Trump proposes new US immigration plan favoring ‘merit’ over family ties – as it happened

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump proposes new US immigration plan favoring ‘merit’ over family ties – as it happened” was written by Vivian Ho (now) and Jamiles Lartey (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 17th May 2019 05.47 Asia/Kolkata

Evening summary

A counteroffer arises from the Justice Department, regarding the blown subpoena deadline on the Mueller materials: 22 May.

It appears the Justice Department has missed a subpoena deadline for some Mueller materials, and House intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff is now looking into “enforcement action.”

Updated

President Trump “wishes” New York mayor Bill de Blasio “good luck” in his 2020 bid.

Michael Flynn told Mueller team of efforts to interfere with investigation

The Mueller team unsealed evidence today that document Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn informing the team of “multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communication from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected his willingness to cooperate” with the investigation.

Trump administration kills $929m deal for California high-speed rail

The US Department of Transportation has followed through on its plans to cancel $929m in federal grant funds for California’s ambitious $77bn high-speed rail project.

“After careful consideration, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has terminated Cooperative Agreement No. FR-HSR-0118-12-01-01 (the FY10 Agreement) with the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), and will deobligate the $928,620,000 in funding under that agreement,” the FRA said in a statement on its website. “The decision follows FRA’s Notice of Intent to Terminate and consideration of the information provided by CHSRA on March 4, 2019.”

The high-speed rail project represents a multi-decade effort to connect eight of California’s largest cities by what was conceived as America’s first bullet train. In 2008, voters approved almost $10bn in funding for a plan to to lay down hundreds of miles of new track, but years of protest and lawsuits have forced the authority to rework its plans.

The decision comes after some Twitter tussling between California governor Gavin Newsom and President Trump.

Newsom made some comments during his State of the State address that some interpreted as the end of the high-speed rail project, to which Trump tweeted asking for the return of “three and a half billion dollars”. Newsom responded by tweeting that the money was “allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back.”

“The Trump administration’s action is illegal and a direct assault on California, our green infrastructure, and the thousands of Central Valley workers who are building this project,” Newsom said Thursday in a statement. “Just as we have seen from the Trump administration’s attacks on our clean air standards, our immigrant communities and in countless other areas, the Trump administration is trying to exact political retribution on our state.

“This is California’s money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court.”

Updated

Chelsea Manning jailed on contempt again

The Washington Post is reporting that Chelsea Manning, who had just served two months in jail for refusing to testify to a federal grand jury investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, was jailed again Thursday for up to 18 months for once again refusing to testify, this time in a renewed investigation against Assange.

“The government cannot build a prison bad enough, cannot create a system worse than the idea that I would ever change my principles,” Manning told the judge today. “I would rather starve to death than to change my opinions in this regard. I mean that quite literally.”

Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, was only released from jail earlier this year when the grand jury investigating Assange expired. Another grand jury was empaneled Thursday.

Assange is accused of conspiring to access secret Defense Department computers. He was arrested in London in April following seven years in asylum at Ecuador’s British embassy.

Updated

Hey all, Vivian Ho taking over for Jamiles Lartey. Let’s see where the day takes us.

Summary

Jamiles Lartey here, thanks for following the day’s political news with me. I’ll now be handing over to my distinguished colleague Vivian Ho on the west coast. In case you’re just checking in, here are the three key stories you may have missed:

    • Despite the objections of pretty much everyone, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio became the 23rd Democrat to join the 2020 race for the White House.
    • House Judiciary Chairman Jarrold Nadler and Speaker Nancy Pelosi both used the “I” word today- impeachment- in reference to the administration’s intransigence over responding to subpoenas in an ongoing obstruction of justice probe. Nothing is imminent but the prospect remains very much on the table.
    • Trump unveiled a new immigration plan in the Rose Garden today that would require new “universal criteria” for people hoping to be US citizens. These include speaking English, passing a civics test and being financially self-sufficient.” Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer blasted the proposal as counter to American values and a legislative non-starter.

Keep it here for the rest of the day’s political developments.

Pelosi: ‘Every day [Trump] gives grounds for impeachment’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Donald Trump “every day gives grounds for impeachment in terms of his obstruction of justice. You never say, blanketly, I’m not answering any subpoenas,” at an event hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center Thursday.

Earlier in the day she also called the White House counsel’s letter to the Judiciary Committee resisting all requests for information “a joke” and “beneath the dignity of the president of the United States.”

The White House has generally argued that it is not required to comply with the torrent of subpoenas coming from House Democrats, because the congressional inquiries have no “legislative” purpose.

