2019

2019

PPC special report
May 10, 2019
The Mueller Report Unpacked – Part 1
An Emerging Theme of Donald Trump’s Presidency and Russia’s Attack on the 2016 Presidential Election
By Tracy Weiss, Co-chair, Foreign Policy Task Force, WNDC Committee on Public Policy and Political Action

Overview

I am in the process of reading the entire redacted Special Counsel Office’s (SCO) Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference[1] in the 2016 Presidential Election (Report). I will break my analysis into three successive parts: part one follows below and focuses on Russia’s attack on the 2016 Election and related unanswered questions; next month, part two will analyze the conspiracy section of the Report; and, in July, part three will focus on the obstruction of justice section of the Report. This analysis does not attempt to summarize the entire Report or every detail contained therein. Rather, read in its entirety, this analysis seeks to provide a broad overview of the Report’s key findings and how those findings fit into the larger picture of current threats and events.
The Emerging Theme of Trump: Promises Made, Promises Broken
A recurring theme has emerged from the candidacy and presidency of Donald J. Trump (Trump), namely: Promises Made, Promises Broken.[2] For but a few examples, candidate Trump promised to not only provide Americans with better healthcare plans at lower prices but also protect, if not expand, current coverage of pre-existing conditions. Yet, President Trump has failed to offer any improved or enhanced healthcare plans; moreover, he has repeatedly sought to undermine, weaken, and vacate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, including those sections protecting coverage for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans. Candidate Trump promised to “drain the swamp.” Yet, President Trump has arguably run the most corrupt and self-dealing administration in modern United States (U.S.) history. Candidate Trump promised that America would be respected again in the world. Yet, President Trump has weakened decades-old alliances, withdrawn the U.S. from key arms control agreements, repeatedly failed to stand up against human rights abuses across the world, embraced despots, and withdrawn the U.S. from key international agreements—all of which have served to weaken America’s global standing. Candidate Trump promised to improve the lives of Hispanics, African-Americans, and other minorities and asked what they had to lose by voting for him. President Trump then promptly issued the Muslim Ban, adopted heartless immigrant family separation and child detention policies, referred to several African countries as “shi*hole” or “shi*house” countries, and said there were “very fine people” amongst the white supremacists who marched August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Candidate Trump promised to keep America safe. Yet, President Trump has denied that human activity contributes to climate change, rolled back regulations that promote clean water and air, gutted leadership at the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Defense, and most relevant to this paper, refused to even acknowledge—let alone defend against—not only Russia’s attacks on the 2016 Election but also its ongoing attacks against future U.S. elections. The remainder of this paper will focus on this last broken promise.
SCO Finding 1: Russia attacked the 2016 Election
While the Report leaves many questions unanswered or unresolved, it makes at least one fact crystal clear: Russia attacked the 2016 Election. Indeed, on page 1 of the Report, the SCO unambiguously states “[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”[3] The Report then details how Russia conducted a multi-pronged attack against the 2016 Election.
First, a Russian entity called the Internet Research Agency (IRA) conducted a social media campaign[4]from 2014 through the 2016 Election. Initially, the IRA operated social media accounts and group pages “designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States.”[5] By February 2016, however, the IRA’s operations changed to directly support candidate Trump and oppose candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton (Clinton) for President.[6] As detailed in the Report, throughout 2016, the IRA’s social media accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign (Trump Campaign) and opposing Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign (Clinton Campaign); the IRA also organized multiple pro-Trump events and rallies.[7] By the time of the 2016 Election, the IRA had the ability to reach an estimated 126 million[8] U.S. persons through its various social media accounts.[9]
Second, in early 2016, the Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) opened up a new operation to support the Trump Campaign and hurt the Clinton Campaign by: (1) hacking the servers and/or personal e-mail accounts of many Democratic entities and individuals; (2) publicly and strategically releasing the hacked materials most likely to damage the Clinton Campaign; and, (3) targeting individuals and entities (such as state boards of elections, secretaries of state, county governments, election-related hardware and software companies, and people who worked for these entities[10]) involved in the administration of U.S. elections.[11]
