Special Council Unseals Plea Deals With Ex-Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor

A plea deal made between the special council headed by Robert Mueller and George Papadopoulous, an ex-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, was unsealed Monday. Papadopoulous, who was arrested Jul. 27 after arriving at Dulles International Airport, accepted a plea deal and has been working with the special council since his arrest.

Papadopoulous is charged with providing a false statement to the FBI about his contacts with professors he believed to have substantial connection to the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.

During the 2016 campaign, Papadopoulous acted as one of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisers and was tasked with improving the U.S. and Russia relationship. While a foreign policy adviser, he exchanged emails with several people he believed to have deep connections with the Kremlin and attempted to use these connections to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He also exchanged communications with a Russian professor who claimed to have “dirt” on Hilary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” and met a Russian National that he believed was the niece of Vladimir Putin

Papadopoulous was interviewed by the FBI in January about his role in the trump campaign and his connections with Russian Professors. In this voluntary interview he lied to the FBI about when the meeting took place. He stated that the meetings happened before he took his position in the Trump campaign and he attempted to down play the nature and significance of the meetings. Stating that he believed one of the professors was just a “guy talking up connections and stuff,” among a list of other lies that attempted to mask his role during the campaign.

Following his initial interview in January, he was interviewed again in February with his council. Following this interview, Papadopoulous deactivated his Facebook account which contained information about his communications with Russian connections and Created a new account that didn’t contain this information. He also later changed his phone number.

Papadopoulous’s misleading testimony is proof that of members of the Trump campaign had contact with professors connected to the Russian government.

Plea Deal

Washington Post

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Ex-Trump Campaign Manager and his Business Partner Indicted as the First Charges from Mueller’s Russia-Trump Campaign Collusion Investigations Begin to Roll Out

On October 27, Paul Manafort, a ex-Trump campaign manager, and Richard Gates, his business partner, were indicted on 12 charges stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the election. Manafort and Gates turned them selves in Monday morning.

The Charges stem from Manafort’s work before becoming Trump’s campaign manager. The charges are Conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, 3 counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts for calendar years 2011-2014 each for both Manafort and Gates, a charge for being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal and for providing a false and misleading FARA statement.

Between 2006 – 2016, Manafort’s and Gates operated as lobbyist in Ukraine without registering with the United States to avoid taxes. Subsequently, Manafort used foreign bank accounts to hide his profits from the government and used money laundering to live a lavish life in the US while avoiding detection. Manafort also lied on his taxes and to tax preparers to hide his foreign bank accounts and holdings.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in Mar. 2016 but resigned in Aug. 2016 after a report that Manafort may have illegally received $12.7 million in off the book funds from the Party of Regions in Ukraine. The charges stem from Manafort’s actions prior to his joining the campaign and prove no instances of collusion. President Donald Trump took to twitter to comment on the news.

NPR 

New York Times

Indictment

Law That Protects Individuals Who Deny Goods and Services to Members of the LGBTQ Community Could Go into Effect Friday in Mississippi

HB 1523 or the Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act is set to go into effect Friday, Oct. 6 after the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused a rehearing by a full court on Barber v. Bryant on Sept. 29, a lawsuit attempting to block the legislation. The court argued that since the law isn’t in effect yet and nobody has been hurt by the bill, litigation cannot be brought against the case.

HB 1523 protects state employees and other citizens who hold and act on certain beliefs  from prosecution for denying services such as Photographs or solemnizing marriages to individuals if it is contrary to these beliefs. The beliefs that are protected are the beliefs that marriage is a union between man and women, sexual relations are reserved to such a union and that sex is determined at birth by ones genetics and anatomy,

This bill was signed by Phil Bryant last year and is a direct response to a bill passed in 2015 that legalized same sex marriage across the country.

“As I have said from the beginning, this law was democratically enacted and is perfectly constitutional,” Bryant said in a statement to Fox News. “The people of Mississippi have the right to ensure that all of our citizens are free to peacefully live and work without fear of being punished for their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Some critics of the bill, such as Director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Jaime Harker, argue that not only is the bill unconstitutional but that it is reminiscent of the pre-civil rights era in Mississippi when people were allowed to openly discriminate against people depending on their beliefs.

“I don’t know if its intentional or not but what I think [the bill is] going to tell a lot of folks in this state is that its open season on you,” Harker said. “What it does is basically take away your confidence as a citizen of this state, that you can be treated equally as everybody else.”

“You don’t know when or how you may have service denied to you and its that uncertainty that I think is going to be the thing that’s most difficult,” Harker said. “You’re just going to be going about your life and at any random moment, somebody behind a counter because they don’t like the way you look or the way you talk or the shirt your wearing or the sticker on your car, will say ‘we don’t serve your kind here.’ We’ve already had that happen once in this state and it wasn’t good for anybody.”

“[The bill] lists a lot of very particular instances it could apply to, that includes private and state government,” Harker said. “What this means is you have no idea now, as a queer person in this state, when you could be denied service based on, not whether its true or not, but whether their perception is that your queer.”

“If your living together, boyfriend and girlfriend, and they think you’re having sex outside of marriage, that is enough reason [to deny service],” Harker said. “If they think you’re trans because you don’t perform your gender the way they think is appropriate, they can deny service.”

People who experience discrimination can report it to the Campaign for Southern Equality, The group that brought the original litigation against the case to court, by calling their hotline (828.242.1559), by email (info@southernequality.org) or by posting on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/southernequality. Their team of attorneys, clergy and organizers are available to offer support and resources.

