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Monday
Jun182018

Pushing back on Trump, all Senate Dems now back bill to stop family separations

U.S. Customs and Border Protection(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats are pushing back on President Donald Trump's false attack that they're to blame for immigrant children being separated from their parents, saying Monday all 49 of them now have signed on to new legislation that would halt the practice.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia became the 49th Democrat to sign on to the legislation on Monday.

"As a father, grandfather, and Christian, I am wholeheartedly opposed to any policy that allows innocent children to be separated from their parents as they enter our country," Manchin said in a statement.

Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, went a step further Monday afternoon by calling on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign.

"It's time for Secretary Nielsen to resign. The government should be in the business of keeping families together, not tearing them apart. And the government should have a commitment to transparency and accountability. Under her tenure, DHS does not have a track record of either," Harris said in a statement.

President Trump has put the blame for the policy squarely on Democrats, claiming they're blocking his immigration reform legislation that he says would end family separation. On Monday, he tweeted: “It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder (sic) Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!”

The White House on Monday sent a memo to Congressional Republicans with talking points aimed at hitting Democrats on the issue.

"Congressional Democrats’ slavish support for open borders has created a humanitarian crisis at our border where criminal organizations smuggle hundreds of thousands of children across international boundaries, subjecting the children to unimaginable suffering and misery," the memo reads.

In another talking point, the memo asks why Democratic lawmakers and members of the media "believe illegal aliens are entitled to more rights than those afforded to American citizens."

The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, hit back and said if Trump wanted to change the policy, he could do it without congressional help.

“As everyone who has looked at this agrees, this was done by the president, not Democrats. He can fix it tomorrow if he wants to, and if he doesn’t want to, he should own up to the fact that he’s doing it,” Schumer said in a statement.

Amid growing criticism of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, Republicans in Congress are also now demanding answers, despite DHS' insistence there is no policy aimed at separating families.

“Contrary to what DHS has indicated as proper procedure, we are currently seeing cases where immigrant families seeking asylum are separated after lawfully presenting themselves at a U.S. port of entry. I believe DHS ought to respond to valid questions concerning asylum processing, including any policies pertaining to the separation of families,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said in a statement.

Flake and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, fired off a letter to the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services secretaries, Kristjen Nielsen and Alex Azar, seeking information regarding their respective departments' policies and procedures when migrant families approach legal U.S. ports of entry seeking asylum.

In the letter, Flake and Collins note Nielson’s recent appearance before members of the Senate for a hearing during which she testified that “immigrant parents and children who present themselves at U.S. ports of entry to request asylum will not be separated.”

Despite her testimony, DHS announced last week that between April and May this year, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the border.

“Ensuring the safety and security of young children is a longstanding priority of the American legal system. In asylum cases, it is especially important to keep families together when neither the child nor the parent has violated any laws,” Flake said.

On CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Collins blasted the administration for the trauma children are faced with when they are separated from their parents.

“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said. “That is traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims and it is contrary to our values in this country.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, weighed in on Monday and said that members of Congress must forge ahead to find an immigration solution that is both bipartisan and compassionate.

“I am working with colleagues in both houses on a path forward that recognizes the need for compassion for children and families without incentivizing illegal border crossings. That solution can and should be bipartisan,” Hatch said in a statement.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania admitted that he didn’t know much about the impact of the administration’s policy, but he went on to say the separations are not the “right thing to be doing.”

“This is not my area of expertise, Hugh. I’m going to have to drill down into this and address it,” he said. “And maybe you’re right. Maybe this is happening with a higher frequency than I’ve been aware of, and it is certainly, it’s just not the right thing to be doing,” Toomey said.

On Monday, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spent the day in San Diego County touring several of the area’s immigration detention facilities with several other members of Congress.

Over the weekend, a group of Democratic lawmakers toured an immigration detention facility in New Jersey and met with detained asylum seekers who have been separated from their families.

"Today, on Father’s Day, we spoke to fathers whose children have been ripped from their arms, who have no idea when or if they will see their children again," Rep. Jerrold Nadler said during a press conference with reporters after the surprise visit.

The House Judiciary Committee Ranking member led the group of seven lawmakers — including Reps. Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, and Reps. Albio Sires, Carolyn Maloney, Hakeem Jeffries and Adriano Espaillat of New York — for the excursion to the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in New Jersey.

In an interview with ABC News, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey described his meeting with a father who doesn’t know where his five-year-old daughter is after they were separated at the border.

