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Donald Trump’s 100-days promises: Fewer than half carried out

Sure enough, the big trans-Pacific trade deal is toast, climate change action is on the ropes and various regulations from the Obama era have been scrapped. It’s also a safe bet President Donald Trump hasn’t raced a bicycle since Jan. 20, keeping that vow.

Add a Supreme Court justice — no small feat — and call these promises kept.

But where’s that wall? Or the promised trade punishment against China — will the Chinese get off scot-free from “the greatest theft in the history of the world”? What about that “easy” replacement for Obamacare? How about the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and huge tax cut that were supposed to be in motion by now?

Trump’s road to the White House, paved in big, sometimes impossible pledges, has detoured onto a byway of promises deferred or left behind, an AP analysis found.

Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day “contract” with voters — “This is my pledge to you” — he’s accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don’t require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

He’s abandoned several and failed to deliver quickly on others, stymied at times by a divided Republican Party and resistant federal judges. Of 10 promises that require Congress to act, none has been achieved and most have not been introduced.

“I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days,” the president bragged in a recent interview with AP, even as he criticized the marker as an “artificial barrier.”

In truth, his 100-day plan remains mostly a to-do list that will spill over well beyond Saturday, his 100th day.

Some of Trump’s promises were obviously hyperbole to begin with. Don’t hold your breath waiting for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl to be dropped out of an airplane without a parachute, as Trump vowed he’d do at many of his campaign rallies. China’s leader got a fancy dinner, complete with “beautiful” chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago this month, not the promised “McDonald’s hamburger” and humble pie.

But many promises were meant to be taken seriously. Trump clearly owes his supporters a Mexico border wall, even if it doesn’t end up being a foot taller than the Great Wall of China.

One page of his 100-day manifesto is devoted to legislation he would fight to pass in 100 days. None of it has been achieved.

The other page lists 18 executive actions and intentions he promised to pursue — many on Day One. He has followed through on fewer than a dozen, largely through the use of executive orders, and the White House is boasting that he will set a post-World War II record when he signs more this week.

That’s a change in tune.

“We need people in Washington that don’t go around signing executive orders because they can’t get people into a room and get some kind of a deal that’s negotiated,” he declared in New Hampshire in March 2015. “We need people that know how to lead, and we don’t have that. We have amateurs.”

Efforts to provide affordable child care and paid maternity leave, to make college more affordable and to invest in urban areas have been all but forgotten. That’s despite the advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress, which the White House failed to pull together behind Trump’s first attempt to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

An AP reporter who followed Trump throughout the presidential campaign collected scores of promises he made along the way, from the consequential to the fanciful. Here are some of them, and his progress so far:

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ENERGY and the ENVIRONMENT:

— Lift President Barack Obama‘s roadblocks on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Done. Keystone XL is revived and construction of the Dakota Access is completed.

— Lift restrictions on mining coal and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Done. Trump has unraveled a number of Obama-era restrictions and initiated a review of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

— Cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord

Nope. Trump has yet to make a decision on Paris. His aides are torn.

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ECONOMY and TRADE:

— Pass a tax overhaul. “Just think about what can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a Trump administration,” he told his supporters again and again in the final weeks of the campaign. “We are going to have the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.” He promised a plan that would reduce rates dramatically both for corporations and the middle class.

Nowhere close. Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on, and his administration’s new package is in its early stages, not only missing the first 100 days but likely to miss a new August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Some details may emerge this week.

—Designate China a currency manipulator, setting the stage for possible trade penalties because “we’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Abandoned. Trump says he doesn’t want to punish China when it is cooperating in a response to North Korean provocations. He also says China has stopped manipulating its currency for unfair trade advantage. But China was moving away from that behavior well before he took office. Also set aside: repeated vows to slap high tariffs on Chinese imports.

—Announce his intention to renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Backtracked, in essence. A draft of his administration’s plan for NAFTA proposes only a mild rewrite. But in his AP interview, he threatened anew to terminate the deal if his goals are not met in a renegotiation.

— Direct his commerce secretary and trade representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly hurt American workers.

Done. Trump has initiated plenty of studies over the past 100 days.

— Slap a 35 percent tariff on goods from companies that ship production abroad. Force companies like Apple and Nabisco to make their products in the U.S.

Nope.

—Embark on a massive $1 trillion effort to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, including airports, roads and bridges.

Not yet.

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SECURITY, DEFENSE and IMMIGRATION:

— Immediately suspend the Syrian refugee program.

Trump tried, but the first version of his travel ban was blocked by the courts. A revised version dropped references to Syrian refugees entirely. That was blocked, too. And he has yet to mention another campaign pledge: to deport Syrian refugees already settled in the U.S.

— Inform his generals they have 30 days to submit a new plan for defeating the Islamic State group.

Trump did indeed order up a plan. It’s unclear what it is since it has yet to be made public.

— Suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” where he says vetting is too difficult.

Trump’s effort to bar immigration temporarily from some Muslim-majority countries has been stymied by courts.

— Implement “extreme” immigration vetting techniques.

In progress. The Homeland Security Department is considering a number of measures, like asking for visitors’ phone contacts and social media passwords.

—Build an “impenetrable physical wall” along the length of the southern border, and make Mexico pay for it.

The government has been soliciting bids and test sections could be built as soon as this summer. Mexico is not paying for this work.

—End federal funding to “sanctuary cities” — places where local officials are considered by Washington to be insufficiently cooperative in arresting or detaining people in the country illegally.

The Justice Department has threatened to do so, but there are legal limits.

— Immediately deport the estimated 2 million “criminal aliens” living in the country, including gang members, in joint operations with local, state and federal law enforcement.

Deportations have not increased. Arrests of people in the U.S. illegally are up and illegal border crossings are significantly down.

—Cancel visas for foreign countries that won’t take back criminals deported by the U.S.

