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Trump Admin Fights Bill Punishing Turkey for Its Russian Deal

Trump Admin Fights Bill Punishing Turkey for Its Russian DealIn a detailed memo to senators, the Trump administration is fighting a bill that would punish Turkey for buying Russian missiles, arguing it would drive the countries closer together. Of note, Team Trump opposes a provision in the bill that would help Syrian Kurdish refugees immigrate to the United States. The case is laid out in a seven-page document obtained by The Daily Beast. The memo was sent by the State Department to Capitol Hill ahead of the Senate mark-up of a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) titled “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act.” That legislation, which passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee despite Team Trump’s opposition, would sanction Turkey for buying Russian surface-to-air missiles and would bar the U.S. from selling Turkey F-16 or F-35 fighter jets, including parts, until the country has fully abandoned the S-400 missile defense system it purchased from Russia. Aykan Erdemir of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argued that the administration’s opposition to the bill is useful for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.“This would definitely encourage Erdogan to continue his transgressions,” Erdemir said. Are Impeachment Hearings Focused on the Wrong Country?The bill to punish Turkey comes in the wake of a sanctions package that passed after Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. The “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA) mandated sanctions on countries that make major new purchases of Russian weapons. But despite the fact that Turkey’s deal with Russia fits the bill, the administration hasn’t imposed sanctions—enraging members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Aaron Stein of the Foreign Policy Research Institute said the document sheds new light on the Trump administration’s opposition to the Hill’s sanctions. “It’s in far more detail than we’ve ever gotten,” Stein said. “They are legitimate criticisms of the bill, but the bill is probably going to happen because Donald Trump won’t take the deal. The art of the deal, the master of the deal is an effing moron. The thing to do is impose CAATSA and make this go away. It’s just that simple.” In the seven-page description of the Trump administration’s views—published below—the administration detailed a host of problems with the legislation. The administration argued that the legislation would “effectively terminate U.S.-Turkey defense trade,” which would increase Turkey’s reliance on Russia or “other adversary arms providers” for weapons. The bill would also “treat Turkey as a pariah in NATO, feeding a narrative that the Russian Federation would likely seek to amplify and exploit.” A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. government wants to keep the NATO relationship strong.“NATO is stronger with Turkey as a member, and has been for nearly 70 years,” the spokesperson said. “Turkey has been a significant contributor to NATO collective security for decades. One of Russia’s key strategic goals is to drive a wedge between NATO members; we are working to maintain strong cooperation within the Alliance. We remain deeply concerned with Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system, and stress the S-400 and F-35 cannot coexist. We will continue to urge Turkey to ensure its defense investments adhere to the commitment all Allies made to pursue NATO interoperability.”The document also said the administration “opposes” a provision of the bill that would help Kurdish allies come to the U.S. as refugees more quickly. “The President has been clear on this Administration’s approach to refugees as reflected in the