Congressional Dish

By Jennifer Briney

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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.

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

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 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
CD217: Proxy Voting
01:19:20

The House of Representatives is now allowing absent members to vote via members who are physically present on the House floor, in a process called proxy voting, for the first time in US History. In this episode, we examine the unnecessary, unprecedented changes to the way the House passes bills that might also be unconstitutional.


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law

CD212: The COVID-19 Response Laws


Bills

H.Res.965 - Authorizing remote voting by proxy in the House of Representatives and providing for official remote committee proceedings during a public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus, and for other purposes.

Read the Document

Section 1: Allows the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) to decide if members of the House of Representatives can have another member of the House of Representatives cast their votes for them. She can do this if the Sergeant-at-Arms says that "a public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus is in effect.” Proxy voting will be allowed for 45 days, and then automatically expire, unless the Speaker decides to extend it for an additional 45 days. There are no limits on how often this can be done. If the Sergeant-at-Arms says that the emergency is no longer in effect, the Speaker has to stop allowing proxy voting.

Section 2: To choose who will be their proxy, members of the House need to submit a signed letter to the Clerk of the House with the name of their proxy. The letter can be electronic. A member can sign another letter, also allowed to be electronic, in order to revoke a proxy. If a member shows up and votes in person, the proxy authorization is automatically revoked. When the Clerk gets the letter, the Clerk has to notify the Speaker (Nancy Pelosi), the Minority Leader (Kevin McCarthy) and the “members involved”. A member of the House can serve as a proxy for up to 10 other members. The Clerk has to maintain an updated list of the proxy designations and publish them online during any vote conducted using proxy voting.

Section 3: If a member is not physically present but has designated a proxy to vote for them, the physically missing member will be counted towards establishing a quorum. Before casing a vote for another member, the physically present member has to “obtain an exact instruction” from the missing member in regards to the vote or quorum call. Before casting a vote for someone else, the physically present member has to announce the vote they will cast for the missing member out loud.

Section 4: All committees are allowed to conduct their hearings remotely and committee votes can be cast “while participating remotely”. Witnesses can appear remotely. “Any committee meeting or hearing that is conducted remotely in according with the regulations” written by the Chairman of the Rules Committee (Jim McGovern) “shall be considered open to the public”. They also “shall be deemed to satisfy all requirements for broadcasting and audio and visual coverage”. Closed sessions are not allowed to be conducted remotely, except for the Ethics Committee.

Section 5: The Chair of the House Administration Committee (Zoe Lofgren) has to study the technology to be used to conduct remote voting in the House and certify that what she choses is operational and secure. After the technology is certified, the Chairman of the House Rules Committee (Jim McGovern) will write the regulations for remote voting in the House of Representatives.


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Sound Clip Sources


Video: Republicans On Coronavirus Committee Refuse To Wear Masks, Capitol News Forum, June 26, 2020

Transcript: House Record, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 Transcript, United States Congressional Record, May 27, 2020

Hearing: H. Res. 965 - Authorizing remote voting by proxy in the House of Representatives and providing for official remote committee proceedings during a public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus, and for other purposes., United States House of Representatives Committee on Rules, May 14, 2020

Watch on YouTube

Transcript:

20:45 Rep. Tom Cole (OK): Though the changes are purportedly limited to the present COVID-19 pandemic timeline, the temporary change we make to the rules today becomes the precedent we follow tomorrow.

23:55 Rep. Tom Cole (OK): This proposed rules package fundamentally changes two key rules of the house. First, for the first time in history of the chamber, we are being asked to approve a system of proxy voting for members on the House floor. That rules change also holds open the possibility of moving forward with totally remote voting. Once the chairperson of the house Administration Committee certifies the technology for that use. Second, again, for the first time in our history, we're being asked to approve a measure that would allow committees to operate remotely and approve legislation remotely.

25:05 Rep. Tom Cole (OK): I have real concerns about whether or not any system of remote voting or proxy voting is constitutional. The language of the Constitution clearly contemplates members being physically present in the chamber to conduct business, a move to any other kind of procedure that involves members not being physically present in the chamber to vote and to make a quorum will put the legislation passed by those methods at risk of court challenges.

26:45 Rep. Tom Cole (OK): Rules change we are considering today will allow for remote voting to take effect without an additional vote of the house, and instead only upon certification of technology by one member, Chairperson Lofgren. This is ceding the authority of the Rules Committee and it denies the entire house deliberation on the technology and a vote on making such a consequential change.

31:30 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): The process of unanimous consent that is allowing bills to pass with just two members in the in the chamber was developed in response to the Spanish flu pandemic, despite the constitution requiring a majority of members to conduct business in both the House and the Senate, use you see to this day.

37:45 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): Because of social and physical distancing measures currently in place to save lives and prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is unsafe for members to travel back and forth to Washington from their districts and risk exposing potentially thousands of people while in transit.

38:05 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): It is also unsafe to require thousands of House staff and Capitol Hill employees to commute to work while infections have not even reached their peak in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

38:27 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): Of course, the founders did not contemplate the technology that is now available to us, which allows us to meet virtually. To see one another, to hear one another, to respond to one another, virtually not in the same room, but in the same box, that we call an iPad or a computer or some other device that allows us to communicate in real time, essentially, in person, virtually.

42:30 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): First step authorizes the house to begin working on a remote voting system. Such a system would only be used during emergencies like this one. Let me stress that. In the 40 years I have been here there is not an instance where I think this would be justified, until now.

43:00 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): We are not fundamentally changing the way the house works. Let me be clear we are not changing. There is no advantage to Democrats. No disadvantage to Republicans by using virtual technology. None. Zero. Zip.

45:30 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): And we are all committed that we would only use it in extraordinary circumstances. I don't believe there's been such a certain circumstance the United States of America since 1918. Over 100 years ago. This may be once in a century experience for our country.

48:00 Rep. Rodney Davis (IL): Talking about a member of congress giving their voting privilege to someone else. There's legitimate constitutional uncertainty with what is being proposed, and it could call into question the validity of any legislation the proxy voting is used for.

53:30 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): This is the Rules Committee, right? We are one of the smallest committees in Congress. And here we are taking up the entire Ways and Means Committee room, which is one of the biggest committee rooms in Congress. What do you do with the Transportation Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which you know, are significantly larger. Some have suggested that maybe they can meet in the auditorium, or maybe on the House floor, one at a time. We have a huge amount of work to do. There are, in addition to responding to this crisis, and trying to figure out how to get the economy back on its feet again, we have much past bills that we need to get done. I mean, the Defense Authorization Bills, Appropriations Bills, I mean, and the the fact that we cannot function, our committee process just literally can't function the way it should, if we're going to follow CDC guidelines. I mean, that is problematic. So what do we do? We don't meet? We don't address certain issues that need to be addressed?

56:05 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): And this alternative, which I think incorporates some of the things that are in the press release that you guys released was that, you know, we should operate like the White House, and we all should get tested. We all should move to the front of the line. We're all special enough that even though our constituents can't get tests, people who work in hospitals, first responders, people who are in working in food pantries in homeless shelters, who, quite frankly, should be tested, that Congress the way we can kind of manage this as we all come back, and every time we have a discussion, we'll get tested. I don't know what the reaction would be in minority leaders district but in my district, people think that's tone deaf and think it's wrong, that we're not super special, that we should move to the front of the line.

58:15 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): But the gentleman referred to the change that was done, that was implemented after 911. When the Republicans were in charge of The House, and in 2005, you changed the rules for a provisional quorum, which would allow in the extreme, two members to constitute a quorum. Now, the Constitution, defines a quorum is the majority of the membership, but under the rules change that was done back then. I mean, you literally could have two members constitute a quorum. I don't think that's constitutional. But nonetheless, that was the plan that was put forward and yeah, it may have taken a long time to put forward but I don't really think it was a very good a good plan.

59:30 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): We have come together in a bipartisan way on a number of packages that have become now law in which we have literally appropriated the house in a bipartisan way. The Senate in a bipartisan way is appropriated trillions of dollars to help respond to this health crisis, and to help try to protect our economy. We need to do oversight, we need to make sure the money is being spent the way we want it to be spent. I mean, that's one of our jobs and if committees cannot meet because of this pandemic, you know, where they have to wait their turn, you know, because we don't have rooms big enough here for people to meet and follow CDC guidelines, that's a dereliction of our duty.

1:05:00 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): Because I believe that being virtually present and being present is essentially the same thing in the constitutional consequences of that presence. Because I can vote "aye" here and I can vote "aye" 1000 miles away, and it has the same representation of my constituents. It's just transmitted in a different way.

1:09:05 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): But why when we have the technology that allows us to do it virtually do we put lives at risk not only here, you're going to go back to Oklahoma at some point in time, and you're going to deal with the folks in Oklahoma and you're going to come from a hotspot. Now, hopefully, you will not have anything to transmit. But we know that that's possible.

1:20:50 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): The way it worked back then, was that the chair would have a bunch of proxies in his or her pocket and vote however, the chair saw fit without consulting with the member. That is not the way this should work. And that is not what this we're talking about is. What we're talking about is that if you want to give me your proxy, you have to indicate in writing, how you want me to vote on every single vote, and then it will be announced publicly how you voted on the on the House floor. And if Jim McGovern had Rodney Davis, his proxy and I voted, contrary to the way you wanted to it would be announced and there would be a period of time. If I voted, if I somehow abuse my power, for it to be corrected.

1:26:50 Rep. Rodney Davis (IL): Also gives unprecedented power to just the Chairperson of House Administration. Doesn't say she has to consult with me, the ranking member when determining what type of technology to choose and implement before putting forth remote voting on the house floor. Remote voting is much different than proxy voting that allows somebody to sit at home and cast a vote. And yes, there's technology Mr. Chair that could allow that to happen. But in the end, why do we have one person in the majority party determining what technology to use.

1:35:40 Rep. Norma Torres (CA): I have a pre existing condition and when I got on the plane yesterday, I was scared to death. There were people in the screening area of the TSA process that were much too close for my own comfort. And I have made a commitment to my staff to my family that if that plane was more than 70% occupied and there were people, you know, stepping over each other that I would immediately get off of it before taking off cause I am not willing to risk my life for this.

1:49:15 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): One of the problems we have today is that although people conceptually raise the pandemic that had happened in 1918, could happen again, it was conceptual. And as a result, we were not prepared. Here it is actual. That's why you're sitting with a mask, why I'm sitting with a mask. Why we're distancing, we're in this large room, as the chairman pointed out, where small room would have accommodated the Rules Committee and the witnesses. It is here. It's not conceptual, it's not theoretical. We had 9-11, now had 9-11 knocked out the entire air traffic system, it would have been actual because people would not have been able to get here except drive maybe five days or three days from the west coast.

1:5330* Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): Proposing that we take a baby step, that we'd go with a low tech approach first and as we feel more comfortable, we can evolve. This may shock you, Mr. Woodall, but there are some members of the House who still have flip phones. There are some members of this chamber who are more technologically comfortable than others. There are some members of this house who think bifocals are a radical idea. So I mean, the bottom line is we are trying to deal with the situation in a way that we feel that there's a comfort level and as people get more comfortable, we can then look at other other things.

1:55:05 Rep. Rob Woodall (GA): And it says specifically a member casting a vote or recording the presence of another member as a designated proxy under this resolution shall cast such vote or record such presence pursuant to the exact instruction received from the other member. Now, when Mr. Davis's name is called and I'm holding his proxy, and I speak out and vote, in a way contrary to the Davis instruction, because things do come up on the on the fly and not everything can be consulted with, what is the procedure for resolving that? Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): The theory, not the theory, but I think the the letter of the rule that's being proposed is, if you did not get instructions, you could not vote that proxy. Rep. Rob Woodall (GA): I'm going the other direction. I did receive instructions and I'm voting against those instructions, just like in the electoral college where folks have received instructions to vote for President Trump, but they don't. What is my recourse? As a Member, again most solemn responsibility we have as members is is voting on the House floor. What is my recourse? Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): 'Madam Clerk, he cast my vote incorrectly.' You can email, you can text, you can call. There's so many different methods of technology.

1:56:30 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): My own view, I will tell you honestly, is that the best way for me to convey my vote is to look into my phone on FaceTime, and say I vote aye or nay, I don't think, I personally don't believe this is a security question.

1:57:10 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): If you are assuming if you're trying to assert that Mr. Horry(?) would deliberately try to take your vote and use it in a bad way, and that's a question of privilege, and you would have the opportunity to be able to correct it, so hopefully if you're participating remotely, you are following what is going on. You will hear your name announced you will hear how you voted. And if you call him Mr. Horry(?) doesn't want to change your vote and it's a question of privilege, and you have the right to be able to change it that way.

1:57:10 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): If you are assuming if you're trying to assert that Mr. Hoyer would deliberately try to take your vote and use it in a bad way, and that's a question of privilege, and you would have the opportunity to be able to correct it, so hopefully if you're participating remotely, you are following what is going on. You will hear your name announced, you will hear how you voted. And if you call him, Mr. Hoyer doesn't want to change your vote and it's a question of privilege, and you have the right to be able to change it that way.

2:05:20 Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): Why are we acting quickly? Because the experts tell us and some people believe the experts that this may regenerate itself in September, we may have a flattening. But until frankly, we get a vaccine or a therapeutic that very substantially minimizes the consequences of COVID-19. We're going to have a problem. And if it raises, again, its ugly head in September, we ought to be ready for September is going to be a very busy month for us. And we don't have a lot, it's an election year, so we're going to be off in October, etc, etc. So now is the time that you say we move quickly, we did move quickly, because we need to anticipate we would we all hope this gets better. We all hope we get a vaccine we all hope we get a therapeutic. But if it doesn't, we need to be ready to make sure that Congress is empowered to act on behalf of the American people and to conduct oversight.

2:13:55 Rep. Earl Perlmutter (CO): But we cannot have government come to a grinding halt. In a pandemic, where our own Attending Physician or our public health experts at home or the public health experts here in DC say you guys shouldn't get together because you could drag the disease from Denver to DC or you could take the disease from DC back to Denver. And that's the last thing I want to do.

2:18:00 Rep. Earl Perlmutter (CO): Mr. Hoyer, I understand that this rule terminates at some... This is a temporary rule, is it not? Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): The life of the Congress, and 45 days in the sense of it has to be recertified. That the cause of the rules being implemented was still present. Rep. Earl Perlmutter (CO): Right, for the rule to be called upon. It has to be the Sergeant at Arms, the Attending Physician and The Speaker. And then it lasts for 45 days, at least the proxy voting and the different things called for in the rule.

2:23:40 Rep. Rodney Davis (IL): We do not oppose, as Republicans, and you can see in the plan that was submitted for the record. We do not oppose remote hearings. We do not oppose utilizing technology.

2:25:05 Rep. Rodney Davis (IL): I do want to clarify some things. Yes, the United States Senate does have a proxy process. But that proxy process, unlike the rule that's being debated today, does not ever allow a proxy vote on the House on the Senate floor. That's something that this rule will allow for today.

2:25:50 Rep. Rodney Davis (IL): That this Congress has not stopped working. This Congress, just a few short weeks ago, had 300 members that came out here. I do understand and I share the concerns of my colleagues in this room about staff, which is why we worked in a bipartisan way before this crisis, to get equipment to every office, so that every office was ready in case they needed to telework, and they did.

3:18:25 Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL): We're living in a house where the work product is coming from the very top and being thrown upon the rest of us, and we're abdicating our responsibility to legislate. If we're honest with ourselves, I believe no one would challenge me when I say the rights and individual prerogatives of the members of the House had been steadily shrinking for decades. It was true when the chairman eloquently made this point when he was the ranking member of this committee, and it's just as true today. Too much power has been taken away from individual members and committees of jurisdiction and transferred to the office of the speaker. With all due respect, this proposal today reinforces what is fast becoming a complete transfer the power of the institution to the speaker.

3:22:55 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): But understand what's in this proposal. One member can have 10 proxies you know what that means? 22 members with 10 proxies in their back pocket can conduct the business of the American people. 22 - 5% of the United States House of Representatives.

3:56:20 Rep. Michael Burgess (TX): As I read the rule that we're considering today, yes, there's a time limit on the denotation, that this is an emergency and all of this is triggered. But there's an extension available. And that extension is arrived at by the speaker in consultation with the Sergeant at Arms and Attending Physician, two individuals that I hold in very high regard, but they're not constitutional offices. So we're putting some power in the hands of some people that are really not accountable to the people and this being the people's House. That seems to me to be counter to what we should be about. Do either of you have a thought on that? Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL): Well, I think he said it correctly. Rules that we're operating in this house right now will all go out on January 3 at noon, when the new Congress comes in. But between now and then, that can be this perpetual, running 40 five day extension of this all the way up into the very end. And there's no check on that. I mean, it's up to the speaker. And one person and other speakers of important position in the house. But one person can let this thing just roll over and over and over to the end of the Congress.

4:00:45 Rep. Jim McGovern (MA): The alternative to this is to rely on the republican standing rule, which is, well, you could literally redefine a quorum as two people. And again, my friends here, many of them supported it. I did not at the time, but that is what the standing rule is right now that my friends passed post 911 and I think that is unacceptable.

4:09:50 Rep. Joseph Morelle (NY): We'll note though 45 days is the is the amount indicated, but it also suggests on page three, that even during any - whether it's the original 45 day or an additional 45 days is the covered period. The speaker the designee receives further notification from the sergeant of arms in consultation with the attending physician, that the public health emergency due to the Coronavirus is no longer in effect, the speaker shall terminate the covered period. It's not as though the speaker can't - it doesn't say may, it says shall. So, immediately upon so of the speaker, as I read the rule, the speaker says on on May 1, we have a pandemic I've been advised by the sergeant of arms in consultation with the attending physician to put this temporary rule in place. And then two weeks later before the 45 days has terminated. If you receive if the speaker receives another certification or notification in the sergeant of arms that the emergency no longer exists, it is terminated shall terminate, so it wouldn't 45 days in length.

4:02:35 Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Mr. Cole posed an interesting question to the panel about whether all of you concurred that you think that the proposed rule here is unconstitutional. And each one of you in Syria them repeated the idea that you thought it was unconstitutional. Now, Mr. Bern, as candidly volunteered that the current rule adopted by a Republican Congress is unconstitutional, which would allow two members to constitute a quorum. Mr. Jordan, what about you? Do you agree the current rule is unconstitutional. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): As the gentleman well knows, my colleagues in the Freedom Caucus have come to the floor and objected to unanimous consent to pass certain legislation. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): You agree you agree with me? Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): We've always had a problem with that? Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Do you agree...just a yes or no question. Do you agree with Mr. Byrne, it's unconstitutional? Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): Yeah, I don't like the rule that we've been very clear about that. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): You agree? it's unconstitutional. Okay. Is that right? Okay, Mr. Bern, you presumably still agree that it's unconstitutional? Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL): Yes, sir. Okay, if you're gonna be consistent, you have to follow what the Constitution requires. And what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I try to be consistent. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Mr. Bishop, do you believe the current rule is unconstitutional, adopted under the Republican Congress? Rep. Dan Bishop (NC): I've examined it carefully, but I find Mr. Byrne's comments and those that have been made by the Chairman on the point persuasive, it probably is unconstitutional. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Okay.


Video: Congress: Trading stock on inside information?, 60 Minutes, 2011

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)

Jul 13, 2020
Thank You COVID-Move
01:41:42

Jen just moved to Southern California to join her family in a COVID-safe life pod. In this bonus "thank you" episode, she updates you on how moving went during a pandemic spiced with nationwide protests, and the producers of the show are thanked for keeping Congressional Dish alive. Conversation topics include avoiding fame, some disturbing truths about doctors, bayonets, barking dogs, and, of course, Chipotle.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!


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)

Jul 03, 2020
CD216: Dingleberries Against Police Brutality
01:23:09

In response to the horrific murder of George Floyd and the worldwide protests against police brutality that followed, the House Democrats wrote the Justice in Policing Act. The provisions in this bill are our best chance for real change in the 116th Congress. In this episode, we see how the bill would limit military equipment being transferred to cops, create a nationwide public database for information about cops and police departments, and limit the qualified immunity that allows cops to use violence with impunity. We also look at The Dingleberry Method, which is the best play for Democrats to use if they want any of this to become law.


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Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD192: Democracy Upgrade Stalled

CD200: How to End Legal Bribes


Bill Outline


Justice in Policing Act of 2020


TITLE I: POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

Subtitle A - Holding Police Accountable in the Courts

Sec. 101: Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

  • Makes it a crime for someone enforcing a law to “knowingly or with reckless disregard” deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitutions, instead of “willingly” deprive a person their rights.

Sec. 102: Qualified Immunity Reform

  • Local law enforcement officers and prison guards will not be given immunity if they say they were acting in “good faith” or that they believed their conduct was lawful.

Sec. 103: Pattern and Practice Investigations

  • Gives the Attorney General optional subpoena authority and authorizes (but does not appropriate) $300,000 for grants to help states conduct investigations for the next three years

Sec. 104: Independent Investigations

  • The attorney general to give grants to states to help them conduct independent investigations of law enforcement. Authorizes (but does not appropriate) $2.25 billion

Subtitle B - Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act

Sec. 113: Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies

  • Orders the Attorney General to do a review and recommend additional standards that are supposed to result in greater accountability of law-enforcement agencies.

Sec. 114: Law Enforcement Grants

  • Gives the Attorney General the option to provide grants to Community organizations to study law-enforcement standards.

Sec. 115: Attorney General to Conduct Study

  • Orders the attorney general to do a study on the ability of law-enforcement officers to dodge investigative questions.

Sec. 116: Authorization of Appropriations

  • Authorizes (but does not appropriate) about $28 million.

Sec. 117: National Task Force on Law Enforcement Oversight

  • Creates a task force staffed by the Attorney General to process complaints of law enforcement misconduct. Authorizes (but does not appropriate) $5 million per year

Sec. 118: Federal Data Collection on Law Enforcement Practices

  • Each federal, state, and local law enforcement agency would have to report a breakdown of the numbers of traffic stops, pedestrian stops, , And uses of deadly force by race, ethnicity, age, and gender of the officers and the the members of the public to the Attorney General. States that do not submit the reports would not be given money from the Department of Justice.

TITLE II: POLICING TRANSPARENCY THROUGH DATA

Subtitle A - National Police Misconduct Registry

Sec. 201: Establishment of National Police Misconduct Registry

  • Six months after enactment, the Atty. Gen. would have to create a database containing each complaint filed against the law enforcement officer, termination records, certifications, in records of lawsuits and settlements made against the officer.
  • The registry would be available to the public

Sec. 202: Certification Requirements for Hiring of Law Enforcement Officers

  • Withholds money from a state or jurisdiction if all officers have not completed certification requirements.

Subtitle B - PRIDE Act

Sec. 223: Use of Force Reporting

  • Requires states to report to the Attorney General, on a quarterly basis, information about law enforcement officers who shoot civilians, civilians who shoot law-enforcement officers, any incident involving the death or arrest of a law-enforcement officer, deaths in custody, and arrests and bookings.
  • The reports must contain information about the national origin, sex, race, ethnicity, age, disability, English language proficiency, and housing status of each civilian against whom a local law enforcement officer used force.
  • Reports must also include the location of the incident, whether the civilian was armed and with what kind of weapon, the type of force used, the reason force was used, a description of any injuries sustained as a result of the incident, the number of officers involved, the number of civilians involved, a description of the circumstances, efforts by local law-enforcement to de-escalate the situation, or the reason why efforts to de-escalate were not attempted.
  • The Attorney General would have to make this information public once per year in a report.

