WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission should be allowed to collect voter information, the administration argued, opposing a lawsuit challenging the panel’s work as infringing on privacy rights.

Since it only asked for publicly available data there is no risk, according to the filing. The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued July 3 to halt the information gathering, saying the commission overreached because it didn’t assess whether it might violate individuals’ privacy rights before going to the states and the District of Columbia.

“The public interest weighs against emergency injunctive relief,” the Justice Department said in a filing Wednesday in federal court in Washington. “The voter data that EPIC seeks to enjoin the Commission from collecting is already made publicly available by the states.”

The Washington-based group had asked U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to halt the information gathering until the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity meets its obligations, and to order destruction or return of any data already collected.

About 40 states have said they’ll reject the information request in whole or in part. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said his state’s laws bar compliance, while Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, a fellow Democrat, said the inquiry “serves no legitimate purpose and only raises questions of intent.”

Republican Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said “they can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL,” Trump responded in a July 1 tweet. “What are they trying to hide?”

Trump created the panel with an executive order on May 11. The president has said his Democratic rival in last year’s presidential election, Hillary Clinton, only won the popular vote because millions of people illegally cast ballots. Clinton garnered almost 3 million more votes, but Trump prevailed via the Electoral College.

—Bloomberg News


9th Circuit panel: Minors who enter US illegally may not be confined without hearing

Minors who enter the U.S. without permission must be given a court hearing to determine whether they can be released, a federal appeals court panel decided unanimously Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said immigration authorities continue to be bound by a 1997 lawsuit settlement that guaranteed court hearings for minor immigrants, set standards for their detention and established a policy in favor of their release.

Following that settlement, Congress passed two laws dealing with unaccompanied minor immigrants. The federal government argued those laws replaced the settlement and revoked the right to bond hearings.

The 9th Circuit disagreed.

“In the absence of such hearings, these children are held in bureaucratic limbo, left to rely upon the (government’s) alleged benevolence and opaque decision making,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Jimmy Carter appointee, wrote for the court.

The settlement of Flores vs. Janet Reno required that juveniles detained near the border or elsewhere without a parent must be given bond hearings.

The hearings gave minors the right to a lawyer, an opportunity to learn and challenge government evidence against them and the right to contest being locked up, the panel said.

The 9th Circuit cited evidence that the government has been holding minors for months or even years without hearings, even when parents are nearby and can care for them.

—Los Angeles Times


Some Fed officials want to start reducing assets ‘within a couple of months,’ minutes show

WASHINGTON — Several Federal Reserve officials wanted to start reducing the trillions of dollars of assets held by the central bank “within a couple of months” to accelerate the return to a more normal monetary policy after years of battling the Great Recession, according to an account released Wednesday of their most recent meeting.

But other members of the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee advocated for waiting until later this year to start slowly scaling back the Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet to allow more time to assess the state of the economy, the minutes of the June 13-14 meeting said.

After that meeting, the Fed announced it planned to start reducing the balance sheet sometime this year but provided no timetable.

The amount of assets on the Fed’s balance sheet more than quadrupled to $4.5 trillion since 2008 as the central bank bought Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to try to stimulate the economy.

Economists said the asset purchases helped lower mortgage rates and spur investment activity.

Even though the Fed stopped buying bonds in 2014, the amount of assets has remained roughly the same because the money from maturing ones has been reinvested in new ones.

Allowing some of the proceeds from those maturing bonds to be cashed in presents risks because the move could increase borrowing costs.

Reducing the size of the balance sheet — along with ongoing increases in a key short-term interest rate — is seen as a key step in the long recovery from the 2007-09 recession.

The minutes from the June meeting offered no new indications of when the next rate hike would come. Fed policymakers voted 8-1 in June to nudge up the benchmark federal funds rate. The increase of 0.25 percentage point raised the rate to between 1 percent and 1.25 percent.

It was the third such increase in six months.

—Los Angeles Times


Prime minister declines to intervene despite plea from parents of sick baby

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday declined to intervene in the case of a sick British 10-month-old whose parents were legally blocked from taking him to a treatment trial in the United States.

“It’s an unimaginable position for anybody to be in,” May told Parliament when asked about Charlie Gard, widely known as Baby Charlie, who suffers from a rare condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.

May said that any parent would “want to do everything possible” for their child, but she declined to support a plea from parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates to allow the family to travel to the U.S.

“But I also know that no doctor ever wants to be placed in the terrible position where they have to make such heartbreaking decisions,” she said.

Specialists at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital decided that a therapy proposed by a U.S. doctor for the infant was experimental and would not help, and that life support for the child should be stopped.

British and European courts had upheld lower court judgments ruling that the infant’s life support should be ended so that he could die with dignity.

“I’m confident that Great Ormond Street Hospital have and always will consider any offers or new information that has come forward with consideration of the well-being of a desperately ill child,” May said.

“Disgraceful!” Gard and Yates said on Twitter in reaction to May’s statement.

The couple plan to join a protest on Thursday at Downing Street, the British prime minister’s residence in London.

They had urged supporters on Tuesday to ask May to “step in and save Charlie Gard.”

On Monday, President Donald Trump offered to help the family, following an earlier call from Pope Francis, who said he hoped the parents’ “desire to accompany and care for their own child until the end will be respected.”

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said he offered to treat the infant at the Vatican-run Bambino Gesu hospital in a phone call with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, on Wednesday.

Johnson expressed gratitude for the Italian offer but “explained that legal reasons prevented Britain from accepting it,” the Italian Foreign Ministry said.


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