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Congressman Capuano's
E-UPDATE
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
7th Congressional District of Massachusetts


12,426 subscribers

May 19, 2017

Community Meetings

We have scheduled two additional community meetings with details below:

  • Tuesday May 30th from 6:30 – 8:00 PM, Everett High School, 100 Elm Street in Everett
  • 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.

The Leaks, the Memos and the Special Counsel

It’s been a very sobering week. First, we learned that President Trump shared intelligence with the Russians in the Oval Office – intelligence provided to the United States by an ally who had not authorized its sharing. Monday night White House officials insisted this report was false only to be contradicted by the President himself, who openly admitted he shared the intelligence.

Then the New York Times reported that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s involvement with Russia. This happened after a meeting that included the Vice President and the Attorney General. Reportedly, Trump cleared the room so he could speak privately with Comey. The FBI Director wrote a memo to establish a record of this conversation. This is reportedly one of several memos that Comey wrote documenting his interactions with Trump. As we all know, he was fired by Trump, who admitted that “this Russia thing” was a factor.

Late Wednesday Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to conduct a thorough investigation of connections between Trump associates and Russia. I am very encouraged by this development. Mr. Mueller will have broad authority to explore any matter that he thinks is relevant. It will not be a fast process but I am confident it will be deliberate and thorough.

I still think there is a need for an independent commission to supplement the work that Mr. Mueller will do. Here’s why. The special counsel will operate under the Justice Department. While I do believe that he will have great autonomy and explore any angle he thinks needs attention, at the end of the day he can still be fired. This has happened before. Richard Nixon fired Justice Department appointed special prosecutor Archibald Cox at the height of the Watergate investigation.

Trump has already taken to Twitter to brand the Russia investigation the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history”. While it would be a stunning development, does anyone really believe that Trump firing Mueller is an impossible outcome? An independent commission can also have a broader mission to look at our electoral system and recommend ways to strengthen it so we are not vulnerable to foreign interference in the future.

House Democrats have filed a discharge petition to force a vote on H.R. 356, legislation establishing an independent commission to investigate the connections between Trump and his associates and Russia. A discharge petition is the only way Democrats can force a vote on legislation. If a simple majority of House Members signs the petition, the Speaker will have to schedule a vote. At this writing, 191 Members have signed it. If that number reaches 218, there will be a vote. That means we need a few responsible Republicans to look in the mirror and recognize this isn’t about party. It’s about the integrity of our democracy and the Presidency. Supporting an independent commission doesn’t mean that one presumes a conclusion. It simply means that the signers want facts. All Democrats are actively working to encourage their Republican colleagues to sign the petition.

The word “impeachment” continues to come up and I’d like to focus on that for a moment. Articles of impeachment detail charges made against the President and are essentially indictments supported by evidence. A majority of House Members must vote on impeachment for the process to move to the Senate. As noted above, there aren’t enough Members yet to even advance an independent commission.

Some Republicans, however, are beginning to recognize the need for an investigation led by an independent commission, even with the appointment of Mr. Mueller. I am focusing my efforts on building support for this. The American people need all the facts, wherever they may lead. Those facts will come, through the special counsel and I hope, also, through the independent commission.

I want to proceed deliberately so the American people are comfortable that a thorough independent review has been done. If the facts support a case for impeachment, then the evidence will be there to make a case. We just don’t know that yet. I know this is frustrating and the investigation won’t move fast enough for any of us. We have to respect the process. There is a requirement to produce provable evidence. It shouldn’t be a witch hunt or a political statement. It should be about upholding the rule of law, our electoral process and protecting the freedoms we cherish as Americans.

Since the day after the election, I have heard from so many of you about this President and his Administration. You’ve reached out about issues you care about, the news of the day, to say thank you, express frustration, and so much more. My staff and I share your concerns about President Trump and we too worry about the direction of our country. I want you to know that your activism, diligence and consistent outreach mean so much as one crisis after another demands a response. It is your determination and support that sustains me.

