Originally Published: 6/17/2017
Voter Suppression: Historically blacks were kept from voting in the Jim Crow South by various methods. (America’s Black Holocaust Museum) But the new methods of voter suppression are particularly targeted at blacks. And they’re becoming very apparent in Georgia’s 6th congressional district for the seat vacated by Tom Price.
Insecure Voting: Logan Lamb, a former cybersecurity researcher with the federal government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, raised serious questions about Georgia’s ability to safeguard the vote. Searching the state’s system he found the database with the registration records for the state’s 6.7 million voters was not behind a password-protected firewall. And the server was using very old content management software “that had a critical software vulnerability long known to security researchers. (Politico) Rocky Mountain Foundation sued the state to prevent it from using their voting machines because there is reason to be concerned about the integrity of Georgia’s election system “and the state’s puzzling lack of interest in addressing its vulnerabilities.” (Atlanta Journal Constitution) This won’t come as a surprise to people who’ve been watching the hacking of elections for more than a decade. But it’s not all.
Suppression Efforts: The election in Georgia’s 6th District for the seat vacated by Tom Price is the most expensive congressional race in history. And it’s being stolen. According to Democracy Now!, voter suppression tactics could cost Democrat Jon Ossoff the election. Investigative reporter Greg Palast has a great video showing what’s going on there, calling it Jim Crow tactics. And Amy Goodman interviews him for even more information. While watching the shenanigans, remember that these tactics have been - and will be in the future - employed all over the country. Worried about gerrymandering? It’s nothing compared to this stuff. Let me remind you of Operation Crosscheck that Palast exposed in 2014 (Reader Supported News) and was used extensively in 2016. (Rolling Stone) It’s being used in Georgia right now and you can expect to see more of it.
Sessions’ Testimony: On Tuesday Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He denied any significant contact with Russian officials during the election campaign, denied that his decision to fire FBI director James Comey had anything to do with the investigation into Russian interference in the election, and even denied knowledge of the U.S. intelligence community’s pre-election finding that Russia interfered. He said any suggestion that he colluded with Russian officials was “an appalling, detestable lie.” (Washington Post) He said he recused himself from any investigation into the campaign “as a mere procedural matter stemming from his status as a prominent Trump campaign surrogate,” and not because he had done anything wrong. The NY Times noted that Sessions “seemed committed to revealing as little as possible, particularly about his interactions with the president.” He denied that he purposely left out his 2 meetings with Russians at his confirmation hearing. He also denied that he had a third, undisclosed private one-on-one conversation with the Russian ambassador as was revealed by Comey in a closed-door session. (NBC). Sessions said: “I may have had an encounter” with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak but he said they never substantially talked. And he denied that he violated his recusal by advising the president to fire Comey. But he contradicted himself several times. He said he trusted Comey and that’s why he didn’t get involved when Comey expressed concern about the president interfering in the investigation but he also said he thought Comey should be fired. He said he felt just fine about leaving Comey alone with the president but that he agreed with him that it wasn’t a good idea. (Washington Post) The NY Times has the highlights. Rachel Maddow has a great analysis of Sessions’ testimony. (You Tube) And Stephen Colbert, of course, gives us chuckles. (You Tube)
Russian Hacking: A report from Bloomberg says that Russian hackers breached voting systems in 39 states. I guess Russia’s interference was far more widespread than we’ve been led to believe. Among other things, the report claims that Russian hackers tried to delete or alter voter data in Illinois and successfully accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on election day. They also accessed a campaign finance database in at least one state. It is believed that the attempts to alter voter data in Illinois was a trial run for what could have been a disruptive cyber attack on election day that would have thrown the entire process into mass chaos.
Mueller Investigation: Trump’s transition team’s general counsel sent a memo to members of the team ordering them to “preserve documents and other materials relating to the investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election.” (NY Times) Are you kidding me? That stuff was destroyed months ago.
