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SPLC: Stephen Miller, another former Sessions staffer pushed anti-immigrant stories to Breitbart

Eddie Burkhalter

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In the second story in a series published Thursday by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  emails show that Trump senior advisor and former aide to then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, had ties to an anti-immigrant think-tank. 

The emails also shows that Miller wasn’t the only Sessions staffer to have been pushing for anti-immigrant stories at the conservative site Breitbart. Miller would often cite that think tank’s work, the emails shows, and worked to craft an anti-immigrant narrative that would later become central to White House policy.  

In over 80 percent of the more than 900 emails obtained by the SPLC Miller focuses on race and immigration, according to the nonprofit. The emails, sent in 2015 and 2016 from Miller’s government-issued email account and a personal account, were given to the Montgomery-based nonprofit by Katie McHugh, a former writer and editor at the conservative website Breitbart. McHugh has since renounced far-right politics, according to the SPLC. 

APR reported Wednesday on the SPLC’s first article in the series. The latest article notes emails sent to McHugh from Miller in which he continuously suggested she read the works of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a conservative think-tank that argues for lower legal immigration and that has a history of promoting the writings of numerous white nationalist authors in it’s emailed round-up of stories. 

On Aug. 12, 2015, Miller emailed McHugh an embargoed report by CIS with the subject line “Trump right again: Census data shows Mexican immigration surging – 740,000 in one year! [EMBARGOED].” according to the SPLC. 

Journalists often receive reports prior to public release and agree to keep the material from public view until an agreed-upon date, which is referred to as an “embargo.” Miller’s use of the term and early access to the report shows that he was in close connection with CIS staff. 

Other emails show Miller’s work to spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric. The SPLC notes that in an exchange on Jan. 5, 2016, Miller’s email to Breitbart editors with the subject line “Huge Surge in US newborns named ‘Mohammed.” resulted in a story the next day in Breitbart titled “Huge Surge in US newborns named ‘Mohammed.” 

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The SPLC has listed CIS as a hate group since 2016, a classification CIS has vigorously denied, including in an op-ed in The Washington Post by Mark Krikorian, executive director at CIS. 

CIS is currently appealing a September decision by a federal judge to toss CIS’s lawsuit against former SPLC leaders  over labeling it a hate group. 

After the mass shooting in El Paso in August that killed 22 by a shooter who had written an anti-immigrant manifesto espousing many of the same talking point used CIS and other anti-immigrant groups, Krikorian at CIS told The Washington Post that the online manifesto was “Remarkably well-written for a 21-year-old loner.” 

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Krikorian had previously denounced the killings on Twitter, and told the newspaper that the shooter’s ideas would have naturally come from sources like CIS. 

“If you have a guy who is going to be angry about immigration, have a killer offering reasons for shooting up immigrants, how could he not use reasons that have already been articulated by legitimate sources?” Krikorian told the reporter. 

The emails also show MIller’s work to craft Breitbart’s coverage of then-presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio related to immigration. The SPLC notes that at the time Sessions was Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. 

Emails also show Miller’s early efforts to defeat the so-called Gang of Eight bill, bi-partisan immigration reform legislation drafted after the 2012 election.

McHugh copied one July 7, 2015, email to CIS to another Sessions staffer at the time, Garrett Murch, who was then a communications advisor for the senator. SPLC’s article notes that McHugh wrote to the author of a CIS report asking why “GOP candidate Marco Rubio hasn’t publicly retracted his support for Gang of Eight.”

Murch responded in an email to McHugh suing his government-issued email account with “Perfect” after she posed her question to CIS. That same day Breitbart published a story titled “Rubio’s Gang of Eight Bill Would Have Rewarded Sanctuary Cities Harboring Illegals” and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump linked to the story in a tweet

Murch worked as a communications advisor to then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions from March 2011 until July 2016, according to Murch’s Linkedin account. He then worked as senior editor for a news website LifeZette co-founded by Fox host Laura Ingraham. 

Murch has also worked deputy director of U.S. House relations at the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation from 2005 until 2008. He now works as a political consultant in Maine, according to his social media account. 

Michael Edison Hayden, SPLC’s senior investigative reporter, told APR by phone Thursday that there are many more emails from Murch that haven’t yet been reported on, and that he expects two additional stories in the series to be published in the coming days.

Hayden said while there are plenty of people who share Miller’s believes against immigration, “they don’t have this level of neurotic focus.” Hayden said the hundreds and hundreds of email sent by Miller provides a glimpse into his obsession on immigration.

APR’s messages to Sessions’ campaign seeking comment Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday went unanswered. 

An Aug. 17 article in The New York Times further shows the close connections between Miller, Sessions, Breitbart and CIS. 

