BREAKING: Draft Ruling Shows Supreme Court Rules to Overturn Roe v. Wade

WASHINGTON– In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has voted to strike down Roe v. Wade according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO.

Source: Politico

Read the full 98-page initial draft majority opinion below.

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/read-justice-alito-initial-abortion-opinion-overturn-roe-v-wade-pdf-00029504

REPORT: Biden Knew of ‘Mass Casualty Event’ Prior to Afghan Airport Bombing

WASHINGTON (Politico) — Just 24 hours before a suicide bomber detonated an explosive outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, senior military leaders gathered for the Pentagon’s daily morning update on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Speaking from a secure video conference room on the third floor of the Pentagon at 8 a.m. Wednesday — or 4:30 p.m. in Kabul — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin instructed more than a dozen of the department’s top leaders around the world to make preparations for an imminent “mass casualty event,” according to classified detailed notes of the gathering shared with Politico.

During the meeting, Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of “significant” intelligence indicating that the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, ISIS-K, was planning a “complex attack,” the notes quoted him as saying.

Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.

“I don’t believe people get the incredible amount of risk on the ground,” Austin said, according to the classified notes.

On a separate call at 4 that afternoon, or 12:30 a.m. on Thursday in Kabul, the commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.

American troops were still processing entrants to the airport at Abbey Gate at roughly 6 p.m. in Kabul on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest there, killing nearly 200 people, including 13 U.S. service members.

In the week before the attack, President Joe Biden and top administration officials repeatedly spoke in public about the general threat ISIS posed to the airport. Biden even cited that threat as a reason not to extend the military mission beyond Aug. 31. The president warned this weekend that an additional ISIS attack was “highly likely.”

This account of the internal conversations among top Pentagon leaders in the hours leading up to Thursday’s attack at the airport is based on classified notes from three separate calls provided to POLITICO and interviews with two defense officials with direct knowledge of the calls. POLITICO is withholding information from the Pentagon readouts that could affect ongoing military operations at Kabul airport.

The transcript of these three conference calls, authenticated by a defense official, details conversations among the highest levels of Pentagon leadership. It makes clear that top officials were raising alarm bells and preparing for a potential attack that they had narrowed down to a handful of possible targets and a 24-48 hour time frame — projections that ended up being deadly accurate.

“This story is based on the unlawful disclosure of classified information and internal deliberations of a sensitive nature,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. “As soon as we became aware of the material divulged to the reporter, we engaged Politico at the highest levels to prevent the publication of information that would put our troops and our operations at the airport at greater risk.

“We condemn the unlawful disclosure of classified information and oppose the publication of a story based on it while a dangerous operation is ongoing,” he continued.

The White House declined to comment further.

The intelligence about the security threat at Kabul airport detailed on the calls was relayed up and down the chain of command, according to a second defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss top-secret conversations. The White House took the threats seriously and supported the commanders taking action as they deemed fit, the official said, adding, “There was no micromanagement from Washington of the effort to try to prevent this” attack.

Measures to avert an imminent attack included closing two airport gates permanently, notifying Taliban checkpoints of the potential threat and asking them to account for it in their screening procedures, limiting foot and vehicle traffic through a number of gates, and issuing alerts to American citizens warning them of specific threats at specific locations, the official said.

“U.S. forces at HKIA were aware of and accounting for a variety of threats, and exercising extreme vigilance,” the official said, using an acronym for the Kabul airport. “We took numerous actions to protect our forces and the evacuees, but no amount of effort will completely eliminate the threat of a determined enemy.”

Austin kicked off Wednesday’s discussion by saying the threats would increase in the next 24-48 hours, and instructed his team to remain “laser-focused” on evacuating American citizens from the city. The day before, U.S. and coalition forces had flown a total of 19,000 people from Kabul in military and commercial aircraft, the Pentagon said.

Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, called in from the Kabul airport to detail threats to three airport gates, where U.S. troops were moving in Americans and Afghans slated for evacuation. Along with Abbey Gate, the South and West Gates were also under threat, they said, according to the written notes of the call, which did not identify which of the two was speaking.

