Last night, Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accused Representative Devin Nunes, the chairman of the committee, of altering the now-infamous memo before it was sent to the White House for review. According to the former White House Ethics Czar, if these accusations are true, then releasing the memo would be a violation of House Rule XI and could lead to disciplinary and legal action.
The memo is already the cause of great concern for many, including the FBI, which released “a rare unsigned statement Wednesday, citing ‘grave concerns’ with inaccuracies and omissions” in the document. After his State of the Union, Trump was caught on a hot mic promising to release the memo, which he believes will help push out Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein and effectively hamper Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In fact, it was reported that Trump asked Rosenstein if he was “on my team,” indicating another loyalty test, similarly to the one Trump posed to James Comey.
In the midst of confusion and controversy, it’s important to remember what this Nunes memo might actually say: there was a Russian agent on the Trump campaign. It is suspected that the memo will accuse the FBI of putting a wire tap on Carter Page, a key member of Trump’s campaign, solely based on Christopher Steele’s dossier. But that ignores the important fact that Page was reportedly on the radar of FBI counterintelligence agents years before joining the campaign. The decision was made to extend surveillance of Page, not start a whole new counterintelligence effort. And most experts agree that the dossier, even if used as a piece of evidence to extend the surveillance, would not have been enough to warrant the continuation of the wiretap. It is much more likely that Page’s well-documented ties to Russia was the justifying evidence used to make the decision.
ACTION OF THE DAY
State Your Demands (On Russia). With the latest attacks on the Russia probe, it is more crucial than ever that we ensure Mueller and his team can do their job—and Nunes stops interfering! Today, House Minority Leader Pelosi sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan asking him to remove Nunes as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Join her by calling your representatives at 202-224-3121, and demand that Ryan remove Nunes immediately from the committee. It’s past time that Nunes is prohibited from using power to act as a political cover for the Trump administration.
Death Sentence. Last night, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would offer an 18-month extension for nearly 7,000 Syrians living in the U.S., under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). That is welcome relief for those individuals, who were fearful of the ending of the TPS program. However, DHS failed to re-designate the program, meaning that any Syrians who arrived after August 2016 will face deportation, as they are unable to apply. Tom Jawetz, the vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said the decision “was motivated by the administration’s continued desire to chip away at this statutory form of humanitarian protection.” Given the extremely dangerous situation in Syria, DHS’s ruling is “tantamount to a death sentence.” In fact, fifty national security experts signed a letter opposing the decision.
#TaxScam. The same week that Trump used his State of the Union to brag about the economy and the tax bill, Harley-Davidson has announced it is closing its plant in Kansas City and laying off 800 workers. Harley-Davidson joins other companies, such as Walmart, AT&T, and Macy’s, that have recently announced layoffs, despite Trump’s claim that the tax plan is helping companies reinvest in their work forces. The Harley-Davidson story is especially egregious, as their executives met with Trump last year “as part of President Trump’s push to promote manufacturing.” This news comes just as the Congressional Budget Office has warned Congress that it must raise the debt ceiling earlier than anticipated, due to the rapidly increasing debt caused by the tax cuts.
Betraying Workers—and Lying about It. Speaking of workers…A new report from Bloomberg Law finds that “Labor Department leadership scrubbed an unfavorable internal analysis from a new tip pooling proposal, shielding the public from estimates that showed employees could lose out on billions of dollars in gratuities.” Not only did the Department fail to make public this analysis, they actually reportedly lied about its existence, explicitly claiming that they were unable to quantify the impact of their proposed rule. The new proposal would allow restaurant employees to pool all tips and either re-distribute them among workers, including non-tipped workers, or simply pocket the money for themselves. The Economic Policy Institute estimated that this rule would allow employers to steal nearly $6 billion in tips from their employees. The Labor Department’s actions are not only an affront to transparency and fairness but are evidence that Trump’s Labor Department is actively working against its mission by seeking to undermine workers’ economic security—including for some of the lowest-wage workers in our nation. The Labor Department should withdraw this rule.
Another Loss for State. This morning, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., the State Department’s top career diplomat, resigned. He served for 35 years at the State Department, and his most recent position was undersecretary of state for political affairs. His career at the department had granted him a great amount of institutional knowledge and expertise; Tillerson referred to him as a “walking encyclopedia.” But Shannon “was widely rumored to be unhappy with Mr. Tillerson’s decisions to ignore many of the department’s top experts, failure to identify a cadre of senior leaders or fill vacancies in a large number of ambassadorships.” Shannon is not the first career diplomat to leave the department; in fact, numerous reports have noted plummeting morale at State, as career officials depart and Tillerson undermines the very department he leads.
Nuclear Threat. In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Trump called for a modernization and rebuilding of our nuclear arsenal. Daniel Ellsberg, who is most notable for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, recently revealed new secrets he kept while working as a government consultant at the RAND Corporation in his new book “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” Tune in to the latest episode of Thinking CAP to hear from Ellsburg on the real threat of nuclear destruction, whether President Trump is fit to operate control of our arsenal, the recent false alarms in Hawaii and Japan, and why they are proof nuclear war may come by human error. You’ll also hear from national security correspondent Mike Fuchs, also former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who breaks down President Trump’s speech on Tuesday, and the story behind the sudden reversal on Trump’s pick of Victor Cha to be the U.S. envoy to South Korea.
UNDER THE RADAR
Limited Access. A new report shows that in the first three months since Iowa changed to a state-funded family planning program that excludes any providers that offer abortion care, such as Planned Parenthood, the number of people enrolled in the program dropped by 50 percent. Even though the data only cover three months, it shows that the GOP-controlled Iowa legislature’s decision is already having an impact. The executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa, a nonprofit, noted that this decrease is due to “people hav[ing] less access.” Residents of Iowa aren’t the only ones who are experiencing attacks on their access to health care, as numerous other states are considering—or have already passed—similar legislation. In addition, the Trump administration has shown a willingness to go after access to health care, especially reproductive care, which places millions of women at risk.