Trump, Week 15: Friday, 28 April – Thursday, 4 May 2017 (Days 99-105)


There is no Planet B


Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)


Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.


Friday, 28 April 2017, Day 99:


Trump signs executive order to expand oil and gas drilling off America’s coasts: ‘We’re opening it up.’ The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Friday, 28 April 2017: “President Trump signed an executive order Friday that aims to expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, as well as assess whether energy exploration can take place in marine sanctuaries in the Pacific and Atlantic. The ‘America-First Offshore Energy Strategy’ will make millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing, just four months after President Barack Obama withdrew these areas from possible development. In late December, Obama used a little-known provision in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to bar energy exploration in large portions of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and a string of canyons in the Atlantic stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia.” See also, Trump to Expand Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling and to Reconsider Rules Designed to Prevent a Repeat of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, Bloomberg Politics, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Friday, 28 April 2017: “The executive order…instructs Zinke to review a raft of protections governing offshore drilling, including a measure designed to address shortcomings revealed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, triggered when a BP Plc well blew out in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting explosion killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of crude.”

Trump Targets Undocumented Families, Not Felons, in First 100 Days, The Intercept, Ryan Devereaux, Friday, 28 April 2017: “In 2014, after years of bitter fighting in Washington over comprehensive immigration reform, Barack Obama announced that his administration would provide protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants living in the country, shifting its enforcement focus to ‘felons, not families.’ The White House, by that time, had overseen the deportation of nearly 2 million people — according to an analysis by the New York Times, two-thirds of those cases involved individuals ‘who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.’ Obama’s DHS secretary, Jeh Johnson, operationalized the policy shift in a memo calling on his personnel to exercise prosecutorial discretion in order to prioritize enforcement of immigration laws against individuals who posed a threat to national security, border security, or public safety. The memo did not stop the Obama administration from deporting people who lacked criminal records or whose only offense was an immigration violation — a December 2016 analysis by the Marshal Project found roughly 60 percent of the 300,000 people deported after the president’s speech fit that description — and advocates would often argue that splitting the immigrant population into two groups created its own set of problems. Still, defenders of the administration’s efforts say, it was something. At the very least, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was supposed to be targeting its efforts with an eye toward more dangerous individuals, even if the reality on the ground was much different…. This month [April 2017], the Washington Post reported that arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have more than doubled under the Trump administration. The paper described the push as ‘the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.’… [T]he ‘noncriminal’ ICE arrests seen during the first three months of the Trump administration are more than double those reported over the same period in 2016 — in fact, the numbers from this year are more than those from 2016 and 2015 combined. However, the number of noncriminal arrests over the first three months of 2017 is lower than the number of noncriminal arrests during the same period in 2014. During that three-month period, which was before the Obama-era prioritization memo was issued, ICE arrested 7,483 noncriminals and 21,745 criminals, compared to 5,441 noncriminals and 15,921 criminals under Trump. In other words, the Trump administration appears to be moving enforcement back to a pre-2014 prioritization memo framework, in which immigrants with clean criminal records are fair game for enforcement.”

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, Responds to Trump’s N.R.A. Speech With Photos of Shooting Victims, The New York Times, Matt Stevens, Friday, 28 April 2017: “As President Trump took the stage to champion the Second Amendment at a National Rifle Association convention on Friday, a United States senator sought to counter his message by unleashing a Twitter storm using the names, ages and pictures of gun violence victims. Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who has fought for increased gun control since the 2012 school massacre in his home state, posted on Twitter on Friday morning to urge his followers not to watch Mr. Trump’s speech and instead, ‘think about who we are fighting for.'”

Continue reading Week 15, Friday, 28 April – Thursday, 4 May 2017:

Trump Revives ‘Pocahontas” Insult of Senator Elizabeth Warren, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Friday, 28 April 2017: “President Donald Trump revived one of his favorite — and most provocative — taunts against Elizabeth Warren on Friday, derisively calling the Massachusetts senator ‘Pocahontas.’ Trump mocked Warren repeatedly during the presidential campaign for claims she made about being part Native American. During remarks Friday at the National Rifle Association, the president took aim at the liberal senator once again, saying she could be among the Democrats who seek to challenge him in 2020 if he seeks a second term. ‘I have a feeling that in the next election, you’re going to be swamped with candidates,’ Trump said. ‘It may be Pocahontas, remember that.’ Native American leaders have called Trump’s attacks on Warren offensive and distasteful. Some Democrats have called the remark racist.”

The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) Halts Collection of Americans’ Emails About Foreign Targets, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 28 April 2017: “The National Security Agency said Friday that it had halted one of the most disputed practices of its warrantless surveillance program, ending a once-secret form of wiretapping that dates to the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 expansion of national security powers. The agency is no longer collecting Americans’ emails and texts exchanged with people overseas that simply mention identifying terms — like email addresses — for foreigners whom the agency is spying on, but are neither to nor from those targets. The decision is a major development in American surveillance policy. Privacy advocates have argued that the practice skirted or overstepped the Fourth Amendment. The change is unrelated to the surveillance imbroglio over the investigations into Russia and the Trump campaign, according to officials familiar with the matter. Rather, it stemmed from a discovery that N.S.A. analysts had violated rules imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court barring any searching for Americans’ information in certain messages captured through such wiretapping.”

The Trump Administration’s Removal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Primary Climate Change Web Page Doesn’t Change Climate Reality, Union of Concerned Scientists, Friday, 28 April 2017: “On the eve of the much-anticipated climate march in Washington, D.C., the Trump administration removed the Environmental Protection Agency’s primary climate change web page, and replaced it with a notice that indicates the page is being updated. A press release from EPA issued late Friday evening said the pages were being reviewed because they were associated with the previous administration and ‘outdated,’ and that they were being reviewed to ‘reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.’ The notice did include a link to an archived version of the page from January 19, 2017. See also, Trump administration removes the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate science site from public view after two decades, The Washington Post, Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin, published on Saturday, 29 April 2017: “[T]he website overhaul appears to include not only policy-related changes but also scrutiny of a scientific Web page that has existed for nearly two decades, and that explained what climate change is and how it works…. [Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA] argued on CNBC last month [March 2017] that ‘measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.’ The EPA’s climate change website stated otherwise, and did so by citing findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Gives Trump a Small Victory in His Push Against the Clean Power Plan, The New York Times, Coral Davenport, Friday, 28 April 2017: “A federal court said on Friday it would halt consideration of a major lawsuit over former President Barack Obama’s signature policy aimed at tackling global warming, handing the Trump administration a modest and perhaps temporary victory. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a request from the Trump administration to defer for 60 days a decision on litigation over a contested 2015 Environmental Protection Agency regulation, known as the Clean Power Plan. The rule, aimed at shutting down heavily polluting coal-fired power plants and replacing them with renewable energy sources, was the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s efforts to enact a series of ambitious regulations to reduce the United States’ contributions to global warming. Twenty-eight states and several major industry groups had sued the Obama administration seeking to overturn the rule, arguing that it was unduly burdensome to utilities and too costly for consumers.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Is Keeping ‘All Options’ Open if Diplomacy With North Korea Fails, The New York Times, Somini Sengupta and Gardiner Harris, Friday, 28 April 2017: “Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Friday that the United States was keeping “all options” on the table if diplomacy failed to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program. Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Tillerson called for stiffer international sanctions against North Korea and threatened to impose sanctions on third parties that continued to cooperate with the country. He also demanded that the North dismantle its nuclear weapons program before talks could begin. ‘The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it,’ he said. ‘All options for reacting to future provocations must remain on the table.’ He added, ‘North Korea must take concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose to the United States and our allies before we can consider talks.'”

Vouchers for Private Schools Are Found to Lower Test Scores in Washington, D.C. Schools, The New York Times, Erica L. Green, Friday, 28 April 2017: “For more than a decade, House Republicans led by the former Speaker John A. Boehner have used school children in the nation’s capital as an experiment for school choice, funding a far-reaching voucher program to send poor children to private schools over the opposition of local teachers and unions. Now, with Betsy DeVos, one of the country’s fiercest advocates of school choice, installed as education secretary, that experiment is poised to go national. But Ms. DeVos’s own department this week rendered judgment on the Washington school choice program: It has not improved student achievement, and it may have worsened it. The examination of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally funded voucher program in the country, by the department’s Institute of Education Sciences, found that students who attended a private school through the program performed worse on standardized tests than their public school counterparts who did not use the vouchers.”

