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Executive Departments Part 2

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Coconut Flan

Continued from here:

 

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GreyhoundFan

Another one from the "you couldn't make this shit up" bucket: "Trump's top health official traded tobacco stock while leading anti-smoking efforts"

Spoiler

The Trump administration’s top public health official bought shares in a tobacco company one month into her leadership of the agency charged with reducing tobacco use — the leading cause of preventable disease and death and an issue she had long championed.

The stock was one of about a dozen new investments that Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, made after she took over the agency’s top job, according to documents obtained by POLITICO. Fitzgerald has since come under congressional scrutiny for slow walking divestment from older holdings that government officials said posed potential conflicts of interest.

Buying shares of tobacco companies raises even more flags than Fitzgerald’s trading in drug and food companies because it stands in such stark contrast to CDC’s mission to persuade smokers to quit and keep children from becoming addicted. Critics say her trading behavior broke with ethical norms for public health officials and was, at best, sloppy. At worst, they say, it was legally problematic if she didn't recuse herself from government activities that could have affected her investments.

“You don’t buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC. It’s ridiculous, it gives a terrible appearance,” said Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007. He described the move as “tone deaf,” given CDC’s role in leading anti-smoking efforts.

Even if Fitzgerald, a medical doctor, and former Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, met all of the legal requirements, “it stinks to high heaven,” Painter said.

An HHS spokesman confirmed "the potentially conflicting" stock purchases, saying they were handled by her financial manager and that she subsequently sold them.

“Like all presidential personnel, Dr. Fitzgerald’s financial holdings were reviewed by the HHS Ethics Office, and she was instructed to divest of certain holdings that may pose a conflict of interest. During the divestiture process, her financial account manager purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings. These additional purchases did not change the scope of Dr. Fitzgerald’s recusal obligations, and Dr. Fitzgerald has since also divested of these newly acquired potentially conflicting publicly traded stock holdings.”

After assuming the CDC leadership on July 7, Fitzgerald bought tens of thousands of dollars in new stock holdings in at least a dozen companies later that month as well as in August and September, according to records obtained under the Stock Act which requires disclosures of transactions over $1,000. Purchases included between $1,001 and $15,000 of Japan Tobacco, one of the largest such companies in the world, which sells four tobacco brands in the U.S. through a subsidiary.

The purchases also include between $1,001 and $15,000 each in Merck & Co, Bayer and health insurance company Humana, as well as between $15,001 and $50,000 in US Food Holding Co., according to financial disclosure documents.

On Aug. 9, one day after purchasing stock in global giant Japan Tobacco, she toured the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory, which researches how the chemicals in tobacco harm human health, according to financial forms obtained from HHS’ Office of Government Ethics and calendars obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The records confirm that Fitzgerald sold the shares of tobacco on Oct. 26 and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 by Nov. 21, more than four months after she became CDC director.

Fitzgerald, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has made tobacco efforts a focus of her public health career, despite owning stock in the industry. She listed tobacco cessation as one of her primary priorities while still serving in the Georgia position in February 2017. Prior to accepting the CDC position, she owned stock in five other tobacco companies: Reynolds American, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International, and Altria Group, Inc. — all legal under Georgia’s ethics rules. HHS did not respond to questions about why she invested in tobacco companies while working to reduce tobacco consumption.

“It’s stunning,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It sends two messages both of which are deeply disturbing. First it undermines the credibility of a public official when they argue that tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of disease. Second and perhaps even worse, it indicates a public official is willing to put their personal profit above the ethics of investing in a company whose products cause so much harm.”

“It gives you a window, I think, into her value system,” said Kathleen Clark a professor of law focusing on government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis. “It doesn’t make her a criminal but it does raise the question of what are her commitments? What are her values and are they consistent with this government agency that is dedicated to the public health? Frankly she losses some credibility.”

While holding the newly purchased tobacco, drug company and food stock, along with other financial holdings in various health companies, Fitzgerald participated in meetings related to the opioids crisis, hurricane response efforts, cancer and obesity, stroke prevention, polio, Zika and Ebola, according to a copy of her schedule between Aug. 1 and Oct. 27.

Merck, whose stock Fitzgerald purchased on Aug. 9, has been working on developing an Ebola vaccine and also makes HIV medications. Bayer, whose stock she purchased on Aug. 10 has in the past partnered with the CDC Foundation, which works closely with the CDC, to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

“If she participated in meetings in which she has financial conflicts of interest, that is not fine in my book,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist at the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen. Because some of the meetings took place before Fitzgerald had an ethics agreement, Holman said she “could have an easy avenue for excusing herself,” by saying she didn't understand it was a conflict, or arguing she didn’t make decisions in those meetings. “But that is not how the law should be applied,” he added. “Even if you could claim you didn’t speak up at those meetings, your presence poses a conflict of interest.”

But it could have been possible for Fitzgerald to participate in briefings on topics like tobacco or Ebola, without violating government ethics policy, depending on her role, said a former government ethics official. For example, if Fitzgerald was just in listening mode and not making any substantive comments or decisions, she would likely be within the rules, the official said.

Fitzgerald has already been criticized by some lawmakers for her inability to offload two financial holdings, which date to before she became CDC director and left her unable to perform some tasks, such as testifying in front of lawmakers. An HHS spokesperson said she is actively working to address her remaining recusal obligations related to the two companies, adding that both have “complex transfer restrictions.”

HHS officials said Fitzgerald’s lengthy divestment process was due to her complicated stock portfolio. They declined to say if she had any ethics training. She didn’t enter into a formal ethics agreement with HHS until two months after taking office.

“It’s a little concerning it took two months to get her ethics agreement signed and an additional month for her to dump conflicting stock,” said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

The Health and Human Services Department declined to respond to detailed questions about Fitzgerald’s investments, including whether she herself approved the transactions and what activities and decisions she recused herself from due to her holdings.

Normally, senior government officials commence the process of outlining their conflicts of interest before they assume a job, so that they can quickly divest within days of taking office, a former HHS senior legal counsel told POLITICO.

HHS lawyers usually advise employees to avoid purchasing new stock during an interim period, particularly in areas where they would likely need to divest. Fitzgerald’s ethics agreement, dated Sept. 7, identified nearly all the companies in which she bought stocks on the job as conflicts of interest.

But officials are liable for their actions, regardless of whether they have an ethics agreement in place or have been warned by ethics officials that a financial holding is a conflict, multiple former government ethics officials told POLITICO.

One reason Fitzgerald’s divestment may have taken so long is that the Office of Government Ethics has little ability to force government officials to speedily address financial conflicts, unless they are undergoing a Senate confirmation process, said Walter Shaub who directed the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017. The CDC director is not a Senate-confirmable post.

“There is a lot less transparency around the non-Senate confirmed individuals … and the ethics process lags, even though the rules still apply," said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for public Service, a government oversight group. "Those folks put themselves at risk by not getting clearance and understanding the rules.”

 

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GreyhoundFan

The Koch network is trying to screw over our educational system. I'm sure Betsy DeVos is cheering them on. "The Daily 202: Koch network laying groundwork to fundamentally transform America’s education system"

Spoiler

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The Koch network will spend around $400 million on politics and policy this election cycle, but that’s only part of a grander effort to fundamentally transform America.

Making a long-term play, the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and his like-minded friends on the right are increasingly focused on melding the minds of the next generation by making massive, targeted investments in both K-12 and higher education.

Changing the education system as we know it was a central focus of a three-day donor seminar that wrapped up late last night at a resort here in the desert outside Palm Springs.

