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WEEKLY WONK

Originally Published: 3/10/2018

Immigration Suit:  The Trump administration filed suit against California, Governor Jerry Brown (D), and the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra (D), over laws that were passed recently regarding immigrants. “The lawsuit claims that the statutes ‘reflect a deliberate effort by California to obstruct the United States’ enforcement of federal immigration law.’” The so-called Sanctuary Laws “restrict when and how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers.” And the California Values Act “strictly limits state and local agencies from sharing information with federal officers about criminals or suspects unless they have been convicted of serious crimes.” The Immigrant Worker Protection Act “prohibits local business from allowing immigration to gain access to employee records without a court order or subpoena.” And in the budget bill, California lawmakers “prohibited new contracts for immigration detention in the state and gave the state attorney general the power to monitor all state immigration detention centers.” (NY Times) Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the suit, saying that California is required to follow federal law. “There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land.” (The Hill) Apparently Trump’s reelection campaign is trying to capitalize on the suit. (Sacramento Bee)

 

Jared and Qatar:  After Qatar was mentioned with regard to Jared Kushner’s loans last week (TWW, Jared Kushner, 3/3/18), I went looking for more information. The Intercept provided it. In April 2017, with Kushner as the top presidential adviser, Kushner’s father, Charles, “made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance . . . in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the [Kushner Companies’] portfolio.” The deal didn’t happen but it was “followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates . . . with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.” If you remember, the blockade of Qatar was set off by the United Arab Emirates’ hacking of the Qatar government news and social media sites. (TWW, Qatar, 7/22/17; Qatar, 6/10/17) Apparently special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into this. (NBC)

 

Panama Tower:  Trump’s hotel in Panama is his only hotel property in Latin America. It is Ivanka’s first foray into real estate. But as I told you earlier (TWW, Ocean Club, 11/25/17), it’s almost completely vacant. However, Orestes Fintiklis, the businessman who recently purchased a majority stake in the hotel, wants to get rid of the Trump brand and fire his company that manages the place. The dispute has turned into a shouting match and so Panama’s Public Ministry is looking onto whether there has been “any punishable conduct” in the dispute. According to the NY Times, this means that “an arm of a foreign government finds itself in the extraordinary position of investigating a business owned by the American president.”  Apparently the Panamanians decided that Fintiklis could take over the hotel’s management. Immediately Trump’s name was removed. (Washington Post)

 

Sam Nunberg:  He’s a former Trump aide who has been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury. He said he’ll refuse to go. (Washington Post) I don’t think you can do that, unless you want to choose to go to jail instead. MSNBC’s Katy Tur asked Nunberg: “Do you think that they have something on the president?” He responded: “I think they may have. I think that he may have done something during the election, but I don’t know that for sure.” (Washington Post) The next day he changed his mind and said he would comply with the subpoena. (Washington Post) The series of interviews he gave was bizarre. Watch what Stephen Colbert had to say about it. This is really good! (You Tube)

 

Gary Cohn:  Trump’s top economic adviser is going to resign. It appears that the new tariffs were the straw that broke the camel’s back as he has had other disagreements with the White House and congressional Republicans. (Roll Call)

 

Italy:  It held elections last weekend. The people “registered their dismay with the European political establishment” and handed a majority of votes “to hard-right and populist forces that ran a campaign fueled by anti-immigrant anger.” (NY Times)

 

North Korea:  Kim Jong-un invited Trump to meet “for negotiations over its nuclear program.” Trump has accepted the invitation. (NY Times)

 

Yemen:  Ben Norton, writing at FAIR, a national media watch dog, called out MSNBC for not covering the U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes “that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians.” (TWW, Yemen, 6/10/17; Yemen, 2/11/17, Yemen, 2/4/17) It also noted that the network “never mentioned the impoverished nation’s colossal cholera epidemic.” (TWW, Yemen, 6/10/17) Norton pointed out that the U.S. government “has played a leading role in the 33-month war that has devastated Yemen, selling many billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, refueling Saudi warplanes as they relentlessly bomb civilian areas, and providing intelligence and military assistance to the Saudi air force.” I would like to add that no one, absolutely no one, is covering the human rights abuses in Bahrain. (TWW, Qatar, 6/10/17; Bahrain, 4/1/17) Can’t let little things like torture, imprisonment, and killing interfere with our relationship with the Saudi-affiliated kingdom that houses - and protects - our naval base in the Persian Gulf. Can’t let anything interfere with our access to oil.

