Congressional Dish

By Jennifer Briney

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Subscribers: 282
Reviews: 3

sheep
 Nov 12, 2019
objectively great breakdowns in policy that only a value for value business model can assure. that said, her political opinions can get a bit waffly but never extreme or in bad faith, so if you get mad its your problem.

Dapo
 May 2, 2019
Simply the best podcast/information to learn what's really going on in Congress. 7 stars!!!!!

Jordan
 Jan 17, 2019
This is a great podcast to learn about what's going on in Congress.

Description

Congressional Dish is a twice-monthly podcast that aims to draw attention to where the American people truly have power: Congress. From the perspective of a fed up taxpayer with no allegiance to any political party, Jennifer Briney will fill you in on the must-know information about what our representatives do AFTER the elections and how their actions can and will affect our day to day lives. Hosted by @JenBriney. Links to information sources available at www.congressionaldish.com

Episode Date
CD212: The COVID-19 Response Laws
01:38:57

Since COVID-19 began ravaging the human race, Congress has passed three bills into law that are meant to respond to both the health care crisis and the financial crisis. In this episode, Jen highlights the first two laws in their entirety and the provisions from the third law that are most likely to help the most Americans - the cash payments and unemployment provisions. She also documents the process used to pass all three bills into law, because this is NOT the way Congress is supposed to function. We have some firing to do. 


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD199: Surprise Medical Bills


Bills


HR 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020


Document Text: HR 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020

Summary: HR 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020

Passed 415-2 in the House on march 4 (two no votes were two GOP’s I’ve never heard of) Passed 96-1 in the Senate. Rand Paul was the only person to vote against it

There was no rules committee hearing because they passed it bypasses suspending the rules of the house (requires 2/3rds of the house to vote yes to pass)

Trump administration requested $2.5 billion

Title III: $2.2 billion for the CDC that they can use until September 30, 2022

  • Requires $475 million of the CDC grants to be spent in 30 days
  • Some of this money can be used to purchase and insure cars in foreign countries

Title III: $836 million for NIH that they can use until September 30, 2024 - which is money that can be used here in the states or abroad

  • Only $10 million was required to be spent on preventing and reducing exposure of hospital employees, emergency first responders, and other workers at risk of exposure = 1.2% of the total bill allocation

Title III: $3.1 billion for the Public Health and Social Services fund, also available until September 2024. This is the largest batch of money in the bill (although there are permissions to move money around so it could be more or less depending upon the whims of the Trump administration)

  • Can be used in the US or abroad
  • Can be used to purchase medical supplies
  • Can be used to pay private companies to develop and then buy vaccines
    • Vaccines developed with this money must be purchased by the Federal government in accordance with existing guidance on fair and reasonable pricing but the HHS Secretary may use existing law to ensure the public can buy them at reasonable prices, he doesn’t have to do so. HHS Secretary is Alex Azar who made his millions as the President of the US division of Eli Lilly - one of the largest multinational drug companies in the world. On his watch, the company tippled the price of insulin so… Without that “shall”, we have no reason to believe that there will be a cap placed on the price gauging.
  • The HHS Secretary can’t do anything that would “delay the development” of vaccines
  • The vaccines can be purchased and stored in the Strategic National Stockpile
  • The law allows our tax money to be used to build or upgrade the facilities of private companies that produce vaccines - so our tax money can be used to build and upgrade buildings for the pharmaceutical companies

Sec. 303: Until September 30, 2024, the law allows contractors to be hired for “the provision of personal services”, but they must be contractors as “such individuals may not be deemed employees of the United States”.

  • According to the Code of Federal Regulations, the government is normally required to get employees by direct hire and getting services by contract is a way to circumvent civil service laws

Title IV: Provides $250 million for the State Department’s “Economic Support Fund” and this money will be allowed to be used to “address economic, security, and stabilization requirements” related somehow to coronavirus

  • This money is allowed to be given to "international organizations”

Sec. 506: “Coronavirus” means SARS-CoV-2 “or another coronavirus with pandemic potential”

Division B, Sec 102: Allows Medicare to pay for Telehealth services during an emergency


HR 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act outline


Document Text: H.R.6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress.gov

H.R.6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress.gov

Money:

$500 million for food stamps

$400 million for the commodity assistance program

$250 million for “aging and disability services programs” - more than half is for “home delivered nutrition services”

Sec. 1101: If a school is closed for more than 5 consecutive days under a public health emergency designation, families of children who are eligible for free or discounted school lunches will be able to get benefits valued at least as much as the school meals. The level of benefits will be determined by the Secretary of Agriculture (Sonny Perdue). Benefits might be distributed via the food stamp program - with money on EBT cards. Appropriates unlimited funding and at least $100 million for the territories.

Sec. 6001: Page 5 appropriates $1 billion or “public health and social services emergency fund” to pay the claims of health care providers for "in vitro diagnostic products” (testing) of COVID-19. Health insurance companies “shall provide coverage” and “shall not impose any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments” and coinsurance” for tests for the detection of COVID-19 or the administration of those tests “furnished during any portion of the emergency period” (which began on March 13th). This includes in person and Telehealth visits, urgent care center visits, and emergency room visits that result in the ordering or administration of a COVID-19 test.

Loopholes:

  • Doesn’t seem to apply to people who got tested before March 13th, because that would be outside the “emergency period”

  • If a doctor doesn’t order a test because there is no test available, the visit would be eligible for copays, deductibles, etc. It can be billed like any ordinary visit.

There are also sections that prohibit cost-sharing for people on Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, people in the military, and veterans.

Sec. 6004: The Federal government will pay 100% of the costs associated with States paying for testing for COVID-19 for uninsured individuals during the emergency period It’s not back dated

Sec. 2301: Beginning in April 2020 and for each month end the month after the emergency declaration is lifted, work requirements for food stamps will not apply. Benefits can not be denied by States for people who had received food stamps for more than 3 months in the last 3 years while not working more than 20 hours per week, as is usually the case.

Sec. 3102: Adds the COVID-19 public health emergency to the list of valid reasons that employees may get 12 workweeks of paid family and medical leave. To be eligible, you have to have been working for the company for at least 30 calendar days. The first 10 days are allowed to be unpaid days but the employee is allowed to use any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or sick days. After 10 days, the employer “shall” provide paid leave for the following 10 weeks. The employee must be paid at least 2/3 of their regular pay, capped at $200/day and $10,000 total. For hourly workers, they will be paid based on the average numbers of hours worked per day for the 6 months prior. Employers required to provide leave are defined as someone with “fewer than 500 employees” instead of “50 or more employees”. Businesses with under 50 employees are exempt if the requirement could destroy the business. There are about 12 million private sector workers who work for companies with fewer than 50 employees and 59 million who work for companies with more than 500 employees - and 6.5 million of them have no paid sick leave. Not effective until April 2

Sec. 5102: Requires employers to provide paid sick time if the employee is subject to a mandated quarantine, has to self-quarantine for health reasons, is caring for someone sick with COVID-19, or if the employee’s child’s school or daycare is closed. Health care providers are exempt. Full time workers get 80 hours. Part time workers get paid based on the average amount of time they worked per day in the previous six months. The payments must be for the employees regular rate of pay if they are personally sick, no less than minimum wage, and 2/3rds their regular pay if they are caring for someone else. Payments are capped at $511/day and $5,110 total for sick employees and $200/day and $2,000 total for employees caring for children or sick family members. The paid sick time will not carry over to the following year and can’t be paid if an employee quits. Employers may not require employees to get their shift covered in order to receive their paid sick time. This is valid regardless of how long the employee has been with the company. Employer are not allowed to require employees to use their normally accrued sick time first. Employers can not punish employees for using their sick time. Employers who violate this law are subject to up to $10,000 in fines and up to 6 months in prison. Provision expires on December 31 Applies only to government workers and those working in companies with less than 500 employees. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees can apply for exemptions

Sec. 4102: Gives States more money for unemployment insurance payments.

Sec. 6005: Provides liability coverage to the manufacturers and distributors of personal respiratory protective devices subject to emergency use authorizations, including the one issued on March 2, 2020 and used in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency from January 27, 2020 through October 1, 2024.

Sec. 7001 and Sec. 7003: Employers will be given a tax credit for 100% of the paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave provided to their employers, up to the limits in this law

Sec. 7002 and Sec. 7004: Allows self-employed people to get a tax credit for the days they can’t work. The Secretary of the Treasury will write the regulation, including required documentation to be eligible


H.R. 748: CARES Act


Summary: H.R. 748: CARES Act

Text: H.R. 748: CARES Act

Record of House debate

Vote Summary: Senate 96-0 on March 25 at 11:17pm

Subtitle A: Unemployment Insurance Provisions

Sec. 2102: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Who qualifies:

  • People who would qualify under existing State laws
  • People who self-certify that are able to work except that the person has been diagnosed with COVID-19, someone in their home has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they are caring for someone with COVID-19, has a child whose daycare or school is closed due to COVID-19, can’t get to work because of a COVID-19 quarantine, their work is closed due to COVID-19, or they are self employed.
  • People who do not qualify are people who have the ability to telework with pay or people who are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits

Effective period: Beginning on or after January 27, 2020 and ending on or before December 31, 2020

Limits: No one can get unemployment benefits for more than 39 weeks, but this can be extended by the Secretary of Labor if needed

Amounts: It’s the amount determined by your state’s unemployment law plus $600 per week if the state chooses to enter into an agreement with the Secretary of Labor. The Federal government will pay for 100% of the costs of the extra unemployment payments and the administration costs. It’s an unlimited appropriation and it’s valid until July 31, 2020.

Sec. 2201: Issues a means tested “advanced refund" of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. You only get the full amount as an adult if you make $75,000 per adult or less. People who make more than $75,000 per adult will have their check amount reduced based on their income up to about $100,000. People who make more than that will get nothing. The payment will be delivered via direct deposit to anyone who has authorized the IRS to do so since January 1, 2018 while everyone else will have to wait for checks. If we accidentally get overpaid, the IRS can’t charge us interest on that payment. The payments will be made for the 2019 tax year if you have already done your taxes for last year. If you haven’t, it’ll be based on 2018. They will send a notification in the mail to us about our payments to our last known address, which will tell us the amount and if it’s going to be delivered via direct deposit or by check.


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Sound Clip Sources


Transcript: Congressional Record, U.S. Senate, March 25, 2020

Transcript: Congressional Record, U.S. Senate, March 24, 2020

Interview: Watch CNBC’s full interview with House speaker Nancy Pelosi on coronavirus stimulus bill, CNBC, March 24, 2020

Press Conference: White House Coronavirus Update, White House, March 22, 2020
Transcript:

President Donald Trump: We're a country not based on nationalizing our business. Call a person over in Venezuela ask them how did the nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well, the concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept, but I'll tell you why...


Presidential Address: Presidential Address on the Coronavirus Outbreak, White House, Oval Office, C-SPAN, March 11, 2020

Meeting: Rules Committee Meeting on HR 6201-Families First Coronavirus Response Act, United States House of Representatives Rules Committee, March 11, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Transcript:

15:00 Rep. Tom Cole (OK): I understand, as I'm sure all members do, the gravity of the situation and the extraordinary times we're in. But I also must make clear that we learned a couple of days ago, through the press, mind you, that the Speaker's office was beginning to work on a bill. Just a few short hours ago, members of the Majority Party apparently received a closed door briefing on the contents of this package, and already was not given that same consideration. Text wasn't made available until 11pm. And now the Rules Committee is meeting to consider a rule that will provide for consideration on the floor tomorrow.

24:30 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): Whether you're in the Medicare program, Medicaid program, whether you're in the Health Service or you're getting your insurance privately or you have no insurance, we're trying to make sure that you can go and have the test done without having any cost. Whether it's deductible, a copay or just outright, not having to pay for it if you have no insurance.

25:30 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): But I did want to mention two things and that is for people who don't have insurance. There's flexibility in this. So the states can basically cover them through Medicaid or have them enrolled in Medicaid without having to meet the income requirements that we have now, and they would be tested and that would be paid for under Medicaid solely for the testing for the virus.

25:45 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): And then we also have a pot of money that goes to the National Disaster Medical System to pay for the uninsured. And so essentially, if someone goes to a community health center, for example, and they have no insurance, it would be covered with that as an example.

26:00 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): For those states right now, as you know, depending on the state and the level of poverty in the state, have to pay at a minimum 50%, or the federal government pays at a minimum 50 percent of Medicaid costs, and that's matched by the states, depending on the state. And so the F map provision increases that federal match by 8%. And this is for Medicaid in general. In other words, anticipating that a lot more people will have to be covered by the - go on to the Medicaid rolls.

27:00 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): The masks because they've been a lot of concern about that. And whether or not masks for healthcare providers would be available. As you know, the companies have asked for liability exemption. And that has been the case in the past when we've had other public health emergencies, like I don't know, all or some of the other things that we've had for vaccines and other things. So we do accept and extend that for a limited purpose. So if the mask is is basically approved by the federal government, and during the time of this emergency, as declared by the President under the prep act, there would be the liability exemption for for those masks so that we make sure that they're out there, and they're distributed.

28:00 Rep. Michael Burgess (TX): Like my ranking member on the Rules Committee, I do have some concerns about the process about how this came together. I just saw the text for the very first time when I walked in here I had a chance to read the first four lines on the first page. Look forward to reading more between now and eight o'clock in the morning.

31:00 Rep. Michael Burgess (TX): It's important that the vaccine be established as safe. I am old enough to remember, an episode of the swine flu during the Ford administration, where a vaccine was hastily developed, and its administration was mandated across the country, and some serious complications occurred. And we certainly don't want to repeat that. So once the vaccine has been established to safe Dr. Fauci has assured us that he will proceed with all dispatch to make sure it is effective, and it will be brought online as as quickly as possible. And I think we have provided the funding to allow them to do that.

36:00 Rep. Bobby Scott (VA): Comments have been made about how quickly this has been put together, we have an emergency and I don't think we have much choice. I'd like to spend a lot more time on the legislation but the more time we take putting it together and getting it out there, people will die. And so we've done it as quickly as we possibly can and everybody would like more time.

41:00 Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC): When I heard about this bill today I remembered something that well known democrat said, 'Never let a crisis go to waste.' But then I also remember the phrase 'act in haste and repent at leisure.'

57:00 Rep. Tom Cole (OK): It'd be a shame for us to leave, honestly, without doing something together for the American people. I think they're looking for that almost more than the individual items in the package. They really want to see us, in a time of crisis, put aside differences, find common solutions, common ground that we can agree on, and work together for their interest. And if we managed to do that, I think that'll not only be good in a time of crisis, I think it'll hopefully reinstill some confidence in the process and the institutions that we all are very proud to be part of, and remind Americans that, hey, we're in our very, very best when we're at a time of crisis. We really are.

1:04:00 Rep. Norma Torres (CA): Last week, at a meeting with the Export Import Bank chair Kimberly Reed stated that the US Commerce Department is still promoting the sales of critical supplies that the American people need. What are those critical supplies? masks, masks, hand sanitizer? How can you know what happened to America first? We need those critical supplies here. So part of what we need to do is direct these uninformed officials that the left hand needs to talk to the right hand. That may be the Commerce Department should be consulting with this new Coronavirus Committee that has been set up by the President. Those are the things that we cannot leave undone when we leave here this week.

1:10:00 Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO): How many hearings have we had on the bill that we've had before us tonight? None. Zero. I mean, that's that is a problem. And I my Republican colleagues have complained about it, but I, as a Democrat want to complain about it too. Because there's no question we have an emergency. Part of our emergency is we want to try to get out of here by tomorrow afternoon, or this afternoon. Okay, I mean, we're setting our own deadline here. Isn't that true? Am I mistaken on that? Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): Well, look, I'm a big advocate for regular order. We don't always fall well. This is about as far for you're not gonna have you can't have regular order when you have an emergency. I mean, you know, it would for us to go. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO): And Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that. But I guess I would say is okay. Why aren't we doing this? You know, Friday. Today's what? Thursday? Now that we're - 12:15 Thursday. Okay, so I just want to get that out of the way.

1:14:00 Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO): Well, these things are emergencies. Clearly the testing. But I thought part of the testing was what we did last week. Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): The testing is essentially the authorizing language. In other words, it's not the it's not the spending. What we're saying is that, you know, whether it's federal programs like Medicaid or Indian Health Service, or it's private insurance or for the uninsured, we want to make sure that everybody can have the test and not have to pay for it not have to have any copay, deductible, or out of pocket expenses. That's what we're doing with that. Rep. Bobby Scott (VA): And some of this ought to be done anyway. I mean, if you're taking a vaccine that should be under prevention, and should be on the most plans, no copay and deductible. So it's not it's not a new idea. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL): And what we did last week was to authorize, give the money to states to actually purchase and have these kits on hand. So what we're doing now is for individuals to make sure that the individual who's trying to see testing actually it's free of charge. Whether have private insurance, government insurance or no insurance, that the testing would be free. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO): All right, so would have last week's bill would that have covered the protective gear for the health providers and the tents and the ventilators that we try to separate? Rep. Terri Sewell (AL): Yes. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO): Okay. Rep. Michael Burgess (TX): About the ventilators. And that's a very good question. We, we can understand that perhaps, on the testing, there were things could have been done better. Can you anticipate what the next part of this crisis will be? If you look at the experience in some of the other countries, the next part of this crisis is going to be an overwhelming load of patients in acute respiratory failure, presenting to hospitals, needing ICU beds needing ventilators. I don't know if we have the capacity. I don't know if anyone has done a survey of unused military facilities that might be available. I don't know if as part of the Ready Reserve, some One has looked into it. Again, that would be one of the questions I would have asked had we had a hearing. But I do think if we want to think over the horizon, we do need to think about the significant number of patients who could be in acute respiratory failure and the stories, and I realize you're reading them online, I'm reading them online. I don't know if they're true. But the crowd out of people with other medical conditions who show up at the hospitals who can't be seen, acute appendicitis now can be a fatal event, because everyone else is tied up taking care of people who are dying of pneumonia. So it is something we need to think about. I don't know if we've addressed it in this bill. I don't think we addressed it in the appropriation last week.

1:30:00 Rep. Michael Burgess (TX): People have spoken about testing at no cost to the patient. I think that's fine. I think it's a great idea. Do remember someone has to administer the test. There has to be overhead paid for the personnel to be in the office to administer the test. Someone has to pay the liability insurance if the test is reported incorrectly, and someone is going to have to report the test to a patient, that tested is positive, someone's got to do the follow through because now a doctor patient relationship has been established. So we do need to think about that. I'm not objecting to what has been described here tonight, but it just it seems to me that it's incomplete.

1:31:00 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): And could I say I'm not going to suggest that that everything that the Dr. Burgess mentioned is covered. But it's not just the test. It's also the provider visit, you know the visit of the patient that provided this cover and also without charge, but...I'm not saying that covers everything, but a lot of the things that he mentioned, it's not just the test. It's also the actual visit and the provider.


Video: S. 716: "Gut the STOCK Act" Passes House, U.S. House of Representatives, April 20, 2013

Video: User Clip: Senate STOCK Act gutting, U.S. Senate, April 11, 2013

Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Apr 06, 2020
Thank You Neighbors
03:05:07

In the longest bonus thank you episode ever recorded, Jen and Husband Joe have a few drinks, discuss the infuriating state of our government, and respond to notes from the producers of episodes 210 and 211. Warning: Jen may not mean everything she says in this episode; it's possible Donald Trump cares about Tiffany.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!


Featured Podcast

American Hospital Association's Rural Report Podcast Series


Bills


HR 6172: USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020

Vote Results: FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 98 - USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act

HR 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Apr 06, 2020
CD211: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
01:17:54

Coronavirus. A lot of people are scared - and money is being made off of our fear. In this episode, let's take a calm look at the facts presented under oath by health professionals in Congress and in official press conferences. What is happening? How does this virus work? How is it transmitted? Why are we all being told to stay home? By the end of this episode, you will have those answers and (hopefully) be better prepared to handle the bad news that’s soon to come.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!


Bills

H.R.6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress.gov


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Sound Clip Sources


Interview: The coronavirus could kill millions of Americans: ‘Do the math,’ immunization specialist says by William Feuer, CNBC, March 19, 2020

Interview: Failure to identify, isolate coronavirus infections puts U.S. on dark path, MSNBC, March 18, 2020

Interview: Bill Ackman's plea to President Donald Trump to save U.S. from coronavirus' economic destruction, CNBC, March 18, 2020

Briefing: Coronavirus Task Force Briefing, White House, March 18, 2020

Speakers

  • Deborah Birx: White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator ** Was the AIDS Ambassador during the Obama administration
Transcript:

35:00 Deborah Birx:So the test kits that we put out last week through the approval, the rapid movement of that meeting that President Trump called less than two weeks ago, that has resulted in bringing our private sector to the table, because the tests and the platform that was out there could only run between four and 12 tests per platform per day. We've now moved into platforms that can run basically 10's of thousands of tests per day. So the reason I'm grateful for your question, because it allows me to point out that of course then there was a backlog. There were individuals who had been tested, who hadn't had their specimen run because of the slow throughput. It's now in a high speed platform. So we will see the number of people diagnosed dramatically increase over the next four to five days. I know some of you will use that to raise an alarm that we are worse than Italy because of our slope of our curve. To every American out there, it will be five to six days worth of tests being run in 24 to 48 hours, so our curves will not be stable until sometime next week.

36:25 The reason I talked about Thermo Fisher yesterday is because their platform is in 2,000 laboratories. They're the ones that are putting out the million tests this week that will solve the issue that Atlanta and others have brought up.

41:30 When you look at China and South Korea data and you look what China and South Korea did, you can see that their curves are not only blunted outside of Wu Han. So the Chinese areas outside of Wu Han blunted curve and South Korea blunted curve, if you look at their curve today, there are ready on the far end of their epidemic curve. Of course, none of those countries are fully back to work. And so that's what we worry about, too.

42:30 Don't expose yourself to surfaces that could have had the virus on it, for which on hard surfaces, I know we had the cardboard issue about shipping, hard surfaces not shown, in fabric as much or in cardboard, but hard surface transmission.


Video: Chris Cuomo: Coronavirus scares me as a parent, Cuomo Prime Time, CNN, March 17, 2020

Video: NBC Nightly News Broadcast (Full) - March 17th, 2020, NBC Nightly News, NBC, March 17, 2020

Briefing: Coronavirus Task Force Briefing, White House, March 17, 2020
Transcript:

58:50 Anthony Fauci: Now you could see the virus going up and up and your effect your work, what you're trying to do, may actually be having an effect, but you may not see it because it'll still be going up. And as you're trying to implement your interference with the virus, you may not realize that you're actually interfering and you'll say, wait a minute, it's still going up. What's going on? You've done nothing. But you don't know whether it would do this versus that. So the answer to your question, it probably would be several weeks and maybe longer before we know whether we're having an effect. It may be at the end of the day, we'll see a curve that would have been way way up. But I wouldn't like put us to task every few days. Well, wait a minute, it's going up. Is it working or not? That would be really misleading if we do that.


News Conference: World Health Organization Coronavirus News Conference, World Health Organization, March 16, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Speakers:

  • Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: Director General of the World Health Organization
Transcript:

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: But the most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don't know who is infected. We have a simple message for all countries. Test, test, test. Test every suspected case, and if they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in close contact with up to two days before they developed symptoms and test those people too.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: WHO advises that all confirmed cases, even mild cases, should it be isolated in health facilities to prevent transmission and provide adequate care. But we recognize that many countries have already exceeded their capacity to care for mild cases in dedicated health facilities. In that situation, countries should prioritize all their patients and those with underlying conditions. Some countries have expanded their capacity by using stadiums and gyms to care for mild cases with C-Vid and critical cases cared for in hospitals. Another option is for patients with mild disease to be isolated and cared for at home.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: Both the patient and their caregivers should wear a medical mask when they are together in the same room. The patient should sleep in a separate bedroom, two others, and use a different bathroom. Assign one person to care for the patient. Ideally, someone who is in good health and has no underlying conditions. The caregiver should wash their hands after any contact with their patient or their immediate environment. People infected with Covid-19 can still infect others after they stop feeling sick. So this measures should continue for at least two weeks after symptoms disappear. Visitors should not be allowed until the end of this period.


Interview: Dr. Fauci: 'Possible' that millions could die in US, CNN, March 15, 2020

Video: Former CDC director: Potential coronavirus death toll could be over 1 million, Fox News, Mach 13, 2020

Hearing: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response, United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform, March 12, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health
  • Dr. Robert Redfield: Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Robert Kadlec: Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services
Transcript:

17:30 Robert Kadlec: You're correct that there is a great demand for personal protective equipment, particularly respirators, N-95 respirators. There we have a limited supply in our Strategic National Stockpile. Annually, about 350 million respirators are used. Only a small percentage of that is used by the healthcare industry about 35 million. And we believe that the demand for that could be several hundred million to up to a billion in a six month period. So it's a very high demand item. There has been a strategy to basically, and CDC has provided guidance on reuse, how can we use them longer. We've got the manufacturers and how they can surge more and many of them are doing that. And domestically even though some of their sources for product, finished product is from overseas like China. And then the third thing is is what can we do to basically use masks that haven't been used for the medical area, non medical N-95s could be used in that fashion. And FDA is basically certified through an Emergency Use Authorization that N-95s respirators used in manufacturing and in mining and in construction could be used in healthcare settings. They are very similar but not the same, but could be used that way. And the only thing that's keeping a lot of manufacturers from selling those masks to the broader healthcare population is because of liability provisions or lack of liability protections. There is the Public Readiness Emergency Preparedness Act that was passed in 2005. That basically indemnifies manufacturers, distributors and users of these masks, or pardon me, of users of products that are defined as a device or as a covered countermeasure. When we saw - I happened to be on the staff that did that legislation in 2005. We did not consider a situation like this today. We thought about vaccines. We thought about therapeutics, we never thought about respirators of being our first and only line of defense for healthcare workers. So we think that's a very important capacity and capability to include language or modify the Prep Act to include language, to include respiratory protective devices for that purpose, and that's a significant critical pass now item.

20:25 Robert Redfield: There's also clinical medicine, the practice of clinical medicine, the private sector, that actually tries to provide diagnostics so we can diagnose diabetes or anemia, lots of different diseases. And it's really the engagement of the private sector to get these tests into clinical medicine, which is it's a partnership between the private sector. CDC usually develops the test first, gets it out into the health departments to do surveillance. And then the private sector comes in to provide the clinical tools we need to basically diagnose patients, not the surveillance of the community.

23:53 Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (FL): We need to have someone in charge of making sure that as many people as possible across this country have access to getting tested as soon as possible. Who is that person? Is it you? Is it the vice president? Can you give us the name of who can guarantee that anyone, but especially healthcare workers who need to be tested can be. Robert Redfield: As I tried to explain to Congressman Green, from the CDC perspective... Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (FL): Okay, I'm asking for a name. Who is in charge of making sure that people who need to get tested, who are indicated to be tested can get a test? Who? Robert Redfield: Yeah, I was trying to say that the responsibility that I have at CDC is make sure all the public health labs have it and they can make the judgment on how they want to use it. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (FL): But they're referencing people who have been advised to be tested to you and they've been turned down. So is it you? Robert Redfield: As I said, I'm going to look into the specifics of that. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (FL): So basically, you're saying - I'm claiming my time - basically, you seem to be saying because you can't name any one specifically, that there's no one specifically in charge that we can count on to make sure that people who need to be tested healthcare workers or anyone else, there's not one person that can ensure that these tests can be administered yes or no. Anthony Fauci: My colleague is looking at me to answer. Here we go. Okay. All right. So the system does not, is not really geared to what we need right now. What you are asking for, that is a failing. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (FL): A failing. Anthony Fauci: Yeah, it is a failing. Let's admit it. The fact is the way the system was set up, is that the public health component, that doctor that Dr. Redfield was talking about was a system where you put it out there in the public and a physician asks for it and you get it. The idea of anybody getting it easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes, but we're not. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (FL): Okay. That's really disturbing and I appreciate the information.

30:25 Rep. Ralph Norman (SC): I just met with a company, a Fortune 500 company, who is looking at testing their employees as they come in the door. And yet they're concern was one, frivolous lawsuits, class action suits by trial lawyers, HIPAA violations, health violations. You know, you just can't take temperatures of people without our type getting into all types of issues. The question I was asked by this employer do I give do I take the risk of when you walk in that door, no symptoms, you just see what, whether it's a temporary or whether it's asking questions, they're petrified of the outcome if they do that. They're also petrified of somebody having the virus when they walk in the door and then being held liable if they in fact, and this company has 500 employees that do shifts, work in three shifts.

32:00 Anthony Fauci: There are two types of situations. Dr. Redfield described. One, which was the classic tried and true CDC based situation where it's based on the doctor-patient interaction. Where a doctor, as a patient who wants to get tested for cause they're sick, they've been exposed or what have you. That works well. The system right now as it exists, of doing a much broader capability of determining what the penetrance is in society right now, is not operational at all for us. And what the CDC is doing now is that they're taking various cities, they started with six, and then they're going to expand it, where they're not going to wait for somebody to ask to get tested. They're going to get people who walk into an emergency room or a clinic with an influenza like illness and test them for coronavirus. You You do that on a broader scale throughout the country, you'll start to get a feel for what the penetrance is. And that's a different process. Unfortunately, our system from the beginning was not set up to do that. And that's the reason why we're not able to answer the broader questions of how many people in the country are infected right now. We hope to get there reasonably soon. But we're not there now.

36:30 Anthony Fauci: In the spirit of staying ahead of the game, right now, we should be doing things that separate us as best as possible from people who might be infected. And there are ways to do that. You know, we use the word social distancing, but most people don't know what that means, for example, crowds. We just heard that they're going to limit access to the capital. That's a really, really good idea to do. I know you like to meet and press the flesh with your constituencies. I think not now, I think you need I need I think you need to really cool it for a while because we should we should be practicing mitigation, even in areas that don't have a dramatic increase. I mean, everyone looks to Washington State. They look to California, they're having an obvious serious problem. But their problem now may be our problem tomorrow.

40:30 Anthony Fauci: Yeah, I would put the social distancing and other issues of preventing infection ahead of the testing but the testing is very important.

43:30 Anthony Fauci: When we were looking at the pure public health aspect of it, we found that 70% of the new infections were coming from the - new infections in the world, were coming from Europe, that cluster of countries. And of the 35 states 30 out of 35 of them, who were more recently getting infections, were getting them from them. That was predominantly from Italy, and from France and from Germany. So when the discussion was, why don't we just start off and say, banned from Italy, we were told by the State Department and others that in fact, you really can't do that because it's sort of like one country, the whole European thing. And the reason I believe that that the UK was left out, was because there is a difference between ease of translate of transportation between the European countries. Rep. Peter Welch (VT): Okay, that's Brexit. Thank you.

47:40 Rep. Chip Roy (TX): Last night, I spoke on the phone with Dr. Shuren at the FDA and got some updates on some of the testing information because I've wanted to talk to somebody at the FDA. And my understanding and response from them. And he's not here to testify. So I want to validate this was that he talked about upwards of 2 million tests. Those aren't individual test kits, but the ability to test 2 million times. We're coming to availability this week, 3 million more in the next week, and that we've got a rather large and robust testing ability coming to market shortly that we've got private enterprises producing these tests. We've got universities, state public officials that have the ability to test and that we are now getting to the place of scalability to ramp up and have a fairly sizable large amount of testing ability in our robust federal system. Would you agree Dr. Redfield that that is the trajectory of where we're headed. Robert Redfield: Since March 2, there's been, I've been told over 4 million tests now have entered the market. But what I want to say the test isn't whole answer. You need people to do the test laboratory equipment to do the test. You need some of the reagents that actually now are in short supply. To prepare the test. You need the swabs to take the test so we're working very hard with the FDA to make sure all these different pieces, you know right now the actual test to do this coronavirus test. I think we have the test in the marketplace. The question is how to how to actually operationalize them and I think that's what Tony and I are saying is the big challenge right now.

53:30 Robert Redfield: We need to use our efforts right now to really continue to try to contain this outbreak with the cases we have and let the public health system focus on that around those clusters, do aggressive mitigation. But if we continue to have individuals coming in to seed new communities, all through the country, it will be very hard for us to get control of this.

55:45 Robert Redfield: If someone's in self-isolation or self-quarantine at home. They're being monitored for symptoms, if they, if they do become symptomatic, they get a comprehensive medical evaluation and then obviously, either returned to home isolation if it's that that's the medical appropriate decision for them, that it's just a sore throat. Or if they look like they need medical attention, they're going to get hospitalized and managed in isolation. Rep. Robin Kelly (IL):And then how those costs covered for a private hospital, the CDC cover their out of pocket cost or how does that work? Robert Redfield: Well, the department has the authority to reimburse those. Okay, CDC has the authority The department has authority, we're working now to determine the best way to accomplish that.

58:40 Robert Redfield: We really are in a mode that this is time for big events like March Madness, big events like these big sports arena things to take a pause for the next four to six to eight weeks while we see what happens with this outbreak in this nation.

1:17:30 Rep. Mark Green (TN): On the South Korean test, we've had a lot of comparisons of how they've done testing much faster than us. I have a letter from the FDA that says the South Korean test, I want to make sure this is on the record, the South Korean test is not adequate. A vendor wanted to purchase it and sell it and use it in the United States. And the FDA said I'm sorry, we will not even do an Emergency Use Authorization for that test. So I have that letter if anybody wants to see it.

1:21:00 Anthony Fauci: So, the Chinese didn't have to send us the virus. They just published the sequence on a public database. We knew the gene that would code for the protein that we wanted to make a vaccine. So all we did was pulled the information right out of the database. We made it synthesize that very easily, overnight, stuck it in to a platform and started making it. And we said at that point that it would take, I would say, two to three months to have it in the first human. I think we're going to do better than that. And I would hope within a few weeks, we may be able to make an announcement to you all, that we've given the first shot to the first person. Having said that, I want to make sure people understand that I say that over and over and over again. That doesn't mean we have a vaccine that we could use. I mean, it's record time to get a tested. It's going to take a year to a year and a half to really know if it works.

1:22:57 Rep. Rashida Talib (MI): You know, earlier this week Congress's attending fish's physician told the Senate that he expects between 70 to 150 million people to eventually contract the coronavirus in the United States. Dr. Croce is is he wrong? Anthony Fauci: Yeah, I think we really need to be careful with those kinds of predictions because that's based on a model. So what the model is, all models are as good as the assumptions that you put into the model. So if you say that this is going to be the likely percent of individuals. Rep. Rashida Talib (MI): So what can we do to define it, is it testing? Anthony Fauci: No, no, it's unpredictable. So testing now is not going to tell you how many cases you're going to have. What will tell you what you're going to have will be how you respond to it with containment and mitigation.

1:24:00 Anthony Fauci: When people do model they say, 'This is the lower level. This is the higher level.' And what the press picks up is the higher level and they'll say you could have as many as...

1:24:15 Anthony Fauci: Remember, the model during the Ebola outbreak said you could have as many as a million. We didn't have a million.

1:28:35 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Anthony Fauci: Dr. Kadlec, for someone without insurance, do you know the out of pocket cost of a complete blood count test? Robert Kadlec: No, ma'am not not immediately. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Do you have a ballpark? Robert Kadlec: No, with a copay, no ma'am? Rep. Katie Porter (CA): No, the out of pocket, just the typical cost. Robert Kadlec: I do not ma'am. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay. A CBC typically costs about $36. What about the out of pocket costs for a complete metabolic panel? Robert Kadlec: That would have to pass on that as well. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): You have any idea? You wanna take a ballpark? Robert Kadlec: I would say $75. Okay. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): 58. Robert Kadlec: Getting closer. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): How about flu A, the flu A test? Robert Kadlec: Again, I'll take a guess at about maybe 50? Rep. Katie Porter (CA): 43. Flu... This is like the prices right? Flu B? Robert Kadlec: Too high again, I would probably say 44. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): That's good. How about the cost of an ER visit for someone identified as high severity and threat? Robert Kadlec: I'm sorry, ma'am, what was the question here? Rep. Katie Porter (CA): How about the cost of an ER visit for somebody identified as having high severity or high threat? Robert Kadlec: That's probably about three to $5,000. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Okay, that is $1,151. It this all totals up to $1,331. That's assuming they aren't kept in isolation. Isolation can add up for one family already $4,000, and fear of these costs are going to keep people from being tested, from getting the care they need and from keeping their community safe. We live in a world where 40% of Americans cannot even afford a $400 unexpected expense. We live in a world where 33% of Americans put off medical treatment last year. And we have a $1,331 expense, conservatively, just for testing for the coronavirus. Doctor Dr. Redfield, do you want to know who has the corona virus and who doesn't? Robert Redfield: Yes. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Not just rich people, but everybody who might have a virus. Robert Redfield: All of America. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Dr. Redfield, are you familiar with 42 CFR 71.3130? Excuse me? 42 CFR 71.30. The Code of Federal Regulations that applies to the CDC. 42 CFR 71.30. Robert Redfield: I think if you could frame that what it talks about that would help ma'am that would really... Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Dr. Redfield I'm I'm pretty well known as a questioner on the Hill from for not tipping my hand. I literally communicated to your office last night and received confirmation that I was going to be asking you about 42.7, 42 CFR 71.30. This provides 'Director may authorize payment for the care and treatment of individuals subject to medical exam quarantine isolation and conditional release.' Robert Redfield: That I know about. And my office did tell me that I just didn't know the numbers, ma'am, Congressman. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Great. So you're familiar, Dr. Redfield, will you commit to the CDC right now, using that existing authority to pay for diagnostic testing free to every American regardless of insurance? Robert Redfield: Well, I can say that we're gonna do everything to make sure everybody can get the care they need. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): No, not good enough. We're claiming my time. Dr. Redfield, you have the existing authority. Will you commit right now to using the authority that you have, vested in you, under law, that provides a public health emergency for testing, treatment, exam, isolation, without cost, yes or no? Robert Redfield: What I'm going to say is I'm going to review it in detail with... Rep. Katie Porter (CA): No, I'm claiming my time, Doctor Redfield respectfully. I wrote you this letter along with my colleagues, Rosa Delora. And Lauren Underwood, Congressman Underwood and Congressman Delora. We wrote you this letter one week ago. We quoted that existing authority to you and we laid out this problem. We asked for a response yesterday, the deadline and the time for delay has passed. Will you commit to invoking your existing authority under 42 CFR 71.30 to provide for coronavirus testing for every American regardless of insurance coverage. Robert Redfield: What I was trying to say is that CDC is working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Dr. Redfield. I hope that that answer weighs heavily on you, because it is going to weigh very heavily on me and on every American family. Robert Redfield: Our intent is to make sure every American gets the care and treatment they need at this time with this major epidemic and I'm currently working with HHS to see how to best operationalize it. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Dr. Redfield, you don't need to do any work to operationalize. You need to make a commitment to the American people. So they come in to get tested. You could operationalize the payment structure tomorrow. Robert Redfield: I think you're an excellent questioner. So my answer is yes. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Excellent. Everybody in America hear that. You are eligible to go get tested for Coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance. Please, if you believe you have the illness, follow precautions, call first. Do everything the CDC and - Dr. Fauci, God bless you for guiding Americans in this time. But do not let a lack of insurance worsen this crisis.

1:42:30 Rep. John Sarbanes (MD): If somebody got the virus, three, four weeks ago, just thought they had the flu or a bad cold or something recovered from it. They're now essentially immune from getting the virus again. Is that correct? Anthony Fauci: We haven't formally proved it, but it is strongly likely that that's the case.

1:43:00 Anthony Fauci: If you do an antibody test, if you wait weeks and months after you've recovered, the antibody tests will tell you whether that person was formerly infected with Corona virus.

1:43:50 Anthony Fauci: So let's say I get infected. And whether I get sick or not, I clear the infection from my body. I do two tests 24 hours apart, which is the standard to say, I'm no longer infected. A month and a half from now you do an antibody test, and that test is positive. I am not transmitting to anybody, because my body has already cleared the virus. So even though my antibody test says you were infected a month or two ago, right now, if there's no virus in me, I am not going to be able to transmit it to anyone.

1:45:30 Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA): Will a travel ban like this have significant impact on reducing the community spread of the coronavirus. That is cases that are already in the United States. Anthony Fauci: Yes, that is the the answer is a firm yes. And that was the reason, the rationale, the public health rationale why that recommendation was made. Because if you look at the numbers, it's very clear that 70% of the new infections in the world are coming from that region from Europe, seeding other countries. First thing, second thing of the 35 or more states that have infections, 30 of them now and most recently have gotten them from a travel related case in that region. So it was pretty compelling that we needed to turn off the source from that region.

2:02:10 Robert Redfield: CDC did manufacture the original CDC tests that we used - the CDC. And we also manufactured the initial test we sent out to the states, it's an IDT manufactured kits after that.


Hearing: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response, United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform, March 11, 2020

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Witnesses:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health
  • Dr. Robert Redfield: Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Robert Kadlec: Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services
Transcript:

28:20 Anthony Fauci: In the next, I would say four weeks or so, we will go into what is called a phase one clinical trial to determine if one of the candidates, and there are more than one candidate. There are probably at least 10 or so that are at various stages of development. The one that we've been talking about is one that involves a platform called messenger RNA, but it really serves as a prototype for other types of vaccines that are simultaneously being developed. Getting it into phase one in a matter of months is the quickest that anyone has ever done, literally in the history of vaccinology. However, the process of developing a vaccine is one that is not that quick. So we go into phase one, it'll take about three months to determine if it's safe. That'll bring us three or four months down the pike. And then you go into an important phase called phase two to determine if it works. Since this is a vaccine, you don't want to give it to normal healthy people with the possibility that A, it will hurt them and B, that it will not work. So the phase of determining if it works is critical. That will take at least another eight months or so. So when you've heard me say we would not have a vaccine that would even be ready to start a deploy for a year to a year and a half, that is the timeframe. Now, anyone who thinks they're going to go more quickly than that, I believe will be cutting corners. That would be detrimental.

30:10 Anthony Fauci: The timeline for therapy is a little bit different. The reason it is different is that you're giving this candidate therapy to someone who was already ill. So the idea of risks and how quickly you determine if and when it works is much more quickly than giving a lot of vaccine to normal people and determine if you protect them. There are a couple of candidates that are now already in clinical trial, some of them in China and some of them right here in the United States, particularly in some of the trials that'd be done in some of our clinical centers, including the University of Nebraska. It is likely that we will know if they work in the next several months.

48:22 Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY): Is that is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci? Anthony Fauci: Yes, it is. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY): Can you elaborate? Anthony Fauci: Well, whenever you have an outbreak that you can start seeing community spread, which means by definition that you don't know what the index cases and the way you can approach it is by contact tracing. When you have enough of that, then it becomes a situation where you're not going to be able to effectively and efficiently contain it. Whenever you look at the history of outbreaks, what you see now in an uncontained way, and although we are containing it in some respects, we keep getting people coming in from the country that are travel related. We've seen that in many of the States that are now involved. And then when you get community spread, it makes the challenge much greater. So I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now. How much worse we'll get will depend on our ability to do two things, to contain the influx of people who are infected, coming from the outside and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country.

49:45 Anthony Fauci: Looking forward right now, as commercial entities get involved in making a large amount of tests getting variable. When you do two aspects of testing, one, a person comes in to a physician and ask for a test because they have symptoms or a circumstance which suggests they may be infected. The other way to do testing is to do surveillance where you go out into the community and not wait for someone to come in and ask for a task, but you actively pro get proactively get a test. We are pushing for that and as Bob will, Dr. Redfield will tell you that the CDC has already started that in six Sentinel cities and we'll expand that in many more cities. But you're absolutely correct. We need to know how many people to the best of our ability are infected. As we say, under the radar screen.

51:20 Robert Redfield: CDCs role in this was we very rapidly, within almost seven to 10 days, developed a test from an unknown pathogen once we had the sequence. And we did that because we wanted to get eyes on at CDC so the health departments across this nation can send samples to us and we would test them. Secondly, we rapidly tried to expand that and scale it up with a contractor so each public health lab in this country would have that test. During that process of quality control, we found out one of the reagents wasn't working appropriately and we had to modify that with the FDA. That took several weeks to get that completed, but the test was always available in Atlanta if you sent the sample to us. So there never was a time when a health department could not get a test. They had to send it to Atlanta. Now our health departments have 75,000 tests. Most health departments now over 75 health departments have the test, but the other side. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY): How many tests are we planning to produce in the United States? Robert Redfield: Well from a public health point of view, we've put out 75,000 the other side, as Dr. Fauci said, which is really not what CDC does traditionally, is to get the medical private sector to have testing for patients. And when the Vice President brought all the testing companies to the White House last week, we got enormous cooperation for the mall to work together. And as we sit here today, Quest and Lab Corp are now offering this test in their doctor's offices throughout this country. But it's not for an individual just to take a test. They need to go see a healthcare professional having an assessment determine whether a test is indicated and then get that test.

1:08:00 Robert Redfield: The other side of the mission is the clinical mission. And I think that's the concern of most American citizens. How do I get evaluated? And again, that really has been worked through the private sector. It wasn't really the public health lead for CDC to get a laboratory test, but I will say that the test we did develop, we published and let everybody use it. They could redevelop it. There was regulatory release. So any CLIA certified lab, according to the FDA was given relief. They could develop the test just like we did and they could use it. And some universities have done that. We also were, was released to IDT, the manufacturer that made our tests for public health purposes. They were given the regulatory relief to actually make that test and sell it to hospitals. And that's the 1 million, 3 million tests that people referred to that are rolling out for that side.

1:17:00 Robert Kadlec: I'm looking at particularly the things that we need for this outbreak right now and I just want to highlight the issues around personal protective equipment. Much of it is sourced from overseas, some of it is domestically manufactured and yes, we could have spot shortages. We're working with different companies in different sectors to see, to enhance both their increased capacity here domestically, as well as obtaining supplies overseas, from overseas unaffected areas to meet the demand. The most important demand is with healthcare workers, ensuring they have the respiratory protection and barrier protection so they can see and treat patients without the risk of getting infected and being lost to their, to the cause.

1:29:55 Robert Redfield: Yeah. So for the coronavirus right now, for example, in Italy, the average age of death is over the age of 80. Most of the deaths that we've seen are over the age of 70.

1:36:20 Robert Redfield: The CDC developed this test for the United States public health system. We did not develop this test for all of clinical medicine. The test for clinical medicine we count on the private sector to work together with the FDA to bring those tests to bear.

1:40:25 Anthony Fauci: At least from my experience, social media can often be as detrimental as it is helpful. That's the reason why, sir. I think the first question that you asked would be the one to go to the source of the data CDC, and I'm not CDC, but I'm saying CDC is a data-driven organization, and if you really want the facts and the data, I would just go to cdc.gov.

1:43:15 Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): I want to quickly clear up a few things that have been said over the course of this process. One was by the President, in early February when he said, 'it looks like by April, you know, in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.' Is there any scientific reason to believe that? Anthony Fauci: The basis for any surmising that that might happen is based on what we see every year with influenza, which actually as you get to March and April and May, it actually goes way down and other non novel coronavirus but common cold coronaviruses often do that. So for someone to at least consider that that might happen is reasonable, but, underline, but we do not know what this virus is going to do. We would hope that as we get to warmer weather, it would go down, but we can't proceed under that assumption. We've got to assume that it's going to get worse and worse and worse. Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): Okay.

1:47:30 Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): I hear from constituents who are having flu like symptoms, they want to know what should they do, what should they do? Robert Redfield: Well, it's Dr. Fauci said, the first thing I would do is to tell them to contact their healthcare provider or their emergency room and tell them they're concerned. They may have Coronavirus infection and then follow their instructions to where to get the test right. And then proceed with getting the appropriate clinical evaluation. Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): Okay. So they should call someone before they go in anywhere. Robert Redfield: Well, we'd like to do that because if you really think you're infected, we're trying to avoid someone to walk into a 200 person, a hundred person emergency room. First is just to call in advance, and then they'll arrange exactly how they're going to get to test, how they're going to see the patient. They're going to be prepared when that patient comes to the emergency room, that they're going to be able to isolate them, get them tested, get them properly evaluated.

1:57:20 Rep. Harley Rouda (CA): Without test kits, is it possible that those that have been susceptible to influenza might have been miscategorized as to what they actually had? That it's quite possible that they actually had a covid-19. Robert Redfield: The standard practice is the first thing you do is test for influenza. So if they had influenza, they would be positive. Rep. Harley Rouda (CA): But only if they were tested. So if they weren't tested, we don't know what they had. Robert Redfield: Correct. Rep. Harley Rouda (CA): Okay. And if somebody dies from influence, are we doing post-mortem testing to see whether it was influenza or whether it was Covid-19? Robert Redfield: There is a surveillance system of death from pneumonia that the CDC has. It's not in every city, every state, every hospital. Rep. Harley Rouda (CA): So we could have people in the United States dying for what appears to be influenza, when in fact it could be the Coronavirus or Covid-19. Robert Redfield: Some cases have been actually diagnosed that way in the United States today.

2:00:10 Anthony Fauci: If you look at the curves of outbreaks historically that assembled it to this, the curve looks like this and then it goes up exponentially and that's the reason why it depends on how you respond now. So if we wait till we have many, many more cases, we will be multiple weeks behind. You know, I use the analogy at the press conference yesterday and I'll use it today. It's the old metaphor that the Wayne Gretzky approach, you know you skate not to where the puck is. but to where the puck is going to be. If we don't do very serious mitigation now, that what's going to happen is that we're going to be weeks behind and the horse is going to be out of the barn. And that's the reason why we've been saying even in areas of the country where there are no or few cases, we've got to change our behavior. We have to essentially assume that we are going to get hit. And that's why we talk about making mitigation and containment in a much more vigorous way. People ask, why would you want to make any mitigation? We don't have any cases. That's when you do it because we want this curve to be this and it's not going to do that unless we act now.

2:06:00 Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH) Robert Redfield: But also I see in the reports worldwide, we have a better than a 50% recovery rates. That true. Right. Robert Redfield: Right now, we'd say it's probably about 85%, sir.

2:06:45 Anthony Fauci: The end of the day. If you look at historically, for example, the experience we've had with China, about 80% of them have disease that makes people sick, but they ultimately recover without substantial medical intervention.


Transcript & Video: Transcript & Video: President Donald Trump Addresses The Nation On The Coronavirus Pandemic, By Colorado Public Radio Staff and The Associated Press, March 11, 2020

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Mar 21, 2020
CD210: The Afghanistan War
01:49:17

The Trump administration has made a deal with the Taliban which has been reported as "the beginning of the end" of the Afghanistan war... But is it? In this episode, an examination of Afghanistan's past helps us understand our current role in Afghanistan and by looking into the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, 2020 government funding law, and some key Congressional hearings, we get some insight into our possible future in terms of America's "forgotten war".


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD093: Our Future in War

CD208: The Brink of the Iran War


Bills

HR 1158: Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020

  • Page 53: Operation and Maintenance, Defense-Wide: Allows up to $225 million to be given to other countries for military operations in Afghanistan in addition to over $1 billion that can be giving to “foreign security forces or other groups or individuals” for any “Department of Defense security cooperation programs”

  • Page 55: Afghanistan Security Forces Fund: Provides over $4.1 billion to the security forces of Afghanistan that can be spent on equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, construction, and “funding”. Out of this $4.1 billion, $10 million musth be used for recruiting women into the Afghanistan National Security Forces

  • Section 9021: Funds for the Afghanistan Security Forces are allowed to be transferred to them even if they have conducted human rights abuses that are so bad that funding them would be illegal, as long as the Defense Secretary certifies that “a denial of such assistance would… significantly undermine United States national security objectives in Afghanistan” and that Afghanistan’s officials have promised to do better.

National Defense Authorization Act - 1,119 pages Signed December 20

  • Sec. 1211: Extends the authority for the Defense Department to transfer weapons and provide military services to the security forces of Afghanistan for two more years, until December 31, 2022.

  • Section 1213: Allows (but doesn’t not require) a maximum of $3 million per year to be paid to people injured or killed by US forces or our partners. The Defense Secretary gets to write the regulations determining the amounts of payments and to whom they will go.

  • Section 1216: The Secretary of State “shall seek to ensure the meaningful participation of Afghan women in the peace process in Afghanistan”

  • Section 1520: Requires $10 million of the Afghanistan Security Forces fund to be spent on women’s integration and other women’s program


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Additional Resources


Sound Clip Sources


Hearing: United States Strategy in Afghanistan, United States Senate Armed Services Committee, February 11, 2020

Witnesses

  • Jack Keane: Chairman of the Institute for The Study of War
    • Appointed by John McCain when he was Chairman to the Congressional Committee on the National Defense Strategy
  • Dr. Colin Jackson: Professor at the United States Naval War College
    • Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia
Transcript:

27:30 Jack Keane: General, Scott Miller, one of our very best commanders in Afghanistan who was due to brief you next month, was working on reducing U.S. troop presence before negotiations began with the Taliban. He concluded after he took command and did his assessment that he had more troops than are required to do the mission. In other words, the troop reduction that we will undergo to 8,600 is an acceptable risk in the mind of the Commander in Charge. Second, we need to reduce the financial burden on the United States. Currently it's around $45.5 billion from a high down from a high of 110 billion in 2010 during the Afghan surge. Let's get it down. It's possible, certainly below 30 billion initially and eventually below that. Not just because of the troop reductions, but by reductions also in contractors who represent a $27 billion cost of the 45 billion. Ashraf Ghani, who I've spoken to on more than one occasion, if he forms a new government, wants to reduce the U.S. burden of $5 billion to the Afghan national security forces, he wants to provide more funds himself. He thinks he can do that, and he's had negotiations with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and a couple of others to assist in the financing.

1:51:00 Sen. Angus King (ME): We're doing counter terrorism in other countries without a military presence. Colin Jackson: Absolutely. Sen. Angus King (ME): Would that be possible in Afghanistan? Colin Jackson: Not in the same way. In other words, it's much more...it's much easier for us geographically and politically to operate in a place like Yemen from offshore than it is for us to operate offshore into Afghanistan. It has to do with distances. It has to do with agreements with neighboring countries, that type of thing.

