U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 1, 2017

Win McNamee/Getty Images


1. Trump calls for ending ‘trivial fights’ in first address to Congress
President Trump, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, on Tuesday called for setting aside “trivial fights” to focus on fixing the nation’s problems. Trump defended his presidency after a tumultuous first 40 days, and made a bid to smooth the waters by reframing his hard-line campaign promises in more moderate terms. Trump reached across the aisle with a call to pass paid family leave, long a priority for Democrats, and vowed to work with Muslim allies to defeat the Islamic State. He also forcefully pushed some of his most controversial policies, such as his temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority nations and his immigration crackdown, while urging his opponents to give him a chance. “We are one people, with one destiny,” he said. “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.”

Source: The Washington Post

2. Ex-governor from Kentucky accuses Trump of dividing nation in Democratic response
Former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic response to President Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday, accusing Trump of dividing the country and trying to “rip affordable health insurance” from Americans. “Real leaders don’t spread derision and division,” Beshear said. “Real leaders strengthen. They unify… and they offer real solutions instead of ultimatums and blame.” Beshear urged lawmakers to defend the Affordable Care Act, warning that “so far, every Republican idea to replace [the ACA] would reduce the number of Americans covered.” Beshear also referred to Trump as “Wall Street’s champion.” A folksy former leader from a red state, he made a pitch that analysts said was part of Democrats’ attempt to win back working-class voters who helped Trump upset Hillary Clinton in November.

Source: CBS News

3. Trump places blame for SEAL’s death on generals
President Trump on Tuesday responded to criticism by the father of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a counterterrorism raid in Yemen, by shifting responsibility to his generals. “They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected,” Trump told Fox & Friends. “My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I would — I believe. And they lost Ryan.” Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, said earlier this month that anyone who criticized the raid, the first such mission of Trump’s presidency, was dishonoring Ryan, but Ryan’s father, William Owens, has called the operation “stupid” and refused to meet with Trump when his son’s body was brought back to the U.S. During Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday, Owens’ widow received a lengthy standing ovation.

Source: The Hill, ABC News

4. Trump calls for review of Obama-era water protection rule
President Trump on Tuesday told the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to review a sweeping clean water rule ordered by the Obama administration, saying he hoped he was “paving the way for the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.” Trump said the regulation, which he called “a massive power grab,” unnecessarily burdened farmers and businesses. Scrapping it could make it easier for farmers and developers to drain wetlands and small streams. Outdoor recreation and environmental groups said the rule, which affects 60 percent of the nation’s water bodies, was critical in the protection of drinking water, the landscape, and wildlife.

Source: The Washington Post

5. Jewish leaders criticize alleged Trump remark on bomb threats
The leaders of several Jewish organizations on Tuesday called for President Trump to clarify himself after he reportedly said that recent bomb threats against Jewish centers might not have been expressions of anti-Semitism, but “the reverse” to “make others look bad.” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Trump, who has condemned the threats, made the comments in a meeting with state attorneys general. Critics have interpreted Trump’s remarks as a suggestion that bomb threats against more than 60 Jewish institutions since last month were made to hurt Trump’s image. A Trump adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, tweeted that it was “highly irresponsible to jump to conclusions” about who made the threats.

Source: Los Angeles Times, The Hill

6. 11 teens injured when SUV hits band members in Alabama Mardi Gras parade
Eleven teenagers were injured on Tuesday when a Ford Expedition plowed into a high school marching band during a Mardi Gras parade in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Three of the teens were in critical condition late Tuesday, Gulf Shores city spokesman Grant Brown said. Investigators did not immediately know why the SUV’s driver, a 73-year-old man, suddenly accelerated, leaving the teens in the Gulf Shores High School band no time to get out of the way. Authorities did say, however, that the crash did not appear to have been intentional.

