Kushner to face intel committee on Monday behind closed doors – Washington Post

By Devlin Barrett,

Congressional investigators will question senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on Monday as the multiple probes into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign intensify and focus more directly on those closest to the president.

Kushner is scheduled to meet behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, then be questioned — again in private — by the House Intelligence Committee the following day.

Kushner is not the only one close to the president facing greater scrutiny from Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee had planned to question Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort this week, but that has been delayed indefinitely while the committee continues to negotiate with the men’s attorneys for documents and information.

Looming over all those discussions is the probe by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III — a criminal investigation to see if there was coordination between agents of the Russian government and advisers to Trump during the campaign. That probe is also looking into possible financial misdeeds by Manafort and others, according to people familiar with the inquiries.

[Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation]

Some lawyers not involved in the case expressed surprise that, given the potential legal pitfalls of the criminal investigation, Kushner or any other Trump advisers would take the risk of talking to Congress, given that such statements could be used against them later by criminal prosecutors.

“It’s a very difficult tightrope to walk,’’ said Justin Dillon, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “He has to balance the political fallout from taking the Fifth Amendment with the potential criminal fallout of talking.’’

Dillon predicted anything Kushner tells the committee will be shared with Mueller.

The Kushner interview also comes after the president and his legal team have discussed his power to pardon those close to him and even himself. After a Washington Post report on those conversations, the president tweeted this weekend that he has “complete power to pardon.’’

Dillon said the possibility of a future pardon could affect Kushner’s overall legal strategy.

“No one who has paid any attention to this administration should doubt that if Kushner ever needs a pardon, he will get one,’’ he said.

Through lawyers and his spokesman, Kushner has long insisted he did nothing wrong. Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell has said his client “is prepared to voluntarily cooperate and provide whatever information he has on the investigations to Congress.’’ He said Kushner “appreciates the opportunity to assist in putting this matter to rest.’’

Kushner is expected to answer the committee’s questions and not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a person familiar with Kushner’s thinking.

Kushner is not expected to be under oath during his questioning Monday — but that arrangement still poses significant legal risks to someone under investigation.

In 2009, baseball player Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty to the crime of making misrepresentations to Congress when he denied having conversations with another player about steroid and human growth hormone. That interview with committee staffers took place behind closed doors, and Tejada was not under oath at the time.

Kushner is likely to face extensive questions about meetings he attended with Russian government officials or people connected to the Russian government.

In June 2016, he attended a meeting at Trump Tower in New York arranged by his brother in law, Donald Trump Jr., on the premise that a lawyer had damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That meeting is also being investigated by the FBI and Mueller.

[Here’s what we know so far about Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests ]

Washington lawyer Karina V. Lynch said Sunday that she has been hired to help represent the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

Lynch previously served as legal counsel to investigative committees on Capitol Hill, including serving as investigative counsel to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who pressed for Trump Jr. to testify behind closed doors this week to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Lynch said she will supplement rather than replace Alan Futerfas, who has handled Trump Jr.’s response to the revelation about the June 2016 meeting.

Investigators have also been interested in meetings Kushner had in December — after Trump’s election but before he was sworn in as president. That month, he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then later met with Sergey Gorkov, head of Vnesheconbank, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014.

The bank has said the session was to talk to Kushner about his family’s real estate business. The White House has said the meeting was unrelated to business and was part of Kushner’s busy diplomatic schedule.

Kushner’s meetings with foreigners, and Russians in particular, have become a sticking point for his security clearance process.

Three times since January, Kushner has filed updates to his national security questionnaire, to add previously undisclosed meetings with foreign officials. Such mistakes can have significant legal and career consequences for government employees, because it is a crime to submit false information on such forms.

One update added more than 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which came during the presidential transition, according to one of Kushner’s lawyers, who have said he did nothing wrong and his meetings simply reflect his role as Trump’s principle adviser on foreign policy issues.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

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Journey Fatal for 9 Migrants Found in Truck in a San Antonio Parking Lot – New York Times

SAN ANTONIO — The authorities here discovered eight bodies in a tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning in what they said was a human trafficking crime that underscored the perils facing migrants trying to enter the United States by any means available.

By Sunday afternoon, another person had died at a hospital, according to a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. All of the dead were men.

The eight people whose bodies were initially found were believed to have died from heat exposure and asphyxiation, a spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department said.

Federal officials said in a statement on Sunday that 39 people had been in the trailer. The city’s fire chief, Charles Hood, said at a news conference that 30 were taken to hospitals; about 20 were in “extremely severe” or critical condition.

In a statement, Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio called the episode “tragic,” adding that it “shines a bright light on the plight of immigrants looking for a better life and victims of human trafficking.”

Smuggling migrants in the backs of trucks is a common form of human smuggling in the region, and it has claimed lives in the past.

An expert on border enforcement and migrant deaths called the trucks “mobile ovens.”

“Those things are made out of steel and metal,” the expert, Néstor P. Rodríguez, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, said on Sunday. “Yesterday in Austin, it was like 96 degrees at 9:30 in the evening. Even if the cooling system is on in the tractor-trailer, it’s just too hot.”