1:52:20 Sen. Angus King (ME): Is this a case, would you make to the American people that this is a place where we need an indefinite presence? Not at a terribly high level but as at a level that will enable us to keep, as I think you use the term "keep a foot on the throat of the terrorists." Jack Keane: I totally agree with that assessment. I think it's a political apple that leaders are not willing to swallow and talk to the American people honestly about - this is a multigenerational problem that we've got. We are being selective about which radical Islamic groups are threatening the American people. And you can make a case that we could possibly have to have a counterterrorism for us someplace in central South Asia, best place is Afghanistan, as long as that threat is there indefinitely. Sen. Angus King (ME): And it will require a military presence to support the counter terrorism function, is that what you're saying? Jack Keane: And I think we will eventually, frankly, get down below 8,600, at some point, and we'll narrow that down to Intelligence, Counter-Terrorism and Air Power that's outside the country to be able to support our activities. But it could possibly lead to an indefinite commitment of a small number of forces in that country. Much like we have less than a thousand now trying to keep our foot on ISIS, keep our foot on their throat in Syria to make sure that they don't re-emerge. Sen. Angus King (ME): I think you'd agree on it and I'm out of time, but I think you'd agree that if that's going to be the case, somebody's got to tell the American people. Jack Keane: I totally agree with that, Senator. Totally agree with that. Sen. Angus King (ME): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1:53:48 Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK): I think there's merit in having a closed hearing for this committee. But not necessarily, we can do it ourselves. Good thought. We'll follow through.


Hearing: Examining the Trump Administration’s Afghanistan Strategy, United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Homeland Security, January 28, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses

  • John Sopko: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
Transcript:

17:35 Rep. Jody Hice (GA): To date, American taxpayers have spent $780 billion on combat operations, $137 billion on reconstruction efforts since 2002, so we're pushing $1 trillion here during that time. And in spite of that money, we've lost 2,400 courageous American service members during the conflict and one stat that often is overlooked is over 20,000 who had been wounded in action, many of them very seriously.

18:15 Rep. Jody Hice (GA): The United States is drawn down our military presence from a peak of about a hundred thousand under the Obama administration to less than 14,000 today.

26:30 John Sopko: Unfortunately, since my last appearance, not much has changed on the ground in Afghanistan to diminish our concerns. The military situation is still a deadly stalemate. The Afgan economy - extremely weak. Corruption - rampant. Narcotics production - growing. Reintegration of ex-combatants - problematic. Women's rights - threatened. And oversight restricted by widespread insecurity. Our newest quarterly report, which will be released in a few days, discusses all of these threats and in particular highlights that if peace is to be sustainable, financial support from donors will need to continue and may need to continue for years to come.

28:00 John Sopko: Now more than ever, I caution that if there is a peace agreement and continued assistance provided to the Afghan people, oversight needs to remain mission critical. Otherwise you might as well pile up all the dollars and euros in Masood Circle and downtown Kabul and burn them for whatever good they can accomplish.

32:55 John Sopko: Every metric that we used to provide you the Congress and the American people in our quarterly reports. Every metric that you would find useful is now either classified or no longer available. Now it's available, some of it in a classified setting, and I know Chairman, you and I spent some time there briefing on it. You know how difficult it is to use that, but this was information that we'd been providing publicly for years, and then it's been taken away. So that is a problem, but I can't answer why they eliminated that.

46:00 John Sopko: We decided to embark upon trying to learn some lessons from those 18 years. And what happened is in the course of that, we got a lot of information, reviewed a lot of cables, interviewed a lot of people. Some of the people we interviewed were reflective of what happened 10 years ago. And they basically were saying...I think General Lute and others that...we didn't know what was going on, but that was sort of after the fact. They're reflecting. It was very useful information in some areas, but a lot of the information was also talking about the warfighting and none of our reports deal with the warfighting. We deal with reconstruction and the training. We don't look at whether we should be in Afghanistan or not. So when Ambassador Lute or General Flynn say, we shouldn't be there, that's nice. It's his opinion, it's their opinion. But it doesn't help us do these lessons learned reports, which we've done seven. So that explains it. It's not that these people were evil, they're just reflecting on what they saw and observed seven, eight years ago.

48:55 John Sopko: We've almost created a system that forces people in the government to give happy talk - success stories because they're over there on very short rotations. They want to show success. The whole system is almost geared to give you, and it goes up the chain of command all the way to the President sometimes. He gets bad information from people out in the field because somebody on a nine month rotation, he has to show success and that goes up.

50:25 John Sopko: Well, Congress, I don't know if I can answer the bigger question about whether we are wasting our time or not. I'm going to leave that to you and the President to decide. But we are giving them systems, whether it's military hardware or other systems, that they can't use. And one of the questions we asked early on is do the Afghans and know about what we're giving them? Will they use it? Do they want it? And we couldn't even get government agencies that asked those questions. And I have run across Afghans who said, "I didn't know that clinic was being built until it was given to us by the donors."

53:05 John Sopko: We also have this hubris, which I think was identified before, that we think we can turn Afghanistan into little America or another Norway. We can't. That's the hubris.

54:25 John Sopko: Maybe incentivize honesty. And one of the proposals I gave at that time, cause I was asked by the staff to come up with proposals, is put the same requirement on the government that we impose on publicly traded corporations. Publicly traded corporations have to tell the truth. Otherwise the SEC will indict the people involved. They have to report when there's a significant event. So put that on us, call it The Truth in Government Act if you want, that you in the administration are duty bound by statute to alert Congress to significant events that could directly negatively impact a program or process. So incentivize honesty.

56:15 John Sopko: Well, I think now more than ever, because there are fewer state department aid people and DOD people there, you need somebody watching the store. And there will be a tendency, because of a security situation, decrease staffing to give the money directly to the Afghan government or to give the money through third party monitors such as the world bank and UN and other international organizations. And we have reported in the past that, first of all, the Afghan government's incapable of handling the money. We really need to do a ministerial assessment ministry by ministry to determine whether they can handle our taxpayer money. And then secondly, we have some real questions about some of these international organizations. The UN and the World Bank we've already identified have serious problems with monitoring it. So what we're saying is don't just focus on the troop level. Don't just focus on the amount of money, focus on how we are going to protect the U.S. taxpayers dollars. That's why I think now more than ever, we have to keep our focus on that.

59:11 Rep. Tom Massie (KY): Can you tell us how much we have spent on Afghanistan reconstruction at this point? John Sopko Congressman Massey, I can. The latest figure is 136.97 billion as of December 31st. So 136, you can round it off to 137 billion. That's staggering to me. But just for reference, the entire federal budget for roads and bridges is 50 billion to 60 billion. It's gone up a little bit. We could double our spending on our nation's infrastructure for two or three years for what we've spent in Afghanistan.

1:04:10 John Sopko: This building of this empire. You talk about it, you don't want to see, well, there is a soldier or somebody from the Pentagon who is trying to oversee that. If he comes back and the first traunch who's going to be protecting your money? That's my concern. That is the big concern. Getting out as a concern. But we've kind of worked our way around that. But you can't cut the oversight capabilities of Aid, State, and DOD in this, this drive for what they called right-sizing.

1:06:35 John Sopko: It has been our goal from the beginning is that kicked the Taliban out and try to help to create an Afghan government to keep the bad guys out from attacking us. So that's been a constant goal of all of the administrations. Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC): However, that goal seems to be very far in the distance. I mean, we have a great difficulty in achieving that. Correct? John Sopko: Well, I think the obvious answer is that we got 80,000 or 60,000 Taliban plus you have five to 10,000, I think ISIS members, and you got 20 over terrorist groups there. So obviously we have not succeeded in keeping the bad guys out or creating a government that can keep them out.

1:10:25 John Sopko: 70%. Over 70% of the Afghan budget comes from the United States and the donors. If that money ended, I have said before and I will stand by it, then the Afghan government will probably collapse.

1:10:45 Rep. Stacey Plaskett (VI) I can only think of those soldiers, those USA ID individuals who had been there all these years through their rotations, risking life, supporting the Americans objective, to have that thrown away because we believe we need to withdraw our troops at this point is just such a slap in their face.

1:13:15 Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC): And the American people, be sure the money being sent to Afghanistan is being spent for legitimate purposes and not being used for corrupt purposes. John Sopko: As hard as we all try, I don't think I have a warm, fuzzy feeling about the money being spent and its intended purposes. And I don't mean to be facetious ma'am, but the former head of CSTCA is an example. That's the Combined Security Training Command Afghanistan - estimated at one point that 50% of the fuel that we purchase for the Afghans disappears. 50%, so we're talking billions. So it is a significant problem, ma'am.

1:16:30 Chairman Carolyn Maloney (NY): I'd like to focus my questions on the importance of women in Afghanistan and the differences that has made with a America allowing them to participate in the economy and an education. I recall when we first went to Afghanistan, women were murdered and killed if they went to school. And now I'm told that they have made a tremendous progress over the past 18 years. They make up a 14% of a kindergarten to 12th grade and 30% of university students now are women. And there are more than 170 public and private higher education institutions across the country, even in the most difficult parts of Afghanistan. And I'm told that women are the majority of teachers at these schools, which is important. And according to some government reports, women make up to 27% of government employees before they were not even allowed to work. And they serve as ministers, deputy ministers, judges, and in many other positions. According to the United nations, maternal mortality rates...They used to be second in the world and they have fallen substantially. And that is because there are so many women that are trained as midwives and health professionals now and are working to help other women. And I understand they're over 530 public and private hospitals and hundreds of health and sub health centers. And even if these numbers are exaggerated women appear to be an important part of the success that is happening, certainly in education and healthcare. And so, wouldn't that alone makeup our investments, wouldn't that alone justify our investments in the country? I know the United nations has made several reports that when women are educated and empowered and respected, the amount of terrorism in that country or in that village goes down. So investing in women and allowing them to be part of of the country and not killing them if they go to school. I think we've made a tremendous impact in that country. And I'm afraid if we retreat and leave, it'll go back to the way it was before.

1:19:40 John Sopko: I must admit, for all the trips I've gone there and all of the Afghan women I have talked to, I have not met one Afghan woman who trusts the Taliban. And the concern is if they're excluded from the negotiations or if the negotiations are done by men and they ignore the advances, it is going to be very bad for women in Afghanistan.

1:29:45 John Sopko: Well, we actually, at the request of former Congressman Walter P. Jones and others, we did an analysis on how much money was wasted in Afghanistan. It was a very difficult, long term project. So we looked at all of our contracts that we have reviewed. And so 52 billion of that, 136 billion we looked at, and we basically determined that up to 15 billion. So about 30% was either wasted or stolen. Now, that was just of the universe that we had already looked at.

1:31:00 John Sopko: And again, how do we define waste? You notice three variables that we as IGs look at inputs, outputs, and outcomes. We look at the outcome that the administrations told Congress they were supposed to resolve. So like in counternarcotics, it was to lessen the amount of opium, it was to end that scourge. Well, it's been a total waste. None of our programs have led to any reduction in opium in Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, opium is the largest export of Afghanistan. It's more than the licit crop. I think it's 1.2 to $2 billion in export. The licit, the pine nuts and everything else they sell comes to less than a billion. So we looked at that program and said, that's a waste. We spent, we wasted $9 billion. We've accomplished really nothing.

1:32:25 John Sopko: Back in 2013, I sent a letter to the Sec Def, Sec State and Administrator of USAID and I said, can you list your top 10 successes and your bottom 10 failures and why? And this would have forced the administration to rack and stack their programs, list what works, what doesn't, and try to understand what works there. They refused to answer the mail in 2013. So in 2014 we basically came up the lessons learned program. I was trying to answer my mail to you. You got to force the administration to be honest. And, and it's not political, Republican, Democrat. The administration has to come in and tell you specifically, why are you spending this money? What do you expect to accomplish at the end, you're going to spend $9 billion in counter narcotics and the end result is that there's actually more opium been grown. Are you going to spend $500 million on airplanes and they can't fly? You're going to spend millions of dollars on air on buildings that melt. I mean, you need to hold people accountable. You need to bring in the head of those programs and say, "what were you thinking?" And don't be negative about it. Just say, look at if it doesn't work, stop, do something else.

1:38:15 John Sopko: But if you decide this is important, then the biggest stick you have for the Afghans as well as the Taliban, because the Taliban want foreign assistance too. That's what's been reported, is that 70% of the budget, those billions of dollars that they will want, and you have to hold their feet to the fire. It's called conditionality. So if you want assistance, you can't go back to your old ways. I mean, that would be the way I would bargain this.

1:42:55 John Sopko: We need to have a government that the Afghan people trust and believe in, and it offers a modicum of services that those people want. Because the difficulty we have is that, for example, Afghan people want a little bit of justice. They don't want to have to pay a bribe to get it. What we gave them were a bunch of courthouses that looked nice. They would fit in any American city, but that's not what the Afghan people wanted. They wanted a modicum of justice that they didn't have to pay a bribe.


Hearing: Craig Whitlock on the Afghanistan Papers, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, January 6, 2020

Guest

  • Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post
Transcript:

1:45 Bill Scanlan: The Special Inspector General - SIGAR...They've done monthly reports, almost weekly updates. They're very transparent and open. What was the purpose they told you of these, these interviews and why had they been held secret or classified or unavailable to the public? Craig Whitlock: Right. So the reason they did these interviews was for a special project called Lessons Learned in which they were trying to figure out the mistakes made during the war in Afghanistan. This started in 2014 and it's important to remember, this was five years ago, people thought the war was coming to an end. You know, President Obama had declared an end to combat operations. He had promised to withdraw all U.S. troops by the end of his presidency. So the Inspector General thought it'd be a good time to figure out what mistakes were made that they could learn about for the future if they were ever involved in another war. So they did hundreds of these interviews and did publish a number of reports about these lessons learned. But what they did is they left out all the good parts, all the striking quotes, all the unvarnished commentary from people who were involved in the war about just how bad things were. They left all that out, and so we had to go in under the Freedom of Information Act and obtain those. That way. They're not classified, these are public documents. It's just we had to persuade the Inspector General to finally release them.


Speech: U.S. Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, C-SPAN, White House Speech, March 27, 2009

Full Transcript

Guest

  • Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post
Transcript:

5:00 Barack Obama: So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

12:00: Barack Obama: We will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces, so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country.

13:55 Barack Obama: to advance security, opportunity and justice -- not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces -- we need agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers. That's how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that, isn't dominated by illicit drugs. And that's why I'm ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground. That's also why we must seek civilian support from our partners and allies, from the United Nations and international aid organizations.

15:20 Barack Obama: As we provide these resources, the days of unaccountable spending, no-bid contracts, and wasteful reconstruction must end. So my budget will increase funding for a strong Inspector General at both the State Department and USAID, and include robust funding for the special inspector generals for Afghan Reconstruction.


Testimony: International Campaign Against Terrorism, C-SPAN, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, October 25, 2001

Witness

  • Colin Powell: Secretary of State
Transcript:

26:50 Colin Powell: Our work in Afghanistan though, is not just of a military nature. We recognize that when the Al Qaeda organization has been destroyed in Afghanistan, and as we continue to try to destroy it in all the nations in which it exists around the world, and when the Taliban regime has gone to its final reward, we need to put in place a new government in Afghanistan, one that represents all the people of Afghanistan and one that is not dominated by any single powerful neighbor, but instead is dominated by the will of the people of Afghanistan.

27:10 Colin Powell: We need to put in place a new government in Afghanistan.

27:25 Colin Powell: Ambassador Richard Haass, the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department is my personal representative working with the United Nations.

42:45 Colin Powell: I think once the Taliban regime is gone and there's hope for a new broad-based government that represents all the people of Afghanistan, and when aid starts to flow in, I think that will cause most of the groupings in Afghanistan to realize this is not the time to fight this as the time to participate in this new world. That's our hope.


Public Address: U.S. Military Strikes, C-SPAN, President George W. Bush, October 7, 2001
Transcript:

President George W. Bush: Good afternoon. On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against Al-Qaida terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime. More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands, closed terrorist training camps, hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network, and return all foreign nationals including American citizens, unjustly detained in your country. None of these demands were met and now the Taliban will pay a price by destroying camps and disrupting communications. We will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.

Mar 08, 2020
Thank You Dr. Drew
01:25:42

We're all going to die! Or not. In this bonus "thank you" episode, Dr. Drew and legit health experts put some perspective on the coronavirus hysteria, Jen outlines the new emergency coronavirus law that funnels tax money to the pharmaceutical industry, Jen shares her Super Tuesday poll worker experience and rants about Joe Biden's horrendous voting record, and we get an update on the not-a-Brexit before Jen thanks the wonderful souls who made episode CD210 possible.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

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Articles/Documents


Resources

Sound Clip Sources


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Mar 08, 2020
CD209: USMCA with Lori Wallach
01:09:19

The Trump administration renegotiated NAFTA and the 116th Congress passed those changes in order to make the USMCA into law. In this episode, international trade expert Lori Wallach, the Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, joins Jen to explain the differences between NAFTA and the USMCA. What you hear may surprise you.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

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Bills


About Lori Wallach


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 23, 2020
Thank You Kang and Kodos
01:23:04

What should we call the wealth hoarders who are rigging the world economy? In this bonus "thank you" episode, Jen and Husband Joe discuss the best term for describing the global economy architects, an enlightening piece of CIA history, and the new job prospects for Mike Bloomberg sycophants as we thank all the wonderful souls who make Congressional Dish possible.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!


Resources


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 23, 2020
CD208: The Brink of the Iran War
01:40:39

2020 began with a bombing in Iraq - ordered by President Trump - which killed one of Iran's highest ranking military officers. In this episode, we take a close look at the recent history of our relationship with the Iranian government in order to understand how we started the year on the brink of another war. Also, since our President is a total wildcard, we look at what Congress authorized for 2020 in terms of war with Iran, Iraq, and Syria. 


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD041: Why Attack Syria?

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Bills

Bill: S.1790 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 Congress.gov, December 20, 2019

  • Sec. 1208: Eliminates the authorization for payments that started in late 2016 “for damage, personal injury, or death that is incident to combat operations of the armed forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. 
  • Sec. 1210A: Allows the Defense Department to give the State Department and USAID money for “stabilization activities” in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia and authorizes an additional $100 million for this year (bringing the limit up to $450 million) 
  • Sec. 1217: Allows the Defense Secretary to use War on Terror money for paying “any key cooperating nation (other than Pakistan)” for logistical, military, or other support that nation gives to our military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria. 
  • Sec. 1221: Withholds at least half of the $645 million authorized by the 2015 NDAA for “military and other security forces of or associated with the Government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces or other local security forces” for “training, equipment, logistics support, supplies, and services, stipends, facility and infrastructure repair and renovation, and sustainment” until the DoD submits a report that includes an estimate of the funding anticipated to support the Iraqi Security Forces through September 2025. The report also needs to include how much and what kind of assistance if being given to forces in Iraq by the Government of Iran. Also, a new stipulation is added saying that our military assistance authorized since 2015 “may only be exercised in consultation with the Government of Iraq.” 
  • Sec. 1222: Changes the authorization from 2015 that allowed the Defense Department to train, equip, supply, give money to and construct facilities for “vetted elements of the Syria opposition” so that the “opposition” is no longer allowed to get the money or training. The new language eliminates all mentions of the “opposition” groups and deletes “promoting the conditions for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Syria” from the list of authorized purposes. The new language focuses specifically on providing assistance to combat the Islamic State and al Qaeda. It also limits the kinds of weapons that can be given to Syria groups to “small arms or light weapons” (there is a way for the Defense Secretary to waive this) and it limits the amount that can be spent on construction projects to $4 million per project or $20 million total. 
  • Sec. 1223: Eliminates the authority for the Defense Department to fund “operations and activities of security assistance teams in Iraq” and removes the authority to pay for “construction and renovation of facilities”. The law still allows $30 million for the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq (a $15 million funding cut). The authorization will then sunset 90 days after enactment (mid March 2020). The OSCI can’t get more than $20 million until they appoint a Senior Defense Official to oversee the office, develop a staffing plan “similar to that of other security cooperation offices in the region”, and they create a five-year “security assistance roadmap” that enables “defense institution building and reform.” 
  • Sec. 1284: “Nothing in this Act, or any amendment made by this Act, may be construed to authorize the use of military force, including the use of military force against Iran or any other country.” 
  • Sec. 5322: Creates a “Foreign Malign Influence Response Center” under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which will “be comprised of analysts from all elements of the intelligence community, including elements with diplomatic an law enforcement functions” and will be the “primary organization” for analyzing all intelligence “pertaining to foreign malign influence.” The foreign countries that will specifically be reported on are, in this order, Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, and “any other country”. “Foreign malign influence” means “any hostile effort undertaken by, at the direction of, or on behalf of or with the substantial support of, the government of a covered foreign country with he objective of influencing, through overt or covert means the (A) political, military, economic or other policies or activities of the United States Government… including any election within the United States or (B) the public opinion within the United States.” 
  • Sec. 5521: “It is the sense of Congress that, regardless of the ultimate number of United States military personnel deployed to Syria, it is a vital interest of the United States to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah, and other Iranian backed forces from establishing a strong and enduring presence in Syria that can be used to project power in the region and threaten the United States and its allies, including Israel.”A report is required within six months that will include how Iran is militarily training and funding the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad and the threat that Iran’s forces pose to “areas of northeast Syria that are currently controlled by local partner forces of the United States.” The report also must outline “how Iran and Iranian backed forces seek to enhance the long-term influence of such entities in Syria through non-military means such as purchasing strategic real estate in Syria, constructing Shia religious centers in schools, securing loyalty from Sunni tribes in exchange for material assistance, and inducing the Assad government to open Farsi language department at Syrian universities.” The report must also include “How Iran is working with the Russian Federation, Turkey, and other countries to increase the influence of Iran in Syria.” The NDAA assumes the Iranian goals in Syria are "protecting the Assad government, increasing the regional influence of Iran, threatening Israel from a more proximate location, building weapon production facilities and other military infrastructure, and securing a land bridge to connect to run through Iraq and Syria to the stronghold of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.” The report also must include descriptions of "the efforts of Iran to transfer advanced weapons to Hisballah and to establish a military presence in Syria has led to direct and repeated confrontations with Israel”, "the intelligence and military support that the United States provides to Israel to help Israel identify and appropriately address specific threats to Israel from Iran and Iranian-backed forces in Syria”, “The threat posed to Israel and other allies of the United States in the middle east resulting from the transfer of arms to… Hezbollah”, and “Iranian expenditures in the previous calendar year on military and terrorist activities outside the country, including the amount of such expenditures with respect to each of Hizballah, Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hamas, and proxy forces in Iraq and Syria.”
  • Sec. 6706: The 2017 Intelligence Authorization (Section 501) created a committee made up of the Director of National Intelligence, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Treasury, Attorney General, Secretary of Energy, FBI Director, and the heads of “each of the other elements of the intelligence community” for the purposes of countering “active measures by Russia to exert covert influence over peoples and government by exposing falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism, and assassinations carried out by the security services are political elites of the Russian Federation or their proxies.” This NDAA adds China, Iran, North Korea, “or other nation state” to the target list. 
  • Sec. 6729: Orders an Intelligence Assessment into the revenue sources of North Korea, specifically requiring inquiries into “(1) Trade in coal, iron, and iron ore. (2) Fishing rights in North Korea’s territorial waters (3) Trade in gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore, copper, silver, nickel, zinc, and rare earth minerals.” They also want to know what banking institutions are processing North Korean financial transactions. 
  • Sec. 7412:  Effective starting in June 2020, the President “shall” enact sanctions on a “foreign person” if that person gives money, material or technical support to the Government of Syria, is a military contractor working for the Government of Syria, the Russian government, or the Iranian government, sells items that “significantly facilitates the maintenance or expansion of the Government of Syria’s domestic production of natural has, petroleum, or petroleum products”, or “directly or indirectly, provides significant construction or engineering services to the Government of Syria.” If the sanctions are violated, the President “shall” use his power to “block and prohibit all transactions in property and interests in property of the foreign person” if that property “comes within the United States, are come within the possession or control of United States person.” The foreign persons will also be ineligible for visas into the United States except to permit the United States to comply with the agreement regarding the headquarters of the United Nations or to assist with US law-enforcement.
  • Sec. 7402: Statement of Policy: …”to support a transition to a government in Syria that respects the rule of law, human rights, and peaceful co-existence with its neighbors.” 
  • Sec. 7411: Gives the Secretary of the Treasury until late June to determine “whether reasonable grounds exist for concluding that the Central Bank of Syria is a financial institution of primary money laundering concern.” If it’s a yes, the Secretary of the Treasury “shall” impose “special measures” that could require banks to retain more records about transactions in Syria, give the government information about the people who conduct financial transactions with people in Syria, or prohibit US banks from opening accounts for Syrian banks. 
  • Sec. 7413: Orders the President to submit a strategy to Congress by June 2020 to “deter foreign persons from entering into contracts related to reconstruction” in areas of Syria under the control of the Government of Syria, the Government of Russia, or the Government of Iran. 
  • Sec. 7424: Authorizes the Secretary of State to “provide assistance to support entities that are conducting criminal investigations, supporting prosecutions, or collecting evidence” against those that have committed war crimes in Syria. The assistance can’t be given as long as President Bashar al-Assad is in power, can’t be used to build judicial capacities of the Syrian government, or for prosecutions in the domestic courts of Syria. 
  • Sec. 7438: This title (Sections 7401-7438) sunsets in 5 years. 

 

Bill: H.Con.Res.83 - Directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran. Congress.gov, January 9, 2020

 

Bill: H. R. 1158 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 GPO, January 3, 2019

  • Sec. 9007:  No funds from this year’s funding or any other law can’t be used to “establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Forces in Iraq” or to “exercise United States control over any oil resource of Iraq”

Bill: H.R.3107 - Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 Congress.gov, August 5, 1996


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Sound Clip Sources


Press Conference: Trump tells GOP donors that Soleimani was 'saying bad things' before strike, The Hill, January 10, 2020

Hearing: From Sanctions to the Soleimani Strike to Escalation: Evaluating the Administration’s Iran Policy, United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, January 14, 2020

Watch on Youtube Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses

  • DID NOT SHOW: Mike Pompeo
  • Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Avril Haines, Columbia University (formerly NSA and CIA)
  • Stephen Hadley
Transcript:

44:55 Richard Haass: Here, I would highlight the American decision in 2018 to exit the 2015 nuclear agreement, the JCPOA, and the decision to introduce significant sanctions against Iran. These sanctions constituted a form of economic warfare. Iran was not in a position to respond in kind and instead instituted a series of military actions meant to make the United States and others pay a price for these sanctions and therefore to conclude they needed to be removed. It is also important, I believe, to point out here that the United States did not provide a diplomatic alternative to Iran when it imposed these sanctions. This was the context in which the targeted killing of Qassem Suleimani took place. This event needs to be assessed from two vantage points. One is legality. It would have been justified to attack Suleimani if he was involved in mounting a military action that was imminent. If there is evidence that can responsibly be made public supporting that these criteria were met of imminence, it should be. If, however, it turns out criteria were not met, that what took place was an action of choice rather than the necessity, I fear it will lead to an open ended conflict between the United States and Iran. Fought in many places with many tools and few red lines that will be observed. The President tweeted yesterday that the question of this imminence doesn't really matter. I would respectfully disagree. Imminence is central to the concept of preemption, which is treated in international law as a legitimate form of self defense. Preventive attacks though are something very different. They are mounted against a gathering threat rather than an imminent one, and a world of regular preventive actions would be one in which conflict was prevalent.

47:20 Richard Haass: First, there were other, and I believe better ways to reestablish deterrence with Iran. Secondly, the killing interrupted what I believe were useful political dynamics in both Iran and Iraq. Thirdly, U.S.-Iraqi ties were deeply strained. Fourthly, we've been forced to send more forces to the region rather than make them available elsewhere. Fifthly, given all worldwide challenges, I do not believe it is in our strategic interest to have a new war in the middle East. And six, Iran has already announced plans to take steps at odds with the JCPOA, which will shrink the window it needs to build a nuclear weapon if it decides to do so. And if this happens, it will present both the United States and Israel with difficult and potentially costly choices.

50:16 Richard Haass: Let me just make a few recommendations and I know my time is growing short. One, the United States should work closely with its allies and other signatories of the JCPOA to put together the outlines of a new agreement. Call it JCPOA 2.0 and present Iran with a new deal. It would establish longer term or better yet open-ended limits on Iran, nuclear and missile programs. In exchange for sanctions relief, Congress should approve any such agreement to remove the concern that this pack could be easily undone by any President, and such initiatives should emerge from consultation with allies. Our policy toward Iran has become overly unilateral and is less effective for it.

1:02:50 Stephen Hadley: The problem was that the strike occurred in Iraq. The fear of becoming the central battleground in a military confrontation between the United States and Iran is being used to justify calls for the expulsion of us forces from Iraq. But a U.S. withdrawal would only reward Kata'ib Hezbollah's campaign of violence, strengthen the uranium backed militias, weaken the Iraqi government, undermine Iraqi sovereignty, and jeopardize the fight against ISIS. A terrible outcome for both the United States and Iraq. To keep U.S. Forces in Iraq, Iraqi authorities will have to manage the domestic political fallout from the strike on Suleimani. U.S. Administration and the Congress can help by making public statements reaffirming that America respects the sovereignty and independence of Iraq that U.S. Forces are in Iraq to train Iraqi security forces and to help them protect the Iraqi people from a resurgent ISIS that the United States will coordinate with the Iraqi government on matters involving the U.S. Troop presence, that so long as U.S. Troops and diplomats in Iraq are not threatened, America's confrontation with Iran will not be played out on Iraqi territory, and that the United States supports the aspirations of the Iraqi people for a government that can meet their needs and expectations, and is free of corruption, sectarianism and outside influence.

1:49:30 Richard Haass: The other thing I think you heard from all three of us is the importance of repairing the U.S.-Iraqi relationship. I mean, think about it. Qasem Soleimani's principle goal was to drive the United States out of Iraq. Why in the world would we want to facilitate his success there after his death? We ought to make sure that doesn't happen. And Steve Hadley gave, I thought, a lot of good ideas about ways we could signal almost to help the Iraqi government manage the Iraqi politics. We could also look at some creative things. When I was in the Pentagon years ago, when we were building what became Central Command, we used to look at the idea of presence without stationing. There's ways to have a regular force presence without necessarily having forces be permanent. This may help the Iraqi government manage the politics of it without a serious diminuition of our capabilities.

1:58:20 Richard Haass: I think there's a fundamental difference between taking out a member of a terrorist organization and taking out an individual who is, who was an official of a nation state, who happens to use terrorist organizations to promote what the state sees as its agenda. I'm not saying it's necessarily wrong, I'm saying it's a big step. We've crossed a line here. So I think one thing this committee needs to think about is when it looks at AUMF's, none is on the books that allows us to do this as best I understand. So I think it's a legitimate question for this committee to say, do we need to think about an AUMF towards Iran that deals with this set of scenarios, where Iran would use military force to promote its ends, and also with the one that both Steve Hadley and I have talked about here, about the gathering threat on the Iranian nuclear side.

2:07:50 Avril Haines: Clearly the strike had an enormous impact on our relationship with Iraq. Iraq has come out and indicated that they did not provide consent for this particular strike on their territory. And it has brought the parliament to the point where they've actually passed to vote calling for the U.S. Forces to leave. And we've seen that the Prime Minister has indicated that in fact, they want a delegation to talk about leaving Iraq. And I think, as Dr. Haass noted, this is in many respects exactly what Solemani had wanted. And as a consequence, we're now in a position where I think it will be likely that it is unsustainable for us to have the presence that we've had. I hope that's not true. I hope that we can in fact, get through this period with them and that their domestic politics don't erupt in such a way that it makes it impossible for us to stay.

2:42:15 Rep. Adriano Espaillat: My question to you individually, this is a yes or no answer question, is whether or not you feel you gathered enough information or evidence, that from the inspectors or otherwise that you feel that Iran complied with the provisions established by the JCPOA. Mr Hass, do you feel that they complied? Yes or no? Richard Haass: Based on everything I've read, the international inspectors made the case that Iran was in compliance. Rep. Adriano Espaillat: Ms. Haines? Avril Haines: Yeah, same. Rep. Adriano Espaillat: Mr. Hadley? Stephen Hadley: So far as I know, yes.


Interview: Pompeo on Soleimani Justification: I Don't Know Who Used "Imminent Threat" First, "But It Reflects What We Saw", Bret Baier with Fox News Channel Interviews Mike Pompeo, RealClear Politics, January 13, 2020

Speakers

  • Mike Pompeo
  • Bret Baier
Transcript:

Mike Pompeo: Not only when I was CIA director did I see the history and then what was the current activity for the first year and a half of this administration. But when I was a member of Congress serving on the house intelligence committee, I saw too, Suleimani's been a bad actor for decades in the region. He has the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hand. He's killed, or contributed to the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, Muslims, mostly throughout the region. This was a bad actor. And when we came to the point where we could see that he was plotting imminent attacks in the region to threaten Americans, a big attack, we recommended to the President he take this action. The president made the right decision.


Press Conference: Pompeo Imposes Sanctions on Iran, Sticking to Assertion That U.S. Faced Imminent Threat, White House Press Briefing, The New York Times, January 10, 2020
Transcript:

Mike Pompeo: We had specific information on an imminent threat, and that threat included attacks on U.S. embassies, period. Full stop.

Reporter: What's your definition of imminent? Mike Pompeo: This was going to happen, and American lives were at risk, and we would have been culpably negligent, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, that we would've been culpably negligent had we not recommended the President that he take this action with Qasam Suleimani. He made the right call and America is safer as a result of that. I don't know exactly which minute, we don't know exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear. Qasam Suleimani himself was plotting a broad, large scale attack against American interests, and those attacks were imminent.


Press Conference: The most troubling part of Mike Lee's broadside against the Trump administrations Iran briefing, The Washington Post, January 8, 2020
Transcript:

Mike Lee: They're appearing before a coordinate branch of government, a coordinate branch of government responsible for their funding, for their confirmation, for any approval of any military action they might undertake. They had to leave after 75 minutes while they're in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public. I find that absolutely insane. I think it's unacceptable. And so I don't know what they had in mind. I went in there hoping to get more specifics as far as the factual, legal, moral justification for what they did. I'm still undecided on that issue in part because we never got to the details. Every time we got close, they'd say, well, we can't discuss that here because it's really sensitive. We're in a skiff. We're in a secure underground bunker where all electronic devices have to be checked at the door and they still refuse to tell us. I find that really upsetting.


Interview: CNN Interview with Mike Pompeo The Hill, January 3, 2020
Transcript:

Mike Pompeo: We know it was imminent. This was an intelligence based assessment that drove our decision making process.


Hearing: Full Committee Hearing: “U.S. Policy in Syria and the Broader Region” House Armed Services Committee, December 11, 2019

Witnesses

  • Mark Esper - Secretary of Defense
  • General Mark Milley - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Transcript:

25:20 Mark Esper: Since May of this year, nearly 14,000 U.S. military personnel have deployed to the region to serve as a tangible demonstration of our commitment to our allies and our partners. These additional forces are not intended to signal an escalation, but rather to reassure our friends and buttress our efforts at deterrence.

25:40 Mark Esper: We are also focused on internationalizing the response to Iran's aggression by encouraging increased burden sharing and cooperation with allies and partners from around the world. The International Maritime Security Construct, which protects freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, and the more nascent integrated air and missile defense effort led by Saudi Arabia are two such examples. Through these activities, we are sending a clear message to Iran that the international community will not tolerate its malign activities.


Hearing: Review of the FY2020 Budget Request for the State Department

Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, April 9, 2019

Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses

  • Mike Pompeo
Transcript:

15:15 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Do you agree with me that having a stabilizing force in Northeastern Syria will prevent Iran from coming down and taking over their oil? Mike Pompeo: It is an important part of our overall Middle East strategy, including our counter-Iran strategy. Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): So, containing Iran, would include you having a policy in Syria that would keep them from benefiting from our withdrawal. Mike Pompeo: That's right. It's one piece of it. Yes. Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Okay.


Hearing: State Department Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request

House Foreign Affairs Committee, May 23, 2018

Witnesses

  • Mike Pompeo
Transcript:

18:05 Mike Pompeo: On Monday I unveiled a new direction for the President’s Iran strategy. We will apply unprecedented financial pressure; coordinate with our DOD colleagues on deterrents efforts; support the Iranian people, perhaps most importantly; and hold out the prospect for a new deal with Iran. It simply needs to change its behavior.


Speech: Pompeo vows U.S., Mideast allies will ‘crush’ Iranian operatives around the world, Heritage Foundation, May 21, 2018
Transcript:

Mike Pompeo: We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming. These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete.

Mike Pompeo: As President Trump said two weeks ago, he is ready, willing and able to negotiate a new deal. But the deal is not the objective. Our goal is to protect the American people.


Speech: Bolton: 'Our Goal Should Be Regime Change in Iran' Fox News, January 1, 2018
Transcript:

John Bolton: Our goal should be regime change in Iran.


Hearing: IRANIAN TERROR OPERATIONS ON AMERICAN SOIL SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT, INVESTIGATIONS, AND MANAGEMENT and the SUBCOMMITTEE ON COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE of the House Homeland Security Committee, October 26, 2011

Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses:

  • Reuel Marc Gerecht: CIA Officer who became a director at the Project for a New American Century. Also a former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Supported the Afghanistan regime change and Iraq regime change. Currently a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, which was founded after 9/11 and it funds “experts” who pushed Congress to fight the “war on terror”.
Transcript:

1:30:25 Reuel Marc Gerecht: Again, I have nothing against sanctions. I think there are lots of sanctions the United States should tighten. I'm in favor of most of what we might call central bank sanctions, the Iran oil free zone. There are lots of different things you can do, but again, I just emphasize the people who rule around Iran rose up essentially through killing people. They have maintained a coercive system. It's become more coercive with time, not less. They do not respond in the same rational economic ways that we do. Iran would not look like the country it is today if they were concerned about the bottom line. So, I don't think that you are going to really intimidate these people, get their attention unless you shoot somebody. It's a pretty blunt, but I don't think you get to get around it. I think for example, if we believe that the Guard Corps is responsible for this operation, then you should hold Qasem Soleimani responsible. Qasem Soleimani travels a lot. He's all over the place. Go get him. Either try to capture him or kill him.

1:32:10 Reuel Marc Gerecht: You could aggressively harrass many of their operations overseas. There's no doubt about that. But you would have to have a consensus to do that. I mean, the need is to say the White House, the CIA would have to be on board to do that. You would have to have the approval to do that. We all know it's Washington, D C these things are difficult to do. So you may find out that this type of covert action is actually much more difficult to do than going after, say Qasem Soleimani when he travels.


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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 09, 2020
Thanks for Policing the Primary
01:07:04

Impeachment, elections, resignations, oh my! In this bonus "thank you" episode, Jen dishes about the acquittal of President Trump, the State of the Union, and why it's so important for us peasants to personally police the presidential primary elections this year. After the updates, it's thank you time! 


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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Feb 09, 2020
Trailer: Congressional Dish
01:08
Jan 30, 2020
Thanks for (Finally) Sending the Articles
01:41:27

The House has finally sent the impeachment articles to the Senate. In this bonus "thank you" episode, Jen gives an update on the process and gives an important update on whether or not the President may have committed a crime. After the updates, thank you notes are read and responded to. This episode is not sponsored by Chipotle.


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CD206: Impeachment – The Evidence


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Hearing: Impeachment Inquiry Hearing with Laura Cooper and David Hale, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 20, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Laura Cooper and David Hale

Witnesses

Laura Cooper

  • She Joined the Department of Defense early in the George W. Bush administration - she was in the Pentagon in 9/11- and has served various positions in the Defense Department ever since
  • She’s currently Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia

2:04:15 Laura Cooper: There were two ways that we would be able to implement presidential guidance to stop obligating the Ukraine security assistance initiative. And the first option would be for the president to do a rescission. The second is a reprogramming action that the department of defense would do... Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): In both of those would require congressional notice. There would be an extra step that the president would have to take to notify Congress. As far as, you know, was there ever any notice that was sent out to Congress? Laura Cooper: Sir, I did express that, that I believed it would require a notice to Congress and that then there was no such notice to my knowledge or preparation of such a notice to my knowledge.


Hearing: Impeachment Hearing with Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Jennifer Williams, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 19, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams

Witnesses

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
Transcript:

3:47:00 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Did anyone, unto your understanding, raise the legality of withholding this assistance. Alexander Vindman: It was raised on several occasions. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And who raised those concerns? Alexander Vindman: So following the July 18th sub PCC, which is again what I coordinate or what I convene, at my level. There was a July 23rd, PCC that would have been conducted by Mr. Morrison. There were questions raised on as to the legality of the hold. Over the subsequent week, the issue was analyzed. And during the July 26th deputies...so the deputies from all the departments and agencies, there was an opinion rendered that it was, it was legal to, put the hold. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): It was, excuse me. Alexander Vindman: There was an opinion, legal, opinion rendered that it was, okay to, or that the hold was legal.


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Jan 18, 2020
CD207: State of Corporatism
01:26:41

It's 2020 and the government was actually funded before the new year! However, as always, dozens of bills hitched a ride into law attached to the government funding. In this episode, learn about some of the dingleberry laws that could effect your retirement savings, cable bills, and our partners in war.


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CD156: Sanctions – Russia, North Korea & Iran

CD186: National Endowment for Democracy

CD190: A Coup for Capitalism

CD191: The “Democracies” Of Elliott Abrams


Bills


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Town Hall Conversation: A Town Hall Conversation with Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Atlantic Council, January 7, 2020

Speakers:

  • Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Transcript:

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Companies such as Cisco and Pfizer are already looking to set up research centers in Greece.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: There's always this advice that other heads of state and government gave me when I was in the position. They told me, make sure you do the reforms very quickly. And then when you look at how other governments have performed, usually that is not the case. We are going against the trends. And we've also said that for 2020, we will continue with this aggressive reform agenda.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We're really looking to strengthen our ability to import LNG. We've expanded the LNG capacity of our main LNG terminal in Revithoussa outside Athens. But we're also looking to complete a floating storage and regasification unit and FSR EU outside the port of Alexandroupoli. I consider this port, this project absolutely critical for Greece. I've given it my full personal support. It will be an additional, source, entry point for LNG, also American LNG into the European market. And of course, as you pointed out, we have also signed the East Med pipeline, which is an ambitious longterm projects that will bring gas from the Eastern Mediterranean into the European markets. This is an important project for Europe, not just for Greece. Eastern Mediterranean is the only proven source of natural gas, new proven source of natural gas, that Europe has access to. For the next 30 years, at least, natural gas is going to be the transition fuel that will allow us to move towards a carbon neutral Europe. This is also important for Greece and our energy transition. And I think the countries of the region have taken the important geopolitical decision that the best way to get this gas out of the region is for a pipeline that will go through Cyprus, Greece and end up in Italy. So this is an important statement of intent. And we're very, very happy that we signed the project in Athens a few days ago.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: You're all aware of the fact that we are trying to unblock the old airport project, the Hellinikon project. And we've really worked very, very hard with our ministers to make sure that we remove all the unnecessary bureaucratic impediments in order for this investment to take place. We have two American companies bidding for the casino license. It's important that for the first time, some serious money is going to be invested in this project by American companies.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Started lowering our taxes, lower taxes on real estate, lowered taxes on corporation starting January 1st of this year. And I think there's a general sense in Greece that we are open for business. We're looking to aggressively attract foreign direct investment. And it's already beginning to happen.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We will start the discussions to explore the possibility of Greece joining the F35 program. This is an important priority for me and the government. Once the F16 program is completed in 2024, we feel we will have the fiscal space.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It is unacceptable within the context of an alliance to have one ally and member clearly provoke another ally, clearly referring to Turkey and the activities by President Erdogan. And that this is something which within the context of an alliance should not be brushed aside because the general approach of NATO has always been, Oh, okay, we have two ally members. They have their issues, let them sort it out, but I think we have a clear case to make that now the situation is rather different.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We want to use the additional fiscal space in order to further cut taxes and use only 20% of the additional fiscal space. So 80% will be directed towards further cutting taxes, and 20% will be used towards targeted social spending to address extreme inequality and extreme poverty in Greece.


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Jan 13, 2020
CD206: Impeachment: The Evidence
02:36:14

President Donald Trump has been impeached. In this episode, hear the key evidence against him presented by the witnesses called to testify in over 40 hours of hearings that took place in the "inquiry" phase of the impeachment. Using this episode, you will be able to judge for yourself how strong the case against President Trump really is as the country prepares for his Senate trial. 


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CD067: What Do We Want In Ukraine?

CD068: Ukraine Aid Bill

CD136: Building WWIII

CD156: Sanctions – Russia, North Korea & Iran

CD167: Combating Russia (NDAA 2018) LIVE

CD202: Impeachment?


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Hearing: Emerging U.S. Defense Challenges and Worldwide Threats, United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, December 6, 2019

Witnesses

  • General John M. Keane
  • Mr. Shawn Brimley
  • Dr. Robert Kagan
Transcript:

55:55 Robert Kagan: But as we look across the whole panoply of threats that we face in the world, I worry that it’s too easy to lose sight of what, to my mind, represent the greatest threats that we face over the medium- and long term and possibly even sooner than we may think, and that is the threat posed by the two great powers in the international system, the two great revisionist powers international system—Russia and China, because what they threaten is something that is in a way more profound, which is this world order that the United States created after the end of World War II—a global security order, a global economic order, and a global political order. This is not something the United States did as a favor to the rest of the world. It’s not something we did out of an act of generosity, although on historical terms it was a rather remarkable act of generosity. It was done based on what Americans learned in the first half of the twentieth century, which was that if there was not a power—whether it was Britain or, as it turned out, it had to be the United States—willing and able to maintain this kind of decent world order, you did not have some smooth ride into something else. What you had was catastrophe. What you had was the rise of aggressive powers, the rise of hostile powers that were hostile to liberal values. We saw it. We all know what happened with two world wars in the first half of the twentieth century and what those who were present at the creation, so to speak, after World War II wanted to create was an international system that would not permit those kinds of horrors to be repeated.


CNN Town Hall: Pelosi says Bill Clinton impeached for "being stupid", CNN, December 5, 2019

Speakers:

  • Nancy Pelosi
Transcript:

Questioner: So, Ms, Pelosi. You resisted calls for the impeachment of president Bush in 2006 and president Trump following the Muller report earlier this year, this time is different. Why did you oppose it? Why did you oppose impeachment in the past? And what is your obligation to protect our democracy from the actions of our president now? Pelosi: Thank you. I thank you for bringing up the question about, because when I became speaker the first time, there was overwhelming call for me to impeach president Bush on the strength of the war in Iraq, which I vehemently opposed. And I say it again, I said it other places. That was my wheelhouse. I was intelligence. I was a ranking member on the intelligence committee, even before I became part of the leadership of gang of four. So I knew there were no nuclear weapons in Iraq. It just wasn't there. They had to show us, they had to show the gang of four. All the intelligence they had, the intelligence did not show that that was the case. So I knew it was a misrepresentation to the public. But having said that, it was in my view, not a ground for impeachment. They won the election. They made a representation. And to this day, people think, people think that it was the right thing to do. People think Iraq had something to do with the 9/11. I mean, it's appalling what they did. But I did and I said, if somebody wants to make a case, you bring it forward. They had impeached bill Clinton for personal indiscretion and misrepresenting about it and some of these same people are saying, Oh, this doesn't rise to impeachment or that right there. And impeaching Bill Clinton for being stupid in terms of something like that. I mean, I love him. I think it was a great president, but being stupid in terms of that and what would somebody do not to embarrass their family, but in any event, they did Bill Clinton. Now they want me to do George this. I just didn't want it to be a way of life in our country. As far as the Muller report or there was a good deal of the academic setting and a thousand legal experts wrote a statement that said, the Muller Report impeach...is what's in there as an impeachable offense? So much of what's in the Muller report will be more clear once some of the court cases are resolved, but it wasn't so clear to the public. The Ukraine, this removed all doubt. It was self evident that the president undermined our national security, jeopardize the integrity of our elections as he violated his oath of office. There's just... That's something that cannot be ignored.


Hearing: Hearing on Constitutional Framework for Impeachment, House Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, December 4, 2019

Watch on Youtube: The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump

Witnesses

  • Professor Noah Feldman
  • Professor Pamela Karlan
  • Professor Michael Gerhardt
  • Professor Jonathan Turley
Transcript:

1:41:00 Michael Gerhardt: The gravity of the president's misconduct is apparent when we compare it to the misconduct of the one president resigned from office to avoid impeachment conviction and removal. The House Judiciary Committee in 1974 approved three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon who resigned a few days later. The first article charged him with obstruction of justice. If you read the Muller report, it identifies a number of facts. I won't lay them out here right now that suggest the president himself has obstructed justice. If you look at the second article of impeachment approved against Richard Nixon, it charged him with abuse of power for ordering the heads of the FBI, IRS, and CIA to harass his political enemies. In the present circumstance, the president is engaged in a pattern of abusing the trust, placing him by the American people, by soliciting foreign countries, including China, Russia, and Ukraine, to investigate his political opponents and interfere on his behalf and elections in which he is a candidate. The third article approved against president Nixon charged that he had failed to comply with four legislative subpoenas. In the present circumstance, the president has refused to comply with and directed at least 10 others in his administration not to comply with lawful congressional subpoenas, including Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and acting chief of staff and head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney. As Senator Lindsey Graham now chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said when he was a member of the house on the verge of impeaching president Clinton, the day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury. That is a perfectly good articulation of why obstruction of Congress is impeachable.

2:02:30 Norm Eisen: Professor Feldman, what is abuse of power? Noah Feldman: Abuse of power is when the president uses his office, takes an action that is part of the presidency, not to serve the public interest, but to serve his private benefit. And in particular, it's an abuse of power if he does it to facilitate his reelection or to gain an advantage that is not available to anyone who is not the president. Noah Feldman: Sir, why is that impeachable conduct? Noah Feldman: If the president uses his office for personal gain, the only recourse available under the constitution is for him to be impeached because the president cannot be as a practical matter charged criminally while he is in office because the department of justice works for the president. So the only mechanism available for a president who tries to distort the electoral process for personal gain is to impeach him. That is why we have impeachment.

2:09:15 Norm Eisen: Professor Gerhardt, does a high crime and misdemeanor require an actual statutory crime? Michael Gerhardt: No, it plainly does not. Everything we know about the history of impeachment reinforces the conclusion that impeachable offenses do not have to be crimes. And again, not all crimes are impeachable offenses. We look at, again, at the context and gravity of the misconduct.

2:35:15 Michael Gerhardt: The obstruction of Congress is a problem because it undermines the basic principle of the constitution. If you're going to have three branches of government, each of the branches has to be able to do its job. The job of the house is to investigate impeachment and to impeach. A president who says, as this president did say, I will not cooperate in any way, shape, or form with your process robs a coordinate branch of government. He robs the House of Representatives of its basic constitutional power of impeachment. When you add to that the fact that the same president says, my Department of Justice cannot charge me with a crime. The president puts himself above the law when he says he will not cooperate in an impeachment inquiry. I don't think it's possible to emphasize this strongly enough. A president who will not cooperate in an impeachment inquiry is putting himself above the law. Now, putting yourself above the law as president is the core of an impeachable offense because if the president could not be impeached for that, he would in fact not be responsible to anybody.

3:15:30 Jonathan Turley: I'd also caution you about obstruction. Obstruction is a crime also with meaning. It has elements. It has controlling case authority. The record does not establish obstruction. In this case, that is what my steam colleagues said was certainly true. If you accept all of their presumptions, it would be obstruction, but impeachments have to be based on proof, not presumptions. That's the problem. When you move towards impeachment on this abbreviated schedule that has not been explained to me - why you want to set the record for the fastest impeachment. Fast is not good for impeachment. Narrow, fast, impeachments have failed. Just ask Johnson. So the obstruction issue is an example of this problem. And here's my concern. The theory being put forward is that President Trump obstructed Congress by not turning over material requested by the committee and citations have been made to the third article of the Nixon impeachment. Now, first of all, I want to confess, I've been a critic of the third article, the Nixon impeachment my whole life. My hair catches on fire every time someone mentions the third article. Why? Because you would be replicating one of the worst articles written on impeachment. Here's the reason why - Peter Radino's position as Chairman of Judiciary was that Congress alone decides what information may be given to it - alone. His position was that the courts have no role in this. And so by that theory, any refusal by a president based on executive privilege or immunities would be the basis of impeachment. That is essentially the theory that's being replicated today. President Trump has gone to the courts. He's allowed to do that. We have three branches, not two. You're saying article one gives us complete authority that when we demand information from another branch, it must be turned over or we'll impeach you in record time. Now making that worse is that you have such a short investigation. It's a perfect storm. You set an incredibly short period, demand a huge amount of information and when the president goes to court, you then impeach him. In Nixon, it did go to the courts and Nixon lost, and that was the reason Nixon resigned. He resigned a few days after the Supreme Court ruled against him in that critical case. But in that case, the court recognized there are executive privilege arguments that can be made. It didn't say, "You had no right coming to us, don't darken our doorstep again." It said, "We've heard your arguments. We've heard Congress's arguments and you know what? You lose. Turn over the material to Congress." Do you know what that did for the Judiciary is it gave this body legitimacy. Now recently there's some rulings against president Trump including a ruling involving Don McGahn. Mr. Chairman, I testified in front of you a few months ago and if you recall, we had an exchange and I encouraged you to bring those actions and I said I thought you would win and you did. And I think it's an important win for this committee because I don't agree with President Trump's argument in that case. But that's an example of what can happen if you actually subpoena witnesses and go to court. Then you have an obstruction case because a court issues in order and unless they stay that order by a higher court, you have obstruction. But I can't emphasize this enough. And I'll say just one more time. If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It's your abuse of power.

3:26:40 Jonathan Turley: There's a reason why every past impeachment has established crimes, and it's obvious it's not that you can't impeach on a non-crime. You can, in fact. Non-crimes had been part of past impeachments. It's just that they've never gone up alone or primarily as the basis of impeachment. That's the problem here. If you prove a quid pro quo that you might have an impeachable offense, but to go up only on a noncriminal case would be the first time in history. So why is that the case? The reason is that crimes have an established definition and case law. So there's a concrete, independent body of law that assures the public that this is not just political, that this is a president who did something they could not do. You can't say the president is above the law. If you then say the crimes you accuse him of really don't have to be established.

