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Not So Fast
March 31, 2019

President Trump's executive order that overturned a ban on drilling for oil in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans was ruled "unlawful and invalid" by a federal judge in Alaska on Saturday.

Just weeks before leaving office, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order which prohibited drilling in certain areas in the two oceans. But Trump signed an executive order of his own to reopen those areas, which prompted ten environmental groups to file a lawsuit in the hopes of blocking Trump's reversal.

According to the judge's ruling, Trump will need congressional approval to do so. The judge, Sharon Gleason, wrote that a president only has the authority to withdraw lands from consideration for drilling. The office does not, she said, have the power to revoke a prior withdrawal.

"This is a great victory for the Arctic, its polar bears, other wildlife, and communities," Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center of Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against the Trump administration, told The Wall Street Journal. "It's absolutely the right outcome under the law and for the sake of our planet."

Gleason's decision could face appeal. But if it is not overturned, Congress will have to approve Trump's expansion plans, which the Journal reports seems unlikely given Democratic control of the House. Tim O'Donnell

March 29, 2019

A majority of Americans aren't buying President Trump's claim that he's already been totally exonerated by the Mueller report.

In a new poll from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist on Friday, only 36 percent of adults said that the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report into 2016 election interference clears Trump "of any wrongdoing." Rather, 56 percent said questions still exist. This is mainly split along partisan lines, with 86 percent of Democrats saying there are still questions and 74 percent of Republicans saying Mueller did clear Trump. Among independents, though, 53 percent said there are still questions.

The full Mueller report has yet to be made public, but Attorney General William Barr on Sunday released his summary of its findings, saying Mueller "did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election." However, Mueller did not reach a conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice, saying the report "does not exonerate" Trump. Barr says Mueller left it up to him and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to make a conclusion based on the evidence he found, and Barr and Rosenstein determined there was insufficient evidence to bring an obstruction of justice charge against Trump.

Most adults in Friday's survey said they're satisfied with the investigation, except for Democrats, only 35 percent of whom expressed satisfaction. As previous polls have found, just about everyone wants to see the full report, with a mere 18 percent saying Barr's summary is enough. That result, too, split along predictable partisan lines, with 90 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans saying the full report must be made public.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist conducted this poll by speaking with 938 adults over the phone from March 25-27. The margin of error is 3.9 percentage points. Read more results at NPR. Brendan Morrow

November 20, 2018

President Trump's immigration agenda has just suffered a major legal setback — again.

Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco late Monday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Trump administration from denying the asylum claims of immigrants who cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally, The Washington Post reports. Trump had rolled out his plan days after the midterms in response to the caravan of migrants making their way to the United States from Central America.

The judge said Monday that Trump does not have the authority to "rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden." Whether a person arrives at a legal point of entry "should bear little, if any, weight in the asylum process," he said, as is reflected under current law. Additionally, the judge said the immigrants would be put at "increased risk of violence and other harms at the border" if Trump's ban went into effect, CNN reports.

This is just the latest legal setback the Trump administration has faced when it comes to immigration; an appeals court earlier this month also blocked Trump from ending DACA, the program that gives protections to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Judge Tigar's temporary restraining order will expire on Dec. 19, at which point another hearing will take place and a permanent order could be issued. Brendan Morrow

October 30, 2018

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is giving President Trump's assertion that he can end birthright citizenship via executive order a quick fact-check.

Ryan responded to Trump's claim on a radio show Tuesday afternoon, saying that this is "obviously" not something Trump would be able to do with an executive order, The New York Times reports. Ryan added that Republicans were unhappy when former President Barack Obama "tried changing immigration laws via executive action," suggesting conservatives should also be unhappy with this statement the president made.

Hours earlier, Trump had declared in an interview with Axios that he doesn't need Congress' help in ending citizenship rights for any person born in the country, even though this is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Conservatives who support this change had previously proposed constitutional amendments, but Trump seems to think this isn't necessary. "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment," Trump told Axios. "Guess what? You don't." Many legal scholars immediately suggested that this order would be unlikely to hold up in court, and Ryan agreed, saying the "14th Amendment is pretty clear." Brendan Morrow

September 19, 2018

The Justice Department doesn't want to give in to President Trump's demands quite so easily.

