State attorney general races gain attention in Trump era
By GEOFF MULVIHILL and KATHLEEN FOODY
Sunday, June 3
DENVER (AP) — The top priority for Democrats pushing back against President Donald Trump is gaining control of at least one branch of Congress this year, but they’re also focused on a pivotal seat lower on the ballot — state attorney general.
The top state law enforcement position comes with a political weapon Democrats have wielded 47 times since Trump took office: They have sued the administration as a way to halt policies they regard as unconstitutional or otherwise harmful. Attorneys general have gone to court over immigration, the environment, birth control and internet regulation, among other issues.
That’s a key reason the races are starting to gain attention and money.
“No one is above the law, not even the president of the United States,” said Sean Rankin, executive director of the Democratic Attorneys General Association. “That’s the cornerstone message.”
How well that works as a selling point will be tested in some of the same swing states that also are key to presidential elections. Among them are Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio, which Democrats are targeting as possible pickups because the current Republican attorneys general are not running again.
They also are targeting Republican incumbents in Arizona and Wisconsin as well as in heavily Republican Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia in an effort to add to their total of 23 attorneys general. In all, 30 states and the District of Columbia will have elections for attorney general this year.
Yet for all the pushback against Trump administration policies, how far to take the message of resistance is causing a split in some Democratic primary contests. Some candidates say opposing Trump is important but should not be all-consuming.
The rift has made for some spirited Democratic campaigns.
In Colorado, first-time candidate Phil Weiser, a law school dean, explains in a TV commercial that he’s running for state attorney general because of Trump. The ad shows the former Obama administration official as preoccupied with ways to hold the president’s policies in check, even taking notes about it while hiking with his family in the Rocky Mountains.
“The reality is we have a federal government right now that is disregarding the rule of law,” Weiser said in an interview.
Inside an urban winery in a former warehouse surrounded by auto repair shops, state Rep. Joe Salazar, who also is seeking the office, took a jab at Weiser last month. He told about 30 supporters that anyone inspired to run by opposition to Trump “must have lived a very privileged life.”
Salazar, a civil rights lawyer endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, said it’s a given that either Democrat would take on the president.
“That’s the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “We’re all going to be joining lawsuits or initiating lawsuits against the administration.”
But he said he decided to run for different reasons — to spread economic benefits, protect the environment and take actions that help children.
Whichever Democrat wins Colorado’s June 26 primary will face a Republican who says that going after the president is not what an attorney general should be doing.
“They’re looking for an excuse to bring Donald Trump into this race,” George Brauchler, a district attorney, said in an interview. “They’re going to try to convert this AG’s office into a political ambulance-chaser.”
Attorneys general of both parties have made suing the federal administration a bigger part of their job in recent years.
Marquette University political science researcher Paul Nolette counted 62 multistate lawsuits over eight years against policies of former President Barack Obama, largely over what Republicans saw as federal overreach. That included one opposing Obama’s health care overhaul just minutes after it was signed into law.
Texas Republican Greg Abbott, now the state’s governor, repeatedly described his job this way: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.” But Republicans bristle when Democrats sound a similar note.
The Republican Attorneys General Association has a website criticizing Michigan Democrat Dana Nessel on a litany of topics, including telling supporters that she would sue Trump, who carried the state in 2016, “all day, every day.”
That message worked for Nessel when she won the nomination at a state Democratic convention this spring over a union-backed former U.S. attorney appointed by Obama.
Nessel told The Associated Press that voters want an attorney general to protect the state from federal policies that could hurt them. For example, she said Michigan’s large Arab population is vulnerable to Trump’s restrictions on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries and his administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.
“There’s an eagerness to use the Michigan attorney general to fight back,” said Nessel, who had the backing of Sanders activists during the party convention.
Her opponent won’t be clear until a Republican state convention Aug. 25, but the race figures to be one of the more expensive of the attorney general races this year.
The Democratic association has boosted its fundraising, taking in $2.4 million during the first three months of the year. That still lags the Republican group, which brought in $4.5 million during the same period.
Republicans are mostly trying to keep the seats they already hold while vying to take control in Illinois and Connecticut after incumbent Democrats declined to run again.
The little-known GOP candidates are not expected to be a factor in California’s race, which nevertheless is contested. Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, is a prolific filer of lawsuits against the Trump administration, but that hasn’t prevented him from drawing a challenger from within his own party.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has said he, too, would be eager to challenge Trump policies but says Becerra has been so focused on Trump that he is not doing enough on other issues, such as the opioid epidemic, gun violence and going after corporate polluters.
“We can do more than just resist Trump,” Jones said.
Becerra says Jones is being deceptive, pointing to his office’s prosecutions for illegal gun possession, sex trafficking, embezzlement and other offenses.
The state’s unusual primary system, which allows the top two candidates to advance regardless of party affiliation, virtually assures that the two Democrats will continue their fight beyond Tuesday’s primary.
Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writer Don Thompson in Sacramento, California, contributed.
Follow the reporters at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill and http://www.twitter.com/katiefoody
Washington Examiner Magazine
Monday, June 04, 2018
Trump cancels whale and sea turtle protections
by John Siciliano
The Trump administration on Monday tossed out a rule on marine protection for whales and sea turtles caught in fishing nets off the West Coast.
