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Trump Advisers Weighed Whether US Military Could Build/Run Migrant Detention Camps

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WASHINGTON — When some of President Donald Trump’s top national security advisers gathered at the White House Tuesday night to talk about the surge of immigrants across the southern border, they discussed increasing the U.S. military’s involvement in the border mission, including whether the military could be used to build tent city detention camps for migrants, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the conversations.


During the meeting, the officials also discussed whether the U.S. militarycould legally run the camps once the migrants are housed there, a move the three officials said was very unlikely since U.S. law prohibits the military from directly interacting with migrants. The law has been a major limitation for Trump, who wants to engage troops in his mission to get tougher on immigration.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was at the White House meeting Tuesday night and was open to sending more U.S. troops to support the border mission, so long as their assigned mission is within the law, according to the three U.S. officials.

Thousands of troops are currently deployed along the southern border, and are mainly used for reinforcing existing fencing with barbed wire.

Potential new projects for the troops that were mentioned Tuesday, according to the three officials — two from the Pentagon and one from Homeland Security — also included conducting assessments of the land before the construction of new tent cities in El Paso and Donna, Texas. They would also be used in assessments before construction of a new central processing center for migrants in El Paso, said the DHS official.

The creation of the processing center was announced last month. It is being designed to temporarily detain arriving immigrants, many of whom are being released in El Paso due to the lack of detention space.

The processing center will be similar to one currently used in McAllen, Texas, where children were kept in chain-link areas, which some called “cages,” while the Trump administration’s family separation policy was in effect last summer, according to two Customs and Border Protection officials.

The tent cities would hold immigrants while Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities continue to be at capacity. The Obama administration also used tents to hold immigrants in Donna, Texas, in 2016.

The idea has trickled down into planning meetings held this week at DHS, one of the officials said.

Discussions this week, at the White House meeting and afterward, have included the suggestion that troops may be needed to run the tent city detention camps once immigrants are being housed there, according to the U.S. officials familiar with the conversations.

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the use of federal troops for domestic law enforcement inside the U.S. This prevents them from direct interaction with immigrants crossing into the country. One U.S. official said recent meetings have included discussions about whether using active duty troops to run a detention camp would be a violation of Posse Comitatus.

While there has been discussion of an increase in troops, no specific numbers have been mentioned, and officials do not expect a large number of additional troops to be needed for any new mission.

A U.S. border patrol official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the military allows for faster construction than private contractors, who can protest decisions and slow down the process.

“The importance of DOD is that they are able to mobilize quickly because we face an immediate crisis now,” said the border patrol official.

As an example of the crisis, the border patrol official said on Tuesday, 253 Central Americans, mainly families were stopped in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. Large groups present a challenge for border agents who must process, shelter and often find medical care for immigrants.

The border patrol official said he is not aware of plans to use troops to run detention facilities for migrants and noted it would be in violation of U.S. law.

The White House meeting came just two days after Trump tweeted that his secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, was leaving and that Kevin McAleenan, the CBP commissioner, would replace her as acting secretary. DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Claire Grady has also resigned.

On Wednesday, during a visit to Texas, Trump spoke about increasing the number of U.S. troops assigned to the border mission and alluded to the limitations to using active duty troops there.

“I’m going to have to call up more military. Our military, don’t forget, can’t act like a military would act. Because if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy. … Our military can’t act like they would normally act. … They have all these horrible laws that the Democrats won’t change. They will not change them.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, said: “As we said last year when we were looking at possible facilities at Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base, DOD could be involved in the possible construction of facilities to house immigrants. There are currently no new requests for assistance.”

(Reporting by NBC News)

Trump Administration

White House Wanted USS John S. McCain Obscured During Trump’s Japan Visit

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The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards the Changi Naval Base, Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore in 2017. (Joshua Fulton/U.S. Navy/AP)

The White House asked Navy officials to obscure the USS John S. McCain while President Trump was visiting Japan, Pentagon and White House officials said Wednesday night.


