Tag Archives: democratic

Watch Stephen Colbert take a swipe at EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

Mustafa Ali helped to start the EPA’s environmental justice office and its environmental equity office in the 1990s. For nearly 25 years, he advocated for poor and minority neighborhoods stricken by pollution. As a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator, Ali served under both Democratic and Republican presidents — but not under President Donald Trump.

His departure comes amid news that the Trump administration plans to scrap the agency’s environmental justice work. The administration’s proposed federal budget would slash the EPA’s $8 billion budget by a quarter and eliminate numerous programs, including Ali’s office.

The Office of Environmental Justice gives small grants to disadvantaged communities, a life-saving program that Trump’s budget proposal could soon make disappear.

Ali played a role in President Obama’s last major EPA initiative, the EJ 2020 action agenda, a four-year plan to tackle lead poisoning, air pollution, and other problems. He now joins Hip Hop Caucus, a civil rights nonprofit that nurtures grassroots activism through hip-hop music, as a senior vice president.

In his letter of resignation, Ali asked the agency’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, to listen to poor and non-white people and “value their lives.” Let’s see if Pruitt listens.

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Watch Stephen Colbert take a swipe at EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

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Police want to search a #NoDAPL group’s Facebook page.

Mustafa Ali helped to start the EPA’s environmental justice office and its environmental equity office in the 1990s. For nearly 25 years, he advocated for poor and minority neighborhoods stricken by pollution. As a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator, Ali served under both Democratic and Republican presidents — but not under President Donald Trump.

His departure comes amid news that the Trump administration plans to scrap the agency’s environmental justice work. The administration’s proposed federal budget would slash the EPA’s $8 billion budget by a quarter and eliminate numerous programs, including Ali’s office.

The Office of Environmental Justice gives small grants to disadvantaged communities, a life-saving program that Trump’s budget proposal could soon make disappear.

Ali played a role in President Obama’s last major EPA initiative, the EJ 2020 action agenda, a four-year plan to tackle lead poisoning, air pollution, and other problems. He now joins Hip Hop Caucus, a civil rights nonprofit that nurtures grassroots activism through hip-hop music, as a senior vice president.

In his letter of resignation, Ali asked the agency’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, to listen to poor and non-white people and “value their lives.” Let’s see if Pruitt listens.

See the article here – 

Police want to search a #NoDAPL group’s Facebook page.

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There’s a lot more oil to keep in the ground all of a sudden.

Mustafa Ali helped to start the EPA’s environmental justice office and its environmental equity office in the 1990s. For nearly 25 years, he advocated for poor and minority neighborhoods stricken by pollution. As a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator, Ali served under both Democratic and Republican presidents — but not under President Donald Trump.

His departure comes amid news that the Trump administration plans to scrap the agency’s environmental justice work. The administration’s proposed federal budget would slash the EPA’s $8 billion budget by a quarter and eliminate numerous programs, including Ali’s office.

The Office of Environmental Justice gives small grants to disadvantaged communities, a life-saving program that Trump’s budget proposal could soon make disappear.

Ali played a role in President Obama’s last major EPA initiative, the EJ 2020 action agenda, a four-year plan to tackle lead poisoning, air pollution, and other problems. He now joins Hip Hop Caucus, a civil rights nonprofit that nurtures grassroots activism through hip-hop music, as a senior vice president.

In his letter of resignation, Ali asked the agency’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, to listen to poor and non-white people and “value their lives.” Let’s see if Pruitt listens.

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There’s a lot more oil to keep in the ground all of a sudden.

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Under Pressure, Darrell Issa Takes a Sharp Left Turn

Mother Jones

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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), an early and outspoken supporter of Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, is known for launching frequent investigations of Democrats. Then, in a February 24 appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher, he suddenly became the first congressional Republican to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Trump’s election. He’s long used conspiracy theories to battle established climate science, yet on Thursday he joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators dedicated to fighting climate change.