3:39:35 Jonathan Turley: This is one of the thinnest records ever to go forward on impeachment. I mean the Johnson record one can can debate because this was the fourth attempt at an impeachment, but this is certainly the thinnest of a modern record. If you take a look at the size of the record of Clinton and Nixon, they were massive in comparison to this, which was is almost wafer thin in comparison, and it has left doubts - not just in the minds of people supporting president Trump - now it's in the minds of people like myself about what actually occurred. There's a difference between requesting investigations and a quid pro quo. You need to stick the landing on the quid pro quo. You need to get the evidence to support it. It might be out there, I don't know, but it's not in this record. I agree with my colleagues. We've all read the record and I just come to a different conclusion. I don't see proof of a quid pro quo no matter what my presumptions, assumptions or bias might be.


Hearing: Impeachment Hearing with Fiona Hill and David Holmes, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 21, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Dr. Fiona Hill and David Holmes

Witnesses

  • Dr. Fiona Hill
  • David Holmes
Transcript:

44:45 David Holmes: Our work in Ukraine focused on three policy priorities: peace and security, economic growth and reform and anti-corruption and rule of law. These policies match the three consistent priorities of the Ukrainian people since 2014 as measured in public opinion polling, namely an end to the conflict with Russia that restores national unity and territorial integrity, responsible economic policies that deliver European standards of growth and opportunity and effective and impartial rule of law, institutions that deliver justice in cases of high level official corruption. Our efforts on this third policy priority merit special mention because it was during Ambassador Yovanovitch's tenure that we achieved the hard-fought passage of a law establishing an independent court to try corruption cases.

51:00 David Holmes: It quickly became clear that the White House was not prepared to show the level of support for the Zelensky administration that we had originally anticipated. In early May, Mr Giuliani publicly alleged that Mr. Zelensky was "surrounded by enemies of the U S president" and canceled a visit to Ukraine. Shortly thereafter we learned that Vice President Pence no longer plan to lead the presidential delegation to the inauguration. The White House then whittled down an initial proposed list for the official presidential delegation to the inauguration from over a dozen individuals to just five. Secretary Perry as its head, Special Representative for Ukraine and negotiations Kurt Volker representing the State Department, National Security Council director Alex Vindman representing the White House, temporary acting Charge D'affairs Joseph Pennington representing the Embassy, and Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. While Ambassador Sondland's mandate as ambassador as the accredited ambassador to the European Union did not cover individual member states, let alone non-member countries like Ukraine, he made clear that he had direct and frequent access to President Trump and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and portrayed himself as the conduit to the President and Mr. Mulvaney for this group. Secretary Perry, Ambassador Sondland, and Ambassador Volker later styled themselves "the three Amigos" and made clear they would take the lead on coordinating our policy and engagement with the Zelensky administration.

53:30 David Holmes: The inauguration took place on May 20th and I took notes in the delegations meeting with President Zelensky. During the meeting, Secretary Perry passed President Zelensky a list that Perry described as "people he trusts." Secretary Perry told President Zelensky that he could seek advice from the people on this list on issues of energy sector reform, which was the topic of subsequent meetings between Secretary Perry and key Ukrainian energy sector contacts. Embassy personnel were excluded from some of these later meetings by Secretary Perry's staff.

56:50 David Holmes: Within a week or two, it became apparent that the energy sector reforms, the commercial deals, and the anti-corruption efforts on which we were making progress were not making a dent in terms of persuading the White House to schedule a meeting between the presidents.

58:10 David Holmes: We became concerned that even if a meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky could occur, it would not go well. And I discussed with embassy colleagues whether we should stop seeking a meeting all together. While the White House visit was critical to the Zelensky administration, a visit that failed to send a clear and strong signal of support likely would be worse for President Zelensky than no visit at all.

58:30 David Holmes: Congress has appropriated $1.5 billion in security assistance for Ukraine since 2014. This assistance has provided crucial material and moral support to Ukraine and its defensive war with Russia and has helped Ukraine build its armed forces virtually from scratch into arguably the most capable and battle-hardened land force in Europe. I've had the honor of visiting the main training facility in Western Ukraine with members of Congress and members of this very committee, Ms. Stefanik, where we witnessed firsthand us national guard troops along with allies conducting training for Ukrainian soldiers. Since 2014 national guard units from California, Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin have trained shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainian counterparts.

59:30 David Holmes: Given the history of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine and the bipartisan recognition of its importance, I was shocked when on July 18th and office of management and budget staff members surprisingly announced the hold on Ukraine security assistance. The announcement came toward the end of a nearly two hour national security council secure video conference call, which I participated in from the embassy conference room. The official said that the order had come from the president and had been conveyed to OMB by Mr. Mulvaney with no further explanation.

1:03:30 David Holmes: The four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. I sat directly across from Ambassador Sondland and the two staffers sat off to our sides. At first, the lunch was largely social. Ambassador Sondland selected a bottle of wine that he shared among the four of us and we discuss topics such as marketing strategies for his hotel business. During the lunch, Ambassador Sondland said that he was going to call President Trump to give him an update. Ambassador Sondland placed a call on his mobile phone and I heard him announce himself several times along the lines of Gordon Sondland holding for the president. It appeared to be he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards and assistance. And I then noticed Ambassador Sondland's demeanor changed and understood that he had been connected to President Trump. While Ambassador Sondland's phone was not on speaker phone, I could hear the president's voice through the ear piece of the phone. The president's voice was loud and recognizable and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume. I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explained he was calling from Kiev. I heard president Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine and went on to state President Zelensky "loves your ass." I then heard President Trump ask, "So he's going to do the investigation?" and Sondland replied that "He's going to do it" adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do. Even though I did not take notes of these statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made. I believe that my colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was speaking with the president. The conversation then shifted to Ambassador Sondland's efforts on behalf of the president to assist a rapper who was jailed in Sweden. I can only hear Ambassador Sondland's side of the conversation. Ambassador Sondland told the president that the rapper was "kind of effed there and should have pled guilty." He recommended that the president "Wait until after the sentencing or we'll only make it worse", and he added that the president should let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker tape when he comes home. Ambassador Sondland further told the president that Sweden quote "should have released him on your word, but that you can tell the Kardashians you tried."

1:15:00 David Holmes: Today, this very day, marks exactly six years since throngs pro-Western Ukrainians spontaneously gathered on Kiev's independence square, to launch what became known as the Revolution of Dignity. While the protest began in opposition to a turn towards Russia and away from the West, they expanded over three months to reject the entire corrupt, repressive system that had been sustained by Russian influence in the country. Those events were followed by Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and invasion of Ukraine's Eastern Donbass region, and an ensuing war that to date has cost almost 14,000 lives.

1:17:00 David Holmes: Now is not the time to retreat from our relationship with Ukraine, but rather to double down on it.

2:00:15 David Holmes: In the meeting with the president, Secretary Perry as head of the delegation opened the meeting with the American side, and had a number of points he made. And, and during that period, he handed over a piece of paper. I did not see what was on the paper, but Secretary Perry described what was on the paper as a list of trusted individuals and recommended that President Zelensky could draw from that list for advice on energy sector reform issues. Daniel Goldman: Do you know who was on that list? Holmes: I didn't see the list. I don't know other colleagues. There are other people who've been in the mix for a while on that set of issues. Other people, Secretary Perry has mentioned as being people to consult on reform. Goldman: And are they Americans? Holmes: Yes.

4:18:15 Fiona Hill: As I understood there'd been a directive for a whole scale review of our foreign policy assistance and the ties between our foreign policy objectives and the assistance. This has been going on actually for many months. And in the period when I was wrapping up my time there, there had been more scrutiny than specific assistance to specific sets of countries as a result of that overall review.

4:21:10 Fiona Hill: I asked him quite bluntly in a meeting that we had in June of 2019. So this is after the presidential inauguration when I'd seen that he had started to step up in much more of a proactive role on a Ukraine. What was his role here? And he said that he was in charge of Ukraine. And I said, "Well, who put you in charge Ambassador Sondland?" And he said, "The president." Stephen Castor: Did surprise you when he told you that. Fiona Hill:It did surprise me. We'd had no directive. We hadn't been told this. Ambassador Bolton had never indicated in any way that he thought that Ambassador Sondland was playing a leading role in Ukraine.

4:36:30 Fiona Hill: And one of Ukraine's Achilles heel, in addition to, it's military disadvantage with Russia, is in fact, energy. Ukraine remains for now the main transit point for a Russian oil and gas and pipelines to Europe. And this has been manipulated repeatedly, especially since 2006, by the Russian government. And in fact, I mean many of you here will remember, in the Reagan era, there was a huge dispute between the United States and Europe about about whether it made sense for Europe to build pipelines from the then Soviet union to bring gas to European markets.

4:55:30 David Holmes: United States has provided combined civilian and military assistance to Ukraine since 2014 of about $3 billion plus to $1 billion - three $1 billion loan guarantees that's not...those get paid back largely. So just over $3 billion, the Europeans at the level of the European Union and plus the member States combined since 2014. My understanding and have provided a combined $12 billion to Ukraine.

5:02:05 Fiona Hill: And so when I came in Gordon Sondland was basically saying, "Well, look, we have a deal here that there will be a meeting. I have a deal here with the Chief of Staff, Mulvaney there will be a meeting if the Ukrainians open up or announce these investigations into 2016 and Burisma" and I cut it off immediately there because by this point, having heard Mr. Giuliani over and over again on the television and all of the issues, that he was asserting. By this point, it was clear that Burisma was code for the Bidens because Giuliani was laying it out there. I could see why Colonel Vindman was alarmed and he said this is inappropriate with the National Security Council. We can't be involved in this.

5:03:45 Fiona Hill: And that's when I pushed back on Ambassador Sondland and said, "Look, I know there's differences about whether one, we should have this meeting. We're trying to figure out whether we should have it after the Ukrainian, democratic, sorry, parliamentary elections, the Rada elections", which by that point I think had been set for July 21st. It must have been, cause this is July 10th at this point. And Ambassador Bolton would like to wait until after that to basically see whether President Zelensky gets the majority in the parliament, which would enable him to form a cabinet. And then we can move forward.

6:05:50 Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY): Dr. Hill, turning back to you, there's been discussion about the process of scheduling the meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump, and you testified that there was hesitancy to schedule this meeting until after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections. Is that correct? Fiona Hill: That is correct, yes. Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY): And that's because there was speculation in all analytical circles, both in Ukraine and outside the Ukraine, that Zelensky might not be able to get the majority that he needed to form a cabinet, correct? Fiona Hill: That is correct. Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY): And you also testified that another aspect of the NSC hesitancy to schedule this meeting was based on broader concerns related to Zelensky's ability to implement anti-corruption reforms. And this was in specific relation to Ukrainian oligarchs who basically were the owner of the TV company that Mr. Zelensky his program had been a part of. Is that correct? Fiona Hill: That is correct.

6:21:40 Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): One of them is headlined "After boost from Perry, backers got huge gas deal in Ukraine." The other one is titled "Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors probe Giuliani's links to Ukrainian energy projects." Mr. Holmes. Thank you, chairman. You indicated that Secretary Perry, when he was in the Ukraine, had private meetings with Ukrainians. Before he had those private meetings, in a meeting with others, including yourself, I believe, he had presented a list of American advisers for the Ukraine energy sector. Do you know who was on that list? David Holmes: Sir, I didn't see the names on the list myself. Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): Do you know if Alex Cranberg and Michael Blazer were on that list? David Holmes: I have since heard that Michael Blazer is on the list.


Hearing: Impeachment Inquiry Hearing with Laura Cooper and David Hale, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 20, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Laura Cooper and David Hale

Witnesses

  • Laura Cooper
  • David Hale
Transcript:

45:30 Laura Cooper: I have also supported a robust Ukrainian Ministry of Defense program of defense reform to ensure the longterm sustainability of US investments and the transformation of the Ukrainian military from a Soviet model to a NATO inter-operable force.

45:50 Laura Cooper: The National Defense Authorization Act requires the Department of Defense to certify defense reform progress to release half of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative or USAI funds, a provision we find very helpful. Based on recommendations from me and other key DOD advisers, the Department of Defense in coordination with the Department of State certified in May, 2019 that Ukraine had "taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption, increasing accountability and sustaining improvements of combat capability." 

47:15 Laura Cooper: Let me say at the outset that I have never discussed this or any other matter with the president and never heard directly from him about this matter.

48:05 Laura Cooper: I and others at the interagency meetings felt that the matter was particularly urgent, because it takes time to obligate that amount of money. And my understanding was that the money was legally required to be obligated by September 30th to the end of the fiscal year.

49:15 Laura Cooper: I received a series of updates and in a September 5th update, I and other senior defense department leaders were informed that over a $100,000,000 could not be obligated by September 30th.

49:45 Laura Cooper: After the decision to release the funds on September 11th of this year, my colleagues across the DOD security assistance enterprise worked tirelessly to be able to ultimately obligate about 86% of the funding by the end of the fiscal year, more than they had originally estimated they would be able to. Due to a provision in September's continuing resolution, appropriating an amount equal to the unobligated funds from fiscal year 2019, we ultimately will be able to obligate all of the USAI funds.

51:04 Laura Cooper: Since my deposition, I have again reviewed my calendar, and the only meeting where I recall a Ukrainian official raising the issue with me is on September 5th at the Ukrainian independence day celebration.

51:45 Laura Cooper: Specifically, on the issue of Ukraine's knowledge of the hold or of Ukraine, asking questions about possible issues with the flow of assistance. My staff showed me two unclassified emails that they received from the state department. One was received on July 25th at 2:31 PM. That email said that the Ukrainian Embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee are asking about security assistance. The second email was received on July 25th at 4:25 PM that email said that the Hill knows about the FMF situation to an extent, and so does the Ukrainian embassy. I did not receive either of these emails. My staff does not recall informing me about them and I do not recall being made aware of their content at the time.

53:04 Laura Cooper: On July 3rd at 4:23 PM they received an email from the State Department stating that they had heard that the CN is currently being blocked by OMB. This apparently refers to the congressional notification State would send for Ukraine FMF. I have no further information on this.

53:20 Laura Cooper: On July 25th a member of my staff got a question from a Ukraine embassy contact asking what was going on with Ukraine security assistance. Because at that time, we did not know what the guidance was on USAI. The OMB notice of apportionment arrived that day, but the staff member did not find out about it until later. I was informed that the staff member told the Ukrainian official that we were moving forward on USAI, but recommended that the Ukraine embassy check in with State regarding the FMF.

1:02:40 David Hale: We've often heard at the state department that the President of the United States wants to make sure that a foreign assistance is reviewed scrupulously to make sure that it's truly in US national interests, and that we evaluated continuously to meet certain criteria that the president's established. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): And since his election, is it fair to say that the president Trump has looked to overhaul how foreign aid is distributed? David Hale: Yes. The NSC launched a foreign assistance review process, sometime, I think it was late August, early September, 2018.

1:04:30 Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): In the past year, Ukraine was not the only country to have aid withheld from it, is that correct? David Hale: Correct. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): In the past year, was aid held withheld from Pakistan? David Hale:Yes sir. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): Why was aid withheld from Pakistan? David Hale: Because of unhappiness over the policies and behavior of the Pakistani government towards certain proxy groups that were involved in conflicts with United States. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): And in the past year was aid also withheld from Honduras. David Hale: Aid was withheld from three States in central Northern central America, yes. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): The past year was aide withheld from Lebanon? David Hale: Yes sir. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): And when aid was first held withheld from Lebanon, were you given a reason why it was withheld? David Hale: No. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): So having no explanation for why aid is being withheld is not uncommon. I would say it is not the normal way that we function... Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): But it does happen. David Hale: It does happen. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): And is it true that when aid was being withheld from Lebanon that was at the same time aid was being withheld from Ukraine? David Hale: Correct, sir. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX):And, you've testified that the aid to Lebanon still hasn't been released, is that right? David Hale: That is correct. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): Alright.

1:26:05 Laura Cooper: Russia violated the sovereignty of Ukraine's territory. Russia illegally annexed territory that belonged to Ukraine. They also denied Ukraine access to its Naval fleet at the time. And to this day, Russia is building a capability on Crimea designed to expand Russian military power projection far beyond the immediate region.

1:59:40 Laura Cooper: There are three separate pieces to our overall ability to provide equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces. The first is the foreign military finance system, which is a State Department authority and countries around the world have this authority. That authority is used for some of the training and equipment. There's also the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. That's a DOD authority. Unlike the State authority, the DOD authority is only a one year authority. And then third, there's an opportunity for defense sales. And that is something that we're working with Ukrainians on now so that they can actually purchase U.S. equipment. But the javelin specifically was provided under FMF initially and now the Ukrainians are interested in the purchase of javelin.

2:00:35 Rep. Will Hurd (TX): And there wasn't a hold put on purchasing of equipment, is that correct? Laura Cooper: Not to my understanding, no.

2:04:15 Laura Cooper: There were two ways that we would be able to implement presidential guidance to stop obligating the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. And the first option would be for the president to do a rescission. The second is a reprogramming action that the Department of Defense would do... Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX): In both of those would require congressional notice. There would be an extra step that the president would have to take to notify Congress. As far as, you know, was there ever any notice that was sent out to Congress? Laura Cooper: Sir, I did express that, that I believed it would require a notice to Congress and that then there was no such notice to my knowledge or preparation of such a notice to my knowledge.

2:07:41 Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX): But you can't say one way or another whether the inquiries in these emails were about the whole, is that fair? Laura Cooper: I cannot say for certain. Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX):Right, and you can't say one way or another, whether the Ukrainians knew about the whole before August 28th, 2019 when it was reported in Politico, correct? Laura Cooper: Sir, I can just tell you that it's the recollection of my staff that they likely knew, but no, I do not have a certain data point to offer you.


Hearing: Impeachment Inquiry Hearing with E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 20, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Ambassador Gordon Sondland

Witness

  • Gordon Sondland
Transcript:

54:00 Gordon Sondland: As I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a white house visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 Election DNC server, and Burisma. 54:30 Gordon Sondland: Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.

55:00 Gordon Sondland: I was adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid, as the Ukrainians needed those funds to fight against Russian aggression.

55:10 Gordon Sondland: I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. Still haven't to this day. In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 elections and Burisma as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.

59:40 Gordon Sondland: During the Zelensky inauguration, on May 20th the US delegation developed a very positive view of the Ukraine government. We were impressed by President Zelensky's desire to promote a stronger relationship with the United States. We admired his commitment to reform, and we were excited about the possibility of Ukraine making the changes necessary to support a greater Western economic investment. And we were excited that Ukraine might, after years and years of lip service, finally get serious about addressing its own well known corruption problems.

1:01:15 Gordon Sondland: Unfortunately, President Trump was skeptical. He expressed concerns that the Ukrainian government was not serious about reform, and he even mentioned that Ukraine tried to take him down in the last election. In response to our persistent efforts in that meeting to change his views, President Trump directed us to quote, "talk with Rudy." We understood that talk with Rudy meant talk with Mr. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. Let me say again, we weren't happy with the President's directive to talk with Rudy. We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believe then as I do now, that the men and women of the state department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters. Nonetheless, based on the president's direction we were faced with a choice, we could abandon the efforts to schedule the white house phone call and a white house visit between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, which was unquestionably in our foreign policy interest, or we could do as president Trump had directed and talk with Rudy. We chose the latter course, not because we liked it, but because it was the only constructive path open to us.

1:12:05 Gordon Sondland: After the Zelensky meeting, I also met with Zelensky's senior aide, Andre Yermak. I don't recall the specifics of our conversation, but I believe the issue of investigations was probably a part of that agenda or meeting.

1:12:15 Gordon Sondland: Also, on July 26 shortly after our Kiev meetings, I spoke by phone with President Trump. The White House, which has finally, finally shared certain call dates and times with my attorneys confirms this. The call lasted five minutes. I remember I was at a restaurant in Kiev, and I have no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations. Again, given Mr. Giuliani's demand that President Zelensky make a public statement about investigations. I knew that investigations were important to President Trump. We did not discuss any classified information. Other witnesses have recently shared their recollection of overhearing this call. For the most part, I have no reason to doubt their accounts. It's true that the president speaks loudly at times and it's also true, I think, we primarily discussed ASAP Rocky. It's true that the president likes to use colorful language. Anyone who has met with him at any reasonable amount of time knows this well. I cannot remember the precise details. Again, the White House has not allowed me to see any readouts of that call and the July 26 call did not strike me as significant. At the time, actually, actually, I would have been more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned investigations, particularly given what we were hearing from Mr. Giuliani about the president's concerns. However, I have no recollection of discussing Vice President Biden or his son on that call or after the call ended.

1:14:10 Gordon Sondland: I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes. Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians and Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and the White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements.

1:23:10 Gordon Sondland: There was a September 1st meeting with President Zelensky in Warsaw. Unfortunately, President Trump's attendance at the Warsaw meeting was canceled due to Hurricane Dorian. Vice President Pence attended instead. I mentioned Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations. I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeting. During the actual meeting, President Zelensky raised the issue of security assistance directly with Vice President Pence and the vice president said that he would speak to President Trump about it. Based on my previous communication with Secretary Pompeo, I felt comfortable sharing my concerns with Mr. Yermak. It was a very, very brief pull aside conversation that happened. Within a few seconds, I told Mr. Yermak that I believe that the resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.

1:38:30 Gordon Sondland: I finally called the president, I believe it was on the 9th of September. I can't find the records and they won't provide them to me, but I believe I just asked him an open ended question, Mr. Chairman. "What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories and this and that. What do you want?" And it was a very short, abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood and he just said, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell them Zelensky to do the right thing. Something to that effect.

1:43:00 Gordon Sondland: Again, through Mr. Giuliani, we were led to believe that that's what he wanted.

2:06:25 Gordon Sondland: President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting. The aide was my own personal guess based again, on your analogy, two plus two equals four.

2:10:30 Gordon Sondland: Again, I don't recall President Trump ever talking to me about any security assistance ever.

2:44:00 Stephen Castor: Did the president ever tell you personally about any preconditions for anything? Gordon Sondland: No. Okay. Stephen Castor: So the president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released? Gordon Sondland: No. Stephen Castor: The president never told you about any preconditions for a White House meeting? Gordon Sondland: Personally, no.

3:01:10 Stephen Castor: And are you aware that he was also interested in better understanding the contributions of our European allies? Gordon Sondland: That I'm definitely aware of. Stephen Castor: And there was some back and forth between the state department officials trying to better understand that information for the president. Gordon Sondland: Yes, that's correct. Stephen Castor: And how do you know that wasn't the reason for the hold? Gordon Sondland: I don't... Stephen Castor: But yet you speculate that there was a link to the this announcement. Gordon Sondland: I presumed it, yes. Stephen Castor: Okay.

3:07:05 Stephen Castor: And when you first started discussing the concerns the president had with corruption, Burisma wasn't the only company that was mentioned, right. Gordon Sondland: It was generic, as I think I testified to Chairman Schiff, it was generic corruption, oligarchs, just bad stuff going on in Ukraine. Stephen Castor: But other companies came up, didn't they? Gordon Sondland: I don't know if they were mentioned specifically. It might've been Naftagas because we were working on another issue with Naftagas. So that might've been one of them. Stephen Castor: At one point in your deposition, I believe you, you said, "Yeah, Naftagas comes up at every conversation." Is that fair? Gordon Sondland: Probably.

3:14:55 Gordon Sondland: I think once that Politico article broke, it started making the rounds that, if you can't get a White House meeting without the statement, what makes you think you're going to get a $400 million check? Again, that was my presumption. Stephen Castor: Okay, but you had no evidence to prove that, correct? Gordon Sondland: That's correct.

3:44:10 Daniel Goldman: It wasn't really a presumption, you heard from Mr. Giuliani? Gordon Sondland: Well, I didn't hear from Mr. Giuliani about the aid. I heard about the Burisma and 2016. Daniel Goldman: And you understood at that point, as we discussed, two plus two equals four, that the aid was there as well. Gordon Sondland: That was the problem, Mr. Goldman. No one told me directly that the aid was tied to anything. I was presuming it was.

5:02:10 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): What did Mr. Giuliani say to you that caused you to say that he is expressing the desires of the President of the United States? Gordon Sondland: Mr. Himes, when that was originally communicated, that was before I was in touch with Mr. Giuliani directly. So this all came through Mr. Volcker and others. Rep. Jim Himes (CT): So Mr. Volcker told you that he was expressing the desires of the President of the United States. Gordon Sondland: Correct.

5:20:40 Rep. Michael Turner (OH): Well, you know, after you testified, Chairman Schiff ran out and gave a press conference and said he gets to impeach the president and said it's because of your testimony and if you pull up CNN today, right now, their banner says "Sondland ties Trump to withholding aid." Is that your testimony today, Mr. Ambassador Sondland, that you have evidence that Donald Trump tied the investigations the aid? Cause I don't think you're saying that. Gordon Sondland: I've said repeatedly, Congressman, I was presuming. I also said that President Trump... Rep. Michael Turner (OH): So no one told you, not just the president...Giuliani didn't tell you, Mulvaney didn't tell you. Nobody - Pompeo didn't tell you. Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct? Gordon Sondland: I think I already testified. Rep. Michael Turner (OH): No, answer the question. Is it correct? No one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigations. Cause if your answer is yes, then the chairman's wrong. And the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that president Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no? Gordon Sondland: Yes.


Hearing: Impeachment Hearing with Ambassador Kurt Volker and National Security Aide Tim Morrison, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 19, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Ambassador Kurt Volker and Timothy Morrison

Witnesses

  • Kurt Volker
  • Timothy Morrison
Transcript:

43:20 Timothy Morrison: I continue to believe Ukraine is on the front lines of a strategic competition between the West and Vladimir Putin's revanchist Russia. Russia is a failing power, but it is still a dangerous one. United States aids Ukraine and her people, so they can fight Russia over there and we don't have to fight Russia here. Support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty has been a bipartisan objective since Russia's military invasion in 2014. It must continue to be.

48:00 Kurt Volker: At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden. As you know, from the extensive realtime documentation I have provided, Vice President Biden was not a topic of our discussions.

50:20 Kurt Volker: At the time I took the position in the summer of 2017 there were major complicated questions swirling in public debate about the direction of US policy towards Ukraine. Would the administration lifts sanctions against Russia? Would it make some kind of grand bargain with Russia in which it would trade recognition of Russia seizure of Ukrainian territory for some other deal in Syria or elsewhere? Would the administration recognize Russia's claimed annexation of Crimea? Will this just become another frozen conflict? There are also a vast number of vacancies in key diplomatic positions. So no one was really representing the United States in the negotiating process about ending the war in Eastern Ukraine.

51:20 Kurt Volker: We changed the language commonly used to describe Russia's aggression. I was the administration's most outspoken public figure highlighting Russia's invasion and occupation of parts of Ukraine, calling out Russia's responsibility to end the war.

54:45 Kurt Volker: The problem was that despite the unanimous positive assessment and recommendations of those of us who were part of the US presidential delegation that attended the inauguration of President Zelensky, President Trump was receiving a different negative narrative about Ukraine and President Zelensky. That narrative was fueled by accusations from Ukraine's then prosecutor general and conveyed to the president by former mayor Rudy Giuliani. As I previously told this committee, I became aware of the negative impact this was having on our policy efforts when four of us, who were a part of the presidential delegation to the inauguration, met as a group with President Trump on May 23rd. We stressed our finding that President Zelensky represented the best chance for getting Ukraine out of the mire of corruption and had been in for over 20 years. We urged him to invite President Zelensky to the White House. The president was very skeptical. Given Ukraine's history of corruption. That's understandable. He said that Ukraine was a corrupt country full of terrible people. He said they tried to take me down. In the course of that conversation, he referenced conversations with Mayor Giuliani. It was clear to me that despite the positive news and recommendations being conveyed by this official delegation about the new president, President Trump had a deeply rooted negative view on Ukraine rooted in the past. He was receiving other information from other sources, including Mayor Giuliani, that was more negative, causing him to retain this negative view. Within a few days, on May 29th, President Trump indeed signed the congratulatory letter to President Zelensky, which included an invitation to the president to visit him at the White House. However, more than four weeks passed and we could not nail down a date for the meeting. I came to believe that the president's long-held negative view towards Ukraine was causing hesitation in actually scheduling the meeting, much as we had seen in our oval office discussion.

57:35 Kurt Volker: President Zelensky's senior aide, Andriy Yermak approached me several days later to ask to be connected to Mayor Giuliani. I agreed to make that connection. I did so because I understood that the new Ukrainian leadership wanted to convince those like Mayor Giuliani, who believes such a negative narrative about Ukraine, that times have changed and that under President Zelensky, Ukraine is worthy of us support. Ukrainians believed that if they could get their own narrative across in a way that convinced Mayor Giuliani that they were serious about fighting corruption and advancing reform, Mayor Giuliani would convey that assessment to President Trump, thus correcting the previous negative narrative. That made sense to me and I tried to be helpful. I made clear to the Ukrainians that Mayor Giuliani was a private citizen, the president's personal lawyer, and not representing the US government. Likewise, in my conversations with Mayor Giuliani, I never considered him to be speaking on the president's behalf or giving instructions, rather, the information flow was the other way. From Ukraine to Mayor Giuliani in the hopes that this would clear up the information reaching President Trump.

1:00:15 Kurt Volker: I connected Mayor Giuliani and Andriy Yermak by text and later by phone they met in person on August 2nd, 2019. In conversations with me following that meeting, which I did not attend, Mr. Giuliani said that he had stressed the importance of Ukraine conducting investigations into what happened in the past, and Mr. Yermak stressed that he told Mr. Giuliani it is the government's program to root out corruption and implement reforms, and they would be conducting investigations as part of this process anyway.

1:00:45 Kurt Volker: Mr. Giuliani said he believed that the Ukrainian president needed to make a statement about fighting corruption and that he had discussed this with Mr. Yermak. I said, I did not think that this would be a problem since that is the government's position. Anyway, I followed up with Mr. Yermak and he said that they would indeed be prepared to make a statement.

1:02:10 Kurt Volker: On August 16th, Mr. Yermak shared a draft with me, which I thought looked perfectly reasonable. It did not mention Burisma or 2016 elections, but was generic. Ambassador Sondland I had a further conversation with Mr. Giuliani who said that in his view, in order to be convincing that this government represented real change in Ukraine, the statement should include specific reference to Burisma and 2016 and again, there was no mention of Vice President Biden in these conversations.

1:02:40 Kurt Volker: Ambassador Sondland and I discussed these points and I edited the statement drafted by Mr. Yermak to include these points to see how it looked. I then discussed it further with Mr. Yermak. He said that for a number of reasons, including the fact that since Mr. Lutsenko was still officially the prosecutor general, they did not want to mention Burisma or 2016 and I agreed. And the idea of putting out a statement was shelved. These were the last conversations I had about this statement, which were on or about August 17 to 18.

1:04:00 Kurt Volker: At the time I was connecting Mr. Yermak and Mr. Giuliani and discussing with Mr. Yermak and Ambassador Sondland a possible statement that could be made by the Ukrainian president, I did not know of any linkage between the hold on security assistance and Ukraine pursuing investigations. No one had ever said that to me, and I never conveyed such a linkage to the Ukrainians.

1:04:40 Kurt Volker: I believe the Ukrainians became aware of the hold on August 29th and not before. That date is the first time any of them asked me about the hold by forwarding an article that had been published in Politico.

1:42:30 Daniel Goldman: Your testimony, that based on the text that you wrote, linking the investigations and the 2016 election on July 25th to the White House meeting, you're saying that by this point in August, with this back and forth, that you were unaware that this public statement was a condition for the White House meeting? Kurt Volker: I wouldn't have called it a condition. It's a nuance I guess. I viewed it as very helpful. If we could get this done, it would help improve the perception that President Trump and others had. And then we would get the date for a meeting. If we didn't have a statement, I wasn't giving up and thinking that, Oh, well then we'll never get a meeting.

1:44:00 Daniel Goldman: I want to move forward to September, and early September when the security assistance begins to more overtly be used as leverage to pressure the Ukrainians to conduct these investigations that President Trump wanted. Mr. Morrison, you accompanied Vice President Pence to Warsaw when he met with President Zelensky, is that right? Timothy Morrison: I was in Warsaw when the vice president was designated as the president's representative. I was accompanying Ambassador Bolton. Daniel Goldman: Understood. You were at the bilateral meeting with the vice president and President Zelensky, correct? Timothy Morrison: I was. Daniel Goldman: In that meeting, were the Ukrainians concerned about the hold on security clearance - military assistance rather. Timothy Morrison: Yes. Daniel Goldman: What did they say? Timothy Morrison: It was the first issue that President Zelensky raised with Vice President Pence. They were very interested. They talked about its importance to Ukraine. It's important to their relationship. Daniel Goldman: And what was Vice President Pence's response? Timothy Morrison: The vice president represented that it was a priority for him, and that we were working to address, and he characterized President Trump's concerns about the state of corruption in Ukraine. And the president's prioritization of getting the Europeans to contribute more to security sector assistance. Daniel Goldman: And did he directly explain to the Ukrainians that those were the actual reasons for the holds or was he just commenting on general concerns of the president? Timothy Morrison: I don't know that he necessarily acknowledged a hold. We mentioned that we were reviewing the assistance and that that's the way I heard it. That's the way I would characterize it. And those were the points he raised to help President Zelensky understand where we were in our process. Daniel Goldman: And to your knowledge though, on sort of the staff level as the coordinator of all the interagency process, you are not aware of any review of the Ukraine security assistance money, were you? Timothy Morrison: Well, we had been running a review. We had been running an interagency process to provide the president the information that I had been directed to generate, for the president's consideration as to the state of interagency support for continuing Ukraine security sector assistance. Daniel Goldman: And the entire integrate agency supported the continuation of the security assistance, isn't that right? Timothy Morrison: That is correct.

1:46:50 Daniel Goldman: Now after this larger meeting with Vice President Pence and President Zelensky, you testified at your deposition that you saw Ambassador Sondland immediately go over and pull Andriy Yermak aside and have a conversation. Is that right? Timothy Morrison: President Zelensky left the room, Vice President Pence left the room, and in sort of an anteroom, Ambassador Sondland and Presidential Advisor Yermak had this discussion. Yes. Daniel Goldman: And what did Ambassador Sondland say to tell you that he told Mr. Yermak? Timothy Morrison: That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted.

1:49:00 Daniel Goldman: A few days later on September 7th, you spoke again to Ambassador Sondland, who told you that he had just gotten off the phone with President Trump. Isn't that right? Timothy Morrison: That sounds correct. Yes. Daniel Goldman: What did Ambassador Sondland tell you that President Trump said to him? Timothy Morrison: If I recall this conversation correctly, this was where Ambassador Sondland relayed that there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelensky had to make the statement and that he had to want to do it. Daniel Goldman: And by that point, did you understand that the statement related to the Biden and 2016 investigations? Timothy Morrison: I think I did, yes. Daniel Goldman: And that was essentially a condition for the security assistance to be released. Timothy Morrison: I understood that that's what ambassador Sondland believed.

2:08:40 Stephen Castor: And you met with President Zelensky on, I believe it was August 29th, Timothy Morrison: Ambassador Bolton had a meeting with President Zelensky and I staffed that meeting. Stephen Castor: And that's right around the time when the Rada had met and they had started to push through their reforms. Timothy Morrison: As I recall, the meeting, the date of the meeting between Ambassador Bolton and President Zelensky was actually the first day of the new Rada. Stephen Castor: And, some of these reforms included, naming a new prosecutor general. Timothy Morrison: A new prosecutor general, a brand new cabinet, yes. Stephen Castor: And they pushed through some legislation that eliminated immunity for Rada members. Timothy Morrison: Yes, eliminating parliamentary immunity. Stephen Castor: And I believe you provided some color into this experience, this meeting, and you said that the Ukrainians had been up all night, working on some of these legislative initiatives. Timothy Morrison: Yes. Uh, the Ukrainians with whom we met were by all appearances exhausted from the pace of activity. Stephen Castor: And was Ambassador Bolton encouraged by the activity? Timothy Morrison: Yes, he was. Stephen Castor: And was the meeting altogether favorable? Timothy Morrison: Quite.


Hearing: Impeachment Hearing with Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Jennifer Williams, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 19, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams

Witnesses

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
  • Jennifer Williams
Transcript:

50:30 Jennifer Williams: On August 29th, I learned that the vice president would be traveling to Poland to meet with President Zelensky on September 1st. At the September 1st meeting, which I attended, President Zelensky asked the vice president about news articles reporting a hold on U.S. security assistance for Ukraine. The vice president responded that Ukraine had the United States unwavering support and promised to relay their conversation to President Trump that night. During the September 1st meeting, neither the vice president nor President Zelensky mentioned the specific investigations discussed during the July 25th phone call.

1:06:45 Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): Let me turn if I can to the hold on security assistance, which I think you both testified you learned about in early July. Am I correct that neither of you were provided with a reason for why the president put a hold on security assistance to Ukraine? Jennifer Williams: My understanding was that OMB was reviewing the assistance to ensure it was in line with administration priorities, but it was not made more specific than that. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): And Colonel Vindman? Alexander Vindman: That is consistent. We had...the review was to ensure it remained consistent with administration policies.

1:07:20 Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): Colonel Vindman, you attended a meeting in John Bolton's office on July 10th, where Ambassador Sondland interjected to respond to a question by senior Ukrainian officials about a White House visit. What did he say at that time? Alexander Vindman: To the best of my recollection, Ambassador Sondland said that in order to get a White House meeting, the Ukrainians would have to provide a deliverable, which is investigations, specific investigations. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): And what was Ambassador's Bolton's response or reaction to that comment? Alexander Vindman: We had not completed all of the agenda items and we still had time for the meeting and Ambassador Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.

1:08:15 Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): Based on Ambassador Sondland's remark at the July 10th meeting, was it your clear understanding that the Ukrainians understood they had to commit to investigations President Trump wanted in order to get the White House meeting. Alexander Vindman: It may have not been entirely clear at that moment. Certainly Ambassador Sondland was a calling for these meetings and he had stated that his, this was developed per conversation with the chief of staff, Mr. Mick Mulvaney. But, the connection to the president wasn't clear at that point.

2:13:00 Stephen Castor: And President Zelensky's inauguration was May 20th, if I'm not mistaken. Jennifer Williams: Yes, that's correct. Stephen Castor: And you had about four days notice? Jennifer Williams: In the end, the Ukrainian parliament decided on May 16th to set the date for May 20th, that's correct. Stephen Castor: So you would acknowledge that that made it quite difficult for the vice president and the whole operation to mobilize and get over to Ukraine? Correct? Jennifer Williams: It would have been, but we had already stopped the trip planning by that point. Stephen Castor: And when did that happen? Jennifer Williams: Stopping the trip planning? on May 13th. Okay. Stephen Castor: And how did you hear about that? Jennifer Williams: I was called by a colleague in the chief, by the vice president's chief of staff's office and told to stop the trip planning. Stephen Castor: As I understand it, it was the, the assistant to the chief of staff? Jennifer Williams: That's correct. Stephen Castor: Okay. And so you didn't hear about it from General Kellogg or the chief of staff or... Jennifer Williams: Correct. Stephen Castor: Or the president or the vice president. You heard about it from Mr. Short's assistant. Jennifer Williams: That's right. Stephen Castor: And did you have any, any knowledge of the reasoning for stopping the trip? Jennifer Williams: I asked my colleague why we should stop trip planning and why the vice president would not be attending. And I was informed that the president had decided the vice president would not attend the inauguration. Stephen Castor: But do you know why the president decided? Jennifer Williams: No, she did not have that information. Stephen Castor: Okay. And ultimately the vice president went to Canada for a USMCA event during this window of time, correct? Jennifer Williams: Correct. Stephen Castor: So it's entirely conceivable that the president decided that he wanted the vice president to go to Canada on behalf of USMCA instead of doing anything else, Correct? Jennifer Williams: I'm really not in a position to speculate what the motivations were behind the president's decision. Stephen Castor: You know, the vice president has done quite a bit of USMCA events, right? Jennifer Williams: Absolutely, yes sir.

2:23:10 Stephen Castor: When you were, you went to Ukraine for the inauguration, correct? On the 20th. Alexander Vindman: Right. Stephen Castor: At any point during that trip, did Mr. Dani look offer you a position of defense minister with the Ukrainian government? Alexander Vindman: He did. Stephen Castor: And how many times did he do that? Alexander Vindman: I believe it was three times. Stephen Castor: And you have any reason why he asked you to do that? Alexander Vindman: I don't know. But, every single time I dismissed it. Upon returning, I notified my chain of command and the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this offer. Stephen Castor: I mean, Ukraine's a country that's experienced a war with Russia, certainly their minister of defense is a pretty key position for the Ukrainians. President Zelensky, Mr. Dani look to bestow that honor on you. At least asking you, I mean, that was a big honor. Correct. Alexander Vindman: I think it would be a great honor and frankly, I'm aware of service members that have left service to help nurture the developing democracies in that part of the world, certainly in the Baltics, former officers and federal contractors, I believe it was an air force officer that became an administrator of defense. But I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler and I immediately dismissed these offers, did not entertain them. Stephen Castor: When he made this offer to you initially, did you leave the door open? Was there a reason that he had to come back and ask you a second and third time? Or was he just trying to convince you? Alexander Vindman: Yeah Council, you know what, the whole notion is rather comical that I was being asked to consider whether I'd want to be the minister of defense. I did not leave the door open at all, but, it is pretty funny for Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, which really isn't that senior, to be offered that illustrious a position.

3:44:00 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Ms. Williams again, When did you first learn that the security assistance was being held up? The nearly $400 million that was referenced. Jennifer Williams: July 3rd. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And were you aware of any additional or did you attend any additional meetings in which that military assistance being withheld was discussed? Jennifer Williams: I did. I attended meetings on July 23rd and July 26th, where the security assistance hold was discussed. I believe it may have also been discussed on July 31st. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And, at that point, did anyone provide a specific reason for the hold? Jennifer Williams: In those meetings, the OMB representative reported that the assistance was being held at the direction of the White House chief of staff. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And did they give reasons beyond that it was being withheld by the White House chief of staff? Jennifer Williams: Not specifically. The reason given was that there was a ongoing review whether the funding was still in line with administration priorities. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Did anyone in any of those meetings or in any other subsequent discussion you had discuss the legality of withholding that aid. Jennifer Williams: There were discussions, I believe in the July 31st meeting and possibly prior as well, in terms of Defense and State Department officials were looking into how they would handle a situation which earmarked funding from Congress that was designated for Ukraine would be resolved if the funding continued to be held as we approached the end of the fiscal year. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And from what you witnessed, did anybody in the national security community support withholding the assistance? Jennifer Williams: No.

3:47:00 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Did anyone, unto your understanding, raise the legality of withholding this assistance. Alexander Vindman: It was raised on several occasions. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And who raised those concerns? Alexander Vindman: So following the July 18th sub PCC, which is again what I coordinate or what I convene, at my level. There was a July 23rd, PCC that would have been conducted by Mr. Morrison. There were questions raised on as to the legality of the hold. Over the subsequent week, the issue was analyzed. And during the July 26th deputies...so the deputies from all the departments and agencies, there was an opinion rendered that it was, it was legal to, put the hold. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): It was, excuse me. Alexander Vindman: There was an opinion, legal, opinion rendered that it was, okay to, or that the hold was legal.


Hearing: Impeachment Hearing with Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 15, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch

Witness

  • Marie Vanonvich
Transcript:

49:15 Marie Yovanovitch: I worked to advance U.S. policy - fully embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike - to help Ukraine become a stable and independent democratic state with a market economy integrated into Europe.

50:05 Marie Yovanovitch: Ukraine, with an enormous landmass and a large population, has the potential to be a significant commercial and political partner for the United States, as well as a force multiplier on the security side. We see the potential and Ukraine, Russia sees, by contrast, sees the risk. The history is not written yet, but Ukraine could move out of Russia's orbit. And now Ukraine is a battleground for great power competition with a hot war for the control of territory and a hybrid war to control Ukraine's leadership. The U.S. has provided significant security assistance since the onset of the war against Russia in 2014 and the Trump administration strengthened our policy by approving the provision to Ukraine of anti-tank missiles known as javelins.

51:15 Marie Yovanovitch: As critical as the war against Russia is, Ukraine struggling democracy has an equally important challenge. Battling the Soviet legacy of corruption, which has pervaded Ukraine's government. Corruption makes Ukraine's leaders ever vulnerable to Russia and the Ukrainian people understand that. That's why they launched the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 demanding to be a part of Europe, demanding the transformation of the system, demanding to live under the rule of law. Ukrainians, wanted the law to apply equally to all people, whether the individual in question is the president or any other citizen. It was a question of fairness, of dignity. Here again, there is a coincidence of interests. Corrupt leaders are inherently less trustworthy. While an honest and accountable Ukrainian leadership makes a U.S.-Ukrainian partnership more reliable and more valuable to the United States. A level playing field in this strategically located country bordering four NATO allies creates an environment in which U.S. business can more easily trade, invest, and profit.

3:38:10 Rep. Devin Nunes (CA): Were you involved in the July 25th Trump-Zelensky phone call or preparations for the call? Marie Yovanovitch: No, I was not. Rep. Devin Nunes (CA): Were you involved in the deliberations about the pause in military sales to Ukraine as the Trump administration reviewed newly elected President Zelensky's commitment to corruption reforms? Marie Yovanovitch: For the delay in...? Rep. Devin Nunes (CA): For the pause. Marie Yovanovitch: The pause? No, I was not. Rep. Devin Nunes (CA): Were you involved in the proposed Trump-Zelensky, later Pence-Zelensky meetings in Warsaw, Poland on September 1st? Marie Yovanovitch: No, I was not. Rep. Devin Nunes (CA): Did you ever talk to President Trump in 2019? Marie Yovanovitch: No, I have not. Rep. Devin Nunes (CA): Mick Mulvaney. Marie Yovanovitch: No, I have not. Rep. Devin Nunes (CA): Thank you, Ambassador.

4:51:00 Rep. Mike Turner (OH): Now the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., they would have under their portfolio aspiring nations to the E.U., would they not? Marie Yovanovitch: Yeah. Rep. Mike Turner (OH): Okay. So, E.U. Ambassador Sondland then would've had Ukraine in his portfolio because they're an aspiring nation and he's our U.S. ambassador to the EU. Correct? Marie Yovanovitch: I think he testified that one of his first discussions was with... Rep. Mike Turner (OH): But you agree that it's within his portfolio. Correct? You would agree that it's in his portfolio, would you not? Yes. Marie Yovanovitch: I would agree, that... Rep. Mike Turner (OH): Thank you. Now I want to go to the next... Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): I'm sorry, let her finish her answer, please. Rep. Mike Turner (OH): Now, Mr. Holbrook is a gentleman who I have an great deal of reverence for. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): Ambassador Yovanovitch has not finished her answer. You may finish your answer Ambassador. Rep. Mike Turner (OH): Not out of my time. You're done. Nope. Right. Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): No, The ambassador will be recognized. Marie Yovanovitch: I would say that, all EU ambassadors deal with other countries, including aspiring countries, but it is unusual to name the U.S. ambassador to the EU to be responsible for all aspects of Ukraine.

4:54:15 Rep. Andre Carson (IN): What concerned you about the Prosecutor General's office when you were the ambassador in Ukraine? Marie Yovanovitch: What concerned us was that there didn't seem to be any progress in the three overall objectives, that Mr. Lutsenko had laid out, most importantly for the Ukrainian people, but also the international community. So the first thing was reforming the Prosecutor General's office. It's a tremendously powerful office where they had authority not only to conduct investigations, so an FBI like function, but also to do the actual prosecution. So very, very wide powers, which is part of that Soviet legacy. And there just wasn't a lot of progress in that. There wasn't a lot of progress in handling personnel issues and how the structure should be organized and who should have the important jobs because some of the people in those jobs were known to, were considered to be corrupt themselves. Secondly, the issue that was tremendously important to the Ukrainian people of bringing justice to the over 100 people who died on the Maidan during the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. Nobody has been held accountable for that. And that is, you know, kind of an open wound for the Ukrainian people. And thirdly, Ukraine needs all the money that it has. And it is, there is a strong belief that former president Yanukovych and those around him made off with over $40 billion. $40 billion! That's a lot in the U.S. It's a huge amount of money in Ukraine. And so, again, nobody has, none of that money has really been...I think, I think maybe $1 billion was repatriated, but the rest of it is still missing.

6:13:25 Rep. Peter Welch (VT): Now as ambassador, you had no knowledge of whatever it is President Trump ultimately seems to have wanted to get for cooperation in this investigation isn't that correct? Marie Yovanovitch: Yes. Rep. Peter Welch (VT): All right. Now you've been asked about whether a president has authority to replace an ambassador, and you have agreed that that's the president's prerogative. Marie Yovanovitch: Yes, that's true. Rep. Peter Welch (VT): But that assumes that the reasons are not related to the personal private political interests that the president at the expense of our national security, right? Marie Yovanovitch: Yes. Rep. Peter Welch (VT): And you've been the target of insults from the president. You join some very distinguished company, by the way, Senator McCain, General Kelly, a man, I admire. I think all of us do. General Mattis. We're not here to talk about that unless the reason you get insulted as you did today, essentially blaming you for Somalia, is if this is another step by the president to intimidate witnesses. He didn't intimidate you. You're here, you've endured. But there are other people out there that can expect to Trump treatment if they come forward. That's a question for us.


Hearing: Diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent Impeachment Inquiry Testimony, House Select Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 13, 2019

Watch on Youtube: Open Hearing with Ambassador Bill Taylor and George Kent

Witnesses:

  • William Taylor
  • George Kent
Transcript:

35:00 George Kent: The United States has very clear national interests at stake in Ukraine. Ukraine's success is very much in our national interest in the way we have defined our national interest broadly in Europe for the past 75 years. After World War II, U.S. Leadership furthered far-sighted policies like the Marshall plan in the creation of a rules based international order, protected by the collective security provided by NATO Western Europe, recovered and thrived after the carnage of World War II, not withstanding the shadow of the iron curtain. Europe's security and prosperity contributed to our security and prosperity. Support of Ukraine's success also fits squarely into our strategy for central and Eastern Europe since the fall of the wall 30 years ago this past week. A Europe truly whole, free and at peace, our strategic game for the entirety of my foreign service career is not possible without a Ukraine whole, free and at peace, including Crimea and the Donbass, territories currently occupied by Russia.

37:00 George Kent: Ukraine's popular revolution of dignity in 2014 forced a corrupt pro Russian leadership, the fleet of Moscow. After that, Russia invaded Ukraine, occupying 7% of its territory, roughly equivalent to the size of Texas for the United States. At that time, Ukraine state institutions were on the verge of collapse. Ukrainian civil society answered the challenge. They formed volunteer battalions of citizens, including technology professionals and medics, a crowdsourced funding for their own weapons, body armor and supplies. They were the 21st century Ukrainian equivalent of our own minute men of 1776 buying time for a regular army to reconstitute. Since then, more than 13,000 Ukrainians have died on Ukrainian soil defending their territorial integrity and sovereignty from Russian aggression. America's support and Ukraine's own de facto war of independence has been critical in this regard. By analogy, the American colonies may not have prevailed against the British Imperial might without the help of transatlantic friends after 1776. In an echo of Lafayette's organized decision assistance to general George Washington's army and Admiral John Paul Jones' Navy, Congress has generously appropriated over one point $5 billion over the past five years, and desperately needed trained and equipped security assistance to Ukraine. These funds increase Ukraine strength and ability to fight Russian aggression. Ultimately, Ukraine is on a path to become a full security partner of the United States within NATO.

39:20 George Kent: In 2019, Ukrainian citizens passed the political torch to a new generation. When that came of age, not in the final years of the Soviet union, but in an independent Ukraine, presidential and parliamentary elections swept out much of Ukraine's previous governing elite and seated 41 year old president Zelensky, a cabinet with an average age of 39, and a parliament with the average age of 41. At the heart of that change mandate five years after Ukraine's Revolution of Dignity is a thirst for justice because there cannot be dignity without justice, without a reform judicial sector that delivers justice with integrity for all, Ukrainian society will remain unsettled. Foreign investors, including American investors, will not bring the great investment needed to ensure that Ukraine's longterm prosperity is secured.

45:30 George Kent: In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. Engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky's desire for a White House meeting.

45:45 George Kent: There are and always have been conditionality placed on our sovereign loan guarantees for Ukraine conditions include anticorruption reforms as well as meeting larger stability goals and social safety nets. The International Monetary Fund does the same thing. Congress and the executive branch work together to put conditionality on some security assistance in the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

54:45 William Taylor: Since 2014, you and Congress have provided over $1.6 billion in military assistance to Ukraine. The security assistance provides small unit training at an army base near Lviv in the Western end of the country. It provides ambulances, night vision devices, communications equipment, counter battery, radar, Navy ships, and finally weapons. The security systems demonstrates our commitment to resist aggression and defend freedom.

55:11 William Taylor: During the 2014 to 2016 period, I was serving outside of government and joined two other former ambassadors to Ukraine in urging the Obama Administration officials at the State Department, Defense Department and other agencies to provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine in order to deter further Russian aggression. I also supported much stronger sanctions on Russia. I was pleased when the Trump administration provided javelin anti-tank missiles and enacted stronger sanctions.

56:30 William Taylor: I could be effective only if the U.S. policy of strong support for Ukraine, strong diplomatic support along with robust security, economic and technical assistance were to continue.

58:00 William Taylor: But once I arrived in Kiev, I discovered a weird combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances. Firstly, encouraging: President Zelensky was reforming Ukraine in a hurry. He appointed reformist ministers and supported long stalled anticorruption legislation. He took quick executive action, including opening Ukraine's high anticorruption court with a new parliamentary majority stemming from snap elections. President Zelensky changed the Ukrainian constitution to remove absolute immunity from Rada deputies. The source of raw corruption for two decades.

1:05:30 William Taylor: On July 9th, on a phone call with Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, Fiona Hill, and Director of European Affairs, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Veneman at the NSC. They tried to reassure me that they were not aware of any official change in us policy towards Ukraine, OMB's announcement notwithstanding. They did confirm that the hold on security systems for Ukraine came from chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who maintained a skeptical view of Ukraine.

1:12:00 William Taylor: By mid-August, because the security assistance had been held for over a month for no reason that I could discern, I was beginning to fear that the long standing U.S. Policy of support for Ukraine was shifting. I called State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl to discuss this on August 21st. He said he was not aware of a change in policy, but would check on the status of the security assistance. My concerned deepened the next day. On August 22nd, during a phone conversation with Mr. Morrison, I asked him if there had been a change in policy of strong support for Ukraine, to which he responded, 'It remains to be seen.' He also told me during this call that the president doesn't want to provide any assistance at all.