According to the notes, Vasely and Donahue discussed how the Taliban were undertaking additional security measures and pushing back the crowds outside the airport due to the threat. Throughout the evacuation effort, the Taliban have instituted curfews and expanded the security perimeter around the airport in an effort to help the Americans increase security, the defense official said.

But the military leaders on the call expressed frustration with the Taliban’s persistent lack of cooperation, noting that militants were turning potential evacuees away at the gates.

Since the American military team in Kabul last engaged directly with Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban, “it takes more bandwidth to get things moving,” Vasely and Donahue said, according to the written notes of the call.

“If a person wants to leave but they get turned away by [the Taliban] at [the Ministry of Interior meetup] location, we have instructed them to call us 24/7,” they said, according to the notes of the meeting.

The team had “frequent and constant communications with the Taliban” multiple times a day to try to resolve issues as they cropped up, the defense official told Politico. “Many times they were successful, but that doesn’t mean that in subsequent hours or days we wouldn’t have a similar problem pop up again.”

After the early Wednesday morning meeting ended, a smaller group including Austin, Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie, and Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy official, convened at 9 a.m. to continue the conversation, with McKenzie calling in from his Tampa headquarters. Austin once again expressed his alarm about the imminent attack.

“We probably ought to listen when you have a former [Joint Special Operations Command] and SEAL commander on the ground saying it’s high risk,” Austin said, referring to Vasely. Vasely and Donahue were not described as being on the call.

According to the classified call notes, McKenzie made clear the Americans did not have much of a choice in relying on the Taliban for securing the evacuees. And he predicted the militants would be less willing to help the U.S. military effort the longer they stayed in Kabul, even as the threat from ISIS-K increased. The Taliban and ISIS-K are sworn enemies and defense officials have repeatedly said they have no reason to believe the two groups are collaborating.

“The ability of [the Taliban] to protect us and assist in pursuing [American citizens] and other groups — that willingness will decay, and we’re seeing leading edge indicators of that today,” McKenzie said on the Wednesday morning call. “We do need the agreement of the [Taliban] to pursue our principal objectives of getting out [American citizens] and other priority groups.”

McKenzie then offered a grave prediction about the success of the evacuation effort.

“We’re not going to get everyone out. We’ll get 90-95 percent,” McKenzie said. The call notes did not specify if he was talking about American citizens, or everyone who wanted to evacuate.

“History will judge us by those final images,” Kahl warned, according to the call notes.

After the morning update, the team at the airport sprang into action, closing several of the gates, working with the Taliban to move through additional evacuees, and developing intelligence targets related to ISIS-K.

At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, or 12:30 a.m. on Thursday in Kabul, Austin’s team at the Pentagon, Central Command headquarters and Kabul convened once more to prepare for the secretary’s evening update. At least nine officials were on the call.

According to the call notes, Vasely said he was looking to shut down Abbey Gate. At that point, the team had permanently closed two of the airport gates, North Gate and East Gate, but left South Gate and West Gate open, he said.

Leaders had already discussed with the Taliban additional security measures outside the gates, Vasely said, and planned to have Abbey Gate closed by Thursday afternoon, Kabul time.

But Abbey Gate was not closed on schedule. British forces had accelerated their drawdown from the Baron Hotel just a few hundred yards away, their main hub for evacuating U.K. personnel, and the Americans had to keep the gate open to allow the U.K. evacuees into the airport, Vasely said.

British officials couldn’t be reached for comment before publication.

The U.K. evacuees had not yet arrived when the attack occurred, the defense official told POLITICO. The bomb claimed two British civilian casualties.

“Throughout Operation Pitting we have worked closely with the U.S. to ensure the safe evacuation of thousands of people,” a spokesperson for the British Defence Ministry told POLITICO, referring to the effort to evacuate British citizens and Afghans. “We send our deepest condolences to the families of the American victims of the senseless attacks in Kabul and continue to offer our full support to our closest ally.”

On the call, Vasely also described how NATO allies were having problems with the Taliban obstructing an earlier convoy, including Swedes, Danes, Dutch and other personnel.

