Ta-Nehisi Coates Calls Out Mitch McConnell At House Hearing On Slavery Reparations

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday for his claim that it didn’t make sense to pay reparations for something that occurred more than a lifetime ago.

“This rebuttal proffers a strange theory of governance: that American accounts are somehow bound by the lifetime of its generations,” Coates told a House panel discussing the possibility of reparations for slavery. He noted that the United States paid pensions to heirs of Civil War soldiers into this century and continues to honor treaties hundreds of years old. “We recognize our lineage as a generational trust, as inheritance, and the real dilemma posed by reparations is just that: a dilemma of inheritance.”

McConnell argued against reparations when he spoke to reporters in a press conference on Tuesday. 

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” he said. “I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that, and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it.”

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates delivers remarks before a House panel on Wednesday.

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates delivers remarks before a House panel on Wednesday.

Coates delivered his remarks Wednesday before a House Judiciary subcommittee in a hearing on H.R. 40, a bill that would create a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans. It was the first hearing held on slavery reparations in over a decade.

The Case For Reparations,” Coates’ 2014 essay for The Atlantic, is largely credited with bringing the issue back into the national spotlight.

“Enslavement reigned for 250 years on this shore,” Coates said in his remarks. “For a century after the Civil War black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror — a terror that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell.”

He spoke to the continued impact of slavery that occurred during McConnell’s lifetime: the execution of 14-year-old George Stinney in 1944; the blinding of Isaac Woodard by police in 1946; “a regime premised on electoral theft” in McConnell’s birth state of Alabama; the harassment and jailing of those who pushed for civil rights legislation.

“That is the thing about Sen. McConnell’s ‘something,’” he said. “It was 150 years ago and it was right now.”

Many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have expressed support for the implementation or consideration of some form of slavery reparations, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated support for the bill.

If passed in the House, the bill is unlikely to find support in the Senate.

“The question really is, not whether we will be tied to the ‘somethings’ of our past, but whether we are courageous enough to be tied to the whole of them,” Coates concluded.

Trumps Spiritual Adviser Prays To Stop Demonic Networks Aligned Against Him

Televangelist Paula White opened President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign rally on Tuesday night with a fiery prayer targeting “every demonic network” working against Trump. 

White, Trump’s longtime spiritual adviser, peppered her prayer with Bible verses and vivid images of spiritual warfare, painting a picture of a president hand-picked by God to be America’s last defense against the gathering forces of darkness.  

“Right now, let every demonic network who has aligned itself against the purpose, against the calling of President Trump, let it be broken, let it be torn down in the name of Jesus!” she prayed in ABC News footage of the rally at Amway Arena in downtown Orlando, Florida. 

White’s reference to demonic forces falls in line with how many evangelical Christians understand the world. They believe that there is a supernatural dimension to life and that in that realm, there is an ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil. As part of that fight, some Christians believe that prayer is needed to shield people from satanic forces.

The televangelist’s prayer suggests that she believes Trump is in special need of prayer for protection.

“Let the angel of the Lord encamp around him and around his family,” White prayed about the Trumps. 

White chose verses for her prayer that portrayed Trump as the Lord’s “anointed.” She prayed for Trump to be far removed from “oppression,” to overcome “every strategy from hell,” and fulfill “his calling and his destiny.”

“I declare that no weapon formed against him, his family, his calling, his purpose, his counsel will be able to be formed,” she added, referring to a Bible verse that promises that the “servants of the Lord” will prevail against all attacks and will be able to condemn every tongue that rises to judge them.

We secure victory in the name … that has never failed for this nation and for my life, the name of Jesus Christ,” White said as she wrapped up her prayer.

The crowd immediately erupted in applause, which faded away to chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A.” 

President Donald Trump speaks to Paula White, his spiritual adviser, during a National Day of Prayer service in the Rose Gard

President Donald Trump speaks to Paula White, his spiritual adviser, during a National Day of Prayer service in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 2, 2019.

The theory that Trump was specially chosen by God to return America to its Christian roots is not at all uncommon in evangelical circles. He still has the backing of prominent evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University, and Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham. 

Last month, Graham called on Christians to set aside a special day of prayer for Trump, claiming that “in the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has.”

Trump Deals Final Blow To Clean Power Plan, Obama’s Signature Climate Policy

The Trump administration dealt former President Barack Obama’s signature climate policy a death blow on Wednesday, finalizing its proposal to replace sweeping curbs on power station emissions with a lax mandate to upgrade equipment at old plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Affordable Clean Energy, or ACE, rule grants states leeway to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and requires coal-fired power plants to install only modest on-site retrofits to pare down planet-warming pollution. 

At a press conference, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, until two years ago a coal lobbyist, made clear the new rule aimed to bolster the struggling coal industry. At one point, Wheeler even quoted the chief executive of oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. arguing that renewable energy is insufficient to deliver reliable electricity. 

“We can’t deny the fact that fossil fuels will continue to be part of the energy mix at home and abroad,” Wheeler said. “The contrast between our approach and the Green New Deal and other plans like it couldn’t be clearer.”

