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11 hours ago by
People close to the probe say the former campaign and White House strategist will be a key witness for prosecutors and Hill investigators. Steve Bannon's name has surfaced a handful of times in the special counsel and congressional investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images As special Russia counsel Robert Mueller wraps up interviews with senior current and former White House staff, one name has been conspicuously absent from public chatter surrounding the probe: Steve Bannon. President Donald Trump’s former White House chief strategist and campaign chief executive played critical roles in episodes that have become central to Mueller’s probe as well as to multiple Hill investigations. Bannon was a key bystander when Trump decided to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with foreign officials. He was among those Trump consulted before firing FBI Director James Comey, whose dismissal prompted Mueller’s appointment — a decision Bannon subsequently described to "60 Minutes" as the biggest mistake “in modern political history.” And during the campaign, Bannon was the one who offered the introduction to data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO has since acknowledged trying to coordinate with WikiLeaks on the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state. Yet Bannon hasn’t faced anywhere near the degree of public scrutiny in connection to the probe as others in Trump’s inner circle, including son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner — who was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team — or Donald Trump Jr., who was interviewed on Capitol Hill last week about his own Russian connections. People close to Bannon, who left the White House in August and returned to his former perch as head of Breitbart News, say he’s told them he doesn’t have a lawyer and isn’t worried about potential exposure. But others say it’s inevitable he’ll be called in as a witness in the ongoing investigations. He has not been publicly accused of any wrongdoing or named as a target of the investigations. “I think it’ll be very important at an appropriate time to bring him before the committee,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel’s Russia probe, told POLITICO. “There are a whole range of issues we need to talk to him about.” Mueller’s office declined comment for this story, but former Trump aides say they have no doubt Bannon will be questioned by Mueller. Given the black box the special counsel operates in, it’s possible Bannon has already spoken with the prosecutors. “That in my mind is an unequivocal yes,” said a former Trump staffer familiar with the case. “It’d be malpractice not to interview him.” Former Trump legal team spokesman Mark Corallo said he also expects Mueller to bring Bannon in as a witness. “There’s going to be a lot of people to be called in to discuss what happened in the Comey firing. I would not be shocked if someone like Steve got pulled in. That would be normal,” he said. Bannon declined comment for this story. Investigators have already interviewed more than a dozen White House staffers, including Reince Priebus and presidential spokesman Sean Spicer. Late last week, Mueller interviewed White House communications director and former campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks — another person who was almost omnipresent in the campaign and the early days of the administration, according to a person familiar with the Mueller probe. A person close to Bannon said that as of Sunday the strategist hadn’t been interviewed by Mueller. But that shouldn’t be surprising, said William Jeffress, a white-collar defense attorney who represented Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby during the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. “Generally speaking, you’d expect they’d be more working from the bottom up,” he said. “It’s inevitable that they will.” The former White House strategist is uniquely positioned to fill in some of the blanks on the president’s reactions and motivations as the Russia scandal unfolded, said former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg. “Post-election, there’s a story every day about some other bombshell, and Bannon would have had a conversation with Trump about it,” said Zeidenberg, who served on the special counsel team during the George W. Bush-era Plame investigation. “It doesn’t mean he’s violated any law, but there’s no way this investigation gets done without him being interviewed thoroughly,” Zeidenberg added. “Zero percent chance.” Bannon’s name has surfaced a handful of times in the special counsel and congressional investigations, most recently last week in a letter sent to former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among other things, Feinstein is pressing for more information about a January meeting involving the president and senior White House aides, including Bannon, where they discussed a briefing White House counsel Don McGahn received from then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates concerning Flynn’s misleading explanations to Vice President Mike Pence over his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee also pressed Trump campaign donor Erik Prince late last month during a closed-door hearing to explain his interactions with Bannon before he traveled in January to the Seychelles for a meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Prince testified that his visit to the island in the Indian Ocean ended up including a separate unscheduled meeting with a Russian businessman in charge of a state-run investment firm sanctioned by the United States. Prince, the former head of security contractor Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also told the House panel that he made two trips to Trump Tower in New York during the transition for brief meetings with Bannon to drop off policy materials. They did not discuss Russia or Prince’s Seychelles trip, though he acknowledged they did talk about their mutual connection to the UAE prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, whom Bannon and other Trump aides also met with in New York during the presidential transition. Bannon was also listed in media pool reports as one of the senior transition officials with then-president-elect Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Dec. 29, 2016, when Flynn phoned from his own vacation to strategize about a call with the then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, regarding U.S. sanctions on Moscow—one of the two episodes central to Flynn’s guilty plea. The strategist and conservative pot-stirrer also has appeared in several media reports that detail incidents in which Trump associates signaled interest in the work of WikiLeaks, which dumped thousands of stolen Democratic emails onto the Internet in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign. In October, the Daily Beast reported that Alexander Nix, the Cambridge Analytica CEO, had tried to connect before the election with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an attempt to coordinate on the release of Clinton’s missing emails. Bannon, who reported in his financial disclosure forms earlier this year holding an ownership stake of $1 million or more in the data firm, which is backed by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, introduced the company to the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016 after it originally worked for Ted Cruz’s campaign. Both the House Intelligence and Senate Judiciary committees have signaled interest in Cambridge’s activities. In an October letter to the company, Feinstein requested all communications between the firm and 33 