Originally Published: 9/1/2018
New Poll: According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 60% of Americans disapprove of the president. The poll also found that “clear majorities” support special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Nearly half, 49%, say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings while 46% say Congress should not. A majority of 64% also believe Trump should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A “slim majority” of 53% believe Trump has obstructed justice. Looks like lots of people are singing the Indictment Song. (Circus Kitchen)
Google: Trump Googled himself and didn’t like what he saw. So, he’s having his people explore regulating Google “in response to the president’s allegations that the tech giant manipulates its search results to prominently display negative stories about him and other Republicans.” (Washington Post) He even accused Google of promoting Obama’s speeches more than his. (Guardian) I can’t even comment.
W. Samuel Patten: He’s a Washington consultant who worked with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. He pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist. He also claimed that he “helped a Russian political operative and a Ukrainian businessman illegally purchase 4 tickets to President Trump’s inauguration.” The tickets were worth $50,000 “and were purchased with funds that flowed through a Cypriot bank account.” The tickets were purchased for Konstantin Kilimnik, (TWW, Paul Manafort, 8/25/18; 6/9/18), “a Russian political operative believed to have ties to a Russian intelligence agency.” The other person is a Ukrainian oligarch. He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. (NY Times)
Promoting Violence: Trump warned of “violence” if Republicans lose the midterm congressional elections and Democrats take control of the House. He said it would come from the left. (Washington Post) Now, this doesn’t even make sense. If Republicans lose the elections then that means that Democrats won. So why would Democrats get violent if they won?
Donald McGahn: Trump announced in a tweet that the White House counsel will be leaving his job this fall. He didn’t inform him beforehand, according to people close to both men. (NY Times) If you remember, last January it was reported that McGahn “refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead.” (TWW, Firing Mueller, 1/27/18)
Rudy Giuliani: Trump’s personal lawyer sent a letter to Romanian officials “opposing a corruption crackdown in that country.” He also called for an amnesty for people convicted under what he called the excesses of the Romanian anticorruption authorities. Giuliani admitted that he was paid to write the letter by the Freeh Group, a private consultancy run by his friend Louis Freeh. [You may remember Freeh as the guy who ran the FBI under President Clinton.] Freeh represents Romanian Gabriel “Puiu” Popoviciu, who was convicted in 2016, fled the country, and was found in London and arrested. Maybe the amnesty Giuliani is calling for relates to this guy. (Guardian)
National Enquirer: Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen discussed a plan to prevent the National Enquirer’s parent company from publishing a trove of negative news items about Trump going back to the 1980s. They discussed buying the rights to all the stories that David Pecker of AMI, publisher of the National Enquirer, (TWW, David Pecker, 8/25/18) has been hoarding. (NY Times)
Germany: Mobs overtook the streets of Chemnitz in eastern Germany. The city “has a history of neo-Nazi protests.” But this time was worse than usual. The mobs chased “dark-skinned bystanders as police officers, vastly outnumbered, were too afraid to intervene. . . The rampage now stands as a high-water mark in the outpouring of anti-immigrant hatred . . .” (NY Times)
Palestinians: Trump, through son-in-law Jared Kushner, has decided to cut $200 million in financial aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Ma’An News) According to a new report to be released next week, they “will cap the number of recognized Palestinian refugees at half a million - around a tenth of the present UN number,” which will freeze funding for the United National Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which helps to support the refugees. (Middle East Eye)
Scotland: It’s going to start offering free sanitary products to all students in the country, including those at colleges and universities. It’s part of the plan to fight poverty. It is claimed that girls and women who are poor “struggle to pay for basic sanitary products on a monthly basis” and this significantly affects their “hygiene, health, and wellbeing.” (Guardian)