The Making of a Legacy: First Steps in the Trump Era, The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear, Friday, 28 April 2017: “President Trump has presided over an extraordinary first 100 days in office marked by the aggressive use of executive power and a freewheeling leadership style, shattering the norms of the presidency and the traditions of Washington. While his attention-grabbing statements and actions have produced very few of the concrete policy changes he had promised as a candidate, there is little doubt that Mr. Trump has moved to set the nation on a radically different course. Here is a look at his record to date [in the following areas: Jobs and the Economy; Health Care; Environment; Immigration; Foreign Policy; Military and Intelligence; Social Issues and the Courts; Personnel; and Norms of the Presidency].”

Tallying President Trump’s first 100 days, The Washington Post, Kevin Uhrmacher and Chiqui Esteban, Friday, 28 April 2017: “One hundred days ago, Donald Trump became president. Today, he is the least popular [president] of the modern era at this point of the presidency. In the intervening period, he assembled a Cabinet high in experience outside government and low in diversity. He made hundreds of misleading or downright false statements. He put his mark on the Supreme Court and pleased his supporters. He undid regulations to dismantle his predecessor’s legacy. [This article takes] a look at those hundred days.”

Cataloging Every Tweet by Trump Since He Took Office, The New York Times, Alicia Parlapiano and Larry Buchanan, Friday, 28 April 2017: “The question of whether Donald J. Trump would continue to use his personal Twitter account as president seemed settled in January, when he told The Times of London, ‘I think I’ll keep it.’ He cited his large following, which is currently 1.7 times the size of the official @POTUS account, and his ability to circumvent the press to speak to his supporters. As Mr. Trump approaches 100 days in office, we’ve taken stock of how he has used the medium, cataloging his Twitter posts into 10 themes:

Undermining Obama (15 tweets)

Raising Alarm (40)

Serving as Spin (101)

Saturday, 29 April 2017, Day 100:


Climate March draws massive crowd to D.C. in sweltering heat, The Washington Post, Chris Mooney, Joe Heim, and Brady Dennis, Saturday, 29 April 2017: “On a sweltering April day, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in Washington on Saturday for the latest installment of the regular protests that punctuate the Trump era. This large-scale climate march marked President Trump’s first 100 days in office, which have already seen multiple rollbacks of environmental protections and Obama climate policies. The Peoples Climate March, which originated with a massive demonstration in New York in September 2014, picked a symbolically striking day for its 2017 event. The temperature reached 91 degrees at D.C.’s National Airport at 2:59 p.m., tying a heat record for April 29 in the district set in 1974 — which only amplified the movement’s message. On the eve of the march, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was beginning an overhaul of its website, which included taking down a long-standing site devoted to the science of climate change, which the agency said was ‘under review.'”

Trump invites controversial Philippine leader Duterte to the White House, The Washington Post, Kristine Phillips and Jenna Johnson, published on Sunday, 20 April 2017: “Signaling what’s perhaps a warming relationship between their two countries, President Trump invited the controversial leader of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to the White House in a phone call Saturday. The two leaders had ‘a very friendly conversation’ in which they talked about the North Korea threat, according to the White House’s readout of the call. The two men, who have drawn comparisons for their tough rhetoric, also discussed the Philippine government’s fight against drugs. What remained unmentioned, however, are the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users as part of the government’s drug war. Thousands have been killed by police and vigilantes since Duterte took office and vowed to eradicate his country’s massive drug problem. The rising death toll has drawn criticisms from international human rights groups, at least one of which, the Human Rights Watch, has made the case for a criminal investigation of the Duterte administration…. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus defended Trump’s praise of Duterte on Sunday, saying the president’s top priority is addressing the threat of North Korea and partnering with countries in Southeast Asia…. ABC’s Jonathan Karl repeatedly pressed Priebus on Duterte’s ‘abysmal human rights record,’ asking how Trump could praise a leader accused of mass killings. Priebus would not say whether the issue came up in the call, saying he didn’t hear the entire conversation…. Trump’s invitation to Duterte immediately attracted criticisms from the Human Rights Watch. ‘Speaking glowingly of a man who boasts killing of his own citizens, inviting him to the White House, and saying nothing of his terrifying human rights record, sends a terrifying message, and entirely a different tone than many other parts of the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress would want to send,’ John Sifton, the organization’s Asia advocacy director, said in a statement. ‘By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs,” Trump is now morally complicit in future killings.'” [Emphasis in the original.]

Trump Savages the News Media at Rally in Harrisburg, PA to Mark His 100th Day, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Saturday, 29 April 2017: “President Trump came to a farm expo center here [Harrisburg, PA] on Saturday to celebrate his first 100 days in office by bathing in the support of his bedrock supporters, reprising the populist themes of his campaign and savaging a familiar foe: the news media. In a rally timed to coincide with an annual dinner of the White House press corps in Washington, which he declined to attend, Mr. Trump laced into what he referred to as ‘the failing New York Times,’ as well as CNN and MSNBC, which he accused of incompetence and dishonesty. ‘Their priorities are not my priorities, and not your priorities,’ Mr. Trump said to a sea of supporters, many in familiar red ‘Make America Great Again’ caps. ‘If the media’s job is to be honest and tell the truth, the media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade,’ he said, adding that they were ‘very dishonest people.’ Mr. Trump reveled in his decision to skip the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, describing a scene in which Hollywood stars and reporters consoled themselves in a Washington hotel ballroom, while he mixed with a better class of people in the American heartland.”

Sunday, 30 April 2017, Day 101:


Trump’s ‘Very Friendly’ Talk With President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines Stuns Aides and Critics Alike, The New York Times, Mark Landler, Sunday, 30 April 2017: “When President Trump called President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Saturday, White House officials saw it as part of a routine diplomatic outreach to Southeast Asian leaders. Mr. Trump, characteristically, had his own ideas. During their ‘very friendly conversation,’ the administration said in a late-night statement, Mr. Trump invited Mr. Duterte, an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines, to visit him at the White House. Now, the administration is bracing for an avalanche of criticism from human rights groups. Two senior officials said they expected the State Department and the National Security Council, both of which were caught off guard by the invitation, to raise objections internally. ‘By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,’ said John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch…. It is not even clear, given the accusations of human rights abuses against him, that Mr. Duterte would be granted a visa to the United States were he not a head of state, according to human rights advocates. Mr. Trump’s affinity for Mr. Duterte, and other strongmen as well, is firmly established. Both presidents are populist insurgent leaders with a penchant for making inflammatory statements. Both ran for office calling for a wholesale crackdown on Islamist militancy and the drug trade. And both display impatience with the courts…. Mr. Trump has a commercial connection to the Philippines: His name is stamped on a $150 million, 57-floor tower in Manila, a licensing deal that netted his company millions of dollars. Mr. Duterte appointed the chairman of the company developing the tower, Jose E. B. Antonio, as an envoy to Washington for trade, investment and economic affairs.”

Many Undocumented Immigrants Are Too scared to Report Sexual Abuse Because They Fear Deportation, The New York Times, Jennifer Medina, Sunday, 30 April 2017: “Domestic violence has always been a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute. It often takes victims years to seek help, and they frequently have to be persuaded to testify against their assailants. And for many undocumented victims, taking that step has become exceedingly difficult because of fears that the government will detain and deport them if they press charges, according to law enforcement officials, lawyers and advocates from across the country. Since the presidential election, there has been a sharp downturn in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence among Latinos throughout the country, and many experts attribute the decline to fears of deportation. Law enforcement officials in several large cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and Denver, say the most dangerous fallout of changes in policy and of harsh statements on immigration is that fewer immigrants are willing to go to the police.”

Trump set up a hotline for information about criminal aliens. Twitter trolls took him literally. The Washington Post, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Sunday, 30 April 2017: “When President Trump announced his hotline for victims of immigration crimes to a joint session of Congress, he got loud boos and groans from the assembled elected officials, worried about painting immigrants broadly as violent criminals. But watching from home, Alexander McCoy saw an opportunity for a monumental Twitter prank and a subtle act of civil disobedience. It was based, he told The Washington Post, on his seething anger at how Trump thinks of immigrants — and a pun. If the president wanted Americans to call the VOICE hotline to talk about aliens behaving badly, McCoy thought, well, that’s what Americans should do. McCoy, a Marine Corps veteran, wrote a tweet on April 26, which, not so coincidentally, was #AlienDay on Twitter, a tie-in with an upcoming movie. [McCoy tweeted:] ‘Wouldn’t it be a shame if millions of people called this hotline to report their encounters with aliens of the UFO-variety.’ The Internet got the joke and launched a thousand memes. Then, people started inundating the hotline with reports of aliens in action…. In an interview with The Post, McCoy said he saw the whole alien thing as more than a prank: It’s a form of modern civil disobedience. His heart goes out to crime victims, he said, but there are already programs that help them get support — and VOICE is not one of them. In a news release, ICE said the program directs victims ‘to a wide range of resources.’ It also connects them to websites for automated alerts about criminals. Instead, McCoy said, the goal of his action is to show dissatisfaction with Trump’s stance toward immigrants.”


