U.S. Politics

Trump says his wall will cost $12 billion. Senate Dems: More like $70 billion.

The U.S.-Mexico border fence stops while passing through farmland |Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

VOX – Politics & Policy

President Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the southern border of the US. It’s going to be expensive.

That’s about specific as it gets with the White House’s proposal to build roughly 2,000 miles of walls and fences across the southern border.

An initial estimate floated by the administration pegged the cost at $12 billion. But a recent report put together by Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs estimated the price tag for the wall and patrolling technology at a whopping $70 billion — more than four times Trump’s initial figure.

So far, Trump’s administration has requested $3 billion from Congress in extra Department of Homeland Security funding through September — expected to be used to hire border and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, expanding detention and deportation, and beginning work on the wall. The 2018 budget proposal has an additional $2.6 billion for wall construction. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the president would request a total of $4.1 billion between fiscal years 2017 and 2018 for the wall, which would be only a fraction of its projected cost.

Estimates so far have varied, with $12 billion (the administration’s suggestion) at the low end and $15 billion (estimated by House and Senate leadership in January) as a more reasonable estimate. Senate Democrats’ new $70 billion estimate represents almost double DHS’s yearly budget.

With so many unknowns in the building of the wall, it’s impossible to say whose price is right.

“I mean, I don’t know what it will be made of, I don’t know how high it will be, I don’t know if it’s going to have solar panels on each side and what the one side’s going to look like and how it’s going to be painted — I have no idea,” DHS Secretary John Kelly recently testified in the Senate. “So I can’t give you any type of an estimate.”

What’s clear is that Trump’s suggested price tag was a serious lowball. And this latest estimate will likely elevate the already skeptical voices on both sides of the aisle in Congress, wary of funding a vague project with unclear outcomes.

The wall was always going to be super expensive

Put simply, building a wall, the way the president describes it, is really expensive.

When the original Secure Fence Act was passed, the 2006 legislation that called on DHS to build up roughly 700 miles of border security, Congress estimated the whole project would cost roughly $50 billion over 25 years.

It’s not just the price of materials and labor. This is a cost that will have to incorporate legal fights — kicking people off their privately owned land — and difficult terrain, including the Rio Grande river and canyons further west. Accommodating the geography will only hike up the spending.

In border towns in southern Texas, like McAllan, city leaders are advocating for levees instead of fencing — a request that city leaders along the more than 1,000 miles of river have been making for years. The idea is that levees would help mitigate flooding and provide added security. But as David Aguilar, a former deputy commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, admitted in a Senate hearing on the wall in early April, prioritizing these demands would be much more expensive than building a typical land barrier in Yuma, Arizona.

“You have to decide where you are going to put your resources,” David Danelo, a national security expert with the Foreign Policy Research Center, told Vox. “It’s going to be ugly. There’s going to be cost overruns when it comes to South Texas.”

DHS isn’t waiting for Congress to appropriate money to move forward. It’s already in the process of selecting contractors to build wall prototypes — 30-foot segments of wall, in concrete or some other material — as a way of figuring out what a successful wall might look like and how much it could cost. But the fact that the department is already asking Congress for billions demonstrates that there’s no price too high — and that it’s hoping to ask Congress to pay for the wall in installments, even without anyone knowing how much, in total, the project will cost.

As of now, the strategy — fund incrementally now, figure out the rest later — has raised some eyebrows across party lines in Congress. Democrats have threatened to take the government to the brink of a partial shutdown, if necessary, to block wall funding. With no detailed plan from the White House, some Republicans aren’t a sure bet for support either.

Paying for the wall is shaping up to be a losing battle

We know Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall first.

“I never said they’re gonna pay from the start,” Trump told ABC’s David Muir in his first major TV interview as president. “I said Mexico will pay for the wall. … I wanna start the wall immediately. Every supporter I have — I have had so many people calling and tweeting and — and writing letters saying they’re so happy about it. I wanna start the wall. We will be reimbursed for the wall.”

But in Washington, even the notion that Mexico will eventually pay for the wall has become laughable. Most Republican lawmakers have stopped playing along. Mexico’s leadership is adamant that it will not pay for the wall, and in early April, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he has “had no conversation” with Mexico’s foreign minister about the subject.

