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- 03/04/17--10:37: Lindsey Graham Says He's "Very Worried" By Trump’s Wiretapping Claim
- 03/06/17--06:56: Supreme Court Will Not Hear Transgender Student's Case This Term
- 03/07/17--18:45: Hawaii Files Challenge To Trump's New Travel Order
- 03/07/17--20:34: Texas Executes Man Convicted In Murder-For-Hire Scheme
- 03/08/17--15:29: Former Top HUD Aide Will Join CNN As Contributor
Win Mcnamee / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The several states, led by Texas, who have been suing the federal government over the Obama administration's pro-transgender policies will be withdrawing their lawsuit soon — a result of the new administration's policy shift — the Justice Department announced in a court filing Thursday.
The news came in a filing at the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in which the Justice Department announced it would be withdrawing its appeal of a district court's injunction against the administration's pro-transgender student policies.
Once the appeal is dismissed, per the filing, the states will dismiss their case.
The move comes a week after the Education and Justice departments announced they had withdrawn the prior Obama-era pro-transgender guidance regarding protections for students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
On Feb. 10, the Justice Department had withdrawn a request at the Fifth Circuit made under the Obama administration for the district court injunction to be limited during the appeal.
At that time, the joint motion noted, "The parties are currently considering how best to proceed in this appeal."
Comment has been sought from the Texas Attorney General's Office on the development.
This is a developing story. Please check back at BuzzFeed News for more.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Democrats at the Center for American Progress estimate that President Trump still has upwards of 900 second- and third-tier appointees to push through the Senate.
And in the liberal think tank’s new “war room,” the objective is to scrutinize each one, from assistant to more minor federal agency employees, raising questions about qualifications and conflicts of interest that promise to tie up floor time, bog down Republican efforts in Congress, and delay Trump’s legislative agenda.
The political arm of the Center for American Progress, called the CAP Action Fund, is one of the central entities in Democrats' sprawling effort to oppose Trump.
In an interview on Thursday, the group's senior strategic adviser, Adam Jentleson, outlined an ambitious and wide-reaching plan to vet nominees, push for an independent investigation into the administration's ties to Russian intelligence, direct grassroots activists to protests and town halls, produce policy analyses on Trump's proposals, and build out a growing team researchers and press operatives in what Jentleson described as a plan to "expand indefinitely" in the Trump era.
"We'll never reach a point where we say, 'OK, that's enough,'" he said.
This week, CAP brought on Chris Hayden to help lead the war room as communications director, Jentleson said. Hayden has worked extensively in states that favor Trump, most recently in Missouri for Jason Kander, a national upstart who narrowly lost a race last year for U.S. Senate, as well as for the state’s sitting senator, Claire McCaskill, and the former U.S. senator from North Carolina, Kay Hagan.
Earlier this year, the group also hired Corey Ciorciari, formerly of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as the war room’s policy and research director, filling out a still growing team that now comprises about 20 of CAP’s 340 or so employees.
Most of Trump’s top cabinet nominees have been approved — and will continue to be, given the Republican majority in the Senate. But Jentleson, who last served as a senior aide to former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, said CAP will keep casting scrutiny on the president's lower rungs of government appointees.
"Those are the people who are going to be actually writing and implementing the policy," Jentleson said. "It's a tremendous number of people. For them to be at all feasible, the vast, vast majority of them have to pass by unanimous consent, so all it takes is one objection to slow them down."
Trump has already faced what some call a historic delay in his confirmation push. The CAP strategy could help detain Republicans even longer, holding major legislative priorities in limbo. “Floor time is a finite resources,” Jentleson said.
Originally founded as a progressive think tank in 2003, CAP officials have also sought to use the "institutional knowledge" of the organization's large cadre of policy experts to produce what Jentleson called "razor sharp policy analysis that impacts the debate and that really helps drive and sustain grassroots energy," citing two recent studies on Wall Street gains and middle-class losses under Trump.
The anti-Trump focus marks something of a readjustment for an organization that has spent most of its existence under the two-term presidency of Barack Obama, and comes at a time when what unifies the Democratic Party most is opposition to the president, rather than singular policy aims or a shared economic message.
But the shift is also a return to CAP's roots. The think tank and political group was formed opposite George W. Bush, and amid the liberal activism of the 2000s. "It thrives in the opposition," said Jentleson, who has worked at CAP twice before.
During the Bush years, CAP put together a policy blueprint, Strategic Redeployment 2.0, for Democrats who opposed the war in Iraq war but wanted a strong military posture. Jentleson said the CAP war room will now look to do the same with a new “economic narrative,” attempting to reframe progressive policy into a message that will be as salient on the left as for "moderates, Independents, and soft Democrats."
The promise to play a key role across the party's opposition effort — from research to protests and policy — is a tall order for CAP's war room, still in the process of hiring researchers and a press team under Hayden. ("I hate to use 'building an airplane as we fly it,' because it's a cliche," Jentleson said. "But it's really true.")
The month before the inauguration, the group emerged as one of several entities hoping to help lead the anti-Trump efforts Democrats refer to as “the resistance.”
Others include the former Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA, and the constellation of liberal groups headed by operative David Brock, including American Bridge, which has launched its own opposition research-based war room alongside CAP's.
Apart from the Washington-based organizations working directly with Senate leaders, a number of activist-based groups have sprung up, leading weekly protests and spear-heading a more aggressive movement to pressure Democrats to take a harder line on Trump — even threatening incumbents with primary challengers.
But Jentleson said most of the groups are working together so far. Many are led by strategists who worked with one another for years in Washington, he said, ticking off names like Bradley Beychock at Brock's groups and Brian Fallon at Priorities, who used to sit next to Jentleson every day when they both worked in the Senate.
"I have not yet run into an instance where there were too many cooks in the kitchen," Jentleson said. "It's people who have very long relationships. You haven't seen any backbiting."
Activists lead a protest in Sen. Schumer's office on Capitol Hill.
Courtesy of All of Us
In the lobby of Sen. Chuck Schumer's office on Thursday, images of Attorney General Jeff Sessions flashed on a muted television screen tuned to MSNBC.
Paces away, standing in a semicircle around the Democratic minority leader's reception desk, a group of two dozen progressive activists presented Schumer with a petition aimed at their own target: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat.
Democratic leaders in Congress spent Thursday mounting an aggressive push to pressure former senator Sessions to resign from his post in President Donald Trump's cabinet following reports that he met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the presidential election, despite testifying that he had not had contact with Russian officials — an intense day of news on the Hill that ultimately culminated in Sessions recusing himself from investigations into the 2016 race.
Progressives, meanwhile, were waging a campaign against Manchin.
On Thursday morning, activists from five liberal groups delivered 225,000 signatures on a petition urging Schumer to fire the West Virginia Democrat from his Senate leadership team amid complaints from progressives that the red-state Democrat has not sufficiently opposed Trump's nominees or legislative agenda.
"Sen. Schumer must drop Trump collaborator, Sen. Joe Manchin," said Yong Jung Cho, reading remarks from her phone at the start of the 10-minute demonstration in Schumer's office, according to a video of the protest provided by organizers.
The protest comes as progressives have increasingly targeted their own party, urging Democrats to take a harder line against Trump's administration. Cho is a member of the new group All of Us, whose recently launched "#WeWillReplaceYou" effort threatens incumbent Democrats up for reelection in 2018 like Manchin to "resist Trump or be replaced" with a progressive primary challenger who will.
The split in Democratic focus on Thursday reflected a party struggling with new and difficult battle lines in the Trump era. These are not the same ideological divides that animated the 2016 primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Instead, the fissures lie between the grassroots and the establishment, pitting activists who want to oppose Trump at every turn, against lawmakers who are selective in picking their battles or remain open to working with the administration in certain areas.
Efforts like #WeWillReplaceYou and the campaign against Manchin have drawn criticism from Democrats who say that calls for oppositional purity are misguided and that if the party loses seats in red states, they may never get them back.
