U.S. Politics

What the leading Democrats in the Senate and House think about their inquiries into Russia

What the leading Democrats in the Senate and House think about their inquiries into Russia

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Image Credit: Getty Images

POLICY.MIC

With all the talk about health care, the five Congressional investigations into the election and Russia have fallen out of the headlines. The investigations by the Senate and House intelligence committees are considered the most aggressive, with wide-ranging goals to investigate allegations against President Donald Trump and determine the scope of Russian election interference. On Thursday, I spoke with Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrats on the intelligence committees. We talked Trump, Russia and getting to the bottom of explosive allegations against the Kremlin and the White House.

Takeaways from Mark Warner: The moderate Virginia Democrat could not be more passionate in describing what he calls the most important work of his political career: determining how Russians interfered in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign played a role. “If the American people, especially young people, don’t believe that our elections are on the level or you’re getting news that isn’t straight, you’re going to see even a greater falloff of [younger Americans] participating,” Warner, the ranking member on the Senate intelligence committee, told Mic.

The former Virginia governor notably avoided politics during his interview, saying his committee’s level of access to information and bipartisan tone make it unique in Congress. “We’re the only committee … that’s really trying to do this in a bipartisan way,” he said. Read more from Mic‘s interview with Warner here.

Takeaways from Rep. Adam Schiff: In the House, Schiff expressed concern over the politics at play in his committee and a lack of information provided by the FBI. The House intelligence committee has more members than its Senate counterpart and is not necessarily known for bipartisanship. “[Republicans] all want something from this president,” Schiff said. “They want to get whatever they can before they’re forced to confront this president.”

If he feels the committee is unable to do its work effectively, Schiff said he will be the first to say so publicly. He also laid out the stakes the investigation faces in digging into Russian involvement in the election, noting partisanship is a hurdle to concluding with comprehensive findings. “We have to get back to a core understanding that, no matter which way it cuts, none of us will accept foreign intervention in our elections,” Schiff said. Watch Mic‘s interview with Schiff here.

More on Russia: The Jeff Sessions perjury allegations linger on. The ACLU has filed an ethics complaint against Sessions over “false statements” the attorney general gave during his testimony in confirmation hearings.

This is Mic’s daily read on Donald Trump’s America. Welcome to the political newsletter that has given you two interviews about Russia to watch.

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Russia:

•  Today: Mic spoke with the top Democrats in the Senate and House investigating Russia. We give you the highlights.

•  More: The Republican health care plan continues its march to the House floor. Behind closed doors, Trump is putting his dealmaking skills to work.

•  Even more: The head of the EPA is not sure carbon dioxide plays a role in climate change.

•  Yes, more: The economy grew by 235,000 jobs in February. The president took credit.

•  Trump’s agenda today: Meeting with “key House committee chairmen” to discuss health care. Speaking with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian authority, by phone. Having lunch with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Meeting with newly confirmed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

The health care blitz

The American Health Care Act passed out of two House committees this week, moving through dozens of hours of debate. Read about the AHCA’s impact here, and backlash against it here. The House Budget committee will now consider the final bill, which is expected on the House floor before the end of the month. The nonpartisan analysis of what the AHCA will cost and whether it will cause any Americans to lose insurance is expected Monday — a report Republicans are preemptively dismissing. The right wing of House Republicans are a hurdle to passing the bill, according to Politico interviews with lawmakers, but disorganization and disagreement on what conservatives want in the final bill makes them difficult to please.

The president has turned back to his dealmaker self, going light on the Twitter controversies in recent days to focus on the passage of health care legislation. Trump is holding yet another White House meeting with House leaders Friday to strategize on how to advance the health care bill. But as Mic‘s Emily Singer points out, the president isn’t exactly pushing to give this bill the tag of “Trumpcare.” Democrats learned the hard way that embracing health care reform can be politically destructive. It remains to be seen if Republicans will suffer a similar fate or play a more successful strategy.

