Posts tagged with "Trump administration"

Whodunnit? House Judiciary Committee intends to find out

March 5, 2019

It reads like a whodunnit. On March 4, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced that he and his colleagues would investigate alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Donald Trump, his associates, and members of his Administration—among them, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, David Pecker of American Media, former White House Counsel Don McGahn, Trump son-in-law and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Trump buddy Roger Stone; and the president’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr.

As a first step, the committee has served document requests to 81 agencies, entities, and individuals believed to have information relevant to the investigation (see full list). 

“Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,” said Nadler.

“Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation of Congress and a core function of the House Judiciary Committee,” he noted. “We have seen the damage done to our democratic institutions in the two years that the Congress refused to conduct responsible oversight.

“Congress must provide a check on abuses of power,” said the committee chairman. “Equally, we must protect and respect the work of Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller, but we cannot rely on others to do the investigative work for us.  Our work is even more urgent after senior Justice Department officials have suggested that they may conceal the work of the Special Counsel’s investigation from the public.

Nadler explained,“We have sent these document requests in order to begin building the public record.  The Special Counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York are aware that we are taking these steps.  We will act quickly to gather this information, assess the evidence, and follow the facts where they lead with full transparency with the American people.  This is a critical time for our nation, and we have a responsibility to investigate these matters and hold hearings for the public to have all the facts.  That is exactly what we intend to do.”

The Committee’s investigation will cover three main areas:

  • Obstruction of Justice, including the possibility of interference by the president and others in a number of criminal investigations and other official proceedings, as well as the alleged cover-up of violations of the law;
  • Public Corruption, including potential violations of the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution, conspiracy to violate federal campaign and financial reporting laws, and other criminal misuses of official positions for personal gain; and
  • Abuses of Power, including attacks on the press, the judiciary, and law enforcement agencies; misuse of the pardon power and other presidential authorities; and attempts to misuse the power of the Office of the Presidency.

For the two years that the Trump administration has been in power, “in the absence of responsible oversight by the Republican Majority,” the House Judiciary Committee Democrats say that they have written—but received no response to—over 100 letters to the White House, the Administration, and House Republican Leadership documenting the failings of the Trump Administration and demanding accountability. With this investigation, they intend to finally get their questions answered.

Research contact: @RepJerryNadler

DoJ argues businesses can legally discriminate against transgender workers

October 26. 2018

The Department of Justice argued in the Supreme Court on October 24 that businesses can discriminate against employees based on their gender identity without violating federal sex discrimination laws, Bloomberg Law reported.

“The court of appeals misread the statute and this Court’s decisions in concluding that Title VII encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in a brief regarding a case against a Michigan funeral home. R&G Harris and G&R Harris Funeral Homes, a family-owned business in the Detroit area, is accused of violating federal employment laws when it fired transgender worker Aimee Stephens in 2013.

Specifically, after Stephens said she was transitioning, her boss—a devout Christian, according to CNN—told her the situation was “not going to work out,” according to court documents. She was offered a severance package, but she declined to accept it—instead filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the funeral home.

The EEOC, which enforces civil rights law in the workplace, successfully sued on Stephens’ behalf in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Michigan funeral home has appealed the case to the Supreme Court, where the Justice Department represents the government.

The Justice Department’s argument that federal civil rights law does not apply to transgender workers comes after The New York Times reported on October 21  that the Department of Health and Human Services was moving ahead with efforts to limit the definition of gender—saying that gender can only be defined by the genitals a person had at birth.

A leading transgender advocate called the government’s reported action a “super aggressive, dismissive, dangerous move,” according to the Times.

“They are saying we don’t exist,” said Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Rights, in an interview.

What’s more, this is not the first time that the rights of transgender people have been challenged by the current administration. The Trump administration also has attempted to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military — a move that was blocked by the courts in November 2017.

Research contact: copfer@bloomberglaw.com

HHS proposal: Big Pharma must divulge drug prices in TV ads

October 17, 2018

Americans nationwide are swallowing more prescription drugs than ever before—and in doing so, they also are “swallowing” the high prices of the drugs they take.

However, all of that is about to change in some specific ways. Drug companies now are promising to provide the list prices for their products in television ads, in compliance with a proposal released by the Trump administration on October 15. The new rule, which is open for discussion, would affect any drug covered by Medicare or Medicaid—bringing greater transparency to drug pricing in the United States.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the new proposal on Monday, just hours after the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA—the advocacy group that represents big drug companies—said its members would start indirectly mentioning prices in their television ads.

In a press release, PhRMA, announced that its 33 member companies would point viewers to websites that cite the list prices of the drugs they advertise, and that also will clarify what consumers can expect to actually pay for the drugs.

“PhRMA member companies’ direct-to-consumer television advertisements will soon direct patients to information about medicine costs, including the list price of the medicine, out-of-pocket costs or other context about the potential cost of the medicine and available financial assistance,” the group said in its statement.

“The administration and Congress have called on our industry to provide cost information in DTC advertisements, and our members are voluntarily stepping up to the plate,” confirmed Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of PhRMA.

However, Azar said that the websites were insufficient. “We appreciate their effort. But placing information on a website is not the same as putting it right in an ad,” Azar commented in a speech at the National Academy of Medicine.

“For too long, drug pricing has been like no other market,'” he said. “We will not wait for an industry with so many conflicting and perverse incentives to reform itself.”

