Competency questions cloud migrant ban

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On the roster: Competency questions cloud migrant ban - Trump to announce Supreme Court pick Tuesday - Sets up battle over ‘nuclear option’ - Audible: Smackdown - Nothing runs like a deer

President Trump
’s staunchest critics won’t ever give him the benefit of the doubt for his intentions.

But woe betide him or any president who comes to be deemed incompetent.

There was probably nothing Trump and his new administration could have done as it related to immigration from the Middle East that wouldn’t have sparked outrage in some quarters.

The pump was primed.

What Trump actually did was far from surprising, given his campaign rhetoric. He barred the entry of all refugees, regardless of country of origin, into the United States for four months and shut out any travel to the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for the next three months. A similar ban on Syrians entering the U.S. is indefinite.

The first part of the policy is, in fact, a pretty profound departure from prior policies. The U.S. has in recent decades taken in tens of thousands of refugees every year, many freeing political or religious persecution.

The largest source of refugees in the previous fiscal year was the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 16,000 fleeing the country’s ongoing civil wars were granted entry. Refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Somalia combined made up about 42 percent of the almost 85,000 who found asylum here.

While other Western and developed nations may pick up some of the slack, this is a major departure for the U.S. in the post-Holocaust era. It was bound to bring major controversy and criticism.

Detractors call it un-American and short-sighted, denying the U.S. a long-term strategy for outreach in hostile regions as well as the moral authority it confers. The Trump administration argues that the clampdown is necessary in order to implement more rigorous background checks, dubbed by Trump as “extreme vetting.”

But before that debate could really begin, the second part of the order took over the conversation.

The seven nations subject to the travel ban were identified under the previous administration as lacking the stability and infrastructure to ensure visa applicants are properly vetted.

More than 80,000 travelers from those countries entered the U.S. from those nations last year and in the past decade, about 500,000 people from those nations have been granted permanent residence in the U.S.

And that’s where things fell apart.

Team Trump had obviously not thought the matter all the way through, with the secretary of Homeland Security left out of the loop and then the already infamous blockade of green card holders, including some who had reportedly helped U.S. forces on the battlefield.

The confusion – and confused rationale – around the order was enough to turn what would have certainly been controversial and turn it into a full-fledged firestorm, the first of the Trump era.

Remember, it would be politically survivable if not actually helpful for Trump to be seen as a hard-nosed opponent to Muslim migrants.

A poll from Quinnipiac University earlier this month found that a 48 percent plurality of voters favored banning immigration from “terror prone” regions, with 72 percent of Republicans signing on.

It actually helps Trump with his core supporters, and probably some other voters, to be accused of excess on this issue. In fact, the furor probably helps Trump avoid what might have otherwise been some disappointment that he wasn’t going farther.

But if the administration looks confused or inept, that part doesn’t matter.

Vanity Fair: “The move marks the latest in a string of events signaling Bannon’s ascent to power in the West Wing. In the little over a week since Trump delivered his divisive inaugural address dripping within populist rhetoric, the president has signed a slew of executive orders written by Bannon and White House advisor for policy Stephen Miller, notably, Friday’s immigration order that incited a swift backlash. CNN reports that before the order was issued, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and the Department of Homeland Security reached the conclusion that Trump’s executive action did not apply to green card holders from the seven countries—Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Iraq—but Bannon and Miller overruled that decision, and said that the D.H.S. would allow entry to green card holders on a case-by-case basis.”

White House continues to play defense on the decision - USA Today: “The White House on Monday continued to defend President Trump’s decision to include his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, as part of the National Security Council, while seeming to make attendance at council meetings optional for the director of national intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Press secretary Sean Spicer cast criticism of the move as ‘much ado about nothing’ and said Obama political adviser David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs also attended NSC meetings. ‘So all we did, frankly, was become transparent and actually put down on paper who’s going to attend, make sure that it’s out there for everyone to see who’s part of this committee,’ he said on MSNBC…”

“But the safety of the people of America against dangers from FOREIGN force depends not only on their forbearing to give JUST causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to INVITE hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are PRETENDED as well as just causes of war.” – John JayFederalist No. 4

The incredible story of how Soviet geologists discovered a Russian family who fled into the Siberian wilderness removed from all other human contact for 40 years. Smithsonian: “The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer…[Persecuted since the days of Peter the Great] and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy…When [the Lykov family] first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been ‘true torture.’) Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists’ camp, ‘proved irresistible for them.’”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

The Hill: “President Trump said early Monday that he will announce his choice for a Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday evening. The president tweeted that the announcement will come Tuesday at 8 p.m. ‘I have made my decision on who I will nominate for The United States Supreme Court. It will be announced live on Tuesday at 8:00 P.M. (W.H.),’ the president tweeted. The president said last week he would announce his pick on Thursday, but is moving up the announcement. Trump's shortlist to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat is said to include Judge William Pryor of Alabama, Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado and Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania.”

