Trump Administration Moves Ahead on Removing Bird Protections

The Trump administration moved forward Friday on removing long-standing federal protection for the nation’s birds, over objections from former federal officials and many scientists that billions more birds will likely perish as a result.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its take on the proposed rollback in the Federal Register. It’s a final step that means the change — greatly limiting federal authority to prosecute industries for practices that kill migratory birds — could be made official within 30 days.The wildlife service acknowledged in its findings that the rollback would have a negative effect on the many bird species covered by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which range from hawks and eagles to seabirds, storks, songbirds and sparrows.The move scales back federal prosecution authority for the deadly threats migratory birds face from industry — from electrocution on power lines, to wind turbines that knock them from the air, to oil field waste pits where landing birds perish in toxic water.Industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, out of roughly 7 billion birds in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recent studies.The Trump administration maintains that the act should apply only to birds killed or harmed intentionally and is putting that change into regulation. The change would “improve consistency and efficiency in enforcement,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.Judge’s rejectionThe administration has continued to push the migratory bird regulation even after a federal judge in New York in August rejected the administration’s legal rationale.Two days after news organizations announced President Donald Trump’s defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, federal officials advanced the bird treaty changes to the White House, one of the final steps before adoption.Trump was “in a frenzy to finalize his bird-killer policy,” David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, said in a statement Friday. “Reinstating this 100-year-old bedrock law must be a top conservation priority for the Biden-Harris administration” and Congress.Steve Holmer with the American Bird Conservancy said the change would accelerate bird population declines that have swept North America since the 1970s.How the 1918 treaty gets enforced has sweeping ramifications for the construction of commercial buildings, electric transmission systems and other infrastructure, said Rachel Jones, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.Jones said the changes under Trump would be needed to make sure the bird law wasn’t used in an “abusive way.” That’s a long-standing complaint from industry lawyers despite federal officials’ contention that they bring criminal charges only rarely.It’s part of a flurry of last-minute changes under the outgoing administration benefiting industry. Others would expand Arctic drilling, favor development over habitat protections for imperiled species and potentially hamstring future regulation of environmental and public health threats, among other rollbacks.

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US Appeals Court Rejects Trump Appeal Over Pennsylvania Race 

President Donald Trump’s legal team suffered yet another defeat in court Friday as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia roundly rejected its latest effort to challenge the state’s election results.Trump’s lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court despite the judge’s assessment that the “campaign’s claims have no merit.”“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote for the three-judge panel.The case had been argued last week in a lower court by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who insisted during five hours of oral arguments that the 2020 presidential election had been marred by widespread fraud in Pennsylvania. However, Giuliani failed to offer any tangible proof of that in court.U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann had said the campaign’s error-filled complaint, “like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together” and denied Giuliani the right to amend it for a second time.The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called that decision justified. The three judges on the panel were all appointed by Republican presidents. including Bibas, a former University of Pennsylvania law professor appointed by Trump. Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, sat on the court for 20 years, retiring in 2019.Friday’s ruling comes four days after Pennsylvania officials certified their vote count for President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the state. Nationally, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris garnered nearly 80 million votes, a record in U.S. presidential elections.Trump has said he hopes the Supreme Court will intervene in the race as it did in 2000, when its decision to stop the recount in Florida gave the election to Republican George W. Bush. On Nov. 5, as the vote count continued, Trump posted a tweet saying the “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”Ever since, Trump and his surrogates have attacked the election as flawed and filed a flurry of lawsuits to try to block the results in six battleground states. But they’ve found little sympathy from judges, nearly all of whom dismissed their complaints about the security of mail-in ballots, which millions of people used to vote from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.Trump perhaps hopes a Supreme Court he helped steer toward a conservative 6-3 majority would be more open to his pleas, especially since the high court upheld Pennsylvania’s decision to accept mail-in ballots through Nov. 6 by only a 4-4 vote last month. Since then, Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett has joined the court.“The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tweeted after Friday’s ruling. “On to SCOTUS!”In the case before Brann, the Trump campaign asked to disenfranchise the state’s 6.8 million voters, or at least the 700,000 who voted by mail in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other Democratic-leaning areas.“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Brann wrote in his scathing ruling on Nov. 21. “That has not happened.”A separate Republican challenge that reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week seeks to stop the state from further certifying any races on the ballot. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is fighting that effort, saying it would prevent the state’s legislature and congressional delegation from being seated in the coming weeks.On Thursday, Trump said the Nov. 3 election was still far from over. Yet he offered the clearest signal to date that he would leave the White House peaceably on Jan. 20 if the Electoral College formalizes Biden’s win.“Certainly I will. But you know that,” Trump said at the White House, taking questions from reporters for the first time since Election Day.Yet on Friday, he continued to baselessly attack Detroit, Atlanta and other Democratic cities with large Black populations as the source of “massive voter fraud.” And he claimed, without evidence, that a Pennsylvania poll watcher had uncovered computer memory drives that “gave Biden 50,000 votes” apiece.All 50 states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. Biden won both the Electoral College and popular vote by wide margins.

