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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Another leak: Draft DHS report claims citizens of nations covered by Trump’s travel ban pose little risk to U.S.

Someone at Homeland Security is trying to kneecap Trump’s new immigration executive order.

Do note: The seven nations listed in his original travel ban were chosen not by the new White House but by the old one. It was the Obama administration that designated them as worthy of extra scrutiny (although not for the purpose of banning visitors outright) and then Team Trump rolled that special status over into its own policy. If Trump was haphazard in perceiving a threat from them, Obama was too.

A draft document obtained by The Associated Press concludes that citizenship is an “unlikely indicator” of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria’s civil war started in 2011…

The three-page report challenges Trump’s core claims. It said that of 82 people the government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to carry out or try to carry out an attack in the United States, just over half were U.S. citizens born in the United States. The others were from 26 countries, led by Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Of these, only Somalia and Iraq were among the seven nations included in the ban.

Of the other five nations, one person each from Iran, Sudan and Yemen was also involved in those terrorism cases, but none from Syria. It did not say if any were Libyan.

On top of all that, the report noted, terror groups in Iran, Sudan, and Yemen are regionally focused and should pose less of a threat to the United States. You can see the court challenge to the next executive order materializing before your eyes: Is there really any rational basis for this order, opponents will tell the judge, if DHS’s own analysis can’t find one? Or is this just Trump picking a few Muslim countries at random and making a point about “extreme vetting” by directing a temporary ban at them? The thinness of the evidence that the seven countries pose a special threat already sank the first executive order in the Ninth Circuit.

Go take a peek at the report, though. It’s just three pages long and apparently was based on nothing more than unclassified open-source material like news reports and Justice Department press releases. A full departmental analysis involving classified assessments of terror threats is still in the works:

“DHS and DOJ are working on an intelligence report that will demonstrate that the security threat for these seven countries is substantial and that these seven countries have all been exporters of terrorism into the United States,” the senior White House official told CNN. “The situation has gotten more dangerous in recent years, and more broadly, the refugee program has been a major incubator for terrorism.”…

“While DHS was asked to draft a comprehensive report on this issue, the document you’re referencing was commentary from a single intelligence source versus an official, robust document with thorough interagency vetting,” [a department spokesman] said.

A Department of Homeland Security source who asked for anonymity since he was not authorized to speak on the record said the report from the I&A officials did not meet the standards of the agency since it relied upon open source material and did not utilize necessary data from the intelligence community, specifically the FBI.

If the report is based on incomplete evidence, if it hasn’t been subject to interagency review, if it’s looking at terror threats only in terms of the number of people killed instead of a variety of terror-related crimes, how and why did the document end up being floated to the media? Under the circumstances, and given the brevity, it … sure smells like it was thrown together to try to undermine Trump as he takes another crack at writing a travel-ban order. It’s not really a report, in other words, by a type of press release by a critic of the policy inside the administration. The critic may have decided to “prepare the battle space” politically before the next order is released by leaking the report in hopes of preemptively convincing the public that Trump’s policy is misguided even according to members of his own DHS. Or at least, that’s the most pro-Trump reading of what happened here.

The most anti-Trump reading, reported by (who else?) CNN last night, is that the evidence of terror threats from these seven countries really is thin — so much so that the White House may be in the process of “shopping” around to several different federal agencies to see if anyone can produce intelligence that would justify cracking down on immigration from those countries. That’s not the way policy should be made: Ideally you’d request a threat assessment from, say, the Director of National Intelligence, let him sift through the numbers, and then have him come back to you with a list of countries that pose special risks to the United States and whose visitors should be barred temporarily or subjected to “extreme vetting.” Instead, CNN claimed, some intel sources are worried that Team Trump is doubling down on the list of seven they’ve already come up with and demanding that natsec people dig something up to justify that decision. In fact, according to one official, the National Counterterrorism Center has been asked to produce its own report on terror risks from the seven countries alongside the one that’s in the works by DHS and the DOJ just in case their material is stronger. (Why not have all three agencies coordinate?) The White House isn’t building a policy based on the facts available, in other words, they’re looking for facts to support a policy they’re already intent on implementing — or so their critics claim. Why, exactly, they’re intent on implementing it will be at the heart of the next court challenge. If Trump loses that one, hoo boy.

Exit question: Does this explain why the new travel-ban order was mysteriously delayed this week? Has Trump’s team simply not marshaled enough facts yet about terror threats from the seven nations listed in the ban for it to survive a court challenge?

