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Monday, June 5, 2017

President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts

The White House announces intent to nominate the following to the key posts within the administration.

Nominees include Brian Benczkowski, Steve Bradbury and Carlos Muñiz.

Brian Allen Benczkowski of Virginia to be an Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Justice. Mr. Benczkowski is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP whose practice focuses on litigation and white collar criminal defense, including government and internal investigations. He has over 10 years of diverse public service experience in the federal government, including key leadership positions both in the U.S. Department of Justice and on Capitol Hill.  Prior to joining Kirkland in 2010, Mr. Benczkowski served as the Republican Staff Director for the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. Senate, where he was the top advisor and strategist to Republican members of the committee for legislative, oversight and nominations matters. Previously, Mr. Benczkowski was the Chief of Staff for the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. As the principal legal, policy and political advisor to the two senior leaders of the Department of Justice, he was responsible for overall direction of the Department, including operational, policy and public relations efforts. Mr. Benczkowski also served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, where he managed DOJ's relationship with Congress. During this time, he was responsible for directing the Department's response to congressional investigations and requests for information and documents, and preparing numerous witnesses and nominees for testimony before Congress.

Steven Bradbury of Virginia to be General Counsel of Transportation. Mr. Bradbury is a litigation partner at Dechert LLP in Washington, D.C., where his practice focuses on regulatory enforcement and investigations, rulemaking and judicial review of agency actions, appellate cases, and antitrust matters.  He has extensive experience with automotive safety and airline competition issues, including before the Department of Transportation.  From 2005 to 2009, Mr. Bradbury headed the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he advised the executive branch on a wide range of constitutional and statutory questions, and where he received the Edmund J. Randolph Award and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, among other awards.  Before serving in the Justice Department, Mr. Bradbury was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP for ten years.  He clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court and for Judge James L. Buckley on the D.C. Circuit.  Mr. Bradbury graduated magna cum laude from Michigan Law School and received his B.A. from Stanford University. 

Robert Charrow of Maryland to be General Counsel of Health and Human Services. Mr. Charrow is a principal shareholder in the Washington, D.C. office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, where he specializes in litigation arising under the Administrative Procedure Act, the federal regulation of healthcare, and federal appellate litigation. Before joining Greenberg Traurig in 2002, he was with the law firm Crowell & Moring.  Previously, he served as the Deputy and then Principal Deputy General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He supervised the chief counsel for the various agencies within the Department, including the Health Care Financing Administration (now CMS), Office of Inspector General, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Public Health Service. Mr. Charrow received his law degree from Stanford University in 1969 and did his undergraduate work in physics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.

Carlos G. Muñiz of Florida to be General Counsel at the Department of Education. Mr. Muñiz is an attorney and consultant at McGuireWoods. His prior experience in government includes serving as Deputy Attorney General of the State of Florida and as Deputy General Counsel to the Governor of Florida. He earned degrees from the University of Virginia and from Yale Law School. After law school, he served as a law clerk to Judge José A. Cabranes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to Judge Thomas A. Flannery of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Mr. Muñiz and his wife reside in Tallahassee, Florida, with their three children.

Peter Louis Oppenheim of Maryland to be Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the Department of Education. Mr. Oppenheim is currently the Education Policy Director and Counsel for the majority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. During his tenure on the Senate HELP Committee staff, Mr. Oppenheim was instrumental in negotiations leading to the enactment of several landmark education laws, including the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013. Previously, Mr. Oppenheim was Senator Lamar Alexander's (R-TN) Legislative Counsel, advising the Senator on education, labor, and pensions issues. Before working on the Hill, Mr. Oppenheim was a Managing Associate in the education and workforce practice at the Carmen Group. Mr. Oppenheim also served as a public policy research assistant for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), a finance coordinator for the Republican Governors Association, and a project manager for the Republican National Committee. Mr. Oppenheim earned a B.A. from Colby College and a J.D. cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law.

