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Former Defense Secretary Mattis Throws Shade On Trump

In his first major comments since resigning from the Trump administration last year, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis took several veiled swings at his former boss for damaging many international relationships.

In excerpts from his new book, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Mattis reflects on his time under Trump and offers a warning that if the U.S. continues to show disrespect for its allies, it will “occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world.”

“Using every skill I had learned during my decades as a Marine, I did as well as I could for as long as I could,” Mattis wrote. “When my concrete solutions and strategic advice, especially keeping faith with our allies, no longer resonated, it was time to resign, despite the limitless joy I felt serving alongside our troops in defense of our Constitution.”

In December, Mattis quit the administration over Trump’s announcement that he was withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria despite his Cabinet secretary’s advice. Mattis was in favor of continuing America’s presence in the region, but Trump ultimately made a decision that was intended to please Russia.

While the retired four-star general does not criticize his former boss directly in the excerpts, many of his comments are clearly directed at Trump.

“Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither,” Mattis wrote. “Alone, America cannot protect our people and our economy.” During the past two and a half years, Trump has alienated and attacked many U.S. allies, including threatening tariffs on German and Japanese cars and French wine. However, Trump’s most tumultuous relationship has been with Mexico, calling the country an “abuser” of the U.S. and demanding that it pay for his racist border wall. At the same time, he has cuddled up with hostile enemies, including Russia and North Korea.

But Mattis also hit Trump where it hurts: his social media habits.

“At this time, we can see storm clouds gathering. A polemicist’s role is not sufficient for a leader. A leader must display strategic acumen that incorporates respect for those nations that have stood with us when trouble loomed,” Mattis said in another excerpt, likely referring to Trump’s Twitter rants.

Since Trump took office, the global opinion of the U.S. has free fallen and favorable views of the U.S. have hit historic lows, according to the Pew Research Center.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Defying Court Order, Trump Officials Separated Over 900 Migrant Kids From Families

The Trump administration has ripped 911 children from their families in the past year, despite the courts demanded them not to, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In June 2018, a federal judge ordered the administration to stop separating families except in limited circumstances and the Trump administration claims it only separates families if a child is at risk. However, the ACLU said that evidence of this has been weak and many allegations of safety risks have been dubious.

In one case, a father and his two young children were separated from more than six months because the government claimed he was a gang member, despite providing no evidence. One man’s daughter was taken from him because a U.S. Border Patrol agent claimed the father failed to change her diaper. Another man, with a speech impediment, was separated from his young son when he couldn’t clearly answer questions.

This follows reports that the administration’s claims of “fake families,” or adults traveling with unrelated minors posing in order to smuggle drugs into the U.S., are bogus.

“It is shocking that the Trump administration continues to take babies from their parents,” said Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the family separation lawsuit and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The administration must not be allowed to circumvent the court order over infractions like minor traffic violations.”

The ACLU also said that the average age of the children separated was 9 years old and that 185 of the separated children were under 5 years old.

The filing comes as migrants and separated families continue to be detained in poor living conditions near the southern border. Additionally, a congressional report found that some border agents decided to keep families separated to “avoid doing the additional paperwork.”

It seems more and more than the Trump administration’s immigration tactics have very little to do with the facts.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Republican Senators Demand Another Tax Break For The Wealthy

More than 20 Republican senators are demanding yet another massive tax break for wealthy Americans.

In a letter addressed to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the lawmakers begged the administration to tie capital gains to inflation. The senators, led by Ted Cruz (R-TX), claimed the move would benefit the economy, but a 2018 analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found it would mostly benefit the wealthy.

Such a policy would cost the government about $100 billion to $200 billion in revenue over ten years, placing it on the backs of American taxpayers. Additionally, 86 percent of the benefits would flow only to the top 1 percent of households, according to the analysis.

Apparently the wealthy haven’t cut enough breaks lately under the Trump administration.

The conservatives’ demands follow a budget compromise between Trump and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, the deadline of which was sped up by the GOP’s 2017 tax scam.

That tax scam, passed solely by Republican lawmakers, cost American taxpayers a whopping $1.5 trillion and mostly benefited wealthy corporations.

Due to the high price tag, the administration has been eager to make deep cuts to important safety net programs. The White House has proposed cutting more than 3 million poor Americans off of food stamps to save the government money. The administration has also taken aim at education, hoping to slash billions from the Education Department. In 2018, the administration denied federal workers their 2.1 percent raise due to “serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.”

Additionally, the tax cuts did not help grow the economy how Republican lawmakers claimed they would. A March report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found that the economy will not sustain even a 3 percent growth for the foreseeable future.

It seems the GOP hasn’t learned its lesson and will do anything to make sure money flows only to the rich and powerful.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Trump Quietly Shutting Down Safeguards Against Terrorism And WMD

The Trump administration quietly canceled several important national security programs, which were created after 9/11 to help protect Americans from weapons of mass destruction.

More than 30 current and former Department of Homeland Security employees said they did not know why the Trump administration stopped the programs. The employees warned the cuts could hinder the agency’s ability to respond to a nuclear attack, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The programs cut over the past two years include training exercises for dealing with weapons of mass destruction at the state and local level. Another initiative that worked with foreign governments to prevent the smuggling of nuclear materials was also abandoned.

The cuts were reportedly made without a thorough review of the potential risks to national security.

Additionally, more than 100 scientists and nuclear experts have been reassigned or have left the Department of Homeland Security, hurting the agency’s ability to protect Americans.

“The real thing could happen tomorrow with no warning,” one former official told the Los Angeles Times. “And the only practice our defenders are going to have is through these ‘red team’ studies and actual exercises. That activity is necessary to ensure even basic competence.”

The cuts are counter to what the Trump administration promised to do in a national security strategy report published in December 2017.