“We’ve made more progress in the last five years than I had in the last 50,” Koch told donors during a cocktail reception. “The capabilities we have now can take us to a whole new level. … We want to increase the effectiveness of the network … by an order of magnitude. If we do that, we can change the trajectory of the country.”

Leaders of the network dreamed of disrupting the status quo, customizing learning and breaking the teacher unions. One initial priority is expanding educational saving accounts and developing technologies that would let parents pick and choose private classes or tutors for their kids the same way people shop on Amazon. They envision making it easy for families to join together to start their own “micro-schools” as a new alternative to the public system.

The Charles Koch Institute distributed roughly $100 million to 350 colleges and universities last year, up sevenfold over the past five years. What’s newer is the emphasis on elementary and secondary education. The network declined to offer exact figures but said it will double investment in K-12 this year, with much more planned down the road.

There are about 700 people who each contribute a minimum of $100,000 per year to the constellation of organizations that comprise the Koch network. For years, many of these megadonors have urged Koch to wade into the battles over what they call school choice. Charles resisted, believing that his network had no special comparative advantage to move the needle in this area.

Then he commissioned Meredith Olson, a vice president at Koch Industries, to interview members of his network about what they are doing in their home states to explore whether there is a way to scale their education efforts nationally. She developed a three-prong strategy: “reform, supplement, innovate.”

“The lowest hanging fruit for policy change in the United States today is K-12,” said Stacy Hock, a major Koch donor who has co-founded a group called Texans for Educational Opportunity. “I think this is the area that is most glaringly obvious.”

-- In 2018, Koch donors see Arizona as ground zero in their push. Doug Ducey, the former chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, became a member of the Koch network in 2011. Since 2015, he’s attended the seminars as governor of Arizona. Last year, he signed legislation to dramatically expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program so that students can use taxpayer dollars that would be spent on them in public schools to cover private-school tuition or other educational expenses.

Teacher unions, worried that this will undermine the public system, collected enough signatures to put the law on hold and create a ballot proposition to let voters decide in November whether to expand vouchers.

Addressing the seminar yesterday, Ducey touted the measure as further reaching than anything that’s been tried in other states. He warned that, under Arizona law, if advocates lose at the ballot box, they will not be able to legislate on the topic in the future. “This is a very real fight in my state,” Ducey said. “I didn’t run for governor to play small ball. I think this is an important idea.”

The Koch network is likely to spend heavily to support the voucher law, setting up a battle royal with the labor movement.

Ducey introduced Steve Perry, the headmaster of Capital Prep Charter Schools, who has been traveling Arizona to speak in support of the law. “The teacher unions are unencumbered by the truth,” he told the Koch donors. “It is a distant relative that is never invited to dinner.”

Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, highlighted field operations that the network has built in 36 states to advance its agenda, including on education. “We have more grass-roots members in Wisconsin than the Wisconsin teachers’ union has members,” he said. “That’s how you change a state!”

Many of the richest people in America listened intently as Koch donors and officials outlined their theory of the case. The Washington Post was invited inside the strategy session on the condition that the donors in attendance not be named without their permission. At the end of what was essentially a sales pitch, members of the Seminar Network, as it is officially known, were asked to check a box on a piece of paper in front of them if they were interested in contributing to the education efforts.

“We all need to be fully committed to a society in which everyone has an opportunity to make a better life for themselves,” Charles Koch said. “To succeed, each of us has to be all-in. What I mean by that is that we have to make these kinds of efforts a central part of our lives. You don’t need to be as obsessed as I am … although that wouldn’t hurt … but you can’t just make it a sideline.”

...

This is so depressing.

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fraurosena
14 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

I'm sure Betsy DeVos is cheering them on.

I believe she's following their directions, and will do exactly what they tell her to. 

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fraurosena
16 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

Another one from the "you couldn't make this shit up" bucket: "Trump's top health official traded tobacco stock while leading anti-smoking efforts"

  Hide contents

The Trump administration’s top public health official bought shares in a tobacco company one month into her leadership of the agency charged with reducing tobacco use — the leading cause of preventable disease and death and an issue she had long championed.

The stock was one of about a dozen new investments that Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, made after she took over the agency’s top job, according to documents obtained by POLITICO. Fitzgerald has since come under congressional scrutiny for slow walking divestment from older holdings that government officials said posed potential conflicts of interest.

Buying shares of tobacco companies raises even more flags than Fitzgerald’s trading in drug and food companies because it stands in such stark contrast to CDC’s mission to persuade smokers to quit and keep children from becoming addicted. Critics say her trading behavior broke with ethical norms for public health officials and was, at best, sloppy. At worst, they say, it was legally problematic if she didn't recuse herself from government activities that could have affected her investments.

“You don’t buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC. It’s ridiculous, it gives a terrible appearance,” said Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007. He described the move as “tone deaf,” given CDC’s role in leading anti-smoking efforts.

Even if Fitzgerald, a medical doctor, and former Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, met all of the legal requirements, “it stinks to high heaven,” Painter said.

An HHS spokesman confirmed "the potentially conflicting" stock purchases, saying they were handled by her financial manager and that she subsequently sold them.

“Like all presidential personnel, Dr. Fitzgerald’s financial holdings were reviewed by the HHS Ethics Office, and she was instructed to divest of certain holdings that may pose a conflict of interest. During the divestiture process, her financial account manager purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings. These additional purchases did not change the scope of Dr. Fitzgerald’s recusal obligations, and Dr. Fitzgerald has since also divested of these newly acquired potentially conflicting publicly traded stock holdings.”

After assuming the CDC leadership on July 7, Fitzgerald bought tens of thousands of dollars in new stock holdings in at least a dozen companies later that month as well as in August and September, according to records obtained under the Stock Act which requires disclosures of transactions over $1,000. Purchases included between $1,001 and $15,000 of Japan Tobacco, one of the largest such companies in the world, which sells four tobacco brands in the U.S. through a subsidiary.

The purchases also include between $1,001 and $15,000 each in Merck & Co, Bayer and health insurance company Humana, as well as between $15,001 and $50,000 in US Food Holding Co., according to financial disclosure documents.

On Aug. 9, one day after purchasing stock in global giant Japan Tobacco, she toured the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory, which researches how the chemicals in tobacco harm human health, according to financial forms obtained from HHS’ Office of Government Ethics and calendars obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The records confirm that Fitzgerald sold the shares of tobacco on Oct. 26 and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 by Nov. 21, more than four months after she became CDC director.

Fitzgerald, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has made tobacco efforts a focus of her public health career, despite owning stock in the industry. She listed tobacco cessation as one of her primary priorities while still serving in the Georgia position in February 2017. Prior to accepting the CDC position, she owned stock in five other tobacco companies: Reynolds American, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International, and Altria Group, Inc. — all legal under Georgia’s ethics rules. HHS did not respond to questions about why she invested in tobacco companies while working to reduce tobacco consumption.

“It’s stunning,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It sends two messages both of which are deeply disturbing. First it undermines the credibility of a public official when they argue that tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of disease. Second and perhaps even worse, it indicates a public official is willing to put their personal profit above the ethics of investing in a company whose products cause so much harm.”

“It gives you a window, I think, into her value system,” said Kathleen Clark a professor of law focusing on government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis. “It doesn’t make her a criminal but it does raise the question of what are her commitments? What are her values and are they consistent with this government agency that is dedicated to the public health? Frankly she losses some credibility.”

