Donald Trump just compared legal immigrants on diversity visas to trash:

Donald Trump just compared legal immigrants on diversity visas to trash:

Trump’s always distrusted legal immigrants — and he’s trying to turn America against them, too.

Donald Trump thinks immigrants are trash, metaphorically speaking.

Not just unauthorized immigrants. Legal immigrants — specifically, those who come to the US on “diversity visas,” after being selected in a lottery for residents of countries that are underrepresented in the US immigration system as a whole.


It’s not surprising that Trump is wrong on the facts — people selected in the visa lottery go through exactly as much screening as any other would-be immigrant to the United States, and the governments of their countries are not deliberately “picking” them to immigrate.

The fact that he spent part of a speech to graduates of the FBI Academy denigrating people who have followed US law is, for better or worse, only slightly more so. Trump’s speeches to law enforcement are often his most unguarded and rip-roaring. They’re the speeches in his official capacity that feel closest to the speeches he delivers at rallies — as if he sees law enforcement officers as part of his base, as close to him as his staunchest supporters.

That frees him to return to his favorite theme, the one he returns to whenever things are looking bad for his administration or agenda: that immigrants are not to be trusted.

Not just unauthorized immigrants. Immigrants, period.

Trump distinguished himself by not distinguishing among immigrants

Donald Trump likes to say that no one was talking about immigration until he entered the presidential race in 2015. That’s not at all true — Trump’s insistence on more enforcement to crack down on unauthorized immigration was shared by most of his rivals for the Republican nomination.

Trump used immigration to win the loyalty of a swath of the Republican base — the people he has been playing to, in one form or another, ever since. But he did that by rejecting what had become the traditional Republican way to talk about immigration: welcoming legalimmigrants with one hand, while disparaging unauthorized immigration with the other.

Republicans, I wrote at the time, had “found messages that were acceptable to their conservative base, but struggled to find messages that excite them. Trump has succeeded where they’ve failed: He’s found a message that gets to the core of why so many conservatives are ambivalent or hostile toward immigrants.”

Part of Trump’s innovation was that, unlike his Republican colleagues, he didn’t champion legal immigration — and, in fact, he was perfectly happy to cast suspicions on legal immigrants.

Sure, Trump would occasionally throw a line into speeches about how “we love legal immigrants,” or promise to put a big beautiful door in his big beautiful wall. But when it came down to specifics, it turned out Trump had very little to say in the way of praise for any group of legal immigrants — and something disparaging to say about pretty much all of them.

Refugees and asylum-seekers were a potential invading force, a “Trojan horse” who were taking government resources away from helping Americans. Immigrant families were refusing to assimilate. People on work visas — even the “high-skilled” immigrants other Republicans praised — were taking jobs from Americans thanks to the rapacity of tech billionaires.

In fact, the only group of immigrants that Trump has praised most consistently has been a group of unauthorized immigrants — the “DREAMers,” or unauthorized immigrants who grew up in the United States, who the president has called “terrific people” and promised to treat with “heart” even while winding down the program that allowed them to stay and work in the US without fear of deportation.

The Trump administration has targeted legal immigration in pretty much every respect

Trump’s hostility toward legal immigration showed up in his policies. His immigration platform — the first policy his campaign released, in 2015 — called for reductions in legal immigration, particularly of refugees and guest workers. In the first week of his administration, he signed an executive order temporarily banning legal immigration from several majority-Muslim countries and putting a moratorium on all legal admissions of refugees; while the country-specific ban went through several iterations before being allowed to go into effect in November, Trump has succeeded in radically restricting the number of refugees admitted to the United States.

Other executive orders that would crack down on legal immigrants — by admitting fewer guest workers, and making it easier to deport legal immigrants for using social services — haven’t yet been signed, though the administration appears to be looking for ways to accomplish the same things through regulation.

And while Trump has pushed for deals to be made in Congress on Obamacare repeal and tax reform, the piece of legislation that he’s worked hardest to push is the RAISE Act — a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), and reportedly co-drafted by Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller, that would slash legal immigration in certain categories without expanding it anywhere else.

That’s an unpopular position even within the Republican Party, where many politicians support expanding “high-skilled” immigration or allowing more “low-skilled” guest workers for industries in their home states.