Joseph Otting of Nevada to be Comptroller of the Currency at the Department of the Treasury. Prior to his nomination, Mr. Otting had a long career in financial services working for a number of highly regarded regional banks. Most recently he served as managing partner of Ocean Blvd LLC and Lake Blvd LLC. Mr. Otting previously served as President and CEO of OneWest Bank N.A and Vice Chairman of U.S. Bancorp. Mr. Otting holds a B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa and is a graduate of the School of Credit and Financial Management at Dartmouth College.

David P. Pekoske of Maryland to be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration. Mr. Pekoske has extensive operational and command experience through a distinguished career with the U. S. Coast Guard, where he retired as the Vice Commandant.  In this key leadership position within the Department of Homeland Security he was the Coast Guard’s second-in-command and chief operating officer.  Before that, he was Commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area and Coast Guard Defense Forces West. Throughout his career, he worked closely with the men and women in Federal, State, and local law enforcement and public safety organizations to protect the American people. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, he has been an executive in the government services industry leading business units that provided homeland security and intelligence related services.  Additionally, he has been a member of the adjunct faculty at American University and been active in many organizations that advance military, veterans, and national security issues. Mr. Pekoske has a Master of Business Administration degree from the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master of Public Administration degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He is a graduate of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree.

Charles Douglas Stimson of Virginia to be General Counsel of the Department of the Navy. Mr. Stimson currently serves as a Senior Legal Fellow and Manager of the National Security Law Program at The Heritage Foundation, where he leads the foundation's research efforts related to national security law issues including the Law of Armed Conflict, FISA, military law, War Powers, military commissions, and U.S. detention and interrogation policy. He also specializes in criminal law and homeland security. Mr. Stimson also serves as a Captain in the United States Navy Judge Advocate Generals Corps (JAG), reserve component, and is currently the Commanding Officer of the Navy Appellate Government unit. Previously, Mr. Stimson was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs under President George W. Bush, and an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In addition, he served as a Vice President for Private Equity Mergers & Acquisitions at Marsh McLennan. Mr. Stimson holds a B.A. from Kenyon College, a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law, and attended Harvard University and Exeter University in England. 

Owen West of Connecticut to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. Mr. West most recently served as Partner, Head of Global Natural Gas Trading and Co-Head of Global Power Trading at Goldman Sachs & Co., where he designed and managed this international risk business. Previously, Mr. West served as an infantry platoon commander, reconnaissance platoon leader, and combat advisor in the United States Marine Corps, where he was twice deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the author of three books and dozens of articles on military affairs and adventure sports. Mr. West was also a director of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a director of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. West is a graduate of Harvard University, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

David Steele Bohigian of Missouri to be Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Mr. Bohigian is the Managing Director of Pluribus Ventures, an advisor to financial services firms and growth companies. Earlier, he served on the core management team of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. Prior to Bridgewater, Mr. Bohigian founded E2 Capital Partners, which developed new financing models for energy efficiency projects. Mr. Bohigian previously served as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce and served as a Managing Director of Idealab and as a partner at Jefferson Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm. He received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a journalism degree from Washington & Lee University. 

Ray Washburne of Texas to be the President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Mr. Washburne is the President and CEO of Charter Holdings, a private real estate investment company based in Dallas.  He is the co-founder and co-owner of M Crowd Restaurant Group, which owns and operates Mi Cocina, Taco Diner and The Mercury restaurants.  Mr. Washburne is the President and Managing Director of Highland Park Village in Dallas.  Mr. Washburne received his B.A. from Southern Methodist University.

Hundreds of groups pen letter to Trump to end assault on human and civil rights

Hundreds of civil and human rights groups have penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to "end his systematic assault on civil and human rights."

Led by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 99 other such groups that include The Human Rights Campaign, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the AFL-CIO, the groups maintain that the Trump administration has been making generous cuts to several civil rights organizations.