Source: Al.com, CNN

7. Iraq says ISIS leaders fleeing Mosul as battle continues
The commander of Iraq’s Federal Police, Lt. Gen. Raid Shakir Jaudat, said Tuesday that Islamic State leaders are fleeing western Mosul as government troops attack their last major urban stronghold in the country. He said the Islamist extremist group is “living in a state of shock, confusion, and defeat, and its fighters are fighting in isolated groups.” Iraqi forces drove ISIS out of eastern Mosul a month ago, and are now undertaking an offensive to reclaim the rest of the city, Iraq’s second largest.

Source: CNN

8. Trump set to remove Iraq from new travel ban
President Trump will remove Iraq from the list of countries affected by a 90-day travel ban in his new immigration order, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The officials said that Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen will stay on the list, but Iraq was removed because the country is a crucial partner in the fight against the Islamic State. The Pentagon and State Department had urged Trump to make the change. The new order, which Trump is expected to sign within days, will replace the original one that has been blocked several times by several courts.

Source: The Associated Press

9. 2 injured when police sniper accidentally fires during French president’s speech
A French police sniper on Tuesday mistakenly fired his weapon during a speech by President François Hollande, slightly injuring two people. Hollande, nearing the end of a five-year presidency marred by several deadly terrorist attacks, halted his address when the gunfire rang out. “I hope it’s nothing serious,” he said before resuming his speech. The sniper reportedly was a member of the PSPG, an elite protection squad, who accidently discharged his weapon when he shifted his position under a marquee near a reception area.

Source: The Washington Post

10. Penguin Random House beats out rivals to snag Obama book deal
Penguin Random House won an auction for the right to publish forthcoming books by former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, the company said Tuesday night. No details on the deal were immediately released, but publishing industry executives said it was likely worth tens of millions of dollars. Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle said the publishing house looked forward to working with the Obamas to make the books “global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.” The company plans to donate one million books in the Obamas’ name to First Book, a Penguin Random House nonprofit partner, and to Open eBooks, a partner of the 2016 White House digital education initiative.

Source: The New York Times

U.S. Politics

Replying to Trump’s speech, Sen. Sanders tells resisters to ‘Keep showing up, keep calling Congress’


In a bullseye response to Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders first took on what the pr*sident didn’t say. Then he calmly ripped apart what he did say. Among other things:

“When Donald Trump said we need to promote clean air and clean water…I had a difficult time not laughing out loud. Because on this very, very day he signed an executive order rolling back President Obama’s clean water rules and has appointed the most anti-environmental EPA administrator in our nation’s history.”

And finally Sanders urged everyone who has been rallying and protesting against the regime’s actions and proposed actions to “Keep showing up, keep calling Congress, and continue to fight. If you haven’t taken action yet, we need your voice. Only together when millions of people stand up for economic justice, for social justice, for racial justice, for environmental justice, only then can we create a political revolution that will turn this country around.”

Here is his entire response without further comment:

Meteor Blades

U.S. Politics

American Carnage Redux: Trump’s Dark And Misleading Picture of America

Jim Lo Scalzo


Additional reporting by Tierney Sneed

WASHINGTON, D.C.—For several days, Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been assuring reporters and the public that President Donald Trump would deliver a “positive” address to his first joint session of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday afternoon that he was expecting “an upbeat portrayal of what America could be with the kind of changes we are in the process of implementing.”

What Trump ultimately delivered was somewhat more subdued than the apocalyptic rhetoric of his RNC acceptance speech and inaugural address. He vowed at the outset of the speech to “deliver a message of unity and strength,” and he struck a compassionate note by expressing concern about the recent waves of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries.

But after that relatively moderate opening, Trump went on to paint a dark and often misleading portrait of a country with “dying industries,” “crumbling infrastructure,” a “terrible drug epidemic,” “neglected inner cities,” and a general “environment of lawless chaos.”

It was, in short, “American carnage” all over again, though less angry.


