U.S. Politics

A Hawaii judge has just blocked President Trump’s revised travel ban

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images


Shockingly, Trump is displeased.

A federal judge on Wednesday stopped President Trump’s second attempt to temporarily ban visa holders from several majority-Muslim countries — and nearly all refugees — from entering the United States, hours before it was supposed to take effect. The ruling found that the order likely violates a constitutional prohibition against religious discrimination.

It was a scathing rebuke for an order that administration officials spent weeks reworking, in hopes of avoiding the judicial blockade that the first attempt sailed into in January.

Trump immediately panned it, in a speech in Tennessee. “This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach,” he said.

The temporary restraining order came from federal judge Derrick K. Watson, of the District of Hawaii. It prevents the Trump administration from going forward with its plan to stop issuing visas to residents of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen; to stop allowing refugees to enter the US for 120 days; and to cut the US’s total refugee quota for the current fiscal year (which ends in September) in half.

The worst news for the administration is that the ruling suggests future revisions of the ban won’t help its chances of survival. Watson declared that the travel ban is, for all intents and purposes, a Muslim ban — that its reason for being fundamentally violates the First Amendment:

A reasonable, objective observer—enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance—would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose.

The refugee and visa ban was the first major policy that Trump put into effect — but at this point, it’s been tied up in court for much longer than it was actually in force. After a week of widespread airport chaos and detentions, and contradictory legal interpretations from within the federal government, the original version of the order was put on legal hold.

After a series of defeats in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the same circuit where Wednesday’s ruling came down), the administration took the unusual step of all but conceding defeat, and the even more unusual step of seeking input from the rest of the federal government in order to tighten the legal and policy case for the ban.

It does not appear to have worked. Unless overturned by a higher court, Watson’s ruling means the administration won’t get the chance to demonstrate a smoother rollout of the travel ban, as it was planning to do Tuesday. And it might never get the chance to put visas and refugees on hold, at all.

The ruling is the clearest indication yet that the courts will see the travel ban as a Muslim ban

The temporary restraining order, like those issued by other federal judges against the original ban (which ultimately inspired the Trump administration to give up and try again with this version), is designed to keep the status quo in place while the case against the order makes its way through the courts. It’s not a ruling that the executive order is unconstitutional.

But the text of Watson’s order makes it pretty clear that he thinks the order violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

This was something judges were a little more leery of during the first round of travel ban fights. The state argued that Trump’s executive order should be seen as the “Muslim ban” that candidate Trump promised on the campaign trail. The federal government has denied this at every turn — pointing out, for example, that most Muslim visa holders don’t come from the six blacklisted countries.

Judge Watson was not having it:

The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. The Court declines to relegate its Establishment Clause analysis to a purely mathematical exercise.

But the federal government can’t write the allegation of animus out of the text of an executive order. And if Judge Watson, and the other judges hearing challenges to travel ban 2.0, sides with the state of Hawaii and the other travel ban challengers, the first big policy of the Trump administration will be permanently sunk.

The federal government is likely to try to get the hold revoked by a higher court — just as it did with the original executive order. Trump’s Department of Justice refused to commit to such a step Wednesday, but Trump himself told a crowd, at a Nashville rally, that he was going to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court if he needed to.

Trump also said that he preferred the first version of the travel ban — and called the revised version, the one that his lawyers had painstakingly worked to put together, merely a “watered-down” version of the original.

In other words, he continued to make Watson’s case — that the revised executive order, despite its efforts to make a national-security case for selecting the 6 blacklisted countries, is just a further attempt to make a Muslim ban look constitutionally passable — for him.

If Trump wants to keep fighting for the “watered-down” ban, he’s going to have to go through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — the very same court that kept the first travel ban on hold. On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit announced that it had decided not to reconsider that ruling with a fuller panel of judges (at least one judge on the bench had asked for it, but the majority of judges on the circuit wanted to let the first ruling stand).

