Wednesday, February 22, 2017

TRUMP AGENDA - Deport and Ignore Nationality

"Trump Plan: Deport to Mexico Immigrants Crossing Border Illegally, Regardless of Nationality" by Ginger Thompson and Marcelo Rochabrun, ProPublica 2/20/2017

The idea is part of a raft of immigration proposals signed by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that are likely to spur international and legal challenges.

This article was co-published with Univision. (Spanish)

Update, Feb.  21, 2017:
In a call with reporters Tuesday morning, DHS officials confirmed they were working on a plan to send migrants who had entered the United States from Mexico back to Mexico, even if they were not citizens of that country.

Buried deep in the Trump administration's plans to round up undocumented immigrants is a provision certain to enrage Mexico — new authority for federal agents to deport anyone caught crossing the southern border to Mexico, regardless of where they are from.

If present immigration trends continue, that could mean the United States would push hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Brazilians, Ecuadorans, even Haitians into Mexico.  Currently, such people are detained in the U.S. and allowed to request asylum.

President Trump wants them to do so from Mexico, communicating via videoconference calls with U.S. immigration officials from facilities that Mexico would presumably be forced to build.

“This would say if you want to make a claim for asylum or whatever we'll hear your case but you are going to wait in Mexico,” a DHS official said.  “Those are details that are being worked out both within the department and between the US government and the government of Mexico … there are elements that still need to be worked out in detail.

Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Mexico later this week to meet with representatives of the Mexican government.  It remains unclear if they will discuss this issue.

The new authority for immigration agents is among the dramatic, some would say untenable, tactics the Trump administration is preparing to deploy as it upends President Obama's policies on illegal immigration.

A pair of memos signed by John Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary, and publicly released on Tuesday outline the plans for what present and former government officials say will be a massive roundup of undocumented immigrants.  Near final drafts of the memos had leaked over the weekend and had been first reported by McClatchy.

Officials disclosed that two former Senate aides to Attorney General Jeff Sessions drafted the plan without input from career DHS policy staffers.  The ideas aren't new.  Many of the approaches described in the memos come from a 1996 law that policy makers and law enforcement agents had disregarded as either unenforceable or absurd.

“Most of these provisions of law have been there for decades,” the DHS official said.  “We are simply trying to execute what Congress has asked us to do.”

Among them was the Mexico part of the plan, for example, which calls for returning undocumented immigrants “to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived.”  The memo goes on to point out how foisting the immigrants onto Mexico would benefit DHS's budget, saying that it would, “save the Department's detention and adjudication resources for other priority aliens.”

However, former senior Mexican and American immigration officials said it could very well create new security problems along the border, as authorities in each country push unwanted migrants back and forth.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association said that the proposal would violate U.S. law and international treaty obligations.  Mexico is as likely to embrace the plan as it did the notion of paying for a wall.  “I would expect Mexico to respond with an emphatic 'No,'” said Gustavo Mohar, a former senior Mexican immigration and national security policy official.

Whether viable or not, the Trump administration's deportation plans mark a dramatic departure from decades of policy and practice.  Current and former immigration policy officials say that while the details of how the administration intends to carry out the plans remain unclear — if not insurmountable — the administration's overall message to enforcement agents across the country is clear: the limits have been lifted.

President Obama attempted to focus enforcement efforts on immigrants who had been convicted of serious crimes, and on those who were caught while or shortly after illegally entering the country.  Still, his administration deported record numbers of immigrants, most of whom had only been accused of minor crimes and immigration violations.

The Trump administration says it, too, is focused on deporting criminals, but it has redefined crimes to include any activity that might bring a conviction, including entering the U.S. without permission.  Effectively, that makes virtually everyone in the U.S. without a proper visa subject to roundup at their workplace or home.

“If you are present in the U.S. without being admitted or paroled or having overstayed your visa, the immigration laws of the U.S. subject you to removal,” the DHS official said.  “Everyone who is in violation of the laws is theoretically subject to enforcement.  The Department has limited resources and we will, to the extent that we can, focus on folks who have committed serious crimes.”

The only clear exception, according to the enforcement plan and the DHS briefing, is for immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers.

“Anyone who complained about Obama as the deporter-in-chief,” said David Martin, formerly DHS's principal deputy general counsel, “is unfortunately going to get a taste of what it's like when someone is really gung-ho.”

Greg Chen, the policy director at AILA, said the Trump plan would “effectively unleash a massive deportation force with extremely broad authority to use detention as the default mechanism for anyone suspected of violating immigration law.”

The question looming over the proposals is how many of them, with all their legal and logistical obstacles, will the President actually be able to carry out.

The memos, for example, authorize the Border Patrol to hire 5,000 new agents, even though the force has never been able to fill the slots it has already been allotted.  Some 60 percent of applicants to the Border Patrol fail the required polygraph, and those who pass take 18 months to get sent out into the field.

The Trump plan calls for the expansion of a George W. Bush-era program, known as 287g, which allows DHS to deputize state and local police as immigration agents.  It was touted after 9/11 as a critical “force-multiplier.”  But by 2010, some of the country's largest police departments were refusing to participate because they believed it would shatter the trust between their officers and the communities they were sworn to protect.  Meanwhile, participating agencies, which foot the bill for the program, were suddenly saddled with new debts and hounded by accusations of racial profiling and other abuse, forcing the Obama administration to suspend expansion of the program.

Until now, the enforcement of summary deportation laws, known as “expedited removal,” have been limited to those apprehended within 14 days of illegally entering the country and within 100 miles of Canada or Mexico.  The memos signed by Kelly would allow use of those laws anywhere in the country against anyone who entered illegally within the past two years.

Lucas Guttentag, a former DHS adviser and Stanford law professor, said this would “unleash chaos,” violate due process, and meet challenges in court, similar to those that scuttled the administration's travel ban.

There would also be aggressive challenges, lawyers said, to plans that would allow immigration agents to deport unaccompanied minor children who crossed the border illegally, rather than uniting them with parents or other relatives in the U.S.

The reason for discussing unaccompanied minors is “ that they have been abandoned by their parents or legal guardians,” the DHS official said.  If it is “determined that there is a parent or guardian in the U.S. that they can be handed over to, then DHS needs to take a hard look over whether that person is actually'' an unaccompanied minor.

“There will be a renewed focus on ensuring that folks don't abuse the system,” the DHS official added.

They also expect legal opposition to a proposal that would strip undocumented immigrants of existing privacy protections, allowing personal information such as asylum cases or immigration violations to be publicly disclosed.

“We want to ensure that our privacy policies are consistent with the law,” the DHS official said.  “The Privacy Act applies by statute to citizens'' and green card holders.  “The President has asked us to align our laws with what congress has directed.”