The San Antonio police chief, William McManus, said at a predawn news conference that a store employee making the rounds late Saturday night had been approached by someone from the truck “asking for water.” The employee returned with the water and called the police, who found the bodies.

Chief McManus said that “we’re looking at a human trafficking crime here” and that officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were helping with the investigation.

Two of those found were “school-age children,” and the others were in their 20s and 30s, the chief said. The two youngest of those hospitalized were 15, the authorities said. The bodies were taken to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death. Details about the victims were unavailable.

The driver, identified as James M. Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Fla., is in custody and will be charged, the top federal prosecutor in the San Antonio area said in a statement on Sunday.

“These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters,” said the prosecutor, Richard L. Durbin Jr., the United States attorney for the Western District of Texas. “Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus-degree heat.”

No further details were available about how long the truck had been in the parking lot of the Walmart, which is on the southwestern side of the city, or where it had come from. Chief McManus said surveillance video showed that several vehicles had approached the trailer to pick up people. Some occupants fled into the woods nearby, and the police chief said officers would search on foot and by air.

Chief Hood said the air-conditioning in the truck had not been working, adding that those found were “very hot to the touch.”

Of the survivors, he said, “our paramedics and firefighters found that each one of them had heart rates over about 130 beats per minute.”

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, said on Sunday that the people in the truck were probably migrants who had crossed the Mexican border on foot and been taken to a stash house before being put in the tractor-trailer to be transported farther north.

The grisly discovery on Sunday was made more than 100 miles from the site of a similar episode of mass migrant deaths 14 years ago. In May 2003, 19 undocumented immigrants suffocated and died in the trailer of a milk truck that was found abandoned near Victoria.

Dozens of immigrants, crammed inside the milk truck’s trailer, struggled to survive temperatures as high as 173 degrees as the truck traveled along South Texas highways. Those inside clawed at the truck’s insulation and broke out a taillight in an attempt to get air and alert drivers.

On Sunday in San Antonio, Celia and Nicole Pérez were home across the street from the Walmart around 1 a.m. when a loud noise woke them up. They saw helicopters and police lights circling their backyard.

They first thought it was a mass shooting. “The cops were blocking the entrance to Walmart,” Celia Pérez said. “Immigration was the last thing on my mind.”

About a year ago, Nicole Pérez said her grandmother, who lives nearby, saw as many as 20 immigrants dash through her yard.

“The problem is that the Walmart is allowing eighteen-wheelers to rest there and they don’t look suspicious,” she said, adding that the back of the store had vacant land and a ditch, “so it’s convenient for anybody to get on foot and run or just to hide out.”

Experts were at odds over whether President Trump’s crackdown on immigration had increased the likelihood of such cases, but Mr. Rodríguez said the 2003 episode illustrated the persistence of the problem.

“We don’t have any good way of measuring if it’s increasing because of Trump, but we know it’s a constant,” he said. “Smuggling is a billion-dollar industry when you look at the whole border.”

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an expert in border issues and a fellow at the Wilson Center, a Washington research institute, said these types of smuggling services were in greater demand because of the difficulty of crossing the border by other means.

“Events like this are an unintended consequence of enhanced border enforcement and security measures,” she said. “Further enhancing border security puts migrants under greater risk and strengthens transnational human smuggling networks.”

On the border in South Texas, migrants often enter the country in small groups on foot but do not travel north immediately. Instead, smugglers organize them into larger groups in stash houses, often in cramped and dangerous conditions. Those houses are in cities and towns between the border and a network of Border Patrol traffic checkpoints.

Smugglers then transport migrants from the stash houses in large groups in tractor-trailers, or disperse them in smaller vehicles, taking them to cities like Houston or San Antonio. Some do not risk driving through the checkpoints and instead force immigrants to walk around the checkpoints through the South Texas brush.

Tractor-trailers loaded with migrants that try to make it past the traffic checkpoints pose a host of problems: Drivers who turn off the cooling system as they pass the checkpoints may forget to turn it back on, or the cooling system may break down or be ineffective in keeping the migrants cool.

In the Victoria case in 2003, the truck’s driver told a Border Patrol agent at the checkpoint that the vehicle was empty and that he was going to Houston to pick up produce, according to court documents. The agent allowed the driver through without an inspection because the trailer’s refrigeration unit was turned off.

Other cases similar to the one on Sunday have occurred in recent months.

This month in Houston, about a dozen immigrants being smuggled in a cargo truck were rescued after being left in the locked vehicle for about 12 hours in a strip-mall parking lot. A police officer heard the immigrants, including a 16-year-old girl, banging on the walls.

Tom Berg, the first assistant district attorney in Harris County, told reporters at the time, “Thirty more minutes, and this could have been a dozen homicide cases.”

Correction: July 23, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of deaths and people found in the truck based on information provided by the authorities. The number of fatalities was nine, not 10, and the number of people was 39, not 38.

