Sorry, Haters, but Trump’s Interior Secretary Did Not Actually Say the Border Wall Would Be Built on Mexican Soil
The Daily Caller ran an item this morning stating that Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has called for Donald Trump's famed border wall to be built on Mexican soil:
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed Tuesday that the U.S. build its border wall on Mexico’s side of the border.
“The border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall,” Zinke said at an event held by the Public Lands Council, according to E&E News. He went on to say, “The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”
A Chuck Schumer spokesman is also promoting this claim:
Sounds outrageous! But if you actually go to the source of all this—a longer article in a respected energy/environment industry publication—it's clear that not only was Zinke not suggesting that the wall be built in Mexico but that he was in fact describing reasons why it might not be built like Trump has described it at all:
At the same time, Zinke suggested the wall would not be as big or impassible as the president believes is necessary to stop illegal immigrants.
"The border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall," he said. "The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We're not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we're probably not going to put it in the middle of the river."
Electronic defenses may be more appropriate in some areas, Zinke said. Others with imposing physical features may not require additional reinforcements.
If anything, the story here might be that Zinke seems to be admitting that the president's executive order announcing its intention to build the wall is impractical. From the order:
(b) “Southern border” shall mean the contiguous land border between the United States and Mexico, including all points of entry.
(e) “Wall” shall mean a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier.
This seems to be the kind of story that will occasion a clarification or walkback from the administration, so we'll update this post when we hear more.
Brexit Has Finally Been Triggered. Now Maybe the EU Can Get On With It.
They really did it. Nine months after the close-fought Brexit referendum and just four days after the European Union celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding treaty, Britain’s EU envoy, Tim Barrow, hand-delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday, formally beginning the process of Britain’s exit from the EU.
The letter formally triggers Article 50 of the 2007 Lisbon treaty, which gives countries two years to negotiate the terms of their withdrawal from the EU. Between now and March 2019, British negotiators will do their best to get a deal that maintains access to the EU common market for British businesses while giving the British government full control over regulations and border controls.
Prime Minister Theresa May has controversially said she would prioritize border controls over trade, accepting nothing less than full political separation from the Union. But two years is a long time, both London and Brussels have hinted that negotiations might be extended, and it’s hard to predict just what Britain’s relationship to Europe might look like at the end of the process.
It’s also hard to know what Britain’s departure will ultimately mean for the EU. Brexit has undoubtedly shaken the 28-member body to its core, at a time when it’s also still reeling from a currency crisis and the divisions sparked by an unprecedented influx of refugees into Europe. Tusk grumbled in a speech on Wednesday that there is "no reason to pretend this is a happy day.”
On the other hand, there are signs in the past few weeks that the British decision isn’t going to trigger the rush to the exits and dramatic collapse that many feared. Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, who favors Dutch withdrawal from the EU, had a disappointing finish in elections on March 15. In elections on Monday in Bulgaria, one of the EU’s newest members, a pro-EU center-right party won, fending off a challenge from a Socialist party with strong links to Russia. German Chancellor, and de facto EU leader, Angela Merkel’s prospects for re-election in September are looking stronger after her party won a closely watched race in Saarland. (In any event, her closest challenger, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, is a former president of the EU Parliament and a strong EU supporter.) And it’s still too close for comfort, but French centrist Emmanuel Macron, who is campaigning on a platform of reforming the EU rather than ditching it, looks likely to hold off a challenge from the far-right Marine Le Pen in elections that begin next month.
There’s still a lot dividing Europe and this is undoubtedly a period of uncertainty, but it’s just possible that Britain’s unceremonious departure, fears of Russian military aggression and political meddling, and the arrival of Europe-bashing U.S. President Donald Trump may finally have given the troubled union some things to unite around.
Fox News Sued by Two Black Female Employees for Alleged Racial Discrimination
Turns out, sexual harassment isn’t the only harassment Fox News is good at. On Tuesday evening, two black women filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court alleging they were subjected to “top-down racial harassment” while employees in the Fox News payroll department.