One of the most controversial portions of the speech, which garnered the sharpest reaction from Democratic lawmakers, focused on immigration.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump shocked the nation by reportedly embracing a plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But there was no sign of this softening in Tuesday night’s speech, save for a vague “I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible.”

Instead, Trump repeated his call for a “great, great wall” on the U.S. Mexico border, and touted his policy of ramped up deportations. “Bad ones are going out as I speak,” he said of the hundreds of people being removed from the country under the loosened guidelines in his executive order.

He then gave a nod to his guests at the address, people whose relatives were killed by undocumented immigrants. “These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations,” he said, pointing to the people seated beside First Lady Melania Trump.

Many Democrats took issue with this portrayal of the nation’s immigrant population. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) disputed that characterization, telling TPM that many undocumented immigrants are “kids who are trying to flee violence and mayhem.”

Carper also criticized the President for failing to address the forces that push so many people to migrate to the U.S. in the first place. “The kind of money he wants to spend on a wall would be much better spent trying to make sure folks in Honduras and El Salvador have safety and a decent life,” he said. “That’s the root cause that ought to be addressed.”

Democrats’ strongest negative reaction of the evening came when Trump announced the creation of an office to track and highlight crimes committed by immigrants.

“The office is called VOICE: Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement,” he said as lawmakers audibly booed and hissed. “We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.”

Many studies have found that immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes that native-born American citizens.


As he has in past speeches, President Trump focused on violent crime, describing “an environment of lawless chaos” where “gang members, drug dealers and criminals … threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.”

“The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century,” he said. While this is true, it is, again, misleading. The one-year spike came after two straight decades of a declining murder rate, and overall violent crime rates nationwide remain near historic low.


Earlier this week, Trump’s new national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster advised him against the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” explaining that using the term hurts the ability of the U.S. to work with majority-Muslim countries on combating terrorism.

Trump ignored that advice Tuesday night. After vowing to protect the nation from “radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump described “war and destruction that have raged across our world,” focusing in particular on ISIS, which he called “a network of lawless savages.” Trump vowed with his usual bombast to “demolish and destroy” the terrorist network, saying he will “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”

Trump also hinted at, but did not directly address, reports that he will implement a new executive order on Wednesday banning some immigrants and refugees from the Middle East.

“It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur,” he said. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”

An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security failed to find evidence that the people blocked by the travel ban posed any national security threat to the United States, and former State Department and national security officials submitted a court brief arguing that the ban makes the nation less safe.

The officials warned that the order will “endanger U.S. troops in the field,” interfere with “key counterterrorism, foreign policy, and national security partnerships” and “endanger intelligence sources in the field.”


Trump spent a significant portion of the speech lamenting the state of the economy he inherited.

“We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years,” he said. “Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars.”

That latter statistic is misleading, as the nation runs a surplus in trade in services, making the overall traded deficit much lower. Trump did not note that the jobs market is currently the strongest it has been in a decade, unemployment is under five percent, and he took office amid a record increase in middle-class incomes.


U.S. Politics

Publisher Announces Books By The Obamas Are Officially On The Way

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 18: (AFP OUT) President Barack Obama speaks, as First Lady Michelle Obama listens, at a reception for Black History Month, in the East Room of the White House, February 18, 2016, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images)

Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images


Penguin Random House announced on Tuesday night that Barack and Michelle Obama have both signed book deals with the publisher. According to the statement, the former president and former first lady will each be authoring a book in the near future.

“Penguin Random House is pleased to announce that it will publish forthcoming books by former President of the United States Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Oenguin Random House CEO MArkus Dohle announced today that the company has acquired world publication rights for two books, to be written by President and Mrs. Obama respectively.”

“Penguin Random House is pleased to announce that it will publish forthcoming books by former President of the United States Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Oenguin Random House CEO MArkus Dohle announced today that the company has acquired world publication rights for two books, to be written by President and Mrs. Obama respectively.”