Dems vow filibuster - Politico: “Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy. With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump's nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate. ‘This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,’ Merkley said in an interview.”

Sets up battle over ‘nuclear option’ - AP: “The advantages of [Democrats] trying a filibuster are clear - make Republicans work to find the 60 votes needed to end it, including at least eight Democrats, and as a result, delay or block the nomination. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority. But there are also downsides. Democrats running for re-election next year in states Trump won in 2016 could face political consequences for their party's attempted obstruction. And if Republicans change the rules and eliminate the filibuster altogether, Democrats would have lost their most powerful weapon in future Supreme Court fights.”

[Trump team, outside groups to spend $10 million advocating the pick - Politico]

“This is stone cold crazy.” – Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice reacting on Twitter to Trump’s staffing changes at the National Security Council.

Trump’s next immigration move could hurt work-visa programs for tech companies - Bloomberg

With Tillerson vote tonight, Republicans hope to break the jam on Trump nominees - The Hill

Mnuchin misled senators on foreclosure practices, documents show - Columbus Dispatch

Left-wing activists outraged at Schumer for voting for Trump appointees - NY Post

Koch network’s stance on Trump could create conflicts for GOP in 2018 midterms - WaPo

Trump’s anticipated state visit to the U.K. sparks outrage in wake of new immigration ban - AP

Eliot Cohen describes Trump’s immigration stance as conservatives’ ‘clarifying moment’ on Trump - The Atlantic

David Drucker explains how Trump’s continued tweeting keeps the GOP on edge - WashEx

“I often use the de Rochefoucauld quote [‘Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue’], but here is one conveying a similar message from Oscar Wilde: We are all down in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.” – John A. Johnson, Tucson

[Ed. note: To love our fellow flawed human beings requires us to first acknowledge the flaws in ourselves. The older I get the less interested I am in justice and the more interested I am in mercy since I understand how much of the latter I need. Recognizing our own frailty while aspiring to greater things is not only the path to a more virtuous life in society but also true freedom.]

“Chris, I am conflicted, please help! [Barack Obama] made [executive order] after [executive order], making law, soundly violating the separation of powers as required by the Constitution, some say. So is the dismantling of those EO’s by way of new EO’s the same, or is it undoing the lawless action to right the universe?” – John Reeves, Houston

[Ed. note: One constant among presidents, regardless of party, is that they tend to take a capacious view of executive power. No surprise there. Starting in the early 20th century, with the rise of the administrative state, American presidents have grown in power even beyond the kingly role provided by the Constitution. The escalation of the use of executive orders to address issues traditionally in the purview of the legislative branch will probably intensify in this administration and the ones that follow. At some point, presumably, Congress will fight back through the courts or by cutting off funds for the executive’s actions. Republicans in Congress experimented with both of these methods to limited degrees under Obama. The danger in such confrontations, though, is that defeats have lasting consequences. If you challenge the executive and are rebuffed, your power is diminished not expanded.]

Another worthy Halftime addition…to our political lexicon. ‘Linguistic inflation,’ indeed. LMAO!  But let’s leave the peanut butter sandwich on its pedestal. You can indict a ham sandwich if you must. We are entertained and enlightened. Keep it up.” – Jeb Hooker, Pittsfield, N.H.

[Ed. note: But no matter how thin you slice it, it’s still bologna…Thank you for the kind note, Mr. Hooker. We will remain hawkish in a world of linguistic doves.]

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NH1: “NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts man fighting a speeding ticket in court had a unique explanation – the officer’s radar gun may have picked up a deer. The Newburyport Daily News reports that Dennis Sayers, of Haverhill, was clocked going 40 mph in 30 mph zone in West Newbury in November. He got a $105 ticket. He appealed in court on Thursday, asking Officer Royster Johnson if he was 100 percent sure his radar captured Sayers’ speed or the speed of a deer that could have been in the vicinity. When confronted by the skeptical judge, Sayers replied that anything was possible. The fine was upheld. Deer, by the way, can run approximately 30 mph.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.