From the New York Times:
The women — Tichaona Brown, a payroll manager, and Tabrese Wright, a payroll coordinator — accused Ms. Slater of making numerous racially charged comments, including suggestions that black men were “women beaters” and that black people wanted to physically harm white people. They also said that Ms. Slater claimed that black employees mispronounced words, such as “mother,” “father,” “month” and “ask,” and that she urged Ms. Brown to say those words aloud in a meeting. Ms. Wright said Ms. Slater once asked if her three children were all “fathered by the same man…”
Ms. Brown and Ms. Wright are suing Ms. Slater, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, claiming that Ms. Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in “severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.” Ms. Wright, who joined Fox in mid-2014 and had spoken up about Ms. Slater’s behavior, was transferred out of the payroll department on Monday, a move the lawsuit described as a demotion. The company described it as a lateral move. While the suit contends that Ms. Brown, who joined Fox in late 2008, was fired on Monday, the company said on Tuesday night that she remained employed. Both women declined a Fox settlement offer, according to the suit.
The suit comes on the heels of a string of sexual harassment claims lodged against the network and its former chairman, Roger Ailes. And that’s just behind the scenes. On air Tuesday morning, Bill O’Reilly criticized to a black congresswoman’s appearance comparing her to James Brown. Earlier this month, CNN reported that another network host, Sean Hannity, pointed a gun at black Fox News contributor Juan Williams on set at Fox News.
DNC Asks Entire Staff to Resign as Democrats Begin Party Overhaul to Try to Stop Losing Elections
Newly elected Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez asked for the entire staff of the party organization to submit resignations by April 15 as the DNC attempts a makeover following the 2016 election cycle that left many in the party jaded not only about Democrats’ electoral prospects, but the party’s campaign competency. As part of an effort to actually start winning elections again, establishment Democrats in Washington, D.C. promised change was coming after the party was again unable to win back majorities in either the House or Senate, and pretty much bungled its handling of just about everything having to do with the presidential election.
The staffing overhaul did not come as a surprise as both parties’ national organizations largely operate as fundraising and campaigning apparatuses whose staffing needs and numbers ebb and flow with the tides of the campaign cycle. Not to mention, given the party wreckage after the tumultuous term of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose Clinton ties rankled Bernie Sanders supporters, followed by interim chair Donna Brazille, and now Perez, charting a new course with fresh faces and new blood isn’t just a political strategy—it’s a mandate from the rank and file.
"This is longstanding precedent at the DNC and has happened during multiple Chair transitions," DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said. "The process was started before the election of the new Chair. From the beginning, Tom has been adamant that we structure the DNC for future campaigns." “The DNC will embark on a national search to fill key party positions, overseen by the 30-odd members of the transition advisory committee,” according to NBC News. “The committee is also reviewing the DNC's contracts with outside vendors and consultants, a source of complaints from many Democrats.”
Today in Conservative Media: Some Sharia and Jesus News
A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.
On Tuesday, many conservative outlets turned their attention to Rollins College, a private liberal arts school in Winter Park, Florida. According to Heat Street, “A Christian student claims to have be [sic] suspended from Rollins College after calling out his radical Muslim professor’s remarks on Christianity, including that Jesus’s crucifixion never happened.” Expanding on this, the Daily Caller writes, “After [student Marshall] Polston challenged [professor Areeje] Zufari on this point, he received a 52 percent on an essay and says the professor refused to explain why. He was later reportedly suspended.”
The Blaze, which also covered the story, cites “a letter obtained by the [Central Florida] Post,” that reportedly confirms Polston was suspended because he represented a “‘threat of disruption’ and is ‘jeopardizing the safety and well-being’ of the college.” The Blaze goes on, “The letter doesn’t state exactly what Polston did to become a security concern or which student rules he broke.” The Daily Caller and other publications also repeat Polston’s claim that “a male Muslim student suggested that adulterers, gays, and thieves should be decapitated” in a classroom discussion of sharia law. (As Reason notes, “The available reporting on the pro-shariah law student’s comments leaves much to be desired. It’s not completely clear whether he was merely stating the shariah law position on adulterers and gay people, or endorsing it.”)
