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When your actions are questionable, you tend to keep a low profile and hope no one notices your errant ways, right Mitch? MA.

By Tanya Snyder 10 hrs ago

The records also do not show how frequently Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has met with people from outside Kentucky, a state Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has represented in the Senate since 1985.
A trove of more than 800 pages of emails sheds new light on the working relationship between Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most potent power couples in Washington — including their dealings with McConnell supporters from their home state of Kentucky.

Chao has met at least 10 times with politicians and business leaders from the state in response to requests from McConnell’s office, according to documents provided to POLITICO by the watchdog group American Oversight. In some cases, those people later received what they were hoping for from Chao’s department, including infrastructure grants, the designation of an interstate highway and assistance in getting state funds for a highway project — although the documents don’t indicate the meetings led to those outcomes.
The records also do not show how frequently Chao has met with people from outside Kentucky, a state her husband has represented in the Senate since 1985, or how readily she has responded to similar requests from other lawmakers. But at least a dozen of the emails show McConnell’s staff acting as a conduit between Chao and Kentucky political figures or business leaders, some of whom have had prior relationships with the couple.

In one email from Feb. 2, 2017, just days after Chao was sworn in, McConnell’s state director emailed a Chao lieutenant asking the secretary to meet with maritime industry lobbyist Jim Adams about proposed changes to “Buy American, Hire American” requirements for offshore drilling equipment. The lobbyist and his wife, a Kentucky state senator who used to work for McConnell, donated $1,500 to McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign, according to FEC filings.
“The Secretary knows them both well,” McConnell state director Terry Carmack wrote to Todd Inman, who at the time was director of operations at the Department of Transportation. Chao met with the lobbyist the following month, according to her calendar.
Carmack also requested a meeting in April 2017 for Greg DeLancey, the general manager of Taylor Motors in Murray, Ky., a government contractor that provides bus services primarily to the Defense Department. Carmack wrote that DeLancey was “the Calloway county GOP chairman and about to be the first district GOP chair.” Chao met with someone from Taylor Motors in July 2017. When the McConnell staffer asked Inman to arrange a meeting for Jason Vincent and other people from the Pennyrile Area Development District during a March 2017 fly-in, he noted that some of the representatives were “friends.”
American Oversight obtained the emails under the Freedom of Information Act. The group’s executive director and founder, Austin Evers, said they show an unusually close relationship between a Senate leader and a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet — and that “Secretary Chao built a political operation in her office to favor Kentucky.”
“We launched this investigation because we were intrigued by the president’s selection of Elaine Chao as Transportation secretary,” Evers said. “The media and political class identified it as a savvy move to hire the spouse of the majority leader of the Senate. We wanted to see what that relationship looked like.”
DOT said no such favoritism exists, and that any agency “would be responsive to the requests of the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.”
Chao’s office treats “requests from Congress with serious consideration and is responsive to all members and their staff,” a spokesperson said. “She understands the needs of Kentucky, which is her home, and naturally has enjoyed a long friendship with many of the people who are also in contact with Senator McConnell’s office.”
When asked about the propriety of setting up meetings for constituents, a spokesperson for McConnell told POLITICO that “the Leader regularly advocates for Kentuckians with Members of the Cabinet and agencies of the federal government.”
“He has advocated on behalf of Kentuckians his entire career — and that includes both Republican and Democrat Administrations,” the spokesperson added.
At the very least, the emails offer a rare glimpse at the working relationship between Chao and McConnell, who aside from a few confrontations with protesters, typically maintain a low public profile about their interactions together. But other people familiar with the workings of DOT and Congress said they didn’t see anything unusual in a Cabinet secretary responding to requests from lawmakers.
A Democratic Senate aide said it’s common for members of Congress to contact DOT or other agencies on behalf of their constituents and that the department is responsive and accommodating to all.
“DOT will talk to anyone,” said the aide, who requested anonymity because of his ongoing dealings with the department. He said he doesn’t often ask Chao to take meetings because “people know they can pick up the phone and call DOT themselves,” but that on occasion he will “make an introduction.”
Former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, a Democrat who served under President George W. Bush, told POLITICO it “happened a lot” that lawmakers asked him to meet with constituents traveling to Washington, “and then you would meet with them.” Mineta said a request from a member of Congress would carry additional weight, regardless of what state that member was from.
“Of course you’re going to meet with people from your home state,” added a former DOT official from the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about the department she once worked for.
