News story roundup

A Look at How a Racial Theorist Tied to Mussolini & Hitler Influenced Steve Bannon

July 26, 2017

Joshua Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book is titled Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.

Journalist Joshua Green talks about two men who influenced Steve Bannon’s philosophy: the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, whose ideas became the basis of fascist racial theory, and René Guénon, who developed an anti-modernism philosophy called “Traditionalism.” Green writes about Evola and Guénon in his new book, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Joshua Green, senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. I want to turn to a speech that Steve Bannon delivered via Skype to a conference held inside the Vatican in 2014.

STEPHEN BANNON: I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis. And it’s really the organizing principle of how we’ve built Breitbart News to really be a platform to bring news and information to people throughout the world, principally in the West, but we’re expanding internationally, to let people understand the depths of this crisis. And it is a crisis of—both of capitalism, but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West and our beliefs. We are in an outright war against jihadists, Islam, Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing almost far quicker than governments can handle it.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Steve Bannon, delivering a Skype address to a Vatican conference in 2014. Joshua Green, talk about the religion that informs Steve Bannon’s politics.

JOSHUA GREEN: Well, so, we just talked about kind of the newspaper bio of Steve Bannon and the blue-collar background. But the most interesting line of research for this book is Bannon’s religious and intellectual biography. And this is a story that hasn’t been told, that I go into some detail in in the book.

But in the course of my reporting, I asked Steve Bannon—I said, “You know, when you were at that Vatican conference”—and this wasn’t just a Vatican conference, this was a group of far-far-right conservative Traditionalist Catholics. Bannon name-checked a man named Julius Evola, who was an Italian intellectual and Benito Mussolini’s fascist ideologist at the beginning of World War II. And I said, “Steve, if you’re not an anti-Semite and a Nazi and a white supremacist, as you’re often charged with being, but you say you’re not, why is it that you are familiar with people like Evola?” And he said, “Oh, you know, when I developed my ideas about nationalism, I went back and was looking for an intellectual edifice to kind of inform these ideas. And to find nationalist thinkers, you really have to go back to the 1930s and the 1940s, when those ideas were ascendant. But the real guy who influenced me,” Bannon told me, “was an man named René Guénon, who was Evola’s intellectual godfather.”

Guénon has a fascinating biography. He was born in France in the late 19th century to a Roman Catholic family, practiced occultism, Freemasonry, and later converted to Sufi Islam and observed the Sharia, which is a very unusual guru, it seemed to me, for a guy like Steve Bannon, who is so virulently Islamophobic. But Guénon was the founder of a religion, a kind of religious philosophy, known as primordial Traditionalism. That’s capital-T Traditionalism. And primordial Traditionalism holds that there is common spiritual truths, unifying spiritual truths, at the heart of ancient religions, like the Hindu Vedanta, Sufism, medieval Catholicism, even paganism. And these are original spiritual truths that were revealed to mankind in the earliest ages of the world but had been lost in the West by the rise of secular modernity.

So, Bannon, who was raised in a very traditional Catholic family, who went to a right-wing Catholic military high school and has been steeped in this right-wing, Western sieve curriculum, believes, as Guénon does, that we are entering a dark age, that the rise of the Enlightenment in the 1500s has led us toward apocalypse, and that if he can’t prop up traditional values and do what Guénon had hoped to do, which was to, quote, “restore to the West a traditional civilization,” then mankind is going to be destroyed. And that is his animating belief.

AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to turn to Julius Evola, in his own words, the monarchist and racial theorist who struck an alliance with Benito Mussolini. His ideas became the basis of fascist racial theory. This is Julius Evola speaking with a French filmmaker in 1971 about what he considered the positive aspects of fascism and, in particular, national socialism, Nazism.

JULIUS EVOLA: [translated] There are positive and valuable aspects. Those which I could value are the reconstruction of the authority of the state and the idea of overcoming class conflict toward a hierarchical and corporative formation, to some extent, of a military and disciplined style within the nation, in addition to some of their anti-bourgeois proposals. To me, all of that is positive.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Julius Evola, one of the people Steve Bannon—

JOSHUA GREEN: I’ve never seen that clip. So, the unifying thread here is that Evola also looked to Guénon for inspiration. Guénon was the godfather of this capital-T Traditionalist movement. Now, Guénon believed that the way to spiritual transcendence was to basically indoctrinate small groups of important people all over the world, what we would today call influencers. And he was very—he believed that if you could—if you could push spiritual change, then political change would follow.

Evola is the black sheep of the Traditionalist family and had a different view. He said, “No, we can’t just sit back and try and change people’s spirituality. We need to go out and change society.” So Evola went out and struck an alliance with Benito Mussolini to try and exert power in the Italian government, which he had. He was, as you said, the chief racial theorist for Mussolini. They had a falling out, and Evola later moved on to Hitler in Nazi Germany.

What all three of these men have, though, in common is the belief in—at the heart of Guénon’s religion was the belief in the Hindu concept of cyclical time, the idea that the world passes through set stages. And Evola believed, as Bannon does, as Guénon does, that we are in what the Hindus call the Kali Yuga, a 6,000-year-long dark age in which man’s connection to God and the transcendent is wholly forgotten. So, Evola brought these ideas to interwar Europe, to Italy, and tried to change society that way to fight back against it. Bannon has come to this through a kind of populist, hard-right politics, where, through Breitbart and some of these affiliated organizations, he’s tried to not only take over American politics, but look at what he’s doing in places like the European Union. He’s trying to destroy what he would call these globalist edifices, which he believes is a manifestation of the rise of modernity and something that needs to be destroyed to pull us back to a pre-Enlightenment era.

Jill Stein has Trump-like meltdown after Senate demands to see her communications with Donald Trump Jr.

By Bill Palmer

Updated: 11:17 pm EDT Sat Jul 22, 2017

This week the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Donald Trump Jr. demanding, among other things, that he turn over all records of communications he had with a list of around twenty people. Most of the names are Trump campaign figures or prominent Russian figures. But one name stood out: Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party candidate for President. In response, Stein has staged a Twitter meltdown that’s eerily similar to the tactics used by Donald Trump.