Trump himself is hardly a policy maven, and it’s pretty clear that Miller and company are driving the policy agenda. But Trump’s own instincts and worldview lead him time and time again to bashing immigrants. After a terrorist attack in November, Trump immediately blamed the diversity visa; after an attempted attack in New York on Monday, he blamed “chain migration.” In both cases, the perpetrators of the attack were legal immigrants. But Trump used the attacks to complain that immigration itself was a national security threat — a message he simply generalized on Friday, with his comments about the “worst of the worst.”

The Trump administration knows that it’s more anti-immigrant than the average American — so they’re working to change America’s mind

Messages like this are guaranteed to resonate with Trump’s base. Many of them are likely among the 12 percent or so of Americans who are opposed to all immigration, legal and unauthorized. (Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon is almost certainly in this category — after all, he looks at immigrant tech entrepreneurs and CEOs and sees people who are insufficiently loyal to America.)

Others are probably in the large swath of Americans whose primary concern about immigration is about preserving “American” culture as they see it. Their judgment of whether immigrants should be allowed to stay in the US is based less on those immigrants’ legal status than on other factors like their education, fluency in English, and ethnicity; they’re less concerned about immigrants taking jobs than about immigrants disrespecting the flag.

Attacks on the “diversity visa” and “chain migration” hit these Americans’ concerns squarely: They evoke the idea that immigration is a form of social engineering, perpetrated by elites to transform America into something fundamentally different and alien.

But here’s the problem with evaluating immigrants based on assimilability: When people actually meet immigrants who have integrated into their communities, they’re likely to see them as “good immigrants” who should be allowed to come to and stay in the US.

Trump voters have been shocked when long-resident unauthorized immigrants in their communities have been arrested and deported. They’re not any more likely to support policies that would make it harder for their neighbors to stay in the United States, or bring their family members here. (Indeed, for many people — and in US law — having “family ties” in the US is a sign of intent to stay here.)

The Trump administration knows that it’s fighting an uphill battle when it comes to legal immigration, or at least “chain” (family-based) migration. According to the AP, it’s working on a public-relations campaign to turn public opinion against “chain migration,” to help the administration push bills like the RAISE Act on Congress.

Usually, when a president is out of step with the public on an issue, his administration either tries to downplay the discrepancy or pushes the president to change his position. The Trump administration is more interested in pushing the public to align with the president. That’s a sign of their — and his — deep ideological commitment to the idea that immigration itself is the problem.


Energy Department Reorganizes, Moving Energy, Science Offices:

Energy Department Reorganizes, Moving Energy, Science Offices:

The Energy Department is making broad changes with a reorganization that shuffles offices under two new undersecretaries—one for energy and one for science—in what agency leadership calls an effort to improve efficiency.

“We are aligning the agency’s organization to its statutory requirement and its mission,” Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette told Bloomberg Environment in an exclusive interview.

“This president and secretary have made it very clear that we will pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy that is, in fact, the historical mission of the department,” he said. DOE staff was told about the reorganization for the first time in an internal meeting at 11 a.m. today. Brouillette said no employees will be laid off in this reorganization.

The reorganization, effective today, involves moving offices from the previous “Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy” into two separate offices: the “Office of the Under Secretary for Energy” and “Office of the Under Secretary for Science.”

The Office of the Under Secretary for Energy will retain its applied science programs—the offices of Fossil Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy, and Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability—as well as the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. All of these were previously under the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy.

Additions include the Loans Program Office and the Policy Office, which used be called Energy Policy and Systems Analysis.

The Office of the Under Secretary for Energy replaces the Office of Under Secretary for Management and Performance. Administrative functions of the management and performance office, including human relations and hearings and appeals, have moved under the leadership of Brouillette, the No. 2 at the agency under Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Under Secretary for Science will oversee the Office of Science and the 17 national laboratories. It also will oversee the offices responsible for nuclear weapons cleanup—the offices of Environmental Management and Legacy Management—were moved from the previous Office of Under Secretary for Management and Performance.

The department will return to three undersecretaries, as it was during the tenure of Steven Chu, the first energy secretary in the Obama administration. Mark Menezes is the undersecretary for energy (the No. 3) and Paul Dabbar is the undersecretary for science (the No. 4). They were sworn into their positions in early November. Frank Klotz, an Obama holdover, remains in his role as undersecretary for nuclear security overseeing the National Nuclear Security Administration (the No. 5).

“We will remove some of the administrative functions from the under secretaries, who are charged with execution of primary missions within the department. To the extent we can increase efficiency by moving these functions to the Deputy Secretary, it allows people to focus on the jobs they were hired to do,” Brouillette said.

