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Trump goes off on impeachment in early morning tweetstorm

66 0 22 May 2019

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May 22, 2019, 11:18 AM UTC

By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump went off on Twitter Wednesday morning about the chorus of Democratic calls to bring forth impeachment proceedings against him, claiming that Democrats want a “DO OVER” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Everything the Democrats are asking me for is based on an illegally started investigation that failed for them, especially when the Mueller Report came back with a NO COLLUSION finding,” Trump tweeted. “Now they say Impeach President Trump, even though he did nothin wrong, while they ‘fish!'”

“After two years of an expensive and comprehensive Witch Hunt, the Democrats don’t like the result and they want a DO OVER,” he added in another tweet. “In other words, the Witch Hunt continues!”

Congressional Democrats have ramped up calls for impeachment proceedings in light of the Trump administration defying a series of subpoenas for documents and testimony or insisting they will do so. The latest such incident involved former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who the White House instructed not to show up to a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not yet in favor of bringing forth such proceedings. Several Democrats pressed her Monday evening during a leadership meeting on Capitol Hill to move forth with an impeachment inquiry against Trump if McGahn did not show up.

“There’s a growing understanding that the impeachment process is inevitable — when, not if,” House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., told reporters.

Trump’s tweets also come after a federal judge ruled in favor of the House Oversight Committee’s bid to obtain his financial records from his accounting firm, and after Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., became the first Republican to say Mueller’s report showed Trump engaged in “impeachable” conduct.

Trump has at times claimed that the Mueller report exonerates him while at other times lamenting it as biased. In his 400-plus page report, Mueller wrote he was unable to establish a Trump-Russia conspiracy although his investigation “established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government.”

On obstruction, Mueller wrote that if his team “had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” he wrote, later saying that Trump’s “efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

Trump added another claim on Twitter Wednesday morning, saying: “Without the ILLEGAL Witch Hunt, my poll numbers, especially because of our historically ‘great’ economy, would be at 65%. Too bad!”

Oreo? Housing Secretary Ben Carson confuses real estate term for a cookie

75 0 22 May 2019

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May 21, 2019, 8:40 PM UTC / Updated May 21, 2019, 8:46 PM UTC

By Dartunorro Clark

An REO is not “milk’s favorite cookie.”

But Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson thought the foreclosure-related real estate acronym, which means “real estate owned,” was the cream-filled chocolate cookie when grilled by Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., on Tuesday during a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

REO is property that’s been turned over to a lender — whether that’s the bank or a government agency — after a foreclosure process is complete.

Porter wanted to know about the high rate of foreclosures on homes insured by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), which Carson’s agency oversees.

“Do you know what an REO is?” Porter asked.

“Oreo?” a perplexed Carson answered.

“REO,” Porter repeated. “No, not an Oreo. An R-E-O.”

“Real estate?” Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, guessed. Then Porter to asked him what the “O” meant.

“The organization,” he replied.

Porter, who previously worked as a mortgage-settlement official in California, then explained the term to him.

“That’s what happens when a property goes to foreclosure,” she said. “We call it an REO. And FHA loans have much higher REOs — that means they go to foreclosure rather than loss-mitigation or to non-foreclosure alternatives such as short sales — than comparable loans at the GSEs (government-sponsored enterprises).”

Porter then needled Carson in a tweet after the hearing.

“I asked @SecretaryCarson about REOs — a basic term related to foreclosure — at a hearing today. He thought I was referring to a chocolate sandwich cookie. No, really,” she wrote.

Carson took the flub in jest and tweeted a picture of a pack of Oreos and a note to send to Porter.

“OH, REO! Thanks, @RepKatiePorter. Enjoying a few post-hearing snacks. Sending some your way!” he tweeted.

The official Oreo Twitter account jokingly responded to the moment with its own acronym for REO, which drew swift blowback from other users who called it insensitive.

Carson also had a moment of confusion during the hearing when Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, asked him if he was familiar with OMWI, the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.

Carson asked, “With who?”

“OMWI,” Beatty repeated.

“Amway?” Carson asked.

However, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., later interjected at the hearing and noted that OMWI is not part of HUD — it’s part of the Treasury Department.

“I just want to point out the reason why you wouldn’t recognize the term OMWI in HUD is that HUD doesn’t have OMWI,” Zeldin said to Carson.

Nadler subpoenas former Trump White House aides Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson

76 0 22 May 2019

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May 21, 2019, 8:18 PM UTC / Updated May 21, 2019, 8:34 PM UTC

By Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe

WASHINGTON — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., issued subpoenas on Tuesday to former White House communications director Hope Hicks and to Annie Donaldson, the former chief of staff to ex-White House counsel Don McGahn.

The subpoenas were issued for testimony and documents related to the panel’s investigation into obstruction of justice, corruption and other potential abuses of power by President Donald Trump and members of his administration, the committee said.

“The redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report documented alarming misconduct and obstruction of justice by President Trump. Donaldson and Hicks were critical witnesses to this behavior,” the committee said in a statement.

The subpoenas, which the committee had authorized last month, call on Hicks and Donaldson to produce requested documents early next month and for Hicks to testify June 19 and for Donaldson to appear for a deposition on June 24.

Nadler said last month, “We believe that these individuals may have received documents from the White House in preparation for their interviews with the special counsel. We also believe that these individuals may have turned this information over to their private attorneys.”

The subpoenas come the same day that McGahn failed to show up at a Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday morning at which Nadler subpoenaed him to testify. McGahn, however, defied the subpoena at the direction of the president and his administration.