While holding the newly purchased tobacco, drug company and food stock, along with other financial holdings in various health companies, Fitzgerald participated in meetings related to the opioids crisis, hurricane response efforts, cancer and obesity, stroke prevention, polio, Zika and Ebola, according to a copy of her schedule between Aug. 1 and Oct. 27.

Merck, whose stock Fitzgerald purchased on Aug. 9, has been working on developing an Ebola vaccine and also makes HIV medications. Bayer, whose stock she purchased on Aug. 10 has in the past partnered with the CDC Foundation, which works closely with the CDC, to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

“If she participated in meetings in which she has financial conflicts of interest, that is not fine in my book,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist at the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen. Because some of the meetings took place before Fitzgerald had an ethics agreement, Holman said she “could have an easy avenue for excusing herself,” by saying she didn't understand it was a conflict, or arguing she didn’t make decisions in those meetings. “But that is not how the law should be applied,” he added. “Even if you could claim you didn’t speak up at those meetings, your presence poses a conflict of interest.”

But it could have been possible for Fitzgerald to participate in briefings on topics like tobacco or Ebola, without violating government ethics policy, depending on her role, said a former government ethics official. For example, if Fitzgerald was just in listening mode and not making any substantive comments or decisions, she would likely be within the rules, the official said.

Fitzgerald has already been criticized by some lawmakers for her inability to offload two financial holdings, which date to before she became CDC director and left her unable to perform some tasks, such as testifying in front of lawmakers. An HHS spokesperson said she is actively working to address her remaining recusal obligations related to the two companies, adding that both have “complex transfer restrictions.”

HHS officials said Fitzgerald’s lengthy divestment process was due to her complicated stock portfolio. They declined to say if she had any ethics training. She didn’t enter into a formal ethics agreement with HHS until two months after taking office.

“It’s a little concerning it took two months to get her ethics agreement signed and an additional month for her to dump conflicting stock,” said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

The Health and Human Services Department declined to respond to detailed questions about Fitzgerald’s investments, including whether she herself approved the transactions and what activities and decisions she recused herself from due to her holdings.

Normally, senior government officials commence the process of outlining their conflicts of interest before they assume a job, so that they can quickly divest within days of taking office, a former HHS senior legal counsel told POLITICO.

HHS lawyers usually advise employees to avoid purchasing new stock during an interim period, particularly in areas where they would likely need to divest. Fitzgerald’s ethics agreement, dated Sept. 7, identified nearly all the companies in which she bought stocks on the job as conflicts of interest.

But officials are liable for their actions, regardless of whether they have an ethics agreement in place or have been warned by ethics officials that a financial holding is a conflict, multiple former government ethics officials told POLITICO.

One reason Fitzgerald’s divestment may have taken so long is that the Office of Government Ethics has little ability to force government officials to speedily address financial conflicts, unless they are undergoing a Senate confirmation process, said Walter Shaub who directed the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017. The CDC director is not a Senate-confirmable post.

“There is a lot less transparency around the non-Senate confirmed individuals … and the ethics process lags, even though the rules still apply," said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for public Service, a government oversight group. "Those folks put themselves at risk by not getting clearance and understanding the rules.”

 

Surprisingly, she's out. In this administration, that's unheard of.

 

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GreyhoundFan

The corruption is neverending: "‘Using his position for private gain’: HUD lawyers warned Ben Carson risked running afoul of ethics rules by enlisting son"

Spoiler

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson allowed his son to help organize a “listening tour” in Baltimore last summer despite warnings from department lawyers that doing so risked violating federal ethics rules, according to internal documents and people familiar with the matter.

In the days before the event in late June, career officials and political appointees raised concerns that Carson’s son, local businessman Ben Carson Jr., and daughter-in-law were inviting people with whom they potentially had business dealings, the documents show.

“I expressed my concern that this gave the appearance that the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain,” Linda M. Cruciani, HUD’s deputy general counsel for operations, wrote in a July 6 memo, describing her reaction upon learning of Carson Jr.’s involvement from other staff members.

The two-page memo, obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), details conference calls and meetings that Cruciani and her colleagues had with Carson, his son and other senior HUD officials to urge that Carson Jr. not be involved in the listening tour, an event aimed in part at gathering input from local business leaders.

The high-level meetings surrounding the Baltimore event highlight the extent to which Carson has relied on close family members since joining the Cabinet. His wife, Candy Carson, son Carson Jr. and daughter-in-law Merlynn Carson have attended some of his official meetings, according to current and former HUD officials.

Cruciani wrote that, in a meeting on June 26, two days before the event was to begin, Carson initially said “it would be difficult” to have a listening tour in Baltimore without his son’s involvement because Carson Jr. is a large employer. Even so, Cruciani wrote, she and her colleagues left believing that Carson Jr. would not be involved in the two-day tour, with the possible exception of an event about health care.

Yet Candy Carson, Carson Jr. and Merlynn Carson attended multiple events during the Baltimore tour, including ones open to the news media and a closed-door session on housing policy with state and city officials along with HUD employees, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Jereon Brown, a HUD spokesman, confirmed that Carson Jr.’s role was not limited to the health-care discussion. He said no one was dropped from the list of invitees. He did not respond to questions about what steps, if any, the secretary took to address the ethics warnings that department lawyers raised.

In a statement Tuesday, Carson said his goal in conducting the tour was to “help the people of Baltimore have access to safe affordable housing.”

“In my role as HUD Secretary, I try to be as inclusive as possible and talk with a wide variety of people because when it comes to increasing access to affordable housing, no rock should remain unturned,” he said. “My family, or people with relationships with my family, have never influenced any decision at HUD.”

In an interview in early January, Carson dismissed news reports that his family was involved in HUD business. “They can FOIA everything, and they have been,” he said. “There’s nothing to find. It’s ridiculous.”

Carson Jr. did not respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment. Cruciani did not return a call seeking comment, referring the matter to HUD’s press office.

Guillermo Mayer, a public advocacy lawyer who helps lead Carson Watch, a group critical of the secretary, questioned why the Carsons went ahead with last year’s event. “It’s deeply troubling that Secretary Carson would ignore ethics guidance from his own HUD attorneys and opt to mix family business interests with his official duties,” Mayer said.

The event in Baltimore, a stop on a national listening tour, aimed to solicit input from local leaders, medical professionals and philanthropists. Carson also used the visit to announce $127 million in grants for lead abatement programs nationwide.

On June 14, Cruciani wrote, HUD officials Mason Alexander and Lynne Patton — both Trump administration political appointees — raised concerns that Carson Jr. and his wife had asked that more than half a dozen people be invited to the Baltimore event. The list included Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank; Abell Foundation President Robert C. Embry Jr.; Genesis Rehab Services co-chief operating officer Dan Hirschfeld; Teresa Carlson, vice president of worldwide public sector at Amazon Web Services; former Enterprise Foundation chairman Frederick “Bart” Harvey III; and members of the Paterakis family, which owns a major real estate development and bakery business in Baltimore.

Patton said Carson Jr. and his wife “may be doing business with these entities or may be interested in doing business with these entities,” Cruciani wrote.

When contacted this week, several of the guests said they had been invited but had no business relationship with Carson Jr. A spokeswoman for Plank said he declined the invitation.

The officials also told Cruciani that Carson Jr. and his wife asked that Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, be invited.

