Progressive Breakfast for July 18

Morning Message

Trump’s Policy Agenda Is an All-Out War on Kids

Donald Trump’s choice to separate migrant children from their parents unleashed a flood of outrage, and while he has been forced to step back from separating families, he continues to pursue a hard line on immigration. Trump is a master of this kind of bait-and-switch: he distracts voters with tough-on-immigration politics, then sells out working families. Irreparable harm to thousands of children is a price he’s willing to pay, if it helps him score political points. His policy agenda is a full-throated attack on children from poor and working class families.

Trump’s Russia Flips Flop

Trump attempts to walk back Russia comments. Politico: “The White House climb-down from President Donald Trump’s disastrous news conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin began Monday night, just hours after Trump said he saw ‘no reason’ why Russia would have meddled in the 2016 election. With even The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board — normally intensely loyal to Trump — joining in widespread criticism of the president’s implicit public rejection of U.S. intelligence claims, the White House circulated talking points to supporters saying that Trump still had great confidence in his intelligence agencies and that he believed their assessment that the Kremlin actively influenced the vote. But the president himself emerged on Tuesday to personally walk back his statements in Helsinki, using a scheduled meeting with members of Congress to discuss tax reform as a platform for revising the statements that set off a 24-hour firestorm.”

Mueller Accelerates Manafort Probe

Immunity sought for witnesses, venue change denied as Manafort trial nears. CNN: “Prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge are hashing out the final details of Paul Manafort’s trial with just eight days to go before it begins — including whether five witnesses will be forced to testify and if the schedule will change. The former Trump campaign chairman’s jury trial in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia begins July 25. He faces 18 charges of bank fraud and foreign bank account allegations. If found guilty he could face a sentence of more than 300 years in prison. He is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, for alleged witness tampering, after losing his bail in a separate criminal proceeding. Special counsel Robert Mueller asked the judge on Tuesday to sign off on immunity for five unidentified witnesses slated to testify against Manafort beginning next week. If granted, that means the witnesses’ testimony couldn’t be used against them in later court cases. Mueller is not disclosing the names of the witnesses at this time so as not to create ‘risk of undue harassment’ and because the details ‘could lead to reputational harm,’ according to a proposal from the prosecutors. In theory, the move to grant the witnesses immunity prevents them from invoking their Fifth Amendment rights and staying silent on certain questions when testifying against Manafort.”

Workers Challenge Amazon On Prime Day

Amazon employees are using Prime Day to push for better working conditions. Vox: “Amazon workers all across Europe are striking at warehouses. Shoppers are organizing boycotts. Combined, these efforts are an attempt to draw attention to working conditions at Amazon on Prime Day — the annual shopping event that brings in more than $2 billion for the company. Amazon has come under fire for years over accusations of poor work conditions, and this year, employees all across Europe are determined to capitalize on publicity around Prime Day to push for change at their workplace. Amazon sees Prime Day as a PR opportunity and its own version of Black Friday. Prime Day attracts a ton of attention: Tech sites curate their picks of the best deals, competitors like Target predictably announce sales of their own, and random brands elbow their way forward on Twitter to make sure shoppers know they’re participating. Prime Day brought Amazon $2.41 billion last year, and it’s projected to hit $3.4 billion this year. But after striking on Black Friday in 2017, Amazon workers are now using Prime Day as a chance to call for better working conditions.”

WH Now Wants To Deport Legal Immigrants

The Trump administration is working to deport more legal immigrants. Mother Jones: “In a memo made public July 5, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency tasked with handling immigration benefits—think work and student visas, green cards, and naturalization ceremonies—said it would now refer immigrants for deportation in a wider range of cases. USCIS has always had some deportation powers, which it can exercise by issuing a Notice to Appear, a document that begins removal proceedings and directs immigrants to appear before a judge. But typically, USCIS only issued these NTAs in a restricted number of circumstances, such as when someone is found to have committed substantial fraud. It referred most cases to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which would then investigate and issue the NTA. Now, the new memo gives USCIS officials the power to directly issue an NTA in a broader range of circumstances, including if they find evidence of a criminal offense or fraud in an applicant’s history, or if a case is denied and the applicant is found to be unlawfully present in the United States—a scenario that alarms many immigration advocates. ‘These two memos work in tandem and are effectively a one-two punch that will render our adjudication processes even less fair and even more harsh.’ Further complicating this evolving landscape is a subsequent memo, issued July 13, that gives USCIS discretion to immediately deny any application without giving individuals the opportunity to submit further evidence or without having to notify them of the agency’s intent to deny the case. This would apply in cases where an applicant initially failed to submit required documents or failed to establish eligibility. The NTA memo went into effect the day it was issued; the second memo will go into effect in September.”

WH Further Restricts Asylum Claims

Trump administration moves to shrink grounds for asylum. NYT: “While migrants fleeing communist governments in Central America during the Cold War were welcomed in the 1980s, those arriving now do not fit into a larger American geopolitical agenda. Their afflictions — gang violence, domestic brutality and poverty — are neither American national security priorities nor anything that was originally intended to be covered under the laws of asylum. Mr. Trump has taken monumental steps to shrink the asylum system and discourage people from applying based on a belief that the United States is taking in too many foreigners. The moves are part of a larger plan developing in Washington to reshape the reputation of America as a safe haven.”

HHS Diverts Health Funds To Fix Border Fiasco

Trump’s migrant fiasco diverts millions from health programs. Politico: “The health department has quietly dipped into tens of millions of dollars to pay for the consequences of President Donald Trump’s border policy, angering advocates who want the money spent on medical research, rural health programs and other priorities. The Department of Health and Human Services has burned through at least $40 million in the past two months for the care and reunification of migrant children separated from their families at the border — with housing costs recently estimated at about $1.5 million per day. The ballooning costs have also prompted officials to prepare to shift more than $200 million from other HHS accounts, even as the White House weighs a request for additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security — a politically explosive move almost certain to antagonize fiscal hawks in the run-up to the midterm elections. ‘We have a public health emergency like Ebola, Zika, hurricanes — except this one is man-made,’ said Emily Holubowich, executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding, who says HHS should request emergency funding too. ‘We should not be taking discretionary funding away from programs that need it.’ HHS didn’t respond to questions about spending on the crisis. Frustration over the lack of transparency and the slow pace of family reunifications spilled over as appropriators marked up a Labor-HHS-Education funding bill last week. Republicans joined Democrats to unanimously back penalties for the health department if it didn’t detail its efforts to reunite families.”