With increased talk this week among Democrats about potentially opening an impeachment inquiry, a congressional source familiar told NBC News: “There is wide consensus among Judiciary Committee members that the committee should be doubling down on its efforts to ramp up pressure on the Trump Administration with additional subpoenas and contempt votes.”

Robert Smith paying Morehouse students debts is about more than just money. It gives them professional freedom.

80 0 21 May 2019

May 21, 2019, 8:46 PM UTC

By Michael Arceneaux

At Howard University a little over a decade ago, Oprah Winfrey was my commencement speaker; her speech has been rightly celebrated as one of the greatest commencement speeches ever. And in the minutes, hours, days and weeks that followed, I clung to the words “So have no fear. Have no fear. God has got your back.”

And then my private student loans soon not merely pushed me against the wall, but also swatted me to the ground; I’ve been trying to stand taller ever since. I have stumbled every single day since the gravity of my choice to fund my education in pursuit of dreams of a better life for myself and my family has become all the more apparent.

The weight of graduating with six-figure debt has impacted my life in ways I was unable to foresee; for the sake of succinctness, let’s say that it really, really sucks. That’s why, as much as I am envious of the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College — whose student loan debt will be paid off by their commencement speaker, billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert Smith — I am mostly just happy for them.

These students get to truly dream about the possibilities in a time when doing so is expensive. The costs that come with daring to pursue what will not just provide you with a living but a purpose are not expenses that those of us who come from the most vulnerable communities can afford for very long. Life can quickly shift from one consumed with potential to one filled with peril when it comes to loans.

As one Morehouse graduate, Brandon Manor, told the New York Times: “ Now all of a sudden, I can look at schools I might not have considered, because I am not applying with about $100,000 in undergraduate loans.”

Paying these students debts can have a real impact on the change they can be in the world. “This could be the start of what’s known in Econ as a ‘natural experiment,’” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Sunday, referring to Smith’s gracious act. “Follow these students & compare their life choices [with] their peers over the next 10-15 years.”

Notably, though, Smith’s act of generosity comes a time when the U.S. government is stepping up its efforts to collect on student loan debt even as it does nothing to combat its origins (and how those factors hurt Black college students and graduates the most).

Not only is tuition far higher across the board than it used to be, but as the Wall Street Journal reported last month, historically Black colleges and universities have been especially impacted by the student debt crisis. HBCUs have smaller endowments — partly because their graduates’ debts take precedent. Students who attend private institutions like Morehouse College, where tuition was $25,368 in the latest academic year, and other expenses (including room and board, books and fees) push the total cost of attendance to nearly twice of that, are more likely to take out loans than their non-private HBCU counterparts.

Still, no matter the school, Black students take on 85 percent more debt than their white counterparts and, by virtue of American racism, find themselves paid less than them after they leave college. This is all happening as Black college graduation rates have hit an all-time high.

So, while I want to believe God is there for us on some level, the divine intervention presently being so widely discussed is due to the charitable action of capitalism’s sole deity, the kindly billionaire, and not broadly replicable.

Some churches like Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, also recently made headlines for paying off the student loan debt of parishioners. And, of course, Oprah herself has given students $13 million in scholarships and put 400 men through Morehouse. Both are commendable, but there’s something frustrating about church folks and billionaires resolving, on a case-by-case basis, a systemic issue that has long proven to hurt Black people the most.

Mostly, though, students like me are told to work hard and hope. Morehouse students were, too, just one day before their debts were canceled, at their baccalaureate service on how to reckon with the presumed reality awaiting them.

Its speaker, E. Dewey Smith, a Morehouse alum who now serves as senior pastor at The House of Hope Atlanta and The House of Hope Macon, encouraged graduates to not worry over their job and housing prospects or, of course, the student loan payments with looming due dates. Smith himself was quite familiar with the financial troubles that college can cause students. “I was out of school for about a year when I was in college because I didn’t have the finances, so I knew how difficult the struggle was,” Smith explained in an interview with Macon, Georgia’s WGXA news.

Yet, Smith persevered, and in doing so, was able to stand before them with the message to trample their fears with faith, hope and hard work. But the enormity of student loan debt is not the same as it was when Smith graduated from Morehouse in 1993.

That’s not to say Smith or Oprah were wrong in their messaging. Hope is often all many of us have to lean on to overcome the obstacles circumstances largely beyond our control have created. Fear, no matter how valid, isn’t that useful of a tool in such an endeavor. I have tried to remain hopeful in the midst of my mess of a life.

The only presidential candidate, though, who has specifically addressed the plight of not just the student debt crisis, but how it impacts Black people specifically is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who in April announced a plan for universal free public college, the cancellation of student loan debt and $50 billion in funding solely to HBCUs.

If billionaires are feeling inspired by Robert Smith’s and would like to join him in his philanthropy, let the record state that — while I’m all too aware that much of this excess of funds can be directly traced to a lack of fair taxation (something for which Warren also has a plan) — I gleefully volunteer my balances. But even an elimination of my student loan debt wouldn’t blind me to the crisis at hand and the fact that it requires bold, decisive action from the government, not just billionaires. It shouldn’t blind anyone else either.

Far-right has a message before European Parliament elections: Were coming

60 0 21 May 2019

Salvini tells migrants “don’t come here because we will not school your children, we will not make them legal, we won’t offer them free health care,” Bardella said, claiming that stopping immigration was possible.

When asked about his party’s stance toward Islam, Bardella said the party only has policies regarding Islamic fundamentalism.

