Comin Up … Graceful Exit … What to Watch 2018 … Smith & Lesson … Militarized Schools … Inside Security Clearance-Gate … Russia Meddles … From Gates to Manafort … U.S. Brings. It. Home. … and other news of the week.
Congress was on recess this week.
Roll Call “The House is shortening its Feb. 26 work week, canceling votes next Wednesday and Thursday, for the late Rev. Billy Graham to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. … The Senate will still be in session Wednesday and Thursday … but votes have not yet been scheduled for those days.
The House’s decision to cancel votes comes during a busy legislative period. Congress faces an official March 5 deadline to enact legislation to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which shelters roughly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation. But federal court rulings have blocked the Trump administration from formally ending the program, effectively buying lawmakers more time. Republicans appear unlikely to schedule a DACA vote before March 5. Also looming is a March 23 government funding deadline, and lawmakers still have a lot of work to do to put together a fiscal 2018 omnibus funding bill that can pass by then.
BGov “The 116th Congress will feature new committee leaders regardless of which party wins control of the House and Senate in November’s elections. House Republicans will experience more turnover among committee leaders than they’ve experienced in more than a decade.
IN THE HOUSE The eight departing full-committee chairmen of the 115th Congress are Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ) of the Appropriations Committee; Bob Goodlatte (VA) of Judiciary; Jeb Hensarling (TX) of Financial Services; Ed Royce (CA) of Foreign Affairs; Gregg Harper(MS) of House Administration; Lamar Smith (TX) of Science, Space, and Technology; Trey Gowdy (SC) of Oversight and Government Reform; and Bill Shuster (PA) of Transportation and Infrastructure. Hensarling, Smith, and Goodlatte are term-limited, and said the restriction contributed to their decision to retire. (House Republican Conference rules restrict service as chairman or ranking member of a committee or subcommittee to three Congresses or six years total.) The list doesn’t include Diane Black (TN), who resigned as Budget chairman in January and will be running for governor. Two House Democratic ranking members — Tim Walz (MN) of Veterans’ Affairs and Bob Brady (PA) of House Administration — will retire at the end of their term.
IN THE SENATE Senate Republican leadership will face less turnover as only two chairmen are departing. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (Utah) announced he will retire after finishing his seventh term in office. Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (Tenn.) has also announced his retirement. Neither were term-limited. Senate Republicans also have a three-Congress limit on serving as chairmen, but don’t count time as ranking member toward the limit. No Senate Democratic ranking members have announced retirement plans.”
2018 Special Elections – What To Watch
– March 13: PA 18th District to replace Rep. Tim Murphy (R) Politico “The GOP cavalry has descended on the contest, with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence making trips to the southwestern Pennsylvania district. GOP groups are investing millions to prop up Saccone, a state representative who is facing off against Democratic attorney Conor Lamb.
– April 24: AZ 8th Diestrict to replace Rep. Trent Franks (R)
– August 7: OH 12th District to replace Rep. Pat Tiberi (R)
– Michigan’s 13th CD to replace Rep. John Conyers (D)
– MN for seat of former Sen. Al Franken (D); currently held by Sen. Tina Smith (D) in the interim
2018 Primary Elections
In one chart (BGov)
WaPo “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the president’s call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, according to two U.S. officials with knowledge of the issue.”
DoD Science and Technology Spending Soars
MorningD “Defense Department science and technology spending has swelled over the past four decades, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. “Funding for the early stages of research, development, testing and evaluation, including basic and applied research as well as advanced technology development, increased from $2.3 billion in fiscal 1978 to $13.4 billion in fiscal 2017 – an increase of nearly 90% in constant dollars, the CRS notes.”
NYTs Those were the words of the father of a student killed last week at a Florida high school as he pressed President Trump to act. “It should have been one school shooting, and we should have fixed it,” he added during a White House visit on Wednesday.
WaPo “POTUS has given himself lots of wiggle room by floating lots of ideas without committing to anything. Trump has … suggested arming 1 in 5 teachers on Thursday, paying them bonuses to pack heat in their classrooms. He revealed that he had spoken “often” with NRA executives during the previous two days and praised them as “Great American Patriots.” So it should not be surprising that the president’s comments at the White House yesterday afternoon closely mimicked a speech that LaPierre delivered earlier in the day at the Conservative Political Action Conference”
“The Education Department estimates there are 3.1 million public school teachers and 400,000 private-school teachers. Arming 20% of teachers would mean arming more than 700,000 people.”
