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Women ask Supreme Court to toss topless ban, asking why different rules for men

0 0 19 Aug 2019

WASHINGTON — Three New Hampshire women are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that a city ordinance banning women from appearing topless in public violates the Constitution by treating men and women differently.

Their rallying cry is “Free the Nipple,” a global motto for women seeking equal treatment.

The case began in 2016 when Ginger Pierro did her yoga exercises topless at a lakeside beach in Laconia and was arrested for violating a city ordinance banning public nudity, including “the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering any part of the nipple.”

Three days later two other women, Heidi Lilley and Kia Sinclair, went to the same beach, appearing topless to protest the arrest. They, too, were charged with violating the nudity law.

All three challenged their convictions but lost in the New Hampshire courts. Now they’re asking the Supreme Court to hear their appeal when the court’s new term begins in October.

They say topless bans are discriminatory because men can appear in public without their shirts. The bans also further the “sexualized objectification of women,” according to their Supreme Court legal brief.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court rejected their challenge, acknowledging that the law threats men and women differently.

But it said the sexes “are not fungible” with respect to the traditional understanding of what constitutes nudity. Public exposure of the female breast “almost invariably conveys sexual overtones,” the state court said. Most lower courts have come to the same conclusion.

But in February, the federal appeals court for the Tenth Circuit struck down a topless ban in Fort Collins, near Denver.

The ruling found no justification for treating men and women differently when they wish to bare their chests. Society’s sexualization, the court said, “has engrained in us the stereotype that the primary purpose for women’s breasts is sex, not feeding babies.” Such a stereotype, the ruling said, “serves the function of keeping women in their place.”

The Supreme Court will likely announce in early October whether it will hear the case.

Texas school staffers colored in black teens haircut with a sharpie, lawsuit claims

1 0 19 Aug 2019

Staffers at a Texas junior high school colored in a black teen’s fade haircut with a jet-black Sharpie to discipline him for violating the school dress code, according to a lawsuit filed by his parents.

Dante Trice and Angela Washington filed their complaint Sunday against Pearland Independent School District, Berry Miller Junior High School Principal Tony Barcelona, discipline clerk Helen Day and teacher Jeanette Peterson. All three school officials are white, according to the suit.

The suit said their son, identified as 13-year-old J.T., was in seventh grade when, on April 16, he got a “fade haircut with a design line.” Pictures show the fade lines resembled an M.

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“The haircut did not depict anything violent, gang-related, obscene or otherwise offensive or inappropriate in any manner. J.T. did not believe the haircut violated any school policy,” the lawsuit said.

But the next morning, then-Assistant Principal Barcelona approached J.T. and told him to go to the discipline office because he was “out of dress code.”

Day gave J.T. the choice of in-school suspension, which would make him miss classes and could affect his position on the track team, or have the line design on his scalp colored in.

J.T. had never been in trouble before and he didn’t want to “have a first time suspension on his school record and be kicked out of track,” the lawsuit said.

And so, “under great duress,” he chose to have his head colored in, the suit said. His parents were not contacted even though their numbers were readily available at the school.

While Barcelona watched, Day started to color in J.T.’s scalp with the jet-black marker, the lawsuit said. The teacher, Peterson, eventually stopped by the office and finished the job. All three staffers were laughing as J.T.’s fade haircut was colored in, his parents alleged in the lawsuit.

“The jet-black markings did not cover the haircut design line but made the design more prominent and such was obvious to those present at the very beginning of the scalp blackening process,” the suit said.

J.T. found the process to be “highly offensive,” the suit said. “It is commonly understood among scholars and the general public that depicting African Americans with jet black skin is a negative racial stereotype.”

The Sharpie ink didn’t come off J.T.’s head for days, and he was made fun of by other students. One student called him a “thug” while others made him the subject of memes, causing him “mental anguish,” the suit said.

J.T. also suffered from anxiety and depression after the incident, according to the suit, which is seeking monetary damages.

