What Joe Biden Actually Did in Ukraine

Glenn Thrush and Kenneth P. Vogel 3 hrs ago 11/11/2019.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2014, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. pressed President Barack Obama to take decisive action, and fast, to make Moscow “pay in blood and money” for its aggression. The president, a Biden aide recalled, was having none of it.

Mr. Biden worked Mr. Obama during their weekly private lunches, imploring him to increase lethal aid, backing a push to ship FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Kiev. The president flatly rejected the idea and dispatched him to the region as an emissary, cautioning him “about not overpromising to the Ukrainian government,” Mr. Biden would later write in a memoir.

So, Mr. Biden threw himself into what seemed like standard-issue vice-presidential stuff: prodding Ukraine’s leaders to tackle the rampant corruption that made their country a risky bet for international lenders — and pushing reform of Ukraine’s cronyism-ridden energy industry.

“You have to be whiter than snow, or the whole world will abandon you,” Mr. Biden told the country’s newly elected president, Petro O. Poroshenko, during an early 2014 phone call, according to former administration officials.

That message was delivered just as Mr. Biden’s son Hunter joined the board of a Ukrainian gas company that was the subject of multiple corruption investigations, a position that paid him as much as $50,000 a month and — in the view of some administration officials, including the ambassador to Kiev — threatened to undermine Mr. Biden’s agenda.

Thanks to President Trump and his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, that subplot has now swallowed the story line. Their efforts to press Ukrainian officials to investigate unsubstantiated charges against the Bidens have propelled Mr. Trump to the brink of impeachment. They have also put Mr. Biden on the defensive at a critical moment in the Democratic presidential primary campaign. As the impeachment hearings go public this week, the Republicans are hoping to redirect the spotlight onto the Bidens.

A look at what the former vice president actually did in Ukraine (he visited six times and spent hours on the phone with the country’s leaders) tells a different story, according to interviews with more than two dozen people knowledgeable about the situation. It casts light on one of Mr. Biden’s central arguments for himself in the primary: his eight years of diplomacy as Mr. Obama’s No. 2.

Mr. Biden dived into Ukraine in hopes of burnishing his statesman credentials at a time when he seemed to be winding down his political career, as his elder son, Beau, was dying and his younger one, Hunter, was struggling with addiction and financial problems. It turned out to be an unforgiving landscape — threatened by Russia, plundered by oligarchs, plagued by indecisive leaders and overrun by outsiders hoping to make a quick buck off the chaos.

Writing in his 2017 memoir, Mr. Biden said Ukraine gave him a chance to fulfill a childhood promise to make a difference in the world. It also came to serve a political purpose, as “a legacy project, something he could run on,” said Keith Darden, an associate professor at American University who studies Ukraine policy.

In the end, it was an unglamorous holding action, but one that suited Mr. Biden’s Mr. Fix-It approach to the vice presidency — and his view of Ukraine as the front line in a larger battle to contain the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

“People forget it now, but at that time period, 2014 and 2015, it wasn’t clear Ukraine would survive,” Mr. Darden said. “They were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. They had only 8,000 battle-ready troops.”

A key to Mr. Biden’s relevance as vice president was his willingness to take jobs nobody else wanted. In early 2014, as others on Mr. Obama’s team raced to finish big-splash deals with Cuba and Iran, Mr. Biden told the president he wanted to take on three of the most unappetizing foreign-policy tasks left undone: containing the Islamic State, curbing immigration from Central America and keeping Russia from devouring Ukraine.

Hunter Biden wearing a suit and tie: Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.

© Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.

Mr. Biden had deep contacts in Europe, and as a senator in the 1990s had had some success persuading President Bill Clinton to take action in the Balkans. He considered himself to be among the few people in Mr. Obama’s orbit who understood Europe and were willing to challenge Mr. Putin — a counter to the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, who repeatedly warned the president against escalating a conflict with Russia that the United States could not win.

Yet on Ukraine, as elsewhere, Mr. Biden was less an architect of policy than the empowered executor of Mr. Obama’s policy.

“He was the vice president, not the president,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers allied with Mr. Biden who pressured Mr. Obama to help Ukraine’s military.

Indeed, the drive to provide lethal aid to Kiev was a group effort, pushed by senators and two powerful State Department officials: Geoffrey R. Pyatt, who was the ambassador in Kiev, and Victoria J. Nuland, then the hawkish assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.

Ms. Nuland was overheard telling Mr. Pyatt they needed Mr. Biden “for an attaboy” to encourage Ukrainian leaders to fulfill their promises, during a 2013 phone conversation about Ukraine, bugged and released to the media.

Bribes, Shakedowns and ‘Sweetheart Deals’

Mr. Biden applied his Amtrak charm to local players like Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, with limited effect. Former White House aides recall watching an agitated Mr. Biden ducking in and out of a secure phone booth outside the situation room in early 2014, trying to reach Mr. Yanukovych on his cellphone.

“Where the hell is this guy?” he kept asking, before learning that Mr. Yanukovych had fled Kiev, ultimately for Russia, as huge street protests erupted against his regime’s corruption and his pivot away from Europe and toward Moscow.