The statement did not disclose an actual dollar amount for these deals, but according to a report in Financial Times, bids on their books had reached more than $60 million. If accurate, this would blow away the price tag attached to the memoirs of other recent presidents. Bill Clinton got $15 million for his book My Life and George W Bush made approximately $10 million from his book Decision Points.

The announcement did say that “in support of the mission of The Obama Foundation and Penguin Random House’s own commitment to social responsibility, the company will donate one million books in the Obama family’s name to First Book.”

The First Book program strives to “promote equal access to education by providing new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need.”

In addition, “the Obamas also plan to donate a significant portion of their author proceeds to charity.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama,” Dohle said. “With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same. Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with President and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.”

This is not the first time the former president has worked with the publisher. CNN points out that Penguin Random House has published Obama’s past books, “so the new deal continues a two-decade-long relationship.”

The hefty figures quoted in the bids for their books clearly demonstrate the expectation that these books are going to be huge best sellers. Personally, I have only one question: Where can I place a pre-order?

April Hamlin

U.S. Politics

How Donald Trump’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Is Fueling ISIS

How Donald Trump’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Is Fueling ISIS

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a USA Thank You Tour event in Mobile, Alabama. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson


The jihadis shoot their propaganda across the internet in search of the Western world’s frightened and dispossessed. On Twitter and Facebook, from YouTube to Google Play, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) traffics in lies, bombarding Western Muslims seeking adventure, compatriots or an outlet for their religious fervor.

The message is stark, terrifying: Your countries hate you. They despise your beliefs. They seek to destroy your faith and convert you to theirs. Your safety, your obligation to true Muslims, is to join the camp of Islam, the caliphate, and take up arms against the infidels.

Since the horrors of 9/11, American presidents operating under the advice of the intelligence community’s counterterrorism experts have understood that countering this propaganda has been among the most essential parts of the fight against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other murderous jihadi extremists. Through carefully selected language and—for the most part—considered policy, the United States has worked to expose the lies and convince young Muslims drawn by the propaganda toward hate that they are welcome and appreciated in America.

Related: Trump’s claims about “underreported” terror attacks are bogus 

That era appears to be over. President Donald Trump, in office for less than two months, has gutted the strategy used by Republicans and Democrats alike—out of ignorance, hubris or both—sending a new message from the White House, one that reinforces the jihadi extremists’ propaganda and increases the likelihood that more Americans will die in attacks.

“If there was a scriptwriter for ISIS, he could not have written a better script than what is coming out of the White House,’’ said M. Ehsan Ahrari, a professor of national security and strategy at the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College. “Since President Trump came into office, he has been going out of his way to make statements and decisions that are hurting America’s cause.”

The intricacies of fighting against jihadi attacks are complex. They involve military, cultural, linguistic, pattern recognition, social media and counter-propaganda skills, and they cannot be learned in a few days or by watching cable television. What might seem logical to the uninformed horrifies the experts who have spent years, even decades, trying to learn what drives jihadi movements and how best to reduce the danger of attacks. Ideas formed based on uneducated surmises, particularly those by people with poor knowledge of Islam, can backfire horribly. American leaders would never have taken the country into war against the Nazis without a comprehensive analysis of Hitler, his fascist ideology and its role in German nationalism. But in a matter of weeks, Trump has shown a willingness to do just that: make reckless actions that sound like common sense and lead his supporters to cheer, while exposing America to a greater danger from attacks than it faced before he entered the Oval Office.

The problem stems from the White House’s inability or unwillingness to understand two principles that have formed the core of American strategy in countering the jihadi threat. First, American Muslims and governments in Muslim-majority countries are the most important allies in the U.S.’s fight against extremists. And second, the enemies of America’s enemies are America’s friends. This requires understanding that not all Muslims practice their faith in the same way. Just as Catholics and Protestants murdered each other over doctrinal disputes in the wake of the Reformation 500 years ago (scholars estimate at least 50 million Christians died), the violent wars between the primary sects of Islam—the Sunnis and the Shiites—continue to this day. The large-scale attacks in the U.S. and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have involved Sunni extremist sects, including the most prominent of the violent groups, who tend to be practitioners of a particularly harsh form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism.

