Trump Administration Asks US Supreme Court To End Obamacare

A photo combination created on May 9, 2020 of former US President, Barack Obama and current US President, Donald Trump.
A photo combination created on May 9, 2020 of former US President, Barack Obama and current US President, Donald Trump.

 

 

US President Donald Trump’s administration asked the Supreme Court Thursday to strike down Obamacare, which has provided health insurance to tens of millions of Americans.

The third challenge to the landmark law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, comes as the United States records some of its highest coronavirus infection rates since the contagion hit the country.

Under Obamacare, millions of Americans are required to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty.

But in 2017 Congress eliminated the fine for people who failed to sign up — known as the individual mandate — removing a key part of former President Barack Obama’s policy.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) argues “the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the Act.”

Because of that “the mandate is now unconstitutional as a result of Congress’s elimination … of the penalty for noncompliance,” it said in a late filing.

As a result “the entire ACA thus must fall with the individual mandate.”

The DoJ also argues that ACA coverage protecting people with pre-existing conditions — rules that mean insurers cannot refuse customers because of their age, gender, or health status — should also be overturned.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in its next term starting October, but US media reported that it is unlikely to be examined before the presidential election in November.

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the Trump administration’s move and called it an “act of unfathomable cruelty” during the pandemic.

She claimed if passed 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could lose the ACA’s protections, and as many as 23 million citizens could be left without any insurance.

“There is no legal justification and no moral excuse for the Trump Administration’s disastrous efforts to take away Americans’ health care,” she said.

The US has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic — and unlike Europe and parts of East Asia, has never climbed down from its peak.

Twenty-nine states are now experiencing fresh surges, with almost 40,000 new cases recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US health officials now believe based on antibody surveys that about 24 million people may have been infected at some point — 10 times higher than the officially recorded figure of around 2.4 million.

 

 

-AFP

Supreme Court Rejects Trump Bid To End Young Immigrant Protections

Protesters hold signs at a rally to defend DACA on September 5, 2017 in New York. BRYAN R. SMITH AFP
Protesters hold signs at a rally to defend DACA on September 5, 2017 in New York. BRYAN R. SMITH AFP

 

The US Supreme Court dealt President Donald Trump’s efforts to choke off immigration a fresh blow Thursday when it rejected his cancellation of the DACA program protecting 700,000 “Dreamers,” undocumented migrants brought to the United States as children.

The high court said Trump’s 2017 move to cancel his predecessor Barack Obama’s landmark Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was “arbitrary and capricious” under government administrative procedures.

The judgement on a five-to-four vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s four liberal members, stressed that it was not an assessment of the correctness of the 2012 DACA program itself.

Instead, they said the Trump administration had violated official government procedures in the way they sought to quickly rescind DACA in September 2017 based on weak legal justifications.

The ruling suggested there are legal administrative methods Trump could cancel DACA, putting the onus back on the administration if it wants to pursue the issue.

 

‘The American way’

Immigration champions and Dreamers cheered the narrow ruling.

“Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation,” Obama tweeted.

“Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the ruling prolonged the life of a program she said was supported by three-quarters of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike.

“This way is the American way and I’m very proud of it,” she said.

Jesus Contreras, a Houston paramedic under DACA who came to the US from Mexico as a child, said he had prepared for the worst.

“I know it is not the end of the battle,” he said.

“We still have to fight for legislation but right now it is a good feeling to know that we are protected and safe at least for now,” he said.

 

Campaign issue 

On Twitter, Trump turned the decision into a call to support him in the November presidential election so that he can appoint more conservative justices to the high court.

“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump wrote.

“We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”

 

Anti-immigrant policy

The decision came three and a half years after Trump entered office promising to halt almost all immigration and to expel the more than 10 million people estimated living in the country, many for decades, without legal immigration documents.

The Obama administration had sought to address this issue in 2012 with the DACA policy offering protection at renewable two-year periods, including authorization to work, to people brought into the United States illegally as children, and then growing up here.