A little less than three months later, according to federal records, CMS awarded a $485,000 contract to the consulting company Myriddian, whose chief executive is Merlynn Carson. Carson Jr. identifies himself online as one of Myriddian’s board members. The contract, for administrative services, was awarded without a competitive bidding process, federal records show, although a CMS official said multiple minority-owned firms were considered.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the contract was for career development services for the agency’s large contacting staff. He added that Verma did not attend the Baltimore event and said CMS has no record of her receiving an invitation.

On June 23, according to the memo, Cruciani met with Alexander and Beth Zorc, then HUD’s acting counsel, to discuss concerns that “Ben Carson Jr. continued to be involved” in the planning and that some of his business associates would be present.

As chairman of Interprise Partners, based in Columbia, Md., Carson Jr. serves on the board of four Interprise companies, according to the firm’s website. The firm specializes in infrastructure, health care and workforce development.

HUD lawyers and top officials agreed to a teleconference with Carson Jr. on June 26, the memo states, two days before the event was to begin.

On the call, Cruciani wrote, Carson Jr. said that “he had invited associates ‘who work with us but [who] advance HUD initiatives’ ” and that it was “helpful for us to get the right people in the room” to establish privately funded community centers the secretary has dubbed “EnVision Centers.” The initiative aims to help HUD-assisted households achieve self-sufficiency by offering career counseling and training at centers sponsored by local groups but certified by federal officials.

Carson Jr. said that “nothing we would do would be near a conflict.” He emphasized his desire to “help his father ask the right questions” and ensure that there was follow-up on what attendees might say to the secretary, Cruciani wrote.

“I explained that he might have staffed his father during the campaign this way, but that the follow-up from official meetings would be the responsibility of HUD staff,” Cruciani wrote.

At Carson Jr.’s request, Cruciani sent him a primer on federal ethics laws under the header, “Misuse of Position: Regulations applying to SOHUD,” shorthand for secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson Jr. told Cruciani that he did not want to create unnecessary concern and that he would speak to his father, Cruciani wrote.

Later that day, Cruciani, Alexander and Zorc discussed the matter with the secretary themselves.

“The Secretary said that it was difficult to have a Listening Tour in Baltimore without his son’s involvement as his son was the largest employer in Maryland,” Cruciani wrote. “I said that I understood his frustration, but explained that the rule that he avoid any actions that might create the appearance of violating the law was broad.”

Although Carson repeated that claim during his interview with The Post in early January, Carson Jr.’s account of his business suggests that he ranks well below Maryland’s largest employer. He told HUD lawyers that he has “three law firms and 2,600 employees,” the memo states.

There are six state employers with at least 5,000 employees or more, according to a state database, and 29 with at least 2,500.

Brown, the HUD spokesman, said Carson was speaking as “a proud father” and realizes that there are bigger employers in Maryland.

Carson’s immediate family made its mark at HUD during the first months of the Trump administration.

Carson Jr. showed up on email chains within the department and often appeared at its headquarters, said a former HUD official who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Candy Carson also accompanied her husband around the building and to official meetings both inside and outside of HUD early last year, multiple agency officials said. At the secretary’s first address to department employees, the couple was invited to the stage amid a backdrop welcoming them “to the HUD family.”

In the interview with The Post, Carson said his wife played no role in shaping department policy. “I rely on her as my life partner and the person that I enjoy being with most of all in the world,” he said.

As recently as last fall, Carson Jr. appeared at official events with his father. In late October, the HUD secretary toured Baltimore’s Helping Up Mission, a faith-based group that helps men facing addiction and homelessness. Flanked in the audience by Candy Carson, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) and other Maryland officials, Carson praised “Americans who care about their fellow Americans.”

“This is not a big-government program,” Carson, a former neurosurgeon at the city’s Johns Hopkins University, said in a speech to Helping Up graduates. “This is a program of people who reached out — out of their heart — and said, ‘That is my brother, and I have an obligation to take care of him.’ ”

Between applause, Carson Jr. walked in. As his father fielded questions from the group, he stood near the back of the room, greeting some of the guests with a smile.

So Carson suffers from Dumpy Hyperbole Syndrome -- saying his son is the largest employer in Maryland, when it's nowhere near the truth. And WTF about going on a "tour" to Baltimore? Baltimore is an hour from DC. He could drive it for the afternoon.

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GrumpyGran
49 minutes ago, GreyhoundFan said:

The corruption is neverending: "‘Using his position for private gain’: HUD lawyers warned Ben Carson risked running afoul of ethics rules by enlisting son"

  Hide contents

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson allowed his son to help organize a “listening tour” in Baltimore last summer despite warnings from department lawyers that doing so risked violating federal ethics rules, according to internal documents and people familiar with the matter.

In the days before the event in late June, career officials and political appointees raised concerns that Carson’s son, local businessman Ben Carson Jr., and daughter-in-law were inviting people with whom they potentially had business dealings, the documents show.

“I expressed my concern that this gave the appearance that the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain,” Linda M. Cruciani, HUD’s deputy general counsel for operations, wrote in a July 6 memo, describing her reaction upon learning of Carson Jr.’s involvement from other staff members.

The two-page memo, obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), details conference calls and meetings that Cruciani and her colleagues had with Carson, his son and other senior HUD officials to urge that Carson Jr. not be involved in the listening tour, an event aimed in part at gathering input from local business leaders.

The high-level meetings surrounding the Baltimore event highlight the extent to which Carson has relied on close family members since joining the Cabinet. His wife, Candy Carson, son Carson Jr. and daughter-in-law Merlynn Carson have attended some of his official meetings, according to current and former HUD officials.

Cruciani wrote that, in a meeting on June 26, two days before the event was to begin, Carson initially said “it would be difficult” to have a listening tour in Baltimore without his son’s involvement because Carson Jr. is a large employer. Even so, Cruciani wrote, she and her colleagues left believing that Carson Jr. would not be involved in the two-day tour, with the possible exception of an event about health care.

Yet Candy Carson, Carson Jr. and Merlynn Carson attended multiple events during the Baltimore tour, including ones open to the news media and a closed-door session on housing policy with state and city officials along with HUD employees, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Jereon Brown, a HUD spokesman, confirmed that Carson Jr.’s role was not limited to the health-care discussion. He said no one was dropped from the list of invitees. He did not respond to questions about what steps, if any, the secretary took to address the ethics warnings that department lawyers raised.

In a statement Tuesday, Carson said his goal in conducting the tour was to “help the people of Baltimore have access to safe affordable housing.”

“In my role as HUD Secretary, I try to be as inclusive as possible and talk with a wide variety of people because when it comes to increasing access to affordable housing, no rock should remain unturned,” he said. “My family, or people with relationships with my family, have never influenced any decision at HUD.”

In an interview in early January, Carson dismissed news reports that his family was involved in HUD business. “They can FOIA everything, and they have been,” he said. “There’s nothing to find. It’s ridiculous.”

Carson Jr. did not respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment. Cruciani did not return a call seeking comment, referring the matter to HUD’s press office.

Guillermo Mayer, a public advocacy lawyer who helps lead Carson Watch, a group critical of the secretary, questioned why the Carsons went ahead with last year’s event. “It’s deeply troubling that Secretary Carson would ignore ethics guidance from his own HUD attorneys and opt to mix family business interests with his official duties,” Mayer said.

The event in Baltimore, a stop on a national listening tour, aimed to solicit input from local leaders, medical professionals and philanthropists. Carson also used the visit to announce $127 million in grants for lead abatement programs nationwide.