“The typical one was from Central America, and he came with his daughter who was about five,” Pallone said. “And you know he doesn't know where she is. He has heard that she may be in Michigan but there's no process for telling these fathers or parents where their children are.”

Pallone said many of the families are from rural towns and are seeking political asylum.

“In other words, they didn't come here for economic reasons because they're looking for a job,” Pallone said. “They came here because they were fleeing persecution.”

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Monday
Jun182018

Justice Department IG investigating Comey memos after FBI referral 

Kristoffer Tripplaar/For The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz acknowledged for the first time publicly Monday that his office is investigating fired FBI Director James Comey ’s private memos and whether any possible classified information in them was properly handled.

“We received a referral on that from the FBI, we are handling that referral and we will issue a report when the matter is complete,” Horowitz told the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to a question from chairman Chuck Grassley.

Comey documented his interactions with President-elect and then President Trump in a series of documents. Some of the memos were shared with a law professor with the intent that its contents be provided to the New York Times.

Grassley, an Iowa Republican, noted in his opening remarks that Comey had been invited to attend, but was unavailable due to foreign travel, though a tweet indicated he had spent the weekend in Iowa.

Horowitz appeared alongside FBI Director Chris Wray in a hearing about last week’s release of his long-awaited inspector general report about the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

President Trump suggested that the report cleared him of wrongdoing. “It totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction,” Trump told reporters during an impromptu press conference Friday.

But Horowitz made it clear his report did no such thing. “We did not look into collusion questions,” Horowitz told the panel.

Following the release of the report, Trump also said that the Mueller probe was “totally discredited.” Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, asked Wray about whether that’s true.

“I do not believe special counsel Mueller is on a witch hunt,” Wray responded.

Democrats on the committee zeroed in on alleged leaks about the Hillary Clinton investigation to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who bragged about getting inside information on Fox News during the 2016 campaign.

Neither the Wray nor Horowitz would confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into the matter. Giuliani would go on to become an attorney for President Trump.

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Monday
Jun182018

Governors won't send Guard units to border if family separation continues

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Three governors, including one Republican, say they will not send National Guard units to the U.S.-Mexico border if the Trump administration continues its practice of removing children from their parents who cross the border illegally.

President Donald Trump signed a proclamation in April authorizing the National Guard to help Customs and Border Protection secure the border. Defense Secretary James Mattis worked with state governors to send up to 4,000 troops to assist with operations at the border, including in administrative and surveillance work that would free up Customs and Border Protection personnel. Previous administrations have also authorized the Department of Defense to support the Department of Homeland Security when it comes to immigration.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said that his state "will not be party to this inhumane treatment of immigrant families," in a statement on Monday.

"Day after day, I am increasingly disturbed by the reports of disgraceful tactics used by ICE both in our own state and along our nation's border," Cuomo said in the statement.

Massachusetts' Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that separating families was inhumane and that the state's National Guard will not send any troops to the border as planned.

“Governor Baker directed the National Guard not to send any assets or personnel to the Southwest border today because the federal government’s current actions are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children,” said Baker communications director Lizzy Guyton in a statement sent to WGBH News.

The administration continues to say that they are simply enforcing the law, and Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen condemned reports from news organizations and advocacy groups about families separated at the border.

Another Democrat, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, signed an executive order that says no state resources will be used for the purpose of separating children from their families for violating federal immigration law.

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Monday
Jun182018

Everything you need to know about Trump's 'Space Force'

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump on Monday announced that he was directing the creation of a "Space Force" as a sixth service, adding to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

"It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council. "Very importantly, I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, that is a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the space force, separate but equal, it is going to be something."

Trump directs creation of 'space force' as sixth branch of military

Despite opposition from top military officials, Trump has long expressed an interest in developing a separate space force. Here's what we know about its possible creation:

CAN TRUMP CREATE A SIXTH SERVICE? Not without Congress. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who serves as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted his opposition to a separate service, pointing out that the creation of a "Space Force" would take congressional action. But there has been support from other congressional members (more on that below).

WHEN AND HOW WAS THE LAST SERVICE CREATED?
The U.S. Air Force was created through the 1947 National Security Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman. This same act created the Department of Defense and what is known now as the current U.S. military structure, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense as overseer of the entire U.S. military.