There’s been no discussion of this yet.

—”Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties,” one of which allows young people brought into the country as children to stay and work.

Trump has made no effort to end the program, even though it would take a single phone call. In fact, he told AP these young people can “rest easy” and not fear deportation.

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GOVERNMENT and the SWAMP:

— Ask agency and department heads to identify job-killing regulations for elimination.

Done.

— Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.

Nope.

— “Drain the swamp.”

On his pledge to curb the power of special interests, Trump has so far used an executive order to prohibit political appointees from lobbying the government for five years after serving in his administration and to ban outgoing officials from representing foreign governments. But he’s discontinuing the Obama-era practice of releasing White House visitor logs, restoring a shroud over what special interests are getting in his gates. He’s also issued at least one waiver to his lobbying ban, allowing a White House budget adviser to go advocate for a business trade group

— Impose a hiring freeze on federal employees, excluding military and public safety staffers.

This was one of Trump’s first actions. But the freeze has since been lifted.

—Require that two regulations be eliminated for each new one imposed.

Trump signed an order requiring agencies to identify two existing regulations for every new one imposed — though there is nothing in the order that requires the two to be eliminated.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

— End the strategy of nation-building and regime change.

Trump’s foreign policy posture is still in its early stages, though he has already intervened in Syria and has escalated rhetoric against North Korea.

— Move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The administration says it is studying the issue.

— Negotiate the release of all U.S. prisoners held in Iran, even before taking office. Renegotiate or leave the Iran nuclear deal.

No prisoners have been released. The administration is studying the nuclear deal and Trump told AP “it’s possible” the U.S. will withdraw.

— Create a safe zone in Syria for refugees, paid for by the Gulf states.

Not yet.

___

HEALTH CARE, COURTS and GUNS:

—”My first day in office, I’m going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability. You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. It’s going to be so easy.”

The bill to replace “Obamacare” was pulled from Congress because it lacked enough support. He will try again with a revised plan.

— Begin selecting a new Supreme Court judge to fill the court’s vacancy.

Done. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch and the Senate approved him.

— Eliminate gun-free zones in schools and on military bases.

Nope.

___

REALLY?

— “I promise I will never be in a bicycle race.”

So far, so good. Trump’s vow came after John Kerry, then secretary of state, broke his femur in May 2015 while riding a bicycle. He was not in a bicycle race.

—Bar his generals from being interviewed on television.

Never mind that. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, as Trump’s national security adviser, recently appeared on a Sunday news show. Several senior military officers have done Pentagon news conferences in the past few months that are taped by the networks. Gen. John Nicholson, the top general in Afghanistan, appeared at a news conference Monday.

—No time for play.

Most weekends as president, Trump has broken his pledge to avoid the golf course, after years of criticizing his predecessor for playing the game. “Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” he told a Virginia rally in August. “Believe me.”

—Season’s greetings.

“If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store. … You can leave ‘happy holidays’ at the corner.”

As president-elect over the holidays, he sent a “Merry Christmas” tweet. So did President Obama. And both sent Happy Hanukkah wishes.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago loses State Department promotion posting

The State Department has removed its promotional posting about President Donald Trump‘s Florida resort, after a storm of ethics criticism.

In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as “Trump’s Florida estate,” where he has hosted foreign leaders. “By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the post said.

Left unsaid: Mar-a-Lago is part of Trump’s business empire. After his election, the resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000. As president, Trump has visited the property seven times, and its restaurant fills up when he’s in town.

The State Department said late Monday that its intention was “to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders” and that it regrets “any misperception.” That statement now appears in place of the original blog post.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether it had any involvement in the original posting or the decision to take it down.

The post originated on “Share America,” a State Department project. Its website describes its mission as “sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

Other topics on the Share America page include a new U.S. coin honoring Frederick Douglass, debate over the Confederate flag and news about first lady Melania Trump’s participation in the State Department’s International Women of Courage award ceremony.

The Mar-a-Lago post was nearly three weeks old but gained traction Monday when several people noticed the U.S. embassy to the United Kingdom was featuring it. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, asked on Twitter why taxpayers are “promoting the president’s private country club” and referred to the incident as “kleptocratic.”

Norman Eisen, who was President Barack Obama‘s chief ethics attorney, said the promotion is “exploitation.”

Eisen compared it to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway‘s promotion of Ivanka Trump‘s clothing business, for which she was “counseled” but not otherwise reprimanded by the White House.

“This idea of using government for private gain is metastasizing,” Eisen said. “It must be stopped.”

On Twitter, Richard Painter, who served in an ethics role for President George W. Bush, called the State Department post “Use of public office for private gain pure and simple.”

Eisen, Painter and other attorneys have sued Trump, alleging violation of the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution. That provision says the president may not accept foreign gifts or payments without the consent of Congress.

The Trump Organization argues that this prohibition wasn’t intended to cover fair-market exchanges.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump names Floridian Heather MacDougall to OSHA Review Commission

Heather MacDougall

President Donald Trump has named employer relations expert Heather MacDougall of Melbourne to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Since January, MacDougall has been acting chair of the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama nominated her to the Commission in 2014, unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

MacDougall brings 20 years of experience in labor, employment, occupational safety and health law, most recently with Akerman LLP law firm based in West Palm Beach.  In addition, she served as Chief Counsel to OSHRC Chair W. Scott Railton in 2002-2003 under the George W. Bush administration. OSHRC is the independent federal agency as an administrative court deciding contested OSHA citations. MacDougall also served as associate general counsel of a Washington, D.C. trade association standing for human resources executives of Fortune 500 corporations.

Earlier in her career, MacDougall was Associate General Counsel to the HR Policy Association, a public policy organization that advocates for human resource officers of major employers, where she stood for the association as amicus curiae in U.S. Courts of Appeals and Supreme Court cases. As a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), MacDougall also gave expert guidance to employers on all aspects of the employer-employee relationship.