people, including Assange, Trump and Bannon. Bannon’s value to investigators centers on his proximity to a range of key discussions. Along with being consulted on the Comey firing, Bannon was among a group of senior White House aides and the president in the Oval Office in early March during a heated exchange over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigations. Reporters stationed outside the West Wing as they waited for Trump to depart for a South Florida weekend getaway captured video footage of the argument. “He’s an important witness. If he’s saying, ‘Don’t do this. This is a political disaster,’ and the president does it anyway, what he has to say might be helpful to the Mueller team in an obstruction case,” said a former federal prosecutor tracking the Russia probe. Last week, ABC News reported that Bannon and Flynn were among the senior Trump advisers in direct contact with former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who is now cooperating with Mueller’s probe as part of a guilty plea deal. “His relevance is increasing, and not decreasing,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat on the House Intelligence panel. Invitations to interview Bannon come with risks for investigators. Anyone questioned by Mueller in the federal probe is free to speak publicly about what they were asked, and Bannon has a unique platform running the Breitbart media empire — which has taken a strong stance against Mueller. Bannon has also shown a willingness to lob attacks against Mueller and the wider Russia probes while urging Trump to ignore his own lawyers’ advice and take an aggressive stance against the investigations, according to a person familiar with the former strategist’s thinking. “That points to me that Steve doesn’t feel he has any jeopardy,” said Corallo, who added that Bannon was nonetheless “very careful not to discuss the case” while they were working out of the White House together. Bannon’s insistence with his friends and associates that he hasn’t hired an attorney also is being met with some skepticism considering the risk he faces in getting caught on a tangential offense like perjury or obstruction of justice. “How can he not?” asked a lawyer representing another current senior Trump aide, before noting Bannon insists on carrying a “Mr. Macho” persona. “Part of his bravado,” the lawyer said, “is pretending he doesn’t care.” By DARREN SAMUELSOHN

13 hours ago by
3 women will speak to Megyn Kelly; press conference will follow President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. On Sunday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said President Trump's accusers "should be heard," and on Monday they will be. By BuzzFeed's count, some 16 women have come forward with sexual harassment accusations against Trump; three of them will speak with NBC News' Megyn Kelly at 9am ET, and will then speak at a 10:30am ET news conference hosted by Brave New Films. The documentary filmmakers in November released "16 Women and Donald Trump," and say that in the Monday presser (which will stream on Facebook) the women will "share firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by Trump and demand an investigation" by Congress, reports the Hill. As for the women who will speak to Kelly, they are Jessica Leeds, Rachel Crooks, and Samantha Holvey. Leeds and Crooks had their accusations detailed by the New York Times in October 2016. Leeds, now in her 70s, says that on a 1980s flight she was sitting next to Trump, whom she had never met, in first-class when he allegedly started groping her; she said she moved to the back of the plane to escape the "assault." In 2005, Rachel Crooks was a 22-year-old secretary working in Trump Tower. One day, she bumped into Trump outside an elevator and introduced herself. Crooks says Trump refused to release her after they shook hands and started kissing her cheeks and mouth; she described the experience as a violation. BuzzFeed reports Holvey says that while participating in the 2006 Miss USA pageant for North Carolina, Trump would repeatedly inspect the contestants "like meat" in a way she found degrading. CNBC has this on the claims from Sarah Huckabee Sanders: "The president addressed these accusations directly during the campaign and we have no changes." By Kate Seamons

15 hours ago by
Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what transpired inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn's firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn. Some of those interviewed by Mueller's team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, conveyed to McGahn on Jan. 26. In addition to Flynn, McGahn is also expected to be critical to federal investigators trying to piece together a timeline of those 18 days. Neither McGahn's lawyer nor the White House responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for the Special Counsel's office declined to comment. When did Trump learn Flynn lied to the FBI? The obstruction of justice question could hinge on when Trump knew about the content of Flynn's conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the transition, which were at the crux of Yates's warning, and when the president learned Flynn had lied about those conversations to the FBI, according to two people familiar with the Mueller probe. Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI on Jan. 24, an interview that took place the day after he was sworn in as national security adviser. Yates has testified to Congress that she informed McGahn on Jan. 26 that Flynn had not been truthful in statements to senior members of the Trump team, including Vice President Mike Pence, when he said he did not discuss U.S. sanctions with Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Yates said Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by the Russians because he had lied about the contents of a phone call with Kislyak. Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Capitol Hill on May 8, 2017. Eric Thayer / Getty Images Trump's legal team and senior White House aides are refusing to say when and how the president first learned that Flynn had lied to the FBI. Yates testified that in her Jan. 26 meeting with McGahn he asked her about the content of Flynn's FBI interview. "Mr. McGahn asked me how he did and I declined to give him an answer to that," Yates testified in May. She told Congress that it would have been inappropriate for her to tell McGahn whether Flynn had been truthful. That same day, Jan. 26, McGahn also briefed Trump and some of his senior advisers on his conversation with Yates, according to then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. "Immediately after the Department of Justice notified the White House counsel of the situation, the White House counsel briefed the president and a small group of senior advisers," Spicer told reporters on Feb. 14. Two former federal prosecutors who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity said most lawyers in McGahn's position would have immediately gone to Flynn and asked him whether he lied to the FBI. Don McGahn, general counsel for the Trump transition team, gets into an elevator in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York, on Nov.15, 2016. Drew Angerer / Getty Images President Trump told NBC's Lester Holt in an interview on May 11 that he didn't ask for Flynn's resignation after Yates's warning because once McGahn looked into it, he "came back to me and [it] did not sound like an emergency." The conversation with Kislyak that Flynn misled Pence and other officials about took place on Dec. 29, the same day the Obama administration announced new sanctions against Russia in retaliation for Moscow's interference in the U.S. presidential election. On Jan. 12, the Washington Post reported