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By Alex Moe, Rebecca Shabad and Marianna Sotomayor

WASHINGTON — House Democrats announced a plan Monday to vote on re-open the federal government when they take control of the chamber on Thursday.

“Democrats are taking action to lead our country out of this mess. This legislation reopens government services, ensures workers get the paychecks they’ve earned and restores certainty to the lives of the American people,” said Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a joint statement.

Democrats, who outlined the plan as the shutdown stretched into Day 10, unveiled a short-term funding bill known as a continuing resolution that would fund the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 8. Separately, they plan to pass six remaining government spending bills that passes new funding for those other agencies for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The incoming chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., officially filed the legislation on Monday.

Democrats will assume the majority in the House on Thursday. The first vote will be to elect a new speaker of the House; later in the day, they will vote on their appropriations plan.

The move is unlikely to be successful. There is no guarantee that Senate Republicans, who control that chamber, would agree to take up any measure passed by the Democratic House, or that President Donald Trump — who has been demanding funding for a border wall — would support the effort.

“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the President that he won’t sign,” said Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell has said that negotiations between House and Senate would still need to happen in order to re-open the government.

“In order to get us out of this mess, a negotiated solution will need to check these boxes. It’s really simple. It will need the support of 60 senators — which will obviously include a number of Democrats. It will need to pass the House. And it will need a presidential signature,” McConnell said recently on the floor. “That’s how we make a law in this situation. Sixty votes in the Senate, a majority in the House, and President Trump’s signature. That’s what’s needed.”

Before the shutdown, the Senate did pass a so-called “clean” funding measure that excluded spending for the wall.

Pelosi and Schumer noted that prior vote in their statement Monday.

“It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported,” they said. “Once the Senate passes this legislation and puts us on a path to reopening government, the President must come to his senses and immediately sign it into law.”

President Trump on Monday highlighted his insistence on funding for his border wall. “Democrats, come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for Border Security, including the Wall,” he tweeted in the morning, ahead of the Democrats’ announcement.

“I’m here, ready to go,” he told Fox News later Monday. “It’s very important. A lot of people are looking to eat their paycheck, so I’m ready to go anytime they want. We are not giving up. We have to have border security, and the wall is a big part of border security. The biggest part.”



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Politics

ACLU sues U.S. border agencies over targeting of activists, lawyers at border

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union has sued three government agencies on behalf of immigration activists who were allegedly surveilled and flagged for questioning when crossing the U.S.-Mexico border because of their work with immigrants, according to court documents filed in the Central District of California.

The complaint alleges that the three plaintiffs — activists Nora Elizabeth Phillips, Erika Da Cruz Pinheiro and Nathaniel Garrett Dennison — were targeted for “detention and interrogation” under a “secret investigative program designed to monitor these humanitarian workers … and impede their ability to travel.” The suit names Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the FBI as defendants, as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray and Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence.

In March, NBC News and NBC 7 San Diego uncovered details of the program after obtaining a CBP list of names of journalists, activists and lawyers who were to be stopped by CBP agents when crossing the border. The ACLU cited the reporting as the impetus for the lawsuit.

Erika Pinheiro, Nora Phillips and Nathaniel Dennison.Al Otro Lado; U.S. Government

“The disclosure of the secret program spurred outrage from civil society organizations, prompted members of Congress to call for an inquiry into the agencies’ actions, and led Customs and Border Protection’s Inspector General to initiate its own investigation into surveillance,” the lawsuit said.

Read the KNSD/NBC 7 San Diego version of this story.

The list obtained in March targeted only immigration workers in the San Diego area, but an NBC News report later found that activists and lawyers in other areas, such as El Paso, were also targeted.

Two immigration lawyers stopped in El Paso said they were held for hours and asked to hand their cell phones over to immigration agents so that they could obtain their contacts.