Why Is There No Conservative Protest Movement?

Why Is There No Conservative Protest Movement?

Friday - February 24, 2017

RUSH: Fresno, California. Hey, Ben. It’s great to have you here. How are you?

CALLER: God bless you, Rush. From the communist state of California, as heterosexually as I can say it, “I love you.” I really appreciate everything you do. I’m a young guy out here. But before I get to my question, I’ve been trying to call in since before Thanksgiving, since you started giving away iPhones, and I wanted to be the first guy to decline your offer and request a counter-offer if I make the host look good enough.

RUSH: Ha! (chuckling) Well, okay. Look, first thing, I’m a big believer — and I know it’s a shrinking group of people. But I’m a big believer in heterosexual love. Number two, I’m out of iPhones, I think. So even if you were thinking of asking for one, I might not be able to fulfill a request.

CALLER: No, I would actually like to decline the offer. But you’d have to offer it in order for me to do that. But, again, I’d have to make you look good enough in order to do that.

RUSH: Well, let’s see what happens. Go for it.

CALLER: So I’m a young, thirties guy. When the Tea Party started up here with Obama in California, I started fighting the communist state that we live in. Still fighting today. And I look at the direction we’re going, and I’m so fed up — and so are millions of people across this country — with the pathetic nature of most of the Republicans not willing to stand up and say what needs to be said. And the people with the funds to back it are not willing to stand up because afraid they’re going to lose their positions.

I’m wondering where the George Soroses of the conservative party are and the people willing to put their money where their mouth is and back it, and I also wonder — I wanted to get your take on this. I have an idea about what we need to do as far as fighting the fight. I believe in direct assault against these protesters. I go out about every week and confront them directly, but I wanted to get your take on that.

And I’ve got some ideas on that but I’d love to get your take. How do we…? I know you’re saying we’ve seen this before in the sixties, but if you look at the impact of the sixties — the impacts that it caused — we’ve been dealing with the destruction since then. So I look at that and I say, “Well, should we sit back and watch and wait for these guys to fizzle out, or do we do direct assault and go after these guys where they are?” Anyway, I’d love to get your take on that, and then I have a proposition.

RUSH: Okay. You’ve given me 30 seconds here to respond to this based on this segment. So the first thing that we would have to determine here — and I’ll hold you over for the break here. But the first thing — not to determine but define and explain — is why does the left engage in all of this, we’ll call it protesting and rioting, and the right doesn’t? And there are reasons for that. Hang on.


RUSH: Back to Ben in Fresno: Why does the left protest and the right doesn’t? The left is a hate group, Ben.

CALLER: Oh-ho. (chuckles)

RUSH: Their propulsion is hate, and they have to have an outlet for the hate. They hate so much. They hate many elements of America. They hate people that don’t think the way they do. It’s not just that they disagree, they hate, and this energy requires action. People on the right, they don’t hate anybody. We want everybody to get along, when you get right down to it. We’re Rodney King types, actually. And the right seeks political victory at the ballot box — and that’s just the way it’s been. It’s a bit cliched to say but the right, conservatives, work. They have jobs.

They don’t have time off to go join protest marches as a career. The left has turned that into a bought-and-paid-for, rent-a-mob type activity. Now, “Where are the George Soroses?” There’s all kinds of conservative donors. The Koch brothers are big donors. There’s all kinds of them. But none of them have actively organized hate groups that run around and protest and try to upset people and get in as close as they can to their lives and the way they live them and make a nuisance of themselves. That’s not how the right has always sought to win elections.

The left, if you get them honest, will admit they know they’re a minority.

They can’t win elections — as this last one demonstrated and many others — without lying and without camouflage and without masks hiding who they really are. So to get their way, they have to bully. They use their hate, bullying people into not opposing them out of fear or what have you. It’s two distinct cultures, two distinct behavioral norms. But I think what’s going to happen is that people like you, young people, are not going to put up with this. I think your age group of conservatism is going to become invested in protest and countering these people, and I would encourage you to do it. I think it’s called for. I think it’s about time. I say, “Get right in their faces and, ‘Screw you!'”

CALLER: And I think doing it… You’re exactly right. They’re coming from the side of hate. I think our purpose has to come from the side of love and truth and knowledge and do it in a way… That’s my objective where we don’t come out there and say… We may say, “Screw you,” from time to time. But I think in general, you show, the contrast with the truth that the right has versus the lies and the hate. I mean, they call us the bigots. They call us the racists.