“The Trump people have clearly bought into the model of harsh enforcement.  They apparently think, 'we'll be tough, and a lot of people will leave on their own,'” said Martin, an immigration law professor at the University of Virginia.  “They believe they'll win in the court of public opinion.  I'm not sure about that.  A lot of Americans know hard-working undocumented immigrants.  The kind of enforcement Trump's people are talking about will visibly create many more sympathetic cases than unsympathetic ones.”

Some of the provisions explicitly acknowledge that it could take years before DHS has the manpower and money to pull off what the President has ordered.  Immigration enforcement agents, however, have already begun filling the policy void by launching raids and deportations, including some that advocates worry are meant to test the limits.  Meanwhile panic has taken hold in many immigrant communities.

“The level of fear is more than anything we've ever seen,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.  She said the plan's sweep, “sent a chill to my bones,” because it threatens to do irreparable harm to millions of families.  She added, “This all seems aimed at changing who we are as a nation.”

THE RESISTANCE - Push Here, Rachel Maddow


Democratic recruiters see new zeal for public service in office

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TRUMP AGENDA - It's Called 'Boarder' Patrol


Harassment of U.S. citizens in traveling in their own country.  Everyone suspected of being an illegal.



Monday, February 20, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/17/2017

"Shields and Brooks on Trump using the press as a punching bag, Michael Flynn's sacking" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including President Trump's contentious press conference, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's resignation, as well as the continued scrutiny over other potential contacts with Russia and more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

David, to you first.

That was quite a report from William Brangham, two towns in Texas, two groups of people, both sides of the political aisle.  What does it tell you about just how divided this country is?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Yes, welcome to life in America these days.

For those of us who have been traveling around, that's reality.  And two things strike me.  The first is, politics is based on social identity, and so, again, there is going to be differences between rural and urban and between left and right.

But what's at the core, why is the chasm so wide between the two, and why are the two universes almost non-overlapping?  It's like whether we're just in-group, out-group, or is there some cultural or ethnic or racial divide that's at the bottom of this?  It's very hard to figure out what unconsciously is making people so fervently in one universe or the other.

But whether it's an identity politics thing, or just we that like to form groups and we like to unify our group by hating some other group, that's the world we're in.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, Mark, they couldn't have been more divided than they were.

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  They weren't.  They were characteristically Texan.  They were outspoken.  They didn't hide their allegiance or their enmities.

And I thought a particular act of fraternal love was disabling the FOX News Channel when his brother came to visit over Christmas, not exactly a loving act, it would seem, but something that he boasted about to William on national television.

BEYOND THE RED CARPET - "A United Kingdom"

"Why actor David Oyelowo made sure this love story became a movie" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In "A United Kingdom," a prince from southern Africa proposes to a British woman in late 1940s London.  Not only does race make the relationship fraught, but their marriage will have international consequences.  Jeffrey Brown sits down with actor and producer David Oyelowo to discuss the true, historical love story that got caught up in Colonial-era politics.

DAVID OYELOWO, Actor:  I'm not asking for an answer this very second.  All I ask of you is that you go away and think about it.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  In 1947 London, Seretse Khama, played by David Oyelowo, proposes to Ruth Williams, played by actress Rosamund Pike.

ROSAMUND PIKE, Actress:  I know what you're asking.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Their races make the relationship fraught.  But there's more:  He is a prince in his tribe in Southern Africa expected to return to lead his people, and their marriage will have international consequences.

“A United Kingdom” is based on a true story, and it was Oyelowo who first learned of it in a book titled “Color Bar” by Susan Williams.  More than just the film's star, he was the producer who brought director Amma Asante and others into the project.

DAVID OYELOWO:  What was indisputable to me was the power of the love between these two people, and it was that very thing that helped them overcome so many of these insurmountable obstacles and odds that they faced.

And, you know, as someone who is a real believer in love myself, and I mean, love in the truest sense, not movie love.  I'm talking about the unglamorous stuff of sacrifice, of courage.

JEFFREY BROWN:  I must say this film has movie love, because it's love at first sight almost, right?

DAVID OYELOWO:  But, you see, the thing about that is that we even have a name for it, the meet-cute.  You know, we have turned it into something that is so fantastical and so inaccessible that it has become fairy tale-like.

But, actually, what can happen — it doesn't happen every day, admittedly — is that two people see beyond their race, see beyond their cultural differences and their national differences.  And they just — two souls meet.

We should be fighting for equality.  That is where we should be focusing our minds, not on the wife I have chosen, who means you no harm.


"A United Kingdom" Official Trailer #1 (2016)

TRUMP AGENDA - Immigration Enforcement Make City LESS Safe?

"Why one Texas sheriff fears tougher immigration enforcement will make her city less safe" PBS NewsHour 2/16/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  After President Trump was sworn in, one Texas sheriff made a policy change limiting cooperation with agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, fearing that undocumented people won't trust police if they're afraid of being deported.  Taking action to make her city a “sanctuary” has drawn criticism and retaliation.  William Brangham reports.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Many restaurants and businesses were closed today for a national strike called A Day Without Immigrants.  The closures were an attempt by participants to show how crucial immigrants are to American society.

Of course, as we heard in his press conference today, immigration remains a vital issue to the President.  He campaigned promising to deport millions and to build a wall on the Mexican border.  And, last week, federal immigration raids in at least six states arrested hundreds.

But the immigration debate also plays out in the nation's so-called sanctuary cities, where local governments resist cooperating with federal immigration officials.

The NewsHour's William Brangham went to Austin, Texas, for a closer look.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear …

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Just a few hours after Donald Trump was sworn in as President, another newly elected official, Sheriff Sally Hernandez of Travis County, Texas, posted this video:

SALLY HERNANDEZ, Travis County, Texas, Sheriff:  I'm Sally Hernandez, your Travis County sheriff.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  The video laid out her department's policy change, which limits cooperation with agents from ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hernandez says she doesn't want her deputies to be seen as ICE agents.

SALLY HERNANDEZ:  We in law enforcement need the cooperation of our communities of color.  We need them to be running to us, and not running away from us.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Travis County, which includes Austin, has an estimated 100,000 undocumented immigrants, like Felix Jimenez.  The sheriff says people like Jimenez won't trust police if they're constantly afraid of being deported.

And Jimenez agrees.

FELIX JIMENEZ, Undocumented Immigrant (through interpreter):  We're afraid when we see a police officer.  We're Hispanic.  We could be stopped for any reason.  The real fear that keeps me nervous after a long day is that I may not see my children because I was stopped for only a small infraction.

SALLY HERNANDEZ:  We cannot afford to make our communities less safe by driving people into the shadows.

IN AMERICA - Life Expectancy

"‘Deaths of despair’ are cutting life short for some white Americans" PBS NewsHour 2/16/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In spite of decades of advancements in health care, diet and safety, white Americans are now living shorter lives, a trend that has surprised experts.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports out of Maysville, Kentucky, an area struggling with an increase in addiction, overdoses and suicide.

