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Originally Published: 2/3/2018

Nunes Memo:  The Nunes memo (TWW, The Memo, 1/27/18) has been in the news all week as politicos argued over its release. Let Stephen Colbert tell you about it. (You Tube) By Wednesday the “long-simmering feud between President Trump and the Justice Department erupted into open conflict . . . when the FBI publicly challenged the president’s expected release” of the memo. The FBI released a statement citing “grave concerns” with “inaccuracies and omissions.” (Washington Post) DOJ issued warnings that releasing the memo would be “extraordinarily reckless” but the House Intelligence Committed voted to release it anyway. (NY Times) DOJ even appealed to Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly “about the dangers of publicly releasing” the memo. (Washington Post) Trump approved declassifying the memo unredacted and it was released on Friday. (Washington Post)

 

What’s in the Memo:  The memo is comprised of “cherry-picked” facts meant to paint the Justice Department (DOJ) in a bad light. (NY Times) It focuses on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who is in charge of the Russia investigation and the one who hired, and could fire, special counsel Robert Mueller. It points to the fact that Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance on Carter Page. (TWW, The Memo, 1/27/18; Carter Page, 11/11/17) Republicans, however, said it’s proof of corruption at the highest levels of the DOJ under Obama and that Rosenstein failed to tell the FISA judge that the warrant was based on information by Christopher Steele who was hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This isn’t true. (TWW, Opposition Research, 10/28/17) It looks like they’re trying to get rid of Rosenstein and replace him with someone who’ll either fire Mueller or disregard his findings. However, the Memo itself, in the last sentence, confirms that it was not the surveillance of Carter Page that set off the FBI investigation. It was “the result of information” they had received from an Australian connection regarding George Papadopoulos’ (TWW, George Papadopoulos, 11/4/17) bragging about his connections to the Russians. (Washington Post) And Page was on counterintelligence radar before the Russia dossier was written. (Wall Street Journal)

 

The Nutshell:  It’s really about 1 question: Was Trump adviser Carter Page a legitimate subject of FBI surveillance or was he improperly targeted, leading to all the information they have against Trump and his crew? To my mind the more important question is how far will Republicans go to maintain power? They’ve discredited our national security services, the FBI, and harmed our national security. Are they willing to go further? After Nixon’s Watergate, steps were taken to de-politicize the DOJ, FBI, and security services. Trump is attempting to reverse this and, along with his call to fire federal employees (see below) and his disregarding the law (see Russia below), he’s seeking to take control of our entire government. It’s finally time to get really scared.

 

Schiff Memo:  Rep. Adam Schiff (D, CA), top Democrat on Nunes’ Intelligence Committee, produced a 10-page document as a rebuttal to the Nunes Memo. The so-called Schiff Memo, like the Nunes Memo, has been classified. However, unlike the Nunes Memo, the Schiff Memo has not been declassified to be released. (CNN) The NY Times prepared a short video explaining the “dueling memos.”

 

State of the Union:  On Tuesday Trump gave the annual State of the Union address. Here’s the transcript. The Washington Post published a list of the winners and losers, noting that the #1 loser was the truth. So let’s look at some of the misleading statements.

 

Job Growth:  “Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone.” The truth: “The economy has added about 169,000 jobs a month since the 2016 election, but this is somewhat less than the 185,000 jobs per month that the economy added over the previous 7 years.” (NY Times)

 

Black Unemployment:  “African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded.” The truth: “It’s true that the black unemployment rate in December, 6.8%, was the lowest recorded, but that is also the culmination of a longer-term trend. Moreover, it’s an open question how much credit a president, especially in his first year, can take for the economy.” (NY Times)

 

Wages:  “After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.” The truth: “Wages are, in fact, rising - but at a slower rate than they were at the end of President Obama’s second term.” (NY Times) According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages have been on an upward trend since 2014 and their growth slowed during the first year of Trump’s presidency. (Washington Post) In fact, hourly earnings were only 2.5% higher in December than a year earlier, “barely outpacing inflation.” (NY Times)

 

VISA Lottery Program:  Trump stated that this is a program that “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people.” The truth: The VISA Lottery Program provides 50,000 immigrant visas to people from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. “Applicants must have a high school education or 2 years work experience in the past 5 years that requires ‘2 years of training experience.’” The applicant must undergo a medical exam and cannot have a criminal record and winners are subject “to a lengthy background check that can last for months.” (NY Times)

 

Chain Migration:  “Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.” The truth: “Immigrants who obtain green cards or citizenship can petition to bring in their relatives. But that doesn’t automatically allow entry into the United States. Anyone applying for residency must undergo national security and criminal background checks.” There are also annual caps on the number of immigrants’ married children and adult siblings that can be sponsored. (NY Times)

 

Tax Cuts:  “We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.” The truth: Tax cuts signed by Ronald Reagan “were larger as a share of the economy and in terms of their effects on federal revenues. The recently passed tax bill appears to rank 12th in American history, as a share of the economy.” (NY Times)

 

