Obama Rhetoric Suggests Executive Actions On Immigration, Taxes Are Coming

President Barack Obama defended his use of executive actions during a press conference that closed the African Leaders Summit on Wednesday.

ABC reporter Jon Karl asked Obama whether he believes Congressional inaction gives him the “green light to push the limits of executive power, even a duty to do so.”

“When you were running for President you said, quote, ‘The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.’” Karl reminded the President.

The reporter continued, “Does it bother you more to be accused of being an imperial president pushing those limits, or to be accused of being a do-nothing president who couldn’t get anything done because he faced a dysfunctional congress?”

Obama eschewed the suggestion that he felt he had the “green light” to act, before laying out broad executive actions he could take.

“I think that I never have a green light. I’m bound by the Constitution,” Obama replied. “I’m bound by separation of powers. There’s some things we can’t do.”

The President went on to vow to “scour our authorities” and act “wherever I have the legal authority to make progress.”

“We’re going to make sure that every time we take one of these steps that we are working within the confines of my executive power,” he said. “But I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done.”

It’s worth noting that there is ample polling data to the contrary. In fact, a recent Rasmussen poll found that a clear majority of Americans (63 percent) disagree with Obama’s penchant for executive orders and say that Congress must approve legislative changes.

Possible executive actions include measures to prevent tax inversions— U.S. companies moving headquarters out of the Nation to avoid taxes— and changes to U.S. immigration laws.

“We don’t want to see this trend grow,” Obama said of tax inversions.

The President suggested that Administration is examining policy measures to “at least discourage some of the folks who may be trying to take advantage of the loophole.”

“It’s not fair. It’s not right. The lost revenue to Treasury means it has to be made up somewhere,” he said.

On immigration, the President hinted at a couple of possible Administrative measures.

“We have a broken system, it’s under-resourced and we’ve got to make decisions in how we allocate personnel and resources,” Obama said.

Obama suggested that executive actions could be used to direct immigration officials to focus deportation efforts only on illegal immigrants guilty of serious crimes not related to their citizenship status.

“We’re going to have to prioritize — that’s well within our authorities and prosecutorial discretion,” Obama said. “My preference would be an actual comprehensive immigration law.”

The President is also expected to expand his deferred action program that allows young immigrants to apply for temporary legal status and work permits.

New Surveillance Leak Prompts Feds To Help Friendly Reporter Steal Scoop

The Federal government has declared that there is a new leaker exposing surveillance secrets after The Intercept revealed Tuesday that almost half of the 680,000 people on the government’s terrorist watchlist have no known ties to terror.

The analysis of the government’s Terrorist Screening Database by The Interceptco-founded by Glenn Greenwald, who published Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks — is based on newly obtained classified government documents.

From the piece:

The classified documents were prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center, the lead agency for tracking individuals with suspected links to international terrorism. Stamped “SECRET” and “NOFORN” (indicating they are not to be shared with foreign governments), they offer the most complete numerical picture of the watchlisting system to date. Among the revelations:

• The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.–a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country.

• The government adds names to its databases, or adds information on existing subjects, at a rate of 900 records each day.

• The CIA uses a previously unknown program, code-named Hydra, to secretly access databases maintained by foreign countries and extract data to add to the watchlists.

A U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with watchlisting data told The Intercept that as of November 2013, there were approximately 700,000 people in the Terrorist Screening Database, or TSDB, but declined to provide the current numbers. Last month, the Associated Press, citing federal court filings by government lawyers, reported that there have been 1.5 million names added to the watchlist over the past five years. The government official told The Intercept that was a misinterpretation of the data. “The list has grown somewhat since that time, but is nowhere near the 1.5 million figure cited in recent news reports,” he said. He added that the statistics cited by the Associated Press do not just include nominations of individuals, but also bits of intelligence or biographical information obtained on watchlisted persons.

Read the full report at The Intercept.

After learning that the new media outlet had obtained the secret documents, government officials reportedly fed the scoop to an Associated Press reporter, presumably in an effort to pre-empt The Intercept’s story with a friendlier version.

Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim explains:

After the AP story ran, The Intercept requested a conference call with the National Counterterrorism Center. A source with knowledge of the call said that the government agency admitted having fed the story to the AP, but didn’t think the reporter would publish before The Intercept did. “That was our bad,” the official said.

Asked by The Intercept editor John Cook if it was the government’s policy to feed one outlet’s scoop to a friendlier outlet, a silence ensued, followed by the explanation: “We had invested some quality time with Eileen,” referring to AP reporter Eileen Sullivan, who the official added had been out to visit the NCTC.

