President Trump Doubled Down On Blaming Both Sides For Violence In Charlottesville — Again

President Donald Trump again blamed the violence in Charlottesville on both sides on Thursday, when discussing a conversation with Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, the day prior.

On Thursday, on board Air Force One while returning from touring Hurricane Irma damage in Florida, Trump reinforced his previous controversial comments defending white supremacists by pointing to a sometimes violent group that opposes them, Antifa.

Trump told reporters he and Scott “had a great talk yesterday. I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there. You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also and essentially that’s what I said. Now because of what’s happened since then with Antifa. When you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying and people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’”

Trump added, “I said there’s some very bad people on the other side also. But we had a great conversation. And he has legislation, which I actually like very much, the concept of which I support, to get people into certain areas and building and constructing and putting people to work. I told him yesterday that’s a concept I can support very easily.”

When told of Trump’s comments, Scott, of South Carolina, told BuzzFeed News that it’s unrealistic to think President Trump would have an immediate “epiphany” regarding race after their meeting.

Scott met with Trump on Wednesday to discuss the topic, especially after Trump defended white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville.

“At the end of the day, I voiced my concerns about the thought that somehow three centuries of American history of raping and murdering people based on their color is somehow equal to what Antifa is doing today,” Scott said on Thursday.

When asked if he found it frustrating to see that Trump might not have gotten the message, Scott said, “No, I mean, listen. He is who he has been and I didn’t go in there to change who he was, I wanted to inform and educate a different perspective. I think we accomplished that. To assume that immediately thereafter he’s going to have an epiphany is just unrealistic.”

Scott has previously said Trump had “compromised” his moral authority through his handling of the race-fueled Charlottesville riots.

“They talked about [Charlottesville] pretty in-depth,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday of the meeting, “but the focus was primarily on solutions moving forward, and that was what both people came to the meeting wanting to discuss — is what we can do to bring people together, not talk about divisions within the country.”

Scott’s office later released the following statement:

In yesterday’s meeting, Senator Scott was very, very clear about the brutal history surrounding the white supremacist movement and their horrific treatment of black and other minority groups. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and to expect the President’s rhetoric to change based on one 30 minute conversation is unrealistic. Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but the KKK and white supremacist groups have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There is no realistic comparison. Period.

At the same time, it was encouraging to hear the President commit, as he did yesterday in their meeting, to diversifying his staff, as well as make clear his support for the Senator’s Investing in Opportunity Act. These are concrete steps that will help our poor and minority communities and ensure their voices are heard.

No matter what is said or not said, the Senator will continue his efforts to unite our nation and move forward as one American Family.

Later in the day, Trump signed a resolution condemning the “violence and domestic terrorist attack” that took place in Charlottesville. Here’s the full text:

S.J.Res. 49, which condemns the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place during events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, recognizing the first responders who lost their lives while monitoring the events, offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those individuals who were killed and deepest sympathies and support to those individuals who were injured by the violence, expressing support for the Charlottesville community, rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President’s Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups.

How An Old-Fashioned Senator Is Living In Donald Trump’s Washington

WASHINGTON, DC — Rob Portman is a serious senator. He’s Midwest nice, a little old-fashioned, and in possession of deep wells of knowledge about taxes, trade, and health care. In some alternate universe, you could imagine him as Mitt Romney’s vice president.

This week, in his quiet office on the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Portman shared one way a serious senator deals with this insane moment in politics. Asked how he learns about President Donald Trump’s disruptive and frequently combative tweets, the Ohio Republican grinned.

“I get it two ways,” he began, as he rose from a chair in his office.

He walked behind his desk and grabbed his iPhone.

“I can’t follow everybody, right? But guess who I do follow? Donald Trump,” Portman continued as he returned to his seat. “So every one of his tweets, I get on my phone.

“I have an alert,” Portman confirmed as he tapped away at the screen. “You know why? Because when I didn’t have an alert, I would be in the middle of an interview with someone like you, and they would ask me about something he tweeted, and I would be caught flat-footed.”

And, just to be safe, Portman’s deputy communications director sends him an email each morning with Trump’s tweets, which more often than not jolt the day in different directions and into various diversions.

During a half-hour interview this week with BuzzFeed News, Portman offered a glimpse of how Republicans like him — a mild-mannered conservative who came of age in the Bush era but now seems moderate when compared to Trump’s far-right champions — are trying to navigate the reality of Trumpism and a president who has taken their party down a more populist and unpredictable path. These days it’s tougher to figure out where a Portman fits.

What does it mean to be a Republican right now? Portman, once an unabashed free-trader who served as George W. Bush’s US trade representative, framed his answer around an issue that was central to Trump’s “America First” message.

“I consider myself a good Republican, but I’ve also been willing to talk about fair trade,” Portman said. “On something like that, I feel like, even though I was a little out of the mainstream of my party on some respects there, I’m not uncomfortable with where they’re going, because I do think fairness and a level playing field is consistent with my principles and values as a Republican.”

He also acknowledged his own shift, something that signals just how sharply the party’s dynamics on trade have turned: Portman came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year during his reelection campaign. And though he does not favor withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement, Portman said he wants to see substantial changes to that pact.

Despite the changing political environment, Portman still views the GOP as, in his words, a team. And he doesn’t appreciate it when the ostensible head of the party, Trump, or his allies do something that messes with the chemistry. Specifically, Portman called out Trump for his recent attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Going to the team concept, McConnell’s going to be the majority leader. You’ve got to figure out a way to work together as adults — we don’t have to love each other.”

Portman also isn’t happy that Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, is using his perch at Breitbart News to threaten primary challenges against sitting Republican senators perceived as unloyal to Trump. He wishes Bannon would use his influence to run a positive campaign to build support for GOP plans to rewrite tax code and overhaul Obamacare.

“I mean, people can do whatever they want,” Portman said. “But do I like it? No. I think it’s not team play. Here we are with 52 votes [in the Senate], trying to get tax reform done with only a two-vote margin. Health care reform, you saw, two-vote margin. It’s hard enough as it is. … I think instead of having a circular firing squad, we have got to be focused on how to get things done.”

