Tag Archives: FOIA

Trains, Cranes and Blame Games

Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson feverishly tried to cancel a December order of $31,561 in mahogany dining room furniture for his office.

Seal of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.svg

 

Because the U.S. is on financially sound footing, HUD pumped $1,100 into repairing the existing LBJ-era chairs before ordering the  good stuff (each new chair cost about $1,000).

New blinds for Carson’s office cost $3,400.

Carson blamed his wife, Candy, for the expensive decisions.

Ben & Candy Carson

The Twitter profile photo of “Dr. Ben & Candy Carson”

Meanwhile, senior HUD official Helen Foster, a Treasury employee from the Obama administration who warned Carson of the $5,000 limit on redecorating offices, was reassigned as HUD’s chief FOIA officer last October.

During the Trump transition, acting HUD secretary Craig Clemmensen advised Foster that past administrations “found ways around” the limit.

Foster’s complaint says […] Clemmensen repeatedly told her to “find money” to purchase furniture for Carson’s office and said that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.”

It appears that in her new assignment as FOIA chief, Clemmensen told Foster to circumvent required procedure for two FOIA requests, citing Maren Kasper (below) of the transition team.

[Maren Kasper, Executive Vice President, Ginnie Mae]

Foster was also discouraged from reporting the department’s $10.8 million deficit from 2016 and instructed by Carson to fund a new security system for his Virginia residence (he eventually withdrew the request).

The Carsons denied wrongdoing on Twitter using Psalm 91:4 and noted only the blinds counted toward the $5,000 limit, as the mahogany was a “building expense.”

According to ABC, [t]he Trump administration’s proposed budget recommends an 18 percent decrease in funding for HUD, including a decrease in funds intended to help low income individuals pay their rent.

The agency’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 is over $41,000,000,000 according to their website.

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D.C. “streetcars”: do they not have enough Congresspeople’s children driving for Lyft while illegally sporting official tags?

The dirty district has fielded a fleet of free rides for the public since 2016 (it was initially supposed to launch in 2009), but needs to replace all the cars–at a cost of at least $25 million–starting in 2021. The existing $200,000,000 vanity project cannot repair its existing cars, because the only spare parts manufacturer is in another country. Therefore, repair parts “will likely require reverse engineering” according to D.C.’s department of transportation.

The 2.4-mile route runs exactly parallel to an existing bus route.

Another eight miles to Georgetown is planned, projected to cost $400 million.

CityLab alleges the line of public extortion is good for the city:

If economic development rather than moving people around were the only metric for the streetcar’s success, it would be viewed as an unequivocal triumph. Between June of 2010 and January 2018, the median home value in the Near Northeast neighborhood, which encompasses a significant part of the line, jumped from $441,000 to $705,000, according to Zillow, an increase 10 percent greater than the District overall during that period. Massive new apartment buildings and condos have significantly boosted the density of the neighborhood in recent years.

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The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Jennings v. Rodriguez that immigrants, whether illegal or permanent legal residents, are not entitled to periodic bond hearings and may be detained indefinitely. Elena Kagan recused herself.

Obama reportedly did not like the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s verdict that detained immigrants and asylum seekers are entitled to bond hearings every six months, and kicked the case to the Supreme Court.

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Carl Icahn in 2014.

Trump adviser Carl Icahn sold over $31 million in Manitowoc Company Inc. stock seven days prior to the president’s inane announcement that American steel imports will suffer a 24% tariff.

Manitowoc, which makes cranes, lost about $8 per share following the tariff announcement. Icahn had unloaded nearly 1 million shares.

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The Florida high school massacre on February 14 continues to fuel our betters in the media. Delta Airlines made perhaps the biggest splash–not in one of their routine emergency landings, but by ending their discount program for National Rifle Association members traveling to the lobby’s annual convention.

USA Today noted that just 13 passengers ever used the discount, (estimated at about 10% off ticket price).

That didn’t stop the Georgia legislature from ripping a jet fuel tax break from its tax legislation–an estimated loss of $40 million for the shoddy Atlanta-based airline, whose breakup with NRA was perceived as an affront to the 2nd Constitutional amendment.

Proponents of the retaliatory move included Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (below), who is running to succeed his boss Nathan Deal.