A little more: If you didn’t catch Paul Ryan on TV on Thursday waving at charts, here’s our recap.

Trouble at the EPA

Another story overshadowed by health care news: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday that he is not sure carbon dioxide is a primary driver of global warming. The fact that CO2 fuels warmer global temperatures has been a cornerstone of climate change research for decades, and during the Obama administration the EPA publicly backed that position. Also Thursday, the head of the environmental justice program at the EPA resigned and sent Pruitt a letter asking the administrator to not cut critical EPA functions.

The latest on immigration

Afghanis who have worked for the United States have long been eligible for special visas to come to America, but a New York Times report says those requests are no longer being accepted. The applicants for these visas generally receive special status because their cooperation with U.S. interests puts them at risk in their home country. Though Trump’s newest immigration order does not target Afghanistan, there is concern it’s having a broader effect and indicating even U.S. allies in the Middle East could face heightened suspicion under the new administration.

In New York City on Thursday, immigration activist Ravi Ragbir had to appear for an annual check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and hundreds of people turned out to support him. Mic‘s Andrew Joyce was there.

In a bid to stave off predicted declines in travel to the U.S., hotel chains and tourism organizations are launching campaigns to portray the country as welcoming and friendly. Changing perceptions of America by people abroad could drive 2 million fewer visitors this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

News and insight you cannot miss:

•  Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange said Thursday that he wants his organization to help technology companies protect themselves from government hacking. (Wired) More from Mic on what the latest leak of CIA documents by Wikileaks means for your personal digital security. (Mic)

•  ISIS is turning Mosul into a Mad Max-style battlefield in its last stand in the Iraqi city. (BuzzFeed)

•  Congress to Trump: Stop deleting your tweets. It could be illegal. (Mic)

•  Refugees can now apply for asylum using Facebook messenger. (Mic)

•  The sharing of nude photos of female colleagues in the Marine Corps is reportedly far more widespread than initially believed. (Mic)

•  The chances the barricade on the border between the U.S. and Mexico could pass the Senate appear slim, as Trump’s budget chief said the White House does not know what material will be used to build the wall. (Politico)

Will Drabold

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 10, 2017

Jean Chung/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Second key House committee backs GOP ObamaCare replacement
A second key House panel, the Energy and Commerce Committee, on Thursday approved the Republican proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The 31 to 23 party-line vote came just hours after the powerful House Ways and Means Committee also signed off on the legislation. “Today, the House took a decisive step forward in fulfilling a promise to the American people that has been years in the making: repealing and replacing Obamacare with affordable, patient-centered reforms,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said. The legislation next goes to the Budget Committee before a full House vote, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Democrats and several Republicans oppose it and want data on its expected costs and impact on the number of uninsured before proceeding. “House health-care bill can’t pass Senate [without] major changes,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a tweet. “To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast.”

Source: The Washington Post

2. Top court removes South Korean president from office
South Korea’s Constitutional Court on Friday permanently removed President Park Geun-hye from office, upholding a vote by lawmakers to impeach her over a corruption scandal. The unanimous ruling came after months of protests and capped a stunning fall for the country’s first woman president. Two people died and about 30 were injured in clashes between protesters and police near the court. Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said the court had “no other choice” after finding that Park colluded with her longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to extort tens of millions of dollars from businesses. Park’s ouster adds to the country’s political turmoil at a time of rising tensions with North Korea. Elections to pick a new president must be held within 60 days, and polls suggest Park’s downfall has shifted support to the opposition, which favors more engagement with North Korea.

Source: The New York Times

3. EPA chief denies that CO2 is a ‘primary contributor’ to climate change
Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Thursday that he “would not agree” that carbon dioxide has been proven to be a “primary contributor” to global warming. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in January said that the planet’s rising temperature has been “driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” and the EPA’s website says something similar. Pruitt, who sued the EPA more than a dozen times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, told CNBC’s Squawk Box that the debate must continue because “there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact.”

