The Grizzled, Stubborn Lawyers Protecting The Environment From Trump

Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, in front of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC in March.KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

By Nick Stockton for Wired – ON HIS FOURTH full day in office, President Trump signed an executive order that was supposed to settle this whole Dakota Access Pipeline thing—no more delays due to protests, no more reconsidering the route because of environmental worries. And for a while, it seemed to work. The protest camps are gone, and the pipe has been pumping oil since March. But Thursday, a federal judge ordered a do-over on the rush-job environmental review Trump ordered back in January. Trump came into office aiming for a blitzkrieg on environmental regulations. He got trench warfare. That’s because firing from the other side of no man’s land is a nimble alliance of environmental groups that have spent decades preparing for the likes of him. You have probably heard of many of them: the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, EarthJustice, and so on. Others are smaller, focused on regional issues—like the Standing Rock Sioux that just won a small victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline. What they all have in common are stubborn, attrition-minded legal teams. Trump’s assault is just a more bombastic version of what these lawyers have weathered under past administrations. And if there’s any green left in the government by 2020, they’ll be the ones responsible.

Trump Rolls Back Civil Rights Efforts Across The Government

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By Jessica Huseman and Annie Waldman for Pro Publica – Previously unannounced directives will limit the Department of Justice’s use of a storied civil rights enforcement tool, and loosen the Department of Education’s requirements on investigations. Elizabeth Hill, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, told ProPublica that the new “enforcement instructions seek to clear out the backlog while giving every complaint the individualized and thorough consideration it deserves.” Lifting the requirement of collecting three years of data will allow complaints to be addressed “much more efficiently and quickly,” she said in an emailed statement. Read the full statement here. For decades, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments, ensuring access for the disabled and defending the religious. Now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ appears to be turning away from this storied tool, called consent decrees. Top officials in the DOJ civil rights division have issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees — which would result in no continuing court oversight.

Statement Of Cuba In Reaction To Trump’s New Cuba Policy

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By Staff of Cuba Min Rex – On June 16, 2017, US President Donald Trump delivered a speech full of hostile anti-Cuban rhetoric reminiscent of the times of open confrontation with our country in a Miami theater. He announced his government’s Cuba policy, which rolls back the progress achieved over the last two years since December 17, 2014, when Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announced the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations and engage in a process towards the normalization of bilateral relations. In what constitutes a setback in the relations between both countries, President Trump, gave a speech and signed a policy directive titled “National Security Presidential Memorandum”, which provides the elimination of private educational “people-to-people” exchanges and greater control over all travelers to Cuba, as well as the prohibition of business, trade and financial transactions between US companies and certain Cuban companies linked to the Armed Revolutionary Forces and the intelligence and security services, under the alleged objective of depriving us from income.

Rex Tillerson Admits US Working Towards Regime Change In Iran

Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson is leading a fight against a subpoena in the Virgin Islands' climate fraud investigation. Credit: Getty Images

By Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani for Mint Press News – Tillerson was asked on Wednesday whether the United States supports regime change inside Iran. He replied in the affirmative, saying that U.S. policy is driven by relying on “elements inside of Iran” to bring about “peaceful transition of that government.” He made the comments in a hearing on the 2018 State Department budget before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asked Tillerson about U.S. policy towards Iran, including whether the U.S. government would sanction the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and whether the U.S. supported “a philosophy of regime change.” “They are doing bad things throughout the world, on behalf of terrorism and destroying human rights of many people,” Poe said, referring to the IRGC. “I’d like to know what the policy is of the U.S. toward Iran. Do we support the current regime? Do we support a philosophy of regime change, peaceful regime change? There are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there’s Iranians in Iran who don’t support the totalitarian state. So is the U.S. position to leave things as they are or set up a peaceful long-term regime change?”

Trump Officials Overseeing Health Care Overhaul Previously Lobbied For Health Insurance Firms

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By Lee Fang for The Intercept – THE POLITICAL APPOINTEES tapped by President Donald Trump to oversee federal health care programs — including the potential transition to a new Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act — joined the government just after working as lobbyists and attorneys for the largest health care interests in America. Several senior Health and Human Services Administration appointees previously worked for insurers seeking to influence the consumer regulations mandated by the ACA, according to new political appointee financial disclosures obtained by The Intercept. The appointees work closely under HHS Secretary Tom Price — a former member of Congress and longtime ACA opponent who has pushed his old colleagues on the Hill to repeal the ACA. Eric Hargan, the nominee for deputy secretary at HHS, and Paula Stannard, Price’s senior counselor, previously worked in the lobbying and government affairs departments of their respective law firms, Greenberg Traurig and Alston & Bird. Hargan and Stannard both disclosed serving health insurance giant UnitedHealth as a client. UnitedHealth, which prompted worries about the ACA’s tenability when it exited most of the health exchanges that underpin President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law, has lobbied the federal government on a number of issues.