Despite the tensions, the military continued relaying to the militants precise details about timelines for the withdrawal and the processes for getting American citizens through the gates, Vasely said, according to the call notes. They also allowed the Taliban to operate buses picking up people for evacuation, he added.

A senior military intelligence official not identified by name in the call notes reiterated that they were continuing to see indications of ISIS-K planning a major attack, and noted his team was in the midst of “developing targets,” he said, referring to ISIS-K. It would be “helpful” to close Abbey Gate, he said.

It was all too late. The bombing, at 6 p.m. Kabul time, came as Austin and Milley were in the White House conferring with the president. The blast ripped through the crowd of civilians and U.S. military personnel at Abbey Gate, killing roughly 200 — including 13 U.S. service members, whose remains were repatriated at a solemn ceremony Sunday at Dover Air Force Base attended by Biden, Austin, Milley and other officials.

Following the attack, Biden gave the Pentagon the green light to take out anyone who might have been involved. The military said it killed two ISIS-K terrorists and wounded another in a drone strike on Saturday, and thwarted another imminent attack on the airport on Sunday.

Biden vowed on Saturday to keep striking the extremist group amid the continuing threat to the airport.

“This strike was not the last,” Biden said in a statement. “We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.”

POTUS PULLS OUT: Trump Withdraws US From World Health Organization Over Covid Concerns

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced the United States will end its relationship with the World Health Organization effective Friday, accusing the organization of caving to pressure from China and criticizing its handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The world needs answers from China on the virus,” Trump said in a statement at the White House. “We must have transparency.”

“We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act,” he said. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.”

In previous remarks Trump said that China had not properly reported information it had about the Covid-19 virus to the World Health Organization and said China had pressured the WHO to “mislead the world.”

“Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities,” Trump said. “Countless lives have been taken and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe.”

The president’s decision to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization was met with criticism from both the left and right.

“To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted after the president’s announcement.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who heads the American Medical Association’s chamber’s health committee, warned Trump “in the strongest possible terms” to reverse the decision.

“I disagree with the president’s decision,” Alexander said in a released statement. “Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with Coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it. Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need. And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States.”

Many conservatives, however, praised the president’s decision, calling out the organization not only for its treatment of China but also its record of support for pro-abortion organizations.

“I am proud that our country will no longer be sending taxpayer dollars to support this radical regime,” said Allan Parker, president of The Justice Foundation, a pro-life legal group. “True, life-saving health measures can be funded through other organzations without an abortion agenda.”

‘LET’S MAGA!’: Trump to Resume Rallies By End of Month, Says Campaign

WASHINGTON– President Donald Trump is set to resume rallies for his 2020 presidential campaign, campaign manager Brad Parscale announced Tuesday.

“Americans are ready to get back to action and so is President Trump,” Parscale said in a statement. “The great American comeback is real and the rallies will be tremendous. You’ll again see the kind of crowds and enthusiasm that sleepy Joe Biden can only dream of.”

For weeks the president has hinted that he was itching to get back on the campaign trail. “We got to get back to the rallies,” Mr. Trump told reporters in May. “I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”

With the election less than five months away, there’s a growing sense of urgency within the Trump campaign to again connect with American crowds, particularly since he has not been able to do so since March when all rallies were called to a halt due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

While locations have yet to be announced, the president has stated he would prefer rallies in reopened arenas and “big, outdoor” venues, suggesting Georgia or Florida as potential locales. “I don’t wanna have a stadium where you’re supposed to have a person, then seven empty seats,” he remarked.

While Trump is likely to face backlash for resuming in-person events while the coronavirus pandemic is still active, his advisers counter that recent massive protests in metropolitan areas have made him more eager than ever to reconnect with the American people.

TICK TOCK: Trump vows ‘harsh measures’ if Dems won’t act on border

WASHINGTON — A fed up President Donald Trump on Tuesday came out swinging against Democrats who continue to turn a blind eye to immigration loopholes.

“Democrats in Congress must vote to close the terrible loopholes at the Southern Border. If not, harsh measures will have to be taken!” the president tweeted.

