Trump Administration, Week 104: Friday, 11 January – Thursday, 17 January 2019 (Days 722-728)

Boston, 21 January 2017

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 11 January 2019, Day 722:

 

After Trump Fired F.B.I. Director James Comey in May 2017, the F.B.I. Opened an Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of RussiaThe New York Times, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt, and Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 11 January 2019: “In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation. The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence. The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice. Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.” See also, Ex-FBI Officials Say Spy Inquiry into President Trump Is ‘Uncharted Territory,’ Daily Beast, Spencer Ackerman, Erin Banco, and Betsy Woodruff, Friday, 11 January 2019: “The White House is blasting as ‘absurd’ a blockbuster new report that the FBI opened an investigation into whether the president of the United States was working on behalf of the Kremlin. But respected former FBI special agents tell The Daily Beast such a momentous step would not be taken without ‘serious and substantial evidence.’  They told The Daily Beast that the senior-most levels of the FBI and Justice Department would have known about an event they considered without precedent in bureau history. ‘This is uncharted territory,’ said Ali Soufan, a retired FBI counterterrorism special agent. ‘I don’t believe that it has happened before… Ever.’ On Friday night, The New York Times reported that FBI agents opened a counterintelligence investigation in May of 2017 into whether President Trump had been operating ‘on behalf of Russia against American interests.'” See also, FBI’s investigation of Trump included a counterintelligence inquiryThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima, published on Saturday, 12 January 2019: “The FBI investigation into President Trump that was opened almost immediately after he fired then-director James B. Comey also included a counterintelligence component to determine if the president was seeking to help Russia and if so, why, according to people familiar with the matter. The decision by then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe to open an investigation of a sitting president was a momentous step, but it came after Trump had cited the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in his decision to fire Comey, these people said. The counterintelligence component of the Trump investigation was first reported by the New York Times.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has no remaining cancer, Supreme Court announcesThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 11 January 2019: “Tests revealed that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has no additional cancer following her surgery in December, and no further treatment is needed, the Supreme Court announced Friday. ‘Her recovery from surgery is on track,’ court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said in a statement. ‘Post-surgery evaluation indicates no evidence of remaining disease, and no further treatment is required.'” See also, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Cancer Free After Surgery, Supreme Court SaysThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 11 January 2019.

Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Alexandria Ocasio-CortezPolitico, Rachael Bade and Heather Caygle, Friday, 11 January 2019: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already making enemies in the House Democratic Caucus — and some of its members are mounting an operation to bring the anti-establishment, democratic socialist with 2.2 million Twitter followers into the fold. The effort, described by nearly 20 lawmakers and aides, is part carrot, part stick: Some lawmakers with ties to Ocasio-Cortez are hoping to coax her into using her star power to unite Democrats and turn her fire on Republicans. Others simultaneously warn Ocasio-Cortez is destined for a lonely, ineffectual career in Congress if she continues to treat her own party as the enemy. ‘I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people,’ said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). ‘We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.’ Incumbent Democrats are most annoyed by Ocasio-Cortez’s threat to back primary opponents against members of their ranks she deems too moderate. But their frustration goes beyond that: Democratic leaders are upset that she railed against their new set of House rules on Twitter the first week of the new Congress. Rank and file are peeved that there’s a grassroots movement to try to win her a top committee post they feel she doesn’t deserve.”

Continue reading Week 104, Friday, 11 January – Thursday, 17 January 2019 (Days 722-728)

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Trump Administration, Week 103: Friday, 4 January – Thursday, 10 January 2019 (Days 715-721)

Cambridge, MA, January 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 4 January 2019, Day 715:

 

Trump Raises the Possibility of Declaring a National Emergency at the Border With Mexico to Allow Him to Build a Wall Without Congressional ApprovalThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Friday, 4 January 2019: “President Trump raised the possibility on Friday of declaring a national emergency to allow him to build a wall along the southwest border without congressional approval, hours after Department of Homeland Security officials requested additional support to erect temporary barriers between the United States and Mexico. Mr. Trump’s comments followed a contentious meeting with Democratic leaders at the White House. It failed to produce a deal to end the two-week partial shutdown of the federal government, a funding lapse that began with the president’s insistence that Congress allocate $5.6 billion for the wall. ‘We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly,’ Mr. Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden when asked about an emergency declaration…. Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, presidents are allowed to take unilateral action in times of crisis, provided they notify Congress, specify the circumstances that necessitated the declaration and document all uses of executive authority that are covered by the emergency.” See also, ‘I can do it if I want’: Trump threatens to invoke emergency powers to build border wall with MexicoThe Washington Post, David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 4 January 2019: “President Trump on Friday offered his most robust public case for the border wall since the partial government shutdown began two weeks ago, expounding for an hour at the White House about the need for a barrier to keep out terrorists and dissuade migrants while asserting he has the legal authority to build it without congressional consent. In a forceful but meandering performance that included numerous false or questionable assertions, Trump announced he was considering declaring a ‘national emergency’ to move forward on construction through executive power; argued his administration would use eminent domain to obtain private land along the U.S.-Mexico border; and suggested a steel wall could provide manufacturing jobs to U.S. companies. Yet legal experts said Trump’s emergency powers under federal law are limited and expressed doubt that such an avenue would solve a mounting political dilemma for a president who, two years into his term, has elevated the fight over the wall into a defining moment for his presidency.”

