Well, we’re drinking from the fire hose again this week, and most of the newswater is pretty fetid. There were a few bright spots, thankfully, but consider yourselves forewarned anyway–this was a pretty rough week.
Events to Know
Sante Fe Shootings. A school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas resulted in ten deaths and ten injuries on Friday. As details began to trickle in about the shooter, who is in police custody, it became clear that he was targeting people he didn’t like rather than shooting indiscriminately. Notably, this school did have preparations in place for a school shooting, which the shooter appeared to anticipate by doing things like shooting into closets; this prompted the Texas lieutenant governor to speculate that the real problem was “too many entrances and exits” in the school. This shooting is the sixteenth school shooting this year, and the two hundred and twentieth school shooting since Columbine in 1999.
- Los Angeles Times – Texas School Shooter Killed Girl Who Turned Down His Advances and Embarrassed Him in Class, Her Mother Says
- Washington Post – Texas School Had a Shooting Plan, Armed Officers and Practice. And Still 10 People Died
- CNN – Texas Official Blames School Shooting on Too Many Exits and Entrances
Undoing the Obama Era. This week, the Trump Administration disassembled Obama-era policy like they were moving an Ikea bed, undoing what’s probably an unprecedented amount of infrastructure in one week. Lowlights of the list: 1) the Department of Education wound down a unit that investigates fraudulent practices of for-profit schools; 2) the Bureau of Prisons rolled back protections for transgender inmates; 3) the White House plans to stop issuing funds to health centers that refer for abortions; 4) HUD doubled down on rolling back Obama-era fair housing practices; and 5) the EPA blocked publication of a study that found toxic levels of chemicals in water supplies.
- New York Times – Education Department Unwinds Unit Investigating Fraud at For-Profits
- Pride Source – New Trump Guidance Rolls Back Rights for Trans Inmates
- NPR – Clinics That Refer Women For Abortions Would Not Get Federal Funds Under New Rule
- Washington Post – HUD Secretary Ben Carson Doubles Down on Dismantling Obama-Era Fair-Housing Policies
- Newsweek – Worried About a ‘Public Relations Nightmare,’ White House and EPA Aides Worked to Block Contaminated Water Study
Immigration Updates. The administration doubled down on enough immigration matters this week to have a food named after them at KFC. First it was last week’s threat of a “zero tolerance” policy that separates children from their parents at the border as a matter of course, which Trump falsely claimed was mandated by a Democrat-passed law. Then he called crime-involved immigrants “animals” and threatened to criminally charge the mayor of Oakland because she warned her constituents about anticipated raids in front of cameras. And when backlash ensued, the administration opted to argue that outlets who reported on it misconstrued the statement and owe Trump an apology. And when that didn’t work, it followed up by issuing an Official White House Document that calls MS-13 members “animals” no fewer than ten times (and apparently hoped that people would forget USCIS was recently censured for making up claims that a Dreamer had ties to MS-13). And while all of that was happening, Border Patrol detained two U.S. citizens at a gas station for forty minutes because they spoke Spanish in public. So it was… a pretty concerning week on the immigration front, to say the least.
- ABC News – AP Fact Check: Trump Wrong on Blame for Border Separations
- LA Times – Meeting With California ‘Sanctuary’ Foes, Trump Calls for Probe of Oakland Mayor, Blasts Criminal Immigrants as ‘Animals’
- Whitehouse.gov – What You Need To Know About The Violent Animals Of MS-13
- Washington Post – Border Patrol Agent in Montana Detains U.S. Citizens After Hearing Them Speak Spanish
Recent Court Resilience. There was more good court news this week; a federal court blocked USCIS from revoking a Dreamer’s DACA status without any actual evidence that the Dreamer was MS-13 involved. And another federal judge declined to dismiss Manafort’s criminal indictment from the Russia probe, rejecting the argument that they were too tangential to the probe to be valid. Good job, federal judges!
- National Review – No, Federal Officials Shouldn’t Misrepresent Gang Affiliations to Facilitate Deportation
- Politico – Federal Judge Rejects Manafort’s Bid to Dismiss Mueller Indictment
Farewell, Farm Bill. The GOP farm bill kicking around the House tanked this week, which means the attempt to create work requirements for food assistance died along with it. Ironically, although Democrats and moderate Republicans objected to the work requirement, that wasn’t what killed the bill–the Freedom Caucus pushed the numbers in the red over an immigration standoff. It’s hard to feel too broken up about the bill failing, particularly given the way it went down.