TITLE III: IMPROVING POLICE TRAINING AND POLICIES

Subtitle A - End Racial and Religious Profiling Act

Sec. 311: Prohibition

  • “No law-enforcement agent or law enforcement agency shall engage in racial profiling."
    • Racial profiling is defined as relying, to any degree, on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation in selecting which individual to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities.

Sec. 312: Enforcement

  • Allows victims of racial profiling to sue in civil courts, either in the state for in a district court of the United States.

Subtitle B - Additional Reforms

Sec. 361: Training on Racial Bias and Duty to Intervene

  • The attorney general has to establish a training program to cover racial profiling, implicit bias, and procedural justice. The training program must exhibit a clear duty for federal law-enforcement officers to intervene in cases where another law-enforcement officer is using excessive force against a civilian.

Sec. 362: Ban on No-Knock Warrants in Drug Cases

  • Search warrants authorized for drug cases would have to require that the law-enforcement officer provide notice of his or her authority and purpose.

Sec. 363: Incentivizing Banning of Chokeholds and Carotid Holds

  • States will not receive funding from the Department of Justice unless the state has enacted a law prohibiting officers in the State or jurisdiction from using a chokehold or carotid hold.
  • Chokeholds would be classified as civil rights violations

Sec. 364: PEACE Act

  • “Less lethal” force can be used if it’s “necessary and proportional” in order to arrest a person “who the officer has probably cause to believe has committed a criminal offense” and if “reasonable alternatives to the use of the form of less lethal force have been exhausted”
  • Deadly force can only be used “as a last resort” to “prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death to the officer or another person”, and if the use of deadly force creates no “substantial risk of injury to a third person”, and if “reasonable alternatives tot he use of the form of deadly fore have been exhausted”
  • Officers have to give people a verbal warning that they are a law enforcement officer and that they “will use force against the person if the person resists arrest or flees”

Sec. 365: Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act

  • Prohibits the 1033 Program from transferring military equipment to domestic law enforcement for “counter drug” and “border security activities” but they can continue to get equipment for “counterterrorism”
  • Would require the police departments to submit to the Defense Department a description of how they intend to use the military equipment, the department would have to publish a notice on their website and “at several prominent locations in the jurisdiction" that they are requesting the military equipment, and have the notices available for 30 days, and that the department has approval to receive the equipment by the city council.
  • Reports on where the equipment goes must be submitted to Congress
  • Prohibits the transfer of controlled firearms, ammunition, bayonets, grenade launchers, grenades (including flash bangs), explosives, controlled vehicles, MRAPs, trucks, drones, combat aircraft, silencers, and long range acoustic devices.
  • The department would be required to return the equipment if they are investigated by the Justice Department or found to have engaged in widespread civil rights abuses
  • Police departments “may never take ownership” of controlled property
  • Applies only to equipment transferred in the future.

Subtitle C - Law Enforcement Body Cameras

Sec. 372: Requirements for Federal Uniformed Officers

  • Regarding the Use of Body Cameras Requires uniformed officers with the authority to conduce searches and make arrests to wear a body camera.
  • The body camera - vide and audio - must be activated whenever a uniformed officer is responding to a call for service or during any other law enforcement encounter with a member of the public, except if an immediate threat to the officer’s life or safety makes turning the camera on impossible.
  • Officers must notify members of the public that they are wearing a body camera
  • When entering someone’s home or speaking to a victim, the officer must ask if the resident or victim wants the camera turned off and turn it off if requested, if they are not executing a search warrant.
  • Body cameras can not be equipped with real time facial recognition technology
  • Facial recognition technology can be used with the footage with a warrant
  • Body cameras can’t be used to gather intelligence on protected speech, associations, or relations.
  • Body cameras are not required when the officer is speaking to a confidential informant or when recording poses a risk to national security.
  • Body cameras are not allowed to be turned on when an officer is on a school campus unless he/she is responding to an imminent threat of life or health
  • Footage must be retained for 6 months and then permanently deleted
  • Citizens and their lawyers and the families of deceased citizens have the right to inspect body camera footage related to their cases
  • Body camera footage related to a use of force or a civilian complaint must be kept for at least 3 years Redactions can be used
  • Body camera footage retained longer than 6 months is inadmissible in court
  • If an officer interferes or turns off a recording, “appropriate disciplinary action shall be taken” and the interference can be used as evidence in court.

Sec. 373: Patrol Vehicles with In-Car Video Recording Cameras

  • In car video camera recording equipment must record whenever an officer is on patrol duty, conducting an enforcement stop, patrol lights are activated, if the officer thinks the recording could help with a prosecution, and when an arrestee is being transported.
  • Recordings must be retained for 90 days.

Sec. 374: Facial Recognition Technology

  • In car video cameras can not be equipped with facial recognition technology

TITLE IV - JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF LYNCHING ACT

Sec. 403: Lynching

  • Co-conspirators to a lynching can be sentenced to 10 years in prison

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Hearing: Oversight Hearing on Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability, House Judiciary Committee, June 10, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

  • Art Acevedo: President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association
  • Paul Butler: Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School
  • Vanita Gupta: President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Sherrilyn Ifill: President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
  • Marc Morial: President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League
  • Ben Crump: President and Founder of Ben Crump Trial Lawyer for Justice (lawyer for the family of George Floyd)
Transcript:

C-SPAN: Part 1

34:15 Vanita Gupta: My tenure as head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division began two months after 18 year old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson. The Justice Department was hardly perfect, but we understood our mandate: to promote accountability and constitutional policing in order to build community trust. During the Obama administration, we opened 25 pattern-or-practice investigations to help realize greater structural and community centered change, often at the request of police chiefs and mayor's who needed federal leadership. After making findings, we negotiated consent decrees with extensive engagement and input from community advocates, who not only identified unjust and unlawful policing practices, but also helped develop sustainable mechanisms for accountability and systemic change. That is not the Justice Department that we have today. Under both Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, the department has abdicated its responsibility and abandoned the use of tools like pattern-or-practice investigations and consent decrees. Instead it is focused on dismantling police accountability efforts and halting any new investigations. The disruption of crucial work in the Civil Rights Division and throughout the Department of Justice to bring forth accountability and transparency in policing is deeply concerning. In the absence of federal leadership, the Leadership Conference Education Fund launched the new era of public safety initiative, a comprehensive guide and toolkit outlining proposals to build trust between communities and police departments, restore confidence and imagine a new paradigm of public safety. While much of these changes must happen at the state and local level, success is going to require the leadership support and commitment of the federal government including Congress. Last week, the leadership conference and more than 400 civil rights organizations sent a letter to Congress to move us forward on a path of true accountability. The recommendations included the following: One, create a national necessary standard on the use of force. Two, prohibit racial profiling, including robust data collection. Three, ban the use of chokeholds and other restraint maneuvers. Four, end the militarization of policing. Five, prohibit the use of no knock warrants, especially in drug cases. Six, strengthen federal accountability systems and increase the Justice Department's authority to prosecute officers that engage in misconduct. Seven create a national police misconduct registry. And eight, end qualified immunity. The Leadership Conference was pleased to learn that the Justice in Policing Act introduced Monday by both members of the House of Representatives and the Senate reflects much of this accountability framework. This is Congress's most comprehensive effort in decades to substantially address police misconduct by taking on issues critical issues affecting black and brown communities.

1:02:00 Sherrilyn Ifill: One of the key parts of the system of impunity has been qualified immunity defense that shields officials from the unforeseeable consequences of their act but has been interpreted by courts so ***extensively that it now provides near immunity for police officers who engage and unconstitutional acts of violence.

1:02:45 Sherrilyn Ifill: The Justice and policing act seeks to address qualified immunity by amending the civil rights statute used most in police excessive use of force cases. 42 USC section 1983 and we welcome this amendment. We want it to apply to all civil suits that are pending or filed after enactment of the Act. And we'll continue to work towards the elimination of qualified immunity.

1:24:10 Ben Crump: The only reason we know what happened to George Floyd is because it was captured on video. The advent of video evidence is bringing into the light what long was hidden. It's revealing what black Americans have known for a long, long time - that it is dangerous for a black person to have an encounter with a police officer. Given the incidents that have led to this moment in time, it should be mandatory for police officers to wear body cams and should be considered obstruction of justice to turn them off. Like a black box data recorded in an airplane body cams replace competing narratives with a single narrative, the truth with what we see with our own eyes.

C-SPAN: Part 2

3:00 Vanita Gupta: I will tell you there's actually significant law enforcement support for this kind of registry. And prosecutors around the country have asked for this kind of registry. But chiefs in particular have said that this is a real problem when they don't have this kind of information when they're making hiring decisions.

14:00 Sherrilyn Ifill: The principal problems that we have found in this long standing systemic issue of police violence against unarmed African Americans is the inability to hold officers who engage in misconduct accountable. Now, this is not just about the individual officer who some refer to as a bad apple. This is about a system of accountability that must exist if police officers are to understand that they cannot engage in certain kinds of conduct without impunity. And unfortunately, all of the legal tools that are available to us to hold officers accountable, have been weakened or lacked the sufficient strength and language to allow us to do so. So strengthening the language of the federal criminal statute that will not hold us to such a high standard and proving intent of the officers conduct is critical. And so adding a recklessness provision into that language that will allow us to get at some of this officer misconduct is vitally important.

45:00 Rep. Hank Johnson (GA): Mayor Morial, throughout recent times, we've seen repeated instances where black people often unarmed have been killed by a police officer. And if the death results in a use of force investigation, that investigation most often is conducted by the law enforcement agency that employs the officer who used the deadly force. Isn't that correct? Marc Morial: That's traditionally the way it works. Rep. Hank Johnson (GA): And Professor Butler we've also witnessed these use of force investigations being overseen by the local district attorney who works hand in hand, day after day, year after year, with the same officer and with the agency that employs the officer who used the deadly force in the case that's under investigation. Isn't that correct? And attorney Crump we've seen time and time again that the investigation becomes long and drawn out. And at some point, months or even years later, the local Prosecutor takes that case before a secret grand jury. And out of that grand jury usually comes what's called a no bill, which is a refusal to indict the officer who committed the homicide. Isn't that correct? Ben Crump: Yes, sir congressman Johnson. Rep. Hank Johnson (GA): And Professor Butler because grand jury proceeding's a secret, the public never learns exactly what the prosecutor presented to the grand jury. Isn't that correct? Paul Butler: Just like the grand jury proceeding in Staten Island with Eric Garner, who was placed in an illegal chokehold. We have no idea why that grand jury didn't indict that officer for murder. Rep. Hank Johnson (GA): It becomes just another justified killing of a black person by the police in America. Wouldn't it be fairer if the homicide investigation were undertaken by an Independent Police Agency, Attorney Gupta? Vanita Gupta: I think it would. It would also give the community members are much more faith in their legal system if there was an independent investigator in these kinds of cases.

1:41:30 Rep. Tom McClintock (CA): I think there are many proposals that have been raised in the house that merit support. And first is the doctrine of qualified immunity as it's currently applied. It has no place in a nation ruled by laws. For every right, there must be a remedy. And qualified immunity prevents a remedy for those whose rights have been violated by officials holding a public trust. And this reform should apply as much to a rogue cop who targets people because of their race, as it does to IRS or Justice Department officials and target people on the basis of their politics.

1:42:15 Rep.Tom McClintock (CA): Police records must be open to the public. It is a well established principle that public servants work for the public. And the public has a right to know what they're doing with the authority the public has loaned them. And police departments should be able to dismiss bad officers without interference from the unions.

1:42:45 Rep.Tom McClintock (CA): Turning police departments into paramilitary organizations is antithetical to the sixth principle laid down by Peel. Quote, "To use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective." Weapons that are unique to a battlefield need to be limited to a battlefield.

1:43:15 Rep.Tom McClintock (CA): No knock warrants have been proven to be lethal to citizens and to police officials for obvious reasons. The invasion of a person's home is one of the most terrifying powers the government possesses. Every person in a free society has the right to take arms against an intruder in their homes. And that means that the authority as a police must be announced before that intrusion takes place. To do otherwise places every one of us in mortal peril.

2:00:45 Vanita Gupta: I think right now there is a hunger in the streets and in communities around the country to recognize that people want other options in their communities other than to call 911 and have a police officer come at the door when people are in mental health crisis, for homelessness issues and school discipline issues. And they want to - and I've heard this from police chiefs. The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a very powerful statement two days ago, recognizing the systematic decades of underinvestment in the kinds of social systems in housing and homelessness and education, and how that's all been placed at the feet of police officers. This needs to be a holistic evaluation of what spending priorities have been in communities that have been saturated with a criminal justice response, but under invested with resources for education and jobs, and the like.

2:39:00 Rep. Greg Stube (FL): But there are proposals in this bill that are extremely dangerous for those who protect our communities. Removing qualified immunity is only... Qualified immunity is only a protection if officers follow their training and protocols. If they don't follow the training and protocols, they don't get to use the immunity because it's qualified. If officers don't have qualified immunity to follow the training and protocols. I don't know a single person who would want to become a law enforcement officer in today's world, knowing that they may or may not be able to use the training and protocols that they were used to be able to apprehend a suspect who is not complying with them. But maybe that's the goal of the majority to get less and less people to join our law enforcement offices.

2:59:00 Vanita Gupta: Justice Department currently only has one law that they can use to prosecute police misconduct. And as you said, it has the highest mens rea requirement there is in criminal law requiring not only that prosecutors prove that the officer used unreasonable force, but actually also that the officer knew that what he or she was doing was in violation of the law and did it anyway, that is actually a very high burden. And so for years, there have been case after case that the Justice Department has been unable to reach it because of how high this burden is. There are many criminal civil rights prosecutors that for years have also wanted the change that is being proposed in the Justice in Policing Act, because I think it would enhance the Justice Department's credibility in these matters to be able to hold officers who violate federal civil rights laws accountable. And so this Justice in Policing Act asks it change the mens rea standard to knowingly or with reckless disregard, to slightly lower standards so more cases will be charged. It also really importantly broadens the language of the federal civil rights statute by including in its definition of a death resulting from an officers action, any act that was a substantial factor contributing to death. And I know many, many former US Attorneys that are eager to see this change as well.

3:07:00 Vanita Gupta: It is a real shame that in 2020, we still do not have adequate data collection on use of force in this country. We've had to rely for several years on journalists to putting this stuff together at the Washington Post and at The Guardian. The FBI has started to try to more systematically collected it, but this bill, the justice in policing act actually includes a requirement for states to report use of force data to the Justice Department, including the reason that force was used. Technical Assistance Grants are established in this bill to assist agencies that have fewer than 100 employees with compliance. That was often the reason that that police agencies were not reporting on this, but it also requires the Attorney Generals to collect data on traffic stops, searches, uses of deadly force by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and to disaggregate that data by race, ethnicity and gender.

3:26:00 Vanita Gupta: This national registry would have misconduct complaints. It would have discipline termination records, it would have records of certification. It contains conditioning for money for funds from so that agencies actually have to put in inputs before they can access federal money, but it is high time for this to happen.

3:39:20 Vanita Gupta: The Trump DOJ has essentially abandoned and abdicated a mandate that was given by Congress in 1994 to investigate patterns and practices of unconscious, systemic, unconstitutional policing and police departments around the country. Since the administration began, there has been the opening only of one on a very tiny issue at the police department out of Springfield, Massachusetts, compared to 25 in the Obama administration, and many others in Republican and Democratic administrations prior to that. And so what that has meant is that the tool of these investigations, the tool of the consent decrees has just been lying dormant. Typically, when I oversaw the Civil Rights Division, we had mayors and police chiefs that really, in numerous instances, were actually asking the Justice Department to come in because they needed federal help in very bad situations. And so, jurisdictions have not been able to rely anymore on the Justice Department to support these kinds of efforts. And I think this bill, Justice in Policing does a lot to strengthen the Civil Rights Division's authority, giving it subpoena power, giving it resources. It also gives State Attorneys General the ability to do these patterns and practices where they have already state laws that allow them to do it as well. And that's, of course in this moment, with a justice department that is very disengaged from these issues. An important...


Hearing: Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement, United States Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 9, 2014

Watch on C-SPAN

Witnesses:

  • Alan Estevez - Principal Deputy Defense Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics
  • Brian Kamoie - FEMA Grant Programs Assistant Administrator
  • Peter Kraska - Professor at the School of Justice at University of Eastern Kentucky
  • Mark Lomax - National Tactical Officers Association Executive Directior
Transcript:

26:00 Alan Estevez: More than 8,000 federal and state law enforcement agencies actively participate in the program across 49 states in three US territories. More than $5.1 billion of property has been provided since 1990.

26:15 Alan Estevez: A key element in both the structure and execution of the program is the state coordinator, who is appointed by the respective state governor. State coordinators approve law enforcement agencies within their state to participate in the program, review all requests for property submitted by those agencies along with the statement of intended use. Working through state coordinators. Law enforcement agencies determine their need for different types of equipment and they determine how it's used. The Department of Defense does not have the expertise and police force functions and cannot assess how equipment is used in the mission of individual law enforcement agencies.

27:14 Alan Estevez: Law enforcement agencies currently possess approximately 460,000 pieces of controlled property that they have received over time.

27:20 Alan Estevez: Examples of control property include over 92,000 small alarms 44,000 night vision devices 5200 High Mobility Multi Purpose wheeled vehicles or Humvees and 617 mine resistant ambush protected vehicles or MRAPs. The department does not provide tanks, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, crew served weapons or uniforms.

28:20 Alan Estevez: During the height of Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey, police drove cargo trucks and three Humvees through water too deep for commercial vehicles to save 64 people. In Wisconsin, Green Bay police used donated computers for forensic investigations. During a 2013 flood in Louisiana, Livingston parish police used six Humvees to rescue 137 people. In Texas armored vehicles received through program protected police officers during a standoff and shootout with gang members.

30:35 Brian Kamoie: The department's preparedness grant programs assist communities across the nation to build and sustain critical capabilities to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond to and recover from acts of terrorism and other catastrophic events.

33:00 Brian Kamoie: Grant recipients must purchase equipment listed on the department's authorized equipment list, which outlines 21 categories of allowable equipment. The department prohibits the use of grant funds for the purchase of lethal or non lethal weapons and ammunition. These equipment categories are not on the authorized equipment list. Homeland Security grant funds may be used to purchase equipment that can be classified as personal protective equipment, such as ballistics protection equipment, helmets, body armor, and ear and eye protection. Response vehicles such as BearCats are also allowed. The Homeland Security Act allows equipment purchased with grant funds, including personal protective equipment to be used for purposes unrelated to terrorism. So long as one purpose of the equipment is to build and sustain terrorism based capabilities.

33:46 Brian Kamoie: The authorized equipment list also notes that ballistic personal protective equipment purchased with grant funds is not for riot suppression.

40:10 Alan Estevez: When it's no longer needed, we make it available not just cross levels across the Department of Defense first, and law enforcement by congressional authorization as dibs early in that process before it goes out to state agencies. And not all the equipment that's provided to law enforcement is available to everyone else.

40:45 Alan Estevez: Again, it's not for the department to really judge how law enforcement's...that's not our expertise. We rely on the state coordinators, appointed by the governor of each of those states who vet incoming requests from their local law enforcement agencies.

48:00 Coburn: How do you all determine what Federal Supply classes are available to be transferred? Alan Estevez: That is done basically by our item managers who... Coburn: I know, but tell me how do they decide MRAPs appropriate for community of my hometown, 35,000 people. Alan Estevez: that is done by the state coordinate... Coburn: I understand that but how did you ever decide that an MRAP is an appropriate vehicle for for local police forces? Alan Estevez: We know an MRAP is a truck senator with Coburn: No it is not a truck. It's a 48,000...offensive weapon. Alan Estevez: It's a very, very, very heavy...it is not an offensive weapon, Senator. Coburn: It can be used as an offensive weapon. Alan Estevez: When we give an MRAP, it is stripped of all its electronic warfare capability. It does not have a 50 caliber weapon on it. It is not an offensive weapon, is a protective vehicle.

49:15 Coburn: How do we ever get to the point where we think states need MRAPs. How did that process come about? Alan Estevez: Now this is one of the areas that we're obviously going to look at senator. How we decided what equipment is available. I mean, obviously we've made some big decisions, fighter aircraft tanks, strikers, those type of things are not available. Sniper Rifles - not available. Grenade launchers - not available. Coburn: Drones are available. Alan Estevez: No. Coburn: Airplanes are available. Alan Estevez: Airplanes are available. Cargo helicopters. Helicopters, not Apaches. Okay. Coburn: But but really you you can't tell us today how we make those decisions of what goes on the list and off the list. Alan Estevez: It's basically a common sense decision inside the department and then we do as I keep saying go back to the states.

50:15 Coburn: When something is removed from the list, and I don't know if you have any recent experience with this, are agencies are required to return the restricted equipment. Alan Estevez: That's why we retain title for what we call controlled equipment so that we can pull that equipment.

57:00 Alan Estevez: So as force structural changes, as our budget changes, things that we thought we would need, were are no longer needed. Or things that we bought for the war. And I'm not not talking about tactical rifles and like I'm talking about basic medical kits, that type of stuff may no longer be needed as we draw down force structure based on changing environment on the ground. PCA changes our force structure, things that we required will no longer be needed as that force structure changes. That's the basic reason.

58:30 Senator McCaskill: The Lake Angeles Police Department in Michigan, you gave them 13 military assault weapons since 2011. They have one full time sworn officer. So one officer now has 13 military grade assault weapons in their police department. How in the world can anyone say that this program has a one lick of oversight if those two things are in existence? Alan Estevez: I'll have to look into the details on each of those. The rule of thumb is one MRAP validated by the state coordinator for a police department that requests an MRAP no more than one. So I'd have to look at the incident in Senator Coburn's state. And same thing with rifles...weapons. Senator McCaskill: I will make part of the record the list we have a long list of law enforcement agencies that received three times as many 5.56 and 7.62 military grade weapons per for full time officer and this is a long list.

1:05:00 Senator Johnson: This program, which has apparently provided about $5.1 billion of free equipment since 1997. It's all been free, correct? Alan Estevez: Yes. It's not free to the taxpayer. We bought it used it on... Senator Johnson: Free to local governments, correct? Alan Estevez: That's correct. Senator Johnson: Free local to police departments. Alan Estevez: Yes, sir, Senator. Senator Johnson: Do you know if too many police farms return free things down? Alan Estevez:Again, I'm not in the position of a local police department, but if something was available, and they thought they needed it, because they have to sustain this equipment, if they thought they needed it, and it was useful to them. Why not?

1:23:15 Rand Paul: In FEMAs authorized equipment lists, there's actually written descriptions for how the equipment should be used. And it says it's specifically not supposed to be used for riot suppression. Mr. Kamoie? Is that true that it's not supposed to be used for Riot suppression? And how do you plan in policing that since the images show us clearly, large pieces of equipment that were bought with your grants being used in that Riot suppression? Protest suppression, rather. Brian Kamoie: Senator Paul, that is accurate. The categories of personal protective equipment that include helmets, ear and eye protection, ballistics personal protective equipment, is a prohibition in the authorized equipment list that is not to be used for riot suppression. Rand Paul: And what will you do about it? Brian Kamoie: We're going to follow the lead of the Department of Justice's investigation about the facts. We're going to work for the state of Missouri to determine what pieces of equipment were grant funded, and then we have a range of remedies available to us. Should there be any finding of non compliance with those requirements. Those include everything from corrective action plans to ensure it doesn't happen again. recoupment of funds. So we'll look very closely at the facts. But we're going to allow the investigation to run its course and determine what the appropriate remedy is.

