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Inside The Tense, Unusual HBCU–White House Relationship


Trump and Manigault-Newman last year.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Last year, Omarosa Manigault-Newman wanted Howard University — the historically black school known as “The Mecca” — to welcome Donald J. Trump.

The prospect of President Trump visiting Howard turned into a persistent rumor on campus last year, and a source of quiet activity. Howard’s student newspaper strongly opposed the idea. The RNC donated $2,000 to start a College Republican chapter at the school — but students couldn’t gather enough signatures. One source briefed on talks told BuzzFeed News that someone had proposed a town hall event in which Trump would answer questions, maybe with TV personality A.J. Calloway.

By September, though, time was running out: As a last-ditch effort, Manigault-Newman invited a handful of Howard students to Trump International, the DC hotel where the candidate planned to speak that day, according to a senior campaign staffer at the time and others familiar with the event.

She introduced the students to a series of Trumpworld figures like Katrina Pierson, and Steve Bannon, who looked “super stoked,” one person familiar with the meeting said, as Manigault-Newman explained that she was trying to bring Trump to Howard’s campus. The students also got the chance to shake the hand of Donald Trump himself.

This all happened on the day Trump said, without apologizing, after years of his birther crusade, that President Obama was born in the United States.

The plan for a Howard visit never got off the ground.

The ill-fated efforts to bring Trump to the school, though, were just the beginning in the complicated and increasingly tense relationship between this White House and the country’s historically black colleges and universities. The most pressing issue: a conference scheduled for September, just weeks after Trump seemed to defend a group of white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville by saying they had “very fine people” in their ranks.

After Trump’s response to Charlottesville, two prominent groups — the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund — have joined a black Democratic lawmaker in calling on the White House to postpone the annual conference put on every year by the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

The White House has refused to postpone the event. The conference is just one part of the traditional infrastructure between a White House and the schools. In recent days Manigault-Newman has “pushed hard” to name members to the president’s board of advisers on HBCUs, according to a person familiar with the planning.

Manigault-Newman in particular wants to serve as an organized, front-facing liaison between Trump and HBCU leaders. Historically black colleges and universities face a much more delicate and difficult balance: The schools depend on federal funding, while serving students and alumni who largely can’t stand the president. And that tension keeps intensifying.

School presidents reached for this story referred BuzzFeed News to a statement by Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund: “At a critical time in our nation, and in the spirit of unity among our HBCUs, we believe this postponement would allow us to work together to develop a common agenda that will serve the best interests of our HBCUs, and especially our students.”

Based on a half-dozen interviews with HBCU administrators and their close associates, HBCU presidents are trying to strike a balance that sacrifices neither the needs of their institutions nor the concerns of students, faculty, board members, and alumni — many of whom believe the president has compromised his moral authority on race. Complicating this calculation, one stakeholder said, is that an increasing number of students have come to these institutions galvanized by protest movements like Black Lives Matter and radicalized to the point of bewilderment that their leaders would choose to associate, in any way, with Donald Trump.

“HBCU presidents are in a really delicate position,” said Jarvis Stewart, a political strategist who has helped college presidents navigate Washington. “While many of them are in great need of financial and regulatory support from Washington, they are faced with the question of whether or not the president’s commitment to racial and social justice is aligned with the purpose and mission of their institutions.”

Stewart said he would advise HBCU presidents to be both united and clear about what their measurable outcomes are. “No more photo ops, no more delayed promises,” he said. “HBCU presidents must demand meaningful legislative and regulatory action now to help sustain their universities, otherwise their visit to Washington for the conference next month isn’t worth the trip."

In a lengthy interview with BuzzFeed News, Manigault-Newman said HBCU presidents concerned about what to expect from the conference could refer to language in the executive order Trump signed on Feb. 28: convening a meeting to promote “excellence, innovation and sustainability at historically black colleges and universities.”

Calling the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus out by name, she said requests to delay or cancel the event “are continuations of the ‘resist’ narrative that Cedric Richmond and the Congressional Black Caucus has advanced toward this administration, including their decision not to meet with the president and the administration for the next four years.”

Manigault-Newman, who declined to name the aide hired to run the White House Initiative on HBCUs from the White House, said officials want to make sure each institution “has a voice at the table” and are not left out of important decision making. “We've extended an invitation to all 106 presidents of HBCUs and members or chairs of their boards,” she said. “We expect that each institution will be represented.”

Manigault-Newman defended Trump’s support for HBCUs, citing his proposed education budget, which slashed nearly $10 billion in funds for the Education Department — or 13.5% — while funding for HBCUs was untouched.

“The previous administration was hostile toward the HBCU community,” said Manigault-Newman, citing cuts to year-round Pell grants and changes in the credit requirements for Parent PLUS loans that resulted in a decline of enrollment at HBCUs. “We’re still feeling the impact of those decisions on the HBCU community today.”

She continued, “Show us the photo of President Obama with all of the HBCU presidents. It does not exist. He never even tried in eight years to meet with every HBCU president at once.”

Meanwhile, at schools like Howard, students have expressed frustration that the school’s president, Wayne A.I. Frederick, met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“Trump has continuously shown where he stands on the issue of white supremacy, the most recent example being his egregious response to Charlottesville,” said Jason Ajiake, a Howard student and organizer with HUResist, a student-led group that has fiercely opposed Frederick and more recently taken umbrage at the school’s invitation of James Comey to speak at its convocation ceremony and be a guest lecturer. “There's really no reason to be there, and I think that if Frederick continues to work with the Trump administration in any capacity students will start to question both his principles and intentions, if they haven't already.”

The current situation follows a series of mishaps. Trump questioned the constitutionality of the Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program. There was a hastily planned photo op with Trump in the Oval Office (that “threw the day off” according to Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough, who declined an interview for this story). During that photo op, Trump referred to the school presidents as “you people” in the Oval Office. (The White House noted that the February photo op was optional and just one part of a two-day fly-in conducted in tandem with the UNCF and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.)

Some school presidents attended on the belief that Trump was going to add funding for HBCUs in his budget. “What comes to mind is the saying, ‘Fool me one time, shame on you. Fool me again, shame on me,’” according to a source who has spoken with board members and administrators about Trump. A president of a large HBCU in the Deep South confided to a Democratic source: “What do I have to lose if I don't go?”

“[The presidents] really do want to delay primarily because the pushback on campus will be great, particularly after Charlottesville,” said Dr. Andre Perry, a Brookings Institute fellow who specializes in education policy. “They would like to delay the meeting until the smoke clears.” But Perry said several are conflicted, also, because attending these types of meeting are “what they’re supposed to do.”

Perry said the presidents don’t want to touch the White House meeting, which is “in peril because of how toxic the environment has become and because Trump has not delivered from that first meeting.”

“So to go back in without any real indication that Trump can deliver is foolish,” he continued. “You want to be at the table, but [it’s not] what the clear agenda is,” he offered, assuming the voice of a leader of a school with angry students that could be struggling financially and is having difficult, institution-wide conversations about race stoked by Trump: “Is it just to meet?”

Republican Party Autopsy Author Goes Off On GOP As Trump’s DACA Decision Nears


President Trump

Pool / Getty Images

As President Donald Trump nears a decision on what to do with undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, Republicans will again face immigration policy issues with the immigration status of thousands with next year's mid-term elections in the mix.

Trump on Tuesday is expected to reveal what he will do with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, an Obama-era initiative that protects those immigrants from deportation. Politico, citing two unidentified sources, reported late Sunday that the White House is expected to end DACA but leave a window for the GOP-controlled Congress to take up the issue. (BuzzFeed News has not confirmed that, though.)

Just four years ago, building stronger relationships with Hispanic voters was among the key recommendations from the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project — better known as the “autopsy” following the party’s loss in the 2012 presidential election.

“If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence,” the autopsy concluded. “It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.”

Trump basically rejected the autopsy in total, campaigning on a tough anti-immigration platform that included a pledge to complete a border wall between the US and Mexico and saying, in his announcement speech, that Mexico was sending "rapists" to the US.

BuzzFeed News reached out to all five autopsy coauthors Friday with three questions:

What concerns, if any, you have for the future of the party should the president end DACA?

Do you believe doing so would run counter to your recommendations?

Do you have any other concerns about the president’s leadership with regard to recommendations from the Growth and Opportunity Project?

By Sunday evening, only one of the coauthors had responded: Sally Bradshaw, who was a top adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his unsuccessful campaign for last year’s Republican presidential nomination — and who has spent the time since that period offering increasingly and deeply critical assessments of Trump.

Bradshaw started with a reminder via email that she left the GOP last summer, after Trump’s nomination was secure. She wrote that she now has no party affiliation.