Jill Stein began ranting on Twitter about how the Congressional investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russian government is merely a “McCarthyist witch hunt.” She then began blaming it all on Hillary Clinton, before invoking Donald Trump’s favorite deflection phrase: “The notion I communicated with Trump Jr is laughable. This whole thing is an obvious smear designed to generate a fake news feeding frenzy.”

Stein then continued dishonestly attacking Hillary Clinton, even though Clinton has nothing to do with the bipartisan Senate investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia. Stein also tried to further the long-disproven lunatic conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party somehow tried to rig the primary race against Bernie Sanders, an assertion that even Sanders has dismissed as fiction. But apart from the fact that Stein’s utterly deranged Twitter storm feels like it could have been ghost-written by Donald Trump, what stands out is what she didn’t say.

Jill Stein refused to address the fact that she attended a dinner in Moscow during the 2016 election cycle in which she sat at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump adviser Michael Flynn. Stein is also still refusing to say whether the Kremlin paid her to attend, as it paid Flynn. If Stein is innocent, why didn’t she simply address the facts and evidence involved? Why is she now defending Russia against the U.S. government? Her Twitter meltdown is a giant red flag that investigators should be looking deeply into whatever her involvement in the Trump-Russia scandal may have been.

Jul. 26, 2017 09:08AM EST

This Man Visited 27 National Monuments in 2 Weeks to Protect Them From Destruction

By Colleen Curry

People traveling across America today can, if they’re lucky, pitch a tent in the same exact spot that early American explorers and map-makers Lewis and Clark did, amid the jagged rocks and sweeping plains of the Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana.

Brent Rose, a journalist and filmmaker who has been traveling around the U.S. in a van for two years, was one of the lucky ones.

“I’m standing where they stood and trying to figure out which way was the top of the Missouri River, and that was kind of amazing,” Rose told Global Citizen.

The 500,000 acres of “the Breaks” are preserved as a U.S. national monument, designated as such in 1991 by former President Bill Clinton, and now under threat of losing their designation by the current White House administration.

President Donald Trump and his appointed secretary to the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, are evaluating whether 27 of the designated national monuments should actually be eliminated from the program and opened up to more private development.

Rose, an outdoors enthusiast, decided to use his time living the #vanlife to try and help protect those monuments, and set out earlier this spring to visit all 27 monuments in two weeks, uploading a short film to Instagram at each place and encouraging his followers to leave a comment with the Department of the Interior to protect the monuments.

Since the public comment period ended, Zinke has already announced that three of Rose’s destinations are safe from changes, but that Bears Ears National Monument in Utah may be reduced in size.

A full report on all 27 monuments is expected in August, according to Reuters.

Rose spoke to Global Citizen after his trip ended about what it was like to visit all of the monuments in a two-week span, and why he felt protecting them was important enough to get on the road in the first place.

Global Citizen: So Brent, where did the idea for #27Monuments come from?

Well, the backstory is that I’m a freelance journalist and I’ve been doing the whole van life thing for almost two years now. I gave up my apartment and decided to buy a van instead and have been driving around the country in that instead of having a standard basis.

I was kind of trying to find a way to make this adventure be more than just about myself and find a way to give back, to use it as a tool to do some good. I was talking to a friend of mine named Lynsey Dyer who’s a professional skier, who said, you know, adventures are great, but I always prefer adventures when you do some good for the world, and I would love to find an adventure that helps the environment.

This was the week the U.S. pulled out of the Paris agreement, and I was like yeah, the environment, what could I do?

Brent Rose

I was driving through Nevada and realized: didn’t I hear something about national monuments under attack? And I pulled over to a rest stop and was like, wow, look at these places under threat. The public comment period was open and it didn’t seem like it was on my or anybody else’s radar, and I wondered if it was possible to visit all these monuments during the public comment and raise awareness, and within hours I had decided that’s what I was going to do.

So, what should people know about the national monuments?

These are just incredibly beautiful places, to start with. They’re raw wilderness, which is one of my favorite things in the world, where I go to connect with nature and clear my head from all the city stuff.

There’s everything from Giant Sequoia National Monument to Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, at the end of the Appalachian Trail, with all these rivers and creeks coming together and these dense woods, and then these desert habitats as well. It struck me how diverse the types of monuments were that were out there.

I think a lot of people are even unclear on what a national monument is: it’s a piece of land that’s been set aside for protection by the federal government so it can’t be further developed on or have mineral or oil rights sold. If stuff was sold before, it’s grandfathered in, like grazing rights, so people don’t lose those rights, but they’re places that protect natural habitats or waterways or places of archaeological importance, with petroglyphs and old homesteads.

Many of these monuments are actually of great import to Native American history and culture. Some of them are important to other types of American history as well, like where Lewis and Clark came through. You can camp exactly where they camped.

How did you prepare for this trip?

I threw some new all-terrain tires on my van, which was smartest decision I ever made, and hit the road. These monuments are less developed than the national parks and so they are more rugged, and less touristy. You can go all day without seeing someone. The national parks are set up so you might drive right up to feature, keep the car running, step outside to take your picture, and then move onto the next one. Some of these monuments don’t even have a single paved road.

How did you cram all 27 into three weeks?

Most of these places I would have loved to have spent a week there because they were just incredible in so many ways, but the deadline for the public comment period was July 10. I had three weeks to hit 21 monuments [some of the monuments under review are out in the ocean]. And some were eight to 12 hours apart. Most of them I only got about a half day at each monument. I reached out to my friends before and asked if they had any time to help with research, and 12 volunteered, and they basically filled out a form with the acreage, when it was established, points of interest, points of contact when I got there, that helped me hit the ground running.

I went into each of them, even having done the research, not knowing what to expect and assuming a lot that they would look alike, but I was surprised when I got to each how different they all were, even clustered together in the southwest desert. They’re all beautiful in their own way and important in their own way.

What was your favorite?

