By Doug Porter
Trump’s day of triumph is rapidly approaching, and it has become clear his administration’s policies will amount to open season on the assets of the United States.
Congressman Duncan Hunter couldn’t wait for the inauguration and lifted a painting that displeased him from a Congressional art exhibit. Also, House members quietly changed a rule last week allowing them to hide records from future ethics probes. (More on these below)
Not all assets are measured by monetary value, and thus today’s big story. In a hearing room originally used for inquiries into the sinking of the Titanic and the Teapot Dome Scandal, Senate Republicans are lobbing softballs at Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions in the hope they can kick-start the erosion of civil and human rights in this country.
Just how easy are Republicans making it for the Alabama Senator? From Mark Sumner at Daily Kos:
Asked about statements made during the presidential campaign, Jefferson Beauregard Weaselton Ratface Sessions III admitted that he might have said a few things that could, just maybe be taken the wrong way, and thought that, maybe, he ought to recuse himself when they drag Hillary Clinton in for her political show trial.
Which then served as an excuse for a five-minute discourse on how no one was above the law and Clinton was awful, and surely the chains will come out and puddles are developing under Republican senators from all the salivating.
Sessions’ previous statements included the idea that FBI Director James Comey didn’t do enough, and that the whole Clinton email thing needed another do over, because there was a “cloud” over Comey’s investigation.
So prepare for the all-new, fact-free investigation. Because if there’s anything the FBI and Congress haven’t spent enough time discussing, it’s Hillary Clinton’s email.
As an aside, it’s worth noting Monday’s announcement by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee, that he is not done investigating Hillary Clinton even though she lost the presidential election.
An Ethics-Free Administration
It’s already been revealed that the prospective chief law enforcement officer of the United States failed to disclose his ownership of oil interests on over 600 acres of land in Alabama, including on land adjacent to a federal wildlife refuge.
The Sessions confirmation hearing is just one of nine scheduled prior to the inauguration, even though candidates some have yet to complete the paperwork needed for ethics reviews.
Of the nine Donald Trump Cabinet picks who were to head to Capitol Hill for confirmation hearings this week, only six have reached agreements with the independent Office of Government Ethics to resolve potential ethical conflicts stemming from their personal finances, according to a POLITICO review of public records.
By contrast, all seven of Barack Obama’s Cabinet selections facing confirmation hearings at this point in the process in 2009 had already signed ethics agreements.
Oops, I Forgot
Sessions, who was the first US Senator to support Donald Trump’s candidacy, also failed to disclose his failed 1986 bid for a federal judgeship in Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
From Talking Points Memo:
The 1986 confirmation hearings, in which a former assistant U.S. Attorney and a Justice Department employee accused Sessions of using racist language in comments and jokes he made to them, became a major story nearly as soon as Sessions’ nomination was announced.
At the time, a black former assistant U.S. Attorney, Thomas Figures, testified that Sessions had said during an investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan that he “used to think they were okay” until he found out they smoked marijuana.
The nominee also underreported the number and frequency of his appearances on the far-right Breitbart News’ radio programs and website, according to a review by Right Wing Watch.
Sessions record in the Senate begins and ends with his aggressive blocking of judicial nominees for his home state who happen to be African-American.
From Mother Jones:
Alabama is nearly 30 percent black, but only three African American judges have ever sat on a federal bench there. Advocates for judicial diversity in the state say that in recent decades, that’s thanks largely to Jeff Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama whom Donald Trump has nominated to be his attorney general. …
For years, Democrats have tried to remedy the inequality in Alabama’s court system by appointing more black judges. Nearly every time, Sessions has succeeded in stopping them.
According to On The Issues ratings on civil rights issues, Senator Session’s record includes:
- Voting NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
- Voting YES on recommending a Constitutional ban on flag desecration.
- Voting YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage
- Voting NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.
- Voting YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping.
- A Rating of 20% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record.
- A Rating 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.
When @amyklobuchar asks if he will commit to NOT imprisoning journalists for doing their jobs.
He refuses to say yes.#StopSessions
— (@leahmcelrath) January 10, 2017
Congressman Duncan Hunter made the news over the weekend after he removed a painting he found offensive from a student art display on the walls of an underground tunnel between the Capitol and the Cannon House Office Building.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The artwork, painted by a Missouri high school senior, was on display as part of the national Congressional Art Competition. In the painting, the officer is pointing a gun at a protester, who is also depicted as an animal.
Hunter, a retired Marine, told Fox News that the painting made him angry and he decided to pull it off the wall. On Friday, he brought the painting to the office of Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who sponsored the national Congressional Art Competition in his state.
Congressman Clay met with members of the Capitol Hill Police on Monday to ask that charges be pressed against Hunter.
From the Washington Post:
Clay is planning to rehang the painting Tuesday morning, joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other sympathetic lawmakers. He emotionally defended the right of the young artist, David Pulphus, to hang his art in the Capitol to reporters Monday.
Pulphus’s family, Clay said, is “full of police officers, so they have respect for police officers. He just doesn’t have respect for police who use the cover of a blue uniform to do animalistic things to people.”
“These are his impressions. Those are his feelings. That’s how he formed his opinion, and he expressed it in his art. So what’s wrong with that?” Clay continued. “Any black parent would tell you that they have to have this conversation with their children about police and how to act around them, so that’s the conversation we need to be having here. Not about taking some kid’s picture off the wall — it should be about, how do we change these attitudes and improve the relationships between police and the black community?”
Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, suggested to reporters that Hunter had an ulterior motive: distracting from recent reports about alleged misuses of his campaign account for personal expenses… Speaking of which…
Having failed to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, House Republicans have simply changed the rules to protect themselves from future investigations, no matter where they are initiated.
“Records created, generated, or received by the congressional office of a Member … are exclusively the personal property of the individual member … and such Member … has control over such records,” the revised regulation states.
From the Huffington Post:
Under the new regulation, a lawmaker being investigated for misuse of taxpayer funds, for example, might now assert the privilege to withhold spending records from law enforcement authorities. Had that measure existed earlier, certain accounts might not have been accessible for corruption investigations that resulted in charges against members of Congress.
“Why on earth would Congress now create barriers to investigation and subpoenas of a member’s spending records?” Center for Responsive Politics Sheila Krumholz executive director said to the Fiscal Times Monday. “This only benefits the incumbent politicians who passed this rule and those who would flout it, not the system and certainly not the public…”
The story concludes:
The Office of Congressional Ethics is currently reviewing Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) over allegations that he siphoned off tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds for personal use ― including paying for his children’s private school tuition and trips to Disneyland, jewelry, video games and sporting goods. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week that Hunter used campaign funds to pay for $600 in airline fees to fly a pet rabbit.
Also in Today’s News:
— NELP (@NelpNews) January 10, 2017
Call to Action on the Sessions Nomination
Today’s story covered a few aspects of Senator Sessions sordid history. It’s one thing to know he’s unfit to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer; it’s another to do something about it.
Jen Hayden has a script, phone numbers, and other contact information. Both Republicans and Democrats (No Deals!) need to be called.
So, how do we stop him? The most effective resistance tool is the simplest—our phones. Hill staffers have confirmed that our elected officials often ignore emails and letters, but they sit up and take notice when the phones start ringing. Jump below the fold to find your senator(s) phone numbers and then use the tips and talking points to give them a call. It only takes a minute and it has a huge impact.
Also, via Re:Act…
Check out this Google Doc on opposing all the major nominations, which some local organizers in Washington put together. This doc also contains possible scripts, suggested tweets, etc. It’s thorough, and pretty direct.
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