Specifically, “[i]n March 2016, the GRU began hacking the email accounts of Clinton Campaign volunteers and employees, including campaign chairman John Podesta” (Podesta).[12] In April 2016, the GRU then “hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).”[13] In total, the GRU “stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks.”[14] Moreover, on July 27, 2016—just a few hours after candidate Trump said “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] e-mails that are missing . . .”—the GRU targeted Clinton’s personal office for the first time.[15] Indeed, after candidate Trump’s public request for Russia to find Clinton’s private e-mails, “the GRU created and sent malicious links to 15 e-mail accounts” with a domain related in some way to Clinton.[16]
The GRU not only stole hundreds of thousands of e-mails and documents from the DNC, DCCC, and the personal e-mail accounts of members of the Clinton Campaign but also facilitated their public release and dissemination with the goal of helping the Trump Campaign and hurting the Clinton Campaign.[17] The GRU released the stolen materials through two fictitious online personas it created—“DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0”—and later through WikiLeaks.[18] The DCLeaks website remained operational from April 2016 through March 2017.[19] This site published thousands of stolen documents from the personal e-mail accounts of multiple people associated with the Clinton Campaign.[20] From June 15, 2016 through October 18, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 posted thousands of documents that the GRU stole from the DNC and DCCC servers.[21] Starting in June 2016, the GRU also used Guccifer 2.0 “to release documents directly to reporters and other interested individuals.”[22] In addition, the GRU, through its DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas, transferred many of the documents they stole from both Podesta and the DNC to WikiLeaks.[23]
WikiLeaks started publishing the hacked materials in July 2016.[24] On July 22, 2016—three days before the beginning of the Democratic National Convention—“WikiLeaks released over 20,000 e-mails and other documents stolen from the DNC computer networks.[25] Perhaps even more strikingly, WikiLeaks began releasing the stolen Podesta e-mails on October 7, 2016—within one hour of the release of the highly inflammatory and damaging Trump “Access Hollywood” Tape.[26] WikiLeaks deliberately chose to “save its best [Clinton-related] revelations for last, under the theory this allows little time for [Clinton’s] response prior to the U.S. [2016] [E]lection.”[27] Thus, between October 7, 2016 and November 7, 2016—i.e. during the final stretch of the 2016 Presidential campaign—WikiLeaks released 33 tranches of stolen e-mails and documents, including “over 50,000 documents stolen from Podesta’s personal e-mail account.”[28] Ultimately, WikiLeaks appears to have successfully timed its releases of the stolen materials to maximize both their benefit to candidate Trump and damage to candidate Clinton.[29]
Unanswered Questions regarding Russia’s Attack on the 2016 Election
One of the greatest, and most important, unanswered questions regarding Russia’s attack on the 2016 Election is whether or not it materially altered the final 2016 Election results. We now know that, by the time the 2016 Election occurred, the IRA had the ability to spread its pro-Trump, anti-Clinton propaganda to approximately 126 million Americans through its social media accounts.”[30] We also now know that the GRU not only stole hundreds of thousands of Democratic e-mails and documents but also strategically facilitated and timed the public dissemination of those hacked materials with the goal of helping to elect candidate Trump.[31] What we do not—and likely cannot—know is the true impact this Russian activity had on the final outcome of the 2016 Election.
Several outstanding election security questions persist, however, that can and must be answered. The Report details numerous ways that Russia, through the GRU, targeted individuals and entities involved in the administration of U.S. elections.[32] For a few brief examples: in June 2016, the GRU compromised the computer network of the Illinois State Board of Elections, gained access to a database containing information on millions of registered Illinois voters, and successfully extracted data on thousands of U.S. voters; the GRU then, over a two-day period in July 2016, scanned more than 24 states’ state and local websites for election-related vulnerabilities; and, between August and November 2016, the GRU sent spearfishing e-mails that successfully installed malware on both the network of a voting technology company “used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls,”[33] as well as on the network of at least one Florida county government.[34] While the SCO identified evidence of the GRU’s repeated cyber attacks on U.S. voting apparatus and infrastructure and/or persons associated with it, the SCO did not further investigate these attacks; instead, the SCO noted that the FBI and/or DHS have investigated them.[35] Yet, the American public still knows very little about the extent of these intrusions, whether they materially altered the 2016 Election results, and the threat they pose to future election security. Indeed, in a recent speech, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated “[t]he bottom line is, there was overwhelming evidence [in the Report] that Russian operatives hacked American computers and defrauded American citizens, and that is only the tip of the iceberg of a comprehensive Russian strategy to influence [U.S.] elections, promote social discord and undermine America.”[36] Congress and the media must, therefore, further investigate and reveal to the American public the full extent of Russia’s past and ongoing election-related cyber attacks to ensure not only continued confidence in U.S. election results but also the very preservation of U.S. democracy itself.
COMING NEXT IN PART 2: THE REPORT’S CONSPIRACY SECTION UNPACKED