But progressives involved in Thursday's demonstration argued that, despite the dual campaigns that played out on Capitol Hill, the progressive demands on Democrats won't impair or distract from the party's efforts to push Trump on stories like Russia.
"It's being able to walk and chew gum at the same time," said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for one of the groups targeting Manchin, Democracy for America.
"The way that we're going to resist Trump is by building a cohesive narrative about what this party is for and what it's against — that includes Russian interference in our elections, don't get me wrong," he said. "But any Democratic response has to begin with opposition to an agenda which is directly opposed to Democratic values."
As ardent liberal activists describe it, the problem with Manchin is manifold: He has voted for 11 of Trump's cabinet nominees; said repeatedly he will partner with Trump on policy; hugged Trump; greeted parts of Trump's address to Congress with a standing ovation; launched into a tense exchange last week with activists, inviting a primary challenger; and met with Breitbart News, an outlet reviled by the left.
Manchin has been a complicated figure in the party. He is unapologetic about representing the more moderate and conservative voters of West Virginia. But he has also provided Democrats a key and unlikely ally in the party's major fights, taking a lead role in Barack Obama's failed gun restrictions push four years ago.
After the election, Schumer, the longtime New York Democrat, began his tenure as minority leader by expanding his leadership team to 10 members, adding Manchin and Sen. Bernie Sanders among others to help with outreach and messaging to "unite the disparate factions of our party and our country," he said at the time.
In January, at a closed-door retreat for Democratic senators in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Manchin moderated a "discussion with Trump voters" for his colleagues.
A banner reads: "Schumer: #DropManchin from Dem Leadership."
Courtesy of All of Us
In addition to All of Us and Democracy for America, the other progressive groups involved in Thursday's demonstration were CREDO, Other98, and 350 Action.
Other liberal groups were noticeably absent, including one that partners often with Democracy For America on protests and petitions, MoveOn.org. A spokesman for MoveOn.org declined to comment on the activists' focus on ousting Manchin.
"Sen. Manchin is a Democrat in name only," Cho said, standing beside a banner that read in black and red, "Schumer: #DropManchin from Dem Leadership."
Next, a 21-year-old West Virginia constituent, Daniela Powers, spoke about her personal disappointment in Manchin. "My hopes have been shattered," she said.
Two staffers at Schumer's reception desk watched the protest in silence.
"There is no time or room for Democrats in Congress who are Democrats in name only. And especially not in the Senate Democratic leadership," Powers went on.
Cho, the activist aligned with All Of Us' #WeWillReplaceYou, added that if Schumer does not "immediately" drop Manchin from his leadership post — an outcome that at this moment appears unlikely — he'll "be sending a clear message to the American people: Schumer does not stand with the resistance movement and when push comes to shove, he'd rather lead the Democrats to compromise than to victory."
The activists ended the protest with a song.
"When the people rise up, the powers come down," they sang.
"They try to stop us, but we keep comin' back."
Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown Friday will call on Democrats to refocus their efforts to woo back working- and middle-class voters by using an inclusive form of economic populism to appeal to those economically squeezed by modernization and the increasing reliance on independent contractors by employers.
In a speech Friday morning at Ohio State University, Brown will outline his plan, saying “work is something that unites us all. All work has dignity" and denouncing President Donald Trump's form of populism, according to excerpts provided to BuzzFeed News.
In his speech Brown will look to blur traditional racial and class distinctions, insisting the same sort of issues that impact traditional Democratic working-class constituencies also impact white or white-collar voters. “The value of work isn’t a black issue or a white issue. It’s not a blue-collar issue or a white-collar issue. It’s not a liberal or conservative issue,” Brown will insist, according to the transcript.
Significantly, the Ohio Democrat will take direct aim at Trump’s divisive form of populist nationalism, arguing “populism is for the people — not these people or those people, but all people. True populism is not about who it excludes, but who it embraces.”
The speech will also include a host of specific legislative proposals, ranging from traditional Democratic mainstays like increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour to new rules forcing companies that rely heavily on independent contractors to pay their payroll taxes. Independent contractors are at the heart of the so-called gig economy, and large corporations like Uber rely heavily on them — much to the chagrin of labor unions and many workers who believe that allows companies to skirt overtime and benefit rules.
Brown is already facing one challenger for his seat in next year’s election — State Treasurer Josh Mandel — and his speech and legislative agenda sets a clear, populist tone for his upcoming re-election campaign.
But Brown could have his sights set on even loftier goals: Hillary Clinton considered tapping Brown as her running mate — a decision which, in retrospect, could have helped her defend states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
More importantly for Brown, however, is the fact that numerous Democratic and Republican operatives – including several close to Trump’s world — see Brown’s labor street cred and populist underpinnings as a potentially strong weapon against the president come 2020.
Police officers remove activists during a protest at the US Supreme Court on Jan. 17.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
Federal prosecutors scored another win on Friday in their longstanding fight against protests at the US Supreme Court.
A federal appeals court ruled that prosecutors can charge people who disrupt Supreme Court arguments with making a "harangue" or "oration" — reversing a lower court judge who found that those words were too vague to pass constitutional muster.
The US attorneys' office in Washington, DC, fought to maintain the full range of options available to prosecutors in charging high court demonstrators. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit agreed with prosecutors that the meaning of "harangue" and "oration" were clear in the context of the law.
"This core meaning is delivering speeches of various kinds to persons within the Supreme Court’s building and grounds, in a manner that threatens to disturb the operations and decorum of the Court," Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote for the court.
The ruling doesn't change much in practice for the five men and women arrested at the court on April 1, 2015, who challenged the "harangue" and "oration" language — the lower court judge had kept intact another part of the law they were charged under that criminalized "loud" language.
But it's the latest win for the government against efforts to chip away at laws that restrict and criminalize certain types of speaking and demonstrating in and around the Supreme Court. The DC Circuit in 2015 rejected a challenge to the prohibition on demonstrations on the court's marble plaza.
Federal Public Defender A.J. Kramer, who argued for the defendants, declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for the US attorney's office.
The five defendants were accused of standing up one-by-one at the start of arguments before the justices and speaking or singing to protest the influence of money in elections — there was at least one reference to the court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which loosened campaign finance laws. They faced two charges: first, violating a broad prohibition on demonstrations in around around the Supreme Court, and second, making a "harangue," "oration", or "loud" language at the court.
US District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled in December 2015 that prosecutions under the "harangue" and "oration" section of the law would violate a person's constitutional right to due process because they suffered from "definitional ambiguity."
Brown wrote in Friday's decision that just because an ordinary person might not know off-hand the definition of a word such as "harangue," that didn't mean it couldn't be in the law. In the context of a law that was concerned about decorum in the Supreme Court, it was clear that "harangue" and "oration" referred to public speeches that would disrupt the court, she explained.
"That 'harangue' and 'oration' may not roll off the average person’s tongue today does not alter their possession of a settled meaning around public speeches," Brown wrote.
Judges Sri Srinivasan, who wrote the court's 2015 opinion upholding the ban on plaza protests, and Stephen Williams, who was on the panel that heard the plaza protest case, also heard the case and joined Brown's opinion.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday granted the federal government more time to respond to a lawsuit challenging aspects of President Trump's refugee and travel ban — but only after noting that he understands "frustrations" about White House statements that "seemingly contradict" the statements the administration has made in court.
US District Judge James Robart, who previously issued a nationwide injunction of most of Trump's executive order, on Friday granted the Justice Department's request for a two-week deadline extension in a case seeking class certification for a challenge to the order.
The Justice Department has sought and obtained similar extensions in other courts based on the department's representation in court that Trump "intends in the near future to rescind the [Executive] Order [at issue in this lawsuit] and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order."
Since the order was signed on Jan. 27, Trump initially said on Feb. 16 that a new version of the order would be coming the week of Feb. 20. That was delayed until this week, and now, with Trump already down in Florida for the weekend, it appears the order will not be coming until next week — at the earliest.