Correction: July 23, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated who had previously seen immigrants running through her yard. It was Nicole Pérez’s grandmother, not Celia Pérez’s.

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Trump expected to support Russia sanctions package – Washington Post

By Richard Lardner | AP,

WASHINGTON — The White House has indicated that President Donald Trump would sign a sweeping Russia sanctions measure that requires him to get Congress’ permission before lifting or easing the economic penalties against Moscow.

The House was scheduled to consider the sanctions package as early as Tuesday, and the bill could be sent to Trump before Congress breaks for the August recess. The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the newly appointed White House press secretary, said Sunday that the administration is supportive of being tough on Russia and “particularly putting these sanctions in place.”

“We support where the legislation is now, and will continue to work with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced Saturday that they’d settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

“North Korea, Iran and Russia have in different ways all threatened their neighbors and actively sought to undermine American interests,” according to a joint statement by California Republicans Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, and Ed Royce of California, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. The bill the House will vote on, they said, “will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”

The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would have mandated a congressional review if Trump attempted to terminate the sanctions against Moscow. Top administration officials said the provisions infringed on the president’s executive authority and tied his hands as he explores avenues of cooperation between the two former Cold War foes. But Sanders said the White House was able to work with the House and Senate to “make those changes that were necessary.” She didn’t specify what those changes were, however. The congressional review section wasn’t altered substantially and Democrats were satisfied with the results.

Lawmakers included the review because of wariness in both parties over Trump’s affinity for Putin. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Trump has been unwilling to respond seriously to Russia’s belligerence, “leaving Congress with the urgent responsibility to hold Vladimir Putin accountable.”

McCarthy had pushed to add the North Korea sanctions to the package. The House had overwhelmingly passed legislation in May to hit Pyongyang with additional economic penalties, but the Senate had yet to take up the bill.

The Senate last month passed sanctions legislation that targeted only Russia and Iran. Congressional aides said Senate Republicans may resist adding the North Korea penalties, but it remained unclear whether those concerns would derail the legislation. The aides were not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Although the legislation has widespread support, the bill stalled after clearing the Senate more than five weeks ago due to constitutional questions and bickering over technical details.

The House and Senate negotiators addressed concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. The bill raises the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.

McCarthy and Royce said other revisions resolved concerns that the sanctions could have unintentionally complicated the ability of America’s European allies to maintain access to energy resources outside of Russia.

The congressional review requirement in the sanctions bill is styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether President Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.

According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.

The North Korea sanctions bill included in the package cleared the House by a 419-1 vote, and House Republicans became frustrated the Senate didn’t move quickly on the measure given the vast bipartisan support it received. The measure bars ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.

The sanctions package imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

___

Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Trump open to signing Russia sanctions legislation: official – Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump was open to signing legislation toughening sanctions on Russia after Senate and House leaders reached agreement on a bill late last week.

Congressional Democrats said on Saturday they had agreed with Republicans on a deal allowing new sanctions targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea in a bill that would limit any potential effort by Trump to try to lift sanctions against Moscow.

“We support where the legislation is now and will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved and it certainly isn’t right now,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” program.

A White House official said the administration’s view of the legislation evolved after changes were made, including the addition of sanctions on North Korea.

The official said the administration “supports the direction the bill is headed, but won’t weigh in conclusively until there is a final piece of legislation and no more changes are being made.”

Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s new communications director, said Trump had not yet decided whether he would sign the bill.

“My guess is … that he’s going to make that decision shortly,” Scaramucci told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump has faced resistance from Republican and Democratic lawmakers for his pledge to pursue warmer relations with Moscow. His administration has been bogged down by investigations of possible ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia. Trump has said his campaign did not collude with Russia.

With the bill, Republicans and Democrats are seeking to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any interference in the U.S. democratic process last year.

Vote Expected on Tuesday

The House is expected to vote on the sanctions bill on Tuesday.

The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington September 25, 2012.Kevin Lamarque/Files

The legislation would require the president to submit to Congress a report on proposed actions that would “significantly alter” U.S. policy toward Russia, including easing sanctions or returning diplomatic properties in Maryland and New York that former President Barack Obama ordered vacated in December.

Congress would have at least 30 days to hold hearings and then vote to uphold or reject Trump’s proposed changes.

If Trump were to veto the bill, he would run the risk of an embarrassing political setback if Congress were to override his veto.

In recent weeks, Trump administration officials have met with lawmakers to argue against parts of the Senate version of the bill, including the requirement that Trump obtain Congress’ permission before easing sanctions.

The sanctions bill, known as the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, was passed by the Senate a month ago but held up in the House of Representatives after Republicans proposed including sanctions on North Korea.

Lawmakers, including Republican Senator John Thune and Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Sunday the bill had broad bipartisan support.

“I think (it) will pass probably overwhelmingly again in the Senate and with a veto-proof majority,” Thune, a member of the Republican leadership, told “Fox News Sunday.”

In Brussels, the European Union has sounded an alarm about the U.S. moves to step up sanctions on Russia, urging Washington to coordinate with its Group of 7 partners.