Moniz Reorganized

The Department of Energy Organizational Act was signed into law in 1977, and defines the responsibilities for the department, and the three undersecretary roles.

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz combined the two of the undersecretary roles into one position, Undersecretary for Science and Energy, previously held by Lynn Orr. Moniz left the position of the third undersecretary, for the Office of Under Secretary for Management and Performance, vacant.

BY: Rebecca Kern

Dec. 15, 2017, 11:16 AM

Paul Ryan- Americans oppose tax scam because they’re too stupid to understand it:

Paul Ryan- Americans oppose tax scam because they’re too stupid to understand it:

Paul Ryan doesn’t think very highly of his fellow Americans.


The majority of Americans hate the Republican tax scam.

It’s not hard to understand why. A plan to raise taxes on the middle class and cut essential programs to give massive handouts to billionaires and corporations is not going to have support from the very people who would be harmed by such a plan.

But according to Speaker Paul Ryan, the real reason Americans don’t like his tax scheme is because they’re just too dumb to understand it.

RYAN: You’ve got pundits and spinsters and all of this — spinmeisters — out there, you know, confusing the public. And so that’s what I think is happening here with tax reform, like you see with any large piece of legislation. What comforts me greatly is the fact that the results are going to produce fantastic results that will improve the lives of hardworking taxpayers in this country. I’m convinced that this is going to help repatriate capital, I’m convinced that this is going to launch more investment in businesses and and workers.

Too bad for Ryan that he’s completely wrong. Polling shows that the more people know about the tax scheme, the less they like it. And that’s not because they’ve been confused by “spinsters.” It’s because every study shows that the plan would devastate America and harm middle-class families.

That’s not just coming from pundits. Republicans in Congress have admitted they’re trying to ram through their bill to appease their donors — not their constituents. Republican governors are refusing to sign on to the plan because they know how much it will hurt their states.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is neither a pundit nor a spinmeister, was caught lying about a supposed study to “prove” the benefits of the plan. No such study exists because no such benefits for the middle class exist, and Mnuchin is now under investigation for his shady cover-up.

And as for the comfort Ryan takes in thinking about all the wonderful results, like corporations investing in businesses and paying their workers more? That’s not true either. Not according to pundits, but according to CEOs who have outright admitted they and their shareholders will pocket the extra money.

The tax scam is not historically unpopular because Americans don’t understand it, but because they do understand it. They understand that it will benefit the wealthiest Americans who don’t need help, at the expense of the rest of Americans who do.

And Americans also understand that for all the lip service about “hardworking Americans,” the Republican Party’s has shocking disdain for them. Sen. Chuck Grassley recently admitted that he doesn’t think the middle class deserves tax cuts because they’ll just spend “every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Americans aren’t quite as dumb as Republicans would like to think they are. And that’s why they’re opposed to the scam, and they’re opposed to any member of Congress who votes for it.

But at least Paul Ryan is comforted thinking otherwise.


Managing Editor

Kaili Joy Gray

DECEMBER 14, 2017

Court Decision Could Force Changes To ATF’s Undercover Operations:

Court Decision Could Force Changes To ATF’s Undercover Operations:

On Friday, nine federal judges in Chicago will continue a rare joint hearing to decide whether discrimination is the reason why U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents stage phony drug stash house stings in mostly black neighborhoods in Chicago.

The judges decided to get together instead of hearing 12 cases they were overseeing separately.

One attorney says while he’s never seen anything like the judges’ panel before, the phony drug stash house sting operation aimed at suspects is not new.

“I come to you as an ATF undercover agent or a confidential informant and I say, ‘Here’s this house which has a lot of drugs in it and boy you can get a lot of these drugs but you need to get guns and you need to get guys together to go rob the house,'” Chicago Kent Law professor and practicing attorney Richard Kling said outside the courtroom on Thursday.

The drug stash house doesn’t exist, however, and the suspects — some with only minor criminal backgrounds — who get caught up in the sting end up charged and convicted of armed robbery and other crimes. Defense attorneys are arguing racial bias and want the indictments of more than 40 defendants tossed. During the hearing, some of the people caught in these stings are watching the proceedings from the courtroom jury box.

David Flowers, an African-American who was charged along with his brother, says the ATF definitely lures people in the city’s black neighborhoods.

