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Texas Diverts $359.6 Million From Prisons to Keep Greg Abbott’s Border Mission Operating



Texas diverts $359.6 million from prisons to keep Greg Abbott’s border mission operating” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Gov. Greg Abbott said on Thursday that he and other state leaders are pulling $359.6 million out of the state prison system’s budget to fund his Operation Lone Star border security operation through the next 10 months.

So far, more than $4 billion has been spent to keep thousands of Department of Public Safety troopers and Texas National Guard members stationed along the Texas-Mexico border and other areas of the state.

This latest infusion was among $874.6 million in “emergency” budget transfers authorized by Abbott at the request of the Texas Legislative Budget Board, composed of GOP state leaders and budget writers.

The transfers will support not only Operation Lone Star but also fund public school security measures, COVID-19 response expenses and a new elementary school in Uvalde, the site of a mass shooting in May, according to the governor’s office.

The proposal from the Legislative Budget Board said the lack of funds for border security, public health and school security constituted an emergency.

The money for Operation Lone Star is being transferred from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice directly into Abbott’s disaster fund, which he uses to distribute money for the operation.

Of that, $339 million will go to the Texas Military Department to pay for Texas National Guard troops involved in the operation, while another $20.6 million will go to other agencies not named in the letter that also support the operation.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to questions regarding the specifics of the Operation Lone Star funding, including which other agencies would be getting the money and what their involvement is.

In addition to border funding, state leaders authorized the use of $15 million to build a replacement for Uvalde’s Robb Elementary, the site of the shooting on May 24 that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

Another $400 million will go toward security measures in school districts statewide — paying for upgrades and replacements to doors, windows, fencing and communications systems at schools. That money would come from a surplus in the Texas Education Agency’s Foundation Schools Program, which funds public schools, as allowed in the 2022-23 budget, according to the Legislative Budget Board.

“These funds will continue to support the community of Uvalde in the wake of such a devastating tragedy earlier this year and will help bolster the safety of Texans,” said Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan. “School security will be a priority for the Texas House during the 88th Legislature, and this additional funding is a meaningful step we can take in the meantime.”

To cover COVID-19-related expenses, $100 million will be moved from the Texas Department of State Health Services’ public health preparedness budget and transferred to the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which worked closely with DSHS on the state’s pandemic response. A spokesperson for DSHS said the transfer from that agency would be done with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and would not have an impact on the agency’s budget. ARPA funds are intended to help states recover from the economic hardships created by the pandemic.

The new funds are authorized to be spent only through next August, when the current biennium ends. Any funding beyond that for Operation Lone Star and other programs supported by Thursday’s transfers will need to occur in the next budget cycle, Abbott said.

The authorization letter did not detail how many schools, what kind of pandemic expenses or how many troops the new funding would finance.

Additional funding for both school safety and border security will also be considered during the next legislative session, which begins in January, Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in an emailed statement.

Sweeping money out of Texas prisons

Leaders of the two agencies charged with carrying out Operation Lone Star on the state’s border with Mexico — the Texas Military Department and DPS — have been signaling the need for another infusion of money to continue the operation at its current pace.

Military department officials had said that funding for the current level of National Guard presence on the border, about 5,000 troops, would run out in September.

Three weeks ago, that agency’s director said he was confident that the money would come through.

Earlier this month, DPS Director Steve McCraw reminded budget officials that their last appropriation for the agency’s role in Operation Lone Star was set to end in November.

DPS did not get any new funding for Operation Lone Star on Thursday, but officials said the agency, which has involved troopers and other resources into the effort, will continue its involvement using the agency’s existing border security funds and will be considered for additional funding for the operation during the next session, state leaders said.

Operation Lone Star’s finances have come under increased scrutiny for the past year. In September 2021, the Texas Legislature approved nearly $2 billion to ramp up the border operation — only to see the governor repeatedly transfer more money from other agencies to the initiative ever since.

Abbott — with the backing of GOP legislative and budget leaders — has moved money several times from the state prison system and other agencies to keep Operation Lone Star in place. It’s the cornerstone of his immigration policy — and a high-priority issue in his campaign for reelection.

The $359.6 million being transferred out of TDCJ is the same amount of ARPA dollars allocated to the agency by state lawmakers last year.

In April, $53.6 million was taken from TDCJ funds for the operation, just three months after Abbott moved $426.9 million from the system to fund Operation Lone Star through the spring.

The Texas prison system itself is beset by understaffing and rising health care costs, and officials there are asking lawmakers for $90 million for staff raises in the next biennium. Last August, TDCJ had about 67% of its officer positions filled. Some larger prisons in Texas had less than 40% of its officer positions filled.