On June 14, Cruciani wrote, HUD officials Mason Alexander and Lynne Patton — both Trump administration political appointees — raised concerns that Carson Jr. and his wife had asked that more than half a dozen people be invited to the Baltimore event. The list included Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank; Abell Foundation President Robert C. Embry Jr.; Genesis Rehab Services co-chief operating officer Dan Hirschfeld; Teresa Carlson, vice president of worldwide public sector at Amazon Web Services; former Enterprise Foundation chairman Frederick “Bart” Harvey III; and members of the Paterakis family, which owns a major real estate development and bakery business in Baltimore.

Patton said Carson Jr. and his wife “may be doing business with these entities or may be interested in doing business with these entities,” Cruciani wrote.

When contacted this week, several of the guests said they had been invited but had no business relationship with Carson Jr. A spokeswoman for Plank said he declined the invitation.

The officials also told Cruciani that Carson Jr. and his wife asked that Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, be invited.

A little less than three months later, according to federal records, CMS awarded a $485,000 contract to the consulting company Myriddian, whose chief executive is Merlynn Carson. Carson Jr. identifies himself online as one of Myriddian’s board members. The contract, for administrative services, was awarded without a competitive bidding process, federal records show, although a CMS official said multiple minority-owned firms were considered.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the contract was for career development services for the agency’s large contacting staff. He added that Verma did not attend the Baltimore event and said CMS has no record of her receiving an invitation.

On June 23, according to the memo, Cruciani met with Alexander and Beth Zorc, then HUD’s acting counsel, to discuss concerns that “Ben Carson Jr. continued to be involved” in the planning and that some of his business associates would be present.

As chairman of Interprise Partners, based in Columbia, Md., Carson Jr. serves on the board of four Interprise companies, according to the firm’s website. The firm specializes in infrastructure, health care and workforce development.

HUD lawyers and top officials agreed to a teleconference with Carson Jr. on June 26, the memo states, two days before the event was to begin.

On the call, Cruciani wrote, Carson Jr. said that “he had invited associates ‘who work with us but [who] advance HUD initiatives’ ” and that it was “helpful for us to get the right people in the room” to establish privately funded community centers the secretary has dubbed “EnVision Centers.” The initiative aims to help HUD-assisted households achieve self-sufficiency by offering career counseling and training at centers sponsored by local groups but certified by federal officials.

Carson Jr. said that “nothing we would do would be near a conflict.” He emphasized his desire to “help his father ask the right questions” and ensure that there was follow-up on what attendees might say to the secretary, Cruciani wrote.

“I explained that he might have staffed his father during the campaign this way, but that the follow-up from official meetings would be the responsibility of HUD staff,” Cruciani wrote.

At Carson Jr.’s request, Cruciani sent him a primer on federal ethics laws under the header, “Misuse of Position: Regulations applying to SOHUD,” shorthand for secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson Jr. told Cruciani that he did not want to create unnecessary concern and that he would speak to his father, Cruciani wrote.

Later that day, Cruciani, Alexander and Zorc discussed the matter with the secretary themselves.

“The Secretary said that it was difficult to have a Listening Tour in Baltimore without his son’s involvement as his son was the largest employer in Maryland,” Cruciani wrote. “I said that I understood his frustration, but explained that the rule that he avoid any actions that might create the appearance of violating the law was broad.”

Although Carson repeated that claim during his interview with The Post in early January, Carson Jr.’s account of his business suggests that he ranks well below Maryland’s largest employer. He told HUD lawyers that he has “three law firms and 2,600 employees,” the memo states.

There are six state employers with at least 5,000 employees or more, according to a state database, and 29 with at least 2,500.

Brown, the HUD spokesman, said Carson was speaking as “a proud father” and realizes that there are bigger employers in Maryland.

Carson’s immediate family made its mark at HUD during the first months of the Trump administration.

Carson Jr. showed up on email chains within the department and often appeared at its headquarters, said a former HUD official who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Candy Carson also accompanied her husband around the building and to official meetings both inside and outside of HUD early last year, multiple agency officials said. At the secretary’s first address to department employees, the couple was invited to the stage amid a backdrop welcoming them “to the HUD family.”

In the interview with The Post, Carson said his wife played no role in shaping department policy. “I rely on her as my life partner and the person that I enjoy being with most of all in the world,” he said.

As recently as last fall, Carson Jr. appeared at official events with his father. In late October, the HUD secretary toured Baltimore’s Helping Up Mission, a faith-based group that helps men facing addiction and homelessness. Flanked in the audience by Candy Carson, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) and other Maryland officials, Carson praised “Americans who care about their fellow Americans.”

“This is not a big-government program,” Carson, a former neurosurgeon at the city’s Johns Hopkins University, said in a speech to Helping Up graduates. “This is a program of people who reached out — out of their heart — and said, ‘That is my brother, and I have an obligation to take care of him.’ ”

Between applause, Carson Jr. walked in. As his father fielded questions from the group, he stood near the back of the room, greeting some of the guests with a smile.

So Carson suffers from Dumpy Hyperbole Syndrome -- saying his son is the largest employer in Maryland, when it's nowhere near the truth. And WTF about going on a "tour" to Baltimore? Baltimore is an hour from DC. He could drive it for the afternoon.

The Trump administration. Why wouldn't I involve my children in government business? What's wrong with that? And if it helps them get ahead in their businesses, what's wrong with that?

Actually, I saw something a bit frightening in this. Methinks that "Who's Ben Carson? Wait, that's me?" Ben Carson may be fading away. Hence the intense "assistance" of his wife and son.

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Audrey2

Remember, this administration's motto is, "Ask not what your country do for you, ask how much money you can make off it and how much power your family can derive from it."

Edited by Audrey2

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LeftCoastLurker

Found this on my FB feed. Pruitt (EPA) in a radio interview in 2016 calls Donald Trump a danger to the constitution!

Spoiler

 

 

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GreyhoundFan

Mulvaney is such a dick: "Trump administration strips consumer watchdog office of enforcement powers in lending discrimination cases"

Spoiler

The Trump administration has stripped enforcement powers away from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office that specializes in pursuing cases against financial firms accused of breaking discrimination laws, according to two people familiar with the matter and emails reviewed by The Washington Post.

The move comes about two months after President Trump installed his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, at the head of an agency that has long been in the crosshairs of Republicans. The Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity had placed penalties on lenders that it said had systematically imposed interest rates on minorities that were higher than those for whites.

Now that office, which had been part a powerful CFPB division, will move inside the office of director, where staffers will be focused on “advocacy, coordination and education,” according to an email Mulvaney sent them this week. They will no longer have responsibility for enforcement and day-to-day oversight of companies, he said.

Instead, those responsibilities will remain with the division of supervision, enforcement and fair lending, which conducts oversight and enforcement actions in a wide range of cases of financial wrongdoing. The Office of Fair Lending had previously been part of this division.

In his email, which was reviewed by The Post, Mulvaney added that “I do not expect that staff will experience changes in employment status, but it is possible that some may experience changes in jobs and duties.” The two individuals describing the changes spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose internal discussions.

Civil rights and consumer groups said that separating the Office of Fair Lending from its enforcement power weakens its power to pursue cases.

“These changes . . . threaten effective enforcement of civil rights laws, and increase the likelihood that people will continue to face discriminatory access and pricing as they navigate their economic lives,” Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, said in a statement.

Mulvaney’s spokesman dismissed the criticism.

The Office of Fair Lending will now be part of the director’s office as part of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Fairness. “By elevating the Office of Fair Lending to the Director’s Office, we have enhanced its ability to focus on its other important responsibilities,” spokesman John Czwartacki said in a statement. “By combining these efforts under one roof, we gain efficiency and consistency without sacrificing effectiveness. “

The CFPB added that the agency will continue to pursue fair-lending enforcement and supervision cases.

