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Jim Mattis rejects criticism of sending US troops to border

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday rejected criticism that deploying thousands of troops to the border with Mexico was a political stunt.

“The support that we provide to the secretary for homeland security is practical support based on the request from the commissioner of customs and border police, so we don’t do stunts in this department,” Mattis said after a meeting with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon.

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Several groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have accused President Donald Trump of politicizing the military ahead of next week’s midterm elections.

Trump has hardened his stance on immigration ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections. He has drawn attention to a caravan of migrants that is trekking through Mexico toward the United States as he seeks to fire up support for fellow Republicans in campaign battles with Democrats who are trying to wrest control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

Republican lawmakers and other Trump supporters have applauded the deployment. But critics say Trump is politicizing the military, deploying them as a stunt to drive Republican voters to the polls without any real national security threat.

“The move to send 5,200 active duty troops to the southern border is a craven political stunt that sets a bad precedent and is arguably an abuse of power,” Kelly Magsamen, a former senior Pentagon official, said. She is currently with the Center for the think tank American Progress.

The deployment will create an active-duty force comparable in size to the U.S. military contingent in Iraq.

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Trump’s decision to call in the military appears to be a departure from past practice. At least in recent years, such operations were carried out by National Guard forces, largely part-time military members often called upon in response to domestic emergencies.

A U.S. official told Reuters that as of Wednesday the Pentagon had identified about 7,000 active-duty troops, which included about 2,000 on standby, that could be deployed to the border with Mexico if needed.

On Tuesday, the top U.S. general overseeing a deployment of more than 5,200 troops to the border said troop levels would rise further, but declined to say how high or estimate what the operation will cost.

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Many basic questions remained unanswered days after the Pentagon announcement, including the scope of the mission as well as the Pentagon’s assessment of any threat posed by arriving migrants.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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Jared Kushner’s ties to Saudis could be fair game if Trump keeps going after Hunter Biden: Dem lawmaker

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On MSNBC's "AM Joy," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) laid out the case for impeaching President Donald Trump — and warned of the consequences for Trump's own family at the hands of future presidents if he is allowed to get away with it.

"He abused his power by trying to trade government resources for a political favor, to knock out a political rival in Joe Biden, the guy that he thought would emerge as nominee for 2020," said Castro. "We can't set a precedent where Congress says it's okay for a president to do that, because if we do that then a few things will happen. Number one, it opens the door for Donald Trump to do it again or a future president to do it again. To ask a country to interfere in our elections and knock out a political rival by digging up dirt."

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Melania Trump scorched by columnist for standing by president’s Thunberg bullying: ‘Indefensible’

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In a piece for the Washington Post, columnist Karen Tumulty called out first lady Melania Trump for her statement defending her husband's bullying of 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg in a fit of jealousy after she was selected Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

Responding to a statement from the White House that stated, “BeBest is the First Lady’s initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children. It is no secret that the President and First Lady often communicate differently — as most married couples do. Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches. He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy,” Tumulty wasn't having it.

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BUSTED: Devin Nunes is hiding how he’s paying for all his frivolous lawsuits — which could land him in more trouble

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On Saturday, the Fresno Bee dived into a lingering question: How does Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) pay for all the lawsuits he is filing against journalists, satirists, and political critics?

"Nunes, R-Tulare, has filed lawsuits against Twitter, anonymous social media users known as Devin Nunes' Cow and Devin Nunes' Mom, a Republican political strategist, media companies, journalists, progressive watchdog groups, a political research firm that worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and a retired farmer in Nunes’ own district," noted the Bee.

These lawsuits were mainly filed in Virginia — a state with very loose laws against so-called "SLAPP suits," or meritless lawsuits intended to drown people in legal expenses in retaliation for expressing political opinions. Nunes was assisted in these suits by Steven Biss, a Virginia attorney, and yet except for the suit against the retired farmer, there is no clear record in Nunes' FEC reports of how he paid for the suits.

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