“Donald Trump is anti-woman, anti-Hispanic, anti-black, anti-anything that would bring the country together,” she responded when pressed further. “The only thing he is for is himself. Those in Republican leadership who have enabled his behavior by standing silent or making excuses for him deserve the reckoning that will eventually come for the GOP. It makes me terrifically sad to be honest — sad for the party of ideas that I supported for over 30 years — even more sad for the country and the fact that we can no longer have a credible and important debate about issues that will lead to problem solving. I am a conservative. But I can’t and won’t be a Republican as long as Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.”

Autopsy coauthors who did not respond: Henry Barbour, an RNC committeeman from Mississippi; former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; Zori Fonalledas, an RNC committeewoman from Puerto Rico; and Glenn McCall, an RNC committeeman from South Carolina.

Several prominent Republicans have expressed a desire to negotiate on DACA, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.

A RNC spokesperson declined to comment.

Why Does Trump Always Shoot The Hostages?


Trump poses with DREAMer activists in 2013.

Courtesy Estuardo Rodriguez

President Trump, cornered, weakened, and apparently unable to get his hands on the usual levers of presidential powers, has adopted pretty much the worst possible strategy for someone trying to wield the power of the most powerful job in the world: He’s shooting the hostages.

Trump can’t seem to get the hard stuff associated with the presidency done. He hasn’t been able to mount a legislative agenda or give federal employees (besides ICE agents and the occasional EPA regulator) the foggiest idea of what he wants them to do. Congress is beyond his control and doesn’t fear him: It slapped him in the face on Russia, and when his allies “burned the ships” to pass a health care bill, his confused conquistadors didn’t make it out.

His remaining political leverage has come largely from the policies left to him as hostages by President Barack Obama: the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and, most of all, DACA and the nearly 800,000 sympathetic young Americans it allows to live normal, and sometimes extraordinary, lives.

Trump's decision to simply kill those Obama-era acts, rather than to even attempt to use them as political leverage, helps explain the surprising weakness of his presidency. It's far from the only way he's frittered away his power. But if you are playing a weak political hand, hostages can be a source of enormous power. In the extreme case, it’s why we’re worried about Kim Jong Un. When you threaten to destroy something your political opponents desperately want to preserve, even your enemies will do a deal.

Trump’s former aide Steve Bannon saw this, and as Adrian Carrasquillo and Tarini Parti reported back in March, Bannon — a hard-line nationalist with no particular sympathy for the DREAMers — sought to use them as a bargaining chip. Bannon was telling associates until his firing last month that Trump could have signed off on legal status for DREAMers in exchange for an immigration bill that would have achieved the nationalists’ big policy goals: a smaller and better-educated annual intake of legal immigrants.

This would never have been easy. Grand immigration bargains eluded the last two presidents. But there’s really no sign Trump tried to make that deal, or that he would have known how.

The administration’s allies, who have sued to force a choice on whether or not to defend DACA, ultimately took this choice away from Trump. They have left him with the fairly ludicrous option of suggesting that he, Donald Trump, is simply too wedded to constitutional tradition to allow an executive order to reach into Congress’s role of setting immigration policy.

Now, if Trump kills DACA to please his base he’ll be getting the worst of both political worlds. He’ll inflict real pain on hundreds of thousands of people to reassure his 30-some percent that he’s with them. And politically speaking, he’ll have given up a bargaining chip for nothing, and spent away a bit more of his political capital. That's not strategy, it's a panicked move in a corner.

The power politics of this move would be hard to fathom. DACA recipients, their allies, and Americans who see their sympathetic stories across media will blame Trump for their suffering. (Trump will blame Congress.) If Congress manages to restore their status, it will be a deal made on Capitol Hill, with the president a sulking bystander. Power in Washington accumulates when you’re relevant; it slips away when you’re on the sideline.

But that move would be in line with the general trajectory of his presidency, which is aimed at finding the exact minimum of power an American president can exert. (Still a lot!)

Hostage-takers keep hostages alive in order to protect themselves, to get what they want out of a situation that has clearly gone rather wrong. They sometimes shoot them for the same reason Trump appears to be thinking about ending DACA: attention. Again and again, he’s faced choices between attention and power, between the reality show narrative and the complex realities of governance. He’s chosen attention every time, and there’s little reason to think that’s about to change.

Outside Your Bubble is a BuzzFeed News effort to bring you a diversity of thought and opinion from around the internet. If you don't see your viewpoint represented, contact the curator at bubble@buzzfeed.com. Click here for more on Outside Your Bubble.

LINK: How DACA Became An Orphan In Trump's White House

LINK: Trump Reportedly Could End DACA On Tuesday But There Are Still Unanswered Questions

Obama Calls Trump's Plan To Phase Out DACA "Cruel"


Former President Obama with former Vice President Joe Biden and Diana Calderon, a student who has benefited from DACA, in 2015.

Susan Walsh / AP

Former President Obama on Tuesday slammed plans to phase out deportation protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children "wrong," "self-defeating," and ultimately, "cruel."

"To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong," Obama wrote in a Facebook post hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. "It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel."

In June 2012, Obama used executive action to provide temporary protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. There are an estimated 800,000 DACA beneficiaries who are commonly referred to as "DREAMers."

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Obama acknowledged in his statement that while immigration can be a "controversial topic," all Americans "want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy" and can have "legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system."

"But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about," Obama wrote.

This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.

Obama went on to argue that dismantling DACA is "contrary to our spirit," and "to common sense." He urged members of Congress to protect DACA beneficiaries and disagreed with the Trump administration's claim that ending the program will provide more jobs for those in their age group.

"Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages," Obama wrote.

This is the second time the former president has released a statement since Trump took office in January – the first was to defend his signature Affordable Care Act.

"Ultimately," Obama wrote on Tuesday, "this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be."

He concluded his statement by saying being American isn't about "what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray," but instead, the belief that "all of us are created equal" and "deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will."

"That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union."

LINK: The Trump Administration Is "Rescinding" DACA

Mike Pence Will Skip A Big Michigan GOP Conference After All


Vice President Mike Pence

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence will skip a prime politicking opportunity this month in Michigan.

Sarah Anderson, a spokesperson for the Michigan Republican Party, told BuzzFeed News that Pence is not attending the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference — a huge gathering of top battleground state activists and power brokers that Pence had shown interest in joining.

“Unfortunately, the vice president has another commitment and will not be able to join us on the Island,” Anderson wrote in an email. She added that Pence never confirmed he would attend.

In the past, the biennial event at Mackinac Island’s historic Grand Hotel — set this year for Sept. 22–24 — has functioned as an audition stage for presidential hopefuls. The possibility of a Pence appearance surfaced this summer, around the time of a New York Times report that emphasized the vice president’s full schedule of political events in the context of a future White House bid, perhaps as soon as 2020. (“We hope he comes, but we don’t have anything confirmed yet,” Anderson told the Detroit News in early August.)

Other Republicans, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, were mentioned in the Times piece. But the focus on Pence’s activity raised eyebrows, given that President Donald Trump is up for reelection in 2020. Pence later forcefully denied that he was working to undermine Trump in any way.

“Just too much to do back in Washington,” a Pence adviser told BuzzFeed News when asked Tuesday about the Mackinac trip. “Particularly with disaster relief, debt ceiling, budget, tax reform, etc. … We look forward to helping the Michigan GOP and their gubernatorial and Senate nominees as we approach the 2018 elections."

Among those who will speak at the conference: Education Secretary (and Michigander) Betsy DeVos, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

Why Steve Bannon’s Next Act Revolves Around Alabama And The Religious Right


Mike Theiler / AFP / Getty Images

Steve Bannon is out of the White House, back at Breitbart, and out to assert his political authority once and for all. But his first target — this month’s Republican runoff in the Alabama special Senate election — is a weird fit.

First, Bannon and Breitbart, long used to pumping up underdogs, are going with the frontrunner: former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, the top vote-getter in the August primary and the leader in recent polls.

Second, Bannon and his news site — which has a slightly less heated, more complicated view of LGBT issues than some conservative outlets, and is infamous for stunts like attacking House Speaker Paul Ryan for sending his children to a religious school — have forged an odd-couple alliance with the religious right.

And then there’s the fact that the move seems grounded in trying to reestablish Breitbart and Bannon as a viable threat to the Republican establishment. Backing Moore bucks President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Sen. Luther Strange, the GOP establishment favorite who was appointed to the seat earlier this year.

A low-stakes Senate primary isn’t a place where the Breitbart can expect to reap millions of readers, but it does offer something else: The former White House strategist has set the groundwork to claim credit for a victory.

“The audience doesn't give two shits about Roy Moore versus Luther Strange,” said a former Breitbart employee who worked with Bannon. “There’s a very serious gap between what Bannon’s interests are and what Breitbart's interests are as a business and a site.”

While the contest is clearly a priority for Bannon, the former Breitbart employee said most regular national readers tend to care little about his pet races — preferring to click on tried-and-true conservative web content about issues like illegal immigration — and that if the site becomes too critical of Trump it risks alienating the audience. Despite Trump’s endorsement for Strange, Breitbart’s stories have painted Moore as the true champion of the president’s agenda.

