President Donald Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) at the White House on Wednesday, declaring that he is “finally ending the NAFTA nightmare.”
The USMCA is a trade deal between the three countries that replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Trump campaigned on getting rid of NAFTA in 2016, calling it the worst trade deal in history and blaming it for the mass outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs.
JUST IN: President Trump signs the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“Today, we are finally ending the NAFTA nightmare and signing into law the brand new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” the president said during Wednesday’s signing ceremony. “The USMCA is the largest, fairest, most balanced and modern trade agreement ever achieved.”
The USMCA has several measures aimed at protecting American workers and spurring economic growth, including requiring more automobile manufacturing in the U.S., balancing dairy imports and exports with Canada, and providing protections for Mexican laborers that will allow them to earn higher wages.
“This is a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art agreement that protects, defends, and serves the great people of our country,” Trump said.
The bipartisan support for the deal was a huge win for the Trump administration amid the impeachment inquiry, as many Democrats who support impeaching the president also praised him for negotiating the new trade standards.
“It is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the USMCA. “It’s a victory for American workers, and it’s one that we take great pride in advancing.”
House Democrats have repeatedly flouted normal congressional procedures in their attempts to conduct the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump behind closed doors, sources tell the Daily Caller.
Three individuals who are intimately familiar with House procedures expressed dismay at several tactics used by Democrats, including the use of a SCIF — a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility — to conduct interviews, the issuing of subpoenas to force depositions, and the lack of a vote to give official authority to the committees charged with conducting the impeachment proceedings.
These sources — who wished to be anonymous in order to speak candidly about the inquiry — told the Caller that these actions show that the Democrats are more concerned about optics than proper procedure or transparency.
“There are no rules. [House Intel Chairman Adam] Schiff is making up the rules as he goes along,” a GOP aide said.
House Republicans showed up to a closed deposition with Defense Department official Laura Cooper on Wednesday, demanding Democrats open the process to the public. Some of the congressmen reportedly entered the SCIF with their cell phones, a violation of national security protocol. West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney, who publicized a phone call he made from the SCIF, later claimed he had done so from a secure line and not a cell phone.
A former Oversight Committee counsel brushed off concerns about potential security violations, instead raising questions about why Democrats are conducting proceedings in a SCIF in the first place. The information being given in the depositions is not classified, as evidenced by the selective leaks to the press. Democrats would not be putting out the opening testimony of Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor, for example, if he were sharing classified information, the counsel reasoned.
Further, an interview that could stray into classified territory would still start in a normal setting, and would only be moved to a SCIF if deemed absolutely necessary.
“Schiff is using the SCIF process to limit how many members can get access via committee of jurisdiction,” a GOP aide said.
The interviews with officials related to the Ukraine inquiry should also not be conducted as “depositions,” according to the former counsel and two GOP aides. Democrats have claimed that the officials are being blocked from testimony by the Trump administration, forcing them to issue subpoenas for those witnesses. However, most of the individuals who have been asked to testify have voluntarily agreed to appear, such as former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was instructed not to testify by the State Department, but seemingly intended to do so anyway before Democrats issued a subpoena. Normally, a deposition would only occur if a witness refused to comply with a normal transcribed interview.
The Democrats have issued these so-called “friendly” subpoenas for the depositions so that they can keep out agency and White House counsel, who can direct witnesses to refuse to answer certain lines of questioning or assert executive privileges, the three sources argued. Depositions also serve the purpose of making interview transcripts harder to access. As Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz claimed during a Thursday interview on MSNBC, he can only view the transcripts if he is constantly under surveillance by staffers from Rep. Schiff’s office. The transcripts also cannot be released in full to the public.
The three sources claimed Democrats did this intentionally so that they can choose which information from the transcripts is leaked to the press.
The Democrats have also skirted precedent by refusing to hold a vote to open an official impeachment inquiry, meaning none of the the three committees that have thus far been tasked with interviewing witnesses — Oversight, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence — have been given any official authority to do so. Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee, which has historical precedence for overseeing impeachment proceedings, has been completely excluded from the process.
House Republicans attempted to censure Rep. Schiff earlier this week for fabricating Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president during a hearing and “a mockery of the impeachment process, one of this chamber’s most solemn constitutional duties.” The censure failed in the Democratically-controlled House, and Schiff responded, “It will be said of House Republicans, When they found they lacked the courage to confront the most dangerous and unethical president in American history, they consoled themselves by attacking those who did.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also brushed aside claims that Democrats have flouted proper process for the impeachment inquiry, asserting, “What the Republicans fear most is the truth.”
