Aden Hassan immigrated to the United States from a Somali refugee camp just a week before President Trump’s travel ban went into effect. On Wednesday morning, he spoke before hundreds of protestors in front of the Supreme Court where the justices would be hearing a case challenging the latest iteration of the travel ban, which restricts travel from Somalia and about half a dozen other mostly Muslim countries.
“I and my family came to the refugee camp 20 years ago, where there is no life, there is no food, there is no good education. When I come to the United States, I was expected there to be democracy and welcoming people, but I see that democracy is just the surface,” Hassan told the crowd, which was braving a light, misty rain. “My mother she is still in the camp. She has heart conditions. She has diabetes. I am so worried about her because she has nobody to take care of her because I am the only one.”
It’s been over a year since he’s seen his mother, because of the ban.
According to Wardah Khalid — who works with the Church World Service, which helped settle Hassan and other refugees — the resettlement numbers have “dropped drastically,” with only 11,000 refugees resettled this fiscal year.
“Right now we are only on track to settle 20,000 refugees, which is just abysmal and completely contrary to what America stands for, as a country that has always stood for welcome and refuge,” she told TPM outside of the courthouse, about an hour before oral arguments were scheduled to begin.
Hassan was just one of dozens present at the Supreme Court’s front patio who said the ban has personally affected their lives.
A rainy morning isn’t keeping protestors of Trump’s travel ban from the Supreme Court, which is hearing a case challenging it today pic.twitter.com/Pl06vX8XFR
Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR Minnesota who is originally from Somalia, said that his family and friends have been blocked from traveling by the ban.
“This has impacted all of us, and it has impacted us in many ways, including people leaving the country,” Hussein told TPM. ” I remember talking to a family of three, where the husband was so worried — even though he had a clear path to citizenship — he was so worried that he’d travel in the middle of winter and entered Canada. It has created a lot of fear.”
The demonstrators said they hoped, beyond considering the legal issues surrounding the policy, that the justices would think of its practical effects.
Arjun Sethi, a Georgetown Law professor, said that the travel ban was a “destructive policy that has separated families, deprived people of life-saving health care, denied people education and deferred dreams.”
“It would be very easy for the Supreme Court justices to just focus on the legalese, but President Trump from the very beginning has made is intent clear all along,” Sethi told TPM, referencing Trump’s campaign promises to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “The fact of the matter is this is a policy that is rooted in discriminatory intent, rooted in bigotry and the court should call it out as such.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), a sponsor of legislation that would defund implementation of Trump’s ban, spoke to the crowd and recalled the scene at Los Angeles airport the weekend the administration imposed the first version of the ban in January 2017.
“I saw hundreds of people that turned into thousands of people that came out from every race, every religion to protest the Muslim ban and make sure that travelers that came here felt safe,” Chu said.
The initial iteration of the travel ban was struck down by courts, and the second attempt also saw multiple rulings invalidating it, though the Supreme Court allowed it to go forward with some tailoring. As for the third version, which the Supreme Court weighed Wednesday, the high court allowed it to go into full effect in December while the justices prepared to hear the case.
“While lawyers are inside showing that this ban violates our laws, the people outside are declaring that it violates our American values,” Chu told the crowd. In front of the stage were mock passports from Sudan, Libya and other countries affected by the ban.
No matter what the Supreme Court does with the Texas redistricting case it heard Tuesday, Texas Republicans have already won, in a way, in how they have been able to drag out the litigation over their 2011 state legislative and U.S. congressional map.
The conservative faction of the Supreme Court — whose questioning was dominated by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito — signaled that it had no problem with the most recent round of delay tactics Texas employed to get the case back in front of the high court for a second time.
The case is called Abbott v. Perez, and it stems from multiple challenges to the legislative maps Texas drew after the 2010 Census. One question the Supreme Court examined was whether this was even the proper juncture for it to intervene. A three-judge district court in San Antonio has issued multiple rulings finding the maps discriminatory against Latino and African American voters, but had not yet completed the remedy stage when Texas successfully sought a stay in the case from Justice Samuel Alito.
State and local officials were already bracing for a heavy lift in preparing for the 2020 Census, with an underfunded Census Bureau, a lack of the leadership at the agency, a climate of privacy concerns, and a distrust of the federal government exacerbated by President Trump’s rhetoric.
But the recent announcement that the survey will ask about citizenship has added yet another obstacle to getting an accurate count. Now, local officials are beginning to grapple with it.
“We are using all the tools at our disposal, but unfortunately it does seem [like] we’re swimming against the tide,” said Jorge Elorza, the mayor of Providence, where an end-to-end test run for the 2020 Census is already under way.
The lawsuits against the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for adding a citizenship question to the Census keep coming. The latest was filed Tuesday by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of the City of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. It was filed in the Northern District of California, where the state of California has filed its own lawsuit. There are also federal lawsuits in Maryland and New York.
