President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants immigrants coming in “from everywhere” in response to questions about his alleged remarks challenging U.S. admittance of people from “shithole countries.”
“I want them to come in from everywhere,” Trump told reporters during a White House meeting with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Story Continued Below
The remark came as reporters shouted questions about his reported statement last week that he’d prefer the United States welcome people from countries like Norway over nations like Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
Trump has denied using any derogatory language to describe Haitians and said one Democratic lawmaker “totally misrepresented” his remarks when he said Trump used “vile” and “hate-filled” language, including repeatedly referring to the foreign nations as “shitholes,” during a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers on immigration Thursday. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday he stands by “every word” of his statement on the matter.
Two Republican lawmakers in attendance have since disputed Durbin’s account after initially saying they could not recall whether Trump had made the derogatory remark.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to deny the reports on Tuesday, adding that the “president hasn’t said he didn’t use strong language. This is an important issue. He’s passionate about it,” she told reporters.
Trump’s Tuesday remarks stand in contrast his own rhetoric and policy on immigration, with his administration aggressively seeking to curb the influx of immigrants from Latin America and from Muslim-majority countries.
Since entering office, the Trump administration has pursued several iterations of a travel ban that would restrict immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, an initiative that has been repeatedly shot down by federal courts.
Earlier Tuesday Trump called for additional security along the “very dangerous” U.S.-Mexico border, writing that “we must have a great WALL to help protect us, and to help stop the massive inflow of drugs pouring into our country!” During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump lamented that “we have some bad hombres” cross the border into the U.S from Mexico.
When he announced his campaign bid in June 2015, Trump said Mexico “not sending their best” into the U.S. in the current immigration system. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday she would work with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) to ensure that states have a uniform way to handle missile threats and alert systems, after a false emergency alert was sent to Hawaii residents warning of an incoming ballistic missile.
“I’d like to work with you to ensure we’re providing specific instructions on what to do upon an alert,” Nielsen said before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Story Continued Below
Saturday’s false alarm from Hawaii emergency officials encouraged residents to seek shelter from a “ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii,” but it was later retracted and attributed to human error.
Nielsen said the Department of Homeland Security is not solely responsible for guaranteeing that states’ alert systems work properly.
“We provide the backbone to ensure that at any time, if the president or the Department of Homeland Security would need to send an alert to citizens with an impending catastrophic event, for example, we can do that,” she told Hirono. “The state and localities then often use that backbone to distribute and disseminate their own messages.”
Hirono also noted that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was not clear on the proper procedure to issue a retraction for the false alarm and asked Nielsen how DHS could help ensure that, in the future, all involved parties are aware of necessary protocols. Nielsen said she had asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency chief to work with the state on that process.
The criminal trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort appears likely to start in September at the earliest after a federal judge on Tuesday rejected a bid by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office to kick off the trial in May.
The timeline emerging from an hour-long hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson raises the possibility that Manafort and colleague Rick Gates could go on trial at the height of the mid-term campaign season, making an already unwelcome distraction for the White House and Republicans even more uncomfortable.
Story Continued Below
Jackson indicated that with hundreds of thousands of documents and electronic files turned over to the defense as recently as Friday, it was unrealistic to proceed with the May 14 trial date prosecutors proposed last week.
“I’m not exactly sure when the trial date might be,” the judge said. “I don’t have a problem with a trial in September or October…I don’t want something that we’re going to continue. We’re going to have a real trial date.”
Prosecutor Greg Andres said during the court session that Mueller’s team expects to need about three weeks to present their case against Manafort and Gates, which includes charges of money laundering and failing to file as foreign agents in connection with work done for the government of Ukraine and one of its political parties.
One of Manafort’s attorneys, Kevin Downing, said he plans to file a series of motions challenging the indictment, asking for more details about the charges and demanding access to more evidence in the government’s possession. However, he said the volume of records coming in complicate the defense’s efforts.
“We’re a little surprised that we’re this late in the game and there’s still discovery,” Downing said.
Prosecutor Kyle Freeny told the judge that “the bulk” of the relevant information in the government’s possession has been turned over, but Jackson suggested the government needs to complete the task.
“Other than things that are still coming in, there’s not excuse for not producing what you have,” the judge said. “You’re asking for a trial date that’s not that far away.”
All the reasons that Jackson decided against a trial in the spring were not clear, as much of the discussion on the scheduling issue was held at the judge’s bench, with a noise machine turned on to prevent those in the gallery from hearing what the lawyers and the judge were saying.
Both Manafort and Gates were in the courtroom for the first hearing of the year. During the lengthy sidebar discussion, the two men chatted across the defense table, with Manafort using his hand to try to maintain the privacy of their conversation from the dozens of reporters, FBI personnel and others watching the hearing.
During Tuesday’s session, the judge expressed her displeasure with Gates’ participation in a fundraiser last month with reporters present, at which a lobbyist denounced Mueller’s team as “very unfair.” She said the event, which Gates addressed via a videotaped message, seemed to fly in the face of a gag order she issued in the case.
