S.C. Republicans introduce bill to consider secession over gun rights

A group of Republican state legislators in South Carolina introduced a measure Thursday that would allow the state to secede from the United States if the federal government began to seize legally purchased firearms in the state.

The bill, which was referred to the state House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, would allow South Carolina lawmakers to debate whether to secede from the United States if the federal government were to violate the Second Amendment.

It states that “the general assembly shall convene to consider whether to secede from the United States based upon the federal government’s unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution if the federal government confiscates legally purchased firearms in this state.”

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The measure, introduced by GOP Reps. Mike Pitts, Jonathon Hill and Ashley Trantham, comes amid an intense debate over the nation’s gun laws that was reignited in February after a deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Since then, anti-gun violence advocates have stepped up demands for new gun control laws, calling for prohibitions on assault-style weapons and stronger background checks for gun buyers, among other measures.

The South Carolina bill is unlikely to make it through this session. It faces an April 10 deadline to go to the state Senate for consideration. 

South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union in the lead up to the Civil War, withdrawing in 1860.

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ICE carries out largest workplace raid in a decade: report

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Tennessee carried out the largest workplace raid in 10 years at a meatpacking plant, The Washington Post reports.

Ninety-seven immigrants were arrested Thursday at Southeastern Provision in Grainger County, Tenn., most of whom were from Mexico, according to Tammy Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

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Ten were arrested on federal criminal charges, and one on state charges. The remaining 86 were arrested only on suspicion of being in the country illegally, Spicer said.

Local immigrant advocacy groups said that immigrant populations in the state were frightened by the raid.

“People are panicked,” said Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition Director Stephanie Teatro. “People are terrified to drive. People are terrified to leave their homes.”

Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said last year that the Trump administration would begin targeting employers that hire immigrants without legal status by stepping up workplace raids.

“Now we’re going to prosecute the employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens,” he said. “We’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers.”

Earlier this year, ICE arrested more than 150 immigrants over a period of raids in California.

“We’re going to enforce the laws on the books without apology. We’ll continue to prioritize what we do,” Homan added last year. “But it’s not OK to violate the laws of this country anymore. You’re going to be held accountable.”

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Facebook broadens ad disclosures ahead of Zuckerberg testimony

Mark Zuckerberg is pictured. | Getty Images

“These steps by themselves won’t stop all people trying to game the system,” Facebook CEO Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. “But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.” | David Ramos/Getty Images

Facebook said Friday it will require transparency for more kinds of political advertisements — the latest in a string of concessions from the social network as CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to face Congress next week.

The company announced it will require the buyers of so-called issue ads — which focus on topics like gun control, immigration or race relations but don’t endorse a specific candidate — to confirm their location and identity, and make them display a label and disclaimer about who paid for them, just as Facebook plans to do with election-related ads.

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Facebook has faced intense criticism for allowing the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency to flood its platform with ads that advertised fake events, stoked anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment and exploited the Black Lives Matter movement in an effort to deepen American social and political divisions during the 2016 campaign. Some of those ad campaigns were highlighted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals for conducting illegal “information warfare” to disrupt the election.

“These steps by themselves won’t stop all people trying to game the system,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. “But they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads.”

The new initiative is part of a flurry of announcements and media appearances ahead of Zuckerberg’s double-header testimony in Congress next week to answer questions about the Cambridge Analytica controversy and Russian election interference. He’ll go before a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce hearing Tuesday and face House Energy & Commerce lawmakers Wednesday, in what’s shaping up to be a critical test for the 33-year-old, hoodie-wearing CEO.

Facebook has sought to get ahead of lawmakers by unfurling a series of new tools and policies aimed at bolstering user privacy. The company plans to simplify how it displays privacy settings and make users aware of third-party applications collecting their data. It also pledged to eliminate an advertising program that relied on data from outside brokers.

As part of Friday’s announcement, Facebook said issue ads will be included in a searchable archive that the company plans to roll out this summer. The social network also said it would require people who manage pages with large followings on Facebook to be verified. The Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency has been tied to Facebook pages that amassed thousands of followers during the 2016 campaign.

Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have touted the growing list of commitments in a litany of press interviews over the last two weeks. Sandberg has been on a TV and radio blitz in recent days, appearing on everything from Fox News to “PBS NewsHour.”

Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny since the election amid reports that Russia manipulated the social network to boost Donald Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton. The Cambridge Analytica scandal — in which the Trump-linked data firm is accused of improperly obtaining information on 87 million Facebook users via a U.K.-based professor — has deepened the social network’s problems and sparked questions about Zuckerberg’s leadership.

In announcing its new initiative Friday, Facebook also threw its support behind the Honest Ads Act, a bill from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) that would force internet companies to carry the same disclosures for political advertising that are required for television and radio. The proposed legislation encompasses both candidate ads and issue ads.

Zuckerberg first made reference to the bill when he said he was open to regulation during a round of media interviews last week, but Facebook until now hadn’t officially endorsed the measure.

It’s a big change in outlook for the social network, which in 2011 sought a blanket exemption on political ad disclosures from the Federal Election Commission, arguing that much like campaign pins or pens, its ads were too small to comfortably hold details on who paid for them.

The Honest Ads Act has 18 co-sponsors in the Senate, but counts only one Republican supporter in that chamber: John McCain of Arizona. It’s one of the few concrete legislative proposals to emerge from the scrutiny of Russia’s election meddling on social media, but its prospects are uncertain after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in November he’s “a little skeptical of these disclosure-type proposals.”

The measure does not address so-called organic content — or regular Facebook posts that could be used by Russia or others to meddle in elections — and it’s a far cry from the sweeping data-privacy regulations sought by some lawmakers and privacy activists.

In the House, Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) introduced a companion bill which has 15 co-sponsors.

Steven Overly contributed to this report.

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Sessions orders ‘zero tolerance’ policy at Southwest border

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWhite House has aides go on Pirro every week knowing Trump watches: report House Judiciary conservatives infuriated DOJ missed subpoena deadline Kamala Harris asks Ellen if she has any 2020 plans MORE announced Friday he’s implementing a zero tolerance policy for immigrants illegally crossing the Southwest border.

Sessions notified all federal prosecutors along that part of the border of the new policy in a memo Friday and directed them to make prosecuting criminal immigration offenses a priority.

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He also directed prosecutors to work with the Department of Homeland Security to develop guidelines for prosecuting offenses under immigration law. 

“To those who wish to challenge the Trump Administration’s commitment to public safety, national security, and the rule of law, I warn you: illegally entering this country will not be rewarded, but will instead be met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice,” he said in a statement.

The Department of Justice said the new policy is in response to a report from the Department of Homeland Security that showed a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 to March 2018 and a 37 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018 — the largest month-to-month increase since 2011.  

“The situation at our Southwest Border is unacceptable,” Sessions said in the statement. “Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest — that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented immigrants in the Southwest spiked 40 percent from February to March. Apprehensions are generally used as an estimate for attempted illegal border crossings.

That spike is consistent with typical seasonal patterns of migration, but reverses sharp drops seen in the first year of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPruitt directed staff to approve raises for top aides: report Trump’s trade rep: Threat of new tariffs ‘appropriate response’ to China GOP senator on tariff threat: Hopefully Trump is blowing off steam because ‘this is nuts’ MORE‘s term.

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Pelosi calls on Pruitt to resign

Nancy Pelosi is pictured. | Getty Images

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure has been a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Pruitt must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. | Saul Loeb/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday called on Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt to resign, saying he has “displayed a staggering ethical blindness.”

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure has been a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Pruitt must resign,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Pruitt has displayed a staggering ethical blindness, and his abuses of office are representative of an Administration that uses their powerful positions to enrich themselves and their friends.”

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Pruitt has been the subject of a series of damaging articles in recent days alleging that he rented a $50-a-night condo room from a pair of lobbyists, that he reportedly sidelined aides who questioned his expensive travel and security costs, and that he allegedly asked for sirens and lights to speed up his trips around Washington, including to a trendy French restaurant.

He is also being investigated by the EPA’s inspector general for other purported ethical lapses involving his travel and security expenses.

Even though White House officials have been irritated by the scandals, President Donald Trump has continued to publicly voice support for the EPA chief.

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