May 9: Russia Investigation, Muslim Ban, Net Neutrality, Scott Gottlieb
- Yesterday, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared in a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, giving testimony about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
- The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments yesterday on the Muslim ban Executive Order.
- The FCC will be moving forward with plans to roll back net neutrality protections at its May 18 open meeting.
- Cloture was invoked yesterday on the nomination of Scott Gottlieb as FDA Director.
Yesterday, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared in a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, giving testimony about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Though both Yates and Clapper were unable to provide specific details to many questions due to information being classified or related to ongoing investigations, it was made clear that Yates had warned the White House that then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been compromised, but that no action was taken to remove Flynn or limit his involvement with the administration for nearly three weeks, after the Washington Post published leaked information about Flynn's contact with Russia.
Notably and disturbingly, Republican members of the Senate panel almost uniformly chose to ignore the topic of Russian interference in our elections, instead focusing their questions on how the information was leaked to the Washington Post, the Clinton campaign's emails, and Yates's decision not to uphold the Muslim ban order. Yates deftly rebutted all of these attempts to obstruct the investigation, but as Sen. Blumenthal of Connecticutt underscored in his statement during the hearing, this highlighted the need for an independent commission and special prosecutor to investigate the danger to our democracy. Director Clapper also attempted to steer the discussion back to the stated purpose of the hearing, saying, "the transcendent issue here is the Russian interference in our election process," and noting that leaks and unmasking were ancillary issues.
Currently, the House and Senate each have bills introduced which would establish an independent commission to investigate Russian interference. The House version, HR. 356, has been co-sponsored by all of the San Diego-area Democratic Representatives, but neither of the Republican Representatives. The Senate version, S. 27, has been co-sponsored by Senator Feinstein, but not Senator Harris.
- Five takeaways from Yates's dramatic Senate testimony (The Hill)
- 6 Takeaways From Monday's Senate Hearing on Russia (New York Times)
- HR. 356 (DOF info page)
- S. 27 (DOF info page)
While former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates responded to GOP questions yesterday about her refusal to uphold the Administration's Muslim ban, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the appeal of a lower court's ruling blocking the ban. As Yates noted in her testimony, although the Office of Legal Counsel had deemed the Executive Order to be lawful, that office only narrowly considers the text of Executive Orders, whereas her determination that the Order was unlawful took into consideration the stated intent of the Order, as would a court. This appears to be the case, as the 4th Circuit panel yesterday seemed unconvinced by arguments that it should not consider the President's campaign statements in determining the lawfulness of the Order. Judge Henry Floyd asked, "Is there anything other than willful blindness that would prevent us from getting behind those statements?"
Though the lower courts' block of the Muslim ban remains in effect, it remains a possibility that an appellate court or the Supreme Court could reverse the block. Both the House and Senate have, therefore, introduced bills to overturn the Executive Order. The House version, HR. 1503, has been co-sponsored by San Diego-area Representatives Susan Davis and Juan Vargas, but not by Republicans Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa, nor Democrat Scott Peters. The Senate version, S. 608, has been co-sponsored by both of California's Senators.
- Trump's Muslim Comments Could Haunt Him in Travel Ban Appeal (New York Times)
- HR. 1503/S. 608 (DOF info page)
As noted in previous updates, the FCC is set to vote to roll back federal net neutrality protections at its May 18 open meeting. Net neutrality is a set of principles protecting the freedom and fairness of the Internet, prohibiting Internet service providers from giving preferential status to one type of content versus another (i.e., service providers must remain "neutral" with respect to all Internet content).
Yesterday, 14 Senators led by Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai highlighting the importance of net neutrality to women across America, and urging him to reconsider his proposal to roll back those protections. Senators Feinstein and Harris joined Senators Hassan and Cantwell in signing the letter.