At the end of the day, everyone is well aware that if the wall is going to be built, it will have to be funded through Congress first, with taxpayer dollars. What no one knows is just how much taxpayers will be on the hook for. Already Democrats have put their foot down, warning Republicans that any attempt to fund the border wall would lead to government shutdown. According to reports from Capitol Hill, Republicans, who are eager to avoid that outcome, have been trying to avoid the subject of wall funding in recent government spending negotiations.

The one possibility for Trump to have his way with Mexico, with a border adjustment tax, is also shaping up to be a nonstarter in Congress. Currently being floated by some House Republicans, this reform would tax imports and exempt exports (Vox’s Dylan Matthews explains this in greater detail), which scores as raising money because the US currently imports more than it exports; the revenue raised far outstrips the cost of the wall.

But, confusingly, Trump has both said he is interested in a “border adjustment” tax and rejected the idea of what a “border adjustment” tax actually is. And it’s unlikely the proposal will even make it through the House, let alone the Senate. Members of the House Freedom Caucus — the conservative faction of the party that successfully stopped the Republican health care plan — have already expressed skepticism.

Whether via border adjustment or direct appropriations, the road to funding the wall runs through Congress. And it’s clearer than ever, given Senate Democrats’ eyebrow-raising estimate, that they (and likely also Republicans) have no intention of giving Trump money to build it.

Tara Golshan

U.S. Politics

Trump touted ‘armada’ he was sending to North Korea while it was sailing in opposite direction

CREDIT: Fox Business screengrab


The White House is blaming the Defense Department for the mistake.

The armada Trump bragged about sending to North Korea last week was actually headed in the opposite direction, according to a new report from the New York Times.

In an interview with Fox Business that aired on April 12, President Trump declared that the United States was “sending an armada” to deal with the threat posed by the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s refusal to stop testing weapons.

“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump said.

Trump’s comments came on the heels of news reports that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group was headed toward North Korea — news seemingly confirmed by a strike group spokesman.

The day before Trump’s Fox Business interview aired, Press Secretary Sean Spicer also seemed to confirm the strike group was on the way to North Korea, saying during a news conference that “a carrier group is several things. The forward deployment is deterrence, presence. It’s prudent. But it does a lot of things. It ensures our — we have the strategic capabilities, and it gives the president options in the region.”

“But I think when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly, through almost every instance, a huge deterrence,” he added. “So I think it serves multiple capabilities.”

News of the strike group’s proximity to North Korea contributed to an alarming NBC report that the U.S. military was “prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test.”

But turns out it was all false— the strike group wasn’t en route to North Korea last week after all.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that while Trump and Spicer were touting the strike group’s new mission to North Korea, “the Carl Vinson [and] the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.”

The White House is blaming the Defense Department for the mistake.

“White House officials said on Tuesday they were relying on guidance from the Defense Department,” the Times reports. “Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from a premature announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to an erroneous explanation by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that an American armada was racing toward the waters off North Korea.”

A key to unraveling the confusion, the Times reports, was a photo taken Saturday and posted online by the Navy on Monday showing the Carl Vision sailing through Indonesian islands thousands of miles away from North Korea.

CREDIT: Bradd Jaffy on Twitter

If it makes anyone feel better, the Times reports that the strike group “is now on a northerly course for the Korean Peninsula and is expected to arrive in the region sometime next week,” according to Defense Department officials.

News of the USS Carl Vinson strike group’s true location was first broken by Defense News.

Aaron Rupar

U.S. Politics

‘Does he want me to stop buying his products?’: Jake Tapper calls out Trump’s ‘Buy American’ hypocrisy

CNN’s Jake Tapper (Screengrab)


NN’s Jake Tapper tore into Donald Trump’s hypocritical “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, asking if the president should consider “looking into his own companies business practices first.”

Trump signed the order in Wisconsin on Tuesday, which directs a series of federal agency reviews—though does little to directly impact policy. The president said the order aims to identify where the government can “aggressively promote and use American-made goods.” It also directs federal agencies to reform the H1-B visa laws, which allow companies to bring in highly skilled foreign workers.

