Sixteen Democratic senators sent a letter to homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and secretary of state Antony Blinken denouncing the US treatment of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers at the border.
“Ensuring the integrity of US borders is of utmost importance, and is not incompatible with the fundamental duty to respect the dignity, humanity, and rights of all individuals seeking entry to the United States,” the letter states. “We reiterate our call for the Biden administration to act swiftly in appointing a new special envoy for Haiti, and to work with our international partners throughout the region to find immediate solutions that places the protection needs of Haitian migrants and the long-term stability of Haiti at the core of our approach.”
This comes after Daniel Foote, the former special envoy for Haiti, testified before the House foreign affairs committee about his abrupt resignation in September over what he called the Biden administration’s “inhumane” mass deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers.
He resigned shortly after shocking photos were published showing US border patrol agents on horseback using their reins on desperate Haitian refugees by the banks of the Rio Grande.
Biden waives executive privilege on first set of 6 January documents
Joe Biden has waived executive privilege on the first set of documents produced at the request of the House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.
Let us recap: Donald Trump had directed Bannon and three other former aides – former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows – to ignore subpoenas from the House committee, claiming that the material that investigators were seeking is covered by executive privilege.
But only the person currently in office can declare executive privilege – and Trump is not currently in office.
Joe Biden is now speaking about restoring protections to three national monuments: Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the coast in New England.
Protections for all three of these monuments were stripped or scaled down under the Trump administration. “The protection of public lands must not become a pendulum that swings back and forth depending on who is in public office,” Biden said. “It’s not a partisan issue.”
Interior secretary Deb Haaland – the first Native American interior secretary in US history – teared up speaking about the importance of these protections.
“Thank you, Mr President, for the profound action you are taking today to permanently protect the homelands of our ancestors,” she said.
“Our songs, our languages and our cultures are strong, and many people from many Indian tribes have sung and spoken in unison to protect this sacred place.”
House committee investigating Capitol attack to consider criminal referral for Bannon
Earlier, Steve Bannon informed the House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol that he will not be cooperating with their subpoena to provide related documents.
Committee chairman Bennie Thompson and vice chair Liz Cheney just released a statement saying they now “will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral”.
Donald Trump had directed Bannon and three other former aides – former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows – to ignore the subpoena, claiming that the material that the committee is seeking from the four is covered by executive privilege.
Thompson and Cheney said Meadows and Patel are “engaging” with the committee.
Biden: ‘We risk losing our edge as a nation’
Joe Biden balanced putting a brave face on the disappointing September jobs figures today with a warning that if Congress doesn’t pass his two flagship infrastructure bills “we risk losing our edge as a nation”.
Speaking in Washington moments ago, the US president said the addition of 194,000 jobs last month – far fewer than expected and the second month of disappointing growth as the coronavirus Delta variant and a tight labor market appeared to be holding back hiring – showed the trend of growth “is solid”.
“Jobs creation in the first eight months” of his presidency total “almost five million jobs”, he said, adding: “Jobs are up, wages are up, unemployment is down, that’s progress … real progress.”
But then Biden said: “America is still the largest economy in the world, we still have the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world, but we risk losing our edge as a nation if we do not move.”
He pointed out that “our infrastructure used to be the best in the world – roads, bridges, ports, etc” but had fallen to 13th place in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.
And noted that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) now ranked the US 35th out of 37 leading countries in the percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on early child education.
“We have taken our foot off the gas,” he said.
The president pledged “we are going to lead the world like we used to” if Congress will pass the $1tr bipartisan infrastructure bill and a version of the $3.5tr “human infrastructure” bill now before it, which tackle physical structures but also climate change, high speed internet, benefits for families and new technology.
He also called for less division and “noise” over the legislation.
Steve Bannon has claimed executive privilege as a reason for not co-operating with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.
The letter from his lawyers to the committee (see block here) echoes a letter sent to Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the House judiciary committee, in September 2019, regarding a subpoena issued to Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign chair and, until recently, a powerful figure in Trump’s orbit.
The attorney writing on Lewandowski’s behalf indicates that what eventually happened – a “testy” hearing in which Lewandowski was conclusively not made to reveal damaging information by Democrats considering whether Trump should be impeached – will happen, thanks to claims of executive privilege.
That doctrine, the attorney says, holds that “the president’s communications seeking advice or information in connection with the discharge of his duties are highly confidential and not ordinarily subject to disclosure”.
