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Trump news: President calls defeat in census citizenship demand 'fake' as he is accused of 'hijacking July 4 parade to promote Trumpian cult'

Another day of chaos ahead of the patriotic holidays

Chris Riotta
New York
,Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 03 July 2019 17:42
comments
Donald Trump promises tanks for Fourth of July parade

Donald Trump is facing renewed criticism over his “Salute to America” for the Fourth of July, accused of “hijacking the celebration and twisting it into a taxpayer-funded, partisan political rally that’s more about promoting a Trumpian cult of personality” by Democratic congresswoman Betty McCollum.

The president has meanwhile been busy promoting his fireworks suppliers from his official account in an apparent abuse of power as Abrams tanks were spotted arriving in Washington, DC.

He has also hit out at the US Supreme Court on Twitter over its decision to block a controversial citizenship question being added to the 2020 census, calling on his Commerce and Justice departments to do “whatever is necessary” to get the amendment passed, adding: “USA! USA! USA!”

Monday was the deadline to start printing the 600 million documents that will be mailed to 130 million households for next April’s census count.

For months, the Trump administration had argued that the courts needed to decide quickly whether the citizenship question could be added to the 2020 census because of the looming deadline.

“I think it’s very important to find out if somebody is a citizen as opposed to an illegal,” Mr Trump told reporters Monday.

“There’s a big difference to me between being a citizen of the United States and being an illegal," he added.

The US Supreme Court ruled last week that the question couldn’t be added for now.

Mr Trump tweeted that he had asked lawyers if the count can be delayed until the court can reevaluate the matter.

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Also on social media, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has entered a war of words with White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway after the latter accused her of lying about the condition of migrant detention centres in Texas.

Additional reporting by AP. Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 09:39
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Donald Trump has hit out at the US Supreme Court on Twitter over its decision to block a controversial citizenship question being added to the 2020 census, calling on his Commerce and Justice departments to do "whatever is necessary" to get the amendment passed.

The White House and Justice Department said it would begin printing forms without the contentious query, despite the US president saying last week he would attempt to indefinitely delay the census until the query was added.

Trump’s suggestion the question could still appear contrasted with the view of commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, who said he would "respect" the 27 June ruling despite disagreeing with it. 

Critics have called the question a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into refraining from taking part in the population count, therein engineering an undercount in Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant and Latino populations. 

Here's more from Tom Embury-Dennis.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 09:45
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Trump also resumed his feud with Iran, describing Tehran bypassing the limits set on its stockpile of enriched uranium by the 2015 nuclear accord as “Not good!”

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has since warned that his country will increase its enrichment of reactor-grade uranium to “any amount we want,” starting this weekend.

Here's our international correspondent, Borzou Daragahi, with the latest on the situation.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 10:00
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Tanks have meanwhile been seen rolling into Washington, DC, as preparations for Trump's so-called “Salute to America” extravaganza for the 4 July near completion.

M1 Abrams main battle tanks were transported to the capital by rail from Fort Stewart in Georgia, alongside Bradley fighting vehicles, and are expected to be among a wide array of military hardware on show as America marks its Independence Day.

Flyovers by the US Navy’s Blue Angels display team and Air Force One - and potentially F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, a B2 bomber plus US Marine Corps helicopters - are also set to take place, shutting down air traffic at Ronald Reagan airport.

It came as the National Park Service was forced to divert some $2.5m (£2m) in entrance fees to help pay for the event, according to The Washington Post. Such funds are ordinarily used to maintain habitats inside parks or repair roads, the newspaper reported.

The White House has not said how much it expects the celebrations, reminiscent of France’s Bastille Day festivities which Trump witnessed in 2017, to cost overall. The Pentagon postponed a military parade planned for last November after estimates it could set taxpayers back $90m (£72m).

Among the many critics of the Independence Day spectacular is Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign, who said: "Trump is creating a spectacle of tanks & missiles on the National Mall where the great protests for civil and human rights have been held at a time when 140 million Americans are poor & low income. He thinks this is the sign of strength, but it’s a damn narcissistic travesty."

Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum agreed: "Mr Trump is hijacking the celebration and twisting it into a taxpayer-funded, partisan political rally that's more about promoting a Trumpian cult of personality than the spirit of American independence and freedom."