“I think they can get into any community they want to, if they chose to,” he says, “but because it was so easy in the urban community, that’s where they stayed.”

It’s easy, Flowers says, because agents dangle the prospect of an opportunity to poor often desperate individuals to pocket thousands of dollars.

Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan says his research finds nearly zero percent probability that the ATF stings’ racial disparities are by chance.

But, the government’s expert witness, Northwestern University Law Schools’ Max Schanzenbach, has a different interpretation of Fagan’s study. Calling the data faulty and overly broad, he says its designed to show racial disparity when there is none.

The judges may issue separate rulings or a single one sometime early next year.


December 15, 20175:00 AM ET

Trump environmental officials are keeping tight rein over stampede of FOIA requests:

Trump environmental officials are keeping tight rein over stampede of FOIA requests:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke steps from Air Force One as President Trump arrives in Salt Lake City on Dec. 4. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Trump administration’s top environmental policymakers are engaged in a new war with their adversaries — over how much information to release to the media and outside groups, who are often perceived as enemies, as part of a heavy stream of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department are at ground zero in this growing feud. At both departments and elsewhere in the administration, news outlets and nonprofit organizations have uncovered meeting schedules and travel manifests through FOIA requests that illustrate the ties top officials have forged with players in industries they are tasked with regulating. FOIA requests have also shed light on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s taxpayer-funded travel habits.

The result is that some high-level officials at both EPA and Interior are keeping closer tabs on these FOIA requests, while at least at the EPA — according to those who have filed such requests — bureaus drag their feet in responding.

At Interior, Zinke’s office has taken direct control of the various FOIA requests that have piled up at the various agencies responsible for his review of national monuments created during the past three presidential administrations.

In April, President Trump instructed Zinke to review all national monuments established since 1996 that span 100,000 acres or more. Preparing for a public relations and potential legal battle, environmentalists and other groups outside government began filing federal records requests to learn exactly how Zinke was conducting the review and what recommendations he would issue.

Since the 1906 Antiquities Act empowers presidents to establish national monuments on federal lands and waters deemed worth of protection, the review of 27 national monuments spanned Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the Agriculture Department’s Forest Service and the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In early November, as Zinke was finalizing his official monuments recommendations to the White House, Clarice Julka, a FOIA officer in Zinke’s office, emailed other FOIA officers in 11 different Interior offices, including the Park Service and BLM, to inform them she and FOIA officers in the secretary’s office would handle requests pertaining to the monument review going forward.

Julka told the staffers to collect records that responded to FOIA requests about the monuments, and forward them to the secretary’s office rather than send them directly to the news outlets, corporations, nonprofits and other groups making the requests.

“This would also include any FOIA requesting records pertaining to your bureaus’ participation in the review of any monument,” Julka wrote in the Nov. 6 email obtained by The Washington Post.

The next month, Zinke gave Trump his recommendations: He told the president to shrink at least four monuments and modify the way an additional half-dozen are managed.

Trump’s move last week to cut Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by 85 percent and 46 percent, respectively, has sparked a legal and political backlash. Environmental groups and tribal officials have challenged both of the new presidential proclamations in court, and the outdoor retailer Patagonia has changed its website display to read, “The President Stole Your Lands.”

Zinke has pushed back against the criticism, telling reporters in a conference call last week that the suggestion that he was selling public lands is “nefarious, false and a lie.”

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift declined to comment on how Interior is handling national monument requests. “We don’t have anything to add on the internal process,” she said in an email.

“The desire to consolidate duplicative FOIAs isn’t in itself a sign of something untoward,” said David Pozen, a professor at Columbia Law School and expert on information law. “But the consolidation of the FOIA requests in a political office strikes me as more notable and concerning.”

Noting that the email says the FOIA office within Zinke’s office would be coordinating the response, Pozen added that “there may still be concerning aspects to the situation, but it at least suggests the FOIA bureaucracy isn’t being cut out.”

Part of the issue may be the endless stream of FOIA requests hitting environmental and other departments in the Trump era.

Interior has seen an uptick in FOIA requests since Trump took office and began rolling back decisions made under President Barack Obama. Between October 2016 and September 2017 Interior received a total of 8,014 FOIA requests, Swift said, compared to 6,438 the previous fiscal year. Public records requests made to the secretary’s office more than doubled during that time, she added, from 509 to 1,226.