Trump threatens years-long shutdown for his wall as Republican support begins to fractureThe Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Erica Werner, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 4 January 2019: “President Trump warned Friday that the partial government shutdown could go on for months or even years, delivering no real breakthrough with congressional leaders as his own administration scrambled to shore up support among Republicans for a gambit that has started to fracture.” See also, Trump Suggests Government Shutdown Could Last for ‘Months or Even Years,’ The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael Tackett, Friday, 4 January 2019: “President Trump threatened on Friday to keep the federal government partly closed for ‘months or even years’ if he did not get $5.6 billion for his wall at the southern border, and he warned that he was considering declaring a national emergency to build it without congressional approval. Mr. Trump and Democratic leaders emerged from a two-hour meeting in the White House Situation Room without a deal to reopen government agencies that have already been shuttered for two weeks, and the two sides offered sharply contrasting views of where they stood. By day’s end, the two sides appeared to be still locked in a stalemate.” See also, Millions face delayed tax refunds and cuts to food stamps as the White House scrambles to deal with the consequences of the government shutdownThe Washington Post, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, Friday, 4 January 2019: “Food stamps for 38 million low-income Americans would face severe reductions and more than $140 billion in tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the government shutdown stretches into February, widespread disruptions that threaten to hurt the economy. The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene. Thousands of federal programs are affected by the shutdown, but few intersect with the public as much as the tax system and the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the current version of food stamps. The partial shutdown has cut off new funding to the Treasury Department and the USDA, leaving them largely unstaffed and crippling both departments’ ability to fulfill core functions.” See also, Hundreds of TSA screeners, working without pay, are calling out sick at major airportsCNN, Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace, Friday, 4 January 2019: “Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers, who are required to work without paychecks through the partial government shutdown, have called out from work this week from at least four major airports, according to two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials. The mass call outs could inevitably mean air travel is less secure, especially as the shutdown enters its [third] week with no clear end to the political stalemate in sight.”

Aiming at Trump, Democrats Lay Out Agenda for a Post-Shutdown CongressThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 4 January 2019: “House Democrats unveiled on Friday the details of ambitious legislation devised to lower barriers to the ballot box, tighten ethics and lobbying restrictions and, in a swipe at President Trump, require presidents and candidates for the nation’s highest offices to release their tax returns. Singling out Mr. Trump and his administration, Democrats said that they were making good on promises to voters across the country who vaulted them into the majority with demands to clean up corruption and influence-peddling in Republican-controlled Washington. ‘Over the last two years, President Trump set the tone from the top of this administration that behaving ethically and complying with the law is optional,’ said Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I have stopped by here to simply say we are better than that.’ Little if any of the bill, named H.R. 1 to underscore its primacy, is likely to become law; in its sprawl and ambition, the measure is less a legislative vehicle than a political platform for the Democrats heading into the 2020 presidential cycle.” See also, House Democrats unveil bill targeting Trump on tax returns and transparencyThe Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Friday, 4 January 2019: “House Democrats are set to pursue legislation that squarely targets President Trump by requiring presidential candidates to disclose 10 years of tax returns, mandating more transparency for presidential inaugural and transition committees and tightening White House ethics standards. Those provisions are only a small part of a broad reform bill — to be titled the ‘For the People Act’ — that encompasses campaign finance, election integrity and security, congressional ethics and more. But they are clear signals that Democrats intend to take an aggressive approach to Trump and his administration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats are set to unveil an outline of the legislation Friday in the Capitol. The Washington Post obtained an advance blueprint of the bill, which will move through several House committees over the coming weeks and is tentatively set for floor consideration early this year.”

Continue reading Week 103, Friday, 4 January – Thursday, 10 January 2019 (Days 715-721)

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Trump Administration, Week 102: Friday, 28 December 2018 – Thursday, 3 January 2019 (Days 708-714)

Cambridge, MA, January 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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 January 2018, Day 708:

 

A Week Into Government Shutdown, Ire Turns to Fear for Federal WorkersThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Mitch Smith, and Kate Taylor, Friday, 28 December 2018: “When the government shutdown began a week ago, many federal workers were more irked than anxious. They’re really anxious now. What at first seemed like ho-hum political brinkmanship is looking more like a prolonged, punishing shutdown, more akin to the 27-day funding lapse in 1995 and 1996 than the blink-and-miss-it shutdowns earlier this year…. On Thursday, the federal Office of Personnel Management took the extraordinary, odd and ominous step of posting a link to a document that offered tips to federal workers on weathering a lengthy interruption, including suggestions on how to defer rent payments, or even barter with landlords by offering to perform minor repair work like painting or cleaning up…. Anxieties are highest for the 800,000 federal workers furloughed or forced to work without pay. But the fear is spreading far beyond the federal work force, hitting government contractors, local governments forced to cover for furloughed sanitation and maintenance workers and organizations that feed the poor, who are dealing with a possible interruption to sources of funding and provisions.” See also, Trump threatens to shut down southern border as government funding stalemate drags onThe Washington Post, Filicia Sonmez, Friday, 28 December 2018.

New Environmental Protection Agency Proposal Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury Into the AirThe New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Friday, 28 December 2018: “The Trump administration proposed on Friday major changes to the way the federal government calculates the benefits, in human health and safety, of restricting mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. In the proposal, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a finding declaring that federal rules imposed on mercury by the Obama administration are too costly to justify. It drastically changed the formula the government uses in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by taking into account only certain effects that can be measured in dollars, while ignoring or playing down other health benefits. The result could set a precedent reaching far beyond mercury rules. ‘It will make it much more difficult for the government to justify environmental regulations in many cases,’ said Robert N. Stavins, a professor of environmental economics at Harvard University. While the proposal technically leaves the mercury restrictions in place, by revising the underlying justifications for them the administration has opened the door for coal mining companies, which have long opposed the rules, to challenge them in court. The rules, issued in 2011, were the first to restrict some of the most hazardous pollutants emitted by coal plants and are considered one of former President Barack Obama’s signature environmental achievements.” See also, Environmental Protection Agency to make it harder to tighten mercury rules in the futureThe Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Friday, 28 December 2018.

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says House will not seat North Carolina Republican Mark Harris amid questions about the integrity of the electionThe Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and Eli Rosenberg, Friday, 28 December 2018: “Incoming House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Friday that Democrats next week will not seat a North Carolina Republican amid allegations of election fraud in the state’s 9th Congressional District. ‘Given the now well-documented election fraud that took place in NC-09, Democrats would object to any attempt by [Mark] Harris to be seated on January 3,’ Hoyer said in a statement. ‘In this instance, the integrity of our democratic process outweighs concerns about the seat being vacant at the start of the new Congress.’ The statement came after North Carolina dissolved its elections board Friday without certifying the Nov. 6 results, leaving the fate of the seat in doubt days ahead of the start of the new Congress.” See also, North Carolina Elections Board Dissolves, Adding New Chaos in House RaceThe New York Times, Alan Blinder, Friday, 28 December 2018: “The North Carolina state elections board dissolved on Friday under a court order, two weeks before its much-anticipated hearing to consider evidence of possible absentee ballot fraud in the disputed November election for the Ninth District’s seat in Congress. The unwinding of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement was a consequence of a long-running battle over partisan power in North Carolina and separate from the election fraud investigation. Yet the dissolution heightened the possibility that the Ninth District seat would remain empty for weeks or even months, and it plunged the chaotic fight for the House seat into deeper turmoil.”