“The audience likes Trump more than it likes Breitbart,” said the former employee.

Breitbart’s traffic in July dropped 32% from the year prior, according to comScore (an understandable dip after an election year, to be sure).

Still, the past few weeks have been reminiscent of Bannon’s Breitbart of yore — a crusading, unyielding site taking on the Republican establishment and championing candidates seeking to topple GOP incumbents. In classic Breitbart form, Bannon has dispatched bomb-throwing political writer Matt Boyle to Alabama to file a series of pieces in support of Moore.

Whether Breitbart — or really, any one site — be a difference maker in the race is more a source of skepticism. “This town has created a monster,” one Washington-based GOP operative told BuzzFeed News. “The way they write about him, it’s like he’s the second coming. But pick any random state, they don’t know who Steve Bannon is.”

But this is where Bannon wants to be.

“If he’s seen as the power outside manipulating events, then he’s a happy camper,” said the former Breitbart employee.

In an interview with CBS set to air in full on Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Bannon told Charlie Rose that his media image is “pretty accurate,” adding that he’s a “street fighter.” When Rose countered that Bannon is “more than that,” Bannon demurred. He said that his “purpose is to support Donald Trump” and “to make sure his enemies know that there's no free shot on goal.”

This is not the first time Breitbart and the religious right have found common cause or a common candidate, though they typically speak for different constituencies within the conservative movement. Breitbart’s no-holds-barred approach is more provocative, racially charged, and far less wholesome than the messaging strategies employed by evangelical groups. And the site’s piece last year shaming Ryan for sending his children to a Catholic school isn’t the kind of journalism that Christian conservatives generally endorse.

Indeed, Bannon told Rose that he disagreed with the Catholic Church’s position on DACA — attributing the church's more liberal immigration position to the "economic" interests of the church. "They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration. And as much as — as much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine," he said. "This is not doctrine at all."

But occasionally, there has been overlap in the objectives of Breitbart and the religious right.

“I remember the last time it happened: the Missouri Senate race in 2012,” said one Republican strategist watching the Alabama contest closely.

Todd Akin emerged from a competitive GOP primary with help from evangelicals and from Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, who highlighted his ultra-conservative views in an ad because she suspected he would be her weakest general election opponent. Sure enough, Akin’s campaign later imploded after he asserted in an interview that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.

The Republican establishment soon was walking sideways from Akin — but not Breitbart. “Mainstream Media Cover Akin's Gaffe Non-Stop But Ignore Biden's 'Chains' Blunder,” read one headline on the website. “It’s also worth noting that Akin likely meant ‘forcible rape’ when he said ‘legitimate rape,’” Breitbart’s John Nolte wrote in another piece. “He claims he misspoke, and it makes sense that what he meant was to exclude consensual sex that the law later qualifies as rape, such as statutory rape.”

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Stringer / Reuters

Akin is not a perfect comparison, though. Moore has a profile with national activists, thanks to his highly publicized court battles (over a statue of the Ten Commandments and federal court rulings on same-sex marriage). Despite Strange’s head start as the appointed incumbent, Moore didn’t start the primary season as a heavy underdog, and this is an intraparty primary, not a general election. And Akin was notably exposed as being not ready for prime time, whereas Moore has yet to inflict any real damage on his campaign.

The mutual allegiances in those previous races also were not part of any noticeably concerted effort.

Over the past several months, Breitbart has hardly said a critical word about the president. But the Alabama race might offer Bannon a case study in how far he can push Trump from outside the White House. Trump tweeted in support of Strange during the primary, but congratulated both Moore and Strange for heading into the runoff, calling it an “exciting race.”

For some conservatives who soured on the site as it became the mouthpiece of the Trump movement, the fact that Breitbart has veered from the president in the Alabama race offers renewed hope that it may in the future become more critical.

“I hope they will go back to where they were prior to becoming intimately associated with Trump,” said conservative talk show host Steve Deace, who called Moore a personal friend. “What’s pleasing about it is not so much that they weighed in for Judge Roy Moore, but that they did it at the expense of the candidate that was backed by Donald Trump.”

Conservative media members say they expect Bannon to use Breitbart’s platform pretty much as he already has — to attack his enemies in the White House, Mitch McConnell, and Ryan.

“If Moore wins, Steve can say that he was a difference maker, that this is a loss for the establishment, and reset his relationship with the president,” said Kurt Bardella, who until last year worked as a spokesperson for Breitbart News.

A spokesperson for Moore declined to comment. A spokesperson for Breitbart declined to comment.

The second Bannon era also may mark a shift for Breitbart. A few months ago, the site was seeking to more or less enter the mainstream media by way of securing permanent press credentials through the US Senate Daily Press Gallery, a board of correspondents that controls media access to Capitol Hill. After a months-long battle, Breitbart was ultimately denied press passes.

At the time, a person familiar with the matter told BuzzFeed News that winning congressional press passes was the first step to Breitbart’s ultimate goal of joining the White House Correspondents Association.

That’s a goal Bannon is unlikely to care about.

Trump Administration Sides With Baker In Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

In a surprise move, the Trump administration on Thursday sided with a Colorado bakery whose owner is arguing to the Supreme Court that he should not need to bake a cake for a same-sex couple when their ceremony violates his religious beliefs.

Colorado's public accommodation law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, and its courts have ruled that businesses catering to the public cannot discriminate against same-sex couples seeking services for weddings or other commitment ceremonies.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, however, is run by Jack Phillips, a man who incorporates his Christian faith into the way he runs his business. Baking a cake, which he maintains is a form of creative expression, for a same-sex couple would violate his religious beliefs and, as such, he has refused to do so.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against Phillips, as did Colorado courts, but the Supreme Court agreed this June to hear his case this fall.

On Thursday, in a filing at the high court, the Justice Department announced that it agrees with Masterpiece Cakeshop, arguing that it would create an "intrusion" on the First Amendment "where a public accommodations law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively, in a ceremony or other expressive event."

"Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights," the Justice Department lawyers, led by Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, wrote. Among other lawyers on the brief, Wall was joined by two other acting division heads: Chad Readler, leading the Civil Division, and John Gore, leading the Civil Rights Division.

In the brief, the Justice Department argues that "most applications of a public accommodations statute" are fine and do not raise the First Amendment concerns it discussed in Thursday's filing. However, reviewing the Supreme Court's decisions in cases involving a gay contingent seeking to participate in a group's St. Patrick's Day parade and a gay man who was rejected as a Boy Scouts leader, Justice Department lawyers argue there is an exception: "Heightened scrutiny [by courts] is appropriate at least where a law both compels the creation ... of speech or of a product or performance that is inherently communicative, and compels the creator’s participation in a ceremony or other expressive event."

One such circumstance, the brief goes on, is baking a wedding cake, and "Colorado cannot satisfy [heightened scrutiny] because it lacks a sufficient state interest to justify that intrusion on 'the core principle of speaker’s autonomy.'"

Specifically, the Justice Department argues, this is so because, while the Supreme Court has said that "'eradicating racial discrimination' in the private sphere is the most 'compelling' of interests," the high court "has not similarly held that classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to strict scrutiny."

The current case comes to the Supreme Court more than five years after the circumstances leading to the case took place.

In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins attempted to order a wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, but owner Jack Phillips declined, saying that it would violate his religious beliefs.

While it remains legal in many parts of the US to turn gay couples away from businesses, 21 states ban discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, including Colorado.

“I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings,” court records say Phillips told the men.

Represented by the ACLU, the couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found in 2014 that the baker ran afoul of a state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A Colorado appeals court upheld that decision, saying that if the baker “wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, [the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act] prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation.”

The court added that the law “does not impose burdens on religious conduct not imposed on secular conduct.”

Colorado's supreme court declined to take the case, which led to the request for the US Supreme Court to hear the case, which it agreed to do in June.

ACLU deputy director Louise Melling said in a statement on Thursday evening, “This brief was shocking, even for this administration. What the Trump Administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate.”

A Justice Department official told BuzzFeed News the agency chose to file in the case "because the First Amendment protects the right of free expression for all Americans."

“Although public-accommodations laws serve important purposes, they — like other laws — must yield to the individual freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees,” the official continued in a statement. “That includes the freedom not to create expression for ceremonies that violate one’s religious beliefs.”

Appeals Court Sides With Challengers Fighting To Keep Grandparents Exempt From Trump's Travel Ban


Zach Gibson / Getty Images

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling that grandparents and other family members, as well as would-be refugees who have received formal assurances of support from resettlement agencies, are not subject to President Trump's travel and refugee bans.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued the decision less than two weeks after hearing arguments on the questions in Seattle in late August.

The appeals court ruled that US District Judge Derrick Watson, in exempting those groups in question, "carefully and correctly balanced the hardships and the equitable considerations as directed by the Supreme Court" in a June order over Trump's executive order.

The Justice Department will be appealing the ruling, a spokesperson announced Thursday evening.