Trump ordered the declassification of intelligence documents related to his former campaign adviser Carter Page earlier this week, but Bloomberg reported Wednesday that DOJ officials plan to redact some of the information to keep it secret.

People familiar with the matter said that the DOJ and FBI are currently deciding what will be redacted, but it will likely fly in the face of Trump's call for immediate declassification of materials "relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction." Trump wanted sensitive documents released that would show the FBI's warrant to surveil Page, interviews to obtain the warrant, and text messages between senior officials, believing they would demonstrate the "anti-Trump bias" he says has tainted the investigation.

Because the investigation into whether the Trump campaign was involved with Russian election interference in 2016 is ongoing, Trump's orders were viewed as crossing a "red line" by some lawmakers. Some Republicans cheered the move as a step toward increased transparency, but other experts said it showed an overstep of presidential involvement in the investigation.

The Justice Department is expected to submit proposed redactions soon, reports Bloomberg, knowing that withholding information will put DOJ officials in direct conflict with Trump. The president always could override the agencies and declassify material by himself. Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza

April 4, 2018

President Trump announced Tuesday that "until we can have a wall, we're going to be guarding our border with the military," an unprecedented and controversial proposition. In a meeting between Department of Homeland Security officials and the White House's National Security Council on Wednesday, though, that plan was apparently curbed to the deployment of National Guard troops specifically. Officials told NBC News that the troops won't have contact with immigrants, either.

"Instead, [the National Guard] will be giving U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents more visibility by providing surveillance by air and through camera monitoring of the border," wrote NBC News, based on conversations with people familiar with the White House's meetings. It isn't clear yet how many people will be deployed, or for how long.

While Trump had suggested he would use "the military" to guard the border, and has floated dipping into the Pentagon's budget to build his border wall, active-duty soldiers are legally barred from domestic law enforcement duties. National Guard troops, on the other hand, are not an unfamiliar sight on the southern border, despite Trump's claim Tuesday that "we really haven't done that before, or certainly not very much before." Former President Barack Obama also used the National Guard for air surveillance support, and former President George W. Bush deployed National Guard troops to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents with intelligence gathering and building a border wall.

"Our Border Laws are very weak while those of Mexico & Canada are very strong," Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday, adding, "We will be taking strong action today." Jeva Lange

March 27, 2018

It could take more than a year for the Federal Election Commission to determine whether a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels violated federal election laws, current and former FEC officials told NBC News.

The payment, transferred to Daniels by President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, has been criticized as a possible unreported donation to the Trump campaign, if it was intended to benefit Trump's run for office. Cohen paid Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, less than two weeks before the 2016 election to facilitate a nondisclosure agreement that barred the actress from speaking out about an alleged affair she had with Trump. Daniels claims that she slept with Trump in 2006, and that the payment was hush money. Trump has denied that the tryst took place.

But the FEC, which enforces federal campaign laws, might not be able to consider the case for a while, due to vacancies and ongoing cases keeping the six-member staff busy, NBC News reports. Political gridlock among the FEC members also means slow decision-making, the former FEC chairman said, as partisan views grind investigations to a halt. If the commission determines that Cohen's payment to Daniels aided Trump's campaign, it would exceed the maximum allowed for campaign contributions and be considered illegal reports NBC News. Summer Meza

July 25, 2017

President Trump's public shaming of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn't going over well with Republican lawmakers. After Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to accuse Sessions of taking "a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes," a handful of Republicans fired off some criticisms of their own.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) suggested that Trump "maybe just try a meeting" instead of publicly calling out his own Cabinet members:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) released a statement declaring that Trump's suggestion that Sessions "pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate." "Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation," Graham said. He also defended Sessions as "one of the most decent people I've ever met in my political life."

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) also posted a defense of Sessions' character. He called Sessions "a man of integrity, loyalty, and extraordinary character" and pledged his "deep respect and unwavering support":

Trump is reportedly seriously considering replacing Sessions, as he's upset Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Trump team's alleged collusion with Russia. Becca Stanek

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