AP sources: President Trump mulling a wide-ranging shake-up
By COLLEEN LONG, ZEKE MILLER and CATHERINE LUCEY
Wednesday, November 14
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is weighing an administration-wide shake-up as he looks to prepare his White House for divided government, but it is unclear who is going and who is staying.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was thought to be out as soon as this week, according to two people with knowledge of the issue, but she is now likely to remain in the post for a longer period because there is no obvious successor in place.
Trump has soured on Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in part over frustration that his administration is not doing more to address what he has called a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the people. But the scope of the contemplated changes is far broader, as Trump gears up for a wave of Democratic oversight requests and to devote more effort to his own re-election campaign.
According to people familiar with the situation, Trump is also discussing replacing Kelly with Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers. Kelly, a retired Marine general, has been credited with bringing order and process to a chaotic West Wing, but he has fallen out of favor with the president as well as presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Ayers, a seasoned campaign operative, would restore a political-mindset to the role, but he faces stiff opposition from some corners of the West Wing, with some aides lobbying Trump directly against the move.
Other changes are afoot, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are being discussed for replacement. And in an extraordinary move Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump’s office called publicly for the firing of Trump’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel.
For all of the talk of churn, Trump often expresses frustration with aides and then does not take action. Talk of Kelly’s exit has percolated for months and he remains in place.
Nielsen had hoped to complete one year in the job and leave in December, but it appeared unlikely she would last that long, said two sources. Both people who had knowledge of the debate spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Curbing illegal immigration is Trump’s signature issue — and one he returns to as a way to rally his most loyal supporters.
But anyone who takes over at Homeland Security is likely to run up against the same problems that Nielsen faced. The administration has already tried to clamp down at the border but those efforts have been largely thwarted or watered down due to legal challenges.
Trump also told allies that he never fully trusted Nielsen, whom he associated with President George W. Bush, a longtime foe. And he told those close to him that he felt, at times, that her loyalty was more toward her longtime mentor — Kelly — than to the president.
Zinke, who faces several ethics investigations, said in interview with The Associated Press on Monday that he has spoken in recent days with Trump, Pence and Kelly about probes into his leadership and they remain supportive. He denied any wrongdoing.
Ross addressed turnover rumors at a Yahoo! Finance summit Tuesday, saying he was in the post to give back to the country and support Trump.
“I worked very hard to get President Trump elected,” he said. “Now I’d like to work equally hard to have him succeed and be re-elected.”
Questions about Nielsen’s job security are not new. Earlier this year, she pushed back on a New York Times report that she drafted a resignation letter but did not submit it, after Trump scolded her at a Cabinet meeting.
Nielsen has led the sprawling post-9/11 federal agency since December. She had been chief of staff to Kelly when he was Trump’s first Homeland Security secretary. A DHS spokesman would not comment on whether she was leaving.
“The secretary is honored to lead the men and women of DHS and is committed to implementing the president’s security-focused agenda to protect Americans from all threats and will continue to do so,” spokesman Tyler Houlton said.
Nielsen advocated for strong cybersecurity defense, and often said she believed the next terror major attack would occur online — not by planes or bombs. She was tasked with helping states secure elections following interference by Russians during the 2016 election.
She pushed Trump’s immigration policies, including funding for his border wall and defended the administration’s practice of separating children from parents, telling a Senate committee that removing children from parents facing criminal charges happens “in the United States every day.” But she was also instrumental in stopping the separations.
Just last week, the administration announced that migrants would be denied asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if they crossed illegally, creating regulations that circumvent immigration laws stating anyone can claim asylum no matter how they arrive to the country. The decision would affect about 70,000 people annually and was immediately challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Nielsen also moved to abandon longstanding regulations that dictate how long children are allowed to be held in immigration detention, and requested bed space from the U.S. military for some 12,000 people in an effort to detain all families who cross the border. Right now there is space for about 3,000 families and they are at capacity.
She got into heated discussions with Trump and White House aides several times over immigration policy, as she sought to explain the complicated legal challenges behind immigration law and pushed for a more diplomatic approach.
It’s unclear who would replace her. The job requires Senate confirmation and there is no deputy secretary. Under Secretary for Management Claire Grady would be the acting head if Nielsen left.
Associated Press Writers Darlene Superville in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.
Democrats Won Big. Can They Go Bold, Too?
The party’s leaders have been far too cautious in the past. Newer ideas could spark real change in who owns and runs America.
By Sam Pizzigati | November 14, 2018
Tony Maxwell, a retired African-American naval officer, was trying to get his Jacksonville, Florida neighbor to go vote with him. The young neighbor, a high-school-dropout, had no interest.
“Voting,” the young man declared, “doesn’t change anything.”
Can Democrats use their newly won House majority to reach that dispirited young man in Jacksonville? That all depends on their eagerness to think big and bold — and to challenge the concentrated wealth and power that keeps things from changing.
Of course, big and bold new legislation will be next to impossible to enact with a Republican Senate and White House. But just pushing for this legislation — holding hearings, encouraging rallies, taking floor votes — could move us in a positive direction and send the message that meaningful change can happen.
