Posts tagged with "Donald Trump":

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Half the companies contracted for border wall defrauded the government

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently awarded contracts to six firms to build concrete and non-concrete prototypes of a U.S.-Mexico border wall promised by President Donald J. Trump. Just weeks later, reports revealed that two of the selected firms were convicted of defrauding the government and one firm countered a lawsuit by injured subcontractors with the argument that one of the workers was an undocumented immigrant. This spotty history spells trouble for a process that is already fraught with controversy and estimated to cost billions of dollars. Caddell Construction, a firm based in Montgomery, Alabama, was awarded contracts to build both concrete and non-concrete prototypes. The company settled a criminal case in 2013 with the Department of Justice in which they paid a total of about $3 million for submitting falsified reimbursement claims for mentoring a Native American-owned company on a construction project. This made them eligible for federal funds awarded through the mentor-protege program, which offers federal reimbursements for supporting minority-owned businesses. Fisher Industries, a firm based in Tempe, Arizona, was contracted to build concrete border wall prototypes. The company's history is marked by a constellation of environmental and workplace violations: failure to control dust pollution resulting in health concerns for workers, retaliation against the sexual harassment claims of female employees, and their presidents' ongoing habit of writing off personal expenses as business expenses (for which one executive was sent to prison for 37 months by the IRS; another got off scot free). Last but not least, their eponymous former owner David Fisher was locked away for five years in a 2005 child pornography case. A third bid winner that was selected to build both concrete and non-concrete wall prototypes, W.G. Yates & Sons Construction of Philadelphia, Mississippi, was the subject of scrutiny after the scaffolding on a hospital project collapsed on a group of workers. When the workers sued Yates for damages, Yates argued in court court was that one of the employed subcontractors was an undocumented immigrant and "therefore not lawfully employed." This is a chilling relegation of responsibility for workers safety, especially when applied to the construction of a massive border wall. Yates' workers compensation policy ultimately meant that the company was not held responsible.
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A transparent border wall? Trump administration picks 4 firms for prototypes

Five days after Donald J. Trump took the presidential oath of office, he signed an executive order ordering the construction of a massive border wall, intended to be the cornerstone of his anti-immigration policy as promised throughout his 2016 presidential campaign. Even before the order shifted from rhetoric to reality, architects have been responding to the question of whether they should participate in such a project and what such a massive piece of infrastructure could look like—including Mexican firm Estudio 3.14, which released renderings of a perplexingly aestheticized, Luis Barragán–inspired pink wall to much criticism in October. Now, nearly eight months later, some scattered logistics are falling into place. Last Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection awarded contracts for non-concrete prototype walls to four firms at a sum of about $3.6 million, adding to the four firms already selected to build concrete prototypes. The firms are: Caddell Construction (of Montgomery, Alabama), KWR Construction (of Sierra Vista, Arizona), ELTA North America Inc. (of Annapolis Junction, Maryland), and W. G. Yates & Sons Construction Company (of Philadelphia, Mississippi). Caddell Construction and W. G. Yates were also picked in the previous round of contracts for concrete prototypes. This latest development seems to correlate with Trump's request earlier this summer that the wall be, of all things, transparent. His reasoning? “As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them—they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” Trump told reporters on July 13. “As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.” Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, responded: “Over a 2,000 mile border, I think you’d have a higher chance of getting hit by a meteorite than a bag of drugs.” The Washington Post even took the accusation seriously, spoke to some experts, and discovered that a casual toss like the one Trump described would likely require a catapult or other medieval military device. While Trump the architect may lack a basic understanding of physical dynamics, Trump the politician seems to be unhesitant about carrying through on his promise to build the wall. We await to see how this transparency (or lack thereof) evolves.
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Trump to reap millions from Brooklyn public housing development sale