Casey Cagle

According to Reuters, Delta is “review[ing] [the] end [of] group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.” CEO Ed Bastian insists “our values are not for sale” and insinuated legislature members first threatened the airline with nixing the tax break to get them to reinstate the NRArrangement.

Delta’s even more overpriced rival United Airlines also ended its NRA convention discount.

Meanwhile, FedEx announced it would retain its 26% shipping discount for NRA Business Alliance members. ThinkProgress reported what they characterize as “rule bending”: “Some [FedEx] customers have been approved for an exception to ship firearms with a 2-day (AM or PM) service,” a confidential internal document revealed.

Apparently, the decrepit United States Postal Service will rarely ship firearms at all, leaving most of the market to UPS and FedEx. While the latter two private companies require overnight shipping on all firearms, FedEx reportedly saves self-defense (or child assault?) enthusiasts some coin…by allowing them to wait an additional day for their weapon.

Documents obtained by CNN show cops were called to Nikolas Cruz's (pictured) home more times than originally thought.

The massacre allegedly perpetrated by Nikolas Cruz, 19 (above), at his former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL left 17 dead. The fallout continues, from a math teacher accused of locking his students out of the classroom to public flailing of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI .

Sheriff Scott Israel (below) is especially [TRIGGER WARNING FOR TRIGGER WARNING] [TRIGGER WARNING] under fire for the 45 police visits to Cruz’ adoptive mother’s house over the past 10 years.

Documents obtained by CNN show cops were called to Nikolas Cruz's home more times than originally thought. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel pictured above.

Daily Mail reported the disgraced law man is now preemptively characterizing the suspect (who has reportedly confessed, but not yet been tried) as “killer” and downplaying the number of police contacts:

‘Since 2008, BSO responded to 23 incidents where previous contact was made with the killer or his family. STOP REPORTING 39; IT’S SIMPLY NOT TRUE,’ a statement from the sheriff’s office said on Saturday. 

CNN obtained the figure of 45 police visits.

Neighbor Joelle Guarino (below) finally buzzed 911 herself in 2016 after seeing Cruz’ Instagram threat to [TRIGGER WARNING“shoot up a school.”

Meanwhile, former neighbor Joelle Guarino (pictured) is speaking out to detail Cruz's disturbing behavior growing up

Cruz reportedly threw a rock at Guarino’s own son several years ago and dissected toads on her lawn.

Lynda Cruz died in November of pneumonia.

FBI director Christopher Wray bit the bullet on February 16, admitting his agency not only dropped the ball in September when a blogger alerted Mississippi agents to Cruz’ YouTube comment–this is very subtle–“I am going to be a professional school shooter”, but also with an anonymous tipster in January:

The […] woman identified Cruz by his full name, his age and where he lived […] then frantically warned about his mental instability, his arsenal of firearms, his posting of assault rifles on social media, his threats to kill himself and other people, and that “he’s so into ISIS,” the notorious Middle East terrorist group.

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But the Feds have everything under control now. While Congress waffles on “background checks” and “raising the age to purchase assault weapons” to prevent the few high-profile American mass killings among 15,000-plus murders annually, Pasadena, CA police officer Vasken Gourdikian, 48, is taking matters into his own hands.

Feds charge former Pasadena police spokesman with illegally selling more than 100 guns

The 24-year peace-keeping veteran pleaded not guilty to four felony counts from a grand jury who allege he illegally moved over 100 firearms in the past 3 years for profit.

His special privileges as a police officer included buying more than one handgun every 30 days, skipping the 10-day mandatory waiting period, and access to “off-roster” weapons not available to other civilians.

He has been on paid leave for the past year.

The 62 guns seized from Gourdikian’s home are now listed as “potential forfeited assets.”

Police Take Again Because They Can

Federal Government Resumes “Equitable Sharing” Funding

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Trump mused that the government should just confiscate guns without warrants:

“I like taking the guns early,” Trump said during a televised meeting on gun laws at the White House on Wednesday. “To go to court would have taken a long time.”

