Federal judge doesn’t hold back on Kris Kobach’s deceit of Kansas voters

ThinkProgress

Federal judge doesn’t hold back on Kris Kobach’s deceit of Kansas voters

“You are under ethical obligation to tell me the truth,” the judge said. “That’s why lawyers are licensed.”

By Kira Lerner      March 20, 2018

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (left) and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, attend the first meeting of the presidential advisory commission on election integrity in the Eisenhower Executive office building, on July 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. Credit: Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A Kansas federal judge had sharp words for Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach during a contempt hearing Tuesday, accusing him of misleading the court and failing to inform voters whose registrations were previously suspended that they are eligible to vote.

In May 2016, Judge Julie Robinson issued a preliminary injunction ordering Kobach “to register for federal elections all otherwise eligible motor voter registration applicants,” whether or not they have shown a documentary proof of citizenship. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit challenging Kobach’s proof of citizenship law, argued that Kobach was failing to add voters to the rolls, making eligible voters cast provisional ballots, and failing to send voters affected by the preliminary injunction a postcard that would notify them of their registration status.

After seven days of trial, the court held a hearing on contempt Tuesday in which Judge Robinson repeatedly chastised Kobach when he argued that he did not violate the order.

“You have a duty to tell them that and to assure me that they complied,” the judge told Kobach about his obligation to tell counties to register all eligible voters. “It’s your duty to make sure they do what they are supposed to do and abide by the law.”

Bryan Lowry: Judge tells Kobach he had no problem making sure counties adhered to his proof of citizenship policy, but not her order. #ksleg #ACLUvKobach

In a telephone conference in October 2016, roughly five months after the injunction, Kobach made a verbal promise that counties would send postcards to voters who had previously been on the suspense list for not showing proof of citizenship, but became registered because of the court’s order, informing them of their registration status.

In court Tuesday, Kobach and his attorneys claimed the judge never ordered them to send those postcards to voters, but the judge didn’t buy that argument.

“Why would I order something you told me you’d take care of?” the judge said, according to ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman, who was in the courtroom. “You are under ethical obligation to tell me the truth… that’s why lawyers are licensed.”

At another point, Kobach grew exasperated, telling Judge Robinson: “I certainly would have no interest in failing to comply with any court’s order.” Last June, the court upheld a $1,000 fine against Kobach for intentionally misleading the court about a document he was photographed carrying into a November 2016 meeting with Trump.

In its motion for contempt, the ACLU had previously argued that Kobach’s violation of the preliminary injunction was already affecting elections.

“These are not merely technical violations of the order; they have real consequences for all affected Kansans,” the ACLU wrote. “The refusal to register the plaintiffs deprives them of the most basic protections afforded to registered voters… Because of the Secretary’s defiance of the Order, covered voters have received no assurance that they may participate in the upcoming election or that their votes will be counted.”

The ACLU claimed that Kobach’s actions could have a “chilling effect,” suppressing turnout in upcoming elections.

“It’s an election year this year, and there’s no more time for games,” Dale Ho, lead attorney for the ACLU, told the judge Tuesday.

Kobach helped draft and enact the documentary proof of citizenship law, which took effect in January 2013, requiring all Kansas residents to show a document like a birth certificate or passport when they registered to vote. The law was in place for more than three years until the court issued the preliminary injunction order before the 2016 presidential election.

The contempt hearing came on the eighth day of a trial that was originally supposed to last just four days, but ended up stretching for far longer because Kobach’s legal team struggled to cross-examine witnesses and follow basic rules of evidence. At the start of Tuesday’s hearing, Ho apologized to the judge for having to address the motion for contempt.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen: ACLU (Dale Ho): Apologizes to judge to spend time on this. Says Kobach could have very easily complied with judge’s preliminary injunction, but he failed to update the online elections manual & to send postcards to voters with info including their polling place. #ACLUvKobach

Ho told the judge that Kobach is refusing to update the online elections manual until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a final judgement on this case, which could take years. “Incorrect information is continually distributed to the general public,” he said.

