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Summer Concepcion

Summer Concepcion is the front page editor of Talking Points Memo based in New York City. Previously, she covered the 2016 presidential election for Fusion and worked as a researcher at The Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute. She's an LA native and former Chicago transplant. Reach her at summer@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Summer

Russia’s Foreign Ministry took to Twitter Thursday to publicize its support of alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina after she was indicted this week on conspiracy against the U.S. and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Using the hashtag #FreeMariaButina, the Russian MFA’s official Twitter account also urged Twitter users to change their profile photo to one with Butina’s image. So far, it appears that suggestion isn’t catching on.

The Russia MFA’s endorsement of the alleged Russian agent comes on the heels of Tuesday’s indictment that accuses Butina of spending years forging connections with top conservative officials, including many associated with a “gun rights organization,” “for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

On Monday, the Russia MFA retweeted President Donald Trump’s criticism of U.S.-Russia relations, blaming years of poor dialogue with Russia on his predecessors and the Russia probe.

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President Donald Trump’s first public response to the deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, MD came during a celebration of the 6-month anniversary of his tax law’s passage Friday.

“This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief,” Trump said. “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”

Trump pledged “eternal support” when describing the Thursday shooting as a “horrible, horrible event.” 

“When you’re suffering, we pledge our eternal support. The suffering is so great,” Trump said. “I’ve seen some of the people, so great. My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life. We will not ever leave your side.”

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The Trump administration is privately having “considerable unease” amid mounting public furor over their policy of separating migrant parents from children at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a New York Times report Saturday.

Despite his tough rhetoric on immigration, NYT reports that President Donald Trump himself has “professed objections” to his own administration’s policy that he’s proceeded to falsely blame Democrats for.

Due to Trump’s misgivings, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has “clashed privately” with Trump over the policy, causing “furious lectures” from the President that have “pushed her to the brink of resignation.”

Additionally, Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller hasn’t backed down from the administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy.

“No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” Miller told NYT during an interview in his West Wing office this week. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”

Although the Trump administration doesn’t have an explicit policy stating that illegal border crossers must be separated from their children, the “zero tolerance policy” results in immigrants being taken into federal criminal custody where their children are considered unaccompanied alien minors and taken away.

Miller privately argued that a “zero tolerance” approach would be effective within a “severely limited arsenal of strategies” for stopping migrants from entering through the U.S.-Mexico border.

Miller’s central idea behind backing the hardline approach to immigration revolved around ending the practice of “catch and release” — immigrants being apprehended at the border and released into the interior of the U.S. to await the processing of their cases. Miller argued that the practice provided “perverse incentive” for migrants by ensuring that if they got to the border and claimed a “credible fear” of returning home, they would at least be given a chance to stay under asylum laws temporarily.

But given a lengthy backlog of asylum claims, the NYT notes that it would take years before migrants would appear before a judge to back up a “credible fear” claim and many would never return to do so.

When Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in October that gave legal status to undocumented immigrants raised in the U.S., Miller argued that any legislative package enforcing those protections should contain changes to close “loopholes encouraging illegal immigrants to come.”

Miller proved himself even more instrumental in Trump’s decision to enforce the “zero tolerance policy” when border-crossing numbers hit highs in April.

NYT notes that former President George W. Bush initiated the “zero tolerance” approach for illegal immigration that Trump’s policy is modeled after with the 2005-launched Operation Streamline program at the Texas border “that referred all unlawful entrants for criminal prosecution, imprisoning them and expediting assembly-line-style trials geared toward quickly deporting them.” However, exceptions were made for adults with minors, as well as children and people who were ill.

Even when the Obama administration employed Operation Streamline at the height of the migration crisis, it did not treat first-time border crossers as “priorities for prosecution,” and administratively — instead of criminally — detained parents and children together in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

Conversations about expanding Operation Streamline “with almost none of those limitations” started up not long after Trump took office. When White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly quieted down on addressing family separation, the Department of Homeland Security began testing the approach last summer in certain areas in Texas.

Read the full report at the New York Times here.

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In a Saturday morning tweet, President Donald Trump continued railing against former-FBI director James Comey and his “minions” Peter Strzok and Lisa Page in the wake of the Justice Department inspector general releasing a report Thursday on the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Trump tweeted that the IG report — which concluded that Comey and other FBI officials pivoted from agency norms in some of their actions, but were not politically motivated — shows that Comey’s “Witch Hunt” will “go down as a dark and dangerous period in American History!”

Trump’s Saturday morning tweet piggybacks off of his comments during a Friday interview with “Fox and Friends” outside the White House where claimed what Comey did was “criminal,” but stopped short of suggesting he should be “locked up.”

“I would never want to get involved in that, certainly, they look like criminal acts to me,” Trump said. “What he did was criminal. What he did was a terrible thing to the people. What he did was so bad in terms of our Constitution, in terms of the wellbeing of our country. What he did was horrible. Should he be locked up? Let somebody make a determination.”

While speaking with “Fox and Friends” Friday, Trump also questioned why FBI official Peter Strzok — who sent the text saying “we’ll stop” Trump from getting to the White House — was still working at the agency and called his “vicious” text messages a “criminal” offense.

