New York, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump has placed racial animus at the center of his reelection campaign, and even some of his critics believe it could deliver him a second term.
Every successful modern presidential campaign has been built on the notion of addition, winning over voters beyond core supporters. But Trump has chosen division on the belief that the polarized country he leads will simply choose sides over issues like race.
He intensified his attacks on Wednesday, blasting four young congresswomen of color during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina. The crowd responded by chanting, "Send her back!" echoing Trump's weekend tweet in which he said the lawmakers — all American citizens — should "go back" to the country from which they came.
"I do think I am winning the political fight," Trump declared at the White House. "I think I am winning it by a lot."
Not since George Wallace's campaign in 1968 has a presidential candidate — and certainly not an incumbent president — put racial polarization at the center of his call to voters. Though Trump's comments generated outrage and even a resolution of condemnation in the House, the president and his campaign believe the strategy carries far more benefits than risks.
"Regardless of whether his tweets are racist or not — I'm not saying they are or not — he is getting the media to make these extremely liberal, socialist, foolish congresswomen the face of the Democratic Party," said Terry Sullivan, a frequent Trump critic who managed Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 Republican presidential campaign. "What he's doing here is sad, but it's smart politics."
Still, there are clear perils to his approach.
Educated suburban voters, especially college-educated women, and minorities in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin were already threatening to revolt against the Republican president. Trump believes his inflammatory rhetoric will strengthen his support among the white working class and attract a new group of disaffected voters who fear cultural changes across America.
That approach is likely to face significant headwinds in those three key battleground states that he won by a combined 78,000 votes in 2016. Democrats will be far more aggressive in targeting female and minority voters. Most analysts agree that the potential universe of Democratic-leaning voters is larger, if they turn out. Trump is betting they will not.
The president has proved adroit at crafting a hero-villain narrative and is now focusing on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan rather than a Democratic presidential candidate. His challenge will be whether he can drive that story line successfully for the next 16 months.
Trump told aides this week that the controversy has cemented the four progressive lawmakers as the faces of the Democratic Party, believing it has boosted his chances at reelection. Far from backing away from the comments, he and his party are now casting the minority Democratic congresswomen as the real racists.
"They are now the top, most visible members of the House Democrats, who are now wedded to this bitterness and hate," Trump boasted on Twitter.
Trump aides and allies acknowledge that many voters may find the president's comments objectionable, but for the voters they need in 2020, it may actually be an energizing force.
Those who already believe Trump is a racist and unfit for the presidency won't vote for him in the first place. For voters in the middle, Trump's team believes they can be sufficiently scared off the progressive agenda to cast votes for Trump — or at worst, stay home in dispiritedness that neither party speaks to their issues. And for many others who didn't vote at all in 2016, there is hope that his dramatic presidency, backed by fear of Democrats' leftward lurch, will persuade them to show up at the ballot box.
Trump's allies say they think many voters, both Republican and Democratic, are cool to the "woke culture" of 2019, just as they were to the focus on political correctness in 2016.
The Pew Research Center found in May that 8 in 10 Republicans feel too many people are easily offended over language today. About 4 in 10 Democrats said the same.
"The president wasn't afraid to wade into these culture wars and he's not afraid to do so again. He'll stand up for our flag and against open borders. Patriotism will always win," said Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for the pro-Trump super PAC America First Policies. The group plans to spend millions over the coming year on registering likely Trump voters across six swing states.
Veering sharply away from the inclusive tone GOP leaders called for in 2012, groups charged with electing Republicans up and down the ballot in 2020 have embraced Trump's fiery style and message, which has long relied on demonizing immigrants and minorities.
Some voters may be responding.
The share of Americans who say the country's openness to people from around the world is "essential to who we are as a nation" is shrinking, according to a new Pew poll.
The poll found that 62% of Americans see openness to others around the world as essential, a number that is down 6 percentage points over the last 10 months. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said that if the United States is too open to people from around the world, "we risk losing our identity as a nation." Pollsters in both parties said that white working-class voters in particular feel left behind by the Democratic Party's focus on racial and gender equality. Trump's hard-line position on race and immigration has alienated many minority voters.
Republican pollsters suggest the president's real challenge will be in America's suburbs, where college-educated women veered sharply away from Trump's party in the 2018 midterms, giving Democrats the House majority.