“After seeing you had the docs, and the fact we had been working with Eileen, we did feel compelled to give her a heads up,” the official said, according to the source. “We thought she would publish after you.”

According to the source, Cook told the official that in the future the agency would have only 30 minutes to respond to questions before publication.

“They also were saying, with most news organizations we’d have a real back-and-forth and we’d have an opportunity to discuss what should be redacted, but with you guys, you’ve made it clear you’re not going to have those kinds of conversations with us,” the source said.

What a shining example of the government’s mainstream media propaganda machine in action.

Alabama Lawmaker: Democrats Are Waging ‘War On Whites’

During an appearance Monday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks said that Democrats’ rolling accusations of GOP racism are part of a leftist plan to exploit political correctness to wage a “war on whites” in America.

Brooks was addressing comments made Sunday by National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier, who suggested that Republican immigration positions are disenfranchising Hispanic voters.

Fournier argued during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that the GOP ought to change its tune on immigration, or risk losing potential minority voters in the November midterms.

“This party, your party, cannot be the party of the future beyond November if you’re seen as the party of white people,” he said.

Brooks charged that perceptions of racism in GOP immigration policy are fueled by Democratic efforts to deflect attention from real problems facing the Nation.

“This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else,” he told Ingraham. “It’s a part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true.”

The Alabama Congressman also cited recent polls, which he contends show unease over current immigration policies that spans demographics.

“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a white American, a black American, a Hispanic-American, an Asian-American or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs,” Brooks said.

“Democrats, they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue,” he added. “If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win–  and we win big. And they lose– and they lose big. ”

Ingraham distanced herself from Brooks’ statements, calling his “war on whites” comments “a little out there.”

“That phraseology might not be the best choice,” she said.

Why So Sensitive?: Pelosi Rages At ‘Insignificant’ Republican On House Floor

“There are some people in Congress that think they are royalty … What happened there is a prime example of why we need term limits,” Representative Tom Marino (R-Pa.) told Fox News on Monday as he discussed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) reaction when he laid blame for the immigration crisis at Democrats’ feet on the House floor.

On Friday, Pelosi stormed across the House floor wagging her finger at the GOP lawmaker and calling him “insignificant” after he questioned why Democrats are so keen on forcing an immigration overhaul now when the Party ignored the Nation’s immigration issues when they controlled Congress and the White House.

“You know something that I find quite interesting about the other side?” Marino had said on the House floor. “Under the leadership of the former speaker [Pelosi], and under the leadership of the former leader, when in 2009 and 2010, they had the House, the Senate and the White House, and they knew this problem existed … they didn’t have the strength to go after [immigration] back then.”

Pelosi then began making her way toward the lawmaker and exclaiming that his remarks were untrue, prompting Marino to address her directly.

“It’s true, madam leader, I did the research on it,” Marino said. “You might want to try it. You might want to try it, madam leader. Do the research on it. Do the research. I did it. That’s one thing that you don’t do.”

As the rhetorical standoff calmed, Marino urged lawmakers to act on GOP immigration legislation because, “Apparently I hit the right nerve.”

As the Republican left the floor, Pelosi could be seen briskly walking toward him waving her finger.

On Monday, Marino hinted to Fox that Pelosi’s actions were an attempt to “belittle” and intimidate him. The lawmaker said it didn’t work.

“I’m a former prosecutor … and I’ve been threatened by drug dealers and organized crime and murderers, and this was a walk in the park,” he told cable news outlet. “I’m not going to put up with this. I don’t talk to people like this.”

He added: “I’m having one of the wealthiest people in Congress say that I’m inconsequential and I’m not important.”

According to The Hill, a Pelosi handler said that the Congresswoman simply “wanted to remind the Congressman that House Democrats had the courage to pass the DREAM Act – and have the courage to stand up for what the American people want: bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform.”

The GOP border bill was passed in the House on a 223 to 189 vote.

But the question of why Democrats remain so sensitive to the subject of their own immigration inaction when they in charge was revived when Fox News reporter Ed Henry asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest during a Monday press briefing.

“Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they were running the House and Senate,” Henry said. “They failed to act for two years. Why didn’t [Obama] do anything then?”

“At the time, you recall back in 2009, there were many things on the President’s plate,” Earnest deflected.

Henry countered incredulously, “As there are now — Israel, Gaza, Syria, the economy — he has a lot going on now, right?”

Earnest insisted that the problems that existed in 2009, the “financial system and our economy hemorrhaging jobs” was the focal point of Congress and the White House.

