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Free Speech Advocacy Group Sues Trump

The Free Press WV

They’re not writing this off.

PEN America filed a federal lawsuit against President Trump Tuesday, claiming his “official acts” have violated the First Amendment.

The group cited Trump’s pledge to block the merger of AT&T and CNN parent company Time Warner, plus his threats of antitrust action against Amazon after critical reporting by The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

The suit seeks to prevent Trump from using his office to retaliate against the media — though PEN must now prove its members have been directly affected by his actions.


Learn More:    Politico    PBS

FACT CHECK: Trump distorts migrant policy, Russia probe

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump mischaracterized his immigration-law achievements, the plight of children taken from parents at the Mexico border and what’s known about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in his wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press.

A look at his comments on those subjects:

IMMIGRATION

TRUMP: “We have the worst laws in the history of the world on immigration and we’re getting them changed one by one. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of weeks even, but we’re getting them changed one by one.”

THE FACTS: He’s actually failed to achieve changes in immigration laws. All of the immigration-related changes pushed by his administration were done by executive order, not legislation, or through policy shifts like the zero tolerance policy that criminally prosecuted anyone caught crossing illegally and gave rise to family separations. The administration has also used regulations to tighten the rules on how immigrants can receive public benefits. Immigration legislation has failed despite Republican control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

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TRUMP, on the separation of children from their parents at the border: “Now President Obama had the same law. He did the same thing.”

THE FACTS: Obama did not do the same thing as a matter of policy. It’s true the underlying laws were the same. But the Trump administration mandated anyone caught crossing the border illegally was to be criminally prosecuted. The policy meant adults were taken to court for criminal proceedings, and their children were separated and sent into the care of the Health and Human Services Department, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant children. The so-called zero tolerance policy remains in effect, but Trump signed an executive order June 20 that stopped separations.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s homeland security secretary, told NPR there may have been unusual or emergency circumstances when children were taken from parents but there was no such policy.

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TRUMP: “And in fact the picture of children living in cages that was taken in 2014 was a picture of President Obama’s administration and the way they handled children. They had the kids living in cages. They thought it was our administration and they used it, and then unbeknownst to them and the fake news they found out, ‘Oh my God, this is a terrible situation.’ This was during the Obama administration.”

THE FACTS: He’s right. Images that circulated online during the height of Trump’s family separations controversy were actually from 2014 under the Obama administration. But circumstances for some children have not changed. In June, an Associated Press reporter was part of a group that visited a U.S. Border Patrol holding facility, where hundreds of children were waiting in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside, scattered around were bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets. The cages in each wing opened out into common areas to use portable restrooms.

The children both in 2014 and 2018 were separated temporarily from their parents in the facilities, placed in areas by age and sex for safety reasons.

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RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

TRUMP, about Mueller’s Russia investigation: “It’s a tremendous waste of time for the president of the United States. To think that I would be even thinking about using Russia to help me win Idaho, we’re using Russia to help me win the great state of Iowa or anywhere else is the most preposterous, embarrassing thing.”

THE FACTS: Trump may be right that he did not need a boost in Idaho and Iowa, states he won in 2016 with comfortable margins of 31 points and 9 points, respectively. But the notion of Russia-backed activities on his behalf “anywhere else” in the U.S. is not far-fetched, according to an indictment in February by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The indictment accuses 13 Russians and three Russian entities of seeking to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton by running a hidden social media trolling campaign and seeking to mobilize Trump supporters at rallies while posing as American political activists in “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.” According to the indictment, the surreptitious campaign was organized by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm financed by companies controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman with ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment says the defendants commonly referred to targeting more closely divided “purple states” after being advised by a Texas-based grass-roots organization in June 2016 to focus efforts there.

The indictment details contacts targeting three unidentified officials in the Trump campaign’s Florida operation. In each instance, the Russians used false U.S. personas to contact the officials. The indictment doesn’t say if any of them responded.

Trump lost by nearly 2.9 million votes in the popular vote to Clinton, but captured the needed Electoral College votes to win the presidency after prevailing in politically divided states including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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TRUMP: “This was an excuse made by the Democrats for the reason they lost the Electoral College, which gives them a big advantage — a big advantage. Very different than the popular vote. The popular vote would be much easier to win if you were campaigning on it. ... But winning the Electoral College is a tremendous advantage for the Democrats.”

THE FACTS: Trump is falsely asserting, as he has before, that Democrats have a “big advantage” in the Electoral College. Its unique system of electing presidents is actually a big reason why Trump won the presidency. Four candidates in history have won a majority of the popular vote only to be denied the presidency by the Electoral College. All were Democrats.

In the 2016 election, Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump after racking up lopsided victories in big states such as New York and California, according to election data compiled by The Associated Press. But she lost the presidency due to Trump’s winning margin in the Electoral College, which came after he narrowly won less populous Midwestern states including Michigan and Wisconsin.

