TIME nation

Obama Goes to War (With Congress)

The President began bombing ISIS on his own, but only Congress can start a war

Earlier this summer, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine found himself in the Grand Foyer of the White House playing the foreign policy–hypothetical game with President Obama. Over drinks with some Senate Democrats, the President mentioned Kaine’s article that day in the Washington Post demanding a congressional vote to authorize any new military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the armed extremist group overtaking large chunks of Iraq.

The Law Professor in Chief, who campaigned for office promising to rein in executive power, proposed some scenarios. “He’d say, ‘Here’s the situation. Do you think I have executive authority to act?'” Among the possibilities Kaine recalls: What if there is an imminent threat to a U.S. embassy? “We generally agreed on most of them,” says Kaine. But not all.

Two months later, those debates are no longer hypothetical. Since Aug. 8, Obama has unilaterally ordered more than 100 bombing runs on ISIS targets in northern Iraq, citing his authority under Article II of the Constitution to protect U.S. lives and offer humanitarian aid. Hundreds of military advisers have been dispatched to Iraq, along with shipments of lethal equipment to proxy forces in the region. Through it all, the White House has maintained that Obama has no plans to seek permission from Congress, which returns from recess on Sept. 8.

The Constitution gives the President the power to defend the country as Commander in Chief, but it delegates the power to declare war to Congress. Kaine is one of several Senators who believe Obama has stretched his powers about as far as they can go. “I am worried about the consequences of Congress basically saying the President can decide unilaterally which organizations to launch air strikes against,” says Kaine.

The Obama Administration, meanwhile, has been signaling that the conflict with ISIS is likely to expand before it contracts. U.S. officials worry about what they believe are hundreds of ISIS fighters with Western passports who could attack Europe or the U.S. if they return to their homelands. General Martin Dempsey, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that defeating ISIS will require action by U.S. or other forces on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. Days later, Pentagon sources leaked news of new U.S. surveillance flights over Syria to better map out ISIS positions, a possible prerequisite to expanded bombing efforts. “Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” Obama said on Aug. 26. Though the White House insists no decisions have been made for an expanded campaign against ISIS, no one denies that preparations are under way.

The ironies of the situation are striking. A President who helped build his national profile by opposing the war in Iraq now must decide whether to force a vote on a similar military adventure just weeks before midterm elections. But the commander who deferred to Congress rather than launch air strikes on Syria last year may not be able to attract the votes on Capitol Hill that he has in the past claimed to need. “I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress,” Obama said one year ago. “And I believe America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.”

There are plenty of reasons for the White House to avoid a bitter debate over a new war in the Middle East. Obama’s attempts to get approval from Congress for the last round of Syria strikes failed to muster the required votes, and it divided his own party, upsetting many on the left. He has also spent some of his second term celebrating what he described as the coming end to the war on terror, a goal that seems increasingly distant. Congressional leadership on both sides is skittish about a vote. “Neither he nor the Congress wants to have this dance now,” says Jack Goldsmith, who led the Office of Legal Counsel for President George W. Bush. “That’s really what is going on.”

In the meantime, the White House has been searching for a legal justification for a protracted military campaign that doesn’t involve going to Congress. A 2002 congressional authorization to use force in Iraq remains on the books, but the White House announced in July that the document “is no longer used” and should be repealed. That leaves the 2001 congressional authorization to pursue those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, which a White House spokesperson says the Administration is “currently reviewing” to see if it applies to ISIS.

But Obama allies like Kaine, who otherwise supports Obama’s ISIS campaign, say that document clearly doesn’t cover ISIS, which did not exist in 2001. Far from being a partner of al-Qaeda, ISIS has emerged as a rival in the region. And in 2001, Congress rejected a White House request for broader authorization to allow military force against threats unconnected to al-Qaeda.

A third option–perhaps the most likely outcome–is for Obama to declare that his constitutional powers allow him to continue the conflict without Congress. A Vietnam-era law requires the President to seek congressional authorization for hostilities within 60 days of their launch, or begin military drawdowns; that deadline would expire after Oct. 7. But Obama never sought such authorization for the bombing campaign that toppled Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Instead, his lawyers argued that the limited nature of U.S. support for air strikes on Libya did not amount to “hostilities” under the law.