that Flynn had spoken on the phone with Kislyak on Dec. 29. The timing of the call raised questions about whether the two had discussed sanctions. Three days after the Post report, Pence publicly said he had been assured by Flynn that sanctions were not discussed. Other senior Trump officials, including Spicer, also said publicly during the transition that Flynn did not discuss sanctions with Kislyak. Spicer repeated that line from the White House podium on Jan. 23, saying he had asked Flynn about it again the night before. Court documents from Flynn's plea deal show Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak on Dec. 29 in coordination with Trump transition officials. NBC News reported that Flynn spoke with his incoming deputy K.T. McFarland to discuss what to say to Kislyak about the new U.S. sanctions in order to keep Russia from retaliating. In the second week of February, Flynn again told senior White House officials he had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Fresh questions arose at that time because Washington Post reporters had multiple sources saying the two men had discussed sanctions. Under repeated questioning by the senior officials, Flynn shifted his story, according to White House officials familiar with the matter.Court documents from Flynn's plea deal show Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak on Dec. 29 in coordination with Trump transition officials. NBC News reported that Flynn spoke with his incoming deputy K.T. McFarland to discuss what to say to Kislyak about the new U.S. sanctions in order to keep Russia from retaliating. In the second week of February, Flynn again told senior White House officials he had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Fresh questions arose at that time because Washington Post reporters had multiple sources saying the two men had discussed sanctions. Under repeated questioning by the senior officials, Flynn shifted his story, according to White House officials familiar with the matter.Court documents from Flynn's plea deal show Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak on Dec. 29 in coordination with Trump transition officials. NBC News reported that Flynn spoke with his incoming deputy K.T. McFarland to discuss what to say to Kislyak about the new U.S. sanctions in order to keep Russia from retaliating. In the second week of February, Flynn again told senior White House officials he had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Fresh questions arose at that time because Washington Post reporters had multiple sources saying the two men had discussed sanctions. Under repeated questioning by the senior officials, Flynn shifted his story, according to White House officials familiar with the matter. Sergey Kislyak, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with President Donald Trump at the White House on May 10. Kislyak served as Russia's ambassador to the U.S. until July. Russian Foreign Ministry Photo / via AP, file Pence said he first learned that Flynn had misled him when the Post story was published on Feb. 9. Four days later, Yates's warning to McGahn became public in another Post story. Only then, on Feb. 13, did Trump fire Flynn, saying he did so because he had misled Pence. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos listens at left as Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland speaks at the Women's Empowerment Panel, Wednesday, March 29, 2017, at the White House in Washington. Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Justice Department officials who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity said they had expected the White House to fire Flynn on Jan. 26 upon learning that he had lied to the vice president. Instead, Trump fired Yates on Jan. 30, citing her refusal to enforce his executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the U.S. Before she left, however, she made available, at McGahn's request, evidence she had that Flynn had not been truthful about his conversations with Kislyak, according to her congressional testimony. Mueller is trying to determine why Flynn remained in his post for 18 days after Trump learned of Yates' warning, according to two people familiar with the probe. He appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why, the sources said. If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn. Trump fired Comey on May 9. Trump denies pressuring Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and his legal team has disputed any notion of the president obstructing justice. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (C) exits the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse on December 1, 2017 in Washington. Michael Reynolds / EPA Trump raised new questions about possible obstruction of justice on Dec. 2 when he wrote on Twitter that he fired Flynn because he had lied to Pence and the FBI, suggesting he already knew Flynn was in legal jeopardy for lying to federal investigators at the time he fired Comey. "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," Trump wrote. "He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!" Trump lawyer John Dowd later took responsibility for the tweet, saying he had drafted it for the White House social media director to post. During her testimony before a Senate subcommittee in May, Yates testified that she didn't tell McGahn in their Jan. 26 meeting what Flynn told the FBI because that was under investigation. She said: "He asked me how he had done in the interview, and I specifically declined to answer that." Based on Yates's testimony, McGahn's tone appears to have hardened in his second meeting with Yates the following day, Jan. 27, which took place after he spoke with Trump and other advisers. Yates testified that during that Jan. 27 meeting he questioned her about why it mattered if Flynn misled Pence. "Essentially: 'What's it to the Justice Department if one White House official is lying to another?'" she said McGahn asked her. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has repeatedly referred questions to Dowd about when Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI. Dowd has declined multiple requests to answer that question. by Carol E. Lee and Julia Ainsley

December 5, 2017 by
In the three months since Hurricane Maria, hundreds of thousands of people living in Puerto Rico left for the U.S. mainland. More than 215,000 arrived in Florida since October 3, when the state began counting. One study estimates more than 470,000 people will leave Puerto Rico over two years. Many need help to make the transition. For many Puerto Rican families the first stop after getting off the plane in Orlando, Florida, is a multi-agency resource center at the Orlando International Airport, reports CBS News correspondent David Begnaud. The center, along with another like it in Miami, have helped 31,000 Puerto Rican migrants adjust to life in Florida. Many go there to find new homes. Araceles Baez Martinez and her husband Jose Rodriguez found hope in a hotel room. It's where they're calling home, for now. Araceles arrived with $4 in her pocket. Their first stop was the resource center set up for Puerto Ricans displaced by Maria at the Orlando airport. Multi-agency resource center at the Orlando International Airport "She emotionally is heartbroken because she misses her island," Betsy Franceschini translated for Araceles. "We have a crisis in Puerto Rico and now it's moving to Central Florida," said Franceschini, who is with the Hispanic Federation. The non-profit organization helps Puerto Ricans arriving there find housing, register to vote, and learn English. "The folks that are coming here and the families are running into difficulties you know to find a house, to find a job, to register their children if they don't have the documents," Franceschini said. More than a million Puerto Ricans already live in Florida. In 2016, the state had the second highest Puerto Rican population in the United States, after New York. Eliud Peña, his wife, and two stepdaughters arrived in Florida on September 24, four days after Hurricane Maria made landfall. They've spent 72 days in a hotel room with double beds. Eliud Peña, his wife, and two stepdaughters at the hotel they've been living in. "Being inside four walls is not helping my stress," said 17-year-old Yerianne Roldan, one of Peña's stepdaughters.  