Bear’s Ears in Utah was incredible just for the history there. There are these perfect petroglyphs, some of the most immaculate petroglyphs and ruins of ancient homesteads built into cliff walls that you can still walk through. I felt myself overcome by the history of these places, the people who built these structures and petroglyphs and what their lives must have been like. It was also just beautiful there, The Valley of the Gods is right by there, a large plain of rock formations, and you just stand there and stare with your mouth open.

I also really liked some of the watery ones, like the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana, which felt very peaceful and wild to me, the place where Lewis and Clark camped.

What’s at stake with this review period, and how do you think your project will contribute to the outcome?

I don’t feel super optimistic about it. What’s at stake is something different for each of these monuments. Some preserve ancient pre-Columbian history better than anywhere else. There are hundreds of thousands of sites that haven’t been explored yet. Others are important wildlife corridors to endangered species. Some are purely to preserve the little tiny bit that’s left of wilderness. We’ve developed so much of it, we’ve blazed trails and mined and drilled so much of it that we don’t have all that much left and that’s something that’s really important.

Our whole country used to be like that at one point and that’s something that future generations should be able to experience: these wild places that haven’t changed in thousands of years. We inherited these lands from people who came before us and left them untouched for us, and it is our responsibility to take care of them and leave them to the next generation and the next to enjoy and experience.

The comment period for the federal government’s review has closed, but anyone can read through the comments that were left—overwhelmingly in support of protecting the monuments—on the website of the Department of the Interior. Comments can still be made on protecting marine monuments.

Global Citizen.

Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone Could be Largest Ever, Thanks to the Meat Industry

Scientists predict that so much pollution is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico this year that it is creating a larger-than-ever “dead zone” in which low to no oxygen can suffocate or kill fish and other marine life.

The Guardian reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expected to announce this week the largest recorded hypoxic zone in the gulf, an oxygen-depleted swath that’s even larger than the New Jersey-sized, 8,185 square-mile dead zone originally predicted for July.

We Have Less Than 5% Chance of Avoiding ‘Dangerous’ Global Warming

Our chances of keeping warming under dangerous levels by the end of this century are increasingly slim, according to two new studies published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The first study took a statistical approach to examine likely warming scenarios by 2100, finding a less than five percent chance of holding warming below two degrees C and a less than one percent chance of keeping it under 1.5 degrees.

Former Interior Secretary rips Trump’s ‘illegal,’ ‘unpopular’ attempt to revoke national monuments

Sally Jewell called out the Trump administration’s review of national monuments.

Jenny Rowland

Public lands @amprog. Follow on twitter @jennyhrowland

Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell offered a pointed criticism Wednesday of the current administration’s views on public lands — particularly of its decision to review 27 national monuments, with an eye towards altering or removing them. Jewell gave the remarks in a keynote address at Outdoor Retailer, the Outdoor Industry Association’s annual trade show in Utah.

“President Trump is putting himself on the wrong side of history,” Jewell said. “If he acts to revoke national monuments, he will go down as one of the most anti-conservation presidents in the history of this nation. And our national parks, our national monuments, and our public lands are what helps make this nation great.”

In April, Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to conduct a review of 27 national monument designations from the past 20 years. Current Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leading the review and must provide recommendations to the White House on altering or revoking the monuments by August 24th. He has already recommended that Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be significantly cut in size.

Jewell’s speech addressed the review’s unpopularity, including the unprecedented number of public comments submitted to the Interior Department of which 98 percent were in support of keeping national monuments as they are. She also brought up that “the president does not have the authority to change monuments. Only Congress does.” Credible legal scholars, including 121 law professors, have agreed that the Antiquities Act does not grant the president the authority to eliminate or significantly alter a national park or national monument.

“If [President Trump] wants to conduct a review, it should be about what other places are deserving of monument status,” said Jewell, a former executive at REI. “It should not be about how to tear down the special places that… are part of our national identity and critical to our economy. In short, President Trump is playing games with our public lands — treating the monuments like they’re contestants on a game show — but the consequences… are real and devastating, and create uncertainty for businesses and uncertainty for residents, especially in gateway communities.”

At the same event, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) announced their release of new state-by-state numbers — the first in over four years — showing the importance of the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry for states. The numbers highlight the threat Secretary Ryan Zinke’s national monuments review poses to this growing economic sector that the targeted monuments help to support. For example, outdoor recreation is a $92 billion industry in California, but the administration is considering revoking six of the state’s national monuments. In Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments — two areas considered most at risk — help bolster that state’s $12.3 billion outdoor recreation economy.

After 20 years, this week’s outdoor retailer show marks the last time the show will take place Salt Lake City. OIA announced in February that it would move the show to another state, due to Utah politicians’ positions on public lands.

“We learned that Utah’s elected leadership were not only opposed to the Bears Ears National Monument, but there was talk in the state about selling off or transferring federal land,” said Amy Roberts, CEO of OIA. “The reaction from our industry was pretty swift. [OIA members] sent a pretty clear message… that it was time to find a new home that better supports our collected values. Industry unity in support of public lands is stronger than ever.”

Zinke recently announced some national monuments, including Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, will be exempt from his review. But advocacy groups point out that Zinke’s seemingly random “pardoning” of those monuments still leaves uncertainty for America’s public lands and the state outdoor recreation economies that depend on them.

Jenny Rowland is the research and advocacy manager for the public lands team at the Center for American Progress. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed in the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

August 14-21, 2017, Issue

Trump’s Main Policy Is Destruction—Ours Must Be More Than Resistance

The time to create alternatives is now.

By Kai Wright

July 28, 2017

Liberals have an unbecoming habit of dismissing Republican presidents as too dim-witted and disengaged to occupy the Oval Office. Democratic voters like to believe their politicians are brighter, more truthful, simply more prepared to lead—and Donald Trump is hardly the first right-winger to snatch power while defining himself against this smarter-than-thou liberalism.