Source: CNBC, Reuters

4. Pence calls Flynn’s Turkey lobbying ‘affirmation’ of decision to fire him
Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that new revelations that former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had done lobbying work that helped Turkey late last year were “an affirmation of the president’s decision to ask Gen. Flynn to resign.” A filing made this week indicated that Flynn’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, did lobbying work that could have benefited Turkey shortly before his appointment. The documents said Flynn’s firm received $530,000 for the lobbying work. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he didn’t believe President Trump knew about Flynn’s work for a Turkey-linked Dutch firm, which led Flynn to retroactively register with the Justice Department this week as a foreign agent.

Source: ABC News, The Hill

5. Tillerson recuses himself on Keystone XL pipeline decisions
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of the oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, has recused himself from discussions of the permitting application for the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department said Thursday in a letter to the environmental group Greenpeace. A State Department deputy legal adviser said in the letter that Tillerson made the decision in early February that he would not work “on issues related to TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit” for the proposed pipeline, which the Obama administration halted but President Trump has revived. The letter was sent in response to one Greenpeace sent on Wednesday saying that Tillerson should recuse himself because his former company stood to benefit from the pipeline.

Source: ABC News

6. DOJ declines to say whether Trump is being investigated
The Justice Department on Thursday declined to confirm a White House claim made a day earlier that President Trump was not the subject of any investigation. Trump indirectly raised the possibility by claiming, with no evidence, that former President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of then-candidate Trump, something that, if true, could have been the result of an investigation targeting him. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that “there is no reason to believe there is any type of investigation with respect to the Department of Justice,” or “that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever.” A Justice Department official, asked whether Trump was the focus of an investigation, said, “no comment.”

Source: The New York Times

7. WikiLeaks’ Assange vows to work with tech giants to prevent CIA hacking
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Thursday that the anti-secrecy website would give leading technology powerhouses such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google access to the leaked documents on Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools. Assange said WikiLeaks wanted to help the companies plug security holes that could allow the CIA to get private information from smartphones, computers, and internet-connected TVs. Microsoft and Cisco Systems said they welcome any help addressing security flaws. Alphabet’s Google, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei did not respond to requests for comment.

Source: Reuters

8. Attacker injures 7 with ax at Dusseldorf train station
A man armed with an ax attacked people at the main train station in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Thursday, injuring seven people, three of them seriously. Police arrested a suspect after he jumped off an overpass. The suspect, who was injured trying to escape, was described as a 36-year-old man from the former Yugoslavia. Investigators said they believed the attacker “has mental problems” and acted alone. Witnesses said the attacker started striking people waiting for a train that was pulling in. “There was blood everywhere,” a witness said.

Source: NBC News

9. Federal ethics chief chastises White House for not disciplining Conway
Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, criticized the White House for deciding against disciplining senior adviser Kellyanne Conway for endorsing Ivanka Trump’s clothing line in a TV interview. Shaub had recommended disciplinary action, saying Conway appeared to have violated a federal rule against using their position to endorse products when she urged viewers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” Stefan Passantino, President Trump’s deputy counsel in charge of White House ethics issues, declined to follow Shaub’s recommendation, saying last week that Conway “acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again.” Shaub said in his Thursday letter that he remained concerned about Conway’s “misuse of position,” and that failing to discipline a senior official for such an offense “risks undermining the ethics program.”

Source: The Washington Post

10. Pope expresses openness to letting married men serve as priests
Pope Francis said in an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit that he is open to ordaining married men to help confront a priest shortage in the Roman Catholic Church. The pope said the lack of priests had become an “enormous problem,” and one way to address it would be considering opening the priesthood to “viri probati,” a Latin term for “tested men” or married men of outstanding faith and virtue. “We need to consider if ‘viri probati’ could be a possibility,” he said. “If so, we would need to determine what duties they could undertake, for example, in remote communities.”