A spokesperson for Bannon did not respond to a request for comment.

All of these — the tweets, the sniping at McConnell, Bannon’s intraparty warfare — are things Portman sees as distractions from crafting and talking policy. And Portman really likes to craft and talk policy.

He gives the White House a pass, for example, on its slow implementation of recommendations from an opioid task force. Instead, he expresses frustration that his colleagues in Congress are not moving fast enough to pass legislation that would address the crisis. Portman also hopes the Trump administration will support his bill to restrict websites that promote sex trafficking with what he calls “a ruthless kind of efficiency.”

Portman “met with a victim two weeks ago in Ohio … who started being trafficked at 9 years old. Her dad would take her to Super Bowls and traffick her online. She told me she was sold as many as 20 times in a day. … So, I’m the author or coauthor, I think, of four or five trafficking bills that I’m proud of, but frankly none of them are making as big of a difference as this would make. Because if we could shut down these online websites that facilitate sex trafficking knowingly — knowingly; I’m not talking about inadvertently — it would make a huge difference.”

While Portman is diplomatic when discussing his relationship with Trump, he is not reverential. After the white supremacist demonstrations and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month, Portman issued a rebuke of the president (if a relatively mild one) after Trump offered a “both sides” response that seemed to put the racists on the same moral plane as those who came to protest the racists.

“When I disagree with him on something, I make it clear,” Portman said. “I’m very comfortable in that role. In some ways, it’s easier, you know? Because with George Bush, I really felt such … loyalty to him — obviously I worked for him later, but even before I worked for him.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Portman, given his extensive government experience and battleground state pedigree, was viewed as a future vice president, or even a future president. But now, after winning reelection by a margin much larger than Trump’s over Hillary Clinton in Ohio, he said he sees himself more as a lawmaker who can swing bipartisan deals in the Senate. “I’m not here to give speeches and write red meat columns,” he said.

So can he see himself ever running for president? “No. No,” Portman replied, repeating himself. “I don’t think so. I feel like my role is here in legislating, trying to get things done.”

Does it bother Portman, then, that Trump’s antics on Twitter — and the constant questions from reporters who expect senators like Portman to defend or disavow them — often overshadow these initiatives?

“I don’t view it in personal terms like that, but I do view it in terms of policy,” Portman replied. “In other words: When we’re distracted by the shiny object over here, which is the latest tweet that offends people, then we’re not making progress on the policy issues, because I’m not communicating that to my constituents. They aren’t understanding and hearing about it, because instead, they’re hearing about something that is not, frankly, what I should be focused on as part of my job.”

Portman then reached for a positive. “I can’t give you examples from the last 24 hours, because he’s been pretty good on his tweets, focused on the hurricane,” he said. “The hurricane has kind of centered the White House and centered him more. But some of the stuff is just not helpful, including attacking McConnell and things like that.”

It was a minute or two later when Portman picked up his cell phone to demonstrate how he monitors Trump’s tweets and read aloud the most recent: “Fascinating to watch people writing books and major articles about me and yet they know nothing about me & have zero access. #FAKE NEWS!”

The tweet was widely interpreted as a blast of Katy Tur, the reporter whose book about covering Trump’s campaign had been released that day.

Trump Administration Launches Broad New Anti-Leak Program

The top US national security official has directed government departments and agencies to warn employees across the entire federal government next week about the dangers and consequences of leaking even unclassified information.

The Trump administration has already promised an aggressive crackdown on anyone who leaks classified information. The latest move is a dramatic step that could greatly expand what type of leaks are under scrutiny and who will be scrutinized.

In the memo about leaks that was subsequently obtained by BuzzFeed News, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster details a request that “every Federal Government department and agency” hold a one-hour training next week on “unauthorized disclosures” — of classified and certain unclassified information.

The request includes “[s]uggested training materials” — provided by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center — that include the 15-minute C-SPAN video of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ August news conference about leaks and a six-minute Fox News video of an interview with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center’s director, William Evanina.

White House and National Security Council officials did not respond to requests for comment on the memo on Wednesday.

Last month, Sessions said his department was pursuing a number of leak investigations, and that the FBI had created a unit to deal with leaks of classified information. “We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country any longer,” he said in the August press conference.

The memo, dated Sept. 8, signals a potentially dramatic expansion of the previous administration’s war on leaks. The Obama administration moves focused on alleged national security leaks and “insider threats” — an effort centered around the intelligence agencies under an October 2011 executive order from President Obama. Those investigations — and in some cases, prosecutions — were widely criticized, particularly in the media.

McMaster’s memo is directed to a much larger group, including virtually every senior official in the federal government — from the vice president and cabinet heads to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the director of the Peace Corps. Perhaps more importantly, the memo asserts that “unauthorized disclosure” of both classified and “controlled unclassified” information “causes harm to our Nation and shakes the confidence of the American people.”

The McMaster memorandum itself likely would be seen as a type of such a “controlled unclassified” document, as it is marked: “UNCLASSIFIED//FOUO [For Official Use Only].”

The first year of the Trump administration has been characterized by leaks at all levels, a source of considerable public criticism from the president himself. Axios reported Sept. 10 that Sessions has suggested employing lie detector tests in at least one leak investigation.

In the memo, McMaster requests that every government department and agency “dedicate a 1-hour, organization-wide event to engage their workforce in a discussion on the importance of protecting classified and controlled unclassified information.” Although issued as a request, the memo later notes, “In order to ensure a consistent and strong message is given to the entire federal workforce, such training should occur the week of September 18-22, 2017.”

Planning is taking place to hold the trainings, one department confirmed Wednesday. Although a date has not yet been set, Education Department press secretary Liz Hill told BuzzFeed News, “The Department has received the White House Memorandum dated September 8 from General McMaster, and it intends to comply.”

While highlighting concerns regarding unauthorized disclosures of classified information, McMaster also writes regarding the trainings that “it is equally important to discuss the importance of protecting controlled unclassified and personally identifiable information from unauthorized public disclosure.”

