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A government lawyer acknowledged Monday that the Trump administration will miss its first court-imposed deadline to reunite about 100 immigrant children under age 5 with their parents. Department of Justice attorney Sarah Fabian said during a court hearing that federal authorities reunited two families and expect to reunite an additional 59 by Tuesday’s deadline. She said the other cases are more complicated, including parents who have been deported or are in prison facing criminal charges, and would require more time to complete reunions. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite families separated as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, said he will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to get an update on the remaining cases. He said he was encouraged to see “real progress” in the complicated reunification process after a busy weekend when officials from multiple federal agencies tried to sync up parents and children who are spread across the country. STORY FROM LENDINGTREE Crush your mortgage interest with a 15 yr fixed “Tomorrow is the deadline. I do recognize that there are some groups of parents who are going to fall into a category where it’s impossible to reunite by tomorrow,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the progress. I’m optimistic.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who leads a lawsuit against the federal government, sounded more skeptical. When asked by the judge if he believed the government was in full compliance of the court order, Gelernt said there was much more work to be done. “Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours has taken significant steps,” he said. “We just don’t know how much effort the government has made to find released parents. I don’t think there’s been full compliance.” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. (Photo: U.S. District Court) The difficulty in reuniting the first 100 children shows the challenge that lies ahead as the Trump administration braces for another deadline in two weeks to reunite nearly 3,000 older children – up to age 17 – with their parents. The process is complicated because of all the different situations that emerged over the weekend. The government initially identified 102 children under age 5 who needed to be reunited but removed three children from that list because investigations into their cases revealed that those children came with adults who were not their parents, Fabian said. Twelve parents were found to be in federal and state custody on criminal charges, making a reunification impossible since the government can’t transfer minors to state and local prisons to protect the well-being of the child. Nine parents were deported, and the government established contact with only four of them, Fabian said. Four children had been scheduled to be released from government custody to relatives who weren’t their parents, leading the government to question whether to allow that process to be completed or to redirect the child back to a parent. Gelernt said he understood many of the hurdles but urged the judge to force the government to scrap its time-consuming investigation into every single case and start a 48-hour clock to reunify families that remain separated by Tuesday. Sabraw said he would decide that during Tuesday’s hearing. Fabian said one of the silver linings of the busy weekend is that her office worked closely with its challengers at the ACLU to share information on each child’s case, to ensure that representatives from immigration advocacy groups and volunteer organizations could be present during each reunification. Gelernt said they’re doing that to help the parents, who are often released from custody with no money and nowhere to go. Fabian said that coordination has led to a more formalized process between government agencies and with the immigrants’ lawyers that should make reunifications go more smoothly in the coming weeks. “I think this process over the weekend helped us see what information, and in what form, is the most useful to share,” she said. “I’d like to make that as efficient a process as possible.” -

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The Memo: Cohen storm grows graver for Trump

The growing storm over Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, is casting a dark cloud over the White House.

The controversy around Cohen deepened Wednesday when the attorney was reported to have promised access to the Trump administration to one of the corporations that was paying him, drug company Novartis.

That allegation, contained in separate reports from NBC News and Stat News and sourced to unnamed people inside Novartis, capped a fraught 24 hours for the White House.

The previous evening, lawyer Michael Avenatti, who represents adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, had delivered a bombshell.He asserted that Essential Consultants LLC, a shell company operated by Cohen, had received $500,000 from an investment firm whose biggest client was a company controlled by a Russian oligarch and ally of President Vladimir Putin. About $4.4 million was said to have passed through the previously obscure company, including payments from Novartis, AT&T and Korea Aerospace Industries.

Those allegations were broadly backed up by reporting from The New York Times and NBC News, as well as acknowledgments from some of the companies that they made payments. The investment firm, Columbus Nova, however, insisted that it was false that it had been used as a conduit by the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg.

Avenatti told The Hill in a phone interview Wednesday that the allegations “appear to reflect a pattern and practice by Michael Cohen of accepting money in return for access to the president.”

There is no suggestion that Trump himself was party to any such agreement, nor has there been any acknowledgment from Cohen’s side that he was engaged in anything unethical.

But, according to Avenatti, the controversy holds serious dangers for both men.

“It’s beyond that it doesn’t look good,” he said. “This is the right-hand attorney of the president. If that attorney is selling access to the president without the requisite disclosures, that is a serious problem.”

The White House, as well as the president’s private legal team, has shown little willingness to engage with the subject.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was put on the defensive during Wednesday’s media briefing as she was peppered with questions about Cohen. She refused to be drawn in and suggested reporters direct their inquiries to Trump’s outside counsel.

The two most prominent members of the president’s legal team, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and attorney Jay Sekulow, however, did not respond to calls or texts from The Hill on the matter.

Sanders did say that she was not aware of any actions Trump had taken in office to benefit the corporations that had paid Cohen.

So far, the ethical and political problems for the president seem to exceed any direct legal exposure in the Cohen matter.

“We need to be a little conservative in crying from the rooftops that there is criminal activity here,” said Caroline Polisi, an attorney and legal commentator. “It seems swampy, but I don’t know if I would use the word ‘criminal.’ ”

Polisi, who specializes in white-collar and criminal defense with Pierce Bainbridge, added, however: “The optics are horrible. It is certainly unseemly and certainly unethical.”

Trump critics have also seized on the recent reports to make their argument that the administration has broader problems.

In addition to the issues surrounding Cohen, they highlight the troubled tenure of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and controversial recent comments by budget director Mick Mulvaneyregarding access granted to lobbyists during his time in Congress.

“Washington is still Washington, and it was Washington before Trump got here,” said Adam Smith, communications director of Every Voice, a liberal advocacy group. “But they have been willing to say the quiet part out loud. Nobody talked about that. One of the differences is that they are just more blatant and open about the corruption.”

Allies of the president have been concerned for some time about the damage that a probe into Cohen’s affairs could inflict.

Cohen has worked with Trump and the Trump Organization for more than a decade.

When investigators raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room a month ago, Trump reacted with fury. It has been widely reported that the president’s willingness to submit to a voluntary interview with the team led by special counsel Robert Mueller receded in the aftermath of those raids.

Trump has not yet weighed in on the most recent Cohen allegations.

But the controversy is set to detract attention from events that the president would much prefer to be talking about.

Three Americans who had been held in North Korea were released on Wednesday. The three men were set to return to the United States in the company of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the early hours of Thursday.

The president said on Twitter that he would be there to greet the men at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Right now, however, that seems likely to offer only a brief respite from the rising tide of legal and political troubles.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

Source: The Hill

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