Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With Allie Bice and Louis Nelson
DONALD TRUMP is no longer in charge of U.S. immigration policy. But his nominees (and other GOP-nominated federal judges) are making it plenty hard for JOE BIDEN to unravel the policies Trump implemented during four years in the White House.
Tuesday night, the Supreme Court — stocked with three Trump-nominated justices — refused to stop a recent order from a Trump-nominated federal judge for the Biden administration to reinstate the policy known as “Remain in Mexico.” The six Republican-appointed justices on the Court denied the Biden administration’s request, while the three Democrat-appointed justices indicated they would have granted a stay of the lower court order.
The Trump-era program, which was first implemented in January 2019 and is formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, forces asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. southern border to remain in Mexico while they wait for their cases to be heard. Biden ended that program his first day in office.
It was an opening salvo that Biden supporters and immigrant advocates regarded as necessary to undoing Trump’s “cruel” policies and implementing Biden’s promised “fair and humane” immigration system.
But U.S. District Court Judge MATTHEW KACSMARYK, a Trump appointee confirmed in 2019, blocked Biden from moving forward with the policy earlier this month.
Early in Biden’s term, a different Trump nominee in Texas, U.S. District Judge DREW TIPTON, blocked Biden’s 100-day deportation moratorium. Tipton last week also blocked the administration from limiting who can be arrested and deported by immigration agents. And last month, another Texas-based federal judge — ANDREW HANEN, who was nominated by President George W. Bush — ruled that the Obama-era DACA program is unlawful and blocked the administration from approving new applications.
The series of legal defeats pose a political and logistical nightmare for Biden: How can he deliver on his immigration agenda if some of his hallmark promises are being blocked by the courts? How does he (and will he) reinstate the “Remain in Mexico” policy that is tied to more than 1,500 reported cases of murders, rape, kidnapping and other assaults of migrants sent back to Mexico? And will Mexico — a sovereign country not bound to the Supreme Court’s decision — even accept the program’s return?
“The government must take all steps available to fully end this illegal program,” said OMAR JADWAT, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “What it must not do is use this decision as cover for abandoning its commitment to restore a fair asylum system.”
The Department of Homeland Security, for its part, said on Tuesday night that it will “continue to vigorously challenge” the U.S. district court’s order and regrets that the Supreme Court didn’t issue a stay. But it acknowledged that the agency has begun to engage with Mexico on the issue and will “comply with the order in good faith.” Mexico’s government hasn’t dished any details on its position, but confirmed it would be speaking to U.S. officials on Wednesday.
In the short term, it’s unclear how the Biden administration will be able to show its “good faith” attempt to reinstate the policy — or what exactly it has to demonstrate to the court to win in the appeals process.
The “Remain in Mexico” program forces migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico until their case is heard. But the Biden administration continues to employ Title 42, a public health order first utilized under Trump, to expel a majority of migrants without allowing them to seek asylum. In other words: thousands of migrants are already being sent back to Mexico under the pandemic-era policy and the reinstatement of MPP means many more could now be sent there.
Many Democrats, immigration attorneys and immigrant advocates echoed the same message in response to the high court’s order: Biden must not back down and reinstate the policy, even if revised.
Republicans were quick to celebrate the Supreme Court’s order. Trump adviser STEPHEN MILLER, who’s largely responsible for Trump immigration policies, took to Twitter to congratulate Texas Attorney General KEN PAXTON for successfully suing over Biden’s repeal of the policy. Paxton showered Miller with praise in return: “Great team work!”
Trump himself, meanwhile, called on other state leaders to rally against Biden’s policies: “Other State Attorneys General should follow suit and go after every one of Biden’s unlawful border and immigration policies,” the former president urged in a Wednesday statement.
Do you work in the Biden administration? Are you in touch with the White House? Are you MAURA OOI?
With the Partnership for Public Service
This ones a toughie — which five presidents were cheerleaders while in school?
(Answer at the bottom.)
31 DOWN — Second sister MAYA HARRIS noticed she was the answer on today’s New York Times’ crossword puzzle. The hint for 31 down?
____ Harris, sister and campaign chair of Kamala. (too easy)
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: Secretary of State TONY BLINKEN’s speech this afternoon on Afghanistan (you can watch here). The White House communications and press teams tweeted or retweeted elements of the speech over a dozen times.
In particular, they wanted people to notice that he said at least 4,500 American citizens have been evacuated, that the State Department continues to be “relentless in our outreach” to U.S. citizens, and that “there is no deadline” when it comes to trying to help Americans and Afghans allies leave the country, even if U.S. troops leave by the 31st.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: The Atlantic’s RUSSELL BERMAN reminds us that even if the Biden administration survives Afghanistan politically,, it’s Covid-19 that’s the bigger problem for the president. An NBC poll found the percentage of people who said the worst of the pandemic was behind us plummeted by 24 points from April to August.
