Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
Trump's malignant narcissism makes it difficult for him to understand that things impact other people. It's a trait that makes him uniquely unqualified to govern, and is presently leading him down a potentially disastrous path with his clumsy scheme to undermine the Postal Service in order to make it unable to handle a surge in absentee ballots. We can't know what's going on in Trump's head, but it seems likely that he simply does not understand that he can't sabotage the Postal Service's ability to deliver ballots in a timely manner--and stick it to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in retaliation for The Washington Post's reporting--without also screwing over active service-members, rural communities, people waiting for their Social Security checks and medications, etc.
Trump's committing this crime with his trademark subtlety. He installed a wingnut Republican donor and party activist who holds investments in companies that compete with the USPS as Postmaster General. That donor, Louis DeJoy , has overseen new measures to limit overtime, removed hundreds of mail sorting machines from processing centers, cut Post Office hours and pulled up mailboxes in various states. And this has become one of the rare stories of Trump's corruption that's getting sustained attention from the press.
Nice catch by @stevebenen on USPS head DeJoy In 2017, the RNC announced 4 national finance chairs: Steve Wynn (acc… https://t.co/6IZfzXE5ln— Wendy Siegelman (@Wendy Siegelman) 1597490131.0
The most likely scenario is that the backlash forces Trump to back down. If not, this is the kind of thing that might eventually penetrate the media bubble Trump's die-hard supporters inhabit. When important mail stops showing up in a timely fashion like it used to, it's hard not to notice.
That isn't to suggest that this will finally be the thing that craters Trump's support. We're too polarized, and most of Trump's supporters have been exposed to years of right-wing propaganda about Democrats supposedly committing widespread fraud to steal elections. But it doesn't have to. A decline of just a couple of percentage points in Trump's share of the vote might be the difference between a modest defeat and a crushing loss that reverberates up and down the ballot.
Don't look away--these are your tax dollars at work...
Guards in an immigrant detention center in El Paso sexually assaulted and harassed inmates in a “pattern and practice” of abuse, according to a complaint filed by a Texas advocacy group urging the local district attorney and federal prosecutors to conduct a criminal investigation.
The allegations, detailed in a filing first obtained by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, maintain that guards systematically assaulted at least three people in a facility overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — often in areas of the detention center not visible to security cameras. The guards told victims that no one would believe them because footage did not exist and the harassment involved officers as high-ranking as a lieutenant.
According to the complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and shared with prosecutors, several guards “forcibly” kissed and touched the intimate parts of at least one woman. She faces deportation next week — meaning investigators could lose a key witness. Her attorneys have requested that immigration officials pause her deportation pending a review of the matter. [ProPublica/ Texas Tribune]
The regime's backdoor immigration ban continues apace.
With talks over a covid relief package collapsed, it seems very likely U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services wi… https://t.co/n1K5tXecyw— Michelle Hackman (@Michelle Hackman) 1597157334.0
We've featured a number of stories about industries that normally push for deregulation opposing the Trump regime's regulatory rollbacks as too extreme. It has been one of the odder under-the-radar stories of this era.
Here's another, via NPR...
Despite opposition from the oil and gas industry it aims to help, the Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule designed to reduce climate-warming methane emissions.
Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas. But when it's released before it burns, say from a leaky valve at a drilling site, it's far more potent than carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the oil and gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the United States.
The Trump administration rule would eliminate a 2016 requirement that oil and gas companies monitor and limit methane leaks from wells, compressor stations and other operations.
But some large oil companies want the Obama rules left in place.
Shell, BP and the Exxon Mobil Corp. have big natural gas portfolios. They worry that if methane emissions aren't controlled that could undermine arguments that natural gas is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel than coal.
The Trump regime ordered hospitals to stop reporting data to the CDC and instead send it directly to the Department of Health and Human Services.
It isn't going well.
"In a letter, public health advisers to the US government said they are 'extremely concerned' and 'troubled' by the Trump administration's decision to change how hospitals report Covid-19 data," reports CNN.
According to The New York Times, "the private health care technology vendor that is helping to manage the Trump administration’s new coronavirus database has refused to answer questions from top Senate Democrats about its $10.2 million contract, saying it signed a nondisclosure agreement with the federal Department of Health and Human Services."
And in related news, HHS's Chief Information Officer, a career civil servant, "resigned unexpectedly Friday," according to Politico. "[José] Arrieta and his team have been under considerable pressure inside and outside the administration, after HHS in July ordered hospitals to bypass the CDC when reporting certain coronavirus data."
Filed under 'only the best people'...
You may recall that the Trump regime removed the State Department's well-respected Inspector General, Steve Linick, in May after it was reported that Linick was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's luxurious taxpayer-funded travel, and the Trump regime's arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (Linick was replaced by an "acting" IG, Stephen Ackard, who served for less than three months before being replaced by another acting IG, Diana Shaw, just last week.)
Anyway, with your financial assistance, Pompeo and his wife are jet-setting around Europe this week, including making a stop in beautiful Vienna.
And according to Politico, "The State Department did not fully consider the risk of civilian casualties when it approved more than $8 billion in arms sales to Middle Eastern countries last year, according to a redacted inspector general report released Tuesday. An unredacted version of the report...also raised questions about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertions that an emergency situation existed, allowing him to greenlight the sales over congressional objections."
And Rep Eliot L. Engel, the Democratic Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, accused the State Department of spinning the IG's report in a statement released on Tuesday...
"I’ve learned that Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper, as a ‘senior State Department official,’ briefed press this afternoon on the Inspector General report on last year’s phony emergency declaration used to push through more than $8 billion in arms sales to Gulf countries. This report, which hasn’t been provided to Congress or released to the public, is the work of the Office of Inspector General. The people briefing the press were the subjects of the IG’s probe, not the report’s authors. This obvious pre-spin of the findings reeks of an attempt to distract and mislead. Mike Pompeo is pulling directly from the Bill Barr playbook.
“It’s worth noting that recent testimony directly contradicts statements Mr. Cooper made to Congress about the emergency declaration during an appearance before the Committee on Foreign Affairs last year. He has also ignored requests to appear for an on-record interview as part of the joint committee investigation into the firing of former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
And on an optimistic note, these people could all end up being prosecuted if we end up with a functioning Department of Justice...
The Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a bipartisan letter to the Justice Department asking federal prosecutors to investigate Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump confidante, for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election...
It also raised concerns about testimony provided by family members and confidants of President Trump that appeared to contradict information provided by a former deputy campaign chairman to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Those it identified as providing such conflicting testimony were the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks...
“As you are aware, the Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” the letter states. “As part of that inquiry, and as a result of witness interviews and document production, we now have reason to believe that the following individuals may have committed a criminal act.”
The letter then names Bannon, the chief executive of the 2016 Trump campaign and later a top White House strategist, and two other men — Erik Prince, a private security contractor, and Sam Clovis, who served as co-chairman of Trump’s campaign.
Criminal referrals from Capitol Hill have been somewhat common since Trump took office in 2017. But this one is rare because it involves the bipartisan leaders of a Senate panel that conducted its own probe without devolving into the partisan bickering that consumed its counterpart in the House of Representatives. [Los Angeles Times]