"The Supreme Court has stepped in to correct these lower courts before, and we will now return to the Supreme Court to vindicate the Executive Branch's duty to protect the Nation," Justice Department spokesperson Nicole Navas said in a statement.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, whose state brought the lawsuit before the Ninth Circuit challenging the executive order, said in a statement that the decision "keeps families together" and "gives vetted refugees a second chance."

"The Trump administration keeps taking actions with no legal basis," Chin said. "We will keep fighting back."

After courts had put the second travel and refugee bans on hold after Trump signed it in March, the Supreme Court allowed the bans to go into effect in part in late June. While it agreed to consider the legality and constitutionality of the bans in the fall, the justices allowed the bans to go into effect as to those with "no connection" to the US.

Specifically, the Supreme Court barred enforcement of the 90-day travel ban from six Muslim-majority countries or the 120-day halt to the US refugee program against those with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity.

The side-argument since — which was before the Ninth Circuit — was over what constitutes such a bona fide relationship.

When the federal government announced how it would be interpreting the ruling, Hawaii went back to court, eventually asking Watson to modify his injunction in the case to rule, effectively, that the Trump administration had interpreted the Supreme Court's "bona fide relationship" language too narrowly. He did so as to the two points on appeal at the Ninth Circuit — regarding the definition of family and whether resettlement agency assurances count as a sufficient connection.

The Justice Department has argued that the "close familial relationship" referenced by the Supreme Court as being the type of personal exemption only included "a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiancé(e), child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling (whether whole or half), and step relationships." Lawyers for Hawaii, which has challenged the executive orders, have argued that a more broad definition of family was intended — a point they say is accentuated by the fact that the Supreme Court's June order said that an American's mother-in-law "clearly" had a sufficient connection to be exempted from the ban.

The federal government also has argued that a resettlement agency assurances should not count as a sufficient connection because they are indirect — as they are made between the agency and the federal government — and, they say, such an interpretation would essentially render the Supreme Court's June order "meaningless" because it would allow so many refugees to continue traveling under the ban. The challengers, however, have argued that such arguments invent language not in the Supreme Court's order.

The Justice Department initially asked the Supreme Court to resolve the issue by clarifying its June order, but the court declined to do so. Instead, it put the resettlement agency portion of the order on hold pending the appeal to the Ninth Circuit. It took no action on the family portion of Watson's ruling — meaning that has been the policy since his ruling.

The Justice Department nonetheless appealed both portions of Watson's ruling, and the Ninth Circuit, on both points, sided with his ruling.

"The Government does not meaningfully argue how grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in- law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States can be considered to have 'no connection' to or 'lack any bona fide relationship' with persons in the United States," the court held in an unsigned opinion.

Regarding the resettlement agency question, the court did signal that it believed this was a closer question.

"We cannot say that the district court clearly erred in its factual findings or ultimately abused its discretion in holding that the written assurance an agency submits, obligating the agency to provide core services for the specific refugee(s) listed on the assurance form, meets the requirements set out by the Court," the court held. "Although the assurance is technically between the agency and the Government, the Government’s intermediary function does not diminish the bona fide relationship between the resettlement agency and the specific refugee covered by the assurance."

The court held that its ruling does not go into effect for five days — meaning the resettlement agency portion won't go into effect just yet, given the Supreme Court's earlier ruling putting that part of Watson's order on hold.

The Justice Department could seek Supreme Court review in that time.

The DNC Begins Cybersecurity Effort To Try To Make Sure 2016 Doesn’t Happen Again


Alex Brandon / AP

On his second day at Democratic National Committee, sitting in a meeting at the party’s headquarters south of Capitol Hill, Raffi Krikorian looked around the room and realized he was the only technology staffer at the table.

For the DNC’s new chief technology officer — now six weeks into his first job in politics after working at Silicon Valley companies like Uber and Twitter — that’s what had to change to prevent the kind of hacks that upended last year’s presidential election.

He wants the technology team everywhere. (“My end goal is how do we get to a world where there is no one reporting to the CTO anymore.”) He wants a steady, endless trickle of education about cybersecurity. (“It has to be part of on-boarding. It has to be part of every conversation, every time we have a meeting.”) He wants regular phishing email drills, for the party’s lowest-level staffers up to the chair. (“There's literally a simulated phishing attack on the DNC right now. We started about an hour ago.”)

It’s about a “culture change inside the building” — to “get everyone’s guard up” and create an instinctive, daily cybersecurity reflex. “If you see something say something,” Krikorian said in an interview. “Our electronic landscape is not a friendly landscape.”

Krikorian, 39, said he felt his “continuous poking and prodding” was starting to work when the chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, walked into the CTO’s office one day and announced that he had downloaded the encrypted messaging app, Signal.

“I thought, ‘Thank god.’ If the chair is proactively doing that, then we're making this culture change inside the building of just even thinking about these problems.”

Later, Perez stood up at an all-staff meeting and told aides, “‘If you guys talk to me, you’re going to use Signal,’” Krikorian recalled. “Just getting that into the ethos of the DNC is a big win.”

Krikorian, who ran Uber’s self-driving cars program after serving as Twitter’s vice president of engineering, has instructed staffers at the DNC to use Signal instead of SMS until he and other recent hires on his team finish a weeks-long internal review of the party’s technology and security needs, including a more standardized move to encrypted chat-based messaging that could extend beyond the building to local state parties. That assessment will conclude “pretty soon,” he said, but declined to elaborate on timing.

The review, Krikorian’s “top-of-mind” priority, will determine whether the DNC will follow the other major Democratic committees to the secure workplace messaging app called Wickr, which offers what’s known as end-to-end encryption for chat, voice and video communication, and file exchanges. End-to-end encryption, meant to make messages indecipherable to third parties, is increasingly seen as a necessary security measure for political campaigns and committees on both sides after the sweep of devastating cyberattacks that tore across the Democratic Party in 2016, hitting the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

In June, the DCCC became the first known party committee on either side of the partisan divide to transition to an end-to-end encrypted messaging platform. The committee, charged with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives, has been using Wickr to communicate internally and with staff and consultants working on 20 of its most critical campaigns, vulnerable incumbents called “Frontline Democrats.”

DCCC officials have also encouraged the party’s three other main committees — the DNC, the Democratic Governors Association, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — to use Wickr as well, according to an operative briefed by the DCCC.

The move would put every major arm of the national party on the same platform.

Two of the other committees, the DGA and the DSCC, recently became customers of Wickr, a spokesman for the technology company said on Thursday. (The DGA, the entity focused on Democratic gubernatorial candidates, confirmed the decision. Its U.S. Senate counterpart, the DSCC, did not respond to a request for comment. Both are listed on Wickr’s website as clients, along with the DCCC.)

The new arrangement makes the DNC the only party committee on the Democratic side not yet on Wickr. Krikorian said the DNC is “currently evaluating” Wickr as part of its ongoing internal review, along with other apps, which he declined to list in full.

“I would absolutely agree: If we're all on the same platform it would make it a lot easier for all of us,” Krikorian said. “But at the same time, I want to do an honest assessment from the DNC side, considering that all the state parties are looking to us for advice, so I just want to do a real technical assessment before we release our recommendations.”

After the assessment ends, the DNC will “convene” the party’s various committees "when we feel we know what we want to go do, and then we should talk about it,” he said. “We’ll figure it all out together.” (The other groups have already made something of a commitment to Wickr. The program, designed as a collaborative software for offices, is a paid service.)

“I personally want to make sure the most technically secure platform we can find, but I am also aware of the fact that security and usability have trade-offs,” he said. “If it's a serious pain in the ass to use, no one's actually gonna use it. I want to get people on the right platform that we want to commit to for years.”

DNC officials have maintained their relationship with Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity firm retained during the hack last summer, according to a person familiar with the arrangement.

Krikorian casts his ongoing review as part an initial push to “right the ship with security.” In the short-term, he said, it’s about the “low-hanging fruit”: better and more frequent cybersecurity education, simulated phishing attacks, two-step verification, moving the office’s email management to cloud services, assessing their threat model.

“The best thing that you can do on the tech side,” he said, is “just trying to understand a priori what your weaknesses might be — what the next weakest link in the chain is, so you can start shoring up.” Last year, it was phishing attacks. “So we're working on that,” he said, “and we'll keep on going.”

To do that, Krikorian has made a number of initial hires from Silicon Valley, including Uber’s former program manager for the self-driving cars team, Pam Cardona; Twitter’s former lead software engineer, Jeremy Cloud, and former abuse and internal tools lead, Peter Seibel; the former CTO for the digital company Safari Books, Liza Daly; and two lead engineers from last year’s Clinton campaign, Trisha Quan and Felicity Pereyra.

The party’s security efforts will ultimately extend beyond the DNC itself “to everything and anything that potentially touches us,” according to Krikorian, including state parties. He plans to create a tech help-line for candidates and is also considering “some mass-buys” of technology to provide to candidates and parties outside Washington.