J.T.’s mother had tried calling and emailing the district superintendent, but she never heard back. Her attorney then sent a letter demanding the three involved staffers receive training. No one responded.

“Due to the lack of training, lack of proper policies, lack of employee discipline, failure to fire or reassign the individual defendants, and pattern of racial discrimination J.T. is likely to experience further instances of discriminatory actions at the Pearland ISD,” the lawsuit said.

Barcelona, Day and Peterson did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Pearland Independent School District said in a statement that the district “has yet to receive notification of the lawsuit” outside of media reports. “Upon receipt, it will be reviewed by our legal counsel. No further comment will be provided at this time,” the statement said.

A statement from the district in April reiterated the school dress code, which said: “Hair must be neat, clean and well groomed. Extreme hair styles such as carvings, mohawks, spikes, etc. are not allowed.”

But the district said “filling in the shape of the hair carving with a marker … is not condoned by the district and does not align with appropriate measures for dress code violations.”

The administrator who “mishandled disciplinary action” was placed on administrative leave. It’s unclear which administrator the statement was referring to. Barcelona was promoted to school principal at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Pearland Independent School District also changed their dress code at the end of the school year to “identify and remove any perceived racial, cultural and religious insensitivities,” according to the district. Restrictions on fade haircuts were removed.

Airline crew allegedly refused to accommodate traveler with autism. Now, theyve been grounded.

1 0 19 Aug 2019

A man says crew members on a SkyWest Airlines flight refused to allow his brother with autism to sit near a family member Friday and walked off the plane, forcing all 75 passengers to deplane and board another flight three hours later.

Now, the crew, including the pilots, have been grounded while the airline investigates the incident.

Ayomide Isola, 23, was on SkyWest flight 3596 from Detroit to Houston with his mother, sister and 21-year-old brother, Tayo, who is nonverbal and unable to express himself. SkyWest is a connection carrier for Delta and other major airlines.

Isola, a graduate student at University of Houston, said in a now-viral Facebook post that he and his family arrived at the gate to learn they were all seated apart. They were among the last people to board the flight because a U.S. Customs and Border Protection computer outage caused hours-long delays at airports Friday, he said.

Once they boarded the plane, a woman quickly volunteered to switch seats with Tayo so he could be near his sister during the more than two-hour flight.

Ayo Isola, right, with his brother, Tayo.Courtesy Ayo Isola

“My brother has to sit with one of our family members he is comfortable with,” Isola told NBC News on Monday.

A flight attendant became outraged and approached Tayo to tell him he needed to return to his assigned seat, Isola said. But his brother could not oblige because he does not respond to verbal cues.

Isola said he and his family explained to the flight attendant that Tayo is special needs and “that this small accommodation would be necessary.” But she would not relent, he said, and instead, brought in a gate supervisor who sided with the family.

“The supervisor was like, ‘That happens all the time,'” Isola said. “She was confused as to why the flight attendant was making such a big deal about it.”

Other passengers on the flight were defending the family and telling the flight attendant she was being discriminatory, Isola said.

After already being delayed for nearly an hour, the flight attendant then consulted the pilot and advocated for the family and the passenger who switched seats with Tayo to be booted from the flight. She told the pilot they were a “safety hazard,” Isola said.

After a discussion with the pilot and flight attendant, Isola said the pilot instructed everyone on the plane to exit the aircraft.

Airport security meanwhile told the pilot there was no safety issue and that the flight should resume, according to Isola.

The pilot and his crew refused and exited the terminal, Isola said. He and the 74 other passengers had to exit the aircraft and wait three hours for a new crew to board the plane.

“When the new crew came in, everything went smoothly,” Isola said.

Isola said he shared his experience to highlight the “ignorant, bigotry and blatant discrimination that unfortunately exists in people today.”

“It is not right to treat people with special needs as if they are unworthy of your time or effort,” he said. “They are people first, defined by all of their abilities and not condemned by their disabilities.”

Delta said in a statement Monday that it was reviewing the details of the incident to “better understand what happened.”