Why the about-face? The former chair of the House Oversight Committee—famous for his high-theater, low-yield investigations into alleged Democratic scandals involving Benghazi, the IRS, the gun sting gone awry known as Operation Fast and Furious, and Healthcare.gov, among others—is suddenly facing a very tough election. California’s 49th Congressional District, where Issa has reigned for more than 16 years, has a growing Latino population that has helped push it slowly but steadily leftward. In November, Issa eked out a win over Democrat Doug Applegate, a political newcomer, by just 1,680 votes. Orange County, part of which falls within Issa’s district, favored Hillary Clinton by a nine-point margin, marking the first time it voted for a Democrat for president since 1936. The New York Times recently called Issa “probably the nation’s most vulnerable incumbent.”

Every week since the election, hundreds of people have descended on his San Diego County office to protest. Critics organized a town hall five miles from his office and raised $6,000 through a GoFundMe campaign for a full-page newspaper ad urging him to appear. Citing a “long-standing obligation” to tour a homeless shelter, he didn’t show. Instead, he was represented by a giant “Where’s Waldo?” cutout with his picture taped to its face.

“It’s been clear to those of us who live here that he’s been in campaign mode 24/7,” says Francine Busby, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party. “He’s definitely feeling the heat down here. I have no doubt that the Republican warrior who has always toed the party line to the nth degree, who is now changing his tune, has very personal motivations because of the vulnerability he feels in his seat.”

Upon learning that Issa had joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, one San Diego Republican political operative who asked to remain anonymous told Mother Jones, “Wow. That is definitely a calculated move.” Issa voted against the 2009 climate and clean-energy jobs bill and continues to make false claims that “there is a wide range of scientific opinion” on climate change and that “the science community does not agree to the extent of the problem.” The League of Conservation Voters gives him a lifetime score of just 4 percent for overwhelmingly voting “anti-environment” during his years in Congress. In 2013, the organization gave him a “Climate Change Denier” award for “his extreme anti-science views, which put him at odds with 97 percent of scientists and a majority of the American people.”

Issa represents a “highly environmentally conscious district,” the operative says, where Republicans “can’t really win being anti-environment. Even the more conservative Republicans still are pretty centrist on climate issues and the environment. It doesn’t surprise me that he would see that as beneficial, and I have a feeling that polling issues are guiding that too.”

Some observers think Issa’s call for a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s role in the election might not have been a calculated attempt to distance himself from Trump and pacify his constituents. He may simply have said more than he intended in his appearance on Maher’s show. “I don’t think he was prepared to have that question addressed to him,” says Busby. “There were two busloads of people who had been protesting him every step of the way in that studio that night, and I think that may have influenced his remarks.”

“My read on it,” says the Republican political operative, “was that this was probably a moment of intellectual honesty, particularly given his role on oversight, as something he would have suggested the Obama administration wouldn’t be trusted to investigate themselves.” But he added, “These kinds of things are probably top-of-mind as opportunities to pander, and this will show that ‘I am independent and not a Trumpster.'”

If Issa blurted out more than he meant to, he was bailed out a few days later by news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had failed to disclose meetings with a Russian diplomat during the 2016 election. “News overnight affirms what I’ve been saying: we need an independent review and Jeff Sessions should recuse himself,” Issa tweeted on Thursday.

Kurt Bardella, a former Issa staffer who criticized Issa’s embrace of Trump during the campaign, doesn’t see Issa’s call for a special prosecutor as a political maneuver. “There were countless times that Darrell led the charge for impartial and independent investigations during the Obama Administration because he recognized the inherent conflict in the idea of self-policing,” Bardella says. “Anyone trying to speculate that what he said was because of pressure from his district is clearly unfamiliar with his extensive oversight body of work.” And climate change, Bardella adds, “has never been an issue that carries any weight in terms of the district.”

Whatever his reasons, it seems clear that as Issa’s constituents continue their leftward march, the congressman is starting to follow them.

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Under Pressure, Darrell Issa Takes a Sharp Left Turn

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Can Republicans Be Trusted to Investigate Trump’s Russia Scandal?