DACA, and the subsequent DAPA program — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — were executive actions by Obama to eliminate the constant threat of deportation for more than 4 million undocumented migrants.

Obama ordered the programs due to Congress’s inability to pass the so-called Dream Act, which would have created a law offering essentially permanent residency to millions of immigrants long settled in the country, families with homes, businesses, and professions.

Trump cancelled DAPA just after coming to office and then went after the more established DACA, but immediately faced a series of court battles over it.

 

-AFP

Obama Backs Young US Protesters, Seeks ‘Use Of Force’ Policy Review

This screengrab from a video released courtesy of The Obama Foundation shows MBK (My Brother’s Keeper) Alliance Virtual Town Hall with President Obama on “Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence” live-streamed on June 3, 2020. THE OBAMA FOUNDATION / AFP

 

 

Former US president Barack Obama on Wednesday applauded the “profound” protests by Americans demanding racial justice and said demonstrations over last week’s killing of a black man in police custody could spark nationwide reforms.

In his first video comments since George Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis triggered unrest across the country, President Donald Trump’s predecessor also urged state and local authorities to review their policies on the use of force.

Obama directed his comments at young black men and women who he says have often witnessed or experienced too much violence.

“Too often some of that violence has come from folks who were supposed to be serving and protecting you,” Obama said in a webcast with activists.

“I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter, your dreams matter.”

He also said that in the last few weeks, Americans have witnessed “the kinds of epic changes and events in our country that are as profound as anything that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

The 58-year-old, who remains popular among Democrats, noted the deadly upheaval of the 1960s civil rights movement and said “a far more representative cross-section of America” is protesting now than as compared to half a century ago.

“There is a change in mindset that’s taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better,” Obama said.

Young protesters, in particular, have been galvanized, he said, and their motivation could serve as inspiration for broader change.

“It’s very important for us to take the momentum that has been created as a society, as a country, and say ‘Let’s use this’ to finally have an impact,” Obama said.

He also addressed the country’s local leaders, saying “I’m urging every mayor in this country to review your use-of-force policies with members of your community and commit to report on planned reforms.”

Obama did not directly address Trump’s handling of the unrest, including the president’s controversial demand that authorities “dominate” protesters.

But Obama was reportedly outraged by the use of chemical dispersants on protesters outside the White House Monday before Trump walked to a nearby church and held up a Bible.

AFP

Racism Cannot Be ‘Normal’ In US, Obama Says Of Latest Police Killing

Trump's Repeal Of Migrant Amnesty 'Cruel' – Obama
This file photo taken on April 23, 2017 shows former US President Barack Obama visiting with youth leaders at the University of Chicago to help promote community organising in Chicago, Illinois.
SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Former President Barack Obama said on Friday he shared the “anguish” of millions of Americans over the death of a black man killed by police in Minnesota and that racism cannot be “normal” in the United States.

“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America,” Obama said of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd and several other recent racial incidents in the country.

“It can’t be ‘normal,'” the first African-American president of the United States said in a statement. “If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must do better.”

Floyd’s death on Monday sparked three nights of rioting in Minneapolis and protests against police brutality in other US cities.

Floyd, 46, died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than five minutes while he was handcuffed and on the ground.

In his statement, Obama referred to Floyd’s death but also two other high-profile recent racial incidents in the US, one involving a black jogger who was shot dead by two white men in Georgia and a black man who had a confrontation with a white woman while bird-watching in a park in New York.

“It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us,” Obama said. “But we have to remember for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”

Obama said Americans need “to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.

Obama Calls Trump’s Handling Of COVID-19 Pandemic A ‘Chaotic Disaster’

A photo combination created on May 9, 2020 of former US President, Barack Obama and current US President, Donald Trump.
A photo combination created on May 9, 2020 of former US President, Barack Obama and current US President, Donald Trump.