George W. Bush was mocked as a frat boy who basically inherited the White House thanks to his family connections—and then his administration invented the permanent war and gave away so many hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue that the federal government couldn’t function. Ronald Reagan came off as a dopey B-movie actor merely playing the role of commander in chief—and then he set the terms of political debate for a generation. No one should presume that Trump’s cartoonish ignorance will continue to constrain his presidency.

It’s disturbingly easy to break stuff, and incompetence is a powerful tool.

Of course, an important difference here is basic competence. Trump has surrounded himself with people who are as plainly unqualified for their jobs as he is. The disregard for expertise was too much even for Sean Spicer, who reportedly quit after Trump asked him to work for Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier with zero experience running a communications operation of any size. Important roles in several agencies remain unfilled, and the Trump team’s increasing legal troubles will only make this staffing problem more acute. Ideology aside, people qualified to hold the most crucial positions in government are smart enough to turn them down at this moment. Nobody wants an audience with Robert Mueller’s investigators.

And yet none of this dooms Trump’s agenda, which is fundamentally one of destruction. It is disturbingly easy to break stuff, and incompetence is a powerful tool. That’s especially true now, when so many of the systems that govern our lives—schools, infrastructure, housing, immigration—are already collapsing from neglect. It’s hard to imagine they’ll survive the Trump era intact; some came into it broken.

So the progressive imperative is not only resistance, but creation in the face of destruction. Not everything Trump wants to destroy needs saving: The free-trade deals and neocon foreign policy he once decried have made the world poorer and less safe. We’d do well to end both. But on just about everything else, we’ll need to rebuild.

Health care is as good an example as any. Thus far, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have failed in their efforts to get rid of Medicaid (primarily because they can’t find a fig leaf of “reform” big enough to cover up their true intent). But Trump has vowed to simply break the Affordable Care Act and leave it at that. He has a really good chance of succeeding. In fact, he’s already doing it.

The repeal-and-replace debate is just a prelude to the real reckoning that will be forced by Trump’s destructive incompetence.

The president loves to point out that premiums have gone up and insurers are pulling out of the individual markets. Sure, but why? For two important reasons. First, because millions of sick people are finally getting access to care. Insurers can no longer just refuse to cover people who actually need insurance, and they’re trying to find a new way to make money. This is actually a good thing—we need health-insurance companies to make money if they’re going to stay in the exchanges. Federal subsidies cover those costs for the vast majority of consumers. Moreover, claims data for the first quarter of 2017 suggest the influx of sick patients that Obamacare invited into the system has leveled off. As all those sick people get healthy, costs should go down—if the markets are properly regulated.

Which they won’t be, under Trump. That’s the second reason the individual markets are in turmoil: Congress and the president have created chaos. At least one reason insurers have fled the markets is Trump’s repeated threat to cut federal payments that help cover the costs of their poorest, sickest customers. Several counties in Ohio and Nevada are in danger of having no insurers in their exchanges next year.

Obamacare has worked, at least on its own terms: It has cut the ranks of the uninsured by almost half. But it has done so using a market-based system built on a shaky foundation that requires Washington’s active support to function. It is complicated to a fault, and even without Trump’s hostility, nothing about this administration suggests that it has the capacity to successfully manage the Affordable Care Act into maturity.

So the repeal-and-replace debate is just a prelude to the real reckoning that will be forced by Trump’s destructive incompetence. A market-based system that depends on employers to help pay off insurers will necessarily leave out tens of millions of Americans; the problem will worsen as more employers refuse to offer benefits (or, in the tech sector, even to acknowledge that they are employers). Obamacare found a way for the federal government to pay the bill for many of those left out, but it’s unsustainable without close support and guidance. So what comes next? What’s the road out of the shambles that Trump will leave behind and into a Medicare-for-all model? This is the sort of creative work to which we must turn.

Similar reckonings loom across the federal government. Immigration is the other obvious example. It’s not just the deportation pipeline; millions of families are stuck in the hellish stasis of our outdated system for legal immigration, and Trump’s promised harassment of immigrants will force us to face the gap between our values and our laws. So what’s a functioning, ethical immigration system in a world in which capital moves freely and quickly across national borders?

Trump will continue to defy prediction, because he has no strategy beyond compulsive reaction, no goals beyond self-aggrandizement. But one thing is sure: His administration’s incompetence will break already fragile systems. We have both an obligation and an opportunity to build better ones.

Kai Wright is editor and host of WNYC’s narrative unit, and a columnist for The Nation.

John Kelly’s Promotion Is a Disaster for Immigrants

In just six months, Kelly turned DHS into a deportation machine.

By Julianne Hing

July 28, 2017

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly did such an efficient job implementing Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda that he’s getting promoted. Trump announced in a surprise tweet Friday afternoon that Kelly will replace Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff.

“John has done a spectacular job at Homeland Security,” Trump tweeted. “He has been a true star of my Administration.”

Indeed, in the last six months, Kelly has turned the DHS into one of the most productive arms of the Trump administration. Kelly managed to translate much of Trump’s brazen anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into actual policy. And if the numbers are any indication, Kelly has certainly flourished. Arrests since Trump took office in February increased by 40 percent over the prior year. But perhaps more important than the numbers is Kelly’s impact on immigrant communities, where apprehension and fear now reign.

Here’s a roundup of the key policy changes that Kelly has ushered in, in just six months on the job:

1) Ending prosecutorial discretion for undocumented immigrants.

In a sweeping February memo, Kelly did away with the Obama-era policy of prioritizing the deportation of those who’d been convicted of serious crimes. On paper (if not always in practice), the Obama administration directed immigration agents to focus their energy on those who’d been convicted of serious crimes and to largely leave alone those who’d been convicted of no crimes. In February, Kelly wrote: “Unless otherwise directed, Department personnel may initiate enforcement actions against removable aliens encountered during the performance of their official duties.” Translation: Every undocumented and deportable immigrant would now be fair game.