WHAT WOULD A SPACE FORCE DO? In a purely military sense, Space Force has been discussed as overseeing the next war-fighting domain of space, similar to air, sea, and ground domains. This involves satellites and new technologies used in space.

WHO HANDLES THE SPACE DOMAIN RIGHT NOW? The Air Force currently houses the U.S. military's space capabilities, and the service has not been too keen on seeing a separate force developed. Trump said on Monday that a Space Force would be "separate but equal" to the Air Force.

DOES SECRETARY MATTIS WANT A SPACE FORCE?
In a letter last summer to Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, who spearheaded the congressional effort against a separate space force, Mattis said he was opposed to the idea. "At a time when we are trying to integrate the department's joint war-fighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations," Mattis wrote. Since then, Mattis has appeared more open to the idea of a separate force. In late May, he said, "But to look now at the problem, means we have to look afresh at it, and where are the specific problems, break them down, and if an organizational construct has to change, then I'm wide open to it."

WHAT HAS THE PENTAGON BEEN DOING ABOUT A POTENTIAL SPACE FORCE? For several months now, the Department of Defense has been engaged in an ongoing review, due August 1st, that will be presented to Congress on what changes might be needed to create a separate space force, apart from the Air Force. The interim assessment was completed this month, but it's conclusions haven't been released and remain unknown to the public.

WHAT DOES THE HOUSE AND SENATE THINK ABOUT SPACE FORCE? The language in the 2019 House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) seeks to establish a fighting force, housed within the Air Force, which would be dedicated to space war-fighting, giving it less autonomy than a separate force would. It also would require the Secretary of the Air Force to increase the number and improve the quality of its civilian and military “space cadre,” submitting a report to Congress on its plans by next March. The Senate’s bill has no language on a space force, but an aide said last year’s NDAA provided a “pretty significant homework assignment” for the Air Force to focus on with regard to space, including standing up Air Force Space Command as the single authority for all decisions related to space security. “The committee is waiting to see what comes out of the department on that,” the aide said.

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Monday
Jun182018

Nielsen defends family separation as simply enforcing the law: 'We will not apologize' 

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions both offered a full-throated defense of the administration's immigration enforcement policies that lead to separation of families on the border.

"To a select few in the media, Congress and the advocacy community, I'd like to start with a message for you: this department will no longer stand by and watch you attack law enforcement for enforcing the laws passed by Congress," Nielsen said, speaking to the National Sheriffs' Association in New Orleans.

"We will not apologize for the job we do, for the job law enforcement does and for the job the American people expect us to do."

Nielsen went after critics head-on.

"I want to take a minute to address the consequences of actually enforcing our immigration law. There has been much outcry, consternation, frankly misinformation in the media, press and advocacy groups around the country the last few weeks, that we at DHS are intentionally doing things that are un-humanitarian, that are cruel, immoral and disgraceful," she said. "We are doing none of those things. We are enforcing the laws passed by Congress and we are doing all that we can in the executive branch to protect our communities," she continued.

Nielsen insisted there were only two options: release the family that has crossed the border, which she referred too as the historic "get out of jail free practice," or prosecute the parents.

"The adult and the minor will be separated as a result of prosecuting the adult. Those are the only two options," She went on to say that it is the "unraveling of democracy" - when Congress asks DHS not to enforce the law.

Later in the morning, the Attorney General echoed her points.

"We do not want to separate children from their parents. We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully either, placing those children at risk. But we do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our laws to come here illegally instead of waiting their turn or claiming asylum at any port of entry," the Attorney General said.

Nielsen countered critics who say detained children are being mistreated.

"It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of - don't believe the press. They are very well taken care of, we know this because many of you have detention facilities of your own. We operate in some of the highest standards in the country. We provide food, medical, education, all needs that the child requests," she said. "Let's be honest, there are some that would like us to look the other way when dealing with families at the border and not enforce the law passed by members of Congress, including unfortunately some members of Congress."

Sessions defended the conditions under which they are being held as well.

"In total, when a child is brought here in that fashion or parents are prosecuted, the children are turned over within hours to the department of health and human services. They are not put in jail of course. They are taken care of," Sessions said.

And he again raised the prospect of family separation would be a deterrent.

"Because we send a message, a bad message to those crossing illegally if you bring children you can avoid prosecution and deportation," he said. Sessions went on to say that they didn't want to separate families but was necessary until the wall is built.