Beyond moving the Office of Fair Lending, Mulvaney has also dropped lawsuits against payday lenders and said the agency would reconsider aggressive rules the industry complained would cripple it. In a memo to the staff last week, Mulvaney said the CFPB would no longer attempt to “push the envelope” in enforcement cases. “We are government employees,” he said. “We don’t just work for the government, we work for the people: those who use credit cards and those who provide them.”

Critics say these moves collectively could hobble an agency created after the global financial crisis to protect consumers against the financial industry.

“If you remove enforcement power from an office, you are essentially gutting its power,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the civil rights division at the Justice Department during the Obama administration. “What we’re seeing in this move is a push to erode the federal civil rights machinery.”

The Office of Fair Lending has pursued some of the CFPB’s most high-profile cases, including a 2015 settlement against Hudson City Savings Bank, a New Jersey-based bank accused of racially discriminating against minority mortgage borrowers. The bank was required to provide $25 million in loan subsidies in what the CFPB called the country’s largest redlining cases.

“The office has been really important in enforcing the country’s fair-lending laws,” said Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

But the office’s work in the auto lending market has been among the agency’s most controversial.

In 2013, it led the CFPB case that resulted in Ally Financial, one of the nation’s largest automobile lenders, to pay $98 million to settle charges that it systematically allowed minorities to be charged more for car loans than whites. Ally was accused of discriminating by charging 235,000 minority borrowers higher rates than whites. On average, black, Hispanic and Asian American customers paid between $200 and just over $300 more for auto loans than whites who were equally creditworthy, federal officials charged.

Then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called the decision the “largest-ever settlement in an auto-loan discrimination case.”

Critics accused the CFPB of going after companies such Ally Financial because it was barred under the law from regulating auto dealers directly. Ally does not lend directly to consumers and does not receive information about borrowers’ race or ethnicity, and, consequently, does not discriminate, Republicans and the auto financial industry said.

“The CFPB was squeezing the auto lending companies” because they could not pursue cases directly against car dealers, said Christopher J. Willis, a lawyer with Ballard Spahr who has worked on fair-lending cases against the CFPB. “They were trying to change an auto industry practice, and it didn’t work.”

Willis said that he was hopeful that Mulvaney could usher in changes to the office. “The controversy around the office really surrounds its very aggressive pursuit of legal theories that were extremely unpopular in the industry and had weak factual bases,” Willis said. The auto lending cases highlighted those problems, he said. “They were really out on a limb in those cases.”

Another case of this administration screwing over people.

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GreyhoundFan

Another unqualified friend of Dumpy's family got a job with the federal government: "Husband of former Trump household aide scores government job"

Spoiler

A home improvement contractor married to one of Donald and Melania Trump’s former household staffers is now working as an official at the Environmental Protection Agency, the latest example of someone with a personal connection to the Trump family finding work in the administration.

New Jersey-based Steve Kopec joined EPA’s Region 2 office in New York as a special assistant on Dec. 18, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO. “Steve comes to us from private industry, where he fashioned his career around customer service and organizational efficiencies,” EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez wrote in the memo. “Steve is an experienced manager with skills in team building, management and organization.”

According to public records, Kopec previously ran a contracting business from his home in Haskell, New Jersey, called Steve’s Tools in Motion. Kopec’s wife, Dagmara, previously worked for the Trump family in New York, according to a person familiar with her situation.

Photographs posted on Facebook in recent months show the Kopecs visiting the White House and mingling with senior administration officials.

Trump, who appointed his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner to senior White House roles, has made a habit of appointing people with close ties to his family or businesses rather than experienced policymakers or political hands. His White House social media director, Dan Scavino, started working for him years ago as a caddy, and his first security director, Keith Schiller, traveled with him from the Trump Organization to the White House.

In June, Trump appointed Lynne Patton, a party planner who arranged events at Trump golf courses as well as Eric Trump’s 2014 wedding, to head the New York office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Scott Amey, the Project on Government Oversight’s general counsel, said there has been a pattern of “questionable hiring” across both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades, noting that presidents’ friends and acquaintances often get tapped for ambassadorships and other top job.

But hiring people at government agencies with little relevant experience can backfire, he said.

“If you put friends in high places and they don’t have the proper qualifications it can have disastrous results for the agency and for taxpayers,” Amey said. “We hope that public service positions are filled with people that are qualified to best serve the public interest.”

Steve Kopec did not answer multiple calls to his office line and didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment via email. Dagmara Kopec did not respond to multiple emails. Lopez, the EPA Region 2 administrator, also did not respond to questions about the circumstances of Steve Kopec’s hiring.

The White House declined to offer an on-the-record response to questions about Kopec’s hiring. “We appreciate Mr. Kopec’s service,” a White House official said.

It’s unclear who made the decision to hire Kopec, or whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was involved. Pruitt, the former Oklahoma state attorney general, has grown close to Trump in recent months and is eyeing other jobs in the administration.

“Mr. Kopec is a hard-working, dedicated employee and we appreciate his service, in supporting environmental protection efforts in New York, New Jersey, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in a statement.

An EPA official added that Kopec “performs administrative and support services” for the agency’s Region 2 administrator. The official said he isn’t writing policy for the agency and does not serve in a technical or scientific role.

Kopec, according to the official, speaks four languages and travels multiple hours a day to the EPA office in New York from his home in New Jersey.

Other administration officials stressed that Kopec does not hold a senior position at the agency, with one official saying he makes $66,215 a year.

Both Dagmara and Steve Kopec are originally from Poland. Steve often goes by his Polish name, Slawomir.

The Kopecs appear to have made repeated visits to the White House in recent months.

One photo posted in September 2017 shows Dagmara Kopec posing on the South Lawn of the White House with communications director Hope Hicks, counselor Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Photos from January — including one with Steve Kopec, Melania Trump and the president — appear to be from a White House Christmas party.

Another photo posted by Kopec in September shows a plate of food with the caption, “My first dinner at the White House.”

He also posted a photo of himself sitting in a yellow chair in what appeared to be the White House Diplomatic Reception Room. The picture caption reads: “I wait for my guest.” It wasn’t clear whom he meant.

 

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GrumpyGran
15 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

Another unqualified friend of Dumpy's family got a job with the federal government: "Husband of former Trump household aide scores government job"

  Reveal hidden contents

A home improvement contractor married to one of Donald and Melania Trump’s former household staffers is now working as an official at the Environmental Protection Agency, the latest example of someone with a personal connection to the Trump family finding work in the administration.

New Jersey-based Steve Kopec joined EPA’s Region 2 office in New York as a special assistant on Dec. 18, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO. “Steve comes to us from private industry, where he fashioned his career around customer service and organizational efficiencies,” EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez wrote in the memo. “Steve is an experienced manager with skills in team building, management and organization.”

According to public records, Kopec previously ran a contracting business from his home in Haskell, New Jersey, called Steve’s Tools in Motion. Kopec’s wife, Dagmara, previously worked for the Trump family in New York, according to a person familiar with her situation.

Photographs posted on Facebook in recent months show the Kopecs visiting the White House and mingling with senior administration officials.

Trump, who appointed his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner to senior White House roles, has made a habit of appointing people with close ties to his family or businesses rather than experienced policymakers or political hands. His White House social media director, Dan Scavino, started working for him years ago as a caddy, and his first security director, Keith Schiller, traveled with him from the Trump Organization to the White House.

