TRUMP REJECTS FREE FLU SHOTS FOR DETAINED IMMIGRANTS

As the flu season reaches its peak in December and January, the Trump administration has again rejected an offer by an American physicians group of free flu vaccinations for detained undocumented immigrants.

Physicians from Doctors for Camp Closure sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offering a flu shot pilot program to detainees at a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility at no cost to the federal government.

The CBP said this is not a new policy, that it has never been the agency’s practice to administer vaccines to migrants.

On Friday, the physicians group reaffirmed its commitment to vaccinate migrants.

“We have the vaccinations and are ready to deliver them as soon as we receive permission, but have not been granted access by CBP or DHS,” said Marie DeLuca, an emergency physician from New York City who helped co-found Doctors for Camp Closure.

“Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities,” CBP spokesman Matthew Dyman wrote in an email. “Every effort is made to hold detainees for the least amount of time required for their processing, transfer, release or repatriation as appropriate and operationally feasible.”

At least 3 flu deaths

During last year’s flu season, at least three children died of the flu while in CBP custody, according to reports.

But Dyman said that because CBP is a law enforcement agency and because of the short amount of time migrants are held and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible.

Both the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Department of Health and Human Services “have comprehensive medical support services and can provide vaccinations as appropriate to those in their custody,” he said.

The physicians organization, which has 2,000 physician members, was formed a few months ago. The group had outlined a plan to vaccinate about 100 migrants in a San Diego, California, facility, and then expand and vaccinate more migrants.

A lot can happen in 72 hours

Commenting on CBP’s 72-hour hold statement, Danielle Deines, a pediatrician in Virginia and member of the group, said a lot can happen in 72 hours for someone with the flu.

“You can have a number of migrants exposed in that amount of time. … People who are going to come into this really crowded situation are already vulnerable from a health standpoint because their bodies are stressed based on the travel and things that they’ve had to do just to get [to the border]. And then you’re placing them in a place where there’s limited access to anything to maintain hygiene, so it’s a kind of a great setup for getting the flu,” Deines said.

She said the flu vaccine cuts the risk of hospitalization, intensive care admission, and death.

“There’s multiple reasons why this is important. And I think the biggest one is that they’re not following their own protocols as far as how long they’re putting people [in detention] and how they’re handling in keeping people healthy,” she said.

CBP has not been able to limit time in its custody to 72 hours, spokesman Dyman said.

“However, that is still the goal and the agency, working with partners, is still doing everything it can to move people out of temporary CBP holding facilities,” he said.

Teen died of flu

During the 2018-2019 flu season, at least three children died of the flu while in CBP custody, according to reports.

One of those people was Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, a 16-year-old boy. In a video, shot earlier this year and published Thursday by ProPublica, Vásquez is visibly disoriented and motionless after he collapsed in his concrete cell around 1:36 a.m. The migrant Guatemalan boy died May 20.

Though border officials said the boy was found “unresponsive this morning during a welfare check,” the video ProPublica published shows another migrant boy, who shared the cell with Vásquez, was the one to discover Vásquez four hours later in the same position and unresponsive.

Vásquez was detained in the Border Patrol station in south Texas. An autopsy revealed he died of the flu and other complications.

A CBP spokesperson said the investigation into his death is ongoing.

Flu activity elevated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website shows that seasonal influenza activity in the United States has been “elevated for four weeks and continues to increase.” CDC recommends that everyone 6 months old and older get a flu vaccine each season.

Though CBP has more than 250 medical personnel along the U.S. Mexico border, which includes a mix of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, Deines, of Doctors for Camp Closure, said they are not qualified to diagnose patients.

Doctors for Camp Closure co-founder DeLuca said Vásquez’s death was preventable, adding that childhood death from influenza is rare in the U.S. because of preventative measures such as flu vaccines, and because of the medical care received by children in offices and hospitals across the country.

“To see a child suffering as [Vásquez] did in that video is horrifying and inhumane. His death was preventable. … The video also makes it clear that detention is unsafe and can have deadly consequences,” DeLuca said.

Posted in HEALTH CARE, IMMIGRATION, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, IMMIGRATION REFORM | Leave a comment

PELOSI OK’S DRAFTING ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday asked the chairman of Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee to “proceed with articles of impeachment” against President Donald Trump, declaring that he has “abused the power of his office.”

Pelosi’s televised statement came a day after three U.S. constitutional scholars told Congress that the U.S. leader committed impeachable offenses by pushing Ukraine to open investigations to benefit him politically. An expert called by Trump’s Republican backers, however, argued there is insufficient evidence to impeach the president.

