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Weekly News Wrap Up 6/30 “Ethics”

Week of 6/30 “Ethics”

Donald Trump campaigned on the idea that Clinton, Obama and Democrats in general were corrupt and unethical, and promised that he would have the most ethical administration ever. Since those promises have been made, his administration has: canceled ethics training, claimed that they do not have to follow ethics rules because they are not an agency, failed to properly reprimand employees for ethics violations, failed to produce ethics waivers for more than a dozen White House staffers (including four lobbyists), failed to divest from private holdings as was recommended by ethics experts, refused to make visitor logs public, and… I’m sure I’m missing a half dozen other things.

The Trump Administration is so ethical in fact, that Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics, resigned Thursday. In his resignation letter, Shaub said that the ethics program had to be strengthened. Shaub has clashed with the administration at multiple points and is leaving for a private sector job which he says will give him more power to influence ethics oversight in Washington.

Shaub is one of two high ranking federal employees to resign this week because of the unethical actions of the Trump Administration. The other is Hui Chen, a former anti-corruption lawyer with the Department of Justice. Chen resigned citing the hypocrisy of the administration, and saying that she could not in good faith “hold companies to standards that our current administration is not living up to.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel like this administration is so ethical that I’m getting sick of all the ethical behavior.

Administration:

  1. The administration’s “voter fraud” commission asked all 50 states for private voter information. 44 states have refused to comply fully with the request, the six remaining states either have not yet made a decision, or have not received the letter. (2) Additionally, the commission may have broken the law in how it asked for this information. The administration argued that the law does not apply to them. (3)
  2. Department of Justice lawyer Hui Chen resigns due to the Trump Administration’s ethical lapses. (4)
  3. The lack of interest, or ability, to staff the administration and other positions has been a common story since Trump took office. This week, we learned a few things about his staff. While administration officials like to call the staff lean and officiant, the average pay is actually higher than the Obama administration with huge gaping holes among lower-level staff. This is impacting the Trump administration’s ability to get things done, like book hotel rooms for the G20 summit. (5) Additionally, his staff has gender pay inequality that is 3x higher than the Obama administration. (6)
  4. The State Department is being gutted under Rex Tillerson. From high ranking positions left unfilled, to the firing of experienced career diplomats, to the canceling of the class of foreign service officers, the department is being downsized and ignored at all levels. The damage to U.S. diplomacy will not be easily undone by the next administration. (9)
  5. 18 states have sued the Department of Education of a delay of student loan protections. (16)
  6. A court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot delay a rule to limit methane restrictions. The court said if they don’t want to follow the rule, they have to rewrite it, not just ignore it. This could have broader implications to other agencies (like the DOE in the point above) that are ignoring laws and rules from the Obama administration. (17)
  7. Trump will meet with Putin for the first time on Friday. Foreign policy experts believe that Trump’s actions and statements leave him very little opportunity for positive outcomes from the meeting. (18)
  8. Trump has directed a lot of anger towards CNN in the past few weeks. For its part, CNN has made a number of mistakes: from retracting a Russia related story to insinuating what appeared to be blackmail against the person who created the Trump beating CNN gif that went viral this week. Time Warner, which owns CNN, is looking to merge with AT&T. The Trump administration has suggested that it will use approval of the merger as a point of leverage over CNN. (15)

Congress:

  1. Five protesters were arrested in front of Senator Flake’s offices in Phoenix and Tucson on Thursday. The group was assembled to protest the Senate Healthcare bill. After being locked out of Flake’s office, the buildings owners called police saying the protesters were trespassing. (13)
  2. Democratic lawmakers are urging Trump to confront Putin about its role in the 2016 election. This call came just before Trump told a reporter in Poland that he is not sure who hacked into DNC and state election systems ahead of the 2016 elections. (14)
  3. Three Democrats in the House have introduced a bill that would 1. Kill gerrymandering by ensuring all districts are drawn by an independent commission 2. Establish multi-member districts and 3. Change elections from winner take all to rank-choice voting. The bill would solve many of the representation issues in America, where even though more people vote for Democrats, Republicans manage to maintain control of the House of Representatives and the White House. The bill obviously has an incredible tough road to passage. (21)
  4. Congress has been trying to push repeal and replace of Obamacare together simultaneously. After faltering in the Senate, Trump tweeted that they should first repeal and replace… later. This move is not in line with Congressional strategy or Trump’s own promises, and would mean 18 million people would immediately lose coverage. (20)
  5. Three Republican Congressmen in Arizona are trying to strip National Monuments from their federal protections. (22)