“Today you have French people who are killed in the streets, who are stabbed, who died on the terrace of a café,” he said, referring to a series of terrorist attacks that have killed dozens of French civilians and scarred the national psyche.

Bardella described Islamic fundamentalism as “an ideology that has declared war on us.”

‘Importing terrorism and civil war’

In neighboring Belgium, scarred by its own terror attacks, another well-dressed millennial argues that mass immigration is “destroying social cohesion in Western Europe.”

“We have our own problems. We have to stop importing problems from around the world and importing terrorism and civil war,” said Dries Van Langenhove, a top candidate for the far-right Flemish Interest party in the Belgian federal election that also takes place this week.

Dries Van Langenhove denies creating or spreading offensive material or encouraging violence. Eric de Mildt/ID / for NBC News

Van Langenhove — who has more than 33,000 followers on Instagram — spoke of tensions and violence among communities that include Turkish and Kurdish migrants, as well as Jewish people and Palestinians, but gave no concrete evidence to back up his claims.

Van Langenhove, 26, came to prominence as the founder and leader of Schild en Vrienden, a Flemish nationalist movement named after a historic battle cry.

He believes Flanders — the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium — should break away from the French-speaking Walloon region to form its own state.

The movement aims to bring an end to the “individualistic nihilistic society” in Flanders by encouraging the return of conservative “family values,” Van Langenhove told NBC News. It also stands for freedom of speech and against political correctness, he added.

Experts say Schild en Vrienden was partly inspired by the American alt-right.

“They are very well dressed, very polite and friendly, but at the same time they are activists against left-leaning groups. They also attack the media and the traditional public broadcaster as a left-leaning group,” said Peter Van Aelst, a political science professor at the University of Antwerp.

Last year, a documentary by the Belgian state broadcaster VRT accused members of Schild en Vrienden of spreading racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic memes in secret online groups. Its members were also accused of Nazi glorification and promoting a culture of violence by posing with weapons and encouraging their followers to learn to use guns.

Dries Van Langenhove mingles and poses for photos at an event in Antwerp.Eric de Mildt/ID / for NBC News

Bart Maddens, a professor of political science at the University of Leuven, said there were two points of view about Schild en Vrienden.

Some see the group as a “very extreme dangerous movement that are sort of preparing for civil war,” he said, while others believe it as “just typical of young people trying to provoke and to draw attention.”

When asked about the allegations made in the documentary, Van Langenhove said memes were often jokes and should not be taken literally. He also stressed the importance of freedom of expression.

He denied creating or spreading offensive material or encouraging violence. “I’m a member on Facebook of 4,400 groups,” he added. “I don’t know what has been posted in all of these groups and chats.”

Van Langenhove said he did not believe memes encouraged or were responsible for actions in real life. Instead, he said that any anti-Muslim slurs should be seen as a reaction to mass migration — even if they are unjustifiable.

“That’s a consequence of the conflict that arises due to multiculturalism, that is a consequence of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been abused and killed by Muslims around the world,” he said.

‘Make Europe Great Again’

Young far-right party members from across Europe rail against what they describe as the “unelected” European bureaucrats and technocrats who make decisions in Brussels. Instead they say they want to move toward a “Europe of nations” where national borders are reinstated and powers are returned, but countries can continue to cooperate on common issues.

At a recent meeting of young far-right party members from across the continent in Rome, delegates called on the overwhelmingly white, male crowd to “Make Europe Great Again” from within.

“We’re working for the Europe of tomorrow,” said Davide Quadri, a representative of the youth wing of Salvini’s anti-immigrant League party, which organized the event. “Before we destroy the home, we can try to change it.”

Bardella agrees with that approach. “We’re coming” is emblazoned upon his party’s paraphernalia.

“We have the opportunity to arrive in force in front of the European Commission and to upturn the table,” Bardella added, referring to the E.U.’s executive body.

If polls are accurate, enough far-right politicians could be elected this week to potentially work together to slow down the legislative process, according Marta Lorimer, a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science who has written about the far-right in Europe.

Getting the other euroskeptic parties onside would mean that it could be a struggle to pass laws in the coming years, she added. This in turn could fuel more euroskepticism and support for far-right parties, she said, making it “a vicious circle.”

“The long-term effect might be the dismantling of the European Union in the way we know it now,” Lorimer added.

Nancy Ing and Claudio Lavanga contributed.

More tornadoes hit Oklahoma as extreme weather continues to batter southern Plains

89 0 21 May 2019

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May 20, 2019, 1:01 PM UTC / Updated May 21, 2019, 11:16 AM UTC

By Elisha Fieldstadt and Tim Stelloh

Twisters and funnel clouds were spotted across Oklahoma on Monday. The latest round of severe weather came after a weekend full of tornadoes that tore roofs off houses and ripped power lines from the ground.

Following dire warnings from the National Weather Service (NWS), most of Oklahoma, northwest Texas and the eastern Texas Panhandle braced for intense, long-track tornadoes, hurricane-force winds and baseball-size hail.

The NWS pleaded for people to take cover after a large tornado was spotted near the city of Mangum, southwest of Oklahoma City, on Monday afternoon.

Glynadee Edwards, the Greer County emergency management director, told the Associated Press some homes suffered roof damage, the high school’s agriculture barn was destroyed but the livestock survived.

“The pigs are walking around wondering what happened to their house,” she said.

Twenty minutes later, the agency reported another twister had formed in the nearby town of Granite.

Video of the tornado near Mangum showed a massive twister spinning through rural areas and towering over homes.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. The state Department of Emergency Management said “numerous” power lines were down and a few homes and an apartment complex had been damaged.