1:25:20 Rand Paul: Mr. Estavez in the NPR investigation of the 1033 program, they list that 12,000 bayonets have been given out. What purpose are bayonets being given out for? Alan Estevez: Senator, bayonets are available under the program. I can't answer what a local police force would need a bayonet for. Rand Paul: I can give you an answer. None. So what's the what's President Obama's administration's position on handing out bayonets to the police force? It's on your list. You guys create the list. You're going to take it off the list. We're going to keep doing it. Alan Estevez: We are going to look at what we are providing under the administration's review of all these programs. Rand Paul: So it's unclear at this point whether President Obama approves of 12,000 bayonets being given out. I would think you can make that decision last week. Alan Estevez: I think we need to review all the equipment that we're providing Senator. And as I said, we the Department of Defense do not push any of this equipment on any police force. The states decide what they need.

1:26:00 Rand Paul: My understanding is that you have the ability to decide what equipment is given out and what equipments not given out. If you decided tomorrow, if President Obama decided tomorrow that mine resistant ambush protection 20 ton vehicles are not appropriate for cities in the United States. He could decide tomorrow to take it off the list. You could decide this tomorrow. My question is, what is the administration's opinion on giving out mine resistant ambush protection 20 ton vehicles to towns across America? Are you for it or against it? Alan Estevez: Obviously we do it senator we're going to look at that. I will also say that I can give you anecdotes for mine resistant ambush protected vehicles that protected police forces in shootouts. Rand Paul: But we've already been told they're only supposed to be used for terrorism, right? Isn't that what the rule is? Alan Estevez: Our rule is for counter-drug, which could have been the shootout I'd have to look at the incident. Counter-narcotics counter-terrorism.

1:28:00 Rand Paul: The militarization of police is something that has gotten so far out of control and we've allowed it to descend along with a not a great protection of our civil liberties as well. So we say we're going to do this, it's okay if it's for drugs. Well look at the instances of what have happened in recent times. The instance in Georgia just a couple of months ago, of an infant in a crib getting a percussion grenade thrown in through a window in a no knock raid. Turns out the infant obviously wasn't involved in the drug trade, but neither was even the infant's family - happened to have been the wrong place the wrong time. No one's even been indicted on this. So really, this is crazy out of control and giving military equipment and with a breakdown of the whole idea of due process of no knock raids and not having judges issue warrants anymore. You can see how this gets out of control and people are very, very concerned with what is going on here. And I see the response so far to be lackluster, and I hope you will do a more complete job in trying to fix this. Thank you.

1:32:20 Ayotte: Is there any coordination between the grants that homeland is giving in light of what the departments are receiving on the 1033 front? Brian Kamoie: We don't coordinate in the decision making about local law enforcement requests. The process that Mr. Estevez has laid out, we don't coordinate that at all.

1:51:40 Peter Kraska: The clear distinction between our civilian police and military is blurring in significant and consequential ways. The research I've been conducting since 1989 has documented quantitatively and qualitatively the steady and certain marks of U.S. civilian policing down the militarization continuum. Culturally, materially, operationally, and organizationally, despite massive efforts at democratizing police, under the guise of community policing reforms, the growth in militarized policing has been steep and deep. In the mid 1980s, a mere 30% of police agencies had a SWAT team. Today well over 80% of departments, large and small, have one. In the early 1980s, these these agencies conducted approximately 3,000 deployments a year nationwide. Today, I estimate a very conservative figure of 60,000 per year. And it is critical to recognize that these 60,000 deployments are mostly for conducting drug searches on people's private residences. This is not to imply that all police, nearly 20,000 unique departments across our great land, are heading in this direction. But the research evidence along with militarized tragedies in Modesto, Georgia, Ferguson and tens of thousands of other locations, demonstrates a troubling and highly consequential overall trend. What we saw played out in the Ferguson protests was the application of a very common mindset, style of uniform and appearance and weaponry used every day in the homes of private residences during SWAT raids. Some departments conduct as many as 500 SWAT team raids a year. And just as in the two examples above, and in the Ferguson situation, it is the poor and communities of color that are most impacted.

1:54:00 Peter Kraska: I mentioned that police militarization predates 911 this is not just an interesting historical fact it is critical because it illuminates the most important reason or causal factor in this unfortunate turn in American policing and American democracy. It is the following: our long running an intensely punitive self proclaimed war on crime and drugs. It is no coincidence that the skyrocketing number of police paramilitary deployments on American citizens since the early 1980s, coincides perfectly with the skyrocketing imprisonment numbers. We now have 2.4 million people incarcerated in this country, and almost 4% of the American public is now under direct correctional supervision. These wars have been devastating to minority communities and the marginalized and have resulted in a self perpetuating growth complex. Cutting off the supply of military weaponry to to our civilian public is the least we could do to begin the process of reining in police militarization and attempting to make clear the increasingly blurred distinction between the military and police. Please do not underestimate the gravity of this development. This is highly disturbing to most Americans on the left and the right.

1:57:30 Mark Lomax: The threat that firearms pose to law enforcement officers and the public during violent critical incidents has proven that armored rescue vehicles have become an essential as individually worn body armor or helmets in saving lives.

2:11:30 Peter Kraska: The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 had been in place untouched for quite a long time until the 1980s drug war. And it wasn't until the 1980s drug war it was actually the Reagan administration that wanted to completely repealed Posse Comitatus. But what instead happened is they just amended it significantly, to allow for cross training and weapons transference. And just as an aside, I don't want to make too much of an aside, but we also have to remember that the Department of Defense has been very actively involved in training local police departments as well, not just providing them equipment, but providing them training. I've got a great quote that if you, I'm not going to read it now, but if you asked me to read it, I will. that talks about even having navy seals and Army Rangers come to a local police department and teach them things. So it's not just weapons transference. The federal government has increasingly since 911 played a significant role in accelerating these trends towards militarization. And, you know, the extent to which the 1033 program, Department of Homeland Security funds, etc, have contributed to it. I would certainly call it significant. But I think we have to remember that the that the militarized culture have a component of policing, and it's just a component of policing. This isn't a unified phenomenon at all of police in the United States of America. Hell, we have a police department right next to us, Lexington PD, very smart, very wise. They don't do this kind of thing at all, and they would never do it. So the police in communities a bit split over this. And I don't want anybody to get the impression because of the experts we've heard that policing is all for this stuff, because it's just not true. There are lots of folks that aren't. Anyway, back to federalisation. So, I think the federal government's played a significant role in probably the last 10 to 14 years.

2:14:10 Peter Kraska: This had everything to do with prosecuting the drug war. And that's when we saw the precipitous rise in not only the number of SWAT units but the amount of activity. That's when we saw departments doing 750 to 1000 drug raids per year on people's private residences. That's when we saw police departments all over the country in small little localities sending off two or three officers to a for profit training camp, like Smith and Wesson or Heckler and Koch getting training and coming back to the department and starting a 15 officer, police paramilitary unit with no clue what they were doing whatsoever. That all happened as a part of the drug war.

2:26:50 Peter Kraska: Oftentimes, these kind of conversations devolve into an either or type of argument. And it's really critical to recognize that there are absolutely lots of situations. Columbine, for example, where you have to have a competent professional response, a use of force specialist, military, Special Operations folks, police special, whatever you want to call them, you have to have that, no doubt. What I was talking about was 60,000 deployments, as I was not talking about 60,000 deployments. For those situations. Those situations are incredibly rare. Thank goodness, they're incredibly rare. Those situations absolutely require a competent response, active shooter, terrorist, whatever kind of situation. Our research demonstrated conclusively that 85% of SWAT team operations today are proactive, choice driven raids on people's private residences 85%. What that means is that the original function of SWAT in the 1970s was the idea that SWAT teams were to save lives, they were to respond in a laudable way to very dangerous circumstances and handle the circumstances well. What happened during the 1980s and early 1990s drug war is that function flipped on its head. We went from these teams predominantly doing reactive deployments, maybe one to two of these in an entire municipality, one to two a year. Smaller jurisdictions, probably something like that wouldn't happen in 100 years, but they were there to handle it. This has devolved now into what I'm talking about widespread misapplication of the paramilitary model.

2:29:00 Peter Kraska: 50% of these small police departments... 50% of them are receiving less than 50 hours of training per year for their SWAT team. The recommended amount from the MTOA used to be 250. I think they've reduced it to 200. 250 hours versus 50 hours. These are not well trained teams. These are a localized 18,000 police departments all doing their own thing with no oversight and no accountability. And that's why we're seeing and we have seen hundreds of these kinds of tragedies that I've mentioned, but also lots of terrorized families that have been caught up in these drug operations and drug raids. Thank you.

2:35:30 Peter Kraska: Military gear and garb changes and reinforces a war fighting mentality amongst civilian police, where marginalized populations become the enemy and the police perceive of themselves as a thin blue line between order and chaos that can only be controlled through military model power.

2:47:50 Peter Kraska: Most police departments that handle civil protests correctly know that the last thing you want to do is instigate. It was just a wonderful article written in the Washington Post, it interviewed a whole bunch of Chiefs of Police that understand this and how you sit back and you don't antagonize and you certainly don't display this level of weaponry.


Hearing: Police Brutality, United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, March 20, 1991

Witnesses:

  • John Dunne: Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division
Transcript:

6:00 Rep. Howard Coble (NC): It would be my hope that this matter could be resolved internally in Los Angeles. The fear I have about what occurred on the coast is that many people are probably going to try to bash every law enforcement officer in the country. That's what bothers me. And I don't think this is an accurate portrayal of law enforcement in this country.

30:15 Rep. Henry Hyde (IL): I know civil rights prosecutions nationwide by year, compiled from annual Department of Justice Statistics, and in 1990, there was 7,960 complaints received and 3,050 investigations. I take it, a great number of the complaints were found to be without merit or beyond investigation, but cases presented to the grand jury or grand juries were only 46. So out of 3,050 investigations there were only 46 that you felt worth taking to a grand jury was that right. Mr. Dunn? John Dunne: Mr. Hyde in light of all of the circumstances, specifically, the key being whether or not the federal state interest had been vindicated. Yes, about one and a half percent, usually runs about 2% a year, of the complaints we receive actually go to prosecution.


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)

Jun 14, 2020
CD215: COVID-19 Testimony
01:42:30

When Congress (finally) returned from their COVIDcation, experts in medicine, vaccine development, law, and business testified under oath. In this episode, hear the highlights from 17 hours of that expert testimony during which you'll learn about a concerning new vaccine development policy, Mitch McConnell's dangerous demands for the next COVID-19 response law, and how Republicans and Democrats failed for the last two decades to secure the nation's medical mask supply. 

Thank you to all Congressional Dish producers who make the independence of this podcast possible. Enjoy your show! 


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Articles/Documents


Resources

  • Tweet @JenBriney, Jennifer Briney, Twitter, May 27, 2020

Sound Clip Sources


News Alert: Trump says he's taking hydroxychloroquine despite FDA warnings, Axios, Fox News, May 18, 2020

Interview: McConnell says next stimulus must have coronavirus liability protections, By Noah Manskar, The New York Post, Fox News, May 15, 2020

Hearing: Protecting Scientific Integrity in the COVID-19 Response, United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, May 14, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses:

  • Dr. Richard Bright - Former Director of BARDA, current Senior Advisor at the National Institutes of Health
  • Mike Bowen - Executive Vice President of Prestige Ameritech
Transcript:

51:40 Rep. Ana Eshoo (CA): Was there a failure to respond with the needed urgency when you correctly pushed to ramp up production of masks, respirators, syringes, swabs. Dr. Rick Bright: Congresswoman, we've known for quite some time that our stockpile is insufficient and having those critical personal protective equipment. So once this virus began spreading and became known to be a threat, I did feel quite concerned that we didn't have those supplies. I began pushing urgently in January along with some industry colleagues as well. And those urges, those alarms were not responded to with action.

52:15 Rep. Ana Eshoo (CA): Was there a failure to take immediate action when you correctly push to acquire additional doses of the drug Remdesivir, which is the only drug so far that has appeared to be at least mildly effective, thank God, for treating people with COVID-19? Dr. Rick Bright: There was no action taken on the urgency to come up with a plan per acquisition of limited doses that Remdesivir nor to distribute those limited doses of Remdesivir once we had the scientific data to support their use for people infected with this virus.

1:04:00 Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ): My concern is, I'm very critical administration in terms of their I call it incompetence, with the supply chain, with lack of testing. I'm afraid the same thing is going to happen with vaccines and once it's in the distribution. I mean, should I be concerned based on your experience? Dr. Rick Bright: Absolutely, sir. We're already seeing those challenges with limited doses of Remdesivir with data that we're getting that Remdesivir has some benefit in people. And we have limited doses and we haven't scaled up production and we don't have a plan and how to fairly and equitably distribute that drug. If you can imagine this scenario, this fall or winter, maybe even early next spring, when vaccine becomes available. There's no one company that can produce enough for our country or for the world. It's gonna be limited supplies. We need to have a strategy and plan in place now to make sure that we can not only feel that vaccine, make it, distribute it, but administer it in a fair and equitable plan. And that's not the case at all. We don't have that yet and it is a significant concern.

1:11:50 Dr. Rick Bright: Normally it takes up to 10 years to make a vaccine. We've done it faster in emergency situations. But from when we had starting material in the freezer for Ebola, but for a novel virus is actually haven't been done yet that quickly. So a lot of optimism is swirling around a 12 to 18 month timeframe. If everything goes perfectly - we've never seen everything go perfectly. My concern is if we rush too quickly and considered cutting out critical steps, we may not have a full assessment of the safety of that vaccine. So it's still going to take some time. I still think 12 to 18 months is an aggressive schedule. And I think it's going to take longer than that to do so. Rep. Eliott Engel (NY): 12 to 18 months from now, or 12 to 18 months from when this all started at the beginning of the year? Dr. Rick Bright: It will be 12 to 18 months from when the particular manufacturers has first received the material or information that they need to start developing that vaccine. It's critical to note when we say 12 to 18 months. That doesn't mean for an FDA approved vaccine. That means to have sufficient data and information on the safety and immunogenicity if not efficacy, to be able to use on an emergency basis. And that is a consideration that we have in mind when we talk about an accelerated timeline.

1:14:20 Dr. Rick Bright: Congressmen our concern's centered around the potential use of chloriquine in people who are infected with this Coronavirus. There are data, the effective use and safe use of chloriquine in malaria patients and other patients and other indications. We also knew that there are potential safety risks with chloriquine they cause irregular heart rhythms, and even in some cases death. So our concern was with limited information and knowledge, especially of its use in COVID-19 infected patients and the potential for those risks, then we should make sure that any studies with that drug are done in a carefully controlled clinical study and a close watchful eye of a physician so they could respond to a patient if they did experience one of those adverse events. There wasn't sufficient data at that time to support use of this drug in patients with COVID-19 without close physician supervision. Rep. Eliott Engel (NY): And when you raised that issue of chloriquine use in Coronavirus patients with HHS leadership. What happened to you you removed as a director of BARDA. Is that not true? Dr. Rick Bright: I believe part of that removal process for me was initiated because of a push back that I forgave when they asked me to put in place an expanded access protocol that would make chloriquine more freely available to Americans that were not under the close supervision of a physician and may not even be confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus. The sciences, FDA, BARDA, NIH and CDC worked hard to switch that to a emergency use authorization with strict guardrails that the patients would be in a hospital confirmed to be infected with this virus under close supervision of a doctor and who could not otherwise participate in a randomized controlled study. My concerns were alleviated somewhat by being able to lock that in the stockpile with those conditions. However, my concerns were escalated when I learned that leadership in the department health and human services were pushing to make that drug available outside of this emergency use authorization to flood New York, New Jersey with this drug, regardless of the EUA and when I spoke outside of our government and shared my concerns for the American public, that I believe was the straw that broke the camel's back and escalated my removal.

1:47:15 Rep. Kathy Castor (FL): Dr. Bright you understood that America would face a shortage of respirators in January? Is that right? Dr. Rick Bright: We understood America would face a shortage of N95 respirators for a pandemic response in 2007. And we have exercise and known and evaluated that number almost every year since 2007. It was exercised even as late as early as 2019, August in Crimson contagion, that we would need 3.5 billion in 95 respirators in our stockpile to protect our healthcare workers from a pandemic response. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL): And you sounded the alarm repeatedly. But were ignored by the senior leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services. Please explain what steps you took and the responsibilities you received. Dr. Rick Bright: We knew going into this pandemic that critical medical equipment would be in short supply. I began getting alerts from industry colleagues in mid and late January, telling me that from an outside view, from the industry view that the supply chain was diminishing rapidly telling me that other countries that we relied on to supply many of these masks were blocking export and stopping transfer of those masks to the United States. I learned that China was trying to buy the equipment from the United States producers to have it shipped to China so they could make more. In each of these alerts, and there were dozens of these alerts, I pushed those forward to our leadership and asked for Dr. Cadillac and his senior leadership team. I pushed those warnings to our critical infrastructure protection team. I pushed those warnings to our Strategic National Stockpile team who has the responsibility of procuring those medical supplies for our stockpile. In each of those. I was met with indifference, saying they were either too busy they didn't have a plan. They didn't know who was responsible for procuring those. In some cases they had a sick child and we'll get back to it later in the week. A number of excuses, but never any action. It was weeks after my pushing that finally a survey was sent out to manufacturers or producers of those masks. A five page survey asking producers or companies if they actually made those masks. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL): In your whistleblower filing you discuss a February 7th meeting of the department leadership group, but which you urge the department to focus on securing and 95 masks. Can you describe what happened at that meeting? Dr. Rick Bright: They informed me that they did not say believe there was a critical urgency to procure mass. They conducted some surveys, talked to a few hospitals and some companies and they didn't yet see a critical shortage. And I indicated that we know there will be a critical shortage of these supplies. We need to do something to ramp up production. They indicated if we notice there is a shortage that we will simply change the CDC guidelines to better inform people who should not be wearing those masks. So that would save those masks for healthcare workers. My response was, I cannot believe you can sit and say that with a straight face. That was an absurd. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL): In fact, it took three months from your initial warnings - until mid April for the federal government to invoke its authority under the Defense Production Act, to require the production of millions of more N-95 masks. And even then, the administration required the production of only 39 million masks which is far fewer than you and other experts said that we would need. What was the consequence of this three month delay and inadequate response. Were lives in danger? Dr. Rick Bright: Lives were in danger and I believe lives were lost. And not only that, we were forced to procure the supplies from other countries without the right quality standards. So even our doctors and nurses in the hospitals today are wearing N-95 Mark masks from other countries that are not providing the sufficient protection that a US standard N-95 mask would provide them. Some of those masks are only 30% effective. Therefore, nurses are rushing in the hospitals thinking they're protected and they're not.

2:15:50 Dr. Rick Bright: I believe there's a lot of work that we still need to do. And I think we need still, I don't think I know, we need still a comprehensive plan and everyone across the government and everyone in America needs to know what that plan is and what role they play. There are critical steps that we need to do to prepare for that fall, for that winter coming. We do not still have enough personal protective equipment to manage our healthcare workers and protect them from influenza and COVID-19. We still do not have the supply chains ramped up for the drugs and vaccines and we still don't have plans in place on how we distribute those drugs and vaccines. And we still do not have a comprehensive testing strategy. So Americans know which tests do what, what to do with that information. And we know how to find this virus and trap it and kill it. There's a lot of work we still have to do.

3:40:15 Dr. Rick Bright: I think what's really interesting about the testing story that gets lost in the narrative sometimes is the confusion about the different types of tests. There's an antigen test that tells you if you have the virus in you, there's a PCR test, it says it may the fragments of the virus and there's antibody tests, it looks at your antibody titer to try to tell you you've been exposed already maybe immune to that the virus. There's a lot of confusion, I think the first thing HHS needs to do is determine which of those tests is most important to achieve which objective. If the antigen test is was needed, because it's faster and lower cost, and more readily available, in some cases, what does it tell Americans? What does it tell employers? What does it tell schools about the potential for an individual who has a positive or negative on that test and their potential to have different results the next day or later that day? There's a lot of confusion about these tests. So I think the first thing that HHS should do is determine the type of test and how that test would be used effectively. And then make sure that we have enough of those types of tests and they're in the right place and the people using them know what the data tells them and how to use it effectively. I think there's a lot of confusion there and they need leadership in HHS to distinguish those challenges and clarify that for the American public.

3:41:30 Rep. Blunt Rochester (DE): Why do you think that our nation has struggled with ramping up the testing capacity, unlike other countries, and were there contingencies in place or a backup, in light of this situation we're in now. Dr. Rick Bright: I think part of the struggle is waiting too late to think about it and to get it started. When we've had conversations with some manufacturers, they've been very creative and how they can ramp up. Another part of the challenge is, we have allowed many of these capabilities to be offshore. And so we have much more capability of expanding domestic capacity when it's in our country, and we can ramp up and bring innovation to those companies in the US. But if the supply chain is offshore, and there's a global need and competition for that supply chain, that also significantly impairs our ability to ramp up.

3:47:30 Dr. Rick Bright: We need to have a strategy that everyone follows, the same strategy, to test for the word the viruses who's infected with this virus. And then we have to appropriately isolate that person in quarantine so they don't infect others. And we rapidly need to trace their contacts to understand who they may have been exposed to, and be able to test to those individuals. And if they've been infected as well, we need to be able to isolate those. Through a concerted coordinated effort across the country, we can be able to identify where that virus is who's been exposed, give those people proper treatment and isolation and can slow the spread of this virus significantly. But that has to be in a coordinated way. We have to have the right tests and enough of those tests. It's not something we do once and we're done. It's something we have to continually do in the community. So it's not just that we need one test for every person in America. We need multiple tests and the right types of tests. We need the right types of individuals and professionals who know how to use those tests to trace the individual contacts and to isolate that virus and stop it from spreading.