At the onset of “The Lead” Tuesday, Tapper pointed out that while Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” order sounds like a step in the right direction, the president’s own business practices directly contradict the order’s intent.

“The president just signed an order to ‘buy American,” Tapper said. “So wait, does that mean he wants me to stop buying Trump products?”

‘“It’s time,’ the president said today, repeatedly assailing cheap subsidized and low-quality foreign goods,” Tapper continued. “It’s an important issue. It’s one I asked then-candidate Trump about in June 2015 because of course, many Trump corporation products are not made in the U.S. Far from it.”

“As for hiring American, a CNN review found that the president as a corporate head has hired more than 1300 foreign guest workers to work at his various businesses here in the U.S., including requesting 78 visas to staff his two Florida properties for this year,” Tapper added.

Watch the take-down below, via CNN:

U.S. Politics

Georgia Race Heads to Runoff

Democratic Candidate For Georgia's 6th District Leading In Polls On Election Day

Joe Raedle—Getty Images


A Georgia congressional election is headed to a runoff that will ratchet up the already significant national attention — and campaign cash — on a race that poses an early measure for President Donald Trump and both major parties ahead of the 2018 midterm elections

Democrats Hope for a Win in Georgia Special Election
Outside Money Dwarfs Local Spending in Georgia Special Election
U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 18, 2017

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images


1. Pence reassures Japan of U.S. resolve to rein in North Korea
Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. would stand by Japan “100 percent” and keep pushing until North Korea curbs its missile and nuclear weapons programs. Pence, arriving after a visit to South Korea, said the U.S. had demonstrated its resolve with recent strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, and that “all options are on the table” but President Trump “is determined to work closely with Japan, with South Korea, with all our allies in the region and with China to achieve a peaceable resolution and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador, said the U.S. focus on the North Korean nuclear program reflected a “gangster-like logic” that’s turning the Korean Peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot,” creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”

Source: Reuters, The Associated Press

2. Theresa May calls for surprise election, seeking Brexit mandate
British Prime Minister Theresa May unexpectedly announced Tuesdaythat she would call an early election for June 8 in a clear bid to win a strong mandate as her government negotiates the terms of its departure from the European Union. May took power last July after former Prime Minister David Cameron, who preceded her as Conservative Party leader, resigned after voters rejected his call to remain in the 28-nation trading bloc. May, who previously had ruled out holding snap elections, formally initiated the two-year Brexit process last month. “I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I have to make,” May said.

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

3. Court blocks first of 8 planned Arkansas executions
The Arkansas State Supreme Court blocked two executions late Monday that would have been the first carried out in the state in 12 years. The state challenged the decision in the case of convicted murderer Don Davis, who had already been served what was to be his last meal, but the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case early Tuesday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was “disappointed in this delay for the victim’s family.” The court also stayed the scheduled execution of Bruce Ward, who was also convicted of murder. The halted executions were the first among eight that the state had planned to carry out this month before its supply of a key lethal injection drug expires. One other prisoner had already received a stay. State officials acknowledged they were unlikely to reschedule the two newly blocked executions before the drug expires, but said they would push ahead with the five remaining cases, which were not affected by the State Supreme Court ruling.

Source: The Washington Post

4. Trump slams Democrat leading polls in Georgia special election
Georgia voters in a red House district go to the polls on Tuesday for the second special election providing an early glimpse of what Americans think of President Trump. Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat, was leading the 18-candidates in polls ahead of the vote, but his 41 percent would not be enough to avoid a runoff, and the leading three Republicans combined have slightly more support. The vote is being held to fill the seat vacated by former Congressman Tom Price, a leading opponent of ObamaCare who stepped down to become Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services. Price won re-election last year with 62 percent of the vote. Trump made a last-minute tweet calling Ossoff a “super liberal Democrat” who wants to “protect criminals, allow illegal immigration, and raise taxes.” Ossoff’s campaign manager called GOP attacks on the Democrat “truly shameful.”

Source: CNBC

5. Turkey opposition challenges referendum result
Turkey’s main opposition party on Monday called for election officials to nullify the results of a landmark referendum granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. The opposition said there were major irregularities in the referendum, which international monitors said “fell short” of international standards. Specifically, critics said the electoral board accepted ballots without official stamps that should have served as a key safeguard against fraud. Erdogan deflected the challenge. President Trump on Monday called Erdogan to congratulate him on his victory, breaking with his State Department.