But Evers from American Oversight contended that in these emails, Chao’s staff appear to go out of their way to make McConnell’s Kentucky contacts “feel special.” In one March 2017 email to Inman, requesting a meeting between Chao and the group Kentuckians for Better Transportation, Carmack suggested that if Chao herself couldn’t make it, perhaps “an assistant secretary or 2” could. “That way it is not taking up the Secretary’s time but they feel special,” Carmack continued.
Inman had previously told Carmack that Chao’s office was planning to decline the meeting. But the meeting later appeared on Chao’s calendar for the following May 17.
A POLITICO review of two months of Chao’s calendar over her first 14 months in office doesn’t reveal a particular preference for Kentucky visitors — in more than 100 meetings and phone calls with people outside the executive branch, none had an apparent Kentucky connection.
Still, Evers highlighted two instances when DOT’s Inman instructed McConnell staffers to flag requests from Kentuckians for him in addition to sending them to Chao’s schedulers, “to make sure we take an extra look at” them.
“The Secretary has indicated if you have a [Kentucky] specific issue that we should flag for her attention to please continue to go through your normal channels but feel free to contact me directly as well so we can monitor or follow up as necessary,” Inman wrote to McConnell’s then-chief of staff, Brian McGuire, in an email from Feb. 28, 2017.
“There’s a normal channel and a Kentucky channel,” Evers said. “It would be surprising if there was also an Arizona channel and a California channel.”
And, on a tentative list of staff duties Inman shared with McConnell’s office soon after he started, “Kentucky” is listed as one of Inman’s responsibilities. No other state is included in any of the other 26 staffers’ list of duties.
Inman, who became Chao’s chief of staff last month, was a Republican political operative in Kentucky before joining DOT. He communicated frequently with McConnell staff for most of his first year in the job, until an assistant secretary for government affairs was confirmed.
The email cache is also sprinkled with instances of McConnell staffers referring to meeting-seekers’ personal ties to the couple and their status as GOP supporters.
In one email thread from March 2017, McConnell’s staff describes Hart County, Ky., Judge/Executive Terry Martin — the county’s top elected leader — as a “loyal supporter” and “friend.”
Chao met with Martin two weeks later and again a year later.
She met on March 20, 2017, with representatives from the Pennyrile Area Development District, who had gotten similar praise, and who were interested in discussing their long-running priority of redesignating the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway as Interstate 169. President Donald Trump signed a bill designating I-169, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), into law in May 2017.
In another February 2017 email exchange, Carmack asked Inman to set up a meeting with two Kentucky county judge/executives who wanted to talk about bridge and highway problems in their counties. “Always value your input,” Inman responded.
Harlan County Judge/Executive Dan Mosley, who met in April 2017 with Chao about widening and improving a flood-prone stretch of U.S. 421,said in an interview with POLITICO that Chao was “one of the smartest people I’ve ever met” and that “her commitment to transportation issues” was evident in their meeting. After they met, a Federal Highway Administration official came to evaluate the project, and eventually the  state allocated  $800,000 to start the project, Mosley told POLITICO.
Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore, who asked for and, in June 2018, received a $68 million DOT grant for two interstate interchanges,said he met with Chao and asked for her support for the grant at his December 2017 meeting with her. Boone County had been seeking a federal grant for this since at least 2017.
Cooperation between the two offices goes in both directions, the emails indicate. In May 2017, a group of real estate company representatives and public officials from China enjoyed a Capitol tour organized jointly by Chao’s and McConnell’s offices. The group “was thrilled to get the VIP treatment by [McConnell’s] office and were particularly excited to hear that the leader’s office was normally off limits to normal guests,” said Melissa Fwu from Chao’s office, in an email to a McConnell aide.
Oversight groups aren’t just worried about the meetings Chao is granting, however. A new, previously unreleased report from the watchdog group Restore Public Trust questions the 2018 choice of a town of about 25,000 residents situated near the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers, as the site of a new DOT maritime gateway office intended to help coordinate between port operators and government bodies to help improve freight movement on inland waterways.
Paducah is the smallest city to host one of DOT’s 10 maritime gateway offices. The nine other such offices are in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Miami.
“This is the kind of stuff the American public hates,” said Caroline Ciccone, executive director of Restore Public Trust, adding that a “prudent elected official” will avoid favoritism “not just because it looks bad, it’s because it is bad.”
But a DOT spokesperson who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the department chose Paducah because it’s “always been a natural hub for regional inland waterway traffic,” given its proximity to four major rivers and the presence of “more U.S.-flag inland waterway operators than anywhere else in the nation.” The low cost of living also made it attractive, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said a strategic analysis, undertaken by the Maritime Administration in 2015, resulted in a decision to close one of two gateway offices in California in favor of one on the inland waterways to support the St. Louis office. Paducah was chosen out of five inland waterway locations that were evaluated.
Deb Calhoun, senior vice president of the Waterways Council, called Paducah “the epicenter of the inland marine industry.”
“Many of the major inland operators have offices in Paducah,” she told POLITICO. “There is a maritime training center. And each year, hundreds of inland marine related companies gather for an annual river industry awards event.”