GUN CONTROL - College Campuses and Concealed Carry

"How the concealed carry debate plays out on college campuses" PBS NewsHour 2/15/2017

aka 'Making it More Likely Your Child Will Get Shot on Campus'

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In 1966, America’s first mass school shooting took place at the University of Texas, Austin, leaving 16 dead.  Today, Texas is one of eight states that allows concealed weapons to be carried on public college campuses, prompting vigorous debate.  With “Tower,” a new documentary on PBS’s Independent Lens that re-examines the incident, we get a look at how students feel about having guns at school.



"Tower" full episode

TRUMP AGENDA - Science Under Siege

aka "Trump Trying to Hide Truth of Science"

Lord Trump:  'The peons don't need science, all they need is my guidance from on high.'

"How scientists are scrambling to safeguard vital environmental data" PBS NewsHour 2/15/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Since the election, members of many scientific and research groups have been archiving government data they believe could be jeopardized by the new administration.  Their fear is that without data, you can't have environmental regulation.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien took a look at one of those efforts underway at New York University.

JEROME WHITINGTON, New York University:  Psyched to see everybody in the room.  Really exciting.

MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour):  It's early, cold, and Saturday, and yet this room at New York University is standing room only.  A few hundred volunteers are here to download and save scientific data created and curated by the federal government.

JEROME WHITINGTON:  Without the data, you don't have environmental regulation.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Anthropology Professor Jerome Whitington is one of the organizers of this data rescue event, the eighth in an ongoing, open-ended series which began after the election.

JEROME WHITINGTON:  Now, one of the things we're going to accomplish at this event is, we're going to do a lot of work to get hard-to-access data sets, things that previous events have struggled to get.

MILES O'BRIEN:  They are focused primarily on the essential science used to create environmental regulations.  They worry the Trump administration's anti-regulatory bent and outright denial of peer-reviewed climate science might put the data in jeopardy.

JEROME WHITINGTON:  We're less worried about it being outright deleted and disappearing, and more worried about it becoming unusable or inaccessible in specific ways.

MILES O'BRIEN:  So, they are systematically building a data refuge in the cloud on servers hosted by Amazon.

Bethany Wiggin directs the University of Pennsylvania program in environmental humanities.  She is an organizer of the data refuge project.

BETHANY WIGGIN, University of Pennsylvania:  We have always thought of data refuge as providing an insurance policy.  The situation is quite urgent.  Events on the federal level are moving quickly.  The changes being made to programs is happening quite fast.  The situation is very uncertain.

TRUMP AGENDA - Israel

IMHO:  I have a philosophy that 'friends don't let friends drive drunk' taken from MADD and applied to the Israel-Palestinian issue.  Israel's policy and actions in regard to Palestine will NOT end the world's longest war.  Israel is 'drunk' on religious doctrine, and if the USA is truly a friend we should not be enablers to their drunkenness.

This issue can ONLY be ended when the PEOPLE of both Israel and Palestine tell their respective governments to STOP.

"Will Trump's affinity for Israel translate into new policy?" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Trump talked during his campaign of moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, seeming to favor Israel in his policy stances.  But more recent comments suggest the administration could be more in line with long-standing American policy based on the two-state solution.  What's ahead for Mideast policy?  Special correspondent Martin Seemungal reports from Jerusalem.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL, special correspondent:  Jerusalem's Old City is defined by divisions, four quarters, Armenian, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, a legacy of conquests and occupations dating back thousands of years.

Israeli soldiers captured East Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the Six-Day War of 1967.  Today, Israeli soldiers still control the streets of the Old City and the thousands of Palestinians who live here.  It is a tense, often volatile place.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  I love Israel.  I love Israel.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  Enter Donald Trump:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  We will move the American Embassy.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  Promising to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his campaign.

Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barkat, welcomes the news with open enthusiasm.

His vice mayor, Yitzhak Pindrus, says it is long overdue.

YITZHAK PINDRUS, Vice Mayor of Jerusalem:  Jerusalem is the capital, capital of Israel, the capital of the Jewish nation.  It was that for thousands of years.  It's not something that's going to change.  And I'm comfortable with that, and I would be very happy if the embassy will move here.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  No nation on Earth officially recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  To understand why, you have to go back beyond the '67 war.

The United Nations' 1947 partition created Jewish and Arab states, putting Jerusalem under international control.  Israel captured a large part of Jerusalem in 1948, and divided Israeli West Jerusalem from a Palestinian East Jerusalem with a Green Line.

Despite declaring West Jerusalem as its capital, no country moved embassies there.  This is the old Green Line that split Jerusalem in two.  Israel annexed the eastern side of the city in the 1980s, illegally, according to international law.  And ever since, it's been trying to erase that sense of division.  But the reality remains West Jerusalem is predominately Jewish, East Jerusalem is predominantly Muslim.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.  And Donald Trump's promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem has angered Palestinians.

Hanan Ashrawi is a senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

HANAN ASHRAWI, Palestinian Liberation Organization:  This is an irresponsible and dangerous move.  Don't even think about it, because you will be inflaming feelings.  You will be turning this into a religious conflict.  You will be starting a whole new cycle of violence.  The U.S. will be seen as complicit.

THE STREAK - ! University of Connecticut Women's Basketball !

"How UConn women's basketball became synonymous with winning" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The UConn Women's basketball team hasn't lost a game since 2014.  That streak -- 100 straight games -- has never been approached by any other NCAA team -- male or female.  William Brangham talks to Christine Brennan of USA TODAY about this groundbreaking accomplishment.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  To put this streak in context, the UConn women haven't lost a basketball game since 2014.  No one has beaten them in over 800 days.

And inside that span, they also won two of their record four national championships.  One analyst called the UConn women — quote — “the most dominant program in the history of college basketball, period.

For more on these amazing women and their legendary coach, Geno Auriemma, I'm joined by USA Today's Christine Brennan.

Welcome back to the NewsHour.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today:  Great to be here, William.  Thank you.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  So, explain this phenomenon that is these women.  How do you explain their dominance?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN:  Well, no one saw this coming, if you consider, UConn had won four national championships in a row.  And …

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Amazing, in and of itself.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN:  That's right.

And the top three players from that, the seniors who won all four years, all went in the WNBA draft first, second, and third.  So, of all players coming out of college, they were the best three.  They all left.

So, everyone thought this was going to be a down year for UConn.



HUMAN RIGHTS - High-Tech Intersect Investigations

"A new generation of human rights investigators turns to high-tech methods" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Humanitarian crises like those in Syria's Aleppo sometimes make headlines.  But how do we identify such atrocities when they are occurring thousands of miles away?  A new program at UC Berkeley is training students to leverage social media, geolocation and other high-tech tools to document human rights abuses, and their findings have been brought to the UN.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  As we near the gruesome sixth anniversary of the war in Syria, daily documents of the carnage there now flood the Internet.  Photos and videos posted by both civilians and combatants catalog the shocking depths of human cruelty and possible war crimes.