 

Former President Barack Obama has launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it an “absolute chaotic disaster.”

In a leaked web call Friday night with former members of his administration, Obama also said the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, endangers the rule of law in the US.

In the audio, first obtained by Yahoo News, Obama urges former staffers to join him in rallying behind Joe Biden as he prepares to take on Trump in the November presidential election.

The United States by far leads the world in the number of coronavirus infections, at nearly 1.3 million, and deaths, with more than 77,000.

Trump has been criticized as essentially abdicating any leadership role in guiding the country through one of its worst crises in a century, leaving states on their own to grapple with the pandemic and even bid against each other to obtain critical medical equipment on the open market or abroad.

Critics say Trump, after first downplaying the threat posed by the virus, squandered precious time in February as the pathogen spread in America and his administration did little to stock up on testing kits and other medical gear or to develop a cohesive national strategy.

With an eye to re-election, the president has also been blasted as putting his own political interests before human life by aggressively pushing states to reopen their devastated economies without a clear blueprint for how to do it safely.

‘Being selfish, being tribal’

“What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life,” Obama told his former staffers.

“It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty,” Obama said.

“It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalized in our government,” he said.

Obama said that the dropping of charges against Flynn was ominous.

“That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk,” he said.

Obama endorsed Biden’s candidacy last month and has said he would be deeply involved in his campaign against Trump.

He told the Obama Alumni Association: “I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do.”

 

AFP

Trump Spokeswoman Says Obama’s Aides Left Mean Notes In White House

 

President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman claimed Tuesday that Barack Obama staffers left behind catty notes in White House offices for the incoming administration, telling them “you will fail.”

Press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s comment, first made to a CNN reporter, prompted swift denials from ex-Obama officials and a torrent of online mockery from Trump opponents.

“We came into the WH, I’ll tell you something. Every office was filled with Obama books and we had notes left behind that said ‘you will fail,’ ‘you aren’t going to make it,'” a tweet from CNN’s Abby Phillip quoted Grisham as saying.

“This is a complete and utter lie,” tweeted Obama administration lawyer Daniel Jacobson.

“Quite the opposite – we left them briefing books to try to help with the transition as much as possible,” he said.

Jon Wolfsthal, a former senior director at Obama’s National Security Council, called it “an outrageous lie…. Shameless and [email protected] should be fired.”

Faced by the heated denials — and snarky online gags about the “you will fail” prediction proving true — Grisham said her remark had been over-played.

“I don’t know why everyone is so sensitive!” she told AFP.

Grisham said she “certainly wasn’t implying every office had that issue” and recalled finding a “lovely note” for her in the White House East Wing.

“I just saw it as kind of a prank, and that it was something that always happened,” Grisham said.

A famous case of such humor was the reported practical joke by aides of president Bill Clinton who are said to have removed the “W” key from White House computers ahead of George W. Bush taking office.

Obama Asks Canadians To Back Trudeau For Another Term

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening statement for the 10th Lima Group in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 4, 2019. Lars Hagberg / AFP

 

Former US president Barack Obama on Wednesday urged Canadian voters to back Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for another term, calling him an “effective leader.”

“I was proud to work with Justin Trudeau as President. He’s a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change,” Obama said in a tweet.

“The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term.”

Trudeau, who is running neck-and-neck with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer ahead of the October 21 ballot, tweeted back: “Thanks my friend, we’re working hard to keep our progress going.”

His Liberal Party also promoted the endorsement on social media.

The pair first met as leaders of their respective countries at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November 2015, one month after the Canadian won his first general election.

Four months later, Trudeau became the first Canadian leader in 20 years to make an official pomp-filled visit to the White House.

The warmth of the encounter triggered a flood of online jokes and tongue-in-cheek reports of a budding “bromance” between the two men.

Obama saluted Trudeau as his political and generational kin, even though the American is 10 years older. Both champion the importance of issues like health care, gay rights and climate change.