In the end, the greatest risk for Obama in avoiding Congress may be to his legacy. No court is likely to force him to stop military action, and Congress is unlikely to unite around a demand for a vote. But Obama has repeatedly promised the American people a more democratic approach to warfare. As so often happens in the Oval Office, the President must now decide whether to pay a political price to uphold his public vows.

–WITH REPORTING BY JAY NEWTON-SMALL AND ZEKE MILLER/WASHINGTON

TIME foreign affairs

Congo’s Presidential Entourage Investigated for Beating Protesters in U.S.

The incident was allegedly captured on video and posted on YouTube

The U.S. State Department has taken steps to seek the prosecution of a members of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s entourage, who were allegedly captured on video Thursday beating a protester in the streets of Washington, D.C.

A video posted on YouTube shows a man in a dark suit kicking the head of a protester as he lays on the ground near a member of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, who appeared to be trying to defuse the situation.

“We are still gathering details on the incident, but are very troubled by reports that protestors were attacked by members of the President’s entourage,” the State Department said in a statement Thursday. “We take the right to freedom of expression very seriously, and violence against peaceful protestors is totally unacceptable.”

The statement went on to commend the efforts of D.C. police for coming to the aide of the protesters. “We have communicated our concern to the delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the strongest possible terms,” the State Department statement continued. “We have requested a waiver of immunity to permit those involved to face prosecution. If it is not granted, we will ask that they leave the United States immediately.”

A spokesman for D.C.’ Metropolitan Police declined to comment, and a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service said the investigation would be handled by the State Department.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila is visiting Washington, D.C., for an African leader summit at the invitation of President Obama. According to a 2013 State Department human rights report, Kabila was elected in 2011 in an election international observer missions said “lacked credibility.”

“[Non-governmental organizations], including Human Rights Watch, reported security forces killed or arbitrarily detained dozens of citizens prior to the voting,” the report reads. The human rights condition in the country has remained poor since then, despite the appointment by Kabila of a human rights commission.
“Elements of the [state security forces] continued to harass, beat, intimidate, and arbitrarily arrest and detain domestic human rights advocates and domestic NGO workers, particularly when the NGOs reported on or supported victims of abuses by the SSF or reported on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the East,” the report reads.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Why Rand Paul Is Attacking Hillary Clinton

Conservative Political Action Conference
Rand Paul at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on March 7, 2014 Mark Peterson—Redux

Meet the GOP's top Hillary attack dog

Some politicians attack in prose. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul can do it in poetry—with color, precision and language that’s hard to forget.

Over the last week, he didn’t just blame Hillary Clinton for the current state of Libya, he said she created a “Jihadist wonderland” there. He didn’t just knock her for not fortifying the Benghazi embassy, he said she treated the place “as if it were Paris.”

“While she was turning down request for security, she spent $650,000 on Facebook ads, trying to get more friends for the State Department,” he said. “They spent $700,000 on landscaping at the Brussels embassy. They spent $5 million on crystal glassware for the embassies around the world.”

On Friday, he asked the crowd for a moment of silence, to pray for Clinton’s bank account. “Somebody must have been praying for her, because she’s now worth $100, $200 million,” he followed, deadpan. “I tell you, it was really tough giving those speeches.” Then on Tuesday, at an event for a fellow ophthalmologist running for Congress in Iowa City, offered his crowning rhetorical turn. “Hillary’s war in Libya, Hillary’s war in Syria,” he said. “None of this was ever approved by Congress.”

Of course, all of these attacks were unfair, as political attacks tend to be. Hillary did not choose to bomb Libya, though she supported the policy, and she has broken from President Barack Obama on the strategy in Syria. There is no evidence the question of additional security for the Benghazi embassy ever rose to her desk at the State Department, her net worth includes her husband’s substantial earnings, and no one serious has ever suggested an actual connection between Belgian landscaping budgets and American security.

But what matters at the moment is not accuracy, but political calculation and execution. And Paul is quickly establishing himself as the Republican Party’s preeminent basher of Hillary Clinton, a title that could bring him rewards over the coming months as the 2016 presidential race heats up.

