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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Driving New Energy And Money To Progressive Candidates

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After defeating a Democratic Party boss, she’s a new kingmaker — and even the establishment wants in.

At a Democratic gubernatorial candidate forum in Detroit on Monday, progressive underdog Abdul El-Sayed knew just the thing to get the crowd going.

“Who here has heard of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?” he asked.

Had they ever. More than 600 miles away from Ocasio-Cortez’s district, the crowd of several hundred Michiganders roared with excitement.

“She showed us that when we are honest about our message, when we are truthful about where our money comes from, when we are willing to speak clearly about the policies we believe in, and we are willing to stand up to the establishment, we win elections,” El-Sayed continued.

El-Sayed, a 33-year-old former Detroit health commissioner and first-time candidate, is one of a lucky handful of left-wing contenders basking in the power of Ocasio-Cortez’s sudden stardom. Earlier in the day, Ocasio-Cortez had used her massive Twitter platform to endorse El-Sayed. He has since picked up an additional 2,500 Twitter followers and is awash in national press inquiries.

Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former Bernie Sanders organizer who just a few short weeks ago was scolding establishment Democrats on Twitter for ignoring her campaign, now has 600,000 followers hanging on every 280-character missive ― far more than the typical rank-and-file member of Congress.

And those same establishment Democrats are now knocking on her door. A little over a week since her upset of Joe Crowley, the Democratic Party boss of Queens County, Ocasio-Cortez finds herself as an unlikely kingmaker.

She’s used her newfound power to boost the political fortunes of a slew of candidates ― most but not all of whom are backed by the Justice Democrats, a group that played an integral role in Ocasio-Cortez’s bid and is dedicated to unseating corporate Democrats.

But there are also signs establishment Democrats are hoping her newfound fame can boost the party’s general election fortunes as well ― EMILY’s List and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have both reached out to Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign. (Gillibrand congratulated her on the phone the day after the big win.)

Democratic strategists believe an email signed by Ocasio-Cortez would be an instant moneymaker, and that her endorsements and campaign stops could help drive progressives to the polls in November. 

“She represents the future of our party,” Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said Wednesday morning on “The Bill Press Show.”

In addition to El-Sayed, Ocasio-Cortez has given the nod to nine congressional candidates: Delaware Senate challenger Kerri Harris; Kaniela Ing in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District; Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts’ 7th; Brent Welder in Kansas’ 3rd; Cori Bush in Missouri’s 1st; Chardo Richardson in Florida’s 7th; Sarah Smith in Washington state’s 9th; and Linsey Fagan in Texas’ 26th. 

She’s also sent a fundraising email for incumbent Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to endorse her bid, and used her list to plug a trio of insurgent New York candidates ― gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon; state attorney general hopeful Zephyr Teachout; and state Senate contender Julia Salazar. 

The Ocasio-Cortez bump, these campaigns say, is noticeable almost immediately.

From the second she tweeted my name, everything changed.Cori Bush, Democratic candidate, Missouri’s 1st Congressional District

Brent Welder, a labor attorney and former Sanders campaign organizer, touted Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement in an email fundraiser and tripled his weekly fundraising haul from about $17,000 to well over $56,000.

From a simple Ocasio-Cortez tweet blessing his bid, Kaniela Ing, a 29-year-old state lawmaker and fellow member of the Democratic Socialists of America, has seen his Twitter following double. His campaign quickly raised nearly $10,000 in small contributions online. Cori Bush, who is challenging 10-term Rep. William Lacy Clay in Missouri, said she had raised between $17,000 and $18,000 in the past week. She spent last Tuesday texting with Ocasio-Cortez, and was jubilant when she won.

“I cried for hours. I mean, literally, for hours,” Bush said. And the subsequent endorsement has helped her campaign: “From the second she tweeted my name, everything changed.”  

Closer to Ocasio-Cortez’s base in Queens and the Bronx, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nixon raised $25,000 in the 24 hours after Ocasio-Cortez’s election for her primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and got 1,200 more email signups; in the week since, she’s picked up 30,000 more Instagram followers. For her part, Salazar scooped up more than $20,000 last week ― triple the amount she raised in the previous week.