A TDCJ spokesperson told The Texas Tribune that the transfer of the money would not negatively impact the agency, saying that the same amount would be allocated to the agency for “pandemic related expenses” but did not elaborate on where that funding would come from or when.

Previous budget transfers to Operation Lone Star have come from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees child and adult welfare investigations, the state’s juvenile justice system and Texas Health and Human Services, among other agencies.

Since Operation Lone Star launched a year and a half ago, Abbott has taken drastic measures to curb illegal immigration, including starting construction of a state-funded border wall, deploying thousands of National Guard members, arresting and jailing migrants on state criminal charges and spending millions on bus tickets to send migrants to other cities run by Democrats.

At the time of the launch, Abbott cited an urgent need to stop the flow of drugs and undocumented immigrants into the state through Mexico.

But the initiative has become a political wedge between those who sharply criticize President Joe Biden’s immigration policies and critics who call it a blank check for a governor facing a tough reelection in November and an ineffective financial boondoggle for Texas taxpayers.

Abbott has repeatedly blamed Biden for an increase in migrant crossings and called for the federal government to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s tougher immigration policies.

Senate Finance Chair Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican, said on Thursday that the border program was vital to protecting public safety and must continue.

“As the crisis at our border continues, it is critical that the legislature continues to fund Operation Lone Star as the flow of illegal immigrants, weapons, and drugs has hit unprecedented levels,” Huffman said. “Because the federal government has completely neglected this emergency, imagine how unsafe communities across the country would be had Texas not stepped up to provide its full support.”

Abbott’s office has said it will hold off on asking for specific funding for Operation Lone Star until lawmakers can address it during budget hearings. Patrick, who is running against Democrat Mike Collier in the November election, predicted more action on border security in the upcoming session.

“Securing the safety of our children and our southern border are issues of paramount importance,” Patrick said in the authorization letter. “This action ensures that Texas is in a strong position to confront these issues head-on during the upcoming legislative session.”

Jolie McCullough contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

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‘Ballsy Move’: Experts Praise Special Counsel for Not Playing Trump’s ‘Stupid Reindeer Games’



Legal experts are applauding Special Counsel Jack Smith’s move to “leapfrog” a Trump effort to delay his D.C. case by claiming he has immunity from prosecution and appealing the decisions by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on that major question.

Trump is claiming he cannot be prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election because he was president at the time, and is also claiming he cannot be prosecuted because he was impeached nay the House but not convicted by the Senate.

Legal experts and U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan have declared Trump is not immune from prosecution for criminal acts, with Judge Chutkan writing: “Defendant’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.”

READ MORE: Clarence Thomas Vehemently Objects to LGBTQ Conversion Therapy Case Denial by SCOTUS

On Monday the Special Counsel appeared to have short-ciircuited Trump’s delay tactic by asking the Supreme Court to rule on this question: “Whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.”

“It is hard for Trump to logically object to Smith’s request today for expedited Supreme Ct review since it is Trump who is claiming he [should] not be subject to the indictment at all,” writes former FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann, a popular MSNBC legal analyst. “Expedited review only helps alleviate that harm, if he is correct (which he is not).”

Weissmann adds, “Note newest Smith team member: the storied appellate lawyer Michael Dreeben. Argued over 100 cases in Supreme Court, and was head appellate lawyer on SC Mueller team.”

“This is a really ballsy move,” declared former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Asst. Attorney General Harry Litman. “And who is Michael Dreeben? He plays a similar role in Mueller investigation but he was a very long time Deputy Solicitor General and probably the most respected Supreme Court advocate on criminal issues in the Dept.”

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Steve Vladeck, the national security attorney and professor of law, adds, “if I were taking a criminal procedure issue to the Court, there’s no one I’d want as my special counsel *more* than Michael Dreeben.”

He also explains, “The bottom line of Jack Smith’s #SCOTUS filing is that he wants to ensure, one way or the other, that the issue of Trump’s constitutional immunity from the January 6-related prosecution is conclusively resolved by the end of the Supreme Court’s *current* term (i.e., June 2024).”

This is exactly the right move,” announced noted constitutional law scholar and Harvard University Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe.  “And SCOTUS should agree to leapfrog the DC Circuit, just as it did in the Nixon tapes case. The issue is purely legal and delay hurts the country.”

Former 30-year federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst sums up the Special Counsel’s move: “Unwilling to play Trump’s stupid reindeer games, Jack Smith takes the reins and seeks an expedited answer from the Supreme Court on Trump’s baseless claim that he is above the law and can’t be prosecuted for his crimes.”

Watch Weissmann’s explanation of Smith’s move below or at this link.