Sue Becker, an attorney for Kobach, claimed that the secretary of state’s office put the required information on its website and emailed counties with the notice to begin registering voters without documentary proof of citizenship. If individual counties misunderstood the directive, Becker argued, it was not Kobach’s fault.

Judge Robinson said she was not going to take Becker’s word that her office sent notices to the counties. “You’re going to present evidence to that effect or am I supposed to accept your statement?” she said. “I want evidence… In light of everything that’s happened.”

“You all have engaged in gamesmanship with this court,” she said.

Later in the hearing, Kansas Director of Elections Bryan Caskey testified that the state was equipped to register all eligible voters before the 2018 election. But during cross-examination, Caskey admitted to failures by the state in the past.

Bryan Lowry: Judge gets Caskey to definitively say that he does not remember Kobach telling him to tell the counties to send out postcards to these voters. #ksleg #ACLUvKobach

At the end of the hearing Tuesday, Judge Robinson said she will issue a written opinion in the case and on the motion for contempt — the second time the ACLU has sought to hold Kobach in contempt in this trial. Kobach has already indicated his intentions to appeal an unfavorable ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Related:

Trump wants to eliminate after school programs.

Anderson Cooper 360

March 17, 2018

The White House claims there is no evidence that after-school programs help children succeed. http://cnn.it/2n7APhF

The White House claims there is no evidence that after-school programs help children succeed. http://cnn.it/2n7APhF

Posted by Anderson Cooper 360 on Friday, March 17, 2017

Trump-linked Cambridge Analytica caught on camera boasting about bribing politicians

RawStory

BUSTED: Trump-linked Cambridge Analytica caught on camera boasting about bribing politicians

Brad Reed     March 19, 2018 

Alexander Nix (YouTube)

The United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News went undercover in Cambridge Analytica by having its reporters pose as prospective clients and caught its executives making multiple claims of illicit behavior.

“In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world,” the station reports. “This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors. In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr. Nix said they could ‘send some girls around to the candidate’s house,’ adding that Ukrainian girls ‘are very beautiful, I find that works very well.’”

Nix also talked about setting up their candidates’ political rivals by giving them bribes that they would record and release on the internet.

“We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet,” he said.

Cambridge Analytica didn’t use its own employees to entrap politicians, however, as Nix said in the exchanges that they prefer to hire third-party operatives to do the work for them.

Watch the entire bombshell report below.

Our  Demeaner in Chief

John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com       March 18, 2018    

                Our  Demeaner in Chief

If anyone’s still hoping trump will somehow become “Presidential,” they’re as delusional as he exhibits daily.

If anything, he’s doubling down on pandemonium, by orchestrating chaotic episodes of the “Apprentice,” where at the end of the week, someone’s summarily canned and sent down the elevator to a waiting limo.

Unfortunately the impact of such fantasy playing out in the West Wing is not as benign as trump’s inconsequential reality show. Dedicated career employees like James Comey and Sally Yates, fired for refusing blind loyalty to king Donald, just fired Andrew McCabe, who backed up Comey’s narrative of his disputed encounters with trump, eminently respected business executive Rex Tillerson, unceremoniously fired by tweet after criticizing the Russians for dastardly deeds in Syria and in London last week, fired high level State Department official Steven Goldstein, who authored an official State Department statement that conflicted with White House accounts of how Mr. Tillerson was jettisoned, and countless additional federal career employees who’ve been fired, or have resigned like Gary Cohn, or retired in the face of trump administration discombobulation, are the intended consequences of trump’s scripted, bizarre notions of “Presidential” decorum.

trump’s done more damage to our institutions and  governing infrastructure than any president in history and couldn’t care less about the human flotsam.