Additionally, White House press secretary Sean Spicer has repeatedly suggested that, while a new order is coming, the administration continues to believe it will win the ultimate legal fight over the first executive order.
The plaintiffs in the Washington case, Ali v. Trump, fought back against the Justice Department's request, noting that there have been "numerous contradictory statements by President Trump and others in his administration to the effect that they will continue to defend the Executive Order at issue in this litigation in addition to issuing a new Executive Order."
In his order, Robart referenced those statements — "Plaintiffs cite numerous transcripts of White House press briefing and of a presidential news conference that are available on the White House website in support of their argument" — and gave a soft warning to the lawyers representing the administration.
"The court understands Plaintiffs’ frustrations concerning statements emanating from President Trump’s administration that seemingly contradict representations of the federal government’s lawyers in this and other litigation before the court," Robart wrote. "Nevertheless, the court will continue to rely on the representations of the government’s attorneys, as officers of the court, which indicate that the new Executive Order will 'rescind,' 'replace,' 'supersed[e],' and 'substantially revise' the existing Executive Order."
Riccardo Savi / Getty Images
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Saturday vowed to investigate President Donald Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of his phones during the election, saying he was "very worried" by the claims.
Speaking from Clemson University in his home state of South Carolina, Graham said he did not know whether or not Trump’s accusation — which the president presented, without evidence, in a tweetstorm Saturday morning — was true.
“I don’t know if it’s true or not, but if it is true, it would be the biggest political scandal since Watergate,” he said.
“The other side of the story, if the former president of the United States was able to obtain a warrant, lawfully, to monitor Trump’s campaign for violating the law, that would be the biggest scandal since Watergate,” he added.
A spokesman for Obama, Kevin Lewis, on Saturday said neither the former president nor White House officials ever ordered surveillance on a US citizen.
Sen. Graham told the crowd he was “very worried that our president is suggesting that the former president has done something illegally,” before adding that he would be “very worried if, in fact, the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity with foreign governments."
"So it's my job as a United States senator to get to the bottom of this. I promise you I will,” he said.
Graham said he believes "with all [his] heart and soul" that Russia did interfere with the 2016 election.
"It wasn't a 400-pound man sitting on a bed somewhere," he said, alluding to a previous comment by President Trump.
He asserted that Russian intelligence services "hacked into [John] Podesta's email," and vowed to “punish Russia for trying to interfere with our election."
To the Republicans in the audience, Graham said, “We should be as upset about this as any Democrat because an attack on one party by foreign power is an attack on all parties.”
As for the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia, Graham said, "I have no evidence personally that there are in any, but I will insist that the FBI be given full opportunity to look into this without political interference."
The senator also fielded questions ranging from the Affordable Care Act to policing from the boisterous crowd.
“I want to repeal and replace Obamacare because I think it’s broken,” Graham said amid continued boos from the audience.
When a public school teacher in the audience asked Graham why he voted for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the senator said he believed she would offer students different options in their education.
“I think we need a combination of alternatives for when schools fail,” he said.
“I thought she was qualified,” he said of DeVos, to an eruption of boos.
Resistance from heckling crowds at GOP town hall meetings has forced politicians to make the choice of engaging with angry civilians or avoiding the meetings altogether.
The town hall at Clemson on Saturday followed a slightly different protocol from previous events. In the beginning, questions for the senator were submitted ahead of time and read aloud by a moderator, but audience members were later given the microphone to ask candid questions.
Graham also commented on the liberal-majority makeup of the crowd, which shouted loudly at every mention of the ACA and the Keystone Pipeline.
“I didn’t know there were that many liberals, which is great. I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “You need to speak up more in South Carolina.”
Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — President Trump signed a revised, and significantly downsized, version of his refugee and travel executive order on Monday that will take effect on Mar. 16. The original order — which caused a national uproar and nationwide litigation — will be revoked as of then.
The president signed the new executive order without the usual room full of photographers, reporters, and live video feeds. Press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted a photo of Trump signing it.
People from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen who are outside the United States and don't have a valid visa "are not eligible to travel" to the US for 90 days, according to the text of the new order and a fact sheet distributed by the administration.
Iraq was included with those nations in the first order, but was removed this time around. Trump's counselor, Kellyanne Conway, said on Fox News that was because of "their enhanced screening and reporting measures" — information also laid out in the order itself.
The order also makes explicitly clear that legal permanent residents and current visa holders are not covered by the order — points of repeated confusion in the aftermath of the signing of the original order. A State Department official, during a briefing with reporters on Monday, said there are no plans to "revoke any visa provisionally due to this executive order."
"You should not see any chaos, or alleged chaos, at airports. There will not be people stopped at airports because of this order," a senior Department of Homeland Security official said on a conference call to reporters.
The refugee admission program will be suspended for 120 days, and, as with the original order, "admissions to the United States will not exceed 50,000 for fiscal year 2017." However, the program for resettling Syrian refugees — which was indefinitely banned under the initial order — will now be treated no differently than resettlement of refugees from all other countries.
A provision in the original order that gave refugee admission priority to those whose religion is "a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality" — a provision that Trump had promoted as protections for Christians — was removed from the new order.
Within hours of the signing of the new order, the Justice Department informed the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit of the signing, highlighting differences between the original order and the new order. The court has been considering an appeal of the court order that had halted enforcement of the refugee and travel bans in the original executive order.
The Justice Department also quickly weighed in at the district court level in the Washington v. Trump case, informing the court of the department's view that the existing injunction would not cover the new order. "This Court’s injunctive order does not limit the Government’s ability to immediately begin enforcing the New Executive Order," the lawyers wrote. Additionally, they argue that the new order "complies with" the appeals court's decision and that the new order "does not present a need for emergency litigation."
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who led his states successful fight against the original order, called the new order "drastically narrowed" in a news conference on Monday afternoon, adding, "The changes in this new executive order are profound. ... That's a rewarding feeling, as a legal team." He said that his team would review the new order in the coming days before deciding on their next steps.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has been pressing separate legal claims in a different lawsuit, reacted similarly to the new order, saying in a statement, "This pared-down order is an incredible concession from President Trump that all but concedes the significant constitutional and practical flaws that the Courts and I saw in his original ban." He, too, said that his team would review the new order before determining the next steps.
Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, however, told BuzzFeed News in an email that he expects challenges to the new executive order to be lodged in at least some of the pending court cases filed against the original travel ban, as opposed to lawyers starting over with new lawsuits.
"While scaled back, the new ban is, at its core, the same unconstitutional attempt to enact religious discrimination as the first one was. Once we have the ban in hand, we will take the appropriate steps in our ongoing litigation to prevent it from going into effect," Jadwat said.
In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan supported the new order, saying, "This revised executive order advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland. I commend the administration and [DHS] Secretary [John] Kelly in particular for their hard work on this measure to improve our vetting standards."
A spokesman for Iraq's government, Saad al-Hadithi, said the nation's removal from the list sends a "positive message" about working together to defeat ISIS and shows there is a "real partnership" between the countries.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was consulted on the new order and gave his input, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt Jeff Davis told reporters Monday. But Davis would not elaborate on Mattis recommendations for the ban.
Trump signed the first executive order at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, a room dedicated to recipients of the US military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. Mattis stood behind the president during the ceremony, which then included banning visitors from Iraq, even as US military troops are in Iraq and fighting alongside Iraqi troops. Iraq's inclusion in the ban drew sharp rebuke from many in the military, including Mattis, who officials said was not aware of the specifics of the ban when he was photographed with Trump at the time.
The new order — and its unceremonious rollout — is a quiet acknowledgement by Trump of the challenges his administration faced trying to implement the original order. It also comes after Trump spent the weekend lashing out to his staff, and on Twitter, at former President Obama — and his Apprentice successor.
In revoking the first order, Trump is also acknowledging that a move from his first days in office was met with enough resistance that it needed to be rescinded.