In June, Trump appointed Lynne Patton, a party planner who arranged events at Trump golf courses as well as Eric Trump’s 2014 wedding, to head the New York office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Scott Amey, the Project on Government Oversight’s general counsel, said there has been a pattern of “questionable hiring” across both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades, noting that presidents’ friends and acquaintances often get tapped for ambassadorships and other top job.

But hiring people at government agencies with little relevant experience can backfire, he said.

“If you put friends in high places and they don’t have the proper qualifications it can have disastrous results for the agency and for taxpayers,” Amey said. “We hope that public service positions are filled with people that are qualified to best serve the public interest.”

Steve Kopec did not answer multiple calls to his office line and didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment via email. Dagmara Kopec did not respond to multiple emails. Lopez, the EPA Region 2 administrator, also did not respond to questions about the circumstances of Steve Kopec’s hiring.

The White House declined to offer an on-the-record response to questions about Kopec’s hiring. “We appreciate Mr. Kopec’s service,” a White House official said.

It’s unclear who made the decision to hire Kopec, or whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was involved. Pruitt, the former Oklahoma state attorney general, has grown close to Trump in recent months and is eyeing other jobs in the administration.

“Mr. Kopec is a hard-working, dedicated employee and we appreciate his service, in supporting environmental protection efforts in New York, New Jersey, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in a statement.

An EPA official added that Kopec “performs administrative and support services” for the agency’s Region 2 administrator. The official said he isn’t writing policy for the agency and does not serve in a technical or scientific role.

Kopec, according to the official, speaks four languages and travels multiple hours a day to the EPA office in New York from his home in New Jersey.

Other administration officials stressed that Kopec does not hold a senior position at the agency, with one official saying he makes $66,215 a year.

Both Dagmara and Steve Kopec are originally from Poland. Steve often goes by his Polish name, Slawomir.

The Kopecs appear to have made repeated visits to the White House in recent months.

One photo posted in September 2017 shows Dagmara Kopec posing on the South Lawn of the White House with communications director Hope Hicks, counselor Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Photos from January — including one with Steve Kopec, Melania Trump and the president — appear to be from a White House Christmas party.

Another photo posted by Kopec in September shows a plate of food with the caption, “My first dinner at the White House.”

He also posted a photo of himself sitting in a yellow chair in what appeared to be the White House Diplomatic Reception Room. The picture caption reads: “I wait for my guest.” It wasn’t clear whom he meant.

 

The hypocrisy train rolls on. Immigrants. White immigrants. From Europe.

It is nice to be reminded that I am waaaay too qualified to work for this administration. It's quite an ego-booster. :pb_lol:

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AmazonGrace

Scott Pruitt caught the idontrecallitis from Sessions

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GrumpyGran
18 hours ago, AmazonGrace said:

Scott Pruitt caught the idontrecallitis from Sessions

Remember, he was saying this about a person he believed was actually a Democrat. Republicans, until recently, have lived in fear that Dumpy will wake up one morning and remember that he is actually a Democrat. It's hard to put your faith in someone who changes their allegiance based on who will swear allegiance to them. Even Adolf Hitler didn't do that.

Dumpy writes this displays of dislike off easily. "Oh, he didn't know me back then, he didn't know what a tremendous leader I could be."

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GreyhoundFan

You couldn't make this up: "Super Bowl anti-terrorism documents left on plane"

Spoiler

(CNN)The Department of Homeland Security documents critiquing the response to a simulated anthrax attack on Super Bowl Sunday were marked "For Official Use Only" and "important for national security."

Recipients of the draft "after-action" reports were told to keep them locked up after business hours and to shred them prior to discarding. They were admonished not to share their contents with anyone who lacked "an operational need-to-know."

But security surrounding the December 2017 reports suffered an embarrassing breach:

A CNN employee discovered copies of them, along with other sensitive DHS material, in the seat-back pocket of a commercial plane. The reports were accompanied by the travel itinerary and boarding pass of the government scientist in charge of BioWatch, the DHS program that conducted the anthrax drills in preparation for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

The reports were based on exercises designed to evaluate the ability of public health, law enforcement and emergency management officials to engage in a coordinated response were a biological attack to be carried out in Minneapolis on Super Bowl Sunday.

The exercises identified several areas for improvement, including the problem that "some local law enforcement and emergency management agencies possess only a cursory knowledge of the BioWatch program and its mission."

CNN decided to withhold publication of this article until after the Super Bowl after government officials voiced concerns that publishing it prior to the game could jeopardize security for the event. A DHS official told CNN that areas for improvement identified in the draft reports had been addressed prior to Sunday's game and that the agency had "great confidence" in its preparedness.

"This exercise was a resounding success and was not conducted in response to any specific, credible threat of a bioterrorism attack," said Tyler Q. Houlton, an agency spokeswoman.

Juliette Kayyem, a former DHS official who now serves as a CNN contributor, said it was not surprising that the documents highlighted deficiencies.

She said such exercises are designed to expose gaps in planning and preparedness so that authorities "are better equipped if something bad were to happen."

Nonetheless, she said, the misplacement of the documents was "a really stupid thing."

"Who knows who else could have picked this up," she said.

"The biggest consequence of this mistake," Kayyem said, "may have less to do with terrorists knowing our vulnerabilities and more to do with confidence in the Department of Homeland Security. In the end, confidence in the federal government at a time of crisis is what the American public deserves."

In addition to requesting that CNN not publish prior to the Super Bowl, DHS officials argued that disclosure of some material contained in the draft reports could threaten national security, regardless of when it was published. Based on that concern, CNN is withholding some details contained in the documents.

The after-action reports obtained by CNN are based on a pair of exercises conducted as part of DHS's BioWatch program, which operates a nationwide aerosol detection system designed to provide an early warning of a biological attack across all levels of government.

The exercises -- one in July, the other in early November — were built around the response to an intentional anthrax release that coincides with the Super Bowl.

Among the findings was that there were "differences of opinion" over how many people had been exposed, "which led to differences of opinion on courses of action."

The reports also noted there was confusion among local health agencies about the meaning of alerts issued during the exercise and with whom information could safely be shared during an emergency.

This "made it difficult for them to assess whether their city was at risk," the documents stated, and "creates a situation where local officials are deciding on courses of action from limited points of view."

CNN was unable to verify who left the documents on the plane. The travel itinerary and boarding pass accompanying the documents was in the name of Michael V. Walter.

Walter, a microbiologist, has been the program manager of BioWatch since 2009, according to his LinkedIn profile.

"I am responsible for developing and operating a budget that has ranged up to 90 million dollars and directed a staff or more than 50 members," his profile says.

He held previous posts with the Central Intelligence Agency and Naval Surface Warfare Center and has 20 years of experience with biological warfare research.

Walter, 59, did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

A DHS official said the missing documents were the subject of an "operational review" and that "DHS does not comment on personnel matters or potential pending personnel action."

There has been a drumbeat of criticism surrounding the BioWatch program since its inception in 2003.

Multiple government reports issued over the course of more than a decade have raised questions about its cost and effectiveness.

"Since 2003, approximately $1 billion has been spent on this program," according to a 2013 memo by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's oversight subcommittee. "After more than a decade of operation, DHS still lacks crucial data demonstrating the effectiveness of the current technology."

The report also noted differences of opinion within the government about the program.

"Several statements by DHS about the performance of the BioWatch program are disputed by other government scientists or contradicted by information obtained in this investigation," the document said.