We’ve witnessed an unprecedented (40%) turnover in trump administration employees. Granted, many of these employees should never have been allowed near the West Wing or even through the front gate of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, considering dozens couldn’t qualify for security clearances, but this isn’t normal by anyone’s standards.

trump hired Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, even though Pruitt spent decades opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate to protect America’s air, water and land; hired Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, even though she’s been described as the strongest opponent of public education; hired Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy, even though he hadn’t a clue of what that job entailed; hired Ben Carson for Secretary of HUD because he once lived in an apartment; hired Wilber Ross for Secretary of Commerce apparently because he’s an expert at laundering Oligarchs money, hired Steven Munchin for Secretary of Treasury because he made a fortune foreclosing on Veterans and middle class mortgagees in distress after the financial collapse, hired Mick Mulvaney because he routinely railed against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and middle class entitlement programs; hired Tom Price, a staunch opponent of Obamacare and social safety net programs, for Secretary of Health and Human Services, before he was fired for insider trading in health stocks and squandering taxpayers money on extravagant travel expenses; hired Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior because he, like trump, is bound and determined to turn over America’s National Parks and public lands to fossil fuel and mining interests.

I could go on and on but the point is, trump’s idea of “Best and Brightest” is in stark contrast to the Obama administration, who actually hired experts qualified and eager to improve their departments, not destroy them.

With a few exceptions, like Gary Cohn and Rex Tillerson, and probably Generals Mattis and McMaster, would any respectable major corporation or organization hire for department level positions, any of the unqualified and flawed characters trump hired as his “best and brightest?”

We soon learned, trump’s main focus was not to find and assign the “Best People,” who might exhibit expertise for a particular position in his administration, but to appoint someone keen on undermining the basic institutions America relies on to effectively govern in a democratic society. Sadly, Democratic principles are foreign to trump’s business and ethical sensibilities.

Is it any wonder this cast of political misfits have run amuck. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show struggles to keep a running list of all the casualties of trump’s administration. The show had to reconfigure her set so that all three columns showing more than 50 names could fit in the screen.

Most of the people brought into trump world seem to have one thing in common. They’re either adept at sycophancy or are tarnished individuals previously engaged in all sorts of dubious or criminal conduct. Fraud, money laundering, insider trading, domestic abuse, tax fraud, gambling, unbound avarice, no holds barred self dealing, back stabbing, or any form of anti social behavior is a plus on their resumes.

In any other administration in America’s history, these tarnished miscreants would have never been considered, let alone employed. But trump views their moral character flaws as a badge of courage, examples of business genius and resourcefulness. Winning at all costs is integral to trumps idea of fairness and proof of a persons ideological bona fides.

Bad conduct seems a pre-requisite for entering trumps world, and unquestioned loyalty is required for staying there.

Once that loyalty fades for even a moment, the king issues the decree; “you’re fired!”

The list of casualties grows daily and is too numerous to mention here. But after the firing dust settles, trump moves people around like pieces on a chess board, not with any  consideration of talent or fitness for the job but with the main goal of securing loyalty.

trump’s only left with rearranging the human deck chairs on the Titanic because most potential qualified applicants have enough sense to steer clear of this toxic environment.

No one’s surprised trump’s engulfed in the Stormy Daniels reality show scandal. No one’s surprised he cheated on his wife while she was carrying his child, or that he tried to cover it up. We’re no longer surprised when the daily calamity and sleaze oozes from the White House.

No one’s surprised trump’s looking for his 5th communications director. Lying to the public and the press is the primary prerequisite. No one’s surprised he fired Rex Tillerson with a Tweet, or that he lied to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then bragged about it during a campaign stop, or that he’s been trying to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions for months, or that he browbeat Sessions into firing Andrew McCabe a day before he was to retire and collect a pension, or that he’s chomping at the bit, to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Special Investigator Robert Mueller, National Security Advisor McMaster and probably at lease a half dozen other employees Fox News implores him to ditch and demean.

trump now claims “he’s almost got the cabinet he’s always wanted.” Wow! Wow!

