Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Monday, where he signaled the U.S.'s desire for a peaceful resolution to the 16-year war in the country. Tillerson appealed to "moderate voices among the Taliban" during the unannounced trip, going so far as to hypothetically offer government posts to such individuals.
"There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. ... So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government," Tillerson said, per The Associated Press. "There's a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence, and being committed to a stable prosperous Afghanistan."
Foreign Policy notes that Tillerson's covert trip is likely a reflection of the Trump administration's larger plans for the country:
Tillerson said the United States wanted to make it clear to the Taliban and other militants that the United States was in Afghanistan for the long haul and the militants would not prevail militarily. [...]
The diplomatic overture signals the Trump administration's eagerness to wrap up the longest war in U.S. history. In August, [President] Trump pledged open-ended support for Afghanistan following fierce internal debates and foot-dragging after having campaigned on ending the costly 16-year war. [Foreign Policy]
Top Bush, McCain strategist quits the Republican Party, calling Trump's 'internment camps for babies' the final straw
Steve Schmidt was a top campaign strategist for former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), so it is hardly a huge surprise that he is no fan of President Trump. But in a scathing series of tweets early Wednesday, he denounced today's entire "corrupt, indecent, and immoral" Republican Party and the "feckless cowards" who lead it (save for a few GOP governors).
29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 20, 2018
The final straw, Schmidt said, was Trump's policy of separating migrant children from their parents. GOP icon Ronald Reagan "would be ashamed of [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and [House Speaker Paul] Ryan and all the rest while this corrupt government establishes internment camps for babies," he said. "Everyone of these complicit leaders will carry this shame through history. There legacies will be ones of well earned ignominy. They have disgraced their country and brought dishonor to the Party of Lincoln." The only solution to renew America "is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities," not because of their "progressive agenda," but to save "DEMOCRACY and decency," Schmidt said. He concluded:
This Independent voter will be aligned with the only party left in America that stands for what is right and decent and remains fidelitous to our Republic, objective truth, the rule of law and our Allies. That party is the Democratic Party.
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 20, 2018
The Trump administration acknowledged Tuesday that it has no real plan on how to reunite migrant parents with their children after they are separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Trump's new "zero tolerance" policy. The parents are detained by the Homeland Security Department while the children are transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Refugee Resettlement. "This policy is relatively new," said Steven Wagner, an acting HHS assistant secretary. "We're still working through the experience of reunifying kids with their parents after adjudication."
Former acting U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director John Sandweg predicted Tuesday that some of the children and parents won't be reunited for years, if ever. "Permanent separation — it happens," Sandweg, who led the agency in 2013-14, told NBC News. The parents are pushed through court and often deported fairly quickly, but the children are processed at a dramatically slower rate, and once the parents are back in Central America, the odds of reunification drop dramatically, Sandweg said. Because children who spend years in the foster system are often made wards of the state and adopted, he added, "you could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted."
The parents are given a slip of paper with a list of their charges — usually a misdemeanor — and a 1-800 number with the message: "For assistance in locating your child(ren), you may contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement." Lawyers who work with the immigrants say that system isn't working well so far. "If the administration doesn't reunify these children very quickly, which is logistically very hard to do, you're going to have a lot of permanent separations," Sandweg told Canada's Global News. "It happened very rarely under the prior administration, our overall policy was to keep families unified." You can watch Sandweg elaborate on MSNBC Tuesday night. Peter Weber
President Trump held a freewheeling meeting with House Republicans at the Capitol on Tuesday night, and while the hour-long session mostly dealt with immigration policy, Trump also reportedly jabbed at Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who was unseated in his Republican primary last week after Trump attacked him on Twitter and supported his rival. According to Politico, Trump's comments were not well-received:
"Is Mark Sanford here?" he asked as the room grew quiet. "I want to congratulate him on his race." When Trump called Sanford a "nasty" guy, the room moaned in disbelief. [Politico]
Sanford is a popular member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that House leaders need to pass any legislation with only Republican votes. House GOP leadership had hoped Trump's endorsement of their "compromise" immigration legislation over a hardline alternative bill would win over Freedom Caucus members. Attendees were not sure, in the end, whether Trump had endorsed either bill, both, or neither. Peter Weber
President Trump met behind closed doors with House Republicans at the Capitol on Tuesday night, and according to attendees, he urged Republicans to send him an immigration bill that funded his border wall, dealt with the legal status of DREAMers, and curbed the separation of children from parents happening under his new "zero tolerance" policy. But attendees said they were not sure which of two rival House GOP bills Trump endorsed, a hardline bill or a "compromise" one put together by House Republican leaders.