The U.S. power sector is on track to cut carbon dioxide more than the 32% below 2005 levels the Clean Power Plan projected by 2030 as renewables, bolstered by state-level climate policies, continue growing at a steady pace. But environmentalists dubbed the ACE rule the “Dirty Power Plan,” decrying its narrowed scope and lack of ambition as suicidal backward steps in the midst of a rapidly worsening climate crisis.   

“With this rule, EPA does virtually nothing to address its obligation to regulate carbon dioxide and confirms its support of the coal industry at the expense of our health and our children’s future,” Gina McCarthy, the former EPA administrator during Obama’s second term, said in a statement. 

The proposal, which New York Attorney General Letitia James already promised to sue over, essentially completes President Donald Trump’s quashing of a rule Republicans blamed for strangling the coal industry, and ramps up his administration’s assault on federal regulations aimed at curbing emissions. 

Speaking at the event on Wednesday morning, Republican congressmen from coal-producing states, including Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), skewered the Clean Power Plan as a “coal killing” bid to illegally expand the federal government’s powers. The congressmen called its replacement a “commonsense approach” that promised real environmental progress. It was a curious claim from politicians who have long rejected the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, but hardly the most specious. White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney at one point falsely claimed U.S. emissions were steady or declining, despite a sharp spike last year. 

The rollback comes as the White House is making a haphazard attempt to unravel Obama-era fuel economy standards. It’s part of a broader deregulatory sweep in which the administration is trying to eliminate or delay at least 83 environmental regulations, particularly rules to reduce greenhouse gases.

Smoke rises from a coal-burning power plant in Colstrip, Montana. 

Smoke rises from a coal-burning power plant in Colstrip, Montana. 

The Trump administration’s push is occurring in tandem with mounting scientific projections that show catastrophic warming in the coming decades and natural disasters that illustrate what a hotter world looks like. Federal researchers in Hawaii recorded carbon dioxide concentrations of 415 parts per million last month, the highest level seen since humans evolved.

“It certainly seems like confirmation that this administration is determined to do nothing about climate change regulatorily,” Janet McCabe, the EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation under Obama, told HuffPost.

The ACE rule’s real threat, The New York Times reported, is in the EPA’s legal determination of the best system of emission reduction. If the Supreme Court upholds the ACE rule, it could permanently hamstring future presidents’ ability to regulate climate-changing emissions.

First proposed in 2015, the Clean Power Plan sought to hasten the country’s shift away from coal-fired electricity by setting the first national limits on carbon from power plants and creating a fund to match state grants for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The policy took years to craft and considered millions of public comments, including from coal-fired utilities.

But the plan never took effect. In February 2016, the Supreme Court issued a stay, temporarily blocking the regulation. After Trump took office, he nominated Scott Pruitt, the Republican attorney general of Oklahoma who led the lawsuit to halt the Clean Power Plan, as his EPA administrator.

In October 2017, eight months after the Senate confirmed Pruitt, he formally proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan, arguing that it violated coal-producing states’ rights and cost too much.

But with the EPA’s Endangerment Finding, the agency legally recognized that carbon dioxide harms human health by warming the planet, thereby requiring federal regulations of some kind under the Clean Air Act. To eliminate the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration needed to replace it. So, last August, Wheeler, the deputy administrator who took charge after Pruitt resigned amid mounting scandals, released a draft of the ACE rule and proceeded to host a series of public hearings across the country. 

The rule announced Wednesday is the culmination of that process. It differs little from last August’s proposal. But the final version excludes a controversial proposal that dramatically eased air pollution requirements on power plant upgrades. The proposed changes to the New Source Review program gave states new ways to measure whether upgrades needed federal permitting. Those tweaks are now likely to be spun off in a separate rulemaking process, E&E News reported.

“ACE will continue our nation’s environmental progress and will do so legally and with proper respect of the states,” Wheeler said.

But some climate deniers with close ties to the Trump EPA want to see the administration go further. In a statement to Axios, Myron Ebell, the hardline denier who ran Trump’s EPA transition team, said his right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute will likely sue the EPA over the rule, arguing carbon dioxide should not be regulated under the Clean Air Act at all.

This has been updated throughout.

Joy Harjo Named First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo, an award winning poet, author, musician and a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, has been named the 23rd U.S. poet laureate, the first Native American to hold the position.

The Library of Congress announced Harjo’s appointment on Wednesday. She succeeds Tracy K. Smith, who held the title since 2017.

“Joy Harjo has championed the art of poetry – ‘soul talk’ as she calls it – for over four decades,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. “To her, poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,’ and through them she tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making. Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.”

Harjo has written eight books of poetry and a memoir. She has won numerous awards, including the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry.

She also has released four award winning record albums after learning to play the saxophone in her late 30s as well as the flute.

Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951 and first started writing as a college student in New Mexico. In addition to writi

Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951 and first started writing as a college student in New Mexico. In addition to writing poetry, she has released four award-winning music albums.

Harjo called her appointment a “tremendous honor.”