Continue reading Week 102, Friday, 28 December 2018 – Thursday, 3 January 2019 (Days 708-714)

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Trump Administration, Week 101: Friday, 21 December – Thursday, 27 December 2018 (Days 701-707)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 21 December 2018, Day 701:

 

Major parts of the federal government begin shutting down for an indefinite closureThe Washington Post, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, and John Wagner, published at 12:00 AM on Saturday, 22 December 2018: “Large parts of the federal government shut down overnight after President Trump torpedoed a bipartisan spending deal because it lacked the money he demanded for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Funding for numerous agencies, including those that operate parks, homeland security, law enforcement, tax collection and transportation, expired at midnight. Close to 400,000 federal workers are expected to be home without pay until a deal is reached, and numerous services will be halted in that time, with the impacts broadening the longer the funding lapse lasts. The shutdown intensifies a standoff between Trump, who is demanding $5.7 billion for a border wall, and congressional Democrats, who have vowed to block any wall funding and have the votes to do so. It marks a deflating final chapter for Republicans as they complete two years of unified GOP control in Washington — as well as an acrimonious prelude to the upcoming era of divided government, after Democrats take the House in January. Trump saw the final days of this year as his last chance to try to extract funding for the wall, while Democrats, united against the wall and buttressed by big wins in the midterm elections, showed no signs of buckling to his demands amid a flurry of attacks this week. The White House and congressional leaders continued negotiations late Friday, but by 8:30 p.m., the House and the Senate had adjourned for the night. That made it impossible to vote on any spending agreement until Saturday, and it remained unclear whether any deal would materialize by then.” See also, Government Partially Shuts Down as Talks Fail to Break ImpasseThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Emily Cochrane, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The federal government shut down early Saturday after congressional and White House officials failed to find a compromise on a spending bill that hinged on President Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for a border wall. It is the third shutdown in two years of unified Republican rule in Washington, and it will stop work at nine federal departments and several other agencies. Hundreds of thousands of government employees are affected…. As in previous government shutdowns, it will not affect core government functions like the Postal Service, the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs and entitlement programs, including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps. But about 380,000 workers would be sent home and would not be paid. Another 420,000 considered too essential to be furloughed would be forced, like the Border Patrol officers, to work without pay.”

The Supreme Court Won’t Allow the Trump Administration to Immediately Enforce Its New Policy of Denying Asylum to Migrants Who Illegally Cross the Mexican BorderThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The Supreme Court refused on Friday to allow the Trump administration to immediately enforce its new policy of denying asylum to migrants who illegally cross the Mexican border. The Supreme Court’s two-sentence order revealed a new dynamic at the court, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the four-member liberal wing in refusing to immediately reinstate the administration’s asylum policy. The chief justice, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush in 2005, is now plainly at the court’s ideological center, a spot that had long belonged to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired in July and was replaced in October by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. The court’s ruling thwarted, at least for now, President Trump’s proclamation last month that only migrants who arrived in the United States legally or applied at a port of entry would be eligible for asylum. And it is likely to only heighten tensions between Chief Justice Roberts and Mr. Trump, for whom limiting immigration is a central concern and who has been quick to criticize judges who rule against his immigration programs.” See also, The Supreme Court denies the Trump administration’s request to immediately enforce new asylum rulesThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 21 December 2018: “A divided Supreme Court on Friday refused to allow the Trump administration to immediately enforce a new policy of denying asylum to those who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a conservative nominated by President George W. Bush, sided with the court’s four liberals in denying the request, which lower courts had stopped after finding it a likely violation of federal law. For the first time on a contested issue, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, nominated by President Trump and confirmed in October after a brutal partisan battle, noted his agreement with the court’s other conservatives. He and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — Trump’s other nominee to the court — would have granted the administration’s request to let the order go into effect. The decision was about whether to lift a lower court’s stay of Trump’s new asylum regulation, not on the merits of his plan. The legal fight on that could return to the Supreme Court.” See also, Supreme court rejects Trump plea to enforce asylum ban at US-Mexico borderThe Guardian, Agencies in Washington, Friday, 21 December 2018.

Trump administration revokes Obama-era effort to reduce racial bias in school disciplineThe Washington Post, Laura Meckler, Friday, 21 December 2018: “The Trump administration rescinded documents Friday meant to guide schools in handling discipline, turning back an Obama-era effort aimed at reducing widespread racial disparities in how students are suspended, expelled and otherwise punished. The controversial move by the Education and Justice departments was made official Friday but was widely expected. The guidance, which was not binding, put school systems on notice that they could be violating federal civil rights law if students of color were disciplined at higher rates than white students. It laid out scenarios and explained how they would be viewed by federal authorities. And it offered suggestions for alternatives to discipline that could foster positive school climates.”

Continue reading Week 101, Friday, 21 December – Thursday, 27 December 2018 (Days 701-707)

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Trump Administration, Week 100: Friday, 14 December – Thursday, 20 December 2018 (Days 694-700)

Cambridge, MA, January 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 14 December 2018, Day 694:

 