Mr. Putin then rushed in, annexing Crimea and backing paramilitaries who invaded the country’s east. While Mr. Biden’s pitch for missiles was rebuffed, he eventually helped sell Mr. Obama on sending about 100 American service members to train Ukraine’s security forces.

Things seemed to be looking up in May 2014 with the election of Mr. Poroshenko, an oligarch who billed himself as a reformer. At first, the vice president’s hard-edged messages to him on corruption were coated with kibbitz — demands accompanied by Bidenesque inquiries like whether the puffy-eyed president was getting enough sleep, aides recalled.

Within months, though, the State Department began suspecting that the office of Mr. Poroshenko’s first prosecutor general was accepting bribes to protect Mykola Zlochevsky, the oligarch owner of Burisma Holdings, the gas company where Hunter Biden was a board member. In a February 2015 meeting in Kiev with a deputy prosecutor, a State Department official named George P. Kent demanded to know “who took the bribe and how much was it?”

The prosecutor general was fired soon after. But it wasn’t long before the new prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was drawing allegations of corruption, including from State Department officials who suspected he was shaking down targets and intentionally slow-walking investigations to protect allies.

Mr. Giuliani has claimed, without evidence, that Mr. Biden’s push to oust Mr. Shokin was an attempt to block scrutiny of his son’s actions. In fact, Mr. Biden was just one of many officials calling for Mr. Shokin to go. Good-government activists were protesting his actions in the streets, as were eurozone power players like Christine Lagarde, then the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, along with Ms. Nuland and Senate Republicans.

“The position regarding getting rid of Shokin was not Vice President Biden’s position; it was the position of the U.S. government, as well as the European Union and international financial institutions,” said Amos J. Hochstein, former coordinator for international energy affairs at the State Department and one of the few administration officials who directly confronted Mr. Biden at the time about his son.

Ukraine’s energy industry, the country’s geopolitically crucial economic engine, was a central point of contention between the Obama administration and Kiev. Mr. Biden and Mr. Hochstein, echoing a similar effort by European officials, pressured Mr. Poroshenko to reform the operations of the state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz, which controlled about two-thirds of the country’s energy resources.

(Burisma, a smaller, privately owned company, played no role in Mr. Biden’s pressure campaign, and administration officials could not recall whether the company was even mentioned in meetings the vice president attended on energy matters.)

By late 2015, American officials had grown so frustrated with Mr. Poroshenko’s sluggish response on all fronts that Mr. Biden was dispatched to make the case publicly for reforms to the Ukrainian Parliament.

That December, in a speech that he later described as one of the most important he had ever delivered, the vice president told legislators they had “to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities.” He also singled out the natural gas industry, saying, “The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals.”

His words, like his work in Ukraine over all, were important but hardly decisive.

“A lot of good things would not have happened if Biden hadn’t been focused on Ukraine, but his work did not fundamentally change the overall institutional corruption,” said Edward C. Chow, an expert on geopolitics and energy policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. “And having his son doing what he did was a distraction that undermined his message.”

Mr. Shokin was eventually fired, but only months later, after I.M.F. officials threatened to withdraw funding.

In the intervening years, there has been much churn and less change. Mr. Putin, facing sanctions, has mostly stayed in check. Mr. Poroshenko was beaten at the polls by Volodymyr Zelensky in April, and remains bitter toward Mr. Biden for calling him out over his handling of Naftogaz during a meeting shortly before the 2016 elections, according to a person to whom he recently complained.

Some reforms have been put in place at the energy giant: Ukrainian officials agreed to appoint an international oversight board (Mr. Hochstein is now a paid I.M.F. appointee to the panel), but the issue of sweetheart deals remains unresolved.

The battle over Naftogaz has also become wrapped up in the House impeachment inquiry. Two of Mr. Giuliani’s associates in his pressure campaign against the Bidens — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — were part of an effort to remove Mr. Pyatt’s successor as ambassador to Kiev, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who had called for reforms to the energy giant.

For his part, Hunter Biden remained on Burisma’s board until his term expired in April.

It was Mr. Trump, ironically, who signed off on Mr. Biden’s request to send the Javelins.

Handling the Story

Mr. Biden wants to move on.

“I carried out the policy of the United States government,” he said during the most recent Democratic debate. “That’s what we should be focusing on.”

But he did not take advantage of a chance to eliminate the distraction four years ago, when the threat resurfaced — in the form of questions from The New York Times and follow-ups from other news organization — as he flew to Kiev on Air Force Two to deliver the anti-corruption speech to Parliament.

Several aides recalled a surreal split-screen of activity onboard, as Mr. Biden’s team focused mostly on the speech (he urged them to make it tougher), but peeled off for intermittent huddles on how to handle the Hunter story (Mr. Biden dismissed the story as a distraction, and did not engage). The group defaulted to the pushback plan used the year before when the story had first emerged, issuing a statement that Hunter Biden was “a private citizen and a lawyer.