She received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and a J.D. from Marquette University Law School.

Once critical of global deals, Donald Trump slow to pull out of any

The “America First” president who vowed to extricate America from onerous overseas commitments appears to be warming up to the view that when it comes to global agreements, a deal’s a deal.

From NAFTA to the Iran nuclear agreement to the Paris climate accord, President Donald Trump‘s campaign rhetoric is colliding with the reality of governing. Despite repeated pledges to rip up, renegotiate or otherwise alter them, the U.S. has yet to withdraw from any of these economic, environmental or national security deals, as Trump’s past criticism turns to tacit embrace of several key elements of U.S. foreign policy.

The administration says it is reviewing these accords and could still pull out of them. A day after certifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attacked the accord and listed examples of Iran’s bad behavior. His tone suggested that even if Iran is fulfilling the letter of its nuclear commitments, the deal remains on unsure footing.

Yet with one exception — an Asia-Pacific trade deal that already had stalled in Congress — Trump’s administration quietly has laid the groundwork to honor the international architecture of deals it has inherited. It’s a sharp shift from the days when Trump was declaring the end of a global-minded America that negotiates away its interests and subsidizes foreigners’ security and prosperity.

Trump had called the Iran deal the “worst” ever, and claimed climate change was a hoax. But in place of action, the Trump administration is only reviewing these agreements, as it is doing with much of American foreign policy.

Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University, said Trump may be allowing himself to argue in the future that existing deals can be improved without being totally discarded. “That allows him to tell his base that he’s getting a better deal than Bush or Obama got, and yet reassure these institutions that it’s really all being done with a nod and a wink, that Trump doesn’t mean what he says,” Brinkley said.

So far, there’s been no major revolt from Trump supporters, despite their expectation he would be an agent of disruption. This week’s reaffirmations of the status quo came via Tillerson’s certification of Iran upholding its nuclear deal obligations and the administration delaying a decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The president had previously spoken about dismantling or withdrawing from both agreements as part of his vision, explained in his inaugural address, that “every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”

The Iran certification, made 90 minutes before a midnight Tuesday deadline, means Tehran will continue to enjoy relief from U.S. nuclear sanctions. Among the anti-deal crowd Trump wooed in his presidential bid, the administration’s decision is fueling concerns that Trump may let the 2015 accord stand.

Tillerson on Wednesday sought to head off any criticism that the administration was being easy on Iran, describing a broad administration review of Iran policy that includes the nuclear deal and examines if sanctions relief serves U.S. interests. The seven-nation nuclear deal, he said, “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran” and “only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state.”

On the climate agreement, the White House postponed a meeting Tuesday where top aides were to have hashed out differences on what to do about the non-binding international deal forged in Paris in December 2015. The agreement allowed rich and poor countries to set their own goals to reduce carbon dioxide and went into effect last November, after the U.S., China and other countries ratified it. Not all of Trump’s advisers share his skeptical views on climate change — or the Paris pact.

Trump’s position on trade deals also has evolved. He had promised to jettison the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada unless he could substantially renegotiate it in America’s favor, blaming NAFTA for devastating the U.S. manufacturing industry by incentivizing the use of cheap labor in Mexico.

Now his administration is only focused on marginal changes that would preserve much of the existing agreement, according to draft guidelines that Trump’s trade envoy sent to Congress. The proposal included a controversial provision that lets companies challenge national trade laws through private tribunals.

Trump has followed through with a pledge to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping free trade deal President Barack Obama negotiated. The agreement was effectively dead before Trump took office after Congress refused to ratify it. Even Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton, opposed the accord.

But on NATO, Trump has completely backed off his assertions that the treaty organization is “obsolete.” His Cabinet members have fanned out to foreign capitals to show America’s support for the alliance and his administration now describes the 28-nation body as a pillar of Western security.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

How communities shaped by refugees became Donald Trump country

Richard Rodrigue stood in the back of a banquet hall, watching his blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter mingle among her high school classmates. These teenagers speak dozens of languages, and hail from a dozen African nations.

They fled brutal civil war, famine, oppressive regimes to find themselves here, at an ordinary high school pre-prom fete in this once-dying New England mill town, revived by an influx of some 7,500 immigrants over the last 16 years. Rodrigue smiled and waved at his daughter, proud she is a part of it: “It will help her in life,” he said. “The world is not all white.”

Richard Rodrigue
Richard Rodrigue embraces his daughter Stephanie, 17, after she walked the runway in her high school’s pre-prom fashion show in Lewiston, Maine. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

Rodrigue believes the refugees resuscitated his town — plugging the population drain that had threatened to cripple it, opening shops and restaurants in boarded-up storefronts. But he also agrees with Donald Trump that there should be no more of them, at least not now. America is struggling, he says, and needs to take care of its own before it takes care of anyone else.

His working-class community, built along the banks of the Androscoggin River in the whitest state in America, is a place that some point to as proof that refugee integration can work. And yet for the first time in 30 years, voters in Androscoggin County chose a Republican for president, endorsing Trump’s nativist zeal against the very sort of immigrants who share their streets and their schools.

[Photo Credit: AP Graphic | Kevin S. Vineys]

Rodrigue knows he was born on the winning end of the American dream. His grandfather fled poverty in Quebec and moved to Maine to toil his whole life in the textile mills. He never learned English, faced hate and discrimination. Two generations later, Rodrigue owns a successful security company, lives in a tidy house in a quiet neighborhood and makes plans to send his daughter to college.

Immigration worked for him. But it feels different today, as the county of 107,000 people tries to find its footing. The sprawling brick mills that line the river sit mostly shuttered. A quarter of children grow up poor. Taxpayers pick up the welfare tab. So Trump’s supporters here tie their embrace of his immigration clampdown to their economic anxieties, and their belief that the newcomers are taking more than they have earned.