"It did not move the needle at all," one top GOP lawmaker told Politico. "He made comments like 'I'm behind it 1,000 percent,' but what is 'it'?" The House is set to vote on both bills this week. Currently, neither bill has enough votes to pass in the House, and both would be expected to die in the Senate.
Trump also recounted his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, told the House Republicans that his tariffs are "gonna work out fine. ... Trade isn't tricky," and obliquely addressed the child-separation policy that has Republicans rattled. He told the House GOP caucus that his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump told him the images of children in cages and crying while being separated from their parents looked terrible and asked him, "Can we do anything to stop this?" one lawmaker recounted to The Washington Post. Another recalled that Trump said, "We have to take care of these separations." Lawmakers from both parties and outside analysts say Trump could end the family separation with the stroke of a pen. Peter Weber
Yes, the U.S. is seizing migrant babies and toddlers and locking them in 'tender age' detention centers
"Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three 'tender age' shelters in South Texas," The Associated Press reported Tuesday night, and "the government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday." The Houston facility would "house up to 240 children in a warehouse previously used for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey," AP says, continuing:
Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. ... Decades after the nation's child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents. [The Associated Press]
On MSNBC Tuesday night, host Rachel Maddow broke down in tears trying to read the article.
Rachel Maddow breaking down on live television is all of us. pic.twitter.com/KBa9ewcG48
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) June 20, 2018
Later on MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell spoke with immigrant advocates and Catholic officials in South Texas, who described the detention facilities as "jails" and explained the challenges ahead for the young children reclassified as "unaccompanied alien children” after they are taken from their parents — as 2,342 have been since May, federal officials said Tuesday.
Health and Human Services official Steven Wagner defended the "specialized facilities that are devoted to providing care to children with special needs and tender age children," and AP says "doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters said the facilities were fine, clean, and safe, but the kids — who have no idea where their parents are — were hysterical, crying and acting out." Read more at The Associated Press. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert has some words for the people defending Trump's child-separation policy. Seth Meyers has questions.
President Trump's new policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border is still dominating the news, and "there are two ways to look at this story: Either you can be horrified, or you can work for Donald Trump," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. He started with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who opted out of Monday's press briefing, handing the show to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen because she didn't want to field questions about splitting apart families. Colbert wasn't sympathetic: "Sarah, you think you don't want to talk about child separation policy? Try doing it on a comedy show. 'Oh, you must love the Trump administration, Stephen — the sadness just writes itself.'"
"Your administration owns locking up children," Colbert told Sanders. "But if kids in cages is too much for you to defend, there is one option: You could resign. This is the White House, not an abandoned Walmart — you're allowed to leave." Still, he added, "there are some people who have no reservations about publicly defending Trump's monstrous policy — for instance, the monster in chief." He annotated and fact-checked his way through Trump's speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, ending with Trump's embrace of the American flag: "Oh say, can you see — that was not consensual. If only those colors could run."
"Of course, Trump isn't the only one defending the indefensible," Colbert said, sadly mocking Fox News host Laura Ingraham's "summer camp" analogy. "The point is, you can't hide from the horror," he said. "Our president is everywhere, literally." Even in the clouds.
Seth Meyers, unimpressed with the Trump team's response to anything, held his own White House press briefing on Tuesday's Late Night, and his "question" to Sanders about Germany was particularly cutting. Watch below. Peter Weber
'Womp womp': Corey Lewandowski shrugs off detention, separation of 10-year-old migrant with Down syndrome
There are lots of ways to react to a story about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother by U.S. border agents and "put in a cage." Corey Lewandowski, President Trump's former campaign manager and current employee of Vice President Mike Pence's Great America PAC, went with the sarcastic sad-trombone sound on Fox News Tuesday evening.
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) June 19, 2018
Lewandowski's indignant sparring partner, former Democratic National Committee adviser Zac Petkanas, was referring to a story highlighted earlier Tuesday by Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who said the Mexican government was particularly concerned about the girl's fate. The girl, who crossed the border illegally with her mother and brother, was sent to a facility in McAllen, Texas, while her mother was sent to Brownsville, an hour away, Videgaray said, and the Mexican government had been in contact with the U.S. government "at the highest levels" to have the girl with Down syndrome released to her father, who is a legal U.S. resident.
Videgaray said that only 21 of the roughly 2,000 children separated from their parents since the beginning of May were originally from Mexico — most are from Central America — but while "the Mexican government in no way promotes illegal migration ... according to our constitutional principles and our convictions, we cannot be indifferent before an act that clearly represents a violation of human rights and that puts into a vulnerable position minors, children, including those with disabilities." Peter Weber