“I share this honor with ancestors and teachers who inspired in me a love of poetry, who taught that words are powerful and can make change when understanding appears impossible, and how time and timelessness can live together within a poem,” she said in a statement.

“I count among these ancestors and teachers my Muscogee Creek people, the librarians who opened so many doors for all of us, and the original poets of the indigenous tribal nations of these lands, who were joined by diverse peoples from nations all over the world to make this country and this country’s poetry,” she said.

Harjo will open the Library of Congress literary season on Sept. 19. with a reading of her work. She’ll later undertake her own projects to help “raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry,” according to the Library of Congress website.

Poetry is a way to bridge, to make bridges from one country to another, one person to another, one time to another.

Harjo told The New York Times that she hasn’t decided what she will do during her appointment, but hoped “to remind people that poetry belongs to everyone.”

“Just as when I started writing poetry, we’re at a very crucial time in American history and in planetary history,” she said. “Poetry is a way to bridge, to make bridges from one country to another, one person to another, one time to another.”

Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951 and first started writing as a college student in New Mexico in the early 1970s. In her 2012 memoir, “Crazy Brave,” she recalled growing up with an abusive stepfather, family alcoholism, a failed first marriage and living in poverty.

Her latest book of poetry, “An American Sunrise,” is set for release in August.

Donald Trump Officially Launches 2020 Reelection Campaign In Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. ― President Donald Trump formally launched his reelection campaign at a packed-to-the-rafters rally in Orlando on Tuesday, officially moving to continue one of the most divisive administrations in modern history for four more years.

“We’re going to keep on fighting for every man, women and child across this land. We’re going to keep [America] better than ever before,” Trump said to a chorus of cheers. “That is why, tonight, I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States.”

During his announcement, the president brushed off any residual damage from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election and praised his supporters for defending him throughout what he referred to as a “great hoax” and an “illegal witch hunt” meant to erase their votes. 

He hit many familiar talking points during the event, championing his efforts to install conservative judges around the nation, lambasting former Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and drumming up support for his wall along the southern U.S. border. At times, the crowd of 20,000 joined in with chants and jeers, waving Trump 2020 signs while sporting red MAGA hats.

“Our future has never, ever looked brighter or sharper,” the president said. “The fact is the American dream is back, it’s bigger and better and stronger than ever before. 2016 was not merely another four-year election, this was a defining moment in American history.”

Throughout his speech, Trump brushed off any potential challenges from the crowded field of Democrats hoping to unseat him, declaring the party “more radical, more dangerous and more unhinged than at any point in the modern history of our country.”

“No matter what label they use, a vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream,” Trump said. “So don’t ever forget this election is about you, it’s about your family, your future and the fate of your country.”

“I have news for the Democrats,” he said earlier. “We are not going back, we are going on to victory.”

Thousands of Trump supporters waited for hours in the heat and rain Tuesday to get inside the Amway Arena in downtown Orlando. Some, like 37-year-old Daniel McQuarrie and his daughter, even slept outside the arena overnight so they could get front row seats for the president’s official campaign kickoff.

“I just wanna be a patriot and support our president,” said McQuarrie, a Disney employee from Port St. John, Florida. “It’s something historic that we’ll never forget.”

McQuarrie, who wore a T-shirt from the conspiracy website InfoWars, added that he thought Trump is “doing his best to drain the swamp” and fight “the globalists.”

Trump supporters lined up in the rain for hours, some overnight, to get inside during the rally to launch the president's 202

Trump supporters lined up in the rain for hours, some overnight, to get inside during the rally to launch the president’s 2020 reelection bid.

There was certainty among many of the president’s supporters that Trump is sure to win in 2020, the most recent polls be damned. Almost none had Trump winning in 2016. Why trust them now?

Before the president took to the stage Tuesday, his adult sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., took turns riling up the crowd.

Trump Jr. lashed out at the media, lamenting how his dad gets “95 percent negative coverage.” The crowd jeered and broke into chants of “CNN sucks!”

“If you’re a Democrat, you get a pass on everything,” Trump Jr. said, adding that “it’s not even close to a fair fight.”

Tuesday’s announcement has been a long time coming.

While the Orlando visit has been touted as a “kickoff,” Trump’s reelection campaign actually began on Jan. 20, 2017 ― the day of his inauguration —when he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. No other presidential victor has kept his campaign alive in this fashion. Barack Obama did not start his reelection campaign until April 2011 and George W. Bush waited until May of 2003.

Trump also broke with precedent in other ways, holding his first campaign-style rally as president three weeks after he took the oath of office, on Feb. 18, 2017, at a Melbourne, Florida, airport hangar, just 68 miles away from downtown Orlando. He’s held more than 60 rallies around the country since, many before the 2018 midterm elections.

Trump’s paperwork renewing his campaign committee allowed him to collect donations and spend money for an election three years and 10 months away. It also permitted him to continue diverting some of those donations into his own private businesses, which he still controls and from which he still profits.