Texas Judge Reed O’Connor Strikes Down Obama’s Affordable Care Act as UnconstitutionalThe New York Times, Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear, Friday, 14 December 2018: “A federal judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act on Friday on the grounds that its mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and the rest of the law cannot stand without it. The ruling was over a lawsuit filed this year by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general. A group of intervening states led by Democrats promised to appeal the decision, which will most likely not have any immediate effect. But it will almost certainly make its way to the Supreme Court, threatening the survival of the landmark health law and, with it, health coverage for millions of Americans, protections for people with pre-existing conditions and much more. In his ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance ‘can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power.’ Accordingly, Judge O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, said that ‘the individual mandate is unconstitutional’ and the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are invalid. At issue was whether the health law’s insurance mandate still compelled people to buy coverage after Congress reduced the penalty to zero dollars as part of the tax overhaul that President Trump signed last December. When the Supreme Court upheld the mandate as constitutional in 2012, it was based on Congress’s taxing power. Congress, the court said, could legally impose a tax penalty on people who do not have health insurance. But in the new case, the 20 plaintiff states, led by Texas, argued that with the penalty zeroed out, the individual mandate had become unconstitutional — and that the rest of the law could not be severed from it.” See also, Federal judge in Texas rules entire Obama health-care law is unconstitutionalThe Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Friday, 14 December 2018: “A federal judge in Texas threw a dagger into the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, ruling that the entire health-care law is unconstitutional because of a recent change in federal tax law. The opinion by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor overturns all of the sprawling law nationwide. The ruling came on the eve of the deadline Saturday for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the law. If the ruling stands, it would create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system — from no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to the expansion of Medicaid in most states, to the shape of the Indian Health Service — in all, hundreds of provisions in the law that was a prized domestic achievement of President Barack Obama.”

Michael Cohen Says ‘Of Course’ Trump Knew Hush Payments Were WrongThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 14 December 2018: “Michael D. Cohen said in an interview broadcast Friday that he knew arranging payments during the 2016 campaign to quiet two women who claimed to have had affairs with President Trump was wrong. And, he said, Mr. Trump knew it was wrong at the time, too. ‘Of course,’ Mr. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, said when asked by the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos whether the president was fully aware of what he was doing when Mr. Cohen made the payments.” See also, Michael Cohen says Trump knew hush-money payments were wrong, contradicting his former bossThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Friday, 14 December 2018: “Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, said in a television interview Friday that Trump knew it was wrong to make hush-money payments to women who alleged they had affairs with him, directly contradicting claims from the president. Cohen, who has admitted facilitating payments to two women in violation of campaign finance laws, told ABC News that he knew what he was doing was wrong. Asked whether the president also knew it was wrong to make the payments, Cohen replied, ‘Of course.’ He added that the purpose was to ‘help [Trump] and his campaign. He was very concerned about how this would affect the election,’ Cohen said. His comments, in an interview on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ are at odds with those of Trump on Thursday in tweets and in a television interview.” See also, Kellyanne Conway’s Inaccurate Claims About Michael Cohen’s Hush-Money PaymentsThe New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 14 December 2018. See also, Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak–and dangerousThe Washington Post, George T. Conway III, Trevor Potter, and Neal Katyal, Friday, 14 December 2018: “Last week, in their case against Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors in New York filed a sentencing brief concluding that, in committing the felony campaign-finance violations to which he pleaded guilty, Cohen had ‘acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,’ President Trump. And this week, prosecutors revealed that they had obtained an agreement from AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, in which AMI admitted that it, too, had made an illegal payment to influence the election. The AMI payment was the product of a meeting in which Trump was in the room with Cohen and AMI President David Pecker. This all suggests Trump could become a target of a very serious criminal campaign finance investigation.” See also, Michael Cohen just dealt another big blow to Trump’s hush-money defenseThe Washington Post, Greg Sargent, Friday, 14 December 2018.

Trump Names Mick Mulvaney Acting Chief of StaffThe New York Times, Michael Tackett and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 14 December 2018: “President Trump announced on Friday that he had selected Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, to serve as acting White House chief of staff, putting a halt — at least for now — to his consideration of a parade of possible candidates, including several who turned him down, to take over one of the most important positions in the federal government. In Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Trump made a safe choice for a Republican administration — a hard-line conservative and former congressman from South Carolina with a deep understanding of how Congress works and a personal chemistry with the president. Among some senior White House officials, Mr. Mulvaney had long been considered the ‘Original Plan B.'” See also, Trump names budget director Mick Mulvaney as acting White House chief of staffThe Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Damian Paletta, Friday, 14 December 2018: “President Trump on Friday abruptly named Mick Mulvaney, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as acting White House chief of staff, elevating a conservative ideologue with congressional experience to steer the administration through a treacherous phase…. The White House sent mixed messages Friday about the length of Mulvaney’s tenure and whether he would be named to the post permanently, with aides saying Trump wanted to preserve flexibility.”

Continue reading Week 100, Friday, 14 December – Thursday, 20 December 2018 (Days 694-700)

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Trump Administration, Week 99: Friday, 7 December – Thursday, 13 December 2018 (Days 687-693)

Pittsfield, MA, 30 June 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 7 December 2018, Day 687:

 