4:11:00 Mike Bowen: Until 2004, 90% of all surgical masks worn and I'm including surgical respirators, were domestically made. That year, or about around that year. All of the major domestic mask sellers switched from selling domestically made masks to selling imported masks. Prestige Ameritech was founded in 2005 recognized this as a security issue in 2006. We thought that once America's hospitals learned that their mask supplies were subject to diversion by foreign governments, during pandemics, they would switch back to U.S. made masks. We were wrong. In November of 2007, we received a phone call from BARDA asking for a tour of our mask factory. BARDA was acting on George W. Bush's Presidental Directive 21, the purpose of which was to review America's disaster plans. Brenda Hayden with BARDA gave a presentation which showed that BARDA was concerned about the foreign controlled mask supply. We were thrilled that BARDA had discovered the issue until Brenda said that BARDA was only charged with studying the problem. We were disappointed but we took consolation in the fact that finally, a federal agency knew that the mask supply was in danger. We were very happy to have an ally. Two years later, I received a call from Brenda Hayden. She started the conversation by saying, we have a situation. Her serious tone caused me to ask her if she was talking about a pandemic. And she said, Yes. She asked if we could ramp up production, and I said yes. We built more machines bought an abandoned Kimberly Clark mask factory and tripled and tripled our workforce. America's hospitals needed us and we rose to the occasion. We told them about the high cost of ramping up. And they said they would stay with us. Unfortunately most returned to buying cheaper foreign made masks when they became available. The company survived by laying off 150 people who helped save the US mask supply by taking pay cuts. And by taking on more investors. The H1N1 pandemic, this is 2009 2010, wasn't severe enough to cause the foreign health officials to cut off mask shipments to America. So our predictions didn't come true...yet. In a weakened state, but undaunted, Prestige Ameritech continued saying that the US mask supply was headed for failure. We just didn't know when. In 2004 to give my security story more issue, I formed the Secure Mask Supply Association. You can find it at securemasksupply.org. Paraphrasing Ben Franklin, I told three competing domestic mask makers that if we didn't hang together, we would hang separately, as China was poised to put all of us out of business and put the country at even greater risk, Crosstex, Gerson, and Medecom all with domestic mask making factories agreed and joined the SMSA. Unfortunately, the Secure Mask Supply Associations warnings were also unheeded. During my quest to secure the US mask supply, I had the privilege of working with three BARDA directors, Dr. Robin Robinson, Dr. Richard Hatchet, and Dr. Rick Bright. They were helpful and they encouraged me to go continue warning people about the mask supply. I'll say a little bit more about that. After years of doing this, I quit many times. And the only reason I kept doing it is because of the directors of BARDA. They would encourage me and asked me not to not to quit. They said that they would express their concerns about the masks supply to anyone that I could get to call them. Anyone except reporters. They weren't allowed to talk to reporters, which was very frustrating to me. They also weren't allowed to endorse the Secure Mask Supply Association. Dr. Robinson was going to do so until HHS attorneys told him that it could cost him his job. He called me personally on vacation to tell me that I can confirm that the emails and Dr. Bright's complaint are mine. They are merely the latest of 13 years of emails I sent to BARDA in an effort to get HHS to understand that the US mask supply was destined for failure, Robinson, Hatchet and Bright all wanted to remedy the problem. In my opinion, they didn't have enough authority. Their hearts were in the right places. America was told after 911 that governmental silos had been torn down so that different federal federal agencies could work together for national securities. But I didn't see any of that. The DOD, the VA, the CDC and HHS could have worked together to secure America's mask supply. I suggested this to BARDA and to the CDC on several occasions.

4:23:00 Rep. Greg Walden (OR): This is your email to Dr. Bright and to Laura wolf. It says and I quote, "my government strategy is to help the US government if and only if the VA and DOD become my customers after this thing is over. Mike Bowen: Yes, sir. Rep. Greg Walden (OR): So Madam Chair, I'd like to submit the mail for the record. We'll send you an electronic copy as per our agreements here. Now, Mr. Cohen, I'm sorry. You said you want to help the U.S. government, you want to help Americans get the masks. Yet it appears that there seems to be a condition here. I assume that's because in the past, you ramped up, things went away, people bought from other manufacturers. And so here you're saying, and I have it here in the email, 'My strategy is to help my existing customers and bring on new customers who are willing to sign a long term contract. My government strategy is to help the US government if and only if the VA and DOD become my customers after this thing is over.' And here we were in a crisis is masks are going overseas now. The US government's not your only purchaser, right? Mike Bowen: The U.S. government has never bought from me except during a pandemic, sir. Rep. Greg Walden (OR): Okay. And so... Mike Bowen: In that email, and that statement, was basically saying that I don't want the government to only call me in a pandemic. Give me business during peacetime so that I can survive to help you during a pandemic. Rep. Greg Walden (OR): Did you ever ask for a sole source contract? Mike Bowen: I have. I have been on the DOD and the VA business. And I continually lose to masks that are made in Mexico, because the DOD does not obey the Berry Amendment. They buy foreign masks made in Mexico, because Mexico is a friend of ours and is called a TAA compliant country. Made the decision based on price... Rep. Greg Walden (OR): How long...Sir, if I may, can I reclaim my time? How long, you said you couldn't turn on these lines of manufacturing very quickly. How long? If you got a big order from the government today, would it take you to produce masks? Mike Bowen: Three or four months and the government wants to do that right now. HHS is asking me to do that. Rep. Greg Walden (OR): And it will take three to four months? Mike Bowen: Yes, I'm told. I told him it's going to take three or four months. They only want masks to the end of the year. So I would have to hire 100 people to train 100 people and then fire them at the end of the program. I'm not going to do that. Again. I don't want the government to only deal with me when... Rep. Greg Walden (OR): My time is expired. Madam Chair, I yield back.

4:29:45: *Mike Bowen:** Let me say this: China sells a box of masks for $1. I don't think anybody's making any profit doing that, because I sell them for about $5. So if their prices are so cheap that they've captured most of the world's mass market. Rep. Elliot Engel (NY): Does the government subsidize the Chinese government, the Beijing government? Mike Bowen: I don't know that. I don't know. All I know is their masks cost less than than materials. If I take my labor costs totally out, I'm still nowhere near the cost of their products.

4:30:30 Rep. Elliot Engel (NY): What steps can the federal government take to incentivize more medical manufacturing of critical equipment like surgical face masks in the United States? Mike Bowen: Well as in a letter that I sent to President Obama, I don't think it requires money. I think it requires the government saying and it's a national security problem. It requires the CDC telling America's hospitals, they are too dependent on foreign aid masks, and put them in legal liability. They have to protect their patients and staff. If in a public forum like this, you say, this is a national security issue, then those hospitals' attorneys are probably going to get on the ball and tell their hospitals to buy American made products. And they don't cost that much. The whole market is only a couple of hundred million dollars. This whole problem, this is a $30 million problem, folks, just for people trying to save pennies across the whole United States. It's not some multibillion dollar problem.

4:36:20 Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY): Mike Bowen: You thought it was necessary to go through Dr. Bright. You couldn't get anybody else to listen to them and Dr. Bright under No, no, no, you got it all wrong. First of all I wasn't looking for I'm just trying to find the information. Oh yeah. I wasn't looking for business. I opened my email. I don't need your business. My phones are ringing off the wall. I'm just I thought of BARDA - Dr. Robinson, Dr. hatchet and Dr. Bright. I thought of them as brothers in arms, and who they couldn't buy my products. I knew that. But they were the only people who believed it. I would like everybody to go to YouTube, put in Michael Burgess and Prestige Ameritech you'll see Mr. Burgess talking at our factory 10 years ago. You'll see him say that only 10% of the mask supplies are made in the United States. I talked to Michael Burgess. Ron Wright. Joe Barton. Patrick Leahy. My associate Matt Conlin talked to Chuck Schumer. I wrote Barack Obama letters, wrote President Trump and everybody in his early administration, Defense Secretary Mattis, General Jeffrey Clark, Nicole Lurie and Anita Patel with CDC, National Academies of Science. Greg Burrell, hundreds of hospitals, hospital purchasing groups, the hospital risk Managers Association. The hospital risk managers Association. Told them the mask supply is going to collapse, this is a risk. Nobody listened. Association of Operating Nurses, the Defense Department, the Veterans Department, Texas Governor Rick Perry. State Texas Rep. Bill Zedler, by the way, Bill Zedler got in dozens of reporters. I've been in every news show. I've done this for 13 years. Nobody listened. And my conscience is clean, Mr. Guthrie. I've been working on this damn issue for 13 years trying to save lives. Nobody listened. And now, I'm not going to take any of this.

4:46:20 Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA): We can't guarantee you a contract. I think everybody agrees we've got to have more made in America. Why not ramp up with the understanding that the policy is likely to change? I think it will change because I think we don't, whether it be masks or other PPE or drug supply, we're going to have to have a significant portion of these items made in the United States going forward. Knowing that, and your phone's ringing off the hook, why not ramp up those four lines? Mike Bowen: Because one day, the pandemics gonna end and the the usage will go down to the basement again, where it was there'll be 10 times less usage. And I'll have all these machines and people and these materials and have nothing to do with them. That's what happened to us before. It was a very difficult thing to ramp up. And let me say this again, let me remind you that we have ramped up. We've gone from making 75,000 respirators I'm going to about four... In 40 days, we'll be ramped up to making 4 million respirator per month. So don't concentrate on these four Chinese machines that we really don't know much about and would be a total pain to get going on top of... I'm trying not to kill my business partner who is in charge of getting all this stuff done. He's working 20 hours a day now with all the projects we've already got now, to dump this on top for some business that may or may not come? Absolutely not.

4:48:40 Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA): Okay, after H1N1 did you continue to produce masks for purposes of restocking the Strategic National Stockpile? Mike Bowen: I can't do that without the Strategic National Stockpile wanting to buy them. Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA):Did you have conversations with BARDA, SNS and HHS at that time about supplying the masks for the National Stockpile? Mike Bowen: I have talked to Greg Burrell on many occasions, sir. I've also offered those machines to him. And I've offered those machines to the Department of Defense. Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA): You're just gonna give the machines or you're gonna give them the production? Mike Bowen: No, listen to this. Here's what I wanted to do. I wanted CDC and VA and DOD to get together I had four machines, that very little money and that could make a whole bunch of masks and for years, and I got 13 years worth of emails, I can document all this stuff. I said to the CDC Hey, we can fix, we can make sure that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration always has masks. I got these four machines sitting here doing nothing. Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA): You were willing to give them the production, but not the machines. Mike Bowen: Let me finish. Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA): I'm just trying to sort it out. Mike Bowen: Well here's what I was gonna say. We must use one machine, you'll make your whole annual usage for one machine, and we'll let three of them sit there in our factory just ready to go. When you need them, we can turn those things on and I couldn't get anybody interested in Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA): Were you going to give them to them or lease them? Mike Bowen: Didn't matter. I didn't have any money in them. I said give me your peacetime military hospital business and we'll give you these machines. I'll just sit there. Now we would have if we would have had had some kind of a plan, you know, to get materials and things like that. But I was basically saying we've got a warm base operation is not going to cost you guys anything. I made that offer to several agencies. Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA): I see my time is up. I yield back, Madam Chair. Mike Bowen: And by the way, let me Forgive me for being angry. I'm angry because I've done this for so, so long. And I've been ignored for so long. And I apologize. Rep. Ana Eshoo (CA): Well, Mr. Bowen, I don't think you need to apologize. At least that's my view. I think shame on us. I think shame on all of us that we've allowed this to happen.

4:58:30 Mike Bowen: America has a weakness for low prices. And I think Chinese prices are so low. A few years ago, I decided to go buy a 12 things from Lowe's Lowe's Home Improvement center, and I decided I was going to pay whatever it took to buy American. I couldn't make that decision. That decision was taken away from me. I bought one item, it was a plunger. A toilet plunger was the only thing I could find it was made in America. And it is what it is. It's the people like the Lowe's and Home Depot and the Walmarts and the medical companies that the way they want to make money is to lower their costs to where they lower their cost to go to China. The line is long and wide for people going to China, and that's why we're dependent on them for everything. I mean, go out and look in your closet. Look at your tools, look at everything. It's all from China. And the stuff that's in Mexico... When I say this, half of the US mask supply's in Mexico, it's got reservations to go to China. Mexico is not cheap enough. And hospitals are cash strapped and they're they're bidding out things. If this hadn't happened, Mexico would have lost their business and everything... China would have been five years China would have made all masks and respirators like they do the gowns.

5:35:40 Mike Bowen: I've dealt with this thing for so long and it's been so illogical. And I've tried to figure it out and who's at fault who's at fault. And so people ask me that, who's to blame? And I got to the point where it's human nature. It's all of us. I couldn't convince doctors. I couldn't. Listen to this. I had three directors of BARDA said that, Mike, if you get somebody to call me, I will verify that what you're saying is true. I'll tell them it was true. Mr. Schrader, I couldn't get him to call. I couldn't get hospitals to make that call. I don't think they wanted to hear it. They're programmed to save money. They're not programmed to say, I want to make sure my masks are gonna be here. It didn't compute. I was speaking Greek everyone. So to look at this story, and look back and blame everybody, I'm not even going to do that. I'm looking at this pandemic. There's a silver lining, the silver lining is - told everybody there's a big problem. And we can fix this problem and never go through this again.

5:50:00 Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): I'm still confused about your current capabilities. You said you've got four lines that are just sitting dormant sitting in the right now, is that correct? Mike Bowen: We have four idle respirator manufacturing lines. Yes, sir. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): And they're just, I mean, they're not being used right now. Mike Bowen: Yes. But...go ahead, finish your question. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): Yes, they are not being used, right. Correct? So you said you've already gotten machines for those lines. You don't have to procure them. The only thing you're going to have to do is to get staff in order to use those lines. Mike Bowen: No, now there's three things we need to hire 100 people, we need to train 100 people. We need to get all the materials for that and we need to get NIOSH approval. We bought those systems from a defunct Vermont mask company seven years ago, we really don't even know how to use those machines. They're kind of a last resort. And if you'll go back and look at my email to Dr. Bright, I said this would be a basically a pain to do but they're here. And if we need this for infrastructure, let's talk about it. But what we've done in the meantime, is we've gone from making 75,000 respirators a month. Think of that number 75,000 to 2 million, and then in another 40 days, we'll be at 4 million from 75,000. So that's thousands and thousands of percent. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): You said you bought those you bought them for a purpose. You bought them to use them, right? Mike Bowen: No. Thank you for asking that question. No, they came as part of an acquisition we bought. We bought a defunct a medical company and those machines came as part of the acquisition. And made in China. But go ahead. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): Did you say earlier that you phones ringing off the hook you got orders coming out of the yazoo? Mike Bowen: Yeah, okay, but I can't go on a suicide mission. I can't ramp up, hire all these people for something that I don't know how it's going to end or how long it's going to last. And we did this. You gotta remember, we almost went out of business doing this before. We ramped up and we spent money and got a bigger factory, hired 150 people, built more machines. And then one day, the business not only went away, it went smaller than it was. And we had to raise a million dollars. We had to take pay cuts, and we had to fire 150 people. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): So what you're saying, and I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but I'm saying I'm not gonna use them, you're not gonna fire them up unless you get a long term contract from the government. Mike Bowen: I'm not going on a suicide mission. Absolutely. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): So that's yes, you're not going to use them unless you get a long term contract... Mike Bowen: Unless I get a customer who is going to commit to use those machines so I don't have to fire 100 people. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): So that means that you'd have to have a long term contract from the government in order to do it. Mike Bowen: Yeah. Listen, we've gone from one shift to 3. 80 people to 200. We're making four times the products we made. We're making over a million masks a day, don't you look at me, and act like I'm sitting on my ass and not firing up four machines. It's not like just turning on a switch. It's putting people's lives... It's gonna, I'm not sure...Listen...let me tell you this. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): I understand. I'm a businessman. And I understand what it takes Mike Bowen: I watched my business partner cry when he had to lay those people off. We're not doing that again. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): So in order so it's gonna have to be a long term contract from the government, though, that that's my point. Mike Bowen: From somebody. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): And I get it from somebody Mike Bowen: I can't hire 100 people based on a maybe based on a when's it gonna end who knows? Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): None of us can whether we're in the private sector or the public sector, we can't do that. We all understand that. Mike Bowen: You don't. You're not risking your livelihood and your... Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): I risked my livelihood for 30 years. As an independent retail pharmacist, I never had long... Mike Bowen: You want to buy machines or hire 100 people, I'll tell you what, I'll give you my machines if you want to hire 100 people, Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): But but the point is, is that you're here saying that I'm not gonna do it unless I get a long term contract from the government. Mike Bowen: I'm just gonna wait, no, no, no, go back to the context. The context of that was in those emails in hey, here's four machines. Let's... they're here, but I can't turn them on unless it's a long term deal. I'm not just going to flip them on and have you flip them off and leave me hanging like everybody did last time. And let me tell you what happened last time, the government sits around doesn't buy American made products, comes to me in a pandemic buys millions of masks. In 2010, you know what they do for those masks, they stored them for 10 years, then they auction them to some knucklehead who put them on eBay and sold them for 10 times what they were worth. So not only did I... have I not seen the government in 10 years, I got to compete with my own masks. And I gotta have thousands of phone calls to me from people who bought that 10 year old masks of mine on eBay for 10 times the price yelling at me, and I had nothing to do with it because the government waited and sold this stuff. I've been hit from every side on this thing. We have bled for this country. We have created jobs, we put our factory in Texas when everybody else had already left the country. So don't don't sit here and judge me for four machines that aren't running that I'd have to hire and fire 100 people for. I'm not going to do it. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA): Not unless you have a long term government contract. Rep. Anna Eshoo, Chairwoman: The gentleman's time has expired.


Hearing: Corporate Liability During the Coronavirus Pandemic, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, May 12, 2020

Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses

  • Kevin Smartt - CEO of Kwik Chek Convenience Stores
  • Anthony “Marc” Perrone - International President of United Food and Commercial Workers International
  • Rebecca Dixon - Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project
  • Leroy Tyner - General Counsel for Texas Christian University
  • Professor David Vladeck - A.B. Chettle Chair in Civil Prodecure at * Georgetown University Law Center
  • Helen Hill - CEO of Explore Charleston
Transcript:

13:15 Professor David Vladeck: My name is David Vladek. I teach at Georgetown Law School mostly litigation related courses. And I spent more than 40 years as a litigator, mostly in state and federal court. Like all Americans, I am anxious to get the nation back on its feet. I applaud the committee for exploring ways to facilitate that process. And I can only imagine the heavy burden that weighs on your shoulders. As my testimony makes clear, businesses like Mr. Smarts that act reasonably to safeguard employees, and the public are already protected from liability. But as all of the panelists have said, We urgently need science-based COVID-19 enforceable guidelines from our public health agencies. Those guidelines not only safeguard the public, but at the same time, they provide the standards of liability that Mr. Tyner was just talking about compliance with those guidelines will eliminate any liability risk. On the other hand, it would be counterproductive for Congress to take the unprecedented act of bestowing immunity on companies that act irresponsibly. Workers and consumers are going to open this economy, not government sponsored immunity. We all know that large segments of the public are still justifiably fearful about reopening. Granting immunity would only feed those fears. Immunity sends the message that precautions to control the spread of virus is not a priority. Even worse, immunity signals to workers and consumers that they go back to work or they go to the grocery store at their peril. Why? Because the Congress has given employers and businesses a free pass the short change safety.

16:30 Professor David Vladeck: The line between unreasonable or negligent misconduct, and gross misconduct is murky, context based, and fact dependent. Any tort claim can constitute gross negligence, depending on the wrongdoer state of mind. Second, differentiating between the two tiers of liability turn on intent, questions of intent, questions of intent are factual questions for a jury, not a judge to resolve and conduct is labeled negligent or grossly negligent only at the end of a case, not at the outset. In other words, we don't know for sure whether conduct is grossly negligent until the jury says so. And third, and most importantly, the difference is utterly meaningless if we care about containing the spread of the virus. Irresponsible acts spread the virus just as easily, just as effectively as reckless acts.

17:45 Professor David Vladeck: Legislation that simply displaces state liability laws is not only unprecedented, it is likely unconstitutional.

30:40 Sen. Diane Feinstein (CA): ...how the corona virus spreads? How could a customer of... Well, given how it spreads, nobody really knows how, could a customer of a particular business prove they were infected at a particular business? If professor Vladeck could respond, I believe he's our legal counsel here. Professor David Vladeck: Yes. So the answer is they can't. See are the viruses so transmissible, that it's very difficult unless you have a situation like you've had in the meatpacking plant to know where the virus comes from. In New York, one of the findings was that even people who had been housebound for a long time contracted the virus, even though they hadn't gone out. And so part of the reason why there have been almost no tort cases, about COVID-19 people have bandied about figures, but the truth is, they're been almost none of these cases and they're likely to be very few, because in order to plead a case in court, you have to be able to establish causation. And if someone who's been out and about walking on the streets, visiting the grocery store, visiting another shop, contracts virus, there's no way in the world they're going to be able to say, it's Mr. Smith's fault.

43:45 Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): Some people are talking about this wave of COVID-19 litigation as the justification for corporate immunity. Actually about 6% of the COVID-19 related lawsuits are tort related, constantly seeking immunity for 6%. And moreover, the corporation's claiming they need this immunity are often the ones that subjected the employees to mandatory arbitration clause, we know those almost always favor the employer. So, can you tell us how the prevalence of mandatory arbitration clauses actually within or across key industries impacts the likelihood of a so called wave litigation? Rebecca Dixon: Yes, Senator, I would say that the wave of litigation is actually mostly businesses suing other businesses and businesses trying to enforce insurance contracts related to the pandemic. So that's one important thing to put out there. And when you have forced arbitration, you must go through a secret process with an arbitrator. So you are barred from going to court. And we know that employees are being coerced into signing these if they don't sign those, they don't get the job. Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): So the additional shield against losses would pretty much be done with, is that correct? Rebecca Dixon: Correct. Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): Thank you.

1:25:15 Rebecca Dixon: For workers in particular, right now, they don't really have any enforceable recourse if their employer is not following the guidelines because they're not enforceable. And if they are injured because of it, they have the workers compensation system or they can file an OSHA complaint, but they're pretty much locked out other than that, so that's going to make it really risky for workers to when they're making a choice between wages and their health to choose to come back to the workplace.

1:36:00 Sen. Chris Coons (DE): Let's just clear the deck on this one. Mr. Smart, Professor, excuse me, President if I could Perrone, do you believe the federal government has set clear, consistent science based enforceable standards for what's expected of employers to protect the safety of their workers during a pandemic? Kevin Smartt: I do not believe so. No. Sen. Chris Coons (DE): Mr. President? Anthony “Marc” Perrone: Senator, I don't think that they've done that for the employees or the customers.

2:08:04 Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): In 49 states employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance. Is that correct? Rebecca Dixon: Yes, that's correct. Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And is it correct that by and large businesses that carry workers compensation cannot be sued by their workers for negligence? Rebecca Dixon: That's also correct. Sen. Kamala Harris (CA): And is it also correct that forced arbitration agreements also prohibit workers from seeking justice in courtrooms? Rebecca Dixon: That's also correct.


Hearing: COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School, United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, May 12, 2020

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Witnesses

  • Anthony Fauci - Director National of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health
  • Robert Redfield - Director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Admiral Brett Giroir - Assistant Secretary For Health at the United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • Stephen Hahn - Commissioner of Food and Drugs at the United States Food and Drug Administration
Transcript:

46:45 Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): Let's look down the road three months, there'll be about 5,000 campuses across the country trying to welcome 20 million college students. 100,000 Public Schools welcoming 50 million students. What would you say to the Chancellor of the University of Tennessee Knoxville, or the principal of a public school about how to persuade parents and students to return to school in August? Let's start with treatments and vaccines first, Dr. Fauci, and if you can save about half of my five minutes for Admiral Giroir's testing I would appreciate it. Anthony Fauci: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Well, I would be very realistic with the chancellor and tell him that when we're thinking in terms. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): It's a her in this case. Anthony Fauci: I would tell her, I'm sorry, sir, that in this case, that the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far.

48:30 Anthony Fauci: But we're really not talking about necessarily treating a student who gets ill, but how the student will feel safe in going back to school. If this were a situation where we had a vaccine, that would really be the end of that issue in a positive way, but as I mentioned in my opening remarks, even at the top speed we're going, we don't see a vaccine playing in the ability of individuals to get back to school this term.