President Donald Trump declared the investigation into Russian conspiracy and obstruction of justice “case … closed” on Wednesday after special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a statement about the conclusion of the probe.
Mueller stated in a Department of Justice (DOJ) press conference on Wednesday that his office did not find evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but reiterated that they did not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice. Mueller appeared to leave that decision up to Congress, noting a longstanding DOJ regulation that prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime.
Despite Mueller leaving the door open for the Democratic-controlled House to draft up impeachment proceedings, Trump seemed to celebrate Mueller’s statement in a tweet.
Trump’s tweet seemed to echo a comment from Mueller during the presser, during which he said, “These indictments contain allegations. And we are not commenting on the guilt or innocence of any specific defendant. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.”
White House press secretary also released the following statement on the matter:
“The Special Counsel has completed the investigation, closed his office, and has closed the case. Mr. Mueller explicitly said that he has nothing to add beyond the report, and therefore, does not plan to testify before Congress. The report was clear—there was no collusion, no conspiracy—and the Department of Justice confirmed there was no obstruction. Special Counsel Mueller also stated that Attorney General Barr acted in good faith in his handling of the report. After two years, the Special Counsel is moving on with his life, and everyone else should do the same.”
President Donald Trump is expected to sign a memorandum Thursday enforcing restrictions on welfare benefits for non-citizens, The Daily Caller has learned.
The memo directs government agencies to enforce legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that requires sponsors of immigrants to the U.S. to reimburse the government for any welfare benefits received by the person they are sponsoring.
Immigrant sponsors will be informed by agencies that they are required to pay back the money, and that they will be sent to collections if they fail to do so. Agencies will have 90 days to update their guidance and will report back to the president on their progress in 180 days.
Sponsor repayment of welfare benefits was enacted under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, but has remained largely unenforced. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy and Patty Murray.
“This executive action will dramatically curb ‘welfare tourism’ and protect U.S. benefits for U.S. families,” a senior administration official told The Daily Caller. “It will also ensure that immigrant sponsors cannot continue the practice of bringing in large numbers of welfare-dependent immigrants: because they will be financially liable.”
The memo also requires enforcement of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which asks government agencies to consider the sponsor’s income when determining whether or not a non-citizen is eligible for welfare benefits. Because the agency would be bundling the sponsor’s and immigrant’s income, some immigrants may no longer meet the eligibility criteria.
That act was cosponsored by then-Sen. Joe Biden and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden.
The administration says enforcing these two laws will help protect welfare benefits for American citizens. According to a poll conducted by America First Policies, 73 percent of Americans support the idea that immigrants to the U.S. should be able to support themselves financially.
“This is shifting the burden away from the taxpayer and asking people to be self-sufficient,” a senior administration official told the Caller. “We have our own citizens who are struggling.”
The White House says, citing a 2015 study from the Center for Immigration Studies, that 58 percent of all households headed by a non-citizen use at least one welfare program.
President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration plan, presented to the American people last week, follows a similar theme. The plan, which revamps the legal immigration system, would give priority to immigrants who earn higher wages and are financially independent.
While the new immigration plan is unlikely to succeed in the Democrat-controlled Congress, the administration has been taking other executive actions to claim smaller victories on immigration reform.
“This is part of a larger effort to do what it can on it’s own,” the official said of the administration’s actions.
Attorney General Bill Barr decided in April that asylum seekers who reach the “credible fear” threshold are no longer eligible to be released on bond, meaning they could be held indefinitely while awaiting court proceedings. The move sought to curb a method that some illegal immigrants use to gain entry to the U.S. despite not having legitimate asylum claims.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also supporting measures to make sure that illegal immigrants are not able to take advantage of public housing benefits. Current law prevents illegal immigrants from using public housing benefits, but they have been able to skirt the rules by living with American citizens who receive housing subsidies.
HUD will begin evicting families who allow illegal immigrants to live with them in government-subsidized housing.
Shortly after those two actions were revealed, the president signed a memorandum recommending sanctions on countries that have a high rate of visa overstays. The administration will place travel restrictions on countries whose residents overstay their visas in the U.S. by a rate of 10 percent or higher.
“This is part of the Trump Administration’s comprehensive approach to combating illegal immigration,” a senior administration official said at the time.