There's a new Census lawsuit, it appears, filed by Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of San Jose and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, challenging citizenship question https://t.co/bHWN2ZjCib
Missouri, meanwhile, is facing a new lawsuit accusing the state of violating the National Voter Registration Act by allegedly failing to provide Missourians who change their address with the DMV the opportunity to register to vote or to update their registration. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Missouri and local chapters of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
The legal drama over the Pennsylvania congressional gerrymandering case, meanwhile, will seemingly never end, even though battle over throwing out the old maps appears to be over. (The U.S. Supreme Court, last month, said that it would not intervene in the state Supreme Court’s order for a new congressional map for November.) Last week, the President Pro Tempore of Pennsylvania’s state Senate, Joe Scarnati, appealed a federal district judge’s decision ordering him to reimburse the legal fees of those who challenged the gerrymandered the map.
After a legal fight, Maine will become the first state in the nation to use ranked-choice voting after the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the system could be implemented in the state’s June primary elections. Republican legislators have fought the move to ranked choice, which was approved by voters in a 2016 ballot referendum. It is still an open legal question whether ranked choice will be used in the general election in November.
Automatic Voter Registration is now the law of the land in New Jersey, after Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Tuesday.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he will restore the voting rights of felons who are on parole. Under his executive order, the state will review a list of felons released on parole every month to determine who to re-enfranchise. Previously, New York felons had their voting rights restored only after completing parole. About 36,000 ex-felons on parole stand to be affected by the order.
We’re still waiting for a final district court decision in Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirement case, but on Wednesday Judge Julie Robinson held Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is leading the defense of the requirement, in contempt of court for disobeying her previous orders in the case. The contempt decision stems from Robinson’s 2016 ruling to temporarily block the proof-of-citizenship requirement, a ruling that Kobach evaded, the judge ruled Wednesday. Kobach, in a Breitbart interview over the weekend, called her contempt decision “ridiculous.”
I’ll be at the Supreme Court this Tuesday for oral arguments in a Texas redistricting case, which challenges both state legislative and U.S. congressional districts alleging that they are racial gerrymanders.
The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan Friday against President Trump’s campaign, some of his allies and associates, as well as Russians and Wikileaks. The suit alleges that the Russian effort to meddle in the 2016 election was a racketeering enterprise.
The complaint details the various alleged connections Trump associates had with Russians. It relies on information that has been released via Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as well as on media reports.
President Trump is not a named defendant in the lawsuit, but his son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort are. Manafort deputy and ex-campaign aide Rick Gates is a defendant, as is former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. Both pleaded guilty in Mueller’s probe and are currently cooperating with it.
Among the other defendants are the Russian Federation, its intelligence entity the GRU, the hacker Guccifer 2.0, Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Aras and Emin Agalarov — the father-son Russians who helped Trump bring his Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013 — are also defendants.
The complaint zeroes in on the hacking of the DNC during the 2016 campaign. It alleges that the hack involved violations of the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act.
“No one is above the law and the perpetrators of this attack must be held accountable,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “They successfully hacked the Democratic Party in 2016 and they will be back. We must prevent future attacks on our democracy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing today.”
At a hearing Thursday morning, Paul Manafort’s attorneys made a dense and heady argument that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s money laundering count against their client should be thrown out — and, in doing so, gave us a hint of what might be driving this particular request.
One of Manafort’s attorneys, Richard Westling, told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that “millions of dollars” Manafort made from lobbying work in Ukraine were under restraint — meaning Manafort currently can’t touch the money — due to what Westling argued was a “thin” legal theory that prosecutors were pushing.
The implication was that, because this money was tied up, Manafort was unable to use it to pay his legal fees.
Manafort’s lawyers’ argument comes two weeks after we learned that in 2017 Mueller had seized funds from at least three Manafort-linked bank accounts. Another filing last week revealed that a bank account owned by Manafort’s daughter and her husband also had been seized.
Westling was arguing in favor of dismissing count two in the Manafort indictment in Washington, D.C. (Mueller has brought a separate case against Manafort in Virginia.) The count alleges that money Manafort made while allegedly violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires that lobbying done in the U.S. on behalf of foreign powers be disclosed, was part of a money-laundering conspiracy.
Manafort is also seeking to throw out the related forfeiture allegation, which says that if Manafort is convicted of the money laundering conspiracy, the government can seize all property traceable to the money laundering scheme.
Manafort’s attorneys, in a court filing, asked that the court “release any and all property currently held based upon that allegation.”
They argued that the money Manafort made lobbying for a pro-Russia Ukrainian party shouldn’t be considered tainted because it isn’t the act of lobbying that is allegedly illegal under FARA, just Manafort’s alleged failure to disclose it.
Jackson brought up language in the FARA statute that linked the registration requirement to the act of lobbying, suggesting she was skeptical of Manafort’s attempts to distinguish the two. She later asked why it shouldn’t be up to a jury to decide whether Manafort was trying to keep his undisclosed lobbying work under the radar by funneling the funding for it through an “XYZ corporation” in some foreign country.
That question led to Westling’s comment about “millions” of Manafort’s dollars being restrained. His remark implied that waiting for a jury is detrimental to Manafort’s ability to pay for a robust legal representation now.