The rule change was made despite the fishing industry’s having proposed the measures in the first place, according to the Associated Press. The National Marine Fisheries Service, a division within the Commerce Department, said it decided the new protection rules were not warranted.
“Under the proposed regulations, caps would have been established for five marine mammal species and four sea turtle species,” the agency explained in a final action published in the Federal Register Monday afternoon. “When any of the caps were reached, the fishery would have been closed for the rest of the fishing season and possibly through the following season.”
The rules were proposed in 2016 under the Obama administration. The federal agency said the decision was based on an extensive federal study. “As a result of its analysis of the effects of the proposed rule, NMFS has decided that the changes covered in the proposed rule from 2016 are not warranted at this time.”
Some conservation groups called the action one of the first by the administration to target protections for threatened species off the Pacific coast, according to AP.
Threats of retaliatory tariffs prompted by Trump have cost Iowa pork industry $560M: report
By Max Greenwood – 06/02/18
Concerns over retaliatory tariffs from Mexico have cost Iowa pork producers roughly $560 million, the Des Moines Register reported Friday.
According to the newspaper, Iowa pork producers could take another hit if Mexico follows through on its threat to impose a 20 percent tariff on hams and pork shoulders from the U.S.
Producers in the state already face a 25 percent tariff on pork exports to China. But duties from Mexico — the largest export market for American pork by volume — could put further strain on producers.
Iowa is the largest pork producer in the U.S., according to Gregg Hora, the president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Hora told the Register that the threatened tariffs are “potentially devastating news for Iowa’s pig farmers and the rural Iowa economy.”
While the possible tariffs from Mexico would hurt U.S. pork producers, it would ultimately drive down the cost to consumers, the Register reported.
The tariff threats from Mexico came after President Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. would impose steep duties on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU).
Those markets had initially been exempted from the tariffs when they were first announced in March. But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that trade talks had not advanced far enough to warrant a continued exemption.
In turn, Canada, Mexico and the EU proposed a series of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, ranging from blue jeans, to bourbon and yogurt.
Canada and the EU have also brought cases against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization.
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Hannity warns of impending ‘civil war’ if Mueller finds Trump guilty
Fox News’ Sean Hannity is worried that the Mueller investigation will lead to a civil war…or a food fight.
During a broadcast of his radio program, Sean Hannity. a Fox New personality and loyal Trumper, warned that a “civil war” would break out if Robert Mueller tries to take down Trump. Hannity is probably the second biggest critic of Mueller’s investigation into the Russian meddling, and he has spend countless hours of air time shaking his fist at the probe and pushing his anti-Trump conspiracy theories.
His latest radio rant warned of the impending civil war:
“This country is headed towards a civil war in terms of two sides that are just hating each other and if Robert Mueller wants, there’s a big red button in the middle of the table. And if Robert Mueller is so pompous and so arrogant and so power hungry and so corrupt that he’s going to hit the red button and he’s going to ignite a battle that we’ve not seen in this country before.”
Hannity continued on about the divide, clarifying that he wasn’t “talking about a war” when he said “civil war.” He meant more along the lines of “not being able to have a family dinner without mashed potatoes being thrown across the room.” Scary stuff, to be sure.
Then Hannity broke the American people down into two groups, “those that stand for truth and those that literally buy into the corrupt Deep State attacks against a duly elected president.”
It is likely that Sean Hannity either underestimates or blindly refuses to acknowledge the percentage of Americans that stand with and support the Mueller investigation. He better get his potatoes ready.
Read more about it here: “Hannity: ‘This Country Is Headed Towards a Civil War’ If Mueller Hits His ‘Big Red Button’” written by Justin Baagona posted by Mediaite on April 02, 2018.
Trump says it will be hard to unify country without a ‘major event’
PBS Jan 30, 2018
Hours before his first State of the Union, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wants to unite the country amid “tremendous divisiveness” and hopes he can do so without a traumatic event affecting Americans.
Trump spoke about creating a more united country during a lunch with a number of television news anchors. Trump said the United States has long been divided, including during the impeachment of former president Bill Clinton. Trump also said that Americans usually come together during times of suffering.
“I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity,” Trump said. “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.”
The president also said the country’s divisions date back to both Republican and Democratic administrations, citing the scandals that led to Clinton’s impeachment by the House in 1998.
“I want to see our country united. I want to bring our country back from a tremendous divisiveness, which has taken place not just over one year, over many years, including the Bush years, not just Obama.” he said.
Trump went on to say that uniting people would also be hard because of issues like health care, because some people want “free health care paid by the government” and others want “health care paid by private, where there’s great competition.”
The comments came as the president was putting the finishing touches on his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.
According to a White House official, Trump’s speech will be about 50 minutes long, and was written with help from H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor, Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary, Gary Cohn, the chief economic advisor, Stephen Miller, the senior policy advisor, and Ross Worthington and Vince Haley, who are both speechwriters.
Yamiche Alcindor is the PBS NewsHour’s White House correspondent and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC.
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