In that same time period, the Republican National Committee, which Trump effectively took over at his nominating convention in 2016, spent $690,181 at Trump’s golf resort in Doral, Florida; $403,259 at his hotel in Washington, D.C.; and $289,335 at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

In all, the Trump campaign and the RNC together have funneled $4,341,083 to Trump businesses since Trump took office, with some of that going directly into the president’s own pocket.

S.V. Date contributed reporting.

California Governor Apologizes For States History Of Violence Against Native Americans

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) apologized Tuesday for the state’s history of violence and “genocide” against Native Americans, saying he hoped the belated gesture could help “tell the truth about our past and begin to heal deep wounds.”

Newsom issued an executive order that contained an official apology to Native Americans on behalf of the citizens of California. 

“The State of California hereby recognizes that the State historically sanctioned over a century of depredations and prejudicial policies against California Native Americans,” the order reads, “[and] apologizes … for the many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect California inflicted on tribes.” 

The order also called for the creation of a Truth and Healing Council to produce a report on the historical relationship between the state and Native Americans. 

Newsom also apologized in person during a blessing ceremony at the development site of a future Native American heritage center in West Sacramento on Tuesday. 

More than 100 tribal leaders were present at the event, the Los Angeles Times reported. Some said they were “glad” to hear Newsom’s words of contrition, but noted it was “just the first step” in healing wounds and bridging divides.

“The words he kept using, ‘respectful,’ ‘meaningful,’ ‘collaborative.’ When I hear this, it gives me hope. He wants to make things right,” Erica Pinto, chairwoman of the Jamul Indian Village, told the paper. 

“To me and a lot of the tribes, we’re going to be glad to hear this apology, but the real results will live in his actions,” Pinto added. “This is just the first step.”

In his address, Newsom acknowledged that California could “never undo the wrongs inflicted” on the state’s tribes, but he stressed the time had come for Californians to “reckon with our dark history.” 

Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a meeting with Native American tribal leaders from around the state at the future site of the Cal

Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a meeting with Native American tribal leaders from around the state at the future site of the California Indian Heritage Center in West Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Newsom took the occasion to formally apologize to tribal leaders from around California for the violence, mistreatment and neglect inflicted on Native Americans throughout the state’s history. 

As Newsom’s office noted, a law passed in the early years of California’s statehood facilitated the removal of indigenous people from their traditional lands, separated children from their families and forced Native Americans to become indentured servants as punishment for minor crimes. 

In 1851, California’s first governor declared that a “war of extermination” would continue to be waged against “the Indian race” until it “becomes extinct.” The state later authorized over a million dollars in currency at the time to subsidize militia campaigns against Native Americans. 

Historian Benjamin Madley has estimated that up to 16,000 Native Americans died in California between 1846 and 1873 because of state-sponsored violence and also disease, dislocation and starvation. 

“It’s called a genocide. That’s what it was. A genocide,” Newsom said at the blessing ceremony. ”[There’s] no other way to describe it and that’s the way it needs to be described in the history books.”

How Kamala Harris Dodged California’s Sanctuary State Debate

As she seeks the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) has become an ambassador for her state’s “sanctuary” laws that limit local law enforcement’s power to hold migrants on behalf of federal immigration authorities.

But in her first years as California attorney general, Harris was far more cautious about endorsing policies that protect undocumented people from deportation. From 2011 to 2013, as pro-immigrant California activists and legislators struggled to pass a trailblazing, statewide sanctuary law called the Trust Act over the objections of then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the Obama administration, Harris remained largely silent.

“Around the Trust Act, it was bupkus. It was zilch. It was invisible. There was just no help from that office,” Trust Act author Tom Ammiano, who is now backing Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, told HuffPost of Harris’ office. “It didn’t land well with the immigrant rights folks.”

Harris is now a leading foe of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown. The daughter of immigrants, she has called for the deprivatization of the immigrant detention system and vowed that, if elected, she’d issue a far-reaching executive action that would extend citizenship to many Dreamers. And Harris supporters, including a spokesperson for her campaign, insist that she harbored misgivings about state collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement since before her election as California’s top law enforcement officer, even if she rarely aired them publicly and declined to take a position on legislation that would have addressed the issue.

Many activists and political figures who pushed the Trust Act see Harris’ growing support of their cause as a genuine evolution that has gained urgency since Trump upended the immigration debate. But they also view her reluctance to get involved as a misunderstanding of where the immigrant rights movement was heading ― and her caution left some worrying she may continue to lead from behind on immigration, Trump’s signature issue.

“The Trust Act was a new way to limit ICE at the state level,” Angela Chan, policy director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told HuffPost. “We were at the forefront. She didn’t get why it was important to support it at the time. … She only signaled support when it was safe to do so.”

Caution And Silence

Dating from her time as San Francisco district attorney, Kamala Harris kept discussions about immigration at arm’s leng

Dating from her time as San Francisco district attorney, Kamala Harris kept discussions about immigration at arm’s length, immigrant rights activists say.

Today, support for sanctuary policies is widespread among Democrats, who now see such laws as a last line of defense against Trump’s draconian immigration measures.

