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With Kavanaugh on court, White House ready for legal battle over asylum rules

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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration expects to be sued over the draconian new immigration plan it unveiled Thursday afternoon, say two senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions — but with Justice Brett Kavanaugh now on the Supreme Court, it expects to win.

In the weeks before the midterms, even those Trump administration officials who fought bitterly with each other over how to curtail illegal immigration learned they could agree on a few things.

First, of the measures most likely to be approved by the president, all were likely to lead to a lawsuit.

But second, when sued, they believed they would ultimately prevail. According to the two senior officials, they think that with Kavanaugh in place, the Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

Kavanaugh, who took the spot of the more moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy on Oct. 6, is known for his conservative opinions that often side with the executive branch’s assertion of power.

Image: Migrants, part of a caravan traveling en route to the United States, ride in a truck on the road that links Tapanatepec and Santo Domingo Ingenio, near Santo Domingo Zanatepec
Migrants, part of a caravan traveling en route to the United States, ride in a truck on the road that links Tapanatepec and Santo Domingo Ingenio, near Santo Domingo Zanatepec, Mexico, on Nov. 7, 2018.Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

President Donald Trump teased the plan in vague terms in a speech from the White House last week, vowing to block any immigrants caught crossing the border between designated ports of entry, even if they made a claim for asylum.

The administration published the rule Thursday, with a signed proclamation by the president by Friday morning. It is expected to place all future illegal border crossers — those arrested between ports of entry — into detention with expedited deportation, regardless of whether they make an asylum claim.

The ACLU has already announced plans to sue.

Previous executive actions on immigration, including the Trump administration’s defense of the travel ban and its opposition to the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA,) have landed in federal court. The travel ban was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court and DACA is making its way there.

The hardline measures the White House is preparing to take to bar immigrants caught crossing the border illegally from claiming asylum are expected to follow the same path.

Although the Trump administration expects to be enjoined and stopped in the near term, they believe a policy based on the discretionary authority of the president over who is admitted to the U.S. will ultimately hold up in the Supreme Court, one of the officials said.

With Congress stalled on immigration reform, an executive action that is ultimately upheld in court is the best alternative, the other official said.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Customs & Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment on its legal strategy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which led lawsuits to stop the travel ban and to reunite families separated by Trump’s “zero tolerance policy,” is prepared to sue again.

“If the administration announces a ban on asylum for those who enter between ports of entry, we will be prepared to go to court as necessary,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “But we will wait to see precisely what is put into place.”

Other legal experts and immigration advocates have said the policy would be in violation of domestic and international law. They cite international treaties that say an asylum seeker can make a legitimate claim anywhere, regardless of how they enter.

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Cabinet rebels demand May hold back £39bn Brexit bill – unless EU plays ball on trade deal

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CABINET Brexiteers have urged Theresa May to hold back billions of the UK’s Brexit divorce bill if the European Union does not grant Britain an acceptable trade deal, according to reports.

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Feds have paid undercover informants in migrant caravan

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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the migrant caravan that is now reaching the California-Mexico border as well as monitoring the text messages of migrants, according to two DHS officials.

The 4,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, have used WhatsApp text message groups as a way to organize and communicate along their journey to the California border, and DHS personnel have joined those groups to gather that information.

The intelligence gathering techniques are combined with reports from DHS personnel working in Mexico with the government there in an effort to keep tabs on the caravan’s size, movements and any potential security threats.

On Monday, DHS officials told reporters that their intelligence on Sunday night had indicated that a group of migrants wanted to run through the car lanes of a border crossing near San Diego. Customs and Border Protection shut down all northbound lanes of the crossing from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. as a result. However, the ambush was never attempted.

Paying informants, placing officers in the region or monitoring the communications of non-U.S. citizens is not illegal, said John Cohen, former acting undersecretary of intelligence for DHS, but it does raise some concerns about the allocation of resources.

“Those resources have to come from some place. They are not being devoted to thwarting terrorist threats, mass shootings, mailed fentanyl coming into the country or cyberattacks,” said Cohen.

Cohen said the caravan presents a logistical and humanitarian issue, but because the vast majority of its members want to present themselves legally to claim asylum, it is not wise to devote a significant amount of intelligence resources to it.

“I find it hard to believe that the highest risk facing this nation comes from this caravan,” Cohen said.

It is not known how much money DHS is spending on the intelligence gathering inside the caravan.

In a statement, DHS Spokeswoman Katie Waldman said, “While not commenting on sources or methods, it would be malpractice for the United States to be ignorant about the migrants — including many criminals — attempting to enter our country. We have an obligation to ensure we know who is crossing our borders to protect against threats to the Homeland and any indication to the contrary is misinformed.”

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In unusual statement disputing the CIA and filled with exclamation points, Trump backs Saudi ruler after Khashoggi killing

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By Adam Edelman

President Donald Trump, in exclamation point-filled formal presidential statement, said Tuesday that his administration would stand by Saudia Arabia’s rulers and take no actions against them over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In the extraordinary statement, which featured six exclamation points from the president, Trump called the “crime” against Khashoggi “terrible” and “one that our country does not condone.”

But he again stopped well short of pointing blame at Saudi Arabia — despite NBC News and other reports last week that the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing — and cast questions over who killed the journalist.

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in the statement, which featured a subheading that read “America First!”

“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” he continued. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!” Trump said in the statement.

Trump, in the statement, which was titled, “Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia,: also repeated denials from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi King Salman that they had “any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.”

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