In addition to the videos, which would constitute about one-third of the training time, the training draft schedule from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center includes discussion from “Department/Agency leads” on the differences between espionage, “unauthorized disclosures (of classified information),” “leaks (to the media),” hackers and whistleblowing. There also is to be a discussion of “[d]amage to national security, to the organization, to the American public,” “[p]enalties for unauthorized classified disclosures,” and “[a] specific case, if possible in this particular D[epartment]/A[gency].”

Memorandum for the Vice President

The Secretary of State

The Secretary of the Treasury

The Secretary of Defense

The Attorney General

The Secretary of the Interior

The Secretary of Agriculture

The Secretary of Commerce

The Secretary of Labor

The Secretary of Health and Human Services

The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

The Secretary of Transportation

The Secretary of Energy

The Secretary of Education

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The Secretary of Homeland Security

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Director of the Office of Management and Budget

United States Trade Representative

Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations

Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers

Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor

Director of National Intelligence

Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council

Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

Director of the National Drug Control Policy

Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality

Director of the National Counterrorism Center

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Administrator of General Services

Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Director of the Office of Personnel Management

Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration

Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Director of the Peace Corps

Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation

Director, White House Military Office

Director of the National Security Agency

Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

Director of the Selective Service System

President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Chair of the Federal Communications Commission

Executive Director of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board

Director of the National Science Foundation

Administrator of Drug Enforcement

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

SUBJECT: Request for Provision of Training on Unauthorized Disclosures

The unauthorized disclosure of classified information or controlled unclassified United States Government information causes harm to our Nation and shakes the confidence of the American people. In this era of unprecedented unauthorized disclosures, it is important to take time to review with your workforce their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding United States Government information.

In light of the recent press conference by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence regarding unauthorized disclosures, I am requesting that every Federal Government department and agency dedicate a 1-hour, organization-wide event to engage their workforce in a discussion on the importance of protecting classified and controlled unclassified information, and measures to prevent and detect unauthorized disclosures.

For those with access to classified information, a review of the non-disclosure agreement reminds us of the responsibilities that come with access to, and penalties for unauthorized disclosure of, classified information. However, it is equally important to discuss the importance of protecting controlled unclassified and personally identifiable information from unauthorized public disclosure.

Although there are policies and guidance already in place to prevent unauthorized disclosures, it will be time well spent to shine a spotlight on the importance of this issue, and engage the workforce in conversation about what it means to be a steward of United States Government information. It is particularly important to stress the sharp difference between unauthorized disclosures of information and whistleblowing — the responsibility of all federal employees to report waste, fraud and abuse through proper channels.

There are many resources available to frame this 1-hour event, including a review of policies, guidance, videos, and training materials, and perhaps most important, an open discussion to answer questions and raise issues to ensure that our safeguarding measures are understood and effective.

Suggested training materials are attached. In order to ensure a consistent and strong message is given to the entire federal workforce, such training should occur the week of September 18-22, 2017.

H.R. McMaster

Lieutenant General, United States Army

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Molly Hensley-Clancy contributed reporting.

Trump’s Personal Lawyer To Meet With Senate Next Week

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and confidant, Michael Cohen, is scheduled to speak next week with investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting.

Cohen has been subpoenaed by lawmakers investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. He is expected to speak with investigators on Sept. 19. That hearing will not be open to the public.

Cohen, 51, emerged as an important figure in the investigation after he was named in a 35-page dossier alleging Russia and the campaign worked together to help get Trump elected. That document was researched and written by a former British spy and published by BuzzFeed News in January after top law enforcement officials had briefed President Barack Obama and Trump, who was then president-elect, about it. The dossier asserted that Cohen visited Prague to meet with Kremlin officials and was an important player in the “ongoing secret liaison relationship” between Russia and the campaign.

Cohen called these claims “profoundly wrong” in a letter sent last month to lawmakers. His passport, which he showed to BuzzFeed News, had no stamps from the Czech Republic. He later told lawmakers that was his only passport.

Cohen urged congressional investigators to “discern and publicly disclose” those who paid for the dossier, and that he has no documents tying him to any of the allegations.

Reached late Tuesday by BuzzFeed News, Cohen declined to comment.

The Trump Organization has turned over documents to congressional investigators, including an email in which Cohen asked a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin for help advancing a Trump business project. In another email, a business associate boasted to Cohen that he would help get Trump elected and that he could get “all of Putin’s team to buy in on this.”

Cohen has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee as well, and has offered up several dates. So far, no date has been set, and the committee continues to suffer partisan infighting.

Chris McDaniel is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is C90B B2EF E872 EF22 4EDA DABB 50E6 F2BE 1164 FCAF

Contact Chris McDaniel at chris.mcdaniel@buzzfeed.com.

Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in LA. Recipient: IRE 2016 FOI award; Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame. PGP fingerprint 46DB 0712 284B 8C6E 40FF 7A1B D3CD 5720 694B 16F0. Contact this reporter at jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com

Contact Jason Leopold at jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Supreme Court Allows Trump Administration To Block Refugees With Resettlement Agency Assurances

The Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to keep blocking a large group of would-be refugees from entering the US during the 120-day halt to the refugee program under President Trump’s travel ban executive order.

Hawaii had successfully argued to lower courts that the group of approximately 24,000 people — would-be refugees who have received assurances of support from resettlement agencies — were the type of people intended to be exempt from President Trump’s travel and refugee ban under a June order from the Supreme Court.

The justices exempted those with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity from the refugee ban, which affects those from anywhere in the world, and the 90-day travel ban from six Muslim-majority countries.

The fight between the government and lawyers for Hawaii, which is challenging the executive order, over the summer has focused on what constitutes a “bona fide relationship.”

On Monday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to stay the part of an order from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that would have allowed would-be refugees with assurances to travel to the US during the refugee ban, which is slated to end Oct. 27 under the terms of the executive order. The Justice Department has stated that approximately 24,000 refugees have such assurances currently.

Hawaii opposed the request, but the court granted the stay in a one-sentence order on Tuesday afternoon.

The justices are due to hear arguments over the legality and constitutionality of Trump’s executive order on Oct. 10, in the second week of the court’s new term.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court To Stop Refugee Ban Ruling From Going Into Effect

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to stop part of an appeals court ruling from going into effect that would limit enforcement of President Trump’s refugee ban.

The ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, issued Sept. 7, would exempt refugees who have received assurances of support from resettlement agencies from the ban.

That ruling upheld a district court’s modified injunction against enforcing parts of Trump’s March 6 executive order. The district court also found that “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in- law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States” count as “close familial relationships” exempted from the travel ban. The Trump administration had fought for a more narrow definition, but the 9th Circuit upheld that ruling as well.

Notably, the Justice Department is not asking the Supreme Court to halt that more broad definition of a “close familial relationship.”

By way of explaining the Justice Department’s different treatment of the rulings, lawyers noted in Monday’s filing that “the government already has been applying the lower courts’ reading of close family members, whereas the Ninth Circuit’s refugee-assurance ruling would upend the status quo and do far greater harm to the national interest.”

The 9th Circuit’s decision was due to go into effect Tuesday. However, shortly after the filing, Justice Anthony Kennedy put the 9th Circuit ruling on hold “with respect to refugees covered by a formal assurance” pending a response by noon Tuesday from Hawaii, which brought the lawsuit against the executive order, and a further order from Kennedy or the full court.

The moves over the scope of the injunction against Trump’s travel and refugee bans have taken place even as the 90-day ban on travel from six Muslim-majority nations and 120-day halt to the refugee program took effect — with exemptions, under a Supreme Court order, for those with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity.

The debates here, now before the Supreme Court, have centered around what constitutes such a “bona fide relationship.”

Hawaii responded before 10 a.m. Tuesday, arguing to the justices, “The Court laid out a legal standard. The District Court and the Ninth Circuit diligently and correctly applied it. … The Government’s motion should be denied.” The Justice Department filed its reply Tuesday afternoon.

The justices already have agreed to hear the government’s appeal of the challenges to the legality and constitutionality of the executive order itself. Those arguments are set for Oct. 10.

Under the terms of Trump’s order, the 90-day travel ban would end before the arguments even happen — on Sept. 27. The refugee ban would still be active, but for less than another 20 days — ending Oct. 27. It is not yet clear what effect, if any, that will have on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

A Harlem Republican Is Mulling A Bid For US Senate In 2018

John Burnett, a Harlem Republican who ran for New York City comptroller in 2013, and was a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention, is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2018, he told BuzzFeed News.

Burnett is weighing whether to join a Senate primary for the chance to try and unseat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is considered to be a possible Democratic presidential contender in 2020, but has said she plans on running to keep her Senate seat and staying there. Any Republican challenger to her Senate seat would face a highly challenging race: She won re-election in 2012 with 72% of the vote in blue New York.

The Cornell grad and businessman said he began to think about it when a friend “strongly encouraged” him to consider a run, and now he’s wondering if there’s a path to victory and if can raise the money. “An ordinary candidate is not going to drive the numbers to the polls that are necessary to win,” he said. “Especially, downstate in New York City, where Republicans are outnumbered 7 to 1. The ideal candidate has to appeal to crossover voters and independents.”

Burnett, who is an adviser to the New York Republican Party, ran unopposed in the 2013 Republican primary for New York City comptroller. He was crushed by Scott Stringer in the general election, garnering just 16% of the vote.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t think he’s got what it takes for 2018, though. “The ideal candidate,” he said, “should have a diverse background and experiences coupled with the ability to serve all by finding common ground.”

And you don’t need to have a track-record of electoral success to find your way to the GOP nomination in New York. The same candidate who Gillibrand defeated in 2012 was the GOP nominee to run against Sen. Chuck Schumer in 2016. The candidate, Wendy Long, found a nearly identical result.

Hillary Clinton Says She “Really Struggled” After Trump Won

Hillary Clinton didn’t have a firm answer to the first question she answered in a new TV interview: How are you?

“I think I am good,” she told CBS’s Jane Pauley in an interview that aired Sunday morning. “But that doesn’t mean that I am complacent or resolved about what happened.

“It still is very painful. It hurts a lot.”

The interview comes as Clinton prepares to embark on a tour for her new book on the 2016 presidential election, What Happened. The 2016 Democratic nominee is still working over how she lost to Donald Trump and defending some of the roundly criticized steps she took in her campaign.

Clinton gave a familiar defense for why she said in early September last year that “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

“Well, I thought Trump was behaving in a deplorable manner,” she told Pauley. “I thought a lot of his appeals to voters were deplorable. I thought his behavior as we saw on the Access Hollywood tape was deplorable.

“And there were a large number of people who didn’t care. It did not matter to them. And he turned out to be a very effective reality TV star.”

In fact, the Access Hollywood tape, which showed Trump in 2005 bragging about how his celebrity status allowed him to grope women, was not made public until a month after Clinton’s “deplorable” remarks.

Clinton would not concede that her comment “energized” Trump’s supporters.

“They were already energized,” she told Pauley.

Asked if she offended some people with the comment, Clinton said, “I don’t buy that.”

“I’m sorry I gave him a political gift of any kind,” she said, adding that the “gift” was not politically “determinative.”

She did say that “the most important of the mistakes” she made was using personal email. But she pegged the problem to how it was explained to voters.

“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, that was my responsibility. It was presented in such a really negative way, and I never could get out from under it. And it never stopped.”

And she said former FBI director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress that there were potentially new developments into the bureau’s investigation into her email use over a week before the election “just stopped my momentum.”

“At the same time [Comey] does that about a closed investigation, there’s an open investigation into the Trump campaign and their connections with Russia. You never hear a word about it. And when asked later, he goes, ‘Well, it was too close to the election.’ Now, help me make sense of that,” Clinton said. “I can’t understand it.”

Clinton told Pauley that Trump’s win took her by complete surprise. “I felt like I had let everybody down,” she said.

She said she “had not drafted a concession speech. I’d been working on a victory speech.”

“I just felt this enormous letdown, this kind of loss of feeling and direction and sadness. And, you know, Bill just kept saying, ‘Oh, you know, that was a terrific speech,’ trying to just kinda bolster me a little bit.

