Tag Archives: Trump administration

Mueller Report on Russian Election Interference Delivered to Attorney General

WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with associates of President Donald Trump.

The Justice Department says Mueller delivered his final report Friday to Attorney General William Barr, who is reviewing it.

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Trump Administration Looking To Investigate Disability Fraud

LOS GATOS (KPIX) — The Trump administration wants to investigate Social Security disability fraud by looking at the social media posts of beneficiaries, according to a New York Times report.

People posting photos of themselves on Facebook or Twitter doing strenuous activities, bike riding or even walking in the park could get them in trouble.

“If you’re saying you have a disability and can’t stand up to work, and then you post a picture of yourself bungee jumping, you’re showing a fraudulent case,” said Brian Eppes, a social media user from Los Gatos, who agreed with the policy.

Last year, the Social Security Administration said it paid out $3.4 billion in benefits, to people who didn’t deserve it, or lied about their disability.

But some say it’s a slippery slope.

“I feel we have a major lack of privacy and I don’t know how to fix it,” said Thais Palmer, who suspects the government is already searching social media platforms to look for fraud.

“I think it’s a big waste of time and money,” said Jeffrey Preefer, a retired attorney who represented clients in Social Security disability cases for 40 years.

Preefer said a social media post is just a snapshot and can be misleading.

“You’re not going to prove disability or lack thereof in one day. People do a lot of things in one day. Some days
they feel better,” he explained.

Preefer said people would still get an opportunity to explain questionable postings and have their case decided by a judge.

But another social media user said it can be a lesson on keeping your profile more private.

“If you don’t want people to know what you’re doing, then don’t go on social media. Or put your privacy settings on friends only,” said Los Gatos resident Michael Steinrock.

More than ten million Americans receive Social Security disability benefits, totaling $11 billion per month.

Second US Judge Calls Citizenship Question On Census Illegal

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census “threatens the very foundation of our democratic system,” a federal judge said Wednesday.

Judge Richard Seeborg said the commerce secretary’s decision to add the question was arbitrary and capricious and would violate a constitutional requirement that the census count everyone in the country. Evidence showed the question would result a significant undercount of non-citizens and Latinos, the judge said.

Seeborg became the second judge to declare the move illegal, and the effect of his decision is limited. A federal judge in New York had previously blocked the administration from adding the question to the population count that occurs every 10 years, and the U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to review that decision.

An email to the U.S. Department of Justice seeking comment on the ruling was not immediately returned.

California and several cities in the state had sued over the citizenship question.

State attorneys argued that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to consider that the question would cost California a substantial amount of money and at least one congressional seat by reducing the percentage of immigrants who respond to the survey, leading to an undercount.

Census numbers are used to determine states’ distribution of congressional seats and billions of dollars in federal funding.

The Justice Department had argued that census officials take steps such as making in-person follow-up visits to get an accurate count.

Households that skip the citizenship question but otherwise fill out a substantial portion of the questionnaire will still be counted, Justice Department attorneys said in court documents.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press.

California: Trump Administration Plan To Renege On $3.5 Billion For High Speed Rail “Disastrous”

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Leaders of California’s high-speed rail project told the Trump administration Monday its plans to withhold or claw back $3.5 billion in federal money for the project was “legally indefensible” and “disastrous policy.”

Terminating the money “would cause massive disruption, dislocation, and waste, damaging the region and endangering the future of high-speed rail in California and elsewhere in the nation,” Brian Kelly, the chief executive for the project, wrote in a letter to Jamie Rennert of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Kelly’s letter is in response to a February threat by the U.S. Department of Transportation to withhold a $929 million grant for the project and possibly take back $2.5 billion in federal money the state has already spent.

Congress and the Obama administration allocated the money almost a decade ago for California to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A segment of the train in the Central Valley is now under construction, and the $3.5 billion is a key piece of its budget.

The threat was an escalation in California’s ongoing feud with the Trump administration. It came after Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested changes to the project in his State of the State address. He said the project as currently planned would cost too much and take too long, and said he wanted to focus first on building a longer line in the Central Valley.

Newsom has since said he still intends to build the full line, but Trump used his comments to decry the project as a “failure.” Newsom said Trump’s call to take back the money was retaliation for the state’s lawsuit against the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.

California must meet certain construction and environmental review deadlines by 2022 as part of its agreement with the federal government. Kelly said the state is meeting its obligations and that the vision of the project has not changed.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

‘Sanctuary’ Cities Are Getting Their Grants Despite Threats

(AP) — About 18 months after the Trump administration threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from nearly 30 places around the country it felt weren’t doing enough to work with federal immigration agents, all but one have received or been cleared to get the money, the Justice Department said.

