after the report

Nana is dozing in her recliner, so I thought I would try to do a quick post on my reactions so far to the redacted release of the Mueller report. With everything going on in my family life, I haven’t been able to read all 400+ pages, but have seen excerpts and analysis from lawyers and investigative/legal reporters, which I have found very helpful.

As longtime readers may recall, I was very concerned about Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 US presidential election, even before the voting took place, so volume one of the report, which details the Russian attacks, is chilling. It reveals how extensive the attack was, confirming that it reached millions of potential voters, some of whom were targeted with particular posts or ads because of where they lived, their race, and other personal factors. It also deals with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other campaign systems with release of materials to the public, as well as attempts to hack voting systems.

I am very concerned that Congress has not done enough to help the FBI and the states and localities identify potential weaknesses, especially in technology systems, and rectify them for the 2020 race, which has already started with many candidates declaring their intent to run in the party primaries. We need to be prepared for both similar attacks and for different kinds of attacks from Russia and from other countries. This should not be a partisan issue at all; people across the political spectrum should all be committed to protecting our national security and our freedoms.

The second part of the report is about possible obstruction of justice by the President. It makes it clear that no charges were filed because it is Justice Department policy not to indict a sitting president. Mueller also made it clear that he could not gather all the evidence needed, as the President and several other key figures were not able to be interviewed by the investigators. However, the report lays out details of possible counts of obstruction, which could be taken up by Congress as part of their investigations (which could lead to the filing of impeachment charges) or which could be charged by the courts after Trump leaves office. The statute of limitations for most of the actions taken by the president is five years, so if he leaves office during his first term or fails to win a second term, court charges could be brought for obstruction of justice.

The question of whether the House of Representatives will move toward impeachment is open. It’s complicated by the fact that the Mueller investigation was focused on Russian interference, but there are investigations on-going in other areas, among them illegal campaign contributions, emoluments, and financial crimes. Trump is trying to block them by ignoring subpoenas, not providing records, and not allowing even former staff to testify to Congress. It’s plausible that this could cause additional impeachment charges of obstruction for not cooperating with a Congressional investigation.

Additionally, people have to be aware that the standards for impeachment are different than they are for court trials. For example, one of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was lying to the American people. There isn’t a specific law against this, but it is considered a “high crime or misdemeanor,” which is the Constitutional impeachment criteria.

Some people say that Congress should just wait until the 2020 election, but I disagree. I’m afraid if these things aren’t investigated, with impeachment charges filed if found appropriate, it will look as though anyone who is elected president can get away with breaking laws and ethical codes for four years without consequence.

That is a terrible message to send. We, the People of the United States, deserve better.

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Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is a concept that combines a rapid transition to sustainable energy to help keep global warming as low as possible – the Green part – with social justice action, not only to fund the initiatives but also to guarantee living wage jobs and truly affordable, quality health care – the New Deal part.

At this point, it has not been formalized as legislation, but there are plans to have a Congressional committee to study all the components and put them together into a viable bill, if not for the current iteration of Congress, perhaps the next.

Time is of the essence, as recent scientific reports both from the US and internationally have made clear that the next 10-12 years are critical in keeping climate change impacts from becoming catastrophic. We know that we are already experiencing some disturbing impacts and that there is no currently known way to fully reverse those changes. We also know that the United States has had very high carbon emissions over the last century and a half and, therefore, carries a major obligation to cut emissions quickly and to make major contributions to help our country and the international community to adapt to climate change impacts. The Green New Deal looks to be a powerful aid to doing that.

Yesterday, I was part of a group visiting our local Congressional office to deliver petitions and discuss the Green New Deal. Our representative, Anthony Brindisi, just took office last month, so we wanted to let him know that climate change, good-paying and secure jobs, renewable energy, labor rights, regenerative agriculture, and environmental and economic justice are important to many of his constituents.

The staff member with whom we spoke was very attentive and let us gather and talk in the office. This was a stark contrast to our former representative who did not want us gathering even outside the building where the office is and called the police to remove us, which they didn’t do because we were on public property and not blocking passersby.

We are hopeful that this will be the first of several visits and meetings to engage with Rep. Brindisi and his staff. We think that the Green New Deal concepts will help the people of our district, as well as the rest of the country and the world.

Update:  You can read the Green New Deal Congressional resolution text here.

uneasy times

I thought that I had mentally prepared myself for DT’s presidency, thinking that Congress would step up and cooperate to create sound legislation to keep us on a reasonable track.

I was, of course, totally wrong.

As of today, the United States government is in partial shutdown for a record 27 days and counting. 800,000 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay, including the Coast Guard, air traffic controllers, and food inspectors. There are also one million contractors who work at government facilities who are not working and who, unlike federal workers, will not get back pay when the shutdown ends. Besides the workers and their families, there are also other businesses that rely on government work/ers as their customers, and are experiencing big drops in revenue as a result of the shutdown.

One of the frustrating things is that this shutdown should not have happened in the first place. After a prior (brief) shutdown, the last Congress had agreed on spending levels for all departments for 2018-2019. Some of the appropriations bills were passed by both houses of Congress; these departments are not affected by the shutdown. The remaining bills followed the previously agreed upon funding levels, but were not voted on in time to go into effect before the shutdown began. Although the House in the new Congress has now passed the same appropriations bills that the Senate in the prior session had previously passed, Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell will not hold new votes on these bills to re-open the government because the president doesn’t approve, citing lack of $5 billion for a wall on part of the southern border.