Monday, 1 May 2017, Day 103:


Trump Abruptly Ends CBS Interview With John Dickerson After Wiretap Question, The New York Times, Glenn Thrush and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 1 May 2017: “In his interview with Mr. Dickerson, the president veered from sales mode to sullen defiance. The first part, which aired on Sunday, was all sales. The second part, which aired on Monday, ended when Mr. Trump walked away abruptly after Mr. Dickerson pressed him on his false claim, expressed on Twitter, that President Barack Obama had placed a ‘tap’ on Trump Tower. Mr. Trump said that while the former president had been ‘very nice to me,’ the two have had ‘difficulties.’ ‘You saw what happened with surveillance,’ Mr. Trump said, declining to elaborate. Asked by Mr. Dickerson, ‘What does that mean, sir?’ Mr. Trump said, ‘You can figure that out yourself.’ When Mr. Dickerson asked whether Mr. Trump stood by his characterization of Mr. Obama as ‘sick and bad,’ the president appeared to become agitated and said, ‘You can take it any way you want.’ ‘I have my own opinions,’ Mr. Trump continued, as Mr. Dickerson tried in vain to ask him for an explanation. ‘You can have your own opinions.’ The president then ended the interview, saying, ‘O.K., it’s enough.’ Congressional investigators from both parties have said they have uncovered no evidence to support Mr. Trump’s claims.”

Trump had a puzzling and revealing answer to John Dickerson’s CBS interview question about a basic leadership concept, The Washington Post, Jena McGregor, Monday, 1 May 2017: “President Trump sat for an interview with ‘Face the Nation’ host John Dickerson that aired [on Sunday and Monday morning]…. [I]n [the] portion of the interview that aired Monday, Trump answered several questions about the Oval Office that revealed a lot about his leadership style. He likes to have people sit across the Resolute Desk from him, he said, rather than on the sofas in the room. He likes to conduct most of his business in the Oval Office, which he thinks ‘gives you great additional power, if you want to know the truth.’ But when asked by Dickerson how people’s awe of the physical space might affect their willingness to say ‘no’ to him, Trump didn’t seem to comprehend a question about a core leadership concept. It’s hard enough for leaders to get people to say ‘no’ to them or deliver the kind of bad news or tough feedback that can prevent a crisis or avoid a bad decision. But it can be even harder to get them to do so when the grandeur of the executive’s office signals power and authority, and Dickerson asked him about that challenge.… [After Trump didn’t seem to comprehend the question] Dickerson tried yet again…. ‘One of the worries about a presidency is that everybody tells you ‘yes.’ Nobody helps you figure out where your blind spots are. So how do…you find that?’ Trump’s answer implied it’s something he does himself. ‘I guess, it’s one of those things in life you have to be able to figure it out,’ he said. ‘Maybe I’ve been figuring that out anyway long before I got here.’ After repeating that line, he again went back to the aura of the Oval Office. ‘But this is a special place. The White House is special. The Oval Office, very special.’ In Trump’s response, there was no naming of the people who do say ‘no’ to him. No recognition of the importance of hearing differing views. No explanation of how he seeks out those voices on his staff. It’s certainly possible that when Trump said he has ‘figured it out,’ he meant he has found a way to get advisers to speak candidly with him. But his repeated return to the ‘special’-ness of the Oval Office suggests at least that when it comes to the gravity of the space, its potential for helping him look more powerful matters much more to him than its potential to limit the input that he hears.”

Trump Discards Obama Legacy, One Rule at a Time, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Monday, 1 May 2017: “Just days after the November election, top aides to Donald J. Trump huddled with congressional staff members in Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s suite of offices at the Capitol. The objective: not to get things done, but to undo them — quickly. For about three months after Inauguration Day, Mr. Trump would have the power to wipe away some of his predecessor’s most significant regulations with simple-majority votes from his allies in Congress…. An obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act gives lawmakers 60 legislative days to overturn major new regulations issued by federal agencies. After that window closes, sometime in early May, the process gets much more difficult: Executive orders by the president can take years to unwind regulations — well beyond the important 100-day yardstick for new administrations. So in weekly meetings leading up to Jan. 20, the Trump aides and lawmakers worked from a shared Excel spreadsheet to develop a list of possible targets: rules enacted late in Barack Obama’s presidency that they viewed as a vast regulatory overreach that was stifling economic growth. The result was a historic reversal of government rules in record time. Mr. Trump has used the review act as a regulatory wrecking ball, signing 13 bills that erased rules on the environment, labor, financial protections, internet privacy, abortion, education and gun rights. In the law’s 21-year history, it had been used successfully only once before, when President George W. Bush reversed a Clinton-era ergonomics rule.” See also, Which Obama-Era Rules Are Being Reversed in the Trump Era, The New York Times, Eric Lipton and Jasmine C. Lee, Monday, 1 May 2017: This article enumerates “the rules being challenged, and the status of each repeal effort, based on data compiled by Curtis W. Copeland, a former senior staff member at the Congressional Research Service.”

Trump voices confusion over US history as evidenced by his remarks about Andrew Jackson being ‘really angry’ about the Civil War and his question, ‘Why was there a civil war?’ The Guardian, Tom McCarthy, published on Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “Donald Trump has expressed confusion as to why the American civil war took place and claimed that President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the war started, ‘was really angry’ about the conflict. In an interview published on Monday [1 May] the US president also said Jackson, a slaveholder who led a relocation and extermination campaign against Native Americans, ‘had a big heart.’ On Monday night, Trump sought to clarify his remarks, arguing in a tweet that Jackson had predicted the civil war and would have prevented it had he not died 16 years prior. [Trump tweeted] ‘President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!’ The president made his remarks in an interview with the Washington Examiner to mark his 100th day in office, which fell on Saturday.”

Trump says he would be ‘honored’ to meet with North Korean dictator, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Anne Gearan, Monday, 1 May 2017: “President Trump said Monday he would be ‘honored’ to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ‘under the right circumstances.’  Trump’s comments came amid heightened tensions with North Korea, whose nuclear weapons program has sparked deep concerns in the international community, and just a day after Trump said he would not rule out military action against North Korea.” See also, Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From It, The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, published on Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “Since at least the end of World War II, supporting the world’s worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: in a world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests. Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policy makers to ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed….U.S. support for tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets…. The foreign policy guru most beloved and respected in Washington, Henry Kissinger, built his career on embracing and propping up the most savage tyrants because of their obeisance to U.S. objectives…. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. under President Reagan, was regarded as a top-flight conservative intellectual because of her explicit defense of pro-western, right-wing dictators, heaping praise on U.S.-supported savage oppressors such as the Shah of Iran and Nicaragua’s military dictator Anastasio Somoza on the ground that ‘they were positively friendly to the U.S., sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost.’… In 1977, Jimmy Carter attended a State Dinner in Tehran for the Shah of Iran, the savage U.S.-supported despot that ruled that country for decades after the CIA overthrew its democratically elected leader. It took place shortly after Carter hosted the Shah at the White House. The U.S. President hailed the Iranian tyrant with a long toast…. U.S. devotion to the world’s worst dictators did not end, or even recede, upon the end of the Cold War. Both the Bush and Obama administrations continually armed, funded, supported and praised the world’s worst dictators. In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said of the murderous Egyptian dictator supported by the U.S.: ‘I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.’ When Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew that country’s first elected government, Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, hailed him for ‘restoring democracy,’ and as Sisi became more brutal and repressive, the Obama administration lavished him with more weapons and money. The U.S. Government did the same for the human-rights abusing dictators in Bahrain.”

100 days of @realDonaldTrump: All of Trump’s tweets starting with 20 January 2017, The Washington Post, Danielle Rindler, Monday, 1 May 2017: “According to an analysis done by The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, the things [Trump] tweeted about most were the media, official business, jobs, foreign affairs and the Democratic Party. His most used hashtag was #MAGA, followed by #ICYMI. He mentioned @WhiteHouse the most, followed by @foxandfriends and @nytimes. Some examples of those, as well as some of his more popular tweets, are highlighted in [this article].

Trump starts dismantling his shadow Cabinet, Politico, Michael Grunwald, Andrew Restuccia, and Josh Dawsey, Monday, 1 May 2017: “Tensions have been rising between Cabinet officials and White House advisers embedded at their agencies. The White House is quietly starting to pull the plug on its shadow Cabinet of Trump loyalists who had been dispatched to federal agencies to serve as the president’s eyes and ears. These White House-installed chaperones have often clashed with the Cabinet secretaries they were assigned to monitor, according to sources across the agencies, with the secretaries expressing frustration that the so-called ‘senior White House advisers’ are mostly young Trump campaign aides with little experience in government. The tensions have escalated for weeks, prompting a recent meeting among Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and other administration officials, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. Now, some of the advisers are being reassigned or simply eased out, the sources said, even though many of them had expected to be central players at their agencies for the long haul. The tumult underscores the growing pains that are still being felt throughout Trump’s government, more than 100 days into his term. ‘These guys are being set up for failure,’ said one administration source. ‘They’re not D.C. guys. They’re campaign people. They have no idea how government works.'”

