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Tag: Congress

Opioid Crisis Accelerated by Lawmakers with ties to Drug Industry

pillsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

As the nation grappled with an opioid crisis that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, a handful of Congressional members with strong ties to the nation’s major drug distributors managed to strip the DEA of one of its most effective weapons against narcotics.

Despite desperate calls to curtail the number of prescription narcotics spilling onto the streets, the members of Congress convinced the DEA and Justice Department to reluctantly agree to a more industry-friendly that effectively allowed the flow of addictive pain pills to continue unhindered, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” 

It was a major win for the drug companies because it weakened the DEA’s ability to pursue companies that supply to corrupt doctors and pharmacists who pushed massive amounts of pills into the black market.

Under the watered-down law, the DEA is severely limited in responding to suspicious narcotic shipments.

The 23 lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored four versions of the bill received at least $1.5 million in donation from political action committees representing the drug industry.

Mueller, Congressional Committees Clashing Over Investigations into Russian Meddling

US CapitolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The special counsel investigation into Russia’s election meddling is beginning to clash with three different congressional probes of the same issue.

CNN reports that special counsel Robert Mueller was blocked from obtaining the Senate Intelligence Committee’s transcript of an interview with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. 

The various congressional committees aren’t sharing a lot of information, and Mueller is keeping lawmakers “out of the loop,” CNN reported.

CNN wrote:

The previously undisclosed fight, described to CNN by multiple sources, underscores the new challenges as congressional committees and Mueller’s operation head into a more intense phase of their parallel — and sometimes, conflicting — investigations into Russian election meddling and any collusion with Trump associates.

There are three committees on Capitol Hill competing for information and witnesses — and there is little, if any, communication among them, even as congressional officials say they all are preparing to intensify the pace of their inquiries this fall. While the Hill investigations into Russia’s meddling have been underway since the beginning of the year, the next few months could be the most consequential in terms of hearing from witnesses and gathering documents, sources say.

Border Patrol Barred from Speaking to Congressional Members, Lawyers During Travel Ban

Protest at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Protest at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When President Trump’s travel ban went into effect in late January, Custom and Border Protection employees directed personnel at airports to ignore members of Congress and treat lawyers with suspicion, according to a new report.

Ahead of the ban, Homeland Security officials ordered airport staff to treat lawyers as through they were “protesters” and to ignore members of Congress, documents obtained by the Daily Beast and the James Madison Project show. 

Congressional members expressed shock.

“I’m extremely troubled that CBP [Customs and Border Protection] employees would be instructed by superiors to ignore Congressional representatives trying to do their job, especially under such circumstances,” said Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat. “We suspected as much at the time, but it’s jarring to see it in black and white. I’ll be seeking more information from CBP on this matter.”

In a Jan. 28 email, a CBP officials forbid employees from interacting with members of Congress. 

“As stated on the call earlier today, you and your staff are NOT to engage with the media or Congressional representatives at this time,” emailed Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations, on Jan. 28. “Please make sure your subordinate Port Directors are following this direction. Please report any such requests to acting AC[REDACTED] from Congressional Affairs. Thank you.”

During protests at airport, CBP refused to answer questions from Congress about how many people were detained.

There are also questions whether all those detained at the airport had access to immigration lawyers.

Cummings, Conyers: Congress Must Act to Avoid Unchecked Powers of Trump’s Presidency

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and John Conyers
Op-Ed, Baltimore Sun

On Saturday, Oct. 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox because he refused to back down from his pursuit of the Watergate tapes. Nearly a half century later, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because of, in the president’s own words, “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.” And Wednesday, the president complained about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation; Mr. Trump said he “would have picked someone else” to run the Department of Justice has he known that was coming.

How Congress responds to moments like these matters. The differences between Congress’ response in 1973 and our response today are stark — and, frankly, disappointing. In 1973, the House Judiciary Committee had a serious and bipartisan response, subpoenaing and eventually releasing the Watergate tapes. The current Republican response has been tepid at best; they have not issued a single subpoena to the White House, and Speaker Paul Ryan defended Mr. Trump’s interference in the Russia investigation by assuring us that “he’s just new to this.”