One year after the DNC email hack — a cyberattack that revealed an unfair bias against Bernie Sanders and made the party committee a source of fierce dissatisfaction and distrust among progressives — Krikorian is also hoping for a larger culture change inside headquarters. “You have to remember, it's also very popular from the outside to sort of shit on the DNC. That's a common thing to do,” he said. “When I walked in and found demoralized people on the technology team, you talked to them for a while and then you realize that people that still believe in it didn't choose to jump ship.”

“The mood is changing in the building,” added Krikorian. (The engineer made the leap to Washington, he said, because “I believe in a lot of the ideals of Democrats.”)

Krikorian in 2016 when he was with Uber.

Afp / AFP / Getty Images

Under Krikorian, the new emphasis on security at the DNC, mirrored at other party entities, puts politics-at-large in the cross-section of a long-running and tangled debate over privacy, tech, and security — one that doesn’t adhere to typical partisan lines.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, emerged as the staunchest opponent of encryption last year when the FBI sought access to encrypted data on the Apple device used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack. (Apple refused, setting off a court battle.) Feinstein, who introduced legislation with Republican Sen. Richard Burr that would require tech companies to decrypt data in such cases, suggested this spring that she will restart that effort in Congress. The legislation would be aimed at the same end-to-end encryption technology that is now being adopted inside her own party.

Neither Feinstein’s office, nor Burr’s, provided a comment when asked last month about the recent move by parties and campaigns to rely on encrypted messaging software.

Krikorian’s own position is clear. “My personal belief is that everyone has the right to encrypted communication. I totally understand that not a lot of people are in the same mindset,” he said. “I'm definitely curious how this space plays out over the next few years.”

While Republicans grapple with similar security questions, Krikorian said there has been no “explicit” contact or collaboration between the DNC and the Republican National Committee. He signaled an openness to some kind of partnership, citing practices across company lines in Silicon Valley. Amid security threats at Twitter, he said, “we would always jump on an IRC [Internet Relay Chat] channel with a whole bunch of other tech companies to do coordination there, so this model is tried and proven.”

A spokesman for the RNC did not respond to a question about whether the party would be open to a potential collaboration.

The DNC’s CTO said he has been in contact with Defend Digital Democracy, a new nonpartisan cybersecurity project at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, focused on preventing foreign-sponsored hacking. The group, founded in July under two former campaign managers, Clinton’s Robby Mook and Mitt Romney’s Matt Rhoades, could serve as a meeting point for Democrats and Republicans.

According to an internal July memo, Defending Digital Democracy is planning to develop a cybersecurity “playbook” for campaigns and parties at all levels, a training program, a security audit for political vendors, and a system in which a campaign or party could “partner with the private sector and government” to help respond to a security breach. (The Harvard group is also looking to recruit former Homeland Security and National Security Agency officials for a potential “technical advisory board,” as well as representatives from Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the memo says.)

At the DNC, broader tech efforts will also be under Krikorian’s jurisdiction. The central Democratic committee plays no formal role in campaigns outside the presidential election every four years, but DNC officials said the new engineers and data scientists on Krikorian’s team are looking to “reboot” the party’s data infrastructure, starting with an effort to help Democrats’ most crucial campaign this year, the gubernatorial race in Virginia. There are also plans to “upgrade” fundraising tools to free up campaigns’ time elsewhere, and set a higher bar for Democratic vendors when it comes to performance.

With the presidential race already underway — Democrats have one declared candidate, Maryland Rep. John Delaney — the DNC is also sorting out its role in securing fledgling campaigns. (One early phishing email could infiltrate an entire campaign months before it becomes a full operation with established password standards or retention policies.)

Krikorian said the DNC hopes to serve as a cybersecurity resource for all Democrats, including on presidential campaigns, but has not released guidelines yet.

“I would love us to get to the point where if people have technology or security questions, they consider calling the DNC first and we help them out,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kevin Collier

Lawyers Ask The Supreme Court To Rule On Whether Existing Civil Rights Laws Cover Anti-Gay Discrimination


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Advocates are hoping the Supreme Court is ready to consider and rule on whether federal civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from being discriminated against on the job.

Jameka Evans, a lesbian who worked as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital, has sued over her treatment there — and asked the courts to allow her to bring her claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law, among other things, bans sex discrimination in the workplace, and Evans says that sex discrimination, by definition, includes discrimination based on sexual orientation.

She is not alone in this view. Multiple federal appeals courts have either ruled on the issue or will hear arguments on the question out of cases raising the question in recent years.

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, sitting as a full court (called en banc), ruled in April that Title VII's sex discrimination ban includes sexual orientation discrimination claims. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced its view in support of this position in 2015 and has argued that position in courts since then.

The Second Circuit, also en banc, is due to hold arguments in a case raising a similar question later this month.

The Eleventh Circuit, where Evans's case was heard, ruled against her earlier this year in a three-judge panel decision that cited a 1979 ruling from the appeals court on the question. The judges wrote that the earlier decision, which held that Title VII's sex discrimination ban does not include sexual orientation, "is binding precedent that has not been overruled by a clearly contrary opinion of the Supreme Court or of this Court sitting en banc."

The full appeals court, however, declined to hear the case en banc — a move that led to Thursday's filing at the Supreme Court.

In the petition seeking Supreme Court review, Evans' lawyers — led by Gregory Nevins at Lambda Legal, an LGBT advocacy group, and joined by Jeffrey Fisher and Pamela Karlan from Stanford Law School and other Lambda Legal lawyers — argue that the high court should take the case primarily because lower courts and federal agencies are divided on the question and the issue is "exceptionally important."

Additionally, they argue that the case is an "ideal vehicle" for the Supreme Court to use to answer the question definitively and, bluntly, that "[t]he Eleventh Circuit's decision is wrong."

The case comes to the justices less than a month before they are to return from their summer recess and less than eight months into the Trump presidency — two facts likely weighing heavily on the lawyers' minds.

Just hours after the filing, the Trump administration would file a brief in another case in which the Justice Department sided with a baker arguing that the First Amendment protects him from having to, under Colorado civil rights laws, bake a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding.

The filing also comes as many liberal lawyers remain concerned about whether and when Justice Anthony Kennedy, at 81, might retire from the court. Kennedy is the author of the four major gay rights rulings from the Supreme Court over the past 21 years — all of which, in other words, came long after that 1979 ruling from the Eleventh Circuit that sexual orientation discrimination isn't covered by sex discrimination bans.

Judge Refuses To Dismiss States' Immigration Action Challenge, Even After DACA End Announced


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The federal judge hearing the lawsuit brought by Texas and others states against President Obama's 2014 immigration executive actions issued an order Friday refusing to allow the case to be dismissed — a move the states themselves requested.

The unusual order was just the latest twist from US District Judge Andrew Hanen, the federal judge overseeing the case. Hanen has been a harsh critic of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the 2014 executive order. He also notably ordered Justice Department lawyers to take ethics training during the course of the litigation.

The ruling keeps the case alive for now, although it was not immediately clear whether the order would have any long-term effect beyond requiring the states either to file a "different form of dismissal motion" or appeal his ruling.

A spokesperson for the Texas Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the states' next steps.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced an end to DAPA and the expanded DACA program, but said the original DACA program would continue. In response, some of the states involved in the suit over the 2014 actions, led by Texas, threatened to amend the lawsuit to sue the Trump administration over the original 2012 DACA order if Trump did not announce an end to it by Sept. 5.

After the president and Department of Homeland Security announced that they are rescinding the initial 2012 DACA program on Sept. 5, however, the states filed a "notice of voluntary dismissal" in the case later that same day.

"Given these memoranda rescinding the DAPA program and phasing out the DACA and Expanded DACA programs, Plaintiffs file this notice voluntarily dismissing this action," the notice stated.

Although the dismissal is to be effective without a further court order under the federal rule noted by the states, Hanen issued the Friday order to announce his holding that the states could not, procedurally, file such a notice.

Finding the rule cited by the state "to be inapplicable" given the "lengthy history of protracted litigation on the merits" and intervention ordered of a party by the courts, Hanen wrote that he "holds the States’ Notice of Dismissal to be ineffective."

Hanen went on to note that the order did not "presage" a ruling "should a different form of dismissal motion be filed," however, suggesting the parties to "file such a motion" including "a proposed order" — suggesting a portion of the federal rules that would require the court to approve the dismissal.

Black Lawmakers Want Colin Kaepernick To Attend Their Annual Conference


A protest last month in New York City over Kaepernick's situation.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

When the top black lawmakers and operatives in America meet later this month at an annual, days-long conference in Washington, they want Colin Kaepernick there, too.

The chatter in the lead up to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference in two weeks is that there's a plan in place for Kaepernick to be involved somehow, a half-dozen independent sources told BuzzFeed News.