Arizona: The state supreme court knocked off a proposal scheduled to be on November’s ballot that would raise funding for schools. Complainants said that the petition did not adequately inform the public of the details of the measure which would increase taxes on individuals earning more than $250,000 and households with incomes of more than $500,000. The court ruled that the measure “did not accurately represent the increased tax burden on the affected classes of taxpayers.” Complainants were Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. (AZ Central) Arizona’s supremes also knocked off the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative that aimed to ban anonymous political spending. The court decided that supporters didn’t submit enough valid voter signatures to qualify. (AZ Central)
California: A trio of gun control bills are headed to the governor for signing. One puts a lifetime ban on owning firearms for people convicted of domestic violence. Another is a lifetime ban on people placed on involuntary psychiatric holds twice in one year. And the third sets a new standard for residents to obtain a concealed weapon permit. They must have 8 hours of training and pass a live-fire shooting test. It’s expected that Governor Jerry Brown (D) will sign them. (UPI) Lawmakers also “took some of the most aggressive steps yet to counter the effects of climate change.” They passed a bill that gives the state until 2045 to get 100% of the state electricity from carbon-free sources. The state already has a goal of 50% by 2030. The bill increases that to 60%. Brown is expected to sign it. (NY Times) And Friday lawmakers garnered enough votes to pass the toughest net neutrality law in the nation. (Washington Post)
Kansas: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has allowed Kansans to drink contaminated water for more than 6 years. In 2011 it discovered dry cleaning chemicals had contaminated the groundwater, but it did nothing, allowing “hundreds of residents in 2 Wichita-area neighborhoods to drink contaminated water for years without telling them, despite warning signs of contamination close to water wells used for drinking, washing, and bathing.” (Wichita Eagle)
Michigan: All schools in the Detroit Public Schools district will have their drinking water shut off after tests detected elevated levels of lead and copper. (Crain’s Detroit)
North Carolina: A 3-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in North Carolina once again struck down North Carolina’s congressional map as a partisan gerrymander. If you remember, the court ruled similarly before but the U.S. Supreme Court, when it was appealed, sent the case back to the District Court. (TWW, Gerrymandering, 6/30/18) “The judges acknowledged that primary elections have already produced candidates for the 2018 elections but said they were reluctant to let voting take place in congressional districts that courts twice have found violate constitutional standards.” North Carolina legislators will probably appeal, again, to the Supremes. (Washington Post)
West Virginia: Governor Jim Justice (R) appointed Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) to a vacant seat on the state supreme court. West Virginia recently fired all its supreme court judges. (TWW, West Virginia, 8/18/18) Jenkins lost his bid for the GOP Senate nomination. (Roll Call) I guess he needed a job so a supreme court judgeship is pretty good.
Wyoming: U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen issued a temporary restraining order blocking the opening of the first public grizzly bear hunts in Wyoming and Idaho in more than 40 years. He wrote: “The threat of death to individual bears posed by the scheduled hunts is sufficient” to justify a delay in the state’s hunting seasons. (Guardian)
LGBTQ: 16 states, led by Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson, filed an amicus brief in the case of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a case about a Michigan funeral home that fired an employee for transitioning while on the job. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that her termination violated Title VII’s protections on the basis of sex. Alliance Defending Freedom, “an anti-LGBTQ hate group,” has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief filed by the states is asking the justices to rule that it’s legal to fire people for being transgender. (Bloomberg)
Register to Vote: Make sure you’re registered to vote. The National Association of Secretaries of State have a website Can I Vote. You can go there, click on “Voter Registration,” select your state, and you will be taken to the secretary of state website for your state. Just follow the directions and make sure you’re registered.
