The Morning Dispatch: DHS Spars With New York Over Immigration

Plus, reporting from the road in New Hampshire.

Happy Friday! Man, what a week it’s been, both inside D.C. and out—from the president’s acquittal to the (still!) ongoing insanity that was (is!) the Iowa caucuses. We’re sure next week will be much smoother. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary, the New Hampshire debate will take place tonight. Seven candidates have qualified: Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang. 

  • The Yang campaign laid off dozens of staffers this week after a poor showing at the Iowa caucuses Monday. 

  • One day after his acquittal, President Trump spent his Thursday in a sequence of public appearances in which he alternately took victory laps, praised the lawmakers who helped carry him safely through the process, and uttered maledictions against those who stood in his way. His most frequent targets: Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney. Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump questioned the sincerity of the faith of both politicians, saying that “I don’t like people who use their faith as a justification for doing what they know is wrong.” 

  • The alleged perpetrator of the El Paso shooting that left 22 dead last August has been indicted with 90 federal hate-crime charges, with prosecutors arguing the attack amounted to “domestic terrorism.” 

Want Sanctuary Cities? Say Goodbye to Global Entry.

This week, the Trump administration announced its latest effort to curb the rise of so-called sanctuary city laws that seek to block the federal government's use of state and local resources to combat illegal immigration. 

In December, New York State's Green Light Law went into effect, allowing illegal immigrants without a Social Security number to obtain New York driver's licenses and barring federal immigration authorities access to the state's DMV records without a court order. Immigration enforcement officials argued that the law prevented them from accessing information that they use to "investigate and build cases against terrorists, and criminals who commit child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and financial crimes."

Now, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will bar New York residents from enrolling in Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler programs that require background checks to ease airport security, and that it will remove 1750,000 current New Yorkers from its rolls by year's end. DHS argues that without the DMV data they are unable to "make an evidence-based assessment that those individuals who seek this benefit are low risk and meet the eligibility requirements." (TSA Pre-check is not affected.)

New York officials are still considering their legal options but argued that the policy is punitive and retaliatory. And Ken Cuccinelli, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting deputy secretary, did little to quell that notion when he said other states considering such laws "should know that their citizens are going to lose the convenience of entering these Trusted Traveler Programs, just as New York’s did.”

This isn't the first attempt to crack down on jurisdictions that bar federal immigration authorities access to state and local resources. The Department of Justice sued the state of California over its 2017 California Values Act, which it argued "openly seeks to undermine federal immigration enforcement." The Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to hear arguments in that case this term.

But will this latest move pass constitutional muster? Maybe. 

In 1987, the Supreme Court decided in South Dakota v. Dole that Congress could withhold highway funds from states that refused to raise their drinking age. But, as we all know, Congress gets a lot of leeway on how to spend its money. The executive branch is another story.

In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would block two different sources of federal grant money from jurisdictions that didn't share information with immigration authorities. This past year, the 9th Circuit upheld one because the department was only giving preference to cities that would use the money to focus on illegal immigration, and struck down the other, holding that the department couldn't add special grant conditions not imposed by Congress.

Mayor Pete Is Having a Moment

Declan has been traipsing through the snows of New Hampshire this week in order to keep us up to date on the fast-changing race for the Democratic nomination, where Pete Buttigieg is surging. He reports on the zero-sum relationship between Buttigieg and Joe Biden in the Granite State. Much like Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, “Neither can live while the other survives.” (Neither Buttigieg nor Biden is an evil, genocidal wizard—it’s just a fitting expression.) When a Buttigieg campaign event reached capacity before it began…

Buttigieg briefly addressed the disappointed crowd before a black SUV whisked him around to an alternate entrance. “I’m so sorry, it sounds like we have more than filled up and won’t be able to fit everybody into the space,” the candidate lamented, before launching into a 30-second pitch for his campaign. “We are taking no vote for granted. Obviously we feel a lot of momentum coming here, but I know how New Hampshire is never told what to do. Folks here think for themselves, and I’ll be doing everything that I can to earn every bit of support.”