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Not sure that TOTUS has viewed Star Wars but this seems to echo the declaration by Jar Jar Binks to give emergency powers to the Chancellor (who as you may remember is the Evil emperor), who stated upon acceptance that he would give those powers up upon the end of the “crisis”. Not seeing that happen with this Leader(?). MA
Christopher Wilson 36 minutes ago

In a rambling, teleprompter-free diatribe, President Trump announced that he was declaring a national emergency in order to build a wall at the southern border.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden Friday morning, after a long digression in which he touched on trade policy with China, the war on ISIS and other subjects, Trump announced he would take executive action to divert federal money to declare a national emergency for “virtual invasion purposes.” In doing so, he brought up many of the discredited arguments he has been relying on over the last several months. He said drugs coming across the southern border don’t come through official ports of entry (not true), that El Paso, Texas, was dangerous before the construction of a wall (not true) and that women are being trafficked across the unguarded portions of the border (no evidence exists of this). Trump also disputed studies that have found undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born citizens.
An emergency declaration would allow Trump to divert funds appropriated for other purposes to build the wall. Trump has said he would shift the money from “far less important” government programs, including the Department of Defense. A Pentagon official told the New York Times that one likely scenario would be to divert up to $2.5 billion in counternarcotics funds to the Army Corps of Engineers.
This is a departure from Trump’s original campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. The administration did not press for money to build a wall during the two years when Republicans had control of both the Senate and House. Illegal border crossings have declined during that time, and the administration has not explained why the border situation is now an emergency. If, as seems likely, there is a constitutional challenge to the declaration, it may hinge in part on Trump’s admission in his remarks that “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this.”
A deadlock with Congress over border security issues led to the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month. Congress passed a continuing resolution Thursday to fund the government and avert a second shutdown, and Trump has agreed to sign it, but he made no mention of it in his remarks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the option of triggering a vote on Trump’s declaration, forcing Republicans to go on the record about whether they support the emergency wall. Two Democratic representatives, Joaquin Castro of Texas and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have already announced plans to introduce a resolution that would terminate the emergency declaration.
But even if the declaration survives congressional challenges over appropriations, actually building the wall could face legal challenges from landowners along the border whose property would need to be acquired. Trump acknowledged that this act would likely face a legal challenge that could reach the Supreme Court.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was supportive of Trump declaring a national emergency, many of his Republican colleagues were less enthusiastic. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called it a “bad idea,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said it was “of dubious constitutionality” and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, “It would be a pretty dramatic expansion of how this was used in the past.”
On Thursday, Pelosi warned that a future Democratic president could use the precedent of declaring a national emergency for other purposes, such as gun control, citing the anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting that left 17 dead.
“Because if the president can declare an emergency on something that he’s created as an emergency, an illusion he wants to convey, just think what a president with different values could present to the American people,” said Pelosi. “You want to talk about a national emergency? Let’s talk about today. The one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would. But a Democratic president can do that. A Democratic president can declare emergencies as well.”
All the major network and cable news outlets carried Trump’s Rose Garden announcement live. But as the president’s rambling speech wore on, CBS cut away and returned to its regularly scheduled programming — which, on the East Coast, was “The Price Is Right.” Trump’s declaration of a national emergency came hours before he was scheduled to depart the White House for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., for the weekend.


It is worth remembering that Steven Miller is a major architect of the negative influence in the trump administration regarding Race. MA
Mary Papenfuss, HuffPost 9 hours ago

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller tried mightily to bulldoze Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday as the host sharply fact-checked him on President Donald Trump’s reasons for declaring a national emergency so he can build his border wall.
Wallace began by challenging Miller with a quote Friday from Trump, who conceded: “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather [build the wall] much faster.”
Wallace turned to Miller: “How does that justify a national emergency?”
Miller cited a “crisis” at the border with an “increasing number of people crossing the border.”
“Let’s look at the facts,” Wallace responded.
He pointed to statistics highlighted on a screen that illegal border crossings were less than 25 percent of figures from 19 years ago. He also noted that nearly 90 percent of illegal drugs coming across the border enter via ports of entry, where walls don’t — and won’t — exist.
Miller responded that no one, including the administration, knows who is dodging detection. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said.

