Republican Lawmaker Says It’s Time to Bring Back Family Separation

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Republican Lawmaker Says It’s Time to Bring Back Family Separation

A Republican representative on Wednesday made a shocking confession: “We want family separation.”

Representative Anna Paulina Luna, a freshman congresswoman from Florida, made the startling claim during a House hearing on immigration, in which she tried defending former President Donald Trump’s horrific family separation policy.

She questioned whether any real trauma took place when children were separated from their “quote unquote parents” under the program.

Cato Institute immigration expert David Bier, a witness in the hearing, apparently began laughing at her use of the phrase—which was enough to set off Luna.

“Why are you laughing?” she angrily yelled at Bier.

“Because you said ‘quote unquote parents,’ as if they weren’t really their parents,” he responded.

“You have no idea,” she immediately responded.

“I do have an idea. I’ve met with—”

“You have no idea if these people are their intentional parents or not. Really? Are you psychic? Have you won the lotto, Mr. Bier?”

It’s at this point that Luna revealed what she really thinks.

“The reason why we want family separation until we can confirm if they are their actual biological parents—”

“You want family separation?” Bier asked, stunned by her admission.

Rep. Luna has a heated exchange with a witness pic.twitter.com/MNqAemubRZ

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 17, 2024

To be clear, Trump’s family separation caused lasting trauma to entire families. Under the 2018 “zero tolerance” policy, at least 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the border. Those children were placed in Health and Human Services custody, while their parents were placed in detention and then prosecuted in federal court. Years later, hundreds of families still remain separated.

In 2019, a watchdog report documented some of the trauma experienced by the children. “The little ones don’t know how to express what they are feeling, what has happened,” one program report told investigators. “Communication is limited and difficult. They need more attention.”

“According to program directors and mental health clinicians, separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress than did children who were not separated,” the report found, noting that many children cried inconsolably or experienced other physical symptoms of trauma. One child said that “every heartbeat hurts.”

Luna, by the way, is best known for likely fabricating her Jewish heritage. In a Washington Post report last year, many of her family members disputed her claim that she was raised Jewish. In fact, they noted, her grandfather served in the Nazi army.

Donald Trump was nearly kicked out of his own defamation trial on Wednesday for repeatedly making comments within earshot of the jury, nearly a week before he is allowed to testify.

The trial is to determine how much Trump owes writer E. Jean Carroll in damages for defaming her. Trump did not appear at his first trial against Carroll in May, but this time around, he is in the courtroom. He has requested to testify, and Lewis Kaplan, the presiding judge, said he can do so on January 22.

But apparently, Trump didn’t feel like waiting to make his side of things heard. His attorney Alina Habba claimed twice that Carroll has gotten funding for the lawsuit, pushing conspiracy theories that either leftist billionaire George Soros paid her to accuse Trump or that leftist billionaire Reid Hoffman was paying her legal bills. As Carroll denied this, Trump said, “She got her memory back.”

Trump also muttered to Habba that the trial “is a witch hunt” and “really is a con job.” When Carroll’s lawyers played a video from 2023 of Trump calling his first trial against Carroll a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace,” Trump told Habba, “It’s true.”

Kaplan finally had had enough. “Mr. Trump has the right to be present here. That right can be forfeited if he is disruptive, which has been reported to me, and if he disregards court orders,” Kaplan said just before the trial broke for lunch.

“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to exclude you from the trial. I understand you are probably very eager for me to do that. Control yourself,” he said.

Trump replied he would “love it” if the judge kicked him out.

“I know you would,” Kaplan said. “You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently.”

“Neither can you,” Trump shot back.

It’s only the second day of the trial, and Trump and his team are already at loggerheads with Kaplan. Earlier Wednesday, Kaplan admonished Habba multiple times for disruptive behavior. During opening statements the day before, Habba almost immediately violated the rules Kaplan had established about what Trump’s team can and cannot say about Carroll.

Carroll is seeking at least $10 million in damages from Trump for defaming her in 2019, when she first released her memoir that accused him of sexual assault. Trump already owes Carroll $5 million after a jury unanimously found Trump liable for sexual abuse and battery against Carroll in the mid-1990s and for defaming her in 2022 while denying the assault

House Speaker Mike Johnson, one of the primary legal architects of an amicus brief used by Republicans seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 Electoral College victory, backpedaled in incredible fashion on Wednesday when asked point blank whether Biden’s win was God’s will.