Trump, before Pelosi spoke, said that if the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is going to impeach him, he wants it to act quickly, likely setting the stage for a trial in the Republican-majority Senate in January, where his conviction and removal from office remains unlikely.

The Judiciary panel’s hearing was the next step in House Democrats’ effort to impeach the country’s 45th president, only the fourth time in the country’s 243-year history that a U.S. leader has faced a formal impeachment proceeding.

Posted in ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT, Trump | Leave a comment

REPORT ACCUSES TRUMP OF MISCONDUCT AND OBSTRUCTION

Lawmakers are formally accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of misconduct and obstruction, based on a months-long effort by him “to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.”

Trump pressured “Ukraine into announcing investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election. These investigations were designed to benefit his 2020 presidential reelection campaign,” according to a statement released by Adam Schiff, Carolyn Maloney and Eliot Engel, all Democrats, who respectively chair the intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees of the House.

“The evidence is also clear that President Trump conditioned official acts on the public announcement of these investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary,” the statement adds.

Additionally, the Democratic lawmakers accuse the Republican president of engaging “in categorical and unprecedented obstruction in order to cover-up his misconduct.”

Schiff told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference that if Congress does not punish Trump for soliciting foreign interference in a U.S. election, “we are begging for more of the same.”

The intelligence committee voted 13-9, along party lines, to adopt the report and send it to the House judiciary committee where there will be a partisan debate on whether to draft articles of impeachment against Trump.

Posted in IMPEACHMENT, Trump | Leave a comment

BLOOMBERG HAS DIFFERENT TAKE ON CHINA THAN MOST CANDIDATES

In announcing his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last week, former New York mayor and media tycoon Mike Bloomberg added a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate about President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, and perhaps further, to the entire relationship between Washington and Beijing.

Bloomberg represents something unique in the Democratic primary field — an unreconstructed free-trader who also takes a far less critical view of China’s repressive internal policies than many of his opponents.

Since well before declaring his candidacy, Bloomberg has been a loud critic of Trump on trade policy, saying the president’s sanctions-heavy approach to negotiation with China and other countries “set new benchmarks of incoherence and irresponsibility.”

During the Obama administration, Bloomberg voiced support for multilateral trade agreements that are now criticized not just by Trump, but also by many of the current Democratic presidential candidates.

Bloomberg, whose international media empire has long-established ties to China and regularly hosts high-profile conferences there, is also an outlier in terms of his thinking about the nature of the Chinese Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping.

Defends Xi’s government

In an interview for the PBS television show “Firing Line” in September, Bloomberg drew sharp criticism after seeming to defend Xi’s government as responsive to its people and fundamentally democratic.

“The Communist Party wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public,” he said. “Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”

At the time, mass pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong were facing a violent response from the Chinese government, and news reports about the brutal repression of the Uighur minority in China’s Xinjiang Province were widespread.

When the host expressed her incredulity at his position, citing Xi’s repressive policies, Bloomberg dug in deeper.

“No, he has a constituency to answer to,” he said. “No government survives without the will of the majority of its people, OK? The Chinese Communist Party looks at Russia, and they look for where the Communist Party is, and they don’t find it anymore. And they don’t want that to happen. So, they really are responsive.”

Avoids China human rights issues

Bloomberg seemed to base his belief in the Chinese government’s responsiveness to its citizens on its willingness to try to ameliorate the choking pollution that blankets many of its major cities. But he did not address the bedrock issues of political freedom and basic human rights.

On trade and the issue of China’s treatment of its own citizens, Bloomberg stands apart from most of the front-runners in the Democratic field.

Up to this point in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, candidates’ positions on relations with China have been complicated by the fact that some of the top contenders want to distance themselves from Trump in every respect, even when they seem to agree with his use of tariffs to force Beijing to reform its trade policies.

Differs from Warren and Sanders

Top contenders like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are explicitly open to protectionist trade policies, though they are quick to claim they would implement them differently.

Warren, in an outline of her trade policies, said that in her view “tariffs are an important tool.” But she criticized Trump’s “haphazard” implementation of them. Unlike Trump, she said, she believes tariffs “are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this administration clearly lacks.”

Sanders has vowed to undertake a “full review” of Trump’s trade policies to determine “which tariffs are working.” He added, “Tariffs may be part of the answer, but the Trump administration lacks a serious strategy for reducing our trade deficit or bringing back U.S. jobs that have been shipped to low-wage countries. Instead of conducting trade policy by tweet, we need a complete overhaul of our trade policies to increase American jobs, end the race to the bottom, raise wages and lift up living standards in this country and throughout the world.”