Will the President of the United States make up to $14 million from the sale of the largest federally-subsidized public housing development in the country? This is an unfortunate question to pose in an era where affordable housing seems increasingly scarce. Starrett City, also known as Spring Creek Towers, is an extensive housing complex situated between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of East New York and Canarsie overlooking Jamaica Bay. This summer, it will be sold for an estimated $850 million, and President Donald J. Trump's family business collectively owns about 16% of the development, so they stand to profit a hefty sum. As The New York Times reported, Trump himself could reap up to $14 million from the sale. Now that Trump manages the federal agency involved in its sale – Ben Carson's Department of Housing and Urban Development – concerns about potential conflicts of interest have understandably bubbled up among both the public and Congress members. In early July, two congressional Democrats – Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York – requested extensive records from the Trump family regarding their organization's communications with the development's owners, banks, and federal officials after the 2017 election. The potential conflicts of interest raise larger concerns about the operation of HUD in general, with massive budget cuts perhaps leaving "the type of federal aid that flows to the owners of Starrett City mostly intact" while cutting off support for others, as the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump, Carson, and others on July 7. Starrett City is being bought by a partnership between a real estate firm, Brooksville Company, and a private equity firm, Rockpoint Group, with the official announcement released Wednesday. Both firms are restricted from rent gauging and potentially forcing out long-time residents by rent regulations effective for another twenty-two years, and both have expressed their intention to keep in line with the site's original purpose as affordable housing for low- to middle-income tenants. Donald Trump's father acquired up to a 20% stake in the development when its construction was handed over to a private real estate company in the early 1970s, and it has since functioned as a convenient tax shelter for the family. The sale is the end of a long and involved succession of failed deals, with the development's residents hoping for a fate different than those of comparable Manhattan complexes like Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village and Riverton Houses – i.e., bought up piecemeal and rented out at market value during the real estate boom of the early 2000s. What Trump's individual profit margins will look like is still a matter of speculation, however – and lawmakers retain a healthy skepticism while awaiting the more thorough background on the sale.
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Donald Trump disbands infrastructure advisory panel

Donald Trump has disbanded the Advisory Council on Infrastructure—a panel which was still in the process of being formed. The council was due to inform the President about how to spend up to $1 trillion on improving infrastructure, including public projects such as bridges and roads. The news comes after Trump dissolved two other panels: The American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum, making it three panels disbanded within the space of a week. However, as Bloomberg reported, corporate chief executive officers had already begun to quit after Trump's reaction to the Charlottesville riots. It was during an event surrounding Trump's  executive order to streamline infrastructure projects that the President answered questions on the riot and failed to denounce white supremacists. New York developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth—of the LeFrak Organization and Vornado Realty Trust, respectively—were in line to head the $1 trillion plan. The pair is supposedly good friends with the President, or at least they were, when they were touted for their roles in January this year. Fifteen other advisors, representing the finance, real estate, consultancy, and other industries, were also meant to advise Trump on how to deliver his infrastructure goals, something which was a major part of his election mandate.
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Growing private detention industry threatens immigrants’ rights on the U.S.-Mexico border

The collision of private law enforcement and privately managed immigration enforcement at sites of detention is dramatically altering the landscape of migrant processing and justice—largely to the disadvantage of the detainee.

On Jan 25, President Trump issued an executive order, which, in addition to mandating the well-known “border wall,” directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to “immediately construct […] facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico,” to support increased deportations of undocumented migrants. An internal memo circulated by the administration in April called for nearly double the existing detention capacity to accommodate 80,000 detainees on any given day. Twenty-seven new locations had been scouted; 21,000 beds had already been found. With such rapid growth, decisions privilege expediency and cost over the quality of services and care for detainees.

It is highly likely that the new federal detention capacity will be met in partnership with private prison companies. Currently, 65 percent of detainees in the U.S. migrant detention system stay in private facilities run by companies (commonly for-profit) that contract with the federal government. Both commercial contractors and government vendors contributed to the search for detention spaces outlined in the April memo.