The strategy plays to two of Paul’s natural advantages in the current Republican field. He is not a sitting Governor, and therefore far more free to dip his tongue in the partisan mud. He is also running for President—albeit without an official campaign—on the idea that he can best distinguish himself from Clinton on key matters of foreign policy that are likely to resonate with independent and young voters. “There are definitely areas where Clinton has vulnerabilities that Rand is uniquely situated to attack,” said Tim Miller, who spends his days attacking Hillary Clinton for America Rising, an opposition research group.

Other would-be Clinton challengers have, of course, tried to get on the Hillary-bashing bandwagon, but with lesser results. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made an early splash by calling Clinton a “20th century candidate,” but most of his attacks have sounded more like Senate speeches than a sonnet. “If she’s going to run on her record as Secretary of State, she’s also going to have to answer for its massive failures,” he says. Texas Sen. Tex Cruz, meanwhile, remains more likely to focus his fire on Obama, or their joint efforts, than Hillary alone. “Internationally, the Obama-Clinton foreign policy is a disaster,” he says.

Paul’s focus on Clinton clearly looks like a strategy to elevate himself early in the Republican field. Soon Republicans nationwide will pivot to focus on what may the central question of the Republican primary: Who can actually take on Hillary Clinton and win? As far back as February, Paul was already working on these credentials. He started by calling former President Bill Clinton a “sexual predator” in interviews. His point was that Democrats should be called to account for Clinton’s personal life if they wanted to claim to be champions of women.

Those jabs were widely condemned as political malpractice, a misfire aimed at a popular former President for failures that were long ago digested by the public. “I’m not sure he has a strategy,” Karl Rove jabbed on Fox News. “Frankly, Rand Paul spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton does not look like a big agenda for the future of the country.”

Paul never really let up. For weeks in February, he found himself in headlines pitted against the presumptive Democratic nominee.

In a crowded field, he was in pole position—where he remains to this day.

TIME Infectious Disease

Meet the Bots That Knew Ebola Was Coming

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone on July 20, 2014.
Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone on July 20, 2014. Reuters

Online technology has improved the ability to detect and track outbreaks

A computer program run by epidemiologists in Boston had already alerted key agencies of the U.S. government about West Africa’s Ebola outbreak four days before the World Health Organization first announced it, one of the doctors told TIME Tuesday.

The computer’s advantage was its access to non-official online channels, in this case a March 19 news report in the Kenyan publication, the Standard News, which quoted a Guinean health official describing 23 recent deaths due to hemorrhagic fever in a region where bushmeat is regularly consumed. “These are new views on what is happening,” John Brownstein, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the founder of Healthmap.org, a group that scours social media and online news sources for early signs of disease outbreaks, told TIME.

The rise in technology and global travel has created new hardships for the world’s infectious disease fighters. Pathogens can now travel around the world as fast as a airplane and global trade is booming. But there is a good-news corollary to this increased threat: The ability to detect diseases quickly has increased as well, by mining Internet usage, social media and news reporting for real-time signals of disease threats.

Google search terms for words like flu and diarrhea can indicate spikes in infection, birthing the company’s Google Flu Trends project with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has demonstrated an ability to predict spikes in flu cases before official data.

Health and flu-related Wikipedia article traffic has also been shown to correlate with disease outbreaks as they happen. In cases where official data is not always reliable, social media can also provide better indications of emerging threats. During the 2013 outbreak of H7N9 bird flu in China, a health worker forced hospital officials to admit a recent death from the disease by posting the hospital chart of a recent patient on Weibo, the Chinese social media site. Weibo reports also signaled to the world that nurses had developed fevers after interacting with the patient.

The new systems are by no means foolproof: U.S. social media has seen sharp spikes in discussions of ebola in recent weeks, for instance, but those do not indicate any evidence that the disease has jumped to the United States. “We tend to be very careful about the social media side of things,” Brownstein said. He also says there is still a significant human role in sorting through the digital news reports his group collects.

But that hasn’t stopped most major U.S. government agencies from subscribing to Healthmap.org’s daily email alerts, and online postings. Brownstein said the Department of Defense, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security all subscribe to the monitoring efforts.