Federal Prosecutors Say Trump Directed Illegal Payments to Ward Off a Potential Sex Scandal During the 2016 Presidential CampaignThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Benjamin Weiser, and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Federal prosecutors said on Friday that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the White House in 2016, putting the weight of the Justice Department behind accusations previously made by his former lawyer. The lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, had said that as the election neared, Mr. Trump directed payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump. But in a new memo arguing for a prison term for Mr. Cohen, prosecutors in Manhattan said he ‘acted in coordination and at the direction of’ an unnamed individual, clearly referring to Mr. Trump. In another filing, prosecutors for the special counsel investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference said an unnamed Russian offered Mr. Cohen ‘government level’ synergy between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign in November 2015. That was months earlier than other approaches detailed in indictments secured by prosecutors.” See also, Court filings directly implicate Trump in efforts to buy women’s silence and reveal new contact between his inner circle and RussianThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Federal prosecutors filed new court papers Friday directly implicating President Trump in plans to buy women’s silence as far back as 2014 and offering new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president — disclosures that show the deepening political and legal morass enveloping the administration. The separate filings came from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in New York ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Taken together, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. But the documents do not answer the central question at the heart of Mueller’s work — whether the president or those around him conspired with the Kremlin. The documents offer a scathing portrait of his former lawyer as a criminal who deserves little sympathy or mercy because he held back from telling the FBI everything he knew. For that reason, prosecutors said, he should be sentenced to “substantial” prison time, suggesting possibly 3½ years.” See also, New Mueller filing says Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen was in touch with a Russian seeking ‘political synergy’ with Trump’s presidential campaignThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Friday, 7 December 2018: “A Russian national who claimed ties to the Kremlin told President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as early as November 2015 that he could use his Russian government connections to help Trump’s business and political prospects. The new Russia contact was revealed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, as he outlined cooperation that Cohen has provided the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The interaction between a top Trump lieutenant and a Russian citizen who claimed government ties is the latest of dozens of similar interactions that have emerged since the November 2016 election. Days after Trump’s victory, his spokeswoman Hope Hicks asserted that there had been no contacts of any kind between Trump associates and Russia. The new information about Cohen is particularly significant because the contact came in the campaign’s early months and because prosecutors said the Russian national claimed to have interest in helping Trump’s campaign as well as his business.” See also, The government implicates Trump and the Trump campaign in federal campaign finance violationsThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Late Friday, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a document arguing that Michael Cohen, until last year President Trump’s personal attorney, should receive a substantial prison sentence for violations of federal law to which Cohen admitted guilt in August. The document went further than simply articulating the punishment the government believes Cohen should receive. It also fleshed out two of those charges in particular, related to violations of campaign finance laws in 2016. For the first time, government prosecutors themselves directly implicated Trump in those violations — and added new alleged evidence to bolster Cohen’s culpability.” See also, The Michael Cohen Sentencing Memos Are Damning for TrumpThe New Yorker, Adam Davidson, Friday, 7 December 2018: “On Friday, federal prosecutors released two memorandums on Michael Cohen, one from Department of Justice prosecutors with the Southern District of New York, the other from the office of the special counsel Robert Mueller. While they are ostensibly designed to guide Cohen’s sentencing, they carry far greater weight. These documents make clearer than ever before the case against President Trump. The special counsel’s seven-page memorandum, along with court documents from Cohen’s guilty plea last week, lay out a straightforward time line.” See also, 5 big takeaways from the new Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort filingsThe Washington Post,  Aaron Blake, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Federal prosecutors drew some more important lines between Russia and those connected to President Trump on Friday, in a trio of filings in the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases. Beginning late Friday afternoon, we saw Cohen sentencing recommendations filed by both the Southern District of New York and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, and a document from Mueller’s team laying out Paul Manafort’s alleged lies to it. In all three, the plot thickened for Trump just a little bit. [Some of] the big takeaways [are covered in this article].” See also, Is There Anything Trump, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort Didn’t Lie About? The Intercept, James Risen, Friday, 9 December 2018.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Says Paul Manafort, Trump’s Former Campaign Chairman, Lied About Contacts With Trump Officials and His Interactions With a Russian Linked to Moscow’s Intelligence ServicesThe New York Times, Adam Goldman and Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, lied to federal investigators about his contacts with Trump administration officials and his interactions with a Russian linked to Moscow’s intelligence services, the special counsel’s office said on Friday. He also lied about a $125,000 payment made through a political action committee to cover a debt he owed, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said in a partly redacted court filing explaining why they withdrew last week from a plea agreement they had reached with Mr. Manafort in September. They also claimed he misled investigators pursuing a case unrelated to Mr. Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race and whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin’s operations. ‘Manafort told multiple discernible lies — these were not instances of mere memory lapses,’ the prosecutors wrote in a memo to Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court for the District of Columbia.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller says Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, told ‘discernible lies,’ including about contacts with an employee alleged to have Russian intelligence tiesThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Rachel Weiner, and Spencer S. Hsu, Friday, 7 December 2018: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said Friday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, told ‘multiple dis­cern­ible lies’ during interviews with prosecutors, including about his contacts with an employee who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence. In a document filed in federal court Friday, Mueller also said Manafort lied about his contacts with Trump administration officials after Trump took office. Manafort had told investigators that he had had no direct or indirect contact with White House officials since Trump’s inauguration, but Manafort had been in touch with officials as recently as the spring, according to the filing.”

Trump Says He Will Nominate William Barr as Attorney General and Heather Nauert as Ambassador to the United NationsThe New York Times, Charlie Savage and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 7 December 2018: “President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department…. Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Barr, who supports a strong vision of executive powers, had emerged over the past week following the ouster last month of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the turbulent reception that greeted his installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as the acting attorney general. Mr. Trump also announced that Heather Nauert, the chief State Department spokeswoman, is his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Nikki R. Haley, as the president began announcing some of the personnel changes he was expected to make after the midterm elections. Ms. Nauert was a Fox TV anchor before being picked in 2017 to be the State Department’s spokeswoman, and she will probably face skepticism from Senate Democrats for her lack of extensive political or diplomatic experience, which could delay her confirmation until 2019.” See also, Heather Nauert cited D-Day as the height of U.S.-German relations. Now she’s headed to the U.N. The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Friday, 7 December 2018: “The United Nations came into existence to vanquish Germany, as 26 nations jointly pledged in 1942 not to surrender to ‘savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world.’ Three-quarters of a century later, the woman who would soon become President Trump’s pick to represent the United States at the United Nations cited the D-Day landings — a cornerstone of this unwavering Allied pledge and the basis of the Nazi defeat on the Western Front — to showcase the strength of German-American relations.” See also, Trump Will Nominate William Barr, a Skeptic of the Russia Investigation, as Attorney GeneralThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 7 December 2018: “President Trump said on Friday that he would nominate William P. Barr, a skeptic of the Russia investigation who served as attorney general in the first Bush administration a quarter century ago, to return as head of the Justice Department. Mr. Barr, 68, would become the nation’s top law enforcement official as Mr. Trump and his associates are under investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for whether they conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election and help elect Mr. Trump. Mr. Barr would oversee the inquiry as key aspects of it are coming to a close. Known for his expansive vision of executive power, Mr. Barr has criticized Mr. Mueller for hiring too many prosecutors who donated to Democrats and has cast doubt on whether Trump campaign associates conspired with Russians. Mr. Barr has also defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.”

