It’s been quite a week: Speaker Paul Ryan resigned; the FBI raided the offices of Trump’s lawyer, who is under criminal investigation; fired F.B.I. Director James Comey released his book and gave some juicy interviews; several Republicans scurrilously attacked Comey, the FBI, and the Department of Justice; the pardon of Scooter Libby, convicted of obstruction of justice, lying, and perjury sent a message to people like Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort that whatever they may eventually be convicted of, they can probably also count on a Trump pardon; and increasingly serious rumors circulated that Trump would fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (i.e., Special Counsel Mueller’s boss) soon, as a prelude to firing Mueller.
Then, late Friday night, Trump ordered an unauthorized missile strike on Syria. But Trump has little real interest in the safety of the Syrian people: the US has only accepted 11 Syrian refugees this year. Air strikes put Syrians at greater risk of harm by escalating war and bloodshed, but Trump’s message to the Syrian people is “Stay there, we’ll bomb you. Come here, we’ll ban you.”
Though they don’t always act like it, Congress is a co-equal branch of government that holds tremendous power to check Trump’s recklessness. Regarding Special Counsel Mueller, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote in the coming weeks on bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday that would allow special counsels like Robert S. Mueller III to appeal their firing to a panel of judges and possibly be reinstated. The committee’s chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, was seeking expedited consideration of the bill that would have allowed for a vote as soon as next week. That pace was slowed somewhat by Senator Dianne Feinstein, his Democratic counterpart, who said the committee needed another week to review an amendment Mr. Grassley planned to offer. You should call members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and urge them to approve this legislation as soon as possible before it is too late!
Regarding Syria, there are also a number of concrete steps that Congress can and should pursue:
• Publicly voice support for the ongoing investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into the chemical weapons attack
• Forcefully insist on its sole authority to authorize military force by demanding that Trump come to Congress before any further strikes in Syria
• Vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy
• Publicly denounce Trump’s bigoted Muslim and refugee bans that are harming victims of violence in Syria and elsewhere, and call on the Administration to immediately resettle more Syrian refugees
• Call on the Administration to lead not by military force, but by engaging international partners to seek a diplomatic and political solution to end Syria’s suffering
• Hold hearings to assess the US government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world
Finally, two more highly questionable Cabinet nominations coming up for a vote soon in the Senate: Trump has nominated Mike Pompeo (former MoC and current CIA Director) to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. In his hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, he didn’t rule out a ground war in North Korea and said that Trump has the authority to attack Syria without Congressional approval (he doesn’t). If he’s confirmed as Secretary of State, Pompeo will export Trumpism across the globe. The Senate could vote on Pompeo as early as this week. To replace Pompeo at the CIA, Trump has nominated Gina Haspel, a war criminal who personally helped torture detainees in a secret CIA-run prison in Thailand during the Bush Administration. Haspel is a torturer and is therefore unfit to lead the CIA. Her committee hearings, and a Senate vote, will likely come after Pompeo’s. But it’s never too early to let your MoCs know you don’t want a torturer to run the CIA.
It’s been a hard week. And it’s made one thing clear: we must remain vigilant at all times. The United States is escalating the conflict in Syria. Trump could still fire Rosenstein—and Mueller–at any moment.
State and Local (Thanks to Shellie Jeffries for this information)
SB425: A bill to allow online voter registration was passed in the state Senate on March 15with bipartisan support (35-1). It has been referred to second reading in the House, which means it’s been sent back to the House Committee on Elections and Ethics for review and could come up for a vote of the whole House at any time. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Judy Emmons (R-Bushnell Twp.), was introduced to make voting more accessible and increase the number of registered voters. It would require the Michigan secretary of state to develop an electronic voter registration interface to make online registration possible. This interface would include security measures to authenticate the applicant’s identity. A person submitting an electronic voter registration application would be required to vote in person and show photo ID if he or she had not previously voted in person within the state.
SB897: A bill co-sponsored by Dave Hildenbrand that would require Medicaid recipients to work in order to receive coverage. This was introduced on March 8, 2018, and is currently in the Committee on Michigan Competitiveness. It may never leave the committee, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
There’s also a bill in the House, HB5657, co-sponsored by David LaGrand, written in response to the Great Nestle Water Giveaway, which would protect our natural resources.
MEETINGS/TRAINING (Thanks to Linda Kristensen, The Hub – Organize, and others for this information!)
TUESDAY – April 17
- Cocktails with Rachel Hood, 5:30 PM, Citizen Bar & Grille, 2115 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
WEDNESDAY – April 18
- Civil Rights Town Hall, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, Linc Up, 1167 Madison Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
THURSDAY – April 19
- American Civil Liberties Union, 5:30 – 7:00 PM, Wealthy Theatre Annex, 1130 Wealthy SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
- All Progressive Mixer – We can do this together! 6:00 – 8:00 PM, Peppino’s South Kentwood, 1515 Eastport Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508
FRIDAY – April 20
- Breakfast with Winne, 8:30 – 10:00 AM, New Beginnings Restaurant, 1601 Alpine NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
- Cocktails on the Lake Fundraiser for Phil Skaggs, 5:00 PM, Grand Rapids Yacht Club, 740 Lakeside Dr. SE, East Grand Rapids, MI 49506
On the Horizon
- Gretchen Whitmer for Governor Fundraiser – April 24
- GR Rapid Response to ICE April Training – April 25
- 2018 Kent County Democratic Party Spring Gala – April 28
- Proud to Be Healthy. Grand Rapids Pride Center – April 28
-Tell your state representative to oppose HB 5638 and fight for clean water.
-Tell Senators Peters and Stabenow to say NO to Pompeo for State and Haspel for CIA
-Tell your state representative to oppose SB 652-654, which weakens environmental protections.