The president’s comments were in response to congressional Democrats who continue to push back on his demands for emergency funds earmarked toward preventing illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. through the Mexican border.

“So you create chaos, and then ask for more money?” Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, told Politico, referring to the president’s request for emergency funding.

In an appearance on “Fox & Friends” Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway blasted Dems for their refusal to cooperate in helping to secure the nation’s border.

“They have to stop pretending they want to reform the immigration laws,” Conway said. “If they’re serious about immigration reform they should come to the table and fix something.”

Thus far, Democrats are still refusing to cooperate.

“Not that we’re trying to validate or not validate [Trump’s claims], there are a lot of people there at the border,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, (D)-Texas, told Politico. “I don’t call it a security crisis, I call it a humanitarian crisis. So, the question is how do we get to address that?”

Trump’s efforts to secure the nation’s border has been an ongoing battle throughout his administration. The fight against illegal immigration was a center point of his 2016 election campaign. The issue is expected to remain the focus of his 2020 bid for reelection.

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WAR ON GUNS: Incoming House Dems plotting quick attack on the Second Amendment

WASHINGTON — Democrats plan to waste no time in attacking the Second Amendment as they take power in January, according to a report published by Politico on Monday.

According to the report, Dems plan to initiate a bill that would require federal background checks on all firearm sales as part of their efforts to advance long-fought gun control measures.

The effort already has already received the stamp of approval by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said: “The new Democratic majority will act boldly and decisively to pass commonsense, life-saving background checks.”

“The American people want this,” said California Rep. Mike Thompson, who heads a Democratic gun violence prevention task force and plans to introduce the bill.

“It’s very important to us, it’s one of our top priorities,” echoed New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which will hold jurisdiction over the issue. “We told the American voters that we do mean to do this, and we do mean to do it.”

Although unlikely that the bill will pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, the effort serves as the first step for Democrats in pushing their gun-control agenda.

GOP North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson, a prominent National Rifle Association ally in the House, says such a bill is useless and only targets those who already obey the law.

Universal background checks, says Hudson, “has always been a red herring.” It’s “something that… polls very well, but there’s not a single commercial gun transaction in America that doesn’t have a background check.”

“The wrong people are not going to report gun sales,” added Hudson. “So you will need a registry to know where every gun is,” an option that is vehemently opposed by the NRA.

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REPORT: GOP hires female attorney to question Kavanaugh accuser

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Politico) — Senate Republicans have hired an attorney to use as a questioner of Christine Blasey Ford at Thursday’s high-stakes hearing on a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but are declining to name her.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told POLITICO on Tuesday as he entered the Capitol for a weekly GOP meeting that “we aren’t announcing the name for her safety.” Asked if Republicans have received any indication of threats to the attorney they’re preparing to use, Grassley said: “I don’t know, but I guess we’re just being cautious.”

Grassley responded Monday to a personal letter he received from Ford over the weekend in which she vowed that “fear will not hold me back from testifying,” Grassley told the 51-year-old California-based professor that he is “committed to fair and respectful treatment of you” during Thursday’s make-or-break hearing on her claim against Kavanaugh.

Although Ford’s attorney wrote to Grassley on Monday night that his staff “still has not responded to a number of outstanding questions” about the hearing, including more details on how the female attorney would be engaged to speak on behalf of Judiciary Republicans’ all-male roster, the Iowan made clear that he views the hearing as locked in.

Heeding Ford’s desire to avoid a “circus-like environment,” Grassley said, he has agreed to limit the press presence in the hearing room and give her security protection through the Capitol Police. “I don’t know what else we can do,” Grassley said, adding that “I don’t know of any problem” remaining.

GOP leaders signaled on Tuesday that the Senate may stay in session over the weekend to confirm Kavanaugh quickly. The new Supreme Court term starts on Oct. 1

“There’s no reason to delay this more, unless something new comes out of the hearing on Thursday,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. “As you can tell, people are coming out of the woodwork making incredible, uncorroborated allegations and I think you can just expect that kind of nonsense to continue.”