And the boost is going beyond money. Ayanna Pressley, a Boston city councilwoman whose challenge to Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) bears at least a superficial resemblance to Ocasio-Cortez’s bid against Crowley ― though Capuano allies have been quick to point out the differences ― saw volunteers flood in last week from Providence, Worcester and Martha’s Vineyard, her campaign said. And the day after Ocasio-Cortez’s win last Tuesday, El-Sayed did his first national TV hit ― a primetime interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN.

For her part, Kerri Harris, a military veteran and nonprofit leader taking on three-term incumbent Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), raised $15,000 last week ― nearly as much as she had raised in over four months of campaigning up to that point. Her Twitter following grew five-fold and volunteers have come out of the woodwork.

“While people were excited [before], they were also like, ‘I don’t know. We don’t want to waste our vote.’ And now they’re raring to go!” said Harris, who drove up to New York City on election eve to volunteer for Ocasio-Cortez.

And in what might be the ultimate sign of Ocasio-Cortez’s appeal, candidates with no ties to her are trying to grab onto her coattails. Ammar Campa-Najjar, a progressive running in Southern California’s 50th District, has invoked her victory in Facebook ads, as have House candidates in Kansas, Washington state and Minnesota. 

As the number of candidates seeking Ocasio-Cortez’s support grows, however, decisions are likely to get harder for the celebrated candidate and her allies. An endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez is essentially cost-free, but for Justice Democrats, who staffed her campaign in the final months, investing money in a race is a tougher call.

Corbin Trent, executive director of Justice Democrats, knows that all too well. About a year ago, Justice Democrats concluded that the best use of their resources would be to go “all in” for Ocasio-Cortez. They finally implemented the decision at the beginning of this year, shifting scarce money and staff to her campaign ― and disappointing some of the other candidates they had endorsed in the process.

Now Trent estimates that Ocasio-Cortez is capable of raising $2 to $3 million more to support other like-minded candidates.  

“We still can’t help everybody,” he said. “Everybody’s gonna get a little bump, but I think we got enough juice right now to win two or three more races this cycle.”

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Rochester School Won’t Let Its First Black Valedictorian Speak, So Mayor Does

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Jaisaan Lovett of Rochester, New York, became the first black valedictorian in his school’s history. As graduation approached, he expected to give a speech at the commencement ceremony for the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men, just as past valedictorians had done.

But for reasons that remain unclear, that speaking invitation didn’t come. And according to Lovett, when he sought permission to give remarks from the school’s principal, Joseph Munno, the answer was no. 

“He didn’t want to see the speech or what it said, nothing,” Lovett said in an interview with The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “He just said no.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, for whose office Lovett works as an intern, intervened. Upon hearing what happened to Lovett, who will go on to study with a full scholarship at Clark Atlanta University, she gave him a platform to deliver his speech. Then she posted video of the speech to YouTube, and shared the post on Facebook and Twitter. 

″Unfortunately Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said before handing the mic over to Lovett. “For some reason, his school, in a country where freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and the city of Frederick Douglass, turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.” 

Lovett then delivered his speech, which sought to inspire others to succeed and thanked his parents for supporting him during his time at UPrep. He also took a moment to address his principal, who he said he had clashed with in the past.

“I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here, and I’m still here strong,” Lovett said.

As news of the school’s refusal and the mayor’s intervention went viral, the UPrep Board of Trustees posted a message on the school’s Facebook page indicating they were looking into the situation and unable to comment publicly due to privacy reasons. The school did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

“We are aware of the concern with the Valedictorian not speaking at graduation. The Board will be reviewing the circumstances regarding what happened and looking into the related guidelines and school policies,” the message states. “UPrep wishes Jaisaan Lovett, the first black Valedictorian in the school’s four year graduation history, much success as he continues his education at Clark Atlanta University.”

The UPrep ruckus comes weeks after school officials cut the mic during a valedictorian’s commencement address in California. 

Petaluma High School senior Lulabel Seitz was abruptly silenced when she was about to talk about being sexually assaulted at school and the administration’s handling of her experience. She finished her remarks without a microphone at graduation and posted video of her speech in its entirety to YouTube.

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Russia Tried To Help Trump Win 2016 Election, Senate Intelligence Committee Reaffirms

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“The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to ... hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.”

A Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday supports three U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Republican-led committee’s finding suggests the panel continues to conduct a bipartisan inquiry into the issue amid political rancor between Republicans and Democrats on allegations that Moscow interfered in the election.