“When Mr. Sessions claimed on a conference call that the Gang of Eight bill threatened jobs, an analyst from the Center for Immigration Studies was on the line to vouch for the data, and Breitbart covered it as news,” the article states. “When the center presented its journalism award, Mr. Miller was the speaker, and his first-name references to the Center’s staff — “all the great work that Mark and Jessica and Steve are doing”— made it clear that he felt among friends.”

Trump fired Sessions over his recusal from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Sessions is currently running to regain his Senate seat.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Jones introduces bill to encourage investments in minority-serving banks

“One of the biggest hurdles for minority entrepreneurs is access to capital,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones

Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would encourage investments in banks that serve minority communities.

“One of the biggest hurdles for minority entrepreneurs is access to capital,” Jones said in a statement. “That’s why this bill is so important. Increasing access to capital at the banks that serve minority communities will help expand financial opportunities for individuals and business owners in those communities.”

Jones, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, in April urged the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury to support Community Development Financial Institutions and minority-owned banks disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and he threw his support behind more federal funding for small community banks, minority-owned banks and CDFIs during the recent Paycheck Protection Program replenishment.

According to a press release from Jones’s office, the bill would attract investments to those financial institutions by changing rules to allow “minority-owned banks, community banks with under $10 billion in deposits” and CDFIs to accept brokered deposits, or investments with high interest rates, thereby bolstering those institutions and encourage them to invest and lend in their communities.

It would also allow low-income and minority credit unions to access the National Credit Union Administration’s Community Development Revolving Loan Fund.

“Commonwealth National Bank would like to thank Senator Jones for his leadership in introducing the Minority Depository Institution and Community Bank Deposit Access Act. As a small Alabama home grown institution, this proposal will allow us to accept needed deposits without the current limitations that hinder our ability to better serve the historically underserved communities that our institutions were created to serve. We support your efforts and encourage you to keep fighting the good fight for all of America,” said Sidney King, president and CEO of Commonwealth National Bank, in a statement.

“The Minority Depository Institution and Community Bank Deposit Access Act is a welcomed first step in helping Minority Depository Institutions like our National Bankers Association member banks develop the kinds of national deposit networks that allow our institutions to compete for deposits with larger banks and to better meet the credit needs of the communities we serve. The National Bankers Association commends Senator Jones’ leadership on this issue, and we look forward to continuing to engage with him on the ultimate passage of this proposal,” said Kenneth Kelly, chairman of the National Bankers Association, in a statement.

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A recent report by the Brookings Institute highlighted problems minority-owned businesses had accessing federal COVID-19 relief aid from PPP loans. Researchers found that it took seven days longer for small businesses with paid employees in majority Black zip codes to receive PPP loans, compared to majority-white communities. That gap grew to three weeks for non-employer minority-owned small businesses, the report notes.

The report also states that while minority-owned small businesses, many of which are unbanked or under banked, get approximately 80 percent of their loans from financial technology companies and online lending companies, fintechs weren’t allowed under federal law to issue PPP loans until April 14.

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Sewell’s Caribbean trade bill passes House with unanimous support

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, this week applauded the passage of a bipartisan bill she introduced to reauthorize the U.S. Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act. The legislation, HR991, passed the House by a unanimous voice vote.

The legislation extends the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act through 2030.

The CBTPA is a preferential trade agreement that provides for duty and quota-free access for apparel products manufactured in designated beneficiary Caribbean Basin region countries. CBTPA also requires that Caribbean Basin countries use U.S. formed yarns, fabrics and thread.

The CBTPA was first enacted in 2000 and is currently authorized through Sept. 30, 2020. Eligible CBTPA countries include Barbados, Belize, Curacao, Guyana, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and St. Lucia.

“As the lead sponsor of the legislation to reauthorize the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, I am thrilled that Congress is taking action on this issue before the program expires at the end of the month,” Sewell said. “CBTPA is such an important economic tool for the United States and each of our partner countries, and it is critical to our continued diplomatic relationships in the Caribbean Basin. The bipartisan effort to reauthorize this program will allow us to export more American-made goods and strengthen Western supply chains, while contributing to economic development and job creation in Haiti and other countries throughout the Caribbean Basin region. I am grateful for its passage by unanimous voice vote in the House, and I urge the Senate to take up this bill before the September 30th deadline. ”

“I am incredibly grateful for Congresswoman Sewell’s commitment to economic prosperity in the Republic of Haiti and the Caribbean region,” said Ambassador Herve Denis. “The Extension of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), H.R. 991, which has received bipartisan and bicameral support, is a testament to Congress’ unwavering support for working families in Haiti and CARICOM countries. This legislation has created countless jobs and generated billions of dollars in revenue over the past decade.”

“Furthermore, CBTPA would play a crucial role in strengthening the supply chains for PPEs and textiles in response to COVID-19, making America less dependent on nations outside the Western Hemisphere,” Herve said. “With the issues regarding China, Haiti hopes and expects to benefit from the ‘Near-Shoring’ concept introduced by Congress. Together, we can continue to strengthen bilateral trade relations between two of the oldest republics in the Americas.”