Healthmap.org’s timeline of the geographic spread of Ebola, based on online news reports, can be found here.

TIME 2016 Election

Steve King Shows 2016 Risk of Campaign Trail Ambushes For GOP

Rep. Steve King speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Friends of the Family Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa, Nov. 9, 2013.
Rep. Steve King speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Friends of the Family Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa, Nov. 9, 2013. Justin Hayworth—AP

Candidate ambushes staged by immigration groups could hurt Republicans' 2016 chances

The August recess has begun, and so have the August recess ambushes. Republicans have a reason to worry.

On Monday, in Okoboji, Iowa, two undocumented youths confronted Iowa Rep. Steve King in a publicity stunt that charts a clear path to political pain for Republicans as the 2016 campaign season approaches. It is a quirk of the American system that to get elected President, candidates must meet with lots of regular people, along with full-time advocates posing as regular people, along the path to the White House. More often than not, these interactions are captured on video for eternity.

This process gives enormous opportunity and advantage to well-organized advocacy groups. In the 2008 election, a handful of groups from global warming advocates to anti-poverty crusaders fanned out across the early caucus and primary states to repeatedly ask the presidential candidates the same questions, effectively elevating their issue. Today, no group is doing this same thing as effectively as immigration reform activists, as the King video makes clear:

Notice Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the likely 2016 Presidential candidate, in the background at the beginning. His aide wisely advises him to leave his sandwich behind and clear out of the screen — and it’s a good thing he does. King, whose role in the political debate over immigration is basically the opposite of a firefighter’s role at a fire, does not disappoint. In a matter of minutes, he briefly but violently grabs the young woman’s hand in a misfired effort to quiet her, he notes condescendingly “you are very good at English,” he doubles down on his comment that drug smugglers at the southern border have calves “like cantaloupes,” he repeatedly calls Mexico a “lawless country,” and he accuses the two young people, both well-educated activists without legal documentation, of having no respect for the law.

Whatever position Republicans end up taking on immigration reform in the coming years, this is all political dynamite for the party. In the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney won only about 27% of the Latino vote, a number that will almost certainly have to increase if a Republican is to win in 2016. A majority of those voters have family roots in Mexico, a functioning country with significant law enforcement struggles, but one that King dismisses as “lawless.”

On the eve of the 2012 election, Latino Decisions did a poll of likely Latino voters, who made up about 10% of the electorate. The results showed clearly that Romney faced an overwhelming problem in selling those voters: Only 14% of the voters in the poll said Romney cared about the Latino community, compared with 66% who said Barack Obama cared. A significant percentage of this bias against Romney was born of mistakes he had made during the primary that had less to do with policy than attitude. As Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus later said, “Using the word ‘self-deportation’—I mean, it’s a horrific comment to make.”

A poll taken after the 2012 election found that a strong majority of Americans—57% in total, including 60% of independents and 35% of Republicans—supported President Obama’s effort to give job permits to some undocumented immigrants who had been brought to country illegally as minors. This is the policy House Republicans voted last week to defund, with Steve King leading the charge. That makes him an easy target for activists. Ambushes like this are stunts. But in the system we have, they work. And this is just the beginning.

TIME Hillary Clinton

How Hillary and Bill Clinton Raised $1.4 Billion

Together, the Clintons have become two of the most impressive fundraisers in American history. Use the interactive graphic to see the many ways their supporters' money has been collected over the years.

There are great American political fundraisers. And then there are Hillary and Bill Clinton, the first couple of American political fundraising. Few in American history have collected and benefited from so much money in so many ways over such a long period of time. Since they arrived on the national political scene 32 years ago, the Clintons have attracted at least $1.4 billion in contributions, according to a review of public records by TIME and the Center for Responsive Politics.

That sum helps illustrate Hillary Clinton’s enormous advantage should she decide to run for President in 2016. Much of the money, raised through two Senate and three Presidential campaigns, was gathered together in small checks by an extensive network of donors and fundraisers. Other donations came in the form of six-figure “soft money” donations from wealthy individuals during Bill Clinton’s presidency. A third category includes money the couple has raised for the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global non-profit, through speaking engagements for Bill Clinton, and through outside political spending that benefitted the Clinton efforts.