52:50 Anthony Fauci: What we have worked out is a guideline framework of how to safely open America again. And there are several checkpoints in that with a gateway first of showing, depending on the dynamics of an outbreak in a particular region, state, city or area that would really determine the speed and the pace with which one does re enter or reopen. So my word has been, and I've been very consistent in this, that I get concerned, if you have a situation with a dynamics of an outbreak in an area such that you are not seeing that gradual over 14 days decrease that would allow you to go to phase one. And then if you pass the checkpoints of phase one, go to phase two and phase three. What I've expressed then and again, is my concern that if some areas city states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely opened up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently. My concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.

54:30 Anthony Fauci: But this is something that I think we also should pay attention to, that states, even if they're doing it at an appropriate pace, which many of them are and will, namely a pace that's commensurate with the dynamics of the outbreak, that they have in place already The capability that when there will be cases, there is no doubt, even under the best of circumstances. When you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear. It's the ability and the capability of responding to those cases, with good identification, isolation and contact tracing will determine whether you can continue to go forward as you try to reopen America.

1:05:40 Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT): The official statistic, Dr. Fauci is that 80,000 Americans have died from the pandemic. There are some epidemiologists who suggests the number may be 50% higher than that. What do you think? Anthony Fauci: I'm not sure, Senator Sanders if it's gonna be 50% higher, but most of us feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than that number, because given the situation, particularly in New York City, when they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their healthcare system, that there may have been people who died at home, who did have COVID, who are not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital. So the direct answer to your question, I think you are correct, that the number is likely higher. I don't know exactly what percent higher, but almost certainly, it's higher.

1:26:30 Sen. Rand Paul (KY): You've stated publicly that you'd bet at all that survivors of Coronavirus have some form of immunity. Can you help set the record straight that the scientific record as is as being accumulated is supportive? That infection with Coronavirus likely leads to some form of immunity. Dr. Fauci? Anthony Fauci: Yeah, thank you for the question, Senator Paul. Yes, you're correct. That I have said that, given what we know about the recovery from viruses, such as Corona viruses in general, or even any infectious disease, with very few exceptions, that when you have antibody present is very likely indicates a degree of protection. I think it's in the semantics of how this is expressed. When you say has it been formally proven by long term Natural History studies, which is the only way that you can prove one is it protective, which I said and would repeat is likely that it is, but also what is the degree or titer of antibody that gives you that critical level of protection. And what is the durability, as I've often said, and again, repeat, you can make a reasonable assumption that it would be protective. But Natural History studies over a period of months to years will then tell you definitively if that's the case.

1:31:30 Anthony Fauci: You don't know everything about this virus. And we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children. Because the more and more we learn, we're seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn't see from the studies in China or in Europe. For example, right now, children presenting with COVID-19, who actually have a very strange inflammatory syndrome, very similar to Kawasaki syndrome. I think we've got to be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects. So again, you're right in the numbers that children in general do much, much better than adults and the elderly, and particularly those with underlying conditions. But I am very careful, and hopefully humble in knowing that I don't know everything about this disease, and that's why I'm very reserved in making broad predictions.

2:30:15 Anthony Fauci: We do the testing on these vaccines, we are going to make production risk, which means we will start putting hundreds of millions of dollars of federal government money into the development and production of vaccine doses before we even know it works. So that when we do and I hope we will and have cautious optimism that we will ultimately get an effective and safe vaccine that we will have doses available to everyone who needs it in the United States, and even contribute to the needs globally because we are partnering with a number of other countries.

2:49:00 Sen. Mitt Romney (UT): Given our history with vaccine creation for other coronaviruses, how likely is it? I mean, is it extremely likely we're going to get a vaccine within a year or two? Is it just more likely than not? Or is it kind of a long shot? Anthony Fauci: It's definitely not a long shot, Senator Romney, the I would think that it is more likely than not that we will, because this is a virus that induces an immune response and people recover. The overwhelming majority of people recover from this virus, although there is good morbidity and mortality at a level in certain populations. The very fact that the body is capable of spontaneously clearing the virus tells me that at least from a conceptual standpoint, we can stimulate the body with a vaccine that would induce a similar response. So although there's no guarantee, I think it's clearly much more likely than not that somewhere within that timeframe, we will get a vaccine for this virus.

3:06:50 Sen. Jacky Rosen (NV): Can you talk about PPE for the general public? Anthony Fauci: Well, you know, the best PPE for the general public, if possible right now is to maintain the physical and social distancing. But as we've said, and I think all of us would agree, there are certain circumstances in which it is beyond your control, when you need to do necessary things. Like go to the drugstore and get the occasion, go to the grocery store and get your food that in fact, you need some supplementation to just physical distancing. That's the reason why some time ago, recommendation was made, I believe it was Dr. Redfield at the CDC, who first said that about getting some sort of a covering we don't want to call it a mask because back then we were concerned, we would be taking masks away from the health care providers with some sort of mask like facial covering, I think for the time being, should be a very regular part of how we prevent the spread of infection. And in fact, the more as you go outside right here and where I'm sitting in Washington DC, you can see many people out there with masks on, which gives me some degree of comfort that people are taking this very seriously.

3:20:00 Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN): You didn't say you shouldn't go back to school because we won't have a vaccine? Anthony Fauci: No, absolutely not. Mr. Chairman, what I was referring to, is that going back to school would be more in the realm of knowing the landscape of infection with regard to testing. And as Admiral Giroir said, it would depend on the dynamics of the outbreak in the region where the school is, but I did not mean to imply at all any relationship between the availability of a vaccine and treatment and our ability to go back to school.


Addressing the Senate: McConnell: Americans on the Front Lines Need Action, Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, May 12, 2020

Hearing: Shark Tank: New Tests for COVID-19, United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, May 7, 2020

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Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses:

  • Francis Collins, MD, PhD - Director of the National Institutes of Health
  • Gary Disbrow, PhD.- Acting Director, Biomedical Advanced Research And Development Authority, Office Of The Assistant Secretary For Preparedness And Response at the Department of Health and Human Services
Transcript:

1:36:20 Gary Disbrow: We do know that Coronavirus, the COVID-19, is one the immune system recognizes and eradicate the virus, we do know that people recover from it. And after a while you can't recover the virus anymore. That's good. That tells you the immune system knows what to do with this. It's not like HIV. At the same time, we do know that this virus can mutate. We've already been able to observe that it's an RNA virus. Fortunately, it doesn't mutate the way influenza does. So we don't think it will have this sort of very rapid seasonal change that we have to deal with with influenza, which means last year's vaccine is maybe not the one you want this year. We really don't know the answer, though to a lot of your questions, and they're fundamentally important. Can you get reinfected with this? There have been a few cases of that they're not incredibly convincing. If you do develop immunity, how long does it last? We do not have a good reason... Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA): Can I ask you though there is evidence both from rhesus monkeys that this antibody is protective it and there's also from SARS1 if you will, somebody writes about immunity being for 18 years. So it does seem If the scientific evidence is pointing in that direction, Gary Disbrow: It's pointing in that direction. You're absolutely right. And we're counting on that to be the answer here. But until we know, we will need to know. Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA): Now, let me ask you though what is defined as knowing because knowing may not be for one or two years, and yet we have to make policy decisions, hopefully before then, Gary Disbrow: Indeed, and I think at the present time to be able to evaluate the meaning of a positive antibody test, one should be quite cautious, I think it's going to help a lot to see if there anybody who has such an antibody test, it turns out to get infected again, in the next six months or so because a virus is going to be around, we'll start to get an early warning sign there. But we won't know whether it's three years or five years or 10 years. Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA): So you suggested to me that not only should we test but we should be tracking who is positive so that we can follow them longitudinally to see whether or not they develop once more. Gary Disbrow: With their appropriate consent of course, and this is where the All of Us program that you and I have talked about which is enrolled now 300,000 Americans who are pre consented for exactly this kind of follow up is going to be very useful to track and see what happens.

2:16:00 Sen. Mitt Romney (UT): I was in a hearing yesterday with the Homeland Security Committee. And the suggestion was between 50 and 90% of the people that get COVID-19 have no symptoms. If that's the case, should we let this run its course to the population and not try and test every person. I'm saying that a bit as a straw man, but I'm interested in your perspective. Gary Disbrow: I appreciate you're putting it forward as a straw man, because while it is true, that lots of people seem to get this virus without any symptoms at all. And the estimates are that maybe 60% of new cases are transmitted by such people. It's still the case that 74,000 people have died from this disease. And so the people who are out there infected who may not themselves be suffering or passing this on becoming a vector to others who are vulnerable with chronic illnesses or in the older age group. And sometimes young people too. Let's not say that they're immune. There are certainly plenty of sad circumstances of young people who really you would not have thought would be hard hit by this, who have gotten very little or even died. So I think it is extremely unusual to have a virus like this that is so capable of infecting people without symptoms, but having them then spread it on, we just haven't encountered something like that before. But it doesn't mean that it's not a terribly dangerous virus for those people who aren't so lucky and who get very sick and end up in the ICU and perhaps lose their lives. The only way we're really going to put a stop to that is to know who the people are who are infected, even if they have no symptoms, get them quarantine, follow their contacts. It's just good solid shoe leather public health, and we've learned it over the decades and it applies here too.

2:31:45 Gary Disbrow: In terms of the need to track people to see what happens, and particularly as was brought up earlier, is the presence of antibody actually something you can say makes you immune. I think maybe our best chance at this is this program that Congress has funded, and it's part of 21st Century Cures Act. So I'll have to specifically give a shout out to this committee about that to the chairman. And that is this program called All of Us, which is tracking when we get there a million people over time, we're already up to over 300,000 that have signed up. And those individuals answer lots of questions. Their electronic health records are available for researchers to look at after they've been anonymized. They get blood samples over the course of time, so you can track and see, oh, it didn't have the antibody, then oh, now it does have the antibody, what happened there? We should be able to utilize that for this and many other purposes to try to get some of those answers. And I totally agree. We need those.


Hearing: COVID-19 Response, United States House Committee on Appropriations, May 6, 2020

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Witnesses:

  • Dr. Tom Frieden - President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, and former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Caitlin Rivers - Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Transcript:

47:00 Dr. Caitlin Rivers: You heard from Dr. Frieden that contact tracing is really a key component, a key approach that will allow us to reopen safely. One thing that I don't hear a lot about about contact tracing, though that I want to bring to your attention is that it's also a key source of data that we badly need. We currently have very little understanding about where people are getting infected, our most new cases in long term care facilities or correctional facilities, which we know are high risk settings. But we don't have a good sense of whether 99% of our cases originate in those special settings or whether it's a small fraction. We don't know whether people who are essential workers still performing duties in the community are getting infected, or we don't know whether most infections are happening at home. Getting a better understanding of what that looks like will help us to guide better interventions. If it is special settings. We know we need to be doing more to protect people there. But we might also assess the risk to the general community to be lower. On the other hand, if most people are getting infected at home, that points for a need for some sort of Central Isolation capacity, by which I mean if people feel that they would be safer recovering in a hotel, away from their families, for example, that should be an option that should be made available to them. But we would want to know what fraction of cases are originating in the household to understand whether that is an important investment. This information on where transmission is occurring is of critical importance, but it's not currently being prioritized and it is contact tracing that allows us to collect this data. So in addition to being a key tool for containment, it's also a key tool for helping us to guide our response and the decisions that we need for that.

53:15 Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT): Is there a single state that has met the necessary parameters to ease restrictions? Dr. Caitlin Rivers: We suggest in our AI report that she mentioned at the beginning of the session that there are four criteria that states should meet in order to safely reopen and not all states have adopted these criteria, but I'll review them just as a starting point. The first is to see the number of nuclear cases declined for at least two weeks, and some states have met that criteria. But there are three other criteria and we suggest they should all be met. The other is enough public health capacity to conduct contact tracing on all new cases, enough diagnostic testing to test everybody with COVID like symptoms, not just those people with severe illness, and enough healthcare system capacity to treat everyone safely. To my knowledge, there are no states that meet all four of those criteria.

1:47:00 Dr. Caitlin Rivers: Thankfully, we are able to observe that children are lower risk of severe illness. That's something we've seen in other countries. It's something we're seeing in the United States. And so that's encouraging. What we don't know is what role children play in transmission. We know from pandemic influenza or rather influenza generally that children are really central to transmission in the community, not just in schools, but the community broadly. We haven't been able to pin down the science yet of what exactly the role is of children in transmission and so that's where you see a lot of the uncertainty. These two factors weigh against each other and make it very difficult to come to a decision. So I suggest that as other countries move toward reopening, which is happening, some countries are going back to school in the coming weeks. They will be collecting data and doing the analysis that will let us understand what the role of children is and I think that will be helpful for informing our decision.

2:06:50 Dr. Caitlin Rivers: I agree that outdoor areas are low risk for transmission and that they're play a really important role in mental health and overall well being. And so I do support the reopening of those outdoor areas.


Interview: McConnell hits back at Dems: Can't pass bill without liability protection, Fox News, April 28, 2020

News Alert: Trump on unproven coronavirus treatment: Try it, CNN, April 4, 2020

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

Jun 01, 2020
Thank You Stupid Bay of Pigs
01:17:02

In this bonus "thank you" episode, Jen provides some updates on recent bills including the HEROES Act and the reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act followed by a promised summary of the attempted coup in Venezuela. Also in this episode is a perfect example of corporate influence in mainstream media followed by thank yous for all the producers who keep corporate influence out of Congressional Dish.


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD098: USA Freedom Act: Privatization of the Patriot Act

CD190: A Coup for Capitalism


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“THE JUNGLE” AND THE PANDEMIC: THE MEAT INDUSTRY, CORONAVIRUS, AND AN ECONOMY IN CRISIS, The Intercept, May 20 2020

430 - Jordan Goudreau vs. Venezuela, The Dollop with Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds


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

May 31, 2020
CD214: Facial Recognition
56:14

Over the last year, various Congressional committees have been investigating the expanding use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement and the private sector. In this episode, hear the highlights of these investigations which will enlighten you about the extent that this technology is being used to put your face in criminal investigation line-ups, determine your employability, and more. 


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Hearing: About Face: Examine the DHS’ Use of Facial Recognition and Other Biometric Technologies, Part II, House Committee on Homeland Security, February 6, 2020

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Witnesses:

  • John Wagner - Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security
  • Peter Mina - Deputy Officer for Programs and Compliance, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Department of Homeland Security
  • Charles Romine - Director of the Information Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Commerce
Transcript:

1:37:25 Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL): Some passengers report being unaware or confused about how to opt out of their biometric screening. As CBP expands the biometric screening program, does it intend to reevaluate the best method of communicating the important opt out information to passengers? John Wagner: Yeah, so right now we've got signage at the airports. But you know, a lot of people don't read signs at the airport. We've got gate announcements that the airlines try to make before boarding. But again, there's always competing announcements going on. And sometimes it's tough to understand what's being said. So we're actually looking with the airlines is - could we print things on the boarding pass could we give notifications when they're, say booking their ticket or when they're getting their their checking information for boarding other electronic messages we could provide, so we're looking at additional ways to do that. We also started taking out some some privacy advertisements, advising people of the requirements and what their options are as well, too.


Hearing: FBI Oversight Hearing, House Judiciary Committee, February 5, 2020

Witness:

  • Christopher Wray - FBI Director
Transcript:

2:40:00 Christopher Wray: We at the FBI don't use facial recognition for anything other than lead value. There is no one under FBI policy who is arrested, much less convicted based on facial recognition technology. We use it to advance an investigation to then be used with other information to figure out if we’re going in the right place. So let me start with that. Second thing. We scrupulously train all the examiners under various constitutional protections. And then as to the DMV searches that you're talking about, again we the FBI don't do those searches. The only way those searches can happen is under strict MOUs that have all kinds of constitutional backing. Even when we get the results, it then has to be reviewed carefully by a trained examiner.

2:41:00 Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): To be clear under, current FBI policy, can face recognition technology be used without a warrant or probable cause in any circumstance? Christopher Wray: Yes. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): OK, so that is a concern for me. It continues to be a concern for me.


Hearing: Facial Recognition Technology (Part III): Ensuring Commercial Transparency and Accuracy, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, January 15, 2020

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Witnesses:

  • Brenda Leong - Senior Counsel and Director of AI and Ethics at the Future of Privacy Forum
  • Charles Romine - Director of Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Meredith Whittaker - Co-Founder and Co-Director of the AI Now Institute
  • Daniel Castro - VP and Director of the Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
  • Jake Parkers - Senior Director of Government Relations at the Security Industry Association (SIA)
Transcript:

40:55 Charles Romine: I'll first address one-to-one verification applications. Their false positive differentials are much larger than those related to false negative and exist across many of the algorithms tested. False positives might present a security concern to the system owner as they may allow access to imposters. Other findings are that false positives are higher in women than in men and are higher in the elderly and the young compared to middle aged adults. Regarding race, we measured higher false positive rates in Asian and African American faces relative to those of Caucasians. There are also higher false positive rates in Native American, American Indian, Alaskan Indian and Pacific Islanders. These effects apply to most algorithms, including those developed in Europe and the United States. However, a notable exception was for some algorithms developed in Asian countries. There was no such dramatic difference in false positives in one to one matching between Asian and Caucasian faces for algorithms developed in Asia. This study did not explore the relationship between cause and effect, one possible connection and an area for research is the relationship between an algorithms performance and the data used to train the algorithm itself.

1:13:00 Meredith Whittaker: The average consumer does not and indeed many researchers, many lawmakers don't because this technology, as I wrote about my my written testimony, is hidden behind trade secrecy. This is a corporate technology that is not open for scrutiny and auditing by external experts. I think it's notable that while NIST reviewed 189 algorithms for their latest report, Amazon refused to submit their recognition algorithm to NIST. Now, they claimed they couldn't modify it to meet NIST standards, but they are a multi billion dollar company and have managed some other pretty incredible feats. So whatever the reason is, what we see here is that it's at the facial recognition companies discretion, what they do or don't release.

1:51:45 Meredith Whittaker: Because the Baltimore PD was using private sector technologies, they were scanning Instagram photos through a service called Geopedia that gave them feeds from Freddie Gray protests. They then were matching those photos against their Faces facial recognition algorithm which is a privately developed facial recognition algorithm to identify people with warrants, whom they could then potentially harass.

2:49:45 Rep. Deb Haaland (NM): I recently read that some employers have begun using facial recognition technology to help decide who to hire. At certain companies such as Hilton and Unilever, job applicants can complete video interviews using their computer or cell phone cameras which collect data on characteristics like an applicant's facial movements, vocal tone and word choice. One company offering this technology, HireVue, collects up to 500,000 data points in a 30 minute interview. The algorithm then ranks the applicant against other applicants based on the so called employability score. Job applicants who look and sound like the most like the current high performers at the company received the highest scores. Miss Whittaker, I have two questions for you. One, isn't it true that the use of facial recognition and characterization technology and job application processes may contribute to biases in hiring practices. And if yes, can you please elaborate? Meredith Whittaker: It is absolutely true. And if the scenario that you described so well is a scenario in which you create a bias feedback loop, in which the people who are already rewarded and promoted and hired to a firm become the models for what a good employee looks like. So if you look at the executive suite at Goldman Sachs, which also uses HireVue, for this type of hiring, you see a lot of men, a lot of white men, and if that becomes the model for what a successful worker looks like, and then that is that is used to judge whether my face looks successful enough to get a job interview at Goldman Sachs, we're going to see a kind of confirmation bias in which people are excluded from opportunity because they happen not to look like the people who had already been hired.

2:54:45 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): First part of what we hope will be legislation that we can have broad support on, that the chairman and both Republicans and Democrats can support, is tell us what's going on now. And then second, while we're trying to figure that out, while the study and we're getting an accountability and what's all happening, let's not expand it. Let's just start there, tell us what you're doing, and don't do anything while we're trying to figure out what you're doing. And then once we get that information, then we can move from there. That is what I hope we can start with Madam Chair and frankly, what we've been working with now for a year, the staffs for both majority and the minority.


Hearing: ABOUT FACE: EXAMINING THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY’S USE OF FACIAL RECOGNITION AND OTHER BIOMETRIC TECHNOLOGIES, House Committee on Homeland Security, July 10, 2019

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Witnesses:

  • John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Joseph R. DiPietro, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Secret Service;
  • Austin Gould, Assistant Administrator, Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security
Transcript:

4:55 Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS): Last July, the American Civil Liberties Union connected..conducted a test using Amazon's facial recognition to call recognition. ACLU built a database of 25,000 publicly available arrest photos. Using recognition, ACLU searched the database using pictures of every current member of Congress. That software incorrectly matched 20 members, 28 members with individuals who had criminal records.

10:30 Rep. Mike Rogers (AL): I do not believe that anyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a government ID photo. Period.

15:00 John Wagner: CBP developed a service that simply automates the manual facial recognition process that goes on today when a traveler presents a passport to establish their identity. To be clear, CBP is only comparing the picture taken against photos previously provided by travelers to the U.S. Government for the purposes of international travel. This is not a surveillance program.

16:10 John Wagner: Now recognizing there's been concerns raised over the inclusion of US citizens, CBP has existing authorities and responsibilities to determine the citizenship and identity of all people traveling internationally. This is a U.S. government responsibility, not the private sector. It's also unlawful for a U.S. Citizen to travel internationally without a U.S. Passport. Now, generally determination of U.S. Citizenship is done by comparing the traveler against their passport. Again, we're simply automating and using a computer algorithm to enhance this manual facial recognition existing process.

16:50 John Wagner: As far as our partnerships with the industry stakeholders, CBP'S developed a standard set of business requirements that our partners have all agreed too, If their camera is sending a photo to CBP. The business requirements clearly stipulate they cannot keep the photos. Our partners have voluntarily agreed to the CBP business requirements.

25:40 Joseph R. DiPietro: With respect to DNA, DNA evidence is one of the most effective identification tools available to law enforcement today. Advances related to DNA technology have been rapid and the secret service remains dedicated to utilizing new applications to enhance our integrated mission.

26:55 Joseph R. DiPietro: The secret service is currently working on a facial recognition pilot. The participants in the pilot are secret service employees who volunteer to take part in this effort. Designated White House cameras that are part of the video management system captured volunteers as they move through various locations around the White House complex. Software running on a server,dedicated to the pilot, and on a closed network not connected to the Internet, seeks to match the images of the volunteers to the images in the video streams.

37:40 John Wagner: So when the picture is taken and provided and comes into CBP and we match it against one of our pre-staged gallery photos that's comprised of passports and visas and previous arrivals, if it's a foreign national subject to the biometric entry exit mandate, that photograph will be sent over to DHS to hold them-to be stored in IDENT, which is the departments repository for that information. If it's a U.S. citizen and that document-that photo matches a U.S. Passport or a permanent resident or somebody outside of the scope of entry exit, that photograph would be held for 12 hours and then deleted or purged from our systems. The only reason we hold it for that short period of time, is just in case the system crashes and we have to restore everything.

38:45 John Wagner: What we were doing with that subcontractors, we would testing their camera on the U.S. Mexico land border in a standalone pilot system. So it wasn't integrated into the main CBP network and we were testing the taking of the photographs and the license plates and the ability to take a picture of a person in a vehicle and whether that would be matchable. In this case, the, apparently the con-...as far as I understand, the contractor physically removed those photographs from the camera itself and put it onto their own network, which was then breached. The CBP network was not hacked. The contractor, and what we see is, what I believe is, they remove that in violation of the contract and that's why our relationship has been severed with them and we're conducting an investigation. Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS): So - so you see my concern about how we control the data we collect? John Wagner: Absolutely.