They call us the intolerant ones. When in reality, they’re just looking in a mirror. I mean, that’s what they are. They divide by race. They divide by stuff. They divide by all these different groups, and all the conservatives want to do is say, “Get the hell out of our lives. Get the government out of our lives. Let us live our lives.” If you succeed, you succeed; if you fail, you fail. But don’t —

RUSH: Well, that’s true. They don’t get what they want without the government forcing people to do it is the bottom line.

CALLER: Right. Right.

RUSH: And that’s what… But I’ll give you a greatest recent example of the circumstances you just cited: Any Trump rally. At any Trump rally, the Trump supporters were peaceful. They were enthusiastic. They loved America. They were excited. They were pro Trump. They were not bullies. They were not angry. They were not doing anything unless they were provoked.

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: And they were provoked. And at any Trump rally, you could identify the malcontents and the bad actors. They were the leftists, trying to make themselves look like Trump supporters. But the real Trump supporter is exactly somebody you described: Somebody who is peaceful, who wants the country to get better, who wants things fixed. They’re not lawbreakers. They operate within the bounds of law and order. They respect other people. They don’t make a mess. They don’t leave a bunch of trash and garbage around like leftist protesters do virtually everywhere they go. So that’s already on display. You said, “We need to show them we’re filled with love and respect.” We do, each and every day.

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: At these Republican town halls, that’s on display too. At a congressional hearing or confirmation hearing, Code Pink is at every damn one of them making total fools of themselves.

CALLER: I just don’t know if we articulate it as well as we could in front of the media.

RUSH: Ahhh!

CALLER: I think you’re right; if you were to objectively look at each example like you’re talking about —

RUSH: Now we’re getting somewhere.

CALLER: — sure, if you’re thinking. But to actually have it communicated.

RUSH: The media is not going to change.


RUSH: The media is not going to say, “The malcontents at this town hall meeting were a bunch of artificial leftists bussed in from out of town.”

CALLER: (laughing)

RUSH: For example, Tom Cotton, senator from Arkansas, did a town hall in a town of 2,000 people. Do you realize that 1,000 protesters showed up? There are not 1,000 opponents to Tom Cotton in the town in Arkansas where he showed up. In fact, the Democrat Party almost doesn’t exist in Arkansas anymore. Yet, they managed to have a thousand people show up.

Some of these Republican congressmen are handling these situations exactly right. Somebody in Louisiana, I think. (sigh) It could be somebody in Louisiana caved. But I think somebody in Louisiana just handled them with aplomb and perfection. But it’s clear that these people protesting are not constituents. They’re not Republicans angry with their congressmen for dismantling Obamacare. But what does the media report? The media is in collusion. Ben, thanks so much for the call. I really appreciate it.


Tom in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Great to have you on the program, hi.

CALLER: Hello, Rush. Good to talk to you.

RUSH: Good to have you here, sir. Hello.

CALLER: I wanted to try to address these town hall meetings that are being lambasted by intruders. It’s a shame that our congressmen and senators are sort of doing a disservice to their constituents. Those meetings are for their constituents only. If they’re not a constituent, they shouldn’t be there. Looks to me like they could at least police the crowd a little bit. It really looks bad on TV.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: What are your thoughts?

RUSH: I hear ya. Some people’s idea was to cancel the town halls, which is a tantamount admission that they’re going to be overrun. (sigh) You know, I don’t know how to deal with this other than to have an equal number of conservatives show up and activists at these town halls that are supportive of the congressmen and shout these people down.

CALLER: Well, I really wouldn’t care what their beliefs were as long as they were indeed bona fide constituents of the individual that’s giving the town hall. You know, there’s nothing wrong with listening to both sides. But to have people sent there and planted just to disrupt and just cause an unbearable situation for our town hall… We need town halls, and we’d like to go to a town hall, but I’m not going to go to a town hall meeting that’s going to be overrun.

RUSH: The argument for not doing the town hall right now is this: The left doesn’t care about the town hall. All the left wants is the opportunity to create those pictures that you’re talking about, so that then the media can report that it is constituents showing up opposing their own Republican because he wants to repeal Obamacare. That’s, again, fake news. That’s media malpractice. The media is in on this. That’s what happens. The purpose of showing up is to create a media story and narrative that it is constituents there who oppose the Republican congressman because he’s taking away their Obamacare.