trump is the ultimate tarbaby, the pre-eminent Brer Rabbit like trickster, who schemes and connives and creates havoc all along his gold plated career paths and in every situation he engages, but then wriggles free at the last minute by turning the tables on acquaintances, employees and business partners. He employs the Midas touch in reverse. Yet he seems to escape every self imposed calamity unscathed, while those who pledged their allegiance, believed in his shtick, who fell for his cons, have crashed and burned.

trump lives to denigrate anyone and everyone at one time or another, except for the Russians and Vladimir Putin, who if you watch late night talk show satire and Saturday Night Live skits, would be an easy target for trump’s particular form of belittlement.

But trump refuses to criticize the Russians and quickly fires anyone, including Tillerson and maybe soon McMasters, when they speak out publically about Russian transgressions. Why isn’t trump troubled by Russian threats to world stability, to our democratic institutions, our critical infrastructure and our national security? It begs the question, what are the Russians holding over our Demeaner in Chief?

Progressive Americans yearns for normal, for a social community where folks sit down together, using facts and principles, and applies logic and critical thinking to solve problems. We now realize that’s foreign to trump’s realm of thought. He disregards most expert advise, embraces wild conspiracy theorists, promotes controversy, exacerbates solvable problems and takes delight in White House employee infighting.

What would trump’s unflinching base of enablers say if President Obama had done a fraction of what trump calls winning? When will the Republi-con controlled congress decide they’ve had enough?

JohnHanno, www.tarbabys.com

The Guardian – Video

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Is Fired 2 Days Before Retirement

Huff Post

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Is Fired 2 Days Before Retirement

Carla Herreria     March 16, 2018

Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI and a frequent target of President Donald Trump, was fired Friday, days before his formal retirement. The firing of McCabe, a civil servant who has been at the bureau for more than two decades, could significantly affect his pension.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the decision to oust McCabe after the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended he be fired for his alleged lack of candor during an internal review of how the FBI and Justice Department handled an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe and his attorney met Thursday with Scott Schools, the highest-ranking career employee of the Justice Department, in an attempt to prevent the firing or at least save his ability to begin collecting a pension estimated at $60,000 a year.

McCabe, a lifelong Republican, had officially stepped down from his post in late January but was using accrued leave to stay on the FBI’s payroll until his retirement date on Sunday, his 50th birthday. Being fired before his birthday means he’d have to wait several more years before he can draw a pension.

Sessions said late Friday in a statement:

“After an extensive and fair investigation and according to Department of Justice procedure, the Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) provided its report on allegations of misconduct by Andrew McCabe to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

“The FBI’s OPR then reviewed the report and underlying documents and issued a disciplinary proposal recommending the dismissal of Mr. McCabe. Both the OIG and FBI OPR reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor ― including under oath ― on multiple occasions.

The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability. As the OPR proposal stated, “all FBI employees know that lacking candor under oath results in dismissal and that our integrity is our brand.”

Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.

McCabe responded to the firing in a lengthy statement.

“The investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility,” McCabe wrote.

He continued:

The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI’s involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.    

McCabe had been with the bureau since 1996 and served a short stint as the acting FBI director after President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey last May. After the U.S. Senate confirmed Christopher Wray as the bureau chief, McCabe returned to his original role as deputy director.

McCabe abruptly announced he was leaving the bureau at the end of January while tangled in an internal investigation of his handling of the FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton. The Justice Department’s inspector general has been investigating how officials handled the Clinton investigation since just before Trump took office.

While Trump has accused McCabe of having a political bias in favor of Clinton, the Justice Department’s forthcoming internal review suggests he may have actually authorized the disclosure of information that was damaging to the Clinton campaign.

The report evidently says that McCabe authorized a discussion involving one of his top aides, the FBI’s chief spokesman and a Wall Street Journal reporter for a story, published Oct. 30, 2016, that included details of McCabe pushing back on Obama appointees in the Justice Department to continue an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

FBI officials are barred from disclosing information about ongoing criminal investigations. The Justice Department’s inspector general recommended that Sessions fire McCabe as a result of the internal review, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

McCabe has been at odds with Trump in recent months, with the president apparently trying to undermine McCabe and the FBI’s credibility.