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Jack Smith Asks SCOTUS to Rule on Major Trump Claim in ‘Unexpected Move’



Special Counsel Jack Smith is asking the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court to rule on a major leg of Donald Trump’s defense, that he is immune from any prosecution for actions he took while President.

Smith’s question now before the justices: “Whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.”

MSNBC on-air called it “an unexpected and fascinating legal move.”

The justices can agree to take up the question or refuse.

The Special Counsel has requested an expedited decision.

READ MORE: Clarence Thomas Vehemently Objects to LGBTQ Conversion Therapy Case Denial by SCOTUS

U.S> District Judge Tanya Chutkan has already ruled Trump can be prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Trump has appealed and is attempting to put the entire case on hold until a ruling has been made.

“Smith is attempting to bypass the appeals court,” the Associated Press reports. “The request filed Monday for the Supreme Court to take up the matter directly reflects Smith’s desire to keep the trial, currently for March 4, on track and to prevent any delays that could push back the case until after next year’s presidential election.”


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Clarence Thomas Vehemently Objects to LGBTQ Conversion Therapy Case Denial by SCOTUS



The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a case challenging the state of Washington’s law banning anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy for minors, but in the 6-3 decision Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas said they would have taken the case. Justice Thomas vehemently objected to the Court’s decision, using his dissent to declare the practice – denounced as dangerous by major medical organizations and as torture by organizations and some who have been subjected to it – a First Amendment issue.

NBC News reports, “the court left in place a state law that bars therapists from counseling minors to change sexual orientation or gender identity, a practice favored by some conservatives.”

Conversion therapy, which experts say is unsuccessful and has been labeled child abuse or fraud, aims to change an LGBTQ individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign has published the statements of 15 medical groups’ positions against conversion therapy, and of a coalition of medical, mental health, education, and religious groups also opposing the practice.

Courthouse News, reporting on the Court’s refusal to take up the case, noted, “State lawmakers enacted the law to protect the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. A 2018 study found that over 60% of children who received conversion therapy attempted suicide.”

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When accepting or denying a case for review, Supreme Court justices are under no obligation to identify their vote by name, much less submit legal arguments for their positions, but on this issue Justice Thomas included a multiple-page dissent.

Thomas insisted conversion therapy is an issue of free speech, despite that methods used in the U.S. and around the world can range from talk therapy to medication, surgery, electro-shock “therapy,” and even “physical and psychological violence” according to a statement opposing conversion therapy from the Independent Forensic Expert Group on Conversion Therapy.

“There is little question that SB 5722 regulates speech and therefore implicates the First Amendment. True, counseling is a form of therapy, but it is conducted solely through speech,” Thomas wrote in his dissent. “A law that restricts speech based on its content or viewpoint is presumptively unconstitutional and may be upheld only if the state can prove that the law is narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.”

Justice Thomas did not appear to consider the state’s primary role and compelling interest in protecting minors.

He also wrongly claimed, “under SB 5722, licensed counselors cannot voice anything other than the state-approved opinion on minors with gender dysphoria without facing punishment.”

CNN reports, “Under the law, a licensed therapist can discuss conversion therapy with minors or recommend it be performed by others such as a religious counselor, but a licensed therapist cannot perform it.”

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Ignoring the numerous statements, studies, and positions of experts that conversion therapy is both unsuccessful in its aims and dangerous to the health of those who undergo the discredited practice, Justice Thomas wrote that under the Washington state law known as SB 5722, “licensed counselors can speak with minors about gender dysphoria, but only if they convey the state-approved message of encouraging minors to explore their gender identities.”

“Expressing any other message is forbidden—even if the counselor’s clients ask for help to accept their biological sex,” he continued. “That is viewpoint-based and content-based discrimination in its purest form. As a result, SB 5722 is presumptively unconstitutional, and the state must show that it can survive strict scrutiny before enforcing it.”

Justice Thomas also appeared to invite additional challenges to laws banning conversion therapy, which now exist in 22 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

“Although the Court declines to take this particular case, I have no doubt that the issue it presents will come before the Court again. When it does, the Court should do what it should have done here: grant certiorari to consider what the First Amendment requires,” Thomas wrote.

Issuing only a short statement that he agreed with Justice Thomas’ decision, Justice Alito called the case “a question of national importance.”

“It is beyond dispute that these laws restrict speech, and all restrictions on speech merit careful scrutiny,” he added.

In 2020, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law reported on a study that found “non-transgender LGB people who experienced conversion therapy were almost twice as likely to think about suicide and to attempt suicide compared to their peers who hadn’t experienced conversion therapy.”

READ MORE: ‘Corruption of the Highest Order’: Experts ‘Sickened’ at ‘Definitely Bought’ Clarence Thomas and His ‘Pay to Play’ Lifestyle




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