Moderate Republicans pushing for immigration vote give leaders a deadline

WASHINGTON — Moderate Republicans are giving their colleagues until June 7 to find a legislative fix for the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children, or they will try to use a special process to force a vote over the GOP leaders’ objections, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., said Thursday.

Denham, frustrated by the leaders’ refusal to hold a vote on legislation to help so-called Dreamers, launched a rarely used House procedure this month that would force a vote if at least 218 members support it.

As of Thursday, they had 213 signatures of support, including 23 Republicans and the rest Democrats. Denham says the remaining five signers that are needed are waiting to see if negotiations succeed.

House leaders have been scrambling instead to reach an agreement on immigration legislation between conservative and moderate Republican factions in the House and avoid the embarrassment of having their hands forced.

Denham said “an agreement in principle” was reached between the factions before the House left Thursday for its weeklong Memorial Day break. It will be presented to all House Republicans at a two-hour meeting scheduled for June 7, Denham said.

“We’re still prepared to move the rest of the votes at the point that this discussion breaks down,” Denham said. “We are up against a hard date of the afternoon of the 7th.”

The petition would trigger a vote on four immigration bills, each of which would help Dreamers to some degree, but differ on how much border security or immigration enforcement they include in exchange.

— Tribune Washington Bureau

U.S. drive to stabilize Afghanistan mostly failed, watchdog says

WASHINGTON — Stabilization efforts that have been at the heart of military and foreign policy in Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded in 2001 have largely failed, according to a report by a government watchdog.

Projects were poorly planned or mismanaged, fostering widespread distrust by Afghan civilians, the report issued Thursday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found. Many projects, the report found, faltered after American troops left an area.

“Progress toward stabilization is slow and messy,” Inspector General John Sopko said in the prepared text of a speech to be delivered at the Brookings Institution on Thursday. “At best, it results in small gains that require constant reinforcement to avoid reversals.”

President Donald Trump, who had long argued that the U.S. should withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, agreed last August to a Pentagon request to send as many as 4,000 additional American troops, including special forces, to the beleaguered country. He also gave commanders in the field more authority to strike the Taliban as well as Islamic State and al-Qaida terrorists.

Sopko’s latest report follows a series of attacks in the country, including an explosion Wednesday in the southern city of Kandahar that left at least 16 people dead. Military officials have characterized the assaults as evidence that militants are becoming increasingly desperate.

Stabilization involves “stopgap” measures, like building schools to “demonstrate the government is working on behalf of the community,” according to the report. It said that more than $4.7 billion was spent on such efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and the Defense Department from 2002 through 2017.

Sopko’s report describes an effort that has suffered from overambitious goals and unrealistic timelines.

“When the promise of improved services raised expectations and failed to materialize, Afghans who saw more of their government through stabilization projects actually developed less favorable impressions of it, perhaps a worse outcome than it the government had not reached into their lives at all,” the report found.

The inspector general said that the military largely drove planning and focused on the most dangerous districts first, a strategy he questioned. The military ignored concerns from USAID, according to the report, leading a worker for the agency to comment that the military “expected us to be bags of cash.”

— Bloomberg News

George Zimmerman tells court he’s $2.5 million in debt, has no income

ORLANDO, Fla. — George Zimmerman has $2.5 million in debt and no income, according to paperwork in his misdemeanor stalking case.

The details of Zimmerman’s finances were filed in Seminole County court in support of a request for Zimmerman to be represented by the Public Defender’s Office, which has since been granted.

He is now being represented by Public Defender Blaise Trettis, records show, whose office filed a not-guilty plea and a request for a jury trial on his behalf, both typical steps in criminal cases.

Zimmerman was slated to appear in court for an arraignment May 30, but his defense waived that proceeding, records show.

Zimmerman is accused of sending threatening messages to private investigator Dennis Warren, who had contacted him about a documentary series on Trayvon Martin being produced by the rapper Jay Z.

Zimmerman shot and killed the 17-year-old in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012, but argued he did so in self-defense and was acquitted on a murder charge at trial. The case attracted international attention.

Earlier this month, a judge denied Warren’s request for a restraining order against Zimmerman.

— Orlando Sentinel