The European Commission, the EU executive, will consider its next steps at a meeting on Wednesday in Brussels if Trump signs the bill into law, and is willing to consider retaliation, according to an EU official.

After warning against unilateral U.S. sanctions at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is concerned Congress’ legislation could hit European companies upgrading pipelines in Russia that feed into Ukraine’s gas transit system.

The measures could also target European companies doing legitimate business with Russia in rail transport, financial, shipping and mining, the EU official said.

Any significant EU retaliation would need the support, however, of the EU’s 28 governments and would face resistance from members of the bloc, such as Britain and Hungary, that are reluctant to upset the Trump administration.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Tim Gardner in Washington and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter Cooney

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White House indicates Trump would sign new sanctions bill – Washington Post

By Richard Lardner | AP,

WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday President Donald Trump would sign a sweeping Russia sanctions measure, which the House could take up this week, that requires him to get Congress’ permission before lifting or easing the economic penalties against Moscow.

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider the sanctions package as early as Tuesday, and the bill could be sent to Trump before Congress breaks for the August recess. The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the newly appointed White House press secretary, said the administration is supportive of being tough on Russia and “particularly putting these sanctions in place.”

“We support where the legislation is now, and will continue to work with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced Saturday that they’d settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

“North Korea, Iran and Russia have in different ways all threatened their neighbors and actively sought to undermine American interests,” according to a joint statement by California Republicans Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, and Ed Royce of California, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. The bill the House will vote, they said, “will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”

The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempts to terminate the sanctions against Moscow. Top administration officials said the provisions infringed on the president’s executive authority and tied his hands as he explores avenues of cooperation between the two former Cold War foes. But Sanders said the White House was able to work with the House and Senate to “make those changes that were necessary.” She didn’t specify what those changes were, however. The congressional review section wasn’t altered substantially and Democrats were satisfied with the results.

Lawmakers included the review because of wariness in both parties over Trump’s affinity for Putin. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Trump has been unwilling to respond seriously to Russia’s belligerence, “leaving Congress with the urgent responsibility to hold Vladimir Putin accountable.”

McCarthy had pushed to add the North Korea sanctions to the package. The House had overwhelmingly passed legislation in May to hit Pyongyang with additional economic penalties, but the Senate had yet to take up the bill.

The Senate last month passed sanctions legislation that targeted only Russia and Iran. Congressional aides said Senate Republicans may resist adding the North Korea penalties, but it remained unclear whether those concerns would derail the legislation. The aides were not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Although the legislation has widespread support, the bill stalled after clearing the Senate more than five weeks ago due to constitutional questions and bickering over technical details.

The House and Senate negotiators addressed concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. The bill raises the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.

McCarthy and Royce said other revisions resolved concerns that the sanctions could have unintentionally complicated the ability of America’s European allies to maintain access to energy resources outside of Russia.

The congressional review requirement in the sanctions bill is styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether then-President Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.

According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.

The North Korea sanctions bill included in the package bill cleared the House by a 419-1 vote, and House Republicans became frustrated the Senate didn’t move quickly on the measure given the vast bipartisan support it received. The measure bars ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.

The sanctions package imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

___

Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Anthony Scaramucci, New Communications Chief, Woos Trump on TV – New York Times

Anthony Scaramucci was almost finished with one of his three Sunday television talk show appearances when he started speaking directly to one particular viewer at home.

“If I said some things about him when I was working for another candidate, Mr. Trump, Mr. President, I apologize for that. Can we move on off of that?” Mr. Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I know you and I have moved on off of that,” he added, before commenting that the host, Jake Tapper, “hasn’t moved on off of that, obviously.”

Mr. Tapper laughed. Mr. Scaramucci continued. “I’m going to be working for you,” he told the president via television. “And I’m going to serve the American people. And we’re going to get your agenda out into the heartland, where it belongs.”

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Mr. Tapper replied, “I love how you’re talking to one specific viewer right now.”

Mr. Scaramucci, the hedge fund investor-turned-message strategist, went on his first official television outing on Sunday. It was an unusually high-stakes rollout for a communications director because Mr. Scaramucci knew his boss would be taking notes. And it came the weekend before Mr. Trump’s son and son-in-law are scheduled to appear before congressional committees investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Mr. Trump almost single-handedly engineered a shake-up of his communications staff last week, excluding even his chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Those discussions were among the few issues, big and small, in the West Wing that never leaked.

On the talk shows, there was little by way of detailed discussion of Mr. Trump’s agenda, perhaps a product of Mr. Scaramucci’s recent arrival in the role — which perhaps also explained a contradictory message aired on Sunday. Regarding the new Russian sanctions legislation agreed to by House and Senate conferees, Mr. Scaramucci said the president had not yet made up his mind about signing them, a statement that was at odds with one by the new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“My bad,” Mr. Scaramucci told a New York Times reporter, taking ownership of his remark and apparently rejecting a round of on-background quotes from other White House aides insisting that he had said the same thing as Ms. Sanders.

