Posts tagged with "DHS"

Trump fires Christopher Krebs, CISA director who disputed election fraud claims

November 19, 2020

President Donald Trump fired his administration’s most senior cybersecurity official—responsible for securing the presidential election—on Tuesday night, November 17, in the latest of a recent string of ousters via Tweet.

According to a report by The New York Times, in recent days, Christopher Krebs—director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security since November 2018—had systematically disputed Trump’s false declarations that the presidency was stolen from him through fraudulent ballots and software glitches that changed millions of votes.

Indeed, the news outlet said, the president “seemed set off by a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security late last week, the product of a broad committee overseeing the elections, that declared the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate,” Trump wrote a little after 7 p.m. on his Twitter feed, “in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” He said Krebs “has been terminated” as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a post to which. Trump himself had appointed him.

Krebs, 43, a former Microsoft executive, has been hailed in recent days for his two years spent preparing the states for the challenges of the vote, hardening systems against Russian interference and setting up a “rumor control” website to guard against disinformation. The foreign interference so many feared never materialized; instead, the disinformation ultimately came from the White House.

The firing stirred an immediate backlash in the national security community and on Capitol Hill.

“Of all the things this president has done, this is the worst,” said Senator Angus King, Independent of Maine, who led a commission on improving cyberdefenses. “To strike at the heart of the democratic system is beyond anything we have seen from any politician.”

He said Krebs was one of the most competent people he had met in the government. “In this administration, the surest way to get fired is to do your job,” King said.

Senator Richard M. Burr (R-North Carolina) issued a statement calling Krebs “a dedicated public servant who has done a remarkable job during a challenging time.”

“I’m grateful for all Chris has done,” Burr said.

Only two weeks ago, the Times notes, on Election Day, Krebs’s boss, Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, had praised Krebs’s work, including the “rumor control” effort. But behind-the-scenes efforts by some administration officials to keep Trump from firing Krebs apparently failed.

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump Administration plots crackdown by Feds in Democrat-managed cities nationwide

July 22, 2020

The crackdown by federal law enforcement in some American cities is about to ramp up and go national, according to interviews by The Daily Beast with “knowledgeable Trump Administration sources.”

The move is President Donald Trump’s latest effort to use Customs and Border Protection officials, as well as the Department of Homeland Security—an agency created after 9/11 to protect the country from terrorism—to intimidate and remove protesters, without the approval of local or state authorities.

What’s more, both The Daily Beast and Fox News noted, Portland and Kansas City were just the beginning.

Among the list of cities— “all run by liberal Democrats”—in which the president said on July 20 he intends to “quell protests” are New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland, and Detroit.

As previewed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows over the weekend and President Donald Trump on July 20, the Administration intends to send federal law enforcement into Democrat-run cities—whether those cities want federal police help or not. Multiple sources expected Chicago, a flashpoint of white anxiety, to be a focus, as the Chicago Tribune first reported.

Indeed, it is rumored a force of 150 DHS agents will be deployed to Chicago this coming weekend.

In Portland, Customs and Border Protection agents, kitted out in military-style camouflage uniforms and obscured insignia, detained unarmed and largely peaceful protesters in unmarked vans and used pepper spray, tear gas, and batons against them. Oregon’s governor, both of its U.S. senators, and Portland’s mayor have denounced the federal deployment as an unwanted escalation. Its attorney general has sued DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service.

“What is happening in Portland—armed occupation by federal agents—is totally unacceptable,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) told The Daily Beast. “Donald Trump’s unconstitutional test run in Portland cannot be the precursor to a nationwide invasion of cities across the country. Republicans and officials at DOJ and DHS need to think long and hard about whether they want to be party to this gross abuse of power.”

Wyden and his fellow Oregonian in the Senate, Democrat Jeff Merkley, on Monday introduced an amendment to the annual defense authorization to disallow the federal law-enforcement deployment. Their amendment, supported by Oregon Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, restricts federal efforts at crowd control to the “immediate vicinity” of federal property unless requested by local authorities and bans the use of unmarked vehicles or obscured insignia.

According to The Daily Beast, “Trump’s full-on embrace of this type of election-year posturing came after a brief period earlier this summer when the president flirted with emphasizing supposed police reform and related criminal-justice matters, in his increasingly uphill fight against presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Naturally, Trump quickly grew bored with playing the role of reformer.”

These days, his campaign is sounding a different tune. “Many presidents have used the military to stop riots, so this is nothing new and in accordance with the law,” said longtime New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro, the New Hampshire co-chair of Trump 2020. “Our police have taken a beating, and they don’t deserve this. I fully support what President Trump is doing,” he continued, adding that Trump should quickly send “federal help” to other cities such as “Chicago [and] Detroit.”