It's a rare move for any president, let alone this one: In doing so, Trump essentially is stepping back — for the second time — from his position on how to address refugee and immigrant programs.
In December 2015, Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." The position — Trump's "Muslim ban" — became a key rallying point for, and controversy of, his early primary campaign.
Fast-forward to his presidency, though, and Trump's initial executive order — issued on Jan. 27 — looked a bit different, although still expansive, in comparison to the policies in place prior to the order. Trump's order halted entry into the US for 90 days to all people — with a few narrow exceptions — from seven Muslim-majority nations: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. The order also halted the entire refugee program for 120 days and the Syrian part of the program indefinitely.
Perhaps most dramatically, the order took effect immediately, leading to confusion at airports across the country — particularly given the Friday afternoon signing and announcement of the order. That confusion — and reports of people being held at, and in some cases deported from, airports — then led to protests, first in New York and Los Angeles, but soon across the country.
About 30 hours after the order was signed, a federal judge in Brooklyn, US District Judge Ann Donnelly, halted deportations under the order. Throughout the weekend, other federal judges weighed in — all siding against the ban, including one court that added a ban on detaining individuals under the order and another court that ordered a person deported under the order to be returned to the US.
As the next week began, one of the primary issues of confusion was whether lawful permanent residents — green card holders — were covered under the travel ban. Eventually, the White House attempted to settle the issue with a "clarification" memo from White House counsel Don McGahn concluding that the ban does not apply to green card holders.
It wasn't until the next Friday, Feb. 3, that a judge sided with the administration. US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton denied a request to renew a temporary restraining order previously issued by another judge in the federal court in Massachusetts or grant a preliminary injunction.
Hours later, though, in Seattle, a different federal judge — US District Judge James Robart — issued the broadest ruling yet, halting enforcement of all of the major parts of the refugee and travel bans under the order.
The ruling effectively shut down the ban, leading to statements of compliance from the Department of Homeland Security and State Department — but also leading to the first of several pointed attacks from the Trump administration on Robart, who he referred to in one tweet as a "so-called judge."
The administration appealed, asking the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to put Robart's order on hold while the administration appealed the merits of the district court's ruling. After holding arguments on Feb. 7, the appeals court sided with the challengers — the states of Washington and Minnesota — in a ruling handed down on Feb. 9.
While questions remained about whether the full court of appeals would reconsider that ruling, Trump announced on Feb. 16 that a new version of the order would be coming the week of Feb. 20. That was delayed until last week, but then, shortly after Trump's address to Congress, White House officials said the rollout would be delayed. (This coincided with news of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' previously unmentioned meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US — news that led to his recusal on related matters.)
Nancy Youssef contributed to this report.
Here's the text of the new order:
Here's the fact sheet released by the White House:
And here is a question-and-answer document:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will not be hearing the transgender student's case that the justices had agreed this past fall to hear, the court announced Monday.
The case instead will be sent back to the appeals court that previously heard Gavin Grimm's challenge to the Gloucester County School Board policy limiting restroom use to a person's biological sex.
Due to the Trump administration's decision to withdraw pro-transgender guidance that had been key to the appeals court's decision in favor of Grimm, the justices vacated that decision and asked the lower court to reconsider the case.
Lawyers for both the school board and the student had asked the justices to keep the case and resolve the larger question about whether the sex discrimination ban in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 includes a ban on anti-transgender discrimination as well. The justices declined to do so.
Now, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will need to address that larger question. When it heard the case initially, it avoided answering that question, instead ruling on the basis of deferring to the Obama administration's guidance that it had interpreted Title IX and its implementing regulations to provide that protection. After ruling that Title IX and its implementation regulations are ambiguous on the question of transgender protections, it then held that the Obama administration's pro-transgender interpretation was a permissible interpretation.
With that guidance withdrawn — the Trump administration took no position on the underlying question — the question of whether the statute itself protects transgender people from discrimination will need to be resolved. The Supreme Court — perhaps wanting the issue to percolate a little longer or at least wait until there are nine justices — will, with Monday's move, avoid having to answer that question for the time being.
Yuri Gripas / Reuters
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday afternoon provided a three-page supplemental letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee detailing his communications with the Russian ambassador.
Sessions has maintained that the question posed to him by Sen. Al Franken only was asking about campaign-related communications, which Sessions says he did not have. As such, his answer that he "did not have communications with the Russians" was, he wrote on Monday, "correct."
"I did not mention communications I had had with the Russian Ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them," Sessions wrote.
Additionally, Sessions noted his recusal decision, which was announced on March 2. "I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States," Sessions said in a statement announcing the decision.
In response to questions about why the scope of that recusal did not include contacts during the transition and once the administration began, Sessions wrote, "I understand the scope of the recusal as described in the Department's press release would include any such matters."
Despite Sessions' statement in the Monday letter, the Justice Department had declined to answer questions about the scope of the recusal in the aftermath of Sessions' announcement.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Tuesday morning said that lower-income people who may be left uninsured under the Obamacare replacement plan will have to choose between buying a new iPhone and affording health care.
In an interview on CNN, Chaffetz, who is also the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was asked if the new plan — if it became law — could leave working-class or low-income people without insurance.
“Americans have choices. And they've got to make a choice,” Chaffetz said.
“So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.”
Chaffetz added that the replacement plan, dubbed the American Healthcare Act, will preserve certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans “really do like,” such as the ban on denying coverage to people who have pre-existing conditions and allowing people to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.
As a member of Congress, Chaffetz has access to government health care. He also appears to have an Apple Watch, which would mean he likely has an iPhone.
Hours later, Chaffetz appeared on Fox News to discuss his iPhone comment, saying, "Maybe I didn't say it as smoothly as I could."
"People need to make a responsible choice and I believe in self-reliance," he said.
Fox News anchor Shannon Bream responded, "The phones are expensive. So are shoes."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Chaffetz’s office for comment.
Watch Chaffetz’s comments here.
Responding to Chaffetz’s comments, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price asserted during a White House press conference Tuesday that people were already making sacrifices to afford medical care.
“This is an important question because what's happening right now is that the American people are having to sacrifice in order to purchase coverage, and as I mentioned, many individuals can't afford the kind of coverage that they have right now,” he said.
Increasing health care options for people, inciting competition between companies, and returning health care regulation to the state level was how Republicans would eventually drive down insurance costs, Price added.
Rod Rosenstein testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7.
Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters
The nominee for a top Justice Department job, who likely would oversee any investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign if he’s confirmed, would not say on Tuesday if would appoint a special counsel to investigate the matter.
Rod Rosenstein, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination for deputy attorney general, said that he could not make such a commitment without having access to all the facts. He did, however, defend the department’s ability to carry out independent investigations on its own.
Rosenstein, who would have the number two job at DOJ if confirmed, noted that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch rejected calls for an special counsel to investigate Russian influence in the 2016 election while she was still head of the Justice Department.
But, acknowledging that the special counsel issue was the hot topic on Capitol Hill, Rosenstein said that, if confirmed, he would approach all matters the same way: He would evaluate the facts and the law, consult with career experts at the department, and then exercise his judgment about how to proceed.
“It’s my job to make sure that all investigations are conducted independently, and whether it’s a law or a statute or some other mechanism, I would ensure that every investigation is conducted independently,” Rosenstein said.
The Independent Counsel Law, which most people know for its role in leading the investigation that ended with President Clinton’s impeachment, expired in 1999. No replacement law has ever been passed, but the attorney general does maintain, under Justice Department regulations, the ability to appoint a special counsel.
A special counsel, a lawyer from outside of federal government, can be appointed by the attorney general — or a person acting as attorney general — to investigate or prosecute a case in which the Justice Department has a conflict of interest or in which it is in the public interest to do so. Many Democrats have called for a special counsel to be appointed to handle any campaign-related investigation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that he would recuse himself from any investigation about Russian contacts during the 2016 campaign. Sessions’ recusal announcement came after revelations that he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign, despite testimony at his confirmation hearing that he did not have communications with Russians during the campaign.