Moreover, the radical Sunnis kill non-radicals. So because Muslims are essential to combating jihadi extremists, and because many Sunni Muslims are sickened by the violent militants, every administration until Trump’s has taken care not to alienate Muslim allies, based on the counterterrorism analysis of American intelligence agencies.

For instance, during his time in office, President George W. Bush steadfastly refused to say “radical Islamic terrorism,” although he would occasionally mention “radical Islam” as a perversion of the Muslim faith. President Barack Obama also would not use the phrase, and Republicans condemned him relentlessly for bowing to “political correctness” that led America to downplay the nature of the threat.

Why did the two men avoid that label? Because the CIA told them to. The major jihadi threats to the U.S.—first Al-Qaeda and then ISIS—have desperately tried to portray their campaign of violence as a battle between Islam and the Western nations purportedly trying to destroy it. Counterterrorism experts at organizations like the Rand Corp. have found that Muslims convinced that Islam is under attack are more likely to join in the cause of violent groups. Muslim clerics can condemn fundamentalists, but when non-Muslims do so, it feeds into the ISIS narrative and empowers the organization. The emotional reaction of Muslims who are torn about whether to fight against the West would be strong, as it would for evangelists if violent killers in the Ku Klux Klan were called radical Christian terrorists (and make no mistake, the KKK, just like the Christian Identity movement, has claimed they are inspired to commit violence by their religion).

On his first day of office, Trump tossed aside 16 years of advice from the CIA’s counterterrorism experts. After just over 1,000 words in his inaugural speech, Trump said “radical Islamic terrorism” would be eradicated from the earth. Conservative commentators cheered, relieved that our commander in chief was no longer hesitant to use words they believed Obama and others had avoided out of political correctness. But experts cringed, seeing the phraseology as ignorant bullying that, for a few seconds of nationalistic joy, raised the danger level.

No one has to spend hours in a mosque to understand the importance of avoiding the phrase and others like it; just look at recent interactions between the leaders of two of America’s strongest allies. On February 2, Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, stumbled by using the phrase “Islamist terror” while on a state visit to Turkey, a friend of America’s that has allowed the U.S. Air Force to use one its bases as a major staging area for bombing and surveillance missions against ISIS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted in fury at Merkel’s slip. “The term ‘Islamist terror’ seriously upsets us Muslims,’’ he said. “The term should not be used…. The word Islam means peace. Therefore, if we use a word that means peace alongside terror, that will upset members of that faith…. So please, let’s not use that term. So long as it is used, we have to stand up to it. If we stay silent, it means we accept it. Personally, as a Muslim, as a Muslim president, I can never accept this.”

As intelligence analysts explained to both Bush and Obama, harsh words linking extremist Islam to terrorism should come only from Muslims, which Merkel made clear she understood at a speech at the Munich Security Conference in February. “It is not Islam that is the source of terrorism but a falsely understood Islam,” she said. “I expect from religious authorities of Islam to find strong language in order to delimitate peaceful Islam from terrorism committed in the name of Islam. We as non-Muslims cannot do this. It should be done by Islamic clergy and authorities.”

Soon after Merkel spoke in Munich, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech to the same audience and ignored the warnings of Erdogan, the German chancellor and the CIA. Four times he said variations of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” and portrayed its practitioners as fighting a war on Western civilization. ISIS could not have asked for more. If such words can anger an ally as important as the Turkish president, what impact does it have on ordinary Muslims being bombarded with the ISIS message that they are in a fight to save Islam?

But that sort of language is nothing compared with one of the greatest bungles in years to undermine counterterrorism efforts: Trump’s travel ban. The executive order banned visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia. Under the order, people from those nations were forbidden to enter the U.S. for 90 days regardless of whether they had valid non-diplomatic visas. For refugees, the order was worse—none could be admitted for 120 days, while Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely. Meanwhile, U.S. officials proclaimed that Christian refugees should be given top consideration for admission.