State/Other:

  1. Director of the Government Office of Ethics resigned after being unable to police any of the administration’s ethical violations. He is urging that ethics programs be strengthened in order to respond to the current administration. (1)
  2. Investigators are now looking into whether far-right news sites in America colluded with the Russian propaganda machine to knowingly post fake news in hopes of influencing the election. (7)
  3. North Korea celebrated America’s independence by successfully launching its first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. This missile technology is what North Korea needs in order to deliver a nuclear weapon to U.S. targets. In response, Trump said he was considering “very severe things” while UN Ambassador Nikki Haley chastised China and Russia for not supporting sanctions. (8)
  4. A few weeks ago, the owner of Johnson Utility, a former AZ Corporation Commission member, and a number of Republican political operatives were arrested for bribery and corruption. It appears that there may be another, much bigger shoe about to drop. Those alleged crimes were discovered during an FBI investigation into the Corporation Commission, likely in connection to the dark money from APS and its recent rate increases. (10)
  5. The melting of Antarctica is increasing rapidly. A chunk of ice the size of Delaware will break off of the continent any day now. Stephen Hawking directly blamed Trump and his decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord for making global warming worse. (11)
  6. Wisconsin voter ID laws and redistricting have both been challenged up to the Supreme Court. One of the Republicans who initially supported those laws sat down with Propublica for an interview where he expressed regret at following partisanship and supporting laws that he came to realize were about voter suppression, not reducing voter fraud. (12)
  7. For the past 39 years, NPR has read the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July. This year, they also tweeted the document in bite size chunks. Some Trump supporters through that the anti-totalitarian statements in the Declaration of Independence that are in reference to King George, were about Trump. (19)

Resources:

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-ethics-chief-who-clashed-with-white-house-announces-he-will-step-down/2017/07/06/4732c308-624c-11e7-a4f7-af34fc1d9d39_story.html?utm_term=.953ad46b5034
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/03/politics/kris-kobach-letter-voter-fraud-commission-information/index.html
  3. http://thehill.com/regulation/other/340738-voter-fraud-commission-may-have-violated-law
  4. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/04/politics/justice-hui-chen-resignation/index.html
  5. http://www.npr.org/2017/06/30/535069910/trump-white-house-staff-payroll-nearly-36-million-and-top-heavy
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/05/white-house-gender-pay-gap-more-than-triples-under-trump/?utm_term=.d03e99d1dc92
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/05/donald-trump-russia-investigation-fake-news-hillary-clinton
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/us-could-use-military-force-against-north-korea-says-nikki-haley
  9. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/29/how-rex-tillerson-destroying-state-department-215319
  10. http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2017/07/01/george-johnson-arizona-utility-owner-developer-indicted-bribery-fraud/413765001/
  11. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/antarctica-melting-faster-scientists-expected/
  12. https://www.propublica.org/article/a-wisconsin-republican-looks-back-with-regret-at-voter-id-and-redistricting
  13. http://www.abc15.com/news/region-phoenix-metro/central-phoenix/5-arrested-in-protests-at-senator-jeff-flakes-office-in-phoenix
  14. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/democrats-demand-trump-confront-putin-election-interference-n780121
  15. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/07/06/would-the-trump-administration-block-a-merger-just-to-punish-cnn/?utm_term=.28c929c9d74d
  16. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/06/18-states-sue-devos-over-delay-of-student-loan-protections-240260
  17. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/03/climate/court-blocks-epa-effort-to-suspend-obama-era-methane-rule.html
  18. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/months-of-russia-controversy-leaves-trump-boxed-in-ahead-of-putin-meeting/2017/07/04/882b51c2-60a8-11e7-a6c7-f769fa1d5691_story.html?utm_term=.3d87aebcc8dc
  19. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/07/05/some-trump-supporters-thought-npr-tweeted-propaganda-it-was-the-declaration-of-independence/?utm_term=.69bb84320da3
  20. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/latest-trump-suggests-repealing-obama-health-law-now-48369887
  21. https://theintercept.com/2017/07/05/new-house-bill-would-kill-gerrymandering-and-could-move-america-away-from-two-party-dominance/
  22. http://www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/four-monuments-could-lose-federal-protection