Buttigieg far more critical of tariffs

Pete Buttigieg, the outgoing mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is more critical of tariffs in principle, but does not close the door on their use as a tool of trade policy. He has said he would use tariffs as “leverage” in trade talks. However, he told The Washington Post,  “Because tariffs can be de facto domestic taxes, imposing real costs on American workers and farmers, they should be employed only with a clear strategy and endgame, and in coordination with our allies.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the Democratic field in national polls, has been inconsistent in his public statements about China. Shortly after announcing his candidacy last spring, he seemed to challenge the idea that the world’s most populous country was even a real economic competitor for the United States.

Biden sanguine about China threat

“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said at an appearance in Iowa. Arguing that Beijing is too busy with its internal problems to mount a serious economic threat to the U.S., he added, “They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”

The statement earned Biden immediate blowback from all sides, and forced him to acknowledge that China is “a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat.”

Since then, Biden has maintained the position that the U.S. has to stand up to China on trade, but he has done so with vague statements such as, “My administration will bring our allies together to challenge China’s abusive behavior and rally more than half the world’s economy to hold China to account for their cheating. We also need to tighten up our economic defenses so that American companies don’t have to keep giving away technology to China, or having it stolen.”

On the question of China’s treatment of its own people, most of the Democrats in the field are far more willing to criticize Beijing than Bloomberg appears to be. All four of the top candidates have loudly condemned the treatment of the Uighurs and the repression of Hong Kong’s pro-Democracy movement.

Bloomberg’s reticence

Bloomberg’s restraint when it comes to criticizing China is not a new thing. In 2013, Bloomberg LP, the company that controls his global media empire, was found to have killed news stories revealing corruption in the Chinese Communist Party, prompting the resignation of a number of editors and reporters.

With U.S.-Chinese relations growing in importance, a Bloomberg candidacy will give Democratic primary voters a very different option than those currently on offer. What remains to be seen is if there will be many takers.

Posted in 2020 Elections, Michael Bloomberg | Leave a comment

WHITE HOUSE REFUSES TO PARTICIPATE IN IMPEACHMENT HEARING

The White House says it will not participate in Wednesday impeachment hearing by the House Judiciary Committee.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler invited U.S. President Donald Trump and his counsel to attend the committee’s first hearing as the impeachment inquiry moves into its next phase.

While no one expected Trump to attend – he plans to be at a NATO summit near London this week – White House counsel Pat Cipollone is also declining the invitation.

“We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings,” Cipollone said in a letter to Nadler late Sunday.

Cipollone said he will reply by the end of the week on whether the White House would appear at future hearings.

Nadler assured Trump and his counsel in his invitation letter last week that he “remains committed to ensuring a fair and informative process.”

He said Trump has the “opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process.”

Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing will focus on the constitutional grounds surrounding impeaching a president. The yet-to-be-named witnesses will be legal experts.

The Intelligence Committee, which held a series of public and closed-room hearings last month, will send its findings to the Judiciary Committee, whose members will decide whether to draw up articles of impeachment against Trump.

Possible charges that could lead to his impeachment include bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors.

Trump is accused of holding up nearly $400 million in badly-needed military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s public commitment to investigate Trump’s 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden for alleged corruption.

Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Trump alleges that when Biden was vice president, he threatened to hold up U.S. loan guarantees to Ukraine unless the government fired a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma.

Trump also insists it was Ukraine, not Russia that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election on behalf of Democrats.

No evidence against the Bidens has ever surfaced and the charge against Ukraine was based on a debunked conspiracy theory that originated in Russia.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and calls the impeachment inquiry a hoax.

Posted in IMPEACHMENT, Trump | Leave a comment

SESTAK DROPS OUT OF DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Former congressman and retired Navy admiral Joe Sestak is giving up his efforts to be the next president of the United States.

The Democratic candidate told supporters on Twitter Sunday he is dropping out of the race.

He thanked all those who backed his candidacy, calling it an honor to be able to run.

Sestak blamed his failure to make an impact on the race in part because he said he lacked the “privilege of national press.”

Sestak barely registered in the polls and failed to qualify for any of the Democratic debates.

Posted in 2020 Elections, Joe Sestak | Leave a comment

TRUMP ONLY RELEASED AID BECAUSE HE GOT CAUGHT

President Donald Trump learned about a whistleblower complaint regarding his relations with Ukraine before he decided to unfreeze nearly $400 million in military aid, according to a New York Times report published Tuesday.