In December, Trump publicly complained about McCabe’s wife’s political affiliations (Jill McCabe unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for a Virginia state Senate seat in 2015), criticized his oversight of the FBI investigations into Clinton and even mocked his retirement plans.

In one of his tweets, Trump claimed that McCabe received a campaign donation of $700,000 from “Clinton Puppets,” apparently referencing a donation to Jill McCabe’s campaign totaling up to $675,000 from former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee.

The donation was made before Andrew McCabe was promoted to deputy director and headed the FBI’s Clinton investigation. McAuliffe is an ally to both Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Trump also reportedly called McCabe into his office for a meeting, then asked him which candidate he voted for in the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reported in January.

David Bowdich, the FBI’s associate deputy director, is expected to replace McCabe as deputy director, according to The Washington Post. Bowdich has been with the FBI since 1995.

Trump White House Worked with Newt Gingrich on Political Purge at State Department

Mother Jones

Trump White House Worked with Newt Gingrich on Political Purge at State Department, Lawmakers Say

Trump officials called civil servants “turncoat” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists.”

Dan Friedman     March 15, 2018

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich on March 16, 2017. Melanie Rogers/Cox/Planet Pix via Zuma Wire

White House and State Department officials conspired with prominent conservatives, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump, two top House Democrats allege in a letter released Thursday.

The letter states that an unidentified whistleblower shared documents with Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees showing that a group of White House officials pressed political appointees at the State Department to oust career civil service employees they described with terms like “Turncoat,” “leaker and a troublemaker,” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.”

As described in the letter, those actions would likely violate federal laws protecting federal civil servants from undue political influence.

In the letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and State Department Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, cite an email forwarded by Gingrich to Trump appointees in the State Department (the Democrats released a summary of the leaked documents, rather than the original emails). In an undated email, David Wurmser, who advised former Vice President Dick Cheney and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, wrote, “Newt: I think a cleaning is in order here. I hear [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson has actually been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind.” (Trump fired Tillerson earlier this week.)

Cummings and Engel say they are “particularly concerned” about documents showing an effort to drive out Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant at the State Department assigned to the policy planning staff. The letter notes that Brian Hook, the director of that division, forwarded an email from Nowrouzzadeh in which she defended herself against an attack that had been published in a conservative publication. The officials then discussed whether she was too supportive of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by President Barack Obama. Several of the officials discussed ousting Nowrouzzadeh. Julia Haller, a White House liaison to the State Department, wrote that Nowrouzzadeh “was born in Iran and upon my understanding cried when the President won.” Nowrouzzadeh was born in Connecticut. Haller did not cite the basis of her claim about Nowrouzzadeh’s election reaction.

Nowrouzadeh was removed from her post on the Policy Planning Staff three months earlier than scheduled in a manner she said violated a memorandum of understanding governing her assignment.

FACT:

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Trump’s Personal Assistant Fired Over Security Issue

The Wall Street Journal – Politics

Trump’s Personal Assistant Fired Over Security Issue

Problems related to online gambling and mishandling taxes prevented John McEntee from gaining necessary security clearance

By Michael C. Bender and Rebecca Ballhaus       March 13, 2018

John McEntee, the personal aide to President Donald Trump, was fired Monday after being denied a security clearance over financial problems. PHOTO: RON SACHS/ZUMA PRESS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s personal assistant, John McEntee, was fired and escorted from the White House on Monday after being denied a security clearance over financial problems in his background, according to senior administration officials and people close to the former aide.

People close to Mr. McEntee said problems related to online gambling and mishandling of his taxes prevented him from gaining the clearance necessary for the role. The Secret Service is investigating Mr. McEntee for those issues, according to a law enforcement official.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “We don’t comment on personnel issues.” Mr. McEntee didn’t return a call seeking comment.