While federal courts have since blocked the order, the images and stories of Muslim families being torn apart, of children being held in detention, of old women being blocked from boarding planes, have gone worldwide. From a counterterrorism perspective, whether the most horrific tales are true or not—and some, such as the one about a woman dying in an airport, are false—does not matter. The fact that untold numbers of Americans turned up at airports to protest is also irrelevant. The tales of disrespect and mistreatment have spread across social media and been the focus of commentary and anger in Muslim communities in America and abroad.

Almost immediately, Islamists filled pro-ISIS social media platforms with declarations that the predictions offered by leading extremists were coming true. Some postings cited the words of former Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who said the “West would eventually turn against its Muslim citizens.” (An American drone strike killed al-Awlaki in 2011.) ISIS picked up the same theme years later in its magazine, Dabiq. “Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes…as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands so as to force them into a tolerable sect of apostasy,” one article read.

Aside from reinforcing Islamist propaganda, Trump’s travel ban doesn’t make Americans any safer. And it signaled that the White House is acting not on expert knowledge but on mere suppositions more likely to be spouted by a group of buddies hanging out at a bar.

In defending the Trump ban, White House officials said militants have set up training camps in the countries they identified in the ban. True but also irrelevant. Muslims eager to join the fight against the West do not just go down the street to their friendly neighborhood militant-training camp. Think of the camps as being more like a Caribbean resort: People travel there, then head home. Citizens of those countries are less likely to spend time in those camps because it makes them easily identifiable to local anti-extremists law enforcement. (The largest segment of people killed by ISIS and other Islamist groups are Muslims; they have as much interest in fighting the militants as Western governments do.) Volunteers who attend the camps overwhelmingly head off to battle in the Middle East, not the U.S.

In reality, no immigrants from any of the seven nations on the list have killed an American in an attack. Little of the threat, as identified by the CIA as far back as the Bush administration, comes from jihadis traveling to the U.S.; instead, it emerges from the spread of their ideology—often known as bin Ladenism—using online propaganda, message boards and social media. The West is primarily fighting an ideology, not a religion or a group of people from somewhere else. Trump’s travel ban has helped that ideology spread. In words echoed by American intelligence officials unwilling to speak on the record, Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, one of the countries affected by Trump’s executive order, tweeted that the travel ban “will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters.” Iran is led by a Shiite government whose militia forces was described by former Secretary of State John Kerry as “helpful” in the United States and Arab allies fight against ISIS.

What Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that the nature of the jihadi threat to America has changed dramatically since 9/11, and he is fighting the last battle. Today, the primary danger comes not from overseas but from here in the U.S. Contrary to the public perception advanced by alarmist, ill-informed or dishonest politicians, ISIS as an organization is struggling after significant defeats on the battlefield. It has lost large amounts of territory, its ranks of foreign fighters from the United States—and other Western nations—has collapsed, and many of its sources of financing have dried up.

Meanwhile, homegrown radicalization is on the upswing as more Americans and legal residents buy into the propaganda of bin Ladenism. “Al-Qaeda and [ISIS] continue to target Muslim-American communities in our country to recruit and inspire individuals to commit acts of violence,’’ George Selim, then the director of the Office for Community Partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security, testified before a congressional committee last September. In early February, the House’s Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Republican Michael McCaul of Texas, issued a report called the “Terror Threat Snapshot.” The document states that “there has been an unprecedented spike in the homegrown terror threat, primarily driven by the rise of ISIS.”

Despite Trump’s false representations, the procedures put in place after 9/11 have made it extremely difficult for jihadi attackers to get into the U.S. In fact, all recent attacks in the U.S. were committed by citizens or legal residents. In the past year, according to the Homeland Security Committee’s report, there have been 39 homegrown jihadi criminal cases in 19 states.