There are many potential differences between Lewandowski’s case and Bannon’s but one glaring one is that Lewandowski’s lawyer did not claim blanket executive privilege, as Bannon’s now does.
Another difference is that the lawyer who wrote on Lewandowski’s behalf was Pat Cipollone, then White House counsel to Trump.
The power of a sitting president is of course huge. But now Trump is not sitting, Bannon does not have such protection from inside the Oval Office.
In short, like a lot of constitutional law, arguments about executive privilege are in a way like arguments about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Doctrine, precedent and evidence matter less that whoever is in the most powerful position.
In Bannon’s case, in short, he and other targets of subpoenas from the 6 January committee do not have what Mitt Romney once called a “900lb gorilla” on their side. So if the committee decides to get cross about their refusal to co-operate, things could get interesting.
Lest we forget, as all the todo around the debt limit begins to wind down (for now), there’s still the very contentious $3.5tn reconciliation bill up ahead.
Senator Bernie Sanders took the time today to chat with reporters about his displeasure over the role that centrist Democrats senators Joe Manchin and Kysten Sinema in shrinking the bill.
He and other progressives in the party have been clear from the start that this “human infrastructure” bill focused on social services and environmental measures was fine as it was and should be voted on alongside the $1.2tn bipartisan infrastructure bill to give it a better chance of passing. Republicans – and Manchin and Sinema – have long balked at the size, as well as attempts to pass it alongside a bill they had negotiated.
Sanders has especially gone hard at Manchin, who has repeatedly spoken about how he feels that the bill would move the country toward “an entitlement society”.
Steve Bannon has informed the House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol that he will not be cooperating with their subpoena to provide related documents.
This comes after Donald Trump directed Bannon and three other former aides – former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows – to ignore the subpoena, likely because he will attempt to block their testimony in court.
Sources told the Guardian that Trump is claiming that the material that the committee is seeking from the four is covered by executive privilege.
Sources told CNN that both Bannon and Meadows have responded to subpoena, but it’s unclear if Meadows plans to cooperate. It’s unclear if Scavino or Patel have responded yet.
The House oversight committee received in July a trove of financial documents from the general services administration as part of the committee investigation into whether there was a conflict of interest in Donald Trump and his DC hotel, the Trump International Hotel Washington DC, holding a federal government lease on the Old Post Office building during his presidency.
These documents revealed what many have been trying to prove for years now but could not because of investigators would not make public the former president’s financial records – that Trump, who has always portrayed himself as a successful businessman who could turn a profit out of anything, was actually losing tens of millions of dollars while boasting that he was making tens of millions of dollars.
The documents have raised a number of other concerns, the committee noted. Among them:
- Trump received “undisclosed preferential treatment” from Deutsche Bank – a foreign bank – on a $170m construction loan in 2018, which he did not disclose.
- The Trump Hotel received about $3.7m in payments from foreign governments from 2017 to 2020, raising questions about possible violations of the foreign emoluments clause.
- Trump concealed debts when he applied for the federal government lease in 2011. According to the documents, he provided the general services administration with financial information that omitted $1.1bn in outstanding loan balances for properties in Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco.
- Trump transferred millions of dollars in and out of the Trump Hotel through affiliated entities and opaque transactions with other Trump businesses, which raises questions on whether the general services administration was able to enforce provisions that prohibited the president from taking money out of the business.
When he took office, Trump resigned from his companies but transferred his business interests to the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, and named as trustees his son, Donald J. Trump, Jr., and the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg. As the House committee noted, Trump remained the beneficiary of the trust, “meaning that any financial benefits that accrued to his businesses ultimately benefited him personally”.
Trump’s DC hotel lost almost $74m during his presidency
While publicly claiming that the Trump International Hotel Washington DC was making more than tens of millions of dollars, the hotel lost almost $74m between 2016 and 2020, according to documents released by the House oversight committee.
The hotel had to be loaned more than $27m from one of Trump’s holding companies, DJT Holdings LLC, according to financial statements the committee obtained, and more than $24m was not repaid and was instead converted to capital contributions.
The House committee is investigating the federal government lease of the Old Post Office building to Trump for the hotel. The general services administration awarded the lease to Trump in 2012 and Trump opened the hotel in 2016 when he was the Republican nominee for president.
