1. On August 12, 2017, the Department of Justice was granted a warrant to obtain a wide range of information about individuals who visited a website used to organize protests to President Trump’s inauguration. In addition to IP addresses for these 1.3 million people, DOJ is also seeking cell phone numbers, credit card information, even photos. This is not the first request by the Trump Administration for sweeping information about U.S. citizens— recall the demand to provide personal information about voters.
2. On August 15, 2017 Trump issued an Executive Order overturning an Obama administration Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. The standard ensured that when federal dollars build infrastructure projects, they factor in increased resilience against flooding from the best available climate science. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, it caused tens of billions of dollars in damage to their infrastructure. Preparing the next generation of infrastructure against storms that are already hitting our coasts not only helps them continue to function after a storm, but also saves us money in the long run.
3. According to an August 10, 2017 report from the Environmental Integrity Project, the first 6 months of Trump's presidency has seen the Department of Justice file fewer cases against companies for violating the Clean Water Act, and they have also collected far less in civil penalties. The Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, compared to $30 million under the first 6 months of George W. Bush's administration, and $25 million in the Clinton administration’s first six months. In last week's Behind the Curtain we reported on how Wall Street regulators have similarly prioritized business interests over the protection of the average American.
4. According to an August 7, 2017 Wall Street Journal report, financial regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have issued far fewer fines so far this year than during the same period last year. These entities regulate Wall Street and the financial industry. This decline in penalties issued to companies is in keeping with the Trump Administration’s prioritization of business interests over the average consumer.
5. An August 7, 2017 news report highlights President Trump’s practice of establishing advisory committees to supplement federal agency work in areas ranging from environmental policy and transportation to voting laws. While this practice is permitted under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Trump Administration is not living up to the letter or spirit of that law. There are requirements to make certain information matters of public record, such as membership and meeting details, for example. Most of these commissions are also made up of non-government employees. For example, the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, charged with employment creation, is being led by Andrew Liveris who is the Chairman of Dow Chemical. The Administration is rarely releasing required information and some of the commissions are already targets of lawsuits because of this lack of transparency. This disregard for the Federal Advisory Committee Act adds another layer to the secrecy pervading this presidency. These commissions are reviewing and proposing federal policy and their work should not be hidden from the public.
6. According to an August 1, 2017 Washington Post report, Secretary of State Tillerson has directed State Department leaders to review and update the department’s mission statement as part of an overall internal review. The redrafted mission statement, which is not yet final, omits reference to promoting democracy abroad. The mission statement essentially sets forth the purposes of the United States foreign policy. The only major edit to the current mission statement is the removal of the phrase“. . .just, and democratic. . .” This is not simply a matter of wordsmithing or editing. The State Department is responsible for explaining to foreign governments, those who share our principles and those who do not, the way we see our role in the world. A change in its message could have ugly consequences: it could embolden tyrants and undermine supporters of human rights and the rule of law.
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