Source: CNN

U.S. Politics

Spicer uses strikingly passive language to describe Trump’s oversight of troop deployment to Syria

This frame grab from a video provided by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), shows fighters from the SDF opening fire on an Islamic State group’s position, in Raqqa’s eastern countryside on March 6 | CREDIT: Syria Democratic Forces, via AP

THINK PROGRESS

“The president was made aware of that.”

During his news conference on Thursday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked “how involved” President Trump was in the decision to deploy roughly 400 heavily armed marines to Syria.

The passive language Spicer used to describe Trump’s role may reflect the new latitude military commanders have to conduct operations without the commander in chief’s direct knowledge.

“Obviously the president was made aware of that,” Spicer said. “This is something that was done in consultation. He understands the regional issues that need to be addressed there.”

Spicer’s comment comes on the heels of reports that Trump won’t micromanage military operations in the way President Obama did.

Earlier this month, the Daily Beast, citing multiple officials, reported that “[t]he White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations like the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen that cost the life of a Navy SEAL [named Ryan Owens].”

Trump “has signaled that he wants his defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, to have a freer hand to launch time-sensitive missions quickly, ending what U.S. officials say could be a long approval process under President Barack Obama,” the Daily Beast added.

Mattis required a congressional waiver to become defense secretary because he hadn’t been retired from active military service for more than seven years. Prior to Mattis, there was only one precedent for such a waiver being issued. Civilian control of the military is enshrined in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which says the president “shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States.” Trump’s move to give generals more decision-making power chips away at that tradition.

The January 29 raid in Yemen, which was approved by Trump over dinner with his advisers, resulted in the deaths of at least 25 civilians, including nine children under the age of 13, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Days after it happened, Reuters reported that unnamed U.S. military officials told them Trump signed off on his first military action “without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations.”

Trump won’t accept responsibility for deadly SEAL raid he approved over dinner, blames Obama

“Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here.”thinkprogress.org
Late last month, Trump appeared to try and shift responsibility for the Yemen raid to his generals, saying during a Fox & Friends interview that “this was a mission that was started before I got here.”

“This was something that was, you know, [the generals] wanted to do,” Trump said. “And they lost Ryan.”

Spicer’s language on Thursday suggests Trump will be able to use the same excuse if anything goes awry in Syria, where the newly deployed marines, armed with artillery guns, are “working with local partners in Syria — the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition” to rout ISIS from the city of Raqqa, Reuters reports.

According to Al Jazeera, the deployment, which is temporary, “could be an indication that the White House is leaning towards giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to make routine combat decisions in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” The US is also preparing to send up to 1,000 troops to Kuwait.

Trump appears determined to go after both al Qaeda and ISIS despite sending conflicting signals about his desire to get involved in Middle East conflicts during the campaign.

In September 2015, Trump asked “Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants. I would talk to them, get along with them.”

But two months later, Trump said of ISIS, “I would bomb the shit out of ‘em.”

“They have certain areas of oil that they took away,” Trump said. “I would just bomb those suckers… there would be nothing left.”

While Trump and his generals are targeting al Qaeda and not ISIS in Yemen, Foreign Policy reports that the numbers of bombs the Trump administration dropped in that civil war-ravaged country over a single week “eclipsed the annual bombing total for any year during Obama’s presidency.”

“Under the previous administration, approval for strikes came only after often slow-moving policy discussions, with senior officials required to sign off on any action, while the Trump administration has proven much quicker at greenlighting attacks,” Foreign Policy adds.

Aaron Rupar

U.S. Politics

17 migrants rescued from blizzard as they attempted to flee the US for Canada

17 migrants rescued from blizzard as they attempted to flee the US for Canada

Image Credit: AP

NEWS.MIC

Firefighters from Emerson, Canada, were dispatched during a raging blizzard on Wednesday morning to rescue 17 Syrian migrants, including a 1-year-old child and a pregnant woman, who had gotten stranded during an attempt to flee the United States for Canada.

