GOP convention chaos looms – “day of rage” / SCOTUS: Obama’s immigration...

GOP convention chaos looms – “day of rage” / SCOTUS: Obama’s immigration actions

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TAX DAY TODAY! – unless you’re in Massachusetts or Maine celebrating Patriots’ Day – then it’s tomorrowTuesday

SecDef Ash Carter has arrived in Baghdad today to discuss beefing up Iraqi forces working to retake Mosul. A senior U.S. official says that will likely mean at least a “small number” of additional American forces will go to the war zone (AP)

GOP Convention Chaos Looms (WaPo, me)
• With a possibly contested convention looming, Republican Party leaders fear that a week of contentious floor fights, inflammatory rhetoric and potentially violent protests could project a negative image to voters (barn door – horsie galloped). Plus, Donald Trump said in a WaPo interview that he should have partial control over programming, stagecraft and other issues (natch)
• Trump blasted the GOP’s last convention, in Tampa four years ago, as “the single most boring convention I’ve ever seen.” (not wrong) “It’s very important to put some showbiz into a convention, otherwise people are going to fall asleep,” Trump said in the WaPo interview. Meanwhile, Trump has been losing delegates to Ted Cruz, who has totally outmaneuvered him
• Trump argued last week the delegate system is “rigged,” prompting the RNC to proclaim in a memo that the rules of the system have been clear (to anyone who bothered to read them). RNC members will meet this week in Florida and receive updates on planning for this year’s Cleveland convention – amid a huge internal rules clash
• Meanwhile, Cleveland is preparing for potential violence. Over the past two months, the city has sought bids for 2,000 sets of riot gear, knee and shin guards, breastplates and other protective items for its police officers, as well as flexible handcuffs, collapsible batons and miles of interlocking steel barriers – funded through a $50 million federal security grant (jolly times ahead)
• Trump has privately voiced displeasure with the selection of Cleveland, a heavily Democratic city, believing it could become a distraction for people looking to disrupt the convention. Trump said with irritation, “It should be a monumentally magnificent convention and it should be brilliantly staged, but they’re spending $50 million on security.” (because you’ll be there, duh…)

• “I hope it [GOP convention] doesn’t involve violence. I hope it doesn’t. I’m not suggesting that,” Donald Trump told reporters on Staten Island Sunday. “I hope it doesn’t involve violence, and I don’t think it will. But I will say this, it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system. It’s 100% corrupt.” (so why bring violence up at all – twice?) (NYT)

Convention: “Day of Rage”

• In recent interviews, Roger Stone, a Trump confidant, has previewed a “day of rage” and threatened to publicly disclose the hotel room numbers of delegates who work against Trump. Stone’s activist group, Stop the Steal, has a website, advertising “four days of non-violent demonstrations, protests and lobbying delegates face-to-face…We must own the streets.” (no violent potential…)
• The list of Republicans planning to skip the convention is growing. Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-Fla), a Trump critic and unsuccessful 2016er, will not go. Sen Mark Kirk (R-Ill), facing a tough reelection challenge, won’t go, while Sens Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Richard Burr (R-NC) probably won’t, either. Mitt Romney didn’t respond through a spox
• Trump charged that Romney made a serious error in 2012 by refusing to air a convention video Trump has filmed in which he sat across his office desk from a Barack Obama look-alike. “I said, ‘Barack Hussein Obama, you’re fired!'” Trump recalled of the video – nod to The Apprentice. “But [Romney’s campaign] never played it. They thought it was too controversial. Stupid people.”
• In Cleveland, Trump envisions this kind of “showbiz” element (what, “Hussein” and/or “Muslim” bashing?) He wants to give business leaders and other non-politicians speaking slots. Asked if he would support giving the keynote slot to Gov Nikki Haley (R-SC) – one of the party’s shining stars and a Trump critic – Trump said, “Nikki Haley would not be my first choice.”
• Former RNC chair Michael Steele said party officials are likely to devise broad themes such as “rebuilding America” that could be customized for each nominee, but “If Trump is sitting 60 to 80 delegates away from the nomination, he may be the only one in position to make significant demands – and they may have to give him the deference he wants.”