Wallace also pressed Miller, who considers himself a staunch defender of the Constitution, to provide a single example of another president invoking national emergency powers to get money that Congress denied him through the appropriations process.
As Miller dodged the issue, Wallace again pressed: “Answer my question,” then: “Yes or no, sir?”
Wallace noted that of the 59 times the 1976 National Emergencies Act was invoked by a president, only two were for military construction funds, which Trump plans to use: during the Gulf War and after 9/11.
“That’s hardly comparable to either of those,” Wallace said. Wallace read the article as shown below:

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7. No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time. 1. 

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Listen· 3:10
3:10February 17, 20198:12 AM ET
Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday
Glynis Board
Tariffs announced by the Trump administration have led to a glut of milk in the United States. Food pantries are suffering because they’re deluged with milk and have no way to store or distribute it.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Got milk? Food banks in the United States are overflowing with it, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The cause of the oversupply is the U.S.’s trade disputes. The federal government has been buying up surplus milk to help out dairy farmers hurt by the trade wars, which has led to the glut at food banks. Glynis Board of the Ohio Valley ReSource team tells us more.
GLYNIS BOARD, BYLINE: At Facing Hunger Food Bank, Executive Director Cyndi Kirkhart steps into her agency’s walk-in refrigerator in Huntington, W.Va.
CYNDI KIRKHART: This is the only cooler we have. So this is Kentucky milk, and this is West Virginia.
BOARD: There’s not very much space.
KIRKHART: No.
BOARD: There’s so much milk, they’ve often had to store it inside their refrigerated trucks and keep them running all night. Every couple of weeks since November, Kirkhart’s operation has gotten about 8,000 half-gallon cartons of milk.
KIRKHART: We never have received what we refer to as fluid milk, which is fresh milk.
BOARD: Donations from the federal government are normal, but products usually have a long shelf life – months or years. Milk lasts maybe two weeks.
The dairy industry is already producing plenty of surplus milk, and recent trade disputes with the Trump administration made the situation worse. Jim Goodman is a former dairy farmer who now heads up the National Farm Coalition (ph).
JIM GOODMAN: Twenty-five percent of our dairy exports probably go to China. And probably another 25 percent of them goes to Mexico. Both of those countries put a tariff on in response to the steel and aluminum tariffs.
BOARD: The Trump administration released $12 billion last year to bail out farmers. Ten percent of that was put toward purchasing commodities, like milk, to be distributed for hunger relief.
JOSHUA LOHNES: Whose responsibility is it to get rid of this milk?
BOARD: Joshua Lohnes is a researcher at West Virginia University. He explains the donated perishable food doesn’t come with money to offset extra administrative costs associated with storage and distribution.
LOHNES: It costs the food banks $2 a mile to deliver this, quote, unquote, “free food” across this vast, rural landscape. So they are advocating, you know, with our state legislators and the powers that be at the Department of Ag to try to figure out how to not have all of this surplus pretty much tank their operation.
BOARD: In Huntington, Kirkhart says food banks like hers do get some federal financial support for administrative costs, but it doesn’t match the increases in overhead created by perishable donations.
Still, she feels she has to accept them, despite logistical difficulties, because the need in her region is so great. Two hundred and eighty-five thousand people throughout West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio are food insecure.
KIRKHART: We’re going to keep on keeping on. And I know that we have a lot of love in this community around our service area, and people will help us through because that’s what Appalachians do.
BOARD: Even if accepting these donations threatens her food bank’s continued existence.

For NPR News, I’m Glynis Board in Huntington, W.Va.
Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at http://www.npr.org for further information.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio

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Ann Coulter is spouting off because she can and wants Trump to know that she is unhappy that he caved on the shutdown.MA
Amy Russo, HuffPost Fri, Feb 15 12:26 PM CST

President Donald Trump’s former hardline supporter Ann Coulter is continuing to turn on him, slamming his national emergency declaration as a way to “scam the stupidest people in his base.”
Coulter, who some have speculated influenced Trump’s decision to stand firm in his demands for border wall funding last December as the federal government spiraled into a shutdown, has been visibly furious with the president ever since he backed down.
In two posts on Twitter Friday, the right-winger claimed Trump’s latest move was all for show:

Ann Coulter
✔ @AnnCoulter

No, the goal of a national emergency is for Trump to scam the stupidest people in his base for 2 more years.

Daniel Horowitz @RMConservative
The goal of a national emergency is to end illegal immigration and cartel smuggling. Building 100-200 miles of fencing gradually will not do it. With this new amnesty,they UACs will come anywhere including points of entry and not only get amnesty for themselves but for those here
29.8K
1:55 AM – Feb 15, 2019
Twitter Ads info and

Ann Coulter
✔ @AnnCoulter

The goal is to get Trump’s stupidest voters to say “HE’S FIGHTING!” No he’s not. If he signs this bill, it’s over.