Both Kaepernick and the CBC find themselves in an entirely different position than just a year ago: The now former NFL quarterback has become a political cause and lightning storm, while some CBC members like Rep. Maxine Waters have also moved to the forefront of national politics in the Trump era.

The sources had no knowledge of whether an agreement had been reached. A representative for Kaepernick did not respond to a request for comment.

The political environment is a complicated one for black lawmakers, who’ve emphasized taking on the president and by-and-large see a racial dynamic in the national news worth addressing: Just in the last month, there’s been the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Trump’s controversial responses to the violent events there, and the apparent police profiling of a well-known NFL star. All the while, the apparent refusal by NFL owners to even hire Kaepernick as a back-up QB has become an activist cause — organizers involved in the winter’s Women’s March recently sent a set of demands to the NFL over the issue.

Congressional Black Caucus chair Cedric Richmond said in July that Kaepernick had “superior talent” than players currently on teams and was simply exercising his first amendment right. “I think it's unfair,” Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, told TMZ Sports. “I think that he has a lot of talent. He was the starting QB in the Super Bowl and he's a great athlete. And the fact that he spoke up means he's a great person and he spoke his conscience. And I don't think we should penalize people in this country for doing that.”

And now the CBC annual conference is approaching in a much different landscape than last year when Barack Obama delivered an impassioned endorsement of Hillary Clinton. (A foundation spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email asking whether Trump had an invitation to speak this year.) The priorities this year look more like: getting back some of the progressives and young voters who didn’t show up to vote last year, and opposing Trump’s agenda on matters including Obama-era criminal justice guidance.

“It has to be a collective meeting of the minds of first-time Obama voters, progressives, and younger folks, and more,” a Democratic strategist close to the CBC told BuzzFeed News. “We need that coalition [because] if you look what happened [in 2016], we lost some people. We’re not at a place where we can afford to have different segments and especially. So the message at ALC is unity and the need that everyone is active collectively and has a central role to play.”

Hillary Clinton Says She “Really Struggled” After Trump Won


Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton didn’t have a firm answer to the first question she answered in a new TV interview: how are you?

“I think I am good,” she told CBS’ Jane Pauley in an interview that aired Sunday morning. “But that doesn't mean that I am complacent or resolved about what happened.

"It still is very painful," she said. "It hurts a lot.”

The interview comes as Clinton prepares to embark on a tour for her new book on the 2016 presidential election, What Happened. The 2016 Democratic nominee is still working over how she lost to Donald Trump, and is still defending some of the roundly criticized steps she took in her campaign.

Clinton gave a familiar defense for why she said in early September last year that “you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables”

“Well, I thought Trump was behaving in a deplorable manner,” she told Pauley. “I thought a lot of his appeals to voters were deplorable. I thought his behavior as we saw on the Access Hollywood tape was deplorable.

"And there were a large number of people who didn't care. It did not matter to them. And he turned out to be a very effective reality TV star," she said.

In fact, the Access Hollywood tape, which showed Trump in 2005 bragging about how his celebrity status allowed him to grope women, was not made public until a month after Clinton’s “deplorable” remarks.

Clinton would not concede that her comment “energized” Trump’s supporters.

“They were already energized,” she told Pauley.

Asked if she offended some people with the comment, Clinton said, “I don't buy that."

"I'm sorry I gave him a political gift of any kind," she said, adding that the "gift" was not politically “determinative.”

She did say that “the most important of the mistakes” she made was using personal email. But she pegged the problem to how it was explained to voters.

“I've said it before, I'll say it again, that was my responsibility. It was presented in such a really negative way, and I never could get out from under it. And it never stopped.”

And she said former FBI director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress that there were potentially new developments into the bureau's investigation into her email use over a week before the election “just stopped my momentum.”

“At the same time [Comey] does that about a closed investigation, there's an open investigation into the Trump campaign and their connections with Russia. You never hear a word about it. And when asked later, he goes, ‘Well, it was too close to the election.’ Now, help me make sense of that,” Clinton said. “I can't understand it.”

Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images

Clinton told Pauley that Trump’s win took her by complete surprise. "I felt like I had let everybody down," she said.

She said she “had not drafted a concession speech. I'd been working on a victory speech."

“I just felt this enormous letdown, this kind of loss of feeling and direction and sadness. And, you know, Bill just kept saying, ‘Oh, you know, that was a terrific speech,’ trying to just kinda bolster me a little bit.

"Off I went, into a frenzy of closet cleaning, and long walks in the woods, playing with my dogs, and, yoga, alternate nostril breathing, which I highly recommend, trying to calm myself down. And, you know, my share of Chardonnay. It was a very hard transition. I really struggled. I couldn't feel, I couldn't think. I was just gob-smacked, wiped out.”

Clinton, who said she knew she would have to “work extra hard” during the campaign “to make women and men feel comfortable with the idea of a woman president,” gave Trump credit for his own campaign messaging.

“He was quite successful in referencing a nostalgia that would give hope, comfort, settle grievances for millions of people who were upset about gains made by others,” she said.”

Asked by Pauley if she meant “millions of white people,” Clinton agreed: “Millions of white people, yeah, millions of white people.”

At the end of the interview, Clinton said that she will never run for office again.

“I am done with being a candidate,” she said. “But I am not done with politics because I literally believe that our country's future is at stake.”

A Harlem Republican Is Mulling A Bid For US Senate In 2018


Gillibrand speaks at a conference last year.

Ben Hider / Getty Images

John Burnett, a Harlem Republican who ran for New York City comptroller in 2013, and was a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention, is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2018, he told BuzzFeed News.

Burnett is weighing whether to join a Senate primary for the chance to try and unseat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is considered to be a possible Democratic presidential contender in 2020, but has said she plans on running to keep her Senate seat and staying there. Any Republican challenger to her Senate seat would face a highly challenging race: She won re-election in 2012 with 72% of the vote in blue New York.

The Cornell grad and businessman said he began to think about it when a friend “strongly encouraged” him to consider a run, and now he's wondering if there's a path to victory and if can raise the money. “An ordinary candidate is not going to drive the numbers to the polls that are necessary to win,” he said. “Especially, downstate in New York City, where Republicans are outnumbered 7 to 1. The ideal candidate has to appeal to crossover voters and independents.”

Burnett, who is an adviser to the New York Republican Party, ran unopposed in the 2013 Republican primary for New York City comptroller. He was crushed by Scott Stringer in the general election, garnering just 16% of the vote.

That doesn't mean he doesn't think he’s got what it takes for 2018, though. “The ideal candidate,” he said, “should have a diverse background and experiences coupled with the ability to serve all by finding common ground.”

And you don’t need to have a track-record of electoral success to find your way to the GOP nomination in New York. The same candidate who Gillibrand defeated in 2012 was the GOP nominee to run against Sen. Chuck Schumer in 2016. The candidate, Wendy Long, found a nearly identical result.

Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court To Stop Refugee Ban Ruling From Going Into Effect


Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to stop part of an appeals court ruling from going into effect that would limit enforcement of President Trump's refugee ban.

The ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, issued Sept. 7, would exempt refugees who have received assurances of support from resettlement agencies from the ban.

That ruling upheld a district court's modified injunction against enforcing parts of Trump's March 6 executive order. The district court also found that "grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in- law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States" count as "close familial relationships" exempted from the travel ban. The Trump administration had fought for a more narrow definition, but the 9th Circuit upheld that ruling as well.

Notably, the Justice Department is not asking the Supreme Court to halt that more broad definition of a "close familial relationship."

By way of explaining the Justice Department's different treatment of the rulings, lawyers noted in Monday's filing that "the government already has been applying the lower courts’ reading of close family members, whereas the Ninth Circuit’s refugee-assurance ruling would upend the status quo and do far greater harm to the national interest."

Absent Supreme Court action, the 9th Circuit's decision was due to go into effect Tuesday. However, shortly after the filing, Justice Anthony Kennedy put the 9th Circuit ruling on hold "with respect to refugees covered by a formal assurance" pending a response by noon Tuesday from Hawaii, which brought the lawsuit against the executive order, and a further order from Kennedy or the full court.

The moves over the scope of the injunction against Trump's travel and refugee bans have taken place even as the 90-day ban on travel from six Muslim-majority nations and 120-day halt to the refugee program took effect — with exemptions, under a Supreme Court order, for those with a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship" to a US person or entity.

The debates here, now before the Supreme Court, have centered around what constitutes such a "bona fide relationship."

The justices already have agreed to hear the government's appeal of the challenges to the legality and constitutionality of the executive order itself. Those arguments are set for Oct. 10.

Under the terms of Trump's order, the 90-day travel ban would end before the arguments even happen — on Sept. 27. The refugee ban would still be active, but for less than another 20 days — ending Oct. 27. It is not yet clear what effect, if any, that will have on the Supreme Court's consideration of the case.

