The Slatest
Your News Companion

Aug. 23 2017 9:57 PM

Trump Administration Is Reportedly About to Issue Its Transgender Ban to the Pentagon

Nearly a month after President Trump woke up on a Wednesday morning and announced via Twitter that he was instituting a ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military, the Wall Street Journal reports the White House is expected to make good on Trump’s promise by sending a formal policy memo to the Pentagon outlining the terms of the ban in a matter of days. The two-and-a-half page memo gives Defense Secretary Mattis six months to reestablish the ban on transgender troops that was abolished during the Obama administration in 2016. The Obama policy required open enrollment of transgender troops by July 1, 2017 and provided treatment for the condition medically known as gender dysphoria.

Here are the broad outlines of the Trump policy via the Journal:

Mr. Mattis under the new policy is expected to consider “deployability”—the ability to serve in a war zone, participate in exercises or live for months on a ship—as the primary legal means to decide whether to separate service members from the military, the officials said… The White House memo also directs the Pentagon to deny admittance to transgender individuals and to stop spending on medical treatment regimens for those currently serving, according to U.S. officials familiar with the document.
Advertisement

“Transgender people are just as deployable as other service members,” said Sue Fulton, the former president of Sparta, a LGBTQ military organization told the Journal. “Other service members may undergo procedures when they are at home base, just as other service members schedule shoulder surgery or gall bladder surgery.”

The move is largely backed by conservative members of Congress, although some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, have advocated for letting transgender troops serve openly. The GOP lawmakers’ line for why they oppose transgender troops is that it is an unbearable expense on the Pentagon. “The Rand report concluded that the cost of treating transgender service members would be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year,” according to the WSJ. “Total military health-care expenditures were $6.27 billion in 2014.” The exact number of transgender individuals serving in the military isn’t altogether clear with estimates ranging from a thousand to as many as 11,000.

Aug. 23 2017 8:11 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Another Pathetic Night for Antifa and the Mainstream Media

170106_logo_conservative_media4.png.crop.article250medium

A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

On Wednesday, conservatives took on both the mainstream media’s reactions to Trump’s Phoenix speech and the night’s protests. “Members of the establishment media reacted in horror after President Donald Trump criticized them again during a rally in Phoenix in the wake of the violent Charlottesville protests,” Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering wrote. “CNN political analyst Peter Mathews said Trump’s rhetoric [is] ‘dangerous,’ comparing it to same rhetoric that Hitler used in Nazi Germany.”

Advertisement

Townhall’s Matt Vespa criticized CNN’s Don Lemon for a monologue slamming Trump’s speech. “In all, it proved why Trump won in 2016,” he wrote. “It’s these sorts of tantrums from the media that pushes moderates into the Trump camp and makes those already in it to dig in deeper.” The Daily Wire’s James Barrett mocked figures from the Daily Mail suggesting around 500 protesters showed up to Trump’s speech out of an anticipated 7,000. “[I]t turns out that one side was mostly just social media faux activism,” he wrote. “And after the rally the Antifa did what the Antifa do: assaulted police and got themselves tear-gassed.”

He and other writers across several sites highlighted a clip of a protester being shot in the groin with a rubber bullet or pepper ball after kicking a smoke grenade back at the police. “ANTIFA: Another Nutsack Totalled In Fascist AmeriKKKa,” the Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher wrote. “Handy hint: If you don’t want your balls to get demolished in a riot, don’t participate in a riot. You can be angry all you want, but when the cops tell you to hit the bricks, just scamper along home to Mommy.”

“[T]here’s no way to be sure if the cop who fired the infamous shot hit where he was aiming or just found the sweet spot out of sheer luck,” the Resurgent’s Marc Giller wrote. “ We can only be grateful that Arizona police take their duty to protect so seriously, all while serving up some boffo entertainment besides." The Daily Wire compiled a list of viral edits of a clip showing the protester being hit, including versions soundtracked by the theme from Titanic and, by the request of the Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro, Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You.

In other news:

Conservatives excoriated ESPN for deciding to have an Asian-American football announcer named Robert Lee sit out of calling a University of Virginia football game. “OutkicktheCoverage.com was the first to report on this politically correct nonsense, Townhall’s Todd Starnes wrote.”They made an interesting observation: Mr. Lee is in fact – Asian. It is highly doubtful he is a descendant of the Civil War general. And to our knowledge, there are no monuments or statues in his honor posted anywhere in Charlottesville.”