Mother Jones

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Last week, news broke that the Senate intelligence committee—as part of its recently launched investigation of both the Russian hacking of the 2016 campaign and contacts between Donald Trump associates and Russia—had sent letters to at least a dozen agencies, individuals, and organizations instructing them to preserve records and information related to the probe. This was one of the first public signs that the Senate committee or the House intelligence committee, which has initiated its own inquiry, had begun any real digging.

But both investigations are proceeding behind a thick veil of secrecy, and there is no way to tell if the Republicans leading these efforts are mounting serious endeavors committed to unearthing facts that might be inconvenient, embarrassing, delegitimizing, or worse for Trump and his White House. So the question remains: Can these committees be trusted to get the job done?

Congressional investigations are not easy tasks. Committees usually are burdened with a wide variety of responsibilities. In the case of the intelligence committees, they are already responsible for monitoring the full intelligence community, which includes 17 different agencies. Veteran members and staffers from these committees routinely say that it’s tough for them to manage the normal oversight. (Watching over just the gigantic National Security Agency could keep a committee busy around the clock.)

Now, these committees have to maintain their current overwhelming duties and also conduct a highly sensitive inquiry. One congressional source says that the House intelligence committee has slightly expanded its staff for the hacking/Trump-Russia investigation. But Jack Langer, the spokesman for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the committee, won’t confirm that. And spokespeople for Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, did not even respond to a request for comment on the staffing issue.

Langer and the Burr spokespeople also wouldn’t say if the House and Senate intelligence committees are coordinating their efforts. Or if either committee has yet issued any subpoenas. Or if the committees will release public updates on the progress of each investigation. This is a red flag. Questions such as these do not involve classified or secret information. The committees could demonstrate their commitment to full accountability by informing the public about these organizational issues. The desire to shield such details does not bode well.

Jeremy Bash, who was chief counsel for the House intelligence committee in 2007 and 2008 (when Democrats controlled Congress), notes that there are three key elements necessary to ensure the intelligence committees conduct an effective investigation: full-time staff with legal or investigative training devoted to the inquiry; access for members and staff to all relevant documents held by government agencies; and a vigorous effort to conduct a broad range of witness interviews. He points out that past intelligence committee investigations have been hindered when intelligence agencies have not allowed staffers easy access to materials. Indeed, the intelligence committees often get into tussles with the spy services they oversee. Three years ago, the Senate intelligence committee had an explosive fight with the CIA over documents when it was examining the agency’s use of torture. This bitter clash threatened to blow up into a full-scale constitutional crisis.

News reports about the Trump-Russia scandal indicate that US intelligence agencies have material—perhaps surveillance intercepts or reports from human assets—relating to contacts between Trump associates and Russians. The FBI reportedly has been investigating these contacts and presumably has collected information relevant to the committees’ inquiries. Yet often intelligence agencies, looking to protect sources and methods or an ongoing investigation, are reluctant to share such information—even with the committees. (Democratic senators and representatives have repeatedly called on the FBI to release to the public information it has on Trump-Russia interactions.)

Much depends on the chairmen of the two committees. How hard will they push if they encounter a roadblock at the FBI or elsewhere? And how far will they go? Will they devote sufficient resources? Will they issue subpoenas for witnesses not eager to accept a committee invitation? A chairman has much discretion in determining the course of an investigation. Imagine that a staffer has located a witness who might possess significant information but that this witness is now living in South Korea. Will the chairman send staff there to locate the witness and obtain a statement? Or might he say, We have to let this one go?

The most crucial element is how committed the chairman is to uncovering the truth. “The real enemy to an investigation is the time that goes by,” says Bash, who helped oversee an investigation of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping during his time with the house committee. “People lose interest. Other events intervene. The key thing is to get going fast. There are a hundred ways to slow down an investigation by people or agencies who don’t want it.”

Neither Burr nor Nunes has demonstrated much public enthusiasm for investigating the Trump-Russia scandal. At first, Burr wanted his committee to focus solely on the Russia hacking, not ties between Trump associates and Russia. This was no surprise. Most congressional Republicans have either shied away from or downplayed this subject. And Burr did serve on the Trump campaign’s national security advisory council. But after Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pushed for a select committee investigation—which would be a more independent inquiry involving a greater number of senators—Burr agreed to widen the intelligence committee probe to cover the Trump-Russia angle. It was obvious that he did so in order not to lose control of the investigation.