Sessions has defended his testimony, however, saying that he didn’t discuss the campaign during those conversations and met with Kislyak in his capacity as a senator, not on behalf of the campaign. In announcing his recusal, Sessions said he was not confirming that there was any investigation at the moment.
With Sessions recused, though, the next highest Senate-confirmed Justice Department official takes over under a succession order that Trump signed in February. Until Rosenstein is confirmed, that job falls to acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente, who is also the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley kicked off Tuesday’s confirmation hearing with a series of questions about the special counsel issue. Democrats have called for a special counsel to oversee decisions about an election investigation; Grassley said in his opening remarks that a special counsel-led investigation was "not the best way to ensure transparency and accountability."
Grassley asked Rosenstein if he’d ever met with representatives of the Russian government. Rosenstein said that he was not aware of having done so. Rosenstein also said that he’d never spoken with Sessions about the issue of Russian contacts with Donald Trump’s campaign, and wasn’t aware of any reason that he’d have to recuse himself from handling decisions about investigating Russian influence in the election if he’s confirmed.
The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, asked if Rosenstein supported appointing a special prosecutor. Rosenstein said that, without knowing all the facts, he wasn’t in a position to answer the question or to say if decisions made by Lynch or Boente were right or wrong. Asked by Sen. Dick Durbin if he would tell the public if the department decided to close or end any investigation into the election, Rosenstein said he would if it was appropriate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican proponent of a bipartisan congressional inquiry into Russian influence in the election, asked Rosenstein if he could assure the committee that any DOJ investigation is overseen by a lawyer who is independent. Rosenstein said he believed that was his responsibility in every case.
Rosenstein has spent the bulk of his career at the Justice Department and has served as the US attorney for Maryland since 2005 — a job that he kept throughout the Obama administration, making him the rare political appointee to carry over across presidents.
In 2012, then-Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. tapped Rosenstein and Ronald Machen, the US attorney for the District of Columbia at the time, to lead an investigation into national security leaks. In the questionnaire that he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he listed a criminal prosecution that came out of that investigation as among the most significant cases he had handled in his career.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also heard on Tuesday from Rachel Brand, Trump’s nominee for associate attorney general, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Hawaii filed its challenge to President Donald Trump's new travel and refugee order in federal court late Tuesday night.
Seeking to amend the lawsuit the state had filed challenging Trump's original ban, the lawyers now must get permission from the federal court hearing the lawsuit to amend their complaint and challenge the new order.
"This second Executive Order is infected with the same legal problems as the first Order — undermining bedrock constitutional and statutory guarantees," the lawyers write in the proposed challenge.
The lawyers for Hawaii told a federal court earlier Tuesday that they planned to file a challenge to the new executive order on Wednesday.
The proposed amended complaint in Hawaii v. Trump was filed late Tuesday night, however, along with a motion asking the court to resume the case — which had been put on hold — and allow the state to file the amended complaint.
The challenge is the first to Trump's new order, signed Monday.
In addition to the state of Hawaii, represented by Hawaii attorney general Doug Chin, the lawsuit is brought on behalf of Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii.
"Given that the new Executive Order began life as a 'Muslim ban,'" Hawaii's lawyers write in the proposed amended complaint, "its implementation also means that the State will be forced to tolerate a policy that disfavors one religion and violates the Establishment Clauses of both the federal and state constitutions."
More broadly, the proposed amended complaint alleges that the new executive order violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as constitutional provisions: the Establishment Clause and guarantees of equal protection and due process.
While other state officials who had challenged the original ban said on Monday that they would be taking time to review the new order before deciding their next moves, lawyers for Chin were in court Tuesday, announcing their next plans.
The case that Hawaii brought against the original ban was put on hold in the wake of the nationwide injunction issued in the case brought by Washington and Minnesota.
Now the lawyers behind the Hawaii challenge — including former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal — asked to end the stay on their case so they can bring the challenge to the new executive order. The initial Tuesday filing noted that the federal government consents to the move to end the stay.
According to the joint filing by the state and Justice Department lawyers, the department's response would be due on March 13 and Hawaii's reply would be filed the next day.
Although the first challenge to the new ban, Hawaii's move is not the first announcement that one is coming. That was made by the Arab American Civil Rights League and others in an ongoing lawsuit pending in Michigan. That filing, however, only stated that a new challenge would be coming on the March 16 effective date of the new order.
Read the proposed amended complaint:
Read the motion to lift the stay and allow the amended complaint:
Read the earlier joint scheduling filing:
WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court did not stop the state of Texas from executing Rolando Ruiz for the 1992 murder of Theresa Rodriguez, part of a murder-for-hire scheme in which Ruiz was the killer.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP
The execution did not, however, begin just after 6 p.m. Central Time, as Texas had planned. It wasn't until about 10 p.m. Central Time that the Supreme Court issued its decisions denying Ruiz's requests for a stay of execution.
Ruiz, the Associated Press reported, was declared dead at 11:06 p.m. Central Time.
Although three requests were lodged with the Supreme Court by Ruiz's lawyers asking for a stay of execution, only one prompted any affirmative response from any justices.
In one petition — referred to as a Lackey claim, based on a 1995 Supreme Court case of that name — Ruiz argued that the Eighth Amendment should be read to bar his execution as cruel and unusual punishment.
"At this point, a quarter-century has elapsed since Mr. Ruiz committed a contract murder in 1992, two days after he turned twenty years old," Ruiz's lawyers wrote. "Mr. Ruiz has lived for over two decades under a death sentence, spent almost twenty years in solitary confinement, received two eleventh-hour stays of execution, and has received four different execution dates."
The Supreme Court denied the request to halt Ruiz's execution on those grounds, but Justice Stephen Breyer — reiterating a point he has made previously — dissented.
"Mr. Ruiz argues that his execution 'violates the Eighth Amendment' because it 'follow[s] lengthy [death row] incarceration in traumatic conditions,' principally his 'permanent solitary confinement," Breyer wrote. "I believe his claim is a strong one, and we should consider it."
Notably, Breyer drew out Ruiz's discussion of solitary confinement and its effects, highlighting the fact that it was Justice Anthony Kennedy who in 2015 questioned solitary confinement — and had urged the justices to take up a case that presented the issue.
"This I believe is an appropriate case to conduct that constitutional scrutiny," Breyer wrote of Ruiz's case. "If extended solitary confinement alone raises serious constitutional questions, then 20 years of solitary confinement, all the while under threat of execution, must raise similar questions, and to a rare degree, and with particular intensity. That is why I would grant a stay of execution, allowing the Court to examine the record more fully."
Carlos Barria / Reuters
WASHINGTON — A former top Department of Housing and Urban Development aide, who was fired after an op-ed critical of Donald Trump he wrote resurfaced, will join CNN as a political commentator, a CNN spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Shermichael Singleton first appeared on CNN during a lengthy segment with CNN's Don Lemon. During the interview about the ordeal, Singleton said that he didn't regret what he said about Trump. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post said that he'd joined HUD because he wanted Trump to be successful.
"Trump’s great strength is his willingness to upend the established political order," Singleton wrote. "But he still needs a cross-section of conservative voices in his administration, not just advisers who see eye to eye with him on every issue."
Singleton, 26, was slated to be Dr. Ben Carson's deputy chief of staff at the agency. Armstrong Williams, who said that his young mentor's new opportunity with CNN is evidence that you can lose out one opportunity but if you're patient and handle challenges with grace, another opportunity is waiting. "You don't have to kill it — you can just eat."
"Dr. Carson's very proud," Williams added.
Last October, Singleton framed Trump as out of touch with conservative values, writing, "My party in particular has allowed itself to be taken over by someone who claims to be a Republican but doesn't represent any of our values, principles or traditions." He was escorted out of the HUD building, to Carson's surprise.