But when Harris took office as California attorney general in January 2011, Democratic leaders were at war with each other over the subject.

Under President Barack Obama, deportations from the interior of the country had climbed to the highest levels recorded since the mass expulsion of the 1950s. That increase was driven by Secure Communities, a program that requires local police to share the fingerprints of arrested migrants with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE, in turn, slaps local arrestees with a request to hold them in jail on the feds’ behalf, even if their charges are dropped or they are eligible to bond out.

Local jurisdictions racked up tens of millions of dollars in unreimbursed costs annually because of those holds. Meanwhile, migrants who commanded public sympathy — most notably, victims of domestic abuse — routinely got trapped in the program’s wide net.

Enraged by the growing scale of deportations, immigrant rights groups and a few Democratic legislators took aim at Secure Communities, aiming to sabotage it by limiting the ability of local police to share fingerprint information with ICE or hold migrants at the feds’ request. If they could pass those measures into law, they reasoned, they could limit deportations in California, the state with the country’s largest unauthorized migrant population, at around 2.2 million. At the time Ammiano introduced the bill, no state had passed such a policy.

But as Trust Act backers tried to cultivate Harris’ support over the three years it took to push the legislation through the state House, she declined to take a position.

The tension between Harris’ office and Trust Act supporters emerged shortly after Ammanio submitted the first draft of the bill in early 2011. When local police make an arrest and submit the identification info to the feds, that information is channeled through the state attorney general’s office. The first version of the bill would have required Harris’ office to publish regular reports showing how many people had been transferred to ICE under Secure Communities.

A few weeks after Ammiano introduced the bill, Chan, the policy director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice and a major proponent of the measure, got word that the Trust Act would land in the Appropriations Committee “suspense file” ― a holding bin for legislation likely cost the state money. Harris’ office had set the price tag for the reporting provisions at $5 million per year, according to two sources with knowledge of the deliberations.

That sum, which Chan viewed as inflated, would likely doom the effort to failure. Bills that bleed the public coffers are far more difficult to pass than ones that don’t.

“Her office argued that it was too expensive,” Chan said. “The bill almost died in appropriations.”

Around the Trust Act, it was bupkus. It was zilch. It was invisible. There was just no help from that office.
Trust Act author Tom Ammiano

After two months of private wrangling from May to June of 2011, which did not become public at the time, Ammiano dropped the reporting provisions to keep costs down. The bill passed the next year.

But Gov. Brown, a Democrat who put Secure Communities into effect back when he served as attorney general before Harris, vetoed the proposal, contending that the protections for migrants were too broad. Harris said nothing.

The following year, Ammiano revised the bill once again, broadening the list of crimes for which local police would hold migrants on behalf of ICE. Advocates, including dozens of legal groups and a growing number of Democratic legislators, continued to push for Harris’ support without success.

Some political figures close to Harris, like former California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, who’s backing her presidential bid, insist that in private conversations dating back to the Trust Act’s introduction, Harris always supported efforts to limit the state’s cooperation with ICE.

“There’s no question about it ― there were individuals that were very cautious and circumspect about being openly public about the Trust Act,” de León told HuffPost. “However, that did not apply to Kamala. In my conversations with her at the time, she was never hesitant … I would call it out if I thought some individual was overly cautious or not supportive at all.”

But immigrant rights defenders involved in that legislative battle more often view Harris as unwilling to get involved in a fight with little upside.

If Harris had publicly backed the Trust Act in 2011 or 2012, she would have invited ill will from Obama administration officials, who at the time still held out hope that tough interior enforcement would help the White House convince Republican lawmakers to back comprehensive immigration reform. And it would have put her in direct conflict with several prominent sheriffs who wanted to keep working closely with ICE shortly after she became the state’s top law enforcement officer.

Dating from her time as San Francisco district attorney, where she supported a local policy to hand youths over to ICE if they were accused of felonies, Harris kept discussions about immigration at arm’s length, immigrant rights activists say. (Harris disavowed her support of the San Francisco policy on information-sharing with ICE after a report by HuffPost.)

“Kamala was always seen as a very law-and-order type who was not very supportive of pro-immigrant legislation,” said David Campos, a Trust Act supporter and former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “At the best, she was not involved, and at the worst, she opposed.”

Other observers viewed her as an ambitious politician who reserved judgment while the wider movement played out.

“She acted cautiously,” Kevin Johnson, the dean of public interest law at the University of California, Davis, told HuffPost. “She wasn’t really a leader when it came to anything like the Trust Act or any of the movements that would later become the sanctuary movement in the state … I think she was seeing where the state was going to go, instead of being a trailblazer on the issue.”

Having Trump as president “makes it easier” for Democrats to support sanctuary policies, “because he’s so extreme that you can confront him,” Ammiano said. “But in those days, it was lack of political will. She was cautious. And sometimes in politics, you have to be inspirational.”