Footnotes:
[1]Unless in a direct quote, I will not use the quaint verbs of “meddled” or “interfered” to describe Russia’s attack on the U.S. 2016 presidential election (2016 Election).
[2] The Washington Post fact checkers estimate that President Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims. Available at (as of April 30, 2019): https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/29/president-trump-has-made-more-than-false-or-misleading-claims/?utm_term=.5327921cff7d.
[3] Report, Vol I, p. 1.
[4] Primarily using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. See Report, Vol. I, pp. 14, 15, & 22.
[5] Report, Vol. I, p. 4.
[6] Report, Vol. I, pp. 14 & 23.
[7] Report, Vol. I, pp. 25-35.
[8] Report, Vol. I, p. 15, note 6.
[9] Report, Vol. I, p. 14.
[10] Report, Vol. I, pp. 4 & 50-51.
[11] Report, Vol. I, pp. 50-51.
[12] Report, Vol. I, p. 4.
[13] Report, Vol. I, p. 4.
[14] Report, Vol. I, p. 4.
[15] Report, Vol. I, p. 49.
[16] Report, Vol. I, p. 49.
[17] Report, Vol. I, p. 41.
[18] Report, Vol. I, p. 41.
[19] Report, Vol. I, pp. 41-42.
[20] Report, Vol. I, p. 41.
[21] Report, Vol. I, p. 42.
[22] Report, Vol. I, p. 43.
[23] Report, Vol. I, p. 44.
[24] Report, Vol. I, p. 5.
[25] Report, Vol. I, p. 46.
[26] Report, Vol. I, p. 5.
[27] Report, Vol. I, p. 64.
[28] Report, Vol. I, p. 48.
[29] Report, Vol. I, pp. 5 & 46-48.
[30] Report, Vol. I, pp. 14-15, including note 6.
[31] Report, Vol. I, pp. 4 & 41-49.
[32] Report, Vol. I, pp. 50-51.
[33] Report, Vol. I, p. 51.
[34] Report, Vol. I, pp. 50-51.
[35] Report, Vol. I, pp. 50-51.
[36] Available at (as of May 5, 2019): https://www.npr.org/2019/04/29/717594782/if-mueller-report-was-tip-of-the-iceberg-what-more-is-lurking-unseen.

 


 

 

PPC Issues Watch

May 6, 2019

WNDC’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Calls Attention to:  MAY as Mental Health Month

We join the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence in their efforts to promote May as Mental Health Month. 

They are conducting a series of posts throughout May. They published a comprehensive list of “help-seeking” resources including hotlines, warnlines, and textlines here and here  that they hope will provide assistance for those seeking help. Check them out.

Further, we are supporting this campaign by promoting Dr. Valda Crowder’s “tutorial videos” on Gun Violence and Mental Health. See below for one of these videos.

Gun Violence and Mental Health — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDG_LmB5ZIk&t=6

Stay tuned for WNDC Tweets and Facebook Alerts on Gun Violence and Mental Health throughout May.

— Ellen McGovern and Shelly Livingston, Co-Chairs, Gun Violence Prevention Task Force


“Conscience Protection” and “Freedom of Religion” or State-sponsored Bigotry?

The federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services created a new Division called “Conscience and Religious Freedom” last year. This past week #45 renewed his demand that all hospitals enforce “religious freedom” for every health care provider from physicians and nurses to nursing assistants, dietitians, pharmacists, and front desk clerks. The “public relations” selling point is that Trump and all Republicans will protect health care providers from being coerced into assisting with abortions or birth control methods that offend their religious or ethical sensibilities in all tax supported hospital settings and clinics that serve the general public.

Actually, there are no records of any specific physician ever being forced to provide an abortion for any specific woman in any clinical setting. But women of a certain age do recall instances of women who were clearly hemorrhaging and who were refused admission to emergency rooms because someone in the hospital suspected an abortion had been done. And such women did die.

So called Conscience Protection and Freedom of Religion provisions have other dangerous implications. For instance: a woman might be only 8 or 10 weeks pregnant and be newly diagnosed with leukemia. “Right to Life” literature encourages oncologists to consider the life of the fetus equivalent to the life of the pregnant woman when choosing the chemotherapy to be administered.  In reality, the most effective chemotherapy for treating leukemia is quite toxic to the fetus, so that pregnant women would be given less effective cancer treatment in order to protect the fetus. The most dangerous aspect of this scenario is that the pregnant woman and her family might be unaware of the reasons behind the oncology treatment decision.

Conscience protection encourages an anti-abortion obstetrician to withhold information about fetal abnormalities discovered by blood tests or an ultrasound from the prospective parents for fear they might choose to abort the fetus.

Conscience protection will also allow medical personnel to ignore DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) end-of-life wishes of hospitalized patients.

Conscience protection encroachment into medical care allows medical personnel to deny care to our fellow Americans for a variety of reasons. Persons may dress differently, or worship differently, or love differently, or speak different languages. Any or all such Americans may be refused care in public tax supported medical facilities on the altar of Freedom of Religion.

Unfortunately, recent history shows a cruel tradition of American hospitals turning away patients for superfluous reasons. For instance, in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, many hospitals refused to care for critically ill patients who were merely suspected of being gay.  The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in America was turned away from an emergency room in Texas because he was “undocumented,” and he died within the week.

So it is now perfectly legal to allow some of our fellow Americans to suffer and die because some health care worker might deem them unworthy.

We can only hope that the Supreme Court might disagree with the scope of the Conscience Protection provision in tax supported public hospitals. Meanwhile, we should all be careful when requesting care at “faith based” hospitals, clinics, and physician offices, because we may lose some of our own freedom of choice in our health care decisions.

— Karen Pataky
Chair, Health Policy Task Force


PPC Issues Watch

April 29, 2019

Upcoming Environmental Events in Washington, DC

For all who are concerned about threats to our environmental health and the existential threat of climate change, you are invited to attend two events the week of May 13 in Washington, DC.

First, kicking off the week on Monday, May 13, is the “Road to a Green New Deal,” the Washington, DC, stop on a tour led by the Sunrise Movement to several cities across the country.  (The Sunrise Movement held an event at the Whittemore House in early February that several of you may have attended.)  The event will be held at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium at 7 pm, and includes speakers like Senator Ed Markey, introducer of the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate; Alexandra Rojas, Executive Director of Justice Democrats; Naomi Klein, author and activist; and others.  The purpose is to bring together organizers, politicians, policy writers, and just regular community residents to begin organizing, mobilizing, and collaborating for action on climate change and building a foundation for a Green New Deal.  Get your ticket(s) for this important event by clicking on:  https://www.universe.com/events/washington-dc-green-new-deal-tour-tickets-washington-1ZMY0V?ref=web.  Each ticket costs $5.00 (or up to $50 if you are inclined to provide a more generous donation).

Second, on Thursday, May 16, the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club presents “Fueling Plastics: Linkages Between Fossil Fuels and Plastics,” featuring Lisa Anne Hamilton.  Ms. Hamilton is the Director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).  She’ll talk about the impacts of plastic pollution in waterways, industry’s push for increased petrochemical infrastructure, emissions from the entire plastic/petrochemical lifecycle, and the need to stop using single-use plastics.  The event runs from 6:30-8 pm at the Sierra Club, 50 F Street, NW.  There is no cost, but you need to RSVP for entry to the building. Go to the calendar at  www.sierraclub.org/dc/calendar, scroll down to the date, and click on the event.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at both events!

