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President Donald Trump on Wednesday embraced a proposal to slash the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. by half, in what would be the biggest overhaul of immigration law in over half a century. The RAISE Act, or Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, would create a so-called merit-based immigration system that would favor applicants who speak English, have advanced degrees or can demonstrate job skills. Trump unveiled the bill in a White House ceremony with its Republican co-sponsors, Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.
President Donald Trump: “This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”
The RAISE Act would dramatically limit the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. to reunite with family members. The plan was blasted by Democratic lawmakers and opposed by some Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said it would hurt agriculture, tourism and service industries. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect tweeted, “The Statue of Liberty weeps as she watches Trump flush America’s moral leadership down the toilet.”
At the White House, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller was asked about the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty by CNN’s Jim Acosta, the son of a Cuban immigrant who couldn’t speak English when he came to the U.S. Acosta quoted Emma Lazarus’s poem: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is Stephen Miller’s response.
Stephen Miller: “The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world. It’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later. It’s not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta went on to press Stephen Miller over President Trump’s push to admit only English-speaking immigrants. Miller shot back, accusing Acosta of “cosmopolitan bias.” The pair sparred for several minutes.
Jim Acosta: “It just sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country through this policy.”
Stephen Miller: “Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you’ve ever said. And for you, that’s still a really—the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong and so insulting.”
We’ll have more on President Trump’s immigration push later in the broadcast with Democratic Congressmember Pramila Jayapal of Washington.
A federal appeals court has ruled that a U.S. citizen imprisoned by immigration officials for nearly three-and-a-half years without access to a lawyer cannot collect damages ordered by a lower court. Davino Watson of New York was 23 years old when ICE agents took him into custody in May of 2008, after he completed a prison sentence for a drug charge. Watson insisted for over three years that he was in fact a U.S. citizen, but failed to win release from ICE until November 2011, when he was set free in rural Alabama without explanation. Watson sued and won $82,500 in damages from a district court. This week, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the payout, ruling a statute of limitations had expired while Watson was in ICE custody without access to a lawyer.
President Trump reluctantly signed a bill Wednesday imposing new U.S. sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. The bill was approved by a large and veto-proof majority of lawmakers. It also tightens sanctions against North Korea and Iran. In a signing statement accompanying his signature, President Trump called the sanctions bill significantly flawed and said parts of it unconstitutionally restricted his executive powers. At the U.N., Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya denied his country meddled in the U.S. election, and said Russia would be unbowed by the sanctions.
Vasily Nebenzya: “I really wonder: Is there anything in this world today which Russia is not guilty of? Some of U.S. officials were saying that this is a bill that might encourage Russia to cooperate with the United States. To me, that’s a strange sort of encouragement.”
On Twitter, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Trump’s signature ended hopes of improving U.S.-Russia relations.
The White House admitted Wednesday that Donald Trump never received a “thank you” call from the head of the Boy Scouts of America—as Trump claimed—for a speech the president gave last month to about 40,000 boys at the National Scout Jamboree. Trump made the claim in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, whose transcript was later published by Politico. In it, Trump boasted, “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” Boy Scouts Chief Executive Michael Surbaugh and other top Scouts officials denied ever calling the president. Last week, Surbaugh apologized to those who were offended by Trump’s political rhetoric. Meanwhile, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has denied another of Trump’s claims, made at a July 31 Cabinet meeting.
President Donald Trump: “The president of Mexico called me. They said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”
After Mexican officials denied any such call ever took place, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president did not lie about the incident. Sanders instead said the conversation happened as Trump and Peña Nieto met in person at last month’s G-20 summit in Germany.
A senior official has resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency, citing the Trump administration’s war on science and administrator Scott Pruitt’s business-friendly ties. Elizabeth Southerland, a 30-year veteran of the EPA, ended her tenure Monday as director of the Office of Science and Technology for the agency’s Water Office. In a public letter of resignation, Southerland wrote, “Today the environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth. The truth is there is NO war on coal, there is NO economic crisis caused by environmental protection, and climate change IS caused by man’s activities.”
On Capitol Hill, a newly proposed bill would legalize marijuana on the federal level while withholding federal funds for prisons to states whose marijuana laws disproportionately incarcerate people of color. New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker unveiled the bill in a Facebook Live video, warning of the harsh long-term penalties faced by people convicted on marijuana possession charges.
Sen. Cory Booker “It’s so hard to find a job. You can’t get business licenses. You can’t get Pell Grants. You can’t get public housing or even food stamps. So many things are cut off to you. Now, imagine if those arrests are overwhelmingly concentrated in certain communities, where you have the churning in of the poor people in those communities, or minority folks or disproportionately large numbers of the black men in that community have been arrested for doing things that if you went to a college campus and really did the police work, you’d find that large numbers of those folks are doing those drugs.”