The U.S. has already developed a series of strategies for rooting out domestic jihadi threats—that’s part of why there have been dozens of criminal cases and relatively few attacks. The key to this effort is Muslims themselves. They are the ones at the mosques, in the community, listening to the words of the peaceful—and the potentially violent among them. They have been law enforcement’s greatest asset in identifying the small number of dangerous people hidden among them. Fathers have turned in sons they feared had become radicalized, while students reported classmates who seemed to pose a growing danger.

“Well-informed families and communities are our best defense against terrorist ideologies, which represent the current threat from [ISIS’s] propaganda,’’ Selim testified in September. “Within this context, working with communities to prevent radicalization to violence has become imperative.”

This is the same message that virtually every expert has voiced since 9/11. “Embedded within these communities are the linguistic skills, information and cultural insights necessary to assist law enforcement in its efforts to identify suspicious behavior,’’ Deborah Ramirez, a law professor at Northeastern University, wrote in 2004. “In order to have access to these critical tools and information, law enforcement recognized the need to build bridges required for effective communication with these groups.” Indeed, a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service found that community policing through the establishment of relationships between law enforcement and Muslims had seen success in an array of cities, including New York, Chicago, Boston and San Diego.

Muslims have also been important in countering the online propaganda of jihadis. When the extremist narrative espoused on social media and message boards goes unchallenged, recipients of those messages are confined to an information bubble. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security established a program called Peer-to-Peer, or P2P, contests, a government-sponsored competition where university students design online campaigns to counter violent extremism online. The government then uses the ideas that show the most success and scales them up for use around the world.

In 2015, Facebook joined with the government in sponsoring these student teams, allowing for the number to increase last year to 100 groups around the world. The Department of Homeland Security has described the effort as “essential” in creating positive messages to counter violent Islamist propaganda. Now vast numbers of those students have been insulted; most likely, many have families that would have been barred from coming into the U.S. by Trump’s order.

Equally worrisome: The travel ban also damages America’s efforts to combat the militants overseas. Even with all of the money spent by the United States in foreign countries on counterterrorism efforts, the majority of the work is performed by local Muslims partnering with American military and intelligence personnel. American troops and counterterrorism specialists, for instance, are working directly with local forces in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. By allowing American fighters and intelligence advisers to assist them—as well as by having government-to-government cooperation—the Muslim combatants, politicians and informants opposing the radical jihadis are putting their lives at greater peril. Now, by issuing the travel ban, the Trump administration has sent them a message: that America believes all Muslims are the same.

“The success of each mission [fought in the Middle East by American troops and intelligence personnel] requires local capabilities and knowledge, and the foundation of these efforts is trust,’’ the Soufan Group, a private intelligence service, said in a report issued as word leaked of Trump’s plan for the travel ban. “The news that those paying the highest toll in supporting U.S. counterterrorism efforts would be summarily barred from entering the U.S. could only have destructive effects.”

The damage caused by the recklessness of the Trump administration’s policies are even more wide-ranging than they might appear. For example, Iran has its own propaganda narrative—which Trump has now reinforced by including the country in the travel ban—that the American government does not differentiate between Sunnis and Shiites. The point is reinforced by the fact that Iraq, Syria and Yemen also have large Shiite populations.

Until now, American presidents have carefully balanced interests between maintaining local partners in counterterrorism activities while working to frustrate Iran’s efforts to increase its influence in the region. The U.S. depends on the predominantly Shiite Iraqi government as its primary ally in fighting ISIS. Since the fall of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Iran has been trying to gain greater influence over its majority-Shiite brethren in that neighboring country. And already relations between the U.S. and its allies in the Iraqi government have soured. With the news of the travel ban, the Iraqis called for a reciprocal ban on Americans coming into their country. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a group of powerful Iran-sponsored militia groups, have called for all Americans to be expelled from the country too. Trump has reinforced both the Sunni narrative of ISIS and the Shiite narrative of Iran, setting back U.S. counterterrorism efforts by almost a decade, according to a former government official with direct ties to the U.S. intelligence community, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Time is slipping away. With each day, America’s enemies spread untold numbers of messages, videos, posts and articles across the internet, trying to persuade ordinary Muslims that their families, their friends and their faith are under attack. Because of Trump’s failure to act on the advice of experts, this fantasy that Islam faces its own version of Pearl Harbor could inspire increasing numbers of Muslims to join in the extremists’ fight against the West.