Now human rights investigators are increasingly turning to the Internet to track what's happening, not only in Syria, but in other conflict zones.

As part of our Breakthroughs coverage of invention and innovation, special correspondent Cat Wise reports on a new university program training students to become human rights investigators in the digital age.

And a warning:  This story contains some disturbing images.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  For decades, human rights investigators have relied on tools like shovels and backhoes to uncover mass graves and mass atrocities in places like Bosnia, Iraq, and Rwanda.  But in today's smartphone-filled world, videos and images of people killed or suffering thousands of miles away take only a couple of clicks to find on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter.

The front lines of human rights work have shifted in the digital age, and a new generation of investigators is beginning to employ high-tech tools.

STUDENT:  We can probably screen-shot that.

STUDENT:  Yes.

STUDENT:  And reverse-image it.

STUDENT:  Yes.

STUDENT:  And we should look up the name of that pharmacy.

STUDENT:  Can anyone translate that?

CAT WISE:  These students are part of the recently launched Human Rights Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Center.

The university and partner organization Amnesty International are training the students to verify videos and other publicly available social media content coming out of areas like Syria, where human rights violations have been occurring.

For the first time, students are using open source investigation methods used previously by journalists and human rights professionals.

YOUSTINA YOUSSEF, Student:  Oh, those are uniforms.

CAT WISE:  Youstina Youssef is a 20-year-old political science major in the program.  She's become a highly skilled digital detective.  And her native language, Arabic, also comes in handy.  Youssef grew up in Cairo, Egypt.  She and her family are Coptic Christians, a religious minority in Egypt.  They came to the U.S. in 2010 shortly before the revolution began.

TRUMP WHITE HOUSE - Where is the Focus?

"Is the focus on his staff keeping President Trump from making policy?" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In recent weeks, several members of President Trump's administration have come under scrutiny for potentially not measuring up in their new roles.  Judy Woodruff sits down with NPR's Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report to discuss the latest on Michael Flynn, if the President likes keeping his staff on edge and whether the focus on personnel is obstructing policy progress.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Just over three weeks into the Trump administration, and, as you heard earlier, reports aren't going away of disarray inside the White House.

For more, we turn to our Politics Monday team, Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

Thank you both for being here.

So, Tam and Amy, we did talk earlier about what is happening to General Flynn, the President himself weighing in.

So, Tam, you were at the White House this afternoon.  What is the latest on that?

TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio:  Yes.

So I was at the White House waiting to hopefully talk to Sean Spicer, the press secretary, when the President walked by an area where there were about a dozen, maybe 10 reporters waiting to see Spicer.  The President shows up.  And reporters asked the President, do you have confidence in General Flynn?  What is General Flynn's status?

And he said, “Oh, there's a statement coming.”

Then someone else shouted, how about Reince Priebus, the chief of staff?  Do you have confidence in Reince Priebus?

And he says (President):  “Reince is doing great.  Reince is doing great.”

So there is a real contrast there between saying, oh, there is a statement coming, a statement that says that the President is evaluating the situation, and saying that the chief of staff is doing great.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  A contrast between what he says about General Flynn and what he says about Reince Priebus.

TAMARA KEITH:  Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But also, Amy, a contrast about what they are saying just an hour after Kellyanne Conway, the President's counselor, said that the President had full confidence in General Flynn.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:  Although, Judy, you know this.  That is a classic line that folks in Washington use, like they use the, he's taking time off to spend time with his family.

So, they use — they throw that line out there.  It's really not very definitive.  But, look, the issue with Flynn is as much about the frustration within the White House about the fact that he made at least two very high-ranking members of that administration, the vice President and the chief of staff, look like they lied.

They gave information out on television that wasn't truthful.  And it came directly from Michael Flynn.  That seems like the bigger question here than whether or not we can talk about a specific law being broken about the fact that he talked to the Russians before he was officially in his position.

TRUMP WHITE HOUSE - The Flynn Debacle

"What Michael Flynn's communication with Russia means for national security" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has come under fire for pre-inauguration conversations he had with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.  Judy Woodruff speaks with The New York Times' David Sanger, and Leon Panetta former director of the CIA, about Flynn's actions and what the controversy suggests about the early weeks of the Trump administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  It's been less than a month since Donald Trump took office, but already there are numerous reports that the National Security Council, which advises the President on key foreign, military and intelligence issues, is in disarray.

The leader of the NSC, retired Army General Michael Flynn, has come under increasing criticism for his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

We turn now to Leon Panetta.  He served as the director of the CIA and secretary of defense during the Obama administration.  He also served as White House chief of staff for President Clinton.  And David Sanger, he covers national security for The New York Times.

And we welcome both of you back to the program.

David Sanger, I'm going to start with you.

You and your colleagues at The New York Times wrote a pretty remarkable story yesterday about — well, you can't use any words other than disarray, chaos, inside the National Security Council.  Given that, and the events of today, where do things stand?

DAVID SANGER, The New York Times:  Well, I think that everybody in the National Security Council is wondering when they're going to begin to get to what the council is supposed to be doing, which is coordinate among the different agencies of government, bring in intelligence, debate policy.

And several things have gotten in the way of doing that, Judy.  The first is that, as you reported before, General Flynn has been under this cloud and investigation.  And now we hear just a little while ago that President Trump and Vice President Pence are considering his fate, that just an hour after we were told that he's got the President's full confidence.

The second thing that is going on is that the staff itself is a little bit paranoid right now.  They know that Mr. Flynn has talked about starting an insider threat program.  That seems to them to be an invitation for their e-mails to be monitored, their cell phones to be watched.  We don't know that any of that is going to happen, but it gives you a sense of the mood.

And the third thing is that many of the people on the NSC, this body that is supposed to coordinate all this different policy, come from the agencies, and they feel as if they have been frozen out.  And yet there is no one above them who has got a clear job responsibility.

So I would say that, for an operation that is supposed to run like a business, it's not running much like a business.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, there's a lot to tackle there.

But, Secretary Panetta, I want to go first to the fate of Michael Flynn, the general who is the President's national security adviser.  As we have been reporting and as David just said, the President himself issued a statement through his press secretary tonight saying that he's talking to the vice President about what to do.

Is what General Flynn reportedly did, talking to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before President Trump takes office about what to do about Russian sanctions, is that something that is just off — should be, frankly, off-limits for someone in his position, advising the President-to-be?

LEON PANETTA, Former U.S.  Secretary of Defense:  Well, there's a lot for the President and the Vice President to consider here.

I think first and foremost is, one of the principal qualities that you need as national security adviser is trust, the trust of the President.  And that depends on truth and it depends on honesty.  And if, indeed, the National Security Adviser didn't tell the truth to the Vice President, and the Vice President in turn went out to the American people and said that he had no such conversations with the Russian ambassador, I think that's a serious matter, and one for them to think seriously about.