Nunes, who was an adviser to Trump’s transition team, initially showed little eagerness for this assignment, as well His announcement in late January that he would proceed with the investigation came only after Burr’s change of heart—and followed weeks of public pressure from Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. Skepticism regarding the willingness of Burr or Nunes to lead robust, wherever-it-goes investigations is hardly unfounded.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported—and the White House confirmed—that Burr and Nunes had been enlisted by the Trump administration to be part of its effort to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia. Their participation in this spin campaign has undermined their claims of independence. And on Saturday—in response to Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) surprising call for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia connections—Nunes dismissed Issa’s demand, saying, “This is almost like McCarthyism revisited. W’’re going to go on a witch hunt against, against innocent Americans?” He added, “At this point, there’s nothing there.” That’s not the manner in which the head of an independent investigation should be talking about the inquiry. How does Nunes know who’s innocent or not—or whether there’s nothing there—at this point?

In recent weeks, Democratic members of both committees told me that, at least for the time being, they were hoping for the best and taking Burr and Nunes at their word when they claim they are committed to conducting thorough investigations, holding public hearings, and releasing public findings. These recent actions of Burr and Nunes may change that perspective. Schiff has said he will release public updates on the progress of the House committee’s inquiry, though he has not issued one yet.

On the Senate side, Democrats say that the effectiveness of the investigation may depend on McCain. He is not a full member of the Senate intelligence committee, but as chair of the Senate armed services committee, he is an ex officio member of the intelligence committee. In that regard, he has the same access as a full member to the investigation’s materials, and he can monitor the inquiry. Should he conclude the investigation is not proceeding vigorously, he will be in a position to publicly shame Burr and revive his demand for a select committee probe. Of course, Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees could do the same, but they won’t have the same political standing to pull that sort of move.

For weeks, Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill have called for an independent bipartisan commission—similar to the well-regarded 9/11 commission—to investigate this affair. This inquiry would operate outside of the congressional committee system—meaning outside of GOP control. Naturally, the Republican congressional leadership has opposed the move and has declared that it’s just fine to let the intelligence committees do their work. And McCain and Graham have yet to endorse the Democrats’ proposal. But that is a card McCain could play if the Senate investigation does not meet his standards. Still, every time there is a development in the Trump-Russia story—such as last week when it was reported that the Trump White House asked the FBI to knock down the news stories saying that Trump associates had interacted with Russian intelligence—Democrats renew their call for an independent commission that would be distant from congressional politics.

Even with the FBI investigating, the congressional investigations are crucial. The FBI inquiry is either a counterintelligence probe or a criminal investigation (or maybe both). Neither of those are designed or intended to provide a full accounting to the public. An FBI criminal inquiry (usually) only yields public information if someone ends up being charged with a crime and the case goes to trial. And in such instances, the only information that emerges is material necessary for the prosecution of the case. That could be a small slice of whatever the bureau obtained.

A counterintelligence investigation aims to discover and possibly counter a foreign actor’s effort to target the United States with espionage, covert action, or terrorism. These sort of probes tend to stay secret unless they result in a criminal case. (Perhaps a spy is discovered and arrested, or a would-be terrorist indicted.) In an unusual move, the intelligence community, at President Barack Obama’s direction, did release some of its assessments regarding the Russia hacking. But whatever the FBI and other intelligence agencies may be investigating, their efforts are not likely to produces a comprehensive public accounting of this double scandal: Vladimir Putin’s attack on the US election and the interactions between the president’s crew and the foreign power that waged this political warfare.

As of now, that’s the job of the two congressional intelligence committees. Both are under the direction of Republicans who have supported Trump and participated in White House spin efforts. Both are moving forward cloaked by their customary secrecy. And both have yielded no indications yet that they will produce the investigations and public findings necessary to resolve these grave matters.

See the original article here – 

Can Republicans Be Trusted to Investigate Trump’s Russia Scandal?

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