“Delta apologizes to customers on flight 3596, operated by Delta Connection partner SkyWest, for any inconvenience following an onboard event,” a spokeswoman told NBC News.

SkyWest acknowledged the flight experienced a delay boarding “as a result of an issue regarding customer seat assignments,” and said it was investigating the incident.

“We are committed to providing exceptional onboard service to all of our customers and are working with our partner Delta to reach out to the customers,” a spokeswoman said.

Isola said he doesn’t believe the crew should be allowed to fly any longer. If they are, the airline should require they undergo sensitivity training, he said.

“There’s a certain sensitivity level, compassion level you need to have to fly with travelers who have disabilities,” Isola said. “And if you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t be in this business.”

Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan backs impeachment inquiry

6 0 19 Aug 2019

WASHINGTON — Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico on Monday became the highest ranking House Democrat to call for opening an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

“I support moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, which will continue to uncover the facts for the American people and hold this president accountable,” Lujan, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, said in a statement. “This is not a position I’ve reached lightly.”

Lujan, who is running for the Senate in 2020, cited the findings of the Mueller report and Trump’s lack of action on election security: “What is evident is that President Trump is abdicating his responsibility to defend our nation from Russian attacks and is putting his own personal and political interests ahead of the American people.”

Lujan’s announcement comes despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s repeated calls for her caucus to focus their attention on congressional investigations and ongoing legal battles instead of impeachment.

Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the sixth-ranking House Democrat as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, had been the highest-ranking Democrat to back an inquiry.

An NBC News tally of Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry has reached 125, more than a majority of the party’s caucus. One independent member of Congress, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, has also voiced support.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., has said that his committee is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump to the House, and has indicated it could make that determination by the late fall.

Andrew Cuomo pans The Godfather in the wake of brothers Fredo meltdown

1 0 19 Aug 2019

Seeing “The Godfather” is an offer New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo can refuse.

Cuomo — whose brother Chris Cuomo was caught in a viral video getting into a heated exchange with a man who’d called him “Fredo,” the dim-witted sibling in the classic film — said in a radio interview Monday that he’d only “seen parts” of the Marlon Brando mob movie because he considers it anti-Italian.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, ‘In ‘The Godfather,’ who are you, which one are you, which character are you?'” Cuomo told WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

“When you repeat the negative stereotypes, you are repeating the discrimination,” Cuomo said. “I had a battle with ‘The Sopranos,’ which was the same stereotype over and over and over, the Italian thug, the Italian Mafia.”

He said his distaste for the movie runs in the family. His noted that his late father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, “wouldn’t watch the movie because it was anti-Italian, the stereotype was anti-Italian.”

In the video, first posted on a right-wing YouTube channel called “That’s the Point with Brandon,” Chris Cuomo was seen raging at someone who’d apparently called him “Fredo” while he was out in public.

Chris Cuomo attends the Turner Upfront 2018 arrivals on the red carpet at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.Mike Coppola / Getty Images for Turner file

“Punk-ass bitches from the right call me Fredo,” Cuomo told the man, who said he thought that’s what Cuomo’s name was. “It’s like the N-word for us,” Cuomo said, later threatening to throw the heckler “down these stairs.”

The CNN anchor later said on Twitter he believes being called the character’s name is an anti-Italian slur, but apologized for losing his cool.

“Appreciate all the support but – truth is I should be better than the guys baiting me,” he wrote. “This happens all the time these days. Often in front of my family. But there is a lesson: no need to add to the ugliness; I should be better than what I oppose.”

Mario Cuomo refused to see “The Godfather” when it was released in 1972 and criticized it repeatedly over the years, at times even refusing to use the term “mafia.” He did finally wind up watching the film in 2013, though, when he was 81.

He said the movie delivered a “horrible” message, but “maybe this thing was a masterpiece.”

AG Barr removes acting Bureau of Prisons chief in wake of Epstein suicide

2 0 19 Aug 2019

Attorney General William Barr on Monday said he removed the acting director of the federal Bureau of Prisons from his job in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in a federal jail in Manhattan earlier this month where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Hugh Hurwitz had been the agency’s acting director. Barr said Hurwitz would remain in the Bureau of Prisons as the assistant director of department’s Reentry Services Division.