"He went with racism and divisiveness before 2018 and lost 40 House seats — including in the Midwest," said Josh Schwerin, senior strategist for Priorities USA, the biggest super PAC in Democratic politics. "He has tried this. The country doesn't want to be more divided."
Moscow, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. and British embassies in Moscow said on Wednesday that Russia has refused visas to teachers at a school that educates diplomats' children.
Ambassador Jon Huntsman that Russia hasn't issued visas to 30 new teachers who are due to arrive next month and adds "children should not be used as pawns in diplomatic disputes." He added the school may "look at the possible disenrollment of some new and returning students" if it can't hire enough teachers.
The British Embassy in Moscow confirmed the reports, calling the Russian government's decision not to issue visas "unfortunate."
The Anglo-American School has around 1,100 children from over 60 countries, including some children of wealthy Russians. Founded in 1949, the school is overseen by the U.S., British and Canadian embassies.
In 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited U.S. diplomats' children to New Year celebrations at the Kremlin, shortly after the Foreign Ministry denied a CNN report that it planned to close the school.
Russia has for years tried to get the U.S to roll back the restrictions it imposed on the Russian diplomatic mission at the end of the Barack Obama administration when the Russia mission's two countryside estates, in New York and Maryland were shut down.
Greenville, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) -Going after four Democratic congresswomen one by one, a combative President Donald Trump turned his campaign rally Wednesday into an extended dissection of the liberal views of the women of color, deriding them for what he painted as extreme positions and suggesting they just get out.
"Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down," Trump told the crowd in North Carolina, a swing state he won in 2016 and wants to claim again in 2020. "They never have anything good to say. That's why I say, 'Hey if you don't like it, let 'em leave, let 'em leave.'"
Eager to rile up his base with the some of the same kind of rhetoric he targeted at minorities and women in 2016, Trump declared, "I think in some cases they hate our country."
Trump's jabs were aimed at the self-described "squad" of four freshmen Democrats who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the U.S. except for Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.
Taking the legislators on one at a time, Trump ticked through a laundry list of what he deemed offensive comments by each woman, mangling and misconstruing many facts along the way.
Omar came under the harshest criticism as Trump played to voters' grievances, drawing a chant from the crowd of "Send her back! Send her back!"
Trump set off a firestorm Sunday when he tweeted that the four should "go back" to their home countries — though three were born in the United States. Trump has accused them of "spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician."
He expanded on his criticisms in Greenville.
Among his complaints against Tlaib, Trump correctly reported that she had referred to the president by the "F-word," adding, "That's not nice, even for me." Trump himself had unloaded a vulgarity earlier in his speech, denouncing the Russia probe of his campaign and administration as "bulls---."
As for Ocasio-Cortez, Trump fumbled over her name and declared, "I don't have time to go with three different names." He then referred to her as just "Cortez" as he challenged her complaints about dire conditions at migrant detention centers at the border.
In a lighter moment, Trump wondered if Pressley was related to Elvis Presley, then pivoted to more serious points, claiming she thought people of color should "think the same."
As for Omar, Trump unfurled a whole list of complaints, including a false accusation that she voiced pride in al-Qaida.
Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he's "winning the political argument" and "winning it by a lot."
"If people want to leave our country, they can. If they don't want to love our country, if they don't want to fight for our country, they can," Trump said. "I'll never change on that."
Trump's harsh denunciations were another sign of his willingness to exploit the nation's racial divisions heading into the 2020 campaign.
His speech was filled with Trump's trademark criticisms about the news media, which he says sides with liberals, and of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Mueller had been scheduled to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, but it was postponed. Trump brought him up anyway. "What happened to me with this witch hunt should never be allowed to happen to another president," he said.
He also talked about illegal immigration, a main theme of his first presidential bid that is taking center stage in his re-election campaign. He brushed off the criticism he has gotten for saying that the congresswomen should go back home. "So controversial," he said sarcastically.
The four freshmen have portrayed the president as a bully who wants to "vilify" not only immigrants, but all people of color. They say they are fighting for their priorities to lower health care costs and pass a Green New Deal addressing climate change, while his thundering attacks are a distraction and tear at the core of America values.
