Trump administration weighs ‘destructive’ cuts to national security agencies to fund Mexican border wall

The Trump administration is considering drastically slashing several national security agency budgets to fund the President’s long-promised border wall, according to a leaked budget draft. The draft, compiled by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and first obtained by the Washington Post, proposes to cut billions of dollars in funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration. The Coast Guard’s budget would see a significant 14% cut while the TSA and FEMA would see their budgets slashed by about 11% each, according to the draft. The cuts would eliminate certain post-9/11 anti-terrorism programs at airports along with federal preparation and relief programs for hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security’s budget would be boosted by more than 6%, with some $2.9 billion earmarked for building a U.S.-Mexico border wall. An additional $1.9 billion would be reserved for funding “immigration detention beds” and hiring 1,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Overall, the budget for ICE, which is a subsidiary of the DHS, would balloon by 36% while the Customs and Border Protection budget would grow by 27%. “The Budget prioritizes DHS law enforcement operations, proposes critical investments in front line border security and funds continued development of robust cybersecurity defenses,” the draft reads. “The Budget aggressively implements the President’s commitment to construct a physical wall along the southern border.” The White House did not immediately return a request for comment from the Daily News. But the proposed cuts drew bipartisan scorn for prioritizing Trump’s controversial wall proposal while sidelining other national security priorities. GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and Continue Reading

John Kelly claims Trump administration won’t split up families at the border, contradicting previous statement

The Trump administration won't separate asylum-seeking mothers from their children at the border, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly reportedly told Democrats on Wednesday, walking back a previous argument that such a policy would effectively discourage migrants from entering the U.S. illegally. Kelly sat down with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill for more than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, fielding questions about the new administration's oft-embattled immigration policies. At one point, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Kelly if the DHS will be splitting up families at the border, several people present told CNN. Kelly, who said last month he was "considering" such a policy, apparently told Feinstein that the DHS would not separate mothers from their children "unless there is some other consideration," such as illness. During an interview with CNN later Wednesday, Kelly acknowledged the comments, but denied he had ever suggested otherwise. "I don't think I have said that," he said. "We might under certain circumstances do that, but I don't think I've ever said as a deterrent or something like that." But those remarks directly contradict ones Kelly made earlier this month. "Yes I'm considering that in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network," Kelly said after CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked if the DHS was considering splitting up families at the border. "I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents…It's more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network." A DHS spokesman also confirmed to the Daily News at the time that the department was considering the policy. Talking to reporters after meeting with the Democrats, Kelly said that the DHS' primary goal is to deter people from participating in what he called "incredibly dangerous" smuggling "networks" controlled Continue Reading

Trump administration reportedly looking to separate women and children seeking asylum

The Trump administration is looking to significantly expand detention capabilities and break with existing policies implemented to keep asylum-seeking families together while their applications are pending, according to leaked documents. John Lafferty, the Department of Homeland Security's asylum chief, informed staffers during a closed-door town hall last month that officials had already secured an additional 20,000 beds for the purpose of detaining asylum seekers — a 500% increase from current capacity, according to notes from the meeting obtained by MSNBC. The apparent expansion plans echo President Trump's pledge to radically overhaul policies on how to deal with parents and children seeking asylum in the U.S. Under provisions proposed at the meeting, parents and children would be separated at the border, forcing fathers and mothers to either return to their home countries with their children or stay separated while their applications are pending. It generally takes about six months before the DHS makes a decision on an asylum application. Thousands of women and children have fled violence and sexual assault in their countries of origin, hoping to obtain asylum in the U.S. A DHS spokesman wouldn't outright confirm the MSNBC report, but claimed that the department is constantly exploring options to "discourage" immigrants from coming to the U.S. without documentation. "The journey north is a dangerous one with too many situations where children — brought by parents, relatives or smugglers — are often exploited, abused or may even lose their lives," the spokesman said in a statement to the Daily News. "With safety in mind, the Department of Homeland Security continually explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey." The White House did not immediately return a request for comment. Immigrant experts ripped the apparent proposal as heartless. Continue Reading

