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By Kate Snow
Two years ago, when Donald Trump was running for president, he proudly declared that he employed no undocumented immigrants in the construction of his grand Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
That doesn’t appear to be true for some of his other properties.
When Victorina Morales went to work in 2013 as a housekeeper at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, “I told them that I don’t have papers, I don’t speak English and that I was an immigrant,” she said Thursday in an interview.
“They said, ‘No, it doesn’t matter,'” she said.
Morales, 45, left Guatemala and illegally crossed the U.S. border in 1999, according to The New York Times, which she and a second woman who used to work at the golf club, Sandra Diaz, approached to tell their story in an article published earlier Thursday.
Morales, who still works at the golf club, said she knows she could be fired or deported for having come forward, according to The Times, which said she has applied for asylum.
Diaz, 46, is from Costa Rica and worked at the golf club from 2010 to 2013, according to The Times. She is now a legal resident of the United States.
They told The Times that at least two supervisors were aware of their immigration statuses and took steps to help workers evade detection.
“There are many people without papers,” Diaz told the newspaper.
The Trump Organization LLC, the primary holding company for the president’s hundreds of businesses, referred NBC News to the White House, which didn’t directly address the Times report. It said in a statement:
“We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices. If any employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”
NBC News reported in 2016 that Trump Tower in New York, the 58-story crown jewel of Trump’s real estate empire, was built using the labor of undocumented Polish immigrants almost 40 decades ago.
Trump said during the 2016 campaign that he hadn’t known about the workers’ legal statuses, and he made illegal immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, promising to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to keep undocumented immigrants out and to carry out mass deportations of those already in the country.
Morales actually liked working for Trump, she told NBC News. But she found his rhetoric about people like her distressing.
“When I saw how he talked about us when he started his presidency, I felt humiliated,” she said.
Alex Johnson contributed.
Give me your doctors, your researchers, your top graduate masses yearning to breathe free
By Adam Edelman
President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed a sweeping “pro-American,” merit-based legal immigration system to replace the current family-based system with one that prioritizes the entrance of highly-skilled migrants like doctors and researchers.
“Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker. It’s common sense,” Trump said during a speech in the White House Rose Garden
“It will help all people, including millions of devoted immigrants, achieve the American Dream,” he continued, adding that his proposal would create a “fair, modern and lawful system of immigration” and was superior to Democratic proposals.
Trump’s plan, some details of which were made public on Wednesday by senior administration officials, avoids hot-button issues like the growing backlog of asylum-seekers and the status of so-called Dreamers and is almost certainly dead on arrival in Congress.
The proposal would create a merit-based immigration system — a change from the family-based immigration system currently in place. It would also put new requirements on immigrants seeking to enter the U.S. In addition to mandated checks like a health screening and background check, entrants would be required to learn English and pass a civics test — measures he said would reinforce American values.
“Through these steps, we will an immigration system that respects and even strengthens our culture, our traditions and our values,” he said.
And putting in place measures to only allow high-qualified people to enter will help build a skilled workforce while not threatening Americans with blue-collar jobs.
“Under the senseless rules of the current system, we’re not able to give preference to a doctor, a researcher, a student who graduated number one in his class from the finest colleges in the world,” Trump said, adding that, as a result, “the annual Green Card flow is mostly low wage and low skilled.”
“Newcomers compete for jobs against the most vulnerable Americans, and put pressure on our social safety net and generous welfare programs,” he said.
“We discriminate against genius. We discriminate against brilliance, Trump said. “We won’t anymore.”
Under the plan, which was crafted by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, White House adviser Stephen Miller and economic adviser Kevin Hassett, the number of immigrants entering the country would neither increase nor decrease, but the composition would change. The plan also includes measures to beef up border security.
Currently, based on White House estimates, about 12 percent of people obtaining green cards and citizenship do so based on “employment and skill,” while 66 percent enter based on family connections and 22 percent enter for humanitarian reasons and through the diversity lottery. Under the Trump plan, those numbers would change to 57 percent for employment and skill, 33 percent for family connections and 10 percent for everything else.
On border security, Trump called for scanning improvements at ports of entry, wall completion in 33 designated and prioritized areas, the creation of a fee-based “sustainable fund” to continue to modernize border infrastructure, and modifications to streamline the process for those seeking asylum in the U.S., including expedited adjudication of asylum hearings.
