Thursday, February 20, 2020


Some Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings

Eight percent say they are not prioritizing emergency savings or credit card debt elimination

More than a quarter of Americans have more credit card debt than they do in emergency savings, according to a new survey released by Bankrate on Thursday. However, the personal finance company found that 49 percent find themselves in the opposite circumstance.
The number of U.S. adults who have more credit card debt than emergency savings went down by one percent when compared to last year’s 29 percent. It is also on par with the highest level seen between 2011 and 2018, which ranged between 21 and 28 percent.
Conversely, the number of U.S. adults who have more in emergency savings than credit card debt increased by five percent from last year’s 44 percent. Though, at the same time, they are not saving as much as they used to. Between 2011 and 2018, American emergency funds surpassed credit card debt with a range that fluctuated between 51 and 58 percent, according to Bankrate.
“High rate credit card debt should be attacked with urgency,” said Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride, who is also a designated Chartered Financial Analyst.
“Utilize zero percent balance transfer offers, trim other expenses, and generate additional income through freelance work or a second job to make 2020 the year you pay off credit card debt for good,” he advised in an official statement from Bankrate.
Forty-five percent of American households told Bankrate that they are prioritizing emergency savings growth over paying down debt. On the flip side, 38 percent of American households said they are prioritizing debt elimination over boosting their emergency savings.
Six percent of American households said they are focused on prioritizing both simultaneously, but an alarming eight percent said they aren’t prioritizing either.
Younger Millennials between the ages of 24 and 30 were found to be more likely to have more credit card debt than emergency savings when compared to their older counterparts. In fact, 46 percent of young Millennials have more in credit card debt while 35 percent have more in emergency savings.
Consequently, this young demographic is more focused on increasing their emergency savings. Older Millennials who are between the ages of 31 and 39, on the other hand, are more focused on paying down their debt than boosting their emergency savings.
Having a large emergency fund tends to become more important with age, according to Bankrate’s findings. When comparing the 46 percent of young Millennials that have credit card debt to those who are age 66 and older, Bankrate observed a significant decline. Only 15 percent of those 66-year-olds and above had more credit card debt than emergency savings.
“It takes time to build emergency savings and it is a moving target as expenses increase from young adulthood to middle age,” McBride noted. “The habit of regular saving is critical to starting, growing, and replenishing your emergency savings cushion.”


San Francisco sheriff, mayor say they won't help federal agents deport illegal immigrants

San Francisco's newly minted sheriff said his officers won't help federal authorities deport undocumented immigrants despite increasing pressure from the Trump administration to crack down on people living illegally in U.S. sanctuary cities.
Paul Miyamoto, California's first Asian American sheriff, said going after undocumented immigrants seeking solace is not a priority.
"Our department is not involved in immigration enforcement," he told KTVU2. "We feel that it is a federal matter, and our realm of interest is public safety, and you can't really have a safe community if the community members are afraid to come to us to report crimes."
He added that he's not aware of the city ever turning someone in custody over to federal authorities and that he's not starting now.
San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto (FOX2)
San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto (FOX2)
The comments come as the Trump administration announced it was deploying members from its law enforcement tactical units serving on the southern border to sanctuary cities across the United States. The move is an escalation in the bitter battle between Trump and cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York that have refused to work with federal immigration officials.
ICE's acting director Matthew Albence said the deployment is a necessary response to policies adopted by sanctuary cities.
Lawrence Payne, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, confirmed that the agency was sending 100 officers to work with ICE, which conducts arrests in the U.S. "in order to enhance the integrity of the immigration system, protect public safety and strengthen our national security."
Miyamoto and San Francisco Mayor London Breed said their refusal to cooperate also stems from security concerns.
The city's elected leaders will "continue to support our immigrant community and stand up for our city and we're putting resources toward accomplishing that goal," Breed said.
"We're being targeted on so many levels," she added. "But, the fact is, we're a strong city, we're a resilient city and we will fight against those attacks and we will protect the people of this city."
"We're being targeted on so many levels. But, the fact is we're a strong city, we're a resilient city and we will fight against those attacks and we will protect the people of this city."
— San Francisco Mayor London Breed 
San Francisco became the 13th jurisdiction in the United States to prohibit cooperation with federal immigration officials. Since 1989, it's become the epicenter of the sanctuary city movement, regularly provoking the ire of Trump and challenging his administration's campaign against undocumented immigrants.
Activist Amy Lin, who is undocumented, told the San Francisco Examiner that the city is "really reckoning with our definition of inclusion."
"Immigrants make up our neighbors, our friends and family, and to really name their rights has to be (the city') priority now," she said. "We need to make concrete changes."
Some activists say Trump's persistence has actually solidified support on local levels for sanctuary policies.
"The Board of Supervisors, and even to some extent the Mayor's Office, has been more unified in defending sanctuary because there's this clear outside threat that is absolutely racist, anti-immigrant and engaging in white nationalism," said Angela Chan, a former police commissioner and a criminal justice attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
San Francisco has won three lawsuits against the government between 2017 and 2019 to protect local sanctuary laws.
City officials said they don't know when an ICE raid could come, but they do not expect to get a head's up as in previous years.
In nearby Oakland, another sanctuary city, Mayor Libby Schaaf was called out by the Justice Department in 2018 after she publicly tipped off the immigrant community about an ICE raid less than 24 hours before it began. Schaaf was taken to task over her decision and critics claimed her actions amounted to obstruction of justice. She defended herself and said she did not learn about the raid through government, but instead through "multiple credible sources."