In other words, the whole Ninth Circuit, more or less, agreed that the first version of Trump’s travel ban was impermissible, just as the president himself said the second one was just an inferior version of the first.

Taken together, Watson’s order, Trump’s reaction, and the Ninth Circuit’s retrenchment aren’t a final shutdown of the visa and refugee ban. But they’re not a simple pause either.

Dara Lind

U.S. Politics

Time to declassify information about Russia’s role in U.S. elections, Senate Democrats say

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during a state awards ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 10, 2016. AFP PHOTO / POOL / PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AFP / POOL / PAVEL GOLOVKIN        (Photo credit should read PAVEL GOLOVKIN/AFP/Getty Images)

attribution: AFP/Getty Images


American politics is sounding more and more like a bad novel or B movie. A group of Democratic senators has sent the White House a letter asking for information on Russia’s role in the elections to be declassified. But, because of classification, that’s about all we know:

We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public. We are conveying specifics through classified channels.

It’s also significant which senators signed the letter: six—Oregon’s Ron Wyden, New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, Maine independent Angus King, Virginia’s Mark Warner, Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, and Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski—are on the Senate Intelligence Committee, while the seventh, Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, is on the Armed Services Committee.

Intelligence agencies have already said that Russia was involved in election-related hacking. Now we have reason to believe that there’s more we don’t know.

Laura Clawson

U.S. Politics

Trump proposes stripping citizenship from political protesters

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana


This is how autocracy happens.

Its a scene that is likely to prove quite familiar during a Trump presidency, Americans woke up Tuesday to discover that the incoming president took to Twitter to expose his ignorance of or disregard for the Constitution.

Criminalizing flag burning is unconstitutional, at least when the flag is burned as a political statement. As the Supreme Court explained in Texas v. Johnson, “if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Moreover, there is no indication “either in the text of the Constitution or in our cases interpreting it . . . that a separate juridical category exists for the American flag alone.” If someone chooses to express a political message through flag burning, even if that message is contempt towards the United States, the Constitution protects that speech.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who Trump has held up as a model for his Supreme Court nominee, was in the majority in Johnson.

But even setting aside Trump’s unconstitutional call to criminalize flag burning, which became a staple of American conservative politics long before Trump emerged as a presidential candidate, Trump is calling for something even more extraordinary. He wants to strip citizenship — and with it, voting rights — from political dissidents. Federal law does permit Americans to lose their citizenship after “committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States,” but flag burning is a far cry from treason or armed rebellion. It is a political statement, and democracy depends on the free expression of political ideas.

The president-elect of the United States has proposed stripping a political protester’s very status as an American. In the process, he would take away that person’s ability to vote — and thus to vote for someone other than Donald Trump. Today, Trump proposes this consequence for a very specific category of speech that most Americans view as odious. But once a person’s voting rights can be made contingent upon their beliefs, or their silence, then elections become increasingly meaningless.


U.S. Politics

President Trump: A colossal failure for democracy, and our terrifying new reality

President Trump: A colossal failure for democracy, and our terrifying new reality

AP Photo/Paul Sancya


It’s impossible to overstate how colossal a fuck-up this is. At every level, across both parties, the media, pollsters — all the democratic institutions that are supposed to prevent something like this from happening, or at least warn us about it. Donald Trump, a candidate who ran an openly racist campaign, who is as proud a misogynist as you’ll find anywhere, who is manifestly ignorant of public policy, who is brusquely authoritarian, who has little respect or understanding of democratic norms, and who embodies every moral failing that’s supposed to disqualify a candidate from higher office, has apparently been elected the next president of the United States.

The markets are collapsing, the globe is reeling, and nobody can quite explain what the hell happened. But here’s what this failure will mean. The climate, which is warming precipitously, is now guaranteed to continue along that trajectory toward global catastrophe. The millions of people who gained health coverage over the last half decade are now at acute risk of being thrown off their insurance and left to the unfeeling mercies of health underwriters. Income inequality, already at dangerously high levels, will only grow worse as tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for the poor are pushed through the Republican Congress. Unprecedented GOP obstructionism on Supreme Court nominees has been rewarded in the worst possible way. And the foreign policy of the United States will be run by a bona fide ignoramus.