Pelosi strongly disagreed countering that one of the constitutional purposes of congressional investigations is impeachment. “It doesn’t mean you’re going on an impeachment path,” Pelosi said. “It means if you had the information you might.”

Pelosi also said “nothing is off the table” in pushing the White House to comply with subpoenas for information, including fining administration officials through what’s called inherent contempt of Congress.

It’s a little-known power, last used nearly 85 years ago.

Pelosi said Thursday she hopes it doesn’t come to that.

Updated

Beggard Botus ‘Bundo’ contributing little to US second family, Pence’s disclosure reveals.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence let children pet their family rabbit “Marlon Bundo” during and event with, 9 May 2017.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence let children pet their family rabbit “Marlon Bundo” during and event with, 9 May 2017.
Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Marlon Bundo, the beloved pet bunny of Vice President Mike Pence’s family, has his own Instagram account, his own acronym (Botus) and three children’s books documenting his time in Washington. But financially, he’s not contributing much to the second family, according to Politico.

The trio of books about the well-traveled rabbit, written and illustrated by Karen Pence and her daughter Charlotte, generated between $2,501 and $5,000 in income for the Pence family last year, according to new financial disclosures released Thursday.

Columbia University Libraries in New York will produce the official oral history of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Obama Foundation officials announced Thursday that the project at The Columbia Center for Oral History Research will provide a record of the decisions, actions and effects of Obama’s presidency. The former president is a graduate of Columbia University, which also is home to the oral history of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. The Obama project also will include former first lady Michelle Obama’s legacy.

Former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle a at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Illinois, 31 October, 2017.
Former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle a at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Illinois, 31 October, 2017.
Photograph: Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images

The University of Hawaii and the University of Chicago will partner on the effort, focusing respectively on Obama’s early years in Hawaii and the Obamas’ lives in Chicago.

Columbia University officials say the Obamas’ histories are expected to be publicly available online no later than 2026.

CNN is reporting that A bipartisan group of US lawmakers sent a letter Thursday to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray asking their respective agencies to investigate allegations of war crimes against Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who is also an American citizen.

“A United States citizen is directly undermining United States policy in Libya, including US support for a United Nations-led mediation process and the internationally recognized government of Libya. At the same time, Mr. Haftar’s forces are alleged to have committed war crimes and inflicted unnecessary suffering and cruelty during the course of military operations,” the letter reads.

Donald Trump has previously praised Haftar.

The request sent to the Justice Department was signed by five House Democrats – Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, Gerald Connolly of Virginia, David Trone of Maryland, Ted Lieu of California and Colin Allred of Texas – as well as two Republicans, Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Ann Wagner of Missouri.

The top House Republican said Thursday that Alabama’s new state law banning almost all abortions goes too far.

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, told reporters that the law, which doesn’t allow exceptions for abortions in cases of rape and incest, “goes further than I believe.”

McCarthy said he believes in “exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”

McCarthy wouldn’t take a stand on whether the Supreme Court should strike down the measure, the strictest abortion law in the nation, if a challenge were to reach the court.

Opinion polls show widespread opposition to overturning the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which could return the issue back to the states.

Republicans struggled to win over suburban women in last year’s midterm elections and the controversy over abortion restrictions could prove politically troublesome.

Republicans have been on the offensive this year trying to link congressional Democrats to late-term abortion measures pushed by some of the party’s most liberal forces in state legislatures such as New York’s.

Another fairly unlikely dissenter to the spate of new laws? Stauch anti-abortion Christian televangelist Pat Robertson who called the bill “extreme” and said the state had “gone too far”, though its possible Roberston meant strictly in the legal sense, rather than the moral one. He went on to share his opinion that if these laws are used to challenge the landmark Roe v Wade ruling in the Supreme Court as many expect, that it won’t be successful.

Meanwhile from the same faith, but the opposite side of the aisle, Democratic senator and presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand said Thursday that laws banning or restricting abortion are “against Christian faith.”

Gillibrand continued:

If you are a person of the Christian faith, one of the tenants of our faith is free will. One of the tenants of our democracy is that we have a separation of church and state, and under no circumstances are we supposed to be imposing our faith on other people. And I think this is an example of that effort.

On the morning that Donald Trump met Swiss president, whose embassy in Tehran represents US interests, reporters shouted a question to him at the White House, asking if the US was going to war with Iran.

“Hope not,” was his reply.

