- The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that the Department of Homeland Security is planning to deploy roughly 150 federal agents in Chicago, Illinois this week, though the specifics of their duties is still unknown.
- The move comes after federal agents were deployed in Portland, Oregon, where they continually clashed with demonstrators protesting against racial inequality and police brutality.
- There have also been reports of unmarked police detaining people in similarly unmarked vehicles. Because of that, Oregon’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the action.
DHS Presence in Chicago
The Department of Homeland Security is planning to send around 150 federal agents into Chicago this week, according to The Chicago Tribune.
If true, the move would follow federal agents’ presence in Portland, Oregon, a city that has been the subject of nonstop massive protests for nearly two months. Those agents were first deployed following a June 26 executive order from President Donald Trump that seeks to protect federal monuments, statues, and memorials.
In Chicago, the scope of DHS is currently unknown. According to an anonymous Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, that deployment will include ICE agents; however, that official said those agents would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters as part of the deployment.
Like Portland, Chicago has also been a grounds for massive protests since late May when George Floyd died in police custody. It’s also possible that federal agents won’t stop with just Portland or Chicago.
In a leaked memo dated from July 16, DHS said, “Moving forward, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies.”
Oregon AG Files Lawsuit Alleging Civil Rights Violations
On Friday, the Oregon Department of Justice announced in a letter that state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum would soon be filing a lawsuit in response to accusations that people were being taken off the streets and put into vans by unmarked police officers.
The Oregon DOJ alleges that “federal authorities overstepp[ed] their powers and injur[ed] or threaten[ed] peaceful protesters on the streets of Downtown Portland.”
Later that same day, Rosenblum confirmed that she had filed that lawsuit. Notably, it was filed against a number of agencies, including DHS, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Protection Service. The lawsuit also lists 10 unidentified individuals as defendants.
“On information and belief, John Does 1-10 are employed by the United States government in a law enforcement capacity,” the lawsuit states. “They have made it impossible for them to be individually identified by carrying out law enforcement actions without wearing any identifying information, even so much as the agency that employs them.”
Overall, Rosenblum accuses these agencies of engaging in unlawful law enforcement tactics that threaten the civil rights of people in Oregon.
“Federal law enforcement officers including John Does 1-10 have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles, removing them from public without either arresting them or stating the basis for an arrest, since at least Tuesday, July 14,” the lawsuit alleges.
Specifically, the lawsuit references Mark Pettibone, a man who spoke to The Washington Post after claiming to have been confronted by men dressed in camouflage who then pushed him into an unmarked van on July 15. Pettibone was reportedly taken to the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse where he was read his Miranda rights.
Despite this, Pettibone has maintained that he was never told why he was arrested and that after he refused to speak to police without the presence of a lawyer, he was released without any paperwork, citation, or record of his arrest.
According to The Post, U.S. Customs and Border Protection later took responsibility for Pettibone’s detainment.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that other citizens beside Pettibone have also been detained “without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without providing any way to determine who is directing this action.”
The lawsuit argues that these agencies are injuring citizens by taking away their ability to determine whether or not they’re being kidnapped or arrested. For example, if a person is kidnapped, they are legally allowed to engage in self-defense; however, if that person is arrested by police, they could be charged with resisting arrest for the same action.
That’s why Rosenblum is asking for federal agents to be required to identify themselves and their agency before making an arrest. She is also asking for those agents to be required to give an explanation as to why they’re detaining someone for an arrest.
In addition to this lawsuit, the Oregon DOJ is also seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent federal authorities from unlawfully detaining people in the state.
Also on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon filed a separate lawsuit against DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service in an attempt to block federal law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists and legal observers.
“This is a fight to save our democracy,” Kelly Simon, the interim legal director of Oregon’s ACLU, said. “Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorizing the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality. These federal agents must be stopped and removed from our city.”
The Legality of Federal Occupation
DHS was formed after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and since then, its job has mainly been to handle national security threats from abroad, as well as border security. Since Trump took office, it has largely carried out his immigration policies.
However, with Portland, its presence has been more focused on law-and-order.
For example, some of the agents deployed in Portland are part of a group known as BORTAC, Border Patrol’s equivalent of a SWAT team. Notably, it’s a highly trained group that is normally tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations, as opposed to protesters in cities. As a result, city and state officials have raised questions about whether it’s overstepping local law enforcement.
“I don’t have authority to order federal officers to do things,” Portland’s Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said. “It does complicate things for us.”
For his part, Trump has argued that he sent in federal agents because Portland police have failed to adequately respond to the protests. Despite that, the leaked internal DHS memo from Thursday states that those federal officers haven’t been trained in riot control or mass demonstrations.
A DHS spokesperson said on Sunday that the missions of these federal agents were “aligned with their appropriate training,” and that officers received “additional training for their deployment in the city” to assist the Federal Protective Service.
Still, that hasn’t convinced Democrats. In fact, Sunday, several House Democrats penned a letter to the inspectors general of the DOJ and DHS. In it, they called for an investigation “into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the attorney general and the acting secretary of homeland security to suppress first amendment protected activities in Washington DC, Portland and other communities across the United States.”
Since then, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has denounced the Trump administration’s use of federal agents in Portland, saying, “We cannot give up liberty for security.”
See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (The Washington Post) (AP News)
Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG
AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.”
Lawsuit Filed Against Trump
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses.
“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,” a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed.
The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint.
Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief.
The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation.
“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media.
“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”
Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets
According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”
“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued.
Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time.
For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million.
Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million.
Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”
“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,” the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth.
The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”
Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)
Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power
While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.
Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.
Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.
Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”
He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.
Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.
Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.
Continued Issues As Storm Rages On
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.
The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.
While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.
The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.
He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.
After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows
The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.
Largest Drop in Half a Century
The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.
From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.
In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.
The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.
Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.
Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.
According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.
But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.
Poverty Before COVID
Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.
They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.
It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.
The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.
They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.
Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.
The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.
Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.