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Mammoth Energy Services (through its parent Cobra) picked up another $500 million in work for rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid, bringing its total contract to $945 million. Mammoth can now purchase its own supplies instead of relying on PREPA third party contractors and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Thanks to our sources:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/hud-spent-31000-dining-set-ben-carsons-office/story?id=53391444

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/ben-carson-asks-hud-cancel-order-31-000-172204658–abc-news-topstories.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ben-carson-cancel-31-000-dining-set-order-backlash-article-1.3848810

https://www.hud.gov/privacy/

http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/baltimore-insider-blog/bs-fe-ben-carson-hud-furniture-20180301-story.html

DC considers plan to replace streetcar fleet, still has no plans to make riders pay

https://www.citymetric.com/transport/7-things-washington-dcs-200m-streetcar-taught-us-about-public-transport-1962

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/03/is-dc-streetcar-rage-justified/554729/

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/27/589096901/supreme-court-ruling-means-immigrants-can-continue-to-be-detained-indefinitely?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180227

Trump confidant dumped millions in steel-related stock last week

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/03/02/delta-reviews-all-fare-discount-programs-after-nra-dispute-costs-georgia-tax-break/388587002/

Delta and United abruptly reverse course, sever contracts with the NRA

https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-guns-delta-air-nra/delta-reviewing-ties-with-all-politically-divisive-groups-after-nra-controversy-idUSL2N1QK16B

FedEx won’t drop the NRA so these companies are dropping FedEx

EXCLUSIVE: FedEx’s secret deal with the NRA and the gun industry

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5440273/Cops-called-Nikolas-Cruzs-home-45-TIMES-past-decade.html

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article202934059.html

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-pasadena-police-indictment-20180302-story.html

https://www.yahoo.com/news/california-police-lieutenant-arrested-gun-selling-charges-223942359.html

http://time.com/5184160/trump-guns-due-process/

https://www.epmag.com/mammoth-energy-increases-puerto-rico-contract-945-million-1686726

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: August 3: Mick Mollifies Big Spenders

Business Insider reported that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is reneging on promises to even marginally address the perilous finances of the United States.

mick mulvaney

If you can’t take the heat, give the big-government filth everything they demand and crawl home without your testicles.

While Mulvaney had previously promised he would demand spending cuts in exchange for “raising the debt ceiling” (a near-annual occurrence in which the Feds stare down our unprecedented $20,000,000,000,000 national debt, shrug, and pretend we’re solvent by simply increasing the amount of cheddar the Feds themselves may borrow–backed by taxpayers–without any significant reform in spending to even dent the $250 billion we pay in annual interest), he now advocates a “clean” increase. This just means we’ll keep spending beyond our means, but with a bipartisan consensus that our children should inherit at least one year of our GDP in financial obligations.

It’s all quite confusing, because:

The debt limit, the level of outstanding debt the federal government is allowed to carry, was technically hit in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to prevent a breach of the limit. The department has said Congress must pass a bill to increase the limit by the end of September to avoid a breach.

[our emphasis]

While Trump threw a transient bone to the fiscal conservative crowd shortly after his election by imposing a federal “hiring freeze,” that minuscule measure towards fiscal sanity was abandoned not even three months later. By…Mulvaney:

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! April 11–Federal “Thaw”

Even more willing to live beyond our means is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who made news for all the wrong reasons on August 21 by reportedly using a government jet to travel to Kentucky for front row seats in viewing the SOLAR ECLIPSE.

Mnuchin was delivering a scheduled speech alongside Senate Majority Leader Sellout Mitch McConnell (who actually hails from Kentucky and might be able to justify billing his citizens for a ticket out of D.C.)

Mnuchin might have gotten away with the alleged waste of taxpayer dollars, too, except his wife, Louise Linton, got on the Instagram to brag about the brands she was wearing on the excursion. Her selfie captured the jet in the background:

Watchdog requests documents about Mnuchin and wife's Ky. trip timed with eclipse

Linton responded to the haters, who were justifiably wondering why a luxurious lap in a federal jet was necessary for a famous actress estimated to be worth $300 million to view a three-minute natural phenomenon, with:

“Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch.”

Although she later apologized for her behavior, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (who for some reason acronymed themselves as “CREW”) have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any records of Mnuchin’s government-funded travel up to and including the eclipse excursion since he took office.

In related news, USA Today noted in February that fiscal year 2016 was a boon for taxpayer-funded government travel. Congressional records estimate they spent at least $14.7 million from the little people, which would be 27% more than in f.y. 2015.

Mnuchin’s own Treasury, however, estimated it was actually nearly $20 million. Treasury got their data from the State Department, and both outfits refused to explain the increase.