What’s in the spending agreement? We read it so you don’t have to. The Washington Post, Kelsey Snell and Ed O’Keefe, Monday, 1 May 2017: “Lawmakers reached an agreement late Sunday on a broad spending package to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year in September, ending weeks of uncertainty. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package early this week. The bipartisan agreement includes $12.5 billion in new military spending and $1.5 billion more for border security, a major priority for Republican leaders in Congress. So, what’s in the agreement? We’ve sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below. Please note: This is a fluid report that will be updated to add more detail or correct errors…. Here’s a link to the 1,600-page bill that you can see for yourself.”

Congress’s Spending Agreement Overrides Climate Science on Wood Energy, Climate Central, John Upton, published on Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “Congress’s bipartisan spending agreement could fund federal government operations for less than a year, but its effects on climate policy could persist through future presidential administrations. Page 902 of the appropriations bill directs several federal agencies to develop consistent policies that would, in many circumstances, define wood energy as being as friendly for the climate as solar or wind power, despite its heavy climate impacts. While burning wood for energy can help with the disposal of waste and reduce fossil fuel use, it releases more heat-trapping carbon dioxide than heavily polluting coal. It can also promote logging, which often accelerates warming.… Republicans have been trying for years to pass legislation forcing the EPA and other federal agencies to treat wood energy as ‘carbon neutral.’ But they’ve never come this close to overcoming fierce resistance by environmental groups. Wood energy is only carbon neutral in limited and rare circumstances. Large industrial operations can be worse for the climate than burning coal.”

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is called out by several Democratic Senators for ‘thinly disguised’ attempt to undermine renewable energy, ThinkProgress, Mark Hand, Monday, 1 May 2017: “Lawmakers are questioning the motives behind the Department of Energy’s decision to study whether government support for renewable energy resources are threatening the reliability of the nation’s power grid and contributing to the closure of coal-fired and nuclear power plants. In a letter sent to Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Monday, several Democratic senators called the request for the grid reliability study ‘a thinly disguised attempt to promote less economic electric generation technologies, such as coal and nuclear, at the expense of cost-competitive wind and solar power.’ The study appears intended to blame wind and solar power for the financial difficulties facing coal and nuclear generators and to suggest that renewable energy resources threaten the reliability of the grid, the senators said…. Clean energy groups — American Wind Energy Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, and Advanced Energy Economy — contend that policies supporting the deployment of solar and wind power, energy storage, and advanced grid technologies ‘are not playing an important role in the decline of coal and nuclear plants.’ Instead, numerous studies have demonstrated that low natural gas prices and stagnant load growth are the principal factor behind the retirements of coal and nuclear plants, the groups said in a letter to Perry.”

Trump Takes Aim at the Obama Administration’s School Lunch Guidelines and a Girls’ Education Program, The New York Times, Erica L. Green and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Monday, 1 May 2017: “The Trump administration took aim Monday at two signature programs of the former first lady Michelle Obama, rolling back her efforts to promote healthy school lunches nationwide and potentially rebranding her program to educate adolescent girls abroad. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that school meals would no longer have to meet some requirements connected with Mrs. Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity by overhauling the nation’s school menus. The nutrition regulations were part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and were advocated by Mrs. Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign. For the last five years, schools have been required to reduce the number of calories and the fat and sodium in their cafeterias and increase offerings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nonfat milk to the roughly 32 million students who receive federally subsidized meals. Beginning next school year, schools can request an exemption from the whole grain requirements and delay the sodium mandate. They will also be able to serve 1 percent flavored milk instead of nonfat.”

Top Ethics Officer Walter M. Shaub Jr. Challenges Trump Over Secret Waivers for Ex-Lobbyists, The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Monday, 1 May 2017: “The federal government’s top ethics officer is challenging the Trump administration’s issuance of secret waivers that allow former lobbyists to handle matters they recently worked on, setting up a confrontation between the ethics office and President Trump. The move by Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, is the latest sign of rising tension between Mr. Shaub and the Trump White House. Mr. Shaub has tried several times to use his limited powers to force Mr. Trump to broadly honor federal ethics rules as well as the ethics order that Mr. Trump himself signed in late January. Historically, the Office of Government Ethics — a tiny operation that has just 71 employees but that supervises an ethics program covering 2.7 million civilian executive branch workers — has maintained a low profile. Created in 1978 after the Watergate scandal, it does not have subpoena power or its own investigators. But Mr. Shaub, in the last year of a five-year presidential appointment, is now pressing Mr. Trump for more information on former lobbyists or employees of corporations working in the president’s administration. The effort started before Inauguration Day to persuade Mr. Trump and his staff to comply with more conventional ethics standards used during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.”

Trump picks antiabortion activist, Teresa Manning, to head the Department of Health and Human Services’ family planning section, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Monday, 1 May 2017: “President Trump is placing antiabortion activist Teresa Manning in charge of the Title X program, which provides family planning funding for poor Americans or those without health insurance, according to individuals briefed on the decision. Manning’s selection as the Department of Health and Human Services’ deputy assistant secretary for population affairs marks the second agency appointment within three days that has pleased abortion foes and angered abortion rights proponents. On Friday, the White House announced that Trump had picked Charmaine Yoest, former president of Americans United for Life, as the department’s assistant secretary of public affairs. Manning, a former lobbyist with the National Right to Life Committee and legislative analyst for the conservative Family Research Council, has criticized several family planning methods over the course of her career.”

Julie Kirchner, Former Director of Anti-Immigration Group, Set to Be Named Ombudsman at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, ProPublica, Marcelo Rochabrun and Jessica Huseman, published on Friday, 28 April 2017 and updated on Monday, 1 May 2017: “A former director of an anti-immigration group, Julie Kirchner, is expected to be named as ombudsman to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the pending appointment. Kirchner was from 2005 to 2015 director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that has advocated for extreme restrictions on immigration. The ombudsman’s office at USCIS provides assistance to immigrants who run into trouble with the agency, such as immigration applications that take too long to process or applications that may have been improperly rejected. The ombudsman also prepares an annual report for Congress in which they can issue audits and policy recommendations without consulting with USCIS in advance. As the nation’s immigration agency, USCIS handles a wide range of legal immigration matters, including applications for citizenship and green cards. The agency can also grant legal status to those in extreme circumstances, such as refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, the agency is in charge of adjudicating applications from undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, sometimes referred to as ‘dreamers’ or DACA recipients…. Update, May 1, 2017: The Department of Homeland Security updated its website on Monday, May 1, 2017 to include the name of Julie Kirchner as citizenship and immigration services ombudsman.”

If you think Fox News is changing, Rupert Murdoch’s internal memo shows it isn’t. At all. The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan, published on Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “If ever there were an internal memo that said it all, a remarkably brief one from Rupert Murdoch to Fox News staff on Monday is it. In just 56 words, the top dog at 21st Century Fox managed to fudge, obfuscate and — most of all — reaffirm his allegiance to the only values that matter: profits. Let’s take it apart. First line: ‘Sadly, Bill Shine resigned today.’ Well, no…. By any interpretation except a purely technical one, Shine was fired. Second line and third lines: ‘I know Bill was respected and liked by everybody at Fox News. We will all miss him.’ Again, no. Shine, by all reports, was a primary enabler of the abusive Roger Ailes, who also ‘resigned’ last summer after many women who had worked for him accused him of creating a disgusting culture in which sexual favors were expected as payment for career advancement.… Fourth line: ‘Suzanne Scott becomes President, Programming and Jay Wallace, President News.’ It looks like progress and reform that Fox has appointed a woman to a top position, but that is undercut because it was Scott who carried out Fox’s sexist dress and appearance rules for women employees…. Nowhere in Murdoch’s note is a word about the treatment of women and minorities at Fox. Nothing about cleaning up its tainted culture.… But it’s in the two last sentences that Murdoch delivers the major point. And here, finally, is something that rings true. ‘Fox News continues to break both viewing and revenue records, for which I thank you all. I am sure we can do even better.’ Just ratings and profits, and the insatiable desire for more. All this after doing a great deal to deliver the Oval Office to Donald Trump, and continuing to serve as the presidential Pravda.”