*1:13:00 William Taylor: Just days later on August 27th, Ambassador Bolton arrived in Kiev and met with President Zelensky during their meetings. Security systems was not discussed. As far as I knew, the Ukrainians were not aware of the hold until August 29th.

1:28:30 William Taylor: Mr. Chairman, there are two Ukraine stories today. The first is the one we're discussing this morning that you have been hearing about for the past two weeks. It's a rancorous story about whistleblowers, Mr. Giuliani, side channels, quid pro quos, corruption and interference in elections. In this story, Ukraine is merely an object. But there's another story, a positive bipartisan one and this second story, Ukraine is the subject. This one is about young people and a young nation struggling to break free of its past, hopeful that their new government will finally usher in a new Ukraine, proud of its independence from Russia, eager to join Western institutions and enjoy a more secure and prosperous life.

1:32:00 William Taylor: Mr. Chairman, the security assistance that we provide takes many forms. One of the components of that assistance is counter battery radar. Another component are sniper weapons.

1:36:15 Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): Now, I, I think you said that if we believe in a principle of sovereignty of nations where countries get to determine their own economic, political and security alliances, we have to support Ukraine and its fight. That the kind of aggression we see by Russia can't stand. How is it important to American national security that we provide for a robust defense of Ukraine sovereignty? William Taylor: Mr. Chairman, as my colleague, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent described, we have a national security policy, a national defense policy that identifies Russia and China as adversaries. The Russians are violating all of the rules, treaties, understandings that they committed to that actually kept the peace in Europe for nearly 70 years. Until they invaded Ukraine in 2014, they had abided by sovereignty of nations, of inviolability of borders. That rule of law, that order that kept the peace in Europe and allowed for prosperity as well as peace in Europe was violated by the Russians. And if we don't push back on that, on those violations, then that will continue. And that Mr. chairman, affects us. It affects the world that we live in, that our children will grow up in and our grandchildren. This affects the kind of world that we want to see overall. So that affects our national interest very directly. Ukraine's on the front line of that conflict.

1:40:00 William Taylor: The whole notion of a rules based order was being threatened by the Russians in Ukraine. So our security assistance was designed to support Ukraine. That's it. It was not just the United States, it was all of our allies.

1:45:00 William Taylor: I had learned that in Warsaw, after the meeting Vice President Pence had with President Zelensky, Ambassador Sondland, had had meetings there and had described, to Mr. Yermak, the assistant to President Zelensky, that the security assistance was also held, pending announcement, by President Zelensky in public of these investigations. Before that, I had only understood, from Ambassador Sondland that the White House meeting was conditioned. And at this time, after I heard of this conversation, it struck me, it was clear to me that security assistance was also being held.

1:46:10 William Taylor: It's one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the white house. It's another thing I thought, to leverage security assistance, security assistance to a country at war dependent on both the security assistance and the demonstration of support. It was much more alarming. The White House meeting was one thing. Security assistance was much more alarming.

1:58:40 William Taylor: Mr. Goldman, what I can do here for you today is tell you what I heard from people, and in this case it was what I heard from ambassador Sondland.

2:07:30 Daniel Goldman: Just so we're clear, Ambassador Taylor, before this July 25th call, President Trump had frozen the security assistance that Ukraine needed and that the White House meeting was conditioned on Ukraine initiating this investigation, and that had been relayed to the Ukrainians. Is that an accurate state of play at this time? William Taylor: That's an accurate state of play. I at that point had no indication that any discussion of the security assistance being, subject to - conditioned on investigations had taken place. Daniel Goldman: Right. But you understood that the white house meeting. William Taylor: That's correct.

3:14:15 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): We know that from your deposition in those 55 days that aid is delayed, you met with President Zelensky three times. The first one was July 26th the day after the famous call now between President Trump and President Zelensky. President Zelensky meets with you, Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Sondland and again according to your deposition and your testimony, there was no linkage of security assistance dollars to investigating Burisma or the Bidens. Second meeting is August 27th, again in this 55 day timeframe. Second meeting is August 27. President Zelensky meets with you and Ambassador Bolton and others and again there no linkage of dollars - security assistance dollars to an investigation of the Bidens. Then of course the third meeting is September 5th. President Zelensky meets with you and Senators Johnson and Murphy. And once again there was no linkage of security assistance dollars to an investigation of Burisma or the Bidens. Three meetings with the president of Ukraine, the new president, and no linkage. That's accurate? William Taylor: Mr. Jordan is certainly accurate on the first two, first two meetings, because to my knowledge, the Ukrainians were not aware of the hold on assistance until the 29th of August. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): The Politico article. William Taylor: The Politico article. The third meeting that you mentioned with the senators, Senator Murphy and Senator Johnson, there was discussion of the security assistance, but Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): The linkage... William Taylor: The linkage, there was not, there was not discussion of linkage.

3:19:50 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): Ambassador, you weren't on the call were you, with the president? You didn't listen in on President Trump's call and President Zelensky's call? William Taylor: I did not. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): You've never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney? William Taylor: I never did. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): You never met the president. William Taylor: That's correct. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): You had three meetings again with Zelensky and it didn't come up, and two of those they had never heard about, as far as I know. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): And President Zelensky never made an announcement? This, this is what I can't believe. And you're their star witness.

3:23:20 George Kent: If we're doing a systemic, holistic program, you need institutions with integrity. That starts with investigators. It goes to prosecutors, it goes to courts, and eventually it goes to the correction system. In countries like Ukraine, we generally start with law enforcement, and that's what we did in 2014-15 with the new patrol police. There also is oftentimes needed a specialized anticorruption agency. In Ukraine that was called the National Anticorruption Bureau or NABU. There was a different body that reviewed asset declarations for unusual wealth called National Anticorruption Prevention Council. And eventually we got to helping them establish a special anticorruption prosecutor and eventually a high court on anticorruption. And that was to try to create investigators, prosecutors, and courts with integrity that couldn't be bought and would be focused on high level corruption.

3:34:00 Rep. Adam Schiff (CA): You've been asked, how could there be conditioning if the Ukrainians didn't know, but the Ukrainians were told by Ambassador Sondland, were they not? William Taylor: They were. They were. They didn't know as near as I can tell, the Ukrainians did not know about the hold on the phone call, on July 25th that's true. But they were told, as you said, Mr. Chairman, on the 1st of September.

3:38:50 Rep. Michael Turner (OH): Example of that Ambassador Taylor, is that you testified in your prior testimony that you have not had any contact with the President of the United States. Is that correct? William Taylor: That's correct, sir. Rep. Michael Turner (OH): Mr. Kent, have you had any contact with the President of the United States? George Kent: I have not.


Press Conference: 'Get Over It': Politics Is Part Of Foreign Policy, Mulvaney Says, npr, October 17, 2019

Speaker:

  • Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
Transcript:

18:50 John Carl: All right, so to the question of Ukraine. Mick Mulvaney: Yeah. John Carl: Can you clarify, and I've been trying to get an answer to this. Was the president serious when he said that he would also like to see China investigate the Bidens and you were directly involved in the decision to withhold funding from Ukraine. Can you explain to us now definitively why? Why was funding with that... Mick Mulvaney: I'll deal with the second one first, which is, look, it should come as no surprise to anybody. The last time I was up here, I haven't done this since I was chief of staff, right? Last time I was up here. Some of you folks remember it was for the budget briefings. Right. And one of the questions y'all always asked me about the budget is what are y'all doing to the foreign aid budget? Cause we absolutely gutted it. President Trump is not a big fan of foreign aid. Never has been. Still isn't, doesn't like spending money overseas, especially when it's poorly spent. And that is exactly what drove this decision. I've been in the office a couple times with him talking about this. He said, look, Mick, this is a corrupt place. Everybody knows it's a corrupt place. By the way, put this in context. This is on the heels of what happened in Puerto Rico, when we took a lot of heat for not wanting to give a bunch of aid to Puerto Rico because we thought that place was corrupt. And by the way, it turns out we were right. All right, so put that as your context. It's like this is a corrupt place. I don't want to send them a bunch of money and have them waste it and have them spend it, have them use it to line their own pockets. Plus I'm not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either. So we actually looked at that during that time, before when we cut the money off before the money actually flowed, cause the money flowed by the end of the fiscal year. We actually did an analysis of what other countries were doing. In terms of supporting Ukraine. And what we found out was that, and I can't remember, if it's zero or near zero dollars from any European countries for lethal aid. You've heard the president say this, that we give them tanks and the other countries give them pillows. That's absolutely right that as vocal as the Europeans are about supporting Ukraine. They are really, really stingy when it comes to lethal aid and they weren't helping Ukraine and that still to this day are not, and the president did not like that as a normal as long answer your question, but I'm still going. So, those were the driving factors. He also mentioned to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server. Absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money. Now there was a report... John Carl: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he, it was on the, to withhold funding to Ukraine. Mick Mulvaney: The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was, was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation then that is absolutely appropriate and which ultimately then flowed. By the way, there was a report that we were worried that the money wouldn't, if we didn't pay out the money, it would be illegal. Okay. It would be unlawful. That is one of those things that is, has that little shred of truth in it. That that makes it look a lot worse than it really is. We were concerned about in our, over at OMB about an impoundment, and I know I just put half you folks to bed, but there's the budget control act, impound budget control, empowerment act of 1974 says, if Congress appropriates money, you have to spend it. Okay. At least that's how it's interpreted by some folks. And we knew that that money either had to go out the door by the end of September or we had to have a really, really good reason not to do it. John Carl: And that was the legality of the issue you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the incident Democrats server happened as well. Mick Mulvaney: We do that all the time with foreign policy. We were holding up money at the same time for, what was it? The Northern triangle countries were holding up aid at the Northern triangle countries so that they would change their policies on immigration. But by the way, and this speaks to it, this speaks to important point because I heard this yesterday and I can never remember the gentleman who testified was...McKinney, is that his name? I don't know him. He testified yesterday. And if you go and if you believe the news reports, okay. Cause we've not seen any transcripts of this. The only transcript I've seen was Sondland's testimony morning this morning. If you read the news reports and you believe them, what did McKinney say? Yesterday when McKinney said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this, and I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence and foreign policy. That is going to happen. Elections have consequences and foreign policy is going to change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. And what you're seeing now, I believe, is a group of mostly career politicians, career bureaucrats who are saying, you know what? I don't like president Trump's politics, so I'm going to participate in this witchhunt that they're undertaking on the Hill. Elections do have consequences and they should, and your foreign policy is going to change. Obama did it in one way. We're doing it a different way and there's no problem with that. 23:50 Reporter: That it was okay for the US government to hold up aid and require a foreign government to investigate political opponents of the president. Mick Mulvaney: Now, you're talking about looking forward to the next election...We're talking... Reporter: The DNC is still involved in this next election. Is that not correct? Mick Mulvaney: So wait a second. So this, hold on a sec. Not yet. Let me ask you guys to gate the DNC. Let's look at this is the DNC. There's an ongoing investigation by our department of justice into the 2016 election. I can't remember the person's name. Durham, okay. That's an ongoing investigation. Right? So you're saying the president States, the chief law enforcement person cannot ask somebody to cooperate with an ongoing public investigation into wrongdoing? That's just bizarre to me that you would think that you can't do that. Reporter: And so you would say that it's fine to ask about the DNC, but not about Biden? So Biden is now, Biden is running for the democratic nomination, right? That's for 2020. Mick Mulvaney: That's a hypothetical. Cause that did not happen here. But I would ask, you know, on the call, the president did ask about investigating the Bidens. Are you saying that the money that was held up, that that had nothing to do with the Bidens. Mick Mulvaney: The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden. There's no way. And that was the point I made to you. Reporter: And you're drawing a distinction. You're saying that it... Mick Mulvaney: Three factors, again, I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily. Okay. Three issues for that. The corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in the support of the Ukraine and whether or not they were a cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our department of justice. That's completely legitimate.


Press Conference: Foreign Affairs Issue Launch with Former Vice President Joe Biden, Council on Foreign Relations, January 23, 2018

Speakers:

  • Richard Haass - President of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Joe Biden
Transcript:

Joe Biden: I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over, convincing our team, our leaders to—convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t. So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.


Published Transcript: Ukraine crisis: Transcript of leaked Nuland-Pyatt call, BBC News, February 7, 2014

Speakers:

  • Victoria Nuland, Asst. Sec. of State for Europe
  • US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt

Listen on Youtube: Nuland-Pyatt leaked phone conversation _COMPLETE with SUBTITLES

Transcript:

Victoria Nuland: Good. So, I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Geoffrey Pyatt: Yeah, I mean, I guess. In terms of him not going into the government, just let him sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead, we want to keep the moderate Democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok and his guys, and I’m sure that’s part of what Yanukovych is calculating on all of this. I kind of— Victoria Nuland: I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. What he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know? I just think Klitsch going in—he’s going to be at that level working for Yatsenyuk; it’s just not going to work.

Victoria Nuland: So, on that piece, Geoff, when I wrote the note, Sullivan’s come back to me VFR, saying, you need Biden, and I said, probably tomorrow for an “atta-boy” and to get the deets to stick. Geoffrey Pyatt: Okay. Victoria Nuland: So, Biden’s willing. Geoffrey Pyatt: Okay, great. Thanks.


Daily Briefing: State Department Daily Briefing, State Department, C-SPAN Coverage, Jen Psaki, February 6, 2014

Speaker:

  • Jennifer R. Psaki
Transcript:

0:19 Male Reporter: Can you say whether you—if this call is a recording of an authentic conversation between Assistant Secretary Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt? Jen Psaki: Well, I’m not going to confirm or outline details. I understand there are a lot of reports out there, and there’s a recording out there, but I’m not going to confirm a private diplomatic conversation. Reporter: So you are not saying that you believe this is a—you think this is not authentic? You think this is a— Psaki: It’s not an accusation I’m making. I’m just not going to confirm the specifics of it. Reporter: Well, you can’t even say whether there was a—that this call—you believe that this call, you believe that this recording is a recording of a real telephone call? Psaki: I didn’t say it was inauthentic. I think we can leave it at that. Reporter: Okay, so, you’re allowing the fact that it is authentic. Psaki: Yes. Reporter: “Yes,” okay. Psaki: Do you have a question about it?


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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Dec 23, 2019
Thanks for 5,270 Pages in a Week
01:21:00

In this bonus "thank you" episode, Jen provides an update on the last work days of 2019 in Congress, which included an offensive amount of legislation that passed while the country was distracted by the Trump Impeachment Show. Also in this episode is the announcement of a new podcast Jen is co-hosting called Talking Fat and Jen shares contributor notes and emails. 


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References


Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Dec 23, 2019
CD205: Nuclear Waste Storage
01:17:27

For 38 years, the United States government has been trying to figure out what to do with the radioactive nuclear waste that was created when the Defense Department developed nuclear weapons and the nuclear waste that continues to be created by nuclear power generation. In this episode, learn the history of this on-going dilemma and listen in on the debate as it currently rages in the 116th Congress. 


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Hearing: Nuclear Waste Storage, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, June 27, 2019.  

Watch on C-SPAN

Witnesses:
  • Maria Korsnick - President and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute
  • Steven Nesbit - Nuclear Waste Policy Task Force Chair at the American Nuclear Society
  • Geoffrey Fettus - Senir Attorney at the National Resources Defense Council
  • John Wagner - Associate Director at the Idaho National Labratory’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate Watch on YouTube
Transcript:

0:50 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): Beginning with the passage of the Nuclear Waste policy Act in 1982, congress has attempted several times to address the back end of the fuel cycle. In an effort to resolve an earlier stalemate, the federal government was supposed to begin taking title to use fuel and moving it to our pository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, beginning in 1998.

Manchin waste must be buried.aiff 5:30 Sen. Joe Manchin (WV):Since the National Academy of Sciences 1957 report recommending deep geologic disposal for highly radioactive waste, it is clear what we need to do with the nuclear waste. The prudent and responsible thing to do is to bury this waste deep in the earth, to protect the environment and public for generations to come. Unfortunately, the path to achieve this is not entirely clear.

7:45 Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Failing to act means the federal government is racking up more liability to be paid to the utilities to store this waste in their own private storage facilities adjacent to the reactors. So the taxpayer is on the hook here to the tune of about $2 million a day with an estimated overall liability of $34.1 billion.

11:15 Maria Korsnick: Currently 97 commercial nuclear power plants in 29 states provide nearly 20% of the America's electricity and more than half of the emissions free electricity.

12:00 Maria Korsnick: The US nuclear industry has upheld its end of the bargain at sites in 35 states around the country. Commercial used fuel is safely stored and managed awaiting pickup by the federal government, which was scheduled for 1998.

13:00 Maria Korsnick:But let me be clear. Congressional action is necessary and three important points must be addressed. First, we need to answer on the Yucca Mountain license application. DOE submitted the application to the NRC more than a decade ago, and Congress directed the NRC to issue a decision in 2012. This deadline, like too many was missed because DOE without basis, shut down the Yucca mountain project for the sake of the communities holding stranded used fuel wishing to redevelop their sites. We must move forward and allow Nevada's concerns with Yucca mountain to be heard by NRC'S, independent administrative judges. This will allow a licensing decision to be determined based on its scientific merits rather than politics.

13:50 Maria Korsnick: Second, as a licensing process of Yucca mountain moves forward, interim storage can play an important role in helping move spent fuel away from reactor sites. Moving interim storage in parallel with the Yucca Mountain project helps to alleviate state and local concerns that interim storage will become a defacto disposal facility.

14:30 Maria Korsnick: And finally, the nuclear industry and electricity consumers around the country have paid their fair share to address the back end of the fuel cycle. But as 1234 was originally drafted prior to the court mandated prohibition on the fee, and I want to strongly convey the importance of not prematurely reimposing the nuclear waste fee, especially given the substantial balance and large investment interest, which accrues annually.

24:30 Steven NesbitIn addition, the money from the nuclear waste fund, the federal government has many means for providing infrastructure improvements, federal land, educational opportunities, and other means of support to states and communities interested in exploring a partnership on the management of nuclear material. Make those potential benefits abundantly clear from the beginning.

27:45 Geoffrey Fettus: The years of wrangling over what standards should be set for cleanup and are massively contaminated nuclear weapon's sites, such as those in Washington or South Carolina is made exponentially worse by DOE self regulatory status, which the Atomic Energy Act ordains with these exemptions. The same is true with commercial spent fuel, where any state that is targeted to receive nuclear waste looks to be on the hook for the entire burden of the nation's spent fuel. State consent and public acceptance of potential repository sites will never be willingly granted, unless and until power on how, when and where waste is disposed of is shared, rather than decided simply by Federal Fiat. There's only one way consent can happen consistent with our cooperative federalism. Specifically, Congress can finally remove the Atomic Energy Acts. Anachronistic exemptions from our bedrock environmental laws are hazardous waste and clean water laws must include full authority over radioactivity and nuclear waste facilities, so that EPA and most importantly, the states can assert direct regulatory authority. Removing these exemptions will not magically solve this puzzle and create a final repository. But I think it can work faster than what we have now, because it will open a path forward that respects each state rather than offering up the latest one for sacrifice. The Texas and New Mexico events of the last several weeks demonstrate this.

33:15 John Wagner: First and foremost, I want to be clear from a technical standpoint. Spent nuclear fuel storage and transportation is safe as evidenced by more than 50 years of safe and secure operations by the public and private sectors. We do not have a spent nuclear fuel safety crisis in this country.

46:35 Geoffrey Fettus:The actual waste issue, honestly Senator, has not, and is not what is holding up nuclear powers ability to compete in the market. What is holding up nuclear powers ability to compete in the market are it's gigantic upfront capital costs. The South Carolina reactors that are now a $9 billion hole in the ground at summer and Vogel now, I think is now pushing 28 billion for two new units. The likelihood of building new nuclear power is vanishingly unlikely in this [inaudible].

47:40 Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): We're decommissioning some nuclear plants? Maria Korsnick: That's correct. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Are they-, have they run their life cycle? Maria Korsnick: Not all of them. No. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Could they be-... Maria Korsnick: They're being shutdown, because in the marketplace right now, the marketplace does not recognize the carbon free attribute of nuclear. It's competing.... Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): So there's no value to carbon free nuclear? Maria Korsnick: Not in the marketplace there's not. There should be. And that would help. And-... Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Are any of these plants in basically controlled PSE's, or basically they're all merchant? Maria Korsnick: The ones that are shutting down for the most part are merchant, not all, but for the most part.

50:40 Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): Yeah, we have four places that we could-, four tracks we could follow to do something. We could have a Yucca mountain open, we could build a new Yucca Mountain, we could have a public interim site, or we could approve a private interim site.

54:05 Geoffrey Fettus: Texas and New Mexico would both be barred from the consent process. Clearly by the terms of the bill. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): And I assume from your testimony, you think they should be? Geoffrey Fettus: We think that would put us in precisely the same stalemate. It's put us here for-...

54:20 Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN):Your testimony, you thought the private sites are because of the promise they have ought to have priority, is that correct? Maria Korsnick: We do think they should have priority. The challenge with the private sites right now, is they don't want to be the defacto longterm storage, which keeps it connected to a long term storage answer.

59:00 Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): What should consent look like? Geoffrey Fettus: Consent should look like regulatory authority, as simple as that. To the extent that there has been acceptance in New Mexico of the WHIP-... Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): right... Geoffrey Fettus: ...Transuranic Geologic Repository, the only operating one in the world. Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): Why do we have that? Why do we have consent for-... Geoffrey Fettus: The only consent-, Well, it's a little complicated and it's not nearly the consent that needs to be there and it's not the full regulatory authority-... Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): But the state has.... Geoffrey Fettus: But the state has hazardous waste permitting authority, and that state can shut the place down and set terms by which it can operate after it had a fire and an explosion that shut it down and contaminated it for several years. Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): And we reopened that facility, which I will repeat, is the only, only deep geological repository, um, that's been successfully built that I'm aware of in this country, because of the state's involvement.

1:02:35 Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Dr. Wagner mentioned several small reactors. How much more efficiently would these smaller reactors use fuel than reactors in past decades, and could you describe how these new forms of generating nuclear energy could possibly change our need for nuclear waste storage going forward? Maria Korsnick: Yeah, so, I guess as you look forward, there's a variety of different types of small modular reactors that can be built, but some of the types of small modular reactors that can be built would actually be interested in using a different type of fuel. And some of that fuel could be in fact what we consider used fuel today. So in any solution set that we put in, we should remind ourselves that we want it to be retrievable. There's 95% still good energy in what we call used fuel. It's just in a different form. And some of these reactors that are being looked at for tomorrow, will be able to harvest that energy. Sen. Mike Lee (UT): And will be able to use it far below that 95% threshold that you described? Maria Korsnick: That's correct. Sen. Mike Lee (UT): How low would they go? Maria Korsnick: They should be able to use the majority of that good energy. I would say, you know, you'll be down to maybe the four to 5%, that's left, that would then need to be stored.

1:04:40 Maria Korsnick: Sort of goes back to when we said there's 95% still good energy in the, what we call, used fuel. It's transformed, and so instead of being, say, uranium 235, it's turned into uranium 238, or it's turned into plutonium 239. So those isotopes can still release energy, but they, not in the current way in our current lightwater reactors. So in recycling, what you do is you essentially take the fuel apart and you isolate what's good and can be used again. So that uranium, that plutonium,- it can then be mixed and you can use it in current reactors, that's called "Mox" fuel, or you can use it for other types of reactors. So, again, it sort of closes the fuel cycle, if you will. You're left with a very small amount that is not useful in a fuel. And France as an example, reprocesses their fuel, they turn that into a glass and then you store that inert glass. Sen. Mike Lee (UT): So the glass is inert? It's not [inaudible] at that moment. It's not emitting?... Maria Korsnick: It's radioactive, but it's not useful for fuel. So it's stored in accordance with,-. It would it be in a deep geologic situation, but it will be a very small amount. Sen. Mike Lee (UT): No, it reduces the overall volume of what's produced. Maria Korsnick: That's correct. Sen. Mike Lee (UT): So why wouldn't we do that? Maria Korsnick: So in the United States, we've chosen not to. We've chosen the fact that, and this was made in the Carter Administration, days that the fact of reprocessing, they look at it as a potential proliferation, even though there are many processes and things you could put in place to ensure that it's done, without any kind of proliferation concerns. But that's why the United States doesn't currently go for reprocessing today. Sen. Mike Lee (UT): So if that decision was made in the Carter administration, when we're talking about 40 years ago or more... Maria Korsnick: That's correct. Sen. Mike Lee (UT): What has changed since then that might cause us to need to reconsider that? Has the technology changed in such a way that, you know, what was perceived as dangerous would no longer necessarily be deemed, made dangerous? Maria Korsnick: Well, I mean, I think we've proven on a lot of fronts that we are, we have the capability of managing a significant things. The government manages plutonium on a regular basis, so it obviously can be done and can be done safely.

1:07:45 Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): In 1987, I believe it was, Tennessee was able to successfully remove the Oak Ridge facility as an interim storage facility changed the law. And now in this bill, Tennessee has equally, the opportunity to say no, like every other state, except Nevada. That's all I'm looking for in my state, is those similar opportunities.

1:08:25 Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): Section 306E requires a potential host state to veto or approve a site before they are fully informed of a site's local impacts, prior to initiating a review licensing process. That essentially leaves Yucca mountain as the default sole repository. Section 506A gives parody to all other states, yet allows Yucca Mountain and other states in New Mexico, Texas, and Utah to be kept on the list without requiring their consent. And section 509 eliminates the legal 70,000 metric ton limit of waste to be stored at a repository, so if no state wants to be a host, this guarantees all the waste goes to Yucca Mountain.

1:11:00 Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): Under this act, would the NEI support this act if the NWA walked away, and walked away from the Yucca Mountain project and demonstrated that a new repository project could be done more efficiently and rapidly than Yucca Mountain, would you support that? Maria Korsnick: I don't see how another process could be done more rapidly with all of the analysis that's already been done on Yucca. But if you found such magic place, yes, we could be supplying.... Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): Well, I, DOE studies have shown that walking away from Yucca Mountain and starting over with a repository in salt or shell could save billions of dollars over the life of the facility. So, and this is the challenge I've had, we've had a stalemate over the last 32 years and we have offered the opportunity to come in and work with us and find a solution for it, and I think you have that today. But unfortunately, what I see from the industry is this same old playbook and not willing to even admit there's an opportunity to move forward. There's not even a willingness to talk about potential new technology that can be utilized to address this safe storage, and that is my concern.

1:23:55 Sen. Angus King (ME): But if the main Yankee site is safe, why not a larger similar site that has the same technology? You're telling me everybody says it's safe. As an interim step until we've figure out what, what the best pr-, I don't understand why we have to go from 80 temporary to permanent? Um, isn't there a step in between that with technological.... Maria Korsnick: Well, that's what consolidated interim storage is. Sen. Angus King (ME): That's what I'm talking.... Maria Korsnick: Yeah, and the challenge is nobody wants to sign up for consolidated interim storage. You mentioned New Mexico. The governor just recently wrote a letter. The last New Mexico governor was in support of interim storage. The current New Mexico governor not, and the challenge is because they don't want to become the long-term repository, and until there is an idea of a long-term repository, anybody that raises their hands for that consolidated interim storage is defacto the long,-term... Sen. Angus King (ME): I think that's a good point because are these temporary sites are now the defacto long-term sites.

1:27:55 Maria Korsnick: If you decided today on a long term repository site, by the time you license it, let's just select Yucca since we've talked about it, that would still be another three to five years just to license it today, cause all of the analysis has been done and there's additional hearings that have to happen. Nevada has to have their say..... Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Well, if we're not capacity, why would we have an interim site? If you just want to carry three to five years.... Maria Korsnick: That's just to get your license. It's going to be another decade to build it. Alright, so you're already talking, you have 15 years if you were on "go" today. 35 billion is what your obligation is today and in 15 years it's going to be closer to 50 billion. So you have to manage the liability that you are building on a daily basis and the best way to help manage that liability is that interim storage, because once you start taking that fuel off site, eventually that judgment fund comes down because you don't have to pay the judgment fee because you've taken the fuel in an interim state. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): How far along are we on permitting the interim sites? Maria Korsnick: You're nowhere. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): So, whether we started today with interim or permanent, it's the same timetable? Sen. John Barrasso (WY): There's two sites that have applications in, but you know, whether they will actually go forward and construct those sites, is an open question.

1:34:40 Sen. John Barrasso (WY): American rate payers have now paid about 12, I'm sorry, $15 billion, to site, to study and to design a repository for the Yucca Mountain site and thus funding $200 million that was paid to the state of Nevada to develop their own scientific and technical analysis. So, Ms. Korsnick, why is it important for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to complete the independent safety review of the proposed Yucca mountain repository? Maria Korsnick: Well, you just mentioned the significant money that has been expended. We should have a fair hearing and quite frankly, give Nevada a chance to have their hearing. The process will require that it goes through the judges, et cetera, through the licensing process and for all this money that has been expended. Let's understand the science and the licensing process and work ourselves through it. In the future, we might need another long-term repository. So let's learn everything that we can and understand the science and the licensing process for the one that's so far along.

1:45:10 Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): I think we should learn from the science from Yucca Mountain because there are no natural barriers or manmade barriers that make it safe. But we keep hearing that all the time. So let me ask you this, if we were to learn from the science of Yucca Mountain, which would require still 40 more miles to, of tunnel to be, to dig the tunnel, to bury the canisters, which, by the way, the same canisters that are utilized for Yucca Mountain in the study can't be utilized because the industry doesn't use the same type of canisters. But what I'm told, it is so hot once it's stored, and it leaks like a sieve because the hydrology shows already in the exploratory tunnel that it leaks like a sieve, that once the canisters are there, titanium drip shields will have to be created to put over the canisters. And by the way, those titanium drip shields would not be placed in that facility once the canisters here till 90 years later, and it cannot be placed by man in there, so you have to build the robotics to put the pipe Titanium drip shields to protect the water that goes down into the canisters that would go into the aquifer below. Is that the science that you're saying that you would learn from that you should not have in any other repository? Steven Nesbit: What I was referring to senator, was completing the licensing process and having the concerns such as you just expressed evaluated by a panel of experts and ruled on in a manner that we can learn from them, if indeed we go on to develop other repositories elsewhere. That's all I talked about... Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): We already have the information, and that's my point..... Steven Nesbit: Well Senator, I don't agree with your terms.... Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): You spent $19 billion on a five mile exploratory tunnel to study the geology and hydrology. We know that because it's a volcanic tuff and there's fractures through the rock, that it's going to leak, so that's why the titanium drip shields are part of your plan for the canisters that will be placed there. So that's why I'm saying we've already had the information that shows it's not safe, so why are we going to waste another 30 years with 218 contentions by the state and lawsuits that I know I was part of, this attorney general against your department or, excuse me, against the Department of Energy, and instead of looking forward in a comprehensive approach and utilizing the science to help us understand, and moving forward, and the new technology that is out there, that's all I'm looking for, and I'd love the industry to come to the table and work with us on that, so thank you. Steven Nesbit: The key question at Yucca Mountain is not whether it's built in volcanic tuff, but whether it can or cannot comply with the very conservative environmental standards that were laid down to protect the health and safety of the public, and that's the question that would be resolved in a licensing hearing before fair, impartial and qualified judges. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV): I disagree, but now that I have more time, let me add a little bit more to this. Because I think, for purposes of science, we really are. And I would ask the scientists here, isn't the intent here to decrease any type of unexpected opportunities with respect to science? So you want an, you want a place that is safe, that you are going to decrease any vulnerabilities with respect to that deep geologic site, instead of adding to those vulnerabilities by manmade, alleged safety barriers or natural safety periods, you're going to decrease those kinds of vulnerabilities. And isn't that what you're really looking for, for any type of site, a deep, geologic site and, maybe Mr. Fettus, I don't know if you have a response to that? Geoffrey Fettus: I couldn't agree more Senator Cortez Masto. The idea behind any geological repositories to find geologic media that can isolate the waste for that length of time, it's dangerous. And the problem that the Yucca Mountain project has repeatedly run into is, whenever it ran into the technical challenges that you so accurately described, the response was to weaken the standards, to allow the site to be licensed. So we don't look at the upcoming atomic safety and licensing board proceeding, if it were to ever go forward as as a full exercise and having the state have a fair say.


Advanced Nuclear Technology: Protecting U.S. Leadership and Expanding Opportunities for Licensing New Nuclear Energy Technologies, Committee on Environment and Public Works: Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, June 4, 2019

Witnesses:
  • Chris Levesque - CEO at TerraPower
  • William Magwood - Director General at the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency
Transcript:

26:35 William Magwood: About 30 companies around the world are vying to develop game changing technologies, most of them working in gen four concepts. While ithere is great hope and enthusiasm at each of these companies, it's important to note that developing a new light water technology and shepherding it through regulatory approval costs at least a billion and a half. Generation four technologies will cost substantially more, and this is before billions are spent on demonstration facilities. The typical company working to develop an innovative nuclear technology today has perhaps a dozen engineers and scientists devoted to the technology efforts and access to tens of millions of dollars. In comparison, I recently visited the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, which is developing a molten salt reactor technology. Molton salt reactors are a gen four technology that is high interest to several private sector companies because it represents the path of extraordinarily safe and efficient nuclear reactors. They have the potential as consume waste rather than generate it. The project in China has currently over 400 scientist and engineers hard at work developing this technology with plans to build a demonstration reactor the next decade.

31:20 Chris Levesque: Demonstrating new nuclear technologies is the most important step to jumpstart an advanced U.S.nNuclear industry and compete globally. No company can commercialize advanced nuclear technology until it is demonstrated. Federal supportive demonstration efforts has driven down costs for technologies like solar, wind, and hydraulic fracturing. We need a similarly ambitious effort to demonstrate a portfolio of advanced nuclear reactors. This will take increased public private cooperation, and we need to start this now.

54:00 Chris Levesque: One thing the government and specifically this committee has done very right, I think, is the passage of NIMA because that really empowers our safety regulator to entertain these advanced reactor designs. So thank you for that support. And one area where improvement is needed, I think, and the committee has already focusing on this is with NELA, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act. We really need a demonstration project. We need multiple demonstration projects in the U.S. where we actually design, build, and demonstrate advanced technologies. Otherwise this will all be talk and we won't realize this, this new technology in the United States.

59:00 Sen. Mike Braun (IN): So you mentioned computer modeling as a difference. Give me some other differences so I can easily understand what generation one and two is then what this miracle might be if we ever see it. Chris Levesque: Yeah. So this is leading to some of the benefits of advanced reactors. And this applies to many of the technologies. These are now low pressure systems. They're systems that have inherent safety, meaning we don't need a lot of extra mechanical and electrical systems.Sen. Mike Braun (IN): Can they store fuel onsite when it's spent? Chris Levesque: Well, they do require onsite fuel storage and some of them require a future geological repository which the U.S. government is working on. But many of these technologies like Terra Power's also because of the computer modeling, they have very advanced physics to the core that generate much lower waste at the end of the fuel cycle, up to an 80% reduction in that waste. And so that's why China and Russia, even though they're building plants that are much like what we developed in the U.S, they have their eyes on these advanced reactor designs and really the U.S, because of our national lab complex and our legacy from those plants I mentioned... Sen. Mike Braun (IN): But they're not built yet? They're still in the developmental stage? Chris Levesque: We are really the best poised... The U S has a leadership opportunity here that if we don't take it, China and Russia will. But we are best situated today to take leadership on advanced reactors. And if we don't, China and Russia will in a very short period of time. The time to act is now, as in this year, we need to begin work on demonstration of advanced reactors.

1:05:30 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And Mr. Levesque, one of my earliest exposures to Terra Power involved the proposition that the technology had the promise of allowing us to go back through the currently just sitting there, nuclear waste stockpiles that we have for which we have no plan and actually be able to utilize that and repurpose it as fuel and turn, as I said in my opening remarks, a liability into an asset. Is that still a focus of Terra Power? Will it remain a focus of Terra Power? Is that a focus of the industry? And what can we do to help make sure it remains the focus of the next gen or gen four industry? Chris Levesque: Senator, you're pointing to a very, a major capability of, of advanced reactors. Today's reactors only use about 5% of the fissile material before the reactor has to be shut down and the fuel is removed. It's just the way the physics work. Advanced reactors, including Terra Power's design, much more completely uses that fuel. Now, Terra Power's designs today plan on using depleted uranium, which is the waste product of the enrichment process. We can use either depleted uranium or natural uranium to fuel the traveling wave reactor. hHowever, this entire new family of advanced reactors does offer the potential to go and look at spent fuel. Of course, we, you know, we're waiting for the U S to develop a geologic repository for spent fuel. But advanced nuclear technologies do allow you the opportunity to go look at what amount of fissile material is remaining in that spent fuel and is there a way to utilize more of it? So that's yet another benefit of advanced reactors.

1:07:30 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): If I may make a comment, Mr. Chairman, I know that you made from a very strong business background and if we were running United States incorporated, the liability of all that nuclear waste we have stockpiled all around the country and dozens of sites would show up when your auditors came and when you did your financial reporting to your shareholders, they would say here on the debit side of the column is this liability that you have for having to deal with this nuclear waste at some point, and if it was a $500 million liability, you'd have an incentive to spend up to $499 million to clean it up. But because we're the United States of America, not the United States incorporated, there is no place where it shows up in our balance sheet and so we really don't have that persistent economic incentive that a corporation would have to deal with it as a national issue. There's a bit of a carbon price flavor to the point I'm trying to make, but there's also, this is like the reverse of it. There's this liability and there's no way in which, as I can see it, that a Terra Power or somebody else can say, okay, there's a $500 million problem, that means I can come up with a $200 million solution and then we can split the difference and we're making like $150 million and my business sense gets motivated. My innovation juices start to flow to solve that problem. Instead of just sits there and the stuff has sat there for decades and we're waiting for the magic solution to go put it in Yucca mountain or someplace. But I don't see that happening without a revolt from Nevada. So we need to, I think there's an economic solution here as well. If this was a pure business proposition, there'd be a lot more energy in solving it because there'd be this account that was dragging on our balance sheet saying, fix me, fix me, fix me.


Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, June 1, 2011.

Witnesses:
  • Peter Lyons - then Assistant Energy Secretary for Nuclear Energy
  • Gregory Friedman - then Energy Department Inspector General
  • Martin Malsch - Attorney representing the State of Nevada.
  • Christopher Kouts - Former Acting Director of Civilian Radioactive Waster Management at the US Department of Energy
Transcript:

20:00 Rep. Shelley Berkley (NV): Thank you for inviting me to testify today. Let's get right to the point. Nevadans had been saying no to Yucca Mountain for decades and we will continue shouting "No" at the top of our lungs until this effort to shove nuclear waste down our throats is ended. I don't know who you met with, but I can tell you the latest poll polls show that 77% of the people of the state of Nevada don't want nuclear waste stored at Yucca Mountain. Why? Because we don't want our home turned into a nuclear garbage dump and we oppose more wasteful spending on a $100 billion dinosaur in the Nevada desert that should have gone extinct years ago. I know members of this committee will hear today from others who will say that Nevada's efforts to stop the dump is all political and it's nothing to do with science. Hogwash! The truth is that Nevada's opposition has always been based on the danger that Yucca mountain poses to our state and our nation. Make no mistake, the Yucca Mountain project was born of politics starting with the infamous 1987 Screw Nevada bill. And why was it politics? Because the state of Nevada had a very small delegation at that time and we were unable to protect the state from the 49 others. You want to talk about science? There's no radiation standards that currently exist because there's no way to create radiation standards to protect the public from nuclear waste with a 300,000 year half shelf-life. Originally, they were going to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, then they realized there were groundwater problems, so we were going to store it in containers with a titanium shield to protect it from the dripping water. Then they realized that wasn't enough, cause the titanium shields were going to erode. So then they were going to build concrete bunkers to contain the titanium shields that contain the canisters. And then, the last secretary of energy in the Bush administration actually said he was going to create an army of robots that were going to go down to Yucca mountain because man can't go down there, and to be able to protect us from the, the nuclear waste leakage. This legislation, the Screw Nevada bill, did away with any pretense of science when it eliminated every other site under consideration as a dump location. At the same time, the nuclear industry and its allies have worked for years to silence Nevada's criticism and to minimize the fact that the proposed dump is located smack in the middle of an active earthquake zone. This is an area that has been rocked by violent earthquakes in the recent past and we know the risks it creates. Proponents of the dump have also sought to dismiss scientific finding, showing that water will enter Yucca mountain causing rapid corrosion of waste canisters and resulting in release of dangerous radioactive materials. And dump backers have worked tirelessly to downplay the risk to millions of Americans living along the transportation routes from decades of waste shipments barreling down our nation's roads and railways, with each canister a potential terrorist target or accident waiting to happen, whether caused by human error, mechanical failure, or a deliberate 911 style strike, a massive release of these deadly materials threatens to kill or injure Americans to release radioactive contamination and to shut down major portions of our interstate highway system and rail system. When it comes to plans for Yucca Mountain, the fact remains that you can never eliminate the risks that will accompany shipping nuclear waste across more than 40 states, through communities utterly unprepared to deal with radioactive contamination. We're talking about shipments, passing homes, hospitals, schools, every single day for four decades, and even more incredible, at the end of those 40 years, there will even be more waste in the cooling ponds than there were when the shipments began, and that's because as long as the plant is operating, some amount of nuclear waste will always remain at the nuclear facility, and that is why the threat posed by Yucca Mountain must be weighed against the availability of dry cask storage as an affordable solution to this problem and it's available today. Using this method, we can secure waste at existing sites and hardened containers, where they can remain for the next hundred years until we figure out what to do with this garbage. The nuclear industry is already utilizing dry cask storage at various locations around the U.S.. There's no reason we should not require plans to begin moving waste right now from cooling pools into hardened containers. In conclusion, Nevada remains in case you don't already know, opposed to more wasteful spending on a failed $100 billion project that threatens lives, the environment and the economy of my community and others across the nation. I will lay my body down on those railroad tracks to prevent any train that has nuclear waste in it from going to Yucca Mountain. I make that pledge to you and the people I represent. Nuclear waste can remain on existing sites and dry cask storage for the next century, giving us time to find an actual solution to replace the failed Yucca Mountain project and if anybody watched what was happening in Japan, and still has the audacity to suggest this for the people of our country, shame on us all! And Germany just announced that they were ending their nuclear program because they have no way to safely store nuclear waste. If Germany can figure that out, by gosh, the United States of America should be able to figure that out too. I yield back the balance of my time.

29:00 Rep. Doc Hastings (WA): What is truly not workable is the uncertainty that faces our commercial nuclear power industry, as they look to a future that may require them to house spent nuclear fuel on a site for decades because there is no geological repository ready to accept it.

30:15 Rep. Doc Hastings (WA):My district is home to the Hanford nuclear site. Part of the top secret Manhattan project that developed and constructed the first atomic bomb. The work done at Hanford helped win WW II and later provided the nuclear deterrents that helped defeat communism and end the Cold War. Today, Hanford is the world's largest, the world's largest environmental cleanup project, and the high level defense nuclear waste at Hanford is slated to be shipped to the national repository at Yucca Mountain. Right now, the Department of Energy is building, right now, a building, a critical $12 billion plant that will treat 53 million gallons of high level defense waste currently stored in underground tanks at Hanford and turn it into safe, stable glass logs that are scheduled to be stored at Yucca Mountain. The waste treatment plant, which is a $12 billion plant, which is over halfway done, is being built to beat specifications designed to match the geological structure and makeup of Yucca Mountain.

32:00 Rep. Doc Hastings (WA): Delaying or abandoning Yucca Mountain means that Hanford will be home to high-level defense waste even longer. The federal government's legal commitment to our state won't be kept, and clean up progress at Hanford will be jeopardized. With more defense waste slated to go to Yucca mountain than any other state in the union, the stakes for my state of Washington cannot be higher and the risks could be not more, not more real.

32:30 Rep. Doc Hastings (WA): In addition, Richland, which is just south of the Hanford project, is the home to Pacific northwest only commercial nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station. The spent nuclear fuel from this plant is also slated to go to Yucca mountain, but without Yucca opening, the spent fuel will have to be kept onsite for an unknown amount of time, at great expense to the taxpayers and rate payers.

1:33:00 Rep. Jay Inslee (WA): This is very disturbing on a couple of bases. One is, in my state, the state of Washington, we have people very diligently trying to follow their obligations legally and in their profession, getting this waste ready to ship to Yucca. They're going to be ready to ship 9,700 canisters to Yucca. They're doing their job, but the department's not doing its job. Now that's on a local concern, but on a national concern, I just think this situation is one of a failed state. You know, they talk about fail states around the world? This- because of the failure to follow the clear law here, this is the equivalency of a failed state. We reached a national decision. It is unpopular in one local part and a beautiful part of the country, as it will be in any part of the country that we ever have this decision made and yet we can't execute a decision. Now this, this sort of flagrant statement that social acceptance is now a legal criteria, I don't understand. I just ask Dr. Lyon, how are we ever to build anything like a nuclear waste repository anywhere in the United States if social acceptance is a mandatory criteria to build something? Dr. Peter Lyons: I use the example in my testimony of the waste isolation pilot plant in New Mexico, which has the strongest local acceptance, and I noted that there are a number of international examples where with careful education, with transparent processes, there has been strong acceptance of repository programs.

1:35:00 Rep. Jay Inslee (WA): And obviously in the decision making of the department based on the best science and geology and hydrology, we decided Nevada was the best place. But now you're telling me we're gonna maybe look for a less scientifically credible, less geologically stable, less hydrologically isolated place because we might get a little better social acceptance. That is a failed policy by a failed state and I have to just tell you, regardless who the administration is, in an abject failure to follow federal law here is most disturbing and it's unacceptable. And I don't really want to think I want to belabor you with too many more questions. I just want to tell you it's unacceptable by any administration of any party to make a decision when we're dealing with this number of curies of radiation based on social acceptance is an, is just a, not a, a winner for this country.

1:41:43 Gregory Friedman: Approximately 10% of Yucca mountain was designated as I am, as I recall, for a high level defense waste and spent nuclear-, defense spent nuclear waste. My understanding is that the current inventory of waste in that category exceeded, exceeds even the 10% of the Yucca mountain that was set, reserved for that purpose originally.

2:07:00 Martin Malsch: The original 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy act forsaw many of the problems which that now afflict the Yucca mountain program. Among other things, it sought fairness and redundancy by requiring multiple sites from which to choose ultimate locations for repositories and it's strove for regional equity by setting up site selection programs for two facilities, one in the west and one in the east. However, all this was scrapped in 1987. Congress decreed that all repository development efforts must focus now on just one site in Nevada and it did so not withstanding incomplete scientific information and the fact that now spent reactor fuel and high level waste from every region in the country would now be sent to a single western state with no nuclear power plants or high level waste generating facilities. After 1987, there was only one possible site and inevitably as more and more dollars were spent, it became progressively more difficult to admit that the selection of Yucca Mountain had been a mistake. But we know now things we did not know in 1987. We now know that groundwater will reach the wastes at the site in about 50 years, not the hundreds or thousands of years it had been originally thought. We now know the Yucca Mountain is not dry. Total of water seepage into the tunnels where the waste will be located will be as much as 130,000 kilograms per year. These and other serious problems led to even more exotic and doubtful engineering fixes. When it appeared likely that the Yucca Mountain site could not satisfy certain EPA and NRC licensing requirements, the requirements were simply eliminated. These actions by Congress and then by EPA DOE and NRC destroyed the credibility of the program.

2:18:00 Christopher Kouts: Because the development of Yucca mountain has been such a contentious and protracted process, it is being suggested that only consensual siting of these facilities should be pursued. I would submit to the subcommittee that the U.S. and international experience in this area proves otherwise. In my discussions over the years with the directors of repository programs abroad, they have consistently expressed their concerns that due to the very long time frame to repository programs take to develop, any political consensus at the beginning can evaporate with one election, just as it has in the U.S. with Yucca Mountain. At the end of the day, implementing a repository program requires steady, consistent national leadership.


Nuclear Waste Storage, House Energy and Commerce Committee, April 18, 2002

Witnesses:
  • Jim Gibbons - then Representative followed by Governor of Nevada from 2007 to 2011
  • Spencer Abraham - Secretary of Energy from 2001-2005
Transcript:

41:45 Rep. Jim Gibbons (NV): The disposal of the nation's high level nuclear waste has been and remains an important issue for many Americans. However, for the past 20 years it has been the single most important issue for the state of Nevada. And just as a historical note, Mr Chairman, the Nuclear Waste Policy act of 1982 as amended in 1987, selected Nevada and Yucca Mountain as the sole site to be studied for consideration of a nuclear repository. It's very important to note Mr Chairman, under this law and its subsequent amendment, a finding that the site is suitable to become a high level waste repository for the next 10,000 years would require and I repeat, would require that the site be determined "geologically sound". Mr Chairman, as the person who holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Nevada in geology, I'm probably one of the few geologists in Congress, but I can tell you having looked at this, Yucca mountain is not, nor will it ever be geologically sound. If the site is geologically sound, why so much cost on the engineering aspect of this project? The answer is, you cannot spend enough money to make a mountain geologically sound. What will the DOI, DOE realize is that they can spend enough to make the manmade engineering barrier sound? The problem is that is not what the law requires. If you look at the fine print and if you look hard enough, you'll see that the DOE has failed to prove Yucca mountain's geologic suitability and they have made promises that they cannot keep. How do I know this and how do the American people know this? Because once DOE started digging and actually studying Yucca Mountain, they realized they would have to change the rules in order to meet the suitability standards mandated by Congress in the act. And what the DOE found out was this,-one, rates of water infiltration into the mountain are on the order of 100 times higher than previously thought. Two, credible studies indicate a significant presence of Basaltic volcanism in and around Yucca Mountain. Three, with Nevada ranking third in the nation in seismic activity, it has been determined that there have been nearly 700 cases of earthquake or seismic activity of 2.5 magnitude on a Richter scale or more near Yucca Mountain since 1976, that's 700 occurrences. In fact, about 10 years ago, a 5.6 level earthquake occurred less than 10 miles from Yucca Mountain and actually caused some damage to nearby DOE facilities. So what has been the DOE response to these findings? Findings that even the DOE themselves acknowledge? They retroactively changed the rules for site suitability. They moved the goalpost. You see, the DOE cannot prove Yucca Mountain's capability of serving as a longterm high level nuclear waste repository that is geologically sound. Their response? Adopt new rules, permitting the agency to rely entirely on man-made waste packages. Mr Chairman, I ask, is this what Congress intended? I don't think so.


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Nov 25, 2019
Thanks-giving Crisis Averted
01:07:18

A "thank you" bonus episode featuring another last minute government funding law (with a Patriot Act dingleberry), a date for this year's Christmas Crisis, and an update on your favorite dizzy podcaster who will soon be looking like Lady Millhouse on a daily basis.


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Nov 24, 2019
CD204: Why Brexit the EU?
01:09:12

The European Union is a partnership of 28 countries that the United Kingdom has been trying to escape from since 2016. In this episode, we examine the European Union in order to understand the decision the citizens of the UK were asked to make and learn why the United States has become a theme in the Brexit debate.


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CD201: WTF is the Federal Reserve?

CD102: The World Trade Organization: COOL?

CD096: Fast Tracking Fast Track (Trade Promotion Authority)


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Parliment Meeting: House Of Lords, Parlimentlive.tv, October 19, 2019

Speakers:

  • Lord Newby
  • Reid of Cardigan
  • Baroness Ludford
  • Lord Rooker
Transcript:

10:33:00 Lord Newby: My Lords, and your Lordship's house is sitting on a Saturday today for the first time since 1983, and only the fourth time in 80 years. These occasions have typically been to debate a serious foreign threat to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, the outbreak of the second world war, Suez, the Falklands. Today we sit on a Saturday to try to resolve a serious internal threat to the unity and future of the conservative party. There is no reason other than the prime minister's macho commitment to leave the EU by the 31st of October for the government's decision to recall parliament today. Such a timetable is a complete abuse of the parliamentary process. It doesn't allow the appropriate impact assessments to be made, it doesn't allow the relevant select committees to consider the proposals, and it doesn't allow the commons in your Lordship's house to give proper consideration to the withdrawal bill. It barely gives us time to read and compare the documents. The withdrawal agreement itself, some 535 pages, was available for the first time from Nobel -- to pick up from the printer paper office just this morning. And so we certainly have not had time to identify and work out what some of the changes mean. For example, the sections in the political declaration on dispute settlement and the forward process had been substantially rewritten. Why? Parliament today is being asked to approve these changes with no effective ability to question the ministers on them. It is a disgrace.

10:39:00 Lord Newby; And the impact on the union with Scotland is also clear. Northern Ireland will have freer access to EU markets than Scotland. Scotland, understandably, we want the same, and the only way they can get it is by independence. This deal is a further recruiting Sergeant for the --

11:07:00 Reid of Cardigan: And to those who say, but we can rely on our allies bailing as out economically, I didn't know --, particularly the president of the United States, because he's a reliable man -- once. I suggest you have a word with the Kurds and see whether you want to reflect upon them.

11:14:00 Baroness Ludford: No -- the leader spoke of the wonderful perspective of international trade deals. President Trump has just imposed a 25% tariff on imports of single malt whiskey. Smaller independent whiskey producers face having their quote "feet taken out from under them", said one. Compare this with how the EU has used its clout to leave open markets in Asia for scotch whiskey that were previously heavily protected by tariff walls. We cannot trust president Trump.

12:02:15 Lord Rooker: The push for a free trade agreement with America, the food poisoning capital of the West, where food poisoning rates are 10 times in the UK per head of population, will have consequences. And on a very minor point of detail, I realize that, research published in the UK only last year proves that chlorine washing of food does not kill all the bugs. And that's the microbiology society. And given the United States of America has over 400 people a year die of salmonella compared to none here, it seems to be the case we're heading for very serious consequences of life and death.