The same criticisms that apply to the private prison industry, and which led the Department of Justice (DOJ) to mandate an end to its use in August of 2016, apply to the burgeoning private detention industry. A 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) noted that a majority of migrant detention facilities were initially built for use as prisons, and that these structures impose more restrictions than necessary for the detainees. The shared typological features between prisons and detention centers flatten the important differences between criminal sentencing and migrant detention. Where the two intermingle, the distinction between legal and extralegal, private and federal, detention and incarceration is dangerously elusive.

One of the largest private detention facilities in the U.S. is the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) in Chaparral, New Mexico. The center is part of a 15-acre site that includes the Otero County Prison Facility, which first partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold detainees awaiting rulings in 2003. Residents of Otero County reportedly “liked the business [of migrant detention at the prison facility]—a half dollar a day per immigrant” and agreed to expand the practice, supporting the construction of a dedicated ICE detention facility, the OCPC, right next door, in 2008. Both the prison and the detention facility are operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), one of the nation’s largest private corrections companies.

In its early years, the OCPC was known in immigration advocacy circles as “The Hub,” due to the number of detainees who were transferred to the secluded site for processing from out-of-state. This transfer practice reportedly limits detainees’ access to community support and legal assistance otherwise available at the location of their arrest, and places them in jurisdictions known to hand down less favorable rulings.

The architecture of the OCPC clouds important distinctions between immigrant detainee and convicted prisoner to preemptively deny justice and erode the humanity of migrants.

When we visited the OCPC in June 2016, MTC employees emphasized that the center’s architecture is designed to maximize processing efficiency and prevent escape, not unlike a prison. In their language, spaces of intake manage “bodies”—not people. Walls that once ended in drop ceilings have been extended to seal completely to the roof, after speculation that a detainee could access the ceiling cavity.

Much of the staff’s experience is in criminal justice; many have spent time as correctional officers or administrators in jails and prisons before stints at the center. The distinction between civil and criminal immigration violations does not register in our discussions; staff mistakenly refers to detainees as “inmates.” The boundary between incarceration and detention on-site is fluid. The prison next door is used as a failsafe overflow center during overcrowding and operational malfunctions. When beds fill at OCPC, or the kitchen power fails, detainees are sent for up to 72 hours to the federal prison.

Other flattening abstractions permeate the space. Detainees wear color-coded uniforms, which provide a glimpse into their histories with the detention complex. Blue suits are for first-time non-violent immigration law offenders, mostly those picked up after walking across the U.S.-Mexico land border. Repeat offenders wear orange; those with violent or extensive criminal histories wear red. The center staff tells us they prefer dealing with the red population. Ironically, they are easier to manage; their criminal history is seen as an asset. Having spent time in jail, the regulated routine in the center is familiar territory, and they are more likely to comply with orders. To the detainees, as to the guards, it is all part of the same system.

Detention facilities like OCPC are specializing, taking on new roles. Our visit to the OCPC was just after a major transformation: Instead of providing long-term housing for detainees awaiting decisions on their cases, the processing center was converted into a last stop for detainees before deportation. Why? In 2015, DHS issued a report criticizing ICE transfer and deportation practices for presumed inefficiencies. ICE Air Operations (IAO), a shadow network of commercial and chartered flights that shuttles detainees domestically, had not been filling its seats. This report is likely the impetus for shifting strategy in Otero, which has become an overblown departure gate for deportation flights out of El Paso, Texas. When we visited, the typical stay at the OCPC is a mere two weeks, the daily operations consumed by the logistics of travel arrangements, rather than providing legal services and care for those detained. A chart in the offices maps out which detainees have been assigned seats on the three scheduled flights for the week, each filled to their 136-seat capacity.