“As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the (Intelligence Community Assessment’s) findings were accurate and on point,” said committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat.

“The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton (Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton) and to help Donald Trump,” Warner said.

Separate from congressional inquiries, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any Republican Trump’s election campaign members coordinated with Moscow officials.

Neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which reported the intelligence agencies’ findings in January 2017, nor the Senate committee has concluded that Trump’s campaign or aides colluded with Russia.

The committee is still investigating any possible collusion, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, officials said.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, asked by reporters on Tuesday about the Senate panel’s report while traveling with Trump on Air Force One to West Virginia, said: “The president has been very clear and has said it many times that he feels the Russians meddled in the election.”

The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, dominated by Republicans sympathetic to Trump, found no conclusive evidence proving collusion. But House panel Republicans, in a report on April 27, did say that Russia ran an information warfare campaign to disrupt the election.

The Kremlin denies meddling and Trump denies collusion. On June 28, Trump said on Twitter that “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling on Our Election!”

The following day, however, he told reporters that he planned to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet on July 16 in Helsinki.

According to public records and congressional officials, the Senate Intelligence Committee report is the latest of four election-related inquiries on which the panel’s Republicans and Democrats continue to cooperate.

Earlier, the committee held a public hearing and issued a report on the security of U.S. election systems, on which there was no partisan dissent. 

Committee Democrats also are collaborating with Republicans on an inquiry that is likely to cite former President Barack Obama and his administration for moving too slowly to probe evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Committee Democrats and Republicans also are working together on an examination of the role social media played in influencing U.S. voters, and may hold hearings on that issue.

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Canada announces billions in retaliatory tariffs, says it will not back down

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Canada struck back at the Trump administration over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on Friday, vowing to impose punitive measures on C$16.6 billion ($12.63 billion) worth of American goods until Washington relents.

The announcement by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland marks a new low in ties between the neighbors and trading partners which have become increasingly strained since U.S. President Donald Trump took power in January 2017.

The Canadian tariffs will come into effect on July 1 and largely target U.S. steel and aluminum products, but also foodstuffs such as coffee, ketchup and whiskies, according to a list by the Department of Finance. https://tinyurl.com/y8w5g895

"We will not escalate and we will not back down," Freeland told reporters at a Stelco Holdings Inc plant in the Ontario steel city of Hamilton.

Officials say the measures are designed in part to pressure Trump by focusing on goods from states where his political allies hold sway.

Canada's Liberal party government said last month it would retaliate after Trump moved against steel and aluminum imports from Canada and other nations, citing security grounds.

"We are acting very much in sorrow, not in anger," said Freeland, stressing the closeness of the overall relationship. Bilateral trade is worth around C$2 billion a day.

Freeland said she had already spoken to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer six times this week and was prepared to meet at any time to tackle the issue.

Ottawa also unveiled an aid package for affected industries and workers worth up to C$2 billion, consisting mainly of up to C$1.7 billion in commercial financing and insurance for firms in the steel and aluminum sectors and related industries.

The Trump administration is studying whether to put tariffs on Canadian autos, which economists say would help plunge the economy into a recession. Freeland called the idea "absolutely absurd."

The U.S. embassy in Ottawa said it had no immediate comment.

While opposition parties have so far largely backed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for standing up to Trump, their support could be tested once the U.S. tariffs start to bite.

Trudeau, who usually attends celebrations in Ottawa on July 1 to mark the Canada Day holiday, will instead spend part of the weekend with families of steel workers in the western province of Saskatchewan, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Twitter. Goodale is from Saskatchewan, where Evraz plc has a major plant.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said earlier this month the tariffs were designed in part to stop cheap steel entering the United States via Canada and other countries.

Ottawa would take measures to stop the dumping of steel in the coming weeks once it had finished consulting stakeholders, said Canadian Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, appearing at the same event as Freeland.

In Washington, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said the tariffs would hit $170 million worth of U.S. beef products.

"We believe that cooperation is a better path forward than escalation," said Kent Bacus, the association's director of international trade and market access.

U.S. officials have also linked the tariffs to slow progress in talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump says is a disaster and must be changed.

Freeland said she expected the negotiations would enter an intensive phase after a Mexican presidential election on July 1.