The man elected to the most powerful office in the land has no idea what to do with it and no concept of its limitations. He attracts the worst people to him, sycophants and power-hungry strivers who will be placed in positions of authority and who will obey the boss’ diktat above anything else. Every democratic norm he gleefully shredded along the way is gone for good. Every thumb in the eye of transparency will now be official policy.

All that terrifies me.

But right now those things are not what I think about when I contemplate life under President Donald Trump. This will sound trite, but primarily I think about my two boys, a two-year-old and a four-month-old. I don’t have to explain this to them because neither would understand. But if I were to tell my two-year-old what is happening, I’d do it in Spanish, because both he and his brother have deep Mexican roots that my wife and I want them to embrace and be proud of. It destroys me to know that they, that we, live in a country that seems to have chosen as its leader a person who made frenzied racial attacks on my family’s heritage the launch pad for his successful presidential run.

I think about the African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, and Latinos in this country who now face life in a country presided over by a candidate who embodies white nationalism and memorably couldn’t bring himself to disavow a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Children of undocumented immigrants who are U.S. citizens by birth have been told by their new president that they’ll be deported. Every refugee from Syria who was relocated here to escape war and violence will have another target on their backs. These are the people who will feel the consequences of this failure most acutely.

I have one more thing to add.

I am sorry. In my capacity as a media figure, I too often treated Trump as a joke, a bumbling incompetent, someone who obviously could not be treated seriously as a legitimate candidate for the presidency. Now I can only think that I was too hidebound by conventional wisdom, too comfortably out of touch to see what was in front of me. I succumbed to the sideshow element of this awful race more times than I can be comfortable with. I own this failure too.

Simon Maloy

U.S. Politics

On Election Day, Trump Calls Running For President A “Waste Of Time’ (VIDEO)


Whether Republican nominee Donald Trump actually ever wanted to be the next President of the United States has been under speculation for a while now, especially with rumors about a Trump TV network surfacing as his campaign came to an end. It probably doesn’t help that Trump celebrated Election Day by dissing his own presidential campaign, perhaps in early acceptance that he might come out of this defeated.

In an interview with Fox and Friends on Tuesday morning, Trump decided to spend Election Day telling Americans that his campaign might very well have been a big waste of time for him. His exact words were:

“If I don’t win, I will consider it a waste of time, energy and money.”

 Seriously, could Trump be any less deserving of America’s future? His rival, Hillary Clinton, would never have called her campaign a “waste” and understands what an honor it is to lead this country. To imply that he might have better things to do with his time is extremely disrespectful and ignorant of Trump, which is hardly surprising when you look back on how awful his campaign was. You can watch Trump diss his own campaign below:

What Trump’s family members said on Election Day wasn’t much better. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Donald Trump, Jr. seemed to already be accepting defeat as he spoke about what the Trump family would do after the election. Trump’s son said:

“[If he doesn’t win,] we go back largely to doing what we’re doing. But I think hopefully he was able to create enough of a movement that forces people in the political elite, people in that political class to truly represent their people.”

These interviews clearly show that Trump doesn’t understand the responsibility or honor that comes with being the commander-in-chief. We’ve never had a less worthy presidential candidate, and he doesn’t deserve to be elected.

By Vera

U.S. Politics



Associated Press

Clinton Cleared… Report: Nearly Every Email Was A Duplicate!…
Hillary ‘Rolls Her Eyes, Shrugs’…
Finding Doesn’t Stop Republican Attacks…EARLIER: FBI Renegades Reportedly Trying To Sink Clinton… Kaine: ‘Absolutely Staggering’…  Franken: Comey Should Face Senate Hearings…

U.S. Politics

‘Why the Russians Are Backing Trump’: Maddow Previews Blockbuster Newsweek Story




Just as has been done previously with huge stories broken by Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow got a hold of some excerpts of tomorrow’s article and shared them with her viewers.