This whole thing is deeply organized. It’s not organic. It isn’t spontaneous in any way, shape, manner or form. I don’t know how you keep non-constituents out. I mean, in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” I mean, you could try it. These people are still going to mob these places anyway, and there will be pictures of keeping them out, and then you’re going to see those. Then you’re going to get mad that somebody’s not doing a good enough job keeping them out.

So the first thing you want: Constituents only. Okay, they make the rule. Here come the non-constituents mobbing in. A mob scene ensues of them not being allowed in. The pictures say, “Constituents not allowed in!” Ultimately, what I’m telling you, Tom, is your argument is always going to come down to the way the media is reporting it. I mean, what irritates you about this is the way that the media is reporting this stuff. It’s the same old thing.

Howard Dean Says Trump's Win Was Like The Kent State Shootings, Bloody Sunday At Edmund Pettus Bridge

Matt Vespa

The Democratic National Committee’s 447 members will be voting on a new chairman for the party this Saturday in Atlanta. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has racked up some endorsements from across the country in the eight-person contest that seems to be focused on Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MI) and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The candidate had a debate Wednesday night, where Ellison made it clear that impeaching President Trump is on the table. The Democrats are just itching for a fighter, as their base is still frothing at the mouth over Trump’s upset over Hillary Clinton. A fighter very well could be selected this weekend, though Howard Dean has decided to back Buttigieg due to the need for the Democrats to have younger, outside-the-beltway talent helming the ship (via Politico):

Dean, who was himself the DNC chair from 2005 to 2009, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he is backing Buttigieg because the Democratic Party desperately needs an infusion of young blood from outside the political sphere of Washington. The Indiana mayor perfectly fits the bill, Dean said.

Most important thing: He’s the outside-the-Beltway candidate. This party is in trouble. Our strongest age group that votes for us is under 35. And they don’t consider themselves Democrats,” Dean said, noting the low turnout among younger voters in mid-term and down-ballot races. “Our leadership is old and creaky, including me, and we’ve got to have this guy, 36 years old, running this party. I had dinner with him last night. He is really, really capable and smart.”

Buttigieg, who is 35 years old, not 36, as Dean stated, has been the mayor of South Bend since 2012. Before that he was a candidate to be Indiana state treasurer. As a Naval Reserve officer, Buttigieg was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) tried to boot House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from her spot and failed, a sign that Democrats still want the party elders in charge. And therefore, want to remain in the political wilderness. At the same time, Dean reportedly fell into a pool of hyperbole again when he said that Trump’s election win was akin to the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Kent State shooting.

“This is your Edmund Pettus Bridge. This is your Kent State,” Dean said to a group of students at the party’s winter meeting at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel caught the exchange. For reference, the Pettus Bridge and Kent State are two tragic incidents, where people were either severely beaten or killed. Kent State saw four students being shot dead by Ohio National Guardsmen in 1970; they were protesting our invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. The Pettus Bridge reference is the site of Bloody Sunday, where Alabama state police and county law enforcement beat up civil rights protesters who were marching from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery for their voting rights.

Trump’s win isn't synonymous with these horrific events in history. You all know that. The 2016 election was one that the Democrats lost—and the more the Left hyperventilates about it, the more voters are going to drift into the Trump camp. No one likes a bunch of whiners. 

This isn’t the first time Dean has engaged in hyperbole. He called Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon a Nazi after the 2016 election. Mr. Bannon is controversial, and some people may not like him, but he’s not a Nazi. Dean did return to earth when he said that Schumer’s endorsement of Ellison for chairman would be the “kiss of death” for this candidacy for the chairmanship. Frankly, both Ellison and Perez are from the Democratic establishment, so if the Left wants an out-of-left field candidate--then maybe they should looks to the Rust Belt which oddly is where they lost critical ground in the 2016 election.

Ellison has been accused of being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

White House Pushes Back Against DHS Report on Travel Ban

Cortney O'Brien

The Department of Homeland Security appears to be at odds with the White House in regards to the justification for President Trump's temporary travel ban. In a new intelligence review, the agency found little reason to believe that the seven nations on the list posed serious terror threats to the U.S.  The Trump administration disagrees and accused the DHS of politicizing the report.