Daniel Horowitz @RMConservative
The goal of a national emergency is to end illegal immigration and cartel smuggling. Building 100-200 miles of fencing gradually will not do it. With this new amnesty,they UACs will come anywhere including points of entry and not only get amnesty for themselves but for those here

Asked Friday about the power of conservative media over his decision-making, Trump claimed not to know Coulter, much to the surprise of many Twitter users who reacted in astonishment and amusement on the social media platform.
Aside from Coulter, a handful of Trump’s Fox News allies initially expressed frustration with the congressional deal on border security, which the president intends to sign.
On Monday night shortly after the agreement was announced, Sean Hannity trashed it as a “garbage compromise” and Laura Ingraham called it “pathetic.” Lou  Dobbs echoed the disapproval, tweeting that it was “an insult to @POTUS and the American people.”
The proposal will give the president $1.375 billion for his border wall while slashing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds by roughly 17 percent. Trump plans to get ahold of billions more in border funding with his national emergency.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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By Brendan Cole On 1/11/19 at 8:10 AM
Vice President Mike Pence once condemned the declaration of a national emergency in the face of congressional opposition, it has emerged.
As President Donald Trump continues to threaten declaring national emergency over funding for his wall, Pence criticized the attempt by former president, Barack Obama, to do the same thing during a quarrel over immigration reform.
Read more: The shutdown crisis is far worse than either party realizes
Back then, Obama issued an executive order to stop five million immigrants from being deported, after facing opposition from the Republicans who at the time controlled Congress and the Senate.

Pence, who was then the governor of Indiana, said the Obama’s actions were “not leadership” which, he argued, could only come with “finding common ground,” USA Today reported.
“I believe that issues of this magnitude should always be resolved with the consent of the governed,” Pence said in 2014 on a Republican Governors Association panel.
“Signing an executive order, giving a speech, barnstorming around the country defending that executive order is not leadership, the likes of which we practice every day. I would implore the president to reconsider this path,” he said.
Obama faced fierce criticism from Republicans for acting unilaterally, and saw his plan rejected by the Supreme Court in 2016.
But this week Pence continued to defend any prospective unilateral action by Trump, who, he said, had “an absolute right to declare a national emergency.”
Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah told USA Today in a statement that the Democrats had refused to negotiate and are “holding the government hostage.”
“As the Vice President said in 2014, and countless times during this current shutdown, House and Senate Democrats must be willing to negotiate a solution for the American people,” Farah said.
The White House is looking to use money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget and a disaster spending bill that includes $13.9 billion allocated for civil works projects to meet the cost of the wall, NBC News reported.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that lawmakers from both parties are bracing themselves for the declaration with the Democrats looking at their options on how to respond.

Related Stories:
NBC Correspondent Confronts Mike Pence on Border Policy
Pence Suggests Thousands of Terrorists Cross the Border
Trump Joins Wall Supporters Mocking CNN’s Jim Acosta
Trump is taking legal advice over how he might declare a national emergency and use it to divert funds to meet the $5.7 billion that he seeks for the border wall.

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ONGOING MISMANAGEMENT OF GOVERNMENT.MA.