Lewiston Maine
The sun rises over billowing smokestacks in Lewiston, Maine. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

“There’s got to be a point in time when you have to say, ‘Whoa, let’s get the working people back up. Let’s bring the money in.’ But they keep coming, keep coming,” Rodrigue said.

His community has been an experiment in immigration and all that comes with it — friendships, fear, triumphs, setbacks — and he knows that Trump’s presidency marks another chapter in that struggle for the American soul.

“I guess it just boils down to: What’s enough? Is that wrong? Am I wrong? Am I bad? That’s how I feel.”

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No one invited the Somali refugees to Lewiston.

They fled bullets and warlords to eventually be chosen for resettlement in big American cities, where they were unnerved by the crime and drugs and noise.

In early 2001, a few refugee families struggling to afford housing in Portland ventured 30 miles north and found a city in retreat. Empty downtown stores were ringed by sagging apartment buildings no longer needed to house workers because so few workers remained.

Khimar woman refugee
A woman wearing a khimar leaves after shopping at one of the many stores owned by Somali immigrants who have settled in Lewiston, Maine. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

The refugees saw possibility in Lewiston’s decay. Word spread quickly, and friends and families followed. The town morphed in a matter of months into a laboratory for what happens when culture suddenly shifts. Maine’s population is 94 percent white, and its citizens were abruptly confronted with hundreds of black Muslims, traumatized by war and barely able to speak English.

Ardo Mohamed came to Lewiston in 2001. She fled Mogadishu in the 1990s, when militiamen burst into the home she shared with her parents and nine siblings, and started shooting. She watched her father die, as the rest of the family escaped into the woods. They wound up in overcrowded refugee camps, separated for years, then finally Atlanta, then Lewiston. Now she fries sambusas with her sister at a shop she owns downtown.

“We wanted to be safe,” said the mother of five, “just like you do.”

When the refugees began arriving, Tabitha Beauchesne was a student at Lewiston High School. Her new classmates were poor, but Beauchesne was poor, too. She grew up in a struggling family in housing projects downtown. It felt to her then, and it still feels to her now, that the refugees got more help than her family.

Auburn Maine woman
Tabitha Beauchesne stands in her living room in Auburn, Maine. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

“They just seemed to take over,” she said. She doesn’t consider herself racist, though acknowledges that race and religion likely play a role in her sense that the refugees overwhelmed her community. The African Muslims, many of whom wear hijabs, stand out far more than her French-Canadian ancestors did when they arrived generations ago, she said.

That perception — one of being inundated by a culture so different from her own — ingrained in her a sense of injustice so deep it persists to this day. She’s now a stay-at-home mother of two, and she left Lewiston to move to another school district in the county because she believes the refugee students monopolize teachers’ attention.

Once a Barack Obama supporter, Beauchesne turned to Trump — and she cheers his efforts to curb the flow of refugees into the United States. She wants Trump to design a tax system that funnels less of her money to aiding those from other countries.

“I just don’t like giving money away that’s not benefiting me and, not to sound selfish, but then seeing it benefit other people,” she said. “As a business owner, my husband wouldn’t donate $500 to the Salvation Army if we couldn’t afford it. Our country needs to do the same thing.”

Taxpayers do help refugee families. Maine offers a welfare program called General Assistance, a combination of state and city funds, which provides impoverished people with vouchers for rent, utilities and food.

In 2002, at the beginning of the immigrant influx, the city handed out about $343,000 in General Assistance funds, split almost evenly between native-born Mainers and refugees, according to city records. But rumors, largely unfounded, spread that the refugees were given free cars and apartments. Locals began calling City Hall to demand answers.

Then-Mayor Laurier T. Raymond Jr. penned an open letter to the Somali community, asking that they divert friends and family away from a city he described as “maxed-out financially, physically and emotionally.”

The letter plunged Lewiston overnight into the global political cauldron. A white-supremacist group from out of state planned a rally against the Somali “invasion.” Just a few people showed up. But across town 4,000 gathered in a gymnasium to support the Somalis and try to combat the reputation of Lewiston as a racist, xenophobic city that was rocketing around the world.

And in that moment, the tide seemed to turn, deputy city administrator Phil Nadeau said. Even more immigrants came. Somali refugees gave way to those seeking asylum, from Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, a dozen nations in all. The immigrant population exploded from a handful of families to more than 7,000 people today, according to a tally by the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. But the anxieties of old rarely seemed to resurface.

Two years ago, immigrant children led the high school soccer team to win the state championship — a moment heralded as a triumph of cultural cooperation. Outside news crews still come from time to time, Nadeau said, and “they’re always amazed that there’s nothing bad to print.”

But around the edges of the city, in the suburbs and small towns that fill out the rest of Androscoggin County, many quietly stewed. It’s there that Trump’s “America First” message took root.

homeless
Androscoggin County, Maine, hadn’t voted majority Republican for president since the Reagan era, until November. Now the county, which has seen a big influx of African refugees, is part of Trump Country. (April 19) [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

Thirty miles up the highway, Joyce Badeau greets customers by name at the hardware store where she works. She lives just outside Livermore Falls, population 3,187 — 3,035 of whom are white. She has little occasion to interact with immigrants, but her political views have been shaped by the idea of them.

Badeau voted for Obama but backs Trump now, and points to his promise to rein in immigration as one reason why.

“We’re becoming a poor country because we’re overloaded,” she said. “We can’t fix the system so long as we keep adding more broken pieces.”

She has watched the paper mills close and her neighbors lose good-paying jobs. But Badeau isn’t naive; she doesn’t believe Trump can make the mills roar back to life. That was a bygone era, replaced by email and iPhones. And his arrogance grates on her. But she hopes one day to turn on the news and not hear about crime and homelessness and terrorism — and she worries that someone who wants to hurt Americans might slip through porous borders. Trump promised to fix it all. If he can’t, she’s not sure what more America can offer immigrants.