The White House said that one of the topics Trump discussed with Ueli Maurer, was “matters such as Switzerland’s role in facilitating diplomatic relations and other international issues”, which is of particular note because Trump has openly called for the Iranian leadership to call him, and is reported to be unhappy about the pace of escalation in the Gulf.

CNN reported that the Maurer meeting was set up with the intention of establishing a channel of communication with Tehran.

Yesterdau, secretary of state, Michael Pompeo spoke with the Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id, whose has also provided a conduit in recent years between the US and Iran.

All this suggests, that having cut off all contacts with Iran as part of Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, the president is now looking for an off-ramp from the road to war, and that means scrambling to reestablish those contacts.

So far, the Iranians have declared themselves not interested. The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has said that such talks would be “poison”.

Meanwhile, the battle over the intelligence that was supposed to justify the US build-up in the Gulf, the withdrawal of non-essential diplomatic staff from Iraq, and the heightened alert of US troops in Iraq, went to Congress.

Senate and House leaders from parties, known as the Gang of Eight, were due to be briefed on Thursday morning and the White House has agreed to brief the full Senate in the coming days.

The New York Times and other agencies have cited officials as saying that part of the evidence for a raised Iranian threat was pictures of Iranian missiles being placed on small sailboats known as dhows in the Persian Gulf. CNN reported earlier that the weapons were short-range ballistic missiles. It is unclear however, how such missiles could be fired from a small boat.

Fabian Hinz, an expert on missile proliferation, writing for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, argued that launching ballistic missiles is possible but extremely difficult.

“So far, no ship-launches of Iranian ballistic missiles have been observed, and Iran sneakily developing this capability while avoiding the watchful eyes of Western intelligence services seems highly unlikely,” Hinz said.

“With ship-launched ballistic missiles seeming like a highly impractical and unlikely way to target U.S. forces in the region, this leaves the possibility of Iran merely transporting the missiles.”

Hinz says the most likely destination is the Houthi movement in Yemen, pointing out that small inconspicuous ships have been used in the past to ferry arms to the Houthis.

Trump: ‘Future immigrants will be required to learn English’

Announcing his administration’s immigration reform plan Donald Trump said that “to promote integration, assimilation and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and pass a civics exam prior to admission.”

Trump adds that if the legislation can’t be passed for “political reasons”, it will wait until Republicans take back the House, and retain control of the White House and Senate in 2020.

Updated

LIVE: Trump unveils administration’s immigration overhaul

“No matter where in the world you’re born, no matter who your relatives are, if you want to become an American citizen, it will be clear exactly what standard we ask you to achieve,” Trump says of “merit-based” immigration guidelines. The plan is intended to suppress immigration from low-wage and “unskilled” workers, who Trump says are taking jobs from low-income Americans.

Trump continued from the Rose Garden: “Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages, and frankly lawless chaos. We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages and safety of American workers first.”

“Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker,” Trump said.

From the White House: “President Trump Delivers Remarks on Modernizing Our Immigration System for a Stronger America”

Democratic congressional leaders have called the plan a non-starter. Nancy Peolsi responded today: “I want to just say something about the word that they use, ‘merit’. It is really a condescending word. Are they saying family is without ‘merit’? … We’ve only heard titles like ‘merit’ … it means merit in the eyes of Donald Trump.”

Updated

‘It’s infuriating’: Kamala Harris’ team on VP talk

Recently asked about the possibility of becoming frontrunner Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris used humor to swat the question away: Maybe it should be the other way around, she said Wednesday, given Biden’s eight years of experience in the VP spot under Barack Obama.

But from Politico there’s word that “inside her campaign and among allies, such talk is not a laughing matter.”

They’re rankled by the suggestion, privately venting that it’s demeaning to a woman of color and perpetuates an unfair critique that she’s somehow not prepared for the job she’s actually seeking.

‘It’s infuriating,’ a Harris confidant fumed several days before the idea began taking hold in the media.

There are some places even vermin won’t go – the swamp where Donald Trump has just carried out a little pardoning ritual for his bromance buddy Conrad Black. But you can smell it all the way from New York. It takes one right back to the stench of complacency and entitlement that wafted from Black every time he went in and out of the courthouse for months in Chicago during his long criminal trial in 2007 (right up until the humiliating moment he was convicted, on a scorching Friday 13th in July). For months he’d had to run the gauntlet of reporters and photographers out on the street and in the foyer of the courthouse.