“Off I went, into a frenzy of closet cleaning, and long walks in the woods, playing with my dogs, and, yoga, alternate nostril breathing, which I highly recommend, trying to calm myself down. And, you know, my share of Chardonnay. It was a very hard transition. I really struggled. I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t think. I was just gobsmacked, wiped out.”

Clinton, who said she knew she would have to “work extra hard” during the campaign “to make women and men feel comfortable with the idea of a woman president,” gave Trump credit for his own campaign messaging.

“He was quite successful in referencing a nostalgia that would give hope, comfort, settle grievances for millions of people who were upset about gains made by others,” she said.

Asked by Pauley if she meant “millions of white people,” Clinton agreed: “Millions of white people, yeah, millions of white people.”

At the end of the interview, Clinton said that she will never run for office again.

“I am done with being a candidate,” she said. “But I am not done with politics, because I literally believe that our country’s future is at stake.”

Black Lawmakers Want Colin Kaepernick To Attend Their Annual Conference

When the top black lawmakers and operatives in America meet later this month at an annual, days-long conference in Washington, they want Colin Kaepernick there, too.

The chatter in the lead up to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference in two weeks is that there’s a plan in place for Kaepernick to be involved somehow, a half-dozen independent sources told BuzzFeed News.

Both Kaepernick and the CBC find themselves in an entirely different position than just a year ago: The now former NFL quarterback has become a political cause and lightning storm, while some CBC members like Rep. Maxine Waters have also moved to the forefront of national politics in the Trump era.

The sources had no knowledge of whether an agreement had been reached. A representative for Kaepernick did not respond to a request for comment.

The political environment is a complicated one for black lawmakers, who’ve emphasized taking on the president and by-and-large see a racial dynamic in the national news worth addressing: Just in the last month, there’s been the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Trump’s controversial responses to the violent events there, and the apparent police profiling of a well-known NFL star. All the while, the apparent refusal by NFL owners to even hire Kaepernick as a back-up QB has become an activist cause — organizers involved in the winter’s Women’s March recently sent a set of demands to the NFL over the issue.

Congressional Black Caucus chair Cedric Richmond said in July that Kaepernick had “superior talent” than players currently on teams and was simply exercising his first amendment right. “I think it’s unfair,” Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, told TMZ Sports. “I think that he has a lot of talent. He was the starting QB in the Super Bowl and he’s a great athlete. And the fact that he spoke up means he’s a great person and he spoke his conscience. And I don’t think we should penalize people in this country for doing that.”

And now the CBC annual conference is approaching in a much different landscape than last year when Barack Obama delivered an impassioned endorsement of Hillary Clinton. (A foundation spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email asking whether Trump had an invitation to speak this year.) The priorities this year look more like: getting back some of the progressives and young voters who didn’t show up to vote last year, and opposing Trump’s agenda on matters including Obama-era criminal justice guidance.

“It has to be a collective meeting of the minds of first-time Obama voters, progressives, and younger folks, and more,” a Democratic strategist close to the CBC told BuzzFeed News. “We need that coalition [because] if you look what happened [in 2016], we lost some people. We’re not at a place where we can afford to have different segments and especially. So the message at ALC is unity and the need that everyone is active collectively and has a central role to play.”

Judge Refuses To Dismiss States’ Immigration Action Challenge, Even After DACA End Announced

The federal judge hearing the lawsuit brought by Texas and others states against President Obama’s 2014 immigration executive actions issued an order Friday refusing to allow the case to be dismissed — a move the states themselves requested.

The unusual order was just the latest twist from US District Judge Andrew Hanen, the federal judge overseeing the case. Hanen has been a harsh critic of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the 2014 executive order. He also notably ordered Justice Department lawyers to take ethics training during the course of the litigation.

The ruling keeps the case alive for now, although it was not immediately clear whether the order would have any long-term effect beyond requiring the states either to file a “different form of dismissal motion” or appeal his ruling.

A spokesperson for the Texas Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the states’ next steps.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced an end to DAPA and the expanded DACA program, but said the original DACA program would continue. In response, some of the states involved in the suit over the 2014 actions, led by Texas, threatened to amend the lawsuit to sue the Trump administration over the original 2012 DACA order if Trump did not announce an end to it by Sept. 5.

After the president and Department of Homeland Security announced that they are rescinding the initial 2012 DACA program on Sept. 5, however, the states filed a “notice of voluntary dismissal” in the case later that same day.

“Given these memoranda rescinding the DAPA program and phasing out the DACA and Expanded DACA programs, Plaintiffs file this notice voluntarily dismissing this action,” the notice stated.

Although the dismissal is to be effective without a further court order under the federal rule noted by the states, Hanen issued the Friday order to announce his holding that the states could not, procedurally, file such a notice.

Finding the rule cited by the state “to be inapplicable” given the “lengthy history of protracted litigation on the merits” and intervention ordered of a party by the courts, Hanen wrote that he “holds the States’ Notice of Dismissal to be ineffective.”

Hanen went on to note that the order did not “presage” a ruling “should a different form of dismissal motion be filed,” however, offering up that the parties could “file such a motion” including “a proposed order” — suggesting a portion of the federal rules that would require the court to approve the dismissal.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Lawyers Ask The Supreme Court To Rule On Whether Existing Civil Rights Laws Cover Anti-Gay Discrimination

Advocates are hoping the Supreme Court is ready to consider and rule on whether federal civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from being discriminated against on the job.

Jameka Evans, a lesbian who worked as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital, has sued over her treatment there — and asked the courts to allow her to bring her claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law, among other things, bans sex discrimination in the workplace, and Evans says that sex discrimination, by definition, includes discrimination based on sexual orientation.

She is not alone in this view. Multiple federal appeals courts have either ruled on the issue or will hear arguments on the question out of cases raising the question in recent years.

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, sitting as a full court (called en banc), ruled in April that Title VII’s sex discrimination ban includes sexual orientation discrimination claims. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced its view in support of this position in 2015 and has argued that position in courts since then.

The Second Circuit, also en banc, is due to hold arguments in a case raising a similar question later this month.