• More than 90 GOP delegates were up for grabs on Saturday. Ted Cruz grabbed most of them. He took all 14 delegates available in Wyoming, and was the only candidate to show up there. Cruz won 32 of 42 delegate slots available in Georgia. The Texas senator captured at least 50 delegates in Florida and padded his delegate count in several other states  (Politico)

Clooney: “Obscene” Money in Politics (Reuters, TPM, Independent, me)
• Actor George Clooney hosted a $353,000 per couple fundraiser for Hillary Clinton Friday in San Francisco. Asked to respond to criticism from Bernie Sanders, Clooney said on NBC Sunday, “I think it’s an obscene amount of money. The Sanders campaign, when they talk about it is absolutely right. It’s ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics.” (but he’ll raise it)
• Clooney said some of the money is for “down-ticket” candidates running for the House and Senate. “We need to take the Senate back, because we need to confirm a Supreme Court justice. Because that fifth vote on the Supreme Court can overturn Citizens United and get this obscene, ridiculous amount of money out, so I never have to do a fundraiser again.”
• Sanders said on CNN Sunday, “He is honest enough to say that there is something wrong when few people – in this case wealthy individuals, but in other instances for the secretary, it is Wall Street and powerful special interests – who are able to contribute unbelievably large sums of money.” Sanders said he thought Clooney was “backing the wrong horse.”
• Sanders said that a brief meeting with Pope Francis on Saturday morning in Vatican City was a “very moving experience.” “I conveyed to him my great admiration for the extraordinary work that he is doing all over the world in demanding that morality be part of our economy,” Sanders told reporters aboard the plane returning from Rome after attending a conference
• Pope Francis emphasized that the meeting wasn’t a political endorsement. “When I came down, I greeted him, I shook his hand and nothing more. This is called good manners and it is not getting involved in politics,” Francis said aboard a plane. “If anyone thinks that greeting someone is getting involved in politics, I recommend that he look for a psychiatrist,” he said, laughing

• Sooo, Bill Clinton’s at it again: “One of the few things I really haven’t enjoyed about this primary: I think it’s fine that all these young students have been so enthusiastic for her [Hillary’s] opponent and [he] sounds so good: ‘Just shoot every third person on Wall Street and everything will be fine.'” Later, Clinton said his comments were “a total joke” – didn’t work, Bill
SCOTUS: Executive Action on Immigration (Reuters, me)
• The Supreme Court today will confront the question of whether President Obama exceeded his authority with unilateral action to spare millions of people in the country illegally from deportation. The case pits Obama against 26 states led by Texas that filed suit to block his 2014 immigration plan
• The high court is evenly divided with four liberal justices and four conservatives following the death of conservative Antonin Scalia. That raises the possibility of a 4-4 split that would leave in place a 2015 lower court ruling that threw out the president’s executive action that bypassed the Republican Congress
• Obama took the action after Republicans in the House killed bipartisan legislation, billed as the biggest overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in decades and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, that was passed by the Senate in 2013. Obama’s program was called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)
• Obama’s plan was tailored to let roughly 4 million people – those who have lived illegally in the U.S. at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents – get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits
• Shortly before the plan was to go into effect last year, a federal judge in Texas blocked it after the GOP-governed states filed suit against the Democratic president’s executive action. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in November. The Supreme Court’s decision is due by the end of June (after the end of the primaries)

• Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts voted twice to save President Obama’s health care law. What will he do with the immigration challenge? He’s considered patient and a canny strategist. His record suggests he may avoid taking a position – instead focusing on the technical issue of whether the states have suffered injury that gives them standing to sue (NYT)
SCOTUS: Legal Issues (Reuters, me)
Legal standing: To bring a case, the states need to show they would be hurt by the Obama admin’s deferral of deportation. Texas asserts it has standing because of the expected financial cost to the state of processing temporary driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants with new authorization to live in the U.S. – Texas claims it would cost it millions of dollars (see below – iffy)
• The Obama admin rejects that, asserting that any such costs are “incidental” and could be avoided by the state. Obama admin lawyers say Texas could eliminate the subsidies for these licenses and eliminate the harm claimed by the state. If justices finds that Texas lacks a sufficient injury to sue, the case ends there and the Obama admin wins
Rule-making requirements: If they agree to hear the case, they would consider whether deferred deportation policies that were part of Obama’s actions violated rule making requirements in a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act (gets a bit weedy here). Obama admin lawyers say the policies are not binding rules subject to the Act (weeds)
• They say they’re an outgrowth of the Homeland Security Dept’s discretion in determining deportation policies. The admin contends the DHS Sec should be able to focus his dept’s limited resources on deporting serious criminals and securing the border
“Take care:” Did the deferred deportation violate a dictate of the Constitution that presidents must “take care” to “faithfully execute” the nation’s laws? The states say Obama, in bypassing Congress, crossed that line because Congress gets to decide who is a lawful immigrant. The admin says it was faithfully executing the authority to determine priorities under immigration law

• Texas claims Obama’s actions would cost it a fortune in driver’s license applications. In a SCOTUS filing, Texas claims it would cost more than $103 million in additional funds for 520,000 people. But that’s nearly triple what the state of 27 million people currently budgets annually for all driver’s license services  (sounds bogus – worth a read) (Reuters, me)

Saudi Economic Fallout? Congress’ 9/11 Bill (NYT, Reuters, me)

The Saudi Arabian govt has threatened to sell up to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other American assets should Congress pass a bill that could hold the kingdom responsible for any role in the 9/11 attacks, so their assets don’t get frozen by U.S. courts, NYT reports. The Obama admin has lobbied Congress to block passage of the bill. Outside economists doubtful it will happen

• The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year, would take away immunity from foreign govts in cases “arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil.” Obama admin officials say that weakening sovereign immunity provisions would put the American govt, its citizens and corporations at legal risk abroad – retaliation

• The Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Dept and the Pentagon, according to admin officials and congressional aides. State said it stood “firmly with the victims of these acts of violence and their loved ones.” President Obama will be in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Timing…

• Saudi officials have long denied that the kingdom had any involvement in the 9/11 plot and the 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi govt as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But critics not the narrow wording left open the possibility that less senior officials or parts of the Saudi govt could have played a role (wording was careful)

• Suspicions have lingered, partly because of conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living in the U.S. at the time had a hand in the plot. Those conclusions, contained in 28 pages of the report, still haven’t been released publicly, although there’s a push for them (expect questions at the WH briefing today)

 

• At least 272 people have been confirmed dead and more than 1,500 people injured after Ecuador was hit by its most powerful earthquake in decades – 7.8. Nearly 250,000 people have been told to leave their homes amid fears of further quakes in Japan. Two powerful quakes hit the southwestern island of Kyushu last week killing at least 42 people. More than 1,000 people injured (BBC, BBC)

Rousseff Loses Impeachment Vote (BBC, me)
• Brazil’s lower house has voted to start impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff over charges of manipulating govt accounts. The “yes” camp comfortably won the two thirds majority, after a lengthy session in the capital
• The motion now goes to the upper house, the Senate, which is expected to suspend Rousseff next month while it carries out a formal trial. She denies tampering with the accounts to help secure her reelection in 2014. Her opponents secured 367 votes in the lower house – exceeding the 342 vote mark needed to send the motion to the Senate. “Nos” secured 167 votes
• Rousseff will be removed from office permanently if she is found guilty by the Senate. She has two opportunities to appeal during the whole process. Luciano Dias, a political consultant, summed up what he saw as her errors: “She took too many resources from the private sector, she was arrogant with Congress for a long time and her economic policies were just wrong.”
• If she is impeached, VP Michel Temer would take over as interim president – also facing impeachment proceedings over the same allegations. Lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha – second in line – is being investigated for taking multi-million dollar bribes. Next in line, Renan Calheiros, head of Senate, is under investigation for a massive state oil company corruption scandal… (for real)

• Actor Johnny Depp’s wife Amber Heard pleaded guilty in Australia today to making a false statement on her immigration card amid allegations she smuggled the couple’s Yorkshire terriers into Australia, during “Pirates” filming. Ag Minister Barnaby Joyce said last May: “It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the U.S.” in what was known as the “war on terrier” spat (AP, me)

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