Continue reading Week 99, Friday, 7 December – Thursday, 13 December 2018 (Days 687-693)

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Trump Administration, Week 98: Friday, 30 November – Thursday, 6 December 2018 (Days 680-686)

Pittsfield, MA, 30 June 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 30 November 2018, Day 680:

 

House Democratic leaders unveiled political reform legislation as ‘H.R. 1,’ The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Friday, 30 November 2018: “House Democratic leaders on Friday unveiled the outline of a broad political overhaul bill that will include provisions for public financing of elections, voting rights reforms and new ethics strictures for federal officials. The bill has been in the works for months as part of Democrats’ ‘For the People’ campaign platform, a framework that helped them win the House majority in this month’s midterm elections. Numerous outside groups aligned with Democrats have pushed the party’s House leaders to schedule a reform bill as their first order of business, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced before the election that the bill would be designated ‘H.R. 1’ — a symbolic title meant to emphasize its importance, even if it is unlikely to be the first piece of legislation to get a House vote in the new Congress…. Elements of the legislation include new donor disclosure requirements for political organizations, a system to multiply small donations to political campaigns, a mandatory new ethical code for the Supreme Court, an end to most first-class travel for federal officeholders, and a broad effort to expand voting access and reduce partisan gerrymandering.” See also, House Democrats unveil their first bill in the majority: a sweeping anti-corruption proposalVox, Ella Nilsen, Friday, 30 November 2018: “House Democrats unveiled details of their first bill in the new Congress on Friday — a sweeping anti-corruption bill aimed at stamping out the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights. This is House Resolution 1 — the first thing House Democrats will tackle after the speaker’s vote in early January. To be clear, this legislation has little-to-no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate or being signed by President Donald Trump. But by making anti-corruption their No. 1 priority, House Democrats are throwing down the gauntlet for Republicans. A vast majority of Americans want to get the influence of money out of politics, and want Congress to pass laws to do so, according to a 2018 Pew Research survey. Given Trump’s multitude of scandals, it looks bad for Republicans to be the party opposing campaign finance reform — especially going into 2020.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Bores Into Trump Adviser Roger Stone’s Ties to WikiLeaksThe Wall Street Journal, Shelby Holliday and Rebecca Ballhaus, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Recent court documents provide the clearest indication yet that special counsel Robert Mueller is zeroing in on the ties between WikiLeaks and Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser whose relationship with the president dates back nearly four decades. According to the documents and more than a half-dozen people who have testified in the probe, Mr. Mueller’s office in recent months has focused on Mr. Stone’s role as a potential conduit between the Trump presidential campaign and WikiLeaks, which during the 2016 election published thousands of emails related to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that U.S. intelligence agencies have determined were stolen by Russian hackers. Prosecutors have evidence that Mr. Stone may have had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish those emails, according to the documents, which also suggest Mr. Mueller’s team continues to investigate possible witness intimidation by Mr. Stone.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and His Prosecutors: Who They Are and What They’ve DoneThe New York Times, Noah Weiland, Emily Cochrane, and Troy Griggs, Friday, 30 November 2018. See also, The lies that special counsel Robert Mueller has already documentedThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 30 November 2018. See also, Senate Intelligence Committee has referred cases of suspected lying to special counsel Robert MuellerThe Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has referred cases to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election after witnesses questioned in the panel’s own Russia probe were suspected of lying, the committee chairman said Friday. ‘We have made referrals from our committee to the special counsel for prosecution,’ Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said at a national security conference in Austin. ‘In a lot of those cases, those might be tied to lying to us.'” See also, As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Investigation Heats Up, Donald Trump’s Lies Are Giving Way to the TruthThe Intercept, James Risen, Friday, 30 November 2018: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller is closing in on Donald Trump, and as one shoe after another drops in the Trump-Russia investigation, the pressure sometimes prompts the president to inadvertently blurt out the truth. Or at least as close to the truth as a serial liar like Trump can get. On Thursday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to Congress about a deal to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow. Most notably, he admitted that he had misled lawmakers when he told them that discussions about the project had ended by January 2016 when, in fact, the project was still under active consideration by Trump and his business organization just as the Republican Party was about to nominate Trump as its presidential candidate in the summer of 2016.”

Trump administration approves seismic tests that could harm thousands of Atlantic dolphins and whalesThe Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Friday, 30 November 2018: “The Trump administration is preparing to take an important step toward future oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, approving five requests from companies to conduct deafening seismic tests that could kill tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals. The planned Friday announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the Commerce Department, to issue “incidental take” permits allowing companies to harm wildlife is likely to further antagonize a dozen governors in states along the Eastern Seaboard who strongly oppose the administration’s proposal to expand federal oil and gas leases to the Atlantic. Federal leases could lead to exploratory drilling for the first time in more than a half-century. In addition to harming sea life, acoustic tests — in which boats tugging rods pressurized for sound emit jet engine-like booms 10 to 12 seconds apart for days and sometimes months — can disrupt thriving commercial fisheries. Governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general along the Atlantic coast say drilling threatens beach tourism that has flourished on the coast in the absence of oil production.”

Continue reading Week 98, Friday, 30 November – Thursday, 6 December 2018 (Days 680-686)

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Trump Administration, Week 97: Friday, 23 November – Thursday, 29 November 2018 (Days 673-679)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 23 November 2018, Day 673:

 

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking EconomyThe New York Times, Coral Davenport and Kendra Pierre-Louis, Friday, 23 November 2018: “A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end. The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth. Mr. Trump has taken aggressive steps to allow more planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks, and has vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, under which nearly every country in the world pledged to cut carbon emissions. Just this week, he mocked the science of climate change because of a cold snap in the Northeast, tweeting, ‘Whatever happened to Global Warming?’ But in direct language, the 1,656-page assessment lays out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the economy, health and environment, including record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Going forward, American exports and supply chains could be disrupted, agricultural yields could fall to 1980s levels by midcentury and fire season could spread to the Southeast, the report finds.” See also, What’s New in the Latest U.S. Climate AssessmentThe New York Times, Brad Plumer and Henry Fountain, Friday, 23 November 2018. See also, Major Trump administration climate report says damages are ‘intensifying across the country,’ The Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney, Friday, 23 November 2018: “The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.” See also, Climate change will have dire consequences for the US, new federal government report concludesCNN, Jen Christensen, Friday, 23 November 2018.