Unlike the popular vote, Electoral College votes are set equal to the number of U.S. representatives in each state plus its two senators. That means more weight is given to a single vote in a small state than the vote of someone in a large state.

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TRUMP, on his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen: “By the way, he was in trouble not for what he did for me; he was in trouble for what he did for himself. You do know that? Having to do with loans, mortgages, taxicabs and various other things, if you read the paper.”

THE FACTS: Cohen was definitely in trouble for what he did for Trump. He stated in open court that Trump directed him to arrange payments of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, to fend off damage to Trump’s White House bid.

Cohen said one payment was made “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” and the other was made “under direction of the same candidate.”

It is true that Cohen did not identify Trump, but there was no ambiguity in court documents or in his statement.

Cohen’s extraordinary statement at his August plea hearing marked the first time any Trump associate, in open court, has implicated the president himself in a crime.

Trump is, however, correct that other charges which Cohen admitted to didn’t involve the candidate or the campaign and were for tax deception.

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TRUMP: “Do you know these Russian hackers you’re talking about from Moscow? They have nothing to do with me. ... They were hackers from Moscow. Some of them supported Hillary Clinton.”

THE FACTS: The Mueller indictment offers no evidence or reason to believe that the Russian effort was intended to help elect Clinton — quite the opposite. Some anti-Trump messaging tied to Russians was indeed disseminated online, but investigators believe the motive was to spread confusion and discord in the campaign, not to elect her.

The pro-Trump efforts identified in the indictment were strategic, on the ground in key states as well as online, and included attempts to make contact with Trump campaign officials. Russian President Vladimir Putin, while denying any involvement in Russian interference, has said he wanted Trump to win.

Melania: Here’s Who I Wore That Jacket For

The Free Press WV

ABC News on Friday night aired what it says is Melania Trump’s “first extensive sit-down interview since becoming first lady.“ It had already released excerpts where she discussed her husband’s alleged infidelity, her distrust of some White House staffers, and her thoughts on the #MeToo movement. One of the portions of the full interview (see video HERE) garnering attention concerns the jacket she wore in June when traveling to the US-Mexico border; it read, “I really don’t care, do U?“

“Let’s talk about the jacket,“ Tom Llamas began, asking her why she wore it. “It’s obvious I didn’t wear the jacket for the children,“ she answered. “I wore the jacket to go on the plane and off the plane. And it was for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I wanna show them that I don’t care. You could criticize whatever you wanna say, but it will not stop me to do what I feel is right.“ Llamas pressed her: “Your office had to release a statement during this time saying the jacket is just a jacket. So you were sending a message with the jacket?“ Melania replied, “It ... it was kind of a message, yes. I would prefer that they would focus on what I do and on my initiatives than what I wear.“ Her answer echoes President Trump’s explanation of the jacket at the time.

Unexpected Voices Are Piping Up in Politics

The Free Press WV

Taylor Swift’s singing a new tune.

The Reputation star and Rihanna both surprised us this week by turning political.

They joined the ranks of people like Yara Shahidi, Kerry Washington and America Ferrera to convey the message that your vote is your power.

Swift used Instagram to endorse Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper, Dems running for Congress in Tennessee, urging fans to register to vote. Meanwhile, Rihanna — who can’t vote herself as she’s not a citizen but a green-card-holder from Barbados — took to Twitter to encourage her fans to vote.

We wish more stars would follow suit.


Learn More:    Mashable

Media Jumps on Trump’s Praise for Robert E. Lee at Rally

The Free Press WV

Trump was in Lebanon, Ohio, Friday night to rally for the state’s gubernatorial and congressional candidates, but the AP reports much of his hour-plus speech focused on the highlights of his week, which included Brett Kavanaugh being seated on the Supreme Court and pastor Andrew Brunson’s release from Turkey. As USA Today observes, Trump has a tendency to tout his 2016 win when making these kinds of appearances, but on Friday, he focused on much older history, zeroing in on the Civil War and Generals Lee and Grant. “So Robert E. Lee was a great general and Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia, he couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee,“ Trump began. “He was going crazy ... but Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle and Abraham Lincoln came home and he said ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee.‘“

He then flowed into the tale of a native son of Ohio: Ulysses S. Grant, a general who Trump described as struggling with alcohol and lacking the backing of other military leaders. “They said ‘Don’t take him; he’s got a drinking problem.‘ And Lincoln said, ‘I don’t care what problem he has. You guys aren’t winning.‘ And his name was Grant, General Grant,” Trump said. “And he went in and knocked the hell out of everyone. They said to Lincoln, ‘You can’t use him anymore, he’s an alcoholic’ and Lincoln said, ‘I don’t care if he’s an alcohol, frankly, get me six or seven just like him.‘“ Other outlets including NBC News and the Hill reported on Trump’s praise of Lee, which Twitchy sees as “BS,“ noting the praise was simply given as the run-up to introducing Grant. Politico’s take: “Civil War history has been fraught territory for Trump and key members of his administration.“

Women of Color Run for Political Office Like Never Before

The Free Press WV

This isn’t about Black rage.