Singleton joins former top Trump aide Jason Miller at CNN, whose hiring was first reported Wednesday by Business Insider.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
For Democrats, the new Republican health care plan poses an early strategic question: how to take on Donald Trump in a traditional policy arena, crafting a response that not only undermines his appeal, but broadens their own.
On Thursday, the party's leading super PAC, Priorities USA, will test one approach with a six-figure digital ad campaign depicting the bill as a betrayal of working Americans and a boon to the 1%, according to an official with the group.
This ad buy is the PAC's second and largest of the Trump presidency, reaching voters in nine states, including Alaska and Maine, where Republican U.S. senators such as Maine's Susan Collins could be decisive in defeating the bill.
The ads present the plan as a broken promise to Trump's own voters, and a policy that serves "millionaires and insurance industry CEOs," the official said, at the expense in particular of young people and people over the age of 50. The two demographic groups are the main target of the ad campaign.
The ads are also running in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and Arizona, intended to voters in key 2018 midterm elections.
Patrick McHugh, the executive director of the PAC, described the campaign as an effort to "make sure voters know whose side Donald Trump is really on."
As Trump pursues his legislative agenda, working alongside Republican leaders in Congress, Democrats are facing unfamiliar terrain after their approach in last year's general election. Hillary Clinton's campaign focused almost entirely on questions about Trump’s qualifications and character, a strategy that shifted the debate away from policy, and in fact avoided associating Trump with Republicanism at all.
This is Priorities USA's first policy-focused ad buy since the election, when officials and donors aligned with group, led by longtime Democratic operative Guy Cecil, started to reimagine their mission under a Trump presidency. Now, what began largely as a vehicle for TV ads, first to support for Barack Obama in 2012, then Hillary Clinton in 2016, has widened the scope of its portfolio, working on projects ranging from voting law to studying the critical Obama-turned-Trump voter.
Priorities USA has launched one other digital campaign this new year, aimed at encouraging Democrats to join protests at town halls at the height of the fight over Trump's cabinet picks. The group has not run ads on television since 2016.
The health care ads highlight some of the new provisions in what Democrats are calling "Trumpcare," which the White House has backed in partnership with House Republican leadership. The plan is already facing tough odds in Congress amid concerns from both conservatives and some moderate Republicans.
The Priorities USA campaign takes issue in particular with one major change in the GOP plan: setting the cap on what insurers can charge older Americans at five times more than what they charge young people. Under the existing Affordable Care Act, the cap was slightly lower, set at three times more. The new cap, intended to lower premiums, are billed by Priorities USA as an "age tax," the PAC official said.
The group is also targeting GOP efforts to encourage young people to buy their own insurance. Their plan retains the provision allowing adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents' plan, but does not include an individual mandate to buy insurance.
Republicans say the move will help control costs. Priorities USA ads argue it will result in young people paying more or lose their insurance completely.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The owners of a restaurant in Washington, DC, are suing President Donald Trump, claiming that his eponymous hotel — which features a steakhouse, a bar, and other dining options — has an unfair and unlawful edge in the market.
The lawsuit, filed in DC Superior Court on Thursday by the owners of Cork Wine Bar, alleges that Trump's hotel not only competes for general customers, but specifically for clients seeking to do business with and influence US government and elected officials.
"The effects of that unfair advantage are magnified greatly by marketing activities of the Hotel's officers and employees and the similar activities of defendant Trump, his family, and the White House staff and/or advisors," the lawsuit says.
Alan Garten, chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, called the suit "a wild publicity stunt completely lacking in legal merit" in an email to BuzzFeed News.
The lawsuit cites news reports about foreign diplomats patronizing the hotel and about how the hotel is now the place to be for lobbyists hoping to influence the new administration. For his first meal out in the city since becoming president, Trump in late February chose to dine at BLT Prime, the steakhouse at his hotel. He reportedly dined with his daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and far-right British politician Nigel Farage.
"It's clear that those who are looking to influence this administration are going to look to that business first," Scott Rome, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, said at a press conference on Thursday morning announcing the case.
Cork's owners are not seeking money damages. They've instead asked the court to enter an order halting the unfair competition they say is taking place, which their lawyers say could be accomplished by the hotel and restaurants closing during Trump's tenure as president, Trump and his family fully divesting their interests in the hotel, or Trump resigning.
From left: Law professor Steven Schooner, attorney Scott Rome, plaintiffs Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, attorney Mark Zaid, and law professor Alan Morrison.
Zoe Tillman / BuzzFeed
Trump's DC hotel has been the subject of litigation even before Trump won the election in November.
Since 2015 Trump has been suing two celebrity restaurateurs, José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian, who dropped plans for restaurants in the hotel after Trump made disparaging remarks about immigrants and Mexicans during the campaign. Andrés and Zakarian have countered that Trump's comments made their restaurant plans untenable. Those cases are pending.
In January, an electrical contracting company sued the hotel, claiming more than $2 million in unpaid bills for work on the project. The hotel has yet to file a response in court.
Although Trump has given up day-to-day control of his businesses, he hasn't divested his financial interests. He's facing one lawsuit claiming that those interests, including the hotel, create unconstitutional conflicts of interest. The legal and ethics scholars who filed the case in January pointed to the fact that foreign diplomats and governments had been reserving rooms and using other services at the Trump International Hotel in Washington as examples of how Trump was allegedly violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause in the constitution.
The Emoluments Clause says that, “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
The lawsuit filed by Cork's owners, Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, doesn't raise an Emoluments Clause claim. Gross told reporters on Thursday that they viewed the case strictly as business litigation. They are claiming that the hotel, which is on property leased from the General Services Administration, is in violation of a section of the lease that says no elected official can benefit from the project.
"We’re challenging the actions that he’s taken as a business owner," Gross said. "We're not challenging his policies as president."
Asked about their political affiliations, Pitts and Gross at first demurred, saying it wasn't relevant to the suit, but Pitts said later that he is a registered Independent and Gross said she is a Democrat. Gross previously worked as a counsel to former Democratic senator Barbara Mikulski, and according to news reports, they've both worked in Democratic politics. Pitts said the suit wasn't politically motivated but was about two businesses in the same market.
The complaint says that Cork had suffered losses to its business, but didn't specify any particular events or patrons that the restaurant lost out to the hotel. Pitts and Gross told reporters that no prospective clients had specifically said they were choosing Trump's hotel over Cork, but that there had been a decline in business as compared to previous years. They declined to put a dollar amount on those losses.
TRead the complaint in K&D LLC v. Trump Old Post Office:
Stephen Brashear / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The state of Washington is continuing its lawsuit against the Trump administration, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced on Thursday, arguing in a court filing that the prior injunction issued against the January executive order applies to major portions of the new order President Trump signed on Monday.
"The President cannot unilaterally declare himself free of this Court’s injunction and reinstate policies that this Court already enjoined," Ferguson argued in the Thursday evening court filing.
Ferguson said at a news conference earlier in the day that he continues to believe that "what the president is doing is unconstitutional."
The attorney general said that the state would be "seeking to confirm" from US District Judge James Robart that the injunction he issued against the initial executive order on Feb. 3 remains in place. Robart's order halted enforcement of major portions of Trump's Jan. 27 executive order, commonly referred to as the travel and refugee ban.
Colleen Melody, the chief of the Washington office's civil rights division, explained that the state would be seeking to confirm that the February order from Robart continues to bar implementation of "provisions that have been re-implemented in the new order." Specifically, she said, the two main provisions contained in the original executive order that are in the new executive order in similar form should not be able to be enforced because they were among the provisions previously enjoined from being enforced.
The state would be seeking Robart's confirmation that the original injunction applies to the new order, Washington Solicitor General Noah Purcell said, in a response to the notice submitted by the Justice Department earlier this week regarding the issuance of the new executive order.