By Erin.Banco@thedailybeast.com (Erin Banco) betsy.woodruff@thedailybeast.com (Betsy Woodruff) 4 hrs ago
Two teams of federal officials assembled to fight foreign election interference are being dramatically downsized, according to three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020.
“The clear assessment from the intelligence community is that 2020 is going to be the perfect storm,” said a DHS official familiar with the teams. “We know Russia is going to be engaged. Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations. So it’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.”
The task forces, part of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), were assembled in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. One focuses in part on securing election infrastructure and the other focuses on foreign influence efforts, including social media disinformation campaigns.
One of the task forces is now half the size it was a few months ago, according to two DHS officials familiar with the task forces, and there’s no indication that DHS senior political leadership will staff it up or sustain it. Instead, there are concerns it will completely wither away. The other task force also shrunk significantly shortly after the midterms, according to that official, and before its members produced a thorough assessment of what happened during the 2018 elections.
“Our key allies are wondering why the U.S. is not more coordinated and not more proactive in dealing with this,” said the DHS official. “They don’t understand why the U.S. is not getting its act together.”
A DHS spokesperson confirmed that some people have been taken off the task forces and moved to other roles in the department. The spokesperson added that the department is bringing on new people to do election security work.
“As recently as this morning, Director Krebs confirmed election security remains a priority for CISA in his testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, laying out the Agency’s plan to work with State and local election officials on broader engagement, better defining risk to election systems, and understanding the resources to manage that risk,” said Sara Sendek, the DHS spokesperson. “In the run up to the 2018 elections, DHS staffed the newly created elections task force and countering foreign influence task force by temporarily assigning personnel from across the Department. The work of these taskforces continues to this day and is being institutionalized as a permanent effort. While some of the personnel who were brought on to serve on these task forces in temporary assignments have returned to their regular roles, we are also currently hiring new employees into permanent election positions to build out our team and support our efforts for 2020 and beyond.”
One lawmaker with knowledge of the formation of CISA said the task forces were never intended to be permanent.
“In some sense it’s not surprising that these changes are happening,” he said. “There was nothing set in stone that said these teams were going to stay in formation. At least that was my understanding.”
Others said they found the change concerning.
“The Trump administration intelligence chiefs in their worldwide threat assessment clearly stated that the use of the influence operations from countries like Russia, China and Iran pose a significant threat to the country,” said John Cohen, the former deputy under secretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS. “If these reports are true, it’s highly disturbing that the department and the administration is not more focused on dealing with that threat.”
The election task force has worked to shield election infrastructure from foreign efforts to change vote counts. And the foreign influence task force is working to publicly reveal efforts by foreign actors to shape American political discourse on social media––in the hopes of significantly expanding Americans’ understanding of the threat. It was also designed to improve DHS’s coordination with foreign allies who face the same threat, and to help DHS better alert the private sector about threats.
The changes to the task forces may make it harder for them to realize those goals, current and former officials say.
“It won’t be 2016 all over again––the threat is changing,” said a former DHS official. “A thinly staffed task force working on that is not going to be equipped to keep up with the adversary.”
A few weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson determined that DHS was responsible for helping protect election infrastructure––meaning polling places, voting machines, voter databases, and all the other components that make elections happen. The new, complex undertaking involved scores of state and local governments. A few years in, the department is still getting its footing. So the changes detailed here have people close to the department deeply concerned.
“Because it’s a very difficult task and because DHS has never done it before, there’s a lot of catching up to do,” said the former DHS official. “Even with a fully resourced effort, that would be an extremely tall task. But having it be deprioritized and lacking access to senior leadership, it’s virtually impossible.”
That said, these changes appear to reflect the White House’s disinterest in beefing up election security, according to Paul Rosenzweig, formerly deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS.
“If the president isn’t interested and there is no strategy, it’s no surprise that DHS is not wasting its time,” said Rosenzweig, now a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. “The failure of the White House to take this seriously is perhaps its single most significant dereliction of duty.”
The White House press briefing on Aug. 2, 2018 focused on election security, and the Trump administration has sanctioned Russian individuals and entities in retaliation for the 2016 election meddling.
“Since the beginning of his administration, President Trump has implemented a whole-of-government approach to safeguard our nation’s elections,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time. “The President has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation-state or other dangerous actor.”
Before the midterms, both task forces reported directly to Chris Krebs, the Senate-confirmed director of CISA. But after the midterms, that changed. Now, they report to an official who is much lower in the chain of command. The shift could seriously inhibit their effectiveness, according to one of the DHS officials, and suggests their work is not a top priority for DHS political leadership.
Krebs testified on Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee. The hearing focused on election security infrastructure and partnerships between DHS and state election officials.
Congressional staff reached out to CISA about the task forces before Krebs’ hearing as part of their preparation, according to a person with knowledge of the committee’s work.
But Krebs did not directly address the reorganization or the shrinking size of the CISA task forces. Instead, he said his team needed to do more to secure the upcoming 2020 elections.
“While 2018 is behind us, the 2020 election season is already underway. We are clear eyed that the threat to our democratic institutions remain and we must continue to press for increased security,” he said. “Just like any other IT system, the election infrastructure bears additional securing and resilience measures.”
Later in the hearing, Krebs said American voters need to be more sophisticated about disinformation campaigns.
“We have to do more awareness building in this country as we’re just deluged with information,” he said. “We got to have people thinking, ‘Where is this information coming from? And why is it coming to me?’”
Inside DHS, staffers are frustrated that emphasis on election security has dwindled as the focus on border security has exploded. One staffer told The Daily Beast that officials working on election security have discussed ways to get the message to the White House, but found no one willing to bring it up directly with Trump.
“It’s very clear which direction we’re headed in DHS,” one staffer told The Daily Beast. “Everything, it seems, is dictated by someone higher up the chain who is making it abundantly clear to the rest of us that immigration and border security are the real focuses.”
A member of the DHS Advisory Council, a group of individuals in the public and private sectors that provide the secretary with guidance on DHS policy, echoed those concerns. The member told The Daily Beast that the calls with Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen over the past six months have focused on the migrant caravan and the need for increased border security.
“Increasingly, the administration’s own information seems to undercut their argument that conditions at the southern border represent a national security crisis,” Cohen said. “So, it’s unclear why they would focus more resources on the border than dealing with what the intelligence committee has identified as a significant  national security threat.”