Using the $20 million figure, f.y. 2016 represents the highest government travel amount ever recorded, and includes 557 trips by Congress and their staffers that cost at least $10,000 per person.

Thanks to our sources:

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/trumps-budget-director-caved-one-202231113.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347713-watchdog-requests-documents-about-mnuchin-and-wifes-trip-to-ky-theres

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/taxpayers-fund-first-class-congressional-foreign-travel-boom-overseas/98351442/

Comey to Convocate and Cash In

Former FBI Director James Comey (below) has scored a lucrative part-time lecture position at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Former FBI Director James Comey has accepted a part-time position at Howard University this year, where he'll be delivering a series of lectures 

Comey will refund his $100,000 haul from the “Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy” position to offer scholarships to students from foster homes entering the historically black university.

The first appearance for the much-maligned 2016 Trump victory architect will be the September convocation for students.

The ensuing five lecture topics “will be decided after the ex-FBI chief converses with student leaders and other campus stakeholders.”

FBI Rapes More Phones (Continued)

Meanwhile, in the longstanding tradition of Washington beneficiaries, Time reports:

Comey’s tenure at Howard University will coincide with the release of his widely anticipated book, which is expected to be published in the Spring of 2018.

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According to Washington Examiner, Comey commanded the trust and approval of colleagues, as documented on score sheets from three years’ worth of FBI “internal memos” released to news organizations for fulfillment of FOIA requests (which the FBI, unlike the State Department, apparently honors).

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 3.81 or higher indicating success, Comey’s subordinates reportedly gave him at least a 3.81 on “nearly every item.” Grade inflation!

Comey received a score of 4.47 from employees when asked to grade the former director on the “trust and confidence” they have in him as a leader. The former FBI director received a 4.48 from subordinates on whether they would work for Comey again, and a 4.22 when asked if he is humble.

[???]

Employees gave Comey a score of 4.38 for being someone more interested in leading than being liked.

[our emphasis]

The scores reportedly dipped slightly this year compared to 2016.

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 9: FBI Director Comey Fired

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: July 9: James Comey, Rogue Agent

Christopher A Wray DOJ portrait.jpg

Comey was replaced by Christopher Wray (above) at the FBI on August 2. Five Democratic Senators voted against Wray’s confirmation, including Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).

Al Franken (MN) missed the vote.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4817250/Comey-takes-position-Howard-University.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

http://time.com/4912861/james-comey-howard-university-new-position/

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/internal-surveys-show-former-fbi-director-james-comey-enjoyed-broad-support/article/2631748

https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=1&vote=00181#position

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 9: FBI Director Comey Fired

You’re fired!!!

Trump unexpectedly dismissed of FBI Director James Comey.

“Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office [.] President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

–White House statement

Related image

Comey.

The announcement reportedly shocked the intelligence community. Comey’s termination was read to him en route to Los Angeles for a recruitment event [as] part of the FBI’s efforts to boost diversity.

Related:

BREAKING: Comey at the Bat

According to Good Morning America, Rosenstein allege[d] that Comey was wrong to later “hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”

Typically when the FBI decides not to bring charges against someone, it normally does not discuss its decision-making. When Comey held a July 5 news conference explaining why [Hillary] Clinton would not be facing charges but at the same time criticizing her email practices, he cited “intense public interest” as the reason for the exception.

[our emphasis]

As we are all now thoroughly aware, Hillary’s 2016 loss was completely attributed to Comey’s actions,

BREAKING NEWS–PART ONE

a shocking turn of events, given his above-detailed criminal pardon of the beleaguered Secretary of State just two months earlier:

BREAKING NEWS

The Hill:

Both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended Comey’s dismissal, citing “substantial damage” to the FBI’s reputation and credibility under his leadership. 

[…]

At issue, according to a May 9 memo from Rosenstein to Sessions, were Comey’s remarkable public disclosures about Clinton’s conduct. In July, he took the rostrum — without authorization from the Justice Department — to announce that he would not be recommending charges against the former secretary of State.

“I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote in the memo.

[…]

The director “was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5 and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution,” Rosenstein wrote, because “it is not the function of the director to make such an announcement.”

[our emphasis]

This itself is confounding, because then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch yielded to the FBI’s recommendations for prosecuting the Secret Server after Lynch’s now-infamous ambush by Hillary’s husband on the Phoenix airport tarmac, which many labeled political interference of a criminal investigation.