Source: The Associated Press, BBC News

6. Poll finds most Americans no longer think Trump keeps promises
A new Gallup poll released Monday found that just 45 percent of participants believed that President Trump keeps his promises, down sharply from 62 percent in February. Only 36 percent said they saw Trump as “honest and trustworthy,” down from 42 percent in February. In the last two months, Trump has announced reversals on several key policies, saying he no longer believed NATO to be obsolete, declining to label China as a currency manipulator, and shifting criticism of the Export-Import Bank to praise. Trump also approved an airstrike against a Syrian military base after years spent urging former President Barack Obama to stay out of the country’s civil war. He also dropped America’s largest non-nuclear weapon in Afghanistan despite touting an “America first” foreign policy.

Source: Gallup

7. 1,000 Palestinian prisoners launch hunger strike
Thousands of Palestinians protested in the West Bank and Gaza as more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike demanding better conditions and an end to detentions without trial. Marwan Barghouti, a prominent member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, led the hunger strike. Barghouti, whom polls have long shown to be a favorite to succeed Abbas, was arrested in 2002 during a violent uprising, and convicted of several murders. He was sentenced to five life terms.

Source: USA Today

8. Justice Neil Gorsuch officially joins the Supreme Court
Justice Neil Gorsuch officially took his seat on the bench Monday as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about what court should hear appeals on discrimination claims filed by federal employees. Gorsuch, after receiving a warm welcome from his new colleagues, jumped right in, asking the attorney for the employee in the case several pointed questions about whether a straight reading of the law really left any question about which court had jurisdiction. Gorsuch’s participation in his first case brought the high court to full strength with nine justices, and its 5-4 conservative majority restored, for the first time since Justice Antonin Scalia died more than a year ago.

Source: The Hill

9. Prince had no prescription for meds found at his house
The late singer Prince had bottles of opioid painkillers in his home when he died last year, but none of the drugs had been prescribed to him, according to court documents unsealed Monday. Some of the medications were found in vitamin pill bottles, others in envelopes. Some were prescribed to Kirk Johnson, Prince’s former drummer and longtime friend. Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg said he had written an Oxycodone prescription intended for Prince, but he put it under Johnson’s name to safeguard the rock star’s privacy. So far, no charges have been filed in connection with Prince’s death almost exactly one year ago.

Source: CNN

10. Kenyan runners sweep men’s and women’s races at Boston Marathon
Geoffrey Kirui won the men’s division and fellow Kenyan Edna Kiplagat won the women’s race in the 121st Boston Marathon on Monday. Three American runners challenged the leaders, with three-time U.S. Olympian Galen Rupp sticking close to Kirui, who only pulled away in the last two miles to claim Kenya’s first men’s victory in five years. Americans Jordan Hasay and Desi Linden took third and fourth, respectively, in the women’s race, the first time two U.S. women had finished in the top four since 1991. Six U.S. men finished in the top 10. “It’s so exciting to see Americans being competitive here,” said Rupp, the Olympic bronze medalist making his debut in the storied race.

Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 17, 2017



1. Pence warns North Korea not to test Trump’s ‘strength and resolve’
Vice President Mike Pence started a 10-day Asia trip in South Korea shortly after Pyongyang marked a key national holiday with a failed missile test, warning that the latest “provocation” demonstrated how dangerous the isolated communist nation had become. Pence warned Pyongyang on Monday not to test President Trump, saying the U.S. leader showed his “strength and resolve” recently by bombing Syria, and the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Tensions had risen on speculation that North Korea was planning its sixth nuclear test to mark the holiday, but the White House said it saw no need to respond to an unsuccessful missile launch. “If it had been a nuclear test, then other actions would have been taken from the U.S.,” an adviser told reporters on Pence’s plane. President Trump said Sunday that his administration was working with China on addressing “the North Korea problem.”