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Ongoing mischaracterizations, exaggerations and ultimately lies by TOTUS who has never stopped campaigning from day One. Following him is like lemmings to the sea, no good end. MA.

Jenna Amatulli
HuffPost February 12, 2019

President Donald Trump told the crowd at his rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday that he got special permission from the El Paso Fire Department to let 10,000 people inside the El Paso County Coliseum.
El Paso Fire Department spokesman Enrique D Aguilar told The El Paso Times that not only did the fire department not give Trump special permission, but the Coliseum had about 6,500 people in it during the president’s rally. Aguilar says that number was at capacity and well within its standard allowance.
The spokesman added that “it might be 10,000 with the people outside” total, but the fire department didn’t track the number of people outside the venue. While the number Trump quoted about his attendees might not have been far off, he blatantly lied that he got special permission, according to Aguilar.
“Now the arena holds 8,000,” said Trump, during the rally. “And thank you, fire department. They got in about 10,000. Thank you, fire department. Appreciate it.”
Trump also claimed 75,000 people signed up to attend the rally, according to ABC News. The rally was dedicated to advocating for the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and didn’t do much to mend the relationship between officials in the city and the president.
Trump’s has previously claimed El Paso was one of the country’s most dangerous cities prior to the construction of a government-sanctioned fence dividing the city and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico. Additionally, Trump’s campaign has even circulated a video that alleges he made the city safer.
El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the country, as per the New York Times. The publication notes that the city “has had a consistently lower crime rate than the average among more than 20 similarly sized cities, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who had previously challenged Republicans for a Senate seat, and other El Paso leaders led a counter-demonstration to Trump’s rally on Monday. Trump addressed their protest at the rally and bloviated about the number of people in attendance yet again:
“A young man who’s got very little going for himself, except he’s got a great first name… He challenged us. So, we have let’s, say, 35,000 people tonight. And he has 200 people, 300 people. Not too good,” said Trump, who then said of O’Rourke:
“In fact, what I’d do, what I would say is that may be the end of his presidential bid.”
Estimates of how many people were at O’Rourke’s protest aren’t exact, but the number appears to be at least 5,000, according to several reports

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Border Towns ‘Safer Than Any City Trump Has Lived In,’ Says Texas Congressman
People “need to look at FBI stats and reality,” and the “fallacy” about border crime needs to end, Rep. Vincent Gonzalez said.

By Mary Papenfuss
Rep. Vincente Gonzalez (D-Texas) tore into President Donald Trump’s fake narrative that U.S. border towns are lawless frontiers, declaring that they’re in fact “safer than any city the president has ever lived in.”
The border town of McAllen, Texas (population 145,000), in Gonzalez’s district didn’t have a single homicide last year, the congressman pointed out in an interview Saturday on MSNBC.
“The reality is McAllen is one of the safest cities in America,” Gonzalez said. “In fact, we’re the seventh safest city in America. We had zero murders the year of 2018.”
He added: “I can assure you McAllen is safer than any city the president has ever lived in. It’s much safer than New York City, it’s much safer than Washington, D.C. I could walk around the middle of the night in the city of McAllen without a single threat … this campaign rhetoric that has continued for two years really needs to stop. People need to look at FBI stats and reality.”
Gonzalez encouraged Trump to visit cities that actually have high crime rates, naming Detroit and Little Rock, and “spending efforts to … lower crime rates in areas that really need it.”

A major report on crime in Texas Monthly in 2015 deemed the border towns of the Rio Grande Valley as “extremely safe.” Border counties, regardless of population, have lower rates for homicides, violent crime and property crimes than non-border counties in the nation, according to FBI crime statistics for 2017.
Gonzalez said that Trump’s “rhetoric is based on fallacy that he’s fed to his right-wing base that seem to eat it up.”
The congressman’s comments are part of a rising tide of Trump administration criticism along the American border from residents angered by the president’s characterization of their cities as dangerous.
In his State of the Union address, Trump called El Paso, Texas, one of the nation’s “most dangerous” cities — until a border barrier was built. El Paso has actually been one of America’s safest cities over three decades, according to crime statistics. The border barrier was built in 2008. El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles, called Trump’s statements “falsehoods” that he’s using in an “attempt to build a 2,000-mile wall.”
Trump is speaking at his first campaign rally in El Paso on Monday. A major protest headlined by former hometown Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke and the Trump baby blimp is planned for the same time.