In most cases, courts chipped away at the crackdown that escalated in November 2017 with letters from the Justice Department of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to 29 cities, metro areas, counties or states it considered as having adopted “sanctuary policies” saying those policies may violate federal law.

Of those 29 jurisdictions — which include cities as large as Los Angeles and as small as Burlington, Vermont — only Oregon has yet to be cleared to receive the grants from 2017, a Justice Department spokesman told The Associated Press this week.

Vermont officials announced Monday that they had been told the state Department of Public Safety would be getting $2.3 million in law enforcement grants that had been blocked. Vermont had not joined any of the legal cases, instead corresponding directly with the Justice Department.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, declared victory, saying the money would be used primarily on anti-drug efforts.

“State and local law enforcement agencies already are stretched thin, and withholding these federal grants only makes their work more difficult,” Leahy said in an email to the AP. “It’s unthinkable that the Trump Justice Department would hold these funds hostage over an unrelated dispute on immigration policy.”

Last summer, the U.S. Conference of Mayors sued in Illinois on behalf of its member cities focusing on the issue. In September, a federal court temporarily blocked the Justice Department from withholding the funds for the jurisdictions represented by the conference.

The conference’s litigation is now focused on making the order affecting the 2017 grants permanent and apply to 2018 grants, as well, said Kate O’Brien, a Chicago attorney who represented the mayors.

Other federal courts have ruled against the Justice Department. Similar cases are being litigated across the country, and the Justice Department is considering appealing some unfavorable rulings.

The Trump administration has long argued that places that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities, often called “sanctuary cities,” pose a threat to public safety.

RELATED: Emanuel Tells Undocumented Immigrants Chicago ‘Always Will Be A Sanctuary City’

“I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk,” Sessions said in a statement in January 2018. “Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law.”

The details differ by jurisdiction, but the Justice Department felt law enforcement agencies in those communities weren’t sufficiently committing themselves to cooperating with federal immigration agents when officers came in contact with people who might not be in the country legally.

Aside from confirming the clearance of grants to the 28 jurisdictions , Justice Department spokesman Steven Stafford declined to comment.

Some, but not all, of the 28 jurisdictions were cleared for the grants without changing the policies that triggered the original concern from the Justice Department, now led by Attorney General William Barr. And not all of the places actually have the money in hand yet, or have been told they’ve been cleared to get it.

Ken Martinez, the county attorney for Bernalillo County, New Mexico, said officials there had yet to hear about 2017 grant funding and are eager to get it.

“It will be incredibly helpful,” Martinez said. “I can tell you there’s been a high level of frustration from people on both sides of the issue.”

In West Palm Beach, Florida, the Justice Department was concerned about the wording of a city resolution dealing with police investigations involving citizenship or immigration status. A year ago, a memo was sent to city employees saying they “may” share information with federal authorities.

“So no funds (were) lost on our end,” said police Sgt. David Lefont, noting the total was less than $100,000.

That some of the threatened cities ended up changing their policies amounts to at least a partial victory for the Trump administration, said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center For Immigration Studies, which advocates for tight restrictions on immigration.

“What it looks like to me, the Trump Administration is not able to fully enforce cooperation with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to the extent they would like to, but it is able to fully enforce compliance with existing federal law that some sanctuary jurisdictions have had to change their policies in order to get their money,” Vaughan said.

But other jurisdictions were cleared to get the money without having to change anything.

“The court in our cases, and in similar cases throughout the country, has found the attorney general is not authorized to impose these conditions,” said O’Brien, the attorney for the mayors’ group.

The Vermont settlement of the 2017 grants is among the last.

Even before the 2017 letters were sent, federal courts across the country had begun to rule against the Trump administration’s efforts. And they continue.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled Feb. 15 that the Justice Department exceeded its authority and ordered a permanent, nationwide injunction against requiring police departments to cooperate with immigration authorities in order to receive the grants.

Oregon, the only one of the 29 jurisdictions not yet cleared for the 2017 grants, last fall filed its own lawsuit against the Justice Department. The lawsuit, which also covers grants for 2018, accused Trump and Matthew Whitaker, acting attorney general at the time, of trying to “impermissibly commandeer the resources” of Oregon and its largest city, Portland.