But Interior’s public records request workload pales in comparison with that of the EPA. That agency received 1,377 FOIA requests between Oct. 1 and Nov. 7, 2017, alone. The EPA received 11,493 in the last fiscal year, between Oct. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2017 — 995 more than the previous year.

Several environmental groups and media outlets have criticized the EPA for failing to more quickly provide documents responding to these requests. Pruitt announced last month his staff has prioritized clearing out the backlog of records requests filed during the previous administration. There were 652 such open requests as of October, and officials estimate they will complete 70 percent of them by the end of the year.

As of October, the EPA had 652 open FOIA requests that were submitted in prior years. The agency said it is on track to answer 70 percent of those requests by Dec. 31.

Trump officials have kept close tabs on these FOIA requests. In a recent hearing before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, lawyers representing four environmental groups argued that the intense level of scrutiny applied by the administrator’s office had delayed the release of critical documents.

Thomas J. Cmar, an attorney for Earthjustice, told Judge Valerie E. Caproni that hard copies of redacted documents they were waiting to receive about the delay of a rule curbing the amount of polluted water steam electric power plants can emit “had been submitted for something that was described as a senior management review before they could be finally released,” something he said was “not a normal part of FOIA procedures as we understand them.”

Asked about the procedure, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Sun said “the new administration put in a procedure for this case — not all cases, but this particular case” where the office that manages Pruitt’s correspondence and records reviews any releases under FOIA.

In an email, EPA acting general counsel Kevin Minoli said that while he could not discuss that specific case, the role that office performs regarding FOIA requests “is consistent with what it was in the last administration.”

Caproni ordered the EPA to provide a complete response to the FOIA that Earthjustice filed in April by Dec. 31. Earthjustice spokesman Daveon Coleman said that late last month the EPA provided the three documents that had been subject to senior management review.

State officials are also taking the agency to court over access to public records: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit in August in an effort to compel the EPA to hand over documents related to how the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, is handling any potential conflicts of interest.

Story also notes @EPA‘s slow response to FOIA requests. @AGBecerra sued EPA in August: “The EPA is legally required to respond to our FOIA request. Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration are not above the law.” 

Trump’s EPA Not Above the Law, Must Cure Any Conflicts of Interest

AG Becerra Files Lawsuit Against EPA for Failing to Comply with FOIA Request

Interior is being sued over FOIA requests from two whistleblowers, Joel Clement and Matthew Allen, both of whom were reassigned since Trump took office.

Allen, who was working as BLM’s communications director for nearly a year before was transferred to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in September, filed suit Tuesday in  U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over the department’s failure to release public records related to his case.

Allen’s attorney, Katherine Atkinson — who previously sued Interior over Clement’s case — said in a statement that they went to court because “federal agencies are required to release documents and records in a timely manner as part of their responsibility to transparency to the American people.”

In an interview, Allen said he had disagreed with how political appointees at BLM, including then-acting director Michael Nedd, handled public records requests.

Nedd, a longtime BLM employee appointed by Zinke to the acting position, asked to review and weigh in on FOIA requests that identified him specifically, Allen said, adding that he reported Nedd’s request to Interior’s deputy secretary. Dan DuBray, BLM’s acting communications director, said the bureau’s director is apprised of FOIA requests but does not determine which documents are released.

“Any time you have leaders within a government agency who are taking steps to withhold information from the public press and the Congress,” Allen said, “we should all be concerned.”

 December 15 at 6:00 AM

At Home and Abroad, Trump Moves To Broaden Abortion Fight:

At Home and Abroad, Trump Moves To Broaden Abortion Fight:


As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump vowed to restrict access to abortion. As president, he’s started doing just that – and more, pursuing a far-reaching strategy to reshape the federal government’s position on reproductive rights.

Some of Trump’s actions so far are in line with those of his Republican predecessors: he has nominated federal judges who oppose abortion, and reinstated a Reagan-era policy that withholds funding from abortion providers overseas.

But an examination of Trump’s actions on abortion during his first year in office shows the beginning of a broader agenda at home and abroad. His administration has proposed cuts or eliminated funding for major family planning programs, and filled key government posts with officials opposed not just to abortion, but contraception and sex outside of heterosexual marriage. The administration has taken some steps with little warning or attention, like the decision this summer to cut off funding for family planning research grants, citing “changes in program priorities.”