This sort of aggressive and progressive pushing would, to be sure, represent a major break with the Democratic Party’s recent past. The reforms Democrats in Congress have championed have often been overly complicated and cautious — and deeply compromised by a fear of annoying deep-pocketed donors.
That fear may be easing. A number of leading Democrats with eyes on 2020 — and the party’s growing progressive base — have advanced proposals that could spark real change in who owns and runs America.
Senator Bernie Sanders started the big-and-bold ball rolling in 2016. He’s still adding fresh new ideas to the political mix. This past September, he introduced legislation that would discourage corporate execs from underpaying workers.
Under this new Sanders proposal, corporations with 500 or more employees would have to pay a tax that equals the cost of federal safety-net benefits — from programs like food stamps and Medicaid — their underpaid workers have to rely on.
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, unveiled this August, would refocus large corporations on serving “not just shareholders but their employees and communities as well.” Warren’s bill would set 40 percent of corporate board seats aside for directors elected by employees.
Warren is also thinking big and bold on housing. Her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act would invest $450 billion over the next decade in affordable housing for working families. To offset the price-tag, Warren’s initiative would increase the estate tax on the nation’s 10,000 wealthiest families.
Senator Cory Booker is looking at establishing a new “baby bond” program to “make sure all children,” not just kids from wealthy homes, “have significant assets when they enter adulthood” — as much as $50,000 for kids from poorer families. A big chunk of the dollars for Booker’s baby bonds would come from raising the tax rate on capital gains, an income stream that flows overwhelmingly to America’s rich.
Senator Kamala Harris is advocating a tax credit that would increase the income of couples making less than six figures up to $500 a month. “Instead of more tax breaks for the top 1 percent and corporations,” says Harris, “we should be lifting up millions of American families.”
Other ambitious ideas are coming from progressive activists and scholars.
Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project has proposed an “American Social Wealth Fund,” an independent public investment enterprise that would take in “regular injections of cash from the government” and “make regular dividend payouts to its shareholders — all American adults.” Funds for this solidarity fund would come from a variety of corporate taxes.
Meanwhile, my colleague Sarah Anderson notes, five states have introduced legislation that limits or denies tax dollars to corporations that reward top execs at worker expense.
The new Democratic House could give ideas like these an airing and debate. And new leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez certainly have the charisma to attract wide swatches of America into that discourse.
If all this action materialized, would large numbers of our politically dispirited sit up and take notice? We’ll never know unless we try.
Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He co-edits Inequality.org, where a longer version of this piece first appeared. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Dear White Women: There May Be Hope For You After All
For years there’s been a growing divide between white women and women of color. This year it may have narrowed.
By Tracey L. Rogers | November 14, 2018
The Democratic “blue wave” may not have made as big of a splash as some would have hoped. But momentum was felt, nonetheless, as a record number of women were elected to seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As the #MeToo movement continues to expand its base of women and men working to extinguish a culture of gender and sexual violence in the United States, women in particular are bringing the movement to the legislative branch of government. And there is no one more thrilled about this than me, a black woman, who had just about lost faith in many white women voters.
I mean, seriously.
In 2016, 53 percent of white women voted for the presidential candidate who bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia. In 2017, 63 percent of white women in Alabama voted for alleged pedophile Roy Moore in the state’s senate race. And this year, 59 percent of white women in Texas voted for Senator Ted Cruz, helping him defeat Beto O’Rourke, a proponent of women’s health.
Let’s not forget about the white women who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, after allegations that he sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — ahem, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).
Not only has there been divisiveness between political parties, and between men and women, there’s been a growing divide between women of color and women who identify as white.
Historically speaking, white women have always remained closer to the men in power — i.e., white men. Whether consciously or not, white women are often the foot soldiers for white (patriarchal) supremacy, and this has proven evident throughout history.
Susan B. Anthony, for example, once said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” Many mostly white women put their “I voted” stickers on her tombstone this year.
Furthermore, in many viral news stories this year, it’s been white women who’ve called the police on the African American community for simply living while black.
For centuries, many white women have stood by their white men, deceived into believing that they would be provided for. But it’s all a sham: Patriarchy cares as little about white women as it does for women of color.
While white women still benefit more from the privileges afforded white America — privileges that were never intended for Native or black people during the days of our founding fathers — the fact is that white men have always made up the majority of folks in positions of power.
This is why women of color activists are adamant about playing a leading role in the women’s movement. Our experiences are much more challenging because of the extra melanin in our skin, which is why you often hear us protest that all lives will never matter until black lives matter.
During the midterms, however, many white women gave me some hope. The percentage of white women voting for the “grabber’s” supporters fell to 49 percent — under half, and we must continue to decrease this percentage. The rest voted for our daughters, and their daughters. You elected women who will fight for us all.
In a roaring decry of “Time’s Up!” you elected a diverse mix of us, with first time Native, Latina, Black, and Muslim American women winning districts in New Mexico, Texas, Massachusetts, and Michigan, respectively.