1:08:00 Austin Gould: So right now I can comment on a really what we're doing in Atlanta with Delta Airlines. In Atlanta, the Delta airlines kiosks use biometric identification to-, when the passenger checks in to make sure, should, they choose to do, too make sure that that person is actually the passenger who's ticketed on that particular flight. Uh, TSA has oversight of the bagdrop to ensure that passengers are positively matched to bags in the international, you know, for international travel. And so Delta Airlines has a security program amendment that we've granted them to use biometric technology to do that matching at the bagdrop. We use it at our checkpoint in uh, in Atlanta, and then it's a, of course subject, or it's used at the exit point at the gate.

1:08:55 Austin Gould: Right now, the Security Program amendment that we've granted Delta for the limited use, only in Atlanta, is the only formal agreement that we've entered into with the, uh, with the airlines.

1:20:45 Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY): I'm concerned about the lack of accuracy. I'm very concerned about.... John Wagner: A person doesn't match the photo in this case, they present their passport as they're doing today. Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY): Excuse me? John Wagner: If a person doesn't match a photograph, they simply present their passport... Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY): When you're trying to match them and they don't match what happens to that individual? John Wagner: They present their boarding pass and their passport... Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY): Uh huh. John Wagner: ...and it's manually reviewed at that point in time. Just as it happens today. Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY): is that, and those people aren't detained in any way? They're not asked to step aside, they're not asked to, the process does not delay that person? John Wagner: No, they just show their passport. Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY): Okay. I hope that's the case.

1:33:00 Joseph R. DiPietro: Ma'am, the cameras that we're using as part of this pilot are part of the White House video management system. That's the CCTV system that records videos from all the cameras around the complex. We retain that data for 30 days as part of the CCTV process. So if we're, as we're going through and we're identifying those, those volunteers that are in there, that record is saved and we save that and we're going to evaluate that until the end of the process.

1:36:30 Rep. Debbie Lesko (AZ): Mr. Gould, are you planning on using this or have you thought of using biometric technology or do you for the employees-, the airport employees? Austin Gould: Yes ma'am. We are considering using biometric identification processes for employees as well.

1:42:00 John Wagner: This is not us taking an image of a person and randomly running it against a gallery set of indistinguishable, say, quality photographs and lowering down the accuracy rate as to what constitutes a match, to make it match someone that it's not.


Hearing: IDENTIFYING, RESOLVING, AND PREVENTING VULNERABILITIES IN TSA'S SECURITY OPERATIONS, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, June 25, 2019

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Witnesses:

  • David P. Pekoske, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security
  • Charles M. Johnson, Jr., Managing Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, Government Accountability Office
Transcript:

50:00 David Pekoske: Right now, based on a series of rules, a passenger who was not a precheck register or a global entry registrant could get precheck on their boarding pass. We're phasing that out over the course of the next several months. Um, so the precheck experience should get quite a bit better.

1:36:35 Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): So are you familiar with Clear? David Pekoske: I am. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): So I want you to know, uh, for, for a while I've been going and I kind of watch the process of clear and realized and went to their website and it says instead of using identification documents, clear uses biometrics, eye scans and fingerprints to confirm identity cleared codes, the biographic information and stores the data to be retrieved supposedly for future flight checks. Once the, it's in person registration as you know administrator, and it's a, that gets completed and then ClearPass can be used. The costs for our residents is about $100 annually and I think they pay a little bit more, I believe, when they first register. I have concerns about this. This is a private company, correct? David Pekoske: It is. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): And they're stepping in to doing their version of a pre TSA check, correct? David Pekoske: Uh no, they are doing identity verification, but it is not pre-check. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): So when they put the information in there, from what I understand from their website, of course they're going to say, you know, Clear's privacy policy seems to indicate that they can't sell the material or they're not going to share the material and so forth. But what's very interesting, administrator, and again this is also for Director Johnson, because I don't know, does JAO look at the Clears airport security process or not? This is why it's concerning. So the company shut down unexpectedly earlier this year for a day because they so called "ran out of money" and no one seems to know the root cause or how safe the data was during that time. And then it goes on to say nothing in the privacy policy explicitly prohibits a data collection company from purchasing Clear just for its data on what is likely or largely, you know, well healed clientele. This is very concerning because even though obviously in there, maybe in their contract, it says that they can't sell or share the data. Where does it say that our information is still protected? Can they sell it to another company? Can they transfer that contract to yet another company? And again, this is for profit companies, private outside companies that are coming in gathering the data and by them being there at the airport next to the pre TSA line and cutting the...we've kind of given some sort of blessing and credibility to this company to do that practice. And so what division approves this outside contract and what kind of oversight are we having, in regards to this process? David Pekoske: Yes, ma'am. Clear is what's called a registered traveler company.. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): Yeah, I know... David Pekoske: ..and the Registered Traveler program was established by Congress. So that program was established by Congress as being implemented as congress had intended. The Clear organization is not under contract with TSA. It is under contract with individual airports. So there is no contractual relationship between TSA and Clear. Our relationship to Clear is via the airports through the Airport Security Program, which we put in place at each airport around the country. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): So is there an [inaudible] Director Johnson, or maybe the administrator can answer? Do you see any security risks of the data being collected and being cleared through, you know, people are being, the cleared process that they have been using to get expedited through the line? Charles Johnson, Jr.: While we have looked at the Pre-check program in the past, we haven't really looked at the Clear program.


Hearing: FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY (PART II): ENSURING TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT USE, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, June 4, 2019

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Witnesses:

  • Kimberly Del Greco - Deputy Assistant Director, Criminal Justice Information Services, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Gretta Goodwin - Director, Homeland Security and Justice, Government Accountability Office
  • Charles H. Romine - Director, Information Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Austin Gould - Assistant Administrator, Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, Transportation Security Administration
Transcript:

2:30 Kimberly Del Greco: The FBI's policy and procedures emphasize that photo candidates returned are not to be considered positive identification, that the searches are photos and will only result in a ranked listing of candidates.

3:15 Kimberly Del Greco: Photos in the NGI, IPS repository are solely criminal mugshots acquired by law enforcement partners with criminal fingerprints associated with an arrest.

3:25 Kimberly Del Greco: The FBI face services unit provides investigative lead support to FBI offices, operational divisions, and legal attache's by using trained face examiners to compare face images of persons associated with open assessments or active investigations against facial images available and state and federal facial recognition systems through establish agreements with state and federal authorities.

3:50Kimberly Del Greco: The face services unit only searches probe photos that have been collected pursuant to the attorney general guidelines as part of an authorized FBI investigation and they are not retained.

4:05 Kimberly Del Greco: This service does not provide positive identification, but rather an investigative lead.

4:45 Kimberly Del Greco: The FBI collaborated with NIS to perform the facial recognition vendor test and determined a most viable option to upgrade its current NGI IPS algorithm. The algorithm chosen boasted an accuracy rate of 99.12% leveraging the nest results. The FBI is implementing the upgraded facial recognition algorithm.

7:30 Gretta Goodwin: We also reported on accuracy concerns about FBI's face recognition capabilities. Specifically, we found that the FBI conducted limited assessments of the accuracy of the face recognition searches before they accept it and deployed the technology. For example, the face recognition system generates a list of the requested number of photos. The FBI only assessed accuracy when users requested a list of 50 possible matches. It did not test smaller list sizes, which might have yielded different results. Additionally, these tests did not specify how often incorrect matches were returned. Knowing all of this, the FBI still deployed the technology.

13:30 Charles Romine: NIST's face recognition vendor testing program was established in 2000 to provide independent evaluations of both prototype and commercially available facial recognition algorithms. Significant progress has been made in algorithm improvements since the program was created.

14:30 Charles Romine Optimal face identification was achieved only when humans and machines collaborated.

16:40 Austin Gould The roadmap has four major goals, partnered with customs and border protection on biometrics for international travelers, operationalize biometrics for TSA precheck passengers, potentially expand biometrics for additional domestic travelers and develop the infrastructure to support these biometric efforts.

17:00 Austin Gould Consistent with the biometrics roadmap, TSA has conducted pilots that use facial biometrics to verify identity at certain airports.

17:25 Austin Gould And passengers always have the opportunity to not participate. In these cases, standard manual identification process is used.

17:30 Austin Gould I have observed the pilot currently underway in Terminal F in Atlanta for international passengers. Of Note, virtually every passenger chose to use the biometric identification process. The facial capture camera used for this pilot was in active mode, meaning that it only captured a facial image after the passenger was in position and the officer activated it. The match rate is extremely high and passengers moved rapidly through the checkpoint.

20:45 Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) Ms. DelGreco, can you explain how the FBI decides to search a state database versus when it searches its own system and how this policy is determined? Kimberly Del Greco I'd be happy to explain that. The, at the FBI, we have a service called Face Services unit. They process background checks and, uh, process, facial recognition searches of the state DMV photos. They do this in accordance with the attorney general guidelines. An FBI field office has to have an open assessment or an active investigation. They submit the probe photo to the FBI Face Services unit. We launched the search to the state. The state runs the search for the FBI and, and provides a candidate list back.

21:35 Kimberly Del Greco With regard to the NGI IPS, the Interstate Photo system, the Face Services unit will utilize that repository as well as the DMV photos. However, state and local and federal law enforcement agencies only have access to the NGI Interstate Photo system. These are the FBI mugshots that are associated with an 10 print criminal card associated with a criminal arrest record.

22:05 Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) Well, do individual who consent to having their faces in the noncriminal databases also consent to having their faces searched by the FBI for criminal investigations? For example, when applying for a drivers license, does someone consent at the DMV to being in a database searchable by the FBI? Kimberly Del Greco The FBI worked diligently with the state representatives in each of the states that we have MOUs. We did so under the states’ authority to allow photos to be used for criminal investigations. We also abided by the Federal Drivers License Privacy Protection Act and we consider that a very important process for us to access those photos to assist the state and local law enforcement and our Federal agencies. Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) Well, you just said state authority allowed you to do this. One question that our ranking member has asked over and over again is do you know whether in any of these states do any elected officials have anything to do with these decisions? In other words, where is that authority coming from and we’re trying to figure out if something affecting so many citizens whether elected officials have anything to do with it. Do you know? Kimberly Del Greco I do. Only in one state - the state of Illinois - did an elected official sign the MOU. In the other states, they were done so with the state representatives. This is state law that’s established at the state level prior to facial recognition and our program getting started. We’re just leveraging that state law. That state law is already in place. We did work with the office of general council at the FBI and the attorney level at the state level. Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) Well, if it was prior to facial recognition coming into existence, I’m just wondering do you think that whatever laws you’re referring to anticipated something like facial recognition? Kimberly Del Greco It’s my understanding that the states established those laws because of fraud and abuse of drivers licenses and we are just reviewing each of the state laws and working with the representatives in those states to ensure that we can leverage that for criminal investigation. Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) And so when you say leverage, I guess you’re saying that there were laws that were out there and these laws did not anticipate something like facial recognition and now the FBI has decided that it would basically take advantage of those laws, is that right?

26:00 Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) Ms. Del Greco, how many states have provided this level of direct access to the FBI? Kimberly Del Greco We do not have direct access. We submit a probe to the state. There’s 21 states… Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) 21 states, ok.

28:10 Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) And can the FBI perform a face recognition service for any American with a passport? Kimberly Del Greco For an open assessment or an active investigation. Only by the FBI, sir.

29:25 Kimberly Del Greco Some of those successes are assisting with the capture of the terrorist in Boston.

31:15 Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ) So what sort of accuracy rates are you finding in the different algorithms ability to match an image against a larger gallery of images? Charles Romine The accuracy rates that we're seeing, we have many different participants who have submitted algorithms. Approximately 70 participants in our, in our testing, the best algorithms are performing at a rate of approximately 99.7 in terms of accuracy. There's still a wide variety or wide variance across the number of algorithms. So this is certainly not commoditized yet. Some of the participants faired significantly poorer than that.

32:00 Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ)So are there algorithms that you tested that you would recommend for law enforcement? Charles Romine We don't make recommendations about specific algorithms. We provide the data necessary for making informed decisions about how an algorithm will perform in a field.

32:20 Charles Romine For law enforcement, for example, accuracy rates are one important aspect that needs to be considered, but there are other aspects that have to be taken into consideration for procurement or acquisition of such.

34:15 Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA): Mr. Gould, according to the biometrics roadmap released by TSA in September of 2018, TSA seeks to expand the use of facial recognition technology to "the general flying public" in specific locations. But the "general flying public "and TSA envisions the use of technology upon domestic flights, as well as international, which would capture the faces of mostly American citizens, and I'm just curious, going back to the chairman's original question, what's the legal basis? I'm not talking about a situation with the FBI where you might have, you hopefully would have probable cause. Where does the TSA find its justification? Its legal justification for capturing the facial, uh, identity of, of the flying public. Austin Gould: Yes sir. In accordance with the Aviation Transportation Security Act of 2001, TSA is charged with positively identifying passengers who are boarding aircraft. That probably... Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA): Right. Let me just stop you right there. So, we all fly at least a couple of times a day.... Austin Gould: Yes sir.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : ..a week. So we have, now you have to have a certified license. You can't go with the old version that your State had. Now we have much more accurate licenses. We surrender that oftentimes in the airport during the boarding process, you've got to show it a couple of times you've got a ticketing issue there. So you're doing that right now. Austin Gould: Yes Sir. Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : You have been doing that for a long, long time. Austin Gould : Manually, Yes Sir. Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right. Right. Right. So now you're saying that you're going to do these pilot programs and you're gonna hurt people. Now you're saying voluntarily, but I could imagine like you've done with a pre-check, you can either agree to surrender your right to anonymity and wait in the long line or you can give up your fourth amendment rights and go in the quick line. Is is that the dynamic that's going on here? Austin Gould: Sir, with respect to expanding to the general traveling public, we anticipate using, and we've not tested this yet, a one to one matching capability at the checkpoint. You produce your credential, you stick it in a machine, and the machine identifies whether or not your image, which is captured by the camera, matches the image that's embedded in the credential and it returns a match result. That will then allow you to proceed through the checkpoint. Should you decide not to participate in that program, we will always have the option to do that process manually. Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Right, but to match, you've got to have that data in the.. you've got to have that data onboarding and the technology to begin with to match something with, right? Austin Gould : Sir, that data is embedded in your credential. So the photograph is on your driver's license, for example. There's a digital recording of that image in the credential and when your pictures captured by the camera, it is matched to the photograph on the credential. It does not depart the checkpoint for any database search or anything like that. Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : Okay. Austin Gould : That's the one to one identification that we intend to use for the broader traveling public.

37:34 Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : You don't anticipate taking, using a database or gathering, collecting a database of information with NTSA, with which to identify passengers? Austin Gould : Sir, for international travelers who have a passport photo on record and for TSA precheck passengers who also provide a passport photo, we will match them to a gallery. But for the general traveling public that does not participate in those programs and merely has a credential, that matching.... Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) : What's the size of the gallery,? What do you anticipate? Is that, so if anybody engages in international travel, Is that, are they going to be in that or are they foreign nationals who traveled to the U.S.? Austin Gould : Sir, the gallery that we use right now with TVS includes anyone who is traveling internationally and who has a photo on record.

49:40 Rep. William Lacy Clay (MO) : So how many times has the FBI provided notice to criminal defendants that face recognition was used in their case? Kimberly Del Greco : As part of a criminal investigation, I don't believe that's part of the process.

52:00 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) : Dr. Goodwin, did the FBI publish privacy impact assessment in a timely fashion as it was supposed to when it implemented FRT in 2011? Gretta Goodwin : No. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) : Did the FBI follow proper notice? File proper notice, specifically the system of record notice in a timely fashion when it implemented facial recognition technology? Gretta Goodwin : No. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) : Did the FBI conduct proper testing of the next generation interstate photo system when it implemented FRT? Gretta Goodwin : Proper in terms of its accuracy for its use? Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) : Yes Gretta Goodwin : No. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) : Did the FBI test the accuracy of the states systems that it interfaced with? Gretta Goodwin : No.

58:00 Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) : So Mrs. Del Greco, how many searches has the FBI run in the Next Generation ID Interstate Photo system to date? How many searches? Do you have that information? Kimberly Del Greco : I have, I have from fiscal year 2017 to April of 2019. There were 152,500 searches.

1:03:30 Rep. Thomas Massie (KY) : Did you test certain conditions like siblings, the accuracy for siblings? Charles Romine : We do have perhaps the most relevant data that I can give you is, we do know that there is an impact on twins, in the database or in the testing, whether they are identical twins or even fraternal twins.

1:14:50 Austin Gould : Sir, the system that TSA is prototyping in conjunction with CBP uses NEC camera and a matching algorithm that was also developed by NEC.

1:16:50 Rep. Justin Amash (MI) : Do you have plans to implement face recognition technology at additional points in airports beyond besides gates or security checkpoints? Austin Gould : We are prototyping facial recognition technology at bagdrops, so when you drop a bag off to be placed on an aircraft, we can use facial technology, we're exploring the use of facial technology there and then for TSA purposes, only other locations are the checkpoint.

1:17:20 Rep. Mark Meadows (NC) : So Mr. Gould, let me, let me come back. If you're doing at bagdrops, that's not a one on one comparison. I mean if you, what are you comparing it to? If you're, if you're looking at change, checking facial recognition at bagdrops... Austin Gould : Uh Huh?
Rep. Mark Meadows (NC) : ..there wouldn't be necessarily the identification that you were talking about earlier. What pilot program are you working with that? Austin Gould : The pilot program in place right now is with Delta Airlines and CBP and TSA and Atlanta's Terminal F and it's a matching of the passengers bag against their identification or their photograph and the TVS, CBP, TVS system. Rep. Mark Meadows (NC) : Well, that contradicts your earlier testimony, Mr. Gould. Because what you said that you were doing is just checking the biometrics within the identification against a facial recognition, but it sounds like you're doing a lot more than that.

1:18:50 Austin Gould: Sir, with respect to the pilot in Atlanta, it's international travelers, and the purpose of that pilot is to positively match using biometrics. The passenger to that bag at the bag drop. The only, the traveler's camp, uh, photograph is captured, images captured. It is transmitted to the CBP TVS system for matching and it returns a match result. That's it. No privacy information or any other data associated with it.

1:41:30 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): The numbers. Dr. Goodwin, how many..what number of photos does the FBI have access to in just their database? Gretta Goodwin: In just their database, it's a little over 20 plus, 36 million. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): 36 million. And then in the databases that they can then send information to and that are screened and used and there's interface, interaction with, at the state level. What is the total number of photos in those databases? Gretta Goodwin: So access to photos across all the repositories? About 640 million. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH): 640 million photos? Only 330 million people in the country.

1:45:35 Charles Romine: We don't test for specific companies on their behalf. We test or evaluate the algorithms that are submitted to us through this voluntary program.

1:45:45 Charles Romine: We don't test specifically for Algorithms, demographic effects. We're talking about the demographic effects across all of the Algorithms that are submitted.

1:49:30 Rep. Mark Meadows (NC): Is you mentioned about not having any real time systems, and yet we had a testimony just a couple of weeks ago from Georgetown that indicated that Chicago Police Department, Detroit Police Department has real-time. They purchased it where they're actually taking real-time images. Do They Ping the FBI to validate what they've picked up in real-time with what you have on your database? Kimberly Del Greco: I mean, there are authorized law enforcement entities that have access to our system.

1:53:25 Rep. Mark Meadows (NC): I would suggest that you put this pilot program on hold, because I don't know of any appropriations that specifically allowed you to have this, this pilot program. Are you aware of any? Because you keep referring back to a 2001 law, and I'm not, I'm not aware of any appropriations that have been given you the right to do this pilot program. Austin Gould: I'm not aware of any specific appropriations. Rep. Mark Meadows (NC): Exactly, so I would recommend that you stop it until you find out your statutory authority.

2:29:12 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): The TSA has outlined proposals to collaborate with private companies including Delta and Jet Bue to develop and implement their facial recognition search systems. Is this correct? Austin Gould: Ma'am, we've issued a security program amendment to Delta to allow them to use biometric identification at their bagdrop. In terms of partnering with them to develop the backend matching system, that is something that we're solely engaged withCBP on..... Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): And the bagdrop, those are the computers that folks check in and get their boarding pass from? Austin Gould: That would be the, I would use the term "kiosk" for that. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): "The kiosk?" Austin Gould: Delta uses that technology at their kiosk. TSA has no equity there, that's solely to verify that passenger has a reservation with Delta where we have equities that are checkpoint and also at the bagdrop where we're required to ensure that the passengers match to their bag. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): Do individuals know that that is happening and do they provide explicit consent? Is it opt in? Austin Gould: Passengers have the opportunity to not participate. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): So it's opt out, but not opt in? Austin Gould: It is, yes ma'am. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): So it's possible that jet blue and Delta are working with the TSA to capture photos of passengers faces without their explicit opt-in consent? Austin Gould: Man, I was down in Atlanta last week and watched the Delta Check-in Process, the bagdrop process, and it was very clear, while I was down there, the passengers were afforded the opportunity, if you'd like to use, you know, facial capture for identification, please stand in front of the camera and we'll do so. There was no automatic capture of passengers or anything like that. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): And this capture is not saved in any way, but is a..-correct, right? Austin Gould: No, ma'am. The camera captures the image. The image is encrypted. It is sent to the TVS matching system, which is what CBP uses solely for the purpose of match. And then that match result is sent back to to the operator. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): Is that captured image destroyed? Austin Gould: It's not retained at all. No, ma'am. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): So it's sent, but it's not retained? Austin Gould: It's not retained on the camera. No, ma'am.


Hearing: FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY (PART 1): ITS IMPACT ON OUR CIVIL RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, May 22, 2019

Watch on Youtube

Watch on CSPAN

Witnesses

  • Neema Singh Guliani - Senior Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Clare Garvie - Center on Privacy & Technology Senior Associate at Georgetown Law School
  • Joy Buolamwini - Founder of the Algorithmic Justice League
  • Andrew Ferguson - Law Professor at the University of the District of Columbia
Transcript:

13:15 Joy Buolamwini Due to the consequences of failures of this technology, I decided to focus my MIT research on the accuracy of facial analysis systems. These studies found that for the task of guessing a gender of a face; IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon had errors of no more than 1% for lighter-skinned men. In the worst case, those errors rose to over 30% for darker skinned women. Given such accuracy disparities, I wondered how large tech companies could have missed these issues. It boiled down to problematic dataset choices. In evaluating benchmark data sets from organizations like NIST, (The National Institute for Standards and technology) I found some surprising imbalances. One missed dataset was 75% male and 80% lighter skin, or what I like to call a pale male dataset. We cannot adequately evaluate facial analysis technologies without addressing this critical issue. Moving forward, the demographic and phenotypic composition of missed benchmarks must be made public and updated to better inform decision makers about the maturity of facial analysis technology.

21:30 Clare Garvie Face recognition gives law enforcement a power that they've never had before and this power raises questions about our fourth and first amendment protections. Police can't secretly fingerprint a crowd of people from across the street. They also can't walk through that crowd demanding that everybody produce their driver's license, but they can scan their faces,remotely and in secret, and identify each person thanks to face recognition technology.