They emphasized “private citizen,” many former aides said, because the vice president would not even discuss taking the step that could make all questions vanish: asking his son to quit the Burisma board, as editorial boards and Ukraine experts were suggesting.

Mr. Biden’s advisers say that he and his son had informally agreed years earlier not to discuss anything pertaining to the younger Mr. Biden’s business activities, as a way to insulate them both.

Bob Bauer, former Obama White House counsel and Biden adviser, said that even pressuring Hunter Biden to quit the board would have constituted a breach of that firewall, and suggested that was one of the reasons the vice president chose not to do it. “The independent activities of an adult child simply don’t create a ‘conflict of interest’ for the parent who is a public official,” he said. “And as a matter of sound ethical practice, it is important for officials in this position to maintain that distance: to be able to show that, in doing their jobs, they could not have been affected by discussions or involvement with their adult children relating to private business matters. Their posture has to be, ‘Whatever you decide to do, I am going to do what I have to do.’”

Mr. Biden has said he first learned of his son’s activities in Ukraine when the story broke in 2014. He told his son, “I hope you know what you are doing,” according to Hunter Biden’s account of their discussion in The New Yorker earlier this year.

If that settled matters between father and son, Hunter Biden’s activities struck many of the officials working on Ukraine policy as an unnecessary distraction, or worse. Mr. Biden’s own aides were so worried about the optics, they enlisted State Department officials to gather facts to determine how to handle the story, according to people who worked with his office.

Yet few, if any, had raised the issue with Mr. Biden directly when it first arose. Most viewed the revelation — unseemly, but not illegal or a violation of ethics rules — as simply not worth risking a scolding from Mr. Biden, who had reacted angrily when Mr. Obama’s aides raised the issue of his son’s lobbying during the 2008 campaign. One person who briefly discussed the matter with Mr. Biden said he was anguished by his son’s personal problems and unsure how to help him recover.

Mr. Hochstein, reflecting the concerns of State Department officials, including Mr. Pyatt, tried to get several of Mr. Biden’s aides to broach the subject with him in 2014. When they declined, he took matters into his own hands, according to three Obama administration officials with knowledge of the situation. It is not clear how Mr. Biden responded; Mr. Hochstein did not disclose details of their interaction.

But former administration officials involved in the response to the story, speaking on the condition of anonymity, cited one reason above all others for backing off: the vice president’s shaky emotional state over Beau’s illness and death. Mr. Kent, now the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told House investigators that his concerns had not been addressed by a White House official, who told him that Mr. Biden lacked the “further bandwidth to deal with family-related issues at that time.”

Mr. Biden’s mood in 2019 is no longer grief but anger. His aides accuse the news media of abetting Mr. Trump by aiming the story, now the catalyst for impeachment, back at the former vice president.

“Let’s not forget that this was covered on A22 of The Times in 2015, because it did not fall outside the White House’s ethical guidelines and was simply not a major story,” said Kate Bedingfield, the Biden campaign’s communications director.

She added: “What’s different now? It’s that Donald Trump is aggressively lying about it every day in the hopes that it winds up on the front page.”

Andrew E. Kramer and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.


Whistleblower’s Attorney

#coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers

Mark S. Zaid, the attorney representing the so-called “whistleblower” in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, tweeted in 2017 that the “coup has started,” adding that “impeachment will follow ultimately.”

‘Coup has started,’ whistleblower’s attorney said in 2017 posts calling for impeachment

Remember the Victims of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

‘He died as he lived – a coward’: Isis victims’ relatives on Baghdadi’s death

Survivors and bereaved families express relief and say fight for justice must go on

Oliver Holmes

Mon 28 Oct 2019 12.22 EDTLast modified on Mon 28 Oct 2019 20.45 EDT

Al-Nouri mosque in Mosul, Iraq
 Al-Nouri mosque in Mosul, Iraq, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate in 2014. Photograph: Abdullah Rashid/Reuters

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi led a movement that prided itself on mass killings and indiscriminate violence. His Islamic State ended thousands of lives across Syria and Iraq and galvanised fighters and supporters worldwide to carry out deadly attacks that were intended to horrify.

On Saturday night, Baghdadi killed himself and three of his children during a US special forces raid on his hideout in Syria. Around the world, survivors and families devastated by Isis have been digesting the news.

“Baghdadi died as he lived – a coward using children as a shield,” said Nadia Murad, a member of Iraq’s Yazidi minority who lost much of her family during Isis advances that UN investigators have described as genocide.

Murad was sold into sexual slavery but managed to escape and later won a Nobel peace prize for her campaigns against sexual violence. She said on Twitter she was grateful for the US operation and called for a global fight to bring Isis fighters to justice.

“We must unite and hold [Isis] terrorists accountable in the same way the world tried the Nazis in an open court at the Nuremberg trials,” she said. “It is important not to forget those who suffered at the hands of [Baghdadi] and his militants still need help.”

It is not known exactly how many people Isis and its followers killed. Thousands of civilians – mostly Muslims – were slaughtered across Iraq and Syria, often in large suicide bombings or mass killings. At the height of Baghdadi’s rule, Isis controlled a chunk of land equal in size to Britain. By 2017, it had lost almost all of that territory.