Gone are the tiers of enforcement that the Obama administration put forth. Even as Trump himself says that he wants to rid the country of the “rapists” and “murderers” among the immigrant population, Kelly has pursued a policy that targets all undocumented immigrants. Kelly’s policy effectively blurs the line between who is an “immigrant” and who is a “criminal”—despite what Trump says. On a practical level, immigration agents no longer have to think carefully about whether an undocumented immigrant they come across is a priority, because anyone who’s undocumented can go. As a result, those with no criminal records or those with the most minor of infractions are as much at risk as those with serious convictions.

Trump’s supporters have taken him at his word. “I think our president is going to keep all the good people here,” Helen Beristain, a Trump voter, told CNN this spring, as her husband, Roberto Beristain, faced deportation. He had not been convicted of a crime. “He’s not going to tear up families. I don’t think he wants to do that. He just wants to keep us safe,” Beristain said of Trump. Roberto was later deported.

2) Redefining who a “criminal alien” is.

In those same February memos, Kelly also expanded the notion of a “criminal alien.” Now a “removable alien” is anyone who has been convicted of a crime, been charged with a crime, or even committed anything that might be a “chargeable criminal offense” (jaywalking, anyone?). Immigrants who committed any kind of fraud (like using a fake Social Security number) or abused any public benefit would also be a priority for deportation, alongside anyone who had an order of removal that they’d ignored. But perhaps most stunning, Kelly directed the department to pursue anyone who, “in the judgment of an immigration officer,” posed a national-security risk to the country. In other words, any and every immigrant could be targeted by an immigration official.

This change blew the doors wide open and has resulted in high-profile incidents of longtime undocumented immigrants’ being detained during routine check-ins, such as Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a Phoenix mom who was deported in February after an immigration check-in. In 2008, Garcia de Rayos was arrested during a raid at the water park where she worked. She was caught using a fake Social Security number, and far from hiding afterwards, the longtime Arizona resident faithfully went to every check-in at a local ICE office since then.

The effect of Kelly’s memos has been to offer immigration agents new freedom to go further into communities to detain and arrest immigrants. Far from nabbing criminal masterminds, ICE agents have instead been reaching for the most vulnerable undocumented immigrants. In February, ICE agents turned up at a Texas courthouse and detained a woman fleeing domestic abuse. She was there seeking a protective order against her boyfriend, but left under arrest by ICE. Also in February, ICE agents waited outside a Virginia church’s hypothermia shelter and arrested two men. In May, ICE agents crossed an unspoken line regarding immigration-law enforcement when they entered P.S. 58, a Queens, New York, elementary school, to inquire about a fourth grader.

3) Calling for the revival of 287(g).

Most interior immigration-law enforcement—that is, enforcement that happens away from the border—depends on the cooperation of local law-enforcement agencies. There simply are not enough federal resources to pursue every undocumented immigrant that the Trump administration would like to pursue. In order to accomplish Trump’s goals, Kelly called for a return to old programs, like 287(g), which deputizes local and state police officers to act as immigration agents.

Together with Jeff Sessions’s pressure on sanctuary cities, the two are bearing down on localities that want to keep the work of public safety and immigration-law enforcement separate. Already, police arrests funnel undocumented immigrants into the deportation system. But under Kelly and Sessions, increasingly, police have become immigration agents.

4) Ending DAPA.

DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) refers to a never-implemented program from the Obama years which would have offered the parents of undocumented DREAMer youth and green-card holders short-term protection from deportation. Last month, Kelly formally dismantled the program.

DAPA was an expansion of the successful initiative DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gave select undocumented young people work permits and protection from deportation for two years. Nearly 800,000 young people have taken advantage of the program, which allowed them to get jobs, pursue education, and build their careers. It’s also been good for the economy. A Center for American Progress survey found that 20 percent of surveyed DACA recipients bought a car after obtaining DACA, and that one in 12 even bought a home. DAPA, however, got stalled in the courts after dozens of states led by Texas sued the Obama administration. The program would have benefitted an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants, but the Trump administration decided not to defend the program in court.

5) Weighing the expanded use of expedited removal.

This month, a leaked DHS memo revived an idea which was originally tucked into Kelly’s original February memos. The memo called for expanding the use of expedited removal, which is the practice of bypassing immigration courts and summarily shoving people out of the country. As of 2004, its use was limited to those who were apprehended within 100 miles of the US-Mexico border and who couldn’t prove that they’d been in the country for more than two weeks.

The new proposal would greatly expand the policy to include anyone apprehended anywhere in the country who hadn’t been in the United States for more than 90 days. This policy change would hand immigration officers even more power over the fates of the people they detain. This, to be clear, is just a proposal. But even in 2013, 44 percent of removals happened via expedited removal.

If Kelly’s short tenure is any indication, his elevated role as White House chief of staff will be a disaster for immigrants, never mind who replaces him at Homeland Security, a process in which he will undoubtedly play a large part.

For Immediate Release: July 28, 2017

Tiberi: To Maintain Momentum, We Need to Continue Pulling Away from Obama-Era Policies

U. S. Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-OH), Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, released the following statement about the report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis that the U.S. economy grew 2.6 percent at an annualized rate during the second quarter of 2017:

“This report is in line with expectations for second quarter economic growth and is an improvement over the first quarter. To maintain this momentum, we need to continue pulling away from Obama-era policies that restrict growth. We are seeing positive results from repealing overly burdensome regulations, but to unleash the full power of the American economy, we must continue to reduce unnecessary regulations and reform our outdated tax code, which will enhance American employers’ ability to grow, expand, and hire.”

The pre-Obama 50-year average annual rate was 3.4 percent compared with the Obama administration’s average of 1.5 percent.

Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer

By Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Rucker and Tom Hamburger July 31 at 7:46 PM

The Washington Post

On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril.

The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.

But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.

Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”

The claims were later shown to be misleading.

Over the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the news media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an email promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.

As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III looks into potential obstruction of justice as part of his broader investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, these advisers worry that the president’s direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup.

“This was … unnecessary,” said one of the president’s advisers, who like most other people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”

Trump has already come under criticism for steps he has taken to challenge and undercut the Russia investigation.