Mayor Pete’s comments once inside the American Legion focused on military and veterans’ issues. “Every one has given so much, and raised their right hand and made a promise that amounts to a blank check to the people of the United States of America,” Buttigieg said of the country’s service members, pacing around in a navy suit and royal blue tie. “So when we talk about taking care of veterans, we are not talking about doing anybody a favor. We are talking about America’s way of keeping its promise that is made in return, and that is to look after you for the rest of your life.”

A topic that did not come up at the American Legion on Thursday afternoon? Joe Biden. For his part, after he placed a distant fourth in Monday’s disaster of an Iowa caucus, the former vice president’s campaign decided to do something he’s mostly avoided thus far: go on the offensive. The polls might be forcing his hand. The Monmouth poll out Thursday shows Biden in third with 17 percent, trailing Sanders (27 percent) and Buttigieg (22 percent). A WBZ/Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll that came out late Thursday is worse for Biden: Buttigieg (23 percent) is in a virtual tie with Sanders (24 percent) with Biden (11 percent) fourth behind Warren (13 percent).

“Mayor Pete likes to attack me,” Biden had said at an event in Somersworth, New Hampshire on Wednesday. “He calls me part of the old, failed Washington. Well really? Was it a failure that I went to Congress to get Obamacare passed into law? Was it a failure when I got passed the implementation of the Recovery Act that prevented an economic collapse, another Great Depression?”

Biden continued ticking off accomplishments: the Iran deal, the Paris Climate Accords, the Violence Against Women Act, the chemical weapons treaty, the Brady Bill. “I have great respect for Mayor Pete, and his service to this nation,” he said, a pair of teleprompters in front of him. “But I do believe it’s a risk—to be just straight up with you—for this party to nominate someone who’s never held a [sic] office higher than mayor of a town of 100,000 people in Indiana.”

Buttigieg responded in an interview on MSNBC. “As to the achievements of the Obama administration, I have enormous regard for those achievements. … But I think the bulk of the credit for the achievements of the Obama administration belong with President Obama.”

Nice Primary You’ve Got There …

Also up on the site today, Andrew has a look at recent Republican efforts to influence Democratic contests in Iowa, North Carolina, and South Carolina: 

In South Carolina, which has open primaries and where the GOP canceled its own, a group of state GOP officials have decided to encourage their supporters to vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders, who, in the words of Greenville GOP Chairman Nate Leupp, is “the most socialistic, liberal candidate” in the race. The intent is both to help the primary chances of a candidate they feel will likely match up poorly against Trump and to demonstrate why the state should move to a closed primary.

In North Carolina, a GOP PAC called Faith and Power is spending upward of $1 million on ads supporting Senate candidate Erica Smith—a state senator waging an upstart campaign against establishment pick Cal Cunningham. The ad brags that Smith is the only candidate “endorsed by progressives and unions,” calls her “the No. 1 supporter of the Green New Deal,” and insists she is the race’s “only proven progressive.” Faith and Power hasn’t said anything publicly, but the aim is clearly to drag out the primary, to the benefit of GOP incumbent Thom Tillis in the general.

And the Iowa Democratic Party said Thursday that its troubles collecting and reporting the results of its caucus—which have caused a days-long national scandal—stemmed in part from Trump supporters who coordinated online to swarm the reporting hotline with prank calls supporting the president.

These various efforts—led, respectively, by GOP state politicians, GOP strategists, and a GOP-supporting online gang—underscore the degree to which Republican voters increasingly see politics as a zero-sum game in which a weaker Democratic party translates directly to a stronger America. Unsurprisingly, Democrats aren’t thrilled by the overtures.

“I definitely think it’s tacky and sloppy,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist from South Carolina. “I think that Republicans have gotten bold with wanting to interfere and influence elections for their own benefit.”