Federal Court: Alabama Abortion Restrictions unConstitutional

Dealing the second blow to anti-abortion activists in less than a week, a Federal judge has ruled that an Alabama law that would have shut three of the State’s five abortion clinics is unConstitutional.

The law, a version of which has been passed in multiple states across the country in recent years, requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. A similar Mississippi law was blocked last week by a Federal appeals court in one of the most conservative districts in the country.

“The court is convinced that, if this requirement would not, in the face of all the evidence in the record, constitute an impermissible undue burden, then almost no regulation, short of those imposing an outright prohibition on abortion, would,” wrote U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, in his 172-page opinion, released Monday.

The ruling, by a vote of 2-1, leaves similar laws vulnerable to challenges, but it also raises the possibility that this issue will advance to a higher court. Before the Mississippi law was blocked last week, a similar Texas law was allowed to stand by a different panel of judges, and the Supreme Court often steps in when different courts offer contrasting decisions on the same issue.

Alabama’s attorney general announced soon after the ruling that the State will appeal.

The Alabama lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood Southeast and Reproductive Health Services, which argued that none of the doctors who provide abortions in Montgomery, Birmingham or Mobile would be able to obtain admitting privileges, and that closing the clinics would make it onerous for women to travel to have abortions.

Thompson agreed, writing that the admitting privileges requirement “would have the effect of imposing a substantial obstacle for women who would seek abortions in Alabama. The law would therefore impose an undue burden on their constitutional right to have an abortion.”

The Alabama law, which was enacted in 2011, had not been enforced while the lawsuit was pending. Similar laws were enacted in Oklahoma and Kansas the same year; an Idaho law passed in 2011 was permanently blocked by a federal district court. Arizona’s admitting privilege law, enacted in 2012, has been permanently blocked by a Federal appeals court.

But similar laws still stand in Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. It will go into effect in Louisiana on Sept. 1.

Many of the legislators who have sponsored or supported admitting privileges laws have been clear: They would completely ban abortion, if they could.

“Even though I continue to be disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed abortion to remain the law of the land, we can take these measures to protect the health of women,” said Alabama state Senator Scott Beason, who sponsored the law.

The Alabama lawmakers have passed other abortion restrictions: banning abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be heard and lengthening the period of time a woman must wait before she gets an abortion to 48 hours, from 24.

Abortion rights activists cheered the ruling Monday as a pushback against the laws that have been passed across the country in recent years.

“As the judge noted today, the justifications offered for this law are weak at best,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “Politicians, not doctors, crafted this law for the sole purpose of shutting down women’s health care centers and preventing women from getting safe, legal abortions.”

-Alana Semuels

———

©2014 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Sunday News Show Roundup

As President Barack Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit gets underway this week, on Sunday’s political talk shows Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, discussed the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa and whether Americans should be concerned. Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry talked tough on immigration.

Ebola Outbreak

The African Ebola outbreak killed 826 people by the end of last month after spreading from Guinea to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Frieden appeared on four separate programs to ease concerns over the possibility of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

“We know it’s possible that someone will come in. If they go to a hospital and that hospital doesn’t recognize it’s Ebola there could be additional cases or their family members could have cases. That’s all possible, but I don’t think it’s in the cards that we would have an outbreak in this country,” Frieden said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“The way it spreads in Africa is really two things. First, in hospitals where there isn’t really infection control and second in burial practices where people are touching the bodies of people who have died from Ebola. So it’s not going to spread widely in the U.S. Could we have another people here, could we have a case or two, not impossible … but we know how to stop it here.”

Fears of Ebola spreading in the U.S. grew last week with the announcement that American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol who contracted the disease would be taken to Atlanta for treatment. Brantly arrived on Saturday.

“I can understand why people are scared of Ebola,” Frieden said on Fox News Sunday. “It’s deadly, it’s a gruesome death … but I hope and I’m confident that our fears are not going to overwhelm our compassion. We care for our own. We bring people home if they need to come home.”

Immigration Crisis

On CNN’s “State of the Union”, Perry discussed the immigration crisis along the Nation’s southern border and the steps being taken in his State to address the problem.

“What I’m prepared to do is not just the National Guard, but our Department of Public Safety, our Texas Ranger Recon Teams, the Parks and Wildlife wardens that we have deployed there,” Perry said. “And then I will suggest to you there will be other individuals who come to assist in securing that border … I think that’s what the American people want. They’d like to see a president who leads this country and says, you know what, we do have a problem on our southern border. We’re going to deal with it.”