In the complaint, the ACLU said the “plaintiffs have been singled out and targeted solely because of their protected speech and association, including their provision of legal counsel to asylum seekers, their association with others providing humanitarian aid, and the assistance they provided to clients seeking to redress or to express themselves publicly.”

When the first report was published in March, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP and ICE, said the individuals were targeted as part of an investigation into violence that erupted at the San Diego-Tijuana border in late 2018 when a so-called migrant caravan arrived. But many of those targeted have said they were nowhere near San Diego at the time and had no involvement with the caravan.

John Sandweg, former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told NBC News in March that border agents should never target people at the border for inspection based on their profession, including their work with asylum seekers.

The ACLU is asking the court to issue an injunction that would declare the activity of the border agents unlawful under the First Amendment and award damages.

Plaintiff Nora Phillips is the co-founder of Al Otro Lado, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides legal and mental health services to migrants. Pinheiro is a co-founder of the same group and organizes legal clinics inside Mexico. Dennison is a documentary filmmaker and shelter volunteer.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Boris Johnson's Brexit mission starts NOW – 99 days for new PM to prove doom-mongers wrong

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BORIS JOHNSON takes over as Prime Minister today vowing to work “flat out” to get the UK out of the EU this autumn and unleash “a new spirit of can-do” to make the country great.

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Mueller makes last-minute request for aide to appear with him during his testimony

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One of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s longtime aides will appear alongside him during his highly-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, a spokesperson said Tuesday, but is not expected to be sworn in.

Mueller’s team made a last-minute request that Aaron Zebley be sworn in and testify with him during his scheduled hearings before Congress on Wednesday, a congressional source familiar with the request told NBC News.

Mueller is slated to testify on his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the country’s influence on President Donald Trump for three hours before the House Judiciary Committee, take a break, then appear for at least two additional hours before the House Intelligence Committee.

For the first hearing, Zebley will sit alongside Mueller as his counsel, according to the Judiciary Committee spokesperson. The committee, however, is not updating its guidance to include Zebley as a witness. This means that Zebley will not be sworn in. Mueller can confer with him as he is questioned by the panel, according to committee rules, but cannot answer questions.

The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said Tuesday that GOP members had “not gotten assurances from the House Democrats on the committee that he [Zebley] will not speak.”

“He’s not supposed to speak in that role to anyone on the committee or asked questions. And we’re asking, and, frankly, that that be confirmed before the hearing. So we don’t have to waste time with it tomorrow,” Collins said.

Jim Popkin, Mueller’s spokesperson, disputed the idea that Zebley’s presence at the hearings amounted to an 11th-hour addition.

“Aaron Zebley was the Deputy Special Counsel and had day-to-day oversight of the investigations conducted by the Office,” Popkin said in a statement Tuesday. “He will accompany Special Counsel Mueller to the Wednesday hearings, as was discussed with the committees more than a week ago.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday during a conversation at the Center for American Progress that his panel was still working out what Zebley’s function might be.

Trump lashed out about Zebley’s role in Mueller’s testimony, tweeting Tuesday night that the decision “very unfair.”

“Just got back only to hear of a last minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress tomorrow,” Trump said. “What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before.”

Zebley is especially close to Mueller, serving as his chief of staff at the FBI when Mueller was the director. Zebley is also an alumnus of the law firm WilmerHale, where Mueller worked after leaving the FBI.

Zebley followed Mueller to the Justice Department when he was tapped to be special counsel in 2017. Zebley is also a former FBI agent who was involved in an international hunt for al Qaeda terrorists before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In June, Mueller agreed to testify before Congress about his Russia investigation after he was subpoenaed by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary, and Schiff.

Popkin said Monday that the former special counsel will make a brief opening statement when he testifies about his 22-month investigation, and will offer his 448-page report as his full statement for the record.

In May, Mueller stressed at a press conference that if he were called to testify he would stick closely to his written report. “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made,” he said.

“We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

In a letter on Monday, the Justice Department also issued stern guidance to Mueller, stating that “any testimony must remain within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.”



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