Is This Gun Debate Different?
NYTs “The gun control side has developed a well-financed infrastructure that did not exist” for the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. .The We-Call-B.S. teenagers of Florida have injected a passionate new energy into a stale debate, organizing demonstrations, flooding the Statehouse in Tallahassee, composing songs, creating protest signs, confronting politicians and taking to TV airwaves with an intensity and composure and power rarely seen in recent years.”
They weren’t the first victims of a mass shooting the Florida radiologist had seen—but their wounds were radically different.
Horrific. Must Read.
Inside Security Clearance-gate
The Hive “Not long after he became a senior presidential adviser to Donald Trump, Jared Kushner,then 36, described himself to a prominent Republican as “primus inter pares”—the first among equals. Kushner’s vast policy portfolio—so broad it became a punch line—reflected his view that, as family, he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, would not be constrained by traditional lines of authority. Kushner’s vision of his role was largely true during the chaotic tenure of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. But in the John Kelly era, Jared and Ivanka have both seen their bailiwicks dramatically shrink—and they have not been happy about it. For months, the couple has quietly pushed Trump to replace Kelly with a more malleable chief of staff, sources told me.”
IT’S ME OR JARED Now Jared and Ivanka’s conflict with Kelly, … is reaching an inflection point. Two weeks ago, Kelly was widely believed to be on his way out, with Jared and Ivanka helping to push. But [today], Kelly’s new rules cracking down on interim security clearances will go into effect. The updated protocols, drafted in the wake of the [Porter] scandal, dictate that West Wing staffers whose permanent clearances have been pending since June 1 will no longer have access to classified material. That means Jared and Ivanka will be stripped of their unfettered access to government secrets, such as the President’s Daily Brief, unless Trump overrides Kelly’s decision. “This is Kelly’s way of saying, ‘it’s me or Jared,’” a Republican close to the White House told me. The rule change could be especially crippling for Kushner, whose main briefs are Middle East peace and China policy. It’s unclear how Kushner could continue to perform his job.
“Jared is fighting back. And Ivanka is fighting for her life,” a friend of the couple told me. … Ultimately, the only person who can resolve the conflict is the president. Trump has the unilateral authority to grant access to classified intel, so he could override Kelly. But this would create a political problem—the White House would have to explain why the president granted an exception to his family. This issue would continue in the event that Kelly were forced out.
As a flanking maneuver, Kelly appears to have pulled off a masterstroke. Just a week ago, he was fighting to survive Trump’s White House. Now he’s potentially neutralizing his powerful adversaries as Kushner faces new questions about Robert Mueller’s interest in his contacts with foreign officials. As the White House works to soothe the nation in the aftermath of the horrific Parkland shooting, the last thing Trump would seem to want are days of headlines about another West Wing shake-up.”
MUELLER’S PROBE BLOCKING JARED’S SECURITY CLEARANCE CNN “Kushner’s application for a top-level security clearance has been held up for over a year in part because it cannot be completed while the special counsel’s team continues to probe Kushner’s contacts with Russians and his financial dealings with foreigners, [two] sources said. … There is no indication that Mueller is close to wrapping up his investigation, … [which] could leave Kushner without a security clearance for months to come, even as he tackles sensitive issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States’ relationship with Mexico.”
Axios “Russia’s dirty tricks … And why the West’s response is inadequate”
WHAT HAPPENED: Special counsel Robert Mueller alleges that in 2014 Russia launched a conspiracy against America’s democracy, and he believes he has the evidence to withstand Russian denials and a court’s scrutiny.”
– Trump “should have spoken out against Mr Putin and protected America against Russian hostility. ”
– “Republican leaders in Congress are failing their country: at the least they should hold emergency hearings to protect America from subversion in the mid-term elections.”