On Tuesday morning, less than a day after Mr. McEntee’s ouster from the White House, the Trump presidential campaign announced he would join the 2020 effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations.

Mr. McEntee, 27 years old, was one of the longest-serving aides to Mr. Trump, dating back to the earliest days of the campaign when some of the only aides around the then-candidate included Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Stephen Miller, the president’s policy director; White House communications director Hope Hicks, who announced her resignation two weeks ago; and Dan Scavino, who is the White House director of social media.

Mr. McEntee had joined the campaign in 2015 a few years after graduating college.

In additional staff turnover, Mr. Trump on Tuesday said Rex Tillerson was out as secretary of state, after months of speculation over his fate, and that Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo would be nominated to lead the State Department.

Turnover Under Trump

A tally of senior officials and aides who have left the administration

Mr. McEntee wasn’t as well known as the others, but had been a constant presence at Mr. Trump’s side for the past three years. He made sure Mr. Trump had markers to sign autographs, delivered messages to him in the White House residence and, over the weekend, ensured that the clocks in the White House residence were adjusted for daylight-saving time.

“It’s not going to be great for morale,” one White House official said about Mr. McEntee’s departure.

Mr. McEntee was removed from the White House grounds on Monday afternoon without being allowed to collect his belongings, a White House official said. He left without his jacket, a second White House official said.

Several White House officials have lost their jobs over the past month since White House Chief of Staff John Kelly imposed a stricter security-clearance policy. Those changes were prompted by the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who quit after accusations of domestic violence were made public. Mr. Porter has denied the accusations, which had delayed final approval of his security clearance.

Mr. Kelly told reporters earlier this month that when he joined the White House as chief of staff this summer, he realized a large number of staffers still held interim clearances after more than seven months in the administration.

RELATED

Trump Considers Ousting Veterans Affairs Chief

His review turned up “a couple spreadsheets worth of people” at the White House operating with interim security clearance after the first nine months of the Trump administration. He also found at least 35 officials who were inappropriately given top secret clearance.

—Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

Appeared in the March 14, 2018, print edition as ‘President’s Assistant Fired, Then Joins Campaign.’

Court Rules Pruitt Broke the Law for Smog Rule Delay

EcoWatch

Court Rules Pruitt Broke the Law for Smog Rule Delay

 Lorraine Chow    March 13, 2018

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. BipHoo Company/Flickr

A federal judge ruled Monday that Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), broke the law for failing to implement his agency’s ozone pollution rule.

Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said Pruitt violated the Clean Air Act for failing to announce by Oct. 1, 2017 which areas in the country have unhealthy levels of smog, a rule set by the 2015 ozone standard.

According to The Hill, Pruitt only announced findings for areas that complied with the Obama-era rule, but not for areas out of compliance. The EPA boss initially tried to stall the Oct. 1 deadline by a year but reversed course.

“There is no dispute as to liability: Defendants admit that the administrator violated his nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to promulgate by October 1, 2017, initial area air quality designations,” Gilliam wrote, citing a Justice Department court filing in January that acknowledged the EPA failed to meet the deadline.

Gilliam ordered the EPA to finish the process for the entire country by April 30, with the exemption of areas in San Antonio, Texas, which the agency must comply with shortly thereafter.

In 2015, the Obama administration strengthened standards for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion based on extensive scientific evidence about the effect of smog on public health and welfare. Smog can exacerbate asthma attacks for children and vulnerable populations.

Sixteen state attorneys general as well as a broad coalition of health and environmental organizations—including the American Lung AssociationAmerican Public Health AssociationCenter for Biological DiversityNatural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club—sued Pruitt in December for failing to meet the deadline for designating areas.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led the litigation, celebrated Monday’s decision.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted in this case that it failed to do its job and meet its deadline under the Clean Air Act,” he said. “The stakes are high. The smog-reducing requirements at issue will save hundreds of lives and prevent 230,000 asthma attacks among children. That’s worth fighting for.”