“I hesitate to say the following story is the dumbest thing that will ever happen in the history of America,” the Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher wrote, “because it’s only Wednesday.” On Twitter, conservatives had a field day.

Aug. 23 2017 5:10 PM

Don't Tell the President, But Congress Is Quietly Planning a Bipartisan, Non-Insane Health Care Bill

Earlier this year, the Republican Party attempted to follow through on promises it had been cynically making its most extreme voters for years by rushing through a destructive, wildly unpopular Affordable Care Act repeal proposal. That effort failed, barely, and now something quite strange is happening: Republicans in Congress are soliciting Democratic input in an effort to draft a modest, reasonable health care bill that will tangibly improve Americans' lives. USA Today has the strange story:

Senators looking for ways to stabilize the individual health insurance market will hear from governors and state health insurance commissioners at their first bipartisan hearings next month.
The hearings, set for Sept. 6-7, will focus on stabilizing premiums and helping people in the individual market.
Advertisement

Today, the committtee holding the hearings—the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, led by Republican Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Washington Sen. Patty Murray—announced that three Republican governors and two Democratic governors will testify. (Under the Affordable Care Act, individual insurance is sold through state-level exchanges and, as Politico reported earlier this week, officials in both "red and blue states" have "hustled" to ensure that at least one coverage option will be available to their residents despite the chaos in D.C. Only one county in the country currently lacks coverage.)

In the bigger picture, meanwhile, Democrats—who have in the past downplayed or ignored the Affordable Care Act's flaws—are preparing ambitious-but- practical coverage expansion proposals of their own for voters to consider in 2018.

Trump will ruin all of this, no doubt, with Twitter, and racism.

Aug. 23 2017 4:37 PM

No Man Is an Island, but Trump Is Drawing Perilously Close

Donald Trump is “in a position right now where he’s much more isolated than he realizes,” Newt Gingrich informed Fox News on Friday. Newt is never right, and yet there, in his comment, was the toll of truth—since he took office in January, Trump’s presidency has amounted to a sustained and methodical masterpiece of pushing people away. Which of his original constituencies remain to him? Last week, sensing insurrection, he dissolved two separate councils of CEOs (exeunt rich businesspeople) and begged off of attending the Kennedy Center Honors concert (exeunt any celebrities who hadn’t already). He guillotined Establishment mainstays Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, then turned around and ejected Steve Bannon, the mouthpiece for the one demographic that hasn’t grown visibly disillusioned with Trump after his Charlottesville disaster: white nationalists. Beyond American borders, foreign heads of states are issuing statements chastising the President, who, in fairness, has been insulting them for months. His potential allies in the House and Senate will not come to his defense. No man is an island, but Trump is drawing perilously close.

Aug. 23 2017 1:04 PM

Wait, Does the Trump Administration Care About Human Rights Now?

There are a few things we thought we knew about the Trump administration’s Middle East policy: It is concerned first and foremost with counterterrorism, it wants to curb the influence of Iran and Islamist movements like the Muslim brotherhood, it is reflexively supportive of Israel, and it’s not particularly concerned with human rights or democracy.

So this week’s decision by the State Department to withhold $195 million in military aid to Egypt and take away $96 million in other aid, ostensibly over human rights concerns, is baffling. Egypt, unsurprisingly, has criticized the move and canceled a meeting scheduled for Wednesday between the country’s foreign minister and Jared Kushner. The State Department’s stated reason for the penalties is a recently passed Egyptian law severely restricting the activities of nongovernmental organizations. The law is terrible, and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is undeniably a rights-abusing autocratic strongman, but since when does Trump care?

Advertisement

Trump has called Sisi a “fantastic guy” and at a meeting in May praised him for having “done a tremendous job under trying circumstance,” adding, “We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt.”

By that point, Sisi, who took power in a military coup in 2013, had already jailed thousands of opponents and massacred hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The autocratic character of the Egyptian regime was pretty clear two months ago, and it would be odd if the NGO law were the final straw.

Moreover, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said he doesn’t believe in conditioning U.S. cooperation on human rights standards and that doing so “creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.” He’s even reportedly had any mention of democracy scrubbed from the department’s mission statement. To that end, the Trump administration has resumed military aid to countries like Bahrain, suspended by the Obama administration over human rights concerns. (Obama froze aid to Egypt after the 2013 coup, but then, despite continuing to criticize Sisi’s crackdown on the Brotherhood, restored it in 2015 amid concerns over ISIS.)