Jeff Sessions Eyes Crackdown On Medical Marijuana, But Federal Policy Remains Unclear

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By Mike Ludwig for Truthout – The Trump administration’s policy toward legal marijuana began to emerge from the fog this week, and it appears that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his underlings remain more interested in orchestrating law enforcement crackdowns than in the current scientific understanding of cannabis. Sessions wants greater freedom to prosecute medical marijuana businesses and patients in states where the drug is a legal medicine. Federal authorities allege that “dangerous drug traffickers” and international “criminal organizations” cultivate marijuana under state medical marijuana laws and sell it in states where the drug is still illegal, according to a May 1 letter from Sessions to members of Congress obtained this week by the Massroots.com and The Washington Post. Sessions’ assistant attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, told members of Congress on Tuesday that the Department of Justice would continue a policy on state-legal marijuana adopted in 2013 by the Obama administration, at least for the near future. That policy, as laid out in 2013 by the famous Cole memo, has allowed recreational and medical marijuana businesses to operate in states where legalization has taken hold, despite ongoing federal prohibition.

Former EPA Employees Worried About Trump’s Plans, Formed Own Alt-EPA

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President Donald Trump listens to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt after announcing his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, June 1, 2017

By Alexander C. Kaufman for The Huffington Post – This week, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is slated to defend drastic cuts to his agency’s budget, including axing 25 percent of its staff and zeroing out climate change programs. In response, former EPA employees have formed a new bipartisan group called the Environmental Protection Network to help reporters, activists and policymakers penetrate an administration they accuse of waging an “ideologically driven” battle to cripple core functions of the agency. On Monday, the group hosted a call to brief reporters on what slashing 31 percent of the EPA’s budget would mean for the agency. The scientists, lawyers, economists and engineers in the network submitted detailed comments to the EPA cautioning officials against scrapping regulations just because industry deems them onerous. The organization, which does not yet have a website, also helped reporters phrase Freedom of Information Act requests to make them as specific as possible. “There are a variety of ways our experience and our unique institutional memory can help the work we can do,” Ruth Greenspan Bell, who worked for the EPA’s general counsel under President Bill Clinton, said on Monday’s call.

Donald Trump Maintains Losing Streak In Court Over His Travel Ban

Mr Trump has said he needs more to time to decide whether to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement Evan Vucci/AP

By Cristian Farias for The Huffington Post – President Donald Trump couldn’t appease the appeals court that first rebuked him over his travel ban, as a panel of judges dealt him yet another legal setback Monday despite administration efforts to help the ban survive judicial scrutiny. More than three months since the president went back to the drawing board on his original executive order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit again refused to reinstate the revised version, which aimed to impose a ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries and a suspension of the refugee resettlement program. “The Immigration and Nationality Act … gives the President broad powers to control the entry of aliens, and to take actions to protect the American public. But immigration, even for the President, is not a one-person show,” said the court in a unanimous, unsigned ruling. “The President’s authority is subject to certain statutory and constitutional restraints. We conclude that the President, in issuing the Executive Order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress,” the court added.

Coalition Of 13 States Challenge Trump On Vehicle Emission Standards

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By Staff of Reuters – New York State’s attorney general and 12 other top state law enforcement officials said on Friday they would mount a vigorous court challenge to any effort to roll back vehicle emission rules by the Trump administration. In March, President Donald Trump ordered a review of U.S. vehicle fuel-efficiency standards from 2022-2025 put in place by the Obama administration, saying they were too tough on the auto industry. The push to weaken the rules by the Trump administration comes as automakers are worried that consumers shift to larger vehicles and low gas prices will make it expensive or impossible to meet the regulations. They also fear a prolonged fight with states over the rules could make revising their product plans difficult. Democratic state officials have been increasingly aggressive in challenging Trump administration regulatory rollback efforts. “In light of the critical public health and environmental benefits the standards will deliver, if EPA acts to weaken or delay the current standards for model years 2022-25, like California, we intend to vigorously pursue appropriate legal remedies to block such action,” the state attorneys wrote in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency including Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Washington State, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Kids Climate Lawsuit Heads To Trial, Judge Denies Trump Administration's Appeal

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By Staff of Eco Watch – U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken issued an order Thursday denying motions filed by the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry that sought to appeal her Nov. 10, 2016 order in Juliana v. United States to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The order follows the Trump administration’s remarkable Tuesday night filing of a notice giving Judge Aiken a deadline of June 9 to issue her order. In that notice, the Department of Justice threatened, “In the absence of such resolution by this Court, the United States will seek … review and relief in the Court of Appeals.” The Trump administration is alluding to an intention to seek a writ of mandamus, an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted, from the higher court. “We are on our way to trial!” said Julia Olson, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust. “With industry walking away from the case and the Trump administration’s effort at procedural delay firmly rejected, we can focus on the merits of these youths’ constitutional claims.”