Senate Republicans have hired an attorney to use as a questioner of Christine Blasey Ford at Thursday’s high-stakes hearing on a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but are declining to name her.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told POLITICO on Tuesday as he entered the Capitol for a weekly GOP meeting that “we aren’t announcing the name for her safety.” Asked if Republicans have received any indication of threats to the attorney they’re preparing to use, Grassley said: “I don’t know, but I guess we’re just being cautious.”

Grassley responded Monday to a personal letter he received from Ford over the weekend in which she vowed that “fear will not hold me back from testifying,” Grassley told the 51-year-old California-based professor that he is “committed to fair and respectful treatment of you” during Thursday’s make-or-break hearing on her claim against Kavanaugh.

Although Ford’s attorney wrote to Grassley on Monday night that his staff “still has not responded to a number of outstanding questions” about the hearing, including more details on how the female attorney would be engaged to speak on behalf of Judiciary Republicans’ all-male roster, the Iowan made clear that he views the hearing as locked in.

Heeding Ford’s desire to avoid a “circus-like environment,” Grassley said, he has agreed to limit the press presence in the hearing room and give her security protection through the Capitol Police. “I don’t know what else we can do,” Grassley said, adding that “I don’t know of any problem” remaining.

GOP leaders signaled on Tuesday that the Senate may stay in session over the weekend to confirm Kavanaugh quickly. The new Supreme Court term starts on Oct. 1

“There’s no reason to delay this more, unless something new comes out of the hearing on Thursday,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. “As you can tell, people are coming out of the woodwork making incredible, uncorroborated allegations and I think you can just expect that kind of nonsense to continue.”

Their comments come as President Donald Trump and White House officials launched a blistering attack on Democrats over the misconduct claims against Kavanaugh, calling them a “con game.”

Trump and Senate Republicans have lambasted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for not coming forward sooner with the allegation made by Ford against Kavanaugh. Feinstein knew of Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her back in July, yet Republicans say they were not told of the accusation until it was reported in the press two months later.

Now, with Ford set to appear before the Judiciary Committee this week, Trump on Tuesday mocked claims by a second Kavanaugh accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself while they were both students at Yale University more than 30 years ago.

During an appearance at the United Nations General Assembly with Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, Trump launched into a defense of Kavanaugh and called the allegations against him “unsubstantiated.”

“Charges come up from 36 years ago that are totally unsubstantiated? I mean, you as watching this, as the president of a great country – Colombia – you must say, ‘How is this possible?’ Thirty-six years ago? Nobody ever knew about it? Nobody ever heard about it? And now a new charge comes up,” Trump said.

“And [Ramirez] said well it might not be him and there were gaps and she said she was totally inebriated and she was all messed up. And she doesn’t know it was him, but it might’ve been him. ‘Oh gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge because of that.’ This is a con-game being played by the Democrats.”

With Kavanaugh’s nomination in trouble, the White House P.R. offensive is designed to shift the blame for the Kavanaugh debacle onto Democrats while trying to shore up GOP support. Yet right now, Kavanaugh doesn’t have the votes to be confirmed, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the White House know full well.

“Both families have been drug through the mud when they didn’t have to be because Dianne Feinstein could have done this in a much-structured process and instead waited until the 11th hour and is playing political games with people’s lives,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Ford and Kavanaugh during a Tuesday appearance on “Good Morning America.”

Sanders singled out Feinstein for harsh criticism, blaming the California Democrat for the entire controversy. “I find that to be disgraceful and disgusting, and she certainly needs to shoulder a lot of the blame for what’s going on right now,” she said. Sanders’ comments followed a tweet by Trump on Monday night rejecting claims of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh brought by Ford and Ramirez.

But despite Trump’s tweet, Sanders said the White House is open to Ramirez testifying. Senate Republicans have said they will determine the witnesses and said repeatedly they would limit it to Ford and Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh himself gave an extraordinary interview to Fox News on Monday night, an unprecedented move for a nominee still under consideration by the Senate.

Yet with his selection for the nation’s highest court in serious trouble, the White House banked that Kavanaugh’s appearance could help rally conservatives to his cause. Feinstein, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats have countered the GOP push on Kavanaugh by demanding the White House should allow the FBI to investigate Ford’s allegations, which the Trump administration has refused to agree to.