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“I’m proud to support our nation’s trade preference programs, which bolster further economic expansion in developing nations and support jobs here in America — a true win-win scenario,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, the Republican lead co-sponsor. “In particular, our bipartisan bill to extend the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act accomplishes that goal in the Caribbean, providing trade benefits to eight Caribbean nations, most notably Haiti. I want to thank Congresswoman Terri Sewell for partnering with me on this important legislation and urge the Senate to consider it without delay.”

The Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act and the CBTPA are collectively known as the Caribbean Basin Initiative. The two acts work together to facilitate the development of 17 independent countries of the Caribbean Basin region.

Eligible CBERA countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

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On Sept. 4, the National Council of Textile Organizations and National Cotton Council sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of two key congressional committees voicing their support for passing the reauthorization of the CBTPA.

Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. She has no Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Congress

Resources are available to persons damaged by Hurricane Sally, Roby says

Brandon Moseley

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A satellite image of Hurricane Sally. (VIA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

Hurricane Sally struck on the Alabama Gulf Coast as a category two hurricane on Sept. 16, but authorities, property owners and farmers are still assessing the damage.

“As Hurricane Sally moved through Alabama last week, I remained in close communication with Governor Ivey’s office regarding recovery efforts, and she ensured us that the appropriate state agency resources will be available to our counties and municipalities in the Second District,” said Congresswoman Martha Roby. “My team also stayed in contact with leaders and elected officials across the district to communicate with them our readiness to assist.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with those throughout our state who have been affected by this powerful storm,” Roby added. “Please do not hesitate to reach out to one of my offices if you or someone you know needs assistance.”

“The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries launched a survey to gather information from farmers and producers who experienced agricultural damages due to Hurricane Sally,” Roby said.

Separately, the Alabama Farmers Federation is also collecting information from affected farmers. For more information on disaster assistance, visit this website.

Prior to and after Sally hit our state, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has been hard at work to assist Alabama farmers and consumers. The department is gathering information from farmers who experienced agricultural damage from the excessive winds, rainfall and flooding caused by Hurricane Sally.

This information can be helpful to federal and state leaders in the aftermath of the storm.

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To collect the most accurate damage assessments, the department has established an online reporting survey to simplify the process for producers who have experienced agricultural damage. Producers should visit agi.alabama.gov/HurricaneSally to complete the survey.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced significant damage during this powerful hurricane,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate. “Alabama farmers have already faced economic hardships this year due to market instability, trade concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.”

Many farmers had a crop that was ready for harvest. Many of those farmers lost that entire crop.

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“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way.”

According to the department, reportable damage would include structural, crop and livestock losses. Producers are also encouraged to take photos of damage.

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, said, “Feeding the Gulf Coast has a number of distribution and pantry options for those in who need food assistance due to Hurricane Sally. You can find the locations on their website.”

“If you have insurance, you should file a claim with them first before registering with FEMA,” Byrne said. “That will allow for the quickest response. Even if you have made a claim with your insurance company, you can still register for FEMA assistance.”

To apply for FEMA disaster assistance visit disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.

They eye of Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores but the damage stretches across much of south Alabama and the western Florida panhandle. Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia Counties have been declared a natural disaster by FEMA.

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Congress

Brooks supports DOJ decision to declare New York City an “anarchist jurisdiction”

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks speaks during a television interview.

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, on Tuesday said the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other “socialist Democrat elected officials” have “utterly failed to maintain law and order.” Brooks said that the lack of leadership has led the U.S. Department of Justice to declare New York City an “anarchist jurisdiction.”

President Donald Trump issued a memo ordering financial retribution against cities that he views as having bowed to violent mobs and cut funding for their police departments. The declaration will purportedly allow the Trump administration to cut federal funding for the cities including New York, Portland and Seattle.

“Socialist Democrat elected officials running some of America’s largest cities have utterly failed to maintain law & order — one of the most basic functions of government,” Brooks said. “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have willfully allowed violent anarchists to rampage so badly that the U.S. Department of Justice has designated New York City as an ‘Anarchist Jurisdiction.’ Let Cuomo and DeBlasio’s leadership failure be a warning to American voters everywhere. Placing feckless Socialist Democrats in charge is tantamount to turning your city over to violent anarchists.”

There has been national attention on rising rates of shootings in a number of large cities.

“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement Monday. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance.”

“It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens,” Barr added.

White House budget director Russ Vought is set to issue guidance to federal agencies on withdrawing funds from the cities in less than two weeks. The DOJ said that the list of cities eligible for defunding will be updated periodically.

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It is not yet clear what funds are likely to be cut. New York City gets roughly $7 billion in federal funding.

New York City Council passed a budget this summer that cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s $6 billion annual budget amid protests against police brutality.

Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District and has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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