He fired FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9 after a private meeting in which Comey said the president asked him if he could end the investigation of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told associates that Trump asked him in March if he could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on Flynn. In addition, Trump has repeatedly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the FBI’s Russian investigation — a decision that was one factor leading to the appointment of Mueller. And he has privately discussed his power to issue pardons, including for himself, and explored potential avenues for undercutting Mueller’s work.

Although misleading the public or the news media is not a crime, advisers to Trump and his family told The Washington Post that they fear any indication that Trump was seeking to hide information about contacts between his campaign and Russians almost inevitably would draw additional scrutiny from Mueller.

Trump, they say, is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals he has hired.

“He refuses to sit still,” the presidential adviser said. “He doesn’t think he’s in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem he is going to solve by himself.”

Trump has said that the Russia investigation is “the greatest witch hunt in political history,” calling it an elaborate hoax created by Democrats to explain why Clinton lost an election she should have won.

Because Trump believes he is innocent, some advisers explained, he therefore does not think he is at any legal risk for a coverup. In his mind, they said, there is nothing to conceal.

The White House directed all questions for this article to the president’s legal team.

One of Trump’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, declined to discuss the specifics of the president’s actions and his role in crafting his son’s statement about the Russian contact. Sekulow issued a one-sentence statement in response to a list of detailed questions from The Post.

“Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent,” Sekulow’s statement read.

Trump Jr. did not respond to requests for comment. His attorney, Alan Futerfas, told The Post that he and his client “were fully prepared and absolutely prepared to make a fulsome statement” about the meeting, what led up to it and what was discussed.

Asked about Trump intervening, Futerfas said, “I have no evidence to support that theory.” He described the process of drafting a statement as “a communal situation that involved communications people and various lawyers.”

Peter Zeidenberg, the deputy special prosecutor who investigated the George W. Bush administration’s leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity, said Mueller will have to dig into the crafting of Trump Jr.’s statement aboard Air Force One.

Prosecutors typically assume that any misleading statement is an effort to throw investigators off the track, Zeidenberg said.

“The thing that really strikes me about this is the stupidity of involving the president,” Zeidenberg said. “They are still treating this like a family-run business and they have a PR problem… . What they don’t seem to understand is this is a criminal investigation involving all of them.”

Advocating for transparency

The debate about how to deal with the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting began weeks before any news organizations began to ask questions about it.

Kushner’s legal team first learned about the meeting when doing research to respond to congressional requests for information. Congressional investigators wanted to know about any contacts the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser had with Russian officials or business people.

Kushner’s lawyers came across what they immediately recognized would eventually become a problematic story. A string of emails showed Kushner attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in the midst of the campaign — one he had failed to disclose. Trump Jr. had arranged it, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort had also attended.

To compound what was, at best, a public relations fiasco, the emails, which had not yet surfaced publicly, showed Trump Jr. responding to the prospect of negative information on Clinton from Russia: “I love it.”

Lawyers and advisers for Trump, his son and son-in-law gamed out strategies for disclosing the information to try to minimize the fallout of these new links between the Trump family and Russia, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communications and one of the president’s most trusted and loyal aides, and Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman who works closely with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, huddled with Kushner’s lawyers, and they advocated for a more transparent approach, according to people with knowledge of the conversations.

In one scenario, these people said, Kushner’s team talked about sharing everything, including the contents of the emails, with a mainstream news organization.

Hicks and Raffel declined to comment. Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell also declined to comment.

The president’s outside legal team, led by Marc Kasowitz, had suggested that the details be given to Circa, an online news organization that the Kasowitz team thought would be friendly to Trump. Circa had inquired in previous days about the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The president’s legal team planned to cast the June 2016 meeting as a potential setup by Democratic operatives hoping to entrap Trump Jr. and, by extension, the presumptive Republican nominee, according to people familiar with discussions.

Kasowitz declined to comment for this article, as did a Circa spokesman.

Consensus overruled

Circumstances changed when the New York Times began asking about the Trump Tower meeting, though advisers believed that the newspaper knew few of the details. While the president, Kushner and Ivanka Trump were attending the G-20 summit in Germany, the Times asked for White House comment on the impetus and reason for the meeting.

During breaks away from the summit, Kushner and Ivanka Trump gathered with Hicks and Raffel to discuss Kushner’s response to the inquiry, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Kushner’s legal team joined at times by phone.

Hicks also spoke by phone with Trump Jr. Again, say people familiar with the conversations, Kushner’s team concluded that the best strategy would be to err on the side of transparency, because they believed the complete story would eventually emerge.

The discussions among the president’s advisers consumed much of the day, and they continued as they prepared to board Air Force One that evening for the flight home.

But before everyone boarded the plane, Trump had overruled the consensus, according to people with knowledge of the events.

It remains unclear exactly how much the president knew at the time of the flight about Trump Jr.’s meeting.

The president directed that Trump Jr.’s statement to the Times describe the meeting as unimportant. He wanted the statement to say that the meeting had been initiated by the Russian lawyer and primarily was about her pet issue — the adoption of Russian children.

Air Force One took off from Germany shortly after 6 p.m. — about noon in Washington. In a forward cabin, Trump was busy working on his son’s statement, according to people with knowledge of events. The president dictated the statement to Hicks, who served as a go-between with Trump Jr., who was not on the plane, sharing edits between the two men, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

In the early afternoon, Eastern time, Trump Jr.’s team put out the statement to the Times. It was four sentences long, describing the encounter as a “short, introductory meeting.”

“We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up,” the statement read.

Trump Jr. went on to say: “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Over the next hour, word spread through emails and calls to other Trump family advisers and lawyers about the statement that Trump Jr. had sent to the Times.

Some lawyers for the president and for Kushner were surprised and frustrated, advisers later learned. According to people briefed on the dispute, some lawyers tried to reach Futerfas and their clients and began asking why the president had been involved.

Also on the flight, Kushner worked with his team — including one of his lawyers, who called in to the plane.

His lawyers have said that Kushner’s initial omission of the meeting was an error, but that in an effort to be fully transparent, he had updated his government filing to include “this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr.” Kushner’s legal team referred all questions about the meeting itself to Trump Jr.