Sites like Otero continue to contort themselves under changing directives, becoming autonomous islands, one-stop-shops for migrant processing and deportation. A DOJ directive began temporarily relocating federal judges to borderland detention facilities in March in an effort to speed deportation, further exacerbating questions of whether due process is respected in such off-grid locales with limited oversight. Existing teleconferencing rooms have since been repurposed to makeshift courts, while new courtroom space has been added to the OCPC. The wholesale restructuring of the space of migrant justice is just beginning. The construction of pop-up “port courts” is now proposed at ports of entry.

As the OCPC settles into its next-generation of use, it is consolidating even more security functions. Plans are underway to build a shooting range on site to support training for the detention center and prison staff. Guards will no longer need to go off-site to nearby Fort Bliss, thanks to a “bullet catcher” berm encircling the range. In December, DHS reported that private detention facilities—despite continued “documented occurrences of deficiencies and abuse”—will continue to be necessary for the foreseeable future. As a stopgap, the agency suggested positioning ICE wardens at private centers to provide federal oversight and accountability.

As the sites accelerate their transformations from isolated anomalies to quasi-urban, self-sufficient nuclei of privatized federal detention, we call for immigrant advocates and legal service providers to co-opt the logic of their shadow system of airfields, courts, and fly-in judges, grafting a parallel network supporting migrant advocacy on this nascent infrastructure.

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Trump will revoke an Obama-era order on flood risk regulations

President Donald Trump is all for building mega-infrastructure projects—that was one of his campaign’s trademark promises. He wants to build big and fast. But Trump's latest rescission of an Obama-era executive order, which stipulated all government-funded projects follow strict building standards to reduce exposure to flooding, may end up costing taxpayers a lot more.

Trump will revoke the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard with the goal of streamlining the environmental review of infrastructure projects, as first reported by Reuters. This move is part of his new executive order that aims to establish "discipline and accountability in the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects," according to a statement the White House released yesterday.

The current standard for these government projects requires that designers factor in projections for climate change and flooding as a consequence of rising sea levels and increasingly intense downpours. In effect, it meant that buildings would be built to a higher vertical elevation to address all flood risks and ensure taxpayer dollars would be preserved for as long as possible. This standard, introduced by former president Barack Obama as one his many measures tackling climate change, was required for all infrastructure projects, from public housing to highways.

But speaking today at Trump Tower, Trump denounced the current permitting process as "over regulated" and "a disgrace." He claimed that instead of taking twenty years to build a highway, under his new executive order a highway will be built in under two years. "We’re going to get infrastructure built quickly and inexpensively,” he said. 

Demonstrating a similar lack of concern for climate change when he pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, Trump has already rolled back many of Obama’s regulations on climate change. The elimination of this requirement could ultimately do more harm in the long run—even with a faster timeline, without flood-safety measures, taxpayers could end up paying up to billions over time, flood policy expert Eli Lehrer told Reuters. And it’s not a matter of if it floods, but when. 

The U.S. has already suffered an estimated $260 billion in flood related damages between 1980 and 2013.

Trump’s decision is undoing “the most significant action taken in a generation” to safeguard infrastructure, Rafael Lemaitre, former director of public affairs at FEMA, said to Reuters. “We can either build smarter now, or put taxpayers on the hook to pay exponentially more when it floods,” he said. “And it will.”

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Donald Trump’s childhood home is for rent on Airbnb

The childhood home of Donald Trump childhood home is listed on Airbnb for a cool $725 per night.

The five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home in Jamaica Estates, Queens boasts seventeen beds—two sofa beds and many bunk beds, with a few regular ones thrown in. The host notes that, though the home is not in any way officially linked with the president or the White House, Trump's aura abounds.

"Not much has been changed since the Trumps lived here, the kitchen is original and the opulent furnishings represent the style and affluence in which the Trumps would have lived," the listing states. "This is a unique and special opportunity to stay in the home of a sitting president." [Ed. note: except for the gold-toned shower stall and Trump schlock, the house looks like literally any other middle class home in the tristate area.]