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross says Trump’s attack on Syria on 6 April  was ‘after-dinner entertainment,’ The Guardian, Lauren Gambino, published on Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has described the cruise missile attack on Syria as ‘after-dinner entertainment’ for guests dining at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on 6 April, when the president decided to launch the strike. Ross, speaking at an economics conference in California on Monday, recounted the scene at the Florida estate when Trump interrupted dessert to inform Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US had attacked a Syrian airfield. ‘Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria,’ Ross said, according to Variety. ‘It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.’ The magazine reported that the audience laughed at Ross’ recollection of the evening. He added: ‘The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment.’ Ross, the billionaire investor with no prior government experience, made the remarks during a discussion at the six-day Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California.”

A Hundred Days of Trump, The New Yorker, David Remnick, Monday, 1 May 2017: “For most people, the luxury of living in a relatively stable democracy is the luxury of not following politics with a nerve-racked constancy. Trump does not afford this. His Presidency has become the demoralizing daily obsession of anyone concerned with global security, the vitality of the natural world, the national health, constitutionalism, civil rights, criminal justice, a free press, science, public education, and the distinction between fact and its opposite.”


Tuesday, 2 May 2017, Day 103:


23 Environmental Rules Rolled Back in Trump’s First 100 Days, The New York Times, Nadja Popovich and Tatiana Schlossberg, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “President Trump, with help from his administration and Republicans in Congress, has reversed course on nearly two dozen environmental rules, regulations and other Obama-era policies during his first 100 days in office. Citing federal overreach and burdensome regulations, Mr. Trump has prioritized domestic fossil fuel interests and undone measures aimed at protecting the environment and limiting global warming.” This article enumerates the rules that have been rolled back and includes an account of who wanted the rule changed.

Trump raises prospect of government shutdown to leverage better budget for Republicans in the fall, The Washington Post, Damian Paletta and John Wagner, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “President Trump on Tuesday called for a government shutdown later this year and suggested the Senate might need to prohibit future filibusters, dramatic declarations from a new [president] whose frustration is snowballing as Congress continues to block key parts of his agenda. ‘Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!’ Trump wrote in a series of tweets Tuesday morning. He likely meant a shutdown in October, as the current spending bill lawmakers have agreed to would fund government operations through Sept. 30. Trump’s call for a shutdown…appears to be unprecedented from a sitting president…. House Republicans are still split on whether to approve a bill he supports to roll back the Affordable Care Act, and Trump had to agree to major concessions on a stopgap spending bill in order for it to win support in the Senate, which typically requires 60 votes to pass legislation. Republicans only control 52 votes in the 100-seat chamber. That made it easier for Democrats to block any funding for the creation of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, which had been a top priority for Trump. They were also able to continue funding programs that Trump has sought to cut off or scale back, such as Planned Parenthood and the National Institutes of Health. ‘The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!’ Trump wrote on Twitter. He continued that Republicans needed to ‘either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%,’ referring to the idea that they should only need 51 votes to pass legislation in the Senate, instead of 60.”

Two White Police Officers Will Not Be Charged by the Justice Department in the Shooting Death of Alton B. Sterling in Louisiana on 5 July 2016, The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “Two white police officers will not face federal charges in the fatal shooting of a black man last year in Baton Rouge, La., which caused widespread unrest there. The decision was made with the Trump administration under scrutiny about how it will handle prosecutions in racially charged police shootings, a priority of the Obama administration. The decision, in the death of Alton B. Sterling, was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by two people familiar with it. Local officials criticized the Justice Department for not informing them before the news became public. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who inherited the Baton Rouge case, is certain to face further attention over how he proceeds in the fatal shooting Saturday of a 15-year-old black student by an officer near Dallas. The officer was fired Tuesday. The Sterling decision, the Dallas killing and an officer’s guilty plea Tuesday in a fatal 2015 shooting in South Carolina reignited a debate over race and criminal justice that has played out in various ways since Michael Brown was killed nearly three years ago by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.” See also, Justice Department reveals decision not to charge white officers for the shooting death of  Alton Sterling, The Washington Post, Ashley Cusick, Matt Zapotosky, and Wesley Lowery, published on Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “Acting U.S. attorney Corey Amundson announced Wednesday that the Justice Department will not bring charges against the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, asserting that all the federal prosecutors and agents who investigated the matter found ‘insufficient evidence’ to proceed with a case. The announcement confirmed officially what The Washington Post reported Tuesday, although Amundson and the Justice Department revealed far more detail about how investigators came to the conclusion they did. Amundson, the acting U.S. attorney for the district that includes Baton Rouge, laid out a thorough timeline of the encounter — which was captured on a video that had rocketed around social medial last summer — but said one major unanswered question proved decisive in the case. Investigators were not able to determine whether Sterling, 37, was reaching for a gun when an officer yelled that he was, Amundson said, and they thus could not prove that officers knew what they were doing was unreasonable when shots were fired.”

Trump puts critic of renewable energy, Daniel Simmons, in charge of renewable energy office, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “President Trump has appointed Daniel Simmons, a conservative scholar who sharply questioned the value of promoting renewable energy sources and curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, to oversee the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), according to an email distributed to department employees. The selection marks one of several recent Trump appointments to top energy and environmental posts, which appear to repudiate the Obama administration’s policies aimed at shifting the nation to low-carbon sources of electricity. Last week, Trump nominated David Bernhardt, a lobbyist who served at the Interior Department under George W. Bush, as Interior’s deputy secretary.”

CNN Refuses Trump Campaign’s ‘Fake News’ Ad, The New York Times, Niraj Chokshi, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “The head of President Trump’s re-election campaign accused CNN of ‘censorship’ on Tuesday afternoon after the broadcast network refused to run the group’s latest advertisement. CNN said it would run the 30-second television spot, a celebration of Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office, only if the campaign removed a section that featured the words ‘fake news’ superimposed over several TV journalists, including Wolf Blitzer of CNN, and others from MSNBC, PBS, ABC and CBS. CNN defended the decision in a statement on Twitter. ‘The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,’ the network said. ‘Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted.'”

Jimmy Kimmel’s heartfelt plea for universal health insurance just unmasked Trump’s moral bankruptcy, The Washington Post, Greg Sargent, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “Social media is burning up over the heartfelt plea for universal health care that Jimmy Kimmel made on Monday night. Kimmel repeatedly teared up as he recounted the jarring discovery that his newborn baby has heart disease that required immediate surgery, and then pointed out that before Obamacare became law, people with preexisting conditions — such as his new baby — could eventually be denied health insurance. ‘We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all,’ Kimmel said. “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something now, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right?'”

House Republicans just voted to change overtime rules for workers, The Washington Post, Jena McGregor, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “On Tuesday afternoon, the House voted to pass a bill that Republicans have promoted since the Newt Gingrich era, one that would allow private-sector employees to exchange overtime pay for ‘compensatory time’ off, electing to accrue extra hours off rather than extra pay in their wallets. The bill passed 229 to 197, largely along party lines. The bill — which supporters say would add flexibility to hourly workers’ schedules while opponents worry that it wouldn’t do enough to protect employees — is not a new idea. It seeks to take a similar provision that has been available to government workers since 1985 and extend it to private-sector employees, making it legal for them to choose between an hour and a half of paid comp time and time-and-a-half pay when they work additional hours. Similar bills have been introduced multiple times over the past two decades, passing the House three times before failing in the Senate…. Though the bill includes language that bans employers from ‘directly or indirectly intimidating, threatening, or coercing or attempting to intimidate, threaten, or coerce an employee’ to choose comp time over pay, many Democrats and advocates for workers say they are concerned that people will feel pressure to opt for the comp time and may not have the resources to seek legal help if they are coerced.…  Although employees have the choice of whether to take comp time or extra pay, opponents warn that it is their bosses who make the schedules that offer the extra hours many low-wage workers depend on…. ‘Whether it’s overt coercion, which language in the bill prohibits, or just a preference, there’s going to be strong incentives to giving overtime hours to workers choosing to take comp time,’ said Vicki Shabo, vice president for the nonprofit advocacy group National Partnership for Women & Families…. Others suggest the limitations requiring workers to give ‘reasonable notice’ and not ‘unduly disrupt’ the workplace with their requests for time off give employers plenty of latitude to say no.… ‘The reality is that it significantly shifts the balance of power and really puts the decision into the hands of the employer instead of the employee,’ said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. ‘It doesn’t provide any level of assurance that the person will actually be able to use the leave for the purpose they need it.'”

Jared Kushner didn’t disclose business ties to George Soros, Peter Thiel, and Goldman Sachs, or that he owes $1 billion in loans, Business Insider, Veronika Bondarenko, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “Jared Kushner didn’t disclose his business ties with George Soros, Peter Thiel, and Goldman Sachs, or that he owes $1 billion in loans, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. The top White House adviser and son-in-law of Trump failed to identify his part ownership of Cadre, a real-estate startup he founded, which links him to the Goldman Sachs Group and the mega-investors George Soros and Peter Thiel, sources told The Journal.”