Read the filing:

The order from Justice Anthony Kennedy:

The order from Justice Anthony Kennedy:

Supreme Court Allows Trump Administration To Block Refugees With Resettlement Agency Assurances


Eric Thayer / Getty Images

The Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to keep blocking a large group of would-be refugees from entering the US during the 120-day halt to the refugee program under President Trump's travel ban executive order.

Hawaii had successfully argued to lower courts that the group of approximately 24,000 people — would-be refugees who have received assurances of support from resettlement agencies — were the type of people intended to be exempt from President Trump's travel and refugee ban under a June order from the Supreme Court.

The justices exempted those with a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship" to a US person or entity from the refugee ban, which affects those from anywhere in the world, and the 90-day travel ban from six Muslim-majority countries.

The fight between the government and lawyers for Hawaii, which is challenging the executive order, over the summer has focused on what constitutes a "bona fide relationship."

On Monday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to stay the part of an order from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that would have allowed would-be refugees with assurances to travel to the US during the refugee ban, which is slated to end Oct. 27 under the terms of the executive order. The Justice Department has stated that approximately 24,000 refugees have such assurances currently.

Hawaii opposed the request, but the court granted the stay in a one-sentence order on Tuesday afternoon.

The justices are due to hear arguments over the legality and constitutionality of Trump's executive order on Oct. 10, in the second week of the court's new term.

Trump’s Personal Lawyer To Meet With Senate Next Week


Stephanie Keith / Reuters

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and confidant, Michael Cohen, is scheduled to speak next week with investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting.

Cohen has been subpoenaed by lawmakers investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. He is expected to speak with investigators on Sept. 19. That hearing will not be open to the public.

Cohen, 51, emerged as an important figure in the investigation after he was named in a 35-page dossier alleging Russia and the campaign worked together to help get Trump elected. That document was researched and written by a former British spy and published by BuzzFeed News in January after top law enforcement officials had briefed President Barack Obama and Trump, who was then president-elect, about it. The dossier asserted that Cohen visited Prague to meet with Kremlin officials and was an important player in the “ongoing secret liaison relationship” between Russia and the campaign.

Cohen called these claims “profoundly wrong” in a letter sent last month to lawmakers. His passport, which he showed to BuzzFeed News, had no stamps from the Czech Republic. He later told lawmakers that was his only passport.

Cohen urged congressional investigators to “discern and publicly disclose” those who paid for the dossier, and that he has no documents tying him to any of the allegations.

Reached late Tuesday by BuzzFeed News, Cohen declined to comment.

The Trump Organization has turned over documents to congressional investigators, including an email in which Cohen asked a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin for help advancing a Trump business project. In another email, a business associate boasted to Cohen that he would help get Trump elected and that he could get “all of Putin’s team to buy in on this.”

Cohen has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee as well, and has offered up several dates. So far, no date has been set, and the committee continues to suffer partisan infighting.

Trump Administration Launches Broad New Anti-Leak Program


Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

The top US national security official has directed government departments and agencies to warn employees across the entire federal government next week about the dangers and consequences of leaking even unclassified information.

The Trump administration has already promised an aggressive crackdown on anyone who leaks classified information. The latest move is a dramatic step that could greatly expand what type of leaks are under scrutiny and who will be scrutinized.

In the memo about leaks that was subsequently obtained by BuzzFeed News, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster details a request that “every Federal Government department and agency” hold a one-hour training next week on “unauthorized disclosures” — of classified and certain unclassified information.

The request includes “[s]uggested training materials” — provided by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center — that include the 15-minute C-SPAN video of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ August news conference about leaks and a six-minute Fox News video of an interview with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center’s director, William Evanina.

White House and National Security Council officials did not respond to requests for comment on the memo on Wednesday.

Last month, Sessions said his department was pursuing a number of leak investigations, and that the FBI had created a unit to deal with leaks of classified information. “We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country any longer,” he said in the August press conference.

The memo, dated Sept. 8, signals a potentially dramatic expansion of the previous administration’s war on leaks. The Obama administration moves focused on alleged national security leaks and “insider threats” — an effort centered around the intelligence agencies under an October 2011 executive order from President Obama. Those investigations — and in some cases, prosecutions — were widely criticized, particularly in the media.

McMaster’s memo is directed to a much larger group, including virtually every senior official in the federal government — from the vice president and cabinet heads to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the director of the Peace Corps. Perhaps more importantly, the memo asserts that “unauthorized disclosure” of both classified and “controlled unclassified” information “causes harm to our Nation and shakes the confidence of the American people.”

The McMaster memorandum itself likely would be seen as a type of such a “controlled unclassified” document, as it is marked: “UNCLASSIFIED//FOUO [For Official Use Only].”

The first year of the Trump administration has been characterized by leaks at all levels, a source of considerable public criticism from the president himself. Axios reported Sept. 10 that Sessions has suggested employing lie detector tests in at least one leak investigation.

In the memo, McMaster requests that every government department and agency “dedicate a 1-hour, organization-wide event to engage their workforce in a discussion on the importance of protecting classified and uncontrolled unclassified information.” Although issued as a request, the memo later notes, “In order to ensure a consistent and strong message is given to the entire federal workforce, such training should occur the week of September 18-22, 2017.”

Planning is taking place to hold the trainings, one department confirmed Wednesday. Although a date has not yet been set, Education Department press secretary Liz Hill told BuzzFeed News, “The Department has received the White House Memorandum dated September 8 from General McMaster, and it intends to comply.”

While highlighting concerns regarding unauthorized disclosures of classified information, McMaster also writes regarding the trainings that “it is equally important to discuss the importance of protecting controlled unclassified and personally identifiable information from unauthorized public disclosure.”

In addition to the videos, which would constitute about one-third of the training time, the training draft schedule from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center includes discussion from “Department/Agency leads” on the differences between espionage, “unauthorized disclosures (of classified information),” “leaks (to the media),” hackers and whistleblowing. There also is to be a discussion of “[d]amage to national security, to the organization, to the American public,” “[p]enalties for unauthorized classified disclosures,” and “[a] specific case, if possible in this particular D[epartment]/A[gency].”

The full text of the memo:

Memorandum for the Vice President

The Secretary of State

The Secretary of the Treasury

The Secretary of Defense

The Attorney General

The Secretary of the Interior

The Secretary of Agriculture

The Secretary of Commerce

The Secretary of Labor

The Secretary of Health and Human Services

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

The Secretary of Transportation

The Secretary of Energy

The Secretary of Education

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The Secretary of Homeland Security

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Director of the Office of Management and Budget

United States Trade Representative

Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations

Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers

Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor

Director of National Intelligence

Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council

Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

Director of the National Drug Control Policy

Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality

Director of the National Counterrorism Center

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Administrator of General Services

Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Director of the Office of Personnel Management

Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration

Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Director of the Peace Corps

Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation

Director, White House Military Office

Director of the National Security Agency

Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

Director of the Selective Service System

President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Chair of the Federal Communications Commission

Executive Director of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board

Director of the National Science Foundation

Administrator of Drug Enforcement

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

SUBJECT: Request for Provision of Training on Unauthorized Disclosures

The unauthorized disclosure of classified information or controlled unclassified United States Government information causes harm to our Nation and shakes the confidence of the American people. In this era of unprecedented unauthorized disclosures, it is important to take time to review with your workforce their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding United States Government information.

In light of the recent press conference by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence regarding unauthorized disclosures, I am requesting that every Federal Government department and agency dedicate a 1-hour, organization-wide event to engage their workforce in a discussion on the importance of protecting classified and controlled unclassified information, and measures to prevent and detect unauthorized disclosures.

For those with access to classified information, a review of the non-disclosure agreement reminds us of the responsibilities that come with access to, and penalties for unauthorized disclosure of, classified information. However, it is equally important to discuss the importance of protecting controlled unclassified and personally identifiable information from unauthorized public disclosure.

Although there are policies and guidance already in place to prevent unauthorized disclosures, it will be time well spent to shine a spotlight on the importance of this issue, and engage the workforce in conversation about what it means to be a steward of United States Government information. It is particularly important to stress the sharp difference between unauthorized disclosures of information and whistleblowing — the responsibility of all federal employees to report waste, fraud and abuse through proper channels.

There are many resources available to frame this 1-hour event, including a review of policies, guidance, videos, and training materials, and perhaps most important, an open discussion to answer questions and raise issues to ensure that our safeguarding measures are understood and effective.

Suggested training materials are attached. In order to ensure a consistent and strong message is given to the entire federal workforce, such training should occur the week of September 18-22, 2017.

H.R. McMaster

Lieutenant General, United States Army

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Molly Hensley-Clancy contributed reporting.

How An Old-Fashioned Senator Is Living In Donald Trump’s Washington


Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC — Rob Portman is a serious senator. He's Midwest nice, a little old-fashioned, and in possession of deep wells of knowledge about taxes, trade, and health care. In some alternate universe, you could imagine him as Mitt Romney's vice president.