“It’s clear that President Trump and his administration is attempting to roll back civil and human rights across the board. That will not stand,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference.

The administration has vehemently cited his intent to "repeal and replace" Obamacare and what the administration deems as "high cost" health care. It has also promised an increase in spending for the following governmental agencies, as cited by OMB director Mick Mulvaney.

In an off-camera briefing on the FY18 budget Mulvaney in late May, 2017 told reporters that the administration is working to increase funding on "national security", "border security" ("bricks and mortar for a wall"), "technology people", and "infrastructure at the border."

[Group objects Trump's infrastructure plan]

Mulvaney also cited an increase in several other areas, among them law enforcement.

"It also means more money for law enforcement at the federal and the state levels.  It means more money for veterans, more money for school choice", Mulvaney said.

With the increase in funding in the above-mentioned areas, groups like the AFL-CIO are concerned
their organizations will see a decrease in funding to support increases elsewhere.

“We believe in an America that is inclusive, fair, and just for all people – and we demand that this White House and the agencies work – as we all must – to continue to build an America as good as its ideals. Only then can we continue to make America great", said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference.

The group's letter reads as follows:

Dear President Trump:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national advocacy organizations, and the 99 undersigned organizations, we stand united in expressing our profound concern that the civil and human rights of all Americans are being drastically undermined by your administration’s proposed deep cuts to key civil rights office budgets, the withdrawal of numerous important civil and human rights policies, and the appointment of officials who appear bent on retreating from statutory civil and human rights agency priorities. We call upon your administration to reverse these disturbing trends, and to demonstrate a far greater commitment to the civil and human rights of all people in this country and to the federal laws created to protect them.

Extending equal opportunity in education, employment, housing; protecting the right to vote; reducing hate violence and racial disparities in the criminal justice system; preventing discrimination in health care; and advancing economic security are not simply legal obligations that your administration must meet. Our nation’s civil and human rights laws are a testament to who we are today as a country, a sign of the tremendous progress we have made throughout our history, and a pledge we make to future generations to continue moving ever closer to our ideals of fairness and equity for all. For decades, and for compelling reasons, the vigorous enforcement of these laws has been a core federal responsibility, and should never be seen as optional or as a matter of politics.

Our concerns were recently exemplified by an article in The Washington Post, detailing recent steps your administration has taken to retreat from our nation’s longstanding commitment to civil rights enforcement. The examples cited in that article – such as the proposed elimination of the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the end of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency, and threats of drastic staff cutbacks in the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights – are only the most recent signs that your administration is engaged in a significant rollback of civil rights enforcement. They build upon a record that already borders on the unconscionable, which includes a discriminatory Muslim ban, limits on the use of consent decrees to reform troubled police departments, the revival of a failed war on drugs, support of an intentionally racially discriminatory voter ID law, the formation of an illegitimate “election integrity” task force to attempt to justify voter suppression efforts, increased prosecutions and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood, the signing of an executive order that endorses discrimination under the guise of religious liberty, freezes on affirmative litigation, and the rollback of guidance clarifying protections for transgender students.