I think she was seeing where the state was going to go, instead of being a trailblazer on the issue.
Kevin Johnson, dean of public interest law at the University of California, Davis

The closest Harris came to offering support for the sanctuary bill was a bulletin she issued in December 2012 clarifying that ICE detainers amount to non-binding requests — a position consistent with several federal court rulings. Some 28 percent of people slapped with ICE detainers had no criminal convictions, according to her office’s review of four month’s worth of data. Those that chose to honor the detainers, Harris wrote, opened themselves up to the possibility of federal lawsuits.

“I want that rape victim to be absolutely secure that if she waves down an officer in a car that she will be protected,” Harris said at the time, according to The Los Angeles Times, “and not fear she’s waving down an immigration officer.”

In a spate of public comments following the release, Harris would simultaneously claim that Secure Communities ensnared too many law-abiding migrants and undermined faith in the police, while also defending her ally Brown for signing the agreement that put the program into place. She walked a narrow path, deriding the program as “flawed” while declining to weigh in on legislation that promised to rein it in. In the only contemporary comment on the legislation found by HuffPost, Harris told the LA Times that she opposed the version of the Trust Act that Brown vetoed two months earlier because it went “too far.”

Facing the prospect of another veto from Brown, Nancy Pelosi and 21 other Democratic members of California’s congressional delegation publicly backed the bill after it passed the legislature for the second time in 2013. In October of that year, satisfied with the number of exceptions requiring local cops to hold migrants with certain serious criminal charges for ICE, Brown finally signed the Trust Act into law.

By then, even former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who oversaw the implementation of Secure Communities during the Obama administration, had publicly urged Brown to do so. Harris had not.  

A Zigzagging Path

A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Oct. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles.

A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Oct. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles.

Members of the Harris campaign now contend that her reluctance to get involved in the Trust Act debate stemmed from her role as a law enforcement executive, rather than a legislator. They point to Harris’ public comments in 2009 questioning the state’s responsibility to enforce immigration law. The bulletin she issued in December 2012 gave proponents of the Trust Act the legal cover they needed to pass the bill into law, a campaign spokesperson said.

“In 2012, Kamala Harris stood up to her own party’s president by telling California law enforcement that they were not required to comply with Secure Communities,” a campaign spokesperson said, adding that her “commitment to fighting for immigrant communities is clear and has been for her entire career in public office.”

Some of the Trust Act’s backers viewed the tacit support implied in the bulletin as analogous to an endorsement, because it helped overcome objections from sheriffs who thought they had no choice but to follow ICE requests.

“It was a real breakthrough,” Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, told HuffPost. “It was a new thought process in California. Coming from the top law enforcement official in California, that mattered. Brown had been in opposition to us.”

But Harris’ role as attorney general did not stop her from weighing in on other critical issues of the day, from the Affordable Care Act to pollution to medical marijuana. She led the charge for a truancy law that would allow the state to prosecute parents whose kids repeatedly missed school — a move she now says she regrets. She released several statements defining where she stood on pending state legislation and defended the Obama administration’s executive actions on immigration with briefs filed in federal court.

Over the next few years, Harris became an increasingly vocal critic of Secure Communities as it became less popular among Democrats. In 2014, with comprehensive immigration reform all but certain to fail in Congress, Obama canceled the program and replaced it with one that focused on identifying migrants with more serious criminal convictions or prior deportations. Harris praised the move. (Trump revived Secure Communities in his first week in office.)

By the next year, while she was still serving as California’s attorney general, Harris was defending the Trust Act publicly as Republicans in Congress threatened to punish California for refusing to cooperate with ICE.

And after Harris became a U.S. senator in 2017, California would expand its sanctuary policies with measures like the California Values Act that went beyond those that Brown vetoed — this time with his support. Harris did not take a public position on the California Values Act either, despite prodding from the same groups that backed the Trust Act. In less specific language, however, she defended limiting immigration authorities’ reach under Trump in her first speech before the Senate.

“As a prosecutor, I can tell you, it is a serious mistake to conflate criminal justice policy with immigration policy as if they are the same thing,” she said. “They are not.”

Her position has evolved significantly since she was attorney general. That only raises my expectations.
Chris Newman, legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network

As California widened its sanctuary protections, the percentage of California ICE arrests that took place outside a jail nearly doubled to 30 percent, according to an affidavit submitted by former Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan in response to a lawsuit by California challenging Trump’s decision to withhold grant money from sanctuary jurisdictions. The state’s ICE arrest rate, in general, had slowed, Homan wrote, casting the blame on the series of state laws that began with the Trust Act.

The state — and her party’s — shift on the issue has left Harris serving as an ambassador for a sanctuary movement she initially shied away from.

But in the Trump era, the politics of the sanctuary movement have become far more palatable to the Democatic establishment than they were under Obama. Ten state legislatures, along with the District of Columbia, have passed laws limiting cooperation with ICE detainers. All but two of those laws passed after Trump took office.

Immigrant rights advocates, who have far less leverage under Trump than they did when a Democrat held the White House, have mostly applauded the shift.

“Her position has evolved significantly since she was attorney general,” said Chris Newman, the legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “That only raises my expectations that she will take the opportunity of being on the national stage to defend and build upon California’s trajectory.”