It also seems like a strange time for the U.S. to pick a fight with a government that’s tacitly pro-Israel and a rival of Iran’s. Yes, Egypt is alone among Arab governments in backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the U.S. doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to oust him either, and the country’s recent forays into the war in Syria and Iraqi politics could be seen as a way to head off Iranian influence in those countries: Israel certainly sees it that way. Despite some tension last year, relations also seem to be improving again between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The New York Times suggests that the move may have less to do with Mideast politics than with North Korea. Egypt has had a friendly relationship with North Korea since the 1970s, and a recent U.N. report alleged that under-the-table trade in military equipment between the two countries is ongoing. The State Department hasn’t confirmed or denied that North Korea is part of its motivation, which is a little odd given that the Trump administration hasn’t exactly been shy about its other efforts to isolate Kim Jong-un.

Prior to this week’s move, it was clear that the Trump administration wanted more bang for the bucks it was sending Egypt. It has urged Egypt to do more to counter ISIS in the Sinai and wants Egypt to help form a Mideast security alliance—a sort of Arab NATO. The administration has also mused about replacing longstanding defense financing programs with loans—a major downgrade for long-standing allies like Egypt.

The latest move does seem like an effort to use some leverage in disputes with Egypt that may have little to do with the rights of NGOs in Egypt, though it’s not entirely clear what those disputes are. The Times notes that by “pausing the provision of $195 million in military funding, the Trump administration saved the money from expiring entirely on Sept. 30”—meaning that Egypt could still get the money if it changes its behavior.

There have been other recent signs that the administration is shifting away from its professed indifference to human rights. The Treasury Department sanctioned Venezuelan officials including President Nicolás Maduro after the recent disputed election and crackdown on the opposition there—possibly as a sop to members of Congress concerned about the country. And after skipping the unveiling of a global human rights report early in his tenure, Tillerson recently unveiled the agency’s annual religious freedom report which slammed allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and China—a move that will gratify Christian conservatives in the United States and, in China’s case, add a bit of leverage in ongoing disputes over trade and North Korea.

It would be a surprise to see Trump lean too hard on his favorite strongmen, as long as they cooperate. But the administration does seem to be learning to play the human rights card in circumstances where doing so is beneficial—one more way its foreign policy is turning out to be surprisingly conventional.

Aug. 23 2017 1:02 PM

Trump May Still Pardon Arpaio for Defying Court Order to Stop Harassing Latinos

Joe Arpaio was the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for more than two decades, during which he developed a national reputation for his hostility toward undocumented immigrants. In 2011, a federal judge told Arpaio's department that it could no longer stop and detain Latinos whom officers suspected of no crime besides being in the U.S. illegally—which in practice seems to have simply meant "stopping random Latinos." From a 2011 Justice Department report about the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, or MCSO:

Based upon our extensive investigation, we find reasonable cause to believe that MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. Specifically, we find that MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO's policies or practices.
Advertisement

Latino drivers in Maricopa County were "four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers," the DOJ found. In any case, Arpaio announced that his department would not modify its practices, and it didn't; in 2016 a federal judge found him guilty of misdemeanor criminal contempt of court, which is punishable by up to six months in jail.

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump held a 2020 campaign rally (seriously, that's what it technically was) in Phoenix. He strongly suggested that he would pardon Arpaio:

I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK? But—but I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy. Is that OK? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.

Indeed, a CNN correspondent now reports that the legal groundwork for a pardon is being laid.

Enforcing the Fourth Amendment: Not, apparently, a top Trump administration law-and-order priority.

Aug. 23 2017 12:10 PM

Here’s How Police Cleared the Last Protesters Outside Trump’s Phoenix Rally

President Trump's Phoenix rally drew thousands of demonstrators to the downtown area near the convention center. But most of the large demonstrations had ended around the same time that the rally did. Still, not everyone went home. The last couple hundred or so anti-Trump protesters on the north side of the convention center were gathered around the intersection of Second and Van Buren streets facing a barricade of police in riot gear, who were blocking off Second Street heading south to the convention center.