CNN’s Candy Crowley then suggested that Perry’s tough border stance was related to a possible 2016 Presidential bid.

“I’m the Governor of the state of Texas,” Perry replied. “My citizens’ safety is what is foremost here. And it hasn’t got anything to do with anything other than those numbers of individuals who are coming across the border. And when you think about the idea that some of them are from countries that have substantial terrorist ties, whether it’s Pakistan or Afghanistan or Syria, we are at historic record highs with individuals being apprehended from those countries.”

“We say it’s time to secure the border,” Perry continued. “Hasn’t got anything to do with anything, other than the American citizens expect Washington to respect the Constitution and secure the border, one of the things that’s actually enumerated in the Constitution. We’d like for them to do their duty.”

Defense Panel: Obama Making U.S. Too Weak

The National Defense Panel appointed to conduct independent reviews of the Nation’s military readiness warned last week that President Barack Obama is making the U.S. Armed Forces too weak to respond to growing global threats.

A new report out from the panel said that defense budget cuts and the Obama Administration’s assertions that the U.S. should have a smaller military in the President’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) leave the U.S. with a military that is “inadequate given the future strategic and operational environment.”

According to the defense experts, the U.S. is in need of upgrades and expansions to meet global challenges that cause the Nation to have to respond to multiple threats at once.

From the report:

The Air Force now fields the smallest and oldest force of combat aircraft in its history yet needs a global surveillance and strike force able to rapidly deploy to theaters of operation to deter, defeat, or punish multiple aggressors simultaneously. As a result of the budget constraints imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Air Force’s Bomber, Fighter and Surveillance forces are programmed to drawdown to approximately 50% of the current inventory by 2019. In the panel’s opinion, the programmed reduction in the Air Force’s decisive enabling capabilities will put this nation’s national security strategy at much higher risk and therefore recommends increasing the number of manned and unmanned aircraft capable of conducting both ISR and long range strike in contested airspace.

We are convinced the 2014 QDR’s contemplated reduction in Army end strength goes too far. We believe the Army and the Marine Corps should not be reduced below their pre-9/11 end-strengths – 490,000 active-duty soldiers in the Army and 182,000 active Marines–bearing in mind that capability cannot always substitute for capacity.

According to the panel, the White House’s current plan for the military is focused too heavily on providing justification for defense spending cuts and not enough on keeping the U.S. in a strong position to respond to global threats.

In order for the military to be powerful enough to protect the Nation, the defense experts argue, the U.S.’s fighting force must be able to operate equally in multiple theaters.

“We find the logic of the two-war construct to be as powerful as ever and note that the force sizing construct in the 2014 QDR strives to stay within the two-war tradition while using different language. But given the worsening threat environment, we believe a more expansive force sizing construct — one that is different from the two-war construct but no less strong — is appropriate.”

Border Crisis Continues As Congressional Recess Looms

After Congressional drama over the immigration legislation on Thursday, Texas Governor Rick Perry said that legislators should put off their five-week summer recess and remain in Washington until the “job is completed” in handling the border crisis.

“While Texas has taken what steps it can to mitigate the damage caused by a porous border, Congress and the President have a duty to address our border security issues without further delay. Congress should not go into recess until the job is completed,” he said in a statement.

On Thursday afternoon House Republicans cancelled voting on a $656 million bill to address the problem. Later, as GOP leaders huddled, incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California announced that “additional votes are possible” on the measure.

The problem many conservatives had with the legislation is that it provides funding without guaranteeing that political factors behind the immigration flood are addressed.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) voiced opposition to versions of immigration legislation being considered in both chambers of Congress, arguing on the Senate floor that any legislation should include a provision preventing the President from taking executive action on immigration. Such a provision, he added, would never make it through the Senate.

“It’s not the kind of crisis where we have to rush out and pass a bill tonight,” Sessions said. “We can’t just throw money at this problem which is what this legislation does.”

“We must prevent the President’s massive amnesty from going forward,” Sessions also said. “That is why have said that Congress, as an institution, must not support any border package that does not expressly prohibit the President’s executive amnesty and block funds for its implementation. How can we not take this position?”

Barring substantial Congressional action on immigration legislation, it is likely that President Barack Obama will jump at the chance to act while lawmakers are out of town.

On Twitter, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer cited the House’s decision to cancel the immigration vote as proof that Obama must act unilaterally.

After a closed-door meeting House Republicans relayed that they would, as Perry suggested,  stay in Washington until a vote occurred rather than adjourning on Thursday afternoon as planned.