Parliment Meeting: House Of Commons, Parlimentlive.tv, October 19, 2019

Speakers:

  • Boris Johnson
  • Jeremy Corbyn
  • Kier Starmer
Transcript:

9:49:00 Boris Johnson: Speaker: I have complete faith in this house to choose regulations that are in our best tradition of the highest standard -- of the highest standards of environmental protections and workers' rights. No one, no one anywhere in this chamber believes in lowering standards. Instead, the loss of gesticulation, the statement by the prime minister, must be heard, and it will be. The prime minister -- no one believes in lowering standards; instead we believe in improving them, as indeed we will be able to do, as we will be able to do, and seizing the opportunities of our new, freedoms, for example, free from the common agricultural policy. We will have a far simpler system where we will reward farmers for improving our environment and animal welfare. Many of whose provisions are impossible under the counter agents. Instead of just paying them for their acreage and free from the common fisheries policy, we can ensure sustainable yields based on the latest science, not outdated methods of setting quotas. And these restored powers will be available not simply to this government, but to every future British government of any party to use as they see fit. That is what restoring sovereignty means. That is what was meant in practice by taking back control of our destiny.

9:59:00 Jeremy Corbyn: This deal, Mr. Speaker, what inevitably and absolutely inevitably lead to a Trump trade deal, forcing the UK, forcing the UK to diverge from the highest standards and expose our families once again to chlorine washed chicken and hormone treated beef.

10:02:00 Jeremy Corbyn: And if anyone had any doubts about this, we only have to listen to what their own honorable members have been saying. Like the one yesterday who rather let the cat out of the bag saying members should back this deal, as it means we can leave with no deal by 2020. The cat has truly got out of the bag. So can the Prime Minister confirm whether this is the case and that if a free trade agreement has not been done, it would mean Britain falling on to world trade organization terms by December next year with only Northern Ireland having preferential access to the EU market? No wonder the foreign secretary said this represents, and I quote, "a cracking deal for Northern Ireland." They would retain frictionless access to the single market. It does beg the question, Mr. Speaker, why can't the rest of the UK get a cracking deal by maintaining access to the single market?

12:30:00 Kier Starmer: But it's obvious where it leads because once you've diverged, once you've moved out of alignment with the EU, trade becomes more difficult. I will just finish the point, trade becomes more difficult and the EU is not seen any longer as our priority in trade and the gaze goes elsewhere to make up. I'll finish this point, if I may, I will finish this point. Because once you've moved out of alignment, you don't move back. And the further you may move out, the less easy it is to trade with the EU 27. And once you've done that, you've broken the economic model we've been operating for decades. And once you've done that, you look elsewhere. Once you've done that, you look across to the United States. I will finish this point and then I'll give way. The gaze goes across to the US and that's a different economic model. It's not just another country, it's a different economic model, a deregulated model. In the US, 10 days is the holiday entitlement. Many, many contracts at work, I'll pull contracts at will. Hugely powerful corporate bodies have far more power than the workforce. So this is a political direction of travel, not a technical decision on the EU, that takes us to a different economic model, one of deregulation, one of low standards, one where the balance between the workforce and corporate bodies gets far worse than it is now.


Interview: Christine Lagarde: The "60 Minutes" interview, CBS NEWS, October 20, 2019

Interview:

  • John Dickerson - Interviewer
  • Christine Lagarde

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Nov 12, 2019
Thanks for Fighting Facebook
01:27:51

A “thank you” bonus episode featuring an unfortunate resignation, an "impeachment inquiry" update, a Facebook censorship battle, and an business model ethical dilemma. Thanks for supporting the show!

 


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Nov 12, 2019
CD203: Scattering Interior
01:09:37

Public land belongs to all Americans and the bureaus of the Interior Department are responsible for balancing conservation and resource extraction on our land. The Trump administration is making some major changes to this important agency which few Americans are aware of. In this episode, learn what their plans are, how those plans are being implemented, and who stands to benefit from the changes. Spoiler alert! Fossil fuel companies will be pleased.


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Full Committee Hearing: THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR'S FAILURE TO COOPERATE WITH CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT REQUESTS, Committee on Natural Resources, September 26, 2019

Watch on YouTube: DOI’s Failure to Cooperate with Congressional Oversight Requests

Witnesses:

  • William Perry Pendley - Deputy Director for Policy and Programs at the Bureau of Land Management
  • Tony Small - Vice Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee
  • Edward Shephard - President of the Public Lands Foundation

Hearing: BLM DISORGANIZATION: EXAMINING THE PROPOSED REORGANIZATION AND RELOCATION OF THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT HEADQUARTERS TO GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO, Committee on Natural Resources, September 10, 2019

Watch on YouTube: BLM Disorganization EventID=109893

Witnesses:

  • William Perry Pendley - Deputy Director for Policy and Programs at the Bureau of Land Management
  • Tony Small - Vice Chairman of the Ute Indian Tribal Business Committee
  • Edward Shephard - President of the Public Lands Foundation
Transcript:

21:30 William Perry Pendley:We need to have the energy, mineral and realty management experts, who are now in Washington, out in the field with the state offices to work hand in glove with tribal leaders on tribal lands to ensure their ability to develop the resources. Congress passed last year, in 2018, a change to that law to permit more of these agreements. We're working aggressively with the BIA to have those agreements, and I'll be a very, very strong advocate for tribes being able to enter into those agreements to take over the oil and gas leasing functions on their land if that's their decision to do so.

52:15 Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): Grand Junction is not necessarily where everyone is going to go. We're also moving people to New Mexico. You're moving people to Arizona, to Nevada, over to Utah, up to Idaho, where their function can be better enhanced by being in those local particular areas. So this is not just a wholesale move from at stadium to Grand Junction. You're covering the entire West, and you're going to allow a greater expertise and a greater experience throughout the entire area in which you find BLM lands, right?
William Perry Pendley: That's absolutely the case. We have 74 people going to various state offices to perform SAIDI office functions. We have 222 people going to state office to perform headquarters' functions. Nearly every, well, not nearly, every Western state will benefit from the infusion of experts.
Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): We all will benefit, and I appreciate that. Yes, sir.

55:40 Rep. Jody Hice (GA): How will the American people be able to visualize and experience some of the, how they themselves, how Americans are going to be better served, if the leadership and the resources are moved closer to the actual places that are impacted and involved with BLM. William Perry Pendley:Congressman, I think one of the ways is better decision making earlier in the process. None of us like the logjam that we've seen, for example, with national environmental policy act, where we have endless litigation, and makes it difficult for things, rubber to hit the road, and whether we're doing a recreational project or grazing renewal or oil and gas operations, whatever we're doing, they get bogged down. And one of the things the secretary has done is forced those decisions out into the field with sectoral or 3355 to shorten our NEPA process and get it done right. And one of the ways we can most effectively do that is having our top people in the field.

1:04:30 Rep. Dianna Degette (CO): 35 of those people said they're going, of the 177 you have now, they said they're not going to move to the West. Do you have people in the West who are qualified who say they're going to take that job? William Perry Pendley: If I could slightly correct the statement, that is an estimate that our policy budget and management people made, calculating that typically 25%... Rep. Dianna Degette (CO): The find 25% that want to go there? William Perry Pendley: No, no. It's simply a rough calculation, okay, we've got to make some numbers. We're going to try to get a number to provide Congress. What's our PHCS code? Rep. Dianna Degette (CO):Understand. Did they get the number on the other side of how many more people would want to come in? Do you have that number? William Perry Pendley: I don't have that number. Rep. Dianna Degette (CO): Thank you very much.

1:33:30 Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC):Would you, to this committee, promise to have before this committee, a survey of staff so that the committee will have information on how many will refuse and how many will be glad to move to Grand Junction? William Perry Pendley:We're going to be meeting with people one on one. We're going to be meeting with family members. We're going to be asking their personal needs and be responsive to those needs. I don't think we can provide that information because that's going to be a one-on-one employee to employee discussion.

1:54:15 Tony Small: Moving BLM to Grand Junction will impact energy permitting on our lands. No one is talking about moving the White House or Congress to Grand Junction or any other agencies involved in energy permitting on Indian lands. Moving BLM will reduce coordination, drain expertise, eliminate accountability. Rather than drain the swamp, BLM will become a tool of special interest and will lose focus on its national missions, including trust responsibility to tribes. Grand Junction is in our original homelands. In 1880 we entered into an agreement with United States to give up millions of acres and to resettle along the grand river, near modern day Grand Junction. These lands were rich with water resources, but the United States forces us at gunpoint further West into what would become Eastern Utah. In this rocky desert, a 1.9 million acre reservation was established for our benefit. Ever since, our Kopavi reservation in Utah has been under attack. First, non Indians overgraze lands intended for our stock, and today BLM permits energy development on our lands. -- have been made and energy leases and royalties on our own Kopavi reservation. BLM splits this money with the state. We have never been paid for the use of our lands. Year after year, the United States forces us to go to court to protect our lands and enforce treaties, agreements, and trust responsibilities. This must stop.

2:34:15 Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC): If this proposal were to go through, there would be virtually no headquarter staff, and there would be, it would be the only agency that did not have a headquarters staff present here in the nation's capital. It is an extreme proposal to put it mildly.

2:35:45 Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC): And you reference that there had been past reorganization efforts, that they had been problematic, and even ultimately reversed. I wonder if you have any detail you could offer the committee on prior reorganizations of any kind. Edward Shephard: I can. One example that I can give from my personal experience, when I was back on forestry staff here in Washington DC, is we moved a lot of folks West to, what we call, centers of excellence. And when they went out to the West they became a part of that state. Whether it was intended to or not, that's just human nature. They became part of that state organization and a lot of the knowledge of what went on, if you went to Oregon, you didn't know what was going on in Utah, Colorado, because you were in that state, you concentrated on that state. And you also, the way this reorganization was, you won't even have, and that way in '91 also you don't have the benefit of going over, if you're a forester and you're making a decision on a policy level thing, you can't walk over to the wildlife staff that also does policy because they're not there. And that's an issue that's gonna happen with this reorganization. You need to work together between interdisciplinary teams and it won't be there when they're spread out all over the place.


Full Committee Hearing: WHEN SCIENCE GETS TRUMPED: SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY AT THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Committee on Natural Resources, July 25, 2019

Watch on YouTube: Full Committee Hearing EventID=109850

Witnesses
  • Andrew Rosenberg, PhD - Director at the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Joel Clement - Senior Fellow at the Arctic Institute
  • Daren Baskst - Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation
  • Maria Caffrey, PhD - Former partner of the National Park Service
Transcript:

34:00 Andrew Rosenberg: Some examples of attacks at the Department of Interior selected from our research are as follows. The Fish and Wildlife service bowed to political pressure and circumvented our comprehensive assessment of impacts on endangered species of a proposed city size development in southeastern Arizona. Department suppressed 18 memos from staff scientists raising concerns about proposed oil and gas operations in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge, and they defunded landscape conservation cooperatives effectively censoring climate change adaptation information for state and local governments. Department of Interior published an analysis of gray wolves that was riddled with errors, scientific errors, as identified by peer reviewers and that analysis then extensively supported removing endangered species act protections for this species. And DOI officials blocked the release of a comprehensive analysis on potential dangers of widely used pesticides for hundreds of endangered species, as the chairman noted, 1400.

39:05 Joel Clement: As Director of the Office of Policy Analysis, it was my job to understand the most recent scientific and analytical information regarding matters that affected the mission of the agency and to communicate that information agency leadership. I never assumed that agency leadership would make their decisions based entirely on that information, but I did assume they'd taken into consideration. And that proved true for the first 6 years of my time at Interior. It all ended with the arrival of the Trump political team, which as I'll describe later on, has sidelines scientists and experts, flattened the morale of the career staff, and by all accounts has bent on hollowing out the agency. Now the career staff at interior are not partisan in the work. They have a job to do, they do it well. Of course, they know that an incoming Republican administration is likely to favor resource extraction of a conservation. The vice versa is true, but they've pledged to support and defend the constitution, advance the mission of the agency regardless of their beliefs. But what if their leaders are trying to break down the agency? What if their directives run counter to the agency mission as directed by Congress? What if the political appointees are intentionally suppressing the science that indicates that doing more harm than good and putting American's and the American economy at risk? These days, career staff have to ask themselves these questions nearly every day, or at least decide where their red line is. For me, the Trump administration crossed it by putting American health and safety at risk and wasting taxpayer dollars. Here's how that went down. Science tells us that rapid climate change is impacting every single aspect of the agency mission, and it was my job to evaluate and explain these threats. For example, as the federal trustee for American Indians and Alaska natives, Interior is partially responsible for the wellbeing, uh, but with over 30 Alaska native villages listed by the government accountability office, as acutely threatened by the impacts of climate change, it should be a top priority for Interior to help get these Americans out of harm's way as soon as possible. I was working with an inter-agency team to address this issue, speaking very publicly about the need for DOI to address climate impacts, and I paid that price. Uh, one week after speaking at the U.N, uh, on the importance of building climate resilience, I receive an evening email telling me had been reassigned to the auditing office that collects royalty checks from oil, gas, and mining industries. I have no experience in accounting or in auditing. It was pretty clear to me and my colleagues that this was retaliation for my work highlighting Interior's responsibilities as they pertain to climate change and protecting American citizens. So I blew the whistle. I was not alone. Dozens of other senior executives received reassignment notices in that night's purge. The ensuing inspector general investigation revealed the political team had broken every single one of the office of personnel management guidelines for reassigning senior executives, and they left no paper trail to justify their actions.

41:50 Joel Clement: There are many more instances of the agency directly suppressing science. Among them, reports that Secretary Bernhardt ignored and failed to disclose over a dozen internal memos expressing concern about the impacts of oil and gas exploration on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Former Secretary Zinke, canceling a national academy study on the health impacts of coal mining, right before lifting a moratorium on coal leasing. Zinke again, instituting a political review of science grants led by an old football buddy that was, that has bottle-necked research funding and led to cancelled research and the U.S. Geological survey eliminating their entire climate change mission area. The list goes on and on. Not only does this group ignore science and expertise, they crossed the line by actively suppressing it at the expense of American health and safety, our public lands and the economy. They're intentionally leaving their best player on the bench.

1:08:10 Rep. Deb Haaland (MN): Who took over the work that you were doing for those Alaska native communities, that incredibly important work. Who took that over after you were gone?
Joel Clement: They've never replaced me and that work ceased. Rep. Deb Haaland (MN): They've never replaced you? Joel Clement: No. Several months later they found a political appointee to sit in the office, but he has since moved on upstairs.

1:10:05 Rep. Deb Haaland (MN): Why do you believe this reassignment was done out of retaliation and wasn't simply a policy decision by leadership? Joel Clement: I don't see any chance that that was a policy decision. I think it was purely punitive and retaliatory for two reasons. One, of course, to take the climate adviser and put them in the office that collects royalty checks is clearly an indication they want, they wanted me to quit. But also, the very next week, Secretary Zinke came to the hill and testified during a budget hearing, that indeed he did want to use reassignments to trim the workforce at DOI by 4,000 people. I don't think he realized the reassignments don't trim the workforce unless you're getting people to quit, and that's unlawful.

1:45:30 Rep. Paul Gosar: I don't think anybody denies that, that climate is always changing. I think there is nobody that will say that, but I think the priorities is what can man do and what cannot man do? Like i.e., the Sun. Would you agree with me that the Sun has more implications on our weather and climate than does man? Joel Clement: The uh, the climate has certainly always changed, there's no question about that. The climate has not changed at this pace and to this extent during the course of human civilization. Rep. Paul Gosar: Oh, well, has the earth changed dramatically before man? Joel Clement: It certainly has. During the time of the Dinosaurs, of course, they were wiped out by a very dramatic change. Rep. Paul Gosar: It did.


Full Committee Hearing: U.S. Department of the Interior Budget and Policy Priorities for FY 2020, Committee on Natural Resources, May 15, 2019

Watch on YouTube: U.S. Department of the Interior Budget and Policy Priorities for FY 2020

Witness
  • David Bernhardt: Secretary of the Interior
Transcript:

1:36:45 Rep. Mike Levin (CA): Yes or no? Is there any doubt that you have a legal obligation to take into account the needs of future generations and manage the public lands to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation, now and in the future? David Bernhardt: We certainly have a need to take them into account. We are taking them into account.
Rep. Mike Levin (CA): Yet when we met, you claimed that Congress hasn't given you enough direction to address climate change. David Bernhardt: What I specifically said is you haven't given me any direction to stop any particular activity and if you want to stop it, you need to give us that direction. The reality is we comply, we are compliant with NEPA. Rep. Mike Levin (CA): Mr Bernhardt, Secretary, what type of direction would you want Congress to give you to make it in every year? David Bernhardt: Whatever you think you can do to stop it, if that's what you want to do, go for it. But, but that should happen in this body. That's not something the Department of Interior does with the magic wand.

2:39:40 Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): So I was reading the newspaper this week and it hit the headlines that two days ago, that carbon dioxide levels hit 415 parts per million, which is the highest in human history, the highest in 800,000 years. Did you happen to see that secretary? David Bernhardt: I didn't see that particular fact.... Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): Well that was on the front page of USA Today, and I'll ask unanimous consent that the article titled "Carbon Dioxide levels hit landmark at 415 parts per million, highest in human history", be made part of the record. And that was of course when there were no humans the last time it, it hit that kind of level and so my question for you is on a scale, and this is a number question, I'm looking for a number secretary. On a scale of one to 10, how concerned are you about that? David Bernhardt: Well, what I will say is I believe that the United States..... Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): ...And 10 being the most concerned and one being the least concerned, what's your number? David Bernhardt: I believe the United States is number one in terms of decreasing CO2. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA): Did you hear me all right Secretary? I'm asking you what's your number of your level of concern about that? On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the most concerned, what's your number for how concerned you are about us hitting 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide? David Bernhardt: I haven't lost any sleep over it.


C-SPAN Broadcast: Interior Department Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request, Mother Jones, May 7, 2019

Watch on YouTube: APPROPRIATIONS--DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Committee on Appropriations

Witness:
  • David Bernhardt: Secretary of the Department of the Interior
Transcript:

27:35 David Bernhardt: I recognize that climate is changing. I recognize that man is a contributing factor.

29:00 David Bernhardt: Are we going to stop Welland Gas Development because of this report? The answer to that is no. Congress, you all have the ability to decide whether we do anything on federal lands and you've decided the lands that we manage. You've decided a whole host of different range of things. On some things you've decided that it's wilderness and should be enjoyed for the solitude and enjoyment of people and untrammeled by man. On other things, you've decided that this is a national park and it should be managed that way. And on other areas you've decided that the land is for multiple use. We go through a planning process. That planning process can result in some areas that are for solitude, other areas are for multiple use, but at the end of the day we also have the Mineral Leasing Act. And if you have a view on what you want to happen, we'll carry it out when you execute it. And that is my position.

44:45 David Bernhardt: If I were to ask for a Lexis or Westlaw search, and for somebody to give me the number of times that the secretary is directed to do something, you'd find that there are over 600 instances in law that says, I shall do something. There's not a "shall" for "I shall manage the land to stop climate change" or something similar to that. There's a "shall" that tells me to provide people to work on reports. There's some authorization, but there's no "shalls".

53:40 Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ): Obviously I want to talk to you a little bit about drilling off the coast. Democrats and Republicans, we kind of agree on this issue. There were in opposition to drilling off the coast of Atlantic, so our state has been very concerned about this administration's proposal to open up the outer continental shelf to drilling. I certainly was pleased to hear that those plans are on hold, but it's very concerning that the administration is planning to proceed with the seismic air gun testing. A practice that causes extreme injury to marine animals, including dolphins and whales. Considering the harm to wildlife, what is the justification for engaging in seismic testing when there is a little prospect of offshore drilling anytime soon? David Bernhardt: Well what we do is we receive these applications and we process them. I don't think we're at a stage where any have been approved. But we go through the process.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ):

What applications are you talking about? David Bernhardt: The seismic applications. And my view would be that there's seismic that occurs out there for other things already that don't need a permit from a bone. But we'll go through and we'll do our analysis. We'll make our decision and I think the way the regulations written, if we say that there's a problem with the permit, then we need to explain how their application could be corrected. My own view is, we shouldn't be afraid of information, if we can do it lawfully and it can be done responsibly. The data itself is not something that we should be afraid of.

1:02:15 David Bernhardt: On my first day as deputy, the secretary pulled me into his office and said, "your first job is to deal with Sage-Grouse. And I'd spent my entire career avoiding Sage-Grouse both at the department and the private sector.

1:05:00 Rep. Mike Simpson (ID): I'm not anti Sage-Grouse. It's a species we've got to make sure it doesn't get on the listing and our language to prevent listing in the past has been so that there's progress can be made outside of the courts, frankly. Because it's going to be done by the Department of Interior, by the states, by the local communities, and not by a judge.

1:08:25 Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): The oversight committee on natural resources are investigating whether your staff has been complying with transparency and record keeping laws, including whether records related to your daily schedule was deleted or withheld from disclosure. On March 28th, the committee sent you a joint letter requesting transcribed interviews with four employees familiar. It has been over five weeks since the committee issued the letter and the Interior has not scheduled the interviews or allowed the employee to contact. What are you doing and when do you plan on scheduling these witnesses for interviews? David Bernhardt: Well, I think we've sent the committee tens of thousands of pages of documents. They'll see every single calendar entry made from the day. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): But we're talking about.... David Bernhardt: We have every single document. You have so much to review. We've offered a briefing.... Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): But we as Congress asked for them to come and, last time I checked, you don't determine how we get our information. I appreciate what you sent, but the issue on the table is scheduling the witnesses for interviews and you sir, are the person who's responsible to set the tone. So I want to know, when do you plan on scheduling these witnesses? David Bernhardt: I want to be very clear here. We have offered additional briefings. We've offered material and at the right, we think it's not the appropriate time for interviews. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): So your position is that you have the right to tell Congress when and what, how the information will be.... David Bernhardt: Of course not, but we do have a right to have a process that's fair and responsive and know.... Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): So you think the process isn't fair and responsive? David Bernhardt: In all candor, you sent these secretaries requests and they obviously have to make their choice, but you're talking about individual employees that have been long standing employees within the department and when you want to shoot at me, that's comes with the territory. But these are people, we have wonderful career employees here that are very, they've never had this happen to them in their career and I just think people ought to think about that for a minute.

1:13:00 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Four days into your tenure, the inspector general opened an ethics investigation into a "wide assortment of questionable conduct on your part". So, spare us that we're coming after your career employees, as you say, this is about you and the questions raised, leaving meetings with questionable private interest off your public calendar and changing your public calendar, which may violate federal record laws, rolling back endangered species protections to benefit your former clients, engaging in illegal lobbying activities and blocking scientific study on the impact of certain pesticides on several endangered species to benefit the makers of these pesticides.

1:28:15 Rep. Betty McCollum (MN): Does the DOI have a comprehensive plan for the proposed reorganization? And some of this I know you're probably going to get back to me on, so I'll read the others. David Bernhardt: I, um.... Rep. Betty McCollum (MN): Because the committee today has not received anything. David Bernhardt: I think I committed to you months ago that if this moved forward, you'd get a detailed plan. And I think you can say that you don't have a detailed plan. We have a spend plan that we brought today. I'll give you, but I know for a while that we need to have a plan that will pass muster for you.

1:30:10 Rep. Betty McCollum (MN): So, let me tie that back to what is going on with tribal consultation. Mr. Cameron's statement also in the Committee on Oversight and investigations, and I quote for him. "After much input from the department's career senior executive staff, Congress, governors, and external stakeholders, including consultation with Indian tribal leaders, a map was finalized in the unified regions, took effect on August 22nd 2018". According to your website, the unified regional boundary map was published on July 20, 2018, however; the first tribal consultation occurred on June 30th and the final consultation occurred on August 23rd. So it's clear from the timeline that the tribal consultation was, it appears to be an afterthought to the reorganization and...

1:34:00 David Bernhardt: Let me be very, very clear. We are not reorganizing as part of the unified regions in any way. The BIA or BIE, they wanted out of it.

1:58:15 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Tell us how the things I talked about, like reducing tests to key equipment such as blowout preventers is a compromise? David Bernhardt: The fact of the matter is the more you test equipment, also leads to the greater likelihood that it will fail and... Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): When you take that, so the logical conclusion, we've never tested theirs.


Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: NO ROAD MAP, NO DESTINATION, NO JUSTIFICATION: THE IMPLEMENTATION AND IMPACTS OF THE REORGANIZATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Committee on Natural Resources, April 30, 2019

Watch on YouTube: Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing

Witnesses:
  • Scott Cameron - Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of Interior
    • Worked at the Interior Department during the GWB administration.
    • Between his Interior gigs for GWB and Trump, Cameron spent four years working at Dawson and Associates, a lobbying firm that represents lots of companies in the fossil fuel industry.
  • Harold Frazier - Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
  • Michael Bromwich - Founder and Managing Principle of the Bromwich Group
    • Former Justice Department Inspector General and U.S. Assistant Attorney
    • Has investigated and helped reform police departments and conducted investigations of the FBI, returning damning results.
    • Was one of the prosecutors of Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal.
  • Jamie Rappaport-Clark - President and CEO at Defenders of Wildlife
    • Former Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service during the Clinton administration
Transcript:

9:45 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): One of the first things Ryan Zinke did after becoming secretary was try to implement massive solution in search of a problem. The weakness in that approach to reorganizing the 70,000 employee department of the Interior, It became clear early in the process. We have not seen data to show that there is a problem. We've not seen data to prove that every organization was the way to solve the problem, nor have we seen a cost benefit analysis or workforce planning data, no measurable goals, no comprehensive plan, and that's worth repeating, a massive reorganization and we have seen no plan.

11:20 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): The actions that have been taken so far in the name of the reorganization have already had significant impacts. Starting in 2017, dozens of the most experienced, the most effective employees were moved out of their positions into positions for which they had no qualifications or interest, and with very little notice.

12:35 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): To try to uphold our constitutional prerogative to provide oversight on this major undertaking, this committee has repeatedly sought information from interior. We've been repeatedly denied.

19:55 Scott Cameron: Uh, the departments where reorganization is in response to President Trump's 2017 executive order to reorganize the executive branch to better meet the needs of the American people in the 21st century. Our Agency's reform plan highlights the need to modernize and plan for the next 100 years of land and water resource management. The first and very significant step we took toward reorganization was to create 12 unified regions that aligned most of our bureaus with within shared geographic boundaries and more importantly, shared geographic perspectives. After much input from the departments, career senior executive staff, Congress, governors, and external stakeholders, including consultations with Indian tribal leaders, the map was finalized and the unified regions took effect on August 22, 2018.

22:35 Scott Cameron: We have also proposed moving elements of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters operations west, to bring them closer to the public that they interact with most frequently.

24:25 Harold Frazier: Now when this reorganization happened, um, as tribes in the Great Plains area, and I'm sure throughout the United States, we were never properly consulted. When they come to the region, the Great Plains region, we were given a picture of a map. That's all we were given. We weren't given any plans over the purpose of, -how, or why this change is needed or how it's going to benefit our people. It was never done. That's all we were given.

29:10 Michael Bromwich: My testimony will focus on the first principles that should guide a significant government reorganization and how they were applied to the reorganization we undertook at interior following the oil spill. First, a bit of background. In late April, 2010, Deep Water Horizon rig was conducting exploratory drilling in the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig experienced a violent blowout that killed 11 people and injured many others. It was a human tragedy of major proportions, but also an enormous environmental tragedy. In early June, 2010 I was asked by President Obama to lead the agency responsible for the oversight of offshore drilling. At the time, known as the Minerals Management Service or MMS. We took immediate steps to modify the rules governing offshore drilling, but we also looked at whether the government's organizational structure for managing it was the right fit for the risks that it posed. We ultimately concluded that it was not, but not before we developed a detailed understanding of the way the agency operated and the costs and benefits of changing that structure. The agency was responsible for three very different missions, collecting royalties and revenues for the offshore program, making balanced resource decisions and developing and enforcing regulations governing offshore activities. These three missions conflicted with each other and the history of the agency demonstrated that revenue collection was emphasized at the expense of the other missions. By the time I arrived at DOI, six weeks after the initial explosion, discussions had already begun about reorganizing MMS to eliminate its structural conflicts, but I was given the discretion to decide whether or not to do it. I don't take reorganizations lightly. I have a bias against them. They are disruptive, expensive, frustrating, and they tend to depress morale. They create uncertainty and divert resources. They frequently fail to achieve their objectives. Reorganizations are too often undertaken for reasons of executive vanity. They are developed and implemented in haste, inadequately vetted based on inadequate analysis and insufficient consultations with stakeholders, including the personnel responsible for implementing them. They are a way for a new executive or executive team to put their imprint on an organization, whether the changes make any sense or not. Those are bad reasons for undertaking a reorganization, but those are the reasons that many are undertaken. In the case of MMS, we became convinced that a reorganization was necessary and appropriate, but only after careful study and consideration of less disruptive alternatives. I want to emphasize that when we began the process, there was no preordained outcome. We did not decide on the reorganization that was ultimately implemented and then work backwards to justify it. Instead, we undertook a detailed process together with outside consultants who are experts in organizational diagnosis and reorganizations. We considered a number of less sweeping changes, including changes to staffing levels, enhanced training, and other organizational tweaks. In the end, our analysis and discussions pointed to a broad reorganization and my prepared statement goes into detail into the various steps we took during the process. Throughout the process, we were extraordinarily open about what we were doing. We were open with the agencies personnel, with DOI, with the congress, and with the public. We spoke frequently about what we were doing and why we were doing it. The broad contours and most of the specifics of the reorganization were embraced by members of Congress of both parties. In the more than seven years since the reorganization was completed, its wisdom has been demonstrated. I've just told in very abbreviated form, the story of a rare species, a successful government reorganization. As I said at the outset, I know very few of the details of the proposed and far broader DOI organization that is the subject of this hearing, but I gather I'm not alone because the details of the reorganization have not been shared widely with agency personnel, the Congress, or the public, including local stakeholders, communities, and Native American tribes. That's a problem. I'm aware of no internal or external studies of any kind that have made the affirmative case for the proposed DOI reorganization. I am aware of no analyses or studies that have presented the anticipated benefits of the reorganization and balanced them against anticipated costs.

34:05 Jamie Rappaport-Clark: With more than 20 years of service with the federal government, I have personal experience with reorganization initiatives and with leading mission driven organizations. I believe the administration's current effort to reorganize Department of the Interior distracts from its vitally important mission. Waste scarce, fiscal and human resources disrupts the essential and lawful functions of interior bureaus, reduces staff capacity and seriously undermines employee morale. To succeed, there must be clarity, not only on the problems posed by the existing structure, but how the proposal will measurably improve performance. Impacts to personnel and operations must be explicitly considere and transparency and public engagement across all affected sectors, vitally important. The administration has not satisfied these fundamental criteria. Their plan suffers from a lack of crucial details, transparency, accountability, and public engagement. They have never really described a compelling need for reorganization. Consideration of critical questions about the scope, purpose, impacts, benefits, and risks of such a radical transformation have not been reconciled.

35:45 Jamie Rappaport-Clark: A unified military command is fundamentally inappropriate for coordinating interior bureaus. A distinct mission and responsibility for each bureau are established by law. Those missions sometimes align, but sometimes diverge or even conflict, and that's by design. Certainly bureaus can and should coordinate their actions better to achieve timely outcomes, but they cannot be legally subordinated to the control of a single unified regional directorship. The administration's proposal of 12 unified regions cut through watersheds, they cut through states and even individual public lands units, confounding management and complicating relationships with partners, overlaying new regions atop current agency boundaries or fracture relationships developed with stakeholders over many years.

37:00 Jamie Rappaport-Clark: Given this administration's agenda of energy dominance on the public domain and continuous attacks on our conservation laws and regulations, it's fair to question whether their purpose is to support their policy priorities and weaken the effectiveness of conservation programs rather than to achieve objectives of efficiency and public service in carrying out the Interior department's complex and multidimensional mission.

42:30 Scott Cameron : Because we respect the sovereignty of Indian tribes, we were not willing to impose, if you will look, the involvement of BIA and BIE in the reorganization effort on the tribes and since the tribes have not been particularly enthusiastic about the notion of their bureaus being part of the reorganization, we in fact have not included them.

45:20 Scott Cameron : Essentially, the reorganization has three parts, the unified region, a concept which has already initially deployed, if you will. There's a notion of saving money to invest in Indian schools and other departmental services by pursuing shared services and our back office administrative functions to get some efficiencies there. And the third prong is the notion of moving the headquarters elements of the BLM and the USGS West, to be closer to where the preponderance of those bureaus activities is taking place.

50:15 Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ): I was thinking if there was an instruction manual on how to fundamentally weaken an agency. This is what I think I would recommend. Start by creating a crisis for key agencies. Move them as far away from Congress as possible to minimize contact with appropriators and authorizers. Undermine those relationships, separate them from the nonprofit community that helps them make informed decisions. Then make it clear to the workforce that they are not valued. Create a culture of fear to demand total loyalty. Transfer them to jobs in which they have no qualifications or interest. Send them to new parts of the country. Uproot their families and lives. Quietly close or cut programs throughout the agency. Take away their decision making authority and voice within the department and put it in the hands of political appointees.

51:40 Jamie Rappaport-Clark:It is incredibly destabilized. Focus is not on the task at hand. Employees are confused. Stakeholders are confused. Communication is not flowing and there's a culture of fear in the Interior department, clearly in the fish and wildlife service given the reckless nature of senior executive reassignments with no justification, with no information, with no conversation. Another round is expected to be coming. This is an agency I believe in crisis, which diverts its talent. It diverts its responsibilities. It diverts its attention to addressing species extinction, land management needs, climate change, all of the water management, all of the very important natural resource values that that department's trusted to oversee and take care of.

58:40 Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): Mr. Cameron, Let me also ask you, you talked about benefits of, in your written testimony of relocating and DOI from Washington D.C., can you just simply explain some of the longterm savings that a relocation would actually realize? Scott Cameron: Yes, Mr. Bishop, so there are a number of types of savings. For one thing, the rental cost in most cities in the West is a lot cheaper than in the main interior building or in Washington D.C. more generally. Travel costs, travel time. Most of the airplane trips are from the east coast to the west coast. If we had the geological survey headquarters and the BLM headquarters out west somewhere, there be a lot more one hour plane trips instead of four hour plane trips. Cost of living for our employees is a lot cheaper out west in most locations, than it would be here and there is a list of a dozen or so variables that we're looking at.

1:04:00 Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ): And what are the steps of accountability? Scott Cameron: We will be working on individual performance standards for the person who is charged with being an Interior Regional Director, each one of the regions. And there will be specific expectations in terms of what that person's scope is or is not on a region by region basis. And they would be reporting to the deputy secretary in Washington. So we will have an accountability, but we will be not cutting out the bureau directors and the assistant secretaries, but traditional chains of command will also apply.

1:06:40 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): Can you provide any type of legal justification whatsoever withholding the plan? Scott Cameron: Sir, For once, I'm glad I'm not an attorney, so I won't dare to go outside of my area of expertise. So I cannot provide that.

1:07:00 Rep. T.J. Cox (CA): Any evidence at all that this reorganization strategy or plan is going to strengthen agency decision-making? Michael Bromwich: Well if there is, we haven't seen it. And it's up to the agency to provide it. I looked at the reorganization website that DOI sponsors, there's been nothing posted on it since November one. One of the key elements of a reorganization if it's going to succeed, is to continue to push information out to all of the stakeholders who are affected by it. Most particularly, the employees in the agencies that are going to be affected. And you can read through everything that's on the DOI reorganization website in less than half an hour. And as I say, it hasn't been updated in five months since November one. So you can't handle a reorganization that is a mystery shrouded in another mystery. You need to be open about it. You need to provide the details of what you're doing. You need to lay out the costs and benefits that will be accomplished through the reorganization. None of that has been done. Mr. Cameron has done a very good job of talking in generalities, but there are only generalities and without having the kind of analysis that undergirds a real and potentially successful reorganization, it's simply not going to work. If the reorganization that has been described by Mr. Cameron and has previously been described by Secretary Zinke were submitted to a board of directors of any major company in this country, it would be rejected flatly, for lack of detail.

1:21:40 Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): What does SES mean? Scott Cameron: Um, Senior Executive Service. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): And did you not have one of the SES, a two day conference with those people on this plan? Scott Cameron: We did Sir, more than a year ago. We brought in all the regional.... Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): Did it have the recommendations? Scott Cameron: We spent two days chatting with them. They gave us lots of ideas and we modified our original conception of the plan based on their feedback. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): So you have implemented those types of things? Scott Cameron: Yes Sir, we're in the process of implementing them. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT): And as you go and talk to interest groups, whatever they be, you have implemented those changes? The changes from the county lines to state lines. Was that pushed by the states? Scott Cameron: It was pushed by the Western Governors Association in particular.


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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

 

Oct 31, 2019
Thank You Elijah
01:34:40

A "thank you" bonus episode featuring a surprise Congressional death, proof of bipartisan warmongering, a NATO expansion, and a long forgotten plane crash. Thanks for supporting the show!


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Mentioned Podcast Episodes

CD167: Combating Russia NDAA, Featured on Crypto Cousins


Bill Outline


Articles/Documents


References


Sound Clip Sources

Committee on Oversight and Reform Full Hearing: Oversight Committee: Full Hearing H.R.1 "Strengthening Ethics Rules for the Executive Branch", Oversight Committee, YouTube, February 6, 2019
Speakers:
  • Representative Elijah Cummings (MD)
Transcript:

1:43:00 Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD): One year ago today when my mother's dying bed at 92 years old, former sharecropper, her last words were, do not let them take our votes away from us. They had fought, she had fought and seen people harmed and beaten, trying to vote. Talk about inalienable rights. Voting is crucial, and I don't give a damn how you look at it. There are efforts to stop people from voting. That's not right. This is not Russia. This is the United States of America, and I will fight until the death to make sure every citizen, whether they're Green party, whether they're Freedom Party, whether they're Democrat, whether you're Republican, whoever has that right to vote.


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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Oct 27, 2019
Thanks For Retiring
01:11:58

A "thank you" bonus episode featuring information on a congressional resignation, a long list of future congressional quitters, dizzy spells, and a disappearing airline.


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Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

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Articles/Documents


Additional Reading


Cover Art

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

 

Oct 10, 2019
CD202: Impeachment?
01:12:35

Donald Trump. Ukraine. Joe Biden. A phone call. Election Interference. Impeachment!

What the hell is going on?

In this episode, an irritated Jen gives you the backstory that you need to know about the impeachment drama, including what the steps to impeachment are. Prepare yourself: Everyone devoted to the Republican or Democratic parties will be pissed off by this episode.


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD167: Combating Russia NDAA

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CD068: Ukraine Aid Bill

CD190: A Coup for Capitalism

CD176: Target Venezuela Regime Change in Progress


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Sound Clip Sources


Interview with Mitch McConnell:, CNBC, September 30, 2019

Speakers:
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Transcript:

Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY): Yeah, it's a, it's a Senate rule related to impeachment that would take 67 votes to change. So I would have no choice but to take it up. How long you're on it is a whole different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up.


President Trump Meeting with Ukrainian President, C-SPAN, 74th U.N. General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City, September 25, 2019

Speakers:
  • Donald J. Trump
  • President Zelensky
Transcript:

1:45 Volodymyr Zelensky: It’s a great pleasure to me to be here, and it’s better to be on TV than by phone.

3:30 Volodymyr Zelensky: My priority to stop the war on Donbass and to get back our territories, –- thank you for your support in this case, thank you very much.

6:40 Volodymyr Zelensky: And to know when, I want world to know that now we have the new team, the new parliament, the new government. So now we – about 74 laws, new laws, which help for our new reforms, land reform, -- law about concessions, that we – general – and we launched the – secretary, and anti-corruption court. As we came, we launched the anti-corruption court, it began to work on the 5th of September. It was, you know, it was, after five days we had the new – So we are ready, we want to show that we just come, and if somebody, if you, you want to help us, so just let’s do business cases. We have many investment cases, we’re ready.

12:00 Reporter: Do you believe that the emaiIs from Hillary Clinton, do you believe that they are in Ukraine? Do you think this whole -- President Trump: I think they could be. You mean the 30,000 that she deleted? Reporter: Yes. President Trump: Yeah, I think they could very well, boy that was a nice question. I like, that's why, because frankly, I think that one of the great crimes committed is Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 emails after Congress sends her a subpoena. Think of that. You can't even do that in a civil case. You can't get rid of evidence like that. She deleted 33,000 emails after, not before, after receiving the subpoena from the U.S. Congress.

16:00 Translator for Volodymyr Zelensky: During the investigation, actually, I want to underscore that Ukraine is an independent country. We have a new –- in Ukraine, a hired, professional man with a western education and history, to investigate any case he considers and deems --


Speaker Pelosi Announcement of Impeachment Inquiry, C-SPAN, September 24, 2019

Speakers:
  • Nancy Pelosi

0:40 Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA): Shortly thereafter, press reports began to break of a phone call by the President of the United States calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election.

4:30 Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA): And this week, the President has admitted to asking the President of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically. The action of the Trump, the actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I'm directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.


House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) talks with CNN's Erin Burnett, CNN, August 8, 2019

Speakers:
  • Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Transcript:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): This is formal impeachment proceedings. We are investigating all the evidence, we are gathering the evidence, and we will at the conclusion of this, hopefully by the end of the year, vote to, vote articles of impeachment to the House floor, or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make, but that, but that's exactly the process we're in right now.


Council of Foreign Relations: Foreign Affairs Issue Launch with Former Vice President Joe Biden, Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Speakers:
  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
  • Michael R. Carpenter
  • Presider, Richard N. Haass
Transcript:

6:00* Joe Biden: I think there's a basic decision that they cannot compete against a unified West. And I think that is Putin's judgment. And so everything he can do to dismantle the post world war two liberal world order, including NATO and the EU, I think is viewed as they're in their immediate self-interest.

52:00 Joe Biden: I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not I, it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over, convincing our team and our leaders, that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn’t. So they said they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.

54:00 Joe Biden: But always worked in Kiev because, as I said, look, it's simple proposition. If in fact you do not continue to show progress in terms of corruption, we are not going to be able to hold the rest of Europe on these sanctions and Russia is not going to roll across the inner line here and take over the rest of the country with their tanks. What they're going to do is they're going to take your economy down. You're going to be absolutely buried and you're going to be done, and that's when it all goes to hell.

56:00 Joe Biden: It's a very difficult spot to be in now, when foreign leaders call me, and they do, because I never, ever, ever would say anything negative to a foreign leader, and I mean this sincerely, about a sitting president, no matter how fundamentally I disagree with them. And it is not my role, not my role to make foreign policy. But the questions across the board range from, what the hell is going on, Joe, to what advice do you have for me? And my advice always is to, I give them names of individuals in the administration who I think to be knowledgeable and, and, and, and, and committed, and I say, you should talk to so and so. You should, and what I do, and every one of those times, I first call the vice president and tell him I received the call, tell him, and ask him whether he has any objection to my returning the call. And then what is the administration's position, if any, they want me to communicate to that country.


Interview, ABC News, March 30, 2015

Speakers:
  • Mike Pence
  • George Stephanopoulos

8:00 George Stephanopoulos: One fix that people have talked about is simply adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the state civil rights laws. Will you push for that? Mike Pence: I will not push for that. That's not on my agenda. And that's not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana.


Transcript of leaked Nuland-Pyatt call, BBC News, February 7, 2014

Speakers:
  • Victoria Nuland
  • Geoffrey Pyatt

Watch on YouTube

Victoria Nuland: Good. So, I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Geoffrey Pyatt: Yeah, I mean, I guess. In terms of him not going into the government, just let him sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead, we want to keep the moderate Democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok and his guys, and I’m sure that’s part of what Yanukovych is calculating on all of this. I kind of— Victoria Nuland: I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. What he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know? I just think Klitsch going in—he’s going to be at that level working for Yatsenyuk; it’s just not going to work.

Victoria Nuland: So, on that piece, Geoff, when I wrote the note, Sullivan’s come back to me VFR, saying, you need Biden, and I said, probably tomorrow for an “atta-boy” and to get the deets to stick. Geoffrey Pyatt: Okay. Victoria Nuland: So, Biden’s willing. Geoffrey Pyatt: Okay, great. Thanks.


Senator John McCain on Ukraine, C-SPAN, Atlantic Council of the U.S., December 13, 2013

Speakers:
  • John S. McCain III

Watch on YouTube

Transcript:

16:45 Sen. John McCain: Finally, we must encourage the European Union and the IMF to keep their doors open to Ukraine. Ultimately, the support of both institutions is indispensible for Ukraine's future. And eventually, a Ukrainian President, either this one or a future one, will be prepared to accept the fundamental choice facing the country, which is this: While there are real short-term costs to the political and economic reforms required for IMF assistance and EU integration, and while President Putin will likely add to these costs by retaliating against Ukraine's economy, the long-term benefits for Ukraine in taking these tough steps are far greater and almost limitless. This decision cannot be borne by one person alone in Ukraine. Nor should it be. It must be shared—both the risks and the rewards—by all Ukrainians, especially the opposition and business elite. It must also be shared by the EU, the IMF and the United States. All of us in the West should be prepared to help Ukraine, financially and otherwise, to overcome the short-term pain that reforms will require and Russia may inflict.


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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

 

Oct 06, 2019
CD201: WTF is the Federal Reserve?
01:53:43

The Federal Reserve system: Most Americans know it's important but most Americans don't know exactly what it is. In this episode, discover the controversial and disturbing history of the Federal Reserve and learn how it has allowed bankers and politicians to create money out of nothing, taking value out of your bank accounts for over 100 years. 

 


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CD191: The Democracies of Elliott Abrams

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CD Team Members Only (Patreon): Inside CSPAN

Books

The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin September 2010

Fed Up: An Insider's Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America Booth by Danielle DiMartino February 2017

Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World by Nomi Prins 2018

Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud by David Dayen May 2016

Articles/Documents

Resources

Sound Clip Sources

Press Conference aired on CNBC: Powell on Trump: ‘The law is clear that I have a four-year term, and I fully intend to serve it’ June 19, 2019

Reporter: Clarify what you would do if the president tweets or calls you to say he would like to demote you as fed chair? Jerome Powell: I think the law is clear that I have a four year term and I I fully intend to serve it.


Tweet: Kyle Dunnigan, #LeavingNevreland March 6, 2019


Fox News Interview with President Donald Trump October 16, 2019

President Donald Trump: Give me zero interest rates right now and you take a look at our numbers. It'd be the greatest economy in the history of the world. Nobody would be able to compete with it.

President Donald Trump: And I fully get the whole thing, the Federal Reserve, I get it as well as any president who's ever been here. I get it really well.


Joe Biden Speaks that Council on Foreign Relations January 23, 2018

Joe Biden: I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not I, it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over, convincing our team and our leaders, convincing them that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn’t. So they said they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.


Hillary Clinton Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations November 2015 Watch on C-SPAN

Hillary Clinton: So we need to move simultaneously toward a political solution to the civil war that paves the way for a new government with new leadership and to encourage more Syrians to take on ISIS as well. To support them, we should immediately deploy the Special Operations Force President Obama has already authorized, and be prepared to deploy more, as more Syrians get into the fight. We should retool and ramp up our efforts to support and equip viable Syrian opposition units. Our increased support should go hand in hand with increased support from our Arab and European partners, including Special Forces who can contribute to the fight on the ground. We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air. Opposition Forces on the ground, with material support from the coalition, could then help create safe areas for them from the country instead of fleeing toward Europe.


Ron Paul speech at the Campaign for Liberty: End the Fed September 18, 2009

Ron Paul: But, there's a moral argument, against the, the Federal Reserve because, we're giving power to a few individuals to create money out of thin air and have, have legal tender laws that says, you must use the paper money. You can't use gold as the constitution tells you you should, but you must use, paper money. And then that gives the central bank the Authority to counterfeit money, and always for good reasons, of course, to maintain a stable economy.

Ron Paul: The mandate and the Federal Reserve Act for the Federal Reserve was to maintain the value of the dollar and to have full employment, and maintaining the value of the dollar means stable prices. Well, they fail. They flown, they get an AF. They're destroying the value of the dollar. And we have perpetual increases in cost of living and they say, oh no, it's not all bad inflation. We're only destroying the money at 2% per year. But it's a lot worse than that. But 2% it's evil too. You know, under sun money, your value of your money goes up, costs go down, cost of living goes down and you get more. And that's how we become more prosperous. But they have totally failed in maintaining the value of the dollar, giving us stable prices. Nobody wants to talk about the inflation in Eh, in a medical care. Yes, pricing. People are unhappy because they can't afford it or they can't afford it because their dollar doesn't buy as much. You say, oh no, we don't have inflation. The government says the CPIS only going up 1% - 2%. But the cost of medicine goes up much more rampantly. But, when you create new money, the cost goes up differently for different areas. If everybody's wages went up at the same rate as the money supply would go up, and everybody's cost would go up the same, it would be irrelevant. But it doesn't work that way. Your wages and your income never keep up and certain prices go up faster than others. Some people suffer more than people who get to use the money. First benefit. The people who get the money, use the money last, the average person in the middle class, they use the money and they get stuck. If you're in retirement, you might suffer more than others. But you know, they come up with these figures and they say, oh, prices went up 2% last month. But if you exclude for food and energy, they only went up a half a percent. So it wasn't so bad. But for some people, food and energy crisis go up and it means a whole lot.

Ron Paul: And there was a time, you know, the Federal Reserve was required to have gold behind the expansion of money. So they were restrained and as bad as they were in inviting problems, they still had some restraint up until 1971. But even though the Federal Reserve Act gave the power to the Fed to buy corporate debt, they really never did that until just recently. It used to be gold and silver that they used as reserve. And then after 1971, they just used treasury bills, which was bad, but still there was some restraint on that, that depended on the amount of debt that we had. But of course, that gave license to the congress to run up unlimited amount of debt. But today what backs our dollar is derivatives. All the worthless access, the toxic access assets that we were required to buy are now held by the Fed. And we don't know exactly how much and what they have bought. And that, of course, is why we're arguing for the case of auditing the Fed.

Ron Paul: The other associations that I talk about in the book are the associations with the Federal Reserve Board chairman. I've had a few of those. And a matter of fact, just for a month or so, when I first went into Congress, Berns was still the chairman. I didn't really get to know him and it was such a short period and he was in poor health. But the one that I got to know the best in our years was Paul Volcker. And, I gave him a little bit of a plus as far as the various members, various chairman that I've met because, he seemed to be more willing to discuss things on a one to one basis. Actually there was one time when we were working on the monetary control act in the early 1980s, which gave a lot more power, regulatory powers, to the Federal Reserve and to monetize debt. And I was arguing one case in the committee, that it was a dangerous thing because the Federal Reserve was given too much power to inflate endlessly and didn't have to have any reserves whatsoever and could take interest rates down to zero or whatever. And, he was disagreeing with me and he says, look, what I'd like you to do is come over and have breakfast with me. And, that wouldn't happen with Bernanke or Greenspan. They didn't do that. So I did. I went over to the Federal Reserve and we had the discussion. He tried to, you know, convince me differently, but I felt like I won the argument with them because as I was leaving, he says, yes, you may be right about this, but he himself, that I may be right on the interpretation of the legislation, but he himself would not inflate. He wants this so that he has the power to restrain monetary authorities rather than to expand monetary powers. But it turns out that yes, I said, you might not want to use these powers to rapidly expand the money supply, but someday somebody else might want to do it. And of course, I make the comment, I think that some day is right here when you see what Bernanke did, you know, within a few months, doubling the monetary base. So, his authority was getting granted back at that time.

Ron Paul: He wants to know what a sound currency would look like. I think you could probably go to the period of time in the 19th century when they had sound money and gold coins circulated and certificates should circulate and could circulate. It's the trust factor that would have to be there and you could still have electronic money and whatever. People could measure the value of the currency by something that should always be convertible. You should have a gold coin standard, and that is that you don't have to carry the coins around, but if the government is guaranteeing - which they are supposed to be doing - guaranteeing that any certificate would be convertible into coin, and that's better than a --- standard, that means that if you have $5,000 and you're getting worried about the government, you get to vote against the government saying, look, I want my gold coins in my pocket. And then they then would have to give you the gold coins.

Ron Paul: It's a sinister tax is what it really is. Governments: There's enough of a coalition together that wants to see government grow. Whether it's for the welfare reasons here at home, or if it's for the ideas of promoting our goodness around the world. It has nothing to do with protecting oil or anything else, but we need a military presence around the world. But if you had honest money and governments couldn't counterfeit, these ideas would still float around, but they would be forced to pay for it immediately. If we could ever get this whole notion that you shouldn't even allow the government to borrow, and they would have to tax us directly and say, look, if you want to do A, B, and C, we're going to take money from you and we're going to pay for it. This would slow things up. But there's a convenience for those who want big government to have the tax be an inflation tax. That is to vote for all the welfare programs. Vote for all the warfare programs. Don't be a responsible for this, morally responsible or economically responsible. Just pass the programs. And if you find your coalitions, you get reelected. And this is work to, you know, running as Santa Claus is a lot better than running against Santa Claus. And that's been done for many, many years. But that's coming to an end. That's why there's a difference right now because this system is in the process of failing.


Hearing: The Federal Budget and the Economy March 3, 2009 Senate Budget Committee

Witness

  • Ben Bernanke - Chairman of the Federal Reserve

58:00 Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): I wrote you a letter and I said, hey, who'd you lend the money to? What were the terms of those loans? How can my constituents in Vermont get some of that money? Who makes the decisions? Do you guys sit around in a room? Do you make it? Are there conflicts of interest? So my question to you is, will you tell the American people to whom you lent $2.2 trillion of their dollars? Will you tell us who got that money and what the terms are of those agreements? Ben Bernanke: We explain each of our programs. In terms of the terms, we explained the terms exactly. We explained what the collateral requirements are. We explained… Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): To whom did you explain that? Ben Bernanke: It's on our website. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): Yeah. Okay. Ben Bernanke: So all that information is available in our commercial paper... Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): And who got the money? Ben Bernanke: Hundreds and hundreds of banks. Any bank or that has access to the U.S. Federal Reserve's discount... Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): Can you tell us who they are? Ben Bernanke: No, because the reason that is counterproductive and will destroy the value of the program is that banks will not come to the… Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): Isn't that too bad? Ben Bernanke: Sorry. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): In other words, isn't that too bad? They took the money, but they don't want to be public about the fact that they received it.


 

 

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)


 

Sep 23, 2019
Thank You for the Hiatus
01:26:03

We're changing up the format a bit and making the thank you's a separate episode. In this thank you segment that compliments CD201: WTF is the Federal Reserve?, Jen gives you an update on some matters of war and thanks all of the wonderful souls who supported the podcast during the production hiatus. 