Additionally, Trump’s Saturday tweet against Comey echoed his Friday morning tweet saying that the DOJ IG’s report is “a total disaster for Comey, his minions and sadly, the FBI” amid bragging about his  “great service to the people in firing (Comey).”

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President Donald Trump kicked off his weekend by attempting to dispel the G-7 summit drama last week when he refused to sign a previously agreed-upon joint statement authored by all seven nations.

In a series of photos posted to Twitter Friday evening, Trump insisted that the “Fake News Media” showed “bad photos (implying anger)” at the summit despite his “great relationship” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other G-7 leaders.

Trump announced in tweets following his early departure from the summit that he would refuse to sign the agreed-upon joint G-7 communiqué as a result comments by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a press conference. However, Trudeau had simply reiterated points he’d made before: that Canada planned dollar-for-dollar retaliatory tariffs in response to Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Merkel found Trump’s “withdrawal via Twitter” from the joint G-7 communiqué to be “of course sobering and a little depressing” in an interview following the summit.

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Sounds like President Donald Trump’s lawyer struck out at the ball game on his 74th birthday.

Rudy Giuliani hit a foul ball with fellow Yankees fans Monday when the team wished him a happy birthday.

“The New York Yankees wish a very happy birthday to Mayor Giuliani,” an announcer said during the game, prompting Yankees fans to boo the former New York City mayor.

Giuliani wasn’t the only one unable to score a home run — the Yankees lost 5-1 on their home turf to the Houston Astros.

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The beef between The White House and the press only fired up the Twitter grill over Memorial Day weekend.

White House correspondent April Ryan found herself in a crossfire with First Lady Melania Trump’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham after tweeting the link to The Root’s sarcasm-tinged post “Is the Trump Administration Running a Child-Trafficking Ring or Nah? Follow Me Down the Rabbit Hole” Saturday night.

Ryan responded to Grisham the following day by pressing her on how the Trump administration “works to discredit the press.”

Grisham’s “have a lovely weekend” reply didn’t seem to ensure a ceasefire, however, as Ryan went on about how “not cool” it was for Grisham to go after her.

Ryan excoriated Grisham and a “fake news story” from Fox News for “creating an atmosphere of hate” against her.

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The White House buckled down on President Donald Trump’s claim that Democrats are to blame for his own administration’s policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents arrested at the border, according to an email statement Monday.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley ripped into what he calls the Democratic Party’s “cruel and inhumane open borders policies” that are “responsible for encouraging mass illegal migration, enabling horrendous child smuggling, and releasing violent MS-13 gang members into American communities.”

“Their lawless policies spread human suffering and finance criminal cartels,” Gidley said. “These Democrat policies lead to the temporary separation of illegal alien families, because they refuse to close border loopholes that prevent those families from being swiftly returned home.”

Gidley said that Democrat policies also “result in the permanent separation of American families” who have to “bury loved ones because of the criminals Democrat policies allow in to this country.”

“Sadly, Democrats openly oppose simple fixes to federal law that would stop the illegal migrant crisis and end the magnet for unlawful migration,” Gidley said.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions flagged the immigrant children separation policy in a speech when he pledged to criminally prosecute as many illegal border crossing cases “as humanly possible.”

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen responded similarly to the issue in a congressional testimony a week later.

“Our policy is if you break the law, we will prosecute you,” Nielsen said. “You have an option to go to a port of entry and not illegally cross into our country.”

HHS admitted last month that nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors were unable to be accounted for during a recent survey.

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Donald Trump Jr. reportedly met with an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes three months before his father won the 2016 presidential election.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the small group who met with Trump Jr. Aug. 3, 2016 at Trump Tower included Arab princes’ emissary George Nader, Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel and former Blackwater head Erik Prince.

The meeting “convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team” was arranged by Prince. Nader reportedly told Trump Jr. that the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates crown princes were “eager” to help his father win the election. Zamel also boasted about his firm after it had already “drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort” to help elect Trump.

Although it’s “unclear whether such a proposal was executed” and “the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute,” Trump Jr. reportedly “responded approvingly” and Nader was quickly embraced as a Trump ally who began meeting frequently with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn. NYT notes that Nader at the time was also “promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.”

After the election, Nader reportedly paid Zamel up to $2 million for unclear reasons, but NYT notes that a Zamel-tied company provided Nader with an “elaborate” presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Trump’s win.

As Nader continues to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, the newly reported meetings are the first sign that countries besides Russia may have aided the Trump campaign.

Trump Jr. lawyer Alan Futerfas told NYT that “prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

Zamel’s lawyer Marc L. Mukasey denied to NYT that there was “any involvement whatsoever in the U.S. election campaign.”

Nader lawyer Kathryn Ruemmler insisted to NYT that her client “has fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation and will continue to do so.” A senior official in Saudi Arabia who spoke to NYT said Nader was never employed in any capacity or authorized to speak for the crown prince.

Prince declined to provide comment to NYT. The White House did not return NYT’s request for comment.

Read the New York Times’ full report here.

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