“Do you believe that Joe Biden’s presidency is God’s will?” asked Capitol Hill reporter and New Republic contributor Pablo Manríquez.

“Oh, I know where you’re going with this,” chuckled the evangelical politician, calling himself a “Bible-believing Christian.”

“The Bible says that God is the one that raises up people in authority,” Johnson continued. “I believe that God is sovereign. By the way, so did the Founders. I quoted the Declaration of Independence—they acknowledge that our rights don’t come from government, they come from God. And we’re made in his image. Everybody is made the same.”

“So, if you believe all those things, then you believe that God is the one that allows people to be raised in authority. It must have been God’s will, then,” Johnson noted, adding that the nation made the decision to elect Biden collectively but he expects it will make “a much better choice” in 2024, before slyly dubbing the upcoming presidential election a “regime change.”

Reporter: “Do you believe that Joe Biden’s presidency is God’s will?”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA): “The Bible says that God is the one that raises up people in authority … It must have been God’s will, then.” pic.twitter.com/yVadGkgMvA

— The Recount (@therecount) January 17, 2024

The admission is a surprising twist for the MAGA congressman, who has been struggling in recent weeks to keep hold of his newfound power since he won the House’s highest seat in a shocking election in October. Johnson now faces identical problems to his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, who lost the confidence of his party during a bipartisan negotiation on a short-term government funding measure to avoid a shutdown. With just days on the clock until the federal government hits the first of two partial shutdowns, far-right hard-liners in the House are whispering that it’s time to give Johnson the boot, as well.

The second day of Donald Trump’s defamation trial against E. Jean Carroll was off to a very bad start on Wednesday, and not just for the former president. One of his lawyers managed to anger the presiding judge before testimony even began—and several times after that.

Attorney Alina Habba requested an adjournment on Thursday so that Trump could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral. This was not the first time Habba tried to use this excuse to stall the case, and Judge Lewis Kaplan shut her down.

“The application is denied. I will hear no further argument on it,” he said.

When Habba tried to keep talking, Kaplan cut her off.

“None. Do you understand that word?” he said. “Sit down.”

Habba: “I don’t like to be spoken to that way, your honor.” She continued to ask for an adjournment, at which point Kaplan cut her off again:

“It’s denied. Sit down.”

— erica orden (@eorden) January 17, 2024

Things did not improve after Carroll took the stand. The writer began to testify about the defamatory comments Trump has made about her and how they prompted a deluge of insults and death threats from his supporters. Habba repeatedly objected to things that Carroll said, and Kaplan overruled her nearly every time.

At one point, Carroll’s lawyer asked her what one of her books was about. Carroll explained it’s about “what women think,” only for Habba to object that her answer was too vague.

Kaplan admonished Habba. “Ms. Habba, when you speak in this courtroom or any other courtroom, you’ll stand up,” he said.

A little later, Carroll’s lawyer asked her about the conspiracy that liberal billionaire George Soros paid her to accuse Trump of rape. Carroll denied the claim, and Habba interjected that she would ask about this during her cross-examination.

“The last I heard, Ms. Habba, I do not need announcements from counsel about what they intend to do,” Kaplan replied.

When Habba started to speak again, Kaplan told her, “Sit down.”

Habba’s combative approach is not playing out well for her or for Trump. Kaplan has already made clear he intends to suffer no foolishness from Trump during this trial process, repeatedly denying the former president’s requests to delay the case and barring him from attacking Carroll (not that that has stopped Trump).

Habba also seems to have a habit of undermining Trump’s lawsuits. During opening statements on Tuesday, she violated some of Kaplan’s restrictions on subject matter almost immediately.

Kaplan issued an order last week barring Trump and his lawyers from saying certain things. They are prohibited from making comments about Carroll’s “past romantic relationships, sexual disposition, and prior sexual experiences,” and they cannot argue that Trump did not sexually abuse or rape Carroll or act with actual malice when making his comments about her.

The Baltimore Sun’s new owner doesn’t seem to be on the same page as the paper’s staff.

David D. Smith, the chairman of the monopolistic, conservative, local media empire Sinclair Broadcast Group, scooped up Baltimore’s hometown legacy paper last week for an unspecified, nine-figure dollar point—but his outsize ideas and a crude first impression might have just slapped a damper on the partnership from the get-go.

During a contentious two-hour meet and greet with staff on Tuesday, Smith said he had read the daily paper—which has been a staple in the Baltimore market since its inception in 1837—just four times, according to NPR’s David Folkenflik.

Despite that, Smith seems to be keen on making some big changes. He announced that although the Sun was a profitable enterprise, it could be more profitable. Smith harangued the paper for failing to focus on what he deemed were stories worth reader interest, like fraud in local government, Folkenflik reported. The Baltimore Sun won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for its investigation on corruption in the Baltimore mayor’s office.

The Baltimore Banner reported that in the same meeting, Smith was asked about previous comments he made in 2018, when he claimed that print media is “so left-wing as to be meaningless dribble.” Smith said he stood by those comments. Asked again if he felt that way about The Baltimore Sun specifically, he replied, “In many ways, yes.”

It’s clear what Smith’s aim is with his purchase of Maryland’s largest daily newspaper. His TV empire’s local Baltimore station has been keen on a series of coverage blaming the city’s Black, Democratic mayor, Brandon Scott, for a flurry of local issues, including ongoing gun violence and education-related issues. And Smith’s tax records, obtained by the Associated Press, paint a clearer picture of the multimillionaire’s political affiliations, with donations to far-right political messaging machines like Project Veritas and Turning Point USA. Campaign contributions by the 73-year-old have also generally veered Republican for the last couple decades, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Smith deflected questions about his own political leanings in Tuesday’s meeting with staff. Instead, he spent most of the time talking about profits, at one point ordering reporters to “go make me some money,” according to The Baltimore Banner.

If this first meeting is any indication, Smith’s takeover could mean the paper will soon be forced to mime changes at Sinclair-bought local stations, focusing on negative coverage of the state’s Black leadership, including Governor Wes Moore, a rising party star who has been described by DNC insiders as a “future president.

The Sun will not technically be included in the Sinclair media empire. Instead, under Smith’s helm, the paper will be under local ownership for the first time in nearly four decades, according to the paper. The media magnate will own it privately and in partnership with one of his on-air commentators, Armstrong Williams.

Like most legacy papers around the nation, The Baltimore Sun has been gutted and gutted again by decades of cycling corporate ownership that have drained resources, cut salaries, and depleted staff for the sake of inflated executive bonuses. The Sun’s last change of hands came in May 2021, when the hedge fund Alden Global Capital purchased Tribune Publishing for $633 million, snatching The Baltimore Sun and nearly 200 other local U.S. newspapers, including The New York Daily News and The Chicago Tribune, in the process.

Florida Democrats have flipped a state House seat in a special election, a sign that the party may be more competitive than previously thought come November.

Tom Keen defeated his Republican challenger, Erika Booth, on Tuesday night, with a decisive 51.3 percent of the vote. The special election had been prompted after former Republican state Representative Fred Hawkins resigned last year to become a state college president.

Orange and Osceola counties, which Keen now represents, are almost evenly split among Democratic, Republican, and independent voters. Keen won between 65 and 70 percent of independent voters, a crucial demographic.

“What actually clinched the win for Democrats was this massive margin with [nonpartisan voters] and perhaps some Republican moderates, as well,” Democratic elections analyst Matt Isbell told the Orlando Sentinel. “If anything, this should be concerning for the GOP because it indicates a voter anger that maybe they have not understood.”

Florida Republicans swept to power in 2022, winning the governor’s office and supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Since then, they have dedicated themselves to passing unpopular and expensive laws targeting some of the national GOP’s favorite culture wars, including gutting abortion access and LGBTQ rights.

Booth ran on many of these issues. Her campaign website said she wanted to fight wokeness, as well as “trans-education” and the “indoctrination” of children in schools. She also promised to crack down on undocumented immigrants, despite the Florida GOP having to walk back a measure it passed targeting migrants.

Keen, on the other hand, ran primarily on increasing abortion access and decreasing property insurance rates. Insurance rates have skyrocketed in Florida as a result of climate change and Governor Ron DeSantis’s refusal to address environmental issues.

State House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell hailed Keen’s victory and said it was a sign that her party shouldn’t be counted out.

