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Trump tweets against DACA and NAFTA, whatever that means

Posted: 01 Apr 2018 11:44 AM PDT

The president has taken to Twitter this Easter Sunday to announce what appears to be his newfound opposition to continued congressional negotiations over DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields certain young undocumented immigrants from detention and deportation. He also threatened to "stop NAFTA" if Mexico fails to "stop the big drug and people flows" across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Last fall, Trump insisted he wants a bill to protect DACA recipients, or Dreamers — immigrants who were originally brought to the U.S. as children within a certain time frame. That was right after his administration terminated the program (DACA's current status is in limbo due to an ongoing legal challenge to the Trump administration's order). Since then, he's said he only wants to protect DACA recipients if the move is accompanied by major new spending on border security and enforcement, plus huge cuts to legal immigration.

One day, Trump says ending DACA would "throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs"; the next, he sees the program as nothing more than means of extracting nativist immigration policies.

Is it worth trying to figure out what Trump actually wants on immigration? Not really, because we've learned no statement Trump makes actually matters in and of itself. Obviously, what Trump does as president matters a great deal, but what he says is virtually meaningless, because it changes so often and so capriciously. As Slate's Jamelle Bouie wrote recently, that's why conservatives weren't unduly alarmed by Trump's post-Parkland comments suggesting law enforcement should be allowed to suspend due process when seizing weapons from people suspected to be a threat:
[I]t remains striking that his pledges and promises as president are treated as essentially disposable—empty rhetoric, with no bearing on the policies and practices of the actual Trump administration or the broader Republican Party. When Trump speaks, he's speaking only for himself. In a real sense, his words don't actually mean anything. His public presence is defined by the text he posts on social media, which dominates the public conversation, even though those words are effectively detritus with little bearing on the course of his administration.
What Trump's DACA tweet does accomplish is to inject more fear and uncertainty into the lives of the hundreds of thousands of young people anxiously waiting for some resolution to the issue.

ProPublica profiles Jason Foster, Arkansas-born staffer for Chuck Grassley; turns up controversial blog posts

Posted: 01 Apr 2018 10:44 AM PDT

From the annals of inside baseball, ProPublica does a deep dive on Jason Foster, the Arkansas-born staffer for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa (I can't embed it but here's a short video version on the ProPublica Facebook page).

Foster, the chief investigative counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been at the center of various conspiracy-chasing wild goose chases investigating the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. Now that a Republican is in the White House, he's decided to devote his time instead to investigating the investigators, aiming to run interference on special counsel Robert Mueller, ProPublica reports:

For the last year, Foster — empowered by his boss, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee's chairman — has been the behind-the-scenes architect of an assault on the FBI, and most centrally its role in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to interviews with current and former congressional aides, federal law enforcement officials and others.
In reporting on Foster, ProPublica discovered an anonymous blog from ten years back that Foster kept, using the handle "extremist," while he working for Grassley on the Senate Finance Committee:

He warned of an Islamic takeover. He wrote that homosexuality was akin to incest. He questioned whether waterboarding really amounted to torture. He derided Obama's proposal to negotiate with the Taliban, and was particularly galled that the president doing so had the middle name Hussein. Liberals? They were anti-American.

He even mused about whether Sen. Joseph McCarthy, condemned as a demagogue for his 1950s anti-Communist crusade, should be remembered more kindly. ...

On the blog, one of Foster's primary targets was Islam. He described Muhammad as a rapist and child abuser who had spawned "a religion that tends to lead large numbers of its followers to excuse the murder of innocents as God's will."

After the mayor of London spoke out against vilifying Muslim residents of the city in the wake of a foiled car bomb attack there, Foster labeled him a "Dhimmi" — a historic term that describes non-Muslims in Muslim-controlled lands.

While Foster acknowledged that most Muslims "are not terrorist sympathizers," he referred to "the Islamic propensity for violence" and declared that "some cultures are better than others, no matter what the multicultural fetishists say."
Foster told ProPublica that the old posts were "stupid and wrong" and the blog has been taken down. A Grassley spokesman said the office was unaware of the blog.

The blog posts do seem pretty stupid, although they sound more or less like what you'd expect from a young staffer who cut his teeth working for legendary kook Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, as Foster did after graduating from Harding University and Georgetown Law. 

Nonprofit at center of kickback scheme saw huge growth in state contracts in recent years

Posted: 01 Apr 2018 10:26 AM PDT

Doug Thompson at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, whose reporting has driven the unfolding story of corruption involving nonprofit provider Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., outlined the extent of the company's business with the state Department of Human Services in Sunday's newspaper.

The big takeaway: The past several years have been very good for PFH's business in Arkansas. The company has doubled its number of service sites in the state since 2011 and now has contracts with DHS worth $28 million. During that time period, some PFH executives were allegedly stealing public funds and illegally lobbying public officials.

Governor Hutchinson and DHS are closely monitoring the provider's activities, a spokesperson for the governor told Thompson. But PFH delivers necessary services in many locations around Arkansas and can't easily be replaced.

Preferred Family Healthcare is a Springdale, Missouri based nonprofit that provides mental and behavioral health care, substance abuse treatment and other services in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. The feds have brought charges against three former PFH lobbyists accused of conspiring with PFH executives to embezzle money and lobby state officials in violation of laws prohibiting such activities by nonprofits that receive public funds. One of those indicted is former Democratic state representative Eddie Cooper, who in February pleaded guilty to conspiring with PFH executives. Another is Rusty Cranford, a lobbyist implicated in a separate corruption case involving former Republican legislators Jon Wood and Michah Neal, among others. Cranford is also accused of plotting to arrange the murder of the third PFH lobbyist, a Pennsylvania-based consultant named D.A. Jones.

Thompson's latest story details the growth in public funds enjoyed by Preferred Family Healthcare over the last 5-7 years and contains several startling figures. PFH saw its Arkansas Medicaid revenue grow from about $23 million in 2011 to about $33 million in 2016. The company also received public money from other state and federal sources, and Thompson found that amount grew by a factor of 20 over a five-year period:
Payments to Preferred Family from non-Medicaid state accounts totaled $469,024 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, Department of Finance and Administration records show. The payments grew to $9.66 million in fiscal 2017.
Here's a list of Preferred Family Healthcare locations in Arkansas.