Even Ammiano, who harbors lingering resentment over Harris’s reticence on the Trust Act, views her as more progressive these days.

“She may feel differently now, and that’s great,” Ammiano said. “But there’s got to be some admission of ‘That was a mistake. I’ve changed.’”

Republicans Are Freaking Out Over Deceased Gerrymandering Experts Files

North Carolina Republican lawmakers, seeking to suppress potentially damaging files from a former GOP redistricting guru, accused the expert’s daughter Monday of committing larceny when she obtained them.

The accusation came in a blistering filing in state court over the information on the hard drives, which may contain explosive information about how the operative, Thomas Hofeller, gerrymandered on behalf of Republicans in North Carolina and across the country. Those files have the potential to shake up multiple contentious legal battles, including a case over whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the Census, and whether North Carolina Republican lawmakers lied to federal judges about gerrymandering based on racial data. Now, Republicans are trying to keep the files private.

Hofeller’s estranged daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, obtained the hard drives with her mother’s permission last year, after she happened to spot a jewelry box from her childhood in her late father’s room and then found the drives in a bag on a shelf. She eventually volunteered the drives to lawyers representing Common Cause, an advocacy group suing North Carolina over gerrymandered state legislative maps drawn by Thomas Hofeller.

North Carolina Republicans are feuding over files belonging to Thomas Hofeller, a Republican redistricting expert who died in

North Carolina Republicans are feuding over files belonging to Thomas Hofeller, a Republican redistricting expert who died in 2018.

Last month, lawyers said they discovered evidence in the files that Hofeller played a role in getting a citizenship question added to the 2020 Census (a claim the Justice Department denies). Hofeller helped facilitate the question after arguing in a 2015 study that getting a citizenship question on the Census would be an essential step toward being able to draw districts based only on the population of voting-age citizens, not the total population. Such a switch, Hofeller wrote, “would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic whites.”

In the new filing, the North Carolina Republican lawyers accused Common Cause attorneys of unethically obtaining the hard drives. They asked a judge to order them returned and to consider disqualifying attorneys from the case.

Common Cause lawyers “are using this proceeding as a platform for baseless political invective,” the GOP lawyers argued. “They are in possession of documents belonging to others and containing express privilege designations through apparently unethical means.”

Stephanie Hofeller took the hard drives with her mother’s permission after she came home in October to go through the possessions of her father, who died in August at age 75. The GOP lawyers launched a broad attack against Hofeller, detailing several criminal charges from her past and accusing her of taking advantage of her mother, Kathleen. They noted Kathleen was suspected to have dementia, and said that “taking personal property from someone lacking capacity to give it is larceny.”

Tom Sparks, an attorney who represented Stephanie Hofeller at a preliminary competency hearing against Kathleen, pushed back on the claim that Hofeller took advantage of her mother, and said allegations about her incompetence have not been established as fact.

“The allegations as to Mrs. Hofeller’s incompetence are just that ― unproven allegations,” Sparks told HuffPost. “Mrs. Hofeller has never been found to be incompetent.” He added that the entire incompetency proceeding was dismissed earlier this year after the parties entered into an agreement.

The allegations as to Mrs. Hofeller’s incompetence are just that ― unproven allegations.
Tom Sparks, an attorney for Stephanie Hofeller

Attorneys for the North Carolina Republicans argued that once the lawyers representing Common Cause became aware Stephanie Hofeller had her father’s files, they had an ethical obligation to advise her of the legal jeopardy she could be in for possessing the files. The Common Cause lawyers failed to do that, the GOP lawyers allege, and instead obtained the files from Hofeller after she approached them.

R. Stanton Jones, a lawyer at Arnold & Porter who is representing Common Cause, said several claims in Monday’s filing were inaccurate, and indicated a longer response is forthcoming.

“The legislative leaders’ brief yesterday contains multiple misstatements and baseless accusations, which we will address in full in our response,” he said in a statement. “As for the Hofeller files, they will speak for themselves.”

Common Cause lawyers said earlier this month that documents in Hofeller’s files showed North Carolina Republicans lied to a federal court in 2017 about the way they redrew state legislative districts to fix racial gerrymandering. The Common Cause lawyers said Hofeller, who Republicans hired to draw new maps, had already started drawing districts in 2017, when lawmakers told the court they had not begun the process at all. The GOP lawmakers also said they didn’t use racial data to draw the new maps in 2017, but files on Hofeller’s computer, Common Cause lawyers say, show he did in fact use racial data.

The Republican lawyers pushed back on those accusations in their filing, saying lawmakers did not know what Hofeller was working on before they formally retained him, and that “it would not be surprising” if he relied on his prior work once he was formally hired. Even if Hofeller was drawing maps before Republicans retained him, the lawyers said, he was constrained in how he could draw certain districts by North Carolina law.

The Republican lawyers also claimed ignorance about Hofeller’s use of racial data. Even if Hofeller used racial data on his personal computer, the lawyers said Republicans provided him with a state-issued computer to formally do all of the redistricting. Republicans only had control over that state-issued computer and there was no racial data loaded on it, they said.