— Jean Stewart, Chair, Earth and Environment Task Force, Committee on Public Policy and Political Action


PPC Issues Watch

 

April 1, 2019

Red Flag Laws: Examining Guidelines for State Action

The Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, March 26, 2019

On March 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “Red Flag Laws:  Examining Guidelines for State Action.”  Witnesses included representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Brady (formerly Brady Campaign), and the Independence Institute.  Additionally, the committee heard testimony from a Palm Beach County sheriff and a Seattle prosecuting attorney.  Their full titles and testimonies can be found at this link:

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/red-flag-laws-examining-guidelines-for-state-action

The purpose of the hearing was to discuss gun violence and the need for extreme risk laws (previously called “red flag” laws).  The laws provide an additional tool to prevent gun violence, and Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said that he thought that there could be bipartisan support for these laws.

State extreme risk laws typically include extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), which allow family members, law enforcement, or others to petition a court to temporarily block the purchase of, or remove firearms from, those identified as posing imminent danger to themselves or to others. Current state extreme risk laws differ in terms of requirements and procedures and there have been discussions about developing a national model for state extreme risk laws. However, no such model currently exists.

Those who testified expressed a need for extreme risk laws to address areas including:

  • Accessibility/ease of reporting concerns about an individual to authorities;
  • “ex parte” hearings;
  • due process protections for the accused, including the right to counsel, civil remedies for those falsely accused, and proof of clear and convincing corroborated evidence;
  • well-funded and constructed implementation programs, including education for key stakeholders such as law enforcement, health and social service providers, family members, and the general public; and
  • safe and orderly procedures for the relinquishment of firearms.

Impressive data exist on how effective these laws have been in the states where they exist, especially in preventing suicides.  Nearly half of all suicide deaths in the US are committed with firearms, and states that have enacted extreme risk laws have successfully reduced their suicide rates. Also, it is thought that if extreme risk laws had been in effect in some states where mass shootings occurred, a number of the shootings could have been prevented.

Chairman Graham expressed the view that federal involvement in extreme risk laws should consist of incentives for states to enact these laws.  There are currently 14 states and the District of Columbia that have passed these laws.  In alphabetical order, the states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.  Both Senator Marco Rubio (S. 7) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (S. 506) have introduced legislation in support of extreme risk protection orders. See the links below for the texts of these bills.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/7/text

https://www.legiscan.com/US/text/SB506/2019

Beth Merricks, Member,  PPC Task Force to Prevent Gun Violence


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February 25, 2019

We know how to make voting fair and accessible! Just look at Oregon

In a February session of the Center for American Progress, Oregon governor Kate Brown described her state’s modern, effective procedures for both voter registration and voting.

First she described how Oregon now automatically registers people to vote when they get their drivers’ licenses. Citizens can opt out of this registration, but need to make the choice of doing so. As the Department of Motor Vehicles examines license applicants’ citizenship, fraudulent registration is not an issue.

The result of this automatic voter registration is a huge increase in registered voters. This, in turn, frees up time and resources for voter turnout. Voter turnout does indeed go up. Recent OR elections showed a strong increase in numbers of actual voters, even though the number of registered voters remained the same. The model is so successful that New York is considering its adoption.

Governor Brown also described Oregon’s “vote at home” program — their term for “vote by mail.” This program has mixed results for increasing turnout in general elections, but is clearly positive in local elections. However, she advises shifting to this system only gradually. It does represent culture change and should be done slowly to gain familiarity and trust in the method. For example, in Oregon, they initially used the program only on ballot initiatives and a special election, but these small steps were so positively evaluated that even the Republican state legislature wished to expand the initiative.

Voting at home saves 20-30% of the costs of an election, she notes, and is particularly helpful with the problem of college voters needing to register in their new location. Early opponents of the program argued that it undermined the civic culture of public polling places. However, families and communities now are having “ballot parties” to discuss the ballot, which actually energizes citizens even more. Brown is so committed to the program that she has added free ballot postage to the new state budget. She believes this will be particularly helpful for rural voters with less access to ballot drop boxes, and young voters who tend not to have stamps handy.