MS-13:  Trump said he was calling on Congress to close the loopholes that have allowed MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, and other criminal gangs “to break into our country.” José Miguel Cruz, director of research in the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, has conducted research on Central American gangs since 1996. He wrote: “According to Justice Department estimates, MS-13 is a small gang, compared with the Bloods, Crips, and Almighty Latin King Nation. The estimated 10,000 MS-13 gang members in the United States account for less than 1% of the estimated 1.4 million total gang members in the country.” However, the gang didn’t come from south of the border. It’s American-made by a group of kids who were persecuted by law enforcement and, thus, the gang was formed. (Washington Post)

 

Federal Employees:  I found this the most troubling. Trump called on Congress “to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.” Most government workers are protected from being fired without cause under civil service protections. Trump is calling for a purge of federal employees that are not loyal to him. You must remember that the protections afforded federal workers were passed by Congress aeons ago to stop unfair and arbitrary management practices and political favoritism and retaliation. Calling to remove this is tantamount to a call to return to those days. “Some took the comment as an attack aimed at law enforcement officials . . . particularly at Robert Mueller.” (Governing)

 

Watchers:  Finally, Trump claimed “record ratings” for his address. He tweeted that 45.6 million people watched, “the highest number in history.” Yes, 45.6 million did watch but this was less than Obama’s first 2 speeches and is below those of Dubya and Bill Clinton. (Guardian)

 

Trump National Golf Club:  Trump’s golf club in Florida has been appraised by the tax appraiser at $19 million. Trump says it’s worth more than $50 million. He’s suing the appraiser “saying her estimate and the nearly $400,000 property tax bill it generates are too high, even if her appraisal is only 40% of what the president listed in his 2017 financial disclosure form.” What does he think it’s worth? Well, as a sign of good faith he paid almost $300,000 in taxes, which would mean he thinks the course is worth $15 million. (Guardian)

 

Andrew McCabe:  Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, stepped down “after months of withering criticism” from Trump. (TWW, FBI, 1/27/18) He was expected to retire soon anyway, but still this was unexpected. (NY Times) Apparently the Justice Department’s inspector general has been looking at why he “appeared not to act for about 3 weeks on a request to examine a batch of Hillary Clinton-related emails found in the latter stages of the 2016 election campaign.” (Washington Post)

 

Victor Cha:  He was Trumps pick for U.S. ambassador to South Korea but his nomination was withdrawn “after he privately expressed disagreement . . . with [Trump’s] North Korea policy.” (Washington Post)

 

Brenda Fitzgerald:  The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just appointed last summer, is stepping down because she holds “complex financial interests” that had repeatedly “forced her to recuse herself from the agency’s activities and kept her from testifying before lawmakers on public health issues.” (Washington Post) One example is that she traded in tobacco stock “while leading anti-smoking efforts.” (Politico)

 

NSA:  It revamped it’s website early in January. It removed “honesty” as its top priority and “openness” from its core values. (The Intercept)

 

Gitmo:  Trump signed another Executive Order directing Defense Secretary James Mattis “to re-examine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay.” He added that he expected that “in many cases” captured terrorists would be sent there. (Guardian)

 

Britain:  A British appeals court ruled that the government’s “mass digital surveillance regime” is unlawful. Apparently this means that “significant parts of the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 - known as the snooper’s charter - are effectively unlawful and must be urgently changed.” (Guardian)

 

Netherlands:  It has formed an animal police force with about 250 full-time members and some part-time members that “like a Humane Society with guns, handcuffs, and badges,” respond to emergency calls for animals. They get about 3,000 calls each year. “The work is a mix of animal protection and human social services, finding practical solutions - like monthly visits to a troubled dog and its owner to ensure all is well - and judicial procedures like fines.” (NY Times)

 

Russia:  Despite a new law placing additional sanctions on Russia (TWW, Russian Sanctions, 12/2/17), Trump has refused to implement the law, “insisting the measure was already hitting Russian companies.” (Reuters) Stephen Colbert had something to say about this. (You Tube) Lawmakers aren’t happy about it (Reuters) but, according to the Washington Post, “It’s unclear whether Trump is breaking the law in his decision, but legal experts say he’ll probably never have to implement them if he doesn’t want to. Congress doesn’t have a lot of viable options to force the president’s hand on foreign policy - other than incredibly confrontational ones such as suing or impeaching him.” But the Treasury Department “angered” Moscow by releasing a new “name-and-shame” list identifying 210 senior Russian political and business figures. Since sanctions won’t be imposed on these people, it’s hard to understand why Moscow is angry. Still it leaves “a muddled impression” of what’s in Trump’s plan. (NY Times)

 

South Africa:  By April Cape Town will be out of water. “Taps in homes and businesses will be turned off until the rains come. The city’s 4 million residents will have to line up for water rations at 200 collection points. The city is bracing for the impact on public health and social order.” Also, “talks are underway with South Africa’s police because ‘normal policing will be entirely inadequate.’” (NY Times)

 

Arizona:  State representative Don Shooter (R) was expelled from the House by a vote of 56 to 3 for “repeated actions of sexual harassment against lawmakers, lobbyists, and others.” (Tucson.com)

 

