This Week in Politics – March 17

This Week in Politics - March 17 | from Indivisible North Seattle

Keeping Up With Politics Can Be Tough, So We’re Here to Help

Since Trump’s inauguration, it has been more difficult than usual to keep up with politics. So we decided that a weekly column summarizing what happened during the week was in order. We’ll follow all the stories and then bring the week’s events to you in condensed form. So without further ado, here it is, the week in politics:

Is There a Nazi in the White House?

If you have read anything about Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, you will have already noticed that he seems a bit sketchy. Well, Thursday it was revealed that leaders of Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II, claim Gorka was a member of the group. Questions have arisen about the Trump administration’s vetting process in regards to Gorka and Mike Flynn, but it’s possible that Gorka didn’t actually make it through the vetting process. The Associated Press reported in February that he did not have appropriate security clearance for his work, and it’s not clear that he has any clearance at all. (The Atlantic)

Budget Woes

The White House released a proposed budget, entitled America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, and if it implemented, would slash funding to almost everything, except defense and that damn wall. In particular, a lot of people were upset that the budget would cut funding to the Meals on Wheels on program, a program that uses volunteers to deliver warm meals to more than 1 million older Americans in their homes every week. Many were quick to point out that if Trump just stayed in Washington D.C. for one weekend, the money saved from not having to secure Mar-a-Lago, would be enough to fund Meals on Wheels for an entire year.

Trump has unveiled a budget that would slash or abolish programs that have provided low-income Americans with help on virtually all fronts, including affordable housing, banking, weatherizing homes, job training, paying home heating oil bills, and obtaining legal counsel in civil matters.

During the presidential campaign last year, Trump vowed that the solution to poverty was giving poor people incentives to work. But most of the proposed cuts in his budget target programs designed to help the working poor, as well as those who are jobless, cope. (Washington Post)

24 Million Uninsured

The Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for the American Health Care Act was released on Monday and many people, including some conservatives, were quite unhappy with it.

CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law. Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate. Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums. Later, following additional changes to subsidies for insurance purchased in the nongroup market and to the Medicaid program, the increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026.

Putting a Stop to the Ban Before It Even Begins

U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison, Wisconsin dealt the first legal blow to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban on Friday, barring enforcement of the policy to deny U.S. entry to the wife and child of a Syrian refugee already granted asylum in the United States. Then on Wednesday, Federal Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii issued a nationwide order blocking President Trump’s ban on travel from parts of the Muslim world. Finally, a federal judge in Maryland ruled against Mr. Trump, with a separate order forbidding the core provision of the travel ban from going into effect. Mr. Trump lashed out at Judge Watson during a campaign-style rally in Nashville late on Wednesday. Raising his voice to a hoarse shout, Mr. Trump accused the judge of ruling “for political reasons” and criticized the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which upheld the earlier decision against his administration and will hear any appeal to the Hawaii ruling. (NY Times)

46 Federal Attorneys Fired

Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, tweeted last Saturday that he was fired after refusing to resign as requested by the White House. There has been a good deal of speculation as to why he and the other 45 lawyers were suddenly let go. The reason Bharara’s sudden dismissal came as an especial surprise is that the Bhara had been asked by Trump in November to stay on. It is not uncommon for incoming Presidents to ask U.S. attorneys from the previous administration to resign, though it is usually done in an orderly fashion that allows the attorneys to finish up any cases they are still working on. Also, the attorneys are not summarily told to clear out their offices without even a full day’s notice. On Sunday, Bharara seemed to imply that he had been investigating Trump or his cronies when he tweeted:

A Times investigation published in July 2014 showed that before disbanding the panel, known as the Moreland Commission, NY Governor Cuomo (D) had hobbled its work, intervening when it focused on groups with ties to the governor or on issues that might reflect poorly on him. (The Huffington Post)

It is notable that Preet Bharara was leading inquiries into Deutsche Bank’s handling of “mirror trades” that helped Russian clients convert rubles into Western currency, a high-profile securities fraud case against Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., political corruption cases involving New York mayor Bill de Blasio and aides to New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and whether Fox should have disclosed to investors that it made secret settlement payments to female on-air hosts who had alleged sexual harassment. (Live Mint). Please watch the video above from Rachel Maddow to truly appreciate the various conflicts of interest and possible financial implications that this story involves. As Rachel points out, by refusing to resign, as had been requested, Bharara bought himself 24 hours to finish up on things. The question on everyone’s mind is what things was he finishing up? (Hopefully preserving evidence!)

Other new things to make us all feel proud to call ourselves Americans (cough), Canadian Girl Guides will no longer be allowed to visit the United States and Canadian schools may soon follow suit, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes says he doesn’t believe “there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” contrary to claims made by President Trump, Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) tweeted a very racist remark in praise of the Dutch, anti-Islam, anti-EU, far right-wing, populist Geert Wilders “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”,  the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, beat Wilders in the parliamentary elections, and Mike Flynn was even more involved with the Russians financially than we realized.

As always, there were many other stories that were important, but I can only fit so much in one column. I hope you all have a good week! Stay safe, stay sane, and stay strong!

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