Clearly we have the models and the technology to make voting much more accessible. However, we need strong Secretaries of State, combined with dedication of adequate resources, to make this happen.

–Melinda Burrell, Chair, PPC GOTV/Elections Task Force


 

 

PPC Issues Watch

February 18, 2019

IN BRIEF: TRUMP DECLARES NATIONAL EMERGENCY

On February 15, President Trump declared a national emergency to fund the border wall and deliver on one of his key campaign promises. Just one day prior he signed a bipartisan bill that includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley.

The additional funds Trump seeks in his declaration include $3.6 billion from the military construction budget, $2.5 billion from a defense department drug interdiction program, and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture funds account.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement strongly condemning the action, saying that “The President’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution. The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

It is likely that the House will act swiftly to pass a resolution denouncing the emergency declaration. The Senate would have 18 days to vote on the resolution. The President could then veto the measure, which would require a two-thirds vote by the House and Senate to override. Pelosi and Schumer’s joint statement include a call to action for their “Republican colleagues to join us to defend the Constitution.”

Public Citizen has already filed a lawsuit against Trump and Patrick Shanahan, Acting Secretary of Defense, on behalf of affected Texas landowners and an environmental organization. The complaint states that “a disagreement between the President and Congress about how to spend money does not constitute an emergency authorizing unilateral executive action. The Declaration and the planned expenditure of Department of Defense funds for construction of the wall exceed President Trump’s authority under the National Emergencies Act, other statutes invoked by the President as authority to fund the wall, and the Constitution.”

Other complaints are certain to be filed, including from the ACLU and the state of California.

Trump anticipated this pushback in his announcement from the White House Rose Garden on Friday. The President’s remarks included, “… and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we will get another bad ruling, and then we will end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we will get a fair shake and win in the Supreme Court, just like the ban.”

Indeed, there can be no surety that the courts will rule that the declaration is unconstitutional. And, the President could veto a resolution passed by Congress, if the resolution would even pass in the Senate in the first place.

One thing is certain – that the public can voice its opposition through organizing demonstrations and calling on their representatives and senators in Congress to act.

–Kristina Groennings, Chair, PPC Task Force on Legal and Constitutional Issues 


 

PPC Committee Statement

February 14, 2019

WE’LL NEVER FORGET PARKLAND FLORIDA:
IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE HORRIFIC SHOOTINGS AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL ONE YEAR AGO TODAY

On February 14, 2018, 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were massacred at the hands of a young assailant who carried a deeply troubled past and a military-style assault weapon. As with the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and so many other mass shootings at schools and other public places, the carnage abruptly terminated the promising futures of young victims and shattered the lives of those left behind. And yet, Congress has done nothing to prevent the next bloodbath – until now, and that is largely due to the vital role the student activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have played.

In the aftermath of the MSD mass shooting, students there began an effective activist movement. Due to their persistence, we have witnessed a cultural shift away from the NRA and toward gun reform as a top electable issue, as seen this past November when so many House candidates ran and won on the issue of gun safety. For the first time in almost a decade, the House held a hearing and markup on common-sense gun reform within the first 45 days of the new 116th Congress. This legislation, H.R. 8, requiring background checks on all gun sales, is expected to pass the House later this month.

The Woman’s National Democratic Club will never forget Parkland, and we applaud this long-awaited first step in the House of Representatives to close the glaring loopholes in our gun laws. While there was some cautious optimism from the Senate this week that passage there may be possible, we must work to ensure that pressure from the almost 97% of the American public who support universal background checks continues so that Senators know beyond a doubt that the price of thwarting progress on sensible gun reform is indeed a price too high to pay.