She is one of about 2,500 Maria victims to enroll in the Orange County school system. She's debating going to college there and many Florida universities are offering Puerto Rican students in-state tuition. Yerianne has been offered a scholarship. "For job opportunities I think it's better over here," Yerianne said. "The stress you know, it's been hard. I don't know anyone who's gone through what we're going through." Araceles is considering returning to Puerto Rico, eventually. Once it rebuilds and things are back to normal she has the dream of going back. Two political experts told CBS News the mass exodus from Puerto Rico could shift politics here in Florida, a prized swing state. Once registered in Florida, Puerto Rican migrants will be able to vote in next year's midterm elections.  In the last presidential election Florida's Latino vote went to the Democrats, and Donald Trump won Florida by just about 100,000 votes. cbs

December 5, 2017 by
Mayors from dozens of cities will sign an agreement Tuesday pledging to take their own steps to meet environmental goals set out in the Paris Agreement, an international accord abandoned by President Trump earlier this year. USA TODAY obtained a draft of the agreement, called the Chicago Charter, which lays out the framework for the environmental steps the cities will take. Here is some of what the signers of the Chicago Charter are pledging to do:  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an aggregate of at least 26% to 28% below the 2005 level by 2025, meeting the commitment President Obama's administration made for the U.S. when the global deal was negotiated in 2015; Quantify, track and publicly report the progress towards reaching each city's individual commitments; Advocate for “greater local authority” to allow municipal leaders to develop policies and local laws to have a greater impact on climate issues; Include women, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous people, people with disabilities and other marginalized communities in development of climate policy, and Recognize the fiscal and social costs of carbon, and work toward “a just transition” for those impacted by changing policies. ' President Obama spoke about the historic Paris Agreement, calling it a "turning point for the world." The agreement is the first-ever global climate deal aimed at lowering carbon emissions. VPC Aamer Madhani  

December 4, 2017 by
The stakes are high with redistricting battles on the horizon. Karen Ducey via Getty Images Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will be chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) was elected Monday to become chair of the Democratic Governors Association, charged with leading their efforts to take back dozens of top state posts across the country, a crucial step in rebuilding their party in 2018 and beyond. Unlike the Senate, where they will be almost entirely on defense in next year’s congressional midterms, Democrats have an opportunity to rack up wins in 26 gubernatorial elections, including in 13 states whose Republican governors are currently term-limited. The stakes for Democrats are high. Republicans control 32 state legislatures across the country, and winning more governorships would give Democratic officials a crucial stake in the decennial redistricting battles that will take place after the 2020 census. The process could allow party officials to draw more evenly shaped congressional districts in order to compete for additional House seats. For now, though, the prospect of adding to the ranks of Democratic governors would bolster the growing “resistance” movement focused on fighting President Donald Trump and his policy agenda. West Coast governors like Inslee have worked to block early iterations of Trump’s travel ban, for example, which was aimed at refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries. Inslee, who is serving his second term as Washington’s governor and his first as the chair of the DGA, predicted Republicans would come to regret their association with an exceedingly unpopular president. He said he was positive that, short of the U.S. ending up in a “shooting war” with a foreign power in the next 11 months, Democrats would exceed expectations next year. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters President Donald Trump’s policies and pronouncements are seen as a liability for Republican gubernatorial candidates, from the perspective of the Democratic Governors Association. “They cannot hide from him,” Inslee said of Trump in an interview on Monday. “He is an anchor they will tow around and cannot free themselves from.” Inslee said that Democrats are “highly confident” about winning governorships in New Mexico, Nevada and Maine, whose Republican governors are term-limited, and that they have a good chance of winning in places they usually don’t compete well in: red states including South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kansas. Last month, Democrats made big gains across the country by taking key state legislative seats, two governorships and full control of the state governments of New Jersey and Washington. Democrat Ralph Northam’s victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, in particular, gave party officials hope they would see a blue wave in next year’s midterm elections. Inslee said that Democrats will tailor their message to voters by focusing primarily on economic growth and jobs, like they did in Virginia. The Republican tax proposal that is advancing in Congress, which has similarly received poor marks from the public, will also be in the mix. “We’re going to hang this around their necks because its not trusted by American people. They know a scam when they see one,” Inslee said, arguing that the GOP tax plan would hurt rural voters by giving handouts to corporations to the detriment of the middle class. Republicans in Virginia and nationwide have gone on offense over so-called sanctuary cities: jurisdictions whose law enforcement agencies can refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officers. The issue received national attention last week when a jury acquitted an undocumented immigrant of murder in the 2015 death of a woman in San Francisco, which has designated itself as a sanctuary city. Trump blasted the verdict in Kate Steinle’s death as a “miscarriage of justice,” signaling that the issue of sanctuary cities is likely to become fodder in state races. Inslee said he wasn’t worried about the GOP messaging on the issue, however, pointing to the result in Virginia, where Gillespie employed a similar tactic. “It just didn’t work. He sank like a rock. It actually failed,” he said. Inslee said it was “extremely important” for Democrats to win governorships next year in order to be able to influence the congressional redistricting process after the 2020 census. He called the current system heavily tilted toward Republicans, adding that Democrats simply wanted to restore the balance to districts Republicans favorably drew for themselves after the 2010 census.  “Just having a fair shake is all we’re asking for. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, incoming chairman of the Democratic Governors Association “I don’t think Americans have to worry about it getting all of a sudden gerrymandered by the Democrats,” Inslee said, referring to the process of manipulating district boundaries. “Just having a fair shake is all we’re asking for.” Inslee’s leadership role at the DGA will put him in a position to travel the country and rub shoulders with Democratic officials and donors outside of Washington. The high-profile position has already prompted some chatter about him possibly running for president in 2020. Asked whether he had plans to do so, Inslee said he was focused on his two jobs at hand. “I’m totally engaged in being governor, and I’m excited about being [DGA] chair,” he said. With unified control of state government for the first time in his tenure as governor as a result of last month’s elections, Inslee will have plenty on his plate during his second term in office. He said he plans to move forward with a trio of progressive proposals: measures to charge carbon polluters, strengthen voting rights and expand abortion rights. “This is a place where Trump cannot stop us,” he said. Igor Bobic