Under the proposed rule, a company would have to put in writing the price for a typical course of treatment for drugs such as antibiotics, or the 30-day cost for drugs taken for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Specifically, the proposal will require direct-to-consumer television advertisements for prescription drug and biological products paid for by Medicare or Medicaid to include the list price if the list price—the Wholesale Acquisition Cost—is greater than $35 for a month’s supply or the usual course of therapy, with the prices updated quarterly. Right now, the 10 most commonly advertised drugs have list prices ranging from $535 to $11,000 per month or usual course of therapy.

According to HHS, fully 47% of Americans have high-deductible health plans, under which they often pay the list price of a drug until their insurance kicks in. What’s more, all seniors on Medicare Part D have coinsurance for certain types of drugs, which means their out-of-pocket expenses are calculated as a share of list price.

PhRMA has said any attempt to force companies to publish prices would violate First Amendment rights of free speech.

Research contact: @HHSGov

Parents at border still to be faced with heartless choice

June 26, 2018

The Trump administration is developing a plan that would confront parents who cross the border illegally with a sort of “Sophie’s Choice,” according to a June 25 report by the Miami Herald: Either allow themselves to be detained with their child in a large tent city—or give up custody of their child, at least temporarily—according to two sources who have discussed the plans with White House officials.

The choice is being considered as part of a hastily crafted solution to the problem of complying with President Donald Trump’s executive order last week, which terminated the widely condemned policy of separating parents and children arrested at the border. However, it still uses children as pawns in the zero-tolerance immigration push.

Current law, the news outlet points out, prohibits the federal government from keeping children detained, even with their parents, in immigration detention for more than 20 days.

But, if a parent does not wish the child to be released from custody and taken away from him or her, the so-called Flores court settlement notes the parent can keep the child with them in custody.

More than 2,000 Latin American children have been placed in shelters or foster homes since the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” plan went into effect. Since the executive order was signed last week, about 500 children have been returned to their parents.Top of Form

“They want to take the power of the mother away to be able to say, ‘I want my kid released’,” Peter Schey, the lawyer who represented the mothers in the Flores case, told the Herald. “They want to take that away. Say ‘no, forget that, the kid has to be detained with you until the very end.’ ”

Schey described Trump’s proposal as “Hobson’s choice“—which means no choice at all—but said the Department of Homeland Security can already detain parents and children together if the parent does not want their child to be released. He said parents need to understand and be informed that they do have choices.

“Neither the language nor the intention of anything in the Flores agreement precludes a parent from retaining decision-making power over their children,” Schey said. “We never thought to usurp that decision-making authority which we highly respect.”

According to the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll released on June 18, American voters oppose 66% vs. 27% percent the policy of separating children and parents when families illegally cross the border.

Research contact: @francoordonez

Medicaid work requirements put 6.3M Americans at risk of losing healthcare

January 16, 2018

On January 11, the Trump administration issued policy guidance that effectively ends Medicaid as Americans now know it— allowing states to place “punitive work requirements” on certain Medicaid recipients, according to the American Center for Progress.

Some states and the Trump administration have opined that the American Healthcare Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion is targeting “able-bodied” adults and seeking to make Medicaid eligibility contingent on work. However, more than seven in ten (70%) of those affected will be either caregivers or in school, the center claims, based on a recent Kaiser Family Foundation briefing paper.

New CAP analysis by Kaiser shows that at least 6.3 million Americans—including students, caregivers, and retirees—could be at risk of losing their healthcare. This includes nearly 640,000 people in the ten states that already have filed for waivers to implement Trump’s plan.

Analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the majority—60%—of working-age adults who receive Medicaid already are employed. Of those who do not already have a job, more than one-third are ill or disabled.

The American Center for Progress states in a January 12 release, “Although these so-called work requirement policies may seem reasonable at first glance, in practice, they’re a way to strip away health insurance from struggling unemployed and underemployed workers. President Donald Trump’s actions are just the latest shoe to drop in his party’s deeply unpopular crusade to undermine Americans’ health care—including the highly  popular Medicaid program—and come on the heels of a tax cut that rewards the massively wealthy over working Americans.”

Research contact: rcollins@americanprogress.org

Most U.S. adults oppose trophy hunting

November 21, 2017

In October 2015, The Humane Society of the United States  conducted a survey following the trophy killing of Cecil the Lion in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, by a U.S. hunter, Dr. Walter J. Palmer, during the previous summer. At that time, U.S. adults said, by a two to one margin, that they opposed hunting for the purpose of acquiring parts of the killed animal as trophies.

Recently, the Trump administration announced a planned reversal of the Obama administration policy banning imports into the United States of elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe. After a barrage of denunciations from animal conservation groups and U.S. voters nationwide, Trump put the reversal on temporary hold—warning that he still might go ahead with it in the weeks to come.

While no recent polling results have been released, at the time of the Humane Society poll, 74%  of respondents also said they were opposed to “canned hunting,” which allows animals like lions to be bred and hunted in fenced enclosures for trophies.

Two-thirds of Americans support listing African lions under the Endangered Species Act, in order to to give the species greater federal protections; and 64% support placing restrictions on trophy hunting of native animals,such as bobcats and mountain lions.

By more than a three-to-one margin, respondents said that if they could travel to Africa, they would prefer to spend their tourism dollars in a country that prohibits trophy hunting rather than one that allows it.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS said: “The wounding and killing of Cecil gave Americans a glimpse of the ugliness of the trophy hunting subculture.

“Killing animals as a head-hunting exercise is cruel, colonial, self-aggrandizing, larcenous and shameful.  The celebrating of the killing— as hunters sit or stand atop a bloodied yet majestic and often endangered animals—shows a profound detachment from the other species who share this planet with us.”

The survey was conducted by Remington Research Group on behalf of The HSUS among  3,668 U.S. adults.

 Research contact: namini@humanesociety.org.