The department said in a statement there were roughly 2,000 power outages across Oklahoma, with most of them in the eastern part of the state. Highways deluged by rain had been closed, the statement said, adding that flooding was expected to continue overnight.

In the northern part of the state, Mike Honigsberg, director of the emergency management agency in Garfield County, said he hadn’t seen any evidence of tornado damage, but 3.5 inches of rain on Monday had washed out roads around the county.

“We are encouraging folks not to travel into unfamiliar areas and do not drive around barricades,” he wrote. “We have had several water rescues and we’ve rescued folks who have driven into really bad areas.”

Possible hail and winds reaching 70 mph were expected as a squall moved across the state, he added.

In Peggs, Oklahoma, a community east of Tulsa, the fire department said that a storm Monday “caused widespread damage and has made most roads very hazardous,” with some being impassable. “Do not travel in Peggs if you don’t have to,” Peggs Fire-Rescue said in a statement.

A meteorologist with the NWS in Norman, Oklahoma, said earlier on Monday that the storm could be extremely dangerous.

“We’re underway with watches and warnings in what will be a non-stop 24 to 36 hour onslaught of severe storms, flooding and tornadoes,” said the meteorologist, Rick Smith. “Many of us will get multiple rounds of severe weather, and flooding will be disastrous for some.”

The National Weather Service said on its website late Monday that a swath from central Texas, across southeastern Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and southern Missouri were under tornado watches. Other parts of Oklahoma and Missouri were under flash flood warnings

As many as 67 tornadoes were reported from Friday to Sunday in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas and Nebraska.

The storms and extreme weather warnings fall on the sixth anniversary of the tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore in 2013, killing 24 people and injuring 212 others.

The storms also come just a few days before the eighth anniversary of the tornado that devastated the town of Joplin, Missouri, in 2011. The Joplin tornado, which killed 158 people and injured more than 1,000 others, is the deadliest since modern record keeping began in 1950 and is ranked seventh among the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, according to the NWS.

A great white shark is tracked in Long Island Sound for first time

69 0 21 May 2019

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May 21, 2019, 1:15 PM UTC

By Elisha Fieldstadt

The first great white shark ever tracked in the Long Island Sound may be on the southern coast of Long Island, marine scientists said Monday.

The nearly 10-foot-long shark — called Cabot — was detected by four pings Monday off the coast of Connecticut, near Greenwich, according to Ocearch, an ocean-research organization that has been tracking the shark since they tagged him in Nova Scotia in 2018.

“I heard sending a ping from the Long Island Sound had never been done before by a white shark … so naturally I had to visit and send one off. Hello Greenwich how are you today?!” said a tweet from the Ocearch-run Twitter account for Cabot.

“So cool to be tracking @WhiteSharkCabot in the Long Island Sound since as far as we know, it is unusual for white sharks to visit the area,” said a tweet from Ocearch.

Named for explorer John Cabot, the shark was tracked in South Carolina and North Carolina in April and made his way to the Delaware Bay last week.

With the news that he had entered the Long Island Sound, Ocearch’s online tracker overloaded as the public rushed to find out his whereabouts, the organization said.

By late Monday, an Ocearch spokesperson told NBC News that researchers were trying to figure out if Cabot was still on the north side of Long Island, near the Connecticut coast, or had made his way around to the south side of Long Island.

“New detections, we are trying to make sense of, show him on the south side of Long Island,” the spokesperson said. “This new information has us digging in deeper in an effort to understand exactly where Cabot is.”

House Judiciary holds empty chair hearing after Trump blocks McGahns testimony

82 0 21 May 2019

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May 21, 2019, 2:06 PM UTC / Updated May 21, 2019, 3:13 PM UTC

By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing as planned Tuesday — but the witness chair reserved for former White House counsel Don McGahn was empty after the Trump administration told him not to show.

In his opening remarks, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., excoriated President Donald Trump for blocking McGahn’s testimony and said Trump intimidated his former top aide to keep him from appearing before the panel.

“This conduct is not remotely acceptable,” the New York Democrat said.

“Mr. McGahn did not appear today because the president prevented it, just as the president has said that he would ‘fight all subpoenas’ issued by Congress as part of his broader efforts to cover up his misconduct,” he added.

“Our subpoenas are not optional,” Nadler continued. “Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena against him.”

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the committee’s ranking member, called the empty chair hearing “theater” and said calling McGahn to testify was not about obtaining information or informing legislation, but “embarrassing and harassing the president.”

“Democrats are trying to make something out of nothing,” Collins said. He added that “I’m glad to see we don’t have chicken on the dais,” referring to an incident where a Democratic congressman brought a bucket of fried chicken to show his displeasure with Attorney General William Barr for not appearing at another hearing earlier this month.

An attorney for McGahn, William Burck, confirmed in a letter to Nadler Monday that his client would not appear for his scheduled hearing, citing both the Justice Department’s legal opinion that McGahn cannot be compelled by subpoena to testify and Trump’s “unambiguously” clear directive that McGahn defy Congress.

“Under these circumstances, and also conscious of the duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client, Mr. McGahn must decline to appear at the hearing tomorrow,” Burck wrote.

Nadler subpoenaed McGahn in April for his testimony and documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — but last week, the White House directed McGahn not to comply with the document request, indicating it considers the documents privileged.

Nadler said McGahn could be held in contempt of Congress if he doesn’t appear.

“We have subpoenaed McGahn and we’re expecting him to show up on the 21st, and if he doesn’t, he will be subject to contempt,” Nadler told reporters last week.

The Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said Tuesday the courts will have to decide on McGahn’s testimony and Trump’s claims of executive privilege. “If I were the president, I would not voluntarily participate in what I think is sort of a political witch hunt,” Graham said. “And this is a political exercise here.”

Several Democrats on the Judiciary Committee pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Monday evening during a leadership meeting on Capitol Hill to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against Trump if McGahn failed to appear at the planned hearing, reviving a debate that has divided the caucus. Pelosi and other members of the Democratic leadership have urged caution, even as calls to begin proceedings seem to growing among rank-and-file members.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters Tuesday outside of a closed-door caucus meeting: “Let’s just keep grinding it out. We’ll win it. There’s no need to do anything that might turn out to be stupid.”

Heading into the same meeting, however, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said, “There’s a growing understanding that the impeachment polices is inevitable — not when, if.”

The redacted version of the Mueller report released last month detailed how McGahn received at least two phone calls from Trump in which the president “directed him to call” then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to have Mueller “removed.” The president has since denied that he ordered McGahn to have Mueller fired.

Alex Moe contributed.

Blazers start hot, again. Warriors come back, again, win in OT to eliminate Portland

82 0 21 May 2019

In 1967, Richie Guerin retired. The former Knicks star had been the St. Louis Hawks’ player-coach a few years, and he shifted fully into coaching. He even won Coach of the Year that season. As the Hawks moved to Atlanta the next year, he occasionally returned to the lineup, but played sparingly while focused on coaching. He played even less the following season, scoring just seven points in eight games.

But when the Hawks were facing injuries, inexperience and a 3-0 deficit to the Lakers 1970 Western Division finals, a 37-year-old Guerin stepped up on the court. He scored 31 points in Game 4, though Los Angeles completed the sweep.

Afterward, Hawks publicity director Tom McCollister called in the game’s stats to the league office:

”Guerin played 35 minutes,” reported McCollister, quietly, ”made 12 of 17 field goal attempts, 7 for 7 free throws, had 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 personal fouls. Thirty-one points.” Pause. ”They are burying him tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.”

That was a rare time someone with a lower scoring average than Meyers Leonard scored 30 points in a playoff game.

Leonard – who averaged 5.9 points per game in the regular season – scored 30 points in the Trail Blazers’ Game 4 loss to the Warriors last night. He scored 25 in the first half!

This was the same Leonard who was in and out of the rotation all season, who had a DNP-CD in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, who had a previous career high of 24 points. That came in 2015, preceding a much-maligned four-year, $41 million contract.

But when Portland needed a more-mobile defender at center, Leonard started. He played well in Game 3, scoring 16 points and dishing four assists. That wad already an unexpectedly good night for him.

Yet, Leonard upped the ante yesterday. For a while, he was going shot-for-shot with Stephen Curry. Though he couldn’t keep up with Curry (37 points), Leonard went 12-of-16, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers.

Here are the players to score 30 points in a playoff game with the lowest regular-season scoring averages:

image

The only other player besides Guerin to drop 30 in a playoff game after scoring so little in the regular season was Daniel Gibson. Boobie averaged 4.6 points per game his rookie year then scored 31 points on 5-of-5 3-point shooting in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pistons, helping send the Cavs to their first NBA Finals.

“If I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up,” Gibson said. “This was perfect, to win it for Cleveland.”

The most recent player to crack the leaderboard was CJ McCollum, who averaged 6.8 points per game in 2014-15 then scored 33 in a season-ending Game 5 loss to the Grizzlies in the first round. McCollum won Most Improved Player the next year and has remained a near-star ever since.

Could Leonard make a similar jump for the Trail Blazers? Don’t count on it. McCollum was in only his second season. Leonard, who just finished his seventh season, has been in the league even longer than McCollum now.

But appreciate Leonard’s scoring binge for what it was – one heck of an outlier.

Thousands of immigrants suffer in solitary confinement in U.S. detention centers

75 0 21 May 2019

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May 21, 2019, 4:01 AM UTC

By Hannah Rappleye, Andrew W. Lehren, Spencer Woodman and Vanessa Swales

Dulce Rivera lived for the one hour a day she was allowed to walk outside on a patch of concrete surrounded by metal fencing.

The 36-year-old transgender woman from Central America was locked in solitary confinement at a New Mexico detention center that housed immigrants in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For 23 hours a day, she remained alone in a cell, with no one to talk to and nothing to distract from her increasingly dark thoughts.

“You never know what day it is, what time it is,” said Rivera, who has struggled with mental illness. “Sometimes you never see the sun.”

Rivera was placed in isolation because of allegations, later determined to be unfounded, that she had kissed and touched other detainees, records show.

Nearly four weeks into her stint in solitary, she lost her will to live. She fashioned a noose from a torn blanket and hanged herself from the cell’s ceiling vent — only to be saved by a passing guard.

Rivera was rushed to a hospital. Upon her return to the detention center, she was labeled a suicide threat and placed back in solitary, under even more restrictions.

Dulce Rivera, a 36 year old transgender woman from Central America, was released from immigration detention in April 2019. She spent about eleven months in segregation, also known as solitary confinement. “You have no hope,” she said.Hannah Rappleye / NBC News

Rivera’s case is not unique.

Thousands of others were outlined in a trove of government documents that shed new light on the widespread use of solitary confinement for immigrant detainees in ICE custody under both the Obama and Trump administrations.