New York Attorney General Schneiderman, one of the AGs who sued the administration, added: “We’ll keep a close eye on the EPA’s compliance with today’s order, and our coalition stands ready to act to protect our residents and our states from Washington’s toxic policies.”

Environmental groups also celebrated the ruling.

“Everyone deserves to breathe clean air. And because of the Clean Air Act, we’re legally entitled to it. The court got it right when it ordered the EPA to finish making ozone designations sooner than the agency requested,” said attorney Seth Johnson, who represented Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the groups. “Cleaning up ozone air pollution is especially important for kids, seniors, and people with asthma. Many of our largest metropolitan areas have unhealthy smog levels. These include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio. The court’s decision will help save hundreds of lives by getting the cleanup process going.”

Mary Anne Hitt, the director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, had a similar sentiment. “This is a victory for everyone who breathes, and is clear evidence that Scott Pruitt’s frequent attempts to delay and obstruct federal clean air safeguards is against the law. The severity of Pruitt’s attempts [is] a matter of life and death. Delaying the implementation of these life saving smog standards puts the health of thousands of kids at risk.”

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told Reuters, “We look forward to working with co-regulators to continue the designations process for the 2015 standards for ground-level ozone; we are evaluating the information provided by governors in February 2018 as part of that process.”

EPA’s proposed repeal will make Americans sicker

CNN

EPA’s proposed repeal will make Americans sicker

By Harold P. Wimmer and Stephen C. Crane       March 13, 2018

Source: CNN

(CNN) Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of a process to repeal the Clean Power Plan, adopted in 2015 as the first national strategy to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. Taking steps to reduce carbon pollution, as outlined in the Clean Power Plan, not only limits this major driver of climate change, but reduces other toxic air pollution from power plants at the same time.

The EPA’s analysis that was published to support the proposed repeal outlines a flawed approach to evaluating the risks of pollution — specifically particulate matter, which is a mix of very tiny particles emitted into the air. When inhaled, this pollution can cause asthma attacks, lung cancer and even early death.

The EPA has cherry-picked data to conceal the true health costs of air pollution. Its revised calculations diminish and devalue the harm that comes from breathing particulate matter, suggesting that below certain levels, it is not harmful to human health. This is wrong.

The fact is: There is no known safe threshold for particulate matter. According to scores of medical experts and organizations like the World Health Organization, particle pollution harms health even at very low concentrations. Attempting to undercut such clear evidence shows the lengths the EPA, and by extension the Trump administration, will go to reject science-based policy that protects Americans’ health.

The EPA’s attempts to argue the contrary come as more medical reports affirm that climate change, at large, remains an increasingly dire threat to human health.The Clean Power Plan would result in significant reductions in carbon dioxide, which drives climate change, and an array of other dangerous pollutants, including particle pollution.

Across the globe, there is a resounding consensus among the health and medical community that climate change is already harming human health. This isn’t just a matter of seeing the looming future disaster; human health is suffering now as a result of damage to our climate caused by human activity — and some people are paying the ultimate price.

EPA cuts could risk a public health emergency

Health and medical professionals nationwide are seeing the effects of climate change on their patients. As far back as 2014, an American Thoracic Society survey of physicians found that 89% of respondents said climate change is happening, and 77% said they have seen increases in chronic disease severity from air pollution in their patients.

The EPA’s own analysis finds that repealing the Clean Power Plan could result in up to 4,500 premature deaths every year in the United States. How is this deadly outcome acceptable to President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, whose agency’s mission is to protect public health and the environment?

The EPA has a special responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and people with respiratory diseases — not increase their suffering. Instead, with the proposed Clean Power Plan repeal, the EPA appears to be granting power plants a license to pollute, at the expense of Americans’ health.

Simply put, America will measure the cost of repealing the Clean Power Plan in asthma attacks, emergency room visits and premature deaths that should have been and can still be avoided.