A senior administration official told The Wall Street Journal that the DHS report’s assessment overlooked key information and the finished product that the White House requested has not been completed. The White House called the report politically motivated. Officials said it overlooked some information that supported the ban.

“The president asked for an intelligence assessment,” the official said. “This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

DHS Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen rejected the notion that their report was political, but did acknowledge it was an "incomplete" assessment. The report is three pages long and, as The Washington Post notes, does not address "head on" whether the ban is an effective measure. It also "does not represent the official position of the Department of Homeland Security."

Trump's original executive order on immigration may have had good intentions, but most would agree its rollout left much to be desired. For instance, the law did not adequately make exceptions for green card holders and airports seemed wholly unprepared for the policy change.

After being met with legal challenges all over the country, the White House has decided to re-write the order. However, Senior White House Policy Adviser Stephen Miller said last week that it would have "the same basic policy outcome."

Trump Derangement Syndrome emerges as a public health issue

Trump's Rise Was Rooted in These Three Things

Transgender fight now in Supreme Court's hands

Transgender fight now in Supreme Court's hands
By Lydia Wheeler - 02-25-17 09:46 AM EST

Advocates on both sides of the debate over transgender bathroom rights are pushing the Supreme Court to settle the issue once and for all.

The Trump administration's decision Wednesday to rescind Obama-era guidance that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity came just a few weeks before the court will hear arguments on whether a Virginia school can block a 17-year-old transgender student from using the boy's bathroom.

Because the school had been appealing a lower court order that deferred to the Obama administration guidance, Trump's order has left the court asking: What now?

On Thursday, the Supreme Court requested the parties in the case submit their views on how the case should proceed in light of the guidance document issued by the departments of Education and Justice. Those responses are due by 2 p.m. on March 1.

Both sides want the case to move forward as planned.

"The Supreme Court should absolutely still hear arguments and answer the questions it granted cert on, which was whether the previous administration's interpretation of Title IX was correct," said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at ACLU, which brought the case forward on behalf of Gavin Grimm.

Grimm, a transgender male who was born female, was barred from using the boy's bathroom in 2014 after the Gloucester County School Board enacted a policy requiring all students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender assigned at birth.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Grimm, who argued that the school board "impermissibly discriminated against him" in violation of Title IX anti-discrimination laws and his constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

The Fourth Circuit said the Obama administration guidance should be given deference because federal anti-discrimination laws are ambiguous when it comes to "sex."

"It is not clear to us how the regulation would apply in a number of situations - even under the board's own 'biological gender' formulation," Judge Henry Floyd wrote in the court's majority opinion.

"For example, which restroom would a transgender individual who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery use? What about an intersex individual? What about an individual born with X-X-Y sex chromosomes? What about an individual who lost external genitalia in an accident?"

The Supreme Court is now being asked to answer two questions:  Whether courts should give deference to agency guidance that's in the form of an unpublished letter, and whether Title IX can be extended to require schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity when it comes to bathroom facilities.

"We certainly want to have arguments in court," said Kyle Duncan, the attorney representing the Gloucester County School Board.

Duncan said the Trump administration's letter to the court Wednesday validates the school board's central argument: that decisions about bathroom use should be left to states and local school boards.

"A court should not show deference to such a guidance document and part of the reason for that is, from administration to administration, you could have differing views," he said. "So this proved our point."

But Block said the letter from the Trump administration has only created confusion.

In it, the departments said they were rescinding the Obama guidance "in order to further and completely consider the legal issued involved" because it failed to "explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX."

"It's a very unusual document, and I don't think it's by any means clear what effect that document will have," Block said.

Given the new guidance, the Supreme Court could decide to cancel the oral arguments scheduled for March 28 and send the case back to the Fourth Circuit.

But Matt Sharp, senior counsel at the conservative Christian nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, said the high court needs to weigh in now. He said confusion over the definition of "sex" has already come up in other areas of the law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in 2015 that existing federal protections against workplace discrimination based on sex also apply to sexual orientation.

In schools, Sharp said girls are living with the consequences of being forced to share locker rooms and showers with biological males.

Freedom for All Americans rejects arguments that Obama's guidance has put students at risk.

"School districts across the country encompassing millions of students have had protections in place for transgender students for years without incident, including Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest public school system in California and the second largest public school district in the United States, serving 655,000 students," the group said in a release this week.

"The administration's decision to rescind the guidance has no impact on schools that are already doing the right thing - they can and will continue to protect transgender students."