But he tossed out superlatives and soaked Mr. Trump’s image in sunny optimism, describing the president’s tenure as misunderstood by the press corps. He made clear he will not try to change Mr. Trump, as other aides have tried. “He’s a wear-his-heart-on-his-sleeve kind of person,” Mr. Scaramucci said on “Fox News Sunday” in describing Mr. Trump. And he focused on the issue that has consumed Mr. Trump for six months — ending the leaks from his West Wing staff, and threatening to fire people if the leaks continued.

Others who have gone on television to deliver Mr. Trump’s message — Ms. Sanders; her predecessor, Sean Spicer; and Mr. Priebus — have deferred their views and personalities in the service of Mr. Trump. Mr. Spicer in particular struggled to please a boss he never understood well, and whose trust he did not have.

By contrast, Mr. Scaramucci — a political donor and television talking head and affably affluent with an accent held over from his native Long Island — toggled between subordinating to Mr. Trump and maintaining a hint of his own appeal.

He said Donald Trump Jr., who had a meeting with Russian officials in June 2016 after they promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, had gotten “bad advice” on dealing with the initial Times story disclosing the meeting. “And now we have an auditorium of Russians that he was speaking to,” Mr. Scaramucci said of the meeting’s attendance list, which went from being described as five people to eight.

After apologizing to Mr. Trump, again — something he did in the White House briefing room on Friday — he said there was nothing wrong with disagreements.

“I’m a New Yorker, he’s a New Yorker, we’re allowed to go at it a little bit,” Mr. Scaramucci added, when pressed by the host, Chris Wallace, about his criticisms of Mr. Trump the candidate before he joined the Trump team.

Asked by Mr. Tapper if he would have met with a Russian lawyer to receive potentially harmful material on Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Scaramucci offered what he said was an honest answer.

“Since I went to Harvard Law School, I probably would have asked a few people,” he said.

“And somebody probably would have said to me, ‘You know, get a cutout to go take the meeting and see if there is any legitimacy to it,’” he added, referring to a practice of using intermediaries. He also swiftly defended the younger Mr. Trump, one of his friends, whom he said did nothing wrong.

At times, Mr. Scaramucci seemed to channel Mr. Trump more instinctively as he batted back questions about his own past statements and Twitter posts. “That’s a ridiculous Washington sort of narrative,” said Mr. Scaramucci, who is deleting his old Twitter posts.

John Dickerson of the CBS program “Face the Nation” bluntly asked Mr. Scaramucci if Mr. Trump would get what he wanted in repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s signature health legislation.

“I don’t know if he’s going to get what he wants next week, but he’s going to get what he wants eventually, because this guy always gets what he wants,” Mr. Scaramucci said. “O.K.?”

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Schumer: Democrats were ‘namby-pamby’ – Politico

Chuck Schumer is pictured.

“We were too cautious, we were too namby-pamby,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday promised a bolder economic message for the Democratic Party, including the potential for single-payer health care.

“We were too cautious, we were too namby-pamby,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week.” “This is sharp, bold and will appeal to both the old Obama coalition, let’s say the young lady who’s just getting out of college, and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump, the blue-collar worker. Economics is our strength, and we are going to get at it.”

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The New York senator said the new Democratic agenda, set to be unveiled on Monday, would include proposals to “just go after these drug companies when they raise prices so egregiously and people can’t afford these drugs” and a plan to “change the way companies can merge,” mentioning the cable, airline and gas industries.

“How the heck did we let Exxon and Mobil merge?” he said. “And that was Democrats.”

Democrats have searched for a new message since their loss to President Donald Trump in November, with public polling showing that most people don’t know what Democrats stand for beyond opposition to the unpopular president. The left wing of the party, including many followers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has pushed for the party to adopt a more populist economic message, including single-payer health care.

Asked if single-payer was on the table, Schumer responded: “Sure.”

“Many things are on the table. Medicare for people above 55 is on the table. A buy-in to Medicare is on the table. A buy-in to Medicaid is on the table,” he said.

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9 people dead after at least 39 were found packed in a sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio – Washington Post

By Eva Ruth Moravec and Todd C. Frankel,

SAN ANTONIO — It began with a desperate request for water and a Walmart employee’s suspicions about a tractor-trailer parked outside. That led officials on Sunday to discover at least 39 people packed into a sweltering trailer, several of them on the verge of death — their skin hot to the touch, their hearts dangerously racing — and eight men already dead. Another would die later at a hospital.

Authorities think they found an immigrant smuggling operation just 2½ hours from the Mexican border that ended in what San Antonio Police Chief William McManus described as a “horrific tragedy.” The victims, as young as 15, appeared to have been loaded like cargo into a trailer without working air conditioning during the height of the Texas summer. It was unknown how long they had been in the trailer or where their journey started, but 30 of the victims were taken to area hospitals and 17 had life-threatening injuries. Federal authorities said the victims were “undocumented aliens.”