The Eleventh Circuit, where Evans’s case was heard, ruled against her earlier this year in a three-judge panel decision that cited a 1979 ruling from the appeals court on the question. The judges wrote that the earlier decision, which held that Title VII’s sex discrimination ban does not include sexual orientation, “is binding precedent that has not been overruled by a clearly contrary opinion of the Supreme Court or of this Court sitting en banc.”

The full appeals court, however, declined to hear the case en banc — a move that led to Thursday’s filing at the Supreme Court.

In the petition seeking Supreme Court review, Evans’ lawyers — led by Gregory Nevins at Lambda Legal, an LGBT advocacy group, and joined by Jeffrey Fisher and Pamela Karlan from Stanford Law School and other Lambda Legal lawyers — argue that the high court should take the case primarily because lower courts and federal agencies are divided on the question and the issue is “exceptionally important.”

Additionally, they argue that the case is an “ideal vehicle” for the Supreme Court to use to answer the question definitively and, bluntly, that “[t]he Eleventh Circuit’s decision is wrong.”

The case comes to the justices less than a month before they are to return from their summer recess and less than eight months into the Trump presidency — two facts likely weighing heavily on the lawyers’ minds.

Just hours after the filing, the Trump administration would file a brief in another case in which the Justice Department sided with a baker arguing that the First Amendment protects him from having to, under Colorado civil rights laws, bake a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding.

The filing also comes as many liberal lawyers remain concerned about whether and when Justice Anthony Kennedy, at 81, might retire from the court. Kennedy is the author of the four major gay rights rulings from the Supreme Court over the past 21 years — all of which, in other words, came long after that 1979 ruling from the Eleventh Circuit that sexual orientation discrimination isn’t covered by sex discrimination bans.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

The DNC Begins Cybersecurity Effort To Try To Make Sure 2016 Doesn’t Happen Again

On his second day at Democratic National Committee, sitting in a meeting at the party’s headquarters south of Capitol Hill, Raffi Krikorian looked around the room and realized he was the only technology staffer at the table.

For the DNC’s new chief technology officer — now six weeks into his first job in politics after working at Silicon Valley companies like Uber and Twitter — that’s what had to change to prevent the kind of hacks that upended last year’s presidential election.

He wants the technology team everywhere. (“My end goal is how do we get to a world where there is no one reporting to the CTO anymore.”) He wants a steady, endless trickle of education about cybersecurity. (“It has to be part of on-boarding. It has to be part of every conversation, every time we have a meeting.”) He wants regular phishing email drills, for the party’s lowest-level staffers up to the chair. (“There’s literally a simulated phishing attack on the DNC right now. We started about an hour ago.”)

It’s about a “culture change inside the building” — to “get everyone’s guard up” and create an instinctive, daily cybersecurity reflex. “If you see something say something,” Krikorian said in an interview. “Our electronic landscape is not a friendly landscape.”

Krikorian, 39, said he felt his “continuous poking and prodding” was starting to work when the chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, walked into the CTO’s office one day and announced that he had downloaded the encrypted messaging app, Signal.

“I thought, ‘Thank god.’ If the chair is proactively doing that, then we’re making this culture change inside the building of just even thinking about these problems.”

Later, Perez stood up at an all-staff meeting and told aides, “‘If you guys talk to me, you’re going to use Signal,’” Krikorian recalled. “Just getting that into the ethos of the DNC is a big win.”

Krikorian, who ran Uber’s self-driving cars program after serving as Twitter’s vice president of engineering, has instructed staffers at the DNC to use Signal instead of SMS until he and other recent hires on his team finish a weeks-long internal review of the party’s technology and security needs, including a more standardized move to encrypted chat-based messaging that could extend beyond the building to local state parties. That assessment will conclude “pretty soon,” he said, but declined to elaborate on timing.

The review, Krikorian’s “top-of-mind” priority, will determine whether the DNC will follow the other major Democratic committees to the secure workplace messaging app called Wickr, which offers what’s known as end-to-end encryption for chat, voice and video communication, and file exchanges. End-to-end encryption, meant to make messages indecipherable to third parties, is increasingly seen as a necessary security measure for political campaigns and committees on both sides after the sweep of devastating cyberattacks that tore across the Democratic Party in 2016, hitting the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

In June, the DCCC became the first known party committee on either side of the partisan divide to transition to an end-to-end encrypted messaging platform. The committee, charged with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives, has been using Wickr to communicate internally and with staff and consultants working on 20 of its most critical campaigns, vulnerable incumbents called “Frontline Democrats.”

DCCC officials have also encouraged the party’s three other main committees — the DNC, the Democratic Governors Association, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — to use Wickr as well, according to an operative briefed by the DCCC.

The move would put every major arm of the national party on the same platform.

Two of the other committees, the DGA and the DSCC, recently became customers of Wickr, a spokesman for the technology company said on Thursday. (The DGA, the entity focused on Democratic gubernatorial candidates, confirmed the decision. Its U.S. Senate counterpart, the DSCC, did not respond to a request for comment. Both are listed on Wickr’s website as clients, along with the DCCC.)

The new arrangement makes the DNC the only party committee on the Democratic side not yet on Wickr. Krikorian said the DNC is “currently evaluating” Wickr as part of its ongoing internal review, along with other apps, which he declined to list in full.

“I would absolutely agree: If we’re all on the same platform it would make it a lot easier for all of us,” Krikorian said. “But at the same time, I want to do an honest assessment from the DNC side, considering that all the state parties are looking to us for advice, so I just want to do a real technical assessment before we release our recommendations.”

After the assessment ends, the DNC will “convene” the party’s various committees “when we feel we know what we want to go do, and then we should talk about it,” he said. “We’ll figure it all out together.” (The other groups have already made something of a commitment to Wickr. The program, designed as a collaborative software for offices, is a paid service.)

“I personally want to make sure the most technically secure platform we can find, but I am also aware of the fact that security and usability have trade-offs,” he said. “If it’s a serious pain in the ass to use, no one’s actually gonna use it. I want to get people on the right platform that we want to commit to for years.”

DNC officials have maintained their relationship with Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity firm retained during the hack last summer, according to a person familiar with the arrangement.