December 3, 2017 by
Even an unlimited plan won't save you. With the Federal Communications Commission likely set to abolish net neutrality at its next meeting on December 14, a big, obvious question is just what the internet will look like after the change. A feature AT&T rolled out late last year to reduce users’ bandwidth when streaming videos to their phone may provide a suitably grim preview of an internet without net neutrality — the principle that internet service providers can’t play favorites with content or charge users for faster speeds. The Stream Saver feature doesn’t necessarily sound like such a bad idea at first glance. In order to conserve users’ data, it automatically reduces the quality of streaming video to 480p. That’s not exactly high definition, but also decent enough when watching a show on your smartphone screen. If one were feeling generous toward AT&T — and no, we’re not sure why someone would, but let’s roll with this — one could say it’s a helpful way to keep people from going over their data limits. Which, yes, are set more or less arbitrarily by AT&T in the first place. But again, we’re being generous. As a highly upvoted comment thread on r/technology pointed out Wednesday, the problems are all in the details. Stream Saver is an opt-out, not opt-in feature. Users have reported since its inception in late 2016 of not being informed as to why their streaming video was suddenly lower quality, meaning they have to go hunting for a way to switch it off. That’s a little sneaky, but it doesn’t totally destroy the whole rationale behind the feature or anything. But then there’s the fact even people with unlimited data plans have had Stream Saver automatically activated, despite the fact there’s literally no reason on the user’s end to have a data-limiting feature. The only side that benefits from decreasing the data usage of someone with an unlimited plan is AT&T, which saves a bit of money on bandwidth. It doesn’t take much extrapolation to see how a feature like this could crop up in a world without net neutrality, except with a couple additional spikes. In the current incarnation of Stream Saver, AT&T merely makes the opt-out feature a little difficult — or very difficult, depending on which user you ask — to find. A post-net neutrality version of this might still offer an opt-out, but only for a fee. This is a potential blueprint for how tiered service could creep in, especially if the anti-net neutrality FCC isn’t totally wrong when it argues the free market will punish ISPs that roll out unabashed tiered internet plans straight away. The tiering may instead come with these little-publicized, frequently confusing features, in which people only learn there’s a price to pay when they realize they are no longer getting the service they originally stood up for. Stream Saver foreshadows a death of net neutrality by a thousand business-minded cuts, rather than the one killing blow of the FCC’s vote. It may not be the perfect analogy for what awaits the internet on the other side of the December 14 vote — we still can only guess what the ISPs will do once they get the green light to roll back net neutrality protections — but this is AT&T’s past track record, and it’s not exactly encouraging. by Alasdair Wilkins

December 3, 2017 by
Photo by Solana Larsen | CC BY 2.0 Long before hurricanes Irma and María utterly devastated Puerto Rico, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the most important public higher education institution on the Archipelago, was weathering a storm of its own: austerity. Puerto Rico is currently drowning under the weight of a $74 billion debt, and $49 billion in pension obligations, the likes of which is a product of a decades-long recession, illegal bond issuances and trades, and an overly-advertised tax haven. The legal framework that made these practices possible was enacted by the US Congress, implementing a rationale of exceptionality, establishing Puerto Rico as an exception to the tax code of the US. This has lead many to argue that PR’s debt is inherently colonial. To try to deal with PR’s financial crisis, the US Congress legislated PROMESA [1], which former President Barack Obama signed into law in 2016, and which, among many things, allowed for the creation and establishment of an oversight board and a process for restructuring debt [2]. And so, an unelected Financial Oversight and Management Board [3], or, as it’s referred to locally, La Junta de Control Fiscal or the Fiscal Control Board, was undemocratically imposed onto Puerto Rico, and an austerity campaign has characterized its reign. The fatal blow of the violence of austerity has spared no public service institution, including the University of Puerto Rico. Draconian budget cuts, campus and academic program eliminations and consolidations, tuition spikes, payroll reductions, worsening adjunct professorship conditions, UPR was being primed for these and other cut-throat measures. Rumors regarding the privatization of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority (PREPA) were/are making their rounds as well, just as the rising popularity of public-private partnerships, and given the “restructuring” and fiscal plans [4] UPR’s administration, the Fiscal Control Board and the central local government were concocting for the University, fear emerged that UPR could be heading in the same direction, However, even though UPR found itself under blatant neoliberal attacks, a considerable portion of its student body and faculty were resisting these measures and fighting back, UPR’s recent student strike  a protagonist of this struggle. But then hurricanes Irma and María hit the Archipelago. And even though their passage was temporary, the aftereffects and the socio-political chaos they set off will be long-lasting, recovery an arduous road. The UPR campuses, all 11 of them, suffered considerable damages and losses. After hurricane María, UPR assessed more than $118 million in losses system-wide [7], UPR-Humacao registered as the campus that suffered the most devastation, having been the closest to the area through which the eye of the hurricane entered Puerto Rico. Between hurricanes Irma and María, all campuses were closed for almost a month to more than five weeks, losing a considerable portion of the semester. But beyond, and because, of these quantifiable and calculable consequences, profounder, more insidious dangers lurk on the horizon. And UPR affiliates and allies have already started pointing them out. “CAREFUL, while perhaps for some this is well-intentioned, initiatives to offer students in hurricane-affected areas in-state tuition in states such as Florida might