Financial Disclosure: Trump filed a new financial disclosure showing that the assets he has retained while in the White House are worth at least $1.4 billion. His last filing in May 2016 was $1.5 billion, meaning he’s retained almost all of his assets. He has “collected an influx of new revenue from recent foreign deals and a surge of business at his signature Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.” He’s sold his shares in Amazon, ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Toyota, and other companies. “The stocks earned him millions of dollars in capital gains and dividends.” The report doesn’t indicate when these were sold. (Washington Post) The report also shows that Trump owes at least $315.6 million to German, U.S., and other lenders, including at least $130 million that is owed to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas and another $50 million to Deutsche for the Old Post Office. He owes another $110 million to Ladder Capital Corp, a commercial real estate lender. (Reuters)
Suing Trump: The attorneys general for Washington, D.C. and the state of Maryland are suing Trump, “alleging that he has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House.” (Washington Post) And almost 200 congressional Democrats have filed a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution “by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments.” (NY Times) The suit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) against Trump (TWW, Lawsuit, 1/28/17) on the Emoluments Clauses is being defended by the Justice Department. DOJ is arguing that it is not unconstitutional for Trump to take money from foreign governments without congressional approval and that the Emoluments Clauses “were not designed to reach commercial transactions that a President (or other federal official) may engage in as an ordinary citizen through his business enterprises.” (Vanity Fair)
Michael Cohen: Trump’s personal lawyer (TWW, Exxon and Russia, 2/25/17) has hired his own lawyer. (Washington Post)
Firing Mueller: According to Trump’s “longtime friend,” Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media, he’s considering whether to fire Mueller. (NY Times) The White House is not denying this. (Roll Call) But, as Nixon learned, the president can’t fire the special prosecutor. He has to be fired by the Attorney General or, in this case, the Attorney General has recused himself so it would have to be the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who hired Mueller. But Rosenstein says he hasn’t any reason to fire him - yet. (Politico) Trump could order Rosenstein to fire him but, if Rosenstein is so inclined, it will be difficult given how the law is laid out. But it could be done. If you’re interested in all the legal stuff, see LawfareBlog. Maybe Trump is thinking of firing Mueller because he got wind that Mueller has requested interviews with 3 high-ranking current or former intelligence officers - the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Michael Rogers, and the former NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett. I guess there’s still a question of whether Trump sought their help in firing James Comey. This indicates that Mueller’s focus is expanding - from just looking at Russian interference to Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice. (NY Times)
Trademarks: Trump is adding 6 new trademarks in China. He now has at least 123 registered and provisionally approved trademarks in China. “Of those, 4 are registered under DTTM Operations - a holding company - while the rest are registered under his name.” (NY Times)
Britain Visit: Trump cancelled his trip to Britain because he doesn’t want to go “until the British public supports him coming.” He said he doesn’t want to come if there are large-scale protests. (Guardian)
Approval Rating: Trump’s approval ratings should give him pause. Will they? Not hardly. According to Gallup, his disapproval rating hit 60%. What’s interesting is that the demographics that make up his base are also falling. This includes “those with a high school education or lower,” moderate Republicans, and “independents who may have reluctantly backed Trump” over Clinton. (Washington Post)
Cindy McCain: I’m not kidding, folks. Trump is going to appoint Senator John McCain’s (R, AZ) wife as “ambassador at large.” “The position will focus on working against human trafficking, refugees, and humanitarian aid.” (Roll Call)
Afghanistan: Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, “opening the door for sending more American forces to a war that the Pentagon chief acknowledged the United States was ‘not winning.’” (NY Times) Didn’t take him long to announce he was sending another 4,000 troops over there. (Guardian)
Cuba: Trump reversed parts of Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba on the grounds of what he said was a worsening human rights situation on the island. “The new rules will stop individual travel to Cuba and seek to restrict the flow of payments to the many Cuban companies owned by the regime’s security forces.” (Guardian)
Northern Ireland: The supreme court ruled Northern Ireland women “are not entitled to free access to abortions” with the National Health Service (NHS). Women from Northern Ireland have been traveling to England for abortions because Northern Ireland has a ban on abortions. “The health secretary has a policy of not funding medical services in England that would be unlawful if received in Northern Ireland.” (Guardian)
Qatar: It has paid $2.5 million to John Ashcroft’s law firm “to audit its efforts at stopping terrorism funding.” Ashcroft was, of course, the Attorney General under Dubya. He will “personally lead” the representation of Qatar. (Washington Post) And Qatar signed a $12 billion deal with the U.S. to buy F-15 fighter jets. (NBC) Trump accused Qatar of being a high level sponsor of terrorism. (TWW, Qatar, 6/10/17) So why is he selling them fighter jets?
Russia & Iran: As you know, the so-called Gang of 8 has been briefed on much of the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. Apparently, they’ve decided that what they’ve seen is too much to whitewash. So, they drafted a bill. On Wednesday the Senate passed an amendment to the bill 97 to 2 [the 2 were Republicans Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT)] which is a comprehensive Russia sanctions bill which will codify the existing Russia sanctions, “introduce punitive measures against Moscow in light of Russia’s aggressive activities in Ukraine, introduce measures addressing Syria and the realm of cyberhacking, and give Congress the power to review efforts by the administration to scale back sanctions against Russia before they can go through.” (Washington Post) The final bill was passed 98 to 2 with Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders (I, VT) being the “no” votes. (Reuters) There was another amendment that passed by all 100 senators that allows NASA to continue using Russian-made rocket engines. As to Iran, the bill targets Iran’s ballistic missile program, “its support for terrorism, and human rights violations, and yet it would still comply with the Iranian nuclear deal.” (CBS)
Syria: U.S.-led coalition forces conducted airstrikes against ISIS around Raqqa. They killed at least 300 civilians and left 160,000 people homeless. Coalition planes have also been deploying white phosphorus in the city, “which is home to tens of thousands of civilians, prisoners of war, enslaved Yazidi women, and a few thousand ISIS militants.” (Guardian)
Michigan: The director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office over the Flint water crisis. Also, the state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, will be charged with obstruction of justice. 4 other officials, including the former emergency manager and former director of public works, were also charged with involuntary manslaughter. (NPR)
Biologic Drugs: In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision that prevented a drug company from selling its copycat version of a drug until 6 months after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it. The decision will speed up the time in which copycats can get to market, which could mean a loss of “billions of dollars in sales” for the originating drug companies. (Reuters)
Bank Collections: The Supremes limited the scope of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects consumers from abusive debt collection practices. Neil Gorsuch wrote opinion for the unanimous decision. (District Sentinel)
Unwed Parents: The Supremes struck down a law that treats unwed mothers and fathers differently when granting citizenship to their children born abroad. “Fathers had to meet a longer requirement of physical presence in the United States than did mothers.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing the majority opinion, invoked gender equality. The decision was 6 to 2 with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting. (Washington Post)
Marijuana: AG Jeff Session has asked Congress to undo the federal medical marijuana protections that keep the feds from interfering with state marijuana regulation. Sessions sent a letter to Congress arguing that the law keeps the Justice Department from fighting the opioid drug epidemic. (Washington Post) Really? Going after marijuana providers will help him stop the opioid problem? That’s the poorest reasoning I’ve ever heard.