“HB1523 is the nation’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ law,” The group says on its website. “It will bring undeniable damage to the lives of thousands of Mississippians, paving the way for deep harm and discrimination. As a community, we will fight this law every step of the way. We stand proudly with LGBTQ Mississippians in working to ensure that everyone can live their lives free from fear of state-sanctioned discrimination. We stand ready to challenge discrimination in all forms and will bring lawsuits against those who discriminate against their LGBTQ neighbors and fellow Mississippians.

“Its time for allies in this state to stand up and let the LGBTQ community know they’re valued,” Harker said. “They’re supported. They’re loved. Especially queer kids. That’s the danger we got right now. I think what a lot of queer kids are going to take from this is ‘you’re not wanted here,’ ‘you’re not welcome here,’ ‘we don’t want your kind here.’ That’s the message they’re going to get and if we don’t want to send that message, we as a community have to send a different one.”

Clarion-ledger

Jackson Free Press

Fox News

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price Resigns

Friday, health and human services secretary Tom Price submitted his letter of resignation.

His resignation comes amid growing backlash as Price accrued a bill of at least $400,000 and upwards into $1 million of taxpayers dollars in travel expenses since joining the cabinet in January.

Price offered to reimburse taxpayers for the price of his seat, but that only came to about $51,887 which the president called “unacceptable”

Following Prices resignation, All cabinet travel requests must now be cleared by the White House.

Don J. Wright, a deputy assistant secretary, is the acting secretary.

New York Times

The Atlantic

Washington Post

Wednesday, The Trump Administration Announced Its Plans to Cap The Amount Of Refugees to be Resettled in The United States in 2018 at 45,000, The Lowest in decades

Wednesday the Trump Administration announced its plans to cap the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States at 45,000 for 2018. This figure is the lowest since the modern refugee admission system was put in place in 1980.

The Obama Administration set the cap at 110,000 for 2017 but only about half that number has been reached due to the Trump Administration’s temporary ban on refugee resettlement. Refugee resettlement agencies are asking for at least 75,000 to deal with the humanitarian needs around the world.

According to CNN, the US plans to admit no more than 45,000 refugees in the coming year, with regional caps of 19,000 for Africa, 17,500 for the Near East and South Asia (which includes most Middle Eastern countries), 5,000 for East Asia, 2,000 for Europe and Central Asia, and 1,500 for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Although the debate is often labeled as between humanitarian goals and national security, the Trump Administration has argued the economic aspect of the matter.

“For the cost of resettling one refugee in the U.S., we can assist more than 10 in their home region,” President Trump said in a speech to the United Nations earlier this month as told on NPR.

Critics argue that refugees help stimulate the economy and that they are some of the most vetted individuals as the refugee screening and resettlement process takes between 18-24 months on average.

NPR

The Hill

Foreignpolicy.com

CNN

President Donald Trump Waived The Jones Act for Puerto Rico in the Aftermath of Maria

On Thursday Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the Trump Administration’s plans to waived the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, better known as the Jones act, which experts say has slowed Puerto Rico’s recovery.

On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico with category 4 winds. The storm left most of Puerto Rico without power due to an outdated power grid. Following shortly after the storm roughly 4 percent of the residents had power.

The Jones Act requires that all goods delivered from the mainland to parts of the non-contiguous United States be transported on U.S. Flagged ships. This subjects foreign ships to high tariffs when they do business with Puerto Rico.

According to Bloomberg, goods shipped from the US mainland to Puerto Rico — often transferred from foreign ships onto US vessels in Florida — are double the price they are in neighboring islands, including the US Virgin Islands, not subject to the Jones Act.

Governor Ricardo Rossello reached out to the president to get the law waived.

Trump recently temporarily waived the Jones Act for Texas and Florida following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

San Diego Union Tribune

NBC

Bloomberg

Jones Act

Supreme Court Temporarily Rules That Government Can Block People Who Have Formal Assurances From Resettlement Agencies

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court granted the government’s request to block a lower courts ruling that said the administration cannot prevent refugees who are in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program or have formal assurances from resettlement agencies.

Hawaii is currently suing the Trump Administration over the travel ban, which prevents citizens from six muslim majority countries and momentarily halts the country’s refugee resettlement plan.

Earlier this month, the 9th circuit prevented the administration from denying entry to grandparents, aunts, uncles and other extended members of the family.

“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Judge Derrick Watson wrote. “Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.”

The Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging the travel ban on Oct. 10.

The administrations 90 day travel ban will expire in late September and the 120 day ban will end a month later in October.

Currently if you are not a U.S. citizen and have a relative here, have been admitted into an American university or have been hired by a U.S. employer, you can probably still get a visa. Although, relationships with entities must be formal, documented and must be organic. The justices wrote that an immigrant non-profit organization could not simply add a foreign national to a client list just so they can come to the U.S.

The current travel ban would not block people at U.S. airports like the original travel ban but instead deny them a visa.

The Hill

 Fox News

Washington Post – What the Supreme Court’s ruling means

CNN

New York Times

President Trump Pardons Ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio

On Friday Aug. 25, President Trump issued a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the ex sheriff who was found guilty of criminal contempt for failing to halt a program that allowed officers to pull over individuals who they suspected of being illegal because of their appearance.

Arpaio’s tough on crime and immigration strategy earned him the title as “toughest cop in America”. Under Arpaio, prisoners were forced to wear pink underwear and housed in tents in the desert.

The president hinted that the pardon was coming at his rally in Phoenix days before the pardon. He took to twitter to announce the pardon.

Arpaio took to twitter to thank the president in a series of tweets.

He also tweeted the link for his supporters to donate money to help with his legal fees.

New York Times

CNN

NPR

Washington Post

The Atlantic