The records also show a select group of top donors who have given in multiple ways to the Clintons over the years. Many of these same donors, including people like S. Daniel Abraham, founder of diet supplement company Slim Fast, and Susie Tompkins Buell, founding of the clothing company Espirit, have formed personal friendships with the Clintons, even as they have continued to pursue public policy campaigns around issues like U.S. relations with Israel and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Through the years, the Clintons have adjusted over time to the changing rules that govern political contributions. Craig Smith, a longtime adviser to the Clintons who is now helping to organize the Ready for Hillary PAC, estimates that a Hillary 2016 candidacy could cost as much as $1.7 billion, including the money raised and spent on her behalf by outside groups. That would make the effort about 150% more expensive than the 2012 Obama effort, an increase in line with historical norms.

[See profiles of the top donors.]

The data for this analysis is drawn from three broad categories.

Campaign contributions: Direct giving to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s campaigns for the Senate and the Presidency going back to 1992, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. It includes both individual contributions and money from other PACs given to either the leadership committees or joint fundraising committees of the Clintons. These figures also include “soft money” contributions to the Democratic National Committee during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and his presidency. Those donations were later eliminated by the 2002 campaign finance reform law.

Non-political contributions: Speaking fees collected by Bill Clinton up to 2008, and contributions to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Figures for Bill Clinton’s speaking fees are based on filings from Hillary Clinton’s tenure in the Senate. The foundation has only released a list of donors grouped by the contribution ranges, so in all cases the interactive assumes that each donor gave the smallest amount possible in that category. The range of contribution, from all foundation donors, as reported by the foundation, could go as high as $1.3 billion.

Outside spending: Independent expenditures on behalf of the Clintons, as well as contributions to Ready for Hillary PAC, an independent super PAC created to support Clinton in 2016, which she has told friends she grateful to have organized on her behalf.

Additional reporting by Becca Stanek.

TIME 2016 Election

5 Reasons to Be Delighted and Worried About a GOP Convention in Cleveland

Johnny Manziel gestures on stage after being selected as the number twenty-two overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns at Radio City Music Hall Adam Hunger—USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

What the GOP can look forward to for its quadrennial confab

Correction appended, July, 9, 2014.

Randy Newman sang it best, more than 40 years before Republicans chose Cleveland on Tuesday to host their 2016 convention.

There’s a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

That’s right. The Republicans are coming, and they will be camping out for a week in one of the most Democratic parts of the nation’s most crucial swing state. It’s a blessing and a curse, a wonderful choice and problematic one all the same. Here’s a quick five-point guide to America’s North Coast, the place Newman called the “city of light, city of magic”—and what Republicans should expect.

1. Ohio is perhaps the key state in presidential elections. No Republican has won the White House without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the last candidate in either party to win without Ohio was Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960. But there is nothing too swingy about Cleveland. In Cuyahoga County, there are an estimated 345,000 Democratic voters and 126,000 Republicans.

2. Exactly because it is such a hotbed of Democratic activism, Republicans have a lot to gain, just as Barack Obama did in 2008 by holding the Democratic convention in the once-red state of Colorado. Since 1856, Cuyahoga has voted Republican 19 times and Democratic 21 times in presidential elections. But, says Mike Dawson, the founder of Ohioelectionresults.com, “if you look at the last 10 elections, Cuyahoga County has voted 10 times for the Democrat and never for the Republican.” Dawson, a Republican consultant, argues that the Cleveland convention should boost Republican turnout in the highly-populated Cleveland area, as well as the rest of the key swing state. “It’s not just a boon for the county or the region,” he says. “It’s gonna have a benefit for the whole state.”

3. The last time the Republicans had a convention in Cleveland, in 1936, they nominated Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in a landslide. But the party of Lincoln need not fear a curse. Before that, Cleveland was the site of the 1924 convention that renominated the victorious Calvin Coolidge. (Just try to forget that Grover Cleveland was a Democrat.)