Khalifa Alkhuder, 26, from Aleppo province in Syria, lost family and friends to the group, and spent six months in an Isis prison. He has been working to help identify the remains of people found in Isis mass graves. “The surprise was that we didn’t rejoice as we expected yesterday,” he said from northern Syria.

The US identified Baghdadi’s remains from his DNA within 15 minutes, Alkhuder said, but scores of families across Syria have still not found missing relatives. “Isis is gone and its leader has been killed but people are still waiting to find out the fate of their children.”

He said he had contacted US forces in Syria to ask for DNA kits but had been told they were too expensive. He accused Donald Trump and other world leaders of focusing on other more high-profile goals. “Countries are using our pain for election campaigns,” he said.

The father of Muadh al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive in a locked cage by his Isis captors in 2015, said news of Baghdadi’s killing left him happy and proud. “This corrupt man, this insect, this virus that spreads throughout the body of not only the Arab nation but also the Muslim nation, who distorted the image of Muslims and Islam,” Safi al-Kasaesbeh told Reuters, describing Baghdadi.

In the US, the mother of James Foley, an American freelance journalist whose beheading by an Isis fighter in August 2014 was broadcast around the globe, said she was grateful to Trump and the forces that found Baghdadi. But Diane Foley also called for justice. “I hope this will hinder the resurgence of terror groups and pray that captured Isis fighters will be brought to trial and held accountable,” she said. “I remain concerned about the dozen Americans held hostage in Syria, including Austin Tice and Majd Kamalmaz. And I ask President Trump to make them, and all American hostages, a priority.”

Mike Haines, the brother of a British humanitarian aid worker, David Haines, who was killed by Isis fighters, said Baghdadi’s death was an important step in the continued downfall of the militant organisation. “However, the poisonous ideology of Daesh has not died with Baghdadi. We must continue to work together to identify and stamp out the threat,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group.

After his brother’s death, fearing that innocent Muslims would be blamed or victimised in the aftermath, Haines set up Global Acts of Unity, a campaign promoting unity, tolerance and understanding in schools. “By ensuring our young people know how to stand up to hatred together, we will defeat those who seek to divide us,” he said.

Bill Clinton asked UK’s Tony Blair to ‘take a look at’ fixing problem during 2000 ‘political season’: document

By Liam Quinn | Fox News

While Democrats have been calling for President Trump’s impeachment over his alleged soliciting of assistance from foreign countries ahead of the 2020 election, an unearthed comment from February 2000 might show stones were being thrown from glass houses.

On his show Monday, Tucker Carlson discussed a transcript of a call between former President Bill Clinton and then-U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair — the same year as the election pitting Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, against George W. Bush — during which the ex-president asked his British counterpart for a political favor.

“You’ve heard endlessly on cable news that it is unprecedented the president would seek political gain from a conversation with a foreign leader. Well, turns out, it has happened before,” Carlson said.

President Bill Clinton British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Warwick University in December 2000. (BRIAN BOULD/AFP/Getty Images, File)

President Bill Clinton British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Warwick University in December 2000. (BRIAN BOULD/AFP/Getty Images, File)

“Back in 2000, President Bill Clinton had a conversation with Tony Blair of the U.K. and asked him to intercede in a dispute between British Airways and two carriers. The president, at the time, was much more direct than President Trump was in his conversation.


A screenshot of the conversation was shown during "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Monday

A screenshot of the conversation was shown during “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Monday


“This is Bill Clinton, and I’m quoting: ‘In a political season, it would be big over here to get this open sore resolved. If you could have somebody take a look at it.’ Tony Blair responded that he would.”

Carlson continued: “Now, is this a big deal? Not really. Is it nakedly political? Is it an attempt to use a foreign country to influence the outcome of an election in a presidential year? Yes it is, obviously.


“Incidentally, it didn’t take long for us to find that, we only had to dig through old Clinton transcripts for about 15 minutes… there are probably a lot more examples, and if we find them we will bring them to you.”

The quote referenced by Carlson can be found among a collection of declassified documents relating to Blair. It can be read in full here.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight investigative producer Alex Pfeiffer contributed to this report.Liam Quinn is a Senior Editor at Fox News. He can be found on Twitter at @liampatquinn


All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief

Opinion | All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief – The New York Times
20 hours ago – They all have to make hard choices about immigration. That doesn’t justify Donald Trump’s approach.
All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief
They all have to make hard choices about immigration. That doesn’t justify Donald Trump’s approach.

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

July 13, 2019

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

CreditCreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images
Every person who assumes the title of president of the United States also takes on the role of deporter in chief.

That’s because the office comes with the responsibility to enforce the nation’s laws — laws that require that the borders be secure and that some of the people who aren’t legally authorized to live here be deported, after being afforded due process.

Unless the law is changed, that shouldn’t be a provocative assertion, nor was it until recently. But inflamed passions over the country’s checkered yet proud tradition of immigration drove many complex truths — along with bipartisan consensus around reform of the immigration system — out of the national political debate.