Left: Donald Trump, Right: Conrad Black.
Left: Donald Trump, Right: Conrad Black.
Photograph: Guardian

He and his wife, Barbara Amiel, were sorely aggrieved that this significant news event was being closely – very closely, to be sure – covered by the media and that journalists were doing exactly the job he had long paid thousands of our ilk to do when he owned the UK’s Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and hundreds of other publications.

The grand couple seemed to find it baffling and infuriating – to the point where Amiel entirely dominated the news on one quiet court day by calling a TV producer a slut and, upon entering an elevator in the courthouse and finding it contained two journalists, of which I was one, saying to us: “You’re all vermin…I’m sick of it.”

Another day soon after, when leaving court, Black was asked by reporters if he was done for the day. “Done with you lot,” he said, again somehow dissociating himself from the thousands of “you lots” that had spent years running around for him getting scoops and helping make him very rich. It’s closely akin to Donald Trump thinking the only good journalism is that which says nice things about him, while everything else is fake news. And in the world of soul-eating sessions in a swamp, with pardons as party favors, that’s okay. Paul Manafort can’t wait for his invite.

Updating a previous item, Donald Trump’s latest financial disclosures reveal a substantial drop in income at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort, sometimes referred to as the “winter White House” last year.

According to the report, Trump had $22.69 million in income from Mar-a-Lago in 2018, a $3 million decrease from 2017.

But at his Doral golf resort, also in Florida, Trump had $75.96 million in income, up about $1.4 million from 2017.

Income from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, was up only slightly, to $15.73 million, an increase of more than $500,000 from the prior year.

Overall the president’s businesses took in a handsome sum of at least $479m.

The report is required to be filed annually with the Government Ethics Office.

Updated

The Environmental Protection Agency should consider recovering nearly $124,000 in improper travel expenses by former EPA chief Scott Pruitt, the agency’s inspector general recommended Thursday.

The inspector’s letter can be found here.

More from the Washington Post:

The findings, issued nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel and ties to lobbyists and outside groups, highlight the fiscal impact of his penchant for high-end travel and accommodations. Investigators concluded that 40 trips Pruitt either took or scheduled during a 10-month period, between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, cost taxpayers $985,037.

Schumer: New Trump immigration package ‘an insult’

Senate minority leader Chuch Schumer has offered a scathing response to the immigration reform package that the Trump administration is unveiling today calling it “an insult to our grand tradition of welcoming immigrants from all walks of life.”

From Schumer’s remarks on the Senate floor:

Yesterday, the Trump administration released the outlines of its plan for immigration reform. Truth be told, the reported White House plan isn’t a serious attempt at immigration reform; if anything, it’s a political document that is anti-immigration reform.

It repackages the same partisan, radical anti-immigrant policies that the administration has pushed for the two years – all of which have struggled to earn even a simple majority in the Senate let alone 60 votes.

He continued:

We need immigrants in America. Our labor force is declining. You go to businesses at the high end, the middle end, and the low end they say their greatest problem is a lack of workers. And we come up with a policy like this? Make no mistake about it, it’s cruel and inhumane but it also hurts our economy significantly. And if you don’t believe me talk to business leaders, any business leader you know.

Shockingly, the White House’s immigration proposal fails to deal with Dreamers or the 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States. The White House Press Secretary said Dreamers were quote “left out on purpose.” What does that say about the administration? That goes to the root of what is wrong with this administration’s approach to immigration. And if they think they can repeat what they failed to do in the past—if they try to repeat it saying ‘okay we’ll let Dreamers, in but you accept a whole lot of bad things,’ which is why immigration failed last time, last year—it ain’t happening. It ain’t happening.

In Washington DC celebrity news:

“Kiss” rocker Gene Simmons made a surprise visit to the White House and the Pentagon. According to reports, Simmons thanked American troops for their service “choked back tears” as he talked about how his mother survived a Nazi concentration camp.

Meanwhile, Say Anything actor John Cusack was on Capitol Hill Thursday, apparently talking impeachment with top Democrats including Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler.

Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris said Thursday that her campaign raised more than $160,000 for abortion rights groups in the aftermath of legislation passing in Alabama that represents a de facto ban on the procedure.

I’ve just been to the White House where the sun is shining and expectation growing ahead of Donald Trump’s rose garden announcement of another immigration plan, though there is plenty of scepticism across Washington.

The latest effort is led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and focuses on strengthening border security and prioritising green cards for high-skilled workers rather than relatives of people already in the country. It would kill the diversity visa lottery.

Currently, officials say, around two in three green cards are issued to people with family ties, while only 12% are merit based.