Though conservative publications do not seem to have reached out to Zufari for comment, the Daily Caller ran an opinion piece titled, “Three Questions That a Muslim Professor Can’t Answer About Jesus’ Resurrection.” Those questions included, “Was Jesus lord, liar or lunatic?” and “Why would the disciples die for a lie?”
In other news:
In the face of mounting criticism of Rep. Devin Nunes, many conservative publications stepped up to defend the House Intelligence Committee chairman. A Federalist headline, for example, read simply, “Devin Nunes Has Absolutely No Reason to Recuse Himself.” That post went on to ask, “Even if we concede, for the sake of argument, that Nunes had been ethically compromised, does the information attained in the effort become less valid?” Breitbart referenced Rep. Trey Gowdy’s rejection of the accusations against Nunes, writing, “Gowdy dismissed Schumer’s calls and said that Nunes had done nothing wrong with his investigatory efforts as committee chairman.” And LifeZette, which called complaints against Nunes “[d]ubious” suggested that Democrats were just upset that their own narrative was falling apart:
The calls for a resignation are not necessarily a sign Nunes is in trouble. Rather, they are likely a sign that Democrats feel Nunes’ remarks—that Trump and his transition team were incidentally monitored, that their identities were deliberately “unmasked,” and that the raw intelligence was inappropriately shared throughout levels of government—have mortally wounded the narrative that Trump and his surrogates were tools of the Russians in the election.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said he was happy that Nunes intended to keep himself in the mix: “He says he’s not gonna do it, thank goodness. The Republicans have become known as the recusal party, so I’m glad that Nunes is hanging tough.”
Breitbart, meanwhile, found success on Facebook with two posts proposing that Hillary Clinton is the one with the Russia problem:
The Top 10 Reasons Donald Trump Is Refusing to Throw Out the First Pitch of Baseball Season
Here's a news item regarding Donald Trump and the ceremonial first pitch of the Washington Nationals baseball team's season:
Nats say the White House has declined invitation for President Trump to throw out ceremonial first pitch Opening Day.— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) March 28, 2017
And here's a comedic premise based on that news item:
These are the top 10 reasons Donald Trump is refusing to throw out the first pitch of the Nationals' baseball season.
10. Gesture would implicitly condone actions of Cuban players who helped Ted Cruz's dad shoot President Kennedy in the head
9. Hands too small, can't grab ball
8. Unclear where ball should be grabbed anyway given that it doesn't have a [redacted]
7. Players are too old and too male to make for good locker-room sleazeball creeping
6. Upset that Obama beat out Mike Trout for ISIS MVP award despite worse advanced stats
5. Disappointed when someone told him there are no Trump University alums playing in the game because Trump University didn't have a baseball team and was, in fact, a high-pressure sales scam rather than a real institution of higher learning
4. Presence of actual, complete, non-imaginary wall in outfield makes him jealous
3. Can't sleep because he keeps seeing this on the inside of his eyelids every time he tries to get even a moment's peace. By God, her visage haunts his very dreams.
2. Would probably be booed mercilessly given that he has an extremely low approval rating and would be appearing in a city in which he only got 4 percent of the vote anyway
1. Still upset about 1947 integration of the major leagues
Thanks for reading! No. 2 is probably the real reason. Also No. 1.
Trump Is Increasing U.S. Support for the Pointless, Brutal War in Yemen
Almost exactly two years after the U.S. began supporting the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, the Trump administration is planning to increase its support for the operation, which has not only had a devastating humanitarian impact on one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, but has mostly failed to accomplish its military goals.