Trump Asks the Supreme Court for Fast Appeal of Transgender Military Ban Before the Lower Courts Have a Chance to RuleThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 23 November 2018: “The Trump administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to allow it to leapfrog federal appeals courts in several cases concerning the president’s decision to bar transgender people from serving in the military. Federal district courts have entered injunctions against the new policy, but no appeals court has yet ruled on it. The Supreme Court does not ordinarily intercede until at least one appeals court has considered an issue, and it typically awaits a disagreement among appeals courts before adding a case to its docket. The Trump administration has, however, repeatedly asked the justices to hear appeals directly from district court rulings, most recently in several cases concerning its attempt to shut down a program that shields some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Like the ban on transgender service in the military, that policy has been blocked by federal trial judges. In both sets of cases, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco told the justices that prompt action was required to ensure that the Supreme Court could rule before its current term ended in June. The Supreme Court’s rules say that it will review a federal trial court’s ruling before an appeals court has spoken ‘only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court.'” See also, Trump administration asks the Supreme Court to immediately take up Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military serviceThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 23 November 2018: “The Trump administration on Friday once again asked the Supreme Court to bypass the usual legal process to take on another controversial issue: President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco asked the justices to consolidate the challenges to the ban — which so far have been successful in lower courts — and rule on the issue in its current term. Civil rights groups and gay rights organizations are fighting the president’s order that would prohibit transgender men and women from enlisting, possibly subjecting current service members to discharge and denying them certain medical care.”

New York State’s Lawsuit Against the Trump Foundation Can Proceed, Judge RulesThe New York Times, J. David Goodman, Friday, 23 November 2018: “A state judge ruled on Friday that a lawsuit by the New York State attorney general could proceed against President Trump and the Trump Foundation over allegations of misused charitable assets, self-dealing and campaign finance violations during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump, as president, and that the statutes of limitations had expired in the case of some of the actions at issue. They also contended the attorney general’s office suffered from a ‘pervasive bias’ against Mr. Trump. In her 27-page ruling, Justice Saliann Scarpulla disagreed. ‘I find I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump,’ she wrote.” See also, New York state judge allows suit against Trump and his personal charity to proceedThe Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Friday, 23 November 2018: “A New York state judge on Friday denied a request by attorneys for President Trump to throw out a lawsuit alleging that Trump and his family violated charity laws with the management of their personal foundation. Justice Saliann Scarpulla sided with New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood in allowing the case to continue, saying it was fair for the attorney general to argue that the president used the Donald J. Trump Foundation to advance his campaign.”

Continue reading Week 97, Friday, 23 November – Thursday, 29 November 2018 (Days 673-679)

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Trump Administration, Week 96: Friday, 16 November – Thursday, 22 November 2018 (Days 666-672)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 16 November 2018, Day 666:

 

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly rules in favor of CNN in its bid to restore Jim Acosta’s White House press passThe Washington Post, Paul Farhi, Friday, 16 November 2018: “A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of CNN and reporter Jim Acosta in a dispute with President Trump, ordering the White House to temporarily restore the press credentials that the administration had taken away from Acosta last week. In a victory for the cable network and for press access generally, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off the White House grounds…. In explaining his decision, Kelly said he agreed with the government’s argument that there was no First Amendment right to come onto the White House grounds. But, he said, once the White House opened up the grounds to reporters, the First Amendment applied. Kelly’s ruling, however, primarily emphasized evidence indicating that the White House’s decision to boot Acosta had violated the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process in government actions…. ‘We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days,’ CNN said in a statement. ‘Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.'” See also, CNN’s Jim Acosta Returns to the White House After Judge’s RulingThe New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum and Emily Baumgaertner, Friday, 16 November 2018: “A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to restore the press credentials of Jim Acosta of CNN, handing the cable network an early win in its lawsuit against the president and members of his administration. Presiding over one of the first major tests of press rights under President Trump, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of United States District Court in Washington ruled that the White House had behaved inappropriately in stripping Mr. Acosta of his press badge shortly after a testy exchange at a news conference last week…. Soon after the ruling, Mr. Trump said the White House would tighten its rules for how journalists must comport themselves at the White House. ‘People have to behave,’ the president said in the Oval Office. ‘If they don’t listen to the rules and regulations, we’ll end up back in court, and we will win.’ The ruling was a significant victory for CNN and Mr. Acosta, but Judge Kelly declined to say whether the denial of the White House press pass had amounted to a First Amendment issue. ‘I want to emphasize the very limited nature of this ruling,’ he said, saying that it was not meant to enshrine journalists’ right to access. ‘I have not determined that the First Amendment was violated here.’ The legal battle is expected to continue: Judge Kelly ruled only on the network’s emergency request for a temporary restoration of Mr. Acosta’s credentials. Hearings on other issues in the case are expected to resume next week. Some lawyers said that, CNN’s initial victory aside, journalists who cover the president had to remain vigilant. The case underscored that the entree granted to the White House press corps, which has worked out of the West Wing for decades, relies on custom rather than any legal framework.” See also, Judge orders White House to return Jim Acosta’s press passCNN, Brian Stelter, Marshall Cohen, David Shortell, and Jessica Schneider, Friday, 16 November 2018: “Friday’s ruling by federal judge Timothy J. Kelly was an initial victory for CNN in its lawsuit against Trump and several top aides. The suit alleges that CNN and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by last week’s suspension of his press pass. Kelly did not rule on the underlying case on Friday. But he granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order on Fifth Amendment grounds. And he said he believes that CNN and Acosta are likely to prevail in the case overall.”

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe Washington Post, Shane Harris, Greg Miller, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 16 November 2018: “The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, contradicting the Saudi government’s claims that he was not involved in the killing, according to people familiar with the matter. The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence, is the most definitive to date linking Mohammed to the operation and complicates the Trump administration’s efforts to preserve its relationship with a close ally. A team of 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul on government aircraft in October and killed Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate, where he had come to pick up documents that he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman. In reaching its conclusions, the CIA examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence. Khalid told Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so. It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.” See also, C.I.A. Concludes That Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Ordered the Assassination of Saudi Journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe New York Times, Julian E. Barnes, Friday, 16 November 2018. See also, CIA Concludes Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed on the Orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanThe Wall Street Journal, Warren P. Strobel, updated on Saturday, 17 November 2018: “The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was carried out under the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a close ally of President Trump, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. The determination by the top U.S. spy agency could endanger President Trump’s efforts to protect relations with the crown prince and Saudi Arabia more generally. Mr. Trump said Saturday he expected to receive a briefing from the CIA later in the day.”