“For many Americans, the surging Delta variant has snuffed out the optimism they had in the spring. Consumer confidence has dropped sharply during the summer, as has the public’s overall assessment of the economy,” Berman says.
AND: BILL McINTURFF, partner at Public Opinion Strategies who has helped conduct the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, tweeted today that: “Biden at new low in 17 years of tracking his feeling thermometer. Harris lower than any first year VP going back to 1993. Clean sweep. Pelosi has her highest negative rating in 16 years of tracking @NBCNews surveys. All before the full weight of the impact of Afghanistan hits.”
CALIFORNIA NIGHTMARE — With California Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM’s recall election less than three weeks away, White House press secretary JEN PSAKI said the president “does still plan to go and campaign for Governor Newsom.” She didn’t provide further details.
Vice President KAMALA HARRIS is making a stop in her home state to help Newsom on Friday, as she makes her way home from a Vietnam/Singapore trip. Biden has voiced his support for the embattled Democratic governor, including via a lengthy Twitter statement. Polling has shown the election is close.
Psaki didn’t take the bait when asked by San Francisco Chronicle reporter TAL KOPAN whether the White House sees the recall as a referendum on Democratic policies: “I will leave the analysis on the roots of the recall to others,” she said.
AHEM: Speaking of “others,” former Obama senior adviser DAN PFEIFFER wrote a piece this week about the recall and why a Newsom loss would hurt Biden and Democrats. “All across the country, Republicans will be emboldened. Money will pour into Republican campaign coffers. The message will be that if a Republican can win in California, they can win anywhere,” he warned in his newsletter ‘The Message Box.”
“The media will treat the election as a massive rebuke of Joe Biden and the Democratic agenda. As unfair and inaccurate as this assessment may be, the coverage will be brutal,” Pfeiffer continued. “I worry that it could imperil the Democratic legislative agenda much as the 2010 loss of a Senate seat in Massachusetts nearly stopped Obamacare in its tracks.”
KLAIN “LIKES”: Chief of staff RON KLAIN is tweeting through it. Today, he “liked” this post from New York Magazine writer ERIC LEVITZ, who wrote there is “no proud way to lose a war to a cult of heroin-dealing child rapists.” Levitz also linked to his piece headlined “The Media Manufactured Biden’s Political ‘Fiasco’ in Afghanistan.”
MILWAUKEE —> LUXEMBOURG — Biden will nominate Milwaukee Mayor TOM BARRETT to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s ALISON DIRR, DANIEL BICE and MARY SPICUZZA report. Barrett was first elected mayor in 2004, most recently winning another four-year term in 2020.
NED’S NEW BOSS: Former Obama-Biden aide LIZ ALLEN is joining the Biden administration as assistant secretary of State for global public affairs.
Allen was deputy director of communications to Biden as vice president. She took a leave of absence from her public affairs firm Finsbury Glover Hering to serve as Harris’ communications director on the Biden-Harris ticket last year.
State Department spokesperson NED PRICE will report to her, as Axios first reported.
HURRY UP — Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN said in a memo Wednesday that military troops must immediately begin to get the Covid-19 vaccine, and ordered service leaders to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation,” the AP reports. A gigantic swath of service members still haven’t received the vaccine: more than 800,000, according to Pentagon data.
GOP governors: White House schoolyard brawl tests limits of local control (Politico’s Juan Perez Jr., Daniel Payne and Mackenzie Mays)
2 U.S. lawmakers’ Kabul trip prompts Biden administration fury (AP’s Lolita Baldor)
Harris, in Vietnam, gets a dose of China’s challenge to the U.S. (Washington Post’s Shibani Mahtani)
The president began his day meeting his national security team to discuss Afghanistan. He then met with Cabinet members and officials on his national security team, as well as private sector and education leaders to discuss cybersecurity. Among the attendees: JPMorgan Chase Chair and CEO JAMIE DIMON, Apple CEO TIM COOK and Microsoft’s SATYA NADELLA.
He then signed Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act and the Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act into law.
Harris held a call with the Vietnam Vice President VÕ THỊ ÁNH XU N, and later, held meetings with Vietnam’s President NGUYỄN XU N PHÚC and Prime Minister PHẠM MINH CHÍNH.
She delivered remarks to commemorate the launch of the CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office. Following the event, she participated in a lease signing event for the U.S. Embassy.
Even when FTC chair LINA KHAN is supposed to be taking a break from work… she doesn’t really seem to.
Khan married doctor SHAH ALI and according to the New York Times back in 2018, the two brought very different leisurely reads to their honeymoon trip to Hawaii.
Ali brought a copy of JANE AUSTEN’s “Persuasion,” because he hadn’t read it in awhile. Khan, whose academic paper on Amazon’s monopoly put her on the antitrust’s world’s map, brought a book “on corporations and American democracy.”
Not exactly our idea of a beach read.
GEORGE W. BUSH, GEORGE H.W. BUSH, RONALD REAGAN, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER and FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT.
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Edited by Emily Cadei