Even before Manafort was first hit with Mueller’s indictment in October, there were clues that he was struggling to cover the costs of his legal representation. He parted ways from Wilmer Hale, a major D.C. law firm, in August in part because of the financial strain of their representation, the Daily Beast reported. He then hired Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle, who had previously worked at a boutique law firm. (They left the firm Miller & Chevalier soon after taking on Manafort because representing him posed a conflict for the firm.) Westling joined Manafort’s team last month.
Paul Manafort wants to see more records of conversations between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on the scope of the Russia probe.
Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing argued for that they and the court were entitled to additional Justice Department records in a sometimes contentious federal court hearing Thursday on Manafort’s motion to have the indictment against him thrown out. Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, claims the order naming Mueller special counsel is a violation of DOJ regulations. Manafort also argues that Mueller’s investigation has exceeded the authority granted to him by exploring Manafort’s business dealings in Ukraine.
A federal judge has ordered that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach be held in contempt of court for disobeying her orders in the proof-of-citizenship voter registration case.
Judge Julie Robinson in her decision Wednesday bashed Kobach’s failure to send postcards to voters whose registrations were restored by her previous move to block the proof-of-citizenship requirement for the 2016 election.
“Kansans have come to expect these postcards to confirm their registration status, and Defendant ensured the Court on the record that they had been sent prior to the 2016 general election,” Robinson said. “They were not, and the fact that he sent a different notice to those voters does not wholly remove the contempt, nor does his attempt to resend postcards eighteen months after the election and five months after Plaintiffs notified him of the issue.”
She also took issue with Kobach’s refusal to update the state’s training manual for election officials to reflect her 2016 order blocking the proof-of-citizenship requirement. Kobach had argued that he need not change the manual until the Supreme Court had a chance to weigh in on the case, and that he communicated with election officials via email the changes in policy due to her 2016 order.
However he also refused to change the publicly available online version of the manual, until finally taking it down weeks before the contempt hearing in March.
“If this document was only available internally, the Court would be persuaded that Defendant did not disobey the Court’s order. But it was publicly available; the e-mails updating the document were not,” Robinson said Wednesday.
The judge also criticized Kobach for appearing to throw his staff under the bus in his ever-changing defenses of his actions regarding her 2016 order, and said she was “troubled by Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s order.”
“Defendant deflected blame for his failure to comply onto county officials, and onto his own staff, some of whom are not licensed attorneys,” she said.
She ordered that Kobach cover the attorneys fees’ of the challengers in the case or the costs of their efforts to bring Kobach in compliance with her order. She said further remedies would be deferred until her final decision in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging to the proof-citizenship requirement. The trial was in March.
Eleven House Republicans sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging him to prosecute Hillary Clinton and more than a half-dozen current or former Justice Department officials, including former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The letter complains that the investigations into Clinton and President Trump’s campaign have been marked by “dissimilar degrees of zealousness.”
“Because we believe that those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as every other American, we want to be sure that the potential violations of law outlined below are vetted appropriately,” the House Republicans said.
The letter — which also went to FBI Director Christopher Wray and U.S. Attorney John Huber, whom Sessions named to oversee the investigation into GOP-fueled anti-DOJ allegations — comes after the FBI raided Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, last week.
It goes on to cherry-pick certain details reported about the ongoing Russia probe, as well as other speculation and disputed accusations, to allege that crimes may have been committed by Clinton and certain DOJ officials.
They accuse Comey of leaking classified information for Trump-related memos he handed over to a law professor friend, who in turn leaked them to the New York Times, among other allegations. Lynch is accused in the letter of potentially obstructing an agency investigation, with the Republicans pointing to extremely flimsy reporting on the so-called “Uranium One” deal.
They raised the DOJ Inspector General’s report about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to refer him for potential criminal violations. Clinton, meanwhile, is accused of potential campaign finance allegations because her campaign’s lawyer facilitated financing for the opposition research project that led to the “dossier” of Trump-Russia allegations assembled by Christopher Steele.
Among the other individuals singled out in the letter are the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who sent each other anti-Trump texts during the campaign, as well as former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and the current FBI general counsel Dana Boente. Yates and Boente get called out for their involvement vetting the surveillance warrant applications for ex-Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
Just two days before the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made clear he had no intention of letting such bill be brought up for a full Senate vote.
“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility, as the Majority Leader and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto Tuesday. He reiterated his previous claims that such legislation is not necessary and that there is “no indication” that President Trump would fire Mueller.
“I don’t think the President is going to do that. And just as a practical matter, even if we passed it, why would he sign it?” McConnell said.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act — legislation that was created by merging two bipartisan Senate bills designed to protect Mueller. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, Chris Coons (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Cory Booker (D-NY) are the legislation’s sponsors.
It remains to be seen whether McConnell’s stated refusal to advance the bill will spook Judiciary Republicans from supporting it on Thursday.
The legislation would codify Justice Department regulations limiting who can fire a special counsel and for what reasons. It also would give a fired special counsel the option to challenge his or her removal court.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a statement called it a “mistake” not to pass legislation protecting Mueller.
“We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late,” Schumer said. “I hope the Judiciary Committee moves forward with a bill, and that members of Senator McConnell’s caucus push him to reconsider.”
Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from Minority Leader Schumer.