It is, however, Congress’s Constitutional duty to control government spending. Therefore, I think that the Senate should pass these bills so the government can re-open – and because it is their duty to fund the government. Then, the ball will be in DT’s court. He can sign the bills and everyone can get back to their jobs serving the public. He can veto the bills, which would return them to Congress for a vote to over-ride, which might be possible as the pressure builds on Republican members of Congress to restore government services. The third option is that the president refuses to sign the bills without vetoing them, which would mean that they take effect in ten days.

The government needs to be about its business of serving the people. The human toll is already mounting and will continue to mount if government is not fully open soon. Many current government workers may be forced to take other jobs to support themselves and their families, which would be crippling to the functions of the affected departments when they do re-open.

Of course, this is not happening in a vacuum. Over the past couple of weeks, in court filings, testimony, interviews, and investigative reporting, there have been ever more alarming stories about the administration’s relationship with Russia and with NATO and sad and disturbing stories from the Middle East. It seems that the White House is overwhelmed with its responsibilities and incapable of dealing effectively with either domestic or foreign affairs.

The United States government has weathered a lot of storms. I’m hoping and praying we come through this one, too.
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Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/17/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-17th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

 

Holy Innocents

On December 28th, the Catholic Church commemorates the Holy Innocents, the very young children who were killed by order of King Herod in an attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the birth of Jesus.

Today in the United States, I am mourning the death of two children who fled here with a parent, seeking safety and protection, but who died while detained by Customs and Border Protection.

The government is trying to blame the parents for bringing their children here, but these people were living in desperation and danger in Guatemala. They would not have risked coming to the United States if there had been any safe option in their home country. International and domestic law, as well as human decency, call on us to protect the vulnerable; the current administration has failed miserably and, when challenged in court and among the citizenry, has said that it will fix things, but then declared a new policy that violates those same laws in a slightly different way. (And for those who are grumbling that those seeking asylum need to enter the country through legal ports of entry, both US and international law recognize the right to ask for asylum without regard to means of entry. Also, the current administration has made it nearly impossible to enter through the legal ports of entry, which further endangers the already vulnerable.)

I am also remembering the many thousands of children and teens who have been separated from their families and placed in custody. While I am grateful that some have been reunited with family, others are still in detention. All of these children and young people will have life-long scars from the trauma of separation, sometimes without even having access to someone who speaks their language. Somehow, the US government assumes that all Central and South Americans speak Spanish, but many of the current asylum speakers come from remote areas where they speak an indigenous language, not Spanish. Imagine how terrifying it is to be separated from your family in a strange place where you can’t understand anything that is said to you.

I am grateful for the many volunteers who have come forward to help the migrants, offering material and legal aid, and for the millions who give to organizations that are helping to support these people and battle in court on their behalf.

There are also many people and organizations trying to get legal solutions in place. Several years ago, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill; although the House would likely have passed it as well, the Republican leadership would not put it up for a vote. Perhaps, with Democrats set to take over the majority in the House in January, there can be comprehensive immigration reform passed by both houses of Congress. Admittedly, it might have to pass by large margins, in case the president vetoes it, but I’m hoping that at least some reforms can be put in place.

The current situation must be resolved in a caring and positive way. I pray for strength, wisdom, and perseverance in this struggle for human dignity and decency.

 

this week in the US

I have expressed unease over the way things are going with the United States government, especially the executive branch, over these past two years.

The news of court cases and filings, some related to the Mueller investigation and some not, firings/resignations, and policy changes on both foreign and domestic matters have been particularly intense over the last few weeks.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the torrent of news this week, especially the sudden announcement of the withdrawal from Syria and the subsequent resignation of Secretary of Defense Mattis.

And the week isn’t over yet.

It’s likely that there will be a partial government shutdown. It’s possible that, with the president being so unpredictable, some other countries might take provocative actions, thinking the US is too preoccupied to respond.

I’m really scared.

indictment of Russian military officers

I am appalled at DT siding with Putin against the very real evidence of crimes against the American people around the 2016 election by members of the Russian military.

The indictment is detailed and, of course, the grand jury, ordinary United States citizens doing their civic duty, saw the evidence behind the counts listed.

Russia will not extradite the officers to stand trial, so the trial will need to be held in absentia.

All members of Congress should speak up and support the Justice Department and courts as this process moves forward. They should also pass legislation to secure the 2018 and future elections.

They must also denounce the president for taking the side of Putin and Russia against the United States. I can barely believe the depths to which DT has sunk, as he denigrates our long-time allies while praising authoritarian leaders.

The Congressional oath of office begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” I call on all members of Congress to fulfill their oath and protect our democracy.

SoCS: Yikes!

Why, you may ask, was the first “Y” word that came to mind for me “Yikes”?

If you are from the US, you probably realize that the answer is itself a question, “Have you seen the news lately?”

(Yes, I know that I am encouraged to not watch news, but it is all around and it is less stressful for me to keep up with it than to have imagined developments intrude unbidden into my thoughts.)

While there is the occasional good “Yikes!”, such as the news that there may actually be a peace treaty officially ending the Korean War/Conflict, more often they are less positive or negative stories about court cases or crimes or investigations or legislative proposals.

And, seriously, Paul Ryan fired the Jesuit priest who has served as Congressional chaplain since 2011? Yikes! Why?
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “why/Y.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/04/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-28-18/