May 18, 2017: Lots (and lots) of Russia News, REINS Act, Net Neutrality
- Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was named special counsel for the Russia investigation yesterday.
- The Washington Post reported yesterday that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was recorded last summer saying that he thought Trump was being paid by Putin.
- The New York Times reported yesterday that the Trump transition team knew before nominating him as National Security Adviser that Michael Flynn was under investigation for his connections to Turkey.
- This morning, Reuters reports that the Trump campaign had 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians.
- Yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to advance the REINS Act.
- The FCC voted today to advance repeal of federal net neutrality protections.
Yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel for the investigation into ties between Russia and the President's campaign. Mueller, also a former federal prosecutor, is widely seen as a good choice for this position. Former US Attorney Preet Bharara—who was fired by the Trump Administration—tweeted yesterday "Having known him for years, I believe special counsel Mueller is a very good thing. He is one of the best -- independent and no-nonsense."
Nevertheless, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi reiterated her call this morning for an independent Russia commission as well as "vigorous Congressional investigations."
Also yesterday, the Washington Post reported that during last year's campaign, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) was recorded saying "There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump," in a private conversation with GOP leaders. (Dana Rohrabacher is a Republican Member of Congress from California's 48th district, in Orange County.) After McCarthy's comments, Speaker Paul Ryan (who participated in the conversation) swore everyone in the room to secrecy. Spokespeople for McCarthy and Ryan initially denied that the exchange had taken place, but when told that there was a recording, both immediately brushed it off as a joke.
Also yesterday (a day in which multiple major news stories broke in rapid succession), the New York Times reported that the Trump transition team—which was headed by Vice President Mike Pence—knew weeks before the inauguration that Gen. Michael Flynn was under investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey. According to the report, Flynn disclosed this information to the transition team's chief lawyer, Donald McGahn—who is now the White House counsel. This disclosure happened before Flynn was appointed as National Security Adviser, a position in which Flynn had access to highly classified intelligence information. Pence today repeated his previous claims that he did not know about the investigation into Flynn until it was reported in the media.
This morning, Reuters reported that the Trump campaign had 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians, including calls and emails between Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Trump advisers, including Michael Flynn and other current and former officials.
- Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation (New York Times)
- Pelosi Statement on Special Prosecutor to Investigate Trump-Russia Connection (Pelosi press release)
- House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: 'I think Putin pays' Trump (Washington Post)
- Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House (New York Times)
- Pence stands by claim he didn't know about Flynn lobbying investigation (Politico)
- Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources (Reuters)
Yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to advance S. 21, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act). The bill was reported favorably on a vote of 8-6, with all Democrats on the committee opposing it. If enacted, the bill would require all major regulations from federal agencies to be approved by Congress, drastically limiting the ability of federal agencies to implement vital environmental, workplace, and consumer protections.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on January 5, 2017. As of today, it has not yet been added to the Senate legislative calendar, and it is unclear when it will reach the Senate floor for a vote.
- Official bill information
- Senate HSGA Committee Record, Business Meeting on May 17, 2017 (PDF download)
Today the FCC voted to advance repeal of federal net neutrality protections. Net neutrality is a principle requiring Internet service providers not to block or prioritize Internet data based on content or source—prohibited actions include, for example, creating paid "fast lanes" for certain types of content, or deliberately slowing down or blocking competitors' data to consumers, or censoring political dissent. The vote today opens a new public comment period, which advocacy groups say they plan to take advantage of, urging citizens to file comments against repeal.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an open Internet advocacy group, has created a web tool at dearfcc.org to make it easier to leave a comment on the proposed rulemaking.
- FCC votes to advance net neutrality repeal (The Hill)
- Dear FCC: We See Through Your Plan to Roll Back Real Net Neutrality (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Conclusion/Call Script Overview
Today I will call both of my US Senators and ask them again to increase pressure in the Senate to get an independent Russia commission. I'll also ask them to oppose the REINS Act and to speak out against net neutrality repeal.
I'll also call my House Representative and thank him for his efforts to establish an independent Russia commission. I'll also ask him to speak out against net neutrality repeal.
If you are not from California, you can find contact information for all U.S. Senators here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
If you don't know who your Representative in the House, you can look it up here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Script for Calling Dianne Feinstein
"Hi, my name is _____ and I'm calling from _____ (zip code). I'm calling to ask Senator Feinstein to please use all available means to get an independent Russia commission. I was glad to see that a special counsel has been named in that investigation, but we also need an independent commission, so I would like the Senator to object to all calls for unanimous consent, oppose all motions for cloture, and oppose all executive appointments until that commission is established. I'm also very concerned about the REINS Act, S. 21, and I'd like Senator Feinstein to oppose that bill when it comes to the Senate floor. I'd also like Senator Feinstein to please speak out in opposition to the FCC's plan to repeal federal net neutrality protections. Thank you."
Script for Calling Kamala Harris
"Hi, my name is _____ and I'm calling from _____ (zip code). I'm calling to ask Senator Harris to please use all available means to get an independent Russia commission. I was glad to see that a special counsel has been named in that investigation, but we also need an independent commission, so I would like the Senator to object to all calls for unanimous consent, oppose all motions for cloture, and oppose all executive appointments until that commission is established. I'm also very concerned about the REINS Act, S. 21. I'm glad that Senator Harris voted against it in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and I'd like her to continue opposing that bill when it comes to the Senate floor. I'd also like Senator Harris to please speak out in opposition to the FCC's plan to repeal federal net neutrality protections. Thank you."
Script for Calling Scott Peters
"Hi, my name is _____ and I'm calling from _____ (zip code). I'm calling to thank Congressman Peters for signing the discharge petition for HR. 356, and for his efforts yesterday to reach out to Republican representatives to get an independent Russia commission. Although I'm pleased that a special counsel has been named, it's still very important to get that commission, so please don't let up on that issue. I'd also like to ask the Congressman to please speak out against the FCC's proposal to repeal federal net neutrality protections, which are vital for the free and open Internet we rely on. Thank you."