“This proves that Democrats can win close races in the Sunshine State,” she said in a statement to the Sentinel. “Florida is worth fighting for.”

Separately, on X (formerly Twitter), Driskell said there “is still hope for Florida.”

“With hard work and coordination, FL Dems can do great things,” she wrote.

Despite leading the polls with more than 60 percent, Donald Trump is apparently feeling the heat in the increasingly narrow GOP primary race, devoting the better part of Tuesday night to a TruthSocial binge dedicated to his rival Nikki Haley.

The GOP front-runner made a dozen posts in a handful of hours devoted to Haley, attacking her policy stances and her favorability ratings. In another post, Trump shared a photoshopped image slapping Haley’s face onto Hillary Clinton’s body.

It’s another sign that Haley is beginning to pose a serious threat to the former president—at least from his perspective.

Earlier this month, Trump’s campaign spent some serious moolah to dismiss Haley’s potential candidacy. In one ad wielding Nazi rhetoric, a Trump-allied super PAC MAGA Inc reissued a Trump claim that immigrants are “poisoning our country” and chastised the daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants for refusing to call undocumented immigrants “illegals.”

“Illegals are criminals, Nikki. That’s what illegal means,” the ad said, slamming Haley as “too liberal” on immigration.

As of the beginning of the year, the Trump-aligned super PAC spent nearly $3.5 million in anti-Haley advertising, largely criticizing the former South Carolina governor for flip-flopping on her position on an unpopular gas tax in the state, according to a report from The Daily Beast.

Haley’s slow-burning success on the ballot poses a serious if unconventional threat for Trump, particularly as the former president contends with several states removing him from the GOP ballot entirely on the basis that he violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seems to have lost all steam from what was once predicted to be a fireball campaign against the increasingly fascist GOP favorite. As of Tuesday, Haley officially surpassed DeSantis’s waning poll numbers, barely nabbing the number two spot by a margin of 0.3 percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Senator Ted Cruz has endorsed Donald Trump for president, a move that has everyone rolling their eyes given the men’s decidedly acrimonious history.

The Texas Republican announced his support for Trump Tuesday night. “I’m a big believer in letting democracy play out,” Cruz said on Fox News. “Well, last night it played out, and I gotta say, Trump’s victory was across the board.”

“At this point, I believe this race is over. So I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States. I look forward to supporting him enthusiastically.”

It’s ironic Cruz said he believes in “letting democracy play out,” considering he was caught on tape calling for a congressional commission to challenge the results of the 2020 election. Cruz repeatedly pushed Trump’s false and baseless claims that the vote had been rigged.

But before Cruz was such a major Trump toady, the two men were regularly at each other’s throats when running against each other during the 2016 Republican primary.

Trump called Cruz a liar and insulted his wife and father. Cruz, for his part, called Trump a “bully,” a “liar,” and a “coward.”

Media outlets including CNN and MSNBC were quick to remind Cruz of his own previous admonishments.

Sen. Ted Cruz changes his tune over the years on Donald Trump. He is now the 25th sitting U.S. senator to publicly support Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign. pic.twitter.com/MzeSVkpzwf

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) January 17, 2024

But once it was clear Trump would secure the nomination, Cruz changed his tune dramatically. He fell in line behind Trump and has been happy to support him ever since.

Cruz’s latest endorsement of Trump isn’t surprising, given how many conservative and far-right goals Trump achieved during his term. But it’s a pretty poor reflection on Cruz and what he’s willing to stand up for.

One of Donald Trump’s lawyers may have already blown his defense in the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial, when she violated some of the judge’s rules during her opening statements on Tuesday.

Presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan issued an order last week barring Trump and his lawyers from saying certain things. They are prohibited from making comments about Carroll’s “past romantic relationships, sexual disposition, and prior sexual experiences,” and they cannot argue that Trump did not sexually abuse or rape Carroll or act with actual malice when making his comments about her.

But on Tuesday, Trump attorney Alina Habba kicked things off by immediately insinuating that Trump hadn’t sexually assaulted Carroll.

“President Trump defended himself when publicly accused—” Habba began, when Carroll’s lawyer cut her off with an objection.

“Don’t go much farther,” Kaplan warned Habba.