For campaigns to meddle in each other’s primaries isn’t new, although it isn’t exactly common. The most notable example came in 2012, when Missouri’s embattled Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill cut faux-attack ads on Republican challenger Todd Akin during his primary, which blasted him as “too conservative.” The ads worked: Akin won the primary, then promptly imploded in the general, and McCaskill punched her ticket to another term in D.C.

For the original deployment of the strategy, many people point to California governor’s race in 2002. In that race, unpopular Democratic incumbent Gray Davis managed to win re-election by torpedoing the strongest Republican opponent, Richard Riordan, in his primary, spending millions on ads pointing out Riordan’s flip-flopping history on abortion policy.

“What Riordan chose to do was run in the primary against Governor Davis, acting like this was a general election campaign, ignoring his Republican opponents, running ads against Governor Davis, shooting his mouth off about Governor Davis, and acting as if he was already the Republican nominee,” Garry South, who ran the Davis campaign that year, told The Dispatch. “So we said, okay, if he wants to play that game, we’ll run in the primary against him.”

Worth Your Time

  • We touched on Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast up top, but it’s worth re-emphasizing how much of a break from tradition they were at an event that has typically strived for bipartisanship and mutual grace. This Washington Post column by Michael Gerson is a good read on the subject. 

  • Remember the app that broke the Iowa caucuses? By a great stroke of luck, the New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz was already reporting on the company behind it—D.C.-based tech nonprofit consultancy Acronym—so he turned this interesting piece around pretty quickly. “[CEO Tara] McGowan doesn’t seem reckless or sinister enough to intentionally rig an election. Rather, she seems like a starry-eyed techno-utopian, prone to believing that a wide array of societal ills can be cured by another innovation, another round of investment, or another app.”

Presented Without Comment

Something Fun

Okay, look. Your Morning Dispatchers have strong feelings about the insidious power that the temptation of going viral wields over too many of our lives, causing busloads of Americans each day to do dumb things to themselves and each other in the hopes that a bunch of strangers will be able to see a recording of it and laugh. That’s particularly true when it’s parents doing dumb things to their kids, or letting their kids do dumb things to themselves, in pursuit of those sweet sweet internet points. 

And yet—call us hypocrites, but we can’t help it: This video is hilarious.

Toeing the Company Line

  • On Wednesday, Thomas Joscelyn’s latest Vital Interests newsletter took a deep dive at the persistent threat presented by al Qaeda and like-minded jihadists. Joscelyn reported on the death of Qasim al-Raymi, a top figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, believed to have been taken out by a U.S. strike. Joscelyn wrote: “It is likely that Raymi played a leadership role not just in AQAP, but also in al-Qaeda’s global management team.” Yesterday, the White House confirmed al-Raymi’s killing and disclosed his senior role in the global terror group. “The United States conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and a deputy to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.” To add Vital Interests to your inbox each week, go to your preference page.

  • For the latest episode of The Remnant podcast, Jonah was joined by “person from the internet/verified nobody” Bridget Phetasy to discuss meeting on Twitter, the culture wars, drug legalization, writing for Playboy, and the #MeToo movement. Give it a listen!

  • In the latest French Press, David drills down on an odd quirk of contemporary political thought: the way our country continues to hand presidents more and more unchecked executive power while simultaneously insisting that having a good man be president isn’t that big of a deal. 

Let Us Know

Due to the longevity of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, the 2020 race has featured its fair share of Midwest Nice. Midwesterners are so naturally kind that they find it difficult to turn on the nasty. Their political shots often come across as passive aggressive — or just passive. Which of these thinly veiled affronts embodies that sentiment the most?

  • “I have not denigrated your experience as a local official. I have been one. I just think you should respect our experience.”—Amy Klobuchar to Pete Buttigieg (Link)

  • “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”—Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton (Link)

  • “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”—Ronald Reagan to Walter Mondale (Link)

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Photograph of Pete Buttigieg by Win McNamee/Getty Images.