The "zero tolerance" policy, which Sessions introduced in April, calls for prosecution of any person who crosses the border illegally. The policy leads to separation of families along the southern border - with adults going to correctional facilities and children in the custody of HHS.

Sessions and Nielsen were met with protests outside the event, leading to five people being arrested by Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies.

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Monday
Jun182018

Border crisis roils key campaigns in the battle for Congress

David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Candidates across the country and from both parties in key midterm races are grappling with how to respond to the backlash over the controversial separation of undocumented immigrants and their young children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

It is a situation that is becoming more complicated by the day and by a president who as recently as Monday doubled down on his charged rhetoric.

Texas Rep. Will Hurd, who faces a competitive race this fall in a swing district that spans some 800 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, pushed back on the policy Monday morning, the day after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's denial over the weekend that the Trump administration has a policy of separating families at the border.

There is currently no law mandating separation of families, and the so-called "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal border crossings, set forth by Trump and implemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has come under sharp criticism by lawmakers, advocates, and the religious community. That policy has led to children being separated from parents caught illegally crossing the border.

"This is part of the problem with this administration on this policy. There's different elements of the government that don't understand what's really going on," Hurd told NPR's Morning Edition in an interview, "This is just absolutely unacceptable, taking kids from their mothers is not preventing terrorists or drugs from coming into this country."

Nielsen defended the administration and her department's handling of the situation Monday at a conference of the National Sheriff's Association in New Orleans.

"It's important to understand that these minors are very well taken care of. Don't believe the press," Nielsen said.

Hurd's Democratic opponent Gina Ortiz Jones, a U.S. Air Force Veteran a first-generation American, joined a march to Tornillo, Texas, a port of entry into the United States, to protest the policy alongside other Democratic candidates running in Texas this cycle, including U.S. Senate candidate and El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke and gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez.

O'Rourke, the Democratic challenger to incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, directly disputed Nielsen's claim that the administration does not have a policy of separating families, tweeting Monday morning, "You do. I’ve met moms held in cells w their young kids before you take them. Seen the kids behind cyclone fences after you’ve “unaccompanied” them. Been w parents prosecuted like common criminals for doing what any parent would do, through tears asking me where their kids are."

Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, the Democratic vying to unseat GOP Rep. John Culberson in a swing district in the Houston suburbs, urged Congress to protect both families seeing asylum at the border, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"There is no doubt that we need to fix our immigration system, and the residents in this district have told me how concerned they are about doing so," Fletcher said in a statement provided to ABC News, "Right now, Congress needs to perform its essential function to check the Administration’s devastating separation of asylum-seeking families at the border and needs to keep the promises we made to DREAMERs."

While the controversy has become front and center in many high-profile Texas races, it's impact has spread to races across the country.

In Nevada, Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is hoping to unseat GOP Sen. Dean Heller, joined a group of her colleagues in condemning the separation of families at the border.

"The images we’re seeing of children crying alone while being held in detention centers are heart-wrenching and demand action from Congress," Rosen wrote in a press release last week, "Parents are being separated from their kids every day, even though there is no mandate in the law requiring border agents to do so."

In a break from the Trump administration, Heller said he does not support the policy of separating families, and called on Congress to act to solve the problem.

"Senator Heller doesn’t support separating children from their families, and he believes that this issue highlights just how broken our immigration system is and why Congress must act to fix it," read a statement from Heller's office provided to ABC News.

In a sign that Democrats appear united in their opposition to the policy, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced Monday that the party's entire caucus in the Senate supports her bill to end the separation of families at the U.S. Mexico border, dubbed the "Keep Families Together Act."

In Florida, competitive races for the U.S. Senate and governor's mansion, coupled with the political omnipresence of sitting Gov. Rick Scott, has generated a number of passionate responses from candidates of both parties.

"First the reports you see, it’s disturbing, it’s disgusting. It just shows you that Congress has not done their job," Gov. Scott, who is mounting a bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, told a local television station, "We need to have an immigration policy that people understand, we need to secure our borders, but we can’t have people being treated unfairly."

Andrew Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee and a Democratic candidate running in the race to succeed Scott as the state's next governor, lambasted Scott for not speaking out forcefully enough during a "moral crisis."

"I demand that Governor Scott — who is now asking for our vote to be our next Senator — stand up to the Trump Administration and support S. 3036, the Keeping Families Together Act," Gillum wrote in a statement released Sunday, "Yesterday he didn’t have much to say on this crisis, but in times of moral crisis we need our leaders to step forward. We demand the reconciliation and reunification of families."