In this instance, Eichenwald’s report appears to show the real reason why Russia and Vladimir Putin are backing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The story also has the subtitle that claims Putin wants to weaken NATO.

One of the parts of the story that will come out in tomorrow’s issue is that Russia was apparently freaked out when the GOP candidate attacked the Khan family, believing that these actions would end up with Trump being forced out as the nominee.

According to the article, Russian officials who were hacking to influence the election felt that if Trump were replaced by the Republicans, the next candidate wouldn’t be as good for Russia. Thus, they stopped hacking documents for a while.

Maddow also noted that the article shows U.S. allies in Western Europe are are concerned that they will not be able to trust Trump.

Watch the clip above, via MSNBC.

[image via screengrab]

U.S. Politics

Most routes to 270 blocked for Trump


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The race for president reaches its final mile next week amid October surprises, but on the road to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, Hillary Clinton still has several ways to find her way to Washington.

The journey Donald Trump must take is perilous, at best.

Even as some national preference polls tighten, and voters wrestle with news the FBI has found new emails that may — or may not — be related to Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state, the billionaire Republican needs a dramatic final-stretch rebound in states where the Democratic nominee appears to have the upper hand.

The latest Associated Press analysis of the Electoral College map rates states worth 278 electoral votes as safely Democratic or leaning Clinton’s way. That analysis is based on preference polling, recent electoral history, demographic trends and campaign priorities such as advertising, travel and on-the-ground staff.

In short, that means Clinton doesn’t need to win a state now rated as a toss-up to win the White House.

Trump needs to win them all — and then go on to pick off some states that are now in Clinton’s column.

Impossible, it’s not. The effects of the FBI Director James Comey’s Friday letter to Congress, informing lawmakers of developments possibly related to the Clinton email case, may not be known until Election Day itself.

Trump leapt on the news this weekend, but so, too, did Clinton, casting Comey’s decision to act so close to Nov. 8 as “deeply troubling” as she sought to rally Democratic voters.

So, then, what is the path for Trump to chin himself to 270 votes? He’ll have to start by carrying the reliably Republican states in the West, the Great Plains and in South that make up the GOP’s Electoral College base.

From there, he’d need a run of victories in states now viewed as a toss-up.

Among them, North Carolina has received as much attention from both campaigns as any — traditional battlegrounds Florida and Ohio included. For good reason: GOP nominee Mitt Romney won the state in 2012, after President Barack Obama’s historic win there in 2008.

But after trailing in mail ballots, Democrats surged ahead of Republicans in ballots cast after the start of in-person early voting last week. Meanwhile, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll gives Clinton a 6-point edge in the state.

A win in North Carolina, and Florida and Ohio, too, still isn’t enough to get Trump to 270. He also needs to win states now leaning Clinton’s way.

In Nevada, Trump’s hardline position on immigration has turned off many in the state’s large Hispanic population — giving Clinton an advantage. Likewise, tens of thousands more Democrats than Republicans had voted early in the state as of last week.

In New Hampshire, the state’s politics are disproportionately influenced by women: the state’s governor, two senators and a majority of its state Senate are women. Trump has long struggled with college-educated women, a situation made worse by a string of recent allegations of unwanted sexual advances or sexual assault involving the Republican.

“At this point, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Trump to win the state of New Hampshire. He’s running out of time,” said Ryan Williams, a GOP consultant in the state, echoing others. “He’s going to lose.”

All of these scenarios also assume Trump carries each of the states his party’s nominees have won for decades — a firewall in which cracks are starting to appear.

