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What exactly is Kamala Harris’ border assignment?



This is the March 31, 2021, edition of the Essential Politics newsletter. Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get it in your inbox three times a week.

Vice President Kamala Harris was in the middle of a dream political assignment: Traveling the country to tell people that the government would be sending them checks.

But President Biden had another swell idea last week: Let Harris take on the immigration crisis, one of the administration’s biggest headaches.

From the start, administration officials have had trouble explaining what the assignment is about, and what it’s not. That’s a distinction with big political implications. They’ve tried to stress that Harris’ job is to coordinate diplomacy with Mexico and the three countries of Central America’s Northern Triangle — and that she’s not in charge of the border itself or the influx of migrants overwhelming U.S. officials there.

“There is some confusion over that,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki conceded Monday.

Good morning and welcome to Essential Politics, Kamala Harris edition. Today, we will talk about Harris’ first solo assignment, and the trouble she is already having in explaining exactly what she is responsible for.

Handing out stimmies

In giving Harris the assignment last Wednesday, Biden noted that he had a similar job when he served as vice president under President Obama. It smacked of the type of thing high school seniors tell freshman when they’re hazing them: I had to do it, now it’s your turn.

Biden spoke of the money he distributed to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in 2014 in hopes of reducing poverty, corruption and lawlessness — the factors that drive families there to make the dangerous trek north, or to send their children alone.

The fact that he was sending Harris on the same mission — seven years later — suggests the futility of solving those issues from the White House, which has limited control over the behavior of governments and people in other countries.

The writers at NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” may have summed it up best over the weekend. “Such a fun, solvable problem,” Maya Rudolph, in the role of Harris, deadpanned, shaking her fist with faux excitement. Alex Moffat, as Biden, gloats that he will be busy, meanwhile, handing out “stimmies.”

“Make it rain,” he says, flicking his hands.

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Patience? In Washington? You must be new here.

Harris and her staff have pleaded for patience.

“This is not work that will be addressed overnight,” Symone Sanders, Harris’ chief spokesperson and senior advisor told reporters aboard Air Force Two on Friday, as Harris was headed to Connecticut to celebrate the COVID-19 relief package. “This is a challenging situation.”

Sanders, asked by reporters when Harris would travel to the border, said she had no trips “planned in the near term.”

“I will just reiterate that the vice president is not doing the border,” she said a few minutes later, trying again to make the distinction with Harris’ diplomatic duties.

You can see where this is headed politically. Republicans have been eager to saddle Harris with responsibility for the entire border, including the images of overcrowded rooms with children sleeping on mats and foil blankets, which has the potential not only to drag down Biden’s popularity but also to tarnish Harris’ future prospects. Meanwhile, she’s trying to stay far away from the scene, literally and figuratively.

“So now that Kamala Harris is in charge of the border crisis, can we finally get an answer on when she’ll visit the border? Or is she still laughing about it?” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted Saturday.

Building the airplane while trying to fly

Harris also has yet to schedule trips to the Northern Triangle countries, though she has begun getting briefed on the diplomatic issues. On Tuesday, she held a call with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, in which the two “agreed to explore innovative opportunities to create jobs and to improve the conditions for all people in Guatemala and the region, including by promoting transparency and combating crime,” according to her office.

When I asked a Harris advisor last week how the administration would define success, she conceded the team was still figuring that out.

Even if Harris convinces many people that she is not directly responsible for the border plight, she will still own at least a part of it, given her argument that she is trying to solve the “root causes” of migration that send people from their home countries.

“I don’t think Republicans are going to let people make that distinction,” said Jose Dante Parra, a former advisor to Senate Democratic leaders who advises immigration advocacy groups. “They’re going to keep messaging that she’s in charge of the border situation.”

Parra, who is based in Florida, noted that Republicans are also spreading their message in Spanish-language media, reflecting the party’s belief that it can win over some Latinos with restrictionist immigration arguments — as former President Trump did in carrying Florida and Texas in last year’s presidential election.

Parra generally agrees with the Biden administration’s approach at the border — which includes speeding up asylum seekers’ processing and placing unaccompanied minors with guardians — but says the politics are tough.

“They have a challenge that they’re basically trying to fly the airplane as they’re building it,” he said, “and that’s difficult to message.”

I posed similar questions to some of Harris’ former advisors last week, granting them anonymity in hopes of some candor.

Here’s how one summed up her new role: “High risk. Very low reward. But she is passionate about it.”

Another was less concerned for Harris, believing the “risk is limited here” because few would blame her for the problem she and Biden inherited.

“A leader seizing control of any crisis comes with political risk,” the former advisor said, “but that’s the job they signed up for.”

The view from Washington

Mike Pence 2024? The former vice president is steadily reentering public life as he eyes a potential run for the White House. He’s joining conservative organizations, writing op-eds, delivering speeches and launching an advocacy group.

— And in a rebuke of how its predecessor attempted to recast and limit the defense of human rights, the Biden administration on Tuesday issued an annual global report that promises to renew focus on women’s issues and reproductive rights, writes Tracy Wilkinson.

— The idea was a bait-and-switch: Give people searching online for terms like “join Oath Keepers” or “bomb instructions” an alternative to extremism. But that alternative turned out to be an anarchist with anti-Semitic views, report Anita Chabria and Evan Halper.

— Biden’s first slate of judicial nominees aims to put a diverse cast on the federal judiciary. His choices place a 50-year-old federal judge in position to potentially become the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, David Lauter writes.

— Biden announced steps Tuesday to protect Asian Americans from discrimination and violent attacks, including establishing a Justice Department initiative to address a rising number of hate crimes, reports Chris Megerian.

The view from California

— A majority of likely California voters would keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office if a recall election were held today, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. The poll was conducted as vaccinations in the state increase and the Democratic governor ramps up his campaign to fight the effort to remove him.

— Skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine has fallen steadily in California as inoculations increase. But according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll, resistance still remains particularly high among one group: Republicans.

For the Record: Friday’s newsletter incorrectly stated that after Frances Perkins in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, no woman headed a Cabinet department until 1975. Oveta Culp Hobby served as the first secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Eisenhower from April 1953 to July 1955.

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Source:- Los Angeles Times

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say



When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”


Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.



“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.


Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.


“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt



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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances



Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics



(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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