Stay tuned…

DHS Report: Immigration Officials Being Exposed To Diseases

A Department of Homeland Security report reveals that government employees working with illegal immigrants flooding across the U.S.’s southern border are being exposed to communicable diseases such as “respiratory illnesses, chicken pox, tuberculosis, and scabies.”

According to the DHS report, government workers tasked with maintaining sanitary conditions at immigration processing and detention centers are having a tough time due to the sheer numbers of illegal immigrants making their way into the country and lack of funds.

The report also notes that disease is being spread among the immigrants and government employees due to “UAC [unaccompanied alien children] and family unit illnesses and unfamiliarity with bathroom facilities” resulting in staff exposer to human waste.

Via the report:

DHS employees reported exposure to communicable diseases and becoming sick on duty. For example, during a recent site visit to the Del Rio USBP Station and Del Rio Port of Entry, CBP personnel reported contracting scabies, lice, and chicken pox. Two CBP Officers reported that their children were diagnosed with chicken pox within days of the CBP Officers’ contact with a UAC who had chicken pox. In addition, USBP personnel at the Clint Station and Santa Teresa Station reported that they were potentially exposed to tuberculosis.

Amid global concerns of a deadly outbreak of Ebola virus in Africa and the threat of the virus spreading to other parts of the world through global travel, some people, including Georgia Representative Phil Gingrey, have questioned whether the immigration influx could increase the possibility of a similar outbreak in the U.S.

“Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” Gingrey wrote in a letter to the Centers for Disease Control earlier in the month.

“Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles,” he continued. “This makes Americans who are not vaccinated — and especially young children and the elderly — particularly susceptible.”

The CDC said it would look into the lawmaker’s concerns but has also noted that U.S. isolation and infection control measures would make an outbreak—however it was sparked—unlikely in the Nation.

Rand Paul Offers Legislation To Keep Government From Stealing Innocent Citizens’ Property

Civil forfeiture laws, which allow the government to seize assets like cars, homes, property, cash and just about anything else merely suspected by law enforcement of being used for criminal activities, are an affront to Americans’ Constitutional property rights. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently unveiled a plan to reform them.

Paul’s legislative proposal, dubbed the FAIR (or the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, would take on a legal system that not only allows, but incentivizes, confiscation of private property from individuals who haven’t been charged or convicted of breaking any laws.

“The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime. The FAIR Act will ensure that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process, while maintaining the ability of courts to order the surrender of proceeds of crime,” Paul said.

While convicting a person of a crime requires law enforcement to provide evidence that the individual is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the government has to prove only that property was likely to have been used in a crime in order to steal it from its rightful owner. Meanwhile, unlike in criminal proceedings, the property owners are considered guilty until proven innocent.

Getting property back from the government can mean a long, costly — and often unsuccessful — legal battle. And even though confiscating a car, property or cash from a person who the government has not linked directly to a crime does nothing to make the public safer, you can bet that law enforcement agencies will fight hard to hang on to what they have confiscated.

That’s because current civil forfeiture laws provide direct cash incentives to agencies in some States by allowing them to sell what they confiscate and reap the financial rewards. In States with better property protections for residents, law enforcement can get some help stealing stuff from innocent people by reaching out to Uncle Sam’s Justice Department.

Via The Institute for Justice:

Federal law provides a loophole called “equitable sharing” to law enforcement in states with good civil forfeiture laws. This program allows state law enforcement to turn seized assets over to the federal government, which forfeits the property under federal  law. In turn, the feds give up to 80 percent of the forfeited property back to the state agency for its own use, even if state law would have required those proceeds to go into a general fund.

Paul’s civil forfeiture reform would de-incentivize confiscation of innocent Americans’ belongings by making it tougher for the government to make a case against an individual’s property. Furthermore, it would remove the Federal assist in most cases by requiring all State agencies to defer to State laws regarding confiscated property.

Another provision in Paul’s legislation would provide that the profits from all property that is legitimately confiscated by the Federal government by way of civil forfeiture be placed in the U.S. Treasury’s General Fund, not the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. The funding redirect is important because it creates a situation where there is no direct financial incentive for law enforcement to take property — consequently, making it more likely that property is taken only when legitimate public safety concerns exist.

The FAIR Act is the latest in a series of attempts the Kentucky Senator is making to reform the U.S. judicial system by challenging aspects of the Nation’s failed War on Drugs (which largely abetted the rise in civil forfeiture cases) and sentencing guidelines that make rehabilitation more difficult than it should be for some low-level offenders.