National Security Strategy of the United States,” the document says. The State Department document also raises concerns about a provision of the bill that would give Kurds access to Special Immigrant Visas—normally used to authorize travel to the U.S. for Iraqi and Afghan translators who faced retaliation because they helped American soldiers. According to the letter, the nine-month processing time for those visas is too short “to accommodate vital national security screening.” Kurdish fighters under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces—which Turkey considers a terrorist group—fought side-by-side with U.S. special operations forces against ISIS in Syria and helped retake vast swaths of the country from the jihadist caliphate, including its former capital in Raqqa. But in October, Turkish forces invaded SDF-held territory in northern Syria after Trump pulled U.S. troops away from that part of the country. Human rights groups alleged that Turkish troops and allied Syrian militias committed war crimes against Kurdish civilians, leaving lawmakers furious. The Senate bill also includes sanctions against Halkbank, a Turkish bank accused of participating in a multi-billion-dollar sanctions-evasion operation on behalf of the Iranian government. Though the Trump administration already has the authority to level sanctions against Halkbank, it hasn’t done so—perplexing many observers of Trump’s Iran policy. The Justice Department, however, has charged Halkbank with helping Iran illegally access billions of dollars. And the chief of the DOJ’s National Security Division, John Demers, called it “one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen.” In just about every other instance, the Trump administration has taken an aggressive approach to enforcing Iran sanctions and targeting Tehran. The administration even declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be a terrorist group earlier this year, which fed into acute tensions simmering in the Gulf. So the administration’s reticence on Halkbank is striking. Inside Trump’s Brewing Turkey Scandal, Starring Rudy GiulianiThe president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has done legal work for Reza Zarrab, a gold trader who pleaded guilty to participating in the sanctions-dodging scheme that allegedly involved Halkbank. Giuliani worked hard to keep Zarrab from having to make that plea; he reportedly pushed the Trump administration to send Zarrab back to Turkey as part of a prisoner swap. The bid failed, and Zarrab’s testimony about the sanctions-evasion scheme proved valuable to prosecutors.The Trump administration’s comments to Congress only gave boilerplate language opposing Congressional sanctions on the controversial bank. “[T]he sanctions on Halkbank are unnecessary because the Department of Treasury already possesses the authority to designate Halkbank, if appropriate,” the document said. “Purporting to require the President to impose sanctions on Halkbank, constrains the President’s authority to conduct foreign relations.” Erdemir, who helms the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ program on Turkey, said the administration’s opposition to mandated sanctions on Halkbank sends a message that would please Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “This is not just Erdogan and this one bank,” he said. “Overall, this would undermine U.S. sanctions because other entities and other governments would say, ‘OK, if Erdogan and Turkey and Halkbank can enjoy some level of impunity, maybe we can too.’” Overall, the document reflects the administration’s accommodative attitude toward Turkey. “They bet on Trump,” Stein said of the Erdogan government. “Their bet is paying off in the short term.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Trump Admin Fights Bill Punishing Turkey for Its Russian Deal