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Trump Says He Will Leave White House if Biden Wins Electoral College Vote

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election, even as he repeated his unfounded claims of massive voter fraud.Speaking to reporters on the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Trump said if Democrat Biden, who is to be sworn in Jan. 20, is certified the election winner by the Electoral College, he will depart the White House.But Trump said it would be hard for him to concede under the current circumstances and declined to say whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration.”This election was a fraud,” Trump insisted at the White House while continuing to offer no concrete evidence of widespread voting irregularities. Earlier Trump spoke by video link with members of the U.S. military for the holiday.Biden won the election with 306 Electoral College votes — many more than the 270 required — to Trump’s 232, and the electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 14 to formalize the outcome. Biden also leads Trump by more than 6 million in the popular vote tally.Trump has so far refused to fully acknowledge his defeat, though last week, with mounting pressure from his own Republican ranks, he agreed to let Biden’s transition process officially proceed.Asked if he would leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Biden, Trump said: “Certainly I will. Certainly I will. And you know that.””But I think that there will be a lot of things happening between now and the 20th of January. A lot of things,” he said. “Massive fraud has been found. We’re like a third world country.”Desperate efforts by Trump and his aides to overturn results in key states, either by lawsuits or by pressuring state legislators, have failed, and he is running out of options.In the United States, a candidate becomes president by securing the most electoral votes rather than by winning a majority of the national popular vote. Electors, allotted to the 50 states and the District of Columbia largely based on their population, are party loyalists who pledge to support the candidate who won the popular vote in their state.Biden, Trump stay close to homeBiden and Trump both stayed close to home to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the country.Biden spent the holiday in the small seaside town of Rehoboth, Delaware, where he and his wife, Jill, have a vacation home. The Bidens hosted daughter Ashley Biden and her husband, Dr. Howard Krein, for the holiday meal.The former vice president, appearing with his wife in a video message posted to his Twitter account on Thanksgiving, said his family typically holds a large gathering on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts but would remain in Delaware this year “with just a small group around our dinner table” because of the pandemic.In the presidential-style address to a nation that has lost more than 260,000 lives to the coronavirus, the Democratic president-elect said Americans were making a “shared sacrifice for the whole country” and a “statement of common purpose” by staying at home with their immediate families.Trump often likes to celebrate holidays at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida. But on Thursday he remained in the Washington area, spending part of the morning at his Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, where he played a round of golf.

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Trump Has Granted Fewer Pardons, Commutations Than Previous Presidents 

Despite the controversial nature of many of Donald Trump’s presidential pardons, including that of his associate, Michael Flynn, this week, Trump has granted clemency far less than any of his predecessors in the past century, according to a U.S. research group.   FILE – Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, right, and his lawyer, Sidney Powell, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, June 24, 2019.By contrast, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, issued 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations during his eight years in office. President George H. W. Bush issued 74 pardons but just three commutations during his four years in office.   Individuals may appeal to the president for clemency in two forms — sentence commutation and pardons. Generally, a commutation means a reduction, either partial or full, of a convict’s sentence. A pardon relieves a convict of any remaining punishment and/or future consequences of their crime.   On Wednesday, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about a series of conversations he had with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, about Obama administration sanctions during the Trump presidential transition in December 2016.   “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday, the day before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2020 The move came as a federal judge was weighing an abrupt decision by the Justice Department earlier this year to throw out Flynn’s case. Justice Department Drops Case Against Former Trump Adviser FlynnThe move marked a dramatic turnabout in a celebrated case that often inflamed partisan passions in Washington and among the general public Researchers note that while Trump has issued fewer pardons and commutations than his predecessors, the numbers are likely to change in his last two months as president.   “I can’t speculate as to the reason why Trump has issued so few pardons/commutations to date or what may happen in the future,” John Gramlich, a researcher at Pew, told VOA in an email.   “But it’s not unusual for presidents to grant clemency in the later stages of their tenure, so it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Trump’s numbers go up in the next few weeks,” he added.   Trump’s pardon of Michael Flynn is his 29th to date and his 45th overall act of clemency (including 16 commutations). So far Trump has used his clemency power less than any POTUS in 120+ years, but there’s still plenty of time left in his term. https://t.co/LpzA6CixMJpic.twitter.com/iOooRa0HJk— John Gramlich (@johngramlich) November 25, 2020Trump has granted 0.5% of clemency requests made to his administration. But some legal experts anticipate that he may be likely to grant more pardons, particularly of his past associates, who were indicted on charges similar to Flynn’s, before January.   According to The New York Times, lawyers representing Trump campaign advisers, including Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, could request clemency from the president as he nears the end of his term.   Gates and Papadopoulous were also convicted of crimes unearthed during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.   Trump’s first presidential pardon was in 2017 for Joe Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff who was convicted of unlawful racial profiling. The pardon was met with outrage from organizations and activists, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which called the move “a presidential endorsement of racism.” Trump Pardons Ex-Arizona Sheriff Arpaio