The state filed its response a little before 9 p.m. Eastern Time, highlighting its argument as such:
On February 3, this Court enjoined key provisions of Executive Order No. 13769 (First Executive Order). The Ninth Circuit unequivocally rejected President Trump’s request to stay or narrow this Court’s injunction. Nonetheless, on March 6, President Trump signed a new Executive Order (Second Executive Order) that, in the words of his own senior advisers, adopts “the same basic policy” as the first: “the goal is obviously to maintain the way that we did it the first time.” In particular, the policy purports to reinstate two provisions of the prior order that this Court enjoined: (1) a 90-day ban on entry of persons from several Muslim-majority countries, and (2) a 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
The Washington Attorney General's Office took particular umbrage at the Justice Department's statement in its Monday "notice" filing — which informed the court of the new executive order — that “[t]his Court’s injunctive order does not limit [his] ability to immediately begin enforcing the [Second Executive Order]."
Washington's lawyers counter: "Saying it does not make it so. While this assertion may be in keeping with the President’s position that courts are powerless to review his executive orders related to immigration, it is utterly inconsistent with basic legal principles."
Washington's lawyers ask Robart to "confirm that its injunction" applies to the travel ban provision and the refugee ban provisions in the new executive order "and direct Defendants to file a motion for modification if they wish to enforce those provisions."
Shortly after the Washington filing, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson — who had joined Washington's lawsuit in February — filed a shorter, but just as blunt, response to the Justice Department's notice.
"The appropriate procedure ... is for Defendants to file a motion to modify the preliminary injunction if they seek to change it," Minnesota's lawyers wrote in part.
In addition to Minnesota, Ferguson also announced Thursday that attorneys general from Oregon and New York would be seeking to join the Washington-state-led effort. Robart granted the request for Oregon to intervene — which had been filed on Feb. 22 — on Thursday. Later Thursday, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office announced they, too, would be seeking to join the case.
Asked why he believes Washington's lawsuit needs to continue in light of the fact that other litigation — including the restraining order being sought by Hawaii against the new ban — exists now, Ferguson said, "[W]hat we're asserting is, we've already got one, it's already in place."
The state will seek its confirmation that the original injunction applies to the new order, Washington Solicitor General Noah Purcell said, in a response to the notice submitted by the Justice Department earlier this week regarding the issuance of the new executive order.
"The bottom line is that there still are a number of people in Washington who are harmed," Purcell said, regarding questions about whether the state continues to have legal standing to sue.
Ferguson dodged when asked if he would seek a contempt order if the Trump administration attempts to enforce the new order without permission from Robart.
"We're intensely focused on what's right before us," Ferguson said, noting that his lawyers were still working on Thursday's planned filing and adding that the state will be filing an amended complaint next week to address the changes in the new order.
"We've won in court, and the president has had to honor those defeats," Ferguson said, returning to his repeated statements that the case is about the rule of law. "You cannot tweet your way out of it."
Read Washington's response:
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
WASHINGTON — A lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday, asking the Alabama Bar to "determine whether he violated the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct" in his sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his contact with Russian officials.
"Mr. Sessions made false statements during sworn testimony on January 10, 2017, and in a subsequent written response to questions on January 17, 2017," the complaint alleges.
Christopher Anders, a lawyer with the ACLU in Washington, DC, filed the complaint, which asks the state's bar to investigate whether Sessions engaged in professional misconduct in the answers he gave to the committee regarding his contact with Russian officials.
The complaint points to two of Sessions' answers to the committee — the exchange he had with Sen. Al Franken about Russian communications during the campaign, and a written follow-up response to Sen. Patrick Leahy — as potentially violating the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct.
Following the revelation that Sessions had communications with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sessions announced that he would be recusing himself from any investigation relating to the 2016 presidential campaign.
On March 6, Sessions sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, supplementing his testimony — while maintaining that his initial answers were "correct."
The ACLU lawyer's complaint differed on that point, with Anders writing that "the report of the meetings between Mr. Sessions and the Russian ambassador does not square with Mr. Sessions' sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee."
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Two days after the country chose Donald Trump to be president, the GOP’s senior adviser to the chairman presided over a conference call for a group of black Republicans.
The message from Elroy Sailor was clear: Black conservatives were back. Then the senior adviser to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Sailor hurried excitedly through the basics of how they should navigate the transition. Where to be for meetings. How to apply for jobs. And he explained how, after eight long years in the wilderness, it was time to turn up and celebrate.
“Campaigning is actually easy, but governing is hard,” he said — before being interrupted. There was a message from the president-elect that couldn’t wait.
“Hey, Omarosa,” said Sailor, ceding the floor. “How are you?” Omarosa Manigault — gracious on the call, according to two people close to her — told black Republican leaders that the president-elect appreciated what black Republicans had done to help him win. Manigault said the president-elect had committed to creating the “most diverse” staff.
Sailor and Manigault hadn’t spoken in a while. Three black Republican sources familiar with the Trump campaign’s black outreach efforts and the RNC's own program, which was a longstanding project, described the relationship as doomed from the start. Manigault was privately frustrated with what she believed to be the RNC’s inability to reach black voters, and contended that any success the campaign had was theirs, not the party’s. She bristled at the idea of an obligation to black Republicans who she believed never took Trump seriously. Little during the campaign animated Manigault more than her desire to bring Trump to Howard University, a prestigious historically black university in the heart of Washington, D.C. When the plan fizzled amid a lack of interest and anti-Trump activism, she believed the Republicans held it up. “After that,” a source close to her said, “it was a wrap.”
Black conservatives have to wonder: Will that future, the thing they’ve been working toward for a long time, include them?
So when the bookish, bespectacled operative, one of the most respected black Republicans in the country, deferred to Manigault, a personally affable longtime Trump protégé catapulted into fame in the mid-2000s, it seemed to symbolize a new era: that black conservatives would likely be outsiders in a Republican administration.
Trump’s advisers brag that they envision more black, working-class voters supporting the president in 2020 on the strength of the economy (how race, criminal justice, and other issues factor into that vision remain to be seen). Even if the seemingly unlikely does happen, though, black conservatives have to wonder: Will that future, the thing they’ve been working toward for a long time, include them?
All of this — the people Trump already has around him, his deep trust of his own people, and their distrust of black Republicans — is limiting the black conservatives' plan to be a part of Trump’s movement and to grow their own.
“It’s insulting to black Republicans that someone like Donald Trump would get people off the street [to associate with],” said Donald Scoggins, a longtime Republican activist who likes to say his conservative bona fides go back to volunteering for Eisenhower. “These jackleg ministers don’t have any standing in the Republican Party. These are folks Trump has gotten to say, ‘We spoke to the black Republicans.’"
Black conservatives are hesitant to talk specifically about Manigault — who declined an interview for this story — or about how the changes in Washington affect them. Few endorsed Trump publicly during the campaign, with many choosing to stay out of the race or keep quiet for fear of reprisal — though some did support the Republican nominee.
Now that Trump's president, black Republicans hope to put their stamp on policy, fixing black communities by implementing long-championed conservative policies on issues like school choice, localized economic empowerment, and criminal justice. A plan to do this during a retreat at the Gloucester Institute in Central Virginia was postponed, but when it’s complete, it will be sent to Manigault. She also oversaw a convening of HBCU presidents, who participated in a listening session with Vice President Mike Pence, capped by a quick visit with Trump in the Oval Office.
At one juncture, he pointed his thumbs outward — one at Trump loyalist Lynne Patton, and the other at Manigault. “You talk to them,” the president said.
The reality is that if you are black, or concerned with issues affecting black America, with black politics, policy, or culture, Manigault is the person standing between you and the president of the United States.
Trump, in fact, said it himself. Last month at the White House’s African-American listening session, he listened to one person after another speak about their priorities. According to a source in the room, Trump twice asked people to follow up with Manigault. At one juncture, he pointed his thumbs outward — one at Trump loyalist Lynne Patton, and the other at Manigault. “You talk to them,” he said.
Trump holds an African American History Month listening session.
Michael Reynolds - Pool / Getty Images
It's not that black Republicans didn't make an effort, exactly, to get a seat at the table.