Japanese Americans Slam Plans To Detain Migrant Kids In Internment Camps

After the Trump administration announced last week that it will be detaining undocumented immigrant children apprehended at the border at a former World War II-era Japanese American incarceration camp, Japanese American groups are speaking out. 

Several organizations have slammed the administration’s move to place migrant children at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where an estimated 700 Japanese Americans were held following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“The prolonged detention of migrant children is a practice that must be a critical concern for all Americans,” Mitchell Maki, president and CEO of Japanese American history nonprofit Go For Broke National Education Center, told HuffPost. “If we are to be the beacon of hope and a model of humanity for the rest of the world, we must do a much better job of quickly placing these children in socially appropriate, humane surroundings.”

The facility will serve as a “temporary emergency influx shelter” to accommodate the “dramatic spike” in unaccompanied minors detained by border officials this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. Tom Ikeda, executive director of Densho, an organization that preserves Japanese-American history, reminded HuffPost that the facility has a dark history. 

Prior to its use as a Japanese American incarceration site, Fort Sill served as a prison camp for members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, who were forcibly removed and exiled from their lands in the Southwest in the late 1800s. 

“Fort Sill is the site of multiple historical traumas, and this latest plan to incarcerate migrant children at this site is part of a much larger system of white supremacist violence,” Ikeda said.

During WWII, Fort Sill was also the scene of particularly acute historical pain, the Densho director noted. One of the Japanese American prisoners, Kanesaburo Oshima, was dealing with a mental breakdown. When he attempted to escape the camp, Oshima was shot and killed by armed guards. 

“This tragedy should not have happened because Mr. Oshima and the other 700 internees should not have been locked up at Fort Sill,” Ikeda explained. “Migrant children and their families should not be criminalized for seeking asylum, and they should absolutely not be locked up at Fort Sill or anywhere. It’s imperative that we speak out and show up to prevent other tragedies from happening at this site of shame.”

The Obama administration had used Fort Sill to detain an estimated 1,800 undocumented children in 2014 during an uptick in border crossings.

“It was wrong then and is wrong now,” the Japanese American Citizens League wrote in a statement. 

The league’s president, Jeffrey Moy, noted that many of those who survived the camps and are still alive today were children when they were incarcerated. Utilizing the facility “for the purpose of incarcerating children serves only to reopen these deep emotional scars while simultaneously creating new ones in an already vulnerable population,” he said in a statement. 

The administration announced that it will begin using the site as early as July. To protest the move, a group of Japanese Americans and civil rights groups, including Densho and ACLU Oklahoma, will be gathering for a peaceful vigil at the military base on Saturday. 

Patrick Shanahan Pulls Out Of Defense Secretary Confirmation Process, Trump Tweets

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has withdrawn from consideration to hold the post in a permanent capacity, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday in tweets. 

The president said Shanahan had opted to “devote more time to his family.” Shanahan confirmed the news in a statement Tuesday. Trump said he would name Army Secretary Mark Esper as the new acting defense secretary.

Shanahan has served as the department’s acting chief since December, when former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in protest over Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

In May, the president announced Shanahan as his pick to lead the department on a permanent basis but stalled in sending his formal nomination to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Shanahan’s confirmation process was delayed due to an ongoing FBI investigation looking into, among other things, reported incidents of domestic violence in his family.

The alleged incidents largely stemmed from Shanahan’s divorce from Kimberley Jordinson. Shanahan and Jordinson alleged they were assaulted by one another, and Jordinson was arrested and charged with domestic violence during one dispute in 2010. Shanahan dropped the charges and later filed for divorce. 

In a separate incident in November 2011, Shanahan initially defended William Shanahan, his son who was 17 at the time, after he beat Jordinson with a baseball bat. The attack left her bloody and unconscious, with a fractured skull and internal injuries that necessitated surgery, according to court and police records reviewed by The Washington Post.

In a memo two weeks later to his ex-wife’s brother, Shanahan claimed his son acted in self-defense.

“Use of a baseball bat in self-defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force,” he wrote. “However, Will’s mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident.”

Then-acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan delivering remarks during a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cem

Then-acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan delivering remarks during a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on May 27.

Shanahan alluded to the alleged incidents in two statements Tuesday, first to USA Today and then in a statement confirming his withdrawal from the process.

“I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal,” he said.

In interviews with the Post this week, Shanahan said he regretted how he handled the incident with his son.

“Quite frankly, it’s difficult to relive that moment and the passage was difficult for me to read. I was wrong to write those three sentences,” he said. “I have never believed Will’s attack on his mother was an act of self-defense or justified. I don’t believe violence is appropriate ever, and certainly never any justification for attacking someone with a baseball bat.”

Shanahan previously served as deputy defense secretary; before that, he worked for more than 30 years at Boeing. In March, the Defense Department announced it had opened an ethics investigation into allegations that Shanahan regularly touted Boeing over other defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, while serving in an official government capacity. 

The Pentagon’s inspector general cleared Shanahan of the allegations in April.