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Washington Report February 16, 2018

16 Feb 2018

Washington Report February 16, 2018

Mueller Moves Against Russia … Dreamers In Limbo … 2019 Budget – DOA … Your Every Wish … The Wray We Were … Dems 2018 … and other news of the week.

Reflecting on the horrific events in Florida. There are just no words.

Best,

Joyce Rubenstein

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The deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook [20 students and six adults killed in Newtown, Conn., in 2012] erupted [when] a 19-year-old man with a troubled past and an AR-15 rifle stalked the halls of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”

In just over five years … at least 439 people have been shot in 273 school shootings — and 112 killed, per the NYTs, citing data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive:

“The shootings have taken place at sporting events and in parking lots, cafeterias, hallways and classrooms. Twelve of the 273 shootings … can be classified as mass shootings, events in which four or more people are shott … On average, there have been seven school shootings each month.”

HOW WE GOT HERE.  From a WashPost graphic.

 

Leaders Offer Prayers. Children Are Buried. Repeat.

“… we’re children. You guys are the adults.”

– surviving student

 

The Bad Parent Caucus

Words fail me about the massacre in Florida. So I’ll leave that to others. Here’s a thought I agree with: “The next politician to express ‘thoughts and prayers’ over the slaughter of students at a school without offering any specific remedy should be run out of office, for cowardice and failure to protect American children.”  A must read article by Timothy Egan … Click Here For Article.

FYI, IN FLORIDA, AN AR-15 IS EASIER TO BUY THAN A HANDGUN NYTs “There is still one more reason the weapons are so popular in states like Florida: They are very easy to buy … far easier to obtain than a handgun. Florida has a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases. But anyone without a felony record, domestic abuse conviction, or a handful of other exceptions – such as a commitment to a mental institution – can walk into a gun store, wait a few minutes to clear a background check, and walk out with an AR-15 -style rifle, magazines and ammunition. Under federal law, you also must be 21 to buy a handgun from a firearms dealer. But 18-year-olds can buy semiautomatic rifles.”

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Mueller Moves Against Russians

BREAKING Politico “DOJ charges 13 Russian nationals with interfering in 2016 election”: “The Justice Department on Friday announced indictments on 13 Russian nationals and a trio of Russian entities on charges related to the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Charges in the indictment include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.”

KEY LINES … “Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities. … They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

THE INDICTMENT ALLEGES that the defendants used Twitter and Facebook to organize pro-Trump and anti-Clinton rallies in New York and Florida in the summer of 2016. The indictment also alleges that the Russians “used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” — DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ROD ROSENSTEIN called the Russians’ actions “information warfare.” … “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charge altered the outcome of the election.”

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Dreamers In Limbo

“Immigration bills fail in Congress, leaving ‘dreamers’ in limbo,” per WaPo: “Weeks of intense negotiations for a bipartisan deal on immigration collapsed in Congress [yesterday], leaving hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation.”

NYT “This past week was meant to be dedicated to a rare open debate on immigration in the Senate, and once again, centrist Democrats and Republicans proposed a pair of similar and reasonable compromises. … they both fell before the anti-immigration furor of the Trump administration. But then President Trump’s own hard-line immigration bill fell much harder, leaving the fate of the so-called Dreamers in limbo.

The compromise measures would have resolved the fate of the Dreamers, the 1.8 million immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children and whose plight has generated broad sympathy. One bill written by a bipartisan group of senators calling itself the Common Sense Coalition would also have given Mr. Trump money for his … wall along the Mexican border, though over a 10-year period, while putting off more contentious questions about immigration.”

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Budget … DOA

BGov “President Donald Trump proposed a $4.4 trillion federal budget on Monday for fiscal 2019, a plan Congress is expected to all but ignore that would slash entitlements and other domestic programs in favor of higher spending on the military and immigration enforcement.

Trump again asked lawmakers for drastic reductions in environmental, research and diplomatic programs he’s long derided as wasteful — a 27% cut to the State Department; 34% to the Environmental Protection Agency; cost-cutting overhauls to Medicare and other social safety-net programs. That money would be partially diverted toward building a wall on the Mexican border and boosting defense spending.

The Pentagon would see a $74 billion increase in its budget, up 14%. Entitlement programs would see a $1.7 trillion cut over a decade, including $237 billion from Medicare.

The budget shows the 2019 deficit nearly doubling from projections last year, to $984 billion. The red ink would total $7.1 trillion over the next decade and the budget would not come into balance. That assumes Congress adopts all Trump’s proposals, including spending cuts, and the economy doesn’t suffer a downturn.