“He campaigned on a message of hope and of change,” Obama once said. “From my perspective, what’s not to like.”

They last met for a beer reportedly in May when Obama was in Ottawa to deliver a speech.

Their relationship stands in stark contrast to Trudeau’s troubled ties with current US President Donald Trump.

AFP

Trump Blames Obama For Russia’s Exit From G8

 

US President Donald Trump expressed support Tuesday for Russia’s return to the G8, saying it would be “much more appropriate” for Moscow to be in the club of world powers.

“I could certainly” support that, he told reporters at the White House, just days before a G7 summit — minus Russia — in Biarritz, France.

“It’s much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8, because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin’s Russia was expelled from the old G8 format after Moscow seized Crimea from neighbouring Ukraine.

But Trump said the reason Russia was kicked out was that his predecessor Barack Obama was “outsmarted” by Putin.

“I guess President Obama because Putin outsmarted him, President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in. So he wanted Russia out,” Trump said.

“So I could certainly see it being the G8 again and if someone would make that motion, I would be disposed to think about it very favourably,” he said.

Trump is due to host the next G7 meeting in the United States next year.

AFP

Obama Basketball Jersey Sells For $120,000

This handout photo taken in 1979 from Heritage Auctions and obtained by AFP on August 19, 2019, shows Punahou High School student Barack Obama (C) attempting a lay up at a basketball game during his senior year as part of the 1979 Hawaii State Champion boys’ varsity basketball team.
PHOTO: Handout / Heritage Auctions / AFP

A basketball jersey once owned by former US president Barack Obama sold on Monday for $120,000, according to the Dallas auction house that sold it.

The number 23 jersey belonged to 18-year-old Obama while he was a senior at Punahou high school in Hawaii, where he lived at the time, according to Heritage Auctions.

The jersey was valued at $100,000 before it was sold.

Obama is a known basketball fan and was often seen playing during his tenure at the White House, with presidential staffers, celebrities or other guests.

AFP

Obama Pays Tribute To ‘National Treasure’ Toni Morrison

US President Barack Obama congratulates author Toni Morrison after presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom to during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.  Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

Former US President Barack Obama paid tribute Tuesday to Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison who died aged 88 following a short illness, describing her as “a national treasure.”

“Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while,” he wrote on Twitter.

AFP

Trump’s Controversial Ban On Transgender Troops Takes Effect

US President Donald Trump speaks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in (not shown)in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 11, 2019.
Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump’s controversial ban on transgender Americans in the military comes into force on Friday following a protracted legal battle.

Trump’s administration has insisted that there is “too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality” to allow transgender people to serve — reversing a policy enacted under his predecessor Barack Obama.

The Pentagon says the restrictions are not a blanket ban, but they would bar many if not most people who identify as transgender from enlisting in America’s armed forces.

READ ALSO: China Tackles Waste Problem On Mount Everest

The policy — which has undergone various iterations since Trump first announced it on Twitter in July 2017 — has been widely criticized by rights activists and has been repeatedly challenged in court.

The US Supreme Court ultimately ruled in January that the policy could take effect pending the outcome of ongoing litigation.

Under the latest version of Trump’s policy, no one who has transitioned to another gender, been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” or who requires hormone treatment will be able to enlist.

But currently enlisted troops who have already transitioned or have requested gender reassignment surgery prior to Friday will be allowed to remain in the military.

For Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a research institute focusing on sexual minorities in the military, the policy amounts to a transgender ban.

“When (the Department of Defense) disqualifies all applicants with a history of gender dysphoria (unless they renounce transgender identity for years) and all applicants who have ever received treatment for gender dysphoria, that is a ban,” Belkin said.

Repeating ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The policy “depends on directly banning the transgender people who are immediately identifiable and threatening the rest, forcing them to remain silent and invisible,” he said.