With regards to the substance of what was discussed, you know, it's hard to tell exactly what these conversations were about.  I think it is of concern in terms of judgment for somebody who is not in a position of power to raise the sanctions issue.  I think the sanctions issue in general is a terrible mistake to even imply that we would withdraw from those sanctions.

But I guess more seriously here is the issue of just exactly what was discussed.  And those issues are under investigation, both by the FBI, as well as the Congress.




"How deep will the Senate delve into Flynn investigation?" PBS NewsHour 2/14/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  How far will the Senate go in investigating the events that led to the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, amid wider concerns about Russian interference in the election?  Judy Woodruff gets two reactions from Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who both sit on the Intelligence Committee.

TRUMP AGENDA - U.S. Intel Community's Lack of Trust

"Trump reportedly screamed at CIA Director Pompeo over Intel being withheld" by Frank Vyan Walton, Daily KOS 2/18/2017


Well he may call the media “Fake” and an “Enemy of the American people” but he apparently can't stop himself from watching and reading it incessantly, particularly when he's the subject.

“Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration — not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump — that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust,” wrote former analyst for the National Security Agency Jack R. Schindler.

The Director of National Intelligence flatly denied this was happening and Pompeo released a strongly worded statement saying the same.

“It is CIA's mission to provide the President with the best intelligence possible and to explain the basis for that intelligence,” the statement read.  “The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the President, period.”

So the DNI and the CIA Director have both denied this is the case, but then both of them are Trump appointees and the reports of potentially damaging information being withheld from the White House because of concerns that it could be leaked to Russia goes back all the way to the transition, before either the Pompeo or the DNI were put before the Senate for confirmation, so how would they know what it is that they don't know and aren't being told?

Apparently all of this has Trump incensed.

As reported by CBS.

CBS News has learned that on Thursday, an angry President Trump called CIA Director Mike Pompeo and yelled at him for not pushing back hard enough against reports that the intelligence community was withholding information from the commander-in-chief.

True to form though the Trump White House denied not only they were being locked out of the loop, but also that Trump and Pompeo had a conversation about and that Trump “yelled.”

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd denied Friday that there was a conversation between Pompeo and Mr. Trump about the article.

“There was no conversation between the CIA Director and the President about the Wall Street Journal article either before or after CIA issued its statement about the article,” Boyd said.  “The CIA issued its statement on its own accord because the story was inaccurate and we felt the need to defend the integrity of our officers and institution.”

Yeah, I can believe that just as much as I can believe there were 3-5 Million phantom voters in the November election and that Trump's inauguration had the “largest crowd ever”.

There's a bit of bait and switch here because the most vocal proponent of this idea, former NSA analyst Jack Schindler who is a columnist with Jared Kushner's New York Observer has said that his sources are within the NSA not the CIA in addition to the fact we have 16 different intel agencies beyond the CIA who could be part of this deliberate freeze-out.

How things are heating up between the White House and the spooks is evidenced by a new report that the CIA has denied a security clearance to one of Flynn's acolytes.  Rob Townley, a former Marine intelligence officer selected to head up the NSC's Africa desk, was denied a clearance to see Sensitive Compartmented Information (which is required to have access to SIGINT in particular).  Why Townley's SCI was turned down isn't clear—it could be over personal problems or foreign ties—but the CIA's stand has been privately denounced by the White House, which views this as a vendetta against Flynn.  That the Townley SCI denial was reportedly endorsed by Mike Pompeo, the new CIA director selected by Trump himself, only adds to the pain.

There is more consequential IC pushback happening, too.  Our spies have never liked Trump's lackadaisical attitude toward the President's Daily Brief, the most sensitive of all IC documents, which the new commander-in-chief has received haphazardly.  The President has frequently blown off the PDB altogether, tasking Flynn with condensing it into a one-page summary with no more than nine bullet-points.  Some in the IC are relieved by this, but there are pervasive concerns that the President simply isn't paying attention to intelligence.

In light of this, and out of worries about the White House's ability to keep secrets, some of our spy agencies have begun withholding intelligence from the Oval Office.  Why risk your most sensitive information if the President may ignore it anyway?  A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, in an unprecedented move.  For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the "President's Eyes Only," containing enormously sensitive intelligence.  In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT secrets.

If the PDB was being boiled down by Flynn — before he was asked to resign as National Security Advisor for lying to the Vice President — to a single page with no more than 9 bullet points, the President really isn't getting all the information anyway and the CIA Directory denying the “withhold” is practically meaningless when it's the NSA holding sensitive information back, not necessarily CIA.  But then again all of that is a perfect example of Trump lack of comprehension and understanding.

So despite including the denials, CBS still finished with….

The reality is, insiders say, that there has been a “chill” in the information flow.  Intelligence sources say the agency is intent on protecting information, and if there are concerns it could be compromised, it will be withheld.

The ongoing investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with the Russians remains a concern for some who handle sensitive data.  It can be inferred that there is a lack of trust, and because the CIA has had a role in uncovering signs of Russian cyber intrusions, there are also concerns that sensitive information could be shared with adversaries.

Yeah, considering the fact that both NSA SIGINT and the Intel services of our allies have confirmed the multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence described by the Steele dossier as being accurate, you bet there are “concerns.”

TRUMP AGENDA - Ukraine Sanctions Plan or Giveaway?

"Advisers develop plan for Russia, Ukraine" by MEGAN TWOHEY & SCOTT SHANE, San Diego Union-Tribune 2/20/2017

NOTE:  This is from the online version of the newspaper, therefore no article link.


Trump associates forge proposal to solve conflict between nations

A week before Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Donald Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.

Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador.  But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

At a time when Trump's ties to Russia, and the people connected to him, are under heightened scrutiny — with investigations by U.S. intelligence agencies, the FBI and Congress — some of his associates remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the scenes.

Trump has confounded Democrats and Republicans alike with his repeated praise for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and his desire to forge a U.S.-Russian alliance.  While there is nothing illegal about such unofficial efforts, a proposal that seems to tip toward Russian interests may set off alarms.

The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives.  “Who doesn't want to help bring about peace?” Cohen asked.

But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan.  Andrey Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, that could help oust him.  And Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Putin.

“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a CIA agent,” Artemenko said.  “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”

Cohen and Sater said they had not spoken to Trump about the proposal, and have no experience in foreign policy.  Cohen is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in an FBI counterintelligence examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement officials; he has denied any illicit connections.

The two others involved in the effort have somewhat questionable pasts: Sater, 50, a Russian-American, pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved organized crime.  Artemenko spent 2 1/2 years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically motivated.

While it is unclear if the White House will take the proposal seriously, the diplomatic freelancing has infuriated Ukrainian officials.  Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, said Artemenko “is not entitled to present any alternative peace plans on behalf of Ukraine to any foreign government, including the U.S. administration.”