Reyna Torres, consul of Mexico, confirmed in Spanish that Mexican nationals are among those dead and in the hospitals and said the consulate is interviewing the survivors.

City Fire Chief Charles Hood said some of the victims appeared to have suffered severe heatstroke, with heart rates soaring over 130 beats per minute. In the worst cases, Hood said, “a lot of them are going to have some irreversible brain damage.”

Even more people were thought to have been inside the trailer before help arrived, police said. Survivors at six area hospitals told investigators that up to 100 individuals were originally in the tractor-trailer.

Walmart surveillance video showed cars stopping and picking up people as they exited the back of the trailer. But suspicions were not raised until an employee noticed a disoriented person, who asked for water. The employee then called police, authorities said. Then, a chaotic scene unfolded outside the Walmart on the city’s southwest side, as ambulances and police cars arrived and people were carried away, leaving behind shoes and personal belongings strewn across the asphalt and trailer floor.

The truck’s driver, identified as James M. Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Fla., has been arrested and is expected to be charged Monday morning, said the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas.

The grisly discovery in San Antonio comes as the Trump administration is calling on Congress to increase funding for border security and to expand the wall on the southern border with Mexico.

It also illuminates the extreme risks immigrants face as they attempt to elude border agents in the searing summer heat. Some try to slip through legal checkpoints undetected, while others sneak illegally across the border. Often, they are fleeing violence and poverty in Latin America, advocates say.

Many have died attempting to enter the United States, drowning in the Rio Grande, lost in the desolate ranch lands of south Texas, or collapsing from exhaustion in the Arizona desert.

Two weeks ago, Houston police discovered 12 immigrants, including a girl, who had been locked for hours inside a sweltering box truck in a parking lot, banging for someone to rescue them. Three people were arrested. A Harris County prosecutor said the migrants were at imminent risk of death.

In May, border agents discovered 18 immigrants locked in a refrigerated produce truck, with the temperature set at 51 degrees. Passengers were from Latin America and Kosovo.

One of the deadliest smuggling operations occurred in 2003, when 19 people died after being discovered in an insulated trailer abandoned at a truck stop in Victoria, Tex. The truck driver in that case, Tyrone M. Williams, was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.

In San Antonio, the driver was working with Pyle Transportation, a hauling firm in Schaller, Iowa. The company’s name was emblazoned on the truck. Owner Brian Pyle said Bradley, the truck driver, operated largely independently from his company.

“This was his very first trip,” Pyle said. “It’s a common thing in the trucking industry. . . . He had my name on the side, and I pay for his insurance. He makes his own decisions, buys his own fuel.”

Pyle declined to name the driver, who he said was from Louisville, and said he did not know what the man was transporting.

A woman at a Louisville address listed for Bradley declined to comment.

The tractor-trailer was found outside the Walmart about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. The store, which was closed at the time, is surrounded by a heavily wooded area. Police feared that some people had fled the trailer when emergency workers arrived. A search using a police dog and a helicopter found one more victim, who was taken to a hospital.

In the morning, Margarita Balderas, 64, stopped by the Walmart on her way home from Sunday Mass. She had seen the news but was shocked to realize that the tragedy had occurred at that store.

“It makes me feel so bad. Why are they treated like that?” she said of the migrants. “They’re just trying to make a living.”

A vigil was held Sunday night by groups that support immigrants in San Antonio.

“We’ll be praying for the survivors, praying that they are able to recover and be okay,” said Amy Fischer, policy director for ­RAICES, a nonprofit group that provides legal services for immigrants in central Texas.

Fischer expressed concern that upon finding the victims in the trailer, San Antonio police called federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Salame said that is standard practice for cases of international smuggling.

“We didn’t call ICE to get everybody deported. We called them because they are the investigating authority,” Salame said.

What will happen to the survivors once they are released from the hospital has not been decided.

But authorities indicated that their journey was not over.

Salame said he expects the victims to be released into ICE custody.

“They have to be turned over to the custody of somebody,” he said. “They don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Later Sunday, moments after Mass ended at the historic San Fernando Cathedral, two dozen people held a gathering in Main Plaza to show their support for immigrants. A handful of people made speeches and said prayers in Spanish and English, using a megaphone, to a crowd of about 50 people. Children played in the splash pads nearby while adults wandered in and out of the crowd, many taking photographs and videos. 

“Hold your family extra tight tonight,” said Barbie Hurtado, the statewide organizer for RAICES, which organized the event, “and keep the people that lost their lives in your thoughts, in your prayers.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), a San Antonio native, addressed attendees at the end of the hour-long service. 

“This represents a symptom of a broken immigration system that Congress, of which I am a part, has had the chance to fix but has not,” he said. “That’s a colossal failure that has a human cost.”

Another San Antonio native, Debbie Leal-Herrera, 55, said she was in town visiting from New Mexico this week and wanted to come to the plaza because “it touches me as a Hispanic.” 

Leal-Herrera, an elementary school teacher, said she knows several people who have immigrated to the United States illegally and has taught many students whose parents are undocumented. 

