Progressive Breakfast for February 23

Morning Message

Principles for Progressives to Follow on Trump’s Ties to Russia

Putin’s an oligarch. So is Trump. Putin runs a kleptocracy. So does Trump. Both Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson have done business in Russia. So why is money the one aspect of the Russia scandal people seem to talk about the least? Perhaps because it’s the one area the U.S. intelligence community avoided when it accused Russia of helping Trump win the election. Now, some Democrats are inflaming xenophobia and triggering conspiracy theories instead of highlighting the dangers of oligarchic rule.

Resistance Recess

This week while Congress in on recess, People’s Action and our member organizations around the country are organizing a #ResistanceRecess. We are leading the grassroots resistance. Join us! Click here to find local town hall meetings in your area, and come tell your Congressperson to stand up for health care and against the Trump agenda.

DNC Chair Candidates Debate

CNN debate between DNC Chair candidates reveals “Democratic divisions”: “… the debate showed the party hasn’t settled questions over just how vigorously to oppose Trump, or how to settle division within its own ranks … [Rep. Keith Ellison] said Trump has already violated the Constitution and called for an investigation … But [Mayor Pete Buttigieg] cautioned against focusing too much energy on Trump … Jaime Harrison, the South Carolina Democrat chairman, issued a stern call on party members not to launch primary challenges against the 10 Democratic senators in states that Trump won in 2016 … Other contenders, meanwhile, said the DNC shouldn’t stand in the way of primary challenges.”

Politico deems the race a “nail-biter”: “The consensus among Democratic officials is that former Labor Secretary Tom Perez is the slight favorite … But a POLITICO email survey of the 447 DNC voting members [has] Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison holding a narrow advantage … The email survey suggests that if the chairmanship race continues through several rounds of balloting, Perez might be in a better position to prevail than Ellison. While Ellison’s supporters had few qualms about backing Perez as their second choice, the same didn’t hold true for Perez backers…”

AP reports “independent Democratic strategists” give Perez the lead: “…independent Democratic strategists [are] tracking [Perez] at about 205 votes … [Ellison] has the support of about 153 members, the strategists said. Ellison spokesman Brett Morrow blasted the count as ‘totally inaccurate’ and said his camp remains ‘incredibly confident.’ … The counts have South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison at 27 votes, a number that could make him a kingmaker who tilts the race to the eventual winner … The race could easily tip to either Perez or Ellison; a third possibility is that the committee ends up in deadlocked with the two current leaders short of a majority. That could open up the door for [the other] candidates…”

Trump Targets Transgender Students

“Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students.” NYT: “In a joint letter, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice … [AG Sessions] wanted to act decisively because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation … [Education Sec Betsy] DeVos initially resisted signing off … [Sessions] took his objections to the White House … Trump sided with his attorney general … DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.”

More from The Daily Beast: “With that guidance now officially rescinded, Title IX is still the law of the land but President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have now signaled their divergence from the interpretation held by the Obama administration … individual states and schools could still find themselves on the receiving end of Title IX lawsuits … [but they won’t] necessarily [be] penalized by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division or immediately [risk] the loss of federal funding.”

New Travel Ban Delayed

WH delays new travel ban. The Hill: “The White House is pushing back the release of a revised executive order on travel and refugees until next week, an official said Wednesday. No explanation was given for the delay, and it remains unclear how the White House will tweak the travel ban to avoid future legal pitfalls … White House policy adviser Stephen Miller said on Fox News on Tuesday night [that] the new order will largely resemble the old one.”

Immigrants go underground. NYT: “No going to church, no going to the store. No doctor’s appointments for some, no school for others. No driving, period — not when a broken taillight could deliver the driver to Immigration and Customs Enforcement … [Trump’s] threat, for many people, has now begun to distort every movement … ‘There’s a real fear that their kids will get put into the foster care system,’ said Mary Clark, the executive director of Esperanza Immigrant Legal Services in Philadelphia.”

Trump Lays Out Agenda Tuesday

Trump prepares for Tuesday’s prime time address to Congress. Politico: “…White House aides involved in planning say the president will be more detailed as he seeks to recast his tumultuous first month as a success, ticking through the promises he’s already kept and … focus[ing] on work the White House wants done on Capitol Hill during the rest of 2017 … Two administration officials said Trump plans to highlight four policy areas, with one summarizing Trump’s expected message to Congress as: ‘I want us to get tax reform; I want us to get the border secured; I want us to get health care; I want us to get infrastructure.'”

Republican press Trump to cut retirement security, despite Trump rhetoric. NYT: “… some Republicans are hoping [his budget director] and others will change the president’s mind on … structural changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid … The pressure to break [his] promise will come not only from congressional Republicans but also from his own campaign pledges to build a wall along the Mexican border, increase spending on defense, border security and infrastructure, cut taxes ‘big league’ and control the deficit … Even if Mr. Trump keeps his promise not to touch Social Security and Medicare, other programs like housing subsidies, child care assistance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, could be cut…”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski suggests she won’t vote to scrap Medicaid expansion. Alaska Dispatch News: “Murkowski, in her annual address to the Alaska Legislature, told lawmakers that she would not vote to repeal the expanded Medicaid health care program … as long as the Legislature wants to keep it. The expanded Medicaid program began in Alaska under an executive order by Gov. Bill Walker in 2015, and it now covers some 29,000 low-income residents … The Legislature has neither voted to support expanded Medicaid nor voted to kill it …
Murkowski said she was concerned about the long-term cost of the expanded Medicaid program. But she said it had also strengthened Alaska’s Native health care system and reduced the number of uninsured people visiting emergency rooms.”

“Raucous crowd rocks [Sen. Tom] Cotton town hall” reports Politico: “…protesters in a packed auditorium at Springdale High School frequently stood and chanted denunciations of the senator’s support of the Trump administration and the GOP’s ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act … Chants of ‘tax returns’ — a dig at Trump’s refusal to release his own — rang out several times …”

“Banks Want To Make It Easier To Launder Money” explains The Nation’s David Dayen: “The ask comes in the form of a report the Clearing House Association, a financial-industry trade group, released last week. The report proposed numerous reforms to the anti–money laundering (AML) compliance process … When transactions are larger than $5,000, or have hallmarks of terrorist financing, tax evasion, or money laundering, they must file a suspicious activity report (SAR) and deliver them to federal regulators … the Clearing House report makes numerous recommendations for AML reform that all have the same bottom line: reducing the number of SARs that banks have to file.”

NYT explores America’s weakening dam infrastructure: “Nearly 2,000 state-regulated high-hazard dams in the United States were listed as being in need of repair in 2015 … By 2020, 70 percent of the dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old … the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimated that it would cost $60 billion to rehabilitate all the dams that needed to be brought up to safe condition, with nearly $20 billion of that sum going toward repair of dams with a high potential for hazard.”