The war in Yemen is actually two wars—at the very least. One, conducted by the U.S. and its allies, primarily via airstrikes, against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate blamed for numerous terrorist plots against the U.S. And the other primarily carried out by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states on behalf of Yemen’s deposed government, against the Houthi rebels, widely viewed in the region as a proxy for Saudi Arabia’s archrival Iran.
For the latter operation, the Obama administration had provided Saudi Arabia with some logistical support and weapons. But in December, Obama finally backed away from the war due to concerns over civilian casualties, blocking a planned sale of guided munitions kits to the Saudis.
The Trump administration is now planning to resume that sale, reports the Wall Street Journal, and has significantly increased “intelligence and logistical support for the militaries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis is behind the push to amp up support for the operation, according to the Washington Post. And Saudi Arabia has also been making overtures to the Trump administration, with Prince Mohammad bin Salman dubiously referring to the president as a “true friend of Muslims” after a White House meeting earlier this month. (The kingdom had grown frustrated with the Obama administration over the Iran deal, its support for the Egyptian revolution, and a number of other factors.)
The main U.S. interest in Yemen is still fighting AQAP, but Mattis and the administration also seem to buy the Saudi case that Yemen is necessary to push back against Iranian encroachment.
The thing is, the war hasn’t been very good at accomplishing either goal. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations notes in Foreign Policy that amid the chaos of civil war, AQAP has grown from “approximately 1,000 members in 2014 to 4,000 in 2016, according to the State Department.” Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter conceded that the war was helping al-Qaida gain ground in 2015.
As for the Houthis, their capabilities only appear to be growing, as shown by ballistic missiles they launched toward Mecca last fall and at a Saudi ship in January. Evidence of direct Iranian support for the Houthis was difficult to discern early in the conflict, making many experts suspicious of the case that they were just Iranian puppets. But in the past few months there has been evidence of Iran supplying the Houthis directly with weapons, namely those ballistic missiles. If this wasn’t really a proxy war with Iran before, it’s rapidly becoming one.
Meanwhile, Saudi airstrikes as well as fighting on the ground have killed an estimated 10,000 civilians. Many of the strikes appear to be indiscriminate, hitting hospitals, schools, and in one incident earlier this month a boat carrying Somali refugees, killing dozens. Thanks in part to the fighting and trade blockades, Yemen is also on the verge of famine. There was once a (not all that convincing) case to be made that U.S. coordination with the Saudi-led strikes could help limit the collateral damage. That’s tougher to argue now, given the Trump administration’s seeming indifference to civilian casualties.
So what are we doing there?
Texas Mayor Who Disenfranchised Hispanic Voters Calls Hispanic Councilman “Boy”
On Monday morning, the Pasadena, Texas, city council was debating a tax collection contract when Republican Mayor Johnny Isbell moved to take a vote. Democratic Councilman Cody Ray Wheeler objected, noting he hadn’t “had an opportunity to speak yet.” Isbell, who is white, replied to Wheeler, who is Hispanic: “Well, you better speak up, boy.” When Wheeler expressed offense and insisted that he be treated with more respect as a member of the council, Isbell responded: “Well, act like it.”
When Wheeler finished his statement, Isbell backpedaled, telling Wheeler: “You’re right, council member, and that was a slip of the tongue on the ‘boy.’ ”
Isbell’s “slip of the tongue” at this public meeting wasn’t just a shocking one-off racist incident. The Pasadena mayor was the driving force behind a 2013 redistricting scheme found to intentionally discriminate against Hispanic voters. Shortly after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act that year, Isbell concocted a plan that would deprive Hispanic voters of the ability to elect a majority of city council seats—something they were finally poised to do thanks to demographic changes. The mayor proposed replacing the current system of eight single-member seats with six single-member and two at-large seats. The new system, placed on the ballot as Proposition 1, eliminated a majority Latino district. Pasadena voters narrowly approved it.
Fox News Anchors Laugh and Laugh After Bill O’Reilly Says Black Congresswoman Looks Like James Brown
Rep. Maxine Waters has been a lawmaker—in the California Legislature and the House of Representatives—for 40 years. She is the most senior black woman currently serving in the House and a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. On Tuesday, Bill O’Reilly, who throws tantrums for a living, said on Fox & Friends that he had been unable to process the content of a speech by Rep. Waters because of her hair.