Nuclear war with North Korea not ‘imminent,’ Trump administration officials say

Top Trump administration officials sought to assure Americans on Sunday that the nation is not on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, despite the president's recent threats.National security adviser H.R. McMaster and Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said an attack by North Korea does not appear imminent, and that the threat of war is no closer today than it was last week."I think we’re not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago," McMaster said on ABC's This Week. "The danger is much greater and is growing every day, with every missile test, with the consideration of possibly a sixth nuclear test. And so what we can no longer do is afford to procrastinate.""I’ve heard folks talking about [the U.S.] being on the cusp of nuclear war," Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday. "I’ve seen no intelligence that would indicate that we’re in that place today."McMaster said President Trump's references to the U.S. military being "locked and loaded" is an effort to maintain peace, not provoke war. The military has made no significant movement of troops or equipment in recent days to prepare to fight North Korea.“The United States military is always locked and loaded, but the purpose of capable, ready forces is to preserve peace and prevent war," he said. "George Washington said it: The most effective way of preserving peace is to be prepared for war.”The two officials spoke in the wake of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's threat last week to send missiles into the waters off Guam, a United States territory in the South Pacific. Such a flight would take 14 minutes, giving the U.S. little time to respond.Pompeo said it would not be surprising if North Korea sought to strengthen its nuclear arsenal and even test another missile. While the president wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula, he added on CBS' Face the Nation, he is unwilling to draw Continue Reading

Trump administration picks new EPA chief for New Jersey and New York

A New York lawmaker was tapped Thursday by the Trump administration to lead the important U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office that oversees New Jersey's leading-the-nation 114 Superfund sites. The selection of New York Assemblyman Pete Lopez, a Republican, as EPA Region 2 administrator goes against tradition that a New Jersey resident would be chosen for the job following the seven-year tenure of New Yorker Judith Enck, an Obama appointee. The appointment usually swings between each state when there is a vacancy.Along with New York and New Jersey, Region 2 also oversees Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, both rocked hard by hurricanes. EPA Region 2 staff was informed of Lopez's selection in a staff-wide email Thursday morning. He starts Oct. 10.Lopez was first elected to the Assembly in 2006 and represents an area west of Albany. He was born in Miami. His father is a native of Puerto Rico and his mother is from New York. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public affairs with a minor in environmental studies, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. EPA: Trump's first wave of job cuts to EPA in N.J. and N.Y. not as harsh as elsewhere NEW JERSEY: Christie administration has no contingency plan for Trump's EPA cuts Lopez interned with the group Environmental Advocates when Enck led that organization, the Times Union of Albany reported Thursday. Between 2012 and 2016, Lopez received ratings from Environmental Advocates between 40 percent and 70 percent based on his voting record on the environment, said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Given the Trump Administration’s war on the environment, they could have selected someone much worse than Assemblyman Lopez as EPA Region 2 Administrator," Tittel said. "We still have major concerns because he has a record of being pro-fracking and voted against major climate and electric vehicles bills"There Continue Reading

Trump administration missing mark on opioids, advocates say

WASHINGTON — As the opioid epidemic continues to escalate, the Trump administration has sent mixed messages and delivered few results in its handling of the epidemic so far, lawmakers and advocates say.“There’s some positive signs in terms of all the talk, but we haven’t really seen any action,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an addiction physician and co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.As a candidate, Trump vowed to “dramatically expand access to treatment” and reduce the availability of heroin, oxycodone, and other opioids.But even as Trump has kept the opioid epidemic in the spotlight — drawing much needed public attention to the problem — the White House and top Trump advisers have taken other steps that some fear could undermine efforts to combat addiction.“There have been a couple of warning signs that have concerned me,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security committee.Take these examples:•Trump’s budget office is considering a proposal to eliminate funding for two major anti-drug programs, raising alarm bells in Congress about the president’s commitment to put money behind the rhetoric;•The White House has yet to fill its “drug czar” position, after floating a controversial candidate for that post who has since withdrawn; and•Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has endorsed hardline enforcement and interdiction policies, which some advocates say will undermine efforts to treat addiction as public health issue. Read more:The last move came on Friday, when Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the toughest possible charges against suspected criminals. Critics say that could send low-level drug offenders to prison instead of treatment.“At the very moment we've reached a broad, bipartisan consensus and begun to reform our overly punitive policies at the state and Continue Reading

California looks to build legal ‘firewall’ to combat Trump administration

Last spring, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown joked with a group of labor organizers in Sacramento that, depending on the outcome of the November election, his state would be building its own security wall whereas he’d prefer to build bridges.He wasn't smiling as the results rolled in.Shortly after Donald Trump’s victory, Brown nominated Los Angeles Congressman Xavier Becerra as interim attorney general, who, if confirmed by the Legislature, would wield the power to sue federal agencies and establish legal resistance. New York’s leading law enforcement official followed the news by pledging his own state’s resources for what most assume will be a series of drawn-out and costly legal challenges to the new administration's policies.The move signaled — at least in the short-term — a newfound appreciation for the federalist system of government that has turned the states, as the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, into “laboratories of democracy.”Becerra has promised to vigorously defend California’s clean energy policies and criminal justice reforms, as well as the parts of federal health care law that Congress is preparing to dismantle. If the U.S. government wanted to “take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests,” he told reporters last month, “then come at us.”Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Los Angeles County, called Trump's election a "major existential threat and a threat to the progress we have attained," and promised that his state would be a "firewall" against "the cynical, short-sighted and reactionary agenda" coming out of the nation's capitol. "Californians do not need healing," he added. "We need to fight."There is precedent for this type of intergovernmental antagonism — the United States, after all, was founded on the fear that the Leviathan Continue Reading

