News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

President Donald Trump has said that he is willing to slap tariffs on all Chinese imports in an interview that CNBC airing today. He said, “I’m willing to go to 500,” which refers to the approximately $500 billion in Chinese products that the US imports each year.

As the outrage over Trump’s capitulation to Russia’s Vladimir Putin continues unabated, the President on Thursday announced he was inviting Mr. Putin to the US for a visit to the White House this fall and has continued tweeting about his great relationship with Putin. Dan Coats, who is Trump’s top intelligence chief admitted on Thursday at the Aspen Security Council in Colorado that he had no idea about the invitation to Putin. When asked by an interviewer whether he knew what was discussed at the meeting on Monday in Helsinki between Trump and Putin, Mr. Coats said, “I don’t know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the President has already mentioned some of the things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the President’s prerogative.”

Trump’s pick to lead the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau had a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. Kathy Kraninger, who currently works at the Office of Management and Budget, was grilled by lawmakers – some of whom have made it clear they don’t think she is appropriate to lead the CFPB. The Trump administration has made it its mission to undermine the agency. Senator Elizabeth Warren who helped to start it before she was elected, grilled Kraninger about her role in the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. That’s Senator Elizabeth Warren questioning Kathy Kraninger during her Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday to lead the CFPB.

The Trump Administration’s Interior Department has decided to rewrite big sections of the law that helped to save the Bald Eagle from extinction. Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday announced the changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that would make it easier for new construction projects to be approved in what is being denounced as a corporate giveaway. The changes will also mean that species that are currently considered “threatened” will not receive the same care as species that are considered “endangered.” The administration is casting its changes to the 1973 law as “streamlining” it to make it work better. But environmental groups are up in arms about what they see as a weakening of protections. On Monday’s show we’ll speak to a guest from the Natural Resources Defense Council about the ESA.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General released its general report on Thursday and in it, called out the EPA’s “oversight lapses” in response to the contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan. The Inspector General, who heads the federal oversight agency, Arthur A. Elkins, said in a statement, “While oversight authority is vital, its absence can contribute to a catastrophic situation.” Mr. Elkins also said, “The agency is actively engaging with states to improve communications and compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to safeguard human health.” The report on Flint comes at a time when the Trump administration is undoing years of regulations and cutting the EPA’s budget.

Meanwhile Trump quietly nominated an executive from a major pesticide manufacturing company as chief scientist with the US Department of Agriculture. Scott Hutchins worked at Dow Chemical’s pesticide/seed division, Corteva, and becomes the third person from that company to be appointed at the USDA. According to Mother Jones, “In his role as chief scientist…Hutchins would set the agenda for the USDA’s $2.9 billion research budget,” and, “His nomination is the latest step in what has emerged as a remarkably active relationship between Team Trump and the company formerly known as Dow Chemical. After the 2016 election, Dow donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.”

The Republican party has withdrawn a judicial candidate named Ryan Bounds from a nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell withdrew Bounds’ name on Thursday ahead of the confirmation vote after he realized the nominee would not have enough votes to pass. The Washington Post reported that, “The nomination drew widespread criticism over articles Bounds wrote in the Stanford Review as an undergraduate that ridiculed multiculturalism and groups concerned with racial issues.” The GOP is engaged in a concerted and aggressive effort to remake the federal bench with conservative judges.

As hurricane season starts concerns are high about Puerto Rico’s on-going recovery from Hurricane Maria last year. According to the Associated Press, “Several hundred Puerto Ricans remained without power Thursday in the longest-running blackout in U.S. history. The entire island remains vulnerable because much of the massive damage from the storm was resolved with temporary fixes likely to fail in the next hurricane.” Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority has seen internal turmoil with several executives and board members resigning in the past week. It was recently revealed that the latest CEO – who resigned a day after being hired – was being paid $750,000 a year in salary. More than a billion dollars of federal aid has gone unspent.

Kaiser Health News has obtained data from the Justice Department about undocumented babies facing court proceedings. The data, which covers the time period since October 2015 has found that over the past 10 months alone, 70 infants have been summoned to immigration court for deportation proceedings. According to the Kaiser Health News, “These are children who need frequent touching and bonding with a parent and naps every few hours, and some were of breastfeeding age, medical experts say. They’re unable to speak and still learning when it’s day versus night.” Since October 2015, a total of about 1,500 children from 0 to age 3 have been made to face courts on their own. But the rate has sharply risen under the Trump Administration.

First Lady Melania Trump, who has been called out for not playing much of a role in her White House position, spent Thursday at Microsoft’s Innovation and Policy Center in Washington where several teenagers spoke about online civility. AP reports that, “Digital civility is one element of the first lady’s ‘Be Best’ campaign, though her husband is regularly criticized for his own practices online and has weaponized his Twitter account against his foes.”

Meanwhile former First Lady Michelle Obama has reemerged onto the public scene and announced on Thursday that she will be co-chairing a non-profit organization called When We All Vote, a voting rights organization. Mrs. Obama tweeted, “In my family, voting was a sacred responsibility, one which we never took for granted. I’m excited to be a part of @WhenWeAllVote to inspire and empower all eligible voters to make their voices heard.”

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