Krikorian casts his ongoing review as part an initial push to “right the ship with security.” In the short-term, he said, it’s about the “low-hanging fruit”: better and more frequent cybersecurity education, simulated phishing attacks, two-step verification, moving the office’s email management to cloud services, assessing their threat model.

“The best thing that you can do on the tech side,” he said, is “just trying to understand a priori what your weaknesses might be — what the next weakest link in the chain is, so you can start shoring up.” Last year, it was phishing attacks. “So we’re working on that,” he said, “and we’ll keep on going.”

To do that, Krikorian has made a number of initial hires from Silicon Valley, including Uber’s former program manager for the self-driving cars team, Pam Cardona; Twitter’s former lead software engineer, Jeremy Cloud, and former abuse and internal tools lead, Peter Seibel; the former CTO for the digital company Safari Books, Liza Daly; and two lead engineers from last year’s Clinton campaign, Trisha Quan and Felicity Pereyra.

The party’s security efforts will ultimately extend beyond the DNC itself “to everything and anything that potentially touches us,” according to Krikorian, including state parties. He plans to create a tech help-line for candidates and is also considering “some mass-buys” of technology to provide to candidates and parties outside Washington.

One year after the DNC email hack — a cyberattack that revealed an unfair bias against Bernie Sanders and made the party committee a source of fierce dissatisfaction and distrust among progressives — Krikorian is also hoping for a larger culture change inside headquarters. “You have to remember, it’s also very popular from the outside to sort of shit on the DNC. That’s a common thing to do,” he said. “When I walked in and found demoralized people on the technology team, you talked to them for a while and then you realize that people that still believe in it didn’t choose to jump ship.”

“The mood is changing in the building,” added Krikorian. (The engineer made the leap to Washington, he said, because “I believe in a lot of the ideals of Democrats.”)

Under Krikorian, the new emphasis on security at the DNC, mirrored at other party entities, puts politics-at-large in the cross-section of a long-running and tangled debate over privacy, tech, and security — one that doesn’t adhere to typical partisan lines.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, emerged as the staunchest opponent of encryption last year when the FBI sought access to encrypted data on the Apple device used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack. (Apple refused, setting off a court battle.) Feinstein, who introduced legislation with Republican Sen. Richard Burr that would require tech companies to decrypt data in such cases, suggested this spring that she will restart that effort in Congress. The legislation would be aimed at the same end-to-end encryption technology that is now being adopted inside her own party.

Neither Feinstein’s office, nor Burr’s, provided a comment when asked last month about the recent move by parties and campaigns to rely on encrypted messaging software.

Krikorian’s own position is clear. “My personal belief is that everyone has the right to encrypted communication. I totally understand that not a lot of people are in the same mindset,” he said. “I’m definitely curious how this space plays out over the next few years.”

While Republicans grapple with similar security questions, Krikorian said there has been no “explicit” contact or collaboration between the DNC and the Republican National Committee. He signaled an openness to some kind of partnership, citing practices across company lines in Silicon Valley. Amid security threats at Twitter, he said, “we would always jump on an IRC [Internet Relay Chat] channel with a whole bunch of other tech companies to do coordination there, so this model is tried and proven.”

A spokesman for the RNC did not respond to a question about whether the party would be open to a potential collaboration.

The DNC’s CTO said he has been in contact with Defend Digital Democracy, a new nonpartisan cybersecurity project at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, focused on preventing foreign-sponsored hacking. The group, founded in July under two former campaign managers, Clinton’s Robby Mook and Mitt Romney’s Matt Rhoades, could serve as a meeting point for Democrats and Republicans.

According to an internal July memo, Defending Digital Democracy is planning to develop a cybersecurity “playbook” for campaigns and parties at all levels, a training program, a security audit for political vendors, and a system in which a campaign or party could “partner with the private sector and government” to help respond to a security breach. (The Harvard group is also looking to recruit former Homeland Security and National Security Agency officials for a potential “technical advisory board,” as well as representatives from Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the memo says.)

At the DNC, broader tech efforts will also be under Krikorian’s jurisdiction. The central Democratic committee plays no formal role in campaigns outside the presidential election every four years, but DNC officials said the new engineers and data scientists on Krikorian’s team are looking to “reboot” the party’s data infrastructure, starting with an effort to help Democrats’ most crucial campaign this year, the gubernatorial race in Virginia. There are also plans to “upgrade” fundraising tools to free up campaigns’ time elsewhere, and set a higher bar for Democratic vendors when it comes to performance.

With the presidential race already underway — Democrats have one declared candidate, Maryland Rep. John Delaney — the DNC is also sorting out its role in securing fledgling campaigns. (One early phishing email could infiltrate an entire campaign months before it becomes a full operation with established password standards or retention policies.)

Krikorian said the DNC hopes to serve as a cybersecurity resource for all Democrats, including on presidential campaigns, but has not released guidelines yet.

“I would love us to get to the point where if people have technology or security questions, they consider calling the DNC first and we help them out,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kevin Collier

Appeals Court Sides With Challengers Fighting To Keep Grandparents Exempt From Trump’s Travel Ban

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that grandparents and other family members, as well as would-be refugees who have received formal assurances of support from resettlement agencies, are not subject to President Trump’s travel and refugee bans.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued the decision less than two weeks after hearing arguments on the questions in Seattle in late August.

The appeals court ruled that US District Judge Derrick Watson, in exempting those groups in question, “carefully and correctly balanced the hardships and the equitable considerations as directed by the Supreme Court” in a June order over Trump’s executive order.

The Justice Department will be appealing the ruling, a spokesperson announced Thursday evening.

“The Supreme Court has stepped in to correct these lower courts before, and we will now return to the Supreme Court to vindicate the Executive Branch’s duty to protect the Nation,” Justice Department spokesperson Nicole Navas said in a statement.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, whose state brought the lawsuit before the Ninth Circuit challenging the executive order, said in a statement that the decision “keeps families together” and “gives vetted refugees a second chance.”

“The Trump administration keeps taking actions with no legal basis,” Chin said. “We will keep fighting back.”

After courts had put the second travel and refugee bans on hold after Trump signed it in March, the Supreme Court allowed the bans to go into effect in part in late June. While it agreed to consider the legality and constitutionality of the bans in the fall, the justices allowed the bans to go into effect as to those with “no connection” to the US.