($1=1.3141 Canadian dollars)

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Juan Williams: My immigrant story

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Raffi, my youngest child, wore his grandfather’s watch on his wedding day.

The classic with a sepia-toned dial symbolized the idea that, even as time passes, family bonds of love endure.

So what a painful contrast to my moment of joy a week ago to now see families being torn apart on the southern border.

How could an American president intentionally separate children from parents — break up families — as a new policy to deter immigrants from coming to the USA?

I understand that Trump plays politics with immigrants. He has even proposed cutting legal immigration in half. And he displayed indifference to family bonds when he proposed ending the family reunification standard that has been the hallmark of American immigration.

Last year, he went after immigrant children when he tore up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows youngsters brought here illegally — but who grew up in America, attended school here and even served in the U.S. military — to legally remain here.

This is being done by a president who recently described immigrants coming to America as an “infestation”? Of course, he began his run for president by demonizing Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

Well, Mr. Trump, let me tell you a great American story: I came to this country as a child immigrant.

My mother left Panama in 1958 after it became clear to her and my dad that the rule of dictator Arnulfo Arias had narrowed the doors of education and economic opportunity for my sister, my brother and for me.

My mom was nearly 50 when she left behind everything she knew to give her kids a chance at a better life. She did not want us growing up amid the gut-wrenching poverty, anti-black bigotry and the violence that was festering in our hometown of Colon.

My dad stayed behind as she took the children — then aged 4, 11 and 14 — to America as added cargo on a banana boat bound for New York. Yes, a banana boat.  

Fast-forward 60 years to last weekend’s wedding.

My brother, sister, and I are now the elders in three blessed, successful families.

When I say we are successful, I am saying we have earned our way as Americans.

My mom worked for minimum wage in a sweat shop in lower Manhattan to support us.

But that immigrant with the fourth grade education lived to see her daughter get a doctorate from Harvard. She saw my brother get his law degree from New York University. She read my writing in The Washington Post and The Hill, and watched me do political commentary on Fox News Channel. She even took a trip with me to a rural Virginia factory to watch as one of my best-selling books rolled off the presses.

None of this would have been possible had a demagogue like Trump been president. Imagine if President Eisenhower talked about “shithole” countries and separated me from my mother as our family sacrificed to become part of the great American story.  

Former First Lady Laura Bush understands:

“I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel,” she wrote in the Washington Post. “It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) understands the deep bonds of family under attack by Trump.

“As an immigrant, I know the magnetic power of America's greatness… As an American, I know that kids shouldn't be pawns while the ‘adults’ figure it out,” Schwarzenegger tweeted.

Other Republicans, however, are in the grips of Trump’s anti-immigrant mania.

Ann Coulter said crying children were “child actors.”

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski dismissed a story about a child with Down’s Syndrome being separated from his parents by making a mocking sound: “Womp, Womp.”

At rallies, Trump compares refugees to poisonous snakes that will eventually kill anyone that takes them into a home. And he highlights any criminal act by an immigrant as if immigrants have a higher rate of criminal activity than native-born Americans. That is just another Trump lie. But it is damaging to real people trying to join the American family.

Trump at first said breaking families apart was a deterrent to illegal immigrants. When statistics showed that was not true, he said it was up to Congress to change the law. But when he signed an executive order ending his family separation policy, that was revealed to be another lie.

At no point did Trump act out of concern for families and children.

He reversed himself only after a CBS News Poll found 67 percent of Americans said it was unacceptable to cut children away from their parents. Even 39 percent of self-described Republicans said it was unacceptable — along with 90 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independent voters.

“It is fitting that President Trump has been forced into retreat by babies. Cruelty should never be mistaken for strength,” Karen Tumulty wrote in the Washington Post.

My family came here as legal immigrants. But illegal immigrant children are the most vulnerable. And now Trump reduces them to collateral damage as he attempts to force Congress to give him money for a symbolic border wall.

The facts show the wall is all about politics because most illegal immigrants overstay visas and most illegal drugs come through legal ports of entry.

Raffi and his bride Morgan’s wedding was a celebration of the strength of family bonds and children yet to be born. That is America the beautiful.

But in the same week, our country lost the moral high ground that once allowed President Reagan to single us out to the world as the “shining city on the hill.”

Mr. Trump, have you no heart?

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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READ MORE: http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/393887-juan-williams-my-immigrant-story

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