“Because they’re leaving one country of problems and coming into another country of problems,” she said.

David Lovewell used to work at a paper mill just outside of Livermore Falls that has shed hundreds of jobs. Now he runs a logging company with his sons, but he sees a dim future for them. A few months ago, business got so bad he laid off eight employees and fell behind on his $5,500 monthly payments on the machines he uses to cut down trees.

man in snow
David Lovewell walks through the land he’s logging with his sons in Farmington, Maine. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

He looked down at his sneakers, bought for $25 at Wal-Mart. There used to be two shoe factories nearby. He wants Trump to stop his town’s slow slip toward irrelevancy.

Lovewell doesn’t like to talk about immigration. He sighs and rubs his head, afraid to seem racist or indifferent to pain and poverty around the world. He went on a cruise to Belize with his wife several years ago, when he still worked at the mill and could afford a vacation. He stopped to buy a carving from an old man whose hands were so worn from years of whittling they looked like leather. He remembers those hands still, and the man’s dirt-floor shack with no doors and his skinny, starving dog and the kids riding around on broken bicycles.

“I struggled with it, when he did the travel ban,” Lovewell said of Trump. “At the same time, I’m seeing … people losing their jobs. Why are we so worried about immigrants coming into our country when we can’t really take care of our own people?”

So he’s looking to Trump to strike a better balance — to build an economy where his sons don’t have to battle to barely get by, and only after that design an immigration system that keeps America’s promise of open arms.

“I guess it could sound like bigotry,” he said. “But we’re hurting. Americans are hurting.”

___

Politicians have seized on the discontent.

Last August, candidate Trump stood on a stage in Portland and singled out the Somali community as causing a crime wave. The Lewiston police chief quickly refuted the charge — crime has decreased dramatically since the refugees arrived — but it stuck in the minds of many.

Maine’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, has called asylum-seekers “the biggest problem in our state,” and suggested they bring danger and disease.

And in Androscoggin County, Republican leaders hammer the issue of refugee resettlement on their Facebook page, with post after post about the injustice they see in taxpayers helping them with assistance. They’ve dubbed it “the refugee racket,” and complain that the school system is forced to accommodate 34 languages.

Lewiston schools
[Photo Credit: AP Graphic | Kevin S. Vineys]

Several years ago, Webster and his wife sold their home in the suburbs and rented an apartment in downtown Lewiston, across the street from a mosque. They can stroll to dinner, past a yoga studio and a shop that sells artisan olive oil. There are also dozens of immigrant-owned businesses, like the Mogadishu Business Center — with two flags hanging in the window, one American and one Somali. Remaining vacant storefronts have signs in the windows, promising prospective buyers an opportunity to “be part of Lewiston’s great rebirth.”

“We never have the opportunity to redo time under a different set of assumptions,” Webster said. “But if the immigrant population hadn’t happened, Lewiston would be a community that was contracting, and potentially in a downward death spiral.”

Organizations that work with immigrants nevertheless must fight on to combat deep-seated distrust. Catholic Charities publishes a fact sheet called “The Top Ten Myths about Somalis and Why They Are Wrong.” It lists untruths like, “Somalis are draining the welfare coffers,” ”Somalis get free apartments,” even “Somalis keep live chickens in their kitchen cupboards.”

Maine’s immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa made $136.6 million in income in 2014, and paid $40 million in taxes, according to one report from a bipartisan think tank. But they largely work in invisible jobs, said Catherine Besteman, a professor of anthropology at Maine’s Colby College. They take out trash at hotels, do the laundry at the hospital. People don’t see them working, she said, so when they see them driving a car, or shopping for groceries, it becomes easy to assume they got it for free.

That leaves some here still feeling that the immigrants take more than they deserve.

Tabitha Beauchesne pulled a bag of bargain-brand cereal out of her kitchen cabinet to demonstrate that point. At the grocery store, she said, she sees immigrant mothers with carts piled high with name-brand food.

“I guess I’m jealous of that. I would love to buy my kids the real Fruit Roll-Ups,” she said. “But, no, sorry kids, you get the fruit packets from Wal-Mart.”

celebrate diversity at school
A mural celebrating diversity decorates a hallway in Lewiston High School. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

Several years ago, Webster and his wife sold their home in the suburbs and rented an apartment in downtown Lewiston, across the street from a mosque. They can stroll to dinner, past a yoga studio and a shop that sells artisan olive oil. There are also dozens of immigrant-owned businesses, like the Mogadishu Business Center — with two flags hanging in the window, one American and one Somali. Remaining vacant storefronts have signs in the windows, promising prospective buyers an opportunity to “be part of Lewiston’s great rebirth.”

“We never have the opportunity to redo time under a different set of assumptions,” Webster said. “But if the immigrant population hadn’t happened, Lewiston would be a community that was contracting, and potentially in a downward death spiral.”

Organizations that work with immigrants nevertheless must fight on to combat deep-seated distrust. Catholic Charities publishes a fact sheet called “The Top Ten Myths about Somalis and Why They Are Wrong.” It lists untruths like, “Somalis are draining the welfare coffers,” ”Somalis get free apartments,” even “Somalis keep live chickens in their kitchen cupboards.”

Maine’s immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa made $136.6 million in income in 2014, and paid $40 million in taxes, according to one report from a bipartisan think tank. But they largely work in invisible jobs, said Catherine Besteman, a professor of anthropology at Maine’s Colby College. They take out trash at hotels, do the laundry at the hospital. People don’t see them working, she said, so when they see them driving a car, or shopping for groceries, it becomes easy to assume they got it for free.

That leaves some here still feeling that the immigrants take more than they deserve.

Tabitha Beauchesne pulled a bag of bargain-brand cereal out of her kitchen cabinet to demonstrate that point. At the grocery store, she said, she sees immigrant mothers with carts piled high with name-brand food.