The FBI has also said it has completed its background investigation of Kavanaugh and has no further role in this nomination fight.

“There is one simple way to get to the bottom of this, without the he-said, she-said, without the finger-pointing and name-calling: a quiet, serious, thorough background check by the FBI. That’s the logical way to go,” Schumer said on Monday. “The FBI is not biased. The FBI is professional. It’s a crime to lie to them so people have a large incentive to tell the truth.”

With the partisan attacks from party leaders continuing — and likely to get even more pointed as Thursday’s hearing gets closer — key questions about Ford’s appearance still remain, with the identity of the GOP’s outside questioner chief among them. The use of that outside counsel or staffer to ask questions of Ford and Kavanaugh won’t preclude GOP lawmakers from also asking questions, Republicans have said.

On Tuesday morning, Democrats said they hoped to find out what the rules of the hearing on Thursday will be, including how long they would be allowed to question Ford and Kavanaugh. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) decried the secrecy shrouding the GOP’s use of an outside or staff attorney as part of the majority’s “stonewalling.”

Democrats said they were unsure whether they would have as few as five minutes to ask questions or as many as 20. And some are still running down new leads about Kavanaugh as they prepare for the landmark hearing.

“We got a phone call yesterday morning, ‘there’s another hot tip’. We’re trying to be careful. So you basically say: We need more before we consider it credible,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who serves on the Judiciary Committee.

Ford attorney Michael Bromwich wrote in his Monday night letter to Grassley that the hearing “is not a criminal trial for which the involvement of an experienced sex crimes prosecutor would be appropriate.”

“Neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh is on trial. The goal should be to develop the relevant facts, not try a case,” Bromwich wrote, demanding an opportunity for Ford’s legal team to meet with the unknown attorney on Tuesday.

With all that jockeying going on around Thursday’s hearing, Senate Republicans have quietly begun to game out how soon there could be a floor vote on Kavanaugh — if it actually happens. The earliest that confirmation vote on Kavanaugh could take place would be Tuesday of next week, according to GOP lawmakers and aides. That would require the Senate to stay in session over the weekend. Otherwise, the vote would slip to later in the week.

———-

Politico’s Elana Schor, John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett contributed to the contents of this report.

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BATTLE FOR THE BORDER: Judge rejects bid to block California ‘sanctuary’ laws

SACRAMENTO, CA (Politico) — A federal judge on Thursday rejected the bulk of a Trump administration demand to block three California sanctuary laws, allowing the state to keep in place its most significant legislative measures aimed at countering President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Sacramento-based U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez rejected, for now, the Justice Department’s drive to halt a California law that limits the kinds of immigration-related information state and local law enforcement can share with federal officials. The judge also declined DOJ’s request to block another law guaranteeing California officials certain information about local and privately run jails that hold immigration detainees in the Golden State.

While the ruling is a setback for the Trump administration’s attempt to enforce immigration laws in states where leaders favor more liberal policies, Mendez did block parts of one of the disputed California laws, including provisions that banned private employers from voluntarily cooperating with immigration officials and from re-verifying the legal work status of employees.

Mendez, an appointee of President George W. Bush, took a narrow view of state and local governments’ obligations to allow their employees to assist federal immigration officials. He said California had broad authority to limit use of its resources for immigration enforcement.

“Refusing to help is not the same as impeding,” wrote Mendez. “Federal objectives will always be furthered if states offer to assist federal efforts. A state’s decision not to assist in those activities will always make the federal object more difficult to attain than it would be otherwise. Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way.”

Justice Department lawyers argued that a 1996 federal law prevents California from blocking disclosure of information helpful to immigration authorities, such as prisoners’ expected release dates and their home addresses. But Mendez said that law covers only records “strictly pertaining to immigration status” and not a broader set of data.

Mendez’s decision denied a preliminary injunction against the most significant provisions the Justice Department challenged in a suit filed with fanfare last March. The ruling doesn’t eliminate the possibility that the federal government could prevail in more aspects of the suit in the future, but it leaves the administration without much of the immediate relief it wanted.

