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D.C. Memo: Supreme Court rules you can wear your dumb t-shirt to Minnesota polls

REUTERS/Erin Schaff
The Supreme Court struck down a Minnesota statute that barred people from wearing political paraphernalia to the polls.

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This week in Washington, President Trump returned from a warm meeting with Kim Jong Un after roasting Canada and Europe, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that has to do with Minnesota, and Republicans couldn’t get their act together on immigration.

This week in Washington

Greetings, and for once, I’m coming to you not from the nation’s capital, but the fair city Minneapolis, where I’m covering the heated 5th District DFL primary, which is now a thing. (More on that later. Also, hi, everyone!)

A big story breaking late this week: the New York state attorney general’s office is suing the president’s charity foundation, and it filed evidence of numerous instances of self-dealing and illegal cooperation with the Trump campaign. (There is a receipt of President Trump ordering $100,000 of the foundation’s money to be spent on resolving a legal matter over his south Florida club, Mar-a-Lago.) Keep watching this one.

You have already probably read a lot about the summit between POTUS and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but it’s big news, so here’s some stuff that added to my understanding of this “historic” event: the Washington Post’s James Hohmann has a nice column on Trump’s naivete in trusting Kim. HuffPost talked to arms control experts to get their take on the “comprehensive agreement.” The New York Times said “unscripted moments” at the summit ended up stealing the show. (POTUS did, bizarrely, salute a North Korean general.)

How It’s Playing: conservative pundit Erick Erickson argued Republicans would have clamored to impeach Barack Obama if he’d done what Trump did. Victor Cha, who was in the running to be U.S. ambassador to South Korea, writes in the NYT that Trump and Kim “walked us back from the brink of war.” WaPo’s conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin writes that Trump got fleeced by Kim in Singapore.

Worth noting: both sides are saying different things about what exactly was agreed to in Singapore, particularly regarding U.S. military exercises in the region.

Trump’s friendly meeting with Kim came directly on the heels of a woeful meeting of the G-7 countries — a group that includes ostensible U.S. allies like Canada, the U.K., and France — during which POTUS lashed out and generally behaved like he didn’t want to be there. (You may have seen this instantly iconic photo.)

When Canadian PM Justin Trudeau went on an extremely polite tirade to declare Canada would not be “pushed around” (eh!) by the new U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel — our northern neighbors import most of ours — Trump went nuclear, calling the young Canadian leader “weak” on Twitter.

The irony of Trump pouting through a conference with close allies, and then insulting them, before jetting off for a photo op with a brutal, totalitarian dictator may be the lasting flavor from this week’s foreign policy news. NYT’s The Daily podcast had a worthwhile episode exploring that. The Big Take, from the Associated Press: Trump is retreating the U.S. from its position of “moral leadership” in the world. Vox’s Zack Beauchamp argues that Trump is destroying America’s alliances and doing lasting damage to the U.S. and the world.

A big-picture look from the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker: Trump is increasingly going it alone, both at home and on the world stage.

Closer to home, most Republicans in D.C. don’t really seem to care that Trump is roasting Canada and Europe — resulting in counter-tariffs that will hit many, including Minnesota and coincidentally the newspaper business, very hard — and if they do care, they’re keeping it to themselves. Retiring Sen. Bob Corker, whose bill to give Congress a bigger check on the president’s tariff power got shelved this week by GOP leadership, loudly lamented that Republican senators have grown spineless, too afraid to “poke the bear.” (Politico reports that tension is running real hot among GOP senators over Trump.)

This week’s primaries provided another reason for Republicans to keep quiet: South Carolina conservative Rep. Mark Sanford, an occasional critic of the president, was defeated by a Trump loyalist in his primary. NYT had a good piece on this.

Some important movement on Capitol Hill this week: the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill out of committee, and on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis. The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is proving — at least with the Farm Bill, the twice-a-decade, $800 billion food and ag legislation — that it’s at least more deliberative than the House of Representatives. Last month, the House’s Farm Bill went down in flames after Republicans pushed broadly unpopular changes to the food stamp program.

The Senate is also set to pass the annual bill to fund the military and defense programs. Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar filed an amendment to the bill that would be a big boost to the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota. It would force completion of a land swap between the PolyMet and the federal government, which would give the mining company the land it needs to go forward with the project.

This is a big front in the ongoing political war over mining in northern Minnesota, which is fraught with political peril for Democrats, particularly Smith, who’s walking a fine line on the issue as she seeks voters’ approval to stay in the Senate. Her rival for the DFL nomination, George W. Bush lawyer-turned-firebreathing Trump hater Richard Painter, hammered the senator for the move. I wrote about the political dynamics here on Wednesday.

In the administration, the Department of Justice continued its aggressive crackdown on immigration, announcing it would no longer grant asylum to individuals fleeing gang violence and domestic abuse. This is a huge shift in federal policy, and it’s a key goal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’s on the outs with POTUS but appears to be sticking around to enact his wildest dreams on immigration policy.