The Washington Post reported that temperatures were in the single digits when rescue workers found the migrants huddled in a storage shed on the outskirts of the Manitoba town, which has a population of less than 700.

Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on immigration, while Canadian President Justin Trudeau has been welcoming. The Canadian government resettled more than 35,745 Syrian refugees in 2016, while the United States accepted 13,210.

Asylum seekers seem to have noticed. More than 200 people have crossed the seldom-patrolled U.S.- Canada border near Emerson since the beginning of 2017, according to the Post. 

Once across the border, migrants are frequently apprehended by law enforcement, and can apply for Canadian asylum from there.

17 migrants rescued from blizzard as they attempted to flee the US for Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauSource: Kay Nietfeld/Getty Images

According to CBC News, asylum requests have skyrocketed in the province of Quebec in particular, which saw six times more refugee claims in February 2017 than it did in 2016. Manitoba, where the town of Emerson is located, has also seen surging numbers of refugee claimants.

Rita Chahal, executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, told the CBC how asylum seekers are “arriving in a variety of ways.”

“Many of them are walking through fields and finding other ways to get in; not stopping at the border, but coming straight to Winnipeg,” Chahal said.

“Others are making a claim at the Emerson border and then either find a ride to Winnipeg, or in some cases, we have gone down to the border and picked up clients and brought them here,” she continued. “But a lot of them are walking, yes.”

Although the Royal Canadian Mounted Police strongly discourage migrants from attempting the dangerous border crossing in such harsh conditions, Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, told the CBC that vulnerable refugee populations seldom feel as if they have a choice, according to the Post.

“Because they don’t have enough resources and they believe that’s the only chance that they have, they’ll take whatever risk that they can encounter,” he said.

Brianna Provenzano

U.S. Politics

CNN Does NOT Hold Back; Completely Makes Fun Of Paul Ryan With The Rest Of America (IMAGE)

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09:  U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) explains the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol March 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. During his remarks, Ryan said ÒWe made a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now itÕs time to do it.Ó  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Win McNamee/Getty Images

ADDICTING INFO

Now, it may not have been the intent of CNN to clearly make fun of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his pathetic attempt at describing the American Health Care Act (AHCA), better known as Trumpcare, but they definitely succeeded in doing so brilliantly.

Ryan really seemed to want to impress people, so instead of doing a traditional Q&A, or laying things out pretty simply, he decided to do a skit. He literally rolled up his sleeves and did his best Steve Jobs impression with a low-tech powerpoint presentation and began to perform.

CNN, clearly seeing this, and not letting the moment escape them, writes an Onion-style headline absolutely making fun of Ryan. They called his presentation a “TED talk” — which, if you know what a TED talk is, makes the headline hilarious.

Here’s CNN’s amazing shade thrown directly at Speaker Ryan’s face:

CNN

Then, to top off the amazing shade of the title with even more shade, this is the description of Ryan’s shenanigans as written in the article:

“Forgoing the traditional give-and-take with reporters, Ryan launched at TED talk-style presentation. With his shirtsleeves rolled up and wearing a wireless microphone that allowed him to move around, the speaker rattled off a stream of facts and figures and clicked through PowerPoint slides.”

Then later:

“Ryan sprinkled his lecture with personal anecdotes about his three children all needing tonsillectomies and how his family dealt with multiple doctors and insurance companies. The speaker revealed he had Lasik surgery to improve his vision.”

If Paul Ryan wants us to take him seriously, then he should start by actually putting together something that we can take seriously, and this sure as hell wasn’t it.

