perception that he’s the most “electable” Democrat to put up against Trump. Until now, he has largely been able to stay above the fray, keeping a low-key campaign schedule with sparse events and press interviews. The debates — Biden’s first since 2012 — are his chance to show the country he has the gravitas his opponents lack. Read more from Sahil Kapur.
Biden is starting the week with an early foray into immigration policy, pledging to push for reform and rebuild the U.S.’s relationships with its neighbors. Trump’s “morally bankrupt re-election strategy relies on vilifying immigrants to score political points while implementing policies that ensure asylum seekers and refugees keep arriving at our border,” the former vice president wrote in an op-ed published today in the Miami Herald.
If elected, Biden said, “my first step will be to ensure that our policies in the Americas once again reflect our American values.” The next president, Biden said, should work to “institute effective immigration reform while restoring regional policies grounded in respect.” He said he would give legal status to “Dreamers.” Read more from Jennifer Epstein.
2020 Gets Another ‘Joe’: Former two-term Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) announced this weekend he’s joining the crowded field vying for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination. The former U.S. Navy admiral, who served in Congress until 2011, previously made two unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), including a 2016 effort that saw him walking across his state. Read more from Ben Brody.
Florida Felon Voting: Florida’s reputation as America’s tightest — and wildest — swing state should stay intact, as a battle over felons’ voting rights seems destined for the courts. At the least, it’s increasingly looking like Florida’s 1.4 million disenfranchised ex-convicts won’t be the potent voting bloc they might’ve been. Seven months ago, almost two-thirds of voters approved Amendment 4, which restores registration rights to many felons.
Florida had been one of three states, along with Kentucky and Iowa, where those convicted of a felony were permanently prohibited from registering without going through a lengthy clemency process, and many saw Floridians’ vote as bringing the state into the U.S. mainstream. Only those convicted of murder and sexual offenses still are excluded. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to sign a bill within days that critics say will blunt much of Amendment 4’s impact. Read more from Michael Sasso.
Iran Sanctions Coming
Trump is threatening Iran with additional sanctions as soon as today, but there’s not much left for the U.S. to target because most of the Islamic Republic’s economy is already crippled under the weight of financial restrictions.
The U.S. has previously sanctioned economically significant sectors of Iran such as oil, banks and steel, leaving smaller targets including certain exports not restricted so far as well as government officials unaffected by previous measures. Trump could also hit Iran’s central bank with secondary sanctions, but that would come at the risk of hurting humanitarian trade.
Trump said on Saturday the U.S. will impose major new sanctions on Iran Monday, days after he abruptly called off a plan for air strikes against the Islamic Republic in response to Iran shooting down an unmanned U.S. Navy drone. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo made similar comments yesterday. Read more from Saleha Mohsin.
Negotiations Outlook: Trump has signaled what he wants from Iran: a new nuclear deal rather than war. But the U.S.’s so-called maximum pressure campaign of sanctions — alongside a carrier group and bombers being deployed near the Persian Gulf — means the chances for formal negotiations anytime soon are slim. Instead the focus, particularly for nations watching with alarm the intensifying barbs between Tehran and Washington, is on opening a basic communication line. Read more from Golnar Motevalli, David Wainer and Glen Carey.
Iran on Agenda for U.S., Israel Summit: When top national security officials from Russia, Israel and the U.S. gather for a rare summit starting today, the focus will be on the country not in the room: Iran. The meeting is a critical opportunity to hash out how they view the future of Iran’s presence in Syria as an eight-year-long civil war there winds down.
Russia wants to project power across the Middle East through its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and would like to limit Iran’s competing influence in the country. That’s much less than what Israel and the U.S. want when it comes to combating Iran, complicating efforts to reach a broad agreement.
The talks in Israel will include U.S.-Russia negotiations today and a three-way meeting tomorrow, according to a U.S. National Security Council spokesman. Read more from Ivan Levingston and Henry Meyer.