Because the process for leaving a public comment on the FCC's propose rule changes is confusing, late-night host John Oliver recently purchased the domain gofccyourself.com, which directly links to the FCC comment system. Additionally, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has set up a site at dearfcc.org to make it easy for citizens to comment.
- Senators Lead Letter to FCC Chairman Highlighting Importance of Net Neutrality to Women Across America (Feinstein press release)
- Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (full text)
- May 2017 Open Commission Meeting
- Launching DearFCC: The Best Way to Submit Comments to the FCC about Net Neutrality (EFF)
- FCC Comment System
The Senate voted yesterday on a motion of cloture on the nomination of Scott Gottlieb as FDA Director. The vote passed 57-41, with Democrats Michael Bennett (CO), Tom Carper (DE), Chris Coons (DE), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Bill Nelson (FL) joining all Senate Republicans voting in favor. As noted in a previous update, there are serious concerns about Mr. Gottlieb's conflicts of interest, having received millions of dollars from the pharmaceutical industry.
The Senate debates Mr. Gottlieb's confirmation today, with a vote expected late today or early tomorrow.
- Cloture vote results
- Scott Gottlieb: Conflicts surround Trump's FDA pick (CNN)
- Payment information to Scott Gottlieb (OpenPaymentsData.CMS.gov)
Conclusion/Call Script Overview
Today I will be calling my Congressman and thank him for co-sponsoring HR. 356, and ask him to co-sponsor HR. 1503. I'll also ask him to speak out against the net neutrality rollback.
I will also call my senators and ask them to oppose Scott Gottlieb's confirmation as FDA Director. I'll thank them for supporting S. 608, and for signing the letter opposing net neutrality rollback. I'll specifically ask Senator Harris to support and co-sponsor S. 27.
I will also leave a comment to the FCC opposing the net neutrality rollback.
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 thank Senator Feinstein for her participation in yesterday's hearing in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. I'm more convinced than ever that there must be an independent commission to investigate Russian interference, so I appreciate that Senator Feinstein co-sponsored S. 27 to get that commission set up. I also appreciate that the Senator has co-sponsored S. 608 to overturn the Muslim ban. I saw that Senator Feinstein joined the letter to the FCC opposing the net neutrality rollback, which I think is very important, so thanks for that. I'd like to encourage the Senator to continue pushing back on all of those issues. Finally, I'd like to ask Senator Feinstein to please vote against the confirmation of Scott Gottlieb as FDA Commissioner, as I think his conflicts of interest make him too dangerous a choice. Thank you."
Script for Calling Kamala Harris
"Hi, my name is _____ and I'm calling from _____ (zip code). After yesterday's hearing in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, I'm more convinced than ever that there must be an independent commission to investigate Russian interference, so I wanted to ask Senator Harris to please co-sponsor S. 27 to get that commission set up. I do appreciate that the Senator has co-sponsored S. 608 to overturn the Muslim ban. I saw that Senator Harris joined the letter to the FCC opposing the net neutrality rollback, which I think is very important, so thanks for that. I'd like to encourage the Senator to continue pushing back on all of those issues. Finally, I'd like to ask Senator Harris to please vote against the confirmation of Scott Gottlieb as FDA Commissioner, as I think his conflicts of interest make him too dangerous a choice. Thank you."
Script for Calling Scott Peters
"Hi, my name is _____ and I'm calling from _____ (zip code). After yesterday's hearing in the Senate Judiciary subcommittee, I'm more convinced than ever that there needs to be an independent commission to investigate Russian interference, so I wanted to thank Congressman Peters for co-sponsoring HR. 356 to set up that commission. However, that hearing also brought up Sally Yates's refusal to uphold the unlawful Muslim ban, so I'm disappointed that the Congressman hasn't yet co-sponsored HR. 1503 to overturn that ban, and I'd like him to do so. Finally, I'm very concerned about the FCC's proposal to roll back federal net neutrality protections, so I'd like to ask the Congressman to please issue a statement opposing that rollback. Thank you."