Rod Rosenstein US Attorney.jpg

Rosenstein (above) was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate to replace Sally Yates, who had been Acting Attorney General (AAG) before her high-profile firing by Trump after 10 days on the job. Rosenstein is now Deputy Attorney General (next in line to lead Justice if Sessions dies). The 52-year-old former U.S. Attorney for Maryland, appointed by the George W. Bush administration, was one of a pair of U.S. Attorneys Trump specifically kept on board. The other was Obama appointee Dana Boente (below), 63, who served as AAG from Yates’ dismissal until Sessions’ confirmation. He has now returned to his former post of U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Virginia.

Dana Boente.jpg

Per USA Today, Trump recently changed the Justice Department order of succession with a subtle executive order [pun alertin order to undo the executive order of Obama issued just before Trump took over the White House:

The order appears to be the first that Trump has not signed in a public ceremony. It’s dated Thursday — the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in — but was not posted to the White House website until Friday morning. The White House did not explain the discrepancy.

 

[…]

Seven days before he left office, President Obama changed the order of succession without explanation to remove Boente from the list. Obama’s order had listed U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California.

[our emphasis]

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U.S. Attorneys for Connecticut Deirdre Daly and Northern District of New York Richard Hartunian were granted “short term reprieves” from the mass exodus of Obama-era Justice appointees in order to “complete 20 years of service” at the Justice Department, according to Politico. This milestone determines how fat a pension check they can suck from the nation’s sapped finances until the end of their days. Both major political parties win when they can share in the spoils confiscated from the little people: it’s a bipartisan thing.

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Burlington Free Press sued the Feds using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the resignation letters of the 44 other Obama-appointed attorneys general Trump asked to leave (according to the frantic mainstream press, he is the first president to ever do this for a transition change, or something).

USA Today noted Justice found the parting platitudes so “inherently personal” that they should be exempt from release.

But according to public records, the documents were actually withheld because they were never read by Justice.

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Comey’s recent numbers to Congress on Hillary hack Huma Abedin‘s harried handling of the most qualified presidential candidate ever‘s Secret Server also had to be adjusted.

Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton’s emails to her then-husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), to print out for Clinton while she was secretary of State.

In fact, the bureau said in a letter sent to the Senate panel Tuesday that only a handful of the 49,000 relevant emails it uncovered on Weiner’s laptop had been forwarded manually. Most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.

[…]

Abedin, the FBI director testified last week, “appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to [Weiner], for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of State.”

[our emphasis]

Secure!!

*

Speaking of the November election, much like Hillary refusing to face her supporters when her defeat by Trump became clear, White House press secretary Sean Spicer bumbled his “face the media” duties following the Comey termination. According to Washington Post, it did not go well:

Was Sessions involved? “That’s something you should ask the Department of Justice,” Spicer said.

Was Rosenstein’s probe part of a larger review of the FBI? “That’s, again, a question that you should ask the Department of Justice,” he said.

Did the president discuss Rosenstein’s findings with Rosenstein? “No, I don’t believe, I don’t know how that sequence went — I don’t know,” he said.

What was the president’s role? “Again, I have to get back to you [stupid phrase alert] on the tick-tock,” he said.

When’s the last time Trump and Comey spoke? “Uh, I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s some — I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said.

What were the three occasions on which the president says Comey assured him that he was not under investigation? “I don’t — we can follow — I can try, yeah,” he said.

How long did the president deliberate? “I don’t, I don’t … I can look at  [what is this guy smoking?] the tick-tock. I know that he was presented with that today. I’m not sure what time,” he said.

Why wasn’t Comey given the news in a personal phone call? “I think we delivered it by hand and by email and that was — and I get it, but you asked me a question and that’s the answer,” he said.

Did Comey’s testimony last week — which contained inaccuracies — influence the decision? “You’d have to ask the Department of Justice. They’re the ones that made the recommendation,” he said.

Why didn’t the president do this months ago? “Again, I would refer you to the Department of Justice,” he said.

Does he know about grand-jury subpoenas that have reportedly been issued in an investigation involving Michael Flynn, Trump’s previous national security adviser? “I’m not — I’m not aware of any,” he said.

Is it true that the president will meet on Wednesday with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov? “We’ll see what the schedule says. I don’t — I just — I’ve been a little tied up.”

