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Former Sen. Wyden staffer: ‘Most members of Congress have not even seen the secret legal interpretations’ behind FISA

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President Obama’s stated desire for an “open debate and democratic process” about the U.S. government’s surveillance activities met with open disbelief by a prominent former congressional staffer — Jennifer Hoelzer, who recently left service as deputy chief of staff to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) — after the President’s press conference on Friday.

“Really, Mr. President? Do you really expect me to believe that you give a damn about open debate and the democratic process?” Hoelzer wrote in TechDirt. “Because it seems to me if your Administration was really committed those things, your Administration wouldn’t have blocked every effort to have an open debate on these issues each time the laws that your Administration claims authorizes these programs came up for reauthorization, which — correct me if I am wrong — is when the democratic process recommends as the ideal time for these debates.”

For example, Hoelzer noted that she had been explicitly barred earlier this year from publicly discussing her senator’s reasons for opposing a bill that contained a loophole giving the NSA the apparent authority to run searches on Americans without any kind of warrant. Supporters of the legislation, however, were free to issue press releases touting its value to the public.

Hoelzer noted that the most important interpretation of what laws like like the Patriot Act governing surveillance mean is the official interpretation used by the U.S. government. “This interpretation is actually classified,” she wrote.

Legislators largely have no idea what authority the nation’s spies are actually claiming under the laws they’ve passed, Hoelzer argued.

“Congress and the public are prevented from having an informed, open debate on the Patriot Act because the official meaning of the law itself is secret,” Hoelzer wrote, quoting from a 2009 Huffington Post piece co-written by Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall, How Can Congress Debate a Secret Law? “Most members of Congress have not even seen the secret legal interpretations that the executive branch is currently relying on and do not have any staff who are cleared to read them. Even if these members come down to the Intelligence Committee and read these interpretations themselves, they cannot openly debate them on the floor without violating classification rules.”

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Hoelzer had been slated to pen a list of her favorite posts of the week for TechDirt. After hearing Obama’s claim, she reportedly tore up her planned post and spent the evening and most of the night writing the 3400-word broadside, reports of which made the Huffington Post.

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Soccer star slams Trump for attacking her teammate: He hates women he ‘cannot control or grope’

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On Wednesday, U.S. Women's Soccer champion Ali Krieger rebuked President Donald Trump for his attacks on her teammate Megan Rapinoe, saying that the president feels threatened by women that he "cannot control or grope":

In regards to the “President’s” tweet today, I know women who you cannot control or grope anger you, but I stand by @mPinoe & will sit this one out as well. I don’t support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable.

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Justice Department sues Omarosa Manigault Newman over financial disclosures

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The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who campaigned for President Donald Trump and later worked for him in the White House, alleging she failed to file a required public disclosure report after she left 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, claims Manigault Newman "knowingly and willingly" failed to file the financial disclosure report after corresponding multiple times with attorneys for the White House. It accuses her of violating the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA) by not filing the report, which was required because her salary exceeded $124,406, despite several oral and written reminders from White House ethics lawyers.

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Retired admiral could pose serious threat if he decides to run against Iowa Republican: report

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On Wednesday, Iowa Starting Line reported that Ret. Adm. Michael Franken is in talks with state and national Democrats about challenging GOP Sen. Joni Ernst.

Franken, who has served as Deputy for Military Operations for AFRICOM, Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Department of the Navy, hails from Sioux Center, a town in the deeply conservative northwest part of the state.

Ernst, who first gained national attention for her 2014 campaign ad about castrating hogs, is a reliable vote for President Donald Trump in the Senate, and the president's poor approval ratings in Iowa have left Democrats hopeful that they can defeat her.

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