also embolden further shock-doctrine-style shake ups at UPR. […] I understand the positive intention of these initiatives, but I think it would be naive to think that they couldn’t be used in a disastrous way for UPR[8]. [Note: This was a public Facebook post uploaded on September 29, and there have been many exchanges about this since].” As professor Maritza Stanchich, from UPR-Río Piedras, pointed out above, invoking journalist Naomi Klein, after the passing of both hurricanes, the University of Puerto Rico is at a greater risk than before of falling victim to the perils of disaster capitalism, and of having pro-corporate measures characteristic of the shock-doctrine shoved down its throat. Before UPR had decided to re-open its campuses, a number of universities stateside, such as Tulane University [9]  and Brown University [10], and private universities in Puerto Rico, started hurricane-relief programs, offering students an opportunity to continue their academic semester and studies. Although these initiatives are well-meaning and helpful to a portion of UPR’s student body (often a privileged portion of the student body that can afford the related expenses, that can leave their families, that had internet access to find out about or apply to these programs, etc.), they’re simultaneously creating a problematic situation [11] for UPR as an institution. The University of Puerto Rico had a difficult choice to make after hurricane María, the repercussions of which are yet to be seen: on the one hand, UPR could decide not to continue with the semester because proper recovery and reconstruction would require an extensive amount of time, but watch as a portion of its student body was snatched away by universities stateside and private universities and colleges on the island itself. On the other hand, UPR could decide to reopen (which it did)[12], but watch a portion of its student body leave anyways, due to the fact that the University hasn’t been fully and properly rehabilitated to serve its student body, faculty and staff (there are fungus infestations; power outages and non-potable water service; closed libraries and research centers; damaged classrooms, offices and public spaces; etc.), and that the reality of Puerto Rico is not compatible with the “normality” the University is trying to craft and establish; either of the decisions having serious repercussions. And it is clear that the University was pinned between this rock and a hard place, not by the hurricanes (the hurricanes just exacerbated the situation at hand), but by years of corrupt and inept government administrations and a colonial debt that PR has been amassing for the past decades, followed by the imposition of the Fiscal Control Board, and the resulting measures coated in austerity, privatization and plunder. A student from UPR-Río Piedras, Verónica del Carmen, comments on this complication, and the possible resulting privatization, as well: “I’m not registered at the university this semester, so I don’t have to go back on Monday. But I read you, I hear you, and I feel anxious, sad, nervous… But mostly, I feel pissed, because if I were registered I’d have to choose between working or studying. Between eating or taking the bus. I would probably be planning with friends which would be the shelter with water and the best space for us to go rest and “study”. I think of the possibilities and get even more pissed. Both the government and the university’s administration have more than enough excuses to continue the privatization of UPR and the access to education. Hurricane María’s passing paved the way for them to finish implementing their plans. Closing campuses, increasing the cost of tuition, cutting grants and financial aid, letting buildings and student residencies fall into ruin, in other words, for UPR to only be for those who can afford it.[13]” It’s an important and concerning situation to consider and address: how many students will be able to keep up with the pace UPR has established to try and finish the semester in time; how many students will be able to handle the “normality” the University is trying to impose within its walls, while outside, beyond UPR grounds, a colonial-humanitarian crisis is unfolding? In recent news, UPR’s Governing Board emitted a radical decision that UPR-Mayagüez’s rector was quick to implement. Rector Wilma Santiago instructed that all deans should begin to elaborate plans which contemplate the substantial reduction of the number of required credits for all academic programs, and present curricular alternatives so as to offer two-year programs of study, hence, associate degrees. “They’re taking advantage of the tragic moment the country is going through to neutralize any possible opposition to their anti-academic measures that intend to convert UPR into a training center for technical jobs,” Jorge Schmidt, professor at UPR-Mayagüez, remarks regarding the decision of UPR’s Governing Board, a resolution that would transform UPR’s role as a leading academic and research center; that implies the reduction of faculty and spending on teaching/research-based resources; that privileges profit over academic excellence; a clear tell-tale of privatization. To make matters worse, primary and secondary public education in Puerto Rico are under threat of privatization as well [15], Julia Keleher, the Secretary of Education of Puerto Rico, and her team using the hurricanes as an excuse to execute this transition, looking to New Orleans post-Katrina as a model. UPR is the the most important public higher education institution in PR; 46.1% [16] of the population on the Archipelago lives below the poverty line (and it’s likely to increase post-hurricane María, the rate potentially rising to 59.8%, according to a study conducted by The Census Information Center (CIC) of UPR-Cayey ), and economic accessibility is already a problem for too many studying at or wanting to attend UPR. If UPR succumbs to the underlying threats of privatization, an accessible education will no longer be a possibility for a considerable sector of the population, especially for underserved communities of disadvantaged socio-economic sectors. Many would also be forced to take on student loans, incurring on student debt and sparking a debt-crisis like the one ailing the United States and many other countries. Public education as we know it would cease to exist, and only those affluent enough to afford the commodity education would become would have access to higher education. Local and international media coverage have been focusing on the privatization and questionable dealings regarding Puerto Rico’s Power Authority (PREPA), but the spotlight should be shared; the University of Puerto Rico’s pressing vulnerable state must gain visibility. As time goes by in this post-Irma and María era in Puerto Rico, it’ll be important to remember that UPR’s bureaucratic and administrative forces, the local central government and the Fiscal Control Board will gather around a table, potable water in cool pitchers, the air conditioner with a low energy efficiency ratio at full blast because they’ve had their power restored, and fiddle around with the future of the University of Puerto Rico. Notes. [1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4900 [2]https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/23/business/dealbook/puerto-rico-fights-for-chapter-9-bankruptcy-in-supreme-court.html [3] https://juntasupervision.pr.gov/index.php/en/home/ [4]https://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/lajuntadegobiernoapruebaelplanfiscaldelaupr-2345228/ [5] http://dialogoupr.com/comunidad-universitaria-reacciona-la-aprobacion-del-plan-fiscal/#more-2312 [6] http://caribbeanbusiness.com/upr-students-vote-to-end-two-month-strike/ [7]https://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/elhuracanmariamuestralovulnerabledelaupr-2371734/ [8]https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmaritza.stanchich%2Fposts%2F10155777494584549&width=500%22 [9] http://fortune.com/2017/10/14/tulane-free-tuition-puerto-rico/ [10] https://news.brown.edu/articles/2017/10/puerto-rico [11] http://dialogoupr.com/contraste-de-alegria-y-preocupacion-en-reinicio-de-clases-de-rio-piedras/ [12] Another reason for UPR’s reopening involved issues with Pell Grants. [13] Note: For the purposes of this piece, this Facebook post was translated from Spanish to English. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FVeronicaFigueroaHuertas512%2Fposts%2F10155756940155890&width=500 [14] Note: For the purposes of this piece, this quote was translated from Spanish to English. http://www.primerahora.com/noticias/gobierno-politica/nota/denuncianmonumentalcambioenlaupr-1254987/ [15]https://theintercept.com/2017/11/08/puerto-rico-schools-system-with-post-katrina-new-orleans-as-the-model/ [16] https://datausa.io/profile/geo/puerto-rico/ https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4900 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/23/business/dealbook/puerto-rico-fights-for-chapter-9-bankruptcy-in-supreme-court.html https://juntasupervision.pr.gov/index.php/en/home/ https://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/lajuntadegobiernoapruebaelplanfiscaldelaupr-2345228/ https://www.metro.pr/pr/noticias/2017/08/01/appu-rechaza-plan-fiscal-aprobado-la-junta-gobierno-la-upr.html http://dialogoupr.com/comunidad-universitaria-reacciona-la-aprobacion-del-plan-fiscal/#more-2312 http://caribbeanbusiness.com/upr-students-vote-to-end-two-month-strike/ https://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/elhuracanmariamuestralovulnerabledelaupr-2371734/ http://fortune.com/2017/10/14/tulane-free-tuition-puerto-rico/ http://fortune.com/2017/10/14/tulane-free-tuition-puerto-rico/ https://news.brown.edu/articles/2017/10/puerto-rico http://dialogoupr.com/contraste-de-alegria-y-preocupacion-en-reinicio-de-clases-de-rio-piedras/ http://www.primerahora.com/noticias/gobierno-politica/nota/denuncianmonumentalcambioenlaupr-1254987/ https://theintercept.com/2017/11/08/puerto-rico-schools-system-with-post-katrina-new-orleans-as-the-model/ https://datausa.io/profile/geo/puerto-rico/ by:Ana Portnoy

December 2, 2017 by
Donald Trump is a one-man hate group. If the president were an organization instead of an individual, it would not be a big stretch to define him as a "hate group" under the FBI's simple definition: “an organization whose primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons of or with a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity which differs from that of the members or the organization.” Now, of course, Donald John Trump's "primary purpose" isn't to advocate for hate and violence. But after that qualifying phrase, Trump pretty much checks off every box in the FBI’s definition. “When you look at the list of extremist material that he’s put out there, it’s extraordinary,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. Let's break it down, element by element. 'Animosity, hostility, and malice against persons' Based on race Trump continually wages public feuds with people of color. Last week Trump focused his ire on LaVar Ball, father of one of the UCLA students taken into Chinese custody after they were caught shoplifting in a mall. All three students thanked Trump and the American government for freeing securing their release but when Ball refused to thank the president, Trump called him an “ungrateful fool.” “When you look at the list of extremist material that he’s put out there, it’s extraordinary,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. Let's break it down, element by element. 'Animosity, hostility, and malice against persons' Based on race Trump continually wages public feuds with people of color. Last week Trump focused his ire on LaVar Ball, father of one of the UCLA students taken into Chinese custody after they were caught shoplifting in a mall. All three students thanked Trump and the American government for freeing securing their release but when Ball refused to thank the president, Trump called him an “ungrateful fool.” The insult salvo carried on for days. Critics of Trump said the exchange followed a pattern: his apparent proclivity for attacking people of color in general, and black people specifically, in the sports world. Trump regularly takes shots at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and anyone else who’s participated in his “Take a Knee” protest against police brutality during the national anthem. The president scolded Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry and disinvited his team from a customary White House visit for the NBA champs. He criticized ESPN anchor Jemele Hill for calling him a white supremacist, prompting White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to call for ESPN to fire her. This hostility isn’t limited to athletics. And it isn't a recent phenomenon. In 1989, after a jogger was raped in Central Park and her alleged assailants caught, Trump took out a full page ad in New York newspapers calling for the execution of the so-called “Central Park Five”—all of whom were black and Latino and turned out to be innocent of the crime. Trump's ads were widely seen as reckless and partly responsible for the men's wrongful convictions, which were all overturned. And before becoming president, Trump championed the birther movement against President Barack Obama. A member of the Ku Klux Klan looks on during a rally, calling for the protection of Southern Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. The afternoon rally in this quiet university town has been authorized by officials in Virginia and stirred heated debate in America, where critics say the far right has been energized by Donald Trump's election to the presidency. Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images Then there was Charlottesville. He waited two days to comment on the Unite the Right rally where white supremacists marched through the town with torches and chanted Nazi slogans. The demonstration culminated with the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, who was run over by a car driven by a white supremacist, cops said. “You also had some very fine people on both sides,” Trump said when asked about the violence. He also said there was violence "on both sides." Comments like that show Trump is teetering on the precipice of white supremacy, Beirich said, though he doesn't fully fit the label because he has never explicitly expressed hatred for certain minority groups. Without crossing that line, according to Beirich, he cannot be categorized a white supremacist, though almost. “Does Trump peddle racist propaganda? No doubt. Has he played footsie with extremists? Absolutely,” Beirich said. So maybe Donald Trump isn't a white supremacist. But he promotes their ideology. And that's part of the FBI definition. Trump has also surrounded himself with controversial and polarizing figures. He brought on Stephen Bannon to be his chief strategist in the White House before Bannon returned to head up Breitbart. Sebastian Gorka, a man accused of having ties to a Hungarian Nazi party, was Trump's deputy assistant before he resigned in August. And Trump appointed then-Senator Jeff Sessions to the office of Attorney General, a move that dismayed many civil rights advocates and whose public record led to fiery exchanges during his confirmation hearings in Congress.  In 1986, Sessions was rejected from a federal judgeship over accusations of racism for calling a black attorney "boy," an allegation he denies, and for calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American.”  