The host pumps the residence's extras, including a definitely not creepy cut-out of the Donald that looms over the living room. Per the listing, "he is a great companion for watching Fox News late into the night...." And really, could there be a more perfect setting for a Lay's potato chip binge and 5:00 a.m. tweetstorm?

Despite the capaciousness of the abode, there's no mention of a fallout shelter, which would make the rental a real bargain in the face of nuclear war with North Korea.

Last year, the house was purchased by real estate investor Michael Davis, who promptly flipped the $1.4 million property. In March, Davis sold the Tudor-style home for $2.14 million at auction to an anonymous buyer. For the curious and Google Maps–inclined, the house is at 85-15 Wareham Place, a short walk to the F train at 179th Street.

There are no reviews yet.

The TimesLedger first reported this story. 

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Trump sign flying pigs installation delayed

“We’ve hit a timeline point where it’s too late to fabricate, ship, and float the balloons within a reasonably predictable weather window,” said to Jeffrey Roberts, partner at New World Design, Ltd., designers of the lighter-than-air civic demonstration, Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly. This latest news pushes the launch of the installation to 2018, moved from the original plan of this September. Roberts cites the city’s refusal to grant the installation a docking permit and larger-than-expected municipal reimbursables, such as security and sanitation fees, as the reasons for the delay. The city noted the potential for the hindrance of commercial and recreational traffic on the river in its refusal to New World Design. The refusal also referenced concerns about setting a precedent with the event. The design team is still optimistic about the future and says it is continuing the campaign to realize the project. "Given the continuing irrational nature of the political environment, our team remains committed to the message and deployment of the art installation," said Roberts in a press release. "We greatly appreciate the support from those that have contributed and those that have helped us spread the message via social media channels and other media outlets." The proposed Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly consists of four golden replicas of the flying pig made famous by Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals. The installation has the blessing of Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters. The plan calls for the pigs to be attached to a construction barge and floated in front of the 20-foot-tall Trump sign on the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. Donald Trump has not yet commented or tweeted about the project.
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House Republicans: Fund border wall and new tunnel under the Hudson River

Congressional House Republicans released two separate spending bills detailing proposals that would impact the Gateway Project and the US-Mexico border wall, on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The House Appropriations Committee unveiled its $56.5 billion Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill that budgets $900 million to the Gateway Program, a project many consider critical to the nation's transportation infrastructure. The Committee's $44.3 billion Homeland Security bill allocates $1.6 billion to construct the border wall. In a win for the $24 billion Gateway Program, the spending bill includes $328 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks, grants for rail repairs, and direct funding for new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge. (More details on the multifaceted program can be found here.) President Donald Trump’s administration had pulled out of the Gateway Program Development Corporation a week ago, casting doubt on the administration's support. According to Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston provides $3 billion to the U.S. economy, making the Gateway Program a priority. "Safe and reliable passenger rail travel through New Jersey and New York City is essential to that economic productivity," he said in a statement reported by NJ.com. But one of Trump’s key promises during his presidential campaign—building the much debated and controversial border wall separating the U.S and Mexico—is also one step closer to fruition. The $1.6 billion earmarked for the wall fully meets the White House request for construction funds, according to the committee. “Globalization, cyber-security, and terrorism are changing our way of life and we need to change with it," Frelinghuysen said in a press release. “The bill also provides the necessary funding for critical technology and physical barriers to secure our borders.” The $1.6 billion earmark is also likely to set up a government shutdown when the bill makes it way to the Senate, where Democrats are sure to object to any kind of wall funding. Funding for both projects is not yet guaranteed. Both bills will have to pass the full House and get approval from the Senate, before getting signed into law by President Trump.
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Trump’s stake in largest federally subsidized housing complex raises questions for conflict of interest