Trump Admin Fights Bill Punishing Turkey for Its Russian DealIn a detailed memo to senators, the Trump administration is fighting a bill that would punish Turkey for buying Russian missiles, arguing it would drive the countries closer together. Of note, Team Trump opposes a provision in the bill that would help Syrian Kurdish refugees immigrate to the United States. The case is laid out in a seven-page document obtained by The Daily Beast. The memo was sent by the State Department to Capitol Hill ahead of the Senate mark-up of a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) titled “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act.” That legislation, which passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee despite Team Trump’s opposition, would sanction Turkey for buying Russian surface-to-air missiles and would bar the U.S. from selling Turkey F-16 or F-35 fighter jets, including parts, until the country has fully abandoned the S-400 missile defense system it purchased from Russia. Aykan Erdemir of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argued that the administration’s opposition to the bill is useful for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.“This would definitely encourage Erdogan to continue his transgressions,” Erdemir said. Are Impeachment Hearings Focused on the Wrong Country?The bill to punish Turkey comes in the wake of a sanctions package that passed after Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. The “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA) mandated sanctions on countries that make major new purchases of Russian weapons. But despite the fact that Turkey’s deal with Russia fits the bill, the administration hasn’t imposed sanctions—enraging members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Aaron Stein of the Foreign Policy Research Institute said the document sheds new light on the Trump administration’s opposition to the Hill’s sanctions. “It’s in far more detail than we’ve ever gotten,” Stein said. “They are legitimate criticisms of the bill, but the bill is probably going to happen because Donald Trump won’t take the deal. The art of the deal, the master of the deal is an effing moron. The thing to do is impose CAATSA and make this go away. It’s just that simple.” In the seven-page description of the Trump administration’s views—published below—the administration detailed a host of problems with the legislation. The administration argued that the legislation would “effectively terminate U.S.-Turkey defense trade,” which would increase Turkey’s reliance on Russia or “other adversary arms providers” for weapons. The bill would also “treat Turkey as a pariah in NATO, feeding a narrative that the Russian Federation would likely seek to amplify and exploit.” A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. government wants to keep the NATO relationship strong.“NATO is stronger with Turkey as a member, and has been for nearly 70 years,” the spokesperson said. “Turkey has been a significant contributor to NATO collective security for decades. One of Russia’s key strategic goals is to drive a wedge between NATO members; we are working to maintain strong cooperation within the Alliance. We remain deeply concerned with Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system, and stress the S-400 and F-35 cannot coexist. We will continue to urge Turkey to ensure its defense investments adhere to the commitment all Allies made to pursue NATO interoperability.”The document also said the administration “opposes” a provision of the bill that would help Kurdish allies come to the U.S. as refugees more quickly. “The President has been clear on this Administration’s approach to refugees as reflected in the National Security Strategy of the United States,” the document says. The State Department document also raises concerns about a provision of the bill that would give Kurds access to Special Immigrant Visas—normally used to authorize travel to the U.S. for Iraqi and Afghan translators who faced retaliation because they helped American soldiers. According to the letter, the nine-month processing time for those visas is too short “to accommodate vital national security screening.” Kurdish fighters under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces—which Turkey considers a terrorist group—fought side-by-side with U.S. special operations forces against ISIS in Syria and helped retake vast swaths of the country from the jihadist caliphate, including its former capital in Raqqa. But in October, Turkish forces invaded SDF-held territory in northern Syria after Trump pulled U.S. troops away from that part of the country. Human rights groups alleged that Turkish troops and allied Syrian militias committed war crimes against Kurdish civilians, leaving lawmakers furious. The Senate bill also includes sanctions against Halkbank, a Turkish bank accused of participating in a multi-billion-dollar sanctions-evasion operation on behalf of the Iranian government. Though the Trump administration already has the authority to level sanctions against Halkbank, it hasn’t done so—perplexing many observers of Trump’s Iran policy. The Justice Department, however, has charged Halkbank with helping Iran illegally access billions of dollars. And the chief of the DOJ’s National Security Division, John Demers, called it “one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen.” In just about every other instance, the Trump administration has taken an aggressive approach to enforcing Iran sanctions and targeting Tehran. The administration even declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be a terrorist group earlier this year, which fed into acute tensions simmering in the Gulf. So the administration’s reticence on Halkbank is striking. Inside Trump’s Brewing Turkey Scandal, Starring Rudy GiulianiThe president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has done legal work for Reza Zarrab, a gold trader who pleaded guilty to participating in the sanctions-dodging scheme that allegedly involved Halkbank. Giuliani worked hard to keep Zarrab from having to make that plea; he reportedly pushed the Trump administration to send Zarrab back to Turkey as part of a prisoner swap. The bid failed, and Zarrab’s testimony about the sanctions-evasion scheme proved valuable to prosecutors.The Trump administration’s comments to Congress only gave boilerplate language opposing Congressional sanctions on the controversial bank. “[T]he sanctions on Halkbank are unnecessary because the Department of Treasury already possesses the authority to designate Halkbank, if appropriate,” the document said. “Purporting to require the President to impose sanctions on Halkbank, constrains the President’s authority to conduct foreign relations.” Erdemir, who helms the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ program on Turkey, said the administration’s opposition to mandated sanctions on Halkbank sends a message that would please Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “This is not just Erdogan and this one bank,” he said. “Overall, this would undermine U.S. sanctions because other entities and other governments would say, ‘OK, if Erdogan and Turkey and Halkbank can enjoy some level of impunity, maybe we can too.’” Overall, the document reflects the administration’s accommodative attitude toward Turkey. “They bet on Trump,” Stein said of the Erdogan government. “Their bet is paying off in the short term.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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New Jersey Governor Signs Bill Allowing Illegal Immigrants to Get Driver’s Licenses