A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office struck a similar tone when it said "considerable uncertainty" exists about the types and sizes of biological attacks the system could detect. The report states that because DHS did not develop "performance requirements" for the program, the agency could not make informed decisions about how to upgrade it.

An agency official noted in an email to CNN that "Biodetection is one aspect of a layered approach to biodefense," and that "DHS continues to develop requirements and field enhancements to our national biodefense."

 

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AmazonGrace

Never mind anthrax, how were they making sure nobody was out there up in some hotel window with an arsenal aiming at football fans?

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AmazonGrace

You don't have to be a domestic abuser to work in this White House but it certainly helps:

 

 

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47of74
4 hours ago, AmazonGrace said:

You don't have to be a domestic abuser to work in this White House but it certainly helps:

 

 

Looks like he's out.

Quote

White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a top aide to President Donald Trump, has resigned, the White House confirmed Wednesday, following allegations of abuse from his two ex-wives.

Porter denied the allegations in a statement issued in the wake of his resignation.

"These outrageous allegations are simply false," he said in his statement. "I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."

Porter resigned over the objections of White House chief of staff John Kelly and others, a White House official said.

Uh, dude, you resigned.  Smoke.  Fire.  Check it out sometime.  And you're a fucking loser for beating up your wives.

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fraurosena

I've been saying that I find it reprehensible that there are people on the ground who are enforcing the horrific roundup of undocumented workers and breaking up families, and questioning why no one just steps up and says "NO, I'm not going along with that."

Well, somebody did, and I want to applaud him. :clap: May he be the first of many.

Please read the whole thread.

 

 

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fraurosena

The last tweet in the above thread refers to this article. Very, very frightening stuff.

ICE Wants to Be an Intelligence Agency Under Trump

Quote

Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement are actively exploring joining the U.S. Intelligence Community, The Daily Beast has learned.

The effort is helmed by a small cohort of career Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, and has been underway since the Obama administration, according to an ICE official familiar with the matter.

Internal advocates for joining the America’s spy agencies—known as the Intelligence Community or the IC—focus on the potential benefits to the agency’s work on counterproliferation, money laundering, counterterror, and cybercrime. The official added that joining the IC could also be useful for the agency’s immigration enforcement work––in particular, their efforts to find and arrest undocumented immigrants with criminal arrest warrants (known in ICE as fugitive aliens).

But civil liberties advocates and government watchdog groups—as well as some current and former U.S. officials—are concerned at the prospect of the nation’s immigration enforcers joining the ranks of America’s spies.

“The idea that ICE could potentially get access to warrantless surveillance is frankly terrifying,” Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, told The Daily Beast.

Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, also expressed concern.

“The prospect of ICE joining the Intelligence Community, if true, should sound alarm bells,” he said. “Such a move threatens to give an agency responsible for domestic immigration enforcement access to a vast pool of sensitive information collected by our spy agencies for foreign intelligence purposes. Those spying tools do not belong in the hands of ICE agents.”

 

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GreyhoundFan

Argh: "EPA’s Scott Pruitt asks whether global warming ‘necessarily is a bad thing’"

Spoiler

As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus that rising levels of carbon dioxide from human-fueled activity are warming the planet.

He’s now taking a different tack: Even if climate change is occurring, as the vast majority of scientists say it is, a warmer atmosphere might not be so awful for humans, according to Pruitt.

“We know humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends,” Pruitt said Tuesday during an interview on KSNV, an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. “So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

Pruitt continued: “There are very important questions around the climate issue that folks really don’t get to. And that’s one of the reasons why I’ve talked about having an honest, open, transparent debate about what do we know, what don’t we know, so the American people can be informed and they can make decisions on their own with respect to these issues.”

Not long after taking office last February, Pruitt seemed to reject the established science of climate change in a nationally televised interview — a move that outraged scientists, environmental advocates and his predecessors at the EPA.

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in March. “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

At the time, his comments represented a startling statement for an official so high in the U.S. government. They put him at odds not only with leaders around the world, but also with the EPA’s own official scientific findings. President Trump has famously called the idea of human-driven climate change a hoax. Other Cabinet members, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have questioned the scientific basis for combating global warming.

He now seems to have embraced an argument long held by other climate-science skeptics: that a warmer atmosphere may in fact be better for humanity.

“The climate is changing. That’s not the debate. The debate is how do we know what the ideal surface temperature is in 2100? . . . I think the American people deserve an open honest transparent discussion about those things,” Pruitt said in an interview with Reuters last month. He added, “This agency for the last several years has been more focused on what might be happening in 2100, as opposed to what is happening today.”

And during a hearing on Capitol Hill later in January, Pruitt said, “There are questions that we know the answer to; there are questions we don’t know the answer to. For example, what is the ideal surface temperature in the year 2100? [It’s] something that many folks have different perspective on.”

The theme echoes one advanced by Kathleen Hartnett White, Trump’s pick to lead the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, who once touted carbon dioxide as “the gas of life on this planet.” The White House withdrew her nomination on Saturday after even Republican senators raised questions about her expertise.

Pruitt also has been the main administration official pushing for a governmentwide effort to debate the science of climate change. He first raised the possibility of such a “red team-blue team” exercise in an interview in June.

“What the American people deserve, I think, is a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2,” Pruitt told Breitbart’s Joel Pollack. 

During his most recent congressional testimony, Pruitt came back to the same idea.

“That red team-blue team exercise is an exercise to provide an opportunity to the American people to consume information from scientists that have different perspectives on key issues,” Pruitt told Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), “and frankly could be used to build consensus in this body.”

It’s unclear why Pruitt thinks warmer temperatures may be better for people. The last 11,700 years, before the end of the last ice age, constitute a relatively stable period of climate for human civilization. Many of the cities built during those millennia dot the coasts of Earth’s continents and were situated there assuming relatively stable sea levels.

And while rising temperatures may indeed boost agricultural yield in some regions, they are projected to cause debilitating drought elsewhere.

Although the not-so-bad argument may be new for Pruitt, some conservative and fossil-fuel industry groups have used it for almost three decades. In 1991, for example, the Western Fuels Association funded “The Greening of Planet Earth,” a 30-minute video arguing that more CO2 in the air helps farmers.

In 2001, the Cato Institute echoed the video’s message. “The video was right,” Patrick J. Michaels, a senior fellow at the libertarian think tank, wrote. “The greens were wrong.”

The amount of damage he is causing is mind-boggling.

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Cartmann99
On 2/7/2018 at 8:54 AM, AmazonGrace said:

You don't have to be a domestic abuser to work in this White House but it certainly helps:

Somebody needs to get Hope Hicks away from this loser before she joins the club of women he's assaulted. :pb_sad:

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GrumpyGran
29 minutes ago, Cartmann99 said:

Somebody needs to get Hope Hicks away from this loser before she joins the club of women he's assaulted. :pb_sad:

Somehow I think that now that he's out of "the club" she'll move on pretty quickly. She can't "date" anybody who isn't right there because she doesn't have a life outside the WH.

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AmazonGrace

At this point they could just stop pretending and defund and dismantle EPA altogether.

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GrumpyGran
4 hours ago, AmazonGrace said:

At this point they could just stop pretending and defund and dismantle EPA altogether.

I think they're taking it a bit slow because it's serving some kind of purpose for Pruitt. I don't think the removal of all of the regulations is his only goal. There's something else there. Remember, this is the guy who had a sound-proof booth constructed in his office. He's one of the truly evil ones.

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