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U.S. immigration officers’ union opposes Trump pick to lead key agency

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U.S. immigration officers' union opposes Trump pick to lead key agency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A union representing U.S. immigration and customs agents urged the Senate on Tuesday to block confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the immigration enforcement agency, citing past racially tinged and controversial comments.

FILE PHOTO: Acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) Ronald Vitiello at ICE headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, which represents more than 7,000 agents, endorsed Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But it opposes the Republican president’s nomination of Ronald Vitiello to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

A letter from union President Chris Crane to the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, seen by Reuters, said the nominee’s prior offensive tweets demonstrate he “lacks the judgment and professionalism to effectively lead a federal agency.”

Vincent Picard, an ICE spokesman, said on Tuesday that the Twitter posts by Vitiello were made from a private account while he was off duty, and that the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) had investigated the matter and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

“The National ICE Council’s focus on a couple of old tweets that have been investigated and addressed is a disservice to the men and women of ICE,” he said, adding that Vitiello has already made a positive impact on ICE during his brief tenure.

The Senate committee is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on whether to approve Vitiello’s nomination and send it to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Vitiello, a former top Customs and Border Protection official, was named as ICE’s acting director in the summer, shortly after Trump ended a contentious policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.

Vitiello could face some opposition from Democrats, particularly after he refused during his confirmation hearing on Nov. 15 to rule out reinstating the child separation policy.

“We will get less people bringing their children. So it is an option,” he said at the time.

Tuesday’s letter marked the first time the union has openly opposed the nomination of any presidential appointee, the union letter said. The union broke with its parent organization, the American Federation of Government Employees, when it endorsed Trump in 2016.

In the letter, Crane cited numerous concerns that ranged from allegations of whistleblower retaliation and lying to lawmakers during Vitiello’s confirmation process, to offensive tweets that Vitiello made while serving at Customs and Border Protection.

In one social media post, Vitiello suggested the Democratic Party should be renamed as “NeoKlanist,” a reference to the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group, and in another Vitiello compared then-candidate Trump to the troublemaking Dennis the Menace newspaper comic character. At the time he did this, Crane wrote, Vitiello’s Twitter account showed him wearing a Border Patrol uniform.

Crane wrote that such comments violate official codes of conduct at the Department of Homeland Security and could jeopardize criminal cases that go to trial because they could be used by the defense to impeach ICE’s credibility.

“This type of conduct would result in a rank and file ICE employee being disciplined, if not possibly removed from employment,” Crane wrote.

“We are not aware that Mr. Vitiello was ever disciplined for his actions and instead of being demoted or fired, if confirmed as ICE Director, he will be promoted to the highest position in one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies,” the union president wrote.

The nominee told lawmakers during the hearing that his tweet about the Democratic Party was a mistake.

“I was trying to make a joke,” Vitiello said at the time, adding that he thought he was sending it as a private direct message on Twitter rather than publicly on the social media platform, and that he deeply regretted it.

Whether the union’s opposition to Vitiello could move the needle enough to block him will largely turn on how Republicans respond. Republicans hold 53 Senate seats, and only a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber is needed to approve a nomination.

Republican Senator James Lankford, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a hallway interview Tuesday he has real concerns about Vitiello, but declined to elaborate ahead of the panel’s vote.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson told Reuters he plans to proceed with the vote, but that he understands the union’s concerns.

The White House did not have an immediate comment.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Phil Berlowitz

Politics

Huckabee lashes out at Trump critic Romney: ‘Makes me sick’ you could have been POTUS

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Huckabee lashes out at Trump critic Romney: ‘Makes me sick’ you could have been POTUS

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee lashed out at Sen. Mitt Romney after the Utah Republican said he was “sickened” by the level of dishonesty from President Trump’s administration in response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Know what makes me sick, Mitt? Not how disingenuous you were to take @realDonaldTrump $$ and then 4 yrs later jealously trash him & then love him again when you begged to be Sec of State, but makes me sick that you got GOP nomination and could have been @POTUS,” Huckabee tweeted Friday.

Earlier in the day, Romney tweeted that it was good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump with collusion or obstruction of justice. The former GOP 2012 presidential candidate then blasted Trump and his campaign for having contacts with Russians.

“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President,” Romney posted.

“I am appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement,” he wrote.

Mueller’s long-awaited report was released Thursday morning and contains nearly 900 redactions. It showed investigators found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. No conclusion was reached on whether Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction.

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Huckabee ran against Romney for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination and is the father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Romney and Trump’s contentious relationship has been well documented, with both men having exchanged congratulations and insults over the years.

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CNN wanted accusations against Trump to be true, White House spokesman says

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CNN wanted accusations against Trump to be true, White House spokesman says

White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley struck back at CNN host Anderson Cooper on Friday, a day after having a contentious interview with the journalist, saying he would not be lectured by a member of the mainstream media who has been “lying” about President Trump.

“First of all, I’m not going to take a lecture on truth-telling from anybody in the mainstream media who has been lying about this president for the last two years, telling the American people that Donald Trump committed treason which is a crime punishable by death as you well know,” Gidley told “Ingraham Angle” host Laura Ingraham.

ROMNEY SAYS MUELLER REPORT LEFT HIM ‘SICKENED AT THE EXTENT AND PERVASIVENESS OF DISHONESTY AND MISDIRECTION’

On Thursday, Cooper and Gidley went back and forth over the release of the long-awaited Mueller report.

The report showed investigators did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia but did lay out an array of actions taken by the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction inquiry.

At one point during the interview Cooper asked Gidley if the president lied.

“No, i’m not aware of him lying. He hasn’t lied to me,” Gidley responded.

“I feel bad that you’re scared to say that your boss lied,” Cooper later added.

Gidley accused CNN of wanting accusations of collusion between the president and Russia to be true.

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“The point is, for me to sit there with CNN and listen to them, who they wanted this to be true so badly. So many in the media did, and I understand why they don’t drop it,” Gidley said.

“Because if they did, they would be admitting the fact that the last two years of their life was a complete and total waste.”

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

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DOJ calls Nadler subpoena for full Mueller report ‘premature and unnecessary’

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Gingrich suggests Nadler’s push to further probe Mueller report is an attempt to save his job in the House

The Department of Justice responded Friday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s request for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full and unredacted report, dismissing the request as both “premature and unnecessary.”

DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement that Attorney General Bill Barr provided Mueller’s report on Thursday with only “minimal redactions” and, “in the interest of transparency,” the department had provided certain members of Congress, including Nadler, with a report that had “even fewer redactions.”

NADLER REQUESTS MUELLER TESTIFY BEFORE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ‘AS SOON AS POSSIBLE’

“In light of this, Congressman Nadler’s subpoena is premature and unnecessary. The Department will continue to work with Congress to accommodate its legitimate requests consistent with the law and long-recognized executive branch interests,” Kupec continued.

Nadler said in a statement early Friday that he subpoenaed the DOJ for the “full version” of the Mueller report and “underlying evidence,” requiring the department to comply by May 1.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice,” Nadler’s statement read. “The redactions appear to be significant. We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the special counsel developed to make this case.”

Prior to the release of the long-awaited report, Nadler also made a request that Mueller himself provide testimony “as soon as possible” before his committee to explain his findings in the nearly 400-page report.

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“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings.”

While there was no immediate response from Mueller, Barr said at a press conference prior to Nadler’s request that he would be open to providing testimony on the report.

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