There may be no more vivid illustration of the current culture of corruption than Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s exorbitant spending for flights on military aircraft around the country, including one trip with his wife, Louise Linton, to view the solar eclipse from Kentucky. But a new investigation led by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) indicates it could be even worse than previously expected. In fact, documents indicate that his travel has cost taxpayers $1 million. (A statement from the Treasury Department said that CREW’s reporting contains “falsehoods and mischaracterizations.”) He joins a number of other cabinet members that have been charged with similarly extravagant spending, including (but certainly not limited to):
- The Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spent $165,000 on lounge furniture.
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent $175,000 on private flights and $43,000 on a privacy booth for his office.
- Veterans Affairs Secretary David Schulkin went on a 9-day trip to London and Copenhagen with his wife last summer, including a seat at Wimbledon, on taxpayer’s dime.
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has spent thousands of dollars on arcade games, expensive furniture, and taxidermy decorations.
This spending would be outrageous in any circumstances, but it’s especially egregious given Trump’s tax bill, which is designed to make the richest Americans even richer, including Trump and his own cabinet members.
ACTION OF THE DAY
#NeverAgain. A new poll from Gallup finds that 73 percent of teachers oppose Trump’s proposal to arm teachers and school staff with guns. Check out the Center for American Progress’s latest release in their series, “Six Ways to Reduce Gun Violence,” to hear from Senator Chris Murphy on how universal background checks could actually save lives. Then, be sure to https://secure.everyaction.com/QWao4E0pGE-7NeEy9y2tkA2?ms=progressreport demanding Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stop selling weapons of war.
Instability in NSC. Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that President Trump is fed up with national security advisor General H.R. McMaster and looking to remove him, part of the ongoing turbulence in the administration’s top ranks, following the firing of Secretary of State Tillerson earlier this week. As the administration is gearing up to negotiate with North Korea, potentially withdraw from the Iran deal, and address ongoing Russian aggression, this is a particularly bad moment to clean house. John Bolton, McMaster’s possible replacement, has made clear his support for war with North Korea and Iran. With Donald Trump in the Oval Office, America needs steady hands at the wheel of the government’s national security apparatus. Instead, the level of chaos in the administration’s national security team – and the possible new national security team – is an ominous sign of the just how dangerous the road ahead may be.
Faulty Infrastructure. Yesterday, a newly-built pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University, killing at least six people. The 950-ton bridge was not yet open to the public, and construction workers were working on the bridge when it went down. Miami police expect to find more victims in the rubble as the clean-up and investigation continues. The tragedy highlights the need for a large investment in infrastructure by the federal government to ensure our bridges and roads are safe—not the scam the Trump administration has proposed.
Heavens to Betsy. You’ve probably seen the cringe-inducing 60 Minutes interview with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. So we talked to someone who actually knows a thing or two about education: Allie Gross, a reporter at the Detroit Free Press and a former charter school teacher in the city. Tune in to the latest episode of Off-Kilter to hear from Gross, as well as a chronic pain survivor on “the other side of the opioid epidemic”—plus everything you need to know about the #BankLobbyistAct, Conor Lamb’s upset win in Pennsylvania, and more.
UNDER THE RADAR
#LiterallyRacist. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under fire—and this time it has nothing to do with his wasteful spending. Yesterday, in a hearing, Representative Colleen Hanabusa shared the painful story of her grandparents incarcerated during World War II in Japanese internment camps, and she attempted to “persuade [Zinke] to restore around $2 million in grant funds for organizations dedicated to preserving the memory of that ugly chapter in American history.” Zinke’s response? “Oh, konnichiwa!” Not only was this response clearly racist, but it also showed insensitivity towards the difficult topic that was being discussed. Senator Mazie Hirono tweeted about Zinke’s comments, writing, “The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke.”