Jon Sharman has more.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 10:15
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With Trump blowing up at the Supreme Court, one of its most celebrated justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has offered some unexpected praise to one of the president's most contentious nominees: Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing last year provided some of the most explosive political theatre in recent memory when the DC judge was accused of historic sexual assault allegations, with the Senate taking testimony from accuser Christine Blasey Ford and the Republicans and Democrats engaging in heated exchanges as GOP senators like Lindsey Graham accused the opposition of exploiting the situation to put on a show trial for political gain.

Now the court's upcoming autumn term will be the first in history when more women are serving as clerks as Kavanaugh, apparently seeking to draw a line under the drama, appointed an all female staff.

"There is a very important first on the Supreme Court this term and it's thanks to our new justice, Justice Kavanaugh," Ginsburg said at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday.

Nicknamed the "Notorious RBG", Ginsburg was only the second woman ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court when Bill Clinton put her forward in 1993 and has since become known as a trailblazer and champion of women's rights.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 10:30
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A federal judge in Seattle has blocked a Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum-seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, saying the Constitution demands that such migrants have a chance to be released from custody. 

US district judge Marsha Pechman ruled on Tuesday that people who are detained after entering the country illegally to seek protection are entitled to bond hearings. Attorney general William Barr announced in April that the government would no longer offer such hearings, but instead keep them in custody. It was part of the administration's efforts to deter a surge of migrants at the US-Mexico border.

Pechman said that as people who have entered the US, they are entitled to the Fifth Amendment's due-process protections, including "a longstanding prohibition against indefinite civil detention with no opportunity to test its necessity." 

Immigrant rights advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued to block the policy, which was due to take effect 15 July. 

"The court reaffirmed what has been settled for decades: that asylum-seekers who enter this country have a right to be free from arbitrary detention," Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said in a written statement. "Thousands of asylum-seekers will continue to be able to seek release on bond, as they seek protection from persecution and torture." 

For the past 50 years, the government has given asylum-seekers bond hearings before immigration judges where they can argue that they should be released because they are not flight risks and pose no threat to the public, the immigrant rights groups told the court. That gives the asylum-seekers an opportunity to reunite with relatives in the US and to find lawyers to handle their asylum claims, making them more likely to succeed. 

The new policy would end that practice, keeping between 15,000 and 40,000 immigrants in custody for six months or more without requiring the government to show that their detentions are justified, the groups argued. Typically, close to half of asylum-seekers who are granted bond hearings are released from custody. 

"The court finds that plaintiffs have established a constitutionally-protected interest in their liberty, a right to due process which includes a hearing before a neutral decision-maker to assess the necessity of their detention, and a likelihood of success on the merits of that issue," the judge wrote. 

Pechman, who heard arguments last Friday, said the government must provide a bond hearing within seven days of a request by any immigrant who has demonstrated that they have a credible fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home country. The asylum-seekers must be released if not granted a hearing within that time frame, she said. 

Pechman also said the burden must be on the government at such hearings to show that keeping asylum-seekers in custody is necessary because they pose a flight risk or a danger to the public. 

President Trump has said he is determined to end the "catch and release" of migrants at the border. He has also called the asylum system broken, saying that some take advantage of it with frivolous claims. 

The lawsuit, a nationwide class action, began as a challenge to the separation of family members at the border under Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy. Its legal claims have morphed as the government's policies have shifted. 

Pechman first issued an order in April saying that the government must give the asylum-seekers hearings within a week, saying delays in holding such hearings violated their rights. Eleven days later, the attorney general issued a decision finding that they weren't entitled to bond hearings at all. 

The Justice Department argued that the policy is a legitimate interpretation of a federal law that says if immigration officers determine immigrants have a credible fear of persecution, they "shall be detained for further consideration of the application for asylum." 

The government also argued that even without bond hearings, detained asylum-seekers would still have another avenue for release: a request to an immigration officer for parole. Such requests are rarely granted under the Trump administration, however, and the immigrant rights groups said they are not a substitute for bond hearings before independent fact-finders.

AP

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 10:45
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President Trump, who has repeatedly slammed the Federal Reserve for not cutting interest rates in recent weeks, said Tuesday that he intends to nominate two economists to fill influential positions on the central bank's board of governors. 