The guidance from the Obama administration had been on hold since a Texas district court judge ruled in August that the guidance constituted a rulemaking, which means it would require a time-consuming public notice and comment period.

White House hand-picks select media outlets for briefing

White House hand-picks select media outlets for briefing
By Jordan Fabian - 02-24-17 14:10 PM EST

The White House blocked a number of news outlets from covering spokesman Sean Spicer's question-and-answer session on Friday afternoon.

Spicer decided to hold an off-camera "gaggle" with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the traditional on-camera briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

Among the outlets not permitted to cover the gaggle were news organizations President Trump has singled out for criticism, including CNN.

The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News were among the other news organizations not permitted to attend.

Journalists from several right-leaning outlets were allowed into Spicer's office, including Breitbart, the Washington Times and One America News Network.

A number of major news organizations were also let in to cover the gaggle. That group included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Reuters, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and McClatchy.

Reporters from The Associated Press and Time magazine were allowed into the gaggle but refused to attend.

"AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible," the organization's communications arm tweeted.

The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) sharply criticized the decision.

"The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," Jeff Mason, the association's president, said in a statement.

"We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not," he added. "The board will be discussing this further with White House staff."

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham responded that "claims that outlets were excluded are not factual."

"The pool was there, so various media mediums were represented," she wrote in an email.

"I think that we have shown an abundance of of accessibility," Spicer told the reporters allowed into the gaggle. "We've brought more reporters into this process. ... We've actually gone above and beyond making ourselves, our team and our briefing room more accessible than probably any prior administration. I think you can take that to the bank."

Reporters were encouraged to request access to the gaggle with a junior press aide. Some reporters received confirmation they were invited and others didn't.

Journalists then gathered in the briefing room to await the gaggle, When aides came to gather the pool, those who were not selected were turned back by Grisham in the West Wing hallway leading to Spicer's office.

After some reporters voiced their frustrated with the arrangement, Grisham asked a uniformed Secret Service officer to tell them to leave the hallway.

The Wall Street Journal said in a statement that "had we known at the time, we would not have participated and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future."

Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs noted the wire shared its audio with other reporters who were barred from attention.

"Bloomberg was included because we're in regular 'pool.' AP invited too, but declined due to others' exclusion. Bloomberg shared its audio," she tweeted.

It's highly unusual for White House staff to hand-pick outlets to attend daily, on-the-record briefings with spokespeople, which are typically open for all reporters to attend.

The White House circulated an updated schedule Friday afternoon saying that Spicer would gaggle with an "expanded pool" of reporters instead of on-camera in the briefing room.

The press corps maintains an "in-house pool" of 21 reporters who cover events on the White House grounds when there is not enough space for the press group. There is also a smaller pool that travels with the president to events in Washington.

But the White House apparently decided to use different criteria in forming the group that attended Friday's briefing.

The incident escalated Trump's long-running feud with the media.

The president repeatedly slammed the "dishonest media" earlier Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, while also saying he respects the First Amendment.

"I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody," he said.

"But as you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn't tell the truth," he continued. "I say it doesn't represent the people, it doesn't tell the never will represent the people, and we're going to do something about it."

During the transition, Spicer himself also pledged to shake up the White House press corps once Trump took office.

He has adopted a number of changes to the daily briefing format, such as the use of "Skype seats" that allow reporters from outside Washington to ask questions. He also ended the practice of allowing The Associated Press to ask the first question, giving the privilege to a rotation of conservative outlets and some major newspapers.

- Updated at 4:08 p.m.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Democrats are asking all the wrong questions of wannabe party chairs via @NYPost

There is an uncommon amount of interest in an election this weekend whose entire voting body is 447 people. The election is for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, the governing body of the national Democratic Party. 

It’s a boring job. The party’s chair is supposed to raise money, oversee the practical nuts-and-bolts of the party’s electoral machinery and help strategize on candidates and expenditures for upcoming races. 

And yet CNN hosted a live, 90-minute debate Wednesday night with eight candidates on stage — eight candidates vying for the attentions not of a state’s primary voters or a national electorate but rather 447 professional Democrats for whom what was said on CNN will likely matter very little. 

Depressed and clear-thinking Democrats who managed to stay awake through the proceedings — and I congratulate them if they did — surely saw nothing to rouse them from their despair. There was a sitcom element to the proceedings, featuring as they did an overly well-spoken millennial from Ohio, a manic pixie dream girl from Idaho and a clueless older guy lawyer from DC who seemed to have wandered in from the hotel bar. 