In Arizona, where Republican nominees have won all but once since 1952, Clinton has begun a late-game $2-million advertising blitz and tapped into a robust state Democratic organization. She has pulled even with Trump in some surveys, and slightly ahead in others, while early voting favors Democrats, as does the state’s large and growing Hispanic population.

Clinton is scheduled to campaign there this week, following first lady Michelle Obama’s large rally in Phoenix two weeks ago.

Trump also cannot count on Utah, carried by a Republican in the past 12 elections. Independent candidate Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer from Utah, is running even in the state, where the GOP nominee is unpopular with the state’s influential Mormon population.

But perhaps the most surprising development has been increasingly competitive signs in Texas. Three polls in the past two weeks have shown Clinton within five percentage points of Trump

The Lone Star State isn’t the lightest shade of blue on even the most hopeful Democrat’s map. But Richard Murray, the political science professor at University of Houston who conducts the school’s presidential poll, said the factors helping Clinton in Arizona and North Carolina do so in Texas, too.

Clinton has the support of nearly two-thirds of the state’s Hispanic voters, who have swelled voter ranks since the 2012 election. And Trump’s comments and alleged actions toward women have chilled his support among typically conservative, college-educated white women in the Houston and Dallas suburbs, Murray said.

“Donald Trump is so off the charts, he’s wiped out 20 years of (GOP) outreach not only to Latinos, but Texas’ growing Asian vote,” Murray said. “Given the voting we’re seeing, Clinton will run within five percentage points of Trump. That is, if she loses.”


Follow Thomas Beaumont on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/tombeaumont


Want to chart your own path along the Road to 270? Figure out how Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can get the Electoral College votes they’ll need to win the White House with AP’s interactive map: http://elections.ap.org/content/road-270-0

U.S. Politics

Trump Says Hillary’s Emails Are Worse Than Watergate, Watergate Prosecutor SHREDS Him

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images

Mark Makela/Getty Images


When former President Richard Nixon’s cronies broke into DNC Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in 1972, it was a scandal so monumental and unprecedented that Nixon became the first and only president to resign from the office.

The perpetrators were trying to bug the offices and Nixon attempted to cover up the crime using government resources.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, merely used a personal server to receive and send emails as Secretary of State. While her decision to use a personal server was a bad one, it is hardly a crime and that is what the FBI declared in July when the agency declined to charge her with a crime.

Fast-forward to October and Hillary again finds herself in Republican crosshairs as Donald Trump and his deplorable supporters continue to call for her arrest after the FBI reportedly found three emails related to the email investigation on a device belonging to Anthony Weiner.

As NBC’s Pete Williams reported soon afterward, none of the emails were sent by Clinton or her campaign, nor were these emails hidden by Clinton or her campaign.

In fact, the FBI has only just begun investigating the emails and a conclusion won’t be reached until after the election and all the signs suggest the FBI will find nothing criminal about these emails either.

Yet Donald Trump continues to yammer on to his supporters about how this is an “October surprise” that should derail Hillary’s campaign and that her emails are worse than Watergate.

Yeah, he totally thinks this situation is worse than the biggest political scandal in American history.

But former U.S. Attorney Nick Akerman vehemently disagrees.

Akerman was a prosecutor who worked on the Watergate case, so if anyone can compare a scandal to Watergate he’s the one to ask.

According to a statement provided to Mic, Akerman wrote that FBI Director James Comey acted inappropriately by writing a letter to Congress informing them of the new emails because they haven’t even been reviewed yet, which means Comey didn’t even bother getting all of the facts before giving Republicans something to whine about only ten days before Election Day.

But Akerman saved the real ass-whooping for the Republican nominee and compared him to a past Republican who is just as disgraceful as Nixon.

“Donald Trump’s statement that this is bigger than Watergate is totally absurd,” Akerman wrote. “There is no evidence of any violation of law. For Trump to reach that conclusion based on a total lack of evidence is reminiscent of the innuendo spread by Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.”

That sound you just heard is the sound of all the heads of Trump supporters exploding.