This will block an avenue to U.S. residency for thousands and thousands of people, and return people, mostly women and children, to violent and dangerous environments. Immigrant advocates are incensed; Twin Cities immigration lawyer Kara Lynum had a series of tweets summing up objections to the policy. It’s worth a read.

Meanwhile, federal immigration officials at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency are continuing the policy of separating families at the border — in one reported instance, literally ripping an infant from her mother’s arms as she nursed her. Now responsible for the care of hundreds more children, the U.S. government is placing them in converted Wal-Marts, foster homes, and is looking into setting up “tent cities” along the border.

MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff got one of the first looks inside “Casa Padre,” a shelter in Texas that was once a Wal-Mart, and now houses some 1,500 boys separated from their parents. He has tweets and photos of the place here, which for some reason has murals of the president along with inspirational quotes in Spanish.

Federal officials are also targeting U.S. citizens and legal residents: WaPo reports that the Trump administration is going to remarkable lengths to find ways to strip naturalized Americans of their citizenship. In Los Angeles, ICE arrested a 62-year old man who is a permanent resident while he was tending his lawn.

In the courts: two notable decisions from the Supreme Court on voting. On Tuesday, the high court ruled that states could take measures to purge people from their voter rolls in the name of maintaining accurate files after people die, move, etc. Voting advocates are interpreting it as a way for Republican-run states to make it harder for people to vote. POTUS celebrated the decision on Twitter literally as a personal win. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon denounced the decision but it won’t affect Minnesota, which has same-day voter registration.

The Supreme Court also struck down a Minnesota statute that barred people from wearing political paraphernalia to the polls. Simon told reporters on Thursday that he’d work with the legislature to craft more “specific” legislation governing political apparel at the polls.

Primary Watch! The big news was Mark Sanford’s loss in South Carolina, but a Minnesotan found some success on Tuesday: Corey Stewart, a Duluth native who’s all about the Confederacy and Trump, won the Republican Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in Virginia. The Senate GOP is already shunning him and he’s a longshot to unseat incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine in increasingly blue Virginia. (“Major chance of winning,” Trump tweeted of Stewart.)

Finally, a feel-good story: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump reported making $82 million in the last year, through a mix of income through Trump family properties (including $4 million from the Trump Hotel in Washington) and the Kushner family’s very good and ethically-run residential properties. It’s nice to see hard work pay off!

This week’s essential reads

The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border has given rise to an almost unprecedented scenario: hundreds of young children scattered in shelters around the U.S., many with no way to contact their parents, who could be deported without them knowing it. The Boston Globe’s Liz Goodwin has a must-read report on the incredible magnitude of this policy’s consequences, and how Trump’s decision has shocked and overwhelmed families, the legal system, the U.S. government, and, most of all, the children:

US Border Patrol agents separated Wil from his father six months ago, after the pair made the long journey from violence-torn Honduras to the US border in Arizona, attempting to claim asylum there. Within days of arriving in the United States, Wil watched as his father was taken away in handcuffs, joining a long line of other chained men. That, according to his foster parents, was the last time he saw his dad.

In the intentionally brutal logic of President Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the US border, Wil is actually among the lucky kids. At least his foster parents know where his father is being held, though not when father and son might be reunited. Three other young children in the care of Coryn and Silas don’t know the location of their parents and have had no contact with them for weeks.

The Trump administration’s policy of splitting up families is creating a burgeoning population of dislocated and frightened children, held in makeshift detention centers near the border, including one in a former Walmart, or scattered in shelters and foster homes across the country. As the children and parents experience the fallout of forced separation by US authorities, advocates are struggling to get even basic information about the location and status of these detainees.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg once wrote a lengthy article seeking to explain Barack Obama’s foreign policy — an Obama Doctrine. A year-plus into the Trump presidency, and with the “historic” North Korea summit now in the books, he seeks to explain what, if anything, the Trump Doctrine is. Spoiler — the story is a lot shorter than his opus on Obama:

The best distillation of the Trump Doctrine I heard, though, came from a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking. I was talking to this person several weeks ago, and I said, by way of introduction, that I thought it might perhaps be too early to discern a definitive Trump Doctrine.

“No,” the official said. “There’s definitely a Trump Doctrine.” “What is it?” I asked. Here is the answer I received: “The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine.”

“We’re America, Bitch” is not only a characterologically accurate collective self-appraisal—the gangster fronting, the casual misogyny, the insupportable confidence—but it is also perfectly Rorschachian. To Trump’s followers, “We’re America, Bitch” could be understood as a middle finger directed at a cold and unfair world, one that no longer respects American power and privilege. To much of the world, however, and certainly to most practitioners of foreign and national-security policy, “We’re America, Bitch” would be understood as self-isolating, and self-sabotaging.

The Trump inner circle is well-known at this point — save, perhaps, one of its most important members: billionaire financier Tom Barrack, a longtime Trump pal sometimes described as POTUS’ best friend and the only person he views as a peer. The NYT’s David Kirkpatrick has a rich dive on Barrack, particularly his deep ties in the Middle East, and it’s a great example of how interests foreign and domestic are seeking to influence this unconventional administration.