Trump Wants To Privatize Air Traffic Control. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Private sector corporations’ first priority is to turn a profit—not to serve the public. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Shaun Richman for In These Times – Promising “cheaper, faster and safer travel,” the Trump administration announced a plan this week to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system. The announcement Monday marked the first day of the administration’s “infrastructure week,” a series of publicity events around one of the only areas of the president’s agenda that has intrigued some union leaders and Democratic legislators. What they had hoped for was an increase in public spending to create good jobs and repair our nation’s transportation systems. What Trump wants is to give public assets away to corporate interests, while reducing pay and benefit standards for workers. The official justification for privatizing air traffic control is to speed the conversion from a radar-based system to a more accurate GPS one. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been converting the system, but it does not anticipate finishing the job until 2020. An actual investment in infrastructure could give the FAA the resources it needs to do it faster, but if Republican politicians have any true religion, it is belief in the magic of the “free” market.

Exxon May Have Erased 7 Years of Tillerson’s ‘Wayne Tracker’ Emails

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By David Hasemyer for Inside Climate News – Up to seven years of emails that former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillersonwrote under the alias “Wayne Tracker” may have been erased, a company witness has told investigators for the New York attorney general. The gap is far longer than the three months Exxon initially reported. The disclosure came from Connie Feinstein, Exxon’s information technology security and consulting manager, who was questioned about Tillerson’s secret email alias, created in 2007 under the pseudonym “Wayne Tracker.” During a daylong question-and-answer session related to the attorney general’s investigation into whether Exxon mislead investors about climate change, Feinstein explained under oath both how a computer program allowed for the scrubbing of Tillerson’s Wayne Tracker emails and the considerable effort the company put in trying to recover them. A 301-page transcript of the April interview became public last week as part of a batch of documents released by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office. He lodged them in a state court in support of his claim that Exxon’s climate accounting was a “sham” under Tillerson, who is now the U.S. secretary of state.

Lawsuits Are Challenging Almost All Trump’s Environmental Offenses

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By Chelsea Harvey for Fusion – On Thursday, President Trump made international headlines by announcing his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement—a landmark decision that was met with outrage and dismay from climate activists and environmentalists. But while the gesture carries great symbolic significance, signaling the president’s disinterest in international climate efforts, any hope of actually achieving our domestic climate goals pledged under the agreement had already long since vanished. Since January, the Trump administration has taken swift steps to dismantle numerous climate and environmental priorities established under the Obama administration, including the repeal of multiple environmental regulations. And environmentalists are fighting back—by way of the courts, that is. Just about every environment-related action the Trump administration has taken has been met with a legal challenge. Trump is no stranger to litigation—reports suggest he was sued thousands of times as part of his career in real estate before ever becoming president. But since assuming office, he’s also been met with record-setting numbers of legal challenges.

Resist The Duopoly – Because Judas’s Party Can’t Defeat Trump’s

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By Patrick Walker for Nation of Change – As Henry David Thoreau quotably put it, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots.” And if mainstream media is any guide, there are many thousands hacking at the branches of the evil Trump administration to none who are striking at its roots. But of course mainstream media, self-censored by the profit-making agendas of its ever-fewer corporate conglomerate owners, never goes to the roots of anything. Least of all does it go to the grassroots, where the only principled resistance to Trump – the only resistance not contaminated by corporate, Deep State, or partisan agendas – actually exists. As members of that grassroots resistance – the only group with a serious, pinpoint diagnosis of the Trump evil – we face a grievous communication problem. But no worse a problem than that faced by Occupy Wall Street when, in the wake of a global financial crisis triggered by a reckless and fraudulent financial system, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” Considering we face the same corporate media hurdles, we should also consider the Occupy movement’s incontestable success in propagating its message of class warfare between “the 99% and the 1%” despite those hurdles.

Local Movements Demand Disclosure Of Police Technologies

Reflections of pedestrians in a window of a restaurant on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, in an area known as Little Morocco that was under surveillance by the New York City Police Department, January 7, 2016. The department has agreed to even greater oversight of its intelligence-gathering programs as it tries, for the second time, to settle a lawsuit over its surveillance of Muslims. (Photo: Uli Seit / The New York Times)

By Candice Bernd for Truthout – President Trump issued a proclamation on May 15 dedicating last week to law enforcement officers, saying he would make it a “personal priority” to ensure police are “finally treated fairly.” Meanwhile, around the country, a different set of priorities is taking shape: Cities, counties and even one state are working to push legislation that would force police agencies to disclose their acquisition and use of surveillance technologies to local lawmakers and communities. At least 19 cities have introduced ordinances that would force transparency in local police departments’ acquisition and use of secretive surveillance technologies, which are disproportionately used to target communities of color. A statewide bill in Maine, sponsored by State Sen. Shenna Bellows, would take similar steps. The measures being introduced around the country mandate that the acquisition and/or use of local police surveillance tools like “Stingray” cellphone tracking equipment, automated license plate readers, facial recognition technology and closed-circuit television cameras, among other surveillance tools…