“It is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ all over again,” said Belkin, referring to the policy under which gay service members had to hide their sexual orientation or face dismissal from the military.

Under the Obama-era policy, transgender recruits were to start being accepted by July 1, 2017. The Trump administration postponed that date to January 1, 2018, before deciding to reverse the policy entirely.

The Pentagon estimates that 9,000 people who identify as transgender are currently serving in the military, out of a total of 1.3 million active-duty personnel. Of this figure, a thousand say they have undergone gender reassignment surgery or want to do so.

But according to transgender rights activists, the figure is higher.

“As many as 15,000 transgender service members stand to lose their jobs,” Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King, who is transgender, told ABC News this week.

“For those of us who are grandfathered in because we’ve already come out and we already have a diagnosis, there’s the possibility for systematic discrimination,” King said.

The new policy is “indefensible,” Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Senator John McCain, wrote on Twitter.

“This discriminatory policy will lead Transgender service members, patriots who have decided to serve their nation, to live in the shadows,” she wrote

AFP

Chelsea Manning Jailed For Refusal To Testify In WikiLeaks Case

This handout photograph obtained courtesy of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office shows Chelsea Manning following her arrest March 8, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia.
Handout / ALEXANDRIA SHERIFF’S OFFICE / AFP

 

 

Chelsea Manning, who spent more than three years in prison for leaking US military secrets to WikiLeaks, was jailed again Friday for refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation targeting the anti-secrecy group.

US District Judge Claude Hilton ruled Manning in contempt of court and ordered her held not as punishment but to force her testimony in the secret case, according to a spokesman for the US attorney in the Alexandria, Virginia federal court.

READ ALSO: Trump’s Mideast Envoy Meets UN Council

“Chelsea Manning has been remanded into federal custody for her refusal to provide testimony,” said a statement from the Sparrow Project, a support group for Manning.

They quoted Hilton as saying Manning would be held indefinitely “until she purges or the end of the life of the grand jury.”

In a statement, Manning said she had “ethical” objections to the grand jury system and had answered all questions about her involvement with WikiLeaks years ago.

“I stand by my previous testimony,” Manning said.

“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

Manning, 31, was ordered to testify earlier this week for an investigation examining actions by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2010, according to her own description, inadvertent court revelations and media reports.

At the time Manning, a transgender woman then known as Bradley Manning, was a military intelligence analyst.

She delivered more than 700,000 classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into WikiLeaks’s hands.

The documents exposed cover-ups of possible war crimes and revealed internal US communications about other countries.

‘Attack on media freedom’

She became a hero to anti-war and anti-secrecy activists, and her actions helped make WikiLeaks a force in the global anti-secrecy movement.

She was detained in 2010 and held in military jails for investigation before finally being brought to trial in 2013.

In August that year, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

She spent more than three years more in an all-male prison, during which she underwent gender transition therapy, spent time in solitary confinement and attempted suicide twice.

President Barack Obama later commuted her sentence, leading to her release in May 2017.

In court Friday, Manning’s lawyer requested home confinement after the judge found her in contempt, according to the US attorney’s spokesman.

But she was jailed in the Alexandria Detention Center which, according to the judge, is experienced in holding transgender inmates and capable of addressing any special personal and medical needs Manning may have.

The grand jury investigation could eventually herald a case focused on media freedoms.

The US government has been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks for years and has stepped up its efforts against the Britain-based group after it served as an outlet for internal Democratic communications that Washington alleges were stolen by hackers from Russia’s GRU intelligence agency during the 2016 US election.

Fearing arrest and extradition to the United States, Assange has been sheltering in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012.

He says WikiLeaks’s publishing of US secrets is no different than what the mass media does and he should enjoy the same protections as journalists.

Reacting to Manning being sent to jail Friday, WikiLeaks said in a tweet: “Whistle-blowers are now being forced to testify against journalists and sent to jail when they don’t cooperate. A new angle in the attack on media freedom.”

AFP