 


 

PPC Issues WatchFebruary 4, 2019

ACTING ON GUN VIOLENCE: UPCOMING EVENTS

  • House Hearing on Expanding Background Checks

For the first time in eight years, the House will hold a hearing on gun violence prevention. Last week House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced that his committee will hold a hearing on H.R. 8, “The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.” This legislation would require background checks on ALL gun sales, including private sales at gun shows or over the internet.  The Brady Law, enacted in 1993 and implemented in February 1994, has blocked more than three million unlawful purchases. That law requires licensed gun dealers to initiate background checks before selling a firearm.  H.R. 8 and its companion bill in the Senate, S. 42, will expand the Brady Law to every sale. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “These unregulated sales can allow felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people to obtain guns without any oversight.  It is past time to expand lifesaving Brady background checks to every gun sale, and the public agrees:  a 2018 study found that 97 percent of Americans support expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales – including more than 80 percent of gun owners.” (NOTE:  Last week WNDC sent letters of endorsement of H.R. 8 to Capitol Hill committee chairmen.)

WHAT:  Hearing on H.R. 8, entitled “Preventing Gun Violence:  A Call to Action.”

WHEN:  Wednesday, February 6, 2019, 10:00 a.m.

WHERE:  Room 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

 

  • National Cathedral Forum on Gun Violence

Expert panelists from gun advocacy organizations will discuss pending national, state and local gun violence prevention legislation and other developments. Panelists also will discuss “a range of actions that can be taken to help in DC, MD, and VA neighborhoods that are disproportionately affected by gun violence.” Join WNDC Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Members to learn the different ways we can get involved.

WHAT:  Forum: “Thoughts, Prayers and ACTION!  A Forum to Reduce Gun Violence.”

WHEN:  Sunday, February 10, 2019, 2-4:00 p.m.

WHERE:  National Cathedral, Washington, DC.

For more information and to RSVP, click here

 

  • Join WNDC Public Policy Task Force to Prevent Gun Violence:  Next meeting is Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 6:00 p.m.

Shelly Livingston and Ellen McGovern, Acting co-chairs, PPC Task Force to Prevent Gun Violence


 

THE SHUTDOWN AND THE DRIVE TO PRIVATIZE GOVERNMENT

Although it was clear that the Trump Shutdown wasn’t working for him in besting Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he wasn’t losing his base Republicans. But when it was clear the shutdown was threatening the safety of air travelers, even the loyalists Republicans didn’t want airports to shut down (inconvenient for them!) for lack of  necessary maintenance personnel.  Not known for their imagination, they actually also may have worried about an airplane crash.

However, don’t overvalue being “reasonable” as a factor we can count on to avoid another shutdown. When you dig into what motivates Trump and Republicans, one could well ask why didn’t they use the shutdown opportunity to announce that the shutdown demonstrated that there was a need to sell off government assets to private business. Privatizing would be the way to do a better job of keeping our skies safe and running our airports more efficiently. Maybe they should have stuck it out to realize the dream of Tea Party/Freedom Caucus ideologues of privatizing the economy, and getting rid of government.

In evidence: On February 13 last year the Washington Post carried an article “Infrastructure Plan would sell National, Dulles airports.” The aim of the Administration’s plan was to cut infrastructure spending – the plan proposed a $168 billion cut over 10 years – while promising improvements. In addition to selling Dulles and National, massive cuts in federal dollars would hit major U.S. infrastructure such as the power transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Southwestern Power Administration.

The infrastructure plan was released one day before the Post story appeared. The Administration also reintroduced a separate plan, which proposed to take the air traffic control system out of government hands, a plan that had been blocked in Congress the year before.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said of the plan, “It is like a Hollywood facade….the lack of direct investment would leave out large parts of America.”

Administration top officials are ideologically privatizers, their goal mostly to get out of paying higher taxes. To prove anything more for their ideology they would have to be capable of self-reflection.  And they are not.  They themselves are proof that a business background is no vote for the ability to get things done for Americans in the nation and in its communities, They don’t understand why they should even be concerned about a broader community or anything that can’t be put into a narrow objective of profit and self-interest, They are so habituated to denigrating actions that bring diverse communities closer together they may actually believe and assume that public servants are losers and that government does nothing but pass regulations big business doesn’t like. They may actually believe their scripts to the point that they don’t try to find out want government does. Theirs is an ideology based on ignorance.

Elizabeth Clark, Vice President for Public Policy and Political Action