Travel Ban: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco ruled against Trump’s revised travel ban. Last month the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled it unconstitutional (TWW, Travel Ban, 5/27/17) because it violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of establishment of religion. The 9th Circuit, however, ruled that Trump “exceeded the authority Congress granted him in making national security judgments in the realm of immigration without adequate justification.” (NY Times)
Immigration: After all his talk on the campaign trail, Trump is granting work permits to 17,000 new applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program - the Dreamers. “In addition, 107,000 immigrants already enrolled in DACA had their 2-year work permits renewed.” (Washington Post)
Another Mass Shooting: A shooter opened fire on Republican members of Congress who were practicing baseball. Rep. Steve Scalise (R, LA) was injured as were 2 members of his protective detail. (NY Times) This was the 6th such incident this week when it happened and, as of this morning, there were 10 such incidents this week. There have been 159 mass shootings this year. (Gun Violence Archive)
Inequality and Authoritarianism: A report from Credit Suisse, the Global Wealth Databook 2016, reports that the world’s richest 5 men own over $400 billion in wealth. On average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people. Last year that numbers was 8. (TWW, Inequality, 1/21/17) Most of the super super rich are Americans. And they are controlling us. (TWW, No More Democracy, 1/23/16) Yet we keep voting for politicians who support only the interests of the rich because that’s who funds them. According to former president Jimmy Carter (D) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT), political and economic inequality breeds authoritarianism. Carter said average people “are getting cheated by the government and by society and they don’t get the same element of health care, they don’t get the same quality education, they don’t get the same political rights.” People are working longer hours but their wages are going down. (The Intercept)
Healthcare Bill: The Senate is finalizing a healthcare bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, they’re not releasing a draft of the plan. They don’t want the public to know what’s in it. One aide said, “We aren’t stupid.” (Axios) They’re not even planning to have a single hearing. (NY Times) Trump seems to be behind the plan. Last month he praised the House plan (TWW, AHCA, 5/27/17) but this week he called it “mean.” (NY Times)
Sugar Label: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is delaying the launch of the Nutrition Fact labels. The rule would add a special line for “added sugars” to food packaging. It was heavily lobbied against by the packaged food and beverage industry. (Washington Post)
Dakota Access: U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers “did not adequately consider the possible impacts of an oil spill where the pipeline passes under the Missouri river” such as “fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.” He ordered them to conduct further environmental reviews and said that he will consider later whether the pipeline should be shut down. (Guardian)
Methane Emissions: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is going to delay - for 2 years - the rules that would have limited the release of methane. “The decision was made at the request of firms that would be affected by the rule as the EPA reconsidered whether to implement the stricter standard.” And the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “entered a notice into the Federal Register” stating it would delay compliance with a rule finalized in November “that would limit methane burned off from drilling operations on federal and tribal lands.” (Washington Post)
International Climate: The Energy Department is closing its Office of International Climate and Technology, which works with other countries to develop clean energy technology. (NY Times)
Apprenticeship Programs: Trump signed another Executive Order “expanding federally funded apprenticeship programs.” The Order would create a category of programs “that industry groups and other third parties could develop and then submit for Labor Department approval, rather than working within existing department guidelines.” (NY Times) In other words, he’s going to expand job training and then outsource it.
Coal: Trump’s coal policies (TWW, Carbon Dioxide, 4/1/17) have, as promised, created jobs. The Acosta mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, is the newest coal mine to be opened. It’s employing 70 people. (Truth-Out)
Amazon: It’s going to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. (Guardian) Amazon is taking over the world. When it owns everything, watch prices go up.
Interest Rates: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates again for the 3rd quarter in a row. It raised them from 1% to 1.25%. (NY Times)