Washington Bulletin 7/10

July 11, 2017
Washington Update

On Capitol Hill

The House and Senate Were in Recess for the 4th of July Holiday



President Trump Heads to First G-20 Summit

President Donald Trump returned Sunday, July 9 from Hamburg, Germany from the Group of 20 (G-20) summit, a two-day meeting that began on Friday, July 7th. This G-20 casted Trump’s “America First” protectionist stance against the free-trade mantra of fellow world leaders including Shinzo Abe of Japan, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau.

“The discord is obvious,” according to the host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who cites climate change as another area of disagreement with the Trump Administration.

For his part, President Trump took to Twitter to weigh in on his concerns. From bad trade deals (“the worst’’) to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions (“this nonsense’’) to steel dumping (“don’t like’’), the President highlighted what he would take head-on in Hamburg.

Instead, President Trump was lectured on trade by China and France and won platitudes from other nations — but no evident progress — on North Korea. The starkest difference was on climate: the G-20’s final statement called the 2015 Paris accord “irreversible.” Trump abandoned the pact last month. In his first sit-down with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the President’s twin concerns, Iran and Ukraine, were barely touched upon as the two agreed on a Syrian cease-fire. On North Korea, meetings between Trump and the leaders of South Korea, Japan and China ended without a clear consensus about how to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The words “North Korea” are not in the final communique.

Meanwhile, another lesson from the G-20 appears to be that the rest of the world is getting the hang of how to deal with Trump: Don’t react to his tweets, play down areas of conflict where you can, and stand your ground when you need to.

While there were some tense moments, everyone left Hamburg agreeing to disagree, at least for now. “There is a sense they are figuring this out,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations research institute. With German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in particular emboldening each other to take President Trump on, “they have also understood it is politically helpful for them to be seen to be standing up to Trump.”

This leaves the President, weakened at home by the swirling congressional and FBI probes into his campaign, in danger of being undermined abroad as well, with a limited ability to rally world leaders to his most important causes, experts said.


Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Nominee to Testify before Senate Committee

Christopher Wray, the President’s nominee for the Federal Bureau of Investigations is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday July 12, panel says in statement.

Mr. Wray built a reputation as a white-collar defense attorney after serving as the U.S. assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division from 2003 to 2005. During his tenure at the Justice Department, Wray was involved in the prosecution of HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy on accounting fraud charges. He also oversaw the task force that investigated Enron Corp. following the energy company’s bankruptcy and collapse. More recently, he represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal investigation of politically motivated traffic delays in 2013 on the George Washington Bridge.

Mr. Wray said preventing terror attacks in the U.S. would be his number one priority during his Senate hearing to become head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in 2003. He touted his experience sitting in on daily threat briefings as a top Justice Department official.

Mr. Wray’s background as a Justice Department professional may give him an advantage during confirmation hearings. Senators of both parties had urged the President to choose a law-enforcement professional rather than a politician when the president was considering choices such as Senator John Cornyn and former Senator Joe Lieberman.


Attorney General Sessions Weighs-In on Sanctuary City Boycott

Earlier this year some sanctuary cities declared that they would not comply with requests from federal immigrant agents. These requests by federal agents include a person’s immigration status, especially if the local jurisdiction arrested said person in connection to a crime. In response to the sanctuary cities, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that such cities had until June 30 to prove their compliance with federal policy, at the risk of losing further Department of Justice grant funding later this year.

Under current federal law, local jurisdictions are not able to create policies that limit the sharing of immigration-related information. However, some authorities argue that this does not include the sharing of an individual’s immigration status. But Attorney General Sessions, and thus current Department of Justice policy, may disagree.

As Session’s publicly stated last week, “Some of these jurisdictions have boldly asserted they will not comply with requests from federal immigration authorities, and this would potentially violate” federal law.

Currently, the Attorney General noted that the Justice Department is reviewing the sanctuary cities’ letters against providing immigration information to the federal government. And, Sessions reasserted, in a statement, that, “It is not enough to assert compliance, the jurisdictions must actually be in compliance.” His statement emphasized that, under existing law, government officials “may not prohibit, or in any way restrict” employees from sharing information with federal immigration agents about a person’s immigration status.

The Attorney General’s statements come as the Trump Administration attempts to enforce more stringent internal immigration laws, including requiring local law enforcement agencies to detain immigrations until they can be picked-up by federal deportation agents.

In addition, last week the House passed legislation which would bar sanctuary cities from receiving certain federal grants and institute liability if an undocumented immigrant who is released from jail without notice to immigration agents goes on to commit additional crimes.


Trump Administration Lawyers Ask Hawaii Court to Stay Out of Travel Ban

The Justice Department asked critics of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to leave questions about the scope of the immigration restrictions to the U.S. Supreme Court. The State of Hawaii is challenging the government’s enforcement of the Administration’s executive order. According to the Justice Department’s brief Monday, Hawaii is attempting “to create a dispute where there is none.”

Trump Administration lawyers asked a Honolulu federal judge to deny Hawaii’s request for clarification on the restrictions, deeming it unnecessary, and said any orders that limit the scope of the ban should be considered first by the nation’s highest court.

Attorneys for the Trump Administration argued that implementation of the travel ban is in accordance with the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling. That order requires visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees worldwide to prove a “bona fide” family relationship to the U.S.

In a filing responding to Hawaii’s challenge, the government said its definition of “close family member” is consistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act. The INA “frames the backdrop for federal immigration policy, including the executive order,” according to the filing. “Even some familial relationships” won’t suffice for visa applicants and refugees because of limits set by the INA that “privileges certain family relationships over others.”

Federal Judge Derrick Watson is likely to rule after July 5 on Hawaii’s request for clarity regarding family ties. Hawaii’s challenge is the latest in a dispute between the President and ideological opponents of the administration’s immigration agenda that’s spanned all but the first 10 days of his presidency.

The Supreme Court said it will hear the administration’s appeal of lower-court orders blocking the ban from taking effect in its next nine-month session starting in October. In the meantime, it allowed the administration to enforce the prohibition with some caveats, such as “bona fide” relationships.

Critics are claiming the government overreached in its execution of the Supreme Court’s order.

Central to the dispute is the question of who constitutes family for applicants seeking refuge or a visa to the U.S. The Supreme Court ruled that the travel ban could be applied for now to everyone except people with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S.”

The government then went on to define “bona fide relationship” as links within a nuclear family, including spouses and children and siblings. That excluded aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and — initially — fiancés. The administration also ruled out any connections between refugees and resettlement agencies, citing the INA as well as the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Justice Department said Monday that its guidance regarding “credible claims” of a bona fide relationship “explicitly references and incorporates” the Supreme Court’s standard.

Not necessarily, according to Hiroshi Motomura, a professor who teaches immigration law and civil procedure at the UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles. “It’s very clear that the Supreme Court had a broader definition of family in mind,” Motomura said, as evidenced by the high court’s use of the term “familial relationship” in the travel ban ruling rather than “family.”

“What the Court clearly had in mind is a large group of persons and entities in the U.S. whose rights would be violated if the ban turns out to be unlawful — as either unconstitutional or in violating the Immigration and Nationality Act,” Motomura said.