“For years, these grants have provided millions of dollars to law enforcement in Oregon,” Rosenblum said in November. “But, suddenly these public safety funds have been withdrawn because Oregon will not submit to U.S. DOJ’s demand that Oregon participate in its immigration enforcement efforts.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

White House Breaks Off Talks With California Over Mileage Standard Dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration broke off vehicle mileage standards talks with California on Thursday, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to unsettle the auto industry.

The White House said in a statement that the administration, which wants to freeze mileage standards, would now move unilaterally to “finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

California officials and the Trump administration each accused the other of failing to present any good compromise proposal in the mileage dispute, which comes as President Donald Trump feuds with the Democrat-led state over his proposed border wall and his threats to take back federal money.

The administration announced last year it wanted to freeze what would have been tougher, Obama-era mileage standards for cars and light trucks. It would be one of a series of rollbacks targeting Obama administration efforts against pollution and climate change.

Under the administration proposal, the standards would be frozen after slightly tougher 2020 levels go into effect, eliminating 10 miles per gallon of improvement to a fleet average of 36 miles per gallon in 2025.

As part of the proposed mileage freeze, the administration threatened to revoke California’s legal authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards, a waiver granted that state decades ago to help it deal with its punishing smog. About a dozen states follow California’s mileage standards.

Lawmakers and automakers have urged the two sides to settle, warning that a split could divide the auto market, bring years of court battles and raise costs for automakers.

“This administration’s negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst,” Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement late Wednesday, as the formal negotiations breakdown loomed.

“Litigation is not the best option here. It wastes time, money, creates uncertainty for American automakers, and harms the environment,” Carper said.

California officials say the administration never offered any compromise and that it broke off any contacts around December.

“We concluded at that point that they were never serious about negotiating, and their public comments about California since then seem to underscore that point,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the state’s air board.

It’s the latest shot by the White House in its escalating feud with California. The Trump administration earlier in the week said it planned to cancel nearly $1 billion for California’s high-speed rail project and would seek the return of $2.5 billion more. Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was political retribution for the state’s role in leading a 16-state lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get funds for his proposed wall at the southern border.

Since it takes several years to design vehicles, automakers have been planning to meet higher mileage requirements under Obama-era standards, as well as those in other countries.

For now, “essentially the industry is ignoring what Trump wants to do,” auto-industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research said. “We know at least until this thing gets settled in the courts, we have to deal with California and the other states and have product that can sell there as well as products that can sell overseas.”

 

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bay Area Congresswoman Meets With Furloughed Workers, Demands End to Shutdown

SAN MATEO (KPIX) — With the government shutdown entering its second month, roughly 800,000 federal workers are left wondering when they’re going to see their next paycheck.

Now, workers are teaming up with a local politician to call for an end to the shutdown. That politician is Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo).

At a meeting in San Mateo Friday, Speier demanded, “The president has got to become presidential! This shutdown has got to end.”

Speier, from California’s 14th district, has been very vocal about her opposition to the President Trump and his idea of border security.

“Mr. President, you are not going to get your way on a dumb wall,” she insisted. “We will work with you on developing smart border security that actually generates results.”

The Congresswoman invited furloughed government workers to share their stories. Workers from NASA Ames and the Environmental Protection Agency said they haven’t seen a check since the end of December.

To help federal employees, Lefty’s Ballpark Baseball Cafe and Buffet in Fisherman’s Wharf is offering free meals until the shutdown ends.

Destinee Cooper, a worker with the EPA, doesn’t see an end to the misery.

“The impact of not knowing is just as stressful,” Cooper said. “‘You don’t know where and how this is going to end.”

A major announcement is expected from President Trump Saturday afternoon. Congresswoman Speier says she has no idea what to expect from the commander in chief.

Speier says, “You think I know how that brain works? I would hope the President has gotten enough heat and his poll numbers have dropped significantly enough that he owes it to the American people.”

A senior administration official told CBS News that Mr. Trump will present what the White House believes could be a deal to end the shutdown — a deal largely influenced by talks between vice president Mike Pence, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

No-Cost Birth Control Faces Court Challenges

(AP) — Millions of American women are receiving birth control at no cost to them through workplace health plans, the result of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, which expanded access to contraception.

The Trump administration sought to allow more employers to opt out because of religious or moral objections. But its plans were put on hold by two federal judges, one in Pennsylvania and the other in California, in cases that could eventually reach the Supreme Court.

The judges blocked the Trump policy from going into effect while legal challenges from state attorneys general continue.

Here’s a look at some of the issues behind the confrontation over birth control, politics and religious beliefs:

A TURNING POINT-THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Well into the 1990s many states did not require health insurance plans to cover birth control for women.