We were stunned to hear a White House spokesperson claim, in the Post article, that your administration “has an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of all Americans.” Your administration’s actions to date demonstrate the opposite. We urge you to reverse course, before more individuals and communities are harmed, by resolving to take the following steps:
  • Enforce the law. Federal agencies must vigorously respond to complaints of civil and human rights violations, and must uphold the vital federal role of enforcing our civil and human rights laws and ensuring vulnerable communities are protected from discrimination. 
  • Preserve existing policies. In recent years, federal civil rights offices have issued numerous policies and procedures to clarify the obligations of affected individuals, employers, and governmental entities under federal civil and human rights laws. These must be maintained.
  • Nominate and appoint qualified individuals. We urge you to ensure that individuals chosen to lead civil rights offices have a demonstrated record of support for federal civil rights laws and marginalized communities. Individuals who are unfamiliar with or hostile to our nation’s civil rights laws and their purpose have no place leading offices charged with protecting people from discrimination.
  • Prioritize data collection. A key component of civil rights enforcement, in many agencies, is continuing to collect, and make available to the public, disaggregated data to determine existing patterns and to promote better future compliance with federal hate crime and nondiscrimination laws.
  • Condemn bigotry and violence. Law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations have documented a significant increase in bigotry and hate crimes. We urge you to establish a White House hate crime task force to coordinate federal agency response.  You and all members of your administration should use your bully pulpit to clearly condemn bias-motivated violence and bigotry targeting people based on race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability at every opportunity. 
Our vision of an America as good in practice as it is in promise is fundamentally undermined by your administration's apparent agenda of nothing less than an all-out, systemic assault on the progress our country has made since the New Deal. Our nation should honor equal protection for all, view its diversity as its strength, and strive to be an inclusive place where all in America can live, work, study, and participate in our democracy as free and equal people. We call on you and your administration to take affirmative steps to halt the problematic policies and initiatives we have outlined, and to provide positive leadership on these issues in order to promote inclusion and respect for the basic rights and dignity of every person in America.

Sincerely,

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
9to5, National Association of Working Women
A. Philip Randolph Institute
American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Unions (AFL-CIO)s
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
American Federation of Teachers
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Americans for Financial Reform
Amnesty International USA
The Andrew Goodman Foundation
Anti-Defamation League
The Arc of the United States
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC
Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Center for Community Change Action
Center for Law and Social Policy
Center for Reproductive Rights
Center for Responsible Lending
Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism-California State University, San Bernardino
Common Cause
Communications Workers of America
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Equal Justice Society
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Feminist Majority
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
GLSEN
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights First
interACT
Interfaith Alliance
International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies
Justice in Aging
Lambda Legal
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of United Latin American Citizens
League of Women Voters of the United States
Legal Aid at Work
MALDEF
Matthew Shepard Foundation
Muslim Advocates
NAACP
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)
National Association of Social Workers
National Bar Association
National Black Justice Coalition
National CAPACD
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Center for Youth Law
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
The National Council on Independent Living
National Disability Rights Network
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Health Law Program
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Immigration Law Center
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)
National Organization for Women
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Urban League
National Women's Law Center
OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates
OutServe-SLDN
People For the American Way
PFLAG
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
PolicyLink
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
SALDEF
SEARAC
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
The Sikh Coalition
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southern Poverty Law Center
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
Whitman-Walker Health
YWCA USA

(Source)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

President Trump blames the media (again) while admonishing Coast Guard grads to "never give up."

Lauds his work as president.

President Trump took his blame-the-media speech to New London, Connecticut Wednesday where he gave the commencement address to the 2017 graduating class of U.S. Coast Guard.

The president admonished the graduates to "never give up", suggesting he won the presidency because he never gave up his fight against "unfair" events, "especially by the media."

"Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media", Trump said.

"No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.  You can’t let them get you down.  You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams."

The president told the graduates they "will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted.  But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.  Never, ever, ever give up.  Things will work out just fine", he said.

Trump may be wondering if his tenure as president will 'work out just fine' as he has come under fire by the media (and by Democrats and Republicans alike) for his charge with Russia and his firing of then-FBI Director James Comey. Trump is accused of asking Comey to end an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and his ties with Russian officials.

[See: Dems call for impeachment of President Trump]
[See also: President Trump said Comey told him, three times, he was not  under investigation]

Trump lauds his work since becoming president.

Not all of the president's remarks were about his relationship with the media. He also praised the Coast Guard for their work, while lauding his own.

"I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as President", Trump said.

"Jobs pouring back in to our country; a brand-new Supreme Court justice; a historic investment in our military; border crossings are down more than 70 percent in just a short period of time (by a lot); we’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans, and we are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before", he said to audience applause.