Jared Kushner in August of 2018.
Jared Kushner in August of 2018.
Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

One safe bet this afternoon is that Trump will talk about his signature border wall. The Kushner plan also calls for new infrastructure at ports of entry to accelerate commerce while reducing drug and human smuggling, as well as an overhaul of the asylum system to process fewer applications and remove people faster.

Immigration reform has been a Gordian Knot of American politics for three decades and there are doubts on both sides of the aisle whether Kushner is the man to untie it. The imminence of another presidential election does not help.

Conservative Republicans are likely to be dismayed that the proposal does not curb overall rates of immigration. It also fails to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for hundreds of thousands of undocumented “Dreamers”. Why?

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters today that “every single time that we have put forward or anyone else has put forward any type of immigration plan that has included DACA, it’s failed.”

Sanders speaking to reporters about Trump’s plan to overhaul immigration on Thursday.
Sanders speaking to reporters about Trump’s plan to overhaul immigration on Thursday.
Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

But this has already prompted criticism. Republicans Senator Susan Collins told the Washington Post: “I am concerned about the fate of the DACA young people, and they cannot be excluded from any immigration package.”

While Kushner is the face of the plan, Democrats detect the hand of hardliner senior adviser Stephen Miller. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said: “Don’t come up with a plan that Stephen Miller rubber stamps and say, ‘Now, pass it.’ It’s not going to happen.”

Pili Tobar, deputy director of America’s Voice, a group that advocates for immigrants’ rights, warned: “This is not designed to be a serious policy proposal – it’s a message document that is a misguided attempt at political posturing. To say it’s dead on arrival would be generous.”

President Donald Trump’s latest financial disclosure report is expected to provide a rare glimpse into whether his presidency has helped or hurt his hotels, golf resorts and other parts of his business empire.

The report, which is filed with the Office of Government Ethics and set for release Thursday, will be closely studied for changes in revenue at key properties in 2018, including his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, his Washington, D.C., hotel and his Doral golf resort in Miami.

Experts say the Trump business has taken a hit from the president’s divisive policies and rhetoric, though the Trump Organization says much of the business is fine.

All declared candidates for president are required to file these disclosures, but few are likely to be as juicy as Trump’s. Here’s Cory Booker’s as an example:

Four demonstrators who have been staging a protest inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington for more than a month were arrested Thursday morning, according to a prominent activist leader.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, told The Associated Press that police entered the embassy early Thursday morning to arrest the remaining activists.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a lawyer for the activists, said she believed they had been removed from the building, but she was still trying to determine their location and what criminal charges they may be facing.

The protesters consider Nicolás Maduro to be the legitimate Venezuelan president. But the US and more than 50 other countries say Maduro’s recent reelection was fraudulent and are backing congressional leader Juan Guaidó’s claim to the presidency.

House judiciary chairman: ‘impossible to rule out impeachment’

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler indicated that impeachment is on the table after the White House rejected his request for documents related to an investigation of possible obstruction of justice by the president.

“The president’s posture now is making it impossible to rule out impeachment or anything else. The letter we got from the White House is beyond outrageous… flies in the face of 200 years of history.”

In the letter, the White House accused Nadler of a “legally indefensible” conduct, and said it will “continue to work in good faith” to accommodate “Congress’s legitimate requests for information.”

Updated

Democrat Stacey Abrams penned an op-ed in the New York Times Thursday appealing for an end to voter suppression, which has been a pet issue of hers since narrowly losing the race for Georgia’s governorship in November.

Abrams wrote:

Local and state officials across the country, emboldened by the Supreme Court effectively neutering the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, are shamelessly weakening voter registration, ballot access and ballot-counting procedures.

These officials slyly mask their assaults through criteria that appear neutral on the surface but nevertheless target race, gender, language and economic status. The “exact match” policy in Georgia, which a federal court deemed unlawful in November because it requires perfect data entry to secure a timely registration, serves as one example of such a policy.

Abrams race against governor Brian Kemp was fraught with allegations of voter suppression. As secretary of state at the time of. the election, Kemp had direct oversight over the purging of voters from rolls, which many saw as a conflict of interest. Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has gone as far as to say: “Let’s say this loud and clear: Without voter suppression, Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia.”

Donald Trump continued his pattern of issuing shamelessly self-serving presidential pardons late Wednesday, pardoning two prominent conservatives who had already completed their sentences.