Steve Hantler: Darrell Issa Is the True Trump Conservative in CA-50

President Donald Trump, left, greets Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, before an event to sign a memorandum calling for a trade investigation of China. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Pro-Trump, pro-MAGA conservatives’ eyes will be focused like a laser on the March 3 runoff election in California’s 50th Congressional District, as it affords Trump allies an opportunity to send President Trump Congressional reinforcements as he heads into the 2020 election cycle.
The choice in this San Diego suburban district is clear for Trump supporters: Darrell Issa is the conservative running in CA-50 who can be trusted to support the Trump agenda.
If Issa’s name is familiar that’s because as House Oversight Committee chairman he was a constant thorn in the side of the Obama administration and its out-of-control attorney general, Eric Holder. Issa exposed Obama’s outrageous Fast & Furious gun-running scandal; he made sure that a bipartisan majority of Congress held Holder in contempt; and he forced Obama IRS apparatchik Lois Lerner to repeatedly plead the 5th on national television for using her position to target conservative nonprofits.
Darrell Issa has been as active in support of President Trump and his MAGA agenda as he was in attacking Obama’s administration. That’s why President Trump nominated Darrell to serve in his administration after his time in office.
Pro-life and pro-family conservative organizations have rallied to Issa’s campaign, including MAGA stalwarts Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, who have endorsed him. Issa has always been pro-life, so he’s been endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee. The Susan B. Anthony list calls Issa “a consistent voice for the pro-life community.” And the Family Research Council’s FRC Action arm recently endorsed Darrell, calling him “a leader who is committed to supporting President Trump’s conservative agenda.”
Darrell Issa is the only viable conservative in CA-50 who is pro-life, pro-family, and who hasn’t spent his entire political career trashing President Trump in nasty personal terms. He’s earned the vote of pro-MAGA voters in the district, and the President needs him back in office.
Steven Hantler is a retired auto industry executive.