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

2. Turkey’s president claims victory in vote giving him sweeping new powers
Turkish voters narrowly approved expanded powers for their president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday. About 51 percent backed Erdogan, while just under 49 percent voted no. Supporters said the change, which also could let Erdogan stay in office until 2029, will modernize the country by replacing its parliamentary system with an executive presidency giving the chief executive sweeping powers. The country’s two main opposition parties challenged the referendum’s legitimacy. The Republican People’s Party called for a recount of 60 percent of the ballots, saying that unstamped ballot papers were improperly accepted as valid. Erdogan supporters poured into the streets to celebrate his win, while opponents gathered in Istanbul, expressing their unhappiness with the result by banging pots and pans.

Source: BBC News

3. Ousted South Korean president formally charged in corruption case
South Korea’s ex-president, Park Geun-hye, was formally chargedMonday in the corruption scandal that led to her impeachment. The 65-year-old ousted leader faces numerous charges, including bribery, coercion, abuse of power, and leaking state secrets. A conviction for bribery could result in a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Park is accused of letting her close friend and confidante, Choi Soon-sil, extort money from companies with promises of lucrative government favors. Both women deny they committed any crimes.

Source: The New York Times

4. Death toll rises in bombing of Syria evacuee buses
The death toll from an apparent suicide car bombing targeting Syrians evacuated from war-torn towns rose to 126 on Sunday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The bomber attacked a convoy of buses carrying people being transported to safety from pro-government Shia villages. At least 109 of those killed were refugees, while the others were aid workers and rebels assigned to guard the buses, according to the monitoring group. At least 68 children were killed in the attack.

Source: CNN

5. Ohio police search for suspect in murder livestreamed on Facebook
Ohio police conducted a manhunt on Sunday for a suspect in a killing that was streamed live on Facebook. Law enforcement officers searched the Cleveland area for Steve Stephens, who allegedly walked up to Robert Goodwin Sr., 74, and fatally shot him. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson called on Stephens to surrender to police, and not “do any more harm to anybody.” In the video, Stephens said he was acting because of a woman, and that he had killed more than a dozen people.

Source: The Associated Press

6. United says it will stop removing passengers to make room for employees
United Airlines will stop letting employees bump ticketed passengers off of overbooked flights, a spokeswoman for the carrier said Sunday. The company’s leaders promised to revamp their policies for dealing with full planes after the outcry over video showing a bloodied passenger, Dr. David Dao of Kentucky, being dragged off a plane in Chicago by aviation police. “We issued an updated policy to make sure crews traveling on our aircraft are booked at least 60 minutes prior to departure,” the spokeswoman, Maggie Schmerin, wrote in an email. “This is one of our initial steps in a review of our policies.” She said the change was intended to help ensure that such incidents “never happen again.”

Source: The New York Times

7. Pro-Trump group launches ads to help friendly House Republicans
Leaders of America First Policies, a nonprofit that supports President Trump, told The Washington Post on Sunday that their group is launching a $3 million ad campaign to support a dozen Republican House members who backed the Republican health-care plan. The proposal failed last month when GOP leaders could not line up enough votes to pass it, and Trump’s backers kept an informal tally of how Republican lawmakers had planned to vote. The “advocacy campaign” will include broadcast, digital, and social components, and is intended to shore up support for Trump’s agenda as the president struggles in polls.

Source: The Washington Post

8. Fugitive former Mexican governor captured in Guatemala
Javier Duarte, the fugitive former governor of Mexico’s Veracruz state, has been arrested in Guatemala after a six-month international manhunt, Mexican authorities said Sunday. Duarte was captured in Panajachel, a resort town on Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands. He faces extradition to Mexico to face charges of graft and organized crime related to the suspected theft of millions of dollars. Duarte denies the charges. He once was considered a rising star of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, but the corruption case made him an embarrassment. His capture could give the party of President Enrique Pena Nieto a boost as it prepares for a tough fight to keep the presidency in next year’s elections.

Source: The New York Times

9. Trumps host their first Easter Egg Roll after deadline crunch
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump host their first annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, continuing a 150-year Washington tradition. The White House has invited 21,000 people to participate in the event on the White House South Lawn. The crowd will be smaller than last year’s, which drew 30,000 people. Planning for this year’s roll started later than usual, raising questions about whether it would be held at all. Wells Wood Turning, the Maine-based manufacturer of the traditional wooden eggs passed out at the celebration, resorted to tweeting a message that its Easter deadlines were approaching, and urging the White House to “please reach out.”

