San Juan National Forest, Colo.
Trying to douse the 416 Fire
Federal officials closed San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado indefinitely this week because of wildfires and extremely dry conditions. The 416 Fire has burned more than 23,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of more than 2,000 homes. Roads passing through the forest will remain open, but trails, campgrounds, and other public areas will be shut down. It’s the second major forest closure in as many weeks, with officials shutting down Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico due to extreme fire danger. Together, the two forests are larger than the state of Connecticut. Parts of Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona are veritable tinderboxes after a winter with little snowfall and an abnormally hot spring. “It’s a big inconvenience and a big economic hit to the area,” said Cam Hooley, a public affairs officer for the San Juan National Forest. “We don’t do it lightly.”
Fort Bliss, Texas
Site for housing migrant kids?
The Trump administration is considering whether to build tent cities at military bases in Texas in order to house migrant children who cross the border illegally. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services plan to visit Fort Bliss, an Army base near El Paso, within the next few weeks to look at land that could be used for structures to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children. Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo are also being considered for shelters. The number of migrant children held in custody has increased more than 20 percent since April, when the Justice Department began its “zero tolerance” policy of separating children and parents at the border. The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS is now caring for 11,200 migrant children. The agency’s roughly 100 shelters are 95 percent full.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week made it virtually impossible for asylum seekers citing fears of domestic abuse or gang violence to enter the U.S., in a ruling that could affect thousands of migrants from Central America. Invoking a seldom-used authority, Sessions reversed a 2016 immigration appeals court ruling that granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who’d suffered years of abuse by her ex-husband. Asylum claims should not apply to victims of “private violence,” Sessions said. The ruling could invalidate tens of thousands of pending asylum claims by women, children, and men in the U.S., who now must prove that their home country is unable or unwilling to protect them. “Women and children will die as a result of these policies,” said Michelle Brané, an immigration rights activist. Sessions said the guidelines would help immigration courts work through a backlog of 700,000 cases.
Florida revoked 291 concealed-carry gun permits last week after it was revealed that the state had failed to properly vet tens of thousands of applicants because an employee couldn’t log into the FBI’s national background-check system for more than a year. The problem, which lasted from February 2016 until March 2017, was rectified only when another worker noticed that the background checks weren’t being completed. The state saw a massive surge in concealed-carry applications during that period, from 134,000 in fiscal year 2015 to 275,000 applications in 2017. Florida uses the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to flag applicants with noncriminal offenses, including undocumented immigrants and people who have been committed. The state uses two additional background systems, which continued to work. The employee responsible said her log-in stopped working but she felt under pressure to approve applications quickly.
New York City
Cohen: Expects cuffs
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has told friends he expects to be arrested any day now, the New York Daily News and Vanity Fair reported this week. Cohen is also said to be parting ways with his own legal team, adding to speculation that Trump’s longtime fixer might ultimately choose to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Cohen’s attorneys were expected to stay on until Friday to finish the review of more than 3.7 million documents taken from Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room. The documents were seized in April by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office as part of a criminal investigation into Cohen’s business dealings; he is reportedly under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations. The New York Times reported that Cohen and his lawyers were parting ways over his legal bills. “Person close to Cohen says he hasn’t flipped yet, ‘he’s sending up a smoke signal to Trump: I need help,’” tweeted Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman.
$82 million richer
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner earned at least $82 million in outside income in 2017 while serving as unpaid senior advisers to President Trump, according to financial disclosures released this week. The president’s daughter and son-in-law relinquished daily control of their businesses upon taking their White House jobs, but maintain holdings worth as much as $811 million in domestic and foreign businesses. Kushner retained approximately 90 percent of his real estate investments, which netted him $70 million last year. Trump earned $3.9 million from her stake in the capital’s Trump International Hotel, and $5 million from the trust that runs her clothing line, which is manufactured overseas. The scale of the earnings, and the fact that the couple’s trusts bought and sold as much as $147 million of real estate and other assets last year, often in transactions with unknown parties, has some ethics experts concerned about conflicts of interest. A spokesman for the couple said they have complied with all ethics rules. ■