Nel's New Day

February 21, 2018

Federal Administration’s Personnel, Legal Issues

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 8:19 PM

The last couple of weeks have seen the usual huge number of problems concerning officials and legal problems swirling around Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) not connected to his Russia connections. An overview:

Appointments:

Kurt Engelhardt, nominated for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, has received committee approval despite his rulings covering for police, not holding them accountable for shooting six unarmed black people on Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina. His decisions also refused to support women’s legal right to be safe from harassment in their employment.

Charles Rettig, nominee to head the IRS, has a history of defending clients against the agency, including Joe Francis who was indicted on tax evasion after he made a fortune selling videos of topless young women. At the same time, he was charged with sexual battery. If confirmed, Rettig, who defended DDT’s refusal to release his tax returns, would oversee an audit of these returns.

Andrew Wheeler, former coal-industry lobbyist, has been approved 11-10 to move to the full Senate for the second in command at the EPA. He was also chief counsel for climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). 

Resignations:

Rachel Brand, DOJ’s #3 attorney, resigned to take a position with Walmart possibly because she was concerned about being asked to oversee the Russia investigation if DDT fires Rod Rosenstein. Brand worked for both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. If Rosenstein leaves, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, connected with the far-right Christian Alliance Defending Freedom, is next in line at DOJ to oversee the Russia investigation after Rosenstein. The announcement of the 13 indictments and DDT’s furious tweets, however, may make Rosenstein a bit more bullet-proof.

Heath Hall has resigned as acting director of the Federal Railroad Administration after public knowledge that he is still working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi. His staff reported that they fielded calls for his second occupation. With no permanent leader since the time of President Obama, the FRA has seen deadly crashes, including one in Washington when a train went off the track on top of a freeway, one in Columbia (SC), and the collision in Virginia between a truck and a train carrying GOP lawmakers. Recently, a train broke apart from a “mechanical error.”  The news comes at a time of strain for the Federal Railroad Administration, which hasn’t had a permanent leader for more than a year while it investigates a string of fatal train crashes and deals with a rising trend of rail-related deaths.

Problems?

Greg Sheehan, acting Fish and Wildlife Service director, attended a convention to promote killing big game and import the bodies back to the U.S. for trophies.

Ajit Pai, FCC chair opposing net neutrality, is under investigation by his own agency for his push to approve rules that would let television broadcasters vastly increase the number of stations they own. Immediately after his success, extreme-conservative Sinclair Broadcasting announced its deal to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion that would increase its viewership to 70 percent of the U.S. public. Pai and his staff members had met with Sinclair executives several times, including days before he took over the FCC. Sinclair is now “asking” its employees for donations to its far-right PAC.

Missing—among over 200 others—is director of the DOJ Office on Violence Against Women.

The revolving door of DDT’s White House staff is now at 34 percent with at least 37 high-level aides and advisers who either resigned or were fired. left, either fired or resigned. That figure compares to nine percent for President Obama during his first year, Bill Clinton’s 11-percent turnover, and Ronald Reagan’s 17 percent. Even The Apprentice fired only 15 people each season.

Whither Jared:

After the revelation of over 100 White House officials who have no permanent security clearances, Chief of Staff John Kelly announced that some personnel with interim security clearances cannot have access to top-secret information, a category that includes Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law. In the past year, Kushner, who has complete access to anything in the White House and met frequently with foreign officials, failed to report financial assets and contacts with foreign officials. His “complicated” business relationships make him highly vulnerable to coercion. Kushner’s wide range of responsibilities included creating peace in the Middle East, improving government efficiency, acting as liaison with such allies as China and Saudi Arabia, reforming the VA and criminal justice, and solving the opioid crisis.  Other than members of the National Security Council, he makes more requests for information to the intelligence than any other White House employee.  Some resolution about Kushner may be public by this Friday.

Lawsuits:

After the state’s Supreme Court demanded redrawing the gerrymandered districts in Pennsylvania, SCOTUS Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, rejected a GOP appeal to reinstate misshapened districts designed to elect only Republicans. [An overview of the eight states in which cases are still pending, five of them before the Supreme Court without the update from PA.] GOP legislators suggested impeaching the state justices and drew another map that was rejected by Gov. Tom Wolf. The state court has now redrawn the map, and GOP legislators plan to file a lawsuit to appeal the decision. DDT is egging them on.

For the second time, a court blocked DDT’s order to end DACA, granting 700,000 young immigrants the right to renew permits to work and stay in the U.S. without deportation. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn ruled that DDT can end the program but that the administration did not provide legally adequate reasons for its decision. Garaufis used DDT’s tweets about DACA being unconstitutional to overturn his order and called DDT’s termination of DACA “arbitrary and capricious.”

A second federal appeals court, the 4th Circuit Court, has ruled, 9-4, against DDT’s latest travel ban executive order because the ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries and two other nations is based on anti-Muslim reasons. This court also used DDT’s tweets for its decision. The U.S. Supreme has agreed to hear arguments on the ban, probably in April.

U.S. District Judge Vince Girdhari Chhabria gave 12 states a victory in forcing the Department of Energy to advance several energy efficiency rules, despite DDT’s move to eliminate them. Rules include increased energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies (the battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out), air compressors used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications, and packaged boilers that heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space. U.S. consumers can save $8 billion in energy bills.

U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. ruled that the LA Sheriff’s department violated the Fourth Amendment rights of detained ICE inmates because holding them beyond their release dates constitutes a new arrest. They can only be re-arrested if there is probably cause of criminal activity. Immigration offenses are civil, and so-called ICE warrants are administrative, not judicial. Fairfax County (VA) no longer jails people past their ICE release dates unless the agency has a court order and decided to cancel its detention contract with ICE.

A federal judge has reinforced the ruling that requires DDT to pay $25 million to his former “students” of Trump University. Three pending cases include one for $40 million in restitution.

A federal lawsuit filed last year in Oklahoma has been expanded to obtain class-action status for thousands of state residents extorted by a sheriff- and court-sanctioned collections company. Oklahoma, which uses debt-collections to pay for its justice system, ranks first in locking up women and second in locking up men. The company orders arrest and jailing of people who cannot afford their court debts without legally mandated court hearings. The suit alleges violations of civil rights and extortion under the RICO Act. Civil Rights Corps has already reformed collection practices in Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama and Mississippi as well as bail practices in other states.

Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who won marriage equality in United States v. Windsor, is taking on the white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA). Her nine plaintiffs, injured during the rally, maintain that the 15 defendants conspired to incite racial hatred and violence. Kaplan’s lawsuit is reminiscent of the 20-year-old suit against the Nuremberg Files, the anti-abortion website posting names and addresses of doctors who performed abortions that led to their murders. Although the judgment of $100 million was lowered, the site was removed. Conspiracy may be difficult to prove, but the defendant openly communicated their intent to inspire, commit, or support violence. “The First Amendment does not protect a conspiracy to engage in violence any more than it protects a conspiracy to rob a bank,” said Kaplan. And social media has given her a lot of evidence for the neo-Nazis’ violence in their plans.

New York AG Eric Schneiderman plans a multistate coalition to keep the Clean Water Rule expansion protecting streams and wetlands. Schneiderman sued DDT 28 times last year.

More of these issues in the end of the week roundup on Friday or Saturday.

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