While in the White House, Donald and Ivanka Trump remained selling points for ‘very special’ Philippines real estate condo project, The Washington Post, Drew Harwell and Matea Gold, Tuesday, 2 May 2017: “Investors looking to buy a condo at Trump Tower in the Philippines would have found, until this week, some high-powered video testimonials on the project’s official website. There was Donald Trump, in a message filmed several years before he was elected president of the United States, declaring that the skyscraper bearing his name near the Philippine capital would be ‘something very, very special, like nobody’s seen before.’ Then there was his daughter Ivanka Trump, now a senior White House adviser, lavishing praise on the project as a ‘milestone in Philippine real estate history.’ Four months into President Trump’s tenure, his business relationship with a developer who is one of the Philippines’ richest and most powerful men has emerged as a prime example of the collision between the private interests of a businessman in the White House and his public responsibility to shape U.S. foreign policy. The potential conflict first came into focus shortly before Trump was elected, when the Philippines’ iron-fisted president, Rodrigo Duterte, named the Trump Organization’s partner in the Manila real estate venture his top trade envoy. The connection burst back into public view this week, after Trump stunned human rights advocates by extending a White House invitation to Duterte, known for endorsing hundreds of extrajudicial killings of drug users, following what aides described as a ‘very friendly’ phone call…. Although the promotional videos were posted online in 2013, the continued presence of Trump and his daughter in marketing materials for the Manila tower reflects the extent to which they remain key selling points even as they have vowed to distance themselves from their global real estate and branding businesses. After The Washington Post inquired Monday about the use of the Trumps in promoting the Manila project, the links and videos on the corporate website could no longer be accessed.”


Wednesday, 3 May 2017, Day 104:


F.B.I. Director James Comey ‘Mildly Nauseous’ Over Idea He Swayed the 2016 Presidential Election, The New York Times, Adam Goldman, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, sharply defended his decision to notify Congress about new emails in the Hillary Clinton investigation just before Election Day, reopening on Wednesday the still-raw debate over whether he cost her the presidency. Mr. Comey’s remarks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing were his first public explanation for his actions, which roiled the campaign in its final days and cast a harsh spotlight on him. He acknowledged that revealing the renewed inquiry and enduring the torrent of criticism that followed had taken a toll. ‘It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,’ he told the senators. ‘But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.’ Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation is likely to be as crucial to his legacy as his 2004 standoff at a hospital bedside over the Bush administration’s wiretapping. He was then the acting attorney general, and with his ailing boss, John Ashcroft, nearby, he refused the request of White House aides to reauthorize a program for eavesdropping without warrants.But while the hospital showdown earned him bipartisan praise, Mr. Comey has been widely criticized for his decisions in the final days of the 2016 campaign.” See also, 5 Takeaways From James Comey’s Hearing, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Wednesday, 3 May 2017. And see also, What James Comey Did by David Cole in the 8 December 2016 issue of The New York Review of Books.

FBI Director James Comey’s Letter of 28 October 2016 Probably Cost Clinton the Election. So Why Won’t the Media Admit as Much? FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had ‘learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation’ into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College. The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat, and it’s up to Democrats to examine those as they choose their strategy for 2018 and 2020. But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College. And yet, from almost the moment that Trump won the White House, many mainstream journalists have been in denial about the impact of Comey’s letter. The article that led The New York Times’s website the morning after the election did not mention Comey or ‘FBI’ even once — a bizarre development considering the dramatic headlines that the Times had given to the letter while the campaign was underway. Books on the campaign have treated Comey’s letter as an incidental factor, meanwhile. And even though Clinton herself has repeatedly brought up the letter — including in comments she made at an event in New York on Tuesday — many pundits have preferred to change the conversation when the letter comes up, waving it away instead of debating the merits of the case. The motivation for this seems fairly clear: If Comey’s letter altered the outcome of the election, the media may have some responsibility for the result. The story dominated news coverage for the better part of a week, drowning out other headlines….”

House votes to approve roughly $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep government funded through September, The Washington Post, Kelsey Snell, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “The House voted Wednesday to approve a roughly $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes more than $15 billion in defense spending and $1.5 billion in money for U.S. border security, setting up a vote later this week in the Senate ahead of a deadline to keep the government open past Friday. The spending measure, which passed 309 to 118 and funds the federal government through September, is expected to clear the Senate easily this week before budget battles begin anew. Some House Republicans are already looking ahead to the fiscal year that begins in October as a chance to demand new defense spending and exact greater concessions from Democrats in the next round of spending talks.” Again, see also, What’s in the spending agreement? We read it so you don’t have to, The Washington Post, Kelsey Snell and Ed O’Keefe, published on Monday, 1 May 2017.

Senate Republicans Scrap Rule for Small-Business Retirement Plans, NPR, Chris Arnold, published on Thursday, 4 May 2017: “Senate Republicans voted Wednesday night to rescind an Obama-era policy that allows states to offer retirement savings plans to millions of workers. Retiree and worker protection groups say the move will hurt employees at small businesses. Many small businesses say they can’t afford to set up retirement savings plans, such as 401(k) plans, for their workers. That’s a big reason why so many Americans aren’t saving, says Cristina Martin Firvida, the AARP’s director of government affairs. ‘There are 55 million Americans who have no way to save for their retirement at work,’ Firvida says. She says when bigger companies automatically enroll workers in retirement plans, the vast majority of people stick with it and keep saving. They could opt out, but they don’t. And Firvida says if similar plans were in place for workers at small businesses, ‘they would be 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they could do that straight out of their paycheck.’ Because of that, Oregon, California, Illinois and five other states have passed laws to help small businesses enroll workers in state-designed plans. That legislation was given a boost by the Obama administration policy that Congress just overturned. Oregon’s state treasurer, Tobias Read, says he’s disappointed by the vote. He explains that the Obama administration created guidance for states, effectively saying, ‘if you do the savings plans this way, you’re within federal law.'” See also, Senate Republicans vote to kill rule that would help states launch small business retirement plansThe Washington Post, Jonelle Marte, Wednesday, 3 May 2017.

Trump, Bullish on Mideast Peace in His Meeting With Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas, Will Need More Than Confidence, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “Ever since Britain declared 100 years ago that there should be a Jewish homeland in Palestine, harmony has eluded that dry, benighted land. Presidents and kings and prime ministers and diplomats and special envoys have labored for a century in a futile search for peace. President Trump, however, is not daunted by the challenge of bringing together Israelis and Palestinians. ‘It’s something that, I think, is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years,’ he said on Wednesday. Whatever else may be said of him, Mr. Trump does not suffer from a confidence deficit. As he hosted the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Trump proclaimed that he would be the president who finally makes peace in the Middle East. ‘We will get this done,’ he said. He even suggested that, with his leadership, ‘hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long.’ Never mind that he also thought repealing and replacing his predecessor’s health care program would be ‘so easy.’ Or that he predicted he would have no trouble bending North Korea to his will, or forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall. Then there was Mr. Trump’s assertion as a candidate that he knew more about the Islamic State than the generals. And his insistence that he could ‘fairly quickly’ pay off the entire $19 trillion national debt accumulated over the last 182 years.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: ‘America first’ means divorcing our policy from our values, The Guardian, Julian Borger, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has said Donald Trump’s “America first” approach to the world means decoupling US foreign policy from values such as human rights and freedom. Addressing state department diplomats and staff, Tillerson said there were times when insistence that foreign countries abide by US values got in the way of the pursuit of national interests. ‘I think it is really important that all of us understand the difference between policy and values,’ the secretary of state, a former oil executive, said as part of what he described as an ‘overarching view’ on Trump’s ‘America first’ mantra.

Our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated – those are our values. Those are not our policies.

In some circumstances, if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals…. If we condition too heavily that others just adopt this value we have come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance on our national security interests and our economic interests.

Tillerson’s comments drew a scathing response from former US state department officials. ‘This is the most clueless speech given by a secretary of state in my lifetime,’ said Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labour. ‘Clueless of what came before him, and of how US foreign policy has changed in the post-cold war era; clueless about what the world expects of America, including that we defend universal values and norms; clueless about what the people he is supposed to lead actually do and the harm being done to their mission and morale by his cluelessness. The speech was like being told the amputation of your limbs will be good for you by a surgeon who skipped medical school,’ Malinowski added.”

