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Senate panel delays vote on Trump’s ICE nominee after union complains about ‘NeoKlanist’weet

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The U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee postponed a vote on Wednesday on whether to approve Ronald Vitiello, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Republican Committee Chairman Ron Johnson did not elaborate on the reasons for the delay, but the postponement came one day after ICE’s employee union urged lawmakers to block the nomination amid concerns about past racially tinged and controversial comments Vitiello made on Twitter.

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Johnson told Reuters there are “still outstanding issues” with the nominee.

The panel’s top Democrat, Senator Gary Peters, said in an interview there are “bipartisan concerns” related to Vitiello’s past tweets and that some rank-and file-agents don’t support him.

“I think it will be very difficult for him to get through the committee at this point,” Peters added.

This is the second time the Senate panel has delayed voting on Vitiello’s nomination.

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The committee postponed a vote last November after the union, the National ICE Council, first raised concerns about Vitiello’s fitness for leading the agency.

On Tuesday, union President Chris Crane sent a letter formally asking the panel to oppose Vitiello, saying his prior offensive tweets showed he “lacks the judgment and professionalism to effectively lead a federal agency.”

An ICE representative did not have any immediate comment.

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Vitiello, a former top Customs and Border Protection official, was named ICE acting director in the summer, shortly after Trump ended the controversial policy of separating illegal immigrant children from their parents at the border.

The union’s concerns range from allegations of whistleblower retaliation to offensive tweets he posted while serving at Customs and Border Protection.

In one social media post, Vitiello suggested the Democratic Party should be renamed as “NeoKlanist,” a reference to the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist organization, and in another Vitiello compared then-candidate Trump to the trouble-making “Dennis the Menace” comic and television character. At the time, Crane said, Vitiello’s Twitter account showed him wearing a Border Patrol uniform.

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In his confirmation hearing, Vitiello apologized for the racially tinged tweet and said it was meant as a joke.

ICE spokesman Vincent Picard defended Vitiello on Tuesday, saying the Twitter posts were made from a private account while he was off duty, and that the Office of Special Counsel cleared him of any wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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‘Treason, pure and simple’: GOP challenger Bill Weld condemns Trump’s shady Ukraine dealings

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One of President Donald Trump's Republican challengers condemned his shady Ukraine dealings in the strongest possible terms.

Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld appeared Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," along with GOP challengers Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford, to protest state Republican parties canceling primaries to throttle their campaigns against the president.

"Obviously, canceling primaries undermines democratic institutions and democratic elections, but that's far from the deepest dive crime that the president has committed here," Weld said. "He has now acknowledged that in a single phone call right after he suspended $250 million of military aid to Ukraine, he called up the president of Ukraine and pressed him eight times to investigate Joe Biden, who the president thinks is going to be running against him."

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Republicans can only defend Trump’s lawlessness by engaging in ‘disturbing political gymnastics’: Dem lawmaker

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Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) on Monday told CNN's John Berman that he has been incredibly disturbed by the Republican Party's transformation into a personality cult surrounding President Donald Trump.

In the wake of new revelations about the president repeatedly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, Kildee said he was stunned to see so many Republicans either remaining silent or working to defend the president's actions.

"The framers of our Constitution anticipated the possibility of a rogue presidency," he said. "What they did not anticipate is that an entire political party... would wrap their arms around a president who so clearly is flaunting the law. It's so disturbing to see the political messaging gymnastics that some of these Republicans are doing to try to either divert attention away from this terrible moment or to somehow justify it as if, 'Well, it's really not that bad.'"

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Trump must be removed if the Ukraine scandal is proven: CNN’s John Avlon

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On Monday's edition of CNN's "New Day," fact checker John Avlon broke down the seriousness of the allegations against President Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal — and said that he must be removed as president if the facts are confirmed.

"Perspective is the thing we have least of in our politics," said Avlon. "Let’s put this latest Trump scandal in perspective before the weight of Washington normalization once again defines deviancy down. To investigate his political rival Joe Biden’s son — and keep in mind this was one day after the Mueller hearings on Capitol Hill — the very next day, President Trump is accused of being at it again. This time from the Oval Office potentially using taxpayer dollars as leverage."

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