Here’s how everyone else is also making proper fun of Ryan:

By Sarah

U.S. Politics

In An Angry And Fearful Nation, An Outbreak Of Anti-Semitism

In An Angry And Fearful Nation, An Outbreak Of Anti-Semitism

Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, U.S. February 21, 2017 | REUTERS/Tom Gannam

THE NATIONAL MEMO

In late November, Marna Street, a violist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was walking to her car after a rehearsal. Street was shocked by what she discovered: Someone had painted a swastika, about 14 inches across, on the trunk of her car.

The vandals, Street said, had probably targeted her vehicle, which was parked in a garage not far from the University of Cincinnati, because she’d placed a magnet on it indicating that she is Jewish. Street eventually managed scrub off the graffiti. She put the magnet in the glovebox of her car.

“I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach, like somebody just punched me,” recalled Street, 68, speaking publicly for the first time. It was, she said, “a cross between fear and just plain hurt.”

Working with a coalition of organizations, ProPublica late last year launched “Documenting Hate,” an attempt to gather evidence of hate crimes and episodes of bigotry from a divided America. The account from Cincinnati is one of the anti-Semitic incidents the project has chronicled. But there are scores more.

Indeed, “Documenting Hate” recorded more than 330 reports of anti-Semitic incidents during a three-month span from early November to early February. The accounts — our list is by no means comprehensive — come via personal submissions, police documents, and news articles. The majority, though not all, have been authenticated through either news reports, interviews, or other evidence, like photos.

The incidents have taken place in big cities and small towns, along the country’s liberal coasts and in deep red states. Some of the episodes — swastikas and threatening messages spray-painted at schools and colleges around the nation — have been worrisome, though relatively minor. Others have been more serious, such as the 65 bomb threats targeting Jewish organizations across the country during the period we examined (there have been nearly 70 more since then). In many cases, the culprits singled out specific individuals for abuse, defacing their homes and autos with swastikas and menacing comments.

President Trump, after weeks of criticism for being slow to condemn the incidents, last week called them “horrible” and “painful” and “a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil”

The remarks, however, came after a number of confounding comments about the issue. During a Feb. 16 news conference, Trump castigated Jake Turx, a reporter for Ami, a Jewish magazine, for asking what the government was doing to address the increase in anti-Semitic events. Trump accused Turx of lying about the question he wanted to ask, and instructed him to sit down. And without citing any evidence, Trump has wondered whether some of the recent anti-Semitic incidents were carried out by liberals, or Jews themselves, intent on discrediting him.

“There’s a push on the left to conflate anti-Semitism with Trump, while at the same time criticizing him for having Jared Kushner, who wears his Jewishness as proudly as anyone, as his most trusted confidant and in the highest echelons of the White House staff,” said Joe Borelli, a Trump supporter who represents Staten Island on the New York city council, according to Breitbart News. “It is mind-boggling.”

The White House would not comment for the record when asked whether President Trump had in any way contributed to the threats and violence.

On a national level, data on hate crimes and bias incidents is spotty at best. The FBI admits the information it collects is incomplete — many police departments don’t participate in the hate crimes tracking program — and the bureau has yet to release statistics on 2016 and 2017. As a result, determining with authority whether anti-Semitic events are rising or declining is difficult.

There is little question, however, that the incidents have generated genuine concern. In a rare show of unity, all 100 U.S. senators this week issued a public letter urging the Department of Justice, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security to protect Jewish institutions and prosecute those responsible for terrorizing them. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a $25 million grant to better protect day care and community centers from threats.

The available data does support the idea of an uptick. After years of decline, anti-Semitic crimes began trending upward in 2015, according to FBI data. Experts say that increase seems to have accelerated in recent months, as Trump’s unique brand of nativist populism has helped to pull more extreme right-wing groups, some of them avowedly racist, closer to the political mainstream. On Twitter, openly anti-Semitic figures have built vast networks of supporters and cultivated large audiences, while the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website geared towards millennials, has seen its traffic grow to roughly a half a million unique visitors per month. In New York City, the police department said anti-Semitic hate crimes nearly doubled in the first two months of 2017 as compared to the same period last year.