Environmental groups sue Trump administration over offshore drilling, The Washington Post, Brady Dennis, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “A coalition of environmental groups on Wednesday sued the Trump administration over its efforts to expand offshore drilling, arguing the move violates the president’s legal authority, threatens a multitude of wildlife and could harm the fishing and tourism industries. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Alaska, comes days after President Trump signed an executive order aimed at jump-starting offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, as well as assessing whether energy exploration can take place in marine sanctuaries in the Pacific and Atlantic. The policy could open millions of acres of federal waters for oil and gas leasing, just months after President Barack Obama withdrew the areas from possible development. At a signing Friday [28 April] in the Roosevelt Room, Trump emphasized that the United States has abundant offshore oil and gas reserves and made clear his intention to tap them if possible. ‘We’re opening it up,’ he said. Wednesday’s lawsuit argues that Trump’s executive order exceeds his constitutional and statutory authority. It notes that Obama used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Acts to permanently end drilling in much of the Arctic and key parts of the Atlantic but says that no president has ever undone or reversed such a decision and that the law ‘does not authorize the president to reopen withdrawn areas.'”

Trump Administration Hires State Department Official, Steven Munoz, Whom Five Students Accused of Sexual Assault, ProPublica, Justin Elliott, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “A political appointee hired by the Trump administration for a significant State Department role was accused of multiple sexual assaults as a student several years ago at The Citadel military college. Steven Munoz was hired by the Trump administration as assistant chief of visits, running an office of up to 10 staffers charged with the sensitive work of organizing visits of foreign heads of state to the U.S. That includes arranging meetings with the president. At The Citadel, five male freshmen alleged that Munoz used his positions as an upperclassman, class president and head of the campus Republican Society to grope them. In one incident, a student reported waking up with Munoz on top of him, kissing him and grabbing his genitals. In another, on a trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., a student said that Munoz jumped on him in bed and he ‘felt jerking and bouncing on my back.’ An investigation by The Citadel later found that ‘certain assaults likely occurred.’ A local prosecutor reviewed the case and declined to seek an indictment.”

‘No Asylum Here’: Some Say U.S. Border Agents Rejected Them, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson and Miriam Jordan, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “By the time Francisca, Armando and their two surviving children made it to the United States border in late February, they were hungry, exhausted and virtually penniless. But the couple, who said that a son had been killed by a gang back in El Salvador and that their daughter had nearly been raped, thought they had finally reached safety. Under United States and international law, all people who ask for asylum are supposed to be allowed into the country to plead their case. But instead, they said, a Customs and Border Protection agent shooed them away. ‘There is no asylum here,’ Francisca, 32, recalled the agent telling them. ‘We are not granting asylum.’ Customs agents have increasingly turned away asylum seekers without so much as an interview, according to migrants and their lawyers, in a trend first noted several months ago and that appeared to accelerate after President Trump’s inauguration. That has left an untold number of migrants trapped in Mexico, where they have sometimes fallen prey to kidnappers seeking ransom or been driven into the hands of drug cartels and smugglers. Some have tried to enter the United States illegally and dangerously, through the desert or across the Rio Grande, a risky journey. ‘By rejecting asylum seekers at its borders, the United States is turning them away to face danger, persecution, torture, kidnappings and potential trafficking in Mexico,’ Human Rights First, an organization that has studied the problem, said in a report released on Wednesday.” See also, “Trump Says We Don’t Have to Let You In”–A Report by Human Rights First Says U.S. Border Officials Are Turning Away Asylum Seekers, The Intercept, Cora Currier, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “Donald Trump’s election seems to have empowered some officials to fuel a malicious rumor mill: One Central American was told by an officer in South Texas, ‘Trump says we don’t have to let you in,’ according to the report.”

Don’t Make Housing for the Poor Too Cozy, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, Warns, The New York Times, Yamiche Alcindor, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “Ben Carson does not like the creature comforts, at least not for low-income Americans reliant on the government for a helping hand. As he toured facilities for the poor in Ohio last week, Mr. Carson, the neurosurgeon-turned-housing secretary, joked that a relatively well-appointed apartment complex for veterans lacked ‘only pool tables.’ He inquired at one stop whether animals were allowed. At yet another, he nodded, plainly happy, as officials explained how they had stacked dozens of bunk beds inside a homeless shelter and purposefully did not provide televisions. Compassion, Mr. Carson explained in an interview, means not giving people ‘a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: “I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.”‘ When Mr. Carson assumed the helm of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he had no government experience, no political experience beyond a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination and no burning desire to run a major federal bureaucracy. But his views on poverty alleviation were tough-minded and well-known, informed by his childhood in Detroit and his own bootstraps journey from Motor City urban grit to the operating theater of Johns Hopkins University. After two months as the Trump administration’s point man on alleviating poverty, those views have not changed. At each stop of a tour through the Columbus area, local officials grinned as they explained the importance of his agency and made their cases for their budgets, which are on the president’s chopping block. But the secretary was resolute in his belief that too much government assistance has led to too much dependence.”

Code Pink Protestor Desiree Fairooz Laughs During the Confirmation Hearing for Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Is Convicted, The New York Times, Christopher Mele, Wednesday, 3 May 2017: “A jury on Wednesday convicted three Code Pink activists on charges related to a protest at the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney general — including a Virginia woman who said all she did was break out in laughter. Each of the three protesters faces up to 12 months in jail, $2,000 in fines, or both, depending on the outcome of a June 21 sentencing hearing. The woman with the laugh, Desiree A. Fairooz, 61, of Bluemont, Va., said she was undeterred. ‘We’ll face the music when we get to that,’ she said. A two-day trial in District of Columbia Superior Court in Washington ended on Tuesday. All three had pleaded not guilty, rejected a plea deal and demanded the trial.”


Thursday, 4 May 2017, Day 105:


House Republicans narrowly pass controversial bill to revise the Affordable Care Act, The Washington Post, Ed O’Keefe, Paige Winfield Cunningham, and Amy Goldstein, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “House Republicans on Thursday narrowly passed a controversial bill to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, claiming a major victory even as the measure faces an uncertain fate in the closely divided Senate. Under intense pressure to show they can govern and to make good on their promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Republicans pushed the bill through after adopting a last-minute change that earned it just enough votes to pass. However, the House version fell significantly short of the GOP’s long-held goals, making major dents in large portions of the current law but not outright repealing it…. The measure proceeded without the benefit of an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office of its cost and impact on insurance coverage, and it did so after many Republicans openly acknowledged that they hadn’t read the bill. President Trump also promised ‘insurance for everybody,’ which the measure will not achieve.” See also, Who Wins and Who Loses in the Latest Republican Health Care Bill, The New York Times, Margot Sanger-Katz, Thursday, 4 May 2017.

Because of a Last-minute Amendment Allowing States to Obtain Waivers from Certain Affordable Care Act Requirements, The Republican Health Bill Could Alter Employer Plans, The Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Armour and Michelle Hackman, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “Many people who obtain health insurance through their employers—about half of the country—could be at risk of losing protections that limit out-of-pocket costs for catastrophic illnesses, due to a little-noticed provision of the House Republican health-care bill, health-policy experts say. The provision, part of a last-minute amendment, lets states obtain waivers from certain Affordable Care Act insurance regulations. Insurers in states that obtain the waivers could be freed from a regulation mandating that they cover 10 particular types of health services, among them maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and hospitalization. That could also affect plans offered by large employers, health analysts said. The ACA prevents employer plans from putting annual limits on the amount of care they will cover, and it bars lifetime limits on the 10 essential benefits. But in 2011, the Obama administration issued guidance stating that employers aren’t bound by the benefits mandated by their state and can pick from another state’s list of required benefits. That guidance was mostly meaningless because the ACA established a national set of essential benefits. Under the House bill, large employers could choose the benefit requirements from any state—including those that are allowed to lower their benchmarks under a waiver, health analysts said. By choosing a waiver state, employers looking to lower their costs could impose lifetime limits and eliminate the out-of-pocket cost cap from their plans under the GOP legislation.”

The Trumpcare Disaster, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “The House speaker, Paul Ryan, and other Republicans falsely accused Democrats of rushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress. On Thursday, in a display of breathtaking hypocrisy, House Republicans — without holding any hearings or giving the Congressional Budget Office time to do an analysis — passed a bill that would strip at least 24 million Americans of health insurance. Pushed by President Trump to repeal the A.C.A., or Obamacare, so he could claim a legislative win, Mr. Ryan and his lieutenants browbeat and cajoled members of their caucus to pass the bill. Groups representing doctors, hospitals, nurses, older people and people with illnesses like cancer opposed the bill. Just 17 percent of Americans supported an earlier version of the measure, and Republicans have made the legislation only worse since that poll was conducted. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Ryan seemed bothered by this overwhelming criticism of their Trumpcare bill, the American Health Care Act. They seemed concerned only about appeasing the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right flank of their party. Mr. Trump in particular has been spreading misinformation and lies about health care, arguing that the legislation would lower costs while guaranteeing that people with pre-existing health conditions could get affordable health insurance. It would do the opposite.” See also, Betrayal, carelessness, hypocrisy: The Republican health-care bill has it all, The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “WHAT A BETRAYAL: Republicans promise to maintain access to health insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions, and then on Thursday press a bill through the House that would eliminate those guarantees. What a joke: Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) objects to the loss of protection, and then pretends that a paltry $8 billion over five years will fix the problem. And what hypocrisy: House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) claims to be restoring fair process to his chamber, and then orchestrates a vote on this hugely consequential bill before the Congressional Budget Office can tell lawmakers what it would cost or how many people would lose access to health care as it took effect.”