However, she said she would not hold Gates in contempt over the episode, and she gave him the same type of warning she gave Manafort recently over his involvement in editing an op-ed piece about issues related to the case.
“I think it’s important for the defendants to use common sense,” Jackson said. She said they were free to speak about the case privately, to raise money for their defense and to thank donors, but she warned the parties not to make public statements through agents or associates.
“If press is going to be invited to an event…I think that’s a pretty big red flag,” the judge said, adding that if “an attack on the prosecution” is going to be a method of soliciting funds, the defendants should steer clear.
An attorney for Gates, Shanlon Wu, told the judge that the lines were not that clear since social media can quickly result in a private comment or event being make public. “In this day and age, it’s not so easy to ascertain,” he said.
Both the defendants remain in home confinement, although there were indications that Gates might be formally released from those restrictions as soon as Tuesday afternoon. During a tense exchange with Jackson, Downing said Manafort has had difficulty fulfilling the requirements for release.
Jackson set another hearing on Feb. 14 for scheduling, at which time she could set a trial date. She also set a hearing for April 17 to take up defense motions aimed at knocking out some or all of the government’s charges.
Congressional Democrats face a critical decision this week as negotiations to shield 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation stall: Are they willing to shut the government down to protect Dreamers?
Government funding runs out on Friday. And with talks about a bipartisan budget and immigration deal on the rocks, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are preparing a fourth short-term spending measure to buy more time to negotiate.
Story Continued Below
But as the March 5 end-date for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program looms, Democrats are under increased pressure to hold the line for an immigration solution. Outside groups have urged Democrats to vote against any legislation until the matter is addressed, and some progressives are itching for a shutdown fight that forces Republicans to deal on immigration.
“I think it would be a terrible mistake to shut down the government and particularly while we are negotiating in good faith. Just because we’re not meeting their deadline, that’s not really very productive,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday.
Cornyn and other deputy leaders — Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — continue to engage in immigration talks that Republicans are hopeful will yield a deal.
Cornyn said he spoke with McCarthy over the weekend and Durbin on Tuesday morning. Their staffs are expected to meet again this afternoon.
“We continue to work. We know we got a deadline so we got to get this thing done,” Cornyn said.
“It can’t just be an agreement between six senators,” Cornyn continued, referencing the bipartisan agreement Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) presented last week that was dismissed by the White House. “It has to be one that will pass both houses and that the president would sign and I’m committed to making sure we stay at it until we find a solution.”
But Democrats remain pessimistic that the group can reach an agreement and some have said privately they think the talks are an effort by Republicans to stall on immigration in order to secure Democratic votes to keep the government open.
Democratic leaders have remained steadfast in their unwillingness to strike a long-term budget accord with Republicans until DACA is resolved. But they — particularly Senate Democrats — have been unwilling to withhold votes for temporary funding measures keeping the government open.
Eighteen Senate Democrats voted for a so-called “continuing resolution” last December, kicking the deadline to Jan. 19. That’s because there’s a fear among Democratic leaders and centrists that they’ll be blamed for shuttering federal agencies — and that President Donald Trump’s accusation that they’re doing so to protect undocumented immigrants will backfire.
“The Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning in a pre-emptive blame-game. “The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever. We need a merit based system of immigration, and we need it now! No more dangerous Lottery.”
Of course, GOP leaders are experiencing their own internal tensions. House Republican sources say they don’t currently have the 218 votes to carry a short-term spending measure by themselves.
Defense hawks in the party are furious that leaders have yet to reach a budget accord to increase Pentagon funding and have threatened to vote against the measure without a long-term funding deal that provides stability for the military.
House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters Tuesday he thought congressional leaders could reach a spending caps deal as soon as today. But Democratic leaders have shown no desire to strike a long-term funding agreement until DACA is resolved — and could face an intra-party revolt if they did so.
“Frankly, I think it’s not that hard to get a DACA deal, but the question is do they want to?” Thornberry said.
If Ryan can’t muscle the votes from his own party, he’ll have to turn to Democrats. One option being considered includes attaching long-term funding for the children’s health insurance program — an addition that would theoretically entice some House Democrats, particularly Congressional Black Caucus members, to vote for the bill.
In December, when GOP leaders attached a short-term CHIP provision to the stop-gap bill funding the government through Jan. 19, some Democrats privately complained about voting against the measure.
It’s unclear, however, if the president’s recent racially charged comments about African countries and Haiti being “shithole” countries will change that calculus. CBC members have discussed censuring the president for those remarks, and over the weekend, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) blasted the president for what he called racist remarks.
Should the CR clear the House, it could face an uphill battle in the Senate, where nine Senate Democrats are needed for passage.
On “Meet the Press” Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado if he believed it was worth shutting down the government to force a DACA compromise. Bennet demurred.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Bennet said. “I think that … It should not come to that. We should stop shutting this government down.”
Bennet, however, comes from a swing-state. Other Democrats, like Dick Durbin of Illinois, have suggested they won’t back any spending agreements without a deal.
But lawmakers are still hopeful a deal will be reached by Friday.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a shutdown,” Cornyn said. “I think that would be a big mistake.”