“There’s certainly been other anti-abortion presidencies and administrations, and so that’s not what’s new here,” said Heather Boonstra, director of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health and rights group that had some of its federal funding cut this summer. “What’s new is just the expansiveness, and the way that the attacks are coming at so many different directions.”

The Trump administration’s actions come at an especially polarized political moment. As Congress enters a midterm election year and Republicans fight to maintain narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, opposition to abortion has become a key point for the party — and Trump’s support has helped motivate anti-abortion advocates and supporters alike.

“It’s just very encouraging for people to know that we’ve got a president who is standing with us and fighting with us,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, the nation’s oldest and largest anti-abortion organization. She added: “The administration is taking every opportunity they can — through policy, executive orders, resolutions — to promote a respect for human life, and they are doing what they can under the current law to protect unborn babies.”

Tobias and other advocates say that the Trump administration has helped take the fight against abortion to the federal level, after years of battling mainly in state legislatures.

Since the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade determined that women have a right to an abortion, anti-abortion groups have worked to chip away at abortion access. Their strategy, these groups have said, has been to make abortion largely inaccessible state-by-state, while creating legal precedents that might one day help overturn Roe.

The advocates have had considerable success. In the last two decades, more than 900 anti-abortion measures were passed at the state level, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, an advocacy group that tracks legislation. Today, 43 states prohibit abortions after a specified point in a woman’s pregnancy, 27 states require women to wait a certain amount of time before seeking the procedure, and 18 mandate that women attend counseling before receiving an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Meanwhile in the White House, previous presidents who opposed abortion lent their support to the cause with a few major policies. President Ronald Reagan, for example, introduced the Mexico City policy, which bans overseas groups that receive U.S. aid from providing abortions or information about the procedure. Democratic presidents rolled the policy back, and Republican presidents reinstated it.

Trump didn’t just reinstate the Mexico City policy. On his third day as president, he expanded the policy in a memorandum, applying the restrictions beyond U.S. family planning funds to all U.S. global health assistance, which totals $10 billion.

The Trump administration also cut funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which supports reproductive and maternal health programs in more than 150 countries, as other past Republican presidents have done. But then it went a step further, proposing to sever all funding for international family planning for the upcoming fiscal year — the first attempt by a sitting president to completely do away with those programs, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

President Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 zeroes out the family planning funding, which provides women in developing countries with contraceptive services and supplies to avoid unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. In 2017, this spending totaled $607.5 million.

While much of the action so far has come from the White House, going forward, advocates on both sides of the issue expect the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to play a large role. The agency has authority over how much states receive in funding for family planning, the Medicaid program, and key government offices, including the Administration of Children and Families.

In September, HHS released a draft strategic plan outlining the department’s goals through 2022. In a change from the Obama administration, that document introduced a different definition of life, stating that its programs would be dedicated to “serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.”

Abortion-rights advocates are bracing for what they expect will be significant changes to HHS’s Title X program, which provides grants for family planning and preventive health services, such as pregnancy and contraceptive counseling, testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screenings.

Last year, Title X-funded health providers spent more than $286 million serving more than four million Americans seeking family planning services. Most were young, low-income women, many of whom relied on these clinics as their sole source of care, according to the program’s 2016 annual report.

Under Trump, the program is overseen by Teresa Manning, once a lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee, who has said she opposes federal involvement in family planning. In 2003, at a panel on the future of the anti-abortion movement, she said, “Family planning is something that occurs between a husband and a wife and God, and it doesn’t really involve the federal government,” and referred to abortion as a “legalized crime.” Manning has also said that birth control “doesn’t work,” and wrote that making the morning-after pill available over the counter was “immoral, since the pill “can act to destroy the human life already conceived.”

Manning’s office has yet to announce the terms for 2018 Title X grants, which will set the year’s requirements for providers seeking family planning funds.

HHS officials did not return multiple calls and emails seeking a comment for this story.

“If you get a real ideologue who feels extremely strongly about the ills of family planning … they can really disrupt and destroy the program, even if the program did not get a funding cut,” said Duff Gillespie, a professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University. “And those funds will be reallocated to something else. So, it’s not a funding issue per say. It’s strictly an ideological issue.”

Over the past year, the Trump administration has chosen some lesser-known targets, which have so far received little public attention. Starting this summer, it informed at least two groups researching family planning that they would no longer receive federal funding.