Source: ABC News

10. Fate of the Furious sets overseas box office record
The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in Universal’s car-based action series, took in $100.2 million domestically and an estimated $432.3 million internationally in its first weekend, setting a record for the biggest global debut ever. Its estimated $532.5 million total narrowly beat the previous record of $529 million set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Fate of the Furious‘ North American haul marked a slowdown, however, falling 32 percent short of the $147 million earned by its predecessor, Furious 7, in its 2015 debut. The ensemble film, starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ludacris, Charlize Theron, and others, set a record overseas, however, showing growth for the franchise in 30 countries, and crushing the previous record of $316.7 million set by Jurassic World.

Source: EW.com, The New York Times

U.S. Politics

Jimmy Fallon is Jared Kushner in ‘SNL’ cold open. Alec Baldwin plays Donald Trump.

Jimmy Fallon is Jared Kushner in 'SNL' cold open. Alec Baldwin plays Donald Trump.

Source: YouTube


President Donald Trump’s antics have been compared to reality TV, so there’s no question where Saturday Night Live got its inspiration for this cold open.

Alec Baldwin reprised his iconic role as Trump, pitting a Grim Reaper Steve Bannon against Jimmy Fallon’s Jared Kushner in a reality TV-inspired elimination round. Only one can be Trump’s top adviser.

In the sketch, Baldwin-as-Trump and Beck Bennett’s Mike Pence discuss a number of current events: the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; airstrikes against the Islamic state group, ISIS; the decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan; North Korea; and infighting between Bannon and Kushner, who have been squabbling incessantly in recent days, according to reports.

Speaking about the bomb dropped on Afghanistan, Baldwin’s Trump calls it “the biggest, fattest bomb, we’ve ever seen; it’s so big and fat, it almost looks like me in my golf clothes.”

Baldwin-as-Trump summons both men to the Oval Office, Bannon entering to his trademark doom tuba theme music and outfitted in full Grim Reaper regalia. Trump’s “little Kush ball” strolls in to EMF’s “Unbelievable,” wearing the super-chill shades and name tag he wore for his Iraq visit.

A reality show elimination round begins, in the spirit of America’s Next Top Model.

“Jared, Steve — standing before me are my two top advisers, but I only have one photo in my hand,” Baldwin’s Trump explains. “That’s right. Tonight is elimination night. There’s been a lot of drama in the house and that’s okay, but one of you must go, now. But who gets to stay?”

Baldwin-as-Trump lays out the pros and cons both men present. Kushner, the president explains, takes “the most beautiful photos,” while Bannon takes “the worst photos I’ve ever seen in my life.” Kushner has quietly traveled the world as a Trump representative, while the president once caught Bannon “eating a live pig in the Roosevelt room.”

The winner, Baldwin’s Trump goes on to explain, gets to keep doing his job, along with “$100,000 courtesy of L’Oreal.” The loser will “join Kellyanne Conway” — who’s been notably absent in recent weeks — “in the basement.”

“But don’t worry,” Baldwin-as-Trump adds, “your journey does not end tonight because you will get to come back at the end of all of this and help send me to prison.”

Spoiler: It’s the more photogenic adviser, Kushner, who gets to stay on, while Bannon gets dragged “back to hell” on the president’s orders. Watch the full sketch here.

Claire Lampen

U.S. Politics

Berkeley riots: Video appears to show white supremacist Nathan Damigo punching protester

Berkeley riots: Video appears to show white supremacist Nathan Damigo punching protester

Source: WeAreChange/Youtube

MIC | Navigating Trump’s America

Protests in Berkeley, California, erupted in violence on Saturday as anti- and pro-Donald Trump demonstrators clashed during a pro-Trump rally at Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park.

The fight that broke out between the two groups was recorded and posted on YouTube by the organization WeAreChange. In the video, which at time of writing has accumulated nearly 250,000 views, a female protester can be seen getting punched in the face by a male demonstrator.

Source: YouTube

The demonstrator who punched the woman appears to be Nathan Damigo, a white supremacist member of the “alt-right” movement. It is unclear from the video what transpired in the lead-up to the punch between the two demonstrators.