“It reminds me of how much we truly take for granted,” she said. “What a beautiful gift it is to be an American.” 

Advocates for immigrants in Texas are still reeling from the recent passage of the tough new immigration law, set to take effect Sept. 1. The deaths marked yet another blow.

Maria Victoria de la Cruz, who is originally from Mexico, publicly urged federal officials not to deport the immigrants who were found Sunday.

“As an immigrant, I feel destroyed,” she told the group in Spanish. “It’s not fair to return them to the place they have fled.”

During the vigil, a somber group quietly approached the consul from Mexico to ask about a relative. Juan Jose Castillo, who said he is from the Mexican state of Zacatecas but lives in the United States, said he was relieved that his 44-year-old brother was among the survivors. 

“He came out of necessity,” Castillo said in Spanish. “It’s very bad.”

Frankel reported from Washington. Maria Sacchetti in San Antonio, James Higdon in Louisville and Avi Selk in Washington contributed to this report.

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At Least 9 Die After Being Trapped in Truck at a Walmart in San Antonio – New York Times

SAN ANTONIO — The authorities here discovered eight bodies in a tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning in what they said was a human trafficking crime that underscored the perils facing migrants trying to enter the United States by any means available.

By Sunday afternoon, another person had died at a hospital, according to a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. All of the dead were men.

The eight people whose bodies were initially found were believed to have died from heat exposure and asphyxiation, a spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department said.

Federal officials said in a statement on Sunday that 39 people had been in the trailer. The city’s fire chief, Charles Hood, said at a news conference that 30 were taken to hospitals; about 20 were in “extremely severe” or critical condition.

In a statement, Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio called the episode “tragic,” adding that it “shines a bright light on the plight of immigrants looking for a better life and victims of human trafficking.”

Smuggling migrants in the backs of trucks is a common form of human smuggling in the region, and it has claimed lives in the past.

An expert on border enforcement and migrant deaths called the trucks “mobile ovens.”

“Those things are made out of steel and metal,” the expert, Néstor P. Rodríguez, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, said on Sunday. “Yesterday in Austin, it was like 96 degrees at 9:30 in the evening. Even if the cooling system is on in the tractor-trailer, it’s just too hot.”

The San Antonio police chief, William McManus, said at a predawn news conference that a store employee making the rounds late Saturday night had been approached by someone from the truck “asking for water.” The employee returned with the water and called the police, who found the bodies.

Chief McManus said that “we’re looking at a human trafficking crime here” and that officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were helping with the investigation.

Two of those found were “school-age children,” and the others were in their 20s and 30s, the chief said. The two youngest of those hospitalized were 15, the authorities said. The bodies were taken to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death. Details about the victims were unavailable.

The driver, identified as James M. Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Fla., is in custody and will be charged, the top federal prosecutor in the San Antonio area said in a statement on Sunday.

“These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters,” said the prosecutor, Richard L. Durbin Jr., the United States attorney for the Western District of Texas. “Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus-degree heat.”

No further details were available about how long the truck had been in the parking lot of the Walmart, which is on the southwestern side of the city, or where it had come from. Chief McManus said surveillance video showed that several vehicles had approached the trailer to pick up people. Some occupants fled into the woods nearby, and the police chief said officers would search on foot and by air.

Chief Hood said the air-conditioning in the truck had not been working, adding that those found were “very hot to the touch.”

Of the survivors, he said, “our paramedics and firefighters found that each one of them had heart rates over about 130 beats per minute.”

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, said on Sunday that the people in the truck were probably migrants who had crossed the Mexican border on foot and been taken to a stash house before being put in the tractor-trailer to be transported farther north.

The grisly discovery on Sunday was made more than 100 miles from the site of a similar episode of mass migrant deaths 14 years ago. In May 2003, 19 undocumented immigrants suffocated and died in the trailer of a milk truck that was found abandoned near Victoria.

Dozens of immigrants, crammed inside the milk truck’s trailer, struggled to survive temperatures as high as 173 degrees as the truck traveled along South Texas highways. Those inside clawed at the truck’s insulation and broke out a taillight in an attempt to get air and alert drivers.

In San Antonio on Sunday, Celia Pérez was at home across the street from the Walmart around 1 a.m. when a loud noise woke her up. She saw helicopters and police lights circling their backyard.

She first thought it was a mass shooting. “The cops were blocking the entrance to Walmart,” she said. “Immigration was the last thing on my mind.”

About a year ago, Ms. Pérez said her grandmother, who lives nearby, saw as many as 20 immigrants dash through her yard.

“The problem is that the Walmart is allowing eighteen-wheelers to rest there and they don’t look suspicious,” she said, adding that the back of the store had vacant land and a ditch, “so it’s convenient for anybody to get on foot and run or just to hide out.”

Experts were at odds over whether President Trump’s crackdown on immigration had increased the likelihood of such cases, but Mr. Rodríguez said the 2003 episode illustrated the persistence of the problem.