Hurwitz’s ouster comes nine days after Epstein, the millionaire financier and accused sex trafficker, died by apparent suicide while in federal custody.

Epstein, 66, was found dead by apparent suicide August 10 in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

He was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation told NBC News. He had apparently hanged himself, and was found unresponsive at around 6:30 a.m. ET.

The center’s warden, Lamine N’Diaye, has been temporarily reassigned, and the two guards assigned to watch Epstein have been placed on leave.

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The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating how Epstein was able to take his own life while he was being held. Barr has said “serious irregularities” had been found at the lock up.

Barr, in a statement Monday, said he’d appointed Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the bureau’s new director and Dr. Thomas R. Kane as the its new deputy director. The statement makes no reference to Epstein.

“I am confident Dr. Hawk Sawyer and Dr. Kane will lead BOP with the competence, skill and resourcefulness they have embodied throughout their government careers.”

Sawyer served as the bureau’s chief from 1992 to 2003. She was appointed when Barr was the attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. Kane worked in several senior roles in the agency from 1977 to 2018.

At least one Republican offered modest praise following Barr’s move.

“This is a good start, but it’s not the end. Jeffrey Epstein should still be in a padded cell and under constant surveillance, but the justice system has failed Epstein’s victims at every turn,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who had previously demanded that “heads must roll” at the Justice Department because of the Epstein suicide.

Lawmakers and Trump administration officials have expressed outrage that that Epstein could have possibly killed himself under the noses of jailers. The disgraced financier was taken off suicide watch even though he had reportedly tried to take his own life last month, officials have said.

Epstein’s death came the day after a trove of court documents was unsealed, providing new details about his alleged sex trafficking.

He was arrested July 6 at an airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, as he returned from Paris on a private jet. He was charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking, and faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty. He pleaded not guilty and was denied bail.

The indictment in his case showed that he sought out minors, some as young as 14, from at least 2002 through 2005 and paid them hundreds of dollars in cash for sex at either his Manhattan townhouse or his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, federal prosecutors revealed last month.

9-year-old girl bitten by shark in Florida says shes not afraid to get back in water

8 0 19 Aug 2019

A 9-year-old girl who got bit by a shark while vacationing in Florida said the terrifying experience isn’t going to keep her out of the water.

Maggie Crum was in the water at New Smyrna Beach while vacationing from Ohio with her family Friday when a shark latched its mouth around the top of her right calf, according to Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue.

“I saw sand swirling, and then it bit the top of my calf,” Maggie told NBC News, adding that she was in knee-deep water at the time of the attack.

Even though her mom had seen souvenirs declaring Volusia County “the shark bite capital of the world,” she thought her daughter was joking around. That is, until she saw the blood.

Officials told Maggie that the shark that bit her was about 3 or 4 feet long, and she needed a dozen stitches. Still, she’s excited that she gets to return to school with a story to tell, a gnarly scar and a commemorative shark bite necklace from the Kennedy Space Center.

This year alone, 10 people have been bitten by sharks in Volusia County, but Maggie said on “Today” that she plans to get back in the water again during her vacation.

“What are the odds that you’re gonna be bit twice?” Maggie said. “I think that’s it’s an absolute zero! Big fat zero, it’s not gonna happen.”

American doctor falls to his death taking picture on hike in Ibiza with fiancée

8 0 19 Aug 2019

A New Jersey doctor on vacation in Spain before starting his dream job fell to his death on a hike with his fiancée.

Dr. Daniel Sirovich, 33, and Kristi Kelly, were on a trail in Ibiza when the doctor fell more than 80 feet off a cliff on Wednesday, according to multiple reports and the Spanish Civil Guard.

Kelly’s mother, Mary Ann Kelly, told the Staten Island Advance that Sirovich slipped trying to get a picture during their excursion on Sa Pedrera de Cala d’Hort, a southwestern part of the popular Spanish vacation island.