At a security conference in Munich on Friday, Poroshenko warned the West against “appeasement” of Russia, and some U.S. experts say offering Russia any alternative to a 2-year-old international agreement on Ukraine would be a mistake.  The Trump administration has sent mixed signals about the conflict in Ukraine.

But given Trump's praise for Putin, John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said he feared the new President might be too eager to mend relations with Russia at Ukraine's expense — potentially with a plan like Artemenko's.

The FBI is reviewing an unverified dossier, compiled by a former British intelligence agent and funded by Trump's political opponents, that claims Cohen met with a Russian representative in Prague during the presidential campaign to discuss Russia's hacking of Democratic targets.  But the Russian official named in the report told The New York Times that he had never met Cohen.  Cohen insists that he has never visited Prague and that the dossier's assertions are fabrications.

Cohen has a personal connection to Ukraine: He is married to a Ukrainian woman and once worked with relatives there to establish an ethanol business.

Before entering politics, Artemenko had business ventures in the Middle East and real estate deals in the Miami area, and had worked as an agent representing top Ukrainian athletes.  Some colleagues in Parliament describe him as corrupt, untrustworthy or simply insignificant, but he appears to have amassed considerable wealth.

He has fashioned himself in the image of Trump, presenting himself as Ukraine's answer to a rising class of nationalist leaders in the West.  He even traveled to Cleveland last summer for the Republican National Convention, seizing on the chance to meet with members of Trump's campaign.

“It's time for new leaders, new approaches to the governance of the country, new principles and new negotiators in international politics,” he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 27.  “Our time has come!”

Artemenko said he saw in Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan for peace in Ukraine — and help advance his own political career.  Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine.  Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.

The Ukrainian ambassador, Chaly, rejected a lease of that kind.  “It is a gross violation of the constitution,” he said in written answers to questions from The Times.  “Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests.”

The reaction suggested why Artemenko's project also includes the dissemination of “kompromat,” or compromising material, purportedly showing that Poroshenko and his closest associates are corrupt.  Only a new government, presumably one less hostile to Russia, might take up his plan.

Sater, a longtime business associate of Trump's with connections in Russia, was willing to help Artemenko's proposal reach the White House.

Trump has sought to distance himself from Sater in recent years.  If Sater “were sitting in the room right now,” Trump said in a 2013 deposition, “I really wouldn't know what he looked like.”

But Sater worked on real estate development deals with the Trump Organization on and off for at least a decade, even after his role in the stock manipulation scheme came to light.

Cohen said he was waiting for a response to the proposal when Flynn was forced from his post.  Now he, Sater and Artemenko are hoping a new national security adviser will take up their cause.  On Friday the President wrote on Twitter that he had four candidates for the job.

They trekked to Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida for in-person interviews this weekend.  They were: Army strategist Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg, and West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.

Officials said it was possible others could be added to the list, and candidates could return for follow-up interviews today.  One name that had been floated was ruled out: former CIA Director David Petraeus.

“I have many, many that want the job,” Trump insisted this weekend as he promised reporters a decision within days.

Trump's initial choice, though, retired Navy Vice Adm.  Robert Harward, has already turned him down.

Harward, a onetime Navy SEAL who is a senior executive at Lockheed Martin, has cited family and financial considerations in turning down the job.  But news reports suggested that Harward rejected the post because he feared insufficient control over key staffing decisions, including the right to choose his own deputy.

Twohey and Shane write for The New York Times.  The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

THE RESISTANCE - Trump's Lobbyists Lie

"Trump Then: 'I Would Have No Problem' Banning Lobbyists.  Trump Now: You're Hired!" by Justin Elliott, ProPublica 2/14/2017

During his campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly welcomed the idea of banning lobbyists from his administration.

Fast forward eight months, and now-President Trump is welcoming them in.

Last June on CBS's “Face the Nation,” host John Dickerson asked Donald Trump:  Given the candidate's drumbeat of criticism of the Washington lobbyist class, “Will you say 'No lobbyists will work for me and no big donors?'”

“I would have no problem with it, honestly,” Trump responded.

After the exchange, a “Face the Nation” producer followed up with campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, who confirmed that, yes, Trump was referring to banning lobbyists from his administration.

The sentiment is in line with what Trump told NBC's “Meet the Press” in another interview a year earlier, when he called banning lobbyists from working in his administration “a pretty good idea.”

As ProPublica detailed last week, a longtime construction industry lobbyist who previously worked against wage and workplace safety regulations is now in a key position at the Department of Labor.  The lobbyist, Geoff Burr, is reportedly in line to be chief of staff if Andrew Puzder is confirmed as Labor secretary.

At the Food and Drug Administration, longtime pharmaceutical lobbyist Jack Kalavritinos has a senior role in the agency's early Trump team, according to Stat News.

Kalavritinos spent more than seven years as the chief lobbyist of the medical device and pharmaceutical firm Covidien.  (Covidien was subsequently acquired by Medtronic) In that role, Kalavritinos lobbied the FDA and Congress on a host of issues related to medical device regulation, disclosure records show.  Among the legislation he lobbied on was the Novel Device Regulatory Relief Act and the Food and Drug Administration Mission Reform Act.

Trump himself recently criticized the extensive influence of the pharmaceutical lobby.  “Pharma has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there's very little bidding on drugs,” he said at a press conference last month.

K Street was a frequent punching bag for Trump on the campaign trail.  He once tweeted:



It's difficult to know how many former lobbyists are now working in the Trump administration.  Both Burr and Kalavritinos are members of Trump's so-called “beachhead teams,” which are made up of officials installed at federal agencies to lay the groundwork while the president's nominees make their way through the Senate confirmation process.  The administration has said there are around 500 such staffers, but has not released a list of names.

Trump last month issued an executive order on ethics for appointees that weakened elements of the Obama-era policy on former lobbyists joining government.

Trump also hired a range of lobbyists into influential positions during the transition period, between Election Day and the inauguration on Jan 20.  As The New York Times noted in November; telecom, energy, and agriculture industry consultants and lobbyists were all named to influential roles.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Monday, February 13, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/10/2017

"Shields and Brooks on immigration ban court defeat, Democrats' confirmation hearing opposition" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including the decision by a federal appeals court to deny the Trump administration's request to reinstate an immigration ban, President Trump's comments attacking judges and the contentious battles in the Senate over Cabinet nominees.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who joins us tonight from Chicago.

And we welcome both of you.

So, before we talk about the immigration — the president's immigration order, Mark, which the court, appeals court, rejected the administration argument on last night, we have a short clip of what President Trump has just said a little while ago on Air Force One as he was flying from Washington down to South Florida to Mar-a-Lago.

Reporters were asking him what he plans to do now.

Here's that clip.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  We will win that battle.  But we also have a lot of other options, including just filing a brand-new order.