The newly obtained documents paint a disturbing portrait of a system where detainees are sometimes forced into extended periods of isolation for reasons that have nothing to do with violating any rules.

Disabled immigrants in need of a wheelchair or cane. Those who identify as gay. Those who report abuse from guards or other detainees.

Only half of the cases involved punishment for rule violations. The other half were unrelated to disciplinary concerns — they involve the mentally ill, the disabled or others who were sent to solitary largely for what ICE described as safety reasons.

A Guatemalan man spent two months in solitary confinement at a county jail in Maryland. The reason: he had a prosthetic leg.

A mentally ill Ukrainian man was put in isolation for 15 days at a detention facility in Arizona. His offense: putting half a green pepper in one of his socks.

In nearly a third of the cases, segregated detainees were determined by ICE to have a mental illness, a population especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation.

“We have created and continue to support a system that involves widespread abuse of human beings,” said Ellen Gallagher, a policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Gallagher, who is speaking publicly for the first time, has spent the past five years trying to sound the alarm within the federal government about the rampant use of solitary confinement on vulnerable people in ICE custody.

“People were being brutalized,” she said

The data, along with a review of thousands of pages of documents, including detention records and court filings, and interviews with dozens of current and former detainees from across the globe — India to Egypt to Nicaragua — offers an expansive look at how the practice of solitary confinement has been used in the nation’s civil immigration detention system.

The bulk of the records, which document solitary cases between March 2012 and March 2017, were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared through a partnership with NBC News and five other news organizations.

A guard escorts an immigrant detainee from his segregation cell back to general population at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California on Nov. 15, 2013.John Moore / Getty Images file

ICE’s own directives say that placing detainees in solitary — or “segregated housing,” as the agency calls it — is “a serious step that requires careful consideration of alternatives.” Vulnerable detainees, such as the mentally ill, should only be placed in segregation as a last resort, according to ICE policy.

But the documents raise questions about whether ICE is following its own guidelines. Gallagher, for her part, is convinced that it is not.

“Solitary confinement was being used as the first resort, not the last resort,” she said.

The data documents 8,488 cases of immigrant detainees placed in isolation over the five-year period. But those figures represent only a portion of all the instances of solitary confinement in ICE’s vast network of detention centers.

According to ICE, the agency tracks cases only when detainees have a “special vulnerability,” such as the mentally ill, or were put in solitary for more than 14 days.

One out of every 200 detainees spend time in isolation for at least two weeks, according to ICE data. In a statement to NBC News, an agency spokesperson defended its use of the practice.

ICE “is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody,” the spokesperson said. “The use of restrictive housing in ICE detention facilities is exceedingly rare, but at times necessary, to ensure the safety of staff and individuals in a facility. ICE’s policy governing the use of special management units protects detainees, staff, contractors, and volunteers from harm by segregating certain detainees from the general population for both administrative and disciplinary reasons.”

The spokesperson added that ICE uses such practices to ensure that detainees “reside in safe, secure and humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement.”

“Can you please help me?”

As the name suggests, solitary confinement separates individuals from the general population, housing them alone in a cell where their movements and privileges are highly restricted.

In isolation, they are typically locked down for at least 22 hours a day, with limited access to recreation or contact with other human beings. Depending on the restrictions, individuals in solitary can be limited or outright denied access to phone calls, visitation, books, or personal items, such as photographs of loved ones.

The experience, according to those who have lived it, can be harrowing. Some current and former detainees told NBC News that their time in isolation drove them to attempt suicide or commit other acts of self-harm. The detainees described a wide array of suffering, including night terrors, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, insomnia — psychological trauma that lasted long after their release from custody.

“After that first or second week, I lost my mind,” Ayo Oyakhire, a 52-year-old Nigerian, said of his nearly seven weeks in isolation at the ICE unit in Atlanta’s jail. “Sometimes I feel like someone is choking me. I have flashbacks, like I’m still confined in that little room.”

“I am not normal,” said Karandeep Singh, a 29-year-old Sikh from northern India who was moved to solitary confinement in the El Paso Processing Center in Texas, after he refused meals to protest his impending deportation.

Singh said that after more than two weeks in isolation, he bashed his head into his cell wall in an attempt to kill himself. “It was mental torture,” Singh said.

Several states have enacted restrictions on the practice, or banned it outright for certain populations, including juveniles and the mentally ill. Texas recently banned “punitive” solitary as punishment for breaking the rules. In Colorado, state inmates cannot be held in solitary confinement for longer than 15 days. President Barack Obama banned the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.

Experts say even short stays in isolation can cause severe, and long-lasting, psychological and physical damage. The United Nations special rapporteur on torture has said that solitary confinement can amount to “torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” and that isolation for more than 15 days should be banned, except in exceptional circumstances.

The number of immigrants in custody has reached historic levels, with a daily average of 50,000 immigrants in more than 200 detention centers across the country, including county jails and facilities operated by private prison providers. Those in ICE custody are not facing criminal charges, and their detention is not intended to be punitive. They are in custody for civil immigration violations such as overstaying their visas or being in the country illegally. Some are awaiting deportation or court dates. Some are asylum seekers.

Similar to a criminal setting, officers in ICE facilities must sometimes manage detainees who are dangerous, or who fight or otherwise misbehave, or who are at risk of harm to themselves or others if left in general population or not kept under close observation. Some detainees, such as the elderly or disabled, may require special medical care that facilities, such as county jails, are not equipped to handle.

But NBC News found that immigrant detainees are also put in solitary for minor offenses, such as consensual kissing, or for offenses that stem from mental illness, such as acts of self-harm.