“We don’t have any good way of measuring if it’s increasing because of Trump, but we know it’s a constant,” he said. “Smuggling is a billion-dollar industry when you look at the whole border.”

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an expert in border issues and a fellow at the Wilson Center, a Washington research institute, said these types of smuggling services were in greater demand because of the difficulty of crossing the border by other means.

“Events like this are an unintended consequence of enhanced border enforcement and security measures,” she said. “Further enhancing border security puts migrants under greater risk and strengthens transnational human smuggling networks.”

On the border in South Texas, migrants often enter the country in small groups on foot but do not travel north immediately. Instead, smugglers organize them into larger groups in stash houses, often in cramped and dangerous conditions. Those houses are in cities and towns between the border and a network of Border Patrol traffic checkpoints.

Smugglers then transport migrants from the stash houses in large groups in tractor-trailers, or disperse them in smaller vehicles, taking them to cities like Houston or San Antonio. Some do not risk driving through the checkpoints and instead force immigrants to walk around the checkpoints through the South Texas brush.

Tractor-trailers loaded with migrants that try to make it past the traffic checkpoints pose a host of problems: Drivers who turn off the cooling system as they pass the checkpoints may forget to turn it back on, or the cooling system may break down or be ineffective in keeping the migrants cool.

In the Victoria case in 2003, the truck’s driver told a Border Patrol agent at the checkpoint that the vehicle was empty and that he was going to Houston to pick up produce, according to court documents. The agent allowed the driver through without an inspection because the trailer’s refrigeration unit was turned off.

Other cases similar to the one on Sunday have occurred in recent months.

This month in Houston, about a dozen immigrants being smuggled in a cargo truck were rescued after being left in the locked vehicle for about 12 hours in a strip-mall parking lot. A police officer heard the immigrants, including a 16-year-old girl, banging on the walls.

Tom Berg, the first assistant district attorney in Harris County, told reporters at the time, “Thirty more minutes, and this could have been a dozen homicide cases.”

Correction: July 23, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of deaths and people found in the truck based on information provided by the authorities. The number of fatalities was nine, not 10, and the number of people was 39, not 38.

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The Unconventional Anthony Scaramucci – National Review

The news media are dismissing the new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci much the same way they derided Donald Trump. “A P.T. Barnum in a Ferragamo tie” is how the New York Times referred to Scaramucci after his appointment on Friday. The Times ridiculed his initial appearance before reporters, accusing him of being “over the top” for professing his love of Donald Trump and his administration and for blowing a kiss to reporters as he left the lectern.

Reporters aren’t the only ones skeptical of Scaramucci and his lack of communications experience. Ben White of Politico reports that “White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon confronted Anthony Scaramucci in the West Wing on Friday morning, threatening to block the financier’s appointment.” Scaramucci responded to their animosity by laughing it off. As Politico reported: “He knew something they didn’t: He already had the job.”

Donald Trump, an outsized personality if ever there was one, is drawn to Scaramucci, a boisterous defender of Trump on TV who has overcome initial resistance within the White House to get a top job that reports directly to the president. In January, Scaramucci had been in line for the job of White House liaison to the business community but was iced out over a controversy involving the Chinese financiers who bought his hedge fund so he could enter the administration. Now the man whom his former Wall Street colleagues call “The Mooch” has had the last laugh.

But fixing the White House’s communications shortcomings will be a taller order. On Fox News Sunday, Scaramucci pledged “to take drastic” action to stop White House aides from leaking to the news media: “If you’re going to keep leaking, I’m going to fire everybody.” Scaramucci has told associates that some people in the White House act as if they are in the movie Mean Girls, the 2004 comedy about high-school cliques that devise ingenious ways to undermine one another.

Scaramucci admits that the Trump White House has sometimes gone overboard in its hostility to the media: “I’m hoping to create an era of a new good feeling with the media. Give everybody a fresh start. Let’s see if we can reset this and create a more positive mojo among everybody.”

It will be interesting to see whether “The Mooch” can bring his Wall Street sensibility to government. His language is certainly not what reporters are used to. He lapsed into financial lingo at last Friday’s press conference when explaining the White House’s testy media relations: “To use a Wall Street expression, there might be an arbitrage spread between how well we are doing and how well some of you guys think we’re doing and we’re going to work hard to close that spread.”

Skeptics are right to question just how much Donald Trump can improve his image or the reporting on his administration. But Anthony Scaramucci’s business background may prove to be more of a bonus than a handicap. “In addition to being a finance guy, Anthony is also a marketing whiz in the hedge-fund world,” says Clara Del Villar, a former colleague of Scaramucci’s at the financial firm of Neuberger Berman. “He developed real expertise in an industry where you constantly have to perform and explain your motives to keep your extremely fickle, demanding clients.”

Scaramucci admits that the Trump White House has sometimes gone overboard in its hostility to the media.

There’s no doubt that the job of explaining Donald Trump to the fickle media and the nation is a demanding one. But if anyone is willing to try something completely different in pursuit of that goal, it’s “The Mooch.”

— John Fund is NRO’s national-affairs correspondent.

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