The Times’ story revealing the existence of the June 2016 meeting was posted online about 4 p.m. Eastern time. Roughly four hours later, Air Force One touched down at Joint Base Andrews. Trump’s family members and advisers departed the plane, and they knew the problem they had once hoped to contain would soon grow bigger.

Alice Crites contributed to this report. Ashley Parker is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. She joined The Post in 2017, after 11 years at The New York Times, where she covered the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns and Congress, among other things. Follow @ashleyrparker

Carol Leonnig covers federal agencies with a focus on government accountability. Follow @CarolLeonnig

Philip Rucker is the White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post. He previously has covered Congress, the Obama White House, and the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. He joined The Post in 2005 as a local news reporter. Follow @PhilipRucker

Tom Hamburger covers the intersection of money and politics for The Washington Post. Follow @thamburger

Ohioans deserve answers

Mon 7/31, 6:17 PM

In case you missed it, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) found herself in the middle of a massive scandal this past week when her IT staffer Imran Awan was arrested trying to flee the country to Pakistan while under FBI investigation for mishandling Congressional email and computer systems.

But it doesn’t stop with Wasserman Schultz. Several other Democrats employed Awan and/or his relatives, also under investigation, including Ohio Reps. Marcia Fudge, Tim Ryan and Joyce Beatty. In fact, over $4 million of taxpayer money went to Awan and his family, with $450,012 coming from the Ohio Representatives’ offices:

· $185,468 from Fudge’s office

· $171,281 from Ryan’s office

· $93,263 from Beatty’s office

Voters deserve to know: what sensitive information did Awan and/or his family access while working in these New York Representatives’ offices? Do they support a House Oversight and Government Reform investigation into the scandal, and will they cooperate with House investigators and agree to testify on the details of Awan and family members’ employment in their offices? Will they call on Wasserman Schultz to do the same?


· Imran Awan, a House staffer, was still employed by Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) until last Tuesday – the day after his arrest. (Politico, 7/25/17)

· Awan is “at the center of a criminal investigation potentially impacting dozens of lawmakers,” and he was arrested at Dulles Airport last Monday night for bank fraud while trying to flee the country. Awan was attempting to board a flight to Pakistan after wiring $283,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union to that country. (Politico, 7/25/17; Daily Caller, 7/25/17)

· The criminal investigation alleges “stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network.” Awan allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment from House offices, and funneled sensitive congressional data offsite as part of a massive cybersecurity breach. (Politico, 3/1/17; Fox News, 3/14/17)

· The FBI recently seized smashed hard drives from Awan’s home. (Daily Caller, 7/23/17)

· Last year alone, Awan worked for 13 House Democrats. (Legistorm, Accessed 5/25/17)

· Awan has “made nearly $2 million since starting as an IT support staffer for House Democrats in 2004,” and he and his family have received at least $4 million since July 2009. (Politico, 3/1/17; Daily Caller, 3/1/17)

· Other Democrats fired Awan, while Wasserman Schultz decided to change his title instead. (Politico, 3/1/17)

· VIDEO: When asked about it two months ago, Nancy Pelosi dodged. (C-SPAN, 5/25/17)

· Awan and his brothers were barred from House of Representatives computer networks in February. (Daily Caller, 2/4/17)

· U.S. Capitol Police is evidently holding onto equipment that belongs to Wasserman Schultz as part of its criminal investigation. (Sun-Sentinel, 5/25/17)

· VIDEO: Wasserman Schultz used an Appropriations subcommittee meeting on the U.S. Capitol Police budget to tell the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police that he “should expect that there would be consequences” for confiscating computer equipment as part of the investigation. (U.S. Capitol Police: FY2018 Budget, 5/18/17)

POLITICS 07/31/2017 06:10 am ET

It’d Be Pretty Easy For Trump To Pardon His Family Members. He Could Even Tweet It.

There’s a formal process for presidential pardons, but Trump has no obligation to use it.

By Ryan J. Reilly

WASHINGTON ― There’s a normal process for your average federal convict seeking a presidential pardon. There are petitions to prepare, letters to solicit, character affidavits to notarize, background checks to be conducted and federal prosecutors to be consulted. The whole process, controlled by the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, can take years, and there’s a very slim chance the president will ultimately grant a pardon.

However, if your dad is the president and you’re hoping to head off a potential indictment, you could just ask him to send a tweet.

President Donald Trump has, via Twitter, floated the possibility that he’ll use pardons as a means of shutting down indictments that may grow out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference with the 2016 election. If Trump is learning more about the process, as media reports indicate, he may be surprised by how easy it would be for him to pardon his family members or former campaign aides.

Trump pardoning his own family members before they’ve even been indicted would be virtually unprecedented in the modern era. Former officials in the Office of the Pardon Attorney who spoke with HuffPost this week pointed to President Gerald Ford’s pardon of former President Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal as the most relevant pre-indictment presidential pardon in recent U.S. history.

“Nixon is the most high-profile one, where no charges had even been brought, and I think that would be the most logical analogue,” said Margaret Love, who served as U.S. pardon attorney from 1990 to 1997.

But constitutionally, experts say, it’s all aboveboard. The consequences of those pardons would be political, not legal. Normally it would be “political suicide to pardon a family member,” in the words of Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane. But the normal rules of politics don’t seem to apply to President Trump.

“You just have to stand up against the political storm that would result,” Love said.

Other presidents have pardoned their family members and aides. President Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother Roger for selling cocaine to an undercover officer, while President George W. Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, sparing him a stint in federal prison. But neither Clinton’s pardon nor Bush’s clemency grant came before an indictment. Roger Clinton had already served a year in prison in the 1980s, and Libby’s commutation came after he was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

While there have been some pre-indictment pardons, those have typically affected entire groups of people, like when President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty for undocumented immigrants or when President Jimmy Carter pardoned hundreds of thousands of draft dodgers.

The pardon clause of the Constitution gives the president very wide authority. While the president can seek advice on pardons from any source he wants, the Office of the Pardon Attorney has handled most such cases since 1893.