Trump officials promised to “augment measures to secure, eliminate and prevent the spread of WMD and related materials,” according to the report. The administration also said it would make sure it retained the technology and knowledge to “reduce the chance” that weapons of mass destruction would “fall into the hands of hostile actors.”

The Trump administration has a track record of making questionable national security decisions.

Trump has given security clearances to people with questionable backgrounds. He also threatened to declassify sensitive intelligence to protect his own politic interests.  Additionally, firing sprees seem to be common at the Trump-controlled Department of Homeland Security. Trump’s national security advisers have also been quick to leave their positions.

When it comes to protecting the homeland, it seems Trump and his allies have no idea what they’re doing.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Trump ‘Not On Board’ For Sessions’ Senate Candidacy In Alabama

It looks like Trump has no plans to reward Jeff Session’s slavish loyalty.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions can’t count on Trump’s endorsement if he runs for his old Senate seat next year.

Talking with The Hill Thursday, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said he spoke with Trump about Sessions’ running for the seat he vacated to become U.S. attorney general. According to Shelby, Trump was less than supportive.

“I talked to the president about it to … about if Sessions ran, he was not encouraging,” Shelby said. “How do I say it? He was not on board.” When pressed about why Trump wasn’t supportive, Shelby declined to specify.

Trump’s refusal to endorse Sessions may not be surprising to some. The two have had beef ever since Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation in 2017, which eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Following the recusal, Trump publicly condemned and bullied Sessions for over a year, going so far as to say “I don’t have an Attorney General” and claim that “a lot of people” asked him to fire Sessions.

And it’s not new for Trump to refuse to endorse the people who have been most loyal to him. Recently, he even refused to say he’d support his vice president, Mike Pence, if he ran for president in 2024.

Despite Trump’s belittling, Sessions implemented his boss’ racist policies, including the separation of children from their parents at the border, the Muslim ban, suppressing minority votes and denying asylum to victims of domestic violence. Sessions was forced out of the department in November 2018, and it’s clear he and Trump are no longer friends.

If Sessions decides to jump into the race without Trump’s blessing he has stiff competition. Roy Moore, the alleged pedophile strongly endorsed by Trump in 2017, is already in the race.

It’s not new for Trump to refuse to endorse the people who have been most loyal to him. Recently, he even refused to say he’d support his vice president, Mike Pence, if he ran for president in 2024.

It’s clear loyalty is a one-way street with Trump.

 

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Oversight Committee Schedules Hearing On Conway’s Hatch Act Violations

The Trump administration is refusing to act on Kellyanne Conway’s constant lawbreaking, and a House committee chairman has had enough.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which is headed by a Trump appointeeannounced Thursday that Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, a law prohibiting certain federal employees from “engaging in partisan political activity” while in their official government capacity, and recommended she be fired. The OSC cited more than half a dozen television interviews Conway had given as examples of her violating the law.

However, the White House isn’t budging and dismissed the idea that she would be punished. But Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-M.D.,) the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, announced late Thursday that Conway is not off the hook, and scheduled a hearing with the OSC.

“Complying with the law is not optional,” Cummings said in a statement. “Allowing Ms. Conway to continue her position of trust at the White House would demonstrate that the President is not interested in following the law—or requiring his closest aides to do so.”

The hearing is set for June 26, and Conway’s attendance was requested so she may “answer for her violations.”

Given her attitude toward previous violations, and disregard for federal law, she’s unlikely to attend willingly.

In May, Conway dismissed reporters who pointed out that she violated federal law with her attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden, a presidential candidate. “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” she said, adding, “let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

Cummings also hit Conway on her other ethical issues, including her lack of cooperation with congressional probes. Conway has refused to comply with the committee’s request for information regarding her use of taxpayer funded private jets and her legally mandated report on the administration’s drug control strategy, which she is spearheading.

Even with a congressional probe of her violations, the decision whether to fire Conway still rests Trump, and he probably has no intention of letting her go.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

IMAGE: Counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway prepares to go on the air in front of the White House, January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Dead Gerrymander Expert Haunts North Carolina GOP

North Carolina Republicans lied to a federal judge about how they rigged state elections, according to new court documents.

Common Cause, a voting rights group, is suing the state’s Republican lawmakers for creating gerrymandered legislative maps, made by contorting district lines to favor their party. The group previously sued the lawmakers for the same reason for maps drawn in 2011, and they won, but now they’re contending that the newly drawn lines are also gerrymandered. The case is set to go to trial on July 15.

The gerrymandered district lines, both from 2011 and the most recent, were drawn by Thomas Hofeller, a recently deceased, formerly prolific GOP election rigger, who also helped Trump’s efforts to rig the U.S. census. In a new filing Thursday, it was revealed that Hofeller helped shape more than 90 percent of the state’s newly gerrymandered maps by June 2017. That matters because Republicans told the court in July 2017 that no new maps had been created by that time, a clear lie.

And that wasn’t the GOP’s only lie to the court.

Hofeller apparently used data on voters’ racial demographics when creating the new lines, something North Carolina Republicans were forbidden to do by the court. Using that type of data, districts can be gerrymandered to diminish the representation and voting power of minority groups.

“Whether it’s rigging the census for partisan gain or manipulating voting maps for the same, that’s wrong and destructive to our democracy,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said in a statement.

North Carolina Republicans seem pretty desperate to do everything they can to rig district lines, even if it means lying and breaking the law. But other attempts by Republicans to gerrymander haven’t held up well in courts. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down that state’s partisan congressional gerrymander that was favored, and drawn, by Republicans. In the following November election, the party lost three of its 12 seats. Ohio’s Republican-drawn congressional map was also recently struck down.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: North Carolina voters protest state district gerrymander by Republican legislative leaders in 2018.