In a letter from the committee to the general services administration, representatives Carolyn Maloney and Gerald Connolly wrote that the newly obtained documents show that “President Trump’s federal financial disclosures projected an exaggerated image of financial success and hid the Trump Hotel’s serious financial problems, raising questions about the effectiveness of the current financial disclosure regime.
“In particular, the new documents show that while President Trump privately reported tens of millions of dollars in losses to GSA, he hid these losses from the American public by omitting them from his federally mandated, public financial disclosures,” the letter reads. “By portraying the hotel as a successful business, President Trump concealed significant ethical issues stemming from his failing business. The hotel’s massive losses decreased President Trump’s personal net worth, compromised the hotel’s ability to repay loans from other entities owned by the President, and potentially jeopardized his other personal assets due to the personal guarantee he provided for the Trump Hotel’s $170m debt.”
Read the whole letter here.
US economy adds far fewer jobs than expected in September
Meanwhile, our business live blog is tracking the September jobs figures that came out just now and it’s not looking good.
The US economy expected to add 500,000 more jobs in September, but in reality added just 194,000 jobs.
Follow here for more information:
Democrats are drawing a line in the sand when it comes to the raising the debt limit again in the next few weeks.
Republicans have said from the start that they want Democrats to raise the limit “on their own” via budget reconciliation, a lengthy and cumbersome process that will stymie the Democratic legislative agenda.
Congress at most is allowed to go the budget reconciliation route just three times a year, and Democrats have already used it to pass a $1.9tn Covid-19 relief bill and are now trying to use to pass Biden’s $3.5tn “human infrastructure” reconciliation bill to boost safety net, health and environmental programs.
In addition, the Democrats have the battle for voting rights ahead of them.
Senate Chris Coons is coming out strong in saying that Democrats won’t use reconciliation to deal with the debt ceiling. “We didn’t do it this time, won’t do it next time,” he said.
Here is the White House statement on Senate passing yesterday the deal to raise the debt limit by $480bn through 3 December. From White House press secretary Jen Psaki:
Tonight’s votes are welcome steps forward in averting a default that would have been devastating for our economy and for working families. President Biden looks forward to signing this bill as soon as it passes the House and reaches his desk. His focus remains on the task before us of swiftly passing his economic agenda and making vital investments in jobs, competitiveness, and lower prices for the middle class.
These votes underscore that raising the debt limit is a shared responsibility to pay for debts incurred in the past by Presidents and Congresses of both parties – debt that has nothing to do with President Biden’s fully paid-for economic agenda. As we move forward, there must be no question of whether America will pay its bills; Congress must address the debt limit in December and beyond – just as we’ve done almost 80 times over the last 60 years. Eleven Republicans did their part tonight, ending the filibuster and allowing Democrats to do the work of raising the debt limit. As we approach the coming months, we hope that even more Republicans will join Democrats in responsibly addressing the debt limit instead of choosing default or obstruction.
We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months.
Debt limit deal heads to the House amid partisan tensions
Hello, live blog readers. Happy Friday.
We’re not done with the debt limit deal yet – and, of course, let’s all remember, we won’t be done with the debt limit for a while as we’ll have to do this all again in a few weeks because the deal only extends the debt ceiling by $480bn through 3 December.
With a 50-48 vote, the Senate approved the deal Thursday night to extend the government’s borrowing authority, with the House coming back from recess early to vote on it Tuesday.
Politico is reporting that “a shouting match” erupted on the Senate floor after the vote, with Republican senators Mitt Romney and John Thune none too pleased with majority leader Chuck Schumer and what they thought was an ungracious speech.
Here’s video of the heated exchange – Schumer is sitting to the middle left when he is approached by Romney and Thune.
Schumer had lambasted the Republicans for playing a “dangerous and risky partisan game” and said Democrats were able to “pull our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.”
The Republicans had twice used the filibuster to block the Democrats from raising the debt limit, and were threatening to do it once again before the deal. Their argument was that Democrats needed to raise the limit “on their own” via budget reconciliation, a lengthy and cumbersome process that would have consequences for the Democrats’ future legislative agenda.
Democrats then essentially bluffed by threatening a change to the filibuster rules, after which minority leader Mitch McConnell offered up the deal.
Centrist Democratic senator Joe Manchin could be seen putting his head in his hands during Schumer’s address, which he later called “inappropriate”.
Meanwhile, top Senate Republicans are now advancing a disinformation campaign over the debt ceiling, distorting the reasons for needing to raise the nation’s borrowing cap, Hugo Lowell reports.
Read more here: