Trump’s Order to End Immigrant Family Separation Sows Confusion

Law enforcement says prosecution plans are changing, while support groups say fate of 2,300 young illegal immigrants remains unclear

Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol agents stood at the Port of Entry facility in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members, on Thursday.
Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol agents stood at the Port of Entry facility in Fabens, Texas, where tent shelters are being used to house separated family members, on Thursday. PHOTO: ADRIA MALCOLM FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Changing, competing and contradictory explanations of the administration’s immigration policy spread confusion from Washington, D.C., to the Mexican border, leaving front-line law-enforcement and social-service agencies unsure of what will happen to thousands of children.

Congress put off until next week a decision on an immigration bill designed to be a compromise between centrist and conservative Republicans.

Meanwhile, the federal government is still wrestling with the prospect of rapidly running out of space, money or both to detain immigrants—especially as family units.

Those factors create an immediate tension with prosecution policy. If the Trump administration stops prosecuting all adults for illegal border entry, it could maintain its detention capacity for longer, but paring back prosecutions would also amount to a significant retreat in the eyes of many, including the president himself.

The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that it had received a request from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide up to 20,000 temporary beds for unaccompanied immigrant children at Defense Department installations.

But HHS, which is responsible for the care of unaccompanied minors, couldn’t immediately answer emailed questions Thursday about what they had been directed to do by the president, or what they were specifically doing as a result. Instead, it referred to a statement it issued Wednesday night that said they were awaiting “further guidance.”

The Defense Department is also sending 21 military attorneys to the border to prosecute immigration cases, a move a group of senators opposed in a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday.

President Donald Trump had directed his administration on Wednesday to try to detain asylum-seeking families together, a reversal after weeks in which he insisted he had no choice but to separate children and adults who cross the border. The order had also raised questions about how quickly the government could find facilities to house families together—or how it would affect the more than 2,300 children already separated from adults who had been apprehended.

Instructions to reunite children separated from adults under the policy are likely to take weeks to draft and carry out, an administration official said.

Such an effort would likely require HHS and the Department of Homeland Security to match and screen adults with whom the children arrived at the border—and avoid entrusting children to adults deemed unsuitable.

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Congress has failed to pass bipartisan legislation on immigration partly because the issue mobilizes base voters. The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo: Getty

Mr. Trump said Thursday he had directed federal agencies to “work together to keep illegal immigrant families together during the immigration process and to reunite these previously separated groups.”

First lady Melania Trump also spoke of keeping families together in a surprise visit to the southern border.

Officials had been told earlier Thursday to prosecute only one adult traveling with children if two were present, and to prioritize prosecution of male adults, a federal law-enforcement official said, with exceptions where adults had a criminal history. The official said Thursday afternoon that policy was changing again.

In federal court in McAllen, Texas, 17 parents were removed from the morning docket of recent border crossers being charged with a misdemeanor for crossing the border illegally, according to another official.

Vivek Grover, an El Paso defense attorney, said 19 of his 20 misdemeanor immigration cases set for hearings in federal court Thursday were dismissed by the government. He said the immigrants had all arrived with at least one child and were returned to custody of immigration authorities Thursday. One woman, who didn’t cross the border with a child, was prosecuted for a misdemeanor charge of crossing illegally and she pleaded guilty.

Mr. Grover, who acted as a court-appointed defense lawyer Thursday, said he didn’t know the fate of the 19 parents returned to immigration authorities.

Administration officials denied there were any changes to the “zero-tolerance” policy Thursday, which the president had reaffirmed in the executive order about not separating children from their parents.

But neither statement offered immediate clarification on what would happen to the children, whose fate has been the subject of conflicting statements by other officials.

The Trump administration asked a federal judge Thursday to change a longstanding federal court settlement so that officials would be able to detain asylum-seeking families together during immigration proceedings.

A federal judge in California ruled in 2015 that the Obama administration was in violation of the settlement when it tried to jail families together. The judge also said children detained with their families could be held for no longer than 20 days.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for West Texas said Thursday night that the zero-tolerance policy remains in place but criminal charges against some parents caught crossing the border with their children are being dropped as part of a “transition” to keep families together.

“As part of that transition, the office today dismissed certain cases that were pending when the president issued the order. Contrary to reporting, the office did not issue any memorandum to the courts,” the federal prosecutor’s office said.

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President Donald Trump Signs Order to End Family Separation

Facing mounting political pressure, President Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of families crossing the U.S. border illegally. Photo: Getty

Social-service groups are scrambling to understand the executive order’s ramifications.

Kay Bellor, vice president of programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said her group had placed about 150 children who were separated from their parents with foster families around the country.

She said she didn’t believe any of them had been reunited with their parents so far, and she didn’t know how the process of trying to reunite them would work, even after Mr. Trump’s Wednesday order.

“We don’t know if and when kids are going to get reunited with their parents,” she said. “We ourselves are just grappling with what’s next.”

A representative for one national agency that worked on placing children with foster families said “we have seen no information so far on reunification plans and procedures.”

“We have no information that the executive order is going to help kids separated from parents already,” the person said, adding that, as a parent, “it’s heartbreaking.”

The organizations, this person said, received a memo Wednesday evening from Jallyn Sualog, an acting director with the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS, thanking the organizations for their “incredible efforts” dealing with the “media and public firestorm” over the unaccompanied children.

The memo, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, also advised the social-service groups to look at enhancing security because they “may be experiencing protests” and other actions from local communities.

Mrs. Trump drew attention after photos of her boarding the plane in a military-style jacket with the phrase “I really don’t care, do u?” generated puzzled chatter. The president tweeted that the phrase on her jacket referred to the news media.

DHS has extremely limited capacity to detain families as a unit, in particular, an administration official said.

Legally, the official said, it is challenging to establish suitable facilities because the families comprise people usually not housed together in government custody: Men and women, adults and children, individuals facing legal proceedings and minors subject to different rules.

Church World Service, a national faith-based organization who works with affiliates that are placing unaccompanied minors in foster homes, called for swift action to reunite families.

“We are extremely concerned that the administration does not seem to have any plan to reunite the more than 2,000 children forcibly separated from parents at the border in the last six weeks,” the organization said in a statement.

According to Mario Russell, director of Immigration & Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, children recently separated from their parents at the border have been channeled into the same system of shelter care consistent which how unaccompanied children have for years, and it is “a good process, a safe process.”

However, the executive order does nothing “to cure the problem of separation,” Mr. Russell said. Children separated from parents in recent weeks will stay in shelters and short-term foster care arrangements throughout the country and ultimately children will be placed into deportation proceedings, he said. Lawyers for the children will work with the court and DHS to find a way to expedite the process toward reunification.

“I have to tell you, though, there are a lot of unknowns for what will happen, who will do it and how quickly it will be done,” Mr. Russell said. “There will be a continuing exacerbation of a really significant human problem.”

Write to Alicia A. Caldwell at Alicia.Caldwell@wsj.com and Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com

COURTESY: WSJ

Democrats intensify fight for immigrant children — and bludgeon Trump and Republicans ahead of midterms

 2:54
Congress remains at odds over family separation at border

Lawmakers are opposed to migrant family separation, but can’t agree how to stop it.

Democrats expanded their campaign Sunday to spotlight the Trump administration’s forced separation of migrant children from their families at the U.S. border, trying to compel a change of policy and gain political advantage five months before midterm elections.

Against a notable silence on the part of many Republicans who usually defend President Trump, Democratic lawmakers fanned out across the country, visiting a detention center outside New York City and heading to Texas to inspect facilities where children have been detained.

In McAllen, Tex., where several Democratic lawmakers toured a facility, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas estimated that he saw about 100 children younger than 6.

“It was orderly, but it was far from what I would call humane,” he said.

Seven Democratic members of Congress spent Sunday morning at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in New Jersey, waiting nearly 90 minutes to view the facilities and visit five detained immigrants.

“This is unfair and unconstitutional,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.).


Democratic U.S. representatives from New York and New Jersey — from left, Hakeem Jeffries, Frank Pallone Jr. and Carolyn B. Maloney and, from right, Albio Sires, Jerrold Nadler and Adriano Espaillat — visited children who had been separated from their parents at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in New Jersey on Sunday. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Trump has falsely blamed the separations on a law he said was written by Democrats. But the separations instead largely stem from a “zero-tolerance” policy announced with fanfare last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The White House also has interpreted a 1997 legal agreement and a 2008 bipartisan human trafficking bill as requiring the separation of families — a posture not taken by the George W. Bush or Obama administrations.

Trump remained silent on the issue for most of the day Sunday before tweeting that Democrats should work with Republicans on an immigration solution before the election “because you are going to lose!” In a radio address on Saturday, he brought up the topic of “un­accompanied alien minors” in a broadside against Democrats who he said had created “glaring loopholes” that let in young members of the MS-13 international gang.

“Democrats in Congress have opposed every measure that would close these immigration loopholes and bring this slaughter to an end,” he said after recounting a litany of crimes he said were committed by immigrants here illegally. He said he was defending “every American child.”

White House officials and allies on Sunday dug in and defended the policy, insisting as Trump has that the administration was following existing immigration law.

“I don’t think you have to justify it,” former senior White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon told ABC’s “This Week.” “We have a crisis on the southern border.”

 1:34
Father’s Day brings protests of separating migrant families

Father’s Day, on June 17, ignited protests and debate over President Trump’s new ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy. 

“They are criminals when they come across illegally,” Bannon said.

Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway answered critics’ complaints by telling members of Congress to change immigration measures on the books.

“If they don’t like that law, they should change it,” Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The divisions between the White House and its critics on both sides of the aisle opened a signal week when it comes to the nation’s immigration policies. President Trump was due to speak Tuesday to Republican members of Congress on the issue, which has confounded both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for a generation.

Republicans are considering two measures, both of which give the president much of what he has demanded, including billions for construction of a border wall, sharp curbs on legal immigration and other security mechanisms. But neither a conservative proposal nor a more moderate one that would allow families to be detained together was guaranteed enough support among party members who have long been split on how to deal with immigrants in the country or seeking entry.

Democrats, actively denouncing the zero-tolerance policy, have remained united against the GOP measures but are pushing a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to immediately block family separations. No Republican has publicly supported that option.

After equivocating Friday about which of the two Republican immigration measures he would support — and shaking up GOP members seeking signs from the White House — Trump later said he would back either one.

White House officials have said the president is betting that by continuing to separate families, he will gain political leverage in negotiations with Congress over a new immigration bill and cause a drop in the number of immigrants seeking entry.

A sign of the difficult balance over which all sides were tussling came Sunday from a statement released by a spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump.

“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” it said. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Former first lady Laura Bush also stepped into the fray in a Washington Post opinion article.

“I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel.” Bush said. “It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

She said the warehousing of children in a former Walmart and a Texas tent city was “eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

Two Republican senators publicly signaled their worry Sunday by asking for more information about children who reportedly have been taken from parents seeking political asylum at U.S. ports of entry. Seeking asylum is not a crime.

“It is critical that Congress fully understands how our nation’s laws are being implemented on the ground, especially when the well-being of young children is at stake,” Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) wrote in a letter to the secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Collins said breaking up families was “traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims.”

“From the experience of previous administrations, it does not act as a deterrent to use children in this fashion,” Collins said. “It is inconsistent with our American values to separate these children from their parents unless there’s evidence of abuse or another very good reason.”

At the same time, Collins was critical of Democratic efforts to end the policy, including the Feinstein measure, which Collins called “too broad.”

U.S. officials have said that the number of families who could be broken up might double and that the number of children who’ve already been taken from their parents — 2,000 over a six-week period from April to May — may be higher than what the administration has reported.

Already, the policy has sparked a public relations crisis as the administration has been confronted with photos of young, bewildered children being separated from their parents at the border — a difficult scenario under any circumstances but one that landed with a particular poignancy on Father’s Day weekend.

Notable Republican allies, such as evangelist Franklin Graham, who has defended Trump at every turn of his presidency, have broken with the administration in recent days. Graham called the family separations “disgraceful.”

Other religious leaders and a host of child welfare organizations have fiercely criticized it, contending it will harm the children throughout their lifetimes.

Democratic leaders worked to maximize negative publicity over the weekend, hoping to prompt a national push against the policy that would also play to their benefit in November.

Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) likened the president’s demands to extortion.

“What the administration is doing is, they’re using the grief, the tears, the pain of these kids as mortar to build their wall,” Schiff said. “It’s an effort to extort a bill to their liking in the Congress.”

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Tex.) was one of several Democratic lawmakers who headed to the border or other detention centers this weekend to mark Father’s Day with a public demonstration. He said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that House Democrats would introduce legislation this week to ban the practice.

“I hope to produce the outrage and the public pressure to force those in power to do the right thing,” said O’Rourke, who is challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in November. “This is inhumane. I’d like to say it’s un-American, but it’s happening right now in America. We will be judged for what we do or what we fail to do now. This is not just on the Trump administration — this is on all of us.”

O’Rourke also offered some sympathy to Border Patrol agents, whom “we’re asking . . . to solve international problems.”

At the detention facility outside New York, Democrats challenged Republicans to join them in bringing separations to an end. The lawmakers arrived at 9 a.m. and protested loudly when security guards didn’t let them in.

The seven were eventually admitted and spent more than an hour looking at the facilities and talking to people who had children they were unable to see.

“None of the people we met here had come for economic reasons,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), who took notes on the detainees’ stories after they were prevented from bringing in cellphones. “They were fleeing violence.”

When one reporter in the center asked why no Republicans had joined the protest, Pallone suggested they were afraid to confront the Trump administration.

“They won’t challenge Sessions,” he said. “They may agree with us, but they won’t say it.”

Rep. Albio Sires, whose district includes the center, said he had come to the United States as an 11-year-old.

“That’s not the country I recognize, in there,” said Sires, who was born in Cuba. “They don’t even have a procedure in place when they take the kids.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Democrats would introduce legislation to block funds for any family separation tactics, a companion to Feinstein’s Senate legislation.

“Trump said he’s very much opposed to this policy,” Nadler said. “So he’d have a chance to prove that.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) attacked Trump for blaming the separation policy on Democrats, and he challenged House and Senate Republicans to allow a vote to change it.

“Stop lying to the American people,” he said. “This is your policy. You are the ones that we will force to shut this down.”

As the members of Congress spoke, around 60 protesters joined them, some holding signs with pictures of immigrants who had been detained.

Sean Sullivan in McAllen, Tex., contributed to this report.

‘You Are the Product’: Targeted by Cambridge Analytica on Facebook

Video

How Cambridge Analytica Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

Tens of millions of American Facebook users had their data harvested by Cambridge Analytica and a British-based researcher. Here’s how it happened.

By GABRIEL J.X. DANCE, BEN LAFFIN, DREW JORDAN and MALACHY BROWNE on Publish DateApril 8, 2018. .Watch in Times Video »

Christopher Deason stumbled upon the psychological questionnaire on June 9, 2014. He was taking a lot of online surveys back then, each one earning him a few dollars to help pay the bills. Nothing about this one, which he saw on an online job platform, struck him as “creepy or weird,” he said later.

So at 6:37 that evening, Mr. Deason completed the first step of the survey: He granted access to his Facebook account.

Less than a second later, a Facebook app had harvested not only Mr. Deason’s profile data, but also data from the profiles of 205 of his Facebook friends. Their names, birth dates and location data, as well as lists of every Facebook page they had ever liked, were downloaded — without their knowledge or express consent — before Mr. Deason could even begin reading the first survey question.

The information was added to a huge database being compiled for Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm with links to Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. None of the people whose data was collected knew it had happened, not even Mr. Deason. “I don’t think I would have gone forward with it if I had,” Mr. Deason, 27, said in a recent interview.

Mr. Deason and his Facebook friends became early entries in a database that would ultimately encompass tens of millions of Facebook profiles and is now at the center of a crisis facing the social media giant. News of Cambridge Analytica’s data collection, first reported last month by The New York Times and The Observer of London, has spurred a #DeleteFacebook movement and brought the social network under intensifying scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the United States and Britain.

Still, few of the roughly 214 million Americans with Facebook profiles know whether their data was among the information swept up for Cambridge Analytica. Facebook, which learned of the data misuse in December 2015, plans to begin telling affected users on Monday, a day before its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is to testify before Congress. Records reviewed by The Times show that roughly 300,000 people took the survey, but because of the access to friends’ information allowed at the time, Facebook said that as many as 87 million users could have been affected.

But The Times, which has viewed a set of raw data from the profiles that Cambridge Analytica paid an academic researcher to obtain, contacted nearly two dozen affected Facebook users in recent weeks. Some were angry — one woman compared it to being robbed — while others were annoyed but unsurprised, having grown cynical about tech giants’ use of the data they collect. They are some of the first known affected Facebook users to be publicly identified. And nearly all said the misuse of their data had given them second thoughts about staying on Facebook.

Photo

When Christopher Deason took an online survey in 2014, he and his Facebook friends unknowingly became early entries in a database that would eventually encompass tens of millions of Facebook profiles. CreditMichael Shroyer for The New York Times

“I’ve come to grips with the fact that you are the product on the internet,” said Mark Snyder, 32, who lives in Pompano Beach, Fla., and was among Mr. Deason’s friends whose data was collected.

“If you sign up for anything and it isn’t immediately obvious how they’re making money, they’re making money off of you,” said Mr. Snyder, who maintains computer networks for a living.

Mr. Zuckerberg has said the misuse of data represented a “breach of trust” by the company. But even he has suggested that other app developers could have done the same.

Until April 2015, Facebook allowed some app developers to collect some private information from the profiles of users who downloaded apps, and from those of their friends. Facebook has said it allowed this kind of data collection to help developers improve the “in-app” experience for users. But Facebook appears to have done little to verify how developers were using the data or whether they were providing any kind of experience on Facebook at all.

The questionnaire used to collect data for Cambridge Analytica was not actually on Facebook. It was hosted by a company called Qualtrics, which provides a platform for online surveys. It consisted of dozens of questions often used by psychology researchers to assess personality, such as whether the respondent prefers to be alone, tries to lead others and loves large parties (the answer choices range from “disagree strongly” to “agree strongly”). The questionnaire took about 10 to 20 minutes to complete.

When respondents authorized access to their Facebook profiles, the app performed its sole function: to take the users’ data and that of their friends. There was no “in-app” experience to speak of; this was not intended to be the sort of cute online quiz that tells users which “Friends” character they most resemble or how their brunch preferences reveal their inner Disney princess.

Facebook has said that people who took the quiz were told that their data would be used only for academic purposes, claiming that it and its users were misled by Cambridge Analytica and the researcher it hired, Aleksandr Kogan, a 28-year-old Russian-American academic. But the fine print that accompanied the questionnaire may have told users that their data could be used for commercial purposes, according to a draft of the survey’s terms of service that was reviewed by The Times.

Photo

Jim Symbouras’s profile data was collected dozens of times after Facebook friends of his were directed to the online survey. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

Selling users’ Facebook data would have been an outright violation of the company’s rules at the time. Yet the company does not appear to have regularly checked to make sure that apps complied with its rules. And the final wording of the survey’s terms of service is now most likely unknowable: Facebook executives said they deleted the app in December 2015 when they found out about the data harvesting.

Cambridge Analytica used the Facebook data to help build tools that it claimed could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. The firm has said that its so-called psychographic modeling techniques underpinned its work for Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016, setting off a still-unsettled debate about whether the firm’s technology worked.

The uproar over Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of the data has added to questions Facebook was already confronting over the use of its platform by those seeking to spread Russian propaganda and fake news.

“Cambridge Analytica is the big story on the topic, but there have been numerous stories about Facebook either selling user data or giving third parties access and using it to help advertising,” Mr. Deason said.

He was especially irked by the ways Facebook and other social media directed advertisements based on what users posted or viewed online.

If he recommends, say, a Dell laptop to a friend, he said, “I go to the next page on Facebook and there’s a Dell ad.”

“That bothers me,” he said.

Mr. Deason, who runs a computer business in Roanoke, Va., is probably among Facebook’s more tech-savvy users. He is keeping his account open for now because his business has its own page and he moderates Facebook groups dedicated to computers.

“But if I were just working my 9-to-5 at the local bank or whatever, and coming home and getting on Facebook to check on my friends and whatnot, yeah, I would delete Facebook,” he said.

Many people who took the survey do not have a background in technology, including Jim Symbouras, 56, a municipal worker in New York City.

His data was collected dozens of times after 52 of his Facebook friends were directed to the psychological questionnaire, many by a site called Swagbucks. The site lets people earn gift cards to Amazon and other retailers in exchange for taking surveys or watching video advertisements.

Mr. Symbouras does not personally know any of the Facebook friends who granted the app access to his data. He met them in Facebook groups where Swagbucks users traded tips for finding good deals.

Amy Risner, 52, of Collinwood, Tenn., was one of those Facebook friends. Ms. Risner, who does not work full time, vaguely recalled the questionnaire — “It was real long, that’s what I remember” — but was certain she never saw any notice that her data or that of her friends would be collected.

“If it would have said anything like that about taking my information — my personal information — I would have backed out of it and not done it,” Ms. Risner said.

Facebook, though, is a tough habit to kick. Asked if she was thinking about deleting her account, Ms. Risner said, “I’m just too nosy to stay off it.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress has the makings of riveting televised political drama

Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress has the makings of riveting televised political drama
In this June 24, 2016, photograph, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Global Entrepreneur Summit at Stanford University. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

 


Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress this week has the incendiary ingredients for compelling political theater: an arrogant high-tech billionaire facing off with grand-standing lawmakers at a moment when Americans are increasingly anxious about protecting their privacy from Russian trolls and Facebook algorithms.

The showdown makes for a TV spectacle similar to last year’s testimony by former FBI Director James B. Comey, which was watched by 19.5 million viewers and followed by millions more online. Unlike congressional hearings of decades past, such as Watergate, which were broadcast by a small universe of three networks, Zuckerberg’s appearance will play across a splintered media landscape that includes streaming, Twitter, YouTube and cable channels such as CNN.

Perhaps more than anyone else, the 33-year-old Zuckerberg, whose fortune is estimated at more than $63 billion, personifies how technology has reinvented how we get our news and communicate in a world that no longer waits for the evening news. The Senate hearing room may have the trappings of old formalities, but Zuckerberg’s testimony will be shot through a real-time prism and immediately debated across blogs, chat rooms, Instagram and other insatiable platforms that now propel national conversations.

He is certain to encounter intense criticism during hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday on how personal details of 87 million of his Facebook users ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm connected to President Trump during the 2016 election. It is a showdown that could culminate in a revealing cultural moment as the nation peeks deeper into the manipulations and dangers of internet companies and social media.

“If I were Zuckerberg I’d prepare for not just a grilling but probably a pummeling,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “I don’t think he’s used to this. He thinks he is. He’s done a lot of public appearances and they’ll prep him like crazy. I can just imagine how many PR people he’s got training him. How many millions they’re spending to get him prepared. I don’t think anybody would want to be in his position.”

But we are in an era of ‘fake news’ and an endlessly tweeting reality TV show president who has raised the bar on the capacity to unnerve or shock us. The Zuckerberg hearings could coalesce into a seminal turning point on our relationship wth technology or become an aside in a daily political maelstrom that has numbed us with its audacity.

The most memorable televised Congressional testimonies — including Watergate, Anita Hill and the Army-McCarthy hearings — unfolded in divisive times when the country was forced to take stock of the democracy and ethos that defined it. The hearings offered charlatans and heroes, revelations of corruption and paeans to justice, as if paper-rattling soap operas, mostly starring white men in suits, spun out in grainy footage beneath the Capitol rotunda.

The hearings have often riveted Americans with glimpses of the sins and misdeeds of the powerful and, at times, a front row seat to deeper societal problems. The Anita Hill hearings during the 1991 confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court laid bare sexual harassment decades before the #MeToo movement. Hill’s testimony, which was watched by more than 20 million households and argued over in diners, taverns and classrooms, spooled out in a morality play rife with stunning moments that sullied the decorum of one of the nation’s highest offices.

Still from the documentary "Anita." Anita Hill during testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
Still from the documentary “Anita.” Anita Hill during testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

 

Hill told Congress that Thomas, whom she worked for at the Department of Education, made sexually suggestive comments, including “women having sex with animals” and discussing his “sexual prowess.” She testified that he once asker her: “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” Thomas, who scolded senators that the hearing amounted to a “high-tech lynching,” denied the allegations, stirring a legacy of slavery and civil rights.

It is unlikely such visceral images will emerge from Zuckerberg’s testimony before the joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His challenge is to reassure lawmakers and 2.2 billion active Facebook users that his company will improve privacy controls. Zuckerberg, who can be aloof and reticent, will have to stretch beyond his elusive boy genius persona to convince a Congress wary of Russian election meddling and the pervasive, secretive reach of Silicon Valley that he is genuine about reform in the tech industry.

He is expected to strike a contrite tone: “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” Zuckerberg is expected to tell lawmakers, according to his prepared comments released Monday by the Energy and Commerce Committee. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.”

Once the bank of photographers recedes from Zuckerberg’s table and committee members adjust their microphones and talking points, a bristling mix of personalities, egos and brinkmanship is expected to unfold. Zuckerberg, who in recent days has promised to better oversee political ads on Facebook, will be looking to instill confidence and shore up his company’s stock price. Lawmakers will jab at his weak spots for inconsistencies, knowing that billionaires don’t often illicit sympathy.

“My guess is that a fair number of the questions will be boiled down to this phrase: How could you?” said Sabato. “How could you endanger people’s privacy in this way? How could you underestimate this for so long? And how could you lie? He’ll say he wasn’t lying, but it’s going to be tough. There’s loads of Democrats who feel he bears some responsibility for the presidency of Donald Trump. They’re going to take a pound of flesh.”

Both sides will be playing to the public — recent congressional hearings have live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube and aired on channels like C-Span — while testing each other over the bounds of government regulation on one of the planet’s most successful corporations. Appearance and demeanor count for much; Zuckerberg will want to avoid the kind of tone-deaf foible the Big Three automakers made in 2008 when, while asking for a $25-billion taxpayer bailout, arrived in Washington on private jets.

“There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) while looking down at the chief executives of Chrysler, General Motors and Ford. “It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious.”


Similar sentiments from senators were directed at Goldman Sachs executives during hearings in 2010 about the housing mortgage crisis. “The idea that Wall Street came out of this thing just fine, thank you, is just something that just grates on people,” said Sen. Edward E. Kaufman Jr. (D-Del). “They think you didn’t just come out fine because it was luck. They think you guys just really gamed this thing real well.”

In this May 18, 1973, file photo, Senate Watergate Investigating Committee Chairman Sen. Sam Ervin (D-N.C.), center, listens to other members of the committee during the first day of public hearings in Washington.
In this May 18, 1973, file photo, Senate Watergate Investigating Committee Chairman Sen. Sam Ervin (D-N.C.), center, listens to other members of the committee during the first day of public hearings in Washington. (AP)

 

Congressional hearings are often a time of reckoning when the nation’s troubles can be distilled in a few, short dramatic sentences broadcast to the nation. During Sen. Joe McCarthy’s infamous hearings to root out alleged communist sympathizers in the 1950s, which among other things charged that the Army was soft on communism, Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the Army, encapsulated the revilement much of the country had toward the senator when he snapped:

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The 1973 Watergate hearings left the country rapt: One estimate found that 85% of U.S. households watched at least part of the more than 300 hours of the investigation. Sen. Sam Ervin, glasses sliding down his nose and his North Carolina drawl echoing through the chamber, presided with the gravitas of a patriarch and the sly wit of a country lawyer. It quickly became apparent that President Nixon’s fate over the bugging of Democratic headquarters was at the heart of a constitutional crisis.

“I began by telling the president,” said John Dean, White House counsel, who had sweat on his brow but was prim in a tan suit as he leaned into silver microphones, “that there was a cancer growing on the presidency.”

Sen. Howard Baker Jr. asked the question that would become shorthand for Watergate and later government investigations into corruption: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Twitter: @JeffreyLAT

Organizers of US-bound immigrant caravan accuse Trump of ‘bullying,’ ‘threats of mass violence’

The organization behind the 1,000-person strong caravan of Central Americans surging toward the United States’ southern border accused President Trump on Monday of “bullying” immigrants and threatening “mass violence” — while Trump again warned the advancing procession “had better be stopped.”

Pueblo Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders, fired back at Trump after the president’s Twitter tirade urging Congress to invoke the “nuclear option” — requiring only a simple majority to pass legislation — in order to pass bills for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and tough immigration reform.

Central American migrant children play with a piñata during the annual Migrant Stations of the Cross caravan or "Via Crucis," organized by the "Pueblo Sin Fronteras" activist group, at a sports center as the caravan stops for a few days in Matias Romero, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Monday, April 2, 2018. A Mexican government official said the caravans are tolerated because migrants have a right under Mexican law to request asylum in Mexico or to request a humanitarian visa allowing travel to the U.S. border to seek asylum in the United States. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

The caravan with more than 1,000 Central Americans is traveling toward the U.S. border.  (AP)

Trump tweeted Tuesday morning the caravan, estimated to be carrying more than 1,000 Central Americans, “had better be stopped” before reaching the U.S. border with Mexico.

“The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!” Trump tweeted.

TRUMPS SLAMS MEXICO AND DEMS AS CARAVAN OF IMMIGRANTS HEADS TO US SOUTHERN BORDER

The organization said in a statement that Trump was using news of the caravan to threaten DACA recipients and force Congress to pass his favored legislation.

Central American migrants participating in the Migrant Stations of the Cross caravan or "Via crucis," set up camp at a sports center during the caravan's few-day's stop in Matias Romero, Oaxaca state, Mexico, late Monday, April 2, 2018. The annual caravans have been held in southern Mexico for years as an Easter-season protest against the kidnappings, extortion, beatings and killings suffered by many Central American migrants as they cross Mexico. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

The caravan has been traveling through Mexico in the last week.  (AP)

“On April 1st, the U.S. President opportunistically invoked refugee caravans as a pretext for threatening immigrants already in the country, specifically DACA recipients, with a so-called ‘Nuclear Option’ to remove their protections from detention and deportation,” the organization said.

It added: “Trump is trying to turn Central American refugees and other immigrant communities against each other, and use them as a bargaining chip with Mexico.”

The group was likely referring to the caravan being a “bargaining chip” in the ongoing talks surrounding the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has threatened to pull out of unless Mexico does more to prevent illegal immigrants from coming into the U.S. Trump on Monday said the caravan was coming because the people in it thought they could take advantage of certain Obama-era protections for immigrants.

“In the face of this bullying and these threats of mass violence, we continue to stand in solidarity with displaced people of all races, ethnicities, creeds, abilities, and gender and sexual identities,” the organization said.

‘CARAVAN’ MARCHES ON UNIMPEDED, DESPITE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SPENDING MILLIONS TO HELP MEXICO CONTROL BORDER

Trump on Monday night urged “tough laws” and the building of a U.S.-Mexico border wall to prevent countries from sending “many of their people” to the U.S.

The president tweeted: “Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the U.S. is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL. Democrats allow open borders, drugs and crime!”

The president’s tweets came after “FOX & Friends” reported early Sunday a group of 1,200 migrants, mostly from Honduras, was traveling through Mexico without authorization en route to the U.S. with the intention of illegally crossing into the states or seeking asylum. According to a BuzzFeed News report, officials in Mexico have not attempted to stop the migrants. Mexico’s National Institute of Immigration told BuzzFeed Monday that it plans to disband the caravan by Wednesday, but those helping the immigrant group are skeptical of the rhetoric.

Central American migrants arrive to a sports center during the annual Migrant Stations of the Cross caravan or "Via crucis," organized by the "Pueblo Sin Fronteras" activist group, as the group makes a few-days stop in Matias Romero, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Monday, April 2, 2018.  The organized portions of the caravans usually don't proceed much farther north than the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, while some migrants, moving as individuals or in smaller groups, often take buses or trucks from there to the U.S. border. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

Groups of people are reportedly seeking asylum in Mexico while others will be continuing their journey north.  (AP)

Organizers said they expect Mexico to allow some migrants to continue traveling to the U.S. border or, another organizer told BuzzFeed News, apply for asylum in Mexico.

Mexico’s government also insisted it does not “promote irregular migration” and that about 400 caravan participants have been sent back to their home countries, though that was not able to be independently confirmed.

A group of a few hundred men also broke off from the march Sunday, hopping a freight train north, likely with hopes of trying to enter the U.S. more quickly, The Associated Press reported. But the rest seemed unlikely to move again until Wednesday or Thursday, and they probably would take buses to the last scheduled stop in Mexico’s central Puebla state.

Fox News’ Griff Jenkins and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam

Courtesy: Fox News

In Easter Sunday tirade, a frustrated Trump suggests he will make no deal to help Dreamers

In Easter Sunday tirade, a frustrated Trump suggests he will make no deal to help Dreamers
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for Easter service at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 1, 2018. (NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP/Getty Images)

 

President Trump on Easter Sunday appeared to rule out efforts to revive deportation protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children, tweeting “NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

The president issued a series of combative statements on Twitter, centering on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he described as a “cash cow” for Mexico. At the same time, he railed against what he described as a dangerous lack of security on the U.S. southern border.

In a trio of tweets, Trump also asserted that Mexicans “laugh at our dumb immigration laws,” and suggested that U.S. Immigration and Customs agents were being improperly constrained from carrying out their duties.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!

The tone of the president’s holiday tweets differed markedly from the sentiments of goodwill commonly expressed by previous U.S. chief executives on national or religious occasions.

But frustrated by Congress’ refusal to embrace his legislative agenda and apparently egged on by conservative outlets like Fox News, the president in recent days has embraced a more freewheeling, confrontational leadership style, even by his standards.

In addition to firing two of his Cabinet members in tweets last month, Trump on Thursday gave a rambling speech in Ohio in which he surprised his own advisors by saying the U.S would soon halt military operations in Syria and suggesting he would use the upcoming nuclear talks with North Korea to extract a better trade deal with South Korea.

In his Easter tweets, Trump vented frustration over one of his campaign’s central talking points, the border wall that he repeatedly said Mexico would pay for. Congress has so far provided only limited funds for the wall project, leading Trump to reportedly weigh other avenues, including diverting money allocated to the U.S. military.

The president has made on-again, off-again efforts to use the “Dreamers” as bargaining chips in his bid to build the border wall, and he publicly vented anger over an omnibus spending measure he signed last week because it included only a small slice of funding for it.

Trump announced last fall that he would terminate the Obama-era DACA program, generating fear and panic among several hundred thousand enrollees in the program. He challenged Congress to come up with a new and better version of the program, which provides temporary protections from deportation and work permits for them.

But with the fate of the Dreamers hanging in the balance, the president then rejected a carefully crafted bipartisan immigration deal, questioning during one acrimonious meeting with lawmakers why the United States should allow immigration from Haiti and African countries he considered to be “shitholes.”

Trump is insisting that any relief for Dreamers be tied to billions of dollars for the border wall as well as strict new limits on legal immigration to the U.S. Lawmakers have been unable to agree on such a plan.

Trump on Sunday also made the puzzling assertion that “big flows” of immigrants were trying to enter the United States because of DACA. “They all want in on the act!” he tweeted.

In fact, DACA is not available to newly arrived immigrants. Though Trump terminated the program as of March, its protections remain temporarily in place under court order while legal challenges make their way through the courts.

Trump is now blaming Democrats for the collapse of DACA.

“The Democrats blew it,” he told reporters Sunday while attending Easter services with First Lady Melania Trump and his daughter Tiffany Trump.

His frustration with Congress was also reflected in his call Sunday for a change in Senate rules to eliminate the use of filibusters and enable legislation to pass with just 51 votes. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority. But many of Trump’s initiatives have failed to even garner that level of support from his own party and GOP leaders oppose changing Senate rules.

Trump is also facing an array of other challenges, including the ongoing legal fight over hush money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual affair with the president more than a decade ago, and Trump’s difficulties in securing top-flight lawyers to represent him in the face of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of cooperation between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

On Sunday, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former Trump campaign aide and an ex-prosecutor, warned the president against the perils of sitting down with the veteran lawman Mueller – something Trump said he would be willing to do, although his lawyers quickly sought to walk back his offer.

“He’s a salesman, and salesmen at times tend to be hyperbolic,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the president. “That’s OK when you’re working on Congress — it is not OK when you’re sitting talking to federal agents.”

Once again, the churn of turnover in Trump’s administration was a talking point on the Sunday news shows. Several major figures have jumped or been pushed out in recent weeks, including economic advisor Gary Cohn, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House communications director Hope Hicks, and the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin.

In a series of TV appearances Sunday, Shulkin repeated his belief that he had been ousted because he resisted attempts to privatize government-provided healthcare for veterans, an idea that has been floated by some prominent Trump backers. And Shulkin pushed back at an apparent White House attempt to portray his ouster as a resignation, not a firing – a distinction that could stay the president’s free hand in designating an interim replacement from outside the department.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Saturday that Shulkin had resigned, Politico reported, which does not square with his apparent firing by presidential tweet last week. In response to a direct query from interviewer Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” Shulkin stated: “I did not resign.”

Trump has chosen as Shulkin’s successor Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the physician who recently offered a glowing public assessment of the president’s level of health and fitness. But Jackson faces confirmation hearings. In the meantime, the president has sought to temporarily move in a Pentagon official, Robert Wilkie, rather than allowing Shulkin’s deputy to move into the post on an interim basis.

That has raised questions about the applicability of a relatively little-known measure, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which gives the president powers to pick a stand-in when a Cabinet secretary is incapacitated, dies or resigns, but seemingly not when the person is fired.

UPDATES:

2:50 p.p.: This article was updated with additional quotes, context.

This article was originally published at 8:55 a.m.

Ex-GOP Lawmaker: It’s Time To Vote Republicans Out So We Can Get Gun Control

Ed Mazza

,

HuffPost
Ex-GOP Lawmaker: It’s Time To Vote Republicans Out So We Can Get Gun Control
“Republicans will never do anything on gun control,” says former GOP Rep. David Jolly.
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“Republicans will never do anything on gun control,” says former GOP Rep. David Jolly. “The idea of gun policy in the Republican party is to try to get a speaking slot at the NRA and prove to that constituency that you are further right.”

If Americans want gun control legislation in the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, they need to vote Republicans out of office, a former GOP lawmaker said.

“Republicans will never do anything on gun control,” former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) said on CNN Wednesday.

Jolly said Republicans refuse to enact any gun control laws, even after a member of Congress was shot at a baseball practice last year.

“The idea of gun policy in the Republican party is to try to get a speaking slot at the NRA and prove to that constituency that you are further right than generations past on guns,” Jolly said.

Then, he called on voters to take to the ballot box in November:

“If this is the issue that defines your ideology as a voter, there are two things I would suggest tonight. First, flip the House. Flip the House. Republicans are not going to do a single thing after this shooting we saw today.”

Democrats should then bypass Republicans and go directly to the law enforcement community and work on real solutions for gun control, Jolly said. He also suggested it might be time to give his party the boot since Republicans in Congress have done little to keep President Donald Trump in check.

“We do know that we have a president who very well might put this nation at risk and this Republican Congress has done nothing to check his power,” Jolly added. “Democrats could, and we might be better off as a republic if they take the House in 2018.”

Courtesy: Yahoo News

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