After eight years of the party out of power, black Republicans wanted to celebrate the new administration, to show that they at least were happy with the idea of President Trump, that they'd worked for his election — or at least for didn't stand in its way.
Two nights before the inauguration, Armstrong Williams, a close adviser to Dr. Ben Carson and a prominent black conservative, served as the emcee of a black-tie gala honoring several black Republicans. Amid crab cakes and Patrón and Grey Goose cocktails, a cover band played classic reggae tunes.
The applause came and went. Resplendent in his tuxedo, Carson spoke in proverbial terms flanked by his wife, Candy. “I spent my entire professional career fixing people, working very hard to give them a quality of life, and then you put them back into an environment that is not conducive to good health,” said Carson.
We need to think in a different way, said Carson, preaching now. “Success is not how many people we can put into public housing — it’s how many we can get out.” He drew loud cheers. Candy nudged him: She reminded him to tell everyone that he was going to embark on a listening tour. Carson lit up and dutifully obliged, starting his next statement as the adoring crowd yelled at cities to visit.
“I know they want to shake your hand and get a photo,” Williams said after Carson finished. Off mic, Carson said, “No problem.” Williams repeated that, and a woman shrieked. Carson was mobbed walking into another room.
But the inauguration week revelry wasn't quite the harbinger of greater things that some black Republicans had hoped. For one thing, Manigault didn't attend. Another party with boxer Floyd Mayweather, whose appearance some black Republicans had bragged about, was a flop. And Carson, though he is a cabinet secretary, isn't central to the White House's strategy.
The retired neurosurgeon's popularity is often held up as a signal of political potency and appeal of black conservatism, a movement that exists in a tough spot, between a party that often relegates black Republicans to the edges and sharp criticism from the other side. Black Americans are the most partisan group of voters in the country, with 94% voting for Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Black Republicans are a smaller group. Beginning most notably with the creation of the National Negro Republican Assembly, black Republicans have been openly critical of discrimination in their own party, including mounting public opposition to figures like Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act, and Richard Nixon, who some contend ran on a “Southern strategy” of capitalizing on Southern white voters alienated by civil rights laws and desegregation efforts. On the other side, black Republicans are faced with being labeled as a peculiar political species: as racial apologists making way for assimilationist policies that ignore the struggle for racial justice. Obama’s election only threw the black Republican narrative into sharper relief, with many notable black conservatives like Colin Powell breaking with the party to support Obama.
Then came Donald Trump.
From the start of his scorched-earth path to the presidency, Trump had no interest in running a conventional campaign. The campaign's black outreach annoyed black Republicans — mostly because Manigault did it her way, and was proud to.
The campaign looked past popular conservative black pastors with ties to the party when it was time to visit a black church, choosing instead a nonpolitical Detroit pastor who owned a fledgling media company for a well-executed visit and interview (privately, the execution earned praise from counterparts on the Clinton campaign). When Hillary Clinton’s campaign reached out to black civil rights groups and HBCUs, Trump viewed it as pandering; he hated it, preferring spontaneous, freewheeling mentions in his stump speeches (“Look at my African-American over here!”) and rants about how black Americans wanted jobs.
Still, despite their reservations, Trump seemed black Republicans' best bet at taking back — and gaining influence in — the White House. In fact, they saw Trump’s swashbuckling campaigning style and lack of policy experience as an opportunity; surely he’d need them. The GOP had launched the Republican Leadership Institute, which trained staffers to organize in battlegrounds. The GOP went to barbershops, seeking to establish relationships on the local level. But as Trump's campaign continued into the home stretch, some black GOP candidates equivocated on their party’s candidate.
It’s unclear what how deeply black Republicans’ flip-flopping on Trump during the campaign has affected their fortunes with him now.
But that concern was the subtext of a black GOP leaders call last month, three party leaders said. Sources who requested anonymity in order to speak openly about a private communication that was at times critical of the Trump administration, said that black Republicans voiced their feeling that the people who had worked for the party weren’t getting an opportunity to serve in the administration. One source said Dr. Alveda King, a stalwart conservative anti–abortion rights activist who is the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, asked how she could get to know Trump officials. (Someone must have been listening: She got her wish, touring the National Museum of African American History with Trump in February.) Another party leader, Dr. Ada Fisher, reportedly took issue with the fact that people who supported Trump weren’t being brought to the table. Meanwhile, frustrated operatives listened in as Sailor spoke about the importance of black Republicans creating their own agenda that they would then hand over to Manigault. “And there's your problem,” one said.
Manigault at an election-night party for Trump in Manhattan.
Dina Litovsky / Redux
Manigault is arguably — and unquestionably to her friends — one of the most memorable characters in American reality-television history. She has lived a life of reinvention. “I’m a moving target,” she told People in 2004. “As soon as they think they’ve figured Omarosa out, I’ve already moved on to a whole different industry.”
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Manigault attended Central State University in the 1990s, and would eventually become Miss Central State University. In her first stint in the Clinton White House, Manigault was deputy associate director of presidential personnel. After leaving the White House, she struck out on her own — and shortly after learned about a casting for a show with Donald Trump. Second to only the current president of the United States, no one who appeared on the show became more of a household name — even to people who didn’t watch The Apprentice — than Manigault.
But before and after her villainous turn on Season 1 of The Apprentice in 2004, Manigault moved from politics to television, from television to ministry, from ministry to television, and now back to politics.
She has lived a life of reinvention. “I’m a moving target,” she told People in 2004.
She’s said she received her call to ministry during a visit to West Africa, where she found herself alone with an orphan dying of AIDS. She was subsequently ordained as an assistant minister at the Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. She eventually met Oscar-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan, and the two were engaged before his death in 2012.
Manigault was a self-described “die-hard” Barack Obama supporter. “I don't really get involved in Donald Trump's politics,” she said during a 2013 appearance on The Breakfast Club, pressed on whether her mentor’s treatment of Obama had affected her. "If everybody who were employed by a CEO who disagreed with their politics quit their jobs, we'd all be on the unemployment line. That’s not my form of protest.”
Manigault got involved with Trump’s politics, though — these days, she’s a self-described “Trumplican.” Adept at helping people in and around the Trump campaign navigate Washington, she was named the Trump campaign’s black outreach director in July, on the eve of his nomination. Her name tended to be accompanied by discussion of one of two things: people’s surprise at her ease with her role, and her loyal streak that can border on vindication. Trump respects Manigault, and in turn, she will defend him to the exclusion of all else — a trait on display in recent tense, borderline-explosive interactions with the press. “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump,” she explained last summer on a PBS Frontline documentary. “It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”
On the night of Trump’s acceptance of the Republican nomination in Cleveland, with Christian Louboutin heels tucked away in favor of flat shoes, Manigault headed into a darkened bar in a shimmering dress and began dancing to cheers.
She had reinvented herself yet again.
Manigault appears at a press conference on Nov. 30, 2015, that followed Trump's meeting with black religious leaders in New York.
Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images
This month, Betsy DeVos met with Howard University President Wayne Frederick.
Two students from the school weren’t there — and though they weren't invited to the event, they offer a window into the kind of challenge black Republicans currently face.
Daisha Martin and Alexis Hasty were behind an effort to relaunch Howard’s College Republicans chapter last year. A Blavity story publicized their support of Trump, and backlash ensued. “I can see identifying with the Republican Party, but cannot imagine how any person of color, or how any woman can find a way to stand with Trump. Perhaps they should stay in college a little longer and learn that you can disassociate the two,” one commenter said. The pair was mocked inside black communities on Twitter.
The DeVos meeting — and the fact they were not invited — angered black Republicans. “Not a single Republican was in the room other than the secretary,” said Republican activist Ralph Chittams on his radio show. “What was taken into the room were a bunch of Democrats.”
"See what’s happening right now, ladies and gentlemen — and people need to understand this very clearly — is black Republicans and black conservatives are being frozen out of the Trump administration by Omarosa Manigault."