The real question isn’t whether or not the president is the deporter in chief, a nickname immigrant rights advocates bestowed on President Barack Obama that has recently resurfaced in attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden.

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The more important question is what kind of deporter in chief a president chooses to be.

The definition of “deportation” is a complicated one, which makes comparing the policies of different presidential administrations imprecise and prone to politicization. Furthermore, levels of immigration — legal and illegal — vary greatly over time for a host of reasons, including economic conditions in the United States and the country of emigration, the time of year and the policies that various administrations have put in place.

The government uses two terms when it talks about deportations: removal and return. A “removal” refers to someone who has been issued a court order or directed by a border patrol agent to leave the country, while a “return” refers to someone who is released back across the border of Mexico or Canada — for instance — without receiving a formal order of removal.

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Summed together, those two numbers can be a measure of total deportations. But the total of the two categories obscures significant differences between the two procedures. Compulsory removal often means uprooting longtime residents who may have families and own property or businesses, and who are then barred from returning to the United States for a period of years. There is often no direct legal sanction for people who voluntarily choose to leave the country and are counted as “returned.”

In terms of total number of people, the high-water mark for deportations came in 2000 under President Bill Clinton, when more than 1,860,000 people left through a combination of removal and return. There were around nine people returned for every one person removed, according to a data set compiled by the Office of Immigration Statistics that attempted to harmonize returns and removals from the United States stretching back to 1927.

During the administration of George W. Bush, the number of people removed was far outpaced each year by the number of people returned. During his last year in office, nearly 360,000 people were removed and more than 810,000 people returned — or an average of one person removed for every two people returned.

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Under President Obama, the number of removals soared while the number of returned people declined. That change in the balance was driven by the administration’s emphasis on removals and also by the recession, which prompted fewer illegal crossings. Fewer crossings, fewer returns.

The peak number of compulsory removals came during Mr. Obama’s watch in 2013, when more than 432,000 people were removed. That same year, nearly 179,000 people were returned, a ratio of 2.4 people removed for every one person returned.

In addition to the deportations, Mr. Obama’s handling of the unauthorized immigrant population also included the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed hundreds of thousands of young people brought to the country illegally to avoid deportation and secure work permits. While Mr. Obama said that he supported comprehensive immigration reform, efforts to win support from Republicans in Congress were unsuccessful.

By the numbers, the last year of the Obama administration looked similar to the first year of the Trump administration. There were about three people removed for every one who was returned in 2016 and 2017, the last year for which this data is available.

Unlike his predecessors, President Trump — whose campaign was built on a foundation of outrage and exaggeration over the threat posed by immigrants — has embraced the role of chief deporter, with an apparent disregard for the human cost of his tough-strut policies.

While his government hasn’t yet forcibly removed many more people per year than did those of his predecessors, Mr. Trump has made everything that precedes an Immigration and Customs Enforcement knock at the door more frustrating and even dehumanizing.


Here’s how a recent Times report described an immigrant detention facility in Clint, Tex., that was built during the Obama administration but overfilled under Mr. Trump: “Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children and adults who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing — people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly. One girl seemed likely enough to try to kill herself that the agents made her sleep on a cot in front of them, so they could watch her as they were processing new arrivals.”

This week, Mr. Trump announced a new series of raids by ICE in at least 10 cities, aiming to arrest thousands of people who have been issued deportation orders.

“We’re focused on criminals,” Mr. Trump said on Friday, dodging the truth that his administration’s hard-line policies make little to no distinction between people who pose a genuine risk and those who miss an immigration court date.

The administration, for instance, publicly warned of collateral arrests as part of the new raids, threatening to detain other unauthorized immigrants who happen to be on the scene (children or other relatives, perhaps), even if they are not the main targets of the raids.

Publicity over the raids has rattled immigrant communities, as the administration clearly intended. For Mr. Trump, deterrence of illegal immigration has been a guiding principle — if not by means of a wall, then by means of cruelty toward migrants, from the squalid conditions in detainee facilities to separating children from their parents.

“It’s the complete, 100 percent focus on harsher options that will deter the influx, with a disregard for managing what’s happening,” a Department of Homeland Security official told The Times earlier this year. “We have a lot more families, a lot more unaccompanied children, and the focus has just been on how can we deter, rather than how can we handle.”

But deterrence alone can’t explain a slew of other moves — scaling back a program that protects the families of members of the military and veterans from being deported, for instance. It doesn’t explain the frantic — yet unsuccessful — effort to put a question about citizenship on the census, which experts agree would lead to an undercount of people in immigrant-heavy communities. Nor does deterrence explain removing deportation protections from nearly one million people who live in the country under the auspices of humanitarian programs or because they were brought to the country as children.


The Pew Research Center has estimated that there are 10.5 million people living in the United States without proper authorization, down from a peak of more than 12 million a decade ago. Long-term residents outnumber recent arrivals.

Polling over many years has found broad consensus among Americans that mass deportations of all unauthorized immigrants isn’t the answer. Americans want some immigration restrictions and more border security but not the construction of a border wall.

