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Can Trump defund Planned Parenthood through executive action?

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Despite continuous promises to the pro-life cause, Republican budgets still fund Planned Parenthood to the tune of over $500 million each year. Efforts to decertify the nation’s largest abortion-mill chain ran into stiff opposition during the ObamaCare repeal effort from Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, and Democrats torpedoed an attempt to include it in the budget agreement. The legislative path seems all but dead unless Republicans can win enough Senate seats to overcome a filibuster as well as hold onto the House in November — an outcome with odds on the order of having the Cleveland Browns win the next Super Bowl.

But does another path exist without congressional approval? The Hill says … maaaaybeeeeDonald Trump may take a page out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook:

Opponents of abortion have launched an all-out campaign urging the administration to bring back Reagan-era abortion restrictions on federal family planning dollars that would target Planned Parenthood.

The regulations would ban organizations that receive family planning dollars under the Title X Family Planning Program, which funds organizations providing services like birth control to low-income women and men, from promoting abortion or referring patients for abortions.

Former President Reagan first issued the regulations, which Democrats describe as a “domestic gag rule,” in 1988. They also require a physical and financial separation of Title X funding recipients from abortion providers.

The Supreme Court upheld Reagan’s action in Rust v Sullivan in 1991, but by that time it was moot. Reagan’s term had ended, and subsequent administrations have either not wanted to press the issue (the Bushes) or were openly hostile to the policy (Clinton and Obama). With legislative options exhausted — at least for now — pro-life activists are now pressing Trump to use his executive authority to shut down the funding stream to Planned Parenthood.

One argument in favor of this is sheer electoral politics:

Republicans see the action as a way to motivate the GOP base ahead of the midterm elections, where the party’s majorities in the House and Senate are in play.

“The life issue is a huge motivator for the right. Getting a win on the pro-life side, even if it’s regulatory rather than legislative, would be huge, and encourage people to come out and vote for the members who pushed for action on this,” said Kelly Marcum, a legislative assistant for the conservative Family Research Council, which has been pushing for the changes.

I’m in favor of the policy, but am skeptical of this argument for it. Using executive power to resolve this issue actually removes it from concern for at least the next couple of years. It might make for an effective strategy for 2020 — If you don’t vote for Trump, you’re voting to give Planned Parenthood $500 million a year! — but an EO or regulatory change puts this completely outside the context of legislative elections. It might work better as it is now to hammer Democrats for continuing to fund abortion mills with taxpayer dollars.

If Trump decides to go forward with this strategy, it’ll be a long time before the dollars get cut off. The Supreme Court may have finally blessed Reagan’s action in 1991, but that won’t keep Planned Parenthood and its defenders from filing lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions to force it back into the courts. It might be three or more years again before courts stop imposing temporary injunctions on the Trump administration to suspend any new “gag rule.”

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile choice, but it does demonstrate that it’s still best to work though the legislature where possible to enact changes in policy. Failing that, though, it may be the only option to deal with the issue. As Yuval Levin and Ben Domenech wrote three years ago, Planned Parenthood and its supporters engage in a bit of a bait-and-switch when it comes to that funding:

“The instinct to respond to the tapes by forcing a shutdown over the federal funds that Planned Parenthood clinics can get through Title X and Medicaid is understandable and appropriate. Title X is not supposed to make funds available to abortion providers, but Planned Parenthood gets around the legal prohibition by formally separating its abortion clinics and its other family planning services, even when those are located in the same facility and essentially funded jointly. When states have tried to limit Planned Parenthood’s access to Medicaid funds, meanwhile, the Obama administration has told them they can’t, even though federal law prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from funding abortion. In both cases, federal dollars are being spent in ways that contravene the intent and spirit of the legal prohibitions on federal funding of abortion provision, and the biggest beneficiary by far is Planned Parenthood (which has been for many years, for instance, the largest single recipient of Title X money).”

The point is that by drawing an artificial line between its abortion practices and its abortion promoting practices, Planned Parenthood has been circumventing the intent of the legal funding prohibitions for decades in order to access Title X funds. They have an arm funded by the taxpayers which is in the business of promoting abortion, and then another arm that profits from those abortions (in ways, we are finding, that are much more macabre than we assumed). But the Supreme Court has already vindicated Ronald Reagan’s rule on the matter, meaning that the next president could lawfully adopt the same approach to determining how these funds are distributed and in one act dramatically undercut Planned Parenthood.

In other words, it might be worth trying just for all the clarity such an action would provide.

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Reps. Meadows and Jordan Lash Out at Rosenstein For Demanding Special “Classified” Format to Testify on Capitol Hill

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Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) lashed out at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Friday afternoon over his demands for a special format to testify next week on Capitol Hill.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced Thursday that Rosenstein will appear on Capitol Hill October 24th for a closed-door, transcribed interview.

Rosenstein is demanding the interview be private and held in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) with multiple Republican lawmakers excluded.