“I guess I’m jealous of that. I would love to buy my kids the real Fruit Roll-Ups,” she said. “But, no, sorry kids, you get the fruit packets from Wal-Mart.”

Muslim women
Women wearing traditional Muslim head coverings walk past one of the many stores downtown owned by African refugees who have settled in Lewiston, Maine. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

___

So Mohamed Ibrahim now knocks on doors.

“Hello,” he says to strangers across Androscoggin County. “I am a Muslim. I was welcomed by America. I was helped by General Assistance, and that was coming from your pockets and I am grateful. I became a taxpayer. I’m not taking anything. Now I am giving.”

He wants his neighbors to know him, to know that he is normal. Trump’s election here taught him he has a lot more work to do.

“We thought, ‘Yay, it’s perfect.’ But everything was slipping.”

Ibrahim came in 2012 from Djibouti, where he risked imprisonment for opposing his government. He is one of the thousands who have flooded into Lewiston in recent years because they are seeking asylum from oppression.

With them came a spike in the amount of taxpayer assistance going to immigrants. Asylum-seekers, unlike resettled refugees, are barred from getting work permits for at least six months and many, like Ibrahim, must rely on government assistance to get by when they first arrive. The amount paid to immigrants jumped recently to nearly a half-million dollars.

And there seems to be more tension in town since Trump took office. One woman reported she was nearly run down by a screaming driver; another said someone jerked her hijab and told her to go back where she came from.

Ardo Mohamed, the Somali who cooks sambusas with her sister, is an American citizen now. Her children were born in the United States. But they worry the government will come to send her away.

“We are scared,” she said. “They say every night, ‘Mom, if they take you, where we do live?'”

Ibrahim does not blame his neighbors for supporting Trump, because he’s seen the pull of populism before. When his friends complain about the policies on immigration, he reminds them of the day, more than a decade ago, that the interior minister of their country ordered all illegal immigrants to leave or face mass arrest. He asks them how they felt, and they respond: patriotic – like their government was looking out for them.

Ibrahim has his own hopes for the president. He hopes Trump will build an immigration system that gives people confidence that those coming are good and hardworking – so that, one day, people like him will be called Americans, not refugees. But he worries it will come at a cost.

Islamic Center
A worshipper takes his shoes off before entering the Lewiston Auburn Islamic Center for prayers. [Photo Credit: AP Photo]

In 50 years, he thinks, the descendants of his fellow African immigrants will be suspicious of whoever comes next.

“That’s how it’s been through history. The Irish were discriminated against, and then they discriminated against the French. The French were discriminated against, now they discriminate against us, at the bottom of the ladder,” he said, laughing uncomfortably.

“I don’t hope for that, it is not my wish. We can change. But still, we are stuck being human beings.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott extols federal cooperation in war on Zika

Zika season is all but upon us, and to that end Gov. Rick Scott visited Jacksonville Tuesday to discuss Florida’s ongoing struggles with Zika.

Scott found himself messaging heavily around Zika in 2016, frustrated with President Barack Obama not doing as much as he could to fund Zika-related costs.

In 2017, Scott has an ally in the White House — which, combined with a dry season so far and ample lead time, is helping Florida to get ahead of the virus early in the season.

In the gaggle Tuesday, Gov. Scott confirmed the expectation that D.C. would be a better partner for him in the Zika fight with the current President on the job.

“The positive is I’ve known [HHS] Secretary Price a long time. We were asking for support last year. Sometimes we felt it was hard to get support. We’ve gotten more support so far,” Scott said.

“I’ve talked to Sec. Price about Zika, and the importance of staying ahead of this,” Scott added, “and I believe we’re going to have a good partner in the White House.”

“Specifically, the things that were important to us last year — as you know, we fought for federal funding, the $1.1B. What’s going to be important long-term is a vaccine,” Scott said.

“I believe that HHS is going to be a good partner. I think we’re going to have somebody who’s going to be responsive to the extent they can,” Scott added.

_____

Zika may seem remote now, but it will be an issue soon, Scott urges.

“Right now, we’ve got the issue of fires,” Scott said, “but at some point we’re going to get some rain. And that’s when we’re going to get mosquitoes.”

Hence, the importance of a collaborative response.

“We don’t have active zones this year … actually, we’re seeing less Zika cases because it’s dry. But it’s still early,” Scott noted.

Local Departments of Health are testing pregnant women currently, despite the earliness in the season. And the technology is in state now, cutting a long wait time that has now been resolved.

Carlos Frontela chastened by 2016 mistakes, is fired up for House District 62 bid

In declaring his candidacy early for the Tampa-based House District 62 seat, Carlos Frontela already demonstrates he’s learned from rookie mistakes made last year in his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board.

“I jumped in really late, two months before the primary,” he says, reminiscing about his ill-fated run for the District 7 seat ultimately captured by Lynn Gray last November.

“No time to really organize, no time to really gain any campaign contributions,” he says which is why he’s working on qualifying by petition to get on the ballot next year in the seat that will be vacated by a term-limited Janet Cruz.

The 42-year-old Frontela was born in Cuba and grew up in New Jersey before moving to Tampa in 2004. He owns his own small business, a document preparation service based in an office located near Raymond James Stadium in West Tampa.

“I think the Legislature could use somebody like me with business experience,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not necessarily a career politician. I can bring some sense of normalcy where I can reach across the aisle and do things a bipartisan process.”

Frontela looks forward to campaigning next year in earnest, acknowledging that with a full-time business and five children, it won’t be easy.

Frontela often speaks about working to find common ground with Republicans in Tallahassee to pass bills helping his constituents.

“That’s very important,” he says. “If you’re going to just go up there and play partisan politics, it’s not going to work.”

The subject prompts a riff on what Frontela calls a mistake by Senate Democrats in Washington opposing Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump‘s first nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch was sworn onto the court Monday.