The Democratic-led U.S. House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump for what it labeled "racist comments," despite near-solid GOP opposition and the president's own insistence that he doesn't have a "racist bone" in his body.
Trump hasn't shown signs of being rattled by the House rebuke, and called an impeachment resolution that failed in Congress earlier Wednesday "ridiculous." The condemnation carries no legal repercussions and his latest harangues struck a chord with supporter in Greenville, whose chants of "Four more years!" and "Build that wall!" bounced off the rafters.
Vice President Mike Pence was first up after spending the day in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and visiting troops at Fort Bragg. "North Carolina and America needs four more years," Pence said.
It was Trump's sixth visit to the state as president and his first 2020 campaign event in North Carolina, where he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
San diego, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — A new policy to deny asylum to anyone who shows up on the Mexican border after traveling through another country threatens to exacerbate overcrowding at severely strained U.S. immigration detention centers and makeshift holding areas.
Photos and video of Vice President Mike Pence's visit Friday to McAllen, Texas, showing men crammed behind chain-link fences offered the latest glimpse into squalid conditions at Customs and Border Protection facilities. Women are being held in smaller tents at the station.
The Border Patrol housed 900 people in an area with capacity for 125 in El Paso, Texas, according to a Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog report on an unannounced visit in May. Inspectors saw detainees standing on toilets to gain breathing space. Agents described detainees being held in standing-room-only cells for weeks.
A sharp drop in illegal border crossings, coming during a seasonal decline as summer heat sets in, has eased pressure temporarily. The Border Patrol has fewer than 10,000 people in custody, down from 19,000 in May, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to share the figures publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings, was the only one of nine sectors on the Mexican border over capacity on Wednesday, with about 6,000 detainees, the official said. El Paso has plummeted to 500 detainees.
Still, the space crunch is daunting and holding people who are denied asylum until they are deported can only pose more challenges.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement operates long-term detention centers that are far better equipped, but that agency is also heavily burdened. It is holding more than 53,000 people, hovering near an all-time high and above its budgeted capacity of 45,274, including 2,500 spots for families.
ICE, responding to scarce detention space for families, has released more than 200,000 family members since October under a new practice that does not allow time to make travel arrangements while in custody. It currently houses 311 people in families.
ICE said Wednesday that it constantly reviews detention requirements and options.
"Ensuring there are sufficient beds available to meet the current demand for detention space is crucial to the success of ICE's overall mission," the agency said in a statement.
CBP officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The dramatic policy change took effect Tuesday, denying asylum to anyone who must pass through Mexico to reach the U.S. by land. It will have the biggest impact on Guatemalans and Hondurans, who account for most Border Patrol arrests and tend to travel in families.
If it survives legal challenges, the policy would affect people from any country traveling through Mexico unless they sought asylum in at least one other country and were denied. There are exceptions for victims of "a severe form" of human trafficking, as well as other forms of humanitarian protection that are similar to asylum but have a much higher bar to qualify.
Linerio Gonzalez and Ana Paolini of Venezuela were in a group of 15 migrants, including four children, who showed up at the international bridge in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas, to take their chances. They were eager to enter the United States despite confusion about how the policy would affect them.
"It drives you to desperation," said Gonzalez, 24.
"You hear a lot of things, but we don't know," said Paolini, 20.
Hours after it went into effect, the policy drew two lawsuits in federal court, one in San Francisco and one in Washington, D.C. Both lawsuits ask for an order to immediately halt the policy while it is challenged in court. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups requested a hearing Thursday in the San Francisco case.
Those who lose asylum bids would be placed in fast-track deportation proceedings and flown to their home countries. That's where challenges may mount.
It usually takes several days to arrange travel documents and flights for Central Americans, and the only ICE family detention centers are in Texas and Pennsylvania. It is more difficult (and expensive) to arrange travel to faraway countries like Cameroon, whose people have been arriving at the border to seek asylum after flying to Ecuador and traveling through seven other countries.
Cuba, whose people have been seeking asylum in El Paso and Laredo, Texas, is labeled one of nine "recalcitrant" countries in the world by the U.S. government for its unwillingness to take back its own citizens, according to a Congressional Research Service report in November. Cubans tend to fly to Panama and then travel overland through five countries or fly to Nicaragua and go by land through three countries.