[See: Trump's jobs claim fact checked].

And there are more claims the president said he has done since becoming president (parts truncated, see entire speech here).

"I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy; we’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, (which he claims "is going along very, very well"); we’re working on major tax cuts for all, and we’re also getting closer and closer, day-by-day, to great health care for our citizens.

[See latest article on rising health care rates]

"And we are setting the stage right now for many, many more things to come", the president said to an enthusiastic audience.

With what the Trump administration has already brought in such a short period of time, more Americans may wonder if they can handle Trump's claim of "more to come", and wonder if America is really "winning like never before"?

New

President Trump responds to news Robert Mueller pegged to investigate U.S. elections tampering by Russia.

"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.  I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.  In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.






Monday, April 24, 2017

President Obama talks civic engagement with emerging youth leaders.

Today, in what could be seen as his first public forum since leaving office, President Obama reached out to young leaders during a civic engagement event at the University of Chicago to listen to thoughts and ideas on how youth can, and are, working to improve communities through engagement and opportunity.

President Obama talks with youth during University of Chicago youth forum.
The panel of youth who have forged ahead in their own lives to make positive differences talked about their own successes while providing ideas on how other youth can get involved to improve the quality of life and opportunity for today's youth.

Samuel Figueroa a student from Roosevelt University shared the ideal of making “personal connections” to private situations.

He said he believes in providing statistics to show where the need is in communities and said he likes to “connect the facts.” Figueroa also said that “listening” is key.

“It’s true”, said Obama. “When I was organizing I listened to find out way of connecting [people’s] immediate needs to the policies that address their immediate concern.”

Obama used the example of child care suggesting “You can tell someone they need child care”, but helping them get child care is where the engagement comes in.

Harish Patel of New America said the electoral politics is one of the many routes to engagement.

"I couldn’t vote, but civic engagement expands on what your parents did", said Patel.

Patel said he began his civic engagement by protesting the war in Iraq.  He said he went back to college to understand the “political jargon”.  

“I wanted to be eligible to participate in what is the most effective way to live my live and have impact.”

Other panel participants included Tiffany Brown, college grad (magna cum laude, pharmaceutical studies) and Max Freeman of the University of Chicago.

Obama is likely to make more public appearances like today's event at the University of Chicago. On November 18, the former president is scheduled to headline the Richmond Forum in Richmond, Va.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Did Attorney General Sessions Hear What Civil Rights Groups Said?

Members of civil rights groups met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice Tuesday with a list of concerns they say were meant to put Sessions “on notice.”

"The meeting was two-fold", said Wade Henderson, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. We met with Sessions "to present the agenda of national civil rights organizations and to discuss with the AG our expectations for his responsibility to the American people to address issues of national concern regarding civil and human rights", he said.


Civil rights groups met with the press after meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday at the Department of Justice. Pictured are: Marc Morial, National Urban League. From left to right:  Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network; Wade Henderson, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund (hidden); Kristen Clarke, president & executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable. Photo/CD Brown.
Henderson said the second part of their discussion with Sessions focused on the group’s opposition and disagreement to several initiatives the DOJ has already undertaken on a range of civil and human rights matters.

“And we brought those issues to the attention of the attorney general”, Henderson said.

One of the issues concerning to the group includes President Trump's initial travel ban that affected middle eastern countries that mainly included Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and Iraq. Trump’s revised ban now excludes Iraq but reports indicate the ban did nothing to keep 'bad apples' out of the country, but rather detained and inconvenienced people just because they had Muslim sounding names.

Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network said the group also wants the attorney general to investigate recent cases of police misconduct such as in the cases of Eric Garner and Walter Scott

Garner was ambushed by several police officers as he stood on the streets of New York, allegedly selling lose cigarettes. A video of the incident shows one officer putting Garner, who was not confrontational in the video, in a choke hold for seemingly no reason at all. Garner could be repeatedly heard saying he couldn’t breathe. 