Specifically, the Supreme Court barred enforcement of the 90-day travel ban from six Muslim-majority countries or the 120-day halt to the US refugee program against those with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity.

The side-argument since — which was before the Ninth Circuit — was over what constitutes such a bona fide relationship.

When the federal government announced how it would be interpreting the ruling, Hawaii went back to court, eventually asking Watson to modify his injunction in the case to rule, effectively, that the Trump administration had interpreted the Supreme Court’s “bona fide relationship” language too narrowly. He did so as to the two points on appeal at the Ninth Circuit — regarding the definition of family and whether resettlement agency assurances count as a sufficient connection.

The Justice Department has argued that the “close familial relationship” referenced by the Supreme Court as being the type of personal exemption only included “a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiancé(e), child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling (whether whole or half), and step relationships.” Lawyers for Hawaii, which has challenged the executive orders, have argued that a more broad definition of family was intended — a point they say is accentuated by the fact that the Supreme Court’s June order said that an American’s mother-in-law “clearly” had a sufficient connection to be exempted from the ban.

The federal government also has argued that a resettlement agency assurances should not count as a sufficient connection because they are indirect — as they are made between the agency and the federal government — and, they say, such an interpretation would essentially render the Supreme Court’s June order “meaningless” because it would allow so many refugees to continue traveling under the ban. The challengers, however, have argued that such arguments invent language not in the Supreme Court’s order.

The Justice Department initially asked the Supreme Court to resolve the issue by clarifying its June order, but the court declined to do so. Instead, it put the resettlement agency portion of the order on hold pending the appeal to the Ninth Circuit. It took no action on the family portion of Watson’s ruling — meaning that has been the policy since his ruling.

The Justice Department nonetheless appealed both portions of Watson’s ruling, and the Ninth Circuit, on both points, sided with his ruling.

“The Government does not meaningfully argue how grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in- law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States can be considered to have ‘no connection’ to or ‘lack any bona fide relationship’ with persons in the United States,” the court held in an unsigned opinion.

Regarding the resettlement agency question, the court did signal that it believed this was a closer question.

“We cannot say that the district court clearly erred in its factual findings or ultimately abused its discretion in holding that the written assurance an agency submits, obligating the agency to provide core services for the specific refugee(s) listed on the assurance form, meets the requirements set out by the Court,” the court held. “Although the assurance is technically between the agency and the Government, the Government’s intermediary function does not diminish the bona fide relationship between the resettlement agency and the specific refugee covered by the assurance.”

The court held that its ruling does not go into effect for five days — meaning the resettlement agency portion won’t go into effect just yet, given the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling putting that part of Watson’s order on hold.

The Justice Department could seek Supreme Court review in that time.

Trump Administration Sides With Baker In Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case

In a surprise move, the Trump administration on Thursday sided with a Colorado bakery whose owner is arguing to the Supreme Court that he should not need to bake a cake for a same-sex couple when their ceremony violates his religious beliefs.

Colorado’s public accommodation law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, and its courts have ruled that businesses catering to the public cannot discriminate against same-sex couples seeking services for weddings or other commitment ceremonies.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, however, is run by Jack Phillips, a man who incorporates his Christian faith into the way he runs his business. Baking a cake, which he maintains is a form of creative expression, for a same-sex couple would violate his religious beliefs and, as such, he has refused to do so.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against Phillips, as did Colorado courts, but the Supreme Court agreed this June to hear his case this fall.

On Thursday, in a filing at the high court, the Justice Department announced that it agrees with Masterpiece Cakeshop, arguing that it would create an “intrusion” on the First Amendment “where a public accommodations law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively, in a ceremony or other expressive event.”

“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” the Justice Department lawyers, led by Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, wrote. Among other lawyers on the brief, Wall was joined by two other acting division heads: Chad Readler, leading the Civil Division, and John Gore, leading the Civil Rights Division.

In the brief, the Justice Department argues that “most applications of a public accommodations statute” are fine and do not raise the First Amendment concerns it discussed in Thursday’s filing. However, reviewing the Supreme Court’s decisions in cases involving a gay contingent seeking to participate in a group’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and a gay man who was rejected as a Boy Scouts leader, Justice Department lawyers argue there is an exception: “Heightened scrutiny [by courts] is appropriate at least where a law both compels the creation … of speech or of a product or performance that is inherently communicative, and compels the creator’s participation in a ceremony or other expressive event.”

One such circumstance, the brief goes on, is baking a wedding cake, and “Colorado cannot satisfy [heightened scrutiny] because it lacks a sufficient state interest to justify that intrusion on ‘the core principle of speaker’s autonomy.'”

Specifically, the Justice Department argues, this is so because, while the Supreme Court has said that “‘eradicating racial discrimination’ in the private sphere is the most ‘compelling’ of interests,” the high court “has not similarly held that classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to strict scrutiny.”

The current case comes to the Supreme Court more than five years after the circumstances leading to the case took place.

In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins attempted to order a wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, but owner Jack Phillips declined, saying that it would violate his religious beliefs.

While it remains legal in many parts of the US to turn gay couples away from businesses, 21 states ban discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, including Colorado.

“I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings,” court records say Phillips told the men.

Represented by the ACLU, the couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found in 2014 that the baker ran afoul of a state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A Colorado appeals court upheld that decision, saying that if the baker “wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, [the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act] prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation.”

The court added that the law “does not impose burdens on religious conduct not imposed on secular conduct.”

Colorado’s supreme court declined to take the case, which led to the request for the US Supreme Court to hear the case, which it agreed to do in June.

ACLU deputy director Louise Melling said in a statement on Thursday evening, “This brief was shocking, even for this administration. What the Trump Administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate.”

A Justice Department official told BuzzFeed News the agency chose to file in the case “because the First Amendment protects the right of free expression for all Americans.”

“Although public-accommodations laws serve important purposes, they — like other laws — must yield to the individual freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees,” the official continued in a statement. “That includes the freedom not to create expression for ceremonies that violate one’s religious beliefs.”