The administration has been expanding temporary detention space, which would offer relief. CBP began construction last week on a holding center with tents for 2,500 single adults near El Paso, with plans to open by early August, spokesman Roger Maier said. The site in Tornillo, Texas, was used last year to house more than 2,000 unaccompanied children.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just opened a facility to detain children at Carrizo Springs, Texas, at the site of a former "man camp" for oilfield workers. The holding facility can accommodate up to 1,300 children.
Washington, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — In a major break with a longtime ally, the Trump administration on Wednesday said Turkey is being kicked out of an American-led fighter aircraft program because it is buying a Russian air defense system that would aid Russian intelligence.
The decision has significant implications for the cohesion of NATO, whose central strategic purpose is to defend against Russian aggression. Now that NATO member Turkey has chosen to buy and deploy the Russian-made S-400 air defense, it will no longer be fully part of the alliance's air defenses, which are at the core of NATO strategy.
The U.S. government's concern is that the S-400 could be used to gather data on the capabilities of the F-35, and that the information could end up in Russian hands.
Pentagon officials sought to downplay the rift, noting that Turkey has been a key ally for more than six decades.
"The U.S. still values our strategic partnership with Turkey," said Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, who told a news conference that the U.S. has suspended Turkey from the F-35 program and is beginning the process of its formal removal. Lord said Turkey stands to lose $9 billion in future earnings as an F-35 parts supplier.
David Trachtenberg, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters the U.S.-Turkey military partnership "remains very strong," and U.S. and Turkish forces will continue to exercise together. He declined to explain how Turkey can remain a full partner in NATO's integrated air defense while using a weapon system built by NATO's chief adversary.
It's clear, however, that senior U.S. officials worry about the future of the relationship with Turkey. Mark Esper, Trump's nominee to be the next secretary of defense, told his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it is "very disheartening to see how they have drifted over the past several years" away from the West.
Although it is never publicly acknowledged by the U.S. government, the Pentagon stores nuclear weapons at Turkey's Incirlik air base. Some national security experts question the wisdom of continuing that arrangement, given Turkey's drift.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government hopes to co-produce high-tech weaponry systems with Russia in the future, further defying the United States and other NATO allies. Turkey refused to bow to U.S. pressure, saying its Russia deal is a matter of national sovereignty and that the agreement could not be cancelled.
The decision to remove Turkey from the F-35 program had been expected, although administration officials spent months trying to talk the Turks into reversing course. The final straw was Turkey's announcement last weekend that it has begun taking delivery from Russia of components for the air defense system, called the S-400.
"Unfortunately, Turkey's decision to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible," a White House statement said. "The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities." That "platform" is the S-400.
The White House did not say explicitly that Turkey will be kicked out of the F-35 program, but the Pentagon did.
Lord said the process of fully removing Turkey is under way and should be completed by next March 31. She refused to say whether the decision could be reversed.
Turkey makes more than 900 components for the stealth aircraft, which is sold internationally. Removing it as a supplier means the Pentagon is lining up alternative manufacturers for those parts. Lord said many of those alternatives will be American suppliers, and that the Pentagon is spending between $500 million and $600 million "to shift the supply chain."
Congress appears generally supportive of the administration's moves against Turkey.
"America simply cannot send its most advanced military technology to countries where adversaries like Russia will have access to it," said Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who sits on the Armed Services Committee.
Trump announced on Tuesday that the S-400 purchase means Turkey will not be allowed to purchase any F-35 planes, but he did not address the related questions of Turkey's role in F-35 production or the likelihood that the S-400 purchase from Russia will trigger U.S. sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The State Department this week has been silent on whether those sanctions will be imposed.
The break with Turkey over its purchase of a Russian weapon system is symptomatic of a deeper division between Ankara and its Western allies and partners.
Army Secretary Mark Esper, Trump's nominee to become secretary of defense, told his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday he is troubled by Turkey's decision to defy the United States on the S-400, suggesting that it reveals a broader strategic problem.
"It is very disheartening to see how they have drifted over the past several years," Esper said.
Turkey has complained that it was not given favorable terms to buy the American alternative to the Russian S-400 air defense system. The White House, however, said in its statement Wednesday that Turkey had plenty of chances to buy the U.S. Patriot system.
"This administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the U.S. Patriot air defense system," it said.