Habba proceeded to argue that Carroll actually wanted all the attention she has gained since 2019, when she accused Trump in her memoir of raping her in a department store dressing room. Habba claimed that Carroll has been enjoying her newfound fame and is just complaining about a few mean tweets.

The evidence I will show you will show you that Ms. Carroll’s conduct has caused this media frenzy,” Habba said.

Habba’s arguments don’t hold water, though, because they mimic what Trump said about Carroll. The former president insisted that Carroll made up the assault allegations to boost book sales—and his comments have already been deemed defamatory.

Kaplan had actually reminded the jury before opening statements began that they were not trying to determine whether Trump assaulted and defamed Carroll but just how much Carroll is owed in damages. “This trial is not a do-over of the previous trial that established those facts,” he said.

Habba also argued that Carroll was “fully enjoying the attention.”

“We will ask Ms. Carroll to confirm that she felt she was in a cocoon of love after the publication,” Habba said.

Carroll has been open about the backlash she faced after revealing Trump assaulted her in the mid-1990s. During her first trial against him in April, Carroll testified that she was fired from Elle magazine after 27 years over the revelation. She got so many death threats that she bought bullets for a gun in her possession. And once the trial started, more people began insulting her online, calling her a “liar, slut, ugly, old.” Not exactly the “cocoon of love” that Habba claims.

The jury in that trial unanimously found Trump liable for sexual abuse and battery against Carroll in the mid-1990s and for defaming her in 2022 while denying the assault. He was ordered to pay her $5 million in damages. Kaplan ruled in September that since Trump has already been found liable for sexual abuse, his 2019 comments are by default defamatory. Tuesday’s trial is to set damages, and Carroll is seeking at least $10 million.

GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley is so desperate not to criticize Donald Trump that she went as far as to call him innocent in a case where he’s already been found guilty.

“You’re the only woman in this race. How do you feel about your party’s front-runner being held liable for sexual abuse?” CNN’s Dana Bash asked Haley on Tuesday.

“First of all, I haven’t paid attention to his cases, and I’m not a lawyer,” Haley responded. “All I know is that he’s innocent until proven guilty, and when he’s proven guilty, and he’s sitting in a courtroom—that’s exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve got investigations on Trump and Biden.”

“Forgive me, but a lot of people in the Republican Party blow it all off and say that it’s all a witch hunt,” Bash pressed.

“Some of the cases have been political.… Look, if he’s found guilty then he needs to pay the price, he needs to do what he’s supposed to,” Haley continued. “Every one of these cases, they need to be heard out, he needs to defend himself. If he’s found guilty, he’s gonna pay the price. If he’s not found guilty, then we move forward. What I will tell you is that I’m focused on the economy, the border, and education, and getting our country back on track.”

“If he’s sitting in a courtroom, that goes back to what I’m saying,” Haley added, seemingly suggesting that the several dozen criminal charges against the Republican favorite are unnecessary diversions. “We can’t continue to be distracted. We can’t continue to be in chaos. We have a country to save.”

DANA BASH: How do you feel about your party’s frontrunner being found liable for sexual abuse?

NIKKI HALEY: First of all, I haven’t paid attention to his cases. All I know is he’s innocent until proven guilty. You have investigations on Trump and Biden. pic.twitter.com/cqlX6QITZ9

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 16, 2024

But that answer conveniently (and rather blatantly) overlooks the fact that Trump has been found liable—the civil case version of guilty—by a court of law.

In May 2023, a jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation, awarding Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll $5 million in damages. He was then found liable for defaming Carroll in a second case. The judge even went on the record to clarify that yes, the liable verdict means that Trump did rape Carroll, based on the common definition of the word.

This isn’t Trump’s only legal woe of course, and it’s not the only one where he was found guilty.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has already found that the Trump Organization and its top executives, which includes Trump and his adult sons,  committed bank fraud. Engoron is deliberating the final damages owed and whether the Trump Organization can continue to operate in the Empire State. The fraud is so massive that last week, he asked lawyers with the New York attorney general’s office how Trump’s financial strategy compared to Bernie Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme.

Trump is currently on the line for 91 criminal charges in four other separate legal cases. On Monday, the GOP front-runner lost a good chunk of his legal representation, including star attorney Joe Tacopina, who filed a declaration to remove his law firm from representing the former president on unknown grounds.

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