You did all right, white women. It’s possible that there’s hope for you after all.
Tracey L. Rogers is an entrepreneur and activist living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Beto O’Rourke’s Lasting Legacy
The competitive campaigns of red-state progressives like Beto redefined several states seemingly overnight.
By Jasmine Aguilera | November 13, 2018
Beto O’Rourke may have lost his race for Senate, but he’s managed to change the political landscape of Texas — and maybe beyond — in just one campaign.
He proved that Texas is more than the gun-slinging, oil-rich, old-fashioned state conservatives are trying so hard to cling on to. It’s a state full of cultural diversity and impassioned youth. I’m willing to bet we’ll see this side of Texas grow stronger because of O’Rourke’s campaign.
I didn’t have much faith in my congressman when he announced he’d be running against Senator Ted Cruz. He was a little known representative from El Paso, a poorly understood corner of Texas along the Mexico border.
I reasoned the best that could happen was O’Rourke would show Texas what El Paso is really about, by pushing back against Cruz and the GOP’s fear-mongering about border communities. I never imagined the consequences of his campaign would be so much bigger, impacting voter turnout and laying the groundwork for future progressives.
In a state with historically low voter turnout, the increase in this year’s midterms needs to be celebrated. Almost as many voters turned out for the midterms this year as they do for presidential elections. Whether or not people cast ballots for O’Rourke, he deserves credit for driving so many Texans to the polls.
We also need to celebrate youth and Latino turnout. Nearly five times more young people in Texas turned out for early voting as they did in 2014, according to The Hill, showing up for O’Rourke, while 64 percent of Latinos also turned out to vote for him.
In El Paso County, O’Rourke brought out a record-breaking number of voters in a district that notoriously hardly votes. About 44 percent of registered El Paso voters cast a ballot this midterm, up dramatically from about 20 percent in 2014 — and 74 percent voted for O’Rourke. Similar patterns can be seen in almost all Texas border counties.
In the end, O’Rourke only lost by 2.7 percent without taking PAC money. More impressive, O’Rourke accomplished all of this by going against conventional campaign wisdom, embracing a broadly progressive platform in a state with a conservative reputation.
O’Rourke is already being credited for helping Texas Democrats down-ballot win their elections. His star power helped his party win two U.S. House seats, two state Senate seats, and 12 state House seats.
This should worry the Texas GOP, who up until now didn’t have to work very hard to win elections.
Now we’re starting to understand that the GOP’s stronghold in Texas might not be because it’s a truly conservative state. Maybe it’s simply that a large portion of the state’s population hasn’t felt energized, empowered, or properly represented.
It’s a trend we also saw in Florida and Georgia, where other tight races are redefining state identities.
O’Rourke surpassed my expectations, but he also accomplished what I hoped he would all along: He gave my hometown a national voice.
The countless times O’Rourke went live from El Paso, whether it was while running a 10k from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez across the border, skating at a local Whataburger parking lot, or even going live the day after Election Day with a box of Savage Goods donuts, he painted the border with a broader brush.
The border O’Rourke showed Texas wasn’t Cruz’s or Trump’s Wild West, where undocumented immigrants wreak havoc. It’s a city full of welcoming people who take pride in living in a binational community.
I hope that honest depiction — and the progressive vision behind it — stays in the minds of people in Texas and beyond.
Jasmine Aguilera is a freelance writer and reporter from El Paso, Texas. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, NowThis, and more. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Did You Hear? Poverty Ended
Trump’s advisers say there’s no more need for anti-poverty programs. Let’s see them raise a family of four on $25,000.
By Jim Hightower | November 14, 2018
Someone needs to buy a Grassroots USA tour package for the members of Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, so they can at least visit the real world once in their lives.
The three advisors are ivory tower ideologues whose sole professional expertise seems to be twisting reality to fit their boss’ right-wing fantasia. In July, for example, the trio issued a fairy tale disguised as an official government report on poverty, essentially asserting that the United States no longer has a poverty problem.
Poof, declared these learned ones from on high — the need for food stamps, Medicaid, public housing, and other assistance has virtually disappeared in our land. Jobs abound, they lectured, the economy is pumping out great gobs of new wealth, and bluebirds of happiness are spreading joy everywhere.
You can imagine the comfort that this report has brought to the 45 million Americans now living below the poverty line. That line means they’re trying to make ends meet on only $25,000 a year — not per person, but for a family of four!
Let’s see any of Trump’s advisers try to live on that before smugly claiming that “poverty is largely over.”
What’s at work here is the political manipulation of statistics to support Trump’s ideological delusion that poor people are losers who are addicted to safety net programs. As a narcissistic son of privilege, he’s out to cut those programs and to impose strict work requirements on families seeking public assistance.
Never mind that most recipients of aid already work, subjected to the hardships of poverty by the low wages of their jobs.
But that‘s the real world, and it doesn’t mesh with Trump & Company’s cruel self-deception that basic humane benefits make poverty “too pleasant.” They’re imposing a Dickensian governing ethic that’s fundamentally obscene — and un-American.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Distributed by OtherWords.org.