The chronology of the Spicer charade is unclear. It sounds like he wasn’t going to make a statement, then made a statement, then [other media outlets were quite clear on this part] literally “hid in the bushes,” before agreeing to a brief interview only in the cover of darkness:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrapped up his brief interview with Fox Business from the White House grounds late Tuesday night and then disappeared into the shadows, huddling with his staff near a clump of bushes and then behind a tall hedge.

[…]

After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the darkness and among the bushes near these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.

“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We’ll take care of this. … Can you just turn that light off?”

Memes abounded.

Image result for sean spicer hedge

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/09/politics/fbi-james-comey-fired-letter/index.html?sr=twCNN050917fbi-james-comey-fired-letter1110PMVODtopPhoto&linkId=37406591

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/fbi-director-james-comey-fired-215047657–abc-news-topstories.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/332613-trump-fires-comey

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/332660-trump-bombshell-fbis-comey-fired

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/332608-fbi-corrects-comey-testimony

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/03/us-attorneys-dismissal-236009

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/10/trump-executive-order-obama-justice-department-succession/97752898/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/10/as-trump-fired-comey-his-staff-scrambled-to-explain-why/?utm_term=.f75ea0c74d14

Spring Break Blitz: Stories We Sat On!!! February 27–Justice Department and EPA

Associated Press reported that new EPA head Scott Pruitt is under scrutiny for using personal email to communicate official business while Attorney General for Oklahoma, and lying about it to Congress.

A review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account.

Emails released under court order last week in response to a different public records request yielded additional examples where emails were addressed to Pruitt’s private account, including a 2013 exchange with a petroleum industry lobbyist who emailed Pruitt and a lawyer on the attorney general’s staff. That suggests Pruitt made his private email address available to professional contacts outside his office.

It is not illegal in Oklahoma for public officials to use private email as long as they are retained and made available as public records. Pruitt’s use of the private account appears to directly contradict statements he made last month as part of his Senate confirmation.

Pruitt’s deception came from the forward-thinking 2020 presidential hopeful, New Jersey’s Senator Cory Booker in a written inquiry for Pruitt prior to his confirmation hearing. Cabinet nominees apparently respond to written questions for vetting because it is more efficient for the Senate panels to process nominations.

Mr. Booker apparently sought to avoid the confusion caused by both Obama’s Secretary of State and Attorney General, who used personal emails throughout their tenures to flout Freedom of Information Act lawsuits:

Hillary Updates

The FOIA avoidance is especially relevant recently, because the National Security Archive FOIA Audit released March 11 revealed that only 38 out of 99 federal agencies have updated their FOIA regulations in compliance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.

This allows about 60% of our agencies are ignoring the new improvements on FOIA, which require agencies to notify citizens of their right to seek assistance with the FOIA liaison and prohibiting the charge of search or duplication fees when the agency fails to meet the notice requirements and time limits set by existing law.

Oh well.

Interestingly, Elijah Cummings said of the FOIA reform during 2016 floor debate:

“This is a simple improvement that every agency should adopt, and I look forward to working with Chairman [Jason] Chaffetz [R-Utah] in the years ahead on such commonsense [sic] reforms.”

[our emphasis]

Cummings Not Going

Let’s see if the career criminal Cummings holds his own future moves to the same standard of transparency.

The Hill:

Booker […] asked Pruitt whether he had ever conducted state business using personal email accounts. Pruitt responded: “I use only my official OAG email address and government issued phone to conduct official business.”

[…]

AP and other news organizations reported last week that 7,500 pages of emails released following a lawsuit filed by a left-leaning advocacy group showed Pruitt and his staff in Oklahoma coordinated closely on legal strategy with fossil-fuel companies and special interest groups working to undermine federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions.

The emails were released after an Oklahoma judge ruled that Pruitt had been illegally withholding his correspondence, which is public record under state law, for the last two years.

[…]

Pruitt’s use of private email was first reported earlier this month by FOX 25 television of Oklahoma City.

The Hill notes that Republicans rammed through Pruitt’s confirmation vote earlier in February prior to the release of the emails. Senator Booker joined all but two of his fellow Democrats in voting against Pruitt, who was confirmed 52-46.

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2017 file photo Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in Washington. Pruitt occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, despite telling Congress that he always used a state email account for government business. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Pruitt.