“For two-and-a-half years that case has been laying there”, Sharpton said. “There has been a federal investigation. I asked him (Sessions) to move forward, aggressively on that case.”

Sharpton said Sessions had not looked into the case, but said he would now do so.

The group maintains that they also need Sessions to speak out on incidents of hate crimes.

“When we see what is going on in Jewish cemeteries, bomb threats, the targeting of Muslims, the targeting of people because of sexual orientation, he needs to be the voice against hate and he needs to speak out and he needs to prosecute those who are engaged in this activity", said Sharpton.

But did Sessions hear the words that were coming out of the mouths of the group also concerned about the rights of people of color, women, immigrants and other vulnerable groups, and their right to be protected from discrimination and violence?

“To our dismay, the Attorney General offered no commitment to ensure all of the nation’s civil rights laws are enforced”, said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Sessions has come under fire for his past record as senator from Alabama where he opposed legal and illegal immigration and amnesty and supported expansion of the border fence with Mexico.  

Since Trump's call to deport "bad people" out of the country, a growing number of Latino families have been separated from their children and family members.

Session’s stance on civil rights also comes into question after it was reported in the 1960's that he made remarks disparaging civil-rights organizations.  
We spoke to a well-known civil rights attorney about Sessions’ track record, prior to Sessions being nominated for attorney general. We were told (under anonymity) by the civil rights attorney that he felt Sessions was not fit for the job. He answered our question on whether Sessions would make a good attorney general by answering with an emphatic, "No!"
Sessions has come under fire as of late for having given false information into whether or not he met with Russian officials during last year’s presidential election, an act he denied – under oath – to Congress. Sessions has recused himself from any investigation, a decision that sparked controversy within the Trump administration.
Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Sessions to resign.
Given Sessions’ record, members of civil rights organizations insist they have put Sessions on notice and that they intend to “stay on the scene – watching – to insure fair and impartial justice for all Americans."

We asked Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, given Sessions’ track record if he was optimistic that Sessions would meet their demands.

“I don’t think we can expect optimism or pessimism today", said Morial. "This was a step needed to present our agenda and express our objection to steps that have already been taken."

Video of the presser can be found here.

Other members who met with sessions were Kristen Clarke, president & executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

White House Recognizes International Women's Day

The White House put out a statement honoring International Women's Day, a day where women around the world are recognized for their contributions to advance a civil society. 


THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2017

Statement from the Press Secretary in Honor of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon the meaningful progress women have made throughout society, while also acknowledging that there is still much work that remains to be done to ensure the complete and consequential participation of women in all spheres of economic, political, and public life. Throughout our history, women have made enormous contributions in the service of our country, and we know that as a Nation, America will only become stronger, more prosperous, and better able to meet our shared goals, as women achieve greater access to a level playing field.

The United States, as a beacon of hope and a leader in promoting women’s rights, is deeply committed to empowering women both at home and abroad.  Our policies will work to advance the economic empowerment of women by promoting entrepreneurship and equal access to education, employment opportunities, and training adapted to a new economic landscape.

Together, America looks forward to a bright future with women in higher-wage jobs throughout high-growth sectors.  America remains committed to empowering women around the world to realize their full potential within the global marketplace.  And with our international partners, America will build upon the legacy of previous generations of women who have bravely broken through both economic and political barriers.

It was with these goals in mind that, as one of its first initiatives, this Administration ramped up efforts to promote women in business by launching the United States-Canada Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.  The United States will continue to work with Canada and other partners around the globe to ensure that all women have the opportunity to succeed.
Today, the United States renews its commitment to fostering economic growth and job creation by harnessing the full potential of women in our economy. This Administration will work diligently to encourage women to enter and succeed in the workforce while addressing the many barriers women still face in achieving economic success, including those that impede women’s access to capital, markets, and networking opportunities.