Expanding the Reach of the Death Penalty

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 115, the Thin Blue Line Act. This legislation unnecessarily broadens the federal death penalty by expanding the list of aggravating factors a jury must consider when determining whether a death sentence is warranted in a federal criminal case. H.R. 115 expands consideration to include the killing, attempted killing or targeting of any law enforcement officer, firefighter or other first responder. Massachusetts does not impose the death penalty but H.R. 115 would overrule state law. I voted NO. H.R. 115 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

223

4

0

10

DEMOCRAT

48

139

0

6

TOTAL

271

143

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

1

8

0

0

Expanding the Authority of Probation Officers

Today the House considered H.R. 1039, the Probation Officer Protection Act of 2017. This legislation expands the role of probation officers in making arrests. Currently, probation officers only have the authority to arrest someone who is being supervised by the U.S. Probation Office if they believe that the parolee has violated some aspect of their probation. H.R. 1039 gives probation officers the authority to arrest, without a warrant, anyone they believe is obstructing their ability to do their job. There are constitutional issues with this legislation because it assigns executive branch authority to employees who operate under the authority of the judicial branch. I voted NO. H.R. 1039 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

192

33

0

12

DEMOCRAT

37

144

0

12

TOTAL

229

177

0

24

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

3

6

0

0

Honoring First Responders

I joined my colleagues, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) introducing a resolution designating October 28th as Honoring the Nation’s First Responders Day. I’ve worked with the family of Officer Sean Collier, who was killed in April of 2013 by those responsible for the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, to honor our first responders. Every day they put the safety of their community first by entering burning buildings, pursuing armed suspects and rushing into danger. Designating a day annually is a small way to honor their services.

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.

  1. The Obama Administration gave prosecutors discretion when seeking penalties for crimes committed, recognizing that the harshest penalties with strict mandatory minimum sentences are not always the best course of action. AG Sessions has taken the opposite approach, instructing federal prosecutors to seek the harshest penalties available for crimes.
  2. The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is requiring Trump cabinet members and other top officials to complete extra ethics forms to ensure they really have taken the actions they pledged to take during their Senate confirmation. The OGE wants to know whether appointees followed through on pledges to resign from private-sector positions that posed conflicts of interest, divest financial holdings they had promised to sell and recuse themselves from any issues where they have had conflicts. OGE plans to post the completed forms online, along with the ethics agreement that the appointee signed during Senate confirmation.
  3. On May 5, 2017 President Trump appointed Keith Noreika temporary Chair of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), skirting the Senate confirmation process and ethics rules. Instead of appointing a career official, Trump chose a campaign supporter and bank lawyer. Apparently, Noreika himself suggested this while on the Trump Treasury transition team. The OCC classifies Noreika as a “special government employee,” retained to perform “temporary duties” for not more than 130 days. This designation typically is given to people serving on advisory committees, not for overseeing a federal agency. There is nothing preventing Trump from keeping Noreika there longer to avoid the confirmation process. He has not been vetted or confirmed by the Senate. He is under no obligation to comply with ethics rules, including Trump's own lobbying ban. Noreika is already indicating he will be an activist chair. He’s promised to revisit Dodd-Frank rulemakings which he considers to be overly burdensome. This position is particularly powerful because the OCC is led by a single director and not a commission. Noreika spent much of his career at the Wall Street legal defense firm Covington and Burling with banks and executives as clients. Once his time at the OCC is up, he’ll go right back to serving the same banks he did before he was OCC Chair, but this time with some unique experience. The OCC chief also sits on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Board and the Financial Stability Oversight Council.
  4. On May 18, 2017 the Federal Communications Commission voted to advance the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal, which eliminates net neutrality rules. Under current rules, internet service providers are treated like public utilities, or common carriers. This means they must treat all internet content the same. They cannot create so-called fast lanes, charging more money for faster content delivery. Reversing net neutrality rules would make it harder for everyone to access certain internet content. Only big businesses would be in a position to pay more money for easier access. It places small companies at a serious competitive disadvantage. This is not a done deal yet. A public comment period has opened, if you have an opinion on this, I encourage you to weigh in: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=17-108&sort=date_disseminated,DESC
  5. On May 2, 2017 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced plans to change the way grants are awarded. NIH plans to limit grants to no more than three per investigator. I have always supported the principle of peer review. Scientists, not politicians or bureaucrats, should decide which grants are funded and money should be invested in research that specialists in the field judge most promising. Scientists judge applicants on the basis of scientific excellence only. It should not come as a surprise that NIH money isn’t distributed equally among states. This artificial limit ignores the fact that a “Principal Investigator” could be a person of genius, a Jonas Salk or Albert Einstein, who could (in my district many do) mentor dozens of post-doctoral fellows on projects that should be judged on their merits, not artificially capped. This approach could jeopardize U.S. preeminence in biomedical sciences.

Behind the Curtain – UPDATES

  • On May 17, 2017 President Trump signed H.J. Res. 66, ending a program giving states the authority to create workplace savings plans for private sector employees who don’t have access to one.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday May 22nd.

Mike


Congressman Mike Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services

P.S. I welcome your feedback on our e-Updates. Please let me and my staff know what you think of this service by e-mailing our office.


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