Truth is, we feel more empowered than ever before.

Rather than simply propping up male candidates as we’ve done throughout history, we are seeing female candidates, for the first time, who weren’t recruited by either party’s national committee but decided on their own to step up.

This year, women stopped asking for permission, and we applaud them.

Being a public servant today isn’t easy; you’re exposing yourself and your family to enormous scrutiny.

So if a woman feels she is qualified and has the passion, she should go for it.


Learn More:    Salon

WV Legislative Update

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As I write this column Sunday evening, Jean and I are spending more time together this weekend.  When the weather turned from summer to fall, our furnace decided it had other plans.  So we’re gathered around the electric space heater until the furnace gets diagnosed, as we’re not quite cold enough to use the woodstove or fireplace yet.  Meanwhile, I’m pleased to report the well-known Powell’s Mountain goat was out and about on Sunday afternoon.

I’ve touched base in this column on multiple occasions regarding the dilemma with roadside litter and trash that seems to be worse than ever in various parts of central West Virginia.  While DOH has a full plate as a result of the unforeseen road emergency situations in addition to normal maintenance, help is needed.  Many concerned citizens from across the district have offered to assist, which is civic pride at its best.  However, due to Federal regulations, citizens and groups cannot volunteer on local roads but not the Interstate highway.  Meanwhile, the litter is a detriment to visitors, residents and businesses.

I had a conversation last week with Jeff Sandy, Cabinet Secretary for the WV Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety regarding my long-standing request for crews from Central Regional Jail to assist in public works projects, including litter and trash.  Among the factors that have held up utilizing non-violent inmates from the regional jail has been the lack of sufficient personnel to supervise.  After the changes made by the Legislature to bring salaries up substantially over the next three years, hiring has increased and the employee vacancy level is dropping.

As the issue of sufficient supervisory personnel is beginning to be resolved, one additional important component remains, but should be resolved soon.  That is the issue of high-tech screening of inmates upon returning from outside work details.

Body scanners are soon to be installed in our regional jails and other correctional facilities.  A few were recently put into service.  Sadly, this has become a necessity for the security of guards, staff and inmates.  In the past, inmate crews did a great job in filling the gap on public works projects for towns, counties and litter control details.  Unfortunately, the good work by the majority of the inmates was cancelled by some inmates that used families and friends to drop contraband – tobacco, drugs and other items – in areas where they were working.  Ultimately many of these banned items were smuggled into the correctional facilities, creating a dangerous environment.

Secretary Sandy explained that these scanners are extremely accurate and effective in detecting materials that may be on or in someone attempting to enter the facility.  Once this device is installed and correctional officers are trained in its use, the ability to accurately monitor any and all materials and substances that inmates or others may attempt to smuggle is greatly enhanced.

It’s truly sad that our taxpayer resources must be spent on expensive countermeasures of this type.  Equally sad is the fact that it has become necessary that honest citizens have to go through metal detectors in public buildings, at airports and other locations.  Such is the price of safety in today’s world.  As hard as we work to protect the public, there are bad actors out among us that are attempting to defeat the systems designed to protect us. 

Once scanners are in place, let’s hope we can soon see some visible benefit from our tax dollars in work crews deployed from the regional jails.  Considering taxpayers end up footing a bill for each inmate of nearly $49 dollars per day, we need and deserve some return on our investment.

Finally, while on the subject of things we shouldn’t have to do but now have become a necessity, I spoke with Justin yesterday regarding an “active shooter” training drill held at a school in Huntington last Saturday.  This was an elaborate, well-planned drill, paid for by homeland security grant funding to better prepare law enforcement, hospitals, emergency responders, Cabell County school personnel, teachers and students for the unthinkable tragedy that unfortunately happens more and more in today’s world.

Nearly one hundred high school students participated, along with teachers and school service and central office personnel.  Injuries were simulated - from broken bones, cuts, and fatalities.  Simulated gunfire and explosions were employed, along with drone surveillance, ambulance transportation to emergency rooms.  Parents participated met those with and without simulated injuries at a triage point away from the school.  It was a comprehensive, real-time drill in the most realistic terms possible.

Listening to his discussion of the events of his day, it was apparent that they were prepared in most areas; more work needed in others.  Training and preparing for the unthinkable is now more important than ever.

Whenever we think “it can never happen here”, we’re taking a big risk.  We always need to support our schools, firefighters, emergency responders, law enforcement, educators, hospitals, medical personnel and others with our financial support, our encouragement, and when called upon, our time and talents.  This is part of what it takes to make good communities truly great. And great communities are where people want to live and where businesses want to locate.

Please send your inquiries to my home office:  151 Park Street, Gassaway, WV 26624.  My home number is 304.364.8411; the Capitol office number is 304.340.3142.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at www.legis.state.wv.us/.  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at www.wv.gov. Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at twitter.com/wvlegislature.

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

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