Trump administration is a scandal in waiting: Column

No administration in history has been as fraught with financial conflicts of interest as the incoming Trump administration, from the president-elect on down. If steps are not taken to manage these conflicts, the Trump administration is likely to become one of the most scandal-ridden in memory.We have had wealthy presidents before, and millionaire Cabinet officials, but President-elect Donald Trump and his nominees shatter all records when it comes to the amount and scope of wealth and investments, and to potential conflicts as well.Most presidents have been fairly wealthy, but their wealth was primarily domestic, and each in recent history has managed his conflicts through creating genuine blind trusts. Though no one knows for sure, because Trump refuses to release his tax returns, Trump’s vast empire is probably in the billions and spans the globe, with various investments tracked so far in more than 20 countries.All these foreign nations have a stake in U.S. foreign policy. Many are in a volatile relationship with the United States. Yet all would like to influence America’s worldview. China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Philippines, India and Turkey, to name a few, want something from the United States. Now they have a personal financial connection to the incoming president.Ethics scholars across the political spectrum are calling upon the president-elect to address his conflicts of interest. Dozens of representatives from the ethics community sent Trump a letter asking that he divest himself from financial conflicts, especially from foreign investments, and move his wealth into a genuine blind trust run by an independent executor, not by the Trump family.But so far he is sending opposite signals — canceling a Thursday news conference about his plan to handle conflicts, and tweeting that he’ll put his sons in charge of his business even though the law does not require him to walk away.The Continue Reading

Trump administration changes transgender student bathroom rules

The Trump administration issued new guidance outlining which restrooms transgender students can use, potentially sowing confusion in schools, angering LGBTQ rights groups and adding uncertainty to a widely discussed case due to come before the U.S. Supreme Court next month.The Department and Department of Education announced the change in a joint statement Wednesday night.Citing legal confusion, the departments said they "have decided to withdraw and rescind" guidelines issued last year by the Obama administration requiring that schools allow transgender students to use restrooms matching their chosen gender rather than their birth gender.Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump is "a firm believer in states' rights and that certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.''"The conclusions that everyone in the administration has agreed upon,'' Spicer said, "there is no daylight between anybody, between the president and any of the secretaries.''Fifteen states have explicit protections for transgender students, and many individual school districts in other states have adopted policies that recognize students on the basis of their gender identity, Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) told The Associated Press. Just one state, North Carolina, has enacted a law restricting students' bathroom access to their sex at birth. But so far this year, lawmakers in more than 10 states are considering similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the Obama guidelines were unlawful because federal Title IX law protects students based on their sex, not their gender identity. He also said that those directives violated the rights of other students, especially girls who may have suffered from sexual abuse in the past and do not want to Continue Reading

Trump administration to wind down DACA program for ‘dreamers’

The Trump administration will begin "winding down" an Obama-era program that offers temporary deportation protection and work permits to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who made the announcement, said winding down the program will give Congress a chance "if it so chooses" to find a permanent solution for the nearly 800,000 "dreamers" currently covered under the program, including nearly 28,000 in Arizona.In directing the Department of Homeland Security to rescind the program, Sessions called the policy of granting deportation deferments and work permits to dreamers an unconstitutional circumvention of immigration law that would likely not survive a looming legal challenge. He also blamed the program for contributing to a recent surge in unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border that "yielded terrible humanitarian consequences.""This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens," Sessions said.Sessions said it would now be up to Congress to decide whether to make changes to immigration law to give dreamers the opportunity to legalize their status.But such politically charged legislation faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Congress, and without a legislative fix, dreamers will soon lose the ability to work legally in the U.S. and be vulnerable to deportation. The loss of work permits also means that dreamers will soon no longer be eligible for driver's licenses in Arizona or for in-state tuition.Trump said in a statement that dreamers who lose DACA will not be treated as enforcement priorities for deportation, "unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang."As Sessions made his announcement, dreamers who had gathered to watch it on television at the United Continue Reading