President Donald Trump’s stake in the nation’s largest federally subsidized housing complex—Starrett City in Brooklyn, New York—has raised questions from two congressional Democrats about a potential conflict of interest, as first reported by the New York Times.   Trump has a four percent ownership in the housing complex, which offers 3,500 lower and middle-income apartments subsidized through a rental assistance program. The deteriorating complex has generated Trump at least $5 million of income between January 2016 and April 15, 2017, as reported in The Washington Post. The federal government has paid more than $490 million in the complex’s rent subsidies since May 2013, with nearly $38 million since Trump took office. In a letter sent on Friday by Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the lawmakers expressed their concern that Trump could increase his profits through his involvement with the complex, despite leading the federal government (which operates the subsidies through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD). The letter was addressed to HUD Secretary Ben Carson and those managing Trump's trust of business assets (namely, Donald Trump Jr. and Allen H. Weisselberg of The Trump Organization); it was also sent to Representative Trey Gowdy of The House Oversight Committee. “Many real estate companies receive government subsidies to support affordable housing, but unique conflicts exist with regard to Starrett City because the president is on both sides of the negotiations,” the letter read in the Times. “He oversees the government entity providing taxpayer funds and he pockets some of that money himself.” The letter also raised issues with Trump’s proposed budget cut to federal housing programs. The administration has proposed reducing HUD's budget by $7 billion, however, the project-based rental assistance program—which Starrett City falls under—is one of the few programs that will be spared major cuts to funding. Trump’s recent nominee to lead the HUD’s New York region, Lynne Patton, an event planner with no experience in housing, has also been a source of controversy. Her appointment would mean that she would be directly involved in policies related to Starrett City. “We have serious concerns that her self-described loyalty to the president and his family could influence HUD’s discretion on issues related to Starrett City,” Cummings and Jeffries said in the letter.
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U.S Department of Transportation withdraws from $24 billion Gateway Program

Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated commitment to building new infrastructure, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its cooperation from a massive $24 billion transportation project between New York and New Jersey, as reported by New York Daily News. The Gateway Program Development Corporation planned to bring a new rail bridge, Portal North, to Newark as well as a new tunnel under the Hudson River that was meant to replace the existing, crumbling tunnel that suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy. The program also looked to expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. However, the DOT notified the Gateway’s board of trustees of their withdrawal last Friday. "It is not DOT’s standard practice to serve in such a capacity on other local transportation projects," read the letter to the Gateway board of trustees, which also counts Amtrak and board members from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority as members. Plans to build the new tunnel have been in the works since the Obama administration, where a deal was struck so that New York and New Jersey officials would take on half of the costs while the federal government and Amtrak would undertake the other half. Trump had also included the Gateway program in his list of "Emergency & National Security Projects," a list of about 50 national infrastructure projects that was first published in January by the Kansas City Star. The Gateway project has been billed as one of the largest regional transit projects in the Northeast, one that would address the growing number of commuters from New Jersey as well as the region’s deteriorating infrastructure. The current two-tube tunnel linking New Jersey and Penn Station shuttle more than 200,000 riders daily. If one tube fails before new tunnels are built, capacity could be reduced by 75 percent, according to Amtrak. The DOT clarified their withdrawal, saying that “the decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide,” in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
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Visit Comedy Central’s Trump Twitter Library this weekend in Midtown Manhattan!

For this weekend, from Friday to Sunday, June 16 to 18, 2017, the Trump Presidential Twitter Library will be open to the public at 3 W 57th St. in Midtown Manhattan. The pop-up space features a stage for comedians, as well as a series of curated installations that put on view the current president's, er, peculiar Twitter habit. The project comes from Comedy Central and the Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The installations feature tweets arranged by theme, including a section of Birther tweets about Obama being from Kenya, titled "Concern for the Integrity of the American Presidency," and "Trumpstradamus: Trump tweets predicting the future," where Trump's terrible predictions remind us how often he is wrong. Others include his contradictory tweets on topics such as golf outings, Syria, and post-election protests. https://www.instagram.com/p/BVYYfa4lYdw/ https://www.instagram.com/p/BVYcePujIhh/