“Plans were covering Viagra, and they weren’t covering birth control,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

By the time President Barack Obama’s health law passed in 2010, employers and insurers largely began covering birth control as an important part of health care for women.

The ACA took that a couple of steps further. It required most insurance plans to cover a broad range of preventive services, including vaccinations and cancer screenings, but also women’s health services. And it also required such preventive services to be offered at no charge.

Employers and insurers were required to cover at least one of each class of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration. That included costly long-acting contraceptives, generally more effective than birth control pills.

It’s estimated that 55 million to more than 62 million women now receive birth control at no cost, with only a small share paying for contraception.

“The irony I find about this battle is that in the period of time this policy has been in effect, teen pregnancies have gone way down and the number of abortions has gone way down,” said Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary under Obama.

While those rates were already going down before the health law, the trend does continue.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S RELIGIOUS AND MORAL EXEMPTIONS

The Obama administration originally exempted a narrow group of employers — houses of worship— from the birth control coverage requirement.

Following pushback from religious institutions and social conservatives, the Obama administration created an “accommodation.” Women employees of religious-affiliated social service organizations, universities and hospitals could continue to get birth control as part of their health care coverage but their employer would not have to pay.

The Supreme Court broadened that work-around to include smaller private companies with a religious objection.

That didn’t go far enough for social and religious conservatives, a core component of President Donald Trump’s political base. Some religious organizations see Obama’s “accommodation” as morally objectionable because it facilitates contraception.

“It still forces religious people to provide a health plan that includes things that violate their religion,” said Mark Rienzi, senior lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which led opposition to the Obama policies.

The Trump administration’s regulations broadened the religious exemption to any employer with an objection based on religious beliefs and created a new exemption for certain employers with moral objections. The administration made Obama’s workaround optional for employers and instituted other changes.

“It’s definitely not a tweak,” Sebelius said. An employer can say “I don’t believe in birth control, and I’m not going to provide it,” she added.

Sebelius explained that Congress through the ACA clearly intended health plans to cover women’s health services. All HHS did was spell out how that would be done. If the Trump administration wants to change that, it would have to repeal the law, she added, not just change a regulation.

Rienzi said the Trump administration hasn’t pulled its policy “out of nowhere.” U.S. laws traditionally have protected people with religious and moral objections to government policies.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Obama-era policy remains in place for now, with U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia placing a national hold on the Trump administration rules.

More than a dozen states are trying to reverse Trump’s policy, including California, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Justice Department hasn’t revealed its next move. It could ask federal appeals courts or the Supreme Court to lift the injunctions from lower-court judges and allow the Trump rules to go into effect while the cases continue.

The issue could eventually end up before the Supreme Court, which has become more conservative since the last time it considered the ACA’s birth control coverage requirement.

The Trump administration estimates that up to 126,400 women could be affected, having to find other ways to cover birth control if the rule is put into place.

But women’s rights groups say there’s no real way to know.

“The majority of employers want to cover birth control,” said Mara Gandal-Powers, a senior lawyer with the National Women’s Law Center. “We know that there are dozens of employers and entities that sued the Obama administration. But one of the problems with the (Trump administration) rule is that there is no master list of employers who object to birth control.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Oakland Judge Blocks Trump Admin.’s Birth Control Rules

OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) — An Oakland judge blocked Trump administration rules that would allow employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage for women workers on Sunday.

U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. ordered the motion forward of a preliminary injunction, which was secured by a coalition of 14 attorneys general led by California AG Xavier Becerra.

The injunction blocks–in 13 states, including Washington, D.C.– the Trump administration’s attempt to deny millions of women and their families access to no-cost birth control guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act.

“The law couldn’t be clearer–employers have no business interfering in women’s healthcare decisions,” said Attorney General Becerra in a statement on Sunday.

“Today’s court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women’s access to basic reproductive care. It’s 2019, yet the Trump Administration is still trying to roll back women’s rights. Our coalition will continue to fight to ensure women have access to the reproductive healthcare they are guaranteed under the law.”

The rules were supposed to take effect on Monday, Jan. 14 before Gilliam ordered the motion forward.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in court documents the rules “protect a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs.”

The zero-cost requirement comes from a health care law under Barack Obama. Obama officials included exemptions for religious organizations.

The Trump administration expanded those exemptions and added “moral convictions” as a basis to opt out of providing birth control services.

At a hearing on Friday, Gilliam said the changes would result in a “substantial number” of women losing birth control coverage, which would be a “massive policy shift.”

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.