Despite the breadth of the political center, leaders of the two parties find themselves pushed to ever greater extremes on the issue. Calls to abolish ICE outright, which were a common refrain from Democrats last summer, appear to have faded. But immigration has been a centerpiece of the presidential primary campaign and will surely feature prominently in the race against an incumbent President Trump in 2020. Asked at a debate about decriminalizing illegal border crossings, nearly all the top-tier candidates indicated that they would support taking that step, which some have compared to the “federal equivalent of a parking ticket” and would do away with penalties like family separation and detention.

Jeh Johnson, who served as homeland security secretary in the Obama administration, warned recently that flirting with radical changes to the country’s immigration laws risked sending the wrong signal. “This is tantamount to a public declaration (repeated and amplified by smugglers in Central America) that our borders are effectively open to all; this will increase the recent levels of monthly apprehensions at our Southern border — about or more than 100,000 — by multiples,” Mr. Johnson wrote in The Washington Post.

Whichever Democrat ends up challenging Mr. Trump for the presidency would be right to call for fundamental change from the cruelties of the current administration. But as long as America wants to have secure borders, immigration will present painful trade-offs for any president. Some people will get in, others will be kept out, still others will be compelled to leave. Any meaningful effort to reform the country’s degrading approach to migrants will fall apart if it pretends a president can simply ignore such choices.

The next president has to be ready to assume the role of deporter in chief, and be able to specify who would be removed from the country, and who would not.


Changing Priorities for Deportations
Deportations fall into two categories: “returns” and “removals.” People who are “removed” have received an order of deportation from a court. They are ineligible from returning to the United States for a period of years. People counted as “returned” have left — back to Canada or Mexico, for instance — after an administrative process and don’t face legal penalties for having been in the country without authorization.

Here are four snapshot years’ worth of deportations under four administrations. The volume of deportations can depend heavily on the condition of the economy in the United States as well as the countries from which the migrants emigrate and the policies put in place by different administrations.

Each figure = 10,000 people Source: 2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics

Donald Trump

The Trump administration inherited a deportation infrastructure from his predecessor. The breakdown between people returned and removed in 2017 (the last year for which comparable data is available) is similar to the last year of the Obama administration. Mr. Trump also shifted the public conversation around deportations from immigrants who had been convicted of committing serious crimes to anyone living in the country without authorization.

Barack Obama


The Obama administration prioritized removals — especially of criminals — over returns, as it sought to win support for comprehensive immigration reform. The implementation of Secure Communities at the end of the Bush administration saw greater collaboration initiatives between ICE and local law enforcement to use fingerprint data to target individuals for deportation. This program enabled raids, targeting possible deportees inside and outside of the jail system and potential immigrant criminals. In 2012, Mr. Obama signed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which temporarily shielded some 700,000 young people from deportation. The number of annual removals reached an all-time high in 2013.


George W. Bush


In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, border security received renewed attention, but the Bush administration still prioritized the more informal returns over removals. During his eight years in office, more than 8 million people were returned, while some 2 million were removed.

Bill Clinton


The 1990s saw a roaring economy and a turn toward harsher policies for both legal and undocumented immigrants. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act increased the number of categories of criminal activity that could cause immigrants, including green card holders, to be deported and placed in detention depending on their cases.

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A version of this article appears in print on July 13, 2019, Section SR, Page 10 of the New York edition with the headline: All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Schiff Got Early Account of Accusations as Whistle-Blower’s

Schiff Got Early Account of Accusations as Whistle-Blower’s Concerns Grew.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, knew some details of the allegations against President Trump before the C.I.A. officer filed a whistle-blower complaint.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
By Julian E. Barnes, Michael S. Schmidt and Matthew Rosenberg
Oct. 2, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Democratic head of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, learned about the outlines of a C.I.A. officer’s concerns that President Trump had abused his power days before the officer filed a whistle-blower complaint, according to a spokesman and current and former American officials.

The early account by the future whistle-blower shows how determined he was to make known his allegations that Mr. Trump asked Ukraine’s government to interfere on his behalf in the 2020 election. It also explains how Mr. Schiff knew to press for the complaint when the Trump administration initially blocked lawmakers from seeing it.

The C.I.A. officer approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with his concerns about Mr. Trump only after he had had a colleague first convey them to the C.I.A.’s top lawyer. Concerned about how that initial avenue for airing his allegations through the C.I.A. was unfolding, the officer then approached the House aide. In both cases, the original accusation was vague.

The House staff member, following the committee’s procedures, suggested the officer find a lawyer to advise him and meet with an inspector general, with whom he could file a whistle-blower complaint. The aide shared some of what the officer conveyed to Mr. Schiff. The aide did not share the whistle-blower’s identity with Mr. Schiff, an official said.

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“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Mr. Schiff.

In his whistle-blower complaint, the officer said Mr. Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate a host of issues that could benefit him politically, including one connected to a son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

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A reconstituted transcript released by the White House of a call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine backed up the whistle-blower’s account, which was itself based on information from a half-dozen American officials and deemed credible by the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson.