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Billionaires like Eddy Lampert have and continue to enrich themselves by ruining long established companies, then filing for bankruptcy protection and all but stealing the jobs and pensions of thousands of U.S. workers. While our neer do well Congress and more useless Commander in Thief do and say nothing.MA
By Natalie Sherman
Business reporter, New York
3 February 2019
As a wave of bankruptcies hits the retail sector, workers want to know why their bosses are coming out ahead.
The fall of Sears, once an icon of American retail might, has hit Bruce Miller hard.
The 56-year-old started at the department store out of high school, rising to be a senior auto technician.
But since Sears closed his New Jersey location last April, he has lost his health insurance and his house. Now his pension is at risk.
For Mr Miller’s bosses, however, fortunes look brighter.
Veteran journalist Michelle Celarier has estimated that longtime Sears chairman and former chief executive Eddie Lampert has made nearly $1.4bn (£1.1bn) off his investment in the company, thanks to performance fees, dividends and other payments.
Meanwhile, its top 340 executives were collectively granted a potential $25m in bonuses in December, just months after the firm declared bankruptcy.
“It’s utterly ridiculous to me,” says Mr Miller, who is now relying on odd jobs to help pay bills. “How can you reward somebody for driving a business into the ground?”
Laments like Mr. Miller’s have surfaced repeatedly in recent years, amid a wave of bankruptcies in the US retail sector that has claimed household names such as Toys R Us, Payless Shoe Source and Nine West.
Much of the blame has focused on the disruption caused by online shopping.
But analysts say many of the firms have another feature in common: investors who took control of the retailers, loaded them with debt, and extracted fees, dividends and other assets for their own benefit.
What went wrong on the High Street in 2018?
Sears retail chain in $5.2bn rescue plan
Sears, for example, spent millions purchasing its own stock – inflating prices in a win for shareholders such as Mr Lampert, who became chair of the firm in 2005, after arranging its merger with Kmart.
Sears later borrowed more than $2bn from his hedge fund, ESL Investments, as it struggled to remain in operation.
It also sold off parts of the business, including hundreds of properties and the mail-order catalogue Lands End, to companies affiliated with Mr Lampert.
Sears is now a shadow of its former self, having closed almost 3,000 stores and cut more than 250,000 jobs since 2007.

Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, says those deals limited Sears’ ability to invest in the future – just as the need to compete with online shopping made those investments critical.
That is a pattern seen repeatedly in the recent retail failings, she said.
“They want to blame everything that happens on Amazon,” she says. “The fact that they have starved these organisations of resources … that’s the real story.”
‘Years-long scheme’
ESL has defended its actions, saying “all transactions were done in good faith, on fair terms” in order to keep Sears in business.
It said it was confident that its process for reviewing deals for conflicts of interest was “unimpeachable”.
The firm is now offering to buy Sears out of bankruptcy for $5.2bn.
The plan could keep 425 stores open and retain up to 45,000 jobs.
But several groups owed money have asked the court to reject the proposal, which is funded in part by forgiving some debt owed to his hedge fund.
They cite concerns like those of Ms. Appelbaum and Mr Miller’s.
“ESL’s current bid to ‘save’ the company is nothing but the final fulfilment of a years-long scheme to deprive Sears and its creditors of assets and its employees of jobs while lining Lampert’s and ESL’s own pockets,” attorneys for a group of unsecured creditors wrote.
‘Apply pressure’
Outside court, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, has weighed in with similar questions, as have Sears workers.
At a rally in New York this month, they accused Mr Lampert of driving the firm to failure and asked the court to require that money be set aside for workers in the event of future layoffs, among other demands.
“We want to apply pressure in a big way,” Mr Miller says. “Somebody’s going to have to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we’ve got to fix this situation.'”
A similar campaign by Toys R Us workers last summer successfully shamed former private equity owners KKR and Bain Capital into creating a $20m severance fund.
But that was an exception, contingent on those firms’ largesse.

Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote to Eddie Lampert, saying “it appears that you have enriched yourself while driving the company into bankruptcy”
Analysts said bankruptcy judges are often reluctant to challenge plans that would keep a business open – even in cases with as many potential conflicts of interest as Sears.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has taken a hands-off regulatory approach, even as issuance of loans to firms with weak credit soars to record levels, driven by strong investor demand for debt.
Who will the ‘retail apocalypse’ claim in 2018?
Three things that could save the High Street
Carrie Gleason, who helped organise the worker campaigns as a policy director for Organization United for Respect, says the Toys R Us bankruptcy marked a “breaking point” for broader awareness of the way business strategies contributed to retailer failings.
But with retail’s struggles expected to continue, more pressure is needed to bring change, Ms. Gleason says.
“This is not going to be the last [bankruptcy],” she says.
“They’re going to keep coming and ultimately what we need are some new protections.”

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