May 12, 2017
We have scheduled two additional community meetings with details below:
- Tuesday May 30th from 6:30 – 8:00 PM in Everett, location TBD
- Wednesday May 31st from 6:30 – 8:00 PM at the Thelma Burns Building, 575 Warren Street in Roxbury
I hope to see you. If you can’t make it, we plan to broadcast via Facebook Live.
Too Much White House Intrigue
This week has been a little head spinning, to put it mildly. President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday while he was in the midst of a criminal investigation into Trump campaign associates and their contact with Russia. The reason given for the firing, that Comey had mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email, is simply not credible.
Of course, the White House’s cover story about why Comey was fired quickly unraveled. The Trump Administration insisted that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein acted on his own in making the case for Comey’s firing. Rosenstein reportedly threatened to quit over this narrative. It soon became clear that the President wanted Comey gone and instructed Rosenstein to write the memo laying out a rationale.
It was also reported this week that Comey sought more money from the Department of Justice for the Russia investigation just days before he was fired. Then this morning, Trump went on a Twitter tirade directed at Comey: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump also threatened to cancel the daily press briefings after criticism that his spokespeople hadn’t been completely truthful about the Comey firing.
If it wasn’t clear to everyone before, it certainly is now. There must be an independent investigation into the Russian matter. The President will appoint the next FBI Director. How can anyone have confidence that, no matter who that person is, he or she can lead a completely independent investigation?
Despite all the drama this week, it will still be a difficult task to launch an independent investigation. However, with every day that goes by I really believe we are getting closer. As you know, Republicans control the House and Senate. The encouraging news is that a number of Republicans, after the Comey firing, have either called for an independent investigation or are indicating they are open to one. I have been reaching out to some of my Republican colleagues about this and many other Democrats are doing the same. None of this is moving fast enough for me and I know many of you have frustrations as well. I hope you will keep raising your voices and reaching out to me and your friends and neighbors. Your advocacy is not going unnoticed in Washington.
How Close is Trumpdon’tcare to Becoming Law?
With House passage of H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, there is great concern over how quickly this bill could become law. I think there is zero chance that the exact legislation passed by the House last week will become law. The only way that happens is if the Senate passes the exact legislation that the House did and the President signs it.
We all know the President would sign this bill in a heartbeat. He’s already had a little celebration at the White House, even though this process is far from over. Several Senators have publicly stated that the House passed bill won’t even be considered. Instead, the Senate will craft its own legislation. That will likely take months and if something does pass the Senate, there is no guarantee it will pass the House. Remember, H.R. 1628 barely passed last week. I think there is a good chance the Senate won’t even complete their own consideration of health care until the fall. As always, I will keep you posted.
I had an op-ed in The Hill newspaper Wednesday on the possibility of bipartisan agreement on an infrastructure plan. If interested, you may read my piece here.
Emmanuel Macron was elected President of the French Republic on May 7th with a large margin. He received 66% of the vote while extreme right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen received only 34%. This was, however, almost double the 18% her father Jean-Marie Le Pen got in 2002 when all of France’s democratic parties united to give the Gaullist candidate a huge victory. This time, both the Center Right and the Socialists endorsed Macron. The candidate of the extreme left, however, refused to do so.
About a quarter of eligible voters abstained, but this included many who rarely vote. More unusual was the “ballot blanc” – more than 11% came to the polls but voted for no one. Elections for the National Assembly will be held in June. Macron’s movement is not yet a political party, though they expect to field candidates in every district. It is unclear if the traditional parties, whose presidential candidates failed, will do better in legislative elections. Thus far, the President-elect has impressed me by acknowledging, not mocking, the anger and fear of those who supported Le Pen. He has also recognized that many people voted against her rather than for him, so the mandate is yet to be earned. I wish him, France and all our democratic allies well.
Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss
Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.
- In January, then President-elect Trump announced he would put together a team to draft a cybersecurity plan after being briefed on Russian hacking in the November election. He promised that this team would have a plan ready for review in 90 days. We are now well past 90 days and not only is there no plan completed – there isn’t a team in place to review data and craft a plan.
- On May 8, 2017 it was reported that EPA Director Scott Pruitt did not renew the appointments of 9 scientists serving on a science review board that advises the EPA. While it is certainly common practice for new administrations to bring their own staffers on board, Pruitt made it clear that he wanted to replace the scientists with industry representatives to bring balance to the science review board.
- On May 8, 2017 in a statement upon signing the Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus spending bill President Trump listed the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Capital Financing Program as an example of a provision in the bill that allocates benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender. The President stated that he would treat the program "in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the law under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment." By raising this issue, the President suggests that federal financing for Historically Black Colleges and Universities may be unconstitutional which could lead to a loss of federal funding for HBCUs.
- On May 11, 2017 President Trump issued an Executive Order establishing the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The 15 person commission will be chosen entirely by President Trump and chaired by the Vice President. In November, the then President-elect claimed that 3-5 million people had voted illegally and promised to investigate it. Trump won the election, but lost the popular vote by 3 million. This commission is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars. The Committee on House Administration conducted a survey of state election officials which found that the rate of attempted voter fraud is .00000010247. Even Republican leaders have repeatedly stated that there is absolutely no evidence of voter fraud. Widespread voter suppression, however, is a demonstrable fact. Fourteen states placed new restrictions on voting in 2016. These laws ranged from requiring a voter to present a photo ID, to eliminating early voting opportunities. Long lines at the polls and failing voting equipment are also real obstacles. National voter turnout rates in the last election were at a 20-year low.
- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are renting a townhouse for $15,500 a month from Andronico Luksic, a billionaire from Chile who just purchased the property in November. The Obama Administration prevented a company owned by Luksic from building a mine in Minnesota, citing environmental concerns. The company is now asking the Trump Administration to reverse this decision. Just one more in a growing list of conflicts of interest.
What’s Up Next
The next House votes will take place on Tuesday May 16th. At this writing, a list of legislation to be considered is not available.