Trump said he would name to the board Christopher Waller, who is executive vice president and research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, where he has worked since 2009. He also tapped Judy Shelton, the US executive director for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Shelton was previously an economic adviser to Trump's presidential campaign. 

The planned nominations were announced by Trump on Twitter on Tuesday in reality TV style, as though Waller and Shelton were new contestants entering the fray on The Apprentice. Each must now be confirmed by the Senate. 

Trump's choices come after he has harshly and repeatedly criticised the Fed under chairman Jerome Powell for raising rates four times last year and for keeping rates unchanged this year. Trump has argued that the Fed, by keeping its benchmark rate in a range of 2.25 per cent to 2.5 per cent, is slowing economic growth and depressing the stock market. 

This spring, Trump said he planned to nominate former GOP presidential candidate and fast food company executive Herman Cain and conservative commentator Stephen Moore to the remaining two vacancies on the Fed board. 

But Cain withdrew from consideration after allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity, first aired during his 2012 presidential run, resurfaced. Moore withdrew in the face of Republican opposition in the Senate after news organisations unearthed many of his writings belittling women. 

Shelton has a history of attacking the Fed's policies and has also supported the gold standard, under which the value of currencies like the dollar are fixed to a specific amount of gold. Most mainstream economists who study monetary policy reject the gold standard as antiquated. 

Shelton has expressed support for cutting rates, as Trump has demanded. 

Waller's approach to interest rate policy is less clear but he serves as the research director in St. Louis, a regional Fed bank whose president, James Bullard, has been advocating for lower rates and even dissented at the Fed's last meeting, arguing that the Fed should immediately cut rates. 

"Waller works for James Bullard and usually the research director at a regional bank and the bank president hold similar views," said Sung Won Sohn, economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "I suspect that the administration has chosen Waller because his views on interest rates are similar to those of Bullard." 

Bullard said last month that he had been approached by White House officials about joining the Fed's seven-member board. He said he told the administration that he was happy in his current position as president of one of the Fed's 12 regional banks. 

Before joining the St. Louis Fed, Waller was an economics professor at the University of Notre Dame for six years, and before that a professor at the University of Kentucky. 

With the latest nominations, Trump will have filled six of the Fed board's seven seats including tapping Powell to be Fed chairman when Trump decided not to offer Janet Yellen a second term as chair. The number of Trump choices on the Fed board, however, has not stopped the president from attacking the central bank and Powell specifically for pursing monetary policies that the president believes are harming the economy. 

The Fed next meets to consider interest rates at the end of this month and financial markets widely expect the central bank will begin cutting rates at that time if the economy continues to show signs of weakening. 

At the Fed's last meeting, the central bank promised to do what was needed to protect the current 10-year economic expansion, which this month became the longest in US history. 

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 11:00
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Mystery continues to surround vice president Mike Pence, who last night cancelled an engagement in New Hampshire where he was due to speak on the opioid crisis in order to return to the White House.

The nature of the "emergency" has not been disclosed but his chief of staff Marc Short insisted there was "no cause for alarm" and that the event would simply be rescheduled.

Here's Chris Riotta's report.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 11:15
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US Women's World Cup star Megan Rapinoe oddly played no part in her team's 2-1 semi-final win over England in Lyon last night (booo!) but she remains an icon of anti-Trump resistance after saying, "I'm not going to the f***ing White House."

Her girlfriend Sue Bird - herself an athlete in the WNBA - has meanwhile written for The Player's Tribune about Trump's attacks on her partner on Twitter.

“It would take the president of the United States going on a hate-filled Twitter spree trolling my girlfriend while she was putting American soccer, women’s sports, equal pay, gay pride and TRUE LOVE on her back, all at once, scoring two majestic goals to lead Team USA to a thrilling victory over France and a place in the World Cup SEMIFINALS, for me to ever even think about writing again," she wrote, introducing her piece.

Here's more from Ben Burrows on what else Bird had to say about a very "weird" moment for the couple.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 11:30
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Also sticking it to the president - and his son, Don Jr - is Democratic congressman Ted Lieu, who had some harsh words for both in the wake of the boy attempting to puncture Kamala Harris's balloon - after she triumphed at last week's Democratic Party 2020 presidential debates - by spreading a bogus and racist alt-right "birther" conspiracy about her online.

Joe Sommerlad3 July 2019 11:45

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