Trump said the merit-based system proposal is centered around what would be called the “Build America” visa. It would recognize three categories: extraordinary talent; professional and specialized vocations; and exceptional students.
His speech marked somewhat of a departure from Trump’s characteristically caustic rhetoric on immigration, with the president instead employing loftier phrases to describe immigrants — as well as existing Americans.
“We share the same home, we share the same destiny and we pledge allegiance to the same great American flag,” he said.
Trump, nevertheless, couldn’t avoid doling out a few blows at Democrats, whom he said are “proposing open borders, lower wages and, frankly, lawless chaos.”
Pelosi blasts White House letter rejecting Congress’ demands: ‘A joke’
By Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted the White House on Thursday for asserting that it would not comply with a range of requests from the House Judiciary Committee, arguing that Congress needs certain information to perform its oversight duties and guide any moves toward impeachment.
“The letter that came from the White House yesterday was completely outrageous,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference, referring to the letter White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent Wednesday to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
She added: “That letter that came from the White House was a joke, beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States, in defiance of our Constitution. Shame on them.”
Nadler on Thursday evening sent a letter back to Cipollone in which his staff said he detailed the subpoena process and “outlines the legislative purpose of the Committee’s investigation and addresses the Trump Administration’s efforts to stonewall Congress across the board.” He also outlined the requests that have gone unanswered from the administration.
Pelosi was responding to a question from NBC News’ Kasie Hunt, who asked for her reaction to Nadler telling reporters Thursday morning that President Donald Trump’s “posture now is making it impossible to rule out impeachment or anything else.”
Pelosi also pushed backed on the argument Cipollone outline in his letter — that Congress can’t ask any questions of the administration unless it has a legislative purpose.
“One of the purposes that the Constitution spells out for investigation is impeachment,” Pelosi said. “And you can say — and the courts would respect it if you said — we need this information to carry out our oversight responsibilities and among them is impeachment. It doesn’t mean you’re on an impeachment path, but it means if you had the information, you might.”
The speaker was pressed about the use of “inherent contempt” in which Congress would fine or jail Trump administration officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas.
“That is a path,” she said, but declined to say whether she supports that option.
In his letter, Cipollone called on Nadler to “discontinue” his committee’s probes into the president, arguing that they are embarking on a “duplicative investigation” by “issuing subpoenas to replow the same ground the special counsel has already covered.”
Last week, the Judiciary panel voted to recommend to the House that it should hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with Nadler’s subpoena for the full unredacted Mueller report and its underlying documents. Pelosi has suggested that she would combine a floor vote to hold Barr in contempt with other possible contempt citations involving Trump officials.
Flynn told Mueller people tied to Trump and Congress tried to obstruct probe
By Tom Winter, Adiel Kaplan and Rich Schapiro
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people linked to the Trump administration and Congress reached out to him in an effort to interfere in the Russia probe, according to newly-unredacted court papers filed Thursday.
The court filing from special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to mark the first public acknowledgement that a person connected to Capitol Hill was suspected of engaging in an attempt to impede the investigation into Russian election interference.
“The defendant informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could’ve affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation,” the court papers say.
Flynn even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication, the court papers say.
Prosecutors did not identify any of the people who reached out to Flynn, but said the special counsel’s office was in some instances “unaware of the outreach until being alerted to it by the defendant.”
No other details were provided in the filing, but the Mueller report noted that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer left a voicemail message for Flynn in late November 2017 that addressed the possibility of him cooperating with the government.
“[I]t wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal with … the government,” the attorney said in the voicemail message, according to Mueller.
[I]f… there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue [so] … we need some kind of heads up. Just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can …. [R]emember what we’ve always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains.”
In a separate court filing, Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered federal prosecutors to file a transcript of the voicemail message, as well as transcripts of any other recordings of Flynn including his conversations with Russian officials.
Flynn’s lawyer Robert Kelner did not immediately return a request for comment. The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to a charge of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before Trump took office. He faces up to six months in prison. A judge has yet to set a sentencing date.
Mueller’s office had previously told the court that Flynn should receive little to no jail time due to his “substantial assistance” in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Mueller wrapped up the probe in March, concluding that there was no proof Trump or a member of his campaign conspired with Russia. But the special counsel declined to make a judgement on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter further.
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