The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) learned in July that its three-year grant, issued in 2016, would end two years early. That grant had focused on counseling women on the contraceptive methods most aligned with their values and personal preferences, as opposed to the preferences of a specific clinic or provider. In total, the university lost $800,000 in funding. The letter, signed by Manning and obtained by FRONTLINE, cited “changes in program priorities.”

“That was certainly a surprise to us, and quite frankly, devastating to hear that whether women’s needs are being met in a contraceptive counseling encounter is not a priority of the federal government,” said Christine Dehlendorf, a family physician and associate professor at UCSF’s School of Medicine.

The Guttmacher Institute received notice, dated the same day, that its five-year grant to examine the impact of publicly funded family planning had been cut two years early — a loss of $800,000, according to Kinsey Hasstedt, a senior policy manager at the organization. Hasstedt said the institute had applied for and received that funding since 1994, under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Also this summer, HHS’ Office of Adolescent Health cut funding for its Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, terminating more than 80 five-year grants two years early. Created by Congress in 2010, the initiative aimed to reduce teen pregnancies through “evidence-based programs.”

The teen birth rate has declined steadily since 2008, dropping to its lowest level in nearly 70 years in 2014, according to federal data.

HHS defended the cuts, saying the programs were not as successful as the Obama administration claimed. “The very weak evidence of positive impact of these programs stands in stark contrast to the promised results, jeopardizing the youth who were served, while also proving to be a poor use of more than $800 million in taxpayer dollars,” it said in an emailed statement to CNN in August.

The cuts came after the appointment of Valerie Huber as chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, which administers the Office of Adolescent Health. Huber spent three years managing Ohio’s abstinence education program, then went on to lead Ascend, a national abstinence education group.

In November, the Office of Adolescent Health, together with the Administration for Children and Families, announced a $10 million project to research teen pregnancy prevention and “sexual risk avoidance” programs, which aim to persuade teens to abstain from sex.

There are also proposed plans to fund a sexual risk avoidance education program that “teaches participants how to voluntarily refrain from non-marital sexual activity” and “teach the benefits associated with self-regulation,” as well as “healthy relationships, goal setting, and resisting sexual coercion … without normalizing teen sexual activity,” according to a document issued by the department in October.

“We’re starting to see a kind of resurgence of this abstinence-only mantra,” said Boostra of the Guttmacher Institute. “And in the end, it ignores those young people who are already sexually active.”

She cited a federal study of nearly 50 years’ worth of data, which found that almost all Americans had sex prior to marriage. “It’s just really out of touch with reality, and therefore doesn’t prepare young people for their sexual lives,” she added.

The administration’s views have materialized in some unexpected places. In September, the director of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, E. Scott Lloyd, a Trump appointee who opposes abortion, tried to prevent an unaccompanied immigrant teen in federal custody from terminating her pregnancy. The ACLU intervened on behalf of the 17-year-old girl, identified only as “Jane Doe,” and won. The girl ultimately had an abortion.

Lloyd retains authority over unaccompanied immigrant minors who are pregnant, and may have intervened in other cases, according to The Washington Post. In emails discovered during the ACLU lawsuit, Lloyd asked for and received detailed updates on the cases of pregnant girls in federal custody, including whether they had asked to have an abortion.

“Obviously there is a pro-life ideology in the Department of Health and Human Services within the administration,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, the nation’s largest youth anti-abortion organization, with more than 1,000 groups on campuses across the country. “They’re working diligently to try to reverse some of the things that happened during the last eight years of the Obama administration.”

The Trump White House has also backed anti-abortion legislation in Congress.

In March, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to revoke an Obama-era rule that prohibited states from defunding health care providers because they provide abortions. Trump later signed the measure. And in October, after the House passed a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks, the White House issued a statementsaying it “applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections” — and that Trump would sign the bill if it passed.

For abortion opponents, the biggest hurdle now is the Senate. “The administration has picked up the tab in a lot of areas where Congress hasn’t been able to make gains,” said Mallory Quigley, a spokesperson for the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports anti-abortion candidates. Quigley said her group is focused on helping elect anti-abortion candidates in the 2018 midterms so that Trump will have more legislation to sign.

Abortion supporters say the full impact of the changes has yet to be felt — and fear the worst is yet to come. “Up until now, they’ve been dismantling and repealing and trying to reshape,” Boostra said about the administration. “But now, they’re starting to lay out where they want those monies to go and what they would like to do.”

DECEMBER 14, 2017

by SARAH CHILDRESS Senior Reporter