I was laying back around 100 feet from the line of police trying to catch a glimpse of how this would end. Though a police helicopter was circling overhead repeatedly telling protesters to go home or face arrest, it would take more than words to clear the area. Suddenly, at least from my vantage, all you could hear was the first pop and then several successive ones, as protesters ran north along Second Street and gas filled the area. I could not see directly what was happening as the police approached through the cloud of gas.

Advertisement

But a protester I met, Art Corella, could, and captured it on video.

As the police move forward, they disperse what appears to be (and sure felt like!) tear gas. Around halfway through the video, they use pepper spray on a lone protester kneeling on the ground before them, and then on some of those who come trying to grab that protester. Some stragglers throw water bottles at the police as they’re retreating, others tried kicking the gas canisters back at the police.

Most of the mass protests went off without incident. But at the end, this is how the police cleared the last outposts of demonstration downtown.

Aug. 22 2017 11:35 PM

Trump Reads Aloud 15-Minute Edited Version of Previous Charlottesville Remarks and Calls It a Rally

Donald Trump somehow managed to upstage himself in ridiculousness Tuesday night in Phoenix. The president of the United States came out to what appeared to be a meager crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center amidst speculation and consternation about what he would say in his first large-scale public event since Charlottesville. A visibly agitated Trump trotted out a few of his dusty one-liners from the campaign, before moving on, inexplicably, to recounting nearly verbatim his remarks day by day in the aftermath of Charlottesville. "I don't want to bore you with this," Trump told the crowd before doing just that.

Trump moved off the teleprompter and took out a clump of papers with a selection of his old statements on Charlottesville and, literally started reading them. But first he condemned the media:

Just like they don't want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, and the KKK. I openly called for unity, healing, and love and they know it because they were all there. So what I did—so what I did is I thought I'd take just a second and I'm really doing this more than anything else because you know where my heart is. OK? … So here is my first statement when I heard about Charlottesville. And I have a home in Charlottesville.
Advertisement

For the next 15 full minutes, the president read selective passages from his remarks on Charlottesville, skipping the unflattering ones like “on many sides" to rewrite the history of the past two weeks in America. Every so often Trump would cut himself off from reading with asides like: “This is me speaking. Here's further. This is on Saturday. I did this three times.” Slowly the crowd behind him began to sit down because, more than anything, it was boring. “So I said based on event that took place over the last weekend in Charlottesville, I'd like to provide the nation with an update because that was right after the event, the first one, right?” Yes, right. It was only two weeks ago. We remember it.

It was as transparent attempt as any of Trump’s many gaslighting episodes. It’s tempting to say it’s more pathetic, but it’s not really. It was about par for the course. The only difference was the stakes creep ever higher as the president’s approval rating dips and his agitation rises. Trump went on to say other half-truths Tuesday night, but during his outrageous attempt to edit (recent) history, perhaps most importantly, Trump lost the crowd. As the energy in the auditorium wilted, Trump looked up at the press risers dutifully recording and transmitting his absurd and false statements around the country and the world and he recognized exactly what was happening. “That's so funny. Look back there,” Trump told the crowd. “The live red lights they're turning those suckers off fast, I'll tell you. They're turning those lights off fast. Like CNN. CNN does not want its falling viewership to watch what I'm saying tonight, I can tell you.” And for the first time all night, Trump stumbled upon on an absolute truth—he wasn’t worth watching anymore.

Aug. 22 2017 9:53 PM

New Poll Shows Most Arizona Voters Don’t Approve of Trump Presidency. There’s Trouble Ahead for GOP.

The national terrain Donald Trump is tiptoeing around on Tuesday night in Phoenix, during his first high-profile appearance since going on vacation and voicing support for white nationalists in Charlottesville, continues to be slippery at best for the president. He his, of course, historically unpopular with the American people overall, but more crucially his support continues to erode outside of his hardcore base and that includes slipping numbers within the Republican Party, where one-in-four now disapproves of the job Trump is doing. On Tuesday, the White House appears set to allow the president let his hair down and “let Trump be Trump” to a city and state that recent polling shows isn’t quite so sure it wants a Trumpier Trump.

A new HighGround poll out this week finds 55 percent of the traditionally red state disapproves of the job Trump is doing. This is not a good sign for Trump or the GOP considering the president underperformed in November, pulling in only 48 percent of the vote, beating Hillary Clinton by a slim 3 point margin. The ditch Trump has dug himself is particularly daunting considering that to claw back some of that support he’ll need to win over independent and unaffiliated voters in the state. Currently, Trump’s approval rating among independents in Arizona stands at a dismal 27 percent and 33 percent among unaffiliated voters.