The two most compelling people on stage have no chance of winning: one a former head of Rock the Vote and the other the mayor of South Bend, Ind. — who’s beloved of mainstream media types because he’s a witty, gay Harvard Rhodes Scholar. (DNC candidates: they’re just like us!) 

Conventional wisdom says the race is down to Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. 

But neither was even remotely impressive, even though Barack Obama calls Perez “wicked smart” and Ellison proved himself exceptionally skilled at obfuscating his radical leftist leanings and acting outraged that anyone would dare point out his irrefutable Nation of Islam background. 

Both Perez and Ellison threw out crowd-pleasing bait about President Trump’s evil and the Democratic Party’s deep goodness, but they performed so unmemorably, they made one long for the days when the somnolent Martin O’Malley was on stage at the Democratic presidential debates. 

The evening focused on large questions about how the party should challenge Trump and whether Hillary Clinton should run again. Those are probably not the questions these candidates need to answer to secure a majority of 224. These party regulars are going to want to know what they’re going to get in the new order — what kinds of resources will be committed to their causes, their hobbyhorses, their ideas about how to rebuild. 

The reason Democrats should be dispirited is this: No one dared to speak honestly and directly about the very specific challenges he or she will face as DNC chair in the wake of the slow-motion disaster that overtook the party while no one was watching. 

By the time Barack Obama left office, not only did he have to cede the Oval to Trump, but he had presided over the national collapse of his party. During the Obama years, the Democrats lost a net 13 Senate seats, 63 House seats, nine governorships and more than 1,000 state and local elected positions. 

Institutionally, Obama has left the national Democratic Party in worse shape than at any point in the past century. Hillary Clinton may have garnered 3 million more votes than Trump nationwide, but she did so while winning only 486 of the country’s 3,113 counties. 

Will the people whose hands will be on the levers of the Democratic Party apparatus continue to comfort themselves with Hillary’s victory in the popular vote rather than focus on their mishandling of the Rust Belt states that won Trump the White House? 

Will they continue to tell each other sad and sweet stories about how James Comey and Vladimir Putin were the reason the White House was lost — stories that cannot explain the disastrous condition of the party at the Senate, House, gubernatorial, state and local levels? 

Or will they roll up their sleeves, look at the country with clear eyes and get to work?

Texas Governor Threatens Jail for ‘Sanctuary’ Sheriff

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday showed no sign of backing down in his high-profile battle with the sheriff of Travis County over her “sanctuary” policy. He aims to hit recalcitrant officials on multiple fronts.

Abbott said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that state legislation would hit local law enforcement officials in the pocketbook and even threaten their personal freedom for refusing to comply with federal immigration law.

“It could lead to actual criminal penalties against people like this sheriff for violating their oath of office and, hopefully, put her behind bars — the bars that she has tried to release people from.”

“It could lead to actual criminal penalties against people like this sheriff for violating their oath of office and, hopefully, put her behind bars — the bars that she has tried to release people from,” he said.

Sheriff Sally Hernandez sparked the confrontation earlier this year by announcing a new policy that limits her department’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

“We in law enforcement need the cooperation of our communities of color,” she told “PBS NewsHour” last week. “We need them to be running to us, and not running away from us.”

Abbott responded by cutting off $1.5 million in law enforcement grants to Travis County, which includes the state capital, Austin.

“That was just for starters,” he told LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham.

A bill already has passed the state Senate that would put “real teeth” in Texas laws prohibiting sanctuary policies, Abbott said. In addition to criminal penalties, the legislation calls for fines that could total $9 million a year and includes a provision holding uncooperative law enforcement officials civilly liable for crimes committed by illegal immigrants they release from custody.

"What she's done is absolutely reprehensible … She's actually released back out onto the streets very dangerous criminals that federal ICE agents wanted to have detained," he said. "This includes countless individuals who are here illegally who've been charged with felonies. It includes a person who's been charged with sexual assault of a woman, a person who's been charged with sexual assault of a minor."

Abbott also took a shot at the NFL, which has threatened to withhold the Super Bowl and other major events from Texas if it passes a bill to regulate bathroom use by biological sex.

"The NFL needs to butt out," he said. "If they want to get involved in politics, the need to run for office. If they don't do that, they just need to stick to football."

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