From Gates To Manafort
WaPo “Robert Mueller’s team filed a new 32-count indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, outlining a multiyear scheme of fraud and tax evasion that continued even as Manafort ascended to the top ranks of Trump’s presidential campaign. Mueller accused the men of lying on their income-tax returns and conspiring to commit bank fraud to get loans. … The new indictment offers a more detailed portrait of what prosecutors say was [a years-long effort by] Manafort and Gates to use their income from working for a Ukrainian political party to buy properties, evade taxes and support a lavish lifestyle even after their business connections in Kiev evaporated.”
BREAKING: Politico “Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates is set to plead guilty Friday to conspiracy and false statement charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, according to a newly unsealed court filing. A new set of charges prepared for Gates’ plea indicates he plans to admit to taking part in a conspiracy to hide tens of millions of dollars he and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort obtained for their lobbying and consulting work related to Ukraine. Gates also appears set to acknowledge that, during a debriefing with the FBI earlier this month, he lied about the pair’s Ukraine-related work.”
Betting On Big Government
WaPo “For the first time in a while, investors are betting big on “big government.” The federal services market has experienced a jolt of dealmaking activity in recent months as companies position themselves to capture new government spending, breathing life into a sector that has been sluggish for years. Analysts took the flurry of activity as a sign of changing times for the government services sector, which was hit hard by the sequestration-related budget cuts that started in 2013.
“I’m confident 2018 will be the best government contracting [mergers and acquisitions] year since 2012, and will maybe even beat 2012,” said [a] managing director of [an] aerospace- and defense-focused investment bank. “People are looking through budget volatility as a near-term blip, and right now we’re in a cycle where government contracting is in vogue.”
Epidemic Levels of Black Lung
arsTECHNICA “An epidemic of severe and rapidly progressive black lung disease is emerging among coal miners in Appalachia. Case counts from just three clinics in the region reveal the highest disease levels that doctors have ever reported, according to a study published in JAMA last week.”
“The disease gets its name from a distinctive blue-black marbling of the lung caused by accumulation of the dust. Georgius Agricola, a German mineralogist, first described lung disease in coal miners in the 16th century, and it is now widely recognized. It may be the best known occupational illness in the United States.”
Twitter Annihilates Fake Accounts
The Atlantic “Twitter has long known about its fake-follower problem, but in typical Twitter fashion, has made few moves to combat it. Twitter’s “dirty secret” is that it has few incentives to get rid of bots, which help pad its user and growth numbers, and keep its stock price afloat. (Last year, researchers estimated that bots comprise 9 to 15 percent of all users on Twitter, although the company disputes this.)
In a more concrete effort to curb spam and bots on its platform, Twitter announced on Wednesday that it will now limit how users and apps automate tweets. Twitter will also ban systems that “like,” retweet, or post similar tweets from multiple accounts simultaneously. While Twitter has not been abused to the same degree as Facebook by foreign operatives, a series of bots using the same hashtag or talking about the same topic at the same time can help to “artificially inflate” the reach of a hashtag, or otherwise give the illusion that many real people are discussing the same topic—a tactic that Russian bot networks have used repeatedly. Limiting tools that facilitate spam campaigns is progress.”
“US WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM theSkimm “They faced off against rival Canada in the final and won gold. For the first time in 20 years. The game went into overtime and then a shootout. Special shoutout to goalie Maddie Rooney, who held down the fort. And the Lamoureux sisters, who helped the US bring. It. Home.
CROSS COUNTRY NBC “In the last event of her last Olympics – she has been to five – Kikkan Randall finally did what no American woman had ever done: win a medal in cross-country skiing. And she made it a gold, as Randall and her teammate Jessica Diggins won the team sprint free final. … The only mom on Team USA in PyeongChang. She finally got the gold on her 18th try at her last Olympics. She’s not like a regular mom.
Lying In Honor
The world’s best-known evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, died Wednesday. He was 99. Roll Call “Congressional leaders have the authority to allow deceased prominent citizens to lie in state or lie in honor in the Capitol. The most recent person to lie in state was Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who died in December 2012 while in office.
The Rev. Billy Graham, an influential preacher who served as an adviser to 12 consecutive U.S. presidents, will be the first religious leader to lie in honor. … Most of the deceased who have lain in the Capitol were former presidents, members of Congress who died in office, and war heroes. In those cases, the term used is “lying in state.” But for other prominent U.S. citizens who are not considered a member of government, the term used is “lying in honor.”