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By Jonathan Allen
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Donald Trump landed here Thursday night with special counsel Robert Mueller looming over his shoulder back home and President Xi Jinping of China on his horizon.
The trick for him, as he celebrates the signing of a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada Friday and negotiates over his trade war with China Saturday, is to prevent his domestic troubles from damaging American foreign policy interests as the G-20 meets here.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the “dark cloud” of the Mueller probe could affect not only Trump’s “state of mind” and ability to deal with foreign leaders but his counterparts’ approach toward him.
“Certainly, they don’t see in front of them a strong leader with a unified country at his back,” Connolly said in a telephone interview with NBC News.
Already, there are signs that it is proving difficult for Trump to separate domestic politics from his agenda at this conference.
Shortly after he found out Wednesday morning that former ally Michael Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress to obscure his efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting here with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump, who announced the decision while aboard Air Force One, attributed the decision to Russia’s refusal to release captured Ukrainian sailors and ships. But Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, questioned the timing of the two events in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Thursday.
“He never criticized Vladimir Putin directly for attacking these Ukrainian sailors. Then the news about Michael Cohen drops and just a few minutes later, he decides to cancel the meeting,” McFaul said. “It’s very unusual that it would be canceled over Twitter, let alone unilaterally.”
But Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a close ally of Trump, said that the president won’t be affected by the latest turn in Mueller’s investigation of his ties to Russia.
“A long time ago, President Trump realized the awful truth of what he is facing with the Mueller probe, and he’s able to deal with that and the other responsibilities of being president at the same time,” Schlapp said.
Whatever the cause of his decision to scrap the long-discussed face-to-face with Putin, it’s clear Trump’s schedule here is quickly shrinking on other fronts as well. The White House announced Thursday that his scheduled meetings with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in would be reduced to informal pull-asides.
Trump’s schedule Friday currently calls for bilateral sessions with prime ministers Shinzo Abe of Japan, Angela Merkel of Germany and Mauricio Marci of Argentina, the USMCA trade pact signing and a meeting of the full set of G-20 countries.
Still, the big focus of the summit for Trump remains the same: His Saturday dinner date with Xi.
Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a former foreign policy adviser to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said Trump’s emphasis on tariffs is “playing into Xi’s hands” by “making the whole of the relationship” about that rather than China’s broader economic practices and its promotion of technology across the globe.
“What I have not seen from the president or this administration is a real China strategy,” Rosenberger said. “Because of that Xi and the Chinese government are running circles around us.”
Connolly noted that Trump’s past trips have often ended with allies rankled and adversaries emboldened. For example, Trump trashed a G-7 meeting, along with host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, from Air Force One as he left, while he declared victory after summits with Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.
“The only summits he seems to have left feeling good about were with foes,” Connolly said. With allies, “he’s just left wreckage in his wake — if he can avoid that, I’ll settle for that.”
The fear among Trump’s critics is that the latest developments in the Mueller probe — the focus of many of Trump’s recent tweets — will interfere with his ability to stay focused.
“It would take an impressive dexterity to be able to separate the Mueller probe hanging over the president’s head from the work that lies ahead domestically and across the globe,” said Scott Mulhauser, a Democratic strategist and former chief of staff at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. “So the likelihood that fears, concerns and anger about Mueller bleed into his exchanges with 19 other world leaders is high — and potentially perilous.”
Florida officials demand answers on DHS plan to send asylum-seekers to Democratic counties
By Dareh Gregorian
Florida officials are demanding answers about a Department of Homeland Security plan to send 1,000 “unlawful immigrants and asylum-seekers” a month to two heavily Democratic counties.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and a close ally of President Donald Trump, called the plan “not acceptable,” and said it might not be enacted.
“I’m going to be addressing this,” he told reporters on Friday.
“Nothing’s concrete,” DeSantis said. “This is not something that came down from the White House. This was something that came out of the agencies.”
An official with Customs and Border Protection, the DHS agency that local law-enforcement says told them the asylum seekers would be brought to the state within weeks, told reporters Friday there may have been some miscommunication, and no such move was imminent.
The agency acknowledged Friday it is looking at releasing immigrants in communities along the northern border and on the coast, where there is already a border patrol presence.
On Thursday, CBP had declined comment on the plan, referring questions to Homeland Security, which did not respond to questions from reporters — or area lawmakers.
In a letter to acting DHS boss Kevin McAleenan on Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he was told about the plan “to transport approximately 500 migrants per month from El Paso, Texas, to both Broward and Palm Beach Counties for release pending an asylum hearing” from local law-enforcement.
“Does the Department intend to transport migrants currently in custody at the southern border to states that do not share a border with Mexico?” Rubio asked, referring to the entrants as “unlawful immigrants and asylum-seekers.” “If so, why?”
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said they were informed of the basics of the plan this week by border patrol operations in Miami, but had not been able to get any specifics.
“The composition, according to what we were told, were supposed to be family units. We don’t know what that means. We don’t know if that means a 15 year old, a mother and a father, or a 5 year old and a mother, or just a father and a child,” he told reporters.
“What kind of health conditions do they have?” Bradshaw asked. “What are they going do when they get here?”