California:  With the legalization of marijuana, San Francisco’s district attorney is clearing the records of people with misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession dating back 40 years. San Diego is also forgiving old convictions. The law allows those with prior low-level offenses to petition for expungement, but in San Francisco and San Diego the people don’t have to petition. (NY Times)

 

Colorado:  The state supreme court ruled that the state’s constitutional ban “on the direct or indirect use of taxpayer dollars for abortion doesn’t preclude Colorado from providing funds to Planned Parenthood for its non-abortion health care services, like breast cancer screenings.” (Rewire)

 

Maine:  Governor Paul LePage (R), “who once called wind power a ‘boutique energy source,’ has placed a moratorium on permits for most new wind energy projects,” saying that it harms tourism. However, he’s the “sole Atlantic Coast governor who favors the Trump administration’s proposal to open nearly all of America’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling.” (EcoWatch)

 

Montana:  Big Horn County Attorney Gerald “Jay” Harris has called for an “immediate crackdown” on pregnant women who use drugs or alcohol. He “will seek an order of protection restraining a pregnant female from any non-medically prescribed use” of drugs or alcohol. (Big Horn County News)

 

Pennsylvania:  State senate president pro tempore Joe Scarnati (R) has refused to turn over data requested by the Supreme Court when it issued its ruling that the state’s congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. (TWW, Pennsylvania, 1/27/18) Scarnati called the court’s order “unconstitutional.” (The Hill) Republicans have appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Go Erie)

 

Debt Ceiling:  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said our cash reserves will run out faster than expected “as a result of lost revenue from last year’s tax cut law.” If the debt ceiling isn’t raised by March, we’ll be in trouble. (Washington Post)

 

Floor Broadcasts:  Trump used his State of the Union address to solicit money for his re-election campaign “by offering supporters a chance to see their name flashed on the campaign’s website during the speech.” (Washington Post) Apparently House of Representatives rules state that the Speaker of the House, now Paul Ryan (R, WI), is responsible for administering official broadcasts and recordings of floor proceedings that the “official audio and visual transmissions shall not be used for partisan campaign activities.” Public Citizen has filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics.

 

White Supremacy:  According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), white supremacist propaganda on college campuses across the U.S. tripled in 2017. Only 41 incidents were recorded during the 2016 fall semester. This year that number rose to 147.

 

Refugees:  The U.S. will resume refugee admissions from the 11 countries that were halted last October. (TWW, Refugees, 10/28/17) They will add more security screenings and do more in-depth interviews. (Guardian)

 

5G:  A leaked memo by the National Security Council, according to Business Insider, sets out a plan for the federal government to build and control its own 5G wireless network infrastructure. However, Ajit Pai, the director of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came out against the proposal, saying “the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.” (CNN) Everybody’s freaking out. (Washington Post)

 

Marijuana:  Researchers found that opiate-related deaths decreased by about 33% in 13 states in the 6 years since medical marijuana was legalized. They wrote: “The striking implication is that medical marijuana laws, when implemented, may represent a promising approach for stemming runaway rates of nonintentional opioid-analgesic-related deaths.” (Drug Abuse)

 

New Health Care Company:  Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase are forming an independent health care company for their employees in the U.S., taking on “the world’s most expensive healthcare system, whose mounting costs have hurt corporate profits.” (Reuters)

 

Mining & Drilling:  Trump reduced the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by half. (TWW, Bears Ears Uranium, 12/16/17; National Monuments, 12/9/17) This is the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history. (Yes, something that Trump did that actually IS the largest in history.) Yesterday, at 9:00 a.m., the newly exposed land was opened for drilling and mining. All companies need to do is stake a claim. (Western Priorities)

 

Clean Energy:  Trump is asking Congress for deep budget cuts to the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, “slashing them by 72% overall” in FFY (federal fiscal year) 2019. (Washington Post)

 

Unemployment:  The U.S. added 200,000 jobs in December, more than expected. Unemployment remains steady at 4.1%. (NY Times)

 

Tax Cut Bonuses:  While Trump touted all the bonuses given out because of the tax cuts, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll only 2% of U.S. adults said they had gotten a raise, bonus, or other additional benefits. 

 

The Dow:  Thursday the Dow dropped 666 points “as fears over rising interest rates and inflation from an overheated economy pulled the blue chips down.” (Washington Post)

 

Wells Fargo:  The last action that Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve chair, did before leaving the office was to levy “an unprecedented penalty against Well Fargo,” freezing the bank’s assets and pressuring them to replace 4 board members, over the scandal involving sham accounts (TWW, Wells Fargo, 8/5/17). “The bank will still be able to take deposits from customers and make loans, but cannot assist in any corporate mergers or other major transactions until the Fed is satisfied the bank has reformed itself sufficiently.” (Washington Post)

 

CFPB:  Mick Mulvaney, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has stripped the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity of its powers. “The office previously used its powers to force payouts in several prominent cases, including settlements from lenders it alleged had systematically charged minorities higher interest rates than they had for whites.” The Office will be moved under Mulvaney’s purview and will focus on “advocacy, coordination, and education.” (Washington Post)

 

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