Unfortunately only the House Judiciary and Oversight Chairs and ranking members will be present for the grilling.

According to the House Judiciary announcement, only 4 members from the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees will be present:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will appear on October 24, 2018, for a transcribed interview conducted by Chairmen Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy and Ranking Members Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings.

JIM JORDAN: Rod Rosenstein wants a SPECIAL format to testify: only 2 Rep and 2 Dem members of Congress asking questions in closed door classified setting.


Another example of the double standard. One set of rules for regular folks, a different set for the politically connected. Unacceptable.

MARK MEADOWS: Rod Rosenstein declines to show up before Congress and then asks for special treatment. He wants his interview to be private, in a SCIF, with multiple members excluded.

There should be NO double standard. Show up and tell the truth under the same conditions as everyone else.

Meadows and Jordan want to ask Rod Rosenstein about his plot to wear a wire and oust Trump from office.

Former FBI lawyer James Baker appeared on Capitol Hill earlier Thursday for the second time to testify about Rosenstein’s plan to wear a wire and and the use of FISA warrants to oust President Trump from office.

Rep. Meadows emerged from the testimony Thursday calling for Rosenstein to “resign immediately.”

This is yet more proof that there is a two-tiered justice system in this country.

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Caravan reaches Mexican border, breaks through fence on Guatemalan side

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The migrant caravan reached the southern border of Mexico Thursday night and NBC News reports some have already crossed the border. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal described the situation along the Mexican border as tense:

Tension was palpable in Ciudad Hidalgo, a tiny tropical village in Mexico surrounded by rain forest and banana plantations that borders Tecun Uman in Guatemala, with the two towns separated by a muddy river. Late Thursday, some 300 Mexican federal police officers equipped with antiriot gear were deployed to the border crossing ahead of the caravan’s expected arrival…

Many migrants marched along the river banks on Thursday afternoon. “Let them know that we are going to cross to Mexico!” shouted a man clad with a cap in front of the crowd.

The border between Mexico and Guatemala (at this location) is the Suchiate River. Here’s what that looks like from the bridge spanning the river:

There are gates on both sides of the bridge to control traffic. Buzzfeed’s Karla Zabs is there covering developments this morning. A short time ago the caravan began massing at the Guatemalan gate:

And that led to a standoff. The AP reports that “young men” eventually tore open the barricade and swarmed onto the bridge:

Migrants in a caravan traveling through Central America have broken down gates at a border crossing and are streaming toward a bridge to Mexico.

After arriving at the tall, yellow metal fence Friday, some clambered atop it and on U.S.-donated military jeeps.

Young men began violently tugging on the barrier and finally succeeded in tearing it down.

Men, women and children then rushed through toward the bridge, about 150 yards (137 meters) away.

This tweet translates as “Bombshell! Thousands of Hondurans manage to enter Mexican territory!”

The Noticias video below helps explain the sequence of events. This is a live stream but you can scroll back. First people were massed at the yellow gates on the Guatemalan side of the bridge. Then they broke through those gates and streamed onto the bridge as seen in that clip above. The migrants made their way to the Mexican side of the bridge and, at first, it appeared the gates were open, but they were pushed closed by police with riot shields.

A shoving match ensued between the police and the migrants trying to re-open the gates. Some migrants are throwing things at the police and the police appear to be using batons to keep people’s hands off the gates. Finally, when the gate is shut, you see some men jumping off the bridge into the water where they swim to a nearby raft.

Stalemate, at least for the moment:

I’ll update this post when the situation changes.

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BREAKING: Nellie Ohr Invokes Marital Privilege Preventing Her From Answering Questions About Talks With Her Husband Bruce Ohr

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Nellie Ohr, wife of twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr appeared on Capitol Hill Friday to face lawmakers in a closed-door grilling.

Mrs. Ohr was supposed to appear for a deposition last month but she was refusing to cooperate with lawmakers.

Now this…

Nellie Ohr invoked marital privilege on Friday preventing her from answering questions about her husband Bruce Ohr.

MANU RAJU: Very rare bipartisan agreement: Both sides say Nellie Ohr interview has been led to nothing. She invoked marital privilege preventing her from answering qs about talks with her husband. @MarkMeadows sees no reason to bring her back. @CongressmanRaja calls it a “nothing burger”

Rep. Mark Meadows confirmed Nellie Ohr invoked spousal privilege. 

The House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees sought to question Nellie Ohr after her husband Bruce Ohr gave an explosive testimony to Congress.


The former Associate Deputy Attorney General told Congress the FBI knew his wife, Nellie Ohr worked for oppo research firm Fusion GPS yet failed to disclose that information to the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].

Nellie Ohr was paid multiple large payments by Fusion GPS, the oppo research firm that commissioned dossier author Christopher Steele.

Mrs. Ohr also previously worked for the CIA and was a corrupt Communist sympathizer who spoke fluent Russian.

This story is still developing…please check back for updates.

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