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CD195: Yemen

CD191: The Democracies of Elliott Abrams

CD190: A Coup for Capitalism

Articles/Documents

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______________________________________________________

Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)


 

Sep 23, 2019
Special Announcement
12:34

In this special announcement, Jen explains a temporary schedule change to the Congressional Dish community, designed to facilitate a renewed focus on increasing the quality of future episodes and the creation of the CD green room. Also, Jen shares an exciting announcement about an upcoming appearance on her favorite channel!


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Jul 29, 2019
CD200: How to End Legal Bribes
02:47:58

The currently legal ability of obscenely rich people to bribe lawmakers and law enforcers is the source of many - if not all - of our political problems. In this episode, get an update on the few democracy-enhancing bills that have moved in this Congress and Jen speaks to Sam Fieldman - the National Counsel at Wolf-PAC - who explains how we can constitutionally end the role of money in politics by going around Congress.

Joe Briney joins Jen for the thank you's.


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Bill Outline

H.R. 2722: SAFE Act

Sponsor: Zoe Lofgren of northern California
74 pages

Passed the House on June 27, 2019 225-184

  • Only GOP yes: Newbie Rep. Brian Mast - 38 year old wounded Afghanistan war veteran representing the Palm Beach area

Went to the Committee on Rules and Administration in the Senate

Title 1: Financial Support for Election Infrastructure

Subtitle A: Voting System Security Improvement Grants

Sec. 102: Paper ballot requirements

  • “The voting system shall require the use of an individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballot of the voters’ vote that shall be marked and made available for inspection and verification by the voter before the voter’s vote is cast and counted, which shall be counted by hand or read by an optical character recognition device or other counting device."
  • “The voting system shall provide the voter with an opportunity to correct any error on the paper ballot…”
  • Recounts: The paper ballot “shall constitute the official ballot and shall be preserved and used as the official ballot for purposes any recount or audit conducted with respect to any election for Federal office in which the voting system is used.”

Sec. 104: Durability and readability requirements for ballots

  • Ballots must be on “durable” paper, which means it is capable of withstanding multiple recounts by hand without compromising the fundamental integrity of the ballots” and they must maintain readability for 22 months.

Sec. 105: Recycled Paper

  • Ballots must be printed on recycled paper starting on January 1, 2021.

Sec. 107: These rules will apply “for any election for Federal office held in 2020 or any succeeding year.”

  • Grandfathered equipment: Districts using machines that print paper ballots with the votes already tallied can use those machines until 2022, but they must offer every voter the opportunity to vote using a blank paper ballot, which are not allowed to be designated as provisional.

Sec. 111:Grants for equipment changes

  • Federal tax money will be given to states to replace their voting system, if needed.
  • Grant amount: At least $1 per the average number of people who voted in the last two elections
  • To use these grants, the states can only buy voting equipment from a vendor “owned and controlled by a citizen or permanent resident of the United States”
  • The vendor must tell government officials if they get any part of their election infrastructure parts from outside the United States
  • Authorizes (but doesn’t appropriate) $600 million for 2019 and $175 million for each even number election year through 2026

Subtitle B:Risk-Limiting Audits

Sec. 121: Risk-limited audits required for all elections for Federal office

  • State election officials will make the rules for how these will be done

Sec. 122: Federal government will pay for audits

  • Authorizes “such sums as are necessary”

Title II: Promoting Cybersecurity Through Improvements in Election Administration

Sec. 201: Voting system cybersecurity requirements

  • Vote counting machine rules

    • Machines that count ballots must be built so that "it’s mechanically impossible for the device to add or change the vote selections on a printed or market ballot”
    • The device must be “capable of exporting its data (including vote tally data sets and cast vote records) in a machine-readable, open data standards format”
    • The device’s software’s source code, system build tools, and compilation parameters must be given to certain Federal and State regulators and “may be shared by any entity to whom it has been provided… with independent experts for cybersecurity analysis.”
    • The devise must have technology that allows “election officials, cybersecurity researchers, and voters to verify that the software running on the device was built from a specific, untampered version of the code” that was provided to Federal and State regulators.
    • Loophole for moles: The Director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security can waive any of the requirements other than the first one that prohibits machines that can change votes. The waivers can be applied to a device for no more than two years. The waivers must be publicly available on the Internet.
    • Not effective until November 2024 election.
  • Ballot marking machines and vote counters can’t use or “be accessible by any wireless, power-line, or concealed communication device” or “connected to the Internet or any non-local computer system via telephone or other communication network at any time.”

    • Effective for the 2020 general election and all elections after
  • Ballot marking devices can’t be capable of counting votes

    • States may submit applications to Federal regulators for testing and certification the accuracy of ballot marking machines, but they don’t have to.

Sec. 202: Testing of existing voting systems

  • 9 months before each regularly scheduled general election for Federal offices, “accredited laboratories” will test the voting system hardware and software with was certified for use in the most recent election. If the hardware and software fails the test, it “shall” be decertified.
  • Effective for the 2020 General Election.

Sec. 203: Requiring use of software and hardware for which information is disclosed by manufacturer

  • “In the operation of voting systems in an election for Federal office, a State may only use software for which the manufacturer makes the source code… publicly available online under a license that grants a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, sub-licensable license to all intellectual property rights in such source code…."
    • …except that the manufacturer may prohibit people from using the software for commercial advantage or “private monetary compensation” that is unrelated to doing legitimate research.
  • States “may not use a voting system in an election for Federal office unless the manufacture of the system publicly discloses online the identification of the hardware used to operate the system”
    • If the voting system is not widely-used, the manufacture must make the design “publicly available online under a license that grants a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, sub-licensable license to all intellectual property rights…”
  • Effective for the 2020 General election

Sec. 204: Poll books will be counted as part of voting systems for these regulations

  • Effective January 1, 2020

Title III: Use of voting machines manufactured in the United States

Sec. 301: Voting machines must be manufactured in the United States


HR 391: White House Ethics Transparency Act of 2019

Pdf of the bill

Reported June 12, 2019 out of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform 23-16

On January 28, 2017 - a week after taking office - President Trump issued an executive order that requires all executive agency appointees to sign and be contractually obligated to a pledge that…

  • The appointee won’t lobby his/her former agency for 5 years after leaving
  • Will not lobby the administration he/she previously worked for
  • Will not, after leaving government, “engage in any activity on behalf of any foreign government or foreign political party which, were it undertaken on January 20, 2017, would require me to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938”
  • Will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists
  • Will recuse themselves from any matter involving their former employers for two years from the date of their appointment
  • If the appointee was a lobbyist before entering government, that person will not work on any matter that they had lobbied for for 2 years after the appointment

BUT Section 3 allows waivers: “The President or his designee may grant to any person a waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such person.”

Sec. 2: Requires any executive branch official who gets a waiver to submit a written copy to the Director of the Office of Government Ethics and make a written copy of the waiver available to the public on the website of the agency where the appointee works.

  • Backdated to January 20, 2017 (President Trump’s inauguration)

H.R. 745: Executive Branch Comprehensive Ethics Enforcement Act of 2019

Reported March 26, 2019 out of the Committee on Oversight and Reform 18-12

Pdf of the bill 

Sec. 2: Creates a transition ethics program

  • Requires the President-elect to give Congress a list of everyone in consideration for security clearance within 10 days of the applications submission and a list of everyone granted security clearance within 10 days of their approval.
  • Requires the transition team to create and enforce an “ethics plan” that needs to describe the role of registered lobbyists on the transition team, the role of people registered as foreign agents, and which transition team members of sources of income which are not known by the public
  • Transition team members must be prohibited by the ethics plan from working on matters where they have “personal financial conflicts of interest” during the transition and explain how they plan to address those conflicts of interest during the incoming administration.
  • The transition team ethics plan must be publicly avail on the website of the General Services Administration
  • Transition team members need to submit a list of all positions they have held outside the Federal Government for the previous 12 months -including paid and unpaid positions-, all sources of compensation that exceed $5,000 in the previous 12 months, and a list of policy issues worked on in their previous roles, a list of issues the team member will be recused from as part of the administration.
  • Transition team members that do not comply will not be granted any access to the Federal department or agency that isn’t open to the public.

S. 195 : Creates a transition ethics program: Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act

Pdf of the bill  

Reported 4/10/19 out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. On Senate Calendar

Sec. 2: Definitions

  • “Congressionally mandated report” means a report that is required to be submitted to Congress by a bill, resolution, or conference report that becomes law.
    • Does NOT include reports required from 92 nonprofit corporations labeled as “Patriotic and National Organizations” (“Title 36 corporations”)

Sec. 3: Website for reports

  • 1 year after enactment, there needs to be a website “that allows the public to obtain electronic copies of all congressionally mandated reports in one place”
  • If a Federal agency fails to submit a report, the website will tell us the information that is required by law and the date when the report was supposed to be submitted
  • The government can’t charge a fee for access to the reports
  • The reports can be redacted by the Federal agencies

Resources


 

Sound Clip Sources

Watch on C-Span: House floor debate on HR 2722 June 27,2019

sound clip transcripts pdf


Watch on C-Span: William Barr Testifies on Mueller Report Before Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019

  • 1:57:55 Sen. Amy Klocuchar (MN): For the last two years, Senator Lankford and I, on a bipartisan bill with support from the ranking and the head of the intelligence committee; have been trying to get the Secure Elections Act passed. This would require backup paper ballots. If anyone gets federal funding for an election, it would require audits, um, and it would require better cooperation. Yet the White House, just as we were on the verge of getting a markup in the rules committee (getting it to the floor where I think we would get the vast majority of senators), the White House made calls to stop this. Were you aware of that?
  • Attorney General William Barr: No.
  • Sen. Amy Klocuchar (MN): Okay, well that happened. So what I would like to know from you as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer if you will work with Senator Lankford and I to get this bill done? Because otherwise we are not going to have any clout to get backup paper ballots if something goes wrong in this election.
  • Attorney General William Barr: Well, I will… I will work with you, uh, to, uh, enhance the security of our election and I’ll take a look at what you’re proposing. I’m not familiar with it.
  • Sen. Amy Klocuchar (MN): Okay. Well, it is the bipartisan bill. It has Senator Burr and Senator Warner. It’s support from Senator Graham was on the bill. Senator Harris is on the bill and the leads are Senator Lankford and myself, and it had significant support in the house as well.

Hearing: Committee on Oversight and Reform:Strengthening Ethics Rules for the Executive Branch, February 6, 2019

Watch on Youtube

  • *28:00 Rep Jordan (OH): 2013 we learned that the IRS targeted conservative for their political beliefs during the 2012 election cycle systematically for a sustained period of time. They went after people for their conservative beliefs, plan in place, targeted people. They did it. The gross abuse of power would have continued, if not for the efforts of this committee. 2014 the Obama Administration doubled down and attempted to use the IRS rule making process to gut the ability of social welfare organizations to participate in public debate. Congress has so far prevented this regulation from going into effect, but HR 1 would change that.

Hearing: Judiciary Committee For The People Act Of 2019, January 29, 2019 

Witness:

  • Sherrilyn Ifill - President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Watch on YouTube

  • 32:00 Sherrilyn Ifill: Well before the midterm election, in fact, Georgia officials began placing additional burdens on voters, particularly black and Latino voters, by closing precincts and purging. Over half a million people from the voter rolls the voter purge, which removed 107,000 people, simply because they did not vote in previous elections and respond to a mailing was overseen by the Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp, who was also the secretary of state. LDF and a chorus of others called on him to recuse himself from participating in the election. But he refused. 

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)


Jul 14, 2019
CD199: Surprise Medical Bills
02:38:21

Almost 40% of Americans WITH health insurance reported they had received a surprise medical bill in the past year from a doctor or hospital for a service they thought was covered by their insurance plan. Why is this happening? And what can we do about it? 


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Sound Clip Sources


Hearing: NO MORE SURPRISES: PROTECTING PATIENTS FROM SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS, Not on C-Span, Committee on Energy and Commerce, June 12, 2019.

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

  • Sonji Wilkes: Patient Advocate
  • Sherif Zaafran, MD: Chair of Physicians for Fair Coverage
  • Rick Sherlock: President and CEO of Association of Air Medical Services
  • James Gelfand: Senior Vice President of Health Policy at The ERISA Industry Committee
  • Thomas Nickels: Executive Vice President of the American Hospital Association
  • Jeanette Thornton: Senior Vice President of Product, Employer, and Commercial Policy at Americas’ Health Insurance Plans
  • Claire McAndrew: Director of Campaigns and Partnerships at Families USA
  • Vidor E. Friedman, MD: President of American College of Emergency Physicians

Transcript

  • 47:54 CEO Rick Sherlock: Emergency air medical services are highly effective medical interventions appropriate in cases where getting a patient directly to the closest most appropriate medical facility can make a significant difference in their survival in recovery. Today, because of air medical services, 90% of Americans can reach a level one or level two trauma center within an hour. However, since 2010, 90 hospitals have closed in rural areas and an estimated 20% more are at risk of closing. Our members fill the gap created by closures, but this lifeline is fraying as 31 air medical bases have also closed in 2019.

  • 48:31 CEO Rick Sherlock: Emergency or medical providers never make the decision on who to transport. That decision is always made by a requesting physician or medically trained first responder. Air medical crews then respond within minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any knowledge of a patient’s ability to pay for their services.

  • 48:45 CEO Rick Sherlock: Our members are unique in the healthcare system. The services heavily regulated by the states for the purposes of healthcare, as ambulances and the federal government for aviation safety and services as air carriers. It is their status as air carriers that allow rapid transport of patients over significant distances. Over 33% of our flights cross state lines every day. For that reason, the Airline Deregulation act uniform authority over the national airspace is essential to the provision of this lifesaving service. Exempting air medical services from the ADA would allow states to regulate aviation services, including where and when they’re able to fly, limiting access to healthcare for patients in crisis.

  • 49:54 CEO Rick Sherlock: To prevent balance billing, our members are actively negotiating with insurance companies to secure in-network agreements. One member alone has increased their participation from 5% to almost 43% in the last three years. Despite that, some insurers have refused to discuss in-network agreements. That hurts both patients and caregivers.

  • 50:30 CEO Rick Sherlock: Uh, covering air medical services in full, represents about a $1.70 of the average monthly premium.

  • 51:50 CEO Rick Sherlock: $10,199 was the median cost of providing a helicopter transport. While Medicare paid $5,998, Medicaid paid $3,463 and the uninsured paid $354. This results in an ongoing imbalance between actual costs and government reimbursement and is the single biggest factor in increasing costs.

  • 53:45 Senior VP James Gelfand: We’re focused on three scenarios in which patients end up with big bills they couldn’t see coming or avoid. Number one, a patient receives care at an in-network facility, but is treated by an out of network provider. Number two, a patient requires emergency care, but the provider’s facility or transportation are out of network. And number three, a patient is transferred or handed off without sufficient information or alternatives. It’s usually not the providers you’re planning to see. It’s anesthesiologists, radiologists, pathologists, or emergency providers or transport or an unexpected trip to the NICU. Many work for outsourced medical staffing firms that have adopted a scam strategy of staying out of networks, practicing at in-network facilities and surprise billing patients. It’s deeply concerning, but the problem is narrowly defined and therefore we can fix it.

  • 54:40 Senior VP James Gelfand: The No Surprises Act nails it. It takes patients out of the middle and creates a market based benchmark rate to pay providers fairly. The benchmark is not developed by government and it is not price setting. The committee might also consider network matching. It’s simple. If a provider practices at an in-network facility, they take the in-network rate or they go work somewhere else. Or base the benchmark on Medicare, you could set the rate higher, say 125% of Medicare and still make the system more affordable, sustainable and simpler. These approaches will eliminate the surprise bills. That’s a huge win for patients.

  • 54:50 ** Senior VP James Gelfand: But not everyone wants to stop the surprise bills. Some provider specialties are saying, “let us keep doing what we’re doing, just use binding arbitration to make someone else pay these bills”. They’re asking for a non- transparent process that could force plans and employers to pay massive and fake medical list prices. It’s essentially setting money on fire. Funds that would have been used to pay for healthcare will instead be spent on administrative costs such as lawyers, arbitrators, facility fees, and on reasonable settlement amounts. Make no mistake, patients will pay these costs.

  • 55:20 Senior VP James Gelfand: The ground and air ambulance companies are asking Congress to let them keep surprise billing too. Do nothing, wait for another study, another report, and there have already been four. They know patients cannot shop for them and many participate in no networks. State insurance commissioners are begging for help with air ambulances, but Congress has tied their hands. Employers think Congress should end this. Treat medical transport the same as emergency care. We should end surprise billing in the ER and on the way there.

  • 56:30 Senior VP James Gelfand: Other providers figure they’re willing to stop surprise billing, but only if they can increase in-network rates. They’re calling for network adequacy rules to force insurers and employers to add more providers to their networks, even if those providers demand astronomical payments. Does anyone here actually believe that these hospital based doctors who services cannot be shopped for, who are guaranteed to see our patients, are begging to be included in our networks, but nobody will return their calls? That they have no choice but to go and join these out of network Wall Street owned firms? It doesn’t make sense.

  • 57:00 Senior VP James Gelfand: Employers design health benefits to help our beneficiaries. We don’t sell insurance. We want networks that meet our patients’ needs. Why would we want to cover an operation, but leave out the anesthesia? We want our employees to be able to afford their health insurance too, and that means we must be able to say no when providers are gaming the system.

  • 1:08:10 Dr. Vidor Friedman: Unlike most physicians, emergency physicians are prohibited by federal law from discussing with a patient any potential costs of care or insurance details until they are screened and stabilized. This important patient protection known as Emtala, ensures physicians focus on the immediate medical needs of patients. However, it also means that patients cannot fully understand the potential cost of their care or the limitations of their insurance coverage until they receive the bill.

  • 1:10:40 Dr. Vidor Friedman: The goal should be a system in which everyone is in-network, or essentially that. That requires a level playing field between providers and insurers. Insurers are concerned that benchmarking the even median charges, favors providers. Providers are concerned that benchmarking the median in-network rates, favors insurer’s. What’s Congress to do? ACEP supports a system that has already proven to be balanced between insurers and providers. That is a baseball style independent dispute resolution process similar to that used in New York and noted in the legislative proposal put forth by Doctors, Ruiz Rowe and Busan.

  • 2:02:30 Rep. Brett Guthrie: If there does become a federal arbitration system, what do you think congressional oversight should be? And I don’t know if that should be something that I’m supposed to talk about or…Sonji Wilkes: Well, I’ve been sitting here listening, thinking I pay my insurance premiums, I do my part and I expect the bill to be paid. I mean, there’s only so much I can do to control that and I don’t really care how the reimbursement works. And quite frankly, I think the insurance industry is doing probably better in their bottom line than my bottom line. Um, I want to go to the best provider possible and I want the best care possible. I don’t really care how the payment works.

  • 2:34:50 Dr. Sherif Zaafran: Well, I can tell you that from the physician’s standpoint, for emergency room physicians for example; the average weighted cost of every visit is about $155.

  • 3:49:00 CEO Rick Sherlock: The median cost of a helicopter air transport is $10,199 according to a study conducted in 2017. If you look at the cost of uncompensated care, because Medicare pays less than $.60 on the dollar of that 10,199. About $5,998, Medicaid pays significantly less than that. Less than $3,500 on average, and the uninsured pay about $350. Those make up…those three groups make up 70% of air medical transports. So when you take that cost of uncompensated care and you add it to the median cost of $10,200, that’s the average charge of $36,000 that the representative from New Mexico referenced earlier. When you…when those kinds of situations happen, no one in our industry wants to see a patient or their family placed in jeopardy because they’ve just had a health emergency. Our members will sit down with each individual and their families and work out a solution tailored for them.

  • 3:54:30 Dr. Sherif Zaafran: Again, there is no such thing as an out of network provider. There is a provider who may happen to be out of network with that specific product. So the only one who knows what the product is, is of course the patient and the insurance carrier and they’re the only ones who really have the information as to whether they’re in-network or out of network.


Hearing: The Need to Reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, June 11, 2019


Hearing: Hearing on September 11 Victims Compensation Fund, June 11, 2019


Hearing:

Watch on CSPAN-Surprise Medical Bills House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health-May 21, 2019

Committee website

Watch on YouTube

Witnesses:

  • Rep. Katie Porter (CA)
  • James Patrick Gelfand: Senior Vice President, Health Policy, ERISA Industry Committee
  • Dr. Bobby Mukkamala: Board of Trustees, American Medical Association
  • Tom Nickels: Executive Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy, American Hospital Association
  • Jeannette Thornton: Senior Vice President for Product, Employer, and Commercial Policy at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)

Transcript

  • *7:15 Chairman Lloyd Doggett (TX): Fortunately, there now appears to be a growing consensus. Most recently joined by president Trump that holding the patient harmless should form the foundation for any surprise billing proposal. Under the legislation that I advanced, patients would only be charged in network cost sharing rates in emergency situations and non-emergency situations out of network charges would be permitted only when the patient has agreed in advance after receiving effective notice regarding any providers and services together with estimated charges. No other bill addressing this issue has yet been filed here in the house, but there is a very useful discussion draft proposal that is being circulated on a bipartisan basis by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and there’s several proposals that have service in the Senate. While every proposal currently begins with the basic premise of the enterprise billing act, conflict remains over how to resolve insurer provider disputes.

  • *13:40 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): I’m concerned about surprise billing, as someone who’s dedicated my life to protecting consumers, but also because I have had to fight my own battle with surprise billing. On August 3rd last year when I was on the campaign trail, I started to feel pain in my abdomen. At 1:00 PM I could not continue and I went home. At 4:31, I texted my campaign manager that I needed to go to the emergency room. I couldn’t safely drive through the pain and I remember sitting on my front porch, so if I lost consciousness, somebody might find me and I wouldn’t be home alone. I didn’t call an ambulance because I was concerned about the cost. I could not drive and I asked my manager to please take me to Hoag hospital. I chose that hospital even though it was farther away from other providers, because I knew Hoag was an in-network facility. When I got to the hospital, I waited six hours alone in the emergency exam room without treatment. When I finally went to surgery, my doctor told me it was nothing to worry about, just a routine appendectomy. I was given anesthesia and when I awoke, the team around me was panicking. They couldn’t get my temperature to drop and they couldn’t get my blood pressure to rise. My appendix had ruptured hours before causing an infection that was making my whole body very sick. I spent the next five days in the hospital receiving powerful IV antibiotics. A few weeks later, I received the bill from my insurance company. The idea of an astronomical hospital bill had weighed heavily on me and I was happy to see that the cost of my emergency room treatment and assessment and hospital charges, and nearly all of my inpatient services, were covered. I remember sitting at my kitchen table and taking a deep breath filled with relief, but a few days later I received another bill. This one from my surgeon. While the hospital I had gone to was in-network, the insurance company now claimed the surgeon was not, even though they had sent me a notification telling me that my surgeon was in-network . Enclosed in that bill for nearly $3,000, was a handout from my surgeon detailing the steps I would have to take while recovering in order to fight to have my insurance company cover the care. So many of his patients had been put in this situation, that this medical doctor had used his staff to address patient billing problems. That’s not what he trained for in medical school. Your so-called explanation of benefits and the surgeon’s handout explained that he was being treated as an out of network provider even though he was employed by and worked at an in-network hospital. As someone in an emergency situation, I had no ability to assess whether he was in or out of network, and in those cases insurers are supposed to cover the costs, but I got that bill because my insurer put profits before patients. I called insurance company to request an appeal. The benefits manager kept asking me questions to guide me and coach me towards saying that it was my surgeon’s fault to blame him for overcharging me. She asked me to call the surgeon and attack my doctor for his bill. Apparently, to Anthem Blue Cross, $3,000 was too high a price for saving my life. The tens of thousands in premiums I’d paid to that company over the years were not enough to have them, cause them to cover the lifesaving care. Nearly five months after I was hospitalized, the surgeon simply requested payment, and at that point I reached out to my employer of the University of California Irvine. That’s when I learned that U.C. Irvine has a designated patient advocate, a medical doctor, whose sole job is to help university employees get the health insurance that the university and the employees pay for. Can we just reflect on that for a moment? The university is paying a medical doctor to do nothing but navigate insurance. Finally, the patient advocate, invoking the fact that I had just been just elected to Congress, was able to get the insurance company to agree to pay my surgeon’s bill. But here’s what I learned from getting sick. I am well educated. I had an employer prepared to help me. I have professional experience fighting for consumer rights, but there are thousands of Americans with fewer resources than me who are surprised with bills far more devastating than mine. I’m here today because they refuse to accept this as the status quo. I refuse to stand idly by while families go bankrupt because of surprise medical bills. Any solution to this issue must rely, must not rely, excuse me, on the patient’s ability to go to war with the insurer or with their provider. That is not the solution. It’s time we start putting patients first.

  • 31:00 Jeanette Thornton: We ask that federal legislation focus on four things. First, balanced billing should be banned in situations where inpatients are involuntarily treated by an out of network provider. This includes emergency health services at any hospital, any health healthcare services or treatment performed at an in-network facility by an out of network provider, not selected by the patient and ambulance transportation in an emergency. Second, health insurance providers should be required to reimburse out of network providers inappropriate and reasonable amount in those above scenarios. Third, state should be required to establish an independent dispute resolution process that works in tandem with the established benchmark. Fourth hospitals or other healthcare providers should be required to provide advanced notice to patients of the network status of the treating providers. We appreciate the health sub-committee chairman Lloyd Doggett has introduced legislation to end surprise billing act or HR 861, which would establish a role for hospitals in providing such notices, along with banning balanced billing. AHIP supports this bill.

  • 46:00 Chairman Lloyd Doggett (TX): What I’m referring to is the difference… Dr. Bobby Mukkamala: Right. Chairman Lloyd Doggett (TX): …in charges and why one one price for those who are in network and another for those that are out. Dr. Bobby Mukkamala: Right. So there is a benefit for me to be in network with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for example. I get something from that. They sit with me, they show me their data. We had…we worked together on incentive programs to sort of curb costs. If there’s an insurance company that’s in town that does none of that activity to improve the care of the population in my town, but yet wants to benefit from the same rate of compensation to me, they’re doing nothing to earn that discount. Blue Cross sits across from me on a weekly or monthly basis to improve the care of my population. But Golden Rule insurance, that’s new in town for example, doesn’t do any of that work and yet wants to benefit from having the same provider rates. No, I mean, I take a discounted rate from Blue Cross because of all this other robust activity. But if you’re not offering me anything to participate in your network, then naturally, you should be expected to pay more for my services. Right? I get something from Blue Cross. I get nothing from Golden Rule.

  • 53:05 Dr. Bobby Mukkamala: Medicare is usually sort of the foundation upon which all the other insurance companies tend to set their rates. So when I participate in network, like with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, it’s usually about 110/ 115% of Medicare rates. So that’s one step higher. If I don’t participate with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, then that rate is so I can get the assigned rate from them and then I have a choice about what to do with the balance. And usually in my practice, I write that off. I don’t balance bill the patient. Uh, but Blue Cross Blue Shield sort of sets their rate and that’s it. My point is that, if-in Blue Cross Blue Shield, I have a great relationship with, we do a lot of constructive work together. But if a new insurance company comes into town and puts up billboards and markets their product and says, here, come, come buy our policy, and then they get 15,000 patients to sign up, but has never come to my door to say, you know, when they have an ear, nose and throat problem, we’d like you to be in-network and provide their care. Why should they get the benefit of the in-network price that Blue Cross Blue Shield gets? So, my point, is that that out of network price for this new insurance company that wants me to take care of their patient, but never came to sit down with me to sign a contract, ought to be something that I negotiate with them, not something that’s dictated to me.

  • 55:50 Rep. Mike Thompson (CA): A staff person of mine went to the emergency room. He has insurance. His insurance covered nearly everything, including a cat scan. But a few weeks later, he got two separate bills from physicians he never saw and didn’t ask to see. They reviewed some of his test results and the bill for those two physicians was larger than the bill for his total ER visit.

  • 56:15 Rep. Mike Thompson (CA): It’s also alarming that, uh, according to one study, 20% of hospital visits, one of every five of those visits, uh, that began in the ER, resulted in a surprise bill.

  • 58:30 Dr. Bobby Mukkamala: Uh, yes, sir. So, in answer to your question, there are multiple already cases documented of insurance companies shrinking their network in California because they can get the same service at that rate with physicians that are out of their network. And so, contracts are already not being renewed for physicians that have had contracts for 20 years, and then they go to renew it and they’re dropped from the network.

  • 1:03:00 Dr. Bobby Mukkamala: My wife and I, we contract with probably about 30 insurance companies. When I take a kid’s tonsils out, one insurance company may be $200- may pay me $200, one pays me about $450 and everything in between. I can’t have a different fee in my fee schedule for each of those. So my fee for tonsillectomy is about $475, so that when I do it, I know that the highest paying payer, I’m still-they’re still within that threshold, right? Because if I charge $400, they’re not going to send me $450. They’re going to send me $400.

  • 1:07:00 Jeanette Thornton: So it’s very interesting what we’ve seen and when it comes from a hospital perspective. It’s maybe only 15% of the hospitals nationwide that are causing this issue that results in, you know, 80% of the visits. One of the statistics had cited a lot that result in a surprise medical bill. So this is not every doctor. This is not every hospital that are resulting in these surprise medical bills. It’s really more of a targeted problem.

  • 1:09:15 Tom Nickels: In terms of how much of this is really going on, I think there is a certain level of frustration. I don’t know that we all know with certainty. The only federal study that I’ve seen, that we’ve seen, is from the Federal Trade Commission, which basically said that they studied ambulances going to hospital emergency departments. 99% of hospital emergency departments in that study were in-network. So it’s not the hospital itself that is out of network. it is people, physicians who practice in our institution.

  • 1:22:20 Tom Nickels: The federal government-state government need to acknowledge that they underpay. I mean, Medpack and others acknowledges that this isn’t just industries talking about ourselves. AMA has said the same thing on the physician side, but I think that the federal government and state governments have a responsibility to pay more adequately. The truth of the matter is, and we haven’t even talked about this, is the cost shift is that private insurers pay more than costs and the government pays less. That should end. The government should take responsibility.

  • 1:38:00 Tom Nickels: We cannot force by law, physicians who are not employed by us to take in-network rates. That is-if we did that, um, we would be sued. It would be restraint of trade. Um, however, what we’re trying to suggest here and I think what the other panelists are trying to suggest, is we have a way to protect the patient from that surprise bill. To your question about who are these physicians that you don’t even know about who are treating you, if you come in in an emergency, you don’t know what’s going on. And you need to be taking care of it, who’s ever there is going to take care of you. The other situation which we’ve talked about is when you knowingly come into an inpatient in-network facility. You did all the right things, but an out of network physician, (anesthesiologists, perhaps radiologists, pathologists) takes care of you. And that’s where the, uh, the bill is generated from. So we cannot make people do that. We try to get physicians to be in our networks-in the same networks. But again, this is an issue of private contracting.

  • 1:42:05 Rep. Mike Kelly (PA): I do agree with you. If there’s limited talent there to take care of that specific problem, there has to be a way of compensating for it. Because at the end of the day, it is a business. Dr. Bobby Mukkamala: Right. So the solution is if an insurance company is going to come into Flint, Michigan and sell insurance, they know that eventually they’re going to need a hand surgeon, right? How do they sell insurance to a town that’s an industrial based town, where there’s a lot of hand injuries and not have any hand surgeons in their network? When they put up the billboard saying, “we’re selling insurance here”, they should have at the same time look at their provider list and say, “you know what”?, we’re missing an orthopedic hand surgeon. "Let’s go find one and figure out how to get him in-network or get her in-network. Right? And that’s a step that’s skipped routinely, right? They’ll sell the product for years and then fill in this way with lack of a good provider network by trying to negotiate out of network rates that are the same as in-network because they’d skip that first step, right? Maintain a network adequacy-establish a network adequacy before you sell your product.

  • 1:48:30 James Gelfand: Many of the hospitals are not doing what Zuckerberg hospital was doing. The hospital will be in-network, but they will have outsourced their emergency room to a Wall Street owned private company and that company won’t take insurance. And those guys are definitely making enough profits that Wall Street is suggesting that people should invest in those companies because of these relationships they have with the in-network hospitals and the out of network emergency rooms.


Trump remarks on medical billing-Watch on C-SPAN, May 9, 2019

  • 13:00 President Donald Trump: Today I’m announcing principles that should guide Congress in developing bipartisan legislation to end surprise medical billing. And these senators and congressmen and women that are with us today are really leading the charge. And I appreciate that they’re all here. Thank you all. Thank you all for being here. This is fantastic. And I think it’s going to be a successful charge. From what I understand, we have bipartisan support, which is rather shocking. That means it’s very important. That means it’s very good. But that’s great. First, in emergency care situations, patients should never have to bear the burden of out-of-network costs they didn’t agree to pay. So-called balance billing should be prohibited for emergency care. Pretty simple. Second, when patients receive scheduled, non-emergency care, they should be given a clear and honest bill upfront. That means they must be given prices for all services and out-of-pocket payments for which they will be responsible. This will not just protect Americans from surprise charges; it will empower them to choose the best option at the lowest possible price. Third, patients should not receive surprise bills from out-of-network providers that they did not choose themselves. Very unfair. Fourth, legislation should protect patients without increasing federal healthcare expenditures. Additionally, any legislation should lead to greater competition, more choice — very important — and more healthcare freedom. We want patients to be in charge and in total control. And finally, in an effort to address surprise billing, what we do is, all kinds of health insurance — large groups, small group, individual markets, everything. We want everything included. No one in America should be bankrupted and unexpectedly by healthcare costs that are absolutely out of control. No family should be blindsided by outrageous medical bills. And we’ve gone a long way to stop that.

Examining Surprise Billing: Protecting Patients from Financial Pain-Not on C-SPAN, House Committee on Education and Labor, April 2, 2019

Watch on YouTube

Witnesses:

  • Christen Linke Young: Fellow at USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative on Health Policy
  • Ilyse Schuman: Senior Vice President for Health Policy at American Benefits Council
  • Frederick Isasi, Executive Director at Families USA
  • Professor Jack Hoadley: Research Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute

Transcript

  • 7:15 Chairman Frederica Wilson (FL): This is the first hearing the United States Congress has held on surprise billing.

  • 7:30 Chairman Frederica Wilson (FL): Surprise medical bills occur when patients covered by health insurance are subject to higher than expected out of pocket costs for care, received from a provider who is outside of their plan’s network. The victims of surprised medical billing often have no control over whether they’re medical provider is in or out of network.

  • 8:15 Chairman Frederica Wilson (FL): A young San Francisco woman named Nina Dang suffered a severe bike accident. She was barely lucid when a bystander called an ambulance and took her to an emergency room at a nearby hospital. Before she knew it, doctors had done x-rays and scans and put her broken arm in a splint and then sent her on her way. A few months later, Nina was hit with a $20,000 medical bill because the hospital, which she did not choose, was an out of network facility.

  • 8:30 Chairman Frederica Wilson (FL): But even patients who are able to take precautions to avoid out of network costs during a medical emergency, are not immune from surprise bills. Scott Cohan suffered a violent attack one night in Austin, Texas. He woke up in an emergency room with a broken jaw, a throbbing headache, and staples in his head. Despite his shock and immense pain, Scott took out his phone and searched through his insurer’s website to make sure he was laying in an in-network hospital bed. When he found out it was, he proceeded with unnecessary jaw surgery. Imagine Scott’s frustration and devastation when he received a surprise medical bill for nearly $8,000. It turned out that the emergency room was in his insurance network, but the oral surgeon who worked in the ER was not.

  • 16:00 Rep. Tim Walberg (MI): 39% of insured working age adults reported they had received a surprise medical bill in the past year from a doctor, hospital, or lab that they thought was covered by their insurance. Of the 39% of individuals who received surprise medical bills, 50% owed more than $500.

  • 27:05 Ilyse Schuman: While a number of states have sought to address this problem or risk that exempts self insured plans from State Insurance Regulations to ensure that national employers can offer uniform health benefits to employees residing in different states. Accordingly, the problem of surprise billing cannot be left to the states to solve.

  • 33:20 Frederick Isasi: So what’s most important to remember about this issue? We are talking about situations in which families, despite enrolling in health insurance, paying their premiums, doing their homework and trying to work within the system, are being left with completely unanticipated and sometimes financially devastating healthcare bills. And this is happening in part, and I want to say this really clearly because hospitals, doctors and insurers are washing their hands of their patient’s interest.

  • 33:50 Frederick Isasi: Take for example, one significant driver of this problem. The movement of hospitals to offload sapping requirements for their emergency departments to third party management companies. These hospitals very often make no requirements of these companies to ensure the staffing of the ED fit within the insurance networks that the hospitals have agreed to. As a result, a patient who does their homework ahead of time and rightly thinks they’re going to an in network hospital, received services from an out of network physician and a surprise medical bill follows.

  • 34:20 Frederick Isasi: Let me give you one real world example. Nicole Briggs from Morrison, Colorado outside of Denver. Nicole woke up in the middle of the night with intense stomach pain. She went to a freestanding ER. She was told she needed an emergency appendectomy. She went to a local hospital. She did her due diligence. Confirmed repeatedly that the hospital and its providers were in network. However, months later she received a surprise bill from the surgeon who ended up, was out of network. The bill to Nicole was $5,000. Nicole tried to work it out with her insurance company, but within two years, a collection agency representing the surgeon took her to court and won the full amount, including interest. As a result, a lien was placed on her home and the collection agency garnished her wages each month. This came right before Nicole was about to deliver a baby and go on maternity leave. And by the way, this investigation found that there were over 170 liens placed on people’s homes in the Denver area by emergency department physicians.

  • 38:05 Professor Jack Hoadley: Our research shows that today, 25 states have acted to protect consumers from surprise bills in at least some circumstances. Nine of these 25 meet our standards as offering what we consider to be comprehensive protection. For protections to be comprehensive, we look to number one, whether they apply in both emergency situations and an in-network hospital setting, such as electing an in-network surgeon, but being treated by another clinician who’s out of network. Second, that these laws apply to both HMO’s, PPO’s and all other types of insurance. Third, that the law does address both insurers by requiring them to hold consumer’s harmless from balanced bills and providers by barring them from sending balanced bills. And fourth, that the laws adopt some kind of a payment standard. Uh, either a rule to determine payment from insurance provider or an arbitration process to resolve payment disputes. Although these four conditions don’t guarantee complete protection for consumers, they combine to protect consumers in most emergency and network hospital settings that the states can address. But as you’ve already heard, state protections are limited by federal law, ERISA, which exempt states from state regulation’s, self insured, employer sponsored plans.

  • 43:30 Chairman Frederica Wilson (FL): Under current law, who is responsible for making sure that a doctor or a hospital is in-network? Is it the doctor, the insurance company or the patient themselves? Frederick Isasi: Uh, chairman Wilson, thank you for the question. To be very clear, it is the patient themselves that has a responsibility and these negotiations are very complex. These are some of the most important and intense negotiations in the healthcare sector between a payer and a provider. There is absolutely no visibility for a consumer to understand what’s going on there. And so the notion that a consumer would walk into an emergency department and know, for example, that their doctor was out of network because that hospital could not reach agreement on an in-network provider for the ED is absurd, right? There’s no way they would ever know that. And similarly, if you walk in and you received surgery and it turns out your anesthesiologist isn’t in-network, there’s no way for the consumer to know that. Um, and I would like to say there’s some discussion about transparency and creating, you know, sort of provider directories. We’ve tried to do that in many instances. And what we know is that right now the healthcare sector has no real way to provide real actual insight to consumers about who’s in-network, and who’s out of network. I would-probably everybody in this room has tried at some point to figure out if a doctor’s in-network and out of network and as we know that system doesn’t work. So this idea that consumers can do research and find out what’s happened behind the scenes in these very intensive negotiations is absurd and it doesn’t work.

  • 46:30 Professor Jack Hoadley: Provider directories can be notoriously inaccurate. One of the things that, even if they are accurate, that I’ve seen in my own family is you may be enrolled in Blue Cross-You ask your physician, "are they participating in Blue Cross? They say “yes”, but it turns out Blue Cross has a variety of different networks. This would be true of any insurance company, and so you know, you may be in this one particular flavor of the Blue Cross plan and your provider may not participate in that particular network.

  • 47:30 Christen Linke Young: Notice isn’t enough here. Even if a consumer had perfect information, which is not a reasonable expectation, but even if they did have perfect information, they can’t do anything with that information. They can’t go across town to get their anesthesia and then come back to the hospital. Um, their-even with perfect information, they may be treated by out of network providers. And so we need to set a standard that limits how much providers can be paid in these out of network scenarios that makes it sort of less attractive for providers to remain out of network. And so instead, they are subject to more normal market conditions.

  • 1:01:25 Rep. Phil Roe (TN): I’ve had my name in networks that I wasn’t in. That you-that you use, and many of those unscrupulous networks, will use that too to get people to sign up because this doctor, my doctor is in there when you’re really not.

  • 1:10:25 Frederick Isasi: Um, there is a concept here, which is, what does in network mean, right? When you sit down with your husband or your partner and decide what kind of insurance do we want for our kids, right? We want to make sure that they can go to the ED if they’re playing soccer, they get hurt, all those sorts of things. The question is when you make that decision and you say, "Oh, look, this hospital is in-network, right? But what does that mean? If you can go to that hospital and all the services they’re providing are out of network, right? And I think as you’ve said, and as we’ve heard from other folks, the patient is not the person who should be responsible for that. It’s the folks who are negotiating. It’s the hospital, it’s the doc’s and the payers that should bear that responsibility. So let’s start by clarifying what does in-network mean, so that we have some way of making educated decisions about the insurance that we’re purchasing and putting our trust in.

  • 1:29:30 Professor Jack Hoadley: There may be instances where consumers get bills sent to them, aren’t aware that they don’t need to pay them, so don’t start the process. And that goes to this sort of point of how do you really make sure it’s not the consumer’s responsibility to figure out that, oh, I don’t, by law, I don’t actually have to pay this bill. Now what do I do to make sure that happens? If you don’t know that, uh, that doesn’t really help you. And so what some other states like California has done, is to include a provision that says the provider really can’t send a bill and if they do end up sending a bill and the consumer pays it, there’s an obligation on that provider to refund the amount that was paid back to the consumer. And that’s something we haven’t seen in some of the other states.

  • 1:39:15 Rep. Joe Courtney (CT): ERISA really has to be dealt with if we’re going to really have a comprehensive solution for America’s patients. Is that correct? Ilyse Schuman: That’s exactly right. Um, for the self funded plan too 60% of employer based plans that are not subject to these state laws, like in Connecticut or other states, we have to have a federal solution that addresses ERISA, so that we deal with this problem in a uniform nationwide way.


Documentary: This is a clip from the documentary: 911, Toxic Legacy which aired on Canadian CBC 9/10.2006, September 10, 2006


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Jun 30, 2019
CD198: Rationing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
02:41:50

The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is being rationed due to a lack of funding and an approaching end date for the program. In this episode, learn about the shocking, growing number of 9/11 victims, understand why these victims are in danger of having to bear the financial consequences of their injuries on their own, and examine the details and status of H.R. 1327, the bill that would solve this problem for good. Jamie Kilstein joins Jen for the thank you's.

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Jamie Kilstein Podcast

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Hearing: The Need to Reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, June 11, 2019

Watch on C-SPAN

Witnesses:

  • Rupa Bhattacharyya: Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, Department of Justice
  • Dr. Jaqueline Moline M.D.: Chair of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
  • Lila Nordstrom: 9/11 Survivor
  • Anesa Maria St. Rose Henry: Widow of Candidus Henry, Construction Worker and 9/11 Responder
  • Thomas Mohnal: Special Agent, FBI and 9/11 Responder
  • Michael O’Connell: Retired Lieutenant and 9/11 Responder, FDNY
  • Luis Alvarez: Retired Detective and 9/11 Responder, NYPD
  • Jon Stewart: 9/11 Responders and Survivors Advocate

 


 YouTube: This is a clip from the documentary: 911, Toxic Legacy which aired on Canadian CBC 9/10.2006, September 10, 2006


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Music Presented in This Episode

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Jun 17, 2019
CD197: Constitutional Crisis
02:12:34

The United States system of government depends on the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches keeping each other accountable, but what happens when two of the branches refuse to police the third? We might soon find out. In this episode, by examining the Attorney General William Barr's response to the release of the Mueller report, learn about recent events which foreshadow our system of government being tested in ways it hasn't been tested before.
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CD143: Trumps Law Enforcers

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Press Conference: Speical Counsel Robert Mueller Statement on Russian Investigation, May 29, 2019.

  • 4:10 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president can not be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.

  • 5:40 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: First, the opinion explicitly explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available.

  • 6:10 Special Counsel Robert Mueller: And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.


Hearing: Attorney General William Barr Contempt Resolution, House Judiciary Committee, May 8, 2019.

  • 14:40 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): I urge my colleagues to think about how the department’s latest position and their insistence on ignoring our subpoena effects our committee, over time. Our fight is not just about the Mueller report, although we must have access to the Mueller report. Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress as an independent branch to hold the president, any president, accountable.

  • 15:20 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): The chairman of the oversight and Reform Committee has been sued in his personal capacity to prevent them from acquiring certain financial records from the Trump organization.

  • 15:30 Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY): The president has stated that his administration will oppose all subpoenas, and in fact, virtually all document requests are going unsatisfied. Witnesses are refusing to show up at hearings. This is unprecedented. If allowed to go unchecked, this obstruction means the end of congressional oversight. As a coequal branch of government, we should not and cannot allow this to continue, or we will not be a coequal branch of government.


Hearing: William Barr Testifies on Mueller Report, Senate Judiciary Committee, May 1, 2019.

  • 7:50 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): I would like to do more to harden our infrastructure because the Russians did it. It wasn’t some 400 pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere. It was the Russians, and they’re still doing it. And it can be the Chinese, it could be somebody next. So my takeaway from this report is that we’ve got a lot of work to do to defend democracy against the Russians and other bad actors. And I promise the committee we will get on. Would that work? Hopefully in a bipartisan fashion.

  • 9:20 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): This is what Strzok said on February 12th, 2016 “Now he’s in charge of the Clinton email investigation”.

  • 11:25 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): “Trump is a fucking idiot”.

  • 17:05 Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA: First Special Counsel Mueller’s report confirms that the Russian government implemented a social media campaign to mislead millions of Americans.

  • 32:50 Attorney General William Barr: The special counsel investigated whether anyone affiliated with president Trump’s campaign conspired or coordinated with these criminal schemes. They concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to establish that there had been any conspiracy or coordination with the Russian government or the IRA.

  • 33:40 Attorney General William Barr: Now we first heard that the special council’s decision not to decide the obstruction issue at at the March 5th meeting when he came over to the department and we were frankly surprised that they were not going to reach a decision on obstruction. We asked them a lot about the reasoning behind this and the basis for Special Council Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting in response to our questioning that he emphatically was not saying that, but for the OLC’s opinion, he would have found obstruction.

  • 34:40 Attorney General William Barr: Once we heard that the special counsel was not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, the deputy and I discussed and agreed that the department had to reach a decision. We had the responsibility to assess the evidence as set forth in the report and to make the judgment. I say this because the special counsel was appointed to carry out the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the department and to do it as part of the Department of Justice. The powers he was using, including the power of using a grand jury and using compulsory process exists for that purpose. The function of the Department of Justice in this arena (which is to determine whether or not there has been criminal conduct). It’s a binary decision. Is there enough evidence to show a crime and do we believe a crime has been committed?

  • 35:30 Attorney General William Barr: We don’t conduct criminal investigations just to collect information and put it out to the public, we do so to make a decision.

  • 35:40 Attorney General William Barr: And here we thought there was an additional reason, which is this was a very public investigation and we had made clear that the results of the investigation we’re going to be made public, and the deputy and I felt that the evidence developed by the special counsel was not sufficient to establish that the president committed a crime, and therefore it would be irresponsible and unfair for the department to release a report without stating the department’s conclusions and thus leave it hanging as to whether the department considered there had been criminal conduct.

  • 38:13 Attorney General William Barr: We prepared the letter for that purpose. To state the bottom line conclusions. We use the language from the report to state those bottom line conclusions. I analogize it to announcing after an extended trial what the verdict of the trial is, pending release of the full transcript.

  • 38:40 Attorney General William Barr: We were not trying to summarize the 410 page report.

  • 44:05 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Very quickly, give us your reasoning why you think it would be inappropriate to proceed forward on obstruction of justice in this case.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, um, generally speaking, an obstruction case, uh, typically has two aspects to it. One, there’s usually an underlying criminality that…
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Let’s stop right here.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Was there an underlying crime here?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.

  • 48:00 Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Do you think the President’s campaign in 2016 was thoroughly looked at in terms of whether or not they colluded with the Russians?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): And the answer is no according to Bob Mahler.
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s right.
    Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): He couldn’t decide about obstruction, you did. Is that correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s right.

  • 1:02:08 Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): In volume two of the report, the special council declined to make a traditional prosecutorial decision. Instead, the special council laid out 200 or so pages relating to a potential obstruction analysis and then dumped that on your desk. In your press conference you said that you asked the special council whether he would have made a charging decision or recommended charges on obstruction, but for the office of legal console’s opinion on charging sitting presidents, and that the special counsel made clear that was not the case. So Mr. Barr, is that an accurate description of your conversation with the special council?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes, he, he reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Yeah. If the special console found facts as sufficient to constitute obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding?
    Attorney General William Barr: If he had found that, then I think he would state it. Yes.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Yeah.

  • 1:03:45 Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Do you agree with the reasons that he offered for not making a decision and Volume II of his report and why or why not?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, I’m not really sure of his reasoning. I really could not recapitulate his analysis, which is one of the reasons in my March 24th letter. I simply stated the fact that he did not reach a conclusion and didn’t try to put words in his mouth. Um, I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t have gone down the path of making a traditional prosecuted decision, then he shouldn’t have investigated. That was the time to, uh, pull up.
    Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA): Okay.

  • 1:37:53 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you first learn of the New York Times and Washington Post stories that would make the existence of this letter public? The ones that came out last night?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think it could have been yesterday, but I’m not sure.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When they contacted you to ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: They didn’t contact me.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)*: Contact to DOJ and ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: I can’t actually remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): So you…at some point you knew that the Mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think so.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay. When did you decide to make that letter available to us in Congress
    Attorney General William Barr: This morning.

  • 1:37:53 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you first learn of the New York Times and Washington Post stories that would make the existence of this letter public? The ones that came out last night?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think it could have been yesterday, but I’m not sure.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When they contacted you to ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: They didn’t contact me.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)*: Contact to DOJ and ask for any comment?
    Attorney General William Barr: I can’t actually remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): So you…at some point you knew that the Mueller letter was going to become public and that was probably yesterday?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think so.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay. When did you decide to make that letter available to us in Congress
    Attorney General William Barr: This morning.

  • 1:40:30 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The…
    Attorney General William Barr: As I said, I wasn’t interested in putting out summaries. Period.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Well, you know, we can…
    Attorney General William Barr: Frankly…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): This is another hairsplitting exercise because Bob Mueller, (who I think we all agree is fairly credible) actually described your letter as a summary. So you can say it wasn’t a summary, but Mueller said it was a summary and I don’t think…
    Attorney General William Barr: I wasn’t interested in summarizing the whole report. As I say, I was stating that the bottom line conclusions of the report…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Your letter said it’s intended to describe the report, I quote your words…
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah, describe the report meaning volume one [inaudible]
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When you describe the report in four pages and it’s a 400 page report, I don’t know why you’re cowboying about whether it’s a summary or not.
    Attorney General William Barr: Because I state in the letter that I’m stating that the principle conclusions.

  • 1:41:13 Attorney General William Barr: You know, Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a US attorney. He was exercising the powers of the attorney general subject to the supervision of the attorney general. He’s part of the Department of Justice. His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby.

  • 1:42:59 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Um, the interesting thing to me is that it goes on to say that because of the OLC opinion, we have to give the president an extra benefit of the doubt because he is denied his day in court where he could exonerate himself. That seems like a fallacy to me because if you are the president of the United States, you can either waive or readily override the OLC opinion and say, “I’m ready to go to trial.” “I want to exonerate myself.” “Let’s go.” Could you not?
    Attorney General William Barr: How is this relevant to my decisions?
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): It’s relevant…
    Attorney General William Barr: Because I assumed that there was no OLC opinion.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Well, we have a report in front of us that says that this influenced the outcome. And in particular it says it influenced the outcome because it deprived the president of his ability to have his day in court. And my point to you is that the president could easily have his day in court by simply waving or overriding this OLC opinion that has no judicial basis. Correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, I don’t…I don’t think that there was anything to have a day in court on. I think that the government did not have a prosecutable case,
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): but part…well Mueller obviously didn’t agree because he left that up to you.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): He said that he could neither confirm nor deny that there was a prosecutable case here. He left that to you and when he did, he said, and you apparently have agreed that this OLC opinion bears on it, and then it would be unfair to the president to put them to the burden of being indicted and not having the ability to be charged himself…
    Attorney General William Barr: I don’t want to characterize…have Bob’s thought process on this.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): I’m not asking you to characterize it. It’s in his report. He’s put it in writing.
    Attorney General William Barr: I’m not sure what he means by that in the report.

  • 1:54:13 Sen. John Kennedy (LA): Tell me again briefly why Mr. Mueller told you he reached no conclusion…or he couldn’t make up his mind or whatever. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.
    Attorney General William Barr: I really couldn’t recapitulate it. I… it was unclear to us.

  • 2:31:25 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): The special council specifically said (at the same time I’m quoting), "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. He said it again at page 182, and yet in your summary and in the press room conference that you did, you in effect cleared the president on both so-called collusion.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. The difference is that I use the proper standard. Um, that statement you just read is actually a very strange statement.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): For four of the specific obstruction episodes, Robert Mueller concluded that it was substantial evidence on four on the three necessary elements of obstruction.
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, you’re…you’re on. You’re a prospect…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): I have to finish my question with all…
    Attorney General William Barr: You haven’t let me finish my answer.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Well, uh, let me just finish the…
    Chairman Lindsay Graham (SC): We can do both.
    Attorney General William Barr: Alright, good.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Uh, you ignored in that press conference and in the summary that Robert Mueller found substantial evidence and it’s in the report, and we have a chart that shows the elements of that crime. Intent, interference with an ongoing investigation and the obstructive act.