Every Republican who voted for this abomination must be held accountable, The Washington Post, Paul Waldman, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “Here at the Plum Line, we write a lot about the mechanics of politics — the processes of governing, the interplay of political forces, the back-and-forth between citizens and lawmakers, and so on. We do that because it’s interesting and because it winds up affecting all our lives. But there are moments when you have to set aside the mechanics and focus intently on the substance of what government does — or in this case, what government is trying to do. I won’t mince words. The health-care bill that the House of Representatives passed this afternoon, in an incredibly narrow 217-to-213 vote, is not just wrong, or misguided, or problematic or foolish. It is an abomination. If there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been. And every member of the House who voted for it must be held accountable. There’s certainly a process critique one can make about this bill. We might focus on the fact that Republicans are rushing to pass it without having held a single hearing on it, without a score from the Congressional Budget Office that would tell us exactly what the effects would be, and before nearly anyone has had a chance to even look at the bill’s actual text — all this despite the fact that they are remaking one-sixth of the American economy and affecting all of our lives (and despite their long and ridiculous claims that the Affordable Care Act was ‘rammed through’ Congress, when in fact it was debated for an entire year and was the subject of dozens of hearings and endless public discussion). We might talk about how every major stakeholder group — the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, and on and on — all oppose the bill. All that matters. But the real problem is what’s in the bill itself.”

The House Republican’s Shameful Health-Care Victory, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “[House Speaker Paul] Ryan and his sidekick, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, pushed through a bill that, if it ever goes into effect, could upend one-sixth of the American economy and result in tens of millions of Americans losing their health coverage…. In short, the bill the House just passed is one of the most regressive pieces of legislation in living memory. When Republicans cut taxes on the rich and slash funding for programs aimed at the poor, they usually go to great lengths to argue that the two things are unconnected. But in this instance they have done away with the subterfuge. It’s reverse Robin Hood, in plain view.”

Trump savors health care win: ‘Hey, I’m president,’ Politico, Shane Goldmacher, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “Donald Trump upended his schedule to make sure he was still in Washington to savor his biggest legislative win yet as president, watching from the White House dining room as all the cable networks carried Thursday’s health care vote live…. ‘How am I doing? Am I doing OK? I’m president. Hey, I’m president,’ Trump said in a Rose Garden victory lap that was unusually elaborate for a bill still so far from becoming law. ‘Can you believe it?'”

Trump’s executive Order on Religious Liberty Allows Political Activity by Religious Organizations. It Pleases a Few, but It Lets Down Many Conservatives, The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein and Michael D. Shear, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “President Trump signed his long-awaited executive order on religious liberty Thursday with a full-throated reassurance that he would protect the freedom of American believers. But the reactions of religious leaders across the country suggested that it instead promised freedoms many of them did not want — and failed to deliver concrete legal protections that conservatives had been led to expect. The centerpiece of the order is a pledge to allow clergy members and houses of worship to endorse political candidates from the pulpit, fulfilling a campaign promise that Mr. Trump repeatedly used to rally his most fervent supporters. Public opinion polls show, however, that neither the American public as a whole nor religious leaders in particular — even evangelicals, who voted for Mr. Trump in droves — think that partisan politicking by churches is a good idea…. The order was also a stinging disappointment for conservative religious leaders who had expected that it would exempt their organizations from Obama-era regulations aimed at protecting gay people from discrimination…. The reaction from opponents was also telling. Two groups that had threatened to sue the White House over the new order, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen, backed off after seeing the text. Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the A.C.L.U., called the signing of the order ‘an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.’… The order’s biggest effects on religious life could come through its directives on partisan politicking by houses of worship. Since 1954, the Johnson Amendment, promoted by Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, has threatened religious organizations and charities with loss of their tax-exempt status if they endorse or oppose political candidates. In reality, this was rarely enforced and the I.R.S. rarely investigated. Though Mr. Trump’s order cannot change the law, it directs the Treasury Department not to take ‘any adverse action’ against a violator ‘to the extent permitted by law.'”

The Environmental Protection Agency climate website taken down for review on 27 April 2017 was accurate, scientists say, The Washington Post, Chelsea Harvey and Chris Mooney, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “As the Environmental Protection Agency proceeds with a large-scale update of its website, its climate change site has been taken down, pending review. But several climate scientists contacted by The Post argue that this is unnecessary. ‘If any errors were present, they could have been fixed with minor editing,’ said atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in an emailed comment, who also noted that he’s never heard of any climate scientist objecting to any information on the website. ‘There was no cause for a wholesale review of the site’s materials.’ The climate change site, which has existed since the 1990s, contained a wealth of information on the scientific causes of global warming, its consequences and ways for communities to mitigate or adapt. An archived version of the site clearly states that ‘humans are largely responsible for recent climate change’ and also includes data on the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, reports on the observable effects of climate change, fact sheets about its threat to human health and numerous other resources. As of April 27, however, the site redirects to a page claiming that the agency is ‘currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.’ EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, for his part, has publicly stated that he does not agree that human activity is a ‘primary contributor’ to current climate change.”

Private Hearing With the Director of the F.B.I. and With the Head of the National Security Agency Revives the House Intelligence Committee’s Investigation on Russia, The New York Times, Emmarie Huetteman, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “The House’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election lurched back to life on Thursday, as a closed-door hearing with James B. Comey, director of the F.B.I., and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, cleared the way for the inquiry to move forward. Representatives K. Michael Conaway of Texas, the newly minted Republican leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, and Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat, said they were inviting more witnesses and requesting documents — effectively restarting the investigation that halted in recent months amid political infighting. Those witnesses will include Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general who was fired by President Trump, they said. Plans for a public hearing with Ms. Yates in March were scrapped at the last minute despite protest from committee Democrats. Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the committee’s chairman, argued that they first needed more time with Mr. Comey and Admiral Rogers.”

‘Refugee processing has ground to a halt’: A group of senators wants to know why, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian and Abigail Hauslohner, Thursday, 4 May 2017: “A bipartisan group of senators is demanding a full accounting of refugee processing numbers from the Trump administration, as a global moratorium on Homeland Security officials interviewing resettlement applicants drags into its fourth month. The Department of Homeland Security has not resumed overseas interviews with refu­gee applicants since President Trump released his first executive order to ban immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations and halt all refu­gee arrivals for 120 days, according to resettlement organizations and Homeland Security officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. That policy is continuing, they say, despite federal court orders putting significant parts of Trump’s executive immigration orders on hold. ‘Sometimes there is a small pause of a few days, while we gear up for the fiscal year — but we’ve never had a four-month suspension of the program,’ said Jen Smyers, director of refu­gee policy and advocacy with the Church World Service, one of nine official U.S. refu­gee resettlement agencies, which has begun cutting back overseas staff. ‘Refugee processing has ground to a halt.’ Concerns that the Trump administration’s efforts to bar new refugees are continuing despite court rulings are part of the inspiration behind a letter senators are sending to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, demanding a detailed explanation of policy and a reckoning on the current state of processing applications. In it, 11 Democrats and five Republicans ask the administration to clarify its goal intake of refugees for fiscal 2017, specify the manner and speed with which it plans to process refugee referrals, identify how many cases are currently being processed and detail what department personnel changes have been made that could affect the quality and pace of refugee admissions.”

Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee Vote to Gut Dodd-Frank Bank Regulations, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, published on Friday, 5 May 2017: “Republicans took a big step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, and they took a small step toward dismantling another of President Barack Obama’s signature pieces of legislation, the Dodd-Frank Act. With only the support of Republicans, the House Financial Services Committee voted in favor of the Financial Choice Act, a bill that would gut central financial regulations created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The bill is expected to get a vote from the full House in the coming months. But, in its current form, it is not expected to pass in the Senate, where it would need support from Democrats to garner the necessary 60 votes. The Choice Act would exempt some financial institutions from capital and liquidity requirements, essentially excusing them from the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act if they hold enough cash. It would replace the Orderly Liquidation Authority, which critics say reinforces the idea that some banks are too big to fail, with a new bankruptcy code provision intended for large financial institutions. It also would weaken the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the proposed law, the president could fire the agency’s director at will.”