Advertisement

“If the President and the GOP fail to expand public support beyond the GOP base, the party may face historic electoral failures in 2018,” said Chuck Coughlin, President and CEO of HighGround Public Affairs said in a statement Monday. “While I am sure he will receive a hero’s welcome inside the Convention hall tomorrow, there should be little doubt given this research, which shows that he enjoys single digit support amongst Democrats and less than a third of Independent and unaffiliated voters, that this is not a sustainable general election coalition.”

The state’s senators have reflected this unease with Trump’s performance so far, with Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake stoking the GOP’s often-insufficient outrage at the things that Trump thinks, and says, and does. Trump’s coattails have shrunk significantly enough that Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey has chosen to skip the event altogether. During the 2016 campaign, while the Hillary Clinton campaign may have been a bit optimistic in its decision to contest Arizona, the state sufficiently wavered in its GOP support to make the state a battleground on the electoral map.

On Tuesday, we’ll see which Trump shows up, but time and again the president has shown himself incapable of changing political speeds. Charging full speed ahead plays well to Trump’s base and suits his disposition, but a Trumped up version of the president has so far turned off more voters in Arizona than it has appealed to. If that continues in a state that the GOP has long considered a gimme, for Republicans with an eye on 2018, that could spell serious trouble.

Aug. 22 2017 7:52 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Unpacking Trump’s Afghanistan Plan

170106_logo_conservative_media4.png.crop.article250medium

A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

On Tuesday, conservatives assessed both Trump’s Afghanistan speech and the wisdom of continuing the war there. At National Review, Quin Hillyer applauded Trump’s speech. “If Barack Obama had made the sorts of decisions about the war in Afghanistan, or the one in Iraq, that Donald Trump outlined tonight, we might already have achieved stability in both countries,” he wrote. “It sounds as if Trump is actually letting experienced military leaders use their good judgment to craft war-fighting strategies on both the macro and micro levels. Good for him. And good for him for listening to them even though he has been saying for at least six years that the United States should pull out completely from Afghanistan.”

Advertisement

At the American Conservative, Daniel Larison condemned Trump for succumbing to war hawks:

Unless the U.S. intends to make Afghanistan its permanent ward and wishes to be at war there forever, there is no compelling reason for a continued American military presence. Nothing in Trump’s speech provided such a reason. He embraced the sunk cost fallacy (“our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made”), and ignored that throwing away more lives on a failed war is far worse than cutting our losses.
[...]Trump defined victory as “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.” Based on this definition, victory is not possible at an acceptable cost. The preoccupation with “winning” an unwinnable war just dooms the U.S. to fight there for decades to come. If we can’t admit failure after sixteen years of it, when will we?

On Fox & Friends, LifeZette’s Laura Ingraham praised Trump’s speech while casting doubt on the prospects of a troop surge’s success.

“The question is, ‘What does victory ultimately look like?,” she said. “How do we continue to keep the American people supportive of this war effort that is now in its 17th year --17 years, 2,500 lives, almost a trillion dollars. It was the Soviet Union’s graveyard. I don’t think Americans want it to be our graveyard. But I think he gave a great speech.”

In other news:

Multiple outlets published posts on a list of demands for white people published by a member of Black Lives Matter Louisville named Chanelle Helm. “White people are asked, ‘Give up the home you own to a black or brown family,’ pass on any inherited property ‘to a black or brown family,’ or ‘re-budget your monthly so you can donate to black funds for land purchasing,’" Breitbart’s Jerome Hudson wrote. “She concludes, ‘Commit to two things: Fighting white supremacy where and how you can (this doesn’t mean taking up knitting, unless you’re making scarves for black and brown kids in need), and funding black and brown people and their work.’ ”

“Helm also references ‘lil’ dick-white men’ associated with the alt-right and tells other whites to, ‘Get they ass fired. Call the police even: they look suspicious,’ ” the Daily Caller’s Justin Caruso noted. “This list of requests may seem strange, but it fits an increasingly common thread among left-wing activists, many of whom insist that the only way to properly address historical racism is through reparations.”

READ MORE STORIES