He said there appears to be no plan in place by the feds for what happens to the migrants after they’re processed at immigration facilities. He said CBP plans “to give them a notice to appear to come to a hearing at some later date, and then release them into the community. No accommodations for transportation leaving there, no accommodations for shelter or a place to live, just no real plan on what’s going to happen to these 500 people.”
He said charitable resources in the area are already stretched thin. “We have a homeless problem, we’re dealing with a Hepatitis A outbreak, we’re dealing with measles outbreaks,” Bradshaw said.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen said, “We will do everything possible to help these people,” but added, “this is irresponsible policy. To bring hundreds of people here every week without providing the necessary resources to house and feed them is inhumane.”
“If the president will not provide us with financial assistance to house and feed these people, he will be creating a homeless encampment,” Bogen said.
Rep. Ted Deutsch, D-Fla., said Congress has been kept in the dark.
“There’s a stunning amount of confusion surrounding the Administration’s outrageous immigration policy, even more today than usual,” he said. “I hesitate saying more about these reports because no one in the Administration seems to know what is happening.”
While Florida voted for Trump in 2016, the two counties that would be impacted by the plan are Democratic strongholds that overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. State voter data shows Broward County has 600,365 registered Democrats and 254,012 registered Republicans. Palm Beach County — home to Trump’s “Winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago — has 398,166 Democrats and 268,011 Republicans.
Last month, the president said he was “giving very strong consideration” to a plan to bus detained immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities as a way of retaliating against Democrats for blocking his efforts to change the country’s “very dangerous immigration laws.”
“We’ll bring them to sanctuary city areas and let that particular area take care of it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They say we have open arms, they’re always saying they have open arms, let’s see if they have open arms.”
Trump made the statement after it was reported that DHS had considered such a plan but rejected because it was “so illegal.”
Neither Broward nor Palm Beach counties are “sanctuary” areas that limit cooperation with immigration authorities, and a bill banning such areas in the state was approved by the state legislature earlier this month. DeSantis is expected to sign it.
The CBP official who spoke with reporters Friday said the agency is not considering whether or not the areas they’re sending migrants to are sanctuary cities — only whether they have the capacity to temporarily detain, process and release them.
DeSantis said a large influx of asylum-seekers in any part of the state would put a strain on state and local services, and that he would talk to Trump about the issue if necessary.
“This I would think would cause a lot of stress on our communities,” the governor said. “We have a lot of fish to fry with our own state and our own citizens.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., an outspoken Trump critic, said in a statement, “Voters won’t like this attempt to manufacture crises in our communities and drain already strained resources, nor will they forget it when they head to the polls next year. Building encampments on the grounds of his beloved Mar-a-Lago, however, is something they likely can get behind.”
Brexit LIVE: 'Stop Boris!' Remainers draw up plot to block no deal Brexit
SEVEN Tory Ministers including former Home Secretary Amber Rudd are ready to block Boris Johnson’s bid to take the UK out of the EU without a Brexit divorce deal if he becomes Conservative Party leader, in a move which could ignite civil war in the Conservative Party.
Hundreds of migrants detained in Texas to be flown to San Diego
By Phil Helsel
Hundreds of detainees from immigration agency facilities in Texas and elsewhere will be flown to San Diego for processing, it was reported Friday, as authorities struggle to handle an influx of migrants entering the country.
Three flights a week carrying about 130 people a flight would arrive in the San Diego area from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, Customs and Border Protection Interim Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said Friday, according to NBC San Diego
Those people would come from facilities overwhelmed by a high number of immigrants, including those who are claiming asylum, but officials in Southern California are not expecting any unaccompanied minors, the station reported.
The federal border protection agency is calling the surge in migrants fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — a region sometimes called the Northern Triangle — a humanitarian and border security crisis.
“We’re in the middle of a humanitarian crisis and the numbers in Texas are staggering so the BP is helping out in those sectors to more efficiently process these folks,” an unidentified CBP official said, referring to the Border Patrol, according to Reuters.
The announcement comes as two Department of Homeland Security officials said the DHS is laying the groundwork for a plan to transport recent border crossers by plane to cities around the country and release them after processing.
Florida officials expressed anger on Thursday after learning the Trump administration was planning to release hundreds of migrants each month in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Beyond South Florida, DHS is considering other areas around the country where immigrants can be released, the two officials told NBC News.
It was not immediately clear if the flights from Texas to San Diego were part of that DHS plan.
Also on Friday, Customs and Border Protection warned people against trying to cross the Rio Grande River into the United States, calling crossings with small children an “alarming trend” that has resulted in deaths.
The agency said in a statement that since Oct. 1, 2018, there have been 10 water-related deaths in the Del Rio Sector, which covers parts of the Texas border.
On May 1, three people drowned, including a 10-month-old boy and a 7-year-old boy, when a raft carrying nine people capsized, sending everyone aboard into the water, CBP said.
Border Patrol agents rescued a man who was trying to cross the river with a 3-month-old boy strapped to his chest Thursday, the CBP said. The baby suffered water in his lungs and nearly drowned, the agency said.
“It’s disturbing what is taking place on our borders and witnessed by our Border Patrol agents every day,” Del Rio Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Randy Davis said in the CBP statement.
“This trend is not without tragic consequences,” he said. “Border Patrol agents are rescuing people, but have also had the grim task of recovering deceased bodies including children as young as 10-months-old from the Rio Grande River.”
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