Former Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham, another contender in the gubernatorial race, weighed in with a short response to President Trump's Monday morning barrage of immigration-related tweets.

In the border state of Arizona, which is also holding elections for the U.S. Senate and governor's mansion in November, one Democratic gubernatorial candidate



"Ducey is either afraid of Trump or he agrees with him; either way his silence is de facto support for Trump. Arizona needs a governor with the guts to say to Trump that what he is doing is inhumane, un-American and it must stop now," Garcia wrote in a statement last week.

Ducey, who officially launched his re-election campaign Monday, did not respond to ABC News' request for comment on the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In California, a Democratic running in a heated congressional race in Orange County called the separation of families "immoral."

"Immigrant children should not be separated and put in cages. Refusing abused women seeking asylum is immoral," Democratic candidate Harley Rouda, who is one of two Democrats hoping to take on GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, tweeted last week.

While candidates in swing states and districts spar over the controversy, President Trump again inserted himself into the debate.

Just this morning, the President continued to fume on Twitter over inaction on the issue of immigration, pointing the finger once again at Democrats who he claims aren't coming to the table to negotiate, a claim many Democrats dispute and say is disingenuous.

"If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing we could have something done very quickly," President Trump said Monday from the White House at a meeting with the National Space Council.

In a rare policy statement released over the weekend, first lady Melania Trump urged Congress to find a bipartisan solution to the issue.

"Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart," a statement released Sunday from the First Lady's Communications Director Stephanie Grisham read.

Former first lady Laura Bush called the separation of families at the border "cruel" in an op-ed published over the weekend in the Washington Post.

"I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart," Bush wrote.

Amidst the back and forth between campaigns, the president, and multiple cabinet members is a Congress that continues to struggle to find a bipartisan consensus on the issue of immigration.

Neither of the immigration bills slated for a vote this week in Congress looks like they have garnered enough support from a majority of the Republican Party or a coalition that stretches across party lines.

The House is expected to take up two GOP immigration bills this week that will each include a provision Republicans say would keep unaccompanied alien children together with parents and legal guardians while in the custody of the Justice Department or Department of Homeland security. Critics argue that the provision would allow the government to keep families in custody indefinitely.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jun182018

Trump directs creation of 'space force' as sixth branch of military

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump announced Monday that he has ordered the creation of a new military branch, adding the "Space Force" to the Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

"It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space. Very importantly I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, that is a big statement," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council on Monday. "We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the space force, separate but equal, it is going to be something."

The Air Force declined to immediately comment.

Trump has previously said that he included a Space Force as part of his national space strategy but also said in March that he is not really serious about the idea.

Military officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, have pushed back on the idea the military should have a separate space force.

The Space Corps – as it's been called – was in the House's version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act but later dropped in conference.

In a letter last summer to Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who spearheaded the congressional effort against the Space Corps, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he was opposed to the idea.

"At a time when we are trying to integrate the department's joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations," Mattis wrote.

Testifying in March before the House Armed Services Committee, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy also pushed back on the creation of a separate Space Corps.

"Space is a different kind of domain than air," Doug Loverro told members of Congress during a hearing on space warfighting readiness. "We don't need to move it out of the Air Force in order to go ahead and create the space-smart civilian and military force that we need."


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Monday
Jun182018

A conservative Republican senator calls for action on 'acute' suicide crisis for LGBTQ youth

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A conservative Republican senator marked Pride Month on the Senate floor with a call to action over an "acute" suicide crisis among LGBTQ youth.

“A suicide epidemic has touched all sectors of our society," Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said last week. “But the problem is particularly acute among LGBT youth who experience bullying and discrimination at every turn. In the most devastating cases, these teenagers even face estrangement from their own families."

Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2016.

About 40 percent of transgender adults reported having attempted suicide at least once, and nearly all of those instance -- 92 percent -- were when they were younger than 25, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Hatch's speech Wednesday came after a new report by the CDC found suicide rates have risen in nearly every state, including a 46.5 percent increase in Utah between 1999 and 2016.

The conservative GOP legislator, who is retiring after this year, said he was devoting much of his speech to "my young friends in the LGBT community.” But he also went broader in light of the spiking suicide rates around the country.

“It is also a call of action to Americans of all political stripes,” Hatch said. “Regardless of where you stand on the cultural issues of today, whether you are a religious conservative, a secular liberal or somewhere in between, we all have the special duty to each other. That duty is to treat one another with dignity and respect. It is not simply to tolerate, but to love.”