QUESTION:  (OFF-MIKE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  Could very well be.  But I like to keep you — I would like to surprise you.  We need speed for reasons of security.  So, it could very well be that we do.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, Mark, he says, “I like to surprise you.”

How big a setback is this for the president?

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  It's a significant setback, Judy, in large part because it was self-inflicted.

They made mistakes, including green card holders, which weakened their argument completely, and made them vulnerable to the court's decision.  And it reflected, more than anything else, a sense of chaos and a sense of incompleteness and a sense of lack of thoughtfulness in the administration on an enormously serious issue.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David, how do you see it?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Well, first, on that last clip of Trump on the plane, his staff is briefing reporters in somewhat of a chaotic manner in just the last few minutes.  People are saying, oh, they are going to just take it to the Supreme Court, they're going to rewrite it.

And the two different briefings are contradicting each other.  And that's something The Times reporters have been talking and tweeting about publicly, which is some of the White House staff is in a high state of misery because of the general lack of — chaos.

On the larger issue of the travel ban, our friend Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post I think put it pretty well.  I'm not sure it's illegal, but it's extremely stupid.

I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of judges overruling Presidents on national security matters.  Nonetheless, so whether it's unconstitutional or not, I leave to others.  But it certainly has sucked the wind out of two or three weeks of this administration for no good reason.

There has never been evidence that people from these countries are disproportionately likely to commit terrorist acts.  We have sent chaos to the airports.  We have offended the world.  We have derailed the administration.  We have done it in such an incompetent way, the administration has, that people with perfectly legal residence have been widely inconvenienced.

And so it's just been a screw-up from beginning to end, and so it's just been a running derailment.

TRUMP AGENDA - China/Japan Diplomacy

"What's the future of relations with China, Japan under Trump?" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2017

COMMENT:  Note Trump's insensitivity on the nuclear weapon issue.  During my 22yr U.S. Navy carrier, I was stationed in Japan and I am very aware of their sensitivity in regards to nuclear weapons.  After Nagasaki and Hiroshima you cannot blame them, they KNOW the horrors of the use nuclear weapons.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with President Trump Friday amid growing concerns in Asia over trade, North Korea's missile and nuclear programs and China flexing its military muscle.  Judy Woodruff speaks with Evan Medeiros, former Senior Director for Asian Affairs during the Obama administration, about what U.S. relations with Asia look like going forward.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  As we mentioned earlier, the prime minister of Japan was at the White House today, the beginning of several days of talks with the president.

The visit comes amid growing concerns in Asia over trade, over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, and over China flexing its military muscle.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  The bond between our two nations and the friendship between our two peoples runs very, very deep.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The two leaders presented a united front, despite differences that have emerged in the early days of the Trump presidency.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had pushed hard for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, but President Trump has officially abandoned it.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  On the economy, we will seek a trading relationship that is free, fair, and reciprocal, benefiting both of our countries.

SHINZO ABE, Japanese Prime Minister (through interpreter):  I am quite optimistic that good results will be seen from the dialogue.  Now the free and fair common set of rules will be created for free trade in the region.  That was the purpose of TPP.  That importance has not changed.  I, myself, believe that.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Abe also talked up Japanese industry's contributions to the U.S. economy, after Mr. Trump blasted Toyota last month for planning a new plant in Mexico.

Defense is another potential flash point.  During the campaign, candidate Trump suggested Japan and South Korea could pay more for their own defense, up to and including nuclear weapons.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  North Korea has nukes.  Japan has a problem with that.  I mean, they have a big problem with that.  Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea.

QUESTION:  With nukes?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Today, however, the president appeared to step back.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  It is important that both Japan and the United States continue to invest very heavily in the alliance to build up our defense.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Some 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, the largest American outpost in Asia.  Last week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis made Asia his first overseas visit.  In Japan, he reassured Abe that the U.S. will maintain its presence there.

The U.S. military also serves as the main counterweight to China's increasing aggressiveness in the South China Sea.  Today, Abe said that must continue.

SHINZO ABE (through interpreter):  We need to maintain the freedom of navigation and rule of law.  Such international order there must be maintained.

TRUMP AGENDA - HHS Secretary Tom Price

"As HHS Secretary, Tom Price has significant powers to change health care" PBS NewsHour 2/10/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Tom Price, a Republican congressman from Georgia, was confirmed as the next secretary of health and human services overnight.  The longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act sees a smaller role for the federal government in health care.  But his new boss, President Trump, has said he wouldn't touch Medicare or Medicaid.  Lisa Desjardins talks with Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News.

LISA DESJARDINS (NewsHour):  He is, after his swearing-in today, the nation's 23rd Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Georgia Congressman Tom Price in the wee hours this morning on a party-line vote of 52-47.  Secretary Price is a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

To Democrats like Maria Cantwell of Washington State, that is the problem.

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL, D-District of Columbia:  My view is, this vote is the first vote in the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

LISA DESJARDINS:  But to Republicans like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, that's Price's appeal.

SEN. TOM COTTON, R-Ark.:  You could say his chief qualification for the job of replacing Obamacare is, he had the good sense to oppose it in the first place.

LISA DESJARDINS:  Price is also a retired doctor, the first physician to lead HHS in nearly 25 years.  But in confirmation hearings, he faced tough questions over his relationship with health care companies, and his investment in some which were affected by his actions in Congress.

Now Price is responsible for a more than a trillion-dollar health agency budget, for a department that oversees food and drugs, biomedical research, public health threats, and, of course, a large portion of U.S. health care.  That includes Medicaid, which covers more than 74 million people, and Medicare, over 55 million.

His theme?  A smaller role for the federal government.  In Congress, Price backed a proposed cap on Medicare spending per person.  Price also supported giving states fixed amounts, in block grants, to cover low-income people on Medicaid.

But his new boss, Donald Trump, said on the campaign trail he wouldn't touch Medicare or Medicaid.

DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:  Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.  Have to do it.

TRUMP EFFECT$ - Companies and Polarized Politics

"How should companies navigate polarized politics in the Trump era?" PBS NewsHour 2/9/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  How should companies navigate the new political climate under President Trump?  From political Super Bowl ads to Trump-brand boycotts, we seem to be seeing the rise of a new partisan consumerism.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  The Super Bowl, politicized this year through ads, Airbnb branding itself as immigration-friendly, Coca-Cola recycling a 2014 ad that also suggests an alternative definition of American patriotism.

And in the larger world, backlash from Uber customers over President Trump's immigration ban, #deleteUber, that ultimately forced its CEO to step down from a White House advisory panel.

Nordstrom dropping the first daughter's clothing line back in January, with Neiman Marcus following suit, prompting a tweet from President Trump yesterday:  “My daughter has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom.  She is a great person, always pushing me to do the right thing.  Terrible.”