4. The city of magic has a long history of catering to the peculiar needs of the political class. Back in 1924, during the dark days of prohibition, the great scribe H.L. Mencken reported on the extraordinary steps Cleveland took to satisfy the Republican Party. “My agents in Cleveland report that elaborate preparations are under way there to slack the thirst of the visitors, which is always powerful at national conventions,” he wrote. “The town is very well supplied with bootleggers, and regular lines of rum ships run into it from Canadian ports. Ohio has a State Volstead act and a large force of spies and snoopers, many of them former jail-birds. These agent of the Only True Christianity, no doubt, will all concentrate in Cleveland, and dispute with the national Prohibition blacklegs for the graft. I venture the guess that bad Scotch will sell for $15 a bottle in the hotels and at the convention hall, and that more than one delegate will go home in the baggage car, a victim of methyl alcohol.” Would that it be so again, without the alcohol poisoning, of course.

5. Two words: Johnny Manziel. They have a ring to them that “Reince Priebus” will never match. There is also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The inductees may be overwhelmingly liberal, but Kid Rock is always down for a show.

-Additional reporting by Becca Stanek/Washington

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the outcome of the 2010 election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Republican Governor John Kasich did not win the county.

TIME Immigration

Obama in Political Bind Over Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

Unaccompanied minors ride atop the wagon of a freight train, known as La Bestia (The Beast) in Ixtepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on June 18, 2014.
Unaccompanied minors ride atop the wagon of a freight train, known as La Bestia (The Beast) in Ixtepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on June 18, 2014. Jose de Jesus Cortes—Reuters

A request for funding could lead Republicans to demand concessions

President Barack Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion Tuesday to handle the thousands of child migrants on the southern border, and he’d like lawmakers to treat the emergency request as a simple matter of human compassion.

“Our hope and expectation consistent with the incoming we have received from both parties is that this will be treated as the urgent humanitarian situation that it is,” said a White House official who briefed reporters about the request.

But nothing is quite so simple in Washington these days. By sending the request to Congress, Republicans, who are outraged over Obama’s immigration policies, will now have an opportunity to express their fury in must-sign legislation, possibly attaching policy riders or demanding budget cuts elsewhere.

“The Appropriations Committee and other Members, including the working group on the border crisis led by Rep. Kay Granger, will review the White House proposal,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement. “The Speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas—which this proposal does not address.”

And liberals are organizing to block the White House efforts to rewrite laws to make the deportation of child migrants from Central America less cumbersome.

Under current law, unaccompanied minors from Central America are automatically referred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which works to place them with family members already residing in the United States while they await a court date. Unaccompanied minors from Mexico, however, are treated differently, and can be screened for immediate return to their home country by U.S. Border Patrol if they do not present human trafficking or refugee concerns. “There isn’t really a policy rationale for treating them differently,”a second White House official said Tuesday, arguing that the current system is allowing too many children to stay in the U.S. for extended periods of time. “The number of kids removed is not large enough. That is why we are seeking to make this process more efficient.”

But immigrants’ rights advocates argue that the conditions in Central America and the length of the journey justify temporary placement in American homes and schools, even when there are no immediate signs of suspected criminal trafficking or refugee claims. Leslie Holman, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, has condemned the White House proposal to expedited removal of Central American children. “That is simply unconscionable,” she said Monday in a statement. “No matter what you call it, rapid deportations without any meaningful hearing for children who are rightly afraid of the violence and turmoil from which they fled is wrong, and contradicts the fundamental values of this nation.”

The White House request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding for 2014 is also significantly higher than the “more than $2 billion” estimates senior Administration officials offered reporters last week. It includes $1.6 billion for enhanced deterrence and enforcement on the border, $1.8 billion for Health and Human Service programs for the youth, and $300 million for international programs to aid Central America. The Administration is also bundling the request with an additional $615 million in emergency funds to fight wildfires in the West, a move that is likely to attract the votes of a number of members of Congress.