Mr. Trump, who has focused his ire on Mr. Schiff amid the burgeoning Ukraine scandal, wasted no time in trying to use the revelation about the whistle-blower’s attempt to alert Congress to try to denigrate his complaint. In a news conference in the East Room of the White House after this article was published, Mr. Trump called it a scandal that Mr. Schiff knew the outlines of the whistle-blower’s accusations before he filed his complaint.

“Big stuff. That’s a big story,” Mr. Trump said, waving a copy of the article in the air. “He knew long before and helped write it, too. It’s a scam,” the president added, accusing Mr. Schiff of helping the whistle-blower write his complaint. There is no evidence that Mr. Schiff did, and his spokesman said he saw no part of the complaint before it was filed.

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The whistle-blower’s decision to offer what amounted to an early warning to the intelligence committee’s Democrats is also sure to thrust Mr. Schiff even more forcefully into the center of the controversy as a target of Mr. Trump’s.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Trump said Mr. Schiff should be forced to resign for reading a parody of the Ukraine call at a hearing, an act Mr. Trump has called treasonous and criminal.

“We don’t call him shifty Schiff for nothing,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s a shifty, dishonest guy.”

Mr. Schiff’s aides followed procedures involving whistle-blower’s accusations, Mr. Boland said. They referred him to an inspector general and advised him to seek legal counsel.

Mr. Schiff never saw any part of the complaint or knew precisely what the whistle-blower would deliver, Mr. Boland said.

“At no point did the committee review or receive the complaint in advance,” he said. He said the committee received the complaint the night before releasing it publicly last week and noted that that came three weeks after the administration was legally mandated to turn it over to Congress. The director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, acting on the advice of his top lawyer and the Justice Department, had blocked Mr. Atkinson from turning over the complaint sooner.

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ImageThe C.I.A. officer expressed concerns that Mr. Trump had abused his power during a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.
The C.I.A. officer expressed concerns that Mr. Trump had abused his power during a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.CreditCarolyn Kaster/Associated Press
In response to questions, spokeswomen for Senators Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Mark Warner of Virginia, its Democratic vice chairman, said it was standard procedure to refer whistle-blowers to the relevant inspectors general.


The future whistle-blower went to Mr. Schiff’s committee after he grew concerned about the first investigation he had touched off.

The C.I.A. officer first had a colleague take his concerns — in vague form — to the C.I.A.’s general counsel, Courtney Simmons Elwood, who began a preliminary inquiry by contacting a deputy White House counsel, alerting the White House that complaints were coming from the C.I.A.

As C.I.A. and White House lawyers began following up on the complaint, the C.I.A. officer became nervous, according to a person familiar with the matter. He learned that John Eisenberg, a deputy White House counsel and the legal adviser to the national security adviser, was among those scrutinizing his initial allegation.

Contacts in the National Security Council had also told the C.I.A. officer that the White House lawyers had authorized records of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky to be put in a highly classified computer system, meaning that the lawyers who were now helping the C.I.A. investigate the officer’s allegations were the same ones implicated in them. The officer has alleged that White House aides’ decision to store the call records more restrictively was itself an abuse of the system.

The C.I.A. officer decided the complaint he had brought to Ms. Elwood was at risk of being swept aside, prompting him to go to the lawmakers who conduct oversight of the intelligence agencies.

He followed the advice of Mr. Schiff’s aide and filed his complaint to Mr. Atkinson. And though Mr. Maguire blocked him from forwarding it to Congress, he did allow Mr. Atkinson to notify lawmakers of its existence.

The complaint was filed in consultation with a lawyer, officials said. “The intelligence community whistle-blower followed the advice of legal counsel from the beginning,” said Andrew Bakaj, the lead counsel for the whistle-blower. “The laws and processes have been followed.”


Filing a complaint with Mr. Atkinson gave the whistle-blower added protections against reprisals and also allowed him to legally report on classified information. While House Intelligence Committee members are allowed to receive classified whistle-blower complaints, they are not allowed to make such complaints public, according to a former official. A complaint forwarded to the committee by the inspector general gives it more latitude over what it can publicize.

By the time the whistle-blower filed his complaint, Mr. Schiff and his staff knew at least vaguely what it contained.

Mr. Schiff, after a private letter and phone call to Mr. Maguire, publicly released a letter seeking the complaint and suggested it could involve Mr. Trump or others in his administration. Mr. Schiff followed up by subpoenaing documents from Mr. Maguire and requesting him to testify before the intelligence panel.

Officials in Mr. Maguire’s office, who did not know the details of the complaint, were puzzled why Mr. Schiff went public right away, eschewing the usual closed-door negotiations.

But letters from the inspector general and Mr. Maguire had made clear to the House Intelligence Committee that the Justice Department and the White House were blocking Mr. Maguire’s office from forwarding the complaint.

Congressional officials insisted that Mr. Schiff and his aides followed the rules. Whistle-blowers regularly approach the committee, given its role in conducting oversight of the intelligence agencies, Mr. Boland said.