“One of the constituencies Trump mobilized was the KKK-style anti-Semitic extreme right,” said Lawrence Rosenthal, a scholar of fascist history and director of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. These groups “had been absolutely on the fringe of American politics for at least my lifetime — and I am getting old.”

Oren Segal, who tracks anti-Semitic incidents in his role as director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, concurs. “The anti-Semites think they have a champion in the highest office,” said Segal, who believes that “divisive rhetoric” aired during last fall’s presidential campaign has emboldened racists and inspired them to strike out at their perceived enemies in the Jewish community.

“We have seen a significant uptick in the reports we’ve received, certainly starting around the election in November and continuing through the first two months of 2017,” Segal told ProPublica.

Amid the larger national debate about any responsibility Trump may bear for racist and anti-Semitic behavior, the accounts emerging from the “Documenting Hate” database offer a chance to appreciate the very personal experiences of violation and fear.

We identified:

CONTINUED HERE>>

U.S. Politics

Contractor sues for $2 million in unpaid bills on Trump’s D.C. hotel

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26:  Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (C) and his family (L-R) son Donald Trump Jr, son Eric Trummp, wife Melania Trump and daughters Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump cut the ribbon at the new Trump International Hotel October 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. The hotel, built inside the historic Old Post Office, has 263 luxry rooms, including the 6,300-square-foot 'Trump Townhouse' at $100,000 a night, with a five-night minimum. The Trump Organization was granted a 60-year lease to the historic building by the federal government before the billionaire New York real estate mogul announced his intent to run for president.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Trumps cut the ribbon at the D.C. hotel on the totally coincidental date of October 26 | Getty Images

DAILY KOS

Becoming pr*sident doesn’t mean Donald Trump has changed his ways: he’s still stiffing the contractors who work on his construction projects. The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.’s Old Post Office Building is perhaps Trump’s highest-profile recent project, but the attention focused on it hasn’t made the Trump Organization pay its bills. Five contractors have sued for a total of nearly $5 million in nonpayment, including Freestate Electric, a union employer that talked to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers about the suit:

“We’ve only filed three [mechanics’ liens] in the past decade, so, this is not usual for us,” said Tim Miller, executive vice president at Freestate’s parent company, AES Electric. “I want to make clear that this is not political. Whether it is Trump, or somebody you never heard of, we did a good job, at an agreed upon price and we want to be paid for it. We’d rather be talking about what an excellent job our employees did on a complex project than doing this.”

Freestate has paid its workers and vendors, so it is bearing the brunt of Trump’s habit of not paying his contractors. Anticipating his usual claim that he didn’t pay up because he wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the work, they noted that:

General contractor Lend Lease nominated Freestate for a Washington Building Congress Craftsmanship award for the lighting they installed, an award they won. So, Miller said, there is no question about the quality of the work they did, just whether they should be paid for it.

And while there were cost overruns, they were a direct result of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign:

The lawsuit claims that the $2 million in unpaid costs were incurred after the general contractor, Lend Lease, requested an acceleration of work so the hotel would be ready for a series of Trump presidential campaign events.

In order to meet the deadlines for the Sept. 12 soft opening, Freestate says they had crews on site seven days per week, 12 to 14 hours per day for nearly 50 consecutive days. The “soft opening” was scheduled for September 12th, and without Freestate’s additional manpower, this date would not have been met. The official Oct. 26 “Grand Opening” was scheduled, according to the lawsuit, “to provide an opportunity for positive press coverage for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.”

Trump doesn’t live up to his own hype on almost anything, but he is truly a tremendous grifter.

Laura Clawson

U.S. Politics

South Korea’s Park Ousted

South Korea Rally Against President Park Continues

Chung Sung-Jun—Getty Images

TIME

Friday’s historic, unanimous verdict by the eight-judge panel means that Park Geun-hye becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be ousted early from office since democracy came to the country in the late 1980s