Sivorich and Kelly, who met seven years ago in school, were originally supposed to go to a music festival in England, but changed their plans last minute when the concert was rained out, she said.

Sirovich died just before he was set to start a new job a doctor in Boston, living between Staten Island and New Jersey with Kelly in the meantime, her mother said, adding the couple planned to get married next year.

“It’s a horrible end to a beautiful romance,” she said.

Prince Andrew appalled by reports of Jeffrey Epsteins alleged crimes

6 0 19 Aug 2019

LONDON — Britain’s Prince Andrew is once again trying to distance himself from disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

“The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement emailed to NBC News on Monday, referring to the prince by his royal title. “His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behavior is abhorrent.”

The vehement denial that Prince Andrew, 59, had participated in or had any knowledge of Epstein’s alleged offenses came after Britain’s Mail on Sunday published footage that allegedly showed him inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in 2010. NBC News was not able to independently confirm that the video actually showed the prince or that it was shot in 2010.

Epstein, 66, who died by suicide while in his Manhattan jail cell earlier this month, was accused of exploiting a “vast network” of underage victims for sex.

In 2008, Epstein reached a non-prosecution deal with then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta’s office to halt a federal sex abuse investigation involving more than 30 teenage girls. Epstein could have faced a possible life sentence. Instead, he pleaded guilty to state charges, spent 13 months in jail and paid settlements to victims.

In February a judge ruled that federal prosecutors, led by Acosta who went on to become President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor but stepped down in July, broke the law when they signed a plea agreement with Epstein without notifying his sex abuse victims.

Prince Andrew, one of Queen Elizabeth II’s four children, has previously faced accusations related to Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking ring.

Earlier this month, he had to fend off new allegations that arose when he was mentioned in court documents unsealed in relation to a 2015 defamation lawsuit against British socialite and longtime Epstein confidante Ghislaine Maxwell by one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

Evidence photo of Virginia Giuffre (now Roberts) with Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell, inside Prince Andrew’s London home

The documents, released a day before Epstein’s death, contained a deposition by Johanna Sjoberg — another woman who alleged she was forced by Maxwell to have sex with Epstein — who said that Andrew touched her breast while they sat on a couch in Epstein’s Manhattan apartment in 2001.

Sjoberg said in a deposition that she was a college student in 2001 when Maxwell approached her on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic College and offered her a job working the phones, the court documents say.

She said she did that job for one day, but the next time she returned to Epstein’s Florida home was led to a bathroom and pressured into performing a nude massage for him.

When asked about Sjoberg’s allegations about Prince Andrew, Buckingham Palace told NBC News at the time that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.”

Buckingham Palace has also previously emphatically denied all allegations stemming from the 2015 court case, including Giuffre saying that she was directed to have sex with Andrew.

Britain’s Channel 4 News reported on Friday that the Metropolitan Police began a review of “available evidence” in 2015 after receiving a complaint over claims in court papers that a girl was “forced to have sex with Prince Andrew.”

London police confirmed to NBC News on Sunday that they received an allegation of “non-recent trafficking for sexual exploitation.”

“The Metropolitan Police Service reviewed the available evidence and the decision was made that this would not progress to a full investigation. As such, the matter was closed,” a spokesperson for Metropolitan Police said.

Prince Andrew and his mother Queen Elizabeth II is seen being driven from a church service in Crathie, Scotland, on Aug. 11 — the day new allegations came out in connection with the Epstein scandal.Duncan McGlynn / Getty Images file

The allegations leveled against Epstein caused a stir outside of the U.S. because of a number of high-profile international personalities who had ties to the disgraced financier.

In the unsealed court documents, Giuffre, now 36, said that she was directed to provide sexual services for a number powerful American and foreign men — including a “foreign president,” “a well-known prime minister” and a “large hotel chain owner.”

None of the men identified by Giuffre has been charged with a crime.