Damigo was confirmed to be at Saturday’s pro-Trump rally, posting a live video of the event via Periscope. The Modesto Bee and Los Angeles Times reporter Hailey Branson-Potts — who profiled Damigo for the L.A. Times back in December — both identified Damigo as the man punching the woman.

The white supremacist, a 30-year-old student at Cal State Stanislaus, is the founder of the alt-right group Identity Evropa. According to the L.A. Times, the group describes itself as a “generation of awakened Europeans … [who] oppose those who would defame our history and rich cultural heritage.” To apply, aspiring members are asked to indicate whether “you and your spouse/partner [are] of European, non-Semitic heritage.”

In 2007, Damigo was convicted of armed robbery after robbing a cab driver he suspected of being Iraqi at gunpoint. He spent four years in prison for his crime, the L.A. Times notes, where he became influenced by such books as My Awakening by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Many on social media are calling for Damigo’s arrest in the wake of his alleged punching, and a web page has been set up by the Stop Hate Alliance imploring CSU Stanislaus’ leadership to expel the student for his actions.

At least 20 arrests were made during Saturday’s protest, SF Gate noted. Though billed as a “peaceful, free-speech” rally celebrating Patriot’s Day, the event quickly descended into a battle between alt-right Trump supporters and liberal “antifa” — meaning anti-fascist — demonstrators.

A barrier dividing the two groups was broken during the protest, prompting the protesters to begin a violent brawl. During the rally, the opposing groups reportedly threw shoes, bottles and fireworks at each other, and 11 people were injured during the conflict.

Alison Durkee

U.S. Politics

Why Do Democrats Feel Sorry for Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton. (Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)


Not only are many Democrats worried about Hillary Clinton, they’re still unable to blame her and themselves for the disastrous 2016 election results; a writer argues that rather than a great progressive politician, Bernie Sanders is actually a “Democratic Party company man”; meanwhile, a statue of a small girl facing the famous “Charging Bull” on Wall Street has become a topic of contention. These discoveries and more below.

Why Do Democrats Feel Sorry for Hillary Clinton?
I’d hoped we’d finally seen the last of the Clinton name in public life — it’s been a long quarter of a century — and that we could all move on. Alas, no.

Bernie Sanders, the Company Man
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (“I”-VT)  is not the independent left politician many progressives claim he is. He’s a Democratic Party company man.

Pink and Blue
What happens when very young children begin to identify with a sex/gender other than the one they were born with?

Fearless Girl Face-off Poses a New Question: Does the Law Protect an Artist’s Message?
Artist Arturo Di Modica, who created Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull in 1989, isn’t happy about the recent addition of the widely buzzed-about Fearless Girl to downtown Manhattan park Bowling Green.

Beyond the Origins of Totalitarianism
Although the United States was a beacon of hope for Hannah Arendt, she saw vulnerabilities in American-style democracy.

The Girl and the Bull
Apparently, Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created Charging Bull nearly 30 years ago, considers Fearless Girl to be an insult to his work and wants it taken away.

Academic Precariat
As we know, the share of part-time faculty in U.S. higher education has increased dramatically over the past four decades.

This Device Pulls Drinking Water Straight Out of the Air — and It Runs Entirely on the Sun’s Energy
A new kind of water-capturing device could be a game-changer for some of the world’s driest places. It can pull water vapor out of the air at humidity as low as 20 percent — conditions that may be seen in the Sahara desert during its hottest months — and it can operate entirely off-grid, just using the ambient power of the sun.

How United Turned the Friendly Skies Into a Flying Hellscape
The recent United scandal is the predictable byproduct of a relentless obsession with filling planes to absolute maximum capacity coupled with open and invidious discrimination in the treatment of customers.

For First Time in Years, Jerusalem Cracks Down on Sale of Leavened Bread During Passover
Municipality workers are enforcing the law banning the public sale of non-kosher for Passover products in public, confiscating Old City bagel vendor’s wares.

Relying on Women, Not Rewarding Them
New study suggests female professors outperform men in terms of service—to their possible professional detriment.

Urbanist Richard Florida Is Back With Another Theory About How to Fix American Cities
It’s a pipe dream—and even he knows it.