The 11 Criminals Granted Clemency by Trump Had One Thing in Common: Connections

Peter Baker, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld and Elizabeth Williamson
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland where he announced he commuted the corruption sentence of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, before departing on a trip to California, Tuesday, Feb 18, 2020. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland where he announced he commuted the corruption sentence of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, before departing on a trip to California, Tuesday, Feb 18, 2020. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
WASHINGTON — Early Tuesday morning, Bernard Kerik’s telephone rang. On the line was David Safavian, a friend and fellow former government official who like Kerik was once imprisoned for misconduct. Safavian had life-changing news.
Safavian, who had ties to the White House, said that he was putting together a letter asking President Donald Trump to pardon Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who pleaded guilty to tax fraud and other charges. Safavian needed names of supporters to sign the letter. By noon.
Kerik hit the phones. Shortly after 10 a.m., he reached Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News correspondent and a friend of Trump’s. Rivera, who described Kerik as “an American hero,” instantly agreed to sign the one-page letter. Kerik called Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and when Safavian reached King around 10:30, he too agreed to sign.
At 11:57 a.m., Kerik’s phone rang again. This time it was the president.
“He said, ‘As we speak, I am signing a full presidential pardon on your behalf,’ ” Kerik recalled in an interview Wednesday. “Once he started talking and I realized what we were talking about, I got emotional.”
At 1:41 p.m., Trump approached reporters before boarding Air Force One and mentioned that he had pardoned Kerik. At 2:10, the White House announced that Safavian had been pardoned as well.
The clemency orders that the president issued that day to celebrity felons like Kerik, Rod Blagojevich and Michael Milken came about through a typically Trumpian process, an ad hoc scramble that bypassed the formal procedures used by past presidents and was driven instead by friendship, fame, personal empathy and a shared sense of persecution. While aides said the timing was random, it reinforced Trump’s antipathy toward the law enforcement establishment.
All 11 recipients had an inside connection or were promoted on Fox News. Some were vocal supporters of Trump, donated to his campaign or in one case had a son who weekended in the Hamptons with the president’s eldest son. Even three obscure women serving time on drug or fraud charges got on Trump’s radar screen through a personal connection.
While 14,000 clemency petitions sit unaddressed at the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, Trump eagerly granted relief to a former football team owner who hosted a pre-inauguration party, a onetime contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” and an infamous investor championed both by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and by the billionaire who hosted a $10 million fundraiser for Trump just last weekend.
“There is now no longer any pretense of regularity,” said Margaret Love, who served as a pardon lawyer under President Bill Clinton and now represents clients seeking clemency. “The president seems proud to declare that he makes his own decisions without relying on any official source of advice, but acts on the recommendation of friends, colleagues and political allies.”
Trump’s advisers acknowledge that the process is unique to this president but stressed that he has become personally committed to countering the excesses of the criminal justice system, a mission fueled by his own scalding encounters with investigations since taking office. In addition to his pardons, Trump in 2018 signed the First Step Act providing sentencing relief for many criminals.
“The president seems to be someone who’s willing to listen to people’s appeals,” said Robert Blagojevich, who lobbied for a commutation for his brother, Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois sentenced to 14 years for trying to essentially sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. “I think he’s just got an antenna to listen to people who have been truly wronged by the system.”
Indeed, Trump takes personal pleasure in dispensing mercy. He called Patti Blagojevich, who is married to the former governor, right after signing the papers Tuesday. He likewise called Ricky Munoz to tell him that his wife, Crystal Munoz, was coming home.
Advisers said there is little rhyme or reason to how Trump chooses clemency recipients. He meets with advisers every few weeks to discuss various cases. Once he makes a decision, he tends to announce them right away, without bothering to draft a communications strategy, reasoning that there is no point in anyone sitting in prison longer than needed.
Trump recognizes that his friends-and-family approach generates criticism but has repeatedly cited his 2018 pardon of I. Lewis Libby Jr. as proof that he is willing to absorb attacks that others would not. President George W. Bush refused to pardon Libby, who served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and was convicted of lying to authorities.
Trump has known some of those he favored this week for years, including Kerik and Milken, the so-called junk bond king who tried at least twice to obtain a pardon from Bush without success. Trump called Milken “a brilliant guy” in his first memoir and has hosted him at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. He called Kerik “a friend of mine” and “a great guy” in 2004 when Kerik was forced to withdraw his nomination for Bush’s secretary of homeland security because of ethics issues.