Movers & Shakeups
Trump Plans to Nominate Esper as Secretary: Trump plans to nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper for defense secretary following the messy withdrawal of the president’s previous choice, Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan. The White House made the announcement on Friday night. Esper was already set take over from Shanahan as acting secretary, at 12:01 a.m. today. He faces a vetting and Senate confirmation process that could drag on for weeks if not months. He is scheduled to attend a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels this week. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs.
Trump Says Didn’t Threaten to Demote Powell: Trump denied that he’d threatened to demote Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell but said he’d “be able to do that if I wanted.” The president repeated his criticism of Powell’s actions as Fed chief in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” conducted Friday and broadcast yesterday. “I’m not happy with his actions,” Trump said of Powell. “No, I don’t think he’s done a good job.” Read more from Ros Krasny.
Sessions Was Trump’s ‘Biggest Mistake’: Trump said that his biggest mistake was naming former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be his first attorney general. “I would say if I had one do-over, it would be, I would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general,” Trump said on “Meet the Press.” “That was the biggest mistake.” Sessions recused himself from supervising the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election because he had been an adviser to Trump’s campaign. That led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey. Read more from Alex Wayne.
Flynn Lawyer Eyes Pardon: Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have a singular goal in replacing his longtime criminal defense attorneys this month with the politically provocative Sidney Powell — to win a pardon from his old boss, President Trump. “This is for an audience of one,” former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer said of Powell’s hiring. Flynn, a retired U.S. Army general who admitted he lied to government investigators and awaits sentencing, shed the legal team that represented him since the case began in 2017. Powell is scheduled to make her first appearance for Flynn at a status conference today in Washington before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan. Read more from Andrew Harris.
What Else to Know Today
U.S., China Discuss Xi-Trump Summit: The U.S. and China are discussing arrangements for the meeting between Trump and Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, a senior Chinese trade official said, as Beijing warned about consequences of American trade measures. The trade teams were working to implement the decision by the top leaders, Vice Commerce Minster Wang Shouwen told a news briefing today in Beijing. Wang provided no specifics on what communications have occurred. “Compromise will be on both sides. It will be a two-way street,” he said, adding that any talks must be based on mutual respect, meaning “respect for each other’s sovereignty.” Read more.
Mideast Peace Plan: Palestinians rejected the Trump administration’s $50 billion economic proposal meant to boost the Palestinian and Arab economies, calling it a “snow job.” The objection came as no surprise. Palestinian business organizations and officials have declined the U.S. invitation to attend a conference in Bahrain this week aimed at promoting their development, saying any economic proposal must come as part of a political agreement and not separately or ahead of it. Read more from Fadwa Hodali, Gwen Ackerman, Michael S. Arnold and Ivan Levingston.
North Korea Talks: Pompeo said the U.S. and North Korea were in a “better place” after the leaders of the two countries exchanged letters, suggesting Trump will again seek to exploit his rapport with Kim Jong Un to revive talks. Speaking to reporters in Washington before departing yesterday for a multination trip including the Middle East and the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Pompeo confirmed North Korean state media reports that Trump had sent the letter. The missive had “excellent content,” and Kim, along with his military, read it with “satisfaction,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported yesterday. Read more from Nick Wadhams and Mark Niquette.
Trump, however, has no plans to hold a trilateral summit with the leaders of North Korea and South Korea during a visit to the divided peninsula this weekend, an official from South Korea’s presidential office said today, Jihye Lee reports.
Africa a Place of Interest for Trump: The U.S. has “intense interest” in Africa, and the perception that the continent is of little interest to the Trump administration is incorrect, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa said. “I really disagree that the Trump administration has Africa on the back burner,” the State Department’s Tibor Nagy said to journalists at a briefing held in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. “I’ve found intense interest across the political spectrum, from the furthest right to the furthest left. There is huge commonality in wanting to see Africa succeed and the U.S. involvement in that narrative grow,” Nagy said yesterday. Read more from Colleen Goko.
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Coming up at BGOV
The State of Congressional Investigations
July 16, 2019