22:00 Clare Garvie Last year, the Supreme Court in Carpenter noted that for the government to secretly monitor and catalog every one of our movements across time and space violates our right to privacy protected by the fourth amendment. Face recognition enables precisely this type of monitoring, but that hasn't stopped Chicago, Detroit, and other cities from acquiring and piloting this capability. The Supreme Court held in NAACP vs. Alabama, Tally vs. California, and others that the first amendment protects the right to anonymous speech and association. Face recognition technology threatens to upend this protection.

23:00 Clare Garvie Face recognition makes mistakes and its consequences will be born disproportionately by African Americans. 1. Comunities of color are disproportionately the targets of police surveillance, face recognition being no exception. San Diego found that their police used face recognition up to a two and a half times more on African Americans than on anyone else. 2. People of color are disproportionately enrolled in police face recognition systems, thanks to being over-represented in mugshot databases that the systems run on. And 3, Studies continue to show that the accuracy of face recognition varies depending on the race of the person being searched. Face recognition makes mistakes and risks making more mistakes, more misidentification's of African Americans. And the state could mean you're accused of a crime you didn't commit, like the Brown University student erroneously identified as one of the Sri Lankan bombers earlier this month. One of this country's foundational principles is equal protection under the law. Police use of face recognition may not comport with this principle.

24:05 Clare Garvie Left unchecked, current police face recognition practices threaten our due process rights. My research has uncovered the fact that police submit what can only be described as garbage data into face recognition systems expecting valuable leads in return. The NYPD submitted a photo of actor Woody Harrelson to find an unknown suspect in a beer theft. They have submitted photos of suspect whose eyes are mouths have been cut and pasted in from another person's photo, essentially, fabricating evidence. Agencies submit drawings of suspects in places of photos as well, despite research showing that this will not work. Worse, officers' at times then skip identification procedures and go straight to arresting someone on the basis of a face recognition search. This practice runs counter both to common sense and to department's own policies and these practices raised serious concerns about accuracy and the innocence of the person arrested because of a face recognition search.

25:15 Clare Garvie These systems produce Brady material, information that under our constitutional right to due process must be turned over to the defense, but it's not.

25:25 Clare Garvie For all these reasons, a moratorium on the use of face recognition by police is both appropriate and necessary.

30:15 Neema Singh Guliani The committee should Look at companies that are aggressively marketing this technology to the government, including how accurate their technologies are and what responsibility they take to prevent abuse. Companies are marketing this technology for serious uses, like identifying someone during a police encounter, and we know far too little. For example, Amazon has even refused to disclose who it sells this technology too and companies like Microsoft and Face Burst have so far not received significant congressional attention.

30:45 Neema Singh Guliani There are efforts across the country to stop this dangerous spread of this technology. San Francisco has banned the use by city departments and Amazon shareholders are today taking the unprecedented step of voting on a resolution that would stop the company from selling this technology to the government and force it to study the human rights impacts. Congress should follow these good examples and put in place a moratorium on law enforcement use.

39:44 Rep. Katie Hill (CA) Professor Ferguson, do you think that the supreme court can rule quickly enough upon the use of these technologies as the cases arise to thwart constitutionally questionable uses? Andrew Ferguson They can, but they won't do as good a job as congress regulating it. Now, Justice Alito has repeatedly made that claim, and I think he's correct to say that this kind of technology should be regulated first, by Congress. The fourth amendment floor will exist and the Supreme Court will address it. But this body has the primary responsibility to regulate in this field.

44:57 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) Did the state legislature and the governor actually pass legislation saying it was okay for the FBI to access every single person in their state who has a driver's license? Did that happen in those 18 or 19 states that gave that permission to the FBI? Neema Singh Guliani No, and that's the problem. This was all in secret essentially. Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) So some unelected person at the FBI talks to some unelected person at the state level and they say, "yeah, go ahead". Here's.. In the case of Ohio, we've got 11 million people, most of them drive, here's 10 million folks who you can now have their, have this database. Neema Singh Guliani Right, and the people who wanted a driver's license many times didn't know these systems were operating either.

1:02:16 Rep. Michael Cloud (TX) Miss Buolamwini, did I say that right? Joy Buolamwini Yes, You did. Rep. Michael Cloud (TX) Okay. You mentioned Facebook, in your remarks and I find that interesting cause I'm extremely concerned about the government having this kind of unknown checked ability. I would be curious to get your thoughts of corporations having the same sort of ability and also Ms.Garvie and Ms. Guliani, if you want to speak to that too. Joy Buolamwini Absolutely. So you're looking at a platform that has over 2.6 billion users and over time, Facebook has been able to amass enormous facial recognition capabilities using all of those photos that we tagged without our permission. What we're seeing is that we don't necessarily have to accept this as the default. So in the EU where GDPR was passed, because there's a provision for biometric data consent, they actually have an option where you have to opt in. Right now we don't have that in the US and that's something we could immediately require today.

1:09:10 Joy Buolamwini We don't even have reporting requirements, at least in the UK where they have done pilots of facial recognition technology. There are reported results and you have false positive match rates of over 90%. There's a big brother Watch UK report that came out that showed more than 2,400 innocent people had their faces misidentified.

1:13:05 Clare Garvie Law enforcement agencies don't typically have access to the training data or to how the algorithms work as well, because these are private companies that have developed these systems and it's considered a trade secret.

1:14:22 Clare Garvie We see China as a bit of a roadmap of what's possible with this technology in the absence of rules. And in the absence of rules, this is a system where everybody is enrolled in the backend and there are enough cameras to allow law enforcement to track where somebody is anytime they show their face in public, to upload their photo and see where they've been over the last two weeks, be that public rallies or an alcoholics anonymous meeting or, a rehab clinic. That information is now available at the click of a button or the upload of a photo. That's what face recognition looks like with no rules.

1:15:14 Clare Garvie Our research has found that, two, at least two major jurisdictions, Chicago and Detroit have purchased this capability and have paid to keep it, to maintain it. Chicago says they do not use it. Detroit, did not deny that they were using it. There's is designed to operate with project greenlight, which is specifically locations like, yes, gas stations and liquor stores, but also churches and clinics and schools.

1:41:41 Clare Garvie A handful of other agencies across the country, Los Angeles, the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, and others have either piloted or have looked to purchase this technology as well.

1:41:55 Rep. Carol Miller (WV) Are there any federal agencies to your knowledge that utilize real time face surveillance? Clare Garvie The U.S. Secret service is piloting a program around the White House complex as we speak. We do not know the degree to which the FBI has been piloting this. We do know they have acquired or have been using Amazon recognition, which is the same, uh, surveillance capability that Orlando has been piloting in real time. But there is no transparency into how an when they're using that.

1:44:55 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) Ms. Buolamwini, right now, Amazon can scan your face without your consent, all of our faces without our consent and sell it to the government, all without our knowledge, correct? Joy Buolamwini Yes. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) And you know, Mr Chair, I'd like to seek unanimous consent on how Amazon actually met with ICE officials over facial recognition systems that could identify immigrants. I'd like to submit this to the congressional record. Chairperson Without objection. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) Thank you so much. Um, Miss Garvie, in fact, it's not just Amazon that's doing this right? It's Facebook. It's Microsoft. It's a very large amount of tech corporations, correct? Clare Garvie That's correct. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) And you think it's fair to say that Americans are essentially being spied on and surveilled on a massive scale without their consent or knowledge? Clare Garvie I would make a bit of a distinction between what Facebook, and other companies are doing, but yielding to Miss Buolamwini for more specifics on this. I will say most of the law enforcement agency systems operate on DMV databases or mugshot databases, so information that has been collected by agencies rather than companies.

1:50:15 Joy Buolamwini So there's a case with Mr. Bah, an 18 year old African American man who was misidentified in Apple stores as a thief. And in fact, he was falsely arrested multiple times because of this kind of misidentification.

2:07:50 Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA) Until February of this year, Amazon had not submitted its controversial facial recognition technology recognition to third party testing with the National Institute of Standards and technology known as NIST. In a January, 2019 blog post, Amazon stated that "Amazon recognition can't be downloaded for testing outside of Amazon." In short, Amazon would not submit to outside testing of their algorithm. Despite the fact that Amazon had not submitted its facial recognition product to outside testing, it still sold that product to police departments. In 2017, police in Washington county, Oregon started using Amazon recognition technology.

2:28:15 Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA) The ubiquity of this technology, it strikes me, maybe we've already kind of mostly lost this battle.

2:36:30 Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD) We are now seeing that most companies that develop facial recognition systems offer also real time software. Do we know how many of these are selling their technology to government actors in the United States? Clare Garvie That's right. Most, if not all companies that market face recognition to law enforcement in the U.S., also advertise the abilities to do face surveillance. We have no idea how widespread this is thanks to a fundamental absence of transparency. We have limited visibility into what Chicago is doing, what Detroit's doing. Orlando, the secret service here in Washington, D.C. and in New York, thanks to FOIA records and investigative journalists work. But for a vast majority of jurisdictions, we have no idea.

2:37:20 Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD) But well, what's the minimum you think? Clare Garvie So, we can estimate conservatively that face recognition generally both used as an investigative tool, and potentially as a surveillance tool is, accessible to at very least, a quarter of all law enforcement agencies across the U.S. That's a conservative estimate because it's based on 300 or so records requests where there are 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country.

2:39:00 Joy Buolamwini So Facebook has a patent, where they say because we have all of these space prints collected often without consent, we can now give you an option as a retailer to identify somebody who walks into the store and in their patent they say, "we can also give that face a trustworthiness score and based on that trustworthiness score, we might determine if you have access or not to a valuable good". So this... Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD) Facebook is selling this now? Joy Buolamwini This is a patent that they filed; as in something that they could potentially do with the capabilities they have, so as we're talking about state surveillance, we absolutely have to be thinking about corporate surveillance as well.


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 17, 2020
Thank You STOCK Act
01:50:48

In this thank you bonus episode, some CARES Act updates, including a debunking of a rumor that the CARES Act was written before the crisis, a list of the greedy Senators who used their behind-closed-doors Congressional COVID-19 briefing’s to hit the jackpot on the stock market, and the reason why Boeing hasn’t yet claimed their $17 billion CARES Act gift. Jen then thanks all the producers who make this podcast possible


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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)

May 15, 2020
CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law
02:29:56

The U.S. Treasury has been legally robbed! In this episode, discover the secret provisions in the multi-trillion dollar CARES Act that no one is talking about (like the new process for over the counter drug approvals) and discover the reasons behind problems that everyone is talking about (like why Mom & Pops can't get a small business loan approved but Fogo de Chao can.) The good news is that the problems are so obvious that they are easily fixed... If Congress ever comes back from vacation. 


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD160: Equifax Breach

CD199: Surprise Medical Bills

CD201: WTF is the Federal Reserve?

CD212: The COVID-19 Response Laws


Bills

H.R.748 - CARES Act

Text: H.R.748 - CARES Act

Roll Call: H.R.748 - CARES Act

House passed by voice vote at 1:25pm on March 27th

Transcript: House debate

Tom Massie demanded a recorded vote but an insufficient number of members supported him and the demand for a recorded vote was refused

Signed by Trump on March 27


CARES Act Outline


DIVISION A - Keeping Workers Paid and Employed, Health Care System Enhancements, and Economic Stabilization

TITLE I - Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act

Sec. 1102: "Paycheck Protection Program" (Small Business Loans)

The Federal Government will guarantee 100% of the loans made under this authority between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020.

The loans are allowed to be used by businesses to pay for their employees salaries, tips, sick and vacation time, health care, retirement benefits, and state and local taxes. Sole proprietors and independent contractors are eligible. All payments are capped at a salary rate of $100,000/yr per individual. Payments are not eligible for employees who live outside the United States, even if they are US citizens.

A “small business” is defined as a business with fewer than 500 employees per physical location. Usually, franchises in a large corporate chain would be except from receiving these loans, but that exemption is waived. Nonprofits and veterans organizations are eligible as well.

The maximum loan amount is $10 million. No personal guarantee or collateral can be required to get the loans between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020. There are no penalties allowed for prepayment of the loans.

The Federal government will collect no administration fees.

Interest rates are capped at 4%

Fees for banks: The government will pay the bankers processing fees of 5% for loans under $350,000, 3% for loans between $350,000 and $2 million, and 1% of loans over $2 million.

Loan payments must be allowed to be deferred - so no required payments of principal, interest, or fees - for at least 6 months and up to one year.

The loans are allowed to be sold on the secondary market, but if the investor doesn’t want to abide by the deferment requirements, the government can buy the loan.

Banks are going to be exempted from some disclosure requirements for these loans.

The law authorizes $349 billion for this program.

Sec. 1106: The loans from Section 1102 are eligible for forgiveness - as in you don’t have to pay them back - if the loan money was used for payroll costs, interest-only on mortgage payments (it specifically excludes payments towards the principal on a mortgage loan), rent payments, and/or utility payments.

The government will pay the bankers for amount of the loan forgiven plus interest, capped at the amount of the principal on the loan.

The amount of loan forgiveness will be reduced if the business employees fewer people during the COVID-19 crisis than they did before.

The amount of forgiveness will be reduced by the amount of salary that employees who make less than $100,000/yr have their pay reduced beyond a 25% cut.

Businesses can get loan forgiveness for extra money given to tipped employees.

Businesses who re-hire their employees or re-instate employees salary to their pre-crisis level by June 30, 2020 will be eligible to have their loans forgiven.

The banks will decide who will have their loans forgiven and banks are prohibited from being punished if the documentation submitted to them is wrong until June 30, 2020.

Sec. 1110: From January 31, 2020 through December 31, 2020, businesses with fewer than 500 employees, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors can request a $10,000 advance to pay for employee sick leave, payroll, increased costs for materials, rent, or mortgage payments. The business can be approved using a credit score or self certification of the ability to repay. The advance can be up to $10,000 and must be paid within 3 days. If the applicant is approved for a loan, the advance will be reduced from the loan forgiveness amount. If the applicant isn’t approved, the advance doesn’t have to be repaid. $10 billion is appropriated for the advances.

Sec. 1112: The government will pay the principal, interest, and fees for six months on some existing loans that are guaranteed by the government by the Small Business Act. $17 billion is appropriated for these payments.

Sec. 1113: Until March 27, 2021, small businesses that want to declare bankruptcy and reorganize under Chapter 11 must have debts under $7.5 million instead of $2,725,625 as is usually the case, which increases the number of small businesses that will be eligible.

TITLE II - Assistance for American Workers, Families, and Businesses

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

Sec. 2104: Unemployment 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.

SUBTITLE B: Rebates and Other Individual Provisions

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.

Sec. 2202: Waives rules that penalize removing money from your retirement accounts if you take the money out between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.. You can take out up $100,000 in “coronavirus-related distributions”. You are allowed to pay it back in full for 3 years starting on the day you took the money out. To qualify, you have to self certify that you are someone who had COVID-19, is caring for a spouse or dependent who had COVID-19, or someone who was financially screwed in some way due to being quarantined, having work hours reduced, or having to care for a child.

Sec. 2203: Waives the requirements that people over the age of 72, or their dependents who inherited their retirement accounts, to withdraw some money from the retirement accounts every year. The waiver is valid even for people who were not adversely affected by COVID-19.

Sec. 2204: Allows people - even those that don’t itemize their deductions - to deduct $300 in donations in 2020 for cash payments given to charities, a government organization, educational organizations, veterans organizations… There’s a long list. Applies to taxable years starting with 2020.

Sec. 2205: For people who do itemize their deductions, the current limit of cash contributions than can be written off (which is a maximum of 60% of the taxpayer’s tax bill for the year) is suspended. You can deduct up to your entire tax bill, although maybe even more because carry-overs are allowed. For corporations, the usual limit of cash contributions that can be written off (10% of the corporation’s income) is increased to 25% of the corporation’s income. The corporate limit increase is valid only in 2020.

Sec. 2206: Allows employers to pay for some of an employee’s student loan - principal and/or interest - tax free if the payment is made by January 1, 2021.

SUBTITLE C - Business provisions

Sec. 2301: Employers with more than 100 employees will be able to get a tax credit for half of the wages they pay to their employee’s who can’t work, with a limit of $10,000 per employee per quarter. Employer with fewer than 100 employees can get the tax credit for all their employees. Employers who qualify are ones that had to close due to COVID-19 or whose gross receipts are less than 50% of what they were the same quarter last year. Employers who take out the small business loans created by this law can’t get this credit too. They will lose this tax credit in the quarter after their gross receipts are more than 80% of what they were in same quarter the prior year. This is predicted to save companies $54.6 billion.

Sec. 2302: Allows employers to defer payroll taxes, with half the amount required to be paid by December 31, 2021 and the other half due by December 31, 2022. Businesses that have had loans forgiven using the provisions in this law are not eligible.

Sec. 2303: The IRS code has, for many years, allowed business losses to be carried over to following years, so that the companies tax liability will be lower in the years to come. This law changes that so business losses from 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 can be carried backwards to each of the five years before the loss while also allowing the existing option to carry the losses forward too. The law also removes the limit that said that this couldn’t be done to offset more than 80% of taxable income for 2018, 2019, or 2020, which means this can be used to zero out their taxable income for years since 2013. This means that companies will be able to get refunds on taxes they paid on taxes going as far back as 2013. In those years, corporate tax rates were higher, so reducing their income levels retroactively lets them get more money back from those higher tax years. There’s no requirement that the businesses that get this tax gift be in any way negatively affected by COVID-19. This is estimated to provide $25.5 billion to corporations

Sec. 2304: Prior to the 2017 tax cut law, individual taxpayers could deduct unlimited business losses against other kinds of income. The 2017 tax law changed that so that losses could only be used to shelter the first $250,000 or $500,000 of a married couple’s nonbusiness income, such as capital gains from stock market investments. This law retroactively removes new limits imposed by the 2017 tax law going back to 2018 and until 2021. This will allow individuals to submit amended returns and get refunds that weren’t allowed in 2018 and 2019. In reality, this will allow wealthy investors to use losses generated by depreciation in real estate to minimize their taxes on profits from things like investments in the stock market. No harm from COVID-19 needs to be proven in order to use and benefit from this provision. This is the second largest tax giveaway in this law. This is projected to cost almost $170 billion.

Sec. 2305: Allows corporations expecting a refund due to the repeal of the alternative minimum tax in 2017 to get that refund faster.

Sec. 2306: Increases the amount corporations can deduct on the interest expenses it pays on its loans from 30% of the company’s “adjusted taxable income” to 50%. Companies can do this regardless of any affect COVID-19 had on their business. This is projected to cost $13.4 billion.

Sec. 2307: A tax credit for real estate owners, this changes a provision in the 2017 tax law to allow real estate owners to write off the costs of improvements to the interiors of their properties in the first year instead of spreading them out over many years. This is backdated to the enactment of the tax law, which will allow real estate owners to get tax refunds.

Sec. 2308: Waives the federal excise tax on any alcohol used in hand sanitizer for calendar year 2020.

TITLE III - Supporting America’s Health Care System in the Fight Against the Coronavirus

Part 1 - Addressing Supply Shortages

Subpart A - Medical Product Supplies

Sec. 3101: Orders a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the security of the United States medical product supply chain, specifically by evaluating the dependance of the United States and our private sector on critical drugs and devices sources or manufactured outside of the United States.

Sec. 3103: Manufacturers of certain types of masks and ventilators are granted immunity from lawsuits during public health emergencies.

Subpart B - Mitigating Emergency Drug Shortages

Sec. 3112: Requires the manufacturers of drugs critical to the public health to report interruptions to the supply of the drug when the cause of the interruption is an interruption in the supply of the active pharmaceutical ingredient. They must also create and implement risk management plans. Is not effective until mid-September 2020.

Subpart C - Preventing Medical Device Shortages

Sec. 3121: Requires manufacturers of medical devices that are critical to public health to report to the government during or in advance of a public health emergency any interruptions in the manufacture of the devices that could lead to a meaningful disruption in the supply of that device in the United States. Unless it’s not possible, the government must get this notification at least 6 months prior to the date that the interruption or discontinuance is expected. The government must then distribute the information to appropriate health care industry officials. The government can keep the information from the public if disclosing it increases the likelihood of over-purchase of the product.

Part II - Access to Health Care For COVID-19 Patients

Subpart A - Coverage of Testing and Preventive Services

Sec. 3201: Amends the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the 2nd COVID-19 Response Law) so that coverage is only for COVID-19 tests that are “approved, cleared, or authorized” or that the developer has requested or intends to request emergency use authorization, is developed in and authorized by a State, or another test that HHS determines appropriate in writing. This provision did not change the language (loophole) that requires visits be covered only if they “result in the ordering or administration of a COVID-19 test.”

Sec. 3202: Health care providers must publish on a public internet website the prices for COVID-19 testing. If health insurers have a negotiated rate with a providers, they are allowed to pay that rate if it is lower than the published rate. If there is no negotiated rate, the insurance companies must pay the amount listed on their public website.

Sec. 3203: The health insurance companies “shall” be required to cover, without cost sharing, “any qualifying coronavirus preventive service” (which is “a service or immunization that is intended to prevent or mitigate coronavirus disease 2019) within 15 days of it’s official recommendation by the United States Preventive Services Task Force or the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Subpart B - Support for Health Care Providers

Sec. 3211: Provides $1.32 billion in extra funding for community health centers that are testing for COVID-19

Sec. 3215: Gives legal immunity in State and Federal courts to medical professionals who volunteer and provide services during the COVID-19 public health emergency declared on January 31, 2020, but the immunity is only valid for actions that took place after March 27th (the date of enactment). The immunity is not valid if the health care professional acted with willful or gross negligence or if the health professional was intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

Subpart C - Miscellaneous Provisions

Sec. 3222: Elderly people who are homebound due to social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 emergency will be able to get government food deliveries as if they were homebound due to illness, as the law usually requires.

Part III - Innovation

Sec. 3301: Allows contracts created by BARDA (the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) during a public health emergency to continue past the end date of the public health emergency.

Sec. 3302: Requires - no option - the Secretary of Health and Human Services to expedite the development and review of new animal drugs if preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the new drug might prevent or treat an animal disease that could cause serious or life-threatening diseases in humans, if the expedited process is requested by the organization creating the animal drug.

Part IV - Health Care Workforce

Sec. 3401: Appropriates $23.7 million per year through 2025 for grants to health professions schools and other public and nonprofit health or educational organizations, but with most of the grants being funded at significantly lower rates than they were during the Obama years. For example, for loan repayments and fellowships, they provided $5 million/yr during 2010-2014; that’s decreased to $1.2 million for 2021-2025. For educational assistance for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, they provided $60 million/yr during 2010-2014; that’s decreased to $15 million for 2021-2025. For grants to public and nonprofit private hospitals and medical schools, they provided $125 million/yr during 2010-2014; that’s decreased to under $49 million for 2021-2025. For health education center programs, they provided $125 million/yr during 2010-2014; that’s decreased to under $41.2 million for 2021-2025. For public health training centers, they provided at least $43 million/yr for 2012-2015; that’s decreased to $17 million for 2021-2025. The only category that gets significantly greater funding is a pediatric specialty loan repayment program that requires the student to work for at least 2 years in pediatric medicine to get the money. The funding level was $50 million/yr from 2010-2013, the funding is authorized to be unlimited from 2021 through 2025. All of these are authorizations for appropriations, they don’t provide any additional money.

Sec. 3403: Requires grants and contracts be awarded for a Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program, that would train health professionals in geriatrics. The law authorizes about $40 million, but doesn’t appropriate it. This is a problem because Congress frequently will authorize programs they have no intention of funding, and without the funding, they don’t really exist.