In addition to Giuliani, Milken’s pardon was supported by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his developer friends Howard Lorber and Richard LeFrak. Also supportive was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a longtime friend who last year flew on Milken’s private jet from Washington to Los Angeles and helped secure a real estate tax break that could benefit Milken.
Paul Pogue, the former owner of a Texas construction company, was pardoned for tax charges after his family contributed more than $200,000 in the last six months to help reelect Trump. In August, his son Benjamin and daughter-in-law Ashleigh posted a picture on Instagram of themselves with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, in the Hamptons. “What an experience spending the weekend with these two and more!” Ashleigh Pogue wrote.
In announcing his pardon, the White House cited Paul Pogue’s charitable work around the world, including the creation of two nonprofit organizations that help rebuild churches and provide aid to people after natural disasters.
Ariel Friedler, the former executive of a software development company who pleaded guilty to conspiring to hack a competitor, found his way in the door through Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and a close ally of Trump’s.
Christie said Wednesday that he met with Friedler in person and agreed to represent him in a pardon application after being referred by a former prosecutor he knew. Christie said he heard nothing since 2018 about the case until Trump called him out of the blue last Thursday to ask about it.
“He said, ‘Listen, I’ve reviewed the application, but tell me what you think about this guy and what happened to him,’ ” Christie said. A former prosecutor, Christie said he told the president that the government overreached.
“Do you really think this guy has a good heart?” he recalled Trump asking.
“I’m not soft,” Christie said he replied, “but this is over the top.”
Angela Stanton, an author and television personality with a record stemming from a stolen-vehicle ring, was championed by Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King Jr. A Fox News contributor and outspoken Trump supporter, King appeared with Stanton at a “Women for Trump” summit in 2018.
While most of this week’s recipients had political ties, Trump’s defenders pointed to three women whose sentences he commuted without any notable political background. But even those three — Munoz, 40; Tynice Nichole Hall, 36; and Judith Negron, 48 — came to his attention because of someone he already knew, Alice Marie Johnson.
Trump commuted Johnson’s life sentence for a nonviolent drug conviction in 2018 after reality television star Kim Kardashian West made a personal plea. Since then, Johnson has become his prison reform whisperer and appeared in a multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad for his campaign.
During an October appearance at Benedict College, a historically black school in South Carolina, Trump told Johnson to give him names of others who had been mistreated. Johnson then traveled to Washington to meet with prisoner advocates, and they identified about 10 women for the White House.
Johnson served in prison with all three of those released this week by Trump.
Negron, who was sentenced to 35 years for Medicare fraud, filed a clemency petition years ago, but it “disappeared into the bowels of the government,” according to her lawyer, Bill Norris. She was stunned to learn that the president had suddenly ordered her freed. “I’m indebted to him,” she said Wednesday.
Munoz, serving nearly two decades on a marijuana charge, said that she was called to the office of her case manager and counselor Tuesday. “When I went into their office, they said, ‘Who do you know? Do you know some people?’ ” She did not understand at first. But the person she knew had secured her a commutation.
Advocates for justice overhaul said Trump should be praised for his interventions. “Some people are trying to bash Trump for letting people circumvent the process and go directly to the White House,” said Amy Ralston Povah, founder of the Clemency for All Nonviolent Drug Offenders Foundation. “But the system is broken.”
Among those activists these days is Safavian, the government’s top procurement official under Bush sentenced to a year in prison for covering up ties to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Now the general counsel for the American Conservative Union Foundation, Safavian lobbies for legislation and programs granting leniency and job training for lower-level drug offenders as well as white-collar former convicts like himself.
Not everyone believes in his conversion. Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, said Trump’s pardon of Safavian sent a message to dishonest officials to “wait long enough and a corrupt president may bless your corruption.”
But others, including liberal CNN commentator Van Jones, praised Safavian’s work to redeem the system, calling him “a quiet wonder” and declining to second-guess the pardon.
As with the others, Safavian had friends in the right places. The head of the conservative union, Matt Schlapp, is a strong supporter of Trump, and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, worked as the White House strategic communications director before moving to the president’s campaign.
As he pushed for Kerik’s pardon, Safavian said he did not realize that he would receive one himself. “Quite frankly, it was out of the blue for me,” he said. “I was in the drive-thru window at McDonald’s when I got the call that the president had just signed my pardon.
“I had zero role in the pardon process,” he added. “None. I didn’t ask for it.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company