Supreme Court will hear arguments concerning Census citizenship questionThe Washington Post, Deanna Paul and Robert Barnes, Friday, 16 November 2018: “The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear arguments over whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others can be compelled to explain their actions in a case challenging the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census. The addition of the question, which opponents say is a political move that will make the census less accurate and more costly, has been targeted in six lawsuits around the country. The legal issue the Supreme Court is asked to decide is whether the challengers must rely on the administrative record regarding the department’s decision, or whether the motivations of the officials should also be considered. The court’s timing is curious, because one trial, in New York, already is underway.”

Continue reading Week 96, Friday, 16 November – Thursday, 22 November 2018 (Days 666-672)

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Trump Administration, Week 95: Friday, 9 November – Thursday, 15 November 2018 ( Days 659-665)

‘Nobody Is Above the Law-Protect Mueller’ demonstration in Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, 8 November 2018

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. 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, 9 November 2018, Day 659:

 

Judge Blocks the Disputed Keystone XL Pipeline in a Setback for Trump’s Energy AgendaThe New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Friday, 9 November 2018: “A federal judge late Thursday blocked construction of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the Trump administration ‘simply discarded’ the effect the project would have on climate change. The ruling by Judge Brian Morris of the United States District Court for Montana repudiates one of Donald J. Trump’s first acts as president. Two days after taking office, Mr. Trump signed an executive order approving the Keystone pipeline that had been blocked by former President Barack Obama because of environmental concerns. In saying that no work can go forward until the government more fully reviews the pipeline’s environmental impact, the ruling tees up another potentially contentious legal battle over climate change with a president who dismisses mainstream science and whose administration is also seeking to block a landmark lawsuit on behalf of children asking the government to stop the rise of planet-warming gases…. Environmental groups hailed the decision as a major victory in the long-running battle over Keystone, which has spanned more than a decade and become a symbol of the political battle over climate change. The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline from TransCanada Corp. would carry about 800,000 barrels of petroleum a day from the Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.” See also, Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, saying Trump administration review ignored ‘inconvenient’ climate change factsThe Washington Post, Fred Barbash and Allyson Chiu, Friday, 9 November 2018: “A federal judge temporarily blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for the 1,200-mile long project designed to connect Canada’s tar sands crude oil with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana, said President Trump’s State Department ignored crucial issues of climate change in order to further the president’s goal of letting the pipeline be built. In doing so, the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires ‘reasoned’ explanations for government decisions, particularly when they represent reversals of well-studied actions. It was a major defeat for Trump, who attacked the Obama administration for stopping the project in the face of protests and an environmental impact study.”

Trump Suspends Some Asylum Rights, Calling Illegal Immigration ‘a Crisis,’ The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 9 November 2018: “President Trump proclaimed on Friday that the illegal entry of immigrants across the southern border of the United States was detrimental to the national interest, spurring tough changes that will deny asylum to all migrants who do not enter through official border crossings. The proclamation, issued just moments before Mr. Trump left the White House for a weekend trip to Paris, suspends asylum rights for all immigrants who try to cross into the United States illegally, though officials said it was aimed primarily at several thousand migrants traveling north through Mexico in caravans…. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Friday within hours of the president’s proclamation, urging a federal judge to prohibit Mr. Trump from moving ahead with his plans to deny asylum to thousands of migrants who may cross the border. In a legal filing in United States District Court in San Francisco, the A.C.L.U. said that the president’s move was ‘in direct violation of Congress’s clear command that manner of entry cannot constitute a categorical asylum bar.’ The lawsuit also alleges that the administration enacted the rule ‘without the required procedural steps and without good cause for immediately putting the rule into effect.'” See also, Trump issues decree limiting asylum protection for migrants crossing illegally into the U.S.The Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Friday, 9 November 2018: “President Trump issued a decree Friday to set in motion his administration’s new restrictions on access to asylum protections for those who enter the United States illegally, asserting broad executive authorities that will take effect after midnight but could be challenged in federal court before then. Under the new measures, announced by administration officials Thursday, Trump will rely on the same emergency authority invoked during his ‘travel ban’ of early 2017 to bar anyone crossing the Mexico border illegally from qualifying for asylum. Those protections will remain available to those who apply at official border crossings, or U.S. ports of entry, and the restrictions would not apply to underage asylum seekers who arrive without a parent or guardian.” See also, Lawsuit seeks to block Trump from restricting asylum for migrants who enter the U.S. illegallyThe Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Friday, 9 November 2018: “Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrant advocacy groups filed suit Friday in the Northern District of California to block the Trump administration’s plan to deny asylum protections to migrants who cross the Mexico border illegally. The suit accuses the administration of attempting to violate the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, alleging that Trump administration officials have improperly rushed to implement the new restrictions while also asserting executive powers that lie beyond the scope of what the Supreme Court upheld in its ‘travel ban’ decision this year.” See also, Read Trump’s Proclamation Targeting the Caravan and Asylum SeekersThe New York Times, Friday, 9 November 2018.

Donald Trump Played a Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougalThe Wall Street Journal, Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Michael Rothfeld, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, and Rebecca Ballhaus, Friday, 9 November 2018: “As a presidential candidate in August 2015, Donald Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, in his cluttered 26th floor Trump Tower office and made a request. What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump. Less than a year later, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair. Mr. Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal, to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Mr. Trump later thanked Mr. Pecker for the assistance. The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Mr. Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to interviews with three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents. Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws. The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.” See also, The increasing evidence suggesting Trump violated campaign-finance lawThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Friday, 9 November 2018: “President Trump has long argued that he did not engage in extramarital affairs with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal and, further, that he knew nothing about payments intended to keep the two women quiet before the 2016 campaign. His insistence on those fronts, already crumbling in the wake of admissions under oath from his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, eroded almost entirely Friday following the release of a lengthy new report by the Wall Street Journal.”

Continue reading Week 95, Friday, 9 November – Thursday, 15 November 2018 (Days 659-665)

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