So are we seeing the rise of a new partisan consumerism, echoing the country's polarized politics?

We invited two Harvard Business School professors, Nancy Koehn and Len Schlesinger, to answer the question.

NANCY KOEHN, Professor, Harvard Business School:  What we're seeing now is, I think, the culmination or perhaps the next logical step of a long series of events and trends among consumers, many of them previously alienated from the political process, where they use their dollars to vote on social, political and economic issues.

LEN SCHLESINGER, Professor, Harvard Business School:  And relative to today's administration, there are countless examples of how that's being played out on a daily basis.

So we have the scenario of the Ivanka merchandising line, which has now been essentially removed from Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, a hashtag, #boycottNordstrom, hashtag #boycottNeimanMarcus for actually tossing our Ivanka out of the store, and the same on the other side of the equation.

PAUL SOLMAN:  So, boycotts, consumer boycotts have been used to express political beliefs and to try to affect political outcomes for…

NANCY KOEHN:  For at least 50 or 60 years, right, and probably going back farther than that.

What, again, is new, I think, Paul, is the reach and the speed.  And that's all running on the high-octane fuel of social media.  And I think the other thing that's new and different is the emotional energy that social media allows.  These are all businesses that have a very big word of mouth component to them.  They have a big ego or identity component to them.

So the ability of these boycotts to affect those aspects of business success, consumer loyalty, word of mouth, brand power, that's a big deal.

ALT-RIGHT AGENDA - Steve Bannon's Documentaries aka Propaganda

"Inside Steve Bannon's 'weaponized' political documentaries" PBS NewsHour 2/9/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Steve Bannon, chief strategist to President Trump, has also worked extensively in the film world, including writing and directing documentaries on the global financial crisis, alleged corruption in the Clinton Foundation, and what he sees as the rise of a violent and radical Islam.  Jeffrey Brown speaks with he Washington Post's Ann Hornaday and Matea Gold on Bannon's past work.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  He is chief strategist to President Trump, close at hand as policy is made and decisions come from the White House, the President even recently appointing him to a seat on the National Security Council, a controversial decision.

Stephen Bannon has quickly gained so much of a reputation as an influential behind-the-scenes string-puller that “Saturday Night Live” portrayed him as the Grim Reaper in a recent skit.

ALEC BALDWIN, Actor:  Send in Steve Bannon.

(LAUGHTER)

JEFFREY BROWN:  Bannon was well-known previously as chairman of Breitbart News, the right-wing news organization, that Bannon himself once called the platform of the alt-right, a fringe conservative group that mixes populism, white nationalism and racism.

But he's also worked extensively in the film world, as executive producer on two traditional dramas, including “The Indian Runner,” Sean Penn's directorial debut, and as producer, writer and director of political documentaries often released during election cycles.

Among his film topics, the global financial crisis in 2010's “Generation Zero,” Sarah Palin, featured in “The Undefeated” in 2011, more recently, 2016's “Clinton Cash” about alleged corruption in the Clinton Foundation, and also last year Torchbearer,” about an America turning from God, and the concurrent rise of a violent and radical Islam.

Reporters at The Washington Post have been looking at Stephen Bannon's work in films and how they may inform his role as the President's right-hand man.

Ann Hornaday is a film critic for The Post.  Matea Gold covers politics.

Welcome, both of you.

MATEA GOLD, The Washington Post:  Great to be here.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Ann, give us first an overview of themes, style, approach that emerge when you look at the films.

ANN HORNADAY, Film Critic, The Washington Post:  Well, Bannon has really come into his own as mostly a documentary maker.

He has made and produced fiction films in the past, but it's really his documentaries that get the most attention.  And often they have political themes.  He has a few sort of canards and villains that he returns to.  He doesn't like the Clintons very much.  He doesn't like any political elite very much.

He rails against the sort of permanent political class.  He sees — the films often predict the world in very Manichaean terms, apocalyptic terms.

LEADING EDGE - Cancer Immunotherapy

"Cancer immunotherapy has life-saving powers — and limitsPBS NewsHour 2/8/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For some patients, the body's own natural immune system is being used to fight their cancer.  Meet a woman who has lived years past her doctors' prognosis, thanks to the emerging field of immunotherapy.  Then Hari Sreenivasan discusses the promise and limits of the treatment with Matt Richtel of The New York Times and Jeff Bluestone, director of the UCSF Hormone Research Institute.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The emerging field of immunotherapy, and its potential to help fight cancer in some patients.

Hari Sreenivasan has a conversation about its promise and limits in a minute.

We begin with the story of a cancer patient who was told at one point that she only had six months to live.  She has now lived several years beyond that, thanks to her novel treatment.  Those kind of treatments are the focus of our weekly segment, the Leading Edge.

MELINDA WELSH, Cancer Sufferer:  My name is Melinda Welsh.  I'm a writer, and was editor of The Sacramento News and Review for around 25 years.

And when I was diagnosed with cancer, it just came naturally, I guess, to write about it.  It was shocking to hear.  I felt stunned.

It is squamous cell carcinoma.  And after we learned that the cancer had metastasized, we went to see some specialists.  I asked each of them how much time I had left, and that's when they told me, you know, six to nine months, months to a year, a year-ish.

You know, I started writing again, and I felt I had something to say that might mean something to other people because of the lessons I was learning facing death.

“The enormity of the news didn't sink in fully, not at first, even after my doctor uttered the words, ‘I'm sorry, we did find cancer.' I have turned my attention to the question, how do I best spend the time that I have left?  My answer is writing, family and friends, the pleasures of small things.  I was told, don't skip dessert, so we don't.  We have taken to getting up a few early mornings a week and driving out to see the sunrise over the flatlands of our mostly rural county.”

I can't believe this.  It is going to be a great day.

“I will take solace in the idea that, once gone, I may come to occupy a small space in the hearts of the people who loved me most, and perhaps from there, I will be the source of a few simple reminders:  Time is limited, life is miraculous, and we are beautiful.”

I always loved my life.  I felt very lucky, my meeting up with Dave, my love of my life, best friend.  So, having cancer, it just made me want my life, but more so.

After that first piece was published, we had a breakthrough.  I started immunotherapy.  And Dr. Algazi, who is our — my oncologist, surprises us by showing up in the infusion room.  And he says, “I just talked to the radiologist.  The neck tumor has vanished.  And so have the other tumors.”

DR. ALAIN ALGAZI, Skin Cancer Specialist:  My name is Alain Algazi.  I'm an oncologist.

I specialize in head, neck cancer, and melanoma.  I work at the University of California, San Francisco.  Melinda presented with squamous cell cancer in a lymph node.  It was metastatic, but she was diagnosed at a time when we had access to several new drugs.  And those drugs turn the immune cells back on that are in the tumor, and allow them to fight more effectively against the cancer.

So, basically, they're taking your native immune response and enhancing it.  So, we caused the tumors to regress and go away.