A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment on the decision.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office defended the laws, hailed the ruling.

“The right of states to determine how to provide public safety and general welfare to their people continues to stand strong,” Becerra said in a statement.

The author of the law limiting information-sharing with federal officials, California state Sen. Kevin De Léon, tied the judge’s decision to the outcry over Trump’s move to separate some immigrant parents from their children.

“Today, a federal judge made clear what I’ve known all along, that SB 54, the California Values Act is constitutional and does not conflict with federal law,” De Léon said. “California is under no obligation to assist Trump tear apart families. We cannot stop his mean-spirited immigration policies, but we don’t have to help him, and we won’t.”

Mendez said he hoped his ruling would be seen as a legal one, not a political one, and he said “piecemeal opinions” from judge will not resolve hot-button immigration debates.

“This Order hopefully will not be viewed through a political lens and this Court expresses no views on the soundness of the policies or statutes involved in this lawsuit. There is no place for politics in our judicial system and this one opinion will neither define nor solve the complicated immigration issues currently facing our Nation,” wrote the judge, who added that he ruled “without concern for any possible political consequences.”

The judge closed his opinion with a strong exhortation to Congress and the White House to enact legislation addressing the most contentious disputes relating to immigration policy.

“This Court joins the ever-growing chorus of Federal Judges in urging our elected officials to set aside the partisan and polarizing politics dominating the current immigration debate and work in a cooperative and bi-partisan fashion toward drafting and passing legislation that addresses this critical political issue,” Mendez wrote. “Our Nation deserves it. Our Constitution demands it.”

Politico’s Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

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SANCTUARY STATE GONE WILD: California to Give free healthcare to all illegals

Sacramento, Ca. (Politico) — California is poised to become the first state in the nation to offer full health coverage to undocumented adults even as the Trump administration intensifies its crackdown by separating families at the border.

The proposal — which would build on Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2015 decision to extend health coverage to all children, regardless of immigration status — is one of the most daring examples yet of blue-state Democrats thumbing their nose at President Donald Trump as they pursue diametrically opposed policies, whether on immigration, climate change, legalized marijuana or health care.

“California has never waited for the federal government, or for a political climate, to be able to take leadership on a whole host of issues,” state Sen. Ricardo Lara, author of the state Senate bill to extend Medicaid coverage to all adults, told POLITICO.

But at a time when Trump is already attempting to re-energize state Republican voters — he met with California conservatives at the White House last week to strategize against the state’s sanctuary policies — the initiative might be risky. For starters, it will be costly: The annual price tag to expand Medicaid benefits to poor adult immigrants without legal status is projected at $3 billion annually. Some also worry that extending health coverage could make California a magnet for undocumented immigrants from other states.

“It would give Republicans relevance in California they would never have before,” said David McCuan, a political analyst and political science professor at Sonoma State University. He suggested the proposal would energize Republican voters, who make up a quarter of the electorate, as well as conservative-leaning unaffiliated voters.

Any meaningful opposition could slow the plan’s progress through the state Legislature despite its strong backing from Democrats, providers and advocates for the poor.

Brown, who is leaving office later this year and has not yet committed to the plan, is required by law to sign or veto bills passed this session by Sept. 30, just five weeks before the midterm elections. And the injection of immigration politics into the universal health care debate will likely provide talking points for both parties.

“It seems to me astounding that California could consider an expansion like this at this particular moment,” said Paul Ginsburg, director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. He described the plan as “fiscally very dangerous” given California’s fragile long-term financial outlook and the potential negative effects of the Republican tax overhaul on the state’s budget.

But Lara, the son of undocumented Mexican immigrants who grew up without health coverage, contended the state is already paying for health care for the undocumented in the most expensive way possible, through hospital emergency rooms. He pushed unsuccessfully for a single payer health plan for California last year, and argues California needs to be a laboratory for social change by taking the lead on progressive causes.

“We are trying to address the fact that, whether you like it or not,” he said, “our undocumented community needs the care, and we are paying for it anyway.”

