Joker: Ken Cuccinelli, readying once more to roil Homeland Security?

 

 

 

 

Ken Cuccinelli Emerges as Public Face, and Irritant, of Homeland Security

By Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Maggie Haberman

Sept. 5, 2019

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/05/us/politics/ken-cuccinelli-immigration-trump.html

[Excerpts:]

WASHINGTON — As Donald J. Trump moved to wrap up his unlikely Republican nomination for the presidency, a senior adviser to Senator Ted Cruz laced into the front-runner in March 2016, in a last-ditch effort to swing the contest to Mr. Cruz, the more traditionally conservative candidate.

The target? Mr. Trump’s soft stand on immigrant workers.

“He uses the immigrants in ways that advantage him monetarily but disadvantage American citizens,” Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II said of Mr. Trump’s hiring of temporary foreign employees for Trump resorts from Florida to New Jersey. “He says it’s wrong,” Mr. Cuccinelli told a radio interviewer, “but he still does it.”

Three years later, the president and Mr. Cuccinelli have put aside their differences to make common cause in a pursuit of the fiercest anti-immigration agenda in generations. As the acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mr. Cuccinelli now oversees legal immigration, including the visa program that he once criticized and Mr. Trump made rich use of in staffing resorts such as Mar-a-Lago in Florida and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

From that seemingly narrow perch, he has roiled the Department of Homeland Security, peppering other senior officials with pointed email demands, encroaching on Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations and generally appointing himself spokesman for all things immigration in the Trump administration.

In Mr. Cuccinelli, Mr. Trump has found someone to his right on immigration but perfectly in line with his street-fighting skills.

Mr. Cuccinelli, a descendant of Italian immigrants who sought sanctuary at Ellis Island, was recruited initially as the administration’s immigration czar, with the broadest possible portfolio. Within days, though, he was redirected to head Citizenship and Immigration Services. The more limited job description has not hindered Mr. Cuccinelli. If the White House adviser Stephen Miller is the architect of Mr. Trump’s effort to restrict both legal and illegal immigration, Mr. Cuccinelli has emerged as its public face.

He has aggressively pushed immigration policies with little concern for legal constraints. His tendency to make light of sensitive policies has incensed senior homeland security officials, including the acting secretary, Kevin K. McAleenan, and the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Matthew T. Albence, according to administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the rising tension among officials.

Signature Cuccinelli initiatives include efforts to speed up asylum screenings, to make it harder for children of some active service members born abroad to obtain citizenship and to force immigrants facing life-threatening health crises to return to their home countries (the administration recently announced that it would reconsider the last decision).

His agency also put in place a rule that would deny legal status to immigrants deemed likely to use government benefit programs. A day after announcing that “public charge” policy, Mr. Cuccinelli revised the iconic sonnet on the Statue of Liberty by saying the United States would welcome those “who can stand on their own two feet.”

From the start, his political career — he was a state senator from 2002 to 2010 before becoming Virginia’s attorney general — was marked by his hard-line stand on immigration at a time when his home base, extending to parts of Fairfax County in the far suburbs of Washington, was divided by an influx of first-generation Americans.

He proposed legislation that would allow employers to fire employees who did not speak English, advocated denying citizenship to the American-born children of undocumented immigrants and provoked backlash as attorney general when he referred to immigration policy while discussing killing rats in Washington.

He defended a Virginia law that criminalized sodomy, advocated prohibiting Virginia state universities from protecting same-sex couples from discrimination and investigated the University of Virginia to obtain documents related to the work of a scientist who studied climate change, accusing the professor of fraud. He issued edited pins of the state seal for his staff to wear with the exposed breast of a Roman goddess covered up.

  

US officials accused of violating Hatch Act by campaigning for Trump

Chantal da Silva

November 3, 2020

[Excerpts:]

Trump administration officials with the Department of Homeland Security have been accused of violating federal law by appearing to campaign for President Donald Trump while on the job on the eve of the presidential election.

Under the Hatch Act of 1939, federal executive branch employees are generally forbidden from engaging in partisan political activities while acting in a professional capacity.