  • 2:38:35 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You started by citing this thing in Volume II about how the report says that they could not be sure that they could clearly say that he did not violate the law. As you know, that’s not the standard we use in the criminal justice system. It’s presumed that if someone is innocent and the government has to prove that they clearly violated the law. We’re not in the business of exoneration. We’re not in the business of proving they didn’t violate law.
    Attorney General William Barr: I found that whole act very…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): …exonerated him in your press conference and in your four page summary
    Attorney General William Barr: How did that start? I didn’t hear the beginning of the question?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You in effect exonerated or cleared the president?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I didn’t exonerate. I said that we did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to establish an obstruction offense, which is the job of the Justice Department and the job of the Justice Department is now over. That determines whether or not there’s a crime. The report is now in the hands of the American people. Everyone can decide for themselves. There’s an election in 18 months. That’s very democratic process, but we’re out of it and we have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon.

  • 2:50:30 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): You lied to Congress. You told Representative Charlie Krist that you didn’t know what objections Mueller’s team might have to your March 24th so-called summary. You told Senator Chris Van Hollen that you didn’t know if Bob Mueller supported your conclusions, but you knew you lied, and now we know.

  • 2:51:10 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): I expected you would try to protect the president, and indeed you did. In 1989…this isn’t something you hadn’t done before. In 1989, when you refuse to show Congress and OLC opinion that led to the arrest of Manual Noriega. In 1992, when you recommended partners for the subjects of the Iran Contra scandal and last year when you wrote the 19 page memo, telling “Donald Trump as president”, can’t be guilty of obstruction of justice, and then didn’t recuse yourself from the matter. From the beginning, you are addressing an audience of one. That person being Donald Trump.

  • 3:00:40 Attorney General William Barr: How did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous and accused of being a Russian agent. And the evidence now is that was without a basis and two years of his administration, uh, have been dominated by the allegations that have now been proven false. And you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller report and found the opposite.

  • 3:18:14 Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): In your March 24th summary, you wrote: “After reviewing the special council’s final report, deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.” Now the special council’s investigation produced a great deal of evidence. Um, I’ve led to believe it included witnesses, notes and emails, witnesses, congressional testimony, witnesses, interviews, um, which were summarized in the FBI 302 forms, former FBI Director Columbia’s memos and the president’s public statements. My question is, in reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, no. We took a… we excepted…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did…Did Mr Rosenstein…?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, we accepted the statements in the report as the factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted it as accurate and made our…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you accepted the report as the evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You did not question or look at the underlying evidence that supports the conclusions in the report?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did, uh, Mr Rosenstein review the evidence that underlines and supports the conclusions in the report…to your knowledge?
    Attorney General William Barr: Not to my knowledge. We accepted the statements in the report.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did anyone in your…
    Attorney General William Barr: The characterization of the evidence is true.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did anyone in your executive office review the evidence supporting the report?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): No.

  • 3:20:17 Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): As the Attorney General of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice. If in any US attorney’s office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision about in this case the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime. Would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you if they’d had not reviewed the evidence?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, that’s a question for Bob Mueller. He’s the U.S. Attorney. He’s the one who presents the report.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): But it was you who made the charging decisions there. You made the decision not to charge the president
    Attorney General William Barr: No, in the pross memo and in the declination memo…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You said it was your baby. What did you mean by that?
    Attorney General William Barr: It was my baby to let, to decide whether or not to disclose it to the public.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And whose decision was it,? Who had the power to make the decision about whether or not the evidence was sufficient to make a determination of whether there had been an obstruction of justice?
    Attorney General William Barr: Prosecution memos go up to the supervisor. In this case, it was the…you know, the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, who… who decide on the final decision, and that is based on the memo as presented by the US Attorney’s office.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I think you’ve made it clear that you’ve not looked at…we can move on. I think you’ve made it clear Sir that you’ve not looked at the evidence and we can move on.

  • 3:22:25 Attorney General William Barr: You know I haven’t been the only decision maker here. Now let’s take the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was approved by the Senate 94 to 6 with specific discussion on the floor that he would be responsible for supervising the Russian investing.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I’m glad you brought up that. That’s a great topic.
    Attorney General William Barr: He has 30 years experience and we had a number of senior prosecutors in the department involved in this process, both career and non-career.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Yes, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve read a lot . I have another question and I’m glad you brought that subject up because I have a question about that. Earlier today in response to Senator Graham, you said quote “that you consulted with Rosenstein constantly” With respect to the special council’s investigation report, but Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is also a key witness and the firing of FBI Director Comey. Did you consult with…? I’m not finished.
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah?
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did you consult with DOJ Ethics officials before you enlisted Rod Rosenstein to participate in a charging decision for an investigation? The subject, of which; he is also a witness.
    Attorney General William Barr: My understanding was that he had been cleared already to participate in it.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you had consulted with them and they cleared it?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I think they cleared it when he took over the investigation. Did you consider?..
    Attorney General William Barr: That’s my understanding? I am…I
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): You don’t know whether he’s been cleared of a conflict of interest?
    Attorney General William Barr: You would be participating if there was a conflict of interest.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): So you’re saying that it did not need to be reviewed by the career ethics officials in your office?
    Attorney General William Barr: I believe, well I believe it was reviewed and I…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): and what role should find…?
    Attorney General William Barr: I would also point out that this seems to be a bit of a flip flop because when the president’s supporters were challenging Rosenstein
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I think in this case that you’re not answering the question directly.
    Attorney General William Barr: What?
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Did the ethics officials in your office, in the Department of Justice, review the appropriateness of Rod Rosenstein being a part of making a charging decision on an investigation, which he is also a witness in?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. So as I said, my understanding was he had been cleared and he had been cleared before I arrived.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): In making a decision on the Mueller report?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And, and the findings of whether or not the case would be charged on obstruction of justice? Had he been cleared on that?
    Attorney General William Barr: He was, he was the acting Attorney General on the Mueller investigation.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Had he been cleared?
    Attorney General William Barr: He had been, I am…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): By your side recommendation?
    Attorney General William Barr: I am informed before I arrived, he had been cleared by the ethics officials.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): Of what?
    Attorney General William Barr: Serving as acting Attorney General on the Mueller case.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): How about making a charging decision on obstruction of justice?
    Attorney General William Barr: That is what the acting…
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): With the lack of offenses, which include him as a witness?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yeah. He, that’s what the acting Attorney General’s job is.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): To be a witness and to make the decision about being a prosecutor?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well. No. But the big charging decisions.
    Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): I have nothing else. My time has run out.

  • 3:45:15 Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): And President Trump. I am correcting my earlier statement, never allowed anybody to interview him directly under oath. Is that correct?
    Attorney General William Barr: I think that’s correct.
    Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): Even though he said he’s ready to testify. Thank you.

  • 3:45:42 Attorney General William Barr: The absence of an underlying crime doesn’t necessarily mean that there would be other motives for obstruction. Although, it gets a little bit harder to prove and more speculative as to what those motives might be. But the point I was trying to make earlier, is that in this situation of the president, (who has constitutional authority to supervise proceedings), if in fact a proceeding was not well founded. If it was a groundless proceeding, if it was based on false allegations, the president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it to run its course. The president could terminate that proceeding and it would not be a corrupt intent because he was being falsely accused and he would be worried about the impact on his administration. That’s important, because most of the obstruction claims that are being made here or, episodes, do involve the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority. And we now know that he was being falsely accused.

  • 3:52:05 Attorney General William Barr: Right after March 5th, we started discussing what the implications of this were and how we would…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And you made the decision when?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, probably on Sunday the 24th.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): That’s the day the letter came out?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes. We made the decision…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): And make the decision until the letter came out?
    Attorney General William Barr: No. No.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): You must have told somebody how to write the letter, you couldn’t…
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you actually decide that there was no obstruction?
    Attorney General William Barr: The 24th.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay.

  • 3:52:35 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): When did you get the first draft of the Mueller report?
    Attorney General William Barr: The, the first?.. It wasn’t a draft. We got the final.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The first version of it that you saw?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, the only version of it I saw.
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Okay, the only version for you Sir. When you do first?
    Attorney General William Barr: The 22nd
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): The 22nd

  • 3:52:50 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): Now you told Senator Harris that you made your decision on the obstruction charge, you and Rosenstein, based on the Mueller report. Did I correctly infer that you made that decision then between the 22nd and the 24th?
    Attorney General William Barr: Well, we had had a lot of discussions about it before the 22nd but then the final decision was made on the 24th
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): and you didn’t…
    Attorney General William Barr: We had more than two and a half days to consider this. LLC had already done a lot of thinking about some of these issues even before, uh, the…we got the report.

  • 4:03:30 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): This letter was an extraordinary act. A career prosecutor would rebuking the Attorney General of the United States memorializing in writing. Right? I know of no other incidents of that happening. Do you?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, I don’t consider Bob at this stage, a career prosecutor. He’s had a career as a prosecutor.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Well, he was a very eminent…
    Attorney General William Barr: Who was the head of the FBI for 12 years? Um…
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): He’s a career…He’s had a, he’s… law enforcement professional?
    Attorney General William Barr: Right? Yup.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): I know of no other instances of…
    Attorney General William Barr: But he was also political appointee and he was a political appointee with me at the Department of Justice. I don’t, I, you know, the letters a bit snitty and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did you make a memorandum of your conversation?
    Attorney General William Barr: Huh?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did you make a memory?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I didn’t need anyone else around them. What?
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Did anyone, either you or anyone on your staff memorialize your conversation with Robert Mueller?
    Attorney General William Barr: Yes.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT):Who did that?
    Attorney General William Barr: Uh, there were notes taken of the call.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): May We have those notes?
    Attorney General William Barr: No.
    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT):Why not?
    Attorney General William Barr: Why should you have them?


Hearing: Attorney General Barr News Conference on Mueller Report Release, Department of Justice, April 18, 2019.

  • 4:00 Attorney General William Barr: As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter.

  • 9:30 Attorney General William Barr: Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense. After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.

  • 10:30 Attorney General William Barr: In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

  • 18:00 Attorney General William Barr: But I will say that when we met with him, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I met with him, along with Ed o’Callaghan, who is the principal associate deputy, on March 5th. We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking a position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion. And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.”

  • 19:30 Attorney General William Barr: And we don’t go through this process just to collect information and throw it out to the public. We collect this information. We use that compulsory process for the purpose of making that decision. And because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the department had to. That was a decision by me and the deputy attorney general.

  • 20:15 Attorney General William Barr: Well, special counsel Mueller did not indicate that his purpose was to leave the decision to Congress. I hope that was not his view, since we don’t convene grand juries and conduct criminal investigations for that purpose. He did not – I didn’t talk to him directly about the fact that we were making the decision, but I am told that his reaction to that was that it was my prerogative as attorney general to make that decision.


Hearing: Justice Department Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, April 9, 2019.

  • 1:07:10 Rep. Charlie Crist (FL): Reports have emerged recently, General, that members of the Special Council’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately necessarily portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?
    Attorney General William Barr: No, I don’t. I suspect that they probably wanted more put out.

Hearing: Michael Cohen Testimony, House Oversight Committee, February 27, 2019.

  • 4:01:34 Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): On January 17 of this year, the Wall Street Journal published a story stating that you hired John Gauger, the owner of a consulting company who works for Liberty University in Virginia, to rig at least two online polls related to Donald Trump. Did you hire him? Michael Cohen: Those were back in I believe 2015? Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): 2014. Michael Cohen: 2014. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): 2014. So you did hire him? Michael Cohen: Yes. I spoke with Mr. Gauger about manipulating these online polls. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): And did he use bots to manipulate the poll? Michael Cohen: He used algorithms and if that includes bots then the answer’s yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): Yes. That’s accurate. Did the president have any involvement Michael Cohen: Yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): In directing you to do this? Michael Cohen: Yes. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA): What were the results of the poll Michael Cohen: Exactly where we wanted them to be. In the CNBC poll, we came in at number nine. And the Drudge Report, he was top of the Drudge Report as well.

  • 4:50:20 Michael Cohen: So there was a contract that I ended up creating Mr Trump’s behalf for a Ukrainian oligarch by the name of Victor Pinchuk. And it was that Mr. Trump was asked to come into participate in what was the Ukrainian American Economic Forum. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to go, but I was able to negotiate 15 minutes by Skype where they would have a camera, very much like a television camera, very much like that one. And they would translate Mr. Trump to the questionnaire and then he would respond back. And I negotiated a fee of $150,000 for 15 minutes. I was directed by Mr. Trump to have the contract done in the name of the Donald J. Trump foundation as opposed to Donald J. Trump or services rendered.


Hearing: FBI Oversight, Senate Judicary Committee, May 3, 2017.

Witnesses:

  • James Comey: FBI Director

Sound Clips:

  • *2:27:00: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): So potentially the President of the United States could be a target of your ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russian interference in our election. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: I just worry… I don’t want to answer that because it seems to be unfair speculation. We will follow the evidence. We’ll try and find as much as we can and we’ll follow the evidence where it leads.

Cover Art

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

May 31, 2019
CD196: The Mueller Report
02:28:07

We finally have the facts. The two year long investigation, lead by Robert Mueller, into whether or not the 2016 Donald Trump for President campaign worked with members of the Russian government to steal and release Democratic Party emails is now complete. In this episode, after reading every word of the 448 page report, Jen breaks what the facts indicate Donald Trump did and did not do so that we can all be "in the know" for the Congressional battles with the President that are sure to come.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

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Official Mueller Report

Jen Briney's highlighted version

Interactive Mueller Report from The New York Times

Justice Department's pdf version 


Additional Reading

 

  • Document: Steele Dossier Confidential, by Mark Schoofs, BuzzFeed, October 19, 2016.

Resources

 


Visual Resources


Sound Clip Sources

Hearing: Michael Cohen Testimony Before House Oversight Committee, C-SPAN, February 27, 2019.

Sound Clips:

  • 33:31 Michael Cohen: You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.

  • 33:44 Michael Cohen: To be clear, Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

  • 39:21 Michael Cohen: Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation, only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be greatest infomercial in political history. He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign, for him, was always a marketing opportunity.

  • 43:50 Michael Cohen: Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw man to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned off at an art Hampton’s event. The objective was to ensure that this portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself.

  • 48:50 Michael Cohen: When I say con man, I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant, but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.

  • 53:09 Michael Cohen: Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr had the worst judgment of anyone in the world.

  • 55:31 Michael Cohen: And by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal scurrilous attacks by the president and his lawyer trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel.

  • 56:30 Michael Cohen: And I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle make it clear that as a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before Congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.

  • 2:10:30 Michael Cohen: And when Mr. Trump turned around early in the campaign and said, I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, I want to be very clear. He's not joking. He's telling you the truth. You don't know him. I do. I sat next to this man for 10 years and I watched his back.

  • 2:11:13 Michael Cohen: And when he goes on Twitter and he starts bringing in my in-laws, my parents, my wife, what does he think is going to happen? He's causing... He's sending out the same message that he can do whatever he wants. This is his country. He's becoming an autocrat and hopefully something bad will happen to me or my children and my wife so that I will not be here and testify. That's what his hope was. To intimidate me.

  • 2:11:46 Rep. Jim Cooper (TN): Have you ever seen Mr. Trump personally threaten people with physical harm? Michael Cohen: No. He would use others.

  • 2:12:00 Michael Cohen: Everybody’s job at the Trump organization is to protect Mr. Trump

  • 2:12:07 Michael Cohen: Every day. Most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something, and that became the norm, and that's exactly what's happening right now in, in this country. That's exactly what's happening here in government.

  • 4:10:30 Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): Mr Cohen, why do you feel or believe that the president is repeatedly attacking you? You are stating that you feel intimidated asking us to protect you following your cooperation with law enforcement. Michael Cohen: When you have access to 60 plus million people that follow you on social media and you have the ability within which to spark some action by individuals that follow and follow him and from his own words that he can walk down Fifth Avenue, shoot someone and get away with it. It's never comfortable when the President of the United States… Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): What do you think he can do to you? Michael Cohen: A lot. And it's not just him, it's those people that follow him in his rhetoric. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI): What is a lot? Michael Cohen: I don't know. I don't walk with my wife. If we go to a restaurant or we go somewhere, I don't walk with my children. I make them go before me because I have fear and it's the same fear that I had before when he initially decided to drop that tweet in my cell phone. I receive some, and I'm sure you, you'll understand. I received some tweets. I received some Facebook messenger, all sorts of social media attacks upon me, whether it's the private direct message that I've had to turn over to secret service because they are the most vile, disgusting statements that anyone can ever receive. And when it starts to affect your children, that's when it really affects you.

Interview: Trump joins Judge Jeanine for a phone interview to give an update on where Washington is at with the border crisis, Fox News, January 12, 2019.

Sound Clip:

  • 15:00 President Donald Trump: Look, I was a client of his, and you know, you're supposed to have lawyer-client privilege, but it doesn't matter because I'm a very honest person, frankly, but he's in trouble on some loans and fraud and taxi cabs and stuff that I know nothing about and in order to get a sentence reduced, he says, "I have an idea, I'll give you some information on the president." Well, there is no information, but he should give information, maybe on his father in law because that's the one that people want to look at because where does that money? That's the money in the family. And I guess he didn't want to talk about his father in law. He's trying to get his sentence reduced.
Press Conference: President Trump Accuses Personal Lawyer Michael Cohen of Lying, C-SPAN, November 29, 2018.

Sound Clip:

  • 1:00 President Donald Trump: He was convicted of various things unrelated to us. He was given a fairly long jail sentence and he’s a weak person. And by being weak, unlike other people that you watch - he is a weak person. And what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence. So he’s lying about a project that everybody knew about.
Interview: Interview with Ainsley Earhardt on Fox & Friends, YouTube, August 23, 2018.

Sound Clips:

  • Ainsley Earhardt:What grade do you give yourself so far? President Donald Trump: So, I give myself an A+. Ainsley Earhardt: Will you fire Sessions? President Donald Trump: I'll tell you what, as I've said, I wanted to stay uninvolved, but when everybody sees what's going on in the Justice Department - I put "Justice" now in quotes - It's a very, very sad day. Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn't have done, or he should have told me. Even my enemies say that Jeff sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn't have put him in. He took the job and then he said, "I'm going to recuse myself." I said, "What kind of a man is this?" And by the way, he was on the campaign and you know, the only reason I gave him the job, because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter.

  • President Donald Trump: He makes a better deal when he uses me, like everybody else, and one of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial... You know, they make up stories. People make up stories. This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years, I've been watching flippers. Everything's wonderful, and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed. It's not fair.

Press Briefing: President Trump Remarks on John Brennan and Mueller Probe, C-SPAN, August 17, 2018.

Sound Clip:

  • President Donald Trump: I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad when you look at what’s going on there. I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what, he happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.
News Report: State of the Union with Jake Tapper, CNN, YouTube, June 17, 2018.

Transcript

  • 9:30 Jake Tapper: How do you respond to critics who say you discussing it on TV, you discussing it with the New York Daily News, President Trump tweeting, that you're sending a signal to defendants in a criminal prosecution that a pardon is out there. It might be on its way. Some people think that this is the president and you suggesting that - signaling really, - don't cooperate with prosecutors because the pardon is there if you'll just hold on. Rudy Giuliani: Jake, I don't think that's the interpretation. It's certainly not intended that way. What it should be... I'll tell you what I clearly mean. What I mean is you're not going to get a pardon just because you're involved in this investigation. You probably have a higher burden if you're involved in this investigation as compared to the others who get pardons but you're certainly not excluded from it if, in fact, the president and his advisors, not me, come to the conclusion that you've been treated unfairly.
Press Conference: President Trump gives off-the-cuff news conference on White House lawn, CNBC, June 15, 2018.

Transcript

Sound Clips:

  • 6:30 Reporter: So there’s some high-profile court cases going on. You’ve got a former campaign manager, your former lawyer. They’re all dealing with legal troubles. Are you paying close attention — President Donald Trump: Well, I feel badly about a lot of them, because I think a lot of it is very unfair. I mean, I look at some of them where they go back 12 years. Like Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. But I feel so — I tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?

  • 8:50 Reporter: Is he still your lawyer? President Donald Trump: No, he’s not my lawyer anymore. But I always liked Michael, and he’s a good person. And I think he’s been — Reporter: Are you worried he will cooperate? President Donald Trump: Excuse me, do you mind if I talk? Reporter: I just want to know if you’re worried — President Donald Trump: You’re asking me a question; I’m trying to ask it. Reporter: I just want to know if you’re worried if he’s going to cooperate with federal investigators. President Donald Trump: No, I’m not worried because I did nothing wrong.

White House Briefing: President Trump receives a briefing from Military Leadership, YouTube, April 9, 2018.

Transcript

Sound Clips:

  • President Donald Trump: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys — a good man. And it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down. We’ve given, I believe, over a million pages’ worth of documents to the Special Counsel. They continue to just go forward. And here we are talking about Syria and we’re talking about a lot of serious things. We’re the greatest fighting force ever. And I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now.

  • President Donald Trump: The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself. Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different Attorney General in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. But you’ll figure that out.

Hearing: Facebook, Google, and Twitter Executives on Russia Election Interference, Senate Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN, November 1, 2017.

Sound Clips:

  • 1:49:24 Sen. Roy Blunt (MO): Mr. Stretch, how much money did the Russians spend on ads that we now look back as either disruptive or politically intended? It was at $100,000. Is that— Colin Stretch: It was approximately $100,000. Blunt: I meant from your company. Stretch: Yes, approximately $100,000. Blunt: How much of that did they pay before the election? Stretch: The— Blunt: I’ve seen the— Stretch: Yeah. Blunt: —number 44,000. Blunt: Is that right? Stretch: So— Blunt: 56 after, 44 before. Stretch: The ad impressions ran 46% before the election, the remainder after the election. Blunt: 46%. Well, if I had a consultant that was trying to impact an election and spent only 46% of the money before Election Day, I’d be pretty upset about that, I think. So, they spent $46,000. How much did the Clinton and Trump campaigns spend on Facebook? I assume before the election. Stretch: Yeah. Before the elec— Blunt: They were better organized than the other group. Stretch: Approximate—combined approximately $81 million. Blunt: 81 million, and before the election. Stretch: Yes. Blunt: So, 81 million. I’m not a great mathematician, but 46,000, 81 million, would that be, like, five one-thousandths of one percent? It’s something like that. Stretch: It’s a small number by comparison, sir.
Hearing: Russian Interference in 2016 Election, Senate Intelligence Committee, C-SPAN, June 8, 2017.

Witness:

  • James Comey - Former FBI Director

Sound Clips:

  • 48:20 Senator James Risch (ID): You put this in quotes. Words matter. You wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words there that are in quotes, and it says, quote, ‘‘I hope’’—this is the President speaking—‘‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’’Now those are his exact words, is that correct? James Comey:: Correct. Senator RISCH: And you wrote them here and you put them in quotes? Director COMEY: Correct. Senator RISCH: Okay. Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go? Director COMEY: Not in his words, no. Senator RISCH: He did not order you to let it go? Director COMEY: Again, those words are not an order. Senator RISCH: No. He said, ‘‘I hope.’’ Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses. And of course you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome? Director COMEY: I don’t know well enough to answer. And the reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction. Senator RISCH: Right. Director COMEY: I mean, this is the President of the United States with me alone, saying, ‘‘I hope’’ this. I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.

  • 54:18 Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA): You described two phone calls that you re- ceived from President Trump, one on March 30 and one on April 11, where he, quote, ‘‘described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability,’’ end quote, as President and asked you, quote, ‘‘to lift the cloud,’’ end quote. How did you interpret that? And what did you believe he wanted you to do? Director COMEY: I interpreted that as he was frustrated that the Russia investigation was taking up so much time and energy, I think he meant of the Executive Branch, but in the public square in general, and it was making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his. But what he asked me was actually narrower than that. So I think what he meant by the cloud, and again I could be wrong, but what I think he meant by the cloud was the entire investigation is taking up oxygen and making it hard for me to focus on the things I want to focus on. The ask was to get it out that I, the President, am not personally under investigation.

  • 1:17:17 Sen. Susan Collins (ME): And was the President under investigation at the time of your dismissal on May 9th? James Comey: No.

  • 1:30:15 James Comey: On March the 30th, and I think again on—I think on April 11th as well, I told him we’re not investigating him personally. That was true.

  • 1:39:10 Sen. Angus King (ME): And in his press conference on May 18th, the President was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The President responded, quote, ‘‘No, no. Next question.’’ Is that an accurate statement? James Comey: I don’t believe it is.

  • 1:48:15 James Comey: I think there’s a big difference in kicking superior officers out of the Oval Office, looking the FBI Director in the eye, and saying, ‘‘I hope you’ll let this go.’’ I think if our—if the agents, as good as they are, heard the President of the United States did that there’s a real risk of a chilling effect on their work.

  • 2:21:35 Sen. Jack Reed (RI): You interpret the discussion with the President about Flynn as a direction to stop the investigation. Is that correct? James Comey: Yes.

  • 2:24:25 James Comey: I know I was fired because something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that. I can’t go farther than that.

  • 2:26:00 James Comey: There’s no doubt that it’s a fair judgment, it’s my judgment, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change—or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.

Interview: Lester Holt Exclusive Interview with President Trump, NBC News, May 11, 2017.

Sound Clips:

  • President Donald Trump: Look, he's a show boat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.

  • Lester Holt: Monday you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensteinn. President Donald Trump: Right. Lester Holt: Did you ask for recommendation? President Donald Trump: What I did is I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not... Lester Holt: You had made the decision before they came... President Donald Trump: I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way. Lester Holt: Because in your letter, you said, I accepted their recommendation, so you had already made the decision? President Donald Trump: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.

  • President Donald Trump: And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.

  • Lester Holt: Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey. You write, "I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation." Why did you put that in there? President Donald Trump: Because he told me that, I mean he told me... Lester Holt: He told you you weren't under investigation with regard to the Russian investigation? President Donald Trump: I've heard that from others. I think... Lester Holt: Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face to face? President Donald Trump: I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. We had a very nice dinner at the White House. Lester Holt: He asked for the dinner? President Donald Trump: The dinner was arranged, I think he has for the dinner and he wanted to stay on as the FBI head and I said, I'll consider, we'll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner and at that time he told me, you are not under investigation. Which I knew anyway. Lester Holt: That was one meeting. What were the other two? President Donald Trump: First of all, when you're under investigation, you're giving all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn't under and I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level, that I wasn't. Number one. Then during the phone call, he said it and then during another phone call. He said it. So he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice doing phone calls. Lester Holt: Did you call him? President Donald Trump: In one case I called him. In one case he called me. Lester Holt: And did you ask him I under investigation? President Donald Trump: I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it's possible when you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, "You are not under investigation." Lester Holt: But he's, he's given sworn testimony that there was an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government. You were the centerpiece of the Trump campaign, so was he being truthful when he said that you weren't under investigation? President Donald Trump: Well, I know one thing. I know that I'm not under investigation. Me. Personally. I'm not talking about campaigns. I'm not talking about anything else. I'm not under investigation.

  • President Donald Trump: He's not my man or not my man. I didn't appoint him. He was appointed long before me.

  • President Donald Trump: There was no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians. The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote and everybody seems to think that.

  • Lester Holt: But when you put out tweets, it's a total hoax. It's a taxpayer's charade. And you're looking for a new FBI director. Are you not sending that person a message to lay off? President Donald Trump: No, I'm not doing that. I think that we have to get back to work, but I want to find out, I want to get to the bottom. If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about.

White House Press Briefing: Sarah Sanders Daily Press Briefing, White House, May 10, 2017.

Transcript

Oversight Hearing: FBI Oversight, Senate Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN, May 3, 2017.

Witness:

  • James Comey - FBI Director

Sound Clips:

  • 57:19 Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): In October, the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign's connection to Russia. You sent a letter informing the Senate and House that you are reviewing additional emails. It could be relevant to this, but both of those cases are open, but you're still only commented on one. FBI Director James Comey: I commented, as I explained earlier on October 28th in a letter that I sent to the chair and rankings of the oversight committees that we were taking additional steps in the Clinton email investigation because I had testified under oath repeatedly that we were done, that we were finished there. With respect to the Russia investigation, we treated it like we did with the Clinton investigation. We didn't say a word about it until months into it. And then the only thing we've confirmed so far about this is - same thing with the Clinton investigation - that we are investigating and I would expect we're not going to say another peep about it until we're done.

  • 1:47:32 Sen. Al Franken (MN): Any investigation into whether the Trump campaign or Trump operation colluded with Russian operatives would require a full appreciation of the president's financial dealings. Director Comey, would president Trump's tax returns be material to such an investigation? FBI Director James Comey: That's not something, Senator, I'm going to answer. Sen. Al Franken (MN): Does the investigation have access to President Trump's tax returns? FBI Director James Comey: I have to give you the same answer. Again, I hope people don't over interpret my answers, but I just don't want to start talking about anything...What we're looking at and how.

  • 2:00:15 FBI Director James Comey: The current investigation with respect to Russia, we've confirmed it. The Department of Justice authorized me to confirm that exists. We're not going to say another word about it until we're done.

  • 2:11:30 Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): You do confirm that there is still an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign and their conduct with regard to Russian efforts to undermine our elections? FBI Director James Comey: We're conducting an investigation to understand whether there was any coordination between the Russian efforts and anybody associated with the Trump campaign. Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): So since you've already confirmed that such an investigation is ongoing, can you tell us more about what constitutes that investigation? FBI Director James Comey: No. 2:25:40 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): You have confirmed, I believe that the FBI is investigating potential ties between Trump associates and the Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, correct? FBI Director James Comey:Yes. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): And you have not, to my knowledge, ruled out anyone in the Trump campaign as potentially a target of that criminal investigation. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: Well, I haven't said anything publicly about who we've opened investigations on. I've briefed the chair and ranking on who those people are. And so I, I can't, I can't go beyond that in this setting. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Have you ruled out anyone in the campaign that you can disclose? FBI Director James Comey: I don't feel comfortable answering that senator, because I think it puts me on a slope to talking about who we're investigating. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Have you ruled out the president United States? FBI Director James Comey: I don't want people to over-interpret this answer. I'm not going to comment on anyone in particular because that puts me down a slope of... Cause if I say no to that, then I have to answer succeeding questions. So what we've done is brief the chair and ranking on who the U.S. persons are that we've opened investigations on. And that's, that's as far as we're going to go with this point. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): But as a former prosecutor, you know that when there's an investigation into several potentially culpable individuals, the evidence from those individuals and the investigation can lead to others. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: Correct. We're always open minded about, and we follow the evidence wherever it takes us. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): So potentially the President of the United States could be a target of your ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's involvement with Russian interference in our election. Correct? FBI Director James Comey: I just worry... I don't want to answer that because it seems to be unfair speculation. We will follow the evidence. We'll try and find as much as we can and we'll follow the evidence where it leads.

Interview: Interview with President Trump, Fox Business Network, YouTube, April 12, 2017.

Sound Clip:

  • 5:30 Maria Bartiromo: Was it a mistake not to ask Jim Comey to step down from the FBI at the outside of your presidency, is it too late now to ask him to step down? President Donald Trump: No, it's not too late. But I have confidence at him, we'll see what happens. It's going to be interesting
Interview: Face the Nation interviews Vice-President elect Mike Pence, YouTube, January 15, 2017.

Transcript

Sound Clip:

  • 8:48 John Dickerson: It was reported by David Ignatius that the incoming national security advisor Michael Flynn was in touch with the Russian ambassador on the day the United States government announced sanctions for Russian interference with the election. Did that contact help with that Russian kind of moderate response to it? That there was no counter-reaction from Russia. Did the Flynn conversation help pave the way for that sort of more temperate Russian response? Vice President-elect Mike Pence: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation and actually was initiated on Christmas Day he had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.
Hearing: Jeff Sessions for Attorney General Confirmation, Senate Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN, January 10, 2017.

Clip: Jeff Sessions Didn't Disclose 2016 Meetings with Russian Ambassador

Sound Clips:

  • Sen. Al Franken (MN): If there is any evidence that any one affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL): Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn't have not have communications with the Russians and I'm unable to comment on it.
Campaign Speech clip: Trump: I could shoot somebody and not lose voters", Iowa Campaign Rally, CNN, January 23, 2016.

Sound Clips:

  • Donald Trump: I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. Okay? It’s like, incredible.
Interview: Trump says Clinton policy on Syria would lead to World War Three, Steve Holland, Reuters, October 25, 2016.
National Security Address: Hilary Clinton Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, C-SPAN, November 19, 2015.

Transcript

Sound Clip:

  • Hillary Clinton: So we need to move simultaneously toward a political solution to the civil war that paves the way for a new government with new leadership and to encourage more Syrians to take on ISIS as well. To support them, we should immediately deploy the special operations force President Obama has already authorized and be prepared to deploy more as more Syrians get into the fight, and we should retool and ramp up our efforts to support and equip viable Syrian opposition units. Our increased support should go hand in hand with increased support from our Arab and European partners, including Special Forces who can contribute to the fight on the ground. We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air.
Video: Gonzalez: Pressured Hospitalized Ashcroft to OK Spying, James Comey Testifying before Senate Judiciary Committee, YouTube, May 15, 2007.

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Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

May 19, 2019
CD195: Yemen
02:32:18

Yemen: Most of us don't know where that is but we Americans have been participating in a war there since 2015. In a surprise move, the 116th Congress recently put a resolution on President Trump's desk that would LIMIT our participation in that war. In this episode, learn about our recent history in Yemen: Why are we involved? When did our involvement start? What do we want from Yemen? And why is Congress suddenly pursuing a change in policy? In the second half of the episode, Jen admits defeat in a project she's been working on and Husband Joe joins Jen for the thank yous.


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House Proceedings: Yemen Resolution Debate, 116th Congress, April 4, 2019.

Sound Clips:

  • 1:06:30 Rep. Michael McCaul (TX):This resolution stretches the definition of war powers hostilities to cover non-U.S. military operations by other countries. Specifically, it reinterprets U.S. support to these countries as ‘‘engagement in hostilities.’’ This radical reinterpretation has implications far beyond Saudi Arabia. This precedent will empower any single Member to use privileged war powers procedures to force congressional referendums that could disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries around the world.
  • 1:14:30 Rep. Barbara Lee (CA): Yes, Madam Speaker, I voted against that 2001 resolution, because I knew it was open-ended and would set the stage for endless wars. It was a blank check. We see this once again today in Yemen. We must repeal this 2001 blank check for endless wars. Over the past 18 years, we have seen the executive branch use this AUMF time and time again. It is a blank check to wage war without congressional oversight.
  • 1:21:30 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): My motivation for this bill is very simple. I don’t want to see 14 million Yemenis starve to death. That is what Martin Griffith had said at the U.N., that if the Saudis don’t stop their blockade and let food and medicine in, within 6 months we will see one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world.
Senate Floor Proceedings: Yemen Resolution Debate, 115th Congress, 2nd Session, December 12, 2018.

Sound Clips:

  • 7:09:00 Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): Finally, an issue that has long been a concern to many of us—conservatives and progressives—is that this war has not been authorized by Congress and is therefore unconstitutional. Article I of the Constitution clearly states it is Congress, not the President, that has the power to send our men and women into war—Congress, not the President. The Framers of our Constitution, the Founders of this country, gave the power to declare war to Congress—the branch most accountable to the people—not to the President, who is often isolated from the reality of what is taking place in our communities. The truth is—and Democratic and Republican Presidents are responsible, and Democratic and Republican Congresses are responsible—that for many years, Congress has not exercised its constitutional responsibility over whether our young men and women go off to war. I think there is growing sentiment all over this country from Republicans, from Democrats, from Independents, from progressives, and from conservatives that right now, Congress cannot continue to abdicate its constitutional responsibility.
  • 7:14:45 Sen. Bob Corker (TN): I have concerns about what this may mean as we set a precedent about refueling and intelligence activities being considered hostilities. I am concerned about that. I think the Senator knows we have operations throughout Northern Africa, where we are working with other governments on intelligence to counter terrorism. We are doing refueling activists in Northern Africa now, and it concerns me—he knows I have concerns—that if we use this vehicle, then we may have 30 or 40 instances where this vehicle might be used to do something that really should not be dealt with by the War Powers Act.
  • 7:49:06 Sen. Todd Young (IN): We don’t have much leverage over the Houthis. We have significant leverage over the Saudis, and we must utilize it.
  • 7:58:30 Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK): The Sanders-Lee resolution is, I think, fundamentally flawed because it presumes we are engaged in military action in Yemen. We are not. We are not engaged in military action in Yemen. There has been a lot of discussion about refueling. I don’t see any stretch of the definition that would say that falls into that category.
  • 8:01:00 Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK): Saudi Arabia is an important Middle Eastern partner. Its stability is vital to the security of our regional allies and our partners, including Israel, and Saudi Arabia is essential to countering Iran. We all know that. We know how tenuous things are in that part of the world. We don’t have that many friends. We can’t afford to lose any of them.
  • 8:04:30 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): It is important to note some-thing that we take for granted in the region—this now long-term detente that has existed between the Gulf States and Israel, which did not used to be something you could rely on. In fact, one of the most serious foreign policy debates this Senate ever had was on the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia back in the 1980s. The objection then was that by empowering Saudi Arabia, you were hurting Israel and Israeli security. No one would make that argument today because Saudi Arabia has been a good partner in trying to figure out a way to calm the tensions in the region and, of course, provide some balance in the region, with the Iranian regime on the other side continuing to this day to use inflammatory and dangerous rhetoric about the future of Israel. So this is an important partnership, and I have no interest in blowing it up. I have no interest in walking away from it. But you are not obligated to follow your friend into every misadventure they propose. When your buddy jumps into a pool of man-eating sharks, you don’t have to jump with him. There is a point at which you say enough is enough.
  • 8:06:00 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): Muhammad bin Salman, who is the Crown Prince, who is the effective leader of the country, has steered the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia off the rails. Folks seem to have noticed when he started rounding up his political opponents and killing one of them in a consulate in Turkey, but this has been ongoing. Look back to the kidnapping of the Lebanese Prime Minister, the blockade of Qatar without any heads-up to the United States, the wholesale imprisonment of hundreds of his family members until there was a payoff, the size of which was big enough to let some of them out. This is a foreign policy that is no longer in the best interests of the United States and cannot be papered over by a handful of domestic policy reforms that are, in fact, intended to try to distract us from the aggressive nature of the Saudis’ foreign policy in the region.
  • 8:08:15 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): I am appreciative that many of my colleagues are willing to stand up for this resolution today to end the war in Yemen. I wish that it weren’t because of the death of one journalist, because there have been tens of thousands who have died inside Yemen, and their lives are just as important and just as worthwhile as Jamal Khashoggi’s life was, as tragic as that was. But there is a connection between the two, which is why I have actually argued that this resolution is in some way, shape, or form a response to the death of Jamal Khashoggi, for those who are primarily concerned with that atrocity. Here is how I link the two: What the Saudis did for 2 weeks was lie to us, right? In the most bald-faced way possible. They told us that Jamal Khashoggi had left the consulate, that he had gotten out of there alive, that they didn’t know what happened, when of course they knew the entire time that they had killed him, that they had murdered him, that they had dismembered his body. We now know that the Crown Prince had multiple contacts all throughout the day with the team of operatives who did it. Yet they thought we were so dumb or so weak— or some combination of the two—that they could just lie to us about it. That was an eye-opener for a lot of people here who were long-term supporters of the Saudi relationship because they knew that we had trouble. They knew that sometimes our interests didn’t align, but they thought that the most important thing allies did with each other was tell the truth, especially when the truth was so easy to discover outside of your bilateral relationship. Then, all of a sudden, the Saudis lied to us for 2 weeks—for 2 weeks—and then finally came around to telling the truth because everybody knew that they weren’t. That made a lot of people here think, well, wait a second—maybe the Saudis haven’t been telling us the truth about what they have been doing inside Yemen. A lot of my friends have been supporting the bombing campaign in Yemen. Why? Because the Saudis said: We are hitting these civilians by accident. Those water treatment plants that have been blowing up—we didn’t mean to hit them. That cholera treatment facility inside the humanitarian compound—that was just a bomb that went into the wrong place, or, we thought there were some bad guys in it. It didn’t turn out that there were. It turns out the Saudis weren’t telling us the truth about what they were doing in Yemen. They were hitting civilian targets on purpose. They did have an intentional campaign of trying to create misery. I am not saying that every single one of those school buses or those hospitals or those churches or weddings was an attempt to kill civilians and civilians only, but we have been in that targeting center long enough to know—to know—that they have known for a long time what they have been doing: hitting a lot of people who have nothing to do with the attacks against Saudi Arabia. Maybe if the Saudis were willing to lie to us about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, they haven’t been straight with us as to what is happening inside Yemen, because if the United States is being used to intentionally hit civilians, then we are complicit in war crimes. And I hate to tell my colleagues that is essentially what the United Nations found in their most recent report on the Saudi bombing campaign. They were careful about their words, but they came to the conclusion that it was likely that the Saudi conduct inside Yemen would amount to war crimes under international law. If it is likely that our ally is perpetuating war crimes in Yemen, then we cannot be a part of that. The United States cannot be part of a bombing campaign that may be—probably is— intentionally making life miserable for the people inside of that country.
  • 8:14:00 Sen. Chris Murphy (CT): There is no relationship in which we are the junior partner—certainly not with Saudi Arabia. If Saudi Arabia can push us around like they have over the course of the last several years and in particular the last several months, that sends a signal to lots of other countries that they can do the same thing—that they can murder U.S. residents and suffer almost no consequences; that they can bomb civilians with our munitions and suffer no consequences. This is not just a message about the Saudi relationship; this is a message about how the United States is going to interact with lots of other junior partners around the world as well. Saudi Arabia needs us a lot more than we need them, and we need to remind folks of that over and over again. Spare me this nonsense that they are going to go start buying Russian jets or Chinese military hardware. If you think those countries can protect you better than the United States, take a chance. You think the Saudis are really going to stop selling oil to the United States? You think they are going to walk away from their primary bread winner just because we say that we don’t want to be engaged in this particular military campaign? I am willing to take that chance. We are the major partner in this relationship, and it is time that we start acting like it. If this administration isn’t going to act like it, then this Congress has to act like it.
  • 8:44:15 Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Many of my colleagues will argue—in fact some of them have argued just within the last few minutes—that we are somehow not involved in a war in Yemen. My distinguished friend and colleague, the Senator from Oklahoma, came to the floor a little while ago, and he said that we are not engaged in direct military action in Yemen. Let’s peel that back for a minute. Let’s figure out what that means. I am not sure what the distinction between direct and indirect is here. Maybe in a very technical sense—or under a definition of warfare or military action that has long since been rendered out- dated—we are not involved in that, but we are involved in a war. We are co-belligerents. The minute we start identifying targets or, as Secretary James Mattis put it about a year ago, in December 2017, the minute we are involved in the decisions involving making sure that they know the right stuff to hit, that is involvement in a war, and that is pretty direct. The minute we send up U.S. military aircraft to provide midair refueling assistance for Saudi jets en route to bombing missions, to combat missions on the ground in Yemen, that is our direct involvement in war.
  • 8:48:00 Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Increasingly these days, our wars are high-tech. Very often, our wars involve cyber activities. They involve reconnaissance, surveillance, target selection, midair refueling. It is hard—in many cases, impossible—to fight a war without those things. That is what war is. Many of my colleagues, in arguing that we are not involved in hostilities, rely on a memorandum that is internal within the executive branch of the U.S. Government that was issued in 1976 that provides a very narrow, unreasonably slim definition of the word ‘‘hostilities.’’ It defines ‘‘hostilities’’ in a way that might have been relevant, that might have been accurate, perhaps, in the mid-19th century, but we no longer live in a world in which you have a war as understood by two competing countries that are lined up on opposite sides of a battlefield and engaged in direct exchanges of fire, one against another, at relatively short range. War encompasses a lot more than that. War certainly encompasses midair refueling, target selection, surveillance, and reconnaissance of the sort we are undertaking in Yemen. Moreover, separate and apart from this very narrow, unreasonably slim definition of ‘‘hostilities’’ as deter- mined by this internal executive branch document from 1976 that contains the outdated definition, we our- selves, under the War Powers Act, don’t have to technically be involved in hostilities. It is triggered so long as we ourselves are sufficiently involved with the armed forces of another nation when those armed forces of another nation are themselves involved in hostilities. I am speaking, of course, in reference to the War Powers Act’s pro- visions codified at 50 USC 1547(c). For our purposes here, it is important to keep in mind what that provisions reads: ‘‘For purposes of this chapter [under the War Powers Act], the term ‘introduction of United States Armed Forces’ includes the assignment of members of such Armed Forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities.’’ In what sense, on what level, on what planet are we not involved in the commanding, in the coordination, in the participation, in the movement of or in the accompaniment of the armed forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the civil war in Yemen?
  • 9:57:15 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): In March of this year, I led a letter to the Department of Defense with my colleague Senator JACK REED of Rhode Island, along with many of our colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stating our concern regarding U.S. support for Saudi military operations against the Houthis in Yemen and asking about the DOD’s involvement, apparently without appropriate notification of Congress, and its agreements to provide refueling sup- port to the Saudis and the Saudi coalition partners. We were concerned that the DOD had not appropriately documented reimbursements for aerial re- fueling support provided by the United States. Eight months later—just days ago— the Department of Defense responded to our letter and admitted that it has failed to appropriately notify Congress of its support agreements; it has failed to adequately charge Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for fuel and refueling assistance. That admission 8 months after our inquiry is a damning indictment. These errors in accounting mean that the United States was directly funding the Saudi war in Yemen. It has been doing it since March of 2015.
Video: Trump: Khashoggi case will not stop $110bn US-Saudi arms trade, The Guardian, October 12, 2018.
  • Donald Trump: I would not be in favor of stopping from spending $110 billion, which is an all-time record, and letting Russia have that money, and letting China have that money. Because all their going to do is say, that's okay, we don't have to buy it from Boeing, we don't have to buy it from Lockheed, we don't have to buy it from Ratheon and all these great companies. We'll buy it from Russia and we'll buy it from China. So what good does that do us?
Hearing: U.S. Policy Toward Middle East, House Foreign Affairs Committee, C-SPAN, April 18, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • David Satterfield: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
  • Wess Mitchell: Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Sound Clips:

  • 18:00 David Satterfield: We all agree, as does the Congress, that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is unacceptable. Last month, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided $1 billion to Yemen's humanitarian response appeal, and this complements the US government pledge of $87 million and more than $854 million contributed since beginning of fiscal year 2017.

  • 19:45 Wess Mitchell: Turkey is a 66 year member of the NATO alliance and member of the defeat ISIS coalition. It has suffered more casualties from terrorism than any other ally and hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees. It supports the coalition through the use of Incirlik air base through its commitment of Turkish military forces against Isis on the ground in (Dibick? al-Bab?) And through close intelligence cooperation with the United States and other allies. Turkey has publicly committed to a political resolution in Syria that accords with UN Security Council. Resolution 2254. Turkey has a vested strategic interest in checking the spread of Iranian influence and in having a safe and stable border with Syria. Despite these shared interests, Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran. Ankara has sought to assure us that it sees this cooperation as a necessary stepping stone towards progress in the Geneva process, but the ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in Afrin district, arrangements to which America was not privy, is gravely concerning. Ankara claims to have agreed to purchase, to, to purchase the Russian S 400 missile system, which could potentially lead to sanctions under section 231 of CAATSA and adversely impact Turkey's participation in the F-35 program. It is in the American national interest to see Turkey remains strategically and politically aligned with the west.

Hearing: U.S. Policy Toward Yemen, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, C-SPAN, April 17, 2018.

Witnesses:

  • Robert Jenkins: Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, & Humanitarian Assistance
  • David Satterfield: Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
  • Robert Karem: Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs Nominee and former Middle East Adviser to Vice President Cheney

Sound Clips:

  • 9:30 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Well, Yemen has always faced significant socioeconomic challenges. A civil war, which began with the Houthis armed takeover of much of the country in 2014 and their overthrow of Yemen's legitimate government in January 2015, has plunged the country into humanitarian crisis.

  • 17:25 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Our first witness is acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, Ambassador David Satterfield. Ambassador Satterfield is one of the most distinguished, one of our most distinguished diplomats. He most recently served as director general, the multinational force and observers in the Sinai peninsula and previously served as US Abassador to Lebanon.

  • 17:45 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Our second witness is Robert Jenkins, who serves as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for USA ID Bureau for Democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance. Mr. Jenkins, recently mark 20 years at USAID and previously served as the Director of Office of Transition Initiatives.

  • 18:15 Chairman Bob Corker (TN): Our third witness is Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Robert Kerem. Prior to his Senate confirmation last year, Mr. Karem served as National Security of Staff of Vice President Cheney and then as National Security Advisor to the House, majority leader's Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy.

  • 20:15 David Satterfield: US military support serves a clear and strategic purpose to reinforce Saudi and Mrid self defense in the face of intensifying Houthi and Iranian enabled threats and to expand the capability of our Gulf partners to push back against Iran's regionally destabilizing actions. This support in turn provides the United States access and influence to help press for a political solution to the conflict. Should we curtail US military support? The Saudis could well pursue defense relationships with countries that have no interest in either ending the humanitarian crisis, minimizing civilian casualties or assisting and facilitating progress towards a political solution. Critical US access to support for our own campaign against violent extremists could be placed in jeopardy.

  • 30:00 Robert Karem: Conflict in Yemen affects regional security across the Middle East, uh, and threatens US national security interests, including the free flow of commerce and the Red Sea. Just this month, the Houthi, his attack to Saudi oil tanker and the Red Sea threatening commercial shipping and freedom of navigation and the world's fourth busiest maritime choke point, the Bab el Mandeb.

  • 32:00 Robert Karem: The Defense Department is currently engaged in two lines of effort in Yemen. Our first line of effort and our priority is the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS in Yemen, two terrorist organizations that directly threaten the United States, our allies and our partners. To combat AQIP, AQAP, and ISIS, US forces in coordination with the UN recognized government of Yemen are supporting our regional key counter terrorism partners in ongoing operations to disrupt and degrade their ability to coordinate, plot and recruit for external terrorist operations. Additionally, US military forces are conducting airstrikes against AQAP and ISIS in Yemen pursuant to the 2001 a authorization for the use of military force to disrupt and destroy terrorist network networks. Our second line of effort is the provision of limited noncombat support to the Saudi led coalition in support of the UN recognized government of Yemen. The support began in 2015 under President Obama and in 2017 president Trump reaffirmed America's commitment to our partners in these efforts. Fewer than 50 US military personnel work in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi led coalition advising and assisting with the defense of Saudi territory, sharing intelligence and providing logistical support, including aerial refueling.

  • 35:45 Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): Mr. Karem. I'm gonna Start with you. Um, in regards to the US military assistance that we give to the kingdom, you said that is to embolden their capacity and to reduce noncombatant casualties. Last March, the CENTCOM commander General Votel stated that the United States government does not track the end results of the coalition missions. It refills and supports with targeting assistance. So my question to you is, how do you determine that we are effectively reducing the non combatant casualties if we don't in fact track the results of the kingdoms military actions? Robert Karem: Senator, thank you. Um, it's correct that we do not monitor and track all of the Saudi aircraft, um, uh, a loft over Yemen. Uh, we have limited personnel and assets in order to do that. Uh, and CENTCOM's focus is obviously been on our own operations in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Syria. Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): I understand that, but my question is, our stated mission is to reduce noncombat and casualties. If we don't track, how do we determine that? Robert Karem: So I think one of our stated missions is precisely that. Um, there are multiple ways that I think we do have insight into, uh, Saudi, uh, targeting behavior. Um, we have helped them with their processes. Um, we have seen them implement a no strike list. Um, and we have seen their, their, their uh, capabilities, uh, improved. So the information is based upon what the Saudis tell you, how they're conducting the mission rather than the after impact of the mission. I think our military officers who are resident in Saudi Arabia are seeing how the Saudis approach, uh, this, this effort that took getting effort. Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): But you know, obviously the proof is in the results and we don't know whether the results are, there are not fair statement. Robert Karem: I think we do see a difference in how the Saudis have operated in Yemen, how they operate. Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): I understand how they operate but we don't know whether in fact that's been effective. The United Nations Security Council panel of experts on Yemen concluded in recent reports that the cumulative effect of these airstrikes on civilian infrastructure demonstrates that even with precaution, cautionary measures were taken, they were largely inadequate and ineffective. Do you have any information that disagrees with that assessment? Robert Karem: Senator, I think the assessment of, uh, our central command is that the Saudi, uh, and Emirati targeting efforts, uh, have improved, um, uh, with the steps that they've taken. We do not have perfect understanding because we're not using all of our assets to monitor their aircraft, but we do get reporting from the ground on what taking place inside Yemen.