The Five Stages of Coping With Sean Spicer’s Insanely Stupid Hitler-Assad Analogy
Only a Trump White House could ruin its moment of triumph in Syria so quickly and so thoroughly.

Larry’s List

U.S. Politics

Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions

Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions

© Victoria Sarno Jordan


Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought sweeping change to the Department of Justice.

In just two months as the nation’s top cop, Sessions has moved quickly to overhaul the policies and priorities set by the Obama administration.

He has rolled back protections for transgender students that allowed children to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity and rescinded plans to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons.

He called for a review of reform agreements, known as consent decrees, reached with local police departments to address allegations of misconduct. Many of the consent decrees were drafted in response to fating shootings by police.

Sessions has made immigration enforcement a top priority. Late last month he put “sanctuary” cities on notice, announcing that grant money would be withheld from state and local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities and turn over illegal immigrants arrested for crimes.

Federal prosecutors have also been alerted to a new national push to crack down on violent crime. Sessions tapped Steven Cook, a federal prosecutor and outspoken opponent of criminal justice reform, to lead the charge as assistant deputy attorney general; he will be leading Sessions’ new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.

Alex Whiting, faculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School, said it appears Sessions is resurrecting the tough on crime policies last seen during the George W. Bush administration.

“Obama moved away from that approach, and I think in the criminal justice world there seemed to be a consensus between the right and left that those policies, those rigid policies of the war on drugs and trying to get the highest sentence all the time, had failed,” he said.

“I don’t know if he is really going to be able to persuade the department to follow his lead on this.”

In March, Sessions asked the remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Obama to resign. While previous administrations took the same step, Whiting questioned whether Sessions would be able find 94 prosecutors who will back the DOJ’s new approach.

“He can order and it will have an effect, but how far this gets implemented and with what kind of energy I think is really an open question, and if they will be able to persuade the rank and file to return in a full-fledge way to those policies,” he said.

In a statement to The Hill, DOJ spokesman Ian Prior said Sessions and the Justice Department are focused on fighting violent crime and protecting the public.

“When it comes to sanctuary cities, all we are requiring is that they, just like every other individual in the United States, follow Congress’ duly enacted laws,” he said.

“If requiring individuals and entities to follow the law and combating violent crime are seen as dramatic reversals, then we fully support such a sea change.”

While the attorney general has acknowledged that overall crimes rates are at historic lows, he has warned that trend is about to reverse.

Even if that’s true, Inimai Chettiar director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice argued that arresting and incarcerating people is not the solution.

“Mass incarceration is not contributing to mass crime declines, but it doesn’t appear Jeff Sessions knows that,” she said.

Advocates of scaling back mandatory minimums for prison sentences are expecting to see a major shift in the way crimes are prosecuted.

“To the extent the Obama administration was saying, let’s be a little more judicious in the use of mandatory minimums, I think Sessions plans to put his foot on the gas and apply them anywhere and everywhere,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner raised eyebrows late last month when he took a meeting with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Lee (R- Utah), the lead sponsors on the criminal justice reform bill that stalled in the last session of Congress.

While Sessions has never been a fan of efforts to reduce mandatory minimums, Chettiar called the meeting encouraging.

“Kushner is supportive of criminal justice reform. … I think it’s possible there’s a strong advocate there,” she said.

Ring, however, isn’t holding his breath.

“One day he’s on the Hill talking sentencing reform then next day he’s visiting the Middle East,” Ring said of Kushner. “He’s got two easy gigs — passing sentencing reform and bringing peace to the Middle East. Good luck with that.

Law enforcement groups that support Sessions, meanwhile, say the new attorney general is focused on the right things.

“I think Sessions has brought a new focus to the core mission of the department, which is to make sure the nation is safe and secure in its law and make sure law enforcement operations are focused on the thing that matters most, preventing crime,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Thompson said Sessions is taking a more holistic approach in preventing crime.

“I think there’s a tendency to look at people who are incarcerated and say I really wish they weren’t there, but unfortunately they make personal choices,” he said.

“The attorney general is saying you have to look at that end. You have a crime problem that could be growing and how do we respond to it? Obviously something worked.”