Trump, like every president, is duty bound to protect the lives of all Americans. If he does not learn that the intelligence community and the military know more than he does about how to fight the militants and how to stop the spread of their poisonous ideology, the president of the United States will fail at his most sacred, fundamental task: protecting the lives of its citizens.

Kurt Eichenwald

U.S. Politics

Watching Supreme Court Justices Watch Trump Is Your New Favorite Hobby

Five members of the Supreme Court (Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) watch President Donald Trump speak to a joint session of Congress | ALEX WONG VIA GETTY IMAGES


Supreme Court justices generally don’t show much emotion during presidential addresses, no matter who’s speaking, and President Donald Trump’s first time delivering such an address was no exception.

In 2010, Associate Justice Samuel Alito mouthed “not true” during a speech by President Barack Obama and hasn’t been back since, complaining that it’s “very awkward” to “have to sit there like the proverbial potted plant most of the time.”

This year, five of the eight justices turned up for the event ― and on social media, viewers were on guard for any moment that went beyond judicial stoicism.

Here’s some of what they caught:


U.S. Politics

Here are the biggest lies, mistruths and “alternative facts” from Trump’s joint address

Here are the biggest lies, mistruths and

Image Credit: Getty Images


President Donald Trump is addressing a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night in a State of the Union-esque speech. The president is expected to muse on current events, outline his administration’s objectives and make the case for his nascent presidency’s policy agenda.

Of course, this being the factually-challenged Trump the nation has come to know so very well, fact-checkers across the U.S. are standing ready to identify whatever “alternative facts” come down the pipeline. Follow Mic‘s live vetting of the president’s speech below.

9:11 p.m.: “A new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly in our grasp.”

Polls show Americans are broadly anxious about the future of the U.S. under Trump.

9:16 p.m.: Trump name-checks companies he says have kept jobs in the U.S. under his presidency

According to the New York Times, several companies which the president is taking credit for personally convincing to keep or create jobs in the U.S. were actually just following through on previously announced plans, including Sprint (owned by Softbank) and Chrysler.

Trump has cited misleading numbers of jobs he supposedly saved at Carrier, an air conditioning manufacturer.

9:22 p.m.: Trump claims enforcing immigration laws will make Americans safer

“By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone,” Trump said.

On the last point, multiple studies have concluded immigrants commit less crime than U.S. citizens, according to the New York Times. According to the Times, census data shows immigrant men aged 18-49 are one-fifth to one-half as likely to face incarceration as natural-born citizens, while non-citizens (comprising 7% of the population) are only 5% of the state and federal prison population.

9:25 p.m.: Trump misleads on his role in saving money on the F-35 program

While Trump has touted his supposed role in saving $700 million on the much-criticized, $1 trillion-plus F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, according to Politifact, program costs have been coming down for years.

9:27 p.m.: Trump defends his immigration policy, saying U.S. cannot afford a “beachhead of terrorists” or “sanctuary for extremists”

No nationals from the seven countries specifically banned from entering the U.S. by Trump’s executive order have committed terror attacks resulting in U.S. fatalities since 1975 and his plan would do little to prevent terrorism, which is mostly homegrown.

9:29 p.m.: Trump cites highly misleading figures on the labor force

As Politico’s Michael Grunwald noted, the vast majority of those in the 94 million figure are not typically considered working constituencies, including the elderly, students as young as 16, full-time students, stay-home parents and people who live off of investment income.

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