        President Donald Trump on Friday granted a pardon to former Arizona lawman and political ally Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America," less than a month after he was convicted of criminal contempt in a case involving his department's racial profiling policy.Trump had signaled this week that the first presidential pardon of his administration would go to Arpaio, 85, whom he has frequently praised for his hard-line immigration stance.I am pleased to inform you that I have just…

                

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Cuban American Mayorkas Brings Immigration Experience to DHS 

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been described as a man of few words, direct, and compassionate. Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American and former Obama administration official, would be the first Latino, if confirmed by the Senate, to lead DHS, an agency created after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. It is the third-largest federal agency in the nation. “He’s a man of a few words but he is a man of his words, which is really key and important,” said Gaby Pacheco, director of advocacy, communications, and development for TheDream.US, a nonprofit organization that helps undocumented youths with financial support through college scholarships. Pacheco is a former beneficiary of DACA, the Obama-era program that allows immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as children without legal status, to remain legally and work and study without fear of deportation. Pacheco met Mayorkas through her DACA advocacy work when he was a top aide with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “The first time we met with him, he came over to the offices of the National Immigration Forum. …  And then after that we would go to USCIS offices and meet with [officials] as we were implementing DACA … figuring out what we thought DACA should be like,” she said. In the Obama administration, Mayorkas was the highest-ranking Cuban American, becoming DHS’s deputy secretary under former Secretary Jeh Johnson. Before that, he served as director of USCIS, where he oversaw the country’s naturalization and immigration system. Mayorkas was instrumental in shaping DACA and Pacheco said he was one of the few who recognized immigrant advocacy work. He supervised the implementation, logistical and legal issues to implement the program about two months after its announcement. “He’s very astute in the way he speaks but he gives credit where credit’s due and I think that sometimes politicians forget the people behind all this,” she added. Cuba to US Mayorkas is the son of Jewish-Cuban refugees who fled with him from Fidel Castro’s communist rule in 1960. He lived in Miami as a child, but the family eventually left for California, where he later began a government career as an assistant U.S. attorney. In a tweet Monday, he said, “Now I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.” When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.— Alejandro Mayorkas (@AliMayorkas) November 23, 2020Al Cardenas, a Cuban American and former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, said in a tweet, “This is it. The change needed, hallelujah.” This is it. The change needed, hallelujah https://t.co/qqoIua9D1C— Al Cardenas (@AlCardenasFL_DC) November 23, 2020The Trump administration has issued more than 400 executive actions that have dramatically reshaped the country’s immigration system. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to reverse many of those policies, including rescinding travel restrictions on 13 countries and put in place a 100-day freeze on deportations, while his administration issues new guidance. Biden Expected to Reverse Many of Trump’s Immigration PoliciesPresident-elect vows to ease limits on temporary workers, loosen visa restrictions for international students, halt border wall construction and end private immigration detention centers “But I am not naïve,” Pacheco said, adding, “We will have to hold him accountable and push him to do the right thing but it’s not going to be as hard as has been in the past.” Criticism  
According to a 2015 DHS inspector general’s report, Mayorkas was involved in cases involving “politically” powerful people participating in the country’s visa investor program. He was accused of using his position to expedite the visa application process. A Biden transition spokesperson has told the Reuters news agency the inspector general did not find any legal wrongdoing and decided Mayorkas’ actions were “legitimately within his purview.”Some said Mayorkas’ nomination is a sign of Biden’s intent to bring someone with the right immigration experience to lead DHS. “He comes with the deep respect of the business community, national security and foreign policy experts, immigration reformers, and elected officials and career civil servants from across the ideological spectrum,” said Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, in a statement to the press. FWD.us is a bipartisan organization founded by members of the business and technology communities. It seeks reform of the immigration and criminal justice systems.   

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Trump Pardons Former National Security Adviser Flynn

U.S. President Donald Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, the national security adviser from the early days of his administration, putting an end to criminal proceedings Trump had called unfair while drawing sharp criticism from Democrats.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.  “Have a great life General Flynn!”House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, criticized the pardon saying said Flynn should be held accountable for what she called “a serious and dangerous breach of our national security.”FILE – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 2020.“Sadly, this pardon is further proof that Trump plans to use his final days in office to undermine the rule of law in the wake of his failed presidency,” Pelosi said in a statement.  “In the new Congress, it is imperative that we pass House and Senate Democrats’ Protecting Our Democracy Act, which prevents any president from abusing the pardon power.”Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, about sanctions that the Obama administration had placed on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election.  The conversations took place between Trump’s 2016 election and when he took office in January 2017.Obama administration officials warned the Trump administration that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail, and after being on the job for less than a month, Trump fired Flynn.FILE – House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 10, 2020.”This pardon is part of a pattern,” Nadler said in a statement.  “We saw it before, in the Roger Stone case—where President Trump granted clemency to protect an individual who might have implicated the President in criminal misconduct.  We may see it again before President Trump finally leaves office.  These actions are an abuse of power and fundamentally undermine the rule of law.”Trump commuted the 40-month prison sentence of Stone, a longtime adviser who was convicted of seven crimes, including witness tampering and lying to federal authorities.Mueller’s investigation also led to the convictions of other Trump associates, including his one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort and personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

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