Epstein was arrested July 6 on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors said he sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his homes in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. Epstein was also accused of paying his victims to recruit others, allowing him to build a vast network of girls to exploit.

He pleaded not guilty and was being held without bail before his death.

Shell workers would have lost pay if they missed Trump speech at plant

8 0 18 Aug 2019

Thousands of union workers at a western Pennsylvania petrochemical plant were given a choice last week — show up for President Donald Trump’s speech on Wednesday or stay home and lose some of their weekly pay.

One of the construction site’s contractors wrote in rules for the speech ahead of the event that employees’ attendance was “not mandatory,” though it said only those who arrived at 7 a.m. with their work IDs scanned and stood for hours to wait for the president would be paid for their time.

“NO SCAN, NO PAY,” those rules, which were handed out to employees prior to the speech, read. That memo was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which noted that those who opted against attending Trump’s address would have an excused, unpaid absence and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday. The publication reported workers were told “anything viewed as resistance” to Trump was prohibited. The speech was arranged to foster “good will” with building trade unions, The Post-Gazette added.

Ray Fisher, a spokesman for Shell, told NBC News in an email that workers who opted to stay away from the speech would still be paid for the week, but less than those who scanned in and were on site Wednesday.

The day “was treated as a training (work) day with a guest speaker who happened to be the president,” Fisher said, adding the company does “these several times a year with various speakers.”

Fisher said a morning session ahead of the speech, which focused on “safety training and other work-related activities” began at 7 a.m. and lasted for three hours.

Set to focus on energy policy, Trump’s speech at the new multi-billion dollar Royal Dutch Shell facility in Beaver County, which will convert natural gas into plastic, often veered into other subjects. Trump claimed the presidency was “costing me a fortune” he estimated to be between $3 and $5 billion. Trump said he was “going to speak to some of your union leaders to say, ‘I hope you’re going to support Trump.’ Okay?”

“And if they don’t, vote them the hell out of office because they’re not doing their job,” he added. “It’s true. It’s true. Vote them out of office.”

The warehouse Trump spoke in was packed with workers in yellow and orange vests who had been bussed in from part of the massive construction site. Two workers, who declined to speak on the record, told NBC News they were missing their lunch break to attend and had packed snacks in their pockets because they weren’t allowed to bring in food.

Several workers said a lot of people didn’t show up because they don’t like Trump, particularly the strong union supporters. One worker said he didn’t really want to come, but thought it would look bad to miss a day of work and wanted to get his full pay.

The event went past 3 p.m., when many of the workers’ regular shift ended — causing workers to worry they wouldn’t get paid for the extra time they spent holding in the warehouse.

Dozens of workers tried to leave early, before Trump had even finished as 3 p.m. approached, but they were told Secret Service wouldn’t let them out of the warehouse until Trump had left the property. After his speech ended, Trump took a tour of the construction site.

Once Trump had finished speaking the workers were still being held and were letting out boos and angry shouts because they weren’t being let out. At 3:30 p.m., a plant employee tried to calm the crowd and let them know they would be getting paid for the time they were still there.

The site employs at least 5,000 people and is one of the largest in America. There are at least two dozen construction cranes here rising out of the rolling hills — a feature Trump made note of in his address.

“Getting this massive job done right has required more than 1,500 pieces of heavy equipment; one of the largest cranes anywhere in the world — I look forward to seeing it,” Trump said. “I love cranes. I loves trucks of all types. Even when I was a little boy at four years old, my mother would say, ‘You love trucks.’ I do. I always loved trucks. I still do. Nothing changes. Sometimes, you know, you might become President but nothing changes. I still love trucks, especially when I look at the largest crane in the world. That’s very cool. Do you think I’ll get to operate it? I don’t know. We’ll put the media on it, and I’ll give them a little ride, right?”

The White House hopes the massive construction project will serve as a symbol of the Trump economy in a key swing state. When complete, the facility will employ about 500 workers manufacturing plastic pellets made from ethane, a byproduct of fracking, that can be used in products like food packaging and auto parts.

The White House and Shell did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News.