The Times cited two people familiar with the matter, saying White House lawyers told Trump about the complaint in late August as they worked to determine whether they were required to send it to Congress.

That battle formed the early stages of what has become the focus of the impeachment inquiry now playing out in the House of Representatives.  Lawmakers received the complaint in late September and made a version of it public.  

Since then, the Democrat-led House Intelligence committee has held both private and public sessions to hear testimony from current and former diplomats and other officials to examine allegations Trump withheld the aid to Ukraine to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to commit to an investigation of one of Trump’s potential opponents in the 2020 election, Democrat Joe Biden.

The House Judiciary Committee, which will decide whether to send articles of impeachment to the full House for a vote, announced Tuesday it would hold its first hearing December 4 and invited Trump to attend.

The hearing will look into what the committee calls the “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.”

The guidelines established by Democratic leaders say Trump and his lawyers would be given the chance to question the panel of still-to-be-named legal experts who will appear as witnesses.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler sent a letter to the White House inviting Trump to attend, calling it “not a right, but a privilege or a courtesy.”

“The president has a choice he can make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process,” Nadler said in a separate statement. “I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel as other presidents have done before him.”

Nadler assured Trump that he “remains committed to ensuring a fair and informative process.”

Nadler is giving the White House until Sunday night to respond.

U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland testified last week that a number of senior Trump administration officials were “in the loop” about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine.

Posted in Trump, UKRAINE | Leave a comment

THIRD PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AND 2020

In next year’s U.S. presidential election, most voters will have one or more additional choice beyond the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties. And there are indications that a relatively obscure third-party candidate has the potential to decide the election’s outcome.

That happened in 2016 when a smattering of votes in key battleground states in the Midwest enabled Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton, who won the overall popular vote, thus capturing the tabulation for the Electoral College.

Compared to most other democracies, the presidential election system of the United States is unusual and not only because of the Electoral College, a system which in 48 of the 50 states the candidate who wins the majority of votes in a state secures all of that state’s electoral votes.

Posted in 2020 Elections, THIRD PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES | Leave a comment

BLOOMBERG ENTERS DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL RACE

The crowded field of U.S. Democratic presidential hopefuls added a new name this week, when former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially joined the race on Sunday.

Bloomberg a 77-year old billionaire investor and philanthropist has name recognition and millions of dollars of his own fortune for campaign spending, but polls show the political moderate who once ran as a Republican faces skepticism among some Democrats.

As he prepared to announce his candidacy for president on Sunday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a page from an old political playbook.

Appearing in a black church in the city’s Brooklyn borough last week, the multi-billionaire media mogul apologized for long pushing a now-defunct policing tactic that had disproportionately targeted African American and Hispanic residents.

Known as “stop and frisk,” the controversial policy, imposed between 2003 and 2013, allowed New York City police to stop, temporarily detain, and search anyone suspected of carrying weapons and other contraband.

“I was wrong,” Bloomberg declared to the congregation. To those who had been wronged by the policy, he said, “I apologize.”

Bloomberg is the latest Democratic candidate forced to reckon with a criminal justice policy record that critics view as too punitive to minorities.

Posted in 2020 Elections, Michael Bloomberg | Leave a comment

TRUMP INVITED TO IMPEACHMENT HEARING

The House Judiciary Committee has invited President Donald Trump to attend its first impeachment hearing next week.

The Intelligence Committee wrapped up its role in the inquiry last week and will send its report to the Judiciary Committee, which holds its first hearing Dec. 4.

The Judiciary Committee hearing will look into what it calls the “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.”

The rules say Trump and his lawyers would be given the chance to question the panel of still-to-be-named legal experts who will appear as witnesses.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler sent a letter to the White House inviting Trump to attend, calling it “not a right, but a privilege or a courtesy.”

“The president has a choice he can make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process,” Nadler said in a separate statement. “I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel as other presidents have done before him.”

Nadler assured Trump that he “remains committed to ensuring a fair and informative process.”

Nadler is giving the White House until Sunday night to respond.

U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland testified last week that a number of senior Trump administration officials were “in the loop” in Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden.

They include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

They have balked at testifying. A federal judge ruled Monday that Trump does not have the power to stop former White House counsel Don McGahn from complying with a subpoena to appear before the House committees.

Posted in House Judiciary Committee, IMPEACHMENT, Jerrold Nadler, Trump | Leave a comment