TIME Lobbying

Ukrainian Employer of Joe Biden’s Son Hires a D.C. Lobbyist

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden waits for the start of the his father's, Vice President Joe Biden's, debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. on Oct. 11, 2012. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

An obscure private Ukrainian natural gas company has been hiring friends and family of Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden, while seeking to influence Congress

When Vice President Joe Biden’s son, R. Hunter Biden, joined the board of a private Ukrainian oil and natural gas company this spring, he explained his new job as a legal one, disconnected from any effort to influence the Obama Administration. In a press release, the younger Biden boasted of his abilities on issues like improving corporate transparency.

But the company, Burisma Holdings, did not disclose at the time the scope of their plans for influencing the U.S. government. Recently released documents show that Biden’s hiring coincided with the launch of a new effort to lobby members of Congress about the role of the company in Ukraine and the country’s quest for energy independence.

David Leiter, a former Senate chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed on to work as a lobbyist for Burisma on May 20, 2014, about a week after Biden announced he was joining the company, according to lobbying disclosures filed this month.

Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.

Biden’s office referred questions to a Burisma spokesman, who says Biden has not been involved in contacting members of Congress or the Obama Administration about the company. “His role, like all board members, is to provide strategic guidance to Burisma,” said Lawrence Pacheco, who works in Washington D.C. for FTI Consulting, a communications firm that is also employed by Burisma.

But Burisma is contacting officials in Washington through Leiter’s lobbying firm, ML Strategies. “ML Strategies is working with Burisma to educate U.S. officials about the company and its role in creating a stable and secure energy future for Ukraine, not any specific policy or legislation,” Pacheco said. “Burisma supports energy independence, economic growth, national sovereignty and regional stability and will engage as needed to encourage efforts to further these goals.”

Some Democratic senators, meanwhile, have been working to secure more U.S. funding, either directly or through entities like the Export-Import Bank, to improve Ukraine’s domestic energy production potential. On June 27, Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, wrote President Obama a letter with three other Democratic senators calling for increased aid. “We should leverage the full resources and expertise of the U.S. government to assist Ukraine in improving its energy efficiency, increasing its domestic production, and reforming its energy markets,” wrote Markey, who has also proposed legislation with about $40 million in additional aide for Ukranian energy development.

Markey’s letter was trumpeted by Burisma Holdings as a commendable move towards securing the future security of Ukraine. “Burisma Holdings today applauded the range of U.S. legislative support for development of Ukraine’s broad and untapped resources and an increase in transparency and good governance,” the company said in a statement on the day the letter was released.

An aide in Markey’s office told TIME that Leiter, Biden and Archer were not part of discussions that led to the drafting of the letter or the legislation. Staff for the other senators who signed the letter, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, also said they did not have contact with Leiter, who could not be reached for comment.

Burisma Holdings is owned by a Cypriot holding firm, Brociti Investments Limited, which is controlled Nikolai Zlochevskyi, a former Ukranian government minister, according to Cypriot records. It controls government development licenses in three regions of Ukraine, and sells to industrial customers in the country, according to the company.

By taking a job with Burisma, the younger Biden has put himself in the middle of a struggle between the United States and Russia, which currently provides the bulk of the natural gas supplies to Ukraine. Both the White House and European nations have recently emphasized the strategic interest in making Ukraine less dependent on Russia.

Since Hunter Biden took the new job, his father, Vice President Joe Biden, has continued to serve as the Obama Administration’s point person on Ukraine, traveling to the country as recently as June for the inauguration of President Petro Poroshenko and talking to Poroshenko by phone at least five times in the last month.

“I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the last two months in Ukraine,” the elder Biden said on June 19. “You see what the Russians are doing relative to using gas as a foreign policy tool to try to alter behavior. And so it’s — around the world in varying degrees it’s of significant consequence in terms of security, both economic and political security of a nation.”

There is no legal barrier to prohibit Hunter Biden from working with a company that can be impacted by the policy decisions of his father, and the White House has maintained that the Vice President has not been influenced by his son’s employment. “The Vice President does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company,” said his spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff.

But Hunter Biden’s new job, along with the association with Burisma of other politically-connected businessmen, has raised concerns among some Ukraine watchers. “It’s unhelpful when we are trying to get across to the Ukrainians to clean up corruption and special deals for special folks,” said Ed Chow, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank. “It maybe sends the wrong message that Westerners are just hypocritical.”

Additional reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke Miller/Washington

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