Any president’s budget proposal is customarily dismissed by Congress — which controls the government’s purse strings, under the Constitution — as a dead-on-arrival wish list. That’s especially true with this year’s document. Just last week, Congress passed its own bipartisan two-year budget agreement that increased caps for both domestic and defense spending.

The White House scrambled over the weekend to re-write its proposal to account for the deal, only increasing the likelihood that legislators dismiss Trump’s plan.

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Your Every Wish … (DOD)

Washington Examiner “The president’s  budget plan,… has the Pentagon and all the military services basking in the glow of wish fulfilment. Near the end of yesterday’s Pentagon budget briefing, veteran Bloomberg reporter Tony Capaccio asked in all seriousness, “Were any programs terminated in this ‘let the good times roll’ budget?” To which Pentagon Comptroller David Norquistr replied, “I don’t know that we have a major termination to announce. That wasn’t, you know, part of the strategy.”  THE FY 2019 NUMBERS (Now it’s in Congress’ hands.):

 

DoD base budget:                             $617 billion

Overseas Contingency Operations:   $69 billion

Other including DOE:                         $30 billion

Total national defense:                      $716 billion

 

Congress raised budget caps for defense last week by $165 billion through fiscal 2019 under a bipartisan budget agreement Congress approved last week. That sets a clear path, versus the spending fights and budget instability that have dominated Congress for the past few years.The budget earmarks $236.7 billion for acquisitions. Of that, $144.3 billion is for procurement and $92.4 billion is for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E). Major defense acquisition programs take up $92.3 billion.”

Bye-Bye Brac

“Military leaders have pleaded with Congress for years to allow the closure of tens of thousands of excess military bases around the world, a move that Mattis says could save the services $2 billion annually. But lawmakers had blocked shuttering any facilities under the Base Realignment and Closure program. On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it has given up on the effort for now and did not even mention BRAC in the request.”

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The Wray We Were

The Atlantic “During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on global threats facing the United States, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said he expects Russia will try to disrupt the upcoming midterm elections. FBI Director Chris Wray said President Trump has not “specifically directed” the intelligence community’s efforts to counter future Russian meddling. Wray also told lawmakers that the bureau provided the White House with information about former staff secretary Rob Porter twice last year, contradicting White House testimony that the process of looking into Porter’s background “hadn’t been completed.” Porter resigned last week amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse by two ex-wives.

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Mitt’s In

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Friday that he will run for Senate in Utah.

 

 

 

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Dems 2018

Axios “A rising number of retirements, court rulings dismantling Republican gerrymanders, and falling behind in fundraising and candidate recruitment are a few ways Republicans are losing their advantage in the months before the 2018 midterm elections, per NYT.

 

Why it matters: There’s no guarantee that Democrats will win the House — there are too many things that can change between now and November. But if these disadvantages for Republicans continue to rise throughout the year, they’ll have a tougher time fighting off the wave election many Democrats are predicting.”

 

The factors favoring Democrats:

  1. They’ve flipped 36 state legislature seats since President Trump’s election.

INCLUDING The Hill “Democrats on Tuesday won yet another special election for a state legislative seat once held by a Republican, this time in a battleground seat south of Tampa, Fla. With all precincts reporting, attorney Margaret Good (D) took 52% ousting Sarasota real estate agent James Buchanan (R). Trump won this district by 5 points.

  1. History shows that the incumbent president’s party loses an average of 36 seats (when his approval rating is below 50%) in midterm elections.
  2. Republicans are struggling to put up formidable challengers, especially against the 10 red-state Democratic senators. (GOP candidates in Ohio, Michigan and North Dakota have all dropped out.)
  3. Court rulings have changed gerrymandered maps favoring Republicans in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, resulting in the loss of three House seats. And Pennsylvania’s governor declared the Republican gerrymander unconstitutional.

Republicans are responding to this in a few ways, namely by relying on their traditional campaign playbook of attacking Nancy Pelosi, as NBC’s Jon Allen noted. We’ve also seen outside conservative groups spending millions against Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Bottom line: Of the disadvantages mentioned, Republicans can only really control fundraising and candidate recruitment. And anti-Trump resistance is a big underlying factor in Democrats’ success since his election, which is one thing they’re banking on for voter turnout in the midterms.”

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Official Portraits Revealed

Politico “On Monday, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled the Obamas’ official portraits. President Obama’s portrait, by the Los Angeles–born and New York–based artist Kehinde Wiley, will join the museum’s hall of American presidents, where it will permanently disrupt the march of white presidential paintings. The portrait of Michelle Obama, the work of Baltimore’s Amy Sherald, will be on view with recent acquisitions through November 2018. Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald rose to the occasion with their paintings of the former president and first lady, while—importantly—continuing their radical projects in black portraiture.”

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