Sen. Cory Booker’s bill would void federal convictions for marijuana possession and would grant new sentencing hearings to those convicted on other marijuana charges.
Top officers at the U.S. Coast Guard have come to the defense of transgender servicemembers, following President Trump’s announcement last week that he would be banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. Speaking at a forum in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Admiral Paul Zukunft, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, said he personally reached out to all 13 members of the Coast Guard who have come out as transgender.
Admiral Paul Zukunft: “I reached out personally to Lt. Taylor Miller, who was featured on the cover of The Washington Post last week. Now, if you read that story, Taylor’s family has disowned her. Her family is the United States Coast Guard. And I told Taylor, 'I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you, and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith.'”
President Trump’s transgender ban was announced on July 26 in a series of three tweets and caught military leaders by surprise. The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said he won’t implement the policy until the president gives direction to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
In Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber rammed a NATO-led convoy near a major U.S. base in Kandahar Wednesday, in an attack the Pentagon said killed two U.S. soldiers. The violence came as the Pentagon seeks to send another 4,000 U.S. troops to join 8,700 currently in Afghanistan.
In Athens, Greece, Syrian refugees protested outside the German Embassy Wednesday, calling on authorities to quickly review their applications for passage to Germany and other European countries. This is 41-year-old mother Malak Rahmoun, who fled Aleppo years ago and has been trapped in Greece for two years hoping to reunite with her husband and son in Germany.
Malak Rahmoun: “Enough waiting. Enough suffering. I am suffering from not two years here in Greece; I am suffering from five, seven years, from Aleppo until now. Stop suffering, my children want. I want my children go to school.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s Coast Guard on Wednesday seized a ship operated by a German charity, accusing its crew of aiding illegal immigration from Libya to Europe. On its website, the group Jugend Rettet says it saved more than 6,500 migrants last year whose boats were in distress and who otherwise might have drowned in the Mediterranean.
Brazilian President Michel Temer survived a vote in Brazil’s lower house of Congress Wednesday that could have seen him removed from office over corruption charges. Lawmakers voted 263-227 to keep Temer in power, as opposition lawmakers chanted, waved briefcases stuffed with fake money and traded punches with the president’s supporters. Temer remains in power despite a single-digit approval rating, and even though a secretly recorded tape captured him approving hush-money payoffs for a powerful politician jailed on corruption charges.
Back in the U.S., the NAACP has issued its first-ever travel advisory, warning people of color to avoid the state of Missouri, after Governor Eric Greitens signed a bill blasted by critics as a “new Jim Crow” law. SB 43 bars workers from suing individuals responsible for alleged bias and makes it extremely difficult for workers to win racial discrimination claims against businesses. In a statement, the Missouri chapter of the NAACP wrote, “Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme caution. … SB 43 legalizes individual discrimination and harassment in Missouri and would prevent individuals from protecting themselves.”
The Baltimore Police Department has suspended seven officers after video emerged appearing to show them planting marijuana in a car and arresting its driver on drug charges. The police body cam video shows officers stopping a man and a woman in a car last November.
Officer: “Step out.”
Civilian: “What are you stopping us for?”
Officer: “Step out.”
Civilian: “What do you mean 'step out'? What are you stopping us for?”
Officer: “Put your hands on your head.”
Civilian: “For what?”
The video shows police searching the car, with one officer expressing frustration over coming up empty-handed. The officers then turn off their body cameras, before a new recording begins showing an officer searching part of the car that had already been checked.
Officer 1: “Anybody check this compartment?”
Officer 2: “Oh, my god! I knew it. That’s why they were freaking out.”
Officer 1: “That’s the weed smell right there.”
Officer 3: “There you go.”
Prosecutors have dropped charges against the driver over suspected police misconduct. It’s the second such case in Baltimore within recent weeks. A video made public last month appeared to show three other officers planting heroin in an alleyway ahead of a drug arrest. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby says over 100 criminal cases that would have relied on testimony from those officers are now under review, with more than 40 cases already dropped.
And in Hawaii, police arrested six activists early Wednesday as they halted a convoy delivering part of a giant solar telescope being constructed on the island of Maui. Protesters used plastic “lockboxes” to chain themselves together as they lay in the street in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. They say one activist lost consciousness and suffered a concussion after officers tackled him to the pavement. Native Hawaiians say the telescope is being built on sacred ground—a mountain peak in Haleakala National Park—and that the permitting process failed to respect Native Hawaiian sovereignty. The protests hope to build on a campaign that has successfully halted construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop the Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island.