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Trump’s Food Aid Program Swindles Hard-Hit Northeast States

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

President Donald Trump's signature food aid program is sending less relief to New York and New England than other parts of the country, even though the Northeast has the most coronavirus cases. Some states — Maine and Alaska at least — have been left out completely so far.

The regional imbalances are an unintended side effect of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's strategy in hiring private contractors to distribute food, the agency said. It is now looking for ways to reach areas that were passed over.

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Relief Program Pays $100M To Unlicensed Operators, Harming Food Banks

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

A food relief program championed by President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka is relying on some contractors who lack food distribution experience and aren't licensed to deal in fresh fruits and vegetables.

The contractors on Friday began delivering boxes containing fresh produce to food banks and other nonprofits. Forty-nine out of the 159 contractors picked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deliver boxes containing produce don't have a requisite license from the same agency, according to a search of the USDA's database using the information released about the contractors.

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Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Trump Family Pyramid Scheme

One of the many lawsuits that the Trump Organization and members of the Trump family have faced allegations that they engaged in an illegal pyramid scheme. Attorneys for the company have tried to get the class action lawsuit placed on hold, but Judge Lorna G. Schofield — a federal judge in New York — has refused to stay the case.

In Law & Crime, reporters Matt Naham and Aaron Keller explain, "The class action plaintiffs allege that the Trump family business promoted a multi-level marketing or pyramid scheme known as ACN Opportunity, LLC. ACN, the plaintiffs said, was a 'get-rich-quick scheme' that relied on Trump and his family (conning) each of these victims into giving up hundreds or thousands of dollars,' in violation of various state laws."

Members of the Trump family named in the lawsuit include President Donald Trump and three of his children: Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump and White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump.

According to Naham and Keller, "The plaintiffs claimed that the Trump family falsely endorsed and promoted ACN by insisting that the enterprise 'offered a reasonable probability of commercial success' — even using 'The Celebrity Apprentice' to draw them in."

The plaintiffs first filed the lawsuit in October 2018, alleging "racketeering and conspiracy to racketeer." And in January 2019, attorneys for members of the Trump family requested that the case be thrown out altogether — which didn't happen, although the "racketeering and conspiracy to racketeer" claims were dismissed.Trump Organization lawyers were hoping that Schofield, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, would put the case on hold. But the Southern District of New York judge ruled that the lawsuit would not be stayed.

The 64-year-old Schofield, Naham and Keller report, applied the "traditional standard" for determining whether or not to stay a case.

"The first factor is whether the parties applying for the stay — the Trumps and ACN — are likely to succeed on the merits," Naham and Keller note. "Here, Schofield ruled that they are not…. The second of the four factors for a stay, irreparable injury, did not outweigh the defendants' loss on the first factor, the judge ruled. The third factor, 'substantial injury' to the plaintiffs, factored 'lightly against a stay.' The fourth factor, 'public interest' weighed 'slightly in favor of a stay,' the judge ruled."

Schofield, in her ruling, asserted, "As a private business dispute, the action does not give rise to a public interest in the lawsuit. That one of the defendants has since assumed a position of national prominence does not create the type of public interest typically found to weigh against a stay."

Offended By Ivanka and Pence, Nonprofits Boycott Trafficking Conference

Anti-human trafficking groups are boycotting an event on the issue this week that is being hosted by Ivanka Trump, citing the Trump administration’s harsh policies against immigrants, who are often the victims of trafficking.

Along with Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump plans to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Martina Vandenberg, founder of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, told the Washington Post that the event has created “a chasm between rhetoric and reality” and noted that “this administration is undermining protections carefully built for trafficking victims over two decades.”

“I don’t think any of us have the desire to be a part of a photo op,” Vandenberg added.

Polaris, the organization that runs the national human trafficking hotline, along with the largest anti-trafficking coalition, Freedom Network USA, will not attend the event. At least eight groups have turned down invitations so far.

According to the Post, the groups argue that “although the president frequently invokes human trafficking, his administration is actively endangering a significant portion of trafficking victims: immigrants.”

Among the groups’ biggest concerns is the Trump administration’s decision to cut back on “T” visas as part of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration initiatives. Those visas have often been used to allow immigrant victims of trafficking to have temporary legal status while cases against their traffickers are built.

“It’s going to be very difficult to access those witnesses who can tell you about serious crimes or trafficking,” Jacinta Ma of the conservative National Immigration Forum told Bloomberg last year of the visa crackdown.

In 2019, only 500 such visas were granted, the lowest since 2010.

Donald Trump has often invoked lurid, unverified stories of people being bound up and brought across the border to justify spending billions on a southern wall between the United States and Mexico. As the New York Times noted in February last year, while there have been isolated instances of this, Trump’s claims are mostly exaggerated.

While she has spoken and written about the problem of human trafficking on multiple occasions, Ivanka Trump has tried to distance herself from her father’s anti-immigrant stances while serving in his White House.

Asked about the policy of separating children from their families, she told CBS in December the issue is “not part of my portfolio.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.