###


The month of March is the official month of Women's History/ International Women's Day. This year, perhaps in concert with the Day Without Immigrants demonstrations across the country, women's groups used the occasion to demonstrate by having a Day Without A Woman demonstration in an effort to recognize women's contributions to family, the workplace and the country. Organizers hope to gain support for equality and justice for women and other marginalized groups like LGBTQ communities.

First Lady Melania Trump, in her first term as FLOTUS,  held a women's luncheon in the State Dining Room Wednesday honoring International Women's Day. In the previous administration (and as former first lady) First Lady Michelle Obama participated in events honoring the occasion.

[See also: Melania Trump's approval ratings.]

Press secretary Sean Spicer was asked during Wednesday's press briefing if any female White House staff members participated in the Day Without Women demonstrations. Spicer said he was "unaware" if any female White House staffers had participated and remarked that women in the Trump administration are "busy working" to continue the work of the president.

"People have a right to express themselves', Spicer said, but expressed that there should be a "balance" when asked about several school closings on Wednesday in the wake of female school officials and teachers choosing not to work. 


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch for United States Supreme Court; Dems already oppose

President Trump announced Tuesday, on prime-time television, his Supreme Court pick selecting Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  If confirmed, Gorsuch will fill the SCOTUS seat left by Chief Justice Antonin Scalia who died in 2016.  
Trump selects Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court. Photo/AP.
“Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text", said Trump. "He will make an incredible Justice as soon as the Senate confirms him.”
While some consider Gorsuch to be “warm”, “open”, “generous” and willing to “find common ground”, Democratic Minority Speaker of House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement issued soon after the announcement about Gorsuch:
“In the Hobby Lobby case, Judge Neil Gorsuch revealed his eagerness to single out women’s health for discrimination and enable employers to meddle in their workers’ most intimate health decisions. Judge Gorsuch’s record reveals he holds radical views far outside the mainstream of American legal thought.”  
In a CNN town hall Pelosi went on to say that the selection of Judge Gorsuch is a “very bad decision.”
“If you breathe air, eat food, drink water and take medicine you should be scared and oppose #SCOTUS nominee Gorusch”, Pelosi said.
Gorsuch is said to be against women’s rights and has taken staunch positions on environmental issues and law enforcement.
Trump picked Gorsuch over 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thomas Hardiman who works alongside Trump’s sister MaryAnne Trump Barry.
“Was this a surprise? Was this a surprise?” Trump asked the attendees in the East Room of the White House after his remarks.
Gorsuch will need sixty required votes for confirmation which Republicans hope the Democrats will help provide. 
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he was “mucho happy” about Trump’s pick.

“He has the perfect disposition. I don’t know who would think he’s not qualified”, Graham said.

Republicans failed to vote on former President Obama’s Supreme Court selection of Merrick Garland, instead opting to wait until after the 2016 selection when they stood a better chance to nominate a Republican.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) tweeted after the president’s announcement:
"I encourage my Senate colleagues to give Neil Gorsuch the same courtesy Senate Republicans gave Merrick Garland." #SCOTUS
Gorsuch, 49, if confirmed, will have a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court. 

About Neil Gorsuch

Gorsuch has served for over a decade as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate without opposition on July 20, 2006, to the U.S.

Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Judge Gorsuch attended Harvard Law School as a Harry Truman Scholar and graduated with honors in 1991. He graduated with honors from Columbia University in 1988, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After law school, he attended Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar and received his Doctorate in Philosophy in 2004. He clerked for Justice Byron White and Justice Kennedy of Supreme Court of the United States and Judge David Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Judge Gorsuch attended Harvard Law School as a Harry Truman Scholar and graduated with 
honors in 1991. He graduated with honors from Columbia University in 1988, where he was
elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After law school, he attended Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, 
and he received his Doctorate in Philosophy in 2004.He clerked for Justice Byron White and Justice Kennedy of Supreme Court of the United Statesand Judge David Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.