  • 40:15 Sen. Rand Paul (KY): Ambassador Satterfield. I guess some people when they think about our strategy might question the idea of our strategy. You know, if your son was shooting off his pistol in the back yard and doing it indiscriminately and endangering the neighbors, would you give hmi more bullets or less? And we see the Saudis acting in an indiscriminate manner. They've bombed a funeral processions, they've killed a lot of civilians. And so our strategy is to give them more bombs, not less. And we say, well, if we don't give him the bomb, somebody else will. And that's sort of this global strategy, uh, that many in the bipartisan foreign policy consensus have. We have to, we have to always be involved. We always have to provide weapons or someone else will and they'll act even worse. But there's a, I guess a lot of examples that doesn't seem to be improving their behavior. Um, you could argue it's marginally better since we've been giving them more weapons, but it seems the opposite of logic. You would think you would give people less where you might withhold aid or withhold a assistance to the Saudis to get them to behave. But we do sort of the opposite. We give them more aid. What would your response be to that? David Satterfield: Senator, when I noted in my remarks that progress had been made on this issue of targeting, minimizing or mitigating civilian casualties, that phrase was carefully chosen into elaborate further on, uh, my colleagues remarks, uh, Robert Karem. We do work with the Saudis and have, particularly over the last six to nine months worked intensively on the types of munitions the Saudis are using, how they're using, how to discriminate target sets, how to assure through increased loiter time by aircraft that the targets sought are indeed clear of collateral or civilian damage. This is new. This is not the type of interaction… Sen. Rand Paul (KY): And yet the overall situation in Yemen is a, is a disaster. David Satterfield: The overall situation is extremely bad. Senator. Sen. Rand Paul (KY): I guess that's really my question. We had to rethink...And I think from a common sense point of view, a lot of people would question giving people who misbehave more weapons instead of giving them less on another question, which I think is a broad question about, you know, what we're doing in the Middle East in general. Um, you admitted that there's not really a military solution in Yemen. Most people say it's going to be a political solution. The Houthis will still remain. We're not going to have Hiroshima. We're not going to have unconditional surrender and the good guys win and the bad guys are vanquished. Same with Syria. Most people have said for years, both the Obama administration and this administration, probably even the Bush administration, the situation will probably be a political solution. They will no longer, it's not going to be complete vanquished meant of the enemy. We're also saying that in Afghanistan, and I guess my point as I think about that is I think about the recruiter at the station in Omaha, Nebraska, trying to get somebody to sign up for the military and saying, please join. We're going to send you to three different wars where there is no military solution. We're hoping to make it maybe a little bit better. I think back to Vietnam. Oh, we're going to take one more village. If we take one more village, they're going to negotiate and we get a little better negotiation. I just can't see sending our young men and women to die for that for one more village. You know the Taliban 40% in Afghanistan. Where are we going to get when they get to 30% don't negotiate and when we it, it'll be, it'll have been worth it for the people who have to go in and die and take those villages. I don't think it's one more life. I don't think it's worth one more life. The war in Yemen is not hard. We talk all about the Iranians have launched hundreds of missiles. Well, yeah, and the Saudis have launched 16,000 attacks. Who started it? It's a little bit murky back and forth. The, the Houthis may have started taking over their government, but that was a civil war. Now we're involved in who are the good guys of the Saudis, the good guys or the others, the bad guys. Thousands of civilians are dying. 17 million people live on the edge of starvation. I think we need to rethink whether or not military intervention supplying the Saudis with weapons, whether all of this makes any sense at all or whether we've made the situation worse. I mean, humanitarian crisis, we're talking about, oh, we're going to give my, the Saudis are giving them money and I'm like, okay, so we dropped, we bomb the crap out of them in this audience. Give them $1 billion. Maybe we could bomb last maybe part of the humanitarian answers, supplying less weapons to a war. There's a huge arms race going on. Why do the Iranians do what they do? They're evil. Or maybe they're responding to the Saudis who responded first, who started it? Where did the arms race start? But we sell $300 billion a weapons to Saudi Arabia. What are the Iranians going to do? They react. It's action and reaction throughout the Middle East. And so we paint the Iranians as the, you know, these evil monsters. And we just have to correct evil monster. But the world's a much more complicated place back and forth. And I, all I would ask is that we try to get outside our mindset that we, uh, what we're doing is working because I think what we're doing hasn't worked, and we've made a lot of things worse. And we're partly responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. 

  • 48:30 David Satterfield: The political picture on the ground in Yemen has changed radically with the death, the killing of a Ali Abdullah Saleh, uh, with the fragmentation of the General People's Congress. All of that, while tragic in many of its dimensions, has provided a certain reshuffling of the deck that may, we hope, allow the United Nations to be more effective in its efforts.

  • 1:05:45 Sen. Todd Young (IN): Approximately how many people, Mr. Jenkins require humanitarian assistance in Yemen? David Jenkins: 22 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): What percent of the population is that? David Jenkins: Approximately 75% was the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance increase from last year. It increased by our, we're estimating 3.5 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): And how much has it increased? David Jenkins: About 3.5 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): Okay. How many are severely food insecure? David Jenkins: 17.8 million. Sen. Todd Young (IN): How many children are severely malnourished? David Jenkins: 460,000 Sen. Todd Young (IN): How many people lack access to clean water and working toilets? David Jenkins: We estimate it to be around 16 million people. Sen. Todd Young (IN): Does Yemen face the largest cholera outbreak in the world? David Jenkins: It does. Sen. Todd Young (IN): How many cholera cases have we seen in Yemen? David Jenkins: A suspected over a 1 million cases. Sen. Todd Young (IN): And how many lives has that cholera outbreak claim? David Jenkins: Almost 2100.

  • 1:46:00 Robert Jenkins: I do know that the vast majority of people within that, the majority of people in need, and that 22 million number live in the northern part of the country that are accessible best and easiest by Hodeidah port, there is no way to take Hodeidah out of the equation and get anywhere near the amount of humanitarian and more importantly, even commercial goods into the country.

Hearing: Violence in Yemen, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North America, C-SPAN, April 14, 2015.

Witnesses:

  • Gerald Feierstein: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Former Ambassador to Yemen (2010-2013)

Sound Clips:

  • 1:45 Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL): On September 10th of last year, President Obama announced to the American public his plan to degrade and destroy the terrorist group ISIL. While making his case for America's role in the fight against ISIL, the president highlighted our strategy in Yemen and held it up as a model of success to be emulated in the fight against ISIL. Yet about a week later, the Iran backed Houthis seized control of the capital and the government. Despite this, the administration continued to hail our counter-terror operations in Yemen as a model for success, even though we effectively had no partner on the ground since President Hadi was forced to flee. But perhaps even more astonishingly in what can only be described as an alarmingly tone deaf and short sighted, when Press Secretary Ernest was asked at a press briefing if this model was still successful after the Yemeni central government collapsed and the US withdrew all of our personnel including our special forces, he said yes, despite all indications pointing to the contrary. So where do we stand now? That's the important question. President Hadi was forced to flee. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of over 10 Arab nations and Operation Decisive Storm, which so far has consisted of airstrikes only, but very well could include ground forces in the near future.

  • 4:45 Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL): Iran has reportedly dispatched a naval destroyer near Yemen in a game of chicken over one of the most important shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden. This area is a gateway between Europe and the Middle East and ran was not be allowed to escalate any tensions nor attempt to disrupt the shipping lanes.

  • 13:30 Rep. David Cicilline (NJ): I think it's safe to say that the quick deterioration of the situation in Yemen took many people here in Washington by surprise. For many years, Yemen was held up as an example of counter-terrorism cooperation and it looked as if a political agreement might be achieved in the aftermath of the Arab spring. The United States poured approximately $900 million in foreign aid to Yemen since the transition in 2011 to support counter-terrorism, political reconciliation, the economy and humanitarian aid. Now we face a vastly different landscape and have to revise our assumptions and expectations. Furthermore, we risk being drawn deeply into another Iranian backed armed conflict in the Middle East.

  • 17:30 Rep. Ted Deutch (FL): Following the deposition of Yemen's longtime autocratic Saleh in 2011, the US supported an inclusive transition process. We had national dialogue aimed at rebuilding the country's political and governmental institutions and bridging gaps between groups that have had a long history of conflict. Yemen's first newly elected leader, President Hadi made clear his intentions to cooperate closely with the United States.

  • 18:00 Rep. Ted Deutch (FL): Yemen, the poorest country on the peninsula, needed support from the international community. The United States has long viewed Yemen as a safe haven for all Qaeda terrorists, and there was alarming potential for recruitment by terrorist groups given the dire economic conditions that they faced. In fact, the US Department of Homeland Security considers al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate, most likely the al Qaeda affiliate, most likely to attempt transnational attacks against the United States.

  • 18:30 Rep. Ted Deutch (FL): While the national dialogue was initially viewed as successful, the process concluded in 2014 with several key reforms still not completed, including the drafting of the new constitution. The Hadi government had continued to face deep opposition from Yemen's northern tribes, mainly the Shiite Iranian backed Houthi rebels, over the past year. The Houthis, in coordination with tribes and military units still loyal to Saleh, began increasing their territorial control, eventually moving in to Sanaa. Saleh had long been thought to have used his existing relationship to undermine the Hadi government. Houthis are well trained, well funded, and experienced fighters, having fought the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia in 2009.

  • 23:15 Gerald Feierstein: I greatly appreciate this opportunity to come before you today to review recent developments in Yemen and the efforts that the United States is undertaking to support the government of Yemen under president Rabu Mansour Hadi and the Saudi led coalition of Operation Decisive Storm, that is aimed at restoring the legitimate government and restarting the negotiations to find peaceful political solutions to Yemen's internal conflict.

  • 26:45 Gerald Feierstein: To the best of our understanding, the Houthis are not controlled directly by Iran. However, we have seen in recent years, significant growth and expansion of Iranian engagement with the Houthis. We believe that Iran sees opportunities with the Houthis to expand its influence in Yemen and threatened Saudi and Gulf Arab interests. Iran provides financial support, weapons training, and intelligence of the Houthis and the weeks and months since the Houthis entered Sanaa and forced the legitimate government first to resign and ultimately to flee from the capitol, we have seen a significant expansion of Iranian involvement in Yemen's domestic affairs.

  • 27:30 Gerald Feierstein: We are also particularly concerned about the ongoing destabilizing role played by former President Saleh, who since his removal from power in 2011 has actively plotted to undermine President Hadi and the political transition process. Despite UN sanctions and international condemnation of his actions, Saleh continues to be one of the primary sources of the chaos in Yemen. We have been working with our Gulf partners and the international community to isolate him and prevent the continuation of his efforts to undermine the peaceful transition. Success in that effort will go a long way to helping Yemen return to a credible political transition process.

  • 42:00 Gerald Feierstein: From our perspective, I would say that that Yemen is a unique situation for the Saudis. This is on their border. It represents a threat in a way that no other situation would represent.

  • 52:30 Gerald Feierstein: I mean, obviously our hope would be that if we can get the situation stabilized and get the political process going again, that we would be able to return and that we would be able to continue implementing the kinds of programs that we were trying to achieve that are aimed at economic growth and development as well as supporting a democratic governance and the opportunity to try to build solid political foundations for the society. At this particular moment, we can't do that, but it's hard to predict where we might be in six months or nine months from now.

  • 1:10:00 Gerald Feierstein: When the political crisis came in Yemen in 2011, AQAP was able to take advantage of that and increase its territorial control, to the extent that they were actually declaring areas of the country to be an Islamic caliphate, not unlike what we see with ISIL in Iraq and Syria these days. Because of our cooperation, primarily our cooperation with the Yemeni security forces, uh, we were able to, uh, to defeat that, uh, at a significant loss of a life for AQAP. Uh, as a result of that, they changed their tactics. They went back to being a more traditional terrorist organization. They were able to attack locations inside of, uh, inside of Sanaa and and elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is that, uh, that we, uh, were achieving a progress in our ability to pressure them, uh, and, uh, to keep them on the defensive as opposed to giving them lots of time. And remember in 2009 in 2010, uh, we saw AQAP mount a fairly serious efforts - the underwear bomber and then also the cassette tape effort to attack the United States. After 2010, uh, they were not able to do that, uh, despite the fact that their intent was still as clear and as strong as it was before. And so a while AQAP was by no means defeated and continue to be a major threat to security here in the United States as well as in Yemen and elsewhere around the world, nevertheless, I think that it was legitimate to say that we had achieved some success in the fight against AQAP. Unfortunately what we're seeing now because of the change in the situation again, inside of Yemen, uh, is that we're losing some of the gains that we were able to make, uh, during that period of 2012 to 2014. That's why it's so important that we, uh, have, uh, the ability to get the political negotiation started again, so that we can re-establish legitimate government inside of Sanaa that will cooperate with us once again in this fight against violent extremist organizations.

  • 1:16:45 Rep. Ted Yoho (FL): How can we be that far off? And I know you explained the counter-terrorism portion, but yet to have a country taken over while we're sitting there working with them and this happens. I feel, you know, it just kinda happened overnight the way our embassy got run out of town and just says, you have to leave. Your marines cannot take their weapons with them. I, I just, I don't understand how that happens or how we can be that disconnected. Um, what are your thoughts on that? Gerald Feierstein: You know, it was very, it was very frustrating. Again, I think that, if you go back to where we were a year ago, the successful conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference, which was really the last major hurdle and completion of the GCC initiative, Houthis participated in that. They participated in the constitutional drafting exercise, which was completed successfully. Uh, and so we were in the process of moving through all of the requirements of the GCC initiative that would allow us to complete successfully the political transition. I think there were a combination of things. One, that there was a view on the part of the Houthis that they were not getting everything that they wanted. They were provoked, in our view, by Ali Abdullah Saleh, who never stopped plotting from the very first day after he signed the agreement on the GCC initiative. He never stopped plotting to try to block the political transition, and there was, to be frank, there was a weakness in the government and an inability on the part of the government to really build the kind of alliances and coalition that would allow them to sustain popular support and to bring this to a successful conclusion. And so I think that all through this period there was a sense that we were moving forward and that we believed that we could succeed in implementing this peaceful transition. And yet we always knew that on the margins there were threats and there were risks, and unfortunately we got to a point where the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh, my personal view is that they recognized that they had reached the last possible moment, where they could obstruct the peaceful political transition that was bad for them because it would mean that they wouldn't get everything that they wanted, and so they saw that time was running out for them, and they decided to act. And unfortunately, the government was unable to stop them.

Hearing: Targeted Killing of Terrorist Suspects Overseas, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, C-SPAN, April 23, 2013.

Sound Clips:

  • 44:30 Farea al-Muslimi: My name as you mentioned, is Farea al-Muslimi, and I am from Wessab, a remote village mountain in Yemen. I spent a year living with an American family and attended an American high school. That was one of the best years of my life. I learned about American culture, managed the school basketball team and participated in trick or treat and Halloween. But the most exceptional was coming to know someone who ended up being like a father to me. He was a member of the U S Air Force and most of my year was spent with him and his family. He came to the mosque with me and I went to church with him and he became my best friend in America. I went to the U.S. as an ambassador for Yemen and I came back to Yemen as an ambassador of the U.S. I could never have imagined that the same hand that changed my life and took it from miserable to a promising one would also drone my village. My understanding is that a man named Hamid al-Radmi was the target of the drone strike. Many people in Wessab know al-Radmi, and the Yemeni government could easily have found and arrested him. al-Radmi was well known to government officials and even local government could have captured him if the U.S. had told them to do so. In the past, what Wessab's villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences had. The friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I love. Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads ready to fire missiles at any time. What violent militants had previously failed to achieve one drone strike accomplished in an instant.

  • 1:17:30 Farea al-Muslimi: I think the main difference between this is it adds into Al Qaeda propaganda of that Yemen is a war with the United States. The problem of Al Qaeda, if you look to the war in Yemen, it's a war of mistakes. The less mistake you make, the more you win, and the drones have simply made more mistakes than AQAP has ever done in the matter of civilians.

News Report: Untold Stories of the underwear bomber: what really happened, ABC News 7 Detroit, September 27, 2012.
Hearing: U.S. Policy Toward Yemen, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, C-SPAN, July 19, 2011.

Witnesses:

  • Janet Sanderson: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
  • Daniel Benjamin: State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator

Sound Clips:

  • 21:00 Janet Sanderson: The United States continues its regular engagement with the government, including with President Ali, Abdullah Saleh, who's currently, as you know, recovering in Saudi Arabia from his injuries following the June 3rd attack on his compound, the acting president, Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the opposition, civil society activists, and others interested in Yemen's future. We strongly support the Gulf Cooperation Council's initiative, which we believe would lead to a peaceful and orderly political transition. The GCC initiative signed by both the ruling General People's Congress party and the opposition coalition, joint meeting parties. Only president Saleh is blocking the agreement moving forward and we continue to call on him to sign the initiative.

  • 22:30 Janet Sanderson: While most protests in Yemen have been peaceful over the last couple of months, there have been violent clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators and between protesters and government security forces and irregular elements using forced to break up demonstrations. The United States is strongly urged the Yemeni government to investigate and prosecute all acts of violence against protesters.

  • 27:00 Janet Sanderson: We strongly believe that a transition is necessary, that an orderly, peaceful transition is the only way to begin to lead Yemen out of the crisis that it has been in for the last few months.

  • 34:30 Daniel Benjamin: Really, I just want to echo what ambassador Sanderson said. It is vitally important that the transition take place.

  • 1:02:15 Daniel Benjamin: The the view from the administration, particularly from a DOD, which is doing of course, the lion's share of the training, although State Department through anti-terrorism training is doing, uh, uh, a good deal as well, is that the Yemenis are, uh, improving their capacities, that they are making good progress towards, uh, being, able to deal with the threats within their border. But it is important to recognize that, uh, uh, our engagement in Yemen was interrupted for many years. Uh, Yemen, uh, did not have the kind of mentoring programs, the kind of training programs that many of our other counter-terrorism partners had. Um, it was really when the Obama administration came into office that a review was done, uh, in, in March of, uh, beginning in March of 2009, it was recognized that Yemen was a major challenge in the world of counter terrorism. And it was not until, uh, December after many conversations with the Yemenis that we really felt that they were on-board with the project and in fact took their first actions against AQAP. This, as you may recall, was just shortly before the attempted, uh, December 25th bombing of the northwest flight. So this is a military and a set of, uh, Ministry of Interior that is civilian, uh, units that are making good progress, but obviously have a lot to learn. So, uh, again, vitally important that we get back to the work of training these units so that they can, uh, take on the missions they need to.

Press Conference: Yemen Conference, C-SPAN, January 27, 2010.

Speakers:

  • David Miliband - British Foreign Secretary
  • Hillary Clinton - Secretary of State
  • Abu Bakr al-Kurbi - Yemeni Foreign Minister

Sound Clips:

  • 3:30 David Miliband: And working closely with the government of Yemen, we decided that our agenda needed to cover agreement on the nature of the problem and then address the, uh, solutions across the economic, social, and political terrain. Five key items were agreed at the meeting for the way in which the international community can support progress in Yemen. First, confirmation by the government of Yemen, that it will continue to pursue its reform agenda and agreement to start discussion of an IMF program. The director of the IMF represented at the meeting made a compelling case for the way in which economic reform could be supported by the IMF. This is important because it will provide welcome support and help the government of Yemen confront its immediate challenges.

  • 11:45 Hillary Clinton: The United States just signed a three year umbrella assistance agreement with the government of Yemen that will augment Yemen's capacity to make progress. This package includes initiatives that will cover a range of programs, but the overarching goal of our work is to increase the capacity and governance of Yemen and give the people of Yemen the opportunity to better make choices in their own lives. President Saleh has outlined a 10 point plan for economic reform along with the country's national reform agenda. Those are encouraging signs of progress. Neither, however, will mean much if they are not implemented. So we expect Yemen to enact reforms, continue to combat corruption, and improve the country's investment in business climate.

  • 15:45 Abu Bakr al-Kurbi: This commitment also stems from our belief that the challenges we are facing now cannot be remedied unless we implement this agenda of reforms and the 10 points that her exellency alluded to because this is now a priority number of issues that we have to start with, and I hope this is what will be one of the outcomes of this meeting.

  • 16:30 Hillary Clinton: One of the factors that's new is the IMF's involvement and commitment. the IMF has come forward with a reform agenda that the government of Yemen has agreed to work on.

  • 24:30 Hillary Clinton: We were pleased by the announcement of a cease fire, um, between the Saudis and the Houthis. That should lead, we hope, to broader negotiations and a political dialogue that might lead to a permanent, uh, end to the conflict in the north. It's too soon to tell.

The Daily Show with John Stewart: Terror 2.0 by Yemen - Sad Libs, CC.com, January 6, 2010.
The Daily Show with John Stewart: Terror 2.0 by Yemen, CC.com, January 4, 2010.

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Apr 29, 2019
CD194: Measles Outbreak
01:27:00

Measles is back in the United States and is currently spreading quickly; the number of cases in the United States in 2019 has already surpassed the number of cases in all of last year. In this episode, get highlights from two Congressional hearings addressing the measles outbreak, which answered a lot of questions about the dangers of the disease, what is causing the outbreak, what is being done about it by the government, and what we can do to help.


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Hearing: Vaccines Save Lives: What is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, Senate.gov, March 5, 2019.

Witnesses:

  • Dr. John Wiesman: Secretary of Health for Washington State
  • Jonathan A. McCullers, MD: Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Pediatrician-in-Chief, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Memphis, TN
  • Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD: William H. Foege Professor Of Global Health
  • Professor of Epidemiology & Pediatrics, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
  • John G. Boyle, President And CEO: Immune Deficiency Foundation, Towson, MD
  • Ethan Lindenberger: Student, Norwalk High School, Norwalk, OH

Sound Clips:

  • 20:00 Dr. John Wiesman: As of yesterday, Washington State's measles outbreak had 71 cases plus four cases associated with our outbreak in Oregon and one in Georgia. Containing a measles outbreak takes a whole community response led by governmental public health. The moment they suspected cases reported, disease investigators interviewed that person to determine when they were infectious, who they were in close contact with and what public spaces they visited. If still infectious, the health officer orders them to isolate themselves so they don't infect others, notifies the public and the about the community about the public places that they were in when they are infectious and stands up a call center to handle questions. We also reach out to individuals who were in close contact with the patient. If they are unvaccinated and without symptoms, we ask them to quarantine themselves for up to 21 days. That's how long it can take to develop symptoms and we monitor them so that we quickly know if they develop measles. If they show symptoms, we get them to a healthcare provider and obtain samples to test for measles and if they have measles, we start the investigation process all over again. This is a staff and time intensive activity and is highly disruptive to people's lives. Responding to this preventable outbreak has cost over $1 million and required the work of more than 200 individuals.

  • 21:15 Dr. John Wiesman: So what do we need from the federal government? First, we need sustained, predictable and increased federal funding. Congress must prioritize public health and support the prevention and public health fund. We are constantly reacting to crises rather than working to prevent them. The Association of state and territorial health officials and over 80 organizations are asking you to raise the CDC budget by 22% by FY22 this will immediately bolster prevention services, save lives, and reduce healthcare cost. Second, our response to this outbreak has been benefited greatly from the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, so thank you. The Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement in the hospital preparedness programs authorized by this law are currently funded $400 million below funding levels in the 2000s. More robust funding is needed and I strongly urge you to quickly reauthorize POPRA because many of the authorizations expired last year. Third, the three 17 immunization program has been a flat funded for 10 years without increased funding. We cannot afford to develop new ways to reach parents with immunization information nor maintain our electronic immunization systems. Fourth, we need federal leadership for a national vaccine campaign spearheaded by CDC in partnership with states that counter the anti-vaccine messages similar to the successful TRUTH tobacco prevention campaign. We have lost much ground. Urgent action is necessary.

  • 46:15 Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): In your opinion, there's no evidence, reputable evidence, that vaccines cause autism? Jonathan McCullers: There is absolutely no evidence at this time that vaccines cause autism. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): Dr. Omer, do you agree with that? Saad B. Omer: Absolutely. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): Doctor Wiesman, do you agree with that? Dr. John Wiesman: I do. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): Mr. Boyle, do you agree with that ideal? John Boyle: I do. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): Mr Lindenbergeer? Ethan Lindenberger: I do.

  • 47:30 Dr. John Wiesman: The choice to sort of make exemptions more difficult - to get them to be a sort of as burdensome as not getting the vaccine - is incredibly important. In Washington state, as you know, we have two bills right now that are looking to remove the personal exemptions from a vaccine for school entry and for child care entry. I think that's one of the tools that we have and that we should be using for this.

  • 47:45 Dr. John Wiesman: I will also say in Washington state, another problem we have is that about 8% of our kids are out of compliance with school records so that we don't even know if they're vaccinated or would like exemptions and we have to tackle that problem as well.

  • 1:05:45 Sen. Rand Paul (KY): Today though, instead of persuasion, many governments have taken to mandating a whole host of vaccines including vaccines for nonlethal diseases. Sometimes these vaccine mandates have run a muck when the, as when the government mandated a rotavirus vaccine that was later recalled because it was causing intestinal blockage in children. I'm not a fan of government coercion, yet given the choice, I do believe that the benefits of most vaccines vastly outweigh the risks. Yet it is wrong to say that there are no risks to vaccines. Even the government admits that children are sometimes injured by vaccines. Since 1988 over $4 billion has been paid out from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Despite the government admitting to in paying $4 billion for vaccine injuries, no informed consent is used or required when you vaccinate your child. This may be the only medical procedure in today's medical world where an informed consent is not required. Now, proponents of mandatory government vaccination argue that parents who ref use to vaccinate their children risk spreading these disease to the immunocompromised community. There doesn't seem to be enough evidence of this happening to be recorded as a statistic, but it could happen. But if the fear of this is valid are we to find that next we'll be mandating flu vaccines. Between 12 and 56,000 people die from the flu or are said to die from the flu in America and there's estimated to be a few hundred from measles. So I would guess that those who want to mandate measles will be after us on the flu next. Yet the current science only allows for educated guessing when it comes to the flu vaccine. Each year before that year's flu vaccine is, or strain is known, the scientists put their best guess into that year's vaccine. Some years it's completely wrong. We vaccinate for the wrong strain of flu vaccine. Yet five states already mandate flu vaccines. Is it really appropriate, appropriate to mandate a vaccine that more often than not vaccinates for the wrong flu strain. As we contemplate forcing parents to choose this or that vaccine, I think it's important to remember that force is not consistent with the American story, nor is force considered consistent with the liberty our forefathers saught when they came to America. I don't think you have to have one of the other, though. I'm not here to say don't vaccinate your kids. If this hearing is for persuasion, I'm all for the persuasion. I vaccinated myself. I vaccinated my kid. For myself and my children I believe that the benefits of vaccines greatly outweigh the risks, but I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security. Thank you.

  • 1:13:20 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA): This administration has repeatedly sought to cut the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which supports key immunization programs, and they've continued their efforts to weaken the Medicaid program, which covers all of the recommended vaccines for children and for many adults as well. I am glad that most of my colleagues are on the same page about the importance of vaccines. Now let's make sure we're also on the same page about the importance of public health funding, so people get access to those vaccines.

  • 1:28:30 Jonathan McCullers: So Mississippi does not allow any nonmedical exemptions, and they have nearly a 100% rate of immunization at school entry. They pay a lot of attention to it. Tennessee's in the middle, they allow religious exemptions, but not philosophical exemptions. In Tennessee, we have about a 97% vaccination rate of kindergarten entry, but we've seen the rate of nonmedical exemptions under the religious exemption triple in the last 10 years, so you can predict where that's going. Arkansas ,on the other hand, allows both religious and philosophical exemptions and has a rate that's around 93 to 94% below the level for community immunity.

Hearing: Confronting a Growing Public Health Threat: Measles Outbreaks in the U.S., Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House of Representatives, C-SPAN, February 27, 2019.

Witnesses:

  • Dr. Nancy Messonnier
    • Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci
    • Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Sound Clips:

  • 3:42 Chairman Diana Degette (CO): The national measles vaccination rate of children between 19 and 35 months old is currently at 91%. That may seem high to some, but given the highly contagious nature nature of measles, it's well below the 95% vaccination rate that's required to protect communities and give it what it's known as herd immunity. This so called herd immunity is particularly vital to protecting those who cannot be or are not yet vaccinated against the measles, such as infants or those with prior medical conditions who are at a higher risk of suffering severe complications from the vaccine.

  • 4:30 Chairman Diana Degette (CO): While the overall national rate of MMR vaccinations is currently at 91%, the rate in some communities is much lower. Some are as low as 77%.

  • 9:15 Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): Every state except three have enacted religious exemptions for parents who wish not to vaccinate their children. There are 17 states allow a personal philosophical exemption, which means that most people can opt out for any reason. For example, in Washington state, just 0.3% of Washington's families with kindergartners use a religious exemption. While 3.7% of families use a personal exemption and 0.8% use a medical exemption. Vaccine exemptions have increased in the past three years to a median 2.2% of kindergardeners among all states.

  • 10:00 Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): After the Disneyland linked outbreak to measles in 2014, the state of California ended the religious and personal exemption for vaccines. The Washington legislature is working on legislation that substantially narrows the exemptions for vaccination that would eliminate the personal or philosophical exemption while tightening the religious exemption. In recent weeks, take legislators in New Jersey, New York, Iowa, Maine, and Vermont, have proposed eliminating religious exemptions for vaccines. However, last week, the Arizona House Health and Human Service Committee approved three bills to examine exemptions for mandatory vaccinations.

  • 23:25 Dr. Nancy Messonnier: From January 1st to February 21st, 159 cases of measles have been confirmed in 10 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. In 2018, 372 people with measles were reported from 25 states and the district of Columbia. Most cases have been unvaccinated.

  • 24:15 Dr. Nancy Messonnier: Nationally, we enjoy high measles vaccination coverage. However, there are pockets of people who are vaccine hesitant, who delay or even refuse to vaccinate themselves and their children. Outbreaks of measles occur, when measles gets into these communities of unvaccinated people. Those choosing not to vaccinate, tend to live near each other. Some of these are what we call close knit communities. People who share common religious beliefs or racial ethnic background. Others are people who have strong personal belief against vaccination.

  • 25:15 Dr. Nancy Messonnier: Vaccine hesitancy is the result of a misunderstanding of the risk and seriousness of disease combined with misinformation regarding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. However, the specific issues fueling hesitancy varies by community. Because vaccine hesitancy remains a highly localized issue, the strategy to address these issues need to be local with support from CDC. Strong immunization programs at the state and local levels are critical to understanding the specific issues and empowering local action. CDC also works to support state and local public health efforts through research to understand these reasons and develop targeted strategies to address hesitancy.

  • 28:40 Dr. Anthony Fauci: Measles virus is one of the most contagious viruses that we know among the pathogens that confront mankind. As mentioned, that if an individual gets into a room with someone who has measles, and that person is coughing and sneezing, there's about a 90% chance that that person. That is very unlike other diseases like influenza and other respiratory diseases when the hit rate, although it's high, is nothing, uh, approaching 90%.

  • 30:00 Dr. Anthony Fauci: As was mentioned prior to the vaccine era, there were about 3 million deaths each year. The decrease was dramatic. There were 21 million lives that were saved from vaccines between the year 2000 and 2017. But as shown on the last bullet on this slide, there are 110,000 deaths still today in the world, which means there's the danger of the reinsertion of measles from other countries, and if we're not protected.

  • 31:00 Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, let's take a look at some of the things that I mentioned about the disease itself. Fever, cough, rash, as was mentioned by Dr. Burgess, again, contagious from four days before the rash to four days after. So people are spreading measles before they really know that they actually have measles. We have a group of individuals who are particularly at risk for complications, infants and children, pregnant women, immunocompromised, and even adults. If you're not protected and you get infected, adults have a high incidence of complications. You've heard about the complications. They are not trivial. One out of 10 with ear infections, which could lead to deafness, pneumonia in one out of 20 cases, and encephalitis one in a thousand. A very rare occurrence called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, seven to 10 years after an individual develops measles, they can have a very devastating neurological syndrome, no known cure, and is vaccine preventable.

  • 34:15 Dr. Nancy Messonnier: Taking care of your health, eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep: Those are all parts of a healthy lifestyle, but the only way to protect against measles is to get vaccinated. It's a safe and effective vaccine, and parents should go ahead and get vaccinated.

  • 36:00 Chairman Diana Degette (CO): What are the risks inherent in the vaccine itself? I think that might be one reason why, um, some, some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children as they believe that the risks with the vaccine outweigh the benefits. Dr. Nancy Messonnier: I think you're exactly right and I think in the setting of not a lot of measles cases around, parents weigh in their mind the risks and benefits and think they shouldn't vaccinate. Truth is this is an incredibly safe vaccine. We have a host of experience with it. The vaccine's been used for a really long time. We in the United States enjoy one of the most robust systems to monitor the safety of vaccines. And that's why we can say with confidence that this is a safe vaccine. The most common side effects are a sore arm, which goes away pretty quickly.

  • 42:00 Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): I've heard some parents claim that measles vaccine can cause brain inflammation known as encephalitis. Is that true? Dr. Anthony Fauci: Brain inflammation? Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): Encephalitis? Can the measles vaccine cause encephalitis? The vaccine? Dr. Anthony Fauci: The vaccine? No. Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): There's no cases? Chairman Diana Degette (CO): The Chair will remind all persons in the audience that manifestation of approval or disapproval of proceedings is in violation of the rules of the house and its committees. Gentlemen may proceed. Dr. Nancy Messonnier: In healthy children, the MMR vaccine does not cause brain swelling or encephalitis. Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): So if a, if a child was unhealthy when they're vaccinated? Dr. Nancy Messonnier: So, there are rare instances of children with certain very specific underlying problems with their immune system and who the vaccine is contra indicated. One of the reasons its contra indicated is in that very specific group of children, there is a rare risk of brain swelling. Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): Would the parent know if their child was in that category before… Dr. Nancy Messonnier: Certainly, and that's why parents should talk to their doctor.

  • 43:15 Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): So there's another thing that's that people can self medicate with vitamin A to prevent measles and not do the vaccine. Is that, what's the validity of that in your opinion? Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, the history of vitamin A and measles goes back to some very important and I think transforming studies that were done years ago in, in sub Saharan Africa, is that with vitamin A supplements, particularly in vitamin A deficiency that children who get measles have a much more difficult course. So vitamin A associated with measles can actually protect you against some of the, uh, toxic and adverse effects. Importantly, since in a country, a developed nation where you really don't have any issue with vitamin A deficiency, that you don't really see that transforming effect. But some really good studies that were done years ago show that vitamin A supplementation can be very helpful in preventing the complications of measles. Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): It doesn't prevent the onset of measles if, if you're not… Dr. Anthony Fauci: No. Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): is that what you're saying? It doesn't want to put words in your mouth. Dr. Anthony Fauci: It doesn't prevent measles. But it's important in preventing some of the complications in societies in which vitamin A deficiency might exist.

  • 46:10 Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL): I'm trying to understand what has happened between 2000 and 2019 and why we're, we've fallen so far from the public health success stories, um, when the CDC actually said that there we had eradicated in the United States, uh, measles in, in, in 2000. So Dr. Messonnier, yes or no: Do you believe the primary cause of the spike and measles outbreak over the past few years is due to vaccine hesitancy and misinformation? Dr. Nancy Messonnier: Yes and no. I think vaccine hesitancy is a, is a word that means many different things. Parents have questions about vaccines, they get those questions answered. That isn't what you should call a hesitancy. So I do believe that parents concerns about vaccine leads to under vaccination and most of the cases that we're seeing are an unvaccinated communities. However, if you look nationally at measles vaccination coverage, there were other things that are associated with low coverage. Um, for example, living in a rural area versus an urban area. Rural areas have lower vaccine coverage with measles. Schakowsky: How would you account for that? Messonnier: Well, I think that there are other things besides the sole choice that are around access to care. For example, kids without health insurance have lower measles vaccination coverage. Schakowsky: So generally lack of access to care. Messonnier: In addition to parents making decisions not to vaccinate their kids. Yes.

  • 50:20 Rep. Michael Burgess (TX): I do feel obligated dimension that vitamin A is not like vitamin C. You may not take unlimited quantities of vitamin A with impunity. It is a fat soluble vitamin and it is stored in the body. Uh, so don't go out and hyper dose on vitamin A because it, uh, it will not accrue to your long-term benefit.

  • 54:15 Rep. Michael Burgess (TX): Did the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine ever contain mercury or thimerosal? I'll need a verbal answer for the clerk. Dr. Anthony Fauci: No. It's preservative free.

  • 56:00 Dr. Nancy Messonnier: So measles was identified as eliminated in the United States in 2000 because there was no longer sustained transmission in the US. However, measles continues to circulate globally, which means unvaccinated US travelers can be exposed to measles and bring it back home with them, and folks in their families and their communities, if they're not protected by vaccine, are at risk. And measles is so incredibly contagious that it can spread really quickly. So yes, we should be concerned.

  • 57:00 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): What role do you see this spread of disinformation online playing in, in, in the rise of, um, of these outbreaks? Dr. Anthony Fauci: Yeah, I believe Mr. Pallone, that it plays an important role. It's, it's not the only one but, but I believe it plays an important role. And I think the classic example of that was the disinformation associated with the relationship between measles, vaccination and autism, which, uh, back when it came out, uh, years ago, there was a big concern that this was the case when it was investigated. It became clear that the data upon which those statements were made were false and fraudulent. And the person who made them had his medical license revoked in England. And yet, as you know very well, the good news about the Internet is that it spreads important information. That's good. And the bad news about the Internet is that when the bad information gets on there, it's tough to get it off. And yet people refer to things that have been proven to be false. So this information is really an important issue that we need to try and overcome by continuing to point people to what's evidenced based and what's science-based. So in, in so many respects, we shouldn't be criticizing people who get these information that's false because they may not know it's false. We need to try and continue to educate them to show them what the true evidence base is. But in direct answer to your question, that is an important problem, disinformation. Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): Now do you think that the promotion of this inaccurate and fear based messages, would you consider that in itself a threat to public health? Dr. Anthony Fauci: Yes, of course. I think the spread of false information that leads people into poor choices, even though they're well meaning in their choice, it's a poor choice based on information. I think that's a major contribution to the problem that we're discussing. (lady behind him holds up a book titled “Autism Epidemic”)

  • 1:04:00 Dr. Anthony Fauci: But when you have a highly effective, and I want to underscore that because measles is one of the most effective vaccines that we have of any vaccine that a massive public health effort could lead to eradication. Because we don't have an animal vector, we don't have an intermediate host. We don't have a vector that transmits it. It is just person to person transmissibility. So theoretically we could eradicate it. The problem between eradication and elimination, if you eliminate it like we did in this country in 2000 as long as this measles somewhere, you always have the threat of it reemerging if you let down the umbrella of herd immunity.

  • 1:05:00 Dr. Nancy Messonnier: Dr. Fauci is correct about Madagascar, but I think Americans don't realize that in 2018 there were also outbreaks in England, France, Italy, and Greece. American travelers going abroad need to think about their immunization status, not just when they're going into countries like Madagascar, but even going to Europe.

  • 1:11:45 Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC): And one of the world's measle outbreaks right now, it's happening in Brazil where people fleeing a completely broken country of Venezuela are spreadingeas measles and - madam chair- I'd like to submit for the record, an NPR article, "The collapse of health system sends Venezuelans fleeing to Brazil for basic medical needs." And I'll submit that for the record. Um, they've been in a unvaccinated population because of the collapse of the failed socialist state in Venezuela where there should be an instructive example for some of us in this committee room of the lack of that sort of medical treatment of vaccinations. I would note that the humanitarian aid that countries like the U.S. are trying to send to Venezuela is being burned on bridges by the Maduro regime instead of actually being used to help his own people. This includes vaccinations, like the ones we're discussing today. There were measles vaccinations that were burned on the bridges as part of the relief effort to Venezuela.

  • 1:18:30 Rep. Kathy Castor (FL): I was a little confused by the last line of questioning that they're, the alarm should be over, uh, immigration and, and asylum seekers. You have a comment on that, Dr. Fauci? Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, I, I think what Dr. Messonnier said is absolutely correct. If you look at the known outbreak, so if you take the outbreak in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn in New York City and in Rockland County, it was a relatively closed group who had a rate of vaccination that was below the level of a good herd immunity. A person from Israel understandably came over legally as a visitor into the community. And then you had a massive outbreak in New York. The Somali community in Minnesota, the same thing happened. You had a group there who had a lower rate that went below the cutoff point for herd immunity. Some immigrant came in as one of the members of the community, was a relatively closed community, and that's what you have. So I think when you talk about outbreaks, it really transcends some of the demographic issues that you were talking about, about lower income or rural versus urban. It really is an a closed community that we're seeing it. Castor: with lower vaccination rates. Fauci: Right, exactly. So a lower vaccination rates.

  • 1:23:45 Rep. Paul Tonko (NY): In response to the spotlight on the monetization of misinformation about vaccines and the ways in which platforms are being manipulated to promote anti vaccination messaging, some companies have announced new policies. For instance, Facebook says it is working on its algorithms to prevent anti-vaccination content from being recommended to users. Pinterest has decided to remove all vaccination related posts and searches, even accurate information. And YouTube just recently announced that it would prevent channels that promote anti-vaccination content from running advertising. Dr Fauci, do you think these actions are a step in the right direction to ensure parents and families have access to science-based factual health information? Dr. Anthony Fauci: Obviously it's a very sensitive subject because it then gets in the that borderline between the, you know, the essentially crushing of information that might actually be useful information. However, having said that, I do think that a close look and scrutiny at something that is egregiously incorrect has some merits of taking a careful look as to whether, one, you want to be participating in the dissemination of that. Always being careful about not wanting to essentially curtail freedom of expression. You still want to make sure you don't do something that is so clearly hazardous to the health of individuals. Rep. Paul Tonko (NY): I appreciate that. And Dr. Messonnier, as the agency charged with protecting our national public health, what efforts are underway at CDC to counter the online proliferation of anti vaccination disinformation. Dr. Nancy Messonnier: As a science based agency, CDC really focuses on making sure that we get scientifically credible information available to the folks at the front lines it needed every day. In order to do that, we do scan social media to see what issues are arising and what questions are emerging to make sure that we can then gather the scientifically appropriate answers and get that to our partners in the front line so that they can talk to patients about that information.

  • 1:30:30 Dr. Nancy Messonnier: The concept of herd immunity is that by vaccinating an individual, you don't just prevent them from getting disease, but you also prevent them from transmitting it to others. And what that means is that in our community, individuals who, for example, can't get the vaccine because they're too young, or they have some kind of illness that prevents it, are still protected by the cushion of protection provided by their community.

Radio Interview: National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton, Hugh Hewitt Book Club, February 1, 2019.
  • Hugh Hewitt: There are reports of Venezuela shipping gold to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is a very close ally of ours. Have you asked the UAE to sequester that gold? John Bolton: Let me just say this. We’re obviously aware of those reports consistent with what we did on Monday against PDVSA, the state-owned oil monopoly where we imposed crippling sanctions. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, is implementing them as we speak. We’re also looking at cutting off other streams of revenue and assets for the Maduro mafia, and that certainly includes gold. And we’ve already taken some steps to neutralize gold that’s been out of the country used as collateral for bank loans. We’ve frozen, and our friends in Europe, have frozen a substantial amount of that. We want to try and do the same here. We’re on top of it. That’s really all I can say at the moment.
White House Daily Briefing: Trump Administration Officials Announce Sanctions on Venezuelan Oil Sector, C-SPAN, January 28, 2019.

Speakers:

  • Steve Mnuchin - Treasury Secretary
  • John Bolton - National Security Advisor

Sound Clips:

  • 7:43 Steven Mnuchin: But effective immediately, any purchases of Venezuelan oil by U.S. entities, money will have to go into blocked accounts. Now, I've been in touch with many of the refineries. There is a significant amount of oil that's at sea that's already been paid for. That oil will continue to come to the United States. If the people in Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as that money goes into blocked accounts, we'll continue to take it. Otherwise, we will not be buying it. And again, we have issued general licenses, so the refineries in the United States can continue to operate.

  • 9:06 Steven Mnuchin: The purpose of sanctions is to change behavior. So when there is a recognition that PDVSA is the property of the rightful rulers, the rightful leaders, the president, then, indeed, that money will be available to Guaido.

Interview: Jenny McCarthy talks to CNN on how she cured her sons Autism caused by VACCINATIONS, CNN, October 23, 2008.
Documentary: Mission, Measles - The Story of a Vaccine, Co-produced by US Public Health Service and Merck, C-SPAN/American History TV, 1964.
  • 3:30 Narrator: As of this time, measles is by far our most serious epidemic childhood disease. Although nearly half a million cases are reported each year, the actual number is probably closer to 4 million.

  • 3:45 Narrator: In 1961 after the polio vaccines had reduced the deaths from that disease to 90, that same year 434 measles deaths were reported. In the less developed countries of the world, the toll taken by measles is much greater. In Nigeria, it is estimated that one out of four babies contracting measles dies from it. The tragic toll of measles is also told in a neighboring republic Upper Volta, where in one village, an epidemic killed 113 out of 115 children who got the disease. Across the ocean in Chile, measles accounts for half of all childhood deaths from acute communicable diseases each year.

     

 


Community Suggestions

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Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations

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Music Presented in This Episode

Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Apr 15, 2019
CD193: How to Prevent Death by Chemical Explosion (CFATS)
02:05:52

Chemical storage facilities exist all over the country and one of them recently caught fire, poisoning the residents Houston, Texas for three days. In this episode, learn about a Department of Homeland Security program - the CFATS program- designed to protect us from terrorist attacks on dangerous chemical storage facilities like the one in Texas and also discover what needs to be done to ensure that CFATS actually protects us from the threats these chemical facilities pose. There is still work to be done.


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House Homeland Security Committee

  • Committee Members

  • How to Contact:

    • For Senators: firstname_lastname@lastnameofsenator.senate.gov (underscore between first and last)
    • For Representatives: firstname.lastname@mail.house.gov

Hearings

Securing Our Nation's Chemical Facilities: Stakeholders Perspectives on Improving the CFATS Program, House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation, March 12, 2019.

Witnesses:

  • John Morawetz: Health and Safety Representative ICWUC Health and Safety Representatives International Chemical Workers Union Council
  • Dr. Mike Wilson, Ph.D, MPH: National Director, Occupational and Environmental Health Program, BlueGreen Alliance
  • Pamela Nixon: President, People Concerned About Chemical Safety
  • Kirsten Meskill: Director, Corporate Security, BASF

Sound Clips:

  • 13:00 Chairman Cedric Richmond (LA): Since CFATS was established, the number of ‘high risk’ chemical facilities has dropped by half.

  • 13:10 Chairman Cedric Richmond (LA) I believe - and DHS agreed - that there is an opportunity to take the data on how facilities are reducing risk and use it to develop voluntary best practices that other facilities could use to reduce risk.

  • 13:20 Chairman Cedric Richmond (LA) Also, it is not clear to me that CFATS facilities are including employees in the development of site security plans, vulnerability assessments, or inspections – as they are required to by law.

  • 13:30 Chairman Cedric Richmond (LA) Finally, if CFATS is going to be successful, we need to be sure that the program is taking all relevant factors into account to assess risk. Otherwise, we can’t trust that CFATS is truly capturing the nation’s highest risk facilities. For example, right now, DHS does not consider whether the facility is located near a hospital, a school, a residential area, a military base, a power plant, or close to other chemical facilities. Any of these factors could make a facility a more attractive target, or make an event even worse for the surrounding community.

  • 21:00 Dr. Mike Wilson: In the area of emergency response, CFATS gives authority to the secretary to provide information to local governments and I quote "to help ensure that first-responders are properly prepared and provided with the situational awareness needed to respond to security incidents at covered chemical facilities," endquote. This is useful but it's not sufficient if the objective is to give firefighters the ability to respond effectively to an industrial chemical incident. As we know from the experience of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, or EPCRA, firefighters need much more than chemical information. They need to talk to the people who run the facilities in their jurisdiction. They need to get inside those facilities regularly to see how chemicals are stored and processed in order to imagine what could go wrong. They need to train side by side with facility operators. This is pre-fire planning and it's crucial to a safe and effective response and it requires an ongoing commitment by industry. That commitment however needs to be explicitly required under CFATS, more so than what is currently recommended within the non mandatory risk based performance standards because the fact is that except in an emergency, many facilities are reluctant to invite firefighters and other responders in to look around their property, let alone to pull out their equipment and conduct training. I speak to this based on my own 13 years of work as a professional firefighter, EMT, and paramedic. During which time I responded to about 10,000 emergency calls including to industrial chemical releases and fires. I can tell you that to do their job, firefighters need both information and access, and they're like, they're more likely to get these if facilities are required to provide them on a routine basis under CFATS.

  • 22:30 Dr. Mike Wilson Our second recommendation pertains to the role of frontline workers in site security. The existing CFATS language on employee input is helpful but too generic to be effective. Depending on the inclinations of the facility, the term employee input can mean everything from a manager checking the box to get workers sign off on a fully executed site security plan, or it could mean a real seat for workers at management's decision making table. In any case, the right of workers to participate meaningfully in site security decision making needs to be explicit in CFATS because just as they are reluctant to give routine access to firefighters, many facilities are reluctant to seriously involve frontline workers in decision making and yet industry itself recognizes that workers have a great deal of knowledge and experience to contribute. We suggest that you consider language from the 2017 process safety management regulations in California, which require oil refineries to involve workers throughout all phases of process safety decision making. If adopted by CFATS this type of language will help ensure that the insights of frontline workers are genuinely integrated into site security.

  • 23:15 Dr. Mike Wilson Finally, our third recommendation pertains to risk reduction. CFATS is based on a risk management framework, which assumes that dangerous chemicals used at a facility cannot be reduced or eliminated, so they have to be surrounded by layers of protection. Industry is far more innovative and clever than this, of course, and DHS has reported that under CFATS, thousands of facilities have voluntarily taken action to reduce their use of dangerous chemicals by consolidating them from multiple sites into one or two sites, replacing a hazardous chemical with a less hazardous one, reducing the total quantity held on site, or switching to a less concentrated form. These approaches can make a facility much safer, and they have the effect of reducing the desirability of the facility as a target of opportunity. CFATS could do more to encourage or require facilities to implement these types of approaches, and we encourage you to make these changes during reauthorization.

  • 36:45 Kirsten Meskill Over the past four years, the Department of Homeland Security has significantly improved it's administration of the CFATS program and has had a positive impact on enhancing security at chemical facilities.

  • 37:30 Kirsten Meskill While industry was pleased that Congress passed the short term extension in January to avoid a complete shutdown of CFATS, I think we all agreed that it is not the best solution going forward. Longer authorization periods provide important stability for planning security investments and allow DHS to operate the program efficiently and effectively.

  • 38:30 Kirsten Meskill Recently, DHS has been implementing a risk based performance standard at 200 high risk facilities, those that are at tiers one and two. This requires facility operation operators to collect sensitive personal information from thousands of employees and contractors for DHS to vet against the terrorist screening database. DHS is now planning to extend the program to an additional 3000 low risk tier three and four facilities. This will expand vetting to tens of thousands of more employees and contractors. ACC and its members are concerned that was such an expansion is unnecessary and will put personal information at risk. Furthermore, it is unclear what benefit is associated with the additional vetting given the cost.

  • 58:30 Kirsten Meskill At BASF, and I think at many of the companies of our size, many of our facilities, we have worked to reduce our risk. And so we are now down to either three or four tier levels. And so, as I mentioned earlier, this is an enormous number of folks that we have to do the additional screening on, but perhaps the more complicated would be the contractors and visitors that we have on site. And that's where it gets a little bit, a lot more complicated to ensure that all those individuals that are coming onto our site day in, day out, have gone through the screening process. And it's costly. It's very expensive, needless to say for us, as well as for the contractors that support us.

  • 1:07:30 Kirsten Meskill: Our concerns are exposing personal data of thousands more thousands and thousands and thousands of employees and contractors for this terrorist database screening. And whether the value actually is there for the cost and for the, the potential risk of exposing this personal data to cybersecurity risks. Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY): But don't you think that's one of the core ways to ensure security at these facilities? Meskill: Well, we are conducting our own background screening anyway, which includes, you know, criminal background checks also. So it seems duplicative. Yes. Rep. Rice: So have you communicated that? Meskill: Yes. Rep. Rice: And are there any questions that they include in their review or their background check that you do not? Meskill: I cannot answer that question. I don't know the answer to that. Rep. Rice: Okay. Thank you. Mr Chairman.

Security Our Nation's Chemical Facilities: Building on the Progress of the CFATS Program, House Committee on Homeland Security, February 27, 2019.

Witnesses:

  • David Wulf: Director, Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security
  • Nathan Anderson: Acting Director, Homeland Security & Justice, US Government Accountability Office

Sound Clips:

  • 2:30 Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS): Through CFATS, DHS works with chemical facility owners and operators to make sure they have safeguards in place to prevent a bad actor from gaining access to dangerous chemicals stored onsite. In the past, this program has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support on and off the Hill. Officials in the Bush Administration, including former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, were among the first to call for a federal rule to secure chemical facilities. And, officials from the Trump Administration are among the most recent. Last November, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote to Congress urging us to reauthorize CFATS: “[W]e continue to face one of the most serious terrorist threat environments since 9/11. Foreign terrorist organizations are urging recruits to use simple weapons, including toxic chemicals, to target public spaces and events.”Clearly, this threat has not abated. Yet, the Department’s authority to carry out CFATS came very close to lapsing last month that caused this Committee to pass a short-term bill extending the program until 2020. For eight years, CFATS was tied to annual appropriations cycles. Lacking the certainty of a multi-year authorization, DHS struggled to keep staff, develop long-term policies, and work with a regulated community that did not know if the rules would apply the following year. In 2014, Congress worked on a bicameral, bipartisan basis to finally put an end to this pattern by passing a multi-year authorization. I had hoped to work collaboratively in the last Congress, as we did in 2014, to give CFATS a long-term reauthorization. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass, and we once again found ourselves with no alternative but to pass another short-term extension. As Chairman, I do not intend to let that happen again.

  • 5:30 Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS): Six years ago, there was a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas that caused catastrophic damage and took the lives of first responders who had been called to the scene. On the screen above you is a picture of that scene where volunteer firemen went to that location not knowing what they were going to and they lost their lives. So we need to close that loophole because as a volunteer fireman myself, those public spirited first responders did not know what they were going to until it was too late. So if CFATS had been in place those individuals probably, given the information available, would not have approached it in the same light.

  • 6:45 Rep. Mike Rogers (AL): Now, before I begin, I would like to express my extreme disappointment that the majority staff denied the minority's requests for a witness at today's hearing. Under rule 11 of the rules of the house, the minority is afforded at least one witness at each committee hearing. If denied a witness, the minority is entitled to a separate hearing to take testimony from its witnesses. So pursuant to rules of the house, I'm providing the chairman with a letter signed by the Republican members of the community, formerly invoking our right to a separate hearing of the full committee to hear from minority witnesses.

  • 8:40 Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS): Consistent with the rules that we adopted for this committee, similar to the rules we've had before, we offered a government witness to this government panel and from my understanding, that was not accepted. But you could have had a government witness and we will respond in writing, but the rules we apply are the same rules that this committee has always operated under.

  • 18:30 Nathan Anderson: I will speak first to the department's efforts to identify high risk chemical facilities. Just identifying the universe of facilities that should even be regulated under CFATS has been and may always be a huge challenge. There's no one complete data source of facilities that have chemicals. In 2014 we found that DHS used self reported and unverified data to determine the risk of facilities holding toxic chemicals that could threaten surrounding communities if released. We recommended that DHS should better verify the accuracy of facility reported data. Dhs implemented this recommendation by revising its methodology so it now calculates the risk of toxic release rather than relying on facilities to do so.

  • 20:15 Nathan Anderson: A key quality assurance function involves actions to ensure compliance. And in 2015 we reported that DHS had conducted compliance inspections at 83 of the roughly 1700 facilities with approved security plans. At that time, we found that nearly half of the respective facilities were not fully compliant with their approved sec