This week, in his quiet office on the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Portman shared one way a serious senator deals with this insane moment in politics. Asked how he learns about President Donald Trump’s disruptive and frequently combative tweets, the Ohio Republican grinned.

“I get it two ways,” he began, as he rose from a chair in his office.

He walked behind his desk and grabbed his iPhone.

“I can’t follow everybody, right? But guess who I do follow? Donald Trump,” Portman continued as he returned to his seat. “So every one of his tweets, I get on my phone.

“I have an alert,” Portman confirmed as he tapped away at the screen. “You know why? Because when I didn’t have an alert, I would be in the middle of an interview with someone like you, and they would ask me about something he tweeted, and I would be caught flat-footed.”

And, just to be safe, Portman’s press secretary sends him an email each morning with Trump’s tweets, which more often than not jolt the day in different directions and into various diversions.

During a half-hour interview this week with BuzzFeed News, Portman offered a glimpse of how Republicans like him — a mild-mannered conservative who came of age in the Bush era but now seems moderate when compared to Trump’s far-right champions — are trying to navigate the reality of Trumpism and a president who has taken their party down a more populist and unpredictable path. These days it’s tougher to figure out where a Portman fits.

What does it mean to be a Republican right now? Portman, once an unabashed free-trader who served as George W. Bush’s US trade representative, framed his answer around an issue that was central to Trump’s “America First” message.

“I consider myself a good Republican, but I’ve also been willing to talk about fair trade,” Portman said. “On something like that, I feel like, even though I was a little out of the mainstream of my party on some respects there, I’m not uncomfortable with where they’re going, because I do think fairness and a level playing field is consistent with my principles and values as a Republican.”

He also acknowledged his own shift, something that signals just how sharply the party’s dynamics on trade have turned: Portman came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year during his reelection campaign. And though he does not favor withdrawing from North American Free Trade Agreement, Portman said he wants to see substantial changes to that pact.

Despite the changing political environment, Portman still views the GOP as, in his words, a team. And he doesn’t appreciate it when the ostensible head of the party, Trump, or his allies do something that messes with the chemistry. Specifically, Portman called out Trump for his recent attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Going to the team concept, McConnell’s going to be the majority leader. You’ve got to figure out a way to work together as adults — we don’t have to love each other.”

Portman also isn’t happy that Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, is using his perch at Breitbart News to threaten primary challenges against sitting Republican senators perceived as unloyal to Trump. He wishes Bannon would use his influence to run a positive campaign to build support for GOP plans to rewrite tax code and overhaul Obamacare.

“I mean, people can do whatever they want,” Portman said. “But do I like it? No. I think it’s not team play. Here we are with 52 votes [in the Senate], trying to get tax reform done with only a two-vote margin. Health care reform, you saw, two-vote margin. It’s hard enough as it is. … I think instead of having a circular firing squad, we have got to be focused on how to get things done.”

A spokesperson for Bannon did not respond to a request for comment.

All of these — the tweets, the sniping at McConnell, Bannon’s intraparty warfare — are things Portman sees as distractions from crafting and talking policy. And Portman really likes to craft and talk policy.

He gives the White House a pass, for example, on its slow implementation of recommendations from an opioid task force. Instead, he expresses frustration that his colleagues in Congress are not moving fast enough to pass legislation that would address the crisis. Portman also hopes the Trump administration will support his bill to restrict websites that promote sex trafficking with what he calls “a ruthless kind of efficiency.”

Portman “met with a victim two weeks ago in Ohio … who started being trafficked at 9 years old. Her dad would take her to Super Bowls and traffick her online. She told me she was sold as many as 20 times in a day. … So, I’m the author or coauthor, I think, of four or five trafficking bills that I’m proud of, but frankly none of them are making as big of a difference as this would make. Because if we could shut down these online websites that facilitate sex trafficking knowingly — knowingly; I’m not talking about inadvertently — it would make a huge difference.”

While Portman is diplomatic when discussing his relationship with Trump, he is not reverential. After the white supremacist demonstrations and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month, Portman issued a rebuke of the president (if a relatively mild one) after Trump offered a “both sides” response that seemed to put the racists on the same moral plane as those who came to protest the racists.

“When I disagree with him on something, I make it clear,” Portman said. “I’m very comfortable in that role. In some ways, it’s easier, you know? Because with George Bush, I really felt such … loyalty to him — obviously I worked for him later, but even before I worked for him.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Portman, given his extensive government experience and battleground state pedigree, was viewed as a future vice president, or even a future president. But now, after winning reelection by a margin much larger than Trump’s over Hillary Clinton in Ohio, he said he sees himself more as a lawmaker who can swing bipartisan deals in the Senate. “I’m not here to give speeches and write red meat columns,” he said.

So can he see himself ever running for president? “No. No,” Portman replied, repeating himself. “I don’t think so. I feel like my role is here in legislating, trying to get things done.”

Does it bother Portman, then, that Trump’s antics on Twitter — and the constant questions from reporters who expect senators like Portman to defend or disavow them — often overshadow these initiatives?

“I don’t view it in personal terms like that, but I do view it in terms of policy,” Portman replied. “In other words: When we’re distracted by the shiny object over here, which is the latest tweet that offends people, then we’re not making progress on the policy issues, because I’m not communicating that to my constituents. They aren’t understanding and hearing about it, because instead, they’re hearing about something that is not, frankly, what I should be focused on as part of my job.”

Portman then reached for a positive. “I can’t give you examples from the last 24 hours, because he’s been pretty good on his tweets, focused on the hurricane,” he said. “The hurricane has kind of centered the White House and centered him more. But some of the stuff is just not helpful, including attacking McConnell and things like that.”

It was a minute or two later when Portman picked up his cell phone to demonstrate how he monitors Trump’s tweets and read aloud the most recent: “Fascinating to watch people writing books and major articles about me and yet they know nothing about me & have zero access. #FAKE NEWS!”

The tweet was widely interpreted as a blast of Katy Tur, the reporter whose book about covering Trump’s campaign had been released that day.

President Trump Doubled Down On Blaming Both Sides For Violence In Charlottesville — Again


Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President Donald Trump again blamed the violence in Charlottesville on both sides on Thursday, when discussing a conversation with Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, the day prior.

On Thursday, on board Air Force One while returning from touring Hurricane Irma damage in Florida, Trump reinforced his previous controversial comments defending white supremacists by pointing to a sometimes violent group that opposes them, Antifa.

Trump told reporters he and Scott "had a great talk yesterday. I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there. You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also and essentially that’s what I said. Now because of what’s happened since then with Antifa. When you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying and people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’"

Trump added, "I said there’s some very bad people on the other side also. But we had a great conversation. And he has legislation, which I actually like very much, the concept of which I support, to get people into certain areas and building and constructing and putting people to work. I told him yesterday that’s a concept I can support very easily.”

When told of Trump's comments, Scott, of South Carolina, told BuzzFeed News that it's unrealistic to think President Trump would have an immediate "epiphany" regarding race after their meeting.

Scott met with Trump on Wednesday to discuss the topic, especially after Trump defended white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville.

"At the end of the day, I voiced my concerns about the thought that somehow three centuries of American history of raping and murdering people based on their color is somehow equal to what Antifa is doing today," Scott said on Thursday.

When asked if he found it frustrating to see that Trump might not have gotten the message, Scott said, "No, I mean, listen. He is who he has been and I didn't go in there to change who he was, I wanted to inform and educate a different perspective. I think we accomplished that. To assume that immediately thereafter he's going to have an epiphany is just unrealistic."

Sen. Tim Scott before meeting with Trump on Wednesday

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Scott has previously said Trump had "compromised" his moral authority through his handling of the race-fueled Charlottesville riots.

"They talked about [Charlottesville] pretty in-depth," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday of the meeting, "but the focus was primarily on solutions moving forward, and that was what both people came to the meeting wanting to discuss — is what we can do to bring people together, not talk about divisions within the country."

Scott's office later released the following statement:

In yesterday's meeting, Senator Scott was very, very clear about the brutal history surrounding the white supremacist movement and their horrific treatment of black and other minority groups. Rome wasn't built in a day, and to expect the President's rhetoric to change based on one 30 minute conversation is unrealistic. Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but the KKK and white supremacist groups have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There is no realistic comparison. Period.

At the same time, it was encouraging to hear the President commit, as he did yesterday in their meeting, to diversifying his staff, as well as make clear his support for the Senator's Investing in Opportunity Act. These are concrete steps that will help our poor and minority communities and ensure their voices are heard.

No matter what is said or not said, the Senator will continue his efforts to unite our nation and move forward as one American Family.

Later in the day, Trump signed a resolution condemning the "violence and domestic terrorist attack" that took place in Charlottesville. Here's the full text:

S.J.Res. 49, which condemns the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place during events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, recognizing the first responders who lost their lives while monitoring the events, offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those individuals who were killed and deepest sympathies and support to those individuals who were injured by the violence, expressing support for the Charlottesville community, rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President’s Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups.

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