Hatch has not shown himself to be a liberal on social issues. Last week, in a statement, that he applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that a Colorado baker has a First Amendment right to refuse to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couples.

The Trevor Project, which is dedicated to preventing suicides among LGBTQ youth, hopes federal legislators can help stem the crisis.

"As The Trevor Project works with legislators to educate them on the negative impact that results from cultural rejection of LGBTQ youth, senators like Hatch realize that it is up to them to use their voice and platform to save lives," the group's advocacy director said in a statement to ABC News.

The advocacy group cited Hatch's support for a bill to create a three-digit national suicide hotline number, similar to 911.

“Every minute we wait we have helpless, hundreds of Americans who are struggling with suicidal thoughts,” Hatch said of the proposed hotline in his speech. “There are literally lives on the line and leaving them on hold is not an option.”

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Monday
Jun182018

President Trump blames Democrats, doubles down on immigration amid backlash

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the outcry over the nearly 2,000 child separations caused as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings grows, President Donald Trump doubled down on Monday down on his controversial policies and blamed them on Democrats.

He also tried to divest himself of any responsibility for the practice, heartbreaking photos of which are becoming more and more readily available.

"The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility," he said during an event on space policy.

Earlier in the day, he issued a series of tweets and claimed that crime has risen in Germany as a result of migration.

“Crime in Germany is way up,” the president tweeted while warning that migrants have “so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

The latest government statistics show that crime actually decreased in Germany in 2017 by 5.1 percent to its lowest level since 1992.

The president also continued to blame Democrats, tweeting in all caps “CHANGE THE LAWS!”

Enacted earlier this year, the administration’s dictates that every adult caught illegally crossing the US southern border face criminal prosecution. As a result, children found making the illegal crossings along with those adults have been separated and sent to detention centers.

The president and his allies also have been increasingly accusing Democrats, while decrying the child separations, of not showing adequate outrage over killings and crime by undocumented immigrants.

The president tweeted Monday asking “where is the outrage” over killings carried out by undocumented immigrants.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley echoed the president’s argument in an interview with FOX Monday, contrasting the permanent separation caused when a loved one is killed to the “temporary separation of families.”

“Where is the outcry for permanent separation when one of these people come to the country, commit a crime, kill an American citizen with their own hand or via the drugs they distribute, no one comes to their defense?” Gidley asked rhetorically. “The permanent separation is the biggest abomination, and Democrat is decrying that at all.”

But as the White House and its allies continue to make crime-based arguments in justifying tough policy stances as it relates to illegal immigration, multiple academic studies have not found any evidence that undocumented immigration increases crime.

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Monday
Jun182018

Supreme Court puts off weighing in on partisan gerrymandering

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Monday put off weighing in on whether gerrymandering is unconstitutional – allowing, for now, maps in Wisconsin and Maryland to stand.

The cases deal with, gerrymandering, the method of drawing maps that some argue is politically motivated to give one party an advantage in elections.

In Wisconsin, the Supreme Court said the plaintiffs in the case didn’t have enough standing to challenge the statewide assembly maps. The case was sent back to the lower courts.

The Supreme Court said the lower court must reconsider that case so the plaintiffs can make a more detailed argument about how the districts impacted their civil rights.

The opinion says that plaintiffs can argue that their personal vote was diminished because their district was configured to favor one political party over another but that they can't sue to challenge the whole state's map.

"Here, the plaintiffs' partisan gerrymandering claims turn on allegations that their votes have been diluted. That harm arises from the particular composition of the voter's own district, which causes his vote- having been packed or cracked- to carry less weight than it would carry in another, hypothetical district. Remedying the individual voter's harm, therefore, does not necessarily require restructuring all of the State's legislative districts," Chief Justice John Roberts said in the opinion.

The court also upheld a lower court's opinion not to issue an injunction to allow officials to redraw the congressional map in Maryland before the 2018 election, supporting the District Court's decision that it was too close to the election for the court to interfere with the district map.

The District Court in the Maryland case said it wanted to wait until the Supreme Court ruled in the Wisconsin case to take further action,

"The Court reasonably could have concluded that a preliminary injunction would have been against the public interest, as an injunction might have worked a needlessly "chaotic and disruptive effect upon the electoral process"," the court wrote in an unsigned decision.



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