O'REILLY: I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it's the same wig.
BRIAN KILMEADE: It's the same one. And he's not using it anymore.*
AINSLEY EARHARDT: No. OK, I've got to defend her on that.
KILMEADE: They finally buried him.
EARHARDT: I have to defend her on that. You can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive.
O'REILLY: I didn't say she wasn't attractive.
EARHARDT: Her hair is pretty.
OREILLY: I love James Brown, but it's the same hair, James Brown, the godfather of soul, had.
EARHARDT: So, he had girl hair.
O'REILLY: Whatever it is, I just couldn't get by it.
As Media Matters pointed out this afternoon, this is not the first time Waters has been arbitrarily and derisively compared to another black person by a Fox anchor. In 2012, The Five’s Eric Bolling criticized Waters by comparing her to Whitney Houston:
“Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston,” he said. “Step away from the crack pipe. Step away from the Xanax. Step away from the Lorazepam. Because it’s going to get you in trouble.” After the commercial break, Bolling did not apologize. “I was kidding,” he said.
Update, March 28, 2017, at 2:26 PM: Bill O'Reilly has apologized for his comment.
Just in: Bill O'Reilly releases statement apologizing for "dumb" comment about Maxine Waters pic.twitter.com/jiuTtevsGF— Tom Kludt (@TomKludt) March 28, 2017
*Correction, March 28, 2017, at 2:57 PM: This post originally stated that Steve Doocy said, "It's the same one" in crosstalk with O'Reilly. The comment was made off screen by Brian Kilmeade.
House GOP Says Obamacare Replacement Plan Will Be Ready Soon (This Is Not a Headline From 2011)
It's been a running joke for many years now that Republicans in Congress are always saying they're just about done putting the finishing touches on an Obamacare replacement plan that everyone is going to love. Then–Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised in late 2010, for example, that his caucus was ready to "repeal ObamaCare and replace it with commonsense alternatives" as soon as the next Congress was sworn in, while in early 2012 the Hill reported that House Republicans would be "ready with a plan to replace President Obama’s healthcare law" that summer.
As you may have heard, Republicans—who now hold the presidency and both houses of Congress—finally actually did introduce an actual Obamacare replacement plan earlier this month, which then crashed, died, and was withdrawn in ignominious failure last week after a poll found that only 17 percent of Americans supported it and GOP leaders realized they wouldn't be able to get enough votes to pass it despite holding a 44-seat majority (!) in the House of Representatives.
Well, House Republican leaders held a press conference Tuesday morning after a caucus meeting. And, amazingly, the purpose of the press conference was to announce that they intend, sometime soon, to introduce an Obamacare replacement plan (which everyone is going to love).
"After this morning, the resolve of our conference to repeal Obamacare and replace it has never been stronger," whip Steve Scalise said.
"We promised that we would repeal and replace Obamacare, and that's exactly what we're going to do," Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.
"We're going to keep talking to each other until we get it right," Paul Ryan said, adding that he would not commit to an actual schedule for passing repeal legislation because the issue was "too important" to "put an artificial timeline on."
As it happens, ultimate master negotiator/dealmaking genius Donald Trump made a quite public ultimatum regarding the timeline of the issue last week:
Trump issued lawmakers an ultimatum Thursday night. He wants the House to vote Friday on the legislation to begin dismantling ObamaCare and if it fails, he is "done with health care,” and ready to move on to tax reform, a source told Fox News.
The subtext here, I'm guessing, is that House Republicans realize they are going to look like real asshats in their 2018 re-election races if they don't get something done on health care, which they've made their top issue for the past eight years, whereas Trump believes—and not without good reason—that his own "base" doesn't care whether he gets anything done on this (or any) specific issue. It'll be fun to see how it all plays out!