A senior Navy official confirmed he was aware someone at the White House sent a message to service officials in the Pacific requesting that the USS John McCain be kept out of the picture while the president was there. That led to photographs taken Friday of a tarp obscuring the McCain name, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

When senior Navy officials grasped what was happening, they directed Navy personnel who were present to stop, the senior official said. The tarp was removed on Saturday, before Trump’s visit, he added.

The White House request was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The crew of the McCain also was not invited to Trump’s visit, which occurred on the USS Wasp. But a Navy official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was because the crew was released from duty for the long holiday weekend, along with sailors from another ship, the USS Stethem.

A senior White House official also confirmed that they did not want the destroyer with the McCain name seen in photographs. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the president was not involved in the planning, but the request was made to keep Trump from being upset during the visit.

Trump tweeted Wednesday night that he wasn’t involved.

“I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan. Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!” he wrote.

The Journal reported that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan knew of the White House’s concerns and approved military officials’ efforts to obscure it from view.

The U.S. Navy reportedly went to great lengths to shield Trump from seeing the ship. Officials told the Journal they first covered it with a tarp, then used a barge to block the name and gave the sailors on the ship the day off, the Journal reported. A Navy official told The Washington Post that the barge was moved before the event involving Trump.

Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Navy spokesman, said that images of the tarp covering the ship are from Friday, and it was taken down Saturday.

“All ships remained in normal configuration during the President’s visit,” he said in an email, challenging the suggestion that a barge was moved to block it.

The Navy’s one-star admiral in charge of public affairs, Rear Adm. Charles Brown, also tweeted Wednesday night: “The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day. The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage.”

Before John McCain’s death in August 2018, the Navy added the senator’s name to the ship, already named the USS John McCain after his father and grandfather, both admirals. The ship is stationed in Japan, where it’s being repaired after a fatal crash in 2017.

Trump has continued to speak ill of the late senator in his public remarks and on social media. Meghan McCain, who is quick to come to her father’s defense, immediately blasted Trump on Twitter.

“Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life,” Meghan McCain tweeted. “There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won’t let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him. It makes my grief unbearable.”

Mark Salter, McCain’s long time speechwriter and co-author, tweeted, “Perhaps the late Senator’s Armed Services Committee colleagues will have questions about this for the acting SecDef, whose confirmation ought to be in jeopardy.”

Trump began attacking McCain during the presidential campaign when he said McCain wasn’t a war hero because he’d been captured. McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years.

The president also blames McCain for voting against a Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump often says the law would be gone if not for McCain, which isn’t true.

McCain did not want Trump at his funeral, but his presence was felt in the eulogies past presidents and friends gave. Meghan McCain offered the most direct rebuke of the current president, using his campaign slogan as a not-so-veiled dig.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said in her eulogy for her father.

(Reporting by Washington Post)

UPDATE: A confirmed email has been found by CNBC which purports to contradict what Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan claimed on Wednesday.

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Former Virginia Attorney General Joining Trump Administration

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, will be joining the Trump administration.


A White House official confirms Cuccinelli will be taking a position at the Homeland Security Department, focusing on immigration. The person spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

The Associated Press first reported last month Trump was considering bringing on Cuccinelli as an “immigration czar” to coordinate immigration policy across federal agencies. But the official said Cuccinelli will not be assuming that role.

The hire comes as Trump is struggling with a migrant surge at the southern border that is straining federal resources.

Cuccinelli has in the past advocated for denying citizenship to the American-born children of parents living in the U.S. illegally.

He didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

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White House Considering Derek Kan For Federal Reserve Board Seat

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The White House is considering Derek Kan, an undersecretary at the Department of Transportation, for one of two open seats on the Federal Reserve Board, according to two people familiar with the matter.


Kan, who has been a senior adviser to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao since 2017, has served on the board of directors for Amtrak and was previously general manager of ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. He earned his MBA from Stanford University and studied economic history at the London School of Economics, according to a profile on the Department of Transportation website.

President Donald Trump has struggled to find candidates for the Fed that are acceptable to the senators who vote to confirm them. Trump has named four people for the two open seats on the board of governors. None of them has made it through the Senate, raising questions about the White House vetting process for his picks.

The White House declined immediate comment.

(Reporting by Bloomberg News)

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