Democrats say they want to build on the coverage gains made under Obamacare by targeting the state’s nearly 3 million remaining uninsured — about 60 percent of whom are undocumented immigrants and 1.2 million of whom would qualify for the state’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal, based on their incomes. Companion bills in the state Assembly and Senate have easily passed their respective health committees with party-line votes.

Still, the latest revisions to Brown’s proposed budget last week did not include significant increases in health spending — a move that frustrated some backers of the expansion, who note the state’s budget surplus has swelled to nearly $9 billion — about $3 billion more than expected.

“It’s doable for a fraction of the budget surplus we have,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy coalition. “We recognize if we were to do so, we would be the first state to expand Medicaid to an [undocumented] adult population.”

Wright acknowledged the price tag may look alarming but said it should be viewed within the context of Medi-Cal’s $100 billion budget. He also emphasized that covering only poor young people and the elderly — which the budget forecasts estimated at $140 million and $330 million, respectively — could be more achievable in the short term. A Senate health budget sub-committee on Thursday recommended covering undocumented adults over age 65 as part of the Senate funding package to be considered during negotiations.

California already provides emergency and pregnancy-related Medi-Cal benefits for undocumented immigrants to the tune of about $1.7 billion annually. The $3 billion for full Medi-Cal benefits assumes that all eligible adults would enroll in the program over 12 months, which is unlikely.

Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, said the cost debate must take into account the measure’s broader benefits, including increased worker productivity and improved community health.

“Since most undocumented immigrants are productive members of society, it would, of course, be much better to give them all a path to citizenship and immediately naturalize them to make it easier for them to buy regular health insurance,” Weinberg said. “But just because we have bad immigration policy does not mean we shouldn’t have good health policy. And truly universal coverage is good health policy.”

Other health economists struck a more cautious note.

Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford physician and health economist, said the plan should have a dedicated funding source, which could mean higher taxes. “Looking at the current surplus and saying we’re likely to have that forever so we should spend more doesn’t seem like a wise idea to me,” Bhattacharya said.

Bhattacharya also expressed concerns that the extension could exacerbate the state’s illegal immigration problems. “If you make a program like this available, undocumented workers in other states might be attracted to California because of this,” he said.

But Lara insisted the bill is not only a long-term cost-saver, it’s the right thing to do.

“All you have to do is say ‘immigration’ in Washington, D.C., and everyone runs to their respective corners,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in California.”

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‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!’: An angry Trump renews vow to crackdown on illegal immigrants

Washington, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his pledge to tighten America’s border, fix the broken immigration system and to come down hard on those who enter the United States illegally.

Speaking outside the U.S. Capitol during a National Peace Officers’ memorial service event, the president called on lawmakers to fund his proposed border wall, pass new measures to penalize sanctuary cities and to put an end what he called “catch and release” immigration laws.

“We don’t want it anymore. We’ve had it. Enough is enough,” Trump said after criticizing current policies which “release violent criminals back into our communities” and put police and border patrol officers’ lives at risk.

“We must end the attacks on our police and we must end them right now,” he said. “We believe criminals who kill our police should get the death penalty. Bring it forth.”

The president’s latest remarks come after weeks of his being increasingly vocal in his frustration toward U.S. immigration laws, which he has repeatedly slammed as being too weak.

Further, it was reported last week that President Trump dressed down Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen so hard over her not being aggressive enough in going after people who cross into the U.S. illegally that Neilson was on the brink of resigning her position.

In a statement, Nielsen confirmed the president’s anger over current immigration laws, but did not confirm or deny reports that she was on the verge of resigning her position.

“The president is rightly frustrated that existing loopholes and the lack of Congressional action have prevented this administration from fully securing the border and protecting the American people,” Neilson said. “I share his frustration.”

“I will continue to direct the department to do all we can to implement the president’s security-focused agenda,” Nielsen added.

Trump, who is in the early stages of preparing for his 2020 reelection campaign, campaigned heavily on the topic of immigration reform during his 2016 presidential run.

A large part of his now famous “Make America Great Again” slogan centered around the promise to build a border wall between the southern U.S. border and Mexico and to fix broken and unenforced immigration laws, issues that have been met with staunch challenges from the left.

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