From the Washington Post:

Trump pardoned billionaire Conrad Black, who a year ago published a book called “Donald J. Trump: A president like no other.” The book is more hagiography than biography. It defends Trump against charges that he is a racist, stating flatly that he is not. It hails his “very successful” foreign policy ventures. It credits his “unquenchable energy,” “sheer entertainment talent” and “raw toughness.” It misleadingly hails his 2016 election win by saying he won “more votes than any previous Republican candidate for president,” without noting that this was mostly a function of population growth and that Trump lost the popular vote. He called Trump’s win a “stunning rebuff” of the media.

Trump also pardoned Patrick Nolan, the former Republican leader of the California state assembly. Nolan is a friend of the Trump family who has been publically critical of the Mueller investigation that Trump routinely labeled a witch hunt.

Trump has previously pardoned other political allies and boosters like conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, and Arizona sheriff and immigration hard-liner Joe Arpio.

“Scranton Joe” is staying close to home. Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden has decided to locate his campaign headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“We’re proud to anchor our campaign in the birthplace of American democracy,” Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, said in a statement. The city is a two hour drive from Biden’s hometown of Scranton.

The state is a key part of any Democratic path to the White House. Donald Trump was the first Republican to win it since 1988.

Former president Jimmy Carter is out of hospital this morning. He had gone in earlier this week after breaking his hip in a fall at his home.

In the suddenly turbocharged national assault on womens’ healthcare and reproductive rights, another salvo has been fired, this time in Missouri.

Early Thursday the Missouri Senate passed a bill to ban abortion at eight weeks of pregnancy.

The law still needs to be approved in the state’s house of representatives before it can head to Republican Governor Mike Parson’s desk for signing.

The bill includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Doctors who perform abortions after eight weeks face five to 15 years in prison.

Just a few weeks ago it likely would have been considered the harshest anti-abortion legislation in the US, but Georgia and Alabama both passed even stricter laws in the past two weeks. The Georgia bill bans abortions at six weeks, and the Alabama bill functionally bans it entirely.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives will read the entire redacted Mueller Report today, starting a noon.

Lawmakers, led by Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, a top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, plan to livestream the reading from a Capitol hearing room.

Earlier in the week Scanlon told the Washington Post that she came up with the idea in response to persistent claims from President Trump’s supporters, that the report’s release exonerated him of collusion or obstruction of justice.

Mueller’s concluded, of course, that he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction.

“We have a Constitutional duty to share that truth with the American people,” Scanlon said in a release, adding the report’s conclusions could not be adequately “summarized in a tweet.”

Of course the redacted Mueller report has been available in text for weeks- so it’s unclear why reading it aloud is likely to convince anyone of anything. Not to mention that few Trump supporters are likely to tune into a livestream of congressional Democrats reading for hours on end.

Scanlon acknowledged to the Post that it’s a move intended to keep media attention on the report as Democrats pursue ongoing investigation and oversight of the administration.

“We’ve been saying for weeks that if you think there was no obstruction and no collusion, you haven’t read the Mueller report,” Scanlon said.

“So the ongoing quest has been, ‘How do we get that story out there while we are waiting for the witnesses to come in?’”

De Blasio announces bid for president

Good morning and welcome to the politics blog for Thursday.

The Democratic race has a new contender: New York mayor Bill de Blasio.

The progressive two-term mayor announced his run with a video released by his campaign. It was widely expected after de Blasio made visits to early primary states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

“There’s plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands,” de Blasio says at the beginning of the video. He concludes: “I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first.”

De Blasio is fighting an uphill battle, not only against the momentum of better-known candidates who have been in the race for months now, but also his own profound unpopularity.

Polls have shown a vast majority of New Yorkers – 76% – don’t think he should run for president, and his aspirations have been widely mocked in his hometown and discouraged by his own allies.

“I’m glad I’ve unified the people of New York City,” he quipped when asked about the lack of enthusiasm in the polls.

De Blasio is the third New York mayor in as many mayors to mull or attempt a White House run now, following Rudi Giuliani – now serving as Donald Trump’s lawyer – and Michael Bloomberg, the anti-Trump billionaire who is said to still be contemplating a run after announcing in March that he would not jump in.

Trump naturally greeted de Blasio’s entrance with derision on Twitter, calling de Blasio “the worst mayor in the US” and “a joke” before really twisting the knife. “NYC HATES HIM!”

De Blasio hit back on Good Morning America: “I call him Con Don. Every New Yorker knows he’s a con artist. We know his tricks. We know his playbook.”

His first campaign event is scheduled for Friday in Iowa.

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Trump proposes new US immigration plan favoring 'merit' over family ties – as it happened | NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).