The Act was introduced in large part to help ensure that federal service is not impacted by political pressure or loyalty to a particular party or candidate.

On Monday, however, DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli and US Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan were accused of violating the Act after they held a press conference in Tucson, Arizona, a key battleground state, and repeatedly championed Trump while criticising his detractors.

Originally billed as a press conference to address Twitter’s alleged “censorship” of DHS officials, the event was also touted by the DHS as an opportunity to “separate fact from myth when it comes to reporting on the accomplishments of the department under the Trump administration”.

Throughout the conference, both Cuccinelli and Morgan repeatedly championed Trump for his leadership, with the former official praising “President Trump’s diplomatic leadership” while admonishing “social medial platforms, so-called legacy newspapers and countless talking heads on television” for “having unfairly criticized this president for simply doing what he said he would do.”

Meanwhile, the latter appeared to address the possibility of the press conference being in violation of the Hatch Act head-on at one point, asserting that the comments made at the event were “very much an apolitical statement.”

 

Who Is Ken Cuccinelli? A Primer on Trump’s New Immigration Bigwig

BY ANDREW BEAUJON

MAY 21, 2019

https://www.washingtonian.com/2019/05/21/who-is-ken-cuccinelli-a-primer-on-trumps-new-immigration-bigwig/

President Trump plans to nominate Ken Cuccinelli to “coordinate the administration’s immigration policies,” the New York Times reports. Cuccinelli is no stranger to people who watch cable news, but he’s also a known quantity in this region, where he served as a state senator and Virginia’s attorney general and ran unsuccessfully for governor. He managed to make a lot of headlines in these roles even if his initiatives didn’t always work out. Here are just a few of the Cooch’s greatest hits.

That time he covered a naked breast on the Virginia state seal

In 2010 Cuccinelli gave his staff lapel pins that added a breastplate to the wardrobe of the Roman goddess Virtus. His spokesperson told a reporter his boss noted her “more modest attire“; he reportedly told his staff that the new outfit made Virtus “a little more virtuous.” “You can only conclude that he enjoys being the center of pointless controversy,” Larry Sabato said at the time.

That time he wanted to make speaking Spanish in the workplace a fireable offense

As a state senator, Cuccinelli introduced a proposal that would have sheltered employers who fired employees for not speaking English. “This is the most mean-spirited piece of legislation I have seen in my 30 years down here,” state Senator Richard L. Saslaw told the Washington Post in 2008. Cuccinelli explained to the Post that he was merely looking out for employers who had to pay higher unemployment taxes after firing people for the language they spoke.

That time he advised public colleges they could discriminate against gays

Cuccinelli sent a letter to Virginia public colleges and universities in March 2010 that claimed Virginia law didn’t allow the terms “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in their nondiscrimination policies. “How does this protect anyone?” a University of Virginia official told a Daily Progress reporter. “It only hurts people.” Virginia’s Republican governor overrode Cuccinelli after the letter became an object of national derision. “There can’t be any question I was right,” Cuccinelli told Washingtonian.

That time he suggested Virginia make a Beatles tune its state song

The Cooch inserted a footnote into the tortured history of Virginia’s state song when, as a state senator, he proposed “Taxman” should become the state song because Virginians “feel like all they ever get from Richmond is more taxes.”

That time he said gay sex is “intrinsically wrong” and breaks “natural law”

Cuccinelli said that while he had no problem with homosexuality, gay sex represented “behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society.”

That time he “investigated” a University of Virginia scientist

When Cuccinelli was a student at the University of Virginia, he chugged a tumbler of bourbon and had shirts made up that read “yabba grabba brew.” As attorney general, he was decidedly less epic. Exhibit A: his “one-man war on the theory of man-made global warming,” as the New York Times put it, which took the form of hounding a former U.Va academic. The campaign was a total failure, and it cost the public school hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Cuccinelli told Washingtonian his pursuit of the scientist had nothing to do with climate change: “If they studied hammers, we would make the same sorts of inquiries,” he said.