Stephen D Foster Jr

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway’s Super-Sad Sunday

NBC Screencap


Trump campaign spin master Kellyanne Conway completed another Sunday of acrobatic twists and turns defending her candidate, but something about this weekend’s edition came across as depressing for all involved.

To hear Kellyanne Conway tell it, the Trump campaign is doing just fine. 

The growing list of women who claim Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sexually assaulted or harassed them are a non-issue. His decision to publicly say he might not accept the results of the election is no big deal. And his standing in the polls––5.9 points behind Hillary Clinton, according to the Real Clear Politics average––is nothing to worry about, because, as she says, “the race is not over.” 

Really, things are going great, if only the media would stop being so hard on her candidate.

On Sunday morning, Conway, who has served as Trump’s campaign managersince August, made the rounds on the political talk shows sporting a toothy smile and red blouse. Her demeanor was as sunny as ever, and she did her best to convince viewers that despite all evidence to the contrary, Donald J. Trump will prevail. 

On CNN’s State of the Union, Conway deflected from the first question, about Trump’s 15-minute tirade against his accusers distracting from the rest of hisspeech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, by talking about his plan to “create 25 million jobs.” Conway blamed the media for not focusing on that, rather than Trump’s stated plan to sue the women accusing him of wrongdoing after the election is over. 

“Every woman lied,” Trump said at the rally on Saturday. “All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” he promised the crowd.

Asked if she knew ahead of time that Trump planned to devote so much time to campaigning against the various women who claim they were groped, kissed, or otherwise improperly treated by him, Conway said, smiling, “Well, he delivers his own speeches. This is his candidacy. He’s the guy who’s running for the White House.” 

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Conway admitted “we are behind” but said it was because Clinton has “tremendous advantages,” like her surrogates, former president Bill Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama, who she said are, “much more popular than she can hope to be.” In other words, Trump’s problems, and even potentially his eventual loss on Election Day, can be blamed on Clinton rather than his own behavior.

“Our advantage going in,” Conway said, “is that Donald Trump is just going to continue to take the case directly to the people.”

Conway then said Trump threatening to sue his accusers (which seems unlikely since it would require him to be subjected to a discovery process) is just “a way to defend himself.” 

She also said that the real-estate mogul won’t sue the women immediately because, “We’re busy winning the presidency. We’re a little bit busy over here doing that…He’s just putting people on notice.”

Recently, Conway has mystified her Twitter followers and the press by retweeting statements that were complimentary to her, but reflected negatively on Trump. When BuzzFeed reporter McKay Coppins tweeted a supporter had yelled at Trump to “stay on the issues,” Conway remarked, “That was me! I was there…” And during the presidential debate on Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tweeted, “‘Bad Hombres’ = Trump being Trump. Trump’s other answers = Conway-esque.” Conway retweeted the comment with an added, “— >.” 

When host Chuck Todd asked Conway about her social-media behavior, she responded, “Just on those tweets, because I actually have a sense of humor that maybe some are lacking…as does my client here, Donald Trump, [who said], ‘That’s all good, we’re having a great time here.'”


That same morning on Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace asked Conway how she planned to fix Trump’s collapse with only two weeks left before Election Day, she again stated that Trump was “taking the case directly to the voters,” something the campaign believes sets them apart from Clinton, because her events are smaller than his rallies, and she holds them with less frequency. 

Asked if Trump’s plans to sue his accusers “step on his serious agenda,” Conway said, “He’s just trying to defend himself against, uh, false accusers, as he says.”

Conway is the quintessential happy warrior, a much more reliable and eloquent spokesperson for Trump than the other talking heads who work on his behalf. Still, the alternate reality she presents on television is hard to reconcile with what Trump says himself, onstage at his rallies, and the apparent negative effect that has on his precious poll numbers.

“If you see me sitting here as a campaign manager, then that’s where my heart and my head are,” Conway assured Wallace.

Oh, Kellyanne