Sessions was also the keynote speaker at a 2007 board meeting for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Alabama-based nonprofit has deemed an anti-immigrant hate group. The organization gave Sessions its Franklin Society award for the lawmaker's help in killing an immigration reform bill that year.  Based on religion Trump's most recent public display of religious intolerance came Tuesday morning when he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos originally posted by British white supremacist Jayda Fransen. Fransen is the deputy leader of the far-right fringe party Britain First. Donald Trump retweeted a British white supremacists' anti-Muslim disturbing and graphic post that purported to show an "Islamist mob" throw a man off of a structure and beat him to death. Twitter One of the retweeted videos purportedly showed an “Islamist mob” throw a man off a structure before beating him to death. Another claimed to show a “Muslim migrant” beat a Dutch boy walking with crutches. (The attacker was neither a Muslim nor a migrant, according to Dutch media and police.) The third video showed an apparently Muslim man shattering a statue of the Virgin Mary on the ground. British Prime Minister Theresa May criticized Trump later that day, saying he was “wrong” to retweet the videos, but Trump responded on Twitter, “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” “There’s no question he’s expressed ideas about immigrants and about Muslims that could be coming out of the mouths of some of our white supremacists,” Beirich said. The international episode comes just a week before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is slated to hear arguments on Trump’s third iteration of his travel ban. Trump initially called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” days after the San Bernardino shooting in 2016. As president, Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from several Muslim majority countries. Two federal judges have blocked versions of bill. Next week, the appeals court in Maryland will hear arguments on a tweaked version of the bill that’s been scrubbed of any seemingly anti-Muslim language. Based on disability Trump may not routinely target disabled people but he famously mocked disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski during a campaign speech, even pantomiming the body movements of Kovaleski as a result of the congenital joint condition arthrogryposis. "Now, the poor guy—you've got to see this guy!" Trump said of Kovaleski, who was part of a Times team that debunked Trump's claim that he saw American Muslims cheering the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Based on sexual orientation, gender or gender identity Trump’s position on the gay community has been mixed. He’s defended gays in the military in the past, but in October, he became the first sitting president to speak at the Family Research Council, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group. That speech occurred just months after Sessions also gave a speech to the Alliance Defending Freedom organization, another group the law center — based out of Sessions' homestate of Alabama — had labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group. In July—on the 79th anniversary of President Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981 that established equality of treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services—Trump signed an executive order prohibiting transgender people from serving in the military. The federal district court later struck it down, finding the order unconstitutional. Two months later, Trump's Department of Justice argued in court that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect Americans from being fired based on their sexual orientation. The Justice Department awkwardly pitted itself against another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had already sided with the plaintiff who claimed he was fired from his job for being gay. "(It's) as conservative as it could possibly get: if having sex with a man is okay for a woman, it has to be okay for a man as well," Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, told Newsweek at the time. "You cannot apply a different rule based on gender, according to the law. Apparently, that wasn’t conservative enough for the DOJ." This is by no means a complete compendium of Trump's promotion of hate; it is merely an abridged list. White Supremacist groups marched through Charlottesville, Va, during the "Unite the Right" rally. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images The FBI did not immediately respond to an email asking if the Bureau was investigating Trump as a possible hate group. By Ryan Sit

December 2, 2017 by
(Photo/Eric Draper/White House) I have been helping immigrants apply for citizenship for more than two decades. Something I learned over the years is that applications for citizenship go up dramatically during presidential elections and fall just as dramatically the following year. This makes sense because people want to vote for the next president, and they rush to get their naturalization forms in. Then, typically, the number of applications drops precipitously after the election. This year is exceptional. Instead of a reduction in applications, there has been a 10 percent jump over the already high numbers during the election year. In the last year, 1,028,647 naturalization applications were filed, 100,000 more than in the election year. New York State saw an increase from 119,000 applications in 2016 to 125,000 this year. There are several reasons cited for the increase in naturalizations, all of them tied to the Donald Trump presidency. According to a new report from the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), “the current climate of insults and threats toward immigrants, and increased immigration enforcement by this administration has resulted in millions of immigrants feeling fear and resentment towards unfair scapegoating. This has resulted in increased naturalization applications as immigrants seek to protect their families and empower themselves to vote.” The attacks on immigrants have also prompted community groups, who previously did not consider naturalization a part of their agenda, to step forward to offer free help for permanent residents who want to become citizens. After the election of Donald Trump, many cities and states funded citizenship programs to help harden their communities against the harsh new Trump administration policies. The Trump administration has responded to the growth of naturalization by slowing down the processing of citizenship applications. The number of backlogged cases is now nearly double what it was just two years ago. According to the NPNA, whose local affiliate is the New York Immigration Coalition, “the massive naturalization processing backlogs are a ‘Second Wall’ that prevents legal immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens and voters. If this is being done intentionally–if the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and this administration is ‘slow-walking’ the citizenship applications of lawfully present immigrants–then this is a particularly offensive form of voter suppression.” New York has the second largest number of backlogged cases, with more than 93,000. Keeping permanent residents from becoming citizens is a key element of the White Nationalist agenda. While the media depicts Trump and the White Nationalists who support him as opposed to undocumented immigration, it is really legal immigration that most worries them. Legal residents are the people who become citizens and voters, and in turn, those who the White Nationalists fear will deprive them of power. Patrick Young, Esq.