“Neil Gorsuch was confirmed unanimously via voice vote to the 10th Judicial Circuit (of Appeals),” he recounts about that 2006 vote in which Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein and other Senate Democrats — those who opposed him last week — supported him 11 years beforehand.

“People can see clearly that was a show. It was partisan politics,” he says, criticizing his own party. The Democratic wall of opposition in the Senate led Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to break out the “nuclear option,” allowing just a bare minimum approval of 51 senators to confirm Gorsuch, versus the filibuster-proof 60 votes previously required to confirm Supreme Court no.

“Next time when a real, right-leaning conservative judge gets appointed, you’d have faith with the general public,” he says. “Now you don’t. You got the nuclear option. God knows a way right-wing justice will get through (next time) with just 51 votes.”

Regarding the battle between Republican Richard Corcoran and Rick Scott over Enterprise Florida, Frontela takes Scott’s side in believing tax incentives help businesses and communities.

He not only supports medical marijuana (though not the way the GOP-led Legislature is debating how to implement the matter) but the legalization of recreational marijuana as well. “We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

“We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

He considers raising the state’s minimum wage to at least $10 an hour his top issue, as well as restoring the civil and voting rights of ex-felons.

About last year’s presidential contest, Frontela is of the opinion that the Democratic National Committee “rigged” the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Clinton’s favor.

“That turned off a lot of people,” he says of fellow Democrats, “and a lot of people didn’t turn out.”

Frontera had a lifelong interest in politics, going back to when he was 13 and volunteered for the campaign of New Jersey Democratic Albio Sires, who in 1986 was running for Congress for the first time.

As a Cuban-American, Frontela supports the diplomatic breakthrough with the communist island led by Barack Obama in 2014.

Learn more about Frontela’s platform by going to his website: CharlieFor62.com.

Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor want Congress consulted on military force in Syria

The two Tampa Bay-area Democratic members of Congress — Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist — say they support President Donald Trump‘s military action in Syria Thursday night. both say that the House of Representatives should immediately reconvene so that members can debate the use of military force there.

But both say the House of Representatives should reconvene immediately so members can debate the use of military force there.

That seems doubtful, perhaps, as the House is breaking Thursday for a two-week Easter recess.

“The Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian air base was an important and targeted response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” Castor said. “Russia and Iran should be held accountable as well for their support of Assad and his war on the Syrian people.”

“The continued atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad against innocent men, women, and most horrifyingly, children and infants, are an assault on humanity and must be stopped,” said Crist. “Last night’s targeted airstrikes were a proportional and appropriate response, making clear that these war crimes will not go unanswered.”

Both Democratic lawmakers say that the Constitution puts the responsibility to declare war with the Congress, and that the President should make his case before them if he is prepared to engage further in Syria.

‎”Congressional leaders, the Trump Administration and Obama Administration have been derelict in following the requirements of the Constitution and law for a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF),” said Castor. “The military strike on Syria and ongoing war on ISIS should prod policymakers to return to Washington and adopt a new AUMF.”

“Congress must also do its part and return immediately from recess to debate an Authorization for Use of Military Force to determine a comprehensive strategy for the United States and our allies,” said Crist. “We need clear objectives to end this crisis to protect our troops and the Syrian people.”

Castor has previously criticized Barack Obama for not getting an Authorization for Use of Military Force in engaging in battle with the Islamic State, criticism that some other Democrats made as well, none more loudly than Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Congressional Democrats as a whole seem to be parroting a consistent line Friday, praising Trump for the cruise missile attacks on a Syrian military base, but insisting he go before the Congress to get authorization before any further action.

Analysis: For Donald Trump, the weight of world’s problems sink in

For Donald Trump, the reality of the world’s problems may be starting to sink in.

Standing in the sunny White House Rose Garden, the president said Wednesday that the gruesome chemical weapons attack in Syria had changed his views on the quagmire of a conflict that he’d previously indicated he wanted to steer clear of. He mourned the deaths of the youngest victims — “innocent children, innocent babies” — and said brutality had “crossed a lot of lines for me.”

“It is now my responsibility,” he declared.

The president’s words were far from a declaration that he intends to act, and he notably avoided discussing what retaliatory options he would be willing to consider. Ultimately, his rhetoric may well land among the litany of harsh condemnations of Syrian President Bashar Assad by Barack Obama and other world leaders that did little to quell the six-year civil war.

Yet Trump’s willingness to accept that he now bears some responsibility for a far-away conflict marked a significant moment for an “America First” president who has vowed to focus narrowly on U.S. interests. His comments also suggested a growing awareness that an American president — even an unconventional one like him — is looked to as defender of human rights and a barometer of when nations have violated international norms.

The bloodshed in Syria is just one of the intractable international problems piling up around Trump. North Korea appears intent on building up its nuclear program, despite vague threats from his administration. The Islamic State group is still wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria, while a Pentagon review of U.S. strategy sits on his desk.

Trump conceded Wednesday that of all the world’s problems, the Middle East is one area he would rather avoid. His decision to at least rhetorically take a measure of responsibility was all the more striking given his frequent shoveling of blame for problems big and small onto anyone but himself.

In public, he faults Obama for leaving him “a mess” and says his campaign opponent Hillary Clinton is behind the flood of revelations possibly linking his campaign to Russia. In private, he berates his staff for failing to fix the self-made crises that have battered the White House, including his pair of travel bans blocked by the courts and the failure to pass health care legislation.

Trump initially took the same blame-shifting approach in addressing the deadly attack in Syria. In a short written statement Tuesday, he said the carnage was “a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”

In 2013, Obama pulled back from planned airstrikes against Syria following a chemical weapons attack, despite having declared that the deployment of deadly gases would cross a “red line” for him. Obama’s decision was widely criticized in the U.S. and by Middle Eastern allies, and undermined later attempts to compel Assad to leave office.