***

The Pruitt predicament is interesting, because it was only one month ago (January 26) that…

Outgoing DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and three other officials fought Obama-appointed US District Court Judge Randolph Moss‘s order to preserve their emails for public record.

Conservative group Judicial Watch was conducting a Freedom of Information Act investigation of Johnson and his lackeys using private emails on government computers. Judge Moss declared the emails should be copied for official record for “an abundance of caution.” Just in case Johnson wanted to delete them. Like Hillary.

Politico:

“DHS’s present understanding is that the former officials are not independently aware of how to transfer e-mails from a web-based account (i.e., Gmail) to a thumb drive and that DHS information technology staff who were consulted did not have any particular knowledge about how to transfer the e-mails, either,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

The filing suggests the ex-officials and DHS staff are also unsure about how to copy part of the private emails archives, since the suit sought only work-related emails between certain dates in 2013 and 2015.

If Moss won’t lift his order, the Justice Department asked that he let the officials move the messages to encrypted DVDs instead of thumb drives or hard drives.

As brilliant and dedicated as our “public servants” are, moving an email to a thumb drive is apparently beyond their capabilities. But burning “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde” on a DVD? Easy.

As we have referenced above, disgraced ex-Attorney General Eric Holder deliberately used the email alias Lew Alcindor for official government proceedings to shield his official communications from FOIA lawsuits.

*

For all the missteps and truly troubling actions of his nascent leadership, Trump appeared to actually propose meaningful conservative budget reforms this week, reducing spending for State Department and EPA in a budget draft. The Hill:

The Trump administration is proposing a 37 percent spending cut for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to multiple reports.

U.S. officials say the suggested decrease would likely require laying off employees, including security contractors at diplomatic facilities overseas, The Associated Press said Tuesday.

[…]

The agencies together received $50.1 billion during the current fiscal year, it added, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget.

Career Republicans in Washington whose careers depend on lavishing their constituents’ money (which they exhausted $20 trillion ago) were not pleased.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he would oppose drastic cuts to the State Department. 

“Probably not,” he said when asked if Congress could pass a 37 percent reduction at the department, according to Fox News.

The leaked EPA budget proposal suggested Trump will cut spending by 24% (a reduction of $2 billion to $6.1 billion), possibly reducing the EPA “work”force by about 20% to “only” 12,000 employees.

Pathetic presidential hopeful, carpet-bombing and corporate welfare advocate Lindsey  Graham had equally strong reservations as McConnell on the proposal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said Trump’s reported plans for his first budget were “dead on arrival.”

“It’s not going to happen,” he said, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster. A budget this lean would put those who serve overseas for the State Department at risk. And it’s not going to happen.”

Ex-Im Bank Updates

The Trump budget will reportedly not touch the entitlement spending that is financially dooming everyone who does not die in the next 20 years.

Defense spending will increase by $54,000,000,000. That amount will be cut from non-defense spending.

As a reminder, the earlier full Trump budget proposal increased the national debt by $9,700,000,000,000 over the next 10 years. Rand Paul was the only Republican to vote against it.

*

Washington Free Beacon had some damning juice on the EPA this week as well.

Environmental Protection Agency employees used their government purchase cards to spend $14,985 on fitness memberships, according to an audit by the inspector general of the agency.

[…]

Three other transactions [from the audit] were made to vendors who were considered high risk[.]

[…]

Auditors also noted that this is not the first time the agency did not have adequate oversight of the purchase-card program. In March of 2014, the inspector general released a report noting that of the $152,602 in transactions that they evaluated, $79,254 went to purchases that were prohibited, improper, or erroneous.

[Less than 50% of sampled spending was allowed…that’s success, right?]

After the most recent findings, the inspector general said that the risk for the purchase-card program “is high enough to warrant an audit.”

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

All emphasis is ours.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/01/justice-department-dhs-officials-emails-234253

http://freebeacon.com/issues/epa-purchase-card-fitness-memberships/

https://www.yahoo.com/news/records-show-epas-pruitt-used-private-email-despite-203908715–politics.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/321605-trump-pitches-37-percent-cut-to-state-budget-reports

http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20170311-2017-FOIA-Audit-shows-3-in-5-Agencies-Failed-to-Follow-New-FOIA-Law-Instructions/

FOIA Reform Adopted after Years-Long Battle