 

Florida:  The state legislature passed new gun restrictions. The bill would impose a 3-day waiting period for “most” purchases of long guns and raises the minimum age for purchasing weapons to 21. There’s also a $1 million appropriation “to improve school security and train and arm school employees.” (Washington Post) But the Guardian noted that the bill allows armed teachers in the classrooms. That must have been added to keep the National Rifle Association (NRA) from punishing them. Governor Rick Scott (R) signed the bill. (Washington Post)

 

Kansas:  The courts have temporarily blocked secretary of state Kris Kobach from fully enforcing the Kansas law which requires people to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The federal Circuit Court for the 10th Circuit in Denver called it “a mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.” Now we have another trial going before U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. This one centers on the so-called Motor Voter law. (Christian Science Monitor) It looks like Robinson, appointed by George W. Bush, is not above helping the inept Kobach and his co-counsel conduct the trial. (Think Progress)

 

Montana:  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has removed about 17,300 acres, along with portions of 2 other parcels, from an auction for a lease to drill for oil and natural gas. “A cadre of local and national environmental groups had filed formal protests against the sale, contending that drilling would adversely impact the Yellowstone River and other areas.” (Washington Post)

 

West Virginia:  After 9 days of striking, the teachers’ union cut a deal with lawmakers for a 5% raise. Both houses of the legislature passed the agreement. Governor Jim Justice (R) had originally offered a 2% salary increase for the next year and 1% for the 2 years after that. Teachers baulked. “West Virginia teachers are among the country’s most poorly paid, with teacher salaries ranked at 48th in the nation.” (Think Progress) Justice signed the bill. (CNN) By the way, if you want to see where your state stands on teachers’ salaries, check out CNN.

 

Election Interference:  In late 2016, just after the election, the State Department was appropriated $120 million to protect against interference in our elections. To date it hasn’t spent a dime. “Not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center - which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign - speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Kremlin’s efforts.” (NY Times) And Trump still hasn’t acted on the sanctions congress imposed. (TWW, Russia, 2/3/18) He’s showing more loyalty to Russia than to the U.S.

 

Tariffs:  Despite the screeching by congress critters and threats from abroad (TWW, More Tariffs, 3/3/18), Trump went ahead and signed orders imposing the new tariffs on steel and aluminum. However, he exempted - for now - Canada and Mexico and “held out the possibility of later excluding allies such as Australia.” (NY Times)

 

Elephant Trophies:  Trump lifted the ban on importing sport-hunted elephant trophies from several African countries on a case by case basis, “in spite of the fact that the president said in November that he would be ‘very hard-pressed to change his mind’ on the ‘horror show’ of sports trophies.” (CBS) If you remember, his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, are prolific big-game hunters. Nothing like indulging the children.

 

National Monuments:  If you remember, when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced shrinking Utah’s national monuments, he insisted the decision had nothing to do with drilling or mining. Now we know the truth. Internal Interior Department documents obtained by the NY Times show that gaining access to the oil, natural gas, and uranium deposits in Bears Ears and coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante were indeed the key reasons.

 

Unemployment:  We added 313,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate is holding steady at 4.1%. (Reuters)

 

Bank Deregulation:  After causing the crash of 2008 - and getting bailed out so they suffered no consequences - they are, once again, going to get perks for their destruction. The only thing that happened to rein in banks after the crash was the Dodd-Frank Act, and now Congress is gutting it so that banks and Wall Street can, once again, position themselves to make a fortune while screwing the rest of us. The Senate Banking Committee reached a bipartisan agreement to rewrite Dodd-Frank last year. The bill - known as the Crapo bill after committee chair Mike Crapo (R, ID), rather appropriate, don’t you think? - adjusts the size at which “banks are subject to certain regulatory scrutiny and exempt small banks from some requirements for loans, mortgages, and trading, among other measures.” According to The Intercept, this thing is a giveaway. Now the bill is moving to the Senate floor, where it’s likely to pass. It has the support of about 12 Democrats so they can avoid a filibuster. (Vox) AlterNet has a piece on the 12 Dems and how they’ve taken a lot of money from financial institutions. However, last-minute changes which “could expose sensitive private information to additional malefactors, while weakening remedies for those harmed by negligent cybersecurity practices,” may hang the bill up. “Corrections” added to the bill “would forbid Americans from suing bungling credit reporting agencies like Equifax.” The changes would also permit “credit card companies to tap the Social Security Administration database to verify identities.” (District Sentinel)

 

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