“The regrettable failure to take military action in 2013 to prevent Assad’s use of chemical weapons remains a blight on the Western world,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Still, foreign policy officials within the Trump administration were irritated by the president’s eagerness to focus on his predecessor in his first reaction. Some wanted him to focus more on condemning Assad and highlighting U.S. resolve.

Their objections did little to sway the president at the time. But just a day later, Trump appeared more willing to embrace the gravity of the situation and his new role in it.

His posture may well have been impacted by the fact that his remarks in the Rose Garden came after meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, whose country has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis spurred by the Syrian war. Jordan is among Washington’s most important partners in the region and is significantly dependent on the United States.

Abdullah, who worked closely with Obama, enthusiastically embraced Trump’s condemnation of the chemical weapons attack. During a joint news conference, he said to Trump, “I believe under your leadership we will be able to unravel this very complicated situation.”

Eliot Cohen, a Trump critic who served in the State Department under President George W. Bush, said that whether Trump intended to or not, he now has put himself in the same position as Obama, raising the stakes for action in Syria, perhaps without having thought out whether he plans to follow through.

“The deep irony here is you may see a lot of the same failures that the Obama administration had except delivered with a different style,” Cohen said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump steps up effort to dispute and distract on Russia

After weeks on the defensive, President Donald Trump has stepped up his efforts to dispute, downplay and distract from revelations stemming from the investigations into the Kremlin’s interference in last year’s election and possible Russian ties to his campaign associates.

The White House says the real story is not about Russia — it’s about how Obama administration officials allegedly leaked and mishandled classified material about Americans. Trump and his aides have accused former officials of inappropriately disclosing — or “unmasking” — the names of Trump associates whose conversations were picked up by U.S. intelligences agencies.

“Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends,” Trump tweeted Monday. ‘Spied on before nomination.’ The real story.”

The White House has not pointed to any hard evidence to support such allegations, and instead has relied on media reports from some of the same publications Trump derides as “fake news.”

The truth is buried somewhere in classified material that is illegal to disclose. Here’s a look at what the White House believes is the real story.

__

THE FLYNN AFFAIR

Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn following news reports that Flynn misled the White House about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. But the White House says the problem is that Flynn’s conversations were in the news at all.

“The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Trump tweeted after firing Flynn in February.

The White House has called for investigations into the disclosure of multiple intercepted conversations that Flynn had with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration. The government routinely monitors the communications of foreign officials in the U.S. It’s illegal to publicly disclose such classified information.

Officially, the White House said Flynn was forced to resign because he had given inaccurate descriptions of the discussions to Vice President Mike Pence and others in the White House. But Trump has continued to defend Flynn, suggesting he was only fired because information about his contacts came out in the media.

“Michael Flynn, Gen. Flynn is a wonderful man,” Trump said. “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media.”

___

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

White House officials say some Obama holdovers are part of a so-called deep state out to tear Trump down.

Last week, the White House latched onto a month-old television interview from an Obama administration official who said she encouraged congressional aides to gather as much information on Russia as possible before the inauguration.

Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, said she feared that information “would disappear” after President Barack Obama left office. She was no longer in government at the time, having left the Pentagon about a year before the election.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called Farkas’ comments “devastating” and said they “raised serious concerns on whether or not there was an organized and widespread effort by the Obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive intelligence information for political purposes.”

On Monday, Spicer suggested there should be more interest in a Bloomberg report in which anonymous U.S. officials said that Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, asked for the identities of people related to Trump’s campaign and transition dozens of times.

Spicer remarked that he was “somewhat intrigued by the lack of interest” in the Rice revelations. But he added: “I do think that it’s interesting, the level, or lack thereof, of interest in this subject.”

As national security adviser, Rice would have regularly received intelligence reports and been able to request the identities of Americans whose communications were intercepted.

___

THE HILL WEIGHS IN

The White House has embraced a top Republican’s assertion that information about Trump associates were improperly spread around the government in the final days of the Obama administration. It appears the White House played a role in helping House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., acquire some of that information.

Nunes announced last week that he had seen intelligence reports showing that Trump aides’ communications were picked up through routine surveillance. But he said their identities may have been improperly revealed. The California congressman later said he viewed the reports at the White House.

The White House contends that Nunes’ information — which has not been made public — validates Trump’s explosive claim that his predecessor wiretapped his New York skyscraper. Nunes has disputed that but still says he found the reports “troubling.”

The White House’s apparent involvement in helping Nunes access the information has overshadowed what Trump officials contend are real concerns about how much information about Americans is disseminated in intelligence reports. Trump has asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to include the matter in their Russia investigations.

___

CAMPAIGN MODE

Trump won the election, but thinks it’s his vanquished opponent whose ties to Russia should be investigated.

Some of the White House’s allegations against Clinton stem from her four years as secretary of state, a role that gave her ample reasons to have frequent contacts with Russia.

To deflect questions about Trump’s friendly rhetoric toward Russia, the White House points to the fact that Clinton was a central figure in the Obama administration’s attempt to “reset” relations with Moscow — an effort that crumbled after Vladimir Putin took back the presidency.

“When you compare the two sides in terms of who’s actually engaging with Russia, trying to strengthen them, trying to act with them, trying to interact with them, it is night and day between our actions and her actions,” Spicer said.

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, has deep ties to Russia from his time running ExxonMobil and cutting oil deals with Moscow.

The White House has also tried to link Clinton to Russia’s purchase of a controlling stake in a mining company with operations in the U.S., arguing that she was responsible for “selling off one-fifth of our country’s uranium.”

The Clinton-led State Department was among nine U.S. government agencies that had to approve the purchase of Uranium One. According to Politifact, some investors in the company had relationships with former President Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation. However, the fact checking site says most of those donations occurred well before Clinton became secretary of state and was in position to have a say in the agreement.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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