As the senior Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, we believe it is critical that Special Counsel Robert Mueller be given the independence, time and resources to conduct a thorough investigation and report his findings to Congress. At the same time, as a co-equal branch of government, Congress must fulfill its constitutional duty to investigate the full range of Trump administration and Trump campaign actions.

Successful congressional investigations develop a comprehensive, fact-based record to form the basis for further action. The House and Senate Watergate investigations led to Nixon’s resignation and adoption of the Ethics in Government Act. It was serious, deliberative, bipartisan, transparent and operated in parallel to law enforcement investigations.

In the absence of any meaningful investigation by House Republicans, Democratic members have sent requests for information on our own. Our efforts have been met with months of stonewalling. The Trump White House recently told government agencies “not to cooperate [with any oversight] requests from Democrats,” and issued a contrived Justice Department legal opinion that such queries are “not properly considered to be oversight requests.”

We will continue to press for answers because the information we seek goes to the central question of the Trump presidency: Is the administration acting in the public interest, or merely to benefit the private interests of President Trump?

To read more click here.

Top Democrat Requests Secret Service Records on Trump Jr. Meeting

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is requesting documents that would reveal the vetting of who arrived and exited the Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

Cummings’ request is intended to clear up “recent conflicting reports” on the Secret Service’s role in vetting the Russian-connected officials who met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort at the Trump Tower in June 2016, Business Insider reports. 

On Sunday, President Trump’s lawyer suggested the Secret Service would not have permitted Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and former Soviet military intelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin into the Trump Tower if anything nefarious was happening. The Secret Service responded that Trump Jr. was not under the agency’s protection at the time and therefore “would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at the time.”

Key Player in Russia Probe Cited for Misconduct As a Former Prosecutor

Greg Bower, FBI's top liaison for Congress during probe of Russia.

Greg Bower, FBI’s top liaison for Congress during probe of Russia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Greg Bower, a former top prosecutor who currently is the FBI’s top liaison with Congress during its investigation into Russian election meddling, has been cited for misconduct in an 8-year-old sex discrimination case.

While Bower was in charge of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada from January 2008 to October 2009, a former female prosecutor was subjected to sexual discrimination and retaliation, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

An administrative judge said Brower acted hostilely toward a prosecutor after she alleged he had made a sexist comment.

“While acts of discrimination and retaliation are no doubt common within the federal service, it is extremely rare to see such a finding against the U.S. attorney’s office, which is charged with upholding the laws of this country,” said Las Vegas attorney Adam Levine, who has represented clients in the federal equal employment opportunity process. “If any agency should be aware of the prohibition against retaliation, it is the U.S. attorney’s office.”

Then-FBI Director James Comey hired Bower as deputy counsel last year.

FBI to Reveal Details Today of Congressional Baseball Shooting in Virginia

Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI plans to release details today of the shooting that critically injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four other people last week on a northern Virginia baseball field.

The bureau’s Washington Field Office will reveal the investigative findings by agents and other law enforcement officials.

Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was critically wounded when he was shot near the hip, but after several surgeries, his condition has upgraded to serious.

James T. Hodgkinson was killed by police after he shot four people at a congressional baseball game. Photo via Facebook.

James T. Hodgkinson was killed by police after he shot four people at a congressional baseball game. Photo via Facebook.

The shooting happened while Scalise and other congressional Republicans were practicing in advance of ann annual charity baseball game against Democrats.

James T. Hodgkinson, a harsh critic of President Trump and an employed home inspector, opened fire at the field and became involved in shootout with police before he was mortally wounded. 

Republican Congressman Chaffetz Slams Trump, Sessions on Transparency

Rep. Jason Chaffetz was the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz was the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the oversight leader of Congress with just two weeks left in office, slammed President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group

“The reality is, sadly, I don’t see much difference between the Trump administration and the Obama administration,” the chairman of the House Oversight Committee said over the weekend.

The Utah Congressman, who announced his resignation last month, said Sessions is “worse” than Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, when it comes to transparency.

“The attorney general has not changed at all. I find him to be worse than what I saw with Loretta Lynch in terms of releasing documents and making things available,” Chaffetz said. “That’s my experience, and that’s not what I expected.” 

Read the full interview here