Unfortunately, the EPA has demonstrated its willingness to manipulate scientific evidence in such a way that benefits polluting industries, despite the negative consequences to Americans’ health. With relentless pressure from these industries to block, weaken or delay clean air safeguards, it is unlikely this will be the last time it tries this.

For the public, our doctors and our patients, the urgency of this issue cannot be emphasized enough. We urge the EPA to stand up for the health of all Americans and enforce, rather than repeal, the Clean Power Plan.

Harold P. Wimmer is the national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. Stephen C. Crane, Ph.D., MPH is the executive director of the American Thoracic Society. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

 

EPA Considers Allowing Bee-Killing Pesticide to Be Sprayed on 165 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland

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EPA Considers Allowing Bee-Killing Pesticide to Be Sprayed on 165 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland

Center for Biological Diversity       December 19, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will consider allowing the bee-killing pesticide thiamethoxam to be sprayed on the most widely grown crops in the U.S. The application, if approved, would allow the highly toxic pesticide to be sprayed directly on 165 million acres of wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, alfalfa, rice and potato.

The proposal by the agrochemical giant Syngenta to dramatically escalate use of the harmful neonicotinoid pesticide came last Friday, on the same day the EPA released new assessments of the extensive dangers posed by neonicotinoids, including thiamethoxam.

“If the EPA grants Syngenta’s wish, it will spur catastrophic declines of aquatic invertebrates and pollinator populations that are already in serious trouble,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program. “You know the pesticide-approval process is broken when the EPA announces it will consider expanding the use of this dangerous pesticide on the same day its own scientists reveal that the chemical kills birds and aquatic invertebrates.”

Neonicotinoids have long been known to pose serious harm to bee populations. But the new EPA assessments found the commonly used pesticides can kill and harm birds of all sizes and pose significant dangers to aquatic invertebrates.

Western bumblebee by Steve Amus, USDA.

Thiamethoxam is currently widely used as a seed coating for these crops. This application would allow it to be sprayed directly on the crops, greatly increasing the amount of pesticide that could be used.

The just-released aquatic and non-pollinator risk assessment found that the majority of uses of the neonicotinoid on currently registered crops resulted in risks to freshwater invertebrates that exceeded levels of concern—the threshold at which harm is known to occur.

The EPA did not assess risks associated with spraying the pesticides on the crops it announced it was considering expanding use to on Friday. But it is likely that increasing the number of crops approved for spraying would dramatically increase that risk.

In January the EPA released a preliminary assessment of on-field exposures to thiamethoxam that found all uses of the pesticide—on foliar, soil and seeds—result in exposures that exceed the level of concern for acute and chronic risk to adult bees. But the agency has taken no steps to restrict use of these products and is now considering expanding their use.

The EPA will review a proposal to spray a bee-killing pesticide that works by attacking the bee’s central nervous system. NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Despite growing scientific and public concern about neonicotinoids, the application for expanded use of thiamethoxam was not announced by the EPA but quietly posted in the Federal Register.

“For years the EPA and pesticide companies bragged that by using treated seeds they were avoiding spraying insecticides, and despite the science showing that these treated seeds were deadly to birds, claimed that they were environmentally beneficial,” said Burd. “But we can expect the Trump EPA to now ignore the risks to birds and bees and approve these ultra-toxic pesticides to be sprayed across hundreds of millions of U.S. acres.”

Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have both acute and chronic effects on aquatic invertebrates, honeybees, birds, butterflies and other pollinator species; they are a major factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including pollen and fruit, to become toxic to pollinators; they are also slow to break down and therefore build up in the environment.

A large and growing body of independent science links neonicotinoids to catastrophic bee declines. Twenty-nine independent scientists who conducted a global review of more than 1,000 independent studies on neonicotinoids found overwhelming evidence linking the pesticides to declines in populations of bees, birds, earthworms, butterflies and other wildlife.

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