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White House gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expanded powers for US troops on border

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that he had been granted authority to allow troops on the Mexican border greater powers to help protect border officials, and would await direction from the Department of Homeland Security.

Reuters reported on Monday that the White House was likely to give troops authority to protect Customs and Border Protection agents stationed along the U.S. border with Mexico if they come under threat from migrants seeking to cross into the United States.

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Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Mattis confirmed that he had been given the additional authority, but would await a request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before deciding how to use it.

“I have the authority to do more, now we’ll see what she asks me for,” Mattis said, referring to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He said he had no immediate intention of changing the mission.

Mattis said, depending on the DHS request, that troops may be given powers to temporarily detain migrants, but not the authority to arrest them. They would only be permitted to detain migrants for “minutes, not even hours” while they hand them over to border agents.

He said troops could help protect the border agents with shields and batons, but would be unarmed.

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Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a memo signed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly gave Mattis the authority to protect immigration agents and if necessary, could include actions like use of lethal force, crowd control, temporary detention and cursory searches.

The deployment of about 5,800 active duty troops to the Mexico border to bolster defenses ahead of the expected arrival of a caravan of mostly Honduran migrants has raised questions in Congress and among legal experts about troop deployments on U.S. soil.

The Pentagon has said in the past that there were no plans for U.S. forces to interact with migrants and that they have been carrying out support tasks.

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The Posse Comitatus Act, a federal law on the books since the 1870s, restricts using the U.S. Army and other main branches of the military for civilian law enforcement on U.S. soil, unless specifically authorized by Congress.

“There is no violation of Posse Comitatus, there’s no violation here at all,” Mattis said.

Asked if the border mission could be extended, Mattis said it was dependent on the situation, but at least some troops would be back home before Christmas. He also said that fresh troops could be assigned new missions.

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The mission is currently authorized through Dec. 15.

Reporting by Idrees Ali, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Trump demands Ukraine whistleblower testify as impeachment inquiry heats up

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Donald Trump demanded Monday that a whistleblower whose warning about the US president's call with Ukraine triggered the impeachment inquiry against him be identified and testify before Congress.

As the president menaced the person who exposed his potential wrongdoing, Trump faced a new setback with his former top Russia advisor, Fiona Hill, sitting for a closed-door deposition Monday before Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Hill served in the National Security Council but left the administration shortly before Trump's July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

Democrats expect her to share her concerns about Trump's involvement in the Ukraine scandal, including his ouster of the US ambassador to Kiev Marie Yovanovitch, who testified to Congress last week.

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‘Tighter’: Actress Ellen Barkin praises women impeachment witnesses who have Trump’s ‘balls in their fist’

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Actor and producer Ellen Barkin on Monday celebrated the women who have testified against President Donald Trump in the House impeachment inquiry.

Writing on Twitter, Barkin made reference leaked audio in which Trump said that he could grab women by the genitals because he was famous. She also praised former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and former White House aide on Russia Fiona Hill, who are cooperating with House Democrats and the impeachment proceedings.

"Not gonna be much pussy grabbin with his balls in their fists," Barkin wrote on Monday.

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Bill Barr slammed for his ‘incredibly disturbing’ — and false — attack on secularism

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During a speech at Notre Dame’s law school this Friday, US Attorney General William Barr disparaged the rising tide of secularism in America, saying that a lack of religion is tied to societal ills like violence and drug abuse.

“Basically every measure of this social pathology continues to gain ground,” Barr said, adding that problems in society are the result of “moral upheaval.”

“Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence and a deadly drug epidemic,” he continued.

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