“The committee expects that they will be fully protected, despite the president’s threats,” Mr. Boland said, referring to the whistle-blower without identifying his gender. “Only through their courage did these facts about the president’s abuse of power come to light.”
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

The president is right about Baltimore.


The president is right about Baltimore. Are Democrats really prepared to defend failure?

James S. Robbins, Opinion columnistPublished 5:00 a.m. ET July 30, 2019

Baltimore is one of the least livable, most dangerous cities in America. It’s not racist to point that out.


Ask yourself honestly: Would you ever consider living in West Baltimore? And are you a racist if you say no?

Baltimore ranks in the top 10 of the least livable cities in America. Until this week, it was not controversial to point that out. But now that President Donald Trump has tweeted about Baltimore, it seems as though anyone who criticizes the awful conditions there is opening themselves up to charges of prejudice.

The flap began last week when Rep. Elijah Cummings, whose 7th district covers much of Baltimore City, lashed out at acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan at a hearing on conditions inside illegal alien detention centers. “What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower?” Cummings shouted. “Come on, man. What’s that about?”

President Trump responded with tweets saying Cummings’ district was “FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than the detention facilities, “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” The president suggested Cummings focus more on cleaning up this “dangerous & filthy place” than on bullying in hearings about the border issue. ADVERTISEMENT

The accusations of racism continue

The president’s remarks were immediately denounced as racist by Democrats and the usual frantic pundits, even though the tweets had no racial content. Trump respondedthat “Democrats always play the Race Card, when in fact they have done so little for our Nation’s great African American people.” 

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Sunday that it was “unbelievable that we have a president of the United States who attacks American cities.” But it was perfectly fine four years ago when Sanders said during a visit to West Baltimore, “Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood … would think that you were in a Third World country.” 

Sanders’ comment came in the wake of riots sparked by death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Articles from that period routinely cited the city’s endemic poverty as a root cause of the rioting. A typical 2015 report from the Associated Press noted that Baltimore “struggles daily with pervasive poverty and widespread joblessness, failing schools, drug addiction, a crumbling infrastructure and corruption.” 

President Barack Obama said then that difficult conditions in Baltimore required national “soul searching” — because the $1.8 billion stimulus bonanza he had lavished on the city didn’t seem to solve anything. 

In Baltimore on July 28, 2019 (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Many Americans probably imagine West Baltimore as the gritty, open-air drug mart  portrayed in HBO’s “The Wire,” and they aren’t that far off. Last year, USA TODAY reported that “Baltimore is the nation’s most dangerous big city.” 

The poverty rate is over 22%, and the population is shrinking. The city’s politics are riven with endemic corruption — former Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned in disgrace this May. She’s the third Baltimore mayor in a row to leave in the wake of intense scandal. Baltimore is dotted with thousands of vacant buildings, and as for rodents, exterminator Orkin listed Baltimore in the top 10 of its annual survey of “rattiest cities.” The 1970s promotional nickname “Charm City” is as ironic as ever.

The city’s premier newspaper failed to represent its own territory accurately

The Baltimore Sun rose gamely to the city’s defense against President Trump, editorializing that Baltimore is better than you think, citing inter alia “the beauty of the Inner Harbor or the proud history of Fort McHenry.” (Note that the gentrified Inner Harbor neighborhood is one of the whitest neighborhoods in the city at 68%, so maybe not a great example for the Sun’s purposes.)

“If there are problems here, rodents included,”the newspaper claimed, “they are as much (Trump’s) responsibility as anyone’s, perhaps more because he holds the most powerful office in the land.” 

It is a bit of a reach to argue a president in office since 2017 bears more responsibility for city sanitation issues than the local congressman elected to his safe seat in 1996. Maybe the people of the 7th district just need a more effective champion.

Readers sound off:Despite Trump’s cruel and racist taunts, I have hope for America

It’s hard to say when this latest tweet-based freakout will subside. Will Democrats carry the #WeAreAllBaltimore banner into the 2020 election? Is Baltimore now the model city they will present to the country as the representative product of Democratic social and economic policies in action? Good luck with that.

Critics can continue to shout about racism, but that is no replacement for a rational discussion about the problems of poverty, crime, drug abuse, family breakdown and lack of educational attainment. A job-creating economy will do more in the long run to help the people of Baltimore than endless political posturing about race. It probably already has.

James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of “Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past,” has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.


Did Obama Admin Build Cages That House Immigrant Children at U.S.-Mexico Border?

While under scrutiny for treatment of migrants, the Trump administration has been shifting blame to its predecessor.


Obama’s Cages


The Obama administration, not the Trump administration, built the cages that hold many immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.




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AP FACT CHECK: 2014 photo wrongly used to hit Trump policies

WASHINGTON (AP) — Since the government acknowledged last month that the Trump administration had lost track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children, the debate over what that means and who is to blame has roiled Twitter. A look at the partisan claims and a reality check behind the latest immigration fight:


AP FACT CHECK: 2014 photo

—“Speechless. This is not who we are as a nation.” — Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, former Los Angeles mayor now running for governor, referring in a tweet Sunday to photos showing young-looking immigrants in steel cages.

AP FACT CHECK: 2014 photo