The Office of the Pardon Attorney plays a crucial role in typical cases. One of the major benefits for presidents is that OPA vets all of the pardon applications for the White House, reducing the risk that a pardon could backfire.

“In the normal case, the White House won’t touch a case unless it’s gone through that administrative process at DOJ,” says Samuel Morison, a former lawyer in the Office of the Pardon Attorney. “It protects them from being embarrassed if it goes through DOJ, and it also gives them some political cover. If there’s criticism, they can say, well, DOJ told us to do it.”

Love said that the process at DOJ has served presidents well dating back to the 19th century.

“It’s always thought that it’s protective of the president,” she said. “The only time the president has gotten into trouble is when he avoids the process.”

If Trump does decide to preemptively pardon his son Donald Trump Jr., or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, it’s highly unlikely their cases would be vetted by the Office of the Pardon Attorney. The cases would more likely be handled entirely by the White House Counsel.

“If anybody like that who is closely related to Trump wants a pardon, I doubt very much they’re going to bother filing a pardon application with the Office of the Pardon Attorney,” Morison said. “I don’t represent any of those people in a pardon matter, but if I did, I would tell them, ‘Why would you do that? Just go straight to the White House.’”

OPA doesn’t even accept applications from individuals who haven’t been convicted of a crime, Morison said.

There’d be very little required of Trump if he decided to grant any pardons. The White House could issue a fairly short statement, and the form wouldn’t really matter, Love said. Trump could do it in a tweet if he wanted, as USA Today wrote in January. (The biggest restriction might be Twitter’s character limit: The key portion of Ford’s letter pardoning Nixon ran to 442 characters. If Trump were to write something similar, he’d need to split it into a few tweets.)

“The president can do this pretty much in any form he wants, as long as it’s a public announcement,” Love said. The pardon doesn’t even need to be a written document, she added: “Stick your head out the window, yell it out in the street.” It just needs to be a matter of record that the pardon was issued.

Of course, the really remarkable thing is not that the words “Twitter” and “presidential pardon” are being mentioned in the same sentence. It’s the fact that Trump would consider issuing a preemptive pardon for a member of his family at all.

“We truly are in uncharted waters here,” Love said.


An even better deal?

By Katrina vanden Heuvel August 1 at 8:01 AM

The Washington Post

At the 1932 Democratic National Convention, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared, “Never before in modern history have the essential differences between the two major American parties stood out in such striking contrast as they do today.” Arguing that Republicans had offered “no path for the people below to climb back to places of security and of safety in our American life,” he called for a “new deal” to “restore America to its own people.”

Under President Trump, the differences between the parties on domestic politics are similarly stark. Yet as the GOP fights to advance an extremist agenda that would take the nation backward, Democrats have struggled to offer a clear vision for the future or a path to security for struggling Americans. To that end, the “Better Deal” agenda that Democratic leaders introduced last week may not live up to Roosevelt’s lofty standard or the bold 21st-century populism that fueled Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) insurgent presidential campaign, but it is a promising step in the right direction.

At the core of the Better Deal is a crackdown on corporate monopolies that represents a genuine shift for the party establishment.

The agenda lays out the problem in no uncertain terms, stating that “growing corporate influence and consolidation has led to reductions in competition, choice for consumers, and bargaining power for workers,” while “extensive concentration of power in the hands of a few corporations hurts wages [and] undermines job growth.” In response, Democrats propose toughening merger standards to prevent harm to consumers and workers, requiring regulators to conduct “frequent” reviews of all mergers after they are completed, and creating “a 21st century Trust Buster” agency to fight anti-competitive behavior. This focus on reducing the power of corporate monopolies has won praise from leading antitrust activists, including Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout and New America Foundation fellow Barry Lynn.

In addition, the Better Deal features several policies that progressive activists have long championed: creating 10 million jobs with a mix of infrastructure spending and tax credits, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, guaranteeing paid sick and family leave, and lowering the price of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies. Taken as a whole, the agenda demonstrates the ascendant power of the populist wing of the party led by Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

However, the Better Deal remains far from perfect. As Robert Borosage writes at the Nation, its emphasis on skills training as a solution to workers’ problems is “clearly a nod to the still potent New Democrat forces in the party” and smacks of “blaming workers for not getting the education or skills they need rather than focusing on changing the rules that rig the game against them.” Indeed, while the idea of “better skills” may help attract campaign donations from Silicon Valley billionaires and the Davos set, it does nothing to address the fundamental unfairness that plagues the economy. What’s more, the agenda fails to establish a clear path toward universal health care, affordable college, or criminal justice reform — all critical economic issues for millions of families.

If Democratic leaders are genuinely committed to a “better deal” for the working class, they would be smart to consider another platform released this month: the People’s Platform. Crafted by a coalition of grass-roots organizations led by Our Revolution, which emerged from Sanders’s presidential campaign, the People’s Platform calls for bold, common-sense solutions to many of the country’s most pressing challenges. The agenda takes aim at economic inequality by endorsing Medicare for All, debt-free college tuition and a $15 minimum wage, as well as a financial transaction tax to raise revenues. It also includes proposals to ensure equal access to abortion, eliminate for-profit private prisons and implement automatic voter registration.

The coalition behind the platform has set a goal of getting at least half of House Democrats to sign on. “Democrats in Congress must lay out a bold vision for how we create a country that works for everyone — not just the very wealthy,” they declared in a petition delivered to Democratic National Committee headquarters last week. “In the wealthiest nation on earth, each and every American family should have the basic things they need to thrive.”

To be clear, Democratic leaders deserve credit for waking up to the harsh reality of our rigged economic system and pledging to do something about it. But while there is much to like about the Better Deal, the People’s Platform offers practical, popular solutions that are essential to the economic security of working Americans. And with the 2018 election cycle rapidly approaching, Democrats have an opportunity to draw an even sharper contrast with the GOP by embracing the kind of bold populism that this moment demands.

Editor and publisher of the Nation magazine, vanden Heuvel writes a weekly column for The Post.

Follow @KatrinaNation

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