Joselin Mendez, a transgender woman from Nicaragua, was twice sent to solitary for minor disciplinary infractions, including an instance when she argued with an officer. Mendez said he refused to speak Spanish to her, and she cannot speak English.

“I felt afraid and anxious, and I would tremble and sweat and I would ask, ‘Why is this happening?'” Mendez said of her time in solitary.

Joselin Mendez, who received asylum in 2018, was put into solitary confinement twice for minor disciplinary infractions while detained in ICE custody. “I felt afraid and anxious,” she said. “I would tremble and sweat and I would ask, ‘Why? What is happening?'”Hannah Rappleye / NBC News

Hunger strikers, LGBT detainees, and people with disabilities have been put in isolation — referred to as “protective custody” in these cases — sometimes because they requested it, but sometimes not.

Kelly, a 22-year-old transgender woman from Central America whose last name NBC News is withholding at her request, spent four months in protective custody at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in northern Louisiana, beginning in late 2017.

“The only thing told me was that it was because of the way I looked,” she said in a phone interview from the privately-run Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico. “They claimed it was for security reasons….I told them from day one that I didn’t want to be locked up almost 24 hours a day, alone in a cell, without medical attention.”

“Every time I closed my eyes, when I was trying to sleep, I began to have nightmares, horrible memories, things that I didn’t want to remember,” added Kelly. “It’s still happening to me.”

The Cibola Detention Center in Milan, New Mexico.Hannah Rappleye / NBC News

Detainees with mental illness put in isolation include more than 50 instances of self-harm. In at least 373 instances, those in solitary were on suicide watch, a highly-restrictive form of solitary.

A suicidal Iraqi man was placed in solitary at a Michigan detention center after he cut himself with a razor. He was ordered to spend 30 days in isolation – not for his own safety – but as punishment for a “weapons offense and self mutilation.”

More than 60 disabled detainees were placed in isolation solely because they required a wheelchair or some other aid.

A Pakistani man who needed a hard cast to heal his injured hand was put in isolation for eight days. His jailers said the cast posed a “security risk.”

ICE took alternating views of that risk when justifying the decision to put him in solitary. At one point, it noted that the cast “poses potential danger” and “has potential to be used as a blunt object during altercation.” But it also noted that his damaged hand and sling “could also hinder his ability to defend himself in general population.”

Ilyas Muradi, a 30-year-old longtime U.S. resident from Afghanistan, has spent most of the last four months in solitary at ICE’s South Texas Detention Complex. He said he was accused of entering a shower without authorization, and threatening a guard.

Muradi denied that he threatened a guard, but acknowledged having gotten into multiple fights with other detainees last year. He said he believes guards are now punishing him simply because they don’t like him — and is frustrated because he doesn’t know what he can do to be released from solitary. His attorney in early May sent a letter to ICE pleading for his client’s release from isolation.

In one way, Muradi is among the lucky ones.

Detainees had lawyers in only 11 percent of the solitary reports. Even for those, in more than 270 instances, ICE did not notify the attorneys that their clients were placed in solitary. This includes six times when detainees were in isolation for more than half a year.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” an anguished Muradi told reporters in a phone call from the detention facility.

At the end of another call, he broke into sobs, asking “Can you please help me?”

‘People were being brutalized’

In February 2014, Gallagher, the DHS employee, came across ICE logs detailing the placement of detainees in solitary confinement. She said she couldn’t believe her eyes at first: the agency was using the punishing conditions of isolation on civil detainees routinely, and often with little apparent justification.

Her alarm grew as she reviewed cases of the mentally-ill placed in isolation for reasons that included attempting suicide, being the victim of a physical attack or exhibiting behavior related to their mental illness.

“I came to believe that many of the fact patterns featured in the segregation reports and in the other documents that I reviewed fell within the description of what had been deemed torture,” said Gallagher, who was at the time a policy adviser for DHS’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties office.

In one of the cases, a detainee jumped from the top of his bunk bed onto a cement floor in an attempt to harm himself. He then attempted to strangle himself with a towel. He was sentenced to 15 days in solitary. In another, a detainee was sentenced to 45 days in solitary after officials discovered one anti-anxiety pill hidden in a book he was reading.

One of the most troubling cases was that of a man who had so deteriorated during a year in and out of solitary, that he had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Once he returned to the detention center, she said, he threw his own feces at a guard and was subsequently sentenced to more than 13 months in isolation.

Men sit in the sun at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, California, on May 26, 2010.Gregory Bull / AP file

Over several months, Gallagher tracked individual cases and gathered reams of documentation. She began to lose sleep, plagued by a series of questions: “How can this be happening? What can I do to bring this to someone’s attention?”

Now convinced that ICE was violating its own rules and endangering the lives of detainees, she embarked on a years-long effort to reform the agency’s practices.

In a succession of memos first circulated internally at DHS and then sent to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel — an independent agency where federal employees can file complaints of wrongdoing they think have been ignored — Gallagher alleged that abuses of solitary confinement at ICE had become “urgent and at times life-threatening.”

In one memo, Gallagher describes seeing records of ICE detainees moving “chronically back and forth from the general population to administrative or disciplinary segregation, with periodic, crisis-oriented admissions to psychiatric hospitals punctuating their return to the same disturbing cycle.”

ICE’s internal guidelines explicitly require detention officials to document what alternatives to isolation were considered in certain cases. Gallagher often found no evidence that ICE had done so.