Sec. 3404: Authorizes appropriations, but does not appropriate, for nursing eduction programs about $138 million/yr for fiscal years 2021 through 2025, which is a decrease from the funding of $338 million that was valid from 2011-2016. Also authorizes, but does not appropriate, $117 million/yr from 2021-2015 for nursing student loans.

Subtitle B - Education Provisions

Sec. 3503: Through 2021, the requirement that all colleges match Federal funding for student work-study programs) is waived except for private for-profit organizations.

Sec. 3504: Colleges will be allowed to use some of their federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant money for students facing “unexpected expenses and unmet financial need”. The student can be given up to the maximum Federal Pell Grant for that year (which is currently $6,345).

Sec. 3505: Allows colleges to pay student their work-study wages up to the full amount they would have been paid had there not been an emergency. They can make the payments in one-time grants or as multiple payments.

Sec. 3506: The semester that students with loans couldn’t finish because of COVID-19 will not be counted towards their lifetime limits on subsidized loan eligibility.

Sec. 3507: The semester that students with loans couldn’t finish because of COVID-19 will not be counted towards their lifetime limits on Pell Grant eligibility.

Sec. 3508: Colleges, including for-profit colleges, that have students with loans withdraw from their schools due to COVID-19 will not have to repay the money they received from that student. The students will not have to return the money either and their loan obligation will be cancelled. The schools are allowed to let the student return after a leave of absence.

Sec. 3511: Gives the Secretary of Education the option, at the request of a State, local, or tribal government, to waive statutory and regulatory requirements except for civli rights laws. The waivers may also be granted to charter schools. The waivers will not be valid past the 2019-2020 school year.

Sec. 3512: During the COVID-19 emergency, the Secretary of Education can make payments - including on principal and interest - on loans issued to historically black colleges and universities through the HBCU Capital Financing Loan program, but the payments will have to be repaid to the Department of Education no sooner than one year after the COVID-19 emergency ends. The law appropriates $62 million.

Sec. 3513: The Secretary of Education is required to suspend all payments due for student loans until September 30, 2020. Interest is not allowed to accrue during the suspension time. Each month during the suspicion must be treated as if the payments were made for the purpose of loan forgiveness programs. During the suspension period, student loan collections actions including wage garnishment and tax refund reductions must stop. People with student loans are allowed to keep making payments towards their principal.

Sec. 3518: Allows the Secretary of Education to change the requirements, including matching requirements, for grant money given to colleges for the year of the emergency and the following fiscal year.

Sec. 3519: Allows the Secretary of Education to excuse teachers from obligations they made to receive grants. The Secretary of Education is required to waive requirements that teaching service be consecutive for loan forgiveness as long as the teach completes a total of 5 years of required teaching service.

Subtitle C - Labor Provisions

Sec. 3606: Allows employers who will get a credit for the sick and family leave they are providing their employees to get that credit in advance.

Sec. 3608: Required payments to employee pension plans can be postponed until January 1, 2021, but they must be paid with interest.

Sec. 3610: Allows any government agency to change their contracts to allow the government to pay for up to 40 hours per week of paid leave that a contractor provides to its employees until September 30, 2020. This only applies to contractors who can’t work because the facilities where they work are closed and who can’t do their work remotely.

Subtitle D - Finance Committee

Sec. 3701: High deductible health insurance plans that do not include deductibles for telehealth services will still be considered high deductible plans.

Sec. 3702: Starting on January 1, 2020, menstrual care products are considered medical products, which allows people to purchase them with Health Savings Accounts.

Sec. 3703: Allows people on Medicare to be covered for telehealth visits to doctors they have not seen before.

Sec. 3705: During the COVID-19 emergency, dialysis patients who receive their treatments at home do not need to meet face to face with their doctors, which allows the visit to be conducted via telehealth.

Sec. 3706: The Secretary of Health and Human Services can allow hospice physicians or nurse practitioners to conduct patient visits via telehealth during the COVID-19 emergency

Sec. 3709: Stops the 2% Medicare sequestration from May 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, but extends sequestration for an extra year (to 2030 instead of 2029)

Sec. 3710: Medicare will pay an extra 20% for people diagnosed with COVID-19, using “diagnosis codes, condition codes, or other such means as may be necessary” during the emergency period declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Sec. 3713: Beginning on the day that a COVID-19 vaccine is licensed, Medicare will not charge a deductible for the the vaccine or its administration.

Sec. 3714: Allows people on Medicare to get 90 day supplies of their drugs in a single refill for the during of the COVID-19 emergency declared by the HHS Secretary.

Sec. 3719: During the emergency period, the Secretary of HHS can loan hospitals an advance of up to 6 months of Medicare payments. The payments can be made periodically or in a lump sum for up to 100% of the their usual payments, 125% for critical access hospitals. Hospitals will have to be given 120 days before any payments are decreased to offset the loans and must be given at least 1 year from the date of their first loan receipt to pay back the balance in full.

Subtitle E: Health and Human Services Extenders

Part I - Medicare Provisions

Sec. 3803: Restores the funding levels of recently gutted low income programs. $13 billion to state health insurance programs, $7.5 billion to area agencies on aging, and $5 billion for aging and disability resources centers, and $12 billion for the National Center for Benefits and Outreach Enrollment.

Part II - Medicaid Provisions

Sec. 3813: Delays $4 billion in payment cuts to hospitals written into the Affordable Care Act which were supposed to begin in 2014. Hospitals were expected to be treating fewer uninsured individuals when the cuts were written into law.

Part III - Human Services and Other Health Programs

Sec. 3821: Extends the “Sexual Risk Avoidance Education Program” (abstinence eduction) from its scheduled end of May 22, 2020 to November 30, 2020. The program gives grants to states that agree to promote abstinence-only sex ed. Requirements and funding levels

Sec. 3822: Extends the “Personal Responsibility Education Program” from its scheduled end of May 22, 2020 to November 30, 2020. Requirements and funding

Part IV - Public Health Provisions

Sec. 3831: Adds $1.5 billion to the funding for Community Health Centers to bring the funding to equal the 2019 funding, and funds them at the same rate through November 30, 2020. Adds $241 million to the funding for the National Health Service Corps, whose funding was allowed to lapse in December 2019, restoring its funding to equal the 2019 funding. Adds $45 million to teaching health centers that operate graduate medical programs to bring the funding to equal the 2019 funding, and funds them at the same rate through November 30, 2020.

Subtitle F - Over the Counter Drugs

Part 1 - OTC Drug Review

Sec. 3851: Creates a new process for FDA approval of over the counter drug applications. Allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue administrative orders to approve changes and new uses of over the counter drugs instead of requiring drug companies to go through the standard review process that takes longer. Companies whose applications are approved will get 18 month exclusivity on their drugs.

Sec. 3854: Allows sunscreen companies with products affected by a pending FDA order to request that the HHS Secretary instead use the new, faster, less complete administrative order process created by Section 3851 for over the counter drugs. They must make this request by mid September 2020. Administrative orders issued by the HHS Secretary will be “deemed to be a final order”. As part of this process, the company may request and the HHS Secretary must conduct a “confidential meeting” with the company to discuss what data they should submit to show that their ingredients are safe and effective.

Part II - User Fees

Sec. 3862: Beginning in fiscal year 2021, to fund the new processes for over the counter drug approvals created by Section 3851, facilities that manufacture over the counter drugs will be assessed an annual fee and there will be either a $500,000 or $100,000 fee for requests to change drug monographs using the process created by Section 3851. Companies will not have to pay the fee if they are requesting changes to enhance warnings or instructions on the labels.

TITLE IV - Economic Stabilization and Assistance to Severely Distressed Sectors of the United States Economy

Subtitle A - Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act of 2020

Sec. 4002: Defines a “covered loss” as “losses directly or indirectly as a result of coronavirus, as determined by the Secretary”, with “the Secretary” being Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Eligible business” is an air carrier or “a United States business that has not otherwise received adequate economic relief in the form of loans or loan guarantees provided under this Act”

Sec. 4003: Gives the Secretary of the Treasury the authorization to “make loans, loan guarantees and other investments” to "eligible businesses”, States, and local governments up to a total of $500 billion dollars. $46 billion must be directed at the airline industry and $454 billion will be loans, loan guarantees, and “other investments” determined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Sec. 4004: Limits the amount of money that an employee of a business that gets a Treasury Department loan to $3 million plus half of whatever they got over $3 million in 2019 for the length of the loan plus one year.

Sec. 4005: Until March 1, 2022, the Secretary of Transportation will have the authority to require any airline that takes loan money to maintain their flight schedules, as the Secretary of Transportation determines is needed.

Sec. 4007: Suspends a 7.5% Federal excise tax on airlines from March 27, 2020 through the end of the year.

Sec. 4008: Amends the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform law to allow the FDIC to provide insurance for all accounts of banks that don’t accrue interest until December 31, 2020.

Sec. 4009: Between March 13, 2020 and either the end of the COVID-19 emergency or December 31, 2020, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is exempt from requirements that they give the public a day’s notice before their meetings and that they make public the minutes of their behind closed doors meetings. They must only keep a record of their votes and reasons for their votes which might be released to the public later (there’s no requirement that they be released).

Sec. 4011: Allows unlimited lending to “nonbank financial institutions” such as insurance companies, venture capitalists, currency exchanges, and pawn shops until the end of the emergency declared on March 13 or until December 31, 2020.

Sec. 4012: Lowers the amount of actual money that community banks must have in their possession from 9% to 8%, and gives the banks with less than that a “reasonable grace period” to get the money. This is valid until the end of the emergency declared on March 13 or until December 31, 2020.

Sec. 4013: Allows banks to avoid counting troubled loans as troubled on their balance sheets from March 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 or 60 days after the emergency declared on March 13th ends.

Sec. 4014: Exempts banks from relatively new reporting requirements on their credit losses from March 27, 2020 through the end of the emergency declared on March 13 or December 31, 2020.

Sec. 4015: Allows the Treasury Department to use its Exchange Stabilization Fund (which had $93.7 billion in it as of February 2020) to get around needing Congressional appropriations to cover any losses the Federal Reserve may need to absorb through its lending programs that allow unusual collateral to be offered like money market funds, corporate bonds, and securities.

Sec. 4017: Increases the President’s power to use the Defense Production Act by waiving the requirement for Congressional authorization for projects that cost more than $50 million for two years and waives the requirement that Congress needs 30 days advanced notice before a Defense Production Act project can start for 1 year.

Sec. 4018: Creates an Inspector General within the Treasury Department who will be appointed by the President. Says that when the Inspector General requests information, the agencies “shall, to the extent practicable” give him the information or else they will be reported to Congress.

Sec. 4019: Prohibits loans or payments originating from the Treasury and Federal Reserve authorized by Section 4003 from going to any company in which the President, Vice President, an executive department head, member of Congress or their spouses, children, or son/daughter in laws own over 20% of the voting stock.

Sec. 4020: Creates a Congressional Oversight Commission whose job is to conduct oversight of the implementation of this law by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve. The commission will have five members: 1 appointed by the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi), 1 appointed by the House minority leader (Kevin McCarthy), 1 appointed by the Senate majority leader (Mitch McConnell), 1 appointed by the Senate minority leader (Chuck Schumer), and 1 Chairperson co-appointed by the Speaker and Majority Leader (Pelosi and McConnell).

Sec. 4021: Companies that allow customers to adjust their payment schedules have to report that the customer is current on their payments unless their accounts are already delinquent. This is valid from January 31, 2020 through either the end of July 2020 or 4 months after the emergency declared on March 13th ends

Sec. 4022: People with Federally backed mortgages who have been affected by COVID-19 “directly or indirectly” can request and must be granted for a pause in loan payments for a maximum of about a year, but you have to request it twice (again after the first 180 days). Interest and fees will still accrue but they can’t charge any extra interest, penalties, or fees. Customers have to provide no proof of hardship. Prohibits the banks that manage Federally backed loans from moving forward with any foreclosure processes until mid-May 2020 (60 days after March 18, 2020).

Sec. 4023: People/companies that own multifamily housing with 5 or more units with Federally backed mortgages who have been affected by COVID-19 “directly or indirectly” can request and must be granted for a pause in loan payments. The forbearance (pause) can be for a total of 90 days as long as the building owner requests it three times with at least 15 days notice. People who get this pause are not allowed to evict their tenants or charge them any late fees during the mortgage payment pause.

Sec. 4024: Starting on March 27, 2020 and ending in late July 2020, landlords can not begin eviction proceedings for non-payment of rent or charge fees or penalties for not paying rent.

Sec. 4025: Prohibits the government from attaching a string to a loan or loan guarantee that requires the business to negotiate with unions over worker pay or conditions of employment. This is valid starting on the day the business is first issued the loan and ending a year after the loan is paid off.

Sec. 4026: Within 72 hours of each transaction, the Treasury Secretary must publish on the Treasury Department website a description of the transaction, the date, and the “identity of the counterparty”, the amount of the loan/guarantee/investment, how the price was determined, the interest rate, conditions, and a copy of the final term sheet. The Treasury Secretary also has to report any contracts entered into for the administration of loans or guarantees within 24 hours after the contract is entered into. The Federal Reserve has to issue reports to Congress that will have to be made public on their website within 7 days of the report being delivered to Congress.

Sec. 4027: Appropriates $500 billion

Sec. 4029: The authorities given to the Treasury Secretary and Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to make loans, loan guarantees, and “investments” in businesses and banks will expire on December 31, 2020.

Subtitle B - Air Carrier Worker Support

Sec. 4112: The Secretary of the Treasury “shall” give money to airlines and the contractors that work with them which “shall exclusively be used for the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits”. Passenger air carriers will get $25 billion, cargo airlines $4 billion, and contractors will get $3 billion.

Sec. 4113: The employees will have to be paid whatever rate they were paid from April 1, 2019 through September 30, 2019. Steven Mnuchin will decide all terms and conditions, other than the ones set by section 4114, 4115, and 4116. The payments have to start to be made within 10 days of enactment. The Inspector General of the Treasury Department will have to audit the certifications made by the companies about employee salary and benefit rates.

Sec. 4114: Airlines or contractors that take the money can’t furlough their workers or reduce their wages or benefits until September 30, 2020, they can’t buy stock in their company or parent company, or pay out dividends. The Secretary of Transportation is also given authorization until March 1, 2022 to require only airlines or contractors that take the money to continue service to anywhere that they served as of March 1, 2020.

Sec. 4115: Prohibits the government from attaching a string to a loan or loan guarantee that requires the airline or contractor to negotiate with unions over worker pay or conditions of employment. This is valid starting on the day the business is first issued the loan and ending on September 30, 2020.

Sec. 4116: From March 24, 2020 through March 24, 2022, any airline or contractor that takes the money has to agree that no employee who made more than $425,000 in 2019 will be paid more than what they were paid in 2019, or will receive more than double their 2019 pay as a severance package. Employees that were paid more than $3 million can’t be paid more than $3 million plus half of the amount they were paid over $3 million in 2019. This includes salary, bonuses, stock awards and “other financial benefits”.

Sec. 4117: The Treasury Secretary is allowed, but not required, to accept stock and securities and other “financial instruments” from the airlines and contractors.

Sec. 4120: Appropriates $32 billion.

TITLE V - Coronavirus Relief Funds

Sec. 5001: Appropriates $150 billion for State, tribal and local governments. Amounts will be determined by population but each state will get at least $1.25 billion. Washington D.C. is treated as a territory and all territories will split $3 billion. Tribal governments will split $8 billion. Steven Mnuchin will decide how the tribal government money will be divided. The Inspector General of the Treasury must investigate the receipt, disbursement, and use of funds.

TITLE VI - Miscellaneous Provisions

Sec. 6001: Allows the Postal Service to borrow $10 billion from the Treasury Department.

Division B - Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations

Bureau of Prisons

Sec. 12003: The Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall appropriately consider” distributing personal protective equipment and test kits to the Bureau of Prisons for use by inmates and staff.

Sec. 12005: Authorizes and appropriates $300 million that the Secretary of Commerce can use for direct payments to subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery businesses.

Department of Energy

Sec. 14002: Extends the authority for the Secretary of Energy to sell oil from the strategic petroleum reserve and gives the Department of Energy the authority to sell $900 million worth of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, $450 million in 2021 and 2022, on top of the $450 million they can sell in 2020.

The Judiciary

Sec. 15002: Allows for criminal proceedings to be conducted via video teleconferencing until 30 days after the national emergency declaration terminates. It will only be allowed with the consent of the defendant or juvenile after they talk to a lawyer.

Election Security Grants

Provides $400 million to prepare for the 2020 Federal election cycle, domestically or internationally. The money must be given by the Election Assistance Commission to the states within 30 days. There is no direction on how the money is divided among states. The states have to submit reports on how they use the money. Money not used by December 31, 2020 has to be returned to the Treasury.

Pandemic Response Accountability Committee

Sec. 15010: Creates a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee that will investigate and report on the use of COVID-19 funds through September 2025. The committee will be operated by two full time paid employees and the other members will be inspectors generals from at least 9 federal agencies. The committee will have enforceable subpoena power. The committee is allowed, but not required, to hold public hearings. The committee will have a public website that is required to provide their findings, data, some contracting information, division of COVID-19 funds by state and congressional district, agency plans for use of funds, all recommendations made to the agencies, etc.

Department of Homeland Security

Sec. 16004: Prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from transferring War on Terror funds for the COVID-19 efforts.

Sec. 16006: The Secretary of Homeland Security must extend the REAL-ID deadline until at least September 30, 2021.

Department of Health and Human Services

Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund

Provides an additional $27 billion for “developing necessary countermeasures and vaccines, prioritizing platform-based technologies with US based manufacturing capabilities, the purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and necessary medical supplies”. Products purchased by the Federal government must be purchased in accordance with regulations on fair and reasonable pricing, ensuring affordability in the commercial market is optional. The HHS Secretary can not take any action that would slow down the development of the products. $16 billion can be spent on purchasing items for the Strategic National Stockpile. Funds can be used to construct or renovate “US based next generation manufacturing facilities, other than facilities owned by the United States government” in addition to the authority to construct or renovate private facilities that manufacture vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. Adds an additional $100 billion to reimburse health care providers - public, private, and for profit - for COVID-19 expenses.

Sec. 18115: Every lab that performs or analyzes a COVID-19 test must report the result of each test to the Secretary of Health and Human Services until the end of the HHS Secretary’s public health declaration with respect of COVID-19.

State Department

Sec. 21012: Provides $3 billion for the International Development Association (World Bank), $7.3 billion for the African Development Bank, and authorizes the Treasury “to make loans in an amount not to exceed the dollar equivalent 28,202,470,000 of Special Drawing Rights (which is approximately $38.5 billion as of April 21, 2020)


OTC Drugs Bill Information


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Hearing: Medical Innovation, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, March 10, 2015

Witness

  • Dr. Margaret Hamburg: FDA Commissioner
Transcript:

58:15 Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA): I'm a victim of melanoma twice. The Surgeon General has issued a report that melanoma is costing America $8.1 billion a year in health. It's a major portion of his most recent statements. I hear very little from the FDA regarding that and we worked hard on the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which passed Congress last year, to try and expedite at the time and extend applications for ingredients to be approved for over the counter sunscreen product. We are still waiting for that to happen. Can you tell me why the FDA is so reluctant to follow through and what Congress passed in terms of the Sunscreen Innovation Act? Margaret Hamburg: Well, we are committed to following through and of course preventing melanoma is a high priority as well as developing exciting new treatments for melanoma, but prevention comes first. We do need to work with industry to get the data that we need to assess safety and effectiveness and that is of course, because these products are used widely, applied often and hopefully with the right amount. Chronically...we need to understand about their absorption of these chemicals, and what that means for safety and efficacy in the individuals using them including, of course, many young children who may be at greater risk in terms of chronic use. So we want to move forward, we want to have the American people have more options in terms of sunscreen products and the protection that it can afford. But we want to work with industry to make sure that the ingredients in those sunscreens actually work and that they're safe, especially for chronic use. Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA): My time is up, but I'd like to urge you to do everything you can to expedite the implementation of those approvals. Thank you very much.


Hearing: The Boeing 737 MAX: Examining the Federal Aviation Administration’s Oversight of the Aircraft’s Certification, House Transportation Committee, December 11, 2019

Witness:

Watch on YouTube

Transcript:

3:33:15 Ed Pierson: My name is Ed Pierson. I retired from the Boeing Company in August of 2018 as a Senior Manager at the 737 Factory in Renton, Washington. On June 9th, 2018 while the Lion Air airplane was being produced, four months before it crashed, I wrote an email to the 737 General Manager advising him to shut down the production line to allow our team time to regroup so we could save some decent planes. During this time frame, 737 Factory was in chaos. Every single factory health metric was getting record low marks, and each one was trending in the wrong direction. Following that e-mail, I requested a one-on-one meeting with the General Manager on July 18th and repeated my recommendation to shut down the factory for a brief period of time. When I mentioned that I've seen operations in the military shut down for lesser safety concerns, I will never forget his response, which was, "The military isn't a profit making organization." Keep in mind that on October 29, 2018 when the Lion Airplane crashed, killing 189 people, it was only two months old. After the crash, I wrote a letter to Boeing's Chairman, President, and CEO, Dennis Muilenburg. Mr. Muilenburg asked his general council to communicate with me and we spoke on three occasions where I renewed my warnings. On February 14th, 2019, the Boeing's Assistant General Council assured me that Boeing had seen nothing that would suggest the existence of embedded quality or safety issues. I wrote a follow up letter with supporting documentation to Boeing's Board of Directors requesting that they take urgent action but received no response. Less than a month later, on March 10th, 2019 the Ethiopians Airlines flight 302 crashed killing 157 people. That airplane was only four months old.


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

Apr 27, 2020
Thank You Doctors
01:41:02

In this thank you bonus episode, members of our community - including a doctor on the frontlines of COVID-19 who has been forced to take a pay cut during a pandemic - update us on how their COVIDpocalyspe is going as Jen thanks all the producers who make Congressional Dish possible. 


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Apr 27, 2020
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


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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

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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.


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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


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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

Intro TBD


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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

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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

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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:

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

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:

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

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 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


Articles/Documents


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.


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD067: What Do We Want In Ukraine?

CD068: Ukraine Aid Bill

C133: The Electoral College

C167: Combating Russia (NDAA 2018) LIVE

CD202: Impeachment?

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Articles/Documents


Resources

Sound Clip Sources


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)

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.


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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD96: Fast Tracking Fast Track (Trade Promotion Authority

CD102: The World Trade Organization: COOL?

CD052: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)


Bills


About Lori Wallach


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


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)

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.


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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)

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. 


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CD041: Why Attack Syria?

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CD156: Sanctions – Russia, North Korea & Iran

CD172: The Illegal Bombing of Syria

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CD191: The “Democracies” Of Elliott Abrams

CD195: Yemen


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.


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 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! 


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

Thank you for supporting truly independent media!


Articles/Documents


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 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.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

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Recommended Congressional Dish Episodes

CD206: Impeachment – The Evidence


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources

Sound Clip Sources


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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Music Presented in This Episode

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

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

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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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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.


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 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.


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

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Articles/Documents


Additional Reading


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)

 

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

CD102: The World Trade Organization: COOL?

CD067: What do We Want in Ukraine

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 me