 

Trump considers appointing a far-right conservative ‘immigration tzar’

The top candidates on President Trump’s short list for ‘immigration tsar’ include Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

Sarah Harvard

New York

April 2, 2019

In addition to threatening to shutdown the southern border, Donald Trump is looking into bringing a “border” or “immigration” tsar on board to work on immigration policy across several federal agencies, according to sources familiar with the proposal.

The top candidates on President Trump’s short list for “immigration tsar” include Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, both of whom are far-right conservative views on immigration policy.

Mr Cuccinelli has been known for championing hard-line immigration views including denying citizenship to US-born children of undocumented immigrants, allowing in-state tuition at public universities only for citizens or legal residents, and allowing employees to file lawsuits against their employer if they knowingly hire an undocumented immigrant who took a job from a “law abiding competitor.”

The likely appointment comes on the heels of the president’s threatening call to close the US-Mexican border this week if Mexico does not completely halt undocumented immigration into the country.

 

A Climate Skeptic With a Bully Pulpit in Virginia Finds an Ear in Congress

By John Collins Rudolf

Feb. 22, 2011

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/science/earth/23virginia.html

[Excerpts:]

For nearly a year, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Virginia’s crusading Republican attorney general, has waged a one-man war on the theory of man-made global warming.

Invoking his subpoena powers, he has sought to force the University of Virginia to turn over the files of a prominent climatology professor, asserting that his research may be marred by fraud. The university is battling the move in the courts.

At the same time, Mr. Cuccinelli is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its ruling that carbon dioxide and other global warming gases pose a threat to human health and welfare, describing the science behind the agency’s decision as “unreliable, unverifiable and doctored.”

Responding to those concerns, the new Republican majority has introduced legislation that would strip federal regulators of their power to police the industrial emissions that contribute to climate change. But party leaders, treading warily, have cast their arguments against regulation largely in terms of economic consequences, playing down the prospect of major hearings to examine the scientific basis of human-caused warming.

Even dedicated opponents of climate action concede that hauling climate scientists before Congress and challenging their findings could easily backfire, as many representatives lack a sophisticated grasp of climatology and run the risk of making embarrassing errors.

Meanwhile, a planned investigation by Representative Darrell Issa of California into alleged instances of manipulation and fraud by climate scientists broadly similar to those cited by Mr. Cuccinelli in his legal complaints has been indefinitely postponed.

Yet as the Republican leadership puts the brakes on a climate science confrontation, Mr. Cuccinelli has forged ahead.

In the process, his critics say, he has not only made mistakes, but also twisted facts to bolster his case against the climatologist, Michael E. Mann, now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Sherwood L. Boehlert, a retired Republican congressman from New York and a former chairman of the House Science Committee, is among those who have sharply criticized Mr. Cuccinelli’s tactics.

“I find no logical explanation for spending taxpayer dollars on this politically designed, headline-grabbing pursuit of his,” said Mr. Boehlert, whose panel in 2006 investigated nearly identical charges by climate skeptics that Dr. Mann had falsified results but found no evidence of wrongdoing.

More than 800 professors and scientists in Virginia have petitioned the attorney general to abandon his pursuit of Dr. Mann. As the university fights the investigation, a state judge has ruled substantially in its favor although a final decision has yet to be made.

The case has also been divisive in Virginia politics, with the Democrat-controlled State Senate voting on Feb. 3 to strip Mr. Cuccinelli of the power to investigate future instances of academic fraud at public universities. The following week, senators passed a budget amendment requiring the attorney general to keep detailed expense records on projects that exceed 100 work hours a proposal aimed at forcing Mr. Cuccinelli to open the books on his investigation of Dr. Mann.

Both measures passed easily and with the support of Republicans, including the Senate minority leader, though neither is expected to clear the Republican-held State House.

Mr. Cuccinelli’s conservative views make him no stranger to controversy. Before his election as attorney general in November 2009, he served nearly eight years in the State Senate, where he was known for his hard-right stances on illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, gun control and abortion and for clashing with moderates within his party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

— Mark Twain