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said that its Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties had examined ICE’s use of isolation through complaint investigations, working groups and other advice and feedback. The office has worked with ICE “to improve policy and reduce unnecessary use of segregated housing for ICE detainees,” the spokesperson said. The office said that, in 2016, it collaborated with ICE to implement Obama-era recommendations issued by the Justice Department on improving solitary confinement.

DHS’s inspector general in recent audits has raised concerns about “improper and overly restrictive” isolation, “multiple violations” of ICE policy leading to needless solitary confinements, and record keeping so sloppy that mentally ill detainees may be subjected to extended stays in isolation that would pose a threat to their health.

Gallagher’s memos prompted two top lawmakers from different sides of the aisle — Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. — to write a previously-unreported letter in 2015 outlining concerns over ICE’s use of solitary confinement.

“Recent information obtained by the (Senate Judiciary Committee) suggests that ICE continues to place many detainees with mental health concerns in administrative or disciplinary segregation — also known as solitary confinement — contrary to agency directives that limit the use of segregation for the mentally ill,” read the letter to Jeh Johnson, who was President Obama’s homeland security secretary.

Ellen Gallagher, a former policy advisor at the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said that records she reviewed indicated that ICE was using solitary confinement “as the first resort, not the last resort.”Hannah Rappleye / NBC News

Believing she has exhausted her options for sounding the alarm within the government, Gallagher agreed to share her story with NBC News. Without public action, “this same set of circumstances will not stop,” Gallagher said. “And I think it will actually get worse.”

“I tend to think that staying silent does not honor the pain of the people who have been treated in this inhumane way,” she added. “If I were to stay silent given what I know, that I would in effect be giving up on the people that are stuck in those cells.”

‘He wanted to die’

At least 13 detainees who later died in ICE detention have spent time in solitary, according to records dating back to 2011.

An NBC News analysis of ICE death reports shows that the agency acknowledged missteps for at least eight of them. Seven of those detainees died in their isolation cells, including six who committed suicide. The seventh wasn’t given his anti-seizure medication.

Clemente Ntangola Mponda, a 27-year-old man from Mozambique, was put in solitary at the Houston Contract Detention Facility in Texas for more than half of 2012. “Mponda told mental health staff he was tired of being in segregation and that he wanted to die,” according to an ICE detainee death report.

Mponda continued to be held in isolation, though the justification would remain murky, ICE later determined. For three months, prison officials violated rules by not providing justifications or details for why he continued to be held in solitary. In August 2013, he was back in isolation for more than two weeks because of a fight. Prison staff didn’t notice he grabbed extra medication pills. Although he had previously talked about killing himself, officials did not check on him. With no one watching, Mponda killed himself by swallowing the pills.

Moises Tino‐Lopez, 23, from Guatemala, died in 2016 in an isolation cell in the Hall County Department of Corrections, in central Nebraska. ICE would later determine that “no justification was documented for charging Tino with disciplinary violations and placing him in” solitary. Once in isolation, the facility did not ensure he got needed anti-seizure medication. He then died from a seizure.

‘A long time behind those walls’

Even before she landed in solitary at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico last June, Dulce Rivera’s life was marked by tumult.

She said her mother abandoned her when she was 10 years old, leaving her homeless. Rivera spent her early teens on the streets of violence-ravaged cities in Honduras and elsewhere, battling drug addiction and mental illness. She arrived in the U.S. at age 16 and was granted permanent residency in 2000.

The transgender woman was placed in ICE custody in 2017 after a criminal conviction in California for second-degree robbery violated her residency in the U.S.

Her suicide bid came in June. After she was transported back from the hospital, Rivera was outfitted with a heavy green smock that couldn’t be fashioned into a noose. She was still locked alone for nearly all day in conditions that further ate away at her fragile mental state. “They take off all your clothes, and they put you in a cell that is more terrible,” Rivera said.

CoreCivic, which runs the Cibola facility, said that it is contractually required to follow ICE’s detention standards. “We’re committed, as we have been for three decades, to creating a safe environment for the individuals ICE entrusts to our care,” CoreCivic spokesperson Amanda Gilchrist said, “and to following all federal guidelines on the appropriate accommodation of transgender detainees.”

Rivera was abruptly released from ICE custody last April after her lawyer filed a legal action challenging her detention. No country would accept Rivera, who had no birth certificate or identifying information from any nation, and ICE couldn’t hold her indefinitely.

By then, Rivera had been moved to the El Paso Processing Center in Texas. In all, she spent roughly 11 months in solitary confinement at the two facilities, records show.

“They just tell me, ‘Miss Rivera, we gotta let you go,'” she said of that day of her release. “And I just start crying. It has been such a long time behind those walls.”

Rivera is now living at her sponsor’s home, a modest one-story house a few minutes drive from New Mexico’s Organ Mountains. Her bedroom is a far cry from the isolation cells she lived in for nearly a year. The desert sunlight filters through her window and spills over the soft comforter on her bed.

Most of the time, Rivera can barely contain her sunny, upbeat personality. As she settles into her new life, she’s been spending time with a network of supporters, including a close circle of transgender friends.

But a small part of her, she said, remains broken. Nightmares still plague her.

In one, she sees an officer looming over her in the dark.

“You think you’re still living there,” Rivera said.

This story was produced by NBC News as part of a collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a nonprofit organization based in Washington. The partnership includes five other news organizations: Univision and The Intercept in the United States; Grupo SIN of Dominican Republic, Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción in Mexico and Plaza Publica in Guatemala.

Maryam Saleh, Gabe Gutierrez, Emily R. Siegel and Didi Martinez contributed.