Justifying Deportation: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is trying to prove that dangerous countries - like Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador - are becoming safer in order to justify ending Temporary Protected Status “for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war or natural disasters.” (NPR)
Passports: The State Department is denying passports, and in some cases denying renewal of passports, to American citizens living along the border. “The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship.” (Washington Post)
Campus Sexual Misconduct: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is preparing new policies for sexual assault on college campuses “that would bolster the rights of students accused of assault, harassment, or rape; reduce liability for institutions of higher education; and encourage schools to provide more support for victims.” She’s doing this by narrowing the definition of sexual harassment, “holding schools accountable only for formal complaints filed through proper authorities and for conduct said to have occurred on their campuses. They would also establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools improperly addressed complaints.” (NY Times)
NAFTA: Trump announced that he had reached an accord with Mexico to revise key portions of the North American Free Trade Agreement and would finalize it within days. (NY Times) Contrary to what you may have heard, this is all pretty meaningless. It’s a preliminary, partial agreement only. (AP) The president has no authority to unilaterally enter into trade agreements, only Congress can do that. Also NAFTA includes Canada and so the agreement will remain in effect until Canada agrees to changes. Of course, Trump can propose a new agreement with Mexico but it can’t go counter to any of NAFTA’s terms until and unless NAFTA is dissolved or amended. (NY Times) What Trump is discussing, what’s in this “preliminary agreement,” is unknown because Trump hasn’t released it. (Washington Post)
Ghost Guns: U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle ruled in favor of the 20 attorneys general and extended the temporary restraining order he granted last July (TWW, Ghost Guns, 8/4/18) so that blueprints for 3-D printing of guns cannot be posted online. (NY Times)
ACA: The Trump administration will have to pay New York and Minnesota close to $1 billion this year after they sued over lost federal funding for Medicaid programs. Both created “Basic Health Programs,” an option for states created by the Affordable Care Act.” I’ll not go into the details of what happened. You can read it for yourself. But Trump illegally reduced cost-sharing payments to the states. (Washington Post)
Bird Flu: To protect against the next flu pandemic “scientists need to know what flu strains are circulating and how they are changing. But efforts can be stymied if countries don’t share flu samples, and now the Chinese government appears to be withholding samples of the dangerous bird flu virus H7N9 from the United States.” Samples are needed in order to develop vaccines against the virus. (Live Science)
Forest Fires: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke knows how to stop forest fires: cut down the trees! (USA Today) On a Breitbart News radio program he doubled down. “We have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access, that refuse to allow harvesting of timber. The result is these catastrophic fires that are causing death.” Then he told KCRA in California: “I’ve heard the climate change argument back and forth. This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.”
Gulf Oil Refineries: The industry most responsible for climate change is asking the government for help fighting it. Texas is seeking at least $12 billion to build a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates, and steel levees on its Gulf Coast. While, yes, it will protect homes and ecosystems, the biggest priority is to shield refineries, “some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry,” which are worth billions of dollars to Big Oil and lots of campaign funds to Texas politicians. It will all be built with public funds. (AP)
Alberta Pipeline: A unanimous decision by a Canadian court “overturned Ottawa’s approval of a hotly-contested pipeline project - throwing plans to nearly triple the flow of Alberta’s landlocked bitumen to the west coast into limbo - in a ruling hailed by environmentalists and Indigenous groups.” The court ruled that the lower court failed to adequately consider the concerns of some First Nations regarding the pipeline project. (Guardian)
Downey Magallanes: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s deputy chief of staff and top adviser has resigned to take a job on oil giant BP’s government affairs team. Yeah. Another oil lobbyist. Magallenes is responsible for the rollback of the 2 Utah national monuments - Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. (TWW, National Monuments, 7/28/18) (Washington Post)
Federal Workers: Last May Trump issued an Executive Order that would make it easier to fire federal workers. (TWW, Federal Workers, 5/26/18) U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson struck down most of the Order. The NY Times called it a “major blow” to Republican efforts “to rein in public-sector labor unions.” Trump is, however, (in response to this decision?) canceling the 2.1% pay increase scheduled for January 1st. “Congress has the power to override his decision, however, and unions representing government workers called on lawmakers to do so.” (NY Times)
Wages: Once inflation is taken into consideration, average hourly earnings are less than they were a year ago. Stagnant wages in the midst of “an expanding economy, record stock prices, soaring corporate profits, and a giant deficit-fueled stimulus from Trump’s tax cuts.” Republicans claimed the tax cuts would immediately boost wages, with average pay increasing by $4,000 to $9,000. It hasn’t happened. (Bloomberg)
Student Loans: Seth Frotman, the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), resigned. In his resignation letter to acting director Mick Mulvaney he said the Trump administration “has turned its back on young people and their financial futures.” He wrote: “Unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting. Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.” (NPR)
AT&T: It’s expecting a windfall of $20 billion in savings from the Republican tax cuts. Is it investing in growth? Jobs? Better wages? Nope. It spent the money on stock buybacks (TWW, Buyback Economy, 6/16/18) but has closed call centers, laid off people, and reduced pay. (Guardian) Surprised?