During the Trump campaign, Mr. Barrack was a top fund-raiser and trusted gatekeeper who opened communications with the Emiratis and Saudis, recommended that the candidate bring on Paul Manafort as campaign manager — and then tried to arrange a secret meeting between Mr. Manafort and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Mr. Barrack was later named chairman of Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee.

Mr. Barrack has steered clear of any formal role in the administration; he has said he rebuffed offers to become treasury secretary or ambassador to Mexico. (He sought a role as a special envoy for Middle East economic development, but the idea never gained traction in the White House.)

Instead, he has continued making money, as he has for decades, working with the same Persian Gulf contacts he introduced two years ago to Mr. Trump. Mr. Barrack’s company, known as Colony NorthStar since a merger last year, has raised more than $7 billion in investments since Mr. Trump won the nomination, and 24 percent of that money has come from the Persian Gulf — all from either the U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia, according to an executive familiar with the figures.

The week in takes

Your weekend longread

Say you get a phone alert, suggests Gordon Sander in Politico Magazine, that an intercontinental nuclear missile is heading to your town. What do you do?

The reality is that for most Americans, who do not recall the duck-and-cover drills of the height of the Cold War, they’d have no idea what to do if the unthinkable happened. With the thought of nuclear conflict more pervasive than the U.S. than it’s been in some time, Sander checked in on a group of experts who are trying to get Americans — and the U.S. government — to prepare for doomsday.

Although they might be aware of Kim Jong Un’s threats to incinerate American cities or the latest line of Russia’s hypersonic nuclear weapons, most Americans—particularly younger ones who did not live through the most dangerous days of the Cold War—have no practical or conceptual idea of how to respond to the warning of an actual nuclear emergency. Witness the scenes of mass panic that took place in Hawaii last January after what, fortunately, turned out to be a false alert of an imminent North Korean attack.

Karl and Wellerstein, along with many other experts, lay much of the blame for this alarming nuclear unpreparedness among the general public on the federal government and its failure to communicate how to prepare for such an eventuality. “The government has given Americans no good sense of what, specifically, to do when the next nuclear crisis occurs,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

To be sure, this is not an easy task. The original version of civil defense (also known as Duck and Cover, after its famed guidance to schoolchildren to protect themselves from a nuclear attack by ducking under their school desks when they saw the tell-tale flash outside) is often remembered as silly and misleading—particularly the impression it gave about how easy it would be to survive a full-scale nuclear war. But Wellerstein and Karl feel that a lot about the original, oft-mocked program was constructive and worth resurrecting—particularly the fact that, at the very least, it did get Americans to think about the unthinkable.

What to look for next week

It looks like the House is going to have some kind of reckoning on immigration next week: GOP leadership is promising to put two pieces of legislation on the floor related to DACA and border security after a rebellion from centrist members, and electorally vulnerable Republicans, came close to forcing votes. That effort, the so-called discharge petition, fell short this week after failing to get the requisite signatures, though two-dozen some Republicans signed on, including Rep. Erik Paulsen. Seems like no one wanted to be the Republican to put it over the edge. Wonder why!

Anyway, Speaker Ryan has sensed that he has to do something, so now he’s going to do… something. It appears he will put to a vote a bill, endorsed by the White House and immigration hardliners, that would provide some path to legal status for Dreamers, but place caps on legal immigration and fund the Wall. The other bill is likely to be more moderate and more generous to the Dreamers.

The Wednesday edition of Politico’s Playbook is at its insidery best as it games out each faction’s dynamics and goals in this ongoing, messy process. House conservatives want a @realDonaldTrump tweet giving them cover to vote on an immigration bill, per Bloomberg.

Here in Minneapolis, CD5 Democrats will meet for a special surprise convention on Sunday to endorse a candidate in the special surprise primary to succeed Rep. Keith Ellison, who is now running for attorney general. (Check out my story from last week on the developing field.) I’ll be there covering, so look for updates from me on Twitter (@sambrodey) on the day of. I’ll also have a wrap-up story later on.

There’s buzz that state Rep. Ilhan Omar is a strong favorite to win the endorsement. But with the deadline to withdraw from the race behind us, the already-shaky tradition of “abiding by the endorsement” may get ignored because all candidates’ names are locked in to appear on the August 14 ballot. Former House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher is calling for a series of debates (there will be two on Friday) and already sought to cast doubt on the convention, noting that it’s taking place on Father’s Day.

On that note: that’s all from me for this week. A happy Father’s Day and World Cup kick-off weekend to all of you. If you see me around town, say hello. If not, email me: sbrodey@minnpost.com.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/17/2018 - 09:36 pm.

    Dumb is in the eye of the beholder

    Rainbow t-shirts and “Make America Great Again” t-shirts are now allowable (until the Legislature tries again to pass something constitutional). Just get out and vote.

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