Things to Watch
Dodd-Frank Rollback. The House approved a partial rollback of Dodd-Frank financial regulations this week by a 258-159 vote. (For those of you playing the home game and not familiar with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, it’s the body of law put into place in 2010 as a response to the Great Recession; its main purpose is to further regulate banks and prevent a similar collapse from occurring in the future.) Since the bill had already been approved by the Senate, it’s now off of Congress’s collective desks and onto Trump’s to be signed into law. Though the reform isn’t fully comprehensive–among other things, it changes the threshold marker for “systemically important financial institutions” from $50B in assets to $250B, which means about ten giant banks still qualify–it represents significant loosening of regulations for most banks in America. It seems very likely that Trump will sign this into law, but it’s worth tracking when that happens.
- NPR – Congress Rolls Back Part Of Dodd-Frank, Easing Rules For Midsize, Smaller Banks
- NBC News – Congress just approved a bill to dismantle parts of the Dodd-Frank banking rule
- New York Times – Congress Approves First Big Dodd-Frank Rollback
- Money Summit – Biggest US Banks by Asset Size
Qatar, Corruption, and Cohen. News broke this week that Michael Cohen sought a one million dollar payment from Qatar in exchange for access or insight into the Trump administration. Though we had already learned about Cohen doing this with domestic companies, this is the first allegation of soliciting payments from a foreign government. But it wasn’t the last allegation of money changing hands with foreign powers, because we also learned that Team Trump paid the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia for assistance shortly after the 2016 election, which is definitely illegal if it related to the election itself, and Mueller is looking into the UAE’s role more closely now. This last piece of news is likely the direct catalyst for the next story in this section.
- Washington Post – Trump’s Personal Attorney Solicited $1 Million From Government of Qatar
- New York Times – Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election
- Wall Street Journal – Mueller Probe Expands to Israeli Entrepreneur With U.A.E. Ties
Trump vs. Justice Department. Trump demanded that the Justice Department order an inquiry into whether the FBI (or the self-same Justice Department) “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign. Given where Mueller’s current investigation into Russian collusion is taking him, it seems very likely that the FBI was properly investigating the campaign’s activity by summer 2016, which by the way didn’t involve infiltration or spying, and I’m gonna guess we we probably wouldn’t have ended up with him as President if it had. At any rate, the Justice Department vaguely took this step today, asking its inspector general to investigate whether political motivation drove the investigation that definitely did happen. But some analysis seems to suggest that this was actually a move by Rosenstein to run out the clock without directly disobeying an order, so we’ll have to see what happens from here.
- New York Times – Trump Demands Inquiry Into Whether Justice Dept. ‘Infiltrated or Surveilled’ His Campaign
- Wall Street Journal – Justice Department to Review FBI Probe of Trump Campaign
- Washington Post – Is Rod Rosenstein Being Too Soft on Trump?
May is coming to an end. This first half of the year has been intense to say the least. But this only means we are strong and resilient. Let’s keep up the good fight!
Actions for Everyone
Keep it green this summer – Summer is here and here is a list of tips that can help you keep it green and environmentally friendly.
- Go support your local farmer’s markets and cook seasonal meals.
- Enjoy the outside! Go hiking, go to the beach, take your family on a nature adventure, go pick up trash at a local trail. Any activity that encourages people to be outside promotes the protection of our beautiful home.
- Are you going to BBQ? Use propane instead of coal/wood. Use natural cleaners for your grilling products. Choose vegetables over meats and if you must use meat use local and grass fed meats.
- Mosquitoes? Instead of going straight for the chemical repellent, use plant-based repellents or keep citronella, basil and rosemary plants to keep the blood suckers away.
- Try to safe water as summer also brings drought in certain areas of the country.
- Pick up trash, or practice this new cool way of getting fit called Plogging.
Gun Safety – After the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, the topic of gun safety was in the mouth of every concerned citizen, news outlet and politician. Las week, we were again horrified by the sad events that occured at the Santa Fe High School shooting, were 10 were killed. The fight for gun safety has to be center stage and can never be left on the back burner. We need regulation now. Visit 30 Gun Reform Actions You Can Take Now to find out how you can help to make us safer. You can also call your representatives directly.
Keep a look-out for the Farm Bill – Republicans are trying to pass a new Farm Bill pushing for a work requirement for SNAP benefits recipients and would also threaten millions of protected forest land. It didn’t pass last friday, as it didn’t get enough votes in the House, but they will keep trying. Call them and let them know this can’t happen. You can follow this script provided by I Called My Reps.