New Jersey Governor Signs Bill Allowing Illegal Immigrants to Get Driver’s LicensesNew Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Thursday signed a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.The bill will allow those living in New Jersey who are unable to prove they are legal residents to obtain permits, “standard” driver's licenses, and "Real ID" cards. The measure was passed by the state legislature this week."Expanding access to driver's licenses is critical for the safety of New Jerseyans and a step toward building a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all," the governor said in a statement. “Allowing residents the opportunity to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status will decrease the number of uninsured drivers and increase safety on our roads."The new type of license for undocumented residents will be available by January, 2021 at the latest. The documentation required to obtain the licenses is yet to be determined, but applicants will have to prove their identity, age, and residency in New Jersey. Applicants will not be allowed to obtain a commercial driver’s license or drive school buses.The bill also mandates that New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission must provide translators for applicants who do not speak English.MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton said granting driver's license to undocumented immigrants will also help prevent the "break-up of families."“Those who pass our driver testing and meet our strict identity requirements will be able to drive to work, school, doctor’s appointments, and other activities, without risking the break-up of their families," she said.The bill makes New Jersey the 14th state to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. New York's law granting the licenses went into effect this week after a legal challenge fell flat.



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Trump's impeachment trial in Senate likely to be more partisan than Bill Clinton's was in 1999

Trump's impeachment trial in Senate likely to be more partisan than Bill Clinton's was in 1999A generation has passed, but in politics, it seems like a lifetime. The days of bipartisan agreements have been replaced by polarization and animosity.



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Trump poised to sign massive government spending bill: White House

Trump poised to sign massive government spending bill: White HousePresident Donald Trump supports massive U.S. government spending plans hammered out by Congress this week and plans to sign the $ 1.4 trillion budget bill into law, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Tuesday. “He’s very happy with what he’s learned the final contents are expected to be in the spending bill, and he’s pleased to sign it,” Conway told reporters at the White House. The Republican president’s signature would avert a partial shutdown of the federal government when funds run out on Saturday and avoid a messy, year-end budget battle with U.S. lawmakers that would interrupt government services.



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State Department: Bill noting Armenian genocide isn't policy

State Department: Bill noting Armenian genocide isn't policyThe State Department said Tuesday that recent congressional action to recognize the Armenian genocide does not reflect Trump administration policy. In a short statement likely to please Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the department said the administration’s position on the matter is unchanged. The Senate voted unanimously last week to recognize the mass killings of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as a genocide.



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What happened when US presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton faced impeachment, and how it compares to today

What happened when US presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton faced impeachment, and how it compares to todayPresidents Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 were both impeached, while Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in 1974.



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GOP Rep. pitches LGBTQ rights bill with religious exemptions

GOP Rep. pitches LGBTQ rights bill with religious exemptionsAs Democrats champion anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community and Republicans counter with worries about safeguarding religious freedom, one congressional Republican is offering a proposal on Friday that aims to achieve both goals. The bill that Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart plans to unveil would shield LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other public services — while also carving out exemptions for religious organizations to act based on beliefs that may exclude those of different sexual orientations or gender identities. Stewart’s bill counts support from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but it has yet to win a backer among House Democrats who unanimously supported a more expansive LGBTQ rights measure in May.



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Cory Booker to Introduce Bill Banning Race-Based Hair Discrimination

Cory Booker to Introduce Bill Banning Race-Based Hair DiscriminationDemocratic presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker will introduce a bill on Thursday prohibiting race-based hair discriminationThe Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act will target discrimination against natural or protective hairstyles frequently associated with a particular race, including specific hair textures and styles such as such as braids, twists or locs.“Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people,” the New Jersey Democrat said in a statement. “Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for black people across the country.""No one should be harassed, punished, or fired for the beautiful hairstyles that are true to themselves and their cultural heritage,” Booker added.Rep. Cedric Richmond (D., La.) plans to introduce a similar bill in the House, joined by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), Marcia Fudge (D., Ohio), and Barbara Lee (D., Calif.).This year, California and New York passed legislation prohibiting race-based hair discrimination, and around a dozen other states are reportedly considering doing so.The hair discrimination issue has made several headlines in recent months. Booker took a particular interest in the issue after a high school wrestler from New Jersey, Andrew Johnson, was forced last year to cut his dreadlocks to comply with hair length regulations or face forfeiting a wrestling match. The referee subsequently faced accusations of racism.Another incident involving allegations of racism turned out to be false. A sixth-grade girl claimed three white boys at her school physically attacked her, called her "ugly," and cut off some of her dreadlocks. Later, however, she admitted that she had lied and made up the story.Booker is currently battling sagging poll numbers with only 2 percent support according to the Real Clear Politics average of national polls.



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Republican who 'wanted to destroy' Bill Clinton during 1998 impeachment has regrets

Republican who 'wanted to destroy' Bill Clinton during 1998 impeachment has regretsHe led the effort to impeach Bill Clinton. Years later, he sought Clinton out to apologize.



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