In Chicago, where police reactions to Black Lives Matter protests have been violent, a Fraternal Order of Police president requested Trump’s assistance. That move drew strong rebuke from local elected officials. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, often the subject of ire from the protesters, has said she doesn’t want outside federal law enforcement assistance.

“We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully. That’s not what we need,” Lightfoot said Monday. 

Research contact: @thedailybeast

American Giant leads coalition of apparel brands to produce 1 million medical-grade masks a week

April 6, 2020

U.S. healthcare workers soon “will be wearing” happier and less-stressed expressions, thanks to the American fashion and apparel industries, Fast Company reports. The San Francisco-based startup, American Giant, which is known for its durable, domestically-produced clothing, is saying, “Hold on sweatshirts; hello medical masks,” on its website.

Indeed, American Giant has retooled its entire North Carolina factory and retrained all of its sewers to make medical-grade masks, in order to help the U.S. healthcare community fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “durable, not disposable” clothing company is part of a coalition of 11 U.S. apparel brands—among them, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and Los Angeles Apparel—that will start manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus, Fast Company says.

While much of apparel manufacturing has been shipped out of the United States over the last four decades, a small number of companies have chosen to invest in making products locally. These brands are now able to more quickly shift their production and deliver much-needed gear to hospitals in the United States.

Equipping hospital workers with the necessary tools has become a top priority as COVID-19 cases spread across the country. The coalition companies are joining forces to make one million masks a week that have been certified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

To do this, some of these companies have had to stop the production of their own goods. American Giant, for instance, is no longer making its regular line of clothing, which means that when its current inventory runs out, it will not be able to restock. But, much to its credit, it would rather restock hospital inventories than its own store shelves.

Research contact: @americangiant

Trump moves to dropkick OPM into oblivion

April 11, 2019

While heads are rolling over at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week, Trump has not stopped there.  He also is moving to do what no president has accomplished since World War II— eliminate the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) a major federal agency that oversees the government’s 2.1 million strong civilian workforce, The Washington Post reported on April 9.

Indeed, the Post says, if the administration succeeds at disassembling the OPM—dividing it into functional sections that would be absorbed by other federal departments—the closure could be a blueprint for shuttering other agencies and shrinking the government. For example, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would take over high-level policies governing federal employees—a plan that advocates and unions already are discrediting as a backdoor ploy to politicize the civil service by installing appointees close to the White House.

The operation is expected to be observed closely—not just on Capitol Hill; but also by other agencies that could be next, and by organizations that support and represent for federal employees. The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, with 750,000 members, is calling the idea “Trump’s Dangerous Plan to Abolish OPM” and predicting a “disastrous” result if policy for federal employees moves so close to the White House.

Federal employees “would be forced into a fight for the pay and benefits they’ve earned every time an administration decides they want to free up money for a pet political project,” the union said.

Overall, the plan envisions a smaller, more consolidated government, in line with the president’s campaign promise to “cut so much your head will spin.” Wiping out the federal personnel agency could be part of a list of victories that Trump cites during the 2020 campaign, from deregulation and tax cuts to trade tariffs.

An executive order directing parts of the transition to take place by next fall is in the final stages of review, administration officials told the news outlet, with an announcement by President Trump likely by the summer. The 5,565 OPM employees were briefed about the reorganization at a meeting in March.

“It’s a big, exemplary step,” Margaret Weichert, deputy director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget— and acting OPM director—said in an interview with the Post. She characterized the agency created to oversee the civil service in 1978, as “fundamentally not set up for success, structurally.”

However, for Democrats and their allies in the labor movement, the effort to abolish the agency and redistribute its functions represents a power play in defiance of Congress.

Does anyone really think that, if tomorrow the president said, ‘I’m dismantling DOD, and I think Ben Carson over at HUD can handle procurement and Betsy DeVos over at Education can handle the Army,’ that it would fly through?” asked Representative Gerald  Connolly (D-Virginia.), chairman of a House Oversight Committee panel on Government Operations.

The Post reports that he has sent Weichert a lengthy request for details of the plan and is scheduling a hearing this spring “so you can make your case.”

That’s a request it will not be easy to fulfill: The White House is short on details, even as it prepares to move employees out of OPM’s headquarters in downtown DC. Officials were not able to estimate the short- or long-term savings that would be realized as a result of the closure.

The administration is asking Congress for $50 million in fiscal 2020 to carry out the reshuffling, the Post reported.

Finally, the news outlet pointed out, breaking up OPM is not a Republican idea. The Obama administration discussed internally whether to do it, and so did Hillary Clinton’s team in 2016, civil service experts said. And the agency drew bipartisan fury in 2015 when U.S. officials alleged Chinese hackers stole millions of personnel records by hacking through the agency’s weak security system.

Research contact: @Reinlwapo