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Rep. Omar apologizes for controversial tweets on Israel lobby after backlash from Democratic leaders

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By Allan Smith

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar apologized Monday afternoon for controversial tweets about the Israel lobby in the United States after her comments were denounced by House Democratic leaders as “anti-Semitic tropes.”

In a post on Twitter, Omar “unequivocally” apologized for the earlier tweets and said her intention was “never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.” But the freshman lawmaker, who was one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress last fall, added that she was not backing down on the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”



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Retaliating against Democrats, Trump considering dumping migrants in ‘sanctuary cities’

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By Hallie Jackson, Jacob Soboroff, Geoff Bennett and Alex Johnson

President Donald Trump said Friday he is “giving strong” consideration to a plan to bus detained immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities as a way to retaliate against Democrats.

The president said he was weighing the idea because Democrats had blocked his efforts to change the country’s “very dangerous immigration laws.”

The president’s statement came after a former Department of Homeland Security official said the plan, first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday night, was ultimately scrapped when it was determined to be “so illegal.” A White House official who confirmed the broad outlines of the proposal Friday morning pushed back on the idea that it was meant as retaliation toward political rivals, however, calling that “absolutely ridiculous.”

The official insisted the White House had never pressured Immigration and Customs Enforcement to put the plan in motion, but simply floated it to officials at the agency.

DHS on Thursday night told NBC News the proposal had been “a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.”

The White House official confirmed the idea came up twice — initially as a query to ICE about the possibility, and later to inquire why it wouldn’t be legally doable. Matthew Albence, who starts Friday as acting head of ICE, was involved in the assessment of the plan and the ultimate conclusion that it would not be feasible.

The Post quoted DHS officials as saying the administration sought to release detainees in the San Francisco-based district of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and in other strongly Democratic districts. It said the White House told ICE that the plan was partly meant to conserve jail space but also partly to “send a message to Democrats.”

A source familiar with the plan told NBC News it was designed to “somehow hurt Pelosi.”

Another source, the former DHS official, told NBC News of the Trump administration’s thinking: “Why release [migrants] into Yuma or Phoenix when you can release them in San Francisco where they want them?”

“The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,” a spokeswoman for Pelosi told NBC News. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.”

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller at a Republican dinner in Columbus, Ohio, in August.Leah Millis / Reuters file

The Post reported that two DHS whistleblowers independently reported the busing plan to Congress and that several DHS officials confirmed their accounts. Two DHS officials said Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser who is widely reported to have assumed control of U.S. border policy, discussed the proposal with ICE, according to The Post.



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EU elections 2019: How do European Parliament elections work? How to vote for your MEP

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PREPARATIONS have begun for the UK to take part in the upcoming European Parliament elections amid another delay to Brexit. So how do these elections work?

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Lobbyist sentenced to probation after funneling money to Trump inaugural from foreign nationals

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By Charlie Gile and Dartunorro Clark

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday sentenced American lobbyist W. Samuel Patten to 36 months of probation for funneling $50,000 from foreign nationals to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee.

Patten, 47, a longtime Washington operative, will also be required to pay a $5,000 fine and serve 500 hours of “hands-on” community service.

He pleaded guilty last August for failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his work for a Ukrainian lobbying effort launched by former Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The case is a spin-off of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Government prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum on Friday that Patten had provided substantial assistance to Mueller and other ongoing investigations.

On Friday, Patten spoke briefly before U.S District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C. — the judge who oversaw one of Manafort’s cases — to express his remorse.

“I behaved as though the law didn’t apply to me and that was wrong,” he said.

Prosecutors allege he bought four tickets on behalf of two unnamed foreign nationals, one from Russia, the other from Ukraine, and tried to conceal the deal. Patten paid the straw purchaser $50,000 and a day later the purchaser paid the Presidential Inauguration Committee the same amount for the four tickets. Prosecutors also said Patten attended an Inauguration Committee event in Washington with an unidentified foreign person who they said is from Ukraine.

Court documents do not suggest the Trump Inauguration Committee was aware of the straw purchase. Presidential inaugural committees are prohibited from accepting donations from foreign nationals, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Jackson said on Friday that Patten’s conduct was unlike recently prosecuted FARA cases, such as the one dealing with Manafort. Manafort was sentenced to nearly four years on tax and bank fraud charges by a federal judge in Virginia and an additional 43 months by Jackson on conspiracy charges.

“This is not the picture of someone who is motivated by greed, who sells his services to the highest bidder,” she said.

Patten’s friends and family wrote letters of support to the judge detailing his childhood and his recent focus on his physical and mental health. Jackson said she was particularly affected by these letters, saying he “deserved to be commended” for his recent turnaround.

“You’ve done everything in your power to make amends,” she said.

Charlie Gile reported from Washington, and Dartunorro Clark from New York.

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